Monday, May 31, 2010

Signing Books

by Libby Malin

A funny video by mystery author Parnell Hall (like moi, an Edgar nominee!) has been making the rounds. Maybe you've seen it. If not, here 'tis:

Whew -- that's the first time I embedded a video. Hope it comes through okay. If not, you can go to this link to see it.

Parnell's poking good-natured fun at challenges all authors who aren't bestsellers face--how do you get the word out and draw crowds to book signings and to buy your book in general?

Here's the secret --

Okay, you didn't really think I'd give away the secret, did you? Especially when I don't know what it is myself! :-)

Seriously, most authors do their best to attract folks to a book signing with the usual tricks of the trade. Personally, I send out postcards announcing the signing to a growing list of folks interested in my books. I have one list of all the folks in my neighborhood and I'm sure to add a little label on those letting recipients know I live in their development.

I also send press releases to local media and give out postcard invitations to people I encounter the week before the event. And, finally, I do broadcast emails and announcements on Facebook.

Still, sometimes you face a poor showing at a signing. If the weather's good -- which it was at my last signing -- attendance can be down. Who wants to spend one of the first nice spring afternoons after a bunch of rainy ones in a bookstore? And, although I wasn't sitting next to Mary Higgins Clark (as Parnell was at one signing), I was tucked in a corner of the store while the big Nook display, along with very good salesman, attracted customers upon entry.

But you know what? Sometimes the book signing isn't just about the book signing. In other words, the actual number of people who came into the store to have my book signed that day doesn't measure the full impact of the signing. The signing, after all, allowed me to send out the press release, which resulted in notices about the book in numerous little papers in the area. The postcards announcing the signing caught the attention of a local book club that has now asked me to speak about my book at their next meeting. And, I collected emails of passers-by at the signing to add to my collection of folks I can reach the next time I have book news.

I've never had an unpleasant experience at a book signing. I enjoy being in bookstores and usually end up buying something before I leave.

For you authors out there, have you had any experiences at signings that are funny or memorable? And what about readers--any book signings you've attended that stick out in memory?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What's New with Sharon?

We are counting down our month of celebrating motherhood and exploring the new beginnings in our lives. Next up are the fabulous launch parties for Lydia Dare (Again girls? You must be exhausted!), Shana Galen, and Ashlyn Chase. After that we will spend the entire glorious month of June delving into SUMMERTIME!! I know I am ready for summer and all the fun to be had.

But for now I am forced to write about new beginnings. LOL! Ok, only joking as it is a wonderful topic and the blogs have been enlightening, encouraging, and entertaining. Yet I have to say that I have been scratching my head over what to talk about. Writing wise I am finishing up my fifth novel – tentative title The Trouble with Mr. Darcy due for release in April 2011 in case you were curious about that, hehehe…. Actually, it is done, although I haven’t typed The End as yet because I have to go over the whole thing at least one more time before I will feel it is truly DONE, ya know? My next project is already half way written, so I won’t technically be starting something new once I turn my full attention to that. So no help was to be found there.

Then I looked around at my life.

Yeah, crickets chirping! Nothing much is new with yours truly. My life really is that boring. Ha! “But there must be something, Sharon,” you ask. Fine! Since you are forcing me to talk about it, I did start a serious diet and exercise regime. Happy now? Not me. I HATE dieting. And as much as I hate dieting, I HATE exercising about ten times more. Yuck. Double yuck. Yet after 4 different doctors placed the blame for my various health issues primarily on my being “heavy” – that polite euphemism for “fat” – and not my bum knee or hypothyroidism, I figured I better listen to them! Dadgummit. By the way, I think I prefer the term “Rubenesque” and will start using that. What do you think? It is classic art, after all....
So because I love food WAY too much – hence being Rubenesque – and have nearly zero willpower, I paid the bucks to be on a program. Jenny Craig, to be precise, so Valerie Bertinelli, Jason Alexander, and I are now pals. So far so good, but then it has only been a week so don’t pat me too firmly on the back as yet. Next was the exercising thing. Triple yuck. I dug out the Total Gym my hubby and I bought ages ago at some other time when we were determined to get-in-shape (clearly that did not work), but since Christie Brinkley and Chuck Norris still look pretty good even though they have to be nearing 70 by now, I figured it would suffice. At least until I am skinny enough to not be embarrassed to wear spandex at the gym! On top of that we have been taking long walks around the neighborhood. That has been great fun and will work until it hits the triple digits at which point this girl will not be out of the AC for that long. Wish me luck as I will definitely need it.

What else is new? Oh yeah, we have a new pet. Well, we have had him since late March, but that is fairly new. He is a crested gecko name Leonidas who has a fabulous home inside an old 30 gal. aquarium we converted. I am a reptile lover, so he has been a fascinating addition to the pet family, even if he doesn’t do a whole lot. Until you put crickets in. Then he is quite lively! Since I hate any type of bug with a vengeance bordering on insanity, I will confess to obtaining perverted pleasure at their demise. Leonidas is very sweet and fun to hold, although we have to be careful because he is so fast with those sucker feet of his.
Speaking of pets - Thanks to a lady I work with who is a self-proclaimed “cat person” with 5 of the critters in her house, we discovered a new cat litter system that is simply amazing! I will spare the gory details, but suffice to say our obnoxious cat - just the one, mind you – has given us fits over his persnickety preferences when it comes to his cat box. We have tried them all and never found one that he, 1) likes and will use appropriately, 2) is easy to clean, or 3) does not scatter litter all over the house, literally. I give you the Breeze System by Tidy Cat! Seriously, this is the most awesome cat care system I have ever seen or used. Better yet, Belgarath made the transition easily and loves it! Since the cat box is in my office, I am especially overjoyed. If you have a cat, check it out: Breeze System website

My son has started working out at the gym like a maniac. He goes just about every day with a discipline and devotion I wish he would apply to cleaning his room or doing schoolwork, but I am happy to see the attribute somewhere. The weird part is watching my 17-year-old baby morph into a man befitting the cover of a romance novel! He is about 6’4” with muscles and 6-pack abs and even chest hair! Eek! A little freaky, but we are very proud of him. Plus, his attention to health has spilled into his eating habits, which is helpful for me. When I am brave enough to join the gym he has promised to be my personal trainer, although he did say he would work me until I cried, so I am not sure about that!

Oh Yeah, I received the ARC for In the Arms of Mr. Darcy (release date October), which was a fabulous new thing for me since I have never gotten an ARC before. Isn't it gorgeous? Even without the pretty silvery foiling.

Then I was sent the ARC image for A Darcy Christmas due in November. Love it!! I am crossing my fingers for an ARC of this one too.
Well, I guess there are a few new beginnings in my life! What about you? As we wind up our month, share what new stuff is happening in your life.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My Altered State of Consciousness...

By Robin Kaye

Joanne recently wrote a blog about falling in love and the altered state of consciousness that is brought about by infatuation. This is something I tend to suffer from with every one of my heroes. Joanne’s blog was wonderful and as all great blogs do, it got me thinking. Always dangerous, I know.

The one question I’m usually asked by readers and interviewers alike is which of my heroes is my favorite? The answer I always want to give is the next one. I have a nasty habit of falling in love with my next hero—the one hero I’m not supposed to be writing about. I’ll be writing one book, and a secondary character will invariably appear and steal my heart. I’m fickle that way when it comes to fictional men. I’m just lucky that hasn’t been my problem in real life. If it were, I doubt I'd still be happily married to the same man for over 20 years.

When I wrote Yours For the Taking, which will be released in January, 2011, I met a bevy of new characters—several of which were my hero, Ben Walsh’s cousins; Trapper, Fisher, Hunter, and Karma Kincaid.

As I am wont to do, I fell head over heels in love with Trapper Kincaid. The man just knocked my socks off. He was new and exciting—probably because I hadn’t known him through two books like I had Ben. There was still so much to learn about Trapper. As his character appeared on my computer screen, I became more and more infatuated. By that time, poor Ben was like a tried and true beau. I already knew all there was to know about him, and although I loved him, the bloom was off the rose. But Trapper was, and still is, a mystery to me in so many ways. I couldn’t wait to finish writing Yours For the Taking so I could write about Trapper.

As always, real life intervened. In order to sell my new Domestic Gods Gone Wild series, I had to write a proposal. I’m a real seat-of-the-pants writer, so for me, writing a proposal is difficult at best because it involves nasty things like synopses. This proposal proved to be almost impossible.

For the life of me, I couldn’t come up with a heroine for Trapper. I racked my brain to find a woman deserving of the incredible man that Trapper had become. She would have to be smart, funny, and someone who could make Trapper want to commit for more than his usual 72-hour affair. You see, Trapper finds it difficult to stay committed and well, nice, for more than 72-hours at a stretch. I doubted my ability to create such a woman, or maybe it was the jealousy factor—I still want Trapper all to myself and, as wonderful as I am, I don’t think many readers would buy a younger, more slender version of me as a heroine.

But like most problems, there was a solution. I just couldn’t write Trapper’s book next. I get to keep him all to myself for as long as it takes to write one of his sibling’s books. Lucky for me, the perfect heroine for Trapper’s brother, Hunter popped into my head along with a plot that demands the book be written at a time when all Hunter’s siblings are single. Together, Toni Russo and Hunter Kincaid are explosive and I can’t think of a time I’ve had more fun playing with my characters. They are both a real departure from my normal heroine and hero. Hunter is the strong silent type, and while Toni is normally feisty and independent; in the book, she’s completely out of her element and has to overcome a life-long fear.

Now I’m hoping that by the time I’ve written Hunter and Toni’s book, I’ll have Trapper out of my system enough to find the perfect heroine for him, if not, I guess there are always Fisher and Karma’s books. Someday, I’ll look back and think of Trapper as a tried and true beau, but until then, I’ll happily dip my toes into the raging river of my infatuation with him. Sigh, ain’t love grand?

So, tell me what fictional characters have you fallen desperately love with? Oh, and how long did it take for you to get over that little problem…just curious.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A time of growth

Spring is definitely the time for new beginnings, perhaps even more so than the coming of the new year because in the dead of winter, the promise of new life seems so remote. But now, in late May, things are popping out all over the place. My roses are blooming,

and just yesterday, one of the lilies I planted last fall burst into flower.

Peaches isn't a little puppy anymore, but she is so full of exuberant life, she makes me feel young just watching her enjoy her first springtime as only a dog who was near death in December can do.

And last, but certainly not least, my son Michael graduated from Purdue this month and has been accepted into graduate school. Now, that's a new beginning!

I planted my garden on Tuesday--a bit later than I usually do, but what with deadlines and an over-abundance of rain, I simply hadn't gotten to it yet. As soon as I finished planting, a little thundershower passed over to give those seeds a good head start on growth.

And we could all use a little help when it comes to growing, both as people and as writers. Like all of the Casablanca authors, I, too, have suffered the pangs of childbirth associated with a new book. Not long ago, I finished the final edits to Hero, which will be born in August, and I'm now nearing the finish line on the next book. I was calling it Renegade, but about a month ago, Deb sent me this:

The cover was totally hot, but the new title has taken a while to grow on me. It does have the virtue of being unique--while there are several other books coming out with renegade in the title, I don't think there are many virgins, at least, not with respect to the hero. I'm hoping this will make it stand out from the crowd and draw in some new readers, but even if is doesn't, I know some people who will be happy to have it in their hot little hands no matter what it's called.

Being able to provide fun, escapist entertainment for my readers has been the best part of being published. My heroes really mean it when they say, "I will give you joy unlike any you have ever known," and with what the world has to face these days, we could all use a little joy. In tough times, people need a vision of the future that offers hope and new beginnings for our world and our species, and if I can contribute even the tiniest little bit to that vision, then I've done my job.

One book at a time.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Birth of a book

May's theme here is all about motherhood.

Giving birth to my daughter was pretty darn special, but giving birth to my first mass market paperback Strange Neighbors has had some eerie similarities. And in some ways it was harder!

When I conceived the series, i.e. submitted it, I was hopeful but not counting on anything. Then I received the call. That was back in December of 2008. Natually, I was completely elated! It was the same when I learned my daughter was on the way.

Once I signed the contract I had to work with my editor (i.e. Doctor) to make sure everything was going well. Those early conversations, revisions and edits were like regular check-ups and prenatal vitamins. Very important!

I'd like to say it took only 9 months for that beautiful healthy manuscript to become a full fledged book I could hold and love, but it was more like a year! Okay, so that's not unusual in print publishing--but it seemed like an eternity!

My daughter came a week early. I landed in the hospital the very night my surprise baby shower was to be held. My book released a week earlier than I had expected too, catching me by surprise! Don't get me wrong...I'm not complaining on either account! Waiting is one of the hardest parts.

Now I celebrate! My official book launch party is June second, right here. I like to think of it as the family party. I hope as many family members and friends as possible will show up and help me drink that Champagne that's been chilling in the fridge!

Thank you to my publisher Dominique, editor Deb, and all my Casa sisters for helping me get to this point. I'm already enjoying all the oo's and ah's my book is getting from readers and reviewers.

P.S. My first born's little brother should be making its debut in Feb 2011--9 months from now.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Love, Limerence, and Literature

Our theme this month is beginnings, which is perfect for a romance writers' blog since so many of our books detail the beginnings of a relationship. Most romances carry us from the initial moment of attraction to the resolution of the relationship--from falling in love to the promise of living happily ever after. And I think one of the reasons romances are so popular is their ability to help readers relive the ecstasy of falling in love.
We've all been swept off our feet at one time or another--lifted and transported by a heady, intoxicating attraction that makes the stars shine brighter and the world whirl faster. Nothing compares to the beginning of a love affair--the joy of recognition when you meet your perfect match; the secret glow you carry in your heart; the delicious anticipation of seeing him again; and the sparks that fly when you're finally alone together.
But in real life, there's a dark side to the early stages of love. Psychologists say infatuation is an altered state of consciousness that's not necessarily healthy. Dorothy Tennov called it limerence, and defined it as a condition to be overcome rather than a step along the path to a healthy romance.
Yeah, those scientists ruin everything. They'll tell you that wonderful feeling isn't the pang of Cupid's arrow, but the result of an influx of chemicals to your brain, led by phenylethylamine--a naturally-occurring stimulant that's also found in chocolate. Combined with dopamine and norepinephrine, it creates an intoxicating "love cocktail" that floods your body with feelings of exhilaration and euphoria.
While infatuation feels good, it's also a little scary. The feelings are so powerful; what if he doesn't reciprocate your passion? What if he kicks you to the curb? That chemical rush will make you feel everything more deeply--including rejection.
And some people become literally "addicted to love" and seek that chemical boost repeatedly. They bounce from relationship to relationship, always shooting for that high, always moving on in disappointment once ecstatic passion evolves into calmer but potentially more meaningful love. All those Hollywood stars who run to rehab when their indiscretions hit the tabloids might really need help.
Or maybe they need romance novels. A well-written romance lets you identify with the characters to the point where you feel all the ups and downs of their story almost as if they're happening to you--and you can depend on a happy ending.
So instead of taking up with multiple cocktail waitresses, maybe Tiger Woods should have picked up a few romance novels. Nestled safely in an armchair, he could have vicariously experienced all the ecstasy of limerence--and enjoyed a happy ending instead of a train wreck.
Some people scoff at romances, claiming that fantasy gets in the way of reality. But if you have a full life, with relationships and responsibilities that sometimes weigh you down, reliving that emotional high of falling in love can give you a much-needed boost.
After all, you can only eat so much chocolate.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air Supply

The theme for the end of May is new beginnings, but instead of a new beginning, what about going back to a beginning? Back to where where life was just beginning.

I had a family emergency over the weekend and couldn't do my scheduled Saturday blog post. Many many thanks to my Casa sisters for jumping in and taking over for me. The emergency was over on Saturday and that brings me to my "back to a beginning."

After the emergency, I had a lot of emotions, a lot of things to deal with. And I had concert tickets for an Air Supply concert. The question was whether or not I was going to go. After what had happened, actually, going was the best thing I could have done.

My best friend since high school had gotten the tickets. She and I were huge Air Supply fans in high school. We had every album, knew every song in order on those albums, knew the words to every song. We'd seen them numerous times in concert as seventeen and eighteen-year-olds, so when she saw they were coming to the area, she called me up and asked if I wanted to go. "Yes," popped out of my mouth before I'd even thought about it.

We were so young in those days. So full of expectations. Where would life lead us? Who would we become? Who would we find in our life? What would our families be like? Air Supply's songs are very romantic, full of falling in love, wanting to be in love. Whether or not you're a fan of the music, if you read the words, you'll see the emotions. As two teenage girls, these words touched us. It's really no surprise that I became a romance author, because I was a huge romance reader and following this group was just a part of that.

So, regardless of the events of the weekend, I was going to go to that concert. And I am so utterly thrilled that I did. The venue was much smaller than when we'd seen them 20-some years ago. Russell Hitchcock's hair was grayer, the band members were younger, the notes couldn't be held quite as long, but the voices were there. The excitement was there. The emotions were there. And we knew all the words to the old songs, though none of the four new ones they played. (Note to self: buy the new album.)

I escaped from the aftermath of the emergency. I went back to that time of innocence and expectation and hope. For a few hours, I got to relive the past. And it was a lot of fun. No one knows you quite like your high school buddies. All the silly stuff, the inside jokes, the stupid references, the giddiness of what happened at the school lunch tables.

The picture is of my and my friend, Val, at Harrah's Casino in Chester before the performance started. You might remember that I dedicated Wild Blue Under to her and named the heroine after her. There were lots of reasons that I did so, but the biggest being, she's my friend. Knows all my foibles and shortcomings and likes me in spite of them - and vice versa. We've known each other thirty years - and while new beginnings can be exciting and fun and something to look forward to, don't discount the past.

It was so nice to escape to it for a few hours.

Do you still keep in touch with those people who knew you "back when"? If not, have you searched for them? Facebook is great for connecting with people from high school; I've really enjoyed that, how about you?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tropical Island Getaway

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

Ever wish you could just run away and have a brand new start on life? I'll admit, the thought has crossed my mind, or at least figured in my day dreams.

Back in the days of my DDJ (dreaded day job) my best friend and I liked to joke about running away to some tropical island where we'd lie about on the beach with native boys bringing us fruity drinks with little umbrellas.

Matter of fact, those shared day dreams eventually led us to make our very first trip to Hawaii back in 1992 (yes, I still have the T-shirt, old and faded in the rag pile)! However we were so busy sight seeing on that brief vacation (I think we were only gone 5 days because we both had kids at home) we only managed one brief afternoon on the beach. That was at Hanauma Bay, and alas there were no native boys. Also, our drink of choice was diet Pepsi. Still, that little jaunt whetted my appetite for lovely far off islands, and my BFF and I still joke about those native boys and umbrella drinks.

My recent trip to the Caribbean made me day dream once more about running away from it all. Take a peek at this photo I took on beautiful St. Lucia (yes, the water really IS that color) and tell me the idea of running off didn't enter your mind. Maybe for a half-second?

Whenever I think about running away from it all and starting a new life, I always think of the most famous of those who did -- the artist Paul Gauguin.

Like so many "starving artists" throughout history, Gauguin was unknown and unappreciated during his lifetime. At one point in the late 1880's he actually worked on the French attempt at the Panama Canal, and wound up on the French Caribbean island of Martinique. Apparently, that wasn't quite far enough away for him, because in 1891 he set sail for what was then called French Polynesia, abandoning his wife and five children.

He lived first in Tahiti and then on the Marquesas Islands, where he died in 1903. His most famous paintings were done during those years. Here's a self-portrait he did in 1893, and that's a copy of another of his paintings hanging over his shoulder. His life inspired lots of books (including Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence), and at least two operas. So I guess I'm not the only one who liked the idea of running away to a tropical island.

Sounds great in theory, but would I really be able to leave all my friends and family behind like Gauguin did? Do I even want to? Even if I knew my writing would become as celebrated and influential as the art Gauguin produced in Polynesia (he's been called the first Post-Impressionist and the father of modern art), I still don't think I could run away as completely and irrevocably as he did.

True, he had plenty of beach time, and lots of natives, but NO FRUITY DRINKS with umbrellas! OH NOOOO!

What about you? Ever thought about running away to a tropical island? Or maybe someplace else? Or are you holding out for the fruity drinks with Aunty?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mothers in Writing

Since we’re blogging about mothers this month, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I portray mothers in my novels. I tend to make certain they’re absent or more of a villain than a helper to my hero or heroine.

I love my mom and consider her a good friend. So why do I kill off my characters’ mothers or make them horrible adversaries?

And my conclusion? It makes my characters more vulnerable. And stronger. If they’re alone in the world, they’ve had to make their own way, build their own life, go it alone. So it’s not that I’m against mothers, but characters lacking a mother or a supportive mother are more interesting to me.

That said, in my next novel, The Making of a Duchess, I’ve written a wonderful mother character. Rowena, the duchess de Valére, escaped the French Revolution with my hero Julien. Unfortunately, she had to leave her other two sons behind. Very early in the book, Rowena has to make a decision: save one son or lose all three. She decides to save Julien.

Rowena isn’t a central character in the novel. The novel is about the romance between Julien and Sarah, but as I wrote the scenes with Rowena, I thought a lot about what her life must have been like after her decision. Was she ever able to reconcile her decision? Did she wish she had died, rather than face life knowing her twin sons perished? Or worse—not knowing what happened to them at all.

Julien, her son, thinks of little else but his brothers’ fates. He makes it his life’s work to search for news of them. And it’s that search that gets him into trouble…but that’s another part of the story.

I’ve been trying to think about novels with strong, positive mother characters. So far I’ve got the mother in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and the mother in Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels. Can you think of any others? There must be more…

Friday, May 21, 2010


Many writers will tell you they will begin on one path and suddenly find themselves on another. My fans know about my witches in my Hex series with the fun quirky titles.
Do I love my witches? Absolutely!
When I wrote The Best Hex Ever, I created Maggie, a kick ass witch and Declan, a very sexy half fire demon along with a mouthy teenager I’m sure many parents might identify with.
My editor read this book in January and totally loved it. And along the way a light bulb went off in her head.
The last thing I want is to disappoint my readers. The witches will be showing up here along with some hot demon heroes.
I’m also working on a novella staring Thea that will hopefully come out this October.
Below is the launch copy for my new series titled Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend, which will also be the title for Maggie’s book, to be released in spring of 2011.
First in a new hot and funny paranormal series by bestselling author Linda Wisdom, featuring sexy demon heroes, the latest hot phenomenon in the romance category.
When satanic Mayan priests go rogue on kickass witch Maggie Malone’s watch, she must team up with hotter-than-sin fire demon, Declan to save her neck ... and the world.
Linda Wisdom’s category romances have sold worldwide, and she has successfully crossed over to single title romance with her Hex series for Sourcebooks.
Beginning a new series, Linda brings her signature imagination to an urban setting featuring sexy demon heroes, feisty heroines and a paranormal cast of thousands.
Feisty witch Maggie enjoys her work as a paranormal law enforcement officer—that is, until she’s assigned to protect a teenager with major attitude and a sleazy boyfriend.
A group of satanic Mayans priests has decided Courtney has a drop of divine blood in her—making her just the virgin sacrifice they need to release their God and rule the world. To prevent this catastrophe, Maggie must team up with half fire demon Declan, the proprietor of Damnation Alley, an underground club and busy demon portal.
Declan will be damned if he’ll allow his demon race to be blamed for the malicious acts of some evil Mayans. So he decides to seduce the sexy witch in an effort to discover what the law enforcement agency knows about the Mayan’s plans, but then things get more than a little hot, and Declan finds himself seriously entangled with the sexiest woman he’s ever met…
I can't wait to see the new cover for this!


Thursday, May 20, 2010


By Deb Werksman

I have just returned from a marvelous weekend with an RWA local chapter and the week before that I participated in an on-line pitch session and I had a GREAT time doing both--I love to take pitches (some of you may have noticed!) and it seems to me that authors are working hard at creating effective pitches. I'm hearing lots of good ones!

Pitches may be verbal or written, and by their nature they have to be concise and compelling, but they also have to include some key information:

*The author's publishing/sales history (how many books and how many copies sold to readers). This is where, if you're a debut author, you say so. If you're introducing a new pen name, please share your publishing/sales history of your previous name(s).

*The category and subgenre of the book: I can't tell you how many times a pitch gets derailed because I can't tell whether the book is mystery (which we don't publish) or romantic suspense (which we do), or whether it's sci-fi/fantasy (which we don't publish) or fantasy romance (which we do). Be very clear about where your book a) sits in the bookstore and b) fits into the category--especially if it's a romance, be clear about the subgenre or mix of subgenres (Regency paranormal romance, Scottish Highland time travel romance, etc.)

*The hook! (see below)

*A quick introduction to the main characters and the major conflicts

If all these items are in place and clear, then I'll be able to tell you very quickly whether it's something I publish, and whether it's something I want to see a full submission on. And that's the whole purpose of the pitch!

A word on nervousness: we editors are really very nice people, and love to read as much as you do, and love to talk about books and hear about your book. We know we make you nervous. It's fine.

I talk endlessly about the hook, and it's the thing I get the most questions about. The hook is a 2-3 sentence selling tool that gets a buyer excited about stocking your book and a reader excited to buy and then read it. It positions your book as something unique and desirable. Here are some examples:

*Robin Kaye's Breakfast in Bed is the latest in her Domestic Gods series of contemporary romance featuring gorgeous alpha guys who are the nurturing one in the relationship. Because every woman wants a man who's as good in the kitchen as he is in the bedroom!

*Terry Spear has done so much research into how wolves live in nature, that in her paranormal romances, the werewolves behave the way wolves do in nature. They all drive SUVs because they travel in packs!).

*Lydia Dare's new Regency heroes in It Happened One Bite are gentleman vampires. They are high sticklers and would never bite a young lady to whom they were not properly introduced.

*Marie Force's newest down-to-earth contemporary romance Love at First Flight features a love triangle so gripping and emotionally complex that the hero and heroine finding their way together in the end is miraculous, both for them, and for the reader.

*Mary Margret Daughtridge's SEALed with a Promise features the personal side of being a Navy SEAL--men for whom being a hero is all in a day's work, and the personal side of life isn't easy at all.

*Cheryl Brooks' Fugitive, the latest in The Cat Star Chronicles series features a hero who comes from a planet where the people have a feline gene that gives them remarkable sexual powers.

*Shana Galen's action-packed Regency romances feature three aristocratic brothers who lost everything in the French Revolution, including each other. In each story, the brothers search desperately for each other, aided by a beautiful young lady to whom they reluctantly lose their hearts. Latest book is The Making of a Duchess.

The reason I need a hook is because there are multiple occasions on which I'll be presenting the book to rooms full of people who then have to go and do things like design the cover, or sell it to a buyer. I have to be able to get them excited about your book, and they have to go get other people excited.

We all know there's nothing new under the sun, and there are plot devices and tropes that are time-tested and true blue. HOWEVER, in today's marketplace, you must make your book stand out. So if you are using time-worn plot devices, you must do something else that's really original so your readers will not feel they've read this book before.

OK, here's what I'm looking for!
*single title romance in all subgenres
*a heroine the reader can relate to
*a hero she can fall in love with
*a world gets created
*a hook I can sell with in 2-3 sentences
*a career arc for the author

So how about it? Got any pitches for me? Post them right here on the blog and I'll critique them right here, or if you're shy, send them to me privately at

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm Dreaming of the Wolf! & 2-Book Contest!!!

I just finished writing Heart of the Highland Wolf, Book 7, about hunky Highlanders, including a true family Highland story, changed a bit, and sent off my contribution to the nonfiction book: Make Love Like a Romance Author, and now I am beginning anew!

Which is one of the things we're talking about this month: new beginnings!

It's time to dream of hot wolves and the trouble they can get themselves into. Hmm-hmm! :) So next up is Dreaming of the Wolf (or some such title) about Jake Silver from Destiny of the Wolf & Wolf Fever fame.

So what does a macho wolf do on his off-duty time? Photographs wildflowers. And nobody better snicker about it.

But something...or someone has gotten his undivided attention. And it's making him Sleepless in Silver Town.

I'll be talking about writing a series as the featured author for Calamity's Corner, June 1, and participating in Summer of Love on Jun 1 with a military tribute (for the Memorial Day weekend) and a free copy of To Tempt the Wolf (because Hunter was an ex Navy SEAL), and another guest author blog in August for a free copy of Seduced by the Wolf.

And I'm excited that I'll be meeting lots of our authors and our editor, Deb, and publicist, Danielle, my critique partners and friends, and fans at the conference in Orlando!

So of course my question is: are there any wolves there? Well, let's see--there's Peter and the Wolf, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, and Never Cry Wolf (which has a mouse-eating man observing wolves in the Arctic.) So even Disney showcased a few wolves. :)

But no good werewolves. Which means I've got to do it! :)

In the meantime, I'm back to causing trouble for Jake and the woman of his dreams, Alicia Greison, because that's what storytelling is all about. Causing trouble. :)

I'm excited too, because Heart of the Wolf, Destiny of the Wolf, and To Tempt the Wolf are in their 2nd printings already!

But the bad news is, To Tempt the Wolf and Destiny of the Wolf are temporarily out of stock. So, if you're in Canada or the US and want an opportunity to win a book, here's your chance. I'll be giving away one of each to two lucky winners! :)

Just comment on:
So what about you? Ever dream of a real hero type that has you wanting more???

And/or tell me who you'd like to see have a story of their own! :)

Have a howling hump day!

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kids. . . and New Jobs

by Libby Malin

First, let me apologize. I've been so swamped with work and family activities that I haven't kept up with the blog lately. I was just reading through some of the really lovely blog posts about mothering and new beginnings that I've missed. They are wonderful and very moving. What lives you've led, ladies! Really sweet and full lives. Thanks for sharing your stories.

As for me, my mothering and new beginnings stories are simple. I have three kids and love them to pieces as any mother would. The oldest writes for the Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong. The middle child is in pilot training in the Air Force. The youngest works for a think tank in DC, but she also writes fiction on the side. And the latest big news for her -- she just signed with an agent at the Gelfman Schneider Agency! I think I'm more excited for her than I was for myself when I first signed with an agent. It's been so fulfilling to use my experiences to help guide her through this process.

She's a terrific fiction writer, with a vivid imagination and a gift for prose that sings. I sometimes think that perhaps my greatest gift to fiction will have been to producer her, rather than to have written books myself! LOL!

As to new beginnings, I wrote previously on this blog of how my humorous women's fiction ideas continue to bubble along, but I'm also doing some serious fiction as well. In fact, I have a Jane Eyre-inspired novel set in old Hollywood coming out in September. You can read more about it at my own blog.

I've also been treading into new territory with some freelance assignments, in particular copy editing. I love those jobs. To me, it's like doing a crossword puzzle--sitting down and keeping track of character names, timelines, whether compound adjectives should be hyphenated or not, whether an em-dash or a comma works best . . . . I think I must be crazy!

But this job has taught me more than arcane grammar, style and syntax rules. It's teaching me new things about writing and storytelling as I get to delve into other professional writers' tales and admire how they make things click. I sometimes find myself nodding my head, thinking, "nice touch."

It reminds me, to a certain extent, of the days I worked with a critique partner. I often found critiquing her work was as valuable as getting her comments on my work. She was a magnificent partner, who went on to sell four books to a big publisher. Critiquing forced me to analyze why something did or didn't work in the storytelling or characterizations. Those lessons then stayed with me in my own writing.

Another new beginning for me has been delving into the world of e-publishing. A lot has been written about e-publishing lately, and the market does seem to be on the verge of tremendous growth with more e-readers coming on the market. I decided to test the waters myself by placing a book up on Kindle for sale all by my lonesome -- no publisher. It's a mystery novel titled Death Is the Cool Night, and its shorter length would have made it a hard sell to traditional publishers. It's been great fun learning how to promote it -- I'm still on a steep learning curve with that! -- and in seeing for myself precisely how many sales any one particular promo activity generates.

I'm very excited about the new opportunities that e-publishing offers to authors, and I hope soon we'll see some resolution of the various challenges in that market.

Whatever the future brings, I know I'll keep writing. I can't seem to stop myself!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Beginning College and Friendship

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

“Can you take me to my chemo session?” BFF asked, after falling over herself with apologies for asking. “My car is in the shop.”

She didn’t need to apologize. Our friendship has been around forever. She should know by now she can call me anytime. Still my quick “Yes!” couldn’t be attributed to altruism alone, or even the reciprocal bonds of camaraderie. FF has a gift for organizing ideas on a page, and I had blogs to write for my upcoming virtual book tour for SEALed with a Ring.

“First,” she said, as soon as she was settled in the recliner and the IV’s were running, “explain what a blog is.”

Computer literate long before I was, FF has only recently grasped email. She isn't au courrant with the Internet. I thought for a minute. “Do you remember newspapers?”

“Yes,” she answered gravely. I guess she assumed, like the nurses, I was checking out her neurological status.

“Well, then you remember how they used to have columns, and people read their favorite columns everyday?”

“They still do. “ FF’s gray eyes narrowed to let me know she was just this close to taking offence. “And I,” she leaned on the pronoun, “still read them.”

I got to the point. “Blogs are to the Internet as columns are to a newspaper.”

“Oh. I thought they were drivel.” FF taught college students to write, and write very well, for many years.

Her trace of academic snobbery was totally unconscious. I let it go by. “Writers like me are sometimes invited to contribute to a blog—like a guest columnist.”

I went on to explain my problem with blogging in the sort of heartfelt and neurotic detail that only a BFF understands (and doesn’t judge) which is why they are a BFF in the first place.

FF sat a little straighter—well, as much as one can in a recliner. “What are

your topics?” she snapped in a schoolteacher voice. I smiled to myself. She was hooked. I was in.

FF and I met on the Science Building steps on the very first day of college. Right is the Science Building. I don't know who the girl is.

FF’s looks will forever brand her as cute. She has a round face and round cheeks, and a round little body, so short even I look tall beside her. Her wide smile dominates her face anytime she uses it, which is a lot, and talk? The girl will talk. To anyone. At any time. About anything on her mind at that moment.

At the age of eighteen, she embodied cute. At the age of eighteen, I embodied nerd. Too thin, flat-haired, adrift in esoterica most of the time. She was the one who made the two of us into friends.

And no I’m not going to tell you how long ago I was eighteen. She hates it when I reveal my age--hers being the same. Anyway, she’s been untangling my confused thoughts whenever I had to write non-fiction for almost that long.

The first time she sorted me out, we were wedged in a long, long cafeteria line. I was angsting over a term paper. I had done the research. As always, I had in fact done too much research, but … What can I say? One question leads to another. Now ideas bounced in my head as randomly as balls in a bingo cage.

While the line snaked around the cafeteria in the humidity caused by steam tables and smells of meat and vegetables combining, not always felicitously, her clear gray eyes sharp with intelligence, she, who knew nothing about my topic, asked one incisive question after the other. She pursued each subtopic, until she asked me what conclusion all my research had brought me to.

“Write that, “ she said when I was done.

“Write what?”

“What you just said. You don’t need more research, and you’re not confused. You just told me your whole outline.”

And just like that, she switched off brilliant interrogator, and reverted to cute.

I have sometimes wondered if anyone but me knows she can do that.

Oh Lord, I’ve digressed again. But I wanted you to understand why I jumped at a chance to sit with her while she was tethered in place, and have her clarify my thoughts on the subjects of “Writing cutting-edge action,” and “Why we love marriage of convenience plots.”

And how grateful I am that her rounds of chemo treat her lightly—she calls them “maintenance”—and the chemo continues to keep what she dismisses as “cells I don’t need” in check.

And why talking about beginnings and writing made me think about her.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Getting Into Trouble

You'd think something as important as a new career would start with a bang--but my writing career started with a whimper.

I've worked in bookstores all my life, and I love my work. Not only do I get to spend all day, every day playing with books and talking to readers, but I'm able to put ideas into people's hands and encourage them to buy the books I love.

But working in retail means you're on your feet all day, every day, and after twenty years, it had taken its toll. My feet were permanently fixed in a high-heel slant, like Barbie doll feet. And they hurt.


I needed a sit-down job.

I decided to try medical transcription. I type fast, I'm a good speller, and I love using big words like desquamation and borborygmi, so it seemed like a great fit.
Unfortunately, doctors drone. And desquamation and borborygmi aren't nearly as entertaining when you realize they're happening to real people.

But I dutifully tapped away at the keyboard, transcribing my little heart out. Once in a while, though, I needed a break. So I'd bring up a new document, free my mind from all the depressing medical jargon, and start typing freely, letting whatever I was thinking flow from my brain to the screen.

Here's what came out one day:

A chicken will never break your heart.

Not that you can't love a chicken. There are some people in this world who can love just about anything.

But a chicken will never love you back. When you look deep into their beady little eyes, there's not a lot of warmth there--just an avarice for worms and bugs and, if it's a rooster, a lot of suppressed anger and sexual frustration. They don't return your affection in any way.

Expectations, relationship-wise, are right at rock-bottom.

That's why Libby Brown decided to start a chicken farm. She wanted some company, and she wanted a farm, but she didn't want to go getting attached to things like she had in the past.

She'd been obsessed with farms since she was a kid. It all started with her Fisher Price Farmer Joe Play Set: a plastic barn, some toy animals, and a pair of round-headed baby dolls clutching pitchforks like some simple-minded version of American Gothic.

Take Atlanta, just give her that countryside.

Well. That was way more interesting than pachyonychia or zooerastia.*

I kept going, and eventually learned that Libby was a big-city journalist fleeing a failed romance. Determined to live a solitary, self-sufficient life, she moves to the most isolated area she can find: Lackaduck, Wyoming.

She's looking forward to a quiet, peaceful country life--but then Luke Rawlins shows up. Luke is a genuine Wyoming cowboy who looks like Elvis, talks like John Wayne, and cooks like Martha Stewart. Suddenly Libby's not alone anymore. She's not looking for love--but she tells herself it's okay to have a friend who makes your heart beat a little faster.

I'd never written fiction before, and I loved it. I loved the feeling of discovery as characters revealed themselves, and the way I could organize real-life events to point out little truths about our lives. I loved living on another plane, among people of my own invention.

And when I went to my first writing conference, I discovered that I loved talking to other writers, learning tips and tricks to make my books better, and studying the business itself.

Then, when I read my first few pages in front of an agent, they loved my writing. At that point, it had a long way to go, but the encouragement went straight to my head, and I started believing I could actually get published.

Miraculously, that belief stayed intact despite the inevitable rejections and crises of confidence that every writer encounters. And finally, this March, Cowboy Trouble hit the bookstore shelves. Since medical transcription never really got a grip on me, I'm still working in the bookstore--but now I'm selling my own book right alongside the work of all the authors I love. So who cares if my feet hurt? Not me!

I know my writing career started much later than many; most of you Casablanca ladies probably knew you wanted to be writers from Kindergarten or so. But do you remember the moment you first realized that this is what you were meant to do? Stories, please!

* Actually zooerastia could be pretty interesting, as long as we're talking shape-shifters.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Beginning a New Series

Our theme for this month is New Beginnings and boy, that sure is appropriate for me. It's always a bit scary to start a new series, especially when it’s a bit more darker, a bit more dangerous, than my previous series. And to top it off, I’ll be launching it with a new publisher. Will my current readers follow me? Will they enjoy a darker read, and characters that aren’t based on shape-shifters?

My readers have come to expect a mixture of fantasy, romance & history, and I don't disappoint with my new series, THE ELVEN LORDS. Although this time I venture farther back in history, to the Georgian era, I still create an alternate magical universe centered in England. My heroes are half-elven, with the beauty and grace of the invading elven lords (think Legolas in The Lord of the Rings) and my heroines are women who are not only strong enough to survive in such a dangerous world, but able to find true love within it.

It’s odd, by my muse has taken a darker path. And I can’t do anything else but follow it. I’m just hoping that this new venture will not only garner new readers, but keep those that have been so loyal to me, as well.

So a toast to the challenge and excitement of New Beginnings!

And to celebrate, wouldn’t you know that I’ve launched a New Contest for book one in the series, THE FIRE LORD’S LOVER?

Best wishes with your own New Beginnings, and I'd love to hear about them!

SECOND jewelry contest for

What two words are a perfect combination for the romance reader? Chocolate. And diamonds. So to launch the first book in my new series, THE ELVEN LORDS, I will be having three contests that feature chocolate diamond jewelry. See for a photo and description of the sparkling prize for this second contest.

This contest is all about your friends. Just send your friend an email telling them about the first book in the series, THE FIRE LORD'S LOVER, and 'cc' or forward a copy of that email to: I will keep your friend's email address confidential and I will only contact them to verify that it's a valid email address.

You can enter with as many different friends as you'd like.

A winner will be randomly chosen from those with a verifiable email address using RANDOM.ORG. Entering the contest automatically signs you up for the author's newsletter. Your information will be kept confidential. Contest ends June 30th, 2010. Void where prohibited by law. You must be 18 years or older to enter. No prize substitution permitted. Odds of winning are determined by number of entrants. This contest is subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Looking to Austen

This past Mother’s Day was lovely as my husband and children pampered with gifts and food. However, it was also sad since I lost my own mom in September. My sister and I planned a long chat to reminisce and cry, but in the end neither of us picked up the phone! I suppose it isn’t a surprise then that I am not feeling overly inspired to talk about the topic of motherhood as it applies to me. Thankfully I realized my blog date falls smack dab between our May themes of motherhood and new beginnings. Of course, many of the aspects involving motherhood include new beginnings – which is why we chose these themes – so it isn’t difficult to span the gap between the two. So I have decided to approach these themes as they relate to my novels and the world of Jane Austen.

Even a cursory glance at the mothers who inhabit Austen’s novels would lead to the conclusion that the only good mother to be found is a dead one! In Northanger Abbey Austen wrote in an explanation on the qualities of Catherine Morland’s mother, “She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as any body might expect, she still lived on.” Commentaries suggest this was Austen’s way of poking fun at the fact that literary heroines typically have mothers who are either atrocious or deceased. Loucinda touched on this subject earlier this week. Austen seemed to know this “rule” since there isn’t a single heroine in her novels with a perfect mother. Not all of them were horrid necessarily. For instance Mrs. Morland was merely busy birthing baby after baby and thus not completely involved with her older children, but is described as very loving. Surrogate mother Lady Russell in Persuasion loved Anne Elliott, but was overbearing in her approach, forcing Anne’s hand in refusing Captain Wentworth. Sense and Sensibility gave us Mrs. Dashwood, who so devotedly loved her daughters that she was unable to discipline or instruct.
On the other end of the spectrum are the truly heinous mothers of Mansfield Park – all of them - and who can forget Mrs. Bennet? Yikes! Was Austen merely following a literary tradition of bad parents? Perhaps. Yet there is tremendous evidence that Austen herself did not have an adequate mother in Mrs. Austen and that their relationship was strained, to say the least. Whatever Austen’s reasoning for writing her heroines’ mothers as she did, it would be wrong to say she hated motherhood, just as it would be wrong to assert she hated marriage based on the terrible marriages seen in her novels.

Each novel’s heroine managed to discover true love with equality, respect, and esteem as the bedrock despite the bad example offered by their parents. Presumably they would therefore be better mothers having learned from those errors as well. The fact that Austen dwelt on both topics quite a bit proves that she was acutely aware of the differences and the importance. In both the case of marriage and parenthood, we do see fabulous examples within the texts from supporting characters presented in stark contrast to the negative. Austen never married or had children, yet it is logical to conclude from her novels and her private letters that she revered both and had a firm grasp on how each should be.

In deciding to take on the task of writing a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, my saga is all about new beginnings. First I had to address my vision of marriage for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet starting from day one onward. For me there was never a question that Austen meant for them to be happy since their union was one containing all the elements of a good match and I explore this ideal wholeheartedly!

But how would they be as parents?
We never learn much about Darcy other than that his parents spoiled him, encouraging selfishness and arrogance. Since this brought him a fair amount of grief, I assume he would raise his children to be more tolerant and humble, being careful to not lavish them undeservedly while teaching of the wider world beyond his narrow sphere. Otherwise Mr. Darcy and Lady Anne Darcy appeared to have done a great job raising their two children.

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet possessed so many faults as parents it is impossible to cover them all in this blog! Heading the list of ways to not be like mom and dad, let us pray that Lizzy would exert more control over her children! Discipline would be essential with manners, propriety, respect, morality, and self-control part of the curriculum. I think the Darcys would be devoted to their children, involved in their day-to-day lives, active in providing a rounded education, and encouraging of self expression (we are talking about Lizzy Bennet after all).

I have written an extensive, diverse community of family and friends for the Darcy children who appear in my upcoming stories: In The Arms of Mr. Darcy due in October and A Darcy Christmas in November. No doubt I am more of an optimist where Austen tended toward cynicism, and some may find this unforgivable or boring. But then I look at my own children who are marvelous examples of how excellently young people can mature - just as I look at my marriage of 24 years – and I know it is isn’t a fantasy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What to Do Before You Meet to Your Publicist...

by Danielle Jackson

Something I get asked quite a bit about at conferences and when I give presentations on publicity and marketing for romance is what authors can do before they are published. And you know what? It’s a tough question, because I don’t really know too much about what authors do before they are published aside from writing because I’m put in contact with authors after they’ve been signed!

Recently I attended the Chicago-North Spring Fling Conference in Illinois and I had to give the Sourcebooks Spotlight all alone—and it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be!—but as I started preparing in the week prior what I would say and what I should be prepared to answer, I thought about what I like for authors to have when they come to me for the first time. Many of you here know that process; our publicity manager sends you an email with some general info and then I send you a follow-up email, usually with too many exclamation points at the ends of my sentences, but with a TON of info about blogs and web reviews and print contact and NO ADVERTISING BUDGET and get ready to do a ton of work that’s totally beneficial to spreading the word about your book!

Anyway—I realized quite quickly that a lot of authors have NO IDEA what I’m talking about. So for this blog, I’m going to give a little bit of advice to authors who are out there getting started in publishing; what many would think of a new beginning. So whether you’re a Sourcebooks author or with another house, or you haven’t signed yet, maybe, this can help you and your in-house publicist figure out where to go from that first email!

1. Have a website. Yes, this is hard when you aren’t signed, and you don’t necessarily have a career arc or author brand in mind. But you do need a place to start and you will need a place to start putting things on once you’re signed. Did you know there’s a graphic designer named Danielle Jackson and she alTready owns the domain: (actually, she’s awesome—check out her stuff)? If my illustrious writing career ever begins, I’m going to have to think about a new domain… But, here’s a great website from a friend of mine that I met at my very first RWA National conference in 2008: She’s still unsigned, but she has a great example of a simple website (that I bet can be updated easily as well!) prior to publication.

2. Get Involved! RWA is by far the most amazing writing organization out there! And I’m not exaggerating. Everyone is really nice (even though you’re usually having drinks with your competition), everyone has ideas and tips and suggestions (even though that idea you dreamt about one time is totally the idea you gave that bestselling author last year when you randomly saw her in the ladies room and got to chatting), and you LEARN so much (who knew head hopping was that annoying?). Whether you stay at the local level, or you attend regional and national conferences, this is the BEST resource you can have as an author. I think even authors from other genres would benefit from being in RWA. And I hope to see you all at Disney World in July!

3. Have FUN! Are you more comfortable behind a computer screen? Think about joining Twitter or Facebook or starting a blog. Do you love to talk about what you do and has it helped your writing? Think about submitting proposals for writers conferences or RWA conferences. Whatever you do, in addition to writing, make sure the process is fun for you. We all know there are times when blogging can get out of control, or no one shows up at your signing, or somebody put up a very mean and completely unrelated review on Amazon, but take it all in stride and keep a smile on your face. Even when it’s hard and everything feels like crap, I’m sure there’s something to laugh about—from the reaction your feisty heroine would have to the situation, or that horrible grammar mistake that reviewer made in their negative review! And if it still bugs you; write it out and turn it into something good!

All right, I’m breaking one of my own blogging rules and starting to ramble on, but I’ll try to be around today to answer any specific PR questions or concerns!

Also! Have you guys seen our pretty new Sourcebooks Fall 2010 catalog? Check it out:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

That elusive creature called the teenage boy

By: the Tammy half of Lydia Dare

I wish someone had given me a manual for parenting that elusive creature known as the adolescent male. It would have been much simpler had I known the fundamentals. But, unfortunately, they don’t come with instructions.

My parents had a house full of girls. There was my sister and I, our gaggles of friends who were at our house more than their own, and a stray girl or two with freckles and pig tails who just visited and chose not to leave, not until they were good and ready. The point of the story is - my house when I was growing up was a choked patch of estrogen. But then my sister and I both had boys. So, the tides turned. The estrogen that once soaked the hallowed halls of home was then filled with the scampering feet of little boys. Then the raging hormones of teenage boys.

It’s not easy raising a teenage boy. In this day and time, it’s hard to teach a young man what he needs to know. You still want him to do the basics like open car doors (or any doors for that matter) for a lady, to automatically crook his arm when a girl slides her hand into it, and you really want him to learn to respect women.

But, in today’s society, it’s also important that you teach your sons to be appreciative of a woman who can get sh*t done. What lessons do you start with?

At my house, my boys do dishes, make dinner when I just don’t feel like it and they are the masters of the folding of laundry. Do you know why they do it? Because they see their dad does it. At our house, when Dad has the kids on a Saturday by himself, it’s not called babysitting. It’s parenting. Babysitting is what you get when you pay someone to come in and take care of your kids. Parenting is just… well… parenting. It’s making young boys into men in the best way you know how, usually by example.

As for that instruction manual, there’s not one. There’s no one who will tell you that preadolescent boys will begin to resemble someone else entirely when they get a little older. They become young men over night. You reach to pat one of them on top of the head for a job well done and find yourself reaching up to do it. You’re suddenly short, when you’ve never been short in your life.

And that’s when you realize what a good job you’ve done. Sure, your teen might grab your foot just so he can pop your toe in the most painful manner possible, then laugh like crazy when you squeal. He might even wrestle with you and pin you to the floor within three seconds flat. But then there comes that day when you reach for his arm as you walk across the parking lot and he immediately crooks his elbow and looks down at you, and you know you helped shape him. You gave him life, but your actions and your attitude helped to make him into the man he’s becoming.

Then he does something really stupid and you’re ready to stomp him into the floor. Such is the life of a mom of boys. But it’s so worth it the very first time he opens the car door for you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Beginnings

By Robin Kaye

The theme for this month is new beginnings and since I’m beginning a new book and a new series, it seems apropos.

For me, the beginning of a book is the hardest to write since I’m usually still learning about my characters. It’s as if I’m feeling around a strange room filled with furniture in the dark, searching for the light switch or lamp, and trying not to kill myself in the process.

Normally, I know my hero/heroine, or both from one of my previous books but not in this case. While Hunter, my hero, was a character in Yours For the Taking, he was a very small secondary character. He may have had a line or two, but I knew what he did for a living, what he looked like, and everything there was to know about his family, yet Hunter was kind of an enigma

Unfortunately, I knew nothing about Toni, my heroine. She just popped into my head one day in all her goth regalia, and introduced herself. I knew what she looked like, what she wore, and how she sounded, but it took a lot of exploring to figure out who she was and what the hell she was doing in my book.

I know you must think I’ve gone off the deep end—not that the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. My sanity is always up for debate. I often wonder if what I do is normal, but hey, I figure since it’s not something I can change, why worry about it? Right? I begin every book by putting the hero and the heroine together (usually on the first page), and after a ton of time spent pulling my hair out by the roots, having too many false starts, day dreaming, and doing way too much procrastinating, I write the world’s worst first chapter, toss it the garbage, and start again. Amazingly, after I toss the chapter, the words flow like wine at an Italian wedding. I figure all that time spent pulling my hair out and procrastinating must have done some good because now, three chapters and a synopsis into Hunter and Toni’s book, I’m in love with my story and my characters. That same, all encompassing love you feel at the beginning of a romance.

Every morning, I can’t wait to start pounding out the words and see what Hunter, Toni, and the rest of the characters will do and say. This is what I love about my job. Every day as a writer is a new beginning. Which probably explains why thus far, writing is the only occupation I’ve had that doesn’t bore me. It’s also what keeps me beginning new books. I’m excited to meet new characters, fall in love, and root for the couple to find their happily ever after.

So tell me, what is your favorite part of reading or writing?

Monday, May 10, 2010

On being a mother. . . .

He turns fifty-five today, but when we first met thirty-four years ago, I knew he was the one. There was never a doubt in my mind, and without him, I wouldn't be the mother of my two wonderful sons.

I have never met a man, before or since, that I liked half as much and thought I could live with for thirty days, let alone thirty years. May 12 will be our thirty-first anniversary, and I love him even more now than I did back then.

The funny thing is, when I was growing up, getting married and having kids wasn't something I dreamed about. Oh, sure, I wanted romance as much as the next girl, but never having a boyfriend in high school will make you plan for other things in your future. I wanted to raise and train horses, but to do that, I needed money, so I went into nursing because I knew it paid well and that I would always have a job. That I liked doing it was just the icing on the cake. So, after three years in a diploma school, I graduated and began working the night shift.

I remember the first time I saw him; Bud, the night orderly, leaning over the desk and asking if we had anything he needed to do. He was absolutely adorable, and if there is such a thing as love at first sight, I think it happened to me. Later he admitted it was pretty much the same way with him.

We lost our first baby, but it didn't break us up. Bud went to engineering school and I went back for my BSN degree, and when I was about to graduate, we decided it was time and we had Michael, who was, of course, the cutest baby either of us had ever seen!

As he grew up, he was an outgoing little rascal, but never a bad kid, ever!

We took him all sorts of places. This photo was taken during an outing to Nashville, Indiana. Bud carried him around in a backpack most of the day, and he slept through part of it, but if we ever had a bit of trouble with him, I can't remember it.

And almost exactly three years later, we had Sam. He wasn't as easy a baby as Mike, but he was just as cute.

And only got cuter as he grew!

As time went on, however, Sam was diagnosed with a mild form of autism, which made being his mother a lot more difficult than being Mike's mom. But I'll have to say, the triumphs were more keenly felt with him, especially when, after we'd been told repeatedly that it would never happen, he passed the ISTEP test and actually graduated from high school.

Sam is my right hand man. He does the laundry, cleans the bathroom, feeds the cats and dog, empties the litterbox, takes out the trash, and is generally the one who keeps the rest of us in line. He is also the one who bought me a Mother's Day present. Granted, it was something he probably wanted, himself, but he did wrap it up and give it to me.

Mike will graduate from Purdue this coming Saturday, and I know I'll be proud; he's one of the most talented guys you'll ever meet, but if you could have only heard me on the day Sam came home to tell me he'd finally passed the English portion of the ISTEP test.

I screamed.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day!

This is my first Mother’s Day as a mom. I have a beautiful seven-month old daughter. I know it’s cliché, but having a child of my own has made me appreciate my mom so much more than I ever did before.

I confess, I used to consider Mother’s Day and Father’s Day little more than Hallmark holidays. No more! I don’t think most moms want jewelry or flowers from their kids (husbands, we’re not talking to you!). Most moms want appreciation.

Thank your mom for getting up with you every night, several times a night, soothing you, holding you, and rocking you back to sleep when she could hardly hold her own head up from exhaustion. Thank your mom for getting up with you at 6 a.m. to feed, change, and play with you—all with a smile—even though she was up with you at 12, 2, and 4.

Thank your mom for changing your poopy diapers and your wet diapers. You cried, kicked, tried to roll off the changing table, and basically did everything to thwart her, but she used her considerable skills at least 10 times a day to keep you clean, dry, and happy.

Thank your mom for feeding you. Her arms probably ached by the end of the day from cradling you as she breastfed or holding half a dozen bottles for you, while you cried, played, cooed, or basically did everything but drink your bottle! Even though you were hungry and protested vigorously if the bottle or breast was taken away.

Thank your mom for taking you to the doctor, the park, the amusement park, the circus, the zoo, Gymboree, and all your friends’ birthday parties. Thank her for playing peek-a-boo, singing silly songs, reading your favorite book four times in a row, and finding your lovey when you were inconsolable because you thought he’d been lost forever.

Thank her for encouraging your first words and understanding your babbling. Thank her for holding your hands as you took your first step and killing her back, hunching over so you could stand or walk for hours a day.

Thank her for rocking you, pacing with you, and basically doing an Irish jig to get you to fall asleep when you were overtired and fighting it with everything you had and screaming so loudly the neighbors thought she was killing you. Thank her for taking 3-minute showers so she could pick you up again when you woke from said nap 10 minutes later, screaming once again.

So even if you sent a card, sent flowers or chocolate or diamonds, even if you were an easy baby, call your mom and tell her thankrs! That’s the gift she really wants.