Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Wow, it's hard to believe we're already moving into October. We have a wonderful month coming up in the Lair! In addition to our usual bandita blogs, we have fabulous guests coming.
We kick off with a bang and a squee! as our very own Aunty Cindy, known to the reading public as Loucinda McGary, launches her debut romantic suspense novel, The Wild Sight, which earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly. We hope you'll all join the party on October 1.
Kensington author Delilah Marvelle, whose debut novel, Mistress of Pleasure, was just released, joins Kirsten Scott on October 2.
Dorchester author Gerri Russell guests with Nancy on October 6. Gerri will discuss her recent trip to Scotland and celebrate the release of her third Scottish historical romance, Warrior's Lady.
Sourcebooks Casablanca publicist Danielle Jackson guests with Aunty Cindy on October 7. She'll be glad to answer questions from commenters about promotion and pubicity.
Denise Rosetti, who writes hot romances for Berkley, Avon, and Ellora's Cave, chats with Christine Wells about one of our favorite subjects, heroes, on October 16.
Medical romance author Fiona Lowe joins Anna Campbell on October 19 to discuss her latest release, The Playboy Doctor's Marriage Proposal.
Western historical author Tracy Garrett chats about her latest release, Touched by Love, with Suzanne Welsh on October 27.
We may have one or two other guests. Stay tuned for further developments!
In addition to all the fun we plan to have here in the lair, we're also spotlighting contests offered on bandita websites. Highlights are:
**Win an advance review copy of Anna Campbell's January release, Tempt the Devil by visiting Anna's website at website and answer a simple question to be in the running.
**Nancy Northcott's first contest is open, with three of categories of prizes to be awarded in an end-of-year drawing. To enter, subscribe to Nancy's newsletter at her website and email Nancy with your category preference.
**Trish Milburn is running a contest, "Where in the World is a Firefighter in the Family," to celebreate her debut release. Information is on Trish's website
Rules are simple:
1. Buy a copy of A Firefighter in the Family.
2. Have someone take your photo digitally with your copy of the book.
3. E-mail it to Trish at triciamillsbooks AT yahoo DOT com.
4. Let her know where you bought it.
She'll be featuring some of the photos on her blog. On Oct. 9, she'll draw at random from the entrants to win the following: A signed advanced reading copy of her first young adult title, Heartbreak River; a box of Godiva chocolates; a $20 gift card to Barnes & Noble; and a day dedicated to you on her blog.
Monday, September 29, 2008
So... I’m bringing the question here and figured you all could help me out by answering a few questions *g*
Do you go to author websites – and if so, what keeps you going back?
As thanks for helping me navigate these baffling questions, I’ll draw a name it win a copy of Risque Business.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Sometimes, life just gets in our way. Sometimes, we get in the way of life.
Things have been a little crazy around me lately. Part of it I have no control over, some of it I've done to myself.
Nine months ago it was winter. People were cold. They snuggled up. Guess what? That leads to more babies born in the months of July-October. (Statistical fact based on three decades of L&D nursing by me!) So I always know I'm going to be working harder and more hours at the night job. Busy!! And on top of that, it's summer to early autumn, which leads to sick moms and sick babies...Extra busy!! (But NOT my fault.)
A couple of years ago my good friend and CP talked me into running for President-elect of our Dallas Area Romance Authors, (thanks Sandy!). Duh, that meant that I'd have to be chapter president. So, since January of this year, they let me be in charge of a large chapter and all the responsibilities it involves. (Yep, they're crazy...and it's only partially my fault! I only ran for office, THEY elected me!)
In 2006 I had a "What the hell" moment, something I'm want to do cyclically, and sent three manuscripts to the Golden Heart contest. Dang....two of them finalled. Whoohoo! But even better, I met this core group of fantastic women. Writers who were as determined as me to ride the wave of PR, make a name for ourselves, and start a blog to promote ourselves and our writing. Yep, the Romance Bandits were born! I adore reading the blogs, commenting on them, writing them and interviewing guests. But it does take time and thought. (Yep, this one is my fault!)
Christmas holidays are coming up. I adore fall, but every year I start thinking early about the "special projects" I'd like to do for my kids. One I've decided to do this year involves scrapbooking for one of them. Very time consuming, but in the end, it should be a real tears-rolling-down-the-cheek moment for us. So I'll add that to the pile! Then there's the baking, the parties, the gifts...(Okay, this one is my fault, too...adding more to my plate!)
In the fall I get the urge to head north to Ohio. Now many of you may think it's because of the season and the fall colors on the trees. Well, sort of. I do enjoy the colors, but it has more to do with the change in temperature, the cool rainy days, heck, I even miss the drizzly days that requires a fire in the fireplace! So in the midst of all this craziness, I plan a trip home to see my parents. (This one is my fault, too...but necessary for my own peace of mind!)
And then there's the writing. I always write two stories and edit a third at the same time. Crazy? Maybe, but it's MY process. And all three projects have to be different sub genres or time periods. Apparently my brain LOVES to multi-task. (Is this my fault, well, maybe, maybe not.)
Amidst all this chaos there's hope. A light at the end of the tunnel. (Please God don't let it be a train heading right for me...) October is almost here, which means the baby boom will slow down a bit, hopefully. The moms won't be quite as sick, hopefully. My tenure as chapter president will come to an end. The trip home is planned and will renew my spirits. The holidays, while crazy, are also fun. The writing, it's my sanity, so that's a constant for me.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
I'm obsessed with insulation.
I know. Weird, right? I've been living in this house for almost ten years now, & while the heating bills in the deepest, darkest heart of winter can be a little steep, they're not impossible. January always stings but no worse than the year before. We budget for it & we're fine.
But my husband had a boys night out last weekend & when he arrived home at nearly 3 a.m., I was still sitting in front of the computer googling geothermal heat pumps & pellet stoves. And then I laid awake for the rest of the night fretting about unsealed joist spaces, uninsulated kneewalls (don't ask) & the fact that my bathroom fans apparently vent directly into the insulation in my attic rather than out the roof as god intended.
But as I said, this is nothing new. My house has been in exactly this condition for the previous nine winters & we have survived handily. Ice does not form in the toilet bowls overnight & we have not yet had to twist hay into sticks to burn in the stove for warmth, a la Laura Ingalls Wilder.
So what's going on, you ask? Why the obsession with insulation?
I think it's because I'm in the middle of writing a new book. I'm in the middle & I'm terrified.
The middle is a scary place . The middle is where the fun beginning is over & the awesome, crackerjack ending hasn't yet begun. It's the part where all those wonderfully inventive seeds you sowed at the beginning have to do the hard work of becoming that incredible ending they have the potential for. Only now you can't remember exactly how all those dots were supposed to connect. You can't see your way anymore, & you're lost & afraid. You think, "This is it. I used up all my talent on my previous books. I'm finished."
So I'm in that dark place professionally. Then I look outside & see that the world is a dangerous place & the economy is perilously close to the crapper. Is it any wonder that I'm feeling the need to control something? Heck, anything.
So okay, what are my choices? As a stay at home mom, about the only things in my world that fall under my direct control are my writing (not going well; see above), my kids (who, it should be noted, are not all that controllable) & my house.
Which explains why I'm obsessed with battening down the hatches for the coming season of hardship. Winter is bearing down on me & I don't feel any more prepared for it than I do to write the rest of this book. So I'm cracking down hard on the only thing under my control. And googling the crap out of alternative energy. And writing into the void on pure faith that something will turn up.
Something always does.
So what about you? What do you do when you're afraid? What do you grab hold of when the world seems to be spinning out of control? A bowl of ice cream? The remote control? A romance novel? Insulation? Tell me about your geothermal heat pump & your solar panels! Come on. Somebody's got them, right? Fess up!
Friday, September 26, 2008
This is not actually about Robert Frost, though his poem, with its image of roads diverging "in a snowy wood" has always spoken to me. Life is full of choices. Roads diverge all the time, and each road taken leads into events and possibilities that exclude other events and possibilities.
My very first career choice, so far as I can remember, was nursing. I was in first grade or so, and this choice endured until I found out about the blood thing. I'm not squeamish about dealing with blood, exactly. I'm just not keen on it. And I hated getting shots, so giving them would be, well, less than cool.
About the time I was rejecting my first career choice, somewhere around third grade, I discovered Greek mythology. The school library had the D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. I fell in love with the art and the legends. I also loved their Norse mythology volume. All things Greek fascinated me. When I wasn't mooning over knights in olde England or warriors in medieval Scotland (our family can torturously trace our lineage back to the Bruce), I was thinking about Greeks. Odysseus. Aeneas. Penelope. I did notice that, apart from the Amazons (yay, Wonder Woman!) and the goddesses (yay, Athena and Artemis!), doing cool stuff in Greece was reserved to men. Since that was the way of the world at the time, I shrugged over it and went on, straight into an interest in archaeology. Then I found out about the bones thing--as in, digging up. Ooops, not for me! Another career choice shot down in flames. *sigh*
I liked to draw. I was also a fairly girly girl, aside from liking superheroes and displaying serious geek tendencies, so I thought perhaps fashion design might be in my future. I sometimes remember this when I watch Project Runway. I'm so incredibly glad not to be in that industry now. My clothing taste is way too conservative for the market trends. However, this interest persisted until I was doing college visits and found out just how much chemistry I'd have to take to major in design. I finally settled on a history major, which fit right in with my geeky interests and ultimately, via a long and winding road, led me to teaching.
After my freshman year in college, I transferred. I was thinking of waiting a year, but medical problems compounded my general unhappiness, so I made the jump. As a result, I met people whose influence led me to grad school and then law school and then to the man I eventually married, who nudged me into teaching. I also got to study Tudor and Stuart Britain at Oxford for a summer, one of the highlights of my life.
I sometimes think, what if I hadn't transferred when I did? Or had gone somewhere else? What if I'd pursued archaeology or design? Where would I be? What would my life be like? Is there a me somewhere who actually wore that wide-brimmed white hat with the veil streaming down the back at her wedding? Or do all the me versions wear that white floral wreath veil?
We make the same sorts of choices in writing. I've moved away from Restoration to medieval, but I may go back. I have lots of ideas for the period. I've also written a contemporary in first person. Will it sell? Will any of them? At this point, I have no idea. I hope so. Do I regret having written things that were not middle of the market? Not really. Sometimes doing something different recharges the batteries in important ways.
I don't regret any of my choices, but if every choice creates, as some science fiction writers and scientists theorize, an alternate reality in which the choice not taken becomes the choice on which we act, then what kinds of realities have I spun off behind me? Which ones have you created?
What sorts of choices have you made in life or in writing? Do you ever wonder where the other choice(s) would have led?
Late Bandit Booty:
I've been very bad about booty announcements this summer, so here are two that should catch me up. I apologize for the delays!
The winner of Julie Kenner's prize, a copy of Deja Demon, is Tetewa!
The winner of Gillian Summers' prize, a choice of either The Tree Shepherd's Daughter or Into the Wildewood, is Rebekah!
Email me via the link at the top of the blog page, and I'll pass the information to the authors!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I’m probably the least “crafty” person I know. I can’t paint. I can’t knit. I can’t scrapbook. (I’m not even sure what that means!)
I tried to throw pots once but all I did was…well, threw pots. Like, across the room. Wet clay went everywhere. What a mess.
I used to sew but I don’t do that anymore. I can’t even bake a pie.
So when I sat down and tried to come up with a hook for a new mystery series, I knew it couldn’t be anything to do with crafts.
I was a craft-free zone.
Or so I thought. But then I remembered that I was actually good at making something crafty. Just one thing.
I used to make books. Yes, make books. Anyone can write a book, but make a book? Ha!
When I was a little girl, I used to make books all the time. I’d collect the cardboard inserts from my father’s laundered shirts, then cut them up, line them up with paper and punch holes, and tie it up with a pretty ribbon. I’d draw a picture on the outside cover, then give it to my mom or my grandmother or a girlfriend. I’m sure they rolled their eyes as I walked away. They were probably wondering where the story was, but my work was done. I just made the book. Someone else could write the story!
Years later, I’d recall those rustic bookbinding skills and used them as a basis for selling my mystery series based on a bookbinder as the protagonist. Coincidence or destiny? You be the judge!
These are photos of some of the books I've made and a bit of the process involved.
Each of these books represents a different bookbinding technique.
This flowery cloth is unusual, and the threads used to sew the paper to the cover are braided to create a natural bookmark.
These linen strips are sewn to the pages and keep them all together. Then the strips are stuck under the endpapers and glued to the book itself.
So that's my craft. What's yours? I know there are lots of other amazingly crafty people here in the Lair, so tell me about the arts and crafts you love. Any knitters out there? How about that scrapbooking thing? Or crochet? Photography? Painting? Tell us what gets you crafty. I’ve got a $15 Amazon gift certificate to give away to one random commenter today!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Now, I’ll tell you right up front – it’s based on experience. No, I’ve never had a passionate love affair with a gorgeous yet potentially deranged soap actor (Sorry!) – but I did work for quite a few years as a senior editor at Soap Opera Digest. And I’ve seen first-hand how irresistible those daytime leading men can be.
Besides going on set to interview the actors, I covered quite a few fan club luncheons and events for my job. And, though the fans were always thrilled to meet superstar actresses like Susan Lucci or Robin Strasser or Melody Thomas Scott, they went nuts – absolutely blushing, screaming insane – when someone like Maurice Benard (Sonny, General Hospital) walked into the room. It didn’t matter whether they were happily married new moms or 80-year-old grandmas, the soap hunks could turn any woman into a shrieking adolescent girl.
Suspense writer Alison Gaylin is the author of HIDE YOUR EYES, which was nominated for an Edgar in the “Best First Novel” category and its critically acclaimed sequel YOU KILL ME. She used her 15 years’ experience as an entertainment journalist to write her first standalone (and first hardcover) TRASHED -- a thriller revolving around the tabloid industry. TRASHED received strong reviews and is now out in paperback. Her latest novel, the standalone HEARTLESS came out in hardcover in September and is currently in bookstores.
Called a “spine-tingler of a thriller” by the Chicago Sun-Times, HEARTLESS centers around a soap opera magazine writer, whose romantic trip to Mexico goes very, very wrong. It is available in hardcover from NAL/Obsidian at a bookstore near you.
Monday, September 22, 2008
The event kicked off with a slumber party Friday night. We're talking sexy jammies, comfortable sweats, lots of pizza, and a DJ who kept the dancefloor rocking.
After breakfast on Saturday, the participants had a private booksigning. I stood on my chair, a shaky proposition, to bring you this photo of the crowd. I met lots of dedicated romance readers from all over the country - Louisana, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia... even one woman who traveled from Germany with her husband just for this event.
Here's (left to right) authors Erin McCarthy, Jules Bennett and Lucy Monroe.
After the signing I took a short break to explore outside the hotel, and discovered the road in front of the hotel had been closed off for a chili cookoff. (You can see the roadblocks barriers in the above pic.) A fantastic band provided wonderful loud music that followed me as I shopped in some of the unique area stores. Not sure why everyone wasn't dancing around the town fountain. It was a perfect day for it.
I headed back to the hotel for the dinner/masquerade dance Saturday night. I saw some fun, imaginative costumes -- but not on me. I just wore a mask and, of course, the hat. Author Dianne Castell, however, made a perfect Paula Deen - don't you think? Harlequin author Kay Stockham dressed in a fabulous blue feather mask.
Lots of baskets were raffled off to enthusiastic readers for the benefit of charity. The romance bandits contributed and Amy was the lucky winner. I need to thank Julia Bennett for Amy's photo as my camera battery died - darn technology.
This year, I've attended the Romantic Times convention in April, Lori Foster & Dianne Castell's reader event in June, and now RAW. Have to say - romance readers are the best. They're fun, friendly, knowledgeable and avid, avid readers.
Have you attended a reader's event? Have you wanted to? Tell me about it. What did you like the best? If you haven't been to an event - tell me about the costume you'd have worn to the masquerade ball. I'm always looking for ideas and RT will be upon us again in April. I'm offering a Tshirt (large) and a tote bag from RAW for one lucky commentor.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Yes, The Big Move Phase 1 is over. We are safely settled back in England. The cats are enjoying their new-found freedom; the ability to wander without fear of wild beasts and wild neighbours. We are enjoying having our own home again, with our own garden (free of wild beasts and wild neighbours!)
I was somewhat startled by the presence of a rather suspicious tile in our kitchen - how did that blasted bird get over here and plant his surveillance gear?!
Phase 2 starts today with the arrival of all our wordly goods from NJ. Can't tell you how much I look forward to unpacking a 40ft shipping container's worth of stuff - not! (Amazing how you get used to living without most of your things!) I can't wait to having a proper bed again, though. My aging hips can only take so much of an airbed!
It's amazing how quickly you settle back into your old way of life. As much as I miss New Jersey, I find it comforting that returning home has been so easy. Some days, it feels like we've never been away. On others, it seems like we've been away forever. Certainly, the US has a big place in our hearts.
One thing that has helped us feel like we're home again, is the wonderful array of familiar scents that are uniquely 'home'.
- cut grass
- bonfires on a crisp autumn evening
- the fresh, clean air after it's rained
- Sunday roast being cooked
- Saturday night curry take-away
- frying onions at the local burger van
What scents or smells do you associate with home? Good and bad. When you've been away from home, what do you enjoy coming back to?
Maestro....The Envelope Please....
In yet another completely scientific random-number-generated (yeah, right!) selection by someone's child, the winner of the books by Lisa Gardner ARE:
Let's have yet one more drum roll, shall we? Drrrrrrrrrrrummmmmmm.
Step Up to the Podium ANNA SUGDEN and CASSONDRA MURRAY!!!!
I'll let the two of you decide who would like the signed copy of HIDE and who would like the signed copy of SAY GOODBYE. :> Give me an email ladies, and I'll tell you how to get in touch with Lisa to claim your book!
The fabulous Roxanne St. Claire had her daughter pick a name out of all the posters on the day she was a guest with us and the winner is....
DRUM ROLL, PLEASE....
I'll let Jo know how to get in touch with Roxanne. Thanks, everyone!
Most people here in the Lair know me well enough by now to guess that I'm not much of a "joiner". I pretty much eschew clubs and organizations of all kinds, unless they pertain to romance writing. But a few weeks ago, I joined a...book club.
I know, right? I was at an ice cream social at work, where we were supposed to "network" (another thing I'm not too keen on). I happen to know someone who works in the swanky executive center, saw her at the social and she eventually invited me to join this book club. Under the influence of Ben & Jerry's, I said, "Yes."
The book club is made up of employees (and one former employee), most of whom work in the aforementioned swanky executive center. I work in the not-nearly-as-nice building a block away. The club meets at a different upscale eatery once each month to discuss a book chosen by one of the members. I could tell these people do not read genre fiction. I was right.
Yet, I was intrigued by the idea of joining a book club. I've never really done such a thing. Sure, I discuss books constantly with my writer friends - even with family members - but I haven't been in a club. I was also a little skeptical. Whenever I read the "book club questions" in the back of mainstream fiction books, they make me roll my eyes or scratch my head. (Never both at the same time. I'm not that coordinated.)
We had our first meeting Friday and were discussing Ann Patchett's "Run". This is a book I never would have picked up on my own, but enjoyed. Sure, I had trouble believing some of the characters' motivations, I found the primaries a bit unsympathetic at times and some of the author's research was heavy enough to sink a battleship, but it was surprisingly enjoyable. Even more surprising, I was able to discuss the book like a reader with only a few annoying writer-like comments slipping in. It was freeing.
I know people get their hackles up when romance fiction is described as formulaic, but it is - in the very best sense of the world. We know that no matter how unlikely it seems during the black moment, the hero and heroine will somehow find their way to a happy - or at least hopeful - ending. With mainstream fiction, however, there are no guarantees. I found it interesting to read the book and guess what might happen next, to speculate about how the story would end, but really have no clue.
I have tried over the years to read more broadly and not get boxed into a romance corner. But I love romance and, after struggling through other books, I run back to the comfort of my most beloved authors time and time again. I find that no matter how satisfying another sort of book is, I am always hungry for romance.
Next month, my book club is reading a memoir by a chef. The month after that, a book on discovering your psychic type. I am not sure how I will like these books about sautéing and figuring out what sort of intuition I possess, but I will read them dutifully and be prepared to discuss them at the appointed time. I'm a bit nervous about what book I should choose when my month rolls around and I'm equally concerned about finding an appropriate restaurant for our discussion.
I like my new book club friends, I was pleased to find, and I hope they will like me. Especially after they are subjected to my book pick! This group is different. It is definitely a club. But maybe I have become someone who can join a "club" every once in a great while without having my individuality threatened. I'll let you know after the chef and the psychic.
Have you ever been in a book club? How did it work out? Do you read widely outside the romance genre? And most importantly, do you have a book you would recommend when it's my month to choose?!