Friday, October 31, 2008



Maybe being a writer allows me to be alone more than other people. Unlike most folk, I spend hours alone in my office imagining the world in different ways. I also blog everyday at, which keeps me from playing ball outside with the kids, too. However, I do have to go out into the world twice a week to teach three classes in person. I go to meetings. I do readings at book stores—currently I’m out and about with my new novel Intimate Beings.
So I don't think of myself as a misanthrope. I've seen the Moliere play, and I'm not as angry and irritated at the human race as the main character Alceste. I love people and am willing to be with people pretty much all the time. Sure, they piss me off on a regular basis, but I am always happy to give them another go because where else could I get such amazing entertainment? People crack me up. People are exciting. We are all so ridiculous and bizarre and strange. We say and do the most electrifying and funny things, and I want to be there to catch them.

But I do not like this: driving into a crowded parking lot on a hot Sunday afternoon, just barely finding a space, and then looking out across the thronging throng of cars and people, understanding that I have to get out and mingle with the masses. That I have to mix it up with all of them. Stand in line and buy a half pound of shrimp with them. Push, move, stand in line some more.

I don't want to do it. I don’t want to budge. And then, for god's sake, don't make me go into Long's and Trader Joe's, too. For the love of Mike or anyone else, could you let me stay in the car? But could you pick up some hair conditioner and tampons while you are there?
Maybe I have a very specific form of agoraphobia, the kind that strikes at Macy's, Whole Foods, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, strip malls, 4th Street in Berkeley. I have to gird my loins, force myself out, put on my invisible battle armor and go. Into the stores I forge, carrying patience and amnesia. I don't want to wait for anything, but I'm going to have to, so I want to forget it.

But some stores are too much of a threat, and I abdicate my responsibility of walking one inch in their doors. Berkeley Bowl—an immense, crowded, poorly aisled store--sends me into catatonia. I have been whapped my shopping carts in the thigh, shin, and elbows, while trying to find the apples and bread or waiting at the meat counter. No one seems to follow the rules of traffic there, and you know what? I’m not going in there unless forced to by hunger.

Costco gives me claustrophobia even though the ceilings are 100 feet high. Home Depot makes me want to wear a helmet and shoulder pads, so sure am I that a toilet will fall from the towering racks.

The problem is that I need things from these stores. I want the new sweater at Macy’s and the incredibly fresh produce and the glasses I can only find at Sur La Table. Somehow, in both of my long term relationships, I've found men who actually like to go into places like Costco and Home Depot and Sears. If I put things on the list, things magically appear.

Sometimes I did and do find myself having to go into the stores as well, but I try to do my "share" of the shopping at times when the throng is a thong instead of big girl panties. One-thirty pm, Whole Foods Oakland. Twenty parking spaces available on the lower lot. Perfection. Trader Joe's, Monday at 2 pm. I can park right in front of the store. Ideal.

No one whaps me with their shopping cart. The man behind the meat counter actually begs me to buy up something because he has nothing to do.

Online shopping cures my holiday list anxiety, and I have been buying already, knowing that between now and the end of December, I have four birthdays and two major religious holidays to deal with, one of which goes on for a number of days and involves more presents.
Shopping is a euphemism. I've been clicking. And imputing credit card numbers. And clicking some more.

I have my consumer capitalist hat on, even though I need to take it out and prepare for the apocalypse. But I'm not ready to stop yet, despite what my anarchist son Mitchell tells me. I want to buy things for people. And I want to enjoy living, and I want to enjoy people, just not in parking lots and packed stores. Instead, I want them all around my table eating the food I've bought at convenient times, and opening presents I've purchased online.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Find Betsy A Boyfriend - Monica Ferris

Betsy needs a boyfriend. She has had two romances in the course of this series. The first was Morrie Steffans, a retired police detective who wanted Betsy to sell her shop and move with him to Florida. When she refused, he moved away alone. Down there, he found a new girlfriend. But he could move back. He is tall, with a lantern jaw and jug ears. He admires her talent for detective work, and has gentle manners. A widower, compassionate and decent. (I really liked him, I don’t know why I let him get away.)

The second was Stan Omernic, a hard-working police detective. Good looking in an Eastern European way, very competent. In Sins and Needles he is married (but he could get or already be divorced) with children. Honest, not too cynical, tolerant.

The third? Well, invent someone, one of you. Or tell me why to bring back one of the above two.

Betsy is fifty-six, short, plump, intelligent, hard-working, funny, open-minded, a church-going Episcopalian. She is independently wealthy (though that may change if the economy keeps sliding). She owns her own business and sleuths on the side. She keeps a cat. She needs a boyfriend she can keep!

Because of my wide readership, I am offering a choice of prizes to the winner:

1) A hand-painted canvas by Peter Ashe called Winter Cottage, not stitched.2) A sampler pattern called “A Sampler for Merry Pat” from Blue Ribbon Designs.3) “The Long Thistle” cross stitch chart from Landmark Tapestries.4) An autographed ARC (Advance Review Copy – bound galleys) of Thai Die.5) An antique (around 1912) toy typewriter from Simplex.6) A skein of fuzzy yarn (mohair, wool, nylon blend, 50 grams, 122 yards) in fall colors from The Gourmet Collection, suitable for knit or crochet.

The rules of the contest: You have until November 15 to invent a fictional male boyfriend for my sleuth, Betsy Devonshire. He needs a name, a physical description, and a solid outline of his character. Add any details you like, such as how they meet – though that’s not necessary. Oh, I need to like him, too. Winner gets his/her choice of one of the five prizes – plus a copy of Blackwork (in which the new boyfriend will appear), suitably autographed.

Go to my web site,, and contact me through there. Thank you, and good luck!
Monica Ferris

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like. . . what?!

I just looked at the calendar and realized that Halloween is sneaking up on me in just a couple of days.

All Hallow’s Eve. . . Samhain. . . . The day when the veil that separates the world of humans from the world of the fae is at its thinnest and most vulnerable. . .

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with all things fae. I just read Karen Marie Moning’s latest book, FAEFEVER, and it ends (no spoiler here!) on Halloween. I’ve been researching the mythology and history of fairies for a new trilogy I’m working on for my first BRAVA release. I received an invitation from a friend to attend FAIRIE-CON in Philadelphia, where there will be fairies and costumes and social events and leading authors and everything I could possibly ever want to know under one roof.

So, I should be ready for Halloween….

But, then, it snowed today. It’s only October and it snowed here in the northeast! An actual Nor’easter formed off the coast yesterday, rained out the World Series last night and dumped some snow in PA and NJ today.

And snow always makes me think of. . . yep!. . . Christmas! I don’t know why that link is still live since my area in southern NJ hasn’t gotten a good Christmas snowstorm in decades and actually got very little snow at all these last couple of years. But, it still happens.

I already pulled out my matching snowman cups and plates in case I need to make hot chocolate. I went hunting for the little mouse that marks the days of December as we move closer to the holiday. I even found myself checking my Holiday card mailing list. And worse, my local grocery store has already shoved the Halloween candies to one side and begun setting up the Christmas items! Yikes!

So, now I’m getting ready to get ready for Christmas!

I am so confused! This is beginning to remind me of the routine in the Mel Brooks’ movie SPACEBALLS when Dark Helmet and his commander are watching the previous scenes of the movie IN the movie. And he keeps asking, “Is it now?” and the answer is always, “No, it’s not now, it’s then.” Or “When will it be now?” “Soon!”

So, tell me – is it now? Or are we waiting for then? Are you celebrating Halloween this week or have you already moved on to Christmas? And, ohmigosh!, when is Thanksgiving? Which is your favorite? Post a note and tell me and I’ll award a small prize to a random poster.

Terri is celebrating the release of her novella BLAME IT ON THE MISTLETOE in the Regency Christmas anthology ONE CANDLELIT CHRISTMAS, on shelves today, from Harlequin Historicals. Visit her website at for more info about her upcoming books and other events, both now and then!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Your Favorite Romance Cliches by Diana Holquist

I've been doing the last wave of revises on my next book, How to Tame a Modern Rogue.

One of the things I like to do in the last pass is to highlight all the cliches I can find, and then try to change them. I'm talking about cliched phrases like "her heart raced." Cliched actions like, "her breast heaved as she reached for his manhood" --


--just kidding, I'd never write that one in the first place. And also cliched situations or characters (oh, shoot, the bimbo in scene one is blond and buxom! Scratch that!).

So, I was wondering--what are your favorite/least favorite romance novel cliches?

I'll pick my favorite from the comments to win a free copy of Hungry for More.

Have fun!

win free chocolate!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where do you get your ideas? - Helen Bianchin

One of the queries an author is asked is ... where do you get your ideas? From life is too simple an answer ... perhaps events that happen in life is more accurate. Taking an idea and giving it a twist, employing a reality fact and weaving it into fiction with a romance element. In the case of a Harlequin Presents, that involves a sexy romance!

Sometimes an item in the media will spark an idea, an event in a television series, a conversation ... anything, anytime, anywhere.

So how did the idea for the plot of Purchased: His Perfect Wife come about?

For me it was the result of a conversation I had with a friend. A conversation which began quite innocently and revolved around a recent (at the time) news item involving loan sharks. The kind who lend money very short term at exorbitant interest rates ... those whose mantra is "pay on time and you'll be fine. Don't, and you won't".

As often happens, this inspired a "what if" scenario. I needed a realistic plot, a situation that could happen. The how and where and why took some thinking and planning time, and just when I thought I had it, a more plausible approach sprang to mind.

What if the heroine in my story is a chef who co-owns a restaurant with a financial partner, and the partner clears out their bank account and absconds with the money leaving her in debt? Although she presses charges, the bank won't lend her any further money. Desperate, she borrows money from a dubious source on the basis her stepfather will transfer the necessary funds into her account ... except he's killed in a car crash before he can effect the transfer.

The backcover blurb says it all ... "Lara needs cash fast. Her business partner has duped her and her beloved restaurant is in crisis. Only Wolfe Alexander, her tall, dark, brooding stepbrother, can help. Wolfe needs to marry to meet the terms of his late father's will, and when beautiful Lara begs him for money he sees his opportunity. A Powerful attraction has always simmered between them and he'll help if she'll be his convenient wife! With no choice to to accept, Lara is soon swept into a world of high-society glamour, and passion beyond her wildest dreams. But where is her husband's love?"

I hope you enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed writing Lara and Wolfe's story.

I'd love to hear what ideas spark your imagination and prompt a reason for a story.

Regards to all,


Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Immortals - Robin T. Popp

I’ve just spent the last year working on two new Immortals books. The first is Immortals: The Haunting, being released next week (Oct. 28) and the other is an anthology in Immortals: The Reckoning titled “Beyond the Mist” (March, 2009). The Immortals series began back in 2006 (released 2007) and the intent was to do four books. Jennifer Ashley – who came up with the initial concept – wrote the anchor books while Joy Nash and I were asked to write the two books in-between.

We had no idea the series would be so popular, though I’m thrilled it was. After getting to know the fifth Immortal warrior through the first four books, it seemed inevitable that he have his own story – and of course, it was logical that Jennifer write it. I never expected Joy and me to be asked to do another story in the series, much less two.

There were only five Immortal warriors and they’d each had their story and happy ending. What were we to write about? We had a clean slate.

I had two characters from my first book (Immortals: The Darkening) that had potential: Ricco the First Fang of the largest local vampire gang and Mai the wood nymph reporter. Having done the Night Slayer Series, I was in the mood to try something different, so I decided to write a story about Mai. But what? At the end of The Darkening, she and Ricco were dating. It’s no fun writing stories where the romance is over before the story begins. The fun is in the chase, not the catch.

Solution? They broke up. :)

Because Immortals: The Haunting was slated to come out in October, I wanted to do something spooky and what’s spookier than seeing things that aren’t there?

Immortals: The Haunting begins eighteen months after the big battle in Immortals: The Gathering. Mai has been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ever since. The hallucinations she’s been having have caused her to lose her job. Just as she tries to get back in the game as a freelance investigative reporter, she’s attacked in her apartment by a masked assailant who warns her off the story. He nearly beats her to death before he’s chased off by a handsome stranger, whose sexy voice and gentle touch soothe her injuries. Then he, too, disappears leaving her alone and bleeding. When she’s finally able to tend to her injuries, she’s shocked to discover she hasn’t any. There’s no blood, no bruises and no swollen eyes. In short, there was no attack. It was yet another horrific hallucination – and the handsome stranger, no more real than the attack.

Thinking a change of scenery is needed, she moves into a new apartment, not realizing it’s haunted. When one of her new neighbors mysteriously vanishes, Mai seeks help from spirit walker Nick Blackhawk. His ability to move about in the spiritual realms allows him to track missing persons when the police can’t.

What follows is a thrill ride through the streets of New York City and the shadowy realms of dreams and wishes. With a steamy attraction to one another to distract them, Mai and Nick soon find themselves in Trouble with a capital “T”.

Check out the video trailer for this book at or go to to see all the Immortals book video trailers.

To make sure I was in the right mood to write this story, I listened to a compilation of music that consisted of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 (that great organ classic), Chopin’s Funeral March sonata No. 2 in B Flat Minor, Op. 35, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana: O Fortuna, Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King (from “Peer Gynt Suite No. 1”), Overture (from “The Phantom of the Opera”) and for those who aren’t into classical music, #1 Crush (by Garbage). These make great Halloween Party tunes as well.

In March, look for the conclusion to the Immortals series with Immortals: The Reckoning. This books contains three anthologies by Jenn, Joy and myself.

"Blood Debt" by Joy Nash Jackson Cabot's bright future went dark in 1896 Paris, when he died and was turned vampire. After three decades of slavery in the service of Europe's brutal vampire master, Jackson discovered a secret that has allowed him to hoard power. Now, at last, his strength approaches that of his rival, and he exists solely to take vengeance on the two beings responsible for his eternal nightmare: the monster that turned him vampire -- and the beautiful Sidhe muse who killed him.

"Wolf Hunt" by Jennifer AshleyJeanne Fergusen was the lowest of the low in her werewolf pack, a captured wolf who could never rise in the pecking order. When she becomes the victim of demon wolf-hunters, she instinctively turns to the one man she trusts - Logan Wright.

"Beyond the Mist," by Robin T. PoppHaunted by her past and reeling from her sister's murder, Jenna Renfield takes a cruise hoping to have a little fun – and escape the company of sexy, but obnoxious spirit walker, Dave Runningbear. Almost from the start, the cruise turns out not to be what she expected – prickles of death magic, ghostly wailing in the night and an creepy albino stalker. When Jenna realizes her life might be in danger, she’s more than happy that Dave followed her on board the cruise ship and turns to him for help, hoping they can both escape with their lives when the ship carries them "Beyond the Mist."

My best to all and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!
Robin T. Popp

Friday, October 24, 2008

You Can't Go Home Again...Or Can You?

That’s what they say, but I just realized something: I don’t believe that. In fact, I’m kind of obsessed lately with the idea of a “do over.” In my books, I love to send my characters back to a place they’d thought they’d left behind forever...and make them deal with the consequences. So far, I’ve sent a showgirl to her former hometown to claim an inheritance that’s under dispute by the local bad boy (Josie Day Is Coming Home. I’ve booted a down-on-her-luck fashion stylist from Hollywood and sent her to the snowy Midwest to deal with a hunky former pro-football player while she rebuilds her career (Home For The Holidays). And right now, I’m sending a runaway witch back to her old magical stomping grounds to learn about...whoops! That’s my work-in-progress, and it’s top secret until I turn in the manuscript.

Ahem. Moving on... In a similar vein, I’ve also reunited a few ex-lovers in my books (Reconsidering Riley, The Honeymoon Hoax, Her Best Man, My Best Friend's Baby). Because if you ask me, a lovers’ reunion is just another version of returning home again. After all, these people are truly meant for one another. What’s more of a homecoming than returning to the arms of someone you loved (and lost)? I’m crazy about the idea that everyone deserves a second chance...and would rise to the occasion if that second chance ever arrived.

Which is weird, actually. When I’m not wearing my author hat, I’m a very forward-looking person. If I could go back and change anything in my life, I wouldn’t do it. Period. I’m happy where I am now. But my poor characters don’t have that option! They have to go where I send them. And I have to admit...they cope admirably with the challenges they face, right up to their (much deserved) happily-ever-after endings. So why am I so obsessed with filling my stories with “do over” scenarios? It’s anyone’s guess. But as long as I keep finding interesting ways to refute Thomas Wolfe (at least some of the time), I think I’ll keep it up.

So... Do YOU believe in second chances? Would YOU like to have a “do over” of your own? Let’s discuss!


- - - - - - -
Bestselling author Lisa Plumley has written more than two dozen books for Zebra Books and Harlequin Historicals, including contemporary romances (Home For The Holidays, new!), western historical romances (Hallowe'en Husbands, in stores now!), and stories in romance anthologies (Santa Baby, reissued!). Her funny, warmhearted style has been likened to such reader favorites as Rachel Gibson, Jennifer Crusie, and LaVyrle Spencer, but her unique characterization is all her own. Please visit Lisa at, be her friend on MySpace or Facebook, or drop by her personal blog today!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


As you probably know, this year is a very important year for Mills & Boon. 2008 marks the centenary of the date when Gerald Mills & Charles Boon established their publishing company in 1908, with a capital of just £1000. All through the year there have been events and parties, exhibitions and celebrations to mark this special event. And on a personal note I've been travelling here there and everywhere in the UK to take part in as many of these special events as I could.

Last week I was in Guildford, as part of the Guildford Book Festival, to mark the 100th Birthday yet again. In the afternoon I ran a workshop on writing romance - to mark the second edition of the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance - and then in the evening I was on a panel to talk about writing romance and Mills & Boon's 100th birthday all ove again. I shared the evening with fellow M&B author Gill Sanderson who writes Medicals, romantic novelist Katie Fforde and romantic comedy writer Matt Dunn. We had a wonderful time talking about writing, sharing our enjoyment of romantic fiction, and asking 'what's wrong with a happy ending anyway?' )Answer from the audience- nothing!)

But the event was also very special for me because I was celebrating something rather lovely of my own. For the past week or so, I've been doing the Snoopy dance of joy and smiling a lot.
Because I discovered on the Romantic Times web site that not only have they give my new novel, Bedded By The Greek Billionaire 4.5 stars but they have also made it one of their Top Picks for November.

I am so thrilled by this. In fact I've achieved a long-held ambition. A l-o-n-g held ambition.
I've had some good reviews from RT, generally pretty respectable. And The Twelve Month Mistress was short-listed for Best Presents in 2005 but I've never achieved that elusive Top Pick for the month.

Now I've finally manged it and Bedded By The Greek Billionaire had a wonderful review as well. The reviews aren't up on the RT site yet, but my lovely friend Holly Jacobs (who got 4.5 stars herself with her fabulous Same Time Next Summer in August ) subscribes to the magazine and she was able to find the review and send it on to me so I can share it with you. (Thanks Hall!)

Seven years after he left in disgrace, Angelos Rousakis is back in London. He'd been attracted to Jessica Marshall but knew she was too young. But she wouldn't leave him alone and when her stepfather found them in what seemed to be a compromising position, Jessica placed the blame on him. Now Jessica's stepfather has died and she learns Angelos is now the owner of the estate. When Angelos sees Jessica he expects to feel triumphant but now wonders if his hate isn't masking something else. Kate Walker's Bedded by the Greek Billionaire (4.5) is a delicious melodrama full of dizzying emotions as the reader goes along with the highs and lows as this couple finds each other again. —Sandra Garcia-Myers

Great isn't it? Thank you RT - and Sandra Garcia Myers.

And then to cap it all, I found that over on We Write Romance they loved this book too. On that site too they've chosen this book as the Spotlighted Review - and given it 4 stars out of a possible 4.

And another review to lift my heart and make me smile all over again:

Looking for that book that can make your heart bump up to your throat with emotion...and stay there throughout the entire book? Well, then look no farther. Kate Walker's Bedded by the Greek Billionaire is just that emotional thrill ride you've been looking for in your next read. . . .

Jessica and Angelos' story is one full of emotional twists and turns. And though Jessica is not as emotionally mature as I would have liked, Angelos more than makes up for it. The two together are wonderful. This book was truly inspiring. It shows that as a teen we often make mistakes that can hurt others, but there are second chances in life that make it possible to make up for those mistakes. I would definitely recommend this book, but I would warn you not to start it unless you can stay up all night finishing it!

Times like this, when you realise that a book you've written has really succeeded and you;ve touched the hearts of readers and reviewers are what an author lives for. It means that the long hours spent on your own, creating imaginary worlds, imaginary characters, have all been worthwhile. And achieving a long held ambtion like getting a Top Pick just makes it all the more special.

So that's why I'm celebrating this week - and when I celebrate I like to share with my readers. At the workshop, I had some special Mills & Boon Centenary goodies to give out and I still have a few of them left. So I have two sets of special Centenary Goody giveaways to share. All you have to do is to tell me what you're celebrating - let's make this Good News week - and I'll get Sid the Cat to pick two names out of the comments and they'll win the special prizes.

I'll add in a copy of my own special Centenary publication, The Duke's Secret Wife which is part of the Centenary Collection this year.

Because good news is worth celebrating.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is Your Glass Half Full?

Is your glass half full?

Mine is.
Okay, so I'm an optimist. I see things in a positive light mostly. I've learned long ago, not to force things. Let them come naturally. And that's what I do when writing my stories. I like things nice and neat. In fact I'm known for tying "happy bows", both literally and figuratively.

When I began writing my Suite Secrets Series, I set each book in a different location. The prequel, The Corporate Raider's Revenge was set in Los Angeles, Five-Star Cowboy in Arizona, Reserved for the Tycoon coming February 2009 was set in Hawaii and my upcoming November book Do Not Disturb Until Christmas was written to be set in Las Vegas.

Oh, lo and behold, my editor called to tell me I had to change that book's location. Books set in Las Vegas don't sell well.

Who knew?

But I needed a town full of flash and glitz and I'd thought it out thoroughly. I had planned for my pop singer Sarah Rose giving concerts in major casinos. I had planned on my hero, Code Landon, owner of a high-tech security corporation, overseeing new concepts in billion dollar hotels. When I received this news, I had to make a quick decision. Where else could I make this story work?

New Orleans came to mind. I've been there several times before Katrina. I love that city! It's got the flash and glitz I needed as well. But New Orleans had something more … something I hadn't put in the original version of my book. It had a population of people who had been tested, who had known the greatest devastation in the world. It was a city that had seen massive destruction and a tourist industry that many didn't believe could survive.

And a light bulb went off in my head. Of course, my heroine wouldn't be a pop singer at all. She'd be a southern girl who sang country music, a powerhouse singer with beauty, grace and talent like Martina McBride. She'd be wealthy in her own right, and in New Orleans at Christmastime to raise funds for Katrina victims through the Dream Foundation, a charity near and dear to her heart.

It not only worked, but it added more depth and impact to my heroine in the story. I chastised myself with a mental knock upside the head, for not coming up with the idea originally!

And not only did it help develop Sarah Rose, but having the story set in New Orleans added layers to my sexy, hunk of a hero, Code Landon. Code, a millionaire in his own right, ties into this Christmas tale when he offers to match Sarah's concert donations. Sarah can hardly refuse his generous offer, though Code is the last person on earth, her childhood beau and recent nemesis, she wants hanging around.

For me, even though I had moments of sheer panic and doubt, ultimately the change of location only made the story better. I see that as a positive thing. My glass is half full. How about yours?

Romantic Times Magazine
Top Pick! 4 1/2 Star

I hope you get a chance to stroll the streets of New Orleans, stop in at the famous Café du Monde for a warm yummy beignet and light up your holiday spirit with Code and Sarah in Do Not Disturb Until Christmas.
Suite Reading Everyone!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Do Overs

I have a new book on the shelves this week. Release dates are always a grand time in the life of any author. For me, it’s the time when I get show off my baby and reminisce about planning and writing the story.

Writing THE SHERIFF’S AMNESIAC BRIDE was a unique experience for me. Not just because the book is part of a multi-author series (The Coltons: Family First) But also because of the story hook. A few years ago, the first book I ever had published (The Cowboy’s Baby Surprise) was an amnesia story. So that subject holds a special place in my heart. But I’d thought one amnesia story would be enough for me—that I’d explored every aspect of the subject and there would be no need for me to ever write another one.

When the editors asked me to write this story of a woman on the run with no memory, I had to think long and hard about whether I had anything left to say about the subject. During my self-examination, I asked a few reader friends for their opinions about amnesia stories. Not surprisingly, these readers seemed cautious: “I don’t usually care for them.” “Oh, those are so over-done.” “Puleeze. That’s such a hooky theme. Can’t stand them.”

However, typical of me, those negative opinions just made me want to give it a try. I thought about the movie and TV amnesia plots that I have loved over the years. Two of my all time favorite movies, Overboard and Finding Nemo are based around the amnesia theme. Even in one of my husband’s all time favorite movies, The Bourne Identity, the hero has amnesia. I also read a great book last spring by Sophie Kinsella, Remember Me?, where the heroine has had amnesia and finds her new life drastically different than she recalled. And TV land is currently full of amnesia plots as well. Samantha Who? and Heroes are two that come to mind.

So did I still have anything new to contribute about amnesia? Probably not. But the idea of getting a do-over for your whole life is nevertheless very appealing to me. I read about a recent study of the National Academy of Sciences where it showed that amnesiacs with damaged hippocampus (part of the brain) cannot imagine the future. This is apparently because people use past experiences to build possible scenarios for coming events. Isn’t that interesting? That means that some amnesiacs not only have no past but no future as well.

I decided that was the way I wanted to go in plotting my heroine’s response to her amnesia. With no past, she looks around for help in deciding how to build her future. And guess who is right there for her to emulate? The good guy sheriff.

It’s fun to think of getting a do-over to your whole life like my heroine.

So what would you change if someone waved a magic wand and you could do-over some part of your past? What part of your life right now would you change if you could? I’ll give a copy of my latest release, THE SHERIFF’S AMNESIAC BRIDE to someone who contributes a comment.

Read more about Linda and her books on her website: She has a current contest running to win books and gift certificates.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Heroines in Our Lives : : Anne McAllister

As romance authors we spend a lot of time writing about heroes. We appreciate a man of integrity, of honor, of competence, and determination. Drop dead gorgeous looks and a smile to die for aren't much of a turn-off, either.

I can happily spend hours drool-- appreciating -- men like Hugh-in-a-towel and others like him.

And while I don't spend nearly the time appreciating the finer qualities of the heroines I write about, what makes them tick is equally important to my heroes, to my books -- and to my life.

It's the women who raised me -- my mother, my grandmother, my aunts and great-aunts -- who first taught me what being a woman is all about. They taught me compassion and generosity and unstinting love.

They were very different, one from another. And admittedly some of them I found more enjoyable to be around than others. They had idiosyncrasies and quirks that made them individuals. They showed me how many different ways women can live out their lives and become the best people they can be.
Friends I made growing up did the same. Some were funny, some were serious, some were definitely holy, some were just a little bit bad. But they all gave me gifts when they shared their lives with me. So did my sister who, if she minds when I call her General Patton, never takes it seriously, thank God.

And then came my daughter who has taught me even more about grace under pressure, steadfast determination, how to have a sense of humor always and how to be a woman in a man's world.

And my daughters-in-law who have brought even more joy as they deepened my understanding of the many many ways women can be heroines in their own stories and the stories of the men who love them.

Granddaughters, too, are special, joyful and endlessly entertaining. Watching them become heroines in their own lives is a reward I cherish every day.

Writer friends -- most of them women -- who have enriched my life over the past twenty-odd years of my career have taught me so much about life and sharing and giving and always being there, no matter what. I can't imagine what life would be like without them.

I'm thinking about this right now because I'm making a birthday dinner for my mother.

She's 89 today. She is a woman of resiliency, determination, care and compassion. And if sometimes she reminds me of Eeyore, she's entitled.

As my grandmother would have said, "That's just the way she is, dear." And while we may not be much alike, to her occasional dismay, she has brought great joy into my life. And I feel fortunate to celebrate hers today.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My mother is a 16 year survivor of the disease. Her life is a testimony to the success of early detection, to good medical care, and above all, to a woman who, faced with it, didn't respond like Eeyore at all.

She didn't sigh and bemoan her fate. She was a heroine. She took charge. She battled back and, with the help of her doctors and her attitude and determination, she came out on top.

Blessings on you, Mom -- and happy birthday.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Erotic Romance on the Radio!

My local radio station, KSCO, called me up the other day and asked if I would allow them to read my book, Show and Tell, on the air. My first thought was OMG, my mother will be horrified. I mean, Show and Tell is not one of those old-time radio mysteries, ya know. It’s erotic romance. And anyway, how can they read that on the air? And what will it sound like having my words read aloud? And I just know someone’s going to make fun of I and me. A LOT of someones. Whoa, Nellie, all those negative thoughts just tumbled right into my brain.

Then I really thought about what they’re offering. They will read a one-minute passage of my book every day at 6:35 a.m. right smack in the middle of the drive time (we have an early commute here in the mountains). They will say my name and my book title on the radio every day for about 3 months or however long it takes to read the book (which might not be all that long considering how much they’ll have to bleep because, as I said, it’s erotic romance). They’ll have me in to do an interview just as I have a new book release, Unlaced, and that will help me promo the book signings for it. And they’ll review Unlaced. This station services about 250,000 people in my local area, plus I could tune into the radio station about 50 miles away. That’s a lot of potential listeners. So, I decided (very quickly I might add) to suck up the fear and say yes. Not only yes, but hell, yes! I got my publisher’s permission, started setting up the book signings, and next week the radio station should email me with when they’re going to start the reading.

I love my mother, but she’s just going to have to suck it up, too. Or maybe I won’t tell her. Or maybe I’ll tell everyone in her old folks home so they can tune in!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I know there are a lot of writers who read the tote blog, and I’d like to know what you think. Would you do it? And the incentive for giving me your opinion is that anyone posting on this blog today will be entered in a drawing for an autographed copy of my book, Open Invitation. Hmm, wonder if they want to read that one aloud next?

Just a bit of business, I’ve got a new blog, Starting tomorrow, Oct 20th, for this next week on the blog I’ll be giving away a pdf download of the first book in my Max Starr series, Dead to the Max to EVERYONE who posts and leaves me their email address (because I can’t hunt everyone down). Hope to see you there!

Jasmine Haynes and Jennifer Skully

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Do You Review?

I was thrilled when my November Blaze, "Unleashed", was awarded the Romantic Times BookClub Magazine's Top Pick! Up until that moment, I'd thought that the woman who reviews Blaze simply didn't "get" me, that there were certain types of books she enjoyed, and mine weren't them. And I had done what most people do in a situation like that. I dismissed the importance of reviews completely.

It's probably not wrong to state that in literature, reviews don't effect a book's popularity one way or the other. At least, not like movies, where Ebert & Roeper can practically make or break a film. So far, I haven't seen a lot of correlation between the sales of my books that reviewed well and the ones that didn't. Which is good when you get a crap review, disappointing when you get a good one. Because, while I'm thrilled the reviewer enjoyed my book, I doubt it will result in any noteable difference in sales.

Maybe it's because I write series, and we have a fairly fixed audience with fairly fixed buying habits. But as a reader who reads a lot of single title, I admit that I haven't let a review sway my buying decision in one way or another. I recall once, I was looking for a new James Patterson book, and chose one over the other because of the star rating. But that's about it.

So I'm curious to know, have you ever let a review sway your book buying habits? Do you hang out on blogs where people discuss books and choose some based on their opinions? Do you regularly make choices based on the review sites like AAR, Romantic Times, or Dear Author?

Share your buying habits and I'll select one person who comments to receive an advance copy of my November Blaze, "Unleashed"!

For more information about Lori's books, check out her website at

Friday, October 17, 2008

Magic Ingredients :: Ally Blake

I looove sitting down to start writing a new book. My desk is tidy, my pencils sharpened, the big beautiful white word file on the screen before me is blank. The possibility that magic might appear on that their page is electrifying.

As I've started my latest new book, I've been wracking my brain to figure out why the three books I have out in September, October and November in North America have had the fabulous reader and reviewer reaction they have, hoping I can do it all over agian. And I've come up with what I think can be some magic ingredients.

Humour. It can be a precarious thing. What's funny to one person might not be to another. Look at American sitcoms versus British sitcoms; whole different ball of wax. But for that I don't think it's something any writer should be afraid of. If you're enjoying the story, chances are others will too.

Naturalness. That's a word right? Well, I guess I'm kind of saying if you want it to be a word then it can be. As can any other word. Hearts can "thumpety thump", tummy's can "shezizzle" if that's what feels natural in your voice. I'm all for correct grammar, but sometimes it's not as important as getting across a story with fun, and pace, and uniqueness. There is something warm and inviting about reading a book that feels like it has been spoken onto the page.

Secondary characters. In a short series romance novels secondary character can all too often take away from the central romance, either by taking up too much time, or being cooler than the hero and heroine ;). But I just love 'em. A best friend, a sister, a crazy great aunt can tell you sooo much about a main character that can only be told by those who know and love them. Secondary characters can add fun, frivolity, texture, context, layers, pathos, and parallels.

Oh yeah, and I was pregnant with my nearly one year old while writing those books. Awash with happy hormones. Heck maybe that's the one magic ingredient that trumps all others. So guys, if you were hoping to one day write a book to be proud of you know what you have to do ;).

For more about Ally's books and writing tips check out her website, and her blog.

Harlequin Romance, out now! UK & North America
Sweet Romance, Aus/NZ December

Modern Heat, out now! UK
Harlequin Presents, North America November
Sexy Sensation, Aus/NZ December

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's not to love?

This past summer, my boys and I went to Barkerville, the "Gold Capital of British Columbia."

It was a long trip, frought with all the usual road trip joys, but for every mile we drove in our air-conditioned SUV with Star Wars blaring from the DVD player and our chilled water jugs snug in our cup holders, I couldn't help but wonder what on earth would possess a person to travel such a distance on foot or on horseback. Money, of course.
Standing on the main street of Barkerville made me fall in love with the west all over again, and it helped that my boys let me wander around, peeking into all the buildings as many times as I liked.
I loved the school house so much, I had to buy myself an old slate and pencil which the man wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string. We bought candy sticks at the confectionary store and even road the stage coach around town.
Everything about the town was amazing, from the blacksmith who tended the fires, to the library that was roped off to keep people like me from touching the books, to the family of whistle pigs that tunnelled their way around town.

And then there were the cabins.

Who lived here? Where did they come from? Who did they leave behind and why? And did they know they were making history as they hiked up the Gold Rush Trail? Story ideas are endless in a place like this - that is why it's so important that we take the time to visit historic sites like these as often as we can. It's research, after all.
One last picture before I go. I'm not a girly-girl. Never been one to get all excited about a frilly dress or minolo shoes (I don't even know if I spelled that right! LOL) However. . .I do think it would be great fun to prance around in one of these dresses for a while.

Do you have any great research trips you've taken? And did you find a flash of inspiration for a new story or character?

I Am Not a Gardener

by Jenny Gardiner

Contrary to my surname, I am not a gardener. I kill everything I try to grow; thank goodness that hasn't applied to my children or pets.

So perhaps because of that shortcoming, I have the utmost respect for those with a gift for cultivating the soil and reaping a bounty of fantastical fruits and vegetables from a pile of compost and soil. Particularly because the only manure I am good at cultivating is the verbal kind.

I guess this is why I so look forward to my weekly visits to the farmer's market, that Saturday morning Mecca for devotees of all things farm fresh. And why I am sad that this weekend marks the end of the season. Because it is there that one can revel in the finest and freshest of what nature has to offer each summer, without sullying a fingernail, wrenching a back, or being maimed by an onslaught of mosquitoes and other predatory insects, all of which prevent me from favoring gardening as a pastime.

For years it was a tradition for my son and me to rise before dawn to arrive at the farmer’s market for first pick of what’s available. Now that he’s in college, he's rarely home to join me, and so instead I go as his emissary. And without his voice of reason, I am doomed to fall prey to my produce-shopping downfall: excessive culinary ambition.

You see, something about the farmer’s market elicits overly grandiose plans in me. I don’t exactly intend to shop to excess. But overbuy is exactly what I do. Like a man who, in the heat of passion, prematurely blurts out false declarations of love, I, in my farmer’s market fervor, end up scooping up far more than any reasonable person could actually use before it goes bad. And like said man, I am sheepishly left to compensate for my foolish impulsivity.

By the time I leave the place each Saturday morning, I have flats of berries (after all, I can freeze them for future use!), sacks full of tomatoes (can you think of anything better than fresh-picked heirloom tomatoes on a hot summer’s day?), a dozen plus ears of corn (you never know what last-minute entertaining demands will arise), and lettuce for the masses.

I know that this binge-mentality is downright insane. All I need to do is return home after my shopping venture to realize that I have a crisper drawer full of the previous week’s spoils, spoiling. So before I can even put away what I’ve bought, I must weed through the detritus of my previous farmer’s market extravaganza, shifting and cramming to make room for what’s newer, better, of the moment.

There is that moment of relish that justifies it all, when I bite into a strawberry whose flood of sweet juices reminds me of why I go so overboard. Or with that first intoxicating morsel of local corn, so fresh the kernels are as tender as a baby’s skin. Or when I realize that my kids will eat vegetables, as long as they taste not chalky or overly processed, but as nature intended then to taste--with a hint of sweet and a burst of flavor, thus planting a seed of memory that will at some point leave them wanting more.

Sure, there are the many downsides to my excessive farmer’s market indulging--the swarm of fruit flies that invariably settle into that bowl of ripe peaches on the counter; the inevitable cucumber I find lost at the bottom of the vegetable bin, long past it’s days of use and rendered a puddle of its former self. And when I return home from my my market foray, my husband gets a little stressed out.

“We'll never be able to use all this!" He laments, wringing his hands in despair at my inability to choose more pragmatically.

And I know he’s right. I’m the first one to admit that my culinary ambition far exceeds my allotment of free time in which I can devote myself to cooking. And so, week in and week out, I over-shop and watch things rot, while I open my refrigerator door and think, “Damn, I really should do something with those fava beans before they turn black in there!”

But on those occasions in which I find my time and interest intersecting at just the right moment, and I do get around to peeling and quartering the thirty peaches for fresh summertime pie, I know, for a brief moment, the effort and expenditure has been worth it.

And if nothing else, at least my money is helping to support that dying breed of artisans, the hard-working local farmers who toil in their fields despite the heat, the rain, the bugs and the backache, to provide us with the finest local foods available.
And as long as they keep up their end of the bargain, which keeps me out of the garden, I’ll continue to support their efforts by successfully depleting their stocks, well into the autumn.

And when I pull out a my bag of frozen blueberries in January to bake a pie, the smell and taste evoking memories of summers past indulging in a succulent slice of pie on my grandmother’s back porch, I know my excesses were worth it, if only for a fleeting moment.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lucky Number 13 - Donna Alward

Today is my wedding anniversary. Well...actually it's OUR wedding anniversary. Regardless, thirteen years ago today, I stepped into a church in a heavy gown during one of the warmest days of our autumn, and said I do to the darling husband in front of family and friends.

If anyone had told me at that moment that thirteen years later we would have lived across the country, had two children, that I would become a published author and my husband would have the job he does - after moving BACK across the country - I would have laughed long and hard.

The truth is, no one knows exactly what the future holds, or where the decisions you make will ultimately lead you. Throw in other stresses, illnesses, child rearing, job changes...I realize that staying together really is a gigantic feat.

And it hasn't always been pretty. So yay us!

But you know, that's marriage. You can't live with someone 24/7 for years on end and not have conflicts that pop up. We're human. It's fun at times and it's work at times and when push comes to shove, at the end of a hard day, I know he's a shoulder to lean on. I can count on him. And I hope he can count on me in the same way.

Look at I look so young...and so much THINNER! And there's definitely more grey in the dh's hair these days. He says it's from being married to me, but I don't believe him.

When we got married, I thought I'd cry. I was all set with waterproof mascara and my maid of honour had tissues. After all, I'm the waterworks in the family. Turns out it was HIM that did the crying, and wiped his eyes with a Dairy Queen napkin. We were on the alert for a squirrel that had been loose in the church and was living under the steps. We relaxed during a limo ride with some champagne and had our pictures taken at a gazebo with the changing leaves around us. After the reception we danced, and danced...and laughed a lot.

It was a good start...champagne, dancing, laughing, and the odd rogue rodent. It certainly set the pattern for our lives together.

Today I'm celebrating by using up my birthday present - a gift certificate for a day of pampering at the spa. The rest of the day...I'm not sure...but I'm guessing it'll continue with a nice dinner at home, and a bottle of wine after the kids are in bed. I'd suggest pulling out the wedding video...or the albums...but we seem to be more the type to celebrate the here and now.

How do you celebrate anniversaries?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Growing Up

Today is my thirty-third birthday and as I sit here writing this, I can't help contemplating how fast the first thirty-odd years of my life have gone. As a child, the time seemed to drag so that every day, every week, every month seemed like an eternity. But as I've gotten older, I am astounded at just how quickly the world-- and my life-- has begun passing me by.

It amazes me that I have three children, the oldest of whom is a junior high student and the youngest of whom is only two. Both are bittersweet ages to me, because I've come to two realizations recently-- one that this is my last child and I will never again hold a brand new baby in my arms and think, "This is my child." The second of which is that high school and college aren't that far away for my oldest one and suddenly, as days and weeks and months whirl by, it seems like the time limit that he is exclusively mine and his father's baby is getting shorter by the minute. I'm not saying that it isn't rewarding to watch all of my children grow-- of course it is. But I can't help wanting to freeze time and hold on just a little more tightly to each and every imperfect day that we've been given.

And while time marches by, it does more than make my children older. It ages me as well. I look in the mirror now and can't believe how deep the smile lines (I'm feeling the need to be kind to myself today so we won't call them crow's feet) at the corners of my eyes have grown. Or that the lines in my forehead (a legacy of years of scowling at my junior high and high school students when they misbehaved) can no longer be smoothed away with a relaxed brow. And we won't even mention how my best friend stood over me a couple months ago and gasped in shock at the white hairs peeking through at the crown of my head.

And yet, though I fight aging with anti-wrinkle cream and home face peels, hair dye and endless trips to the gym, I can't help but be happy that I'm celebrating this birthday today. For with the years have come a certain maturity-- a certain understanding-- of the world and the eople around me. An acceptance of -- and even an affection for--myself that I didn't have in my teens or twenties. An understanding and liking of who I am-- flaws and all-- that was anathema to me in my younger years. And for that gift, I'm willing to put up with the wrinkles and slowing metabolism and even the first few white hairs.

And making the day even sweeter is the fact that the first chapter of my short story, Lightning Strikes, the prequel to my very first novel, A Christmas Wedding, went up at this morning. It's a free, daily on-line read and a new chapter will post every day (except Sunday) between now and November 7th. If you get a chance, stop by and let me know what you think. Here's the link:

Oh, and in honor of this exciting event, I'm giving away a copy of my November book, A Christmas Wedding. I just got my author copies on Friday and the box is burning a hole in my dining room table ;) So leave a comment and I'll post the winner at the end of the comments section tonight.

My question for the day is simple. What do you know now-- about yourself or the world-- that you didn't know five years ago? Or ten? Or twenty? I can't wait to hear.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Annie West’s post a couple of days ago about Spring creeping up on the Southern hemisphere really struck a chord with me, although I’m on the opposite side of the world. Here, we’re watching the leaves start to change colour as Autumn arrives. Summer was a cold wet washout, but the sun has been peeping out for the last few days so I’ve been planting crocuses, aconites and anemones and topping them off with violas to flower through mild spells in the winter. We’ll be gathering leaves from the lawn before we know it. I tell the children that if they can catch a falling leaf before it hits the ground they can make a wish. That keeps them busy! It’s been a brilliant year for blackberries, and as a special treat I tried a new pastry recipe to top off apple and bramble pie. Instead of my usual margarine and flour combination bound with water, I tried a friend’s method, using butter and flour with beaten eggs for the liquid. This made excellent pastry, but a total hash of my diet! The lashings of creamy custard that went with it didn’t help, either. With the evenings drawing in, the temptation is to curl up in front of the fire with a good book instead of burning off calories, so I don’t think I’ll be trying out that recipe too often!

My ‘To Be Read’ pile is growing by the day, and I can’t wait to attack it, but after taking all those calories on board I’m going to have to do a bit of work first. Cleaning the windows ought to be enough of a penance – then the autumn sun can stream in over my shoulder as I settle down with my latest collection of Harlequin Presents. What luxury do you save up as a treat for finishing a horrible task?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Comfort reads

When Lee first asked me to guest blog I was really excited, however then I realized that I might have to talk about something a bit more exciting than what I ate for breakfast or how many chocolate bars I gave my kids just so I could get some writing done (please don't ask or the Bad Mother police will be paying me a visit).

Anyway, as anyone how knows me can attest, I'm not a thinker so the more I tried to figure out what to blog about, the more tempting it was to go down the me/breakfast, kids/chocolate bar route. In fact, it was starting to hurt my head so much that I turned the computer off and picked up the Georgette Heyer book I'm currently re-reading (Charity Girl for those who are interested).

And that's when I started thinking about comfort reading. I have a long list of favorite authors, but when it comes to the books that I read again and again, the list is a lot smaller: Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Jilly Cooper, Betty Neels and Essie Summers.

Now, if I was a thinker I would probably have a wonderful explanation of what it is about these authors that makes them so special, but unfortunately I'm not, and the best I can offer up is that there is just something about the worlds that they create that makes me want to keep visiting. So what I'd like to know is, what do other people think about comfort reads? Do you have them and what is it about the books or authors that makes you pick them up over and over again?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Life on Mars

I started watching the American version of the TV show Life on Mars last night. It was good. Whether it will be as good as its British predecessor, which my husband and I loved so much we actually felt disloyal watching this one, remains to be seen.

But it's a great reason to talk about music in television shows. Both versions of the show use this song by David Bowie to great effect:

I'd never heard this song before. Now, thanks to this show, it's been stuck in my head for months. Months!! Right now, even!!

What songs snuck into your life through the television, for good or ill?

(And don't get me started on what Gossip Girl's music producer has done to me...)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Time for Change - Annie West

It’s spring in Australia, that gorgeous time when the sun seems suddenly to shine more brightly. The scent of flowers is in the air and new growth is everywhere. The birds are busier than ever, chattering before dawn (grr) and darting here and there all day feeding and building nests.

I love this time of year, partly because of the warmer weather but mainly because it never fails to lift my spirits. I feel a zing in my blood that was missing just a month ago. I’ve got renewed energy for tackling those tasks that I’ve been putting off. I even find myself making plans for the future, whether it be figuring out how many books I can deliver or masterminding a mini makeover for one of the rooms in our house. For me spring never sneaks in, it bursts with a sudden, vibrant change.

Interesting that my other favourite season is Autumn/Fall. I think again it has something to do with change arriving. With the sense of anticipation as I look forward to some cool weather (I live in Australia where summers are baking hot). I get excited at the thought of brisk walks on foggy mornings (whether I take them or not is another matter), of cooking soups and baking bread and turning my home into a cosy nest where I can curl up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate.

Change can be disturbing or downright frightening, but some changes, like the beginning of my favourite season, energise me. Right now I feel like starting new projects. I have plans for my garden. Plans for that to-be-read pile that’s grown so much it blocks the light. I have a big family trip to organise (is it true that the best part is the planning?). I have plans to improve my fitness and come out of winter hibernation to catch up more with friends.

I’m also feeling enthused at the prospect of starting a brand new book. New characters to meet, conversations to have with them, emotions and secrets to discover and a happy ending to enjoy. The lure of the unknown with all those blank pages to fill. (Er, maybe cut that last one. It’s easier to look forward to a new story if I don’t think about how much work is involved!).

Does the change of season inspire you? What changes do you look forward to? What plans do you have for exciting change?Annie will give a copy of her latest release THE DESERT KING’S PREGNANT BRIDE to someone who contributes an answer.

The book is available this month in the UK or Australia and in April 09 in North America. In this story Maggie, a hard working country girl faces the biggest changes of her life after a man in a tuxedo rescues her from the worst night of her life. You can read more on Annie’s website. She also has a contest running all through this month (go to her contest page) to win books and chocolates.