Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mr. Romance

Each year Dorchester Publishing sponsors the Mr. Romance Contest. All week long, the contestants mix with the convention attendees and try to garner as much support as they can. Then on Saturday, we have the the "Pose Down." For part of the show, the cover models dress as heroes from Leisure Book and LoveSpell novels. This is Eric Trugila, the model who portrayed my Lucian from VEXING THE VISCOUNT.

Eric is studying to be an EMT. When I told him he wanted to be a real life hero, he said he only hoped he'd get to emergencies soon enough to be a hero.

This is Franco D'Angelo on the right. He's a professional wrestler when he's not vying for the Mr. Romance title.

The pic on the left is Constantine. He's from Greece, with a devastatingly attractive accent. He is interested in body building and philosophy. Don't you just hate it when the guy has prettier hair than you do?

Meet Stephan. He has a really big . . . sword, doesn't he? He is portraying Jade Lee's Dragon hero.

Jimmy is an All-American boy who spends his time panning for gold in Columbia (I am not making this up!).

"Well, howdy ma'am!" This cowboy is Charles Paz. He won the competition and let me tell you why. Of course, he's handsome and he has trouble finding jackets that will fit over his muscles because they're so big. But what Charles really has going for him is his personality. He's funny and thoughtful and very sweet.

During the Pose Down, there's a segment where each of the contestants gets a chance to romance one of the female models. Most of the guys went for the dipping kiss or swooping the girl into their arms to carry her off, but Charles took off his jacket, draped it around her shoulders and kissed her on the hand. It was the essence of romance, an unspoken desire to protect as well as possess. It reminded me of something my DH would do. When Charles won, I was on my feet cheering!

The lucky girls with Charles are Erin Galloway, Dorchester's marketing guru, and Leah Hultenschmidt, my own fabulous editor. Look for Charles on a Leisure Books cover sometime in the future!

Special "Thank you" to my friend Christie Craig. In addition to being a hysterically funny romance author, she's a kick-butt photographer. These pics are all hers. Look for her next title GOTCHA in June but you can pre-order it today to make sure you don't miss out by clicking right here! She sent me her DIVORCED, DESPERATE AND DATING to read while I was recovering from cancer surgery and I nearly split my incision laughing!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Contest Winner Alert!

Jennifer Ashley was here on Monday and she's chosen her winner. It's MARI! Please contact me through with your mailing info and to let Jennifer know which of her backlist you'd prefer. Everything is available except THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE.

Thanks again for stopping by, Jenn!

Romantic Times in Orlando

I'm on the move again! Today I'm blogging over at MyHumbleOpinion sharing a scene that almost didn't make it into VEXING THE VISCOUNT. Be sure to leave a comment or question there for a chance at TJ's monthly goodie basket!

Today, as promised, I'm sharing my RT Convention experience. As you can see from the pic above, the Orlando Wyndham was a lovely place--peaceful, serene, the only riot was in the profuse plantings of azaleas, magnolias and begonias. But if you go inside the Convention Center, it was a whole different animal.

You might just see a pirate kissing a mermaid in the hall outside of Club RT. And inside the club, you could chat with your favorite authors, shop for jewelry and "convention" clothes (lovely shawls and such), have your sketch drawn by an artist who was totally entertaining when he talked and fascinating when he drew, or visit with the companies who offered author promo services.

My roommate, NY Times Bestseller Bobbi Smith sponsored a photo op for S.O.S. (Save Our Soldiers) You could get your picture taken with the hunks who were competing in the Mr. Romance Contest, sponsored by Dorchester Publishing. These guys were not only fine to look upon, they were genuinely nice. (More about them tomorrow!)

After the sun went down, you could dance the night away. At the Vampire Ball, a seriously pregnant gal got up and led the crew in a hysterical rendition of Michael Jackson's THRILLER! (Pay no attention to the date stamp on this photo. That's only one of the many things I don't understand about the camera I was using!)

And you didn't have to be a 20-something to rock the house. The cute vampire on the right is 83 years young! You should have seen them in their fairy costumes! (I was unfortunately having a fight the camera the night of the Fairy Ball. Anyone who has picks from then, please send me some! emily (at) No spaces. Thanks!)

But one of the biggest thrills of my week was meeting a couple of my "blog touristas." Here are Jane L and Maureen (aka 2nd Chance). What a treat! Jane wore my VEXING THE VISCOUNT button all week and I swear, she spoke to everybody at the convention about my books. Who needs a PR firm when you've got friends like that! Love ya, girls! (Oh! And they both pitched their WIPs and got requests from editors and agents! Woohoo!)

More tomorrow. Please remember to visit me at MyHumbleOpinion today!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jennifer Ashley Does it Again!

I have a real treat for you today. Jennifer Ashley is here with us. Jenn is a USA Today Best Seller, a RITA winner and the author of over 40 books in several different sub-genres: historical romance, paranormal, straight historical, erotica, mysteries and I think I even saw a chicklit on her backlist! This talented author writes as Jennifer Ashley, Allyson James and Ashley Gardner, and is the driving force behind the fabulous IMMORTALS series with Joy Nash and Robin Popp.

But today, we'll focus on her historical romances and she has new one coming for us called THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE. Here's the blurb:

The year is 1881. Meet the Mackenzie family--rich, powerful, dangerous, eccentric. A lady couldn't be seen with them without ruin. Rumors surround them--of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz.

The youngest brother, Ian, known as the Mad Mackenzie, spent most of his young life in an asylum, and everyone agrees he is decidedly odd. He's also hard and handsome and has a penchant for Ming pottery and beautiful women.

Beth Ackerley, widow, has recently come into a fortune. She has decided that she wants no more drama in her life. She was raised in drama--an alcoholic father who drove them into the workhouse, a frail mother she had to nurse until her death, a fussy old lady she became constant companion to. No, she wants to take her money and find peace, to travel, to learn art, to sit back and fondly remember her brief but happy marriage to her late husband.

And then Ian Mackenzie decides he wants her.

I'm already hooked. I sat down with Jennifer for a cyber-chat recently. As always when I have a guest, my words will be in bold. Jennifer will speak in italics.

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie features a hero with Asperger's Syndrome. Can you tell us about this condition and what prompted you to tackle it in your story?

Asperger's Syndrome is a form of "high functioning" autism. Symptoms can vary widely from person to person, but typical characteristics are: inability to make eye contact, obsession with details while ignoring overall concepts, obsession with routine, inability to read non-verbal cues, and not understanding subtext (e.g., sarcasm, jokes, or teasing). Not all people with AS have all symptoms, and they might have other difficulties than I list here.

What prompted me to tackle it in my story? Many people these days either have AS or know someone who does (family member, child, friend, child of friend). I write historicals, so I'm always looking for good historical ideas. I wondered, what did people with autism face in past times? AS wasn't identified until the mid-twentieth century, and even now it's not well understood. How did an autistic person function in Victorian society, when psychiatry was in its infancy? And the story was born.

It was a difficult story to write. It went through many drafts before it reached its final state.

Sounds fascinating, Jenn. What does your heroine love most about your hero?

What Beth loves most about Ian is... well, everything. Ian is such a complicated character that no one characteristic stands out. He's honest (painfully so), charming, sexy, stubborn, single-minded, and vulnerable. She feel protective of that vulnerability, but she doesn't pity him.

One question I've had already from readers is: Is Ian a virgin?

No. Decidedly not! Ian has no trouble enjoying sex, and in fact, courtesans like him because he's charming, kind to them, and very, very generous.

Of course, once he meets Beth, Ian turns his single-mindedness to getting her into his life--permanently.

Ah, single-minded! Just the way we like our men! You and I are part of the same Christmas anthology coming out September 29th. Can you tease us a bit with a blurb of your story?

Yes, A Christmas Ball features three stories based around a ball in one of the most fashionable houses in London. In mine, "The Longest Night," Mary Cameron (sister of Egan Macdonald in Highlander Ever After) encounters Baron Valentin, an exotic Nvengarian she met (and was dazzled by) the year before.

Valentin has returned to England as aide to the new Nvengarian ambassador, and he and Mary run into each other at this Christmas ball. Valentin has a mysterious and dangerous mission to perform, but it doesn't keep him from testing out the legend of the Longest Night. Will the lady he spends the Longest Night with (i.e., Mary) be with him for the rest of his life? He's willing to find out.

It's a fun, romantic piece that rounds out the Nvengarian (historical/paranormal) series.

So The Longest Night in A CHRISTMAS BALL features a character your readers have met before. It's always fun to meet an old friend in a new story.

Back to the one that's out now. I understand Lord Ian is the first in a new historical series. What's coming next?

I will write books about all four brothers (Ian, Mac, Cam, Hart), in order from youngest to oldest. Book 2, Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage features the second oldest Mackenzie brother, Mac, and his estranged wife, Isabella. You encounter this couple in Lord Ian, where they play a pivotal role in bringing Beth and Ian together.

Now Mac (based on advice from Ian) has decided to try to save the marriage he wrecked. Isabella, who caused scandal by eloping with Mac then leaving him, is not certain she wants him back. It will be an intense and sexy tale.

I'm also working on a new paranormal series based around shapeshifters, but with a twist. The first book, Pride Mates, is out in January 2010. The premise is that Shifters "came out" twenty years ago, were rounded up into internment camps (Shifter-towns), forced to wear collars that suppress their violent instincts, and made to obey a set of restrictive laws. Humans believe the dangerous Shifters have been suppressed and tamed. Or have they? Kim Fraser, a lawyer defending a Shifter on a murder charge, is about to find out.

While we're on the subject of paranormals, I have to ask: Will there be more Immortals books?

At this point, we've finished the Immortals stories. Immortals: The Reckoning, an anthology of three stories set in the Immortals world, came out this March, and pretty much wrapped up all the threads.

I never say never-who knows if Joy or Robin or I will come up with another tale from that world? But for now, there are no plans to continue the series. My contracts are for the Mackenzie series and for the Shifters series.

Thanks for being with us today, Jennifer.

See her website ( for information on upcoming books and other fun things, plus links to her other psuedonyms (award-winning authors Allyson James and Ashley Gardner).

Jennifer is giving away a book today someone who leaves a comment or question. Which book are you offering, Jenn?

Thanks for having me, Emily. I will allow the winner to choose which backlist book they want, from any pseudonym (anything besides Ian).

April 28th Update--Great news! I talked Jennifer into hanging around for another day so there's still time for you to comment for a chance to win one of her books! Good luck!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Day Two of the Romantic Times Convention

Bobbi and I got an early start with the Aspiring Writers today. Bless their hearts, they had another full day of workshops. I know they must feel like their heads are about to explode because we gave them lots of things to think about. One of them let me read the first couple of pages of her WIP and give her a critique. She had some really strong positive points and just needed to rethink a few things. There is a lot of writing talent out there and I really enjoyed working with the aspiring writers group this year.

Diane Stacey, our beloved VP of Direct Sales and Book Clubs at Dorchester, came in tonight and we got to visit with her for awhile. She's such a doll.

I'll be giving another workshop tomorrow and will be helping a couple of my "blog touristas" (Jane & Maureen) polish up their pitches. For those of you who aren't involved with publishing, a "pitch session" is a short appointment with an editor or agent where the author serves up a small dollop of their story in the hope that said editor or agent will ask to see either a "partial" (3 chapters and a synopsis) or a "full" (complete manuscript and synopsis). It's not as scary as it sounds if you remember that the editors and agents are just people who are looking for a good story. Keep your fingers crossed for my friends!

More tomorrow . . .

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day One at The Romantic Times Convention

Busy day here in Florida! I taught two workshops for the Aspiring Writers, met one of my blog touristas (Jane L is here! YAY!) and had a ball hanging out with the gang. While we were at dinner, the fine looking young man in this picture came over to our table. His name is Charles Paz, one of the Mr. Romance contestants. The happy lady with him is my roomie, NY Times BestSeller Bobbi Smith. Charles will appear in the POSE DOWN as Bobbi's cowboy hero Lane Madison from her July release RUNAWAY. I haven't met the contestant who will portray my Lucian, but when I do, rest assured I'll get a pic for you!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Magical Mystery Tour of the Romantic Times Convention

Tomorrow morning I'll be up at oh:dark-thirty and on my way to the airport to catch a flight to Orlando and the Romantic Times Convention. It's a wild, wacky, always exhausting, never boring week.

It will be a time for resolving a number of mysteries. The first one is whether or not I'll be able to get my suitcase closed. I don't know about you, but packing is part science, part art and mostly luck for me. Fortunately, I cured my DH of expecting me to pack for him on the first trip of our wedded life. I neglected to bring any underwear for him. (Hey! It could've happened to anyone! And the fact that he noticed he didn't have any clean underwear meant I'd bagged a keeper!)

The next mystery is whether or not I'll be able to figure out how to use the digital camera on my own. For things technical, I usually defer to the man with the talent in this area. In this shot, my DH is either trying to walk me through downloading my saved pics or he's angling for a quick peek at my cleavage. Either way, he's my hero!

That little black smudge blending into the couch between us is Susie the Wonder Dog (we wonder what kind of dog she is!) Whenever the Dreaded Suitcase appears she feels the need to stick pretty close to me until the coming catastrophe of my departure is up on her. She also wants to be sure I don't forget that she's good to go. (She's logged enough miles under the airline seat in front of me to have her own frequent flyer number!) Please don't feel sorry for her over being left behind this time. Because I'm gone, she'll be upgraded from the foot of the bed to my pillow so she can sleep next to the DH.

If you're going to RT, please look for me there! I'd love to meet you. If you can't make it this year, I'm going to try to provide you with highlights right here, so please pop back by everyday!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Confessions of The Anti-Shopper

Fridays are my regular days to blog at The Chatelaines--a group blog I share with Jennifer Ashley, CL Wilson, Joy Nash, Bonnie Vanak, Gerri Russell and Cindy Holby. Usually, I try to have two different posts--one here and one there, but getting ready for RT next week is compressing my time. Please join me today at The Chatelaines. I reveal the depths of my anti-shopping bias and how a transcendant shopping experience can convert even a jaded non-shopper like me.

Hope to see you in Orlando!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"You like me! You really like me!"

It's always fun to win an award and even better when the kudos come from a friend. My cyber-pal, Teddyree has honored my blog with the Premio Dardos Award. I had no idea what that means or who Premio might be, so like the good researcher I am, I googled it. Premio Dardos means "prize darts" in Italian. (And here I was thinking it might make a good Italian hero's name!)

Teddy says, "This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day."

Despite the fact that this makes me sound a little Mother Theresa-ish, I gratefully accept this award. And now comes the fun part--passing it on! Here's where I get to share the award with other bloggers I enjoy.

1. Gerri Russell's Blog - My friend Gerri can always be counted upon to share some pics of guys in kilts (Hey! That's cultural!)

2. MamaWriters- This energetic group focus on writing romance while juggling the demands of family and career! (Talk about values!)

3. Minds Alive on the Shelves - While not a romance blog, this lively site did host me one day on my 50 day/50 blog VEXING THE VISCOUNT tour. The focus of this blog is more literary than commercial fiction, but the owner Lisa is so gracious, I need to include her here. (And besides isn't this blog's title the best definition of what a book really is?)

4. WritersAtPlay - This was most fun I ever had in a blog interview! Click over for a good giggle if you missed my interview with CL Wilson the first time around. The name of the blog says it all.

5. TalkAboutMyFavoriteAuthors - For sheer volume of romance reviews and info, this blog is up there with the big girls and it's run by one spunky English major/aspiring writer, Phoebe Jordan.

6. Penelope's Romance Reviews - Penny's reading tastes are broad and she gives thoughtful, well-written reviews. I've been fortunate to receive lots of raves for my work, but Penny's insights are fresh and intensely 'quotable'--a quality my editor really prizes in reviews!

Thanks again, Teddyree! This was fun! (Be sure to check out Teddy's THE ECLECTIC READER. She always has something interesting to say.)

Now it's your turn to share, gentle reader. What blogs do you especially enjoy?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Blind Fortune

Please welcome one of my online friends, Joanna Waugh!

Widowed in her late forties, Joanna Waugh retired from her job installing electric meters to read and write Regency romance full-time. (Unlike the heroines she writes about, Joanna’s choices weren't limited to governess or street walker when it came to keeping a roof over her family's head!) She lives a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan and the Indiana dunes. Her debut novel, BLIND FORTUNE, released in trade paperback from Cerridwen Press in February.

Joanna and I had a chance to sit down with a cup of cyber-coffee recently and talk about things. Help yourself to a cup, put up your feet and join us. As always when I have a guest, my words will be in bold, Joanna will be speaking italics today!

Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Emily. And congratulations on the recent release of Vexing the Viscount. I love the tagline – “you only vex the one you love.” My kind of book!

My pleasure, Joanna and thanks for your kind words about my VISCOUNT. Like my heroine Daisy, I loved vexing my viscount hero. Tell me, what do you love most about your hero?

I’m a fan of stories that start out with the main characters disliking each other, then wind up falling in love. I adore a flawed hero redeemed in the end by his love for the heroine. In the opening of BLIND FORTUNE, Lord Granville is rude and arrogant. The fellow nods off on the couch during a morning call on his prospective bride, for heaven’s sake! Not the behavior of a proper Regency gentleman. Neither is Granville’s response very gentlemanly when Lady Fortuna says she intends to do everything in her power to prevent him from marrying her young cousin. Despite her blindness, Fortuna sees the marquess for what he really is—self-serving and emotionless. As for Granville, he’s never been challenged so directly by a woman before! He thinks Lady Fortuna is a termagant in need of a lesson. But the real lesson is for him—and it’s about love.

Writers come from so many different backgrounds and I have to admit, you are the first I've ever met who installed electric meters! I so admire people who are clever with their hands. Who inspired you to start writing?

As a youngster, I loved biographies of early Americans--George Washington, Louisa May Alcott, Stephen Decatur. But it was Disney’s Swamp Fox television series that prodding me into writing historical romance. I taught myself to type so I could pen my first book, The British Are Coming! It was about an American girl falling in love with a British soldier during the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, I never finished it. Right in the middle, I got sidetracked by the Beatles.

I don’t know what ever happened to that book. When my folks moved, it probably was tossed into the trash along with the rest of the flotsam and jetsam.

One short story from that time did survive, however. During my Beatles craze I had a British pen pal. We corresponded all through high school, then lost track of one another in our early twenties. A few years ago, Roger found me on the Internet and we started emailing. Back when we used to correspond by snail mail, I’d written a short story for him. Turns out, he’d kept it all these years! I was thrilled when he emailed me a scanned copy. It was fascinating to discover glimpses of the adult writer I would become in the wordy prose of my teenage self.

What fun! Reminds me of the time I cast myself and 3 of my girlfriends in a MONKEES episode. (Wasn't Davy Jones just the cutest thing?) That was probably my first novella, actually, scrawled on a yellow legal pad. Think I was all of 9. Back to adult fiction. What was the hardest part of Blind Fortune to write?

As the title suggests Lady Fortuna is sightless, which meant I couldn’t use visual cues in her point of view. Not an easy thing to do; it was so darned easy to slip up. Thank heaven for my crit group! They would catch me out every time.

Looking back, I see now that BLIND FORTUNE was another milestone along the road of my evolution as a writer. And not just because it’s my first published book, which certainly is important! BLIND FORTUNE taught me to think about every word I put to paper.

Fascinating and an interesting exercise in using your other senses. Just for fun, what's your favorite place/thing/person in the world?

I love to walk the Lake Michigan shore as the sun sets over the Chicago skyline to the west. I was born and have lived my whole life within the shadow of the Indiana dunes. I’ve always felt tied to the lake by an invisible umbilical cord. When I spend too much time away, it tugs me back.

As for my favorite person…Without a doubt it has to be my late husband, Gary. He was a great storyteller in his own right. No doubt due to those excellent Waugh genes, which my son also inherited. I loved Gary’s sense of humor. At a party once, he and a friend got into a “joke off.” They traded themed stories back and forth--one of them would tell a joke about a dog and the other would counter--until they exhausted each other’s repertoire. Then they started another topic. We poor spectators laughed until the tears ran down our cheeks.

When Gary lost his eyesight to diabetes, he could have turned bitter. No one would have blamed him. Instead, he worked hard to make others comfortable in his company. And he succeeded. When people met Gary, they often were shocked to learn he couldn’t see. BLIND FORTUNE is a testament to his intrepid spirit.

And a beautiful testament, too. Thanks so much for sharing him with us.

I understand you're going to the Romantic Times Convention this year, as I am. Tell me, do you do the whole fairy thing? If so, describe your costume.

(laughing) No fairy costume for me! If I was to dress up, it would have to be as a fairy godmother. I will be attending the fairy ball, however. Last year was my first Romantic Times Convention and I had a fantastic time! I met loads of wonderful people and hope to meet many more next week. And to encourage folks to introduce themselves, I’m holding a contest just for RT attendees.

Drop by my table at the book signing on Saturday, April 25th and register to win a set of custom-made jewelry. No book purchase is necessary. The winner will be notified by email on Monday, April 27th. To see a photo of the jewelry, go to

Sounds like a great way to make some new friends, Joanna! Here's a blurb of BLIND FORTUNE.

When what a lady hears isn’t always the truth, she must learn to see with her heart and trust the rest to…
by Joanna Waugh

They say love is blind, but Lady Fortuna Morley doesn’t believe it. Sightless since birth, she can think of only one reason a gentleman would wed her—for the dowry and three thousand pounds a year her father will provide. She’s in London the spring of 1814 to help launch her younger cousin into society, but prefers living quietly in country with her music. The last thing Fortuna wishes is to cross swords with the arrogant Marquess of Granville.

Charles Lowden, Lord Granville, has decided to take a wife. The bride he’s chosen is thirteen years his junior, but meets all criteria. What he won’t abide is interference from the girl’s impertinent cousin, the outspoken and opinionated Lady Fortuna Morley. The woman is determined to thwart the match. Charles is just as determined to charm Fortuna out of her disdain for him.

What neither expects in this battle of wills is to fall in love.

Here are some other ways to connect with Joanna on the web:

Read excerpts from BLIND FORTUNE, on my website

Purchase the book at:
Cerridwen Press

Be sure to friend me on Myspace
and Facebook

Follow my blog about British customs and traditions at

And last but not least, join my yahoo group

And for my blog readers, Joanna has a special treat!

Leave a comment today and your name goes into a hat for an autographed copy of BLIND FORTUNE. I’ll post the winner tomorrow in the comments section of this article. Be sure to check back!

Thanks again for having me, Emily! See you all at RT!

Thank you, Joanna. I look forward to seeing you in Orlando next week. Well, you heard the woman. Leave a comment or question for a chance to win! Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mr. Romance Contest

Every year my publisher Dorchester sponsors the Mr. Romance Contest at the Romantic Times Convention. That means all week long, aspiring cover models will be mixing with the attendees trying to garner the votes required to be named Mr. Romance (and be featured on a future Dorchester cover!) One of the favorite parts of the competition is the Pose Down. Each competitor appears dressed as a Leisure Book/LoveSpell Hero. Last year, Ryan Gardner appeared as Gabriel Drake, my PIRATE hero. This year, one lucky lad will get to strut his stuff as Lucian Beaumont, Viscount Rutland, my hero from VEXING THE VISCOUNT.

When Dorchester's marketing guru, Erin Galloway asked me to send her an idea about how Lucian might dress, I forwarded this example. Those of you who've seen THE DUCHESS movie will recognize it as one of Ralph Fiennes' (Thanks, Nynke!) outfits. Then Erin asked me to write a little blurb to describe Lucian so the Mr. Romance Contestant will have an idea how to portray him during the posedown. Here's what I sent her:

Lucian Beaumont, Viscount Rutland is every inch a gentleman. But don't let the silks and lace fool you. Beneath the civilized facade, he's darkly dangerous, a wicked swordsman who's not afraid to get his hands dirty. And he's even more dangerous without that silk shirt since the manual labor of excavating a Roman ruin has honed his body to rival a Roman god's. Best of all, Lucian is a rarity for his age and station. He's a virgin. He's been too busy rebuilding his family's fortune to court a bride, too poor to keep a mistress and too fair-minded to ruin a willing serving girl. But Lucian's a quick study and he's looking for the right woman to instruct him in love--a knowledgable woman who will complete his education and teach him all he needs to know about pleasing her!

Anyone want to apply for the position?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Romantic Times Convention

In one week, I'll be heading for Orlando for the Romantic Times Convention. This will be my 4th time for this mega-party and I'm really looking forward to it. It's part fan-fest, part writers' conference, part orgy (Ok, I generally skip that part, but it's there.) I'll be rooming with Bobbi Smith, NY Times bestseller of too many western romances to count! We'll be working together Monday and Tuesday to put on her Aspiring Writer program of workshops. This will be the 3rd year I've done it and it's always such fun.

Then of course, the convention starts in earnest on Wednesday, with workshops and pitches and networking like crazy. Evenings are filled with parties (some of which are costumed affairs!), mixers and dancing with my girlfriends. There is a Mr. Romance Contest for aspiring cover models and I'm happy to report that one of them will be dressed a LUCIAN, my hero in VEXING THE VISCOUNT! Finally on Saturday, there will be a mega-booksale with so many authors, it makes readers' eyes cross to see us lined up, rank upon rank.

Most of all I'm looking forward to catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. Most especially, I want to meet as many of my online friends as possible. So if you are going to RT, please give me a shout out! We need to connect.

Will you be there?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Noli Me Tangere

This is Noli me tangere, which means "Touch me not," painted by Titian in 1511-12. It depicts Mary Magdalen at the moment when she recognizes the risen Christ. The painting hangs in the National Gallery in London and I was priviledged to see it in person a few years ago.

This painting has a wonderful history. During World War II, the museum moved the entire collection to various places in the country to protect it from the Blitz. But the war-weary Londoners pleaded with the authorities to leave them something to remind them that there was hope. They asked for Noli me tangere to remain. People would stand in line for hours in the empty museum for the chance to file past this one single painting. In a time when people didn't know if the next bombing raid would hit their homes, they needed reassurance that there was life beyond this one.

Wishing you a Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and Happy Spring.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Most Terrifying Power of Love

This week, I stumbled across a blog wondering if Christians could write or read erotica. I wouldn't class my work as erotica, but RT does name my books "hot." And yet, I've often slipped in scenes that might fit in anyone's inspirational. I don't think life can be sub-divided neatly into genres the way fiction can and my goal is always to write about life.

Today, on Good Friday, I want to share an excerpt from one of my books written as Diana Groe, SILK DREAMS. My hero, Erik (who won a K.I.S.S Knight in Shining Silver designation from Romantic Times) has lost the woman he loves to a harem and the ship he commanded in a supposedly choreographed "spectacle" in the Miklagaard harbor went down in flames. Erik was the sole survivor, nursed back to health by some men of faith.

On the rickety rooftop of the poorest monastery in the Studion, the foulest section of the great city, the Varangian growled in disgust. He lowered the ocular device that allowed him to watch the couple on the rooftop several blocks away, wincing at the pain the sudden movement cost him.

“Careful, my brother,” the toothless monk at his side said. “Your burns are not yet healed. The skin is fragile at this stage, but God is good. It appears you will live.”

“But I’ll never look like anything again,” Erik said softly.

The monk smiled at him, the expression one of almost childlike sweetness. “It doesn’t matter, Air-ryck.” He struggled to force the percussive foreign name through his lips. “In the eyes of the Almighty, we all look the same.”

Erik glanced once more toward Habib Ibn Mahomet’s rooftop. Even without the looking glass, he could see that Valdis and the eunuch were no longer there.

It was just as well. Seeing the woman he loved beyond his reach would only eat away at his heart the way the cursed Greek Fire had gnawed his flesh. Memories of the spectacle-turned-disaster churned his gut.

His right shoulder was burned. Scarred flesh pebbled his neck and across one cheek. Fire claimed one ear, sizzled away his beard and much of his hair on the right side, but at least it left both eyes intact.

“Your thoughts are troubled, brother,” the monk said. “A peaceful heart will help your flesh mend sooner.”

“Believe me, Nestor, my flesh will be whole ahead of my heart.”

The monk cast a glance toward the silk merchant’s grand house. “The woman is beautiful, without doubt. But be warned by the story of King David. No good can come of gazing at a woman on another man’s rooftop.”

Erik smiled wryly. Almost as soon as Erik had regained consciousness, Nestor began telling him stories to help the time pass quicker. It eased his suffering to listen to tales of wise kings who behaved foolishly and pillars of fire and sons who squandered their inheritance in a far country.

Lately, Erik suspected Nestor told him stories not to keep him amused and distracted from the pain, but to woo him gently into the monk’s faith. There was little chance of that. The Christian’s god was weak and powerless. What kind of god let himself be killed without lifting a finger in protest? A god that puny, who couldn’t even save himself, couldn’t be counted on to come to the aid of his devotees either.

“Who is Olaf?” Nestor asked.

Erik looked at him sharply. He was sure he’d never mentioned his brother to Nestor. “What are you? Some kind of diviner?”

“No, just one who listens, friend. When you were in the throes of fever, you called out the name. Many times. It seemed to give you as much pain as the burn.”

Erik had only nightmarish flashes of the time he languished on the cusp between this world and the next. Rising from the icy mists of Hel, the shade of his brother came to reproach him.

Or to drag Erik back to that cold hall with him.

“It’s a long tale,” Erik said.

“Then I’d better get comfortable.” Nestor settled next to Erik, splaying his gnarled fingers on his knees and looking at him with expectation.

In a flat voice, Erik told Nestor of his wife’s faithlessness and his brother’s betrayal. Then with more difficulty, he relived the killing, or at least as much of it as he could remember through the black berserkr haze.

“So, you have done murder,” Nestor said thoughtfully. “And yet, he was your brother and you loved him, so the memory pains you.”

Tears pressed against his eyes. He blinked them back. He never cried. Not at the funeral biers of his parents. Not even when Olaf’s body was burned before Erik was sentenced to banishment. Not over the men he’d led to their deaths in the Harbor of Theodosius. A warrior didn’t weep. Still, a tear slid down his cheek, scalding a salty path over his abraded skin. He swiped it away, heedless of the extra agony the rough touch cost him.

“Bah! Pain has made me womanish.”

“No,” Nestor corrected. “Do not be afraid to shed tears. You have earned them. The evidence of your remorse gives me hope for your soul. Even our Lord wept. Better men than you have let grief seep from their eyes.”

“I have no doubt of that,” Erik said sourly.

“You were banished for your crime and yet your punishment has brought you no peace.” Nestor seemed to be mulling over the problem as if he were a physic diagnosing a patient. “In ancient times, a murderer might be condemned to drag the body of his victim with him as punishment. Bound wrist to wrist and ankle to ankle with the decaying corpse, the killer would bear a constant reminder of the wrong done. No one could remove it till the bones loosed from their sockets and fell away of their own accord. I cannot see your brother’s body on your back, Erik, and yet you bear it just the same. O wretched man, who will deliver you from the body of this death?”

The image of his brother’s moldering corpse made him want to retch. Nestor was right. Erik bore the load of his crime in his own heart. He’d never really believed in the Christian idea of sin, but he felt the weight of his guilt bearing down on him anyway.

“There is only one thing you can do,” Nestor went on. “You must forgive your brother.”

Erik couldn’t have been more surprised if Nestor had slapped him. “Olaf is dead. Surely there’s no going back now,” Erik stood and paced toward the parapet. “Even if such a thing were possible, I’m the one who needs forgiveness.”

“You’re right in that,” Nestor said agreeably. “Yet, it is a principle woven into the fabric of the universe. In the measure that we forgive others, we ourselves find pardon. Release Olaf from the wrong he did you and you release yourself.”

Olaf’s face rose up in Erik’s mind again, as he was as a boy. A sob fought its way out of Erik’s throat and this time, not a single tear, but a torrent poured from his eyes. He buried his face in his hands and wept like a lost child. From his heart, he forgave Olaf for bedding his wife. He wiped the offense from his mind. He buried the hurt as a dog might bury a bone and resolved not to take it out and worry it again. The knot of bitterness in his chest dissolved into tiny pieces and washed away with the salty river of his tears.

He felt Nestor’s fingers on his shoulder, easing the shudder that coursed through him.

“Yes, my brother,” the little monk said. “Now you have tasted the most terrifying power of Love. The power to forgive.”

As his soul quieted in heart-broken peace, Erik decided maybe the Christian’s god wasn’t as weak as he thought.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What Is She Thinking?

Ever asked that question about the editor you're targeting? Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to peek into her head?

My editor, Leah Hultenschmidt of Dorchester, has made it easy for writers and interested readers to do just that. She posted some of her newest book deals at (Yeah, my next story is one of them, but checking this list gives you an idea of what she's looking for!)

You'll want to bookmark the site. Leah used to be in marketing, so she's saavy about a broad range of topics in publishing.

Oh! And while you're out surfing the web, please stop by to enter my new contest! You just might win a PLEASURING THE PIRATE to take to the beach!

Meriwether (one of my pirates) says, "Shiver me timbers, it's a ripe good read!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Doggone Cute!

A reader recently send me this pic of her puppy, Daisy Jane, with her copy of VEXING THE VISCOUNT! Isn't this too cute! Apparently, Daisy Jane thinks Vexing The Viscount is a "keeper!"

If you take a pic of you, your dog, your pet squirrel or your teddy bear with my book, I'll find a way to post it. If I get enough of them, I'll create a special page on the website (unless my DH who moonlights as 'O Mighty Webmaster' complains that I'm using too many bites.) But I'll find a way to display them one way or another.

Get those cameras clicking!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Publishing Code Words

After I received "the call," I quickly realized that publishing is an alternate universe only occasionally intersecting with our own. It even has its own language, which is puzzling at first for the newly "acquired." I recently ran across this publishing glossary. It might have made my transition easier had I found it earlier, but now just tickles me silly. I've excerpted it here, but if you'd like to read more, please visit My comments are in italics.

ADVANCE: A secret code signaling to the marketing department whether or not to promote a title. (This code is so secret, I've yet to hear anyone in the business admit to it!)

AUTHOR: A large class of individuals (approximately three times as numerous as readers) serving a promotional function in book marketing or providing make-work for editorial interns.

AUTHOR BIO: A piece of creative writing whose length varies inversely with the attractiveness of the person depicted in the AUTHOR PHOTO.

AUTHOR PHOTO: Pictorial fiction. Authors always choose photos that emphasize that quality in which they feel most deficient. (Guilty as charged. I'll take whatever help Glamour Shots can give me!)

BACKLIST: Unsold inventory.

BLURB: A brief noise that embarrasses everyone. (At many publishing houses--mine included--the author does not write the cover blurb. The blurb isn't there to give readers a taste of the author's style. It's there to sell the book and may foreshadow events which never actually happen in the story!)

BOOK DISTRIBUTION: An elaborate system testing the commitment of readers by making sure they cannot obtain specific books too easily. (It's almost like 'Where's Waldo?')

BOOK REVIEW: A recycled press release offered to publishers by newspaper and magazine sales departments as an inducement to advertising. (Occasionally I know for certain a reviewer has not read my book because they referenced a scene mentioned in the not-written-by-me blurb as one they liked/disliked!)

COLLABORATION: A relationship in which one author exploits another. (I don't think any of the IMMORTALS authors would agree. That series has been wildly successful and involved intense collaboration in world-building. My upcoming anthology A CHRISTMAS BALL was a delight to work on. Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson and I all placed our characters at the same grand event. We had to coordinate the time period, decor, even a floorplan for the host's mansion. It was fun!)

COMMERCIAL FICTION: The notion of publishing as a way of making money. (This one has 'em rolling in the aisles in New York!)

COMP COPIES: A publisher’s entire inventory, according to the urgings of his friends and colleagues. (Actually, Dorchester has been terrific about giving me the comp copies I need. They popped for all the Vexing the Viscounts I gave away during my 50day/50blog tour, in addition to the number of comps agreed to in my contract!)

DEADLINE: An item that exists to be renegotiated and revised. In his famous paradox, the Greek philosopher Zeno proved that deadlines can never be met. (Authors tend to 'pooh-pooh' deadlines, but I wish more writers would take them seriously. Perhaps it's because I'm a railroader's daughter and punctuality was next to godliness in our house. Or perhaps it's because one of my books, which was turned in on time, got bumped out of a bookclub distribution because a lead author failed to turn her manuscript in on time, which led to shuffling and scurrying all around. I didn't realize, and I'm sure the other author didn't either, that a missed deadline could negatively impact someone else's career. See? I told you publishing is an alternate universe.)

EDITOR: A writer with a day job. (We laugh, but frankly, I doubt this is the case for most of them. An editor's job requires wearing far more hats than most writers would care to don.)

FANTASY: An author's sales aspirations.

FOREIGN MARKET: The part of the country outside New York City.

GALLEYS: Rows of cubicles staffed by entry-level editors. (Galleys actually are the final proof before the work goes to print. They come, two pages of type per piece of paper, arranged in the same way as the final book will appear. Publishing is constantly streamlining the process. Even in the short length of time I've been published, since 2006, we've eliminated paper submission of manuscripts. Revisions are routinely handled by email. Eventually, galleys will probably be electronic too).

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS: The best place to hide from a congressman. (Interns take note!)

LITERATURE: Designation applied to titles judged unsaleable. (I'm reminded of the Mark Twain quote: "A classic is something everyone wants to have read, but nobody wants to read!")

MIDLIST: A term applied to books that sell in only moderate numbers, a category that covers approximately 99 percent of the entire sales range.

NET RECEIPTS: Gross receipts after discounts, fees, hurts, and returns are deducted, usually a negative number. (Deciphering my first royalty statement was only slightly less complicated than decoding hieroglyphics!)

OPTION CLAUSE/RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL: Motivational fiction. (Au contraire, option clauses have been good for me. Dorchester has a reputation for building careers. They gave me my first shot. It seems only fair to give them first pick of my output.)

PLAGIARISM: Research. (As writers, we are constantly trying to create something fresh. All I can say is, if we want 'intellectual property' to mean something, we'd better make sure the words we claim are our own.)

PUBLICATION DATE (PUB DATE): A sliding holiday based on the phases of the moon.

REJECTION LETTER (FORM): A condensed restraining order serving to justify requests for SASEs.

REJECTION LETTER (PERSONAL): A formulaic literary genre, premised on justifying not reading or misreading a manuscript, in which the narrator grossly exposes both deep character flaws and an absolute blindness to them.

SHELF LIFE: Bookworms.

SPINE: Once an essential aspect of any book, spines are no longer found in the publishing industry. (On this side of the publishing looking glass, given the state of the economy, I'm seeing some amazing examples of almost British 'stiff upper-lips' in New York. Publishing will weather this recession if we all hang together.)

TRADE PAPERBACKS: What readers do instead of purchasing new books. (Personally, I'm thrilled when my readers think enough of my work to share it with their friends. Of course, buying another copy to share so they can plunk one on their 'keeper' shelf is even better, but either way, the more eyes I have on my books, the happier I am!)

Hope you enjoyed this little tongue-in-cheek look at publishing. If you'd like a peek at the whole lexicon, please visit I appreciate them letting me borrow a bit to share with you today. (You see, it's not plagiarism if you footnote properly!)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Entry into Jerusalem

This is Duccio's Entry into Jerusalem. It's a 14th century painting, tempura on wood. I love medieval art because it has funky perspective and an almost contemporary sense of spatial composition. And I also love that so much of the surviving art from that period features sacred themes.

Palm Sunday has always been a puzzlement to me. I'm not quite sure why we celebrate it. Oh, I know the historical account. Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey and the population, swollen with visitors who were there to celebrate Passover, turned out in droves to cheer and wave palm branches. They shouted "Hosanna", which means 'save us,' delirious in their joy.

And in less than a week, the same people clamored for His death.

This story illustrates a sad fact about us. We want what we want when we want it. And how we want it. Save us, God, but save us in the manner we want. And tromp the Romans while You're at it. Smite the "they" while You're busy saving "us."

But God always has something different in mind.

And His different is always far deeper, higher, wiser and more gracious than we can comprehend.

If you are not a Christian, please know that I intend no insult to your beliefs in this post. I view my blog as a place to share what I'm doing and thinking about. I'm a Christian (Yes, it's possible to be a Christian and write "ribald, yet classy" historical romance!) and so I'm thinking about the events of Holy Week.

Feel free to share your thoughts right back.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Contract!

Last Friday I pitched my proposal for STROKE OF GENIUS to my editor and today, she called with an offer! Here's the blurb:

Stroke of Genius
Grace Makepeace, an American heiress, is determined to marry a titled English gent, but her Back Bay bluntness wins her the title “Least Likely to Succeed.” When she takes flirting advice from the acknowledged artistic genius who’s engaged to sculpt a marble model of her hands, she garners the attentions of a duke.

A cynical, but brilliant artist, Crispin Hawke is a keen observer of the ton and enjoys the challenge of helping Grace beat them at their own game. But he begins to wish he was the object of her passion.

STROKE OF GENIUS will be out in June 2010 from Leisure Books. Guess I need to get it written!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What's In A Name?

I'm giving an online workshop on characterization through Charter Oak RWA for the next few weeks and coincidentally starting a new story myself. The class started just today, so there's still time to sign up if you're an aspiring writer. I assigned my students the task of naming their h/h and explaining why they chose those names. After sharing several pages of notes and suggestions for how to breathe life into their h/h, here is the example I gave them using my new cast of characters (and your chance to see how I go about planning out a new book!).

In my new WIP, STROKE OF GENIUS, my heroine’s name is Grace Makepeace. She’s a Bostonian heiress and her Puritan roots are showing. But the name Grace is a bit of a misnomer because Grace is anything but graceful. Tall and gawky, she’s awkward and uncomfortable with most social situations. But because she’s called Grace, there is an implied character growth arc in the name, which gives me some ideas for plot as well.

Grace means “unmerited favor” and carries the connotation of redemption, which also gives me the idea that she’s going to be redeeming someone—most likely my badboy hero. See how the very names of characters suggest plot points?

Grace Makepeace is made up mostly of soft sounds, except for the GR at the beginning, which to me suggests that she has strength of which she’s not yet aware.

I’ll make certain not to have any other characters starting with G in my story and I’m still trying to decide if her name will change. Grace can’t be shortened into a nickname, but she could be given a new name by another character.

Which brings us to my hero, Crispin Hawke.

Crispin is an artistic genius (hence the title of the story!) who’s been engaged to scuplt Grace’s hands in marble. His surname Hawke hints at his keen observation skills and he’s been using them on the ton of London while he practices his art. Cynical, but brilliant, he’s just the man to help Grace beat the ton at their own games.

Crispin means “curly haired,” so looks like my hero is going to have some natural curls. In the time of Byron, this was a good thing for a man. Crispin was also a 3rd century saint, so I can play up my Crispin’s non-saintly attributes.

Crispin Hawke is a strong name, bookended with the hard “K” sound. But the soft ‘h’ in the middle suggests a softer side hidden beneath his carefully placed armor.

Grace will call him ‘Cris’ almost immediately and it will irritate the fool out of him. I have no idea why, but I'm sure I'll find out.

So that's a peek at how choosing the right name can help an author delineate character.

The sketch at the top of this post is actually by Sandro Botticelli, but for "imagineering" purposes, I'm pretending it's a sketch done by Crispin . . . before he meets Grace . . . which bears an uncanny resemblance to her.

Do you have any favorite literary heroes or heroines who have unique names?