Friday, May 31, 2013

Adieu, sweet springtime... by Cheryl Brooks

What is there to say on this last day of May?
Perhaps a quick ode ere the month slips away.
As I sit here writing, my roses have bloomed.

The lilies will dazzle, but could use lots more room!

I've been on vacation; I even went twice.
The Keys had their charm,

Myrtle Beach was quite nice!

But the Derby is over,

And the Preakness was won.

The Belmont at Elmont is yet to be run.

The Indy 500 was a fabulous race,

And when Tony won, he poured milk on his face. 

But alas, like the month, my post is now done.
For tomorrow brings June with its heat and its fun.

Next summer's vacation? I haven't a clue.
But for some unknown reason,
Only Scotland will do!

Come on, now.
You knew I'd get the hunk in there somewhere. *;) winking

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What’s an Historical Romance Author Doing at Comicpalooza?

By Shana Galen

I’ll be the first to admit I loved the Star Wars films. I wrote a whole book as Shane Bolks with a Star Wars premise. It’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Men I’veDatedcheck it out. I also like Star Trek and read a half dozen or so Robert Jordan books, but that’s about as far as my love of all things sci-fi and fantasy go.

If this is heresy to you, feel free to skip to the comments now and tell me so. My friend Any had no compunctions about telling me how undeserving I was when I told her I was on three panels at Comicpalooza in Houston and got a 3-day pass as a result. She immediately asked me to take pictures of anyone I saw from Firefly. I told her this would be difficult as I’d never seen it. She later texted that I should take photos of actors from BG.

I texted back, What’s BG?

Her response: Sigh. Battlestar Galactica. So unworthy!

Yes, I was unworthy. I know something about writing, which made me useful to the participants interested in the literary track. I spoke with other authors on Good Habits of Good Writers, What Editors Want, and two hours on Prose: Choosing the Right Words. I also signed books and, surprisingly, sold quite a few as well.

But the best part was the people watching. I usually put my phone away during book signings. At this one, I had to keep the camera ready to go.

It's a tough job, being an author.

Love these Elizabethan gowns.

I am told that robot thing is from MineCraft.

Body painting was really popular. If I posted the picture of the girl getting painted, I'd be flagged for nudity o_O

Sci-fi gang signs

Something to do with Game of Thrones.

The highlight of the convention for me was meeting Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies. I got both his autograph and a picture. He seemed like a really nice guy. Now, if I could just meet Harrison Ford…

Whose photo and autograph would you like to get? One person who comments will receive a copy of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Men I’ve Dated and the follow-up, Reality TV Bites.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

So, what else do you do?

Writers can get a bit obsessed. At least, that's what I've heard. Okay, okay...I'm guilty too. I'm so off balance sometimes, I need to do housework to get back to the real world!

Living in our heads is fun, but so is getting out and doing something else. It's summer! Time to play hooky. My husband is on vacation this week and I have to justify getting away from my work in progress. Yup. That's what this column is all about. One big rationalization.

Let's see...what else can I do besides write when it's nice outside? I can rent a boat. There's nothing quite so relaxing as a quiet boat ride, gliding along a lake. Gone are the days of parasols and someone else doing the rowing, so it's good exercise too. In fact, it can be as relaxing or as exciting as you like.

Or if that's too much trouble, there's always walking. Again, it can be a stroll or a challenging hike.

We did a lot of hiking in our younger days. But not today. Today, we went to Porstmouth. A cute little historic city right on the NH seacoast. I'll share a few pics of our day trip with you...and then I'll admit it was for research. Yup. Even though I was goofing off, I was still in my head, thinking, "Ah, this could be her bakery." or "That could be the hotel where they met." I'm probably not the only writer who brings fictional characters with her wherever she goes. Fortunately, my husband is okay with the whole group of us going places together.

Tug and pilot boats

One of the homes in historic Strawberry Bank

The Portsmouth Navel Shipyard and Maine across the river

My wonderful, supportive, husband always ready for adventure

Prescott Park home of the arts festival
How many of these items will end up in my series? I'm not sure. Regardless, it's good to soak up the atmosphere of a place and jot down a few notes. Pictures are helpful, but I like to have been there, so I can close my eyes and 'feel' the place as I 'see' my characters act out their stories in my imagination.
Is anyone else going on a research trip soon? 


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Boss

by Olivia Cunning

Have you ever worked for someone who drove you absolutely nuts? Who is hypercritical of everything you do? Expects you to work overtime and triple overtime for no extra pay? Expects work, work, work and no play?

Yeah, I have one of those bosses. Let me tell you about her.

She forces me out of bed at 8:30 in the morning. The nerve! Okay, so it's actually my bladder that forces me out of bed, but by then, the boss is already interrupting my dreams with plot twists, bits of character conversation, extraneous background information, and my heroine's favorite breakfast food. Mmm, breakfast. So I stumble downstairs half-awake and make myself a cup of hot tea. Before my tea has even finished steeping, my insanely demanding boss is shoving me into my office, and insisting that I have to get those thoughts that awoke me out on paper before I forget them. By the time I return to my tea, it's cold, but hey, that's why microwaves were invented.

My office
You'd think my boss would give me a coffee break (or a tea break), but as soon as the microwave has made the hot tea hot again, she's got me back in the office chair writing out a short synopsis of the scene I will write next. Next thing I know, my tea is cold again and my boss is shoving my alphasmart NEO in my hands and forcing me out on the deck to write that freshly plotted scene. Yeah, there's a wonderful view of the Gulf of Mexico from that deck and the sun is shining and the seabirds are flying about, but will she let me enjoy it? No. She expects me to write. Write, write, write, Olivia. So I write until my fingers are numb and my brain is like mush and my stomach reminds me that it's time for lunch.

Do you know how hard it is to write while this view is demanding your attention?

Finally, a break! Except my boss expects me to do the dishes I neglected the night before and to eat standing over the sink, before she's shoving me back into the office to plot the next scene of the day. But I need to take a shower, I complain. Fine, but make sure you are plotting more scenes in your head while you stand under the stream of water and stare blankly at the wall. Now that I'm no longer smelly, she decides to let me check my email (why thank you!) and deal with the other side of this crazy job for an hour, but then it's back to writing. I admit, she usually lets me take a walk in the afternoon, but she's always making me think about the book, even when I should be taking a break. Occasionally, she allows me to watch TV, but either ends up making me feel guilty for wasting time, or is looking for ideas to use.

So it's 10:30 pm and the boss reminds me that I have to write this blog post and she's a bit upset that I fell asleep on the sofa after dinner instead of writing a third scene for the day. So those plans I had for going out to lunch tomorrow will have to be cancelled so I can get caught up on writing again. Do you see how unbearable she is? She even makes me work when I'm asleep. Who does that?

This boss of mine is unbearable, but the job is the best in the world. I get to tell stories for a living. Stories about sexy rock stars, who surprise me with their depth and the beauty of their souls.

Dreamy sigh...

Yeah, yeah, boss. I hear you. Stop daydreaming and get busy!

So what's your boss like? Wanna trade?

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Idea Factory

It's that time again.

Between no less than three heinous deadlines, I'm cranking up the idea factory.

As I'm sure many reading this blog know, authors have to think more than a year ahead. If we're going to be successful, we have to play the long game. A book that's finished now, if it's lucky enough to be contracted for publication, may not see the public's eye until 18 months plus from now. And if husband and I are going to eat two years from now, some authors in this house need to start braining up some ideas.

Lots of people have lots of different ways to come up with new story ideas. Here's a little glimpse into mine.

In the summer of 2011, I had a problem. I had only one novel finished, and I was going to my very first writer's conference. Novel #1 was under heavy scrutiny by a small epress, and I was sure it'd be purchased. So, I needed to write another book, because I desperately wanted to have something to pitch to those agents and editors!

I'd just finished Stephen King's book ON WRITING (if any of you haven't read it, stop reading this blog, go buy it, finish it, then return to read the rest of this post. I'm for serious. It's that god.) and I was thinking about something he said in there.

Paraphrasing here... "Lots of people tell you to write what you know. Forget that. Write what you LIKE."

So, as I was riding in the car toward home, my mind was wandering.

"What do I like? Well, I like fishing, I like knitting, I like World of Warcraft. Hmmm.
What else do I like? Well, I love reading. I love romance. I love Regency Romance. WAITAMINUTE!!!"

As soon as I got in the door, I wrote that down. A time travel Regency romance, with a heroine who's an addicted gamer. It was just crazy enough to work, and I had just enough time to get it done before that conference.

Now, with the "Geek Girls" series winding down, that idea has run its course. So now, for the long game, I have to recreate that magic. I have to get the mind-wheels turning, and figure out what to write about next. I know what genre the book(s) will be, but I'm not certain of the premise yet. If these books, once I have an idea for them, get accepted, they won't see the light of day until 2015. Holy crap, that was hard to write! But it's true.

Here's what might be fun. I'm going to give you guys a short list of what I like, and you make up the most outrageous story idea from a mixture of them. All funny answers will be rewarded with virtual cake and lemonade. :D

I told you I like fishing!!! :)
World of Warcraft
Regency Romance
Doctor Who
Watching stupid-funny movies
Pinup girls
Being Clever
Collecting Vintage Romance Comics

Is that enough? GO!! :D You're not doing anything else on this oh-so-wonderful vacation day! (Sadly, I'm at work. But I'll check in!)

Much love,


Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Humorous Power of Language, Yo.

In between grueling revisions, we all need a good laugh. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered Gizoogle, a hilarious search engine that formats all text into outrageously over the top faux "gangsta" speak. I started out by looking at my Twitter feed, which was damn hilarious.

My blog was even more amusing, especially the guest posts by Ashlyn Chase and my agent, Eric Ruben.

Seriously, I may make "I ain't talkin' 'bout chicken n' gravy, biatch" my catch phrase for real. :)

But what was most hilarious was my book on "Amazizzle" now titled, "Bite Me, Yo crazy-ass Grace." The description and reviews have me on the floor in hysterics.

This one is my favorite... but if you object to language, do not read on.  

"Angelica wants ta write gothic novels. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Biatch don't wanna git hooked up cuz her ass is shizzle dat her homeboy, no matter whoz ass he is, wouldn't allow her ta continue writing. Biatch decides dat bein fucked up would fix dat shit. No one would want her n' dat thugged-out biiiatch can do as dat biiiiatch wishes.

Ian Ashton, tha Dude of Burnrath AND tha Lord Vampire of London, has been round fo' centuries yo. Dude hangs up in London fo' nuff muthafuckin years, then pretendz ta go abroad ta find a hoe yo. Dude then returns ta London decades later posin as his own lil hustla or grandson. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch yo. Dude is incredibly annoyed when a poem, THE VAMPYRE, wreaks havoc wit his wild lil' freakadelic game. Da ton jumps on tha vampire bandwagon n' start ta wonder why he is never peeped up in daylight.

When Angelica findz her muthafuckin ass up in a thang where dat thugged-out biiiatch could be ruined, her ass is pleased. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! But then Ian comes ta her "rescue" n' saves her hype by proposing, publicly fo' realz. Ah, then tha sparks fly dawwwwg! Dude figures dat she'll help his ass ta be peeped as aiiight n' her hype is ghon be saved."


So go ahead and Gizoogle yourself, your books, or your favorite author. Maybe even hit up "Wikizizzle."


When I told my friend, a computer programmer and certified (or should be) genius about the whole Gizoogle thing, he explained how it worked. I laughed and said someone should do something like this in exaggerated British slang or Redneck-speak.

Then he led me down another distracting rabbit-hole. Apparently there's the entire script of THE BIG LEBOWSKI written entirely in the style of Shakespeare!

Holy WOW! Language can truly chance the world.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Celebration of Life, or Where I Went Last Month by Pamela Sherwood

I've never spent much time in Palo Alto. Back in my childhood when we still took long car trips during our summer vacations, Palo Alto was some place we passed through on our way to San Francisco or heading back towards Los Angeles. I can't recall even seeing their renowned Stanford University, much less explored the town itself.

Last month, however, I had the opportunity to do both, during a short but intense trip up north to visit an old family friend--she and my mother have known each other for more than 50 years--who was having a celebration of her 99th birthday. And the day after that, her great-granddaughter was celebrating her 1st birthday, making for a century of living between them!

So am I going to bore you with pictures of my travels? Absolutely!

Caveat: this will also be known to me as the trip on which my trusty Nikon camera finally let me down, so all surviving photos were taken with my cell phone. My inexperience with cell phone cameras resulted in several wobbly, out-of-focus shots (to which I won't subject you), but fortunately, others came out quite well. (Being able to sharpen/brighten them later with iPhoto helps too!)

Although Stanford University wasn't on the sight-seeing itinerary, I managed to catch a glimpse of it and a shot of Stanford Tower as we tried to navigate the unfamiliar streets and find our way downtown.
The Leaning Tower of Stanford?

The angle at which I took the picture--craning out the window--gives it a tilt worthy of the Tower of Pisa, but I rather like the effect of the stone and brick spire silhouetted against the soft blue of the spring sky. We did have lovely weather during our stay.

Like many college towns, Palo Alto has a casual, almost sleepy atmosphere. Tree-lined streets, small, cozy-looking shops, restaurants of all description to feed a hungry student population. Fewer bookstores than I expected, which was a surprise and a pity. One of the last remaining Borders (remade from an old movie theater) had recently closed its doors. The neon sign was still in place, but peering in through the smudged windows, I saw only crumbling plaster and emptiness.

There was no bookstore at the upscale Stanford Mall, either (another disappointment), but there were several striking fountains, and garden islands brilliant with spring flowers--love those flame-colored tulips!

The Ball Fountain, Stanford Mall
Spring Flowers

 And there used to be a Frog Pond, though it was walled off, so the denizens could be moved to "a new pad." (The pun is not my own--sorry to have missed you, Kermit & Company!)

My traveling companion wanted to be as close as possible to the restaurant where the party was being held, so after some searching, we settled at The Cardinal, a historic hotel in downtown Palo Alto that was only an eight-minute walk away.

Built in 1924, the art-deco Cardinal boasted a wealth of period ambiance, which was especially visible in the lobby: tiled floors, acorn-shaped chandeliers, a Batchelder fireplace flanked by wrought-iron torchieres that hadn't been moved since the hotel opened for business almost 90 years ago, and an antique piano in one corner.

Rooms were reached via an old-fashioned elevator with an outer door you had to open and close manually.  Fortunately, the rooms themselves were modern enough, with up-to-date plumbing, a flatscreen TV, and wireless internet access. No air-conditioning, but a ceiling fan kept things pleasantly cool and made almost no sound whatsoever. While I wouldn't have wanted to stay there indefinitely, I enjoyed our brief sojourn in an elegant, more gracious era.

The crowning events of our stay were the two birthday parties, the essence of which can be summed up by the stunning Longevity fan commemorating the first honoree's rich, full life as the matriarch of a large, far-flung clan, and the Red Eggs (colored by red calligraphy paper) symbolizing the beginning of the second honoree's.

Both birthday dinners were  Chinese banquets--and all I'm going to say there is: if you are ever invited to one, pace yourself. The food was delicious and beautifully prepared, but the courses, they keep coming! Appetizers, soup, salad, fish, poultry, beef, pork, rice . . . although once you get to the noodle dishes (noodles for longevity), the end is usually in sight. Dessert, however, was thoroughly western birthday cake--a popular choice, since Chinese cuisine doesn't exactly excel at sweets.

A lovely time was had by all: the first honoree was touched and delighted to see so many friends and relatives in attendance, while the second honoree got to do one of her favorite things ever: eat! And with a possible lifetime of Chinese banquets before her, that knack will surely stand her in good stead.

Happy birthday, ladies! Thank you for inviting us--and we enjoyed celebrating these momentous occasions with you.

(A brief footnote: The first birthday girl had requested and received my book, Waltz with a Stranger, as a Christmas present. Several guests also expressed interest, so I passed along about half a dozen bookmarks and the news that my next book was due out in October.  The opportunity for a bit of free promotion was unexpected, but by no means unwelcome!)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

By: Julie Ann Walker

Carbo-load the Writer's Block Away!
(My Three Favorite Pasta Salad Recipes)

A few days ago I was suffering from that dreaded phenomenon known as writer's block.  I knew my characters.  I knew my story arc.  But could I get from point A to point B?  Abso-friggin'-lutely not!  The page sat before me… blank.  The cursor blinked on the screen… in the most annoying fashion.  My blood pressure began to rise… to frightening levels.  And then I thought what the hell and I - gasp - gave up.  I stood from my chair and stomped into the kitchen.  And as I thumbed through my recipe books, as I gathered the ingredients for three of my favorite spring/summertime dishes, as I chopped and boiled and mixed, the story suddenly began to materialize.  The path from A to B rose from the darkness into the light and - voila - the writer's block vanished.  So, today I'm sharing with you those three dishes in the hopes you can use them to vanquish your own writer's block.  Or, at the very least, indulge in a carbo-fabulous meal!

Mediterranean Pasta Delight Salad       
1 lb bowtie pasta - cooked al dente and drained
6 oz package of turkey pepperoni - individual slices cut into halves
1 bunch scallions - chopped green and white parts
1 bunch parsley - chopped loosely
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes - sliced in half
14 ounce can artichoke hearts - drained and chopped loosely
1 can whole black olive - drained and sliced into halves
1 jar roasted red peppers - drained and shopped loosely
8 ounce package feta cheese - crumbled
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp garlic salt
Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

 Picnic-style Macaroni Salad
1 family-sized box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner
½ cup mayonnaise
4 scallions - chopped green and white parts
10 slices bacon - cooked and crumbled
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes - quartered
2 medium cucumbers - sliced and quartered
Cook macaroni until al dente.  Combine all ingredients, plus the cheese packet from the macaroni, in large bowl and mix until smooth and creamy.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, then enjoy!

Avocado Caesar Pasta Salad
1 lb medium pasta shells - cooked al dente
1 ½ cup Caesar salad dressing
14 ounce can artichoke hearts - drained and chopped loosely
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes - sliced in half or quartered
2 medium avocados - chopped loosely
8 slices bacon - cooked and crumbled
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Gently mix together all ingredients and chill until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

And then if you cook all three at the same time - like I did - you'll have to share with your friends and neighbors.  Because there's no way you can eat all that pasta by yourself.  But believe me, your friends and neighbors will thank you!

 Until next time, cheers!

Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She'll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission. Look for the first four books in her fast-paced series: Hell On Wheels (August 2012) In Rides Trouble (September 2012) Rev It Up (October 2012) and Thrill Ride (April 2013). For more information, please visit or follow her on Facebook and/or Twitter @JAWalkerAuthor.

To Purchase Thrill Ride

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fan-girl at RT

I thought I'd be a pro by now. After all, not many debut authors get to sign with the fabulous Nora Roberts. But did that stop me from going all fan-girl on some of my favorite writers at the Romantic Times Convention? Nope.

The first person I stalked *clearing throat* sought out was Sabrina Jeffries. I'm a huge fan. We had started chatting over Facebook several years ago. When I told her that I had started writing again, the first thing she told me to do was join Romance Writers of America. If not for Sabrina's encouragement and advice, my stories would still be floating around in my head. It was such an honor for me to finally meet her in person.

Sourcebooks has it right. "Authors are my rock stars."

As my dad and I were standing in line for the awards ceremony, Miss Thrill Ride herself, Julie Ann Walker strolled by. And I must say, she's just as delightful in person. I was also thrilled (no pun intended) to meet fellow Sourcebooks sisters Sara Humphreys, Shana Galen, C.H. Admirand and Gina Lamm. I've had the privilege of knowing the multi-talented Lady Grace Burrowes for a while now. Lucky me!

One of the biggest highlights of the convention for me... Mary Wine. To be truthful, I could've sat for hours and listened to her stories about costume making for the movies, renaissance fairs, and Mary's take on writing. She had me completely mesmerized with her tales. We sat and talked so much at the Sourcebooks party that I literally had to pull myself away to mingle with the book sellers.
And one thing I learned about the convention? Being a Scottish historical romance writer definitely had its perks. Look at these Highland hotties who stopped by my table. Aye!

Victoria Roberts writes Scottish historical romances about kilted heroes and warriors from the past. She was named by RT Book Reviews as "one of the most promising debut authors across the genres" and was also a 2012 Reviewers Choice nominee for Best First Historical for Temptation in a Kilt.
X Marks the Scot (Bad Boys of the Highlands #2) was awarded a TOP PICK from Night Owl Reviews, and To Wed a Wicked Highlander (Bad Boys of the Highlands #3) is scheduled for release September 3, 2013. The first of Victoria’s new Royal Rebellion series is scheduled for release spring 2014. 

Represented by Jill Marsal of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, Victoria is a member of Romance Writers of America®, Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, several local chapters, as well as a contributing author to the online magazine Celtic Guide.

Victoria lives in western Pennsylvania with her husband of twenty years and their two beautiful children—not to mention one spoiled dog. When she is not plotting her next Scottish romp, she enjoys reading, nature, and antiques. She also drags her clan to every Scottish festival under the sun. Please visit Victoria at

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Brand-New Cover for SURRENDER TO SULTRY with Giveaway!

By Macy Beckett

Howdy, romance readers! I’m Macy Beckett, author of the Sultry Springs trilogy, and I’m here to share the new-and-improved cover for the third book in my series, SURRENDER TO SULTRY. This is Colton’s story—the wild-as-weeds deputy you met in book two, where he starred in the bawdy reality show Sex in the Sticks. Colt’s the county sheriff now, and he’s a changed man hoping for a second chance with his first love, Leah McMahon.

Here’s the original cover:

The design team had hoped vibrant fall colors would help the book stand out on the shelf. But between the battling hues of leaves, water, grass, and text, it’s overwhelming. And then there’s the couple. They look nothing like Colt (a long-haired Scots-Irish Cherokee) and Leah, (a petite blonde). It also doesn’t match the general look of the first two covers. So when the publisher asked the team to create something new, I was thrilled.

Which leads us to the final cover…

Isn’t that easier on the eyes, not to mention more consistent with the first two books? And check out that pair of lovers—they could really be Colton and Leah!

I think this is an improvement. What do you say?

Giveaway Time!

Want to win an autographed advance copy of Colt’s book…even if it does have the original cover? Or how about one of two custom “I like HOT BOOKS and I cannot lie” Macy Beckett tote bags? Simply complete the easy-peasy form below, and you’re entered to win. (US/CAN only, please.) Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Macy Beckett writes hot and humorous romance set in Sultry Springs, Texas: where first loves find second chances. Her debut novel, SULTRY WITH A TWIST, released in October, and book two, A SHOT OF SULTRY, is now available in stores and online. A third Sultry Springs novel will release in August. Additionally, Macy writes young adult science fiction under the name Melissa Landers. Her debut, ALIENATED, is coming in February, 2014 from Disney-Hyperion. You can learn more about her books—for adults and teens—on her website.