Monday, January 31, 2011

Beginnings: Looking Ahead 48 Days Until Spring! by C.H. Admirand

Now that all of the delicious Christmas baked goods and candies have been consumed, and I’m back to paying attention to what I eat (and yes that means joining Weight Watchers…for the 3rd and final time!) winter has lost most of its appeal for me. While I don’t like snow, ice, wind, or cold weather, I really do enjoy those warmish days ahead when the sun is bright overhead reflecting off the snow that is left on the ground, creating a fabulously clean, fresh landscape pleasing to the eye and to one’s sense of smell. Just look at this poor chilly Blue Jay trying to warm up on our front steps.

But I miss my flowers. So looking ahead toward one of my favorite times of the year, Spring, I thought I’d post a couple of pictures in and around our yard taken during the Spring and Summer months. Every once in awhile, I remember to go grab my camera when a Swallowtail Butterfly or Dragonfly land in the Butterfly bushes surrounding our Bluestone patio.

So looking ahead until Spring and the warmer months I'm ready to go pack to Pleasure, Texas and see if I can't get the youngest Garahan brother, Jesse, into trouble which will include an independent young woman just passing through town, with a little bit of baggage...her four-year-old daughter...

What are you looking forward to? The end of Winter? The arrival of Spring? Getting sucked into your next work-in-progress?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New beginnings-- Let's talk AMERICAN IDOL

I can't help myself -- I tune into American Idol even when I swear I won't each year. Each year I swear it's my last if it's not a better season than the one before it.

This year American Idol is bright and shiny and new. It defines NEW BEGINNING with the change of judges and new format changes we've been promised. I love Steven Tyler and I think Jennifer Lopez is a Madonna in the sense that she is the queen of creating opportunity. She knows how to use her assets. And Randy -- well Randy is Randy. He's never felt like a major player to me. I was disappointed the past two years in the show. The talent just wasn't as exciting as in past years. I'm really hoping that with the new judges we see some exciting talent as the season progresses. That will be the test for me when I decide if I want to tune in or not. Do I want to see the performances? Last year I fast forwarded to see only a few. I really hope we get some Chris Daugherty goodness this year!

So -- what do you think of Idol so far? Do you even care? And who are your favorites from the show past and present?

And since we here at the Casablanca blog are gearing up for a huge February contest with more than 10 books as a grand prize and lots of daily prizes, I thought I'd help get everyone in the mood by having a giveaway. Just post your comment for a chance to win. I'll choose one commenter to win HIGH OCTANE my March Blaze release.

In February I'll be giving away one of these:

I've also posted an excerpt for LEGEND OF MICHAEL here

So comment away and good luck! I'll draw the winner Tuesday night since this is the weekend and people tend to be away from their computer.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sara Taney Humphreys: Beginning Again

Life is full of beginnings. We set goals and put plans in motion to achieve those goals. However, sometimes those plans don't always to come to fruition. So what then? We make a new plan and begin again.

When I was fresh out of college I began my initial career path as an actress. I pursued that for a while. I landed a little bit of work here and there (very little). I had my mind set on doing that for the rest of my life. That was it! I was an actress. Period. End of story. Ummmm. No.

In my early twenties I married my college sweetheart. We began our married life with big plans! Definitely no kids for the first two years of our marriage. Well... about seven weeks into our marriage we discovered that we were five weeks pregnant. New plan. So we began again.

Four boys, lots of bills and several years later, I began a career as a motivational public speaker. I had no idea that I could make my living talking. As a kid my nicknames were Motormouth and Chatty Cathy, so getting paid to talk has been a perfect fit. I remember sitting at my first speaker training with Making It Count and recognizing the importance of that moment. It marked a brand new beginning. That was ten years ago and I still love public speaking. I get to do it almost every day for The College of Westchester.

However, I couldn't shake that driving need for a creative outlet. So two years ago I took the story in my head and put it on paper. I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be a published author. Never. I mean... c'mon. That would've been crazy talk. Right? At the RWA conference this summer I had a moment very similar to the one I'd had ten years ago. I knew that I was at the edge of another new beginning--my career as an author.

Beginnings are exciting. They're full of promise, hope and the glorious unknown. Sometimes these beginnings stem from the most heart wrenching experiences. Sometimes they come from the simple desire for change or the unexpected bump in the road. At each point in my life when I have to begin again and come up with a new plan, one phrase always comes to mind. "While we make plans God laughs." (He/She has been polite enough not laugh too loudly.)

So I'll enjoy this new beginning and welcome what's to come with an open mind, heart and spirit.

How about you? Have you ever had one of those "ah-ha" moments?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Grace Burrowes on Beginnings

Beginnings of romance novels are supposed to be easier—less difficult—to write than ends or (cue ominous music) middles. There is a great deal of business to transact at the beginning of the book. The dramatis personae must strut, mince, waltz, thunder or crawl onto the stage; hero and heroine must Meet and perhaps even enjoy or suffer through their First Kiss; external conflicts must be strongly hinted at if they don’t get center stage; secondary characters and subplots have to get some mention; the requirements of setting must be appeased.

At the beginning of a book, the issue of what to write about is subsumed under all that busyness, and yet sometimes, even the beginning of a book eludes us. The first line won’t present itself. The first scene keeps developing a limp. The Meet has no chemistry. The hero and heroine have too much chemistry and all of it is bad. The secondary characters are too charming, witty, or intriguing to serve in their intended roles.

And sometimes, we get into those dark, miserable corners where no words come at all. We are beginning-less, and then we become very prone to endings.

When the beginnings won’t come, we fret that they’ll never come and our writing career is over. We polish and buff and read over old material until we’re no longer polishing, we’re sanding it down to something dull and boring. We consider our own big black moment—quitting.

I attended a panel discussion at a Georgia Romance Writer’s conference on the topic of “When the Words Won’t Come.” Four published authors all discussed very frankly what it’s like to be without any beginnings at all. The room was nowhere near full, almost as if the topic itself had the power to shut down our creativity.

In the course of the discussion though, one panelist lead us through the creation of a first sentence, one word at a time. It took better than an hour, while we listened to each writer explain what had robbed her of her beginnings, and how she recovered the gift of starting a book. Beginnings are fragile, it turns out. They are not easy at all. They take hope and courage and the ability to withstand significant anxiety about middles, ends, and more beginnings.

Beginnings can require that we have physical and mental health or financial stability. They can demand that we see the end even before we start. They can seize our joie de vivre and creativity and throttle them within an inch of their existence. I developed a new respect for beginnings at that panel discussion.

So the next time a single sentence pops into your head worth exploring, rejoice. The next time a scene occurs to you while you're folding the laundry, give thanks. The next time your secondary characters have the decency to politely hint they might enjoy having their own book, be grateful. If nothing else has come clear for me, it’s that a beginning--of a book, a career, a relationship, anything--must not be taken for granted, and is a terrible thing to waste.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Critique: Your Best Beginning

By Leah Hultenschmidt, Senior Editor

We all know the importance of a great hook expressed in the query letter--that's what's going to get me psyched (or not) about reading the manuscript. But for every single submission, even if I'm not entirely jazzed by query, I always want to to give the writing a look. And those first couple of paragraphs can make all the difference in the world. I want to see something compelling enough to keep reading. Depending on the story, that interest can come in all kinds of ways. Is there a character doing something interesting? Is there humorous dialogue? Is there some kind of tease that makes me want to know more? Or is the hero just so hot and delicious I can't tear my eyes away?

As Tamara was discussing earlier, a lot of authors use prologues to jump immediately into an action scene and then start chapter one a number of years later. That only works if chapter one stays just as interesting--and I'll gladly skip ahead a little to find out.

Overdone openings to avoid:
  1. waking up--unless there's something supremely unusual about the process
  2. a deathbed confession
  3. a birth
  4. the classic combo of 2 &3 with a mother dying in childbirth
  5. a killer's POV--this is done a lot in romantic suspense and some paranormal, so much so that it often loses its chilling effect for me
Here's a sample of a great a opening with Shona Husk's THE GOBLIN KING, an October release.

Category: Paranormal romance
Pitch: A woman in desperate needs makes a wish to the goblin king she read about in fairy tales, but will she be willing to pay the price of summoning him and become his queen?

The summons pulled at every cell in his body, tearing the bonds that held his body together and dragging him from the Shadowlands. He fought the compulsion to answer, as he did every time. And lost. As he did every time. The urge to obey his summoner’s orders he’d tamped down long ago. Yet he attended, as he did every time.

The beads in his hair jangled and chimed, lifted on the breeze created as he moved from one world to the next, like golden music in his ears. He moved into the Fixed Realm wrapped in shadows to hide from the eyes of his would-be-commander. Then he paused and looked around.

A bedroom. Not the first he’d been summoned to. The only light spilled from the nearby bathroom. His nose wrinkled at the smell of wet dog and wine. He frowned. No summoner stood before him, demanding an audience with the Goblin King. The human who’d called him from the Shadowlands and sought to control him lay on the floor at the foot of the bed. Immobile. Wounded. Female.

The goblin kept his hand on his sword and stepped forward. As he did the shadows sloughed off him and slid away to the corners of the bedroom. The tension in his skin eased as the compulsion to obey faded. He’d attended; he could leave. Yet he couldn’t look away.

What I love: Great sensory description. And I immediately felt the hero's frustration and agony at being summoned. The world-building teases without becoming over-explanatory--what is the Shadowlands? Hm, sounds interesting. Why does the room smell like wet wool and wine? How did the woman become hurt? And I love that we see his protective instinct coming to the fore when he doesn't want to leave her. And most importantly: I want to know what happens next.

So now it's your turn. Using the format above--category, 1-2 sentence pitch, first four paragraphs--so me what you've got. Through today and the weekend, I'll take a look at everything posted by midnight EST tonight and give feedback.

I can't wait to see your great beginning!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And I'm Off and Running by Stephanie Julian

January is usually a pretty dreary month here in PA. Right now, there's week-old snow on the ground that's looking pretty dingy but it's being covered by yet more snow that may cause my sons to miss yet another day of school and interrupt my writing. Oh joy.

It's the month when I wish I had a treadmill because bundling up to running outside seems like too much of a hassle. Of course, if I miss my run, you don't want to talk to me. I'll be miserable. Also in January, I typically end up with a cold or a sinus infection or bronchitis. My knees hurt because I don't take the time to warm up properly before I run and I have to get my tax information together and I'd rather cover five-hour municipal meetings than do taxes.

There were a couple of bright spots though. MOONLIGHT TEMPTATION, the fourth book in my Lucani Lovers series from Ellora's Cave, released Jan. 21 and features a few characters who will be showing up in my Forgotten Goddesses series with Sourcebooks, which begins with WHAT A GODDESS WANTS in July and continues in December with WHAT A GODDESS NEEDS.

The night before MOONLIGHT TEMPTATION released, Avenged Sevenfold kicked off their Nightmare After Christmas tour in my hometown. My guys and I have seen them before but this is the first time we didn't have to drive three hours to get there and fight traffic for another three hours to get home. We had awesome seats, the opening bands were great and A7X played for almost 90 minutes and played "Little Piece of Heaven." Win!

Olivia Cunning, who writes cool rock stars, and I share a not-so-secret crush on the lead guitarist for A7X. Synyster Gates is the ultimate bad boy rocker and the band's music is a perfect fit for my erotic stories. He's also the physical model for my Tivr. If you've read any of the Lucani Lovers stories, you'll have met Tivr, the Etruscan God of the Moon. He also has a supporting role in WHAT A GODDESS NEEDS.

Yes, I spent most of the concert watching Synyster and, I have to say, I chose our tickets based on the side of the stage on which Synyster plays. Yes, I'm a little obsessed but I'm okay with that. Olivia will back me up in agreeing that he's worth all the eye-rolling I get from my sons whenever I squee over him.

I guess January wasn't that awful this year, after all.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Prologues by Tamara Hogan

"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. 
I have committed Prologue,
repeatedly, gleefully and joyfully..." 

Yeah, okay. I realize that I'm risking a lighning bolt on this one. But here in the confessional, I can freely admit that I LOVE PROLOGUES - well-written prologues, that is.

Prologues: love 'em or hate 'em? This is a subject where authors, agents, editors and readers all seem to have strong opinions. Writers on the contest circuit are told that agents and editors hate prologues - or do they love them this year? I forget. ;-)

Right now, a lot of us here at Sourcebooks Casablanca are judging manuscripts and/or books for two of Romancelandia's most prestigious writing contests: The Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart and RITA awards. As a rabid reader, I judge a lot of contests, primarily in the paranormal/urban fantasy/futuristic/time-travel/fantasy/sci-fi/space opera/ 'how many more sub-genres can be crammed into one monolithic, hyper-competitive category' category. (One of my RITA books is a historical paranormal, competing in the paranormal category.) Books in these sub-genres seem ripe for prologues, perhaps in part because of their complex worldbuilding demands.

Having received both of my judging packets - what possessed me to volunteer to judge both contests plus the Daphne with a book being released March 1? - I paged through my judging materials and found the following:

  • 3 of 6 paranormal Golden Heart entries have prologues
  • 3 of 6 paranormal RITA entries have prologues
  • 0 of 2 romantic suspense RITA entries have prologues 
I'm no different. I've gleefully committed Prologue in Taste Me, Book One of The Underbelly Chronicles (releasing March 1 OMG can you believe it???!!). The book starts in my antagonist's POV, where he commits the crime that catalyzes the action in the rest of the book. I'm just about to type THE END on the manuscript for Underbelly Chronicles Book Two, Chase Me. This book doesn't have a prologue. It doesn't seem to need one.

How do you feel about prologues? What are some characteristics of good (or bad) prologues? Though there no easy answers, do you have any thoughts on how the 'paranormal' category of some writing contests could be narrowed down or made more specific?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beginning of a Whole Year of New Books to Read!

Beginning of a Whole Year of New Books to Read!
Blog By: Catherine Mann

I’m an avid reader, always have been. As a kid, I devoured the Little House on the Prairie series, the Nancy Drew series, Little Women, The Secret Garden, and so on and so on.

In in the sixth grade I read Gone With the Wind and was so frustrated with the ending, I rewrote my own - happier - ending to Scarlett and Rhett’s story.

Then, in the seventh grade, I discovered books by Laurie McBain and Kathleen Woodiwiss – books that celebrate happily ever after!

It was the beginning of a lifelong affinity for romance novels!

Now that January is here, we have a whole new year of fabulous books to choose from. I’ve made my list, marking my calendar with release dates for all my favorite authors. And I adore the launch parties given here at the beginning of each month for our Casablanca Babe Authors as I find new authors to try out.

I’m very much looking forward to my own Casablanca launch party this July when Cover Me hits the shelves, launching my “Elite Ops” series about the brave, fearless and oh-so-alpha Air Force pararescuemen.

Now that January is here, what books are you looking forward to reading in 2011? What are some of your favorites from the past?

And just in case you have your calendar handy, here are the books I have coming out in 2011:
January: His Thirty-Day Fiancée, Silhouette Desire
March: His Heir, Her Honor, Silhouette Desire
June: Acquired: CEO’s Small-Town Bride, Harlequin Desire
July: Cover Me, Sourcebooks Casablanca
October: Billionaire’s Baby On Board (w.t.), Harlequin Desire
November: Baby I’m Yours/Under the Millionaire’s Influence (reissue), Harlequin Showcase
December: Hot Zone, Sourcebooks Casablanca
FMI visit my website at:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Beginnings

Sorry I've been MIA from commenting on the blog this week. It's been a rough week. Apologies in advance if this isn't the uplifting post I'd hoped it would be. My mind just isn't in an "uplifting" place right now.

I've spent a lot of time over the last week thinking about what I want to talk about with regard to beginnings and I keep coming back to the same thing even though the optimistic side of me warns I should spare you from my rambling. You see, I haven't been thinking all that much about beginnings. I've been focused on endings. Last week, a friend of mine was murdered by her husband in a domestic violence altercation. She was a beautiful 38-year old woman with two daughters, ages 12 and 5, and her life was cut short because of one violent moment that can never be undone. This tragedy has hit my family extra hard as not only were we friends with this couple, but they went to our church and their 12-yr old daughter is close friends with my 11-yr old and the two share a locker at their middle school.

I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, but I'm having trouble seeing the reason behind all this. Two little girls have lost not only a mother they loved, but a father they adored who will likely spend the rest of his life in jail. Four lives will forever be altered and a family has ended. And no amount of hugs or well-wishes or even condolences can ever change that.

I don't have answers as to why things like this happen. I'm not sure we're meant to. I do know this tragedy has forever changed me not only as a person but as a writer. Over the last week, when my head wasn't in a writing place, I found myself reaching for a book, and I was reminded that I could lose myself in a story for a few hours and regain hope. Hope that seems more often than not to be lacking in our world. But something else happened that I didn't expect. While reading I saw similarities between these little girls and the heroines in my books. And even though I wasn't looking for it, I realized that what these girls have is a new beginning. Not one they might have ever chosen, but one that they will adapt to and recover from. They are survivors, just like the characters I was reading about. They will get through. And they will be stronger because of all they've endured.

I've gotten letters from readers over the years telling me my book helped them through an illness or a family loss or a variety of trials, but it wasn't until this week that I realized just what kind of hope we really give our readers. We're not just telling stories and weaving words on paper. We're giving our readers the kind of hope they need to see not only that everything will turn out all right in the long run, but that new beginnings really are possible.

And the promise of a new beginning...that's uplifting. It's heady. Sometimes, it's exactly what a person needs to keep on going.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I started out the new year doing my very first radio station interview, and despite the fact that I knew the interviewer was a fellow writer, and that she would be very supportive, I still felt nervous about it. After years of self-editing, it’s difficult to relax in a situation where you don’t know what questions are going to be asked and you have to come up with answers on the spot, while trying to sound friendly and intelligent.

After years of writing, I think editing has spoiled me.

I’m used to getting into that groove, where the characters take over, and my fingers fly across the keyboard seemingly like magic. I don’t worry about what I’m writing; I just let the story flow…because I know I can go back and edit everything. If I have missed something, or there’s a better way to say something, or if I have an awkward sentence, or neglected to make a plot point clear, I can fix it.

Not so in real life. You can’t edit out something you’ve said. You can’t add in what you should have said.

I think this is why I was nervous during the interview. No control, after years of exercising absolute dominion over my worlds and characters (and for some reason, I hear a loud Bwa Ha Ha following these words). But moving out of your comfort zone is always an exhilarating experience, and I’m hoping to do more of it this year.

So without further ado, here’s the interview, and I think it went rather well, although I could have shortened a few answers and expanded on others… :}

Part One

Part Two

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On The Hook Or, Why Every Book Proposal Has to Have One

By Deb Werksman
Editorial Manager
Sourcebooks Casablanca

I’m giving a talk on this topic next week at the San Diego Writers Conference and I thought I’d start a conversation here with our dear authors.

When I receive a book or series proposal from new (and sometimes seasoned) authors, the first thing I ask is: What is the hook?

By hook I mean: What is a 1-3 sentence pitch I can give my sales people that they can give the buyers, that answers the question “What is it about your book or series that makes it really stand out and grab the attention of potential readers?”

Here’s the sobering reality: The competition is extremely fierce. Last year over one million (1,000,000!) new titles were published. You’d need several lifetimes just to read all those books, even if you never had to do laundry or the dishes (or go to work)!

Packaging a work of art is of course counter-intuitive, but if we’re going to get your book into the hands of as many readers as possible, it’s got to stand out. It has to be positioned properly in the marketplace and that’s what the hook does. Your hook makes your book shout “Look at me!” “I’m a must-read!”

Even if your work is complex and straddles genres, you must position to one or the other. Where does your book fit in? Then: how does it stand out?


Robin Kaye’s contemporary romantic comedies feature alpha heroes 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.

Sharon Lathan’s Pride and Prejudice continuations feature a sensual, romantic Darcy and Elizabeth inspired by Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFayden, amidst a wealth of unusual Regency historical details that you won’t find anywhere else.

Catherine Mann’s military themed romantic suspense series features the PJs, the most elite force in the US military, trained in high risk rescues—these guys are hugely manly, taking Alpha male to a whole new level.

Lydia Dare’s new Regency paranormal trilogy features gentlemen vampires—they’d never bite a young lady to whom they weren’t properly introduced.

Grace Burrowes’ Regency romances are beautifully written, reminiscent of Laura Kinsale or Georgette Heyer, and feature the sons of a duke obsessed with the succession. As he tries to force, manipulate or cajole his sons into marrying and producing an heir, each one finds a different way to avoid matrimony…until he loses his heart.

Terry Spear’s werewolf romances are so steeped in research on the way wolves behave in nature that her werewolves behave the way wolves behave in the wild—including pack dynamics and mating behavior.

One of the most important things your publisher can do for you is to position your book to succeed in the marketplace.

I can’t wait to see your single title romance in all subgenres: paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, contemporary and erotic romance. Send pitches/submissions to:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Home, Sweet Spiritual Home

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

I knew a fellow one time. A writer, he was. He was from South Carolina and his name was—I swear—Beauregard. Seriously. If I put it in a book, critics would slam me for stereotyping...

Anyway, Beau, whether or not he ever actually wrote, talked a lot about writing. Back in those days, writing was my guilty secret, so I did write, but never talked about it. People who could talk about it, impressed me greatly.

If you asked Beau where he was from, he would say Columbia or Greenville—I don’t remember. “But,” he would add in the thickest South Carolina accent you ever heard, “I consider Monks’ Corner my spiritual home.” Ah considda Muunks’ Cawnah mah spurchal home. There, he said, flowed a never-ending fountain of inspiration, of ideas and words, paragraphs and plots, and when he was finally ready to write his novel, there he would go.

I didn’t have a spiritual home, that I knew of, and I wasn’t perfectly clear on how a spiritual home differed from any other kind. I was raised in a small eastern North Carolina town where we took the Bible seriously and the only spiritual home I’d ever considered was my home in Heaven where I would go to live with Jesus one day. He wasn’t talking about that.

Beau died not long after that conversation, still a very young man. He never wrote his novel.

But the notion that writers can, or could, or should, have a spiritual home in addition to a more mundane one stayed with me. When I brought my writing out of the closet (literally) the notion of spiritual home came back to me and, I realized, in the interim I had acquired one—exactly like the kind Beau meant.

My spiritual home is Topsail Island, a twenty mile long, half-mile wide barrier island on North Carolina’s coast. One barrier island is pretty much like another. There’s really nothing special about Topsail except that it’s never been commercialized like some of the other beaches. There’s no hotel, no night life. There’s nothing much at all except miles and miles of beach cottages, sand dunes and beach. I can go there and write like nowhere else on earth.

The ever-present breeze provides lift for my imagination’s wings, and the surf pounds a cadence for my words. I wake up before dawn, make a pot of coffee, and with my laptop on my knees, I write while the colors of day appear. Every time I raise my eyes from the screen, the view outside the sliders has changed.

I set SEALed With A Kiss on Topsail. Davy and JJ in SEALed with a Ring had a beach cottage there. And in an homage to Beau, who never got to write his novel, I created the tiny crossroads of Sessoms' Corner, "the someplace," the place where the roots are. I liked it so much, I sent the heroine there to live. The hero was there too. (Surprise, surprise.) And once again, there turned out to be a theme of finding the place to set one's roots. Finding the spiritual home.

How about you? Do you have a spiritual home?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Where Ideas Begin. . .

By Cheryl Brooks

First, you take a Zetithian guy like this with long black hair and a broken heart.

Then you picture him riding up on a horse like this:

no saddle, no bridle, no clothes (Oh my!)

With a pet like this:

Living all alone in a place like this:

and you have the beginning of The Cat Star Chronicles #9. That's all I've got so far--don't even have a title or a heroine--but the ideas are stewing around in my head, just itching to come out and play.

And speaking of new beginnings, my fellow Sextet members and I have just sold our line of erotic short story anthologies to Siren. We're very excited and having a boatload of fun. And if we make a boatload of money, well, so much the better!

LOL! Can anyone say MENAGE?

Monday, January 17, 2011

In the Beginning, There was Research by Shana Galen

I’ll be the first person to tell you that I hate research. I’ve always hated it, which is of course, why I majored in Psychology in college and wrote a Senior thesis which involved—what else?—a lot of research!

And then I got out of Psychology and away from research, only to write historical romance novels which involve—what else?—a lot of research!

You would think after seven historical novels, I’d be resigned to the fact that I’m going to have to research, but for some reason I always think I’ll get out of it. My April book, The Making of a Rogue, was like this. It’s the third in my Sons of the Revolution series, and it’s about Bastien, the youngest son of the duc de Valère. Like his two brothers, Bastien escaped the Revolution and the guillotine. He did so by joining a group of pirates and sailing away from France.

When we catch up with Bastien, about twelve years later, he has his own ship and is a privateer in his own right. But he a problem in the form of the daughter of a British Navy Admiral.

So far so good, right?

Sure. If I knew something about ships. Or sailing.

But I wasn’t worried about this small oversight when I proposed the book. I wasn’t even worried when I wrote the first chapters. I began to worry about chapter three when I had more XXs (notes to myself to look something up) than I did actual words! Clearly, I had to stop and do research.

I checked out every book I could find in the library, ordered some from Amazon, and then I realized I had a great source right in front of me. My dad! He sails and he loves history. He’s always telling me about how he’s going to host a dinner and make authentic shipboard food from the Patrick O’Brien novels.

Not my dream, but to each his own, right?

So thank God for my dad. He actually made the research fun. And since I had to go back and make so many changes to the beginning of the book, I promised myself next time I’d research first.

And I just might…right after I write a few new pages…

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The "Meet Cute" by Joanne Kennedy

It's amazing how many beginnings, in stories and in life, are based on chance. A serendipitous encounter, a chance meeting, a happy accident -- life would be dull if it weren't for the curveballs flung by a playful universe. Just when you think you've got your life figured out -- splat! -- everything changes.

In romantic comedies, that moment is the "meet cute" - a situation that brings the hero and heroine together in a way that lets them clash, tangle, and ultimately fall in love. The "meet cute" is almost always awkward or embarrassing, and leads to conflict and hence, a plot!

Screwball comedies are the prime place for finding "meet cutes." It Happened One Night, Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, Bringing Up Baby -- they all hinge on a start-up scene where the hero and heroine meet in a zany, unexpected manner and are irresistibly attracted despite the barriers thrown in their way.

The chance meeting feeds our fantasies because deep down, we want to believe that there's someone out there waiting for us -- the right person, the person we're destined to love. Coincidence and seredipity give us the feeling someone's pulling strings -- God, the Universe, or whatever power you believe in.

The other reason the "Meet Cute" works is because it requires a certain kind of man -- the same kind that makes a romance work. He has to be easygoing enough to roll with the punches of fate, and he has to have a sense of humjor. And he has to be "The One." Becuase the universe doesn't mess around.

But a "meet cute" is useless without a strong heroine. She has to be up to making the most of the moment, confronting problems head-on and giving as good as she gets. While the hero's initial reaction might be that she's a scatterbrained disaster waiting to happen, she shows a surprising amount of strength and earns his admiration.

That's why my heroines are strictly fictional. They're the woman I'd like to be, the suave, witty woman who follows banter with better banter.

Here's a real-life example for you. I met my husband while I was working in a bookstore. He was buying an Oprah book, indicating he was a sensitive guy. And he was -- well, some of you Casa babes have met my husband. He's kind of a babe himself.

I certainly didn't make the most of that chance encounter. Mostly I just stared at him all googly-eyed and nodded with my mouth half-open. When I finally managed to speak, I squeaked out something totally inane. He probably ran out the door thinking he'd just dodged a lunatic. I told myself I didn't care what he thought, because I'd sworn off men forever just a week earlier.

But if the universe was testing my resolve, I flunked. He came back and I managed to redeem myself and reveal that I did, in fact, have a voice and a brain. And the rest is history...

Was there a "meet cute" in your life? Did you make the most of it, and did it work out?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The first line, by Ashlyn Chase

I give a humor workshop, and I begin at the beginning. The first line.
You all know you have to hook the reader as quickly as possible. Some feel the first paragraph or even the first page is soon enough. I want to do it in the very first sentence! Today, consider me your workshop leader, and have fun.

To free up our inner children and get into a playful mood, I usually start off with an exercise. Do you remember “Mad Libs” from your childhood? They’ve been around for decades. In case you grew up in a cave, I’ll summarize the game.

An innocent-looking one-page story has had certain words (the boring ones) deleted from each sentence. The players call out whatever the current reader asks for…a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, etc. That person fills in the blanks with these random words, and then reads it back to the players. The results are usually hilarious.

I ask workshop participants to try a slightly different version of this game. I’ll throw out some seemingly normal sentences, and you’ll fill in words to give the sentence some ‘zing’ while making it into a possible opening hook. Because the fastest way to immerse your readers in the story and characters is to begin with a line of dialogue, that’s what we are writing.

If you write suspense or dark paranormals, just set that aside for now and enjoy the moment. You can pick and choose the sentence(s) you want to use for the exercise. Brownie points will be given if you attempt more than one. Don’t sweat the small stuff. You can use as many words per blank as you want. You can toss in an adjective or adverb if you think it adds to the hook. Free your inner child-author, don’t think too hard, and have fun with it! can do this too.

Day One: Exercise One.

How the ___________ did you get your ____________ stuck in the ___________?

Put that __________ down and __________ me! I’m not ____________, you know.

I love your _____________! How did you get the ___________ to ___________?

I don’t think ___________ is the best way to get ___________ for ____________.

How am I supposed to ____________ with you and ____________ at the same time?

Was that fun or what? Thank you for not saying, “Or what?”

Now, as a reward, I’ll treat you to a couple of my story’s opening lines. By the way, when I say “story” I’m not referring to any particular length. An epic novel is a story. My mission is to try to prevent that epic novel from becoming an endlessly boring story!

From Oh My God:

“Hello, everyone. I can’t remember my name, but I think I’m an alcoholic.”

From Death by Delilah:

“If Delilah hears that song one more time, she’s going to strangle Tom Jones with her thong!”

Let’s talk about the uber-important first-sentence hook in a blurb or query letter.
By the way, I don't make editors wade through the boring stuff to get to my story idea. I start right off with a bang...the blurb. Chances are it won’t be dialogue, so here’s a chance to write a catchy narrative opening.

Here are a couple of mine:
From Demolishing Mr. Perfect.
Even though she’s a nurse at a sperm bank, meeting young, virile medical students every day, Natalie Watson’s relationships always seem to suffer from stress fractures.

From Heaving Bosoms:
What do tattooed butts, the Mafia and a medical student have in common?

And Now...first lines from my latest work, release date Feb 1st, but at Amazon now:
The Werewolf Upstairs

"Here are your keys, dear. Thanks for coming upstairs to get them. Now don't let your neighbor across the hall scare you."

Okay…now that you’re all warmed up and raring to go, get to work on that next story!

Friday, January 14, 2011

In The Beginning...

...there was Eden.

And Obo.

No, I didn't name a hero Obo. The hero is Matt, but in the beginning of I Dream of Genies, it's Eden and the cat.

I was reading a thread somewhere (and there are so many) where authors were talking about starting their stories. Some said they never know where to start; others nailed it every time. I'm a mix of both and this book was one of the ones where I had to rethink the opening. Originally, the book started with Eden face-down in Matt's lap... Not too shabby of an opening, I thought.

But once I'd written it, I realized that it was too quick of an opening. Fun and funny, yes, but we didn't know the characters well enough to appreciate the scenario, so I had to take a step back and give the reader some background on the characters and the world. Plus, you had to know that Eden's been watching Matt run by every day and, hey, she's been confined to her bottle for almost eighteen hundred years... she's just a bit, er, frustrated. So when she gets free guess what's uppermost in her mind?

Matt, however hasn't been as, er, confined as Eden, but still, when a half-naked woman ends up in his lap, he's going to notice.

Obo, the cat, just rolls his eyes through this whole thing. He's got his own agenda and unfortunately for him, it's intricately tied in with Eden. And, therefore, Matt. Here's a look at the original opening, that is now chapter two.

Warning: language.

Matt Ewing was having a shitty day in a month of shitty days—several months of them, actually—so when a half-naked harem girl knocked him onto the sidewalk and ended up facedown in his lap, Matt figured one of the shittier days of his life had just gotten better.

Especially when, raising himself up on his elbows, he got the best view of curvy female ass this side of a strip club: one covered in see-through pink gauze and sequins, with tassels caressing cheeks that were tight and firm and just the right size for his hands.

Matt’s breath took a hiatus and, despite the rain, his mouth dried up like a desert.

Or was that dessert?

Matt shook his head. No, dessert was in the bakery behind him, not the woman lying across him. He sat up just as the trash truck by the curb pulled away with a groaning yawn, something metallic bouncing out and clipping his ankle.

“Son of a bitch.” Well, at least his wind had come back. He kicked the thing away and got a good look at the woman sprawled with her face in his lap.

Now there was an image.

OK, he was a sick bastard to even go there when she had yet to move.

“Hello?” He wiggled his legs, but she didn’t budge.

A blue, no, purple butterfly flitted onto the slice of midnight black ponytail that slid sideways from under a veil clipped to the crown of her head. The rest of her hair fanned an expanse of tanned skin below the half-shirt plastered to her body.

He looked around. The storm left few people on the street, and those who were held their umbrellas so low they appeared to be dueling the weather. No one was paying any attention to the woman. Looked like it was up to him.

“Miss.” He tried jiggling her shoulder. The butterfly moved, but she, sadly, didn’t. Christ, he hoped she wasn’t seriously injured, although it’d be just his luck if she was—mainly because bad was the only kind of luck he’d been having lately. The Riverview project was a no-go, Jerry hadn’t called with an update on the Baker roof, and now, thanks to the weather, he’d have to reschedule a job that would’ve covered the cost of the damaged materials some moron had backed over and hadn’t ponied up the cash for yet. Yeah, definitely a shitty day.

Matt eased out from under the woman and something slid off his thigh onto the sidewalk. Faceted yellow crystal, or maybe a hunk of glass, with enough weight to do some damage—an ornament or paperweight about the size of a walnut on steroids. That would explain why she was out cold.

He shoved the crystal into his pocket and turned her face to the side. Dark lashes swept tan cheeks. Her lips were pursed, and the rain was channeling into her mouth. Not good.

He put his hand on her back. She was breathing, but her outfit was hardly appropriate for the weather. The gauzy pants were soaked, plastering them to a pair of legs that showed her ass wasn’t the only toned part of her and revealing those boy-cut shorts women were into these days. Why they thought guys liked clothing called boy-cuts on women he didn’t get, but at least she had something on. Otherwise she’d be naked and wet in front of him.

He was definitely an ass for that thought.


So authors - have you had to change your beginnings? Readers - have you ever wished an author had started the story sooner or later?

And I wanted to announce the winner of my blog post is Aries18.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In the Beginning…

By Danielle Jackson

As an avid reader, I know that an opening line sets the tone for the entire novel—whether it actually has anything integral or not to do with the plot and overall outcome for the characters—if it even has to do anything with the main characters… Anyway, I thought it would be fun to have a little quiz, which will have some recognizable first lines from books we all know and love, as well as some first lines from some author on the rise ;-) I’ll reveal the answers in the comments around Noon (CST). Until then, let us know your guesses, and share your own favorite first lines!

1) It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

2) Lady Callista Taillefaire was a gifted wallflower.

3) It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

4) If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

5) I found him in the slave market on Orpheseus Prime, and even on such a godforsaken planet as that one, their treatment of him seemed extreme.

6) In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

7) Beau stomped on the brakes and jumped off the three-wheeler, anger boiling up from somewhere down deep in his scuffed-up cowboy boots.

8) The waxing moon was calling to her. Again.

9) Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

10) Gayle Windham, Earl of Westhaven, was enjoying a leisurely measure of those things that pleased him most: solitude, peace, and quiet.

11) As Gregor Samsa awoke from a night of uneasy dreaming, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

12) Karma Kincaid, will you marry me?

13) Summer Wine Lee peeked through the drapery covering the second-story window of their rented London townhouse, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man she intended to hire to change her life forever.

14) Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

15) Lily Rutledge had never contemplated murder before, though she was warming to the idea.

Good luck!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Starting 2011 Off with a Bang…Red Ryder Style

By Tracey Devlyn

Welcome to my first blog! I’m so excited to join the Casa ladies. Since signing with Sourcebooks last spring, I’ve been a regular visitor and sometimes commenter on the blog. So, I feel like I know a little bit about everyone already.

This year will be a year of firsts for me. First editorial notes, first marketing plan, first blog tour, first book…well, you get the picture. Although some of my firsts make my knees clang together just thinking about them, I’m looking forward to every minute of this year’s journey. And next year’s and the next.

In an effort to start off 2011 right and to stay organized, I pinned my annual writing goals next to my desk, so that they’re forever in my line of sight. I also published them on my website for accountability purposes. Not so easy to ignore them now! In my day job, I’ve established annual goals for years, so it was easy to transfer that habit over to my writing. Annual goals act as a road map. I’ve found they keep me on target throughout the year (I’m easily distracted!).

I’m also a member of a goals loop where we commit to writing 100 words every day for 100 consecutive days. The great thing about this program is that you generally write more, far more than a 100 words. But, on those days when you don’t think you have five words in you, the 100 word goal forces you to work through it. This group keeps me motivated and energized.

I also started the year off by adopting a Doberman pup from a local rescue shelter. He’s three months old, has long legs and ginormous feet. Feet he’ll eventually grow into. Yikes! Meet Ryder (aka Red Ryder). He’s the sweetest thing, but he hates Chicago’s weather. So do I, so we’re a good match.

That’s it for my first blog. I’m really looking forward to spending time with the Casa ladies and all the readers who stop by to see us!

Now it's your turn! Did you set any professional or personal goals? How about pets? Did you get a precious bundle in your stocking?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Memorial to a Wolf-Dog Companion

by Terry Spear

One of the things I love about fans is how they want to share some news with me--this one is about a much cherished friend and companion--a wolf-dog named Micah who lived the good life with his human family.

This is a picture of Sia McKye's dearly departed wolf-dog companion, Micah. He's beautiful, Sia, and I want to thank you so much for sharing him with us. You've talked about what a treasure he was, but seeing a picture of him is a real treat.

So I wanted to take a moment to share him with everyone who loves canines. He is beautiful and I know he was very much loved. And I must say, he looks totally pampered on those gorgeous brocade pillows and the Scottish plaid one too. But he should be! :)

The end of the year had some great news too for me--LEGEND OF THE WHITE WOLF was nominated for TRS Cupid and Psyche Awards. Last year, TO TEMPT THE WOLF was nominated and won Honorable Mention, along with 3 NYT best selling authors, and the winner was a USA Today best selling author last year! :)

Legend of the White Wolf

So though the chances are always slim I'd make it that far again--I'm just thrilled LEGEND OF THE WHITE WOLF was nominated!

I was really excited to be asked to be interviewed about my werewolves for the International Wolf Magazine also!!! Imagine that---a werewolf romance writer in a wolf magazine that is geared toward educating people about wolves! Woohoo! :)

The most fun part was when they asked about how I reconcile the differences in my werewolf stories with heroes who have 6-pack abs, and those in traditional stories. What's to reconcile? They get lots of workouts--the most pleasurable ones with their mates! Lots of fun!

SEDUCED BY THE WOLF was mentioned in the magazine! Which seems appropriate since Leidolf definitely got lots of a work out in the book!

And here is DREAMING OF THE WOLF's cover!!! What do you all think? It's Jake Silver from DESTINY OF THE WOLF (book 2).

I'm totally in love. :) Fans have said if he's a triplet brother, they are in love with all of them. That stands to reason--3 hunky brothers who look like this? Yum. :) This one is coming in Fall, 2011.

And I need to send in the cover art ideas for The Wolf and the SEAL, which is finished and sent off also! And I have my first time travel romance (a ghostly tale--A Ghost of a Chance at Love), coming out this year too--different publisher though because it has too much ghost to it, so I didn't bother Deb with it! :) I'm working on THE HIGHLAND WOLF IN PARADISE, the 10th book in the werewolf series. Duncan is finding out just how nice swimming in the Caribbean is compared to the cold North Sea--although it might have to do with the she-wolf he's swimming with. :)

But that means--it's time to propose more, because I'm running out of contracted books to write!!! So, I just sent 3 more wolf proposals to Deb and am working also on a medieval Highland time travel I hope to propose to her also later. It all began with research I started in 2005 for my first Highland book: Winning the Highlander's Heart. I've done lots more of late, can't get the story idea out of my head--which is always a good sign! Time travels are my favorite, and I never can get enough of them!

And I've had 4 bear orders out of the blue! One is for a large Penny bear--she loves to read books, or watch the sky. She can lie on her stomach with chin propped on her paws, legs crossed behind her as she reads her book. After her paws are embroidered with a girl's name and birth date, she's bound for a teen's birthday who is getting a copy of one of my autographed YA books also!

And tis the season for Celtic Clan Bears!! This one is on order, and I also have a McHenry and Mitchell Celtic Clan Bear in the works for orders.

Some of my Wilde and Woolly Bears have won awards at various doll and bear shows--the most prestigious--Best of Show at a Fort Lauderdale Doll and Teddy Bear Show for a wizard; best dressed bear for a Jester with 3 cornered hat; most unique bear for a peg leg pirate bear!

But they've also been featured in Teddy Bear Review Magazine, Texas Monthly Magazine, Texas Co-Op Monthly, The MacNeill Galley, and several newspapers! And some were in the International Teddy Bear Connection film by Spectral Visions. They were auctioned off for charity after that. I also donate a bear to the Ronald McDonald House for their annual auction.

Here is the Irvin Celtic Clan Bear!

So the end of 2010 was great, and I'm ready to begin the new year with lots more super news, enthusiasm, and well I'm just raring to go to write!!!

I don't make new year's resolutions though, except to have my weekly word count goals to make deadlines, my own nudges to get a couple of more proposals on board, and plan a trip to New Mexico for a wolf reserve visit and the trip to NY to see everyone at conference. Other than that--the year is wide open for any possibility!

Anyone going to NYC? Anyone need a special bear? :)

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."