Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Why did you ask? - Linda Conrad

What are you reading?

I get that question all the time, and, yes, I know many readers and fans are interested in learning what authors read. I’m interested myself in finding out what other people are reading. It’s much more than just being nosy. I get all kinds of ideas for new books and new plots by reading. And I believe it’s important to note what’s currently popular in popular fiction. By finding out what other people are reading, I can keep my fingers on the pulse of the next ‘new’ thing.

But here’s the problem; I read a bizarre assortment of oddball books. I’ve even been known to read the Yellow Pages on occasion. (though, I hate to admit it)

A few days ago I was once again asked to list what I’d been reading. Now, if I had been completely honest, I would’ve listed:

The Nutrisystem catalog

Walking in Circles Before Lying Down, a novel by Merrill Markoe

The Quickie, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

The November issue of Allure magazine

The Dog Etiquette Book, by Charlotte Reed

The Baby Name Survey Book-- What people think about your baby’s name, by Lansky & Sinrod. (Don’t get any ideas. This one was for a book I’m working on!)

Pontoon, by Garrison Keillor

And on my nightstand is the anthology: No Rest for the Witches, by Mary Janice Davidson, Lori Handeland, Cheyenne McCray and Christine Warren.

Rather a mixed-up mess, don’t you agree? That’s why my answer only included the novels. I didn’t imagine anyone would want to know the whole truth.

But now I’m asking you. What are you reading? Do you have the guts to tell everything? If you don’t, not to worry. No one will ever know.

I’ll draw two names from everyone who leaves a comment in the next twenty-four hours to win a copy of my latest release: SHADOW WHISPERS, the last book in the Night Guardian series.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sorry No Tricks...But Here's A Treat

This Saturday, November 3, from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. I'm signing at Turn The Page Bookstore in Boonsboro, MD ( Turn The Page is a wonderful haven for booklovers and just so happens to be owned by Nora Roberts' hubby (Bruce Wilder). This store holds fond memories for me since it provided me with my first booksigning experience in 2002. Since then, I've been welcomed back (or maybe I'm like velcro and they can't get rid of me) each year.
I get to see Nora's legions of fans (they have been known to arrive by chartered bus) line up through the store and down the sidewalk of the historic pre-Civil War town. Her fans are loyal and have become part of the family, as Nora catches up with each person on her life. Make no mistake, though, she's got quite a few men in that line too.
As my treat to you, I will purchase the latest copy of her new Anthology Dead of Night. Since all the authors in the anthology will be there, I can have them all autograph the book. Leave a comment about your favorite Nora personal experience or favorite book and I will pick the lucky person by November 2. Then I will mail it to you - what a bargain!
And if you feel inclined, and you can't attend the booksigning, feel free to order any of my available books. Simply follow the instructions for having the book autographed. The staff will have me autograph and mail it wherever you indicate.
Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Homemade Halloween

Now, I'm gonna sound like an old grump here (the kind who walked three miles to school through raging blizzards), but what ever happened to homemade Halloween costumes? You know, the kind that were made from a cast-off bed sheet, cardboard, some tin foil, a little black or green paint out of an old can in the garage, maybe a few rhinestones and glue?

The stores are filled with Halloween costumes and makeup and accessories. Scary rubber masks, fake jack o' lanterns, candy by the bushel. It's all so easy and, I'm sure, still a treat for the kids. But in my day (there's that curmudgeon again), we had to be inventive.

I never wore a store-bought costume. I remember being a princess once, in a lace tablecloth (can't believe my mother let me wear it trick-or-treating!), with a little eye makeup and costume jewelry. I don't remember wearing a tiara, but I carried a magic wand I made myself out of cardboard and tinfoil and a stick from a decapitated pinwheel. It rained, as it always did on Halloween in the upper midwest, and soon my lace was bedraggled in the mud and my wand was losing its luster (and its foil), but my pals and I persisted until we'd hit every spot that might yield us a piece of candy. This included going into the single IGA grocery store we had in town and even one of the bars when the early drinkers called us in (even during the recession, there was always more than one bar in town), the out-of-the-way houses and especially the neighborhood by the cemetery. We didn't collect our loot in a nice, shiny, plastic pumpkin with handy handles either. We used a pillow case, probably stripped off our own pillow. You can fit a lot of candy in a pillow case.

I was also once a hippie, which was a super-easy costume. A fringed vest, jeans, a headband and a picket sign with slogan invented by my mom: DOWN WITH PEOPLE OVER 30!! I was confused, but the adults found that very amusing. Plus, the sign--a piece of cardboard stapled to a long stick--was handy for beating off the neighborhood bullies who tried to snatch my precious pillow case.

My last Halloween, I must have been about thirteen, my best friend had the idea for us to go as a two-headed man. We put on some makeup and old-man hats filched from the closet, then buttoned ourselves into a gigantic overcoat of her (dead) great-grandfather's and went lumbering around the neighborhood in lockstep. Some people asked us what we were. Well, really! Didn't they recognize a two-headed, two-armed, four-legged man when they saw him? The problem that I recall, other than being stuck inside that heavy woolen coat, was that I had only one hand free to hold my pillow case. By then, a lot of kids had started using treat buckets, usually plastic jack o'lanterns. But I was a traditionalist. And a little embarrassed to be trick-or-treating at my age. By the next year, I had retired from the candy-collecting biz and moved on to creating costumes for others. One time, I stayed up till 3 a.m. gluing feathers onto a pair of homemade angel wings, but that's another Halloween story....

What was your favorite Halloween costume? Were you a buy-it or make-it kind of kid?

* * * *

The winner of the book giveaway from my previous blog was CrystalG. Congrats, Crystal!

* * * *

Carrie Alexander is a multi-published, two-time RITA finalist author with Harlequin and St. Martin's Press. She's already eaten the bag of candy she bought for the Trick or Treaters. Her most recent releases are MY FRONT PAGE SCANDAL (Harlequin Blaze 10/07) and A TOWN CALLED CHRISTMAS (Harlequin Superromance 11/07). Visit her at:

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How dangerous is too dangerous?

Okay, so we like to push the envelope, think outside the box, write on the edge. Pick your idiom; it’s our goal to have our names listed in the definition. Usually we take a great deal of pride in this. Celebrate our lifelong rebellion against social norms and cultural conventions. We imagine ourselves modern day James Deans with a pen. But how far is too far?

Over the course of our twenty-some-year career, we’ve shined the spotlight on infidelity, an incest survivor, alcoholism, bi-sexuality…you name it, it’s probably popped up somewhere in our forty novels, all of them romance with the exception of the three titles in our Sofie Metropolis, PI series, and even Sofie's love life is an important part of her evolution. We take great pleasure in mixing a hefty dose of reality in with our fiction, mostly because it lends a certain authenticity, partly because – along with our characters – we’re grappling to understand life’s mysteries. And we almost always come away from each book with if not a complete understanding at least acceptance that the world would be a very drab place indeed if we were all cut from the same piece of cloth.

Which leads us to our latest Blaze DANGEROUS.

When our editor Brenda Chin first proposed the Extreme series of Blazes, we were at a loss of where we could possibly take our books that we hadn’t taken them already. I mean, outside those elements that would boost them from romantica to straight erotica. So it took us awhile to wrap our minds around the concept that she wasn’t necessary looking for sex – or more of it – since regular Blazes were already blazing that trail (pardon the pun). She was looking for books that dealt with themes that normally wouldn’t appear in series romance fiction, such as vampires, time travels, witches, etc. But while we’re both fans of paranormal, we feel there are enough everyday elements to deal with without delving into unknown realms (that and we wrote one really dark paranormal years ago that still sits in our attic and haunts us both to this day).

So we went the reality route and found ourselves asking questions like: What if your father were a mafia don? If you were born into a New York family that was a cross between the Corleones and the Sopranos? What would be normal to you? And what would life be like if your father and brother were gunned down in broad daylight and you were sucked back into an existence you knew like the back of your hand but had hoped never to have to confront?

Thus Lady Boss Gia Trainello and FBI Agent Lucas Paretti were born.

The end result was a book we felt was true to the subject matter…as well as the most brutal story we’d ever written. Even Brenda had us take out a couple of the more violent passages and make the end happier (how does one write about the mob without violence?).

But, ultimately, the story is about one woman, and one man, and how they overcome their own unique obstacles in order to claim the happily-ever-after they so deserve. And in Gia and Lucas' case, create their own definition of the word family.

Have you read the book? How do you feel? Was the subject matter distracting? Or did you feel it was in fitting with the story? In the movie industry, sex is what makes a film R-rated, violence is acceptable. Is the reverse true in books? Especially romance novels?

You tell us.

Oh, and as special incentive, we’re giving out a copy of one of our books to one lucky commenter. All you need do is post to qualify. We were going to make the giveaway a copy of DANGEROUS, but decided to open it up to any title in our forty strong backlist, including the three hardcover titles in our SOFIE METROPOLIS, PI series.

For more info on us and our books, and to enter our October on-line drawing for a box of Godiva Halloween chocolates, visit and

Saturday, October 27, 2007

What My Husband is Going to Be for Halloween by Diana Holquist

When you write a book called Sexiest Man Alive, your husband gets A LOT of grief.

Yes, all his friends now call him Sexiest Man Alive. As in, "Hey, Pete, think the Sexiest Man Alive could give little help here moving this bookcase?"

I, of course, have been asked hundreds of times where I got the inspiration for the book. I say, "My husband," and people laugh at what they think is a joke.

But here's the thing: I really mean it. My husband is the sweetest, nicest, most amazing man. We've been married for 14 years and have two awesome kids. We've been through sickness and joblessness and moving and KIDS. He works harder and plays harder than anyone I know.

And he's smart. Scary professor kind of smart.

If you don't believe how great he is, get this. For Halloween, we're having a Halloween/book release party. And guess what he's wearing for the party? Here's a hint:

Don't drop that towel, hon!

Now, is that the Sexiest Man Alive or what?

Come by my website to vote for who you think should be People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive 2007. As of today, Gerard Butler is WAY ahead!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Enchantment of Romance - Edith Layton

My latest book, BRIDE ENCHANTED, from AVON, is slightly paranormal. As the title says, it is about enchantment. But before you write it off as a Fantasy and go seeking a "Romance" - just think: isn't all romance a sort of fantasy and a kind of enchantment?

Love, after all, blurs our vision of reality. A thousand love songs talk about hearing singing when there's no one there, and smelling flowers in the dead of winter. This is a perfectly normal reaction to finding love. Poets have passed the centuries trying to define love. But to paraphrase what the judge said about pornography - we know it when we feel it.

Love confuses us when it's not reciprocal. It's more of a hex than an enchantment when that happens. Life becomes wretched, it's like being cursed.But if love is returned, it turns our faces and futures rosy, and makes us feel that we walk on air. It affects our physical selves: It speeds up our hearts, races our pulses, and even bolsters our immune systems. It affects all our perceptions, making us more beautiful in our own eyes, and our loved ones become beautiful beyond human power to describe.

Sometimes love can last the generations. Sometimes, it's gone by the morning light, like faerie gold. It's a worthy goal, but like the rainbow, it can't be pursued.

To be loved, we must try to be more loveable ourselves.The rest is up to Fate.
That's love. That's natural. And that's paranormal too, isnt it?

BRIDE ENCHANTED is about that kind of love, and more. Here's wishing every bride is enchanted!


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Writing Madness

  • I travel a lot on speaking engagements. I also teach a great deal besides writing five books a year. What surprises me is that most people--both writers and nonwriters alike, are interested in my writing process. But they're not fascinated by the part where I write 1o pages a day every day. What has them hanging on my every word is when I tell them about the deadline crunches and I end up having to write a book in two weeks.

  • This happens far more often than I would like. The process isn't enjoyable. In fact, it's quite miserable, but it never fails to get a response out of listeners. This summer I gave lectures at a group of colleges in California. At one workshop I spent the day talking about story structure and characterization and theme and all that good stuff. Then toward the end of the class, when it was opened up for Q&A and I told the tale of my writing madness, one student exclaimed, "Now this is what I paid $50.00 to hear.

  • Okay, so here it is.

  • When I have to write a 3oo page book in two weeks, the world comes to a halt. My family and friends are put on notice. No interuptions. Do not expect to see me for three weeks. (Two weeks for the writing, a week to recover)

  • The minute I roll out of bed in the morning, I'm at the computer.I know I have to write 30 pages a day for ten pages with four days for revisions. I eat massive amounts of chocolate. I guzzle caffeine. I strap on my noise cancelling headphones and listen to brain sync tapes and Mozart. I chew gum. (It's supposed to stimulate creativity.) I do not stop for any reason. I keep telling myself "Words on the page." I go days without showering. I don't have the time. I write in a blind hot rush, fast, faster, fastest. Sometimes my hands hurt so badly I type with ice bags tied to my wrists. When I finish the pages, I stumbled into bed and fall into a miserable sleep filled with my characters and their problems. I rarely sleep more than four hours then I'm up and back at it.

  • This goes on for fourteen hellacious days. I'm deeply submersed in the world of my characters. I become them and they become me.Day becomes night, night becomes day. I have no idea what day it is, what time it is. I write through the night until I hear the birds singing out my window. I fall asleep at two in the afternoon. My mind runs through this marathon of words.

  • In the end, I e-mail the book to my editor just in time to make the deadline. Then I collapse into bed and........most of the time I can't sleep.

  • The last time I did this I was awake for 48 hours. I tried to sleep, finally got up in the middle of the night and told my husband, "I need a steak." We made a midnight run to a an all night grocery store and we came home and he grilled me a steak. I sated my need for protein and finally fell asleep.

  • It is a horrible, awful, torturous way to write and I don't recommend it to anyone. Here's the deal. You'd think the book would be total crap, right? It sure as hell feels like total crap when I'm writing it. But you know what? Almost all the books I've written this way get better reviews than the books I write the normal, ten pages a day way.

  • Is it magic? I don't think so. I believe it's the white hot heat of creation. I suppose that's what made the woman proclaim, "This is what I paid $50.00 to hear." When she said that, I so wanted to laugh. In order to write like this you have to be 1) Pretty well mad. 2) Masochistic 3) Seasoned!

  • I could not have written this way when I was first starting to write. I couldn't have written this way after I'd published 20 books. I can only write this way now because I've developed the creative muscle. For this woman to attempt my method would be like asking a couch potato to run a marathon in four hours. It ain't gonna happen and many brain cells could die in the process.
  • If you write, do you have any insane writing practices? If you're an aspiring author--stop comparing yourself to other people. Find your own process. If you're a reader, does it interest you to know how the books you love are created? Or would you rather just enjoy the book and not know?


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Christine Rimmer asks, "When is a woman like a piano?"

Why, when she’s Eleanor Parker in a movie aptly titled The Naked Jungle, that's when.

Okay, about that title. Naked Jungle? Huh? Suffice to say it is—naked—by the end. You’ll have to rent it and watch it to find out how that happens. Susan Mallery knows.

Yes, it’s true. Susan loves this movie as much as I do. And that’s a lot.

Where was I? Oh, yeah…

Nobody else—aside from the jungle, I mean—gets naked in this movie. Not Charlton Heston, who was quite the heartthrob back in the day. And certainly not Eleanor Parker. Though she does wear some really cool negligees—clingy and white, with lots of ruffles. Oh, and Charlton goes shirtless now and then, as I recall. He looked really good shirtless, too, if I might say…

I’ve read a number of reviews on this movie and they all remark on how it’s a solid adventure story cloaked in a “rather ordinary” romance.

Oh, those reviewers. They so don’t get it. What this movie’s got and got in abundance, is tension. Heat. Passion. Heston seethes. Parker…palpitates. It’s delicious. Yeah, okay. It’s perhaps a little over the top when judged by picky contemporary sensibilities.

But you know what? Let’s hear it for over-the-top.

Simply put, this is a mail-order bride story. Christopher Leiningen (Heston) has carved a paradise out of the wild, untamable jungle and everything he has in his own personal paradise is brand-new. His piano. His mansion/fortress and all the cool stuff inside.

Christopher, who came to the jungle at 19, is now 34 and has zero knowledge of women (Read: virgin hero, oh yes!) wants a wife. Enter Joanna, his mail-order bride. She’s supposed to be as “new” as all his other possessions. ...

(Spoiler alert. If you do plan to rent this and you don't want to know the plot ahead of time, skip down to the questions in bold at the end.)

For the rest of you, what no one has told Christopher is that Joanna’s a widow (Read: not “new,” but “used.”)

Of course, he’s going to send her back. Even though it’s obvious from the first moment he sees her that this guy is a goner and one way or another, these two will end up together.

Joanna gets to prove why she’s exactly the woman Christopher needs. She does a great job of it, too.

And how is a woman like a piano? As Joanna explains to Christopher, both are better when they’ve been…played.

My fave line from this movie comes near the end, when Joanna’s right there beside him as the ants are at the gates (Yes, army ants, and for those of you reading this spoiler, the ants are what gets the jungle naked). Leiningen turns to all the terrified locals and exhorts them to “Be brave. Like Leiningen’s woman…”

So then. Old movies. What are your favorites? And what are your favorite lines from old movies?

--Christine Rimmer

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's all Greek to me . . .

Hang on a minute. I’m sure it was only yesterday that I was blogging about being in London and being presented with the gold pin for my 50th title and then – well, then I blinked and now a month has gone by and it’s October 22nd and, as Lee has reminded me it’s time for me to come and blog again.

So what happened to that month in between? I don’t remember too much of it. That’s because I was busy writing and with a deadline looming and a sexy alpha hero to deal with, I was fully occupied. I’m always more absorbed in the ending of a book than at the beginning. In the first few chapters, I’m getting to know my characters, learning all about them, finding out what makes them tick . . .Then when I get to the middle of the book , it’s as if I’ve turned a corner. I know just what’s happening with my characters and who they are and suddenly the words start to flow, coming faster and faster and I write more in the last week or so than I did at the beginning. And that keeps me totally absorbed so that I don’t really noticing the days passing by.

So now I’ve lifted my head and taken my fingers from the keyboard, suddenly I realise that it’s October 22nd and I’m booked to blog here. One of the reasons I’m here now is because I have a new book coming out – The Greek Tycoon’s Unwilling Wife – which is out in November. So from concentrating on one hero in my latest story, I now have to concentrate on talking about another one. And by coincidence they are both Greek heroes. I didn’t plan it that way, it’s just happened.

It’s a well known fact that in the Presents line, the Mediterranean hero helps to sell the books. I’ve never been quite sure why readers see them as so much more exciting than other nationalities. After all, I’m married to an Englishman and have been for years so I’m really fond of that ‘stiff upper lip’ type. (And he’s a Yorkshireman as well – they’re even more so!) . But when I choose my heroes, I don’t just think ‘Oh, I’ll write about a Greek or a Spaniard or an Italian this time. Each nationality has particular characteristics that make me choose them.

Which is why these two heroes ended up being Greek. The stories are about pride and family and honour – all things that matter to their heroes. And now when I look at the books side by side, even their names are similar – the hero of The Greek Tycoon’s Unwilling Wife is called Andreas. The hero of my newest , as yet untitled, story in Angelos (the heroine calls him the Black Angel). But they’re very different men and so their stories are very different. For one thing, this November book is an amnesia plot, and in the new one the hero remembers everything about what has happened in the past – so that his heroine wishes he didn’t.

One of the questions I keep getting asked when people learn that I’ve written over 50 books is ‘How do you keep fresh?’ well these two Greek heroes are the perfect example of how I do it. They are both from the same country, they’re both alpha male types – but they are both very different people. And when I’m telling their stories, it’s keeping them individual that makes the story come alive for me and so helps me to tell a fresh new story.

And so Andreas’s story will never be Angelos’s - and although it’s an amnesia story it will never be the same as other amnesia stories I’ve written before. Because this is Andreas’s story and no one else’s.
(I’ll be talking about amnesia stories over on the I heart Presents blog on November 5th if you’d like to come along and join in – tell me some of your favourites)

But all this thinking about Greek heroes has me wondering – do you love the Mediterranean type of hero or do you prefer your heroes ‘home-grown’ from the USA or UK? I’ll be intrigued to know as I think about my new hero and try and decide who I’m going to write about this time – a Sheikh? – an Italian? Or maybe that stiff-upper lip Englishman. What do you think?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

On Briar Hill...not just a book, but a song!

I did a booksigning yesterday, and one of the people I spoke to said, you must have the coolest job ever. And I confessed, I do. I mean, I get to make up stories. Most of the time, my stories are comedies, and I'll confess, they make me laugh. So, really, sitting at home and laughing at the people in my head all's a great gig. I love my job!

My current release, however, didn't make me laugh while I was writing it. It's my first serious book. The House on Briar Hill Road deals with a family who's coping with breast cancer, and with loss. It was a hard book to write, in and of itself, but it was made harder because it hit so close to home. We lost my mother-in-law to breast cancer in 2004. It was the most difficult time my family ever went through. Dort was not only my mother-in-law, she was a friend...the heart of our entire family. Writing this book was in so many ways a tribute to her.

I've already had some beautiful letters about the story, and they've meant the world to me. A few days ago, I got one of the coolest tributes ever...someone wrote a song, based on the book. On Briar Hill. It's a great song in its own right, but it's even cooler if you know the story. She really captured the feel of the book. If you want to hear it for yourself, I've posted it on my site. You can go to's about halfway down the page, right over the Harlequin link.

My mother-in-law was so much more than just my husband's mom. She was a friend. She was always there, believing in me, cheering me on, willing to prop me up when I needed it. I hope I did the same for her. I was so lucky to have her in my life. Everyone needs a someone like that in their lives...someone who's always there. Who is that person in your life? The person you turn to when you need a shoulder? The one you can always count on? Sometimes we forget to think about them, because they are always there. It's nice to take a minute to share these special please, share with us, and tell us about your special person.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Audio Schmaudio - Lori Borrill

I'd like to express my opinion on a topic of which I have no authority or experience whatsoever. Usually, I would refrain from such at thing, feeling a responsibility to learn a little about a subject before I chastise it. But since crapping on things we know nothing about is practically an American pass-time, I figured I could skip the research and go straight to my assumptions.

You see, in my life, there are three things I know I don't like even though I've never tried them. They are 1) Escargot, 2) Cottage Cheese, and 3) Audio books.

I'm figuring right about now, you're probably agreeing with me on the escargot. As far as cottage cheese, you may like it but at least understand why someone else would find it a little creepy. But audio books? What has the poor audio book ever done to me? And how would I know I hate them if I've never even listened to one?

I don't know. They just bug me. For one thing, I have trouble calling them books. To me a book is something you read. An audio book is more like a bedtime story, maybe radio theater, or a one-man play with your eyes closed. It's a different animal, a different form of entertainment, so equating it to a book seems somehow wrong.

For me, part of the joy of reading is building the world in my imagination, and part of that world is how the characters speak and sound. I like to imagine them my own way, mixing the writer's description with my own preferences to make the characters more vivid, more personal to me. Having that voice filled in for me sort of ruins it, especially books with multiple points of view. I mean, do I really want to hear a woman narrate a sexy hero's thoughts, or vice versa?

Especially with romance, I don't think the audio book works. For one thing, I doubt I could hear someone narrate a particularly hot love scene without snickering like an eight-year-old. I'm weird that way. It's the same quirk I have when it comes to movies. I watch a naked love scene in a movie and I squirm, feeling like a voyer in this intimate moment between two people. Having someone tell it to me would be equally strange, like I'm engaging in some porno phone sex or something.

And it's not just that. As a writer, I like to see the words I'm reading as if I had written them. More than once during a novel, I'll pause over a particularly great description or especially funny line, and I read it several times before moving on. I'm also one of those horrible people who gets somewhere around the middle then skips to the end, my need to find out how it ends overshadowing the pleasure of the story. I can't rest until I know, so I read those last few pages, satisfy my curiosity then return to the middle where I can relax and enjoy the rest of the book.

How do you do that with an audio book? (I'm asking genuinely, because as I prefaced at the beginning, I did no research before spouting my opinion). I'm generally presuming audio books would screw up my reading habits, and like tasting an escargot, I don't have to listen to one to know I wouldn't like it. I want my books the way I read them: in my own mind, with my own imaginary voices, and in the order I choose.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting all audio books be banned from the planet. My parents love them, and I can see how wonderful they would be for anyone sight impaired. But for me, give me my reading glasses and those real paper pages and I'm cozy as a clam.

So what about you? Have any of you tried listening to an audio book, and if so, what was your experience? What do you think are the pros and cons? Though I have strong opinions, I have been known to change my mind after someone makes a point I hadn't considered.

(Although you'll NEVER get me to eat an escargot.)


Friday, October 19, 2007

Fangs and Frenemies by Megan Crane

I have recently become obsessed with the show Blood Ties on Lifetime. I like the tough, no-nonsense heroine, but let's not kid ourselves, it's really all about the delicious 480 year old vampire, Henry Fitzroy.

What is it about vampires that seizes hold of the imagination? This is a question my fiance asks me often these days, as I plow through one JR Ward after the next, read Michelle Rowen, wait with bated breath for the new Angel comic, watch Moonlight, and even watched the Kindred: the Embraced marathon on the SciFi channel the other day. (Full disclosure: I own the Kindred: the Embraced DVD.) Immortal, other, sexy, dangerous. The ultimate bad boys, those fanged ones, and it helps that they tend to be awfully pretty as well.

The funny thing is that I don't write vampire books. You would think I did, given the obsession over here. But no. I have to try to make my fully human heroes and love interests as compelling as the immortal undead, and that's not easy. Maybe next time I should try a fang or two. Though you could argue that my latest book, which is about friendships among women, has its share of fangs-- it's just that in the case of Frenemies, it's the sort of fangs you tend not to see until they're stuck in your back...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I Want to Plot. Or Do I?

I'm not a plotter. Never have been. The great joy of writing is the not-knowing, the excitement of learning who my characters are as their story unfolds beneath my fingers. As with my previous books, my upcoming release, The Devil's Daughter (April '08), was not plotted, planned or thought out before I started writing it. I had the first scene in my head and I simply started typing.

When I was done, I rewrote it. And then I rewrote it again. And then again. And then when I thought I was truly done, my fabulous editor got hold of it and said "yeah, I don't think so", so we worked on it together and did some more rewriting.

Are you beginning to see the pattern here? Are you mentally calculating how much time could have been saved if I'd plotted it out before-hand; if I'd worked out goals, conflicts, motivation and all those tiny little details that make a good story a great story?

I hate wasting all this time. I want to be a plotter. I want to be organized, I want to have a plan, and I want it to work. In my non-writing life, I'm an anal freak. My kitchen cupboards are front-faced and organized the way they should be (God help the person who puts a can of tomato soup in with the chicken noodle!). My linen closet is organized neatly, my books are all alphabetized and our clothes closets are organized by type of garment, then colour. I mean, really, there's no need to have navy blue t-shirts hanging with the white blouses, is there? At one point, I went so far as to have my clothes hanging on white hangers and my husband's on blue, but I've finally gotten over that. :)

If I'm such a freak in my other life, why can't I be an organized freak in my writing life? You would think one would lead to the other, but it doesn't work that way with me for some reason. I've tried pretty much every plotting method out there, from Carolyn Greene's Plot Doctor, to the snowflake method, to time lines, to character interviews. Nothing. Can't do it.

So now, as I begin to write the sequel to The Devil's Daughter, I'm back to the chaos that is my writing method. I have the first scene typed out, I know the hero (as he plays a vital role in The Devil's Daughter), and I finally have my heroine's name pegged, but that's it. If only I could line up the story like I do my soup cans and cracker boxes. If only I could organize it in such a way as to not spend so much time rewriting.

But whereas I like my life organized, I like my Tupperware drawer in proper order, and my glasses set up in perfectly straight lines, I've finally admitted it to myself. I'd hate to write that way. It feels restrictive to me, almost as though I've been wrapped up tight and I'm not allowed to sway from that organized plan. I know there are a million plotters out there who swear by this method, and God bless them, but until I can line up my characters into neat rows of chicken noodle, tomato and cream of mushroom, I'm going to keep on writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. . . .

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Off the track and into the bushes - Elizabeth Hoyt

So, I went off the tracks again today.

There I was, happily typing along, minding my own business, secure in the knowledge that I knew exactly what was going to happen next in my manuscript, when zzzzrreeeet! my heroine picked up a straight edge razor. I know. I was thrown for a loop, too. It’s not like I write romantic suspense or even paranormal where a straight edge razor might possibly be a matter of course. Nope. I write historical romance. My heroines are much more likely to pick up a fan, or—push comes to shove—maybe a scone. Definitely not a razor. And what was worse, she was holding it to the hero’s throat.


Up until this point, it had not occurred to me that my heroine might have anger issues with my hero. Really, it hadn’t. I fall into the plotter category of writers. I make lovely little lists about my characters (eye color, hobbies, tics,) I have deep and meaningful discussions with my critic partner about the underlying themes and motives in my books, and I write a detailed, scene by scene outline of my book, all this before ever setting fingers to keyboard. And yet . . .

And yet here my heroine stood on page 123 with a razor against my hero’s throat.

Here’s the really sad part. This isn’t the first time. Well, I guess the razor bit is a first. But the going off the tracks of my carefully plotted book and wandering into the bushes of surprised confusion? Happens with far too much frequency. Have you read my second book, The Leopard Prince? Remember the scene where the heroine invites the hero for an intimate dinner? That was supposed to be a love scene. You probably don’t remember the sex in that scene. That’s because there wasn’t any. My hero refused. Set his heels and absolutely refused to get it on. Still makes me a little irritated when I think about it.

So, the next time you pick up a book and a character makes a really interesting turn and you’re thinking, “Boy, howdy, wasn’t expecting that.” Keep in mind: the author may not have been expecting it either.

I’m off to try and figure out how to get my heroine to put down that razor.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007


So hey, does that title get your attention or what? FRAUD. Ah...innocent people being duped. We all know the bad guys. The scammers.

In this case, *I* am the scammer.

Ok, so maybe I'm not a total fraud, but there are days I feel like it.

Like very possibly, today.

Tonight I'm doing my very first public workshop at my RWA chapter. Thankfully I got to pick the topic wayyyy back last spring, and I went with revisions. Revisions are my favourite part of the writing process. And I tend to be fairly competent at them (or so says my editor) which is a good thing. So perhaps I'm not a total fraud. I used to hate and be horribly afraid of changing my books. Now I look forward to it and love how editorial changes make my book stronger. So debunking the mysterious revisions process is a natural for me.

However...this coming weekend I'm giving a full day workshop for a writer's group out of town. It's called The Business of Writing.

And here's the issue for me. For one thing...despite having 7 books written and/or contracted for 2 different publishers, I'm still a relative newbie. I've really only been in on this business part of it for a little over a year. And as I'm sure many of you know, the more you learn the more you realize you have to learn. This is where the fraud thing comes in. Because I'm supposed to know what I'm talking about and there is still so much I don't know.

But then...I look back over the last 18 months and realized I've learned a heck of a lot. I've learned about contracts and deadlines and proposal writing. I've learned about the publishing process, reviews, and the dreaded promotion. LOTS of things about promotion. I've learned the feeling of holding my book in my hands and I've learned what it's like when readers write to tell you something you did that touched them, or the flip side - when you slipped up and missed it. I've also learned that time management takes on a whole new meaning.

So no, I don't have years of experience with the "biz". But I do have a lot more knowledge than I did not that long ago and if what I've learned so far helps someone else navigate the rocky road of that first year of publication, I'm happy to do it.

Just wish me luck, okay?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Just Like Family - Elizabeth Boyle

I got an email from a reader the other day wondering how two characters were doing. Had they resolved their disagreements and were they friends again. Of course the smarty pants part of me wanted to email her back and say, "Sure they are! Why they just went bowling the other day . . . " But then after a few moments I had a different sort of response--I was truly and honestly touched that a reader cared enough to ask about one of my characters. That these two men from my stories had entered her heart, just as they'd come out of mine and become family.

Who was I to joke about these characters taking on a life of their own, when I collect my characters around me and spin their stories and delve into writing huge, convoluted, inter-connected series and love every minute of it, simply because it allows me to revisit the folks that I can't let go of, i.e. Temple and Diana from Stealing the Bride. I've even dedicated part of my books and website to proudly displaying their family trees.

And those are just the family trees I show off in public. My writing files are filled with notes about the Danvers, the Marlowes, the Langleys and Knolles. The family trees I've mapped out and filed away for future books--like this one of Thatcher's family (the hero of Love Letters from a Duke.) Before he became the Marquess of Standon, two uncles and a brother held the title. To me these were important facets in creating his character, but they also brought his family dynamics to life.

I like to think that these families represent every family out there--well, minus the wealth, power, titles and servants--but they represent the families we come from--from the uncle who embarrasses you at family weddings by singing Danny Boy off key and too loud, or the grandmother who can't help meddle in your love life--I had two of those!--or the incredible loyalty a family can show when one member is struggling, sick, or just plain in trouble.

So in answer to my wonderful fan, yes, Alex and Jack are still friends. Best of friends. Just like family ought to be.

What do you love about books built around families? Series that continue? What makes you stick with them?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Beating A Block - Christina Hollis

Sometimes there are days when the words won’t come. It’s like insomnia. When you can’t sleep, lying in bed trying to drop off makes it impossible to get any rest. Staring at a computer screen when you’ve got nothing to say is equally unproductive. I’ve never found a cure, but over the years I’ve found a few things that help.

First, and most importantly, I spend plenty of time thinking about my work in progress before going anywhere near the computer. There’s something about Paperclip Man combined with the drone of the equipment that puts me right off. I only sit down and switch on when I’m itching to get started. When those sentences begin dancing across the page it’s a real boost to the self-confidence. Once that happens, there’s no stopping me (other than for tea and cake, of course).

Chapter hopping can kick start the imagination. If I’ve been tussling unhappily with one particular scene, I’ll hop forwards or backwards in the story and work on a different part for a while. That’s the beauty of writing straight onto computer. Pages can never get left on a bus, or borrowed to scribble out a shopping list. If I’ve typed it, it’ll be in the computer records somewhere!

A change of tone also works wonders. I spent most of last week letting my latest hero and heroine, Marco and Cheryl, frolic through a tropical paradise. By Friday morning I was relaxed to the point of being horizontal. All I wanted to do was take time off to enjoy our glorious Indian summer and do some gardening. But I’ve got a dreadline on the horizon. ‘1k per day’ is my motto, so it was time to get tough. With Cheryl lulled into a false sense of security after her desert island holiday, I got her to interfere in Marco’s troubled family life (with the best of intentions, of course!). It sparked a furious row that had them bouncing off the page. I can’t wait to see what happens next. That’s a good sign – if I’m looking forward to finding out where their story goes from here, you should be, too!

Finally, when all else fails, I start haggling with my inner child. Finish this tricky scene, I tell myself, and my reward will be a walk down to the store and a treat from the bakery counter.

It works wonders on my prose, but wreaks havoc on my waistline!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Where do you get your ideas? - Shayla Black

This is a question I'm often asked...and frequently dread. It's a little like asking where I get the air I breathe. Ideas sort of run amok in my head. After over a decade of marriage, my husband can just look at me and tell when something new has struck me. But where they come from... Overactive imagination? Probably.

I get a lot of ideas, believe it or not, in the car. Probably because when I'm driving, I'm often alone. I'm almost always blasting music. Okay, there's something. I get a lot of ideas from music. It's the way my brain works. Some songs trigger storylines for me, which is why I frequently find songs that correspond to my current or upcoming work and use them to inspire me through a plot. Most people are visual. I'm wired different. Shocking, I know.

Books are easier for me when I have a "soundtrack." Wicked Ties and my current release, Decadent, both have theme songs from Depeche Mode, oddly enough. Jack in Wicked Ties was represented to me by the song Enjoy the Silence. Can't say why. It's not really the lyrics, just a vibe. Something about that song just felt like Jack. Decadent seemed to be spelled out in some ways by the song Precious. Upcoming books in the series, however, have totally different songs and artists, so I'm not just a Depeche Mode freak. I promise. Logan's song is by Three Days Grace, while Hunter's is by Hinder. Luc...I'm not saying a word. :-)

A lot of writers go through different processes to arrive at their plots and characters. Me? I'm all about getting the right vibe in some music. Then whatever is in my sub-conscious will work its way out. Can I write a book without music? Sure. I'm doing it currently with my first paranormal romance, Tempt Me With Darkness (Pocket, September 2008). I don't have a song that represents Marrok or Olivia or the overall plot. It's harder, I confess. Not impossible, thankfully. I'm almost finished.

Some ideas are like ghosts--they just haunt you. The idea for this paranormal is one I conceived of about a dozen years ago. I couldn't figure out the ending. And I couldn't figure it out, and I couldn't figure it out. I worked on it so many times, only to put it away, knowing the time wasn't right. Now music did help me solve the problem. There may have been a bottle of wine involved, too. LOL. So even though I didn't find theme music for the book, per se, I did find my imagination in music. Which is exactly where I love it to be.

If you're writing, find the process that works for YOU. There's no greater joy as a writer than FINALLY knowing that you have the right elements for the story in place and the book fitting together like the pieces of a perfect puzzle.

Read more about Shayla Black books at: or

Friday, October 12, 2007


I’m so happy to be blogging on Tote Bags and Blogs... thanks, Lee, for letting me join the gang!

Reading recent posts and thinking about what I was going to say in my inaugural Tote Bags and Blogs appearance I’m left sitting on the fence (anyone who knows me will recognise this favoured form of seating, the splinters... now they’re another story.)

On one side of the fence there is my wish to wax lyrical about the fellowship of good friends. Most of my very best friends are fellow writers and authors and, to be honest, they keep me sane (okay, ladies... sort of sane!) After all, who else can understand and appreciate the highs and lows of striving for your dream, achieving your dream and maintaining your dream, other than someone who is on the same road as you, or who has already trod that road and knows what you’re going through. And that’s something special, isn’t it? That incredible fellowship and support we give and receive on our journeys through life, no matter what we’re doing in our lives. No matter what stage we’re at, e.g. meeting new potential partners, embarking on a new job, overseas experience, dissolution of a relationship; it’s our friends that bolster us up along the way. Who else can we cry with, mourn with and, best of all, laugh and celebrate with, without fear of judgement, censure or lack of understanding.

And then there’s the other side of the fence. Books.
I love books. All books. I love to just pick them up sometimes and smell the paper (okay, I did say ‘sort of sane’ before), I love to turn the pages without breaking back the spine (and yes, I’ve been known to buy myself a new book after loaning one out and it’s come back spine broken) but best of all I love to read. Each book is a journey in itself, no matter what genre, although obviously my preference is for romance. So what do you do when you get to combine friends and books, aside from a really great time?

Well, in the case of twenty six authors from Australia and New Zealand you get Sizzle, Seduce & Simmer—a sinfully sweet collection of short stories and recipes from an ever growing group of friends, released by Harlequin in Australia as a MIRA in trade paperback. The brain child of a group of awesome romance authors in Melbourne and collated by the incredibly clever and lovely Marion Lennox the idea grew and expanded to include authors from further afield and on 1 November the book will be launched in the big wide world. Well, initially in Australia and New Zealand but hey, with the internet the world’s our oyster, right? And it’s the perfect combination which allows you to read while cooking! So, if you’re Down Under based, look out for it at your favourite bookstore from 1 November and if you’re Up Over based, try this site, or this one, to have it sent to you.

Bon Appetit!

Actually, I'm beginning to think that seduction is very definitely a part of my life now I'm writing full time, and who could complain about that? So, while I'm here I'd also like to bring your attention to my first UK release (of my first sale book, and the first in my New Zealand Knight's mini-series--Yay!) THE BOSS'S CHRISTMAS SEDUCTION. It's a November release in the omnibus SEDUCED BY CHRISTMAS together with the gorgeous and talented Sandra Marton. I can't believe I'm saying this in October... but Jingle Bells! Everyone!

Ooh, is that a splinter?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oh Those Many Genres I Write - Jennifer Ashley

I’m often asked what is my favorite genre to write. I always scratch my head, because I have no clue.

I write romance, mystery, mainstream, and scifi/fantasy. Within romance I write historical, contemporary, paranormal, futuristic, and erotic.

Which is my favorite? I don’t know!!!

I love romance because--Gotta love those heroes! Most of my romances are hero-centric; it’s really the hero’s story. I love coming up with those lonely, powerful hunks of men just waiting to meet their perfect match. I love writing the banter between h/h that becomes a purr as they draw closer together…

Then I start itching to get very, very sensual, and I slide into erotic romance. No holds barred—these people can get down and dirty, usually with the hero teaching the heroine all he knows . . .

I think historicals and erotica are made for each other, so my romance leaps back into the past, when no one was interrupted by cell phones and people talked to each other instead of watched other people talk on television…

But I like the fantasy of magic and supernatural creatures like dragons and werewolves, where the heroine discovers that the hero is a creature of darkness. . .

But when things get too dark, I start wanting funny, upbeat stories where the heroine has to juggle dreams of her magnificent dark hero with the reality of commuting to work and wallpapering her closet.

And then, I start hankering to write a gritty plot-centered story where one rather quirky character is smart enough to solve the mystery and save the day—having a romance along the way, of course!

And then there are the historical mainstreams where I can write about something that really did happen. Here the challenge is making the historical figures come alive, making the tale interesting and suspenseful, even when we all know the outcome.

In my latest novel, The Queen’s Handmaiden, there are only four fictional characters: the heroine, her parents, and the hero. Everyone else is real, and their story unfolded as I tell it.
Of course, I give my fictional heroine a romance with the hero! How could I not?

So I come all the way around the circle back to romance.

Oh, I gotta love those heroes!!

Jennifer Ashley
Author of the bestselling Immortals series, award-winning mysteries and romances, and winner of RWA’s RITA award for novel with romantic elements.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Heroine in the 21st Century

What makes a heroine different in today's world?

Recalling the romance classics from Mills and Boons, the Harlequins of the 60s, the sweeping historical epics in the 70s, through to the Dynasty and Dallas-type 80s glitz, to Silhouette's American girl-next-door series, and up to Harlequin's Kimani romances...we've come a long way.

And yet, have we come far enough?

We've had the meek, stuttering heroine who swooned when the hero looked her way.

We've had the heroine who liked it rough (some would call it rape).

We've had the heroine who cut her hair or dressed as a boy to be accepted and act on her independence.

We've had the range from the penniless heroines to queens of their nations. The spinstered governess takes her place next to the business executive.

Our heroines' goals and conflicts have been updated to reflect the reality of women's independence. Even in the bedroom with the hero, she will not be dominated. No actually means no. And the heroine can be the one to produce a condom before consummation without shock and distress.

Now that we are only just beginning this century, we've already seen a colorful quilt of heroines from various ethnic groups. Not enough, in my humble opinion, but I think we are moving forward at a healthy clip to re-define the heroine in the 21st century.

And as always, the classic romance story will remain timeless.

Michelle Monkou

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Books or Movies?

Which is better, the book or the movie?

My first reaction is to say the book. Definitely the book! Often when I compare a book to the movie made from it, I see how much richer and deeper the book is--we get inside the character's heads, there are layers of motivation and plot not even touched upon in the movie, and so much more detail.


I just went to the movie version of the Jane Austen Book Club. I adored it. Funny, warm, fabulous characters, great acting--and actual book discussions! So the thing is, I wasn't that enthusiastic about the book. I found it dry and really kind of boring, even though I'd expected to love it. I never actually finished the book either, although now that I've seen the movie I'll go back and read it again. I might even like it better the second time.

This got me thinking. Have there been other instances where I preferred the movie? Well, Brokeback Mountain might qualify. While the short story was excellent for what it was, the movie was far more moving. It had grandeur. So did The English Patient, one of my all time favorites. I also loved the book by Michael Ondaatje, but the visuals of the movie swept me away. The characters came alive (even when they were dead). The book was astounding, lyrical, magnificent, but the movie matched it, in my opinion.

What about the more lowbrow stuff? A lot of Stephen King's books have been made into movies. I'd call them a draw. There have been outstanding examples--The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me--and schlocky losers (too many to name).

I'm not a Harry Potter reader or watcher, but I'd guess that most of you prefer the books?

Bridget Jones? Almost a draw, but I've seen the movie several times while I'll probably never read the book again, so I lean toward another vote for the silver screen.

Hmm, come to think of it, maybe my sudden preference for the movie over the book is a case of being too drained from writing all day to read. Not when it's so easy to pop in a DVD and zone out....

Aha! I just thought of one author-who-shall-not-be-named (not my most attractive trait, but I'm still holding a grudge over his attitude toward female romance authors) whose movies are far superior to the books. Message in a Bottle, The Notebook. On that, I shall say no more. :-)

What do you think? Books or movies? Post your opinion for a chance to win a copy of my October release from Harlequin Blaze, MY FRONT PAGE SCANDAL, the second book of the Martini Dares miniseries written with the fantastic authors Lori Wilde (Book 1: MY SECRET LIFE, Sept 07), Jamie Denton (Book 3: MY GUILTY PLEASURE, Jan 08) and Isabel Sharpe (Book 4: MY WILDEST RIDE, Feb 08). I'll choose a name at random and post the winner tomorrow.

Thanks to Lee for inviting me to join the Totebaggers!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Behind a Mask - The Joys of Pretending (and Dressing Up!) Annie West

We’ve all done it, or dreamed of doing it – pretended for a short time that we are someone else. Someone exotic and interesting, perhaps a fascinating femme fatale or a heroine from a favourite book.

Here in Australia, whenever Book Week rolls around most schools have a costume parade where children get the fun of dressing as Harry Potter, Heidi or whatever fictional character most appeals. And the kids respond enthusiastically – there’s something so liberating about becoming someone else, even for a few short hours.

Costume parties are a perennial favourite and I know that all around the world festivals abound where people are invited to tug on a costume or a mask and enter a world of make believe for a few hours. Mardi Gras, Carnivale, Fasching and Halloween all beckon as chances to let down your hair, frock up in something outlandish or stunning and take on a new persona. In a world where most of us are busy being responsible, sensible and careful (most of the time) the lure of a mask or a costume is irresistible.

My most recent experience of this was at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference where the cocktail party theme was Venetian Carnivale. Wow! What a night. So many smiles. So many masks, cloaks, feathers, fabulous costumes and general glitter. The idea of a costume party at the Conference has been fantastically successful since so many people love to dress up and because there’s no pressure to do so. The rest of the attendees get to admire and chat about the costumes. It’s a terrific ice breaker as well as being enormous fun. The woman in gold here is one of our members. Hi Christine!

Perhaps too, some of the success of that party was because these were authors attending, people who make their living, or hope to, from exercising their imaginations and creating fantasy worlds. For most of the year we work alone, in well appointed offices (I wish!) or in a corner somewhere, trying to block out the rest of the world and enter the realm of our latest story. After a year of solo writing no wonder we were ready for some outlandish celebrations. But more than that, I think people who love books also have a love of make believe which allows them to enjoy fictitious worlds, even if only for a few hours.

How many romance readers would love to spend an evening being Cinderella at her ball or Elizabeth Bennett being courted by Mr Darcy? One of my own personal fantasies as a girl was taking Grace Kelly’s place in the movie ‘To Catch a Thief’. I’d go to the masked ball wearing that stunning gold ball gown and dance with Cary Grant!

I’m sure learned books and articles have been written on why people like to make believe, explaining the primitive urge for fantasy, escape, release, or just plain fun. I just know it works, especially if I haven’t had to spend a fortune on a costume.

I suspect that writing romance feeds the desire to escape from the mundane world and stand for a while in someone else’s shoes. To experience the exotic for just a little while. When I write I can be my heroine – strong and confident in situations where I’d be a nervous wreck in real life. Or petite and delicately vulnerable (at around 5’10” I’ve never been described as petite!). I can live my heroine’s exciting life just for a little while, then safely return to my own. The best of both worlds!

What do you think? Do you like to pretend by playing make believe in costume or do you unleash that urge only in the books you read or write? What would be your favourite costume or character for a masquerade?

Annie is currently grappling with another fictitious world, one where the heroine occasionally gets to wear silks and satins and where the hero has just FINALLY realised he can’t live without her. Sigh.

If you want to dip into one of Annie's favourite alternative realities, check out her most recent release for Harlequin Presents – 'For the Sheikh's Pleasure'.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Pet Death - Lilian Darcy

What is it with vacations and creatures in this family? There seems to be some kind of cosmic conjunction between one or all of us being away and either traumatic pet death or traumatic vermin invasion.

Tomorrow, I’m going away for a week. Complete break. No checking email. New horizons. Fresh air. Fine food. Pile of great books to read. (Note to self – must cull pile, cannot read eleven books on one week vacation.) Top of the pile is Jane Porter’s “Odd Mom Out.” That one is not getting culled. (Note to self – must not spend whole afternoon deciding which books to cull; have other things to do).

Anyhow, so I’m going away, so of course this triggers a Pet Death. Last time we had a Pet Death, my daughter was away on camp, worried the whole time about absent and much-loved cat who was, unbeknownst to us, in our vet’s freezer. He’d been run over. A kind man, whom I wish I could thank, brought him in, in case his owners called in search of him. We found out what had happened the day after daughter returned.

The Pet Death before that took place while I was at the Novelists’ Inc conference in San Diego in March, which meant that my husband had to handle traumatic euthanasia of terminally ill chicken himself. Chicken euthanasia is a man job, but when the man in question was born and raised in New York, where chickens come frozen and wrapped in plastic, I fully appreciated the courage involved.

Yesterday, we had another terminal chicken, one of the three especially precious ones my daughter considers hers, so we’ve had lots of tears here. I called my husband at work and told him what his man job would have to be when he got home. Then I called him again to tell him he didn’t have the man job any more, because the chicken had taken care of the problem on her own. It’s not a good sign when you see them lying stiffly on their side with their feet in the air. Rest in peace, Chicken, you laid beautiful eggs and had a good life pecking around in our back garden.

So now you’re wondering about the traumatic vermin invasion. I will not detail the many spider occurrences. I’m okay with the shiny black, small and highly poisonous ones with the red stripe down their backs. It’s the big, hairy harmless ones that give me the horrors. My most traumatic vermin invasion (so far) was The Large Rat. Husband out of the country (of course). Two in the morning. Loud shaking and rattling sound issues from en suite bathroom. Rat is caught in slats of exhaust fan. Rat somehow squeezes through. Brief silence, then loud plop and splashing sounds. (I’m sorry, this is the most awful blog, are you still reading?) Rat is trapped in toilet bowl. I cannot bring myself to rescue it – I cannot envisage it being grateful for my effort – I do not wish to be bitten or climbed. It is way too big to flush. I take pillow and quilt, close bathroom and bedroom door, sleep on couch. What will I find the next morning when I slide open the bathroom door? Worst case – no rat… therefore where is it? Pretty near worst case – live rat on floor making immediate break for cover between my feet. Best case – rat drowned in toilet. Fortunately, we had the best case. I considered decreeing getting dead rats out of toilets to be a man job, but then bravely tackled it myself, encasing hand in two plastic bags.

Okay, so I’ve sent rewrites to editor, updated website, done laundry, made about six different lists, we’ve had the pet death, so I’m just about ready to leave. Boy, am I looking forward to it. Boy, am I hoping there are no rats, spiders or terminally ill chickens anywhere near our motel. Cross your fingers for me, please…

Lilian Darcy

Friday, October 05, 2007

Heroes for different times

One thing about changing time periods as I seem to keep doing is that the nature of the heroes alter slightly. In the past year or so, I have written books set in ancient Rome, Viking Scandinavia, Victorian England and currently the Regency period. And with each time period shift, I have had to think about how the hero has changed and how best to show the hero.

Although basic human nature does not alter with the passage of time, the veneer of civilisation does. A Roman hero is a bit more civilised than a Viking hero. A Victorian hero operates by a slightly different set of rules than a Regency hero -- even though they all may have the same inner integrity that I need in all my heroes.

For example, I find it far easier to imagine Christian Bale or Eric Banna playing a Roman, then playing a Viking. Whereas I can easily see Sean Bean or Daniel Craig playing a Viking but have a much harder time envisioning them as Regency dandies. I could however see them as Romans.

It is not their physical characteristics, but their mannerisms that really help to make the final decision.

It was also not quite what I expected to happen when I started changing time periods. I had this long discussion with my editors about the fact that many Norwegians have dark hair and I really wanted a darked haired Viking. And they agreed. The cover does show a dark haired hero. initally I thought I could go through my stock of dark haried heroes and reuse one of my favourites. But I found that I could not use the first actor I had envisioned in the role and eventually had to envision Gerald Butler for it.

As today is the official publication of my first Viking book -- Taken by the Viking, I have a copy to give away to a lucky Tote Bag reader. Simply email me with the answer to the following question: in what year does Taken by the Viking take place (hint it is in the blurb on my website). Totebag contest should be the title of the email. I will draw the winner on Friday 12 October.



Thursday, October 04, 2007

Novellas on my mind - Nalini Singh

I’ve got novellas on my mind. Two reasons for this – my very first novella just came out in the An Enchanted Season anthology; and I’m writing a second one at this very moment.

When I was first asked to write a novella, I thought about the ones I’d read in the past and why the ones that worked for me did so. Here are two factors that immediately jumped out at me.

1. Characters I care about: This is something that’s important in every book I read, but in novellas an author has a shorter time-period to get me cheering for the hero and heroine. So if you’re going to write an unsympathetic hero or heroine, as I reader, I want to be clued in early that this person isn’t as bad as they appear.

2. A complete story: Very important. Even if it’s part of a series, I want a beginning, a middle and an end. A sense of resolution is necessary because often, when I pick up a novella collection, it’s because I don’t have time to read a full book, but want that full book feeling of satisfaction.

So those are two things that I try to keep in mind while working on my novellas. Do you agree with my points? Think I need to add something to the list? And have you read any good novellas lately? What made the story work so well for you?

# Everyone who leaves a comment in the next twenty-four hours goes into the draw to win a copy of An Enchanted Season.

And last, but definitely not least, I want to thank Lee for inviting me to come play on her blog!

Nalini Singh has travelled as far afield as the deserts of China and the temples of Japan. However, it is the journey of the imagination that fascinates her the most. Currently writing the next book in her bestselling Psy/Changeling series—about a race with no emotions, and the sensual changelings who challenge their perfect Silence—she can be found via her website or hanging out at her blog.