Thursday, July 30, 2009
For once in our lives my husband and I decided to try an airport shuttle instead of wrestling our luggage onto the BART, a feat that always involves me accidentally taking out some poor commuter with my suitcase. I clearly remember my husband saying, “Let’s just spend the fifty bucks for the shuttle. It’ll be easier.” I agreed, and indeed, it showed all signs of being easier—the van showed up on time, the driver loaded our luggage for us—right up until the driver locked the keys inside the van.
My husband and I stood on the sidewalk outside the hotel for twenty minutes while we waited for the driver’s boss to show up and unlock the door. The driver did mention, between repeated calls to his boss, who seemed to be in no hurry to rescue us despite living close, that this was the second time this had happened and he didn’t think his boss was very happy with him. We should have taken this as a warning. We didn’t. Instead we assured the driver that we were early for the flight and didn’t mind waiting. Eventually the boss showed up, unlocked the van and then drove away without a word.
The driver seemed edgy, but I assumed everything would go well now that we were actually traveling. It was not to be. We had two more passengers to pick up and, as we were driving over the Bay Bridge, the driver said in an offhand way, “This GPS is bad. It isn’t telling me where to go.” He wasn’t kidding either. After getting off the bridge, we drove around and around in a ruralish suburban area somewhere near Oakland. Finally, after yet another fruitless pass around the rabbit-warren-like neighborhood, he called the passenger and she talked him in.
He found the house and all was well…until the driver backed the van over the woman’s fancy steel mailbox, demolishing it. He got out and surveyed the damage, then got back into the van and drove it off the mailbox before the woman came out of the house. She got into the van, he loaded her suitcase and off we went. I’m not certain if she knows yet that she’s going to have some problems with mail delivery in her absence.
At this point the driver was getting a little frantic about time and proceeded to demonstrate his NASCAR technique on the freeway, weaving in and out of traffic as we, the victims—I mean the passengers—clutched at the seats and each other to keep from being thrown into the sides of the van. Finally he exited the freeway. And then he got lost again. At this point I was suffering from serious motion sickness and we’d been dealing with this “easy” van ride for almost two hours. Thankfully the driver, who was still cursing his GPS, accidentally found the street he needed and picked up the final two passengers without demolishing any lawn ornaments or mail boxes.
We did get to the airport in time to get through security, but only because no one flies out of Oakland on a Wednesday. So here I am in Reno, happily writing my blog and hoping the van driver either has a better day tomorrow or finds a new profession.
Have any of you had any adventures traveling from hotel to airport or was this just my lucky day? I’ll give a copy of Cowboy Comes Back to a reader who shares in the comments.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
W – Writing is key. I am always surprised when I hear someone telling me that they want to be a writer, and I find out they haven’t written anything. Write, no matter what. You do not need permission to write, nor do you only write if you can get paid. If you want to succeed in the publishing industry, you must write, and write and write some more. This is the one industry where you have to ‘train’ yourself.
A – Always give yourself permission to make a mistake. Don’t try to make sure that you write a ‘breakout’ novel or get published in Newsweek. Some of what you write will be crappy, but if you keep going, honing your skills, you WILL improve and in time be proud of yourself.
T – Time management is up to you. I am always amused when I hear someone say that if they could stop working fulltime, or when their kids leave the house, then they will be able to write. That’s the WRONG attitude. Start writing now. If you work fulltime, find time before you leave for work (get up 30 minutes earlier), or during lunch, while riding the subway, or just before or after dinner. Time is what you make it. Skip that T.V. show, or going shopping, and instead write. YOU have to find and make the time, time will not just show up for you.
E – Enthusiasm. If you don’t have a passion for what you are doing, don’t do it. I have never had to be forced to write. I just do. I started early, at the age of 6, writing in my mother’s journal, and have never stopped. Have enthusiasm for what you are writing, for the people you meet in the field at conferences and workshops. Have enthusiasm for what’s new in the industry and keep abreast of what genres are selling and where the trends are. Enthusiasm and passion are two ingredients that will keep you going when things get tough and are vital to success in this field.
R – Responsibility is in YOUR hands. You are responsible for your success as a writer. No matter how many “no thank you” letters you get, you are the only one responsible for keeping going. You are responsible for continuing to write, and continuing to send out – in spite of negative letters. (Note I do not use the word that begins with the letter “r” I prefer to call them No Thank you letters).
M – Making decisions to stay in the game is key and you will have to make them each and every day. What should the title of your book be? What genre should you write in? Should you write a single title or a series? Where do you want your career to go? Which publishing house would you like to be with? On, and on…..just like other areas of our lives the writing world is filled with day to day decisions. Don’t feel stifled or paralyzed, just make a decision and deal with the outcome.
E – Energy is a necessary element of life. Take the time to eat well, exercise and sleep well. You will need energy, even if you’re sitting on your butt most of the day.
L – Let go. When you hit a wall with your writing, or you find yourself facing tough times, (i.e. you have to part ways with your agent, your editor hated your last submission, your sales were down) – let go. Take time for you. Step away from whatever you are working on or doing and do something entirely different. Go ice skating or roller skating. Instead of stuffing your face with junk food because you are down, go visit model homes at a new development or take yourself to a funny movie (Yes, it’s okay to go to the movies by yourself).
O – Onward. Take each day, a day at a time. Don’t worry about mistakes or what you did in the past. Remember, you can’t drive a car forward if you are always looking in your rearview mirror.
N – Never give up. In this industry there are many pit falls, don’t let them get to you down. Keep your dream alive, no matter what.
Do you have some ‘encouraging’ phrases that can correspond with one or more of the letters in the word Watermelon? Please share them with us.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
So, we’re coming up on the end of July now, and Labor Day is creeping ever closer. Can you believe that summer is more than halfway over already? Me neither.
I had so many things I wanted to accomplish this summer. Write a couple of books, tweak my Web site, do some promotional stuff, all the usual author cares and concerns. Plus housework. I look away for two days and somehow, my once-clean desk is a mess of papers once more. Sigh.
But most especially, I wanted to read—a lot. Like completely annihilate my 20-plus-book TBR pile. So I could finally buy some more books, of course. Hello, my name is Jennifer, and I’m a book addict … J
I actually haven’t done too badly. I’ve almost cut my TBR stack in half, which means I can buy a couple of new books (at the very least!). But you know what the really great thing about finally digging into the TBR pile has been? All the authors I’ve rediscovered.
I’ve fallen behind on a lot of my book series, and this summer has given me a chance to finally catch up on them. You know what? I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. Ditto for Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books, and I finally finished Elizabeth Vaughan’s Warprize series. Now, I’m getting to read some new authors from my TBR pile, like Susan Mallery and Deirdre Martin.
All in all, I’d say it’s been a summer well-spent so far. And I’m looking forward to seeing what fall brings—and hoping it’s not more papers on my desk.
What about you? What have you been reading this summer? What are you looking forward to for fall? Share in the comments and I'll pick one winner in a few days to receive a copy of my novel, KARMA GIRL!
Monday, July 27, 2009
Are our personalities consistent, invariable, true and honest barometers of our souls?
Here's the thing: a person who shall go nameless and I are having a verbal tussle. Basically this person called me a number of fine adjectives, and the conversation ended. This person and I have had long had such conversations, and invariably, I end up being a very bad person.
And yet, within minutes of this email conversation, wherein I was told to say hi to Damian upon my death, another person emailed me to tell me I was a good person. Another person wrote to tell me I was a pleasure to be with, and this person was my mother.
So who in the heck am I?
As a friend recently told me, "It's not about you."
Fine. I get it. We are all spinning around here on the planet in our own little bubbles. But we learn to understand ourselves based on the reactions and responses of others. It's like a discussion I often have about character with my students: we learn about characters based, in part, on what other characters say about the main character. How the other characters react, respond, and relate to our main character shows us a great deal about that character.
Shouldn't that be true about people?
I have always been relatively naive. You can tell me you climbed Mt. Everest, and I will believe you for a while, asking you about your Sherpas and the thin atmosphere. You can lie to me about your excellent love life, and I won't get it for a few days, when I realize you haven't had a date in twenty-five years. My initial response is to take what you say at face value, which isn't actually a good thing. A little discernment out of the shoot can be a survival tool. Sadly, this response on my part goes to the words people use about me. Am I the devil? Am I a good person? Discuss amongst yourselves.
As a public person (professor, a writer) I am often publically discussed—people write things about me and post them on web sites. Happy readers, disgruntled readers—happy students, disgruntled students: all have something to say. I’m reviewed by people I don’t know, and sometimes those public comments sting, cutting to the quick. For a moment, we believe what we read. But like my friend said, "It's not about you."
What is about us is how we do or don't let the words in. Good or bad, we need to let the words fall away. We are who we are, judgment cast aside. It's all about us inside, not outside. It's in here we need to know who we are, and that, my friends, is often the hard part.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Here are some things I have learned while writing Presents:
1. How to put my hair into a chignon, like any decent heroine. I feel that this is a life skill, and everyone knows that alpha heroes are attracted to excellent hair. If I could only master the French twist, I feel certain my husband would transform overnight into a Greek shipping magnate or Italianate prince. Wouldn't he?
2. How to wander aimlessly, yet fetchingly. This is very important, especially if while doing so, I am also thinking about the nature of love or, say, the deep emotional conflict that keeps me from melting into my hero's arms. And of course, one never wanders aimlessly about the house, neatening things and/or performing housework. It is much more affecting (and likely to lead to love) to do one's wandering, say, down the Champs Elysées or alongside the cerulean waters of a Mediterranean island.
3. How to have sex while using only euphemisms. The more euphemisms, the better the sex.
4. How to carry on torrid affairs and have desperate emotional low points while clad in the finest of gowns, the more diaphanous the better. Bonus points for tiaras. Triple bonus points if said gown turns into the cover image on a Presents novel.
5. How to fall in love, Presents-style. My husband has asked me to please stop manufacturing emotional conflict with him over dinner, as he finds it interferes with his digestion. But I know the truth: the more outrageous the conflict, the more we will fall in love with each other and the better our happily ever after.
Of course, all of this pales in comparison to what I've learned as a Presents reader. What about you? How have you brought a little Presents into your lives?
Tell me in the comments--and look for my first Presents: Pure Princess,Bartered Bride-- coming next February!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Yes, that's the actual manifest from the Philadelphia, the ship that brought my grandmother and her family from Liverpool to New York. They left in disgrace but arrived in a style unlike the usual early 20th century immigrant. They brought trunks filled with finery, a yappy Pomeranian, and the memory of a life they'd never know again.
Which, in some ways, was probably a good thing even if it didn't seem that way at the time.
If you can't make it out, here's what I see on my screen, courtesy of Ancestry.com :
Manifest of the S.S. Philadelphia sailing from Liverpool 28th August 1916
Dimler, Charles Henry - age 43, English from Great Britain, butcher, other things I can't read
Dimler, Ellen Louise - age 38, wife
Dimler, Edith Barbara - age 18, daughter
Dimler, Charles Casson - age 17, son
Dimler, Elsie Isobel - age 16, daughter
Last month I promised I'd share the transcript of my grandmother's reminiscences. Fasten your seat belts!
Elsie: We came back to Liverpool when I was 14. They were broke and in disgrace. We stayed at Sea View for two years. Oh, Barbara, the things people thought! The Germans were the enemy and someone said my grandfather was signaling them with secret messages and people threw rocks at us and set fire to the house. We were hated by the town. You don't know what it was like . . . the bombs . . . the fires . . . the zeppelins overhead . . . terrible . . . terrible. Then he decided we were going to. It was 1916. The War was still on but he had to go. We made the trip on an American ship. We stopped in the middle of the Atlantic with our engines off on account of the submarines everywhere. I remember that only the American flags on the ship saved us.
I remember it was hot, so hot, when we reached New York. We didn't waste any time getting jobs. The second day our parents said, 'Find work," and we didn't know anything. I was brought up rich. I couldn't do anything. So I found a job as a nursemaid for a rich Jewish family on Central Park West. I took care of their little girl and the mother used to say to her, "Now you should learn to speak like Elsie" -- cahn't, tomahto -- and I would feel so good to be appreciated.
We used to go--I can see it now--to the swanky shops like B. Altman on Fifth Avenue. She had a chauffeur and a limousine and I would sit in the rear and I can still see him placing the fur robes over the madam and the girl. But not me. It wasn't done. I told them that I'd had servants too but who knows if they believed me. I was just a green kid.
One day I left them. I don't know why. I just left. I didn't know any better. [silence] You don't know what it was like to come here . . . everything so big . . . so much . . . all the food and stores and people. I loved it from the first.
I got another job with rich people. Their name was Hayes. The little girl was Bunny; she was 2 or 3 years old. I stayed there, lived there, and they treated me like their daughter. They were lovely people. I stayed with them quite awhile then next I knew I got a job at a store downtown on Broome Street where they sell picture frames and all. I had to measure pictures for frames and I didn't know how. We were living up in the Bronx on the beautiful Grand Concourse. I had to bring these frames home on the el (BB: elevated subway) and I didn't know where I was going. Even the dumbwaiter! I didn't know about garbage going down on the dumbwaiter. I didn't know what a deli was!
A kid comes here and sees all the food and everything . . . [silence]
Well, dearie, I got a job at National Outlet. I was a tabulator. National Outlet was like a Sears Roebuck catalog. [laughs] Can you imagine? I was a young girl. Seventeen? Kathryn was the supervisor. The girls used to get a great kick out of me. They'd get me to answer the phone: "Halloooo?" Cahn't and all that stuff. The Duchess of the Grand Concourse they called me. It was on 23rd Street. I'd take the el every day.
And then I met a boy. I had a crush on Louie. He was about 18 and I fell madly in love with him. "Would you fetch me a glass of water?" I'd say. And he'd laugh. "Oh, the Duchess again!" He liked me. Such a nice boy. I was very happy there, with the job and him. But he left and then I left. He took a job (he had a brother in show business, a comedian, and his father lived up in the Bronx.) I went to his house. I can see it now -- all slipcovered, even the desk, everything was covered. I liked his father. His mother was nice, but she didn't like me. His brother was on the road, so we went out. Louie got a job as assistant manager at the movie theater on 125st Street. I used to go to the movies at night and I'd sit in the box and he'd come up and talk to me and I'd get a thrill watching him rush down the aisles. Black hair! He had style. He wasn't good-looking, but he had style. Something about him fascinated me--his eyes?
But things happen. I don't remember what. My family and money. They needed my wages. We, all three children, would hand our pay envelope to our mother on Friday. Unopened. I was so proud. She would give each of us something for the week but no more. Every penny was accounted for. I had to move on to another job because Edith had trouble keeping work. We were going to work together. Our father would bang on the door in the morning. "Girls! Don't forget you have to get up and look at the paper. You need jobs!"
to be continued next month
PS: I'm Barbara Bretton, author of Girls of Summer (available now) and Laced With Magic (available in two weeks) and you can find me here and here and here.
To celebrate Girls of Summer's re-release as a trade paperback, I'm giving away five copies to five commenters. Just leave your message here and I'll post the winners here in the comments section on Saturday. Good luck!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
To do this I drew upon my childhood and growing up in rural Texas. My parents raised cotton, corn and cattle. My dad was also the constable in our community and he drilled water wells so he was busy. My mom took care of the cattle. She knew every cow, calf and bull on the property. She knew when to cull the herd, when to sell calves and when to change pastures. So, yes, I thought I can write about cowgirls. A woman can do anything a man can, right? Maybe even better.
A lot of my childhood came out in these books. More than I’d planned. But I had fun and realized I hadn’t forgotten a thing about life on the ranch and how hard we all worked. The research was all in my head as were the emotions. Ms. James was right. My books were stronger because I lived a lot of it.
The trilogy starts with Caitlyn’s Prize (July ’09). When their father passes away, Caitlyn finds his enormous gambling debts have left the High Five ranch in dire straits. And to make matters worse, there’s a codicil to the will that states if the ranch is not showing a profit in six months it has to be sold to Judd Calhoun, a neighboring rancher and the man Caitlyn jilted fourteen years earlier.
Caitlyn is fighting mad. She calls her sisters home to inform them of the situation and to ask for their help to save High Five from Judd Calhoun. Since her sisters weren’t raised on the ranch, they don’t share her point of view. It’s the fight of Caitlyn’s life. She sets out to prove that she can run High Five as effectively as any man.
If you want to find out what happens, pick up Caitlyn’s Prize. It’s in stores now. It’s also part of Cowboy Country month for Super Romance.
The second book, Madison’s Children, comes out in October and the third, Skylar’s Outlaw, in January 2010. If you need a good read this summer, saddle up and head for Texas. The Belle sisters are waiting to entertain you.
So what’s your opinion? Do you believe personal experiences make a story stronger?
Monday, July 20, 2009
However I really wish Virginia had also thought to launch a pre-paid psychological counseling program as well. Be it for kids or for parents, well, you decide. But let's face it: you can't easily get out of the parent/child relationship without the need for a shrink, and frankly, therapy can rank up there with college tuition in terms of the big bucks.
With nearly two decades of parenting under my belt, I've drawn a few conclusions about little people (in age, not stature). One is that humans are genetically pre-programmed to have particular food tastes. I know, I know, this notion seems ludicrous. And it might be. But hear me out. Take me, for instance. Loathing of all things nutritional from infancy, I was weaned by default on Froot Loops and Sugar Pops. This fact ranks up there in my childhood lore right alongside tales of one of my earliest spoken words: "thit" (I had a lisp. And no, the word wasn't a command to be seated).
But as one who perceived vegetables as something not intended for human consumption, I could never quite relate to someone choosing to be a vegetarian. Foreign concept, thank you. I know everyone says that you if you make the kid eat it, he will. No way.
My oldest child will eat most anything and sometimes prefers the weirder the better. I'll never forget shopping with him at Fresh Fields when he was about 10 and he begged me to buy him octopus. Octopus? I can cook most anything, but I draw the line at creatures with suction cups.
Our middle child declared herself a vegetarian at the ripe old age of eight, purely out of empathy for her fellow creatures. It helps, though, that she loves—actually prefers—vegetables. And this child sprung from my loins? Our number three takes right after me. Learned early on to purse her lips so tight that nary a veggie could pass through the gateway to her gullet. Perfectly happy to eat all things bad-for-you, spent quite a few crucial developmental years eating only hot dogs.
So getting back to the therapy. The youngest child, who thrashed, flailed, and otherwise made mealtimes quite uncomfortable if the concept of mandatory vegetables was ever implemented, announced to us the other day in an accusatory voice, "You should've forced me to eat vegetables when I was little."
Um, hello, Dr. Freud? No, not in that way. I merely mean that I think I need a shrink, because I cannot believe that this child is now blaming us for her childhood obstinacy. After all those countless jars of Gerber's spinach she splattered all over my face (can't exactly blame her—have you ever smelled that stuff?), even the sweet potatoes that weren't sweet enough for her. I vividly recall a temper tantrum that drew dinner to a halt over her having to eat a no thank you bite—a mere bite!—of a cherry tomato when she was eight.
Headstrong, thy name is offspring.
And then there was the dreaded summer camp debacle. For years we pleaded and cajoled with our kids to get them to agree to attend summer camp. Try as we might, those kids wouldn't budge. "No camp," they all moaned. "Never!" To be honest, when they refused, we didn't force the issue too much because camps were always pretty expensive and well, who wants to pay for something the kid's gonna hate? I sure didn't want our kids needing therapy because we forced them to go away during summer vacation.
Cue last week at dinner when my son said, "You should've forced me to go to camp." Piping in were the other two, entirely irate at our irresponsible parenting. So instead of them needing therapy because we forced them to go to camp, we'll need it because they now blame us for not forcing them to go to camp. Get the picture? Virginia? I'm waiting!
Alas, if I had a dollar for all the parenting mandates they've told us we've failed upon, well, maybe I could start funding that Virginia counseling program myself. I'm still waiting for the kids to blame me for not making them clean their rooms more. And the girls for me not teaching them how to sew and cook (tried that, to no avail).
In lieu of that therapy fund, though, I think I'll resort to what I've known best since my childhood days: Froot Loops. A big bowl, no milk, because really, who wants to add anything nutritional to that?
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Here's the official blurb for THE PERSONAL TOUCH:
When matchmaker Margot Roth is hired to find a date for the mother of a playboy millionaire, an erotic fling is the last thing on her mind. Well, maybe not the last thing. Clint Hilton is the sexiest man she's ever met, and she has to admit naughty things go through her mind when he looks at her with his sultry eyes.
But now that Clint is there to turn her fantasies into reality, Margot isn't sure if giving in to temptation is the best idea—even if he's determined to share his bed with her…or something more.
What was particularly fun about writing this story was all the secondary characters I managed to fit in. As the blurb says, my heroine is a matchmaker, and throughout the story, I wrote in a number of sessions with her and some of her very colorful clients. Those are the pieces a writer gets to have lots of fun with. We have to be so careful with our main characters, making sure they're likeable, their motives are sound, that their conflict is clear, and in general doing what we need to do to make sure readers engage with them and root for them. It's the secondary characters where we get to hang loose, throw in lots of color and run with whatever comes to mind. And this book offered me lots of opportunity to do that.
I'm very much looking forward to sharing this release and hope you all check it out. In the meantime, I've got a free copy to give away. Simply comment on this post, maybe tell me about a book you read where the secondary characters were especially memorable. Or just tell me what you're doing this summer. I'm easy! I'll post the winner in the comments tomorrow, so make sure to come back and check. And for the rest of you, I hope you'll give this fun story a try when it hits the shelves next week!
Lori Borrill is working on her 9th novel for Harlequin Blaze. For more information about her and her books, check out her website at http://www.loriborrill.com/.
Friday, July 17, 2009
I absolutely get Twilight.
Disclaimer: I’m not a true Twilight fanatic. He’s cute, but he’s too young for me, and vampires aren’t my secret thrill. Still. I completely understand the people who are obsessed by that book/movie.
When I was their age, I went to the same movie over and over, too. Mine was Romeo and Juliet, with Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. I was bewitched; I couldn’t get enough. If I could have had the projector implanted in my head, I would gladly have let them saw open my skull.
Today, decades later, I’m still the same. I fall in love with a film, and I’m driven to watch it over and over and over again. (Last of the Mohicans)
My patient husband is mystified. He tries to be amused. “Do you think,” he asks as my daughter and I walk out the door for one more viewing of Moulin Rouge, “that it’ll end differently this time?”
He can’t understand, because he watches movies for one reason: to find out what happens. Once he knows, he’s finished. The second ticket is ten dollars wasted.
Though it sounds crazy, I don’t much care “what happens.” I am an emotion junkie, and every time I go to a new movie, or read a new book, I’m hoping this will be the one that captures me. The one that makes me feel, and feel Big. No holding back, no common sense, no safety net.
I want the one that makes me fall in love with the hot guy (Robert Downey Jr., Paul Newman, Edward Norton). The one that creates a world I never want to leave (Hogwarts, Manderley, a galaxy far, far away). The one that makes me cry (The English Patient) or laugh (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) or sing (Amadeus).
Oh, yes. That’s it. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s ten dollars well spent. Over and over and over again.
As a writer, I try to remember what these movies have taught me. It’s not really about “what happens.” It’s about making people feel something, and feel it Big.
When I get letters from readers who tell me that they read one of my books years ago, lost it, and had to chase down another copy so they could read it again, I’m on Cloud Nine.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
So, to cheer myself (and maybe you) up, I’ve decided to make a list of THINGS THAT CAN MAKE YOU HAPPY AND ARE FREE. This is just a little list, in no special order, but I hope you enjoy! Add your own ideas, if you like.
1. The library. My gratitude to the library is inexpressible. Today I downloaded a free audio book that I’m excited about reading. Free entertainment, free knowledge, free joy. How can I be so blessed?
2. Parks. People pay for most of their experiences: eating, going to a movie, etc. But parks? They’re free! There’s a lot of love and care that goes into most parks, and it makes a person feel very blessed to enjoy them, free of charge.
3. Family and friends. Sure, sometimes people can drive you crazy. But in the end, we all mean endless riches to each other when we reach out and enjoy the value of our relationships.
4. Wildflowers. When I started doing research for my upcoming romance, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, I realized how amazing flowers are (the book is about two sisters who own a wildflower farm in Vermont). Loving wildflowers isn’t something you can teach someone, but once the appreciation for how intricate, beautiful, and complex they are starts to sink in, just looking at a bit of chicory on the side of the road can make you feel like luxury is at your fingertips.
5. Blogs. Every day, bloggers (like myself) put our hearts on the line and devote hours to our posts. Blogs are always a great source of joy for me—and they so often have many free giveaways (just like on my blog and on the blog you’re reading now). So, blogs enrich our lives—often quite literally—and we don’t pay a dime.
6. Social networking. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter…where would we be if those sites weren’t free? I personally love Facebook and am on it all the time, chatting with friends and fellow readers. Social networks are huge, complicated endeavors to put together…and we get to benefit from them for free!
If you think of any free things that enrich your life, do share the love by leaving a comment. I’ll end with a quote I saw today from the philosopher Epicurus: “Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.”
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
And Saturday...well, Saturday is the RITA ceremony. Several weeks ago I splurged on a lovely outfit. And I am so glad. Not long after I brought it home from the store, one of my favourite authors ever asked if I would stand in for her at the ceremony as she cannot attend. The request nearly overwhelmed this newbie - I feel incredibly honoured (and it may be my one and only chance to sit in the good seats!). So that's what I'll be doing Saturday night.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Romance is a very popular way of cheering ourselves up. Recent research conducted by Book Marketing Limited for the Romantic Novelists' Association showed the romantic fiction market to be worth £118million a year, and growing. For a small sum (or even for free, if there’s a lending library nearby) anyone can indulge their favourite fantasy, or discover a new one. Best of all, there’s the assurance that whatever the romantic strife, it will always reach a satisfying conclusion. In my view, there’s only one thing better than reading romance, and that’s writing it. I can let my imagination go wild. Developing new characters and then setting them down to sort out their conflicts in a place I love is a wonderful job. When I was working on The Ruthless Italian’s Inexperienced Wife, I found the perfect way to get myself in the mood for writing. There’s a lane not far away from here that runs through an avenue of lime trees. At this time of year they are in full flower. The perfume is wonderful, and to walk in their shade on a hot afternoon when they are humming with millions of bees is heavenly. It was so relaxing, I gave my hero Marco some lime trees outside his grand house. Now, when you read The Ruthless Italian’s Inexperienced Wife, you’ll know where I got the idea!
Saturday, July 11, 2009
When you read this, I will have become an international woman of mystery.
Well, at least an international woman!
Every July, Romance Writers of America host a huge convention in the States and for the last few years, I've been lucky enough to go. Wow, is it a shock to my usually hermit-like system.
Thousands of romance writers, all completely overexcited like toddlers drinking red coridal at the kindy Christmas break-up. People you love but only ever see once a year. A week where I talk romance fiction nonstop with writers and fans and industry bods.
If anyone is in the Washington area on Wednesday, 15th July, make sure you come to the author signing to benefit literacy charities. Every romance author you ever wanted to meet will be there (well, perhaps not EVERY one but enough to make your heart beat faster!). Details here.
The conference is huge fun as well as a great networking opportunity and learning curve. There are fantastic workshops (most of which I never seem to get to although my intentions are good - darn you, hotel bar!) and lots and lots of parties.
One of my favorite parties is the big awards night which is the culmination of the conference on Saturday night. This year I'm all excited - a lot of my friends are up for the Golden Heart (unpublished) and the RITA Award (published). I'm also lucky enough to the guest of RITA nominee for Best Regency Romance Christine Wells for the ceremony which means I get to sit up the front and drool over all the stars. Yeah, I agree, not an attractive picture.
Christine's THE DANGEROUS DUKE finaled this year and I'm so excited for her as it's a fabulous book, witty and passionate and romantic.
until recently, I'd never visited the U.S. and I find it an absolutely fascinating country. I always try and tag a few extra days on to do some sightseeing. Last year, as many of you know, I got to explore the area around San Francisco. This year, I'm so looking forward to checking out a few things in the national capital and its adjacent area.
Of course, there are too many wonderful sites in Washington for anyone (and particularly a history geek like me) to cover in merely a couple of days but I'm looking forward to getting a taste of the place. I'm hoping to hit a couple of art museums and the White House (still to be confirmed) and the monuments and the Library of Congress. A writer HAS to go to the Library of Congress!
Lovely romantic and talented suspense author and fellow Romance Bandit Jeanne Adams (her latest book DARK AND DEADLY has just hit the shelves - another treat!) has offered to drive me around a few places outside the city.
Something I'm particularly looking forward to seeing is Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home and estate. Several years ago, I remember seeing a marvellous documentary by Ken Burns about Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson has always been someone I've admired without necessarily knowing a lot abouthim. What an amazing man (obviously not perfect, but who is?). So clever and interested in absolutely everything and such vision for the future.
So have you been to Washington D.C.? If you have, what was the best thing you saw/attended/experienced? If you haven't been, what would you most like to see? The Smithsonian? The White House? The Washington Monument? Inquiring minds want to know!
Friday, July 10, 2009
To put it into perspective: North Korea might very well be readying to blow the United States (or at least some part of it) to the hereafter yet, the networks are too busy going over the minutia of Michael Jackson’s funeral arrangements to bother with something so boring, hence it makes perfect sense that I’m fretting over all the pampering that still needs to be done before I’m ready to make my entrance among my writer/author friends. I’m completely guilty. I am more worried that my aesthetician will manage to squeeze me in before I leave when I really should just make do with a good facial scrub and moisturizer and call it a day. I’m being completely frivolous and I admit it. Does that count for something? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Internally, I’m rolling my eyes at my own foolish primping I’m not going to stop. And I know I’m not alone. My friends are tweeting and posting on Facebook, listservs and IMs how appointments have been made at the hair dresser, manicurist, and shopping trips have either been scheduled or finished, all in prep for this major event.
So what’s the big deal? I’m a wash-and-wear kinda girl. I choose comfort over fashion most days and I rarely bother with make-up during the work week, yet during National I’m a diva of the primped, coiffed, and stylized (well, my version anyhow) of the jet set. It makes no sense. I have new clothes to purchase, dresses to squeeze myself into, new make-up sets to put together, hairstyles to try out, new shoes and bag to match my outfits, not to mention all the accessories that go into putting together a fashionable look and let me tell you, this stuff is not cheap. So not only am I going to all this effort for a week’s worth of activity that I don’t bother with the rest of the year, I’m spending a fortune to do it. It’s crazy.
My husband, on the other hand, is content with throwing deodorant, assorted toiletries, just enough clothes, one pair of shoes into the suitcase, and he’s ready to rock and roll.There’s no need for fancy haircuts, a massage, a pedicure, fake tan, new clothes or some ridiculous compulsion to diet one week before leaving.
Oh well. It is what it is.
So, let’s commiserate together. Tell me, if you’re going to National, what prep you’ve undergone and if you’re not going to National, share your war stories of another event you had to go into hyperdrive to attend with any measure of success. One lucky poster will receive a free copy of my July Harlequin Superromance novel, KIDS ON THE DOORSTEP.
***The winner is Rachie G!*** Congratulations! You should have an email from Kimberly soon. :) Thanks to everyone who left a comment! For questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org - Thanks!!
Thursday, July 09, 2009
For that matter, I would like to get a little lost in Austen myself. Wouldn't you?
But I digress. My problem is that for some reason, I cannot manage to find a single book on my towering to-be-read pile. I'm not looking for a specific book. I just want one that will yank me in and make me forget that I can't breathe through my nose and my throat hurts and I can't stop coughing. Is that so much to ask?
What book would you recommend? It can be old or new. It just has to be amazing. I can't wait to read your suggestions!
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
A glitzy, sensual world of powerful people and the courtesans they’ll pay anything to have.
An exclusive and secret agency, for over two hundred years Courtesans has specialized in providing entertainment of a sexual nature. Its clients are rich, powerful, and influential men and women, and one only meets a courtesan through referral from trusted sources. Courtesans facilitates bringing together men and women to satisfy any sexual need imaginable, matching the perfect courtesan with just the right client. The agency prides itself on training its courtesans, male and female, to interpret and fulfill its clients greatest fantasies, even the secret ones no one dares to say aloud. The price is high, but everyone who’s ever had the pleasure of a date with a courtesan will agree, the fantasy is worth every penny. And sometimes it changes your life.
These stories are completely fantasy, of course. I didn't want to deal with the seedy, seemier side of "ladies of the night." I wanted to create a fantasy world, a playground for powerful people. And within that framework, I wanted to examine why a woman would choose to do this. I sold the concept to Berkley right at the exact same time that the governor of New York was caught with a high-priced call girl. So that added more to my stories, by also examining why men would wish to use my fantasy agency. In the first story, "The Girlfriend Experience," Chase Ramirez has lost his wife in the most tragic of circumstances, and a year later, he's so lonely he just wants to pretend life is normal by paying for a girlfriend. He's still so broken up, he can't handle a real relationship. Until he meets Marianna.
I've been watching "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" on Showtime (well, actually, I'm renting it off Netflix). And in the last one I watched, she had a "girlfriend experience!" I'm working on the second book in the series now, Hers for the Evening, which will be out early summer 2010
Leave me a comment, and I'll enter you in a drawing for a copy of Somebody's Lover. Please leave your email so I can contact you.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
Since you have to find a spot to spread your blanket on the grassy knoll, I made sure I got there on time. It turns out I didn't need to rush because there was an opening act. I never heard of them, but I don't think I'll ever forget their name: Natalie Portman's Shaved Head.
Seriously. What kind of name is that?
Then again, Duran Duran is a strange name. According to their website, "the band took their name from Roger Vadim's 1960's cult sci-fi classic film "Barbarella" starring Jane Fonda. There was a character played by Milo O'Shea called Durand Durand."
Uh... okay. It begs the question WHY.
And here I thought coming up with book titles was hard. Creating a memorable band name might be tougher.
What crazy band names have you heard? The kind that you don't know where they got it or why they use it?
Saturday, July 04, 2009
I'm writing this just before I set off halfway across thre country to a Writers' Day where I'm giving a workshop on writing romance - and that's just the start of things.
One is that in just over a week from today I'll be getting on a plane and flying from the UK to Washington to be at the RWA National Conference there. I can't wait to meet up with all my friends, writers, readers and of course hosties from eHarlequin. I'll be signing my books at the literacy signing. If you're going to DC and you're coing to the event I hope you'll come up and say Hi.
And second - I have some exciting news that my 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is going to be in America too.
For ages now - ever since the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance was first published, I have hoped that one day I would be able to tell my American readers and would-be writers that they could buy the book direct in USA. I know that it's been available on Amazon.com, but not everyone likes to buy on-line, and some of you have had difficulty getting hold of it 'over the pond'.
The good news is that I heard today from the publisher that the first copies of an American edition, printed and published in Chicago, are being printed this week - and that means that you can easily order the book from any book shop and hopefully get a copy very quickly. That's the idea anyway
This news means that there is also the hope that the book will now be on sale at the RWA Conference in Washington - if it isn't, it won't be for want of trying! But I'm really thrilled to know there will be an American edition at last.
If you've been wanting to get hold of a copy of this book - and I know that a lot of you have - then the details you'll need to order it are:
Chicago Distribution Center
11030 S. Langley Ave.
Chicago, IL 60628
And then when I get back from Washington I have just five days to unpack, do my laundry, repack my bag and head out again - this time for Caerleon in Wales where again I'm teaching the Writing Romance course at Writers' Holidays.
But I'll not be neglecting the readers of my blog while I'm away - I have a lots of activity and a great contest all planned out to keep you reading when I'm not there.
Every year I run a special summer contest to win a Tote Bag Full of Books – one of my special tote bags crammed full of fabulous summer reading. And this year I’m running the contest again – but this time it’s a really special competition.
Because this year marks the 60th anniversary of Harlequin, and because July is the month when the Harlequin Spotlight is on the wonderful Presents line, I have planned this year’s Tote Bag Contest as a Presents Special. Every book in the tote bag has been donated by one of my fellow Presents authors.
So you have a chance to win 15 – that’s right - 15 fabulous Presents titles, many of them signed, from some of your favourite authors.
Right now the prize list looks like this:
Cordero's Forced Bride by Kate Walker
The Italian Boss's Mistress of Revenge OR Forced Wife, Royal Love-Child by Trish Morey
Mistresses By Blackmail (3 in1 ) by Melanie Milburne
The Markonos Bride by Michelle Reid
Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge by Lynn Raye Harris
The Desert King's Bejewelled Bride by Sabrina Philips
Desert King, Pregnant Mistress OR Housekeeper at his Beck and Call by Susan Stephens.
What do you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this great prize? Well this year, the contest is in the form of a Scavenger Hunt where you find one answer from each author involved by visiting their web sites or blogs.
All through July – starting July 7th - the Presents authors will be guest blogging on my blog and each one of them will end their post with a question.
Visit the blog regularly, and just answer the question of the day.
Keep that answer safely.
The contest closes on August 1st. By then I will be back from teaching in Wales and after that, Sid will pick two winners who will both receive a tote bag filled with all this fabulous holiday reading.
These details will be up on my Contests Page just as soon as the wonderful Heather from We Write Romance gets the updates on my site done.
And good luck with the contest
And I'll be back in August, by which time my hectic July will be over and things will have calmed down again . . . apart from the deadline for the next book!
Friday, July 03, 2009
The RWA does two surveys -- an industry one which comes out every year and the Readership survey which appears about every four years. The readership survey gives info about the readers -- who they are, where they read and even what type of books they read. The last one appeared in 2005. And so this new one is the most up to date snapshot of the readership.
So what did I learn from the survey?
One of the big surprises is ebooks v paperback books. Of the respondents in 2008, 90.6% of romance readers read paperback books and just under half read hardbacks as well. 5.4% have read a romance book as an e-book and 6.5% listen to audiobooks. I would suspect that the last time this survey was run 2005, far fewer had read an e-book. And it goes show that while e-books are growing (and have had exponential growth), they are not replacing paperback books yet.
Of those who do read ebooks, more than half do not use a dedicated ebook reader.
No one genre is preferred to another. This makes sense as over 74.8 million people (90.5% of them women -- there are reasons why Donna Hayes, the publisher of Harlequin Enterprises said that she was unconcerned about male readership!) have read a romance novel and that is a lot of different tastes. There are about 29 million regular romance readers out there and the most popular place for readers to learn about new books is in the back of romance novels. ( As I am always finding new novels by reading the end pages, I was glad to see that I am not alone!) And the most popular online source for learning about new novels is the publisher's website.
The biggest age group of readers are aged 31-49. Romance readers are more likely than the general population to be married or living with a partner. More romance readers are located in the South than in the Northeast.
More than half said that these were impulse buys rather than planned purchases.
Most read romance novels at home and about 29% always carry a romance novel with them. (I wish I was more organised. I try to remember to grab a book before I leave the house, but more often than not have retrieved the book to finish and have forgotten to put the new book in! But carrying books around is one of the reasons why I have a large purse.)
Also 91% readers said that if they like an author, they will read her backlist. And that 70% were likely to follow a favourite author to a new genre. 88% were willing to try new authors. They found new authors via the recommendations from friends, and from the retail or library shelf.
About half had purchased a used book. However, just over 45% were not aware that authors receive no payment or royalties for a used book. I think it is very important to educate people that by all means buy a used book if you want (and in some cases it is the ONLY way to get hold of a backlist) but be aware that the author will not get any money for it. And if you don't have the money, try to get it out from the library as in some countries like the UK and Canada, authors do get Pubic Lending Right money. And at the very least you are supporting the library which does buy the books new.
Anyway, I found the survey very interesting and hopefully someone else has as well. Did anyone learn anything new?
Currently Michelle Styles is hard at work on her next early Victorian. Her next North American release will be The Viking's Captive Princess in December.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Conferences, Workshops and Booksignings for 2009:
Wednesday, July 15, 5pm: I'll be in Washington, DC at RWA's conference. On Wednesday, they have a huge booksiginging. I'll be there, but so will hundreds of your other favorite romance writers!
And while I'm at the conference I'll be doing a panel discussion, “Our Favorite Flavors: What It Takes to Succeed in Some of Today's Most Popular Romance Subgenres” with New York Times bestselling authors Gaelen Foley, Gena Showalter and Allison Brennan.
Saturday, August 1, 12-2pm
Join me and Susan Gable at a signing in Port Clinton, Ohio's
The Book Exchange
136 Madison Street
Port Clinton, OH 43452
Saturday, September 12, 2pm: Susan Gable and I will be at Central New York's RWA meeting doing our "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Rules" workshop. You can find out more at
October 23-24: I'll be at the NJ RWA Conference. My workshop is "My Writing May Be Art...But My Kids Need Braces."