Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Season of Giving

This is the season of thankfulness and of giving, and in that spirit I would like to bring to your attention a fabulous opportunity for the booklover in your live or to yourself (perhaps your loved ones are open to a little subtle hinting!) The cause is a fundraiser for author Jo Leigh and the long list of gifts will be put up for eBay bidding starting this weekend.

For writers: author, agent and editor critiques and mentorship opportunities, some by NYT bestselling authors, others by multiple RITA finalists, all of them extraordinary opportunities. Also promotional gifts including website and blog design, website hosting, community membership, promo newsletter, book video, bookcover design, etc.

Anne Gracie and I are offering an on-line workshop for the month of January, exclusive to this auction and suitable for writers of category or single title romance, whether starting with a story idea, honing an outline, or revising a completed draft.

For book lovers (aren't we all?): bundles of books--complete libraries by some authors--which include hard-to-come-by-new backlist titles, ARC's, and gift baskets including books, gift vouchers, chocolate, spa products, calendars and diaries and other lovely goodies.

For everyone: a scrapbooking opportunity, a beautiful quilt, handmade jewellery, your name as a character in a book, and lots more. I hope you will take a look and consider adding your help by bidding. And do check the website often as more lots will be added.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving, Not Just a Meal

I don’t take too much time off my writing and authoring business. From the time I was starting out as a writer and my first fiction teacher Anne Lamott said, “Write 300 words a day and in a year you’ll have a novel,” I’ve done that. At least 300 words a day, no matter what, vacation, illness, you name it. Often, I do more, but there are the days where I don’t write. I don’t feel compelled to tell people about my latest book (Oh, yeah, Intimate Beings!). And one of those days is Thanksgiving, yesterday.

But Thanksgiving can be problematic for other reasons. Some people just do not like the menu. What, exactly, is someone supposed to do if he or she doesn't like turkey? I mean, doesn’t like the meat, the flavor of it. What if the same person who hates turkey doesn't like to eat too many carbs? You know, the kind of carbs that are in potatoes and stuffing. This could prove to be a bit disappointing, as no matter where you went on Thanksgiving, there it would be: turkey. Yes, people try to do things with it. There is the intense operation in the kettle like turkey deep fryer. There's the brining, the roasting, the stuffing under the skin with herbs and lemon and garlic. There's the turkey breast only. There are the special garnishes. But, in the final analysis, turkey every time.

I love turkey. I love it because it's bland and absorbs the taste of gravy and salt and pepper. I love the disgusting crackly crunch of turkey skin. Yes, I am a carnivore from way back, and I know I could eat myself through a mastodon. Please don't say anything about eating nothing with eyes. I don't eat eyes, but I will eat pretty much else what you can present me (organ meats, not so much, but I'll give it a small go if you serve it politely). I love the gobs of mashed potatoes with butter. The stuffing sticky with turkey drippings. Yes, I will eat some vegetables, but don't you dare eat that last scoop of potatoes.

But my boyfriend Michael? A turkey disdainer, though he tries to make it a happy thing by doing fancy turkey tricks. He's a master briner, a roaster par excellence. But in the final analysis, pass him some fish, which, as we know, makes more Native American sense. And after all, they were half of the original invited guest list.

He's not into potatoes or stuffing. And because there is a long slightly strange white person tradition in my family of the canned jellied cranberry sauce (the kind that comes out with a sound and has the tin marks on it), he forgoes the sauce. He often suggests we make our own, but no one will eat it. We want to cut down the tubular body of the cranberry sauce and hope it doesn't fly off the serving plate.

The good news for him is that we don't do whipped potatoes with marshmallows, but I think that might be our only saving grace.

But Thanksgiving isn't about the food, really, and Michael knows that. This year, our first together in this house, the first together while living together, is about bringing our lives together in one place. His daughter, my sons, my mother. One table, the table we bought together. A bird that we both figured out how to cook together (it's going to be a brined bird this year). Ugly sauce, lots o' carbs, and pie. But family first. Us first. Here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Grandma and the Prince: A Thanksgiving Story

It was the night before Thanksgiving 1996 and I couldn't find my turkey platter. Talk about a disaster in the making. I had looked in all the places where it should have been and now was reduced to looking in places where it couldn't possibly be. Lingerie drawers. Linen closet. Under the bed. I'm telling you that platter had vanished without a trace.

I was on my hands and knees pulling out old boxes of greeting cards and tchotchkes from the guest room closet when I stumbled on what would turn out to be The Big Family Secret.

Talk about an OMG moment! I think I lost consciousness there for a second. I mean, how would you feel if you happened upon cheesecake photos of your grandmother!? Was I hallucinating? Had I tapped into the hard apple cider one time too many? This was our seventh Thanksgiving without Grandma El with us. Had she suddenly decided the time was right to play a paranormal prank?

(Trust me, it would have been right up her alley. Think Marie Barone with an English accent and you're getting close.)

When I could breathe again without giggling like a six year old who'd caught her parents doing it, I stole another peek. Yep, that was my Grandma El. Look at her reclining languidly against a rock. And wait a second! There she is--back arched, arms wrapped around her knees--posed seductively at the water’s edge. Oh and how about Grandma rising up from the ocean with her arms outstretched like that old painting called September Morn.

It was more than I could take. I didn't need this peek into Grandma's sex life. I pushed the images of my Halifax-born, Oxford-educated Grandpa Bert kneeling in the sand with a Brownie Box camera, crying "Work it, baby, work it!" to his twenty-five years younger wife. Nope. I didn't need that image at all.

I was about to shove these faded photos back into the box and out of my sight when I saw it and I swear to you the earth shifted beneath my feet. It was a photo of my grandmother, clearly taken the same day as the others, in the arms of a man named Prince Mohindin. No, I take that back. Prince Mohindin was in her arms. Enveloped by her. Practically devoured.

Let me put it bluntly: Grandma was all over the guy like a cheap suit and the look she was giving the camera could burn the lens.

What in the name of family history was going on here? Grandma and an exotic prince? Had I stepped onto the pages of my very own Harlequin Presents? (And who said my grandmother got to be the heroine anyway? I wanted that job!) And the date on the backs of those photos was 1930 which meant she was six years into her marriage at the time.

Now Grandma El was a born storyteller who had kept me breathless all through my childhood with tales of growing up in both England and New Zealand in the early 20th century but she never once mentioned dating royalty. Especially not while she was married!

"I've lived a woman's life," she had told me on more than one occasion. "I've experienced everything a woman can experience." I used to laugh and roll my eyes at the statement but maybe she hadn't been exaggerating after all.

(to be continued)

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton, author of CASTING SPELLS and JUST DESSERTS among others, and you can find me on-line here and here and here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Who's Your Favorite Vampire? - Megan Crane

With Twilight raking it in at the box office, I thought it might be fun to consider the hottest vampires. I mean onscreen, though there are no shortage of vampire lovelies in books. JR Ward's entire Brotherhood comes to mind. As does Michelle Rowen's delectable Thierry from the Immortality Bites series (which I have actually read in its pre-published entirety-- yes, I am bragging.) But I can't show you pictures of those vampires, so let's stick to the screen.

There's Julian Luna from Kindred: the Embraced, a show involving C. Thomas Howell (yes, seriously) that apparently only I ever watched.

Mick St. John from the prematurely cancelled Moonlight:

The yummy Vampire Bill from HBO's True Blood (with which I am obsessed, and no, I have yet to watch the last two episodes--I'm saving them as a treat for when I submit my latest manuscript):

To say nothing of his fellow vamp Eric:

That's a lot of fang. But none of them are my true vampire love, Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then later his own show. Yeah, I know a lot of people love Captain Peroxide, aka Spike. I don't get that. For me, it's always been about Angel.

Sweet, broody, delicious Angel.

What about you? Who's your favorite bloodsucking fiend? Who am I forgetting?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hugh who? The Sexiest Man Alive 2008. Really? by Diana Holquist

My friend Julie James and I happen to be a little obsessed by People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive. And why not? After all, we both wrote books about him.

But who exactly were we thinking of when we were writing? Hugh Jackman?

Disclosure: When People magazine picked Mr. Jackman as Sexiest Man Alive 2008, I didn't even know who he was. Do you know who he is? Do you think he's the one? Here's the poll we've been conducting of romance readers for the last few weeks. I ask again, Hugh who? The man barely registered. Is there something different about romance readers? Why Gerard Butler? And by such a huge margin? Vote in the poll and let me know what you think.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Love Songs

I think I have a new love song to add to my favorite list. And, surprisingly, it's "Umbrella". Not the version that Rhianna sings (which, don't get me wrong, I like), but the words carry more weight in the Mandy Moore version. It's almost like a pledge. You can listen to it here:

I don't have a lot of favorites. I like "I'll Stand by You" by the Pretenders and "I Swear" by John Michael Montgomery. Hmm… now that I think about it, these songs all of a common theme of sticking together through the rough times.

How about you? Do you have a favorite love song?


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gift for a Year - Tessa Radley

Today's my Mom's birthday. Mothers are special, without question, so it's a special day in my life. There are some rituals for the day. We live a long way from my Mom so I always call early on her Birthday morning—we put the phone on speaker and all sing Happy Birthday.

I've always given books as Birthday gifts but several years ago Mom started to cut down on clutter—and that included books. So now in addition to a couple of things I think she'd like, I always send a wall Calendar for the upcoming year. One of those with big beautiful photos and lots of space on the month at a glance page for her to make notes about her appointments. And I always hope that it will bring us to mind when she looks at the Calendar each day.

I got the idea from a friend who always sends her close friends a desk calendar with inspirational sayings on it every year. This year's calendar was absolutely perfect for a romance writer—it was full of quotes about optimism and love. But my friend said she said she's probably not doing calendars next year—she reckons every one uses e-diaries, gadgets or programs like Palm Pilots or Outlook instead of good old fashioned calendars.

But I love my desk calendar. Each morning I turn the page looking for that bit of inspiration for the day. And my Mom certainly isn't computer literate, so I'm safe sending her a calendar that I hope brightens her day with beauty. Yet I've been wondering lately…do people still use calendars? Or has everyone moved over to the digital year?


Tessa's latest Silhouette Desire, Spaniard's Seduction, is out right now.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas Traditions

Over the course of all the Christmases I’ve celebrated as an adult, I’ve probably made hundreds of ornaments--out of clothespins, recycled paper, pipe cleaners, hand-painted ceramics, cross-stitched fabric, and (memorably) star-shaped baked cinnamon sludge that still carries a spicy fragrance years later. I’ve wrapped hundreds of gifts--sometimes using hand-stamped paper and handcrafted ribbons. I’ve made holiday mix tapes, CDs, and playlists. I’ve trimmed dozens of evergreen trees and hung miles of multicolored lights. I’ve probably baked (quite seriously) millions of sugar cookies, spritz cookies, and frosted gingerbread teddy bears (my family’s personal specialty--so cute!). I’ve even gone Christmas caroling. But only once. I don’t know why the other carolers didn’t ask me back.

Actually, I do. But that’s a story for another day.

So why am I telling you this? Because I do all these things for the same reasons that YOU probably do, when it comes to your personal holiday traditions. I love seeing the people around me smile. I love surprising children with gifts, friends with goodies, and family members with unexpected favors. When it comes to Christmastime, I’m easy. I can’t say no.

That gives me a lot in common with the hero of my current book, Home for the Holidays. Reno Wright is the “go-to” guy in his small Midwestern town. His friends and neighbors rely on him for expertise, advice, and hands-on know-how...and Reno never says no. Behind his tough-guy demeanor (he’s a former NFL kicker!) hides a big heart. Even though Reno is busy running his successful sporting goods store, dealing with his divorcing parents’ ongoing feud, appearing as Santa in his niece’s grade-school holiday play, and trying to win the town’s annual holiday lights contest, he agrees to play Christmas Cupid for his best friend...and that’s where all the trouble starts. Because pretty soon, all Reno wants for Christmas is his best friend’s dream girl...and he doesn’t know how much naughty or nice one man can withstand before he finally gives in.

Sound like fun? It is! I promise. I’m crazy about the holidays, and I hope my enthusiasm for all things red, green, shiny, or spangled shines through in Home for the Holidays. I did my best to pack the story chock-full of Christmas cheer. I truly hope you’ll check it out.

In the meantime, I’m dying to know... What are YOUR favorite holiday traditions? How did they begin? And are there any new traditions you’re thinking about starting? Let’s dish!

Lisa :)

- - - - - - -
Lisa Plumley is the USA Today bestselling author of more than two dozen contemporary and historical romances. Her book Let's Misbehave was named one of Booklist magazine's Top Ten Romances of 2007, earned a 4-1/2 star Top Pick! rating from Romantic Times, and was a finalist for the Booksellers Best Award in the mainstream/single title category. She's excited to have two new books on the shelves right now: Home for the Holidays (Zebra) and Hallowe'en Husbands (Harlequin Historicals). You can find her on MySpace or Facebook, drop by her blog or visit her Web site to read first-chapter excerpts from any of her books, sign up for new-book reminder e-mails, download her reader newsletter, and more!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Books and Bookstores

I have to admit it right up front. I haven’t prepared a blog for today, but I have a good reason!

I started work at our local independent bookstore this past summer. It’s a smallish store, but very cozy and fun, and it’s been in the town for over 30 years. In mid-September, the owner told us she was going to close the store in October and retire. There's no question she deserves to retire, but the thought of not having a bookstore in town was enough to throw me (and all our regular customers) into a full-blown panic.

Enter my husband who suggested we buy the store.

We. Us. Him and I. Who have never owned a store before.

My response to him? Hell ya!

Needless to say, it’s been full-on chaos ever since, what with paperwork, credit applications for various publishers and distributors, painting, organizing, reorganizing, ordering, reorganizing again, and trying to figure out the who, the what, and the what-the-hecks of running a bookstore.

Our new store, The Bookshelf, opened on November 12th and we couldn't be more excited.
To make it even more exciting, we've opened just in time for my December book, DANCING WITH THE DEVIL, to hit the shelves! In this sequel to THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER, Deacon has returned from Hell to do the one thing he has never done before (and the one thing that is sure to earn him another eternity of fire and brimstone.)

He has come to right a wrong; to heal the heart of the only human he’s ever felt anything other than disdain for - the same heart he left shattered not so long ago. The problem is that Rhea will have nothing to do with him and tries to blow him into a million pieces on her front porch. It doesn’t look good for Deacon, and when his younger sister shows up on a mission from dear old Dad, things get decidedly worse for everyone.

I’ve posted an excerpt and reviews on my website and I hope you’ll stop by and get to know Deacon, Rhea and the entire town of Penance.

The Sweet Season

by Jennie Lucas

I love the holiday season. The combination of family, beauty, music and food makes it truly the most wonderful time of the year.

Yes, yes I know it's not even Thanksgiving yet! Before you pelt me with last year's fruitcake, let me say in my defense that I just finished writing my very first Christmas book, and all I want to do is read Christmas cookbooks and dream about sugar plums and pumpkin pies and cookies-for-Santa!

Here are the top three Christmas books I'm dreaming of, in reverse order.


Nigella Lawson's brand-new book Nigella Christmas, which has an official release date of November 11, 2008. I would have placed it at #2, but it seems impossible to get in the U.S. right now. I think just you lucky folks in the UK and Canada can get it. Dangit!


The All-American Christmas Cookbook: Family Favorites from Every State. "A state-by-state tour of America's favorite Christmas recipes from Alabama's Pecan Divinity to New York's Oyster Stew to Utah's Quick Peppermint Stick Cake." Ooooooh!!

And my #1 choice...

Paula Deen's 2007 release, Christmas with Paula Deen. She's like the grandmother I never had. I love the way she fearlessly sticks a cube of butter in everything. It's retro and very comforting. Perfect for the holidays!

One last sweet suggestion. It's not a cookbook, but it is based in a bakery! Susan Mallery's Bakery Sisters Trilogy. I'm halfway through the second book, Sweet Spot. It's practically like Christmas with all the family drama and profusion of baked goods. It's sexy and hilarious!

Do you have any must-read Christmas cookbooks to share with me? I am a truly horrible cook and need all the help I can get! What's your favorite Christmas cookbook ever?

P.S. My next book begins on a snowy New Year's Eve. A struggling single mom is working at a gas station when a dark Italian prince comes in, punches out her evil boss, and whisks her away to Italy to be his princess bride. Italian Prince, Wedlocked Wife will be out in stores right before Christmas (another reason I'm in a holiday mood), but anyone who comments can receive an autographed cover flat--just let me know you'd like one. (limited supply though)

Merry Christmas--now where did I put the butter?


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Multi-Tasking for the Multi-tasker

by Jenny Gardiner

Okay, class. Today’s lesson is on multi-tasking. For the uninitiated, multi-tasking is the process of doing as many things as humanly possible in the same space of time: fixing dinner, cleaning dishes, feeding the dogs, writing a book, scrubbing the floor, fighting for world peace. It’s one way to maximize the limited 24-hour day.

It is a skill that has been honed throughout millennia by women in particular. Often times they receive their inaugural multi-tasking trial by fire upon the birth of their first child, whence they are called upon to perform such challenges as soothing a screaming newborn over their shoulder while picking up the burp cloth that’s inconveniently fallen on the ground with their toes while simultaneously attempting to clean up the projectile vomit said screaming child has just emitted while letting the barking dog out because the barking dog is what caused the child to scream in the first place. Oh, and cook dinner, dust the bookshelves and make the bed. While carrying a basket of laundry up from the basement.

Of course, when the husband comes home at the end of the work day and finds the new mother looking as if she just gave birth (again) and asks, “What did you do all day, honey?” implying that it looks as if she’d parked her butt in front of Oprah and didn’t even get up to go to the bathroom, a woman has to learn to cast that sphinx-like smile and just glibly tell her man, “oh, a little of this, a little of that” (either that or club him). But we know better.

Women are excellent multi-taskers. I have female physician friends who I’m sure could readily perform a C-section, bake a pie and clean the dishes, if only the operating theater were within reach of the kitchen.

Another friend of mine wins the award for multi-tasking. I saw her one time, shortly after her baby was born, on a neighborhood stroll. The baby in a jog stroller, the dog on a leash, and a book in front of her face. If that’s not an ambitious undertaking, killing three birds with one stone, nothing is.

I have found over the years that I can multi-task with just about everything. I read while brushing my teeth. Sometimes I clean my sink while blow-drying my hair. Check my e-mails, talk on the phone, feed the dogs, and clear my desk. You get the drift. I like to think of it as hyper-efficiency. My husband calls it ADD.

But I’ve found there’s one task that absolutely thwarts a person’s ability to seriously multi-task, and that is driving. Now, to a certain extent, we all multi-task when we drive. It’s an inevitable side effect of the process: checking mirrors, scanning the horizon, glancing over your shoulder before going into the passing lane. Even to the point that you might be eating a burger, licking an ice cream cone, or drinking hot coffee with one hand while driving. Who hasn’t steered with their knees occasionally?

Of course the cell phone has enabled those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time behind the wheel to at least partially fulfill the need to multitask. As a mother of three, I’ve spent several hours a day over the past decade or so couriering my charges to their various and many activities. At least with a cell phone I can take care of returning phone calls that are only interruptive when conducted at home, or catching up with someone I’ve neglected to contact in ages.

But I yearn for the ability to do more behind the wheel and long for the day that technology will catch up with a mother’s need to achieve while driving: how about a plug-in blow dryer so I can dry and drive at once? Or a way to fix dinner while stuck in traffic at 6 p.m.? We’ve all see those ambitious ones who boldly do the idiotic while behind the wheel: applying make-up, curling eyelashes, shaving, for God’s sake. That’s about as crazy as trying to perform a pedicure while tooling along the road. Those undertakings are obviously foolish. But really, I think the blow-drying idea is imminently do-able, provided of course that styling brushes are not required.

Having now ushered two kids through driver’s ed, where they learn to drive the way we’re supposed to drive, however, I realize that my days of ambitious achievement above and beyond the task of getting to and fro have drawn to a close: I now have a driving-age backseat drivers who are ready and willing to correct every little transgression I might possibly make while in the course of my daily driving.

Because after all, while idly sitting at a traffic signal catching up on my reading is a useful way to spend the forty-five seconds during which I’m stuck at the light, it’s probably more incumbent upon me to pay attention to other drivers. That is, not looking at what they’re wearing or how funny they look belting out a song alone in the car, but rather whether there are last-minute light runners who might impede my forward momentum once the light does change to green. Alas, it looks as if my days of multi-tasking are now limited to off-road moments. And that’s a good thing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What Kind of Reader Are You?

I wrote a blog on this same subject the other day at another website, but loved the answers I got from readers over there so much that I thought I'd pose the same question to all of you as well.

There are all kinds of readers in the world—those who love books, those who like books, those who are pretty indifferent to books and those who read only when they have absolutely nothing else to do in the world, just to name a few. It will probably come as a surprise to none of you that I, like most writers, fall into the category of those who love and can’t live without books.

Interestingly enough, however, I married a man who reads only when forced (unless it’s some boring, boring, boooooring electrical engineering or sports magazine. Then he’s all eyes). This is the same man who—each of the seven times we’ve moved in our twelve year marriage—has done nothing but complain about having to carry my fifty or so big, heavy boxes of books. The same man who enlisted the help of movers this last time, and who had them moaning almost as loudly about my book boxes as he usually does.

Which is just one of the reasons I found it so funny—and sweet—when my big strong alpha male sat down with his copy of A Christmas Wedding within hours of my receiving my author copies in the mail-- and read it cover to cover. What I found even more amusing, was that when this big, tough guy-- who has very little use for books that don’t contain copious amounts of technical information—was finished, there wasn’t one crease in the book’s spine. Or one dog-eared page. Nor was a drop of water—or anything else—allowed to come within twenty feet of the book.

“Books,” he told me, with that serious look he has when he means business. “are sacred and should be revered.” And then he walked away, after a pointed glance at the book in my hand—which was, I should explain, tattered, stained, dog-eared and nearly coverless. It was also only two days old.

I know, I know. Most people think this scenario should be just the opposite--that it should be I, the book lover, who treats books with the reverence they so deserve. That it should be I, the literature professor, who protects and values books. To which I say, reverence is in the eye of the beholder.

Yes, my books often look like they’ve gone through a war zone by the time I’m done with them—and the more I enjoyed them, the more use they show. But that’s because I hold down two jobs, mother three boys, cook, clean and play chauffeur on a regular basis. And my books go everywhere with me. They go to football practice, where they chance being dropped in the mud or run over on the field. They go to the gym where, often or not, sweaty workout clothes or a wet bathing suit rest next to them in my gym bag. They stay in the kitchen with me while I cook, so that I can grab them and read a page or two while I wait for something to finish cooking. They hang out on the floor with me when I’m wrestling with the baby and risk getting milk or banana or any number of things smeared on them. They ride in the car with me, and get trampled by tennis shoes, cleats, and hiking boots. They go in the bath with me and deal with wet fingers or worse—being knocked into the water by my two year old as he tries to climb in the water with me. I can barely survive a day in the life of me—is it any wonder that my fragile paperbacks have an even rougher time?

But then, I’m not sure I would have it any other way. For if I read only when I had time, as my husband does, I doubt I would ever pick up a book. And that would make me a miserable, miserable person—not to mention a terrible writer and a worse English professor.

So what kind of reader are you? Are your books perfect when you’re done with them—like my husband and best friend, who wouldn’t let me open her copy of A Christmas Wedding fully, even when she wanted me to sign it? Are they disasters, as mine often are? Or do you fall somewhere in the middle?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Working Vacations

Working Vacations

Writers must be workaholics. Or maybe it’s just that our characters and stories never leave us alone. At any rate, I polled my friends, and I found they work every day just like I do. There’s always something to be done, whether it’s a rough draft, edits, galleys, blogs, chats, or other various promotions. That’s not to say I don’t take a day off. I live for those mornings I drive over the hill to have coffee or lunch with a friend in Santa Clara or Woodside or Fremont. Not to mention that I’m an e-mail addict so I’m always in contact with my friends over the Internet.

This week I’m on vacation. Except that I have two blogs plus a chat plus I’ve to get my pages written on the new book. I’ve got a title for it, Yay! Yours for the Night will be out in November 2009. I’m down here, supposedly on vacation, at the most gorgeous resort in Palm Desert. It’s my sister’s timeshare. Ooh, this place is a palace, and the sun is streaming through the blinds. We had the most horrendous drive yesterday. It took 4 hours to get past 3 miles of brush fire (please say prayers for all the people put in danger by these fires). But we’re here! Of course, my sister is still sleeping, and I’m working on my blog. See, it never stops. And while I’m here, I’m going to be scouting out possible settings for Yours for the Night. There’s a romantic gondola ride over at the Marriott Hotel, and a tramway will take you up to the top of the mountain (I’ll have to research the name of that mountain) where there’s a restaurant and fantastic views. And snow. Brrr. I’ll also have to get my pages written, too. So even on vacation I’m working. All of this, of course, makes this vacation tax deductible! I might be a writer at heart, but I’ll never stop thinking like an accountant.

Speaking of vacations, tell me about the places you’ve visited or would love to visit. Be sure to leave a comment along with your e-mail address because one lucky poster will win a copy of Show and Tell, the second book in my Fortune Hunter trilogy.

BTW, Amazon has my Dec 2 release Unlaced on sale right now at a really good preorder price. There’s also fantastic stories in it by Jaci Burton, Joey Hill, and Denise Rossetti. And Berkley has contracted for a second anthology, Unlaced too (Okay, I made up the title as we don’t really have one yet)!

Jasmine, Jennifer and JB!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Instinct vs Intellect

I hate writing discussions. They always make me feel dumb. There's nothing like hopping on a blog and seeing a good juicy discussion about plot and characterization, only to find that about ten posts in people have gotten into context and sub-context, primary versus secondary levels of conflict, the seven layers of strength, and whatever other molecular writing aspects there are out there. It's not long before my eyes start to glaze over, my brain freezes, and I start feeling as though my books must certainly be lacking the intimate depth everyone else is apparently writing into their novels.

Until my books are reviewed, and the reviewer points out all kinds of nuances I hadn't realized were there. It's then that I realize that my writing is as complex as the next person's, I just don't intellectualize it. For me, those subtleties of character and plot are written instinctively. Sort of a plotter vs pantster but not in a general book kind of way. I plot my books, pantst the depth. Which I think makes me an instinctual writer versus an intellectual one.

I'll never forget the time I read Debra Dixon's book, Goal, Motivation and Conflict. It was very early in my writing career, I was far from being published, and had only recently started working with a CP. The book had come highly recommended, and as I read it, I kept going back to my WIP and trying to find the GMC in my book. It was nowhere. In fact, I couldn't even fill out the charts in Deb's book, and, of course, I panicked. Apparently, I was learning, you can't have a good book without GMC, and my WIP had none. So I promptly e-mailed my woes to my CP.

Who responded by outlining the GMC in my book for me. It was there. I just hadn't seen it.

It could be that the people who intellectualize the writing process are those who've studied literature. I do admit that the more I write and learn, the more I'm consciously plotting in the concepts. I now more readily recognize conflict and character dynamics and intentionally work them into books as I'm planning them. But I don't think I'll ever be one of those writers who can think too far below the basics before I sit down to start writing. Instead, my approach tends to be one born out of logic and driven by plot points that need to connect from A to B. I throw action into a scene, then think logically how my character would react--or logically how I need them to react in order to get to the next point. Somehow, out of that, a character is shaped, but it's very organic as opposed to intellectually mapped.

And it never fails that at some point when someone has read my work, they'll make a comment that gives me revelations about what I've written. It's as if the discovery process isn't even complete once I've finished the story. It continues with every new viewpoint that is added to the mix.

So tell me, are you someone who likes to dissect the books you've read? If you're a writer, do you think you write more from intellect or from instinct?

Lori's latest Harlequin Blaze, "Unleashed", was awarded the Romantic Times BookClub Magazine's Top Pick! It's on sale now through the end of November at your local bookstores.

For more information, check out her website at, or her daily blog at

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chocolate and Other Indulgences – Annie West

I thought long and hard about an appropriate theme for my blog today. I was going to make it writerly, I decided, some deep insight into the process of creating fiction. Characterisation? Dramatic turning points? Conflict? Themes? Well, maybe one day. In the meantime, let me spare a word or two for a great writer’s aid....chocolate.

Now, I know not everyone is a chocolate fan, but bear with me. There are other similar writer’s aids. I try to avoid them but I’ve been known to indulge from time to time.

As a woman who leads a fairly sedentary life I decided long ago not to stock chocolate in my pantry. It was just asking for trouble and, though generally I prefer savoury to sweet, a really good quality chocolate is hard to resist.

I did well I thought until the day Ms V sent me a little thank you parcel. Sweet of her, I thought! I was working on my 4th book for Harlequin Presents and was almost half way through writing FOR THE SHEIKH’S PLEASURE. Then, out of the blue came the largest block of dark Lindt chocolate I’d ever seen in my life. Honestly, it was huuuuge. My solution was to promise myself I’d only eat a couple of pieces if I was writing new pages of my story (not fiddling with what I already had) and then to make it tough, only after I had a certain number of pages down. I was terrified I’d get addicted to the stuff and not be able to stop.

And the outcome? I finished the rest of that book in record time and the words just seemed to flow. Whatever I was doing right on that book really worked. I hesitate to say it but maybe it was chocolate inspiration. Since then I’ve steered clear of temptation as far as possible but the trouble is I have generous friends who appreciate a nice choccie as much as I do. I recently came home from Sydney with a box of choc truffles and a packet of Tim Tams (Aussie choc on choc cookies that are simply scrumptious) from friends. Now I’m back to rationing, aiming to help me through this current book.

I know a lot of other writers who allow themselves treats when they’ve achieved something. One author lines up M&Ms near her computer and lets herself eat one after a certain amount of work. Others describe allowing themselves to skive off and read a chapter of a good book as a reward for finishing a chapter, or going out to have coffee with friends. Another, indulgence I’ve heard of is treating yourself to a new release movie at the end of a week if you’ve made your word or chapter count.

Writing is our bread and butter as well as our joy so you’d think we’d all be able to sit down and just write. But the truth is that sometimes it can be a hard slog and the promise of something nice can give that extra bit of enthusiasm on a day when we’d much rather be washing the dog or changing the oil in the car than working out why our hero and heroine aren’t cooperating.

Do you have favourite treats? Indulgences you allow yourself only once in a while – maybe as an incentive or just because you can? I’d love to hear about them!

Annie is currently working on her 10th book for Harlequin Presents. In the meantime, she has concurrent releases in Australia and New Zealand. THE THE DESERT KING'S PREGNANT BRIDE is out now and THE BILLIONAIRE’S BOUGHT MISTRESS is a December release. You can read excerpts and reviews on her website or buy the books from Harlequin Australia or Amazon UK.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Writer Needs A Dog... - Anne Gracie

Anne McAllister's terrific post yesterday (see below) about the tools of a writers trade missed out on one very important thing -- a dog.

A writer needs a dog. Cats, goldfish, laptops and granddaughters etc. are all very well in their place, but truly, anyone who wants to be a writer needs to get a dog. And not only because they make a glamorous accessory for a romance writer.

For a start dogs make great critique partners. Read it out aloud to them. They'll either wag their tails to show how much they enjoyed it, or they'll fall asleep (needs a bit more action), or they'll start scratching (it's embarrassingly bad.)

And there's more. A dog will guard you while you work.

They start this when very young...

She'll guard your laptop when you're working in bed and go out to make a coffee.

She can watch a cat who might be planning to walk on your computer keys and thus ruin a whole day's work.

A dog will protect you from wild vampire monkeys.

She'll even mind your duck while you're writing -- and you know how important that is.

She'll don a spangled bandana to choose contest winners.

And a dog will look at you in such a way that you simply cannot spent a whole day hunched over a keyboard — you have to take her for lots of walks, and thus you'll keep fit, get lots of fresh air, and meet nice people -- dog people are very cool.

She'll even allow her pictures to be shamelessly used in a blog. ;)

So, do you have a pet? How does it help you in your chosen career?


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Life Happens . . . : : Anne McAllister

. . . or how to write most of a book in three weeks while away from home which is not what you had in mind at all.

"Life is what happens when you're making other plans." John Lennon said it first (I think).

Most of us have said it since -- or at least acknowledged the truth of it.

My plan, back in September, was to go to England and France for two and half weeks, then come home and spent the next four and a half weeks working on a book due this coming Saturday.

The book had been stewing about in my brain for quite a while. I had lots of notes and I even had three plus chapters written and a rough idea of the rest of the progression of the story when I flew across the pond.

I intended to do research there for two other books -- and I did. For two and a half weeks, including a whirlwind trip to Cannes, life went according to plan.

I should have known . . .

While I was there my 8 year old granddaughter was diagnosed with mono and was missing lots of school. Her working parents -- who work two hours apart during the week -- needed someone to stay with her. So when I got home, my plan to settle down with the book evaporated. I did my laundry and caught a plane to Texas.

I just got back.

I discovered several things about life -- and writing -- in the past three weeks in Texas:
  • self-entertaining 8 year olds (yes, they do exist; at least one does) are wonderful focusers for the mind. If you want to keep them self-entertaining, you must at all costs be busy yourself. Thus you get a lot written.
  • writing is one of the careers you can take anywhere and it moves in a backpack. You can do it in doctor's offices, on planes, in rocking chairs while Webkinz are having a tea party all around you. You tune them out and thus you write a lot.
  • not being in your own house relieves you of the responsibility of seeing the food at the back of the refrigerator or that the oven could use cleaning. Thus you write more.
  • Wii Fit is not necessarily for elementary school age children and their mothers. Writers needing to stretch their muscles can also benefit. And I personally am hell on wheels at Table Tilt. You go back to the manuscript refreshed and smug because you've tipped all those little balls into all those holes -- and, rejuvenated, you write lots.
  • The Asus EEE PC (which I have had for over 6 months now and have taken everywhere) is God's gift to writers and gets online in places that confound me. It also allows you to write in places no one ever wanted to write - and thus you write more.
  • That I would not want to write a whole book on an Asus EEE PC because my fingers are too big and the space bar doesn't like me. But if you are not traveling every day you can take a bigger laptop as well which has room for fingers and an accommodating space bar. And thus you write more.
  • Skype is not quite as good as being home, but darn close. My dogs think I look funny on Skype. (So do they). But when I see them I'm happy, and thus I write more.
  • Flash Drives are another of God's many blessings, and you can name them (Mine are Kingston, Aruba, Thingy and Big Red) which makes them seem like accomplices or collaborators, and thus you don't feel quite so alone -- and then you write more.
  • That if your characters have been eating pizza for a month in chapter four, and you can't get them away from the dining room table, there is something wrong, and it is probably not the pizza. It probably even happened before you got them to the table. And if you figure out what it is, you can probably keep them away from the table and get past the scene and then you will write more (and get beyond chapter four and make your deadline -- and your editor will be happy).
  • That until you figure that out, you are perfectly within your rights to skip ahead and write the ending of the book and then go back and see if the rest of the cast is still dawdling over the pizza. Sometimes the perspective you get from the end will allow you to forego the pizza altogether (not always, but sometimes). In any case, when you're writing chapters nine and ten, you're writing more.
  • That spending one-on-one time with a grandchild (even a self-entertaining one) is a great joy -- and if you should happen to include a child of the same age in your book, the grandchild doesn't mind if you pick her brain for research. In fact she offers suggestions. And then, because she's reading over your shoulder, you write more.
  • That I can write 35,000 words in three weeks (who knew?) and type The End before a deadline.
  • And that when I do, I don't have to write anymore.

Or I won't until the book comes back for revisions.

Can you write with distractions? Or if you don't write, do you multi-task well? Do you like it or would you rather focus on one thing at a time? Do you have writing tools you wouldn't want to do without?

Stop by my blog and meet Big Red -- and check out my list of tools I wouldn't want to be without.