Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kathleen O'Reilly: Checking in from RWA, NYC

Hello, all!

Kathleen O'Reilly, on the scene at the RWA National Conference. We're at the very purple and glass Mariott Marquis hotel, the site of this year's conference. There's a lot of energy (possibly because of the Times Square environment), and sightings have included Justin Beiber, Shia La Bouf, and also some pole-climbing dude who stopped traffic for two hour because the cops thought he was a terrorist. Sheesh.

Still, it's all in a typical New York City day. I have no great gossip to report, no new trends. I could make stuff up, because you know, I *do* write fiction, but I'll stick to what I feel is correct. There's a lot of writers who will be self-publishing their own back list. It's the California E-Gold Rush, with lots of prospectors, lots of old timers talking about their high-falootin earnings, and lots of dreams of success, striking the hearts of even the most ordinary mid-list writers. What's different from the typical writing dreams of before, is that the balance of power is shifting (oddly enough) to the writers. Publishers are giving *sales speeches* to authors, agents are talking about the dangers that lurk in them there hills. There's no sheriff, and the are side businesses popping up like gophers. Editors, packagers, cover art designers. Everybody is in there to follow the dreams.

New York Times best-selling author Julia London says there's been a lot of talk about the explosion of ebooks, but for me, this conference has been like many others before it. I started eating at 9am on Tuesday, and I haven't stopped.

Sherri Browning Erwin, author of the upcoming Grave Expectations, has this to say: I came in with grave expectations, and my expectations have been met.

Author Dee Davis, suprisingly enough, had nothing to say, but then promptly recanted.

Author Jacquie D'Alessandro was not available for comment, but made enough of a fashion statement that words were not necessary.

All in all, the conference is full of caffeinated energy, and there's a lot of excitement and good news!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jessica Barksdale Inclan: Adapating to the Job

To be honest--and I'm not actually sure I want to be too honest, as it still seems scary to contemplate--the past say three years of my writing life have been a bit troubling.

The problem with writing as a career is that there are no sick days, pensions, vacation plans, benefits, or colleagues in the next cubicle to bitch and moan with when the boss sends an evil email about production. In fact, unless you find your own colleagues--workshops, writing groups, online list serves, etc--you can be alone in a room a lot, staring out at the blankness of your own imagination. Or, when your imagination has been on overdrive, there's no one to turn to and brag.

"Look!" you say, pointing at your screen. "Three thousand words."

The empty room reverberates with more silence.

Thus you find writers on Facebook reporting their word counts, hoping for someone to respond or comment or "like." Yes, our comments say to the writer. Well done you.

The good news for me is that I'm also an English professor, and I teach with a number of writer/teachers, and I have folks in the next office. Of course, mostly we are complaining about students, but I can run ideas past them--and my writing group is made up of these writer/teachers. I belong to groups online and on land, and I do find ways to bond with other writers. But the bottom line is that here I am, writing in my room alone. I can bug my husband and read some of this blog aloud to him, but, really, he needs to do his online banking.

Starting about three years ago, trauma ensued in my writing life with not only my agent firing me via email but my editor succumbing to a terrible illness. Imagine the stunned horror and grief at both of these occurrences, and then imagine the silence of my career as I had no "boss" any more, of any kind.

Agent hunt, agent found, new novel now on the edge of going out into the world for potential new "bosses" to buy. It seems so simple as I write it here, but from about the fall of 2009 to now, my job as a writer has been fraught. If it were a job in a company, imagine I was working without pay or temping or interning. Not only that, but the boss at this temping job communicates little or not at all, I don't know what dress to wear, and there is no lunch hour.

Late last year as I waited for my agent to chime in on my manuscript, I did some very deep soul searching about my writing career. I remembered what I first started writing--poems and short stories. I enrolled in a couple of online writing classes, and I started to go back to my roots, the type of writing I used to do in the wee hours when my little children were asleep.

I wrote poems--my writing group and I created a poetry boot camp: a poem a day--and I wrote stories. I dug in my files for stories I wrote years ago. I revised them. I worked on them some more. I submitted my work to my classmates and teacher and let them dig in. My readers read them. And then I revised and revised.

I started to send my stories and poems out to small literary journals, the kind I used to get published in before Her Daughter's Eyes came out. These journals pay in absolutely nothing, and these days as so many are online, there's not even a hard copy to put in the shelf. But it felt good to see myself there.

Yesterday, I found out that the collection I put together is a semi-finalist in a contest that includes cash and publication, the hard copy kind, the kind you can actually put on the shelf. But before you think happy thoughts for me, I'm sure this manuscript won't be accepted or win. It's not quite ready yet, and I've worked on the stories in the three months since sending it to this competition. But what validation! How good this feels. It's like working on a plan and having the boss say, "Not bad. Fix this, and maybe it's a go."

Here's a couple of links to places where my stories and poems have been published online in recent months. This work is very different than my novels, especially the romances, but I think of it this way: in a job, I'd be a journeyman. I could work in a few departments. Maybe, I'd have job security.

Heart of July

Scroll down for this one

Tuna for the Apocalypse


Jessica Barksdale Inclan or Jessica Inclan or Jessica Barksdale (jack of all trades)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sharon Ashwood: Unleash the Hound

Imagine a world where the vampires, werewolves, and everything else that goes bump in the night comes out of the closet on a network TV talk show. This is the universe of the Dark Forgotten, of sentient houses that threaten to eat their visitors, of vampires whose venom gives an orgasmic high, of guardsmen whose souls have been ripped away by long-dead monsters, and of the lost who will not renounce their dreams of love.

Imagine meeting someone who was young, handsome, protective, and handy when it came to fixing a leaky tap or taking out the villains. He’s the go-to guy in the community for problem solving andleadership. Everybody likes him. He oozes competence and has a great sense of humour.

This is Lore, the Alpha hellhound hero of FROSTBOUND. He’s been left in charge of keeping the peace among the supernatural population. A snowstorm has lockeddown the city, and someone has murdered Lore’s human neighbour. A beautiful vampire, Talia Rostova, is the victim’s cousin and the prime suspect.

Lore does the only logical thing (for a hellhound) and takes her prisoner. He's not freeing Talia until he's sure that she's the prey and not the hunter. Of course, it’s a slippery slope once one has a beautiful woman, handcuffs and, well, soon Lore is falling for the wrong kind of girl with far too many secrets.

You'd think a beautiful woman in his bedroom would be a good thing, but trouble-prone Talia has run afoul of someone more sinister than your average lunatic killer. An ancient Undead is wreaking vengeance on the city—and on her—and Lore will have to go far beyond a stake to put him back in his grave.

Frostbound is an action/adventure story, but it’s also a romance about forbidden love. Who are your favorite star-crossed lovers?

Read an excerpt:

Watch the video:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Melanie Milburne: Acting Your Way Into Feeling

Have you ever had to pretend to be nice to someone you couldn’t stand?  Or pretend to be interested when you’re bored? Or smile when you really wanted to cry?
I don’t think there are many of us who haven’t had to do one or all of the above at some point.  But one thing I’ve learned about such situations is the concept of acting your way into feeling.
I think I first heard the term about twenty-five years ago in a relationships handbook.  I read so many back then I have no idea which book it was from or who wrote it. But the deal is this: You might really hate your husband/partner for not putting out the trash or... (I’ll let you fill in the details!), but if you act loving towards him, guess what? Your feelings magically turn back into love.  
Or what about this scenario: You might just hate being seated next to Great Aunt Gladys at a family wedding because she talks non-stop about herself, but if you act interested, guess what?  You suddenly realize she is a rather lonely old person who has a lot of memories she wants to share before she dies.
We all have to pretend at times and this concept is at the heart of the second book in my Sabbatini Brothers Trilogy- One Last Night.

Maya is in the process of divorcing her rich and powerful husband Giorgio Sabbatini. She feels a terrible failure because she hasn’t been able to provide him with an heir. A one night encounter with Giorgio brings about an unexpected surprise but because she has never been successful in bringing a pregnancy to term she decides not to tell him.
This would be all well and good if it hadn’t been for the fact that Giorgio needs her to pretend to be reconciled with him for a few weeks as his beloved grandfather is terminally ill.
Not that Maya really had to pretend too hard or anything. She hadn’t fallen out of love with Giorgio in the first place. Giorgio on the other hand was definitely going to learn all about my relationships concept of acting your way into feeling!
What situation have you been in where you had to act the opposite of what you were feeling? I’ll send an autographed copy of One Last Night to a comment poster at random.
Warmest wishes,
Melanie Milburne

***Melanie picked Laurie G. as the winner!  Laurie, please email with your full name and mailing address and we'll get a copy of One Last Night in the mail to you!***

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Barbara Bretton: Grandma and the Prince - Part 30

WINNER: Congratulations to Lolarific, winner of my May contest. Lolarific, send me an email at barbarabretton AT gmail DOT com with your mailing info and I'll ship out your prizes ASAP!

I remember when the idea for Midnight Lover hit me. I was reading Nevada Magazine in the lobby of the Princeton Medical Center. My then ninety-year old grandfather had broken his hip the day before (and, trust me, that is a story in itself) and my husband and I had driven down from Long Island to see him before his surgery. Grandpa was a man of the old school. Not even a broken hip and assorted painkillers could dull his mind. We talked as we waited for him to be taken into surgery and he told me some stories I hadn’t heard before.

He was a child of the American prairie. Born in Kansas, one of four children, before the turn-of-the-last century. He remembered riding in a prairie schooner as his family made their way from one part of the state to another. Proud of his country, he was also proud of his native American heritage, of the Chippewa blood flowing through his veins and mine. One of my prized possessions is a tintype of my great-grandmother crouching down in her calico dress and staring into the camera, as if daring it to steal her soul.

That morning before surgery, his stories were endless. The cruelty of the land. The beauty of it. His father’s savagely broken heart when my great-grandmother died young. The children were scattered to surrounding farm families. The girls were no trouble to place. Grandpa’s older brother was big enough and strong enough to work the land; a farmer took him in immediately. Grandpa, however, was skinny and young. Too old to be a cute little boy yet too young to be a productive farm worker.

“I was turned out to grass,” said my grandfather that April morning, “with a note pinned to my undershirt and a coin in my pocket.” He was twelve years old and alone. He rode the rails across the country, working wherever he could to keep body and soul together. He grew up fast and tough and made his way by rail to the Grand Tetons where he worked at a logging camp until the outbreak of World War I.

I knew I was looking at a hero being born. (And didn’t my five-times-married grandpa just love that!) Just that morning I’d read a delightful article in Nevada Magazine about the old mining town of Pioche where, back in its heyday, women had swarmed its streets, marrying the hapless male citizens before they knew what hit them. In a switch on Lysistrata, the men banded together to form a secret society whose sworn duty was to steer clear of matrimony for one full year. That would teach those husband-hungry spinsters a thing or two . . . and maybe make the streets safe for decent men again!

Why not take Jesse Reardon, a hero sprung from my grandfather’s stories, and place him in Silver Spur? Why not make him the richest, toughest man in town? Why not have him embody everything Silver Spur is – or claims to be?

Why not bring Caroline Bennett, formerly of Boston, to town? Make her beautiful, bright, and while I’m at it, why not make her the only woman for miles around who isn’t interested in marriage.

I had a wonderful time writing Midnight Lover and it was a thrill to hand Grandpa his own copy when it was published. He’s gone now but his stories remain, both the ones he lived and the ones he inspired.

Thanks to the internet and the explosion of e-book readers, two of my historical romances from the late 1980s have a new lease on life. Both Fire's Lady and Midnight Lover are available at most of the ebook sites. Click MIDNIGHT LOVER and you'll be taken to Amazon where you can read a sample or buy a copy of your own. (And they're only $2.99!)

NOTE: Fire's Lady will be available in a few days. Sorry I don't have a hot link to give you right now.

He was begotten in the galley and born under a gun. Every hair was a rope yarn, every finger a fish-hook, every tooth a marline-spike, and his blood right good Stockholm tar.
--Naval Epitaph

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton and you can find me here and here. Leave a comment behind and you'll be automatically entered in a drawing. The winner will receive signed copies of CASTING SPELLS, LACED WITH MAGIC, and SPUN BY SORCERY and a little sweet surprise.

Are you on Facebook? Stop by and friend me when you have a moment.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Incurring the Wrath of the Mummy!!! - with Natalie Anderson

So as I mentioned last month, we’ve moved back to the city that literally rocks - Christchurch. We’ve left what books we did bring in boxes, no point in putting them out on bookcases when a decent aftershock will only make them fall out! Thanks so much for your book culling comments too – the winner from that is Scarlet Wilson! Scarlet, please email me at natalie(at)natalie-anderson(dot)com and I can get the book into the post for you!

So we’re settling in, the move has brought some little challenges but it’s really pretty ok. My biggest effort has gone into settling the children – especially the elder two into school. Here in New Zealand the norm is to take a cut lunch from home. My daughter takes a ‘no-wrap’ container with mini containers inside. The son uses a stainless steel tiffin that is the cutest contraption ever (he loves how it all stacks together and has a cool closing device).

He likes sandwiches. She hates them. I do what I can to accommodate preferences. But I noticed that in the first week or so of the new school, neither of them were eating much.

Cue the mummy-alarm-bells!!!

Not eating lunch must been some kind of anxiety, or lack of time, or some kind of problem... The dreaded New School Nerves?

What’s a mother to do?

Well I went to the shop and bought a number of treaty things, anything to tempt them. Worked pretty well for the daughter, but the boy was still coming home with untouched sandwiches.

And then I thought hard about that child. One of his current interests is ancient Egypt and mummification. He likes the whole promise of the apocalypse if you open the hidden burial chambers and all that fun, ghoulish stuff. So, relating that back to the uneaten lunch? I decided to threaten him. I wrapped the sandwiches in the white paper and scrawled across the top in permanent marker:

Eat these or face the curse of the Mummy!

Pretty simple. I drew a bat in the corner (I have no idea if there are bats in Egyptian chambers, but I figured it gave it a suitably spooky look). And guess what?

The sandwiches got eaten.

Now any nice parenting blog will tell you that kids like messages in their lunchboxes – you can even buy premade lunchbox messages which is pretty cute. But to my mind, store bought kind of takes the fun out of it!  Surely no child wants the same message. My kids are different – with different senses of humour, different needs – the eldest is the more anxious one, the worrier, nervous about who she’s going to hang with for that never-ending lunch hour. So she gets the sweet messages, the ones where I write something to boost her mood – just that I love her, or am proud of her. The boy is more laid back, has a wacky sense of humour and a fantasy-rich mind. So he gets the curses.

I did make one mistake though – when I labelled the pack as ‘Baboon Snot Sandwiches: Eat Them or Else.

He didn’t eat them. Because they sounded ‘gross’.

And here was me thinking that was the point! Clearly I was wrong. However the one where if he 'didn’t eat it his toes would fall off’ - that got eaten. So we seem to be working out the right kind of threats and curses. I’ve had to stretch out from plagues of locusts and armies of undead... And of course, now coming up with a Mummy Curse every day is becoming a bit of a challenge – usually I write fun and flirty books for grown-ups, not middle grade ghosty stories!!! 

But as it happens, I do have one book about to come out where I had the chance to write some truly wicked messages... Dating and Other Dangers is all about a guy who gets named and shamed by several anonymous wenches on a dating reputation website, he hunts down the web-mistress, takes one look at her and challenges her to three dates with him to prove it was all libel...

So the book is based around those three dates and their respective blog wars about it – and yes, there are some mean messages and curses hurled on those blogs!

This book was such a fun one to write – I think the most fun for me ever.... I guess I have a love of the evil curses as much as my son!

So I’ve a challenge for you now – in the comments, leave a Mummy Curse that I can put in the boy’s lunch box and I’ll put you in the draw to win a copy of DATING AND OTHER DANGERS!

(Winner will be drawn 24 June and I’ll edit this post so you know!)

Edited to add: The winner is Pat Cochran! Pat, please email me at natalie(at)natalie-anderson(dot)com and I'll get your copy into the post for you. Thanks so much everyone!

Natalie Anderson adores a happy ending, which is why she always reads the back of a book first. Just to be sure. Along with happy endings, she loves peppermint filled dark chocolate, pineapple juice and extremely long showers. Not to mention  spending hours teasing her imaginary friends with dating dilemmas. She tends to torment them before eventually relenting and offering – you guessed it, a happy ending. She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her gorgeous husband and four fabulous children.
If, like her, you love a happy ending, be sure to come and say hi on www.facebook/authornataliea and on Twitter @authornataliea, or her website/blog:

Monday, June 20, 2011

This is My Kind of Roughing Jenny Gardiner

Summer's here and the camping is easy… Yeah, right.

You might have gleaned from previous pieces I've written that I'm no fan of camping. In fact if given the choice to camp or take a Calculus exam, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a satisfactory decision. (You may have also gleaned from previous columns that my math skills came to a grinding halt in Mrs. Harcharik's fourth grade math class. Thank goodness she mercifully allowed me to write an essay about Albert Einstein in order to make up for my lackluster year-end grade. Didn't help me to ever learn to balance a checkbook, however. Nevertheless picking between the two would practically be a Sophie's Choice for me.)
Back when my husband and I were dating, he decided he wanted to make a believer out of me in the camping department. I'd grown up as a beach baby, vacationing with sun, surf and sand when I went on holiday. The idea of roughing it in a tent in the woods during vacation never arose in my childhood. Well, there was that time my Girl Scout troop was supposed to camp for a weekend, only to be thwarted by flooding from Hurricane Agnes. Instead we did a day-trip and were forbidden from using the latrines because poisonous snakes were floating around in them. Yep, camping didn't present much in the way of charms with that red flag.

But my husband came up with a snake-free plan that entailed us camping amidst the rugged coastal beauty of Acadia National Park in Maine--how could we go wrong? Well, we erroneously arrived a day early for our reservation. On Independence Day weekend. Nary a campsite to be found (a day earlier in Freeport we were told the only place to stay in all of coastal Maine due to holiday crowds would be a display tent at the LL Bean store. Seriously.).
Luckily the park ranger was able to come up with a lone campsite that had been abandoned by some early-departers. After setting up the borrowed ancient tent (I was warned not to touch the canvas as any place you'd touch would leak if it rained--good luck there), we cooked steaks over the grill, made s'mores, and basked in our happy camper experience, just a little smug we were able to nab a campsite so late despite our scheduling error. After once more admiring the breathtaking canvas of stars in the clear night sky, we zipped the tent closed for the night. I set my book down next to my pillow as I was falling asleep, then several hours later woke to it floating away from me. Turns out a storm had come in, and the aged tent leaked in approximately, oh, two million places. And our campsite was at the bottom of a flood plain.

We spent the night in our Honda Civic, and cleaned the muck out of our mildewing tent at dawn the next day. Memorable? Yes. Fun? Not so much.
A few other camping experiences (one after the release of the Blair Witch Project had me sleepless for fear of looming murderers) left me with a generally tepid reception toward the practice of camping. I did, however, love camping one time: when we were in Africa, some 25 years ago. Much of our trip involved roughing it--including a few nights in a spartan tent in which we came face-to-hairy-face with a hirsute spider the size of my hand skittering across my bed (which resulted in my enveloping myself from head to toe in a circa WWII army-issue stiflingly hot wool blanket/spider guard each night). But then we spent two glorious nights in a luxury tented safari in the Masai Mara with a mahogany four-poster bed, marble sink, the works. I was in heaven.
Now Africa was about the only place in which austere camping even remotely appealed to me. Cloaked beneath the barely-there canvas of a tent with the possibility of a pride of lions or a herd of elephants loping by seemed so cool. But snoozing away in dense Virginia woods with ticks and spiders and snakes of no real mystique threatening me? No thank you. I'll take my own cozy bed any day over that.

But then I heard about about glamping. A friend filled me in on the beauty of glamour camping, the pampered persons alternative to getting down and dirty to enjoy the great outdoors. It involves king-sized beds and maybe 600-thread count sheets and fluffy down comforters and someone else doing all the dirty work. And me not having to trudge in the dark amidst the things that are going bump in the night just to find a public toilet (one that always fails to have a seat, is usually prison-issue stainless steel and comes equipped with cobwebs). Glamping is my kinda camping: the country club variety. Not that I'm elitist, but when it comes to camping, I need the comforts of home. And then some.

I usually suck it up and camp once a year with my family, me in full martyr mode. Usually the general family consensus at the end of the weekend is that Mom should've stayed home. But this glamping thing, it seems like a happy medium, a meeting of the minds. Except for the price, which can't compare with the pack-it-all-from-home way, darn it. If only someone would come up with discount glamping, all the comforts, none of the expense, I'd be golden. And maybe even try to pretend I'm enjoying myself just a bit.
Until then, I think I'll aim for microwaving s'mores and kicking back with the TV remote, maybe even attempting to balance my checkbook. And just be very, very grateful I'll get to sleep in my own bed with a roof over my head.

Jenny Gardiner is the author of the award-winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver (coming back in ebook form this week!), as well as the novels Slim to None and Over the Falls and the humorous memoir Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me. She also has a story in Wade Rouse's upcoming humorous dog anthology I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship (NAL/Sept '11), a fundraiser for the Humane Society of the US and selected animal charities.

Feel free to visit me at my website
You can also find me on Facebook
And my Facebook fan page
And don't forget Twitter

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Elizabeth Essex: My Heart Is All My Own

One of the most important aspects of any author’s writing is his or her ‘voice,’ the style, attitude and point of view that makes the telling of a story unique. Early on in my writing career, my critique partner defined voice for me with a marvelous quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “All the knowledge I possess anyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.”

I use this quote to inspire me not only to strengthen my individual voice as an author, but to assist me in creating strong, unique characters readers will love. One of the hallmarks of my stories is deep characterization. My stories spring from an idea of a character, and hinge upon making sure I let that character’s individual voice ring true.

In A SENSE OF SIN, my second Georgian romance from Kensington Brava set in Dartmouth, England, Rupert Delacorte, Retired Colonel of His Majesty’s Marine Forces, and now Viscount Darling, meets his match in a quiet local beauty, the Ravishing Miss Celia Burke.

Right from the start, Del has it in for Celia. He has come to Dartmouth in search of her, thinking she is responsible for the death of his beloved younger sister Emily, and vowing to have his revenge.

Both of these characters can be seen as archetypes. Del is an archetypical Avenger, while Celia can be seen as an archetypical mousy Librarian/Scientist. But such cardboard cut-out characters only work when they are personalized and made unique enough so the reader can see and hear them as individuals.

To make a character unique, I do two basic things: I ask myself how the character sees the world, and examine how the world sees the character. The answers to those questions involve the two things Goethe wrote about, knowledge and heart.

Del’s knowledge has been acquired in his upbringing as the son of a Duke, and in his profession serving in His Majesty’s Marine Forces aboard Royal Navy ships. All the things that are familiar to him come from that world. To describe Celia, Del would not compare her to a summer’s day. He would describe her as being “like a trim, nimble sloop.” When he thinks about exacting revenge, he would want it to be like his profession, “straightforward, violent and bloody.”

Celia Burke is a quiet country girl who is also a botanist devoted to the study of freshwater plants. She spends her time reading about scientific discoveries in ‘The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society,’ and she sees the world through her experience as a dedicated and detailed observer of the universe’s scientific fact. In her encounters with Del, Celia would never describe herself as having been ‘swept off her feet.’ She would think “the earth had ceased to exert it’s pull on her and ceded all it’s gravity to Viscount Darling.”

The events of the story, the seeking of revenge, the thwarting of blackmail attempts and the falling in love, provoke strong emotional reactions from our characters, and those emotions are filtered through the prism of their experience. And it is those strong, unique emotions give the characters their individual heart.

What character of romance fiction stands out in your mind for their strong unique heart?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Zana Bell: Fantasy Jobs

“So what do you do?”

It’s one of the first questions we ask when meeting someone new. Why? Do our jobs define us? Certainly, we choose (or should choose) jobs that suit our personalities but after a while does the job also leave its patina upon us?

Choosing the right careers for heroes and heroines is vital. It’s also enormous fun. I indulge my fantasies and the research is pure pleasure. In my first book, Tempting the Negotiator, Sass is a New York lawyer come to negotiate a holiday resort in the exquisite Aroha Bay. Jake, a big-wave surfer, is out to stop all development as Aroha Bay is also the nesting area for the nearly extinct Fairy Tern.

Why a big wave surfer? I love surfers and their single-minded dedication to the joy of riding waves. Big-wave surfers are at the crazy, maverick end. It takes passion, commitment and yes, more than a dash of madness to throw heart and then body over waves as high as skyscrapers. Jake is therefore more than willing to wade fearlessly into battle against a huge multi-corporate. Failure is just not in his vocabulary.

Sass is his perfect foil. Her lawyer’s mind cuts through emotive arguments. She must see the big picture, not just the cause. But can she resist the surfer grin, the sheer joie de vivre of a man fresh from fantastic waves?

In my latest book, A Risk Worth Taking, Adam is a biker - a Texan cowboy on a steel steed. But he’s ready to leave his bad boy, stunt rider image behind and become a surgeon. Not such a reach as you might think. While these daredevils are adrenalin junkies, they are also coolheaded professionals. Their job entails calculation, precision, complete focus and commitment. Which are, of course, just some of the attributes of a surgeon.

Adam’s plan is right on track until he meets and falls for Cressa, who specialises in temporary jobs and short-term relationships, and who makes it very clear that bad and dangerous is exactly what she wants….

Tell me about your fantasy job and be in to win a copy of A Risk Worth Taking.

Zana Bell

***Zana picked CrystalGB as the winner!  Congratulations, Crystal!  Please contact Zana at with your full name and address so she can get the prize in the mail to you!***

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lisa Dale: Two Weeks Until The Big Day

Hi all!

Life's a bit frantic for me just now because my wedding is in just two weeks! If you wanted to see more pictures from my bridal shower, click here (and leave a comment to enter my love to readers prize!).

I have to admit; I'd thought that getting married would give me time to ponder my relationship with my fiance, time for reflection and thought...but instead, I'm running about--late for everything--and Matt and I barely say a word to each other that doesn't involve the wedding!

The good news is, if there was anyone I'd want to plan a wedding with, it would be him. We've been working side by side--Matt generously picking up the slack when I get surprised by unexpected deadlines or other emergencies.

Being this close to marrying the guy I love is a crazy time, but it's a blessing too. There's lots to do, and that's just how I like it.

And in other news: RWA is coming to New York! If you want to meet, I'll be at the Berkley book signing on Friday morning. Hope to see you then!

I'll post wedding pix once I'm back from the honeymoon!

Wishing you all good things,

Lisa Dale

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mom Camp : : Anne McAllister

It's that time of year again!

I get to go to camp!

As a kid I went to day camp one year and it was fun, but not especially memorable. As an adult, I can hardly wait.

Every year since my oldest granddaughter was old enough to attend the local sports camp at the college in our town, she has come from Texas with her mom (my daughter) to do so. She and her cousin(s) -- whoever is the right age -- go off to camp, and my daughter and I have "mom camp."

It's wonderful. It's a time to spend with each other -- and, as it happens, with other friends and family we don't get to see often enough -- and reconnect.

We talk, we laugh, we read books, we go shopping, we laugh, we bake. We go for walks, we laugh, we try new recipes, we go through old photos and put the names of people in them on the back. We have tea. We bathe dogs. We try out crafts. We watch movies. We laugh.

Mostly, it seems, we laugh.

It's a refreshing, wonderful week. This is our fifth year at it and every year it seems to get better. The first year we were joined by my cousin's daughter, then age 14. If she seems like an odd addition to "mom camp" let me assure you, she fit right in. She's funny and she has great ideas and she laughs a lot. She's an honorary mom camper and she has been here every year but one (when she was off doing something at Annapolis, as I recall).

Then we added Nancy the cat slayer (no, she doesn't. Not really. It's her nickname). And last year we added my aunt (the cousin's grandmother) who flew in from Arizona for the event, and who had such a good time that she was the first one to want to be on board this year -- and is bringing a "craft" for us to do. Something to do with vegetables and tote bags. How appropriate is that?

She also thinks we need elegant hats this year -- and to have a tea party. We're not sure about the elegants hats bit (we're more baseball cap girls), but the tea party is right up our alley.

And we're having 'day campers' this year. Well, besides Nancy. My 87 year old neighbor is coming. She is bringing her chocolate raspberry torte recipe. I can see good things happening on that day! There's a lot of rhubarb awaiting our attention, too.

Another cousin's daughters out on the west coast were hoping to make it this year, but couldn't quite swing it with parenting obligations.

I invited Anne Gracie who will be in the US for RWA the following week. Sadly she's got a deadline and can't make it before the conference. But we're hoping to do an 'addendum' for a few days afterward. She makes great jewelry and we thought that would be a fun thing to try.

We still might. But we'll miss Anne.

We'll be having a good time, though, rest assured. Wish you could join us.

But you can start a mom camp of your own. It's an idea whose time has definitely come!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Michelle Styles: Good Intentions Gone Wrong

My great grandmother used to say if the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, then I am the contractor in chief.  It is a  sentiment which really resonates with me.  I do have very good intentions but sometimes things go wrong and there are unintended consequences. These can prove problematic  like the time I ordered rock (a type of peppermint candy found at the British seaside) with the school’s name emblazoned on it for the school fair only for it to arrive six hours late. In the end, it turned out fine  as it did get sold and we had enough left over to give to the school leavers as a present. Or when I sent my apologies for my high school reunion and asked to hear about what other people were doing.  I was very interested and helped to get a loop started.  One or two took it the wrong way and I did have to suffer flack for admitting to writing historical romances. What is it about some people and the romance genre?  But my actions encouraged one man to attend the reunion where he re-encountered a fellow classmate. He was a successful businessman and she a single mother. Nine months later, the couple married and are very happy. They recently had their own child. You see romance isn't just confined to the pages of a novel.
 When I came to write my latest release To Marry A Matchmaker, at first my heroine gave me problems. I just could not get her right. Something was missing. Then I happened to see an email that perhaps I shouldn’t have done but someone mentioned me being a bit of a busybody and I knew that I had my heroine.  That was what she was a bit of busybody but with a lot of heart. The phrase  about good intentions and a phrase off a mug that we bought  my daughter – I’m not bossy, I just have better ideas seemed encapsulate my heroine Henri.  Henri ended up being very close to my heart – someone who sees a problem and takes action rather than sitting back. She is someone who is one of life’s givers rather than takers. Some people might see her as a meddling busybody but she does what she does from the heart and ultimately she does make life a better and richer place. In her case, she firmly believes in love and romance (as long as it is for other people). However, a local landowner sees her passion for matchmaking as interference and bets her that she can’t stop for a month.  Henri believes she is more than equal to the challenge. After all, she can stop any time she wants...or can she?

Does anyone else have trouble with good intentions gone wrong? Please don't let me be the only one!


The winner of the Contest is Tia Knox. She has been contacted. Many thanks to everyone else who entered.

RWA Nationals:
If anyone is going or going to the literacy signing, I hope to see you there. I have the intention of having an edible treat for anyone who stops by at the literacy signing to say hello.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Darlene Gardner: After the lovin'

Because my June release from Harlequin Superromance is about a woman who stumbles across boy and girl twins she thinks might be hers due to their distinctive red hair, TWICE THE CHANCE is filled with drama.

My favorite scene in the book, however, is after Jazz Lenox and the twins’ Uncle Matt make love. Up to that point, Jazz has been desperately trying to keep Matt at arm’s length. He’s very close to his family, and Jazz thinks the twins are better off without her in their lives. While Jazz and Matt are still in bed together, however, he pulls out all the stops to persuade her to go on a date with him.

Right about now I should confess that the pages after the hero and heroine first make love are always my favorite part of a romance novel. In my opinion, it’s a terrible mistake if an author ignores the all-important lovemaking aftermath and skips ahead in time.

In one of my early books, a romantic comedy for the now-defunct Harlequin Duets line, my heroine had a one-night stand after her fiancé broke their engagement. I was able to create all sorts of delicious tension by having the ex-fiancé telephone her the following morning because someone had seen her the night before with another man. A man who was still lying next to her in bed and was in no hurry to leave.

The interplay between the characters is so much more interesting after sex than during it. Does the intimacy ease the conflict between them or escalate it? Is the mood serious or playful? And the biggie: Do either the hero or heroine regret making love?

In case you’re not familiar with the old Englelbert Humperdinck song from which I stole the title of this blog, the last couplet is, “After the lovin’, I’m still in love with you.” Now that’s what I’m talking about!

I’m curious if readers agree with me that the post-coital moments constitute the best part of a romance novel? If not, what is your favorite story element? I’ll give away a copy of a book from my backlist to a poster chosen at random.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Christina Hollis: The Woman I Admire...

This is a photograph of my grandmother, with my aunt as a baby and my uncle as a toddler. Aren’t the children sweet? I don’t know the date this was taken, but as my aunt is in her early eighties now it must have been some time in the late nineteen-twenties. It was originally sent to my grandfather, who was serving in the British Army in India at the time. He had never seen his new little daughter. In those days air travel was an unimagined luxury. The journey from Delhi took weeks over land and sea, so Grampy only came back every few years. 
Gran was born deep in the English countryside, at a time when the greatest excitement was the annual church picnic on the beach at Weston-Super-Mare, twenty miles away. In the early days of the twentieth century, many people never strayed further from home than that. Gran was made of sterner stuff. She went into service, and became a brilliant cook. These days she would be called a chef, but in those far-off times a woman’s place was well and truly in the home. Working allowed her to travel, as a trusted member of her grand employers’ staff. All that had to stop when she got married. Grampy had been brought up as a Barnardo’s Boy in  the heart of London, and longed to live in the country.  Luckily a house came up for sale not far from where Gran had been born. While Grampy travelled the world with the army, Gran stayed at home making things happen. Living ‘off the strength’ she had to do everything for herself, from buying the house to raising the children. Her family were only a few miles away across the fields, but there were no phones in those days and owning a car was unthinkable.  Being on her own so much made her very resourceful. She grew every sort of fruit and vegetable, preserved the produce in every way known to man (and woman!)  and kept chickens for eggs. She really could make meals out of next to nothing. Her only failures were cherry jam (jelly),  and rabbits. It really irked her that despite all her skills in making other preserves, she could never get cherry jam (jelly)  to set. As for the rabbits, they were part of a plan to produce meat during the war, when England was starving. The skins were supposed to have gone to make leather, but the second the children set their eyes on those cute little bunnies, that part of Gran’s war effort didn’t stand a chance.
I feel honoured to have had this inspirational woman as my grandmother. I may not have inherited her bravery, organisational skills or love of housework, but at least she made sure I can feed a family! 
Have you had an inspirational woman in your life? What did you learn from her, and what do you hope to pass on to others?
Christina Hollis write Modern Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, which appear as Harlequin Presents/Extra in the US. Visit her website at, and catch up with her at and, where she appears as @christinabooks.
Christina’s next book, The Count’s Challenge, is a July release for Harlequin Presents Extra release in the US, and is available online from Harlequin here: and from many high street stores.  

Saturday, June 11, 2011


by Anna Campbell

Apologies to those hoping to see gorgeous abs after reading that headline!

Snicker! I do so love to tease!

This is a gardening as lesson for life post. Which is kinda ironic as a gardener I am NOT!

I live basically in resort suburbia where people take huge pride in their yards. Sadly, my garden is the untidiest in the street. Hmm, sometimes the whole area!

But eventually even I will notice that things need to be cut back. Usually about the stage where the bougainvillea is breaking through the windows to eat me a bit like a hungry triffid.

It's about three years since I did my last major devastation in the garden. It involves getting my handy handyman in and his even more handy chainsaw, truck and trailer. And we cut and we cut and we cut until there's hardly anything left.

The blasted landscape in the photos is the result of three really heavy mornings' work. And I have the scratches to prove it! Ripping is not for sissies!

I live in a subtropical climate and everything grows like...well, triffids. We've had majorly big rainfall over the last little while - many of you would have seen photos of the floods over the Christmas period in Australia. I'm just north and south of some of the worst of that particular disaster. But it means all those lush tropical plants decided to become even lusher and tropicaler.

A couple of weeks ago, things had hit critical level in my garden so I decided to be ruthless. There were no ruths harmed in the production of this movie. Ruths were banned from the area!

I've still got to do one corner of the garden out front (I've included a photo below as an example of before so you appreciate quite how stark is the after. The whole yard was overgrown like that.) Then out the back - one more morning and it's done! Huzzah!

Three years before I once more need to rip my abs ripping at the alamanda and the buckinghamia (got to be careful how you say that one) and the grevilleas and the philodendrons which really DO look like triffids. Perhaps those triffidodendrons will want revenge after what I've done to them Eeek! I'll have to carry a machete when I get the mail!

Right now I'm in the throes of a first draft - yeah, this is the gardening into writing life bit of the post, let's pause while I philosophize, which is not to be confused with philodendronizing!

I write long and by the time I've finished that story, it will feel just as overgrown and out of control as my garden was a couple of weeks ago.

Now my garden is a lean, mean fighting machine that will grow back with amazing speed (or at least it did three years ago!). I'm looking forward to performing the same job on my manuscript. Chopping old growth and branches that go nowhere and weeds tangling up the beautiful straight growth of the story (yeah, I'm eternally optimistic!).

So do you have any major jobs on the go at the moment? Any major clean-up plans? Do you think gardening can be a metaphor for life? And what is it with those triffids?

Friday, June 10, 2011

KISS, KISS by Kandy Shepherd

"Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!" That’s what my teenage daughter and I chant when we’re watching a scene on television or a DVD where the build up of romantic tension between a guy and a gal becomes too much for us. We sigh when they kiss, moan when they miss. (At the moment we’re loving
Downton Abbey and getting great enjoyment from both the Lady Mary & Matthew, and Bates & Anna relationships. Come on Bates and Anna—kiss!)

That first kiss is so vital in a romance—once they kiss everything changes for ever between them. Be it in a book or a movie, I adore a good first kiss scene. So why do I find them so darn difficult to write?
I can be heard muttering away at my computer that I
hate writing kissing scenes! Yet I’m told I write them well. The thing is, a memorable first kiss isn’t just about the meeting of lips and tongues, the placing of hands and bodies. It’s about how my hero and heroine feel about the kiss—it’s about love and fear and joy and worry as well as physical sensations. It can be sexy, sweet, passionate, funny , awkward or deeply romantic. And, like all kisses it’s about the people doing the kissing—the unique characters I have created for my story who bring their own personalities to the kiss. Every kiss I write is different—because my characters are different.

Do you remember your first kiss? My first kiss with a boy was when I was six years old and came with a proposal! The first “proper kiss” was when I was fourteen at a school dance, it was sweet and tender and utterly thrilling. I was so excited I told my mother all about it when I got home—and so earned the unrelenting mockery of my friends! Funny thing is, though, when my daughter got her first kiss she came home and told me all about it and it was a very sweet moment.

I’d love to hear about your first kiss—or a screen kiss you found memorable. Please leave a comment for a chance to win a signed trade paperback copy of either HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS or LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD and include your email address and which book you
would prefer if you want to be in the draw.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Donna Alward: Do you read Dear Reader letters?

I love adding Dear Reader letters to my books, and I love reading them as well. Most of the time they provide a little window into the inspiration for the book, or a special acknowledgement, or something special about the author.

In particular, I am proud of the one for my June UK/ July NA release - A Family For The Rugged Rancher. Both the hero and heroine are dealing with some stressful situations in their lives and I wanted to touch on that in the Dear Reader. It goes like this:

Dear Reader,

Before I was bleesed to turn writing stories into a career, I was a stay-at-home mom. It has been the toughest - and best - job I've ever had. I have never regretted having those precious years at home. And I am very fortunate to have a husband who supported me one hundred percent.

But every now and then I wondered - what would happen if suddenly I was left to provide for our children on my own? I was employed before they were born, but how difficult would it be to gt back into the workforce, make ends meet, and still be there for htem in the way I wanted? That's exactly what happens to Emily in A FAMILY FOR THE RUGGED RANCHER.  I like Emily. Yes, she's been hurt, but she's pulled up her socks to do what's best for her son.  She's a good mother. She does what I hope I would have done if I'd found myself in those circumstances. Cope - with a smile.

Of course Luke is dealing with his own issues, and one many of us face as time ticks on: aging parents. He needs someone to bring him out of his shell. To show him all the rich possibilities of the future. And that someone is Emily.

I often hear people say that romance novels are unrealistic fairy tales, but I don't agree. My characters aren't just characters - they're people trying to deal with issues we all face in our lives. And when life gets bad sometimes it's nice to know - just for a while - that the sun is going to peek from beneath that cloud. I'm here to say that fairy tales happen. There ARE such things as happy endings.

I hope you find your happy ending too!

Warm wishes,


What about you? Do you read Dear Reader letters? Do you like them?

A Family for the Rugged Rancher is out now in the UK and India and available in the US and Canada via Eharlequin.