Monday, November 30, 2009
Everyone knows what happens in the aftermath of Thanksgiving dinner -- LEFT-OVERS!
Some writers have left-overs too. You know, those scenes or partial scenes that get excised somewhere between the first draft and final version? Instead of merely hitting "delete" many writers keep those tidbits in a separate file. Like the out-takes section on a film DVD, writers post deleted material on their websites, blogs or newsletters.
In fact, when I started this post, I planned to include of few of my own "left-overs." But then I realized I don't have any! Oh don't get me wrong, I cut PLENTY of words in the course of my writing and re-writing. I even keep hunks of it around, but in the true spirit of left-overs, most of it gets used somewhere else in my story.
Unlike my too, too fleshy self, my writing tends to be spare and lean. During revisions I'm much more likely to add scenes rather than trim them. I gobble up all my left-over lines and phrases and find myself casting about for more. Scraps of conversations, bits and pieces of scenery, clothing, even gestures wind up getting thrown into the mix. For example, I recently asked my CP's hubby, who is an ex-cop and a gun collector, some questions about a particular brand of firearm. He was a wonderful fount of information and even owned an exact model of the weapon, which he showed me. He ended our discussion with this pearl of advice, "Don't point at anything you don't intend to kill."
OOOO! That terse little quote sounded exactly like something my hero (also an ex-cop) would say. So guess which words my hero eventually utters to the heroine at a particularly tense moment in the story?
But back to the subject of left-overs... In my case, I'm afraid life really does imitate art.
Personally, I love Thanksgiving left-overs. Turkey casserole, turkey sandwiches, turkey soup... YUM! Unfortunately, I seldom have anything to make any of these scrumptious treats because I don't cook Thanksgiving dinner. (GASP!) I know, I know BLASPHEMY! Well, um... not quite.
The fact that I no longer cook Thanksgiving dinner stems from a long ago UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT involving the ex. He was the DH then and decided to invite his family to our house for Thanksgiving. All very well and good, except I was alone in the kitchen slaving to put the big turkey dinner with all the trimmings on the table. He did drag out our wedding china and set the table. But while he'd been busy inviting eight people to dinner, he forgot to tell his boss, and fifteen minutes before the turkey was scheduled to come out of the oven, the phone rang -- YOU GUESSED IT! Off he ran to work and I didn't see him again for FIVE HOURS (something he did for almost every holiday we were married).
Once he finally returned home and all his relatives had departed, I very calmly said, "I am never cooking Thanksgiving dinner again."
And I haven't.
Oh, I've fixed side dishes for pot lucks, and bought the ingredients (like this year) for many a dinner. But I rather enjoy "embracing my masculine side" and sitting back while somebody else does the cooking and clean up. Sure, I miss out on a lot of left-overs, but on the whole, I'm much happier for it. Oh yeah, and the ex kept the wedding china, too! I really didn't mind because I've never had another occasion to use it.
What about you? If you are a writer, do you have left-overs from your stories? Do you do anything with them? And if you're not a writer, do you like left-overs, of the written or edible variety?
Sunday, November 29, 2009
So here is the story: You know humans can howl like wolves, or at least to their own ears, but did you know that wolves actually will come to them?
I needed a little help untangling Christmas lights. Don't we all? I think, other than trying to locate the rest of the tree branches and the top of the tree, that's what is most time-consuming, and unless you have a lot of time and lots more patience, the most exasperating. Unless of course you're imbibing in Christmas cheer. And then your lights could become even more tangled. Or, you might skip them all together. But what are Christmas decorations without a few sparkly lights?
The next best thing is to call for help. I'm not giving away the secret of which wolf he is--could be Darien or his brothers, Jake or Tom, or Hunter, Leidolf, or Chester. Or any one of the other wolfish guys. It's really your guess.
But when I howled for help, two showed up. I'm pretty sure. I was in the kitchen making turkey sandwiches, so I figured it had to have been two of them. How else could my wolf have gotten into the mess he was in? The trickster had done it for a joke, then shifted and took off, leaving my poor guy tangled in the lights. At least I think so. Just as I walked into the room with a platter of sandwiches, I caught him shapeshifting into his gorgeous hunk of a self. I quickly ditched the platter and snapped a shot.
For posterity sake. It's important to have visual stimuli while I'm working on my stories. But I couldn't reveal his face--secret society, you see.
We did get the lights untangled and on the tree. It's beautiful. And though I really hate to give him up to anyone, he's a wolf at heart, you know. So he has to return to his pack, but he said he'd help anyone else with their lights this year if anyone needs his help. Add a devilish wink here, and he's all yours.
A show of hands, ladies? If we have a lot, we'll have to make a schedule! :)
I have to say, too, that Seduced by the Wolf is now listed on Amazon! Somehow it seems real when a new book is listed for pre-order!
And Deadly Liaisons is now 33% off the cover price for pre-orders and is shipping Dec 30!!
To Tempt the Wolf just was nominated for the Cupid and Psyche Award (CAPA) also!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
“Because you might come in handy.” Jazz had the grim determination you only saw one day a year. The day after Thanksgiving when serious shoppers came out to do their holiday shopping. She was there armed with credit cards, ready to do what it took to get all her shopping out of the way.
Fluff’s ears curved over the top of the bag, then his eyes peeped over, widening at the mob around them. “I’m going back to the car.”
Jazz tightened her hold on the bag. “No, you’re not.” She pushed her way into Nordstrom on the quest for the perfect gifts. It wasn’t long before she found a leather jacket for Nick, an even cuter leather jacket for herself, sweaters for Stasi and Blair, a wrap for Thea and she was still going strong.
“I want a pretzel,” Puff demanded.
“Later.” Jazz’s gaze narrowed as she spied a plum silk top across the store. She made her way there, but someone else saw the top too and there was only the one. “Create a diversion. Trip her,” she muttered, unceremoniously dumping them out of her bag.
“Pretzel,” Puff reminded her.
“Yeah, yeah.” But her mind was on the prize. The slippers growled their way among the shoppers, who tended to stay out of their way, yet not one screamed or fainted as their magick protected them.
Jazz remained behind them, watching the woman destined to lose the top, because IT WAS HERS. She started to throw out a freeze spell, but she made a promise not to use magick when shopping. Sigh! She quickened her steps and practically slid across the floor reaching out for the top the same time as the other woman.
“I believe this is mine,” the woman said frostily, practically jerking Jazz off her feet as she pulled on the hanger.
“I was here first.” Jazz was happy to see that Fluff and Puff were on either side of her new enemy. She wanted this top, damn it!
Just then the woman yelped and released the hanger.
Puff slid back, looking proud of himself. “Now I get my pretzel.”
“After I finish my shopping.” Jazz glared at the woman who looked ready to pitch into her. “Not getting this top isn’t the end of the world,” she told her before she walked off.
“Pretzel!” Puff raised his voice.
“You promised!” Fluff added his two cents.
“Give it a rest. I said I’ll get you guys pretzels after I finish here. Oooh, pretty!” She squeaked to a stop by a large rack of silk dresses.
Fluff and Puff didn’t say another word, but sulked big time as Jazz finished her shopping in the store and added more large shopping bags to her arms.
As she exited the store, alarms went off big time.
“What the –“ Jazz looked around to see who’d set off the security alarm when a hulkish type man came up to her.
“If you’ll come with me, ma’am,” he said quietly, taking her arm in a hold that said to come with him or else.
“What’s the problem?” She so wanted to zap him good, but she knew it wouldn’t be a good idea.
“We believe you have items you haven’t paid for.” He steered her toward the offices.
“Oh believe me, I paid for everything and have the receipts and depleted charge card to show for it.” If she wasn’t on probation with the Witches Council, she would have used a spell to get out of there without any fuss, but she knew the man was wrong and there was nothing she loved more than showing a man he was wrong. “So what exactly didn’t I pay for?”
Once in the office, she set her shopping bags down and looked the part of a disgruntled shopper. After all, she had more sales to plunder! More gifts to buy! And there was that gorgeous dress she saw in the paper that she knew would be perfect on her.
The security officer reached into one bag and pulled out two fluffy items.
Jazz stared at Fluff and Puff and laughed. “Are you kidding me? They’re mine. I brought them with me for when my feet get tired.” She gestured with her stiletto boots.
“Sure, lady. We all don’t believe in taking the price tags off our own items.” He dropped them on the desk, where, damn them, they didn’t move an inch and acted as if they were literal footwear, and picked up a phone. “And we have zero tolerance against shoplifters here.”
Jazz picked them up, gasped at the fifty-dollar price tag and glared at them hard enough to cause steam to come out of her ears. “You little shits,” she gritted. “You reveal yourselves now.” Nothing.
The guard shook his head and picked up the phone.
Ten minutes later, Jazz was escorted out of the office by a police officer. When she glanced over her shoulder at the slippers still lying on the desk, she saw Puff slowly close one eye in a wink and mouth the word pretzel.
So a word of warning.
If you’re at the mall and see bunny slippers, have a pretzel ready. They prefer the cinnamon sugar ones.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all our readers who celebrate today.
And HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all our readers!
All of us here on the Casablanca Authors blog are truly THANKFUL for ALL OF YOU!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
When asked what I want for Christmas these days, I'm hard-pressed to come up with a reply. Back when I was getting into the horse business, there was always something I wanted--a new saddle or other barn item. I would pick up a horse supply catalog and go through it, marking pages and circling items and then hand it to my DH who was very pleased to have a list to follow.
This year, I circled a few items that need replacing, but there isn't anything I'll be excited about, and most are things I could just as easily have bought for myself. That's the problem with material things; all you need is the money to pay for them, and if I have learned one thing in this life, it's that getting that saddle or diamond ring or whatever it is you think you want won't provide lasting happiness.
Perhaps it's something that comes with age, but more and more I'm beginning to realize the truth of that old saying about the best things in life being free. Material things matter less to me each year, while the intangibles have increased in value. Emails from readers cost nothing, but mean so much. Smiles from your friends can make a really rotten day seem brighter, and being with your loved ones on Thanksgiving can make all that's wrong with the world disappear for a while.
My son Mike will be home from Purdue for Thanksgiving, and he posted this on Facebook recently:
I wonder if it would be considered ironic that I am thankful for Thanksgiving itself. I am thankful for the holiday where we think about what we're thankful for.
This makes me wonder how it would be if we didn't have a holiday to make us stop and consider. Would we ever count our blessings, or would it be something that was simply overlooked from year to year? I'd like to think we would take the time, but perhaps not.
This year, in addition to those things I listed earlier, I've made many new friends through this crazy publishing game. I've been places I never would have seen, met people I never would have known, and done things I didn't think I was capable of. For all of this, I am truly thankful.
Eye candy is another one of those intangibles that bring joy to our lives. It's not something you can taste or possess, but is one of those natural wonders that cost nothing and are so good for the soul. Sort of like gazing out across the Grand Canyon.
So, go ahead. Take a good, long look.
And be thankful.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
(The following numbers are one season from one editor--probably not statistically significant, but interesting nonetheless)
Out of curiosity, and because we love data so much, I decided to take a look at one season of my list and analyze how we had found the books we acquired to publish for that season.
There are 36 fiction titles on my list in that season.
11 of these came to us through submissions from agents
10 were submitted directly by the author
Of this 10
*2 of the authors had an agent already
*3 signed an agent after we made our offer
15 are books that we pursued by contacting the agent or author ourselves
Of this 15:
*3 who were unagented when we approached them, signed an agent after we made our offer
Of all 36 books on the list, 4 had been previously self-published with sales of about 1000 copies or more. They were available from on-line retailers as well as by ordering from the major book retailers.
I receive 200-250 submissions per month. I would estimate that 60% of the submissions come from agents, and the rest directly from authors.
I have never, in 16 years of acquisitions, acquired a book for mainstream publishing that had been vanity-published.
What I'm looking for:
- single title romance fiction in all subgenres
- a heroine the reader can relate to
- a hero she can fall in love with
- a world gets created
- the author has a career arc
- commercial women's fic (strong romantic element, unusual premise and great hook!),
- historical fic (Regency, Georgian, Victorian England my faves),
- Jane Austen related fic (oh yeah!)
Monday, November 23, 2009
So it came to this -- I cleaned my office. I can hardly believe it. No stacks of stuff sitting around the floor. No piles of papers waiting to be shredded. I can actually see the surface of my desk.
I'm lucky enough to have a home office, a room on the second floor of our house that overlooks our back yard. In the spring and summer, I get to watch as robins, finches, and blue jays cavort at the bird bath (those robins are territorial, let me tell ya) while I write.
While the landscape outside is pastoral, for a long time the scene inside has resembled the aftermath of a natural disaster. My office is small, with just enough room to fit a desk and table comfortably (and a cot when our house explodes with guests at holiday visits). It used to hold a gigantic filing cabinet, but that's gone due to my cleaning purge.
For a long time (too long to admit to!), I put off this cleaning project. I'm one of those people who can write in the midst of chaos. In fact, sometimes chaos feeds my muse. All those papers around, all those pens, books, newspaper clippings. . . . and here I am in the middle of that tempestuous sea, calm and focused, putting words on the screen in an orderly fashion. I could carve out this one tiny space of order amid the ruins, and dagnabit, I'd hang onto it with all my might!
Every once in awhile, however, the mess would mess me up. I'd get this itch to see it all clean and tidy. I'd wonder what germs lingered in the dust bunnies under my desk. I'd think "ewwww" before I could get to the "ahhh" of creating something on the page.
So I'd do at least some perfunctory cleaning, enough to make me feel I was on Step One of a multi-phase project that was, after all, trending in the right direction (uh, that direction being up a steep hill). Muse unfettered, I'd be able to sit at the computer and write again.
Well, all this mind-game stuff came to an end when I decided to analyze what kept me from cleaning the place thoroughly, what was the mental block holding me back. It turned out to be an easy answer--I just didn't have places to put things. The big filing cabinet was useless--its drawers would stick and I never did find the right hanging file frames for it. So it had to be jettisoned. So did a bunch of outdated files.
It took me a week, as I worked each storage problem--making new files, finding room for them in a file cabinet that actually works in a closet, organizing office supplies, arranging books on shelves, etc. But, man oh man, does it feel good to finally have it done. A place for everything, and everything in its place!
Okay, so how does this relate to writing? Just as I stalled on cleaning, I sometimes stall on writing. Yes, I can manage to work past the stall, but it's an arduous process (imagine pushing a rock up the aforementioned steep hill) as I push this way and that, keeping plot and characters moving but not addressing some underlying problem.
Eventually, I have to address whatever the problem is, though -- the root of my stall. Usually, it involves a character who is doing something not true to the characterization I've drawn. Then I step back and ask myself: okay, what would she really do in this circumstance? The answer is usually something different from what I've put on the page as I pushed up the hill.
Sure, these discoveries might mean going back and rewriting, jettisoning scenes with the same cold calculation I used to get rid of that enormous but useless filing cabinet. In the end, however, I'm dealing with a much better manuscript--all neat and tidy, just like my office! :-)
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I’ve been an avid collector of two things for as long as I can remember—Books and music. I’ve kept them with me all my life though seven states, and 35+ moves.
When I was younger, I could name every move, in order, and I could have given you the street address too. I’m not sure I’d be able to remember my every move now, but when an old song comes on the radio, or the iPod, I can tell you where I lived when it was popular. It’s the same with books.
I know I lived in Mount Laurel, NJ the year Elton John’s Philadelphia Freedom was all the rage and read Judy Blume’s Forever and Louis Nizer’s Reflections Without Mirrors.
I lived in Reston, VA when a friend of my mother’s let me hang out at her apartment and read her prized collection of Wizard Of Oz books in exchange for walking her dog every day after school. That was the same year the songs Wildfire and Shannon brought tears to my eyes along with the book, Watership Downs.
I read JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit and Jeffrey Archer’s Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less one of the summers I spent in Westhampton Beach, Long Island while tapping my foot to Billy Joel She’s always A Woman To Me.
I lived in Mountain Lakes, NJ when I first heard Elvis Costello sing about Watching The Detectives, and read The Thorn Birds in one sitting. It was also about that time I got in trouble for reading The Carpetbaggers and A Stone For Danny Fisher during my Harold Robbins phase.
Keeping my favorite books and music close to me has always been so important because wherever they were was home.
A year ago, my DH moved our storage from one room to another--this happens quite often when you’re restoring a hundred year old Victorian. Every time DH faces this task, everything I’ve loved and saved for years is in jeopardy of going the way of the dumpster. I became a victim of Get-rid-of-this-stuff-because-I-refuse-to-move-it-again syndrome. This time my entire record collection was placed on the chopping block. I refused to consider taking it to the big turntable in the sky and I’m so happy I’m more stubborn than he is.
Yesterday, during my weekly shopping jaunt to Costco, I spied something I haven’t seen in years. I swear I heard the angels sing—though it might have been Jim Morrison. There before me was a turntable! Yes, you’re not seeing things. It was a real, honest to God turntable that connects to a computer and records/downloads records (both 45’s and 33’s) to iTunes!
Last night, I opened my box of albums and found my family history. There was my grandparents’ operas and their Italian comedy album, Pepino the Italian Mouse. A BJ Thomas album that I’m sure was one of my parents’. The first Sesame Street Album that contained my favorite song on the show-- Oscar’s I Love Trash. I walked down memory lane through my southern rock phase, my hard rock phase; my jazz phase, and sadly, a short and very painful disco phase. I found everything from James Taylor to Tubular Bells, Bradford Marsalis to Gilbert and Sullivan. On my bookshelves and in that box of albums, I have a musical and reading history of my life—The good, the bad, and the disco. No matter where I was, I always had a book to read and good music to listen to. I’m a very lucky person.
What’s on your bookshelf and on your iPod?
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The moment Halloween ends, we get inundated with Christmas. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I love December. I love the whole deck-the-halls thing. Peace and goodwill. December, for all the holiday-shopping craziness, always seems like a “soft” month to me: mittens and scarves, hugs, warm hot chocolate, snow…
Back in the day, (i.e. the Dark Ages) we used to have snow all winter. I could make snowmen in December. The nights got dark early. It was cold, and we all cuddled up in our down jackets that made us look like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man or the Micheline Man. Remember the plastic bread bags we put over our socks before putting on our boots to go out in the snow—which ensured you’d end up with frostbite from all the sweating your feet did in them. That scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphy can barely walk for all the “huddled up”-ness cracks me up.
That was the December of my childhood and I loved it, and still do even though snow is now more of a gift than a common occurrence.
But it’s NOVEMBER. One of the best holidays is in November and we’re in major danger of covering it under a pile of gifts and wrapping paper.
I love Thanksgiving. It’s my holiday to cook in our family. Everyone comes to our house. I get up early—although, due to Reynolds’ oven bags, I no longer have to get up before the crack of dawn to “get the bird in the oven” thank God—but I do get up early to make the stuffing (takes me about an hour). My husband helps get those ingredients ready, my kids help me make the desserts the day before, we turn the parade on on TV, and we have a nice time as a family.
Then, with the bird cooking, we set out the Scrabble game, the chess board, put the extra chairs in the family room, turn on a football game (or six), and welcome the rest of the family.
We also celebrate three birthdays. This year, my husband’s is on Thanksgiving day, and one of my kid’s and my grandmother’s all fall around the same time. (Which means we add yet another cake to the celebration, usually an ice cream one.)
I like Thanksgiving and, frankly, I’m rather annoyed when the Christmas decorations start showing up in the mall, or on streetlights in town.
The radio stations that play Christmas music could hold off one more week. The Friday after Thanksgiving used to be the traditional start to the Christmas season—whatever happened to that?
Why does Thanksgiving have to be the shuttled-aside holiday? It’s a celebration of peace—we’re giving thanks. There will be time enough for Christmas-crazies starting on Friday, but I like to take Thanksgiving as a day to slow down, spend time with my family and appreciate all that we have, both personally and as a country.
And on Friday, I’ll be hitting the stores with all the other crazies out there who have to find the best deal or early bird special. Although, this year, I won’t be shopping. I worked in a toy store the year after Tickle Me Elmo did for toy stores what JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer are doing for book stores and movies, and I vowed then to NEVER hit the stores on that Friday.
But this year, while people are buying, I’ll be selling. I’ve got five book signings set up at my local stores for my latest release, Wild Blue Under. I figured if people are going to be buying, why can’t they be buying my books?
And that will be something I’m very thankful for.
Happy Holidays, everyone! What’s your favorite?
Friday, November 20, 2009
My critique partners, friends, and thus far the readers and reviewers have been very enthusiastic about this charming Irish rogue. They’ve all expressed interest in learning a bit more about him and I thought the readers here might like to know too. (Special thanks to my critique partners Cathy D. and Jo-Mama who helped with some of the questions.)
Hello Keirnan, you have a somewhat unusual name. Is it a family name?
As a matter of fact, it is. I was named for both my grandfathers, Keirnan Fitzgerald and Sean Farley. My sister was also named for our grandmothers, Kathleen Mary, so I guess you could say it’s a family tradition.
In the story The Treasures of Venice, you mention being kicked by a horse as a child. Did you grow up around horses?
Most everyone in County Kildare does. All the finest Irish thoroughbreds are born and raised there. My father was a trainer on one of the smaller farms.
But you didn’t want to follow in his footsteps?
Ah, no. I saw too much of the more unpleasant aspects of the job growing up to want to spend my life doing it.
How in the world did you go from a horse farm to Venice?
That would be my sister’s doing. She studied there for a semester during her early days at university, and she couldn’t get enough of the place – became a bit obsessed actually. When she moved there to do her graduate studies, I used to visit her on school holidays. Unlike her, I never wanted to live there. America was the place for me, the land of opportunity and pretty girls. First chance I got to go there, I jumped at it and I’ve lived there ever since.
What is it about American women you find so appealing?
Most of them have a fresh-scrubbed look about them that makes them appear to be both innocent and sexy at the same time. And most of them are incredibly direct. No doubt about where you stand. Oh, and most of them also find an Irish accent irresistible. (He gives a knowing smile.)
Back to the storyline of The Treasures of Venice, what would you have done if Samantha hadn’t gone along with you? Did you have a Plan B?
(K. chuckles) Darlin’ I didn’t even have a Plan A! I had that funny feeling on the back of my neck that I get when I’m being watched or followed. I saw a pretty girl sitting alone at a table in Piazza San Marco. I could tell by the way she was dressed that she was American. She looked familiar somehow, so I just walked up to her and took a chance.
It never once occurred to you that she might say no, did it?
(K. shuffles his feet and looks a bit sheepish) I adore the ladies, and most of ‘em adore me, so honestly, no. I didn’t think what I’d do if she refused. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about it, did I? (His blue eyes gleam and he winks.)
You do have quite an adventurous streak, don’t you? So how many times have you wound up naked in some strange woman’s hotel room?
Don’t ya know a gentleman never kisses and tells? And I am a gentleman.
All right then, what is the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?
Why fall in love, of course. Nothing’s more dangerous than risking your heart.
One last question, certain people in The Treasures of Venice believe you and Samantha were soul-mates from a previous life. Do you believe you that?
If you had asked me that before I met Samantha, I’d have told you it was all a pile of rubbish. I still think perhaps it might be. But I do believe in true love, and when you meet the one for you, you will know it.
On that lovely note, we’ll end our interview. But if you have any questions for Keirnan, please ask away! Oh, and if you have any questions for me, his creator, I’ll be happy to answer those too.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Danielle assured me it was a starred review, and even sent me the link, in case my dazzled mind still couldn’t grasp the truth of it.
My Unfair Lady Kathryne Kennedy. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4022-2990-9
Kennedy (Beneath the Thirteen Moons) delivers a delightfully unusual Victorian romance. Unlike other American heiresses mingling with London society, Arizona railroad heiress Summer Wine Lee isn't looking for a husband or a title. In fact, she's already engaged. She just needs some social polish so she can marry a rich New Yorker. To this end, Summer hires Byron, an impoverished duke who ekes out a living by bringing Prince Albert gossip. Summer is equipped with a free-spirited best friend, a menagerie of abused stray animals and a host of unladylike skills; Byron has a strange stepfamily, a shrinking violet mistress and a murderer determined to do him in. Their chemistry has plenty of humor, and their passion is intense and breathtaking. Full of unexpected period details of cosmetics and hunting, this romance goes against type in a wonderful way. (Dec.)
The thing is, life can hand you so many blows that you can become numb to the fact that, yes, good things can still happen. If you continue to work toward your dreams. For me, I have faced a year of difficult personal challenges, one right after the other. I think the only thing that kept me sane was focusing on the positive aspects in my life, one of which was my writing.
So for anyone reading this whose life has been difficult lately, it might help to know that yes, dreams do come true. Continue focusing on the positives, ignore the negatives, and work toward those things that you have the power to change.
Have you had one of your dreams come true lately? Whether personal or professional, please share it in the comments. I’d like this post to be a positive affirmation of all the good things that happen to people…and that dreams really do come true.
All My Very Best,
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
If you make a customer happy, they'll tell one person. if you anger a customer, they'll tell twelve.
That was twenty years ago. These days with all the social networks, in a matter of moments a disgruntled customer could tell thousands!
What does that mean to authors? To put it succinctly, be nice to your customers...the readers and fans. Since fellow authors are often avid readers, I'd put them on your list also.
I read something on a professional authors' loop recently (like an hour ago) that got me so riled up, I was tempted to tell a dozen people not to buy this woman's books. Of course, I wouldn't twitter it, but I could always secretly hope one of those dozen people would! (evil laugh)
Instead, I'm taking deep breaths and trying to rise above the temptation. I don't want to sink to that level. And if you believe in Karma (which I do) I won't need to do a thing. Chances are if I was insulted, others were too. Perhaps she already lopped off her nose to spite her face.
So, I'll go on my merry way, treating my readers like the intelligent, supportive treasures they are.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The story goes that Capt. MacDonald's brother was given land in PEI by the king of England for services rendered and was told he had to have it populated or he'd lose it. No one wanted to go there, but their father was a minister and talked several of his flock into leaving Campbelton for a better life. Except he didn't say it was in PEI.
The people didn't pack tools to build homes, believing they were going to a civilized town in North Carolina. The ship arrived in the unpopulated PEI instead, but the Scots refused to get off the ship.
For days they refused, and the ship ended up wrecking offshore. The people had to get food and water in the inhospitable land as provisions on board were running out. Now, Lady Elizabeth Campbell MacNeill had two sons, 6 & 8, and either had just given birth to a daughter, or the daughter was very young when they arrived.
Elizabeth had expensive gowns and jewels and gave these to the native Micmac Indians hunting in the area in trade for food. The Indians showed them how to hunt walruses and seals and locate berries. They helped the Scots to survive the harsh conditions.
It is said that since Elizabeth had been raised as a lady, she could not survive the brutal winter and died. Her daughter was raised by another Scots family and she eventually married one of their nephews. One son was raised by the Matthews family, and he is our ancestor and married one of their daughters. The other son married another Scot, but I couldn't learn if he lived with his father or not. In a later census record, a Malcolm MacNeill was married with children and he might have been Elizabeth Campbell's husband.
My great grandmother and many of that branch of the family always berated Lady Elizabeth for running off with the commoner MacNeill, leaving behind a life of nobility. Instead of being farmers, we could have been living in a castle!
If it were not for the Indians who came to their aid, we would not be here today. It is said, we are distantly related to Lucy Maude Montgomery, also of Prince Edward Island. Maybe that's why I love to write!
So I give thanks to the native Indians who welcomed the Scots and helped them make it through their first bitter winter. And to Elizabeth, who though she did not live happily ever after, chose to be with the man she loved more than having a courtly presence and being tied to a nobleman she couldn't abide.
Now do you see why I love romance???
I believe Elizabeth was born of a mistress, since we can find no record of her in the listing of the Duke's offspring. Although she was told for leaving Scotland he'd cut her off from the family completely. Two hundred years later, the other male branch of the family has the same story to tell that's been carried down over the generations. In the PEI accounts of the ship that was wrecked off the coast, Lady Elizabeth is mentioned. And my great grandmother, her father, and my grandmother recounted how Scotland Yard came to speak with them about the Bible that would have had Malcolm and her names, and her children's, when the last Duke died without issue many years ago. It is said that an even more distant relation than Elizabeth's offspring ended up with the title and castle because they could prove a connection when Elizabeth's family could not.
So what would you have done, given the choice?
I don't get to post again after the big turkey day, for those who celebrate the occasion, so I want to wish everyone a grand year full of thanks!
"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."
Monday, November 16, 2009
Most don't think too much about Thanksgiving. I did write a romance that ended with a Thanksgiving dinner that wouldn't be easily forgotten and it was a fun book to write.
But let's talk movies! I thought about my favorites and went in search for more. Here's what I found.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
When Peppermint Patty and a group of hungry pals show up at Charlie Brown's house expecting food, Charlie Brown is too wishy-washy to refuse. With the help of Linus, Snoopy and Woodstock a very unusual feast is prepared.
The story of several generations of a family, from the arrival of immigrant Sam Krichinsky in the suburb of Baltimore called Avalon, down through his children and grandchildren. The holiday of Thanksgiving plays a crucial role throughout the film.
Dutch Dooley picks up his girlfriend's son from boarding school in Atlanta, and sets out to drive to Chicago for Thanksgiving. He thinks it's a good chance for them to get acquainted, but Doyle turns out to be an upper class brat. Their cross-country battles land them in big trouble and make it doubtful whether they'll ever make it home.
Hannah and Her Sisters
During a Thanksgiving party, and the year following, we take a look at three sisters and the relationship they have with one another, and with the men in their lives.
Against the wishes of his wife and kids, Mitch Snider is determined to have a traditional Thanksgiving holiday with all the relatives. And it looks like that's what he will have once he receives an invitation from his long-lost cousin Woodrow in Idaho. However, cousin Woodrow and his family turn out to be nuttier than a holiday fruitcake.
The Holiday Treasure
Ten-year-old Addie is determined to share her Thanksgiving dinner with an elderly, hermit-like neighbor, despite a long-standing family feud.
Home for the Holidays
Claudia Larson is a divorced single mom who just lost her job and now has to fly home for the traditional family Thanksgiving in Baltimore. From the plane, she calls for reinforcements--and her brother Tommy makes it down from Boston with a little surprise: a handsome friend named Leo. Between dropping the turkey in their sister's lap and a few fist fights on the front lawn, Claudia and Tommy recapture their childhood- -and Claudia and Leo explore the sweet possibility of romance.
The Myth of Fingerprints
Warren returns home for Thanksgiving after three years. His family consists of his over-sexed sister and her long-suffering lover, his romantically distant younger brother, and his immature younger sister. The blackly comic story examines how each adult sibling has problems expressing feelings and explores their relationships with their emotionally crippled father.
Pieces of April
A wayward daughter invites her dying mother and the rest of her estranged family to her apartment for Thanksgiving dinner.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
A man must struggle to travel home for Thanksgiving, with an obnoxious slob of a shower ring salesman his only companion.
Scent of a Woman
Hoping to earn extra money over the Thanksgiving break, an innocent and reserved scholarship student at an exclusive prep school agrees to look after a blind, retired Lieutenant Colonel, who takes him off for a wild weekend in New York City.
L.A.'s funkiest college student, Crawl, is hilariously out of his element when he spends Thanksgiving at the family farm of a straitlaced fellow student.
Squanto: A Warrior's Tale
Squanto, a young Indian warrior, who is abducted and enslaved in England and Spain, is returned to New England and befriends the Pilgrims when they settle in Plymouth.
The Waltons, the Thanksgiving Story
As Thanksgiving approaches, John Boy Walton is looking forward to taking his college entrance exam and to the visit of Jenny Pendleton. But when John Boy has a seemingly minor head injury, the family must face a dangerou operation that will either cure or permanently disable their older son.
Who Made the Potato Salad?
Michael, a young police officer, and his beautiful fiancee Ashley meet her family for Thanksgiving dinner. Nothing can prepare Michael for Ashley's crazy family, and he wonders if his first meeting will be his last.
Are there any Thanksgiving films that come to mind?
Sunday, November 15, 2009
So far, it has met with everyone's approval, and I'd like to thank the design department at Sourcebooks for another terrific effort.
I've already received one guest blog request for the release which Danielle is adding to my calendar. I've never had a book come out in January before, and it would be nice if it came out in time for Christmas, but after the holidays are over and the long winter sets in is probably a good time to release a book, too.
Fugitive is set on Barada Seven, a jungle planet known for its fabulous birds, natives that look like tall orange toads, something called fuuslak juice, and one lone Zetithian male who has been on the run from the Nedwut bounty hunters for the past twenty years. When wildlife artist Drusilla Chevrault visits Barada, she thinks she's only there to paint the waterfowl, but she finds something she didn't expect: love, in the form of Manxarkodrath Panteris, the elusive fugitive of the jungle.
Unlike the other Zetithians in the Cat Star Chronicles series, Manx has never been a slave, but though he's learned how to avoid capture through the years, Drusilla soon has him throwing caution to the wind. Her beauty, talent, and, above all, her scent draw him out into the open. Drusilla is intrigued by those first fleeting glimpses of Manx, but just when she finds love in his arms, she discovers that there are others out to get him, and the race to find the last Zetithian becomes a contest between love and death.
So, while the snow falls and the winter winds howl, you can curl up in your fleece blankie with a cup of hot tea and read about one of the hottest aliens you will ever encounter.
Oh, yeah. . . . it's gonna be a very happy new year. . . .
Saturday, November 14, 2009
This past week, we celebrated Veterans Day. It has a special meaning for my family this year because one of my kids, my son David, is beginning his career as an Air Force officer. He graduated this past May from the Penn State ROTC program, and this November his orders have him down in Columbus, Mississippi AFB for the beginning of pilot training.
This past summer, he took a trip to Langley where he got a ride in a fighter jet. He described it as a "dream vacation." I'm including some pix of him there, as well as one of him and his sister at a military ball last spring. We're proud of him, and, of course, a bit fearful. But we know he's always, always wanted to fly (and yet I'm afraid of flying!), so we're excited he's getting to pursue his dream.
Whenever we attended various ROTC events with him, we always came away with a feeling of immense pride and gratitude. The young men and women who volunteer for military service are an inspiring group, so eager to "be all they can be," to borrow the old Army slogan.
Maybe because of having a son in the military, I find myself drawn to writing military characters into some of my novels. In Fire Me, the heroine's brother is in the Army and about to be deployed. In my upcoming My Own Personal Soap Opera, the hero is a retired Marine. But he's now a marketing executive whose shrewd market assessments and public relations savvy are put to use trying to save a failing soap opera. Hardly the usual story for a retired warrior.
But my goal in writing these characters is to make them normal, not larger than life, but part of life, just as our wonderful men and women in the military are--working, raising families, trying to do their best, knowing at any moment they could be thrust into harm's way.
So, even though Veterans Day is now gone, thanks to all out there who serve or have served and to the families who support them!
Friday, November 13, 2009
I was going to blog about my new book, Breakfast in Bed. However, we’ve had some problems with the book cover and I’ve recently learned that all the books had to be returned to the manufacturer because the foil on the cover would rather stick to people’s hands than to the book. All the books are going to have to be reprinted and as of this moment, we’re not exactly sure when they’re going to hit the stores. Right now, we’re thinking they’ll be a few weeks late, maybe more, but rest assured, Breakfast in Bed will be out by January.
So today, when I arrived at my Starbucks, all the baristas were abuzz with excitement. I sat down to write and found out that the day this blog will post, is Dress Up As Your Favorite Villain Day!
For those of you who don’t know, I live at a Starbucks. Okay, I don’t actually live there, but I might as well. I drive my daughter to dance every day, and while Twinkle Toes dances four to five hours, I sit at my favorite Starbucks, at my favorite table, and write.
In the year and a half I’ve been doing this, everyone at my Starbucks has become like family to me. During the summer, when Twinkle Toes danced for five weeks and lived with a host family, (we live 1 ½ hours away from the school) I swear, I missed my buddies at Starbucks more than I missed my own child. That might be because Twinkle Toes is 13 and they’re not. Still, the first week back to our regular schedule this fall was old home week.
So it’s Villain Day at Starbucks.
Everyone is dressed up as a favorite villain… and working. My pals: Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, Lex Luthor, and a Wizard of Oz flying monkey are here and I’m not. Unfortunately, it’s the only day I don’t drive to dance. I’m missing out on all the fun.
Just for kicks, (and a Starbucks gift card to a lucky commentor) I want to know: If you were going to dress up as your favorite villain, who would you be?
I for one would love to dress up as Dr. Hannibal Lector though it might be difficult to drink coffee and write while in a straightjacket and facemask. So you can’t be him.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Here’s a little rundown of the exciting things happening with Sourcebooks, Inc. as a whole! October and November have been incredibly busy, and we’ve had a lot of fun, so I wanted to share with everyone what our “parent” company has been up to!
First of all—we have an updated LOGO! What do you think? I rather like it, think it’s fresh and quite clever:
As for Sourcebooks Landmark (the Austen sequels, historical fiction, women’s fiction), you get to be a beautiful blue:
In some VERY exciting Casa new, our very own Kathryne Kennedy’s My Unfair Lady received a STARRED review from Publishers Weekly—the first for a Casababe since Aunty Cindy’s last year for The Wild Sight! Here’s a fab blurb:
Full of unexpected period details of cosmetics and hunting, this romance goes against type in a wonderful way.
Also, Casababe Robin Kaye’s Romeo, Romeo was featured as a book club pick on Barbara Vey’s PW romance blog, Beyond Her Book.
An Austen Sequel Author, Monica Fairview, received a Desert Isle Keeper review from All About Romance this week for her book The Other Mr. Darcy—congrats to her!
There have also been a couple of major media hits for books that aren’t fiction, but might be of interest to some of you!
The authors of Everything You Wanted to Know About *Ex were on the Today Show back in September—check out their awesome experience (and look at their shoes) and read their hilarious blog! Even if you don’t have an Ex, these ladies offer great advice on life. http://everythingex.com/archives/316
Broadcast Legend Len Berman’s The Greatest Moments in Sports was featured as a part of the Sports Illustrated for Kids Holiday Gift Guide—which receives over a million subscribers. He also has a regular blog on the Huffington Post, and this post talks about his book launch: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/len-berman/top-5-sports-stories_b_352159.html
Finally, two MAJOR announcements for Sourcebooks, Inc!
We recently officially launched our YA imprint, Sourcebooks Fire—an innovative and exciting new endeavour. With the success of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (three NYT bestseller picture books since it was launched a few years ago, um hello!), it seemed natural to move into YA. We have an VERY interesting Spring Season coming up!!
Also, a labor of love for a LONG time, we just had the soft launch of http://www.poetryspeaks.com/. We want this to become the YouTube for Poetry—classic, modern, spoken word, everything! PW ran a great article that explains it all, but as a personal poetry fanatic, I think this is a whole new way to experience poetry! Sourcebooks published Poetry Speaks, Poetry Speaks Expanded, Poetry Speaks to Children and Hip Hop Speaks to Children with the goal of letting people experience poetry both in written form, as well as hearing it performed, and now we hope to create a place that will allow everyone to do that!
So what about all of you—any big news for you you’d like to share?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Know what my biggest hits have been so far? The posts about the inspiration for the series, which is, basically, the television shows I grew up watching. I even did a "guess that leading man" thing on Wickedly Romantic yesterday. So I won't reiterate it here, but it got me to thinking: television had a big influence on my writing, but so did the movies. JAWS is a given because there's that whole terrified-of-the-ocean thing I gave Erica in In Over Her Head, and Failure to Launch because Matthew McConaughey's character (and fabulous gorgeous-ness) lent itself to Reel, and I loved It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World which contributed to the chase scenes in Wild Blue Under, but what else?
How about these: Anthony Newly and Rex Harrison in 1967's Doctor Dolittle? That Great Pink Sea Snail is BOUND to show up in one of my Mer books at some point. And remember Polynesia, the talking macaw? Yeah, she has a blue and gold feathered cousin named Tahiti living in the South Pacific - and she's already making her presence known.
Star Wars is definitely among my influences. The funny thing was, I had no desire whatsoever to see the first movie. I didn't like science fiction (or so I thought...). But the parental units were paying and wanted to make it a "family night" (and we all know how FUN those are to a teenager... not!), so I had to go along.
Um... I think I went back and saw that movie six more times in the theater, and did the same with the next two. (I'm not such a fan of the later movies, which were earlier in the sequence... but that's probably because I didn't really care about Padme and Anakin's love story since I already knew what happened to them and it wasn't happily ever after. And while Hayden Christensen looked great in that movie, his acting left a little--okay, a LOT--to be desired.)
I loved Mary Poppins and The Aristocats. Loved The Shaggy D.A., Herbie the Love Bug, Escape to Witch Mountain. (Yes, I know, Disney. Can't help it - they fed my imagination.) The Wizard of Oz is a classic, The Sound of Music (which probably has nothing to do with my writing other than the romance, and what a great romance it is!), The Ten Commandments (okay, I only saw it on tv, but man, what a production! And Charleton Heston and John Derek... yum!) Then came Close Encounters of the Third Kind (again, not a movie I wanted to see, but the parents insisted and boy, am I glad they did!), and then Indiana Jones (thank you God for Harrison Ford.) And, of course, the romantic comedies, one of my favorites being, Romancing The Stone.
Obviously, it's not a surprise that I write what I write: humor, light paranormal, talking animals, a little bit of magic and romance. If I could figure out how to toss a song or two in there, I probably would!
So, what were your early influences?
And just because it was so much fun on Wickedly Romantic, I've pulled some pictures from the movies. Are there any you don't know?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I nod in agreement. I am confused. I am perplexed. I am muddled and stupefied.
I am plotting.
To explain; my plotting procedure can best be described with an analogy.
Have you ever been out walking and seen a lovely clear field? The temptation to take a walk across it arises in your mind and before you know it, you strike out. At first it's not bad. There are puddles, but you go around them. Then, there is a little muck, but what the hey, you're sturdy! You've been here before, you can do it! And you proceed.
But soon, alas, the mud thickens. You look ahead. Looks like a long way across, still, but you look back and it's about as far. Might as well go forward. So you slog on.
And the muck thickens, though a few minutes ago you would have said that was impossible. You wade on, determined to make your way through, as the mud cakes your shoes, making each one feel a hundred pounds. You've forgotten completely why it seemed such a good &*%$# idea to cross this field. And looking ahead, the end of the muck still seems as far away as it was a while ago and you no longer even want to get there, but it is a destination, after all, and you must go on. You can't just sit down in the middle of the field and cry, though it's tempting.
Eventually, you begin to wonder, was there a better way though the field? Did you get mired in muck simply because you didn't plan well enough? But then, if you planned all that well, you would never get any work done because you've found in the past that planning too well deadens the joy of the walk. You do like to wander. Planning ahead is not your strong suit.
But you dutifully look up and around to see; could you have avoided this whole mess if you had planned ahead better? This time, when you look up, you find that it's not that far a ways to go now! And it looks like the way ahead is a little drier! Goody!
You promise yourself that you will reward yourself with dry socks and chocolate when all of this is done, but first, you must slog on!
And you do. You're weary, but footstep by footstep you plod on. At the end of it, as you look back, you realize that you really did come a long way, and though you're a mess, you can always clean yourself up. Ultimately, you have accomplished something.
Right now I am still in the field, and the way ahead looks pretty muddy, but I've been here many times before. Plotting a novel, for me, is always the hard part. I have to summon my faith at this point that I will pick my way through the mud and come out on the other side.
And then there will be clean socks and chocolate!
Monday, November 9, 2009
Everyone knows that yer olde Aunty is NOT a morning person. Anything that happens before 10 a.m. West Coast Time is not something Aunty needs to know (unless, of course, it is a flight to a vacation destination)! You can imagine Aunty's chagrin when recently she was awakened from dreamland at 8:30 by someone pounding on the front door.
NOBODY pounds on my door.
First, they must brave Aunty's stalwart protectors the Pug-wa-wa and the Yorkie Unholy Terrier. Should they happen to arrive when said obstacles are not in attendance, they will receive Aunty's Nasty Lecture Number 23B which references the "No Solicitors" sign in plain view on the front gate, IF Aunty deigns to answer at all.
But the other morning at the ungodly hour of 8:30 a.m. someone dared my canine security squad (who were barking like the hounds of Hades) to knock... LOUDLY! Figuring it must be something dire, I crawled out of bed, stumbled to the door, and peered through the security peep hole. I recognized the young man standing there in baggy shorts and flip-flops as my new next-door neighbor who had introduced himself to the DH and me a couple of weeks ago. My protectors nipped at his bare ankles.
I opened the door just a crack and he reintroduced himself and said, "My wife locked me out. Can I use your phone?"
I let him in. I figured if the poor guy was desperate enough to brave my dogs and to see me in my jammies with no make-up and bed-head, he deserved one phone call!
Later that afternoon, I met my wonderfully talented critique partner, Jo-Mama for brainstorming and going over chapters of our works-in-progress.
I've just started a new tale that doesn't even have a title yet. Beginnings are always difficult for me. I never quite know where to jump into the story, and I don't know my characters as well as I will a few chapters in. Plus, I've been having separation anxiety ever since The Treasures of Venice hit bookstores. (Will people LURVE my baby? Will readers "get" me and my story? Will I sell more than a dozen copies?)
I truly was wandering around feeling like the new story had locked me out! Keyless and clueless.
THANK GOODNESS for talented and insightful CPs! I swear, many times they have more knowledge of my WIP than I do. In the course of our discussion that afternoon, it quickly became apparent to me that Jo-Mama had done it again. She obviously had a far better handle on my new characters than I did! Then she made a comment, just ONE LITTLE DESCRIPTION of my heroine that made the proverbial light bulb go off inside my head!
BOOM! The lock opened and I had a lot more insight into my character. (Have I mentioned lately how much I LURVE my CP? That she is worth her weight in GOLD? And no, I will NOT share her!) I went home and made some well-placed revisions on my WIP that I know made it and my heroine so much stronger!
Sometimes the smallest thing can make such a big difference. Ask my poor neighbor, who stopped me yesterday to thank me again and tell me, "You really saved my life the other day." I just said, "You're welcome."
No need to tell him that he provided the inspiration for my blog post, is there?
What about you? Ever been keyless or clueless? When was the last time something small made a BIG difference to you?