Saturday, May 31, 2008

Barbados, Here I Come -- Michelle Monkou

At the end of June, I'll be hopping on a plane to head to the Caribbean. And I am an island girl at heart. This year, the destination is Barbados. It'll be my third time on this island. My writing career goal is to make Barbados, a second home.

For a glorious week, my family, my brother and his family, including our mother will hang out, connect with family friends, and hopefully make more friends. I can't wait.

I do have some sizzling romances set in the Caribbean. But I've used fictitious islands.Now that I'll be there as tourist and hanging with the locals, I'll be sure to make Barbados one of my settings. Of course, for tax purposes, this will be business and pleasure LOL.

As the excitement builds, I have to make sure my work is in order before I leave. Must have my pet care in place for the cat. And for the most important thing, I need to have clothes and beachwear. Since we're coming out of the winter months, I do have the same spring and summer clothes from last year and the year before. I won't go further back because I'm not sure those clothes still fit :-)

But I sense a day of shopping ahead. My daughter will be close to me, since she relishes any opportunity for money to be spent on her. But we must get our shorts, tank tops, fun skirts, and swimsuits. With the sun and my daughter's vitiligo, sunscreen is important and critical.

Speaking of swimsuit, I know it won't be a bikini. The last time I wore a bikini I was probably 9 years old and when I came out of the pool the top was sitting above my flat chest. And everyone laughed. Scarred for life, I never put on another one. Now that I'm pleasantly thick, there's no freaking way that I'm doing that for another laugh fest.

But I've jumped on the treadmill. I'm walking and walking and walking. Last night I actually put the slice of pizza that I was going to sample back in the box. I ate my bran cereal instead and imagined the cheese and tomato sauce. But with Barbados on the horizon and RWA's San Francisco conference just around the corner, I have incentive.

Twenty-three days and counting. Barbados, here I come!

Michelle Monkou

Friday, May 30, 2008

On The Road Again...Donna Alward

I've preloaded this post because at the time of posting, I will be a woman without a home.

Today is May 30, which means tomorrow is May 31, and the 31 is the day we drive away from Calgary for good...from now on it will only be occasional visits.

The drive will take a week. Thereabouts. It took us 3.5 days when it was just the 2 of us, but now we have to go 4 hours further AND we have 2 kids. 15 hour driving days aren't really an option. If you look at the map, find Calgary - it's in Alberta....and then trace your way all the way over to Halifax, wayyy over on the east coast. Give or take - about 4000 km.

But we're all very excited...even the kids. Life is going to change, and we hope for the better. Not that life here was bad, mind you. And it's horribly difficult to leave people you've become close to over the last decade. But this is all a big adventure for the Alwards.

So...a week in the truck with the kids.

We've done the bad parent thing and the girls now have Nintendo ds's. WITH headphones. Let's face it you can't read or write in the truck. And the ABC game etc. only lasts so far. You have to mix it up a little. One thing the girls like is, believe it or not, listening to the 80's channel on the satellite radio. But when you're looking at driving for a week.....

So we have music, we have video games, and fun travel games. (By the way, playing the ABC game from Thunder Bay to Wawa is pointless....there is NOTHING there - not even road signs.) We also have a dvd player.

We sound like a technie nightmare, don't we!

The good news is we are hotel-ing it as we go and if we stop early enough, we'll have a decent dinner, time to read, go for a walk, or a swim in the pool. I'm also hoping that since we have time, we'll be able to stop at some landmarks along the way. This might be their only chance to see some parts of Canada so I'm also going to get them to keep a journal of the trip.

The next time I blog here, will be 2 days before we take possession of our new home! Stay tuned....

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Terri Brisbin

Due to unforeseen circumstances, aka family, Terri won't be able to post today. But, watch for her blog about her recent search for men-in-kilts in Scotland on June 15th!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Fairy Dust Element - Trish Wylie

'Where do you get your ideas from?' is one of those questions authors are asked so many times we barely even flinch after a while. We don't mind answering it, don't get me wrong... but it's always been more interesting to me how that initial spark of an idea becomes the finished article on the page. Because having the idea is one thing, making it a book that people all over the world might enjoy? Now that's fascinating!!!

Since I was first published I've been fortunate enough to have met many, many, many writers both published and unpublished. But the one thing we all understand is the one thing it's really hard to explain to other people. You see, when it comes to writing there's an intangible... an unexplainable element... one thing we just can't teach someone no matter how hard we try...

I call it fairy dust.

And when it arrives, I can't begin to tell you how much more enjoyable it makes my job! I know the millisecond it gets here, cos that's when my characters really come to life; they speak to me, they argue when I'm wrong and place obstacles in my way till I fix it, they tell me things outta nowhere that I didn't even think of before. And when any of those things (particularly the last one) happen - the story grows wings. I LOVE that. It also tends to be when I pick up speed in the word-count so that may have something to do with it too ;)

Earlier this year I lost my fairy dust. And writing without it? HURT. I mean REALLY HURT. Every word, every line, every paragraph and every page was dragged from me like someone was pulling off my fingernails with tweezers and running them down a blackboard behind me. At my lowest moment I spent two and a half hours moving single words back and forth inside one paragraph - I jest you not. One word in a sentence moved down a few words then moved back ten minutes later. And still the paragraph didn't read right. I was almost suffering a writers version of O.C.D. I wanted to start something new - not an option; deadline. I wanted to quit writing - not an option; getting too old for most of the jobs I used to do before and I need to eat... I wanted to cry - so I did. Usually every single time I re-read what I'd done the day before. I spent days in tears. I hated what I was doing. Had I burned out already?

Where was my gosh darned fairy dust!!!

Maybe it's part of my pantster mentality? You know plotter = someone who plots, pantster = someone who flies by the seat of their pants? I'm of the latter persuasion. I know the basics of the story and the characters and their problems and a few key scenes but after that I wing it. I had a conversation online with a very good writing buddy but a few days ago and we both agreed that for us, it's more organic that way... theoretically... When it works it really works. These people become real and part of the adventure is where they lead us. Maybe not a very professional approach to some but to me a big part of why I took up writing in the first place was because I LOVED it. Still do. I love to write as much as I love to read and watch movies and daydream. To me there's a little touch of magic in all those things. Set a whole bunch of rules in place and it suddenly seems more like work. *shudder*

Thankfully, with this latest book I've been working on the fairy dust has reappeared. Can't tell you how relieved I was about that!!! I started out tentatively, was scared if I'm completely honest. But somewhere in the middle, little details started to appear that I hadn't planned. Where did a hurricane in my hero's past come from for instance? That wasn't in my outline. It changed it, added a new dimension... brought him to life a little more... led to yet more pieces of information I would never have thought of on my own... Fairy dust. Yay!!!

Course now I have the burn out fear out of my head I now get to worry that the lack of fairy dust in the one that caused me so much pain will show to the reader. We writer's do like to worry about such things, especially when we're lucky enough to have loyal readers out there. And one of the things about category or series romance is that we produce a lot. It's the nature of the business. Burn out is a very real risk. Repetition is a very real risk. Slipping standards not so much (we hope!) - cos we care and cos we have editors who care (thankfully!) And I know I've read books by other authors that they claimed had been horrific writing experiences for them but it never showed on the page... so maybe it won't show in mine as much as I think?! I'm crossing my fingers as I type...

Readers are like gold dust to authors. No readers = no career. End of. And every penny or dime or cent or whatever currency they buy books in is precious. So what happens if you get a favorite author who you feel has let you down in a book? Do you quit on them, give them the benefit of the doubt, consider it a glitch? Its a tough call, especially if you read on a budget. And you can see how much I've thought this one through, can't you??? Maybe it's because I had a favourite author and she was an auto-buy for me and then I hit one and the magic wasn't as obvious to me as I read. I did try again. And again after that - I'm a Leo, we tend to be loyal that way. But it was never quite the same for me and I was gutted. I still have her earlier books on my keeper shelf and I re-read them over and over, but it might be a while before I run out to snap up a new one as it lands on the shelf. Now that I'm at the writer end of the scale I feel guilty about that. I can't help but wonder if she lost her fairy dust too? Maybe she did and still can't find it? See and now I want to go to her house and give her a hug...

So have you read a book you thought was sprinkled liberally with fairy dust? One where the characters were so real for you that you thought about them long after you closed the cover? Somewhat ironically I'm now in the position where my latest one is ready to go and I'm loathe to hit send cos I know I'll miss it so much. Can't win with me really. Or like me have you had an author you loved but lost faith in? (Don't name names here gang or for me The Salem Witch hunt will soon seem like a Sunday Picnic...) Would you try them again? Would you maybe library a couple to see if the magic is back for you? Or once you've lost faith is it lost? Yes, cos if you say yes to the last one I won't at all stress over it will I? Terrific, now I'm a masochist. I should just ask you if I look fat in this outfit while I'm here too, shouldn't I? Get all that angst out in the open in one go...

I did a competition to win a copy of my May Presents release Her Bedroom Surrender last time I was here - I'm not only pleased to say it's a finalist in the Short Contemporary Category of the Booksellers Best Award under it's Modern Heat title Breathless! (A fairy Dust book btw) but I'm also pleased to say I have a winner - Aideen! So Aideen please email me and I'll pop you a signed copy in the post!

This time out I'll offer a copy of my May Modern Heat Claimed By The Billionaire Bad Boy to a random commenter...

To find out more about Trish and her books you can visit her Website or her Blog.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Things I Hate Today...

Posted by Christine Rimmer

Things I hate today…

Hmm. Should I have a better attitude? You bet. After all, it's May. Spring has sprung, all green and gorgeous. I've finished a book and I'm in my break time--the month between books when I have plenty of free time to do all those things I never get around to while I'm on deadline.

Like visit my parents who live halfway across the continent in California. Now, don't get me wrong. I love visiting my parents. It's been far too long and I can't wait to see them.

But the problem--meaning the thing I hate--is that I have to fly to get there. Flying nowadays is the closest an ordinary, law-abiding American woman is going to get to being in prison. I believe Dave Berry said that--or something pretty close--a while back in one of his columns. I’m with Dave. You can’t even take water on a plane anymore. Or wait. You can. But you have to pay four bucks for it after you get past the security checkpoint.

Now, yes, I know. National Security is a top priority these days and things could be worse. Can’t they always?

I believe that they were worse not long ago. Hey, remember when you couldn't take lipstick on the flight with you? Now you can. And you can take liquids you bring from home--in tiny bottles, all of which have to fit in a quart-sized zip bag. Last time I flew, I forgot about the itty-bitty bottle of hand sanitizer I left roaming loose in my purse. I ended up with half my clothes off in the special area for people who don't know the rules. You know, where you stand there with your bare arms out and they run the electronic wand over you while people who have sense enough to put their hand sanitizer in the right place hurry on to their gate, casting you the occasional pitying glance.

But hey. I may have to be separately searched, but I've got my lip gloss and my lips look great. And lookin’ good is something, after all.

And flying isn't all I hate. I also hate that for a writer, a book takes so long to be “done.” As I mentioned above, I did finally type The End on my latest. After which I made several passes through it, cleaning it up, getting it just right before I dropped it in the chute to wing its happy way to Manhattan.

But you know what? No sooner did I send the last one off than the one before it came back. Because every writer knows that manuscripts just won't stay gone. Out they go--and back they come. First for line edits and later for galleys. I do like that I get a couple more passes at it. I do want each book to be as good as I can make it when it arrives on the shelves, where readers will be putting down their hard-earned cash for it. So I suppose I need to focus on that, rather than gritching about how manuscripts are like boomerangs: they won’t stop coming back.

What else? Frankly, a thousand things. But for today, the flying and the boomerang books are enough.

What about you? Hate anything today? Come on, you know you do....

Oh, and once again I'm writing this ahead because I'll be away from my computer on my blog day. That's right. That's another thing I hate. When I'm not here on my blog day. But I'll reply to all comments as soon as I can get back to my desk again.

Maybe by then I'll even be in a better mood. Hey. It could happen...

My Blog

Myspace Page

Monday, May 26, 2008

MEN and BABIES by Bronwyn Jameson

My current work in progress is an unplanned pregnancy book (tentatively scheduled for March 09) and this week I've been thinking about my hero, an alpha of the cool, controlled, emotionally aloof variety, and how this baby will bring him undone. I haven't written a new baby scene for years and years -- I am thinking that A Tempting Engagement (2003) may have been my last. And that wasn't the hero and heroine of that book's baby, but the couple from the previous book. Is there no more heart-squeezing scene than that of a big, tough alpha turned to goo by a tiny bundle of babydom? Don't you love that image: the contracts of size and strength, the parallel of vulnerability? Who is holding who in the palm of their hand?

I've been thinking about that and thinking about my own dad, a stoic, capable gentleman who didn't make many mistakes...except in the aftermath of new fatherhood. In those days it was the father who filed the birth details and my dad, well, he got it wrong. Several times. My elder brother and sister, both names spelled incorrectly. My youngest sister, names written down in the wrong order so her middle name became her first.

And then there's me.

By the time I reached age 17 there'd been a deal of ribbing over my father and the not-quite-right names. I thought I'd gotten off scot free. Even though my name is the most difficult of the five, Dad spelled it correctly. Then I applied for my birth certificate and discovered I'd been registered with the wrong birth date. A simple mistake, we laughed a lot, but it's been causing me grief ever since. By that time I'd already used my real birth date for some documentation (e.g. my bank and school) while everything official such as my driving licence and passport required the date on my birth certificate.

Every so often I get caught out answering the questions to verify my identity. "Birth date," says the impersonal voice on the end of the phone. And I automatically give my real birth date, then comes the stumbling explanation, the dubious silence, and another six or ten questions because they didn't quite believe me.

My father, being male, never owned any of these mistakes. "The clerk must have written it down wrong," he would say. I blame the enormity of the new baby experience--an alpha with all control taken out of his hands--and how that combination turns the most capable, careful man to quivering ineptitude. I love it; how about you? Do you love a good alpha + baby storyline? Have you read one lately you can recommend, because after writing this post I find I am quite in the mood.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ten Questions -- Win a Book!

Because my website is down while I redo it, I was planning to blog about technology and computers and my lack of enthusiasm for both. Then I read Holly's blog about living with happiness and I just couldn't be a Ms. Grouchy Gripes after that. (Hollyanna frequently makes me feel that way. Which is a Good Thing. Like Life. And Holly. *G*)

Not much makes me happier than reading a good book. Unless it's writing one. :::fingers crossed that's the case more than not:::

But what's even better than a good book? Easy: a good FREE book!

Answer the ten questions below and you'll be entered in a drawing for a copy of my upcoming Harlequin Superrromance NOBODY'S HERO (July 08). I'll return after the weekend to announce the winner's name at the end of this blog post, so be sure to check back as I'll need an email from the winner with her address.

1. Thrillers or romantic comedies?
2. Paranormal, historical or contemporary?
3. Romance or Chick Lit?
4. P.I. or military?
5. Horses or sports cars?
6. Glamorous heroine or everyday gal?
7. Pure fantasy or slice of life?
8. Alpha or Beta?
9. Battling wits or emotional splits?
10. Cover preference:
Hero shot or couple's clinch?

* * * * *

Thanks for sharing your opinions.


VIRGINIA is the winner of the drawing for a copy of NOBODY'S HERO. Congratulations, Virginia! Please email me at to claim your prize. :-)

When she isn't battling technology, Carrie Alexander is the award-winning author of over 35 books published by Harlequin and St. Martin's Press. She can currently be found dancing in the sunshine after surviving the Winter That Would Not End.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Life Is Good

A few years back, a friend gave me a t-shirt that said, Life is Good. There's a whole line of products now that say it. When she gave it to me she said, "You say that all the time." I'd never thought about it, but I do! LOL

Since then, I catch myself saying it and always smile and think of my friend. Here's the is good. I decided a long time ago, to be happy and look for the silver linings. Of course, sometimes people take that kind of Pollyanna-view of the world as a sign that you lack intelligence, but for me, deciding to be happy makes sense. I realize crap happens, but even amongst the crap, there are sweet moments and I can cling to those.

What makes me happy? Family. I've been married to the same man for 25 years this summer. My kids. I'll confess, I'm biased, but truly, they're four of the nicest kids around (and I'd talked to all four of them before eight o'clock this morning...two were here, two called. That makes me happy!). Even family members who are gone still can make me smile when I remember favorite moments. For instance, this pic is my MIL, Dort, and I in NYC. For a graduation present, my daughter asked the two of us to go on a school trip with her. That trip, even with its long bus ride, loud kids and sleepless nights, is a moment I will always treasure. Family makes me happy!

Friends. I have some of the most fantastic friends. To the left is a group of SuperRomance authors...very good friends indeed. My kids call my writing friends "invisible friends" because they've never met most of them. As in, "Mom's talking to her invisible friends again." But even those friends who live on the other side of the country, or in a different country, I feel I can count on...invisible or not!

Springtime...what's not to be happy about during the spring?? Flowers. Sunshine. Warmer weather. Even the rain. Spring is...well, just walking outside is bound to make you smile! We went shopping for our veggie garden yesterday, and I bought more flowers for the front. Now, I don't like to garden. Bugs. Dirt. Sun. Ick. BUT, I love the results, so even as I'm up to my elbos in dirt, the sun beating on my back and a giant bug facing me down...I can be happy that I'll have those flowers to look at the rest of the season.

I was sitting next to an airline mechanic a few years ago. And we struck up a lovely conversation. As we came in for our landing in Detroit, he said how much fun he'd had on this flight, and that he couldn't remember the last time he'd had a conversation as he commuted on the plane to work. I asked why he decided to talk to me. He said, "You smiled." I guess that's the end of this very happy post. Happiness is contagious. LOL

A friend calls me Hollyanna. If that's the worst thing anyone calls me on any given day, I'll be...happy! LOL Life is good!

So, what are you all happy about today??

Holly--aka Hollyanna Jacobs

SAME TIME NEXT SUMMER, Harlequin Superromance, 8/08
EVERYTHING BUT A BRIDE, Avalon Books, 8/08
ONCE UPON A THANKSGIVING, Harlequin American Romance, 10/08
ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS, Harlequin American Romance, 12/08
ONCE UPON A VALENTINE'S, Harlequin American Romance, 2/09

Thursday, May 22, 2008

CALGON! TAKE ME AWAY (or May is a Four-Letter Word) by Jenny Gardiner

Ah, the month of May…The flowers in bloom, the birds whistling a happy tune. Parents across America ready to throttle the next teacher, coach, or offspring activity-related person who dares to lump one more have-to in their lap.

The month of May…what my friend refers to as the Storm before the Calm. What I view as the annual rite of hazing inflicted upon every mom (and most dads, to a certain extent) every springtime as the school year draws to an imminent close.

The drill goes as follows: class play, class music program, soccer practice, soccer games, soccer try-outs, baseball, baseball and more baseball, lacrosse games, lacrosse playoffs, state cup championships, piano recitals, ballet recitals, field trips (why weren’t these scheduled for the dull month of January?!), pre-school graduation, kindergarten graduation, lower-school graduation, middle school graduation, college graduation, teacher appreciation luncheons, class parties. Class parties? I’m thinking class warfare at this point.

I get nightly calls: can you come in for the teacher appreciation luncheon? Can you drive for the field trip to Pakistan? Can you pledge your extra kidney to be auctioned off at the school fund drive?

Can you stop calling me before I have the national do-not-call list enforcer come after you for harassment?

Truthfully, I’m happy to be of help. To a certain extent. But when I start to wake in the middle of the night, fearful that I have sloughed off my duties to prepare Pad Thai for 300 for International Day, I get to worrying. And when I realize that I am clenching my teeth so hard that I think lockjaw has set in, I’m a little more concerned.

And when the call comes in for me to do just one more teeny little thing to help out so and so, and I—without thinking, without feeling, snap the first snarky come-back that pops into my head to the poor unsuspecting room-mother calling me in a desperate spot, I know two things. One, that it’s time for me to hang up my mommy cleats for a few hours and re-gain my grip on reality, and two, summer vacation must be just around the corner. At which time I might just be longing for the days when the kids were in school and the demands on a mother’s time were at their peak.

*a note from the author: I must tell you that Claire Doolittle, the lovable heroine in SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, penned this piece. Jenny Gardiner had absolutely NOTHING to do with it. Jenny is, without question, perfectly contented to have a life that is out of control and she never loses her temper with room moms and she has in fact already donated a couple of organs to the spring fund drive. She has had no weeping fits, no stress-related breakdowns, and hasn't even noticed that it's Parental Hazing Month.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

To Boldly Go -- or, Susan is Changing Genres

I'm not a particularly adventurous sort. No trailblazing. No in-your-face confrontations. No boldly facing danger with fire in my eyes and steel in my heart. I leave that to my characters. So when I took the step from Women's Fiction to Romantic Suspense, I felt like I was really hanging myself out there. So many unknowns. So much risk.

And do you know what I discovered? Sometimes a little risk can be exhilarating, and the results can more than make up for the butterflies and the nail biting.

I absolutely loved writing this book. In my Women's Fiction novels, there was an undercurrent of mystery or suspense. And I found that by focusing on that aspect of my story, I opened up a whole new me. I was able to blend all that I love about Women's Fiction -- the character development, the integration of setting as a vital part of the story, a love story, and a family drama -- with a fast paced, page turning plot. I've never had so much fun.

I loved writing those scenes in which my characters are in real and immediate danger, as well as those in which the build up to that danger is hovering in the background. Makes me wonder about my darker side -- and what else might be lurking deep down that has thus far gone untapped. However for now, I'm going to enjoy my newly discovered passion for writing Romantic Suspense and save those other new worlds for the future.

PITCH BLACK will be released May 27. It's the story of Philadelphia journalist, Madison Wade who moves to a small Tennessee town with her newly adopted teenage son, Ethan in order to distance him from the pitfalls of his old life on the city streets. Just when Madison and Ethan are growing accustomed to their new, slower-paced lives -- Ethan has finally made a friend and Madison is sorting out how to balance her job as editor of the local daily paper, her role as mother and her fledgling romance with the local sheriff -- everything is changed by a seemingly innocent wilderness camping trip.

Ethan goes with three other boys and one of the boys' step-father into the mountains. The boys return late, in shock and without their chaperone. When it becomes clear the chaperone's death was no accident, both Madison and the sheriff realize the boys aren't telling all that happened on the mountain. Being the new kid from a rough world casts Ethan as a prime suspect. Then another one of the boys goes missing. Madison realizes she can’t count on anyone else to save her son, not even the man she was starting to fall for. Her search for the truth puts both her and Ethan on a collision course with a killer.

I hope you'll give my new genre a try -- and that you'll love it as much as I do!

Stop by my website for an excerpt and reviews.

Happy Reading,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Elizabeth Hoyt meditates on torturing the hero

I went to see IRON MAN the other day—and loved it!—but I thought the beginning was interesting. When we first see Tony Stark, the future Iron Man, he’s got a glass of Scotch in his hand, he’s wearing a designer suit in a Humvee full of soldiers, and he’s boasting about bedding all the MAXIM cover models from the year before. Hmm, I thought, not particularly likable. Not particularly heroic, in fact.

It’s what happens next that turns Tony Stark into a hero.

The convoy of Humvees is blown up, Stark is shot, and he’s taken captive by shadowy terrorists somewhere in the Afghan mountains. When, in the next scene, a hood is pulled off the bound Stark’s face, I actually leaned forward in my seat. Stark’s expensive suit has been shredded, he has cuts and bruises on his face, and fear and anger are bright in his eyes. Suddenly Stark the prisoner was a whole lot more interesting than Stark the playboy.

Now, I’m not a sadist. I don’t actually enjoy seeing the hero brutalized in a movie or book. But in order for an ordinary man to ascend from his mundane life and become a hero we want to root for, sometimes he has to suffer.

A lot.

In my new book TO TASTE TEMPTATION, my hero is Samuel Hartley. He’s a wealthy Colonial merchant visiting London on business. At first he may not seem like hero material—until we get to his backstory. Six years before Sam was in the Colonial army, fighting the French in the French and Indian War. During that war the regiment he’s been assigned to lead through the wilds of the American woods is attacked and massacred, with only a handful of men surviving. It’s what Sam did during that awful day that’s torturing him. The hard choices he made and the actions he took. Six years later he’s still not over the war completely.

And to me that makes Sam an interesting hero. One with conflicts and nightmares. One with a tortured past. I hope you enjoy TO TASTE TEMPTATION!

So tell me who your favorite tortured hero is and I’ll pick one person to win an autographed copy of THE RAVEN PRINCE!

Elizabeth Hoyt
Good Morning!

MELISSA LEAVITT, if you can contact me via my website, I'll send you an autographed copy of THE RAVEN PRINCE!

Thank you to everyone for participating in the discussion!


Monday, May 19, 2008

No Regrets

My newest release will be out next week. The heroine in SAFE WITH A STRANGER, Clare Chandler, is a woman filled with regret. She married the wrong man and then compounded the problem by having his child. Now she is on the run in order to keep her son safe from his father. She wouldn’t trade her son for the world, but what would she do when faced with the opportunity to do it all over again?

There are other big mistakes people make in life, and that idea got me to thinking about forks in the road. Opportunities taken and regretted—or missed and lost forever. I wonder which is worse. The times when what we do doesn’t work out and costs us in the end? Or the times when out of neglect or fear we miss a chance that might’ve changed our lives for the better forever?

My husband and I were talking about just this topic the other day. We’ve made our share of mistakes in life. Plenty of them. But we’ve made peace with most of those. It’s the roads we didn’t take that seem to haunt us years later. The stock we weren’t quick enough to buy before the price doubled. The job offer we refused because another one sounded better. The town we ‘could’ve’ moved to except life threw us that curve. And the even more personal choices not taken that we don’t ever talk about. The old boyfriend or girlfriend we could’ve had once but turned down. The friend we lost because we were afraid to ask what was wrong. The things we ‘should’ve’ done with our kids and didn’t because we had no clue the time was running short.

Do you have any regrets? Things you should’ve done but were too afraid or slow to take the chance? You’re not alone. I’ll bet there are plenty of you who would like to write a novel but don’t out of fear of rejection. And how about those of you who have lost contact with an old friend because you didn’t take the time to phone or write. Even I have a couple of books spinning in my head that I wished I’d written but have been afraid to try. Do you think we can correct some of those missed opportunities? Can we change our lives even a long time later? I think we can. That’s why I write romance novels where people get second chances.

So, are you willing to share some of your missed opportunities? Nothing too personal—unless you feel the need to confess. LOL You’ll be in good company here no matter what it is. I promise.

To sweeten the pot and get you dishing, I’ll draw names tomorrow morning from the comments and send two winners an autographed copy of SAFE WITH A STRANGER.

Love and Hugs,

Linda Conrad's SAFE WITH A STRANGER is a June
release, currently available online and on the
by May 27, 2008. Check out what's new with Linda,
enter her contest, and read her Behind the

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lets Hear It For Nerds

Sometimes I wonder why I write romance. There's not much sense to it, given the type of guy I go for. People talk about Matthew McConaughey and I don't see it. I picked up People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" issue and came up with maybe three or four who did anything for me. I mean, for someone who writes romance novels, I've got some pretty quirky taste in men.

Maybe that's why I write Blaze as opposed to lines expecting the ultra-alpha-macho-gorgeous-wealthy types. I just don't know that guy, can't imagine dating him, so I have trouble writing him. And the beautiful thing about Blaze is that I don't have to. Blaze offers a little leniency. It gives me leeway. My guy doesn't have to be quite the stud you'd find in, say, Presents or Desire. I can lean toward the Gamma man. Because for me, no matter how great my heroes are on the eyes, no matter how fantastic they are between the sheets, I've got to throw in a little vulnerability or I just can't stand them.

As a newbie writer, I've so far played it safe and kept my heroes leaning toward the more classic romantic lead, but what I'd really, really like to do someday is write a romance novel featuring the kind of hero who seriously tugs at my heartstrings.

Yes, ladies. I'm talking about the nerd. That funny, clumsy, sometimes goofy man who, despite the fact that his six pack is in a grocery bag and the only thing chiseled is his hairline, seems to catch my eye anyway.

I don't know what it is about them. Maybe it's their approachability. If you're like me and at the age of forty-six still haven't gotten over those scarring incidents from high school, the down-to-earth, friendly, likeable guy does have his appeal. Unlike the captain of the football team, these are men you aren't afraid to talk to. They're modest, they're nice, they get embarrassed. And when they find their way onto national television, you can bet they're probably rich, too!

(Now wait a minute, I'm not talking Bill Gates. There's nerds, and then there's nerds, and some guys even fistfulls of cash won't help.)

No, I'm talking about guys like Alton Brown, here.

Okay, so he probably won't be edging George Clooney out of his spot as People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive", but there is something deliciously appealing about this man, and it's not the fact that he can cook or that he can explain the molecular science behind water purification.

What I love about Alton is his vulnerability. It's the self-deprecating humor that makes me want to overlook that dorky hair spike thing and do something sinfully bold--like show him that some of those uni-task kitchen utensils he complains about actually do have alternate uses, he he.
But Alton isn't the only one. I've also got a fetish for Mr. Mythbuster himself, Adam Savage, and the fact that I do has left me perplexed on more than one occasion.

I mean, for one thing, I've seen the man in his underwear--on TV, you dirty minds!!!--and seriously, Colonel Sanders couldn't come up with a pair of whiter chicken legs. Yet there's something about the guy that makes me want to write him into a book.

I think it's that he's smart yet slightly dangerous. He calculates numbers in his head like Rainman then uses the information to blow something up. I mean, what's sexier than explosives, ladies?! Couple that with his wide-eyed boyish reaction when Buster blows sky high and I'm willing to overlook the impending man-boobs and attempt some combustible science of my own.

Now, I will admit not all nerds are, shall we say, nerdy. If you can't get into a man who's more jiggle than gigolo, science has options for you.

Yep, what would a blog about sexy nerds be without mentioning this man?

Ahhh, Grissom, Grissom, Grissom. You know, I saw William Petersen back in his prime twenty years ago in a movie called "To Live And Die In LA". I'd thought he was okay, nothing to write home about. Yet age him two decades and give him a fascination with bugs and I'm putty in his petrie dish.

But my fascination with Grissom stems from something completely different than the others. He's not vulnerable, or boyish, or self-deprecating. He's funny, but only in a dry, infrequent kind of way. No, what Grissom's got is that calm, cool and quiet thing going. Oh, yeah. What woman doesn't adore a man who's not only flippantly ignorant of his own sex appeal, but doesn't even recognize when a woman's coming onto him?

Just think of the things a bold and sexy Blaze heroine could do to a guy like that without even resorting to a bug suit.

Personally, I'm dying to write a romance that features one of my guys, here. I haven't figured the right angle yet, but I have to believe with enough experience under my belt I could pull off the consummate nerd hero and possibly convert thousands of women over to the bungling side of love.

What do you think? Could you get into a romance novel featuring a nerd, or do you really need those fantasy men to be bad-boy dangerous and bigger than life? And have you read any romance novels that featured the kind of guy I'm talking about? If so, which ones? (I'm making a list ;-) )
PUTTING IT TO THE TEST - Harlequin Blaze, April, 2008
UNLEASHED - Harlequin Blaze, November, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Holding out for a hero... with Ally Blake

From the very first book I ever wrote, I have always “cast” my heroes and heroines. Keeping my eyes open for pictures of people who give me an immediate emotional reaction - whether it be happiness, joy, sadness, regret. So long as the picture conveys emotion, it's up for grabs.

Google is good for this. As are magazines. But most of my guys come from watching copious amounts of television.

Maybe it’s the cheeky smile and gravelly voice of McSteamy from Grey’s Anatomy, the suave, tall dark handsome Alpha with a twist of Mr Big from Sex and the City. Whatever it is, there is something, some spark, some way about them that sends me searching the internet for that one perfect picture that represents the man I see forming slowly in the back of my mind as I get to know him in writing his story.

For my current UK release THE MAGNATE'S INDECENT PROPOSAL, I went through a few incarnations before I settled on my Damien. At the beginning he was pretty alpha, overtly strong and powerful, a big guy.

But as the pages were filled he began to change. He became of all things funny. And kind of nice. And he had a complete aversion to all things technological that I simply could not deny. So how was I to write a strong Modern Heat type hero with those traits and get away with it?

Television, that's how.

To be more precise The West Wing and Brothers and Sisters. Two shows I love, both of which have Rob Lowe looking fine in a suit and tie, being masculine, beautiful and charming while at the same time giving the viewer glimpses into the inner sensitivity of a man in power.

Rob Lowe isn't my Damien, and neither are Sam Seaborn or Senator McAllister. But the characters he plays are cut of a similar cloth. And you know what? Boy oh boy were they a lot of fun to watch and rewatch in the writing of this book!

Ally's latest novel THE MAGNATE'S INDECENT PROPOSAL is her third Modern Heat and is out in the UK as we speak!

Grab a copy now to find out what happens when a gorgeous, entirely too privileged for his own good Luddite in a suit meets a lively dog groomer with persistent shampoo stains on her skirt and a past filled with disappointing men. Throw in matching mobile phones and match-making friends and you'll get yourself a Modern Heat!

Read an excerpt on Ally's brand spanking new website, or better yet, go buy the thing! You can get it online now at Mills and Boon.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Next Book

There’s always a “next book”. Whether it’s the next book in your TBR pile, or the next book in your TBB pile, there’s always one there, waiting.

Right now, my ‘next’ book is the one I’m starting to write, and that has to be one of the most terrifying moments in a writer’s life. The blank page (or screen, as it were) sits there, silently screaming “Write something! Write something!” until I want to pull a Stephen King/Jack Nicholson and type 400 pages of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

At least the screen would stop screaming “writesomething-writesomething-writesomething” at me.

Looking back at these ‘Devil’ books, it’s odd how each one has been (or is being) written differently. With The Devil’s Daughter, I wrote the entire book first and then the synopsis, because that was the easiest way to do it. And it’s usually faster for me to write a 400-page book and then a 5-page synopsis than it is to try and write *just* the 5-page synopsis. Weird, I know.

Moving on to the sequel. I was about half way through writing Dancing with the Devil (scheduled for release in December) when I suddenly had to stop and write an outline of what was going to happen – or, more accurately, what I *thought* was going to happen. Invariably, the story did not follow the path I thought it was going to, but I still felt better for having sketched out an idea anyway.

This new book has started out completely different. Much to my shock and bewilderment, the first thing I wrote was (gasp!!) a synopsis. Yes, yes I did. Now, as experience has proven, and my editor will attest to, synopses are not my forte, but that’s all right, because she’s a very patient and understanding woman. Thank God. J So the synopsis is written and when I close out of this, all that’s left on my computer will be a new Word doc with the two most important words in every book: Chapter One.

And below that is the same old cursor, blinking that same ear-splitting yet silent cry of “writesomething-writesomething-writesomething.” This time, though, it won’t be screaming for long. In fact, that blinking little cursor is going to wish it’d never messed with me.
What’s your “next” book

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The National Year of Reading

2008 is the National Year of Reading in the UK. It is about celebrating reading in all its forms and highlighting the importance of libraries. It is about encouraging parents to read to their children, and people in general just to read.
It is about challenging employers to turn their old smoking rooms into quiet reading rooms, and encouraging workers to read. Natasha Oakley’s whose Wanted: White Wedding is out this month explained “`Setting aside the fact I earn my living writing books, as a mum of five this is something I really want to be involved in. The hope is that the campaign will reach people who don't consider themselves 'readers'. The slogan is 'Reading - Anytime, Anything, Anywhere'. I'm all for taking the snobbishness out of books. It should be fun!'
Authors from literary authors to series romance authors are involved in a wide number of events. As part of the NYR nine Mills & Boon authors have been asked to be ‘Writers in Residence’ in nine of England’s library authorities. The timing and the match could not be more perfect, as Mills & Boon celebrates its 100th birthday, there is no one who knows a good book like a Mills & Boon author – or reader! It’s a fantastic accolade and tribute to the importance of Mills & Boon to libraries and all the hard work done by so many of our authors in them.
The Mills & Boon ‘Writers in Residence’ for the NYR are: Louise Allen – Peterborough, Susan Stephens – Kirklees, Kate Hardy – Norfolk, Nicola Cornick – Wiltshire, Sharon Kendrick – Hampshire, Caroline Anderson – Suffolk, Michelle Styles – Northumberland, India Grey – Cheshire, Natasha Oakley – Bedfordshire
Kate Hardy whose In Bed with Her Italian Boss recently won the RNA Romance Prize explained what being a Writer in Residence meant to her: "Reading is one of life's greatest pleasures, so I'm delighted to support the National Year of Reading by being a writer in residence at my local library. I've spent many happy hours choosing books from my local library and even more happy hours discovering new worlds through those books." Nicola Cornick added “"I am thrilled and honoured to be the Wiltshire Writer is Residence as part of the National Year of Reading. Helping to build a greater national passion for reading is a cause very close to my heart. For me it is all about entertainment, exploration and ideas a plenty!" Nicola’s 25th book, The Last Rake in London is published next month.
A spokesperson for Mills & Boon said : ‘Mills & Boon is extremely proud to support the National Year of Reading, a government-backed initiative which aims to get more readers reading more! It will be supported by a TV advertising campaign featuring Geri Halliwell, Lenny Henry, Bill Bailey, Jon Culshaw and Jo Brand amongst others. The NYR will see a nationwide campaign reminding reluctant readers, hesitant readers and even prolific readers of the joy of reading. It’s a wonderful opportunity for Mills & Boon to be part of this fantastic year celebrating reading!’

You can see the launch video here. It is one of my current favourite as I do love the mish mash of celebrities and in particular Bill Bailey reading from Susan Napier's Harlequin Presents. i think it captures the whole essense of the campaign.
But wherever you are, 2008 is a great year to read. One thing you can do to challenge yourself is to take part in the e-harlequin 100,000 book challenge. For every book review posted on eharlquin, they will donate a book to the National Literacy fund. It is a challenging target and they do need more readers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Books to Get Lost In by Megan Crane

I just heard that one of my favorite new tv shows, Women's Murder Club, has been cancelled.

TV makes me so mad. As if it wasn't bad enough that they cancelled Journeyman, my other favorite new show this season. This is why I spend whole months not watching TV at all, and retreating into books instead. Especially great, sprawling books that lure me away from my own life and make it difficult to come out of them.

For example, I finished reading the brand new Marian Keyes novel, This Charming Man the other night. Talk about a book well worth sinking into. I love Marian Keyes. Her books are big, rich treats that let you get lost inside them. This new one is no different. Four different women with a certain connection to one man, and four different, complicated stories. So very, very good.

I also recently read Sugar Daddy and Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas. Both are fantastic books on their own; together, they transported me to a whole different world. This time to Texas, where everyone and everything is larger than life, extraordinarily good-looking, and actions have fascinating consequences. So delicious.

I'm currently reading the final book in Scott Westerfield's Midnighters trilogy. The trilogy focuses on a group of teenagers in Bixby, Oklahoma who discover they have superpowers during a magical extra hour of the day that occurs each midnight. These books are engrossing and addictive, so start them at your own risk!

What about you? What books draw you in, and make it hard for you to drag yourself back out?

Monday, May 12, 2008

12 Points on the 12th by Kate Walker

I recently celebrated a birthday (no, I’m not admitting how old!) and that started me thinking about the way that something as basic as when they were born can influence the creation of a character when you’re writing a book. I don’t just mean when they were born, say 34 years ago, so that is their age at the beginning of the book, but other, more intriguing aspects of the influence of their birth.

Some authors like to use astrology as a way of getting into the nature and personality of their hero and heroine. There are books that go into great details about the way that your birthdate and so star sign affect your personality and your relationship with others. Books like Sun Signs by Linda Goodman detail the different characteristics of the Leo man or the Gemini woman – and discuss how they relate to each other. You can also take this further if you read Love Signs or Relationship Signs by the same author.

You don’t even really have to believe deeply in astrology to get something from books like these because, if you put aside the fact that the descriptions are headed ‘Taurus Female’ and ‘Scorpio Male’, you still get useful information and ideas about the way that a woman with this sort of personality will interact with a man of a particular type. Just knowing what things about each other will ‘rub them up the wrong way’ or where they might find an unexpected connection can often spark ideas either for the conflict in a book or the way that conflict might be resolved.

But another way of looking at when your characters were born and the way this can affect their personality is that of their birth order in the family. And this one had a particular interest for me when I was writing my latest Harlequin Presents novel, Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife.

Its amazing how brothers and sisters with the same parents, upbringing and life experience end up with such different personalities and interests. One school of though believe that your place in the family has a huge influence on how you'll turn out, determining everything from the type of career you'll choose to the type of person you'll become.

Although it's officially classed as 'pop psychology' its easy to believe that where you're born in relation to your siblings really does have an effect on how you'll turn out. Your place in the family hierarchy influences everything from the amount of 'quality time' you spend with your parents as an infant to whether you're the trail blazer or baby of the family all of which must have some impact on your expectations of, and the way you interact with, the 'outside world'.

Some believe that there are a certain set of identifiable characteristics that go with each birth position, and this is what they say:

First borns

For a while at least first borns receive the undivided attention of their parents. Being the first to do everything can mean you're doted on and overprotected while at the same time under great expectation to succeed. For this reason first borns are often perfectionists. Determined to live up to their own and their parents high expectations they hate to mess up and so are often quite cautious and unwilling to take risks. First borns can be fiercely ambitious and driven to succeed which is perhaps why more first borns are in 'high powered' jobs than any other sibling position.

On the other hand first borns have to make the transition from only child to sibling. Parents often encourage the eldest child to take on extra responsibility and 'be a grown up' to their baby brother or sister and while this can make first borns very caring towards others it can also make them very strong willed and quite stubborn when it comes to new ideas and ways of doing things.

Middle children

More than anything middle children are different from their elder siblings, having never been the 'only one' they've got to fight for their parents attention somehow! Middle children sometimes act out to fight for attention, enjoy winding up their siblings and often adopt a hard done by attitude to life (characteristics often put down to middle child syndrome).

As they aren't the trail blazer of the family, middle children often have fewer expectations and less pressure to succeed placed on them by their parents and so are more likely to follow the life path they want to. They are often very sociable, have great people skills and lots of friends. Middle children often have good negotiation skills too, probably from the years of practice they've had competing with their older brother or sister!

The youngest child

The youngest child is often spoiled and treated as the baby of the family. As their older siblings have been there and done it all before they have far fewer expectations placed on them by their parents and so tend to be more impulsive and egocentric than their brothers and sisters. Having grown up as the baby, youngest children have to fight to be heard and so are often quite gregarious and outgoing. They also often have their parents wrapped around their little finger and are much more likely to get away with things than their brothers and sisters. As they have had so few constraints put on their development by their parents youngest children tend to follow more artistic pursuits and take more risks than older siblings, although they still tend to be treated as the baby even when they're grown.

The only child

Only children are very much like first borns in that they are blessed with the undivided attention of their parents, although this carries on uninterrupted through their childhood and beyond. For this reason only children often spend a lot of time with grown ups and so can be quite advanced for their years and can also be quite eager to please. However, having never had to learn to share only children can be quite egocentric and many have awful time keeping skills.

As only children don't have playmates on hand they have to learn to entertain themselves and so are often quite happy in their own company using hobbies to keep themselves amused. They tend to be quite independent as adults although just as the only child are often pampered by their parents right on into adulthood.

In Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife, both my hero, Raul Marcin, and heroine Alannah Redfern are born into a particular position in their family. Raul is the middle child, the second son, with a third child, as sister, who is younger than him. Alannah is the first-born, the older sister to her brother, Chris. So they start off with those roles as defined in the notes above. But Raul’s older brother died young, as a child, and so immediately he became like the first born, deeply responsible and ambitious, determined to succeed. In the present day too, when then tragedy intervenes, it changes both their lives in so many ways. One of which is that they are no longer in quite to same position in the family as they had been before. And part of the way that they adjust to that change also means that they behave differently towards each other as a result.

Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife is a story about family as well as the central relationship of the hero and heroine and so the ideas of birth order were particularly useful when thinking about this plot and, most importantly, about the characters at the centre of it. But what really matters is that this idea, or that of the astrologers with their star signs, give us useful tools, possible different ways to look at the characters we are creating and go deep into their personalities. And when you’re writing a romance where the characters are absolutely central to the story, any techniques like these are a great help in giving those characters depth and substance.

What about you? Where were you born in your family? And do you think that these definitions of the way that position affects you are true for you?

If you’re interested, I’m a middle child, and I think a lot of it is true for me. Let me know what you think and I’ll get Sid the Cat to pick a name at random from the posts to win a signed copy of my June book Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife so you can read about Raul and Alannah for yourself. You can read more about this title - and all the others I have coming up soon by visiting my web site here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Down to business - Christina Hollis

Writing must be the perfect job, but isn’t without its problems. In the days of manual typewriters, irritations like forgetting to put in a sheet of carbon paper to make a copy, or aching wrists from thumping away at sit-up-and-beg keys were constant niggles. Then came computers. Uninterruptable power supplies and memory sticks ought to make power surges and lost documents a thing of the past. The trouble is, they rely on the human factor: that nut behind the keyboard!

Ernest Hemingway said hopeful authors should apply the seat of their pants to the seat of their chair and get on with it. That leads to the greatest pitfall of all. A combination of lack of exercise and working at the kitchen table is a recipe for disaster. It’s so easy to reach for a little something during all that ‘thinking time’. When he visits the filling station, my darling OH often picks up a slab of cherry cake or bar of chocolate. Who could resist that? Not me! There aren’t any exercise facilities near where we live, and though I love walking, the temptation to write just one more paragraph/get to the end of the scene or see what might happen next means any opportunity slips away down a black hole. Before I know it, there’s no time to walk anywhere beyond the village school, to pick up my son. That isn’t enough to keep unwanted pounds away. I try and restrict the number of treats I eat, but it’s very hard. That’s why I love including food and parties in my writing. My book One Night In His Bed featured a steamy scene over homemade pasta. In the story I’m working on at the moment, the hero Alessandro has his chef prepare a delicious cake for heroine Michelle. My next release, Her Ruthless Italian Boss, has the dreamy setting of Venice and features a masked ball with free-flowing champagne and all sorts of treats. It was great fun to write, and I hope you enjoy it!

There’s a competition running on my website,, to win signed copies of my books and a recipe for nid d’abeilles. My sister used to work in a smart French patisserie, and once made one for me as a birthday cake. I woke next morning a year older and several pounds heavier. Ah, the trials of research!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day from Sandy Blair

Parent-child relationships have proved rich fodder for writers since biblical times. Today, there seems to be a plethora of contemporary authors focusing on mother-daughter relationships, more so than any others. Is this because women read more books than men do today? Perhaps.

Or is it because more women are being published today, and authors tend to write what they know?

Jane Austin exposed many a maternal foible and child’s resultant angst in Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibilities. Today’s novelists continue to explore this family strife with books like The Red Tent, My Sister’s Keeper, and Bridget Jones’s Diary as do screen writers with films like The Ya Ya Sisterhood, Steel Magnolias, and The Jane Austin Book Club..

So, why all this angst between mothers and daughters? I have a pet theory.

Human females are cyclic, hormonal animals. As mothers go into menopause, their daughters are usually entering estrus. Not a good combination. Since alpha females tend to influence other females’ cycles within their household, the result is a mega load of hormones careening around four walls causing many a voice to rise and many a tear to flow. Is this nature’s way of insuring our chicks flee their comfy nests in timely fashion to bring forth the next generation? I strongly suspect so.

And in this process we often forgive but rarely forget…wherein the conflict lies.

The good news: Daughters do grow up and often become mothers. Finally understanding what you were trying to accomplish, they send you flowers on Mother’s Day with a note saying, “Thank you.”

So what book or movie touched your heart? Did you see yourself and your mother in?

Sandy, the mother of Alex and identical twins, Rachael and Rebecca

A Highlander For Christmas, Zebra, available now

Friday, May 09, 2008

Contests, Contests, Contests!

by Anna Campbell

There's so many chances for you all to win prizes this month!

Firstly, I'm running a Harlequin Presents contest through my website. I cleaned out the prize cupboard and came across some great signed HPs that I'd love to give away. So many, in fact, that I'm giving away two prizes of four books each. The books are:

ONE-NIGHT LOVE CHILD by Anne McAllister (signed bookmark)

All you need to do is pop by my website and answer a simple question. Good luck!

Sophia Nash is giving away a signed copy of UNTOUCHED, my second book, in her May contest. You just need to call by her website and answer a question. And while you're there, check out the great excerpt from her latest release THE KISS.

Jennie Lucas is offering two signed copies of CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, my first book which she called "her absolute favorite romance she's read all year". Just visit her website and, you've got it, answer a simple question.

Finally in this cornucopia of giveaways, the Romance Bandits blog, my regular gig, is a year old this month and our readers get to celebrate. We're giving away a whole stack of prizes including books, book vouchers, Romance Bandits goodies, chocolates and critiques. Details here.

Have you ever won anything amazing in a contest? I won a box of Beatles LPs once in a contest through our local newspaper by finishing the song title A Hard Day's... Which is a bit of a no-brainer!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Goodies from Greece - Annie West

My mind has been in Greece. That’s a bit of a problem since the rest of me is in Australia, but there you go. Perhaps it’s because my latest book is set in Greece (The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife is a Harlequin Presents release in mid May, labelled under the new logo ‘Presents Extra’). Or maybe it’s because my mind wanders to things I like when I’m supposed to be working. Over the years I’ve discovered so many tempting things from Greece.

Greek food – yes – I HAVE to start with food! I hadn’t discovered the joys of Greek food until I made my first visit to that country. Now I’m a fan of most Greek cuisine, from a simple meal of fresh fish washed down with local retsina to the well known souvlakia (skewered lamb), moussaka (layered eggplant with sauce), baked vegetables stuffed with rice, salads etc. My first sight of a Zacharoplasteion or Greek sweet shop stopped me in my tracks. Cases and cases filled with sweet treats. Baklava (filo pastry layered with almonds and walnuts, cinnamon and sugar, soaking in sweet syrup and dusted with crushed pistachios). Nut rolls (similar but in neat little rolls). Kataifi (rolls of stuffed shredded filo pastry in syrup). Plus all sorts of treats made with raisins, nuts, cinnamon and cream. Far too many to describe but Wow!

On the food theme (what, me obsessed?) let’s not forget halvas (a Greek treat made with semolina – sounds dull, but wait till you try it) and loukoumia (the Greek version of Turkish delight). Double yum.

Greek islands – I love the Greek islands. And as there are so many I think trying to see them all might take me a lifetime or more. From Crete with its rugged mountains and prehistoric sites, to Rhodes with its fantastic medieval city. Karpathos where I had the best bread ever, baked in an outdoor oven (sorry, food again), while looking past old fashioned windmills down to the sea. Hydra with its perfect little harbour and Santorini with amazing cliff top views over a volcanic caldera (which some believe to be the source of the Atlantis myth). I have a list of a few others I want to visit. It will take me years...

Greek music – perhaps this is an acquired taste, but I love it. Of course there’s bouzouki music but there’s a lot more too. Did you know there are Greek bagpipes? Personally I like the dance music and Rembetiko (a sort of urban blues).

Ancient Greek jewellery – one of the benefits of being a classics student was that I had to visit the museums in Greece. Don’t let anyone tell you they’re full of boring stone inscriptions. Well, they are, but there are other wondrous things too. Like the gold wreaths made for Philip of Macedon and his family. There’s one of oak leaves and acorns, all solid gold, and so incredibly fine it looks about the thickness of real oak leaves. And in Crete, check out the ancient Minoan jewellery. I particularly enjoyed the seal rings (one of which inspired Stavros’ family ring in The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife). It’s no coincidence that my hero is the head of a fine jewellery house that produces fabulous pieces fit for royalty.

Greek Embroidery – maybe not an obvious choice, but definitely outstanding. I’ve spent happy hours looking at fine needlework produced in different regions of Greece. I've even tried my hand at some and it was worth the effort. For anyone interested in sewing, or just looking at beautiful things, check this out. The Benaki Museum in Athens is an excellent place to start.

Greek monasteries – I could write a whole blog about these alone, but maybe one picture will suffice. Spectacular!

I’m in danger of spending too long here and not returning to the current book I’m supposed to be writing. So, I’ll stop and hope I’ve whetted your appetite for some of Greece’s treasures.

Do you have a favorite goodie from Greece too? Or something you’ve always wanted to see there? Or, have you discovered a treasure somewhere completely different that you’ve visited and want to share with us? (I’m always interested in learning about new places to put on my must visit list!).

Warm regards,

Annie’s latest North American release The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife is on sale in shops from late May and is out now at eHarlequin or Amazon. To read an excerpt or enter Annie’s contest to win this latest release and two other new Aussie releases, visit her website.

Annie’s other current release The Billionaire’s Bought Mistress is published in the anthology Mills and Boon Presents... available only in the UK - try Amazon UK

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Celebrating Kate!

One of the great joys of writing is the long hours holed up alone in the garret -- no, wait, that's not it.

One of the real great joys of writing is the people you meet when you are NOT holed up in the garret with the imaginary people who are helping you make your living.

They are fine, of course. And handsome, frequently. But generally not restful and easy to be with. They take managing (or don't take it, which is often worse).

No, the real joy is the real flesh-and-blood friends you make -- other writers often -- who make your world a richer, brighter, more colorful (or as some would say, colourful) place.

There have been quite a few such wonderful writers in my life -- and one of them is having a birthday today.

So, please join me in wishing a very happy birthday -- and many more -- to the warm, wonderful, witty (and ever so occasionally wild) Kate Walker.

Kate, as most of you know, has written a lot of books, given countless hours of reading pleasure to millions of people in languages she doesn't even speak --much less write in -- all over the world. She's also a terrific teacher of writing, as many wannabes and gonnabes know.

Actually there are now quite a few plain old "be"s whose books are on the shelves who owe much of their publishing success to Kate's wisdom, so they're pretty fond of her, too.

Those who are interested in learning from a pro should take a look at her new Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. You won't be sorry.

What can I say about Kate?

She's the person I would most like to trail around Grasmere with in a pouring rain while she's suffering and ill because she absolutely never complains. She's the one who will take dictation from a cat and send long missives (he's pretty wordy) to all his friends and fans without once thinking she has better things to do.

She will trudge through the back streets of beautiful downtown Millom looking for dead relatives' old houses (who aren't even her dead relatives) and act like she's having a perfectly good time.

She will track down and send any book or dvd or document that you think you might want/need/fancy no matter how obscure because that's the kind of friend she is.

She even -- and if this isn't real friendship, I don't know what is -- shared Hugh-in-a-towel with me for our Australia and New Zealand Romance Writers Convention jaunt. She actually let me bring him home afterwards (well, she said she had another, but that doesn't detract from the generosity of the act).

What more can you ask?

So here's to Kate -- a wonderful writer, a fabulous friend, a mother of cats, a champion of hedgehogs!

Happy birthday, dear Kate!