Pages

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hermit or Broad Minded? - Donna Alward

I'll admit, I could probably be a hermit very easily.

When life gets hectic, there's nothing I crave more than quiet, and space, and peace. We're moving soon, and while I may not have a travel budget for a while, I've said many times that the ability to sit on my deck in the morning, listening to the birds, drinking coffee and booting up the laptop will be a teensy bit of heaven. Lucky for me, that's in the cards for the future as we're moving to a whole new part of the country and have bought a lovely house where I'll have room to breathe.

So perhaps it sound strange to think that I'm also very broad minded. I have a lot of interests. And I can do both - just because I don't want my life "cluttered" doesn't mean I'm not curious, or intrigued by things.

I think this is a common plight of many writers. Many of us are introverts - we get our energy from solitude, rather than crowds. It's why we're good people watchers. It doesn't mean we're shy, or don't like people at all, it just means we don't need the hustle and bustle to be happy. Even when I was a stay at home mom, I never got cabin fever. I loved being in my little corner of my universe.

At the same time, there are so many things I find interesting. I'd love to own a restaurant. I'd like to learn to ride a motorbike. I want to travel...to see and learn new things. The problem is, with interests that varied, it would be impossible to actually DO it all, wouldn't it?


Well...this is why writing is the perfect profession. I can explore all those new things without necessarily having to leave my home. Even doing research first hand, it means an afternoon or day or two away, not a whole career change. I get to meet new and exciting people, and I truly do enjoy talking to them about what they do. Closeting myself in a room and working on a book doesn't translate into me putting all my eggs in one basket, just the opposite! What it does is gives me the freedom to explore rather than doing the same job day after day after day. It spawns ideas, sometimes so many I can't possibly keep up.

I go to my office and write each day, but one day I might be a single mum trying to do her best for her daughter, like in The Soldier's Homecoming, or a widow running her own business, like Maggie in Falling For Mr Dark and Dangerous. I can be a reluctant Princess determined to have one last bit of normalcy in her life, like in my January 09 release, The Rancher's Runaway Princess. The first book I ever had published - The Girl Most Likely with Samhain - let me explore how fun it would be to own a restaurant. I can be a rancher, a soldier, or a Marshal...I can be anything, as long as I put myself in the shoes of my characters. The very idea of going to work and doing the same thing day in and day out simply terrifies me! What other profession lets you live quite so vicariously?

I suppose the exception would be acting, but luckily I can work in my yoga pants and hair elastics and not have to worry about my looks as it's all in my mind, lol!

Anyway, my point is that the craving for peace and quiet does not mean a still mind...in fact I'd argue it's an overactive mind needing the quiet to balance it!

What about you? Are you a hermit? (Please don't tell me I'm barking mad!) What's your perfect prescription for that balance?

Donna
http://www.donnaalward.com/

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Knight's Reward: A Medieval For the Modern Reader - Catherine Kean

Writing medieval romances, such as my latest release A Knight's Reward, is a challenge—and not just because I set my stories hundreds of years in the past. My task as a writer is to make my characters as true to the late 12th century as possible, but also appealing to the modern reader. I guess it's fair to say I ask my readers to don on a pair of those famous "rose colored glasses." I mean, would you want to read about a knight who has no teeth because they decayed and fell out, who bathes once a year (if that), and eats stewed cabbage almost every day of his life?

I sense a flurry of shudders. But fear not. My heroes and heroines have all of their teeth, bathe regularly, eat cabbage only when integral to a scene, and are young and attractive. Especially the heroes. This is, after all, a romance novel.

Take Dominic de Terre from A Knight's Reward, book two of my Knight's Series; the first book, A Knight's Vengeance, is the story of Dominic's best friend and lord Geoffrey de Lanceau. Dominic is a strong, handsome alpha male (my favorite to write!) with a wry sense of humor and fierce loyalties. A knight who fought on crusade, Dominic knows how to vanquish opponents in battle. But, the true romance hero must also win wars of the heart—and I give him one for which he must fight dearly. While on a mission to find a stolen cloth shipment belonging to de Lanceau, he sees the only woman he every loved but lost when he left for crusade: Gisela Anne Balewyne. Now he's found her again, he's determined to win her love, this time forever. However, she's married and has a young son. And, for some reason, she's afraid to trust him.

Gisela still loves Dominic, but she's no fragile, swooning damsel. She's a hunted runaway who fled her abusive husband to protect her child, who Dominic later discovers is his illegitimate son. Gisela's a scarred survivor, a warrior in her own right, who puts her love for her child and Dominic above her own needs and happiness. I think she's one of the strongest heroines I've written, and the most forthright. She knew how the climactic scene in A Knight's Reward must play out and told me so very early on in the writing process.

Would her story really have ended as it did in the late 12th century? Part of the fun of writing romance is exploring the possibility of "what it?" And since, as an author, I have my own pair of rose colored glasses that see nothing but happily-every-after endings, I let Gisela have her way and let Dominic win her heart.

And no, there was no cabbage-eating involved.

Catherine


For more information on Catherine's medieval romances, visit her website

Monday, April 28, 2008

danger's kiss


Hello, dear readers...

I have a book coming out this week (woohoo!), and there’s nothing that excites an author as much as the arrival of their “baby.” My little bundle of joy, DANGER’S KISS, will arrive on May 1st. I hope you’ll forgive me if I gush like a new mother.

If you’re as much as fan of medieval romance as I am, you know the plots often involve Lady So-and-So being forced to wed Lord What’s-His-Name for political gain. But what about the rest of the folk--the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker--the commoners who were free to marry for love?

Sometimes, instead of Brad and Angelina, I’d like to hear about the courtship of John the trucker and Mary the Kindergarten teacher. That’s what inspired me to write DANGER’S KISS. I wanted to weave a tale I could relate to, where the hero and heroine don’t live in an ivory tower, don’t dine on sweetmeats, and don’t always play nice.

DANGER’S KISS is sort of a Sheriff of Nottingham meets The Artful Dodger adventure in which Nicholas Grimshaw, upstanding officer of the law, living happily alone in his thatched cottage, makes the mistake of taking mercy upon a beautiful scam artist by the name of Desiree and, instead of hanging her for her thievery, indentures her as his servant.

Sleight of hand and sleight of heart ensue as the two clash over what’s right versus what’s just, and moral lines become blurred as lawman and outlaw fall recklessly in love. Yet in the end, these two simple folk prove more honorable than their superiors as they work together to foil a nefarious noblewoman’s treacherous scheme.

To research DANGER’S KISS, I mingled with a great bunch of peasants--medieval reenactors with fascinating “lives” who were delighted to share their stories. In fact, a marvelous magician named Silvermane showed me the clever sleight of hand tricks that Desiree uses in the book!

Here’s my trailer. Turn up the volume, and enjoy:



I hope you find DANGER’S KISS an earthy, refreshing glimpse into medieval times, and I’m wagering the romance and adventure will keep you up all night! Let me know if it did at www.sarahmckerrigan.com.



Sarah McKerrigan...
Stories to keep you up all night!
LADY DANGER - Riding to the rescue April 2006
CAPTIVE HEART - Coming for you October 2006
KNIGHT'S PRIZE - Stealing your heart April 2007
DANGER'S KISS - Flirting with trouble May 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Author Trivia - Lee Hyat


Hi, this month's author trivia is about an author I've only just recently discovered and everything I know about her personality so far, I really like. Her books are pretty amazing too but I like the author because she makes me laugh. And that's always a good thing. :)

So, here are my clues:

* She grew up in Pasedena, CA.

* She graduated from John Muir High School.

* She dropped out of college

* Her latest book is out in the UK this month (April 08)

* Her first book (2005) was inspired by Lucky Charms cereal, non-fat milk and SHAPE magazine.

* The first book she ever read cover to cover was Alice Walker's THE COLOR PURPLE.

* She's attending the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

* Her current book is about a pastry chef who is the daughter of a living legend novelist...

Can you guess the author and the title of her latest book?

Please email your answers to totebag@authorsoundrelations.com and mark the subject 'Author Trivia'. I'll be picking three winners in a week's time and each will receive a copy of this author's new book.

Good luck!

Lee

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Just Wanted to Introduce Myself


Hi! This is my very first post here at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs, so I thought I'd start by introducing myself. My name is Tracy Wolff and I am pretty new to the romance writing world. My first Spice Brief, No Apologies, came out at eharlequin this past February and my first novel, A Christmas Wedding, will be a November 2008 Harlequin Superromance Release. My first two erotic suspense novels-- Full Exposure and Primal Obsession-- will hit the shelves starting in January of 2009.
Besides writing, I am the mother of three very rambunctious little boys, wife to the Alpha hero of my dreams and a writing professor at my local college. Which, actually, leads me nicely to the topic of this post.
The semester is coming to an end (twelve days and counting-- can you tell I'm just a tad bit excited?) and this brings up one of my favorite times of year-- summer vacation. Now, I know, in parts of the country it is barely spring, but here in Texas, where I am currently living, we're working at ending spring and heading straight into summer. The days are longer-- and hotter (we're averaging mid to high 80s every day around here), the flowers are in full-bloom and there's an air of expectation wherever I go. It's the same air of expectation I've lived with every year of my life since kindergarten-- you see, teachers never measure the year from January to December. For us, it's like it always was-- August or September to May or June, depending on what part of the country we're in. And after twelve years in the profession, I'm certainly no different.
So as I look forward to the end of classes and the beginning of free time (except, of course, for a looming deadline or two) I can't help but reflecting on what I love about summer.
As a child, I adored summer because it meant long afternoons in the pool, trips to amusement parks, ice cream cones and time off with my mom, who was also a teacher. As an adult-- and the mother of three young children-- I find myself looking forward to summer for much the same reasons. I love spending time with my boys-- though after a few weeks the incessant fighting wears just a little bit thin ;) I love hanging out at the pool, though I do more chasing and catching and splashing than I do swimming anymore. And I love getting summer treats, though my boys have recently traded ice cream cones for snowcones-- which is fine with me as I find I've become quite addicted to the lime flavored ones. As for amusement parks, we did Disneyland, Universal Studios, Sea World, and the SD Zoo and Wild Animal Parks last year so I pretty much figure I'm safe if we take this summer off.
I also like backyard barbecues with my friends, getting pedicures, buying a new sundress or two and generally having time to just wallow in being me. During the semester, things get so frantic between my kids and my classes,my office hours and essay grading and book writing, that sometimes I forget to stop and smell the daisies. This summer I plan on smelling a lot of daisies and hope the same can be said for all of you.
So what are your summer plans? Anyone going on an exciting trip? Anyone just planning on hanging out at home? I'd love to hear how others plan on spending my favorite time of year.

Friday, April 25, 2008

OF MICE & MEN (And Rats & Sex & Cheese) by Jenny Gardiner


I heard an interview recently in which an author was promoting her new book about sex. Sorry, I totally forget the name of the book. But I do recall what she said about a few studies in which they tested rats (or was it mice?) while they were getting it on.

Now first off, there is something particularly unseemly about being a voyeur to rat fornication. On so many levels. Not the least of which is because rodents having sex = more rodents on the horizon. And those rodents will then have sex, and so on and so on. Having fended off my share of mouse infestations in my day, I do believe that anything involving rodent procreation should be vigorously avoided at all costs.

But also, ick! Little teeny rats (or worse yet, large fat black ones like from the movie Ben), doing the nasty in a laboratory simply evokes a sense of repulsion in me. Especially when I learned that one of the tests they performed involved the rats donning polyester pants---miniature rodent disco-wear!---so that researchers could determine the effect of polyester on sperm count.

I wonder who drew the short straw to have to count the rat sperm? And probably worse yet, who had to ensure there was rat sperm to count? I know I'd have volunteered immediately to whip up a few dozen pair of the tiny pants on my sewing machine at home---far, far away from the lab---thus assiduously avoiding the rat-wanking job.

In case you were wondering, polyester did decrease sperm count. So there you go, Tony Manero Rat. Disco must be dead for a reason.

But the test that most amused me involved rats in the midst of doing it---in the heat of passion, if there is such thing as rodent ardor---only to have the scientists introduce a diversion.

So there the mice/rats/whatever were, in lock-and-load mode, when the researchers dropped in some yummy cheese to see what would happen. While the boy rats just kept on doing the nasty, the girl rats? Well, consider it the "filing-your-nails-while-in-the-missionary-position" tactic. Yes, they were far more girls interested in chomping cheese than getting some lovin' from their man. They walked away in flagranto delicto! Talk about coitus interruptus! All for a little Velveeta.

I suspect we human females have something in common with our rodent cousins. And it's not whiskers (as long as there's electrolysis at our disposal), nor twitching pink noses, nor a long icky tail. None of that. And we don't particularly crave cheese. You see, women don't want a wham-bam-thank-you-rat experience. They want to be wooed. Wined and dined, made to feel wanted, to feel as if they are the most important thing in the world to their man. Sure, any old creature can get it on. But copulation without representation is not the goal. Well, you know what I mean. Sex without passion, without amore, without a modicum of emotion, (dare I say) adoration, and certainly respect. I'd say most of us would take the cheese over that. Most days, at any rate.

Any old rodent can have a quickie on the petrie dish (that would be the rat version of doing it on the kitchen table). But when it comes to making love, perhaps a lot of men can learn from this rat survey, and figure out how to appeal to the cheese-lover in us gals.
Jenny

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What Brings In The Spring Season - Michelle Monkou

Spring has sprung. We take the seasons for granted because every year, they come rolling in around the same time. Just as predictable are the behavior of people. There are a few things that mark this season, such as:

Spring cleaning - Where we make bold plans to de-clutter, actually move the furniture to get those dust bunnies, wash the curtains, dust the places above eye level. I said "plan," not actually accomplish. I did manage the de-clutter, but guess what, there were spores that exploded creating another generation of...stuff. I have three boxes of books that include my advance copies, books for contest give-aways, and books I've ordered online. Then my son rests his skateboard against one box. His father drops his knee support over it after he works out. My daughter rests her backpack against everything and quickly the pile grows.

Diets - Yep, I used the darn D-word again this year. Every morning I throw myself off the side of the bed and crawl over to get my workout clothes on before the side that wants back into the bed wins. I walk for 30-40 mins or for 2 miles - don't bother to calculate, it's rougly 18 min miles. I'm a work-in-progress, leave me alone. At the beginning of the year, I worked out twice a day. Now I'm at once a day, but at least it's every day. Notice I haven't mentioned the D-word. And I'm not gonna.

Goals & Resolutions - I had grand writing goals. I met some of them. But I've wasted lots of time on the Internet that I've missed several. I'm blogging with nuns, my favorite pasttime. I'm on the phone chatting with my author buddy about the deadlines that are kicking my butt and then 2 hours later after I get off the phone, I'm too tired to write. I'm also an addict of Cold Case Files, 48-hour, DEA, SWAT and any other cop-related reality TV. I wish that I could say it's for research, but it's a morbid fascination of our decaying society. And then I switch to Intervention so I can cry with the family, while they plead with their loved-ones to go for help. Yep, and I'm still complaining about those looming deadlines.

Conferences & Trips - Spring is the time when conferences spring up like dandelions. And if you attended all of them, you'd be bankrupt. Heck, I can attend one and feel the financial squeeze for months to come. But it's part of the business to network, learn, and research - pretty lofty. But I've got to say, that some also provide the perfect opportunity to just dance my butt off. At Romance Slam Jam, I'm electric sliding until my thighs scream - enough already. At Romance Writers of America's conference, specifically the Harlequin party, I'm in a disco fever zone, especially when they go retro and pull out the 70s, 80s, and other party jams. But it's my once a year thing and next week, I get to go boogie at Slam Jam in Chicago.

Celebrating Releases - but most of all for me in the Spring, this one to be exact, I'm pulling out the tap dance shoes, cane, and bowler hat as I take my show on the road to promote - No One But You: College sweethearts. Sorority Sisters. Overbearing mother. Home-wrecker girlfriend. Sexy. Sensual. Romance. This first in the Ladies of Distinction series is making my Spring a fun one.


Hope your Spring has been inspiring, energizing, and fulfilling.




Michelle

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Romantic Times

I live in Erie, PA and when I found out that RT's annual convention was in Pittsburgh, I knew I was making the two hour trip south to go. I planned to go for the whole convention, but due to deadlines, only went for two days, but I planned to make them count!

So, I loaded up Floyd (for those who don't know, I name things....Floyd's my little orange Vibe), plugged in my iPod (who doesn't have a name) and due to my directional inabilities, my GPS (which is actually a function of my PDA, Minerva) and hit the road very early on Friday.

With Minerva's help, I made it into Pittsburgh and arrived at the hotel. I was in the overflow hotel, the Omni, and they were great. My room was ready at seven-thirty am. So after I stowed my luggage, I headed to the Hilton.

At ten, I had a panel workshop on series romance. It was fantastic (Anna DeStefano was the captain and did a great job putting it together)! One question threw me. Did we write category as a first choice, or was it a fallback. It was nicely asked. When I talked to the woman afterwards, she said she'd never really considered writing category romance until our panel, and after listening to us, she was quite enthusiastic about the idea! Anyway, to answer the question...writing series romance was my first choice! I originally wanted Duets, and have been fortunate to continue writing for Harlequin since that line closed!


Right after the two-hour panel, it was the awards lunch! I sat with two award winners...Molly O'Keefe who won the Reviewers Choice for best Superromance of '07, and Hannah Howell, who was honored as a romance pioneer! And my book, The House on Briar Hill Road won the Reviewers Choice Award for best Harlequin Everlasting of '07!! This was truly a book of my heart, and my first non-humor/comedy, so the honor was so very appreciated.


The rest of the day was a blur. I met a bunch of friends. I ended up at Heather Graham's Vampire Ball, sitting with Kerrilyn Sparks. I didn't get a pic. Here's the thing, I ALWAYS take my camera, and so very rarely forget to pull it out and take the pics! SIGH. But trust me, she looked lovely!

The next day, I bummed around with more friends until the booksigning. It was a blast! So many old friends (old in terms of length of time I've known them, not that they're old!) and new friends stopped by!
Afterwards, I went out to lunch with friends...well, two lunches with two friends! LOL I really wanted to stay for the Dorchester party (I heard wonderful things afterwards) but Floyd, Minerva and I were beat. So we headed back to Erie! But as always, Romantic Times was a blast! Next year it's in Florida. Sounds good to me, though Floyd and Minerva will be depressed that I don't need them to come, too! LOL
*********************************************************************************
I've got five books coming out, starting in August, so this is a busy travel season for me! I was in New York in March, now RT in April. I'll be at Cleveland RWA's conference in May, then a family vacation to DC and Williamsburg, VA in June, and finally RWA's National Conference in San Francisco in July and August.
So, how about you? Any travel plans for the summer season??
Holly
PS I added the "**" because the formatting kept skewing and I couldn't make paragraphs stick. Just wanted to break up the read!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Christine Rimmer on What Writers Need to Know...

We need to know a lot. Too much.

Which is why I can’t even remember how I got along without the internet. I know, know. Much of the info online is suspect. Take Wikipedia. Great stuff there. But you have to keep in mind that anyone can add onto any page at any time. Yes, Wikipedia has people fact-checking constantly, to be sure any given page hasn’t been maliciously falsified. But still…

You have to be careful out there.

I am. Honestly. I try to check and cross-check any info I'm going to put in a book and call a fact. Still, I know stuff gets by me. Sorry, I do my best to get it right. But it’s the nature of the beast that now and then we stumble.

And you know what? Even with the above caveat, I’m still in love with the things I can find out online. I have a folder in my Favorites links devoted to Research and Reference. That folder has a hundred addresses of places online to find out stuff. That folder should be better organized.

One of these days… (hah!)

And my Research and Reference folder isn’t the half of it. Every book I write gets a Favorites folder and then there are sub-folders within the main folder. For Settings and Flora and Fauna, for information about my hero or heroine’s profession, for things like how to kill someone with digoxin or Spanish slang and idioms. It’s all quite dizzying.


And wonderful!

And my very favorite research sites—I mean aside from the basics like Ask.com and Wikipedia and About.com?

The ones about time and the phases of the moon. I love this site: Complete Sun and Moon Data for One Day. You go there, you fill in the blanks, you can find out sunset and sunrise anyplace in the world on any given day. And the phases of the moon on that day. I love the whole moon phase thing. Sorry. Just do. It’s something I really need to know so my H/h can look up in the sky and see the moon as it really is in that place. On that day.

Weird? Maybe. But all writers have their weirdnesses and this is one of mine.

Love this one, too: http://www.timeanddate.com/ Tells me the time and date—right now—anywhere in the world. I need to know that! I really, really do.

And there’s my friend, Betty Sanders, a member of my local RWA chapter. She keeps a blog that’s a…reference of reference sites. Everyone needs that. So here you go: http://bettysanders.blogspot.com/

What about you? Favorite info sites I should know about? Share, share!

ChristineRimmer.com


Monday, April 21, 2008

Virgins--and Babies



by Jennie Lucas

Doing research for The Spaniard’s Defiant Virgin, I discovered that Spain and Morocco have some remarkable similarities in culture—and some remarkable differences. Both have beautiful, brutal landscapes, with rocky crags and wide, harsh deserts. It was such an adventure writing about exotic Tangiers and sheikhs, then gothic Moorish castles and sleek, modern Madrid!

When I wrote the story, I was pregnant, busy with a toddler, and it was Christmastime. I remember that it was snowing outside, but I still felt hot all the time! And I was always eating, gaining about five pounds a week—which you might be able to tell from the creative mention of food in the plotline. Just thinking of Marcos’s enormous sandwich still makes me hungry. And then what he does to Tamsin with the ice cream…YUM!

But thinking of The Spaniard’s Defiant Virgin makes me think of my baby. My book was due on January 1, but I finished it early and handed in the revisions on Dec. 22nd. Thank goodness, because although my baby wasn’t due until January 8th, he arrived ahead of schedule—on Christmas Eve!

And now, almost a year and a half later, he is walking. He’s looking at me now, standing on the bottom stair, mischievously swinging the open baby gate back and forth with a throaty baby chuckle. How did he grow up so fast? How?

I’ve been feeling a bit wistful for the past few weeks—since he finally gave up crawling—knowing he’s my last baby. Two is the perfect number of children for my family, and yet….Many of you moms probably understand the wistfulness I’m talking about.

But I can take comfort in knowing that although I’ll never be pregnant again myself, or never be up all night with a brand-new baby, I can still dream about pregnancies and brand-new babies in my stories. All the fun, without the exhaustion! I'm about to start a baby story, probably set in Tuscany, since I’ll be going there next week. (To attend Sharon Kendrick's creative writing workshop at the Watermill at Posara, which will also be filmed by the BBC for a documentary--you can read more about it here.)

When did you realize you were done having kids? Were you happy? Sad? Relieved? Wistful? How did you channel the creative energy? Reading books? Writing them? Having a career? Scrapbooking or creating a really warm, beautiful home?

And another question: have you ever thought you were done...only to find out you weren't?


Jennie Lucas’s book The Spaniard’s Defiant Virgin will be out in the U.S. in a few days. Caretti’s Forced Bride is out now Down Under. She’s also being interviewed today about her books and her upcoming Tuscany adventure at Romance Bandits!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Prepping the Book - Helen Bianchin

Way back when (let's not be too precise!) I used a pencil (easy to erase), a lined exercise book and dived straight in. The result was pages of indecipherable scribble which meandered with no clear direction. The acquisition of a typewriter meant I could actually read what was written on the page. This was not good. The heroine started out a Nordic blonde which became ash-blonde in the second chapter. The hero's dark eyes changed from brown to slate grey. At least their names remained the same, as did the location.

I needed to be efficient and incorporate a plan. Maybe a character bibliography? Describe the home in which they live, the cars they drive ... even better, employ the visual and search magazines for pictures. This was fun, searching for the actor or model with the right facial features to depict each main character, external and internal pictures of the house, a romantic scene, a sailboat on a glass-smooth lake. Choosing the season.

Incorporating a brief page with this is a story about ... who wants ... but ... because.

Prep work. Over the years I've refined and defined it to suit what works for me. I tried pictures pinned to a cork board ... the cat became fascinated with the drawing pins and pulled them out with his claws (should I mention I'm a cat person with two beautiful Birmans who like to sit on my desk as I work?). Next came folders I could close (and cats couldn't open), except one of the cats chose to sit on it. Okay ... a stand-alone display folder did the trick beautifully. It was only occasionally the cat head-butted it over the edge of the desk. Firm words were said, and we reached a mutual agreement ... he could occupy space on the desk, but the display folder stays.There's a clipboard between keyboard and monitor (check out the photo with cat sitting on same) with printed bibliography on one side, and proposed high points for the work-in-progress on the other. Plus notes, both handwritten and printed.


When I sit down at the computer, it helps to take me there, into the story, the characters ... a delightful fictional world where everything takes shape and form, acquires colours and moods as the characters speak to me.

Of course, there are times when the Muse goes AWOL and I have to prise each word as if chiseling stone ... (but that's another thread!)

So how do you prepare? What methods do you employ to begin?

Helen Bianchin

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Buying Habits


When I first saw the cover of my latest Harlequin Blaze, "Putting It To The Test", I was thrilled to see the teaser, "Cheating On A Sex Survey...What's The Worst That Can Happen?" I thought it was great. Why? Because I'm a reader who buys books based on blurbs and teasers.

For the most part, I could care less if an author is a NY Times best seller. Quotes by other famous authors on the front cover don't faze me, nor do six pages of fantastic reviews listed in the frontmatter. I don't have to have heard of the author before, and the fact that I like the author doesn't make the book an instant buy. I base probably 80% of my purchasing decisions on the book's blurb, and whether or not those few paragraphs have described a storyline that sounds interesting to me.

I never thought much of it until I heard an interview with Brenda Chin, Senior Editor for Blaze, who said most Blaze readers buy based on author. My own experience as a Blaze author supports that, given the comments I hear from readers who liked my first book. And I found that really interesting.

For me, even authors I like a lot need to get past my "blurb filter". I've only got one that I can think of, and that's Susan Elizabeth Phillips, who I will buy no matter what the topic. But that's a rarity for me.

So I guess that makes me a full-fledged Blurb Buyer, and it got me curious to know how other people make their book buying decisions.

What about you? Do you have a number of favorite authors that are auto-buys for you? Do you buy based on imprint, blurb, cover, recommendations from friends? What's the most likely trigger that will get you to pick up a book and take it home?


Friday, April 18, 2008

The reason for the dedication -- Michelle Styles

May marks the official US publication of Taken by the Viking. This means the books are put out on the shelves about now...May is also my sister's birthday month and the book is dedicated to her. When I wrote the dedication, I had no idea that the book would be out in the US at this time so I am very pleased as then she gets to see it on the shelves. Even though I have lived in the UK for nearly 20 years, my family lives in the US and so they tend to be pleased when my books are out there.
Whenever I read a book, I always read the dedication and wonder why. Or what is the reasoning behind that. Sometimes, it is obvious, sometimes less so, but I thought I would share a bit of the why behind the dedication -- to my sister Kate, med elske
The reason for the dedication is that my six years younger sister speaks Norwegian and has a special place in her heart for that country.
Basically I went to Girl Scout Camp and loved the experience of being out under the stars, cooking over camp fires, hiking etc. My sister was less than keen on the prospect. By the time my sister was old enough to go to camp, my mother had discovered Concordia Language Villages. My maternal grandfather was half Swedish and half Norwegian. My sister chose the Norwegian camp over the Swedish one because a flashlight was not required. Anyway, she loved the total immersion and subsequently ended up going to the University of Oslo for her degree. When she returned to the US, she became active in the Daughters of Norway. My eldest niece is going away to the Norwegian village for the first time this year.
In fairness, as the years have rolled along, my sister has come to appreciate the joys of camping and is now also very active in Girl Scouts and regularly takes her troop camping. She informs me that she does own several flashlights and can cook over a campfire...
Anyway, when I told her that I was going to write about Vikings, she explained how disappointed she was with most of the portrayals of Vikings. We had several long chats on the subject. She explained her point of view on the Viking era and suggested background reading material, including the Icelandic sagas.
When I finished the book and was asked to supply the dedication and the Dear reader letter, I had a problem. I wanted to say something Norwegian for the dedication, but also I did not want my sister to know. Luckily my sister had given my eldest a copy of Ole Brum (the Norwegian version of Winnie the Pooh) and had written something in Norwegian when he was a baby. I was able to lift the med elske -- with love -- from that. And thus, she had no idea about the dedication until I sent her a hardback copy last year.
Luckily she liked the book.
You can read an excerpt here.
So that is the reason behind this particular dedication. Does anyone else wonder about dedications?
My contest this month is for a signed copy of Taken by the Viking. It is the US version as I love the inside cover and I also think the colours on the cover are warmer. To enter please send an email with Totebag contest in the title to me with the answer to the following question: what is the name of the heroine of Taken by the Viking? I will draw the winner on 25 April.

UPDATE: CHERYL C has been drawn out of the hat. I have sent an email and the book will be on its ways to her shortly. Many thanks all who entered.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Devil's Daughter

My new book, The Devil’s Daughter, has just been released, and as its title suggests, the heroine, Lucy, is in fact the devil’s daughter. She’s selfish, conceited and she has never felt the least bit of compassion for any other soul – human or not.

But just because she’s never felt it before now, does that mean she’s incapable of feeling it? She’s been raised to think so yet there’s something inside her that wonders; something that has led her to the deal she’s made with her father.

To win her freedom from Hell, all she needs to do is claim the soul of Jed Caine, his crazy sister-in-law, and the baby she’s carrying. Easy as proverbial pie, right?

Well. . . maybe not.

Jed is reluctant to let Lucy into his life. She might be sexy as hell, but she’s not the type of woman he’s looking for. He needs someone who’s strong, sensible and ready to work - and Lucy is obviously none of those things. But given his sister-in-law’s present condition, no other person in town will come near them, so Lucy is his only option.

Things get off to a bad start and quickly get worse. The harder Lucy tries to wear Jed down, to seduce his soul out from under him, the harder Jed resists. He wants her, he wants her bad, but he wants so much more than just her body. As for Lucy. . .the more time she spends with Jed, the more confused she becomes until she’s no longer certain what it is that she actually wants.

And when push comes to shove, what Lucy wants most could be her own undoing.

I have posted an excerpt on my website and hope you'll enjoy getting to meet Lucy and Jed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Taking Risks - Nancy Warren


Good morning. Today I want to talk about risk. I have a wonderful friend, author Bobby Hutchinson, who insists that every book we write explores an issue that we, the author, are struggling with in our own lives. This may also be true of the books we read that affect us the deepest. For a while now, the theme I’m seeing in my own work is risk. The fear of taking a big chance, the risk of losing all. Of course, in some way, all romances are about risk because giving away your heart, telling someone you love them, joining lives together, may be the biggest risk of all.

This month in my Harlequin Blaze, French Kissing, my heroine is a strong, adventurous woman -- a fashion writer in Paris for couture week. When she finds out the annoying, fashion challenged, seriously gorgeous photographer who has somehow been assigned to her is an undercover PI, and that there’s a crime to bust, she rushes into Nancy Drew mode and risks her life. The research for French Kissing was really, really tough! I had to fly to Paris, look at fashion, try on shoes...there should be danger pay!

Turn Left at Sanity, a mass market reissue from Kensington also out this month, is about identity and the risks we take when we try and change. What do we do when the person we’ve become isn’t working for us anymore? I took a stressed, overworked, technology addict and put him in an eccentric, sleepy town where people live according to their own ideas. Beaverton, Idaho is an old-fashioned sort of place where everyone knows each other and accepts their oddities. My hero Joe, in falling in love with the patron of the Shady Lady B&B, begins to realize that his workaholic lifestyle is killing him.

As my characters usually find out, sometimes not taking a chance, is the greatest risk of all.

My latest way of embracing change is to take up running. I’m enrolled in a 10K ‘fun’ run this weekend. Wish me luck!

What risk have you taken recently, or plan to take soon? I’d love to hear about it.

Have a great (risky!) day.

Nancy

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Are Some Books Harder Than Others?--Jenna Black

People often ask me questions about my writing process. I always have trouble answering those questions, because for me, the process seems to be different for every book. With some books (for example, WATCHERS IN THE NIGHT), I start out with a full plot synopsis. I don’t think I’ve ever made it to the end without making major changes, but at least I had the illusion of a road map before I started. For others, like THE DEVIL INSIDE, I have next to no plan when I start, and the plot slowly unfolds as I go along. Then there are the others, which seem to fight me all the way from start to finish, no matter what approach I take.


My upcoming Guardians of the Night release, HUNGERS OF THE HEART, is one of the latter kind. (Actually, the book before it, SHADOWS ON THE SOUL, was the same, but it’s not as freshly in my mind at the moment.) Something about that book made it very, very hard for me to write. And I sure wish I could identify what that mysterious “something” was. (I’m not sure I could eliminate it even if I did identify it, but that’s a whole different issue.)

I have not gotten tired of the Guardians of the Night world. Nor have I gotten tired of the characters. In fact, Drake, the hero of HUNGERS OF THE HEART, has been one of my (and my readers’) favorites from the beginning. I had no trouble getting myself enthused about the book, and I got excited when I thought about all the possibilities. And yet, whenever I sat down to write, I’d invariably get stuck. I had to fight to keep myself in the chair. Suddenly, it seemed terribly important that I get that laundry done, or got out to the gym, or played a game of Civilization on the computer. I was in serious writing-avoidance mode.

I don’t know what it is about that particular book that made it so hard, but let me tell you, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I finally made it to The End. I hope that it came out all right despite the fact that it was such a struggle. I’m too close to it now to tell. Of course, as I said, I had a lot of trouble with SHADOWS ON THE SOUL, too, and it ended up earning my first Top Pick from Romantic Times, as well as a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award nomination. (So did THE DEVIL INSIDE, which for whatever mysterious reason came easily.)

What this tells me is that the ease with which I write the book has little or nothing to do with the quality of the end product. Which is in some ways a good thing. I was able to remind myself of that fact repeatedly while I was struggling with HUNGERS, and it did give me some level of comfort. Still, I must admit, I like the easy ones better! (Especially when I have a tight deadline!)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Character Chemistry - Anya Bast

Hi all -- Many thanks to Lee for the invitation to blog today. My name is Anya Bast and I write for several different publishers, including Berkley, Ellora's Cave and Harlequin.

The second book in my Elemental Witches series released in March.

Witch Blood tells the story of Isabelle Novak and Thomas Monahan as they hunt a rampaging demon that has been killing of witches...Isabelle's sister included. Thomas was a secondary character in the first book of this series.

When I’m writing a series like the Elemental Witches, I don’t always know which secondary characters might intrigue me enough to get their own story. But as soon as Thomas Monahan appeared on the page while I was writing the first book in this series, Witch Fire, I knew I wanted to get to know him better. In fact, I was so intrigued by his character that I knew almost immediately the next book in the series would be his.

Thomas was so buttoned up, so uptight, such a workaholic. Like the element he commands, he’s very stable and steady–good qualities, though Thomas takes them to an extreme. In Witch Fire, his character was in dire need of a night absolute reckless abandon, something to get him to loosen his tie a little. What he really needed was a woman who wasn’t afraid of him, someone to ruffle his hair and turn his world on end. In Witch Blood, I needed the right heroine to make that happen.

Enter Isabelle Novak. Emotional, chaotic, impulsive and unpredictable, Isabelle is ruled by her heart rather than her head. And like the element she commands, she is changeable, flowing and, if you’re not careful, can slip right through your fingers. She is everything that Thomas is not and everything he needs–even if he doesn’t know it. On the other hand, Thomas provides a stability that Isabelle can benefit from. Her life has had little constancy and she’s suffered for it.

On the surface, Thomas and Isabelle seem like the worst possible match, yet they fill up each other’s empty places and they are explosive together. From the first time they meet there is a chemistry between them they can’t deny. They both know they’re taking huge risks by falling in love and both of them, Isabelle especially, fight it. But the attraction they share and the qualities they possess–qualities the other needs–keep drawing them together.

And a demon keeps drawing them apart.

In Witch Blood, Thomas, Isabelle and the Coven will face a threat even more dire than the Duskoff warlocks, a threat that wants to ensure that Thomas and Isabelle never get that happily-ever-after they’re working toward (despite themselves).

Both Thomas and Isabelle will have to reach way down deep inside themselves for strength not only of the physical, but of the emotional, to meet the violent challenge that a loose demon on Earth offers…and to save themselves.

Come along with Thomas and Isabelle and delve further into the world of the elemental witches. I dare you to go head to head with an Atrika demon.

~ Anya Bast

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Heart's Desire - Christina Hollis


A while ago, I read Jack Canfield’s ‘The Success Principles’ and it made a real impression on me. It’s a motivational book, and it led to me getting my first Modern Romance accepted by Harlequin Mills and Boon so I’m living proof that the Success Principles system works (if you use the system)!

One of the exercises was to list all the things you’d like to achieve before you die. I thought meeting and falling in love with my husband was the ultimate prize – he’s the answer to all my dreams - but I duly wrote out my own ‘bucket list’ and it was fun. It concentrated my mind to the point where I’ve actually managed to tick off a few more ambitions along the way, including the one that was originally at the very top of my list. That was to get The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin published, which happened for me last year. More recently, I’ve been tackling the entries ‘keep chickens’ and ‘start beekeeping’. The poultry was a bit of a cop-out – we’d hung on to all the equipment from the last time we had a flock, and the children have been hankering for some pets. They’re thrilled with our new hens, and have even taken on some responsibility for looking after them. In a few weeks time they’ll get the thrill of collecting eggs warm from the nest as a reward.

Spring is such a lovely time of year, and a good time to try one of my other ambitions - beekeeping. This is much more of a challenge. I’m absolutely terrified of getting stung, but apparently honeybees are in real danger of dying out here in the UK. It’s important to get as many people as possible caring for them, as health problems in wild colonies mean they never last long. So as I want to help stop their decline, I have to fight my phobia. Luckily, the course I’ve been taking has been mainly classroom based. The only time we students have been let near to the bees they’ve been calm and didn’t sting anybody!

To celebrate spring and all these new beginnings, I’m holding a competition on my website, http://www.christinahollis.com/. It runs until the end of May and for the chance of winning some signed books (including my next release, Her Ruthless Italian Boss) and other goodies, all you need to do is email me at christinahollis@hotmail.co.uk with a list of five things you’d love to achieve. To get you started, here’s a selection from my current list:

To hold a traditional Christmas party, including all my extended family;
To become an established author,
To meet a reindeer;
To plough with horses and
To get de-stressed (ha!)

Put ‘competition’ in the email’s subject line, and I’ll be selecting a winner after the closing date of 31st May. Good luck!


Christina

Saturday, April 12, 2008

12 Points on the 12th - the new edition!

In a slight change from the actual 12 Points blog , today I’m so pleased to be able to talk about the brand-new, second edition of the 12 Point Guide published this week. I'm really thrilled to be able to say that this second edition is being published and I've been working hard to make it even bigger and better than the first one.

Why did I want to write a second edition?
Well, first there's the obvious reason - the fact that the first edition sold out.


That meant that no one can get a copy any more, unless they found one second-hand. Even Amazon doesn't have any used copies available.Well - they do - if you want


a A copy sent from Lebanon. I think that's Lebanon NY
b. A used copy for £60-82 - £60-82!!!!

c. A 'like new' copy for £67 - 40

I think not!
And no way am I claiming that my book is worth 6 - nearly 7 times what it originally cost.

Then there was the fact that some of the information in the original edition needed updating - for example, there were the names of some lines - Mills and Boon 'Tender Romance' was back to being just Mills & Boon Romance. And Silhouette Romance had merged with that line to be Harlequin Romance.Then there was the Modern Extra line which is now selling as Modern Heat. . . Nothing stays exactly the same in romance publishing for very long.And that includes the focus of the different lines, there are changes in the guidelines and the things that editors are looking for in submissions.So obviously it was time to plan a second edition.


But I also decided that if I was going to bring out a second edition, it was going to be an improved and expanded new edition as well as a revised one. I know a lot about writing romance but there are some things that only the authors who write for specific lines really know about.And so I decided that the best way to make the book even more helpful would be to include advice from the horses' mouths so to speak. Only I didn't call it that - I called this new section From The Authors' Desks. I sent out questionnaires to lots of my wonderful friends who write romance for many different lines - and 21 of them answered.

But I'm thrilled to be able to say that the new edition is not only revised and updated, it also has this 40+ pages extra with advice and tips from 21 currently published authors. Authors like Michelle Reid, Anne McAllister, Sandra Marton in Presents, Liz Fielding, Natasha Oakley, in Romance, Trish Wylie and Julie Cohen in Modern Heat (Trish in Romance too!) - and Kate Hardy in Mod Heat and Medicals - along with Gill Sanderson and Margaret McDonagh. And in Historicals there's Nicola Cornick and Michelle Styles. . . and that's only as a taster.


There's also Holly Jacobs from Harlequin Everlasting - er - Superromance (see there's another of those lines that came and went) and Yvonne Lindsay from Desire. Hopefully, whatever line you're aiming for you'll find something to help you there.

And it won't cost you £ 67-00 - I promise!

No, this new expanded edition will be exactly the same price as the first edition - that's £10.99 in UK money.

From the actual publication date- I will be holding a special launch party on my blog with many of the authors who contributed to the From the Authors' Desks section joining me in the celebrations - and many of them are offering prizes too. So don't miss out on that.

And I'll be answering questions in the Writers' Q&A as well. So I hope I'll see you here.

Oh -and as I've been asked for these details - here's what you need if you want to order the 12 PGTWR 2
The details you'll need are:
12-Point Guide to Writing Romance
(Studymates Writers Guides)
By Kate Walker
2nd Rev Ed edition
Pub April 8th
RRP: £10.99
Publisher: Studymates Ltd
ISBN: 978-1842851319

In America you should be able to order it from Barnes & Noble, Borders, Chapters/Indigo - just tell them to order it through Transatlantic Publishers

If you're in America and you'd like a neat way to remember these details, then Lee has some lovely bookmarks with all the info you'll need. If you'd like one of these and a free Kate Walker pen - then send an SASE (USA postage naturally) to:



Lee Hyat
Kate Walker Goodies
4411, 76th Ave. West # 2
University Place,
WA 98466

If the envelopes are addressed as above, then Lee will know what you're interested in.


But if you want a chance to be one of the very first people to own a signed copy of this brand new edition, then I have one that I'm offering as a prize here on this blog.I don't know if you've ever visited my web site then you'll know that the way I pick the winners for my contests is that I don't pick them - my cat Sid does! I put all the names on pieces of paper with a cat treat on the top of each one, and the first one that Sid picks is the winner.

So Sid will be picking a winner for me for this prize - and I'll throw in a signed copy of one of my Presents books and a special Kate Walker book bag as well.

All you have to do is to post in the comment s section - tell me about your writing, what lines you're aiming for - or why you'd like to win the 12 Point Guide - I'd love to hear from you.

And so would Sid - the more answers we get, the more cat treats he has to eat his way through!

And if you get a chance I hope you'll come along to the launch party over on my blog - there will be more prizes to win over there too. Hope to see you there.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Even More of a Good Thing - Annie West

What’s even better than a good book to read? A collection of good books!

Like when you discover an author or a series you enjoy, then you have the pleasure of reading the other stories in the series. Or when the present you receive isn’t a book but a collection of books. The promise of more to come is so appealing.

If I’ve enjoyed a story it’s wonderful to discover linked books where a theme, location, quest or characters carry on into other titles. Similarly I love anthologies – collections of stories by a favourite author, or by various writers. There’s something so luscious and satisfying about knowing you can dip straight into the next story when you’ve vanished the first one!

I started young. One of my first books was a fairy tale anthology. Large, hard bound in red, with wonderful evocative illustrations. I still have that book. As a child it seemed almost magical – as if there was a never ending supply of exotic, exciting tales between the covers. Even when I’d read them all I kept going back, poring over favorites and finding new details to enjoy.

Later I discovered other anthologies. Dr Dolittle, whose fantastic adventures kept me spellbound, and compilations of adventure stories. I read my way through series too, such as Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew. Every so often I discovered new authors in anthologies and I had a ball. There was the glorious anticipation that one book wouldn’t have to be enough. More were waiting. I worked my way through Tolkien, Austen, Wodehouse and EF Benson (love Mapp and Lucia).


Then I discovered romance...

Harlequin Mills and Boon books presented a never-ending series to be explored. Then there was Georgette Heyer, with a whole new world of regency-set romantic comedies to read. Mary Stewart too, whose stories of romantic adventure and suspense enthralled me as a teenager. My favourite was a huge anthology of 3 stories. I read it everywhere, even walking between classes. The first story I loved, and then there were two more waiting for me between the covers! Joy. I barely looked up for days.

These days I read anthologies of romances, or a series of them. Lots of reading pleasure to look forward to!

Now, to my delight, one of my stories in appearing in an anthology. My 'Billionaire's Bought Mistress' is released in the UK this month in a special centenary edition called 'Mills and Boon Presents...'. The collection of 3 full length novels aims to showcase some of Harlequin's new authors. As well as my story there are romances by Annie Burrows (regency historical) and Margaret McDonagh (medical). I hope readers enjoy this collection as much as I enjoy delving into anthologies.

Do you have favourite book collections/series/anthologies? I’m offering a book from my backlist to someone who contributes a comment.

Happy reading, everyone!

Annie

Look out for ‘Mills and Boon Presents...’ (in the UK or on the web at Amazon UK or Mills and Boon) AND Annie’s latest Harlequin Presents Extra ‘The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife’ is also available now from eHarlequin or in US stores in late May.



To celebrate the launch of the anthology, Annie, Annie and Margaret are running a contest in which one lucky reader can win three personally signed books. Details on the contest page of Annie’s website.



Thursday, April 10, 2008

If You Build It, They Will Come :: Anne McAllister

In my days as a movie star . . .

What? You mean you didn't know I was in Field of Dreams?

Well, I was. That was me walking down the street away from the camera when Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones were crossing the street to go to the newspaper office and talk to Burt Lancaster.

Admittedly, you had to look quick or you'd miss me (my mother missed me, though the librarian at the public library stopped me one day and said, "I saw you in Field of Dreams last night!" which might tell you the relative amount of time I spent in the library as opposed to visiting my mother in California, but I digress. . . )

As I was saying, when I was in Field of Dreams there were two taglines for the film which we all knew. One was Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa -- which goes without saying, of course.

The other was If you build it, they will come.

That was what the voice in Ray Kinsella's head was telling him about why he ought to build a baseball diamond out in the middle of his cornfield.

To say it didn't exactly make sense was, um, putting it mildly. Not even Ray himself exactly understood what compelled him to hear the voice, much less do what it said.

But he did -- over considerable opposition and quite a lot of heads shaking in disbelief -- and, guess what!

They came.

The ball players came. Shoeless Joe Jackson came. Ray's long dead father with whom he'd never really connected came. All because Ray listened to that voice and more than listened, put his body where his ears were and built that field.

He didn't just think about doing it. He showed up.

There are a lot of people who want to write books or be baseball players or engineers or astronauts or architects or dancers or deep sea divers. They have dreams, hopes, aspirations.

I'd be willing to bet that virtually everyone hears something, feels some drive, some desire, some need to accomplish something, to use their talents, to give something that only they can give to the world.

They hear something inside their head that says, "Do it."

But the question is, Do they?

Or do they just simply think it would be a good idea if only they had the time or the opportunity or the education or the strength? Do they get started and then stop, shrug, decide it's not such a good idea after all? It's raining or it's icy or it's too hot or their pencil lead broke or they sprained their thumb.

Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, says he believes that "most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us."

Ray Kin
sella began to lived that 'unlived' life when he showed up and built his baseball diamond, when he tapped into something he didn't quite understand but learned to trust and believe in.

Choreographer Twyla Tharp lives that life every morning when she gets up every morning at 5:30, puts on her workout clothes, leg warmers sweatshirts and hat, then goes outside
her Manhattan home, hails a taxi and tells the driver to take her to the gym where she works out for two hours. There she spends two hours stretching and weight training. But that isn't the ritual that has given her the life she wants to live. The ritual, she says in her book, The Creative Habit, is the cab.

She takes the step, makes the commitment. She shows up.

Every time I start a new book, I have to think myself into the characters, into the story, into the scenes. It's new and interesting and different for every book. It's also intimidating and I can always think of LOTS of other things I should be doing.

Not, you notice, that I would 'rather' be doing, but that I 'need' to do -- feed the dogs, clean the oven, fold the clothes, shovel the snow, call my mother, peel the carrots, write a book review.

But if I give in to those things I 'need' to do, I'm dead.

The book is dead. It will be hard enough to write just because books are. Characters don't always cooperate. Plots meander (well,
mine do). It will be impossible if I don't show up. Books never write themselves!

So every day I have to show up. I have to sit down and boot up the computer and call up the file and stare at what they were doing yesterday. I have to stare and stare and think. And I have to put words on the paper. Any words to begin with. First drafts are just that -- first, not last.

It's the way every book gets written at my house -- and so far there have been 60 of them.

It's the way one of my sons plays baseball. He goes to the gym. Every day. Every day. It's the way another one studies land use issues. He's got his nose in property records, tax records, records I didn't even know existed. Every day. Every single day. It's the way my mother-in-law created well over a thousand pieces of art in her life. It wasn't just that she was 'an artist.' She painted. She drew. She sketched. She collaged. She etched. Art was -- every day -- what she did.

Anne LaMott famously quoted her father telling her brother how to write his 5th grade report on avians. "Just take it bird by bird, buddy," he said.

It's the best advice I've ever read.

Show up. Do your job. Build it. They will come.

It works.

Now, excuse me for dashing off, but I have to get back to the book!

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

Share it here and you'll be entered the drawing for a copy of my most recent Harlequin Presents,
One-Night Love Child. I'll announce the winner at the end of the comments tomorr
ow and on my blog as well.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Celebrations!

By Anna Campbell

I've had a very exciting month and to cap it all off, I found out at the end of March that both of my books finaled in the RITA Award Best Regency Historical Romance category. The RITAs are like the romance Oscars and they're awarded every year by Romance Writers of America at a huge and very glamorous ceremony that marks the end of RWA's annual conference, which this year is in San Francisco.

Of course I'm going to be there and of course I haven't got a dress yet! When I was an unpublished author, I used to dream about one day maybe having a book in the running for a RITA - which was saying something as I had to cross the barrier to publication first and that seemed completely impossible at times! Now both CLAIMING THE COURTESAN and UNTOUCHED have been nominated. Pinch me! I don't believe it's real!

Congratulations and good luck to my fellow finalists and also to the unpublished writers who finaled in the Golden Heart, the world's most prestigious contest for unpublished romance manuscripts. You can find a complete list of RITA finalists here and a complete list of Golden Heart finalists here. I'm so looking forward to cheering for all these great writers in July!

This week, I got to celebrate the news with some local writer friends at the lovely Stamford Plaza Hotel right on the river in Brisbane. Here are a couple of photos. Photo one, me! Photo two clockwise from left: Allison Rushby, June Monks, Anna Campbell, Tina Clark, Amy Andrews, Rowena Cory Daniells, Sandy Curtis, Denise Rossetti.

Apologies to all those people who tried to enter my Great Spring Cleaning Contest after my blog here last month. There was a hiccup (all my fault!) and details weren't yet up when I posted my piece on luck. The details are well and truly there now, so I hope you'll come over, answer a simple question and enter. It's a great prize this month - four signed books, Annie West's FOR THE SHEIKH'S PLEASURE, Marion Lennox's RESCUE AT CRADLE LAKE, Christine Wells's SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER and Stacey Kayne's BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON. Good luck!

Have you had any wonderful news to celebrate lately? Let us know so we can celebrate with you!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Researching Erotic Romance

Hah! I know what you’re thinking. That the research I do for my Jasmine Haynes erotic romances isn’t something I should be talking about on a wholesome blog. Well, you might find it hard to believe, but I do actually have to research things that can be talked about. After all, I’m writing a story, it has a plot, and honest, my characters do other things besides...erotic stuff. I’m researching Games People Play right now, which is the third book in my “Fortune Hunter” trilogy. My heroine Josie is a project manager for mining equipment manufacturer. Now what on earth do I know about mining equipment (and please don’t ask WHY I chose this as her profession because really I have no clue)? Anyway, she's the project leader on the installation of a new system at a sand quarry. I chose that because there's a sand quarry within a stone’s throw of my house. I thought I could find everything I needed to know on the Internet looking at their website. Not so! I found a lot, but even after hours of Googling, scouring site after site, I couldn’t find the terminology and equipment designations that I needed. So I e-mailed the quarry and asked if they ever conducted public tours. I got a really nice reply from their business manager saying they were doing an open house in July and he’d gladly send me an invitation. Wonderful! But the book is due in July. I’d have to do a lot of rewriting. So I asked if he had a website he could recommend that might provide the appropriate terminology. Long and short of it, he set me up with my own personal tour and will provide all the literature I could ever possibly want. And that was my real point of this whole blog, that people are so helpful. They go above and beyond to help writers out. You ask a question and they bend over backwards to get you what you need. Every time it happens, I’m amazed again. And ever so thankful.

My tour is today at 9:00 a.m. So after I get back, I’ll pop back in and tell you how it went! I’m sure you’re dying to know all about how a sand quarry works!

Jasmine Haynes, The Fortune Hunter, available now.
http://www.skullybuzz.com
Don’t miss my monthly website contest going on now!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Stuck in the 80's - Susanna Carr


I recently got a Zune and downloaded all of my music onto it. That’s when I found out that I do not have eclectic taste in music. It's almost all 80s music!

Sure, I have a few songs from this decade and the last. I also have a few 70s classic like the Eagles, Abba and the BeeGees. I'm almost embarrassed to admit to those last two, but if you ever need to do a dreaded task, put on Dancing Queen or Staying Alive and they get you motivated. Trust me.

I don't know why all my music is in the 80s. I'd like to think it's because the music was better, but after listening to some of the really lame lyrics of Wham!, I'm going to say it's because they are the songs of my youth.

Is anyone else stuck in a decade? Have a favorite song or band that everyone else thinks is weird?

Susanna