Thursday, May 31, 2012

Random Questions with Carrie Lofty


Thanks so much for having me stop by! I’m excited to talk about “A Little More Scandal.” At just $.99… 

Take a chance! This is an adorable intro to my Christies series of Victorian romances.

It’s one of Pocket’s first original digital releases. You can read more about those fabulous new originals here, including an extended excerpt of “A Little More Scandal.”

But there. Aside from the blurb, that’s my sales pitch. Let’s do silly stuff now…

Q: Give us some insight into your typical “feather boas and bon bons” authorly day.
I wake up too early, generally get my kids to school just this side of late, and try to avoid McDonald’s on the way home. Then it’s all manner of potential procrastination, such as sending my three cats to separate corners. At ages 14, 5 and twelve weeks…there is much discord.

Oh, and writing! I try for three thousand words a day (about 18-20 pages) when I’m drafting. 
Otherwise we’re talking revisions, promotions, editing or agenting chat thingies, admin, and finally, maybe getting around to making dinner. Ok. That last one is a lie. My kids have become gratifyingly self-sufficient.

Q: Speaking of, what’s the dumbest thing your kids have done this week?
Ticked off my husband and I at the same time? Usually they manage to do it one at a time, where one of stays sane and plays voice of reason. That’s a lot harder to do when we both lose our tops. I think it had to do with Wii games. Or homework. Or syrup in their hair. Just pick one and it probably happened.

Q: Favoritest place in the whole, whole world?
The London Underground. I met my husband in England, and we lived three hours apart. Every time I wound up on the Tube, it meant I was going to see him. Liverpool Street station is the best. Sitting on a patch of marble, eating a tuna baguette, watching thousands of people going somewhere. The author in me always wants to make up stories for each one.

Q: It’s widely known that office supply stores are like enticing mythic sirens. But why??
They put an addictive scent in ink. I think it’s called eau de potential.

Q: TV shows you love—and feel free to admit loving?
“So You Think You Can Dance,” “Doctor Who,” and “Game of Thrones.” Absolutely. I think that’s where Lorelie Brown and I started as writing partners. (DOUBLE DOWN, our first erotic romance for Samhain under the name Katie Porter, will be released July 31.) We couldn’t stop making up happy endings for dance couples we loved, and writing together extended from there. Now just about everyone I know is addicted to “Game of Thrones.” Arya Stark is the littlest, awesomest heroine ever. But Lorelie has no taste when it comes to turning up her nose about “Doctor Who”. The poor dear.

Q: TV shows you love—that feel really totally embarrassed loving?
“Say Yes to the Dress” in all its incarnations, and “Smash”—although that’s borderline. It’s cheesy, but it might almost be considered not embarrassing. In the right company, anyway, such as theater people!

Q: What word can you never spell right on the first try?
Cousion. Cushoin. Coushon. Cushion, dammit!

Q: Trapped in an adults-only resort, which three celebs would you like there with you?
Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And I’m not sharing.

Q: What’s next for you?
STARLIGHT, the second full-length romance in the Christies series, is set in Victorian Glasgow. It just got a 4 ½ stars Top Pick from RT BookReviews, which was such a happy honor. It come out on June 26th. So soon!

Then comes another Pocket Star digital original, HIS VERY OWN GIRL. It’s a historical romance set in WWII. Seriously. Not women’s fiction. Not literary fiction. But a full-on honest to goodness historical romance. I hope it helps broaden the sub-genre into the early 20th century. I’m stoked. Like…amazingly stoked.

I’m giving away a copy of FLAWLESS to one lucky commenter. FLAWLESS is the first of the Christies series from Pocket. I’ll ship anywhere. Anyone who already has FLAWLESS can win any choice from my back catalog.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Year in the Life of an Author: May

In my continuing look at a working author's life, month by month, I'd have to call May that Perfect Storm sort of month. Everything starts coming due at once.

I have book that is due.
A book about to arrive in the stores.
A new website going up.
A book tour to start planning for. (Tulsa, Chicago and Dallas, anyone?)
Everyone wants you to write up a blog about the new book.

And then, when you get up early to write the one blog you did promise to write (this one!), you get it nearly done, forget to save it, and accidentally navigate away from it in search for a link and lose the entire blog.

Yeah, like I said, the Perfect Storm.

Luckily, I love what I do. I know the book will get done. The new website is up. And when I go on tour for the next two weeks I will have some long stretches of uninterrupted time to finish up my book. 

Best of all, today is May 29th. My 19th wedding anniversary and the day my 19th book, Along Came A Duke, arrives in stores. 19 books?! How the heck did that happen.

One Perfect Storm after another. LOL.

And this time I've remembered to hit save every few lines, so the blog didn't get lost.

I'll be back in June with pictures from my tour with Rachel Gibson, Julia Quinn and Pamela Palmer.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Scarlet Wilson - Presidential Inspiration and a Giveaway!


Where do you get your ideas? 

A few years ago I was watching the inauguration of a lovely new President, his wife and two daughters.  And something clicked in my brain. 

For the first time, in a long time, we had the potential for a White House baby.  What if……?

People often ask me where I get my ideas from for my stories.  Most of the time I can’t remember.  But the thought of a White House baby fascinated me.   It’s been over 50 years since we had a White House baby, it seemed only fitting that I used the theme for a medical romance.

West Wing to Maternity Wing! Is the second book in the series.  This tells the story of Lincoln Adams – the neonatologist to the President’s premature baby -  and Amy Carson – the pregnant woman posing as his wife.

For Amy desperate times call for desperate measures.  She knows her long awaited baby is going to arrive early.  She wants the best doctor she knows to be the one to look after him.  She wants to give her baby the best chance of survival.  Unfortunately for Amy, Lincoln is being closely guarded by the Men in Black as he watches the president’s daughter.  Amy has to think of a way through the cordon – and she does!

Medical romances bring their own challenges.  Medical practices in countries can vary widely and as I live in Scotland, I had to be quite careful about researching neonatal practices in the US.  This involved sourcing a neonatal feeding protocol from a hospital in the US near to where my story is set. 

And as for trying to find out how the Presidential Medical details works………

I’ll leave that to your imagination!

So, where do you get your ideas from?  One commenter will win a copy of my latest medical romance West Wing to Maternity Wing!  I’ll leave the winners details in the comments in two days time.

The President's Baby Doctor

Famous neonatologist Lincoln Adams is looking after the President's newborn daughter when nurse Amy Carson arrives at the hospital, posing as his very pregnant wife!  Amy's had first-hand experience of Linc's skilful hands and he's the only person she trusts to look after her precious cargo, but trusting him with her fragile heart is another matter...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Birth of a Brand New (Vampire) World


Creating a new world, especially a dark paranormal world filled with magic and fantasy, mortals and immortals, is a daunting task. You have to ask yourself a lot of questions. How closely do you want it aligned with our world? Where will you set it, what will the rules of magic be? Who will inhabit this world you’re creating? And once you’ve created it, what kinds of stories do you want to tell there?

I love creating new worlds, but I like them firmly based in our own. Urban fantasy types of worlds rather than high fantasy. Worlds and creatures that could exist here, all around us, without us ever knowing. I’ve created three such worlds, now, each set in and around Washington, D.C. which, no surprise, is where I live. But each, while using modern-day D.C. as the backdrop, is very different. In my Esri series, our world is being invaded by the man-sized, malevolent creatures at the heart of the legends of the fairies and elves. Creatures locked out of our world for fifteen centuries that have found their way back in. In my Feral Warriors shape shifter series, the last nine shape shifters left in the world (each of whom shifts into a different animal) are fighting the evil Mage to keep the Daemons from once more rising to destroy the world. The immortals live and battle among us, though we are, for the most part, unaware.

In my latest world, a vampire utopia, created a century and a half ago by a powerful sorcerer, sits atop modern day D.C. (though the humans don’t see it or know it’s there). It’s a city where the sun never shines, where vampires live openly, freely hunting the humans brought in for food and sport. A place that, unfortunately for the vamps, will become a death trap if they don’t soon find another sorcerer to renew the magic. Welcome to Washington, V.C., Vamp City.

From the back cover of book 1, A Blood Seduction (A Vamp City novel), which hits store shelves Tuesday, May 29th:

Vampires live only for lust and pleasure in the eternal twilight of Vamp City. But the city's magic is dying. The only person who can restore it? A beautiful woman from the mortal world...one who knows nothing of the power she wields.

Quinn Lennox is searching for a missing friend when she stumbles into a dark otherworld that only she can see--and finds herself at the mercy of Arturo Mazza, a dangerously handsome vampire whose wicked kiss will save her, enslave her, bewitch her, and betray her. What Arturo can't do is forget about her--any more than Quinn can control her own feelings for him. Neither one can let desire get in the way of their mission--his to save his people, hers to save herself. But there is no escape from desire in a city built for seduction, where passion flows hot and blood red. Welcome to Vamp City...

To read an excerpt or watch the book trailer, go to www.pamelapalmer.net. And for a chance to win a signed copy of Desire Untamed, book 1 in my Feral Warriors shape shifter series, tell me which vampire series are your favorites at the moment. And if you have any questions for me, ask away! 


***Pamela's winner is Cindy McCune!  Please email totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your mailing details!***

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Newest Harlequin Romance/Riva Author


I was going to be talking about my latest Harlequin Romance — The Last Woman He’d Ever Date — today, but instead I’m making way for the newest Harlequin Romance/Riva author in the Harlequin Mills and Boon line-up.

Charlotte Phillips entered the Mills and Boon New Voices competition last autumn and when she made it through the first round, I was the lucky author who was tasked with the job of mentoring her through her second chapter.

It wasn’t my job to write her second chapter for her, but to work with her to show her where her own writing could be strengthened, offer a little advice on what could usefully be left out, give her pointers on what made a scene work and writing technique. Charlotte, let me tell you, was a joy to work with. Full of enthusiasm, excitement, passion, eager to learn, ready to listen, but with that deep down faith in what she’d written, in her story.

When she made it through to the final four I was absolutely overjoyed and although she didn’t win the competition I never doubted that she would make it through to publication.

Since reaching the final four of the competition, she has been working on a new story with the same wonderful editor who works with my own editor and does for me, what I did for Charlotte. Flo keeps me afloat, telling me what she loves about my story while homing in on the slightest weakness because, even after sixty plus books, an editor — standing back from the intense involvement that writing entails — brings a fresh eye to the work.

It’s part of the process.

I have known really good writers who have had wonderfully encouraging letters from publishers but instead of buckling down to the revisions suggested, were affronted, outraged by the suggestion that they change a word. Their mss are returned, untouched, to the drawer and never become that magic thing, a book. It’s their decision, their right, but while a mss is the sole effort of its author, a book is a collaborative effort. The ability to accept that your book isn’t perfect, that it is capable of stepping up another gear, is one of the essential elements that make a published author.

Meanwhile, if you want to share the advice that I gave to Charlotte, you can download Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony

Friday, May 25, 2012

Grandma and the Prince - Part 36


 This is why small towns are dangerous. We had a septuagenarian free-for-all at our dinner table a few years back and it was so over-the-top crazy that you'd swear I was related to everyone sitting there. In fact, I wasn't but the craziness transcended bloodlines and I took strange comfort from that!

I captured this in my journal a few hours after it happened on Easter Sunday 2000.

 ###

10 p.m.

Okay, so it’s last night and we’re all gathered around my pretty pastel table.  The cast of characters includes R, my parents, Margie, her sister Dorothy, her brother Arnie, Arnie’s wife Evelyn.  Except for R and me, everyone is over seventy.  We are all opinionated.  Unfortunately we hold different opinions.

You need to know that Margie doesn’t trust her sister-in-law Evelyn.  Even though Evelyn has been in the family for over fifty years, Margie still considers her an outsider.  Dorothy loves Evelyn and they go antiquing together.  Margie watches from her kitchen window as they drive off.  Once my mom thought she was Margie waving her fist behind her frilly priscillas.  And then there’s Arnie.  What can I say about Arnie?  I like the guy.  He seems more like a tough guy from Queens or Brooklyn than a Swedish farm boy from central New Jersey.  Fair skin, ruddy cheeks, what’s left of his hair is crewcut and blond.  He’s tall and burly and apparently has a thing for the ladies.  I didn’t know that about Arnie until yesterday when all hell broke loose at my dining room table.  I thought he was kind of shy and quiet.  Hah!

It started innocently enough when Arnie expressed his love for Hillary Clinton.  “That’s what you call one smart dame,” he said over his beer.  “Smartest damn first lady we’ve ever had in office.”  (My dad muttered something about Eleanor Roosevelt but everyone ignored him.)  She’s not in office, Margie pointed out.  She’s a wife.  “Smarter than he is,” Arnie went on, glaring across the table at his sister.  “You know who’s really running this country.”   Good thing somebody’s running the country, Margie said, since he can’t keep his pants on.  “He’s a man’s man,” Arnie said, voice rising, “not some namby-pamby rich boy. Old Hillary understands that”

At this point R and I are kicking each other under the table and trying not to laugh – or to enter into the fray.  My mother is watching, wide-eyed with amusement.  I know her opinion of the Clintons’ marriage and I’m wondering how much longer she’ll be able to keep it to herself. My dad has the same expression on his face that he used to have when Mona and Grandma El went at it.  (Ah, family tradition.) He is ready to collapse in helpless laughter.

 The Siblings are poised for battle.

He’s a pig, says Margie.  We’re not sure if she’s talking about her brother or the president.

“He’s a MAN,” bellows Arnie.  “You’re gonna tell me any red-blooded man wouldn’t do exactly what Clinton did?”

At which point my Beloved piped up with, Speak for yourself, Arnie.

And, God help us, Arnie did.  Arnie waxed eloquent on the wonders of the pinchable female behind.  You’ve heard it before.  Aman’sgottadowhataman’sgottado.  Even if it gets him 5-10. 

Arnie turns to me.  “Come on,” he says.  “Admit it.  You’ve had your ass pinched a time or two, haven’t you?”

Yes, I said.  So far they haven’t found the bodies but they’re out there. 

Everyone laughed but Arnie.  “Admit it,” he said.  “You know you liked it.”

No, Arnie, I didn’t.

“You know you did.”

Arnie, trust me, I know I didn’t.  Being groped on a subway isn’t one of life’s greater pleasures. 

“Every woman likes it.”

No, Arnie, every woman does not like it.

At this point his sisters and wife jump down his throat and Arnie clears the room by saying, “What would any of you old bats know?  You haven’t had your asses pinched in so long you –“

That’s when Evelyn slapped him. 

This whole thing was reminiscent of an on-line discussion a few weeks back that has had permanent repercussions.  I think we all know there’s a difference between flirting and harrassment, between the man/woman thing and aggression. 

Who doesn’t want to be desired? 
Who wants to be pawed over like the sale rack at Loehmann’s? 

It’s all the same to Arnie and to a frightening percentage of the population out there. 

We all recovered our equilibrium and finished out the evening in  good cheer, however the fight picked up steam again when our merry band of funsters got home.  My mother said the fight broke out in earnest on the front steps of Margie’s place and went on a good hour.  Margie called Arnie a pig and a brute.  Arnie called her a tight ass.  Evelyn kept saying Arnie, please don’t use that language at which point Arnie would invariably say, #*@( . . . loudly.  Evelyn said fifty years in that family was more than enough and stomped off toward their place. 

I found out that Arnie and Margie both have police band scanners and they monitor the neighborhood 24/7.  Arnie had a big surprise for my parents.  “I hear your sister’s heading over to Naples for a week,” he said to my dad.  “Jean’s taking care of the dog.”  My dad almost keeled over.  Did Vi tell you that? he asked.  “Nah,” said Arnie.  “Heard it on my scanner.”  Now there’s a bad combination for you: my dad with a cordless phone and Arnie with a police band scanner.  I have to admit my mom and I have talked a lot about Margie and Company over the last few years and much of it has been from our handy-dandy cordless phones.  My poor mother is convinced Margie heard something she shouldn’t have and that’s why she doesn’t ask my mother to go to K-mart often any more.  I reminded my mother that Margie shouldn’t be eavesdropping but that didn’t make her feel any better.  And I do understand why not. 

Shades of Princess Di and James Gilbey.  Shades of Charles and Camilla.  Shades of why I’m going to think twice before I use my cordless phone again.  At the very least, you won’t catch me talking about Margie or Arnie. 

Or Hillary, for that matter.

The night may have a thousand eyes but in this neighborhood it’s the ears you have to worry about.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

When in Rome … Survive

On June 1, the fifth and final novel in my Sabina Kane urban fantasy series releases. BLUE-BLOODED VAMP is the result of four years of hard work and a heck of a lot of fun, and I am thrilled that it’s finally time to share the end of Sabina’s story with all her fans. But in order to give her the send off she deserved I had to do something special, which is why I chose to set the novel in Italy.

Let’s back up a second. All of the other books in the series took place in American cities, namely New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans. But for the fifth book, I knew I had to get Sabina away from her comfort zone so she could face her greatest foes yet on unfamiliar ground.

Two years ago, my husband took me to Florence and Tuscany to celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary. I knew instantly that I wanted to set this book in the country I fell in love with on that trip. Part of the story is based in Tuscany on an estate that closely resembles the one we stayed at on our trip. But most of the action takes place in Rome, a city I have never visited.
 
Here’s a picture of me hamming it up in Tuscany. 

Naturally, writing about a city you haven’t been to can be challenging. I spent a lot of time researching the perfect settings for a story about a half-vampire, half-mage as she hunts down one of the oldest and most evil humans that ever lived. I spoke to people who’ve visited and read travel guides and watched videos about the city.
Luckily, the Eternal City offered up a lot of creepy setting from which to choose, including catacombs and crumbling underground chapels and churches made from bones. I also learned about Rome’s famous talking statues, which I used as an important key to the plot of the book.To a lot of people these settings are just fun touristy spots, but in Sabina's world they're allf taught with potential dangers. That's one of the most challenging and fun things about writing urban fantasy--twisting the every day things we may take for granted into the fantastical. 

In the end, I hope I did Rome justice, just as I hope I did justice to Sabina’s journey throughout the series. Maybe one day I’ll go back to Italy and leave a copy of BLUE-BLOODED VAMP at the base of a talking statue. 

In the meantime, I hope you’ll give this series a try. Three of the series’s five books have been chosen as Top Picks and all have received 4.5 stars from Romantic Times magazine. And if nothing else, maybe you’ll learn of some new stops to add to your itinerary for an upcoming vacation to New Orleans or New York or Rome.

BLUE-BLOODED VAMP
The epic conclusion to the amazing Sabina Kane urban fantasy series.

Sabina Kane is on the hunt. Her prey: Cain, the father of the vampire race and the one who murdered her family and her friends. Unfortunately, Cain is hunting Sabina, too.

The one man who holds the key to defeating Cain is, of course, Abel. A mage with secrets to spare and, hopefully, the power to match it. Unfortunately, for Sabina, he's in Rome and may not want to be found.

Sabina sets out for Italy with her friends, Giguhl and Adam Lazarus, to track down the only man who can get her the revenge she hungers for. But will he help her or oppose her? And just who is Abel, really? Worst of all, when Sabina figures out the goddess Lilith has a plan for her-she realizes this trip is getting deadlier by the minute. As they say: when in Rome-SURVIVE.

Read an excerpt of BLUE-BLOODED VAMP here. http://www.orbitbooks.net/2012/05/09/excerpt-launch-blue-blooded-vamp/

For more about my books, please check out my web site at http://www.jayewells.com, Twitter at http:www.twitter.com/jayewells and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/authorjayewells
To celebrate the release of BLUE-BLOODED VAMP, I'm giving away a copy of the book. To be entered, please share the location of your dream vacation in comments. 




***Jaye's winner is Pamerd!  Please email totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your full name and mailing details!***

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Free Books! - Opal Carew


Why do authors give their books away for free?  Have you ever wondered?

You go on Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com  and type in “free books” in the search field and you are provided with a list of free books.  Classics, romance, erotica, children’s stories, cookbooks, etc.  You can even search for free eBooks in the categories you like to read.

There are lots of reasons for an author to give away books.  To reward loyal readers, to gain audience, to get on a bestsellers list, to jump-start sales of a series, to get reviews.

With inexpensive eBook readers—from dedicated reading devices like Nook and Kindle, to a multi-purpose platform like the iPad that can read most eBook formats—there has been an explosion in the demand for eBooks, and many authors ate happy to step in and help supply that demand.  A lot of new authors are making their debut as self-published authors, rather than going the traditional publishing route.  Now the challenge is how to get noticed, especially for new authors.

When an author gives a book away for free, it gives readers a chance to try a book from a new author without monetary risk.  The author hopes, of course, that readers will like what they see and buy some of her other books.

A lot of established authors are self-publishing, too.  With so many new authors and books coming into the market, even the established author needs to find ways to get the word out.

One strategy is to put a book up for free for a limited time and hope that it will hit the top 100 in free books.  That gives the book momentum and it can often continue on the bestsellers list afterward because it’s garnered attention.

Giving away the first of a series is another good strategy.  If readers enjoy the first of the series, hopefully they’ll be willing to pay for the other books in the series.  This is a win-win for the author and the reader.  The reader tries the first book for free.  If they don’t like it, it has cost them nothing but their time.  And since they didn’t pay for it, they don’t need to feel they must finish it because of the hard-earned cash they laid out for it.  If they do like it, the author has developed a relationship with a potential loyal reader.  Most authors aren’t looking to sell just one book.  They want to develop a relationship with their readers.  Authors love to write, and they hope to build a readership with people who love to read what they write.

An author also hopes that some of those free copies will lead to customer reviews at on-line stores.  Many readers buy based on reviews by other readers, so these reviews are invaluable to an author.

So, why not treat yourself, and help out some authors too, by picking up a few free books?

Adopting these strategies myself, this coming Friday and Saturday, I am putting my story, VIRTUAL LOVE up for free at Amazon.com.  (Later in the summer, I hope to make a similar offer on Barnes and Noble.)  I hope you will all grab a copy.  Hopefully, you’ll discover a story you love, and the fact that you “bought” a copy will help my story rise in the sales ranks.  Why not pick up a few more free reads while you’re there and maybe discover some other new authors you’ll love as well?

Virtual Love
By Amber Carew

Control is what Jerette seeks when she enters virtual reality … until she is pursued by a mysterious stranger who infiltrates her sessions, turning her deepest desires into reality.


                                          
I also have a new novella coming out on May 29th, called Debt of Honor.  Check out the sexy cover!

Debt of Honor
By Opal Carew

Held captive by a domineering sheikh and made to pay for a crime she did not commit.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Discovering The New And Embracing The Old


I’ve been a lifelong reader and consider it one of my greatest joys. Books comfort me, relax me and looking at stack of shiny new paperbacks fills my heart with a funny sort of happiness.  (Please chime in on the comments and tell me this isn’t just me!!!)

What I’ve found over the years is that my reading joy tends to fall into two categories. The first is those “auto-buy” authors who I pick up the moment their books are out. Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child, Elizabeth Peters, Julia Quinn – all are a guaranteed great read and I have their upcoming release dates committed to memory. (Again….PLEASE chime in this isn’t just me!)

The second category, though, is one of a different sort of joy. I love finding new stories and new authors – books I stumbled upon through word of mouth, a fortuitous reading of a review, an Amazon recommendation or simply happened upon in the bookstore. Those books that I open up with no expectation beyond what I read on the back cover. It is in these books that a different sort of magic happens. The magic of discovery.

When I read a book by one of my “auto-buy” authors, I know what I’m going to get. The story may be different but the voice is familiar and wonderfully comfortable. With a new author, I’m turning the page to find out what comes next….racing through the story to see how the author solves that plot twist or pulls the hero and heroine together in that final, breathless moment of “will they or won’t they?”

For me, that is one of the great pleasures of reading. Every author has the same canvas, but what they do with that canvas is uniquely their own.

And I’m lucky enough to be along for the ride.

What about you? Do you enjoy finding new authors and if so, what new books have you discovered in the last year?  One commenter will be entered to win a copy of my latest release, WARRIOR ENCHANTED and I’ll select a winner at the end of today, May 21st from all who have posted.

Addison

***Addison's winner is Shelley B!  Shelley, please contact Addison directly at addisonfoxauthor@gmail.com with your mailing details!***

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chick Lit: It's Actually Not Poison After All! By Jenny Gardiner

"Chick lit" is a term that started out as a catch-all phrase used to describe lighthearted, sort of "fluff", dare I say even mindless, books about women, for women. While it originated as a clever term it quickly became a derogatory one, used with a sniff as if one needed to plug ones nose when referring to it. The literary crowd, women in particular, loved to take powerful swipes at writers of chick lit, contending that such writers aren't actually writers at all, but rather purveyors of schlock meant to dumb down women even more (to which I would reply, "No, that's any book by Snooki.") The first chick lit novel I stumbled upon years ago I think was Bridget Jones' Diary, which was an original and hilarious take on the life of a going-nowhere-fast twenty-something in London. Much of what drove the popularity of Bridget Jones' Diary was the voice of the author. And voice, frankly, is what made the genre work. And lack thereof contributed strongly in its rapid demise. That and an industry bent on greedily capitalizing on the popularity by publishing gobs and gobs of inferior books pawned off as chick lit but really just poorly-written, boringly-told poseurs. These books all exploited the original concept, and turned it into generic drivel: single-girl-in-the-city-with-crap-job-loads-of-credit-card-debt-cad-of-a-boyfriend-who-invariably-dumps-and-humiliates-her-and-sage-gay-male-best-friend-who-dope-slaps-her-into-reality-and-enables-her-to-recognize-the-real-white-knight-on-the-horse-when-he-gallops-up-to-her-doorstep-and-saves-her. Back when chick lit first surfaced, you couldn't get much of it here in the States. I used to order books from Amazon.co.uk, which got pretty costly when transatlantic shipping was added into the mix. Not to mention the lengthy delivery times too forever. So I was pretty happy at first when American publishing houses started putting out chick lit, starting with the now-ubiquitous Jen Weiner, one of maybe three authors allowed by New York publishing houses to actually still publish books that could be accused of donning the mantle of chick lit; every other author who wrote anything that smacked even narrowly of chick lit fell victim to the fact that the industry glutted the market with crap, and so readers turned en masse away from the genre. And the industry response naturally was that "oh, then only three authors can write and sell these books!" Rather than realizing that had they screwed things up royally and that perhaps they could fix it by offering up actual books of substance within the genre. Instead, chick lit became Voldemort: "she who shall not be named" within the industry. Now I know my attitude about this genre is likely to be viewed as subversive by industry insiders. And likely so by the three authors anointed as the only industry-approved standard bearers allowed to publish books with strong first person voices, a hallmark of chick lit back in the day. It was frustrating to a generation of authors that the drawbridge leading to the castle had been shut tight, the moat secured with guards (i.e. editors) prepared to dump vats of boiling oil on interlopers who would dare attempt to publish a book that might be accused of being a -- horror of horrors! -- chick lit novel. Instead many authors I knew eventually stopped writing women's fiction altogether and instead turned toward young adult fiction, because that market was burgeoning and it seems even if plenty of YA books were lackluster at best (as had been the case with the chick lit mania), for some reason there was a ceaseless demand for more of the genre, regardless. Ah, I've often bemoaned the shoulda coulda woulda in that regard: had I been in touch with my inner teen angst, I, too, could've made a killing writing dystopian, vampire-drenched novels targeted at teens in perpetual need of further edginess in their reading material. But alas, I wasn't. The funny thing is I have long been drawn to first person narrative, and it had nothing to do with chick lit. My first exposure to first person likely came with JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, or maybe it was Gene Shepherds fabulous In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, or maybe it was in a few of James Joyce's stories in Dubliners. I always find it ironic that the publishing industry shunned first person writing across the board with little exception for women writing books for women about women, but it seemed to have worked well for some of the masters of the 20th century. Go figure. Which brings me to that double standard regarding the chick lit genre. We like to call it the Dick Lit dilemma. You see, authors like Nick Hornby have written stories about young adult slacker men frozen in their inability to grow as human beings (the male version of the crap-job-lousy-fill-in-the-blank-going-nowhere-fast-life, though usually with a woman at the helm to ultimately kick their butt and set them straight), really the male version of chick lit, and the attitude of the publishing industry toward men writing dick lit has been "bring it on." While overtly shunning women authors writing pretty much anything shy of literary fiction or genre fiction such as romance, mystery or crime novels. Because, god forbid, the book might be perceived as chick lit, and don't forget, no one buys chick lit unless written by one of three sanctioned authors. Naturally because they're the only ones who actually succeeded in publishing chick lit books. But never mind that. At first women authors initially had to rename whatever it was they were writing and trying to sell to New York houses as "women's fiction," but then the industry got sly to that tagline, and then it had to be even more cloaked in disguise. I picture a manuscript wearing a Groucho Marx nose and glasses in a lame attempt to sneak into the party. Because there was a party there, just no one but three authors were invited to attend and swill the free-flowing expensive champagne. And those authors somehow found their audience again and again with their novels (natch, as they were the only ones whose books made it to the marketplace!). While everyone else had to make a rapid u-turn and start writing other types of books instead (or take a job working at Taco Bell), because the gatekeepers, i.e. the publishing industry, were standing around the moat with those vats of boiling oil. All the while, readers who thought that no one wrote chick lit anymore (but for those three authors) just continued to await any new release by the Chosen Three, buying a book or two a year, tops. And no doubt eventually walking away from chick lit to find authors in other genres because the pickings were so slim in chick lit-slash-women's fiction-slash-anything written for women that wasn't literary or didn't refer to Jane Austen in the title (which is a guaranteed sale to New York). Tail wagging the dog, perhaps? Had the genre not been diluted down to a sewage pit in a Mumbai slum by the industry, mayhaps these readers could have had a much deeper selection of women's fiction novels from which to draw for their chosen reading material. But then one day Amazon came along, and changed all that. Because they made possible the impossible: they enabled authors to go directly to their readers. And provide books that readers have been interested in finding. But couldn't. And guess what? To borrow from Sally Field's somewhat embarrassing Academy Award acceptance speech of about a hundred years ago...authors learned "They like us! They really like us!" Turns out they thought we'd all stopped writing or something, when nothing could have been further from the truth. The beauty of the digital era in reading and the internet in general is the populist revolution has occurred: all of us have learned that the middle man, while sometimes providing a useful service, has often only served as a detriment. Sure, now readers have to be perhaps even more vigilant because there is a lot more schlock available for sale in the book world than ever before. Every Tom, Dick and Harry (or should that be Tammy, Dana and Sally?) thinks they should publish a novel, and frankly, maybe some of them ought not quit their day jobs. But the great thing is a) the books are cheaper, and so maybe you lose out $2.99 on a lousy book, versus in the Gilded Age of publishing's chick lit (which lasted for all of 6 months), you were out $10-$15 on a lousy book; b) you can read a sample for free to be sure you want to shell out the money, and 3) hey, back then most of what you bought that actually had filtered through those gatekeepers was ghastly bad anyhow -- we could only go up from there! So the moral to the story is this: yay. Writers have some great choices these days. And readers have some great choices, too. And all those books that were collecting dust in writers laptops are finally finding their audience, which is all good for everyone! Thanks for indulging me in my vent. It's always fun to moan and complain a bit. More fun to explain to you why you haven't been able to find these books. And now you can! I hope you can check out some of the authors on this blog hop and maybe find a new favorite.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Morphing Monsters Into Heroes

Imagination is a blessing and a curse.  For the past ten years I've loved writing books with sexy vampires, werewolves, and dragon-shifters.  But I wasn’t always so comfortable with the world of dark fantasy creatures.  Not when I was a kid with a vivid imagination.

At the age of four, I moved with my family to an apartment building with an elevator that broke down periodically, trapping tenants for hours.  I was terrified to ride that elevator by myself, so I’d dash up or down five flights of stairs to our apartment.  Unfortunately, I’d also learned about vampires, and they’d be right behind me in the dark stairwell, their cold breath chilling the back of my neck.

When I was eight, we moved into a house, where the kid up the street had a gruesome collection of Tales from the Crypt comic books that gave me nightmares.  Why didn’t I stop reading them?   Probably only a psychoanalyst can give you the answer.

I graduated from comic books to scary novels and short stories.  Dracula was my next vampire.  I read Bram Stoker’s classic when I was 15, and the count scared me spitless.

But everything changed later that year when I stumbled on DARKER THAN YOU THINK, by Jack Williamson.  It was about a guy named Will Barbee (of all things) being turned on to his werewolf heritage by a sexy woman named April Bell.  Williamson wrote it so well that he made me want to BE a werewolf.

Okay, maybe these creatures of the night aren’t so bad.  Especially when the writer makes them sympathetic.  And you can identify with them.

My early reading was mostly fantasy and science fiction.  I’d never read a romance until a friend asked me if I wanted to write one.  When she brought over several bags of romance paperbacks, I loved them.  And I realized I’d always looked for a romance subplot in the fiction I read.  Like the relationship between Will and April in DARKER THAN YOU THINK.

That story stuck with me for years.  And another werewolf, Michael Gallatin in THE WOLF’S HOUR, captured my imagination later.  Those books made me want to write my own werewolf story.  And I finally took the plunge with KILLING MOON.  The hero is Ross Marshall, the head of my Marshall werewolf pack. A private detective who uses his wolf senses to solve crimes, he’s brought his clan into the 21st century.

I love my sexy werewolf guys, alpha males who are tortured by their  heritage yet search for the one special woman who will renew their bond with humanity.  The latest is Cole Marshall in DARK MOON, available as a trade paperback and as an e-book on Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, and other online outlets.

He works for a new detective agency I’ve created, Decorah Security.  When he and fellow Decorah operative, Emma Richards, are sent to rescue a kidnap victim on a cruise ship that’s been converted to an S&M playground, their relationship heats up as the web of danger around them tightens.  It’s my kind of book, where the intensity of the peril heightens the development of the love story.  And Cole’s werewolf traits are a key factor in saving their lives.

Do you like guys who are more than human in the books you read?  If so, which are your favorites?

Rebecca York
www.rebeccayork.com

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Family Ties - Romance-style!

   I know that many readers, myself included, simply love to read stories that feature members of a family.  It could be about a number of brothers or sister, fathers and son, it doesn't matter to me. There's just something about finding out what happens to the next family member that keeps me reading and reading. . .and reading. 

   I guess my first exposure to this was in Bertrice Small's Skye O'Malley series. We followed the rather steamy adventures of Skye and her family through several generations and countries and kept reading and reading.

   Each book was steamier than the last and we got to meet and Skye and her brothers and then her daughter and, of course, the two men she would love forever Niall and Adam....sigh... 

    Bertrice wrote a number of unconnected books throughout the same time, but it was the outrageous Skye who held our attention as we breathlessly waited for the next part of the saga.


  From there, I discovered other authors who wrote stories about families -- and now it's quite the craze -- actually I think that very few authors are NOT writing connected family stories (whether those families are bonded by blood or honor or experience or whatever creates that strong connection between them.)  Most authors propose series of three-or-four books when they are in the contracting process because they simply are so popular. 

    Right now, I'm working on the next generation of a family I created for a previous trilogy -- one that has taken off and is selling well around the world in more than 20 languages and 25 countries! Those sexy, dangerous, wonderful Highlanders - gotta love 'em! - are so popular, I'm now writing a 'second generation' trilogy.  Now Connor & Jocelyn, Duncan & Marian and Rurik & Margriet will see their own children falling in love and facing many of the same challenges that they did years before. And just as parents must have a care for offering advice or making demands, these Highlanders must resist the almost-overwhelming urge to interfere with their children's choices! 

    And it's fun -- both creating the tension then standing back to watch what happens. Some of the now-grown children will make the same mistakes as their parents. Some will learn from those mistakes, but still make some of their own.  And love is hatching all over Lairig Dubh! 

   So, what about you? Do you have any favorite series from favorite authors? Are the stories connected by actual families or other bonds? Or any series that you think ended too soon? Post a note and I'll be picking out 3 readers to win a copy of one of my Highlander books!

 Terri is working on the third book of the new MacLerie Clan trilogy that will begin with a digital short story - TAMING THE HIGHLAND ROGUE - in August. THE HIGHLANDER'S STOLEN TOUCH is a September release in print and digital formats from Harlequin Historicals. Visit her website for more info about her upcoming books and events!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lisa Dale: Amazing Bookshelves...Hey, A Girl Can Dream!

My husband and I are in the process of moving (the very beginning of the process, in which we are seeking a place to move to.) And that means I'm spending a lot of time on real estate websites, fantasizing about my dream home. :-)

So, in honor of readers who dream, here's a collection of some of my "dream bookcases," which I do hope will be making an appearance in my waking life soon!

http://writersrelief.tumblr.com/search/bookshelves

http://www.ngocrump.com/works_bookshelf.html

http://sweethomedecorating.com/amazing-bookcases-design-collection/go-bookshelf-design

http://bookshelff.blogspot.com/


http://vi.sualize.us/view/e9cdb6cadecf857d5aa2f2c072b3c055/

http://cheezburger.com/5006331904

And of course, I HAD to post this fabulous video...




Hope your bookshelves are as exciting and full of stories as these!

Love,

Lisa Dale
www.LisaDaleBooks.com




Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Romantic Setting


One of my favorite things about my new book, BEGUILING THE BEAUTY, is that a good bit of the story takes place during a transatlantic crossing, on a luxury ocean liner.  The year is 1896, the ship is the Rhodesia, based on the RMS Campania and the RMS Lucania, sister ships of the Cunard Lines which, at the time, were the titans of speed and elegance on the high seas.

Life on board is quite leisurely.  The gentlemen, in their smoking lounge, would wager on the ship’s progress for each day.  Starting at an expected average speed of, say, five hundred thirty-five knots, they would place their bets on how far under or over average the liner would travel in twenty-four hours.  The next morning, the actual distance the liner had covered would be posted, the gentlemen would settle their bets and start again.

Ladies, in their own lounges, wrote letters, read books, played card games, and made new friends among the passengers.  When weather permitted, everyone would stroll the decks and watch for dolphins.  By the time I am writing, transatlantic crossings were so short—usually less than a week—that few elaborate activities were planned.  But on longer routes, such as those going from London to Cape Town, passengers organized into teams—ladies vs gentlemen, single vs. married--and played cricket matches that lasted for days.  And perhaps there would even be a costume ball on the last night on the voyage to celebrate the imminent arrival at the port of destination.

For me, there is such romance to ocean travel, I can’t think of a more perfect place for a man and a woman to meet and fall in love than on a ship.  I’d love to hear your idea of a most romantic place to meet, whether in real life or in a story.  One commenter will receive a copy of BEGUILING THE BEAUTY.
        
BEGUILING THE BEAUTY:

When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg aboard a transatlantic ocean liner, he is fascinated. She is exactly what he has been searching for—a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast—and soon proposes marriage. 



And then she disappears without a trace… 



For in reality, the “baroness” is Venetia Easterbrook—a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised—and there’s no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked…

Sherry 
www.sherrythomas.com

***Sherry's winner is Karen H in NC!!  Please email me at totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your mailing details!***

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Getting Excited about Berlin by Michelle Styles

One of the great joys of being a writer is the chance to meet readers in person. And being published with Harlequin means I have readers all over the world, so I jumped at the chance to go to the German romance magazine, LoveLetter Magazin's first conference in June. Apparently there will be readers from around Europe. It is the first time that I have ever attended a reader's convention as opposed an authors' conference. The German market is the largest non Enlgish speaking romance market.
I get to spend two days doing panel discussions, meeting readers and generally getting to know readers better. There is a dinner on the Saturday night for the authors and editors as well.
Never having been to Berlin before but having grown up with tales of Berlin, I am looking forward to seeing the city. My grandfather was stationed in Berlin just after WW2 as the US naval attache and my grandmother did a lot of work with refugees during that period. A dear family friend was from Berlin. Some of her family was in the eastern bit and I can vividly remember the tales. She had suffered greatly when Berlin fell to the Russians but had carved out a new life in the US. So I shall spend a little time sight seeing as well.
Next month, I will give a full report of the conference but right now I am just excited to be going.

In other writing news:
I received the cover for my August release -- His Unsuitable Viscountess which is a Regency Romance and love the feel of it. The dress might not be Regency but wouldn't it be fun to wear it?  I can't wait to hold the book in my hand. The blurb reads:
From hard-headed businesswoman…

A lifetime of living in a man’s world has given sword-making factory owner Eleanor Blackwell some very definite opinions – particularly about the duplicity of men!

…to blushing bride?

Benjamin Grayson, Viscount Whittonstall, seems to be cut from a different cloth—Eleanor responds to his touch with a passion normally only reserved for fencing! She may be spectacularly unsuited for aristocracy, but Ben has different ideas when he plans to safeguard her business with a very convenient proposal...
You can read an excerpt here.
It is published in August in both the US and the UK.
 My latest manuscript was accepted and I am utterly thrilled that Sophie from To Marry A Matchmaker will have her own story (the publication date is to be decided) and I have agreed a new contract. This time I get to concentrate on writing more Vikings, something which I am very pleased about. So it has been a good month.
Here's hoping you have had a positive month as well.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance. You can read more about her books on her website www.michellestyles.co.uk

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The First Fruit of Summer...


I love strawberries, so I always try to have a few ready for my birthday this month. Another snowy winter followed by a long dry spell stressed the plants in the garden quite badly, so they’ve been late starting into growth. Then just as they were coming into flower, an unexpected hard frost nipped them. All the centres of the open flowers went black, which means they'll die. Luckily I had some spare strawberry plants growing in the greenhouse. They didn't suffer so badly over winter, and were protected from the worst of the weather. We picked the first ripe berries on 6th May this year. There weren’t very many, but there are plenty more to come. Those fruits were all the more delicious for being home grown, with absolutely no food miles! The weather here has been miserable for ages, so its great to escape to the greenhouse.  Opening its door to be greeted by the smell of ripe fruit is lovely, whether it’s the strawberries, or melons and tomatoes later in the year - and really fresh fruit tastes even better than it looks and smells.
My favourite time of the year is always now, whenever that might be. In spring there are all the signs of new life like snowdrops, primroses and the dawn chorus of birds to enjoy. Nightingales  arrive back in the woods of Gloucestershire after wintering in the sun, and listening to them is a real treat. 
Summer brings the delicious smell of freshly mown grass, more ripe fruit and long, hopefully sunny days.  When the sun shines - which hasn’t happened often so far this year - it’s tempting to escape from the office and head out into the garden. Thank goodness for laptops! 
We may lose the swifts and swallows in autumn, but we gain flocks of redwings attracted by windfall apples. I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of collecting conkers and kicking through fallen leaves. Finally, winter’s short gloomy days makes spending time in the garden less of a temptation, but that gives me the excuse to spend more time in the kitchen. The downside of that, of course, is that calories consumed in the shape of casseroles and chocolate cake aren’t burned off easily. When it’s wet and cold or dark, it’s so easy to curl up in front of the fire after a good meal rather than muffle up and go out for a walk.
What’s your favourite time of year? There’s a signed book from my backlist on offer for a comment picked at random!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Out and About in the Hunter Valley!

by Anna Campbell

The start of this year has been full-on writing for me. All that computer interaction has made Anna a very dull girl indeed. So I was really looking forward to a couple of days down south with my very dear friend and critique partner, Annie West, at the beginning of April. 

Annie lives in a very beautiful part of the world, Lake Macquarie in New South Wales. That's the lake behind me in the photo to the left of this paragraph. As you can see, we had lovely weather for my visit!

Her house is set amongst towering gum trees and I love watching the birds that visit - lorikeets and cockatoos and rosellas and other assorted natives.

So I thought I'd share a few photos and a few memories of my writerly visit. Annie herself blogged about my visit in April here at Tote Bags if you'd like to see some more pics: http://www.authorsoundrelations.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/joys-of-sunday-drive-annie-west.html 

Most of these photos were taken on the Friday of my visit. When Annie and I were unpublished, we both promised that once we sold, we'd take the other one out to lunch every time we had a book accepted. This lunch was to celebrate the acceptance of Annie's wonderful GIRL IN THE BEDOUIN TENT so she picked up the tab, bless her. We're at Milano's Restaurant, right on the edge of the lake. Gorgeous setting and lovely food and wonderful service.

I took pictures of the desserts. Aren't they spectacular? Annie's was the delicious chocolate looking thing and I had a very rich banana pudding concoction.

Are you feeling hungry? I've just had breakfast and I'm salivating!

Another lovely thing about being on the lake is that you get to watch the fishermen and the walkers and the prolific bird life. We saw black swans and gulls and cormorants who perched on the boat rails to dry their wings. I love it when they stand there like silhouettes!

It's always such an affirmation of the paths we've taken when we get together for one of our author lunches. The next one is  at the Gold Coast during the Romance Writers of Australia conference. My turn to pick up the tab for MIDNIGHT'S WILD PASSION!

Because I hadn't seen Annie for ages, we both had presents to deliver. Below, you'll see a shot of me clutching some goodies - I think I went home with a heavier suitcase than the one I arrived with! It was like Christmas all over again.

Don't mistake that we just played ladies of leisure on my visit. In between all the highjinks, we did a stack of serious critiquing work. We speak often on the phone and email like fiends, but there's something special about face-to-face sessions. So inspiring. I always come home with a million new ideas.

We brainstorm new stories, talk about writing problems, discuss issues with works in progress, dissect the wider writing industry and how any changes (lately there's been lots of changes!) affect us.

It's always wonderful for me to have such an in-depth session on my career and work. I hope Annie feels the same! I know I always feel very lucky that we hooked up together at my very first Romance Writers of Australia conference.

If any of you are aspiring writers and wondering whether attending a writing conference is worth the expense, take the chance. You never know who you might meet!

We also celebrate good news. Writing tends to be a fairly solitary occupation - after all, you're sitting on your own at a computer getting those words down. There are days when the only 'people' I talk to are the characters in my head. And while naturally those characters are excellent company, it's nice to raise a glass with someone flesh and blood. I dread to tell you quite how many bottles we empty when we get together. I think our livers are grateful that there's a recovery gap between each visit! Annie had recently won a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for her sublime PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE so we raised a glass to Alaric and Tamsin. Hic!

Speaking of livers, for ages, we've been talking about visiting the vineyards up in the Hunter Valley, one of Australia's premier wine-producing areas. We had a lovely drive over the weekend up the valley and in the process, visited a couple of vineyards and some historic small towns.

The photo on the left shows the goodies we picked up at Tyrrells Winery, one of the oldest in the area. The views from the vineyard were beautiful - check out Annie's blog to see them! And yet again, the weather blessed us. It's been a wet year in Australia; I've learned not to take the sunshine for granted.

It was also great fun when I was down to catch up with super-talented Harlequin Mills and Boon Romance author Michelle Douglas. We had an uproarious get-together at a coffee shop down near the lake.

I love this fun photo of the girls. They look so happy holding up Michelle's latest book THE MAN WHO SAW HER BEAUTY.  Michelle made that very groovy tote bag Annie is holding up. Isn't she clever? I can't even cut wrapping paper straight so I'm in awe of anyone who does crafty stuff.

So have you been out and about lately? Tell me somewhere nice you've been!