Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ushering In Change

At the start of each year my sister and I sit down do our tarot cards for the next twelve months. One card for each month and one for overall—so 13 in total. I don’t know when this ritual started or what we hope to prove but for a few hours, usually with a glass of wine, we shuffle and deal and examine and make guesses. We look back at last year’s and sometimes we can go oh yes, March was 2 of coins and I was juggling a lot of different projects which ties perfectly (hindsight is 20/20). At this time I also like to look back at the good things the year brought: things-that-made-me-smile-in-2011

In December I also like to clear my writing desk and make an attempt to look super organised for January (so far looking good as I can still see my writing desk—my desk at work is a lost cause, A1 plans take up a lot of space). This year I also took down two years’ worth of goblin notes which I’d stuck to the wall behind my desk. I also removed some paint in the process—woops. This was neatly covered up by new magnetic white board. My writing area is now looking fresh and clean…or was. I’ve already started accumulating notes about my new WIP.

I also declutter the study my husband and I share. There’s something cathartic about clearing away. I think in feng shui it’s about allowing the flow of energy. For me it’s about being able to sit my hot chocolate down without perching it on a pile of possibly important papers.

Legacy of the Divine by Ciro Marchetti
Around the house it’s also spider spraying time. Got to kill those red-backs before they wander into the house, ditto for the white tails (there is nothing more disconcerting that watching a movie and seeing one crawl out of the chair next to you). The golden orbs we tend to leave as they are harmless even if they do make an unsightly web.

In case you’re wondering my year ahead is the six of cups: “Live in the moment, remember the past, dream for the future.” Good advice no matter the time of year.

Do you do anything specific at the start of the year?

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Beginnings?

To be honest, a new beginning is what I need.Despite the release of my debut novel DEMONS PREFER BLONDES in June and the sequel, DEMONS LIKE IT HOT, in December, 2011 was a year that isn’t worth repeating. Several family dilemmas and emergencies really played the ringer on my writing mojo. I come from a rather close-knit family, so when they hurt, I hurt with them.

My sister became ill and that found me in the middle of helping my mother transport children here and there, to school and other various events. Things seem to be on the up and up on and my sister is on the mend, which I am truly grateful for.

Then, the day before thanksgiving, my other sister’s cat was fatally mauled by two pitbulls whose owners thought it would be funny to watch their dogs attack a poor defenseless cat. My mother and I arrived right after the incident. If only we had been there a few minutes earlier. We found the cat cowered in the corner scared out of its mind and in shock. We rushed him to the vet, but they couldn’t save him. The vet tech said it was the same type of injury seen with shaken babies. There were witnesses and we managed to track down where they lived and filed a report, but it looks like these delinquents are going to get away with it. I’m sure eventually they’ll get their comeuppance.

I’ve also been toying with the idea of returning to school to finish up my degree. In this economy and the job market in such a rut, most employers won’t even look at your resume without at least a BA. I have an associates, but in this day and age, it really doesn’t get you far.

So as 2012 rolls around, I’m all for new beginnings. Be it a new line of employment or returning to school. Either way, it’s something I need to do. 2011 just helped me put it all into perspective.

To celebrate some new beginnings, I present you with my newest cover for my December 2012 release, A DEMON TO DIE FOR. This is the third book in the Demons Unleashed series and it stars demoness Kalli Corapolous and Cardiologist Dr. Joshua Carlson—who ends up being a little more than human.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Goodbye CHECKMATE, MY LORD--Helllooo, Ethan deBeau, by Tracey Devlyn

New beginnings? Wow, I think this whole year is going to be one new beginning after the other. My debut novel, A LADY'S REVENGE, steps onto the ballroom floor in April--six years after agent Cora deBeau made a mental appearance and then decided to stay in my life for a while.

In addition to all the wonderful things I must do to prepare for ALR's debut, I'll be attending several functions as an author, rather than a pre-pub. An incredibly exciting realization. I'll be taking part in several book signings, too. Here are the highlights of my schedule:

Barbara Vey's Reader Appreciation Luncheon
April 10, 10:30 am - 4:00 pm, Oak Creek, WI

RT Booklovers Convention
April 11 - 14, Rosemont, IL

Spring Fling Conference
April 27-28, Hoffman Estates, IL

Romance Writers of America
July 24-28, Anaheim, CA

Put Your Heart in a Book Conference
October 12-13, New Jersey

My critique partner, Adrienne Giordano, and I are excited to open a satellite Lady Jane's Salon in Naperville, Illinois. While in New York City last summer for a national writers conference, we attended the original Lady Jane's and had a wonderful time. Fast forward a few months and we're opening a salon in our area. If you're not familiar with Lady Jane's, it's a reading salon devoted to romantic fiction. Authors read an excerpt from their books to a live audience. It's an amazing way to bring authors and readers together and all the proceeds go to charity. Stop by if you're ever near Chicago!

Whew, I'm tired just writing about my 2012 schedule. But I'm not done!

In a few short weeks, I'll be delivering CHECKMATE, MY LORD, the second manuscript in my British Secret Service series (aka The Nexus) and then I'll begin drafting the third book. Ethan deBeau's story. So I'll be saying goodbye to Lauren and Sebastian, then jumping into all sorts madness with Samantha and Ethan. *rubbing hands together*

OH! I nearly forgot to mention one of the happiest days of my life--the day I received the advanced reading copies (ARC) for A LADY'S REVENGE. Talk about a thrilling moment. You can see the play-by-play moment on my blog, Bollocks!, a la my mischievous husband. I'm holding one of the ARCs in the picture above.

If you're attending any of the events above, please stop by and say hello. I would love to connect with you in person.

Not one for conferences? Visit me on the Internet...


* * *

Tracey Devlyn writes historical romantic thrillers (translation: a slightly more grievous journey toward the heroine's happy ending). An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekend torturing her characters.



Saturday, January 28, 2012

I HOPE YOU DANCE...

Talk about new beginnings.

In my writing world I was doing a nice long line dance where my characters were all dancing together in time with the music ... step forward, kick back, slap your fanny and yell, “Hell, yeah!”

Like the line dance, I had all my ducks in a row. One Hot Cowboy, coming out in April…check. Woman’s Fiction book (although we were having trouble with just the right title) coming out in August…check. Mistletoe Cowboy, October…check. Just a Cowboy, December…check. Now slap my fanny and yell, “Hell, yeah!” and get on to the last book in the contract … check.

Then the music stopped.

The line dance broke up and new beginnings began as the band switched from playing a fanny slapping line dance to a two-step.

Uncheck, uncheck, uncheck as I watched the ducks waddle back to the pond in the space of a twenty minute phone call.

One Hot Cowboy, still coming out in April …check.

But there was a whole new bunch of new beginnings on my dance card.

It was time to partner up with the WIP which was supposed to be my spring 2013 book but had been shuffled into the October slot to be my Christmas book. I’d been planning on it being a hot summertime book and suddenly there was snow flying in the air and Christmas songs playing on the radio. It was time to hug up to it and talk the weatherman into changing the temperature from three digit summertime heat to a blizzard and one digit wintertime cold. Changes got made. Christmas will arrive in the form of Mistletoe Cowboy in October. It’s finished and only needs a little polish applied before I throw it across cyberspace to Deb.

But now a new slow song starts and brings another new beginning. It’s time to do some slow dancin’ with my woman’s fiction book. Believe me, it’s a heck of a lot harder to change horses in the middle of a raging river than you think. I’ve been on the romance horse for a long time and the friendship horse is trying to cooperate but the shift is not easy. So we are pushing it ahead to January and I’m going to tinker with it some more. I have every confidence that it is going to strengthen the book and it will sell a million copies (yes, ma’am, I dream big! Hell, yeah!) What fun!

As soon as the woman's fiction song is finished, then it’s take a deep breath, grab a drink and start on edits for Just a Cowboy. It needs a rewrite since it’s now my December book and not the Christmas one. I can't wait to get back to it and visit with Gemma and Trace about all the changes we are about to make.

After that two-step, I get to grab another drink because the next song will start up and I'm changing partners one more time. Dewar and Haley are waiting in line for me. Their story was the middle book but it has moved to the last slot and we're going to dance and talk about the new changes for their story. So I’ll two-step with it so it will be ready for a spring, 2013 publication.

The band has promised that when all the shuffling is done that they’ll play nothing but line dances for a while and all my ducks will be in a row again.

Me?

Change is good and as long as the band is playing, I’m happy to be on the dance floor either line dancing or with a partner! So (raise your glass of wine, shot of Jack Daniels, cup of coffee or even your herbal tea) here’s to the dance, folks. May all your new beginnings bring you happiness and success this year…and like Lee Ann Womack says in her song, if you have a chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance!

Have you ever gotten a phone call that changed your direction? What did you do about it ... dance or sit it out?

There is an ARC of One Hot Cowboy Wedding (April 2012) waiting to give away to one lucky person who comments on this blog today! Interested? (US and Canada Only please. Winner chosen Monday, Jan. 30)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Danger that is Damion

Happy 2012 everyone!
I know I'm getting old because I already month of 2012 and it feels like days. I blinked and it's gone. I am going to blink and it will be RT Convention time too. RT is in Chicago this year and I was born in Springfield and have tons of family up that way. I am really excited to get to see them all. I hope I will get to see many of the Casablanca authors there and meet a lot of the readers I talk to on twitter, facebook, and yahoo groups. And what timing -- Damion is out right after RT!

Since we are beginning a new year, I thought it would be fun to share the first impression the heroine from THE DANGER THAT IS DAMION makes on Damion.



Coming in May!
**Note-- blogger wasn't playing nice with me. It keeps centering the excerpt. So my apologies that it's not aligned a bit nicer.
THE DANGER THAT IS DAMION

By Lisa Renee Jones

ZODIUS #3: THE DANGER THAT IS DAMION

Sourcebooks Casablanca (May 2012)

Zodius Series Page

Pre-order at Amazon|Barnes and Noble

General Powell from book 1 has returned and he’s developed a way to create and control a new generation of female GTECHs. He plans to use these women to bring both, the Renegades and the Zodius soldiers, back under his command. The world will be his. Now, Damion, a Renegade, who readers met in book two, will be pitted against one of those soldiers, a woman destined to be both his Lifebond and his enemy. Damion will become her only hope of salvation and their trust in each other the only chance they have to save the world from a madman.


Read on for an Excerpt:

The Danger that is Damion Excerpt

May 2012!

There was nothing unusual to a casual observer about a hot woman in a white string bikini, lounging poolside, a few feet from where undercover Renegade soldier Damion Browne leaned against the cabana-style bar, a beer in hand. In fact, from a purely male standpoint, there was absolutely everything right with this particular woman, a brunette with long, silky, dark hair brushing creamy white shoulders. But then, he was on duty, and he took that duty too seriously to allow primal urges to distract him. Still…something about this woman set his blood to pumping, and like it or not, that translated to a distraction that was out of character for him.

He told himself it was because she’d shown up ten minutes into the outdoor excursion of a Russian nuclear scientist, and his family, that Damion was covertly ensuring didn’t end up in Adam Rain’s arsenal of weapons. The he last thing the Renegades wanted was the leader of the Zodius GTECH movement getting his hands on the nuclear technology Lev was selling the United States in exchange for citizenship.That’s why this woman was a potential risk, he told himself, not because she had long, shapely legs that belonged wrapped around a man’s waist–his waist, Damion thought, with a rush of pure male heat. They belonged around his waist. Damn. What was wrong with him?

Inwardly, he shook himself, not sure what it was about this woman, but she could easily drag him into the linger zone when he didn’t go to the linger zone on duty. Scratch that, he thought, as he glanced at Lev and family, and back to her, she already had him in the linger zone, and there was no forgiving his distraction unless… That gnawing gut feeling was telling him that underneath all that sex appeal, she was trouble, despite Adam’s dislike of female operatives. Add that to the fact that the CIA team watching Lev had allowed him outside in the first place, and Damion had a bad bad feeling about this. Suddenly, as if she sensed his suspicions, the dark-haired beauty’s head snapped in his direction, her attention settling on him, her eyes shielded by white-rimmed sunglasses. Time stood still for an intense, crackling moment. Certainty filled him. She had known the entire time that he was watching her.

The microphone tucked discreetly inside Damion’s ear hummed a second before the voice of his Harley loving, wildcard, second-in-charge, Chale Bonner, spoke, “We reported Lev’s barking dog to the front desk several times. Looks like security is headed his way. We’ll have him inside the building where he’s less exposed in a flash.”

Damion didn’t reply. He was still watching the woman, who as abruptly as she’d given her attention, jerked it away. Reaching for her bag, she stood up, offering him a nice, heart-shaped, backside view, as she sashayed away. Her pace was slow, confident, but a bit too precise. She was hiding something besides the intimate details of her body, details he wanted to discover beneath those tiny pieces of white material. Adam didn’t typically work with women—he believed they were inferior beings—but somehow, someway, this one was the source of the warning in his gut.

“Alert,” Chale added. “Doggy Patrol has arrived. Get ready for movement.” Damion eyed the backdoor of the hotel to find two uniformed security guards, and a woman dressed in a suit, headed toward Lev and his brood.

“I see them,” Damion said, his gaze shifting to the fast-departing, bikini-clad female. But had she seen them? Was that why she couldn’t get away from this place fast enough?

Damion set the beer down and discreetly touched the mike hidden in his ear. “Cover Lev. Something about that woman is bothering me.” He pushed off the bar and started walking, unable to use his GTECH ability to travel inside the wind without risk of garnering unwanted attention. This woman was dangerous. The kind of dangerous a soldier, a Renegade, didn’t let escape.


Now for the question of today, what makes you pick up a book? The cover, the title, the author's name, or something else? Do you buy on a splurge or do you have a list of books you are looking for and rarely stray?








YOU TELL ME!

by Deb Werksman
Editorial Manager,
Sourcebooks Casablanca

Instead of hearing myself talk today, I want to hear from YOU! To that end, please see below a short survey of your romance reading habits. Please cut and paste with your answers, either as a post here, or in an email to me directly deb.werksman@sourcebooks.com .

A random selection of 5 responders will win a FREE novel of your choice from Sourcebooks! Be sure to include your email address in your post if you want to be included in the drawing.

Please tell your friends—I want to hear from as many people as possible!

1) How many romance novels have you read in the last 3 months?

2) What sub-genres were they?
___ Contemporary
___ Paranormal
___ Romantic Suspense
___ Historical
___ Erotic Romance
___ Other (please specify)

My favorite sub-genre is:

3) How many were were ebooks? ___
How many were print books? ___
Of how many did you get BOTH the ebook and the print book? ___

4) Where did you buy them? (check all that apply)
___online (Amazon, BN.com, ARe, etc.)
___bookstore (Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, etc.)
___other retailer (Target, Walmart, etc.)
___used (used bookstore, tag sale, library sale, etc.)
___Other (please specify)

5) How many were by authors you had never read before?

6) Where did you find out about authors you had never read before? (check all that apply)

___recommended by friend or family
___saw review online
___saw printed review
___picked up while browsing in a bookstore
___picked up while browsing in the library
___Other (please specify)

7) How many of the romances you read in the last 3 months did you then recommend to other people?

8) Are you an author yourself?
___published
___aspiring
___no

9) On romance covers, which do you pick up most often:
___Hero alone—with abs
___Hero alone, clothed
___Couple
___Heroine alone
___Landscape

10) Any comments or other things you’d like to share about your reading and/or book buying?

Thank you for participating in this survey!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First Look at Untouched & Giveaway! -- Sara Humphreys

As fate would have it, this month's theme fits in nicely with my April release, Untouched. Kerry Smithson experiences a series of "firsts" courtesy of the disarmingly handsome, Dante Coltari.

Allow me to explain.

Kerry is a plus-size model with a super-size secret and she's hidden her curse from every single person in her life, including her best friend Samantha. Just the slightest touch of another human being brings blistering pain and mind-numbing visions and even though she's lived much of her life in the public eye, she's remained isolated.

Adopted into a cold and aloof family, she's never known real love, except for her BFF.  Samantha is the only person she can touch without pain or frightening visions. When she touches Sam, all she sees is the image of a wolf.

Kerry has no idea why that's the case...she's just grateful for it.

So let's think about this. If she can't touch anyone without experiencing blood-curdling pain...then it would go to follow that she's never......um...yeah...our heroine is a thirty year old virgin.

A super-hot-amazonian- drop-dead-sexy-virgin.

Until Dante comes along...

Dante Coltari (not a virgin but that's okay...we want a man who knows what he's doing) is an Amoveo from the Fox Clan and he's finally, after years of searching, found his mate. When he realizes his mate is a hybrid, like Samantha, he is fully aware of the challenges that lie ahead.

The Purists, including his own father, want to eliminate all of the hybrids to keep their ancient race of shape-shifters free of human blood. The only thing that keeps Dante from completely losing his mind is her gift of second sight. He figures that since she's already been living outside the human norm,  she'll be able to accept her Amoveo heritage with ease. He hangs all of his hopes on the fact that once they are mated all of the pieces will fall into place and she'll be able to better manage her gift.

Dante's company, Inferno Securities, is hired to provide security for Kerry while she's on a photo shoot in New Orleans. He knows that he has to get her to trust him in order to win her heart and keep her safe but that's going to be a challenge. She doesn't fall at his feet and instantly succumb to his charm.

That's a first for him.

There are several firsts for Kerry that go beyond "the first time"...although that's a rather memorable moment. But not in the awkward-teenager-where-do-I-put-stuff kind of way.

The first time he touches her there's the surprising absence of pain, an even more unexpected wave of pleasure and the sole image of a massive fox fills her mind.

There's the first kiss....first caress...first....y'know....

So here's a first look at what's on the pages beneath that gorgeous cover. Seriously, I don't know how the Sourcebooks art department does it. They capture the story so beautifully. Every. Single. Time.



In this scene, Kerry and Dante have just arrived at The Hotel Monteleone and she's getting settled in her room. Her head is spinning. He'd touched her, albeit briefly, on the plane and that mere brush of his thumb sent breathtaking pleasure through her body. Unsure if it was just a fluke, she accepts his hand as she's exiting the car and finds that it's most definitely not a one-time thing.

Something about Dante's touch was blissfully different.

Kerry's got no idea what's going on...the only thing she's sure of is that she wants more.


***
They rode up to the fourteenth floor in silence, and Kerry found herself feeling awkward and unsure. She felt like a high schoolgirl on a date for the first time. She cringed at her own foolishness. Jeez, what a dork.

The ding of the elevator signified arrival to their floor and broke the silence.

“So why is it called the Tennessee Williams suite?” he asked while they made their way down the corridor.

“All of the suites are named after authors.” Kerry fished the card key out of the paper folder and slid it into the door.

He grunted what must have been his version of saying he understood as he pushed past her into the massive suite. The large living room was well appointed with a sofa and armchairs in varying hues of cream and beige. A dining table loomed largely on the left side of the room with an enormous crystal chandelier dangling overhead. The towering windows were elegantly adorned in floral drapes fringed with tassels.

Kerry closed the door behind them and made her way into the similarly decorated and cavernous bedroom. The king-size bed looked exceptionally welcoming. She shook her head as Dante proceeded to look around every corner and in every closet. He even checked the bathroom, but for what she wasn’t sure. Although it was certainly big enough for someone to hide in, he found nothing, and made his way back to the living room.

“While I’m getting settled here,” she called from the bathroom, “why don’t you go on downstairs and get yourself checked in. I’m sure you’ve managed to get the suite next door,” she mumbled under her breath.

“No. I’ll be staying here,” he said absentmindedly, looking out the window at the bustling street below.

Kerry dropped her makeup bag onto the smooth granite counter and looked at herself in the mirror. “Is he crazy?” she whispered to her own reflection. She stormed into the living room to ask him the same question. “Are you crazy? You’re not staying in my room with me.” Her body trembled with outrage, and as much as she hated to admit it, some excitement. She crossed her arms in an effort to quiet her shaking limbs.

He didn’t even turn around, just continued staring out the damn window.

“I can’t very well protect you while staying in another room at the hotel.” His voice was irritatingly calm. When he finally turned around, she noticed he’d taken off his stupid sunglasses. “I’ll sleep out here on the sofa,” he said, gesturing to it. “Besides, I don’t sleep much anyway. I’m really more of a night creature.” A smile spread slowly across his face as he closed the distance between them. “Don’t worry, princess. You’ll be perfectly safe.”

His hulking frame loomed largely in front of her, and she felt positively tiny. She never felt tiny. Ever. Would every single encounter with this man bring a new sensation? Kerry’s tongue darted out, nervously licking her lips. Her breath caught in her chest, and her heart raced wildly. She brushed that pesky stray lock of hair off her face and struggled to keep her expression neutral.

When Kerry opened her mouth to protest, Dante placed a fingertip on her lips and shook his head slowly. She sucked in her breath, and her body shuddered faintly at the exquisite effect of his touch. Sweet, honeyed warmth radiated from her lips, flickered over skin, and flashed through the rest of her body. Did every woman feel this way when a man touched her? Is this how it’s supposed to be?

 God, she hoped so.

Kerry’s eyes fluttered closed as he gently stroked her bottom lip with his thumb, and his fingers brushed her cheek. The vision of the fox floated gently into her mind. Its amber eyes glowed brighter with every featherlight stroke. Exquisite pleasure rippled through her body. Too tired to fight it and exhausted from years of isolation, she allowed herself to give in. Eyes closed, she leaned into his hand and surrendered to the seductive sensations swirling through her.

She didn’t know why he could touch her this way. She didn’t care. All she knew was that she never wanted it to end. As if he’d read her mind, Dante held her face with both hands and stroked her cheeks softly. He tread lightly over the virgin flesh. The rough texture of his fingers against her soft skin created delicious friction.

“You have nothing to fear from me,” he said. The sound of his voice washed over her, enticing and erotic. He leaned in, and his breath blew hotly against her ear. She moaned softly in response, sinking deeper into the sweet honey of his touch. She hung there, blissfully succumbing to it, until one word floated into her mind and ripped her from the soft sensations. Princess.

Her body stilled. Her eyes flew open, and she launched herself away from him.

“What the fuck?” she whispered through trembling lips. She backed away blindly and nearly fell over the large armchair. He didn’t move or try to come after her, but kept his expression neutral. Dante stood there as though speaking to her with his mind was a totally normal thing to do.

“Did you just—?” She stammered helplessly and pointed at him accusingly. “Say something, for Christ’s sake! Don’t just stand there looking at me like I’m crazy.”

He stayed stone still. His deep amber eyes stared back at her as he held her in his unrelenting gaze. She stood her ground, hands planted firmly on her hips, waiting for him, daring him to deny it. The silence that pulsed between them seemed almost palpable. She wanted to scream and pound him in the chest, make him tell her she wasn’t crazy—and then she heard it.

Yes.

***
When I was writing Untouched, I had a first of my own. I was completely stuck and my muse wasn't forthcoming (that's not the first...or the last) but when I heard the song Honey on the Skin by Amy Petty....everything just clicked. Amy is a brilliant singer and songwriter. She and her record label have been kind enough to let me use her music for all of the Amoveo book trailers. Here's the trailer for Untouched and it features the song that inspired me.


**Leave a comment on the blog and tomorrow I'll select one commenter at random to receive a signed arc of Untouched!**


Can't wait to get your copy? You can pre-order it!
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Old Beginnings by Grace Burrowes

I started writing romance in my late forties, saw my first contract around age 51, and at age 52 have four books on the shelves—for which I’m very grateful. To appearances, I got a late start, but a good one, in the published author biz.

And I was lucky—I didn’t have to do much pitching, didn’t have to query a zillion agents, didn’t have to revise and resubmit a dozen books. I wrote a few manuscripts, sent them around to some contests, pitched an editor, and here we are, several Regency romances later, loving life.

Except that characterization, while not deceptive, is not accurate either. Trace the threads of my writing story back to their origins, and you’ll see me forty years ago, being lent a copy of “The Wolf and the Dove” by a junior high acquaintance. Trace them back further, and you’ll find me reading my eyes bloodshot at the age of eight, when I got hold of my first Hardy Boys adventure (never did find much of interest about Nancy Drew). When I was seven, I started keeping my first journal—large print before it was popular.

Roll forward, and I’m in college pursuing political science and music history degrees, while I work on the campus newspaper as an arts reporter, copy editor, and arts editor. I learned AP style, got some writing basics down, and laid the groundwork to do some concert reviews for The Washington Post. I also landed a couple jobs after college as a technical writer and editor, (and learned that proofreading is not my thang).

It never once occurred to me to pursue writing fiction professionally. I was a musician, a document production coordinator, technical editor, a lawyer, a mediator… “Commercial fiction,” I said as I bought every Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase and Judith Ivory I could find, “is for people with writing talent, tenacity and imagination.”

I did not consider myself a writer, even though in law school I had to write one term paper after another. I endured this (while working full time and taking on single parenting) solely by reading a half dozen romances every week. For my master’s degree, my advisor let me write a romance novel that evaluated the American legal system from a conflict management viewpoint (which I also endured by consuming romance novels voraciously).

By the time I “started” writing romance novels for fun, I had read at least 12,000 romances, I had filled at least 100 handwritten journals, I had memorized two style manuals (though I’ve forgotten GPO style number rules, thank God), and published at least 200 byline articles. The only person in my family who was surprised when I was offered a contract so soon after I “started” to write was me.

The point of this diatribe is to note that I had no idea what I was beginning when I read “The Wolf and the Dove” all those decades ago.

Beginnings are usually invisible, and this is a wonderful thing. Every day, going about your usual routine, you are very likely sowing the seeds for entire new careers, whether you know it or not. You are nurturing dreams, fertilizing hopes, and finding the keys to doors you can’t even see yet. See your day as an accumulation of clues to the treasure map of your future, and everything takes on the aspect of a wonderful new beginning.

What about you? How far back did your current dream start and at the time, could you see where those threads were leading?

Monday, January 23, 2012

First Impressions by Stephanie Julian

As we all know, first impressions are so important.



That's especially true with books, where a reader will usually pick up a book based first on the cover. I've been blessed with three gorgeous covers for my Forgotten Goddess series. They perfectly express the sensual nature of the stories inside.

After that, if the reader is like me, they'll flip the book and read the back cover blurb. I can't tell you how many times I've put a book back on the shelf because the blurb failed to hook me. But if it did, I immediately go to the first chapter and start to read. For me, if the first page fails to catch my interest, I put the book down. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

I'm sure there are great books out there that I haven't read because the first few sentences simply didn't grab my attention.


The most recent example of one that did hook me...Gena Showalter's THE DARKEST NIGHT. "Every night, death came, slowly, painfully, and every morning Maddox awoke in bed, knowing he'd have to die again later."


Totally sucked me in. I have no idea why I haven't been reading these books since they first started releasing several years ago.


Then there's Suz Brockmann's EVERYDAY, AVERAGE JONES. I remember buying it at Kmart. It was August 1998 (I know this because the book is an Intimate Moments and that's what it says on the cover). My kids were 5 and 3 and I was a binge reader. Two books a day if they were Harlequins or one a day single title. I devoured H/S books by the ton. I was friends with a used book dealer and she kept my addiction fed. I didn't buy a lot of new books because we couldn't afford to supply my habit. But for whatever reason, I picked up EVERYDAY, AVERAGE JONES. I think the uniform on the main character caught my eye first. I flipped it over. "Girl next door," "rescue," "adrenaline rush." Buzz words for the kind of stories I usually like.

Then I opened it up. "It was extremely likely that she was going to die." Which I knew wasn't true because the hero was going to save her and they were going to live happily ever after but I wanted to know why she thought she wasn't getting out alive. And I wanted to know how the hero saved her.

Needless to say I bought the book which resides with all my other Brockmann books on her very own keeper shelf in my office. It's still one of my favorites and it made me scour the used book stores and sales until I found the first three books in the series (which, yes, remain on that shelf, as well. full disclosure, PRICE JOE remains on my bedside bookcase, where I keep the books I'd toss out the window before I would jump if my house was burning).

So what are some of your favorite first lines?

If you're intrigued by the Forgotten Goddesses series, WHAT A GODDESS WANTS is still on sale for $1.99 electronically. Amazon  B&N

Sunday, January 22, 2012

First Drafts by Tamara Hogan

Can you keep a secret? Vegas rules, right?

I hate writing first drafts. There. I said it.

I know, I know. I've heard all the writerly bromides: "First drafts are  supposed to be bad." "You can fix anything but a blank page." But the perfectionist who lives in my head isn't listening. She's singing, "Let it suck, let it suck, let it suck!" - to the tune of "Let It Snow" - at the top of her lungs. Being I'm five chapters into my third manuscript, with a good fifteen chapters yet to go, let's just say she's gonna be singing for awhile.

Yeah, I know. La Nora's right. Once the first draft has been written, the words can be fixed - but I've learned that I'm one of those writers who loves revising, and sometimes vapor-locks looking at a blank screen.

Some tricks I've learned to goose myself out of the blocks a little faster:

Step away from the computer. I pick up a notebook and pen, set the timer for 10 minutes, and free-write everything I think I know about the scene I'm working on. This inevitably turns into beats of dialogue, at least some of which are usable, and a good sense of the scene sequence. Who does what? What information is concealed and revealed? How do I connect the dots from the previous scene to the next? Once I go back to the glowing screen, I'm warmed up, and have a much better idea of where I'm going.  

Eye games: I sometimes change my word processor settings so it displays white text on a blue background. This looks less "blank" to me. 

Just talk it out, a/k/a "First Drafts for Dummies": sometimes I fire up my Dragon voice recognition software and simply talk about the scene instead of writing it down, with no pressure to produce anything usable. Voila! The page is no longer blank! And I can revise, revise, revise. 

Hmm. Looks like Nora's right after all. Was there any doubt? ;-)

Writers, how do you get out of your own way and just get the first draft down? Any tips and tricks you can share?   

Saturday, January 21, 2012

UNDER FIRE - New Excerpt! (By Catherine Mann)

Happy New Year, everyone! Our January blog theme of new beginnings immediately made me think of my next "Elite Force" book coming out in May - UNDER FIRE. While I've posted an excerpt from chapter one of UNDER FIRE in a previous blog, I have not yet posted THE beginning of the book. This blog presents the perfect opportunity!



For those of you who have not yet read my "Elite Force" books, they feature Air Force pararescue jumpers (PJs.) There are only approximately 350 pararescuemen in the world, and they're trained for high risk rescues, military and civilian. Land. Water. Mountains. They can hold off an opposing force if needed and stabilize a wounded individual while waiting for transport out.



PJs train hard, then train even harder... Ooh-rah!

And now, an advance peek at the opening of UNDER FIRE, "Elite Force" book 3, May 2012:

CHAPTER ONE:
Patrick Air Force Base, Florida:

“Kill one. Screw one. Marry one.”

Major Liam McCabe almost choked on a gulp of the Atlantic as his pararescue teammate’s words floated across the waves. Today’s two-mile swim was pushing toward an hour long. A light rain pocked the surface faster by the second. Still, there was no reason to think one of his guys had gone batty.

Liam sliced an arm through the choppy ocean, looking to the side. “Wanna run that by me again, Cuervo?”

Jose “Cuervo” James swam next to him, phrases coming in bursts as his face cleared the water. “It’s a word game. Kill one. Screw one. Marry one. Somebody names three women…” Swim. Breathe. “And you have to pick.” Swim. Breathe. “One to marry. One to kill. One to--”

“Right,” Liam interrupted, “got it.”

He would have sighed and shook his head except for the whole drowning thing. At moments such as these, he felt like a stodgy old guy more than ever.

“So, Major?” Cuervo stroked along and over the rippling waves. Storm clouds brewed overhead. “Are you in?”

On monotonous swims or runs, they’d shot the breeze plenty of times to take their minds off screaming muscles. The distraction was particularly welcome during intense physical training.

This word game, however, was a first.

A quick glance reassured him the other six team members were keeping pace with him and Cuervo. Each held strong, powering toward the beach still a quarter of a mile away.

Feet pumping his fins, Liam shifted his attention back on the “game.” His body burned from the effort, but he had plenty of steam left inside to finish up. He was their team leader. Their commanding officer. He would not fall behind.

“How about I just listen first?” Water flowed over his body, briny, chilly. Familiar. “Let one of the others start off.”

“Sure, old man,” huffed Cuervo, spewing a mouthful to the side. “If you need to save your breath to keep pace. Okay, Fang, you’re up.”

Fang, the youngest of the group and the one most eager to fit in, arced his arms faster to pull up alongside. “Bring it on.”

“Topic for first three. Brad Pitt’s women,” Cuervo barked. “Gwyneth Paltrow. Jennifer Anniston. Angelina Jolie.”

“Jennifer’s hot,” Fang spewed water with his speedy answer. “I would do her in a heartbeat.”

Liam found an answer falling from his mouth after all. “I’d marry Angie.”

“Too easy.” Cuervo snorted. “You’ve been married three times, Major, so that’s not saying much for Angie.”
Which just left… Poor Gwyneth.

But then he’d always had a thing for brunettes. And redheads. And blondes. Hell, he loved women. But he really loved brunettes. One brunette in particular, the one he hadn’t married or slept with or even made it past first base, for God’s sake.

Focus on the swim. The team.

The damn game. “Cuervo, are we playing this or not?”

“Next trio up… topic is singers,” Cuervo announced. “Brittany Spears. Christina Aguilera. And Kesha.”

Huh? “Who the hell is Kesha?”

“Are you sure you’re not too old for this job?”

“Still young enough to out swim you, baby boy.” Liam surged ahead of Cuervo. Swims were a lot easier on his abused knees than parachute landings or runs. But a pararescueman needed to be ready for anything, anywhere. Any weather.

Thunder rolled liked a bowling ball gaining speed and his teammates were the pins.

All games aside, this little dip in the rain was about more than a simple training exercise. More than team building. He needed his pararescuemen in top form for a mission they usually didn’t handle - the external security for an upcoming international summit being held at NASA. Not normal business for pararescuemen, but well within their skill set to act as a quick reaction force if anything went down. After all isn’t that what a rescue was? A quick reaction to something going down? Trained and prepared to fight back enemy combatant forces if necessary to protect their rescue target.

This made for a tough last assignment. His final hoo-uh, ooh-rah before he said goodbye to military life. Since he was eleven years old watching vintage war movies on a VCR with his cancer-stricken mama, all he’d wanted was to be that man who took the hill and won the woman. His mother had lost her battle. But Liam had been determined to carry on the fight by putting on that uniform.

Damned if he would go out with a whimper.

Fang slapped the water. “Can we get back to the fuck-me game?”

“Hey,” Wade Rocha’s voice rumbled as deeply as the thunder, “no need to make this crude.”

“Oh, excuse me,” Fang gasped. “Now that you’re married, you’re all Sergeant Sensitivity.” Gasp. Stroke. “I guess we’ll call this …Kill one. Marry one.” Gasp. Stroke. “Make sweet flowery love to one.”

Rocha muttered, “You’re just jealous, smart ass.”

Fang chuckled and spluttered. “Not hardly. Monogamy until I’m in the grave?” He shuddered. “No thanks. Not into that.”

But Liam was.

He’d tried his ass off to make the happily ever after thing work. Tried three times, in fact. Problem was he had a defective cog when it came to choosing a woman to spend his life with. Didn’t help that he’d always put the mission first, something that hadn’t sat well with any of his wives. A small fortune spent on marital counseling hadn’t been able to fix the relationships or him.

And still, he couldn’t get that one woman – that one brunette - out of his mind no matter how many times he chanted: old patterns, not real, get over her.

He was a romantic sap who fell in love too easily. He kept looking for that classic movie, silver screen ending. Guy gets girl. Roll credits.

If only he could have persuaded Rachel Flores to go out with him once they’d returned to the States. They’d worked together rescuing earthquake victims in the Bahamas six months ago. Had become good friends, or so he’d thought. After they got back, she never returned his calls.

Sure, if they had dated, the relationship would have self-destructed like all the rest. Then he could have walked away free and clear, no regrets, no lengthy explicit dreams that woke him up hard and unsatisfied. Now, he was stuck with images of Rachel rattling around in his noggin until he wouldn’t even notice another woman waiting on the beach ahead wearing nothing but body glitter and a do-me smile.

Except there wasn’t anyone on the beach. Just a stretch of sand and trees and a five mile hike waiting to set his knees on fire after they hit the shore.

His life had been about training and service since he’d joined the Army at eighteen. Became a ranger. Then got his degree while serving, became an officer and swapped to the Air Force and pararescue missions.

Training. Honing. Brotherhood.

He’d sacrificed three marriages and any social life for this and would have kept right on doing so. Except now his thirty-eight year old body was becoming a liability to those around him.

One week. He had one week and a big ass demonstration left. Until then he would do his damnedest to keep his team focused and invincible. He wasn’t going to spend another second fantasizing about a particular sexy spitfire brunette with as much grit as his elite force team.

Liam narrowed his eyes against the sting of salt and the pounding rain pushing through the surface like bullets. “I’ve got a new game, gentlemen. It’s called ‘Pick Your Poison.’” Stroke. Breathe. “If you’ve gotta die in the water…” Stroke. Breathe. “Would you choose a water moccasin? An alligator? Or a shark?”
***

QUESTION: If you were playing the game of famous person "marry one - screw one - kill one" - who's your famous secret crush?

Two commenters will be chosen at random to receive a copy of either "Elite Force" book 1 COVER ME or "Elite Force" book 2 HOT ZONE. (Winner's choice!) The winners will be chosen on Monday, January 23. So please either leave a contact e-mail in your post, or check back on Monday, when I will post the winners' names!


***
Upcoming releases:
PROTECTOR, Berkley Sensation, March 2012
HONORABLE INTENTIONS, Harlequin Desire, April 2012
UNDER FIRE, Sourcebooks Casablanca, May 2012

FMI about upcoming books, I can be found online at:
Website: http://catherinemann.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CatherineMannAuthor
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/CatherineMann1

Friday, January 20, 2012

New Year - New Anticipations

The start of a new year is an exciting time. And it always makes me think of things I'm looking forward to in the next twelve months. 2012 looks to be an exciting year and I can't wait to see what lies ahead. But for me, these are the things I can't wait for...

1. Disneyland
We're taking a family vacation in February. It'll be the first time my you
ngest will see the Magic Kingdom. I can't wait to see his reaction. And since the last two times I was there I was pregnant each time, I can't wait to experience all the rides myself!

2. The release of my critique partner's debut release--FEVER by Joan Swan!
I have loved this book so long, and I can't wait until readers can get it in their hands. Sexy firefighters, a dangerous conspiracy and a smoking hot romance. FEVER releases in March. Don't walk to buy this book...RUN!

3. My first RT Convention!
I've never been, so I'm all kinds of excited. And since ENRAPTURED releases in April--the same month as the RT convention--I'm even more excited.

4. The release of ENRAPTURED April 3, 2012!
Book four in the Eternal Guardians Series! Publisher's Weekly recently gave it a starred review and called it "Naughton's best book yet."

5. Baseball Season
I'm a baseball nut, and opening day always signals the start of spring for me. I love hanging out at the ballpark.

6. Warm weather
Oh, warm weather! Who doesn't love that? Shorts, tanks, FLIP FLOPS. In the middle of the rainy season here in the PNW, I'm dying right now for flip flop weather. Cannot wait.

7. Football Season
As much as I love baseball, I love football just as much. And fall is my very favorite season.

8. The release of ENSLAVED in November!
The 5th Eternal Guardians book! I'm just finishing edits on it now and I LOVE this book. Love this hero, love this story. Love the cover! (I saw it the other day and it's awesome. As soon as I get the go-ahead to share, I will.)

9. The Hobbit!
(You knew this was coming.) I'm a huge Tolkien fan and I love LOTR. This is the one movie I'm dying to see in 2012.


and...

10. December 21, 2012.
The end of the world! (Uh huh.) Actually, I'm fascinated by the whole hoopla about the end of the Mayan calendar and can't wait to see all the planets align.

What are you looking forward to in 2012?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Keeping it Fresh

By Leah Hultenschmidt, Senior Editor

This week, I’ve been doing a big pitch critique over at YA chat lit. Even though the material is all young adult, you might want to check it out for ideas in honing your own pitches:http://yalitchat.ning.com/forum/topics/pitch-slam-weekend-january-13-15-2012.

Here’s a roundup of some of the most common questions I had for those who submitted a pitch:

· Where’s the hook? What is the element of your story that’s going to make everyone clamor to read it?

· Where and when is it set?

· Does it fit the category? If it’s YA, the pitch needs to mention that the characters are teens. And for romance, I need a happy ending for the main characters.

One comment that came up frequently for me was that I’d seen a lot of similar themes lately. The pitch was strong—it summarized the story, it had a hook, there was a sense of drama, the storyline was clear—but I felt as if I’d read it before. This is always the most devastating for me because it’s tough to advise the author in how to make it better. And so many times, it’s not even as though there are a ton of books that have already hit the shelves on that theme. But I’ve just happened to have several proposals with the same thing in the last few months.

How can you try to avoid this?

BEFORE submitting:

  • Study recent releases the category. Does your story feel fresh? If it’s a Regency or a Highlander book, for example, what makes it different from all the others?
  • Check Publishers Marketplace for recent deals. This will help you see what *will* be coming out in the next year or so. Does your story still feel fresh?

AFTER submitting, if you hear from several places that it’s too similar to other projects:

  • See if you can change an element. Can your vampires be dragons?
  • Try to get an endorsement from a well-known author. For any debut author, this can help tip the scales in your favor.
  • Think about adding an unexpected element.

Most of all, thank you to everyone who was brave enough to put a pitch out there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Beginnings means Change, By Kathryne Kennedy

As a writer, I deal with change in my stories all of the time. Usually, my hero and heroine are not right for each other at the beginning of a book. They need to change in order to earn their happily-ever-after. But change is difficult, so I have to force them to do so by putting them into difficult situations that will challenge them emotionally—and since I write adventurous fantasy—physically, as well.

But I’m pulling all of the strings. In order to have a new beginning, there must be change, and in real life, that’s the toughest thing to do.

First, there has to be a realization for the need to change…sometimes just recognizing the need will take you halfway there. There’s an old adage that I love: You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.

So. Am I happy? Is my life taking the direction I want it to? Now, realistically, no one can be happy one-hundred-percent of the time. But people should be happy most of the time…life is just too short. So if I’m not as happy as I want to be, maybe it’s time for a change this year. For most people, it’s not so much the situation that causes unhappiness, but the people that surround them. They impact your mental and emotional state. If I take a look at those people closest to me I have to ask: Do they make me feel good about myself? Do they help me to see the positives in my life? If not, maybe it’s time for a change.

In my books, I often force my protagonists to see those around them in a new light, and the changes they make are often leaps. But this is so hard, especially when I may not have a choice about who surrounds me. So it’s often easier to make little changes at a time. Perhaps I need to spend a little less time with anyone who’s a negative influence on my life. And by paying less attention to what they say to me.

It’s also easy to get stuck in a routine. Sometimes what you know is preferable to the fear of the unknown. But I can seek out new situations and people who do make me feel good, and slowly include them in my circle. I can be alert to new opportunities. It’s surprising how easy it is to find them by just being open to them. I can start small. Decide on one person or situation in my life to change, and then take baby steps to make it happen. It will empower me with a sense of control that will help me to make even more changes.

And then I’ll be on the road to my own happily-ever-after.

Until Next Time,

Kathryne

This post is dedicated to my niece, and anyone seeking a new beginning this year.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beginnings and Endings

By Cheryl Brooks

Tarq smelled her before he ever laid eyes on her--a glorious, delectable aroma that curled through his head and shot straight into his bloodstream. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply as the effect of her fragrance hit him with the force of a pulse blast, obliterating every thought with the instantaneous ecstasy of an erection so hard it made his head swim.
He glanced away from his menu, taking in the shape of her legs out of the corner of his eye--what he could see of them, that is. Her baggy trousers and apron concealed everything about her legs except the fact that she had two of them.
"Hi, my name is Lucy, and I'll be your server," she said. "Do you already know what you'd like, or do you need more time?
Tarq smiled to himself as he shook his head. No, he didn't need more time. He knew exactly what he wanted. "You," he replied. "I'd like a full order of you."    
Those are the opening paragraphs of my upcoming release, The Cat Star Chronicles: Stud, which is due out in February. When I wrote those lines, I knew Lucy and Tarq would be soon embark on an adventure, but I wasn't entirely sure where it would take them. This was simply the image I had in my head when I first began developing the story.

It's funny how a single mental picture can put me right where I need to be to begin a new project. It doesn't always happen that way, though. Sometimes the process is painfully slow, requiring a great deal of thought. I recently finished writing book nine of the series, Wildcat, and sent it off to beta readers and my agent for their critique. That done, I began revising an early manuscript, hoping to link it together with two other books to create a series, but the idea for something new eluded me.

Then one morning, I woke up with a scene in my mind that I have since discussed with my writer friends and my DH, and I think I've come up with a decent proposal for a new paranormal series. What I'll do with it remains unknown at this point, but the idea is there. I've even jotted down a few notes.

Now all I have to do is start writing it. LOL! New beginnings...doncha just love 'em?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Beginning a new manuscript

January is a time for new beginnings...as are Mondays. I don't bother trying to start a diet on Jan 1st, because it's my anniversary. Less than a week later is my birthday, then we go away for our annual post holiday brain thaw in a warmer climate. This year we went to Panama. (See the gorgeous waterfall I posted on You Tube last week.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnWrFU3MzU8&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

But today, Monday the 15th, it's time to buckle down and get back to reality. I have a head start this time. The book began to pour out of me a couple months ago, so I wrote a few pages. I liked the characters and incorporated them into the story I had been writing before deadline. (First in a new series. It's a spin off of the Strange Neighbors books. The new series is called Flirting with Fangs.)

I finished book 1 right before vacation and sent to to my agent for her feedback--then I was able to relax for an entire week. Whew! How often does that happen? In my life, rarely!

So, here I am, all rested and ready to plunge into book 2. I hope you've all had a chance to recover from the holidays and have the energy something new brings. A new idea...A new release...a new year. Here's to a wonderful 2012, everyone!

Beginning a new manuscript

January is a time for new beginnings...as are Mondays. I don't bother trying to start a diet on Jan 1st, because it's my anniversary. Less than a week later is my birthday, then we go away for our annual post holiday brain thaw in a warmer climate. This year we went to Panama. (See the gorgeous waterfall I posted on You Tube last week.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnWrFU3MzU8&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

But today, Monday the 15th, it's time to buckle down and get back to reality. I have a head start this time. The book began to pour out of me a couple months ago, so I wrote a few pages. I liked the characters and incorporated them into the story I had been writing before deadline. (First in a new series. It's a spin off of the Strange Neighbors books. The new series is called Flirting with Fangs.)

I finished book 1 right before vacation and sent to to my agent for her feedback--then I was able to relax for an entire week. Whew! How often does that happen? In my life, rarely!

So, here I am, all rested and ready to plunge into book 2. I hope you've all had a chance to recover from the holidays and have the energy something new brings. A new idea...A new release...a new year. Here's to a wonderful 2012, everyone!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A New Beginning: "Cowboy Crazy"

New beginnings, for me, mean new cowboys. And in June 2012, I'm introducing readers to my hottest hero ever in "Cowboy Crazy."

If you have any doubts about that, take a look at this cover.
Sourcebooks has given me some great cowboy covers, but this is the best ever. Who can resist a battered hat, workingman's abs, and a sense of humor?
Not me--and not my heroine, Sarah Landon. Sarah's a country girl who's determined to go cosomopolitan. She's sworn off cowboys for life, but when her boss introduces her to his brother--the family renegade--that resolution, along with her hard-won professionalism, is tested to its limits.
Here's their first meeting:

Lane Carrigan filled the doorway, standing with his legs slightly apart and his arms folded over his chest. He was taller than his brother by a couple of inches, but what caught Sarah's attention was the uncanny vibrance of his blue eyes. Eric had those same eyes, but in his aristocratic face they were merely interesting. Contrasted with Lane's deep tan, they were striking. And they seemed to see right through her skin and into her soul--or maybe just into her underwear. Certainly the spasm of heat the bolted through her made her feel naked.

She wondered how old he was. Eric was the little brother, so that made Lane what? Twenty-nine? But he looked older. Eric's face was genteel and perfectly proportioned; Lane's was craggier, with a nose that was just a little too big and brows that jutted over those blue, blue eyes. It was like you'd taken the same man and let one live a refined, easy life while you put the other one through the wringer. She wondered if it was just outdoor life that made Lane look so much older, or if the lines on his face had been written there by some kind of stress or even sadness.

He lowered himself into the chair beside her, shoving it backward so he could stretch out his legs. His cowboy boots weren't the tooled, polished fashion statements the wanna-bes wore to happy hour. They were plain brown leather, rough, scuffed and unadorned. Workingman's boots.

But he didn't work, she reminded herself. He played, riding real-life rocking horses like a three-year-old on steroids.

She worked her way up the faded denim of his jeans, flicking her gaze up to his face when she caught herself eyeing his belt buckle. His answering gaze slid down the lapels of her jacket and dove into the modest neckline of her camisole. From there, it drifted from side to side, making her renegade nipples perk up and stand at painful attention.

She looked out the window, searching for something, anything that would distract her. There was a cloud shaped like a duck drifting in the wide blue sky.

Think about the duck, she told herself. Think about the duck.

Lane Carrigan is all cowboy, while his brother is a tall, dark and handsome oil company CEO. How do you like your men: rough or polished?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chapter One (and Two and Three) by Shana Galen

I love starting a new book. I know a lot of writers struggle with novel beginnings, but I usually find the first three chapters the most fun and the easiest to write. There's something so exhilarating about beginning a new book. The story is fresh, the characters are new and undiscovered, and the adventure is just commencing. It's not always easy to get that first sentence or first paragraph right, though. Sometimes at the end of a book, I go back and write the first few pages again.

I'm sure everyone has their favorite first lines. Here are a few of mine.




It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Pride and Prejudice--Jane Austen

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so much like the present period that some of its nosiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. A Tale of Two Cities--Charles Dickens


Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.
Gone With the Wind--Margaret Mitchell

I have a few favorite lines from my own books as well.

The spy called Saint hunkered down in the wardrobe she'd occupied for the last four hours and attempted to stifle a yawn. Lord and Lady Spy



Eleven-year-old Armand Harcourt, the comte de Valere, should have been asleep. The Making of a Gentleman



Lady Madeleine was going to make the best of this night, even if it killed her. And it probably would kill her. Blackthorne's Bride



And I wanted to share the first line from my next book, The Rogue Pirate's Bride, which will be out February 7.

"That's him," Percy whispered. "I'm almost certain of it."

I don't think I'm spoiling anything if I tell you the him is our hero, Bastien. I also don't think I'll spoil anything if I tell you Percy is speaking to our heroine, Raeven, who is in a tavern in Brest, France in order to challenge our hero to a sword fight.



So much potential and fun! That's why I love beginning a new novel. What about you? Do you have any favorite first lines from others' or your own books?

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Beginnings: Good and Bad (well, to the mom in me...) by Judi Fennell


Friday the 13th... Ah, my lucky day.

And I hope it stays that way. I have some things going on writing-wise that i cant yet share, but im hopeful they'll be nee beginnings. More to follow on that later, hopefully.

Other new beginnings for this year include a Kid starting college. I don't like to share a lot of info about my family (the PR is for my career, not theirs, and we like to keep their private life private), but as this Kid will be an adult this (another new beginning), I figure I can mention the college thing. This, of course, is HUGE for our family. Will said Child/Adult commute? Live there? Be too far away for Mom's liking? I now know how my parents felt, and omg, time to go give them a hug. Luckily, I still can. And I have to hug the Kid of course. (Kid is getting tired of the hugs...)

Other new beginnings - big changes at my Day Job and today is the day we will find out about them. It will affect the direction of the company, though, hopefully, NOT my job. But then again, one never knows. So that's happening today.

I'm just hoping that because Friday the 13th has always been a lucky day for me, that today will follow suit and all my wishes will come true. :)

Now, off to hug Pagan, my black cat (yes, I giggled when I named her.) Under a ladder, of course. Which brings me to my question for today - are you superstitious? Completely, or just about a certain thing? Does today freak you out or, like me, are you going to go out of your way to walk under a ladder, maybe break a mirror or two, and hug a black cat?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A New Introduction… Beth Pehlke, Sourcebooks Publicist! + a Giveaway


by Danielle Jackson, Sourcebooks Casablanca Publicist 

I’ve mentioned a couple of times over the last few months that Sourcebooks Casablanca recently welcomed a new publicist to the mix: Beth Pehlke! She is wonderful and it is so great to have another romance team member in the publicity department.

Oh and if you’re wondering—yes, Beth (on the left) and I are standing with a cow in our photo! That is one of the Chicago Cows that were all over the city of Chicago in the late 1990s/early 2000s! Dominique bought one of the more literary themed cows [rumOr has it she Outbid some very famOus ChicagOans… One VERY famOus One], and it lives in the area of our building we call the bull pen!

Anyway… I thought a fun and easy way for us to get to know Beth was to invite her on the blog and do a little interview, and put her on the other side of blogging. On with the interview:

DJ: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
BP: Oh goodness, let’s see. I’m the youngest of three daughters. I’m a huge animal lover. I’m an Indiana University alum (Go Hoosiers!). Before working at Sourcebooks I worked for a corporate real estate company in their communication department, an NBA team and at a PR agency in NYC. Oh and I am kind of obsessed with my dog Roxy.

DJ: Aside from romance, what else do you work on at Sourcebooks?
BP: I have been able to work on a variety of genres since working at Sourcebooks. Primarily, it’s historical fiction, contemporary fiction and romance but I have also had some other types of books such as a zombie book, a funeral director’s memoir, and a sweet potato cookbook to name a few.

DJ: When I told you that you’d be working on romance, what was your initial reaction? :)
BP: Excited! Thrilled! Ecstatic! It’s a genre unlike any other and I am happy to be a part of it.

DJ: Have you found your niche genre in romance that you prefer (I’m a sucker for a good Regency, but try to keep things eclectic—I also love Paranormal!)
BP: I don’t like I could name a single favorite right now. I’m just enjoying experiencing all of them but I can say that contemporary and paranormal are up on my list.

DJ: What do you think about the ever-changing publishing industry? eBooks, promotion, marketing, etc.?
BP: It keeps you on your toes that’s for sure. But most of all I think it is fascinating. We are working in an industry that is rapidly evolving and to be able to not only watch it but work in it is amazing.

DJ: What has surprised you about the romance industry?
BP: I don’t know if it has necessarily surprised me but the level of community in the industry is outrageous! I knew there was a strong romance community but having been working in it now and seeing it first hand, it has really blown me away. Like I said before, it really is unlike any other genre in the book industry.

DJ: What do you love most about your job?
BP: Hmm probably the people I interact with every day, which includes the authors, book bloggers & my co-workers. When you work with people who are all passionate about books it makes work really fun and enjoyable.

DJ: What are some of your favorite books (non-romance titles are ok!)?
BP: Tough question. Let’s see, recent favorite is The Help. One of my all-time favorites is The Great Gatsby (can’t wait for the movie!). One of the most interesting books I have read is In Defense of Food – and recently I have been reading more books in that genre, the whole subject is fascinating. 

DJ: I know for a fact that in your spare time you are a GREAT baker—what’s one of your favorite things to make (and give us a recipe!)?
BP: One of the things I recently made a lot during the holiday season (and I made it for the Sourcebooks Publicity department) was this Cookies & Cream Peppermint Popcorn. It’s SO easy but tastes SOO good.

2 bags microwave popcorn, popped
1 (6oz) box candy canes, crushed
1 pack Oreo cookies, crushed
1 1/2 packs Almond Bark
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract or a few drops of peppermint oil

Directions: Place popcorn in a very large bowl. Pour crushed candy canes and crushed Oreos on top of the popcorn. Melt one pack of almond bark according to instructions on the package. Add the peppermint extract or oil to the almond bark and pour over popcorn. Stir. The Oreos will absorb some of the almond bark and the popcorn won't be fully coated.  Melt the remaining almond bark and pour over popcorn.  Stir until popcorn is coated.  Pour popcorn on wax paper and allow to harden. Once the popcorn has hardened, break into pieces and enjoy!
 
DJ: Anything else you’d like to share?
BP: Umm I don’t think so. Thanks for having me!

DJ: Thanks for visiting with us, Beth! I’m sure we’ll have you back soon. 

What’s something you’ve found interesting about the romance industry or publishing recently? We’ll do a giveaway of three copies of The Jane Austen Companion to Life—a very cute quote books featuring the wisdom of Jane Austen (US and Canada only, leave an email so we can contact you; winners will be announced in the comments on Friday!).