Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Minute Treat!

Elisabeth Naughton's winner is: Amber Leigh Williams! Congrats!

Special Announcement! The winner of my December Contest is Laura E of Biloxi, MS. She'll receive a signed copy of A CHRISTMAS BALL!

A new contest has started on my website in connection with a new FREE online novella called A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS! Enjoy!

Today, Friday, is my regular posting day on The Chatelaines, so I hope to see you there!

Happy New Year (especially to my readers in Oz who have already popped the cork on the new decade!) Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas season and now are looking forward to 2010. I had a lovely time with family and friends, but today, I have a treat for you! Elisabeth Naughton is here!

Her latest romantic suspense STOLEN SEDUCTION is on sale NOW! I love her fast-paced, intelligent and sensual style and bet you will too. Here's a post from her. Take it away, Elisabeth!

Happy New Year!

It’s a total thrilled to be here ringing out 2009 with all of you. Big thanks to Emily for having me here today!

I can’t think of a better way to start 2010 than with a stack of awesome books. I’ll admit, I’ve been a slacker in the reading department lately – between a book deadline, the holidays and the release of STOLEN SEDUCTION, book three in my Stolen Trilogy, I’ve been too busy to read. But now I’m not. Now I’m rewarding myself for all of my hard work with…what else? A trip to the bookstore.

What’s on my to-buy list? I’m a sucker for romantic suspense, so I can’t wait to get my hands on Stephanie Tyler’s Hard To Hold. Larissa Ione has a new release in the end of January that I’m salivating over – Ecstasy Unveiled. There were a BUNCH of Dec. 29th releases (along with my book) that I’m adding to my list: Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s paperback release of What I Did For Love, Cynthia Eden’s, Eternal Hunter, Helen Scott Taylor’s The Phoenix Charm and (Jan 1) Carry Lofty’s Scoundrel’s Kiss. And, of course, I still have my copy of A Christmas Ball I can’t wait to read. Even though Christmas is over, this one will be up first.

How about you? What’s on your to-read list to start off 2010? I’ve got a copy of STOLEN FURY, book one in my Stolen Trilogy, to giveaway to one lucky commenter.

Emily hopping in here: Did you see that? Leave a comment for a chance to win STOLEN FURY! It's a great read.

And in case you’re interested in my new release, here’s a little bit about STOLEN SEDUCTION:

The individual who collects all six statues and deciphers the code locked within will be awarded controlling interest in Roarke Resorts.


Hailey Roarke was never interested in her family’s fortune. That’s why she became a cop. But with her father and now her cousin dead, she’s suddenly on the wrong side of a police interrogation. The only way to clear her name is to solve the riddle before the real killer. Without getting killed herself.

Detective Shane Maxwell can’t deny the spark of lust he feels every time Hailey is near. But the woman is clearly hiding something. Trusting his gut—and the heat in her eyes—he joins her on an elaborate global treasure hunt staged by her late father. Caught between a sizzling seduction and a maniacal murderer, for Hailey and Shane the biggest reward of all will be making it out alive.

To read an excerpt go to

AND…before I forget…I’m hosting a BIG contest on my website through January 15th. Click the widget below to enter for a chance to win $100 Amazon Gift Card!

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May all your dreams come true in 2010!!

Back at you, Elisabeth. Thanks so much for seeing the New Year in with us! I can't wait to get the third title in your Stolen series.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Home for Christmas

I'm on my way to the Missouri Ozarks for Christmas. If you'd like to know more about our family's celebration, I'm blogging about it at The Chatelaines today.

Wishing you and yours all the joy of the season,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Getting the Christmas History Right

As a historical romance author, I'm a stickler about getting the history right. If I read an anachronism in a book, I cringe. If the author gets a factual bit of history wrong without a note in the back explaining why, I'm apt to turn the book into a wall-banger.

That's why when it comes to celebrating Christmas, as a Christian, I want to get it right. Unfortunately, we Christians often tell the story of Christ's birth with a number of embellishments and outright errors. So at the risk of being labled a Grinch, here's my debunking of a number of Christmas myths.

The Date itself: We really don't know when Jesus was born. The Bible is very specific about the day and even the hour of his death, but we only know his birth fell within a range of a few years (In the days of Caesar Augustus, when Quirinius was governor of Syria).

In the first couple centuries after His life and death, Jesus's birthday wasn't celebrated at all. Some historians think the date came from the Roman holiday honoring the Persian god Mithras. In 274, the Emperor Aurilean declared December 25th "Dies Invictus Soli" Day of the Invincible Sun. By the fourth century, it had morphed into the celebration of Christ's Mass--Christmas.

As a side note: The Gregorian calendar based on what they calculated was Christ's birth year has been shown to be about 4 years off. 1996 was actually the 2nd millenium, which means we really don't have to worry about the world ending on December 21, 2012. That date has come and gone.

Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. Oh, I hope so since she was very pregnant, but the Bible doesn't say she rode. It only confirms that Joseph and Mary heeded the call for a census and traveled 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the city of David. She may very well have walked.

Hark the herald angels sing! Not so much. No where in the Bible is an angel described as singing. They praise, they proclaim, they don't sing. That's reserved for us.

We Three Kings They weren't kings, there may not have been three of them and they certainly didn't arrive the night of Jesus' birth right after the shepherds left. The Bible calls them "magi." They were probably Zoroastrians from Persia (present day Iraq), who had access to the writings of Daniel (who'd been in captivity in their country centuries eariler) and studied the heavens for signs of the birth of the coming king. They bore three gifts--gold, franincense, and myrrh, very precious and unusual gifts, which may be the origin of the idea that there were three 'kings.'

It may have taken them two years to find the Christ child. The Bible says they came to the "house" so we know the baby was no longer sleeping in a manger. King Herod questioned the magi about when they first saw the star. So when Herod ordered the slaughter of the innocents, he stipulated all male children in Bethlehem under the age of two should be killed. Fortunately, by then Jesus's parents had taken him to Egypt so Herod's evil plan to kill Him as an infant failed.

Christianity is a faith based on the belief in a God who intervened in history, that He came to be one of us. It's important for us to get the history right.

Wishing you a meaningful Christmas,

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yule: Yesterday and Today

When I started focusing on Christmas this month, I realized that there are other holidays as well. That's why I invited Erin Eisenberg to blog about Chanukah at the start of that Jewish festival and why today on the Winter Solstice, I've asked my awesome critique partner Ashlyn Chase to share about her holiday--Yule.

Ashlyn has a new title coming out next June (same month as my Stroke of Genius). It's a hilarious contemporary paranormal called Strange Neighbors. But today, she's sharing about Yule, so take it away, Ash!


From Ashlyn Chase . . . The Wiccan religion (yes, it’s a religion) celebrates Yule on the day and evening of the Winter Solstice. This year, that day is Dec. 21st. It’s a minor holiday among Pagans and bares a few similarities to the way Judeo/Christian holidays are celebrated at this time of year. Even Kwanza, which began in 1966 and honors African heritage celebrates with many of the same traditions.

Light: Wiccans light a Yule log in the fireplace or outdoors. It’s often decorated with evergreens and gives off a wonderful aroma. Originally, it was meant to help the Goddess through her time of confinement until she gave birth to the sun in spring and ended the long, harsh winter. Today, if burning a log is impossible, lots of candles are lit around the home.

Fellowship: The village gathered around the Yule log and danced. Long ago, people were connected to nature and recognized life as a constant cycle of endings and beginnings. They bid farewell to the past and embraced with joy that which was to come.

Food: Sharing a feast was a common part of the yuletide celebration in the past as it is today. Whatever special game was brought back by the village’s hunters was prepared along with lavish garnishes and shared in a communal way.

Ritual: It’s hard to say what type of ritual took place centuries ago. Today a pagan family will draw from what has been passed down through the ages, gathering around their altar to honor the Goddess. If solitary, they’ll celebrate with the God and Goddess plus any minor deities they invite to attend in a ritual circle.

Gifts: Historically, no gifts were exchanged as far as I know. Today I give my pagan friends a little something like a special candle or a handmade decoration, but gift giving is no where near the commercialized craziness of Christmas.

Did you know the Christians elected to celebrate Christmas at this time of year, specifically to replace the pagan holiday? People are reluctant to give up their beloved traditions and in order to convert as many pagans to Christianity as possible, new holidays were invented to replace the old. Thus, Dec. 25th became the day to celebrate the birth of Christ. He was actually born in the spring according to astronomers.

The most important pagan holiday is Oct. 31st, called Samhain. This became Halloween and took on a very different set of traditions. For Wiccans, it’s a solemn holiday meant to honor one’s ancestors. But Yule celebrates rebirth and hope. Community and gladness. Nature and the cycle of life.

Have a cool Yule!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Food, Glorious Food

Christmas celebrations in our family features a meal of biblical proportions. There's always a huge turkey, homemade noodles, dressing, green bean casserole, crisp garden salad, sweet potatoes, several varieties of pies and my mother's heavenly fudge.

But in Regency times when A CHRISTMAS BALL is set, roast beef and venison were the main course of the dinner. Of course there might also be goose, capon, pheasant, bustard, swan and/or peacock!

But the real treat of the Regency Christmas meal was the pudding.

A pudding needed to be started before the first Sunday of Advent in order to be considered a true Christmas pudding. It was thought to improve with time. The recipe called for a mixture of thirteen ingredients (to represent Christ and the twelve apostles) which was boiled in a pudding cloth. Usual ingredients included suet, brown sugar, raisins, currants, citron, lemon and orange peels, spices, crumbs, flour, eggs, milk and brandy.

Other Christmas deserts included gingerbread, butter shortbread, trifle and syllabub (a milk, brandy and wine concoction which might be drunk or later whipped, gelled and eaten.) Children delighted in sugar plums and ginger nuts.

What special treats will your family enjoy this Christmas?

If you'd like to learn more about a Regency Christmas, visit my website and follow the bouncing Christmas ball!

PS. If you're in New England, you can see me on Saturday from noon to 4 pm at Well Read Books, 37 Plaistow RD, Plaistow, NH! I'll be signing copies of my books, alongside my critique partner Ashlyn Chase, just in time for all the romance readers on your list. If you're not able to make it, you can still get autographed books at THE BOOK OASIS. They'll ship anywhere! Merry Christmas!

Today is my last day at Chicks of Characterization and it's Friday, my regular posting day for The Chatelaines. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Words Mean Things

Much has been made about the using the politically correct "Happy Holidays" greeting during this month. This offends me. Not because it negates Christmas, but because it's sloppy prose.

Stephen King is big on using specific nouns. Why say 'bird' when you can say 'cardinal?' Or pidgeon? Or buzzard? Each word conjures a specific and very different image. Why settle for a generic creature with wings and feathers when you can have a toucan or a penquin?

Specific nouns are always clear and crisp.

Same goes for greetings. Why say one thing when you truly mean another? If you're thinking Happy Chanukah, say so. It doesn't offend me in the least, even though I don't celebrate that holiday.

When we lived in Utah, we were wished "Happy 24th" the first July we were there by nearly everyone we met and I'm sure we looked puzzled. (Mormons celebrate July 24th even more vigorously than the 4th of July as the day Brigham Young looked out over the Salt Lake Basin and said, "This is the place.") Even though the greeting meant nothing to us, we weren't offended. We accepted the wishes in the spirit they were offered and we learned something about what was important to our Mormon neighbors.

And I hope you'll accept my very specific greeting in the same vein.


PS. I'm still over at Chicks of Characterization with a brand new "Never-before-posted" excerpt from A CHRISTMAS BALL. Leave a comment at Coc for a chance to win a signed copy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas in Literature

Some books are Christmas themed, with the celebration of the holiday foremost in the plot. Then there are other stories in which the holiday plays a brief role, just as a small part of the characters' lives. One of my favorites in this second category is Lousia May Alcott's LITTLE WOMEN.

The book actually starts with the March family Christmas and gives us an up-close peek at how it was kept in the 1860's. The family has suffered an economic downturn (though when I first read this book as a child I wondered how they could consider themselves poor and yet have a servant in their kitchen) but the first thing Jo and her sisters decide to do is give up their Christmas breakfast to an even poorer German family.

This is a brilliant literary device. One of the first tasks of an author is to create a sympathetic protagonist. We immediately are shown that the March sisters are good-hearted, generous and don't feel themselves ill-used because they skipped a meal for someone else's benefit.

We like them. A lot.

Christmas is often used to show the passage of time. Even Harry Potter and his friends exchange gifts and Christmas wishes.

Can you think of other books in which Christmas occurs in passing?

PS. I'm still guesting over at Chicks of Characterization. Today the gals are going to post some reviews of A CHRISTMAS BALL. While I appreciate every single review, the ones from readers mean so much to me. If you've read A CHRISTMAS BALL and would like to share, I'd sure appreciate a comment left over there too!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It Happened One Night

Please welcome my new cyber-pal, Lisa Dale! I stumbled across her blog a while back and left a comment on her insightful post about THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Wharton. We emailed back and forth and I discovered she has a book out that's perfect for my Christmas themed month! It's called It Happened One Night. And now, I'll turn my blog over Lisa!

First of all, thanks so much to Emily for having me here! It’s such a pleasure.

We had our first snow here in New Jersey just a couple days ago, and the temperatures are starting to dip toward freezing. I know there’s every reason to be bummed out by the chill in the air, but to tell you the truth, the older I get, the more I begin to think that winter is the best time of year for book worms.

Here’s my five favorite things about reading in winter:

Hot chocolate with a shot of espresso. I LOVE making myself a cup of this when I settle in to read. Sure, maybe I pack on a few pounds between November and March, but it’s totally worth it. There’s nothing like curling up with a good book and warm, choclately goodness!

Winter light. What is it about light in the wintertime coming through the window that is so so beautiful? There’s something so special about the gray-white December sun. I love to open the shades and see it reflecting off the pages as I read or work.

Short days. I like reading at night when it’s dark too. It’s so cozy to spend a long night turning pages, eager to see what happens next. Longer nights mean longer hours spent indulging in good books. After all, it’s not like I want to go outside!

Holiday reading. I generally try to read at least one holiday themed book during this time of year—helps get me in the swing of things. The bookstores are always so pretty with holiday book covers, cards, and gifts on display. It’s a great time of year to be a reader.

Snow days. I love a good snow day now and again. Maybe it’s just a leftover from being a kid, but I always feel like a snow day is a good excuse to leave your pajamas on until two thirty, eat cereal, and watch cartoons. I also tend to read and nap on snow days. It’s perfect bliss.

The cover art for my new book, It Happened One Night, has a beautiful snowy scene (the book ends on Christmas day), and I think it captures the feeling of warmth when reading on a cold afternoon. Below you’ll find a wintry book trailer too—I think they did a great job on it!

So tell me: What do you like about winter? One commenter will win a copy of my first novel, Simple Wishes.

All the best,
Lisa Dale
Buy link for: It Happened One Night

Thanks for joining us, Lisa. Oh! And before I forget, here's the link to Lisa's terrific blog And remember a commenter will win a copy of SIMPLE WISHES.

PS. Please visit Emily at Chicks of Characterization today! Someone who comments there will win a copy of A CHRISTMAS BALL this week!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Monday Schitzophrenia

Well, I've done it again. I've double-booked myself, and during the Christmas rush, no less, when I need every spare moment to finish the shopping I've been avoiding. (You'll be happy to know I did a little yesterday--online, of course!--but I'm nowhere near done). Anyway, today I'm guest blogging over at The Romance Dish where I'm sharing about the trauma of learning the truth about Santa Claus! Of course, there's a giveaway, too!

Then I'll also be starting a full week in the spotlight with Andrea and Corrina, the Chicks of Characterization. Each day there's something different about A CHRISTMAS BALL and I'll be offering a copy of A CHRISTMAS BALL to a commenter from all the comments of the week (which means you can leave a comment each day and have 5 chances to win!)

If you don't want to leave it to chance, you can claim your own signed copy of A CHRISTMAS BALL by visiting THE BOOK OASIS. This terrific little indie bookstore stocks signed copies of all my titles and they'll ship anywhere!

And don't forget Dorchester's fantastic Stocking Stuffer Sale! For only $2.99 a piece, you can get my DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS along with titles from Christie Craig, Angie Fox, Alissa Johnson, Tracy Madison, AJ Menden, Elisabeth Naughton, Helen Scott Taylor and Elissa Wilds. Order by December 16th for guaranteed Christmas delivery!

Be sure to stop back by tomorrow when Lisa Dale will be my guest blogger, sharing about her new book, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Super Stocking Stuffer Sale!

Dorchester is having a super blow-out STOCKING STUFFER SALE!

What happens when an artistic duchess mistakes Her Majesty's spy for her next nude model? He drives her to distraction, of course!

For a limited time, you can buy DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS for only $2.99! This is the book that got a nod from RT BookReviews Reviewers Choice, Bookbuyers Best and CORWA Award of Excellence. I call it 'a Victorian romp' and it's just plain fun!

And here's the best news. The sale includes more than my book! You can also get Christie Craig's DIVORCED DESPERATE AND DELICIOUS, Angie Fox's THE ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER, Alissa Johnson's TEMPTING FATE, A TASTE OF MAGIC from Tracy Madison, TEKGIRL by AJ Menden, Elisabeth Naughton's STOLEN FURY, Helen Scott Taylor's THE MAGIC KNOT, and BETWEEN LIGHT AND DARK by Elissa Wilds!

Don't you just love a bargain? Shop from home and pay less than 1/2 the cover price! (Even the Anti-Shopper can get behind this deal!) Be sure to order by December 16th to ensure Christmas delivery.

Ho, ho, ho!

PS. Today I'm at THE BOOK OASIS, 311 Main ST, Stoneham, MA signing all my titles. 10:30am-12:30pm. Of course, there'll be chocolate! If you're not in New England and your heart is set on a signed copy, THE BOOK OASIS can hook you up at 10% off. They ship anywhere!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Chanukah with Erin Eisenberg

Christians aren't the only ones with a holiday to celebrate this month. The Jewish Feast of Lights starts today. I immediately thought of my friend Erin Eisenberg and asked her to explain a little about this celebration to those of us who may not know much about it. She's even sharing a family recipe! Ok, Erin, you're up!


Chanukah is an interesting time of year. To me, it's about friends and family, and not nearly as much about the gifts. In true Jewish style we try to cram all our fun into 8 nights and 8 days, instead of spreading the joy out for a month. I guess we must figure that we have the extra time, might as well use it! Of course the extra fun part is that often it's only over 1 weekend, which means really we're trying to cram all that fun into two days, this weekend being the perfect example.

I remember growing up, how I excited I was to be the one to light the candles myself. 1 candle for each night, plus 1 to light the rest. I remember my grandfather standing behind me, saying the prayers slowly enough so I could follow along. There's a certain peace that comes with the lighting the menorah. There have been years where I'll miss nights because I'm out at a holiday party and I don't get home until late. Those nights make me sad. I love the glow of the candles slowly burning down. I love even more to watch the progression from 2 lonely candles on the first night to 9 on the last. These candles, to me, ARE Chanukah. Last year, thanks to our giant snowstorm, I was able to light the candles every night...and it felt wonderful. I watched them burn from my couch, with a fire in the fireplace, and realized just how blessed I was...even if I was alone in my little apartment. This year is the first year I can light the candles in my new home, and I can't wait.

And now, recipe time! I thought about bringing a latke recipe to you all, but then I figured you can find those anywhere. But you can't get my family's special side dish just anywhere, and that's way more fun.

Farmer's Salad
1 cucumber, peeled/seeded, cut into small chunks
1 red pepper, seeded, cut into small chunks
radishes, a small handful, cut into small chunks or thin slices
1/2 red onion, cut into small chunks
cottage cheese (depending on the number of people, I use 1-16 oz container for 3-4)
sour cream or plain yogurt (about 1/3-1/2 cup per 16 oz. of cottage cheese)

Mix all together in a bowl. Serve chilled.

Note from Emily: I'm not a fan of cottage cheese, but this sounds yummy! What an interesting mix of tastes and textures.

I first met Erin when I lived in Seattle. (Giving a shout-out to my girls at Eastside RWA!) She's a saavy writer who's doing all the right things to build a platform prior to publication. I asked her to send me a bio, so you could get to know her a little too.

Bio time:
Erin Eisenberg is a third grade teacher by day, and a writer by nature. She's loved books since she was a little girl, and in fifth grade she finally realized she could be the one to write those books. She's a pre-published writer hard at work on her 7th manuscript. Most of her books are contemporary romance, though she recently tried her hand at a Young Adult. Thankfully her guy doesn't mind sharing his time with her characters.

thanks for being with us today, Erin.

Check out her blog

Happy Chanukah!

PS. Today is my regular posting day at The Chatelaines. I'm sharing 6 MORE REASONS EDITORS STOP READING. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Movie

I'm sorry. My family thinks I'm nuts, but I love A CHRISTMAS STORY. I love the voice-over narrator, adore Ralphie's vivid daydreams and some of the lines have become part of our family's secret language ("overcome by art" springs to mind!) Every year, I laugh till I cry over Ralphie's quest for his genuine Red Rider BB-gun.

One of the reasons I adore this hysterical story is that it illustrates an important point for writers. Our hero/heroine must have an all-encompassing goal that drives them. We don't have to share the goal. We don't even have to understand why. It doesn't matter what it is, only that it's important to them.

I've never owned and never wanted BB-gun, but I have yearned for something with the same consuming longing that grabs hold of Ralphie. I identify with his emotions. Because he cares so deeply about it, I care too.

As I'm starting a new project, this is something I'm bearing in mind.

Ok, your turn. What's your favorite Christmas/Holiday movie?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Things to Come

Last summer at RWA Nationals, I moderated an editor panel that was a real eye opener. I read the beginning of several dozen manuscripts and the authors took a public bath with the editor's comments. Tomorrow, December 9th, I'll be blogging with Marie-Claude Bourque (American Title Winner!) at her writer's blog MuseTracks. I'll be sharing the top 6 reasons editors stop reading. If you're an aspiring writer, you won't want to miss this. Plus I'm giving away a signed copy of A CHRISTMAS BALL to someone who leaves a comment at MuseTracks!

On Saturday, December 12th, if you live in New England, you can find me at THE BOOK OASIS, 311 Main Street in Stoneham, MA! I'll be signing from 10:30am-12:30pm. And if you can't make it, the lovely folks at THE BOOK OASIS stock signed copies of all my books and would happy to send them to you.

How's the Christmas shopping coming? I'm still in avoidance mode.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Recommended Christmas Reads

I suspect a lot of romance readers stray outside the genre from time to time. I know I do. A good story is a good story, whatever the genre. I'd like to share a couple of my favorite Christmas books, even though they aren't romance titles.

The first is THE STORY OF THE OTHER WISE MAN by Henry Van Dyke.

Here's the blurb:

"You know the story of the Three Wise Men of the East, and how they traveled from far away to offer their gifts at the manger-cradle in Bethlehem. But have you ever heard the story of the Other Wise Man, who also saw the star in its rising, and set out to follow it, yet did not arrive with his brethren in the presence of the young child Jesus? Of the great desire of this fourth pilgrim, and how it was denied, yet
accomplished in the denial; of his many wanderings and the probations of his soul; of the long way of his seeking, and the strange way of his finding, the One whom he sought--I would tell the tale as I have heard fragments of it in the Hall of Dreams, in the palace of the Heart of Man."

I adore this story. It sweeps me away to an ancient time with beautiful language and haunting images. I weep like a child every year when I read it.

This wonderful story is apparently in public domain, so it is legal to download from Project Gutenberg. (You know what a stickler I am about piracy, so I checked this pretty closely. First copyrighted in 1896, apparently the copyright was not passed to Mr. Van Dyke's heirs.) However, if you, like me love a book to hold in your hands with beautiful illustrations and binding, THE STORY OF THE OTHER WISE MAN is available at Amazon.

Now from the sublime, to the delightfully ridiculous, let me recommend THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER by Barbara Robinson.

The story starts with "The Herdman's were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world."

Then it goes on in Grade 3-6 level vocabulary to tell the story of how one church realized, through the Herdman's participation in their annual pageant, that we're all the worst kids and Christmas happened for that very reason.

It's hysterically funny, poignant and definitely a book to be shared. I read this classic aloud with my kids, to my class when I was teaching, basically to any child who'd sit still long enough. And that's easy to find because the Herdman's highjacking of the Christmas pageant is wonderfully well-written and engaging. Snuggle up with your favorite little person and read a chapter a night this December. Memories will be made, I promise you.

Your favorite bookseller probably has it in stock, but if not, you can find it at Amazon. Happy Reading!

Your turn to share. What are your favorite Christmas books?

PS. If you want the inside scoop on a Regency style Christmas, pop over to I've posted 6 pages of bonus material about Christmas in 1822 on my website, but since you read my blog, you won't have to hunt for them. Just click the Christmas ball on the home page and it will take you to the first Regency Christmas page. Keep clicking on the Christmas ball image and you'll be directed to the next one and so forth. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lord of Devil Isle

We interrupt all the Christmas blogging to bring you a breath of what's coming next spring!

I was popping over to my editor's blog Romantic Reads. (If you're an aspiring writer, I highly recommend you follow Leah Hultenschmidt's very informative blog!) I happened to see New York Times Bestseller Connie Mason's new cover for LORD OF DEVIL ISLE. Those of you who were at the Romantic Times Convention in Orlando last year will recognize the hunk in this "From Here to Eternity" moment. It's Charles Paz--Mr. Romance 2009!

Congrats to Charles, who's a super nice guy (which I noticed right after I noticed all those incredible muscles. Yes, ladies, he really looks like that!)

And also to Connie Mason, a grand dame of the genre! I'll be looking for LORD OF DEVIL ISLE next May! (And not just for the hunk on the cover!)

Friday, December 4, 2009


Here's another Christmas title for you! MISTLETOE RULES by Stacey Joy Netzel! Stacy and I got together in cyber space the other day and had a little chat about her newest release. I'm in bold and Stacey is speaking in italics.

So, tell me. What will we love most about your hero?

Talk about a Merry Christmas...there are three heroes in Mistletoe Rules! *grin* Don't tell Eric and Derek, but Mark's my favorite because he's got a great sense of humor and is a little cocky to boot. He also has a wounded side that he hides from everyone under his happy-go-lucky attitude. Getting him to reveal it to Janelle was touching and fun at the same time.

A little cocky and yet he's got a soft underside. Love it! Where did you get the idea for Mistletoe Rules?

Mistletoe Rules started as a cute, fun story at the zoo with a couple of single parents (Eric and Marissa) chaperoning a summer school field trip. Then I introduced Eric's brother, Mark, and couldn't get the man out of my mind, so I decided to give him his own story, along with the youngest Riley sibling, Lisa. Once I decided to write all three stories, I switched it to a Christmas theme. Santa Butch and his wife Judy are named for my parents, Butch and Judy, because my dad used to play Santa for the neighbors when we were kids (older). Having a matchmaking Santa who just might be a little more than what he seems tickled my funny bone.

I did a little research and found out you like crafts! Tell us about your favorite Christmas craft.

I do love crafts. Anything 'snowman' is a hit with me. A friend of mine took one of those old glass blocks that let light in but you can't really see through, drilled a hole in the back and put in a set of colored lights, then painted a snowman on it and edged it with a plaid ribbon--it's so pretty when lit up and one of my favorite decorations. This weekend I signed books at a craft fair with Donna Marie Rogers (my co-author of another anthology, Welcome to Redemption) and it was VERY hard not to buy, buy, buy! Common sense whispered insistently "You only have so much room in the house", and since my Christmas decorations already more than fills the available surfaces, I limited myself to two new grinning snowmen. *happy grin for me*

To get you in the mood for Christmas, here's the book blurb:


Christmas recipe for love—combine a matchmaking Santa, lots of mistletoe, one iron-clad rule, fated hearts; mix and stir. The Riley siblings don’t stand a chance.

Christmas in July at the zoo is the last place single parents Eric Riley and Marissa Wilder expect to find love. Thanks to a little Mistletoe Mischief in the form of their two young daughters and Santa, they discover that Mistletoe Rules are not made to be broken.

Major Mark Riley plays Court Jester to Janelle Walsh's Snow Queen at the Christmas Parade and is instantly captivated by the cute redhead whose grandpa just happens to be Santa. When Mark discovers she's the tenant he evicted from his newly purchased property, it's going to take a little bit of Santa's Mistletoe Magic to save their romance.

When Lisa Riley comes home for Mark's Christmas Eve wedding, her high school rivalry with Janelle’s cousin, Derek Walsh, picks up right where it left off, only this time Derek's got the upper hand. Santa bides his time as these two battle it out because he's waited all year for this Mistletoe Match-up.

And here's an excerpt!

Derek’s hands clenched at his side. Great. Just great, Janelle. He waited for Lisa to gleefully pounce at the opportunity to bury him again, only to be surprised by her dismayed expression.

“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” she said.

He should be relieved. Instead, his competitive demon demanded retribution for all the humiliation it’d endured during the old times. He’d bury her. “Why not?” he asked.

Her gaze remained locked on his cousin. “No offense, Janelle, but it seems a little silly. I mean, we’re not in high school anymore.”

Derek relaxed and fell into their old pattern with ease. “What’s the matter, Lisa, afraid you’ve lost your magic touch? Are you not up for the challenge?”

That got her. Her spine stiffened and fire gleamed in her eyes. “Of course I am.”

He fake frowned, nodded his head with understanding, and stage whispered, “I get it.”

“Get what?”

Derek glanced at their captive audience. “Nothing.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. He valiantly avoided staring at her increased cleavage. It wasn’t so hard with his grandparents and her brother watching. And her silent demand for an answer.

“I probably shouldn’t say it now. Not in front of everyone.”

Lisa’s eyes narrowed. “Please, do enlighten us—all of us.” Her condescending sarcasm stroked the blood-thirsty devil on his shoulder. Their audience of respective family members waited in expectation. Grandpa, in particular, appeared to enjoy the exchange immensely. This next part would almost make high school worth it. Derek shrugged. “Obviously, it’s me.”

“You?” She infused the single word with an appropriate amount of humorous disbelief and disdain, only she avoided looking him in the eye.

“You’re scared you can’t handle me all grown up.”

The outrageous statement produced the desired laughs—only Lisa’s sounded forced. Her right hand rose to flick her hair back over her shoulder, then smoothed down the length of her burgundy satin dress. Hmm. He hadn’t dreamed his intentional bait would be remotely close to the truth. Derek moved in for the kill. “That’s why you chickened out under the mistletoe.”

The words ‘bite me’ resounded in his head as she glared at him and took a breath to speak. He waggled his finger in the air between them. “Uh, uh. Careful.”

Lisa stepped forward and grabbed his hand. He fought to keep his expression impassive while she bent his finger back just enough to make her point. She leaned close, her breath hot on his lips as she ground out, “You’re on, buddy. I’m going to kick your butt so bad you’ll wish I’d never moved back.”

Too late for that.

Thanks for sharing, Stacey!

Additional excerpts for each story can be found at my website: (Once you've read them, you can head on over to my Contest page to answer a few questions and enter to win a prize.)

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Emily! My most sincere wishes for everyone to have a healthy, happy holiday season! I'd like to offer an e-copy of my other Christmas novella, Dragonfly Dreams, to one lucky commenter.
Merry Christmas!


Stacey Joy Netzel lives in Northeast Wisconsin with her husband, kids, a couple horses and some barn cats. She works very part-time as a corporate travel agent and spends the rest of her free time writing contemporary romance, because Happily Ever Afters are a must.

Now it's your turn. Since we have a crafty author here today, I'd love to hear about crafty readers! What sort of special Christmas crafts do you enjoy? Oh! And today is my Chatelaine posting day, so please join me there too!

Thursday, December 3, 2009



Please welcome my friend Penny Watson. Her debut title SWEET INSPIRATION just came out, but she was kind enough to give me a sneak peek. When my little dog Susie died last month, Penny sent me a copy to cheer me up. That's just the kind of giving person she is.

More about Penny: She's a native Pittsburgher whose love of romance started at the age of twelve when she discovered Gone With The Wind in the middle school library. This resulted in numerous attempts at a first novel involving a young lady with windswept hair who lived in a treehouse.

A biologist by training, Penny has worked at various times as a dolphin trainer, science teacher, florist, and turfgrass researcher (don't ask). Through it all she was a compulsive reader and collector of romance novels. After taking time off to raise her two spirited children, she decided to rekindle her passion for storytelling with the support of a wonderful writer's group, The Quirky Ladies. Now she gets to incorporate her wide array of interests, including gardening, cooking and travel into her light paranormal stories. Penny lives outside of Boston with one fly-fishing crazed husband, two lively Filipino kids, and a wiener dog.

With all that background, you'd expect wildly creative stories from her and you won't be disappointed! Here's the blurb:


What if the legend of Santa Claus is in fact, true? What if Santa has five big strapping sons who help him run his empire? Five single, sexy sons looking for romance...

Nicholas Klaus is a master pastry chef, a strict disciplinarian, and the eldest son of the legendary Santa Claus. One look at café owner Lucy Brewster sends him into an unexpected tailspin of lusty desires. When Lucy is injured, Nicholas makes a decision that catapults both of their lives into turmoil ....

Lucy Brewster, the free-spirited proprietor of Sweet Inspiration, has a flair for concocting sugary confections but no time for adventure. She gets more than she bargained for when she awakens in the North Pole...rambunctious elves, a fitness-obsessed Santa, and the man of her dreams. Does she have what it takes to become the next Mrs. Klaus?

Nicholas carefully folded his coat over the back of a café chair and watched Lucy giggle with the children, as the puppy (lucky bastard) licked her face like an ice cream cone. He could barely contain his irritation.

First of all, a dog had no place in a dining establishment. What the hell was the woman thinking? Secondly, if a customer attempted a last-minute order change, Nicholas would firmly instruct him that all orders were final five days prior to the gathering. How could one efficiently run a kitchen without rules? Thirdly, and most importantly, Nicholas could smell gingerbread. Cookies. And they were burning. Lucy was oblivious. And her young assistant with the nose ring was leaning over the front counter watching the puppy, utterly clueless about the impending culinary disaster.

Nicholas tapped his foot impatiently, waiting for someone to remember the cookies. He knew by the scent that the cookies were browning, probably a bit too dark around the edges. Still waiting. Now the assistant was snuggling with the puppy, and an old man was regaling Lucy with some ridiculous story. Oh, the hell with it.
Nicholas marched into the kitchen, which was surprisingly clean, found a pair of oven mitts shaped like Laurel and Hardy, and removed the cookies from the oven. He found wire racks in a cupboard and lined them up on the counter. Although the cookies were a tad dark, they were still salvageable. Thanks to him. Using a spatula, he carefully transferred each gingerbread man to cool on the racks. He washed and dried his hands at the sink, and turned around to find Lucy and her nose-pierced assistant staring at him in disbelief.

Lucy stepped up to him, hands on her hips. “Just what do you think you’re doing in my kitchen? I don’t remember inviting you in here!” Lucy asked him incredulously.

“Yeah!” added the assistant. Clearly not the brightest bulb on the planet.

“Since you and your assistant were too busy to tend to the kitchen, and an entire order of gingerbread was about to go up in smoke, I thought I would lend a helping hand. No need to thank me.” Nicholas smiled and raised his left eyebrow in a manner his brother Sven insisted was infuriating.

“Thank you? Kandy and I are more than capable of looking after the kitchen. We do not need your help, Mr....?”

“Klaus. Nicholas Sebastian Klaus. Is your assistant really named Candy? How... charming.”

“It’s Kandy Kane, with a K, not a C. I’m a performance artist.” The young woman gave him a rather lukewarm smile.

“Fascinating.” Nicholas turned to Lucy, who looked ready to murder him. Good going, Nick, how are you supposed to seduce her now?

“I run my own kitchen up north. I assumed you wouldn’t mind a little help, since you were...momentarily distracted. Have I told you that your sugar cookies are divine? They are, truly. I was wondering if we could discuss the subtle flavor profile...”

Lucy crossed her arms, glaring at him. “Mr. Klaus, while I appreciate your concern for my cookies, I can assure you I do not need any more help in my kitchen. Why don’t you sit down with a cup of cocoa, and I’ll bring you some gingerbread cookies. Nice and dark, just the way I like them.” And then Miss Lucy Anne Brewster raised her right eyebrow in an utterly patronizing manner. Nicholas simply could not help himself. He raised his eyebrow right back. Two can play at this game.

A young man rushed into the kitchen, grabbed the performance artist and began to thrust his oddly pierced tongue into her mouth.

“Oh Kandy, can you ever forgive me? Let’s get married right now. Vegas, baby, what do you say? I want our bambino to have a daddy.” Nicholas noted that in addition to his creatively pierced face, tongue-boy also sported a nice assortment of tattoos, all of candy. Peppermints, butterscotch balls, M-and-Ms, and of course, candy canes.

“Ray, I missed you.” Miss Kane began thrusting her tongue right back at him.

Nicholas turned to Lucy. “Ray? That’s not too original.”

Lucy shrugged. “Ray, as in Ray-of-Sunshine. They’re both performance artists.” Then she turned to her assistant and tapped her on the shoulder.

“Kandy, you are forbidden to leave me right now. It’s the middle of our busiest season, and I need you. You and Ray can get married after the new year...”

“But I don’t want to wait, Miss Brewster. I love him!”

Ray licked the side of his girlfriend’s face, and both Nicholas and Lucy shuddered. “Yeah, and I got tickets for us to see Celine Dion, your favorite, honey.”

Lucy watched in disbelief as her assistant bundled up in a parka, plopped on a red Santa hat, and flew out the door with the gangly boy. Nicholas bit his tongue to keep from laughing. Served the woman right for hiring such a flake in the first place.

Leaning down close to Lucy’s ear, he whispered, “Need a new assistant? I just happen to know the perfect gentleman for the job.”

Love it!

Emily: Your hero is captivated by your heroine's sugar cookies. What gave you the idea to give your love story that "food porn" twist? ;-)

Penny: Have you ever bitten into a cookie and been enraptured by a buttery, flaky, rich heaven? One of the great things about Christmas is the magic of holiday cookies. I knew as soon as I decided to write about Santa and his five sons that one of the sons would be a baker. I am addicted to Top Chef, Iron Chef, and every other cooking reality TV show. (My daughter and I love to watch the cake decorating competitions on the Food Network. She always picks the winner!). A master pastry chef must have two dueling components to his personality...a highly disciplined, detail-oriented side, and a passionate, artistic side. I think this is a fabulous combination for a hero. And thus, Nicholas Klaus, eldest son of Santa, was born.

Emily: Stop! You're making me hungry! Tell us a little about your writing process.

Penny: Total pantser. I have no clue what's going to happen until I start writing. I am now slightly revising that by making goals for each scene as I write it. I'm allowing myself free reign, but must accomplish certain objectives, too. For me, writing is all about fun and creativity.

Emily: I hear you. So, are there more Klaus brothers stories to come?

Penny: Of course! Five Klaus Brothers = Five Books! Next year I'm hoping to release the second of the Klaus Brothers Series, called Sweet Magik. It will be Oskar Klaus' story (he's the snow-boarding, green-haired, punky hunky youngest brother).

Emily: Where can my readers get a their own SWEET INSPIRATION?

Penny: Wild Rose Press!Thanks so much, Emily, for letting me visit today. Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!

If you'd like to learn more, visit Penny's website. (She has a recipe section!)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

White Christmas? Yay or Nay

I'm guest blogging over at InMyHumbleOpinion today, sharing an excerpt from A CHRISTMAS BALL and giving you a chance to divulge what YOU really want for Christmas! Commenters at IMHO are entered in the monthly drawing for the gift basket filled with signed books from me, Jennifer Ashley, Christie Craig, Carrie Lofty and TJ Bennett PLUS a $20 Amazon gift certificate! Hope to see you there!

When we moved to Boston in 2007, we knew we were heading back into snow country. It didn't daunt us. We've wintered in Iowa where "white-outs" can make it impossible to see the house across the street. In Minneapolis, where wind chill is the big story. In Wyoming where the wind howls like a demon and in Park City, Utah where snow starts falling in late October and doesn't leave completely till late May. (No joke. We had 12 mortal feet of the white excrement to deal with that year, but I should have expected it since Park City is an international ski destination!)

We know how to do snow.

And we know we'd rather not unless we have to. So we arranged our life in New England so we can enjoy looking at the white stuff, but don't have to do anything with it unless we want to. Our condo has staff that takes care of the sidewalks. We live a short walk to the Boston T. If we don't want to drive in the snow, we don't. But we can make snowmen in the park, watch our terrier leap from drift to drift, and appreciate the frozen beauty of the Mystic River.

So this week when our condo staff staked out put out the waist high sticks (and oh, yeah, the snow can get that deep here) to indicate where the walks should be shoveled, I started humming "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

Do you live in snow country? Have a blizzard story to share? I remember one time in NC we got 8 inches and it shut down the city for a week! Do you dream of a "white Christmas?"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Readers have been flocking to my website since the announcement of the Merry Christmas Ball Contest at the beginning of October. Thank you all for entering and signing up for my newsletter. I'll always send you something fun!

Today I'm thrilled to announce that we have a WINNER! Congratulations to Tonya of Taylor, Michigan! Your $100 B&N gift card is on its way!

To everyone else, may I offer a free read as a consolation gift? Click here for A Dragon Caern Christmas. It's Christmas Eve with the characters of PLEASURING THE PIRATE and VEXING THE VISCOUNT. Plus, a new contest is starting on my website today! (All my contests are exclusively for my newsletter subscribers--don't worry! no purchase necessary!--but be sure you click the confirmation email you receive when you sign up and add my newsletter to your list of trusted senders.)

When I researched A CHRISTMAS BALL, I ran into lots of fun facts about having a Regency Christmas. I revamped my website and tucked in 6 bonus pages about how the holiday was celebrated in 1822. For example, we start in on our Christmas around October (at least that's what retailers want us to do!) In the regency, celebrating Christmas ran from December 24th (and not a day sooner!) to Twelfth Night (the eve of Epiphany.)

I share about Regency decorating for the holidays, special foods, games, traditions, and all about the heart of the 12 days spent celebrating. Every time you see one of these Christmas balls on, click on the image to find the special page. (Of course, you can always check my site map if you don't want spend time surfing for the hidden pages!)

And be sure to pop back here each day throughout December. I have lots of guests lined up so there'll be plenty of prizes and fun! If you're wondering what to get the romance readers in your life, may I suggest a signed copy of A CHRISTMAS BALL at 10% off?

I always put up my Christmas tree and all the trimmings on the day after Thanksgiving. How do you kick off the holiday season?

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Best Gift

The following is a true story. I heard it from my DH's oldest sister (and she's a Methodist minister so it has to be true, mostly!) It's about giving love even when the recipient doesn't realize they've received it.

My sister-in-law was in junior high when she was told by the band teacher that she had the perfect embrasure for a clarinet player. So she went home and informed her parents that she needed a clarinet.

My DH's family was not wealthy. They had 8 kids on a small family farm. His mother worked as a cook at the local highschool and his dad drove a schoolbus to bring in a little extra cash. Even so, my sister-in-law didn't realize the enormity of what she was asking. After talking the matter over, my DH's parents admitted they'd saved a bit because they were planning to buy a clothes dryer (something I would rank as a necessity with such a big family!) Instead, they'd use that money to buy the clarinet. They found a 2nd-handed one for $200. It was chronically flat and the entire band had to tune to that instrument, but my sister-in-law learned to play and love music with it. And so did her younger sister. And later, her daughter.

And my SIL didn't realize until she was an adult with her own kids' laundry to wash the incredible size of this gift. Hanging clothes out on a line is no light chore, especially during a northern Iowa winter. But her parents were willing to make the choice so their child's spirit could be nourished with music. That clarinet was sacrifical love with a reed attached.

Like my SIL, we often don't recognize the enormity of the gifts we receive. As a Christian, I'm looking forward to celebrating the greatest gift ever given. This year, I hope to take miracle of Christmas deeper into my soul and be thankful as never before for that gift.

Oh, and here's the rest of the clarinet story! You're gonna love it. Just before Christmas, my DH's dad won the grand prize at the local hardware store. You guessed it. A brand new clothes dryer.

Wishing you the gift of love this Christmas!

Today is the LAST DAY TO ENTER my MERRY CHRISTMAS BALL CONTEST . On December 1st, one lucky person will win a $100 gift card just in time for Christmas shopping. I'll announce the winner right here on my blog tomorrow.

Enter today and good luck!

What's the best gift you've ever given or received?

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Anti-Shopper does Black Friday!

Today, against my better judgment, I set the alarm for 5 AM. I've never shopped on Black Friday before. There is something in me that rebels at the thought of camping outside a place of business for the priviledge of being first to spend my money there. And don't get me started on the herd instinct that kicks in and results in sometimes fatal tramplings. Honestly, it's just a bunch of stuff. Certainly not worth knocking someone down over.

But there was one item advertised that would be perfect for someone on my list. And it was offered at a significant savings.(Sorry I can't be more specific. My fam sometimes reads my blog. Shhhh!) So at 5:15AM, the DH and I sallied forth to face the insanity of Black Friday.

I truly despise shopping. The idea of wandering around without any clue what I'm looking for makes my blood pressure rise. I subscribe to the ninja school of purchasing. I target an item. Moving with stealth and speed, I zero in. I acquire, extract, pay and get the heck out of there as fast as I can.

Speed was not possible this morning. Starting with the uber-full parking lot, there were more lines than Disney World with none of the fun. First I waited in line to acquire a ticket for the item while the DH trolled for a parking space. By sheer dumb luck, I nabbed the very last ticket! That took 45 minutes. Then we were directed to the check out line specifically for people with "ticket" items. It snaked through the office supplies and appliance section and moved with glacial speed. After standing in this line for an hour and forty minutes (!) we were informed that our ticketed item had been "optimized" by the Geek Squad and would therefore cost $40 more than the advertised price. No wonder the line moved so slowly if they tried extorting every customer at the last moment. I'm sure after the wait a lot of people paid the extra just to be done with it. We refused and they finally sold it to us for the advertised price.

All told, we probably saved $350-400, tallying up all the other items we bought on sale as well. Was it worth it? I'll probably think so when the CC bill comes, now I'm not sure. We lost sleep, started our day on a frustrating note and had to wrangle with a very rude cashier about the price. Money is important, but gift giving is supposed to be joyous. I experienced no shopping Nirvana (which I know is possible because I did it . . . once.)

How about you? Any shopping war stories to share? Do you enjoy shopping? Did you hit the mall early this morning? We had a lovely, quiet Thanksgiving and hope you did as well.

PS. Today is Friday, my usual post day on The Chatelaines. I'm getting ready to go to the movies over there! Please join me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

Wow. I don't know where to start.

Last year at this time, I'd just been informed that I had a colon cancer. A few weeks ago, my doctor confirmed there's been no recurrence. Every day in this unnecessarily beautiful world is such a gift and I thank God for my life.

I'm so blessed by my family, even though most of them live on the west side of the Mississippi. My DH is still the love of my life. That alone makes me the luckiest woman alive.

I get to spend my days dreaming up alpha heroes and making things up. I'm so thankful for my editor, my agent and to everyone who reads my books.

I'm embarrassed by the richness of my blessings. But oh, so thankful.

Today, like you, I'll be making a run to the grocery store, where the shelves will be full of wonderful things to eat. And tomorrow my DH will rave over my homemade noodles, whether they turn out well or not because he wants to encourage any sort of cooking to continue.

And the day after that, I'll pull out my Christmas decorations and make new memories in our condo (I love living here, but it always sort of feels like an extended vacation instead of home. Celebrating holidays make it more homey.) The craziness of the Christmas season will start in earnest, but right now, in this moment of quiet, I want to remember how blessed I am and to be thankful.

Oh! And I'm thankful for YOU--my cyber-friend.

I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends. If you're traveling, be safe. If you're deep-fat frying your turkey, make sure the fryer is a long way from anything flamable! And remember, calories don't count when you're feeling thankful. That's my theory and I'm running with it.

If you'd like to tell what you're thankful for, special recipes you think we'll enjoy (just keep them simple, please. Some of us are cooking-challenged!) or thanksgiving traditions you'd like to share, this is the place. I always enjoy hearing from YOU!

The End is Near . . .

No, I'm not still thinking about the movie 2012. I'm counting down the last days of my MERRY CHRISTMAS BALL CONTEST . On December 1st, one lucky person will win a $100 gift card just in time for Christmas shopping. And while I'm talking about gift giving, let me encourage you to think about giving books as gifts this year. You'll be giving hours of pleasure and sharing something that's important in your life.

Enter today and good luck!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why We Must Ration Health Care

I don't normally get so serious on my blog, but this is where my head is, so please bear with me.

Yesterday, I drove down to pick my DH up at work and caught part of a rather chilling discussion on our Boston PBS radio station. It was about the need to ration health care based on the patient's lifestyle choices. The expert on the radio posited that smokers might not be treated for lung cancer. Chronic alcoholics shouldn't be surprised when their livers fail and if you're obese . . . well, you've sort of dug your own grave with your fork and spoon, haven't you? No extreme life-extending measures for you. And when they began saying a person with a disability must have his/her quality of life called into question, I was completely horrified, not just with the thoughts expressed, but by the even tone of the speaker. He was bloodless, like the disembodied voice of HAL in 2001, dispassionately separating the healthcare sheep from the goats.

While I'm all in favor of personal responsibility, I think they are missing an important piece of the health care question. It's part of the old nature/nurture debate. You might even argue that the writers of Greek tragedies got it right. All their heroes carried within them a "fatal flaw."

So do we. It's called our DNA. Look at your family tree. Is there a predominant recurrence of heart disease? Stroke? How long did your grandparents live? The insurance companies know these sorts of questions are the best predictors to use for their actuarial tables. It's also why your doctor asks for a detailed family history. When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, part of me wasn't surprised. Both my parents are cancer survivors, different types, but the same disease.

When we lived in Wyoming, our neighbor (who was a neurologist) was a fanatical walker. Every day, snow or rain, we'd see him and his Tibetan mastiffs (gorgeous dogs--think of a Pyranese only black) hiking their 3 mile trek around our hilly neighborhood. He maintained a healthy weight and lifestyle. Bud had good reason for such discipline. At 60, he'd already outlived every male in his family. Yet by the time he was 61, he was still having a quadruple bypass. Like a hero in a Greek tragedy, he couldn't outrun "the seeds of his own destruction," the proclivity for heart disease he carried.

Back to the original premise of blaming people for their illness. I think it shows more about the PBS speaker's philosophy than science. He's obviously of the opinion that humans are perfectable if only we could get them to make the right choices. Toward the end of the discussion he piously said he'd be happy to have his taxes raised to provide universal healthcare. But apparently, his universe doesn't include those who make choices he disagrees with.

As a fiction writer, I believe people are basically flawed (part of what makes them so interesting!) and unfortunately our DNA is too. Lifestyle choices make a difference, but they aren't the total reason for illness. And I fear the mix of those two things is far too complicated to reduce to a formula that will allow the health care arbiters to delegate responsibility for disease.

I promised myself I'd never get political on my blog and I'm trying very hard not to, but when I heard the PBS discussion yesterday it set me thinking about this very complicated knot. I have no answers, but I'm interested in your thoughts.

What do you think? Is rationed care the answer to the cost question? Who decides?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Killing Off Characters

Sometimes writers box themselves into corners and don't know how to get out neatly. The quickest solution is to kill off the offending character. That's what they did in 2012.

I enjoyed the movie. It's a worthy escape pic on many levels, totally amazing special effects and the writers kept hitting all the gut-wrenching hot buttons. My DH, who's a private pilot, loved the flying sequences. The writers made the science of this disaster seem completely believable. There's even a memorable Woody Harrelson cameo (an actor of limited range, IMO, who found his true calling as a wacko conspiracy theorist who turned out to be right for a change!)


However (and here is where you need to stop reading if you intend to see the movie and haven't) the writers set up a great love triangle subplot between John Cusack, his ex and her plastic surgeon boyfriend and resolved it horrendously.

They are all decent, heroic people. You can't help but like each of them. Cusack (a writer with one book that didn't do so well to his credit) has pushed his family away. Wife turned to the surgeon who's really terrific with her kids and wants a family (he also happens to have had a few flying lessons and saves the whole lot of them a couple of times.) It's obvious to anyone with eyes that Cusack and his wife will reconnect, but instead of letting her make that choice, the writers killed off the surgeon.

And they didn't even let him die heroically. He was crunched up in a bunch of gears just as they stole away on the "ark" that would save them through the impending flood. After letting him wear the hero mantle several times, his death is just a vehicle for convincing the audience that the danger is real--a task usually delegated to a nameless character wearing a "red shirt."

I was very disappointed. I knew he wouldn't get the girl, but I really wanted him to live!

It was easier for the writers to tie up the loose end by offing him. Our job as writers isn't to take the easy path. Even though this was a subplot, it wouldn't have taken much more than 30 seconds to untie this knot in a more adult manner with the heroine making a conscious choice. And it's an interesting, complicated choice because it's between good and good, not good and evil.

But 2012 isn't that sort of movie. It's an action flick and as such, it delivers. However, if they're going to inject a romance subplot, they shouldn't skate by with such a cheat of a resolution.

Have you seen it? What do you think about love triangles in general? Do you usually dislike the character who's in the middle because they seem to lead on both the others?

Friday, November 20, 2009

If it's Friday, Emily's not here!

TGIF! Friday is my regular day to post at The Chatelaines, so please join me there for a cup of coffee and a few gentle pleasures.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

To Publish or Not to Publish . . . That's a Heck of a Question.

Anyone who's ever submitted a manuscript knows publishing usually grinds with glacial slowness, but lately changes have moved with tsunami speed. If you've been following the Harlequin/RWA feud, you know what I mean. Harlequin, a company that's practically synonymous with romance, is now offering aspiring authors who have been rejected by their editors an opportunity to self-publish. Harlequin has partnered with a vanity press to form Harlequin Horizons .

Romance Writers of America has just issued a statement revoking Harlequin's status as an eligible publisher because RWA does not recognize "subsidy" presses. This means Harlequin will lose its perks at Nationals ~ free meeting space for book signings, the opportunity to hold editor appointments, and spotlights on their programs. They are welcome to attend, but will have to foot their own bills.

Let's bypass that squabble for a minute and just talk about what self-publishing means to an author.

On the one hand, I understand the temptation to self-publish. I have manuscripts that for one reason or another weren't picked up that I'd love to see in print. Readers have asked repeatedly for the third Diana Groe "song" book, DRAGONSONG, which completes the MAIDENSONG and ERINSONG trilogy. It's already written, but will probably never see the light of day.

Rejection is never fun and emotionally it may be easier to bypass that painful process and skip right to seeing your name on a cover. And there have been success stories in self-publishing. Everyone always points to ERAGON as the golden example.

However, the self-pubbed path is littered with broken hearts and lighter wallets.

But forget the money aspect for a moment. I'd like to posit that skipping the rejection phase is not good for a writer. Rejection makes us take another critical look at our work. It's an opportunity to stretch ourselves, to learn what works and what doesn't. To think new thoughts. To sharpen our prose till it cuts to the bone. To abandon a flawed project for something more viable. If we just plunk down our cash to make a book happen, what do we learn?

I know rejection stings. Believe me. It feels so personal because our writing is us. But every rejection gives me an opportunity to grow as a writer and as a person. If you are an aspiring writer, I urge you to exhaust all other avenues of publication before turning to self-publishing. Give yourself the opportunity to be rejected so your writing will improve.

That said, every writer takes his/her own path. Clive Cussler, for example, posed as a retiring agent to introduce his work to the agent of his dreams (and it worked!)

What do you think? Feel free to disagree.

PS. If you haven't entered my MERRY CHRISTMAS BALL CONTEST, there's still time. The drawing for the $100 gift card will be held December 1st! Please tell your friends!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Reader Speaks

As a writer, I sometimes feel like I'm in the dark. Reviews are wonderful (and I'm grateful for every one!) but it's hard to gauge how a book is being received by readers. I won't know any actual sales numbers for over a year after a title's release, but even that won't tell me what a reader thinks about what they've read.

That's why I really love chatting with readers here and receiving emails through my website. Then yesterday, I ran across this reader review of A CHRISTMAS BALL on Amazon.

"I often buy Anthologies for one Author and usually the other stories included are not up to par. This is NOT the case with this book! I bought it for Jennifer Ashley's 4th installment of her Nvegarian series. Loved that story but thought Emily Bryan's story was even better. I will definitely be ordering more of her books. She made me laugh out loud, cry and thoroughly enjoy myself in 100 short pages but when the story was over I felt the story was well told and satisfying! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK for all 3 stories!" ~ J. Still from Bradenton, FL.

And she isn't even a relative of mine!

Publishing is a tough business. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something. That's why it's important to cherish every victory and try to keep a sense of perspective.

Thank you, Ms. Still. You made my day!

When I read a book, I feel as if I'm having a conversation (albeit one-sided!) with the author. Have you ever wanted to talk back to the writer? What did you want to say? Did you ever want to change the storyline?

PS. If you haven't entered my MERRY CHRISTMAS BALL CONTEST, there's still time. The drawing for the $100 gift card will be held December 1st! Please tell your friends!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wild Heart by Lori Brighton

Please welcome Lori Brighton!
Lori has a degree in Anthropology and worked as a museum curator. Deciding the people in her imagination were slightly more exciting than the dead things in a museum basement, she set out to become an author. Her first book, a historical romance, will be published by Kensington in November of 2009. As always when I have a guest, my words will be in bold type. Lori's will be

So, Lori, please tell us about your current release.

Wild Heart is my debut book, just released November 3rd by Kensington publishing. It’s really two books. On one hand, you have your typical romance set in Victorian, England with a hero, Leo, out for vengeance. Leo’s parents were murdered and he will do whatever it takes to find the people responsible. On the other hand, you have a paranormal plot. Ella, the heroine, is hired to tutor a lad. It’s only after she arrives that she finds out Leo is anything but a boy.

On the outside Ella is your typical sweet heroine, but she has a secret…Ella has a special ability she’s kept hidden from the world. As Ella and Leo grow closer, they realize their lives are entwined, and only together can they unlock the mystery of their pasts. In the end, both must learn to trust each other or risk losing everything they hold so dear.

Here’s a brief blurb:

"Leo is next in line for an earldom, but he is uncultured, unrefined-- and completely untamed...until governess Ella arrives, determined to set him on the right path. But Ella has a secret, and if Leo finds out what she is truly capable of, she may lose everything she holds dear."

So other than being an untamed 'earl apparent', what will be adore about your hero?

If your readers like an alpha male, they’ll love Leo. I tried to keep him true to life; what a real person would be like if they’d experienced what he has. On a trip to India, his parents are murdered. Leo is only a lad, but he’s forced to stay in hiding in a country he knows nothing about. Much like The Count of Monte Cristo (one of my favorite books), vengeance has kept him going. He’s very determined and blunt, but he’s also very honest and loyal. He doesn’t let people push him around. He’s a man who takes what he wants, and he definitely wants Ella.

Oh good! I love alpha males!

Here’s an excerpt:

“Where is that lovely governess of yours?”

Henry’s words stopped him cold. Icy fear raced down Leo’s spine. “Do not speak of her, do not even think of her.”

“Or what?” He brushed a piece of imaginary lint from his black jacket. “Leaving her alone at the estate wasn’t one of your most brilliant ideas.” He stepped closer to Leo. “Anything could happen there…without protection.”

Leo’s free hand curled as he resisted the urge to hit his cousin. “She’s protected.”

Henry quirked a brow. “Is she? Was she protected when that arrow came through the garden? When she was attacked in the woods?”

The cup dropped from Leo’s hand, shattering on the floor. He hadn’t told Henry about the attack in the woods. Hadn’t even told his grandfather until right before he’d left. He’d known his cousin was responsible, but he’d never imagined Henry would practically admit he’d been involved. “If she is harmed in any way-”

“And that heathen friend of yours. What ever happened to him?”

Leo stepped closer, anger propelling him forward. “Where is he?”

Henry clasped his hands behind his back and nodded toward a servant who was rushing their way to clean up the mess. “Why, how should I know?”

Leo’s nostrils flared, his anger mounting with each passing moment. “Damn you, where is Akshay?”

“I’d be more worried about that woman you’ve seduced.”

Panic flared through his body, clenching his gut like a fist. “What have you done with her?”

“Ella?” Henry straightened his coat. “Nothing.” He turned and started to walk away. “Yet.”

Oooh! Sounds like you've got a good bad guy for us to hate as well! What was hardest about writing this story?

The hardest thing was researching India. I’ve never been there and books I’d found were limited. Sure, I could find information about where to visit and about the political time line of the country, but sadly books about life are always missing in the history section. Just figuring out what color the dirt is becomes difficult when researching. Fortunately my husband has been there a few times for work, so he could give me a feel for the place. I so badly wanted to be accurate, but I’m sure I got something wrong. Religion does come into play in this book and that was another area that was difficult to research. Books and the internet are great sources of information, but nothing beats experience.

I've been in love with India since I first read MM Kaye's THE FAR PAVILLIONS. Kudos for the unique setting.

What would you like readers to know about YOU?

It took me over six years to get published. It was hard, very hard to repeatedly get rejections, to be basically told you’re not good enough. But I kept going because I loved to write. But it doesn’t get any easier once you’re published. I was only able to get an agent after I had sold. Finally, after six years of trying, I had an editor and an agent. Recently I parted ways with my agent. Now, in a way I’m back to where I started, trying to get an agent, trying to sell another book. It’s not easy but I keep going because I love to write and I so badly want to entertain people, to make them believe in happily ever after. With all these interviews I’ve been doing, I hope that if anyone takes anything away from my responses, its not to give up and certainly not to let people tell you you’re not good enough.

Amen! A writer writes, regardless. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Lori.

Thanks Emily! And thanks to all of you for stopping by!You can find more about me and my book on my website and blog:

Lori is too sweet to ask, so I'll put up a BUY LINK anyway! I noticed she got a great cover quote from my fellow New England Chapter RWA Chaptermate--NY Times Bestseller Hannah Howell! And Kensington is offering Lori's Wild Hearts for just $4.99. Such a deal!

Leave a comment or a question for Lori! Two people will win a copy of Wild Heart!