Sunday, September 30, 2007

Behind The Book - Michelle Monkou

So much happens behind writing a book, beyond plotting, building characters, and providing a happy ending. There is personal life of family, day job, and revelations that can add, detract, or knock you completely out of whack.
About two years ago, I experienced a series of revelations that now add another layer to how and what I write. I discovered (after having that feeling since I was about 11 yrs. old) that I was adopted. I learned that my adopted mom and my birth mother kept in touch through my life with updates about me. I have four additional half brothers and a half sister. After reconnecting with them in England and Chicago, the reunion couldn't have been any better with the sudden expansion of my family.

Ironically when I when through the initial investigation, discovery, shock, and all the other tumbling set of emotions, I was in middle of writing my book - Island Rendezvous (published in 2006), sequel to Finders Keepers (published in 2003) where the hero discovers that he has a brother. The hero grew up with his grandmother and eventually through the foster care system, but his brother grew up with his father in another country under wealthier circumstances.

Island Rendezvous focused on the feelings of abandonment, the trauma of family secrets, and taking the step toward forgiveness and reconciliation. I remember asking my editor for an extension for delivering the story because the book started to take a darker, angsty tone. I had to work on separating my personal journey with the characters' journeys. It's one of my most sexiest works. So I definitely took the tone to a different place - LOL.

As a rule, I don't make a point of writing about my life into my stories. Yet, I find myself using characters to answer the "what ifs" in life. My current book, Straight To The Heart (September 2007), introduces a formidable secondary character, a mother, who searches for her runaway daughter, while embracing the heroine, like a daughter.

Maybe one day, I'll put my story to paper to inspire others. But right now, I'm in a good place writing romantic fiction with a touch of everyday grittiness and good dollop of spice.

Michelle Monkou

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Who Will Be the Sexiest Man Alive for 2007? by Diana Holquist

Ah, fall. Time to turn our thoughts to school lunches. Radiant foliage. And, most importantly, People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive for 2007.

Yes, the issue comes out in November, and since I've given a bit of thought to what makes a man sexy (yeah, I wrote a whole book about it), I thought I'd put in my early prediction.


Remember, you heard it here first:

My husband.

(Hi honey!)

My second choice?

David Beckham.

There really isn't much more to say, is there?

I know, I know, "bench it like Beckham" and "worst team in the league" and all that.

But this isn't really about soccer, now is it?

What do you think? Who should be the sexiest man alive for 2007?

While you think about it, I'll take a quick moment to introduce myself. I'm Diana Holquist and Sexiest Man Alive is my second book. It's a romantic comedy with a paranormal twist and it's coming out TOMORROW (gulp!). It's the story of a woman who comes to believe that her One True Love as destined by fate is People magazine's sexiest man alive.

Here's the trailer if you like these sorts of things. Thanks so much for having me as a guest blogger today. I hope you'll check out the book. Leave me a comment with your pick for sexiest man alive 2007. I'll choose two random commenters to receive autographed copies of Sexiest Man Alive.

Thanks again for having me!

check out my website for excerpts, reviews and more!


Friday, September 28, 2007

Guilty as Charged!

I'm so pleased to be added as a regular contributor here on Tote Bags n' Blogs! And I thought I might as well start with a post about something near and dear to my heart...the fundamentals of why I read, and write, romantic fiction.

Yesterday on BBC Radio 4, Mills and Boon was the subject of a show called GUILTY PLEASURES. As a Mills and Boon author, I, and several other authors, were waiting with bated breath to see if it would perpetuate all the old stereotypes around category romance or if the times were changing.

And there was a bit of both and it was, for the most part, balanced. Many of the interviews and bits, especially with authors Sharon Kendrick and Gill Sanderson and editors Jo Carr and Meg Sleightholme, did a lot to dispel the negative connotations that go with reading popular romantic fiction.

But fight as we do, try as we may, there are still those that consider what we do a teeny step above gum on their literary shoes and it burns my bottom to see supposedly well-educated, intelligent women demeaning their own sex.

I actually laughed at Celia Brayfield’s assertion that it’s all clichéd and yet we try to remove the clichés and you can see the holes. Seriously? I actually had a mental image of a book with huge chunks missing where we’d slipped in those pesky things! And another of my frantic editor ripping out massive blocks of text. (I’d have a hard time making word count then, wouldn’t I!) Moreover, we write to a target audience. Are there expectations? Of course! You know what you’re getting with a Mills and Boon story – a happy ending. And ask any author of category romance, and they’ll tell you that finding new and fresh ways of meeting that expectation is what keeps us on our toes.

Mary Evans, a Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Kent, goes further and asserts that actually nothing happens in our novels. There is no relevance, no “discussion.” And I say to that…well, I won’t type the word here. But I can say that my next release is very relevant. It is timely and it is about real problems…problems like coming home from war a changed man, and having to deal with real feelings of guilt and grief and how to actually relate to people who have no idea what you’ve suffered. We tackle real-life issues and guarantee a happy ending.

Why does it need to be a book of some higher and greater purpose? I went back to a passage in my book STORY by Robert McKee: “When your premise is an idea you feel you must prove to the world, and you design your story as an undeniable certification of that idea, you set yourself on the road to didacticism. In your zeal to persuade, you will stifle the voice of the other side.”

I don’t want to write didactic tomes. I want my characters flawed and messy and with lots of gray area…just like people. What more personal and relevant thing is there above exploring our own motivations and what makes us the people we are? I’d actually argue that MORE people should read romance novels. Romance novels are about good people who have had their share of problems and growth…overcoming those obstacles and finding that ONE PERSON to share their lives with. A committed, monogamous relationship! So far I’m not seeing the downside. I think if more people read books with hope for the future we’d see a more caring society. There, I said it.

As far as comments made about the readers of romance having “two neurons” and being “just” able to read…my dear ladies. I have a university degree in English Literature. I can assure you that I can read. More than adequately. Moreover I can actually be discriminating. My degree actually taught me to have an open mind.

What really burns me is when people act like they are speaking for an entire gender when they are not. There is a new feminism in this millennium and it’s not about pitting male against female, it’s about a woman’s right. A woman’s right to be exactly who she is. Her right to become who she wants to be and celebrate that, whether it’s a stay at home mum or the President. It’s about embracing the choice. So don’t you dare adopt a patronizing tone when you chastise us for exercising our choice just because it doesn’t match up with your rhetoric.

I think Faye Weldon put it best, so I’ll close with that. She said she might not read it, but she will “fight to the death for the rights of the readers to read what they want.”

Amen, sister.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Inside the Writing Life for Lucy Monroe

Is there anything sexier than a super studly, oh so stubborn Scottish laird? I sure didn't think so when I was writing Annabelle's Courtship. (Well, okay, *maybe* dh, but that's it! LOL) The thing is I had so much fun with this book, writing it just for me. Not for a deadline, not for a particular publisher, just because I'd dreamt up these characters and could no more hold back from telling their story than I could from breathing. Writing is like that for me, absolutely necessary.
I never realized how much so until this past year when some health issues made it difficult to concentrate on my stories. I'm not a super nice person when I don't write and I've got a husband and houseful of teenagers who will verify that for you without blinking an eye. :) They will also verify that to interrupt me when I'm writing the black moment is a very bad thing, but dh doesn't mind the consequences of certain types of scenes and I'm sure you know what they are. Yikes...did I really say that? I guess I did. LOL

And there were times writing Deal With This (Nov 27th release) that I laughed out loud and man, my family appreciated that mood. :) Dh also got some special time 'cuz you know Alan and Jillian are a bit flamboyant and theories have to be tested and all that. But I'm not just talking about gasp...can I say it? SEX...I'm talking about EMOTION too.You've no idea how many discussions I've had with my own wonderful alpha hubby over a hero's motivations and actions. Ian from Annabelle's Courtship and Alan from Deal With This are no exceptions. I won't tell you which one he identified with most easily, but I will say that many things may change over history, but certain truths about alpha men are not on that list. :)

I've got a question for you all though, Annabelle's Courtship came out first as an eBook (it'll be in print in the Fall of 08) and Deal With This will naturally come out in print first and electronic format shortly thereafter. What I want to know is, do you read eBooks and if so, do you read them when available by print authors, or do you have certain authors you buy exclusively in electronic format? I know that I tend to buy a whole set of autobuy authors in eBook and another set in print and then there's a group I insist on having both editions of - for different types of reading (in bed at night versus in the hot tub, you


P.S. I love to give away prizes, so one winner randomly drawn from the comments on this post will receive a personalized signed ARC for DEAL WITH THIS.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

London Calling - Christina Hollis

I’ve just spent 363 days chained to my computer. Then last week, I escaped! I left my home in the countryside, and went up to London. This was a big deal for me. It was the first time I’d spent away from home, alone, in seventeen years. Kate Walker and Michelle Reid were hosting a dinner for the Harlequin Mills and Boon ‘Presents’ authors, so it was a very special appointment. I’d met Kate, Jacqueline Baird and Abby Green last year, at my first Mills and Boon event. This time I got to chat with India Grey and Natalie Rivers, too. Next day, there was a lunch organised by the Association of Mills and Boon authors. That was followed by a reception where, among other excitements, Kate Walker received her commemorative gold brooch for the fantastic achievement of writing fifty romances.

Meeting up like this is a great opportunity to socialise and swap experiences. Writing romance is the best job in the world, but it’s a solitary affair. It’s good to know that you’re not alone in sharing the pleasures and pitfalls of sitting behind a computer screen all day. We keep in touch regularly via e-mail, but there’s no substitute for a face-to-face chat. Especially when it comes complete with good food and a glass of wine!

If you’d like to read more about my first trip to London alone, I’ll be posting on my blog when I get the chance. Find it on my website,, by clicking on the link to ‘Christina’s blog’

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Christine Rimmer Explains How a Book Can Live Forever

Well, almost....

A long time ago in a galaxy called California, I wrote a book for Silhouette Desire called Midsummer Madness. That would be the cover, there at the left.

Midsummer Madness is the story of shy, plain Juliet Huddleston who vowed to make her next thirty years more exciting than the first. Julie didn't fool around once she set that goal. She learned to get up and speak in front of large groups. She took over the job of directing her small town's summer pageant. She bought herself a fast red sports car. And best of all, she got a little heat going with the town hunk, Cody McIntyre.

Yeah, yeah. I know. About the girl on the cover. Too gorgeous by half--well, except for those jeans. You know it's 1992 when the waistband hits halfway up the ribcage. The guy's not bad. Tom Cruise circa ALL THE RIGHT MOVES. Anyone remember that one? Okay. RISKY BUSINESS. Tom Cruise circa RISKY BUSINESS. Is he helping her down from the fence--or boosting her up there? I guess we'll never know. In any case, they're both having a fine time.

I was okay with this cover, as I recall. Coulda been worse. And the book itself was my first RITA finalist. Was I thrilled to make the finals? Oh, you bet!

But the years have passed. And frumpy-to-fabulous Julie and her hunky hero went from North American retail through stints in the UK, Canada and Australia. Then on to translations into Dutch and Swedish, German and Polish. Into Italian and Turkish and Spanish. The couple have been read in the Czech republic and Belgium. Strangely, I notice as I look over my royalty statements, Julie and Cody have never been to Japan. Surprising, as my books sell well in Japan.

Then came the slow fade. The royalties trickled off. Other than a brief flare-up in Costco in 2002, in a Trade Paperback anthology with a lovely Jayne Ann Krentz story and a fine tale by Lynne Graham, Julie and Cody were out of print and only available at selected local used book stores.

Until now. September 2007.

With all-new and totally faboo packaging, Julie and Cody are back on the stands. Oh, I do love their new look. He is major hot and she looks shy and sweet and hungry for all the love and pleasure and fun she's missed up till now. You can pick them up at B&N or Amazon. Or visit my website and read more about them.

Here's to you, Julie and Cody. May you live on and on through the years, through reprint after reprint.

So, everyone. What do you think? Do you like Julie and Cody's new look as much as I do? Or do you prefer the original cover?

Monday, September 24, 2007

100 not out! Looking back - and forward . . . with Kate Walker

Last year I let you all know about the very first Presents Authors dinner that was held on the night before the annual AMBA (Association of Mills & Boon Authors) lunch in London, here in the UK. I’ve just got back home from three days in London where there was a second Presents dinner on the Thursday night, followed by another AMBA lunch on the Friday.

And both these events brought home to me how things are changing and developing in the world of romance writing.Which is funny because the image that Romances have out in the world of the press and the media is that nothing ever changes. That romances are just the same now as they were way back in 1908 when Mills & Boon first published their books. 1908. One hundred years ago, next year. The UK part of Harlequin, now known as Harlequin Mills & Boon will be celebrating its centenary all through 2008 and plans are already being made to mark this very special event.

India Grey and Abby Green ->

We were told some of the plans while we were at the AMBA lunch, with talk of a special exhibition on display all through the year, the books having a special centenary logo and other plans that can’t yet be revealed – but I’ll let you know about them here or on my own website and my blog just as soon as I hear. These will be very exciting – and so will be the brand new books that are coming up, books that are edited at Harlequin Mills & Boon in Richmond UK. And the Presents Authors dinner which Michelle Reid and I hosted the night before the AMBA lunch was something that showed how the company is growing and developing. There was a mixture of the older authors - myself, Michelle, Jacqueline Baird - and some of the newest signings - Abby Green, Christina Hollis, India Grey and Natalie Rivers, all of whom have had their first books out in the past 12 months or so or whose books are due to come to America very soon.

Abby Green again and Christina Hollis
And on Friday at AMBA and the champagne reception hosted by HMB afterwards it was the same. Veteran authors like Catherine George, Carole Mortimer and Margaret Mayo mixed with newer signings like Donna Alward (Romance) and Chantelle Shaw together with some brand new Historical authors like Annie Burrows.

One great piece of news that was announced and that I can share with you is that HMB are moving into India. Now I know that there are plenty of readers of romances in India - I have had many email messages from readers there and some of you have won my contests. But I know that actually getting hold of the books can be difficult. Hopefully this will now be easier. At the reception on Friday I met the charming and enthusiastic man who will be in charge of this new venture and he is very keen to make it work. The launch of the first books will be, if I remember rightly, in November this year and there will be six Presents/Modern novels in the first books released out there

I also heard news of new developments that will be coming up for my own line – Presents (Modern Romance in the UK) in the near future. I can’t let you in on the details yet but look out for changes from January 2008 – and as these changes will mean the publication of more of the books you love then I hope they will be changes you’ll welcome.

Sharing champagne with Chantelle Shaw

In amongst all this news and changes, there was also a very special moment for me at the reception when HMB’s Editorial Director Karin Stoecker presented me with a special pin to mark the publication of my 50th title (The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge) which came out in July. This of course made me look back and reflect on the changes that have happened to the company I write for since my very first book was published way back in 1984. One thing I’ve learned since then is that publishing never stands still and that romance writing is always changing, always developing. That’s what keeps the books fresh and exciting and keeps the readers coming back for more all through the years. And for a company that will be 100 in 2008, that’s a fantastic, brilliant record. One I’m so proud to have been part of.
Receiving my 50th pin from Karin Stoecker

And I’m really looking forward to meeting the new challenges that are coming up with the dawning of Mills & Boon’s centenary year. I hope you’ll come back here – and on my personal blog and website - and join in the celebrations as they happen. And just as soon as I can tell you more about what’s happening, I will.

And I think that's me caught up - except for one thing - I know that like everyone at the Reception, you'll all want to know what that special pin looks like - so here it is - and I have to add to this a special thank you to each and every one of my readers out there because without you reading my books and buying the next one - and the next - I would never have been able to keep writing, keep selling- and so reach ths special celebration and achievement. So here's the gold pin that I'm sharing with you all because you helped me to achieve it - Thank you all so much.
I wonder what you most remember about the romance authors you read in the past. I'd love to know


Friday, September 21, 2007

What Was I Thinking? - Jennifer Ashley

I asked myself this question recently when I sat down to start a book I had contracted a year ago and hadn’t had the chance to mull over for a while. I’d written I think three other books in the meantime (I write under several different names for different publishers), so it had been a while since I visited that particular world.

It usually takes me a little bit of time to come off one book and get fully into another, but unfortunately I didn’t have time this time for a comfortable transition.

So there I was, facing Chapter 1, Page 1, and everything was gone.


My story and characters had done a bunk, and the deadline was looming. Oh, I had the original synopsis I’d sold the book on, but. . . what was I thinking??

I banged my head against the keyboard, wailed to my friends, drove my husband crazy, ate chocolate and played computer games as the deadline drew closer. And then finally, finally, it clicked. (I have no idea how or why.) I suddenly found myself re-immersed in the world and chatting with the characters. The excitement bubbled up again, and I was off and running.

This isn’t the first time this has happened in my career, and it made me stop and wonder why, oh why, I wanted to be an author.

Authors work all the time (days, nights, weekends), we give up holidays for deadlines, and sometimes don’t have much of a life to speak of. We struggle to put into words the stories in our hearts which takes weeks, months, years. Then we send our beloved books out into the world to be publicly bashed by people who just weren’t grabbed by them.

Why, why, why do we do it?

For the money?

Not really. Though some writers make a nice living, and household name authors can make gobs, money in the writing world is by no means steady and reliable. A publishing house can close. The books can go out of print. A segment of the market can suddenly tank, and there you are adrift without a life raft. It’s much safer to go out and look for a traditional job in a solid company (with health benefits!).

For the fame?

Not really. I suppose many authors are at first bitten by the bug to see their name in print, but fame is relative. I’ve been to booksignings where everyone has read my books, loves them, and wants to buy everything I’ve ever written. I’ve also been to booksignings when even the bookseller has never heard of me, despite the fact that my books are on her shelves. The spotlight shifts as readers glom one author or subgenre and then move onto something new. Fame comes and fame goes. It’s even more nebulous than the income.

So what does that leave?


At the end of the day, I truly write for the love of it. Despite the frustrations and the moving spotlight and the financial uncertainty, I write because I love to tell stories. I also write because I love the readers who love stories.

I’ve had readers tell me my books have helped them get through a particularly difficult situation. I’ve had them tell me they love my characters and think of them as real people (as I do). An amazing number have told me they were so caught up in the books that they forgot to buy groceries, do laundry, or pick up their husbands!

I know when readers share these anecdotes with me that I’ve connected with them and their lives. I’ve done the job I set out to do as a writer—reach out to others.

When characters and stories come to me, dance around in my head, and then pour out my fingers, it is the greatest feeling in the world. It doesn’t matter if this particular book doesn’t bring in tons of cash, or make me famous, or win dozens of awards.

As long as what was within me goes out and connects with at least one other reader, I know I’ve done my job.

I guess that’s what I was thinking!


Thursday, September 20, 2007

It really should be easier. . .

I have a confession to make. I'm a computer moron. I'm married to a man who is a computer whiz, and who expects me to understand everything through some sort of osmosis. You'd think, after all these years, he'd realize that wasn't going to happen. However, I digress. . .

All I wanted to do this morning was come over here and blog; I have this site bookmarked, I had an idea of what I wanted to talk about, and I knew I wanted to upload a picture of my new cover. It should be a fairly simple process, shouldn't it? (note the key words there - *should be*) It wasn't. It took me the better part of an hour just to get here, and not because the Blogger site was giving me problems, but because everything else seemed to be working against me.

My laptop (God bless it) is not the quickest horse in the race. On a good day, it takes almost two minutes for Internet Explorer to finally load in the morning, but I chalk that up to the fact that the poor computer has not had coffee, and it's feeling a little arthritic, so while it's warming up and loading, I reorganize my pens into colour (again), rearrange my bulletin board of faces, and scribble down my list of to-do's before I forget all of it. Once I get the internet up, I need to hook onto Sirius country radio (channel 61) - there's another couple minutes. It was all going pretty well so far. Then I went directly to my Tote Bags bookmark and tried to sign in.

Now I ask you - how is a computer moron supposed to have any idea what the heck cookies and caches are? In my world, cookies are made by Mr. Christie and cash is something there is never enough of. Yet somehow, these things are blocking me from signing in. Very dutifully, I follow the helpful links that try to explain how to clear the cache and/or the cookies from my computer. And in case you're wondering, yes, I tipped my laptop to the side to shake out any cookie crumbs that may have been the problem to start with. :)

I should probably mention here, that this laptop does not like it when I try to open more than one internet window at a time. In fact, it has a bit of a hissy if I have Word and the internet opened at the same time. It's an excruciatingly painful experience. But there I was this morning with (count 'em) THREE internet windows open so I could go from one to the other while reading instructions and trying to empty things I had no idea even existed. It worked, apparently I've bleached Mr. Christie out of my system, and we're good to go again.

With Clint Black singing me through it, I log in and click on the little doo-dicker thing to upload my new cover. Wait wait wait wait. 84 seconds later (I kid you not!), the little window thing opens. I go through the process of trying to load the cover from the files on my computer, only to have it come out almost black in the preview. This struck me as particularly creepy because the book is called The Devil's Daughter, and while the paranormal/devil element is very light in the book, it's still about the devil, and its cover was coming out black. You have to agree - that's a little creepy. But I would not be put off. Somewhere I had an account with one of those online photo places, and I knew there was a perfectly good version of the cover there. But what the heck was the name of the website?

I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say, it took several more minutes (and I mean SEVERAL) to discover it was PhotoBucket, and of course I did not remember my password, so it was yet more minutes to go through the retrieval process so I could sign in. Finally, the planets aligned, Tim McGraw finished singing about refried dreams and there was my cover.

Isn't it lovely? The Devil's Daughter will be released in April, so I'm hip-deep in copy edits right now, and using this picture as inspiration to work through them.

I have completely forgotten what I originally set out to blog about this morning, so I will leave you with these questions. Are any of you closet computer morons too? Is there anything about your computer you absolutely love? Or anything you can't stand? Do you and your computer have a love/hate relationship as I do with mine? And do you have a routine you go through with your computer (like waiting for Sirius to load)? Please tell me I'm not the only computer moron out there. . . .

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ah, Fall - Jennifer Estep

Ah, fall.

My favorite time of year officially arrives on Sept. 23.

There’s so much to love about the season. Cool nights. Warm days. That crisp, earthy smell in the air. Pumpkin-flavored desserts. Showers of leaves that crackle pleasantly underfoot. Football, football, and more football. And did I mention the pumpkin desserts?

Ah, fall.

There’s also another reason I like fall so well. Because as the leaves and seasons change, so do my reading preferences.

Let’s face it. Summer is about sun and fun and surf and sand. During the summer, I want books that correspond to the hot temperatures and sunny days. Quick reads I can polish off while lounging by the pool or in front of the air conditioner. Humorous fantasy. Quirky chick-lit. Rapid-fire romantic comedy. A contemporary with a cool twist. An action-adventure with pulse-pounding scenes. Easy, breezy reads that are just plain fun.

But by the time fall rolls around every year, I’m ready for darker, grittier, meatier reads. Books I can curl up with on the couch and devour while chilly fall rains spatter against the windows. Urban fantasy. Some romantic suspense. A couple of hard-boiled detective novels. Maybe even a spy thriller or three.

I’ll stay in my dark phrase through the winter, although I might scarf down a few holiday-themed books to lighten the mood and get me through the Christmas shopping season. Everybody needs a break after a couple hours at the mall. And, really, what would the season be without some holiday stories to warm the heart?

When the weather starts to warm back up and sprigs of spring green appear, my tastes will lighten once more. I’ll go back to the romantic comedies. The light-hearted fantasy. A paranormal romance with a cute twist. A cozy mystery or two. Maybe even a frothy historical.

Summer will bring back the beach reads, and then I’ll return to my gritty books once again the in the fall. This way, I get all four seasons of books, along with the changes in the weather.

What about you? Do your reading preferences change when the weather does? Inquiring minds want to know …

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

California readers - Lori Borrill

Last weekend I did my first book signing. I had the pleasure of Writing Book #2 in the Harlequin Blaze "Million Dollar Secrets" continuity series, and by a fluke of fate, the writer who wrote Book #3, Shannon Hollis, happened to be a chapter mate of mine. Though series authors don't seem to do the kind of public appearing single title authors do, we felt the opportunity to sit together and promote our books and the series was too perfect to pass up. So, off we went to the Emeryville Borders to wow the customers with our presence and hopefully sell some books.

Though I'd been nervous going in, I ended up having a wonderful time despite the fact that only two customers bought our romance novels, and of those two, one didn't even read romance herself. She bought the book for a friend.

And therein lies the epitome of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Even though the Bay Area is home to a number of best-selling romance authors, when it comes to readers, it's not exactly the hub of romance central. In fact, in my personal life, I can count on one hand the number of people I know who read romance regularly, and if I came right down to it, it would only take the other hand to count the number of people I know who read popular fiction of any sort at all. Sure, most of my friends work full-time, are raising families, and haven't a lot of spare time to pour through books. But it was a topic we'd touched on while sitting at Emeryville Borders, and I'm curious to know what other people think.

A bulk of the Bay Area prides itself in its literary sophistication. I'm sure if we'd been peddling a release about the current state of the Bush administration or how big box stores were pushing the extinction of small business, we'd been mobbed. But further than that, I just don't think Californians in general are the readers you see in other parts of the country. I think when you've got 350 days of sunshine every year and all the activity this state offers, people don't spend their time sitting around reading. In fact, my husband, a native Californian, considers reading "sitting around doing nothing". In his mind, you might as well be watching cartoons for all a book is worth. On the other hand, I grew up in Oregon where it rains nine months out of the year. If you didn't read, you were doing a lot of bowling.

So let me ask you to participate in a personal survey:
Where are you from, and what do you think about the current state of fiction in your area?
Do a lot of your friends read, or are you one in a group of few like me?
And as an added bonus, those who participate by commenting on the blog will be entered to win an autographed copy of my latest release, "Underneath It All", which is the Book #2 in the "Million Dollar Secrets" continuity I mentioned at the top of this post.

Monday, September 17, 2007

So many Hats - Lilian Darcy

My friend Jane Porter has a very scary writing process. This is no secret. She often writes about her schedule on her website blog. Jane writes the way someone might cook a good piece of steak. She marinates each book for months in her head, then writes it in a sizzling heat of inspiration so that it’s done fast, juicy and flavorful all through. It’s exhausting and demanding and intense, but whether she likes it or not, it’s her process and she’s stuck with it.

For my part, I’m in awe of Jane’s process and I know I couldn’t handle it… but at least it would help me to deal with the hat problem. Okay, you’re not aware of the hat problem? As women, most of us already wear several hats – the parent hat, the partner hat. As writers, too, we need an extensive collection of millinery.

And my problem is, I’m just not that quick at changing from hat to hat. I can’t pull off my creative hat (imagine it as a butt-ugly hand-knitted stripey woolly thing with pompom) then jam on my mom hat (would have to be a red Ohio State baseball cap) then take that one off and immediately grab my book promotion hat (glammy creation of straw, silk flowers and tulle). I have to wander around totally hatless for hours between each switch of head-gear, and sometimes the necessary hat completely disappears, and there’s just not enough time in my life for any of that.

Jane’s process means that she doesn’t have to switch professional hats quite so often. She writes in big, intense bursts, and then she goes out and promotes her books in big, intense bursts, and I really envy her that. Hm, I envy her the great cover she has for ODD MOM OUT, too, and I know it’s going to fly off the shelves because she’s a wonderful writer. Go, Jane!

But the point I’m ver-rr-ry slowly getting around to, here, is that I have my own book out at the moment, CAFÉ DU JOUR and I haven’t done enough to promote it. What’s worse is that I’m running out of time. For the foreseeable future, the book is only coming out in Australia, and it’s only staying up until the end of September on – where it’s easy to order and have shipped anywhere in the world, just click on this link and go to the final page of Mira listings.

I’ve received such wonderful feedback on this book, I know there are many people out there who would love it if they can only find out it exists. A review in The Melbourne Age, one of Australia’s top newspapers, called it “warm and witty… and excellent read.”
In emails and cards, too, I’ve heard the same chorus of responses over and over: “I loved it… so real… devoured it…a wonderful read… vibrant, rich characters… a fabulous book… gorgeous… intense…reminds me of Barbara Samuel…wonderful…I loved it… I’m totally absorbed… outstanding… intimately familiar… I am in awe.”

So I do hope you’ll buy it and find out for yourself!

There. Whew. I’ve done it. I’ve promoted CAFÉ DU JOUR on Tote Bags ‘n’ Blogs.
Now I can take off my glamorous tulle and straw creation, being careful of the delicate silk flowers, and put on my striped woolly number and start to write my tame, unambitious goal of 8 to 10 pages today. Okay, but where is the damn hat? What have I done with the woolly hat? Why isn’t it right here on my desk waiting for me? I should already have written two pages by now…

Is there anyone else out there who can relate to my hat problem?

Friday, September 14, 2007

One Reason I LOVE Writing! Annie West

There are so many great aspects to being a writer. Reading for a start. I couldn’t be a writer if I wasn’t an avid reader and I have to admit that settling down with a good book is one of my great joys in life. What else? Creating your own stories and then seeing them in print. Hearing from readers that they enjoyed your book. That’s fabulous, guaranteed to put a huge grin on my face. Being able to work in sloppy old clothes or even PJs. That’s a definite plus. In fact, waking on a cold rainy day to the sound of a downpour and the knowledge that you have a great scene to write and don’t have to stir out of the house is an absolute luxury. Reading about spectacular heroes and knowing that it’s vital market research (he, he) I love it! Going to writers’ conferences and talking books for a whole weekend is wonderful.

For me, one of the best things about being a writer, and specifically a romance writer, is getting to know so many other fabulous women who write romance. Some of my best friends are people I’ve met through writing and that’s very precious.

And of course, when you have friends who write you also have reason to CELEBRATE from time to time. Another one of my favourite activities. Writing has its ups and downs. For all the fun side of things there are also the rejections, the writer’s block, the major revisions and the pressure of deadlines. So when the news is good it’s natural to want to celebrate.

This month is a perfect one for celebrating. Three (count them!) of my writing friends from Australia have their debut books released this month. How’s that for amazing? They’re excited and so am I. There’s something so thrilling about that first book actually on the shelves that’s breathtaking.

The books and authors in question are:

'Scandal's Daughter' by Christine Wells (Berkley Sensation DEBUT novel),
'Forgotten Marriage' by Paula Roe (Silhouette Desire DEBUT novel),
'Dream Job, Hot Boss!' by Robyn Grady (Harlequin Modern Extra DEBUT Novel)

So raise your glasses please, or your boxes of fine chocolate, or your best festive food and join the cyber celebrations. As you can imagine, there was some rather noisy partying Down Under recently in honor of these successes.

To mark the occasion, Robyn, Christine, Paula and I have got together to devise a contest in which signed copies of these three debut novels and my current release 'For the Sheikh's Pleasure' can be won. If you’re interested, pop over to my website and check out the contest page. You have until 31 October to enter.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear what things you like to celebrate. Birthdays or name days? Special holidays or personal achievements? What do you and your friends enjoy celebrating most?


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Covers That Get Around, by Bronwyn Jameson

It's always fun to receive translations of my books in the mail, or even to find a new translation on one of Harlequin's foreign websites. Sometimes they carry the same cover as the original publication, but even these look new and shiny with the office's own cover treatment. Other times they come dressed in different cover art and I asked the Managing Editor of Harlequin Australia, Jackie Johnson, about the how and why of cover art selection. Here's what the always-helpful Jackie had to say.

"We have a data-base that is open to all of the overseas offices which holds every artwork commissioned for series books. We can, and do, use different artwork when we need to -- this can happen if the artwork commissioned for a particular title is unsuitable, or when we use single title product in the series line, etc. These would be chosen (usually) by marketing after an art brief has been supplied by an editor. In the case of our office, I am in essence, both editor and marketing function for covers, so I take care of this.

Whilst this happens on a couple of titles each month, I order the artwork commissioned for the specific title for the majority of titles from North America or the UK. For duo books I order the most appealing image of the two titles. The only art we select locally from stock photo-libraries appear on Sexy Sensations and Ultimate Collections. These are generic images and are sourced monthly. The only artwork we order from the UK offices are Medical.

Each overseas office has a different art strategy depending on how that particular series performs in their market (eg. The UK use more photographic images on certain series, the French design from scratch for a more sophisticated look etc.)"
It is fun and especially delightful when one of the foreign offices chooses a cover image which captures the characters or the book's tone better than the original. When the cover art is recognisable -- for example, because it's been featured on the cover of a good friend's book or because it's been staring at me from the cover of a favourite on my keeper's shelf -- then that can be slightly strange...but still fun in a different way.

Last week I received copies of the Dutch translations of my Princes of the Outback trilogy, beautifully packaged as a single and a duo under the flag of Love in the Outback. The cover of The Rugged Lover (left, below) is beautiful. This could be Tomas and Angelina. I love it! Next I looked at the duo cover (centre, below) and didn't need to check my keeper's shelf. This is the cover originally used on Taylor's Temptation, Suzanne Brockmann, from 2001-ish. (I'm kinda glad the shorts are cut from mine! *g*)

Recently my Bought-And-Paid-For Wife came out in the UK, using the original cover art from the other book in the duo, Patricia Kay's One-Week Wife. My book's art was used the same month on another Desire Duo, and I have to say it was funny seeing "my" cover on another book (see right).

When another author sent me a link to the German site, where Bought-And-Paid-For Wife is a September release, my eyes were drawn to another familiar cover. First seen on Trish Morey's Virgin For The Taking, this is one of my favourite romantic covers -- and one of my favourites of Trish's wonderful books -- which is why it caught my eye. This time around it's gracing Pat Kay's One-Week Wife and the couple are walking a romantic stretch of Mexican beach, rather than Broome, Western Australia, as in Trish's book. Wherever that beach is, it's gorgeous, isn't it?

Covers, they do get around. *g*

Do you have any favourite cover images which do a fabulous job of depicting the characters and the story inside the book?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New experiences - Christina Hollis

I was delighted to have my first romance accepted, and each subsequent book has brought its own special magic.

Today is another exciting day for me in a year that's been a whirl of new experiences. The Hardback copies of my latest Harlequin Mills and Boon Presents/Modern Romance have just arrived!

One Night In His Bed is going to be released at the end of this year, and I can't wait. It's the story of penniless widow Sienna, who gets more than she bargained for when she catches the eye of ruthless Garett Lazlo. Dark-hearted Garett doesn't do anything for free...

Everything I write automatically becomes my favourite of the moment, but there's something very special about actually holding a book in your hands and knowing you've written it yourself. By the time it arrives, the waiting and the worry make it almost as nerve-racking (but not quite!) as welcoming a new baby into the house.

What's the best thing that's arrived in your life?"


Monday, September 10, 2007

The Moments--an online, eHarlequin short story

I'm so excited that my first book, THE HOUSE ON BRIAR HILL ROAD, is released in just a few weeks. It's a book about the Conway family. About their ups and downs...about their pulling together and sadly, about them falling apart.

I was thrilled when I was afforded a chance to do a short story for "The Moments" is tied to my October book and it starts today. It features the main characters' from the book's daughter, Livie. At the end of THOBHR, Livie said, "My mother always said life was made up of the small moments and it was punctuated by the big ones." I knew that sentence had to be the theme of her story. But how to present a broad scope to her romance in a short story? It was a challenge, and really pushed me as a writer. But I think the story shows those moments. You can find it at

What about you? What sort of moments do you treasure? Not the big, found-the-love-of-your-life, got-married, had-kids sort of moments. But rather the read-the-Sunday-paper-together, walk-the-dog-in-the-evenings sort. (Uh, those are two of my favorite kinds of little moments with my dh, btw! LOL)

So, what about you?


"The Moments" 9-10-07 through 10-29-07


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Exotic or Familiar? - Susanna Carr

I just read WIFE FOR A WEEK by Kelly Hunter. This Promotional Presents was a very fun read. One of the pleasant surprises about this book is that it was set in Hong Kong.

I don't think I've read a romance set in Hong Kong before, which is kind of shocking since a lot of romances promise exotic locales. Well, exotic for me. One of my life goals is to visit London, which sounds very cosmopolitan, dynamic, and unlike anything I've ever experienced. I've read so many romances set in London and I want to see it first hand.

But I think my favorite settings when it comes to romance are the sun-drenched islands. I live in the Pacific Northwest where it's usually cloudy and cold. Reading about these tropical paradises is a great way to escape the constant drizzling rain.

Yet there are times when I'm homesick for the Midwestern farm towns of my youth and I purposely look for a book that will remind me of those days. The familiarity of small town living comforts me, no matter how it looks outside my window. I'm so glad that romance publishers offer such an array of locales, so I can find exactly what I need depending on my mood.

Which setting do you usually prefer? The exotic or the familiar?