Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Sin and Satisfaction THURSDAY.....

It's official SIN AND SATISFACTION THURSDAY otherwise known as 'eat your weight in chocolate' day.

THE LEGEND OF MICHAEL releases May 1 and the tag line is HE IS SIN AND SATISFACTION, LUST AND DAMNATION. Well -- there is something else that has come to define LUST AND DAMNATION to me this past 10 days....




Yes these little chocolate puppies have become my DAMNATION. I just sat here while THINKING about what to write on this blog and ate 75% of the bag. Well according to the bag that is 180 calories x 5.....CRINGE.

And by the way -- this is an inspirational post -- just in case you missed the obvious tone. YES I SAY! INSPIRATIONAL. Why? Because this way if YOU celebrate today's special EAT YOUR WEIGHT IN CHOCOLATE day you now know you are not alone. And if you didn't/or don't, then you now know you have more willpower than at least one person -- that person being ME!

I do have to say-- the chocolate inside those Cadbury eggs is just yummy. REALLY yummy. YES...I'm trying to drag you to the dark side with me...or milk chocolate side in this case.

While eating your own chocolates or contemplating your own best sin and satisfaction -- how about a chance to win an ARC of Michael? I'm at the RT blog here.

So happy SIN AND SATISFACTION THURSDAY....!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Naps: The Ulitmate Indulgence, by Sara Taney Humphreys

I love sleep. Probably because like most working moms, I don't get enough of it. It's the ultimate alone time. Like many of you, I'm a mom, wife, writer and employee-at-insert-job-here. Between work, kids, husband, house, laundry, dogs, bird, writing, editing...there are only so many hours in the day to get it all done. Very often, sleep is the thing that gets cut short.



Sleeping at night for a nice long eight hour stretch is fantastic. The only thing that trumps that is the Sunday afternoon nap. I never used to be able to nap. You know...before I had kids. HA! Not anymore. I used to make fun of my father for taking catnaps. Clearly, God has a sense of humor because these days I daydream of napping.


Naps. Now they are the ultimate indulgence for me. Laying on the sofa, curled up under my coziest blanket and falling asleep to a great old movie. (Dirty Dancing anyone?) Yes, that quiet nap time with no interruptions . You know the ones I mean. Questions like.... What time is dinner? Where are my socks? Did the dogs poop in the playroom? Why are frogs green? Mom are you sleeping?


I think that every Sunday from 2pm-4pm should be mandated Mommy Nap Time. Ahhhh....one can dream.


Interested in winning at $25 Amazon Gift Card?

Here's how.

Subscribe today to the Romance Roundup You Tube Channel and you'll be entered to win!

You'll also receive the weekly video blog. Easy.


The video below is from last week. The spotlight author is Lisa Renee Jones. Enjoy :)



So click subscribe by 11:59 pm today and you'll be entered to win. I'll post the winner here tomorrow and email privately. Don't miss out and get these fun weekly videos about what's hot in romance!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grace Has an Orgy! by Grace Burrowes

Indulging myself is easy—a good book; a quarter pound of sprouted almonds covered in double dark German chocolate consumed one at a time; a sleep-in day in the middle of the week; a bouquet of flowers; a good dessert after a meal with a friend.

Pampering myself, however, is foreign to my nature in the typical sense. I don’t want anybody fussing with my hair, skin, fingernails or toenails. I have restless leg syndrome too severely to permit me to enjoy a massage. I do not enjoy shopping for anything except books and horses (and really good chocolate covered almonds). I do not own a DVD player so an Austen marathon is out (though Colin, I do miss you).

If I belonged to a gym, then lingering in the sauna might appeal, except the last gym I joined left me with tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, thrush, athlete’s foot and the certain conviction—as God is my witness, Katie Scarlett—I will never join another gym.

But I do have some guilty pleasures. The one I’ve indulged in most recently had me outside for an entire day. This time of year with the trees not yet leafed out, when the sun shines, it shines everywhere. I live on a couple very pretty rural acres with lots of fresh air and privacy, and a stream running down the middle of my property.

I was such a bad girl. I had an orgy.

I planted entire flats of pansies in beds and in buckets. I put in a bank of irises by the stream, I added a bed of tulips and German irises by the barn. I planted lilies of the valley under a cherry tree; I pruned my roses and whacked down about half that blasted wisteria bush (that never blooms). I garnished one bed with Siberian irises and another with some hardy lavender. I stuck in another half dozen stargazer lilies—what the heck, you only go around once. I mulched from here to kingdom come.

I got my hands dirty, I got a dose of sunshine, and I made it a little more likely that if we get adequate rain, my yard will be a thing of beauty for months. I am panting to get in the pick-up truck loads of begonias that thrive so nicely in all my shady borders, and it’s all I can do to hold off on the gladiolus for a couple weeks.

And hanging baskets… don’t make me moan about hanging baskets of fragrant, velvety petunias.

I cannot afford this extravagance. I am not in shape for Total Body gardening for hours on end and yet… when the mood strikes me, there is nothing I’d rather be doing—not even writing (sorry, Deb)—than playing in the dirt with my flowers.

The result is a yard that pampers the senses of sight and smell for months, one that yields lovely bouquets for me and my friends, one that I think everybody who drives by can enjoy for a least a moment.

If that isn’t an indulgence, I don’t know what is.

How do you indulge yourself this time of year? C’mon—tell us how you wallow in the coming of spring.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Indulgence by Stephanie Julian

As a wife, a mother and a self-employed writer, the concept of indulgence is an interesting one.I've been a writer for years, lucky enough to be paid to do it, but there never seems to be enough time to really indulge myself in something completely frivolous.

Even though I work at home, I treat my writing as I would a regular office job, with the exception that I don't leave the house and I can do it in my robe. I take two breaks, one for breakfast and one for lunch, unless it's my run day then I break for a run mid-morning. I don't consider my run an indulgence. I do some of my best plotting on a sunny day in my sneakers plodding along the creek trail. Besides, sitting all day, I really need that exercise. (And I need to offset my Junior Mint addiction.)

By 4:30, I leave my home office and take my work downstairs to my laptop, where I watch the Food Network for an hour and indulge my fantasy that maybe someday I'll actually be a good cook.

One of my favorite indulgences is watching TV. I tape at least two shows a night, if not more, and I catch up with a few on On Demand. Some shows, you could say, are more of a necessity. I mean, "Castle" is about a writer, so obviously that relates to my life. "Justified" stars the gorgeous Timothy Olyphant and some of the best damn writing on TV, so that counts as research. Yes, it does.

"Stargate Universe" is sci-fi, which, you could argue, is close to paranormal. And of course, "Being Human" has a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost as its main characters. Nuff said. "Parenthood" provides an absolute wealth of insight into character development while "Glee" is pure pop culture lightning.

"Modern Family" and "Community" show how tight comedy needs to be."Off the Map" is a romantic soap opera so that's a no-brainer. Plus, Martin Henderson is nummy. And "The Vampire Diaries" has a barely concealed menage at its core.

Thank God I have a DVR because Friday would be a disaster otherwise. "Fringe" and "Supernatural" go head to head. "Fringe" is, hands down, the best show on TV right now. It's a mini master class in story, character and how to create a mythology. And the love story between Peter and Olivia (not to mention the budding love story between Lincoln and faux Olivia) is so worth your time.

Then there's "Supernatural" and Jensen Ackles. What else does a show need? Plus, it's damn good at mixing humor, horror and over-arcing story lines.

Maybe the only TV show I watch purely for fun is "Dancing With The Stars." Although... No, I just like the dancing. I have, however, written a book with a heroine who competes as an amateur ballroom dancer so maybe I can justify losing two hours of my Monday night.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Indulgence or Necessity? by Tamara Hogan

I’ve loved taking hot baths for as long as I remember, and they’ve long served multiple purposes in my life. As a lifelong Minnesotan, I have a well-honed appreciation for warmth. As a former competitive gymnast, my muscles slackened and relaxed as they slurped up the moist heat. And the bathtub’s always been my favorite place to read. As a young teenager, one of my favorite Sunday afternoon rituals was to take a bath with a book—usually a Harlequin Presents category romance. I’d lock the door, fill the bathtub with too-hot water, and carefully select my bubble bath from the row of colorful plastic bottles lining the toilet tank. I’d read until my skin was shriveled like a prune—or until one of my younger sisters picked the lock with a bobby pin.  

When I was a slightly older teenager, I got sick. Suddenly it hurt to eat, and my joints ached all the time, even though gymnastics season was over. I lost weight—a lot of weight. Family and friends kept me stocked with books during a long hospitalization, and I became a pro at wheeling my TPN infusion pump to the treatment room which was the location of the single bathtub on the ward. We finally figured out what was wrong. Crohn’s Disease.

With that diagnosis, I became a member of an invisible legion—people living with chronic illness. 

Fast-forward fifteen years. Between a long gymnastics career and the Crohn’s, I’d become so used to living with various aches and pains that it took awhile for me to notice that the full-body ache and nagging fatigue I was experiencing just wasn’t normal, even for me. While doctors and I tried to figure out what was going on, the pain increased to a point where my life simplified itself with ruthless efficiency: Work. Eat. Sleep. And very little else. Several years and a dozen doctors later, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition. Thankfully I had decent health insurance, and convenient access to a world-renowned pain management program. One of the questions they asked during my intake interview was, “Other than prescription pain medication, does anything help relieve your pain?” I blinked, realizing the answer was “yes.” Baths! Or as pain management professionals call it, "hydrotherapy." 

Pain is the body’s way of saying, “Slow down. Pay attention.” When the pain is chronic—when it never quite goes away—slowing down and paying attention becomes a way of life. To me, that's chronic illness's silver lining. I have to listen to my body, and most days, it's in the driver's seat. I've learned to say 'no' more often and feel no guilt about it. 

To some people, spending an hour a day in the bathtub with a book might seem to be the height of pampering, decadence and self-indulgence. Not to me. It's a happy coincidence that one of my favorite things to do just happens to be an essential component of my pain management toolkit.  No matter how crappy I'm feeling, and no matter how many other things fall off the day's "To Do" list, I know I can take a bath, and lose myself in another world. 

So, whatever the condition of your health, here’s Dr. Tammy’s prescription: Slow down. Take a bath. Read more books. ;-)  


Coincidentally, Taste Me's heroine, siren Scarlett Fontaine, adores baths too. There's a scene in the book where Scarlett sings a raunchy song in the tub, driving hero Lukas Sebastiani to distraction. While I couldn't reference the song lyrics in the book, the song she's singing is "I'll Have You All" from the soundtrack of the Broadway musical "Taboo." In the song, the character played by Boy George reveals some rather...intimate physical details about his lovers. ;-) 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Indulgence = ? (By Catherine Mann)

Indulgence = ?
By Catherine Mann

I feel like I should post one word here and I could be done with my blog entry for this month, but that wouldn't be fair. Would it? But if I did have to condense my thoughts on a treasured indulgence, it would go something like this:

INDULGENCE=STARBUCKS


Beyond just the joy of saying the words.... Venti Peppermint Mocha Latte, Skim Milk, No Whip... sometimes decaf.... (Okay, I know there's whip in the photo, but I figure calories don't count since we're on the internet!)


There's the camaraderie that comes with a trip to Starbucks, curling up in one of those comfy chairs and sipping a latte or coffee while I talk with one of my writer buddies for hours on end....

Writer Buddy=Joanne Rock


Writer Buddy=Stephanie Newton


Now that I think about it, the true indulgence is the blessing of friendship. And on that note, I believe I'm going indulge myself in a long phone call with one of my treasured writer buddies!


What's your favorite coffee shop special? Your favorite place to gab with friends? Post a comment and you'll be entered to win an autographed copy of my March USA Today bestseller, HIS HEIR, HER HONOR. (One winner chosen at random tomorrow - so check back!)


About the author:
Catherine Mann has over two million books in print in more than twenty countries. Look for the launch of her exciting new "Elite Ops" military series in July with COVER ME!

Friday, March 25, 2011

It's Shopping Time

By Anita Clenney

As writers we work hard. I doubt that anyone can understand the the challenges and frustrations that come from putting together a 100,000 word puzzle that must fit together perfectly and then stand up to stringent review. So writers need some time away to recharge their batteries. Sometimes that's in the form of a good book (a definite indulgence), a pedicure, sitting outside in the sunshine - away from the computer, or one of my favorites...shopping. I mean look-out-I'm-on-a-mission shopping.

There is always something I want or need. Maybe it's a new mirror for the wall, which I use instead of artwork. My husband issued an ultimatum after the twentieth mirror went on the wall - I'm obsessed with them, or rather, the frames. I'm a frugal shopper so I won't pay a lot for my lovely mirrors, or whatever I'm looking for. This means I have to go bargain hunting. It's my version of a treasure hunt. It may be a handbag, the perfect pair of jeans, comfy shoes, a shrub for outside, or a bracelet - diamonds are my downfall and get me in huge trouble, but I can find deals like you wouldn't believe. Unheard of deals. It makes it really hard to say no.

The problem is I have a tough time with decisions. I'm either 100% certain of something or completely wishy washy. Oh for a happy medium, but I seem to live my life in extremes. All or nothing. You'll notice in some of the pictures here that my reflection is in the mirror. I'm taking a picture so I can go home and talk myself into buying the item or out of it, which will probably require another trip to town. It would be much simpler if I just didn't go in the first place, or if I bought the first thing I loved and went home and wrote. I go back and forth until my indulgence has me totally wiped out. Now I need a pedicure and a massage to relieve shopping stress, but I can't afford either. I spent all my money on mirrors.

Now that I have deadlines, those treasure hunt shopping trips have become scarce. But I occasionally sneak one in. Pictured here are some of the bargains that tormented me until I bought them or made a conscious decision to leave them for another lucky shopper. I should write a book about it. Or seek therapy. Or perhaps spend the time learning how to properly imbed pictures in blogs.

What about you? Do you have a shopping bug? Is there something that you find it hard to say no to? Please, tell me I'm not alone.




Thursday, March 24, 2011

It’s Spring—Spring 2012, that is!

By Deb Werksman
Editorial Manager
Sourcebooks Casablanca
 
Believe it or not, I have already just about finalized my list for Spring 2012 and I’m preparing to launch!

What does ‘launch’ mean, you’d like to know? This is the exciting, all day meeting when the season’s books are introduced to the Sales, Marketing, PR, and Design departments for the first time. From that point forward, the wheels begin to roll—schedules are set, strategies designed, and a whole slew of people spring into action to work on your book.

There are 2 seasons—Spring and Fall, and in a move I thought was an ingenious manipulation of the space/time continuum, I made August and February scheduled months in both seasons—voila! A year with 14 months in it! (Now, if only I could get a day with 28 hours, or a clone of myself…) So the Spring season runs February to August, and the Fall season August to February. We’re working about 14 months ahead, so I’ve been planning for Spring 2012 since December.

The first thing we do is to map out the season, using a list of projects already acquired, a blank wall, and a stack of sticky notes. With manuscript due dates, a column for each month, and a sticky for each project, we stick stickies! We then rearrange them (this is almost like kindergarten—so happy!) watching for balancing each month vis a vis subgenre (for example, we wouldn’t want all light paranormals in one month, or too many Regencies, etc.), debut books, series continuations and new series launches, etc. We roughly think about spacing an author’s books 6 months apart, or releasing in the same month of the year if the author is doing only one book per year. Christmas books are scheduled accordingly, back-to-back series releases are thought through, and we can see what might be missing or needed on the list.

Once we’ve gotten this far, we then make space for projects by our existing authors that we may not have acquired yet, and we always leave space for any last-minute big projects.

We then take the Map, and start entering data, in anticipation of the series of meetings in which materials are approved for the official launch meeting. During this time, authors may hear from us asking for title ideas, delivery dates, new project pitches, synopses, character descriptions, bios, etc. During this time, planning/scheduling is still fluid, but after launch, there’s a domino effect on other authors when we have to reschedule. This is one reason it’s so important to be realistic in telling your editor when you’re going to turn in your manuscript.

So now, I’m looking forward to FALL  2012!!! Send me your projects:
*single title romance fiction in all subgenres
*90,000 words, please
*a heroine the reader can relate to
*a hero she can fall in love with
*a world gets created
*a hook I can sell with in 2-3 sentences
*a career arc for the author

Full guidelines on www.sourcebooks.com (if you follow the guidelines, you WILL stand out!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Easy to Please

***UPDATE***
Heather (comment #31) you're the winner of the BODYGUARDS IN BED Advance Reader Copy. Email me at elisabeth (at) elisabethnaughton (dot) com with your snail mail info and I'll get your book in the mail! Congrats!
***

It occurred to me recently that I didn't post the winners to my book giveaway last month. Shame on me, I know. In my defense, I blame two things: 1) pain killers (I recently had surgery) and 2) deadline brain. Not sure which is the bigger culprit so I'll blame both. Major apologies to everyone who entered. And I promise to make up for it at the end of this post.

To start things off, we'll do a little light housekeeping...

Would the following two people please email me at elisabeth (at) elisabethnaughton (dot) com to claim their prize????

Winner of MARKED: Kaetrin (comment #26)

Winner of ENTWINED:
Victoria (comment #10)

Congrats to the two winners! Winners, please send me your snail mail addy and I'll get your autographed book in the mail to you ASAP!

Now on to my post...

If you asked my husband how I treat myself, he would laugh and say I treat myself all the time. He's partially right. I don't often wait for an excuse to go shopping or get a pedicure. If I need something, I get it. He claims this is why it's hard to buy gifts for me. I point out jewelry is always an option. (He usually rolls his eyes at that one.)

But when it comes to a special treat, a few ideas come to mind:

Massages - I don't tend to schedule these on a regular basis. Only when it's a special occasion. But I love the way I feel after an hour long massage (or an hour and a half). Totally relaxed, ready to take on the world. Mmm....





A Fancy Dinner Out - I'm never opposed to eating out and foregoing time in the kitchen (especially while on deadline), but with three kids, eating out is never more exciting than Panda Express or a quick trip through the McDonald's drive-through. (My 6 yr old's favorite place in the world!) A fancy dinner with the hubs, though, where we can actually sit and chat about something other than which child flushed the toy down the toilet and where I don't have to cut up anyone's food...now that's a real treat.

A Vacation - Notice I didn't say a vacation with the family. That's because as any parent knows, a vacation with kids is not a vacation. It's work. No, for me, a real vacation is when I can lie on the beach reading books all day and the only person who bothers me is the waiter asking which fruity concoction I'd like to drink next. Where I can dip myself in the pool or ocean whenever I want, and where the most taxing thing I have to do is figure out what to wear to dinner. THAT is definitely my favorite kind of treat. And now that I've written it, I realize it's been way too long since I had one.

So with that said...I'm off to research beach vacations and email all my choices to the hubby. (How can he possibly say I'm hard to buy for????)

Because we're talking treats, I've got another one to give away. And I promise this time I'll post the winner by Friday (not a whole month later). I just got ARCs of my upcoming novella - Acapulco Heat in the BODYGUARDS IN BED Anthology, and they're itching to be read. This is an RS, not connected to my Eternal Guardians series, but it's fast paced, fun and super hot. One lucky commenter will win a free book! Just tell me your idea of the perfect vacation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

MY FAVORITE TREAT by Kathryne Kennedy

A special treat for me (and my family) is to go to the bookstore, find a special book, and curl up and read for the rest of the day. It makes for a very quiet house. :} It’s even more special when I can find a new release by one of my favorite authors, and I feel like I’ve struck gold if I find more than one! There are just some authors whose style resonates with me, and I know I won’t be able to put the book down, regardless of the story. (For example, I don’t look for horror stories, but put a Stephen King book in my hand, and his small-town setting and characters are so engrossing that I can’t put it down.) I know I have hours of entertainment ahead of me, and all for less than ten bucks.

There’s something magical about entering through the double-doors of the bookstore and having a sea of books spread out before you. So many different worlds to enter, and adventures to experience, and characters to fall in love with. It’s often the way I reward myself when I finish writing one of my own books. It’s fun to let someone else do the work, and be able to enjoy the twists and turns of another author’s imagination.

My husband’s tastes and mine will often overlap, so I get the bonus of reading his books when he’s done with them. But as you know, writing is subjective, and try as I might, I just haven’t been able to get into the books he chooses which involve battles and war strategies. Thank heavens for the varied tastes of writers and readers!

I hope my favorite way to treat myself is also one of yours, and I hope that many of you will do us the honor of discovering some of your favorite authors here at Casablanca.

Wishing you my magical best,
And many days of ‘treating’ yourself,
Kathryne

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cat and mouse game


By Mary Margret Daughtridge

(Indulge me; I’m going off-topic.)

I finally found Crystal’s mouse toy in the corner behind the floor lamp, between my big teal leather armchair and the wall.

When I say “mouse toy,” don’t imagine small, gray, furry. It looks like it escaped from a Dr. Seuss book. It measures about ten inches from pointy pink nose to tail tip. One end is half-a-mouse: a lavender mouse head with purple ears, and two lavender, vaguely crocodile-looking front legs. From there it turns into an empty ring striped cone of purple and white fabric tapering to a point.

Never a thing of beauty, after ten years of play, the purple dye has worn off the ears, the cone of fabric is limp, and the once-white stripes are brownish-grey with grime.

I’d have thrown it out years ago, but it’s the only toy, of the dozens I bought her, that Crystal ever played with.

Not that I ever saw her do it.

She kept it mostly in the dining room and hall, and come morning, I’d find it sprawled in a different section of floor.

The morning after I buried her, when I went around the house picking up her things to give away, I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t up against the cabinet in the dining room where I had last seen it.

Oh well. Its grubby condition guaranteed no one would want it for their cat. When I found it, I would toss it. I’ve always believed it's a good idea to remove a pet’s possessions, after they are gone. I don’t need something to remember them by; they are graven on my heart. And the poignant sight of an empty bed or unused food bowl…Well.

I gave the untouched toys and unopened cans of food to my dental hygienist whose beloved Chloe looks a lot like Crystal.

The opened bags of dry food and litter went to a friend who uses the same brands. I washed the stainless steel food and water bowls and stored them in the utility room. Crystal wasn’t the first pet to use them, and she won’t be the last.

Crystal was gone; her earthly effects, disposed of.

Of Crystal’s life there’s not much to say. I took her in when she was about two, after her first person died.

She was a perfectly good cat, tidy in her habits. If you needed a cat she was one, but she was sort of the striped down, no frills, small economy model. Dependable, with good mileage and all that, but the only way to say more would be to list all the flaws she didn’t have. I refuse to diminish her in that way.

She was the best cat she knew how to be. A friend theorized that this was Crystal’s first incarnation as a pet. Possibly, her first try at being a cat at all.

Maybe that explains it. I admit she didn’t seem to know much about how to go about living with people.

All I know is, only in the last month of her life did she seek opportunities to sit or lie close to me.

At first, to my surprise, at night when I was reading, she began to curl up right next to my legs on the teal chair’s hassock. Next she began to walk from the hassock to the chair’s wide arms, where she would sit, and sometimes butt my shoulder to make me pet her. If I stopped to soon, she'd paw me.

From there she advanced to kneading my belly, and finally, to lying down on my stretched out thighs. For the first time in her life, she voluntarily lay in my lap.

Pleasure would be too strong a word, but for the first time in her life, she seemed to draw comfort from my proximity.

Crystal had moved past being a domestic animal, and discovered what it meant to be a pet.

The vet, a pretty young woman with a sweet voice, said a sudden change of personality in a cat was a bad sign. They couldn't get a culture, and her white cell count was normal, but whatever was causing these attacks of what looked like cystitis, it was happening more frequently. Crystal was clearly getting worse, and every trip to the vet was more traumatic for her. There was no need to draw things out with a lot of tests that would likely only show that she was terminally ill.

I decided it was time to put her to sleep.

A week ago today, my friend and I buried her beside my last two dogs. Not too close, but not alone.

I readily accepted that Crystal’s “breakthrough” had really only been a sign of imminent death. It made sense and it changed nothing of what I felt. I was glad I’d had her for twelve years and sad she was gone.

And then I found her mouse toy beside my chair. I can’t recall it ever being there before. Sometime in the last night of her life she had moved it from the dining room and somehow gotten it behind the floor lamp. Pushed it up against the teal chair. Where it could be close to me.

It’s still there. I haven’t been able to bring myself to move it.

Is it hopelessly sentimental of me to see the mouse toy as a message, or at least an intentional act?

And she left a message, what do you think the message is?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Indulgences. . . .

by Cheryl Brooks

We're discussing indulgence this month here on the Casa Babe Blog, but I must admit, I had a hard time deciding what to write for this post. Since I am now writing for two publishers, work a full-time job, have a family, two horses and other assorted pets, I have lost sight of what it truly means to indulge myself. My life consists of fulfilling the needs of others.

Not that I'm complaining. I love writing, and I love my family and all that goes along with caring for them, but now that I am faced with the task of writing this piece, I realize that hidden somewhere beneath the daily grind, I have a dream. A dream that stays with me even when I'm giving pain meds, changing dirty linens, and emptying bedpans. A dream that calls to me when I'm in the middle of writing one of those hot love scenes. Or feeding my horses. Or fixing dinner.

It's a huge dream, and one that would require some major remodeling. But it isn't a pool or a hot tub or my own personal office. No, what I want is a bathroom of my very own. My own soaps (which are my current indulgence), my own towels, my own door, my own sink, my own bathtub with a detachable shower head. And, yes, my own toilet--one that I don't have to get off of until I'm good and ready. Which leads me to the most important part of this dream: having the time to spend in there, uninterrupted, never leaving until I have performed all of my self-pampering ablutions.

Hotel bathrooms come close, but they don't have the same water, the same places to put my favorite soaps, my razor, my towels. No, what I want is one in my own house that I designed myself, according to my every preference and even a few of my whims. Actually, I've already done it once, and I love what we did with it. (And, no, that is NOT a picture of our bathroom!) Our one and only bathroom is a little taste of Italy. Italian flooring, deep green walls, terra cotta-colored towels, elegant fixtures, one of Van Gogh's Italian landscapes on the wall, etc, but I'm always in a hurry whenever I'm in there. On my way to work, or out the door to an appointment, or as usually happens, hurrying because someone else is waiting in line.

I realize that I'm very lucky in that my family is all male, because if I had daughters, my indulgence time would truly be nonexistent. I'm thinking that the next time I need to be pampered, the best thing would be to send my guys to a movie and stay home, indulging myself in my scented soaps and fresh, fluffy towels.

Perhaps I'll do that someday.

If I ever find the time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Decadence by Shana Galen


Quite honestly, there’s not been a lot of decadence in my life. I’m not the kind of person who likes to be pampered. I always feel like there’s something else I could be doing, which would be vastly more productive. That’s not exactly a pampering mindset.

But there are times when all of us need a little pampering, after a hard week at work or a rough day with the kids or after a serious bout of spring cleaning, which is definitely in my future!

My favorite way to treat myself is to get a pedicure. There’s something about having soft, pretty feet that makes me feel refreshed and feminine again. Like many of you, I also enjoy curling up with a good book—my favorite chair, a glass of wine, maybe some chocolate, and a sweeping historical or a funny contemporary are my idea of winding down.

What about you? Do you enjoy being pampered or do you usually have better things to do?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lucky Me

This month's posts are all about decadence. How do you treat yourself, my fellow Casababes ask?I treat myself pretty well, thank you, but there are occasions when I think I deserve an extra-special treat - like when I have a really productive writing day, or get the house looking respectable for a change.

Or right now, when the topic of this blog reminds me that maybe I don't treat myself often enough. Excuse my while I go dish out a big bowl of ice cream and slather it with massive amounts of chocolate sauce.






(Imagine slurping and noshing noises and sighs of piggy satisfaction.)


Okay, I'm back. While I was eating the ice cream, I got to thinking about what really feels decadent and self-indulgent to me. One of my favorite rewards is time with a book. Time that I've blocked out deliberately, when I don't feel pressured or preoccupied with other things I should be doing - like writing books for other people to read.


I recently had a pretty good excuse for self-indulgence: an operation on my jaw, which was really no fun at all. I felt like I deserved a treat just for surviving the seemingly eternal ride home from the surgery center in Denver. I made up my mind that I would take at least three days off to let myself recover. I wouldn't try to do anything productive. I wouldn't clean house, and the DH could take care of the dogs.



And I would read. And read, and read, all I wanted. Something totally different, too. No cowboys. No horses. Not even a romance! That way I wouldn't be comparing my own work as I read, or wondering if my love scenes were as hot as the ones that Cheryl Brooks lady writes, or if my humor was as laugh-out-loud funny as Carolyn Brown.


I read the first couple books in Elizabeth George's Thomas Lynley mystery series a few years ago and loved them. They're British mysteries, something I adore but rarely read because the style of whatever I'm reading tends to bleed over into my own writing and I can't have my cowboys talking like Scotland Yard inspectors or minor aristocracy.


So how did my self-indulgent three days go?: Well, on the first day, after reading about twenty brilliant pages of A Great Deliverance, I remembered that I had Ms. George's book on writing fiction, Write Away, in my office. So I snuck up there, breaking the first rule of indulgence by entering my work space, and flipped through it a little bit.

And then I brought it downstairs and read it cover to cover, interspersing it with long pulls at the first three books in the Lynley series. I enjoyed both tremendously. George is a really gifted writer and teacher, and reading about her process is fascinating. Her characters have amazing depth, and learning how she accomplishes that was fascinating.


So I'm a better writer now, but it's become obvious that I stink at self-indulgence.


Or do I? I love what I do all day - so maybe my life is actually one big self-indulgent festival of romance writing.


You don't have to resort to decadence when you do what you love for a living.


So if you could do anything - anything at all - how would you indulge yourself with a job you love? Chocolate sampler for Godiva? Dude ranch cowboy wrangler? Maserati test driver? Secret shopper at Neiman Marcus? Tell us your dream job!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Your Lucky Day: Contemp Pitchapalooza


by Leah Hultenschmidt, Senior Editor

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

I was going to do a whole post on luck vs. hard work (quite the opposite of this month’s pampering theme, I know). But then Deb and I got on the phone yesterday afternoon and decided we’re on a hunt-down for some contemporary romance. It doesn’t get fresher than this.

What makes an amazing contemporary? It’s all about the guy. When I think about my favorite contemps, we’re getting a hero we can fall in love with very quickly in the story—and I mean in the first chapter when I say early. We’re getting snappy dialogue and characters we really believe in, along with a story we could envision (or fantasize about!) happening to us.

So if you’ve got a fresh complete contemporary romance with high action a la Suze Brockmann, small-town values like Robyn Carr, humor that sizzles like Robin Kaye, or just as all-round delicious as Jennifer Crusie’s BET ME, bring it on! Post a comment below with:

  • Your 2-4 sentence hook/pitch (not just a plot summary, but what makes me want to read)
  • A brief description of your hero
  • A one-sentence author history

Example:

SCRUMPTIOUS is a sizzling 85,000-word contemporary romance that will appeal to fans of Top Chef and Food Network devotees. Marlene has slaved over desserts for years and is now gunning for head chef position of her friend’s restaurant when Joe Rafferty comes to town and calls dibs. Is this a case of too many chefs spoiling the soup or the perfect pairing?

Joe looks amazingly hot in an apron, can feed you a gourmet meal in less than 30 minutes and promised his mom he was absolutely done with one-night stands—a vow he’s come to regret now that Marlene’s in the picture.

Amanda Usen is a debut author (Scrumptious, Sourcebooks Casablanca, Feb. 2012), RWA member and pastry chef.

Other author history examples:

X is a bestselling author of 2 contemporary romances.
Y is a debut author with 5 unpublished manuscripts written.
Z is a multi-published author of 9 books and 3 novellas with top e-book publishers.

I’ll accept pitches through midnight EST, ending at 12:01 a.m. 3/18. If you miss this chance for a critique, you can always email your project to me at romance[at]sourcebooks.com.

Can’t wait to hear what you’ve got, and may the luck of the Irish be with you!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Indulgence? Moi?


I don't consider myself particularly self-indulgent...until I hear about struggles other people go through without complaint. I'll whine about the damndest things. At the moment, our furnace is broken, and I'm waiting for the guy to come and fix it. By the time this blog posts, everything will be repaired and working properly. But our couple of cold days got me to thinking historically.

How the heck did my ancestors survive these awful New England winters? I'm complaining because the electric space heater only heats one side of my body. My husband was complaining last night because he couldn't sleep over the noise of it. Our ancestors had to pile wood on the fire and wait patiently for the room to warm up. If they weren't rich, they had to go out and chop the wood! Dear Lord, I'd have whined myself to death.

Now, I have to tell you that my favorite indulgence is my hot tub. I absolutely love getting in there with a glass of wine and a good book. In nice weather, I'm in there almost daily. So, as you might guess, I haven't been in my hot tub for several months now and I'm cranky. But, for goodness sake...I have a hot tub!

I used to have to go to a public place that rented them out for an hour (see picture,) and who knew who else had been in there--and what they'd been doing. Eek. But there's nothing like the relaxation I get from swirling hot water, bathing all my type-A, tense muscles. Ahhh...

Soon it will be warm enough to get back into my wonderful outdoor hot tub. I can't wait! Days are getting longer and warmer. There's hope in the weather report for a balmy 48 degree St. Patrick's Day.

Let other people drink green beer and make fools of themselves in Irish bars. I'll be in my hot tub, dreaming of more spring days.

What's your favorite indulgence?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Indulge me, please!!! by Judi Fennell

You may have noticed that I've been scarce around the Casababes lately. No, it has nothing to do with any of you wonderful ladies, or our fabulous readers. Sadly, it's this wicked thing the proverbial "they" call a Day Job.

After waaaaay too many years out of the full time office job pool (let's face it, Mommyhood is a full time job like no other), I've finally taken the plunge back in. Unfortunately, there was no dabbling my toe in to see if the water was warm. No, I did the Nestea Plunge! In my defense, however, I will say that I was tricked.

See, my buddy, Joe, whom I've worked with in the past in my part-time/get-me-out-of-the-house-so-I-have-an-excuse-not-to-clean capacity, called me up last July. "Hey, Jude," (I'll wait why you sing the rest of the chorus from the Beatles' song... like I've never heard THAT before...) "I'm with this start-up company that is growing faster than we can follow it and we really need someone to organize us. Since you're the most organized person I know (God, I am really good at that smoke and mirrors thing, aren't I?), will you come work for me? You can do it part time. Even write while you're here. I just need you to work your magic." (Yes, Joe's been around for the "I want to be a published author" thing through my publication and now onto my second series. He's been a really good sport about listening to all things Romance. Oh, have I mentioned Joe and I worked in a construction trailer together? Not his typical conversation before I entered his life...)

But Joe lied.

Part time? Yeah, that lasted like half a day before I realized they needed me full time. And write? Hello? See above sentence about needing me full time.

Then came along this pesky thing called a "LAYOFF" for my husband, including our health benefits, and, well, when the Universe is knocking on your door, you'd better open it. I work the hours I want (which means, I'm home when the teenagers show up from school with Significant Others - no way am I allowing them to be home alone), I have a varied and interesting job, I like the people I work with, the pay is decent and has the promise of more (see "start-up company"), I get to be a hero (see "need you"), and we have health benefits - that the company pays for. Hubs has since become re-employed, thank goodness, but I'd be foolish to turn down this job.

Unfortunately, that doesn't leave me much time for the rest of my life. Writing used to be my full time job--and it actually still is, but whereas I used to consider promo, critiquing, speaking, conferencing, and writing as the full time part, now the writing itself is the main focus. But add in all the hours I do for the rest of the stuff you have to do as a published author and I end up putting in just as many hours as I did before the Day Job, and still try to be there for the kids, have a marriage, a social life, the rest of my family, and try to find the time to indulge my love of reading. Sadly, the last is falling behind.

I try to stop in here and other blogs/sites where I have a presence, but just keeping up with email is tough these days. And sometimes, I just have to say "forget everything" and take some time for myself. (Thanks to Bravo TV for the Real Housewives franchise. Yes, I know I could use that time to read, but sometimes it's just so much easier to watch mindless television. And those ladies deliver some real mindless moments. And I love every one of them.)

I do open the blog while I'm at work, with the best of intentions, but you know what they say about intentions...

So I'd like to doff my hat to those of you who have been doing this on a daily basis for a long time. It's been a serious learning curve on how to focus my writing, organize my time, and learn to say no or give things up that I haven't wanted to give up.

Cleaning the house isn't one of those things, however. And I did splurge and get a cleaning lady. For that alone, I think I'll keep the Day Job. :)

So how do you full time writers/full time Day Jobbers strike a balance? How do you work in your indulgences?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Overindulgence in Stories...by Terry Spear


That's it! I freely admit I'm addicted to storytelling. But it doesn't stop there. I love to read, to discover new worlds, to find new romance.

*sigh*

When I was a kid and budding teen, I loved to read. At one point, we were living in Central Florida, a swampy jungle across the street from our development, with the Sahara Desert- worthy mountains of sand across the canal from my backyard. But it was also hot and muggy and mosquitoes attacked every speck of skin not protected by insect repellent. So I loved to read inside in my air conditioned bedroom.

My parents were not really big readers and wanted me outside to play. And so I explored the jungle with neighborhood kids (which I'm sure if my parents had known, they would have much preferred I stayed in my air conditioned bedroom to read a safe story), and climbed the sand dunes that stretched to the sky, all the while making up my own stories of pirate treasures, being marooned in the desert, or lost in a jungle, and all kinds of other neat scenarios to explain the unnatural worlds I was exploring.

Then my best friend's parents asked me to accompany them to a Florida lake cabin and spend a few days. Yes! They were readers. And I could read as much as I liked. Although we went for long walks through the treed national park and heard a bear's cry, which had us moving back to the cabin pretty quickly. And we swam with snapping turtles, or it might have been a water moccasin, not sure. But we plunged through the reeds at the bank of the lake, making enough racket to scare everything out of there--which was our intention, and played on rafts, while we watched whatever it was, watch us. It had a head like a snake, but a snapping turtle looks much the same in the dark lake with only its nose showing. And their sharp beaks can take off a toe.

And then at night, we all settled down to read.

But...it was never enough. I loved to create my own stories too. And at a very early age, that's what I was doing.

Then life got in the way of reading for pleasure and of storytelling--college degrees, Army courses, then babies... So reading began again with teaching my children to read. And then it was my turn. To create my own stories again. To read for enjoyment again.

With deadlines for promotions, or edits, or the submission of new books, or the pitching of new ideas, I'm in Seventh Heaven as I overindulge in writing.

But I can't and won't give up my reading addiction either! I have two more published author contests I'm judging in the next couple of months, and a stack of TBR books piling ever so higher, and I listen to audio books whenever I can't actually read--so I get my fix.

I'm winding down at the end of THE HIGHLAND WOLF IN PARADISE, 10th book in the series, which was my last contracted book with Sourcebooks. And I was getting antsy with myself. What would I do if I finished the book and didn't have another to write??? No new deadlines?

I'd be lost in the desert sand dunes of my youth, or floundering in a snapping turtle and water moccasin infested lake--we did worry about alligators too--or running amok with no direction in a steamy jungle.

Deb and Sourcebooks came through--Sold!
http://images2.fanpop.com/images/photos/7000000/wolf-wolves-7065445-1286-934.jpg

6 Books---3 more of the wolf books and 3 of a new jaguar shifter series!

jaguar, cat not the car, photo

Jaguars are among the many species which will have habitat protected under a new proposal to protect the Patanal region of Brazil from further sugar cane development. Photo: Getty Images.

So I'm back in Seventh Heaven--or maybe even soaring a lot higher!!!

More wolf tales and some big sexy cat shifters to add to the collection.

But if you need a quickie vampire fix, or a tale about the fickle ways of the Greek Goddesses and Gods…I’ve got some paranormal anthologies up on Kindle and Nook, that will be available soon on Kobo, Sony, and other ereaders. All for only 99 cents each! More to come!

Cover for 'Vampiric Calling'

Vampiric Calling

Ebook By Terry Spear
$0.99
Published: Mar. 05, 2011
Category: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories – single author
Words: 10231 (approximate)

B&N

Kindle

A vampire targets a huntress for his own, and she’s torn between wanting him and knowing she should terminate him. But in the dark of night, who will win the battle?

Samantha Ramsay’s always been different, a huntress born with the gene that makes her kind take up the sword to terminate rogue vampires, yet something isn’t right. They’ve never targeted her before tonight, and now she realizes she can’t kill the sexiest vampire she’s ever encountered, who claims her for his own.

Ralston Vaccarra has waited all the huntress’s life to have her and no one, vampires or hunters alike, will have the woman he claimed for his own the day she was born, only will a huntress be able to accept him and his kind for what they are?

Seducing the Huntress

Ebook By Terry Spear
$0.99
Published: Feb. 12, 2011
Category: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories – single author
Words: 18013 (approximate)

When the vampire takes on a dare to seduce the huntress, little does he know he’s on her terminal list already!Set in an island paradise, neither the huntress nor her prey really knows who the real rogue is and who is being made to take the fall, but will she succumb to the ancient vampire’s will before it is too late?

The vampire Sarzoven and his sister are bored with life so a death-defying game of seducing the huntress is an attempt at eliminating boredom. But Miranda isn’t about to be seduced by the vampire no matter how sexy he is, not when he’s on her terminal list. Sarzoven soon realizes she’s a dark huntress, who doesn’t eliminate a rogue vampire until she’s sure he or she is truly a renegade.

So why is he on her list? Now he must convince her to remove him from her elimination schedule before she decides he really is a rogue. Miranda knows she can’t permit the vampire from swaying her from her mission, but soon she finds she’s on someone else’s list. But who’s behind this twisted game that’s bound to stir up vampire and hunter hatred alike? And can the huntress and vampire overcome their age old distrust of one another before it’s too late?

The Siren’s Lure

Ebook By Terry Spear
$0.99
Published: Feb. 25, 2011
Category: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories – single author
Words: 18592 (approximate)

B&N Nook

Kindle

A vampire wishes upon a falling star and ends up with more than he bargained for. When he attempts to rescue a woman in distress, he soon learns she’s not quite human and not a huntress–or at least like any he’s ever known. That’s when the seduction begins–but who is seducing whom?

Tristina isn’t a huntress in the normal sense. Before meeting the vampire who would rescue her from danger, she never thought anyone could love her for herself. Now, just maybe she’s found the right man for her.

Sardis wants nothing more than a vacation from his ponderous role as prince of the New York vampire clans, but ends up having anything but a peaceful time while staying at a beach resort when he meets the most enticing siren. Trouble doesn’t even begin to describe the new world he finds himself in as he tries to seduce her, and he falls under her siren’s spell instead.

Goddess in Training

Ebook By Terry Spear
$0.99
Published: Feb. 19, 2011
Category: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories – single author
Words: 9089 (approximate)

B&N Nook

Kindle

In a game of the gods, librarian Lisandra, who has never been loved, is chosen to be the goddess of fertility. The demi-god of pleasure, Assarian is ordered by Zeus to train her in the hallowed halls of Mount Olympus to prove to his wife, Hera, goddess of marriage, mortals and immortals alike only need be physically satisfied to find fulfillment, to which Hera disagrees—all creatures must have love to be whole.


And the vampire novel:

Forbidden Love

Ebook By Terry Spear
$2.99 $2.99
Published: Mar. 10, 2011
Category: Fiction » Literature » Fantasy (paranormal)
Words: 88151 (approximate)
B&N
Coming to Kindle soon.


Huntress Alena MacLeod is given a mission: work undercover to discover a rogue vampire’s secretive work, then terminate him.

Ephraim MacNeill, aka Sutton Bastrop, knows Alena is his Elizabeth MacLeod from an earlier time, and he’s determined to return to the past and right all the wrongs to end the curse placed on the love of his life before it’s too late—again.

Together, they must risk all to stop a war between a newly formed Brotherhood of rogue vampires, tired of the status quo, and the League of Hunters, who have ruled for centuries over the vampires—both changed during the Black Death—some of the survivors becoming vampires, and others hunters of the same. And that, my friends, is my overindulgence. My love of stories!

Can you imagine not loving to read???

Terry
"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."
www.terryspear.com

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thanks For Indulging Me

by Olivia Cunning
“I had fun talking to you. Thanks for indulging me.” Myrna picked up her laptop case and left the lounge, the eyes of every man in the room following the gentle sway of her hips.
“And thank you for en-bulging me,” Sed muttered.
Had to share that bit of dialogue from my book, Backstage Pass. Because our theme is indulgence, those few lines run through my head every time I have visited the Casablanca Authors' blog this month. I hope by posting it there, it will finally leave my brain alone. It's driving me nuts!
The same thing happens when I get a song stuck in my head. The only way for me to get a song out of an infinite loop is to sing it at the top of my lungs for days (which makes dogs cry), find a less offensive song to set on repeat in my gray matter, or post a video of it on my blog in a feature I call "One Track Mind".
I've been trying to think of ways I indulge myself. Most involve food. Not healthy or flattering to the figure, but temporarily satisfying and quick. I do indulge in rock concerts when they're nearby. I go to several a year. I'd like to go to several a week, but for some reason, Nebraska isn't a big draw for many rock bands. Hmmmm.... I considering reading an indulgence. I used to read voraciously, but now I'm so busy, it makes me feel guilty. To read. Isn't that just sad? Music is not an indulgence. It's a necessity. I can listen to it while I do other things, so no guilt involved.
So since I'm so dull (all work and no play), I decided to share a little indulgence that occurs in a scene from Rock Hard, the second book in the Sinners on Tour series (coming this April).
“It’s okay, baby,” Sed murmured, squeezing her tighter. “I’ll fix it. I promise.”
She struggled out of his embrace and glared up at him. “You can’t fix this, Sed. You can’t. This is an unfixable situation.”
He cupped her face in both hands and kissed the tears from her cheeks. “I said I’ll fix it and I will. Don’t cry.”
The cab pulled to a stop outside the Bellagio hotel and Jessica scrambled out of the car. People waiting in line for the next available taxi gawked at her as she hurried into the hotel. They’d probably seen her video. Or maybe they found the tears dripping from her jaw and her runny nose interesting. Whatever it was, she wished she had a bag to put over her head.
When they reached the room, Sed directed her to the bathroom. He turned on the taps to fill the large, garden tub.
“What are you doing?”
“Pampering you. Get in the tub. I’ll call room service.”
“I don’t want to be pampered.”
“Too bad. I’m pampering.”
That big tub did look inviting. And there was a complimentary bottle of bubble bath on the edge of the tub. “Okay.”
Sed let out a relieved sigh. He probably thought this fixed things. Well, it didn’t. Nothing would fix this.
“I’ll be right back.” And when he kissed her—for a fleeting moment—she started to believe that things really were going to be okay.
Less than twenty minutes later, she was already feeling more like herself. Fragrant bubbles tickling the bare skin of her shoulders, Jessica leaned forward in the tub and opened her mouth to accept the spoonful of chocolate mousse Sed offered. Her eyes rolled up in her head as she licked every decadent trace of dessert from the spoon. Smooth, sweet and rich. She rubbed the mousse between the roof of her mouth and tongue, reluctant to swallow. Chocolate made everything better. Even her f*cked up life.
Jessica groaned. “It’s so good.”
“It can’t be half as good as watching you eat it.” He grinned at her and scooped another spoonful from the tall parfait glass.
“Aren’t you going to have any?” she asked, eagerly accepting another bite of his treat.
His grin widened and one of his adorable dimples made an appearance. “I’m saving my appetite for dessert.”
“You can climb in here with me, you know.” Sex with Sed was even better at taking her mind off things than chocolate. And more than anything, she longed for blank thoughts.
Sitting next to the tub, still fully clothed, Sed shook his head. “We both know where that will lead. You’ve had a hard day, sweetheart. I want you to relax.”
She’d forgotten how sweet he could be at times. “It’s hard to relax when I keep thinking about that stupid vid—”
He silenced her by stuffing a large strawberry in her mouth. She chewed, the sour tang of the fruit contrasting with the sweet chocolate still stimulating her taste buds.
“Then stop thinking about it.” He reached across the expanse of lily-scented bubbles and stroked a strand of hair from her cheek.
“You are taking my mind off things.”
Both dimples made an appearance this time. Her heart skipped a beat. Why couldn’t he be like this all the time?
“I am?”
“Well, you and the chocolate.” She opened her mouth, ready for her next bite.
Now, I'm ready to indulge in some Sinners' vocalist Sedric Lionheart. So yummy. Too bad he's fictional.  Do you consider reading a necessity or an indulgence?
And because today is my only son's 18th birthday (look out world, he's legal), I'll be indulging in some guilt-free birthday cake later.