Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Great Agent Hunt

Writers have to wear several hats. First we have to master the storyteller's craft (a lifetime pursuit!) and then once we have a finished manuscript, we have to put on our marketing hat and sell it to someone.

If you want a writing career, IMO, you need to sell your work to an agent first.

And guess what? Top agents want to find new clients whose writing excites them. To do this, most of them have very informative websites, complete with pages dedicated to aspiring writers. My agent, Natasha Kern excels in this ~ (I particularly appreciate her assurance that "everything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.") She always gives me plenty to think about and sends my writing in new directions.

Do your homework and comb your target agent's website.

Some even have blogs:

The Knight Agency ~ Updated often, this blog features lots of the agency's clients as guests. Which tells me they encourage prospective clients to contact their current ones for a recommendation.
I learn by example. Agent Janet Reid posts lots of examples of what writers are doing right—and wrong. A very interactive site that encourages you to submit.
Rachelle Gardner specializes in Christian/inspirational writing and has a great knack for blogging about practical, useful topics, such as query tips or book proposal advice.
Nathan Bransford shares what he knows publishing, which is quite a lot! He covers industry news as well as more narrow writerly issues.
Writers never have to wonder what an agent wants. Kristin Nelson’s Agenting 101 series is a must-read for every author ready to send a query.

This list is in no way exhaustive, but these are a few blogs and sites that I've found interesting.

Where are you on the writer's journey? Still working toward finishing your manuscript? Scouting out your first agent? Needing a change in your current representation? (Sadly, things sometimes don't work out as you hope and it's best for both parties to split.) Do you have any questions about the agency relationship? If I don't know the answer, I'll bet one of my regular commenters does!

PS. There's still time to enter my MERRY CHRISTMAS BALL CONTEST! Someone will win a $100 gift card on December 1st, just in time for Christmas. Will it be you?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Odds & Ends Friday

It's been a busy week!

First thing I'd like to share is this totally fabulous review of A CHRISTMAS BALL from the very prestigious Library Journal!

"Although the title of this anthology sounds terribly traditional, this diverse trio is anything but. From Emily Bryan's "My Lady Below Stairs," the story of a bastard servant girl called in to impersonate her missing aristocratic half-sister with results worthy of Shakespeare, to Ashley's "The Longest Night," in which a shapeshifting nobleman attempts to win the heart of the wary woman he loves while on the trail of a spy, to Alissa Johnson's "Traditions," the tale of an earl who sets out to woo one woman and falls for her intriguing companion instead, these light, entertaining romps are not typical holiday fare.

VERDICT A unique anthology of Regency holiday novellas that are risqué and diverting, making for an intriguingly off-beat addition to the seasonal slate."

"Worthy of Shakespeare?" Moi? (Actually I was shooting for Oscar Wilde, but I'll take it!) I'm thrilled to share that A CHRISTMAS BALL keeps inching up the Bookscan top sellers list. Thank you sooooo much to all of you who've made that happen!

Next, I want to share my new Dutch cover for PLEASURING THE PIRATE, better known in the Netherlands as Alleen jij, mijn schat. It's available from CandlelightRomans. Nynke (my Dutch reader and regular commenter here) says the Dutch title actually can be translated as 'Only You, My Treasure,' which is a nice pun for a pirate hero.

VEXING THE VISCOUNT won't be far behind. (Nynke, how do I say thank you in Dutch?)

Friday Freebie! As you know if you follow my blog, I did a day on pirated e-books and the detrimental effect they have on author's careers and ultimately readers' choices in what's available. (For my trouble, I was targeted by a determined pirate and all my books were splashed over multiple sites. I did manage to get most of them removed, but not before several hundred illegal downloads had taken place.) I've concluded that nothing can stop someone who's determined to steal. Until technology provides a solution, an author's only hope is in the innate decency and honesty of readers.

But that doesn't mean there aren't free LEGAL downloads of books out there for you. Booklorn lists a number of them. These are downloads made available by the publishers and authors so they are absolutely cool to use and enjoy. (I'm hoping to make one of my titles available this way next year. Cross your fingers for me!)

And lastly, I'd like to invite you to join me at The Chatelaines today. It's my regular posting day on that group blog and, in honor of Halloween, I'm sharing my real life GHOST STORY! See you there, if you dare!

PS. Enter my MERRY CHRISTMAS BALL CONTEST if you haven't already! The drawing for the $100 B&N gift card will be held on December 1st!

From this post, you can probably guess my biggest frustration this week, but my delights far outweighed it. Hope your scales tipped that way too. Care to share?

The Way Life Should be

Two of my DH's sisters came to Boston to visit us this past week, so we decided to show them the sights. Last Friday, we drove up to York, Maine, passing through a little sliver of New Hampshire on our way. As you probably know, I'm a devotee of silly signs and frankly the NH motto, "Live Free or DIE!" sounds vaguely threatening to me. (I guess it's all in how you say it.) So I was pleased to notice Maine's slogan is "The Way Life Should Be."

Doesn't that sound nice?

That's what I thought. Then we stopped at the Maine Welcome Center and saw the many signs posted for our benefit. I realized Maine has it's own ideas about the way life should be . . . and it isn't shy about sharing them!

Sort of looks like Maine thinks I don't know enough to take a drink when I'm thirsty.

Oh, darn! And I was so going in after that half-eaten ham sandwich! NOT!

I barely tolerate this sort of nagging from my mother (who still makes it her business to monitor the state of my bladder when we travel together!) but I'm not going to let a state make me feel guilty about a Hershey bar!

These are just a few of the signs posted at the Welcome Center. There was another one devoted to the proper way to stretch after a prolonged car trip. Another that warned there should be NO PETS, NO FOOD OR DRINK, NO SHOES NO SHIRT NO SERVICE ...the list could go on. I was giggling incoherently by the time we got back to the car.

All I can say is it's a good thing Maine has wonderful people and seriously gorgeous scenery because their sign department is running badly amok!

Seeing the picture-perfect lighthouse on its own little island at the end of Nubble Road in York was certainly worth the trip!

And for sheer beauty, you can't beat Ogunquit Beach.

And fortunately there was not a sign in sight!

But coming from Massachusetts I certainly can't throw any stones about state slogans or silly signs. The Commonwealth just spent $300,000 for an ad agency to come up with "Massachusetts~Make it Yours" when they already had the perfectly good "Massachusetts~Spirit of America" on plenty of license plates. (I wonder how many kids could have been fed, how many more cops could have been hired, heck! how many potholes could have been filled for $300K?)

And in the silly sign category . . . our State House has no less than 3 large signs marking the "General Hooker Entrance" (Non-hookers evidently have to go in by another door!) Ok, the signs are supposed to commemorate General Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker, hero of the Civil War, but why not just have one sign with his full name on it instead of 3 that can be so easily misconstrued?

Unless that's the door where our politicians enter and some wag just couldn't resist the irony . . .

Now it's your turn. What's your state motto? Seen any silly signs lately?

PS. Don't forget to enter my MERRY CHRISTMAS BALL CONTEST! The drawing for the $100 B&N gift card will be held December 1st!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What An Editor Wants

Writers agonize over what editors are looking for, over what sort of things they should be doing to build a platform prior to publication, over where the romance market is heading. . . etc, etc, etc! They wonder what in the world editors are thinking.

Since this is Leah Hultenschmidt, my fabulous editor at Dorchester Publishing, you don't have to wonder. She'll tell you.

Leah is very open about the whole acquisition process and has made herself available by posting regularly on her own blog RomanticReads and also by visiting at other sites. Today she's at Barbara Vey's Beyond Her Book on Publishers Weekly (aka, the Bible of publishing)

There is a tendency for aspiring authors to regard editors as either fire-breathing gate keepers or fairy godmothers. (I know because once upon a time I waffled between those two opinions myself) The truth is editors are extremely hard-working people who love books and writers and are so swamped with the multiple hats they wear, I have no idea how they keep their heads above water. Editors are looking for manuscripts that compel them to say "Yes!" I've heard editors say they run around the office exclaiming "I got one! I got one!" when they're able to find a gem in the slush pile (a beast of truly mythic proportions!)

An editor's blog is a goldmine. I'm sure other editors blog as well. Leah is the one I keep closest tabs on since she's the one whose deft hand shapes my books (something for which I thank God regularly!) If you are targeting a specific publishing house or agent, look for their blog. Following it will serve you well.

But don't spend all your time on the Internet (preaching to myself here!) That next great American novel won't write itself!

Have you found an editor or agent's blog you'd like to share? As a reader, do you like the "peek behind the scenes" into what causes editors to choose one manuscript over another?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ruling Eden by Michelle Picard

I belong to several writers groups ~ Eastside RWA in Seattle where I got my start, Ozarks Romance Authors in MO where I hope someday to return, WISRWA my online chapter just to keep me grounded in my Midwestern roots, and NECRWA the local New England chapter where I attend regular meetings. Writing is a solitary activity and it helps to spend a little time with others who are also engaged in this cocooned lifestyle.

One of my friends at NEC has a new release from Cresent Moon this month. Please welcome Michelle Picard to my blog. As usual when I have a guest, my words will be in bold and Michelle's will be in
regular type.

Quick questions about your writing, Michelle ~ How long have you been at it?Who inspired you to go for publication? What helped you the most along that path?

I’ve been writing seriously for publication since spring 2005, but had started and stopped a dozen manuscripts since middle school. Actually, in middle school I completed my first fantasy novella, the last time one of my projects reached completion until I typed “The End” on Ruling Eden in winter of 2006. It was my close friend’s mother, Pat, who inspired me to go for publication as I wrote the manuscript. She had been a member of RWA, published several romances in the 80’s and was full of loads of advice about how to use RWA and my local chapter to go after my dream. Now I get to hang out with both my friend and his mom when our writing paths overlap.

As to who helped me most along this path to publication, that’s easy—my fellow writers. Particular kudos go to several critique groups I joined—The Quirky Ladies, Bay State Writers and the on-line critique group of the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal chapter of RWA. Each of these groups offered me something special during these first years. And nothing beats going out to party with The Quirky Ladies. They rock!

Tell us about the paranormal elements of Ruling Eden's special world?

I’ve been an avid fan of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for years. With a few exceptions, there were never concrete explanations for why these story worlds were filled with multiple fantastical creatures and paranormal races. Some explanations of their origins existed, but rarely with definitive answers. I thought, why not create a paranormal/fantasy universe where there’s a good reason for vampires, witches, shapeshifters, demons, angels, dragons and faeries to be populating Earth together. From this was born my creation myth for these races, the group of which I call the Kesayim.

It seems there was this Goddess, Lillith, likely an alien creature from another universe, who created our world as her experiment, fell in love with her first born progeny, human beings, and decided to concoct seven additional magical races to act as humanity’s protectors. These guys are supposed to work together to protect humans, but they are not all happy campers when locked in a room with one another. Creating the tension between them was loads of fun. Plus, I got to put my own twist on each of these paranormal types and justify how their exposure to humanity over millennia led to erroneous mythologies about them developing among human beings. In addition, there’s a wonderfully fun sentient garden featured in the story. Okay, I could go on ad infinitum, so if you want to know the full scoop, I think you’ll have to read my book.

Wow, that's inventive! What will we love most about your hero?

Let me tell you about him. His name is Gabriel and he’s half-angel, half-demon. Specifically Incubus demon. He’s my heroine’s personal guard and is thrown into her life immediately. I love that he’s the quiet, strong, deadly type. I love that he’s sexy beyond belief, but almost annoyingly noble and loyal. I love that he’s struggled his entire life as an outcast from both his peoples because they are absolute enemies and that he’s fought to find a place in a world that doesn’t want him. He’s all things bright and beautiful and all things dark, sexy and naughty at once.

Can you guess that I love heroes full of wonderfully delicious, complex contradictions? I hope you love these same things about him.

Sounds yummy. I especially love guys who are "annoyingly noble!" Readers like to know about writers. Can you tell us something you want your readers to know about your personal life and also where to learn more about you and where to buy your book!

My personal life? Well, I’ll throw out a few facts and you can make of them what you will. I have a wonderfully supportive family who are proud of my writing accomplishments. Truthfully, they were proud of me even before I wrote a book, so that’s nothing new. But my husband and two boys have been particular troopers as I’ve devoted hours to make my dream reality. In addition, I have another professional gig going on as a clinical social worker. Sometimes I marvel at how privileged I am to listen to the true stories, not always so happy, of my clients. No, I don’t use them as story fodder. But hearing about people’s constant struggle to make meaning of their lives definitely inspires me.

And last about my personal life, I LOVE to read. Big surprise there (grin).

To learn more about me and buy my book, there are a few places you can go. A no brainer is to visit my website at My blog, The Portal Playground, is at You can go on-line to my publisher’s website, Crescent Moon Press to buy my book in e-format. It will available as an ebook very soon. In about a month it will be available in print version for order through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The buy links directly to those sites will also be available on my website and the Crescent Moon site. My group blogsite, The Quirky Ladies, is always a blast to visit. I also hang around Facebook and Goodreads, so please friend me there.

And a random commenter to this blog interview will win a print copy of my book when it’s available in that format. Eden rules, hence RULING EDEN.

Thanks for being here today, Michelle and congrats on your new release.

PS. Be sure to pop by to enter my MERRY CHRISTMAS BALL CONTEST. The drawing for the $100 B&N gift card will be held on December 1st, so be sure to toss your name into the pot!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Plagiarizing myself!

Plagiarism is something all writers guard themselves against. When I'm in the thick of writing a new story, I tend to read outside my genre lest someone else's well-turned phrase seep into my subconscious and flow accidentally out my fingers.

But sometimes, I catch myself plagiarizing ME!

Writers develop little ticks, fillers that pop immediately to mind because we like the way they sounded the first time we wrote them. Sometimes, we give a character a gesture and it fits them so well before we know it, they're cocking their head more often than that dreaded red-headed man on CSI.

Or perhaps it's a phrase. If you read a Kathleen Woodiwiss book, I guarantee that at least one character will stand with their "arms akimbo." Wilbur Smith, one of my favorite non-romance authors, evidently liked comparing a woman's bare behind to a pair of ostrich eggs so much, he does it in every book.

Have you noticed a writer repeating themselves from one book to another? Do you find it's just part of that writer's unique voice? Any unusual repetitions you'd like to share? If you're a writer, do you catch yourself doing it?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Contest Cornucopia

Last week readers seemed to enjoy my Friday spotlight on contests, so here are a few more!

First up, from my friend Joy Nash:

Silver Silence, a Druids of Avalon novel, is in bookstores Oct 27!
To celebrate, Joy is running a special contest:

One lucky reader who comments on either last Wednesday's Chatelaine post (10/21) or next Wednesday's (10/28) by midnight ET on Sunday Nov 1 will win autographed copies of The Grail King, & Deep Magic, along with an autographed copy of the November RT BookReviews magazine featuring yours truly and the Druids of Avalon on the cover!

Please consider including your email with your post so Joy can contact you quickly if you win! And if you don’t…check out more chances to win at

Good luck to all!

Lots of my readers are also writers. JC Koi is running a contest to find the best book video! So if you're an author with a book out and there was a super cool video made to pimp it (either by you or someone else who has given the appropriate permissions), then send the link to jkcoi(AT)rogers(DOT)com .

Details: Only one entry per person, so pick your best! Contest entry deadline: October 30, 2009. Submitted videos will be posted on for voting on November 2, 2009. Voting will run until November 6, 2009 and the winning entry will be posted on the blog on November 9, 2009!

What do you win? Besides a basket filled with great books from some fabulous authors and a selection of other goodies. The winner shall receive a coupon from Blazing Trailers for 50% off a new trailer or a free trailer review.

Stephanie Worth, another one of my fellow Dorchester authors, has a new Christmas anthology out. To celebrate the release of her novella,, in HOLIDAY BRIDES, she's giving away books, gift cards, and beautiful keepsakes!

There are two ways to enter and yes, you can enter both ways.

Reader Thank You Prize Pack:
Sign up for her newsletter and you'll be entered to win a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card and a signed copy of Stephanie's backlist books, Where Souls Collide and The Holiday Inn. Three lucky readers will each win one of these prize packs.

Grand Prize Pack:
Stephanie's heroine, Brenna, has decided that the only way to make good on her mission to find a man is through online dating at For a chance at the Grand Prize Pack, you need to sign up for Stephanie's newsletter AND write your own online dating profile! Five entries will be highlighted on her web site, blog, Facebook and MySpace pages. Two winners will receive a grand prize pack that includes a $20 Barnes & Noble gift card, signed copies of her backlist books and a gorgeous souvenir ceramic tile from Detroit's nationally renowned Pewabic Pottery studio.

And finally, a reminder about my little Merry CHRISTMAS BALL Contest! Someone is going to win a $100 B&N gift card on December 1st. Will it be you?

Several readers have sent me pics of their sightings of A CHRISTMAS BALL. It's been seen on a bestsellers table near the check out in a Honolulu Borders, on an endcap in a Phoenix Target, spotted in a Michigan Walmart . . . This little book is really getting around! Thanks so much to everyone who's picked up a copy! I appreciate YOU!

Oh! and today is Friday, my day to post at The Chatelaines. I'm hosting Lori Brighton, a debut author who's offering 3 chances to win her new book, Wild Heart!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Begin as You Mean to Continue

I'm putting on my writer's craft hat today. Yesterday I watched a movie with my youngest daughter (who's having a birthday today!) that made me start thinking about "tone."

The movie was Dragonheart with Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery. With two A-listers like that you'd expect a well-told tale. Not so much.

The problem was that the director couldn't decide if the story was a comedy or a tragedy. And it descended pretty sadly into farce worthy of the Three Stooges at times.

A steady diet of nothing but drama gets depressing and I'm totally in favor of a few light-hearted moments to break the tension (like Twilight's baseball playing vamps.) Likewise a comedy needs at least one serious "moment of truth" scene (a la Jim Carey in "Liar, Liar" when he tells his son he loves him.) But the storyteller needs to make sure he/she doesn't give her audience/reader whiplash when the switch is made.

How do we do that? By setting the "tone" of a piece and sticking to it.

If the story starts with elegant word choices, your comedy is going to be in the form of witty repartee, not a food fight. If your hero and heroine are dramatic, the quirky secondary character can carry comedy ball without making your reader blink twice (like the little monk in Van Helsing.) If the story starts with madcap comedy, slow the pace down with seriousness only when your H/h has their big "a-ha!" moment.

Basically, how you start is how you should finish. While maintaining the same flavor throughout the story.

Which brings me to to that all important first line. Bet you could quote a few that have stayed with you. Here are a few of mine:

Call me Ishmael. (Moby Dick) In just three words, we know the story is going to deal with themes of biblical proportions.

She woke in the body of a dead friend. (Carolina Moon/Nora Roberts) A succint intro into a serious, emotional thriller with strong paranormal elements.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife (Pride & Prejudice/Jane Austen) The incomparable Miss A invites us to her witty banquet with these well-chosen words.

I thought it might be fun today to share some first lines. If you're a writer, please post the first line of your current WIP. If you're a reader, pick a first line that has stuck with you.

I'll start:

This is positively, absolutely the last time, Lady Viola Preston promised herself as she squeezed through the lower storey window.

And now it's your turn!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

ePiracy or Just a Book Swap?

(pic courtesy of Etirv!)
If I love a book, I tell my friends. I loan out my copy so others can enjoy it as well. I hope my friends will love it as much as I did and go look for the author's backlist. As an author, I'm totally thrilled when someone tells me they have shared their copy of my book with others. First, because it's a huge compliment and second because it's the absolute best way for an author to build a readership.

But what if that book was an ebook or pdf? Is it wrong to attach it to an email and send it to your cousin in Tallahassee?

Probably not.

What if someone was offering hundreds of titles online to people they don't know?

At that point, in my mind, even if the pirate is offering the ebooks for free, it becomes a theft.

As more publishers are turning to electronic methods of delivering their books, e-piracy is becoming more of a problem. My friends who write paranormal or erotic romance are more likely to be pirated than historical authors, but I have seen tons of Amanda Quick titles offered online. As more and more readers get comfortable with ebooks, epiracy will become a bigger problem.

I think part of it is that readers have been used to sharing books for so long, they don't see a difference between loaning one to a friend and offering pdfs to their entire Myspace friend list.

But the difference to the authors involved can be crippling. The only time a writer earns royalties is when a book is sold new. We earn nothing on used book sales (though I totally support used book stores. It's a great way for a reader to try a new author with very little risk. We hope a reader will enjoy the used one enough to buy the next release new!) Certainly nothing is earned on free downloads. Ebook piracy hasn't affected me much yet since historical readers tend to like a paper book in their hands, but several of my friends have lost a lot of sales to the pirated copies.

Occasionally, publishers offer a free download title from an author's backlist as a way to increase interest in an upcoming release. I downloaded a Sherilon Kenyon novel this way. This is something very different and perfectly legal. In this case, the publisher hopes the download will go viral and be sent from one reader to the next.

But how can we as readers know how an ebook got out on the web? Is there a way to tag something as a legitimate download? What do you think about this issue?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Going Global

Last Friday, I received a lovely surprise. It was a box of books from my publisher, Dorchester, but I didn't recognize the cover immediately. That's because it was the Spanish version of Erinsong, one of my Viking romances written as Diana Groe! Oda a Erin is the new Spanish title and I love the hazy evocative cover. It's a much larger book than my English mass markets with big print. (My mom would love it if only she could read Spanish!)

Erinsong has seen plenty of incarnations since it was first published in November of 2006. It's the story of the love that grows between Brenna, an Irish princess and a Northman who washes up on Donegal beach with no memory of his true self. My Irish/Viking love story received a Desert Isle Keeper Designation from All About Romance--a notoriously tough review site.

After its English release, the first place Erinsong traveled to was Germany as Das Geheimnis des Wikingers. I want to especially thank LoveLetter magazine and my German fans for making it such a success there! LoveLetter has been very kind to me, giving me generous spreads in their gorgeous romance magazine to talk about my work and my life. (At least, I think that's what they printed. My one semester of German in college will only get me on the right train from Hanover to Dusseldorf!)

After Germany, Erinsong headed for the Eternal City of Rome and became Passione Irelandese. I've got to tell you, I love the big hairy Northmen they slapped on the cover there. It's definitely truth in advertising! It's always interesting to me to see how different markets present the same story.

I have to thank Nynke, one of my Dutch readers, for helping me find the cover for Erinsong's Dutch translation. Is it my imagination or are De prinses en die Viking engaged in a little light consensual bondage with the neck of that dragonship?

Unfortunately, I don't have the Russian cover for Erinsong. If anyone has seen my books published by Mir, I'd love to know where to find them.

Hope you enjoyed tracing Erinsong's journey to other lands with me. And if you know any Spanish speaking romance readers, please let them know Oda a Erin is available from Valery!

If your local library has a Spanish book section, please let me know and I'll donate a copy of Oda a Erin as long as my supply here lasts. Please leave a comment about your library to request one. First come, first served.

Other news!

Amanda McCabe asked me to pick a winner from the commenters on her blog day and my DH drew a name out of the hat:

Stacey Joy Netzel!

Congratulations, Stacey! You've won a copy of THE WINTER QUEEN! Please contact me through with your mailing info and I'll pass it on to Amanda!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A New Dorchester Author

10/20/09 update!Here is Barbara Monajem's gorgeous cover. She sent me one I was able to upload while retaining its striking color theme. Quite an improvement over the one you'll see later in this post. Covers really do matter, don't they?

When my first novel, Maidensong (written as Diana Groe) came out, I didn't know much about the beast of publishing. My learning curve was steep, but not nearly steep enough. Now I know how important it is to get the word out about a new release and it's almost impossible to start too soon.

That's why I'm glad to introduce Barbara Monajem, a new author, to you. Her debut title SUNRISE IN A GARDEN OF LOVE AND EVIL won't be out till next April, but I wanted you to get to know her ahead of time. So I invited her here to share a bit with you today. I had a bit of trouble with the jpg of her cover. It's really a striking black/white and red design, but the colors came out strangely. Sorry.

Barbara Monajem wrote her first story in third grade about apple tree gnomes. After dabbling in neighborhood musicals and teen melodrama, she published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. Now her kids are adults, and she writes paranormal and historical romance for grownups. She lives in Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and mostly feline strays.

And now my blog is now yours, Barb. Take it away!

I love writing about heroines whose talents I can’t aspire to. This is vicarious competence, I suppose. My heroines have plenty of emotional issues (which I don’t envy), but they’re always good at what they do, which is anything from painting to embroidery to costume design, from baking to pottery to gardening. Ah, gardening! I would love to have a green thumb, but when faced with heat, mosquitoes, and voracious weeds… I wilt.

Not so the heroine in SUNRISE IN A GARDEN OF LOVE & EVIL, which will go on sale March 30th. Ophelia Beliveau is a landscaper in a small town near New Orleans. She’s not much for housework, but in the garden, Ophelia rocks! Not only does she design and plant exquisite gardens, but the demon wisteria that strangles my pine trees, pries the siding off the house, and sneaks in the windows wouldn’t daunt her one bit.

She’s also a vampire.

Impossible? Well, Ophelia’s not your standard vampire. I’ve never been too keen on the undead aspects of vampires. (Wouldn’t they have bad breath? And I’m a day person. I don’t want to write about someone who’s only awake at night.) On the other hand, I love the sexy characteristics! So Ophelia has fangs and is irresistible, and has a few enhanced senses, as well as saliva that heals wounds.

But as Ophelia learns at puberty, being irresistible sucks. When her friends grow breasts, she sprouts fangs as well. As she matures, so does her craving for sex and blood. The problem is, guys get possessive or obsessive, or even downright violent. In desperation, she decides to give up on men, and sticks to it for two whole years.
But when a vandal destroys her garden, her self-imposed exile comes to an end. A web of blackmail and murder is being woven across town, with Ophelia at its heart. Into her life comes Gideon O’Toole, a sexy, persistent detective determined to uncover far more secrets than Ophelia can afford to bare.

Here’s an excerpt:

Gideon left the headlights on and the engine running, got out, and held the door open for his dog. “Put the gun away, Ophelia.” He walked calmly toward her. “It’s only me.”

“I know who it is.” Ophelia’s voice broke, and a tear spilled treacherously down her cheek. “Go away!”


“Don’t call me that! I am not sweet.”

She watched Gideon control himself and start again. “I brought Gretchen to stay with you. She’ll warn you if there’s any danger.”

How had he come up with such a blessed idea? “I don’t need her. Take your dog and go home.” Ophelia bit down hard, piercing her lip, ignoring the blood, fighting tears, wanting the dog like crazy. She felt so alone.

Anguish in his voice, Gideon said, “Ophelia, don’t cry. Honey, you can’t think I’d harass you after what you’ve been through tonight.”

“You are harassing me,” she choked out. “I am not honey. I am poison. Get the hell away.” Gretchen trotted up and stuck a cool nose under her hand. Ophelia’s fingers moved by instinct toward the dog’s curls, but she yanked her hand away, clenching and unclenching her fist, needing and wanting the animal so much it hurt. “Gretchen doesn’t want to stay with me. She’s yours. Take her and go away.”

“I discussed it with her on the ride over, and she agreed to stay with you.”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” Ophelia cocked the shotgun. “Get off my property and don’t come back.”

Gideon swore under his breath. “Stupid or not, Gretchen is staying with you.” As if on cue, the dog planted her butt on the drive.

“Damn it, Gideon!” Ophelia let out a scream of rage and fired, kicking up gravel far too close to Gideon’s feet. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t move a goddamn hair. “Don’t you get it?” she yelled? “I’m trying to protect you from yourself. I am not safe!”

“‘That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard in my life,’” Gideon echoed in bitter mockery. “You could at least come up with an intelligent lie.”

Ophelia opened her mouth and shut it again. Pissing him off was what she wanted. Still, the disgust in his voice tore into her.

“I’m out of here,” he said. “I won’t come back unless you need me.” He turned to the dog. “Stay, Gretchen. Stay with Ophelia.” He got in his car and backed into the turnaround, flinging his last words through the window. “What makes you think I give a damn about being safe?”

My question for you: What talents do you aspire to? What would you have your heroine do, that you know you can’t (or won’t) do yourself?

Thanks for being here today, Barb!

If you want to know more please visit Barb's website:

PS. If you haven't entered my Merry CHRISTMAS BALL CONTEST, please do it today! The prize is a $100 B&N gift card and the drawing will be held Dec. 1st.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stroke of Genius Cover

If you stumbled upon this post, you've found a cyber-patch I'm using to put my cover on my website. For some reason, I'm having difficulty adjusting the size of the jpg, so I'm posting three sizes here for use elsewhere. Weird, huh?




Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Freebies!

As you know, I'm running a MERRY CHRISTMAS BALL CONTEST from now till Dec. 1st. (The prize is $100 B&N gift card and who couldn't use that just before Christmas?) Turns out, several of my writing buddies are running some great contests too! So I thought I'd share them with you.

Preparing for the holidays can leave you with little time for yourself. My friend Gerri Russell's contest will take care of that!

Just in time for the holidays... Win One, Give One As a Gift! One lucky winner will receive two Warrior’s Bride “Relax in the Bath” gift baskets. Each gift basket includes an autographed copy of Warrior’s Bride, a bath pillow, a bath sponge, and bubble bath, one for the winner and one to give to a friend. The contest runs until December 1st. Enter HERE!

This one is not exactly a contest, but it is a FREEBIE! My friend Bonnie Vanak has a free online read at eHarlequin starting Monday, Oct. 19! It's called Seducing the Vampire and it's about a half-vampire, half-werewolf who teams with his former love, a sexy vampress, to save a magick amulet from falling into the wrong hands. Each Monday for eight weeks will feature a new chapter.

What a great way to try out a new author! Be sure to check out Bonnie's latest release Immortal Wolf, which is out this month from Silhouette Nocturne. And say a little prayer for Bonnie herself. Her day job takes her into some rather dicey 3rd world countries. It's taking her to Haiti on Monday. I admire her so much for the way she helps others. You can read a bit more about that in her latest post at THE CHATELAINES.

You may remember Caroline Fyffe. She was here blogging about her debut release a few months ago and now she has a killer contest that gives you a chance to unleash your creativity. I know lots of my readers are also writers, so be sure to enter:

Caroline Fyffe's Under A Western Sky Contest
Don’t miss your chance to win a night’s stay at Slide Mountain Ranch in beautiful Tuolumne, CA. All you have to do is watch a 2 minute book trailer and write your version of the last line of the story. Here's your chance to write a happily-ever-after.....

If you haven't started the Tairen Soul series you have some serious catch up reading to do! From now until October 27, my friend C.L. Wilson is hosting a daily “countdown” blog on her website’s blog. Visitors who post a response to the Question of the Day are eligible to enter a weekly drawing for an autographed copy of QUEEN OF SONG AND SOULS (book 4 in the Tairen Soul quintet) and other great prizes. I love these books! So join the fun!

Hope you enjoy visiting my friends' websites and good luck in all the contests! This weekend my DH and I hope to attend an artshow. What are your plans?

PS. Today is my regular day to post at The Chatelaines. I'm talking about "saving the ta-ta's," starting with your own!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Winter Queen by Amanda McCabe

I'm not the only one with a Christmas story out this year. My friend Amanda McCabe's THE WINTER QUEEN will be available November 1st from Harlequin Historicals! If you love the Elizabethan era, as I do, this title is an auto-buy! Amanda is here today to share abit about Christmas celebrations in the 16th century. Take it away, Amanda!

“They both do provide, against Christmas do come,
To welcome their neighbors, good cheer to have some.
Good bread and good drink, a good fire in the hall,
Brawn, pudding, and souse, and good mustard withal.
Beef, mutton, and pork, and good pies of the best,
Pig, veal, goose, and capon, and turkey well drest,
Cheese, apples and nuts, and good carols to hear!”
--Thomas Tusser, “500 Points of Husbandry,” 1573

One thing I learned as I research Elizabeth Christmas traditions for my book The Winter Queen is that they really knew how to party at the holidays! The Christmas season (Christmastide) ran 12 days, from December 24 (Christmas Eve) to January 6 (Twelfth Day), and each day was filled with feasting, gift-giving (especially to impress the Queen, who expected elaborate presents from her courtiers), pageants, masquerades, a St. Stephen’s Day fox hunt, and lots of general silliness (including a game called Snapdragon, where a bowl of raisins is covered with brandy and set alight. The players have to snatch the raisins from the flames and eat them without being burned).
(Later in Elizabeth’s reign, she mostly kept Christmas at Greenwich, or sometimes at Hampton Court or Nonsuch Palace, but in 1564, the year my story is set, she spent the holiday at Whitehall in London. It was the coldest winter in memory, so cold the Thames froze through and there was a Frost Fair, so travel was difficult).

Even though there were no Christmas trees or stockings by the fire, we would definitely recognize many of the decorations! Anything that was still green was used—holly, ivy, yew, bay (hence the song, “Holly and ivy, box and bay, put in the house for Christmas Day!”). The Yule log started things off on Christmas Eve, brought in by the men of the household, decorated with wreaths and ribbons, and lit from a bit of last year’s log saved for the purpose. It was a tradition to sit around the fire and tell tales of Christmases past on that night.

Food was just as big a part of the holiday as it is now! Roast meats were big, of course (pork, beef, fricaseed, cooked in broths, roasted, baked in pies), along with stewed vegetables and fine white manchet bread. Sweets were always a favorite with the Queen, including candied flowers, hard candies in syrup called suckets, Portugese figs, Spanish oranges, tarts, gingerbread, and the famous figgy pudding. The feast always ended with a grand piece of sugar art called a subtlety, and in 1564 this was a candy recreation of Whitehall itself, complete with a sugar Thames. All this was washed down with wines (malmsey, Gascon, Rhenish), beer, and ale, with much singing and goofiness predictably following all that liquor! But in 1564, they could work it all off the next day skating and sledding on the Thames, or going for a ride in the country.

On my website ( I have lots more info on historical Christmas, as well as period recipes and lists of sources. (A couple fun reads about the holiday are Maria Hubert’s Christmas in Shakespeare’s England and Hugh Douglas’s A Right Royal Christmas). If you’re feeling brave, here is a very authentic Christmas recipe to try—roasted peacock! This was often the grand centerpiece of a royal feast…

“Take a peacock, break its neck and drain it. Carefully skin it, keeping the skin and feathers together with the head still attached at the end of the neck. Roast only the bird, with its legs tucked under. When it is roasted enough, take it out and let it cool. Sprinkle cumin on the inside of the skin, then wind it with the feathers and the tail about the body. Serve with the tail feathers upright, its neck propped up from within, and a lighted taper in its beak. If it is a royal dish, cover the beak with fine gold leaf. Carry the proud bird to the table at the head of a procession of lower dishes for to be sampled first by the monarch. Serve with ginger sauce.”

If you try this dish, be sure and let me know! How do you celebrate the holidays???

Thanks for being with us today, Amanda.

You can pre-order The Winter Queen at Amazon! But Amanda tells me she'll give away a copy to one lucky person who leaves a comment here today!

And speaking of give-aways, be sure to enter my Merry CHRISTMAS BALL Contest! On December 1st, I'm giving away a $100 B&N gift card!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Two-fer Tuesday!

I'm blogging here and at! I'm talking about making Halloween costumes with my kids over there. We had some wild ones. Please come share your bright ideas for do-it-yourself Halloween fun! Oh! And you might win your choice of my backlist over there as well.

Here, I'd like to share the new widget from Dorchester of A CHRISTMAS BALL! It's really quite cool. There's a feature that lets you read an excerpt as well as linking back to the Dorchester site for a cool deal on buying the book.

You'll also notice a tab that says "Get this for your site!" Click on it, copy the html and paste it where ever you want the widget to show up. If you have a myspace, blog or website and would like to share A CHRISTMAS BALL with others, this is a terrific way to do it. Thanks so much in advance to those of you who are able and willing to do this. Think of it as "cyber-word-of-mouth."

Please let me know if you are able to add the widget and I'll add your site to my favorite links!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Random Noodling

I'm in writer's limbo. You know. That period of time between stories. I'm still going through STROKE OF GENIUS, getting ready to turn in it October 15th. And while I'm playing with that, my subconscious is spinning, looking for the next premise that will propel me 400 pages.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a couple more photos from our recent trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My DH snapped this pic of moonrise over the dunes after my cousin's wedding ceremony while we were waiting for the reception to begin.

Then on the way home from NC, we stopped in Hoboken, NJ, to visit my neice and her husband for a couple hours. I shot this view of NYC from the car as we picked our way through hellish traffic to the GW Bridge on the Jersey side of the Hudson. My parents were frankly agog at NYC and wondered why anyone would want to live there.

Theatre? Art museums? The buzz of millions of lives intersecting? None of those things allure them and I confess I can only take mega-cities in small doses. (Boston seems quaint and friendly in comparison to the Big Apple)

What about you? Are you happy where you live? Do you secretly crave someplace else?

Just a Quickie!

I'm guesting over at Risky Regencies today! You're gonna love the Risky authors at this blog. We're talking about favorite Christmas traditions, so please come share yours. You might just win a free book!


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Merry Christmas Ball Contest!

Exclusively for my newsletter readers . . .

Merry Christmas Ball Contest

Someone is going to win a $100 B&N gift card! It might as well be YOU! Here's what you need to do:

1. Make sure you're signed up for my no-spam, no-advertisement newletter. You can sign up here or at! Be sure to respond to the opt-in email you'll receive if you're a new reader so your subscription will be activated. Your contact info will be held in strictest confidence. I will never sell your information.

2. Enter the contest at

One entry per person. No purchase necessary. You must be signed up for my free no-spam, no-advertisement newsletter to be eligible. Winner will be randomly drawn from all correct and complete entries on December 1st!

Good luck!

PS. I'll be at Risky Regencies on Sunday, Oct. 11th. Please leave a comment there for a chance at a copy of A CHRISTMAS BALL!

Friday, October 9, 2009

I missed Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Doggone it! What with all the excitement over A CHRISTMAS BALL, I completely missed International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19th.

What? You've never heard of Talk Like a Pirate Day? Say it ain't so! It's the day when everyone can talk like a pirate and get away with it.

What? You don't know how to talk like a pirate? Well, I'd hate to see you be mistaken for a scurvy lubber, so here's my little pirate lexicon.

Ahoy! ~ "Hello!"

Avast! ~ "Hey!" "Stop!" "No way!"

Aye ~ "Yes, I most heartily agree."

Aye aye! ~ "Absolutely, I'll see to it as soon as I finish my nap."

Arrr ~ Can mean "yes," "I'm happy." or "Great beer!" Not to be confused with "Aarg!" (which is the sound you make when you accidentally sit on the sharp pointy end of an anchor!)

Beauty ~ Pirate word for a wench, always preceded by 'me,' as in "Why are ye walkin' away, me beauty?"

Bilge rat ~ A first rate insult, as in "Belay that racket, ye smarmy bilge rat." The bilge is the lowest deck of the ship, usually filled with slimy water. Of course, if someone made me stay in the bilge, I'd make a racket too!

Grog ~ Watered rum. Since water onboard was stored in slimy wooden barrels, it was usually anything but fresh. Grog helped kill the rancid taste. And several thousand brain cells.

Hornpipe ~ A single reed flute and the wild dance usually done to its music. Not to be confused with the pirate pick up line, "No, me beauty, that's not a hornpipe in me pocket. I really am happy to see ye!"

Keelhaul ~ A really horrible way to spend an afternoon. Pirates who violated one of the articles (rules they all voted on and agreed to before the voyage began) might be punished by being tied to a rope that ran under the keel of the ship. The offender was shoved into the water on one side of the ship, dragged against the barnacled-covered hull and hauled out on the other. Rinse, and repeat.

Lubber ~ An insulting word for a landsman. No one wants to be a lubber.

Smartly ~ To do something quickly. As in "Nip down to the bookstore smartly and pick up your copy of PLEASURING THE PIRATE so you'll be ready when Talk Like A Pirate Day comes next year!"

PS. Today is my regular posting day over at The Chatelaines. Hope you'll visit me there too!