Thursday, June 30, 2011

Conference Week, Loser Style

In honor of this month's topic on fabulous women, I was going to chat about the amazing women who have influenced me over the years. But, alas, I'm feeling a bit "woe is me" since I'm sitting at home, unable to attend the annual Romance Writers of America national conference in New York City. However, after my editor tweeted she'd had lunch with my agent and that my name only came up when they drooled over my new cover for ENRAPTURED, I decided to stop haunting Twitter and Facebook for updates. Instead, I'm now focusing on the positive. Who needs New York City? I can have just as much fun here at home, and so can you. Wanna know how? Read on.

1. Forget shopping Fifth Avenue. Do like I did today. Hit Wal-Mart. Not only can you restock your grocery closet for cheap, you'll find hours of entertainment all right around the corner from your house! I mean, seriously, this is more fun than people watching in Times Square. (And I ask you, where else can you get a little Twilight without visiting Forks, Washington?)

(Don't have a local Wal-Mart? Don't worry. Visit for the same experience right in your own home!)

2. Wishing you could hang out in the karaoke bar? Maybe you're one of those attention seekers who loves to get up on stage and belt out out a ballad. Never fear. A hairbrush works well as a microphone. Just be careful. If your kids are anything like mine they'll steal the hairbrush and take over the show. (Which will make you feel like you're really in NYC hanging with the romance writers because we all know romance writers are divas extraordinaire.)

3. Down you can't attend a Yankees game? I've got a good alternative. Hit your local Little League fields. Sure, they don't sell beer but the seats are better (no nose-bleed sections here!) and if you're lucky you'll find yourself seated next to a hot single dad. And if that doesn't sound appealing there's always the Bad News Bears, which you can rent and watch from the confines of your living room. Now that can't even compare to the Yankees!

4. Sad you couldn't attend the star-studded Transformers 3 premiere, which also took place in New York City this week? I've got a good alternative. Say the word and I'll send my six year old over in his Bumblebee costume. You won't feel like you missed a thing!

5. And finally, upset you missed the RWA Literacy Signing featuring more than 400 published romance authors all in one place raising money for charity? I've got you covered with two really good alternatives.

One, visit

and order your favorite authors' latest books!

And if that's not enough for you, hit Bob's Beach Books

in Lincoln City, Oregon on August 27th at noon for a fifty-author book signing. People, it's on the beach! And I'll be there! And hey, that's BETTER than the RWA signing in NYC, isn't it?

(That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Our theme for this month is fascinating women, and at first I considered talking about some fascinating women from history, since I use historical backdrops in my books. Ladies like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the first woman’s rights activist. Or Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor. Or Madame C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire. Although these women made the history books, the truth is, I meet fascinating women every day.

And I don’t always meet them in person.

If you’ve read our CasaBlog for any length of time, you’ll know many of the women I’m talking about. Read back through the posts, and you’ll find women brave enough to share their private lives with you, whether it’s about their triumphs or hardships, personal or professional. Women that I’ve never met in person…although I hope to do so one day.

I’ve been fascinated by the women I’ve met in my writing career, from agents to editors to reviewers and of course, other authors—authors who continue to write and pursue their dream with enormous obstacles in their way. I’ve been privileged to have them share their stories with me, and I am always amazed by how strong they are.

I think I admire the women in my family the most, but that’s only because I know them more intimately. My mother’s strength when faced with so many losses. My sisters, who juggle jobs and kids but are always there when you need them. My nieces; one who just went to South Korea and the other who sat in a hospital for weeks when her first child was born with a tear in his lung.

And then there are the women I meet only briefly. Through friends, or as a clerk in a department store, or serving me my restaurant meals, or readers at a book signing, or through reader mail I receive. I often find out a bit of their personal story, and it’s always fascinating.

So I would like to pay homage in this post to the unsung heroines, who struggle every day against sometimes overwhelming obstacles, whose stories may not make the history books, but who I find absolutely fascinating. Bravo, for everything you do. A little bit of each one of you goes into every heroine in my books.

My Magical Best,


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The road to the book store

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

The paths life takes us down… I can’t say I ever had any ambition to be a writer. I just wanted to write a romance—just because it looked like a fun challenge.

“Looked like a fun challenge?” my inner critic raises her eyebrows in ladylike incredulity at the above sentence. “What is the matter with you?”

“Well,” I shrug. “It did.”

First, you must understand I’m a reading addict. I can’t not read. If I don’t have a book, I will read catsup bottles, all the pamphlets in any waiting room, including the soil analysis reports. I must read whether I want to or not. Wallpaper with words on it drives me crazy. It does not matter how many times I have already seen it; I will still read it the next time.

This ability/curse makes me able to read the same book over and over. Trust me—that’s an indispensible ability for a writer to have. You will read your book over and over, in draft after draft. After draft. After draft. And that’s before your editor gets a hold of it.

So that’s one reason some of the work of writing a book just felt like something I might find…interesting. No, natural, meaning something that even if I had no purpose, I would do anyway.

As my addiction kept pace with my growth, I went through all of the classics, and all of the entertainment genres like locusts through a wheat field, consuming everything in my path. Nor did non-fiction escape. History, sociology, physics, bodybuilding, gardening, astrology to architecture, zoology to Zoroastrianism.

Which makes up two more reasons that writing (when I finally thought of it) felt like fun. (1)at some point plot, story structure, character arc became learned, absorbed really, past any need for story.

For example, I went through a period in my late teens and early twenties when I read a gazillion mysteries—PI, police, gothic, amateur detective—you name it, I couldn't get enough. And then one day, they went flat for me. If the writer played fair, I knew whodunit within the first third of the book. (Hint: it isn’t the clues that give the villain away. It’s the plot.) For the first time I began to not finish books. I read on, only if engaged by the characters.

(2) I had a fund of useless facts crowding my brain. Useless, that is, unless chopped up tossed into a story.

Finally, one day I realized the kind of romance I liked best, a contemporary romance-romance where growing love isn’t incidental—it’s really what the book is about—that kind of romance had almost disappeared from the stores. It occurred to me, if I wanted to read one more than once or twice a year, I would just have to write it myself.

So I did. And since I was writing to please myself, I put in everything I liked, and left out everything I didn’t like.

Dogs and children. Check.

Weather. What can I say? I like it. Check.

Atmosphere. Check.

Characters that you have to get to know. What’s going on with them might not be what you think. Check.

Since I was writing only for my satisfaction, unknowingly I followed the advice given ll beginning romance writers: Write the book you would love to read.

Who knew I'd write a book--using my own formula--that would hit the #4 romance spot at Amazon (SEALed Forever) or one that would be a finalist in the National Reader's Choice Awards? (SEALed with a Ring) We'll find out if I won this week at the National Romance Writers of America convention.

The photo above is me last Saturday at a book-signing at a Barnes and Noble in Matthews, NC outside Charlotte. Who knew when I took a notion to entertain myself by writing a romance I'd wind up there.

But I was right about one thing. Writing is fun. Not easy, but fun.

Post Script: Many of the Casababes are in New York City this week attending the RWA National Convention. Hope you're all having a grand time!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The heroines in my life

By Cheryl Brooks

Ever notice how your turn to blog comes at the worst possible time? I'm leaving for New York this morning, and, as I write this on Sunday afternoon, I not only have to pack, I have to come up with a fascinating woman to write about.

Most of us have written about a relative or a favorite historical figure, but I'm going to write about some ladies who are the unsung heroines in my life: My friends and coworkers at the hospital where I have worked for the past twenty years.

They've supported me throughout my writing career and read my earlier efforts like they were NYT bestsellers. I used to print up my stories, put them in Amazon boxes, and take them to the hospital. I've watched my buddies pass the pages they'd just finished reading across the desk to the next reader while our patients were snoozing, leaving me to answer all the call lights, which I was more than happy to do!

Let's see if I can get a shout out in here for all of them....

Nancy, who got thoroughly miffed when she got beeped to the ER while reading a particularly juicy scene in an early version of Slave.

Tracy, a great source for the occasional dash of spice to a novel, as well as buying them to give to her friends.

C-Sue, who once made an audio version of Slave read by an electronic female voice with a British accent. We all howled at the strange pronunciation of a particularly colorful, ah, euphemism, which was, sadly, deleted in the final manuscript.

Terri H, who has never met a stranger and wants to be my PR person. She could probably sell a book to a turtle.

Suzie's ambition is to be my road manager and carry my luggage. She'd be a good at it, seeing as how anytime we take a trip together, she's always got just want you need stashed in her own baggage.

Terri B, who decided to get on my website a couple of years ago and print out my book covers to post on the back of the door to the ICU nurses restroom.

And my buddy Natalie, who never read any books for pleasure until she read mine and decided just last night that the restroom door was missing something and printed out the covers of Stud and Virgin.

Then there's Angela who has inspired, to date, at least three of my heroines.

Sarah and April who inspired the heroines for Fugitive and Stud.

Susan and Christy have bought each of my books as they came out make me feel like a famous author, and Mary's hugs make us all feel special.

Robin spotted Virgin in the local Walmart and Natalie sent me a picture of it.

And last, but not least, Lola. I've incorporated so many of her anecdotes into books that I've lost count.

They're always telling me that soon I'll be rich and famous and will leave them. I've already thought about cutting back my hours, but I doubt if I'll ever quit completely. They're my family, and I've celebrated the ups with them and they've supported me through the downs. I couldn't have done it without them!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Fascinating Woman by Shana Galen

Here’s a little known fact about me. I have a minor in Women’s Studies. What I thought I was going to do with a major in Psychology and a minor in Women’s Studies, I’ll never know. But the point is, I’ve studied a lot of fascinating women.

But the most fascinating to me is my grandmother. She’s 92 years old and still going strong.

She attended Calvin College in Michigan in a time when women didn’t usually go to college. Not only did she attend college, but she majored in pre-med (or whatever they called it back then). She was the only woman in her class. And she was not welcome.

One time a professor gave her a B on a paper, and she asked why. He said she did A work, but he couldn’t give her an A because then all the men in the class would feel bad if a woman did better than they did. Seventy-something years later, my grandmother is still mad about this!

Sad to say, my grandmother didn’t become a doctor. She became a science teacher and a wife and a mother and, of course, my grandmother. She’s lived long enough to tell me so many of her fascinating stories. When my grandfather retired, they began to travel and have visited every country in the world except Iran and Antarctica. Pretty cool, huh?

Oh, and what does my grandmother do in her spare time? She writes. She self-published a book of daily devotionals about twenty years ago—long before it was easy or popular.

I know my own daughter probably won’t have the opportunity to hear my grandmother’s stories, but I hope one day I’m half as fascinating a woman as my grandmother is.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wild West Women

My cowgirl heroines Libby Brown, Charlie Banks, and Jodi Brand are three very different women, but they all have one thing in common: they're part of a long tradition of women moving west to build new lives. The West is the best possible setting for a girl-power fish-out-of-water story, because throughout history this rough open country has inspired women to escape society's constraints and accomplish things that would have been impossible elsewhere.

I've collected three of my favorite wild Western women here - women who met the challenges of the frontier and did much more than merely survive.

Wild West entrepreneur Nellie Cashman traveled west seeking her fortune as a prospector and worked as a cook at various mining camps in Nevada until she saved enough gold dust to open the Miner's Boarding House in Panaca Flats in 1872. Described as "pretty as a cameo and tougher than a two-penny nail," Nellie ofen fed and housed down=-on-their-luck miners for free.

Later in life, she became a restaurateur, opening the first woman-owned business in Tucson before moving on to Tombstone. A devout Catholic, she sweet-talked the owners of a local saloon into holding Sunday services until enough money was raised to build the town's Sacred Heart Church.

Nellie often dressed as a man and never married, but she raised her sister's children while bulding her reputation as the Saint of the Sourdoughs. She finally followed the gold rush north to the Yukon, where she died of pneumonia. Naturally, she had helped raise the funds that built the hospital where she drew her last breath.

Susan Anderson, M.D. graduated from medical school in 1897, but a "touch of tuberculosis" prevented her from practicing her profession. In 1907, she took her own medical advice and moved to the clear, cold mountain air of Fraser, Colorado. After she successfully treated a local horse, word got out the the quiet, straight-backed little woman living by the railroad tracks was a doctor, and the local loggers, miners and railwaymen soon swore by "Doc Susie's" expertise.

This slight, fragile woman made countless housecalls, trudging through the snow in hip-boots with long-johns under her heavy skirts. During the building of the 6-mile Moffat Tunnel, she was appointed county coroner and confronted the powerful Tunnel Commission when dangerous working conditions led to fatal accidents.

Doc Susie practiced in Fraser until 1956, and was the model for the television character Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

Caroline Lockhart was a girl reporter for big-city newpapers in Boston and Philadelphia whose legendary spunk led her try deep-sea diving in Boston Harbor and leap from a window to test a new-fangled invention called a fire safety net.

In 1904 she traveled to Cody, Wyoming to write a story on the Blackfeet Indians. She fell in love with the west and resigned her post, running the local paper while penning novels that gained national acclaim but were less favorably received by her neighbors, who recognized themselves in the thinly veiled characters. Many of the portraits were decidedly not complimentary!

But what Caroline really wanted to be was a cattle queen, so in 1926 she homesteaded the L/Heart Ranch in the rugged country near Montana's Bighorn Canyon. She never married, preferring to turn her energies to growing her ranch. When she died in 1962, it consisted of over 6,000 acres. Cattle Queen indeed!

As a romance writer, I have to wonder at the fact that none of these energetic, history-making women ever married. That leads to a chicken-and-egg question you can answer in the comments: Did they accomplish great things because they didn't have the distraction of a husband, or did their feisty ways scare off the traditional and no-doubt disapproving gents of their day?

And if you were a Wild West Woman, what kind would you be? A rootin' tootin' madam? A pistol-packing outlaw? An ridin', rustlin' ranchwoman? Or something entirely different?

Friday, June 24, 2011

All the remarkable women who helped me get here...

You want to hear about some remarkable women? How about all the authors, workshop coordinators and booksellers who have unselfishly helped me along this journey. The only way to thank them is to pay it forward. So--to that end, I've made a top ten list of advice for the newly published.

Advice for the newly published
A top ten list

Ashlyn Chase

One: Yes, you have to be your own #1 fan, but don’t annoy people with so much promo (and only promo) that they groan when they see yet another one from you.

Two: Try not to “hang onto” what others think of you. There will be a dozen good things and one bad—but it’s that one bad thing that will stick in your mind. Some people are just mean and don’t deserve your tears. Trust me.

Three: Don’t believe your own hype. At least keep it in perspective. A lot of people helped you get where you are—and will keep you there. No one can afford to be a snob. There are a couple of writers I won’t even share an elevator with, because they act like they’re better than me.

Four: Have fun with your fans. Remember to know you is to love you. Let them get to know you—even if you’re shy.

Five: If you hold a contest in order to get email addresses, be sure to tell people they’re agreeing to receive your newsletter. Nothing is so rude as spam.

Six: Help your fellow authors. They’ll remember it and return the favor when you need one. If they help you first, be sure to say, “I owe you one,” and mean it. If they say, “No,” don’t get bent out of shape. They might be a whole lot more stressed than they look. (We hide it well, and we should! Our job is to entertain.)

Seven: Don’t bad mouth anybody! You never know who’s listening. And don’t take the bait when a blogger or some loudmouth expresses an opinion that upsets you. It may be an intentional bid for more comments and blog popularity.

Eight: Try to set aside a block of time each day to write, even if it’s only half an hour. You might have a job and family, but it’s important to you, and you have every right to ask for that time to be respected. Remember that your best promo is your next book. Don’t spend so much time promoting that you cut into your writing time.

Nine: Love what you’re writing. Readers can tell if you’re just going through the motions. Fall in love with your own hero. Put yourself in your heroine’s place. Tell your story through your characters’ eyes. The closer readers feel to the story, the longer it will stay with them.

Ten: Always try to improve your craft. Read. Take workshops. Ask for critiques (but know it’s okay to ignore bad advice.) Listen to what reviewers are saying. And most of all, keep writing! Everyone improves with practice and experience.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Celebration of Independence Day

 By Deb Werksman
 Editorial Manager
Sourcebooks Casablanca
In celebration of Independence Day, and the fact that Sourcebooks is the largest woman-owned independent publishing house in the country (if not in the world), I will take pitches posted to the Casablanca Authors blog through to midnight on July 4, and I’ll have all the responses posted by Bastille Day (July 14).

We are celebrating our latest New York Times and USA Today bestsellers:

Love Drunk Cowboy by Carolyn Brown
The Heir by Grace Burrowes
The Soldier by Grace Burrowes
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Miranda’s Big Mistake by Jill Mansell
The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick

We’ll be celebrating at RWA next week—hope to see as many readers and authors as possible:

*Spotlight on Sourcebooks, 9:45 am Friday 6/1
*Our authors at the Literacy Signing on Tuesday 6/28 5:30 to 7:30 pm
*Our very own Sourcebooks hosted signing Thursday 6/30 3:00 to 4:00 pm.
*Joanne Kennedy and Amanda Howells are up for RITAs—keep your fingers crossed for our Sourcebooks authors to win!

I’ll be taking pitch appointments at RWA—if you aren’t already signed up to see me, and if my schedule is full, email me directly and we’ll see what we can do to set up an informal pitch sometime during the conference.

Thanks everyone! Love you all!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Amazing Women...????

by Judi Fennell

So I've been reading through everyone's wonderful posts about wonderful, exciting, ground-breaking, inspirational women, and I have to say, our gender has put out some wonderful examples for the younger set to emulate.

So then, explain these women to me:

Yes, I admit, I'm hooked on the show. And before you start booing or throwing tomatoes, let me tell you why. With the rare rare exception of a (sadly) small number of cast members, I'll tell you my reasons, but first, the qualifiers:

I do not like these women.
I do not admire these women.
I do not want to be like these women.
I do not think these women are role models.
I do not think most of them have the common sense, humanity, or professionalism that God/Karma/Fate/the Universe gave a gnat.

So why do I watch this show?

Well, if you know me, you know that I love certain reality TVshows. Lost, The Amazing Race, sometimes even The Apprentice. I love the competition and the aspect of triumphing over adversity (the weather alone in Survivor would do me in, never mind the bugs). But it's the social aspect of these games that fascinate me. I loved how Boston Rob played a near-perfect, if not perfect, game this last season. Granted, it was his 4th time, so I'd hope he'd understand the strategy better, but strategy can only take you so far. You have to know how to interact with people. I've watched the teams on The Amazing Race go from super-nasty-competitive to honest competitors who pretty much across the board have a sense of fair play - people only Yielding another team to keep from being eliminated instead of trash-talking them and doing it just for the hell of it. The Apprentice has offered very interesting views of celebrities as real people on Celebrity Apprentice, but I have to say that I like the "real" version where people are vying for a job with The Donald.

But these women of Bravo just amaze me--and I don't mean in a good way. They aren't running a race, and there is no prize at the end of the season. Oh, sure, they can now peddle their Pinot Grigio, cookbooks, handbag/clothing/jewelry lines, or their songs (and I say that word loosely, because, honestly? most of them need friends to tell them the truth about their singing), but they end up with these deals because of the "good TV" they provide.

And I don't mean "good" as in it's actually "good." And this is where my reasons for watching come in: it AMAZES me, I mean, AMAZES me, how these so-called friends/sisters/in-laws/neighbors are willing to throw each other under the bus for ratings. For the chance at their 15 minutes of fame.

They're willing to open their children's lives up for public scrutiny. Their parenting skills and their own bad behavior are right there for the cameras. Are the children thinking this is okay? The sad sad thing is that, yeah, they probably are. Especially the younger ones who have no idea that the rest of America doesn't go around with cameras in their living room (or bathrooms as in one memorable O.C. episode that just skeeved me out for her part, his, and oh God, her poor kids!).

There are a few of the ladies that I applaud. Laurie from the original Orange County. Her son got in some serious trouble and she backed out of the show. Brava for her. Bethenney Frankel worked the reality TVcircuit with her own sarcastic blend of charm and has come out smelling like a tequila rose. Good for her (though that $50K speaking fee for a gig in NYC that I tried to book her for still kind of burns me up. $50K? Really? For an hour right outside your door? You're not quite all that, Bethenney. Of course, I don't know that there's anyone I'd be willing to pay $50K to listen to...). Carolyn Manzo - she says it like it is and if you don't like it, tough. But her heart seems to be in the right place. Lisa Vanderpump seems to be a decent sort with her willingness to take in strays and the way she's (so far) treated members of her family. Other than that, I am honestly amazed that I can't categorize the others as nice people I'd want to know.

Granted, I don't know these women. They could all be the nicest human beings on the planet, or they could be absolute witches. But it's the fact that they're willing to go on TV and air their dirty laundry (or lack thereof...Tamra, I'm talking to you!) for the world to see, and even sadder, for their KIDS to see... that just AMAZES me. (Have I said that enough?)

So, yes, I consider these women amazing, but not in the traditional sense of the word. They continually amaze me with naked make-out sessions, screaming table-tossing bad behavior, the trash mouths (Tamra and Gretchen, seriously - can you say ANYTHING without a foul word attached to it?), the back-stabbing, the entitlement (Jill, puhleaze!), the social climbing wannabees (Alex, seriously, it's over, hon), the snide comments, the incredibly indulgent lifestyles in the face of today's economy (can someone please tell me how I could declare bankruptcy and yet still live in a million dollar home and get my nails done??? Please????) and all the playing-it-up for the camera.

I have a circle of girlfriends in my neighborhood who have been getting together for the past 10 years. Ironically, this group started because of Survivor. I had had a party for the end of season 2 (Australian Outback) and a bunch of us decided we'd get together for the next season and watch it on Thursday nights. Well, here it is 10 years later, Survivor is (surprisingly) still on TV (though they did move it to Wednesday nights which is just so unhelpful. Thank God for DVR), and we're still together. This past Thursday night (no Survivor since the season is over) we were in one of the women's hot tubs. In a rainstorm. We started at 8 and left at 12:20 mostly because there are those of us who have to go to work at ridiculously early hours (raises hand). Many people who know about our group have suggested we try to get on Real Housewives. We've even laughed about it. I mean, we all have our share of drama. Life is not perfect off-TV. But the thing is, none of us WANTS to toss each other under the bus. None of us wants to expose our kids and our marriages to that kind of scrutiny (for kicks one day when I'm done my latest book I might do a survey of all the Real Housewives cast members' marriages - many of them have broken up on TV. Coincidence? I am really doubting it).

But the bottom line is this: if I'm going to be famous (and, let's face it, being famous helps sell books which is why SNOOKI GOT A BOOK DEAL! - and don't get me started on that show, which, no, I don't watch. My kids, however, have turned it on a few times, so yes, I do know who the characters are) for something, I want it to be for my accomplishments. Not for the amount of four-letter words I can shriek out with big hair, bigger jewelry, and complete disregard for the one thing the "Countess" lays claim to: class.

Yes, I will keep watching. I can't not watch. It's like a traffic accident that you're horrified by but have to see. I am AMAZED that there are people willing to put this stuff out there and will one day have to be horrified by the idiocy they perpetuated.

In the meantime, my girlfriends and I will enjoy our own Pinot Grigio (actually, Yuengling, Michelob Ultra, Smirnoff ice, and the occasional chocolate martini) in our friend's hot tub and share the good, the bad, the heartbreaking, and the joyous moments of our lives. Girlfriends are forever. Reality TV is not.

Anyone else who watches them, as appalled as I am? Anyone think I'm off my rocker and love the housewives?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I Owe a Debt of Gratitude to...

by Terry Spear

I owe a debt of gratitude to my mother, who instilled in me a love of the Highlands and our Scottish heritage, to seek out the truth about our Highland roots, and to keep our oral history alive.

And so because of my mother, I wrote HEART OF THE HIGHLAND WOLF, with more Highland tales to come.

Heart of the Highland Wolf
~Terry Spear

Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publish Date: June 1, 211
ISBN-10: 1402245521
ISBN-13: 978-1402245527

Each holds a secret they can't possibly overcome alone...
Julia Wildthorn is sneaking into Argent Castle to steal an ancient relic,but reluctant laird Ian MacNeill may be the key to unlocking the one answer she really wants discovered...

From brilliant storyteller Terry Spear, modern day werewolves meet the rugged Highlands of Scotland, where instinct meets tradition, and clan loyalties give a whole new meaning to danger...


All month, I've been guest blogging about Highland wolves and why I write them, but at the root of all of it was my mother, who was born in Edmonton, Alberta, and came to the U.S. as a young woman with her own mother to become citizens. Although our MacNeill Highlanders actually settled in Prince Edward Island to begin with.

My mother has since died, but at least she saw my first Highland romance stories published. And so the Highlanders will live on--only she'd never envisioned the wolfish kind would be a possibility!

When I'd ask her for ideas for the wolf stories, she'd give me beastly wolf ideas and I'd have to remind her that I didn't write about werewolves in the horror sense, but about romance! And they are majestic wolves. She'd grin and give me a beastly vampire story idea--a cruise ship where the vampire began biting all the, no, Mom, romance. She'd come up with something else that was even more bizarre. But I loved her for always promoting my works to all her friends and being so proud of what I did. Well, in part. She kind of stumbled over telling folks I wrote werewolf romance. She'd wave her hand and say, "You know this fantasy stuff is all the rage now."

And everyone would nod sagely as if it was just one of those fads like Rock 'n Roll and would eventually go away. :)

But my mom always loved horror stuff--although she wouldn't let her friends know this. My dad did too, so we watched the old vampire and werewolf and other bogeymen stories that went bump in the night. We watched our weekly show of Star Trek too, with doritos topped with melted sharp cheddar cheese crowned with a half of Spanish olive. Hmm, those were the days.

So here's to a "with it" mom, who though was never really into romance, would watch the horror stuff with me, when neither of my kids will!!! Where did I go wrong? But at least they love fantasy and scifi, so I didn't lose them entirely.

Thanks, Mom, for being my greatest fan and making me laugh with all your horror story ideas...

I wanted to share also with everyone that Cheryl and I made a Best Selling list at Books on Board last week! As you can see there are some really big author names on the list that we were competing with!

Bestselling Romance eBooks
1. Seduced by the Wolf -- Terry Spear
2. Cotillion -- Georgette Heyer
3. Outcast -- Cheryl Brooks
4. Summer Secrets -- Barbara Freethy
5. Just Like Heaven -- Julia Quinn
6. Yours To Keep -- Shannon Stacey
7. Kiss of Snow -- Nalini Singh
8. When Tony Met Adam -- Suzanne Brockmann
9. The Reluctant Vampire -- Lynsay Sands
10. Dating Mr. December -- Phillipa Ashley

Bestselling Romance Authors
1. Terry Spear
2. Georgette Heyer
3. Cheryl Brooks
4. Julia Quinn
5. Phillipa Ashley

BooksOnBoard ( is the largest independent online retailer of eBooks, with an inventory of over 425,000 unique titles. BooksOnBoard is also one of the largest retailers of downloadable Audio Books, and carries formats compatible with eBook Readers such as: Android devices, Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Sony PRS-300 eBook Readers, Cybook Opus Pocket eBook Readers, Cybook Gen3 eBook Readers, and Astak EZReader Pocket Pro eBook Readers.

I was so excited to see this! And the other great news is that Ian MacNeill of Heart of the Highland Wolf made All Romance ebooks finals for one of 32 hottest heroes this summer! Voting starts July 1st!

Also, Olivia and Mary Margaret's heroes made the finals! So there are 3 of us competing against the other 29! Let's see some tearing off of shirts, heroes! We're ready to vote! Right, ladies?

And I just learned of Sia's lovely review of HEART OF THE HIGHLAND WOLF also!

Sia McKye's review
Jun 08, 11

5 of 5 stars
Read in May, 2011
My thoughts:

This story is wonderful blend of contemporary suspense; romance, with just the right mix of paranormal. Terry has a wonderful sense of humor and you can’t help but laugh out loud at some of the situations. The cast of characters is well-drawn and distinct with strong family ties with Ms. Spear’s trademark pack dynamics.

What I love about Terry Spear’s series, especially in this particular story, is this isn’t fantasy. It’s set in the real world and crafted in such a way you feel there could actually be werewolves hiding in plain sight.

Terry sets it in the Highlands (yay!) and combines a touch history (how can you not?), a secluded castle, a ghost, a family feud going back generations, a hidden betrothal contract, and a villain who’s determined to take what he sees as his right, Julia Wildthorn. One tough and mouthwatering Scot Laird (Ian) who has already determined that Julia is all his and said villain will take her his dead body. Believe me, Sutherland tries.

Did I mention there is not just one sexy Highland wolf, but four of them! None of them are quite prepared for two independent and unprotected female (what is wrong with their pack leaders anyway?) American werewolves in Scotland, especially one who writes (gasp) werewolf romances.

This is such a fun story to read. I love that Terry has set this and the next one in Scotland (I’m hoping a story for each brother).

Let me go on record and say, Terry Spear just gets better and better.

Terry Spear's sexy Highland wolves can bite me any time.
Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

I'll be at Sia's Thoughts over Coffee on June 24 with a free giveaway!

Next Week's Schedule for the last of the blog tour!

Jun 20-Anna's Book Blog
Jun 21-Fang-tastic Books--Werewolf in a Kilt!
Jun 22-The Royal Review
Jun 23-Urban Fantasy Investigations
Jun 24-Sia's Thoughts over Coffee.

Today is the 1st Day of Summer, though with 90+ days for several weeks, I disagree with the calender! I'm definitely looking forward to the end of summer, already!

And I wanted to say that I was so proud of Carolyn and Grace for making NYT best seller! Way to go, Ladies!

Hmm, I wonder what my mother would say about me writing about a jaguar shifter this time???

Have a great day!!!

Terry Spear
"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Women of Rock!

by Olivia Cunning
There aren't very many women rock stars. I admire those few have crushed the glass ceiling (guitar?) and made it in a male-dominated music genre.

One of my favorite rock bands is Heart. Ann Wilson, who has one of the most beautiful voices in rock 'n' roll, and her younger sister, Nancy Wilson, who has amazing skills on the electric guitar, became superstars not once, but twice. In the mid-seventies, they released several successful albums and had hits such as Barracuda, Crazy on You, Magic Man, and the softer Dog and Butterfly.

In the late 80s, Heart had several more hits, including These Dreams, What About Love, Never, and Alone. This summer they are on tour with Def Leppard. You know I want to see that show. I heart Heart. (and had major crushes on the members of Def Leppard in the 80s...)

Another group of women who made it big in the rock 'n' roll genre are The Runaways. This was a band completely composed of teenage girls. There's even a movie about their rise to fame. Have you seen it? They were more successful in Japan than in the US, but what blows me away is that when they were on tour, their opening bands were huge names like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Cheap Trick, and Van Halen. Those were their opening bands. You go, girls! Their best known single is Cherry Bomb.

Even though the group broke up in 1978, most of the members continued in the rock music genre. The lead guitarist, Lita Ford, did a duet with Ozzy Ozbourne (Close My Eyes Forever) and had a big hit in the eighties called Kiss Me Once. The woman wails on the electric guitar.

Personal bias here, but the rhythm guitarist of The Runaways, Joan Jett, is in my opinion the hardest rocking woman in the business. I adore her. Total fangirl here. I want to be her when I grow up. My favorite of her songs is I Love Rock 'n' Roll.

I can't listen to this song without singing it at the top of my lungs. Aren't you glad this isn't Skype. :-)

These women were the rock 'n' roll trail blazers. I admire them for following their dreams and bringing music I love into the world and sharing it with millions.

Some more recent rock groups that I love that have female band members or singers include:

Evanescence. Their lead singer, Amy Lee, has the voice of an angel. I used to sing this song with my son every morning on the way to his junior high school. Ah, memories. This is Bring Me to Life. It's on the playlist of my first novel, Backstage Pass.

Sick Puppies. Their talent bassist, Emma Anzai, is a blast to watch in concert! I love their live shows. This is one of their many, many hits: You're Going Down.

Skillet. There are two women in this band. The rhythm guitarist, Korey Cooper (who is married to the lead singer), and the drummer/vocalist, Jen Ledger. I'm not sure how one drums as hard as she does and still manages to sing, but she's awesome. Here's their song Awake and Alive. Awesome!

Okay, one more. And then I'll rock out quietly on my own...

Halestorm. This is a relatively new band. I saw them in concert last summer. They rocked. The lead singer, Lzzy Hale, also plays guitar. This song will be on my fictional drummer's play list when his book comes out. If you've read Backstage Pass and/or Rock Hard, you'll totally get why this song MUST be on Eric Sticks' playlist. It's called I Get Off.

I admire all rock stars (obviously). I wanted to be a rock star as a teenager. My attempts to play the guitar are laughable, and I don't think I have the right attitude. What I wouldn't give to walk a mile in the leather of any one of these lady rockers.

Who are some of your favorite female musicians? They don't have to be rockers... ;-)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Following Crazy Dreams

by Amanda Forester

When I think of the most amazing women I know, the first person who always comes to mind is my grandma, Ester. Born in 1905 in rural Missouri, the expectations for her life were simple and clear. She would get married as soon as decently possible and have as many children as she could to work the farm. Ester, however, had her own dreams.

Tragedy struck early, and Ester lost her father when she was just six-years-old. Her mother was now a single parent of three girls, trying to scrape by as best she could, long before there were any government programs to help families in difficult circumstances. Despite this, at a time when most girls stopped their schooling at the eighth grade, Ester not only finished high school but also went on to college.

An amazing singer, Ester graduated from the University of Kansas, with a major in music. She also was dating an incredibly handsome Olympic athlete. He was a year older than her and had moved away after graduating, leaving her unsure about their relationship. The night of her senior recital she was singing on stage when the doors to the music hall opened and there he was. He had come back for her. That night as they sat on the front porch swing he asked her to marry him, and she

She said no at a time when getting married and having babies was supposed to be every girl's dream. And yet her dream was to move to New York and sing on Broadway. I can't imagine how unexcited her mother and sisters and friends must have been with the news. With dogged determination Ester bought a train ticket and with nothing more than a few dollars in her pocket went off to New York.

I am amazed at the strength of my grandma's dreams. She believed in herself even when the rest of the world must of been telling her she was crazy. The chances of some hick girl from Kansas making it big in New York were utterly non-existent. And yet...she made it.

My grandma, Ester Ott, formed a trio called the Rhythm Girls (pictured here on the left) and sang with the Paul Whiteman orchestra every night on the radio. Now that name might not mean much to folks today, but back then he was a major star, known as the "King of Jazz", and my grandma was living her dream. Eventually, at the age of 28 (monstrously old by the standards of that era) she fell in love and got married. She did it her way on her time.

Whenever someone tells me something is too difficult to even try doing, I remember my grandma. If she could take a risk to follow her dream, than so can I. Have you ever done the unexpected to follow your dreams?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mentors and then some...

Whenever anyone asks for writing/career advice, the first thing out of our mouths is, “Are you a member of RWA?” In retrospect, we should probably print that up on business cards because we have said it quite a lot. And while the parent organization is great in many ways, we believe the true stars are the members of our local chapter - Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. Probably everyone feels that way about their own chapter, and we are no different.

We often say that we don’t believe we would be where we are today without ladies and gentlemen of HCRW. Certainly Lydia Dare as an entity wouldn’t exist without this organization, as the two of us live more than an hour away from each other and would never have met without HCRW. But even before we dreamed up the idea of Lydia Dare, we were both struggling, new writers. And the seasoned authors of HCRW inspired, encouraged, and mentored us.

In our newest release IN THE HEAT OF THE BITE, which hits shelves early next month, we dedicated that book to HCRW and in particular three ladies from our chapter who took us under their wings in those early days. In this space, we’d like to give more detailed thanks.

Sabrina Jeffries

Jodie: The very first HCRW meeting I attended, Sabrina was the speaker. Well, she was one of four on a panel. Always having been an avid Regency romance reader, I was well familiar with her work. I was also more than a little intimidated to meet her. But a number of members headed to dinner after the meeting and I ended up talking to her most of the night and I easily forgot that I was talking to a NYT Bestseller. She is kind, genuine, and has always let me pick her brain for advice, still to this day.

Tammy: I think Jodie and I attended the same first meeting, because I remember that panel well. I took home a lot from that panel discussion, and it was the very first time I ever thought I could write a book, sell it, and be like the great writers on that panel! (Not that I’m even close to there yet, but someday!) It was my first meeting, and it was a great deal like finally finding like-minded people for the first time in my life! Truly amazing and I’m so glad I bit the bullet and attended that first meeting. Sabrina and I flew to Romantic Times together two years ago, and I really got to pick her brain about publishing matters. I feel like that conference was a success simply because of the flight and all the knowledge I gained from her!

Deb Marlowe

Jodie: I remember talking with Deb right after I received scores from a contest. Let’s just say I didn’t final. Actually, I was at the lowest point I have ever been as far as my writing is concerned. I was completely demoralized in every way. Deb Marlowe was so gracious. She listened to me. She let me vent and cry and be a huge baby. Then once I had returned to the semi-composed person I usually am, she gave me some useful advice and I’ve been grateful ever since. I can’t say enough nice things about her. And I doubt she knows how much her words meant to me that day and in the years since.

Tammy: I don’t think I’ve ever gone to her crying (Jodie’s the crier in this relationship), but I have gone to her for advice, commiseration, and she’s a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the Regency period. I think she has forgotten much more than I ever knew about it, and I doubt she’s forgotten much! That doesn’t say much for my knowledge, does it? I keep an eye on her posts on facebook just so I can see all the articles and blogs she writes about Regency tidbits like English gardens.

Claudia Dain

Jodie: If you have never had the opportunity to hear Claudia Dain speak, you are truly missing out. She is amazing and that is an understatement. When she speaks about the business of writing, she speaks so pragmatically that everything she says makes sense. Every time I hear her talk, I come away with a new understanding of the publishing world as a whole. Her words and advice have been invaluable to me over the years, and I regularly pass on her words of wisdom to my critique partners. They are quite used to hearing on any given industry-related subject, “Well, Claudia Dain says…”

Tammy: “Publishing is a blood sport.” Oh, yes, it is, and Claudia told me why and how to win at it. And every time I’ve ever had questions about a book contract or an advance or a something new I encountered in publishing, I’d ask her. Even the most mundane topics become news when Claudia talks about them. To top off all the publishing conversations we’ve had, she very graciously takes me shopping to plan “the important stuff” for conferences and events. I’ll never forget time we were at a meeting at HCRW and she sat down across from me and said, “Next time you get your hair done, go a little darker. You look a little washed out.” I didn’t know her well at the time. But she was right. And her counsel on all matters of fashion are now law. When I bring home a shopping bag now, my husband says, “Did Claudia approve that?” “Why, yes, she did, because I talked her into going shopping with me.”

We could sit and name all the people in the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers and all they’ve done to boost our careers, but we’d be here all day. It’s a group full of compassionate men and women in all stages of their career. We have learned from each and everyone one of them, and are honored to call them all friends.

Our next book, IN THE HEAT OF THE BITE, is dedicated to them all. They truly are our inspiration when things go poorly, our cheering section when things go well, and we value them more than we could ever say.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Grande Dame of Romance

By Robin Kaye

I met Kate Duffy at my very first writer’s conference—the Washington Romance Writers’ Retreat. On the first day, I sat at a table on the patio next to Kate. I didn’t know she was the Grande Dame of Romance; I didn’t know she started Silhouette; I didn’t know she was the editorial director of Kensington and the creator of Brava. Hell, I was such a newbie I didn’t even know she was an editor of anything. One of us started a conversation and all I knew was that I liked her immediately.

After that, we met on the patio for coffee or drinks at every conference we both attended. We rarely talked about writing. We always seemed to end up talking about her family or mine, and over the too few years I knew her we became great friends.

Kate was someone I’d call a real mench. She was the person I’d want in my lifeboat. Not only would she come up with the perfect solution to any problem, she was the kind of person who would make me laugh as we’d watch the cruise ship sink. She was direct to the point of being rude, had keen intelligence, was more generous and loving than almost anyone I’ve ever known, and had an incredible sense of humor. She was the person I’d go to when I needed a straight answer—I could always depend on Kate.

The year after I met Kate, I entered the first page of Romeo, Romeo in American Title—a writers’ version of American Idol--at another Washington Romance Writers’ Retreat. The entries were anonymous, so no one other than my critique partners and me knew it was mine. Someone would read the first page of a manuscript and the editors and agents would then comment. Sometimes those comments were stinging.

Romeo, Romeo was one of the first to be read. It was a dinner scene where my heroine’s aunt called poor Rosalie a puttana (a whore in Italian) because she’d been dating her boyfriend for two years and still wasn’t married. Aunt Rose spat the word puttana out, and as older people with dentures are wont to do, she spat a little more than just the word in Rosalie’s face.

Kate focused right in on the spittle, and I swear every entry read after mine was followed up by Kate saying “Well, at least there was no spittle in this one!”

After American Title and before I had an editor appointment with Kate, I went out to the patio to lick my wounds. I wasn’t sitting at our designated table—in fact, I was hiding. Of course, Kate was on the patio and spotted me. “Robin,” she called out. “Are you avoiding me?” I could never lie to Kate—it had to do with both of us being raised Catholic and bonding over nightmare nun issues. I said, “Yes, Kate, I am avoiding you. I have an editor appointment with you in less than an hour and don’t want to seem like I’m sucking up.”

Kate gave me the famous Kate look--she dropped her chin and raised one eyebrow. “Stop being stupid and come over here.” She slid a chair toward me. “Sit down and talk to me.” So I did. She told me about losing her beloved aunt the week before and showed me the beautiful ring her aunt had left her. She never mentioned the appointment. When it was time to go, she stood, gave me a hug, and wished me luck.

Ten minutes later I sat down at her editor table, shook her hand, and told her my story was Romeo, Romeo. I explained that I wrote my heroine in first person and my hero in third—told you I was a newbie. Then I said something like, “If I take out the spittle, will you read it?”

Kate shook her head. “No. Cut the first scene. You don’t need it. It’s funny but unnecessary. And you write in third person. Fix it and send me the full.” I thanked her and got up to leave (all of a half minute after my appointment began.) She asked me if I wanted her card and I smiled and said, “No. I know how to reach you.” Hell, I had her home and work addresses and phone numbers. Kate told me to take her card anyway. It wasn’t until a month later when I was going through my wallet that I saw she’d written me a message on her card. “Robin, send it to me. I really do want to read it.”

I fixed the manuscript, entered it in the Golden Heart, and won. I had an offer before I left Nationals, and sold the book before I even had a chance to send it to Kate. A few months later at the Moonlight and Magnolias conference I walked through the lobby and spotted Kate surrounded by about a dozen people. I waved and motioned that I’d see her later. She stopped the conversation, excused herself, and ran up to me. She threw her arms around me and said “Robin, I’m so proud of you! Congratulations on winning the Golden Heart and on the contract. Now come sit down and tell me everything.”

That was one of the best moments of my life. The one person I admired most in publishing was proud of me. My heart literally soared. We sat down together, I told her about my contract, and after I got up the nerve, I asked her the one question I really wanted to know the answer to: Did I make an ass out of myself when I gave my acceptance speech? Kate laughed. “Well, you did great, but if you hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have told you. What good would it do? I tell the God’s honest, painful truth only when it will do some good.”

Kate dies a year ago last September and I miss her terribly but she gave me gifts that will last a lifetime. Hers is the voice in my head when I write. I hear her say, “Just write the damn book, Robin.” When I want to take the easy way out of a scene, I hear her telling me to dig deeper. Kate continues to bless me with her wisdom and generosity in ways I never would have imagined. And every time I’m feeling down, I remember how I felt to have Kate Duffy tell me she was proud of me. I work hard to make sure she always will be.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Conference time!

by Leah Hultenschmidt, Senior Editor

One of my favorite parts of the job is traveling to conferences and getting to a chance to see in person our fabulous, fascinating authors and the many other published and unpublished romance writers across the country. At the beginning of the month, I was in Cincinnati for Lori Foster's Reader & Author Get Together and wanted to share with you some fun photos:

Hello, inspiration! C.H. Admirand & cover model Bill Freda.

Old friends: Leanna Renee Hieber, Donna MacMeans & me

An absolute riot to hang with: Sidney Ayers & Cheryl Brooks

Signing buds: Leanna Hieber, Elle James, Stephanie Julian

The ever-beautiful Judi Fennell and her--ahem!--genie

The gang's all here: me, Sidney, Jeanette Murray (of the forthcoming Semper Fi series--hot stuff!), Judi, Stephanie, C.H. & Leanna

And last Friday, uber-talented Assistant Editor Aubrey Poole (middle, seated) & I attended the Long Island Romance Writers luncheon, where we had the chance to meet a number of new writers.

In less than two weeks, it's off to RWA. Deb, Aubrey, & I are all signed up to take pitch appointments, but if you weren't able to get a slot, don't hesitate to give a quick elevator pitch--the tighter, the better. You can catch us at the Sourcebooks Spotlight on Friday at 9:45 a.m. or visit with our 35(!) attending authors, who will be giving away signed books at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

I'll also be at the following writer conferences if you want to say hello:

HWA Stoker Weekend, Long Island: June 16-19

Moonlight & Magnolias, Atlanta: Sept. 29-Oct. 2

Emerald City Writers Conference, Seattle: Oct. 28-30

And if you can't make those but still have a burning question, now's your chance. Post anything but a query in the Comment section, and I'll do my best to answer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Amazing to Grace by Grace Burrowes

In keeping with our theme regarding Amazing Ladies, the following thoughts befell me:

My mother gave birth to seven children, starting off with a set of twins. The babies were lying athwart each other and sixty-five years ago, there were no sonograms at sixteen weeks to warn a lady of her impending good fortune. The obstetrician figured it out late in the pregnancy but kept the realization to himself lest he “upset” his patient. Mom found out she was having twins when baby No. 1 came squalling into the world, and the nurse told her to keep pushing, because, “Mrs. Burrowes, you’re still in labor.”

Mom coped. She’s been coping ever since. In her late eighties, she copes with hearing loss, diminution of energy (I can almost keep up with her now), failing eyesight, and a few other blessings of great age.

My mother never got me. Domestication was pretty much her identity, which was fortunate if the laundry were going to get done (using a wringer washer) and the meals prepared for a household of nine-plus people. I abhor housework, it gives me no satisfaction. Twenty minutes after I scrub the floor, some cat comes and hurks on it—what’s the point?

My mother loves to cook. I have many memories of our house being full of company, with extra tables set here and there on holidays. Every bit of the food consumed was something Mom made in a small, antiquated kitchen.

I hate to cook. It’s messy and time consuming and bothersome.

But… when I turned up pregnant without benefit of matrimony, I called my parents (eventually). Dad happened to pick up the phone.

“Dad, I have some news… I’m going to have a baby.”

“Well. That is some news. Do you love the baby’s father and is he a good genetic risk?” My dad is ever the scientist.

“Yes and Yes.” What else was I going to say?

“Well. I’m going to make your mother a drink while you talk to her.”

Mom was disappointed in me, but I’d been disappointed in her for a while too. We were even. Neener, neener.

Was I, or was I not, an utter ass? The pregnancy turned high risk, and the docs wanted to put me in the hospital. Mom, in addition to her other accomplishments, is a registered nurse. She got her sexagenarian (at the time) self on a plane in the dead of winter to come look after me, sparing me a month in the hospital (which I could not afford) and then hanging around for weeks to look after Her Highness The Baby while I tried to put my life back together.

And a strange thing happened when I became the parent of a daughter. I stopped pouting and throwing tantrums in pursuit of my Right to Be the Baby—my petty efforts in this regard were upstaged by the Genuine Article, Beloved Offspring Herself. As I struggled to provide basic necessities for my daughter, I realized my mother had done her best with me, her very, very best, and an impressive effort it was too. When I offered her civility instead of respect, she loved me. When I was blind to her sacrifices, she loved me. When I was a complete croaking toad (sound familiar?), she loved me.

She didn’t always like or understand me, but she loved me. It has taken only fifty-some years, but I get it now: Love isn’t about a perpetual warm fuzzy without conflict or friction, it’s about being there for someone despite the conflict and friction. Could I have written a single worthwhile Happily Ever After without my mother’s example?

I do not think so.

Does she get me now?

It doesn’t matter. I get her, and some day, if my daughter gets me, it will be because my mother loved me. Despite all, every day of my life, my mother has loved me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Great Scot

Update: The winner of Mia Marlowe's random drawing is Carrie! Please contact Mia through her website with your snailmail so she can mail out your prize. If you didn't win, don't despair. Mia has a contest at that will end June 26th. The prize for that contest is a Ready for the Beach Box of Books!

Our theme for the month is fascinating women. Since my Casablanca debut (Sins of the Highlander, January 2012) is set in 16th century Scotland, I've had great fun researching this setting and time period. In my digging, I've discovered some intriguing things about Mary, Queen of Scots.

I always knew she was Elizabeth I's cousin and that she met her end on the chopping block, but I didn't know much about her life. It was like a medieval soap opera, with ill-considered marriages at the heart of her downfall. Made me think Elizabeth was wise to remain the Virgin Queen.

When she was five years old, Mary Stuart was sent to France to avoid a forced marriage with Edward of England's son. This was known as "the Rough Wooing." Once in France, she became quite a pet of the monarchy. She was fluent in French, English, Latin, Greek, Spanish and Italian, in addition to her native Scots! And at the tender age of 14, she married the Dauphin, who was two years her junior.

By the time she was 17, she was the Queen of France. But her reign was short because her husband died of an ear infection. So in 1561, Mary Stuart decided to return to the only throne left to her. Without receiving safe passage from her English cousin Elizabeth, Mary sailed home to Scotland.

She was acclaimed "beautiful" with her fiery red hair and at 5'11" she was a veritable giantess for her day. But Scotland did not welcome her with open arms. While she was in France, the Reformation swept the Highlands and the people weren't in the mood to accept a Catholic monarch and one they feared had become thoroughly French.

She didn't help herself when she married her half first cousin, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley in 1565. He was a grasping man who demanded the courtesy title of "King" and was jealous of her counselors and advisors. While she was pregnant with her only son, her husband burst into her chambers and murdered her private secretary, David Rizzio, before her eyes.

Needless to say, the marriage was strained. After her son James was born, Mary met with a number of her influential nobles, all of whom wanted the "problem of Darnley" removed by any means. Fearing for his life, Darnley fled to his father in Glasgow and became ill there (possibly from syphillis).

The next year, he returned to Mary in Edinburgh and rumors of reconciliation were on the wind when the house in which he was staying suffered an unexplained "explosion." Darnley's body was recovered in the garden and it was apparent he died from strangulation.

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was suspected of supplying the gun powder. Mary convened a trial before parliament and Bothwell was acquitted.

In 1567, Mary visited her son in Stirling and on her way home, she was "abducted" by Bothwell, who supposedly raped her and forced her to marry him. He had conveniently divorced his wife 12 days earlier. The Scottish nobles wouldn't have Bothwell as king and Mary was forced to abdicate her throne in favor of her one year old son James.

After her army was defeated, she fled to England, but instead of receiving help from her cousin, Elizabeth had her imprisoned. In 1587, she was tried and found guilty of the murder of Lord Darnley. She suffered a botched execution--the headsman had to strike twice--and once her head was removed, her little Skye terrier slipped out from under her skirt.

But her son James became King of both Scotland and England.

There's a snarky greeting card out there that admonishes us that "well-behaved women do not make history." Maybe not. But well-behaved or not, history was not kind to female rulers. No matter how fascinating they were. As always, women are held to a different standard than their male counterparts.

Does that irritate anyone besides me?

Mia's first collaborative novel with NY Times bestseller Connie Mason is Sins of the Highlander. “Mad Rob” MacLaren thought stealing his enemy’s bride-to-be was the perfect revenge. But he never reckoned that this beautiful, innocent lass would waken the part of him he thought dead and buried with his wife. Against all reason, Rob longs to introduce the luscious Elspeth Stewart to the pleasures of the flesh, to make her his and only his forever. Pre-order today!

For more about Mia's current release, Touch of a Thief and her backlist, please visit
Leave a comment or question for Mia and you'll be entered to win a copy of Connie Mason's LORD OF DEVIL ISLE and Mia Marlowe's TOUCH OF A THIEF! Be sure to check back tomorrow to see if you're a winner!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Florence Nightingale: Victorian Rebel

by Tracey Devlyn

Must I pick only one woman who fascinates me? LOL Ah, well, then I select Miss Florence
Nightingale (1820 - 1910)—nurse, writer, statistician, and hospital reformist.

Florence Nightingale was a Victorian rebel.

Born into a well-connected British family, Nightingale was expected to marry well and produce a bevy of children, the same as any wealthy young lady of that era. But Nightingale followed a different path, one that would put her at odds with her beloved family and one that she believed to be a calling from God. Florence Nightingale became a nurse.

In 1854 (CrimeanWar), Nightingale and 38 volunteer nurses set off for Scutari, Turkey after hearing about the deplorable conditions of the wounded British soldiers. When she arrived, the situation was much worse than she had anticipated. The soldiers were malnourished and without proper bedding, and many were filthy and still wearing their gore-covered uniforms. In addition, she soon learned that the army hospital was built on a massive cesspool, which was poisoning the drinking water and the building itself.

Nightingale focused her attention on improving the hospital’s sanitation, nutrition, and activities for the patients, despite the many obstacles thrown her way by doctors and military officials. Within the first six months, the number of deaths from preventable diseases reduced by two-thirds. Amazing, huh? Although Nightingale’s health was never quite the same after her stint in Turkey, she continued fighting for hospital reform long after she returned to England.

In 1860, Nightingale saw another one of her passions realized—a training school for nurses. Housed at St. Thomas’ Hospital, the Nightingale Training School opened its doors to fifteen intrepid probationers. It was then modern trained nursing was born.

These are a just few of the reasons why I find Florence Nightingale fascinating. I haven’t even touched on the impact she had on empowering women, improving Britain’s sanitation, introducing visual statistical graphs, and redesigning hospital floor plans.

Do you find Miss Nightingale fascinating, too?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Incomparable Cynthia Riggs

By Anita Clenney

Over Memorial Day weekend, I went to Martha's Vineyard with my husband, my agent and several of her clients for an agent/author panel at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore. A wonderful bookstore that was voted PW Bookstore of the Year in 2002. My husband went with me because in almost 14 years of marriage, we had never really had a honeymoon, so we decided this was it. The bookstore event went great, but it was my first time on a panel, and I was a little nervous. A couple of the others were too, since we had expected a dozen or so aspiring writers to attend, but it turned out to be standing room only. The bookstore was pleased and the audience was excited, and I survived my first panel, and my first TV interview. Each author had a 30 minute interview for a show that will run on the local TV station.

The event was set up by mystery writer Cynthia Riggs (pictured here with me), who writes the Martha's Vineyard mysteries starring 92 year old amateur sleuth Victoria Trumbull. Victoria might be amazing on the page, but in real life, her creator is the real character. I can honestly say I've never met anyone like Cynthia Riggs. She's 79, and started her writing career at age 69 when she went back to college and got a degree in creative writing. Since then she's written 10 books. She plans to write 20 books and then retire. Cynthia has a fascinating background. She has a degree in geology and has written for the National Geographic Society as well as the Smithsonian. She's lived in Antartica, been a rigger on a boatyard on Martha's Vineyard, ran the Chesapeake Bay Ferry Boat Company in DC, and lived on a houseboat there, raising her five children before moving back to her homeplace on Martha's Vineyard.

Cynthia graciously allowed the entire group of us to descend on The Cleaveland House which was built in 1750 and has been in her family for eight generations. Everywhere you look in the house, you'll find pieces of history, from a plank belonging to a ship one of her ancestors owned to books written by her mother and father, records of births and deaths, furniture that belonged to her great great grandparents. This house is the real deal, not a fancied up tourist spot. It has a functional but delightful mudroom, no TV, a vegetable garden, and Cynthia's six-layer compost heap is her pride and joy. Everything that can be composted or recycled is. She wastes nothing, never hurries, but is always moving. Several of us agreed that we want to be Cynthia when we grow up. And when you learn about Cynthia's mother, poet Dionysis Coffin Riggs, you understand where Cynthia got her strength of character. Her mother lived to age 99 and continued to go to the nursing home and read to the elderly. Never mind that the elderly were ten years her junior. She applied for a Fulbright Fellowship at age 90 but was turned down. Cynthia's father was a high school principal, which Cynthia said meant he could do anything in the world. She seemed more impressed bythat than the fact that he worked with Thomas Edison. For someone who knows little about her own family history, I was simply in awe at how rich this family's history is.

But it wasn't all interviews, signing books, and standing in awe at the amazing Cynthia. Imagine a bunch of writers, a couple of husbands, my agent's hilarious cousin, who was funnier than anything in a Stephanie Plum novel, all relaxing and having a good time. We cooked, we laughed, we pulled vegetables from the garden, and lounged by the goldfish pond, listening to the crows, which reminded me of the pet crows my brother and I had as kids. My father had rescued them when they were babies. The crows would circle in the sky and light on our shoulders or heads. The group also toured the island and spent one day at the beach. The woman who recorded the bookstore event and the interviews was also a photographer, and she was there snapping pictures of the whole visit. It was such a wonderful trip, and although the house was crowded, it was a perfect belated honeymoon. The thrilling part is that it went so well Cynthia wants this to be an annual trip for all of us. I feel another honeymoon coming on next year.

But my adventure didn't end when we left the Cleaveland House. Cynthia dropped Austin and me off at the airport, and I started feeling really dizzy. My allergies were kicking in. I was beginning to worry that the tiny Cessna airplane would not be a happy thing. Austin suggested that I go sit outside and see if the air helped. It did, but while I was out there, I heard a noise in the trashcan behind me. It wasn't the wind rattling the bag. I crept over and peered inside. There was something black and it was looking at me. A crow. I told an employee, but she dismissed it, said it would fly away. I didn't believe her, so I took the top off the trashcan. The crow tried to fly, but couldn't. I pulled the entire bag out, crow and all, and saw that it's leg was trapped by a thick rope of plastic. I went inside to the ticket agent and when I told her the crow was going to die, she said she didn't care, they were overpopulated, and it wasn't her problem. Well, then... On to the next ticket agent. She was kind and gave me her scissors and water bottle. I gave the crow some water then cut the plastic around it's leg. When I threw it into the air and it soared away, it was better than the feeling of a successful booksigning and conquering my fears of TV interviews and live panels.

Two women who had walked outside and observed the rescue were yelling, "You saved its life," as Austin the clerk cheered from inside. The women were on the plane with us and kept saying that I was meant to save that crow. When we rolled down the runway, ready to take off, there was a lone crow drinking from a puddle of water. I wondered if it was my crow. Both women were so impressed that they said they were going to buy my book. It was the perfect end to a perfect trip and the privilege of meeting Cynthia Riggs, one of the most memorable women I've ever met.