Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lynn Raye Harris: RT Booklovers Convention & Me

Here's me running late! Yikes! No matter how often I think I have my calendar under control, it's inevitable that something will throw me for a loop. Right now, that something is the RT Booklovers Convention taking place next week in Los Angeles. I'm frantically running around and trying to get all my lists straight. I have to pack -- and there's a lot of stuff I have to pack!

But I love the RT convention. This is only my second one, but last year was such fun. I went with the expectation that I'd just take it all in and see how it went. I had no goals, other than to enjoy myself and see what it was all about.

Of course I had a blast! I went with fellow Presents author Kimberly Lang, and we spent days wandering around the convention, meeting booksellers, readers, librarians, and booklovers of all type.

As much as I love the RWA conference -- and I do, passionately -- RT is a bit different. Not everyone is a writer or an aspiring writer. Some people just darn well love to read romance novels, and they come to meet their favorite authors and eat, talk, sleep, and breathe romance.

It's a grand time, and I'm really looking forward to it this year! If you're going to be there, you can see me at a number of events: I'm giving a workshop with Kimberly Lang and Kira Sinclair called "Walking the Line: Writing the Sexy Series Romance for Harlequin." I'll also be in Club RT, where Kimberly and Kira and I are giving away a Kindle and six ebooks, and I'll be one of the hostesses of the Lights, Camera, Action party!

And of course I'll be at the Giant Book Fair on Saturday, from 11 to 2, where I'll be signing copies of The Devil's Heart, which just hit store shelves last week!

A diamond, and a deal with the devil…
Francesca D’Oro was just eighteen when darkly sexy Marcos Navarre swept her up the aisle—then fled before the ink on the marriage licence had dried. Marcos might have given Francesca a jewel for her finger, but he stole another: the Devil’s Heart—a dazzling yellow diamond he believed belonged to his family…
Years later Francesca, no longer so youthfully naïve, is determined to reclaim the precious gem! But she’s forgotten that Marcos lives up to the treasure’s name—and dealing with the devil is always dangerous!
I hope to see you there! :)

Lynn Raye Harris is a USA Today bestselling author who writes glamorous, sexy romance for Harlequin Presents. 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,

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

India Grey: The Ideas Factory

I’m writing this at a desk that still buried under piles of books, paper, cups of unfinished tea in various stages of bacterial culture (so that’s why there are no mugs left in the kitchen) chocolate wrappers, and post-it notes bearing cryptic messages that must have made sense at one time. I pressed ‘send’ on my latest manuscript less than twenty-four hours ago, and feel like I’m just emerging from months of solitary confinement into the real world again.

This is the day I’ve been looking forward to for weeks: the morning when I’d wake up naturally rather than being catapulted violently out of sleep at about 5am by my brain shrieking ‘deadline’; when I’d actually have the time and the inclination to put on make-up and proper clothes (rather the grim jeans-and-several cardigans combo I wear to write), and when I’d eat something wholesome for breakfast instead of skipping it and eating Kit Kats at my desk all day. It’s also the day when I’d finally be able to clean the kitchen floor, meet up with friends, bake cakes with my children, talk to my husband and not obsess about fictional characters at all.

Except it never quite works out like that.

One of the things that seems to make otherwise ordinary people into writers (whether they’re published or not is immaterial) is the way their brains don’t really get the concept of ‘down time’. It’s like there’s a little Ideas Factory in there that never shuts.  Today, the manager of my ideas factory clearly is clearly concerned about letting productivity slide and has flagged up about ten things already this morning that would make potential starting points for a new book, and fill several scenes in it.  

There was the man on the radio as I drove back from the school run, talking about being a career poker player and earning a million dollars by the time he was 25. (hello, card-shark, bad boy hero who pulls himself out of his wrong-side-of-the-tracks background), and also the pregnant weather girl on our local news channel (clever girl heroine who made one stupid decision and risks everything she’s worked so hard for) There was the song ‘Warwick Avenue’ by Duffy playing in the supermarket when I went in to re-stock the empty fridge. Standing in front of an array of green vegetables trying to remember what to do with them, I decided there was definitely fifty thousand words-worth of love and loss and conflict in there, and began to wonder what that story might be…

Before I wrote my first book I worked in a marketing agency writing copy for brochures and radio ads and direct marketing shots. One day the Creative Director told me about an experiment in which three advertising gurus were sent to a client, where they were given a brief for the same advert. None of them were aware that certain things had been set up to occur along their route to the venue – an argumentative cyclist waving his fist at the taxi driver, a child letting go of a balloon and wailing, a man spilling his Starbucks coffee – things like that. They probably didn’t even consciously register them, but when they submitted their ideas for the ad, one or more of those events featured in all of them.

I often think about this when I’m writing a book. I think it probably shows that while the ideas factory is in constant production, we’re much more aware of its output at some times than others. I’ve must have seen that weather girl every day for months without noticing anything other than if she’s predicting sunshine or rain, but suddenly today I’m imagining all sorts of possible scenarios for the poor girl…

I think the kitchen floor might just have to wait.

India’s next Presents ‘The Secret She Can’t Hide’ is out in May. You can keep up do date with her news at:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lori Wilde: A Book By Any Other Name

While you might not realize the extent of it yet, Dear Reader, you and I have just stepped into a time machine together and the future is upon us.

All you have to do is download a book on your e-reader or computer and boom—we are in direct communication. Magic. What was once the stuff of science fiction is now our daily reality. The invention of the E-reader is the biggest thing to hit publishing since Gutenberg’s movable type.

The paradigm has shifted. The revolution has begun. There’s no going back to the old ways.

As with all change, it’s a mixed blessing. To some the change is frightening. To others, exhilarating. For every positive there is a negative. For every dark shadow exists a bright sun. Some mourn the old days. Others fearlessly embrace the new. Most fall somewhere in between.

Those of us who grew up with actual books still have a need to touch and smell paper and there’s just something about a shelf full of books that makes us feel warm and cozy and safe. But the new generation born into technology, and reared with a deeper appreciation for ecology, feels no melancholia for books with spines.

When I was a girl living on a farm, I’d tuck a book under my arm, escape from my three younger brothers by heading down to the creek and climbing my favorite tree. It was a Chinaberry with a thick branch shaped like an L. I’d nestle back in the nook of that tree, stretch out my legs and slip into the story. When I got hot, I could flip the book upside down over the limb and drop down into the creek to cool off. Future budding authors can’t take that risk with their E-readers. Water and electronics don’t well miss. Then again, they wouldn’t have to trudge all the way to the house to get a new book when they finished the old one.

Do we really have to chose digital over print? Can both still co-exist? For publishing, it’s the new Wild West and we’re holding our collective breaths to see how it shakes out.

But when you get down to it the only thing that’s really changed is the delivery system. Our communication is more immediate, true, but walk through the aisle of any bookstore and reach out your hand. You could be transported to a whaling vessel via Herman Melville or find yourself watching a mongoose and cobra battle through the words of Rudyard Kipling. Mark Twain will take you down his Mississippi or Harry Potter will show you around wizard school. You can dance macabre with Stephen King or have bounty hunting fun with Stephanie Plum.

Now, you can simply push a button and get those same stories anywhere, any time. (Even in a Chinaberry tree if you have 3G) Convenient. Ecological. Instant gratification.

While the future might be scary, there is one thing we can always count. Stories matter. Whether printed on paper or nestled in our e-reader, stories are never going away. Stories have power. They entertain, provoke, enlighten. Stories enrich the fabric of our lives. Stories create a sense of wonder. They show us that the world is a much larger place than we ever imagined.

But you already knew that, didn’t you? Because you’re here with me, reading the words that I have written on the magic of technology. We need each other to make this story thing work.

Your e-book is our time machine. Stories are our guide. The universe—past, present and future—belongs to us. Isn’t it a great time to be alive? Where would you like to go?


Monday, March 28, 2011

Two Reasons to Celebrate! by Linda Conrad

April will be a special month for me. To start, the third book in my Desert Sons series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense is on shelves now! Lots of readers have been waiting for Tarik’s book, and SECRET AGENT SHEIK is his story. It’s a fun adventure that takes place mainly in Rio during Carnivale! I just love that sensous city as a setting for a story. I was born in Rio and it holds a special place in my heart. Of course, the book is sexy and suspenseful and brings two people together who’ve never realized they needed anyone.

Here’s an excerpt from when the two are literally undercover -- just to tease you:

What is Tarik saying?

Jass struggled to come out of her haze and listen, but the blood boiled in her ears. With her pulse screaming through her veins as though she were pulling down five Gs, her body throbbed with passion. And all because of the masculine body currently lying suggestively between her legs.

Geez. She bit the inside of her cheek hard enough to snap herself out of it. They were supposedly working a sting. She was Celile. But he was not the real Zohdi.

Work. Work. Work. Rember, this was an important assignment and not the most intimate experience she’d ever had. Worse even than the idea of taking a risk with her career, there’d been a camera trained on them this whole time.

She’d lost her mind. But, oh man, what a terrific way to go insane. The sexual chemistry between the two of them left her soaring. Tarik’s mere touch jolted her with an intense excitement, sparking a conflagration that had sent her down in flames. His naked and aroused body surprised her, but it shouldn’t have. He was so much more than she imagined. The most potent male she’d ever seen.

Like spontaneous combustion, she’d found herself wet and set to explode. But they were only acting at their mission. Right? Remember the mission. “Hold on.” Tarik left her long enough to drag the covers up and over their heads, covering them completely from view How could he remain unaffected? Well, not totally unaffected, she’d noticed. He was hot and pulsing…and huge. He’d been ready just like she was.

But his mind had stayed in the game. A trait she’d better learn how to mimic.

“Laugh,” he demanded in a raspy whisper. “Or giggle. Anything that makes it seem as though we’re doing what it looks like in this bed.”

His words actually made some sense through her clearing fog. At last. She wiggled out from underneath his body and rolled over to face him—while both of them remained hidden under the covers.

Watching him closely, she opened her mouth and let out one of the loudest moans imaginable. “Ah. Ah. Ah.” She forced the volume higher. “Oh, Zohdi. Oh. Oh.”

Finally, she wound herself up and screamed incoherently. A thing she had never done during the throes of passion in her entire lifetime.

Tarik actually smiled as he murmured low, “Nice work, agent. I’d like a repeat performance someday. But not for the cameras.”

That did it. He had to move away. Now.

“Get out of bed and turn off the lights, Zohdi.” She gritted her teeth. “And then bring me a robe.”

Why hadn’t the man thought to turn out the lights in the first place?

In a hushed tone, Tarik answered. “Okay, but I’m betting turning off the lights won’t help. The camera is probably NVC, night vision capable. Most surveillance equipment is set up that way. I’ll gladly get the robes.” He scowled and rolled out from under the blankets, leaving her covered and furious.

Seconds later he pulled down the covers and immediately threw one of the terry bath robes over her. “Get up, Celile,” he announced in a loud voice. “You need a shower and I have work to do on the laptop.”

“What did you say?” It was easy to fake a little indignation. She felt every bit of Celile’s part.

Tarik turned his back. “Get up.”

“Well, isn’t that romantic? You bastard.” She shoved her arms into the robe and stood. “I’m going. But if you think for one minute that you’re in for a repeat performance tonight, you are out of your mind. You and your damned laptop can sleep out on the terrace.”

Grasping the robe around her like a shield, Jass marched into the bathroom and slammed the door. Once alone and out of camera range, she leaned both hands heavily on the countertop. Hanging her head and breathing in and out through her mouth, she tried to calm her shaky nerves. Realization began to sink in. He had actually picked a fight in order to save them from having to sleep together tonight. The whole scene back there suddenly became clear. Everything he’d done in the bedroom—stripping himself and not her, carrying her to the bed and covering them from view—all of it was done for her benefit.

To save her from embarrassment.

From the book: SECRET AGENT SHEIK by Linda Conrad Harlequin Romantic Suspense April 2011 ISBN 978-0373-27722-3 Copyright 2011 ® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher

Great excerpt, right? It’s one of my favorites.

Now, on to the next most wonderful thing taking place in April. My fabulous Harlequin editor, Keyren Gerlack, is getting married! And she and her husband-to-be are tying the knot in Germany at the same little chapel where her parents and grandparents were also married. Sigh. Romantic.

Keyren is so stylish. (and I’m so NOT) She bought her dress at the bridal shop in New York where they shoot “Say Yes To The Dress” for the TLC cable channel. Isn’t that cool? For those of you who don’t get the TLC channel or who live in other countries, the show is a reality series where they televise women choosing and being fitted for their wedding dresses. The show features all the drama attached to such emotional chores. Keyren will not be on the show, by the way.

Now, I know some little girls dream of being married in a big white dress, but that was never me. Or my sister. Or my mother, for that matter. Both my mother and I were married on about two weeks notice. I remember it was all I could do to buy a new white suit that fit me before the wedding day. (which I never wore again, BTW) But it did look nice in the pictures and my husband says he thought it was spectacular.

All this thinking about weddings again sent me to the Internet to research the history of wedding dresses. Both and author Shirley Thomas say that white has not always been the color of choice for weddings. White apparently came into vogue with Queen Victoria’s wedding to Albert in 1840. Before that anything except black and red would do. Today the color choices seem to be limited to white, ecru, off-white or ivory. Every now and then a bride chooses pink or blue. I saw one woman on the TV show who insisted on red. And one Goth girl who wanted her dress trimmed in black. Everybody to their own dream.

What do you think? Did you dream of your wedding dress as a child? Did your mother save her wedding dress or your grandmother’s dress for you to wear?

Leave your comments here and tomorrow I’ll draw one winner for two prizes: an autographed copy of SECRET AGENT SHEIK and a box of Ferrero Dark Chocolate Truffles! That’s Two Reasons to Celebrate!

For more information about Linda's Desert Sons series or to enter her website contest, go to:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jessica Barksdale Inclan: Why We Need Retreat

For a week during the summers of 1995 and 1997, I left my husband and two sons to go to The Flight of the Mind women’s writing retreat Mackenzie Bridge, Oregon. Back then, especially the first time, this was a hard, terrible thing for me to do. First, it was hard because we were so often broke, and my leaving cost us plane fair, full tuition, some babysitting expenses, and a lot of arranging. The good news was that this retreat happened during the summer and my husband was off, and the bad news was that it happened during the summer. My husband had to take care of all the activities, the meals, the driving. In the summer, that meant three full meals to prepare—no school bag lunches or quick breakfasts. It meant swimming lessons and play dates and just all the long, hot stuff that goes on in kids’ lives during summer vacation.

I bargained, I prepared, and I bartered. I probably cried. I did all that I had to do in order to make it happen. At the time of the first retreat, I was living in a 650 square foot house with three other people, my computer on a card table in my bedroom. I was able to write only when my kids were playing or watching television. I was working five days a week at a local college, teaching five classes, participating on committees. Because my schedule was slightly more flexible than my husband’s, I was pick up and drop off person at the kids’ school; I was drive to tutor person; I was make the dinner person. I was still all those same people in 1999,but we’d moved to a bigger house. My desk was still in my room but I had more room.

But both years, I wanted so badly to go away for a week to study with writers. I needed it. The Flight of the Mind women’s writing retreat starred some amazing poets and fiction writers: Grace Paley, Ursula K. LeGuin, Naomi Shihab Nye, to name a few. The site was set in the most incrediably verdant, green swath of nature I’d ever seen. There we were, writing in nature, by a river, in the middle of green. I would be “alone” to write but also surrounded by other writers. I would be able to focus on something I was trying to focus on all the time but didn’t have enough space to do so: space in the literal and figurative senses.

We arrived by rented bus and we were,immediately in a different environment. From the moment we arrived, it was clear we were paying honor and homage to the writing process. It was important. Retreat was necessary. Retreat made a difference in our lives, our writing, our work. We needed to honor that, and we needed to focus on what other writers had to say, not just the teachers. Words were important. So were we. We had things to say.

Praise everything! I thought.

And it was at The Flight of the Mind that I met two people still in my life, two people important to my writing and my career. More importantly, these people are important to my soul. I can still see Kris standing in the Eugene Airport, her back to me, a tattoo on one tanned shoulder, her long hair flowing down her back. There is Darien, sitting at the table, even at 26 ready to organize the world. Today, they are there ready to read, to talk to comment, to share. I came home each time inspired, enthused, in love with writing.

I came home remembering that what I was trying to do—the evidence of which in the real world was only a handful of published poems and stories—was important to people out there. I realized it was and had to be important to me, too. And in the next year after that last retreat, I moved into a more dedicated writing practice, writing as though it were important and did matter, and by 1999, I had the draft of my first novel.

those two retreats, I wouldn’t have been able to jump over the broomstick into a relationship with my writing self. I would have been able to stand up from the desk and walk away, not able to remember it was something I wanted to do.

Jessica Barksdale Inclan

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Re-energising by Natalie Anderson

Image by Winnond.

I’m in that wonderful phase of having just turned in a story to my editor and am brainstorming up the next while waiting on her thoughts. It’s a time to refill the well, to look around and think about doing some house work (just think mind), to organise some trips for the kids and myself to take some time out to relax.
We’re taking all four children to the ballet next week, it’s the first for the four year olds, so that will be ‘fun’. We did have an orchestra concert scheduled to attend in Christchurch, but I think that is likely to be cancelled because of the earthquake. But we’ll find something else – I love taking the littlies to concerts and shows, watching their rapt expressions seems to magnify the magic for me too.
Today is a glorious day so we’re going to head either to the park or the beach and go for a walk. I’m going to breathe deep and live in the moment.
And in terms of reading (one of my favourite ways to grow inspiration) – well, it couldn’t be a better time to be choosing some books to get stuck into what with the RITA finalists just announced! I can’t wait to curl up in my chair with all those fabulous books. Huge congratulations to those finalists – and a special shout-out to Kelly Hunter – my fellow Riva author has her third RITA final – this must be her year!
So what do you do to re-energise when you’ve had a spell of full on work? What’s the best way to reinvigorate – I’d love to hear what works best for you!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Amanda Ashby: My current obsession

By nature I'm pretty lazy, so my version of obsession isn't actually that daunting. It doesn't involve stalking or a compulsive need to know someone's star sign or favorite color (though in the case of David Boreanaz, there has been a bit of drool from time to time, but hey, I'm only human). However, for my current obsession, it does involve a lot of listening to the one song over and over again and that song is "Someone Like You" by the beautiful Adele.

I first heard it when I watched a Youtube clip from the Brit Awards (which by the way is always one of the best award shows to watch because someone normally always misbehaves) and since the CD came out I've been listening to it non-stop, to the point where my husband is probably going to drop something on it soon. But seriously, I'm addicted and I can't see it ending anytime soon. On the plus side, as a writer, it's always wonderful to listen to how someone's words, when filled with emotion can really move you (yup, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

So what about everyone else? Does anyone have a current obsession going on that I need to know about? Inquiring minds would like to know!

Amanda Ashby
Fairy Bad Day Puffin June 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Helen Bianchin: Cats and dogs in the life of an author ...

July 2011 - USA

My widowed grandmother owned a fox terrier of indeterminate age who crossed the Rainbow bridge in my 7th year. Replaced, after the requisite grieving period by a young very active and excitable fox terrier pup called Buster who on introduction promptly bit my left eyebrow - blood was shed, cries of pain, and Buster's brother was deemed as not the wisest choice of pet to add to our family. A kitten, on the other hand, would be perfect. I'll never forget the day he arrived. So tiny, his fur so soft and black, he curled into my lap, purred ... and it was mutual love at first sight. Well, second sight, given we'd viewed each other cautiously for all of ten seconds before he decided I passed inspection. We became inseparable. He slept at the foot of my bed, snuggled up whenever I was sick, and waited at the gate for me to return home from school.

And so began my love affair with cats. I'm pleased to say Billy survived three moves and lived to a ripe old age. Memories come to mind of him curled into a fork of an apple tree in our yard as I sat in an opposite fork reading a book. The way he looked at the suitcase on the spare bed in my room as I packed to embark on a working holiday in Australia. The day I left he sat in the doorway and I swear he knew it was a last goodbye.

Fast forward a few years to marriage, life on a tobacco farm, the loss of our first child ... and the gift of a kitten, who grew into a beautiful cat acquiring numerous skills, such as herding chickens, alerting the presence of an occasional snake, and ruler of the roost - literally.

Munchkin - overseeing the writing process

My parents' ill health meant a return to New Zealand for several years, and of course, a cat. With three children there had to be a cat. Plural. Although we did begin with one. Yet another black cat, Sootsie's only failing was a tendency to wander, he adored exploring, showing no concern whatsoever at jumping a neighbour's fence, and another - although he always returned to be fed, checked the house, the yard, and slept on one of the children's beds overnight, only to disappear on another exploring venture the next morning. Then one afternoon he didn't return home, nor did he reappear the next morning. There was a very sad tale involving a car, and given the copious tears of heartbroken children I promised we would adopt another kitten. Except there were no kittens to be had anywhere. Believe I tried. In desperation I pleaded with the RSPCA, citing heartbroken children, tears - the whole bit. A kind lady on the other end of the phone took my number in the unlikelihood an abandoned cat was brought into the shelter. Anxiously we waited for the phone call - which eventually came. A mother cat with a newborn litter had arrived at the shelter and were facing euthanasia. I begged for one of the kittens to rear by hand. Please. With a warning re chance of survival, I brought the tiny newborn home. Our daughter named her Pebbles. Hourly feeds with animal formula administered by eye-dropper, then a doll's bottle - and Pebbles survived. With no memory of her feline mother, I became her maternal substitute. She'd curl up at my feet or sit on my desk, uncaring of the incessant clack of the manual typewriter. A wonderful paperweight, she would mind the increasing stack of paper comprising each manuscript. I often wondered if my editor discovered a stray black hair among the pages ...

Misty, the choc-point Birman as a kitten

Over the years there have been a few more felines who've come into our lives. And two dogs. A Sydney silky named Benji, whom we brought over from New Zealand when we once again crossed the Tasman sea to Australia. Then there was Baci, a Maltese terrier puppy who bonded with the resident cat, Miscka - they played together, tumbled and chased each other, and even slept together. Miscka knew he was a cat. Baci only thought he was a cat.

Currently two beautiful Birmans allow us to share the house. Munchkin (he really should have a stellar name to match his pedigree) is a seal point. Misty, a few years younger acquired from the same breeder, is a choc point. They each have distinctive personalities. They have their own beds, but they prefer ours. Their dining times are strictly adhered to - or if I'm at the computer attempting to finish writing a scene, they will not wait. Munchkin, the elder by 3 years, merely sits beside my desk and complains. Misty, on the other hand, jumps onto my desk and sits with his back to the monitor as he eyes me over the keyboard. It's time. Food time. He dismisses promises of soon. Ignores my suggestion I'll write much more quickly if I can see the screen. And so we play the game where I lift him off the desk - whereupon he jumps straight back again and assumes his position between monitor and keyboard. I ignore him, and receive a firm head-butt in silent remonstrance. He extends a paw and scatters my flash-drives. Munchkin yawns from the floor and gives a meow - whether in encouragement or warning, who knows? Five minutes - ten. Who'll give in first? Definitely not Misty. Even a firm remonstrance to the effect my writing pays for their food has no effect whatsoever. Fifteen minutes, max, it's game over. The cats have won.

Munchkin, the seal-point Birman on top of the bookcase after leaping from the printer

I'd love to hear stories from cat and dog lovers, how they've affected and shared your lives ...


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Barbara Bretton: Grandma and the Prince - Part 27

<--The ship Grandpa served on during WWI. (It was recommissioned as the USS Huntington around 1917.)

The months are zipping by too quickly for me. Thanks to Lee for the gentle reminder! I needed it.

Here is part one of my Grandpa Larry's World War I stories. The last surviving veteran of WWI died a few weeks ago and with him went all the first-hand accounts of the Great War. I'm so glad I have these transcripts and hope other families hung onto their treasures too. Enjoy!

* * *

Under Sealed Orders - Part 1

We weighed anchor in North River and headed for the Narrows. It was the usual sailing, fully fueled, tank full of fresh water, supplies, provisions, and ammunition on board. As we neared the Narrows, I was assigned to the port chains. The chains is a steel frame extending about four feet from the side of the ship and about seventy-five feet aft of the bow of the ship. A wooden grill is fitted into the frame and at each corner is a steel stanchion about four feet high with a ring at the top Through the rings of the stanchion, a chain is threaded through and each end is secured to the lifeline of the ship. Thus the platform is logically called the chains which prevent the seaman from falling overboard while he is performing his duties.

The main duty is to heave the lead in order to keep the Bridge Officers informed of the depth of the water under the ship. Two seamen stand in the chains, one of which is the Leadsman and the other, the Lee Leadsman. On this day, I was the Leadsman. The leadline is a line similar to an old-time clothesline, about 125 feet in length and quite a bit of memorizing is required to be an efficient leadsman, and efficient you must be. Otherwise the ship might run aground and then you would be in bad trouble. I am sure you realize that. The lead line is divided into fathoms. A fathom is six feet. The even fathoms on the lead line are called Deeps and the odd fathoms are called Marks. Hence if your lead line showed six fathoms, you would sing out to the Bridge, “By the deep six.” In other words, you would have 36 feet of water under you. The line is marked every two fathoms by a piece of rag, a strip of leather with a hole in, or two or three holes, or one, two, or three knots. Each Mark denotes a certain number of fathoms and the Deeps are halfway between the Marks. All this you must memorize.

The lead itself is shaped something like a milk bottle and has a hole at the top to attach the line. The lead itself weighs fifteen pounds. About 12 feet from the lead on the line is attached a toggle which you grasp in your left hand when you are going to cast the lead. Now I am sure you understand all of this, so we will prepare to go to work.

You climb through the lifeline to the chains and your helper comes with you. First, you attach the bitter end of he line to one of the outboard stanchions to prevent losing the whole works overboard. Then you carefully coil the line in your right hand so that when the lead is released, the line will pay out without fouling. I now take the toggle in my left hand and start swinging the lead forward and back, the lead higher and higher each time, until at last I can bring it around in a full circle that will be 30 feet in diameter. After three full circles, on the fourth as the lead is rising, I release it and hopefully it will sail out toward the bow of the ship (65 or 70 feet.) As it hits the bottom and comes straight up and down, I read the mark at the water’s edge and call out the depth of he water to the Bridge. “By the Mark Seven.”

The duty of the Leadsman is to haul in the line and lead while it is being recoiled for the next cast. This procedure continues as the ship glides between the buoy lining the channel. Spar buoys on the starboard and (inaudible) buoys on the port until we reach deep waters, at which time we leave the chains and return to our regular duties. At last we reached the Ambrose Light Ship which no longer exists, as it has been replaced by an anchored, electrically controlled light buoy, but which still has the same characteristics as the old ship. (Interval between light flashes, I mean.)

The Ambrose Light is the point of departure which means that it has the exact latitude and longitude which he ship’s navigator to place on his chart for the purpose of starting his Dead Reckoning for navigational purposes. I realize that all this has nothing to do with the story I hope to tell, but just to show how things were in those bygone years before the advent of radar, sonar, distance tinders, and computers which the modern navigator now uses.
As we proceeded past point of departure, it became clearly evident that we were not picking up a convoy. Scuttlebutt rumors started to fly. The scuttlebutt on a war ship is like the water cooler in an office building. It is the breeding ground of rumors. One soon started which proved to be correct, that we were sailing under sealed orders for 24 hours on an unknown mission. The scuttlebutt runneth over with rumors. One popular one was that we were out to intercept a reported German raider heavily armed and disguised as a merchant ship that had been preying on isolated shipping. Either cargo ships that preferred to travel alone or stragglers that had become separated from their convoys for one reason or another. This rumor proved false.

We were cruising on a zigzag course of roughly 90 degrees. The next day, as the 24 hour period came to an end and the Captain opened the sealed orders, we made a drastic change in course. We had been sailing in a generally due east direction for the last 24 hours. Now our course was changed from 90 degrees to 310 degrees.

Now you can rest assured the scuttlebutt went to work again. It did not take the amateur navigators long to figure out that we were heading in a general direction of the Canadian Maritime Provinces. That proved to be a good guess. Some thought we were going to pick up a convoy of Canadian troopships. This proved to be in error. When we finally made a landfall, it was at the entrance to the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia where, coincidentally, Barbara, your other grandfather was living and working at the time.

(Part 2 next month.)

* * *

Thanks so much for sticking with me!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Finding a Quiet Place Inside Yourself- Melanie Milburne

I don’t think there has been a time in history where women have been under more pressure: Work, family, career, health and fitness, keeping up with friends and doing our bit for the community. We are expected (by others and by ourselves) to achieve so much on one day. I seem to fly from one commitment to another, wondering if everyone else is feeling as stressed as me or whether I’m just a stress bunny who attracts it. I am a type A personality which means I am driven and energetic, nothing is too hard a challenge and I thrive on them, the harder and more unattainable the better. But sometimes I just wish I could be one of those serene personalities that soothe rather than rev up. I have many friends who are like that and they are like a balm to my soul. I just love the sense of quiet I get around them. The funny thing is they love my energy and get a boost from being around my crazy million-miles-a-minute pace!

The important thing for me just lately is to look for a quiet place inside myself to ease that bubbling stress. I had a few days away recently at our beach house as we are renovating at home and that is a whole lot of other stress! Workmen, cement trucks, machines, painters… honestly, I was going nuts! I couldn’t string a thought together let alone words.

But now that I am home again and back on the treadmill I make myself travel back to the coast just for a few minutes and think of that glorious sunset or the Aurora Australis I saw one night or Southern Lights as it also called. It was majestic and so was the brilliant night sky with stars dotted like diamonds on a black velvet blanket.

Or I think of kayaking down The Swan River where I heard warblers and finches and parrots that were so beautiful it was like music. Then there was the sound of the waves, and then on calmer days just the gentle hiss and suck of the water as they lapped at the shore, and that magical infinitesimal moment between those little waves when there is absolute silence. Have you ever heard that? It is truly the most amazing thing. It’s like the world has taken a breath and held it for that tiny moment before releasing it again.

What do you do to calm yourself? I have a new Medical out soon called The Man With the Locked Away Heart. Marc Di Angelo is a city cop with a lot of stress in his life and he goes out to the bush in an attempt to re-evaluate his life. Local GP Gemma Kendall certainly shakes him up a bit which is just what he needs.

I will send a signed copy to someone who tells me how they relax.

Happy reading!

Melanie Milburne

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Drowning in a Sea of Communications by Jenny Gardiner

When I was a girl, I waited impatiently each day for the mailman (back then it was always a man) to arrive. Not that I was expecting much of anything (short of some important little nugget of heartthrob news from the David Cassidy Fan Club), but the arrival of mail was such theater in my house that the entertainment factor mattered, if nothing else.

When the mailman tried to thrust the fat bundle of letters through the slot of the door, located at the bottom of a flight of steps on the side of our house, our two (and sometimes three) very large (and otherwise sedate) Labrador retrievers would leap down the stairs and into the door, trying to catch the mail as it fell through the slot, thrashing their heads like sharks feeding on a surfers leg. By the time the mail was all stuffed in (the mailman no doubt saying prayers for the safe return of his fingers each time he stuck another envelope through the hole), it was anybody’s guess how much of it was punctured through with teeth marks, sort of their little doggy time stamp. Amazingly most often the letters were still entirely legible.

Our mailman didn’t exactly enjoy delivering to our house. Once he brought a package to the door and our dogs lurched toward it thinking they could shred that too. My father had to placate the poor fellow and his trembling hands with a stiff shot of Jack Daniels before he could return to his rounds.

My father, a fastidious mail checker, at some point carried over his mail ritual from his office and incorporated it into our home mail system. Each piece was punched with a date stamp, even junk mail. My family could never quite understand why he was even saving advertising fliers for the Gold Circle Stores super savings of the week, let alone preserving record of their prompt arrival at our home. Eventually, the junk mail hoarder became overwhelmed with the volume of the stuff, piled as it was throughout the house. Nevertheless he logged its arrival with the regularity of a laxative.

When the internet came along and with it email, I was entranced. Gone was the need to wait a full 24 hours for contact from the outside world: any time of the day or night communication from someone unexpected might just come my way, and I was ready for it. Maybe Donny Osmond would finally reply to that love letter I sent him in 1970! (Wait, Donny Osmond? Just joking!)

Nevertheless, I stupidly habituated myself to check for new email frequently, something easily done when you’re glued to the computer for work anyhow. This habit was only reinforced with a career as a professional writer, waiting as writers do for contact from agents, editors, and responses to pitches for freelance pieces.

Then came the requisite joining of writing groups online, which involved far too many email group chats (known as list servs) in which mundane ramblings about anything from nagging bunions to menopause was twisted like loathsome kudzu around relevant professional information and networking opportunities. This forced me to weed through myriad email conversations about someone’s grandmother’s bedsores in order to glean necessary facts (and not about grandma).

At first, email came in modest spurts, never anything unmanageable. The list serves added a time-consuming component but still, one in which I could remain ahead of the curve. Then along came social networking sites. MySpace gave way to Facebook, which now duels with Twitter for one’s limited time. Back in the good old days, oh, say, about 2005, a writer could just write. But with the onset of social networking came the aha moment for the publishing industry that voila! Authors can do all of their own marketing and publicity and save us bundles.

So I found myself dividing my time between writing, sifting through burgeoning stockpiles of emails--many of which were from professional online groups--mingled with jumping to and from other professional online networking sites, then servicing the demanding gods of Twitter and Facebook. It's to the point that my working day has been subdivided into one in which writing seems to be continually squeezed out by the ancillary demands of a writer. I’ve become my father, minus the date stamp.

Which finds me now under water with internet communications. Drowning in information about which I barely even care at this point, entirely repelled from that which once fostered and now only distracts me. I feel under siege with email, as if I’m imprisoned by excessive information: I’m Gulliver, securely tied down by the Lilliputians. If I’m gone for a day, unable to check and respond to just emails, I’ve got well over a hundred new messages staring me down from the backlit screen of my laptop, demanding servicing ASAP. That doesn’t even include the Facebook friend invitations, group invitations, messages, comments, and whatever lies in wait from Twitter. It’s enough to make a writer want to, um, how about just write? Which seems a luxury of bygone days, sadly.

I look fondly back on the simpler era when my dogs capably chewed up our daily mail. I could await the mailman’s arrival, and then get back to my life. The good old days when electronic distractions didn’t threaten to unhinge a person. Back when I still held out hope that David Cassidy would write back to me with that marriage proposal I was so certain was coming my way, provided it didn’t get shredded beyond repair. Now that I think about it, some electronic dogs to shred my online correspondence sounds like a grand invention, doesn’t it?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Alyson Noel: Shimmer

“If you think you know what it’s like to be dead—if you think it’s just an eternity of harp music and cloud lounging—well, think again.

Ever hear the saying, Life goes on?

It does.

Long past the point when everyone else thinks it stopped.”—Riley Bloom, SHIMMER

The above quote is from my latest release, SHIMMER—book two in the Riley Bloom series.

And just to be clear, yes, Riley truly is dead. Dead at twelve—just shy of her thirteenth birthday no less. And the family dog, Buttercup—well, he’s dead too.

Though Riley refuses to play dead. It’s just not in her nature. And it’s her spunk, humor, tenacity, and wit that make her so much fun to write.

When I began writing EVERMORE, book one in my Immortals series, I wanted the protagonist, Ever—the sole survivor of the car accident that claimed the lives of her family—to have a connection to her past—even if that connection came in the form of a ghostly little sister—and so Riley was born.

Though I originally envisioned her role as a minor one, it didn’t stay that way for long. Riley kept showing up—usually in some crazy costume and wig (she’s a bit of a scene stealer)—and I kept allowing it because she was so much fun to have around. So when my publisher asked if I’d be interested in writing a middle grade spin-off series specifically for her, I jumped at the chance. And I’m so glad I did because every book so far has been an absolute blast.

In book one, RADIANCE, Riley, Buttercup, and her cute, fourteen-year old guide, Bodhi, head for a haunted castle in England, where, as her first assignment as a Soul Catcher, Riley has to find a way to convince a very scary, very determined, young ghost to stop haunting the place and “cross over” to where he belongs.

In SHIMMER, Riley and friends are enjoying a little R&R on St. John, Virgin Island, when Riley runs into Rebecca—a young ghost girl who is so angry about her death, she’s keeping all of those who died along with her trapped in their own worst memories. And in Riley’s quest to stop her, she soon finds herself trapped in her own nightmarish past as well . . .

SHIMMER hit the stores this week, and readers are already calling it: “fun,” “intriguing,” “emotional,” and “deep.” If you’re interested in reading an excerpt, watching the trailer, listening to an audio clip, or just generally learning more, feel free to stop by my website, at:

Peace * Joy * Love

Alyson Noël

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Long and Short of It - Chris Marie Green

Thanks for having me over! I thought I would expand on a topic that came up in a recent interview because I’m often asked about how long it takes to write certain projects and how much work is involved.

When answering, I always have to start out by clarifying just what I write, and this includes urban fantasies (as Chris Marie Green and, later this year, Christine Cody), Harlequin category books for Special Edition and Blaze (as Crystal Green), plus the occasional novella or short story.

It’ll come as no surprise if I tell you that the most hair-pulling, intensive, complex plotting and layering goes into the urban fantasies. First, they’re about 100,000 words long, and if you’ve ever read my Vampire Babylon series from Ace, you’ll know that these books contain main plots plus subplots that support the themes, characterization, and action for the primary plot. The longer books allow me to really explore the world of my vampire hunters and their quarry—each have their own layered societies that require lots of room for building. Also, the word count lets me flesh out the noir mysteries and to explore new developments with characterization. These books can take months to write, but I think the end result is always worth it.

In comparison, my category novels are like sanity-restoring breathers between the longer books. While urban fantasies can be very dark, the romances pull me back up to a place where there’s light and a guarantee of happiness. They’re not as long, either—approximately 55,000 to 60,000 words. This shorter range means that I need to concentrate on developing that main plot, and a romantic subplot (which focuses on a second couple who normally support the theme of the primary couple) isn’t always beneficial. For instance, in my newest Special Edition, TAMING THE TEXAS PLAYBOY, book 2 in the Billionaire Cowboys, Inc., miniseries, almost all the effort goes into the building love between a bad boy tycoon and the good girl he tries to pursue (with much success, I might add, ).

As for novellas and short stories… Well, you’d think that they would be a walk in the park compared to writing any full-length book. Not so. Short stories, in particular, take a lot of editing and strategy. For example, when I wrote a Vampire Babylon short for the horror anthology THOSE WHO FIGHT MONSTERS (out this month!), I had merely 6,000 words—a chapter and a half in my category books—to build my urban fantasy world for new readers, to establish the rules of my paranormal creatures, and to introduce and advance the characterization of my main players. However, I do believe that short stories, in particular, can pack a real wallop since they’re so compressed. Getting to that point sure takes a lot of revising, though, because every word is important!

(You can follow Chris on Facebook(, Twitter (, or her blog (

She also has a newsletter ( ) and a web site at

I’m giving away a signed copy of the sixth book in the Vampire Babylon series—DEEP IN THE WOODS. To enter, just leave a comment. A winner will be randomly chosen on Monday, March 20, 2011. (Void where prohibited.) Good luck, and thank you!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Uncle Patrick's Day! : : Anne McAllister

Sorry I'm late. I was celebrating.

I have a son named Patrick, so we always celebrate St Patrick's day or, as his youngest niece has dubbed it, "Uncle Patrick's Day."

Today, as well, I did a bit of reminiscing with a friend about our trip to Ireland three years ago. It was a business trip -- the best kind -- where because I was researching a book set in a large old country house, we went to stay for a few days in a large old country house in the south of Ireland.

Unlike home, where the snow was still thick and deep on the ground, in the south of Ireland the daffodils were everywhere.

It was gloriously green with splotches of vivid yellow so bright it almost hurt my 'accustomed to gray and brown and white because it's winter in the midwest' eyes.

We did a lot of touristy things as well as basking in front of the fire at the country house. We visited the cliffs of Moher and we wandered around the streets of Galway.

We visited the amazing library at the University of Dublin (seriously reminding me of Harry Potter books) and strolled through St Stephen's Green.

We drank tea at Bewley's and Guinness in more places than I can remember (imagine that) and one afternoon and evening got to watch Harlequin Mills & Boon's own Abby Green do her 'day job' as an assistant film director. Very impressive she was, too.

It would be hard to decide what the highlight of the trip was. There were many.

But one of the things I never expected to see -- but I'd read about -- was road bowling. It is exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of men bowling a ball down country lanes where you (or at least I) least expected to see them. Loved watching that.

It sort of captured Ireland for me -- delightful, homey, familiar, and yet at the same time, unexpected.

Happy Uncle Patrick's Day to all!