Monday, August 31, 2009

There's Only One Right Way to Write a Novel!

Unfortunately, no one knows what it is.

I have friends who plot extenstively, even down to the POV of each carefully laid out scene. They 'interview' their characters and know exactly what's going to happen from beginning to end before they ever put a word to paper.

Oh, to be so well organized.

There are some in my RWA chapter who 'layer' their work. They start with a powder-keg of a sentence, reducing their premise to its most elemental state. Then they write a 2 parargraph blurb. Then a one page synopsis. Then a 10 page synopsis. Then 50--with each pass they add layers of dialogue and action until after many, many times through the story, they arrive at the desired page count.

Some writers are "puzzlers." Their stories come to them in chunks, out of order and disembodied, like magma rising from the deepest place in their psyches. Once they have all the pieces, they patch them together with connecting material and voila! A manuscript is born. This method is more like magic than any other I've ever heard of, but it has some well-known practitioners, like Diana Gabaldon and my friend Rowena Cherry. I'd try it, but I think it may involve chanting at midnight and killing a chicken.

Then there are the 'pantsers,' as in "writing by the seat of their pants." They get up in the morning and wonder what's going to happen in their story today. I count myself in their number now . . . again.

When I first started writing, I followed my characters around because I didn't know what else to do. That's how I wrote MAIDENSONG, my debut Diana Groe title. Then when circumstances forced me into a 9-5 job, and my writing time was severely cut back, I decided I needed to learn to plot in order to get anything accomplished. As a plotter, I wrote ERINSONG and SILK DREAMS (2 more Diana Groe books) and I first dabbled with my light-hearted Emily Bryan style as a plotter. That's how I wrote DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS, PLEASURING THE PIRATE and VEXING THE VISCOUNT.

Then my editor asked me to contribute to a holiday anthology, A CHRISTMAS BALL. And I decided it might be the perfect time to experiment a bit. I didn't have to submit three chapters and a synopsis. I had a totally blank slate with this contract. So I assembled my cast of characters--Jane Tate, hard-working, deserving scullery maid. Ian Michael MacGregor, hard-muscled, drool-worthy head groom. Spoiled Lady Sybil Sommerville, Jane's well-born half-sister. Her Italian portrait painter lover. Viscount Eddleton, the gentleman to whom Sybil is supposed to become affianced at the Christmas Ball, and grasping Lady Letitia Darvish, a black widow in the hunt for her 5th husband.

I stirred them in my head a bit and brought them all together at the appointed place (the previously described ball at Hartwell House) and the result was MY LADY BELOW STAIRS, my novella in A CHRISTMAS BALL.

'Pantsing' that novella was such a success (as judged by the love my editor professes for the story!), I decided to pants my current WIP, STROKE OF GENIUS, too.

But my 'pantsing' now is much different than it was when I was working on MAIDENSONG. I've been a student of the craft for more years. I understand novel structure and have a basic outline of major plot points in my head. The road map is there. It's just not on paper. So you might call me a closet plotter. And occasionally, I go back in the story, tucking things in that hadn't occured to me on the first pass. You might say I 'layer' a bit.

I still haven't 'puzzled' (can't seem to find the right incantation or a chicken!) but I won't say never. Keeping the process fresh keeps the writing fresh. And I'm game for just about anything to accomplish that.

So how about you? If you're a writer, what's your process? If you're a reader, do you think you can tell how a story was put together by the way it reads?

PS. Today is the last day to enter my CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST contest! Don't miss out on a chance for your choice of my backlist! And if you've already entered, please tell your friends about it. Thanks so much!

Friday, August 28, 2009


This sprig of holly is just a reminder that A CHRISTMAS BALL is coming soon. And today I thought I'd share a little with you about how this anthology came to be.

A CHRISTMAS BALL is the brainchild of my brilliant editor, Leah Hultenschmidt at Dorchester. (Leah is on the far right, next to Charles Paz, RT's 2009 Mr. Romance and Erin Galloway, marketing expert extraordinaire!) She conceived a holiday anthology where all the stories were linked by virtue of time and place--a grand Christmas Ball. She invited USA Today Bestseller Jennifer Ashley, Alissa Johnson and I to contribute novellas and we set to work. Other than the setting and the date of our stories (December 19, 1822) we were given free rein.

Because we did, however, have a few common elements, we had to agree on those. First of all, who are the hosts of the ball? Leah entertained suggestions (I hoped they could be Lord Robert and Lady Evelyn, because those are my parent's names. Turns out in 1822, Evelyn was a man's name, so Leah opted for Lord Robert and Lady Julia Hartwell as our hosts.) Lord Hartwell is a force to be reckoned with in the House of Lords and his wife is the consumate hostess. Their annual Christmas Ball makes staying in London over the holidays bearable for the politically well-connected members of the ton who normally would celebrate the holiday at their country homes.

Just where is the Christmas Ball being held? Since all our characters would be sharing the same space, we had to agree on the layout. So we did what all good writers do. We borrowed a little from a real London mansion and then altered matters to suit us. This majestic Georgian is Spencer House, the ancestral seat of Princess Di's family. Located in the heart of St. James, Spencer House was built by the first Earl Spencer between 1756-1766. History buffs will want to pop over to the Spencer House website for a more in depth peek into this fascinating place.

Of course, for the purposes of our stories, Hartwell House needed a few changes from the Spencer model. For one thing, we turned the Great Room on the First Floor (which would be the 2nd floor in the American system of reckoning) into our Ballroom. None of the servants' portions of the house is shown in the floorplan detailed on the Spencer website, so I used my imagination. Since my heroine is a scullery maid and my hero a head groom, they passed through the kitchen a time or two. And I discovered a system of secret passageways behind the walls in Hartwell House that are not easily discerned on the Spencer blueprints. But Spencer House gave us a wonderful point of commonality for our stories and a strong sense of place to get us started.

You'll be hearing more about A CHRISTMAS BALL in the coming weeks. It's due to hit the bookshelves on September 29th! If you'd like a taste, please visit my website! And while you're there, be sure to enter my CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST contest! The drawing is just days away.

And speaking of winners, I have a couple to announce from Gerri Russell's visit here this week! Debra Parmley has won a copy of TO TEMPT A KNIGHT and Katie O'Sullivan is the winner of a Scottish Templars T-shirt! Please contact me through my website with your mailing info and I'll get it to Gerri. Amanda McIntyre already announced her winner the day she was here, but I'll repeat the anouncement here--Etriv (aka Delilah) please contact me or Amanda to receive your prize! For those of you who didn't win when Amanda visited here, you have another chance today at The Chatelaines!

No prizes to give away here, but I still love to hear from you. We were talking about setting today. How important is the setting (the place, decorations, food, etc.) for celebrating a holiday to you?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Last Summer Fling

I always hate to see summer end, but here's a way to squeeze in one last fling. NightOwl Romance has teamed up with a bunch of authors (including me!) to bring you the SUMMER LOVE WEB HUNT.

It's an e-scavenger hunt that will have you visiting a number of websites, collecting the required info and registering for fabulous prizes (see NOR for details!) Of course the hope is that you'll find some new authors who intrigue you, but the main goal is to have some fun. The HUNT runs till Sept 8th, so you can go at a leisurely pace (but please visit my website first!)

And I get the chance to show off the new navigation bar on my website (My DH is so proud of this technological wonder! My website is sort of his toy and he has a love/hate relationship with it.)

As summer draws to a close, I thought I'd share the best book I've read this season. It's the one I just finished--Sherry Thomas's NOT QUITE A HUSBAND.

There is something about Sherry's prose that speaks to my heart, that makes me feel she's written her stories just for me. This book is about an estranged couple and how they find each other again. When her hero said, "The space between the stars is filled with your silence." I knew this couple was in deep trouble. Their path to reconcilliation and joy is as difficult as the path through Northern India they are traversing. Like in all Sherry's stories, her characters are desperately flawed and achingly human. She makes me weep and she gives me hope.

Ok. It's your turn. What's the best book you've read all summer?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

25 Blogs in 25 Days . . . The TORTURED Tour!

My friend, Amanda McIntyre is doing a grueling 25 Day Blog Tour to celebrate the release of TORTURED, her new erotic medieval from Harlequin Spice. Today is Day Twenty-23 of the tour for Amanda and she's come up with something really fun and creative for you. But before I turn my blog over to Amanda, I want to share her cool book trailer with you.

from Amanda McIntyre . . .

In a time of chaos, darkness, and violence, it is better to live only in the moment, lest your memories eat you alive.
A young woman blessed with “sight seeks vengeance against a tyrannical lord responsible for her mother's murder. Forced to become an executioner's apprentice, she encounters a Roman prisoner who offers her a way to escape her prison and find a future. Torn between desire, duty, and the chance for revenge, her choice to live or die leaves her TORTURED. (Available now, Harlequin Spice-Books Aug. '09)

TORTURED has been called “a disturbingly touching tale of hope, love and survival.” (Romance BookWyrm) and “Captivating, sexy…not to be missed,” Heather Graham.

With every book I write, at some point, I end up with music that paints a visual in my head of the scene I want to write, or the mood I want to convey. I am an eclectic music lover with very few genres that I don’t truly enjoy listening to. Case in point…just this summer we had the joy of being able to take a family vacation with three of our four children to the eastern states. While in Washington DC, we went to a outdoor music pavilion in Virginia called Wolff Trapp. I highly recommend the experience the next time you are in the DC area. It is amazing!

The concert that we went to see was called “Video Games Live” performed by the National Symphony Orchestra and conducted by composer/producer, Jack Wall. Tommy Tallarico, known in his own right as one of the top video game composers,
Virtually has single handedly taken the sound of the music industry from bleeps to epic music now enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers alike. I was blown away how the music swept me up, taking my imagination to amazing places! If you ever have the opportunity to see this concert, I highly recommend it. But I digress…

Music…it inspires, it soothes, it entices. I’m sure my friend, Em would agree. As such, I thought it might be fun to share with you a couple of the tracks that inspired my writing of TORTURED.

Medieval, dark ages…for me I almost always go classical or soundtrack. After much searching, I found the King Arthur soundtrack and downloaded it on my itunes, so I could listen as I wrote.

So here is the game and how you can win a copy of TORTURED today.

Go to my blog and listen to the three tracks on the virtual Ipod.
(Em here with a quick note for those of you who may be visiting us while you're at work. The music plays automatically on the site, so you'll want to check it out at home unless you wear headphones at work.)

Match the songs with these three scene descriptions and leave your answers 1, 2 and 3, here in your comments on Emily’s blog. Winners will be chosen at random from correct answers:

Here are the song titles:
(Em again ~ This is really cool music. Adventurous and evocative!)
Woad to Ruin/Hans Zimmer
Tell Me Now (what you see) Moya See
Do you Think I’m Saxon?/Hans Zimmer

Here are the scene descriptions:

a) love scenes between Sierra and Dryston-learning to trust her emotions, trust another person

b) Sierra’s courageous attempt to alone, save her brother and Dryston

c) the battle march of the brutal Saxon warlord and his horde as they come to meet the grass roots army that has risen against them

Good luck!

May the wind be at your back~


Thanks for coming today, Amanda. And thanks for sharing the music that inspired this story! I always write to a movie soundtrack and it really helps me slip into the world of my book.

Buy TORTURED here! and have fun matching the music to the scene for a chance to win a FREE copy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back to School, Back to Writing

Meet my friend Gerri Russell. She's a two time Golden Heart winner and was first published when she won the American Title Contest a couple years ago. Since her debut in January 2007, she's had 3 more books published. She knows a thing or two about writing. Today she's sharing about how to get back into the writing groove after a summer hiatus. My words are in bold today, Gerri in regular type. Take it away, Gerri.

This summer has been filled with one distraction after another. All the distractions might be fun, but they reek havoc with a writing schedule.

Fall brings consistency of daily writing back into the regime. Are you as ready for a change of season as much as I am. Is it time to get back to writing consistently every single day?

But there may be one little problem…are you ready to get into the groove?

In order to be a marathon runner you must learn to train every day. To start with small goals for activity and slowly build to more. You have to get your muscles in shape and prepare for the ultimate test to your endurance. Is preparing for writing any different? Not really. So what's a writer to do when their muscles are a bit out of shape? When the skills and abilities of achieving page goals each day are a bit…let's be polite here…less than toned? It all goes back to the basics--those same principles marathon runners use.

Retrain your discipline. This is a tough one. How to be disciplined enough to sit down in your writer's chair after a long break from that habit. Two things that have always worked for me are a quote and a kitchen timer. The quote: "Discipline is remembering what you want." by David Campbell The timer: gets set for 10 minutes the first day, 12 the second, 14 the third, and so on. When the timer is on, I write anything that comes to mind. It's a great way to get back in the habit of writing.

Start with a plan. What do you want to accomplish? You need a map, a guideline of where you are going. Do you want to complete a whole book by a certain date? Do you want to finish one chapter each week? Write one, three, seven, twenty pages a day?

Set small goals at first, then build gradually over time to increase your endurance. One you have a plan you can break things down into smaller and realistic goals. Setting goals helps you feel like you are making progress forward. I might start my first week off writing three pages a day, then after the first week bump the total up by 2-3 pages a day until I hit my normal daily average.

Track your progress. I'm a visual person and I really have to keep a log or a graph to show me what my goal was and then how I'm performing. Placing that chart near my computer desk can really keep me focused and inspired when things are going so well.

Eat a healthy diet and get enough rest. Yes, you actually write better when you each nutritious food and sleep eight hours a night.

Celebrate the successes. When you hit your milestones, celebrate the moment. One of my favorite ways to celebrate is to go for a hike. I like to think about it as time off for good behavior. It's also a great way to regroup and feed that writer's well with new thoughts and ideas about what to write next.

What do you need to do to get yourself back in shape after a long summer's break?

Thanks so much for sharing those gems with us, Gerri. I'm thrilled to share that a couple commenters are going to make out like bandits today. Gerri is giving away a copy of her newest release, TO TEMPT A KNIGHT and one of her Brotherhood of Scottish Templar's T-shirts! So leave a comment!

To Tempt a Knight

Upon his return to Scotland from the Crusades, Templar knight Sir William Keith is charged with finding a vital holy relic and protecting the daughter of its former guardian--a task that will force him to choose between duty to his vows and desire for the beautiful, courageous woman finally able to soften his battle-hardened heart.

PS. Wanna join me in a treasure hunt? Be sure to click on the NightOwl Webhunt graphic in the right sidebar and have some end of the summer fun!

Monday, August 24, 2009

At The Chatelaines!

My friend Cindy Holby is interviewing debut author Leanne Renee Hieber about her fantastic fantasy/historical debut THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER over at THE CHATELAINES (my group blog!) today. The hysterical header on the blog is worth the trip (I'm the one in the Monica Lewinski beret on the left!). If you leave a comment over there, you just might win a copy of this very exciting, critically acclaimed debut! Hope to see you at THE CHATELAINES.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Age of Deception

Fashion Makes Fools of us All. I research a number of areas for my stories and one of them is filling my characters' closets with the correct garments for the time period. Here's a taste of some of the things I found when I was writing PLEASURING THE PIRATE (1720) and VEXING THE VISCOUNT (1731)

Eighteenth century fashion encouraged unrealistic ideals. Lest you think only women fell prey to the urge to be more or less than they naturally were, let me assure you men indulged in deceptive fashion, too. Both sexes wore wigs and face paint. Men and women wore 'beauty spots' to cover small-pox scars or evidence of sexually transmitted disease. Well-developed calves were prized in men, so spindly-legged fellows wore wooden 'falsies' in their stockings. Women's figures were manipulated through tight binding in some instances and heavy padding in others.
A lady's costume started with a chemise, a thin slip-like garment. This was covered by a heavily-boned corset that flattened the breasts and shoved them up into the "rising moons" position. A gown's neckline might be cut so low that the nipples were displayed as part of the décolletage. Georgians did not fetishize breasts, so a well-bred lady was just as likely as a courtesan to show her nipples (and rouge them!) in public.

I probably wouldn't have believed this startling tidbit if I hadn't seen a Georgian miniature in a schloss (castle) the last time I visited Germany. Sure enough, the lady was depicted with two little pink dots peeping above her gown's low neckline.

Next, the panniers would be attached to a lady's hips. This contraption of wire and horse-hair might expand the width of the woman's hips so much, she'd be forced to turn sideways to fit through doorways. If the lady needed additional derrière enhancement, she'd wear a "bumroll" made of carved cork. It was said a woman wearing one could never drown.

Stockings of silk or cotton were gartered at the knee. This completed the undergarments of the Georgian woman. I know what you're thinking. What? No undies? That's right. No undies. With the yards of a woman's skirts held out with panniers not even touching her legs, I expect a lady would feel naked from the waist down most of the time.

Lady's gowns were tightly fitted in the bodice, but might be loosely flowing in the back. This draped style was known as a sack dress.

The stomacher on the front of the gown was frequently ornamented with bows of descending size from the bosom to the waist.

When has fashion not been about the shoes? The platform shoes shown here were actually quite conservative. Some women tottered along on 22 inch chopines until a maximum height of 11 inches was mandated by law. In a time when streets frequently doubled as sewers, platform shoes made a surprising amount of sense.

As the century turned, fashion turned away from manipulation of the human form toward a more naturalistic style in the Regency era. Since A CHRISTMAS BALL and STROKE OF GENIUS are set during that time, I'll share those fashions with you soon.

PS. Be sure to enter my CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST contest! The drawing will be held September 1st!

Hot Dish Friday!

In Northern Iowa, hot dish is what you have when you take all your left-overs, mix them in a caserole pan, pour a can of cream of mushroom soup over it and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I'm sort of doing that with my blog today. Sorry.

For more widgets please visit

Fridays are my usual day to post at The Chatelaines. If you haven't given this group blog a try I urge you to pop over. It features CL Wilson, Jennifer Ashley, Joy Nash, Gerri Russell, Bonnie Vanak, Cindy Holby and moi. Today I'm talking a little about my novella in A CHRISTMAS BALL. I've been so heads down working on STROKE OF GENIUS, this release has snuck up on me. As you can see, it's coming fast. (And as you can also see, you can click on the corner of this countdown widget and grab the code for it. If you decide post it on your blog, you will have my undying gratitude! Let me know you did and I'll build a link to your site!) You can pre-order your copy on Amazon!

Writing a novella was a different experience for me. 30K words seems so short when you're used to luxuriating in 90K. That meant things had to pop. It was a little like writing a romance haiku. Every syllable counts.

Now I'm writing at a 10 page a day pace. For A CHRISTMAS BALL, my recovery from cancer surgery slowed me to 2 pages a day. But this is a special story for me because while I was dealing with uncertainty and a good deal of pain, slipping into the world of A CHRISTMAS BALL was a respite. An affirmation that joy and beauty and love was stronger than what I was going through at the time.

And paradoxically enough, my editor says it's the funniest thing I've ever written.(No, it wasn't drugs! I was off pain meds by then.)

Last Monday, Tessa Dare came to visit and those of you who left a comment had a chance to win a copy of her book. I'm pleased to announce that Booklover1335 is her winner! Congratulations. Please contact me through my website with your mailing info and I'll see that Tessa gets it!

And while we're on the subject of contests, my CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST is still running. Please drop by and enter for your chance to win your choice of my backlist.

So that's all in the blog frig for now. The DH and I don't have plans to explore any more harbor islands this weekend (No need to make a "Spectacle" of ourselves again any time soon!) We're going (involuntary shudder) shopping. But we're shopping for him, so it's all good. (I know, I know, I need to overcome my shopping anxiety. I'm working on it!)

Have a lovely day and a weekend filled with everything that pleases you. (And if you care to share what things that might be, please feel free!)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Seven Favorite Things

Jenn from SapphireRomanceRealm sent me this very colorful blog award along with a couple rules about accepting it. I have to share my favorite 7 things and then pass the award along to 7 other blogs. So here are my 7 Favorite Things:

1. My DH ~ Without question, he tops my list. I know it sounds sappy, but we are everything to each other. There's a reason I write romance and he sleeps beside me every night. He makes me feel like the luckiest woman on the planet.

2. My family ~ We have two terrific daughters and I'm so proud of them both. My parents are a big part of our lives (even though we live far apart) and we have a large extended family of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. on both sides of the house.

3. Traveling ~ Airports, harbors and train stations are about the most exciting places on the planet because they are portals to an adventure.

4. Cracking the spine on a new book ~ I'm hard on my books. I break their backs. I turn down pages. I devour them. I live every story I read.

5. The quality of light just after dawn ~ Give me a cup of coffee and a drowsy world stretching and waking and I'm a happy camper.

6. The slice of silence after an anthem ~ When the last note dies away in church, before anyone can rustle a bulletin or cough, you can almost hear the echo of heaven.

7. An afternoon in an art museum ~ When I look at a fine painting or walk around a statue, I can see the artist's soul. And a soul is a terrifyingly beautiful thing to behold.

Now I get the joy of paying this award forward! Here are seven blogs I find worthy of a Kreativ Blog Award:

1. TheBookBinge ~ Three women who love to read share what they think.

2. CheekyReads ~ Just what it sounds like. A sassy girl's guide to good books!

3. McIntyresHouseOfMuse ~ My friend Amanda McIntyre's blog!

4. HistoryUndressed ~ A fascinating look at some of the more obscure points of history. Always eye-popping!

5. PetitFoursAndHotTamales ~ A diverse group of authors who tackle a wide range of topics, writerly and otherwise.

6. TheRoyalReviews ~ A terrific Aussie blog! The Royal Court had me down for a week (virtually speaking) and gave me the royal treatment.

7. TheQuirkyLadies ~ A fun blog with an eclectic group of writers!

Hope you enjoy visiting some of these favs of mine. Thanks again to Jenn from SapphireRomanceRealm (another great blog to check out!)

What are your favorite things?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Slicing and Dicing Your Manuscript

Lots of my readers are also writers, so I thought I'd devote today to a very important part of the writing process--self-editing. It can make the difference between hearing 'sorry' or 'sold,' so don't gloss over it thinking that's your editor's job. Believe me, she has enough on her plate.

Once the manuscript is finished, it's time to revise and polish. And let me encourage you to be brutal. This is your last chance to make the story as good as it possibly can be before you start submitting it. You only get one chance to impress an agent or editor. Make it count. If your prose sparkles, if the manuscript is clean (error free), you've made their job easier and given them a reason to trust you.

Start with the beginning of your manuscript. Does your opening sentence raise a question in the reader's mind, something to hook them into reading on? If not, work on it until it does.

Is your first chapter bogged down with back-story? Slash it now. Hit the ground running and don't look back. You need to know what's come before. Your readers only need the barest hint and then only if it's absolutely necessary for them to understand enough to continue. Keeping your reader slightly off balance, wondering why something is happening or why a character is reacting in an unusual manner is a good way to keep the pages turning. And that is your goal.

I always tell my DH he married a hooker. (Now, now, I'm talking about writing hooks!) These are tiny tantalizing bits of information that create a path for your readers. If you work it right, you can literally pull your reader forward through your story. This is what keeps readers up nights.

Check your prose. Are you using passive voice? Hope not. Lots of helping verbs? Weak. Circle every word ending in "ly" and cut them till there's no more than one or two per page. Use descriptive verbs and nouns instead of adjectives and adverbs.

Read your story aloud. You'll hear the echoes of over-used words your eyes may miss. Any sentence you have to take a breath to finish is too long. Cut it in half.

Look at your pages. How much white space is there? Are you too heavy on narrative and too light on dialogue? Do you need the tags on your dialogue or can you tell who's speaking based on their speech patterns? Do all your characters sound alike?

Can you smell your scenes? Have you engaged all the senses or are you relying merely on visual? Your reader wants to walk in the heroine's shoes. Give her enough to know where she is and how to feel about it.

Are you sticking with one point of view per scene or are you popping in and out of your character's heads so much you'll give your readers whiplash?

Do your characters have similar sounding names? Tolkien may have gotten away with Eowen and Eomer, but most readers prefer not to have to work that hard. Do your character's names start with the same letter? For the sake of clarity, change one of them now.

Use the spell checker. I mistrust the grammar checker, but the spell check is my friend.

When your story is polished till you're sick of it, turn it over to someone whose judgment you trust--generally not a relative or someone who wants to continue sleeping with you. Don't be defensive. Prepare yourself for requests for revisions. If you don't develop the hide of a rhinoceros, your stay in Writerland will be painful and brief. Accept their comments and consider them carefully. You didn't come down the mountain with the story carved in stone. Revise if you find you agree with them.

Once you're satisfied your manuscript sparkles, do your homework. Don't send it to an editor or agent who doesn't handle your brand of romance. Choose your targets carefully. Why set yourself up for a 'no?'

Print it up. Say a prayer. Submit to the agent or editor you're targeting and start working on the next book. Don't even think about contacting them for a response before three months.

Good luck!

As always, I'm happy to answer questions. Or if you have a self-editing tip to share, please leave a comment! I'm always looking for new ways to sharpen my prose.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Unexpected Joy of Unintended Events

On Saturday, my DH and I had a series of unintended events. It all started with a trip to the car dealership to get the oil changed on our car. It had taken us a whole year to drive far enough to need a change (Yay for public transit) but my DH, like any alpha worth his salt, has a good sense of direction, so he wasn't using the GPS.

Unfortunately, I was telling him a very diverting story and he missed a turn on the route he had in his head. Now, you've got to realize that Boston is a very old, very unplanned city. You can't make 4 right turns and end up back where you started. It's really more like a giant Chutes and Ladders game. The roads pick you up and spit you out in someplace you never intended to go.

Ok, I hear you saying, why not just use your GPS? Well, we would have if we'd had an address. My DH knew where he was going, remember, so he didn't bother with checking on the address again. Like any good wife, I suggested we stop and ask to check for the address in a phone book, but like any good man, he refused. He knew what street the dealership was on. All he had to do was find it. So he soldiered on, using the Columbus method of navigation. While frustration was growing on the left side of the car, I decided to enjoy the unexpected tour. Boston really is a fascinating city with a broad spectrum of different architectural styles. (Unexpected joy #1)

But don't ask my DH. He wasn't looking at the pretty buildings.

Like Columbus, he finally arrived at a destination. And unlike Columbus, my DH's was the correct one.

Now a trip to the car dealership is way down there with a trip to the dentist in my book. Either way you're at the mercy of someone else. Imagine my surprise when I discovered our dealership had added a "quiet room" for their adult customers, complete with massage chairs. And not just any massage chairs. These were massage chairs on steroids. These chairs even massaged our legs! I developed a meaningful relationship with one and as we left the dealership a short time later, I drilled my DH on what else we might have done to the car so I can visit my chair again soon! (Unexpected joy #2)

Then we decided to do something that would be purposefully fun. We took the T down to Long Wharf and hopped a harbor ferry out to Spectacle Island. We chose this island because it sounds "spectacular," doesn't it?

Wrong. Spectacle Island got its name because its two little hills (called drumlins) rise from the harbor like a pair of half-submerged spectacles. Ok. But it's an island and that's my definition of someplace romantic.

Wrong. Spectacle Island was a garbage dump for most of its long and disgusting history. Barges of dead horses were ferried out to the rendering plant where they were turned into glue and hides. 13 unfortunate families made their homes on the island at one time. I can only thank God that the human nose shuts down after a certain amount of stimulation. Most recently, the island received tons of fill dirt from The Big Dig. (Thank you, BTW. Your tax dollars helped fund this gargantuan project that buried the previously elevated highway that ran through downtown Boston.) So the island has been reclaimed, reshaped and replanted. A win for the environment, right?

Wrong. Even though there are 5 miles of hiking trails, there is no natural shade on this island. We had sunscreen, water, sunglasses, and I was wearing my visor, but the park service would make a killing if they sold umbrellas at their visitor's center.

But while Spectacle Island made me feel like I needed a shower, the views from its questionable shores were "spectacular." And we spent a lovely hour sitting on adirondack chairs in front of the visitors' center, watching the sailing and cruising traffic go by.

And I had my third unexpected joy. Just spending time holding DH's hand.

What unexpected joys have surprised you lately?

Tessa Dare's Goddess of the Hunt

I met Tessa Dare at RWA Nationals in DC last month and she was a delight. Then I read her newest release GODDESS OF THE HUNT and I was delighted twice. Her heroine Lucy is a spunky, out-of-the-ordinary character and I loved her! Anyway, I wanted to share Tessa and her work with you, so I invited her for a chat. As usual when I have a guest, my words are in bold, and Tessa is speaking italics.

Welcome to my blog, Tessa.

Emily, thank you so much for having me today! It was such a thrill to meet you at conference, you’re a sweetheart to have read GODDESS OF THE HUNT, and so quickly! Thanks for giving me some great questions to answer.

My pleasure. On your website, you list a number of movies that influenced your writing. Since you're also a librarian, I'll be there have been a few books that shaped your storytelling as well. Can you share your favorite and why it's important to you?

Several of those movies were based on my favorite books. Without a doubt, the novels of Jane Austen have had the profoundest influence on me, simply because they were my introduction to the Regency era and the romance subgenre that celebrates it. I also love Austen’s heroines—they are intelligent and strong, but not without faults. Although I wrote about my love of the Pride and Prejudice film adaptations on my blog, I think I’ve connected most strongly with Emma over the course of my life. I always wanted to be Elizabeth Bennet, but felt more like Emma Woodhouse—always meaning well, but frequently misjudging in her efforts to “help.” In the end, though, they both end up with smashingly wealthy and handsome gents, so… it’s all good! I think that’s just one more thing I love about Austen—her characters never needed to be perfect to earn their happy endings, just possessed of some self-knowledge and willing to grow.

And you gifted your heroine Lucy with those same endearing traits. Prior to publication, you dabbled in some fan fiction. Can you tell us a little about that experience?

Probably no surprise after the above, but I wrote some Pride and Prejudice-based fan fiction before I started writing original Regency-set romance. The online Jane Austen fandom is a wonderfully diverse and inclusive place, and there are many talented writers there. I learned a lot about pacing, dialog, historical context, and how to see a story through from start to finish.

After I got my contract, I wrote an article for RWR (Romance Writers Report, the RWA magazine) about fan fiction. I was astonished at how many top-selling romance authors also have dabbled in fanfic, in various fandoms.

It's probably a great way to get your name out there. I understand you are under contract for another trilogy for Ballantine. Can you give us a little tease for those stories?

Yes, thanks for asking! The Stud Club trilogy will be coming to stores in Summer 2010! While this year’s trilogy (Goddess/Siren/Lady) is very heroine-centric, this one is more about the guys. And while they are all unquestionably studs, THE “stud” in Stud Club is a priceless racehorse. Membership in the club is limited, but attainable to anyone with luck. And blind luck is pretty much the only way these three men—a duke, a war hero, and a scoundrel—would ever associate. When the club’s founder is murdered, the three must become reluctant allies in the search for justice. And along the way, they each fall desperately in love. As strong and independent as the heroes are, their heroines are even more so, and I’m having a wonderful time writing them. The first book, One Dance with a Duke, will release late May 2010.

Thanks for visiting with us today. Tessa is giving away a copy of GODDESS OF THE HUNT to a lucky commenter so please let your voice be heard.

Much is made of romance heroes and I don't want to take a bit away from the guys, but too often the heroines get overlooked. One of my pet peeves is wimpy heroines, but Tessa's Lucy does not fit that at all. She's fiesty, pro-active and determined to create her own destiny. My question for you all today to get the discussion started is this: What do you think is the most important quality for a romantic heroine to have?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

SkyKeepers is a Keeper!

Today I'm guest blogging at Elisabeth Naughton's Blog and giving away a copy of VEXING THE VISCOUNT to someone who leaves a comment at Elisabeth's. But I wanted to share a little here about my friend Jessica Andersen's new release, SKYKEEPERS.

Have you seen Jessica Andersen's Nightkeeper series?

It's one of the freshest paranormal ideas I've read in a long time. She's taken the Mayan calendar and an ancient doomsday prophecy and come up with a race of beings who alone are capable of beating back the Mayan demons and saving the world. Jessica's stories are sexy, adventurous and magical! She has a new release in the series called SKYKEEPERS. I think you'll love it. Check it out!

Back Cover Blurb:

Ancient prophecy holds that 12/21/2012 will bring a global cataclysm. Mankind’s only hope lies with the Nightkeepers, modern magic-wielding warriors who must find their destined mates and fulfill the legends to defeat the rise of terrible Mayan demons.

In Skykeepers, Michael Stone is a man with a dark secret that has skewed his magical abilities dangerously toward the underworld. Seeking redemption, he sets out on a perilous mission to save the daughter of Ambrose Ledbetter, a renowned Mayanist who died before he could reveal the location of a hidden library. The Nightkeepers must find the library before their enemies gain access to its valuable cache of spells and prophecies.

Sasha Ledbetter grew up hearing heroic tales of an ancient group of powerful magi who were destined to save the world from destruction. She never expected that her bedtime stories would come to life in the form of Nightkeeper Michael Stone, or that she’d hold the key to the warrior’s survival. As Sasha and Michael join forces to prevent the imminent battle, sparks of attraction ignite between them, and they’re forced to confront the unexpected passion that brings them together … and also tears them apart.

And here's an excerpt!

He’d thought he’d steeled himself for the familiar kick of attraction, the lust that hadn’t faded with their becoming lovers. But need hit him hard the moment he saw her stretched on her tiptoes to return a bowl to a high shelf, her midriff-cropped tee riding up, yoga pants riding down, the two exposing a strip of her taut, strong abdomen, with the soft lines of muscle on either side of her navel, where a trio of freckles drew his eye.

She turned slowly, and when she met his eyes, he saw a reflection of the burning heat that churned in his gut. “Well?” she said softly.

His body moved almost without conscious volition around the pass-through and into the kitchen, where he stopped close enough to catch her light scent over the cooking smells, close enough to distinguish the heat of her body from that of the stove. “What’s cooking?”

She handed over the mug she’d been sipping from. “It’s something I’ve been playing with.”

He knew she had magic in the kitchen, knew she wielded flavors with the deftness of a trained chef and the inspiration of a mage, but still he was unprepared for what hit his taste buds the moment he took a sip. Sensations exploded across his neurons in a blaze of heat, texture, and taste that had him sucking in a breath. There was chocolate, yes, but it was more savory than sweet, taken away from the realm of dessert by a mix of peppers and salt, and things he wouldn’t even begin to match with chocolate, but that somehow matched perfectly. He sucked in a breath. “Holy crap.” Took another sip and rolled it around in his mouth, closing his eyes briefly as the flavors changed subtly, the peppers mellowing to something else. “Nice,” he said, and this time his tone was one of reverence. “Very nice.”

“That,” she said with evident satisfaction, “was exactly what I was going for.”

Eyes still closed, he felt her trying to take the mug back, and tightened his fingers on it. “Leave it,” he said. “I’m at your mercy. Anything you want. Just ask.”

He’d said it partly in play, but also because he remembered what she’d told him back in the beginning, on her first day at Skywatch. I cook when I’m happy or sad, when I’m celebrating with friends or all alone with my thoughts. Which of those things applied now?

He felt the air shift, felt her indrawn breath as his own, but instead of “we need to talk” or any of the female warning signs experience had taught him to expect, she surprised him by leaning in and touching her lips to his.

The kiss was as unexpected as the hint of pepper and spice he tasted amidst the chocolate on her lips, in her mouth. Setting aside his mug, he deepened the kiss, relieved to let it be easy even though a small part of him said it shouldn’t be so easy, that he was skimming the surface of something he needed to be diving into. But then she shifted her hands, sliding them up his chest to link behind his neck and tug him closer, pressing her body to his, and the vibe went true, singing inside his skull with the warm sparkle of red-gold magic.

“Come back to bed,” he said against her mouth. “We’ve got a few more hours to burn.”


Here's what reviewers are saying about SKYKEEPERS:

“… intricate and compelling … I can hear their voices, feel their thoughts, and yes, music plays. Seriously, there is a soundtrack going on in my mind and I see her world in Technicolor.” Romance Novel TV

“An exciting, romantic and imaginative tale … guaranteed to keep readers entertained
and turning the pages.” Romance Reviews Today

“… a compelling and passionate lovestory.” (4 1/2 stars) Romantic Times Magazine

Check out the video trailer. Then I urge you to head for the nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of SKYKEEPERS! You'll thank me.

FMI, check out Her website is a fantastic peek inside her richly imagined world.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Odds and Ends Friday

Well, as you've probably guessed, the Prize Patrol did not surprise me yesterday. No, I'm not despairing, whatever this pic of the mythical Ariadne might suggest. It's just as well. I've heard most of the folks who win the lottery or otherwise experience such a windfall are usually bankrupt within five years. (Still would have liked a chance to beat the odds!)

Lots of readers were interested in my Agent Dance post this week. I happened upon this listing of agents compiled by Publisher's Weekly and thought it might be worth re-posting here.

Top Ten Romance/Women's Fiction Agents:

1. Roberta Brown
2. Kimberly Whalen
3. Laura Bradford
4. Jennifer Schober
5. Kevan Lyon
6. Natasha Kern
7. Pamela Harty
8. Emily Sylvan Kim
9. Deidre Knight
10. Karen Solem

I'm delighted to see my agent, Natasha Kern, in that number. If you're wondering where to begin looking for an agent, a list compiled by Publishers Weekly is not a bad place to start.

Yesterday, I received notice from Dorchester that they'd sold the foreign rights to my Irish lovestory, ERINSONG, to a Spanish publisher! So far, my work has been translated into German, Dutch, Italian, Russian and now Spanish! Very exciting!

I've been doing some housecleaning. No, not in my condo. On my website. I'm really quite a minimalist when it comes to decorating, but my website gets cluttered as I find new things I want to include. Every now and then, I have to take it down and clear away the excess. And I'm tickled to share that I finally have a fancy drop down menu navigation bar instead of using a system that seemed to swell and crowd the page. Check it out and let me know what you think. Like my current WIP, my website is always under construction! And as long as you're there, please be sure to enter my Christmas in August Contest!

Today, I'm doing a bit of cyber-trotting. I'm at The Chatelaines for my usual Friday post on that group blog. If you haven't ever visited me there, the hysterical banner alone is worth the trip! I'm blogging about my inspiration for my current WIP STROKE OF GENIUS.

And tomorrow, I'll be at Elisabeth Naughton's Blog where I'll be giving away a VEXING THE VISCOUNT to one lucky commenter. So please mark your calendars and spend a little of your precious Saturday with me.

Have a lovely day! Be kind to yourself. You deserve it.

What are you planning for your weekend?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Waiting for the Prize Patrol . . .

What would you do if the Prize Patrol rolled up to your house today and made you an instant millionaire? Com' on, I can't be the only one who's thought about it!

After they revived me (I have a history of fainting spells!) and I finally believed it was real, I'd start a mini-spending spree. First, we'd pay off the mortgage. Whew! That's a load off.

Then, we'd give a cash gift to my DH's siblings (he has 7!) and my sisters (3). We'd set aside a goodly chunk for each of our kids in a trust. And a gift to our church. Then I'd take my parents to Hawaii, after the DH and I returned from a World Cruise. (And with my winnings, we'd be able to travel in a deluxe balcony suite instead of the interior broom closet we might have to settle for otherwise!)

But the sweetest thing about instant riches is that I'd be able to retire my DH early and we could spend our days playing together however we liked. Of course, I'd still want to write and he'd have to pick up a hobby or two (A man with a private pilot's license and a good seat on a horse should have no problem figuring that out.) He's made it possible for me to chase my dream right now by allowing me to write full-time. I'd love to be able to return the favor and give him the opportunity to follow his.

Ah yes, la dolce vita!

But, my practical side raises its pointy little head, what if the prize patrol doesn't come?

Well, the goals are still out there. I'd just have to figure a different way to reach them. We're whacking away at the mortgage every month. We give our siblings the gift of our love and support. Our kids are both working and that's a valuable thing. Too much given to us can take away our will to do for ourselves. We already give to our church. We might have to put off the trip to Hawaii with my parents, but we did take them to Disney World ten years ago after Mom finished her chemo and radiation treatments for breast cancer (she's still doing great!). And as for the World Cruise, there's always the broom closet option. . . Hey! Circumnavigation is still once around the globe however you manage it!

That leaves retiring my DH early . . .

Short of my books hitting the NYTimes list multiple times, I'm drawing a blank. But, the point of retiring him early is spending more time with him. So, I can do that now. It means turning off the computer in the evenings, planning fun things to do together on weekends and giving him more of my attention when he is home.

So if the Prize Patrol doesn't come roaring by today, I'll still be ok. There are ways to work on making my dreams happen that aren't dependent on a windfall. But, just in case, I'd better go freshen up my lipstick . . .

Ok, it's your turn. What guilty pleasure would you indulge if the Prize Patrol came to your house?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Agent Dance

The manuscript is finished. You've polished it to within an inch of your life! Now what?

If you just want to sell this particular manuscript, you can take your chances in the slush pile. But if you want a writing career, you need an agent.

It is probably true that it's as hard or perhaps harder to establish a working relationship with an agent as it is to find an editor who wants to publish your work. But the angst is worth it when you consider what an agent brings to the table.

A good agent knows the acquiring editors at all the publishing houses. He/she knows who's looking for what. An agent should have established credible relationships with the editors and a reputation for representing quality material, so that when they send in a submission, the manuscript jumps to the head of the TBR line. The agent, not you, gets to follow up and should be able to get an answer on your work in much less time. Your agent has your back in contract negotiations. He/she sweats all the details. A good agent can see on down the road to where you'll be in 5 years, and help you develop a plan to get there. Some agents even offer editorial imput to their clients. And every agent worth her salt has told me they'd rather be involved in a project from the first kernel of a idea than be called in only once an offer is on the table and there's little they can do to shape the contract but take their 15%.

Notice I prefaced the above by saying "good" agent. There are predators out there and this is definitely an "author beware" decision. You are getting into financial bed with this person. I've heard of authors being swindled out of their entire advance and subsequent royalties. It's time for due diligence. (Published authors, here's an opportunity for you to share your horror stories in order to save others. But for liability reasons, I ask that you not name names.)

So check out the agencies. Do a little friendly internet stalking of agents who interest you. (I got that tip from Anna DeStefano!) Check out their client list. Do they represent the type of story you write? Some agents have blogs. Follow them. You'll learn alot about how they operate.

Go for a face to face meet. You don't have to go to a national convention to meet top shelf agents. Many attend regional conferences. Check your local area and see who's coming to take appointments. It's worth a conference fee to be able to chat in person with someone who may be shaping your career. And if they've heard your pitch and are interested, you'll move to the head of their slushpile. (Yes, I'm sorry to say, agents have slushpiles, too.)

I titled this post The Agent Dance for a reason. Here's how the process works:

1. Author choses agent she would like to have represent her.

2. Author queries said agent.

3. Agent responds with "No, thank you" (in which case, you thank her politely and move on. Don't vent. Don't whine. Don't demand further explanation. Publishing is far too small a world to burn a single bridge. Your paths will cross again.) Or the agent wants to see more (in which case, you send him/her exactly what he/she asks for. No more, no less.)

4. Author waits.

5. Author waits some more.

6. Author starts working on the next manuscript and almost forgets she even submitted a manuscript to the agent.

7. Agent sends a rejection letter, a request for revisions, OR he/she calls with an offer of representation.

8. Author does not hop up and down and scream "Yes, Yes" orgasmically into the receiver. (Save that for after you hang up!)

9. Author interviews the agent. This is your opportunity to discover what the agent sees in your work (And if the agent does not use the L word, thank him/her politely and decline their offer. If your agent doesn't LOVE your writing, he/she is not the right agent for you.)

Find out what plans the agent might have for where the manuscript will be submitted and why that publishing house is a good fit. If the agent says, "Oh, we'll shop it everywhere. Someone will love it", thank them politely and move on.

Now is the time to set expectations for the relationship. How does the agent work with his/her clients? Don't expect them to hold your hand and stroke you constantly. They do have other clients and while you're at it, ask to speak to some of the agent's current clients (If they refuse to give you some names, thank them politely and run like the wind!)

10. If you like what you hear, you agree to form an agency relationship, put it in writing, and work productively together for many happy years.

Here are a few don'ts:

1. Never pay a "reading" fee. An agent should consider your work without an upfront charge to you.

2. I know I said to do a little cyber stalking, but don't do it for real. Agents are people too and don't appreciate being hounded. Be considerate of their time before and after you agree to work together.

3. Don't expect an agent to sell sloppy prose. The best agent in the world can't gloss over less than the best you can give her. She's an agent, not a miracle-worker.

4. Don't accept an offer of representation unless you feel strongly that this person will advance your career. Having no agent is better than having the wrong agent.

So that's what I know about the Agent Do-Si-Do. If someone posts a question I don't know the answer to, I'll be glad to ask my fabulous agent. Happy hunting.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Playing Santa!

I've been priviledged to have 3 lovely guests this past week and today I get to announce the winners for their give-aways.

A week ago Monday, romantic suspense author Elisabeth Naughton was here, talking about her latest release, STOLEN HEAT. Elisabeth has received glowing reviews for her work from the bible of the industry, Publishers Weekly! The winner for that day is MARY from San Benito, TX. Congrats!

Then on last Thursday, debut author and my WisRWA Chapter mate Ilona Fridl visited to share the news about her 1920's set SILVER SCREEN HEROES. Gangsters and bootleg hooch and silent movies, oh my! Ilona's winner is CHEEKY GIRL!

And last but definitely not least, yesterday Caroline Fyffe dropped by to share some booksigning tips and introduce us to her WHERE THE WIND BLOWS, a sort of "Lonesome Dove meets Little House on the Prairer" story. (Caroline, I have no idea why blogger turns your cover blue. For those of you looking for it in the bookstore, the book is actually more in tones of fall.) The winner of Caroline's book is HEATHER D from Georgia!

Giving away things is so delightful, I can't stop here! Please pop over to my website and enter my CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST contest. It's free. It's easy. And it's fun. The winner (who will be announced Sept 1st) will win his/her choice from my backlist. (As a side note: I got into trouble the other day when I said if there was anyone out there who'd read everything I'd written besides my mother, I'd do a backflip. My beta reader Marcy sent me an email demanding pics of the flip! I think I appeased her with a promised peek at the new WIP.) Anyway, please pop over and enter!

And here's my question for the day: Times are tough and authors and publishers are looking for ways to reward faithful readers. Several publishers are starting to give away e-versions of a title from an author's backlist prior to a new release. Is this something that interests you? Would it make you more likely to try a new author? To buy their new release? What do you think?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Where the Wind Blows . . .

I met Caroline Fyffe in DC at RWA Nationals this summer and she impressed me so much. She's as bubbly and happy a person as you'd ever want to meet. Her debut title WHERE THE WIND BLOWS is out right now. Her enthusiasm reminded me how exciting that first book is. And along with that first title there are lots of other firsts. Today she's sharing about her first book signing. So you can keep us straight, my words today will be in Bold face and Caroline's in regular type.

Book Signings! Friend or Foe?

My very first, all-alone, book signing was so much more than I expected---which was a relief because it started out as rocky as they come. I’d been working with the wonderful Stockton Barnes & Nobel for several months and had pestered poor Lee almost every week. Being a debut author, I really didn’t have a clue how these things worked, but he walked me through the process calmly and patiently. As my date arrived, I tried to be composed. I just decided not to think about it until that day arrived. (I was signing from 7-9 PM.) Around three in the afternoon, there was a number on my cell I didn’t recognize and promptly returned the call. It was Lee. The books hadn’t arrived. Would I like to come and do a meet and greet? Not really! What would I talk about especially since I didn’t have the books in hand? We’d just reschedule.

Okay, that was that. Actually, I was more than relieved. Around five, I got another call. You guessed it, the books HAD arrived so I pulled myself together and headed over! I took my laptop so I could play my book preview, and a bag of Lindor Truffles to entice possible readers over. I arrived early and set everything up. I waited.

It wasn’t long before I saw a familiar face. A friend had checked my web page and brought a few friends along with her. More people than I imagined came over and talked. It was great. Almost all, after a few moments of conversation, bought my book. I felt triumphant!!

Here are a couple of pictures from that night….

I’m totally thrilled that my Lonesome Dove meets Little House on the Prairie story, Where the Wind Blows, is really finally here. I’m giving away a copy to someone who leaves me a comment. (Emily popping in for a moment! Did you get that? You could win a copy of Caroline's book just by leaving a comment or question for us here today!) Also, please visit my website at to see how to enter my contest, Under a Western Sky, for your chance to win an overnight stay in a bunkhouse. And, while you’re there, take the time to sign up for my ‘announce only’ newsletter. On the last day of every month I will be giving away a free book!

For all the authors out there, I’d like to ask you what your ‘first’ book signing was like? Or, on the other hand, if you’re a reader, what helps to pull you over to a table where an author is signing? Is there something that actually turns you away?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Naked Beneath my Clothes

We are all naked beneath our clothes, but we hide who we are in multiple ways. And sometimes we hide from who we are.

I've had readers tell me they feel they know me very well after reading my books. It makes me feel terribly exposed, but they're probably right. A writer can't help but bleed all over her manuscripts. We all work through our issues one way or another. I suspect my characters wrestle with many of the same things I do.

One such issue is building in my current WIP-STROKE OF GENIUS. My heroine Grace is grappling with acceptance her own body. My personal issue is and always has been carrying more weight than I should. While I firmly believe in torturing my characters, I didn't want to give that problem to my heroine. No, I gave Grace a problem she has very little control over.

She is tall.

Now, wait a minute, I hear you say. Being tall is a good thing. Maybe it is now. Standards of beauty change over time.

Grace is very tall, at least 5'7" in an age when it was rare for a woman to top 5 feet. If you've ever seen the inauguration gowns of America's First Ladies you were probably as amazed as I at the bird-like smallness of those earliest ones. Grace feels like a Great Auk next to those little sparrows. She's mortified to be able to look down on some of her suitors. She longs to feel petite and delicate.

It doesn't help that her mother constantly admonishes her "not to slouch" one minute and "don't stand quite so tall" the next. Crispin Hawke, the artistic genius who's engaged to sculpt her hands in marble, is a very tall man and tops her easily, but he doesn't help matters when he pronounces her hands merely "capable." She wishes she were entrancing, mysterious, fascinating. . . anything but capable.

How can Grace learn to love herself just as she is?

For one thing, she'll need to turn off the noise around her. We're constantly bombarded by images that convince us we're not good enough in dozens of ways. So is Grace. She will have to give up the notion of trying to conform to someone else's preconceptions of beauty. She'll need to learn that she is far more than the house of clay where she resides. More than that, she needs to love that house of clay. What will it take for her to reach that conclusion? I'm not sure yet.

For me, it took a cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, I loved my body very much. It may not be a size 2, but it's mine and it's lovely to live in. And unlike Grace, I can always hit the treadmill and do a few "push-aways" (from the dinner table) to make things better.

We are all naked beneath our clothes. Are you working on accepting yourself? If you already have, I'd love to shake your hand. You must be the most well-adjusted person on the planet. For the rest of you, let me just affirm that you are a precious, unique, beautiful individual. Love yourself.

What will you do to be kind to yourself today?

PS. If you haven't entered my CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST contest, please pop over. The winner gets her pick from my backlist. (If there's anyone out there who's read everything I've ever written besides my mother, I'll do a backflip!) So why not enter today?

Silver Screen Heroes

Please welcome Ilona Fridl!

She's one of my WisRWA chapter mates (No, I never lived in Wisconsin, but I-90 runs through it and my other two chapters are in Boston and Seattle at opposite ends of that long stretch. I thought a stop-over in the Midwest would be nice!). Ilona's first book is out now and it only took her two manuscripts to be published. (Took me three!)As always when I have a guest, my words are in bold and Ilona's are in

Here's what Ilona had to say about her SILVER SCREEN HEROES:

What happens when a motion picture studio in 1920 is taken over by a crime family who wants to use it to make illegal liquor? Addy and Zeke, a stunt double and a director's assistant, work with the police to bring these gangsters to justice. One problem, Addy's cousin is married into the crime family. Addy has been given a key to bring down the family and the studio. Will she use it?

Sounds like you've got plenty of excitement there, Ilona. Your story SILVER SCREEN HEROES is set in the roaring 20's, filled with gangsters and bootleg hooch and silent movie stars. What sort of research did you do and what's the most interesting thing you ran across, whether you were able to use it in your book or not?

I've always been interested in the movie industry since I was a child. I guess growing up in the Los Angeles area fostered that. I remember a studio crew filming on our street when I was four or five. We had the old silent comedies on TV in the fifties. I carried that with me when I started research on Silver Screen Heroes.

I read about the making of films in early Hollywood. I put in the book about the rain machines which was just hoses of water sprayed into large fans. On a special on PBS about Mary Pickford, I heard some studios had music played while they filmed, so I incorporated that into the story. I checked the timelines out on the internet to find the songs and movies that were popular at the time. I did some reading on prohibition and found out that if you purchased liquor before the law went into effect and stored it, that was all right. So Addy's Aunt and Grandma had brandy to put into mince pies and fruit cake.

LOL! The letter of the law means you might be able to use the spirits, huh? Can you tell us about your writing process?

I work on writing as much as I can. Right now, I spent time promoting my first book in the series, I am doing edits for the second book, Golden North, and writing the third book, Bronze Skies. I devote, at minimum, four hours a day. When I start a book, I make notes of what I want in it then fill it in. I find the character sometimes have their own ideas and I switch or change things to accommodate them.

You take notes, Ilona? Ah, to be so organized! Every writer is a reader. Whose work inspired you to become a writer?

An early influence was Lousia Mae Alcott. I read all three books in the March Family series countless times.

Me too! Loved Little Women. I was so Jo!

Strangely enough, Ray Bradbury was a big influence in my teenage years. His stories were so imaginative that I was engrossed for hours. I wanted to write stories like that.

My DH is a big sci-fi fan, but he likes Asimov. And just for grins, what's on your bedside table right now?

Right now, I'm reading Kept by D J Taylor. It's a mystery set in Victorian England. I love mysteries.

Just so my readers can get to know you a little better, Ilona, please tell us about yourself.
I'm a real baby boomer who was born in West Hollywood, California. One of my loves growing up was the movies. I remember seeing silent comedies on the local TV during the fifties.

I've always loved to write, but didn't get my act together until around ten years ago. I never got along with typewriters. Then the magic PC came along. I sent short stories to magazines and, amazingly, sold some. I now live in Wisconsin and have to give my undying respect to Kathie Giorgio of AllWriters who pulled an author out of this hack writer. And a big thank you to Diane who convinced me to go to the workshop she took.

I give my love to my husband, Mark, who tends to put up with my flights of fancy. (And for my own PC. Thank you, love!) I also have my Mom, my daughter, Micki and her daughter, Brie, who make up my cheering section.

It means a lot to a writer to have that kind of support. If you'd like to learn more, please visit Ilona on her website. and here is the link to Buy Silver Screen Heroes

Thanks for visiting today, Ilona. She is providing either an e-copy or a print version of SILVER SCREEN HEROES to someone who leaves a comment or question for her today. So let us know you're here! I personally would love to hear about her gangster villains.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Month~New Contest

My STROKE OF GENIUS Name a Character Contest is over, but a new contest is just beginning. This one is easy. Just pop over and read the excerpt from my novella My Lady Below Stairs from A CHRISTMAS BALL and answer one question. The contest runs all month and the winner receives her choice from my backlist!

NightOwl Romance calls My Lady Below Stairs "a wonderful romantic tale that you will wish were longer." Sorry. Leisure Books required me to keep it to 30,000 words in order to save room for Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson's stories(which are fabulous, BTW!) But I tried to pack plenty of romantic sizzle into that shorter format.

As usual in my tales, there's plenty of mayhem and misdirection. Here's the back cover blurb:

It is the most anticipated event of the ton: the annual holiday ball at Hartwell House. The music is elegant, the food exquisite, and the guest list absolutely exclusive. Some come looking for love. Some will do almost anything to avoid it. But everyone wants to be there. No matter what their desires, amid the swirling gowns and soft glow of candlelight, magic tends to happen. And one dance, one kiss, one night can shape a new destiny….

Some of my characters don't even have an invitation, but they aren't going to let a little thing like that stop them! YOU, however, are at the top of the guest list! A CHRISTMAS BALL will be released on Sept. 29th. (Or you can pre-order to make sure yours arrives a little early!)

Please be sure to enter my Christmas in August Contest today. You've been so good, don't you deserve an early present?

Question for the day: Do you like anthologies? Have you ever discovered a "new to you" author you loved in one?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"The Sensitive Ones Always Get Eaten ..."

The subject today is BETA Heroes and I confess to some bias on this topic. Whenever I hear about betas, that quote from the first ICE AGE movie always pops into my mind! The second visual is from BEDAZZLED. It's Brendan Fraser (whom I normally enjoy to pieces) wearing a disastrous red wig, crying like a little girl over the beauty of a sunset. This is my idea of a beta hero--so sensitive he's no longer a man.

However, I know there are plenty of women out there who disagree with me. They like a man who's in touch with his feminine side, who's not afraid to show his emotions or admit to a vulnerability. They want a guy who's secure enough in his masculinity to be a "Mr. Mom," to defer to his partner in all things.

Ok, I'll confess that I myself am a terrible beta. If my guy was one too, we'd just be such a pair of jellyfish. Perhaps balance is the key.

Does anyone remember the TV series COACH? I remember one episode when Coach's daughter's slightly effeminate boyfriend was explaining his theory of gender. We all have masculine and feminine traits, he said. Women are just 51% feminine/49% masculine. Men, he claimed, are 51% masculine.

At this point, Coach hitched the waistline of his trousers and said, "I'm a high 90's kind of guy myself."

I wanted to cheer! I love for men to be men. And insisting men emphasize feminine traits makes them less somehow. Give me an alpha everytime!

You however are free to disagree (in fact, I hope some of you will!) Have I misunderstood the Beta Hero? If you love them, please share why.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Stolen ... Readers' Hearts!

I read Elisabeth Naughton's STOLEN FURY back when it first came out. What a treat! This smart, sexy book has everything--an archaeological treasure, a kick-butt heroine with a PhD, a totally hot thief she's forced to team up with (oh, darn!), and a fast-paced adventure. Looks like Publisher's Weekly agrees with me. Here's what they had to say:

"A rock-solid debut...Naughton's intelligent adventure plot is intensified by the blazing heat that builds from Lisa and Rafe's first erotic encounter."
--Publisher's Weekly

Now Elisabeth has a new title out--STOLEN HEAT--and she's here today to talk about it with us. As usual when I have a guest, my words are in BOLD and my guest is speaking italics. or regular text. Take it away, Elisabeth!

Big thanks to Emily for having me here today!

I thought it might be fun to talk about reunion stories, since my current release STOLEN HEAT, is just that. For those of you who haven’t heard about the book, here’s a short blurb:

Antiquities dealer Peter Kauffman walked a fine line between clean and corrupt for years. And then he met the woman who changed his life—Egyptologist Katherine Meyer. Their love affair burned white-hot in Egypt, until the day Pete’s lies and half-truths caught up with him. After that, their relationship imploded, Kat walked out, and before Pete could find her to make things right, he heard she’d died in a car bomb.

Six years later, the woman Pete thought he’d lost for good is suddenly back. The lies this time aren’t just his, though. The only way he and Kat will find the truth and evade a killer out for revenge is to work together—as long as they don’t find themselves burned by the heat each thought was stolen long ago…

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for reunion stories. I love the nuances, the chance to make something right, the knowledge that nothing in this life is static, especially love. Of course, reading a reunion story and writing one are two very different things, and as I learned through the course of writing STOLEN HEAT, a reunion story is one of the toughest stories one can write.

Why? Because the writer not only has to explain what’s happening now – the plot, the characters, the emotions – he/she also has to explain what happened then. And how what happened in the past impacts what happens now.

STOLEN HEAT was no exception. The present day suspense plot in this book is deeply rooted in what happened between Pete and Kat in the past, and it took me several tries to get this book right. Those “tries” also included one very long call with my agent where she said, “This isn’t working,” and a whole lot of eyebrow pulling on my part. But the end result is something I’m very proud of. And I’m thrilled to know readers are falling in love with Pete and Kat the way I did.

After I finished STOLEN HEAT, I swore I’d never write another reunion story. That lasted, um…two books. I’m now working on another one, though in many ways this one is very different. But at the core is the same second chance at love you find in STOLEN HEAT. Of course, I’m already losing eyebrows, and in a few weeks I may be asking myself, “What on earth were you thinking?” But I know when this book is done, I’ll feel the same thing I did when I finished STOLEN HEAT. That it was worth it. That reminding readers second chances DO happen is important. That we all would benefit by remembering the loss of love is never final.

How about you? Do you like reunion stories? Any stand out in your mind as real keepers?

In honor of the release of STOLEN HEAT, I’m giving away a book! One lucky commenter will have their choice of either STOLEN HEAT (book 2 in the Stolen Trilogy) or STOLEN FURY (book 1, which released in Jan 2009)

(Emily hopping in for a moment here.) Did you catch that? Everyone who leaves a comment is in the running for one of Elisabeth Naughton's terrific books!So let us know you're here!
A previous junior-high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton now writes sexy romantic suspense and paranormal novels full time from her home in western Oregon where she lives with her husband and three children. Her debut release, Stolen Fury, was a 2007 Golden Heart Finalist and has been heralded by Publisher's Weekly as "A rock-solid debut." When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ball park or dreaming up new and exciting adventures.

Visit the author’s website at!

To enter her “Big” STOLEN HEAT Release Contest for a chance to win $100 VISA gift card and other daily prizes, go to Stolen Heat Contest

Thanks for coming by, Elisabeth. Ok, everybody! Leave those comments and questions for a chance to win STOLEN HEAT or STOLEN FURY!