Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rainy weather - Nancy Warren

November is pretty rainy in the pacific northwest, but we do grow some gorgeous big cedar trees. However, I had the opportunity this month to travel to Florida where they don't grow much of a cedar. Nice palms though.

Nice weather. Nice, nice weather. I was in Boca Raton to spend a day at Office Depot headquarters. What, you might ask, does Office Depot have to do with romance? Office Depot sponsors NASCAR driver Carl Edwards and Carl appears in my November NASCAR themed Harlequin novel, Turn Two. I was on hand to autograph books and made some new friends, including Charles Weismeyer, pictured here, who was kind enough to send me this photo. Charlie and I are agreed that we make a very cute couple ;-) I had a great day, met some wonderful people and ended my trip with some downtime with my good friend, fellow author, Karen Kendall. Karen toured me around the Fort Lauderdale area and somehow we found ourselves either shopping or eating ;-) A truly memorable time with one of the kindest and funniest women I know.

I'm back enjoying the rain. There's a lot to love about rain. Really. We support the umbrella, raincoat and gumboot industries. Rain keeps the skin youthful, we never run out of drinking water, and those cedars really are something, aren't they...?

Oh, one more thing before I forget is that I only run contests once in a while but I've got one on for the next couple of weeks that's fabulous. If you come over to my site, you can enter to win the entire 16 book NASCAR Harlequin series from 2007. I had the launch book in February (Speed Dating) and Turn Two is the last book in the series for this year. So drop by and sign up. I've really loved the stories.

Happy Reading,

Nancy Warren

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bad Old Days, Good New Days! - Christina Hollis

I was stuck indoors all weekend nursing a horrible cold (donated by Son Number One). I couldn’t get to church, and there was definitely no gardening. That was a wrench, as during the week the weather was perfect for a late autumn tidy-up. I was looking forward to gathering leaves and putting everything to bed for the winter. We’ve had brilliantly starry nights and clear, cold days. On a couple of occasions the gate has been frosted shut when we headed out on the school run. While all that was going on, I was sitting behind a computer screen and looking forward to Friday. By the end of my working week, the bug struck. I lost the urge to do anything outside. Instead, I tried tidying my office. That’s a never-ending task. We don’t have much room, so my desk is squeezed in between an enormous chest freezer, the telescope my OH’s dear father refurbished forty years ago (and we can’t bear to lose), the Christmas tree in its box and all the decorations ditto, and any number of other useful bits and pieces which can find no other home.

My trouble is, I can’t bear to throw anything away. I have boxes and boxes of children’s drawings, birthday cards and other treasures. These can’t be sacrificed, so it had to be my stack of magazines. I’ve kept every one to which I’ve contributed over the years, but this was the time to say goodbye. As a compromise, my published articles now fill one box file instead of a tottering heap of publications.

While I was emptying my filing cabinet, I came across six, closely written foolscap sheets. There were columns for ‘page number’, ‘query’ and a big space for ‘remarks’. In seconds, I was taken right back the nineteen-nineties. That was when I used to write historical novels. I love research, but these pages were an illustration of how difficult it was back then. The good old days? I don’t think so! With no access to the internet and only a small dictionary, the only way I could double-check every historical fact and spelling was to make a sixty mile round trip (babies in tow) to the county library. That took ages, and we all ended up over-tired and frustrated. Now everyone who has access to a computer can find information on anything, in seconds. It’s a wonderful invention. The only question I’m left with is…weren’t computers supposed to herald the paperless office? It certainly hasn’t worked in this house!

Have computers made life easier for you, or just altered your workload?

Jane Porter's Title Contest

I got the bad news today. Alpha Mom, out in only 6 months, will no longer be called Alpha Mom due to someone apparently owning the title. It seems a clever woman has copyrighted the words (who would have thought?!?) and is threatening to sue me and my publisher if we don’t change the name of my novel. I’m a fan of women who accomplish things but not a fan of women who threaten legal action so Alpha Mom needs a new title. Fast.

I’m asking all my readers, fellow writers and friends to help brainstorm new title ideas I can send my editor this week. To get a sneak peek of the Alpha Mom cover (before the title change) visit my B-Board for the next few days and see what the cover looks like, and read the blurb about the book, before the cover and blurb disappear to be unveiled once the transformation is complete.

My editor has suggested three possible new titles:

Queen Bee
Alpha Female
Power Mom

Do you like any of them? Can you think of any other ideas? Want to send me some ideas?
If you suggest a title that gets picked by my editorial team at 5 Spot for the book, which is Taylor’s book (we meet her in Odd Mom Out) you’ll be rewarded with a $50 Sephora gift certificate, an advanced reading copy of To-Be-Retitled-Alpha-Mom, and a signed set of my 5 Spot books: The Frog Prince, Flirting with Forty, and Odd Mom Out.

So, if you’re creative and like brainstorming book titles send me your suggestions as I desperately need your help. Alpha Mom needs a new name right away.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christine Rimmer Explains Why There's Nothing Like a Christmas Song

It’s that time of year again. You know what I mean. Ho-ho-ho and all that jazz.

Here in Sooner country--yes, that would be Oklahoma--our local pop radio station, 104.7 on your dial, switches to all Christmas, all the time during the week of Thanksgiving.

And do I listen? Oh, yes, I do. I can’t wait to get in the car between November 20th or so and New Years’ Day. A bounty of Christmas is right there, waiting for me. All it takes is the punch of a button, and maybe a slight adjustment of the volume dial.

See, I like it loud. Very loud. And it’s not like I don’t get plenty of Yule sounds at home. I’ve been collecting Christmas music since my younger son was born. As of today, I’ve got 29 Christmas albums, total, in two formats; CD and cassette. I’m loathe to ditch the cassettes, since I’m afraid I won’t find these treasures again. And then there's the iPod Nano I bought a few months ago. I've been loading it up with holiday cheer, as well.

And about my old cassette players--in the house and in the car? This is the one time of year they still get a workout. On cassette, I have what you could only call the classics: Burl Ives’s Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Willie Nelson’s Pretty Paper and Elvis’s Blue Christmas. How am I going to say goodbye to those?

You guessed it. I’m not!

Plus, every year, I feel it’s my holiday duty to add one more great CD to my collection. Last year it was Bette Midler's Cool Yule. Love it! This year, I haven't decided yet. But I will. Oh, yes!

And back to 104.7 on your dial and all Christmas, all the time...

So I’m driving in my car with the radio on full blast and here comes that Christmas Song that reduces me to a blubbering mass of holiday tears, every time, without fail: The Christmas Shoes by Newsong. Heard that one? Don’t listen without a box of Kleenex. I warn you.

In case you’ve missed it, a little boy is buying the perfect shoes for his dying mama. He wants “her to be beautiful. If Mama meets Jesus tonight.” Can you spell s-o-b-b-i-n-g? Because I was. I do. Every time I hear that song. I drive with the tears streaming down my face.

No, that poor little boy doesn’t have enough money to pay for them, and yes, the holiday-hardened singer ends up putting his money down so the kid can give his mama her Christmas Shoes… Okay. I need that one. I really, really do….

How ‘bout you? A favorite Christmas song? An album you recommend?

Happy holidays, everyone!
Christine Rimmer's News

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hello! Any Cooks Out There...

This blog is going to be a little unique today.

I need recipes. Now I know that I can get them off the Internet. I can wrangle my family to give me exact measurements for the traditional recipes. But I thought that you - out there - could help me.

My son has to turn in 40 recipes by the end of January. This is part of his Home Ec project. He also has to make a few of the dishes and turn in to the teacher for extra credit. Let me just say that this is her favorite project because she doesn't have to bring her lunch.

My daughter had the same project last year and we've used up the family and friends as sources. Since I didn't want to duplicate the same results, I'd like to have fresh new recipes.

He has to have a variety from categories, such as: appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts, even drinks (sorry, no alcohol).

So if you feel inspired to help in this endeavor, you can either post your recipe (so others may enjoy) or email me at

Thank you very much.

Michelle Monkou

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reading One's Own Books -- Bronwyn Jameson

There of many joys in being an author; near the top of my list is the arrival of author copies of a soon-to-be-released book. These are the complimentary copies sent by the publisher, and opening the box and seeing the actual book for the first time never fails to delight me. There's something almost decadent about seeing so many copies of one's book in the one place.

This week I received my author's copies of VOWS & A VENGEFUL GROOM, and this one delighted me even more than usual. The lovely cover looks even better wrapped around the book. The back cover blurb sets the ideal tone for the story. I opened a book and read the Dear Reader letter and the dedication, as I do with each new book, and I thought about all the work that went into getting from original idea to printed book and the people who helped me get there. In this case that involved a lot more work and time and people than usual, because this is the first book in Diamonds Down Under, an author-led continuity series.

I think I can safely say that none of the six authors had any idea just how much work would be involved when we embarked on this project. But now that the hard work is over and the series is close to kick-off, we share an extra degree of pride in the accomplishment and an extra spark of excitement in seeing the finished product. Which brings me to the point of this post....

Usually I don't read my books, for several reasons. Firstly, I'm afraid of finding typos or printing errors and being something of a perfectionist that just stresses me out. Secondly, I've read the manuscript enough times through edits and proofs that I really don't need to do so again. There are so many other wonderful books out there to read -- I never have enough time to read them all, so why waste time on my own? Thirdly, there's the little niggling concern that the story might not be as good as I want it to be.

But this time I surprised myself by reading Vows & A Vengeful Groom from cover to cover, and it wasn't nearly as painful as I imagined. Who knew? *g*

So, authors, do you read your own books when your author copies arrive? And readers, do you (like me, the perfectionist!) notice typos and errors in printed books? Do they irritate you or can you read right by them with scarcely a blink?

Vows & A Vengeful Groom is my 13th published novel and a January 2008 release from Silhouette Desire. Visit my website to read an excerpt and the lowdown on how the Diamonds Down Under series came about.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Author Trivia - Lee Hyat

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all the authors and readers who support this blog and with that in mind, I thought I'd do a fun Author Trivia contest.

I'm going to share some information about an author. If you can guess her name and the title of her book, please email me at totebag[at] with your answers and be sure to put Author Trivia in the subject heading.

At the end of this month, I'll pick 3 winners from everyone who answers correctly. The prize for each winner is a copy of the book. And everyone's entitled to play - even authors. (You were readers before you were authors so for my contests, it's all fair!)

Here are your clues:

1 -This author was born in the San Fernando Valley in California.

2 - She studied British Literature at Pomona College

3 - At one point in her life she volunteered as an archeologist

4 - She earned her MA from Claremont Graduate University

5 - She's travelled around the world to places like India and Zimbabwe.

6 - She was a public high school teacher for six years.

7 - Her agent is Anna Ghosh.

8 - Her July 2007 release is a hardback historical fiction best seller.

9 - The title of her book consists of just one word.

10 - This is her debut novel.

Please don't post your answers here - it would ruin the fun for eveyrone else. Just email them to me at totebag[at]

Good luck!

ANSWER: Michelle Moran - NEFERTITI

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful by Megan Crane

I love Thanksgiving.

I love the scrabble for strange foodstuffs in the supermarkets, the showdowns over french fried onions and green beans and everyone's differing take on the right recipe, the necessity of pumpkin pie.

I love sitting down at a table practically groaning from the weight to eat casseroles and stuffings and turkey and ham and whatever else people bring. It's never salad. It is always their grandmother's famed souffle involving heavy cream and a side of lard. Bring it on.

This year I am thankful for many things. Health, family, friends and loved ones, of course. But also the fact that I am not hosting Thanksgiving, and can thus swan into my friend's house with my assorted casseroles as it suits me. The fact that we decided not to travel anywhere for the holiday, and can therefore avoid the horror that is the LAX airport.

I am thankful that Matt Damon won the Sexiest Man of the Year in People Magazine, because I enjoy him. I especially enjoy those Bourne movies, and the fact he is married to a normal woman instead of a seven foot twig of a Brazilian model.

I am thankful that I somehow discovered a Linda Howard novel that I have never read, having previously believed I'd read every last one of her books.

I am thankful that my DVR is full to the bursting with excellent television shows I haven't watched yet, from vampires to pie makers to time travelers to Grey's Anatomy which I am angry at, yet still sullenly record.

I am thankful that my To Be Read pile is now the size of a small library, which means I should never run out of something good to read.

I am particularly thankful for science and biology, which makes it physically impossible to actually put on twenty pounds in one day, no matter how much I eat.

What about you?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Woman I Used to Be....

This fall has been hellacious.

No one to blame but myself of course, and I'm not sure I would have changed much if I could have. Opportunity knocks and there are times that you just don't wanna say no. I had a gorgeous trip to London, gave a couple of workshops and simply over scheduled myself. I had a book release in September as well as handing in a new book and revisions on a previous one. Add in some non-writing life issues and it has been a couple of months of stress and general busy-ness.

But last weekend was the end of the major commitments for the fall. And I finally GOT something that I've known all along but just didn't clue in to.

I spent a lot of time fitting the writing in around everything else when in fact, everything else should fit around the writing. As soon as I figured that out, it was like much of the stress evaporated.

But more than that, I didn't have time for a lot of the things I used to. I haven't been the mom I used to be either and I was starting to resent it.

But a couple of weekends ago I was more like the woman I used to be than I have been for a looong time. I recognized her - and I LIKED her! The one that wrote books but still managed to do all those stay at home mom things I'd enjoyed for a lot of years. The one who...dare I say it...used to have some BALANCE in her life.

I did some baking and froze it for the church bazaar which was this past Saturday. And my kids love doing crafts and I hadn't done ANY with them. Seeing as there is a kids table at the same bazaar, after housecleaning was done on Saturday, the girls and I went to the craft store and blew some cash.

It was great fun...nearly as much fun as starting to put it all together that Saturday night and Sunday. We sat around the kitchen table and had a blast. Saturday night they had bubble baths and I read to them before tucking them in...everything non-rushed. Just enjoyable.

It's been a huge lesson to me to keep things simple. To enjoy the family because the kids won't stay little forever - they're already growing up too fast. To enjoy the little moments and not let myself get caught up in the rat race. And to be thankful for them and the fact that I get to do a job that I adore every day!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thinking about Thanksgiving

How thankful am I?
Absolutely a bunch.
Pounds gained? Oh, my. After
Pies galore and potatoes, sweet and mashed,
You don't want to know.

There are friends and family, from
Here and far,
All gathered together,
Nibbling and laughing, cooking like mad.
Knives come out. Poor turkey--
Sliced to the bone.
Give the guys alcohol and set them
In front of the TV.
Victory for the Packers!
Ice cream and pie--second helpings, please.
Now the time grows late and we must go...
Good day, jolly Pilgrims. Next? Let it snow!

* * * * *

Winners of the A TOWN CALLED CHRISTMAS giveaway are CHERIE J and SUSAN P. Congrats, ladies! Please send me a note with your address and "blog winner" in the subject line and the books will go in the mail:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Just a Second! by Anna Campbell

Hey, Leena, it's been a while since I blogged here although I often check by to see who's talking on Tote Bags. Thanks for inviting me to talk about my second historical romance Untouched which comes out on 27th November.

It's interesting having a second book on the way. I wonder if it's like having a second baby. Not having children myself, I can't comment with any real authority but I wouldn't be surprised if there are similarities in the way you feel. You THINK you should know a lot more than you actually do!

It's still just as exciting to mark those moments along the way to the book appearing on the shelves. The editor's final approval. The cover (that's always exciting - and isn't Untouched's cover gorgeous?). Its appearance on Amazon. The first reviews coming in. Thankfully, all glowing so far, touch wood, throw salt over my shoulder, sacrifice rubber chickens under a full moon!

But it doesn't really seem real until it's up there in a bookstore and someone can wander in and buy it. And even then, because I'm in Australia, I have to wait for friends of mine to take photos of it and send them to me!

Untouched is a dark adult fairytale with elements of Beauty and the Beast and The Sleeping Beauty. For people who enjoyed Claiming the Courtesan, my debut historical romance for Avon, it has a similar atmosphere but very different characters and story.

In the meantime, amongst all the excitement, life goes on. Because I've just got my third book into Avon, I've since been busy doing all the things I didn't do while I was writing. But I'm really looking forward to having some time off over the Holidays to catch up on my TBR pile which currently rivals Everest. Just to mention some of the books waiting for me - the newest J.R. Ward, the newest Nalini Singh, The Secret Swan by Shana Abe, Harlequins by Yvonne Lindsay, Trish Morey, Tessa Radley and Robyn Grady. And that's only counting the top few in the tottering pile. I might have to take the phone off the hook!

What books are you looking forward to snuggling down with over the Festive Season? And a very happy Thanksgiving to all my North American friends!

Best wishes!


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Secret Agent Heroes and Why We Love Them

I watch very little television, but there is a new show I just love. It's called "Burn Notice" and features a spy who has been "burned" by his agency. It's funny. It's intense. It's great. And the spy? To die for. He's gorgeous, he's charming and he's tough. Great combination.

It's no surprise to my family that I love this show. After all, they have to hear all about my own personal secret agent heroes as I'm writing their stories. When I created The Goddard Project agency, it was pure self-indulgence. I wanted to write about hereos that made my own pulse kick up a notch and my breathing go a little funny. You know? And being married to a super smart alpha has its perks in this way too. He helped me to come up with the whole high-tech premise of the series. He makes great inspiration for the sexier than sin heroes too.

And speaking of uber sexy...that's Alan Hyatt to a T. The hero of DEAL WITH THIS (in stores on Nov 27). Sex on a stick, as Jillian would say. The man is hot, he's dangerous and he's very talented where it counts. As an agent - of course. Okay, so maybe I wasn't just talking about his job performance, but you'll have to read the book to find out. LOL

What is it about secret agents that make them such compelling heroes for us? Is it the element of secrecy? The edge of danger? Their ability to use weapons the rest of us wouldn't even recognize?

I'm not sure, but I do know that I adore them and will be writing many more stories about The Goddard Project's agents because of that. :)

Want to watch a really cool book trailer that does a great job of showing off our sexy secret agent? Here it is:


P.S. I've got a month long party going on at my personal blog ( to celebrate the Nov 27 release of DEAL WITH THIS. Pop by and say, "Hi," and get entered into one of the many drawings for prizes going on.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? - Lori Borrill

Since the premise of the Harlequin Blaze "Million Dollar Secrets" continuity is five coworkers winning a mega state lottery, I thought I'd bring up the topic of lotteries and see how people really feel about winning it big.

Yes, you heard that right. How people really feel.

Though I've been throwing $2 into my office lottery every week for almost a decade now, I actually do wonder whether or not I'd be happy with millions and millions in the bank. Studies show that aside from the brief high people experience around the time they win, ultimately they return to whatever state of happiness they'd been before they won. Meaning, if someone was miserable broke, they're miserable rich. If they were moderately happy broke, they're only moderately happy rich.

Then you have the horror stories about people who end up bankrupt within a year or two, all those millions squandered away by bad business deals and the friends and family who suck them dry--or worse, people whose lives are ruined by their sudden fame.

I think if you really press people to think about it, most would say they don't care to win a ton of money. They're modest in their desires, just wanting enough to pay off a mortgage or maybe fund their kids college. Believe it or not, I'm seriously a little afraid of what life would be like if I won millions and millions of dollars. I don't know that I want the responsibility, and I don't care to know who comes out of the woodwork looking for a cut or hearing their justification for why they feel they deserve it. And then the big thing: What would I do?

I asked my husband that one time. What would we do? He responded much like you're probably thinking right now. "What do you mean, what would we do? Anything we want! We'd build a house, we'd travel, we' another house, then maybe travel some more."

I have to admit, much of what motivates me to get out of bed in the morning is because I have to. I love/hate having to work for a living, but I learned during an extra-lengthy maternity leave (I was 2 weeks late) that if I don't have to go anywhere, I don't go anywhere. If I don't have to get dressed or take a shower, I don't get dressed or take a shower. (Yes, I'm a slug and a sloth, I admit it!) By my third week of leave, I was sitting on the couch watching "Eight Is Enough" reruns. By the time the baby was born, I was neurotic. (And did you know that newborns can't hold a conversation? What's up with that?)

By the time my leave was over, I ran back to the office, thrilled to be back with people like me who simply don't do the be-at-home thing well because I don't have the inner gumption to get the hell off my ass. Give me thirty million dollars? How many seasons was "Eight Is Enough" on the air?

And I have to ask myself if I'd still write novels. That's a tough one for me. Yes, I'm one of those people who would write anyway because I love the craft. But in many ways, writing professionally is exactly how that sounds--it's a job. It's one thing to write for joy, living in my own mind and cracking myself up over my own funny prose, it's another to wrestle with a story line or push myself through my third round of revisions when I'd rather rip the thing to shreds and never look at it again.

If I won the lottery, I could buy a kick-ass shredder.

And I wonder if I'd ever finish a project ever again. Part of the pleasure I get from writing is the fantasy. Someday I could write a best seller, get a $100,000 advance on my next ST and write for a living instead of juggling the craft with my day job. And really, no matter what you do, I think part of living is striving for some sort of dream and having to work to get it. So what if you could have all the things you love and not have to work to get any of them? Would you still love it?

Would you still go in the garden and tend to weeds if you could afford to have someone do it for you? Maybe at first. But then over time you might hire a guy to do one thing, then the next day you're a little tired so you ask him to plant those pansies--just this once--and before you know it, you're sitting on the patio watching someone else garden for you.

I can't really say for sure that I'd stop writing, or gardening, or any of the other things I love if I won millions, but I do have to say I fear it. I don't fear it badly enough to stop throwing in my $2.00. I mean, come on! I'm not crazy!

But what about you? Do you dream of winning it big? Ever think it might make your life worse instead of better? And what would you do if you had all the money in the world to spend? And if you say "travel", you're required to say what you'd do once you're traveled out and have seen it all.

Answer those questions and you're automatically entered in my contest. The prize is an autographed copy of "Underneath It All"!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Reflections on a five-year career - Allyson James

My November release (The Black Dragon by Allyson James) will mark my fifth full year as a romance author and my twentieth published book. My first book, Perils of the Heart by Jennifer Ashley was released in November 2002 by Leisure Books.

What I’ve learned on the way:

1. The romance business is both much harder and much easier than it looks. Harder because there are nuances and pitfalls that aren’t obvious to the outside world; easier because of the incredible people willing to give you a boost, or even just a shoulder to cry on.

2. Reading other people’s books is much easier than writing your own. :-)

3. A good writing day is heaven--you’re so far into your world you can’t even hear the phone, and you don’t care. A bad writing day (you sweat blood, your head pounds and all you produce is a few words) is absolute hell.

4. In the writing business terrible things happen (publisher goes out of business; reviewers shred your book; your editor quits); and wonderful things happen (you’re a bestseller; you win a Rita).

5. Emails from readers who liked your book can make even the blackest day sunny.

6. Meeting romance readers at signings and reader conferences is one of the best parts of the job. Don’t be alarmed if I want to sit down and talk to you for half an hour.

7. Writing is 24/7. If the muse sings at 3 am Sunday morning, you get up and write. If your editor sends you page proofs the day before your big vacation, you proofread your book on your big vacation.

8. Other writers become your best and closest friends. They understand the heartaches, the joys, the pain, the elations. Forget about divas and cat fights--romance writers are some of the most supportive, understanding, and helpful people in the world.

9. You don’t have to be an aggressive b*tch to make it as an author. You need to know what you want and go for what you want, but you can be courteous, professional, kind, and friendly as you do it (and not a brown-noser; that’s a completely different thing). At the end of the day, I want the people I like to still be there for me!

10. Being a romance author has been the best, most rewarding, most satisfying job I’ve ever had!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New-found treasures

Last week, my sister called me to say she'd volunteered me for a "quick job". As she started to go into detail, I began my usual grumbling about how busy I am, blah blah blah, but then one word stopped me cold.


The local library was having its annual book sale, and they needed people to take the left-overs from the library to the swimming pool lobby where they'd be free for the taking. That's right, you heard me. FREE BOOKS!!

I know, I know. I started salivating, too.

My first instinct was to bypass the swimming pool lobby all together and drive straight home where I would simply unload them from the back of my truck, alphabetize them, and add them to my shelves. Ooooooh, temptation is a nasty thing, I tell ya. But my mother didn't raise me with an overactive conscience, so I turned my truck into the pool parking lot like a good girl.

We unloaded the boxes, helped sort them out into their specific category, (children's books, biographies, cookbooks, etc), and then spent the next little while going through them again, one by one, until I'd selected a handful that needed to come home with me.

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx - I have neither read it, nor seen the movie, but I'm quite looking forward to it. I mean, really, what's not to love about Newfoundland?

Dracula by Bram Stoker - don't know when I'll be able to bring myself to read this one, but I had to have it just in case I ever worked up the courage.

Selected Poems of Robert Burns - "O my Luve's like a red, red rose. . ." And not only is it a lovely little book of his poetry, but someone had pressed leaves inside before donating the book to the library. I love finding unexpected treasures inside a treasure.

Great Adventures with National Geographice - a giant hardcover book from 1963 - don't you LOVE National Geographic? One of the teachers at our school has shelves and shelves of them. . .sigh. . .

There were many, many others I wanted to take, but that annoying old conscience made me stop at 4. It's been a week, though. In my opinion, that's plenty of time for everyone else to have had their chance to get in there and high-graze through the stacks. Anything still there is fair game, right?

Have any of you found some new-to-you treasures lately?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

True Canine Tales...with Lisa Plumley

People often ask me if my books are based on real-life people or events. And my typical answer depends. Which is the truth. I mean, a few details can’t help but sneak in here and there. The tricky part is, I don’t always realize it until later. Which is what happened with my book, Let’s Misbehave.

According to the back cover copy, Let’s Misbehave is a contemporary romance about a fun-loving heiress who enters "shopaholic rehab" and as part of her therapy has to get a real a nanny/housekeeper for a macho single-dad NFL quarterback and his three rowdy kids. Fun, right? And it really was fun. I had a great time pairing up hoity-toity (but affectionate) heiress Marisol Winston with bossy (but gorgeous) jock Cash Connelly. ( can read the entire first chapter at my Web site,

Anyway, in many of my books, someone (usually the hero) has a dog (sorry, people who love their cats, but we’re allergic in this household, so I have no experience with felines—it’s nothing personal, I swear), and Let’s Misbehave is no exception. Cash’s lovable old German Shepherd, Dump, is getting up there in years. He’s a little creakier than he used to be. He can’t hear so well anymore. And he can’t eagle-eye the neighborhood cats as fast as he used to either. But Dump can still jump up on (Marisol’s) bed for a surprise snuggle. He can still “woof” and romp with the troublemaking Connelly triplets. And he can still run to greet Cash the minute he gets home after a tough, sweaty day at football training camp. I loved Dump! But it wasn’t until Let’s Misbehave was finished that I realized why.

Dump is the alter ego of my dog, Cidney (Cid for short). Cid was a Dalmatian/Greyhound mix, a dog we inherited fifteen years ago from my husband’s coworkers who were moving overseas. When we went to meet her (yes, her—the mysteries of naming a female dog “Cid” are beyond me), it was love at first sight. From the moment Cid came home, she unofficially adopted me, and I returned the sentiment wholeheartedly. We were inseparable. Cid went with me on long walks around the neighborhood—and on hikes in the mountains here in Arizona. She took car trips. She followed me around the house and barked protectively at the FedEx guy. She ran super fast and could catch a tennis ball in midair with true acrobatic finesse...but she could not comprehend “people talk” like “sit,” “stay,” or “stop shedding.”

When I typed “The End” on my first-ever manuscript, Cid was lying in my office next to me. When I made my first sale, she was perplexed by my hooting, hollering, and jumping around...but was plenty game to celebrate with a Milk Bone. When I finished Let’s Misbehave and mailed it to my editor, Cid tromped down to the neighborhood mailbox with me. But when the book hit the shelves, Cid was gone.

After a long and happy life filled with tail wagging, searching brown-eyed gazes, and patient waiting for the dropped scrap of T-bone that never came (I’m a vegetarian), Cid developed a neurological disease, became paralyzed, and died last year. It was a very difficult time. I still miss Cid. But I’m doubly glad that I paid tribute to her in Let’s Misbehave. So yes...sometimes fiction is based in reality. And sometimes it’s even better than reality. Dump, for instance, will always be waiting in the pages of Let’s Misbehave, ready to offer a big doggie snuffle at any time. And I’m pretty happy about that.

Have you hugged your dog or cat (or horse or turtle or parakeet or ferret or goldfish) today? Do it!

Thanks for letting me visit, and let’s chat!


- - - - - - -
Bestselling author Lisa Plumley has written more than a dozen books for Zebra Books and Harlequin Historicals, including contemporary romances (Mad About Max), western historical romances (The Rascal), and stories in romance anthologies (Santa Baby, on sale now!). Her funny, warmhearted style has been likened to such reader favorites as Rachel Gibson, Jennifer Crusie, and LaVyrle Spencer, but her unique characterization is all her own. Her latest release, Let’s Misbehave, earned a 4½-star Top Pick! rating from Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine and was chosen as one of Booklist’s Top Ten Romances of 2007. Please visit Lisa at, be her friend on MySpace at, or drop by her blog at today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I can't avoid it anymore . . . . by Kate Walker

I've been away - teaching Romance Writing in Wales, which is why everything - including this post - is a bit later than I intended as I catch up.

I had a wonderful time, a great group - we had lots of fun, talked all sorts of things about writing and the weekend just sped by - and then it was time to come home.And that was when two things happened.

One was that one of the students on the course gave me a small thank you gift - she had gone to the trouble of baking me a special Christmas Cake in appreciation for the classes and the one on one advice I'd given her on this course and one last year. I was so touched. Thank you so much Rachael - that was so sweet of you.

And then on the way home, the hotel where we stayed overnight to break the journey (and that was much needed as I'd barely had any sleep for the past two nights and it was pitch black and pouring with rain) - anyway, that hotel had suddenly transformed itself into a Christmas Wonderland. It hadn't been that way before. But suddenly there was a Christmas display in the main reception hall, a Christmas tree sparkling and twinkling in the corner, and the staff were putting the finishing touched to decorations in the bar!

Now I'm someone who likes to wait at least until December to even start planning Christmas. OK, I've bought some cards but they come from a charity catalogue, and so I have to order them a bit in advance. But this weekend things got to me and I gave in - I even bought a couple of Christmas Presents while I was in a new town, a different place, with different shops from the ones I'm used to. And now that I'm back I realise that I need to get on and plann and organise my special Christmas Celebrations over on my blog and my web site.

It's a tradition that I run the Christmas Stocking Stuffed With Books contest on my blog. Writing friends donate books and I put them in a special Christmas Stocking and two lucky people win copies of all the donated books. That way you get to hear about a lot of new authors and maybe add their names to the list that you'll be sending on to Santa and his elves (or whoever else distributes the presents in your house) very soon.

And then here on My Tote Bag Leena will be running my 12 Days of Christmas contest from December 1st or near then. Every day for 12 days leading up to Christmas I'll be giving away a signed copy of one of my books and a little extra Christmas Gift to all the lucky winners. So why not check out my blog or my Contest page on my web site to see when the contest is starting?

Or if you can't wait then there's a contest on My Tote Bag right now - this one is to celebrat the publication of my November release The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife that's in the shops right now.

I'll have to get busy planning and organising these contests - and then I have to plan gifts for my family and friends too - and write another book! Before I know it, it's going to be a brand new year.

So what about you? Have you started planning - and even buying - your Christmas presents yet? Are you a planner, with a list already drawn up and maybe one or two items and people ticked off on it? Or are you someone who prefers to wait until the last minute, and rush out to the shops when they're crowded and busy - so that you can enjoy all the bustle and excitement then?

One thing I know, at least - and that is that thanks to Rachael I won't need to make - or buy - my Christmas Cake. That's already stored away safely in the cupboard

Monday, November 12, 2007

What do you like in a hero? - Shayla Black

Writers and readers alike get into discussions (sometimes) heated about the greatest romance heroes of all time or their favorites. They argue about what constitutes a great hero. There are huge differences of opinion.

I hear from readers and authors who like a tender man: supportive, emotionally available, gentle, not afraid to show affection, the "strong, silent type." This is a good man, a solid man, loyal, dependable, committed. He's there for the long haul, understands you and will got the extra mile to make you happy. In real life, I live with this man--and he's wonderful. I've also written him into Marrok, who is the hero of my first Doomsday Brethren paranormal romance, Tempt Me With Darkness, coming August 26, 2008 from Pocket Books. Another Brethren member, Ice, falls into this category as well. And Luc from my recent Berkley Heat erotic release, Decadent.

Some people like the smart ass/bad boy: ever-ready with a smart-alek comeback or a wicked innuendo, he's quick and clever...and slightly unattainable. You never quite know what's under the surface, and getting past his facade takes a tenacious woman. Getting him to be serious about anything--especially you--won't be easy. It will be entertaining, frustrating, exhilirating--and just about any other "ing" you can think of. Another of my Doomsday Brethren, which you'll meet in Tempt Me With Darkness, falls into this category. Bram is one sharp-tongued devil, master puppeteer, and sexy-as-all-get-out British bad boy wizard...

I'm personally fond of a hero type you don't see often: the thinker/scientist. This guy is brilliant with a capital B. His mind is a mysterious and ever-changing place. He's deep and his mental energy is boundless. He's often distracted by things that have nothing to do with you, but when he focuses on you... *shiver* He has a dry wit, and once focused on your relationship, will view it with profound depth. He proves that brains are sexy! Duke, another of my Doomsday Brethren, falls into this category. I think his understated sexiness is totally yummy.

Then we have the hero I like to call "the guy": he's all about sports and having beers with the guys. He's not a skirt-chaser, per se...but he's not at all adverse to catching what's underneath. He can be a surprisingly elusive bachelor. He's not against relationships; they just aren't for him. He's got a full life: work, friends, sports, extended family. Why add a wife to the mix? At a glance, he might seem like more trouble than he's worth. But you'll have fun with him. He'll introduce you to activities and people you would have never met otherwise. He definitely digs woman, and once he realizes he's into you, he'll find some pleasurable ways to show you. I'm writing this man now in Mitch MacKinnon, who appears in my upcoming Samhain release, A Perfect Match. He amuses me all the time! And Doomsday Brethren member Caden also falls into this category.

Another major hero type you see: Tortured Alpha male. Some readers loathe him. He comes with baggage, doesn't trust easily, has a thousand reasons not to let you into his life or heart. He's difficult and cynical. He can be argumentative...and find arguments stimulating. He's pushy and aggressive and sexual and difficult and will, at times, make you tear your hair out and cry all at once. Personally, I love this guy. But I'm the kind of woman who likes a challenge. I can give as good as I get, and I'd sometimes rather be challenged than coddled. The women who like this hero want to be the one who "tames" him. Dangerous? Yes. Danger is this guy's middle name. He's intense...both in and out of bed. Once he's determined to get his hands on you, you don't stand a chance. And aren't you glad? Once you get under that remote facade, however, is the heart of a man who will be forever yours. That always makes me close the book with a sigh. Several of my Doomsday Brethren fall into this category: Shock and Lucan, for sure. Ice has shades of this, as well. Definitely Deke from Decadent and Jack from Wicked Ties. The intensity of this type of man is something I just can't resist!

You may be able to think of more heroe types. Whatever hero you like, that's the great thing about romance--there's a book, and a hero, for every type of reader. Go forth and read!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A little preview - Christina Hollis

Things are getting really exciting prior to the launch of my next book, ‘One Night In His Bed’. This gets its UK release in December, so there are only a few weeks to wait until I get the ultimate thrill of seeing it on the shelves in my local bookshop!

Artwork for the USA edition arrived this week. February 2008 sees the launch of ‘One Night In His Bed’ in America, and I’m really looking forward to that.

Here’s a preview of what you’ll find between the covers -

“Within the circle of his arms, Sienna trembled.
‘I could go straight over to that door and escape.’ She tried to convince herself.
‘Of course you could – if you thought anything bad was going to happen.’
Garett’s expression was that of a leopard appreciating its prey. He had not moved since laying claim to her with his hands, but now the smile that had been playing over his lips faded.
‘But it is, isn’t it?’ Sienna said, and then cursed herself silently. She had meant it as a statement. What if he heard it as a challenge? She leaned back slightly against his grip, still trying to keep a decent distance between them.
‘That rather depends on how you define the word “bad”.’
His voice was as smooth as silk. When he let her go, Sienna almost regretted it. Picking up her glass of champagne again, he poured into it another cascade of foam before handing it over. Then he raised his own glass, scrutinising the lines of tiny bubbles fizzing up to the golden surface. His dark, intelligent eyes watched her over the rim of his glass as he took a long, slow draught of the fine wine.
‘I’m a man who always gets what he wants. And the one thing that connects all the things I want is success.’”

I hope that extract has whetted your appetite. ‘One Night In His Bed’ is available from and If you visit my web page,, you can click on one of the links.

I have such a weakness for clever, successful men. A razor-sharp mind coupled with dark good looks is unbeatable as far as I’m concerned.

What do you find irresistible in a man?


Saturday, November 10, 2007

10 Things Erotic Romance Writers Might Hear When the Word Gets Out

I started out writing romantic suspense, murders, serial killers, little things like that. Maybe I was watching too many forensics shows or something. Then a bit of paranormal slipped in there. You know, ghosts, psychics, big hunky, sexy detectives (yes, my Max Series by JB Skully from After that came the humor. It just sort of slipped in there with Ladybird Long (my hunky, sexy detective’s mom from my Max series), then went off the charts with my first Jennifer Skully book, Sex and the Serial Killer. Finally, there was the really spicy stuff. And Jasmine Haynes was born (the pseudonym, not the real Jasmine). My mom asked me why I couldn’t write children’s books. I said that generally speaking people didn’t get murdered by vile methods in children’s books, and, really, there wasn’t supposed to be any S-E-X either. So, ever since, I’ve been leading a sort of double life. Actually, make that a triple life. Eventually, however, I had to come out of the closet. To my family. My neighbors. My accounting coworkers! My boss!!!! Here’s just a few of the things people said to me.

10) I imagine your husband needs Viagra. (I’m not quite sure whether that one was an insult)

9) Can I help with your research? (my male ex-boss, OMG!!!)

8) Could I do some hands-on critiquing for you?

7) Don’t you have to have more than one person involved for it to be called sex? (I didn’t feel the need to explain know)

6) My husband raves about your books to all his guy friends. And he hasn’t even read one of them yet!

5) Isn’t there only one way to do it?

4) How can you write a whole book about it? It only takes two minutes.

3) That’s like the “funny” sex my husband made me do when we were young. Sometimes, it made me faint. (I was afraid to ask this lovely elderly lady for details!)

2) So that’s how you have phone sex! How does one go about finding a young man to try it with? I’d even settle for an old man (my 89-year-old neighbor!)

And my personal favorite:

1) I gave your book to a friend as a present, but I covered all the naughty parts with sticky notes. (Single-handedly, she keeps the sticky note people in business!)

So, to find out what everyone’s referring to, please don’t miss The Fortune Hunter by Jasmine Haynes, in bookstores now. It’s a modern-day marriage of convenience tale with a sensual twist. Connor and Faith make a marriage contract, he gets her father’s company and she gets the family she’s always wanted. But when Faith throws fidelity into the mix, the bargaining really heats up with the kind of no-holds barred sex life Connor desires and Faith is afraid she can’t live up to. That’s when Connor makes it his mission to help Faith let go of all her inhibitions. Now everything is on the table, including them...

The Fortune Hunter is the first book of my “swan” trilogy about women coming into their own, finding themselves. Show and Tell will be out in July 2008 and Games People Play arrives sometime in early 2009. I will also have an anthology story out in December 2008. In addition to Jasmine Haynes, I also write as Jennifer Skully, over-the-top (hopefully hilarious) romantic mysteries, and as JB Skully, I’ve created the Max Starr psychic mystery series at Readers can learn more about all my pseudonyms at They can also watch two movie trailers on MySpace at Subscribing to my newsletter for updates on the latest releases is easy, just send an email to

And don't miss my monthly contest with lots of wonderful prizes from 5 great authors at Going on now!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Artist's Dates

On Tuesday night I finished my read through and tweak of my seventh contracted manuscript, sent it off to my editor and completed my Art Fact Sheet details on Harlequin's Editorial Resourse System. I woke on Wednesday morning feeling absolutely exhausted. My mind was already buzzing with ideas for my next proposal to create and send to my editor but some wise advice I'd heard about Artist's Dates, combined with a wish to see the movie Atonement (which is so not my dh's kind of film), overtook my driving need to keep the momentum of my work up and saw me indulge in filling the well, finally fulfilling my promise to myself at the beginning of the year to do something nice, just for me, once a month. Okay, so I've kind of slipped on the once a month thing. Better late than not at all, right?

Now Barbara Samuel is one of the best speakers I've ever heard on this subject, especially on the importance of taking care of our writer's muse or, as she and several other awesome best-selling authors call it, "The Girls in the Basement".

I've never been big on spoiling myself, generally it makes me feel guilty or selfish (must be some past life guilt trip to investigate there, LOL!) but on Wednesday I did it--I went to see Atonement, and I'm so very glad I did. While the movie didn't have the happy ending my romantic heart loves most of all I never realised the freedom attending a movie on my own could give. Now, I'm not a frequent movie goer, although we do watch alot of DVDs at home, but there's something quite decadent about sitting in the Circle Lounge with the leather recliner seats and footstools and watching a film with the lush cinematography Atonement delivers. I only wish I'd thought to order a Latte before the movie started.

Note to self: Do that next time :-)

So what did I do after the movie? Well, I went to the beach and had a beach front lunch at a lovely restaurant and gallery and it was fantastic. So what if the weather wasn't great, there was a constant drizzle and the sea was a non-descript grey-green colour, but the bright warm atmosphere of the restaurant was the perfect antidote for any lingering sorrow left as a footprint from the movie, the service was friendly and welcoming and the food was divine.

And now I guess you're asking what I've always asked myself when I've heard of others doing this, "What's the point? Yes, it's lovely to go to a movie and to head out to lunch. So what?" For me I think the point is you're allowed to do it. You're allowed to indulge yourself, to take a day off and reward yourself for a job well done and love every second of it. To refill your well. To actually relax and give your mind a break from the next plot, the next characters, the next awful thing you're going to do to them, even the next meal you have to cook for your family.

Honestly, I felt warm and fuzzy all day. And the day got even better when Bronwyn Jameson drew my attention to the Barnes and Noble website where my February cover for TYCOON'S VALENTINE VENDETTA was up. Colour me totally in love!

So the upshot of this is if you've never indulged in an Artist's Date--DO IT! You owe it to yourself no matter what you do. It doesn't have to be a movie. It could just be a picnic in your favourite place, or a trip to the beauty therapist, or a massage. The thing is, don't put it off. Yes, there are always going to be important things that crop up in your life but if you don't look after yourSELF, and your creativity, there'll be a whole lot less of you to go around when the going gets tough.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Town Called Christmas

This is going to be a very Christmasy blog post. I thought it was too early to think about the holidays, but then...


About ten inches on November 6th! Even for Michigan, that's too much snow, way too early. :::shiver::: But the benefit is that now I'm in a winter holiday mood, just in time for the release of my new book, A TOWN CALLED CHRISTMAS.

There truly is a town called Christmas here in Upper Michigan, though my version has been fictionalized to suit my purposes. Ah, the joys of being an author--creating new worlds, inventing perfect men...such power!

It was great fun to write about mistletoe, holiday dinners, small town celebrations and especially one of my favorite activities....baking Christmas cookies. Here's the no-bake recipe for the cookies my heroine creates in the book (I remember making these a long time ago but they must have fallen out of fashion because I haven't seen any in years):


1 12 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 lb. (I stick) butter
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 10 oz. colored miniature marshmallows
flake coconut

Melt chocolate chips and butter in a double boiler. Cool. Add chopped walnuts and marshmallows. Mix. Sprinkle coconut on wax paper and spoon mixture onto coconut in log form. Sprinkle more coconut on top and sides as you roll wax paper over the log. Refrigerate until firm, then remove paper and cut into slices to serve.

The setting of the book is the heroine's family's Christmas tree farm. I didn't have to do too much research there, since my dad has been known as our town's Christmas Tree Man for decades. I've never cut a tree myself, but I've sold 'em! And cut the boughs that are made into wreaths and swags. My house always smells very piney during the holidays.

As an early Christmas present to Tote Bag readers, I'm giving away two copies of A TOWN CALLED CHRISTMAS. I'll choose the winners from the comment section of this blog and post the their names in my next blog, on November 20th.

Meanwhile, it's never too early to start on your holiday baking. What's your family's favorite Christmas cookie?

To read more about my latests releases, including excerpts, visit

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Christmas is coming up - Michelle Styles

Possibly not what anyone wants to hear, but over here in the UK, bonfire night has passed and the traditional countdown to Christmas has begun.

The windows at the various department stores have decorated to reflect the season and the Christmas stamps are going on sale.

In fact, if you are sending things overseas by sea mail, you may have missed the last posting date. Some people are very organised and never miss this date. I tend to send my gifts by airmail...

One thing is often made in British households at this time of year are the Christmas cakes and puddings. Because they are fruit and brandy based, they have to sit and marinate for awhile. A traditional date for making them is on the so-called Stir Them Up Sunday (the Second Sunday before Advent begins) -- so called because of one of the lessons. When my children were little, my daughter hated the fireworks that accompany Bonfire Night with a passion, so I used to use 5 Nov to make my puddings, Christmas cake or mincemeat. The idea was inspired by the Dorothy Edwards My Naughty Little Sister books that all my children loved. It worked a treat and my daughter started anticipating Bonfire Night, rather than cowering.

It is also the time of year that all the Christmas themed books start appearing. Harlequin as well as Mills and Boon put out a wonderful selection of books across all the lines just in time for Christmas.

The UK version of my own Christmas offering -- A Christmas Wedding Wager is published this month. It is published as a duo with Helen Dickson and goes under the title of Christmas by Candlelight. I think the cover is wonderfully Victorian. The US version is published next month.

To celebrate the publication, I am giving away a copy of A Christmas Wedding Wager. I will draw the winner next Wednesday ( 14 Nov). To be entered in the contest, please email me with the answer to the following question:

In what city does A Christmas Wedding Wager take place? Hint: the answer can be found in the excerpt.

If you put Tote Bag contest in the subject line, it will make it much easier for me.

As an aside, I know many Americans do not understand about mincemeat pies and their popularity in Britain. I didn't until I moved over here. Mincemeat pies are tartlet sized and don't really feature meat. It is considered bad luck to refuse a pie if offered. And al lthe Christmas concerts and carol serivices seem to offer pies afterwards, rather than Christmas cookies. My next newsletter will feature a recipe for mincemeat pie and can be made with butter instead of beef suet in case anyone is interested.

UPDATE: Cherie J is the winner of the contest. I have contacted her and will post out a signed copy of A Christmas Wedding Wager.
I will be back next month with another blog and a new contest. That one will be a grand Christmas one.
Many thanks to all who entered.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Release Day - Jennifer Estep

So, my second book, Hot Mama, is being released today. It’s the second book in my Bigtime paranormal romance series, and I’m feeling just as much joy and excitement now as I did when my first book, Karma Girl, came out.

There really is nothing like release day. The knowledge that your book has been released from the depths of the publisher’s warehouse. The fact you can walk into your local bookstore and actually see it on the shelf. The fact that if a reader orders it from Amazon in the next eight hours, twelve minutes, and twenty-three seconds, she can have your book in her hands by tomorrow. The knowledge that more reviews will start coming in, and the hope that people will start e-mailing you raving about how much they liked it.

But I’m also a little nervous too, mainly because of one thing – the dreaded sophomore slump.

Dum-dum-dum! (Cue the scary music here).

Entertainment magazines talk about the sophomore slump all the time. About how a hit TV show or movie series suddenly goes from fab to forgettable by the time the second season or sequel rolls around.

It’s happened to lots of movies I’ve enjoyed over the years. Take Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. I absolutely loved this rip-roaring adventure movie. But Pirates 2? Not so much. The same thing goes for TV shows. I loved the first season of Lost. Seasons 2 and 3? Not so much.

So, I can’t help but wonder if some readers will feel the same way about Hot Mama. Will the book meet their expectations? Will they think it’s as good as Karma Girl? Will they like it enough to consider picking up my third book, Jinx? Or will I lose readers because I didn’t deliver the goods the second time around?

I’ve heard so many horror stories from writers about how the second book is always harder to write than the first. About how they struggle to recapture the magic of that first book. I’ve heard how fans have been let down or underwhelmed by an author whose first book they enjoyed immensely – so much so that they don’t read that author anymore. I know I’ve read second books that have disappointed me.

So, I think there’s some truth to the sophomore slump theory. Today is release day. I guess I’ll know soon enough if I’m in it.

What about you? Do you think there’s a sophomore slump when it comes to books? Inquiring minds want to know …


Monday, November 05, 2007

Giving Books - Susanna Carr

My family has a tradition when giving books as gifts. The person who gives the book inscribes a message on the inside front cover and then adds the date or occasion after the signature.

Sometimes the message offers hope and encouragement (I see this a lot in the cookbooks I receive. Hmm…are my relatives trying to tell me something?) Other times, the message will let me know why this particular book was special to them and why they are passing it on.

Just the other day I grabbed one of the cookbooks and saw my great-aunt's inscription. The spindly handwriting on the inside cover triggered a memory of the day she gave the book to me. It was decades ago and she passed away not long after, but I can remember the smell of her perfume and the sound of her laugh.

This tradition not only jogs my memory and gives me something to connect with my relatives, but it offers a part of family history that can't be found in scrapbook. Who else has a family tradition when it comes to books?


Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Way We Write - Helen Bianchin

I wrote by hand (substitute scribbled) stories in an exercise book as a child in a variety of places ... perched on my bed, at the table, sitting in the fork of an apple tree in our yard ... fanciful stories about childish adventures, then a pretend protective older brother, eventually teenage yearnings, followed by nurse and doctor stories, which soon led to romance novels. Other genres also held my interest, but romance won out!

When I eventually came to write one, I was convinced it couldn't be too difficult ... after all, I had the story, in detail, in my head.This was back in the dark ages when the instrument of choice was a typewriter (OK, so I'm showing my age here!).

How many of you are with me ... roll the paper into the platen, even it up, and begin. I even had a title. Then came page 2, chapter 1 ... and a long pause while I searched for the perfect opening sentence.

My first effort involved going for it. I just typed anything and everything that came into my head ... dialogue without tags (I could fix that later); I mostly forgot to clothe my characters; the hero started out with dark grey eyes which somehow became dark brown; the heroine began as a petite blue-eyed blonde who grew legs up to here further along in the story. I missed transitions between locations, and when the story was complete ... I really thought there couldn't be much to revise. All it needed was a little fixing ...

Sure it did. What was I thinking? Yes, well, I think we've all been there! The words didn't match the image in my head. Quite frankly, it was all over the page, off the page ... and hopeless.

Going for it wasn't going to work for me. I obviously had to devise a plan and implement structure. (Please remember the time-frame ... the '70's, very few writing craft books available, even fewer writing organizations, snail-mail and no published author contact). Maybe a character bibliography would be good, so I did that. Detail, location, theme ... ditto. Pages, I accumulated lots of pages, and figured I was ready to begin.

Better, much better. Until I came to a dead stop at the end of chapter 3. I had a riveting scene in mind, except it wasn't going to happen next. I needed to get to that point first ... Yet the scene was so vivid, so there, I decided to write it, anyway. More riveting (well, I thought so!) scenes occurred to taunt me ... so I wrote each one. The enthusiasm level was high, I was making progress, and difficult didn't appear quite so difficult. All that remained for me to do was link all these scenes together.

Well, you know what they say about pride before fall ... the scenes read OK, they each had something. But the emotional journey of the characters just didn't cut it. Back to the plan ... I needed to structure the emotion, ensure it became a continuing thread and built in heat and tempo.

Eventually that first book was ready to send out ... after two rewrites it was accepted and published.

For the record, I progressed from portable to manual typewriter, electric typewriter to computer. I belong to numerous writing groups, participate in several writing e-mail loops, maintain regular contact with many writing friends. I have an entire bookcase filled with writing craft books in the belief I'll read something that will hit me like a lightning bolt strike and provide an easier method of writing.

To date, thirty-odd years and 55 books later, I still put in the pages of prep work ... inevitably rewrite the dreaded first chapter so many times I lose count; stop around chapter 3 and write scenes out of sequence, editing each day's work as I go.

As it's said ... whatever works!

I'd love to hear how others work ...


Friday, November 02, 2007

Emerald City Inspirations by Jennie Lucas

Last weekend, I attended the Emerald City conference in Seattle, Washington. A lot has changed for me since last year’s conference. I got the Call, had a new baby, wrote three new books, and I've lost almost 70 postbaby pounds!

But Emerald City always inspires me to try harder and do better. Here are are my Top 3 Inspiring Moments from the conference:

1. Jane Porter’s luncheon talk about why we write romance: to empower women.

Here’s a picture of us right before her speech. (Jane’s on the left, I'm on the right.) Her speech left the whole room in tears—and rising to their feet for a standing ovation.

2. Susan Mallery’s workshops on Writing More and how to fix the dreaded Sagging Middle!

I had a big deadline, so spent much of the weekend drinking coffee in the hotel bar while I finished up book #4. But I knew there was one workshop speaker I couldn’t miss: Susan Mallery. She is such a charismatic speaker, and always inspires me! I couldn’t resist taking her photo in the middle of her workshop like some crazed paparazzo. (Sorry about all the flashes, Susan!)

3. The Cherry Adair Challenge.

Cherry Adair is a true original—stunning in her generosity. She’s an NYT bestseller, and could legitimately just focus on her own fabulous career, but instead she invests huge amounts of energy and money and time to encourage other writers. Every year at Emerald City, she challenges attendees to write down the date they’ll finish their book.

The next year, all the writers who’ve met their goal receive a certificate, a cool pin and a congratulatory hug from Cherry. She also gave three lucky people a scholarship to attend next year’s Emerald City, and one writer even got a full, all-expenses-paid trip to attend RWA National in San Francisco! WOW!

This year, the line of writers who’d made the previous year’s goalswent halfway around the Bellevue Hilton ballroom.

Here’s Cherry hugging a very happy writer who made her goal! (I didn’t get the writer’s name—if you know who she is, please tell me!)

Last year, my flight forced me to leave in the middle of Cherry’s presentation, so I never turned in my challenge. But here’s what I wrote on the paper I brought home:

GOALS: Have baby, lose weight, write another book…and (I know I’m not supposed to wish this but) please please please let me sell.

When I told Cherry that I’d made my goals, she insisted on giving me a certificate, a pin and a hug. Cherry Adair—you rock!! (Here's a photo of me beaming with her!)

Have you ever attended a conference or read a book or met an author who inspired you to do something bold? What (or who) has inspired you to reach for your dreams?

Jennie Lucas’s first book for Harlequin Presents, The Greek Billionaire’s Baby Revenge, is out in the U.S. in December; her second, The Spaniard’s Defiant Virgin, is out now in the U.K. and will be in the U.S. in May 2008. Enter to win a rare Jane Porter romance (along with some Godiva) at