Friday, January 29, 2010

Almack's Assembly Rooms

In STROKE OF GENIUS, my hero Crispin Hawke paves the way for Grace Makepeace to make her debut in London society at Almack's--the place to see and be seen in Regency London.

Since the custom of being presented at court had fallen by the wayside, most young girls made their "come-out" at Almack's. For the price of ten guineaus, a voucher might be purchased that would admit the bearer to the Wednesday night dances for the entire Season.

But not just anyone could purchase a voucher. The attendees had to pass the intense scrutiny of the patronesses before being approved. Even if one attended as the guest of a qualified member, as Grace does, the patronesses still had to officially sanction the visit. Possessing a voucher meant the difference between society and Society. If one had been rejected by Almack's, the ton might ignore that person completely.

Intimate dances like the minuet were discouraged and the waltz wouldn't arrive on the London scene until the Prince Regent featured one at his ball in July 1816. He was promptly blistered in the press:

"We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last ... it is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressure on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion." (Source: The Times of London, 16th July 1816)

Little wonder oh-so-proper Almack's insisted on reels, country dancing and sedate quadrilles!

A light supper was served at 11 PM. This consisted of day old bread, sliced very thin, with butter, dry cake (meaning without icing, probably something like a pound cake), lemonade and tea. As my hero remarks about Almack's refreshments, "Their very awfulness is the stuff of legend." No alcoholic beverages were allowed in the assembly rooms (though Grace's father hopes Crispin has a flask of something in his waistcoat pocket for 'medicinal purposes!').

As much as the patronesses despised "trade," they were in reality the sponsors of the most lucrative sort. Almack's was the de facto hub of the Marriage Market. The merging of well-moneyed, well-connected wellborn families was the subtext of each dance. It's the perfect place for Grace Makepeace to meet her future titled husband. (Which Crispin realizes he's not so happy about only after he arranges her debut!)

Has a dance ever made a difference in your love life?

PS. It's TGITTPATC! (Thank God, It's Time To Post At The Chatelaines!) I'm following up my Hunks in History post here with one on The Joy of Being Properly Tied Up (on cravats, of course! What were you thinking?) there! Hope you'll join me for a look at sartorial splendor in a great age for it!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hunks in History

Standards of "hotness" and fashion change over time for both men and women. In the Regency era (the time period for my upcoming release, STROKE OF GENIUS) men's fashions had calmed considerably since the Georgian period when all the London popinjays sported horsehair wigs, lace cuffs and knee britches. It wasn't unusual for men to wear high heels, cosmetics and beauty spots just like the women prior to @ 1790.

Then George Bryan "Beau" Brummell (the son of a tailor who rose to become the Prince of Wales' intimate friend) revolutionized the way men dressed. Male fashion became understated. Knee britches were abandoned in favor of full-length trousers in masculine shades. The silhouette was long and lean, the cravats crisp and ingeniously tied. (Note how well the costumer and Colin Firth borrowed from this engraving of Brummell for Mr. Darcy! With their dark curls and soulful expressions, they could be brothers.) If men weren't fortunate to possess the coveted head of Byronic curls, they cropped their hair short, Caesar-style. With wigs falling out of fashion, both sexes washed their hair more often. (Always a fashion plus, IMO!)

But there was one place during the Regency where a man had to abandon his trousers and revert to the knee britches and tight stockings of the previous century--Almack's Assembly Room. This requirement might have been an impediment to gentlemen who were "spindle-shanked", but if their legs were not up to snuff, the clever Regency gent wasn't above padding his stockings with wooden falsies to give the appearance of "a beautiful leg." The dress code was strenuously inforced and the patronesses who ruled Almack's with absolute power even turned away the Duke of Wellington once for being seven minutes late . . . and for wearing trousers.

And who's to say the she-dragons guarding the gate weren't right? After all, when a man wears tight knee-britches, a woman can always make a good guess at what he's thinking!

If you have any questions or comments on Regency fashions, I have pretty good chance at being able to find the answer for you, even if I don't know it off the top of my head. I just joined the online Beaumonde RWA chapter. These gals know their history! The chapter loop is a treasure trove.

If you could dress your hero in the fashion of any era, what would it be and why?
Oh, and be sure to come back tomorrow for a trip inside Almack's!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Time to Write the 2nd Chapter!

I'm thrilled that so many readers have read the first chapter of my FREE online novella, A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS. When they voted for how the story should proceed, I got more than I bargained for! Some sent detailed suggestions for what should happen next, complete with the psychological motivations behind the characters' actions.

I have the most creative readers on the planet!

But it's time for me to take pen in hand and write the next chapter of Sebastian and Arabella's adventure. I'm still getting acquainted with them, but I'll bet they have some surprises in store for me.

I plan to post Chapter Two on February 1st. You can still enter the contest (the prize is a $100 gift card and you can enter three times--once in Jan, Feb and March!), but the story trajectory for this month has been pretty decisively determined by my readers' votes.

If you've read the first chapter, I have a question for you.

Why do you think Arabella agreed to transport the mysterious envelope across the Channel in the first place? (Wild speculation is absolutely encouraged!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gleek Marketing

I was just thinking over the weekend about how my DH and I met. (It's a funny little story which I've shared here before so I won't bore you with it again.) But I'm also on Facebook and always wondering what to put on my wall that might be entertaining. So for a lark I typed:

Met my DH in college chorus. We were Gleeks before it was cool. Where did you meet your sweetie?

In short order I had 15 comments, little vignettes of those super-charged, hormone-rich days of first love.

The immediate and accidental success of those 3 sentences in eliciting a response made me think about marketing.

I never took any marketing classes in college--too busy being a total "gleek"--so when I sold my first book and was told I'd need to promote it, I was adrift. I had no idea where to begin. Still don't. I have no clue when something I fling into cyber-space will get a response or when it will hit the firewalls of readers' psyches with a resounding thud. But I know running around shouting BUY MY BOOK, BUY MY BOOK is annoying and counterproductive.

So I thought back to my days of gleekdom, when the first rule of performance was: Connect with the audience.

When you're singing, this means making eye contact and letting the lyrics show on your face. When I'm in cyberspace, all I have are words, but the goal is the same. Making the connection.

We're human. We're readers. Our life experiences may be wildly different, but we all love, hurt, exult, suffer. Finding common ground isn't that hard.

The second rule of performing was: Be genuine.

It must be real. There is arguably no artistic merit in the "Pants on the Ground" song which has recently gone viral, but the fellow who created and performed it did so with complete conviction. We respond to real.

If you remember Eddie Haskell, you know we all hate phonies. Everyone has unique gifts (hence the premise for my What kind of Genius are YOU? Quiz). Don't try to fake someone else's style. Use yours. If that happens to be a slightly shy, midwestern personality with a sense of humor only the DH gets all the time, so be it.

Turn a weakness into a strength.

I had a really good ear as a kid. My auditory memory was fantastic. At each piano lesson, I'd ask my teacher to play through the piece for me so I could hear how it was supposed to sound. Then I remembered the rhythmic patterns. As a result, my piano teacher never realized that I couldn't read rhythm worth shooting. Once I got to college as a music major, my deficiency was pretty glaring, but I was too embarrassed to admit how bad I was at timing. So I taught myself, painfully and privately, to read rhythm. Now, it's one of my strengths.

When I started blogging, I was terrified by the idea of recording my thoughts online for all time. Then I realized it's not about just my ramblings. If I do it right, I get to hear what my readers think too! I've made friends with people all over the globe through this blog. Blogging with you has become one of the best perks of being published.

And lastly: Leave it all on the stage.

Don't hold back. Don't mark (sing with half a voice). Give the audience everything you've got every single time. Do your best.

All the clever marketing in the world won't save a mediocre book. My goal is to deliver the best story I can with each book I write. It may not be Shakespeare, but it's from my heart. And every time I turn in a manuscript, I want to feel that it's the best thing I've ever written. Ultimately, the writing is the only thing I can control in this business.

So now it's your turn. If you're a reader, what's the most annoying thing an author has ever done to try to catch your attention? (Please share so we can keep from doing it again!) If you're a writer, what's the most effective marketing strategy you ever used?

Or if you like, please share how you and your sweetie met? I'm all ears!

Monday, January 25, 2010

How'd You Think of That?

I've got a huge treat for you today! Angie Fox is here. You probably remember her debut novel, THE ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER, which hit the NYTimes list. I've talked her into sharing a few of her tricks of the trade with us. Trust me, if you're a writer you want to know what this smart, talented woman knows.

My blog is yours, Angie!


We all want to make our books as unique as possible. It’s about grabbing the attention of that busy agent or harried editor, making it so they absolutely must stop what they’re doing and sit right down with your submission and – of course – ask for more. Through three unsold manuscripts and (yay!) the sale of my series to Dorchester, I’ve developed a few techniques that help me keep my quirky paranormals fresh. Hopefully, they’ll work for you too.

The character push

In the beginning of my series, the heroine’s long-lost grandmother shows up and – whoops – locks the heroine in her bathroom with an ancient demon. I’d pushed the situation, but the grandmother was too nice. My critique partner called me on it and, blast her, she was right. I sat down and brainstormed a few pages of alternate “grandmas” before I hit on an idea I loved – a Harley biker witch grandma who hurls recycled Smuckers jars full of home brewed magic. One character change and the book became a lot more fun to write.

The unexpected additions

It’s also important to be open to unexpected characters. When I sat down to write my series, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But when Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer and there are some very scary, very angry creatures on her tail, she takes comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, ‘This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’

I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where Lizzie can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard). It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, Lizzie can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell Terrier. I ended up having a ball with it. And as an added bonus, Pirate can say and do things that my heroine can’t.

The mini-brainstorm

Sometimes, the first idea isn’t the best idea. Mini-brainstorms during the writing of a chapter always help me see if where I’m going is where I want to be. Sometimes, I go back to my first idea. Other times, after I’ve forced myself to come up with a page full of alternatives, I find I like a new idea better.

It works on big plot points, but just as well on little details. For example, in A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, Lizzie finds a mysterious egg-shaped stone. I had no idea what it was, but decided to play with it. Turns out, it was a dragon egg. The egg hatches and Lizzie’s dog, Pirate, decides he has a pet. It made me smile to think of a pet owning a pet. Lizzie is not happy about that. She has enough going on and doesn’t think her dog needs to own a pet.

So she tells Pirate to find a new home for Flappy the dragon (Pirate named him, not Lizzie). So Lizzie is battling evil people and losing track of what Pirate is doing. He keeps promising to find a new home for the dragon, but instead Pirate is hiding the dragon, and loving the dragon and teaching him tricks. Every time Lizzie realizes the dragon is still there, it’s gotten bigger and bigger and, well, it’s just one more thing she can’t quite control.

The “chill out – this doesn’t have to count” brainstorm

Sometimes, when a chapter just isn’t working, I have a hard time making the (often necessary) massive changes, because I don’t know if I’m going to make things better or (gulp) worse. But one day, I borrowed a technique from my days as an advertising writer and lo and behold, it works on fiction too.

I made a duplicate copy of the impossible chapter, and then went to town on changes. By letting my brain loose on a “throw away” chapter, I freed it up to stop thinking about “How am I going to get my heroine out of the love scene and ramped up for hell?,” to “Hmm…pillow talk. This is a good time for the hero to admit he wasn’t one hundred percent honest with the heroine at the start of the book. Now the heroine can get so mad that she dumps his boxers in the ice bucket, throws his pants off the balcony and almost goes to hell without him.”

Brainstorming is all about freeing up your mind and your creative energy. You get to surprise yourself, and feel the rush of excitement as you hit upon new ideas and new places to take your story. Because when you’re fully engaged in the story, pushing your characters harder, waiting to see what’s around the next bend – chances are, you’re audience will feel the same way.

(Emily popping in here!) Angie Fox is the author of A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, a new release from Dorchester. (Don't you just love her covers?) And she’s giving away a copy right here. Just take the quiz, inspired by Pirate and his pet dragon. What Supernatural Pet is Right for You? Post your answer below and you’re entered to win!

Thanks so much for stopping by today, Angie! I'm off to take your quiz! (And if you're in a quiz taking mood, why not pop over and take my STROKE OF GENIUS quiz! What kind of Genius are YOU?)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Contests and the Aspiring Writer

As I pointed out in my 10 Commandments for the Agent Hunt post on Wednesday, one way to capture the attention of an agent or acquiring editor is to place or win writing contests. Publishing is such a subjective business. An agent may love your work and still be undecided, especially if your story is at all out of the box. If you have a few contest credits under your belt, it proves your writing speaks to others as well. It may be just the nudge an agent needs to take a chance on a newbie.

But where does a writer find these contests?

For the romance author, it's easy. Almost every RWA Chapter holds a contest every year. But not all of them cater to every subgenre. And what if you're writing thrillers or YA or a straight historical?

You may think you're out of luck.

But fear not! Let me introduce you to a great organization--PACIFIC NORTHWEST WRITERS ASSOCIATION

Their membership includes writers in every imaginable nitch! Mainstream, mystery, thrillers, romance, YA, children's lit & picture books, historical, sci-fi/fantasy, non-fiction, screenplays, memoirs, poetry, short stories, and essays. They are all about the craft of writing in whatever form that takes.

I was fortunate to be asked to speak for their conference in '08 and I gave my JOY OF WRITING SEX workshop. It was such fun (and different!) to present the material to a packed room with authors who were mostly not romance writers. (As a side note, it proved to me that every genre needs at least a subplot of romance in this market!)

And no matter what you write, I'm betting PNWA has a contest category for it!

My e-critique buddy, the fabulous Darcy Carson (without whom I would not be published) sent me an email yesterday asking me to spread the word about PNWA's contest. Here's the straight skinny:

Once again it's time for PNWA Literary Contest. Click HERE for all the categories and rules. All materials must be received by February 19, 2010.

If you're entering the romance category, you'll need to send 28 pages (including the maximum 5 page synopsis) so make every word count. As with any contest, follow the directions to the letter or your entry will be disqualified.

Every qualified entry will receive two critiques. Finalists will be judged by acquiring editors and agents (There's the brass ring for you! If they like what they see, they will ask for more!) and there is $12K in total prize money to be awarded (with $600 going to the top entry in each category!)

And here's another big deal.

This contest is open to published authors too.

The only stipulation is that the work submitted must not be under contract at the time of entry. (Who among us doesn't have some of that laying around?)

A win in this contest carries some special gravitas. NY Times Bestseller Robert Dugoni (The Jury Master, Damage Control) credits his win in the PNWA literary contest with helping launch his career.

So, good luck and I hope to see your name on the finalists' list very soon!

PS. Today is my regular day over at THE CHATELAINES. Hope you'll drop by!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Barbara Monajem's Notorious Eliza

I love it when an author researches not only how people lived, but how they thought in the past. Barbara Monajem, my guest today, did just that when she put together the bones for her new Harlequin Undone ebook, NOTORIOUS ELIZA.

Take it away, Barbara!


Patrick needs a respectable new wife to be a mother for his daughter.
Notorious Eliza paints nudes to support her young son.
They should resist the attraction. (They don’t.)
They dare not fall in love. (They do.)
They must not marry… for one day Eliza’s most scandalous secret will surface and destroy them all.

What makes a perfect wife? What makes a good heroine? And how has the concept of a perfect wife—or romantic heroine—changed in… oh, the last four hundred years? A while ago, I came across this quote from a book written by Gervase Markham in 1615.

“Your English housewife must be of chaste thought, stout courage, patient, untired, watchful, diligent, witty, pleasant, constant in friendship, full of good neighbourhood, wise in discourse, but not frequent therein, sharp and quick of speech, but not bitter or talkative, secret in her affairs, comfortable in her counsels, and generally skillful in all the worthy knowledges which do belong to her vocation.”

I started thinking about the heroine of my Undone, Notorious Eliza, who lived two hundred years later, in 1800, and how she measured up to this ideal… and how a modern heroine fares. Let’s look at all the characteristics mentioned by Markham. Admittedly, he’s probably a bit of a chauvinist—this was four hundred years ago, pretty much contemporary with The Taming of the Shrew. Women’s lib was far in the future, and the romantic heroine of today is generally a woman’s ideal, not a man’s. So we have what seems like two diametrically opposed points of view… And yet, when one looks closely (and takes Markham’s statement in the most positive light), the characteristics he describes are in many ways still valued today.

Courageous, patient, tireless, watchful, diligent: All positive qualities, then as now.

Constant in friendship, full of good neighborhood: A heroine is loyal to her friends. She’s a good, caring, helpful neighbor.

Witty, pleasant, wise in discourse, but not frequent therein. Sure; a heroine should be intelligent, pleasant, and wise (or develop those qualities), but who likes a woman (or man) who can’t shut up about her own opinions, regardless of how right she is?

Sharp and quick of speech, but not bitter or talkative: Hmm. Methinks he’s asking the impossible—a smart, witty woman who holds her tongue. Nowadays, we don’t expect women to keep their thoughts to themselves any more or less than men, but to some extent, Markham is spot on. Bitterness is a drag, and malicious gossip is unworthy of any heroine (or hero).

Secret in her affairs, comfortable in her counsels: Well, generally it’s a good idea to keep one’s private business just that… private. On the other hand, no modern day heroine would submit to abuse or fail to speak up against injustice. I’m not sure what “comfortable in her counsels” means. That she gives comforting advice? That she is confident in her beliefs? What do you think?

Generally skillful, etc.: Whether she’s a housewife or a rocket scientist, a heroine must be knowledgeable and competent.

Now, back to the beginning: Chaste thought.

I think this is where we diverge most from the values of the past… or do we? What got me thinking about this was that my heroine, Eliza, doesn’t measure up at first glance.

It’s well nigh impossible to think chastely when you support yourself and your young son by painting nude courtesans. Two hundred years ago, her occupation was considered shocking; now, not really. Some people might disapprove, but she wouldn’t be shunned by society as a whole.

Why is “of chaste thought” the first item on Markham’s list? I think it’s because it was believed that unchaste thought would lead to unchaste action. It certainly did with men… so Markham, and countless other men, felt the only safe woman was one who didn’t think about sex. It seems na├»ve, but that attitude still exists to some extent today. Romance novels are doing a lot to educate women that thinking about sex is just fine, but many women are uncomfortable about reading them or at least very reluctant to admit that they do—and that they enjoy them, too.

As for Eliza, despite her profession, she is chaste in action. She was faithful to her husband while he was alive. She waits five years before deciding to take a lover, and then she marries him. Sure, she’s a passionate woman who enjoys sex, and she makes that entirely clear. But between husband and wife, there’s nothing unchaste about enjoying making love, and there isn’t the slightest doubt in my mind that she will be faithful to her new husband.

So… I think Eliza does measure up. So do most of the romantic heroines I read about nowadays. In four hundred years, the ideal of a woman has changed in some ways, mostly for the better… but in other ways, it’s much the same.

What do you think?

Emily popping in here: I think NOTORIOUS ELIZA sounds like a great read! If you'd like to learn more about all of Barbara's work--and find some buy links!--please visit

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

10 Commandments for the Agent Hunt

Having an agent is so important to an author's career, IMO, I won't waste time explaining why you need one. For the purposes of this post, let's assume it's a given. If you want a writing career, you need professional representation. Period.

That said, here are my 10 Commandments for the Agent Hunt:

1. Thou shalt do thy research! Look for an agent who represents the kind of fiction or non-fiction you write. If you write romance, don't submit to an agent whose website clearly states they do not represent romance. The list of RWA eligible agents at RWA National is a good place to start your search. (Yes, you must be a member of RWA to access the site, but if you write romance, you really should belong to this excellent organization.)

2. Thou mayest cyber-stalk thy chosen agent if thou art casual about it. Lots of agents have blogs. I strongly recommend you follow one belonging to the agent of your dreams. Agents have articles published in trade journals. Set a Google alert and read what your prospective agent has to say. Who knows? You might decide to keep looking once you know more about what he/she thinks.

3. Thou shalt not attempt to secure an agent until thou hast a finished manuscript that has been revised, rewritten and polished to within an inch of its life. Until you have a finished manuscript, an agent has nothing to sell.

4. Thou shalt not give thy agent a reason to say "no" to thee. That means no following her into the bathroom during writing conferences. No daily emails asking if she has read your submission yet. Patience isn't just a virtue. It's a matter of survival.

5. Thou shalt give thy agent a reason to say "yes" to thee. Enter as many writing contests as you can. Each win or place gets your name out there in the publishing community and believe me, it's a surprisingly small world. Winning a contest or two or six tells an agent someone besides your mother likes your writing. An important selling point.

Develop a platform. It's no longer enough for an author to deliver the book. She needs to deliver an audience for it too. If you don't blog, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc, I suggest you start now to build that core of people who will be excited when your book sells and will want to run out an buy it on its release day.

6. Thou mayest meet thy chosen agent and pitch face-to-face if thou be of stout heart and plump pockets. Agents and editors attend writing conferences all the time. Check to see if the agent you are targeting is going to be in attendance at a conference near you. Smaller regional conferences are cheaper and provide a more intimate setting than a national one, so don't sweat it if you can't make the big one.

No one will offer to be your agent on the basis of a single conversation. They must read your writing first. But the advantage to a face-to-face is that you will be able to start your query letter by reminding them where and when you met and if they request a partial or a full submission (this is a biggie) you'll be able to write in large block letters on the outside of the envelope: REQUESTED MATERIAL.

This won't get you an immediate read, but you will be placed in queue nearer the top than the bottom of the slush pile.

7. Thou shalt master the art of the query letter and synopsis. I know these two things give most writers the willies, but if you remember what they really are, it's easier. They are marketing pieces.

For the query, make sure you include these things: title (make it a doozy!) genre & word count, state of completion (which for a new author must be FINISHED!) a back cover style blurb of no more than two paragraphs, your writing credits (here's where those contest wins go)

No agent goes straight to the synopsis when she opens a submission packet. She'll read a chapter or so to see if your voice speaks to her. Then she'll crack open the synopsis to see if you understand the elements of story and how to put together a compelling tale. You may not be coy with the ending. All loose ends must be succinctly tied up. The synopsis is an important selling tool, not just to an acquiring editor. The editor will use the synopsis to sell your book to the marketing department, the art department, and other editors so there's plenty of in-house buzz about your book.

Believe me, you want buzz.

8. Thou shalt send in exactly what is requested, no more no less. An agent is trying to figure out if it's worth his/her time to work with you. If you fail to follow their first directive, what does that tell them?

9. If an agent calls to offer thee representation, thou shalt thank them politely and ask for time to think about it. Ditto for an offer of publication directly from an editor. This is not the time to shout "Yes! Yes!" orgasmically into the phone. (Save that for after you hang up!) This is the time to set the professional tone of your relationship.

The agent dance is a delicate courtship. First the author approaches the agent. Then the agent may decline or offer representation. At this point, the author may ask to speak to some of the agent's other clients. This is the time to discuss exactly what you expect from an agent. Do you want someone who will serve as a first reader? Make editorial input? How are payments handled? What is the agent's fee? (15% is standard. More for foreign sales and film rights when a subsidiary agent will probably be involved. Do NOT pay a reading fee or any other fee up front.) Ask where they plan to submit your work. Why there? Where do they see you in 5 years? Take your time. You're getting into financial bed with this person. Make sure they are "the one!"

10. Thou shalt not wait until thou hast an offer on the table before thou searchest for an agent and if thou submittest to multiple parties, which is understandable though not optimal, thou shalt keep them all apprised of any developments in a timely manner. Any agent worth their salt wants to be involved in the sale from the get-go, not called in at the last minute when they likely can't make any changes to the contract or benefit you in any way short of taking 15% of your advance. Honestly. I've had agents tell me they hate getting that "Wow! I've got an offer and I need an agent" call because it means they feel pressured to make a quick decision. Agents have only so much time and the good ones aren't about single sales. They want to help their writers develop careers. If they are a good agent, they weigh prospective clients very carefully and choose the ones who are most deserving of their time.

The multiple submission thing is just common sense and good manners. And frankly, I'd encourage you not to do it in the first place. A better solution is to give an agent an exclusive on your work for say, six weeks. If they don't respond by then, write them a polite thank you and let them know you'll be submitting elsewhere. This is an important decision on both sides. Give it time to marinate.

If you're in the Agent Hunt, aim high. Look for an agent who is active, selling and has a client list of authors whose work is similar to yours. Don't settle for an amateur, a beginner (unless they are a junior agent at a MAJOR firm) or a frustrated writer who has turned to agenting because they think it's easier than writing.

I wish you much success in your Agent Hunt and may you only bag the trophy bull!

If you have questions, I'll be happy to take them and if I don't know the answer, I'll ask my agent (the fabulous Natasha Kern!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Symbols in Fiction

Sorry this posting is a tad late today. I was up early to go to the polls. In case you're the only person in America who hasn't heard, Massachusetts is having special election today to fill a US Senate seat. If you live in the Bay State, don't let a little snow keep you from your civic duty. Get out and VOTE!

Today my blog guest is a lovely lady from England~Helen Scott Taylor. If you're a regular reader of my blog you'll remember her from her debut novel THE MAGIC KNOT. She's back with another faerie story called THE PHOENIX CHARM. I think you'll love her brand of magic!

Take it away, Helen!

Symbol: Something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign. (

I’m fascinated by the charms and keepsakes people have. In our society, Jewelry such as wedding or engagement rings and lockets have special significance when given by a loved one. When we attach emotion to an item, it comes to symbolize those feeling and the relationship.

Concrete symbols that represent important events or relationships between characters often have huge meaning in fiction. Even items that have no intrinsic value can become significant when they indicate the characters’ feelings. Although I’ve long since forgotten the plot of the first of J.D. Robb’s In Death series, Naked In Death, I still remember that Roarke found a button from Eve’s jacket and kept in his pocket through much of the story. This demonstrated beautifully his interest in her without the author having to stress the point.

Symbols are often used in paranormal and fantasy stories, including romance. They can signify emotions, relationships, conflict, or other important elements of the story. Concrete symbols such as rings or swords are used to make an intangible concept tangible so the reader is given a focus to follow that element of the story.

I’ve used tokens and symbols in my Magic Knot fairies series. The Magic Knot itself is symbolic of the person who owns it. Each character of fairy blood has a Magic Knot consisting of three linked stone rings that hold the essence of their body, mind, and spirit. Lovers exchange Magic Knots placing the care of their essence in the hands of their loved one, demonstrating the ultimate in trust and connection. Divorce is not possible in my fairy world. Once lovers exchange Magic Knots, they are bonded with one another for life. That’s a long time when some of them are immortal.

In The Phoenix charm, the heroine is a sensual water nymph whose power has been bound with Celtic symbols painted on her skin. When she finally removes the Celtic symbols near the end of the story and releases her true nature, it is symbolic of her acceptance of who she is.

Can you think of any symbols used in fiction that you found enhanced your experience of the story?

Phoenix Charm Cover Copy:

Cordelia has sworn she’ll abstain from looking into Michael’s future—particularly when the image in the gilded smoke of her divination mirror shows him half naked. Yet she can’t resist watching the sexy rascal slowly running his hand down his ribs, over his abdomen, flicking open the button on his jeans with a little flourish like a magician performing a trick.

Respectable wise woman Cordelia restrains her secret water nymph sensuality with the Celtic symbols painted on her skin. But Michael’s powerful fairy glamour leaves her breathless, off balance, struggling for control. When Gwyn ap Nudd, the Welsh King of the Underworld, steals away Michael’s infant nephew, Cordelia must work with him to save the child. But how can she trust her instincts with Michael tempting her to explore the hidden elemental depths of her nature and insisting that she believe in the power of…The Phoenix Charm.

I have a free short fantasy romance story on the Dorchester website to celebrate the release of The Phoenix Charm. For more information and story excerpts go to

Emily popping in here: What a great way to "try before you buy!" Thanks for coming by, Helen. She's also giving away a copy of THE PHOENIX CHARM to one lucky commenter, so let's get the ball rolling with Helen's question:

Can you think of any symbols used in fiction that you found enhanced your experience of the story?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Death of the Slush Pile

I just saw an article on The Wall Street Journal warning of the death of the slush pile. For those of you outside the world of publishing, the slush pile is the hundreds and thousands of unsolicited, unagented manuscripts that are sent in to publishers in the hope that they will be discovered by an editor or editor's assistant.

I have seen slush piles. When I visited Dorchester's offices on Madison Avenue last October, my editor Leah Hultenschmidt showed me hers---a neat pile that only stood a few inches tall on one shelf. But not all editors work through their submissions and make decisions so quickly. Some of the other editors' piles were waist-high and ringed their entire office.

Forget about getting a response in a timely manner.

The main thrust of the WSJ article was that publishing houses are not spending any time on slush piles and many are refusing to accept non-agented material because of concerns over plagiarism lawsuits. For example, if someone submitted a story about vegetarian vampires before Stephanie Meyers' Twilight books came out, they might have a case to make for a cash settlement.

It underscores the importance of having an agent. I know there are still some publishing houses that allow unagented submissions, but take a good look at that slush pile. Imagine you are an over-worked acquiring editor and have limited time to spend looking for new talent. Ask yourself if you'll wade into the slush pile or leaf through the manuscript that's been vetted by an agent with whom you've worked successfully in the past?

Finding an agent is arguably as difficult as finding an editor, and finding the one who's right for you is almost as challenging as finding the right spouse. But if you've completed a manuscript (and polished it to within an inch of its life) this is your next task if you want a writing career. It's an important milestone and worthy of its own blog post.

Tomorrow, I'm hosting Helen Scott Taylor here on my blog. She has a new title out ~ THE PHOENIX CHARM! And she'll give away a copy to one lucky commenter on Tuesday. But on Wednesday, I'll post my 10 Commandments for finding the right literary agent. Hope to see you both days!

What do you think about WSJ's prediction about the slush pile? Have you submitted an unsolicited manuscript? (I did very early in my writing career. I sent off my sad little western and it came back rejected with astonishing speed! Good thing. It deserves its obscurity.) Have you been plucked from the slush pile and found success?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hope for Haiti

When terrible things happen, our natural instinct is to want to help. But unfortunately, there are scam artists out there willing to take advantage of the misfortune of others. However, when it comes to the Haitian earthquake, I know a legitimate organization to which I can donate.

Because of Bonnie Vanak.

Bonnie is a Leisure Book/Nocturne author, my friend and fellow Chatelaine and for her day job, she frequently travels to third world counties (and was scheduled to go to Haiti in a couple weeks) with Food for the Poor. Here's what Bonnie had to say in a recent email to The Chatelaines:

from Bonnie Vanak...

Yes, I'm telling people to donate to my organization, Food For The Poor. We have offices and a huge warehouse in Haiti and a feeding program and orphanages and elderly home. We are accredited by the Better Business Bureau and here is the link to the FAQ page about us for those who want to know about what we do and who endorses us. http://www.foodfort about/faq/

The big concern with organizations right now will be those who are legit and those who are not. For those wanting to donate to other organizations, here is a link to Charity Navigator, which rates charities and you can check out if the charity is "official" or a scam and where they deliver aid.

Charity Navigator said about us, "We are proud to announce that Food For The Poor has earned our eighth consecutive four-star rating for its ability to efficiently manage and grow its finances. Less than 1% of the charities we rate have received at least 8 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Food For The Poor consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way, and outperforms most other charities in America.”

CARE, UNICEF, World vision, Doctors without borders (love that one, they are out there doing triage and they lost their three centers) and Partners in Health (Paul Farmer) are all very good as well, just a few I can think of. (Emily popping in here! I would add the Red Cross to this list.)

We just heard from our team on the ground in Haiti. It's "chaos" there with tens of thousands of people camping out in the parks because of the aftershocks. People are afraid to go back inside, even if their homes are intact. Even our team slept at a staff member's house out in the hallway b/c of the fear of aftershocks.

I'm posting news as I can get it on my blog, but I'm at work and buried in trying to deal with the fundraising and information arm of the operation.

And please, ask people to think good thoughts for Haiti and send prayers. They need all the positive mental energy they can get.




Thank you, Bonnie for being our hands and feet in a desperate place. As a side note, two of Bonnie's friends and co-workers who were in Haiti have finally been located and are safe.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Confessions of a Cooking-Impaired Writer

Join me today at The Chatelaines! A cooking-impaired writer (that's me!) takes a look at two kitchen savants, and finds common ground where she least expects.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Things People Say

Since I've been a published author, and especially since I've been an active blogger, people have felt free to say the darnedest things to me.

When my first book came out (MAIDENSONG, w/a Diana Groe), I was so proud of it, I propped a copy up on a shelf in my office at the bank where I worked. That led one person to comment:

"Oh look! There's an author out there with the same name as you and she was nice enough to give you a copy of her book!"

I'm rarely at a loss for words, but really, what could I say that wouldn't make the other person feel two inches tall?

For those who came in to my office and realized they were looking at the 'author out there,' the question was:

"Why are you still working at the bank?"

I resisted the urge to answer "Compound interest is my passion."

The truth is "why-are-you-still-working" was the polite, thinly-veiled version of:

"How much money did you make on that book?"

Which is something I still get quite often. Especially now that I write full time.

Money is the last taboo. Normally, we'd sooner ask a person's sexual orientation than grill them on their finances, but total strangers feel perfectly comfortable asking authors for specifics about their income. I think it's because the perception is that we all get 6 & 7 figure advances and the royalties roll in like clockwork each month. The truth is publishing is like every other field. A small percentage of practitioners account for the lion's share of the income. That's just how the world works.

And because I write romance, that's opened up a whole other line of questioning. My personal favorite is:

When are you going to write a real book?

As opposed to the 8 pretend books I've sold to a NY publisher, some of which have been translated into German, Dutch, Italian, Russian and Spanish?

It's ok. I know what's behind this question too. What they're really asking is:

When are you going to write a book without all that sex?

And the answer is "When I stop writing about life." My stories are about relationships and all that entails.

Then there's the flip side of the equation. At my very first signing, a reader came by my table, picked up my book and asked:

"How's the sex in this? I like the really filthy stuff."

Well, a happy consumer knows what she wants. I told her she probably wouldn't like my book. I really try to make sure all my scenes, the sex scenes included, serve the story. They must advance the plot or deepen and reveal character. Otherwise, they become part of the never-to-be-seen collection of highlight reels left on the self-editing chopping block.

Since I've been blogging steadily, I've received some interesting questions. I try very hard to be transparent on my blog because no one can keep up an "author persona" day after day. I am who I am.

But that doesn't mean I'll share EVERYTHING!

Just this week I was asked to contribute a bit to another blog about "My Favorite Sexual Position." I am not making this up! She was very polite about the request and she's one of my Facebook friends, so I did send her something, but mostly it was just that despite the level of heat in my books, I'm really a rather shy person.

Besides, I don't write about how I have sex in my books. It's about how my characters connect. (I can hear my DH reminding me that all writers have to research their material, but as with every other bit of research, we don't share everything we uncover!)

Ok, now it's your turn. Is there anything you'd like to ask me? I will probably answer (but just remember I make things up for a living! LOL!). If you're a writer too, what's the strangest thing anyone's ever said to you?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Snakes on a Romance Book?

That's a resounding "Yessssss!" according to my friend S.A. Price. When she asked if I'd help her get the word out about her very out-of-the-box paranormal, I said, "Sure." If you're a fan of "shifter" romance, you're going to be intrigued by her innovative twist. My blog is now yours, S.A.


On January 19th, Entwined by Fate the first in a innovative and sexy new series from S.A.Price releases. This series breaks the accepted boundaries on what is familiar in the shifter genre, by having Ophidians, or weresnakes as a focus.

Thirty females of the Ophidian race have gone missing, most from the transient nest of Las Vegas, a rogue and unofficial nest run by the Saint, John Merrick. Believed to be dead by every Archon in the states, Merrick leads a quiet and unassuming life, saving those of his race that are lost and need it most. It's a solitary existence, one that he hates every day. He yearns for his mate, the woman he left over a decade before, and the woman who thinks him dead to this day.

When Elise Rizdon gets the official invitation to the Archon meeting in Ohio by the leader of a new Midwestern nest, she never expected to see the love of her life at the woman's side, a man she was told was dead and buried. She lost him once upon a time, and she never fully recovered. Focusing on the issues, and not the man that has always made her body burn is not going to be easy. A disturbing event is on the horizon, one that threatens all Ophidian's and their way of life. In order to survive they will have to work together, give up old grudges and take chances on the things that matter most. Love, life and the continuation of their race.

And the reviews have been amazing!

S.A. Price has written a winner! The taut plot line and the constant danger lurking at every corner increase the tension as the reader anxiously turns the pages. S.A. Price does a marvelous job at integrating subplots and smoothly fitting all of the pieces together. The secondary romances developing within the plot line make the happily-ever-after all the more satisfying. Brilliant!
~Recommended Read, Ck2s Kwips and Kritiques

“Move over werewolf’s there’s a new game in town!”
~ Smokin Hot Books

“It kept me captivated …I just had to know what was going to happen next!”
~Books, Books and More Books

"A sexy were species that really pushes the envelope! Who knew snakes could be so hot-blooded!?"
~Jennifer Armintrout, best selling author of the Blood Ties series

Interested? Check out why this book is getting such amazing feedback, and help us prove that weresnakes are sssexy and that scales could definitely be the new fur for you shifter readers!

JOIN THE REVOLUTION! You can read an excerpt here and you can buy the E book from All Romance E books and the print from Amazon.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing this with us, S.A.

What do you think? Are you open to shape-shifter romance? Do you seek out innovative paranormals or stick with Vampires and Werewolves? Or do you prefer human only in your romances?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Galley Time

Just received the galley for STROKE OF GENIUS, which is one of the last steps a book goes through before it heads to the printer. I was sent a PDF of the story, typeset to look exactly as it will on the pages of the book. At this point, my tweaks are limited to spelling, punctuation errors, inadvertant eye-color changes (Don't laugh! It happens!) This is my last chance to make the book as good as it can be.

It's been long enough since I typed "the end" on STROKE OF GENIUS that it all seems very fresh to me as I read through it. One of the things that strikes me about it is how very unloveable my hero is. (Only at first, I promise Crispin will grow on you!) But perhaps I should warn you my editor calls him "the Regency's answer to HOUSE!"

He's vain, brash, calculating and fiendishly clever. Good thing he's also outrageously talented, handsome beyond the lot of mortals and fabulously wealthy.

And wounded (physically and psychologically). His pain saves him. Otherwise, I'd have been tempted to toss him aside as a total jerk when he first began insisting I tell his story. Check out an excerpt to see what I mean.

Have you ever read a story (or written a story) where you really didn't like the hero much at first? What changed things for you?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What kind of Genius are YOU?

I had great fun writing my genius hero for the upcoming STROKE OF GENIUS. Crispin Hawke is brilliant and tortured and difficult to get along with. Good thing he's also incredibly hot.

Anyway, I realized as I wrote the story that everyone has flashes of genius. So I decided it might be fun to build a Stroke of Genius quiz on my website featuring Regency-centric questions. My DH, bless his computer-wiz heart, wrote the code for me and now it's live for your quizzing pleasure!

(If you have a blog/MySpace/Facebook/etc site and want to help me get the word out, I'd really appreciate it if you post this widget on your sidebar!)

Once you take the quiz, you'll know what kind of Genius YOU are! And you get to grab the code for your Genius widget to post on your sites or email it to a friend. Here's what they look like!

Fashion Genius--My niece, who wears $800 shoes to her job with a NY Fashion house, was the inspiration for this brand of genius!

Social Genius--You've met them, I'm sure. People who are totally at home in the center of a circle and make everyone around them feel comfortable too.

Romantic Genius--This type of intelligence sees connections and reads the subtle signals thrown off by the opposite sex without needing a primer.

Artistic Genius--Whether its an oil painting, a sonnet or a three-layer cake, this person must create.

Hope you enjoy my little quiz. Please tell your friends!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Requiem for An Author

I did not know Kathleen Givens personally. I had read her wonderful ON A HIGHLAND SHORE last year and then in December, I finished her RIVALS FOR THE CROWN. I was so impressed with the detailed story-telling, I spotlighted this title on the Em Recommends page on my website. It went live on December 31st and I fully intended to send Kathleen an email through her website to let her know how much I'd enjoyed her work, but I wasn't quick enough.

Kathleen died in early January and, from everything I've seen on the internet, unexpectedly. It just goes to prove you should never put off telling someone something nice about themselves.

So even though I didn't ever meet Kathleen, I'd like to share what I do know about her based on her writing.

She had a lyrical soul. Her prose sang. Her characters were so sharply drawn they lived full rich lives between her pages and I suspect they are still having adventures on their own. They certainly live on for me.

She was devoted to getting the details right, a thorough historian. Her nuanced recreation of King Edward the Long-Shanks corrupt court was fascinating. She was the sort of storyteller who could climb inside her characters' heads and show you why they thought as they did, how they viewed the world and those around them. Her wonderful Jewish heroine Rachel de Anjou showed me medieval Scotland through fresh eyes.

She believed in honor and redemption and mercy. And in the power of love to mend all wrongs. I know because that's how her characters lived and died.

I'm very sorry I didn't tell her I saw all these things in her work when I had a chance. If you'd like to learn more about Kathleen Givens and her books, please visit and look for her titles at your local bookseller. She's worth getting to know.

Note: Kathleen's friend Sherri Browning Erwin asked me to share this--

You might let your readers know that her family is reading the tributes at The Whine Sisters (, a site she was a part of, and also at Kathleen's Facebook site, in case anyone wanted to leave a message for her family. Kathleen's passing was sudden and shocking, and we're all still reeling. Her family is very appreciative and touched by all the notes and emails they've seen.

Contests and Freebies!

Every now and then when I know about a few contests, I like to post them here so you can hop over and win something. I'm starting off with my contest, naturally. I'm having such fun with this one. The comments I'm getting about the free novella are wonderful. I have the most inventive readers on the planet! Plus when you tell me how you think the story should progress, you're entered in the March 31st drawing for a $100 gift card! You can enter once a month as soon as each new chapter goes up!

Michelle and Leslie's Book Blog is doing a give away that lets the winner pick their prize from a list of super titles. Pop over and give them a try!

Helen Scott Taylor is no stranger to my readers. I featured her Magic Knot a few months back. During January she's giving away signed copies of both The Magic Knot and The Phoenix Charm in her contest. Here's the link:

Also worth a mention. Helen's holding a New Release Event at Bitten By Books on Monday Jan 11 and she'll be giving away a $100 Amazon voucher to one lucky winner. Mark your calendar!

Enjoy and let us know if you hear about any good contests!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Ultimate Kick-butt Heroine

Over the Christmas weekend, we went to see AVATAR with our family back in Missouri. It was captivating. Avatar had everything~a sympathetic hero, a huge conflict, a special world with magic dripping from every fern, a fascinating indigenous culture with a well-developed spirituality, and most importantly for me, a love story at its heart.

Neytiri, the beautiful Na'vi heroine, is a total alpha female. We first meet her stalking and planning to kill the invading hero. Fortunately, she has a change of heart. Then in some spectacular action, she saves him from a pack of creatures (a cross between wolves and saber-tooth tigers) and manages to beat them off while wearing hardly a stitch on her lovely blue body. Her snarl alone is enough to send some of them scurrying.

Needless to say, the hero is more than intrigued.

I've never written what I would call an alpha female (probably because I myself am a sniveling beta) but I'm tempted to try it now. Neytiri is undoubtedly fierce, but she is also uniquely feminine. The trick to making her work, I think, is making sure the hero is an uber-alpha. He has to be in order to be worthy of her.

Have you seen AVATAR? What did you think?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Duke for All Seasons

I'm starting a FREE online novella on my website. I want it to be a fun experience and a chance for readers to be involved in deciding how the story progresses. That's why I've organized a contest to encourage input, and I've gotten some great, detailed feedback already. But I thought we might discuss characters and plot in more depth here on my blog.

Here's the first part of Chapter One of A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS:

'A woman, like a blooded hound or a fine steed, has a finite period of usefulness. When that time has run its course, a prudent man divests himself of the asset without regret.' ~ A Gentleman’s Guide to Keeping a Mistress 

Sebastian Blake hated to wait for anything. Fortunately, he was the Duke of Winterhaven. It was a simple matter to let others wait for him. That's why His Grace settled into his private box after the house lighting dimmed and the gas footlights illuminated the Olympic’s red velvet curtain. Sebastian preferred to miss most of the overture, if he could. His late arrival kept him from having to brush off those who would use a chance meeting at the opera as an excuse to curry favor.

Or ask for one.

“Rosalinde isn’t joining us?” his friend Neville Granger asked in a whisper as the orchestra finished the overture with a flourish.

“Her season has passed,” Sebastian said with a shrug. “We parted ways and she left with a generous pension.”

Neville shook his head. “They don’t call you The Ice Duke for nothing.”

“Nonsense. Rosalinde knew exactly what to expect.” Sebastian was faithful and devoted to his mistresses, but he always dismissed them with the turn of each season and found a replacement. The rules were explained at the start. In this way he never grew bored, and never had to end a relationship in anger or face tearful recriminations. It was simply a function of the calendar, eminently logical, utterly civilized. “She has a new diamond necklace and I have my freedom, as per our agreement.”

Neville brought his quizzing glass to one eye and swept the crowd below them. “Someday, my friend, you’re going to meet a woman who can’t be bought.”

“On that day, I’ll give you a bottle of that expensive Spanish port you favor,” Sebastian said. “Provided you stop grumbling at me about it now. This is how I’ve ordered my life. Four times a year, I engage in a brief chase and then give myself three months to enjoy my prize. Don’t spoil this part of the process for me by scolding like a fishwife.”

“Make it a case of that port and we have a deal.”

“Done.” Sebastian leaned back in his tufted seat, sure he’d never be called upon to make good that wager. “Now, tell me about this soprano you think I’d like.”

“Arabella St. George. Shh! Here she comes.”

Neville leaned forward so far, Sebastian feared he might tumble out of the box. Then his gaze flicked to the stage and he realized why Neville was willing to risk life and limb.

Normally Sebastian favored petite brunettes, but the footlights shot this woman’s long pale hair with strawberry highlights. Tall and willowy, with striking, even features and luminous dark eyes, Arabella St. George possessed a fierce, almost other-worldly beauty.

Sebastian didn’t consider himself the sort given to flights of fancy, but his imagination soared at the sight of her. She might be a changeling princess, offspring of the hollow hills. Or a pagan priestess demanding sacrifice. Or one of the three queens who bore King Arthur’s body to Avalon.

Lord knows, he’d let her take his body anywhere she pleased.

Then ethereal Miss St. George opened her mouth and began to sing.

No wonder Neville calls her a diva. Her voice was liquid seduction, a fiery blend of passion and pathos. Sebastian decided then and there, whatever else she was; she was going to be his.

At least for the coming season.
Click here to read the rest of the first chapter.

When I used to sing professional opera, I always made up backstories for my characters. A backstory is the character's past history--those pivotal moments that make the character who they are. I needed to make one up so I'd know why my character behaved as she did in the opera.

My hero Sebastian seems to have an almost paranoid fear of a long term relationship. Or maybe he's just so self-absorbed he doesn't want the bother of working on knowing someone else deeply. If I knew what happened in his past, I'd have some insight into why he behaves this way now. I have a couple of ideas about his past, but I'm interested in what YOU come up with.

What do you think happened to him that caused him to come up with his "seasonal mistress" plan?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Jade Lee on Crimson Steam!

We have a winner: RK Charon! Check the comments for instructions on contacting Jade for your prize. Thanks to everyone who commented!

How do multiple author series find their way to the book shelves? Please welcome my friend Jade Lee who's got all the answers! She's sharing about her involvement in the Crimson City phenomenon and the possibility of a second round of those inventive paranormals. My blog is yours, Jade.


Some years ago, I was at an RT convention when my editor invited to be part of an exciting new series called Crimson City. Due to a last minute problem, Love Spell and series creator Liz Maverick needed someone to write book 5 Seduced By Crimson very fast. Fast meant in about 2 months and since speed has always been one of my strengths, they invited me in. I took about one second to decide, but because I wanted to appear less-than-anxious, I delayed answering for at least 10 seconds. That was as long as I could hold out. Then I came home from conference and told my kids they could go to whatever summer camps they wanted, but they had to go. Fortunately, they were at the right age to want to spend all their time at volleyball camp, horseback riding camp, swim camp, and get-me-away-from-my-lame-parents camp. To this day, I don’t know if I made a profit on this book or not. My children took me to the cleaners that summer, but on the upside, I got to write for Crimson City!

The world is rather simple and yet so rich with intrigue and romance that I was stunned by Liz’s ingenuity. Vampires live in wealthy high rises, werewolves haunt the subway tunnels, and humans live in the middle trying to stay safe against the paranormals. All this happens in Los Angeles that has been nicknamed Crimson City because of the race riots (and I don’t mean riots based on skin color). In an attempt to balance the power against the paranormals, humans have two projects going on. The first is a cyborg project that creates half human, half machine mechs. The second is to open a dimensional gate to a demon world that decides to invade. Oops. Silly humans! Oh yeah, and I got to create human magic-user Druids. I needed an infusion of greenery into urbanized Los Angeles.

OMG what fun this was! Especially since book 5 was the demon invasion! All Earth species came together to fight off mega bad demons! The series was an instant hit, put me and Marjorie Liu on the USA Today list, and brought me some friends for life!

You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about this. After all, the primary series came out in 2006 with an anthology in 2007. Old news, right? Nope! Liz is reviving the series with a new book out this month! Crimson Steam is an origins story that talks about how the paranormals were created about a century ago. There are elements of steam punk, hence the name, and the possibility of a second Crimson City series. I, of course, am thrilled, thrilled, thrilled about this possibility!

So...any thoughts readers? Who here has read the series? Who wants a second series of books? Raise your mean, leave a comment, and I’ll give a free Shards of Crimson (anthology) to a lucky someone!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Peek into the Future . . .

I was reading the Huffington Post this morning and someone was prognosticating about what changes we can expect in publishing for 2010.

Unless they have a crystal ball, I'm not sure anyone can predict what's coming for this volatile business. Just look at the surprises of the past.

Who could have predicted the runaway success of the Twilight series? Who would have guessed that Harlequin would open an unsavory can of worms with their foray into self-publishing? No one forsaw the sad loss of Kate Duffy, an editor of legendary stature in the romance community. Or what fear monger would have warned us of the demise of Andersen--the disaster that left tons of books moldering in storage instead of hitting the shelves on their release dates? 2009 is a year most publishing houses are happy to see gone (with the exception of the one who holds the rights on Twilight!)

But the good folk at Huffington have some predictions for us. Here's the Emily's Digest version of them.

1. Several publishing houses will merge. That seems like a safe prediction. When times get tough, strong companies gobble up their competitors. If it saves editorial jobs, it might not be a bad thing.

2. Fewer titles will be published. This is a double-edged sword for authors. Those who are published should be given more marketing support from the publisher, but it'll be a case of "them that got shall get." Brand name authors will do fine. Newbies may get short shrift. Midlisters may find themselves in limbo.

3. More writers will opt to self-publish. This prediction disturbed me. I don't think it's a good choice for writers and RWA National seems to agree with me, judging from their decisive reaction to the Harlequin vanity press. I know it's frustrating to submit without getting a contract, but we grow as writers with each "no."

4. The YA market will expand. As the populace ages, young readers will take up the slack. New methods of delivering books, like Dorchester's foray into serialized stories for cell phones, will be the wave of the future.

I have no idea what will happen in 2010. All I can control in my career is my own writing. And since author numbers will be more important than ever, I can support my favorite authors by buying their new releases during the first week.

But I do have one prediction I feel confident of--I will read new books that touch my heart this year and I'll bet you will too. Let's agree to share them here regularly!

What do you think will happen in publishing in 2010?

Happy Reading & Writing!