Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lisa Plumley Has a Christmas Confession

I’ve done it. I’ll bet you have, too. If you’re a parent, you might even have guessed what I’m talking about, especially since Christmas is right around the corner. If not, I’ll give you a hint: My name is Lisa (hi, Lisa!), and I’ve gone to absolutely crazy lengths to try to make sure my children have a wonderful Christmas.

I’ve baked cookies until I thought I’d go cross-eyed at the sight of another silver dragée. I’ve stayed up until the wee hours of Christmas morning wrapping gifts or helping to assemble brand-new bicycles. I’ve snacked on “Santa’s” cookies and milk, made sure the “reindeer” noshed on the carrots left for them, and left small, ashy, pretend “Santa tracks” on the mantelpiece. I’ve waited on line in the predawn cold at my local big-box store to get my hands on a coveted Pokemon video game (multiple times!). I’ve visited endless stores in search of exactly the right Lego model. I’ve taken sleigh rides and crafted homemade ornaments and raided the household for crucial last-minute batteries to power those Christmas toys. I’ve traveled approximately one zillion miles to visit family and friends. I’ve fashioned handmade bows and stamped my own gift wrap. I’ve even seen The Smurfs Christmas Special in its entirety. And why did I do all those things?

Because I thought they would make my kids happy. Of course! So I could really relate to Karina Barrett, who, in my newest book, Holiday Affair, is facing her first Christmas after her divorce and wants nothing more than to give her three children an extra-special holiday.

To that end, Karina accepts an all-expenses-paid vacation to snowy Kismet, Michigan, site of The Christmas House—a B&B that specializes in all-inclusive holiday packages, complete with tinsel, evergreens, eggnog, sleigh rides, and a few surprises. There’s a catch (of course!), but Karina doesn’t mind—especially not when she meets hunky stand-in innkeeper Reid Sullivan and his two daughters. As a globe-trotting adventurer, Reid is a little out of his depth when it comes to Christmastime traditions, but he’s promised to do his best at running the family B&B this year—and that includes making sure his guests (including Karina!) have the best holiday of their lives. Naturally, nothing goes smoothly for anyone, but good cheer abounds—and isn’t that what the holiday season is about, after all?


So tell me: What crazy, unusual, and/or tireless efforts have you made to try to perk up your family’s Christmas? I’d love to know!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lisa Plumley is the USA Today bestselling author of more than two dozen contemporary, historical, and paranormal romances. Her newest book, Holiday Affair, is a featured selection of the Doubleday, Rhapsody, and BOMC2 book clubs and was awarded 4½ stars from Romantic Times magazine, 5 hearts from The Romance Reader, and 5 blue ribbons from Romance Junkies. Her next book, Mail-Order Groom, is the latest in her popular “Morrow Creek” series for Harlequin Historicals and is on sale now. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter, or visit her Web site to read first-chapter excerpts from any of her books, sign up for new-book reminder e-mails, and more!

*****Leave a comment for the chance to win a book autographed by Lisa! Three winners will receive their choice of either Home for the Holidays or My Favorite Witch. Good luck!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Cheer! - Dara Girard

In my latest release PAGES OF PASSION, Noreen Webster is a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to the holidays. Bitter from a divorce and devastated by a betrayal and the loss of the man she loves, she can find no joy in the holiday cheer around her. It’s only because of her friends Suzanne and Claudia and her sister Arlene that she tries to get into the holiday spirit. Near the end of the book she ends up cooking a big meal and decorating the house—and reuniting with her true love.

Personally, I don’t need much to get into the holiday mood. I like the smell of fresh wreaths, the sound of holiday music, the sight of holiday movies and colorful candles. But what I like most about the holiday season is the food especially if it’s sweet—apple cinnamon pie with cream, dark or milk chocolate, red velvet cake and warm breads of all shapes.

Food makes me think about friends and family and how lucky I am.

So what do you like most about the holiday season?
http://www.daragirard.com/
Pages of Passion (Kimani Romance)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Creativity - Kieran Kramer

Creativity. Where does it come from? I mean, honestly. Don't you ever wonder? Why is it that sometimes an idea just pops into your head—a cool, great idea? I'd like to say mine always occur when I'm totally at ease, in sync with the universe. Sometimes they do. But other times, my best ideas happen when I'm agitated or frustrated or just plain tired.


I wish I could see a distinct pattern, some ebb and flow, a rhythm—something!--but I don't. My state of well-being seems to have little to do with my ability to be creative, not just in my writing but in other arenas, too.

After years of wondering, I'm starting to think I see no pattern because…maybe the essence of creativity can't be pinned down. It's unknowable. Random. Mysterious.

Magic.

Here we are headed toward Christmas, so I'll tell you about one magical creative moment I had: the family Christmas card, 2007. My husband, a reservist, had been unexpectedly called up to Afghanistan for an entire year and was given less than the usual notice. We were not prepared! He left two days before Halloween. I was a good military spouse on the outside, but of course, on the inside, I was not my usual self. I had to make major changes and was still trying to find my balance.

Enter my kids wanting to make a Christmas card in early December. Without a moment's hesitation, I saw in my mind's eye exactly what we would do: we love the Beatles, so we'd remake the Abbey Road album cover. I felt a burning need to do this thing immediately, so I took an hour to go to Good Will and look for a white coat. I was going to be John Lennon. Our youngest would be Paul: I decided to put a candy cane in his hand instead of the cigarette Paul had held in the real Abbey Road picture. Our daughter would carry my husband's military jacket over her shoulder to represent him while he was in Afghanistan (George had carried a jacket in the original). And then to make the photo really our own as well as a message of Christmas goodwill, our super-tall "Ringo" carried a sign that read, "Peace on Earth."

Well. You should have seen the cars slowing down to watch us as we took pictures!!

That Christmas card is the best one we've ever done.

Yes, the resolution isn't very good. I had a terrible camera and an inexpert photographer in the sweet teenaged neighbor who snapped the picture, but the feeling I get when I look at that Christmas card is one of total exhilaration. And we weren't the only ones who loved it. Perhaps our friends and family loved it out of sentimentality—after all, they care about us. But still. That picture shows one thing but means something much deeper. My kids and I had taken the loneliness and yearning we felt knowing we would have Christmas without their father and my husband and transformed those difficult feelings (which take up a lot of negative space) into something proactive and positive.

So where did that special creative energy come from in the case of the Kramer family Christmas card, 2007? Obviously, the Beatles had inspired us. But why did my conscious mind instantly pick that Abbey Road image out of the millions I had stored in my brain?

Who knows? There's no scientific equation that will explain my choice.

The cool thing about creativity is that—whatever Muse inspires us, whether it's a smiling old man, the setting sun, a dandelion, a burst of strong emotion, or a Beatles album cover—the creation, however humble, is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Thanks to the magic.

May the magic of the holiday season bring you and your loved ones all kinds of joy!

Kieran
http://kierankramerbooks.com/

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Little Bit of Letting Go


Every one of us on this planet has some big lesson to learn (I think a few of us have several!). One of mine is to learn to let go of things, to cede to something rather than to fight it tooth and nail, all the way to the end, my adrenaline pumping as I do.

So instead of just saying, "Okay. This is what is happening. I will follow plan A and see what happens," I follow plan A and then start plan B before plan A has even run its course. I will call everyone I know and talk about plan A and plan B, worrying them with my worry. I will hang up the phone and worry some more, thinking about plan C, which sounds better than the other plans. So why not start it now?

Meanwhile, I'll have spent so much time doing all of this, going back and forth, I won't see that the problem somehow resolved itself.

Case in point: This November in the San Francisco Bay Area, we had a week of almost 80 degree weather. It was the summer we didn't have this summer. We were all wandering around in our t-shirts and shorts, loving life. At least, I was until this type of fly I'd never heard about caught wind of the unseasonable weather, too, and started to emerge from its winter dormancy. Who knew about cluster flies? Well, I do.

For a week after the weather went back to normal, I had flies "clustering" in my windows. Plan A was to kill them. I did so all day long, going off on fly massacres. Plan B--that I began during the fly raids--was to research the darn things, and then find solutions. Poison didn't seem like a great idea, not with visitors soon to be living in the afflicted rooms. Traps, yes! So I FedExed one to arrive, well, it hasn't. Back to plan A. Plan B was to worry about them, going under and around the house, looking for the way they came in, which I found. Up went small screens, that will help with next year's batch, but not these in my house.

Worry, worry, worry.

And then, two days ago, the flies just stopped. Nothing I had done had effected them (except for those poor dead ones). Whatever clock that told them to wake up and go forth into spring was reset. All my worry, plans, machinations were for naught.

So my new metaphor is to think about the cluster fly. Things will happen over which I will have little control. And then, these things will end, often without whatever I might have tried responsible.

Cluster fly. I hope I remember.

Jessica Barksdale Inclan

(An aside: I made this fun video as a trailer experiment for my ebook Becca's Best. I hope you will give it a view)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Eat, Shop, Read - Laura Griffin

Greetings to you on Black Friday!


If you’re reading this, you probably either a) decided not to wake up before dawn to get trampled in a mad dash for discount electronics or b) crushed the competition, snapped up the goods already, and headed home for a round of turkey leftovers and Internet surfing.

Well, either way, I’m glad you’re here because I can tell you about my new romantic suspense novel, Unforgivable, which comes out Tuesday. It’s the third book in my award-winning Tracers series, and I’ve been thrilled with the early reviews:

"The science is fascinating, the sex is sizzling, and the story is top-notch, making this clever, breakneck tale hard to put down." –Publishers Weekly

Unforgivable is the story of Mia Voss. As a DNA tracer at a high-tech crime lab, Mia has made it her mission to help put away vicious criminal. When she suddenly becomes the target of one, she must turn to jaded homicide detective Ric Santos for help. Ric and Mia have a history together, which makes her wary of trusting him. But as the case becomes more complex and the danger escalates, Mia and Ric must overcome their personal issues in order to stop a ruthless killer.

People often ask me if it’s necessary to read the Tracers books in order, and I tell them not to worry about it. The characters overlap, but each suspense plot stands on its own, so feel free to dive right in! To read an excerpt of Unforgivable, visit http://www.lauragriffin.com/books/unforgivable.php#excerpt. And just in case you didn’t trample someone and score some cool electronics to give your relatives this holiday, be sure to stop by my contest page, where I’m giving away a free iPod nano.

Happy holidays and happy reading!

Laura Griffin

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grandma and the Prince - Part 23

ATTENTION: We have a winner! LIL, I need your mailing address ASAP so I can ship out your prizes. Email me by clicking here or writing to barbarabretton AT gmail DOT com and I'll get right on it.

And one more thing: SPUN BY SORCERY is in stores now and I hope you'll check it out.
I'm running a BIG contest at my website: the lucky winner will receive a shiny new Kindle! You have until November 30th to enter. Good luck!

* * * *

I love preparing for Thanksgiving. Everything I do has been done before and, fates willing, will be done again. I can see myself back down the ladder of time polishing the silver that my mom polished before me and Grandma before her. I used to watch Grandma El handle her silver in the European fashion, fork in her right hand, knife in her left. No clumsy American transfer of utensils for her. No sirree. She’d do that nifty tines-down swoop of the fork to her mouth and I’d feel like bursting into applause.

I eat that way now. No, it didn't come naturally. I do it because she did it that way, because somehow when I do, I know she’s watching. "You’re very English, Barbara," she used to tell me. "More English than you know." Am I? I wonder about that. I’m not even sure I know what it means. But whatever it was, she saw it and approved and believe me, Grandma’s approval was very hard to come by.

Of course I make her turkey stuffing every year. It’s a very simple stuffing – no sausage or meat of any kind – filled with fresh breadcrumbs and lots of onion and celer
y and butter and broth and Bell’s Seasoning. It had to be Bell’s, according to Grandma El, the same way it had to be Colman’s English Mustard with the roast beef at Christmas. I still have the recipe she gave me. Written in her own hand, the curves and angles of her letters are so familiar to me, so strangely dear now that she’s gone and I can think of her without all of the family drama. She’s long gone and so are her clothes and her books and the smell
of her Tigress perfume but here she is before me, as real and immediate as she ever was
in life.

All the photographs in the world couldn’t bring her back to me the way this simple little recipe does. Her recipe is my stuffing recipe. Sure I’ve changed it – recipes are starting points, not destinations – but the essence, the Grandma El-ness of
it . . . oh, that remains.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of the Americans out there and to everyone else, I wish you many reasons of your own to be thankful.

Me? I'm thankful that you're here with me today, reading my stories and sharing your thoughts.

PS: Leave a comment and you'll be automatically entered in this month's drawing. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Favorite Day of the Year by Caitlin Crews

I love Thanksgiving.

I love it on the years I travel, driving miles and miles or flying across the country with thousands of others to make it home in time.

I love it when it's just me and my husband, on a small scale, making a meal for just the two of us to share.

And I love it when it's nearby, filled with family and friends and dish after dish of glorious food.

I love the food, of course. I grew up on green bean casserole, stuffing, gravy, creamed onions, and my Nana's sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Followed by pecan and pumpkin pies. That's always what I consider "real" Thanksgiving. But I can appreciate the differences in the meal, because everyone has a different "real" Thanksgiving meal template. One friend of mine makes a mean carrot souffle. Another makes a yam dish without marshmallows that is still somehow so satisfying. I've seen healthy Thanksgiving meals (no, really!) and meals that make the arteries weep. Both are wonderful.

I think there's something special about cooking all day (sometimes longer!) and then sitting down at a table with a big group of loved ones, no matter who they are. There's something special about sharing a day of feasting and merriment that isn't tied to any particular creed or belief--that's open to all of us. All you have to do is be thankful.

Which I will be tomorrow, in spades. I hope you will be too. Happy Thanksgiving to all who take part.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Only a week left to Nano - eeeek! By Natalie Anderson


I can't believe it's the 23rd of November already - ummm, like HOW??? I've no idea how the month has just fled ahead of me like this... and of course, there's that Nanowrimo challenge... anyone else thinking 'oops' about that?

Actually my nano challenge is more a personal one rather than the official 50k in 30 days - I've a deadline in December and thought I'd join in on the passion and sense of community in the Nano world and get my draft done. I do love the sense of spirit and togetherness - it's a crazy fun challenge and awesome achievement.

I started off okay - but then four days into it my editor and I discussed where the story was going... and really, it wasn't going any place good. Day five = new story. Much more fun story. So much more fun to write (which is the point for me!) and I was off...

But of course, as is often the way, there were then a few family challenges and I just haven't gotten the word count on the paper as high as I should (but the story is still a LOT of fun - yay!). Anyway, the likelihood of my getting to 50k by the 30th is pretty remote. But that's okay - I'll have almost finished and I'll certainly finish (and polish) ahead of my deadline. And then it'll be Christmas! Hmmm - not sure when I'll get organised for that one, but 'she'll be right' as we say in Kiwiland...

But to my way of thinking, there's no 'failure' in nano - not if you're writing more, or writing more often, than what you were when the month started. If you're now in the habit of writing daily (and you weren't before) then in some ways that's a better result than actually finishing your book. The key is just to keep going beyond the end of the month.

So, are many of you out there participating in the Nanowrimo challenge? If so, how are you getting on??? Remember - no panicking allowed - only grit ;) There are still seven whole days - and if you really wanted to 'win' the challenge proper and you've got a blank page, then you 'only' have to write 7143 words a day - easy peasy!

Or not. Either way, I do hope you're having a blast writing your book - if you're passionate about it, then your readers will get that vibe from the page. And in romance, we want passion!

Natalie's latest book, CAUGHT ON CAMERA WITH THE CEO is out in the US in DEcember. To win a signed copy of it together with the second story in the duo - REBEL WITH A CAUSE - and some choccie and charms in time for the party season, then head to her Facebook Page by November 30.


Monday, November 22, 2010

The Italian Sabbatini Brothers - Melanie Milburne

Hi everyone,


I am pleased to introduce you to the first two books of my first ever trilogy for Harlequin Mills and Boon Presents: The Italian Sabbatini Brothers.

Book One is Scandal: Unclaimed Love Child

Book Two is: Shock: One Night Heir

Book Three is: The Wedding Charade

I am eagerly awaiting the cover for Book Three but I adore the first two new look ones from the UK.

Writing a trilogy was a wonderful experience as it gave me the opportunity to link characters between books, delve a little deeper into family issues and get to know the differences in the relationship between each of the brothers. Exploring family dynamics is a useful tool for writers. We often don’t have to look very far outside our own family to find rich sources of material!

The things I wanted to explore in the Sabbatini brothers’ family was how each strong, ruthless and powerful man approached the issue of love, commitment and being true to themselves.

In Scandal: Unclaimed Love Child Luca (the middle brother) is a man who has conquered a huge personal issue in private, only to find that the young woman he cast from his life two years ago in order to deal with that issue is now the mother of his little daughter. He has a hard task ahead of him in order to win Bronte back given how cruelly he broke off their relationship. The poignancy of Luca and Bronte’s story is that he was only trying to protect her by ending their relationship. He thought he was doing the right thing but it backfired horribly. I think that is something we can all relate to. Decisions we wished we could remake. If only!

In Book Two- Shock: One Night Heir Giorgio and Maya have a quite different battle on their hands. Whilst in the throes of a difficult separation leading to an imminent divorce they have a passionate encounter on the night of Luca and Bronte’s wedding. Fireworks truly fly! But the biggest surprise of all is that after years of trying to conceive a baby that stolen night of passion has produced a potential heir. Can Maya carry this baby to full term and give Giorgio what he most wants? Again the poignancy of this story is Maya left the marriage because she felt such a failure. She could not provide the heir the blue-blooded family (and Giorgio) wanted so much. Again, like Luca, she thought she was doing the right thing.

And then we come to the third brother Nicoli and his feisty heroine Jade Sommerville in The Wedding Charade. I would have to say that this book was one of the most enjoyable books I have written so far. I had such a strong sense of who both Nic and Jade were as they had cameo appearances in Book One and Two. Nic was determined not to be a pawn in his late grandfather’s machinations, tying him to wild child Jade Sommerville for a year in order to inherit his share of his grandfather’s estate. Jade is equally determined to get Nic to marry her. She is harbouring a shameful secret she is desperate to keep out of the press, and marrying Nic is the only way she can achieve this now her father has cut off her allowance. It’s not just fireworks in this relationship but thunder and lightning as well!

I hope you enjoy the Sabbatini Brothers Trilogy and I will give autographed copies of all three books (will have to wait for Book Three to arrive, however) to a randomly selected comment poster who tells me what they love about trilogies.

Happy reading,

Melanie Milburne
http://www.melaniemilburne.com.au/

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Movies - Sarah Morgan

My first seasonal story for Harlequin Presents, The Twelve Nights of Christmas, is in stores now so to celebrate all things Christmassy I’m talking about festive movies that make me smile.

Here, in no particular order, are my favourites.

While You Were Sleeping – I know I’m not alone in loving this film. Sandra Bullock plays Lucy, a lonely ticket collector who rescues a man when he’s pushed onto the train tracks on Christmas Eve and ends up pretending to be his fiancée. It has humour, warmth, gorgeous family scenes, tears and best of all Bill Pullman as sexy Jack. And lots of snow.

It’s a Wonderful Life – an angel shows a despairing businessman what a difference he has made to other people’s lives. No Christmas would be complete without at least one showing of Frank Capra’s classic, which was nominated by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 top American films ever made.

Love Actually – eight stories in one film, some of which work for me and some that don’t (I cannot believe that Laura Linney would let the divine Rodrigo Santoro slip through her fingers), but it always puts me in a Christmas mood. I love the scene where Colin Firth stumbles his way through a Portuguese lesson so that he can tell the girl her he loves her.

Home Alone 3 – I can hear everyone shrieking ‘what? She cannot be serious’ but yes, I am serious. I love this film. It might be because I first watched it when my youngest son and I were ill at the same time one Christmas. We curled up together feeling sorry for ourselves and had a surprisingly happy time. I love the little boy (Alex D Linz, same actor who played the little boy in One Fine Day with George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer) and the film as painful as every Home Alone film is supposed to be. And there’s snow.

Die Hard – yes, I know it’s a weird choice but it is a Christmas movie. Sort of. It has snow and Christmas carols and the incredible, inestimable Alan Rickman.

A Christmas Carol – I love the Dickens story in almost any version.

The Family Man – Nicholas Cage as a driven, workaholic investment banker who gets to see what his life might have been had he taken a different path. He goes to bed on Christmas Eve and wakes up in the life he would have had if he’d chosen to marry his girlfriend instead of putting his career first. Tea Leonie is gorgeous as his ‘wife’, the kids and the slobbering dog are sweet and yes – there’s snow.

What’s your favourite Christmas movie?

Sarah
http://www.sarahmorgan.com/

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Oh, My Achin'... - Jenny Gardiner


“What’re you in for?” I asked an acquaintance I ran into while at physical therapy the other day.

“Bum hip,” she said, hobbling toward me as she winced. “You?”

“More like what am I not in for,” I groaned, pointing to my swollen knee and rubbing my aching lower back.

Seems I’m doomed to serve a life sentence in rehab (physical, mind you, not addiction-related), what with my perpetually disabled everything. And so far there are no signs of potential time off for good behavior. It’s gotten so bad, that I’ve had to triage my aching joints to capitalize on the hard-to-obtain appointments with the physical therapist to help mend my injuries-du-jour. I’d already had a standing date with a fabulous PT to work on my always-nagging lower back issues, but when I tore my meniscus (that’s in the knee, for all you age-related injury neophytes), all of a sudden the back issues had to take the back burner, in order to figure out how to work with a niggling knee problem instead. Like a medic on the war front, I’m dispatched to relegate the least of my injuries to the back, while refocusing on the worst of the worst just to get out of the line of fire and remain as intact as possible. Shame, too, because I always looked forward to my PT appointments for my hobbled back, as the therapist was masterful in loosening up those culprit hip flexor muscles that were causing my back to misbehave in the first place. And while the pleasure/pain factor was at a premium during that deep-tissue work (at times deep enough to nearly land me on the threshold of tears), the end results were worth the pain.

Sometimes I love physical therapy. Like when they hook you up to that fabulous e-stim and get your muscles tingling with the electrical zap being transmitted intra-bodily. Throw in one of those ultra-heated therapeutic warming pads and I’m sleeping like a baby in no time flat. But now the bum knee demands e-stim with ice, not such a stimulating event. Well, actually overly stimulating, as I sit there with my teeth chattering, watching my muscles jump involuntarily with the zap and counting the minutes till the torture is over.

Now, while all of this “kneecapping” (i.e. being cut off at the knees by physical limitations) is easily attributable to the lamentable deterioration of a body due to wear and tear (also known as aging, in layman’s terms), I fear that much of it is my own stupid fault: it’s thanks to me behaving as if I’m eighteen rather than not-quite-forty-eight. Refusing to accept that maybe kickboxing isn’t such a good idea at this point, for instance.

Although sometimes it’s due to other circumstances I should have controlled. Take, for instance, the Sam’s Club injuries. Who here hasn’t thrown out some bodily part while lugging an item far bigger than we need to purchase while shopping at Sam’s? Come to think of it, that’s how I originally threw my back out, years ago: hauling cases from shelf to cart, then cart to car, and finally car to home. Buying something in product-on-steroids volume that I don’t even need a case of, but only because it’s the only way you can purchase it for cheap: a gross of this, a palette of that and whammy, you’re wounded. The irony is that the cost savings of Sam’s Club acquisitions should go directly into the medical-insurance-physical-therapy fund, because guaranteed you’ll ultimately hurt something lugging that stuff around and need medical treatment for it, the cost of which will far exceed the ten percent you saved buying it there in the first place.

I’m convinced it’s no small coincidence that Sam’s Club sells bottles of Advil large enough to supply a small hospital for a month: most of their customers probably need the pills simply to ease the pain and inflammation from shopping-related physical damage. They might as well put Don’t Forget the Advil reminder poster at the exits, right by the little old folks who swipe those receipts with a highlighter marker to ensure no theft (God forbid the megalithic retail chain lose a buck or two along the way). I’m thinking the real theft is in Sam’s Club stealing my well-being away from me by forcing me to act in the capacity as a virtual longshoreman, hauling enormous cargo needlessly. Maybe Sam’s needs to contribute to my insurance bill at this point.

I remember as a child hearing my “elders” lament their age-related failings: the aches, the pains, the feet that hurt when rain was in the forecast. And I distinctly recall my smugly thinking at the time, “Well, if they’d only been more active and taken care of themselves they’d not be in this position.” Little did I know my cockiness would come back to bite me, dammit. More like chronically wound me. Trust me, I’m paying for it. And you know what they say about payback. Not only does it rhyme with witch, but it hurts like a rhymes-with-witch as well.

A little addendum to this: a day after my physical therapy appointment for my knee, my insurance informed me I had run out of allowable physical therapy appointments for the year. And so we limp along...



be sure to find me at www.jennygardiner.net

Friday, November 19, 2010

Taking the risk to reach potential - Nicole Murphy

Three years ago, I had come to something of a crossroads in my life. My options to continue my career as a journalist in the city I was living in were closing and with management and I at loggerheads, it was time to leave the paper.


At the same time, there was a growing need for me to return to my first love – fiction writing. I’d gotten into journalism as a way to make money until the fiction took off, but it had taken over my life.

I don’t regret this – those years in journalism made me a better writer, with a better understanding of people, story, the real world and the ability to write under deadline pressure. But it was blatantly clear that it just wasn’t in me to write for my day job and go home to do more writing.

At the same time, a friend had turned 40 and she asked via her blog about regrets and whether we had any. I had a vision of myself on my deathbed, thinking that maybe if I’d tried harder, I might have had novels published and a career as a writer. That vision made every cell in my body shudder.

With hubby’s support, I left the paper and went to work part-time in a supermarket in order to focus on my dream of being a published novelist. I haven’t looked back.

I chose my fantasy romance trilogy, Dream of Asarlai, to work on. Within twelve months, book one was ready to start shopping around. Eight months later, I sold the trilogy here in Australia to HarperCollins. Just a year after that, Secret Ones hit the shelves.

Making the choice to turn from easy options and give yourself the chance to be everything you can be is a big theme in the Dream of Asarlai trilogy. It’s a big theme in literature in general, really. When I think of the books I love – old loves like Lord of the Rings; in-between loves like Kate Elliot’s Crown of Stars epic; new loves like Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon series – what they all have in common is the moment where characters have to make a choice, take a risk and try to be everything they’re meant to be.

In Secret Ones, Maggie Shaunessy thinks she knows what she wants in life and she’s very happy with what she’s built – she has her dream job as a teacher working with humans and at night can return to the village of Sclossin and live her secret life as a member of a magical race. However, Maggie has quite frankly been kidding herself and then the moment comes – does she believe enough in herself to become what she’s meant to be?

Sometimes, we let life happen to us and allow other people to make these decisions for us. Often, those people – parents, teachers, guidance counsellors – do so with the best intentions.

But at the end of the day, the person who should know us the best is ourselves. The person who knows what we’re meant to be is us. The question is – is that person prepared to do what is needed to realise that potential?

Nicole Murphy has been a primary school teacher, bookstore owner, journalist and checkout chick. She grew up reading Tolkien, Lewis and Le Guin; spent her twenties discovering Quick, Lindsay and Deveraux and lives her love of science fiction and fantasy through her involvement with the Conflux science fiction conventions. Her urban fantasy trilogy Dream of Asarlai is published in Australia/NZ by HarperVoyager. Book one Secret Ones is out now. She lives with her husband in Queanbeyan, NSW. Visit her website http://nicolermurphy.com

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Peripheral Woes : : Anne McAllister


Peripheral woes, I am here to tell you, are not peripheral.

They may be 'peripheral' to a computer, but they need to work or Bad Things Happen.

Bad things are happening here. Or, rather, Good Things are not happening.

For four and a half years, my printer never let me down. It was right there, ready to print, copy and scan day in and day out. As long as I remembered to buy it ink and keep it full of paper, it was happy. And so was I.

Then I did the unthinkable. I bought a new computer.

This was not a capricious decision. I needed a new computer. The old one was S.L.O.W. It was stuffed with files, and it made noises no self-respecting computer should ever make. The minute I turned it on, it sounded as if it had a serious respiratory disease. It wheezed. It groaned. Its fan went wonky. I expected it to die at any second.

So I retired it and got a new one.

The old one is now resting comfortably on the floor of my office and a flash-bang whiz-kid of a computer has hustled along to take its place.

So far the new guy on the block is doing a great job -- with one exception. It can't run my printer.

Well, no, that's not true. It prints just fine. It copies perfectly.

But it can't scan to save my life. Or its own.

I've downloaded it new software. I've installed everything perfectly -- the online guides tell me so. And then when I try to scan, the hourglass just spins and spins and spins. And if I question what is happening, it says, "Software not installed." But then if I go to install it again, it says, "Software is already installed."

I have been saying several four letter words.

I have not said them to customer service because the printer is so long out of warranty that I'm sure they will laugh at me for even expecting it might work.

So, I need your help.

I either need better advice on how to get my scanner to cooperate (while still making sure my printing and scanning functions work), or I need to get a new printer.

Any advice on the former or suggestions on the latter?

If I have to get a new one, it will be an all-in-one like my old one. I don't have room in my office or my life for dedicated anything at the moment.

It would be nice if I could network it to my laptop and my husband's computer. It would be lovely if it were fairly fast. And if ink didn't cost an arm and a leg. And it was reliable. And if customer service was actually that -- service.

What's been your experience with your printer/copier/scanner peripheral? Does yours fax, too? Do you wish it did anything else? Like washed the dishes and mopped the floor?

Hmmm. Boy, is that a tempting thought!

Anyway, I really would appreciate your advice. If you have a particular brand to recommend, please tell me. A model? I'm all ears. One to stay away from at all cost? I really want to know that, too.

To say thanks I'll send a copy of one of my recent books to five people who make suggestions. I'd send you the newest one, Hired by her Husband, except I don't have my author's copies yet. So it could be The Virgin's Proposition or one of the other Savas-Antonides books.

Give me your opinion on printer/copier/scanners and I'll put your name in the drawing. Then check back on Friday and see if you've won a copy. If so, please send your snail address to me using the "contact Anne" tab on the right hand sidebar of my blog .

Thanks!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Demons, Vampires, and Psychics -- Oh My! - Michelle Rowen

by Michelle Rowen

***Winner of the signed copy of either Something Wicked or Touch and Go is "Kristen". Congrats! Please contact me at michelle@michellerowen.com with your choice of book and your mailing address to claim your prize. Thanks everyone for all the great comments!***


A family member asked me, when I recently told her about one of my latest deals, "Can't you think of any ideas that don't have vampires in them?"

I think she might prefer that I'd write about forensic CSI agents, or small town ladies who uncover criminals, or, well, something that could exist in the Real World. I don't think that she appreciates the paranormal all that much.

Well, that makes one of us.

So... can I think of ideas that don't have vampires in them? Sure I can. But I just don't wanna.

I write paranormals -- or, to be more specific, fantasy. It's what I do. And yes, the ideas I get are about things that don't necessarily exist in the Real World.

And I'm totally okay with that.

I have been, or will be published in young adult, romance, and coming up in 2013, mystery as well. And all of these books focus on vampires, demons, ghosts, angels, witches, werewolves, and psychics. Not necessarily in the same book.

It's beyond fun giving a character something out of the ordinary to deal with -- a new out of control power; an attraction to someone who isn't just the bad boy, but a literal demon; a thirst for blood even though they're just still the girl next door.

Yes, my name is Michelle Rowen, and I write paranormal novels. And I wouldn't have it any other way!

My most recent releases are SOMETHING WICKED, the second book in my Living in Eden trilogy about a demon named Darrak who must possess a woman named Eden every night. Darrak is, quite possibly, the funnest (?) hero I've ever written. He's sexy, snarky, protective, selfish, selfless, and madly in love with my heroine.

In my second Harlequin Blaze, TOUCH AND GO, I pair up a couple of sexy psychics who work for the Paranormal Assessment and Recovery Agency as they head to the Bahamas to solve a mystery, and my heroine Carrie attempts to figure out why my hero Patrick is a completely hands-off kind of guy. Hint: he isn't for long!

I'm going to give away one of these books to a randomly selected commenter who answers this question: what's your favorite paranormal character? ie: vampire, demon, etc. Feel free to use specific examples from one of your favorite books! I'll be back to pick a winner tomorrow, Thursday, November 18th at 9:00 pm EST. Good luck!

Happy Reading!

Michelle xoxo

http://www.michellerowen.com/

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An offer you can't refuse -- Michelle Styles

Like the Godfather, one should never refuse an editor’s offer of an opportunity...so was the wisdom imparted to me by a seasoned author when I sold my first story. And I took it to heart.


Early in September, the phone rang. My editor said in a cheery voice that she had a wonderful opportunity for me. Without waiting to hear the opportunity, I said yes. Cue relief in her voice and she began to explain. The Digital part of Harlequin thought a free online serial would be a great way to highlight the North American release of my duo –A Question of Impropriety and Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife. The kicker in this opportunity (there is always one) was that it needed to be done by 17 September or basically 2 weeks. I had never written a serial before and equally I am not entirely convinced that I can write short. There are reasons why I write historical including it has the highest word count of all the series lines that Harlequin publishes. Add just agreeing a new contract with a challenging first deadline and having written the duo back in 2008, I could just about remember the world and the characters . But I had said yes and so I became determined. My editor was also very good about reassuring me that the serial only needed to be loosely linked to the books. It was not supposed to be a prequel or sequel but a stand alone.

Writing a serial is different from writing a short story or a novel. Readers may start the serial in different places. There needs to be a cliffhanging ending of some sort to each segment and it can’t be the same sort. The length of each segment is predetermined plus there is a set number of episodes. However it was a real chance to showcase my writing.

I started by reading as many of the online serials as I could. If you haven’t discovered this great Harlequin resource, give it a try. It can be a fantastic way to try a line or an author whom you are curious about. And as I didn’t have a clue on how to begin, I thought it best to read a few. I soon decided what I liked and why, so I began to write, and made my deadline.

There were a few revisions and I learnt a few things through the revisions process. It was the first time I had encountered Track Changes edits from an editor and was finally able to see a line edit in detail. Among other things she highlighted repetition of words. Seeing it highlighted truly brought it home.

Anyway, it was an education and hopefully my future writing will show that I have learnt a few lessons...

The first chapter of the FREE Online serial is now up at eharlequin and you can read it here. It finishes on 3 January.

The blurb reads:

Tyne Valley, 1813
When her sister eloped with someone other than her betrothed, Lady Anne Dunstan knew two things. One, that she completely supported her sister's making her own choice about who she would marry. And two, that Anne—the responsible one—would have to clean up the mess


What she didn't know was how her sister's intended, Jason Martell, would take the news. Or how Anne would respond to the force of his presence, his rugged good looks, his less-than-gentlemanly advances.


Or to his proposal of marriage.


Copyright © 2010 by Harlequin Books S.A.

I do hope you will take the opportunity to read it. Eharlequin has helpfully provided a discussion thread for the serial.
And in case you are wondering why it is copyright Harlequin rather than Michelle Styles. With free reads, Harlequin buys the entire copyright out right -- through out the universe both known and unknown.

So do people enjoy serials? Do you read them all at one go, saving them up or do you read them as they are put up?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Saying "Oops" to the Dress - Lisa Dale


So, I bought my wedding dress (yay!) and I adore it. It’s everything I wanted and an okay price. But for a while there, I was pretty nervous—fearing that I’d never find the right dress.
Certainly, there’s a lot of pressure surrounding buying a wedding dress. But I heard a story a couple weeks ago that was hands down one of the most memorable wedding dress stories that I’ve ever heard.
For those of you who read my blog regularly, just skip to the bottom of this post—you’ve heard this story already. Or, better yet, pop over to this link and leave a comment to enter to win my latest LOVE TO READERS prize.
But for those of you who haven’t heard this yet, you’re going to want to! It’s a crazy story and it bears repeating!
So, my boss’s mother went wedding dress shopping with her mother and mother-in-law. And they found a dress that the bride loved, so they bought it.
Flash forward a few weeks. The bride and her man are walking down the street—I imagine them arm in arm, and he’s wearing a fedora under a lamppost, and she’s got on apricot slacks (I don’t know why I imagine it this way)—when, lo and behold, the dress they see in a shop window is the dress that the bride had just purchased, the one she can’t wait to walk down the aisle in on her wedding day.
And what does the groom say?
“Ugh. What an awful dress. How could anyone wear that? It’s so ugly!”
Of course, the bride did her best to keep a straight face. But it wasn’t long before she was in the dressmaker’s shop, crying her eyeballs out. Can you imagine?
Luckily, the seamstress saved the day by fashioning the old dress to look totally new.
I’ve already told Matt—now that I’ve bought a dress, you’re not allowed to comment on any other dresses that you might happen to see.
But he’s assured me that if I walk down the aisle in a burlap sack, he’ll still think I’m beautiful. *sigh* And that’s why I’m marrying him.
Do you have any memorable wedding garb stories? I’d love to hear them! I’ll check back in this evening to respond to your comments!
Cheers,
Lisa Dale

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Warm and Wonderful - Christina Hollis

Autumn is really closing in. It doesn't get light here until after breakfast, and it's dark by teatime. The advantage is the wonderful autumn colours we've enjoyed this year, and when the wind blows the clouds away, extravagantly starry nights. If you're lucky you might see a shooting star, or even Comet Hartley  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/103P/Hartley, but there are lots of distractions, including firework parties!  When you come in from the cold, it's great to curl up in front of the fire with something comforting. My favourite roast pumpkin soup recipe is really easy. Splash chunks of pumpkin (no need to peel, but discard the seeds and tough fibres), crushed garlic cloves and a thinly sliced onion with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 180C for about 40 minutes or until soft, then (taking care not to burn your fingers) scrape the flesh into a saucepan. Add enough vegetable or chicken stock to produce soup with a good consistency then  mash or blitz until smooth. A pinch of smoked paprika is a good addition. Heat the soup through, then serve with cheese topped rolls.
That's great for nights when you've been out getting chilly, but sometimes it's lovely to just snuggle down with a book and something chocolatey. Grannie's Gateau (crushed cookies stirred into a melted mixture of butter, syrup and cocoa and chilled until set) is a real treat, but so rich it's only for special occasions - especially when given a chocolate topping!
What's your favourite fireside snack at this time of year?

Christina Hollis writes for Harlequin Mills and Boon's Modern Romance/Presents Extra. Her latest UK release, The Italian's Blushing Gardener, will be released in the US in January 2011 under the title The Master of Bella Terra. Visit her website at Http://www.christinahollis.com for details of her Christmas Holiday Competition!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Guilty Heroes - Kathleen O'Brien

Forgive and forget.


Great words. Words to live by, to love by. But pretty tough to follow.

I was thinking about them today, as I worked on my new novel. My hero and heroine are facing some difficult issues. In the past, he was a rat. She’s burned and bitter. Now what? Can I get them beyond this barrier?

Ironically, a romance novel is only about a third "romance." (I made that number up, of course.) Most of the book is about conflict. It's not a sweet, sexy list of little blue diary entries covered in hearts and exclamation points. It's an exploration of a couple’s struggle to overcome the obstacles that stand between them and a happy ending.

So, paradoxically, the best romances are the ones in which those hurdles are really big and bad. But there's the hitch. How bad is too bad? Is there something a hero could do that you, as a reader, couldn't forgive? Is there that one action that's an absolute deal breaker?

Think about Daphne du Maurier’s timeless classic, Rebecca, for instance. Max de Winter…. No, wait. Should I issue a spoiler alert, even though it came out in 1938? Well, here it is: If you haven’t read it, stop here. I’m going to reveal the ending.

Max KILLED his first wife. As in murdered. Really. Not falsely accused, not an accident, not an over-active guilty imagination. Gun. Shoot. Dead.

I’ve loved Rebecca for half my life. It has always had (and always will have) a place on my bookshelf-right next to the picture of my brilliant, sharp-minded mother, who introduced me to it.

When I first read the novel, as a teenager, I completely accepted that the black-hearted Rebecca had manipulated Max into shooting her, and he wasn’t really to blame. When I re-read it decades later, though, I wasn’t so sure. Something hard inside me just wouldn’t melt.

Then I realized that my only reason for not forgiving him as easily was completely illogical. I wasn’t feeling merciful because he was such a thoughtless beast to his naïve and vulnerable new wife.

Yes, he’s haunted. Yes, he hates himself. But why couldn’t he be nice to the poor girl? If only he’d said, just once, “Look, honey, I know I’m moody as hell and hard to live with. But it’s not your fault.” That might have helped. But he didn’t. He just kept brooding and barking and making her feel like dirt, which her “companion,” Mrs. Van Hopper, had already been doing for years.

And that’s when I realized I could maybe, just maybe, forgive him for snapping once, fatally, under the pressure of Rebecca’s manipulation. But I could not forgive his self-indulgent, bad-tempered, day-in-and-day-out cruddy behavior toward the second Mrs. de Winter.

Illogical, but there you are. Being unkind to the innocent new wife was the deal-breaker for the grown-up me—not the murder of the first one.

What is it for you? Infidelity? Violence, gambling, drinking, lying? Not being there when the heroine needs him? Not caring as much about her as he does about work or money or keeping up with the Joneses? Not respecting her family? Being distant or unkind to her children?

All of the above? Where is that line in the sand...the one even the best writer can't coax you to step over?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wicked Surrender - Jade Lee / Kathy Lyons

Hello everyone at Author Sound Relations! Did any of you attend this July’s RWA convention in Orlando? Don’t worry if you didn’t because I’m going to retell my lightning moment of inspiration right here. Ready? The keynote speaker Jayne Ann Krentz told us to know what our core story is. In other words, what is the story that always seems to appeal to you as a writer? Or even as a reader? Do you know?


I puzzled over it for a while, but eventually I realized that I just love giving my heroine the choice between two good but very different men. As in, would you choose security with a man who loves you or passion with the man who doesn’t? An easier life as a respectable woman or an exciting life of topsy turvy adrenaline in the moment?

I think it all harks back to my college romance where I had two guys, um...men, who were interested in me. The first was Simon who was a fellow extrovert. Being with him was exciting, passionate, and a huge roller coaster ride of exhausting fun/pain. The other was David who was like coming home to hot chocolate cookies and settling in for a nice night of good television. He was warm and accepting, and I was never more peaceful than when I was with him. In the end, I picked David and have never regretted the choice. But sometimes I wonder if Simon and I could have sustained something lasting. I think not. We were too hot as it was, and after just a couple months the lows were getting bad. Still, it’s fun to remember those wild college nights!

The heroine of my new historical Wicked Surrender has just that choice. Respectable marriage with a sweet man. (Well, in his case, he’s really more of a boy). And passion with someone who loves her with a kind of madness, whose touch excites her, and who is not offering marriage. Here’s the book trailer.

So tell me what you think! Have you ever faced a choice like this? One lucky commentor will get a Jade Lee book! Or if you prefer, you can have a copy of my new Blaze as Kathy Lyons Taking Care of Business. It’s out this month!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Life of Crime! - Anna Campbell

by Anna Campbell

Hey, have you guys noticed the explosion of criminal activity lately?

Well, on TV at least!

I must say my addiction to American cop shows is a fairly recent phenomenon.

Here in Australia we get a mixture of telvision, local, UK, American. I was brought up in a family that mainly watched British imports on our government channel, the ABC. I still love a good British crime show like MIDSOMER MURDERS or POIROT (love David Suchet in that role - he's amazing!).

Before I became a full-time writer, I spent many years working as a captioner for the Deaf and hearing impaired. Suddenly I was exposed to a whole range of American television I'd never watched before. I became a LAW AND ORDER franchise fan and gradually that seems to have seeped over into other shows.

These days, I watch a lot of American crime shows! I get them out on DVD so there's no ads and I don't have to stew on the cliffhangers (apart from the ones at the end of the series!).

There are four of my favorites!

I love BONES for a stack of reasons and not all to do with David Boreanaz! I love the sly humor and the dark irony. I love the geeky stuff! I love that the heroine in many ways takes the role the hero often does - you know, the clever, solitary, focused one who is out of touch with her emotions. I LOVE that she's so clever.

BURN NOTICE isn't so much a police procedural but it definitely revolves around burned spy Michael Westen operating outside the law. Hmm, having mentioned David B, I must say I find Jeffrey Donovan who plays Michael very easy on the eye. Love the way he wears Armani on that long lean body. Love the way he takes his shirt off too.

Who, me? Shallow? NEVAH!

THE MENTALIST is a fairly new one to me. Again a handsome hero! Nothing wrong with that. Again, I love that the main character is always the cleverest person in the room.

CRIMINAL MINDS is full of people who would be the cleverest people in the room if, um, they weren't all in a room together! Again, I love the geekiness of a lot of these characters. And while I mourn the departure of wonderful Mandy Patinkin, there's some nice looking boys left, all the same (Shemar Moore, anyone?). Oh, and the stories are pretty good too!

Hmm, perhaps I should admit to being shallow!

Actually there's a few things these shows have in common. BURN NOTICE, BONES and THE MENTALIST exploit ongoing sexual tension to keep you tuning in. Will they, won't they is a great way to keep a story ticking over. Any romance writer can tell you that!

BURN NOTICE, BONES and CRIMINAL MINDS feature a team of people who are specialists in their own fields and pool their skills to create a whole greater than their parts. And all of these shows portray strong loyalty bonds between the ongoing characters. I love that aspect!

So what about you? Are you, like me, pursuing a life of crime? Do you have any favorite crime shows? What makes one show stand out from another for you (because after all, there's a million of these out there!)? Let's STEAL a few moments and KILL some time talking about TV!