Friday, April 27, 2007

Why Writers are Crazy

I should probably begin this blog by saying that not all writers are crazy. Well, they are but not all of them will admit it. It’s a denial thing.

Why, you may ask, are writers crazy? Well, there’s the obvious element of having strange people in my head. This in itself would not be so strange if it weren’t for the fact that these people are arguing with me. If they’d just be quiet and do what I want them to do, we’d be fine. But no-ooo. Half-way through the book that I have solidly and meticulously plotted, “someone” will have a brilliant idea and make a move that I never saw coming.

This. Makes me crazy.

Then there’s all the things in this business that I can’t control like print-runs, best-seller lists, reviews, distribution, returns, and sell-through. I can write the book. I can’t do anything about what happens to it afterward.

This. Makes me crazy.

Then there’s the obsession with rankings. Since I have a new book out this month, I check them every day. Every hour, every day. is probably wondering who on Earth my IP address is and why I’m taking up so much of their bandwidth. Alas much to my dismay, I have come to realize that I have no idea what those rankings mean. I see no pattern. I see no correlation to reviews or any promotion that I’ve done. Only up and down.

This. Makes me crazy.

Then there’s the non-writers I know and love. Who blissfully wander into my office while I’m working on a particularly difficult passage to ask me where the peanut butter is. Which has been in the same place in the same pantry for ten years. Or where the cat is. I’m in my office. If the cat were in my office, I’d know where he was. And…what was I writing again?

This. Makes me crazy.

But you know, I’m kind of fond of the strange people in my head. They can stay. The people in my life can stay. And maybe someday the rest won’t make me so crazy. But then I wonder, would I still be a writer? :-)


Monday, April 23, 2007

Three Thousand Years by Megan Crane

Last weekend, I went to Yosemite for the first time.

(Which, first of all, everyone should make sure to do at some point, because it is so magical and gorgeous, and we saw only the littlest bit of it.)

But one of the little bits we saw was Mariposa Grove, the home of the giant sequoias.

And I do mean giant. This is a picture of the Grizzly Giant, believed to be 2700 years old:

And here's me next to a fallen one in the mist, just so you can get an idea of the scale:

I've been thinking a lot about the fragility of life this past week, as I imagine we all have. I've been wondering what life must seem like when you're coming up on three thousand years. Human lives are so tiny in comparison. Our struggles, our tragedies, even our triumphs, gone by in an instant.

It helps to think that to a nearly three thousand year old being all of our pain is just part of a grand cycle, the beginning of which was so long ago there are no humans left to mark it.

Assuming trees are sentient, and notice things like humans.

I don't know about you, but I wonder.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Happily Ever After by Diane Gaston Perkins

This week in Virginia we lost 33 precious lives in a sleepy town in the Shenandoah, on the campus of Virginia Tech. Although no one I knew was personally affected, I grieved anyway, weeping for the loss of those promising lives. I know I am not alone in experiencing this collective grief. There are people all over the world whose tears have fallen because of this tragedy. I could go on and on about other tragedy and horror in our world, events that touch our empathy and compassion and make us grieve with those who must suffer the loss directly, but I want instead to talk about hope, about good, about love.

I am proud I write Romance. There is so much tragedy in the world that anything that counteracts it, that reminds us of good, of hope, of love, should be celebrated. Romance celebrates love. The love story that is the essential part of a Romance novel ends in happiness, not in loss. In a good Romance, the hero and heroine endure conflicts that threaten to tear them apart, but in the end they overcome all obstacles to be together. They don't die in the end. Nothing falls apart.

I love a Romance that begins with imperfect heroes and heroines who change and grow by the end of the book, because of the love they give and receive. This love may start out with selfishness, a need to possess, a desire to have one's own needs fulfilled above all else, but usually the journey the couple take teaches them that true love is selfless and means putting the other person's needs above one's own. What a great message that is.

I love it when by the end of a Romance, the hero and heroine are ready to give up everything for the other--and by so doing, they finally achieve togetherness. I love it when the characters learn that doing the "right" thing, the ethical thing, the good thing, gives them the ultimate reward. I love to close the book with a sigh and think for a moment that all is right in the world.

So who do you read when you need this feeling that all is right in the world? I usually turn to Regency Historical Romance. Whose books do you find to be the most uplifting?

Note: The male model in the above photo is Richard Cerqueira, whose hand appeared on the cover of my Diane Gaston book, The Wagering Widow. Richard is currently in the reality TV show on Spike TV, BULLRUN. To read an interview by Richard, go here and here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


My husband called me at work a couple of weeks ago, and his first words were, "Unless I wait until June, the only day the doctor can schedule my endoscopy and colonoscopy is on April 18th."

April 18th.


Our 20th wedding anniversary.

My first thought was - if this isn't poetic justice, I don't know what could be. I'd been begging him for months, you see, to have both procedures done. Well, let me rephrase that - I'd been NAGGING him for months to do this. 

Sadly, my husband has lost both of his parents within the last three years to cancer. And you know how we wives can be. I wanted him tested, and I wanted him tested as soon as possible! I just didn't expect to spend my 20th wedding anniversary with him sitting on the toilet all morning, and me sitting in a hospital waiting room all afternoon while he had the procedures done.

"Schedule the appointment," I told him as the words "for better or for worse" flashed through my mind.

"Did you hear what I said?" he asked, obviously surprised at my response. "April 18th. Doesn't that date ring a bell?"

"Of course I know what April 18th is," I told him. "Not everyone is lucky enough to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. But I did. And I intend to annoy you for twenty more years if possible. Take the damn appointment!"

So here I sit this morning, locked away in my office so I can't hear him cursing me as he drinks gallons of the yucky muck needed for the procedure later today. And instead of bemoaning the fact that I had to cancel the reservations at our favorite restaurant tonight (since his throat is going to be too sore to eat anything solid) I'm trying to decide if candlelight will be a bit much for the bowl of broth I intend to serve him later tonight in celebration of our twenty years together.

And though I'm putting on a brave front for him, I'm secretly scared to death, and I'm actively practicing the "laws of attraction" I learned by reading the hot bestseller "The Secret" - sending out only positive thoughts so we'll get positive results back from his tests. And I'm going to tell him later (after he gets over being pissed at me for making him do this) that the absolute best twentieth wedding present he could ever give me is peace of mind knowing he's okay.

For better or for worse - that's what I signed up for exactly twenty years ago today.

Please keep us in your prayers that the news we get after the tests are done is going to be "For Better" - and hopefully for another happy twenty years together.

Candy Halliday

Monday, April 16, 2007

Shari's Score = Equal Hemispheres

The test I took at actually says I have "fairly" equal hemispheres, but I am Right Brain Dominant by a few percentage points.

For those who may not know what I'm talking about, the right side of the brain is the visual, creative hemisphere. This is the side that says, "Hey, let's get in the car and go to the library. What fun!"

We get in the car and the Left Brain says, "Okay, fine, but put on your seat belt. And remember that you can bring home only as many books as you can carry out to the car in one trip."

The left side also controls things like mathematical abilities. My husband prefers that I not mess around with the totals in the checkbook unless I'm using a calculator. Most of the time I just enter the dollar amount of the checks I write and allow him to do the math. Works for us!

The right brain likes to go exploring, to consider all possible approaches to the task at hand. This comes in handy when beginning a book, when the world of our characters can take any form, and the twists and turns of plot are multiple. The left brain makes order and sense of the creativity, and prods us to write down what the right brain has dreamed up.

The tests at Similarminds are fun and interesting. In fact, I may run my next characters through a couple of them to learn more about how they tick. My left brain is telling me to set a timer so I don't spend all day playing.

So what are you? Left or Right?

Shari Anton

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Are there any other authors out there who find it much easier to write villains than heroes?

I swear I'm NOT that quiet person next door who keeps mostly to herself, then turns out to be a mass murderer. But I sure find it entertaining to play in the realm of evil once in a while.

Why are bad guys so much fun? Psychologists would say that as writers, we're venting our negative emotions in our work, and maybe that's true. If our villains constantly end up with the names of ex-bosses and ex-husbands, it's possible there's some underlying hostility at the core of our writing. Maybe it's a sort of passive-aggressive revenge.

Or maybe, snug in our sweaters behind our sedate computers, we hunger for the thrill of living on the edge of badness, cackling at death, swirling our capes, and twirling our mustaches.

Good guys are tough. When I'm writing for a hero, I always have to make sure he's sensitive (but not TOO sensitive), strong (but not overpowering), intelligent (but not condescending). My heroines must be willful without being bratty, and they have to retain their femininity while wielding a sword.

But for villains, it's no holds barred. They're allowed to be crass and selfish and unreasonable. They can stomp and scream, kill people and break things. They can be, in the words of my favorite cartoon character, Daffy Duck, "dethpiccable."

Maybe the most interesting thing to me about villains is that they never see themselves as villains. Their means may be uncouth, but their goals, at least in their minds, are noble. They DESERVE that inheritance. The world would be BETTER without the hero. It's not FAIR that the Roadrunner always escapes.

So do you have a favorite villain? Who, and why?

Sarah McKerrigan...
Stories to keep you up all night!
LADY DANGER - Riding to the rescue April 2006
CAPTIVE HEART - Coming for you October 2006
KNIGHT'S PRIZE - Stealing your heart April 2007

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Life on the (short but sweet) book tour

I just finished the first phase of a whirlwind publicity tour. In three intense weeks, I covered vast sections of my home county and one nearby city. I chatted on three radio programs, two television shows, and in one newspaper interview.

I made three "public appearances" and approached numerous busy bookstore managers to "sell" myself. It was a true multi-pronged "promotional" blitz, which is even more impressive if you count my campaign of shameless bragging about good reviews to random strangers.

(I've gotten to be an expert at working reviews into conversation. I will say: "Make that mocha a skinny, please, and did I mention that Kirkus Reviews called Cover Girl Confidential a "grand frolic?" Or "I'm here to pick up my dry cleaning and did you happen to see that Romantic Times called my new book "highly amusing?")

It's been great fun and a tremendous opportunity. And yesterday, I heard evidence that it had paid off, at least on a local scale. When I introduced myself to one of the book store managers, she said: "I know who you are. Your book is flying off the shelf! It's THE book to read on spring break."

I will be replaying that moment in my head for the rest of my life.

Even if it was a bookstore that is about four blocks from my house. Ahem.

And the bookstore where all my friends shop. Ahem, again.

But still! That moment may be the closest I ever get to living the life of a celebrity like my main character, a glamorous cover girl named Addison McGhee.

But the best part of this whole promotional experience, aside from the excuse to get multiple manicures, is that I get to hear from people who actually know the characters I've created in my books.

It's pleasantly jarring to realize that the characters who, for so long, lived only in my twisted imagination are now becoming "known" to other people as well.

It was fun, for example, to be interviewed by a morning radio show host who is also an expert in etiquette. She asked unexpected questions about one small part of my main character's life experience, her reliance on a dated etiquette book to teach her American culture. (Addison came to the United States as a child refugee.)

And when another interviewer started asking me about Addison's relationship with her old world parents, I delighted in discussing the ins and outs of the psyche of someone who I MADE UP.

How cool is that?

And did I mention that Publishers Weekly called Cover Girl Confidential "witty and irreverent?"

Beverly Bartlett

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Headless Men on Book Covers and the Women Who Love Them by Diana Holquist

The Sexiest Man Alive has no head.

Didn't you suspect all along that the Sexiest Man Alive didn't need a head?

There are several possible reasons for his lack of head.

1) It's superfluous

2) When I worked in advertising, we paid models less if we didn't show their faces. Don't know if that goes in publishing, but it might.

3) We wanted to let the reader "imagine" what the hero looks like. You can imagine your husband, for example. Or not. Just joking.

In any case, with this cover, there's not a whole heck of a lot left to the imagination, so you've got to imagine something.

What's that? You want me to be quiet so you can look at the picture now?

Sexiest Man Alive will be in stores this October. It's the second in the One True Love series of gypsy romances.

Okay. I'm done. I'll be quiet now.

(Oh--except for one very exciting thing: a new contest upcoming! As soon as I get the details on the prizes, I'll post the contest. We're going to have to re-name the Warner Women blog because our publisher just changed their name from "Warner" to "Grand Central Publishing." So, we're going to have a contest to re-name the blog. The winner is going to get some fantabulous prize (a headed man?), so keep checking back. I hope to have details later this week.)

Let me know what you think. Do you like the headless book covers? Wish they put on heads? Wish they made towelless book covers...?

Happy reading!

Visit my website!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Elizabeth Examines Men Who Shop

So, first and foremost, The Leopard Prince, my second book, is now in stores and I’d take it as a personal favor if you’d go out and buy it. Really. Go ahead. The rest of this post isn’t anything that can’t wait, so you might as well do it now.


Okay, fine, then let’s discuss what the heck is up with men and shopping, shall we? I don’t know about you, but I manage to go to places like the grocery store, drug store, and Target (which we here in the Midwest know is correctly pronounced Tar-shay) several times a month and not get confused. Yet these same trips seem to completely flummox my husband. Case in point: just the other day my husband said he was running to the little local grocery for milk. Great, I said, could you pick up a few things for me? Here’s what I wanted:

a newspaper
a small frozen veggie pizza for my lunch
sour cream for the beef stroganoff I was making for dinner

Forty-five minutes later, this is what my husband brought back:

a large bag of peanut M&Ms
green onions
a can of “chili beans”
a sausage and pepperoni frozen pizza
a hunk of cheddar cheese
a 2 liter bottle of diet Pepsi

Wah-huh? It’s like sending a deranged magpie out to shop. I picture him wandering the aisles of our local grocery, randomly throwing things into the cart, and bringing them to the cashier to purchase when he gets bored. Naturally, I didn’t actually say this—I have been married for quite a few years—I simply thanked my husband and made a mental note to run to the grocery myself later.

Okay, so is this just my hubby? Or do you know of perfectly intelligent men who can’t seem to remember a simple grocery list to save their life? Let me know and I’ll pick one person from those responding to win an autographed copy of The Raven Prince.

PS: This guy is wandering his local grocery thinking, Hmm. I know I forgot something...