Tuesday, September 27, 2005

One idea at a time

On September 19, Diane Perkins told us she was a "one idea at a time" writer who lives in fear of never having another idea.

Hallelujah, sister!

And here I thought I was the only one. I just stand in hopeless envy of people who have entire folders of ideas, when mine contain ... er, well, what do mine contain, besides cartoon moths that metaphorically fly out of them? I have folders, but are they actually helping me write the kind of novel my publisher is interested in? Let's have a look ...

(1) An article about game preserves in the U.S. where people can come and shoot exotic animals.
(2) A clipping from a magazine about people who steal fossils. Big ones. The kind you need a backhoe to carry.
(3) A newspaper column about a murder at my junior high school. (It was a tough school in the seventies. Clearly, things have not changed.)
(4) A picture of a dishy blue-jeans model cut from a men's clothing catalog. Definitely hero material. All he needs is a story! ::snort::
(5) An article entitled, "Women warriors from Amazon fought for Britain's Roman army." What was I thinking? I don't write
historicals--especially ones set in Roman Britain. That period doesn't sell. Though, with the Clive Owen version of King Arthur, that may change ...
(6) Ooh, here's one: "Bachelorette partygoers mistakenly peg Gainesville officer as male stripper." Hm. Guess I'll mail this one to my buddy who writes sexy contemporaries.

See? My idea file isn't helping at all. I write for Warner Faith. They want gritty, realistic stories that people from all walks of life can relate to. Now, maybe it was your brother-in-law who was the cop mistaken for a stripper, and you can relate to his dilemma. But it's not going to help me out, here.

Ideas are great. They're also everywhere--in every magazine or newspaper you pick up, on the Discovery Channel, on the Internet, thanks to the endless inventiveness of the human condition. But an idea that will carry a 350-page novel? One that you can craft characters and conflict from? Now, that's a different creature--a strange, exotic, and very shy creature that flits through the trees on the edges of your consciousness, peeks into your dreams, and flees at the first sign of a concentrated effort to pin it down.

Never mind King Arthur. The next idea is the real Holy Grail.

Shelley Bates

www.shelleybates.com

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Blog Wuss

This is my first real blog post. I don't blog. I journal. Just check out my online diary at my website, www.janeporter.com, and you'll see what I mean. It's a place I post and no one else gets to. Why? Control. And fear.

Let me explain.

At my site I write, and others read it and maybe someone will email me privately, and maybe someone won't, but that's it. End of story. I don't have to worry about a firestorm. I don't have to worry about being publically flogged. I just write and post and move on to the next thing in my life because there's so much in life I want to do besides write. I'm a travel freak. Love, love, love jumping on and off planes, cruising through airports, sitting on expedia.com and dreaming up new places to go and how to get there. I love my kids. Love my friends. And I want to read a million novels. And I can't do all that if I'm always writing, or only writing, or worrying about what people think of my writing.

And blogs I've learned involve lots of writing, and lots of worrying. Blogs as you know invite discussion, dissension, even criticism. And I'm fine with all of the above, as long as I'm not expected to defend myself. I'm forty now. Which means I've no desire to defend myself about anything. In fact, my new post forty mantra seems to be, "Bring it On." Which probably translates into Jane-shouldn't-blog-because-she'll-put-her-foot-in-her-mouth-all-the-time. Yous see, here's the fear part of me blogging---I'll alienate one or everyone and then I'll hear about it and then I'll become all apologetic and too sensitive and I'll go back to being the pre-forty me which worried more about pleasing others than herself.

And I can't do that. I have to grow up. I have to have my own opinions, act as I see fit, and not worry about criticism.

In short, I can't be a wuss.

Not even a blog wuss.

Which brings me to the blogs I'll write for Warner Women. I'll only be posting once a month (the 25th of every month) and being an Aquarius born in the year of the Dragon, I think in tangents, which is to say my blogs will be random and not necessarily coherent, but I do welcome input and will write and will be myself. The other part of the deal is that you've got to be yourself, too, and not worry about what others--including me--will think. Say what you want to say, be who you want and need to be, and let's have the best, more interesting and fulfilling life we can imagine.

Jane

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Obsessions

Writers are a neurotic bunch. It comes with the territory. We live inside our heads. We breath life onto the page. We study, analyze, dissect. Nothing is straight forward or black and white. Our world is littered with layers and subtext and hidden meaning. We question everything. We obsess.

Ah, obsession.

The life blood of the writer. We write about what obsesses us. The things we can’t forget, the stories that crowd our brains, jostling and jockeying for position, just waiting to be released onto the page.

The things that obsess you, define you. I’m obsessed with stories. With reading and writing and television and movies. I’m obsesses with movie trivia. I adore the National Enquirer, can’t go a week without my fix.

I’m obsessed with relationships. I think about my husband, my parents, my friends, my readers, my writing buddies, my agent, my editor. Did I say the wrong thing to so and so? Was I insensitive? Now I feel badly because I fear I was insensitive. Should I apologize or let it go so as not to make things worse? Should I do something nice for her because she was mean to me and made me feel bad? Or is that manipulative? Trying to make her feel bad by doing something nice for her because she made me feel bad.

I’m obsessed with cooking and food and nutrition and my weight. I weigh every day. I plan my meals in advance. I have over thirty cookbooks. I love going to specialty food stores. I can spend hours waxing rhapsodically over the different kinds of eggplants and plot delicious eggplant recipes. As we speak there’s a roast in the crockpot with carrots and onions, filling my house with delicious smells. I don’t put potatoes in my crockpot because I like the contrast of creamy smooth mashed potatoes served along side the stewed, rough–hewn crockpot fare. With it, I’ll have a crisp garden salad and lite ranch dressing, but no bread. Not because I’m Miss No Carb but because bread is not my obsession. I eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables but I have a darker obsession. I live for sweets. Gooey, rich, decadent. Chocolate and caramel loaded with nuts. I can’t go a day without some kind of sweet, which is why I can’t tolerate Akins.

I’m also obsessed with exercise to help balance my obsession with sweets. I actually love to exercise. Treadmill, strength training, dancing, yoga. I love warrior pose and downward facing dog. I love the way my body feels after yoga. Long and stretchy and flexible. I am writer woman, hear me roar.

Obsessions have power and writers must learn how to harness that power and bring it to the page. We have to embrace our obsessions. Use them to pinpoint our strengths and weaknesses. They are us. We have to make peace with them.

So what do you obsess about all day long?

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Art of Not-Writing

I planned to blog about my writing process, but who am I kidding? The only processing that's been going on around here lately has involved my hair-- which is even more blonde now, thank you.

Writing takes a lot of not-writing, I find. Some people, I've heard, call this "procrastination," but I think those people have "Work Ethics." I try to avoid that sort of thing. It's why I moved away from all those Work Ethic-y people in New England to live in laid-back, beach-addled Los Angeles.

Some of my favorite ways to not-write include:

  • Watching my collection of television shows on DVD, and does it matter that I've already seen the entire series of Buffy sixty-seven trillion times? Or that I can speak all of the lines along with Claire Danes in My So-Called Life?
  • Ordering new television shows on DVD. Because I am a completist and must own every single season of La Femme Nikita or die trying.
  • Watching newly-recorded television shows on TiVo.
  • Programming new television shows into my TiVo, which is very time-consuming and then there's the question of season passes. It's a delicate operation.
  • Reading the eighty-seven blogs which comprise my daily "Blog Rounds," because I am convinced I might spontaneously combust if I do not keep up on these matters. Also, many of these blogs are Industry Related, (i.e., once or twice a month, someone mentions writing), so this is actually Working.
  • Reading my favorite political blogs, the better to work myself up into a towering rage, which has nothing to do with work but means I am A Well-Rounded Person Who Knows What Is Going On In The World. Which is very important when one is actually more of a hermit, who hides in her little cave for days at a time, only emerging when it is time to make a spectacle of herself at social events.
  • Catching up on the approximately four hundred emails I have, at any given time, left unanswered in my Inbox.
  • Deciding that it is time to Get Serious about my personal fitness, which involves a trip to the corner store to purchase fitness magazines like Shape, hours spent becoming hysterical about how much my body does not now and never will resemble that of the Shape girls, approximately thirty-nine tons of chocolate and/or Ben & Jerry's to ease the brutal pain of having more of a keg-shaped abdomen than any six-pack nonsense, and a guilty sugar coma in front of the aforementioned television shows on TiVo or DVD. Then and only then, I might consider going to the gym.
  • Re-reading favorite books from my personal library. To be honest, most of the books in my personal library are "favorites" and it's not so much a "personal library" as a "dizzying heap of books around which I have crammed in a small apartment."
  • Reading books from my mountainous, ever-expanding To Be Read pile, the one that is currently more of a "bookshelf all its own" than any piddling "pile."
  • Buying new books online, which requires hours of research, review reading, and contemplation.
  • Buying new books in actual bookstores, which involves Leaving the Apartment (a rare occurrence, as I might have mentioned), taking myself to a mall, accidentally shopping at Lucky Jeans and Anthropologie (crack dens, both of them), maybe having some lunch or coffee, lurking around in the book aisles attempting to will people to buy my book with the force of my stare, and then spending hours picking out new books to cart home and add to the terrifying To Be Read pile. This can take whole days.

When you think about all the things I have to overcome, it's a wonder I get any writing done at all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Get me outta here!

Someone recently asked me who I am trying to reach with my writing. I hadn't thought about that in years, so I answered with my old stand-by, "Women (or men) who like to read about the kind of love that lasts forever." Blah, blah, blah. Blink/smile. Easy. Next question.

When I got home I checked my email and found a letter from a Katrina survivor. She wrote to tell me that Lord Of Desire had helped her through the roughest time in her life. When she needed a way to retreat from everyday living, it was there.

Now it all came back to me....the reason I write. The reason I love to tell stories is to bring people to my world. A place where they can forget about the realities of theirs, even if it's just for a little while. All books do this, but I think romance does it best. What woman doesn't want to imagine herself in some faraway land being swept away by a gorgeous man? I love historicals because those knights in shining armor were the ultimate fantasy for me while growing up. I escaped to different times where brave men riding great snorting warhorses fought for the honor of a woman. I retreated into magnificent castles where everyone looked beautiful in the flickering firelight. I ran through lush heather moors like Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music. (but my hair was longer and my gown was hand embroidered)

We all want to retreat sometimes. Reading brings us where we want to go, safely, quietly. Another reader wrote telling me she had an illness that prevented her from leaving her house. Lord Of Desire brought her to England. Our books do that and I think it's an amazing gift.

I love to write, but with deadlines and book signings and all the other stuff that makes us 'professionals', I almost forgot why I love it. The magic you see in your child's eyes while you're reading her a bedtime story is just as real when an adult opens up a good novel. I want to be the one to bring the magic to them.

If anyone ever asks me again who I am trying to reach with my writing, this time I know what my answer will be. The over-stressed, the over-worked, the dreamer, the lonely, the misunderstood, and anyone who just wants to take a break and maybe meet a future king in the flickering light of a magnificent castle.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Too much imagination or what is in a name

On Sept 16 Shari blogged, "A writer’s problem is usually too many ideas and not enough time to develop those ideas into a story and then get it written."

This is sooooo not my problem. I am definitely a one-idea-at-a-time writer and I live in fear of never having another idea. I envy my friends who say things like, "I have stories popping into my head all the time." I do, too, but what pops into my head is the story I'm working on right now, not a million other ones. My friend Karen Anders, who writes for Blaze, was just saying to me yesterday that she has so many ideas she has to keep a big folder for them. Not just a folder. A big folder.

What is worse, Karen thinks up names for her characters in the wink of an eye. "They come to me fully blown, Diane," she just said to me. "With names and all." I agonize over names, going to a Baby Naming website and my collection of Regency names to try to find the "right" one. Takes hours.

Then if I find a name I like, I have to make sure that it doesn't belong to a real person. I don't want to write about the Earl of Kellworth (my hero's title in The Marriage Bargain, due in bookstores Oct 1)if he really exists, living in Gloucestershire or someplace. What if the Earl was offended? Although I don't know why he should be, because my hero got a KISS award-Knight in Shining Silver-in October's Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine.

I had given my earl in The Marriage Bargain a great name: Spencer Keegan. I actually googled that name to make sure it didn't belong to an ax murderer or something. It belonged to a cute little boy in kindergarten, but I didn't think he'd be reading my book anytime soon, so I was happy. If you have my first book, The Improper Wife, you'll see good ol' Spence Keegan in the teaser chapter at the end of the book. Then my friend Virginia told me, "You can't give an English earl an Irish name." "Is it Irish?" says I. "Very Irish," she replied.
Sigh.
Back to my naming books and websites. Spence Keegan became Spence Keenan. Not quite as catchy as Keegan.

I named my heroine Emma, one of my favorite English female names, like Emma Thompson or Emma, Lady Hamilton. It is a pretty name. One of my daughter's high school friends was named Emma.
On Friday I played Bunco and was talking about my upcoming book. My neighbor Vicky said, "I've read The Marriage Bargain, haven't I?" "No," I explained. "You might have read the excerpt in The Improper Wife (you know, the one with Spencer Keegan?)" "Oh, yes," she went on. "You named the heroine after our dog."
That Emma is a huge Newfoundland who comes barreling toward me whenever she sees me. Someday I'm going to sic my three cats on her. She'd run, too.

I'm not finished with names yet. There are all the minor characters to name. Same rules apply. Don't name them after real people (or dogs). But now I have to make sure all the names start with different letters of the alphabet. We don't want Spence's friends called Sam and Sebastian--or the servants for that matter. And we don't want to give them the same names as the servants in our other books. We also don't want to give our villains cool names we might need for other heroes or heroines in future books, if we can think up any future books.

Whew! All this takes time and brain power! My theory is that it takes up the space in my brain where that folder of story ideas is supposed to go.

Have a great week, everyone!
Diane Perkins

Q&A with KATHRYN CASKIE


Can you tell us about your new book?

A LADY'S GUIDE TO RAKES (September 2005, Warner Forever) is the third book in my wacky Featherton sisters series.

Its the story of Meredith Merriweather, who after being coldly left at the altar, begins to research and pen a cautionary guidebook to prevent her misfortune from befalling other young ladies--"A Lady's Guide to Rakes."  After conducting social experiments on various former cads, bucks, dandies and lechers, she targets London’s most notorious reformed rake and sets out to prove the adage “Once a rake, always a rake"--even if she has to dangle herself as bait.


What was your favorite part about writing this book?

I love developing unusual or quirky characters then putting them into sticky, situations with a high potential for humor.  Sometimes I find myself sitting alone in my office laughing hysterically as I write a scene - and being very glad no one is home to haul me off and commit me.


If this book was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it?

The visual for the heroine was actually Nicole Kidman, so yeah, I would choose her.  High potential for an Oscar performance, no?  The hero....oh, Gerard Butler. For sure.  Yum! 


What are you working on right now?

I am polishing up LOVE IS IN THE HEIR, my June 2006 release for Warner.  Its the last of my wacky Featherton sisters series (and there will be 3 weddings--hint, hint.)  Its about an ancient earl who loses his entire family in a terrible accident.  And, knowing he too will die soon, searches for his heir.  Instead of one, he finds two--but since the twins don't know which was born first, the earl secretly makes them a deal.  The first to marry a woman of quality will become the official first born, and will soon inherit the earldom.  What could possibly go wrong? LOL.  Just wait and see.


Where do you get your ideas?

Usually on eBay.  You can get anything there if you look. 


What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer?

Never ever give up.  It took me 9 years, off and on, to write a book that would sell in today's market. 


What is your favorite movie of all time?

Okay, I have had the same favorite movie since I was four.  Wizard of Oz.  I have no idea why, but I have always loved the movie.  Maybe that's why I talked my husband into walking down to the beach with me last month and taking this picture when funnels were dropping out of the sky all around us. 


Favorite book?

To Kill A Mockingbird. 


Favorite television show?

Now this is hard to answer.  I love quirky shows like Carnivale, Rescue Me, Starved, Desperate Housewives, Deadwood....it all depends on my mood.  Sometimes I don't watch television for days at a time.


Favorite author?

This may sound odd coming from a romance author, but Stephen King.  I still agree with Nora Roberts (another fave) who said that King was the foremost colorist of our generation.


If you were stranded on a deserted island with one person, living or dead, who would you like it to be?

If I stranded on a deserted island for one day, my answer would be very different than if I was going to stranded for a week or more.  More than a day, gotta say my hubby. {she blushes}


If on that island you could only listen to 2 CDs, what would they be?

Can't I just bring two loaded iPods?


If you weren't a writer, what would you like to do for a living?
 
You know the bit about the best way to be happy in your job is to figure out what you love to do, then find a way to make money doing it?  Well, writing is one of those dream jobs.  I enjoy it so much that it seems ludicrous that I am paid write.  Another one of those  dream jobs, for me, would be being an artist.  I draw and paint, and just like when I write, I lose all concept of time and place.  All that exists is the scene or subject I am creating.  The writing and art are very similar in that way.


What are a few of your favorite websites?

I am a nut for eBay.  I love, love, love hunting for antiques and eBay is a great way to hit hundreds of antique shops at once. 


Wanna know more?  Wanna chance to win a hot air balloon trip for two in your home state?  Stop by my website: www.kathryncaskie.com



Reach Kathryn by email | Purchase A Lady's Guide to Rakes

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Looking for a Keeper

No, not one of those beloved books that we just can’t bear to part with, the ones that find their way to our “keeper shelf.”  I’m looking for someone to keep me on my shelf.  You know, like those people at the zoo … or the asylum.

A keeper.  Not an assistant.  You need to have your wits about you to function with an assistant.  I need someone to follow me around, tell me where I laid my glasses, what I did with that bill I just had in my hand; mention as I pick the bottle of ketchup off the grocery store shelf that I already have three bottles of ketchup in the pantry (for some reason when I need something, the need sticks long after I’ve filled the order the first few times); remind me not to walk out of the dry cleaners without the cleaning I just paid for (well, actually, the folks at the cleaners know me and are doing pretty well in keeping that particular problem in check); someone to step on the brakes when I pull away from the drive through after paying for the pizza, but before they actually hand the pizza to me – well, you’re getting the picture.

A person would think, since I’m much less pressed for time now than I was a few years ago when my children were young and I met myself coming and going, I would be better organized, or at least less distracted.  But no.  It seems where I could keep four busy schedules in play, four lives in flawless motion, I now can barely remember if I put on my own mascara.

A couple of months ago, I splurged on a designer purse (even at the outlet mall, the price made me shudder).  But, I thought, I work hard, I deserve a treat.  So I bought the bag – the small one, with the smaller price tag.  The first week I carried it, my husband and I had lunch at a sidewalk café and, you guessed it, I left my bag on the chair.  I didn’t even realize it until two hours later, when I was looking for my checkbook to pay bills.  Sadly, the idea that I’d left my purse at the café was about the fifth thing that came to mind.  I’d already searched closets and cars, accused various children of moving it … again, you get the picture.  Luckily, that story has a happy ending and someone turned it in, with cash and credit cards intact.

A month before that, I locked the keys in the trunk of my car while I was three-hundred miles from home.  During the same trip, I stepped outside my hotel room to pick up the newspaper and heard the door click closed behind me – no key of course, but at least I was dressed.

So far, I haven’t done irreparable damage.  But the key words are “so far.”

You can see the challenges presented to the person who takes on the keeper position are vast and thorny (sometimes I get a little defensive about my memory lapses).  And so far I haven’t had any takers.  It’s a big, nasty job -- but please, someone’s got to do it!

Now, what did I do with ….

www.SusanCrandall.net

Friday, September 16, 2005

How do you do that? OR You must have a very weird imagination.

I’m often asked if it’s hard to come up with ideas for a novel. Not really! A writer’s problem is usually too many ideas and not enough time to develop those ideas into a story and then get it written.

I’m sure some of my colleagues on this blog who write contemporary stories get their ideas from stories in the newspapers and magazines, or simply from observing everyday life. Have you ever sat in a restaurant or airport or park and watched people? Ever wonder why some particular woman wore "that" particular outfit? Or wanted to know more about the man who seems to be talking (loudly) to himself until you notice the device in his ear that tells you he’s actually on the phone?

Those of us who write in historical periods do much the same. There are magazines devoted to different time periods. And there are history books. I love history books. I’m just as content reading a dusty old tome as a novel. Really! Sometimes a setting will strike my fancy, or a person will fascinate me. Or a law, or an event, or in the case of MIDNIGHT MAGIC, a prophecy.

As you might imagine, I have several books on Arthurian legend. Merlin figures highly in most of them, and it was his prophecy that King Arthur would return to England at its time of most dire need that triggered my imagination to take flight. How, I wondered, was Arthur supposed to know when to make his appearance? One would think that after lounging around in Avalon for several hundred years he would become complacent about earthly problems — right? Knowing the foibles of human nature, Merlin would surely devise a way to ensure his prophecy came to pass (he has a reputation to uphold, after all).

So that’s the process. And working a little magic into a medieval romance was so much fun I decided to give my heroine a couple of sisters and do a trilogy, with each sister having her own type of magic. Which gives me another reason to read more books. :) 

Shari Anton

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Upside of the Downside

Speaking of heroes and fog...well, okay, I have nothing to say about either one. It's sunny and warm in Nashville today and I'm too revved up from my early morning walk to think about the lastest serial killer stalking my brain. In fact, I can't believe I walked at all. Me, the poster child for couch potato, up at 5:45 and pounding the pavement by 6. That's am, folks. I'm turning into an alien version of myself. How about the rest of you? Anyone else out there drag themselves out the door, kicking and screaming? I go to Curves 3X a week, too. Talk about glutton for punishment. If anyone had asked me when I was 12 what I'd be doing now, I wouldn't have said exercise 6 days a week. No way. No sir.

Come to think of it, I wouldn't have said I'd have written and published 1 book, let alone 4 with 2 more on the way (shameless self-promotion coming... Hey--hows about I just get it over with? "Necessary Betrayals" in the December anthology, HOT PURSUIT, and in April, the full-length BLACKOUT).

And here I am working on #6 for Warner, and kvetching and struggling like I did with all the rest (I'll never get it done! Never! Never!). I could really relate to Lisa Gardner's speech last year at RWA where she talked about coming downstairs after a day of writing and telling her husband that her book sucked.

My stuff should only suck so much...

So, I ask you. Where are those famous exercise endorphins everyone brags about? You know, the ones that make you high and happy? I mean, I walk, I bounce, I lift that barge, tote that bale, and I'm STILL the Eyore I always was.

Of course, I'm a size smaller Eyore...

Well, here's to the glass half empty folks. There's gotta be some of you out there. If there weren't there'd only be the glass half full guys, and man, wouldn't the world be a poorer place for it?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

In which Julie complains about Relentless Fog (the weather, not my MIND, silly...)

Is it 9:00 a.m.? Is it noon? Is it 6:00 and time for dinner?? Who can tell??? The color outside my office window hasn't changed for DAYS and days and DAYS, except to go black at night. The sky is a relentless, endless pearly white: fog. The curse of the San Francisco summer. And it's COLD. Yesterday I wore my red wool winter coat to the grocery store two blocks away, and I assure you I was not overdressed. Earmuffs would not have gone amiss, given the wind whistling off the ocean. And usually by the middle of September we get some of our most glorious weather -- I mean, an actual facsimile of summer -- but I'm beginning to come to grips with the fact that it might just skip us this year, the warmth. So be it. I'll count my blessings, and all, among them the roof over my head and the fact that I live within four blocks of three Thai restaurants. The funny part is that ten minutes away by the streetcar the sun might very well be shining -- when you emerge from the streetcar tunnel it's like that scene in the Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy opens the door and suddenly the movie switches from black and white to color -- fog to sun and blue sky. I might need to find an excuse to go through the tunnel to downtown...hmmm....MACY'S is downtown...
 
It's pretty good writing weather, however, in that you aren't the least tempted to frolic outdoors. And I'm so in love with my latest hero  -- the one I'm writing now, in the book (as yet untitled) that will come out after BEAUTY AND THE SPY (whose hero I also loved -- hey! I'm fickle!) -- that I half want to keep the heroine's mitts off of him. Just kidding! He's my favorite kind of man, Tom Shaughnessy is, a self-made man; he didn't inherit his money, he isn't nobility, and he isn't a warrior, unless you count the fact that he fought his way up from nothing for everything he now has and will fight to keep it -- and the people he's responsible for -- safe and thriving. He owns a series of bawdy theaters, actually. :)  For any readers out there who might stumble across our blog: who are some of your favorite heroes? Dukes, warriors, barristers, vampires? English, Scottish, American, something else?  And what made them seem heroic to you?
 
I must fly now, as my hero and heroine, Tom and Sylvie await. Sylvie's getting her mitts on him this afternoon. ;) Hope you and your loved ones are having a safe and sunny September so far! xo...julie

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sarah McKerrigan blog

    I'm Sarah McKerrigan, and I write historicals.
    There.  I've admitted it.
    Oh, I'm not a hardcore historian.  I've dabbled in contemporaries, stuff for kids, even songwriting.  But I'm always drawn back to historicals.
    My friends think I'm nuts.  "You have to do all that RESEARCH," they whine.
    "Exactly," I reply.
    You see, for historical writers, the research is half the fun.
    I know.  I know.  You're imagining pale nerds in Coke bottle glasses, hibernating in cavernous libraries with a pile of dusty tomes, drooling over some academic's dry prose.
    But it's not like that at all.  In fact, I do a lot of my research by talking to people who live back then.  No, I don't have a time machine.  There just happen to be a lot of people who love to immerse themselves in the past, some of them reenactors, some of them craftsmen, some of them pale nerds who drool over dry prose.  And they like nothing more than to discover someone's actually interested in their passion.
    You can find loads of political history in books, but it's not as often you get a glimpse into social history.  I want to know how people did their laundry, what they liked for supper, how many dresses they owned, what they did for entertainment.  From reenactors, I've seen how women in the Middle Ages probably kept those long sleeves out of the way and felt how hot it would have been in a blacksmith's shop in the 1800s.  I've heard the sound of a wooden lance splintering in a real tournament, and listened to a young man speak in his grandfather's Indian tongue.  I've stood on board a clipper ship while it set sail, strode across the battlefield of Culloden to the sound of bagpipes, and hugged a man in full armor (all in the name of, ahem, research).
    I don't believe people of today are essentially different from people of the past in their values and desires, in either their scorn for "the law's delay" or their love of laughter.  So for me, the research is just putting a final polish on the story to bring the history to life.
 
Sarah McKerrigan...
Stories to keep you up all night.
LADY DANGER
Riding to the rescue April 2006

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The new phone book is here!

Anyone out there see the movie "The Jerk" with Steve Martin. If so, then you'll remember the part when he says "The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here! I'm SOMEBODY!" So, okay, instead of the new phone book arriving, it was actually my book - OUT OF THE NIGHT and I was excited because last week it came out. When I walked into the bookstore and saw it on the shelf, I suddenly felt like "somebody." Even the sales clerk behind the counter knew who I was - true, it was after my husband very loudly shouted "Wow! You mean you WROTE that book!"

People's reactions are interesting when they meet an author. Some don't know what to say and others will try to tell you about the great American novel THEY could write, if only.... One of my favorite reactions (and that's favorite in the "do you believe they said that" way) is "so, you write smut." Do the people who ask this question realize how offensive it is? Do they realize how many people they are insulting, because the majority of readers are buying romances over other genres? Do these people realize how ignorant they sound? What I'm never sure about is how to respond to this question.

My standard response is to suggest they read my book and then let me know if they consider it smut or not. Best case is they find my action/adventure vampire romance tales interesting and will pick up the next book - and worst case is, I lost a reader I never had, but sold a book. And there is a kind of perverse satisfaction in that. :-)

Robin T. Popp

Friday, September 09, 2005

Scary Places

bib·li·o·phile (bĭb'lē-ə-fīl'),
1. A lover of books.
2. A collector of books.


I am a bibiophile. Note that the definition does not state that a bibliophile necessarily is a voracious reader of books, just one who loves and collects them. Like an addiction. Like crack cocaine. Or chocolate. Or Big Brother 6 spoilers.

I have bought enough books that the major bookstore chain in Canada which is called Chapters (just think Barnes & Noble with more colorful money exchanging hands) issued me a Lifestyle Membership Card. From now until the end of time I'll be able to get 10% off my every purchase. Even when there's a sale on. Does life get much better than this? I think not.

Because of this discount, and because of my self-confessed bibliophile lifestyle, I want to share a very scary part of my life with you.

My bookshelf.

Or rather, two specific areas of my bookshelf.

Number 1: The To-Be-Read Shelf



All books that I've either purchased, or recently received at the RWA Nationals in Reno. I have not read any of them. Yet. They are waiting very patiently for me.

A few highlights:

#1: "Undead & Unappreciated" by MaryJanice Davidson. This wonderful woman has given me a terrific cover quote for my soon to be released first book, so that officially puts her on my must-buy list. Forever. And ever.

#2: "Pencil Him In" by Molly O'Keefe. She's the president of my RWA chapter, so duh, gotta buy her books. I think it's in the group guidelines or something.

#3: "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clark. Who am I kidding? I'm never going to read this one. That was just wishful thinking. Do you see how thick it is???

On to the next scary place...

Number 2: The I-Wanna-Be-A-Writer Shelf


No, this is not a photo taken in the local bookstore "reference" section. These are (almost) all the books I've bought over the years on every possible aspect of writing. Advice, anecdotes, research material, guidelines. And on a bunch of genres: Sci Fi, Historical, Mystery, YA, Romance. And, in contrast to my TBR shelf, most of these I've actually read. Cover to cover.

A few highlights:

#1: Genre-specific how-to's. Pictured are "Writing Horror," "Writing Mysteries," "Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy," "Writing Books for Kids & Teens," "Writing Magazine & Newspaper Articles" (!!). I know I have a Romance one too, but it's missing in action.

#2: This arrow doesn't seem to exist in the pic and I'm too tired to fix it. So there.

#3: "On Writing" by Stephen King. Along with "Bird by Bird" (also mysteriously missing), this is my favorite book about the writing life.

#4: "No Plot? No Problem!" by Chris Baty. The founder of Nanowrimo wrote this. I've done Nano successfully twice. However, in the real world, unless you're writing literary fiction: No Plot? Big Problem.

#5: "How to Write a Romance and Get it Published" by Kathryn Falk. My very first writing book. This is very well worn. Bought back in the late 80's! and dog-eared, pink highlighted, and drooled on. Not necessarily in that order.

So there you have it. A little tour through a couple scary places in my life. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

Or maybe I should make another trip to the bookstore today...

Michelle :-)

BITTEN & SMITTEN, Jan. '06
www.michellerowen.com

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Q&A with KAREN ROSE


Can you tell us about your new book?

In NOTHING TO FEAR (August 2005, Warner Books), Dana Dupinsky is the director of Hanover House, a shelter for women who are escaping abusive men.  Hanover House is Dana's life, and she's dedicated herself to protecting the women who come through her doors.  What she doesn't know is that her newest client is not running from an abusive spouse.  Sue is a vicious, ruthless killer, bent on revenge.  Sue's kidnapped young Alec Vaughn as part of her plan, but Sue needs a place to hide as she pulls all the details of her revenge into place.  What better place than a shelter whose director would gladly give her life to protect her clients? 

Ethan Buchanan is a former Marine, injured while tracking terrorists in the Afghani desert.  He's also Alec Vaughn's godfather, and Alec's parents turn to him with a desperate plea for Ethan's help in finding their son.  Alec's kidnapper has threatened to kill him if they call the police and has left hideously convincing proof that they're not bluffing.  Ethan and Dana's paths cross and while they both are trying to do the right thing, things get much worse as they try fulfill their responsibilities--Dana to her clients, Ethan to his godson.  But through it all they turn to each other ...  For the rest, read NOTHING TO FEAR!

Here's what Romantic Times said about NOTHING TO FEAR! "In the pantheon of horrific killers, Sue Conway surely ranks near the top.  This book is filled with heart-stopping suspense and graphic terror. Rose is making her mark on the suspense genre.  4 1/2 stars, TOP PICK!"

What was your favorite part about writing this book?

I think the twist, which I can't tell you about, LOL.  Also, the romance between Ethan and Dana.  They have such a wonderful relationship together.

If this book was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it?

Well, in my mind, Dana was always Detective Olivia Benson, from Law and Order, SVU (I'm a L&O junkie!).  Ethan is big and blond and gentle.  Not sure who I'd have play him...

What are you working on right now?

I just finished my fifth novel - YOU CAN'T HIDE which will be released April, 2006.   Aidan Reagan (he's Abe's brother from I'M WATCHING YOU) is the hero.  He is called to the scene of what appears to be a suicide, but which Aidan and his partner Murphy quickly realize is a cold, planned murder.  The victim has been psychologically tortured into jumping twenty-two stories to her death.  Is the master manipulator Dr. Tess Ciccotelli, the victim's psychiatrist?  Or is Tess a victim herself?  I'll be posting excerpts on my website soon!

Now, I'm starting my sixth novel - more to come on this in the near future...

Where do you get your ideas?

From the newspaper, sometimes from inside my own mind, which is kind of scary to consider, ha!

What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer?

First of all, sit down and write.  Second, surround yourself with supportive writers who will be able to help guide you in craft and career and who will be able to commiserate when things are bad and rejoice when things are good.  The Romance Writers of America is a great place to start, even if you don't write romance.  Finally, don't write to get published.  Write because you must, because the people in your head will simply not be silenced. 

What is your favorite movie of all time?

Chariots of Fire. 

Favorite book?

I have to say the BORN IN trilogy by Nora Roberts.  That's really three books, but who's counting :-)

Favorite television show?

LAW & ORDER!!!  I love Lennie and Elliot and Olivia and Munch. 

Favorite author?

Oh, hard question.  I'm going to cheat and give my top faves - Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Ken Follett, Lavyrle Spencer

If you were stranded on a deserted island with one person, living or dead, who would you like it to be?

Preferably somebody who knew how to escape from a desert island...  Seriously, my husband.  I don't think he would know how to escape, but my days would be full of laughter.  And he can cook. 
 
If on that island you could only listen to 2 CDs, what would they be? 

Garth Brooks, THE HITS and Yanni IN THE MIRROR (something about a mirror, anyway)

If you weren't a writer, what would you like to do for a living?

What I do for a part-time living now - teach chemistry and physics in high school.

What are a few of your favorite websites?

www.eviloverlord.com - this is a hilarious website that tells you all the things you should do should you ever decide to take over the world. 



Visit Karen's website | Reach Karen by email | Purchase Nothing To Fear

Sunday, September 04, 2005

For the Love of Dogs: Road Tripping

Tomorrow is a big day.
Tomorrow I get in my pick up truck with my husband, two 90 lb dogs and a bunch-o-luggage, and we drive.
And drive.
And drive.
We start in Maine and end in Oregon. Yep, that's 3300 miles for those who are keeping track.

Are we moving cross country? Nope.
Are we taking three weeks to see our country? Nope.
Are we insane? Probably.

See, this is how it is. I live on the west coast. My family lives on the east coast. Everyone's hanging out at the family homestead on a lake this summer, and I wanted to be there! As an author, I can go for the summer, which is great. But I wanted to bring my dogs and I won't fly them cargo. So we drive. All of us packed in an extended cab truck as we endure fifteen hour days on the road. We drive from dark to dark, get subway take out and eat in the car, crash for a few hours each night.

But you know what? It's worth it. My dogs love to travel. They're so cute snuggling up on top of each other as we all bond in the cab. We got satellite radio so we can listen to the Red Sox games. And once we got to the lake, it was all worth it. We had the best summer, but now it's time to hit the road again.

Sigh.

It was worth it, but right now, twelve hours before we leave, it's not looking like so much fun. If it wasn't for the dogs, we'd fly. But we drive. We did it last year, we'll do it this year and we'll do it next year. The things we do for love. And there is nothing more pure that the love of a dog. They change our lives for the better every day, and I'd drive 3300 miles for them any week of the year. See below for a photo of my sweeties.

Stephanie Rowe
Check out my personal blog at www.stephanierowe.blogspot.com

Kip & Oscar

Here is a photo of Oscar and Kip, a few days after we got Kip. Today, they are both 90lbs, but they still snuggle the same way, both with each other and with us. They are so worth a 3300 mile drive!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Q&A with PAULA QUINN


Can you tell us about your new book?

LORD OF DESIRE (August 2005, Warner Forever) is the story of a powerful Norman warrior whose heart has been betrayed by love, and a fiery Saxon beauty who must become a warrior to heal his heart and win his love. When Lady Brynna Dumont is ordered to marry the man who defeated her father in battle or face expulsion from her home, she is devastated.  Lord Brand the Passionate isn't interested in marriage either. A betrayal has robbed him of his trust in love. But spirited Brynna has a way of getting under his skin. Determined to stay in the only home she has ever known, Brynna knows she must fight harder than her father...on a battlefield of a very different nature. But can her passion heat Brand's wounded heart before the woman who betrayed him returns to finish what she started?

What was your favorite part about writing this book?

I loved feeling all the emotions in this book. There's so much life and passion in Brand and Brynna beneath the surface. Getting to really know them was incredible. My absolute favorite part about writing this book though, was writing about William the Conqueror. Every time he walked into a scene he came alive and made me laugh.

If this book was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it?

 Great question! I think I'd like someone who isn't well known to play William. I'd love Kate Winslet for Brynna, and Brand? No question about it...Gerard Butler. Then again, he'd have to be in almost all of my movies.

What are you working on right now?

Lord Of Seduction.  It's the third book in the Risande series.  Lord Of Temptation (book two) is due out in February '06.

Where do you get your ideas?

Most of the time they just come to me. Sometimes a character is born from a beautiful song I hear, sometimes they just pop in and say "Hi, have I got a story for you!" I really have to be inspired to write. Luckily there are many things that inspire me.

What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer?

Keep writing. Don't give up. Believe in yourself.  Read as much as you can.

What is your favorite movie of all time?

Can I pick two? I have two all time favorites. The Count Of Monte Cristo, with James Caviezel and King Arthur with Clive Owen.

Favorite book?

It's a 3-way tie.

1. The Lions Of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
2. Yours Until Dawn  by Teresa Medeiros
3. The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams

Favorite television show?

Don't laugh. Charmed. Love it!

Favorite author?

Guy Gavriel Kay

If you were stranded on a deserted island with one person, living or dead, who would you like it to be?

Wow, another great question.  My husband.

If on that island you could only listen to 2 CDs, what would they be?

Finally, a two-fer! Ok, ummm, a really fantastic CD I found and ordered on the Internet called Pipin' Hot by Weavers Of the Tartan (It's Scottish, if you haven't guessed, and completely incredible) and Linkin Park - Live in Texas...sooo good.

If you weren't a writer, what would you like to do for a living?

Tough one. A veterinarian probably. If I knew how to play an instrument, a musician. 

What are a few of your favorite websites?

Electric Scotland holds over 20,000 pages of Scottish History and Clans

Romance Reader at Heart

Manhattan Herps

Heartstrings Reviews - Romantic Fiction E-Zine - New & Archived Reviews



Visit Paula's website | Reach Paula by email | Purchase Lord of Desire

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Q&A with ROBIN T. POPP


Can you tell us about your new book?

OUT OF THE NIGHT (Warner Forever, September 2005) is a vampire story with a twist. It’s about librarian-by-day, firefighter/EMT-by-night Lanie Weber who’s just learned that her scientist father, who has been working for the past six months in the Amazon jungle at a secret government research facility, has been killed in a wild animal attack. Unable to have the body flown back to the states – and needing closure - Lanie resolves to fly to the research facility. She does this with the help of Mac Knight, a former Navy SEAL who now flies private charters. He’s not just flying her there for the money, however. He’s going to make sure that the other man killed in the attack, former SEAL team mate Lance Burton, is really dead and not trying to escape the formal inquiry into his actions a year earlier that resulted in the death of several men on their SEAL team. When they first meet, Lanie and Mac don’t quite hit it off. He thinks she’s a mousy bookworm and she thinks he’s an arrogant SOB. When they finally arrive at the research facility, they are met with a disaster that forces them to work together. Everyone in the research facility is dead and the bodies of Lanie’s father and Lance Burton are missing. As they search the premises for whatever killed the researchers, Lanie and Mac come across the statue of a gargoyle. As the sun goes down, the statue … well, you’ll just have to read the book to see what happens.

What is your favorite part about writing this book?

I love reading and watching vampire, action-adventure and romance stories/movies. Writing this book allowed me to combine my interests and really let my imagination go wild.

If this book was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it?

Wow, hmmm, let’s see. I’m a big THE MUMMY fan, so I think I’d like to see Oded Fehr cast as Mac and Rachel Wiesz as Lanie. I love Brandon Frasier too, but he’s a little too “boy scout” looking to be Mac. Another favorite for Mac would be Keanu Reeves.

What are you working on right now?

OUT OF THE NIGHT is the first book in my NIGHT SLAYER series, so I’m currently working on book 3 of that series – TEMPTED IN THE NIGHT (Jan. 2007). Book 2 is SEDUCED BY THE NIGHT (June 2006).

Where do you get your ideas?

I think they are a product of too little sleep. :-) I get up at 4:30 every morning so I can write for a couple of hours before starting my full-time day job. Plus, I’m very fortunate in that I have several very creative friends who are willing to brainstorm ideas with me.

What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer?

“Never give up; Never surrender.” Seriously, if becoming published is what’s important to you, then persevere. Don’t think you know everything there is to know; don’t think your writing skills can’t be better honed or your story improved upon. Continually strive to be better than you are. It’s not going to be easy and it won’t come without personal and/or family sacrifice, but nothing worth doing ever does.

What is your favorite movie of all time?

AMERICAN DREAMER – it’s about an aspiring writer who is unhappy in her marriage and who wins a mystery story writing contest. She’s flown to England where she has an accident. She’s knocked out and when she regains consciousness, she believes herself to be the heroine in her favorite mystery story series. It’s very creative, lots of fun – and of course, it’s a romance.

Favorite book?

I don’t know that I have an all time favorite, but if I had to pick, it might be RESTOREE by Anne McCaffrey. It’s the only book I’ve read more than once.

Favorite television show?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (of course) and Gilmore Girls.

Favorite author?

I have so many. Right now, I’m devouring all of Suzanne Brockman’s books. I think she’s fantastic. Another of my favorite authors is Anne Stuart. Jayne Ann Krentz is a long time favorite.



Visit Robin's website | Purchase Out Of The Night

Q&A with SHELLEY BATES


Can you tell us about your new book?

Pocketful of Pearls is the sequel to my RITA Award winning inspirational, Grounds to Believe. Pearls is about a woman who has been raped for the past ten years by her pastor, and is the story of how she overcomes the abuse with the help of the homeless man she has hidden in her barn.

What was your favorite part about writing this book?

It was a tough story to write, but the best part was interviewing women from all walks of life and being privileged to hear their stories.

If this book was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it?

I would pick Canadian actress Molly Parker to play Dinah Traynell; she has such vulnerability in her performances. And the hero, Matthew Nicholas, is based on a male model named Nate Warner.

What are you working on right now?

I'm working on book three in the trilogy, called A Sounding Brass. It's based on a true story about a radio evangelist who defrauds an entire town.

Where do you get your ideas?

A sentence from one person ... a memory from another ... a picture ... all kind of merge together in the back of my brain and produce an "aha!" that usually turns into the opening scene.

What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer?

Research your market carefully and be sure you can write for that market for a long time.

What is your favorite movie of all time?

The A&E version of Pride & Prejudice. You know, the one with Colin Firth :)

Favorite book?

It's a toss-up between Jane Eyre and The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.

Favorite television show?

Again, a toss-up ... between Buffy and The X-Files.

Favorite author?

I have too many to list!

If you were stranded on a deserted island with one person, living or dead, who would you like it to be?

Well, if Johnny Depp was busy, it would have to be my husband. He can build the shelter, rebuild the boat we came in on, catch dinner, and cook it. My husband has skills.

If on that island you could only listen to 2 CDs, what would they be?

Hapa's first album, and Sarah McLachlan's Mirrorball.

If you weren't a writer, what would you like to do for a living?

Conduct the Boston Philharmonic.



Visit Shelley's website | Reach Shelley by email | Purchase Pocketful of Pearls
Author photo by Robin Ruth