Sunday, January 31, 2010

The End

By Robin Kaye

Today was my favorite day as a writer—the day I finally wrote The End. This is a good thing since Yours For the Taking is due on my editor’s desk on Monday, February 1. I drove home today from my lovely critique partner’s house knowing I had to write this blog, and I thought about the experience of writing this book. I know every book is different, and no two experiences are going to be the same, but having just finished my 4th book for Sourcebooks, I’m beginning to see trends and subtle changes in my writing process.

With every book, I find that writing that beginning and the end gets more difficult. It’s been my experience that the book will be almost finished for the longest time, but I go back and rewrite the beginning and the end over and over and over again. A book not only has to begin with a hook, it has to end with a hook. It has to make the reader want to reach for my next book. Unfortunately for me, hooks are not easy to come by. So I’ve been writing and rewriting the end of the Yours For the Taking. I think it’s done, but then I still have tomorrow to change my mind, and knowing me, I’ll take another crack at it. I’m impossible to please so I thank God for both deadlines and revisions. Most authors hear that and wonder if I'm masochistic. Maybe I am, but I see revisions as a chance to catch all the things I missed the first time around. I know, I’m a sick, sick puppy.

I think I’ve seen a lot of changes in my writing process during the writing of Yours For the Taking because I didn’t have the time I had to write that I had with my previous books. I’ve always been a pretty clean writer. I write a scene and I don’t move on until I’m happy with it. It’s the same way with a chapter, but in the past, I’ve read and reread the book countless times before I actually finished it. Not this time. I just didn’t have the time to devote several hours to reading the book when I needed to be writing the darn thing. Because of that, last weekend was the first time I sat down to read the entire book. I met with my critique partners and we read the book aloud from beginning to end. I went to our meeting with a good bit of trepidation. Truth be told, I was sick. I was sure that the book would be awful. Actually, I think my exact words were, “God, I hope it doesn’t suck.” My Critique Partners (who I’m sure have a place in heaven with their names on it) told me I was wrong. Me, I just prayed they were right. I have to tell you, the torture went on the entire two days we read. I’d say “Okay, the first 115 pages are good, but what about the next 285?”

I might be shooting myself in the foot because my editor has yet to read it, but I the manuscript was much better than I thought it would be, which in laymen terms means I’m pretty sure it doesn’t suck. I kept waiting for it to, and although there were a few rough sentences that needed to be rewritten, and more spelling and punctuation mistakes than I thought existed in the world, all in all, I was happier with this book than I was with any of the others. Mind you, I haven’t had much sleep and I just got over a bad case of the stomach flu, so I might be delusional, but at least I’m a happy delusional.

I’ll do one more read-through tomorrow, and send the manuscript off to my lovely editor Monday morning, at which time I’ll have a bad case of agita until I hear from her. It’s a good thing my agent has already given me my next assignment—writing the proposal for my next three books. I have my work cut out for me but at the end of the day, I’ll still be praying that my editor calls me and says “I loved it.”

The End

Gosh that feels good!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Under The Influence?

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

One of the more frequently asked questions I get has to do with my favorite books, or books that left a lasting impression on me. Not long ago on another blog (KOFF*Romance Bandits*KOFF) a discussion came up about the book or books that influenced different people to either read or write romance.

That was an easy question for me to answer! I'd burned out reading historical romances in the 1980s and had switched back to another favorite genre -- science fiction/fantasy. One day in the early 1990s, I was browsing in the book store. Actually I was looking for a book for my BFF for her birthday. She loved romance novels, but first I checked out book in the sf/fantasy section to see if anything caught my eye. Well, a book did. It was a very thick paperback that was obviously shelved in the wrong place because it very definitely looked and sounded like a romance, but not like any romance I'd ever read. I bought it and took it home, but before I wrapped it, I couldn't resist reading the first chapter... I could NOT stop reading!

That book was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. And when I finally did give it to my BFF, she loved it too! After we both devoured the sequel, Dragonfly in Amber, it was a long and torturous wait for the next book in the series. So I read every time-travel novel I could get my hands on. And when I ran out, I decided to try my hand at writing my own... The rest, as they say, is history!

Of course, I could end the post here, but it's rather short, so I asked my other CasaBabes if they had a book that influenced them to become writers. Here are some of their responses:

Marie Force: The Thorn Birds--I read it one summer in high school and was transformed by the romance between Fr. Ralph and Meggie as well as the epic story of Meggie's family. As a young girl being brought up as a Catholic in a very Catholic state, it was riveting for more reasons than one. A young girl in love with her priest! Ooo lala! I have wanted to go to Australia ever since, but I'm waiting for Jetson-esque travel to come into vogue because I could never do that flight!

Mary Margret Daughtridge: If we're talking about books that influenced the course of our writing, two stand out. One you might say built the ship, the other set the course. The ship was Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein. One of the main characters is a brilliant doctor, Jubal Harshaw, who is also a popular fiction writer. He's tough, clear-eyed, and unabashedly sentimental. There's a long story digression in which he says in any piece of art that moves us emotionally, there's a story. In fact, he says story is the most fundamental art form--the sine qua non of our humanity.

The compass was Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It was one of those periods in which I couldn't seem to find anything I wanted to read. I had picked it from the shelf on a dozen trips to the bookstore, drawn by the title, and put it back, repelled by the back matter. It was one of those stupid romances with the world's most improbable setup--about a football player yet. I finally picked it from a discount shelf several years later thinking "how bad could it be?" It opened my eyes about the romance genre. It had rich characterization and compassion for the human condition, seasoned liberally with humor about it all. I laughed, I cried, my heart alternately thudded and melted. It was a book Jubal Harshaw would have been proud to write. And so would I.

Libby Malin: ONE of the books that probably influenced me the most to become a writer was John Steinbeck's THE PEARL -- not because I fell in love with it or because it made me want to write like he did. It's not among my favorites. It was because my high school English teacher, in the middle of having us read this book, gave us an assignment I'll never forget: to sit down and write how we would end the book. My imagination took flight!

Judi Fennell: Can't say that any of the books influenced me to write. Influenced what I write, yes. I devoured all Hugh Lofting's Dr. Doolittle books. It's a GREAT series. And all of L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz books. Dodie Smith's 101 Dalmatians and the follow-up, Starlight Barking.

And then there was the non-fiction book,
The True Story of Okee The Otter by Dorothy Wisbieski. I still have it - falling apart and all. I guess it's not a stretch to see where talking animals would show up in my stories.

Linda Wisdom: Not sure I can remember that far back! I guess I'd have to say that it wasn't one particular book, but the Harlequin Presents books. At the time there were only two North American authors, Janet Dailey and Sondra Stanford. I said more US authors need to be out there and that's when I decided it was time to write the book that was rolling around in my head.

Sharon Lathan: The truth is that it wasn't really P&P the book that inspired me exactly. I have been inspired in what I write by many sources for different reasons. To narrow it down: Lord of the Rings by Tolkien because of his gift for prose and storytelling, and for focusing on friendship and love as the foundational themes. Then the great epic, generational writers, such as John Jakes, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Alcott, Michener, Taylor Caldwell, Gabaldon,and so on who weave long tales of family, history, and life. They are my inspiration to tell of the Darcys et al.

Shana Galen: For me, it was The Secret by Julie Garwood. I never wanted that book to end. It was so funny and yet poignant and sexy. When I finished it I thought, I want to write a book like that!

Terry Spear: Jack London's White Fang and Call of the Wild influenced the way I looked at wolves as family units, as a team that wanted to survive as much as the rest of us, when I created my werewolf universe; not that wolves were wicked, senseless predators.

Cheryl Brooks: For me, it was Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. It was written in first person, which I loved, and I thought it was so cool that you never learned the heroine's name. One of the first books I ever wrote used that gimmick, and I had a lot of fun with it. I've read Rebecca at least a dozen times, always thinking, "If I was in her shoes, I would have done this, this, and this differently, and maybe the ending would have been happier." Still, when ever I read it, it gives me goosebumps, and I love that feeling!

ME TOO, Cheryl! And BIG THANKS Casababes for helping me out with my post today!

What about you? Is there one book that stands out for you? A book that influenced you to be a reader or writer of romance?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sometimes you feel like a nut...

As some of you know, my bio short bio goes like this: Ashlyn Chase describes herself as an almond Joy Bar. A little nutty, a little flaky, but basically sweet, wanting only to give her readers a delicious experience.

Well, most of the time, I write humor...or try to. Lately, my muse--Thalia, the muse of comedy, seems to be on vacation. That doesn't stop me from writing. Oh no. I refuse to give in to writer's block! I just power through it by writing something else. That's why I often have two or three novellas or short stories coming out along with a big single title.

My latest single title is finished! YAY!!! At least the first draft is. There are a few humorous moments. At least my critique partner laughed in all the right places. But it's not funny enough for me. Anyway, I learned this trick recently--from another blog of all places! Take those chapters that are giving you fits and copy them into a separate file. Now you have the freedom to play. Nothing is destroyed if you decide to take bold risks on those few pages. And often you'll find things you can do better.

I would imagine this not only works with comedy, but other genres as well. I'd be curious to know if anyone else tries it, and how it goes for you...


Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Evil in a Writer's Life

Is called Writer’s Block.

That’s when you sit at the computer and realize you can’t finish a sentence. You might even forget your hero and/or heroine’s name. And if it’s really bad, you’re asking yourself what your own name is.

Everyone has their own way of handling writer’s block. Some doggedly sit at the computer, struggling to come up with the next word or sentence. Others get away, looking for something, anything, to help jumpstart their imagination.

My imagination tends to go on vacation when I’m tired. Or for the days I could write non-stop, write all night and still be alert the next day.

So what do I do when that happens?

Cleaning the three bathrooms comes to mind. But I prefer driving up into the hills or around the vineyards or ranches and let my characters talk to me. They do love their road trips.

Sometimes opt for a long bath and a book to let my brain relax enough to return to work.

Personally, I don’t sit at the computer and try to push through. My writing isn’t as effective then.

So what do you do when your imagination decides to take off?


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is It Spring Yet?

by Libby Malin

As I write this, a warm wind rattles window panes as a January thaw day places a down payment on spring.

Here in the mid-Atlantic region, it's not unusual to experience these "outlier" days when temps shoot up to the forties and sometimes to the fifties in winter. When I lived in Vermont, an atypical winter day might put you over freezing, but just barely. Not a cold-weather person, I'm happy to be out of that icebox.

I love the spring season and already eagerly look at forsythia branches for signs of awakening buds. Spring itself is a time of awakening, signaling the start of something new in ways that a champagne-soaked 12:01 a.m. on January 1 just can't do.

Warmer weather means shedding coats, opening doors and windows, and generally liberating ourselves of winter's layers. It's a time of expectations--what will the melting snow reveal, what flower will bloom next, what bird will return to the trees, what romantic evening will light the spark of true love?

Maybe that's why I'm drawn to setting stories in spring, a time when "fresh" and "new" are the words of the moment. Most of my YAs are set in spring, as was my first women's fiction and last year's Fire Me. My current work-in-progress is also set in spring, right on the cusp of summer. The only reason I didn't set April's My Own Personal Soap Opera in spring was because I needed to set it in a ratings sweep period, and a mid-winter time worked better for the story! But at least it's being released in spring!

Do you enjoy reading or writing about certain seasons? Are you drawn to particular times of the year?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wicked Good

If you've read my bio, you know that I'm a big fan of fairy tales. Heck, if you even glanced at my website, you'll see my tagline, fairy tales with a twist, in the header. But I don't just mean the traditional Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty. I also love the classics, of which Wizard of Oz is one of them.

In elementary school, we had the whole L. Frank Baum series in our library. And I read 'em. Boy, did I read them!

And when the show would come on, once a year, it was a huge event in our house. Popcorn and pjs, sleeping bags on the floor in front of the tv, and staying up late. I was terrified of Elmira Gulch (who, sad to say, had more than a striking resemblance to my late music teacher who came to my house every Wednesday night for organ lessons), loved Glinda the Good Witch's dress, wished I was one of the ballerinas, and wanted a Toto all of my own. (Later got him, by way of a miniature poodle that Mom insisted we name Jamie. But he was THE best dog!) And let us not forget that Dorothy's real name is Judy.

So, when Mom surprised me with tickets for Wicked as an early birthday present, to say I was excited would be an understatement. I even went out and bought the book--I'd had it on my TBR list, but I've got tons of things on my TBR list. But these tickets moved that book up the list.

I started the book, knowing there were some political overtones. I didn't know much else about the story--and no spoilers here--other than it's about the witches as girls and how they became who they became. Other than that, nothing.

Once I started reading the book, I was a little less enthusiastic to see the show. It read, to me, like Orwell's Animal Farm, and I only finished that book because it was a class assignment. Thankfully, one of my writing friends told me to put the book down and read it after I saw the show. She said I would love the show.

OMG, was she right!!!

It was wonderful! Beautifully done!!! I had no idea there'd be the humor! The songs! The story! The characters! I kept saying to my mom that it was so sad that I was liking Elphaba (Wicked Witch of the West) because we know what happens to her.

Boy, was I wrong. The story was so well crafted, the actresses were unbelievable ("It's Ga-linda. With a 'Ga.'") There was no shame in knowing anything about what happens to anyone.

The coup de grace, however, and the reason my friend said she knew I'd love it: the nods to the original story.

I love "nods."

In my Mer series, and now in the Genie series, I do "nods". To many things. And they make me giggle as I hope they do to others. Judging by the reaction of the audience at Wicked, more people than just I like "nods."

Here's one that popped up in Catch of a Lifetime that still has me both giggling and rolling my eyes. I honestly have to say I didn't plan this - I was naming the shark after the city in Jersey he reminded me of: Atlantic City. Where it went from there... that's the beauty of writing.

Harry swung his tail back and forth, lining up his troops a hundred meters offshore. The sun had crept over the horizon, beginning the countdown to sunset.

Angel's time on land was limited.

Harry knew it, and he knew that Angel knew it. And he knew that she knew that he knew it.

“So how long do we have to wait here?” A.C., the most recent addition to the pack he’d recruited off the coast of New Jersey, didn’t like taking things on faith, and the bad-ass attitude was starting to piss Harry off. The kid thought he knew it all, but then, the young always did. Harry eyed the tail. For a self-titled tough guy, A.C. was short on battle scars. He’d had an entourage, which was what had caught Harry’s attention in the first place, but the shark wasn’t living up to his own press. Nah, Mr. A.C. Hammer could take that punk demeanor and stick a harpoon in it. Harry was the boss here. He called the shots, and if the kid didn’t learn to take orders, he’d be out on his tail.

“Okay, guys, here’s the plan.” Harry eyed the rest of the Hammerheads he’d assembled. Seven of the most battle-scarred, meanest bounty-hunting ’Heads he could find. “We’re going in, in sphere formation, the opening closest to shore. That’s where we’ll herd her, but no one takes a bite.”

“What in Hades is this?” A.C. added a swagger to his stroke. “I didn’t sign on to be a shepherd.”

“You’ll be whatever I say you are and like it.” Harry went snout to snout with the kid.

But the kid didn’t back down. “So if we’re not taking a bite, what are we going to do with her? She’ll start singing bloody murder, and we’ll end up with a feeding frenzy around us.”

“You only get a feeding frenzy if you actually bite her, punk.” Harry considered shredding the kid just to make a point to the others, but he’d recruited lean and couldn’t afford to lose one member of the formation. Angel, for all her Human studies, was one smart Mer when it came to tactical maneuvers. All the Tritones were. Their father, Fisher, had seen to it. Probably for just this reason. Sharks weren’t known for taking direction well from Mers. Especially when the members of The Oceanic Council didn’t give them one ounce of say in governing the oceans. Not even a seat on The Council. Even after Vincent had saved the day all those selinos ago—much as it pained Harry to admit it, he’d thought The Council would recognize the rights of chondrichthyes. But no.

“So what are we supposed to do with her?” Gianni, another recruit, asked.

Great. Just what he needed. A mutiny of the bounty hunters.

“She’s our ticket in. The Council will realize we mean business.”

“So we’re not going to eat her?” Lou, a hunter lured out of retirement by the promise of a royal target, started frothing at the mouth—never a good sign. “Then why did you trawl me along, Har? This is bullsharkshit.”

Okay, so maybe Harry hadn’t exactly explained what this job would entail. But, dammit, he’d needed the best, and Lou was it. Too bad Lou had settled down to raise little ’Heads. But that’s what you did when you landed a trophy wife apparently.

Harry couldn’t see it. Lou’s mate had more air between her eyes than water, but, hey, to each his own.

“Look, we can eat her, just not right off the beach. Give me some bargaining power, and if The Council doesn’t cave, you each get a bite. But if we turn her into chum right away, we lose any hope of negotiation and will put ourselves on the endangered list. Fisher will be back in the hot seat and rally his troops out in full force, so let’s not do anything rash.”

“Rash?” A.C. rolled his eyes. “Rash was following you off on this wild grouper chase. I’m outta here.”

Harry flicked his tail, propelling himself in front of the deserter. He inhaled enough water to inflate his gills to three times their normal size. He could do intimidating better than any punk kid.

“You aren’t going anywhere. You signed on for this, and you’ll finish it.” Harry grinned, all of his teeth gleaming white. He knew because he’d paid those Spanish hogfish to do an extra good job. Intimidation could work wonders in a showdown. He wasn’t about to get beat by this piece of floating garbage.

“Before this is over, The Council will acknowledge us. They will hear us out, and they will pay attention.” He stared A.C. back into the lineup. “It’s time we sharks got what we deserve.”


So, who else does "nods" that you can think of? (Funny, on any other day, I could name a good 10 people; the day I have to write this blog, I can't come up with one!)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In Praise of Clutter....

There comes a time when clutter can be very useful. Case in point, when I needed a place to rest my mouse on as I was about to write this post from the questionable comfort of my new treadmill, I didn't have to look any further than the top of my dresser, which, thankfully, is not visible in this picture.

Suffice it to say that it sits just two feet to my left as I walk. And, yes, I am walking at 1.5 mph at this very moment. I'm more comfortable walking a bit faster than that, but my keyboarding accuracy diminishes exponentially with each tenth of a mph increase in speed. Thus, I am limited.

To begin the saga of the treadmill, I decided that having one close by when I needed a break from the computer would be a good thing. My weight and blood sugar have been steadily climbing since I began spending so much time at my desk, and after reading Robin's post about her "walking desk" I decided that having a treadmill would be a good thing. The only problem was lack of space.

After looking at Dick's huge monsters (and, yes, that pun was intended!) I had about given up finding one that would take up about as much area as the rocking chair that used to sit at the foot of my bed next to the cedar chest. But my trusty DH and websurfer extraordinaire finally found one for me. We ordered it from Amazon in November and after a few false starts, it was finally delivered by a nice young fellow who smelled amazingly good. I had to meet him at the end of the driveway with my truck since he was driving a semi which wouldn't easily pass down the lane to my house, so I got to ride with him in my truck and get a really GOOD whiff of him. But I digress. . .

I had to work for the next few days, so it was later that weekend before we got my new toy out of the box, only to discover that it didn't work. At least, not the way it was supposed to. There was no such thing as a steady pace, and it would speed up and slow down in a manner destined to make me fall on my butt eventually. Aside from that, the heart rate monitor would read 50-70 whether my finger was on it or not. Something had to be done!

The service department was contacted, and a technician finally returned my call. He diagnosed the problem by having me hold the phone near the motor while it was running. He then shipped us the needed parts and the real trouble began: getting a repairman who covers all of southern Indiana to show up at my house on a day that worked for both of us.

He originally planned to come on Dec 12th, but the day came and went without him. Then Christmas arrived and my DH gave me this nifty shelf for my computer, plus a handy gadget to hold a book open, should I ever decide to read a book while I was exercising. I had new CD's to put on my MP3 player (the treadmill has speakers!) so that I would have music to walk by, but still, I had to wait.

We rescheduled him for the 29th, but he got pneumonia instead.

Eventually his health improved and he came on January 9th while I was at my INRWA meeting. He came with two other guys, replaced the circuit board in about fifteen minutes, and, voila, it worked! Then I checked the previously unopened box of parts; the technician had sent every possible electrical component on the entire assembly, including another motor, which was good, because though the repairman had assured us that the heart monitor worked, it didn't. My DH and I wound up replacing the sensor, which, unfortunately, only works when you are standing still.

But now I'm walking and writing and am back to the subject of clutter. I have now discovered a use for all of those boxes of old printed manuscripts. Look closely at the stack to the right. Yep, you got it; all filled with original Cheryl Brooks manuscripts, except for the spare hairdryer on top. So, to all of you writers out there, the moral of the blog is this:

Never throw away an old manuscript. You never know when you might need a shelf for your mouse!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Taking the Waters

I have been thoroughly enjoying myself these past weeks with writing fun blogs as part of the book tour for My Dearest Mr. Darcy. As we all know, occasionally we are given interview questions or a specific topic to touch upon. That is nice for a fried brain, but I like it when I have free reign! Since history is such a huge part of my novels, I inevitably veer toward enlightening on some intriguing slice of the past. I thought I would do that again, so am going to share what I learned about seaside bathing in the Regency.

For centuries the touted benefits of breathing deeply of sea air and “taking the waters” were loudly proclaimed. Whether it was cold ocean water or warm mineral spas, bathing in and drinking of the water was deemed wise and downright miraculous. Personally, the thought of diving into the frigid waters surrounding England sounds insane! These people must have been tough.

Mineral spas, such as in Matlock and Bath, were typically designed with private rooms for those wishing to immerse themselves into the water. Bathing in the ocean was a bit more problematic. Men tended to be braver. They would find a nice secluded cove, strip down to their underwear or lily-white skin, and launch into the waves to frolic at their leisure.

Modest, demure, impressionable women who would never dream of seeing a naked man swimming or have one see her in a wet, clinging shift needed special accommodations.

Enter the Bathing Machine. It is unknown the precise inventor of this remarkable solution to a nagging problem, but the first recording was in 1736. The above sketch by John Setterington shows bathers utilizing the device at the beach in Scarborough in 1776. In short order they were found everywhere throughout the UK, as well as in France, America, and as far away as Mexico. In 1750 Benjamin Beale is credited with the addition of a ‘tilt’ or large canvas hood that extended off the rear of the machine for increased protection from prying eyes.

This description by Tobias Smollett in his 1771 novel The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker is excellent:

"Image to yourself a small, snug, wooden chamber, fixed upon a wheel-carriage, having a door at each end, and on each side a little window above, a bench below – The bather, ascending into this apartment by wooden steps, shuts himself in, and begins to undress, while the attendant yokes a horse to the end next the sea, and draws the carriage forwards, till the surface of the water is on a level with the floor of the dressing-room, then he moves and fixes the horse to the other end – The person within being stripped, opens the door to the sea-ward, where he finds the guide ready, and plunges headlong into the water – After having bathed, he re-ascends into the apartment, by the steps which had been shifted for that purpose, and puts on his clothes at his leisure, while the carriage is drawn back again upon the dry land."

A man and woman bathing together was not completely unheard of (as long as they were married), but uncommon. Each resort decided upon regulations, so naturally I chose to have Caister-on-Sea allow married couples to bathe together. Imagine the fun that could be had! I sure did.

“Dippers” were same-sex assistants who accompanied the bathers partly to ensure safety in the surf, but primarily to administer the prescribed number of “dips” for whatever ailment was to be cured. The dips completely immersed the bather and would be done in allotted intervals throughout the day. Eventually the need for dippers disappeared as more women began to enjoy swimming as a pastime rather than a health treatment.

Over time the wild claims of seawater as a cure-all would wane. But the joy of holidays at the beach and swimming in the ocean has never gone away. Strict rules on mixed sex bathing and costumes to be worn would vary over the decades, but it wasn’t until well into the mid-1900s that all restrictions were gone.

There is your history lesson for the day! Don’t you feel smarter already? LOL! If interested in more fascinating history from the Regency, buy my novels! In the meantime you can come to my website where I have a glossary and loads of historical info. Sharon Lathan's Darcy Saga

Friday, January 22, 2010

What We Do For Love

By Robin Kaye

Fourteen years ago, I had a beautiful baby girl. (This is a picture of her in her very first tutu) She was a bit of a nightmare baby—she rolled over before she was a day old, screamed non-stop for the first year of her life, and at two weeks old, she managed to crawl the length of a king-size bed and didn’t stop even after she hit the headboard. I remember that day, running into the room, picking up my squealing infant, and telling my best friend, “She’s going to be out of the house by the time she’s fourteen.” Little did I know how right I was.

Today I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I sent my fourteen year-old daughter to live with a host family, enrolled her in their local middle school, gave her a kiss goodbye, and left. It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Well, it does to me too.

Twinkle Toes as I affectionately call her, has been dancing since she was four. At two she told me that she was going to be a ballerina, and hasn’t stopped dancing since. Two years ago she began studying ballet at one of the best pre-professional ballet schools in the country.

It all began with the five-week dance camp. At twelve, she moved into the dorms at the college her dance school is affiliated with, and danced non-stop 8 hours a day. She fell in love with the school and the teachers. In those five weeks, she went from a cute dancer to a ballerina—she blossomed. The change was astounding. When it was over, we knew we couldn’t take her away from her dance school. Unfortunately, it was an hour and a half away from home.

That September, our lives changed. I began home schooling Twinkle Toes and making the drive every afternoon so that she could dance 30 hours a week. While she danced, I’d write at the local Starbucks. The baristas have become like family to me, which is why in my last two books I’ve acknowledged the staff for keeping me in coffee and laughs.

Twinkle Toes and I spent a minimum of 8 hours a day together for the last year and a half. It was hard, but we did what needed to be done. We’d leave after a full day of home schooling at 1:30 in the afternoon and get back home between 10 and 11 at night.

Last summer, she spent the 5-week dance camp with her best dance buddy’s family. She fit in so well with her host family that she didn’t want to come home. Sure she missed us, but it wasn’t as if we never saw her. Her host family loved her, they carted her and her best friend to and from dance, they packed them nutritional lunches, they helped her with her schoolwork and they were the best host parents I could imagine.

On her 14th birthday a month ago, Twinkle Toes sat down with me, put her head on my shoulder, and told me she really wanted to move in with her host family, dance, and go to a real middle school. She missed having teachers, she missed the other kids, and she wanted to dance more. Since last summer, Twinkle Toes has been spending the weekends with her host family and when they saw the traveling was taking it’s toll on all of us, they offered to keep her with them full-time.

After several long, hard talks with my husband, we decided to give it a try. We always knew that next year Anna would start high school away from us, so we adjusted our internal calendars since we knew, no matter how much we disliked the idea of not having Twinkle Toes around us as much as we would like, it would be the best thing for her.

This change gives me the ability to be home with the rest of our family. I’ll be able to see my husband when he’s not snoring, spend more quality time with my other two kids who, I have to say, are the best brother and sister anyone could ask for. They never resented that fact that Twinkle Toes dances or gets the lion share of time and money spent. When we had our family meeting, I was brought to tears when I saw her big brother, a loving sixteen year-old blinking back tears while telling me that he thinks he should go with her to keep an eye on her. Her 12-year-old sister just cried. She and Twinkle Toes have an extraordinarily close relationship. I told her she’d still see her sister on Saturday nights and Sundays and she’ll have me around all the time. It didn’t seem to soften the blow any though.

As for me, I’m trying to look at the positives. I’ll be able to work out on my Wii Fit and actually use the Tread-Desk I wrote about. I’ll make healthy dinners every night and get to sit down and eat it with most of the family and this change will give me the ability to write full-time.

I love what I do, I live to write, but I wasn’t loving the way I was having to do it—in between everything else. Now, I’m scheduling forty hours a week to write. With any luck, I’ll still have time to do normal things like watch a little TV, play games with my kids, and do the one thing I’ve missed almost as much as my family time, read!

So tell me, what was the hardest thing you have done for love?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Up In The Air -- For Real

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

I haven't seen the new George Clooney film Up In The Air yet, but I understand that Clooney's character is a man who has no home but travels from place to place for his job.

Well, the DH and I met a guy on our recent flight who is just like that character. Everything he owns is in two suitcases, he travels from place to place every few weeks for his job, and lives in hotels where ever he happens to be. He'd finished a two week stint in Seattle, and had just spent the weekend with his girlfriend in Tampa. Now he was off for a month long assignment in Washington DC when our paths crossed.

After parting ways with your young friend (who looked about 30), my DH began to rhapsodize about what a wonderful lifestyle this guy was living. Yes, sick man that he is, my DH thought it would be FUN to have everything you own fit in two suitcases (never mind that he's the world's biggest pack rat and still has clothes he wore in college decades ago)!

Wouldn't it be great to see all those different places? To meet all those different people? To fly everywhere at somebody else's expense?

Of course, I had to play devil's advocate and point out that some of those places were not that terrific (after DC, the guy was headed to Iowa in the middle of winter -- BRRR!). Hotel beds are notoriously uncomfortable, and since you didn't know anyone in most of the places you went, you'd eat a lot of meals alone (my own personal bug-a-boo). Also, most of the people you met and conversations you had would only be on the most superficial level.

Finally, how could you shop?!?! I mean, with only two suitcases, every time you bought something you'd have to throw something else away. The DH had to admit that even he would have a hard time with that one.

So my bottom line to the whole scenario was that I'd grow mighty tired of this lifestyle pretty darn quick. As much as I like to travel, I like returning home even more! Still, I wondered how many others are like this guy? With increasing mobility and scattered business, will more people live this way very soon? And he was a very interesting study for future characters.

What do you think? Would you find traveling to a new location every few weeks FUN? Or not so much?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

International Travel

Yesterday, I completed the last step in my preparations to go to shots. Ow. Or maybe I should say, Ow, ow, ow, ow. I had four injections. Two in each arm. I'm not a very big baby when it comes to a little physical pain. But at least it's over.

I have my visa, my passport and my health records. Now all I have to do is pack and look forward to a 24 hour flight. Can you say, 'jet lag'?

I think it will all be worth it to visit a country so rich in history and culture. When I was young, I studied the Hindu religion for a semester. It's fascinating, and I'm thinking I might set some stories there. (That Brahma really got around!) LOL

There are literally thousands of Hindu Gods, but I was taught that 3 reigned supreme. Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. Not everyone in the western world would recognise depictions of these dieties. But the most popular God you'd recognise in a second.

Ganesha--the elephant-deity riding a mouse. Ganesha is one of the commonest mnemonics for anything associated with Hinduism. The son of Shiva and Parvati, Ganesha is depicted as having a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being. He is the lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of knowledge, wisdom and wealth.

The last time my husband was in India, he brought me back a beautiful carved statue of Ganesha. And bringing this back to romance, that trip was an eye-opener for both of us. We had never been apart that long since we met in 1990. (Yup, we're going on 20 years.) We were miserable without each other. We talked on the phone a few times, and then the power went out. I had a cell phone with spotty reception, so talking became impossible. I finally went to my in-laws house and used their phone--but I woke up my husband. Oops. Time difference. He didn't mind. We were both just so glad to hear each other's voices.

When he got home, he vowed that if he had to go there again, he would take me with him. Now, two years later, we're going over there together. There's a 3 day weekend because of an Indian holiday, so we'll have a few days to get out and explore. I may stick close to the hotel while he's working just to be on the safe side.

I'll have my laptop with me so I hope I can take some notes as I soak up the atmosphere. I've set books in places I've visited before, like Maui; New Orleans; Daytona Beach; Las Vegas; San Francisco and always found it helpful to do a little brainstorming while I was there--even on vacation. So, don't hate me because I'm on vacation in eighty degree weather. I'm working. Really. Honest. I mean it.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Our amazing publisher: Sourcebooks

It's always a good thing when an author loves their publishing house, and I've been very fortunate to love mine. The owner of Sourcebooks, Dominique Raccah, is a fascinating woman, who approaches authors and the industry in an entirely different way, and perhaps this is the reason for Sourcebooks fantastic success...especially during a time when most publishing houses are cutting back and/or closing lines.

So it's with a great deal of pride that I'm passing along an article about Sourcebooks that appeared in Shelf Awareness (one of several articles that can be found here:

Sourcebooks: '21st Century Book Publisher'

"We're a company that's transforming in an industry that's transforming," said Dominique Raccah, founder, CEO and publisher of Sourcebooks, Naperville, Ill. Her goal, she said, is to make Sourcebooks into "what a 21st Century book publisher would look like."Here's how it looks so far:

Sourcebooks has been in the forefront of offering e-books, enhanced books, iPhone apps and just last month launched a poetry website that, Raccah said, is creating a community for people who love poetry--and may be a model for creating revenue. (Among other things, it sells poems for download, iTunes style.)

After deciding a year ago that it wasn't going "to participate" in the recession and that it would have no layoffs, the company involved all 75 employees in extraordinary efforts to build the company's business in a range of measurable ways, including improving cash flow and inventory, expanding markets, working better with customers and more. By doing so, Sourcebooks has tried to take advantage of being "in that funky space between big and small publishers," Raccah said--big enough to have a presence but small enough to be limber and both act and react quickly.

Sourcebooks continues to publish some 300 new titles a year in a range of subjects--test and study guides, poetry, historical and women's fiction, children's and YA books, reference, romance and more--using many e-tools to nurture both readers and writers. The house, Raccah emphasized repeatedly, is publishing "authors, not books," and many of them have become bestsellers. Sourcebooks was founded 22 years ago as a reference publisher.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Falling in Love Again

Despite the cold, wintry conditions,
love is in the air. It's not meant just for Valentine's Day, but all year long. And where can you find it?

In books! :) Romance books! Whether you love to dive into the distant past, or take a walk on the wild side, or are happy to expand your horizons and find loving heroes in a wide spectrum of is in the air.

One of the fun things about writing, is working on a new story, new characters, learning about them as they deal with the stumbling blocks thrown in their paths. But always, the romance is evolving. I just finished writing Wolf Fever and sent it in, but then had to work on the edits for Seduced by the Wolf and just finished those and sent them in. Woohoo!

And I have to say I love editing a book that's nearly ready to be introduced to the reading world. It's satisfying because the book is essentially done. So I'm able to enjoy the hero and heroine's journey all over again, before I immerse myself in the next new story, Taming the Highland Wolf. Which, I'm already thinking about--dungeons, moats, not sure what my hero and heroine are going to get into! But it will be fun!

Yet right now, I'm gearing up for Legend of the White Wolf's debut. Which is the reason for my posting Arctic wolf pictures. For the first time, the story is about Arctic wolves, and about a hero and heroine who are human. Like the first three books, the story is essentially a stand alone title and so can be read out of order.

[9781402219054-300.jpg]Have you ever had anyone barge into your hotel room when they don't belong there? Because a clerk gave a customer your room key when you were already occupying the room? It's happened to me twice when I've been on trips. And once, I received a key to someone else's room. So what if you were the one who entered the room, and the occupant was a very hunky, very available man who seemed just as intrigued with you as you are with him? Maybe the key mix-up is fate??? Well, that's what happens to Faith when she first meets Cameron in Legend of the White Wolf.

I wasn't as lucky. Then again, Faith and Cameron had to go through a lot of trials to finally have a happily-ever-after. But who knows when the right key will fit the right lock, eh?

Whether you find your hero by accident, or by design, heroes come in all shapes and sizes.

Here is a woman who's found her hero in the pages of a book...ah, for the love of a hero. And what woman wouldn't want a man like this, caring and loving, and ready to take on the world? But first, a heartfelt hug.
Love is in the air, and I hope everyone is getting plenty of it to chase the chills away. And if not or if you need some more--check out Cameron and Faith's story--it's cold where they are, but they make their own heat just fine and would love to share it with you.

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bogie Wisdom 12/24/91 - 1/16/10

For someone who’d grown up with big dogs it was amazing that it was the small guys that stole my heart.

We had a year old terri/poo, Cocoa, at home and felt he needed company even if I was home all the time. Plus there was a large pair of brown eyes at our local pet shop that had caught me just as Cocoa said “okay, pay Barry and let’s get out of here.” All I knew was that he was an eight-week-old Chihuahua/Yorkie who said “I choose you. Can we go home now?” And we did.

Bogie was so very tiny and our neighbors’ kids volunteered names for him, but I was looking for just the right name. He could basically fit in the palm of my hand and tucked very nicely in my robe’s pocket. Then I realized I had the name: Bogie. No, not the golf term or Humphrey Bogart, but that radar blip that was there yet not there. That was my baby.

Cocoa was mine, but Bogie was my baby. We went through nights of puppy hiccups and tummy aches. Lots of cuddles and walks in the open land we used to have around here. And they both had the distinction of being the only dogs allowed in my friend Susan’s house. Even her own dogs still aren’t allowed in.

Bogie understood that Cocoa had seizures and when Cocoa went to Rainbow Ridge in 1996, Bogie was with us at the vet’s to understand that this time Cocoa wouldn’t be coming home. The same happened in 2003 when our St. Bernard/Lab, Fergie, went to Rainbow Ridge.

I was teased because Bogie felt I was here to carry him around. If we were outside talking to friends and Bogie was with me it wasn’t unusual for him to stand on his hind legs and beg for me to pick him up. That meant he was draped over my shoulder like a baby.

Bogie also had this funny quirk. Whenever he got a treat he hid it. So we’d always find Milkbones and other treats under couch pillows, hidden behind furniture, or pretty much in plain sight. I have to say that quirk taught Fergie how to track since she loved nothing more than hunting down those treats to take for her very own.

Look at Bogie’s Christmas photo. Cute or what? His sweater was knitted for him by a fan that suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. She knitted two sweaters for him and two for Cocoa. This day I remember so well because the photographer asked me to say his name to get his attention because he didn’t look all that happy. I said “Bogie, cookie!” and this is what we got. My handsome guy looking like the happy dog he always was.
And no wonder I used him in a few of my books. He was pure magick.

He was the one who slept next to me. Who stayed by the back door when I was gone, waiting for me to go home. He’s always been my little shadow. Sadly, as he got older, he took my absences harder. I was told he’d cry at the door until I got back. And the strange thing about it was many times he didn’t start crying until the time I was heading back home. As if he felt I wasn’t driving fast enough.

But Bogie’s age started catching up with him. Back problems and tender hips meant he couldn’t race up and down the stairs any longer. He could climb them, and insisted on it, but I always carried him downstairs. And if he didn’t think he could make it upstairs, he’ll look at me and I’d know he’d want a ride up. Then he started wandering and I looked into his eyes and knew I was losing him.

I bargained with Fate. His 18th birthday was last Christmas Eve. I wanted that for him and he got it. It would be so easy to bargain that Valentine’s Day was coming, St. Patrick’s Day, but it wouldn’t be fair to him and very selfish of me.

Last July a found dog came into my life and when I later found his owner, he was offered to me. From the first day Barney showed up in our front yard family and friends told me he was brought into my life to ease the eventual loss of Bogie.

I don’t know if it made it easier. After all, Bogie and I’ve been together for 18 years, but I do know there’s someone to hug and love and who hugs and loves me back.

Bogie had so much heart. He was a tough little guy and he will never be forgotten. I held him in my arms while he went to sleep for the last time.

Good-bye my baby. Mama will miss you so very very much.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hey, Hon

by Libby Malin

I can't get it out of my head: Oh, oh, oh/Woke up today/Feeling the way I always do. . .

Yup, the first lines to "Good Morning, Baltimore!" from Hairspray.

Tonight, hubby and I head to Lancaster's American Music Theater to see a touring production of this musical, the tickets a Christmas gift from our son.

Going to see this show means we'll miss watching the Baltimore Ravens face off against the Baltimore, er, no, the Indianapolis Colts.

As a Baltimore native, it hurts to write "Indianapolis" in front of that sports team's name (sorry, all you Hoosiers!). I remember the heartache the city's residents experienced when, in the middle of the night, March 29, 1984, Mayflower vans moved the Colts from Charm City to the Midwest.

That pain cuts deep. At my father's funeral two years ago, a cousin reminisced about that day, the bitterness still in his voice. It was a fitting tribute. My father had been a big Colts fan, idolizing Johnny Unitas. He would have enjoyed the conversation and joined in the indignation.

The Colts are gone, but I have no trouble rooting for the Ravens, the only NFL team I know that's named after a character in a poem! That poem's author, Edgar Allan Poe, is buried in Baltimore, and for a half century, a "mysterious stranger" has left a partial bottle of cognac and three roses at the gravesite on the anniversary of Poe's birth.

When I grew up there, Baltimore was a real smokestack town, with a Bethlehem Steel plant near the harbor at Sparrow's Point (if someone mentioned they worked at Sparrow's Point, you knew they were a Beth Steel employee) and all sorts of industry crowding up against its waterways, including the always-fragrant McCormick Spice company (once located where the glittering Harborplace stands, now moved to the north of town).

A lot of those businesses have left, but a drive through the city to the south toward DC still takes you through areas crammed with trucks, containers, and light industry. Baltimore is a working man's town, a tough little city with its own architecture--street after street of rowhomes with marble steps and religious paintings on window screens--and even its own accent (John Travolta does a pretty good job of it in the movie version of "Hairspray.")

People who speak Bawlmerese say "hon" a lot -- "I'm goin' dannie ocean for vacation, hon" -- and there's even a diner-like Cafe Hon in the old mill section of the city called Hampden. Cafe Hon recently was at the center of a signage controversy over huge pink flamingos adorning its building. Hampden itself is host to an annual "HonFest" where big hair, lycra, bowling shirts, and leopard prints are encouraged.

That's not the whole story the city has to tell, though. Baltimore is also home to high culture and great intellectual endeavors and philanthropy -- Peabody Conservatory of Music and the world-famous Johns Hopkins Hospital and University.

The University nestles against a couple of the city's oldest and finest neighborhoods, where once Baltimore's high society could find their names listed in an exclusive "blue book."

To bring this back to writing, my affection for Baltimore leads me often to putting the city into my novels. Three of my young adult novels are set there, as is my very first humorous women's fiction. Fire Me is set just a hop, skip, and jump down I-95 in DC, with the hero's family located in Baltimore. The protagonist in My Own Personal Soap Opera was raised there. And the hero of my work-in-progress is a professor at a university in Bal'mer.

Robin Kaye blogged about special places earlier this week. Are there any special places you find yourself writing about often? How do you choose where to set your stories? And do you like to get a sense of a place from the novels you read?

Friday, January 15, 2010


Yes, you've guessed it. I'm talking about what you say when someone sneezes.

Okay, can I get a collective eye roll, please? I can hear you all now: "Only Judi would blog about sneezes."

Actually, I'm not talking sneezes; I'm talking SNEEZERS. With an R. As in "one who."

Why in the world am I talking about Sneezers? And why am I capitalizing it?

At this month's chapter meeting, our speaker mentioned Sneezers - people who will "sneeze" about your stories. You want Sneezers. And you want them Sneezing big, honking Sneezes.

Think about what happens when someone sneezes (with the lowercase s). Polite society requires the use of a handkerchief or tissue so the sneeze is contained. And, yes, please use them.

But when it comes to book Sneezes, I say, "Fie on those handkerchiefs!" You don't want anyone containing their Sneeze.

Case in point: one of our chaptermates had a real estate agent put something about her, a local author, on his sales material because he thought it was cool to know an author. He sends out thousands of pieces of marketing. That was a big Sneeze for her.

So I started thinking about Sneezers in my life. Family is obviously what first comes to mind. One of my kids has no problem Sneezing about Mom, and that child's teachers are well aware that I write. Some have even signed up for my email lists.

My online friends, The Writing Wombats, are big Sneezers. I've mailed bookmarks to them around the country (at their request) and they've dropped them off at local bookstores to be handed out. They've also chatted up the stories and have contributed online reviews.

Neighbors have become Sneezers, friends from high school and college. Coworkers.

I found out about another Sneezer I have. I was very excited--and very humbled to hear this story.

The setup: When I was doing a book signing for the release of Wild Blue Under, a woman came up to my table and said, "Is this the one with the Mer king?" My response? No, it wasn't a resounding, "Yes!" but rather a squee-like, "Oh, you read my book!"

To say we were both grinning like idiots would be a fair statement. Anyhoo, Heather and I ended up chatting; turns out, she wants to be a writer. I told her about our chapter and, yes, she showed up in January. AND she told me that after talking to me (she bought both Wild Blue Under and In Over Her Head at the signing - had to have an autographed copy, she told her husband), that she's told six of her friends about me and they're having a contest: the first one to have Catch of a Lifetime in her hands wins and the others will have to buy her a copy of I Dream of Genies.

Once I finished gaping and wiped the tears from my eyes, I gave her my response for such a wonderfully huge Sneeze:

"God Bless You!"

So... any neat Sneezers in your world? Here's a cute one:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

News and Updates for Our Blog

Good Morning!

2010 is going to be a big year for Sourcebooks Casablanca. As with every season since the this imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. started publishing romance fiction in 2007, our list continues to grow in diversity and length, our authors come into their own voices more and more, and we find ourselves going against type and trend and making an impact. Dominique Raccah, our CEO publisher, regularly reminds us that “Books Change Lives,” and I think the authors of this blog and the many others that aren’t regular contributors do just that.

In the midst of a horrible and unstable economy, romance novels continue to sell—really well! People are looking for an escape, for romance, for happy endings, and as we all know and remind everyone, romance novels offer just that! Looking for a sweet heartfelt tale of redemption or loves lost? We have that. How about a suspenseful murder mystery? Yup, that too. Or a sweeping historical epic? You bet! Want to visit creatures you never knew existed? Gotcha covered.

With the ever-changing landscape of publishing, we’re going to have a little bit of a blog re-vamp! Nothing too drastic or over-the-top, but a few things I wanted to share with you as we begin 2010.

NEW AUTHORS. Sourcebooks Casablanca is excited to welcome debut and new authors to the line this Spring season. A few will be releasing books for the very first time, and others are names you might recognize, who have now found a new home with us! Be on the look out for some introductory posts starting in February, where you’ll get to meet them, find out about their new releases. They are very eager to join in the fun! From hot hot Highlanders to Cute Cowboys to Regency Werewolves, I’m sure you will be pleased with who will be joining us on the blog!

MONTHLY THEMES. Beginning in February, we’ll have an overarching theme for our posts. This won’t be anything too specific (at least to begin with!), and we’ll still talk about those fun, off-topic things everyone loves to discuss, as well as new releases. For February, we’ll be celebrating anything and everything that has to do with love, which is convenient, right? A group of romance authors talking about the very thing they know best! Look for the monthly theme to be announced on our sidebar in the News & Announcement Section.

MORE GUEST BLOGGERS. One of my personal goals for the blog is to bring to your attention some of the other romance fiction and women’s fiction authors we have on board that aren’t regular contributors. We’ve got a diverse group of authors, all with something special to share, and I want to make sure you are aware of them. Additionally, the regular Casa bloggers will be inviting some of their author friends to join in the fun, so we’re all in the know about what’s going on in the industry.

I’d love to hear from everyone on what they’d like to see as well—is there a theme you’d like to hear everyone’s perspective on? Or specific blogs you liked reading the most? Let me know if the comments!

Finally, one BIG announcement! I’m sure by now most of you have heard that award-winning, RITA nominated and New York Times Bestselling author LAURA KINSALE has a new release, Lessons in French, coming out in February 2010 (January 26th is her actual street date). Laura will be joining us on February 3 to chat about her latest release. Be sure to come back for that!

So like I said, let me know what you want to see more of on this blog in 2010. It was created to connect with the readers of Sourcebooks Casablanca Romance, and we hope to make this year a great one!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And the topic of this blog will be. . . .

"Uh, oh," said Manx, giving Drusilla a nudge. "Take a look. She's not writing... I think she's--"

"--blocked," Drusilla finished for him. "Don't worry. She gets like that from time to time. I've seen it before."

"Well, I haven't," Manx argued. "She never had this problem when she was writing about us."

"Oh, yes, she did," Drusilla insisted. "You just weren't in those scenes. You didn't see her debating over what names to use for the Baradan villagers, or struggling with the wind directions and location of the house vs the spaceport."

"And you did?"

"Yes," Drusilla replied. "I think I'm more a part of her than you are."

"That's not too surprising," Manx said with a wry grin. "She claims to have no idea what men think about."

Drusilla eyed her husband curiously. "Is she right about that?"

"Not really," admitted Manx. "She had me spot-on from the very beginning."

"Maybe so, but, trust me, it wasn't always that way."

"I guess she's gotten better at it," Manx said with a shrug. "So, tell me, if, unlike me, you're in her head so much, why isn't she writing Renegade?"

Drusilla peered at her creator, who was busily typing away at her computer. "She's blogging. Don't you know what that does to a writer?"

Manx chuckled. "Gives them Blogger's Block?"

"Something like that," Drusilla said reflectively. "It's a distraction from the WIP--kind of disrupts the creative flow, you know? She just finished Trag's book, Hero, and she'd already started Renegade when our blog tour began. Now she has to go back two books worth of thinking to write our blogs. Face it, big guy, as far as she's concerned, we're ancient history."

"But she couldn't forget us!" Manx exclaimed. "We were her life for so long! She ate, drank, slept, dreamed--"

Drusilla shook her head, favoring him with a rueful smile. "She hasn't forgotten us, it's just a mind-set thing. She'll get it straightened out eventually. She always does."

Manx looked doubtful. "Some people are saying that ours is their favorite in the series. We have to have made some kind of impression on her."

"And we did," Drusilla said, placing a soothing hand on Manx's bare chest. "You certainly did. I mean, you can do things the other Zetithians can't do, and you're the sexiest thing since. . . " She broke off there, at a complete loss for an apt comparison.

"Since what?" he prompted.

". . . time began," she said finally. "Believe me, she remembers you."

Manx sighed. "I can sure remember it! That scene by the lake when you painted my entire body, the moonlight swims, making love on the boat. . . "

Blinking hard, he shook his head, an action that set his long black curls in motion and reminded Drusilla of the first time she'd laid eyes on him. She'd been swimming in the lake with Zef, the eltran, who was trying to convince her to meet his friend. Zef's matchmaking efforts hadn't interested her at first, but catching that fleeting glimpse of Manx's tall, tanned form wearing nothing but a knife belt and a bow slung over his shoulder had changed her. He had haunted her dreams ever since--whether she was awake or sleeping. Painting portraits of him had come naturally, unlike before when exotic birds had been her chief inspiration.

"Until the Nedwuts came and you left me," she said, a lump welling up in her throat and tears stinging her eyes. "That nearly killed me, but I sure got a lot of painting done."

Manx slipped his strong arms around her and held her close. She could feel his heat and hear the comforting sound of his heartbeat. What if she'd lost him forever, as she'd feared she would? Shuddering at the thought, she hugged him fiercely, burying her face in his hair.

"Leaving you was the hardest thing I've ever done," he said. "I should have known that losing you would end my life, rather than save it. You are what keeps me alive, Drusilla. You know that, don't you?"

Drusilla nodded. The tears she fought against had already won the fight and were now streaming down her cheeks. Manx took her face in his hands and kissed them away. Locking his glowing green eyes on hers, she could see the love shining from them and knew that he meant every word. When leaned in for the kiss, Drusilla's bones turned to jelly, just as they always did.

"I think she'll be all right now," he whispered. "Let's leave her to the writing and you and I can get back to what we do best."

"Loving each other?" Drusilla suggested.

Purring softly, Manx nipped her neck with his fangs as his hands trailed down her back, sending thrills racing across her skin. "Oh, yes," he replied. "In every possible way."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book signing success!

Let’s start with a heartfelt, very loud, “Whew!” That is how I felt after my first solo book signing this past Saturday. I was also strangely exhausted and my jaws hurt from continuous smiling and talking. But it was all good. Really! No complaints are intended as it was loads of fun and very successful. But let me just say I am glad I am not expected to do this every weekend!

So far in my 10 months of being a published author I have been a part of four signings. The first two were while in Washington at the RWA convention and I was in a room with lots of other authors and lines of ecstatic ladies dying to get their hands on free books, in some cases no matter who the author was! My third was a group signing in Sacramento with several romance novelists – including our own Loucinda McGary – and a few other fiction and non-fiction writers. In each of these cases I was among friends, surrounded by other authors to socialize with, and in a setting where people knew what was happening. There is indeed a sense of safety in numbers!

For my fourth signing I was alone. Just me, a table piled with books, some candy to entice people over, my book trailer playing on the laptop, and colorful signs announcing who I was. Was I nervous? Do wild bears do their business in the woods? Heck yeah!

I had done my best to alert the world via fliers, my website, Facebook, and a ton of emails to half of my hometown’s population. The fabulous manager of Borders had alerted the press, who did put it in the paper and even had a reporter come interview me for a piece in the big Fresno newspaper – so cool! So although nervous that I might still end up sitting there with a pasted on smile and thumbs atwiddling, I was content that I had done all that was possible. And I was determined to have fun.

Well, I am happy to report that it went very, VERY well! Oh sure, most of the busy store’s customers walked right by my table that was situated inches from the front door as if I was invisible. And one gal did ask me to help her find where a certain book was located in the store. (Robert, the manager, smoothly stepped in to help, bless his heart.) I passed out far more fliers and business cards than actual books were sold, and not everyone on my contact list showed up. (Probably a good thing!)

Nevertheless, I sold a total of 23 books between the three titles and signed at least twice that much for people who brought their already owned ones in. In the total 4 hours that I was there I never went more than 10 minutes without someone stopping by. I call that a success!

Am I ready to schedule a dozen more? Ah, no. But at least I am not as terrified by the idea if the managers of other bookstores in the Valley start begging me to visit their store. Of course, since it is unlikely I will have a plethora of managers pounding me with emails, my anxiety levels can remain dormant.

So now I can don my comfy lounging clothes and go back to conducting the blog tour for My Dearest Mr. Darcy from the cushions of my recliner, sans makeup. This week I am appearing in 7 places, including here at Casablanca. Seven! Who needs sleep, right? Here is the list with links if anyone wants to follow me around. Stalkers welcome. Oh, and lots of my books are being given away!

Monday: My Reading Room - an interview
This Book For Free
Micole Writes Romancean interview
Wednesday: Marie Sullivan Forcean interview with my buddy!
Thursday: Hic-Fic chick
Friday: Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

Next week it continues on. Yeah! Hope to see you all there!

Monday, January 11, 2010

One of my Favorite Places…

By Robin Kaye

When I was a going to college outside of Philadelphia, I discovered the most amazing place—Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. It is where I escaped to when I had campusitis. You know, when you just have to get away. I either went to Longwood Gardens or The Brandywine River Museum both of which I still love to visit.

Now that I’ve returned to the area, my family and I have become members of Longwood and go at least once a month. It’s a year round venue since they have both indoor and outdoor gardens, and we always look forward to our visits since the gardens are constantly changing. They are, in a word, spectacular.

Longwood Gardens has gardening classes, visiting performers from musicians to world-class ice skaters, Symphony and Fireworks shows, and a myriad of other events so there is usually something wonderful going on there.

This year we started a new tradition, we celebrated Thanksgiving there. They have an incredible restaurant that serves the world’s best mushroom soup among other things. We were among the first visitors to enjoy this years stunning Longwood Garden’s Christmas display.
We ate so much that we ended up leaving before dark so we missed the outdoor light show.

So today, we are going to experience the final night of the Christmas lights and bid the holiday season a fond farewell.

It’s going to be cold, but we can warm up in Pierre du Pont’s house
or in the Conservatory, and then, there’s always the restaurant. If you’re interested in finding out more about Longwood Gardens or seeing more pictures, check out their website. It’s a beautiful and fascinating place with a rich history. It was even a part of the Underground Railroad.

So, what are your favorite places to visit?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Little Help From My Friends

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

So are you humming that old Beatles tune yet? I know I am. But this blog isn't about Lennon/McCartney tunes, or the great Beatle Tribute band I saw on my last cruise (They were called the Beatle Maniacs and they were... FAB! Sorry, couldn't resist.).

I'm writing this to say a BIG THANK YOU to my critique partners.

I currently have three critique partners and I honestly don't think I could write my books without them. At least not the books I ultimately write. I have been working with all of them for four or five years.

Not all writers use critique partners, but mine are a necessity for me. I find it very challenging to sit in front of a keyboard and monitor day after day and create words that other people will read and find at least mildly entertaining. I tend to lose my perspective rather rapidly sometimes. On any given day, I might think my words aren't bad, or are even pretty good. OR, I think they absolutely suck ditchwater! Somedays, I think all three things, usually in quick sucsession.


This is where my CPs come in. They read my chapter(s) and tell me what is working and what isn't. Sometimes they have suggestions on how to fix things, or alternative techniques I might consider. Sometimes it's enough for one of them to say, "This just isn't right." But ultimately it is MY story and MY decision...

Have I mentioned in the last five seconds how much I LURVE my CPs?!?!

Confession time, it wasn't always so. That's because I've had a lot of different critique partners and critique groups over the years. Some have been online and some face-to-face. Some were just what I needed at that point in my writing life, but alas, didn't continue to meet my needs and interests. Others... well, let's just say we weren't a 'good fit.' If only finding compatible CPs was as easy as going to the shoe store, but I digress...

My current CPs are all wonderfully supportive and each contributes something unique in her critiques. One of them is a retired English teacher, so I never have to worry about my participles dangling or my modifiers being misplaced. Another of my CPs is a retired deputy sheriff who is a wonderful resource for weapons and the like. She's also a diligent plotter who forces me to plan in advance way more than I would otherwise. And my third CP, who is only a few years older than my son, has completely different reading tastes and can always come up with a unique spin on a scene or character.

We all may be at different points in our writing and our lives, but I trust my CPs to give me their honest and constructive opinions, and I do the same for them. One of our favorite sayings is, "I cared enough to bleed all over your manuscript." (Meaning there were lots of red ink marks.) Ya gotta love a CP who will do that!

Sorry about getting that song stuck in your head, but feel free to hum along with me now (I'll be the one slightly out of tune), as I give a salute to my CPs: Jo, Cathy, and Aimee! YOU ARE THE GREATEST!

"...I get by with a little help from my, a little help from my friiieends, FRIENDS!"

What about you? If you are a writer, do you have critique partners or a critique group? If you are a reader, do you have friends who help you out at home or work? Go ahead, give 'em a shout out!