Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
The Virgin is InThere was a question on one of our Downunder writing loops recently about why so often heroines in romance novels are virgins and how unrealistic it was in this day and age to be writing contemporary novels featuring inexperienced twenty-something heroines.
Now I don't think virgins are either as rare in real life as some would have us believe, or that contemporary novels are full of them - I think it depends on what you read - but I have to admit to writing a few of them myself:-)
So far I've had The Italian's Virgin Bride, in January 07 we have The Greek's Virgin to look forward to, and right now on the shelves is my A Virgin for the Taking (Hint - if you like gorgeous pearls, to die for heroes and romance under tropical sunsets- you'll love this book:-))
And okay,if you look at the titles of the latest Presents releases and you'll find plenty more sprinkled amongst the Greek Tycoons and Italian Stallions. Some might think it's a home away from home for virgins:-)
But not all my heroines are virgins. None of them, however, are sex in the city girls - it wouldn't fit the line, whereas it might work perfectly well in other lines or in single title.
I want my readers to be able to empathise with the heroine, so I don't want her to fall in bed with every guy she meets. I want her to be a tad more selective. And maybe, even though perhaps she's had sexual encounters in the past, they've left her cold or uninvolved or unimpressed or whatever (enter Mr Sex-on-Legs hero - she's incredibly drawn to him but damned if she's going to give into it in a hurry).
But whether the heroine is a virgin or not, it has to fit the story and be true to the character and to the tone of the book. When you're talking high stakes and drama (as in the Presents line), a hero who has the hots badly for a woman and who must possess her at all costs, then her being a virgin can be one more factor that ratchets up the stakes. That's certainly the case in my A Virgin for the Taking - discovering that the woman he believes to have been his father's mistress is a virgin is crucial to the hero's journey in that story (and that's not giving anything away, crikeys the title manages to do that quite nicely, thank you very much!). Hopefully I've also built into her history a reason why she's avoided men these past few years.
It's also worth remembering that the Presents is first and foremost a fantasy line. Larger than life heroes, larger than life situations. For instance, how often do blackmail or arranged marriages or deep seated revenge or secret babies happen in our everyday lives? I'd wager not that often. And yet this one line's books are full of just those things. They're hooks, hopefully set well enough in a believable context so that the reader becomes that heroine, and is transported away to a world of high stakes, high conflict and high passion. And heck, we all deserve a bit of the latter, eh?
Just before I sign off, I want to send huge congratulations to our fellow noodler, Jenna Ness, who just this month became the latest Presents author!! Apart from being a fabulous writer and Golden Heart winner, Jenna is the most gorgeous woman and I'm over the moon to think that sometime soon our books might be shelfmates together!
Congratulations Jenna, a soon to be wetnoodleposse bestseller!!
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Are You a Hallo-Weenie?By Maureen Hardegree
Halloween! I love it. As a child, with the exception of Christmas and my birthday, it was my favorite day, and not just because of the candy. From my first costume—-a molded plastic Cinderella mask secured to my head with uncovered elastic that would inevitably break or tangle in my hair—-to this year’s costume of Grandmother Willow to my daughter’s Pocahontas, I have looked forward to dressing up for Halloween. There is another member of our nuclear family who does not like to dress up. Purchasing him a tomahawk to entice him into donning some Powhatan attire didn’t work. He refused—after telling me the tomahawk toy was a waste of money, and that he wants a real one for yard work? Hmm. Our costume compromise for the Halloween Party we attended last night was me pinning a fake hummingbird to his baseball cap, and he called himself Flit, Disney Pocahontas’s little friend. But he also inspired me to invent a new word. My invention sort of came about like this, me telling him, “You know what you are? You’re a Hallo-weenie!”
Of course, my husband is taking the credit for the new word as part of his muse-abilities.
Hal•lo•ween•ie \’hal-¬ō-‘wē-nē n a person who does not observe the festivity, through costume-donning, trick-or-treating, and/or the playing of pranks on October 31, Halloween [short for All Hallow Even eve of All Saints’ Day] syn see PARTY POOPER
If you aren’t certain whether you are a Halloween Lover or Hallo-weenie, answer the following questions:
If I hadn’t noted the date of Halloween in the definition above, would you know when this holiday is?
Are you feverishly finishing up your costume, or are you telling your wife you ain’t gonna wear one?
Did you lack creativity and wear the same Hobo costume every year as a child?
Do you consider your pins, such as “Bite Me!” and “I’m the Treat” an adequate observation of the holiday?
Do you have children so they can trick-or-treat for you? As a Hallo-weenie, you get first dibs on any candy after the Great Sort [i.e. dividing candies into piles of best—Butterfingers, Snickers, Milky Ways, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups—to worst—brick like bubblegum and those weird peanut butter candies in the orange and black wrappers.
Let me know if you’re a lover or a weenie. Happy Halloween!
Thursday, October 26, 2006
A Tribute to James Glennon by Debra HollandJim Glennon passed away a few days ago. The news shocked and saddened me. I couldn’t believe such a vibrant, talented, brilliant, fun man was gone. Jim, who’d received an Emmy for his work as Director of Cinematography on the HBO show, Deadwood, had an impressive array of work in his resume, yet he’d remained down to Earth, always ready to mentor others. And I’d been the recipient of his generosity.
I’d met Jim through my previous boyfriend, Guy, who’d made his acquaintance in Malibu. One weekend, the three of us, and Jim’s son, Andrew, had lunch together, then went to see the movie, War of the Worlds. (Which none of us liked.) While in line for the tickets, Jim discovered that I’d written a historical Western romance, and he asked to read it. Surprised by his offer, I quickly accepted, although I warned him that the story wasn’t gritty like Deadwood.
The next time I saw him at a 4th of July party, I handed him the disk of Wild Montana Sky. Over the next several weeks, he read the book on his computer. It wasn’t until I saw his home office and the stacks of scripts and books he had waiting to be read, that I realized what an honor he’d done me by moving my manuscript to the top of the stack.
When he’d finished, he called Guy and left his opinion on Guy’s voicemail. He really liked the story, although he thought it was “a bit flowery at first, but got used to it.” He also said I had “an excellent grasp on the 19th century woman.” Later, when I talked to him, he offered to take 10 pages of the manuscript to David Milch, to see if David would be interested in me working for Deadwood.
Excited by Jim’s offer, I experienced a renewed interest in Wild Montana Sky. I’d become discouraged by the stream of rejections on the book, not because it wasn’t a good read, but because it was historical, Western, and sweet instead sexy. Three strikes against it in the current market. I made another editing pass through the book, then did one on the next book in the series, Starry Montana Sky, just in case David wanted to read them.
Although nothing came of submitting the pages to David, (Jim thinks he didn’t read them) other things occurred. But it took Jim’s death, and a backward review of what has happened since that time last summer to make me realize what a pivotal role Jim has played in my life this past year.
As I reflect on my relationship with Jim, I realized he’d made a larger impact on me than one would have thought from just a handful of meetings, phone calls, and emails. Mostly he was an important link in a chain that formed in that mysteriously spiritual way of networking opportunities.
I’d mentioned to my friend, Bill Freda, an actor who’d been cast in an independent film, Ghostriders, about Jim and the possible opportunity at Deadwood. At the time, I didn’t even know about Bill’s role in the Western. He mentioned me to the director who wanted to meet me because he needed someone with knowledge of the West to read the script.
To make a long story short, I read the script, made a lot of changes, realized I really do know what I’m doing when it comes to scripts, and instead of just consulting, was brought in as the actual writer. Although (as yet) the movie hasn’t been made, I still had a script under my belt, even if the story wasn’t mine.
That gave me the confidence to adapt Wild Montana Sky into a screenplay, which I submitted to the Kairos Prize contest for spiritually uplifting screenplays. When the script made the semi-finals, Jim was thrilled for me. He read the script, made some positive comments, and had a few suggestions, mainly to add a scene he’d really liked in the book, but which I’d left out of the screenplay.
This last weekend, I attended the Screenwriting Expo 5. While there, I realized how different things were for me this time around. Last year at Expo 4, I didn’t have a screenplay, and actually writing one was just a dream. This year it’s a reality. Happy with my progress, I made a mental note to email Jim and thank him again for being my catalyst. I didn’t know that I’d never have a chance to send the note.
I wish I could do a better job at describing Jim. I’m supposed to be a writer, but how do you capture someone’s essence, especially when they are so multifaceted? All I know is that his energy was upbeat and positive. He had a playful way of giving people nicknames such as buckaroo. His mind was always churning out ideas, both artistic such as producing screenplays, or business, for example developing a biofuel company. He should have lived a lot longer to have a chance to realize those dreams.
I have a new agent who’s edited Wild Montana Sky one more time. She’s found some new markets for the book, and sent it out. Once again, I have hope for selling the book. If it sells, I know one thing for sure. Jim Glennon will definitely be mentioned in my acknowledgements.
Rest in peace, Jim. I will always be grateful to you.
A Wedding in China
My nephew, Adam, has always had a fascination with Asian culture. When Adam was little he told everybody he wanted to be a monk when he grew up. By the time he graduated from Lewis and Clark with a degree in Asian Studies, he could speak Chinese and Mandarin. Soon after, he moved to Guilin and opened a bar and a school of Modern English. On October 1, 2006, Adam married Lin Fang, a beautiful young woman from Guilin whom he has been dating for about four years. A total of sixty friends and relatives attended, including my four sisters, my husband, my youngest daughter and me. According to Adam, it was the most foreigners the city of Li Pu had ever had visiting at one time. We were followed by news reporters for most of the trip. The wedding parade and wedding ceremony was held in Li Pu (a few hours from Guilin) where Adam's wife grew up. The wedding ended up being shown on three different news stations and the bride’s parents and relatives have since been hounded by paparazzi.
During our stay in Guilin we took a five-hour boat ride down the Li River from Guilin to YangShuo where we spent the day shopping. We also visited LongSheng and spent the day exploring a small mountain village surrounded by beautiful rice terraces. We traversed through the FengYu Cave, one of the largest caves in Asia. I feel unbelievably lucky to have had the chance to get up close and personal with the wonderful people of Guilin. I can’t wait to return some day and see more of China. My daughter feels the same way. It was an experience we will never forget.
The photos above show Adam dressed in chinese wedding attire in the middle of the crowded streets in Li Pu as we headed for the bride's house where he must find her slippers in her room before he can marry her.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Booksignings...Or A Glance Into HellJill Monroe
It was almost two years ago when my best friend had her first booksigning. We went to lunch in the mall, then headed upstairs bookstore.
"Are you excited?" I asked.
I know I looked confused. This is what we'd been waiting for. My own first booksigning was only a few months away.
Now I'm a booksigning veteran. I'm usually all excited before the booksigning is about to begin. But as I sit behind the desk and drag out my promo stuff and favorite pen, it suddenly hits me, once again, why I dread booksignings. It's a level of embarassment I'd never known before.
Forget the usual of people asking you where the bathroom in (always know this info ahead of time) or who want to know where a special book is (authors often get confused with bookstore staff - maybe they think it's an info desk?).
There are the people who spot you, then snap their head forward, desperatly trying not to make eye contact with you.
There are the people who do come and talk with you...only to ask if your book is crap.
The truth of the matter is booksignings are awkward. I don't have that sales instinct. There's a large stack of books (why did the bookstore order 24?) which you know will be stripped and the only sale you made was the pity buy from your critique partner.
But then...you see a ray of light. Your mom and some of her friends who've known you since you were little walk into the store. So does your aunt. Then there are the members of your local RWA chapter who couldn't be more excited for you. Some of the members bring people browsing in the bookstore over to your table. Suddenly you're having fun. You're feeling like an author.
Here are a few tips I've learned on having a more successful signing.
1. Let everyone know. Family, friends but don't spend too much money. Usually one sale would be the same amount in royalty as you would spend on a postcard and stamp - so stick to as many free ways such as newsletters, e-mails, phone calls as you can.
2. Sign with someone else. Believe me, this feels SO MUCH BETTER than signing alone. But stick to only one person. A long line of authors can be intimidating to a potential reader who may have the $4.75 for your book, but not the 36 bucks for every author down the line.
3. If a buyer wants their book personalized, have a scrap piece of paper and write their name on it first. I get a little flustered when people are reciting their name to me and I'm using a Sharpie. I've found reading their name off the paper prevents mistakes...and there's nothing worse than something misspelled on a personalization.
4. Have candy. As people pass by you can offer them some candy and then you have something to talk about.
5. Talk table behavior at RWA chapter meetings. Chaptermates are really good at bringing readers to an author's table, but one thing I've noticed is that they'll often chat with each other in front of the author's table, blocking any passersby from seeing you. Chatting is great because it's always fun and makes many curious about what is going on and want to get in on the fun, it just needs to be behind the author table.
6. Have a bookmark available. Okay, it doesn't have to be a bookmark, but booksellers have told me many times that people will often come back AFTER the author leaves to buy your book. Come to find out - readers can feel just as awkward at a booksigning as the author!
7. Always thank the bookseller, and ask if they would like you to sign stock.
To read about my first booksigning experiences go here, here and here.
Screenwriting Expo 5 by Debra HollandI just finished an exhausting, but fun two days at the Screenwriting Expo 5 at the Marriot and Renaissance Hotels in Los Angeles. I planned on attending Friday as well, but was delayed an extra day from my New England vacation.
This is the second year I’ve attended the Expo. I had a wonderful experience last year and was hoping to repeat some of the magic this year.
The conference is quite different from attending RWA national. First of all there’s about four thousand people, double RWA’s attendance. That’s a lot of people crowding the conference rooms, elevators, bathrooms, and food venues. Secondly, at least half of the attendees are MEN. Mostly young men. Often attractive men. Fun, fun. The switch from conferences that are mostly feminine energy to ones full of male energy is interesting and a bit disconcerting. Third, I didn’t know anyone. Well maybe one or two people. But not like at RWA where I have my dear noodle sisters, my chapter mates, and other friends I’ve acquired at various conferences. At RWA, it seems as if I know someone (or more) at each event I attend. Expo is a sea of strangers. But once I adjusted to the changes I enjoyed the experience.
This year I was prepared for the differences and eager to embrace all the new experiences, learning, and networking opportunities. As always, I prayed before I left home, asking for Divine guidance about where I went, what I was to learn, and whom I was to meet. I already had some ideas in my head, for instance, workshops with Michael Hauge, whom I didn’t get to hear speak in Atlanta. I’d circled each of his classes in my program. I’d also hoped to spend a little time with my friend, Jeff Goldsmith, senior editor for Creative Screenwriting. And I wanted to enter the CS open, an on-the-spot screenwriting contest with a $5000 first prize. Last year in my first-ever screenwriting attempt, I’d done quite well and had received good feedback from the judges.
I arrived early on Saturday morning--a good thing, because parking was a mad house. I’d hoped to have time to scan through the program (about 20 choices per session and all very interesting) and pick my classes. But by the time I checked in, I barely had time for my first workshop with Steven Barnes, “Writing SciFi, Fantasy, or Horror.” As it was, I had to sit on the floor because there were no chairs left. (A common occurrence throughout the seminar.) Steven has twenty novels in print and has written for various SciFi television shows. He invited us to name various movies, and then he broke them down, telling us what worked and what didn’t work. A fascinating and fun workshop.
During the lunch break, I ran into John Wolf, the volunteer coordinator. Last year I’d been one of John’s volunteers. He told me he was short-staffed because some people hadn’t shown up, or had gone awol, and he asked for my help. I agreed, mentally saying good-bye to attending Michael Hauge’s workshops or entering the CS open.
Also during lunch, I popped into the trade show room and checked out the various booths. I stopped by the Movieguide booth, were once again, they were promoting their screenwriting contest, The Kairos Prize for spiritually uplifting screenplays. My first screenplay, an adaptation from my GH winning book, Wild Montana Sky was a semifinalist in last year’s contest. Go to www.kairosprize.com if you are interested in submitting your work.
I dropped by the volunteer room and donned my black tee shirt, marking me as one of the staff. John assigned me to a conference room, and for the next two workshops, I heard the speakers lecturing in that room. I now know something about publicity for your film. (Get some photos of you directing. Make sure they are of you pointing to the left. This is the only time when you’re directing that you will actually point to the left, but it looks good in photos.)
I also learned about how to adapt my screenplay into a comic. The last time I’d even read a comic I was a teenager, so obviously I don’t have an interest in this area. And, there’s no way in the world my screenplay--a Historical Western Romance--would ever be suited to a comic. But I learned that comics have evolved since my teen years. One of my favorite fantasy writers, Raymond Feist, has had his work adapted into comics. I read one that was passed around. I didn’t like it. Too hard to follow the story, and the elaborate drawings didn’t look anything like the way I’d imagined the world. But I also learned that Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Anita Blake series is now in comic books. The issue I saw looked interesting, but then again, I’ve never read Sherrilyn’s books, so I don’t have enough knowledge to be a judge.
This year the Expo included a special track where attendees could have a day listening to different speakers from Pixar. About seven hundred people had signed up for that event, held in the ballroom, with two other overflow rooms. I stopped in for few minutes (volunteers could attend any event) but the information didn’t apply to my writing, so I left.
The evening brought the end to the volunteers’ duties. We sat around and chatted for a while, then went to the evening “networking” party held outdoors by the pool. The party was a bit overwhelming if you didn’t know anyone, which was the case with most of the attendees, who walked around with deer-in-the headlight looks. I stood in a circle with my fellow volunteers, grateful to have a group of acquaintances. The six of us played a party game that turned out to be a good icebreaker. The best part of the party was having a conversation with one of the women lead to a story idea for a women’s fiction book. I haven’t written women’s fiction before. It might be something to add to my collection of Historical Romance, Fantasy with SciFi elements, nonfiction, and screenplays.
Sunday was a more low key day, with less people and only three sessions of workshops instead of five. During the first session, my job was to go from room to room, checking on each staff member to see if they needed a bathroom break or they had any problems in the seminar that needed to be solved. That gave me a chance to catch tantalizing bits from different speakers.
In “Creating Popcorn Moments” about writing action/adventure or horror, I learned in to always keep the threat of the monster/bad guy in the viewer/reader’s awareness, even if the actual threat wasn’t present. For example, the kids swimming in the water in Jaws, using a fake fin and pretending to be the shark. In “Writing the Marketable RomCom” I caught a snippet of a movie staring Diane Keaton and Jack Nickelson. (I never learned the name, but I plan on renting it because it looked funny.) The instructor, Billy Merrit, reminded us about the importance of keeping the characters as themselves during sex scenes, not just writing a generic scene.
I stayed in the next two workshops that focused on family films, and enjoyed the panels of speakers. There I learned that studios are seriously looking for good family films and that these films do well in the marketplace.
I didn’t stay for the Final Ceremony. I remembered last year’s handing out of awards and prizes had been long and tedious, and I didn’t want to get caught up in the mob of people and cars in the parking structure. But before I left, I asked John (who’d earlier said that he’ll critique his friend’s screenplays) and asked if he’d look at mine. I also offered to return the favor. He accepted.
All in all, I had a fun time. A new story idea. A new critique partner. Some more learning about craft. Some new friends. Not the magical time I had last year, but good enough, especially when I missed the first day. Definitely a conference I’d recommend, even if you’re not a screenwriter. What you can learn about craft is invaluable. And who knows. You might just decide to try your hand at a screenplay.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
And The Winner Is....And The Winner Is.....TWO!!!
I'll post pictures as soon as I can get them off my mom's camera, but it was fun. My dh is feeling guilty for beating out his buddies - 5 of them were up for the same category, but he won. I told him he has the most experience - 3 of the boys were only about 25 years old!
We were at the table at the Very Front, and we laughed a lot. It was much more fun than last year, though I think last year was more elegant. The station ended up taking home 7 Emmys.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
The Red CarpetTonight my husband and I are going to step out of our ordinary lives and into a glamorous one. We’ll go from couch potatoes watching Battlestar Galactica and eating cookies one night to dressing in a tuxedo and gown and walking the red carpet.
See, my husband is nominated for three Emmy awards.
Yes, it is a real Emmy. No, I won’t be traveling to L.A. and hobnobbing with Patrick Dempsey and Jennifer Garner. It’s the Lone Star chapter, and the Emmys are for local news productions. Now, it is a big state, and he is up for THREE. (He and my son joke that he got three more Emmy nominations than LOST.) We will sit with local celebrities from the local stations, so it’s exciting.
Last year, he won. He was so happy, y’all. The most memorable part of the night, other than his win and his speech, was when he told one of his colleagues, “Let’s do this again next year.” At that moment, I wanted it for him again more than anything.
Last year it was in Dallas, in the same building where they filmed part of Logan’s Run. There was a red carpet and a giant Emmy statue, and everyone dressed to the nines.
There was good food, though it was barely light enough to see. The program was long, and my husband’s category was smack in the middle. Then we went to an after-party in someone’s suite. The next morning, we were back to our ordinary lives, eating breakfast at the Waffle House and driving back from Dallas so we could get to work on Monday.
I just hope Cinderella comes home with another statue ;)
Friday, October 20, 2006
Warning! This is Lousy
In my current work-in-progress my hero and heroine are heading for Scotland. I've done quite a bit of research on England during the Regency, but Scotland? I usually leave Scotland to our wonderful Sandy Blair (whose Thief in a Kilt will be released on November 1, coincidentally the same release date as my novella, "A Twelfth Night Tale" in the Regency Christmas Anthology Mistletoe Kisses).
But England would not do, so they must head to Edinburgh, the only place in Scotland that I've ever been, except for Gretna Green, but that was too touristy to work for my story.
In my research wanderings around Scotland, I happened upon the poems of Robert Burns, poems I've read before, but not in a long time. I came across this one that I did not remember: To a Louse, On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnet In Church
This seemed too synergistic. We had just been trading head lice stories on our Wet Noodle Posse loops and I had just battled another parasite - fleas. Not that the poem is about the head lice, that all too common blight. What mother has not had a head lice infestation in one of her schoolchildren or had a close call?
Burn's poem is about those bigger lice. I saw one once, crawling out of the hair of a man sitting in the seat in front of me on the bus--unforgetable sight. I still get the shivers thinking about it. In Burn's day (1786) lice were a lot more common. Even though I have not entirely recovered from the trauma of seeing a louse, I found this poem charming and I was surprised at the very often quoted lines at the end of it.
Here for your reading enjoyment is To A Louse, On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnet In Church. (I know the Scots is a bit hard to read. Don't think about it much and you'll get the gist of the poem)
Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho', faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.
Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn'd by saunt an' sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her-
Sae fine a lady?
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.
Swith! in some beggar's haffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,
Wi' ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whaur horn nor bane ne'er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.
Now haud you there, ye're out o' sight,
Below the fatt'rels, snug and tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no be right,
Till ye've got on it-
The verra tapmost, tow'rin height
O' Miss' bonnet.
My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an' grey as ony groset:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I'd gie you sic a hearty dose o't,
Wad dress your droddum.
I wad na been surpris'd to spy
You on an auld wife's flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit dubbie boy,
But Miss' fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do't?
O Jeany, dinna toss your head,
An' set your beauties a' abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie's makin:
Thae winks an' finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!
Don't you love the lines, "O Jeany, dinna toss your head, An' set your beauties a' abread! Ye little ken what cursed speed The blastie's makin..." I do.
I haven't a clue what to ask for comment. Your favorite lice stories? How about your favorite lines from Burns?
He was quite a ladies man. He sired something like 15 children, some of whom were by his wife. And, tragically, he died at age 37.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
What I like doing in bed
Unlike my heroes and heroines I lead a very boring life, even--or particularly--in bed. But it's one of my favorite places, particularly at this time of year when the nights are getting a bit chilly. We're only just past the equally delicious late summer nights where you wake up shortly before dawn and retrieve the duvet from the bottom of the bed--nothing like a down duvet--and snuggle under it.
It's almost as good as leaving the alarm set on a Saturday morning because you know you don't have to get up. I've dreamed luxuriantly through some rather obscure NPR programming at that hour. Reading in bed is particularly enjoyable. As is eating ("What are all these crumbs in the bed?" "No idea..."). And being served a nice cup of morning tea, absolute bliss. I don't write in bed although I have critiqued and judged contest entries there (hard copy only).
The cat is particularly affectionate on cold nights, expanding to about three times her normal size while she's asleep--this, of course, is after she's estimated to the second when I've stopped reading and reach to turn out the light. Then she scratches at the window, squeaking piteously, and after I've let her in, takes her own special Spice Route over the bookcase, onto the bed, where she prowls in a half-circle, then a quick nose sniff (for me), neck scratch (from me), and much purring (mostly her). My even more nocturnal husband has a similar sort of routine at about five in the morning although he doesn't generally come in through the window.
The bed in the pic, by the way, is the Great Bed of Ware in the V&A Museum in London--dating from the days when strangers staying at an inn got to know each other very well at night time.
Feel free to share your bedroom habits!
Enter my contest all this month at roadtoromance.ca
DEDICATION~Winner, 2006 Golden Leaf Contest (Regency)
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
'Tis the Season for a Trip Down Memory LaneThe weather has suddenly turned chilly in Southern California. My neck of the woods has gone from 85 degrees and dry to 65 degrees and breezy. Winter is on its way. We even had our first rain. I'm now dodging falling leaves on my morning walks.
'Tis the season to start thinking about holiday gifts. For some reason, my husband has gotten on the mailing list of several catalogs. My youngest child always gets a kick out of all the cool doodads and potions we never see at Target. One of our favorite catalogs to browse through is The Vermont Country Store Catalog. They have lots of practical items for folks who live in colder climates. Things like real wool blankets, long johns, etc.--amazing stuff you rarely see in Southern California. But the the gifts that really grabbed my attention were the blast from the past stuff--toiletries from the 1960's and 1970's.
Does anyone remember Sweetheart soap? How about Lifebuoy? My granddparents had both, Sweetheart for the ladies and Lifebuoy for the gentlemen. Says a lot about how our society has changed over the years. Now we have unisex deodorant soap 'cause girls now sweat too, not just perspire.
Here's one of my favorites that brings back fond memories from my junior high school days when suddenly your hair need to be washed on a daily basis, which was so not fun--Psssssst-instant spray shampoo. My thirteen-year-old really had a lot of questions about this one, like, "What did you say when you told your mom to pick up some more Psssssst at the store?" I tell you, for a thirteen-year-old trying to keep swear words out of her speech in the presence of adults, this was a major dilemma. "Well, Honey, p-ssed wasn't exactly a popular word in my day. We just called it the name on the can, Pssssst." "Sure, Mom. And Grandma bought it? Right."
How about Tigress or Maja cologne? Have you ever had that deja vu feeling when a certain perfume from your past drifts through the air while you're out shopping? There are still a few scents from the 1980's that transport me back to a time when I was tall, thin, blonde, and single! Oh yes!
There was one more item in the catalog that is a must have. If you haven't laughed up to this point, this is it--the big finish. Tired Old Ass Soak. No lie. This stuff promises "to wash away the years of abuse your tired old body has taken." "This Soak is No Joke" It has rosemary, eucalyptus, and vetiver, whatever the heck that is. It's aromatherapeutic. Handy stuff. Since we writers spend endless hours sitting on our tired old asses, I figured this is the perfect gift for your writer friends. Check it out at www.vermontcountrystore.com
Monday, October 16, 2006
Red Letter Week for the Posse!!!Two of our Posse members have sold in the past week - Lee McKenzie sold in a two book deal to Superromance and Jenna Ness sold in a two book deal to Presents!!!
Two is the magic number!!!
Hardcover Thieves, Farflung Jobs and Fred HeadWhat a week. First the good news: Publishers Weekly reviewed my upcoming November release A THIEF IN A KILT (and it was good!), then I learned Doubleday Book Club bought the rights to A THEIF, so it will also be available in hardbound. To top that off my Texas daughter calls and says her hubby was offered a lucrative position as COO at a new company.
The bad news: The Company is located in Massachusetts. Now, that’s bad enough, but she’s taking my grandbabies with her. Augh!! I’ll have grandbabies on the East Coast, grandbabies on the West Coast and not a one in between…where I am. Not good!
And you’ve all heard about Fred Head and the Romance Author, right? The gentleman is running for Texas State Comptroller and claims his opponent writes pornography. Yes, ladies and gentleman, she wrote one Romance in the ‘90s. He—or someone on his staff—posted an excerpt, which they spelled wrong, btw, on his site then called the author’s character in to question. Did no one tell this guy Romance Writers of America is headquartered in Texas and that loads of Texas women love Romances?
But what annoys me most:
1.) That this guy calls a story about a loving, monogamous couple pornography.
2.) I have no idea how any of this has anything to do with counting beans in Austin
And last but not least:
3.) The author in question didn’t come out swinging, her ire evident, but tried to laugh her book off.
And on a happier note: As a thank you to readers and to celebrate the November release of A THIEF IN A KILT, …I’m giving away an expense paid trip to the 2007 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Houston this April. Details and the application form can be found on the contest prize page of my site www.Sandyblair.net
Sunday, October 15, 2006
When TV Does More Harm Than GoodWe started watching Jericho the first night it came on, hoping it would be realistic and might help people understand the need to be prepared for a nuclear disaster. We were sorely disappointed. They treated the subject way too lightly, gave the impression that all you have to do is cover your windows with plastic and duct tape, and within a few hours you can go outside and have a party.
Um, no. Sorry. It doesn't work that way.
If you're within a few miles of the initial blast, depending on the size of the bomb, you're toast. If you're outside the blast zone but in the path of fallout, you have a few seconds or minutes, depending on the wind speed and direction, to get to a shelter. What it takes to be protected from radiation is distance and mass. Lots of distance, and lots of mass. At least 5" of steel, 16 inches of solid concrete, 2 feet of packed earth, or three feet of water. You need to be prepared to stay in the shelter for at least a few days, then inside a less protected shelter (regular rooms in your house) for a few weeks.
The people of Jericho took hours to get ready, walked outside after a few hours (into and through puddles of radioactive water), and had a party eating food that hadn't been protected.
North Korea told us that within a week (beginning last Friday), all would be "settled" if we applied sanctions against them. We're surrounded by egotistical maniacs with nuclear weapons. Supposedly there are suitcase nukes and dirty bombs planted all around our country by Al Quida, just waiting for the order to set them off. Will it ever happen? Who knows. But I do know being prepared is the best defense. Go to http://www.ki4u.com/guide.htm to learn how to prepare for the worst, get it done, and then you can put it behind you and relax, knowing if the worst happens, you're ready, and if it never happens, you're in luck.
But don't believe everything you see on TV.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
The things I missI'm going to talk about some not so serious stuff. I'm thinking about that song from Sound of Music "My Favorite Things." This isn't going to be a list of favorites but of things I miss.
Right now I'm missing spinach. Every week when I go to the grocery store I ask the produce people when they are going to get spinach again. They don't know. I know they had to take spinach off the shelves for a very good reason, but I can hardly wait until it comes back. I usually had a spinach salad for lunch four or five times a week before the e-coli problem. No other green takes the place of spinach. Popeye and I are in mourning.
I miss playing tennis on a regular basis. I used to play two or three times a week. Now I'm lucky if I play once a week. I also miss winning. The old addage "practice makes perfect" applies to tennis as well as a lot of other things. My lack of playing time has dimished my game. I hesitate to compare myself to any pro, but I will anyway. Andre Agassi and I are both playing fewer matches.
I miss having the Boston Red Sox or the Atlanta Braves in the baseball playoffs. I haven't watched one playoff game so far this year. The New York Yankees and I are out of the playoffs.
I already miss the hot, hot days of summer. I like fall, but I love a hot, hot day when a plunge in our swimming pool is a perfect refresher. Right now our pool is a little too refreshing unless you're a polar bear.
I miss the long daylight hours of summer. If I want to take a walk after dinner now, it gets dark before I'm done. I'm pining for those evenings when it's light until nearly nine o'clock.
We're having a drought, and I missing a rainy night. I love to listen to the rain on the roof when I'm snuggled in my bed. I miss the fresh smell after a good rain shower.
These are only a few small things I miss. What little things are you missing?
Friday, October 13, 2006
Trick or Treat?It's Friday the 13th!! (cue scary music)
Do I look out for black cats? Be careful with my purse so I don't accidentally drop it and smash the mirror in my compact? Do I worry about bad luck or bad things happening today?
Naw, I've got enough other stuff to worry about. Instead, I realize that I'm beat. I've had a hectic couple of weeks what with feeling under the weather, being swamped at work, trying to finish up my latest book and raise 3 kids.
Instead of worrying about Freaky Friday, I decided to nip any bad thoughts in the bud and treat myself today.
I woke up early to write, then at 11:00 I headed out the door to a local salon/spa and had myself a harmonizing facial. Talk about relaxing. Then, on my way home, I stopped at McDonald's and bought myself a Happy Meal (splurge!). Just enough to quench my hankering for junk food, not enough to tip the scales quite yet.
Now I'm back on the computer, ready for an afternoon of writing. Not a bad way to spend a day, Friday the 13th or not.
I hope everyone is enjoying their day. Will you be able to find some time or some way to treat yourself?
If not, here's to a better tomorrow. If only I could go back and get another facial. :-)
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Anthony Lane--My Secret XXOO Crushby Bridget Stuart
Hey, everyone. Sssh. I've got a secret burning in my bosom, and I'm about to confess. I, who claim to be immune to the silly seduction of celebrity; I, who have not admitted to a crush on an unattainable object since Joe Strummer of The Clash; I, who would appear to have no relationship trouble with the general male population, am deeply in thrall to a man I've never met.
A brilliant, elegant, witty, funny, charming yet dangerously ruthless man--he has all the qualities that leave me helpless and boneless with passion, though until fairly recently I had no idea what he looked like.
Deep breath, pause to gather courage:
I have a crush on Anthony Lane.
You don't know who Anthony Lane is? Come on, he's the film reviewer for The New Yorker magazine. (There are others, but sorry--they don't just pale in comparison, they positively *bleach*.) He also writes occasional essays. Really remarkable essays. How could I not fall in love with a man who turns a phrase like this, in reference to wee green Yoda of the "Star Wars" saga:
"Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. 'I hope right you are.' Break me a fucking give."
I could not stop howling after I read this. I tried quoting it to people and always got it wrong, only succeeding in making them wish I were in a galaxy far, far away. You didn't think it was so clever? How about this bit from a giddy essay of his, all about the NYT top ten bestsellers of 1945 (He read all the books--or tried to):
"I have a problem with No. 9. I cannot read it. God knows, I have tried. I have downed three straight whiskeys and then tried to read it. I have leapt clean and sober from a cold shower, grabbed the book, and, standing upright, started to read it out loud. But the same thing always happened: I buckled like a puppet and fell asleep."
Buckled like a puppet. God. You're feeling the love too, aren't you? The...excitement. How about his take on bestseller No. 2 from the 1945 list, "Captain from Castile":
"Our hero is Pedro de Vargas, who has everything going for him: a cool cavalier dad; a sister called Mercedes; a crush on the luscious Luisa, who appears to have been ordered direct from the Courtly Love catalogue ('The arch of her eyebrows, the bow of her lips, her pearl-white complexion, were perfect'); and a no-strings nobility clause in his character ('He spoke and loved as a hidalgo should')."
The wonderful thing about Anthony Lane is, instead of scorning an easy crit target like "Captain from Castile", he loved it. He also loves the horror pic "Halloween", and the Lord of the Rings flicks, not just obscure Icelandic works or universally acclaimed pictures like "The English Patient". This from a guy people characterize as a snooty film critic. He is *not*! (Playground whine.)
It turns out, Anthony Lane is also a willowy Englishman with the sensitive good looks of a Manga character (receding hairline notwithstanding). So Google him, friends. Revel in the pleasure with me. Write him fan mail, and puzzle him deeply.
And if you have a confession of your own to make--a dark, hidden love not everyone would understand--share it with me. I showed you mine. Now you show me yours.
It’s beginning to look a lot like . . . Halloweenby Charity Tahmaseb
Ah, Halloween, when visions of bite-sized Snicker bars dance in children’s (and possibly their parents’) heads. To get you in the Halloween spirit (no pun intended) Kiki Clark has a great craft idea for the trick-or-treaters headed your way in a few weeks.
The year my son was five, we walked the neighborhood, our way lit by a full moon. It was nearly sixty degrees. Considering it can (and does) snow on Halloween in Minnesota, this was an incredibly balmy night. Andrew wanted to know about trick-or-treating when I was a kid.
I told him about the time I was nine and some teenagers jumped me and my best friend and made off with my plastic pumpkin stuffed with candy. I put up a fight, but he had the pumpkin. I had the strap—which broke.
This is not the story to tell your gallant, five-year-old son. He was beside himself with the idea that someone might steal his mommy’s candy. He wanted to build a time machine and go back in time to rescue me. And not a year passes when he doesn’t mention it.
Halloween is big at our house. And it’s not the candy. It’s the costumes. That same year, Andrew went as a pirate. He fell asleep on the couch that night, not eating candy, but clutching his pirate sword. Since then, he has graduated from cute to scary.
There’s a complicated system of what’s acceptable and what isn’t in costumes when you’re ten. He is, technically, Skullzor, according to the package label. Fortunately, there’s his sister to supply the cute factor.
I’m indulgent when it comes to the costumes (as you can see). But in our house, a costume is like a diamond—it’s forever. Long after our pumpkins are dusted with snow, the kids will be wearing their costumes, inventing stories to go along with them. As far as I’m concerned, that sort of creative play is worth every penny, even when spent on “gothic skulls” and Snow White’s princess wig and wand.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
A latte with one shot of sophistication, pleaseI'm on the road again, currently tucked into the coffee shop corner of a bookstore, connected to the Internet with Wi-Fi, feeling very Cosmo. Feeling Cosmo, that is--not looking it. It's hard for a granny in dime store reading glasses, scruffy blue jeans, ancient clogs, and a stained navy sweatshirt to pull that off. (And how did that stain get there? I've only been out of bed for a couple of hours, for cripin' out loud.) But here I sit, enjoying the swish of the espresso machine, the chatter of my fellow patrons, and the clack of my laptop keys. Ah, the soundtrack of sophistication.
Sophistication. This may be one of those rare moment in my life I approach--on a lower rung level, that is--that elusive state, that mysterious aura other women seem to pull on so effortlessly. But I'm working on it. Each year, when I prepare for trips to various writing conferences, I add another thin layer of polish to my rough exterior. (I've given up on the interior stuff--I won't live long enough to accomplish much there.)
I've recently purchased fancy makeup (still in the box, plastic wrapper unpeeled--but at least it's in my bathroom!), I now own more than three pairs of shoes, and I've begun to remember to add accessories to my shopping lists. I had my first manicure in 2004, before I left for a conference in Dallas (before you get all impressed, I have to admit I was 48 years old at the time). But unless I check those shopping and packing lists, I invariably forget to do That Sophisticated Stuff. Like putting on earrings before I leave the house (they're missing in action this morning).
Is there some "girl school" I somehow missed out on attending when I was growing up? Can I lay the blame at my mother's feet? She hated shopping and, at a critical point in my development, she was going through her overalls period (sort of like Picasso's blue period, with deeper pockets)--a style trend that ended when her shoulder straps fell in the toilet on a camping trip.
What do you do to look or feel sophisticated? Any tips or suggestions? I need to make another list.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Look What Colleen's Done!An mp3 excerpt for The Rest Falls Away!
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Emerald City Recap by Jenna NessPlace: the Coast Hotel in
Time: Friday, October 6th through
It’s Sunday morning, and I’m writing this from my hotel room. Once again,
At right is a photo of me with Jane Porter at the bookfair! Jane wrote my favorite book of 2006, Flirting With Forty
At left is a photo of me and another of my absolute favorite authors, Julia Quinn! I’ve read all of her deliciously fun, smart Regency-set historicals. My all-time favorite JQ book is The Viscount Who Loved Me. I’m bummed we’re out of Bridgertons, but on the plus side, I can’t wait to read her first non-Bridgerton story, which comes out next summer!
I also saw
At the opening banquet the first night, we sat at a table with YA author Niki Burnham
Other highlights …
- Theresa Meyers’s roundtable discussion on publicity/promotion was brilliant. She is smart, smart, smart.
- Having everyone be extra nice to me because finally, I look obviously pregnant, instead of just like I've had a few too many banana splits. While I was fanning myself in the 70-degree temperature,
Picture to the right: at the Bellevue Square Cheese cake Factory with CBC chapter mates on Saturday night.
From left to right around the table: Denise Hale, Becky Clark, Candis Terry, Christine Carminati (Denise’s critique partner from
At left is an extra shot of Candis and Christine, which I took as punishment since they hid in the group photo.
After dinner, we went to the hotel bar for Romance Karaoke,
where we were joined by
Finally, Sunday morning, Terry McLaughlin corralled us for a “Noodler breakfast.” There were three of us in attendance: Terry, me, and Delle Jacobs.
We look pretty bright-eyed for Sunday morning at , huh?
At lunch we sat with Pat White
It was a wonderful conference, GSRWA! Thank you! See you next year!
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Having funby Anne Mallory
There are some great articles over at the WNP this month - as usual! One that I thought I'd highlight though was Diane Perkins' article on having fun. I think it's very important not to lose sight of the little things that make you smile and the crazy things that make you laugh. All the things that make you feel alive.
So check out the article and let us know something that you like to do to have fun. It could be something as simple as watching snowflakes fall on a clear wintry day, or as complicated as parachuting from a plane. Maybe it's watching your kids joyfully laugh, or curling up with a good movie and a bowl of popcorn. How do you relieve tension and relight your inner flame?
Take time to be good to yourself this weekend. Have some fun. Or else. ;)
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Falling for FallIt's Fall according to the calendar and the weatherman, but, truthfully, I wasn't convinced they were right until I stepped outside this morning and felt the absense of the usual Florida humidity.
The air conditioning's still running, true, but I feel open-window days approaching. Walking in the evening days, reading on the porch days, dead-heading the mums days. School days. Holidays.
It seems that time is moving ahead at warp speed. It will be the new year before we know it.
Let's take a moment to appreciate today, whatever the temperature or humidity where you call home.
Step outside and take a deep breath. I think I will...
Monday, October 02, 2006
"Take these broken wings and learn to fly..."by Stephanie Feagan
I'm an author who recently lost my job. After selling 4 books to Silhouette Bombshell, the line folded. My 4th book, scheduled to be released in early summer, 2007, will never see the light of day. I've gotten so many lovely notes from friends and readers, expressing sympathy, encouraging me by saying I'll land on my feet, that all will be well, that when God closes a door, he opens a window. I appreciate the support.
But most people are under the assumption that I'm grieving, that I'm depressed, that I'm feeling bereft and lost.
Maybe because I've been writing for so many years, been rejected and had doors slammed in my face so many times, I took the news of the demise of Bombshell as par for the course. It happens. Get over it. Move on and reinvent yourself. It's either that, or wallow in self pity and never sell another book. I'm here to tell you, I didn't write like a fiend and take 11 years to make my first sale, only to crash on the side of the road and give up at the first sign of trouble.
My agent recently sent out a new project that I began back in April, one that I'm excited about and have high hopes for. If it doesn't sell, I'll be terribly disappointed. But I'll move on to the next project. I've been asked to write a proposal to continue the series I began within Bombshell, but can't be continued because the line folded. If the proposal meets with approval, I'll be published in single title. Nothing bad about that. Had I not sold to Bombshell, and if the line hadn't folded, I wouldn't have this opportunity. A window opened and I'm flying through it, mucho pronto.
I have no patience for whiners and complainers. Life throws a lot of doo-doo our way and we can either walk about covered in crap, or dodge it and carry on. I for one, don't want to be stinky, so I ducked.
I'm laughing at myself right now, sounding so noble and brave. I can't say I was unaffected by what happened - I'd be lying. One of the aspects of Bombshell's demise that bothers me most is how it affected my editor, Natashya Wilson. Bombshell was her baby, and she tended to it carefully, with wisdom and love and passion. That the line folded breaks my heart for her. She had a dream and a door was slammed in her face. Natashya is not only my editor, she is my friend, and no one wants to see their friend hurt.
However, I have no doubt Natashya will find an open window and fly through it gracefully. My hope is that we can continue to write books together - I deeply suspect she makes me a better writer. But no matter, she will always be my friend.
Have a great day! I'm off to write that proposal and see if I can make it through the window....
Contest! by Diane PerkinsI also blog on the Risky Regency Blog, where we chat about Regency Romances and all things Regency, and I just had to tell you all about a contest the Riskies are running.
The prize? One of two 10th Anniversary Editions of A&E's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE!
Enter by commenting on the Risky Regency blog posts Monday (Oct 2) thru Saturday (Oct 7). Up to six chances to win!
Click here for contest details. Visit A&E's Store to learn more about the prizes. Come visit the Riskies, but come back to see the Noodlers, too.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
The new fall TV season is hereLast month, I blogged about how I think TV gets a bad rap, and this month over at the e-zine our faves listing is all about our favorite current television shows. So, in keeping with the TV theme, here are my thoughts on the new fall TV season now officially in full swing.
The first new show I added to my viewing schedule is Men in Trees on Friday nights. I've heard people say that they didn't know if they could watch it because Anne Heche is the lead. Well, I like Anne Heche. I think she's funny and cute in the role of fish-out-of-water relationship expert Marin Frist. Though I didn't watch Sex in the City, I heard Men in Trees described as Sex in the City meets Northern Exposure. Even without having watched Sex in the City, I was hooked by the premise. See, I was a huge Northern Exposure fan and love stories set in Alaska. I've not been disappointed so far, so check it out.
I watched the first episode of Heroes last week because I like shows and movies about superheroes. Always have, always will. This one has a touch of X-Men in that everyday people are experiencing genetic mutations that give them some sort of extra ability. There's the teenage cheerleader whose body regenerates after an injury, the guy who can fly, a funny little Asian guy who can bend time and space, a guy who predicts disasters by painting them, and a few others. I'm interested how the writers are going to develop all the characters' storylines and what impact they all have on the people around them.
I'll probably queue up the first season of Jericho on Netflix whenever it comes out next year. I like Skeet Ulrich and it's an interesting concept, but it's on opposite Bones. Anything on opposite Bones is going to lose on my viewing schedule.
There are other shows I could probably get into, but honestly I don't need anything else to watch.
Prison Break -- not as exciting this season, but I think that's because season one inside the prison was so incredibly tense. Still a must-watch for me on Monday nights.
Veronica Mars -- can't wait for the premiere of season two this Tuesday night on the new CW network. If you've not seen this smart, fun, modern Nancy Drew meets Buffy show, get the first season on DVD immediately and then dive into season 2. Two days until Veronica and Logan kissage!
Bones -- storylines still interesting, upped sexual tension, Agent Seeley Booth still hot. Need I say more?
LOST -- The season 3 premiere is this Wednesday. I'm SO glad they changed the time so that it doesn't conflict with Bones. Am eagerly anticipating what's going to happen to Jack, Kate and Sawyer. Who are the Others? What do they want? Are they bad guys or good guys? I need answers, people!
Survivor -- I can't help it. It's the only reality show I really enjoy. Go, Yul!
Supernatural -- LOVE this show. I hadn't watched it until a couple of weeks ago. I'd heard good things so I hurriedly Netflixed it so I could watch the first season before the premiere of season 2 this last Thursday. Couldn't watch it fast enough. And WOW, what a season 2 opener. Sam and Dean are two of the coolest guys on television.
Battlestar Galactica -- The much-anticipated new season starts this upcoming Friday. Don't be fooled by the fact this show is on SciFi. It has some of the best writing on television. And don't think it's like the original from the '70s. It's not. It's intelligent, Starbuck's now a girl (one who can kick some serious butt, by the way), and it's exploring a lot of plot territory not even imagined in the original. Also, there are some webisodes on SciFi.com to prepare you for the new season.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition -- just feel-good TV. I tear up nearly every week when the much-deserving family sees their new home. I hope this show lasts forever.
So, what returning favorites are you enjoying or anticipating? What new shows have sucked you in?