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Monday, August 31, 2009

Creativity - Helen Bianchin


My ten year-old grand-daughter loves ballet, dance, hip-hop, and her dream is to be an entertainer. Almost every move she makes involves a dance step and her expressive features
become alive as she slips into her own imaginary world where music plays that only she can hear.

She asked me with great seriousness if I hear peoples' voices when I write. The truth? Yes.
My characters exchange dialogue in my head. What's more, I see them as if they're actors in a movie only I can see - in technicolour.

My grand-daughter doesn't think this is weird or extraordinary. To her, it appears quite normal.

The conversation made me wonder about creativity. Do artists who paint see the work on a blank canvas? Sculptors envision a finished work as they chisel stone or form a wax model in which to bronze? Composers hear notes on a piano or their musical instrument of choice? Some of the most famous inventors - Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Madam Curie - what drove them to explore the unknown, to persist against tremendous odds to achieve what appeared the almost impossible in their time?

For writers - what is it that drives each of us to sit for hours each day (and night) in front of a computer to write stories? No matter the genre. From personal experience, when I finish a book and deliver it to my editor, I think I'll never be able to write another book. I'm done. Finished. The book was a fluke. Yet fast-forward a week or two, and an idea will present itself. Then the characters appear. I need thinking time. I make notes, cut pictures from magazines -slowly it all begins to take shape and substance.

What drives you to write?
How do you view the creative process?
Could you ever really give up telling stories?

I'd love to hear some responses .....

Helen

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Remember Me… - Dara Girard


Recently Ray Bradbury’s classic novel, Fahrenheit 451, was published as a graphic novel. The novel was authorized by Bradbury and includes an introduction by the author where he talks about the origins of the story and the theme of censorship. One thing he said stood out for me:

“May I suggest that anyone reading this introduction should take the time to name the one book that he or she would most want to memorize and protect from any censors or ‘firemen’. And not only name the book, but give the reasons why they would wish to memorize it and why it would be a valuable asset to be recited and remembered in the future.”

Excellent exercise, but I immediately hit a snag. As an admitted bibliophile I struggled to think of just one book.

Should it be a children’s book: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl or Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery?

Young Adult: Are You There God it’s Me Margaret? by Judy Blume or Not a Swan by Michelle Magorian?

A classic: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas or Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte?

Popular: Loves Music, Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark or The Third Circle by Amanda Quick or Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie? (I really like popular fiction and know that it would meet a dire fate because of literary snobbery)

Poems or short stories: Self Help by Lorrie Moore or The Dream Keeper and Other Poems by Langston Hughes?

And of course once I chose a genre and thought of authors my mind would race. ‘If I chose this one, then this one would die…Ahh…’

But it got me thinking about the power of stories in my life. How they have entertained and taught me throughout the years. I feel privileged that we don’t live in a society full of censorship, but aliteracy may be our downfall if we’re not careful, but that’s another subject. I feel honored that my stories too can be part of this grand tradition.

What about you? What book(s) would you memorize in order to save?

Dara Girard’s latest release is ROUND THE CLOCK, the fourth and final book in The Black Stockings Society series; about four women, one club, and a secret that will make all their fantasies come true. Find out more on her website: http://www.daragirard.com/

Friday, August 28, 2009

Oh, Those Sexy Doctors - Jacqueline Diamond


Has anybody else noticed that the upcoming fall TV season is filled with sexy men and women in white coats? As a “Grey’s Anatomy” fan, I can hardly wait!

Sure, this summer we medical aficionados have been able to get our fix with TNT’s “HawthoRNe” and Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie,” and this fall “Grey’s” will be returning, along with “House,” “Scrubs” and “Private Practice.”

But I expect to need frequent checks on my racing pulse when gorgeous Alex O’Loughlin – formerly of the delicious vampire series “Moonlight” – stars as a transplant surgeon in “Three Rivers” on CBS. Another of my favorite hunks, British actor Jeremy Northam, will be featured on “Miami Trauma,” a midseason series also on CBS.

NBC has two new medical series: “Trauma,” about San Francisco paramedics, and a midseason entry, “Mercy,” focusing on nurses.

Maybe it’s because I’m the daughter of a doctor that I’ve always admired men in this lifesaving profession. And women too, of course – my best friend from high school became a child psychiatrist.

Among my 84 novels, quite a few have featured doctors. The title of my September release from Harlequin American Romance, Doctor Daddy, speaks for itself. Actually, both the hero and heroine are obstetricians. I was thrilled with the cover – don’t you think the hero looks a lot like Patrick Dempsey? If you’re curious, I’ve posted the first chapter for free on my Web site, www.jacquelinediamond.com.

My editor agrees that doctors are hot – so hot that I’m writing a miniseries called Safe Harbor Medical, also for the Harlequin American line. Trouble arises after a reporter ‘s story confuses Safe Harbor Medical Center with California’s Safe Haven law, which allows women to relinquish newborns safely at a hospital or fire station. Soon newborns in need of homes are pouring in.

In The Would-Be Mommy¸ scheduled for February 2010, an infant lands in the arms of hospital public relations director Jennifer Serra, who lost her own baby years ago. Can she really keep this little girl? And is that pesky reporter who caused all the trouble just writing a story about her, or is he falling in love with her, too?

The second book in the series, The Surrogate’s Surprise, puts a fun twist on surrogate motherhood. No date set for that one yet. I’ll keep you posted on my Web site.

Meanwhile, I’d better get back to writing the Safe Harbor Medical series before the fall TV season starts, because I have a feeling I’m going to be very distracted.

Jacqueline Diamond

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Night Around Me - Jessica Inclán





Back in the days of babies, I used to find myself up in the most silent time of night, sitting on a couch or chair, nursing a baby. Then I would change the baby, rock the baby, and put the baby to sleep. During the day, I would rue this late night upness, but at the time, baby in my arms, the night silence surrounding me,nothing but the baby and me in the world, I loved this quiet time together with my child. From 2 to 3 or 3 to 4, there we both would be in the stillness of the house.

Well, I'm up again from 2 to 3 or 3 to 4 (sometimes from 2-4) but there is no baby. There is nothing but me and my upness, some new nightmarish hormonal twist of fate awakening me from a deep sleep and keeping me awake, an alertness that no glass of milk will quell.

This time is familiar and known, and the silence is here just as it always was, but I'm alone now. The tasks I can perform are not about a child but about my work. The to-do list for the next day is there, and I dip into it, moving through a couple of items before heading back to the bedroom for sleep, round two.

So I write a little bit. Sometimes I read. I write a blog. I read a student's work. During all, my mind seems alert and focused, something I would never imagine possible. I don't like the sound of "Two in the morning." "Three in the morning" is almost a swear word. Sadly, "four in the morning" almost sounds normal as I often make my way down to bed as my boyfriend Michael is getting up for the day. We pass each other on the stairs, he headed for the office, me headed for unconsciousness.

I wonder if I will look back at these nights with the same fondness that I do with those hours spent with my babies. Will I be an old woman, thinking about the nights I spent with myself, writing and reading and thinking? Perhaps I will imagine that holding my own life in my arms was as endearing as holding those tiny babies, the night around me, the time as full of growth and wonder as all those years before.


video

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Grandma and the Prince - Part 10 - Barbara Bretton

<==Grandma at 19

I'm going to pick up where I left off in my Grandma's story. This is a transcript of the tape I made back in 1976. Grandma and her sister Edith (Dede) are off in search of a new job.

=====

Edith and I – there was a place not too far from here. The factory needed help. The sign said "Girls needed. Glove making. " We go over and hired us immediately but he put us in the wrong places. He put me on gloves and Edith on the sewing machine when it should have been the other way around. I had to form the gloves. You see there were two metal hands, heated, and after they sewed the gloves, you put them on the hands and shaped them. You look to see if there are any holes. If you find a hole you use a piece of paper and you send them back.

Edith worked by the hour – she had to do the sewing over and over again. They docked her most of her wages. I used to dread getting a bundle from Edith because I knew Edith could not manage her sewing machine. So one day the manager said to her, "Miss Dimler, I’d like to see you before you go home. "

She said to me, "You know, I think he’s going to sack me."

"So what, Edith," I said carefree as you please. "You should be on what I’m doing and I should be doing what you're doing. How about we don’t go back?"

So we didn't. [laughter]

I don’t know what we said to mother but I know there was a terrible row.

Then I get another job. I don’t know how I found it but it was another factory. I was so ashamed, coming from rich people and all. My mother didn’t know what I was doing. So I went to this job every morning where they had piece material in bulk. My job was to make sure that when it winds around the spool that it’s even. A man would come around with a big bin and take them away. But then the floor man comes around one day and takes a shine to me. He wants to take me out and I tell the other girls.

"What did he say to you?" they asked.

"He asked me to go out with him," I said.

"You're not going out with him! Don't you go out with him, Elsie!"

Well, Barbara, I got scared and told my mother about him. She came to my place of business to meet him, saw where I was working and was shocked. She said, "That's the end of this!"

[I ask if my great-grandfather was working.]

What did Grandpa do? He was manager of Bohack. Great-grandpa. He walked right in off the street, off the boat, and got the job. The women were crazy about him. My father was very handsome and they all flocked to Bohack for meat. He had quite the following. He was a devil, he was. He was a devil with me and my mother wasn’t far behind either. I can tell you plenty. I can tell you plenty, my dear. Your hair would uncurl.

=======

And here I am thirty-three years later, still curly-haired, still wondering what she meant by those last few sentences.

to be continued next month

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton and you can find me here and here. I'm happy to say that LACED WITH MAGIC is on the stands this month. I hope you'll take a minute and visit my website to read an excerpt. I think you'll like it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Music For Inspiration--Michelle Monkou


NEW WINNER ANNOUNCED: Laney4, please contact me at michellemonkou@comcast.net. Folks, please make sure to have your blogger profile completed with an email.

Now that I've taken the step to being a full time writer, I'm in heavy organizing mode to keep me on task. Every morning, I have my IPod and select my power walking music. It's a mish mosh of songs with heavy bass, drums, or just a good rhythmic beat. My line up includes Cobra Starship, Mary Mary, Lady Gaga, Mary J Blige, Tokio Hotel, Robyn and the list goes on. I can get a full hour of walking, and light...very light jogging, with my line up.

Then I'm back in the house, showered and dressed ready to face the blinking line on the computer that awaits my input. I'm using a preventative measure from getting entrenched in the soap operas, game shows, or talk shows by not turning on the TV until 3 p.m. The kids are home from school at that time, so there is that short period of chaos when they are bursting to tell me the latest happenings in school.

Instead of looking at TV during the day, I play the radio or listen to my IPod. I love writing to music. I can listen to classical, heavy metal, some hip hop, and pop. The music, the lyrics, the entire package energizes me and gets my own creativity flowing.

Is music a part of your daily living?

What songs or artists do you listen to?

Share, maybe we'll introduce each other to new music, new artists.

CONTEST: As a thank you for sharing, I'll pick a random winner for my latest release - Only In Paradise. This story has a tropical theme, so you have to think reggae, calypso, or even reggaeton while reading.


Michelle
Trail of Kisses - February 2010

Monday, August 24, 2009

Stay-cation, Presents-style by Caitlin Crews

It is very hot and I would much prefer to be on vacation right now. It is August, after all. Aren't people supposed to be on vacation in August?

The best thing about writing Presents is that it's kind of like getting to take a great vacation to glamorous places every day. I don't have to accept the fact that I'm sitting in my office staring at my wall-- I could be anywhere in the world! Places I've been and places I've only dreamed of going. It's the ultimate stay-cation!

Here are some of the places I got to visit in my first two Presents, PURE PRINCESS, BARTERED BRIDE and MAJESTY,MISTRESS... MISSING HEIR--both due out next year, as well as the new manuscript I'm working on:



Hôtel Negresco, Promenade des Anglais, Nice



Belgravia, London, England



San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara, California



Paris, France




York, England



Villefranche sur Mer, Cap Ferrat & Beaulieu, the Côte d'Azur, France



Los Angeles from the Hollywood Hills, California

Where would you go if you could go anywhere? Can your favorite Presents take you there?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

TGIF! (Thank God It's Fall) - Carrie Weaver


Yes, I realize it’s still technically August, but bear with me here. Fall is my favorite season of the year and I can’t wait for it to arrive, so I act “as if” it’s already a reality.

Before you start thinking I’m a little strange, you should know I live in Arizona, where the summer temps top 115 degrees. I’ve never gone for that whole Spring-is-the-beginning of-new-life theory, because by May, I’m already trying to think of ways I’ll be able to survive another broiling summer.

Summer in Arizona. Think four long months of burning my hands on car door handles and steering wheels. Four months of cabin fever and continuously recirculated air. And four long months of electric bills that rival my car payment.

But my love affair with Fall started long before I started paying electric bills. As far as I can tell, it started when I was just shy of six years old. That’s when I started Kindergarten and discovered the wonderful world of school. I’ve always loved learning and I found starting a new school year an exciting adventure.

Even though I’m not in school anymore, my love of all things Fall continues. We don’t have four seasons per se in the Phoenix area. But soon after school starts, there’s just something different in the air. The mornings are cooler, almost decent. And the sun’s rays slant at a kinder angle. The promise of outdoor endeavors and reconnecting with neighbors makes me feel as if life is one big adventure. And wow, the red, gold and orange of changing leaves is only a few hours drive away in Oak Creek Canyon. And after that, the promise of the holidays....

So please humor me and share your favorite things about Fall. And I’ll blissfully act as if it’s already here.

In appreciation, I’ll award an autographed copy of Baby, I’m Yours to one lucky contributor. I’ll take entries up through Wednesday.

Carrie


Saturday, August 22, 2009

A stupid famous thing? by Darlene Gardner


The Spanish Steps are a can't-miss attraction in Rome.


My daughter explained this repeatedly to her seventeen-year-old brother this summer as we walked the narrow streets of the old city, farther and farther from our hotel. Only the promise of gelato kept his grumbling at a manageable level. That and his inability to find his way back on his own.


Finally, we arrived at the Piazza di Spagna, which was lit up to give an excellent view of the one hundred thirty eight steps named after the Spanish embassy still located in the piazza.


My son gaped at the sight.


"This is without a doubt," he said, "the stupidest famous thing I've ever seen. It's a staircase!"


Below that long, wide staircase was a beautiful fountain. On that staircase sat hundreds of people being serenaded in Spanish by three young men dressed as troubadours. Many in the impromptu audience were drinking wine.


My daughter, who'd just finished a summer semester in Spain that fueled her with wanderlust, took off for the top of the steps. My son and I took a seat. We were immediately approached by a young man trying to press a rose into my hand. I knew he'd demand payment so I refused to take it. He thrust out his lower lip in a truly hilarious pout.


The troubadours headed up the steps, weaving their way through the crowds, playing their guitars and singing with infectious energy. Soon my son was smiling along with every one else in the crowd.


"Well?" I asked him when we left. "What did you think?"


"I already told you," he said. "It was just a bunch of steps."


Oh, but what steps.


So here's my question: What's the stupidest famous thing you've ever seen?


Darlene Gardner, author of THE SECRET SIN, third in the Return to Indigo Springs series from Harlequin Superromance


http://www.darlenegardner.com

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Those Dog Days of Summer by Jenny Gardiner



There's a certain type of envy that kicks in with me especially on these near-perfect summer days we've been experiencing lately. And it doesn't even have anything to do with the multitude of bare midriffs everywhere. Sure I might be envious of those, but this muffin top bearer knows that's a whole 'nother problem and not worth the lamenting.


My jealousy involves something that ought to be far more within my ability to control: dogs. More specifically those perfect dogs that walk alongside their owners with nothing more than a loose—never taut—leash, sometimes even no leash. Grrrr (excuse my speaking in dog tongue there). The worst of all are those Stepford dogs that peacefully accompany their keepers at adorable little outdoor cafes. They don't bark, they don't growl, they don't mooch, they don't sniff the crotches of passersby; basically, they don't act annoying. They come in, lie down, and mind their own business while their person enjoys a lovely outdoor meal, unencumbered by dog-like behavior. These dogs are sort of the Barbie dolls of the canine kingdom, and I'm sick of them.



Now I've owned all sorts of pets over the years, and had mixed results in the behavior department with them all. Suffice it to say no one would accuse me of being a dog whisperer. Dog hollerer is more like it. But I've given it my best. Ironically cats, the domesticated creature least likely to cooperate, have been the pets most likely to comply with me. So bring on the cats, thank you.

Our first dog, a Labrador retriever, should have been perfect. I grew up with Labs and while it wasn't my job to train our dogs, they seemed to me to be quite well-behaved, so I guess I figured it was innate for dogs to do what you want them to. Although in hindsight they did once attack the mailman, who my dad had to placate with a fifth of Jack Daniels, so maybe I'm operating on revisionist history where they're concerned. Nevertheless, determined to have a well-trained dog, my husband and I took our Lab, Beau, to obedience school as soon as her age permitted. On paper, the dog was a superstar: heeling on cue, sitting, staying, and never acting out of line, not once. She even won the best dog award at the end of the session. We have a certificate to prove it.

But at home, her dark side reared its ugly head. It was as if she'd saved all her good for the teacher, reserving her bad for her parents. So like a child. She'd tug with a vengeance on her leash when we walked her. If another dog hazarded by, she was right up on him, never in a mean way but always in a dislocate-the-dog-walker's shoulder way. At night she invariable bolted to the top of our steep back yard and howled, unwilling to come when called, and inevitably displeasing our lovely neighbors with the ceaseless twilight bark. One night she barked till midnight at a possum playing dead, which promptly sprayed her with noxious possum aroma, leaving us to fumigate the dog well into the wee hours.


Our next dog, Bridget, well, I've told you how I had to lure her inside at 2 a.m. by grilling hot dogs and then dangling them in front of her ill-behaved mug. This after she bolted from my house while I carried out trash at 11 at night, and proceeded to bark for three hours while I attempted to chase/lure/persuade the thing. That was one of her better-behaved episodes.
Yeah, we'd taken Bridget--more closely related to the wild dingo than to a domesticated dog to begin with--to classes as well. Even had her behaving like a near-champ with the clicker—a technique known to work even on feral cats and Las Vegas tiger acts. Sure, Bridget behaved on command with the clicker and a healthy dose of liver snacks. When it was in her best interest. Otherwise? Nada. Maybe we'd have been better off with a tiger rather than a dingo.

Cue Sassy, another Labrador, who we got a couple of years later. Sassy, too, was brilliant at dog classes. And like most Labs, obsessed with food enough to generally behave in response to bribes of the stuff. But never on a leash. And never in a café. At best at an outdoor dining venue she'll wind herself around the legs of the chair and table pedestal, entangling all diners and choking herself. At worst, she's a master at snatching food from tongue-level tabletops.



Dog commandments clearly are optional, according to my dogs, and I've abandoned hope of taking a summertime stroll with my cooperative pooches, side by side, with nary a tug. It's just not meant to be. Breaking bread with the beasts in Belmont? Not gonna happen, I have finally concluded.

Just so you know, we clearly tend to be equal opportunity patsies where our pets are concerned. I'll save all the gory details about my non-compliant parrot for another day. Suffice it to say there's enough material there for a book.




(By the way, if you want to hear about another Dawg Day experience, check out my blog where I give you the low-down of what American Idol tryouts are really like--I took my daughter there earlier this summer)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Magic of Storytelling - Joanne Rock



During a recent writing snap in a local Starbucks, I fell into conversation with a man curious about my flying fingers and my AlphaSmart. He gave me a nice compliment after hearing what I did for a living. Toasting me with his coffee cup on the way out the door, he said, “Wow! I love storytellers!”

Well, I liked that sentiment. To be described as a “storyteller” was a special treat for me, since I quite like storytellers too. I tend to think of storytellers as people who relate stories orally. They draw their audience in with the same techniques ancient cultures used when they shared tales around a campfire. Hearing a story was often a shared event, and the task of the telling was given to someone who could create magic with words to hold their audience spellbound.

Chances are you know someone who can do this. Who in your life tells stories with flare? Someone in your family or in your office? It’s the person who can find an interesting anecdote about most anything, the person who can read an audience so that they spice up the details for some listeners, and play up the humor for others.

My dad is like this. I’ve heard the story of how he and his childhood friend Freddy tried to fix an old rowboat that washed up on the shore of the river near my dad’s house. I could summarize the highlights in a sentence or two. The plot isn’t the point. It’s the fun of how they get there, the details of two WWII-era kids whipping up something out of nothing, using hot tar pilfered off nearby asphalt to patch the cracks in a hopelessly cracked vessel.

It’s a story I don’t get tired of. And while I’ve never felt like the kind of storyteller who can hold a live audience captive, I like to think I inherited a bit of dad’s magic applied to paper.

One of my favorite descriptions of what a storyteller does comes at the end of the gorgeous book, Women Who Run with the Wolves. Author and cantadora Clarissa Pinkola Estes explains, “Whenever a fairy tale is told, it becomes night. No matter where the dwelling, no matter the time, the telling of tales causes a starry sky and a white moon to creep from the eaves and hover over the heads of the listeners.” Beautiful, isn’t? I love storytellers.




***Is there a story a friend tells that you know by heart... and you still enjoy hearing? How about a book that was read out loud to you as a child that still brings you pleasure to hear or to tell aloud? (All in favor of Goodnight Moon??) I'll giveaway a signed copy of one of my 2009 releases -- winner's choice-- to one random poster this week.***

Monday, August 17, 2009

Food Glorious Food

Time has a way of playing snap! I remember as a 14 year-old rolling my eyes at breakfast as my parents brought out the 'Vitamin Box.' No way was I going to be taking a million tablets when I was forty!! The other morning when I hefted the ENORMOUS basket of supplements onto the kitchen bench, that image thundered through me. I'm doing what my parents did, which can't be all bad I guess as they're in their late seventies and recently enjoyed a month in the Antarctic so there's something to this healthy lifestyle gig. Don't get me wrong, I love all the bad stuff as much as anyone but these days my body just doesn't forgive me as fast.


I love going to the Farmer's markets on a saturday morning. In the mid 90's when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, I adored going up to the square, getting my mug of 'Steep and Brew' coffee to sip while I wandered around the stalls. It was at the Dane County Farmer's market that I was introduced to morell mushrooms. Back in Australia my town's Farmer's market doesn't quite match Madisons's but it's still fun. I love the colors of the vegetables; the glossy skins of the red and green capsicums (bell peppers), the way the plump white ends of the spring onions (scallions) contrast so brilliantly with their healthy deep green tails and the ruby tomatoes that promise good, old-fashioned flavour. Who knew vegetables can glow with good health and look positively sexy!


When I wrote the market scene in Miracle:Twin Babies, I was thinking of the Farmer's markets and food as a part of recovery became a big theme in the book.


Nick, my hot-shot emergency care specialist has left the big city for a while and has gone 'up bush' growing organic vegetables while he recovers from the biggest challenge of his life. At the start of the book he has no idea what an impact organic food is going to have on his life, and how it will change it forever.


I'd love to hear your stories about Farmers' markets and what you enjoy about them, so leave a comment and I'll put you in the draw for one of my black-list books!


Fiona Lowe is an Australian author and her current release, Miracle:Twin Babies is on sale now at eharlequin, Mills and Boon UK and Mills and Boon Australia.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A passion for certain things... - Rebecca Winters

Hello to all you wonderful readers out there!

Thanks first of all to Lee for the opportunity to blog. Most of the time I think I don’t have time to do it, but that’s not true. It’s just that I don’t want to take the time to write unless it’s something I feel passionately about. The truth is, I do have a passion for certain things.
If I could live more than one life, I would be an archaeologist. It’s very hard for me not to use some aspect of it in every novel I write. If my editors at Harlequin would allow me, I’d probably do a running series from A to Z using some aspect of it in each novel. Archaeology of the Native Americans of Yosemite figures in my June Harlequin American Romance THE CHIEF RANGER.

In the sequel, THE RANGER’S SECRET, archaeology is Chase Jarvis’s passion, out in September. So how come he’s the assistant head ranger at Yosemite and what is the heroine doing there? I won’t give the plot away, but I had so much fun writing it because I find the subject completely fascinating.

I also put in a tidbit of archaeology in my latest July Harlequin Romance, THE FRENCHMAN’S BROODING PROPOSAL. In this novel the heroine is doing some weeding in Cap Ferrat (on The French Riviera) at the hero’s gorgeous chateau and unearths an important artifact.

For me, finding traces of other civilizations and weaving them into my romances, adds a tantalizing thread which I believe enriches the reader’s pleasure. Another Harlequin Romance, THE BRIDEGROOM’S VOW, explores the ancient world of Thessalonica. In the Harlequin Romance THE ITALIAN PLAYBOY AND THE NANNY, archaeology features quite heavily both in Italy and Mesoamerica.

When I’m asked why I love writing so much, I tell people it’s the research for each book that blends fact and fiction, providing an endless fascination for me, driving me to spin a new tale.

Rebecca Winters
http://www.cleanromances.com/

THE CHIEF RANGER and THE RANGER’S SECRET. Both RT top picks.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Class Reunions - Yay or Nay?

And the winner of any book in my backlist is: WATERY TART!! If you can drop me an email to Tawny@TawnyWeber.com with Tote Bags in the subject line and which book you'd like, along with your shipping info, I'll get that right out to you!
~*~*~*~*~*~

I have a class reunion coming up at the end of this month, ironically enough, at the same time my next Blaze, FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME, is released. FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME is a class reunion story (nope, I didn't plan it, but isn't irony wonderful?) Because of timing and circumstance, this will be the first class reunion I've ever attended.

Like Zoe, the heroine in this story, I wasn't a huge fan of high school. So I can totally relate to her mixed feelings about going back to the small town she never fit into and trying to mix with people who never seemed to accept her. I mean, they did dub her the title 'Most Likely to Die a Virgin'. But Zoe's on a mission, so she forces herself to face the past and ends up with some very delicious surprises.

It was fun to imagine the what if's for the reunion -from the costume party, with guests dressed to hint at their career, to the tarot readings by the pool, to the varied events and games they'd play. Much like I remember homecoming week. Mixed up day, Pajama day, etc...

I really enjoyed, too, the different characters reactions to going back in time. Some loved school, some hated it. Some were still living in their school glory and others wished they were back in the good old days.

For me, I'm ecstatic to be long over the school days and away from the awkward and often painful times I remember. My husband, who was in the same class as I, is thrilled at the idea of going to the reunion and catching up on what everyone's been doing.

How about you? Did you love or loathe high school, or something in between? Would you/have you attended a class reunion? How was it? I'll choose one commenter to win their choice of any of my backlist books!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Customer Is Always Right

Hi all! Hope you're doing well!

Last week, I had some unforeseen car problems. The transmission on my car went bust. Luckily it was under warranty, so I took it to a dealership instead of my regular mechanic for a free fix. Despite the weeklong inconvenience, I thought I was super lucky. I mean, thank goodness it was covered!

Unfortunately, when I got in the car to pick it up, it was making a worse noise after they fixed it than before I brought it in! I took it too my personal mechanic to see what the dealership had done, and he confirmed my suspicions. The dealership had broken another part while working on the trans.

Anyway, as you can guess, I’ve spent many hours this week killing time in various in car dealerships, and so I’d like to offer some helpful thoughts on how to amuse yourself when you’re waiting in a showroom.

Normally, my MO for waiting involves banging the keys on my laptop or reading a book (this week, it was Sherry Thomas's Private Arrangements [my review here]). But after I'd just been had by a mechanic, here's what I was came up with to amuse myself while waiting:


1. Test all the horns of the cars on display. This is especially fun if there are trucks around. Be sure to test out quick staccato beeps and long furious howls. If they tell you to stop, explain the importance of car safety.

2. Change the channel on the lobby television, or complain frequently about the volume. The lobby TV is one of those gray areas of disputed territory. Who wields power? Consider it a social experiment in anarchy.

3. Go to the free coffee kiosk, pour a full cup, drink half, throw it out. Repeat until jitters set in.

4. Ask to test drive a car, but insist that it must be the one in the middle of the showroom floor, the one surrounded by cones, potted plants, and advertising. If they argue, tell them the customer is always right!

Okay, so I didn’t actually do any of those things. In fact, I ended up paying for the repair despite the dealer’s mistake (minus labor). But if I had done any of the above, one wonders what might have happened differently. If you see a future heroine in one of my books causing mischief at a car dealership, you’ll know why!

Anyway, despite all the bad news of the week, I got really super good news too! I got the advanced copies of my new release, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, hot off the press (it’s about two sisters who own a wildflower farm in Vermont, and a meteorite-hunting hero).

I’m planning on running a big contest this month especially for subscribers of my mailing list; I’m going to be giving away a number of copies of my book Simple Wishes, and I’ll also be giving away one book lover’s gift basket—worth well over $50! If you’d like to have a go at winning, please sign up ASAP on my Web site: http://www.lisadalebooks.com.

See you there!

Oh, and in the meantime, if I missed any naughty behaviors for the car dealership, let me know. Always good to have ammunition for next time!

Best,

Lisa Dale

http://www.lisadaleblog.com/

www.twitter.com/lisadalebooks

Thursday, August 13, 2009

GOOD LUCK - Annie West

Are you a believer in luck? I know some people think the 13th of the month is unlucky and others that it’s not unlucky unless it’s a Friday. Still others seem to use a reverse approach and enjoy the 13th as if it will bring good fortune.

For me this day is lucky as it’s my son’s birthday. You can’t beat that for a red letter day. Plus this year it’s also the day I leave (after suitable birthday celebrations) for the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Brisbane. A double dose of good tidings!

Then, looking more broadly, I have not one but two releases this month. My newest title THE SAVAKIS MISTRESS is on sale in UK, PLUS my first Harlequin novel A MISTRESS FOR THE TAKING is being re-released in a special ‘By Request’ edition with other full length stories by Emma Darcy and Julia James. Wow! The edition is called PURCHASED FOR PASSION and you can be sure that by now I’ve decided I’m extremely lucky!

All these good things made me think about luck and how we view it. I’ve never been one to break a mirror or walk under a ladder unless I have to but I tell myself that’s to do with safety rather than a belief in bad luck. On the other hand, if I know I’m going to have a difficult day I’ll deliberately choose to wear one of the couple of lovely pieces of jewellery that have been given to me by special people. Because I believe they’re lucky? Maybe. Or maybe because they make me feel good.

My son loves having a birthday on the 13th, especially when it falls on a Friday – a great excuse for a party with spooky decorations and a cake covered in a giant spider or something ghoulish. On the other hand my mother in law avoids the number 13 as much as she can and will go to considerable lengths to do so. She also has a range of good luck habits, from tossing salt over her shoulder to tossing (soft) shoes at people for luck (and don’t ask - I have no idea how that started).

Do you have a special good luck charm you keep by you at important times? Do you or your family have rituals you follow to be sure luck stays on your side? Have you had wonderful good luck at a time when you least expected it? Or don’t you believe in luck?

Annie feels incredibly lucky this month. To share that luck, visit her website and enter her current massive contest to win free new releases by Australian authors. Alternatively, check out her two releases this month with excerpts on her site. Or you could order your own copies of THE SAVAKIS MISTRESS or PURCHASED FOR PASSION.















Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Win an ARC of CAPTIVE OF SIN!

by Anna Campbell

It's always an exciting moment to get the Advance Reader Copies for a forthcoming release. Somehow everything seems much more real when it's in book format!

My next book CAPTIVE OF SIN comes out on 27th October in America so as a sneak peek, I'm offering one lucky contest entrant in August the chance to win a signed ARC. It's a really, REALLY easy question too!

Here's the back cover blurb:

He pledged his honor to keep her safe...

Returning home to Cornwall after unspeakable tragedy, Sir Gideon Trevithick comes upon a defiant beauty in danger, and vows to protect her whatever the cost. He's dismayed to discover that she's none other than Lady Charis Weston, England's wealthiest heiress-and that the only way to save her from the violent stepbrothers determined to steal her fortune is to wed her himself! Now Gideon must hide the dark secrets of his life from the bride he desires more with every heartbeat.

She promised to show him how to love - and desire - again...

Charis has heard all about Gideon, the dangerously handsome hero with the mysterious past. She's grateful for his help, but utterly unwilling to endure a marriage of convenience-especially to a man whose touch leaves her breathless. Desperate to drive him mad with passion, she would do anything to make Gideon lose control-and fall captive to irresistible, undeniable sin.

All you have to do is tell me the name of the hero and heroine of CAPTIVE OF SIN. I told you it was an easy-peasy question! If you'd like more information about the book, please visit the books page of my website where you'll also find an excerpt.

http://www.annacampbell.info/captivesin.html

For more information about the contest, please visit my contest page:

http://www.annacampbell.info/contest.html


All you need to do is send your answer to anna@annacampbell.info. Good luck! I'll draw the winner's name randomly and announce the winner after 1st September. The contest closes Sunday, 30th August.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Real-Time Research

I'm in a bit of a quandary this month.

You see, I'm wanting to do a work up for a new story, one different from anything I've written before. I know where I want to set it, but the trouble is, I've never really been to this place before. We're talking about coastal Maine. You'd think growing up on the east coast of Canada I would have been, but I haven't. My sum total experience was a trip to Houlton when my age was still in the single digits, and a conference in Machias when I was in university.

When I write a Harlequin Romance, my settings are very much a place I've been to. In the small anomaly that was a fictional principality in The Rancher's Runaway Princess, I had complete autonomy to do what I wanted. But I can't this time. This time it is REAL, and I always feel a strong responsibility to get it right.

The silly thing is, it is not a long trip. I could be there in a matter of hours by car/ferry. But it is something I would want to do with the whole family over the course of at least 4 days, and after me going to DC and our family trip that is planned for November, we just don't have the cash. Four nights in a hotel and four people to feed and the gas adds up REALLY fast.

And yet....

I really feel like I want to research this in person.

I suspect in the end, I'm going to be doing a lot of reading and online research and looking at pics and videos. Does anyone have any suggestions?

And in the meantime, I'll go back to working on my latest project!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Why? - Christina Hollis

Those three little letters go together to make one big question. Writers are a curious bunch, in more ways than one. Not only are they drawn from all walks of life and all around the globe, every one of them has a different way of working. Their reasons for becoming authors vary, too. When I’m asked why I write, I can answer in any number of ways. The most important one for me is that I absolutely love it. I’m never happier than when I’m creating an imaginary world, and putting my latest hero and heroine through the emotional mill. My family would probably say I’m a better person when I’m busy working on a book, too. It never feels like work to me, though!

Despite their differences, authors have at least one thing in common. They all enjoy the challenge of asking their characters those big, important life questions. Even the most retiring author can get a taste for manipulating her page-bound men. It’s so much more satisfying when you’ve got the time to consider a really good retort. When a writer gets that terrible ‘Oh, how I wish I’d said that!’ feeling in real life, they can save it up for use on a drop-dead gorgeous guy they’ve designed themselves. Conjuring up exotic, sundrenched locations when the day is bleak and wet outside is another great advantage writers have. And as for revelling in all that delicious food…it’s lucky that fictional calories don’t count. What a shame the same can’t be said for all the research we have to do to get the detailed descriptions exactly right. My latest death-by-dessert favourite is nid d’abeilles. It’s a delicious treat of light, sweet brioche filled with crème anglais, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with toasted almonds. Just thinking about it makes me want to sneak off to the local patisserie!

Why we all read romance is a bit easier to fathom. It’s the perfect escape. A lovely wind down at the end of a hectic day, and a little bit of excitement before dropping off to sleep always puts a sparkle in your eyes next day.
What are you reading at the moment?

Christina Hollis is currently running a competition with prizes of her September release for Harlequin Presents; The Tuscan Tycoon’s Pregnant Housekeeper for the winners. Visit http://www.christinahollis/ for more details.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Celebrating milestones - Paula Roe

A while back, a question was asked on one of my author loops about writing milestones and what authors do to celebrate them.

So what better way than with one of this years’ must-haves, the Pandora charm bracelet! For those of you unfamiliar with it, Pandora jewelry is a Danish company that sells (amongst other gorgeous things) snake bracelets and individual charms in sterling silver, 9k gold and Murano glass you can add and take off as whim dictates. Here’s mine so far and what each charm stands for.

The suitcase – for my first book, which had my Danish hero travelling to Australia

The pink heart – for my second book, as part of the Diamonds Down Under series, which featured rare pink diamonds

The baby carriage – a pregnancy was the main driving force in my third book, The Magnate’s Baby Promise (August 2009)

The little girl – my fourth book (June 2010) features the heroine’s gorgeous five-month old girl, Bella.

The book – both me and my crit partner have these to signify, yep – our love of books and writing!I also bought two colorful glass beads just to break up the silver (and because they were so pretty :-))

I’ve bought a few more on eBay from Italian designer Biagi but I’m not ready to add them, seeing as the books they represent haven’t been contracted yet and I don’t want to jinx myself! They include a sexy stiletto for what will be my next book, and tropical palms, an airplane and a tiara for a trilogy I’m still developing. And besides satisfying my obsession for jewelry, these charms are something visual and significant that helps me focus when it comes to writing the story.

So, how do you celebrate important moments in your life? With something significant? Or purely fun, like a special day out, dinner at a favorite restaurant or a frivolous gift?


When she’s not shopping, Paula is writing. Her current release is The Magnate’s Baby Promise (Silhouette Desire), out now on the shelves. Last year’s Boardrooms & A Billionaire Heir is shortlisted for Romance Writers of Australia’s prestigious Romantic Book of the Year award in the “Short Sexy” category. Visit her at http://www.paularoe.com/

Friday, August 07, 2009

Defending the Romance Genre

A few months ago, my alumni magazine, The Carletonian Voice arrived. Nestled amongst the usual articles about various things happening on campus was an article entitled True Romance about a senior comps English project where a male student decided to write about his experience trying to write a novel about a woman romance author who was trying to write a romance. Basically, it was a very condescending article which stated that romance author wrote generally in capital letters and used exclamation points. He also gave a strange definition for romance and cited research from the late 1970s and early 80s as being definitive. I suspect he thought he was being witty and amusing.
The article bothered me on many levels, not the least of which was the condescending nature towards an industry where I earn my crust of bread. It depresses me no end that a man born in a post feminist world particularly one attending a top liberal arts college should feel the need to mock a genre that is primarily aimed at women. He could have achieved the same outcome using Guy With Gear Who Go novels. In many ways, it shows outdated attitudes still persist in academia. And unfortunately attitudes in academia influence attitudes in popular culture.
Anyway, I became annoyed and wrote a letter to the editor. To the editor's credit, they published the letter.
I was disappointed to read about the condescending comps paper that Evan Haine-Roberts ’09 has written [“True Romance,” Around the Bald Spot, spring]. He appears to have ignored recent research, choosing to concentrate on research from the late 1980s and early 1990s. A Natural History of the Romance Novel by Pamela Regis or work from the recently formed International Association for the Study of Popular Romance would have formed a better basis for his research.
As an author of over a dozen romance novels, I suggest that a more accepted definition of the commercial romance novel is one where the growth of the emotional relationship of the main protagonists forms the central arc or spine of the story and the ending is emotionally satisfying. I do not know which romance novels Mr. Haine-Roberts read, but I doubt they were of recent vintage, given the nature of his research.

I do try to defend the romance genre wherever possible. Sometimes, all I can do is feel sorry and embarrassed for people who have ignorant prejudices. And at other times, I feel something must be done to challenge the accepted stereotype.
Education is needed, particularly among academics. However, it needs to be in a language they understand. And this is why I am grateful for Romance Writers of America which offers a $5,000 grant to the best research proposal written by an academic studying the genre. Recent recipients include Eric Selinger, Sarah Frantz and Catherine Roach. Frantz and Selinger have been instrumental in setting up International Association for the Study of Popular Romance. Earlier this year, Princeton University held its first conference on the study of popular romance. There is even a new journal dedicated to the study of Gothic Romance being started in November 2009.
Although mostly I prefer to enjoy my romances rather than study them, I am pleased that something is finally being done. I also know the next time I feel the need to defend, I will be able to go on the blog Teach Me Tonight and learn what the current academic thinking about romance. A lot of good things are happening. People are challenging the status quo and hooray for them! It is about time!

Michelle Styles is very proud of writing historical romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical. Her next book, The Viking's Captive Princess will be published in December 09.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Perfect Romantic Comedy?

This past weekend I saw two romantic comedies in the theater: The Ugly Truth and The Proposal.



The Ugly Truth features Gerard Butler, which is really all you have to know about it. Gerard Butler is also the only reason to see the movie, because everything else is pretty grim. Maybe Gerard is too, but who could possibly care when looking at him?



All I really remember from the movie is that face. Which, given what little else I recall, in unguarded moments, is all for the best.



The Proposal, on the other hand, was a perfect concoction. I fell in love! And while, yes, it may have had something to do with this:





...that was really just the icing on the cake. Why? Because I believed that the characters were who they said they were. I believed not only that they were falling in love, but that they should fall in love. The final scene in the publisher's office? Made me as giddy as a schoolgirl. Really.

If there is something better than a perfect romantic comedy, I don't know what it is.

What's your favorite?