Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lightbulb & Other Fun Moments in a Writers Life

I won't pretend that every other romance author has the same experience, but I've talked to enough to know that lightbulb moments when writing a book are a beautiful, beautiful thing. Me? I love lightbulb moments, no matter when they come. This past year plus has been a real struggle for me - healthwise, family wise and personally. So, the fact I've had a few really crucial lightbulb moments regarding my writing over that same period has been an utter blessing to me.

Like the time I was reading a review of another author's book. The reviewer was mad because the author had taken what she considered the easy way out in resolving a particular conflict that is pretty common in modern romance. I have no idea how dead-on the reviewer's views were in relation to that particular book, but I took her admonishments to heart and resolved never to dismiss that particular plot element as an any easy give. It's a conflict that comes up in both The Real Deal and Deal With This, each book resolving the conflict differently. Can you guess what it is? Anyway, several months later, I'm still keeping it in mind as plots develop and characters and I argue over the direction the book is going.

Jut FYI - the characters always win.

Another moment of clarity came when I was working on one of my own books and I realized I was listening more closely to my internal editor than I was my characters. The sad truth of it was, s/he was louder! Again, I can't speak for other authors and their internal editors, but my little monster has a personality disorder. That's right, Sybil eat your heart out - my IE has more voices than a busload of NY City traffic cops giving the driver directions to a Mets game. And they were all clamoring for my attention. I introduced IE to Elle, the heroine from my upcoming TGP book, The Spy Who Wants Me. Though gorgeous, Elle is tough. She drop-kicked the little monster into the deep, dark reaches of the wasteland beyond my imagination.

Whew, that was close!

Another recent mental lightening bolt came while I was reading one of my autobuy authors. She'd set up an really wonderful emotional conflict and then...resolved it with a single discussion and no follow-up scene to show the altered reactions of the characters. She's on my autobuy lists because she's so brilliantly imaginative. She's also a fantastic writer of sensuality. Her books are emotional, but she does the quick resolution a lot. She's incredible at building worlds and creating characters, but the emotional and plotlines of her stories aren't yet at the same level. When they are? She's going to rocket to the top of bestseller lists. I'm sure of it. But see, this lightning bolt singed me personally, forcing me to take an evaluative look at the imagination, characterization, emotional journey, sensuality and plotting in my own stories. And I realized I've got some real growing as a writer to do to bring some of those elements in line with one another.

A sobering but exciting revelation.

Well, I titled this post Lightbulb and Other Fun Moments in a Writer's Life. Maybe, I'd best share some of the other before you all get cornea burnout from all the flashbulbs going off. LOL

Seeing the first historical I'd written in print definitely counts as a fun moment in my life. I adore the heroine of Annabelle's Courtship. She's a sufferagette before the right to vote became an official movement. She's smart. She's strong willed. And she's lots and lots of fun. So, I'm particularly happy to see her book available in print.

I had more than one fun moment while visiting the Greater Detroit chapter of RWA and then attending Lora Leigh's Reader Appreciation Weekend afterward. If you want to read more about that, visit my blog.

But the best, most fun moments in my life as a writer? When I get a chance to interact with readers. So, thanks, Lee, for having me here to guest blog and thanks to everyone reading. Hopefully, you'll each take a moment and share your favorite or a recent lightbulb moment in your own life!

Hugs to all,

Monday, September 29, 2008

And more holidays...Happy New Year! Diana Holquist

I so enjoyed Holly Jacobs's holiday themed post yesterday. Such a fantastic idea for a series--based around fun and holidays. I've never read an American Romance, but these sound fantastic.

And on to more holidays....

Tonight, at sundown is the start of one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar--Rosh Hashana. It's the Jewish new year (since the Jewish calendar is a lunar one, new years comes in September). It's a crazy busy time, as all work must be finished by sundown tonight, as no work is permitted tomorrow.

So, short post:

Happy new year to all who celebrate.

Shana Tova. (Happy New Year!)


Sunday, September 28, 2008

PTA Mommisms

I have a new series starting in October at Harlequin American Romance. These are my first books for the line, and I have to confess, I'm quite excited. The research was...well, easy. You see, this American Dad trilogy centers around three PTA Moms who miss the first meeting of the year and get "volunteered" to head the Social Planning Committee. These three single moms all have enough on their plate, but the pitch in to plan the Thanksgiving Pageant, the Christmas Fair and the Valentine's Dance for the school.

What they find is not only true friendships, but love.

The great thing about this series is I've been talking to other PTA Moms, running a Jeff Foxworthy-esque contest, YOU MIGHT BE A PTA MOM IF____________. We'll be voting on the top ten this week. And I thought maybe you all might like to join in the discussion. Are you a PTA Mom? Have you ever volunteered? Any fun stories??


Saturday, September 27, 2008

What if?

Happy Saturday everyone!

My name is Kimberly Killion and I write Sexy Medieval Romance. My debut book, HER ONE DESIRE, came out in July from Kensington/Zebra books. It is the story of a Scottish spy and his quest to protect the executioner’s daughter.

Those last two words were the only words I needed to sell that book: executioner’s daughter. Where did I get the idea, you ask?...

While in the midst of brainstorming ideas for my next book, I found myself searching for inspiration. I looked in the mirror and thought if I keep staring I would be able to find something in my brain to trigger an idea. Unfortunately, my reflection hollered, “What the hell are you looking at?”

I didn’t find what I was looking for there so I went outside and looked at the fields of corn, the gravel driveway, a blade of grass. Nothin’. So I looked up and said, “Give me an idea, pleeeeease.”

Yes, I was asking for the supreme being of all creation to take time out of His busy day and give me an idea for my next book. That was selfish when you think about it. I mean, He has more important things to do, right? So, I thought long and hard and what did I come up with? Lunch. Yep. Lunch. So I fixed myself a little southern fired something and flipped on the TV. A documentary was on about the lives and families of the executioner. It was really quite fascinating. So then I started playing that game…you know the one…the ‘What if?’ game.

What if I wrote a story about the executioner? Oh, he started out as my villain, then I mixed it up a little and he became the hero. It still wasn’t right, so I said the word’s that practically wrote HER ONE DESIRE for itself…What if the heroine was the executioner’s daughter. And there is was. An idea was born.

You know how long it takes the Road Runner to sneak up on Wile E. Coyote? Well, that’s how long it took me to google a few keywords: executioner, occupation, medieval, torture … This went on and on, and before I knew it I had educated myself on every form of torture between hung, drawn, and quartered to peine forte et dure (Pressing to death)

Curiosity leads me to ask, ‘What if?’ So, as I sit here trying to develop my next story idea, I’m also curious to know how other writers develop ideas. Do you play the ‘What if?’ game? Do you get on your knees and pray for inspiration? Does whiskey help? Please, do tell…

Friday, September 26, 2008

First Books

Usually I try to talk about something non-writing related when I blog here, but today I decided not to do that. Instead, I'm going to talk about how just how excited I am that October is around the corner.

I'm a brand new author, whose first book sold about sixteen months ago. I mention this now because, finally, after months and months and months of waiting, it's almost time for me to see that same book on the shelves. My first novel, A Christmas Wedding, is a November Harlequin Superromance release-- and while it doesn't actually hit the stores until November, it's available for presale at eharlequin on the first of October-- which is just a few days from now! Needless to say, I figure I'll spend more than a few hours gazing at the cover fondly as I try to wrap my mind around the fact that it's actually FOR SALE!!!!!!

I bring this up for a couple of reasons-- one, because it's all I've been thinking about for the last few days (which pretty much squashed any ideas I had on blogging about fall-- especially since it's still 100 degrees here in Texas) and two, because I think an author's first book is a really special thing. I've sold six other books in the year since I sold this one, and though I am excited about all of them-- including the ones I haven't finished writing yet-- not one of them compares to the excitement and joy I feel when I think about this one. I mean, when I got the phone call from my then editor, Beverley Sotolov saying she wanted to buy the book, I actually cried-- shocking both myself and my husband, as I've never been much of a crier.

But dreams are funny things, and you never know just how you're going to react when they finally come true. I've wanted to be a published author from the time I was seven years old-- in fact, trained for it all through college and grad school-- and to finally have my dreams so close to becoming reality is a truly amazing thing.

So how about you? What dreams have you had come true? Which ones are you still waiting on?

Don't forget to check out Lightning Strike, the prequel to A Christmas Wedding. It goes up as a free, daily, online read at on October 13th.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Writing the Sex Scene!

Hi, folks! I am so glad to be back blogging away. I am excited that Intimate Beings is just about out on the shelves, and probably already is. I know that Barnes and Noble is already selling it, so I am happy!

As a romance writer, people are always wanting to know about the sex. What do I write in a sexual manner? What are my limits? What do I think a sex scene is for? My students have stories, and characters that are like all characters—occasionally or (even better) often, they find themselves in a sexual situation. So how to write it?

In August, I taught a class on writing sex scenes for UCLA Extension. Yes, this seems like a very bold thing to try to teach, as a sex scene is difficult to write and you might be wondering what exactly is my area of expertise is in this field.
And wouldn’t you just like to know. Really? You would? Okay, I will tell you.
But first, a couple of books you all need to read if you are, in fact, going to write sex scenes. The first is The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict.

Basically, her idea is that good writing is good writing. Sex is the basis of character exploration and forwarding plot. So do all that the way you do anything in fiction. With detail, specifics, and feeling. Avoid clichés. Don’t rely on the known and pat. And she manages to tell us all that with verve and with great examples.

The second book is a book every fiction writer should read: The Scene Book by Sandra Scofield. I wish it had been around when I started writing fiction. This little book shows us all how to contain action. How to box in the movement so that it carries import, idea, character, theme. I would assign it to every writer if I had the ability. Such good information there.

So—how do I get off (yuck, yuck) teaching a sex scene? The first is that when I moved over to romance writing, I promised myself that I would not wander into the land of the gigantic male parts and strange euphemism female parts. I would not have this sex being like a nuclear explosion that changes the course of all known history. I read a few such sex scenes, one that remains in my memory. I truly can’t remember the writer or the book, but the sex act occurred on a run-away stallion (anyone for a metaphor?). The hero and heroine were literally having the most amazing sex of their lives while this horse went full tilt down some mountain.

I almost fell off my chair with laughter. They end up at some frozen lake, snow everywhere, and still manage to have absolutely mind blowing sex of all time. A few times. In the snow, the horse looking on.

Listen, I can’t even stay on a horse, so the idea of managing multiple orgasms while a horse runs away just about had me calling the Guinness Book of World Records.
Romance writing has an arc of plot, some things that need to happen. I often think of romance novels needing the--hi, how are you sex, the oh-we-can't-be-together-for-long-if-at-all sex, the thank-god-we-made-it-through-we-will-be-together-forever sex. Story over. But even with that arc, I hold true to the following below.

So my tack was this. Stay with the plot and stay with the feelings. While in a romance the hero and heroine HAVE to end up together, it doesn’t have to be a circus act. The sex arrives out of their connection or growing connection.

And then—stay “in” the body. Don’t focus on the body itself. We don’t have to look at the parts but feel the parts. And sex doesn’t have to be in the genitals but in fingers and rib cages and toes. Things don’t have to be literally explained, either. As one writing teacher told me, avoid fluids. I am big on avoiding fluids. There are enough fluids everywhere, so can we please stay with the feelings?

In other stories, sex isn’t always good. The feelings aren’t always wonderful. Bad sex has its place in literary fiction. When characters have bad sex, it helps explain what is going on with them in the story. It shows their inability to connect.
The one scene I really liked in the Sex and the City film was one where the character Miranda is having sex with her husband Steve. They are enjoying it, and she says, “Can’t we just get it over with?”

Wow. Talk about a bucket of water. And it worked toward showing how their relationship was moving along. Or not moving. Literally.

So in a nutshell, for romance or literary fiction: Remember you are writing a scene, a bit of action contained in a box. Use the characters and the plot to inform the type of sex scene you write. Stay in the body, don’t focus on the body. Try using alternative body parts to explain the sex. It’s not all about part A fits into part B. Avoid fluids, stay with the feelings. Make the sex realistic to the relationship the characters have with each other.

Now the handouts. Sex scenes from the following novels:

Into the Forest--Jean Hegland writes a sex scene between sisters, and it works
Animal Dreams--Barbara Kingsolver wrote later that she wished she’d shown the sex between Loyd and Codi—see where she chickened out.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover—see what we owe this classic and DH Lawrence.
Dream Boy—see how sex is power and lust and plot and abuse in this scene by Jim Grimsley.
Beloved—sex as metaphor. Corn was never as sexy. Morrison rocks.
Traveling Light—Katrina Kittle writes a lovely sex scene between two men witnessed by the sister of one of the men. So important to the character’s growth and plot.

Monday, September 22, 2008 !

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

You know, because it’s been quoted and misquoted so often, I actually had to Google this quote before I could footnote it properly. It was originally said by one Rodney King in 1991. He was the man who was beaten by LAPD officers on camera, and the film of his police beating was what started a riot in Los Angles. He’s still alive by the way, though the last heard of him was when he was beaten again by a citizen for trying to steal a bicycle. (after winning several million dollars in an award from the LAPD)

Wow, that was really not what I wanted to talk about. Sorry, I got carried away as usual. Let me start again.

My next book coming out for Silhouette Romantic Suspense (in November) THE SHERIFF'S AMNESIAC BRIDE is part of a multi-author series. For those of you who have never heard or read about these types of series, they’re usually six or twelve books coming out in a row but written by different authors.

Each book in a multi-author series stands alone and has its own happy ending, but the same characters run through each of the books and the whole series has a connected plot thread of some sort. For instance, all the main characters could be in the same extended family or live in the same town or work for the same employer.

Harlequin/Silhouette has been issuing theses multi-author series inside their category lines for many years. You may have heard of the Madonna Key series published inside the Bombshell line, the Dynasty series published inside the Desire line, and more recently the Texas Hold Em’ series inside the Superromance line.

I for one love reading books in series. My best loved childhood books were all in series: the Wizard of Oz books, the Winnie the Poo books and the Nancy Drew books. In fact, I am currently lapping up every book in three different Harlequin series. The 721 Park Ave series in Desire, the Wedlocked series in Presents, and the first books in my own series for Romantic Suspense: The Coltons: Family First.

Not only to do I love books in series, but I also love movies in series. A couple of my favorite movie series have been the Star Wars movies and the Harry Potter movies. I wish there could be lots more of them because they’re so much fun.

Okay, now I am finally getting around to explaining my use of the quote from Rodney King and the original reason for why I wanted to write this blog. At last.

My husband.

We had a big…um…polite disagreement the other day about movies. When I make time to go the movies or order one to see at home, I want to come away feeling good—about life in general. Yes, I admit it. I love sappy movies the same way that I love books with happy endings. My husband, on the other hand, wants things to be more realistic. I get plenty of realism from the everyday news.

In order for us to watch movies together, my husband and I have to find a way to compromise. Thus my use of the quote on getting along.

I have learned to accept movies that close with a vague ending—just as long as the main character doesn’t die.

And my husband has learned to sit through movies now and then that have actual up-lifting endings.

The other day we came up with a series of movies that works. The Jason Bourne movies. Now, they don’t end quite as happily as I would like and they aren’t quite as realistic as my husband likes, but they work for us. And they’re fun—which is my whole point.

We’re temporarily at a truce in my household after three fun movie nights.

So, here’s my question, do you like things in series? Books? Movies? And if so, do you have particular favorites? Have you ever waited for the next installment in a series with bated breath? Or do you hate them precisely because they leave you hanging? Which ones?

Post a comment and on Tuesday night I’ll have my husband pick a winner at random. The winner will get an advanced copy of my upcoming book THE SHERIFF’S AMNESIAC BRIDE, the Coltons: Family First series. (which I should be receiving at any moment now)

Check the end of the comments on Tuesday to see who wins.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Music by Anders Holst - Lee Hyat

Romantika - Anders Holst

"I do believe that his honest and original love songs can give romantic music a brand new chance, so do your heart a favor, check him out." ~ Quincy Jones

Anders Holst is a regal contender to become the new crowned prince of contemporary romantic music. The sexy, sultry Swedish-born vocalist has been dubbed the “Sting of Stockholm” and is the leading voice in the Romance Music genre. Anders performed at last year’s Romantic Times Booklovers Convention and has embarked on a partnership with Harlequin Romance.

In support of his new CD, Romantika, Anders spent the first part of the summer on the “Love Blooms Tour”, traveling to Botanical Gardens and Museums in elegant communities throughout the Northeast, and is looking to embark on a winery tour this fall. Romantika will be released October 7th.

Anders' publicist sent me two copies of his new CD, Romantika to share with Totebag readers. If you'd like a chance to win a copy, please send me an email at with your full name and mailing address. I'll be picking winners at the end of this month. Good luck! :)


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Movie Cops And Free Books

This week, I received my promotional author copies of my latest Blaze, "Unleashed", which will be in book stores in November.

Here is the blurb:


Purse designer Jessie Beane has some bad habits when it
comes to men. So she’s going to boost her sexual karma—
by indulging in an extra-naughty, one-night stand?


Detective Rick Marshall is the perfect candidate—a hot
cop with a creative and insatiable libido. Unfortunately,
Jessie’s poor excuse of an ex uses the opportunity to rob
Jessie’s apartment and steal Rick’s car...with key evidence
in the trunk!

And Unleashed!

Jessie and Rick don’t have time to waste.... They need
to find that car now. And if spending time together gives
them the chance to unleash their voracious appetite for
each other, then they’ll be certain to enjoy every
salacious minute....

The story was a lot of fun to write, and I hope people find it as enjoyable to read. The inspiration for my hero was Clint Eastwood's Harry Callahan.

I've always loved the dark, brooding, and somewhat cynical, Dirty Harry. I think it's inherently female to want to take an emotionally walled-up man like that and try to reach in and find that softer side. There's something mysterious about the man who doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve. As if the sexy fire in those eyes would end up being twice as explosive once...Unleashed. hehe

When I think about movie cops, a few dark, sexy, serious ones come to mind. Keanu Reeves in Speed, Mel Gibson in Lethal weapon. Colin Farrell, Denzel Washington, Matt Damon. It seems all the sexiest Hollywood actors have played cops at one time in their career.

So let me ask a question because I love talking about them an am anxious to start giving away free copies of my book. Who is your favorite movie cop and why? I'll pick out at least one person who comments to receive a free copy of my new Blaze, "Unleashed". I'll post the winner here in the comments Sunday evening.

Visit my website at

Friday, September 19, 2008

Self Help Helpin'

by Jenny Gardiner

These days it isn’t hard to find a self-help book for just about anything. As I was dusting recently--something that I need a self-help book to motivate me to do--a quick perusal of my book collection revealed that I am obviously in need of some kind of self-help.

Whether wrestling with co-dependency problems, battling food as an emotional crutch, yearning to tame the strong-willed child, or living with a neurotic dog, I’m clearly searching. At least when I’m in a bookstore.

Maybe I’m just drawn in by the clever covers, with their all-encompassing cure-whatever-ails-you titles. Or maybe the notion that simply reading a 200-page book will solve all of life’s problems appeals to me.

So I end up buying these books. When I get home, I optimistically set them next to the bed, assuming I’ll pick one up before drifting off to sleep. But then when bedtime rolls around, the last thing I want to do is:

a) Confront my problems when I’m too tired to even think about them, and
b) Read anything that involves thinking.

So eventually, when I get around to cleaning (see “Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean” by Linda Cobb), I shift these motivational tomes onto the shelves of the nearest empty bookcase. And there they sit, safe in the knowledge that they will be left untouched--not to mention undusted--indefinitely.

If only I could glean information through osmosis, then I would have solved my problems with denial, PMS, disorganization, and the latest one, ADD. I would know exactly how to approach handling my teenaged kids so that they don’t hate me and end up in therapy one day (see “GET OUT OF MY LIFE…But First Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?” by Anthony E. Wolf). I would know how to take charge of my life and make something of myself (as per “If Not Now, When?” by Stephanie Marston).
But instead, I feel a knot tighten in my stomach as I realize that I have failed in the first step to self-help: getting help. Well, maybe it’s the second step at which I’ve failed, because, after all, I did purchase the books. And that step is learning about the problem and how to find solutions to it. So far the only thing I have mastered is how to dust around them. And truthfully, I hardly ever even do that.

I think what I need is a self-help book on using my self-help books. Something that will motivate me to pick up one of these useful ditties and read it, say, when I’m otherwise disposed in the loo. Or in line for pick up at the kids’ school. Or while brushing my teeth at night. Maybe I just need Dr. Phil to whip me into shape. Or maybe I should just drop the self-help books altogether and pick up a copy of People Magazine to read at bedtime; then I’ll feel better learning about everyone else’s problems instead of worrying about fixing my own.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

5 Books I Read Over the Summer

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

I wasn’t sure how she was going to end this book, and while I wasn’t thrilled with the ending, the alternative would have been equally as disturbing. What I did find remarkable about this story was how each of the seven main characters got to tell things from their own point of view and in their own font! LOL I know that sounds silly, but the font changes from chapter to chapter added to overall feel I had for each character.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I’d seen these books but hadn’t paid much attention to them because I’m not a big fan of the vampire thing. But my friend Kristina Cook and I made a deal. She’d read My Sister’s Keeper if I read Twilight. All I can say is ‘wow!’. I’ve since read books 2 & 3 in the series and have the 4th one, but haven’t started it yet. Twilight is by far my favourite at this point, and believe they made a perfect casting choice in choosing Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory from Harry Potter) to play Edward in the movie.

Wild Hunt by Lori Devoti

Lori started out writing romantic comedy for the Zebra Debut line and then got snapped up by Silhouette to write for their Nocturne line. In my little corner of the world, I had never even heard of a hellhound or the Valkyrie until Lori introduced them to me, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to think before I started reading her Nocturnes. And now I can’t wait for her next one to come out. When you read her books, you’re there, you’re in the action, and everything about that world is real – in fact, during the fight scenes in Wild Hunt, it was like I could feel Venge’s pain. Read it!!

How WalMart is Destroying America (and the World), and What You Can do About It by Bill Quinn

A friend gave me this book to read and while I shop at WalMart regularly, I am finding this book to be quite interesting. Yes, it’s written by a man who has a personal axe to grind, but he freely admits that right up front, so you know what you’re getting in for right from page 1. We had a WalMart open up in our town almost two years ago, and while things overall seem to be fine, some of the things Mr. Quinn mentions in this book are definitely going on here, which is a little worrisome.

One For the Money by Janet Evanovich

Okay, I admit it. I’d never read a Stephanie Plum book until last month. My friend talked the series up so much, I finally broke down and bought the first two in the series, and I quite enjoyed this book! It was funny, a little bit silly, and a little bit creepy, too. The story wasn’t creepy, just one particular character. . . ick. And now I’m going to have to read all of them because I want to see what happens between her and Joe Morelli. Or her and Ranger. . . J

What I’m reading next. . .

Hidden by Eve Kenin (I finally wrestled my copy back from my sister)

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

39 Clues, The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (okay, I bought it for the kids, but. . .)

In Darkest Depths & The People of the Forest by David Thompson

Boone’s Lick by Larry McMurtry

The Gunslinger’s Untamed Bride by Stacey Kayne (started this one a while back, then lost the book in the chaos of my life. Just found it again)

And the list goes on. . . .

What good reads did you enjoy this summer? And what ones are you looking forward to this fall?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Do you remember your first love? Your first kiss? How about the first romance you ever read?
I remember all three very fondly. Each of them hooked me, made me want to keep coming back for more.

First love... his name was Alfred and he was the preacher’s grandson. I was sure with every fiber of my seven year old self that we were going to be together forever and ever... or at least until after the Robin Hood cartoon was over. I had other loves, more serious heartbreaks and lessons until I met the man that showed me that yes, love really can be all those things I’d read about in my favorite romance novels. But I always remember that first one with a happy sigh.

And my first kiss? Hmm, well, same boy and it went like this. Eyes scrunched close, lips pursed tight, press, count to three and release. I think I might have clapped at the end, but that was more in hopes of calling those singing stars I thought I was supposed to see. My style- --and expectations-- improved over the years. Later first kisses were a lot more fun *g* Fireworks, igniting passion, intense sparks. Oh, yeah baby. That’s how I love them –in real life and in books. Those ‘give in to passion’ moments that are such major turning points for the characters. Aren’t they in real life as well? But that first scrunch faced one? It makes me smile when I think about it.

And my first romance? To be honest, I can’t remember the actual title but the heroine’s name was Gemma. The plot is hazy, but certain scenes are still clear. I can vaguely recall the cover, it’s a foggy green blur (Actually, Anna Campbell’s Untouched reminds me of it –only because of the colors LOL) But this book hooked me. Reeled me in and started me down the path of a lifelong love of romances novels.

The heroine in my recent Blaze had quite a few firsts... first makeover. First hot, sexy affair. First public sex. AS it turns out, she loved all of hers too *g* It was fun recalling my own firsts as I wrote Risqué Business.

How about you? Do you remember your first kiss? First love? First Romance Novel? (I’ll stop there *g* I think this is a PG blog)

Comfort Reads by Megan Crane

I read a lot. I inhale new books, and always need to have a significant stack of novels nearby--because the thought of not having anything to read horrifies me. It's one of the reasons I can't even get on an airplane without at least eight books. What if we're delayed? What if we're diverted and have to spend the night in Denver? What if I finish what I'm reading and the next two, and have a five hour flight to get through? What then?!?!? Which equals eight books.

But as much as I love reading new books, there's nothing quite as sweet as the comfort re-read. The known quantity that I can sink into like a hug.

I just recently finished reading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga, which was so good I wanted to sit with it for a while. I didn't want to jump into a new book that might not be able to stand up to all that vampire-y goodness. So I decided it was time for re-reading.

Which leads to Linda Howard. All roads lead to Linda Howard, in my opinion, and to these two books, back to back, at least once a year.

First I read Open Season. The story of Daisy Minor, small-town librarian who's fed up with her spinsterhood and decides to undergo a radical makeover--which brings her to the attention of the incredibly hot Sheriff Russo--as well as a killer--never fails to make me swoon, happily.

Then I read Mr. Perfect. The sizzling hot romance between Jaine Bright and her sexy cop neighbor Sam Donovan is delicious--and funny, as smartass Jaine finally meets a man she doesn't have to lessen herself for. The murder mystery heightens what's already a fantastic love story.

Sigh... These books make me so happy. Every time I read them!

What are your favorite comfort reads? Which books can you read over and over and over again?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

That Vital Spark - Christina Hollis

Every writer gets at least one wonderful moment. The storyline that arrived in a flash, one perfect phrase of which they’ll always be proud or, wonder of wonders, the first time the telephone rang with an offer to buy their work. But behind each success in life lies a lot of hard work and often, sadly, heartbreak. I’ve been out of the loop for quite a while. A spell of illness meant that for months, everything took ten times longer than usual. This dismal excuse for a summer didn’t help – there have been days when there’s been hardly enough light to make a strawberry blush! Keeping motivated is tough when everywhere is awash, and the sun is in hiding. At times like this, thank goodness for romance. We can all escape to the worlds created by writers such as Kate Walker and Penny Jordan. Sunshine and handsome fictional heroes are the perfect antidote to rain and pain.

The motivation to create something myself is sometimes hard to find. Then it’s time to dig deep in the search for inspiration. I find that thinking back to episodes in my own life can trigger my imagination. That disastrous teenage affair – if we’d both been more mature, might it have worked out? Later on, there was a guy I idolised but was too shy to encourage. What event might have thrown us together? The thought of projecting my feelings into a fictional character and giving her the chance to make her dreams (and mine) come true is a great spur.

In the end it all comes down to communication. The encouragement I get from romance readers is often the last piece in the jigsaw. Their kind words give me that final push toward the computer keyboard.

Have you ever managed to work through an insoluble problem by giving it to your heroine to worry about for a while?


Saturday, September 13, 2008

All In The Family ~ by Fiona Lowe

My eldest son worked out a couple of years ago he could make people laugh so he decided to do a stand up comedy routine at the end of term lunctime concert, but he wasn't quite sure where to start. We talked about what people laugh about, what people cry about and why, and we came up with "it's things in their everyday life, events they can relate to." For him that was middle school life....the food in the dining hall, the teacher who is always losing her glasses, and the ficticious missing student who is on the roll but never turns up and students give more and more outlandish reasons as to her absence.

This got me thinking about the films and books I relate to and why. I don't come from a huge family but when we sit down at Christmas there can be up to 17 of us and the men sit with bemused and perplexed expressions on their faces as the conversation rips around the table,
topics tangling all over themselves, and half finished snippets which come back to be completed up to five minutes later. And the women manage to keep up! So when I watched the dinner scene in "While You Were Sleeping" I nearly fell off the couch. This was MY family! In fact I sat them all down to watch the scene :-)
I had the same reaction when I watched "Must Love Dogs" and her siblings came over to organise her. I howled with laughter when I listened to the talented Canadian comedian, Anita Renfroe sing 'A Day in the Life of a Mother' to the tune of the William Tell Overture. Pure comedy because every mother of a teenager has been there.
I also sobbed my heart out in "Billy Elliot" when the piano was cut up for firewood on Christmas Day. The piano represented so much that the Elliot family had lost, and I could relate to what it because of what the piano in our house means to everyone.
I've read too many wonderful family sagas to list them all and many of these books have been best sellers and I am sure it is because in every story there is something we can relate to because we have experienced a part of it in our own family.

When I started writing The Playboy Doctor's Marriage Proposal I didn't really have it in my mind that Emily's family would play such a big role but suddenly I found I just HAD to plunge Linton into a large family dinner scene and see if he would sink or swim. Trying to write ten voices and a dog, and have it make sense, was one of the most challenging things I have done yet. But it was so much fun and by the end I wanted to be sitting around that table multi-generational table too.

So what favourite films or books have you seen snippets of your family in?

Fiona Lowe is a wife, daughter, a sister, an auntie and a mother as well as an Australian Romance Author. Her latest Outback book is, The Playboy Doctor's Marriage Proposal , out now in the UK and Australia as well as being available on line . For more information about her and her books visit her website and blog

Friday, September 12, 2008

Where do you get your ideas ? - Kate Walker

How did it get to September? That means that nine of the 12 Points on the 12th blogs are almost done.

I hope they've been interesting and some help to those of you who are trying to write your own books and aiming to get them published. If you're enjoying them, don't forget that there are a whole lot more details on how to write romance in the book from whihc the title of this mini-series is taken - Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. Just be sure to get the second edition which is revised, updated and expanded from the first one.

Today I'm taking a brief look at one of those questions - the one that every writer gets asked (often more than once) at every stage of their careers. And the question is:

Where do you get your ideas?

The honest answer is 'Life' - I have often tried to persuade my accountant that life is a claimable expense for a novelist but sadly I haven't yet managed it.

So here are some of the tips and techniques I use when trying to come up with a new idea. Because, believe me, after 55 books, it can be dificult to think of something fresh and interesting - and something I want to write.


Read Read Read – learn the plots that make successful romances in the past and in the present – and the ones that have failed

Think about them – which ones can you still use?
Which ones will need changing to make them work today?

How could you turn a plot on its head?
Have him kidnap her?
She wants the marriage of convenience?

Watch soaps/dramas/films – stop it halfway – or at the end of the episode – ask yourself:
Where is it going?
Who will end up with whom?
What conflict/problem/sudden revelation/black moment is the writer going to bring in?

How could you do it differently?
What twists could you bring in?
Who could they end up with instead?
What if . . .?

Read newspapers/magazines/watch people stories on TV – use them as your characters - see if you can see what will happen – check it against reality

How could you rework a fairy story – Cinderella? Beauty and the Beast? Or a classic ? Jane Eyre? Pride and Prejudice?

With every story you read, watch, hear - think about what was behind it, who is involved, why it happend - and consider what will happen next. Very soon just a phrase or even a name can spark you off.

I know. I once wrote a book (long ago) simply because I was determined to get into the story the line 'I don't know who the hell you are, but you're certainly not my wife!'

And if anyone can tell me which book that was I'll send them a special prize.

(c) Kate Walker

Kate's latest novel Bedded By The Greek Billionaire is out now in Mills & Boon Modern and will be published next month in Australia's Sexy Romance and in Harlequin Presents in November.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Can I Tempt You?

by Anna Campbell

I'm really delighted to share the cover and stepback (yes, I have a stepback - be still, my beating heart!) art for my January 2009 release TEMPT THE DEVIL. Isn't that such a sexy picture? That man has such a come-hither look in his eyes, not mention that sensual glint! Wow! Honestly, I'm rapt!

Now, would you like a sneak peek at what's behind that wonderful cover art? I've put an excerpt of TEMPT THE DEVIL up on my website this month and I hope it whets people's appetites for the story as a whole. If you'd like to read it, please go to:

And while you're there, why not enter my contest to win an advance review copy of TEMPT THE DEVIL? All you have to do is answer a really simple question about the excerpt and you're in the running.

Now, what books are you currently looking forward to reading? I've got a wish list as long as my arm. Which is a pity as my to-be-read pile is as high as Mount Everest without me adding to it!

Two September releases I really enjoyed are Christine Wells's second Regency historical THE DANGEROUS DUKE and Tawny Weber's sexy Blaze RISQUE BUSINESS. Both highly recommended!

I've got an order in at Amazon for THE SINS OF LORD EASTERBROOK, the fourth instalment in Madeline Hunter's current historical series - the first three were fantastic and the second one just won a RITA Award. I've also got the new Kathleen O'Reilly on its way - COURTING DISASTER. Isn't that a great title? I just loved the O'Sullivan Brother trilogy that she wrote for Harlequin Blaze. Again, highly recommended. And of course, I'm eagerly looking forward to the latest Anne Gracie, HIS CAPTIVE LADY. She's such an amazing writer.

So plenty to keep me going. What's coming up for you book-wise?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The People Behind the Book : : Anne McAllister

Last week Natasha Oakley wrote a piece about Dedications for The Pink Heart Society blog. It struck a chord with me because sometimes I like reading dedications as much as I like reading books.

Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, though sometimes -- albeit rarely -- the dedication is the best part.

Still, a lot of work goes into a book that readers never see. And while some authors habitually dedicate their books to their spouses or their cats, others often use them to connect to people who are significant either specifically to that book or to them in their lives at that moment.

Dedications are connections. They tie the book to the larger world. They tie authors to people beyond the characters they create. Sometimes dedications are simple and straightforward, sometimes they are moving, sometimes they are funny.

Whichever, they are a little extra bit of insight into the author's life. Lots of readers may not care about that. As a reader, I do. As a writer, I like the opportunity to mention people who matter.

And my experience is that people like having books dedicated to them. It says to them, You matter. You're special.

When I was writing The Santorini Bride, I made contact for the first time in forty-odd years with Haine Crown, a friend who was dear to me in junior high school. It was a joy to have her in my life again. And besides the other wonderful things she brought into my life on her return, she brought a knowledge of French bulldogs.

As it happened, I needed a dog for Martha, my heroine, to bond with while she was on the outs with Theo, the hero. She ended up with a French bulldog named Ted.

Every time I finished a scene with Ted in it, I would send it to Haine for vetting. And she would write back and say, "French bulldogs don't do thus and such. They do so and so." She was quite adamant.

"French bulldogs have Opinions," she told me. And they aren't reticent about expressing them. So when Ted peed on Theo's foot -- his first impression of Theo not being the best -- and my editor suggested maybe he shouldn't do that for delicacy's sake, I said, "But he has to. Ted would!" For the sake of authenticity (and because both Haine and I both thought it was exactly what Ted thought of Theo -- and because the editor was kind) it stayed in.

For that and for many reasons, I dedicated that book to her.

We were both crushed when the book appeared and the dedication didn't. Through some mysterious glitch, it got lost from the front matter. "We can put it in the next one," my editor offered. And they did.

No French bulldogs in the next one. But we both knew life wasn't always fair.

And I couldn't let it go without having the dedication somewhere. I wouldn't have had the same book without Haine's input. My life as a whole wouldn't have been as rich without her.

I'm sorry the dedication didn't get in the book where it belonged, but I'm glad it got there eventually. It mattered.

Dedications are a way of saying thank you to people, of remembering people -- like Nancy the cat slayer with whom I visited Ireland, or my son Patrick who, at age 14, was deputized to make a list of details for me about a wilderness camping expedition to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan so my wildlife biologist could know what she was doing, or my daughter the athletic trainer who has mended so many heroes.

They are a chance to say how much I've enjoyed Kate Walker who has shared so many adventures with me and bull rider Brett Leffew, who got my hero and heroine down the road in The Eight-Second Wedding, or Ronnie Rondell, the stunt coordinator, whose knowledge helped me realistic write a disaster for my hero to spend years having to deal with in Cowboys Don't Quit.

They are a way of touching base with people who have mattered along the way, of saying, "I haven't forgotten."

Sometimes I think I write books so I can write dedications in them. In writing there are always so many people who are behind the book, who helped to bring it to life, who should be thanked.

I'm thinking maybe, since it takes so long to write a book, I should start putting dedications on blogs. What do you think?

It also occurs to me that I don't think I put a dedication into the last book I sent in -- and it's probably too late now. So I guess I'll have to say it here: Thank you to my friend Jason who lent me his last name for one of my characters. He never imagined I'd create a family dynasty. Neither did I, my friend!

If you're a writer, do you labor over dedications, trying to make sure you've got it right? Or does your cat -- or your husband -- get it every time? If you're a reader, do you read them? Do you care? Have you ever had a book dedicated to you?

I have. Thank you, Anne Gracie! You just made my day.

Stop by my blog and take a look at Anne's new cover and her book -- dedicated (in part) to Yours Truly (by another name).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Research is Fun! - Anne Gracie

People sometimes say to me, "Oh, you're a historical writer -- you must have to do so much research." Or they say, "I'd love to write historicals but I couldn't do all that boring research."


Research is the fun part. I love digging around in old books of letters, or the diaries of people traveling in obscure corners of the world, or writing about their everyday life. Because it might be research, but it's really about people. I enjoy the voice of the writer, as much as what they observe.

Here's a caustic young Irishman describing her first experience in Paris of the new French fashions of 1801.

"They were the first French ladies I had seen and such was the dress of the first of the three demoiselles that I thought some of the Statues out of the Louvre had suddenly caught animation. Nothing could look more like a little "Diana" than Victoire in light (almost transparent) drapery, no sleeves to her gown but gold chain twisted round the upper part of her Arm, into the form of a bracelet and her neck entirely seen. Madame, their mother, was too much en bon point to have such a sylphlike appearance as her daughters. But she did not add to her size by too much covering."


Attending her first French "Thé" (tea party) she says: "My first impression was amazement, at beholding the women from 15 to 70 almost in a state of nature. The Petticoat (or train of the gown, rather) covers however, half the length of the Room, which is a most benevolent disposition to display in a country where there are no many carpets."

I love this girl! She's funny, witty, ironic and quite devastating in her judgments. But she's no famous writer, just a young woman traveling with friends and writing letters back to her brother in Ireland.

Thank goodness he kept them, and years later someone found them, enjoyed them and had them published in a book. I found it in a rare book collection, and used some of her observations in a book called Tallie's Knight.

The other thing about research is you come across unexpected things you don't expect to find, things which, for a novelist, can be like a nugget of gold.

In my latest book (HIS CAPTIVE LADY, out now) my hero and heroine had occasion to visit the foundling hospital in London.

I had planned a quick scene, just a short visit to ask some questions and leave again. I did a little more research on the Foundling Hospital -- and discovered a wonderful, heartbreaking tale that fit perfectly with my story.

The Foundling Hospital accepted only new born babies from unwed mothers of "good character." The children received good care, but would never see their mother again. For 9 years of the hospital's operation, the mothers were encouraged to leave small tokens --really for administration purposes, so their child could be identified in case they changed their mind and wanted their baby back. Of course, these items did not remain merely administrative, but became tokens of love and remembrance for their babies.
Some of the tokens are on display at the Foundling Hospital Museum in London. They range from simple, everyday items -- a nut, a key, a penny with a hole drilled in it, a coin broken in half, a lock, a key -- and there are more personal items; charms, rings, a medal, a bent thimble, a tiny rag doll. There's a mother-of-pearl fish -- perhaps the father was a seaman. There are small embroidered items, things made of twisted wire, letters --some dictated by an illiterate mother, others penned in exquisite copperplate.

Each item, whether valuable or cheap, everyday or unique, told a story, and for me, the sight of these tiny objects, set out in a glass case years after both the mothers and children were dead, was immensely moving.

The tragedy was that the children never saw what their mothers left, never knew they'd left anything. Can you imagine what it would have meant to them, to have some token of love from their mother? But they never had them, never even knew they were there, that their mother had left them anything at all.

Perhaps the administrators of the orphanage were wise, perhaps not. But I ached for those children and their mothers.

And of course I wrote about the tokens in my book. How could I not?

Research -- a hardship? A bore? No way.

If you'd like to read some more about the tokens of the Foundling Museum, read this.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Good Job - Jennifer Estep

First of all, thanks to the Leena for inviting me to guest blog today. Thanks so much!

September sees the release of Jinx, the third book in my Bigtime superhero series. If you haven’t read the books, they’re set in Bigtime, N.Y., a city full of smart, sassy gals looking for love, sexy superheroes, and evil ubervillains. The books are just fun, sexy fantasies.

With the release of Jinx, I’m full of all the usual emotions – joy, elation, hope that readers will enjoy it, and relief that the book is finally, finally done and on the shelf after going through revisions, copy edits, and page proofs.

I’ve got a few books under my belt now, but it still feels like I learn something new about the book business every day. So in honor of Jinx’s release, I thought I’d share some of the best things I’ve discovered about being an author.

Fan mail: There’s nothing better than opening an e-mail or letter from someone who’s taken the time and energy to write and let you know how much she enjoyed your book. It always amazes and humbles me, and it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

Seeing your book on the shelf: This is another thrill, and visual proof that all your hard work has paid off, that your book is finally out there for folks to discover, read, and (hopefully!) love.

Meeting other authors: There are so many wonderful authors out there that I’ve read over the years. Meeting and talking to them in person has been a wonderful treat – and so is meeting new folks to add to my to-be-read pile.

Meeting other readers: Meeting other folks who share a common love of books and authors has also been another great treat.

Conferences: I love going to conferences, traveling to new cities, meeting new people, and learning new things at workshops.

Scoring free books at conferences: I love to read and try new authors, and picking up free books at conferences is always one of the highlights of the events for me – despite my towering TBR pile at home!

So there you have it. Some of my favorite things about the book business. Of course, there’s some bad stuff that goes along with being an author. But ninety percent of the time, the good far outweighs the bad – which is what makes being an author worthwhile.

As for coping with the bad stuff, well, that’s what chocolate, ice cream, and French fries are for. J

What about you? What do you love about writing or reading books? Share in the comments.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Have computers made your life easier?

They said computers were supposed to make our lives easier, whoever the nebulous “they” are. And in a lot of ways, the computer revolution has made things better. I stay in touch with my friends much more easily. Not only that, I have friends I would never have made without the Internet! I can connect with readers instantly. I can buy anything I want from wherever I want and usually for a lot cheaper than in a store. I don’t have to use White-out on my manuscripts. Hmm, do they even make White-out anymore?

The problem now is making sure your computer works efficiently. If it crashes, you better be sure you’ve kept up your backups and don’t lose your whole WIP. Yes, I’ve known people who lost it. Technology is changing so fast that it’s hard to keep up. The computer I bought just 3 years ago can no longer handle the tremendous data load (or whatever you call it) on the Internet. It’s sooooo slow. And try using dial-up! Oh my God! So, I finally decided it was time to get another computer. My husband and I went to Costco and bought a lovely desktop (I can still use the notebook for traveling even if it is slow). He bought a wi-fi adapter, then proceeded to spend all afternoon setting it up for me. How sweet. Except that it wouldn’t work. I could get on the Internet for five minutes, then the computer would lock up. Completely. Totally. Not even a mouse running around on my screen. The technician with whom he was on the phone for two hours finally decided it was a lemon and said we should take it back. Thank God Costco asks no questions when you return! So this time we spent a little (okay, a lot!) more money and got one that had wi-fi built in. The salesman at Costco (yes, they actually had a computer guy on premises) told us how great the touchscreen was. So, we set that one up. And really, it was quite easy. But then it wanted to download some upgrades off the Internet. I let it. Oh my God! It took 15 minutes to reboot. Every time I started it up, it took 15 minutes. And it didn’t like the Internet...and...and...the technician said it was a lemon and we should take it back. The salesman was still there. When he saw me, he hid. But I found him and told him my husband was waiting in line to return the computer! Are we stupid or what, we decided to buy another one! This time, we unpacked it right there in Costco and started it all up to make sure everything worked. Before I left, I shook my finger at the salesman and told him I’d be back if the thing crapped out.

So, I finally found one that wasn’t a lemon. But I’ve got a 3-year warranty, and 90 days to return it, and believe me, they will hear from me if it doesn’t work! Have you got any computer nightmares you want to share?

Just a bit of business, I’ve got a new blog, I’m giving away a book a week. So come on over and post a comment to be entered in the drawing. Hope to see you there for free books and scintillating discussion.

Oh, and one last thing! Please leave a comment on this blog, and I'll enter you in a drawing for a copy of my Jasmine book, Somebody's Lover! I'll post the winner first thing tomorrow so be sure to come back and check this blog in the morning. Have a great Sunday!

Jasmine Haynes and Jennifer Skully


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Plebe or Patrician

Are you a plebian or a patrician? Susan Wiggs recently did a newletter article in which she asked what do you really read – Gravity’s Rainbow or Nora. And what do you really watch – Planet Earth or Project Runway. Would your answer reflect who you really are or who you think you should be – and is that a commoner, an aristocrat or a combination?

So here’s my dirty little secret. I’m a fan of Ice Road Truckers. That’s the History Channel’s Canadian version of CB Charlie and his eighteen-wheeler. The plot - what little there is - revolves around the trials and tribulations of delivering massive equipment across the frozen Arctic sea. It’s not exactly Emmy winning, so why do I watch it? Because it’s mindless? Or perhaps it’s that plebian gene popping up.

On the patrician side of my personality, I have an extensive collection of fine European/English porcelain and china. My husband claims I’ve never met a plate I didn’t want to take home with me. In fact, I can serve 75 of my favorite friends on Spode, Royal Doulton, Minton, Villeroy & Boch and Heinrich. That doesn’t sound quite like Ice Road Trucker fan, huh? Add that to the fact I have some antiques that date back to when good old George was king and I suppose I can tote those up on the patrician side of the ledger.

So how about those plebe credentials? Considering I spent more time in the hallowed halls of academia than a sane person should, it’s ironic that I have more than my share of common proclivities. Here are some you might recognize.

I love football. There’s nothing quite like a crisp autumn day and the pageantry and excitement of the gridiron – not to mention the uniforms and the athletes wearing them – whew! Then there’s the matter of movies. Just the thought of an angst filled drama with Portuguese subtitles makes my eyes water. Give me a romantic comedy or a rompin’, stompin’ shoot ‘em up any day of the week. And I will freely admit this – I can recite lines from Monty Python. How about music? As a kid I studied Rimsky-Korsakov, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky. Now I groove to Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and Trace Adkins. How about a Honky-tonk, badoink, badoink?

And then there’s the matter of my ancestors. Keep in mind I’m a fourth generation Texan and we’re tough folks. Several years ago I discovered my great grandfather’s Confederate pension application. Seems the old boy had $25 and a cow. My sister and I think that’s a hoot. Either he was telling the truth and he was poor as a church mouse, or he was doing the 19th century version of fraud. Personally, I think it was the latter, but either way he wasn’t exactly landed gentry. I had another great grandfather who donned his bandoleer and rode with Pancho Villa.

Don’t you just love those disreputable ancestors?

So regardless of the fact I learned the correct fork to use before I was in kindergarten, I’m probably a plebe at heart – and proud of it. How about you and what do you really enjoy reading?

Ann DeFee
Goin' Down to Georgia, Harlequin American Romance, March 2008
The Man She Married, Harlequin American Romance, February 2009
Top Gun Dad, Harlequin American Romance, TBA

Winner of the 2008 Book Buyer's Best Award in the Long Contemporary category.

Friday, September 05, 2008

My favourite time of year - Donna Alward

Fall is my absolute favourite time of year. Even as a kid - I anticipated it more than the first snows of winter, or the arrival of mild spring days. I even loved it more than that last day of school and first day of summer vacation. For me, September was wonderful.

This picture is of the New Brunswick Agriculture Minister who happens to have the last name of Alward, and of Allison Carlisle, who bought our farm from us in the late 80's - so this is really where I grew up! Including the bins and the picking buckets.

September meant so many things. I grew up on an apple farm, so it meant picking, and packing, and crews coming back year after year. It meant crisp mornings and cool evenings and a sky so blue it would almost break your heart...there is nothing like a September sky. It meant back to school - seeing friends I hadn't seen all summer, fresh notebooks, sharp pencils, new books. It meant sports and band and all the other fun things that come with the school year.

I had to walk up the hill for the school bus, and about mid-September one of my favourite apple varieties was ripe. I'd stop at the very first row of the orchard and pick one on my way to the bus stop. And in the evenings, I'd hang out with my dad, writing on packing boxes or stickering bags, or just watching tv and doing homework.

I still look forward to it. When the sun loses its summer brashness and takes on the mellow warmth of fall, when the leaves start to change colours and you don't need to cut the grass every other day. (Incidentally - one of the things I'm looking forward to most is the leaves this year. Out west, we just didn't get the same colours. It was lovely and gilded but I missed the wild oranges and radiant reds.) When the weather changes and the days get shorter, that memory recall gives me a good feeling - it's back to school time. I feel like getting organized. Like learning something new. Like taking long walks and the moist smell of leaves on the ground. It reminds me of university, and going to new classes, and walking to the library in the afternoons, and having coffee in the cafeteria between lectures.

Of course, these days back to school also means an emptier house as the kids now get to make that walk to the school bus. I get back to a normal work routine. I exercise more. I get organized -and I freeze a lot of food. It's like I'm making my own little preparations for winter.

Now if I could only prepare myself right into having my next book completed....

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Covering covers

Although we as readers focus on the content of the books, one of the more important parts of book marketing is the cover. People really do judge books by their covers.
Until I became an author, I did not give covers much thought. They simply happened. Some caught my attention and some didn't but I was far more interested in the back cover copy.
However, now that I am an author, I do know that people are influenced to buy books by their covers and a lot of time and effort goes into making the covers as appealling and attractive as possible. They are the setting for the jewel that is the content. I know that there is the whole cult of the cover model. The art department try for a specific feel for a book. If the book is series book, then they are also trying to show the promise of the series.

As a Harlequin Mills and Boon author, I have to fill in an Art Fact Sheet. This is used to help find the art work. Series books and single title books have different art fact sheets. Because, Harlequin Historical is a single title within a series wrapper, historical authors have to fill out a slightly different AFS than series authors.

The art department working with the editorial team has to balance certain factors such as other books coming out that month and how they see the book being marketed versus the author's ideas of the key scenes in a book. Sometimes, Harlequin already owns a piece of artwork which will suit the mood, tenor and marketing hook of the book, and sometimes they commission the art work. For example with my first Roman, Gladiator's Honour, Harlequin did not have any Roman based art work, so they commissioned James Griffin Unfortunately, he does not have much about his process on his website.

But it piqued my interest. How do the artists work? How is the artwork created?

Luckily, Larry Roibal is not shy about explaining his process. While he does not historical covers (that I know about) he does do wonderful covers with a highly romantic feel. Donna Alward's Hired by the Cowboy is typical of his approach. He recently explained about his approach to covers on the Pink Heart Society. But still I wondered. Was that how the artists for Harlquin Historical approached thier work?

Judy York did the cover for Taken by the Viking and she spoke to Barnes and Noble about her process, including how she developed Taken by the Viking and some of her other covers. You can see the video here.

It is a slightly different appraoch to Larry's. I was impressed with the effort she put in to get the details right.

Is anyone else fascinated by covers? Or are you more interested in the story?

For authors, Holly Jacobs has a wonderful article in this month's RWR on the whole process of creating covers and tips from the Harlequin Art department for filling out the AFS...

By the way, sometimes authors get to see sneak peaks of their covers and sometimes, they don't. Right now, I am eagerly waiting to see the NA cover for Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife. Will it be the same as the UK cover or not? UPDATE -- I happen to check on Barnes and Noble. They have the VWUW cover up within the last day and it is very different. But now I am wondering - -who was the artist.

Back to School

Yesterday was my grandsons' first day of the school year. I'm so glad they're still young enough to find that exciting! And I'm delighted they called to tell me about their new teachers, and that they have the same bus driver, and how great it was to see some of the friends they haven't seen all summer.

By the end of the day tomorrow, I suspect, the excitement will have worn off a bit. The next time I ask "How was school today?" they'll say "Fine." I'll have to press to find out about the great grade they received on a math test, interesting book they have to read and report on, or about how much time they spent on the Internet or in the library to find out about how to climb a mountain or about the habitats of a frog.

Okay, so I admit, some subjects are more interesting than others. Frankly, I'm lousy at Math. Simple arithmetic I can handle, but some of what the boys were doing last year was beyond me. Luckily, they have a fantastic Student Reference Book that can help Grandma out when she's flummoxed over a question about angles!

What I hope they're seeing by example is that learning is a never ending process. Their mother (my daughter) is taking college classes this year, working toward her next degree. The boys are very aware that I'm always reading history books as research for my novels. At the moment I'm reading LONDON LABOUR AND THE LONDON POOR, Volume 1, by Henry Mayhew – a very interesting look at Victorian England.

What have you been learning about lately? Have you taken a new class? Yoga? Knitting? Ceramics? Writing? Or has a book or documentary added to your store of knowledge? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mistress of Pleasure is finally here! Purchase a lesson...if you dare.

Today is a very exciting day for me!!! Why? Because my first book, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, officially hits stores. (Gleefully clapping hands here). It took me almost 11 years, over forty manuscripts and over two hundreds rejection letters (one of those rejections coming from my own editor, LOL) to get to where I finally am. And instead of the usual throwing of pitches and excerpts and what not, I decided to keep it simple a give a story behind the story.

Behind every book, as you all know, there is a story. And needless to say, behind my upcoming debut, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, which centers around a school that educates men on the topic of love and seduction, there are several. Because I don’t want to write a book about THE book, I’ve decided to elaborate as simply as I can about the inspiration behind the creation of MISTRESS OF PLEASURE. That inspiration first coming from my research, when I stumbled upon Ninon de L’Enclos, a French 17th century courtesan.

Truth be told, I find it rather astounding that this fascinating woman somehow disappeared into the shadows of history. She is but a ghost whenever the topic of courtesans arise. For we usually hear of the same old, same old courtesans like Kitty Fisher, Cora Pearl or Harriette Wilson. Let me be the first to tell you, however, that none of these women could possibly rival Ninon de L’Enclos or her life. But don’t take my word for it. Research her on your own and come to your conclusion. Bottom line, Ninon’s thoughts, philosophies, and her approach toward men and sex went beyond anything I have ever seen in a woman of her day.

Much like other courtesans, she kept her bedroom door open to aristocratic men, yes. But unlike other courtesans, she kept that bedroom door open for more than just sex. This woman actually held meetings and classes in the confines of her bedchamber where men of all ages would come to visit in order to discuss topics of sex, philosophy and love. These so-called meetings fascinated me and in turn, began to create the growing threads of what is now Mistress of Pleasure. The more I researched, the more excited I became. For there was almost too much to work with. For instance, Ninon had various lovers, as you might imagine. But to one lover in particular, she birthed a son. A son who was raised apart from her to never know who she was due to her being a courtesan. Then one day, when her son was a grown man, he happened to one day meet Ninon. And fell madly in love with her. (And no, I’m not bloody making this up…). Though she had sworn to never reveal her identity to her son, because his advances were growing more and more passionate and he altogether outright refused to leave her be, she finally told him the truth. That she was in fact his mother and that was why there would never be a sexual relationship between them. Her son was so overwhelmed and distraught by the confession, that he left her house and committed suicide by falling onto the blade of his own sword. Another story, somewhat less morbid, was about one man who begged and begged Ninon to admit him into her bed. She refused him time and time again and finally told him, “Return when I am eighty. Then I shall bed you.” The besotted fool took her words quite literally and arrived on her doorstep many, many years late, when she turned eighty. Ninon was so amused, she ended up bedding him, after all.

As you can tell by the stories I am selecting, it is the older Ninon that ultimately fascinated me. Which created a dilemma for my writing. Because my heroine couldn’t possibly be an elderly lady. It would never sell. But then I got to thinking. What if she were a grandmother of the heroine? Now THAT had possibilities. At about the same time I started writing AN IMPROPER EDUCATION (which is what I called it before the publisher changed it), MY grandmother re-appeared in my life. After 20 years of complete and utter silence. Which is a whole other story I don’t have time to go into… Soon, I discovered that the grandmother I never knew was actually an opera singer who had married into American Aristocracy and was living the life of a queen. My grandmother had an air of royalty to her and was quite beautiful for a woman her age. She had a heavy accent, walked with a sashay and always used amusing little words that I’d never heard before. For instance, she referred to sex as “Poom-poom.” She amused me so much so, that I could not help but morph her and Ninon together to create the fictional character that ultimately became Madame de Maitenon, who is both the creator of the School of Gallantry and the grandmother of my heroine, Maybelle de Maitenon. And so, I ended up with a story about a retired French courtesan who opens up a school that educates men on the topic of love and seduction, and the granddaughter who is unexpectedly forced to take over the operation of the school and educate all the men. Even though she has very little personal experience. Life certainly makes for some interesting fiction. And I have to say, I’m glad for it. At least in the case of this book. For an excerpt, more information or to sign up for my newsletter, please head over to my website,
Delilah Marvelle