Saturday, January 31, 2009

Being Keyboard Smart - Nancy Warren

I’m off to hot fusion yoga soon. It’s my new discovery. I’ve learned the hard way that writing is an occupation that is very hard on the body. We think it’s easy sitting around all day but in fact horrible dangers lurk. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, back troubles, neck troubles, not to mention the expanding derriere, you know the one that turns your back end into a shelf suitable for storing the books you spend all day writing? So, anyway, after months of my hands turning blue after about twenty minutes at the keyboard, I now have a neurologist, physiotherapist, massage therapist, rehab Dr. -- a plethora of medical professionals working on my poor aching body. Don’t let that happen to you. I offer the following suggestions learned from painful experience. Don’t get so caught up in writing, reading, blogging, playing online solitaire, emailing, whatever you do at the keyboard, that you don’t take time out. I now have to set a timer for every twenty minutes to make sure I stretch. I think even a ten minute stretch break every hour would be fantastic. Strengthening the core muscles and getting regular exercise is obviously important as is sitting up straight. It’s so easy to start slouching as you get tired. Anyway, I hope my sad history will inspire you to keyboard smarter!

However, in good news, blue hands or not, I’ve got a brand new Blaze out for February, Under the Influence. When a workaholic management consultant on assignment in a laid back surfing town on the California coast walks into a restaurant/bar one night in February she’s so clueless she doesn’t even realize it’s Valentine’s Day until she notices the place is crowded with romantic twosies and she’s the only onesie in the place. Except for the sexy bartender known locally as Hot Johnny. With no place to sit, she ends up at the bar and the two develop an instant attraction. I really love opposites attract stories, and the truth is that I met the real Hot Johnny in a coast side surfing town. How could I not write about him? Of course, my Hot Johnny is entirely fictional but I did borrow the name. I also made full use of him for background info and I got some insight into how a bartender goes about inventing a new cocktail. RT gave Under the Influence 4.5 stars and a Top Pick.

This month I’m also part of Harlequin’s 60th Anniversary celebration. My first NASCAR novel, Speed Dating is available as a free download at, so check it out. You can visit me anytime at

Happy Valentine’s Month. Make sure to treat yourself.

Happy reading,


Friday, January 30, 2009

You Say It's Your Birthday?!.......'s my birthday, too, yeah!

Alas, it is my birthday today and I'm tempted to use some of that new-fangled math to come up with a number I like more than the real number (doesn't that new math still allow for imaginary numbers?). But, after facing some serious glitches in the matrix of life a couple of years ago, I guess I'm just fine starting my 53rd year on planet Earth.

Even though I'm acknowledging my body's age, I have to say that I don't think I'm really that old yet. At least not in mind and spirit. I still have things to do, places I want to see, people I want to meet, books I want to read...and write...., music to hear and people I want to be like when I grow up!! I think I've always been one of those people who never acts or thinks like their age. Now sometimes, that's not a nice thing to say, but I take it as a compliment because I think, as that "Kick the Can" episode of TWILIGHT ZONE taught us, that you are only as old as you let yourself be.

And, my habit at this time of year, not necessarily New Year, but on my birthday eve, is to think ahead at where I want to be or what I want to have memories of on my next birthday. Since I did this on January 29th, 2008 --
-- I've written two novels, one novella, and a short story,

-- I've signed with a new publisher to write 3 more books,

-- I hired a new agent,

-- I spent 3 weeks traveling all over the UK and got to climb the scaffolding to the top of Rosslyn Chapel, see the Highlands in the middle of a snowstorm, listened to harpists from all over the world, met a world-renowned scientist who spoke on how storytelling is one of two biggest differences between human and ape brains!, visited a library built in the 1700s, and rode buses all over London and Edinburgh, talking to the locals and meeting so many nice people!

-- took my hubby and son (and his friend) from San Francisco to southern California to Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon to Phoenix, meeting friends and romance readers and writers all along the way

-- celebrated countless family and friend birthdays and anniversaries and other happy occasions

-- had a wonderful quiet holiday season at home with family.

Are you tired yet? I am! LOL! So, 2009 has a lot to live up to if I compare it to 2008, but I've discovered that each year is special and offers wonderful occasions and events and milestones to remember. So what can 2009 bring to me to make it stand out.

Well, I think I am on the brink of a wonderful year ahead. How do I know? According to my horoscope over at Astrology 2009 is MY YEAR! Okay, I have to share this fantabulous year with other Aquarians, but I'm willing because apparently there's lot of fabulous to share. I take horoscopes with a grain of salt, of course, but the last time Jupiter was in my sign (12 years ago in 1997) I finished my second manuscript, was on Lifetime TV with Debbie Macomber and Harlequin editor Paula Eyckelhof promoting it , I signed with my first agent, and sold my first book! So, I'm thinking this whole 'Jupiter in Aquarius' thing could be good again for me?

What do I hope for? Where do I want to be on birthday eve 2010?

The answer is the same each year -- to be surrounded by family and friends, to be in good health, to be writing books that my readers enjoy, to be seeing the places I want to see, doing the things I enjoy, meeting the people I like and new ones, too, and just being here.

The rest of it is all icing on the cake of life -- to be enjoyed, to make memories, but not essential to my savoring the plain, simple parts.

So yes! It's my birthday, too, yeah! How do you celebrate your birthday? Do you look behind or look ahead? What's the best thing, personally or professionally, that happened to you in 2008? Leave a comment and share it with me and I'll send something out to 2 randomly-selected posters, not limited to Aquarians so as to spread the good cheer around!


Terri's next release will be her Harlequin Historical UNDONE!, available online in June 2009, followed by the first book in her new "Knights of Brittany" trilogy, THE CONQUEROR'S LADY, for Harlequin Historicals, available in bookstores and online in July 2009. Then, watch for her first Kensington BRAVA historical romance, A STORM OF PASSION, available in December 2009. Visit her website at: for more info on books, Terri, contests and everything!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Once in a Lifetime Experiences - Annie West

Have you ever had one of those special experiences, the ones that come along so rarely we’re liable to think they only happen once in a lifetime? It might be big like a wedding in the perfect place to the perfect man just as you’d dreamed it. Or it something simple: a wonderful summer or a day doing something special with your friends that is so fabulous the memory of it lasts for years.

I’ve had some. There was the day Harlequin advised they wanted to buy my first book written for them (I remember the time, date, weather, etc in perfect detail)! On a smaller scale, recently with time running out before my daughter’s formal (a little like a prom) we ventured out after her last exams and found the ideal dress that made her look a million dollars, at a price I could afford, – within half an hour!

I’ve just been blessed with another ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, the sort I know I’ll carry with me the rest of my life. I spent December with my family travelling in Europe, visiting friends we haven’t seen in years, seeing familiar places we love and exploring new ones. It was the sort of trip you dream of.

We didn’t miss any of our connections. We didn’t lose either luggage or kids. We stayed on friendly terms through the whole month (which, let’s face it, can be a real test when travelling). Our hotels were terrific. Our friends as lovely as we remembered and almost every day brought a wonderful new experiences to be treasured.

As Australians who rarely see snow we were thrilled to have it sprinkle on us just as we walked into a walled, cobble-stoned medieval town to visit a traditional German Christmas market. We had a sparkling bright day in the Alps when we went for a horse drawn sleigh ride. We stayed in an oasthouse, a half-timbered hotel that was 550 years old, a castle perched high above vineyards and villages, and in rooms right next to the Seine in Paris. We got the last tickets to a Royal Shakespeare Company production in London, were invited to a Christmas concert in the private chapel of a German schloss and had a day in an old-style farmhouse in the Bavarian Woods.

Above all, we were welcomed, not only by our friends but by strangers as well. The woman in the incredibly upmarket chocolate shop in Paris who positively beamed when I sneaked in and used up my whole store of French (about four words) to buy chocolate truffles. The bus driver who circled back to drop us where we needed to be. The host of our tiny hotel in Bavaria who farewelled us with chocolates and a bottle of bubbly.

Being able to share it all with my family was the best thing of all. Sharing those smiles and those experiences was a tremendous gift. Plus, I have to say, I’ve now got one or two exciting ideas fermenting for future stories, inspired by places we visited. You can see how inspired I was, staying at a fairytale castle!

Have you ever had a special experience that has stayed with you ever since? Large or small, was it something you look back on with joy? I’d love to hear about it.

And, as I’m so thrilled because I’ve just seen the cover of my next North American release on Amazon, I’ll give away a copy of THE DESERT KING’S PREGNANT BRIDE to someone who comments.

The book will be in stores in mid April, or can be ordered from Amazon. A Romance Junkies review described the book like this: “Annie West captures her readers with a lure as magical as tales from Arabian Nights. THE DESERT KING’S PREGNANT BRIDE has all the magical elements of a good romance superbly woven into a timeless masterpiece. " You can read about the story on my website (where there’s also a contest running for more books).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Talking Through Wood

Talking through Wood

Writing is like talking to someone through wood--oak, cherry, maple. You have an idea, a feeling, a theme, maybe a character and a plot. You want to present all of those elements cleanly and clearly to the person next to you, and that's when you realize that there is a block of wood between you.

“Hello out there,” you say.

“Huh?” the other person says. “What?”

But you don't give up. You write and you write and you write. You revise and edit. You shine and polish. You read it to someone else, who seems to get it. And then you present your story to the person next to you. The reader says, "What were you trying to say about love?"

In your mind, love was theme not to missed, the theme that arced and sang. To the reader, it was a mess of emotion and wasted space.

You try again, and again, and maybe the wood shaves itself down to the very finest balsa wood. It's still there between the two of you, but the reader nods, holds up your manuscript, nods.

"Good stuff," the reader says, walking away, looking for someone else to talk to, another person with a big old block of wood next to her head.

How exhausting.

But the truth is, if the reader doesn't see the love in my story, I haven't done my job. There is nothing wrong with the reader. I am just communicating to him in the hardest way possible. Through words where all my emotion, feelings, body language, voice, and tone must come through print. I can't smile during the encouraging sections or wave my hands during the fight scene. I can’t drag you aside and whisper in your ear all that I was thinking about while writing. I can’t hand over the Cliffs Notes of my story. All my words need to move the reader and the words alone must do the dirty, clean, hard, wonderful work.

I fail all the time.

This week in my composition classes, I was talking about revision and editing. I happened to have the manuscript that I'm working on with me, a hard copy of the pieces in the collection. I've been reading through my work it as my students do their in-class writing, and I picked it up to show them all the scribbles I made on every page. I showed them all the corrections and additions, and then I said, "This that I’m writing all over is probably the sixth draft of each piece."

“No way,” Alex said.

“This is not possible,” Sun Jung said.

All my classes were horrified. They didn't want to hear about my revision process at all. They like to look at the pristine beauty of their Word words on the computer screen and then click on print. Once. They staple the pages together and then turn in their papers. At that point, they and I are communicating with a Mount Diablo between us, a mountain of iron and dirt and clay. Often, I have no idea what they are saying, and they are incensed that this is the case. They imagine that along with their essays they've turned in a tiny version of themselves that speaks to me as I read: "See that paragraph?” the little person says. “That's where I get serious. Yes, yes. The grammar isn't so good. Keep going. Look how I used the word 'adversary.' Works well, huh? Smile now! I'm making a joke, but just ignore the spelling error."

After I am done reading, I have to put all the little people into a box and give them a sharp talking to, turning them back to their bigger selves the next day. "No more little people!” I say.

“They eat too much and make noise all night" I shout. "Put the information in the writing!"

One day, I hope to write so well that there is only a tiny silvery sliver of almost nothing between me and my reader, but I don't imagine that's the way it will go. Mostly, I know I will be here, typing away, trying to say it the best I can, knowing that the reader will never see what I see completely. But I want to get close. Very close.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Year, New Authors - by Miriam Parker

January seems like a time when things that are NEW are good. New presidents, new diets, new goals. So I thought I would tell you about some of the new writers that I know are going to be coming up in the next few months that I’ve fallen in love with and that I think you will too.

We started the year off with a bang with two authors that I just can’t get enough of, for COMPLETELY different reasons. Josh Bazell is super hilarious and his debut novel BEAT THE REAPER seems so well conceived that it’s like he’s already secretly written ten novels and has just deigned to give us this one perfect one. Also, he’s in medical school which makes me feel quite lazy for JUST having a regular job. How does he do it? Regardless, he did and I thank him for it. If that wasn’t enough, you’ll just have to view this video for yourself so you know how great the book will be/is.

Also this month is a novel that you will devour called THE LITTLE GIANT OF ABERDEEN COUNTY, a novel about a girl named Truly who grows physically and emotionally beyond her small town's wildest expectations. I haven’t been as astonished by a debut since I read GODS IN ALABAMA by Joshilyn Jackson.

I also have to just mention that another debut author, Michael Shilling, wrote a super fun book about a rock band in decline called ROCK BOTTOM and has an amazing website where the songs by the band are covered by other bands. You’ve got to listen to them.

In February we are publishing GALWAY BAY which is a novel that has been in the works for many years. The story is loosely based on the author’s immigration experience from Ireland to the US which seems so timely right now that we have entered an age where the son of an immigrant is our president.

I’m also super excited about THE MAKEDOWN by Gitty Daneshvari who is a voice that you will be hearing a lot from in the future. Gitty and I had breakfast a few months ago and I just think that she is a kindred spirit who also happens to be so funny that you will literally cry with laughter when you read her book.

And then just to give you a little preview of what’s coming up in March in the world of the debut writer, we have David Cristofano who has insider government experience, writing a novel about the world of the Witness Protection program and THE CRADLE which is a debut novel for Patrick Somerville, a lovely and compact story about a man who goes on a journey for a long lost piece of furniture and finds so much more.

Miriam Parker is the Associate Director of Online Marketing for the Hachette Book Group. You can contact her at

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Geek In Me - by Amy Knupp

The Geek In Me
by Amy Knupp

Every author has a different way of coming up with her characters. I’ve taken a lot of classes on the subject because character building is my favorite part of writing. I love the psychology involved and think it’s fascinating to find out major events from a character’s past and then figure out how that would affect him or her in the present.

One of my favorite tools to create characters is the enneagram. The ennea-what? Scary word, I know. Sounds a bit technical and dry, hence my geek label for myself, but if you can get over that, I promise, enneagrams are fun!

An enneagram is basically a personality type. If you think of the Myers-Brigg test that lets you know if you’re an introvert or extrovert, thinking or feeling, etc., this is similar. But instead of all the initials that stand for stuff, it uses numbers 1 through 9 to label the different enneagram types.

The nine types of enneagrams are:

1 The Perfectionist

2 The Helper

3 The Achiever

4 The Romantic

5 The Observer

6 The Questioner

7 The Adventurer

8 The Challenger

9 The Peacemaker

Some of these are easy to figure out by their names. But the great thing about enneagrams is that there are lots of subdivisions to account for differences between people and also to account for where they are in their maturity or mental health. (A mentally “healthy” nurturer is different from an unhealthy, suffering nurturer, for example.)

My Salinger Sister trilogy with Harlequin Superromances has characters that I’ve crafted based on certain enneagram types.

Lindsey Salinger (from The Boy Next Door) is a 2 enneagram, a nurturer. She’s the oldest sister of three and when their mother was killed by a drunk driver when they were teens, she’s the one who made sure everyone was okay. Her struggle is putting her own needs first for once in her life.

Katie Salinger is the youngest sister and a 7, the Adventurer. When their mother died, she turned into Danger Girl and adopted the motto: Live life to the fullest because you never know what will happen tomorrow. Her story (Doctor in Her House) is about falling in love with Noah, a family doctor who values security, safety and peace above everything.

Savannah Salinger is the heroine of my current release, The Secret She Kept. She’s an 8, the Challenger. And to make things interesting, her hero, Jake, is an 8 as well. Because they’re both so stubborn and strong-willed, sparks fly whenever they’re together.

I like to take enneagrams a step farther and figure out what the people in my real life are. (This drives my husband crazy, I’m fairly certain, but sometimes it helps me to understand certain people better.)

I myself am a 6 enneagram, the loyalist or the questioner. Another name for this type is the Worrier, and all three of these fit me well.

So anyone want join me in my geekiness? Want to guess just by the titles which type of enneagram you are? And then, if you have about 10 extra minutes, you can take an online enneagram test (36 multiple choice questions) to find out if you were right. You can find a good test here:

If you do take the test, let us know what enneagram it said you are and whether or not you agree.

(If you’re interested in learning more, the book I referred to for this blog post is The Ennegram Made Easy by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele. I also used the Enneagram Institute website:

Thanks to Lee for inviting me to be here today!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Late to the party - Amanda Ashby

Of course when I called this post 'late to the party' I wasn't being literal since between genetics, oldest child syndrome and being born as an impatient Aries, being late isn't really my style (and by late I mean not being early). However, when it comes to trends and popular culture, that is another thing entirely and I'm afraid to say that I'm almost always late.

Take for example my current favorite CD. Nirvana. And no, I'm not listening to it because I'm feeling reflective or trying to relive my glory days, I'm listening to it for the first time and finally understand why they are considered such an amazing band (though I have to tell you that there is nothing quite so uncool as a 40 year old mother of 2 driving along pretending that she is a grunge loving 18 year old drop out).

Another thing I've only just got into is Battlestar Galactica which I see Donna has recently blogged about. How did I manage to miss it the first time around? Was I living under a rock? Especially since thanks to being a 40 year old mother, I do remember watching the series from the first time around and I was a fan back then. Anyway, the good news is that I've only watched the first season so I have a lot of viewing pleasure to go. Not to mention it will help me decide if Starbuck really could kick Jack Bauer's ass? I'm thinking yes, though perhaps it's too soon for me to call it?

But I digress, I'm talking about my habit of coming to things a bit late, and it seems there is one small exception to this habit of a lifetime. Zombies. Yeah, I know, if you're going to break a habit you might as well do it in a random style.

Anyway, when I decided to write a zombie book (spurred on by red wine, a love of Shaun of the Dead and the bad habit of laughing every time I heard the 'z' word) I had no idea that anyone else would even be thinking about zombies let alone writing about them. But through some weird fluke of having the right idea at the right time, it seems that for now zombies are most definitely the new black, or at least the new vampire and there are five of us who have zombie books coming out in the next two months. Weird huh?

My own young adult book, Zombie Queen of Newbury High is about what happens with a teenage girl accidentally turns her entire senior year into flesh eating zombies and has to find a cure before they eat her (and totally ruin prom) and is out in March.

Then there is Stacey Jay, whose young adult book You Are So Undead to Me came out yesterday and is about Megan Berry who tries to balance her life as a zombie settler and a school girl with comic results. Another young adult book is Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth about what happens after a zombie Apocalypse. Then there is SG Browne's amazing zombie lament called Breathers, which is a must read for everyone because it is so brilliant. And finally there is Mark Henry's second zombie book called Road Trip of the Living Dead, which is sort of like Sex in the City but with better clothing and more flesh eating.

Of course after zombies I'm pretty sure I'll go back to being about ten years behind the time, but in the meantime I'm going to pretend that I totally did it on purpose. Now, did I put my legwarmers and my Frankie Says Relax tee-shirt?

Amanda Ashby
You Had Me at Halo (out now) 4 1/2 stars Romantic Times
Zombie Queen of Newbury High (March 2009)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Grandma and the Prince: Part 3 (a prequel!)

Thanks to Lee Hyatt for inviting me to continue Grandma El's story here at Tote Bags & Blogs. Trust me, there's lots more to come. Today I'm offering some back story, a peek into the world (and the family) my grandmother was born into. It reads like the start of an historical romance to me. One that may or may not have a happy ending. I hope you enjoy it.

Note: my grandmother had a habit of scribbling notes all over her photographs. At least when she wasn't scissoring out people she no longer liked.

Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.

* * *

Once upon a time, let’s say around 1900, a little girl named Elsie Isobel lived in a big house on a hill.

The house was called Sea View and it was situated in Litherland Park, a section of Liverpool, England. ("Bootle" is also scribbled on the back of the photo.)

Elsie lived there with her mother Ellen, her father Charles, her brother Cass, and her sister Edith, and the entire Dimler clan. They didn’t live there long. A few years later Charles “sold” his daughter Edith to childless relatives and used the proceeds to move the rest of his clan to New Zealand where they would find fame and fortune. Grandma El didn't know exactly why he had to leave England so abruptly but the whispers said it was because of a woman. "He was a divil of a man," she used to say with a twinkle in her eyes. "A real charmer." Which was code for the fact that Great-Grandpa Charley didn't much pay attention to the fidelity part of his wedding vows.

Here's my great-grandfather Charley who died in New York City in his 47th year. Personally I think he looks like trouble.

Together they were a scary group. I don’t mean to give you nightmares but here they are, circa 1890, before Elsie and her siblings were born:

They’re my ancestors and they scare the hell out of me. They look like Victoria and Albert . . . and the kids they didn’t talk about.

See the young couple on the left in the picture? They’re my great-grandparents, Ellen and Charles. Elsie's parents. They are newlyweds in this photograph. Take a good look at Ellen, please, and tell me if that’s the face of a happy young bride.

I don’t think so either.

See the man and woman next to Ellen and Charles? They’re Charles’s parents, George and Barbara, the owners of Sea View. Family lore has it that George died in the bed of the dairy farmer’s daughter and the servants lugged his big old carcass back across the lawn to the main house so they could claim he died a gentleman’s death in his own marital bed. Hah! Grandma El told me countless times that he liked to follow the serving wenches up the stairs so he could slip his hands up their heavy black skirts. They wouldn’t dare say anything to the master of the house. Not if they wanted to keep their positions.

Next comes George’s namesake, his eldest son George, and Georgie’s wife Peg. The kids had a nickname for Peg. They called her Hairy Toes because she had the habit of slipping silently through the mansion, peering through keyholes and eavesdropping on conversations.

Then we have William and Katie, two more siblings, followed by daughter Kate and her husband Frederick Ziegler. George the Elder never forgave Katie for marrying a German even though the Dimlers shared the same origins.

Now go back to the photo one more time and take a good look at the big beautiful dog on the front lawn. What a lovely animal. So handsome and well-behaved.

Can you imagine my Aunt Edith’s shock when she returned to Sea View in the early 1960s and found the dog still there on the front lawn?

You see, the Dimlers loved their dog. They loved him so much that when he died, they couldn’t bear to part with him so they had him stuffed and placed him on the front lawn. They weren’t entirely weird and heartless, however. They did bring him in when it rained.

Which is probably more than my Aunt Edith could say about her years with them.

To be continued . . .

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton, author of CASTING SPELLS, and you can find me here and here and here. Remember to leave a comment.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Everything is Relative! - by Holly Jacobs

Everything is Relative.

The dogs and I took three days off from our daily walks because it was soooo cold. Single digit cold. With negative temps when you factored in windchills. Today was almost balmy...we got into the twenties!! The dogs and I took two long walks. What? You’re saying. Temps in the twenties are balmy?? Hey, everything is relative.

Last week, we took less walks than normal, not because of frigid temperatures, but because our two out-of-town kids came home along with their significant others. The house was overflowing and much louder than it generally is, and it was fun... But as much as I love the kids, I was ready for some quiet when they left. Now, I know that when the kids were younger I wouldn’t have thought anything of all the chaos last week. Back then, we had all four kids still at was just some far off idea. Not only our kids, we had their friends and the dogs...and fish and hamsters, a couple cats... Our house wasn’t just full, it was overflowing. A quiet day was one in which there was only an even dozen people in and out of the house. These days, quiet is mainly just me all day while the dh is working and kids are in school. My concept of quiet has changed...everything is relative.

These days, I tend to write more chaos than live it. My newest trilogy for Harlequin American Romance (Once Upon a Thanksgiving, a Christmas, a Valentine's) features three single moms who missed the first PTA meeting of the year and got “volunteered” for the Social Planning Committee. They all are balancing jobs, kids, the committee, and while they’re at it, they form a tight friendship, and fall in love.

Chaos. friends, family and love...I love to write about it all. For so many years, I lived it all. I was that PTA mom. These days, I’m less PTA and more RWA, but both offer a kinship of women. And no matter how big my kids get, they’ll always be imps, like the kids in my stories. They’re still the kids who rode bikes in to parked cars (and needed to go to the emergency room), or made a contest of throwing mudballs at the house (what were they thinking?) or even had their own bathrobe ties turned into ropes for rappelling off the garage roof... At the time I thought the only thing they were giving me were grey hairs, but in the end, what they gave me is a college-worthy education on what kids are really like that has prepared me for writing books. Hey, everything being relative, it was the best training ground ever! It's like a graduated from university with a master's degree in kids! LOL

So, let’s talk you have any kid stories to share?? My most "active" kid was at the emergency room so often I worried they were going to send children's services after me!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rediscovering a genre - Lee Hyat

Last November I fell in love with the young adult genre all over again. I thought I'd left that love behind a long time ago but I was wrong. I'd never felt tempted to pick up the Harry Potter books like so many of my online friends did. I watched the movies, enjoyed them thoroughly and left it at that. I'd never felt compelled to want to know more.

Then the Twilight mania hit. My daughter and I watched the movie and I "had" to start reading the first book that very night! I'd forgotten how much I really enjoyed young adult novels. I felt again the thrill of discovering a new genre (only this time, it's REdiscovering one). You know, that awesome feeling that you've hit the genre jackpot and there's soooo many new books/authors out there to discover?

It's been fun. Maybe more so because I'm not alone in this. My daughter and I are doing the discovering together and it's just helping to make our bond stronger. Once we were done with the Twlight Saga, we discovered the world Rachel Caine built in the Morganville Vampires series. Last week an author friend recommended Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series so that's next on our list.

At the moment though, we're working our way through Shelley Adina's "US" series. So far, most of my young adult reading has been steeped in the paranormal so I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy these books... but I'm happy to say that book 1 has caught and kept my attention quite well so far!

it’s all about us
may 2008
isbn 0-446-17798-9

Some things you just know without being told. . . .
Like you passed the math final (or you didn't). Like your boyfriend isn't into you anymore and wants to break up. Or . . . you're the New Girl and your junior year is going to be utterly miserable.

Lissa Mansfield is used to being in the "in" crowd--but being accepted by the popular girls at posh Spencer Academy boarding school in San Francisco is a lot harder than she thought. And then there's her New-York-loudmouth roommate, Gillian Chang, who's not just happy to be a Christian herself--she's determined to out Lissa, too. If Lissa can just keep her faith under wraps long enough to hook Callum McCloud, the hottest guy in school, she'll be golden.
But when Callum pressures her to go all the way with him, Lissa has to decide how far is too far. How can she see that line when he's so gorgeous and popular and God seems so far away? Between that and shopping for a knockout dress and booking the hottest celeb for the Benefactor's Day Ball . . . who knew finding a place at Spencer Academy would be so complicated?

“In the first novel of her new YA series, Adina does a good job realistically portraying characters who are not only growing up, but doing so with religion as a huge constant in their lives. Rarely, if ever, are the characters preachy, and Lissa and Gillian are fine role models for any religion.” --Romantic Times BookReviews

the fruit of my lipstick
august 2008
isbn 0-446-17797-0

Top Five Clues that He’s the One

1. 1.He’s smart, which is why he’s dating you and not the queen of the snob mob.
2. 2.He knows he’s hot, but he thinks you’re hotter.
3. 3.He’d rather listen to you than himself.
4. 4.You’re in on his jokes—not the butt of them.
5. 5.He always gives you the last cookie in the box.

New Yorker Gillian Chang starts her second term at posh Spencer Academy boarding school in San Francisco prepared to focus on her studies, her faith, and her friends. She plays a dozen musical instruments and can recite the periodic table of the elements backward. She's totally prepared for everything--except love!

She's falling hard for Lucas Hayes, who isn't even a senior yet and is already aiming at a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford. The problem is, she never seems to be able to measure up and be the girlfriend he wants. He's under a lot of pressure from his parents to achieve--maybe that's why he's short-tempered sometimes. But even a thick-skinned girl like Gillian can only take so much.

With her heart on the line, Gillian conceals more and more from her friends. So when she's accused of selling exam answer sheets, even her girlfriends, Lissa Mansfield and Carly Aragon, wonder if it can be true. Can Gillian hang onto her integrity--and her faith--when she loses her heart to Lucas?

“Shelley Adina hit a perfect balance. Her characters are strong Christians, and their faith is a big part of the story ... but she never really hits you over the head with it. It's just a part of their lives, just like shopping and cute boys are a part of their lives. ...I laughed out loud during many of Gillian's descriptions of her family, actually hearing my Asian husband's aunties' voices in my head. Shelley provides a fantastic glimpse into Chinese-American culture and the struggle of trying to fit into two different worlds.”

be strong and curvaceous
january 2009
isbn 0-446-17799-7

Be careful what you wish for. I used to think that was the dumbest saying ever. I mean, when you wish for something, by definition it’s wonderful, right? Like a new dress for a party. Or a roommate as cool as Gillian Chang or Lissa Mansfield. Or having a guy notice you after six months of being invisible. Before last term, of course I wanted those wishes to come true. I don’t anymore.

After spending spring break in Mexico with her grandparents, Carly Aragon can't wait to get back to school at Spencer Academy in San Francisco. With Lissa Mansfield and Gillian Chang by her side, she's ready for anything ... except a new roommate. Lady Lindsay MacPhail, flamboyant daughter of the Earl of Strathcairn, quickly becomes Carly's worst nightmare. "Mac" not only swoops in and steals Carly's privacy, she's also stealing Brett Loyola--Carly's biggest crush!

But when Mac starts receiving strange, threatening e-mails, she and Carly must come together to figure out who's behind them and why. In the end, the fate of one girl will lie in the other's hands. Will the two learn to trust one another and trust God?

“Reading Be Strong & Curvaceous flooded me with memories of my high school days. While the surroundings and scenes were different, there were certain staples that read just like my life: the close friendships, the longing to be accepted, the desire for my first real boyfriend, and most of all, being introduced to Jesus. I only wish Shelley Adina’s All About Us series had been around in my day. I recommend it for any young adult who wants to escape to another world and find that they are not alone in their feelings and experiences.”
—American Idol finalist Mandisa

So tell me about you - have you discovered a new genre / sub-genre lately? How about a new-to-you author? Discoveries like that are such fun! Especially if the author has a looong backlist to glom! Share your thoughts and I'll pick a winner in a couple of days who will recieve a Starbucks giftcard and a couple of books from My Tote Bag too!

***The Winner is Leslie! Thanks to everyone who left a comment. :) Leslie, please email me at with your full name and mailing address so I can get your prize to you!***

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Oscar Night - Lori Borrill

Next week is a big week in our house. It's the week that the Oscar nominations are announced.

My hubby is a movie buff, and it's a big form of our entertainment. He goes to the theater weekly, and while I don't have the time for that, I try to see some of the bigger films so that I'm hip when Oscar night comes around. It's no surprise that when it comes to deciding what films I like, writing plays a big part. I've found the more I learn about constructing stories, the more I appreciate a well written, well plotted movie. On the other hand, hubby is all about the acting. His adoration lies in a good acting performance, and as you can probably imagine, that can sometimes put us on different sides of the fence.

We did come together last night (for the purpose of this blog) to make our preliminary picks for five of the categories:

Best Actor: We're pegging Mickey Roarke for this slot, even though we haven't seen The Wrestler yet. But judging by the story and what we've seen from the trailers, he's the sentimental pick over our other favorite, Sean Penn, for Milk.

Best Actress: I'm hoping for Meryl Streep, for Doubt. If you haven't seen it, the movie itself was above average, but her performance was amazing.

Best Supporting Actor: We're going with Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight. Twisted, well done.

Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet in The Reader. I didn't see this movie, but hubby did. It's his pick and I can't argue simply based on what I saw in the trailers and the fact that she's a multi-nominated acress who hasn't yet won. I'm thinking this will be her year.

Best Picture: And so I bring you to the major quandary in our house. I have to admit, I haven't seen any movie this year that has matched such greats as last year's No Country For Old Men or Juno. (Both taking home the gold for writing, if I might add). Without seeing The Wrestler yet, which is the only wildcard left outstanding, our pick is Slumdog Millionaire. I wasn't exactly crazy about the film. The HEA at the end was overshadowed for me by some very dark scenes. But given the other choices like Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Doubt, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, and some other movies that are getting the buzz, we think that will be the ultimate winner.

(Although, personally, for me? If they nominate it, I'll be rooting for Wall-E!)

How about you? Have you seen any of the Oscar buzz movies this year? What did you think of them, and who will you be rooting for?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lisa Dale, Simple Wishes; Win a Copy Today


I’d like to introduce myself!

I’m Lisa Dale and my first novel, Simple Wishes, just came out this month. Needless to say it’s been a very exciting New Year! As of today, the book is on the list of top 100 romances sold so far this year. A dream come true.

Simple Wishes is a love story that explores the mysterious connectivity between mothers and daughters, cities and mountains, the future and the past.

I’ve always thought that the landscapes people live in affect who they are, and so I wanted my first novel to be set somewhere fascinating—someplace with lots of textures and layers to explore. The problem was that being in graduate school meant I didn’t have much of a budget. So the setting needed to be accessible and close to my New Jersey home.

That’s when my grandparents came to the rescue. They own a small cabin in the mountains of Pennsylvania. It’s on a dirt road so secluded that sometimes their only neighbors are the kind who walk on hooves and paws.

Below is a little video of their cabin—please forgive the “cheese” factor! I made it myself. You can see me and my Pop and Gram in it too.

If for some reason the video doesn't work, here's the link:

Here’s the scoop on the plot: My heroine Adele makes a terrible mistake that forces her to leave New York City and return to the backwoods mountain cottage she inherited from her mother. There, her friendship with a Korean-American grandmother challenges her to rethink her difficult youth. Just when she thinks she has healed enough to fall in love with the reclusive but sexy artisan who lives next door, dark secrets from her mom’s past threaten to ruin everything.

You can see a trailer for Simple Wishes by clicking here:

Simple Wishes (Forever, $6.99) is a different kind of women's fiction/romance novel. When I was a kid, I used to think the word “provocative” meant “sexy” because of how people said it in sexy commercials. Simple Wishes is sexy, but it’s provocative in other ways as well. It’s emotionally complex and the language is deliberately lyrical. The characters in Simple Wishes are survivors who have been pushed to their limits. Oh—and there’s a big bombshell ending too!

Do you have a place that’s important and special to you? I’d love to hear about it! Post a comment about your meaningful place, and you could win a FREE COPY OF SIMPLE WISHES!

Happy reading!

Lisa Dale – Official Homepage

*P.S. Sign up for my mailing list on my homepage and get in the loop for great contests yet to come. I’m cooking up a biggie that you just might want to be in on. But that’s all I can say about it right now!

Thanks to everyone for your good cheer and for sharing your thoughts! It was a lot of fun reading about your getaways and as a new writer I especially appreciate your support!

The free copy of Simple Wishes will go to Michele L. this week--I love a woman who uses exclamation points with the same enthusiasm that I do! Michele, please email me at
lisa (at)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Few of My Favourite Things

The greatest thing about owning a bookstore (besides being able to keep my own books face out 24/7 – LOL) is discovering so many new books and rediscovering some old treasures. There are certain titles in each section of the store that I love. This doesn't mean I've actually read all my favourites, it just means that I love the look or the feel of them. Yes, I'm a sucker for a good cover.

The children’s section is a one of the most enjoyable areas in any bookstore, and I decided that for today's blog, I would share my top 5 picks that are in our store right now. These titles are, of course, subject to change as new orders arrive.
#5 - THREE QUESTIONS by Jon Muth
(based on a Tolstoy short story)

A young boy thinks if he can find the answer to three questions, he will know how to be a good person. "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?"

#4 - THE MITTEN by Jan Brett

There’s nothing like illustrations by Jan Brett. Every time you read one of her books, you see things you didn’t see before, and this book is a new and exciting treasure with each turn of the page.

#3 - GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU by Sam McBratney.

What’s not to love about Little Nut Brown Hare as he tells his father “I love you right up to the moon.”??

#2 – CALVIN & HOBBES by Bill Watterson
Okay, perhaps not a children’s book per se, but for our purposes here, these books definitely qualify. My boys recently discovered C&H in their school library and we all have our favourite strips. The snowmen in the front yard. Eating supper. Wrestling with Hobbes. His dad’s sarcasm. Definitely his dad’s sarcasm.
And my #1 pick - and favourite book in our whole store is . . .(drum roll please). . .

#1 - BLESS THIS MOUSE by Dianna Hutts Aston

Oh my goodness, if you haven’t seen this book, rundon’t walk – to your nearest book store or library and hunt it down. To say it's beautiful doesn't even begin to describe it. The animals are slightly fuzzy, the mouse has the most beautiful little face you will ever see, and the story is downright adorable. Go find this book! Right now. Go! Run! Enoy!!
I'm going to go find more fun books to talk about next time!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sneak Peek at Exclusive Digital Publishing from Harlequin - Malle Vallik

Before I begin any discussion about some very exciting exclusive digital content, I wanted to continue Donna Alward’s BSG countdown: 3 more days! And just as important to me, Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse premieres on Fox, 9 pm Friday, February 13. (If I could invite any 3 writers living or dead to a dinner party they would be William Shakespare, Jane Austen and Joss Whedon.)

As the Director of Digital Content & Interactivity at Harlequin, I have a super cool job that encompasses two of my passions: editorial (there is nothing I adore more than a great story, especially one with a happy ending) and relationships (which is what digital interactivity, also know as social media, is all about). Relationships between author and reader; between reader and reader; publisher and reader are amazing, powerful, informative connections. As a publisher, Harlequin is one of the rare few who has a direct relationship with its readers.

eBooks (

We were the first publisher to publish its entire frontlist in eBook format and have been publishing digital-original titles since August 2007 with Spice Briefs. We launched Nocturne Bites in May 2008 and Harlequin Historical Undone in November 2008.


Last April the brilliant Gena Showalter wrote an eBook-only prequel to her Lords of the Underworld series called THE DARKEST FIRE, which revealed more of the series’ back story. This made us realize that many authors have more to tell about their series and so we’ve asked some of your favorites to write a little something extra. Gena Showalter is writing a companion piece to her THE VAMPIRE’S BRIDE, March 2009. You can expect prequels as well from Rhyannon Byrd, Susan Mallery, Nicola Cornick and many more!

These tasty tidbits are a wonderful way to introduce new readers to a fantastic author and reward loyal readers with just a little bit more. And the best part is that we will usually offer these stories FREE for a limited time.

Enriched eBooks

In an enriched eBook we add “extras” to the novel. Anything and everything from videos, to hyperlinks, to author notes, to whatever is interesting, clever and fun. Wondered what a phaeton looks like? Click on the link and learn about this sporty, elegant carriage!

Linda Lael Miller begins a new trilogy, The Montana Creeds, with LOGAN in February 2009. The cover is just amazing, but we knew the photographer had a series of fantastic shots that didn’t make the cover – so we’ve included more photographs of hot, hunky cowboys throughout the text. Plus Linda writes a note explaining the connection between the Creed and McKettrick families.

That same month we have included an inside look at the Second Life events we hosted for Deanna Raybourn in SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY. Get an inside glimpse of this virtual world and the fantastic costumes people created for the party! Deanna also added some historical information, such as a history of the main character’s family estate and a recipe from the Victorian era.

You’ll find more enriched eBooks throughout the year – just look for the flash on the cover!

60 Years of Pure Reading Pleasure

In 2009 Harlequin celebrates its 60th anniversary. Since publishing our first book in 1949, the company has grown to become the world’s leading romance publisher. To celebrate 60 years of pure reading pleasure, we’re offering every woman in American a free book! Sixteen different series books can be downloaded at beginning January 29th. Feel free to share with your friends!

Free Valentines Book (with UGC)

Available on February 14 at we will be offering a free copy of A VALENTINE FOR HARLEQUIN’S ANNIVERSARY. We are celebrating our Anniversary by putting the spotlight on the people who know Harlequin best – our readers. As an added bonus, we’ve included one of our Valentine’s short stories to create an exclusive collection as a token of our appreciation for your readership. Happy Valentine’s Day!

The digital team at Harlequin is always happy to hear from readers with ideas. Do please feel free to contact me and I will forward to the appropriate person: And you can follow us at Twitter!

(If you want to add any more links, my twitter is, my blog is and I am the current smart bitches/dear author podcast

You can find Harlequin at:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Letting out my inner fangirl

I suppose that since I have a book releasing today, I should say something about here goes. It's called The Rancher's Runaway Princess, and it's a western/fairy tale with Harlequin Romance. But guess what. That's not what I'm going to blog about today.

That's because I'm wayyyy too excited about something coming up later in the week. Yes, it's even more exciting than a book coming out.

Those that know me well or have followed my blog for a loooong time know how crazy I am about Battlestar Galactica. For a few years I felt the need to keep explaining...not the original version, the new version. I would hope by now people would have heard enough about this show to at least know it exists, even if they don't watch.

But if you're into character driven stories, as a reader or a writer, why aren't you watching?

I'll admit that I fell prey to its seductiveness for very shallow reasons - I'd watched all eight episodes of Horatio Hornblower and was quite taken with Archie Kennedy. When I saw Jamie Bamber (the actor who played Archie) on the cast list as I was scrolling through the channel guide one evening in 2003, I halted, and put on the show just because he was in it.

Ten minutes in I was hooked, and guess what. No Jamie on the screen yet!

That mini series started a new television series on Sci Fi and here in Canada on SPACE (boy was I glad when SPACE got their collective crap together and started showing the epis at the same time as the US). Reimagined by Ron Moore and with David Eick and Michael Rymer on board, they set up a stellar cast of heavy hitters and unknowns - Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber, Katee Sackhoff, James Callis, and a slew of Canadian talent including Trisha Helfer, Aaron Douglas, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett, Michael Hogan...just to name a few. In season one they brought in the original Apollo, Richard Hatch - and gave us Tom Zarek a freedom fighter/terrorist depending on what side you're on and what week it is. They came up with a script and concept so different from the original it truly is apples and oranges. It was once described as "24 and The West Wing in space". Space is simply a setting. The action is really all with the characters and the choices they make.

Yes, they are on the run from the cylons. They are a rag tag fleet. But it is NOT a show about good and evil. It is a show about dark and light, shades of grey, about human nature, about living in a pressure cooker and there are surprises every week. Those you want to hate you can't, those you want to love show flaws, and it's all wrapped up in politico-religious mythology. It's fracking brilliant (and they get to say frak a lot).

And just when it gets dark...really dark...there are moments of light, of absolute beauty that take your breath away.

One example of this is when a very ill President, Laura Roslin, promotes Commander Adama to Admiral. These are two people that started out despising each other and over the course of several months, graduate to a relationship of respect and friendship and even love. So when Adama takes her chin in his hands and places the tenderest of kisses on her lips, it rips your heart out.

I learn something about writing every week I watch. I learn something about the world we live in every single about who we consider the "good" guys using suicide bombers when they are under siege? We criticize our government for keeping secrets, but then what are the ramifications of full disclosure? Do we believe in what we can see or do we have faith in what we don't? What happens when the good guys are bad and the bad guys show their human side (even when they're cylons?)

BSG is ending and the final season starts on Friday. I am so pumped I cannot even express it. I haven't even thought about trying to figure out what will happen. I am just going to wait for whatever Ron Moore and his rag tag fleet of writers is going to throw at us.

And oh yeah... Starbuck is a woman! (And a kick ass one at that!)

Thank you, Ron, the cast and the crew for bringing us six years of mind blowing television.

So say we all.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Livin' La Vida Loca!

by Anna Campbell

That title seems to fit the picture of me quaffing champagne at the Queen Victoria Tea Rooms in Sydney - which are quite as glamorous as they sound.

Actually I was going to start this blog with a rather obscure '80s song by Sheila E. called The Glamorous Life. But I couldn't find the video I wanted on YouTube so we'll have to settle for Ricky Martin instead.

My third historical romance for Avon was released on 30th December. TEMPT THE DEVIL is set in the dark, decadent world of late Regency London. It was huge fun to play around with some familiar aspects of Regency high society.

My first two books were fairly rural in setting. Well, make that EXTREMELY rural in setting. CLAIMING THE COURTESAN starts in a villa just outside London but quickly moves to the wilds of the Scottish Highlands. UNTOUCHED is almost completely set on an isolated estate in Somerset.

With TEMPT THE DEVIL, I had the chance to introduce some glamorous elements to this story of the Earl of Erith and his latest mistress, the notorious courtesan Olivia Raines.

You can read an excerpt of TEMPT THE DEVIL here and please note the setting, one of those decadent salons. I think it shows I was having enormous fun with the decor!

There's a couple of events in a luxurious mansion belonging to Olivia's friend Lord Peregrine Mountjoy. I really let my imagination go wild with those scenes - it was such fun to do the over the top decoration and debauched company. There's even a ball scene where some action crucial to the plot takes place. I've never had a ball scene in one of my books before. It was wonderful to have a chance to describe the elegant crowd and the fashions and the ballroom.

I believe that one of the things that attract readers in such faithful droves to books set in the Regency period is that it's a glamorous time. Or at least it's glamorous in the way it's portrayed in historical romances. In real life, it was a time of tremendous economic upheaval and glamorous is the last word you'd use to describe most people's lives. But of course, we're talking about Romancelandia here!

Think of all those wonderful scenes at Almack's and in assorted Mayfair ballrooms in Georgette Heyer. Think of the hints of high life you get from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Think of all those Regency Rakes stalking those innocent little misses who adorn the season. Or the less than innocent misses, for that matter!
So do you have a favorite ball or party scene in a book? One of my favorites is the gorgeous, romantic, emotional account of Natasha's first ball in WAR AND PEACE. Another is the house party in JANE EYRE. Or who could forget Lizzie and Darcy meeting at the assembly in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE? Then there are countless scenes of high life in the thousands of historical romances I've read. I'd be hard put to pick a favorite.

My favorite answer wins a signed copy of my latest release TEMPT THE DEVIL! Choose your partners and good luck!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter Blunderland - Christina Hollis

What do you think of this snowy scene? After days of cold, dry weather we had an overnight snowfall of about an inch. Our part of the UK ground instantly to a halt! My OH travels abroad a lot for his work, and he’s always very impressed by the way other countries deal with their weather. In Toronto they go underground, while in New York City it is pretty much business as usual, with extra steam.

In my February 2009 Harlequin Presents release, Her Ruthless Italian Boss, Beth’s gloom isn’t helped by an unromantic downpour. Then Luca arrives. Beth soon cheers up – although she soon learns his generosity has strings attached. My antidote so bad weather is a mug of hot chocolate, a roaring log fire and a book that sweeps me away to somewhere exotic. How do you beat the midwinter blues? I’ll pick a comment at random, which will get a small (guaranteed snow-free) prize…

Christina Hollis is busy working on her next romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon – when she isn’t jostling with the family cat for the warmest place at the fireside. For more news, visit her website at

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Series Romance Effect?

We are in the midst of a global economic trough. Papers around the world are full of doom and gloom. The publishing industry is far from being immune with across the board job losses. Independant bookstores are closing. Every day seems to bring fresh economic woe. It is enough to make a person want to escape into reading a good book.

How does Romance and particularly series romance fare in gloomy economic times? There is the fabled Estee Lauder lipstick effect, but is there a series romance effect as well? Do women buy books when they need to feel better? For me, it is a case of forget the lipstick, I want to read. But maybe I am unique. Or am I?

UK Editorial Director, Karin Stoecker recently told the BBC "Generally speaking, we have been quite successful in gloomier economic times... it's a value-priced entertaining escape from otherwise harsh realities." You can read the rest of the article here.

For Mills & Boon, the 1930s were a time of growth as women wanted to escape. (Harlequin was founded in 1949) . The 1970s again saw growth and the uncertain early 1980s was a time of huge growth for the mass market romance genre as a whole. As recently reported in The Scotsman, Mills & Boon are doing well. In fact, if you look at Torstar's results (the parent company of Harlequin), you can see the upturn in series romance started at about the same time that the first rumblings of the sub prime mortgage problem emerged. Once again, women appear to be turning to romance for entertainment.

But why? I would have to echo the woman who I once met in hospital and who inspired me to start writing romance -- In times of trouble, you can not go wrong with a Mills & Boon.

No matter what is going on, I find life a bit easier if I can escape into a book, and my genre of choice is romance. Series romance has always been focused on providing quality entertainment at an affordable price -- something that is needed when uncertainty looms.

The Contest
And speaking of escaping, my critique partner, Donna Alward has the first book in her new heartwarming romance series , Larch Valley, out this month. Because the postal system threatened to eat the copy she first sent, Donna kindly sent me another signed copy with my Christmas parcel. Well the postal system did eventually decide to cough up the first parcel and then eventually the Christmas parcel, so I have an extra copy. And when I was ill with the flu in December, I found The Rancher's Runaway Princess was the perfect way to escape.

So for this month's contest, I am offering a signed copy of The Rancher's Runaway Princess.

If you want a chance to win, please email with the answer to the following question: what series line does Donna write for? Please put Totebags Jan contest in the email and I will draw the winner on 17 January.

UPDATE: Stepfanie (book freak) was the name drawn out of the hat. I have sent an email. Many thanks to all who entered.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

What do you do to pass the time between new books in your favorite series?

I'm currently deeply, darkly obsessed with Karen Marie Moning's Fae series.

I spend more time than I am willing to admit worrying about Mac and the dire situations she finds herself in. And don't even get me started on Jericho Barrons. I have no idea what he is and I don't care--I love him. But the new book doesn't come out until this summer!

It's the same thing with Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series.

The last book in the series broke my heart. Seriously. I ache to know what happens next--I'm desperate!--but I won't have the slightest idea until, once again, the summer. And it's only January! What am I to do?

So far, I've eased the pain by watching Twilight in the movie theater eight times.

Yes. Eight. But that can't hold me forever. (Plus, I read all the books, so I know how it all ends...)

What do you do to ease the pain of the long wait for the next installment of your favorite series?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Community of writers

Over the holidays, my mom asked me if I had any friends who weren’t writers. I had to think hard. I do have a couple of friends from high school and a couple of friends from my working years as an accountant. We get together for lunch maybe once a year. But for the most part, yeah, all my friends are writers. My mom is worried that my whole life is writing and nothing else, and that I work too hard. I write seven days a week, I get up at 5:30 a.m. and start my promotion stuff for the day, then I have to write my ten to fifteen pages (or revise or edit). I do take time off for coffee or lunch with my friends. But we talk about writing!

So yeah, my whole life is writing, but is that necessarily a bad thing? What I find is that I constantly turn to the writing community I’m a part of to cheer me on over my triumphs, for support and commiseration when the chips are down, to help me brainstorm through a writing problem, to do promotion with, to talk with, to gather information from, to help me feel connected when I’m alone in my office all day long. I love my accounting friends, and I enjoyed all the years I worked with them, but honestly, they didn’t permeate my life the way my writing friends do. But then writing is such a different kind of career. I put myself out there daily to be trashed, by reviewers, by fans. Most people have only really nice things to say, but there are those who don’t think of me as a person and don’t care how what they say makes me feel. And I’m not even going back to all the years of rejection before I was published. Writers have to have very thick skins to survive. They also have to have the support of great friends. I couldn’t do this without them. So thank you, each and every one of you, old writing friends and new. And Mom, thanks for being concerned about me, but I belong to a great community of writers, and that’s just perfect for me.

If you’re a writer, I’d love to hear your support stories. If you’re a reader, what community do you belong to that helps you through the daily grind? For those of you who post, I’ll enter you into a drawing for an autographed copy of my book The Fortune Hunter. Please leave your email address so I know how to contact you if you win.

Be sure to stop by my Jasmine Blog, too, this week, I’m giving away some historical books. Today, I’m also posting an excerpt of Unlaced, our CAPA nominee, on the TRS Blue yahoo group. If you’re not a member, you can join at The Romance Studio. Jan 16th and 17th, please join Romance Divas for “The Sexual Journey: Character Growth in Erotic Romance,” a lively workshop with authors Zane, Joey W. Hill, Denise Rossetti, Tina Burns and me. This workshop will be held in the Diva's Secrets Steamy section which requires special permission. Please contact an administrator when you have created an account. There are no requirements other than your statement that you are over 18. This is for readers and authors alike so come and join us.

Jasmine, Jennifer and JB!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Let's Make A Deal

By Jenny Gardiner
My girlfriend calls my purse the Let's Make a Deal purse. Remember that game show? Monty Hall would go into the audience filled with people dressed in ridiculous costumes like life-size lobsters and gigantic fuzzy dice and lugging enormous bags full of nonsense, and ask for the most unlikely item. Invariably at least one woman would have it along: the tube sock, the box of Creamettes macaroni and cheese, a jock strap. That woman would have been me.

Purses and me have a long and tortured history. I take my crap-toting very seriously, and over time, as I went from single to married to momdom, my purse-content hauling has ebbed and flowed with the years and demands of life. There were times when my shoulders were slumped from the weight of my purse like a deeply discouraged human being in line at the soup kitchen. And other times when life's burdens seemed to lift from my very shoulders with the elimination of the vast stash of junk I ditched from my pocketbook. Although really, let's be honest. The word "pocketbook" suggests petite, and rarely has petite been in the vocabulary of my purse world.

I'll tell you a great one, one of my purse-hauling high points (well, really, a low point), from back in my single-but-seriously-dating phase. Wayyyy long ago. Standing in line with my teensy-weensy single girl purse at this totally hip-happenin' Georgetown bar. Had to rifle through the mini-sack to find my i.d. And while I rifled, what falls out onto the ground, in front of the bouncer, the boyfriend, the line of desperate bar-goers (oh, and Val Plame. Remember her? Spy girl? I knew her from college and she happened to be in line behind me that night at the bar)? The Sponge. Yes, one of those less-than shining moments in life, when it seems as if everything freezes in place but for you. Everyone is looking at you, at your ever-so-sad contraceptive of the 80's, there, front and center on the cigarette-butt-strewn-discarded-chewing-gum-encrusted pavement, symbolic of nights past at that very bar, no doubt, and evidence of intent for all to see. Thank goodness for low illumination inside bars, as I was able to slink away into the cavernous darkness once past the chuckling bouncer without too much permanent destruction of my pristine reputation, able to mercifully hide my beet-red countenance like a slug hiding beneath a rock.

Alas, soon enough, my Sponge days were replaced with diapers, wipes, ointment, goldfish, animal crackers, juice boxes, baby food and masking tape (no, not to tape over their mouths; masking tape is the best-kept secret of moms the world-over: give your kids some masking tape and all is right with the world): The ingredients of the mom-purse.

Eventually, liberation came. Three kids, diaper free. No more needing to lug the necessities. I saw my purse as a statement of my life and chose to schlep around as little as humanly possible. It lasted for a few humble months. My mini-purses groaned at the snaps and popped open at inopportune moments, spilling the modest contents (mercifully Sponge-free, however).

Soon I realized I needed to size up my purse, especially with the onset of the electronics era: cell phones, iPods, Palm Pilots and the like. I'd taken the extreme approach and it was indeed most impractical. Hence I started increasing my purse size, bit by bit, as I added electronic paraphernalia.

And then one day I realized my purse had taken over. Nearly as large as it was when it served as diaper bag-cum-survival satchel. Only now it's all full of my what-ifs. What if I need a book to read? What if I am stuck shopping at the grocery store and can't stand the Muzak and absolutely have to listen to that new song by Cake on my iPod? What if I'm exposed to the sun for too long and need that SPF 45 lip balm? What if I'm suddenly thrust into a book store at which my book is in stock and I simply have to sign book stock? I mean, I have to have the hot-pink sharpie marker. The "signed by author" sticker. The Sleeping with Ward Cleaver book marks: all accoutrements of one's booksigning venture. Yep, it's all in there. And then some.

The biggest problem is that my current purse is a disastrous compartment-free monstrosity that is a famished creature ingesting whatever goes in, never to be seen again. When I need to find my phone, my keys, all of those necessities of life? Nada. I dig and dig and curse and dig and eventually, sure, I find the stuff. But often it's stuck onto a piece of overheated chewing gum that has dislodged from its secure wrapper. It's tangled in the cord from that unravelled tampon. It's hidden beneath the tissue I cried into at my son's graduation. Nothing is ever where I put it and is always where I least expect it.

Truth is, there's not a purse in existence with enough compartments to contain my disorganization. But a few pockets would provide needed salvation. And once I get past this writing career, I'm fixing to venture into functional pocketbook design (note, I didn't say purse. I'm aiming for reasonable sizing). I know I'm not the only gal out there frustrated with the lack of managerial-orientated purses.

This, of course, is on my to-do list. Right after I finish my WIP. And revisions, and the seven freelance deadlines. And that screenplay I was gonna work on. And then once the house gets cleaned, the dishes washed, the laundry done. You get the idea.

Until then, here's what I deal with. It's not a pretty sight. It's frustrating and non-functional. But I have to admit, the leather is really soft and that's a big plus. What can I say? I'm a tactile kinda gal.

Okay, so here's a run-down of my purse contents.
cell phone
key chain (pared down from about 15 unidentifiable keys to about 3)
a DVD of Sicily (need to return to my Italian teacher)
a copy of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver (you never know when you'll need it!)
The book I'm reading
The book I'll read after I finish the book I'm reading
Save the Cat, a fabulous book on screenwriting
business cards
tampons (I think there are about 12 in various states of undress)
chewing gum (probably 3 packs, in various states of undress as well)
lip stick (3)
lip gloss (2)
tissues (probably 7 or 8, used and unused, but all fuzzy with wear and tear)
the tattered ziploc bag full of discount cards (you know, buy 10 cappuccinos and get one free, that sort of nonsense)
pens, pens and more pens
my book-signing stash (sharpie, etc)
tic tacs (at least 3 half-empty containers, all missing in the bowels of the bag)
Mojo sweet and salty trail mix bar, crushed beyond recognition
reading glasses (and accompanying bulky case)
sunglasses (and accompanying bulky case)
Altoids raspberry sours (way better than cough drops)
post-it notes
credit card receipts, mostly for gas
emery boards (3)
Mojo peanut butter and pretzel bar, looks as if run over by 18-wheeler on very hot pavement
sewing project (needed to get supplies next time I'm near fabric store)
notes, notes of notes, and yet more notes
to-do lists
one very fat overstuffed wallet (stuffed with pictures, receipts and nonsense, no money)

Seeing is believing

I do hope you've enjoyed this sad little moment of disorganization at its finest. If only you could send your purse pictures for me to laugh at!


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((¸¸. ·´ .. ·´Jenny-:¦:-
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