Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A new season celebration! - by Natalie Anderson

So it’s the last day of August already! And what a month it’s been I can tell you – so full of super exciting stuff!
Firstly, it was the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference a couple of weeks ago. I’m still on a high. We had the most A-M-A-Z-I-N-G international speakers – Christopher Vogler, Stephanie Laurens and Jane Porter.
The three dove-tailed so beautifully – combining to highlight and give real validation on what we do as romance writers and reminding us why we love our genre so much. It was very inspirational – if ever you get a chance to hear any of those guys speak, LEAP at it – regardless of whether you’re a writer or a reader. It was so great to be in a room full of other writers where we were all excited and passionate and challenged to push through to the next level in our work. It was only my third conference but definitely the best for me so far – those speakers really were fabulous.
But the best thing to happen in August was just at the very end. I have the most fabulous writing buddy – we’re not actually ‘critique partners’, more each other’s support crew. We met almost five years ago and really hit if off from the start because we were both very committed to writing. She writes sweet and I write saucy. I was very fortunate to sell to Mills & Boon less than a year after we met. Meanwhile she kept on writing and writing and honing her craft. Through our respective ups and downs we’ve been each other’s head cheerleader.
We email or phone each other every day and report to each other on our progress – word count tallies and stuff. We’ve commiserated with each other on rejections and revisions and celebrated requests and reviews and crack the whip over each other when necessary.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have a someone who totally knows and understands the process and who is there simply to be a friend, ally and colleague and I love to be the same for her.
We rarely swap actual stories although we do brainstorm plot and sound out ideas. If we do send each other an actual file, it’s a ‘quick read and say its fabulous’ kind of support. But last year she sent through a first chapter that made me draw breath. She’d really nailed it. She won a contest with that, got a request, some revisions , more contest finals and wins. But last week, just a few days after conference where she’d been up and down from the stage getting all these rosettes, she got THE CALL.
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am. Soraya has worked so hard and is such a talented writer with a huge future ahead of her with Harlequin Mills & Boon Romance. If you want to join in her party, there’s a thread over at
And be sure to keep an eye out for her first release which I *think* will be out at the end of 2011 – but I’ll be back to remind you well before then and I’m sure she’ll be here too!
Meanwhile, I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere are looking forward to the beauty of Autumn. I can tell you we’re certainly looking forward to Spring down here in New Zealand! Already we’re seeing signs with lambs in the paddocks and daffodils along the fence line and the light is lasting longer with each day – it’s bliss.

So, to celebrate a wonderful month, I’m giving away a copy of one of my backlist books – PLEASURED IN THE PLAYBOY’S PENTHOUSE – which is one I dedicated to Soraya when she did another ‘quick support read’ for me. To be in to win, just comment below and let us know what you love most about either Autumn or Spring!!!

EDITED TO ADD: Thank you for your comments!!! Spring & Autumn are glorious seasons I think. Meanwhile PRACTIMOM you've won the book so please email me your postal address to I can send it out to you - natalie(at)natalie-anderson(dot)com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

As time goes by - Dara Girard

More than six years ago I wrote a series of essays for writers, professional and aspiring, to motivate those who have faced doubts, disappointment, rejection and other obstacles in the writing life, and encourage them to HANG IN THERE.
That book eventually became The Writer Behind the Words: Steps to Success in the Writing Life. The first edition came out in 2005 and the second in 2007. Now in 2010 the book is available on Kindle and in other e- formats.
In a recent interview on “Canned Laughter and Coffee” one of the hosts asked me if I hoped that having an e-book version of the book will give it new life. I said yes, but now that I think about it, the book never died.
The publishing industry treats books like produce. Meaning that a book has about four months to catch an audience before it’s destroyed. Dean Wesley Smith has a great essay called “Books are no Longer Produce” that expands on this idea. The truth is although books are treated like a carton of yogurt with an expiration date, they have a longer shelf life. Like all works of art, books are timeless, waiting quietly for their stories and knowledge to be discovered.
So as I embark on this new e-book venture, I want to encourage others who have stories or ideas to share NOT TO PANIC. You do not need to worry about rushing your book to market or about missing the latest trend or a fad. Fads fade. Good ideas and stories never do. Write on!


Friday, August 27, 2010

The "In and Out" Three Day College Visit

The mass market version of Being With Him comes out September 7th, and in the spirit of whoo-hoo, I'll give away three copies to the first three people who write to me through the contact page on my web site:

(I know there are a number of you parents out there about to send off your college babies. Here's a little of what I figured out over eight collective years of parenting college-aged kids. Good luck!)

The “In and Out” Three Day College Visit

What do Olympia, Washington, Granville, Ohio, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, and Sherman, Texas all have in common? Aside from all being very small to moderately populated cities, each hosts an excellent college that your high school grad might be attending this fall. Off you will all go for the orientation and the dorm move in, and away you parents will go, leaving your chick behind. Sometime after the holiday break, as the winter drags on and you find yourself pining for your college student, you decide to visit.

If your child were studying a major metropolitan area, your visit would be packed with tourist destinations. You could take in a play, a museum tour, a ferry ride around an island or two, and then pick the kid up at the dorm and have dinner at a Michelin rated restaurant.

Back in Sherman (population 2,930) or even Olympia (population 42,514), you don’t know what to do during your visit. You’ve driven the city in fifteen minutes. You’ve investigated the few blocks of downtown. You tour the campus again. And again. You will sit in the dorm room, wishing you could clean it. Meanwhile, your child who has managed to forge a life of his or her own wishes, frankly, that you’d go back to the motel.

After eight consecutive years with two sons who attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, I developed what I call the “in and out” visit. This visit was a perfect balance of activity and then absence, gave me the dose of my kids I needed, and kept them from wishing I’d just go on home.

I would leave Oakland around 10 and arrive at SeaTac about between 11.30. I would rent a car and drive down to Olympia at a leisurely pace, managing to miss the afternoon commute. Before contacting my sons, I would check into the Red Lion Inn. If I hadn’t had the chance to workout at home, I would change and go over to the 24 Hour Fitness and have a nice workout.

Don’t expect your children to drop everything and rush to you the moment you show up. Do what you need to do. Take a nap. Eat a sandwich. Work out.

Then I would gather whatever child was around—both or one—plus the significant others of the time, and take them out to a great dinner. College aged students are always hungry, even if you can’t take them to a restaurant with even one star. At various times, we hit Gardner’s Seafood, Ramblin' Jacks, The Mark, and The Ranch House. This is the time for largesse –appetizers, entre, and dessert. If this is your child’s freshman year, he or she is bored to death of marginal dorm food and a night out will really be special.

The next day was mine. Really. The whole day. At first, I wasn’t so sure what to do on this day. In a big city, it’s easy: grab the kids, get on the subway and hit the fine arts museum and a major park. But what to do in the middle of proverbial nowhere? Get in the car and drive to some far away tourist site like Mount St. Helens? And when I asked my sons what they wanted to do, they just shrugged. I had imagined that they would entertain me. Wrong again.

So on my second “in and out” visit, I Googled Olympia and came up with a few really fun activities that I was able to spread out over a couple of visits, one we did several times.

I typed in “Things to do in Olympia, WA” and came up with a list that surprised my kids and one I kept adding to over the years. They’d been in town but hadn’t really explored it, except to go to class, the cafeteria, and friends’ dorms or apartments. As it turned out, they were as clueless as I was.

Here is a sample day’s outing. After coffee and baked goods at Caffe Vita, we headed to The Capitol Campus, which includes the Washington State Legislature, Supreme Court, and Governor's Mansion. Because Olympia is a small and has very groovy vibe (I call it Berkeley on the Sound), it’s often hard to remember it’s the state capital. The official web site will tell you the legislative building weighs 94,250 tons, but the bottom line is it’s a lot of massive stonework. Wander the buildings and head down to the park below the Capitol and Capitol Lake that sits at the mouth of the Deschutes River.

Next, with water as your guide, drive south three miles to Tumwater and Tumwater falls, the former home of Oly Beer. No Oly is brewed there anymore, and the failed brewery is for sale. But walk the trails of Tumwater Falls Park that follow the Deschutes and feature waterfalls, river, woods, and wetlands. You will likely spot local fauna, such as kingfishers, mergansers, and waxwings.

It’s probably time for lunch. My favorite pizza in Olympia is Vic’s, and you can buy it by the slice. Eat up, and then time for some bowling. Yes, bowling. Many small towns like Olympia still have old fashioned bowling alleys, and Westside Lanes reminds me of women named Ethel who wear pink bowling shirts. Rent some shoes, find a ball that fits, and see how well you can embarrass yourself.

On another trip, we drove a few miles north toward Tacoma and stopped at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Currently, you can’t hike more than a mile or so, but the paths are set up for viewing and photographing aspects of the three thousand acres of preserved wetlands and forests. There you can observe migratory waterfowl, songbirds, raptors, and wading birds. When we visited, the three of us watched a blue heron fish pose stoically.

We’ve gone to Point Defiance in Tacoma, where we visited the zoo, walked the shore trail, and bravely faced Fort Nisqually Living Museum (people dress up as pioneers there. Don’t laugh!). Another time, we visited the Yashiro Japanese Gardens in downtown Olympia. On rainy days, we’ve gone to books stores and movies, too.

The evening after the long day is a more casual eating out. We have had burritos or salad or sandwiches, and then after a quick trip to the grocery store for an infusion of supplies for the college folk, I say goodbye and head back to the Red Lion Inn.

In the morning, I get in the rental car, get coffee, and then drive up from my midday flight home to Oakland.

What the “in and out” three day visit doesn’t do is put the burden on your student. They are busy with their classes and new friends and becoming themselves. They don’t have time to figure out an itinerary. So no matter that you are in a small town, you can find things to do that will be fun for you and your student. More importantly, you and they get to learn about their new town together, and that’s something you will both take away from their college experience.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An End-of-Summer Book Giveaway! by Caitlin Crews

According to my calendar, it is almost the end of August. I know this can't be true. If it is the end of August, that means summer is almost over. That means that I have a story due in a matter of days. That means that time has hurtled by, as it seems to do faster and faster all the time...

But that also means that my new book will be out soon! It should be available from eHarlequin next week, and available in stores in October.

Here's the blurb:

Her royal baby secret!

As treacherous and formidable as the desert he wishes to rule, Sheikh Tariq bin Khalid Al-Nur is furious that he cannot take the throne until he marries. But he cannot wed until he’s rid his dreams of the ordinary but bewitching Jessa Heath...

Jessa knows she and Tariq have unfinished business, but she is treading on shifting sands! What if she were to take control and allow herself the one night he’s offering? However, that’s all it would take to reveal the secret she has so desperately kept hidden…

I'm very excited about this book. It's my second for Presents, and very close to my heart. It's even stirred up a little bit of controversy already in the UK! I can't wait to see how readers feel about it here in North America.

In fact, I'm so excited about it that I think I'll give away a few copies here. Just leave a comment and let me know what your favorite summer book was this (nearly finished!) summer, and I'll pick a few winners this Friday.

Which, the way things are going, will seem as if it's three seconds from now!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mangia - Jenny Gardiner

There cannot be a more perfect summer food than an heirloom tomato. I anticipate the arrival of real tomatoes from late October until mid- to late- July, when I finally am able to stockpile the real deal and am left to contemplate ever more uses of the tomato while supplies last. And when they’re gone, I crave them like a junky, and resist the urge to purchase those falsely perfect specimens of tomatoes at the grocery store—the flavorless, mealy, sad-sack imitations that they are.

Since I've been out of town a lot this summer, my weekend forays to the farmers market have been compromised far too often. So it was with relish that I stockpiled recently at the market, with definite plans for my stash. I beelined to my favorite tomato pusher (and yes, it does reach the level of addiction that justifies this moniker, what with the cost of an oversized Brandywine sometimes reaching $5 a tomato) , who had his stockpile at the ready.

I get greedy with tomatoes. And crave fresh bruschetta (pronounced with a hard “k” sound, like brus-K-etta, not with a “sh” sound). And fresh tomato sauce, which I make in bulk and freeze for the winter.

My latest addiction is smoked tomatoes, and I’ve had my smoker at the ready. Drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with fresh rosemary, smoke for 3 or 4 hours, and eat it straight from the smoker, hot and flavorful. Or put on top of fresh bread. Makes a lovely topping to a sandwich.
Here are two easy recipes that rely upon summer’s best tomatoes, combined with my favorite type of cooking, Italian. Combine with a glass of Sangiovese (I’m partial to reds) and maybe a salad made with all local greens and vegetables, and you have a perfect summer meal. Buon appetito!

 (makes six generous portions)

•fresh baguette or loaf of ciabatta
•1-2 heirloom tomatoes
•couple of tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
•one container fresh mozzarella, mozzarella rinsed and patted dry
•5-6 fresh basil leaves, rinsed & patted dry
•about 1 tablespoon of very good balsamic vinegar
•2 cloves fresh garlic
•sea salt to taste

1. Heat gas grill up to high (or broiler), then turn down to medium high after heated up for five minutes or so
2. slice tomatoes into 1/4" slices
3. slice mozzarella into same size slices
4. slice baguette lengthwise and then into three segments--this will give you a total of six pieces of bread.
5. brush cut surface of bread with olive oil
6. cut garlic clove in half, rub exposed flat slice of garlic along oiled face of bread
7. grill bread till golden

to plate bruschetta, place 2-3 basil leaves on bread surface, layer next with 2-3 slices of tomatoes, 2-3 slices of mozzarella, small pinch of sea salt to taste, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella (Penne alla Caprese in Crudo) (from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich)
from the author: I like to eat the pasta hot with room-temperature sauce, but you could just as well serve it all cold. In that case, toss the tomatoes and pasta while still hot, then set them aside until you’re ready to serve them. Finish the pasta by tossing in the basil and bocconcini and serve. I can go ondetailing recipes with minimal changes in the ingredient list or techniques but what I want to leave with you is not only recipes but the understanding, and hence the liberty and confidence, to deviate from the recipe path and come up with a version of the plate that reflects your personal taste and local produce. When you reach this point, cooking is truly a joy.

•1 pound ripe and juicy cherry tomatoes, rinsed, dried and cut in half (I often use heirloom tomatoes if cherry tomatoes aren’t available. Also, even though it changes the color of the dish, the sungold orange cherry tomatoes fresh from the farmer’s market are fabulous in this
•1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling over the finished pasta if you like (the higher quality the better)
•1 tsp. sea salt, preferably coarse (and do NOT use more than this or it will be too salty. Be sure to stir the sea salt well in the mixture so it dissolves thoroughly)
•pinch crushed hot red pepper

•4 cloves garlic, peeled
•1 pound penne (I like to use Farfelle, the bow-tie pasta)

•10 fresh basil leaves, shredded (for variation you could try mint, or even fresh sorrel would be lovely)
1/2 pound bocconicini (bite-sized fresh mozzarella), cut in half

Directions: Toss the tomatoes, oil, sea salt and crushed red pepper together in a large bowl. Whack the garlic with the side of a knife and toss it into the bowl. Let marinate at room temperature, tossing once or twice, for 30 minutes.
While the tomatoes are marinating, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-qt. pot over high heat.
Stir the penne into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 10-12 minutes.
Remove the garlic from the marinated tomatoes and toss in the basil. Drain the pasta, add it to the bowl, and toss well to mix. Check the seasoning, adding salt and more crushed red pepper if necessary. Gently stir in the bocconcini and serve.

Makes 6 servings
*from the author: coarse sea salt: The melting of salt is a chemical reaction that draws the liquid from the tomatoes. The larger the salt crystal, the more liquid it will draw out. And that’s exactly what we want—more juice to use as a sauce for our pasta.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Grandma and the Prince - Part 20 - Barbara Bretton

<==Grandpa Larry and yours truly, a thousand years ago! Estella, congratulations! You're the winner of my July giveaway. All I need is your mailing address and we're in business. You can email me here or here at barbarabretton AT gmail DOT com and I'll do the rest.

And Marybelle, I'm still waiting for your mailing address. You were June's giveaway winner. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

This month I'm sharing a 1980 letter from my Grandpa Larry. He was 84 when he wrote it and legally blind. Keep in mind the man had only a sixth grade education. Everything he knew (and he knew a lot) he taught himself. He had a curious, searching mind, enormous discipline, and amazing wellsprings of strength.

His letter is in answer to one of mine. Right after I came home from the hospital after cancer surgery, I was contacted by a long-lost relative on Grandpa's side of the family. MS was in her early fifties at the time and she had recently embarked on a genealogical project that led her to contact Grandpa Larry, my parents, and me.

I laugh now at my wide-eyed innocence. I couldn't imagine how she had lived her entire life not knowing that Chippewa blood flowed through her veins. (Clearly I still had a lot to learn about family dynamics and keeping secrets.)

This is my grandfather's take on it.


March 11, 1980

Dear Barbara:

I hope that by the time you receive this letter you will be home from the hospital and feeling in good shape. I was glad to get your letter. You write such a nice letter. I hope that both you and Roy have been well. There seems to have been a lot of flu going around.

Well, I can understand your statement that this MS does not know anything about her heritage because her mother Marion did not likely know anything either. You would have to understand about my uncle to get the picture. I suppose that MS probably heard about it from one of the other second cousins.

You see, my uncle was not my favorite uncle, although I respected him and he treated me very well. It was just one of those things. Some relatives you like better than others. I am under the impression that he considered his Indian heritage as a skeleton in the closet and wished to keep it there. He was the youngest of his brothers and sisters and also the better educated. When he was a little boy, the Indian uprisings were still going on. Of course, we know that they were fighting to keep from being pushed back into the barren reservations and there was a lot of bitterness on both sides. Even when I was a small boy, Geronimo, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse – the great Indian commanders – were far more than just a memory. The Custer Affair at Little Big Horn (which happened on your birthday – look it up!) still rankled. As they would say, Indians were not some one you would invite in for a cup of tea. When my mother was so sick, we had another Indian girl named Carrie Zane from another nearby Indian family help take care of my mother. Also nearby was a stately old Indian named Tecumca Tony Jones who had somehow come into money – his family gone to the four winds – lived alone in a big red brick house. Nobody ever paid any attention to him but he always conducted himself with great dignity. So now I will try to tell you about my uncle.

I never knew too much about him early in my life. I don’t know where he went to school. The thing I do know is that he had the finest penmanship of any I have ever seen, barring none. He used the old Spencerian style with pen and ink, a style which started out with the invention of the fountain pen and completely disappeared with the development of the ballpoint pen. It was done with a freehand motion, using the wrist. You have heard the saying “letter perfect,” well that was his writing He could take a sheet of white paper and with that freehand motion of light, shade, and flourishes, draw a most beautiful bird flying through the air. Unbelievable.

Lane, Kansas – where my uncle lived all his life from I guess late teens, was then – and as I remember it – a pretty town of about 800 people. It had an unusual number of good stores and business places, like two blacksmith shops, carpenter shops, and the like. It was located in the center of a rich farming community and many well-to-do farmers lived for miles around and used it as their business center and made Lane a busy, thriving town. But now my sister Lula tells me after the advent of the huge cooperative farms came in and bought up all of the individual farms and the farmers moved away, it went down to nothing and now there is not even a grocery store in the town.

During the good days of Lane, my uncle knew everybody from miles around and everybody knew him and he was a highly respected man. His two older daughters Clo and May, that I knew well, were both graduates of Baker University, a well-known college for women (in existence today) located at Baldwin. Not far from Lawrence, Kansas – the location of the University of Kansas.

He was one of the first, if not the first, to be appointed as a Rural Free Delivery mail carrier, a job he had for many years. His route was about 25 or 30 miles and he delivered six days a week by horseback, horse and buggy, and as the roads became better cared for, by an Indian-made motorcycle, and the last time I was there, by Model A Ford Touring Car. He was a hard-working man, and after he returned from his route, he would work the rest of the day and evening in one of the local stores.

The last ten years of my grandmother’s life, the years I knew her well, I never knew of him visiting her once, although he may have but I don’t think so. I have a pretty good idea why.

Of course, my Uncle Billy lived with her but with the exception of Lula and myself and on one or two occasions my cousin Ed Griffith (my Aunt Belle’s second oldest son) I never knew of a relative visiting her although it may have happened but my grandmother never mentioned it to me and I was with her as often as possible and we talked of many things, about her life as a girl in Ohio with her tribe and her early days in Kansas. But she was in a way too stoic and I never heard her complain about anything.

There is one thing I believe and that is that few, if any, of my uncle’s many friends and neighbors in and around Lane ever knew that the Little Old Injun Lady who lived in the log cabin in the woods near Rantoul – and not many miles from his home – was his mother.

I wonder if it was pride or shame.

This has been a long drawn out explanation but I have tried to show why I think it is highly possible that none of his children or grandchildren knew or were told anything about his mother’s origin and that is why I think that MS would not know and when did find out something, try to find out more.

Take care of yourself.

Love to both of you,



Grandpa was right. MS didn’t find out about her Chippewa heritage until after both of her parents died and she began studying genealogy. She grew up in California at a time when Indian blood was something to hide. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know I was part Chippewa, but then I grew up in New York City where it was exotic and glamorous. Same country, same family, vastly different takes on an incontrovertible fact.

See you next month!

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton and I'm looking to give away some more books to a commenter who'll be chosen at random and announced right here next month.

PPS: The trade edition reprint of SOMEONE LIKE YOU will be out in early October. SPUN BY SORCERY, third in my Sugar Maple series, hits the stands in early November.

PPS: You can find me here or here or on Facebook. I hope you'll stop by and say hello.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cool Panic - Melanie Milburne

As writers we are always told to put our characters under pressure. Conflict, conflict, conflict! It is how we get to know who they really are when we force them to make choices. But what do you do when you are faced with a difficult choice? Or what about when you are faced with a crisis?

No one can escape life without a crisis or three, and certainly life would be very boring without conflict. I think most women feel conflicted every day. Should I work longer hours or spend more time with the family? Should I go to the gym or go straight home and collect the dry cleaning and the kids from the crèche along the way? We are faced with difficult choices every day and the way we respond to them defines who we are as people.

I spend a lot of my time in the imaginary world of my characters. I have just finished book number 40 so that is a lot of people, a lot of conflict and a lot of difficult choices. But the beauty of writing an up-ending romance of course is there is always a happy ending. If only that could be true of our lives as well!

I had a recent crisis that really tested me. My daughter-in-law had a nasty fall at our beach house just on sundown and broke her leg in three places. Our beach house is in a remote area. No hospital (apart from a small health clinic) within a hundred and forty kilometres. My son panicked, the four dogs we had with us panicked, my poor daughter-in-law panicked and was white with pain.

So what did I do? Well, let me tell you what I wanted to do. I wanted to reset the clock and turn back time. I wanted to erase my suggestion of a walk. I wanted to cry and scream in panic that this couldn’t be happening. I wanted to let go with hysteria because I am good at that, but guess what? I didn’t. I got myself together. I organised the appropriate phone calls, I locked the dogs back in the house, (actually I did have a little moment of hysteria when two of them refused to go inside at one point) and I organised my son to help lift my daughter-in-law into the car, where I then drove carefully and calmly to the local clinic where we were able to get her some pain relief before transfer to hospital.

So what did I learn about myself? Well, I can be cool and clear headed under pressure. I can make sensible, practical choices and keep everyone on track. But.

There is always a but!

When everyone had left and I was back at the beach house minding four still confused dogs I fell apart. I had my little meltdown but at least it was in private, apart from the dogs of course. The whole experience as upsetting as it was taught me that courage comes when we are under fire, just like our characters. Facing tough stuff, be it personal relationship disasters, personal injury or health or the health issues of loved ones can really show us who we are as people, what our values are and how we can ( or can’t) be relied on in a crisis.

I hope you don’t have to go through the drama of a loved one having such a bad leg break in order to discover something about yourself. Let me know what you would do in a crisis or how you deal with panic.

Happy reading,

Melanie Milburne

Monday, August 16, 2010

Libraries, the RWA National conference and me -- Michelle Styles

Cara Summer and Michelle Styles photo by Malle Vallik
My head is still spinning from the RWA National conference which finished just over  two weeks ago. I really enjoyed going. The venue was excellent, the people great and the chance to learn about what was happening in the industry fantastic.  All I can say is that going to the RWA National made a believer out of me and I intend to go to the one in NYC.
Much has been written about the literacy signing which has to be seen. I did meet Kandy Shepard who also is a gregular blogger on Totebags and sat next Cara Summers who is indeed lovely and charming. But one of my favourite things happened earlier that day -- the librarians lunch follow by the meet and greet with librarians and  booksellers.
Now, I love libraries. Libraries have always been important to me. The one where I grew up with its top floor dedicated to children's books and the ground floor where the adults books were and where one fine day when I was about 12, I decided I was old enough to brave. I discovered the Harlequin section and haven't looked back. Then there was the library less than a half block from my great aunt's house in St Paul Minnesota where every time we visited, I was allowed to go and check out books. And my high school library which was in the old library of the Uplands mansion and had hidden panels that I discovered one lunchtime. My university library where I worked first in the checkout and then, joy of joys in acquisitions where I was able to catalogue new books.  And finally, there is the Lit and Phil which is one of the last subscription libraries in England where  the lower room is reputed to be haunted and the reading room dates from 1824.
I also have a great respect for librarians as they are the gatekeepers of a lot of knowledge.
Unfortunately public libraries are under threat both in the UK and in the US because they are a soft option for cutting when budgets are tight. However, it is in times like these that we need libraries more than ever. And as people kept saying at the conference, no one has yet figured out how to do a browsing application for online bookstores.
So despite the temptation of Disney World, I looked forward to going to the lunch. There, I sat next to Gail Link who won the RWA bookseller of the year (couldn't have happened to a nicer person!) and her friend Linda who runs a reading group for Las Vegas libraries. There were several other librarians and two other authors --Carrie Lofty and Jacquie D'Alessandro. Sherrilyn Kenyon spoke about her library experience and why libraries were important to her.
Among other things, her university library had the textbooks she needed and couldn't afford. And like me, she was also a library volunteer in her youth. Although unlike me, it seems she keeps her books in rather better order. I may have a good collection of books but they are not catalogued or shelved in any order.
After the lunch, Sherrilyn stayed and signed every book.
The meet and greet was also fun as first I watched the hordes of librarians strip the goodie room bare and then I was able to meet various librarians and booksellers, including the lady who runs B&L Books in Altamonte Springs Fl whose husband's family hails from the same town where my husband grew up. It is a small world. But we were all brought together by a love of books.
So while the temptation to sight see was great, I was glad that I took the time to celebrate libraries and librarians.
Writing Contests/Opportunities for Aspiring Harlequin Authors
I wanted to highlight two things.
1. Fasttracking for Medical Romance. The Medical Slush pile was low and they do need authors so until the 24 August, HMB are fasttracking all MEDICAL submissions. See eharlequin for more information.

2. The New Voices Contest -- Harlequin Mills and Boon are looking to find a new author for ONE of their lines. And by New Author they do mean an unagented and unpublished author, a reader of Harlequin Mills and Boon who finally gets up the courage to enter. There is a public participation element to the contest which starts on 6 September as once the finalists are chosen, the public will be able to vote. The winner of the contest will see thier book published.  You can find out more on the New Voices website. One of the things that HMB authors are doing to support the contest is to hold Masterclasses. KateWalker is holding on 26 August at Doncaster Library 10 -12 pm, and I'm doing 2 -- one at Knareborough Library on 1 September 7- 9 pm and one at Haltwhistle Library Saturday 18 September  10:30 - 11:30 am. For those who can't get to a workshop, there is going to be loads of help on the New Voices website.

Michelle Styles writes for Harlequin Historical Romance. To learn more about Michelle  and her books visit her website.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Books, are like Gardens - C.J. Barry

Can you tell I’ve written a lot of blogs this week? Can you tell I’m running out of ideas? It’s okay. I have a point.

Every summer I put in a backyard garden. It’s big, 20 feet wide by 30 feet long. A little daunting, if I hadn’t done it for the past 13 years. Which is also the exact same amount of time that I’ve been writing. Coincidence? I think not, and here is why.

As soon as the seed catalogs arrive, I start dreaming of my next garden. Imaging the plants I want and where they will go, because every garden is different. Visualizing colors and sizes and, tossing in a wild and crazy plant I’ve never tried before. Like ornamental corn or potatoes or Brussels sprouts. I plot out my garden on graph paper. I order seeds and research my next new, crazy plant. Just like dreaming up a new story idea. Interesting.

When Spring finally arrives, I buy my plants and seeds. I schedule the roto-tiller guy and prep the garden with fertilizer and peat moss. There is nothing like the smell of fresh tilled earth. Nothing. Except a good plot line.

Then it’s time to get dirty. Got my gloves, my little foam knee thingie-thing, my gardening hat (stylish!) and my plan. I go to work, laying every plant out carefully, digging perfect holes and sinking each plant into the ground. It takes time to make a good garden. It takes sweat and courage. Just like writing the book.

Once the garden is planted, the work is not done. You have to watch it, feed it, water it, and weed it. You have to keep the bunnies and deer out. You need to tend it, every day. Just like writing a book.

Finally, the harvest comes in and it’s as awesome as I imagined. It’s finished—beautiful and imperfect, just like my books. I pick veggies and herbs, and give them to family, friends, co-workers and strangers.

After all, I don’t grow the garden just for me.

See? There was a point after all. Happy gardening, happy writing, and happy reading, everyone!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happily-ever-after…For Real - Lisa Dale

If I’d been a heroine in a romance novel when I was in my early twenties, I would have been the stubborn girl who vowed never to get married. Who put work and friends waaaaay before love. Who’d seen so many marriages break up that promising forever was as realistic as promising to sprout wings.
By the time I’d met my guy (when I was 21), I’d sworn off men for good in terms of real, meaningful romance. Of course, I’d sworn off men for good just about every other day that year, and yet I just couldn’t stop crossing my fingers that I’d meet “the one.”
I read romance novels by the dozens—the romantic in me needed something, and college guys weren’t it. I loved the idea of love—but it made more sense in novels than in real life. I vowed: No more dating for a while. Not ‘til I met someone who was worth going on a date with. And certainly, no more sports fans or business majors. They were off the list.
Then—there was Matt. At the bar with mutual, childhood friends (how had we never met before?). And of course, he was a sports fan and a business major. Totally off limits—but totally cute. I couldn’t help myself. I flirted with him a little, but I didn’t give him my number. I maintained self-control. Until his kindness, persistence, confidence, and soft heart won me over. Then, all bets were off.
Now, almost ten years after our first date, Matt and I just set a date to get married (July 2 of next year). And the little girl who never thought she’d find someone so perfect for her has grown up to be a woman who lives in constant gratitude for love that, at times, seems nothing shy of miraculous.
Now, we’re doing the fun stuff—picking out rings, calling DJs, and soon I get to go dress shopping. It all feels like something out of a dream!
And as for romance novels? I liked them before, when I didn’t know what this kind of love was. But now that I know firsthand, there’s so much more to appreciate.
SHOUT OUT TO READERS: What role have romances played in your life?

Lisa Dale (Come win cool books on my blog)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mack and other muses - Kandy Shepherd

Meet Mack—he’s big, handsome, dark-haired, with soulful eyes and a serious fast-food habit. He’s the canine hero of my second book (released last month) HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS. With his injured knee and craving for a fur-ever home, he wins the heart of my heroine, doggy daycare owner Serena Oakley. PI hero Nick Whalen soon succumbs too, though he wasn’t looking for a dog like Mack or, indeed, a woman like Serena.
Like other authors, I’m often asked are my characters inspired by people I know. But I’m also asked are my doggy characters inspired by real, animals.

The answer is the same to both questions: while there is no one person or one dog behind the characters I create, there are elements of many of the people (and dogs) I have met over my lifetime. That’s the way writers are: it all goes into the brain, is seasoned by the imagination and comes out on the page scrambled and shaken to find life as a unique fictional character.

kernel of Mack came from my friend Melinda’s dog Mate. Mate (left at top) is a large, friendly mixed breed dog who think he’s still a tiny puppy. Seeing this big animal trying to snuggle onto her lap is quite the laugh-out-loud sight! (I borrowed that sight for a scene with Serena.)
Mack grew further in my imagination after Melinda and I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Ashland, Oregon for the annual Shakespeare Festival. (We couldn’t get into any plays so saw the movie of Mumma Mia instead!) We also wandered the delightful shops that line the main street. There we encountered the most enormous black dog I have ever seen. This gentle giant was sweet natured and graciously allowed my friend and I to pet him. (Here’s a rather blurry photo of him.) But I noticed some of the other people in the store skirt around him, obviously nervous. That got me thinking further about a dog with a lot to give that maybe no-one wanted.

Soon Mack became as real to me as any of the human characters I create. And then he became a cover boy, along with Bessie a purse-sized Yorki-poo who is also an important character in the story.

Now b
ack to my human characters and the hunky hero of HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS, Nick Whalen. For looks, think a young Daniel Craig (James Bond), with elements of Jason O’Mara (Sam on Life on Mars) and David Cubitt (Det. Lee Scanlon on Medium). As to Nick’s personality, I can see aspects of the special, heroic men in my life have snuck their way into Nick—but in the interests of marital stability, I’ve decided not to name names!

Do you know a dog (or cat, or any other animal) with a memorable personality?
a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS. (Please include an email address so I can contact you if you win.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Temptation of Favorite Places : : Anne McAllister

supplies I noticed the other day when I was looking for a birthday present for my granddaughter that I was the only person doing her birthday present shopping in the office supply store.


What does that tell you?  That I’m a little weird – or that my 3 year old granddaughter is.  Or both.  But office supply stores simply have to appear and I need no urging to go in them.  Who needs window displays when the word “Office” suffices.

In this case I was looking for art supplies – construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, glitter, stickers, markers and crayons – all the stuff that keeps kids busy inside on cold Montana winter days, which should start any minute now and will continue until sometime next June. 

clay I found a treasure trove of things that will keep my girl busy.  I also found lots of things that appealed to me.  Tempted me.

I have a hard time resisted pens of many colors, though exactly why the words flow better in teal green or coral colored ink, I’m unclear.  Sharpies have new Caribbean colors that I was hard pressed to resist.  sharpies On the packet it says that they are a ‘limited edition.’  If that’s the case, I hope they hurry up and take them off the shelves so I can stop being tempted by them!

But Sharpie isn’t making the only temptation. There are all those blank notebooks.  I love blank notebooks. They have so much potential.  They are pristine and simply beg to be filled with things I know I want to remember.  The trouble is, given the state of my office and the number of notebooks in it, I always have a hard time finding the right one, even when I know it’s there.

There are Post-its and pads of every description.  There are even ‘While you were out” messages which would be useful if I weren’t here, or if someone else was when I wasn’t, which isn’t often postits (trips for research aside).  And with answering machines, I suppose I don’t need them. But they’re lots more tempting than answering machines. I rarely find myself tempted by them.

I have been tempted by wastebaskets.  And shredders. And even more by bookcases of which I desperately need four or five. Big bookcases, too. I wonder if I could find an office supply store that sells wall space for the bookcases I need. 

After I had my basketful of art supplies yesterday, I prowled the digital voice recorders (though God knows if I could remember to put batteries in it), and the SD cards for my camera, and those nifty little printers which you can take on vacation with you, though I can’t imagine anyone really does.  I studied the packing tape with interest, the printers’ ink with obsession, the scanners and the netbooks with itchy palms.

file folders I had the same feeling I used to get when I got my school supplies every autumn – the tingle of anticipation (those empty notebooks again – all that potential).  Yes, I was one of those annoying kids who liked school.   I liked the tools of school. I liked the smell of newly sharpened pencils, the odor of inkwells, of calcimine paint and Elmer’s glue.

I know I don’t need any of those things right now. I’m beyond calcimining anything.  My last glue bottle dried up.  I write with pen more than pencil these days, and I haven’t used ink from an inkwell in since my sixth grade calligraphy days. 

I bought the art supplies – the clay and the scissors, the colored paper and the Mr Sketch pens that have a different scent for each color. I bought a first days of school sticker book and a Fancy Nancy one, too.  I bought glitter and pipe cleaners and a  nice substantial glue stick for the granddaughter.  I think she’ll be most pleased.

And I got out of there almost untempted – but not quite. I bought one small notebonotebooksok, pristine  and hopeful, just for me.

Are the certain shopping places that tempt you? My sister-in-law is a serious shoe shopper.  I have a friend who can’t resist toys for her dogs (mine are seriously envious!), and another who can’t pass a bookstore, new or used, without coming out with an armful (I could be one of them). 

What about you?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Honeymoon - Donna Alward

Starting a new book is like a new relationship.  At first you see all the possibilities.  Everything is brand new, and you're learning about your characters just like you'd get to know a new boyfriend.  Everything about them is wonderful, even their flaws. You want to spend all sorts of time with them. Then you get engaged...oh bliss!  This is really going to happen.  The idea is now a reality and you're going to write this great story. Maybe you've done character sheets or a synopsis or an outline.  And the glow stays through what I call the honeymoon phase - usually through the first three chapters or so when the hero and heroine meet and yes, there's conflict but there's also simmering tension and the rest of the book lays ahead, blank pages that will hold your wonderful story.

Of course later on it becomes very much the day to day living with it, fighting for words at times, moments of rapture, but, like marriage, a lot of Hard Work.

I love the honeymoon phase.

This summer sees me starting a few new projects and there is nothing better than this "discovery" period. Possibilities is the best word I have for it.  Anything can happen - including magic. In the honeymoon phase I don't have to be overly concerned with arcs and acts and writing myself into a corner. The world is my oyster. And my job is to fall in love with my characters and care about their problems - because if I do, there is a better chance my reader will too.

I've got 2 things on the planning burner right now, and I'm having great fun.  One is a bit lighter in tone, and I'm imagining snappy dialogue and a heroine that isn't going to let the hero get away with anything.  I've pulled a little role reversal and it has me rubbing my hands together with glee just thinking about it. The other is softer, lazier, with a longer character arc and a bigger world.  I'm looking forward to sinking my teeth into that one too. I already love my heroine and my heart aches for what she faces at the beginning of the book.  And the hero - he's kinda delicious.  Both have had what I'd call "defining moments" in their lives but neither have really dealt with them.  But in this place - and with each other - they kind of can't ignore it anymore.  And I'm pretty sure they're going to fall in love at the same time.

When I'm neck deep in the middle I know I'll be cursing and grinding away to get things just right. Right now, as I work on the beginnings, I can't stop the sense of optimism I feel as I type the first words that will be their stories. :-)

Right now I have a reprint out - Hired: The Italian's Bride is in the anthology Mediterranean Men & Marriage, and in October my newest Harlequin Romance will hit the shelves in the UK (Feb 2011 US) - Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle.  You can check everything out at

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Don’t You Just Love It? - Christina Hollis

Technology has transformed the work of every writer. When my career began, publishers wanted paper - and lots of it. Their first requirement was a neat, double spaced, typewritten script with wide margins, printed on one side of the paper only. It sounds like the opening spiel of an exam, and in some ways it was. A big test was remembering to put the carbon paper (what’s that, Granny?) in the right way around. Keeping a copy is vital today, too, but in those days it needed shelves of storage space. A single title novel of 100,000 words generates one heck of a lot of paper. When manuscripts came back dog eared with bits missing and ‘No Thanks!’ scrawled in one corner, a smart new copy had to be typed up or photocopied and sent out to the next firm on my list.

It cost a fortune to mail heavyweight fiction submissions and include return postage, so in the early days I wrote far more in the way of magazine articles and short stories. Then I got my first computer. That was a whole new experience. My original model was cutting edge but it is slightly water-damaged now, owing to Noah’s storage system in The Ark. It didn’t use disks or USB’s for data storage. Instead, at the end of each working day I had to copy everything I’d written onto cassette tapes (another sunset industry!) .

Since those far off days I’ve had a succession of computers. Each one has been orders of magnitude more powerful than the last. This means they replicate any mistakes at warp speed. Now, after an unbroken line of PCs, my current machine is a MAC. Why? Apparently ‘because it is less prone to attack by viruses’.

There’s a reason for that.

Unfortunately, it is so obvious that it glides right under all the techies’ radar.

That is why my very latest gadget is rarely out of my sight. It’s an Alphasmart, as used and raved about by top author Nicola Marsh. It’s a keyboard with a tiny memory - and that’s all. No Sudoku, Spider Patience, calculator, calendar or Internet distractions. It’s the next best thing to writing on pencil and paper - the big advantage being what happens when you’ve finished. Instead of laboriously typing out each word from my handwritten script, I simply unite the Alphasmart and my computer via a one-way cable. With one press of a button, everything I’ve just written is uploaded straight onto the MAC. There’s no paper trail, no trip to the Post Office, and no postage costs. Things move faster too. Using the Alphasmart means I’m incapable of surfing the net when I should be writing. I’d have to fire up the conventional computer - a task too far when I’m snuggled up inventing stuff.

Taken all round, the Alphasmart is computing’s answer to Fred Astaire - unspectacular to look at, but it never stops working and is outstanding in its field. It’s my pride and joy. Thanks, Nicola!

Has one particular bit of new technology improved your life?

Christina Hollis writes Modern Romance and Presents Extra for Harlequin Mills and Boon Limited . She works by hand, by way of computer keyboard, and sometimes even by the light of the moon...

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Living Life To The Fullest List -- Michelle Monkou

I had never heard the term -- bucket list, until the movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in 2007. Now I find myself using the term often. For those who don't know, the bucket list is a wish list of things to do before you "kick the bucket" in other words before you die.

We tend to avoid thinking about dying or its inevitability. Yet, I wonder why do we put off doing certain things or expressing our feelings until we have no other options? A wish list to enjoy life should be continuously renewed because the key reason is that you are completing the tasks, sooner than later.

This year I went to Milan. Many friends said--"Oh, I wish that could do that." Believe me, I know there is a financial issue and/or family responsibilities that may slow down taking the leap. But if those are taken care of, what's stopping you from taking such a trip.

The items on the list don't have to be grandiose. A car drive around the picturesque part of your state, region or country may be your choice. Since I live outside of Washington, D.C., there are tons of museums and other historical sites that are often taken for granted by the locals. Last year, I took my daughter to various museums in D.C. The museum docent asked if we were there on a school assignment. There were many school groups. But I told them that we weren't and the docent responded, "Good for you." Again, why not. Spending the day with my daughter talking, even snickering, over some of the museum pieces was a precious moment in my life.

After recently celebrating another birthday, that bucket list is being renamed Living Life to the Fullest List. My next item list is going to Vegas with girlfriends to laugh and play and laugh some more because we are a bunch of characters who teach each other to live to the fullest moment.

Somewhere on my list, I have writing a screenplay; directing a movie; being fluent in two other languages. Think about what you'd like to do - throw out the doubts, the logic, just write five things and then go live life to the fullest.

Michelle Monkou
The Millionaire's Ultimate Catch
Available for pre-order NOW
Release: October 2010

Friday, August 06, 2010

A Child Changes Everything - Stella MacLean

My latest Super Romance, A CHILD CHANGES EVERYTHING, is out this month. This story is so much a part of who I am as a person. Like Lisa Clarke, I couldn’t imagine ever having a baby. I didn’t baby sit very often. I was more interested in sports than dating and marriage. And quite frankly babies meant hours of work in my limited experience. Besides, the responsibility scared the wits out of me.
When my son was born, I discovered that a child changes your life in ways you couldn’t have understood before. Children render you essential in every way. Their need for your love and care consumes you, leaving you wondering what you did with all your free time BEFORE the child arrived in your life.
One of the most amazing things I learned from being a parent is that children see life from an entirely different perspective than adults do. They don’t filter what happens in their world, they simply react in the moment.
They are 100% real time little people.
Let me give you an example. I have a five-year-old granddaughter who lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and I talk to my daughter every day, mostly about her little girl.

When the mood strikes, my granddaughter talks to me as well. How I cherish those moments!

The other day I was chatting with my daughter when my granddaughter interrupted her mother with an urgent request involving more apple juice. When my daughter told her she was talking to me and she’d talk to her later, my granddaughter, without skipping a beat, said, “Put her on pause.”
When my daughter and I stopped laughing, we both agreed that it was a moment worth remembering. A moment that had no chance of coming into existence had it not been for a little girl and a mother who loved her.
So, you see, a child does change so much of how we see life, and how we interact with each other. Where would we be without children?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Books! And Books! And . . . by Linda Conrad

For those of you who haven’t already heard me shouting this from the rooftops, my August book, COVERT AGENT’S VIRGIN AFFAIR, is my twenty-fifth book for Silhouette! That’s the silver anniversary and Harlequin awarded me a silver pin in a lovely ceremony. Pretty cool.

Some of you may also not know that COVERT AGENT’S VIRGIN AFFAIR is part of a multi-author continuity named: The Coltons: Montana.

Here’s a head’s up list of books in this newest Coltons series:

The Coltons: Montana (2010)

COLTON BY MARRIAGE - by Marie Ferrarella – July
COVERT AGENT’S VIRGIN AFFAIR – by Linda Conrad – August
THE LIBRARIAN’S SECRET SCANDAL – by Jennifer Morey – September
DR. COLTON’S HIGH STAKES FIANCEE – by Cindy Dees - October
P.I. DADDY’S PERSONAL MISSION – by Beth Cornelison - November
COLTON’S CHRISTMAS BABY – by Karen Whiddon - December

And here’s an excerpt from my book, COVERT AGENT’S VIRGIN AFFAIR:

Mary was pleased she and Jake were talking over the past—sort of. She liked that he cared and was curious. But she wasn’t entirely sure that digging up the past was a smart thing to do.

Deciding to go with being happy about his attention, she said, “My father had a lot of help in the early days of the family business. I simply can’t believe that the mob would do business with my dad. He was…”

“Difficult.” Jake’s chuckle was for real this time. He glanced over at her and winked. “I know. But I think it’s fun to sort through all the suspects who might’ve done the crime. Like a mystery murder game.”

Mary nodded, then turned and gasped. “Oh, look at that.”

They’d rounded a hairpin turn and caught the tail end of a spectacular sunset. Jake pulled the SUV out onto a look-out point and put the transmission in park, idling the engine and watching the sun going down through the windshield.

This was why she’d wanted to come the long way. This sight. Even though the sun was setting behind their backs, the road they were traveling had enough twists and turns to afford terrific views of both mountains and skies.

Streaks of copper, peppered with raspberry points, spread out to the indigo heavens from a cheddar-colored base of sun. Beautiful sunsets never lasted long in the mountains. But as this one eased over the bumpy horizon, it shimmered with colors reminiscent of the best rainbow she’d ever seen.

She sighed. “This trip was definitely worth the extra time. Thank you, Jake.”

When she looked toward him, he was already watching her.

“Definitely worth it.” He leaned in and surprised her with a sensual kiss. Warm and tender, but also full of longing and promise.

It was everything she’d ever hoped to have from a man she could love. Her lips tingled and her heart fluttered in her chest. She had to fight the daydreams of a rosy future playing over in her mind. She was inexperienced, but not stupid. Jake was still holding back for some reason.

As he pulled away from her and sat back, he whispered, “You are every bit as beautiful as that sunset, Mary. Damned straight it was worth the…”

Mary felt the jolt before she heard the screech of tires. “Jake!” Someone had hit them from behind—hard.

“I’m on it! Hang on.”

The SUV roared to life as Jake threw it into gear and took off. He stepped on the gas and sped around the rest of the curve, barreling toward the crest of the mountain.

“What are you doing? You can’t leave the scene of an accident. What if someone was hurt?”

“That was no accident. Tighten your seat belt.”

What? Not an accident? Then that had to mean someone deliberately ran into them. But why?

As she tugged at her seatbelt, she looked into the outside mirror but saw nothing. Nothing but the blackness of after dusk in the mountains. Turning to Jake, she started to question what he’d said.

But before she could open her mouth, he thundered out another order. “Brace yourself. They’re closing in.”

She didn’t need to flick another glance in the mirror to notice bright headlights suddenly close behind them. Too close. And too bright. The whole inside of their SUV lit up like a sunshine-filled morning.


Excerpt from: COVERT AGENT’S VIRGIN AFFAIR © Linda Conrad

In my opinion, the book makes a fun summer read, and I’ve been reading quite a lot this summer. So many fun books out there! I’ve read Branded By Fire by Nalini Singh, Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovitch, The Prince’s Royal Concubine by Lynn Raye Harris, Colton By Marriage by Marie Ferrarella and several more.

What are you reading? Have you read any terrific books this summer? I would love some new ideas to add to my TBR pile.

Post a comment or a book selection and I’ll have pick two winners at random tomorrow morning. The winners will get an autographed copy of COVERT AGENT’S VIRGIN AFFAIR, the Coltons: Montana series.
For news, contests and Behind the Book, check out Linda's website at

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Take Your Pick by Jasmine Haynes!

Congratulations to all the Rita winners!!!!

I’m very excited to announce my next Loose-Id book, Take Your Pick. It’ll be out on August 17th. Yup, it’s an e-book. I really have fun writing the shorter formats for e-publishing. Just as with my previous Loose-Id release TakeYourPleasure, Take Your Pick is once again a step up on the naughtiness quotient from my Berkley Heat books. Here’s a short blurb;

Two very different yet enticing men...
one very big choice...

Grant Tyler is sophisticated, intelligent, controlled, and a highly successful CEO of a Fortune 500. He’s Rena Lancaster’s perfect match, same background, same career path, they speak each other’s language. In bed, he makes her see stars. But then there’s Karl Kristiansen. Every bit as virile, masculine and intelligent as Grant, he’s her contractor, earthy, hands work-roughened, body tough, and powerful. And he takes Rena’s senses by storm.

When Grant decides he wants Rena exclusively, he forces a decision on her. And it’s Karl who comes up with the perfect test for choosing between them, make love with them both at the same time, and see who does the best job.

When their sexual play becomes a true ménage, with Grant and Karl each trying to top the other, willing to do anything Reba asks, even touch each other, the three of them together are like spontaneous combustion. Now that she’s had a taste of the real thing, how can Rena choose between these two perfect men when they both give her different things she craves?

I have to admit that, just like Rena, I found both Karl and Grant hot! If I could have two fantasy men, I’m pretty sure I’d pick them. But then I wrote the story, so I guess that’s natural. Be warned, there’s some MM stuff in there, too! I’m getting very daring. Be sure to check out the excerpt on my website, but wear those oven mitts, because it’s explicit!

So, what’s your fantasy man like? Leave a comment and your contact e-mail address and I’ll enter you in the drawing for an autographed copy of Fair Game. I’ll also add you to my newsletter for updates if you aren’t already a member.

Be sure to drop over to my JasmineBlog for more chances to win books. Also, Dead to the Max is finally available on AmazonKindle with a fresh new cover look and a text revamp.

Monday, August 02, 2010

What is your RITA IQ? -- Susanna Carr

On July 31, 2010, the RITA winners were announced during the Romance Writers of America's annual conference. The RITA recognizes outstanding published novels and novellas. I was looking at the list and realized there are so many great books I haven't read! In fact, I've only read one of these books. (I must do better next year!)

What is your RITA IQ? How many of these books have you read?

2010 RITA Winner for Best Young Adult Romance: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

2010 RITA Winner for Best Inspirational Romance: The Inheritance by Tamera Alexander

2010 RITA Winner for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements: The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal

2010 RITA Winner for Best Romance Novella: "The Christmas Eve Promise" by Molly O'Keefe

2010 RITA winner for Best Contemporary Series Romance: A Not-So-Perfect Past by

2010 RITA winner for Best Contemporary Series Romance Suspense/Adventure: The Soldier's Secret Daughter by Cindy Dees

2010 RITA winner for Best Historical Romance: Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

2010 RITA winner for Best Regency Historical Romance: What Happens in London by Julia Quinn

2010 RITA winner for Best Paranormal Romance: Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole

2010 RITA winner for Best Romantic Suspense: Whisper of Warning by Laura Griffin

2010 RITA winner for Best First Book: One Scream Away by Kate Brady

2010 RITA winner for Best Contemporary Single Title Romance: Too Good to be True by Kristan Higgins

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Coming soon . . . .by Kate Walker

I’m not quite sure how it got to be August. I’m sure it was only a day or so ago – a week at most that I was writing my blog for July. Then I was looking forward to the publication of the UK edition of my latest book, The Good Greek Wife? Coming up was Romantic Novelists’ Association conference at Greenwich Naval College in London, and then at the end of the month there was the fabulous Caerleon Writers’ Holiday in Wales.

Now both events are over and The Good Greek Wife? is off the shelves in the UK, except of course for Amazon and the Book Depository. Even the RWA national conference is finished and the RITAs awarded for this year.

So what’s there to look forward to next? I expect it’s because of so many new terms, that I always start to see September with its new academic year as a time of excitement and fresh starts. And here in the UK Harlequin Mills & Boon seem to have the same ideas. There are some changes coming up in the publication line up, with new and exciting differences in the books coming up.

In October, I'll have my next Presents EXTRA title out - that's the USA edition of The Good Greek Wife?, and if you're looking at Presents Extra titles you'll find that they now indicate the classic Presents story (as opposed to those published originally in Modern Heat in the UK) with a marking of CLASSIC on the backs of the books. That way you'll be able to see more easily which titles are the sort of story you are looking for.

That month will also see a new reprint of my 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance - I'm thrilled to say that it has sold out its currrent edition again and the third editin is now in production, this time published by Aber Press instead of Studymates.

There will be new-look covers, new names for some old lines, new titles. Yes, new titles. The Presents titles that you recognise, the ones that started out as buzzwords and became rather laughable, working in combinations of Greeks and Spaniards, Billionaires and Virgins, are all going to change. There will be new, hopefully more appealing, more dramatic titles. Titles like The Bride Thief, The Society Wife, Reckless in Paradise, Giselle’s Choice, The Undoing of de Luca, The Man Behind the Mask, The Disgraced Princess, The Master of Bella Terra. My own new book coming in March 2011 will be called The Proud Wife.(My editor seems to be on something of a 'Wife' theme!)

So things are changing – nothing ever stands still for long in publishing, And if you want to learn more about the new look etc then you can check out here for details

Keep your eyes out for the new covers and new titles that are coming, here in the UK at least. The new titles should start filtering in to the Presents editions in America soon too. So what do you think of these changes? Will you be glad to see the back of the Billionaires, the end of the Mistresses and Revenge and similar titles? I know I will - how about you?