Thursday, April 30, 2009

Real Life in Fiction Works?

Not only do the situations that we, as authors, grew up with influence the mood and feel of our stories, but oftentimes once we've been through something it can become a part of a story. We've lived it, experienced it, can write about it.
I've written about a car accident my mother and I were in, a boating accident also when I was a child, swimming with sharks and manta rays, exploring a jungle-like swamp in Florida as a teen, rappeling down a mountainside, firing weapons, and hand-to-hand combat.

Then too, I often include real life drama in my stories that I've read about. I research wolves for my werewolf series, and for all the stories I write about I include real places, even if I change the names or combine different places in an area to make it my own unique place. They're still based on real areas, like in To Tempt the Wolf, or Destiny of the Wolf. In Heart of the Wolf, the red alpha leader's ranch is a real place that I found advertised for sale in Oregon. Perfect for the story. :)

And real people too are great for fictionalizing into stories! Ever know someone who is so frugal they unscrew some of the lightbulbs in light fixtures that have multiple bulbs? Or so neat that everything in their closet is perfectly aligned by season, color, sporty, dressy wear? Or so talkative that you avoid seeing them if you're in a rush? Or so snoopy that if you tell them anything, you know it will get around the world in a millisecond? So real people, too, can be drawn into characterizations in fiction.

A tidbit I might read about in a news article can find its way into a story. An article on silver fit well into my upcoming Legend of the White Wolf. A hurricane-strength storm off the coast of Oregon worked well for To Tempt the Wolf. A story about a real wolf in peril will be included in one of the newest contracted works.
A thought about what if--will often result in research that will help me to add a new angle to a story. And truly when I get stuck, a little research can often help me get unstuck.

So can real life affect fiction? You bet! And be all the better for it!

When I read a story, I always love knowing that some aspect of the story is true. Even if it has vampires, or werewolves, or hunky Highlander's, oh my!

What about you?
Terry Spear
Destiny of the Wolf, Heart of the Wolf--Publishers Weekly "Best Books of the Year!" To Tempt the Wolf (Sept), Legend of the White Wolf (2010) "Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Five Easy(?) Pieces-- A Blog by Our Editor

Deb's Blog Part I

Beyond Heaving Bosoms

First, I must tell you about a book I've been reading while on the road the last week and a half--BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan, paperback, $15.00, ISBN 1416571221.
This is the NEW, highly anticipated book by the Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books--it's a comprehensive look at romance fiction and why we LOVE IT SO MUCH and why all those snobbes who look down at romance readers just so don't get it.

I can't possibly do justice to the hilarity of the writing in this book and its complete and total dead-on-ness because I myself am not a writer, just a lowly editor who has the privilege to work with other people's brilliant words, but let me tell you, you will laugh fit to bust your bustier, and if that's not enough, you'll read
about a whole mess of fabulous books that you just have to run out and read immediately or your life won't be complete (if you're one of my authors, however, you still must not miss your deadline).

Deb's Blog Part II

Romantic Times Convention

I just got back from the Romantic Times convention, held in sunny, beautiful Orlando, Florida, where I had a wonderful time with some of my very own authors: Robin Kaye, Judi Fennell, Kathryne Kennedy, Mary Wine and Ashlyn Chase. Another reminder of what a GREAT group of women write romance fiction--if you're not already active in a chapter of RWA, or participating in great events like RT, get going! The support and inspiration are limitless.

Deb's Blog Part III


In February 2010, we'll be publishing a brand new book by Laura Kinsale--her first in over 5 years. VERY EXCITING! Watch for details, this is going to be a big launch.

Deb's Blog Part IV

One Editor's Criteria

As you know, I've been talking forever about my 4 criteria for submissions:
  1. a heroine the reader can relate to
  2. a hero she can fall in love with
  3. a world gets created
  4. a great hook (in other words, I can sell it in 2-3 sentences)
I'm adding one more criterion: A career arc for the author
Because, like potato chips, we can't publish just one!

If I buy your debut novel, and it's successful, guess what's going to happen? My sales people are going to come back to me and want to know--what's the next one and how fast can we have it? This is definitely what we call a high quality problem, but you should start thinking about it very early on, and include that info in your submissions:
  • what are you envisioning your next 3 books are going to be?
  • how fast can you realistically write a book--one per year? two per year? more?
Deb's Blog Part V

A practical matter relating to email submissions.

It would help me enormously if submissions would have filenames that identify them, and if the filename for the synopsis and the manuscript start out the same.

For example, GOOD:
Tale of Two Cities synopsis.doc
Tale of Two Cities manuscript.doc
First Three Chapters.doc
You see, uploading to my Kindle, I can't change the filename, and the files then get separated and are indistinguishable from the 19 other files with the same name.
Rant over!
Bring it on!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When Bunny Slippers and a Gargoyle go to Las Vegas

“I can’t believe she left us on the side of the road!” An outraged Horace threw up his stony arms as he paced back and forth in the dirt. “This is gargoyle abandonment.”
“We got tossed out too.” A disgruntled Fluff sighed heavily. “But it’s your fault for telling Linda she’s a lousy driver.”

“Cutting off another car is not a crime and she should have cut off that eighteen wheeler. Just use your magick and zap us to the hotel,” Horace suggested.Puff shook his head.
“Jazz bound part of our magick, so we’re limited this week. She said we behave or else and we’re not going to use it all up first thing.”
Horace looked off to the side. “What is –?”
Fluff and Puff looked in the same direction and watched the snake slithering their way.
“AUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!” They leapt into the air and landed on Horace’s head.
The gargoyle shouted and batted at them, but no way they were getting down. All three looked at the road as a rattletrap truck slowly made its way toward them then stopped. The man that climbed out looked several hundred years old with a battered hat perched on his head and a matted graying beard.
“Hey, can we hitch a ride?” Horace asked.
The elderly man grinned, displaying broken teeth. “Well lookie here, dinner.” He reached back inside his truck and pulled out a rifle that looked as old as he was. He was quick for his advanced age as he brought the rifle up.
“Get us out! Get us out now!” Horace shouted as Fluff and Puff instantly wrapped their magick around them and they disappeared in wisp of smoke.
“Damn!” The old man muttered as he returned to his truck. “I lose more food that way.”
“You can’t go,” Linda told them as she applied lip gloss.“Bite is about vampires. We belong there more than you do,” Fluff argued.
“You won’t like it. If you promise not to get into trouble, cruise the casino. But no making the slots pay out.”
“We want to see Bite!” Puff whined.
“Oh yeah.” Horace flipped pages of a magazine detailing local sights. “Showgirls, vampires. Works for me.”
Linda sighed. “If I don’t take you, you’ll find a way to go, won’t you?”
She dug in her suitcase and pulled out a tote bag. “Fine, but no dancing on stage and no singing along or I’ll tell Jazz and you’ll never leave the house again.”
An hour later the bunny slippers were screaming in horror and covering their eyes with their ears and Horace watched the stage with avid fascination.“Lord Vampire has a good thing there,” he said.
“It’s gross! We don’t like seeing womens’ boobies!” The slippers howled, now burrowing under the table in search of Linda’s tote bag.
Linda smiled. “I told you you wouldn’t like it.”
Fluff and Puff exchanged telling looks. “She’ll be sorry she brought us here.”
And what do bunny slippers do to get even?
“If they’re not here in five minutes I’m leaving without them.” Linda checked her watch.
Four minutes, fifty-nine seconds later the door opened with Fluff and Puff sliding inside and Horace behind them.
“What have you done?!”
The off-white slippers were now a rich chocolate brown and the gray stone gargoyle was covered with a shiny white goo. All three were dripping on the carpet.
“You didn’t tell us there was a chocolate factory!” Fluff accused.
“And for good reason.” Linda turned to Horace. “Look at you!”
“I don’t like chocolate, but marshmallow was pretty cool. Those vats are really deep. I almost drowned.” Except his outrage was rapidly cooled as Linda hauled the threesome into the bathroom and under the shower.

“Oh come on!” Puff tried to wiggle his way out of her reach as she squirted body wash on all of them. “You complain because we have chocolate all over us, but you use chocolate smelling soap?”

“You will use your magick to clean up that mess on the carpet,” she told them as she sudsed and sudsed and sudsed.

Once she was finished, she toweled them dry and ordered them into her tote bag.

They hunkered down in the bottom of the bag and shared a telling look. “Maybe it’s not a good time to tell her we stashed Elvis in the back of her SUV.”
Author Brenda Novak hosts an auction to benefit Juvenile Diabetes every year and I have two donations over there. A critique for a full manuscript and a hexy basket that's inspired by the first four witches. And there are many many more wonderful donations there to bid on. Please take a look at them all!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fire Me -- Writing the Comedic Novel

Do you hear that thumpa-thumpa? That's my heart beating fast as I anticipate the official release of Fire Me on May 1! Actually, the book's been shipping early, if amazon is any guide, and I was thrilled to receive my own copies from Sourcebooks a week ago.

And let me say again -- they are gorgeous! The finished book is slightly different than the ARC, with a deeper blue on the cover that really pops and the lovely blurb from Melissa Senate.

I know folks might be tired of me recapping Fire Me's story, but for those who don't know, it follows PR specialist Anne Wyatt through one crazy work day as she tries to "win" a lay-off and the severance package that goes with it (since she's leaving for another job anyway). She learns a lot about herself and love in the process.

Fire Me is a comedy (uh, ya think? LOL!) which presented all sorts of challenges to this writer as I struggled to come up with funny situations, turns of phrase or ideas that worked as smile- or giggle-inducers on the page.

Slapstick works well on film because it's so visually immediate, zinging its way to the "funny bone" part of the brain (yes, that's a technical term; I'm sure of it; I checked WebMD). But if you try describing a pratfall in words, you immediately see how hard it is to make it have the same comedic impact.

So I really had to think about many passages in the book, often re-writing them, searching for that elusive funny moment. And I had to balance the physcial comedy in the novel with sly humor in dialogue and the characters' own sometimes off-kilter outlooks on the world.

It's odd to think of writing comedy as such an intensely intellectual task, but for me, it was--or rather, a combination of thinking and telling myself not to overthink it! (No wonder Anne is so crazy!)

I hope I succeeded. Early reviewers seem to think so, which is gratifying. A common thread running through critiques is that reviewers laughed, chuckled, or giggled out loud.

As I've thought about Fire Me's release and the process I used to form this tale, I've thought a lot about what makes me laugh when reading a book and what some of my favorite humorous books or book passages are. You show me yours and I'll show you mine! Tell me what funny books are among your favorites, or what comedic moments in books really had you smiling. I'd love to know!

Oh, and if you're in Lancaster, PA on Saturday May 2, stop by the local Barnes & Noble at 2 p.m. -- I'll be signing copies of Fire Me then.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sending Our Babies Out Into The World

Some of you may have heard in recent weeks that I'm currently fostering a mother cat and her five kittens. As the kittens grow and develop personalities, as I tend to feeding, nurturing and cleaning up after five babies, I've grown hopelessly attached to those five precious kittens. But there's just no way I can keep them. I already have three inside cats, two turtles, and two stray "outside" cats that I care for (including the mother cat who will be spayed before she goes back outside!). So I'm faced with the fact that in the next couple of says, I'll have to send my babies out into the world to new homes. Saying goodbye will not be easy.
What does this have to do writing or Casablanca books, you ask? Well, I think if you asked any author how they feel when they finish writing a book, package it up and send it off to their editor, they'll admit to a bit of sadness along with the relief of finishing. A writer can't spend weeks, months, sometimes a year or more, working on a book, invested in the characters' lives and emotions, immersed in the setting and conflict, and drawing from that mystical creative spring in their souls without forming an attachment to the book that is akin to a parent's love for a child. While we know we are sending our books off to new homes with readers where others can share in the stories we've created and love, there's a melancholy that comes with letting go, a trepidation of how they'll be received. Just as I worry what will become of my kitty babies, if the homes I find for them will really be loving, authors worry "Will a reviewer say my baby's ugly? Will a copy editor tear it to shreds?"
It's a hazard of the profession. The passion that allows us to bring our stories and characters to life also means we feel a loss when the books are sent out the door. We are the parents sending their teenager off to college. The mother bird nudging her chick out of the nest. The tenderhearted foster mom placing her kittens in a new home.
So have you ever felt this "empty nest" melancholy when you completed a project, be it a book, a painting, or ...whatever? Other than children and pets, what projects do you grow attached to and find it hard to say goodbye?
Beth Cornelison

Saturday, April 25, 2009

RT Convention, Reader and Writer Heaven

I'm posting from the Romantic Times Convention in Orlando, Florida, and having a blast! The parties are great, the giveaways fantastic and meeting the readers and booksellers is so much fun.

It really is amazing what can happen from chatting with people. Last year when I came to RT (I've been coming since 2007 when I was a finalist in the American Title III contest), I hadn't sold a book and had just learned something from one of the Gather final judges about a change that she thought would help me sell In Over Her Head. A friend invited me to a publisher party (with his editor's okay) and I was chatting with booksellers, taking a poll about this change the judge mentioned. So on Wednesday night, here, that same bookseller found me, said she'd been looking for me and that she'd wanted to talk to me about my book because she's seen "stuff" about it everywhere (gotta love hearing that, especially since she's in Australia). We connected, I chatted with some of her staff, and had a great time getting to know each other. They're looking forward to getting In Over Her Head and I'm looking for a great excuse to have a tax-deductible trip to Australia. Looks like I might have found it. :)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Too Hot to Handle is Almost Out!

I’m sitting in the sun in Orlando working at the Romantic Times Convention while ducks walk under the tables looking for scraps and the Ellora’s Cave cavemen strut by looking yummy. It’s difficult to concentrate, so forgive me if I pause every now and then to fan myself.

Too Hot to Handle is being released a bit early at the book signing on Saturday, April 25, 2009—which is also, as luck would have it, my birthday! What a fabulous birthday present. I’m thrilled with the wonderful reviews my newest book has received. Here are just a few to wet your appetite.

Book Loons gave it a 3/3

Robin Kaye strikes gold in this follow up to her Domestic Gods series. Between Annabelle's old-fashioned Italian family's well-meaning interference and Mike's own trials and tribulations once he discovers his true roots, there are complications aplenty. Neither of their family's antics, however, detracts from Mike and Annabelle's thoroughly engaging characterizations or their love story - which is not only entertaining, funny and steaming hot, but also very touching. Too Hot to Handle is destined to become one of the summer's big hits.

Priscilla at Night Owl Romance gave it a 5/5 Reviewer Top Pick

Robin Kaye has proved herself a master of romantic comedy and I look forward to adding her next book to my bookshelf as another keeper. Make a point of going out to get this book today!

Romance Junkies gave it a 4.5/5

Robin Kaye spins the tale of Mike and Annabelle in such a way that I felt their emotional ties and their lusty thoughts. From Annabelle's fun loving Italian-to-the-bone family to Mike's single but dedicated and loving mother, I didn't miss a single breathtaking word of this fine novel. Readers will be hooked on TOO HOT TO HANDLE. I know I was!

Armchair Interviews

Robin Kaye is a master at romance, and her second novel is even better than the first. The story drips with emotion and her characters are so real and likeable that you keep turning each page to see what happens next.
Wonderful from beginning to end, Too Hot to Handle will definitely please even the most discerning romance fan.

The Burton Review

If you like Janet Evanovich as I do, you will enjoy Robin Kaye. This book is an easy victory for Robin Kaye and I look forward to more of her accomplishments.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Little Known Facts

Since I'm feeling a little tapped out in the blogging department today, having blogged about both my new book and my life as a writer so extensively that I am now fairly sure I'm one of the more boring people walking the earth, I thought I'd give an interactive blog a shot for today. Casababes, you up for it? We all talk so much (out of necessity, it's true) about the writing aspect of our lives that I sometimes feel the fun and fascinating women behind the curtain get a little obscured to people who don't shoot the breeze with us on a regular basis. So today, I thought it might be fun to each volunteer something our readers probably don't know about us, a fun and funky little known fact that is as much a part of who we are as the laptops we're so often attached to (my father recently suggested I just go ahead and get a lanyard for mine). I'll start, and then open the floor, otherwise known as the comments section, to the 'babes. And readers, please chime in! We've got a number of regulars around here who we'd love to get to know better: what are some little known facts about you?

Since this is my day, I'll give not just one, but three little known facts about myself to get the ball rolling:

1. My oldest Pekingese doggie is named Fizgig, after the little guy in the picture up there. He's named after an obscure character in a Jim Henson movie called "The Dark Crystal" that, judging by the raised eyebrows I get when I tell people his name, a lot of people haven't seen. But regardless, there was a marked resemblance in Fizzy's youth. Honestly. Except for the extra row of teeth. And I probably don't need to mention that I am a total fantasy dork.

2. I sing. Often. And believe it or not, pretty damn well. I used to dream of Broadway, but there was a fundamental problem with that: I am an absolutely terrible actress. I did get "Most Musical" in my senior class yearbook superlatives, though. So that's something. Music, I have figured out, sustains me in a different way than writing does. I need both, but with writing, I have this drive to excel. Singing just makes me happy, plain and simple. Though I have every intention of inflicting my acting skills on an unsuspecting local theatre group at some point in the future.

3. I'm a total clutz. I'm always sporting at least two bruises of indeterminate origin, because I have a habit of bumping into things (rather hard) and then forgetting about it. For some reason, I can dance, but, not so much.

So okay, there's three things you probably didn't know about me! There are plenty of other (and more embarrassing) ones, but these'll do:-) So okay, everyone out there, tell me something I don't know about you!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

One of my new year’s resolutions for this year (whoa—when did it become April?!?!) is to try to be more green—look into ways to conserve energy, even on a small level. I grew up in a house that was very big into recycling, and it’s something I continue to do each day. And while I have to drive to the SB office every day, I’m attempting to slow down (attempting is the key word) in my fuel efficient vehicle. However, publishing is still very much a “paper-based” business. More and more, many of our processes are turning to virtual and online modes, but sometimes, when I look at the amount of paper I work with everyday, it’s unsettling!

One thing that Sourcebooks is doing, though, is publishing books on how to be green. We’ve had two come out in the past year: Green Chic and The Green Bride Guide, very cool, fun and PRACTICAL books on going green. They cover all budgets, all lifestyles, are super cute and even better—they’re printed on 100% recycled paper!

Something that seems to be popping up everywhere are electronic books and readers. Now, I’m one for holding an actual book in my hands, smelling those new book smells and turning actual pages, but I’m intrigued by the Kindle, Sony Reader, iPhone Apps, even e-books that are downloadable to your computer. I wonder—how many of you use these, and what are your thoughts on their impact on the industry? Sourcebooks is definitely now planning on many books being Kindle-ready, and most are available as e-books (Our very own Sharon had the #1 selling e-book from Sourcebooks for a time, before we printed her book :-) )… I think, in recent years, especially with the recent departure of book sections and reviewers to the web, that these electronic versions lend themselves well to a select amount of your intended audience. What if, one day, the paper book as we know it goes away completely? I don’t think that will happen anytime soon, but I do think, as I mentioned in my last blog, that as the publishing industry evolves, so should we… Interesting…

Happy Earth Day! What are you doing to go green today?


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ARC and a Good Cause

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

As some of you know, I am a type 2 diabetic (also called adult onset or insulin resistant diabetes), but my best friend of over 20 years is a type 1 (usually called Juvenile diabetes) and a very special one at that. She was diagnosed with diabetes when she was only two years old, and is one of only about 1,000 people in the USA who has lived with diabetes over forty years!

Five years ago, shortly after her young son was diagnosed with diabetes, best selling author Brenda Novak started an online auction to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Association to do research for a cure for this devastating medical condition. Every year, Brenda's online auction has grown. So far, her auction has earned a half a million dollars for diabetes research! This year Brenda and her supporters would love to set a new record.

People donate hundreds of items of every sort.

There are things of interest to readers, writers, and everybody.

Everything from exotic vacations, to jewelry, electronics, and critiques by authors, agents, and editors!

This year several of the "CasaBabes" have donated items to Brenda's auction, including our editor, Deb Werksman. I have donated a critique of a first chapter and synopsis, and an autographed Advance Review Copy of my September release The Treasures of Venice.

That's right, you don't have to wait until September 1st! All you have to do is submit the winning bid.

And just to whet your appetite, here's the back cover copy:

He's a charming Irish rogue who never met a lock he couldn't pick... Keirnan Fitzgerald is desperate to locate the missing Jewels of the Madonna. With danger at every corner and time running out, he must use whatever means possible to uncover the stolen jewels in time to save his sister's life...
She's simply in Venice to relax and heal her broken heart...
Samantha Lewis is shocked when a dashing stranger approaches her in a Venetian cafe pretending to know her. She's ready for something new and exciting in her life, so she throws caution to the wind and accompanies the Irish charmer into his dangerous world of intrigue, theft, and betrayal... As the centuries old story behind the Jewels disappearance is revealed, Samantha must decide whether the man she's so compellingly drawn to is her soul mate from a previous life or if they are merely pawns in a relentless quest for a priceless treasures...

Brenda's auction starts May 1st and you can check out all the goodies here:

I hope you'll support this very worthwhile cause that is very near and dear to my heart.

Monday, April 20, 2009

They're Playing Our Song

By: Marie Force
I love music. I love the power of music. I love the way a certain song can set just the right mood whether it's in real life, a movie, or a book. Music plays a role in every book I've ever written. In "Line of Scrimmage," Ryan played the guitar and used music to woo his wife, to remind her of what they'd once had and to show her what they could have again. In "Love at First Flight," Michael plays the song "When You Say Nothing At All" to show Juliana what he's feeling at a critical point in the book. In another of my as-yet unpublished books, the hero lip-sings to "The Way You Look Tonight" after he first makes love to the heroine, letting her know in his own way that he'll never forget her or that moment. "Tupelo Honey" by Van Morrison inspired an entire book, which took shape from start to finish in my mind over the course of a single playing of the song.

Because of copyright laws, we can't include actual lyrics in our books without going through a complex (and expensive) permission process. So when using a tune to set the mood, it's critical we use an iconic song that just about everyone is familiar with or one like "When You Say Nothing At All" that conveys the message of the song in the title. That song summed up Michael and Juliana's relationship because with them it's the small things that add up to an amazing, deeply felt love.

One of the early reviewers for "Love at First Flight," tuned into this dynamic between them when she said, "What I really liked about these two characters is the way they take care of each other. There is an art to that, to doing small things for each other without thinking, with pleasure even, because you know the other will appreciate it. Julianna is a nurturing person, with everyone around her, and that's just what Michael needs. For his part, Michael offers Julianna a helping hand when she needs it, and some space to be an adult, even when he would prefer to get closer." (AlphaHeroes)

Other songs I've used in my books include "We've Got Tonight" by Bob Seger, "Big Girls Don't Cry," by Fergie, "Unchained Melody," by the Righteous Brothers, "Now and Forever," by Carole King, and "Georgia on My Mind," by Ray Charles, to name a few.

I also love the transportive power of music. Any time I hear Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" I'm on the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset with two old friends and an ex-boyfriend I haven't seen in twenty-five years. The first notes take me right back to that unforgettable moment, riding in a convertible with the wind in our hair and the world at our feet. Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Southern Cross" sends me to the summer of 1984 and a new love that I was certain would last forever. Frank Sinatra's "Summer Wind" puts me in the arms of my late mother at Ballard's big dance floor on Block Island. Don Ho's "Tiny Bubbles" conjures up endless summer days on the boat with my family. Roxette's "It Must've Been Love" from Pretty Woman is all about the boy who got away. Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately" is all about the boy I married and dancing with him for the first time as my husband. Hootie and the Blowfish's "Let Her Cry" takes me to my first days as a mom when all my baby daughter did was cry. Avril Levine's "Complicated" calls up images of my then four-year-old son singing at the top of his lungs to a song he shouldn't have known every word to. These songs and many others make up the soundtrack of my lifetime.

My favorite song of all time? "100 Years to Live" by Five for Fighting because it reminds me that we've only got so much time and every minute counts. It's the ring tone on my cell phone, and it's the song I listen to whenever I lose my way and forget about what's really important.

What songs have you used in your books? What songs take you back to special times in your life? What's your all-time favorite song and why?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring Unawares

Though I long for Spring, it always catches me off guard--as if I didn't know it would come or that it would be like this.

As always, I exclaim, "The dogwoods are the loveliest they've been in years."

They are hard to photograph since the tiniest breeze flutters their petals. Here is a "pink" called Comanche Red.

But the prettiest ones, the ones that make older neighborhoods look like the yards have been decorated with lace, are the whites.

It is the nature of things that they will be gone soon.

This fragile moment makes me think of fairies, and elves and mysterious worlds where creatures dance on air and dine on enchantment.

Instead of writing, I gaze out the window enraptured, bemused by beauty.

This fragile moment I offer you.

Are you sensitive to a season? Is there a time of year that feeds your soul?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why I Love Writing Science Fiction

By Cheryl Brooks

Some of you may have seen this new cover on my blog or Wickedly Romantic, but unless you've looked closely at the sidebar lately, most of you probably haven't seen this one. So, allow me to officially present the cover of Fugitive, book 5 of The Cat Star Chronicles. I absolutely love it!

Perhaps the most fun thing about writing science fiction romance is that the romance can take any form you like. Societies on different worlds can have any kind of taboo or requirement I choose to give them. The entire culture can revolve around the style of dress, or certain patterns of sexual behavior, which is what I did in Slave.

The settings can be anything I like, too. I set Warrior on a planet whose inhabitants colonized it with the intention of returning to an earlier era of non-mechanization in an effort to live more in harmony with nature. The society later reverted to a patriarchal form of feudalism, which allowed me the freedom to write a "historical" adventure in outer space!

In Rogue, I created Darconia, a desert planet populated by dinosaurs who had a different kind of rock to fill most of their technological needs. For the culture, I went matriarchal this time, with males who were considered "too volatile" for most occupations--something which my hero and heroine manage to disprove.

Now, in Outcast, I've got a newly colonized planet that has a climate and terrain similar to Central Africa which gave me the opportunity to have a "pioneer woman" heroine with a "hired hand" hero--which is one of those Wild West scenarios I've always been partial to.

Fugitive is set on a jungle planet with a wildlife painter who finds a Zetithian Tarzan-type living there in hiding from his enemies. This one has given me the opportunity to develop several different forms of wildlife, as well as some natives with interesting talents.

In Hero, you'll travel to a distant space station filled with aliens from all over the galaxy, take a side trip back to Darconia, and then on to several new worlds, hurtling through space on a wild adventure to finally take down the ultimate bad guy.

The settings and the heroines may be different, but thing these stories all have in common are those sexy Zetithian heroes! When you're only dealing with human males, you pretty much already know what most of them are capable of, but with aliens, anything is possible. When I created these guys, I gave them every characteristic I would want my dream alien hero to have--fun personalities, cat-like grace, long, curly hair, and some rather remarkable "equipment"--with the result that I have fallen head over heels for each one of them, and some of my readers have, too!

In Hero, I get the opportunity to explore an aspect of the Zetithian species that I've only hinted at in other books, which is the women. With men who are so incredibly hot, what kind of women would they have? I'm writing my own version, but what about you? Any ideas?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rambles with Sharon

It is nearly 11am on Thursday, some 12 hours before my blog day and I am staring at the blank page with….. nothing. I didn’t forget my blog day was approaching. I had it marked on the calendar and have been thinking about it on some level since I posted the last one some two weeks ago. I think I have reached blog-idea-vacancy. Please tell me I am not alone! I am fairly certain it isn’t because I am tired of talking about my novel – no, I know that isn’t true because just yesterday I got all giddy while chatting with a friend. So it must be something else. Hmm…. Brain overload? Exhaustion? A dearth of profound methods of communicating essentially the same thing, i.e.- my novel is fantastic so BUY IT! LOL! Ah well, whatever the case, buckle your seatbelts because I feel a rambling discourse coming on. Here goes!

I love writing a Saga with a thematic tone. I see from what most of my Casa Sisters write that we tend to agree on that. Judi has her mermaids and mermen. Terry keeps us wildly entertained with her unique werewolf packs. Robin has cornered the market on Italian domestic Gods. Cheryl is clearly enamored with her lusty alien cats. Now, I think this is cool. Nothing wrong with branching out and tackling new horizons, going to varied places, creating characters that have no relationship whatsoever to anyone in the previous novel. We have Loucinda and Marie doing a fine job at that! But I have to say that it pleases me to see more serial-type novelists in the romance genre. I have said many times that I think one of the reasons I love reading fantasy is that continuations are common. Rarely does a writer who creates an entirely new world end it with one book. They revisit the scene over and over again. As a reader it breeds familiarity. As a writer I just know that I love the world and characters I have created and I selfishly want to stay with them.

So when people ask me if I plan to leave the Darcys and the Regency behind for other romance or historical fiction, I can honestly shrug my shoulders with unconcern. Maybe my muse will suddenly morph into a contemporary hottie and I won’t be able to resist telling that story. Or perhaps I will one day envision a hunk clad in Elizabethan tights. Well, probably not since even Joseph Fiennes had a hard time pulling off the puffy trouser look. But I guess a writer never REALLY knows what shape her inspiration will take.

For the present I am grinningly happy to remain in early 1800 England, traveling between Derbyshire and London with stops in between, while the enormous Darcy clan moves through life.

The last several blog posts have struck me anew at how wonderfully diverse we Sourcebooks novelists are. Or rather, how wisely Deb and Co. chose authors who have something unique to offer. Even amongst those of us who write during the Regency or specifically about Austen characters, we are so different. Isn’t that fantastic? I also know I have said it many times, but part of the reason I haven’t read romance since my long ago high school years was because I thought it was all the same! Yeah, lash me again with the wet noodles, but I have confessed the sin of my misconceptions so be gentle with me. J Is it really my fault? I mean, no offense, but I don’t recall a single man-eating bunny slipper or shape-shifting dragon in any of Danielle Steele’s books. Ho hum….just wasn’t for me. But now? Wow! You gals have got my daughter avidly sucking down books faster than I can provide them, so Kudos, seriously.

What else? Well, I am in the “lull” period between books. Very nice. How did ya’all enjoy your down time? Not that we authors are ever 100% without something to do. Of course I am writing new material for what we are calling “Darcy 4” since I have no title for it. And any day I expect the proofread copy of Loving Mr. Darcy AND the first edits of The Darcys at Year’s End to arrive. But the major marketing push for Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy is over, the novel creating its own wind while I sit back and let it fly.

OK, minor brag moment: Deb says the novel is selling very well, enough to have contracted me for 2 more novels after the first 3! Yeah, I am walking on air!! “Darcy 4” will hit shelves September of 2010 with “Darcy 5” in the Spring of 2011. My head is indeed spinning.

Anyway, for this moment in time while I wait for the craziness surrounding the launch of Loving Mr. Darcy this September, I am taking a well deserved breather. I did some serious housecleaning, finally vacuuming the spiders living happily in the corner. And I reloaded my Roller Coaster Tycoon game! Once upon a time I was an RCT3 addict. I gave that up for my new addiction – writing – but am now trying to manage some fun time of a different sort of creativity. I have to say, the balance feels good. Anyone else play pointless games on the computer? Or what about those Facebook games? I admit I have a thriving farm and a fairyland garden. I like growing things. Especially when I don’t have to suffer 100+ degree weather and brave ugly spiders trying to kill me while cultivating. Much better way to go about it. Of course, the family thinks I am doing something worthwhile and momentous since the play is done on the trusty laptop. Shhh…don’t tell them or they will make me start cooking dinner again!

Ok, have I rambled enough? Put your hands down! I get it. At least I mentioned my books in there somewhere. That counts, doesn’t it? No? Well then, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One is part of a Mother’s Day promotion at Barnes & Noble, so look for me on an Austen-related display near the front to the store. I am very excited about that and think I need to travel to the Big City so I can get some more geeky photos! September and the debut of Loving Mr. Darcy ~ Journeys Beyond Pemberley will be here before you can spit. But first, the RWA Nationals are happening! I look forward to seeing ALL of you there, yes?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Finding the Balance: Love, Sex and Mystery in Romance Novels

I am a romance writer.

I am a mystery writer.

The two sides of me have been battling for years and finally had it out, once and for all, when I was planning Lady Anne series. Which would win? Well, oddly enough, they decided to share a series, and the end result was Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark, Book 1 of the Lady Anne series, now available.

I wondered from the outset whether I was taking a chance. Would romance readers embrace the mystery elements that are a strong thread in the series? Would mystery readers get impatient with the strong romantic undertones? Would paranormal fans be put off by the rationality of my heroine? Would readers of historical romance be offended by the gothic and paranormal touches that enliven the novels?

In other words, was I trying to be too many things to too many people?

I threw caution to the wind because ultimately, I came back to the central core of my beliefs about writing. I’m your average reader, in a lot of ways. As long as I write what I would like to read I ought to be okay, right? I do hope that’s true.

But I set out from the beginning to find the balance, that perfect symmetry that would please me as a reader. At first that was a fairly simple. Book one, Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark, is where Lady Anne Addison and Lord Anthony Darkefell meet, and there is immediate antagonism mingled with a powerful romantic and sensual attraction. Fun, right?

It seems I may have hit the right note, as Marlene at Once Upon a Romance says, "Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark is a gothic, historical, mystery with a lot of romance and wonderful characters. Ms. Simpson pulls off the creepy, spine-tingling thrill of the gothic with great flare and keeps the reader on her toes with a very intriguing mystery." (My bolding!)

In book two, Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge, things are getting a little more intense in the romance department, as they are likely to when a man is serious about a woman and a woman is attracted to a man. Still, no big deal. They are investigating a mystery and spend a lot of time together, so the sexual chemistry works. Mulder and Scully, right? David and Maddie from Moonlighting.

But... I did run into a dilemma. When two people are seriously attracted to each other, sexual intercourse often happens… full on, passionate sexual engagement. Even back in the day men and women did end up in bed together. However… you can’t do that in a mystery novel! But I wasn’t writing a mystery novel; the Lady Anne series is a romance series with mystery plots attached.

Yikes, I thought, what have I gotten myself into? Should Anne and Tony make love in Book Two? Or should they wait until Book Three, Lady Anne and the Gypsy Curse? Or should they make love at all???

I’m not saying they have or they haven’t, but it’s a distinct possibility with two people who can’t seem to stop kissing each other! (Not in public… no PDA’s in Georgian England!)

Ultimately, I have settled my mind to this; as with every other aspect of every novel I have ever written, I will do what comes naturally for the characters and the reading public will decide whether I have successfully found a way to balance the two elements, the romance and the mystery. Have I done it? Have I walked the high wire?

Time – and readers – will tell! Visit me at and let me know!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What a Character!

Characters have to have sympathy! Don't they? Look at this guy. Doesn't he look forlorn? Wouldn't you like to give him a big fat hug? Sure you would!

Because he's got our sympathy. And heck, he's rather sexy too, don't you think?

But how do we get sympathy? Not just from a look, but from backstory. And how do we add backstory without it being backstory?

That's the trick! Crisis time! I've been working full steam ahead on Legend of the White Wolf rewrites (and that's why I'm behind on everything else--deadline Mon), dealing with my mother's death, taxes, just got an order for 3 bears, huh? No other time this year, but they have to come now? :) Yep, keep upping the conflict, ladies and gents. My daughter says it wouldn't happen like this if I couldn't handle it. Isn't it nice to have such a wise daughter?

In Destiny of the Wolf, my hero is maudlin over the death of his mate. But then he learns...she wasn't supposed to be his mate. Someone else was supposed to be. How? Why? These are the questions that need to be answered. But we hope that readers will sympathize with him. He's been lied to, cheated on, and heck, he's the alpha male pack leader. What gives? But this is what makes him sympathetic. The heroine's lost. Her parents are gone, her brother and uncle are gone, and her sister has died due to foul play. And she wants to find out who did it and make him pay, especially since she feels it's her fault her sister ended up in the mess she did. So giving the characters deeper motivation for what they do, which helps us to sympathize with them.

In Heart of the Wolf, the heroine has a bad past with the alpha leader, but he still wants her for his mate. She has nightmares about it, shares snippets of past events reluctantly with the hero, and he's angry that she's lived through this and he hadn't known about it so he could have protected her better. But he couldn't have. The pack leader was older and would have killed him. So giving the characters a past, but revealing it in small amounts through dialogue or nightmares or flashbacks can help.

In To Tempt the Wolf, coming Sep 1, the heroine is frantic to rescue her brother from prison. She's already lost her parents, and her brother is her last living relative. She knows he's innocent. She won't stop until she frees him. But the hero has troubles of his own--pack mutinies, home burns down, has to move, sister disappears, and then comes real trouble--the heroine. :) Both are sympathetic because they both have pasts.

Legend of the White Wolf is coming next--both are human this time, he's lost his partners in some kind of hunting scheme and her fiance stole her father's research and both are searching for the truth in the wilds of Maine--Arctic wolves this time--and there's a story behind that too. And after that, two more in the series have sold. So yep, more conflicted characters living in a world of wolves.

But should only our hero and heroines have all the fun? Nope, our villains need to be just as rounded out...good and bad sides, reasons again for their significant problems. And what about secondaries? Sure, if they're important enough. The thing of it is, we can just give a couple of sentences to reveal much about a character, but why would we want to do this if you never see them again? If they highlight the main character, make us sympathize with him or her more, see deeper into their persona, then it's effective. Then it's worth doing.

So bring out the dirt, get out all the bad stuff that happened in the past, make the characters human and readers will love them. :) Even if they're half wolf. :)

Terry Spear

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Las Vegas Baby!

“You get the book?” Puff asked, practically bouncing up and down with excitement.

“Yeah, but it wasn’t easy.” Fluff wiggled his nose and a yellow and black large paperbound book dropped in front of him.

“Las Vegas for Bunnies,” they read the title in unison, awe in their voices.

“You really think she’s going to let us go?” Fluff tipped an ear toward the book so the pages would move.

“Sure, she will. Jazz wouldn’t take us, but Linda will.” Puff practically buried his nose in one page. “Wow, look at all these games they play. Even craps.” His dark eyes sparkled with mischief.

Fluff read along with him. “Uh, Puff, that’s not the kind of crap you’re thinking of.”

“What’re you doing?” Horace ambled over to look over their fuzzy shoulders.

“Linda’s going to Las Vegas and we’re going to ask her to take us with her. We want to be prepared for anything,” Fluff replied.

The gargoyle plopped down next to them and began reading. “Craps!”

“Not that kind of craps,” the bunny slippers told him.

His expression fell with disappointment. “Damn. Probably not as much fun.” He examined a claw then started picking his sharp teeth. “So, you think Linda would take me too? A lot of shows there with some pretty sexy ladies who might like gargoyles.” If he’d had eyebrows they would have been bopping up and down.

Puff leafed through the book, mimed a gagging noise at one colorful page and would have moved on but Horace swiftly moved to stop him.

“Yuck!’ Puff protested.

Horace’s eyes remained fixed on the photograph showing a Las Vegas show complete with showgirls clad in skimpy costumes. “Oooh baby.” He straightened up. “We are so going.”

Fluff and Puff agreed. “And if Linda says now we can always stow away in her suitcase. It has a zippered pocket she rarely uses.” Puff said.

Fluff headed for the door. “I’ll get the snacks for the trip.”

“Nothing healthy!” Horace called after him.

“Yeah, like we eat healthy.” Puff rolled his eyes. “This is going to be fun!”

Or will it?

Linda’s speaking at the RWA Cactus Rose Writers Group on Saturday April 18. Information can be found at their site

Whether she’ll allow Fluff, Puff and Horace to go with her or if they’ll stow away is another story.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Buying Books

Just two weeks and five days until Fire Me! is released and as each day goes by, I get more excited. This isn't my first book, but it sure feels that way, maybe because I am so invested in the book's characters and plot. Not that I wasn't invested in my other books (I write teen mysteries, too), but Fire Me! was percolating in my mind for quite awhile. Having it come alive on the page and then in print has a dream-come-true quality to it.

Like Beth Cornelison, I am thrilled with my book's cover and have to give a big shout-out to Sourcebooks' art team. This cover has to rank as my all-time favorite of my books, capturing the look and attitude of the heroine, Anne Wyatt, and the dreamy, zany tone of the book itself.

Some early reviews are coming in and I'm pleased as punch about them. Eye on Romance web site says Fire Me's characters and situations are "hilarious" and "inspired," and the book itself "provides a tongue-in-cheek look at the corporate mentality."

A Novel Menagerie says "This fast-paced, humorous book kept me giggling throughout the night..."

I think all authors hold their breath waiting to see what reviewers say, wondering if their books will be panned or praised. I don't mind little dings in reviews and have even nodded my head to ones I think are fair criticisms. I know reading taste is subjective, so I don't expect everyone to like what I like (or write!).

But I do cringe when a reviewer gets something big wrong or gives away a major plot point in the review -- I actually wrote to a reviewer once asking her (politely) take a "spoiler" out of her review of one of my earlier books. She did.

As I wait for other reviews to come in, I was wondering if readers and authors have favorite reviewers--ones whose recommendations are always on the mark for you, personally, as a reader, ones whose tastes overlap yours. often do you buy a book based on a review, or do you buy books based primarily on friends' recommendations?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Thrill of Cover Art

First, let me say Happy Easter! Happy Passover! Happy Spring! I love the renewal of nature each spring (despite the pollen's attack on my allergies!)

In other news...I know other authors have used this blog to discuss their experiences with seeing their cover art for the first time. But I hope you'll indulge me as I croon, because last weekend, I saw the preliminary cover for my September release, HEALING LUKE. It's beautiful!
I know every parent says their baby is beautiful, but to be honest, I've had covers in the past that left me cold. Not so with HEALING LUKE. The artists at Sourcebooks found beach scenes that set a poignant and romantic mood while still featuring their trademark hunk chest (although Luke's is less prominent, and you'll understand why once you've read the book.)
It is hard to put into words how it feels to see for the first time the cover art for a book whose characters, plot and setting you created, lived with, cried and sweated over. (What? But you're a writer! Words are your life!) After investing so much of yourself to produce your book, which relies so largely on imagination, on the images in your own head, to see a visual rendition of your setting or characters, even just an artistic image that portrays the mood of your story.... is priceless. And when the cover artists hit the nail on the head? Magic!

Here's a sneak peek. What do you think?

I can't wait to share more of my journey leading to the publication of HEALING LUKE this September. Stay tuned!
Beth Cornelison

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Google Likes Me

Romantic Times Magazine contacted me recently about doing a blurb for their Web Forum page (to be in the June issue) about what my favorite websites are, as an author or personally. I had to think about it because I do a lot of cyber-surfing. But one that was incredibly useful for writing In Over Her Head (and the others), is Google Earth. Not a website as much as a web program (and I'm not a tekkie, so please excuse me if I call it by the wrong name), I can get lost in it for hours.

And when I started doing the logistics for In Over Her Head (i.e., where is Reel watching from while Erica's getting forced into the ocean at gunpoint, or where can his lair be after she gets shot, etc.) I did spend hours on it.

There is absolutely NOTHING in the North Atlantic ocean floor between the east coast of New Jersey and Bermuda. Flat seabed. Talk about frustrating because it's too many miles to swim to Bermuda. (Why Bermuda? Ah, well, you'll have to read the story to find out, but Bermuda plays an important role in the story and one of these days I'm going to have to do a research trip there ;} )

I did eventually find a few rises in the ocean floor, closer to New York than southern New Jersey and figured Reel could have a place there. Yes, it's out of the way to Bermuda, but it works.

Then I had to figure out how to get them to Bermuda, again without spending days (and pages) of straight swimming with nothing happening but dialogue, then again from Bermuda to the Caribbean. Google Earth has ways to measure distance directly on the screen. It was also great to be able to see the whole ocean floor, find little rises above the surface of the sea that are too small to be inhabited islands, AND to see the landscape of those cays. I could move them around the ocean in a suspended-disbelief manner.

As I said in another interview, Google Earth exists to make my life easier.

Friday, April 10, 2009

British Heroes for an American Girl!

Hello Casa authors and fans! I’m delighted to be on this fabulous blog today with all of the wonderful writers who make up this site. Thank you, ladies for allowing me to share with you the excitement I have for my latest book A Duke To Die For.

Some of you might think I’m a new author, but I’ve been around for a few years. I’ve written as Gloria Dale Skinner and Charla Cameron but with my nineteenth published book out this April, I think I’ve finally settled down to being only Amelia Grey.

You know, I’ve been a fan of all things British since I was in grade school and the Bealtles and Rolling Stones took America by storm. I love their accents, their stately mansions and their leather berets. It’s no wonder that writing in Regency London fits me perfectly. That doesn’t mean I won’t stay up all night reading when I find a good book about a cowboy in a white shirt with a leather holster slung around lean hips. And I can really get into a story that has a hero who wears his jeans just tight enough to make me want to know what lies beneath them. But these days most of my fantasies are leading me to powerful, roguish gentlemen dressed in slim-legged trousers and hastily tied neckcoths.

A Duke To Die For is my sixth Amelia Grey book and it’s the first book in The Rogues’ Dynasty which is my new Regency Series. When I was dreaming up an idea for a new story, I couldn’t determine if I wanted my hero to be a duke, a marquis or an earl so I cleared that up real quick by deciding to write about all three. After a little planning on the trilogy, I knew the duke’s story had to come first, and I knew he had to be the youngest of the three cousins I was going to write about. It took a while bu I finally decided I wanted him to be a reluctant hero. That kind of man is one of my favorites. There’s just something deliciously inviting to me about a hero who has no desire to step up and save the day but always does when he’s called upon.

I wanted my duke to be carefree, undisciplined and a man who avoided responsibility the way Londoners avoided the plague. And then, of course I had to give him a ton of responsibility and that came in the form of a lovely ward who just happened to be the kind of young lady he would much rather seduce than protect. There’s always something decidedly tempting about the forbidden.

Having been born to power and privilege Blake doesn’t know the first thing about discipline or boundaries so it gave me tremendous pleasure to present him with an organized, orderly heroine who sent heat like he hadn’t felt in years rushing through him, and watch him squirm.

In all good romances other characters and plotlines add to the depth, the tone and the flavor of the book so I have a few characters who will appear in all three books of the trilogy. But my favorite character to write is the hero. I spend a lot of time in his head so the reader will know exactly what is on his mind, what's up his sleeve and how he's going to win the heroine's love.

So ladies, what is your favorite kind of hero? Maybe he’s the man from your past that is back? Or perhaps he is the dangerous stranger who just saved your life? You tell me what kind of man sends your heartbeat racing and keeps you up all night…reading.

Amelia Grey

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Is It Spring Yet?

By Robin Kaye

The kids are on Spring Break, the daffodils are blooming, and it’s snowing. Okay, it’s not snowing today, but it was yesterday. Here in Maryland (and Central Pennsylvania) it flurried on and off all day. There is just something so wrong about snow-covered daffodils in April. Just when I was contemplating storing all my sweaters away in my antique cedar trunk, the temperature dropped and I was frozen again. And to add insult to injury, I had to drive through what looked like a blizzard. Of course, as soon as the snow hit the windshield or the ground it melted. Still, the snow was coming down in those big, honkin’ flurries—the kind that make you want to run around with your tongue hanging out to try to catch them. If it hadn’t been almost Mid-April, I would have enjoyed it. I suppose the changing of the seasons has me on edge, and for a few weeks, I’ll be wondering if I’m experiencing spring or if winter has returned.

There are seasons to everything and they all change at pretty much the same time. In sports, Baseball season begins just as College Basketball wanes. In publishing I’m gearing up for my Blog Tour and the launch of Too Hot To Handle which comes out May 1, and at the same time, I’m making the finishing touches on the third book in my Domestic Gods Series, Breakfast In Bed. I’ve got one foot planted firmly in each season and I'm keeping an eye on the weather.

It’s a wonderful and exciting time of the year. Things are coming to life, the trees and flowers are blooming, kids are playing outside and people are beginning to stock up on summer reads. I guess the trick is to be flexible and enjoy the last days of winter while cheering on the spring. It might also help to wear layers and carry a sweater and a coat because you never know when it might snow--you don't want to miss out on your last chance of the season to run around with your tongue hanging out catching snowflakes.

Have a Happy Easter and Passover everyone, and think Spring!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lookin' For Love

So this is a picture from my vacation. Yeah, yeah, so it's the "online surfing" portion of my vacation. Who said my brain didn't get to have a Spring Break too? And anyway, it's Wednesday, and everyone can use a little Fabio to get them through the rest of the week:-)


I really am on vacation with the kids in North Carolina right now and trying to keep my computer time light so I can actually enjoy the week off, but my mom and I were having a discussion about romance this afternoon: what we liked in books, didn't like, etc. I can see that I probably picked up Marie's cosmic vibes or something, because she talked about one side of that equation on Sunday with her pet peeves (and IMO, they were pretty spot on). So today, I thought I'd mention a few of the things that draw both me AND my mom, who I've mentioned is an avid reader and by the way has a TON of books here I want to read, to pick up and enjoy a romance novel. They're things I've tried to address in my own writing, of course, so I can only hope that one or more of these helps Wild Highland Magic fly off the shelves!

1. Great Cover. I can't tell you how many books I've picked up by authors I hadn't heard of simply because of an awesome cover. It may not say anything about the writing, but if you can stand out and get picked up (ha ha) in a crowded book aisle, you're halfway there already! And I'll admit, I'm a very visual person. I hunt for interesting covers.

2. A strong, non-wimpy heroine. I used to be more forgiving about this, and it still depends somewhat upon the time period, but I really do not like wussy heroines. I want a heroine with a strong voice, a woman who takes responsibility for her own destiny. She can have her hang-ups, sure, but I don't want her life to be all about the hero as soon as she meets him. She doesn't have to be a gun-toting tough girl, but I do want a heroine who always holds her own...and I do love it when she gives the hero a run for his money.

3. A flawed hero with heart. I still think Julie Garwood's Highland lairds and medieval barons are the best examples I can think of here. They're larger than life in a way, but they show their imperfections without coming off as insufferable jerks. They're real men as well as heroes. they can be grumpy husbands, they misread their heroine's signals, they do stupid things sometimes...and they also change and grow as a result of the heroine's love. I don't want a perfect hero. I mean, ew, where's the fun in that?

4. Sex scenes that mean something. And that don't suck. I have read everything from pulse-pounding to yawn-and-skim, and I stand in awe of the authors who manage pulse-pounding every time. Especially now that I know how hard they are to write! But I'm an idealist: I want the build-up, and the payoff, to be as engrossing as the rest of the story.

5. A great voice. I know this is the thing we really have no control over as authors...we sound the way we sound, and each of our voices is unique. But honestly, my process for buying a book is as follows: pick up book with cool cover, read back copy, open and skim a couple pages to get a sense of voice. If I can "hear" the story and the characters immediately, I'm in. Even if I was on the fence after the back cover. I may be a writer, but I still love falling into a good story more than anything.

So what about you? What draws you to a romance? Besides Fabio, that is:-)


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What's a Romance Author to do?

By Danielle Jackson

Many of you know that I started a Twitter account (and yes I know there are sparse updates…this post will explain why, kind of). We have this blog; the paranormal authors have their blog. Many of you have Facebook and/or MySpace accounts, websites, your own personal blogs, etc. More and more book sections of newspapers are moving to the web. The book reviewing blog community grows by the day.

More and more, marketing and publicity efforts (and not just for books!) are turning to the internet. As I’ve explained time and time again, this is the cheapest and best way to have direct contact with readers is through the web. A bunch of the sites I send your books receive thousands of hits a month (some, in a week). We do a lot of outreach and work to find those readers who don’t know they like your work yet!

It sounds like a lot to have to keep up with right? I actually had a conversation a couple of weekends ago with a friend who has a job that lends itself very easily to always being connected to his computer or iPhone—so updating his blog, his twitter account, his Facebook page, etc. is easy. But he doesn’t do it for his job—he does it for fun… something to pass the time, to post funny links, to tell his friends what he’s doing, to share his random thoughts on life, etc.

So, I’m sure you can understand why he would be peeved at me for advocating the new movement of marketing and PR to the web. He said that within the last month or so Twitter has been bombarded with similar publicists who use their 140 characters to tweet about events, reviews, etc. Every few days he sees new “pages” added to Facebook for various products, people, books, etc. Many of his friends are receiving free Advanced Reader Copies of books that they agree to review on their blogs. He wonders, “What’s happening? Suddenly, all of these things I used to do aren’t fun anymore because I feel like I’m constantly being sold something.” He jokingly (I hope) added that I’m supporting this by blogging, tweeting, encouraging you guys to have Facebook and MySpace pages, etc.

He compared it to the expansion of Facebook over the past few years—a while back, Facebook was only for college students—your college had to be part of the Facebook network—then suddenly high schools were added—now, if she wanted to, Mama Jackson could start an account, as can my 13 year old cousin, as can a cosmetic company, as you can! It felt like something was taken away from me when that happened! I don’t think my friend meant it to be offensive in any way when he was talking about what I do for my job, because, guess what? When I thought about how I felt about Facebook, I could see where he was coming from! Blogs, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter did start off as fun things that were mainly between friends, and are now lumped in the new category of “social networking.”

BUT I also think that as traditional review/publicity outlets evolve, we should,too. I think there are particular outlets that lend themselves well to this new age of the literary community (blogging, specific pages for authors on Facebook and MySpace), but there are those that don’t (Twitter is

continually a challenge for me—do I update it enough, do I do it too much, should I post a link to a review or should I just say my random thoughts at work, and how can I keep track of someone tweeting at me?!?!?!).

I know one thing many of you have struggled with is how to balance these new ways of communicating with your writing, and which ones are worth your while. I always tell you to make that decision yourselves, and as you can see, I’m wondering if worrying about my Twitter updates is really worth it—because the people “following” me on Twitter generally already know about the reviews posted, or will sometime soon. So do I need to do it? It’s something I’m going to continue to feel out, but who knows! I saw this same “outlash” when guest blogging really took off—some bloggers flat out refuse to host authors, even when they review a book, because they don’t want their blogs to become a platform for an author to sing their own high praises (which you guys don’t do… most of the time ;-). Some blame the economy, the lack of funds to the humanities, the lack of interest in reading as there used to be, to the recent marketing/PR move to the web, but when ad prices increase, but then available space and proven effect decrease, what other choice do we have but to bank on the place where we can not only do things on the cheap, but it has a limitless outreach?

The reason for this blog post is to get you all to think about the direction of your personal promo efforts (yes, you all should be doing stuff on your own, and if you aren’t—start. Seriously, NOW): what more can you do? Does it make sense? Can you devote the necessary time it takes (setting stuff up seems to take a while, but once it’s up, it’s easy, right?!) and make sure your fans like it enough to really pay attention? And if you do have all this fun stuff going on, is it really making an impact on your sales? While it is fun to post things that are funny, sexy, witty but TOTALLY irrelevant to your books, when you do it continually, what does that say about your commitment to your books? You should have these questions rolling around in your head—I know these are things I am constantly wondering as I continue to make the internet our main priority. Reviews are great, interviews/guest blogs are great—but what else? And what can I advise you guys to do?

I know it’s exhausting to always post about your books, your inspiration, your characters, your craft, writing, the call, etc., but it all boils down to one thing—getting the word out… And sometimes you have to wonder if things are right for you (hence my questioning of Twitter). The web is endless, and lot’s of fun when you set out exploring it, but remember, we do have an agenda at hand for publicizing your wonderful books! Something I don’t think a lot of other publishers do (and I’m not saying all, I just saying “a lot of”) is the focus and attention I give to each author and his or her books. Each of you has something unique to offer through your writing, and I look at my job as a way to show that to everyone.