Monday, January 31, 2011

Say What? - Lynn Raye Harris

Dear Reader:

As a relatively new Harlequin author, I've been so excited every time I realize one of my books has been translated into another language. It's almost like being published all over again -- though not quite. ;)

Even more exciting is when a reader from another country contacts me to say how much she enjoyed my book. I always wonder how the translation differs from what I wrote in English, but how can I ask that? I can't, of course; I have to be happy with the knowledge that someone enjoyed my book and hope it still says what I think it says. *g*

Another thing about translations that interests me are the variety of covers. Sometimes my cover is changed. Other times it remains the same. I never know why.

The cover above (left) is for The Prince's Royal Concubine, but it was actually Penny Jordan's cover first. In Brazil, Robyn Donald and I share the cover for our two royal themed stories. (I have to admit I coveted this cover when I first saw it with Penny's name on it!)

Here's the original North American cover (right). As you might imagine, this cover was not so popular in some countries. :)

India changed it altogether. So did Italy.

India preferred a man in uniform. I kind of liked that. :)

Italy went with the tropical island theme.

Japan has now entered the fray as well. Their idea is totally different than either of these two. I have no idea what it says, but I love it!

So, same book, five different covers thus far. And I'm pretty pleased with all of them! What do you think? Do you like one of these better than the others? I have to say that the Brazilian cover and my original cover most closely fit the image of the hero and heroine that I had in mind when I wrote.

All the best,

Lynn Raye Harris writes glamorous, sexy romance for Harlequin Presents and Mills & Boon Modern. Her latest UK release, Prince Voronov's Virgin, was the Mills & Boon Book of the Month for January. So far, this book has spent 5 weeks on the M&B bestseller list -- 3 of those weeks at #1! Lynn's next North American release is The Devil's Heart in April, followed by the NA release of Prince Voronov's Virgin, retitled Behind the Palace Walls, in June in Presents EXTRA.

You can learn more about Lynn and her books at

You can also follow Lynn on Twitter @LynnRayeHarris or visit her author page on Facebook,

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Move Over Kristi Yamaguchi - Kristina McMorris

I lied.

There. I've said it. A confession, at last, in a public forum.

Then again, I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on myself. I was, after all, only nine years old, and knew very little about correspondence etiquette. All I knew was that my teacher's announcement of pen-pal signups sounded extremely exciting. My mind seized the idea that a young stranger from an adjacent state was destined to be my bestest friend ever.

We were both girls. We were both nine. We both lived in the Northwest. Clearly we were two peas in a pod.

The exchange of letters started out as pleasantly as I'd hoped. We shared generalities about our hobbies, our siblings, our schools. Everything was going just dandy until a dark revelation set in: Through words on paper, I could magically become anyone I wanted. I could be a gifted wonder of every activity under the sun.

So I did.

As the ink flowed across the pages, I transformed into a ballet-dancing, equestrian-riding, figure-skating, ribbon-winning swimmer. (Just for the record, I did actually win fifth place with the backstroke once.) Amazingly, these boastful fibs didn't accumulate over time. Oh, no. They were all dumped into a single letter, likely amid several other outlandish claims my mind has mercifully allowed me to block out—and yet, somehow my epistolary companion seemed to believe every bit of my stellar resume.

Now…with her living in another state, one might assume any notable repercussions would be easily avoided—but one would not be factoring in a road trip said pen pal and her mother took to my hometown. Where they wanted to meet in person. At an ice skating rink. Naturally, with all my rigorous training, she was eager to witness my fancy spins and triple toe loops.

My explanation, from what I recall, was something to the effect of: "Oh…well…I start those lessons next week." What's more vivid in my memory, of course, is the wave of utter embarrassment that swept through me, intensified by a knowing look in her mother's eyes.

On the upside, this humbling moment may very well have contributed to the premise of my debut novel, LETTERS FROM HOME. Want to know how? Then take a look at this:

Do you, too, have an interesting pen-pal incident to share? Have you ever been a sender or recipient of a less-than-truthful letter? Do you believe this doomed my chances for Olympic gold? To celebrate the release of LETTERS FROM HOME, I'm giving away a signed copy of the book to one randomly chosen commenter.

For unique 1940s recipes, book club features, and excerpts from my grandpa's letters, visit

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Choosing Characters for a Novel - Helen Bianchin

For me, choosing characters for a new novel represents fun time.

It becomes a question of where to begin - An general outline of the plot works best for me.

Then it's a question of deciding on names for the two main characters, followed by a picture or art photo for vizualization.

Let's begin with the male lead - the hero in a romance novel needs to appear heroic, don't you think?

GQ is a great magazine from which to select a picture of a male model -Gabriel Aubry, anyone? The model in the Davidoff advertisement?

Actors - Daniel Day Lewis as he appeared in "The Last of the Mohicans"? Xavier Bardem in "Eat Pray Love"? Ryan Reynolds in "The Proposal"?

OK, names - somehow Bert doesn't conjure up the right image. Maybe Brad? If the hero is of foreign heritage, there are multiple choices in several languages - think

Rafael, Alexei, Nicolaos.

For the heroine - Do you want her to be demure, feisty, quietly determined? Emma, Ana, Mikayla, perhaps matched to the picture or art photo of a model or actress you feel will match the role you've chosen for her to play.

The difference between a writer's choice of names and the visual image the reader gains of the characters depicted in a novel intrigues me.

As a writer, my choices are my own. I love books. I'm an avid reader of several genres, and I like to gain a visual image of the writer's characters as I read, to the extent I'm so engaged with the story, the characters, the setting, that in my head I'm there, transported by the magic of the writer's skill with words.

Is this how it is for most readers? Is it important for you to identify visually with the characters in a novel?

And writers? The process differs from one to another.

It would be interesting to hear what both views ...

On an end-note, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year, with good health, happiness and success.

Helen's next release, ALESSANDRO'S PRIZE is due for UK release in June 2011.  Visit to learn more about Helen.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Historical Romance Writer’s Virgin Hussy - Lisa Hendrix

How’s that for a title? Think Harlequin will buy it?

The Virgin Heroine and the Worldly Hero is one of the great tropes of romance, especially historical romance: a sexually experienced, slightly older man seduces a virtuous young woman and introduces her to the (to her) surprising pleasures of lovemaking.

But what if our virgin doesn’t need educating? What if she already knows a bit—quite a bit, actually, thank you very much—even though she’s still a virgin. Changes the dynamic a bit, doesn’t it?

There’s an assumption that prior to about 1960, girls were kept utterly in the dark about reproduction and sex. It’s a belief that comes out of the Victorian era, when women of the middle and upper classes were reportedly too embarrassed to name the body parts of chickens and covered piano legs with pantalets.

But in other times and places—most times and places, I’d dare say—children grew up knowing everything.

During the Middle Ages, all the unmarried women of a household slept in the chamber with their mistress. The intention was to keep them from being molested by the hordes of men who slept in the hall, but the reality of the situation meant they were all in the room when my lady’s husband came to her bed. The curtains may or may not have been drawn on the great bed, but everyone in the room surely knew what was going on. Besides, they’d all seen animals mating in field and barn, and they’d probably seen Will the Groom lift Margaret the Kitchen Maid’s skirts out behind the smithy. (Where else were they going to do it?)

Communal living continued to be the standard for all but the richest until well into the 18th century, but the exposure to the odd mating animal or swiving servant surely continued well after that. Even for the young, carefully guarded Regency miss who managed to avoid seeing anything untoward, however, there would have been plenty of opportunities to learn about sex. First, her mother or nurse would likely have explained things when she started menstruating—the same sort of birds and bees talk that most children got until recently, although filtered through bad science and euphemism. But a curious girl would have turned to a better and likely far more accurate source of information: the chambermaids, who, if they hadn’t done anything themselves, had surely seen the aforementioned Will and Margaret. A mildly resourceful young lady might also find the opportunity to experiment with kissing a family friend or even a handsome French tutor or groom. Perhaps a bit more than kissing. Perhaps, in some cases, a great deal more.

After all, even today, a great many young women manage to kiss and pet and still remain virgins. Some are pretty darn well educated before doing the final deed. Technical virgins, we call them. What makes us think our ancestors were any different or pushed the boundaries any less? (In fact, marriage and sex in Colonial America—you know, good old Puritanical Colonial America—were in such a similar state to today that:

“ the mid to late 1700s, more than one girl in three was pregnant when she walked down the aisle. In parts of Britain, 50 percent of brides were great with child.” [Source]

Oh. My. Great-great-great-great-great grandma wasn’t even a virgin hussy.

So yes, I believe in virgin hussies. I write them—Eleanor in Immortal Champion very much knows what she’s doing. But not as much as Marian in Immortal Outlaw did! I’ve also written a few naïve virgins, and I’m working right now on a non-virgin widow whose husband was actually a good lover (gasp), and my monkish Torvald is enjoying her company very much. I’m also thinking one of the guys deserves a non-virgin, non-widow heroine to challenge all his preconceptions of what he wants in a bride. And she’s going to be good in bed, too.

Tropes be damned. I write about real women.

Just out of curiosity—what romance tropes do you love and which ones would you like to see broken occasionally?

To celebrate Immortal Champion’s Top Pick from RT (and Eleanor’s status as virgin hussy), I’m giving one Tote Bags reader an official Immortal Brotherhood mug and the book of the winner’s choice from my backlist. Just comment below with your answer to my question.


He faces a future of cold uncertainty, until her warm embrace…

Part of a Viking crew of warriors cursed by an evil sorceress, Gunnar the Red must toil through eternity as half-man, half-beast, living out his days as a great bull, while his nights are spent in human form. And though he keeps mostly to the wilds, his heart yearns for the simple comforts of man—and the chance to redeem a tragic past…

Seeking refuge from a bitter winter in the welcoming hall of Richmond Castle, Gunnar rescues two maidens when a blaze erupts—and his destiny is forever altered. For one of the young women is Lady Eleanor de Neville, who is immediately entranced by her rescuer. Her kiss of gratitude—the brief touch of her lips against his cheek—awakens a longing in her soul. And even when she is betrothed to another, Eleanor never forgets her courageous knight.

When Gunnar rides back into Eleanor’s life, she is consumed by undeniable passion. And though his body surrenders to her every touch, Gunnar’s heart remains imprisoned by the curse—and only the magic of the truest love can save him…

For more about the Immortal Brotherhood, including excerpts, interactive maps of the locations, and freebies you can send for, please visit my website, Lisa

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Did You See That: Gym Stories

Okay, so I'm using this forum to not write about my latest novel (Being With Him, re-release), but to rant about my fellow gym members. I know that many of you will relate, so here is my fake letter, rant, my catharis. After writing it, I felt much better, enough so that I will venture into the gym tomorrow morning at the crack of the crack!

Feel free to copy and send yourself (though I do not recommend it).

Dear Members of my Gym—

You really don’t know who I am because you never pay attention. No, you, yes you—woman with the headphones on—never bother to look to see who might be in close proximity to you. Why bother? You are in your own little world, bouncing and jiggling away to some music I would never listen to. Except I have to. Yes, I’m in the sauna with you, sitting on the same bench. You are stretching your foot (ugly toenail polish) and I feel as though I have been transported to a concert populated by 14-year-olds. Don’t you realize I’m trying to relax from my long day of student complaints? Can’t you tell that I have needs too? I want silence, the crackle of the hot rocks on the heater, the lull and murmur of voices far, far away.

I’m going to walk up to you and yank those earphones off your little head and pull your slick pod thing off your shirt and through them into the heater. Of course, that will further ruin my time in the sauna. But I don’t care. Do you understand? Do you hear me? No, of course not. Your music is on too loud.

And you, yes you, you grunting hulk of a sweat beast next to me. Get a towel. Put it on your bicycle seat. Wrap another around the handles. One on your head. Lay one on each leg because you aren’t crying me a river, you are sweating me one.

Don’t leave. I have something to say to you as well, Mr. I-Take-Too-Many-Steroids. Drop that 125 pound weight one more flipping time, and I’m going to fling myself toward you, wrap my bones around your shin and ride you like a jockey until you leave the weight room. Do you think we all look at you and think, My god, what a he-man! What a strong, amazing human being set right here for our pleasure.

The answer is no. No one thinks that. We think you look like a triangle, a triangle with a head. Your legs are so skinny, I could use them to roast marshmallows. So put the 125s down and head over to the leg press. You won’t be flipping around a lot of weight because it’s all in your shoulders, so we won’t have to worry about the noise. Don’t come back until you develop some balance.

If I could get rid of the headphones, the sweat flickerers, the noisy weight droppers, I might be able to focus on my own work out. Yes, I am the one staring at you instead of working my lats, but it’s your fault, gym members. Shape up so I can, for god’s sake.

All best,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tawny’s Top Ten reasons for Writing

by Tawny Weber

edit: AND THE WINNER IS: LINDA HENDERSON!! Linda, drop me an email with your shipping info and which book you'd like!!

Woot! It’s party time. I’m celebrating my tenth book this week!! BREAKING THE RULES is a February Harlequin Blaze release and I’m super excited. I started writing nine years ago dreaming about having one book published, so ten is like a mega dream with lots of extra glittery sparkles and fireworks. While I was mulling this achievement (and giggling a lot), I started thinking of all the reasons I love to write – and I came up with the following list:

Tawny’s Top Ten Reasons for Writing
• I can do it in my jammies
• I get to focus lots and lots of attention on sexy guys
• The voices in my head have an outlet
• Happy Ever After is my business
• My husband get’s a lot of high-fives after people read my books
• I get to control my own little world
• I can do it from home, with my kids screaming around me
• When I talk to myself, people think I’m being creative
• I’m spreading the message of love
• Awesome people read my books

How about you? If you write, what’s your number one reason? Better yet, what’s your number one reason for reading romance?

To celebrate the release of BREAKING THE RULES, I’m giving away some Valentine’s treats to one Tote Bag commenter today! A hand-crafted (by me) heart-shaped tin filled with candy, and a book of the winner’s choice from my backlist!

What do you get when you mix a military hero on a mission with an independent artist hell-bent on proving something? A battle that can only be won between the sheets.

Sophia Castillo is finally calling the shots in her life, and she’s determined to stay in charge. The last thing she needs is a babysitter. Not even a babysitter as sexy as US Army Sergeant First Class and EOD Squad Leader, Maximillian St. James. But when someone is sabotaging her art gallery, she turns to Max for help. When he proves to be a challenge to her independence, she lays down their relationship rules. Hot sex, good times and a lot of laughs are all good. Anything involving their hearts is strictly off limits. Before they catch the vandal, Max and Sophia both have to decide just which rules they are willing to break, and how high a price they are willing to pay.

Be sure and check out my upcoming party!

Valentines Party!

I’m so excited that my tenth release, BREAKING THE RULES, is on shelves now! I loved writing this story, because it focuses on something near and dear to my heart – a Military Hero (my own hero-hubby was in the Army). Even more fun was making this a Valentine’s story, complete with hearts and flowers.

To celebrate, I’m having an invitation-only Valentine’s Day Party! Including:

  • A downloadable short story written just for this party as a door prize for everyone who attends
  • A sexy Top Ten to wind up my Top Ten tour: Ten Tips for a Hot Valentine’s Night
  • One lucky person will win a Valentine’s Basket!

All you have to do to join the fun is go to the Breaking the Rules Valentines Party page on my website, and RSVP!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Musings on Bali - Susan Fox

Late in 2010, I spent three weeks in Bali, partly as a holiday and partly (of course!) with a view to setting a book there. Travel is always a learning experience, and I’d like to share a few impressions.

I went with expectations (we always do, don’t we?), and where did they come from? The book and movie Eat Pray Love. Yes, popular culture really does influence us.

Did I expect to meet a sexy Brazilian who looked like Javier Bardem? Nope, but I did expect serenity, with quiet country roads running through rice paddies. And they did exist – but more often the roads were clogged with traffic like I’d never seen before. Dozens of exhaust-belching vehicles compete for the same small patch of road. More than half those vehicles are small, buzzing motorbikes, many carrying three or four family members – who are often unhelmeted and barefoot. And, by the way, they drive on the opposite side of the road from at home. So one of my first Bali lessons was to not get too locked into my expectations, but be open to observing and learning.

Traffic’s different, scenery’s different, you can’t read any signs, almost every house has its own temple in the yard – and as a tourist from the West, you’re outside your comfort zone. But what’s wrong with that? In fact, most of us should seek more often to move outside our comfort zone, to push ourselves and expand our horizons, and our minds. (All the same, I really, really wanted to get helmets on all those little kids!)

As for those serene rice paddies – rice is big business in Bali and people work very hard at it. As an author, I have my own business and I long ago learned that it takes organizational skills, lots of hard work, and day-to-day discipline to succeed. I only hope that the books I produce give as much enjoyment to readers as the rice paddies in Bali gave me as I passed by.

Hard to say which was more lovely, the spectacular acres of green rice shoots, or the incredible flowers. Thank heavens for digital cameras, so I could take as many pics as I wanted.

Photography’s a hobby, but writing is my career, so I must tell you that today is release day for the third book in my Wild Ride to Love series, His, Unexpectedly. I’m thrilled that Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review. They called it “a contemporary love story sure to make readers go weak in the knees” and said, “Well-crafted story lines and richly observed characters bolster a strong erotic element in this delightful, memorable romance.”

Bali is a place many people visit in hopes of finding their own personal balance. Interestingly, Jenna and Mark in His, Unexpectedly are on a similar journey – though theirs takes them up the coast road from California to Vancouver rather than through Bali.

When it comes right down to it, isn’t life a continual process of trying to find your own balance as you juggle the many colored balls of work, play, family, friends, health, hobbies, spirituality, and everything else that makes up your life – while still taking time out to smell the flowers?

For me, the biggest challenge is managing my work life efficiently enough that I can take time away from it for the other things that matter to me. How about you? What balls do you juggle, and do you have any tips for maintaining your balance?

Someone who comments will win an autographed copy of His, Unexpectedly.

P.S. If you want to know more about me and my books, visit my web page [] where both of my writer personas, Susan Fox and Susan Lyons, hang out. You’ll also find more of my photography there. I’m also on Facebook [!/pages/Susan-Lyons-Fox/134094693294553].

***Nas Dean is the winner of this contest!!  Congratulations, Nas!  Please email with your full mailing address so Susan can get the prize in the mail to you!  Thanks to everyone who left a comment!***

Monday, January 24, 2011

Turn the heating up - Sarah Morgan

We’re in the middle of winter here and it’s been a cold one. Apparently we had the coldest December for 100 years. I don’t mind too much because I love snow. Of course it’s not great when you’re trying to get somewhere, but if I’m working at home or I’m on holiday, snow is fine with me. It’s pretty and there’s something cozy about looking at snow-laden trees while curled up in front of the flickering flames of a real fire. And yes, I think snow can be romantic. But all things considered I think I’ve had enough of the cold for now and I’m looking forward to summer. I want to see the sun.

The heroine of my latest release Bella and The Merciless Sheikh (called Bella’s Disgrace in the UK) is seeing rather too much of the sun right now. She’s trapped in the scorching hot desert with a moody Sheikh for company and she is in big trouble. Used to getting everything her own way, bad Bella (she’s the first really bad heroine I’ve written and boy did I have fun) uses every skill at her disposal to manipulate serious, disciplined Zafiq. And fails. She’s met her match. For once, she isn’t the one in control and the heat really is on.

If you’re in the mood for some desert heat then you can read an extract on my website

Meanwhile, keep warm!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

So zen...let's talk spiritual books

So, since we're all friends here, I'm going to confess that I love spiritual books. I do. It doesn't matter if it's about horse whispering or walking across hot coals, if it helps people to reach a zen-like calm in their lives, then I'm going to read it! Unfortunately, the scary thing is that despite how many of these books I have read over the years, by the end of 2010, I realized that I'd become pretty un-centered and was focusing on far too many petty things that were dragging me down, so my big resolution was to hit the books again and try and get some perspective back.

So here are my top three favorite spiritual books:

The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn

I love this book! It was published in 1925 and I found it in a charity shop and bought it, not really even realizing what it was about. It's a lot like The Secret but the approach is more straightforward and though the language is old-fashioned, it's really cool. I also discovered later that this book was an early influence on Louise Hays!

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra

This is one of those books that you read and think you understand and then months later it finally begins to make sense (or is that just me?). It's also cool to follow Deepak on Twitter since he often tweets inspiring quotes!

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hays

This was the first spiritual book I ever read and I still dip back into it when I need to get focused.

So, those are my top three favorite spiritual books, but what about everyone else? Do you have any great books that I should be reading in my quest for a zen-like 2011??!

Fairy Bad Day Puffin June 2011
Zombie Queen of Newbury High out now

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Grandma and the Prince - Part 25

<==Richie Rich?

My father was 25 years, one month, and two weeks old when his father, my Grandpa Bert, died. Grandpa Bert was 73 at the time. He had been in failing health for years, victim of a bad heart. He died on June 1, 1950 – three weeks before I was born.

In truth Grandpa Bert was my father's stepfather but I didn't know
that fact until I turned fifty. I'd grown up thinking he was my Grandma El's first husband and my biological grandfather. And to be honest, the truth made very little difference in the way I think about him. I've always regretted the fact that I never had the opportunity to get to know him. Grandpa Bert remains, for me, a shadowy figure of almost mythic kindness and equally mythic mystery.

When the Honourable Great Grandpa Fuller died, he left a considerable fortune to his children. I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea how many of them he had or what happened to them. If you’re looking for begats and a nice neat family tree, you’ll have to go to another forest. Mine is dark and dense and tangled.

Grandpa Bert moved from Halifax to Boston at first where his brother, The Actor, was appearing in repertory with Tyrone Powers’s father. The Actor lost his money backing bad plays. Grandpa Bert, I’m afraid, lost some of his money backing the same stinkers. The one that did in The Actor’s nest egg was called “The Hyacinth” and it lost its last petals one evening at a theatre on Buzzard’s Bay in Massachusetts. (Coincidentally, their father's name was Hyacinth.)

From there, Grandpa Bert went down to New York City. Another brother and a sister were now living on Long Island. (I have no idea why they didn’t stay in Nova Scotia.) Grandpa was looking for a way to turn his inheritance into an even larger fortune and he did what any forward-thinking young man at the turn-of-the-century would do: he bought himself a lake in Massachusetts. I mean, wouldn’t you do the same thing? The lake was frozen solid, as New England lakes should be during a hard cold winter. The idea was to cut huge blocks of ice from that frozen pristine lake, store them in ice houses, and reap the rewards all summer long.

Wouldn’t you know it? That year saw the earliest thaw in a century and it wiped him out.

I get the feeling that Grandpa Bert lived the life of an elegant dilettante for a long while. Somehow he ended up as an insurance underwriter. He was nearly fifty when he married for the first and only time. I wish I knew what he did, how he lived, during the years before Grandma El came into his life, carrying the sweet yoke of domesticity in one hand and a cudgel in the other.

So many mysteries I'll never unravel.

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton, a little late today but definitely enthusiastic about sharing my stories with you. Leave a comment and you'll be eligible to win signed copies of CASTING SPELLS, LACED WITH MAGIC, and SPUN BY SORCERY!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lazy January - Annie West

I love January. I always have. Here in Australia it's summer holiday time. Children are out of school for a couple of months, Christmas is over and, if you're lucky you'll have a little time away from work to recuperate or take a seaside holiday with the family.

Most Januarys I'm busy, since writing doesn't stop just because everyone else is on summer vacation. However, it FEELS different. It feels like holiday time.

A sleep in is understandable in summer, even if most of the time you don't get a chance. It's hot, which means you need to conserve energy by sitting, or even better, lying in the cool shade and reading or getting beaten at a board game by the family. Any outside work is done early in the morning or after the sun goes down (evenings are terrific) and long cool drinks with lots of ice are the order of the day.

The fridge is still full of leftovers, there are mountains of summer fruit to be eaten, like cherries, raspberries and mangos. BBQs and salads are fine for dinner, as are leftovers, which means much less hassle wondering what to cook for everyone. We always seem to manage a picnic in there somewhere. Eating outdoors, preferably with a feast of lovely fresh food and treats left over from the Christmas/New Year round of celebrations is one of my favourite treats.

Of course, while we're lounging, others are busy. In Australia it's tennis season, which means multiple tournaments on tv where you can watch the world's best in top form. If you've got the energy you can go to some of the matches. I'm thinking of Sydney this year for a day watching others swelter and stun me with their talent. Maybe next year I'll make it to Melbourne for the Australian Open (a real treat). There's cricket too. Even if I'm not watching it, I love the sound of it in the background, whether you're outdoors or working at home while others watch it on TV in another room. The gentle pock of the ball, the roar of the crowd and the relaxed pace epitomise summer. What is it about knowing others are working hard in the heat when you're cool and relaxed, that makes you feel good?

Despite my focus on the joys of relaxing in summer (especially with a book, a cool glass and preferably lots of water to loll in) January is the month I feel energised to get things done. Sort out the photos I've been putting off for ages. Find out just what is in the bottom of the cupboard in the spare room. You know, the jobs you never quite find time for in the general day to day rush? It's also the time I like (if I can) to treat myself to spreading a massive jigsaw across the dining room table in the hope others will help me with the hard bits. I love the sloth of summer but I want to achieve something too.

How about you, how do you like to spend your January? Are you caught up in the New Year sales? Following New Year's resolutions? Lying low after a big celebration or diving back into life as normal?

This month Annie's looking forward to the release of her Harlequin Presents Extra: PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE in early February. It's a sexy Cinderella story. A recent Romantic Times review said 'this modern-day fairy tale delights from start to finish'.
You can read an excerpt and behind the scenes information about writing it, or enter a contest to win a signed copy on her website. You can order a copy from Amazon or The Book Depository (free postage anywhere in the world).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

ALL IN A DAYS WORK! - Jenny Gardiner

THIS IS NOT ME, ALTHOUGH THE VODKA-WHILE-CLEANING IS NOT SUCH A BAD IDEA...Cliché or not, I want to talk about resolutions for just a minute. And not because I ever bother with any; I don't. But because I know that there is at least one person around my house who wouldn’t mind if I resolved to try to clean my house occasionally this year.

The thing is, I don’t not clean my house. I just rarely undertake the rigorous all-day effort required to have the whole place clean all at once. Maybe it’s because it only builds up smoldering resentment in me when everyone then comes home and ravages our home in a matter of minutes; or perhaps my psyche can take it better one meager clean-then-trashed room at a time. Or I OCD clean, which takes ten times as long (no hired housecleaner will devote hours to baseboard cleaning, and if I do that, by the time I work my way up days will have passed!).

We do sometimes have folks come to clean, when things get desperate. I’d love to have a regular housecleaner, but I think I might be too populist to have someone doing my dirty work for me all the time, like I feel as if I need to pitch in. I'd be fixing meals for the maid, donning my own pair of rubber gloves when done with that to help scrub things.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore having a sparkling home, but it’s a moot point, as it’s not in the budget for the next, oh, say, rest of my life, anyhow. So I’ve resigned myself to picking up the broom, and yes, even the toilet brush, all in the interest of avoiding COPD or whatever other breathing disorders my family might succumb to if I don’t clean the place.

In honor of my birthday a few days before Christmas, we had cleaners come in. More because we had 18 people coming for Christmas Eve dinner and there was no way I’d have time to cook and clean for that lot. In truth it wasn’t for my birthday, but ended up being an unexpected bonus. See, I cleverly tried to get them to come clean on my birthday as a self-gift, but they refused, saying they were too busy. I had to settle instead for two days earlier (meaning I'd have to re-clean again before company came, because my family would have dismantled the cleanliness by then). But then they forgot to come on their appointed day. Which is problematic, when you spend hours preparing for the cleaners.

See, preparing for the cleaners is almost as hard as cleaning the place yourself. You have to pick up a houseful of stray mess, discard the piles of trash the kids have left lying around, clean up the clumps of dog hair in the corners (too embarrassing for them to witness), wash every dish, put away any hint of your slovenly self. For me, that takes about, oh, ten hours (I’ve been known to dump the motherload of extraneous mess into laundry baskets and hidden it in the garage; out of sight, out of mind).

So to my chagrin, the cleaners forgot me (which isn’t as bad as the time a surgeon forgot to release me and left me stranded in the recovery unit till he was tracked down by a nurse while mingling at a cocktail party that evening). But the upside was I got them as a booby prize for my birthday! Hurray! Which meant a completely clean home, which was indeed a lovely birthday gift.

NOW, IF I LOOKED THIS GOOD CLEANING, MAYBE I'D DO IT MORE OFTEN (or at least do it in sexy lingerie that I wouldn't mind bleach splattering)
Occasionally I’ve hired cleaners expecting to smell the heartwarming aroma of the freshly-cleaned, only to be accosted by the most offensive odors imaginable. Once, it was the unsavory fragrance of cat excrement permeating my entire home. The cleaner vacuumed our unfinished basement, the one piled high with boxes and only occupied by the cats, and sucked up the kitty goodies our antique feline failed to leave in the nearby litter box. This in turn clogged my new vacuum cleaner, and for some odd reason they continued to sweep the entire house despite the ghastly smell. Thank goodness I didn’t have to clean the house, because I then had to spend about four hours trying to de-cat poo the vacuum. It was not a pretty sight. Or scent, for that matter.

I blame powerful cleaning agents for them not smelling the stench. See, another time we went out of budget for a cleaners treat. These occasions usually occur before unexpected houseguests, so that we can delude these friends that we are not slobs. I left the cleaners to do their thing, then returned home to the noxious scent of a cheap hooker. One in dire need of an olfactory system transplant. Seems the cleaner had used a product called Fabuloso, something that is apparently very popular amongst Latinas who clean, but the aroma of which had me running for the gas masks, if only I’d stockpiled them post-911 and the anthrax-in-your-mailbox-scare. This confirmed my suspicions that cleaning a lot of houses with powerful toxins has rendered the noses of many cleaners basically dead zones. Because the smell of Fabuloso is so not fabuloso; rather it is so vile, toxic and lung-searing, that I had to fumigate my house when they left, re-cleaning with something more mainstream.

Back in the 80’s, when a flood of Salvadoran refugees fled to America, many of these immigrant women became housecleaners. We occasionally hired a cleaning company managed by a country gal from West Virginia who was under the impression that if you added enough vowels, very loudly, her Spanish-speaking Salvadoran workers would understand her implicitly. Her commands of “Moppo el flooro” usually fell on uncomprehending ears. And their use of a Chlorox-infused cleaner on my teak dining room table cemented the notion that I should’ve just done it myself.

I suppose I could turn this clean-house resolution on its head by suggesting the one around here most desirous of the spic and span mode perhaps pony up as well. After all, we need a lot of painting on our aging house, and I’m way too short to reach all those high places. Plus, last time we had housepainters, you should’ve seen what those folks destroyed. It’s either that, or fire the maid, and I’m pretty sure I can’t fire myself.


be sure to stop by and visit my website (where I desperately need to do some housecleaning), blog (ditto), or over on Twitter and Facebook (here and here) where I try to stay on top of things in a more timely manner...

Oh, and I think we're still doing giveaways, right? I've got a copy of WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO'S DETERMINED TO KILL ME for someone leaving a comment today!