Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
And on to more holidays....
Tonight, at sundown is the start of one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar--Rosh Hashana. It's the Jewish new year (since the Jewish calendar is a lunar one, new years comes in September). It's a crazy busy time, as all work must be finished by sundown tonight, as no work is permitted tomorrow.
So, short post:
Happy new year to all who celebrate.
Shana Tova. (Happy New Year!)
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
My name is Kimberly Killion and I write Sexy Medieval Romance. My debut book, HER ONE DESIRE, came out in July from Kensington/Zebra books. It is the story of a Scottish spy and his quest to protect the executioner’s daughter.
Those last two words were the only words I needed to sell that book: executioner’s daughter. Where did I get the idea, you ask?...
While in the midst of brainstorming ideas for my next book, I found myself searching for inspiration. I looked in the mirror and thought if I keep staring I would be able to find something in my brain to trigger an idea. Unfortunately, my reflection hollered, “What the hell are you looking at?”
I didn’t find what I was looking for there so I went outside and looked at the fields of corn, the gravel driveway, a blade of grass. Nothin’. So I looked up and said, “Give me an idea, pleeeeease.”
Yes, I was asking for the supreme being of all creation to take time out of His busy day and give me an idea for my next book. That was selfish when you think about it. I mean, He has more important things to do, right? So, I thought long and hard and what did I come up with? Lunch. Yep. Lunch. So I fixed myself a little southern fired something and flipped on the TV. A documentary was on about the lives and families of the executioner. It was really quite fascinating. So then I started playing that game…you know the one…the ‘What if?’ game.
What if I wrote a story about the executioner? Oh, he started out as my villain, then I mixed it up a little and he became the hero. It still wasn’t right, so I said the word’s that practically wrote HER ONE DESIRE for itself…What if the heroine was the executioner’s daughter. And there is was. An idea was born.
You know how long it takes the Road Runner to sneak up on Wile E. Coyote? Well, that’s how long it took me to google a few keywords: executioner, occupation, medieval, torture … This went on and on, and before I knew it I had educated myself on every form of torture between hung, drawn, and quartered to peine forte et dure (Pressing to death)
Curiosity leads me to ask, ‘What if?’ So, as I sit here trying to develop my next story idea, I’m also curious to know how other writers develop ideas. Do you play the ‘What if?’ game? Do you get on your knees and pray for inspiration? Does whiskey help? Please, do tell…
Friday, September 26, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
As a romance writer, people are always wanting to know about the sex. What do I write in a sexual manner? What are my limits? What do I think a sex scene is for? My students have stories, and characters that are like all characters—occasionally or (even better) often, they find themselves in a sexual situation. So how to write it?
In August, I taught a class on writing sex scenes for UCLA Extension. Yes, this seems like a very bold thing to try to teach, as a sex scene is difficult to write and you might be wondering what exactly is my area of expertise is in this field.
And wouldn’t you just like to know. Really? You would? Okay, I will tell you.
Basically, her idea is that good writing is good writing. Sex is the basis of character exploration and forwarding plot. So do all that the way you do anything in fiction. With detail, specifics, and feeling. Avoid clichés. Don’t rely on the known and pat. And she manages to tell us all that with verve and with great examples.
The second book is a book every fiction writer should read: The Scene Book by Sandra Scofield. I wish it had been around when I started writing fiction. This little book shows us all how to contain action. How to box in the movement so that it carries import, idea, character, theme. I would assign it to every writer if I had the ability. Such good information there.
So—how do I get off (yuck, yuck) teaching a sex scene? The first is that when I moved over to romance writing, I promised myself that I would not wander into the land of the gigantic male parts and strange euphemism female parts. I would not have this sex being like a nuclear explosion that changes the course of all known history. I read a few such sex scenes, one that remains in my memory. I truly can’t remember the writer or the book, but the sex act occurred on a run-away stallion (anyone for a metaphor?). The hero and heroine were literally having the most amazing sex of their lives while this horse went full tilt down some mountain.
I almost fell off my chair with laughter. They end up at some frozen lake, snow everywhere, and still manage to have absolutely mind blowing sex of all time. A few times. In the snow, the horse looking on.
Listen, I can’t even stay on a horse, so the idea of managing multiple orgasms while a horse runs away just about had me calling the Guinness Book of World Records.
Romance writing has an arc of plot, some things that need to happen. I often think of romance novels needing the--hi, how are you sex, the oh-we-can't-be-together-for-long-if-at-all sex, the thank-god-we-made-it-through-we-will-be-together-forever sex. Story over. But even with that arc, I hold true to the following below.
So my tack was this. Stay with the plot and stay with the feelings. While in a romance the hero and heroine HAVE to end up together, it doesn’t have to be a circus act. The sex arrives out of their connection or growing connection.
And then—stay “in” the body. Don’t focus on the body itself. We don’t have to look at the parts but feel the parts. And sex doesn’t have to be in the genitals but in fingers and rib cages and toes. Things don’t have to be literally explained, either. As one writing teacher told me, avoid fluids. I am big on avoiding fluids. There are enough fluids everywhere, so can we please stay with the feelings?
In other stories, sex isn’t always good. The feelings aren’t always wonderful. Bad sex has its place in literary fiction. When characters have bad sex, it helps explain what is going on with them in the story. It shows their inability to connect.
The one scene I really liked in the Sex and the City film was one where the character Miranda is having sex with her husband Steve. They are enjoying it, and she says, “Can’t we just get it over with?”
Wow. Talk about a bucket of water. And it worked toward showing how their relationship was moving along. Or not moving. Literally.
So in a nutshell, for romance or literary fiction: Remember you are writing a scene, a bit of action contained in a box. Use the characters and the plot to inform the type of sex scene you write. Stay in the body, don’t focus on the body. Try using alternative body parts to explain the sex. It’s not all about part A fits into part B. Avoid fluids, stay with the feelings. Make the sex realistic to the relationship the characters have with each other.
Now the handouts. Sex scenes from the following novels:
Into the Forest--Jean Hegland writes a sex scene between sisters, and it works
Animal Dreams--Barbara Kingsolver wrote later that she wished she’d shown the sex between Loyd and Codi—see where she chickened out.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover—see what we owe this classic and DH Lawrence.
Dream Boy—see how sex is power and lust and plot and abuse in this scene by Jim Grimsley.
Beloved—sex as metaphor. Corn was never as sexy. Morrison rocks.
Traveling Light—Katrina Kittle writes a lovely sex scene between two men witnessed by the sister of one of the men. So important to the character’s growth and plot.
Monday, September 22, 2008
You know, because it’s been quoted and misquoted so often, I actually had to Google this quote before I could footnote it properly. It was originally said by one Rodney King in 1991. He was the man who was beaten by LAPD officers on camera, and the film of his police beating was what started a riot in Los Angles. He’s still alive by the way, though the last heard of him was when he was beaten again by a citizen for trying to steal a bicycle. (after winning several million dollars in an award from the LAPD)
Wow, that was really not what I wanted to talk about. Sorry, I got carried away as usual. Let me start again.
My next book coming out for Silhouette Romantic Suspense (in November) THE SHERIFF'S AMNESIAC BRIDE is part of a multi-author series. For those of you who have never heard or read about these types of series, they’re usually six or twelve books coming out in a row but written by different authors.
Each book in a multi-author series stands alone and has its own happy ending, but the same characters run through each of the books and the whole series has a connected plot thread of some sort. For instance, all the main characters could be in the same extended family or live in the same town or work for the same employer.
Harlequin/Silhouette has been issuing theses multi-author series inside their category lines for many years. You may have heard of the Madonna Key series published inside the Bombshell line, the Dynasty series published inside the Desire line, and more recently the Texas Hold Em’ series inside the Superromance line.
I for one love reading books in series. My best loved childhood books were all in series: the Wizard of Oz books, the Winnie the Poo books and the Nancy Drew books. In fact, I am currently lapping up every book in three different Harlequin series. The 721 Park Ave series in Desire, the Wedlocked series in Presents, and the first books in my own series for Romantic Suspense: The Coltons: Family First.
Not only to do I love books in series, but I also love movies in series. A couple of my favorite movie series have been the Star Wars movies and the Harry Potter movies. I wish there could be lots more of them because they’re so much fun.
Okay, now I am finally getting around to explaining my use of the quote from Rodney King and the original reason for why I wanted to write this blog. At last.
We had a big…um…polite disagreement the other day about movies. When I make time to go the movies or order one to see at home, I want to come away feeling good—about life in general. Yes, I admit it. I love sappy movies the same way that I love books with happy endings. My husband, on the other hand, wants things to be more realistic. I get plenty of realism from the everyday news.
In order for us to watch movies together, my husband and I have to find a way to compromise. Thus my use of the quote on getting along.
I have learned to accept movies that close with a vague ending—just as long as the main character doesn’t die.
And my husband has learned to sit through movies now and then that have actual up-lifting endings.
The other day we came up with a series of movies that works. The Jason Bourne movies. Now, they don’t end quite as happily as I would like and they aren’t quite as realistic as my husband likes, but they work for us. And they’re fun—which is my whole point.
We’re temporarily at a truce in my household after three fun movie nights.
So, here’s my question, do you like things in series? Books? Movies? And if so, do you have particular favorites? Have you ever waited for the next installment in a series with bated breath? Or do you hate them precisely because they leave you hanging? Which ones?
Post a comment and on Tuesday night I’ll have my husband pick a winner at random. The winner will get an advanced copy of my upcoming book THE SHERIFF’S AMNESIAC BRIDE, the Coltons: Family First series. (which I should be receiving at any moment now)
Check the end of the comments on Tuesday to see who wins.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
In support of his new CD, Romantika, Anders spent the first part of the summer on the “Love Blooms Tour”, traveling to Botanical Gardens and Museums in elegant communities throughout the Northeast, and is looking to embark on a winery tour this fall. Romantika will be released October 7th.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Here is the blurb:
Purse designer Jessie Beane has some bad habits when it
comes to men. So she’s going to boost her sexual karma—
by indulging in an extra-naughty, one-night stand?
Detective Rick Marshall is the perfect candidate—a hot
cop with a creative and insatiable libido. Unfortunately,
Jessie’s poor excuse of an ex uses the opportunity to rob
Jessie’s apartment and steal Rick’s car...with key evidence
in the trunk!
Jessie and Rick don’t have time to waste.... They need
to find that car now. And if spending time together gives
them the chance to unleash their voracious appetite for
each other, then they’ll be certain to enjoy every
The story was a lot of fun to write, and I hope people find it as enjoyable to read. The inspiration for my hero was Clint Eastwood's Harry Callahan.
I've always loved the dark, brooding, and somewhat cynical, Dirty Harry. I think it's inherently female to want to take an emotionally walled-up man like that and try to reach in and find that softer side. There's something mysterious about the man who doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve. As if the sexy fire in those eyes would end up being twice as explosive once...Unleashed. hehe
When I think about movie cops, a few dark, sexy, serious ones come to mind. Keanu Reeves in Speed, Mel Gibson in Lethal weapon. Colin Farrell, Denzel Washington, Matt Damon. It seems all the sexiest Hollywood actors have played cops at one time in their career.
So let me ask a question because I love talking about them an am anxious to start giving away free copies of my book. Who is your favorite movie cop and why? I'll pick out at least one person who comments to receive a free copy of my new Blaze, "Unleashed". I'll post the winner here in the comments Sunday evening.
Visit my website at www.LoriBorrill.com
Friday, September 19, 2008
by Jenny Gardiner
These days it isn’t hard to find a self-help book for just about anything. As I was dusting recently--something that I need a self-help book to motivate me to do--a quick perusal of my book collection revealed that I am obviously in need of some kind of self-help.
Whether wrestling with co-dependency problems, battling food as an emotional crutch, yearning to tame the strong-willed child, or living with a neurotic dog, I’m clearly searching. At least when I’m in a bookstore.
Maybe I’m just drawn in by the clever covers, with their all-encompassing cure-whatever-ails-you titles. Or maybe the notion that simply reading a 200-page book will solve all of life’s problems appeals to me.
So I end up buying these books. When I get home, I optimistically set them next to the bed, assuming I’ll pick one up before drifting off to sleep. But then when bedtime rolls around, the last thing I want to do is:
a) Confront my problems when I’m too tired to even think about them, and
b) Read anything that involves thinking.
So eventually, when I get around to cleaning (see “Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean” by Linda Cobb), I shift these motivational tomes onto the shelves of the nearest empty bookcase. And there they sit, safe in the knowledge that they will be left untouched--not to mention undusted--indefinitely.
If only I could glean information through osmosis, then I would have solved my problems with denial, PMS, disorganization, and the latest one, ADD. I would know exactly how to approach handling my teenaged kids so that they don’t hate me and end up in therapy one day (see “GET OUT OF MY LIFE…But First Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?” by Anthony E. Wolf). I would know how to take charge of my life and make something of myself (as per “If Not Now, When?” by Stephanie Marston).
But instead, I feel a knot tighten in my stomach as I realize that I have failed in the first step to self-help: getting help. Well, maybe it’s the second step at which I’ve failed, because, after all, I did purchase the books. And that step is learning about the problem and how to find solutions to it. So far the only thing I have mastered is how to dust around them. And truthfully, I hardly ever even do that.
I think what I need is a self-help book on using my self-help books. Something that will motivate me to pick up one of these useful ditties and read it, say, when I’m otherwise disposed in the loo. Or in line for pick up at the kids’ school. Or while brushing my teeth at night. Maybe I just need Dr. Phil to whip me into shape. Or maybe I should just drop the self-help books altogether and pick up a copy of People Magazine to read at bedtime; then I’ll feel better learning about everyone else’s problems instead of worrying about fixing my own.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I wasn’t sure how she was going to end this book, and while I wasn’t thrilled with the ending, the alternative would have been equally as disturbing. What I did find remarkable about this story was how each of the seven main characters got to tell things from their own point of view and in their own font! LOL I know that sounds silly, but the font changes from chapter to chapter added to overall feel I had for each character.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
I’d seen these books but hadn’t paid much attention to them because I’m not a big fan of the vampire thing. But my friend Kristina Cook and I made a deal. She’d read My Sister’s Keeper if I read Twilight. All I can say is ‘wow!’. I’ve since read books 2 & 3 in the series and have the 4th one, but haven’t started it yet. Twilight is by far my favourite at this point, and believe they made a perfect casting choice in choosing Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory from Harry Potter) to play Edward in the movie.
Wild Hunt by Lori Devoti
Lori started out writing romantic comedy for the Zebra Debut line and then got snapped up by Silhouette to write for their Nocturne line. In my little corner of the world, I had never even heard of a hellhound or the Valkyrie until Lori introduced them to me, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to think before I started reading her Nocturnes. And now I can’t wait for her next one to come out. When you read her books, you’re there, you’re in the action, and everything about that world is real – in fact, during the fight scenes in Wild Hunt, it was like I could feel Venge’s pain. Read it!!
How WalMart is Destroying America (and the World), and What You Can do About It by Bill Quinn
A friend gave me this book to read and while I shop at WalMart regularly, I am finding this book to be quite interesting. Yes, it’s written by a man who has a personal axe to grind, but he freely admits that right up front, so you know what you’re getting in for right from page 1. We had a WalMart open up in our town almost two years ago, and while things overall seem to be fine, some of the things Mr. Quinn mentions in this book are definitely going on here, which is a little worrisome.
One For the Money by Janet Evanovich
Okay, I admit it. I’d never read a Stephanie Plum book until last month. My friend talked the series up so much, I finally broke down and bought the first two in the series, and I quite enjoyed this book! It was funny, a little bit silly, and a little bit creepy, too. The story wasn’t creepy, just one particular character. . . ick. And now I’m going to have to read all of them because I want to see what happens between her and Joe Morelli. Or her and Ranger. . . J
What I’m reading next. . .
Hidden by Eve Kenin (I finally wrestled my copy back from my sister)
Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult
39 Clues, The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (okay, I bought it for the kids, but. . .)
In Darkest Depths & The People of the Forest by David Thompson
Boone’s Lick by Larry McMurtry
The Gunslinger’s Untamed Bride by Stacey Kayne (started this one a while back, then lost the book in the chaos of my life. Just found it again)
And the list goes on. . . .
What good reads did you enjoy this summer? And what ones are you looking forward to this fall?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I remember all three very fondly. Each of them hooked me, made me want to keep coming back for more.
First love... his name was Alfred and he was the preacher’s grandson. I was sure with every fiber of my seven year old self that we were going to be together forever and ever... or at least until after the Robin Hood cartoon was over. I had other loves, more serious heartbreaks and lessons until I met the man that showed me that yes, love really can be all those things I’d read about in my favorite romance novels. But I always remember that first one with a happy sigh.
How about you? Do you remember your first kiss? First love? First Romance Novel? (I’ll stop there *g* I think this is a PG blog)
But as much as I love reading new books, there's nothing quite as sweet as the comfort re-read. The known quantity that I can sink into like a hug.
I just recently finished reading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga, which was so good I wanted to sit with it for a while. I didn't want to jump into a new book that might not be able to stand up to all that vampire-y goodness. So I decided it was time for re-reading.
Which leads to Linda Howard. All roads lead to Linda Howard, in my opinion, and to these two books, back to back, at least once a year.
First I read Open Season. The story of Daisy Minor, small-town librarian who's fed up with her spinsterhood and decides to undergo a radical makeover--which brings her to the attention of the incredibly hot Sheriff Russo--as well as a killer--never fails to make me swoon, happily.
Then I read Mr. Perfect. The sizzling hot romance between Jaine Bright and her sexy cop neighbor Sam Donovan is delicious--and funny, as smartass Jaine finally meets a man she doesn't have to lessen herself for. The murder mystery heightens what's already a fantastic love story.
Sigh... These books make me so happy. Every time I read them!
What are your favorite comfort reads? Which books can you read over and over and over again?
Sunday, September 14, 2008
The motivation to create something myself is sometimes hard to find. Then it’s time to dig deep in the search for inspiration. I find that thinking back to episodes in my own life can trigger my imagination. That disastrous teenage affair – if we’d both been more mature, might it have worked out? Later on, there was a guy I idolised but was too shy to encourage. What event might have thrown us together? The thought of projecting my feelings into a fictional character and giving her the chance to make her dreams (and mine) come true is a great spur.
In the end it all comes down to communication. The encouragement I get from romance readers is often the last piece in the jigsaw. Their kind words give me that final push toward the computer keyboard.
Have you ever managed to work through an insoluble problem by giving it to your heroine to worry about for a while?
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
Where do you get your ideas?
TRAINING YOURSELF AS A PLOTTER
Read Read Read – learn the plots that make successful romances in the past and in the present – and the ones that have failed
Think about them – which ones can you still use?
Which ones will need changing to make them work today?
How could you turn a plot on its head?
Have him kidnap her?
She wants the marriage of convenience?
Watch soaps/dramas/films – stop it halfway – or at the end of the episode – ask yourself:
Where is it going?
Who will end up with whom?
What conflict/problem/sudden revelation/black moment is the writer going to bring in?
How could you do it differently?
What twists could you bring in?
Who could they end up with instead?
What if . . .?
Read newspapers/magazines/watch people stories on TV – use them as your characters - see if you can see what will happen – check it against reality
How could you rework a fairy story – Cinderella? Beauty and the Beast? Or a classic ? Jane Eyre? Pride and Prejudice?
And if anyone can tell me which book that was I'll send them a special prize.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I'm really delighted to share the cover and stepback (yes, I have a stepback - be still, my beating heart!) art for my January 2009 release TEMPT THE DEVIL. Isn't that such a sexy picture? That man has such a come-hither look in his eyes, not mention that sensual glint! Wow! Honestly, I'm rapt!
Now, would you like a sneak peek at what's behind that wonderful cover art? I've put an excerpt of TEMPT THE DEVIL up on my website this month and I hope it whets people's appetites for the story as a whole. If you'd like to read it, please go to: http://www.annacampbell.info/tempt%20devil.html
And while you're there, why not enter my contest to win an advance review copy of TEMPT THE DEVIL? All you have to do is answer a really simple question about the excerpt and you're in the running.
Now, what books are you currently looking forward to reading? I've got a wish list as long as my arm. Which is a pity as my to-be-read pile is as high as Mount Everest without me adding to it!
Two September releases I really enjoyed are Christine Wells's second Regency historical THE DANGEROUS DUKE and Tawny Weber's sexy Blaze RISQUE BUSINESS. Both highly recommended!
I've got an order in at Amazon for THE SINS OF LORD EASTERBROOK, the fourth instalment in Madeline Hunter's current historical series - the first three were fantastic and the second one just won a RITA Award. I've also got the new Kathleen O'Reilly on its way - COURTING DISASTER. Isn't that a great title? I just loved the O'Sullivan Brother trilogy that she wrote for Harlequin Blaze. Again, highly recommended. And of course, I'm eagerly looking forward to the latest Anne Gracie, HIS CAPTIVE LADY. She's such an amazing writer.
So plenty to keep me going. What's coming up for you book-wise?
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, though sometimes -- albeit rarely -- the dedication is the best part.
Still, a lot of work goes into a book that readers never see. And while some authors habitually dedicate their books to their spouses or their cats, others often use them to connect to people who are significant either specifically to that book or to them in their lives at that moment.
Dedications are connections. They tie the book to the larger world. They tie authors to people beyond the characters they create. Sometimes dedications are simple and straightforward, sometimes they are moving, sometimes they are funny.
Whichever, they are a little extra bit of insight into the author's life. Lots of readers may not care about that. As a reader, I do. As a writer, I like the opportunity to mention people who matter.
And my experience is that people like having books dedicated to them. It says to them, You matter. You're special.
When I was writing The Santorini Bride, I made contact for the first time in forty-odd years with Haine Crown, a friend who was dear to me in junior high school. It was a joy to have her in my life again. And besides the other wonderful things she brought into my life on her return, she brought a knowledge of French bulldogs.
As it happened, I needed a dog for Martha, my heroine, to bond with while she was on the outs with Theo, the hero. She ended up with a French bulldog named Ted.
Every time I finished a scene with Ted in it, I would send it to Haine for vetting. And she would write back and say, "French bulldogs don't do thus and such. They do so and so." She was quite adamant.
"French bulldogs have Opinions," she told me. And they aren't reticent about expressing them. So when Ted peed on Theo's foot -- his first impression of Theo not being the best -- and my editor suggested maybe he shouldn't do that for delicacy's sake, I said, "But he has to. Ted would!" For the sake of authenticity (and because both Haine and I both thought it was exactly what Ted thought of Theo -- and because the editor was kind) it stayed in.
For that and for many reasons, I dedicated that book to her.
We were both crushed when the book appeared and the dedication didn't. Through some mysterious glitch, it got lost from the front matter. "We can put it in the next one," my editor offered. And they did.
No French bulldogs in the next one. But we both knew life wasn't always fair.
And I couldn't let it go without having the dedication somewhere. I wouldn't have had the same book without Haine's input. My life as a whole wouldn't have been as rich without her.
I'm sorry the dedication didn't get in the book where it belonged, but I'm glad it got there eventually. It mattered.
Dedications are a way of saying thank you to people, of remembering people -- like Nancy the cat slayer with whom I visited Ireland, or my son Patrick who, at age 14, was deputized to make a list of details for me about a wilderness camping expedition to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan so my wildlife biologist could know what she was doing, or my daughter the athletic trainer who has mended so many heroes.
They are a chance to say how much I've enjoyed Kate Walker who has shared so many adventures with me and bull rider Brett Leffew, who got my hero and heroine down the road in The Eight-Second Wedding, or Ronnie Rondell, the stunt coordinator, whose knowledge helped me realistic write a disaster for my hero to spend years having to deal with in Cowboys Don't Quit.
They are a way of touching base with people who have mattered along the way, of saying, "I haven't forgotten."
Sometimes I think I write books so I can write dedications in them. In writing there are always so many people who are behind the book, who helped to bring it to life, who should be thanked.
I'm thinking maybe, since it takes so long to write a book, I should start putting dedications on blogs. What do you think?
It also occurs to me that I don't think I put a dedication into the last book I sent in -- and it's probably too late now. So I guess I'll have to say it here: Thank you to my friend Jason who lent me his last name for one of my characters. He never imagined I'd create a family dynasty. Neither did I, my friend!
If you're a writer, do you labor over dedications, trying to make sure you've got it right? Or does your cat -- or your husband -- get it every time? If you're a reader, do you read them? Do you care? Have you ever had a book dedicated to you?
I have. Thank you, Anne Gracie! You just made my day.
Stop by my blog and take a look at Anne's new cover and her book -- dedicated (in part) to Yours Truly (by another name).
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Research is the fun part. I love digging around in old books of letters, or the diaries of people traveling in obscure corners of the world, or writing about their everyday life. Because it might be research, but it's really about people. I enjoy the voice of the writer, as much as what they observe.
"They were the first French ladies I had seen and such was the dress of the first of the three demoiselles that I thought some of the Statues out of the Louvre had suddenly caught animation. Nothing could look more like a little "Diana" than Victoire in light (almost transparent) drapery, no sleeves to her gown but gold chain twisted round the upper part of her Arm, into the form of a bracelet and her neck entirely seen. Madame, their mother, was too much en bon point to have such a sylphlike appearance as her daughters. But she did not add to her size by too much covering."
Thank goodness he kept them, and years later someone found them, enjoyed them and had them published in a book. I found it in a rare book collection, and used some of her observations in a book called Tallie's Knight.
The other thing about research is you come across unexpected things you don't expect to find, things which, for a novelist, can be like a nugget of gold.
In my latest book (HIS CAPTIVE LADY, out now) my hero and heroine had occasion to visit the foundling hospital in London.
I had planned a quick scene, just a short visit to ask some questions and leave again. I did a little more research on the Foundling Hospital -- and discovered a wonderful, heartbreaking tale that fit perfectly with my story.
The Foundling Hospital accepted only new born babies from unwed mothers of "good character." The children received good care, but would never see their mother again. For 9 years of the hospital's operation, the mothers were encouraged to leave small tokens --really for administration purposes, so their child could be identified in case they changed their mind and wanted their baby back. Of course, these items did not remain merely administrative, but became tokens of love and remembrance for their babies.
Each item, whether valuable or cheap, everyday or unique, told a story, and for me, the sight of these tiny objects, set out in a glass case years after both the mothers and children were dead, was immensely moving.
Perhaps the administrators of the orphanage were wise, perhaps not. But I ached for those children and their mothers.
And of course I wrote about the tokens in my book. How could I not?
If you'd like to read some more about the tokens of the Foundling Museum, read this.
Monday, September 08, 2008
September sees the release of Jinx, the third book in my Bigtime superhero series. If you haven’t read the books, they’re set in Bigtime, N.Y., a city full of smart, sassy gals looking for love, sexy superheroes, and evil ubervillains. The books are just fun, sexy fantasies.
With the release of Jinx, I’m full of all the usual emotions – joy, elation, hope that readers will enjoy it, and relief that the book is finally, finally done and on the shelf after going through revisions, copy edits, and page proofs.
I’ve got a few books under my belt now, but it still feels like I learn something new about the book business every day. So in honor of Jinx’s release, I thought I’d share some of the best things I’ve discovered about being an author.
Fan mail: There’s nothing better than opening an e-mail or letter from someone who’s taken the time and energy to write and let you know how much she enjoyed your book. It always amazes and humbles me, and it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
Seeing your book on the shelf: This is another thrill, and visual proof that all your hard work has paid off, that your book is finally out there for folks to discover, read, and (hopefully!) love.
Meeting other authors: There are so many wonderful authors out there that I’ve read over the years. Meeting and talking to them in person has been a wonderful treat – and so is meeting new folks to add to my to-be-read pile.
Meeting other readers: Meeting other folks who share a common love of books and authors has also been another great treat.
Conferences: I love going to conferences, traveling to new cities, meeting new people, and learning new things at workshops.
Scoring free books at conferences: I love to read and try new authors, and picking up free books at conferences is always one of the highlights of the events for me – despite my towering TBR pile at home!
So there you have it. Some of my favorite things about the book business. Of course, there’s some bad stuff that goes along with being an author. But ninety percent of the time, the good far outweighs the bad – which is what makes being an author worthwhile.
As for coping with the bad stuff, well, that’s what chocolate, ice cream, and French fries are for. J
What about you? What do you love about writing or reading books? Share in the comments.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
They said computers were supposed to make our lives easier, whoever the nebulous “they” are. And in a lot of ways, the computer revolution has made things better. I stay in touch with my friends much more easily. Not only that, I have friends I would never have made without the Internet! I can connect with readers instantly. I can buy anything I want from wherever I want and usually for a lot cheaper than in a store. I don’t have to use White-out on my manuscripts. Hmm, do they even make White-out anymore?
The problem now is making sure your computer works efficiently. If it crashes, you better be sure you’ve kept up your backups and don’t lose your whole WIP. Yes, I’ve known people who lost it. Technology is changing so fast that it’s hard to keep up. The computer I bought just 3 years ago can no longer handle the tremendous data load (or whatever you call it) on the Internet. It’s sooooo slow. And try using dial-up! Oh my God! So, I finally decided it was time to get another computer. My husband and I went to Costco and bought a lovely desktop (I can still use the notebook for traveling even if it is slow). He bought a wi-fi adapter, then proceeded to spend all afternoon setting it up for me. How sweet. Except that it wouldn’t work. I could get on the Internet for five minutes, then the computer would lock up. Completely. Totally. Not even a mouse running around on my screen. The technician with whom he was on the phone for two hours finally decided it was a lemon and said we should take it back. Thank God Costco asks no questions when you return! So this time we spent a little (okay, a lot!) more money and got one that had wi-fi built in. The salesman at Costco (yes, they actually had a computer guy on premises) told us how great the touchscreen was. So, we set that one up. And really, it was quite easy. But then it wanted to download some upgrades off the Internet. I let it. Oh my God! It took 15 minutes to reboot. Every time I started it up, it took 15 minutes. And it didn’t like the Internet...and...and...the technician said it was a lemon and we should take it back. The salesman was still there. When he saw me, he hid. But I found him and told him my husband was waiting in line to return the computer! Are we stupid or what, we decided to buy another one! This time, we unpacked it right there in Costco and started it all up to make sure everything worked. Before I left, I shook my finger at the salesman and told him I’d be back if the thing crapped out.
So, I finally found one that wasn’t a lemon. But I’ve got a 3-year warranty, and 90 days to return it, and believe me, they will hear from me if it doesn’t work! Have you got any computer nightmares you want to share?
Just a bit of business, I’ve got a new blog, http://www.jasminehaynes.blogspot.com/. I’m giving away a book a week. So come on over and post a comment to be entered in the drawing. Hope to see you there for free books and scintillating discussion.
Oh, and one last thing! Please leave a comment on this blog, and I'll enter you in a drawing for a copy of my Jasmine book, Somebody's Lover! I'll post the winner first thing tomorrow so be sure to come back and check this blog in the morning. Have a great Sunday!
Jasmine Haynes and Jennifer Skully
Saturday, September 06, 2008
So here’s my dirty little secret. I’m a fan of Ice Road Truckers. That’s the History Channel’s Canadian version of CB Charlie and his eighteen-wheeler. The plot - what little there is - revolves around the trials and tribulations of delivering massive equipment across the frozen Arctic sea. It’s not exactly Emmy winning, so why do I watch it? Because it’s mindless? Or perhaps it’s that plebian gene popping up.
On the patrician side of my personality, I have an extensive collection of fine European/English porcelain and china. My husband claims I’ve never met a plate I didn’t want to take home with me. In fact, I can serve 75 of my favorite friends on Spode, Royal Doulton, Minton, Villeroy & Boch and Heinrich. That doesn’t sound quite like Ice Road Trucker fan, huh? Add that to the fact I have some antiques that date back to when good old George was king and I suppose I can tote those up on the patrician side of the ledger.
So how about those plebe credentials? Considering I spent more time in the hallowed halls of academia than a sane person should, it’s ironic that I have more than my share of common proclivities. Here are some you might recognize.
I love football. There’s nothing quite like a crisp autumn day and the pageantry and excitement of the gridiron – not to mention the uniforms and the athletes wearing them – whew! Then there’s the matter of movies. Just the thought of an angst filled drama with Portuguese subtitles makes my eyes water. Give me a romantic comedy or a rompin’, stompin’ shoot ‘em up any day of the week. And I will freely admit this – I can recite lines from Monty Python. How about music? As a kid I studied Rimsky-Korsakov, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky. Now I groove to Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and Trace Adkins. How about a Honky-tonk, badoink, badoink?
And then there’s the matter of my ancestors. Keep in mind I’m a fourth generation Texan and we’re tough folks. Several years ago I discovered my great grandfather’s Confederate pension application. Seems the old boy had $25 and a cow. My sister and I think that’s a hoot. Either he was telling the truth and he was poor as a church mouse, or he was doing the 19th century version of fraud. Personally, I think it was the latter, but either way he wasn’t exactly landed gentry. I had another great grandfather who donned his bandoleer and rode with Pancho Villa.
Don’t you just love those disreputable ancestors?
So regardless of the fact I learned the correct fork to use before I was in kindergarten, I’m probably a plebe at heart – and proud of it. How about you and what do you really enjoy reading?
Goin' Down to Georgia, Harlequin American Romance, March 2008
The Man She Married, Harlequin American Romance, February 2009
Top Gun Dad, Harlequin American Romance, TBA
Winner of the 2008 Book Buyer's Best Award in the Long Contemporary category.
Friday, September 05, 2008
This picture is of the New Brunswick Agriculture Minister who happens to have the last name of Alward, and of Allison Carlisle, who bought our farm from us in the late 80's - so this is really where I grew up! Including the bins and the picking buckets.
September meant so many things. I grew up on an apple farm, so it meant picking, and packing, and crews coming back year after year. It meant crisp mornings and cool evenings and a sky so blue it would almost break your heart...there is nothing like a September sky. It meant back to school - seeing friends I hadn't seen all summer, fresh notebooks, sharp pencils, new books. It meant sports and band and all the other fun things that come with the school year.
Of course, these days back to school also means an emptier house as the kids now get to make that walk to the school bus. I get back to a normal work routine. I exercise more. I get organized -and I freeze a lot of food. It's like I'm making my own little preparations for winter.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Until I became an author, I did not give covers much thought. They simply happened. Some caught my attention and some didn't but I was far more interested in the back cover copy.
However, now that I am an author, I do know that people are influenced to buy books by their covers and a lot of time and effort goes into making the covers as appealling and attractive as possible. They are the setting for the jewel that is the content. I know that there is the whole cult of the cover model. The art department try for a specific feel for a book. If the book is series book, then they are also trying to show the promise of the series.
As a Harlequin Mills and Boon author, I have to fill in an Art Fact Sheet. This is used to help find the art work. Series books and single title books have different art fact sheets. Because, Harlequin Historical is a single title within a series wrapper, historical authors have to fill out a slightly different AFS than series authors.
The art department working with the editorial team has to balance certain factors such as other books coming out that month and how they see the book being marketed versus the author's ideas of the key scenes in a book. Sometimes, Harlequin already owns a piece of artwork which will suit the mood, tenor and marketing hook of the book, and sometimes they commission the art work. For example with my first Roman, Gladiator's Honour, Harlequin did not have any Roman based art work, so they commissioned James Griffin Unfortunately, he does not have much about his process on his website.
But it piqued my interest. How do the artists work? How is the artwork created?
Judy York did the cover for Taken by the Viking and she spoke to Barnes and Noble about her process, including how she developed Taken by the Viking and some of her other covers. You can see the video here.
Is anyone else fascinated by covers? Or are you more interested in the story?
By the end of the day tomorrow, I suspect, the excitement will have worn off a bit. The next time I ask "How was school today?" they'll say "Fine." I'll have to press to find out about the great grade they received on a math test, interesting book they have to read and report on, or about how much time they spent on the Internet or in the library to find out about how to climb a mountain or about the habitats of a frog.
Okay, so I admit, some subjects are more interesting than others. Frankly, I'm lousy at Math. Simple arithmetic I can handle, but some of what the boys were doing last year was beyond me. Luckily, they have a fantastic Student Reference Book that can help Grandma out when she's flummoxed over a question about angles!
What I hope they're seeing by example is that learning is a never ending process. Their mother (my daughter) is taking college classes this year, working toward her next degree. The boys are very aware that I'm always reading history books as research for my novels. At the moment I'm reading LONDON LABOUR AND THE LONDON POOR, Volume 1, by Henry Mayhew – a very interesting look at Victorian England.
What have you been learning about lately? Have you taken a new class? Yoga? Knitting? Ceramics? Writing? Or has a book or documentary added to your store of knowledge? Tell us about it!
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Today is a very exciting day for me!!! Why? Because my first book, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, officially hits stores. (Gleefully clapping hands here). It took me almost 11 years, over forty manuscripts and over two hundreds rejection letters (one of those rejections coming from my own editor, LOL) to get to where I finally am. And instead of the usual throwing of pitches and excerpts and what not, I decided to keep it simple a give a story behind the story.
Behind every book, as you all know, there is a story. And needless to say, behind my upcoming debut, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, which centers around a school that educates men on the topic of love and seduction, there are several. Because I don’t want to write a book about THE book, I’ve decided to elaborate as simply as I can about the inspiration behind the creation of MISTRESS OF PLEASURE. That inspiration first coming from my research, when I stumbled upon Ninon de L’Enclos, a French 17th century courtesan.
Truth be told, I find it rather astounding that this fascinating woman somehow disappeared into the shadows of history. She is but a ghost whenever the topic of courtesans arise. For we usually hear of the same old, same old courtesans like Kitty Fisher, Cora Pearl or Harriette Wilson. Let me be the first to tell you, however, that none of these women could possibly rival Ninon de L’Enclos or her life. But don’t take my word for it. Research her on your own and come to your conclusion. Bottom line, Ninon’s thoughts, philosophies, and her approach toward men and sex went beyond anything I have ever seen in a woman of her day.
Much like other courtesans, she kept her bedroom door open to aristocratic men, yes. But unlike other courtesans, she kept that bedroom door open for more than just sex. This woman actually held meetings and classes in the confines of her bedchamber where men of all ages would come to visit in order to discuss topics of sex, philosophy and love. These so-called meetings fascinated me and in turn, began to create the growing threads of what is now Mistress of Pleasure. The more I researched, the more excited I became. For there was almost too much to work with. For instance, Ninon had various lovers, as you might imagine. But to one lover in particular, she birthed a son. A son who was raised apart from her to never know who she was due to her being a courtesan. Then one day, when her son was a grown man, he happened to one day meet Ninon. And fell madly in love with her. (And no, I’m not bloody making this up…). Though she had sworn to never reveal her identity to her son, because his advances were growing more and more passionate and he altogether outright refused to leave her be, she finally told him the truth. That she was in fact his mother and that was why there would never be a sexual relationship between them. Her son was so overwhelmed and distraught by the confession, that he left her house and committed suicide by falling onto the blade of his own sword. Another story, somewhat less morbid, was about one man who begged and begged Ninon to admit him into her bed. She refused him time and time again and finally told him, “Return when I am eighty. Then I shall bed you.” The besotted fool took her words quite literally and arrived on her doorstep many, many years late, when she turned eighty. Ninon was so amused, she ended up bedding him, after all.
As you can tell by the stories I am selecting, it is the older Ninon that ultimately fascinated me. Which created a dilemma for my writing. Because my heroine couldn’t possibly be an elderly lady. It would never sell. But then I got to thinking. What if she were a grandmother of the heroine? Now THAT had possibilities. At about the same time I started writing AN IMPROPER EDUCATION (which is what I called it before the publisher changed it), MY grandmother re-appeared in my life. After 20 years of complete and utter silence. Which is a whole other story I don’t have time to go into… Soon, I discovered that the grandmother I never knew was actually an opera singer who had married into American Aristocracy and was living the life of a queen. My grandmother had an air of royalty to her and was quite beautiful for a woman her age. She had a heavy accent, walked with a sashay and always used amusing little words that I’d never heard before. For instance, she referred to sex as “Poom-poom.” She amused me so much so, that I could not help but morph her and Ninon together to create the fictional character that ultimately became Madame de Maitenon, who is both the creator of the School of Gallantry and the grandmother of my heroine, Maybelle de Maitenon. And so, I ended up with a story about a retired French courtesan who opens up a school that educates men on the topic of love and seduction, and the granddaughter who is unexpectedly forced to take over the operation of the school and educate all the men. Even though she has very little personal experience. Life certainly makes for some interesting fiction. And I have to say, I’m glad for it. At least in the case of this book. For an excerpt, more information or to sign up for my newsletter, please head over to my website, www.DelilahMarvelle.com