Saturday, March 31, 2012

FORTUNE IS FICKLE...EVEN UNTO HER OWN...




While luck is a key element of gambling, 
Lady Luck is also best known for her caprice.



She had staked only twenty guineas and already had thirty. Her breathing quickened in anticipation of the next turn of the cards. The tallière flipped the nest two in quick succession, the three of spades and the four of hearts. “Three wins, four loses.”
She exhaled in relief.
He dealt again, “Queen wins. Knave loses.”
“You have won again, my lady!” George cried.
“But it was so easy!” Susannah gasped in delight, receiving resentful looks from anguished punters groaning as the croupier swept to the bank any coins resting with a knave.
“You are exceeding lucky, my lady of hearts. Do you wish pay or paroli?” asked the tallière once more.
Her breath hitched at the decision. She turned to George, “Did you not say that with quinze-et-le-va, the payout is a full fifteen times my stakes?”
“Indeed so, but now with only two queens remaining in the deck, the odds do not favor you.”
“Nevertheless, Mr. Selwyn, being a creature of caprice, I am resolved to follow my fancy.” Heedlessly brushing aside all her reservations and every warning Philip had ever spoken, Susannah wagered several more gold coins and crooked the second corner of her card. 
“You’ve bollocks of brass, my lady!” George exclaimed, too lost in the moment to guard his speech. 
Susannah, paid him no heed, his voice had long since become little more than a buzz in her ears. She’d stayed with her lucky queen and the impulse had paid off with seven hundred guineas now on the table divided between the queen and the ace. Her mind was a flurry of calculations. If her good fortune continued, she might garner enough to live out her entire life, not just a woman of independent means, but one of substantial wealth.
She held her breath, and her hands clenched the table’s edge as the tallière turned over the next two cards, the ace of spades, and the three of diamonds.
“Ace wins, three loses.”
“Good God!” Selwyn slapped the table. “You’ve done it again! You’ve the devil’s own luck tonight!”
With her pulse drumming a deafening tattoo in her ears, Susannah dumped the remains of her purse onto the table, splitting it between the queen and the ace, the sum of her two wagers now totaling nearly a thousand guineas. 
Recalling his promise to Philip, George was reluctantly moved to intervene with a staying hand. “Mayhap you should consider the payout. I’ve yet to see anyone surpass trente-et-le-va.”
With her eyes glimmering and her voice breathless, she answered, “Did you not study Virgil, Mr. Selwyn?”
He looked chagrinned. “I’m afraid I left my studies a bit precipitately.”
“Fortune favors the bold,” she quipped over-brightly. She bent her card just as Philip’s ominous warning came unbeckoned into her head - Luck tires as surely as the player.

ABOUT EMERY LEE
Whether historical fiction or historical romance, self-professed Georgian junkie Emery Lee loves nothing more than crafting emotionally compelling stories that bring the past vividly to life.  Her debut novel THE HIGHEST STAKES, is an epic tale of star-cross lovers set in the high stakes world of 18th century horse racing. In FORTUNE'S SON, Emery spins a web of drama, passion, and deceit, deep in the world of high stakes gaming.  
"Lee brings the atmosphere of the Georgian era to life with lush descriptions that beg the reader to see, hear, feel and touch it all....with a lively cast of characters and surprising twists and turns that are reminiscent of Fielding’s Tom Jones or Defoe’s Moll Flanders."-RT BOOK REVIEWS

She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America, RWA , Georgia Romance Writers, and the group moderator for Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers. http://authoremerylee.com

She also writes scorching hot historical romance as VICTORIA VANE http://authorvictoriavane.com
 


Friday, March 30, 2012

The Moo-ral of the Story About Luck by Grace Burrowes

I believe there is such a thing as being in the right place at the right time, as, for example, when I found myself standing in line at a bar, and a friendly editor with a knitting bag happened to be waiting for a glass of water (swear to goodness) right beside me.

I hardly ever drink alcohol, but considering it was the first conference where I’d put myself up to pitching, you could say—I would say—that a lucky thirst possessed me. The editor not only extracted a pitch from me, but ended up offering me contracts (plural).

I also believe bad things happen to good people, which some of us might call bad luck.

I do not believe bad luck and good luck can always be distinguished from each other.

Take, for example, my dear old dad, who as a young man wanted nothing in this life so much as to own a dairy farm. Dairy farming is relentlessly hard work, dangerous, and difficult, but this was his dream—his only dream.

As dreams go, owning a dairy farm has a drawback. A modest dairy operation with a decent herd, some acres, equipment to tend those acres, a milking parlor and tank, living quarters, and all the other accoutrements of the trade costs an immodest fortune. Then too, my dad had not been raised on a farm, and the skills involved—everything from commodities economics, to meteorology, to bovine veterinary science, to agronomy and many other disciplines—is not easily or quickly learned from books.

Dad is nothing if not determined, though, so he mapped out a course: He’d hire on with the company that went from farm to farm and collected the milk from the holding tanks. He’d get to know the various farms in the area, and then go work with one of them. A few cows at a time, he’d start his own herd, or share of a herd, and so the dream could be attained one moo cow at a time.

Alas for my dear father. He got the job with the milk collecting company, and shortly thereafter forgot to tighten some coupling between two hoses. Awfully bad luck there—he’s not a forgetful man, by any means. A semi-trailer worth of milk went into the ground, dad was promptly fired, and his dream went into the dirt along with all the moo juice.

Except… my great uncle pointed out to Dad that one could study dairy science up at the college. Up to the college Dad did go. Turns out, there wasn’t much known about how milk is produced at a cellular level, and the subject fascinated my father. In very short order, he was a tenured professor with graduate students from around the world (milk is serious business for most developing counties), publications stacking up left and right, and—more important than any of that—a job he loved that made a meaningful contribution.

The next time you drink milk from an opaque plastic jug, remember the young man whose dream went into the dirt. He instead figured out that light alters flavor compounds in milk, and had great fun doing it.

So… was it bad luck, the day Dad forgot to tighten that coupling, or good luck? I fare best if think in terms not of good luck and bad luck, but of good luck and good luck in disguise.

What about you? Ever had some good luck arrive in disguise?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What You Told Us: A Short Survey of Romance Reading Habits

by Deb Werksman
Editorial Manager,
Sourcebooks Casablanca
.
Several weeks ago [Jan 26] I took the opportunity to conduct a short, informal survey on reading/book buying habits on the Casa Authors blog. I’d like to share a summary of the results with you.
.
Overall, 76 readers responded—and I stress readers. Over the previous three months, almost half read between six and 20 romance novels, while over 35 percent read between 21 and 70 books.

Sixty-four percent of those responding are not authors.

Over 80 percent read historical romances over the previous three months. The second most popular sub-genre was Contemporary (68%), followed by Paranormal (61%).

Most readers (62%) bought some books in each format—digital and print—while 22 percent bought only print books and 16 percent bought only ebooks. Fifty-four percent of all books purchased were print and 46 percent were digital.

The overwhelming majority—88%—purchase books online, at Amazon, BN.com, ARe, etc., while almost half—49%—also buy books at bookstores.

Almost a third of the books read—29%—were by an author the reader had not read before. Of those, 61 percent found out about a new author through online reviews and almost half—46%—through recommendations from friends and family.

Word-of-mouth works! 42 percent of respondents recommended a romance novel to others.

I’d like to thank everyone who participated in this survey! Your responses confirmed much of the data we’re seeing in other places, like Bookscan, bookstore, mass market retailers, online retailers, and ebook sales. We use data to drive creativity, and we’re always looking for ways to give readers more of what they want.

Let me know what you think about this information—useful?
Confirms what you already knew/suspected? Did anything surprise you?

Romance Writers of America’s 2011 Romance Book Consumer
survey has more data about readers: http://www.rwa.org/cs/readership_stats

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stephanie Julian's New Way To Procrastinate

I have a new love. It's called Pinterest.

I'd read about authors who make scrapbooks and collages for their books and I have always had a bulletin board filled with pictures of hot guys above my desk.

Pinterest allows me to have lots of pinboards and readers can get a glimpse of the inspiration for my stories.


Like this one on the left. This is what I picture Cal in WHAT A GODDESS WANTS to look like. Hot, right?

How about these? On the right is my inspiration for Remy, who you'll meet in GODDESS IN THE MIDDLE in July.

Remy is the younger cousin of Rom. That's him on the bottom left.

Remy and Rom have some unique qualities that make them eminently qualified to protect a goddess. And Amity, Etruscan Goddess of Health, is going to need all the help she can get.

Yes, there are two heroes for one heroine in GODDESS IN THE MIDDLE. Sometimes, two really is better than one...

If you'd like to check out my board for Forgotten Goddesses or any of my other boards, check me out at http://pinterest.com/stephaniejulian/

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Luck of the Draw by Tamara Hogan

At the time I write this, the romance writing community is eagerly awaiting the announcement of the finalists in the Romance Writers of America's RITA and Golden Heart contests, which acknowledge excellence in published and unpublished romance fiction. Over at my other group blog, The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, regulars who've entered the Golden Heart are starting to get twitchy, but those of us who've entered books in the RITA are...pretty chill. Having your book be named a finalist in any writing contest depends on an epic alignment of taste, subjectivity, and luck: which preliminary round judges were randomly selected to read your book? Do they like your voice? Did you use a trope that they love/hate? Does your hero remind them of a rat-bastard ex? Are your love scenes too hot, too cold, or just right? Does your runaway enthusiasm for em-dashes annoy them to high heaven?

It's a matter of taste, the luck of the draw, the buttercream frosting on an already-delicious cake. ;-)

There are numerous New York Times best-selling authors who've never been named a RITA finalist. There are writers who've won the Golden Heart more than once who haven't sold a manuscript. Writing contests are... such crapshoots. Every judge brings his or her own likes, dislikes, abilities, interests, hot buttons and biases to their reading experience.

I have likes, dislikes, abilities, interests, hot buttons and biases of my own, which come into play when I judge preliminary rounds of contests like the RITA, the Golden Heart, or the Daphne du Maurier. To me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of contest judging is seeing whether any of the books or manuscripts I received in my judging packet is named a finalist, or is ultimately the winner. For two years running, I"ve been fortunate enough to receive the unpublished Daphne contest's eventual winning manuscript in my judging packet, including our own Tes Hilaire's Deliver Me From Darkness, which Sourcebooks very smartly acquired and published earlier this year. Just last night, I read a killer manuscript from the 2012 contest. Might I go three-for-three? But there have been other contests, and other years, where either the manuscripts selected as finalists didn't resonate with me as a judge, or a manuscript that utterly rocked my world didn't make the cut. One person's "OMG!" is the next person's "Meh." Go figure.

When a contest manuscript makes me sit up a little straighter in my chair, causes gooseflesh to prickle on my arms, and makes me think about it at odd times long after reading it, I feel...yeah. Lucky. 

The luck of the draw definitely works both ways. ;-)

Whether as a reader, a reviewer, or as a contest judge, which factors do YOU think make a book or manuscript memorable?  

3/26/12 UPDATE: Someone bring over some buttercream frosting! Congratulations to the following Sourcebooks authors, whose books were named 2012 RITA Award finalists!


Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish by Grace Burrowes (Regency)
I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler (Young Adult and Best First Book)
Hot Zone by Catherine Mann (Romantic Suspense)
The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley (Novel with Strong Romantic Elements)


Tammy's 2011 Sourcebooks debut, TASTE ME, was a 2009 Daphne du Maurier winner and a 2009 Golden Heart Finalist. Her follow-up, CHASE ME,  is available for pre-order NOW (Amazon | B&N)!  Visit her on the web at www.tamarahogan.com

Monday, March 26, 2012

"May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor" by Catherine Mann


Anyone who’s read the Hunger Games or has seen the movie recognizes the quote in the title of today’s blog for our March theme of luck. “May the odds be ever in your favor” – a commonly repeated send off in the Hunger Games for the tributes going to fight to the death.

Talk about high stakes!

Hearing those words, seeing the characters , the Hunger Games world – it was all just as I envisioned when reading all three books in the trilogy. And that’s saying a lot!

I had such high expectations for the movie, it was an incredible relief not to be disappointed. Especially since I was one of the record breaking numbers to attend the midnight debut, along a friend and a van load full of teenagers.

Sure, there were some parts left out that missed, and I’ve had a blast discussing those with the scores of other people I know who also attended the Hunger Games on opening weekend. But then that’s just extended the fun of the movie even longer.

What are your thoughts on movie adaptations of books? Do you love them? Avoid them? Have any particular favorites?


USA Today bestseller Catherine Mann writes military romance for Sourcebooks and Berkley, as well as steamy romances for Harlequin Desire. A RITA Award winner, she resides in Florida with her husband, their four children, and numerous animal shelter rescues. Look for her books PROTECTOR (May), HONORABLE INTENTIONS (April) and UNDER FIRE (May). Website: http://catherinemann.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CatherineMannAuthor
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/CatherineMann1

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sourcebooks Ebook Bracket Challenge!

Have you heard?

Sourcebooks is letting READERS pick the next 99 cent ebook deal!

Starting Sunday, March 25, Sourcebook invites you to take part in the first ever Sourcebooks eBook Bracket Challenge! By using the Twitter hashtag #eBookBracket, readers can vote over Twitter for the next eBook from Sourcebooks they want to see discounted to $0.99 for one week in early April.

The Rules:

1. You MUST use the hashtag #eBookBracket for your vote to be counted—otherwise it won’t count!

2. Please remember this is a
FRIENDLY competition

3. VOTING
Rounds:

  • Round 1 (8 titles): March 25-March 26 until 4pm CST - 4 Titles moving on to Round 2 announced the morning of March 27
  • Round 2 (4 titles): Begins 9 am CST on March 27-March 28 until 4pm CST - 2 titles moving on to the Championship Round announced the morning of March 29
  • Championship Round (2 titles): Begins 9am CST March 29-March 30 until NOON CST
  • Winning title announced on Twitter and Sourcebooks Buzz Blog by 5pm CST on March 30
  • The eBook Deal for the winning title begins on Tuesday, April 3 and lasts through Monday, April 9.


The Titles:

Tempted by Elisabeth Naughton, @ElisNaughton
The Goblin King by Shona Husk, @ShonaHusk
The Soldier by Grace Burrowes, @GraceBurrowes
Lord and Lady Spy by Shana Galen, @Shana Galen
Making Waves by Tawna Fenske, @Tawna Fenske
Cover Me by Catherine Mann, @CatherineMann1
Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, @MirandaKennealy
Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber, @LeannaRenee

You can see the full bracket at the eBook Bracket Challenge Page on Sourcebooks.com: http://bit.ly/FOuWWs. This is where we will announce the titles moving on to each round, so check it out every day this week!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

LUCKY WITH COVERS, by Kathryne Kennedy


Okay, I’ll admit, I’m not sure if I believe in random luck. Making your own luck, though, I definitely believe in. I’m the first to admit that there’s a lot of luck in publishing…catching that editor at just the right time with a story that moves her. But unless you are really working at your craft--writing, and submitting your stories--‘luck’ will never have a chance to strike.

But my luck surely held when I became a Sourcebooks author. From an editor who truly cares about her authors to an owner who is dedicated to building her author’s careers to a publicist who cares just as much about promoting your books as you do, I got very lucky. And this is where I get to the subject of my post. My covers.

I think my covers just keep getting better and better. In many ways my stories are a challenge. I mix fantasy and history and romance in pretty much equal measure, and that’s really hard to translate in a cover. So Sourcebooks truly had a challenge when they took me on as an author, since my books were so unusual (although I’m seeing more books with this genre mix, which is wonderful for me since I love to read them!)

So how do you draw a reader into this magical, historical, romantic world? Take a look at the new cover for Enchanting the Lady, releasing in August. It’s eye-catching at first glance, but as you look closer, more and more of the details truly create that magical world and draw you in. My favorite aspect is the dragonette on my heroine’s shoulder. And is it just me, or does the hero kinda’ look like Han Solo?

Wishing you the best in making your own luck this year,

Kathryne

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lucky?

To be perfectly honest, I'm lucky to have remembered to write this post at all. It's 9:25 PM on Thursday night, and I really want to watch "Awake" at 10:00, so I'll have to hurry.

The fact that I can watch TV again and have a couple of favorite shows is one of the things I've been feeling lucky about lately. Giving up a paycheck that made me feel like I could buy pretty much anything I wanted was a little scary, but since I never bought much anyway, it wasn't a bad tradeoff because it gave me the one thing I didn't have. Time.

Nevertheless, I did buy one thing that's kinda cool, though. Cheap, too. My mask for the RT Booklover's Convention, which I think is quite awesome!
















 

I'm extremely lucky since trying to transfer that picture from my SD card to my photo files crashed my computer and this post had been saved as a draft. Even the manuscript I'd been working on at the time survived unscathed.

Honestly, it doesn't take much to make me feel lucky anymore. Just waking up in the morning makes me feel like I've found a four leaf clover. Getting to go to Ireland in May makes me feel even luckier. I'm lucky to have two wonderful sons, a very supportive husband, and terrific friends. I love that there are people who've enjoyed my books, and I'm very lucky that some have even written to tell me that my Zetithian guys have brightened up their lives. 

Yeah. That's lucky.

So, basically, I have no complaints. :D big grin

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What is it About Luck?

...by Shana Galen

I write a lot about luck. I don’t mean to, but it always seems as though some character is particularly superstitious or thinking about luck or wishing she had more luck or—uh-oh—out of luck.

I’m not a big believer in luck myself. I don’t play the lottery or gamble or toss pennies into fountains—very well, sometimes I give my daughter pennies to toss into fountains. My characters often do believe in luck. In reality (can you have reality in fiction?), they’re probably just smart or talented and make their own luck, but that doesn’t stop them from believing in it.

Take Bastien from my latest release, The Rogue Pirate’s Bride. He believes in luck. He’s a pirate, and sailors are notoriously superstitious. Here’s a few lines from the book where he discusses luck with the heroine, Raeven. Her father, a British admiral, has just spotted Bastien’s ship, which is currently housing the admiral's kidnapped daughter.


His cobalt eyes were steady, the question burning in them.

“Signal them,” she said, coldly, decisively. “When he’s close enough, I’ll make sure he sees me. He won’t fire if he sees me.”

Bastien held up a hand and the men stepped back. He took Raeven’s arm, steered her to the taffrail. “We can run. I’ve outrun a man-of-war before. I have the wind, so with a little luck…”

She shook her head. “And how long will you run? Weeks? Months? Years? He won’t stop, Bastien. He’ll keep coming after you—after us. Think of your men. How long will they tolerate running from a man-of-war when they could hand me over and resume more profitable ventures? Give it one week, maybe two and you’re looking at a mutiny.”

As you can see, Raeven doesn’t really believe in luck—not in the long-term anyway. She’s fallen in love with Bastien and doesn’t want to trust his life to something so flimsy as luck.

Luck plays a role in the book I published right before The Rogue Pirate’s Bride as well. Adrian and Sophia, Lord and Lady Smythe, are elite spies, who are married to one another, and who’ve just discovered one another’s true identities. They’re both great spies, but they have very different approaches. Here’s an excerpt from Lord and Lady Spy on luck.



“No, I knew Ducos hadn’t left for Paris the same way I knew Turnbull was hiding in Amsterdam.” She must have seen his eyes widen at the name of the infamous double agent because she added, “Yes, it was I who captured him, and I didn’t need a map or a chart. I used a spy’s true weapon—instinct.”

Adrian barked out a laugh. “So basically you were lucky. You had a feeling.”

She gave him a long, disapproving look. “I didn’t have a feeling. I used instinct.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Instinct is a skill, sharpened and honed. Instinct is what tells you to ask an informer one more question. It’s what tells you to duck during a fight to avoid a blow. It’s what led me to Ducos.”

“Preparation is what tells an agent the questions to ask an informer, practice tells him to duck, and luck is what led you to Ducos.” He leaned in close to speak the last few words, close enough to see the sprinkle of freckles on her nose. They were light, almost invisible on her otherwise porcelain complexion.

“Are you saying you never think on your feet?”

He shrugged. “Rarely necessary. I always have a plan.”

“But what do you do, sir, when you encounter a situation for which you have no plan?”

He frowned. “Never happens. I have a plan for every contingency.”

If only Adrian had a plan for how to deal with his wife! He’ll need plenty of luck. Can you think of any books you’ve enjoyed where luck played a role? Do your characters believe in luck?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Getting Lucky

by Joanne Kennedy
When I was a kid, my sister and I used to hunt for four-leafed clovers in the grass. These elusive little good-luck charms never seemed to turn up when you were looking for them--but when you least expected it, you'd stumble across one by accident.
That's how luck works. By definition, it's a happy accident of fate, and I always seem to stumble into good fortune when I least expect it.
And while hard work, perseverence, and focus help determine our lives, it's often luck that has the most influence in leading us to our destiny.
Here are four strokes of good luck that led me to the here and now:
Finding my Place:
I moved out West in 1992. At the time, I thought I was running away from home. In reality, I was running to home--to the place where I belonged, and the place that has defined me ever since.
Finding my Heart:
I met my husband by chance. I was running a bookstore; he was a customer. We definitely weren't looking for love, but after a long friendship we decided we belonged together. We were right!
Finding my calling:
I'd wanted to be a writer all my life, but it wasn't until the previous two strokes of luck
fell into place that I discovered what I was meant to do. I combined my love of the West with my good luck in love to write contemporary Western romances. Now I'm looking forward to the release of my fifth book, Cowboy Crazy, in June.
I was lucky to find Sourcebooks, too, and my wonderful agent and editor. But most of all I'm lucky to be living a life filled with love, doing what I was meant to do in a place where I belong.
What strokes of luck led you to where you are today? I'll keep the good luck going by picking one commenter to win a copy of Tall, Dark and Cowboy today - just answer the question and I'll post the winner in the comments on Friday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Luck or hard work?


The luckiest people I know are the ones who work hardest. I was recently thinking about a woman I nominated for a service award. Some would call her lucky to be a New York Times best-selling author. I know different. She works her tushy off!

No matter how under gun she is with a deadline, or under the weather, she's always positive and helpful to others. Until I got to know her, I thought she was lucky too.

Actually, the woman types 120 words a minute. Her publisher likes her to put out at least three single titles per year (because they know she can) and she somehow manages to do it...but it's not easy. At one point she admitted that it was taking a toll on her health. I suggested she ask for more time to complete each book so she can enjoy life a little. I don't know if she finally did that or not. I worry about her, because she's one of those people who just can't say 'no' even when she should.

I wonder how the people who work the hardest to get where they are manage to make it look easy...or make it look like they were just lucky. If it were me, I'd be waving a flag saying, "This wasn't dumb luck, people. I worked my a** off for this!" LOL Well, okay, maybe not. But anyone who experiences professional jealousy ought to know this is what it takes to be so "lucky."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lucky 13 and Fate by Judi Fennell

I know, I know. 13 is supposed to be unlucky. But I've never exactly been a traditional sort of person.

That could have something to do with the fact that I was born on the 13th. I consider that very lucky--that I was born, that is. You know, when you think about the odds, it's like 8 billion to one that you would turn out to be you. One quicker little wiggle by the sperm swimming beside the one that made you, and you'd be someone else. You could even be the opposite gender. Tall instead of "average." A genius instead of... well, not. Or maybe not instead of a genius. (I, personally, think all of my readers are geniuses, but that could just be me...)

I always tell my kids to be thankful for what they have because, you know, one little mishap, one misplaced gene, and it could all be so different. I also remind them that they're the sperm that won. (TM) [Yes, I am trademarking that. I came up with it; it's mine. But feel free to use it with proper attribution.]

So... back to being lucky. I'm one to take jabs at Fate: don't put obstacles in my path and expect them to stop me. [I'm Irish - we're stubborn. I'm also Italian and we're hot headed. (Don't ever make me mad; it's not pretty. There's a reason The Hulk was green...) Anyhoo, I'm one of those: If you say I can't do it; I'm going to do it. Doesn't work well when you're a teenager and your parents are the ones telling you no, but then you turn 18 and--

And you find out you actually don't know everything you thought you did.]

Where was I? Oh, yes, Taking jabs at Fate. I walk under ladders on Friday the 13ths. We own a black cat that we named Pagan. I pick up pennies that are tails up. (I also pick up heads-up pennies--a penny is a penny is a penny, and enough of them can add up to some dollars, so I'm not turning any penny away. You might say I'm an equal-penny opportunist.)

When I was 14 (so close to 13, but not), my family went to Las Vegas on Friday, July 13. The hotel Circus Circus had just opened and kids could get beyond looking in the front window. (Trust me; it was 114 degrees when we were there in July. I remember peering in those front windows with sweat dripping off every pore of my body while our parents --in the cool, air-conditioned casinos --put a couple nickles in some slot machines so they could say they gambled in Vegas.) So it was pure paradise when we could walk around by ourselves in Circus Circus on the upper floor. I remember being able to look down on the casino floor and wave to the parental units who were, again, putting nickles in the slots. Not big gamblers, my parents.

If you've never been, or if it's changed since 1979, Circus Circus's upper floor was full of carnival-type games. Kewpie dolls, balloon darts, water gun races, pennies in milk bottles, that sort of thing. I can't remember what game it was, but it was the first one I played and I WON! Some weird stuffed animal that I've since lost, but I won in Vegas! Seriously I was the happiest kid in the place. My siblings were a tad jealous, but who cared? I was a winner in Vegas! That sealed the deal on Friday the 13th being a lucky day for me.

Ever since, I make sure to take a stab at Fate on those days. So far, I've come out unscathed. But, as someone who just put the Fates in her upcoming book, I know that I'm due for some kind of cosmic retribution.

I just wish I had that weird stuffed animal I could offer to the Fates as recompense.

Here's a Fates' scene from Magic Gone Wild which comes out August 1. The set-up is: Genie Vana has just committed a big sin in the djinn world and the Fates are holding her accountable.

*********************

“Cut!”

“Wrong!”

“Are you kidding me?”

Vana blinked when the world around her slowed its spinning, but the cackling voices kept harping.

“You’ve really done it now.”

“I told you she couldn’t do anything right.”

“This is going to be a nightmare to clean up.”

Vana put out a hand to steady herself. Her fingers encountered a rock.

A rock?

She looked up in surprise—and got an even bigger one.

Three old crones were staring at her. And not just any old crones, but… Holy smokes! The Fates.

“Do you realize what you just did?” asked one, using their shared eyeball to glare at her. Lachesis.

“And now we have to fix it. Again,” grumbled Clotho, the hunched one.

Atropos was sharpening her scissors on a strap, flashes of lightning glinting off the blades.

It was a dark and stormy night on Mount Damavand, portentous weather for being summoned by the three sisters.

Not that there was ever a good time to be summoned by the Fates.

Lachesis thwacked her staff on her palm like a metronome, and lightning punctuated each downbeat. A clap of thunder struck the air. “Would you care to tell me what made you do what you just did? You’re not normally a stupid girl.”

“Sure could have fooled me.” Clotho leaned on her cane. Her knitting needles hung from a chain around her neck. A woven chain, as befitted the weaver of the Threads of Life.

Atropos, the one who cut those threads, kept sharpening her strap. “Well? What do you have to say for yourself?”

“You shouldn’t have pulled me out of there. I need to explain it to him. Tell him why I did what I did.”

“Look here, missy.” Clotho grabbed the eye from Lachesis, popped it into her socket, blinked twice, then glared at Vana. “You have been nothing but a stitch in my side for the past four days.” She stabbed the space between them with one of her needles. “First, I have better things to do with my time than unravel and reweave the threads you’re flinging all over the place as if it were bargain day at the mall.” Stab, stab.

“You think it’s easy, keeping everyone’s lives running smoothly? You think it’s a walk in the park to make sure I’m not doubling back on something that’s already happened in someone’s life because you got it into your pretty head to time travel an hour or two every few days?” Now she waved the needle around like a wand.

“Do you know how much people’s lives are affected by choices other people make? Do you have any idea that those six steps to Kevin Bacon mortals laugh about are no laughing matter?” And now she was back to stabbing. “Weave and reweave, knit one, pearl sixty thousand. I’ve got enough on my plate without you acting as if Time were your own personal plaything, and I”—stab—“for one”—stab—“am damn sick and tired of having to clean up your messes.

“And as if playing with fate and time weren’t enough—” She leveled the needle in front of her like a jousting lance. “Now you go and do something that not one of us decided for you. Hauling off and tossing an ‘I love you’ onto the playing field? That is so far beyond a foul, you’re lucky we’re not throwing you out of the entire game.”

“Then why did you put him in my bottle?”

“What? Are you out of your mind? We would never do something like that, and don’t you dare try to palm this off on us, you ungrateful wretch.” Clotho went back to stabbing. “You are on my last nerve, Vana, and, with us Fates, that is not a good place to be.”

###

Magic Gone Wild (c) Judi Fennell


And regarding luck, every year RWA announces the lucky Rita and Golden Heart finalists. This year, those announcements will be made next Monday, March 26. I'll be hosting my annual "squee" blog party at www.JudiFennell.wordpress.com. I'd love to have you all stop by and join the party for those lucky folks!

What's your lucky day/time/month/season/charm?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Charmed, I'm Sure

by Olivia Cunning

A few months ago, I was doing some research about lucky charms. Not the cereal. I already know plenty about that sugary goodness. I was researching objects that are thought to bring good luck.

The reason? In one of the Sinners on Tour books, everyone's favorite quirky drummer, Eric Sticks, thinks he's targeted for injury (or death) and he figures a good luck charm (or twenty) can't hurt. So he starts to accumulate them.

Eric's first and probably most morbid good luck charm, was a lucky rabbit's foot. Surprisingly, the rabbit's foot has been considered lucky for centuries and by various cultures around the world. To be considered truly lucky (for the human possessing the charm, not the rabbit), the charm must be the left, hind foot of a rabbit killed in a cemetery under a full moon on Friday the 13th. I believe Eric picked up his rabbit's foot at a swap meet, so it probably wasn't all that lucky. Especially since it was green. Yes, green is considered a lucky color, but if your foot is green, you might want to get that checked out by a podiatrist or, in the case of a rabbit, a veterinarian.

Another common lucky charm is the horseshoe. Horseshoes are considered lucky for numerous reasons. Generally, they are nailed over a door to draw luck to the home. They are forged by blacksmiths, which is considered to be a lucky profession. They are made of iron, which long ago was thought to ward off bad fairies. Seven nails are usually used to secure horseshoes and seven is considered a lucky number. Some insist a horseshoe must be hung curve down to "catch" luck, others insist they must be hung curve up to "pour" luck over persons entering the door. Eric attached seven of them to the tour bus wall just to be safe.

You do have to be fairly lucky to find a four-leaf clover. It's a natural variant of the three-leaf clover and only about 1 out of every 10,000 clovers has the extra leaf. According to legend, each leaf represents something: faith, hope, love, and the fourth leaf is luck. So you only get luck if you find one with four leaves. I'd say you're lucky if you have those first three, too. Eric is definitely looking for number three when he meets his heroine.


Scarab beetles are supposedly good luck. So are lady bugs. As far as I'm concerned, bugs are just yucky. I'll skip on the buggy charms, thankyouverymuch. And crickets? Nope. Keep those squeaky things away, too.


Carrying an acorn can be good luck. Apparently, in Norse tradition an acorn in the windowsill was supposed to keep the house safe from Thor's lightning. My grandmother used to insist that horse chestnuts (also called buckeyes) were lucky. She made one into a pendant for me. Not necessarily a fashion statement, but I treasured it. I guess if you go to Ohio State, buckeyes are really lucky. Hazelnuts, especially if you find two nuts in one shell, are also lucky. And I thought nuts were just good for eating.


A penny is another good luck charm--but only if found with Lincoln's face up. A penny doesn't buy anything these days. You might as well carry it for luck.


There is also a superstition that wearing three keys together "unlocks" luck. I have eight keys that I wear on lanyard around my neck while at work. Does that count?


I'm not a superstitious person by nature, but it was fun to do research for a character who is superstitious. Do you know of any additional good luck charms? Do you have any in your home or that you carry with you? I owned a green rabbit's foot as a child. That's probably why Eric now has one of his own in a book.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

By Robin Kaye



Did you know…

That St. Patrick wasn’t Irish?
He was actually born in Britain and was kidnapped and taken to Ireland and was a slave. He escaped after about ten years, became a priest, and returned to Ireland to convert the Pagans to Christianity.

That the Charitable Irish Society in Boston started the first St. Paddy’s Day parade in 1737?



That the first New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade was in 1762 and is the longest running parade in history? It was started when the Irish militia in Lower Manhattan marched a few blocks to a tavern. As it turns out, the Irish in New York had staying power and during the potato famine they realized they had power in their sheer numbers—in ten years a million Irish immigrants came to New York and made the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade the largest and longest parade in the world. Every year there are 160 to 180,000 people marching and 2.5 to 3 million spectators.




That Sir Walter Raleigh introduced the potato to Ireland in the 16th century and before that, the Irish thought the potato was poisonous?






That corned beef isn’t Irish? The Irish didn’t start eating corned beef until they came to New York and settled in the Lower East Side in Jewish neighborhoods. They were introduced to the cheapest cut of beef, brisket, and the cheapest vegetable, cabbage, and made corned beef and cabbage their special meal.


That St. Patrick used the Irish Shamrock to teach the Pagans about the Holy Trinity, and has since become the symbol of Irish Catholic Nationalism?

That the traditional color of St. Patrick is actually blue—green is a color that became the color of Ireland, the Emerald Isles, and has become ubiquitous on St. Patrick’s Day in the United States.

That I have one of the best recipes for Irish Soda Bread? And now, due to the luck of the Irish, so do you!




Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:

3 ½ cups flour
3-teaspoons baking powder
1-teaspoon baking soda
¾-teaspoon salt
¾-cup sugar
1 ¾-cups raisins
1 ¾-cups buttermilk
2-tablespoons butter melted
2 eggs beaten

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar together. Add raisins.

Combine beaten eggs, buttermilk, and shortening together. Add to dry ingredients and mix well with hands.

Pour into greased round cake pan or 8” cast iron skillet and bake at 350 ° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Serve warm, also great served toasted.

Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!