Friday, July 31, 2009

Last Day to Vote!

Today is the final day to vote in my STROKE OF GENIUS Name a Character Contest. I've been thrilled by the response and it's been such fun to watch the leading name change, sometimes several times a day. This one's going to be close!

In case you haven't heard about this contest, there's still time (just not much of it!). Every good hero needs a BFF (and trust me, Crispin Hawke, who looks remarkable like the fellow in this delicious Fortin & Sanders pic, is a very BAD hero in the very best way!) But I wanted my readers to help me name this important secondary character for STROKE OF GENIUS.

Back in June, readers sent in their suggestions for the name of Crispin's friend and manservant. Then at the beginning of July, I had a dickens of a time narrowing the field to the top ten names. Here they are in no particular order:

Phineas Rowan
Thaddeus Puck
Caleb Flynn
Gordon Rigsby
Bryce Wickham
Nash Rowley
Tuck Willet
Hoyt Pennington
Addison Quinn
Jasper Willoughby

So which name do you think best fits this quirky, supportive fellow who cuts a wide swath of his own through the ranks of the London ladies' maids? Make your pick and then click HERE to vote!

If you've already voted, you can't vote again, but you can still support your favorite. Please always encourage your family and friends to vote. (They must at least 18 and hopefully someone who'd be interested in reading the finished book!)

Everyone who votes is registered in the drawing for a WHOLE BOX OF BOOKS! It's a great way to stock up on beach reads and you'll know soon if you've won! Please check back here for the results!

Thanks again to everyone who submitted a name and all of you who've voted! I always feel that characters define the course of a book and a character's name is very important. You all have a stake in the story of STROKE OF GENIUS now. I'm working hard to make a good one for you.

If you have a strong opinion about the name you voted for, please leave a comment to share which one and why! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

GOING, Going, gone ...

I called up Diane Stacy (VP of Direct Sales) at Dorchester yesterday because I was getting low on some of my titles. I always like to keep a stash for contest give-aways or if I give a talk somewhere. For example, at my RWA Nationals NEUROTICA Workshop, I gave away Vexing the Viscount or Pleasuring the Pirate to early birds who were willing to sit in the first couple rows! Anyway, I was completely out of MAIDENSONG, my debut title as Diana Groe.

Turns out Dorchester almost is too. Diane S. told me there are only 22 copies left in the warehouse.

This made me both happy and sad. Happy that so many of the books have wandered out into the world. And sad because once these 22 are gone, I don't know when or if more will ever be printed.

MAIDENSONG was a seminal moment for me. It represents so many firsts in my life--first agent, first sale, first cover art (I wept when I saw it because it was far more beautiful that I could've imagined), first review, first release day, first signing, first fan letter, first international sale, the list goes on. But what I'd really like to tell you about is the story itself.

MAIDENSONG is the word the Vikings used to describe a "lovestory." Turns out they thought it was such a dangerous thing, skalds (Norse bards) were forbidden to create one, under pain of death. So of couse, they told many of them! My heroine Rika is such a skald and when she spins a tale, even the toughest Northman lays down his supper knife to listen.

My hero Bjorn is the younger brother of a powerful and corrupt jarl (we get the English word "earl" from this Norse title). Bjorn is oathbound to deliver Rika to marry his brother's Arab trading partner in far off Miklagaard (Ancient Byzantium). As you probably guessed, this is not only the story of a journey down the wild rivers of Europe, but also a journey from one heart to another. How they live out their love without sacrificing honor is the theme of MAIDENSONG.

I love this story. The characters still live as vibrantly in my mind as when I first captured them on paper. As far as I know, they are still cruising the fjords in Bjorn's dragonship and making love on a bed of wolf pelts.

My Diana Groe tales are different fare from my Emily Bryan books, darker and rough-edged. They're not quite safe. I've been known to kill off even characters I loved in order to serve the story. But if you haven't read MAIDENSONG and would like to explore love in the Dark Ages, I suggest you hurry. When they're gone, they're gone.

Read an excerpt.

Claim a MAIDENSONG of your own: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Dorchester Publishing

From time to time, we hear laments about the fact that historical romance should more accurately be termed Georgian-Victorian English romance. What do you think? Do you ever look for books set in unusual eras and places?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This 'n' That

Today, I'm cleaning out my blog cupboard, if you don't mind. It just wants a bit of tidying up.

First let me congratulate two of our blog winners! Let's hear a round of applause for HouseMouse and Bobbie of BookReviews by Bobbie! You two have just won a signed copy of Melissa MacNeal's TEMPTED BY A COWBOY! Thanks for leaving a comment, ladies.

Next, my friend Rachel Moniz gave me this delightful blog award to thank me for my "fun topics." Thanks, Rachel. I do what I can, but this little blog of mine wouldn't be very lively without the comments of my 'touristas' (you know who you are!) and friends. So this award is really for all of you.

Part of the fun of receiving blog awards is getting to pass them on. I'd like to send A Lovely Blog Award to Sandra Marshall , who also happens to be one of my WisRWA chapter mates. (No, I've never lived in Wisconsin, but I've got a sort of I-90 theme going with my RWA memberships--New England Chapter, WisRWA and Eastside in Seattle--all connected by a long northerly interstate highway!) Also, I'd like to recognize Ruth Hunter's THE SAGE JOURNAL with a Lovely Blog Award. Ruth is a member of Ozark Romance Authors (not an RWA chapter, but still a terrific group of writers I met when I lived in the Ozarks.)

The final days for voting in my STROKE OF GENIUS Name a Character Contest are upon us. If you haven't weighed in with your favorite, now is the time. Not only will you be helping me choose the name for an important character in my current WIP, you'll be entered in a drawing for a whole box of books! The drawing will be held on August 1st.

And lastly, I thought I'd share what I'm reading right now. (Yes, yes, I'm still writing furiously on STROKE OF GENIUS by day, but even authors need time off for good--or in my case, bad--behavior.) And I'm pleased to announce that I hold in my trembling hands a new favorite, GODDESS OF THE HUNT by Tessa Dare. Tessa and I connected in DC recently and she'll be visiting us here on my blog on August 17th. You won't want to miss her. She's a doll.

Ok, now it's your turn to share what you're reading. What's on your bedside table?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Romance Reader in Chief

A couple weeks ago, I caught a story on NPR of professor Jack Murnighan's guilty secret passion for romance novels. He reads them furtively in his office when he should be preparing his next lecture on Beowulf.

Now the Huffington Post ran this pic of President Obama accepting a signed copy of Geri Krotow's A Rendevous to Remember. Geri signed it for Michelle and the First Lady made a point to come over to thank her personally. (Judging from the photo, Michelle may have a time wrangling it away from her husband.)

The HP goes on to suggest that literary circles will be dismayed that Michelle might be reading (insert horrified gasp!) genre fiction. First of all, Michelle Obama is entitled to read whatever she wants, just like the rest of us. And secondly, there is nothing inherently wrong with genre fiction. I tend to agree with Mark Twain on this matter. He said,
"A classic is something everyone wants to have read... but nobody wants to read!"

Don't get me wrong. I love the classics of literature. I didn't cheat, like my DH did, to pass my World Lit classes. (It was all about doing as little as possible with him. That bad boy always started at the back of the book and read forward till he had enough of the gist of the novel to write his paper! He managed a B without finishing a single tome! What do you expect from a Math major?) Even now, when I want my presuppositions challenged, when I want to think deeply about serious issues, I'll turn to a literary title.

But sometimes, I just want to be told a story. And there's nothing wrong with letting a well-told tale wash over you.

Living in New England, where only 12% of the population will admit to ever having read a romance novel, I feel a little vindicated by this story. Writing novels that will entertain and encourage people to feel happy is a worthy goal.

Can it be that in these uncertain times, folks in academia and the halls of power are finally realizing a guaranteed happy ending is a force for good? Why are they so surprised when people opt for feel-good fiction when their 401K is tanking and pink slips loom?

Why does the romance genre carry such a stigma with opinion-makers?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Will the Real Courtesan Please Stand Up?

Yesterday I got a call from my mom.

She's reading VEXING THE VISCOUNT and she was fascinated by the journal my heroine Daisy uses to learn about men. It's the memoirs of the French courtesan, Blanche La Tour, a woman who has plenty to remember!

Anyway, my mom wondered if there really was a Mlle. La Tour. I suspect she wanted to read the actual journal rather than rely on the excerpts from it at the start of each VEXING THE VISCOUNT chapter. She thought the courtesan sounded wise and witty and a little sad. She wanted to know more about her.

Imagine my chagrine when I had to admit there was no Blanch La Tour--other than the one who lives in my head! I had released my "inner courtesan" to create this rather naughty mentoring character. And the only parts of her ficticious journal in existence are the snippets "quoted" in VEXING THE VISCOUNT.

Mom was shocked. She totally believed there had been a living, breathing Blanche in the 18th century and I had somehow unearthed her memoirs. (I chose to take this as a compliment, but then I also have to square with the idea that my mother now knows I have a French courtesan in my head!) All I could do was point her to my website, where I talk a bit more about Blanche and a courtesan's lifestyle. All I know is the result of careful research (in the library!) I promise!

Is there something about you you'd rather your mom not know?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

La Nora and Moi

Yep! You're looking at a serious fangirl moment.

I met lots of my favorites at RWA Nationals (Madeline Hunter, Sherry Thomas, Elizabeth Hoyt, Jo Beverley, Tessa Dare, etc), but getting a pic with Nora Roberts was the highlight of the week. (Thanks to my friend and NECRWA chapter mate, Marie Force! Her daughter insisted that she get a pic with Nora and she was kind enough to snap one for me as well.)

Nora is really an amazing talent and has a work ethic the rest of us would do well to emulate. She so deserves the success she enjoys.

Who inspires you?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Quick Announcement

Avast, matey! Join me and the crew at RomanceWritersRevenge today for a little pre-weekend wackiness and a chance to win either a critique of your writing or a signed copy of PLEASURING THE PIRATE! Either way, watch out for the undead monkey!

Tempted by a Cowboy

Please welcome my friend, Melissa MacNeal. She's written an exciting new novella in TEMPTED BY A COWBOY, which features a scene from the Wyo Rodeo. When I used to live in Wyoming, the Indian Relay Races (I'm not being politically incorrect--That's what the race was called.) were the most wildly exciting part of the Wyo, so I'm jazzed about this story. As usual when I have a guest, my words are in bold, my guest is speaking italics. Take it away, Melissa!

Ok, so you’re sitting alone at the counter at your local diner, drinking a Diet Coke, when the younger, totally hot Native American stranger on the next stool propositions you. Do you:

1) Stare blankly and say, “You wanna what? With me?”
2) Look around frantically to see if anyone you know heard him
3) Say, “Oh, no, I’m not that kind of woman.”
4) Say yes and have the time of your life in a no-tell motel room.

You probably won’t have to guess which option Diana Grant chooses, given that she’s my heroine in an erotic novella, “Long Hard Ride,” but believe me, she was not expecting her day to go that way! She’s just learned that the bank is foreclosing on her ranch, because paying for her late husband’s liver transplant totally drained their accounts. Worse yet, the bank prez is really after her land so he can develop it into resort condos, and his wife has already decided she wants her luxury digs right where Diana’s cozy home now sits. The bulldozers are poised, ready to rip the guts out of the Montana horse ranch she and her husband Garrison have loved for twenty years.

I knew that much shortly after my Aphrodisia editor invited me to write a story for a cowboy anthology (TEMPTED BY A COWBOY, out now!), but then I had to get past the premise and actually concoct a story for this gal! As often happens for me, I sorta set my brain out of gear for the next week or so and the pieces of backstory and research came at me from several different directions! It’s a process that just happens for me, mainly because I’ve come to expect it…and because I now believe it’s how the Universe works for me when I invite it to.

So, I had this premise in my mind, about this beleaguered widow around my age…and I decided I was in the mood for a Native American rodeo rider. Used to live in a rodeo town, so I love the sport and am familiar with its inner workings. And hey, if the fantasy of broad shoulders, cinnamon skin, and long black hair works for me, it works for millions of women, not? Was flipping through my assortment of folders and saw one with a white horse on the front. Ta-DA! Michael White Horse became my hero!

Then I ventured to the RT conference and saw my writer friend, Emily Bryan—yeah, you KNOW her! ; ) We caught each other up on our current projects, and she proceeded to tell me about the Indian Relay at the rodeo in Sheridan, Wyoming. And as she described all these young red-skinned guys riding bareback at breakneck speeds, wearing only loincloths and body paint, I knew I had to include such a scene in this story! Got a few pertinent details from her, as research, and my imagination was off and running!

Day or so after I got home, I mentioned the premise to my old college flame, Jack, with whom I exchange the occasional email. So happens Jack, an accountant, used to do the books for a Native American casino on a nearby reservation in upstate New York, and he couldn’t wait to tell me how totally messed up the accounts were. Seems the guys in charge were more bookies than bookkeepers: they went from running a penny-ante Bingo hall to managing a casino that brought in hundreds of thousands each week. Large sums went unaccounted for—or were spent for questionable causes—and Jack, as a white guy, knew damn well he was not being told everything that should’ve been reported.

So voila! I had Michael’s back story and a family conflict he wasn’t at all comfortable with: he’d quit keeping the books for his tribe’s casino. Went back to riding saddle broncs before he got too old to realize his dream of winning at the ProRodeo championship in California. He’s on his way to his first small-time event when his truck breaks down, in the pouring rain, and he’s waiting for the tow truck in the local greasy spoon when Dejected Diana plops down on the stool beside him.

But it’s not enough to assume the rest of the story happens at that nearby no-tell motel, even if this is erotic romance! To make your characters real—the kind readers worry about--they have to have an issue or two that seems insurmountable.

So happens, my oldest brother had just left his job to go on total disability, in preparation for a liver transplant. As we heard about the preparation process, and the way his anti-rejection drugs would run him $6,000 a month in addition to the expenses of the transplant, I was gobsmacked. Unless you have really good insurance (not part of the package for the very small company where my brother worked, unfortunately) how can you even dream of undergoing an organ transplant? Yet if you’re his forty-something wife, how can you not insist that he sign up for this life-saving procedure?

So Diana’s backstory and present conflicted situation was partially drawn from what I was hearing about a real-life family situation. I’m very thankful my brother is still hanging in there, awaiting a donor match. Diana’s husband underwent his transplant, but didn’t fare so well. And after he passed on, his expenses did not: not only is Diana a worn-out widow from being a caretaker, she’s about to lose her home, too.

And Michael, bless him, is a sucker for a damsel in distress. Even if she’s a forty-something damsel with red-rimmed eyes who wears careworn clothes and has a crass bank president posting auction signs on her property.

I did a little online research to figure out Michael’s rodeo circuit route, and to place Seven Creeks ranch in Wolf Point, Montana (where there just happens to be a Native American casino), and from there, my story wrote itself.

Well, practically! I got by with a little help from my friends Emily and Jack, tossed in some real-life financial crises, and when the pieces fell nicely into place I entitled it “Long, Hard Ride.” Seems Michael and Diana play that title from a lot of angles, and I hope you’ll enjoy their story!

Thanks for coming along for this ride! (And gee, if a total stranger in a roadside diner ever propositions you, may your ride be as wild and exciting as this one turned out to be!) As my prize for those who have read this entire post, I’m giving away two signed copies of TEMPTED BY A COWBOY: leave a comment about how YOU would respond to those opening questions, and we’ll pick our winners!

Thanks, Melissa! Did you hear that? Leave a comment after this excerpt from TEMPTED BY A COWBOY and two of you will win a cowboy of your own!

Diana gasped at the spectacle playing out before her. Ebony-haired and bare-chested, the Native American riders leaned into the first turn with a ferocity that drove her to the edge of her seat. It was a rush of glistening dark skin and pounding ponies’ hooves. War whoops rang out as the riders’ feathers and hair flew in the wind. She marveled at the men’s dexterity as the pack thundered around the final turn of the first lap, coming toward her...the proud, lean bodies and intense expressions defined by high cheekbones, sharp noses and raven hair. They made a formidable sight with their team symbols painted on their chests and feathers that matched those entwined in their mounts’ manes.

She raised the binoculars. Michael looked so damn good: confident and competitive as he maintained his place near the front of the group. Her palms itched to cover the shiny red hand prints on his chest, and to feel the thunder of his heartbeat. His bare thighs bunched as he urged his horse toward the first exchange. She longed for the next time his determined squint would be focused on her with such intensity...

What does it feel like to be racing a horse with your privates pressed against its spine? The wicked whisper in her head made Diana squirm. While the contestants varied in height and body structure, there wasn’t a one she’d kick out of bed.

And what an awesome sight as the riders finished their first lap! Each man vaulted from his galloping pony onto the next mount that awaited him, prancing and tossing its head. With a slap and a cry, the hostlers urged them on while other wranglers recovered the spent horses: the handlers’ shirts matched their riders’ paint, so it was easy to distinguish the various teams. And it was a miracle no one got trampled during this complicated, colorful, exhilarating exchange.

Michael was a study in male grace as he urged his second mount into a tight gallop. Diana followed his progress through this lap and the next with the binoculars. When he vaulted midstride onto his final horse, she shot up from her seat.

With a wild cry that sounded suspiciously like her name, Michael shot forward. The frenzied audience cheered, yet all she saw was Michael White Horse riding low and sleek and fast, a raven-haired warrior astride a black. Only the contrast in their coloring distinguished horse from rider as they rounded the first turn. His loin cloth flapped and the pony’s haunches bunched as they galloped low into the next turn. Unbound manes and red feathers flapped in the wind. Her heart was beating so hard she couldn’t breathe. Diana could only gaze in wonder at this primal display of man and animal pitted against time and distance. It was all about testosterone and sweat and adrenaline. And it was the sexiest thing she’d ever seen.

As a fierce whoop rang out above the others, Michael shot forward from the pack as though his life depended on winning. God, he looked glorious! How did he hang on without a saddle? How did he control his mount with only that rope? She was a pretty fair rider herself, but never had Diana witnessed such formidable power--such oneness between horse and rider. Gripping the binoculars, she panted, “Go, Michael! Go, Michael! Bring it on home!”

As he shot across the finish line, the crowd erupted in whoops and applause. With tears streaming down her cheeks, Diana joined in until her throat went raw and her hands hurt.

“And the winner is--Michael White Horse!” the announcer proclaimed as the rest of the contestants galloped past. “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it for this fine rider from northern Montana!”

It was a moment like she’d never known, watching Michael leap from his mount to dance in a triumphant circle with his face uplifted and his hands held high. It gave her a pretty fine shot of his thighs in that skimpy loincloth, too. And when Michael’s eyes found hers, they branded her with his potent fire, as though he’d left a smoldering hand print across her heart to match the one on his own. She held her breath, oblivious to the spectators around her.

“Hey, lady, you want to move it already?”

Diana flushed at the stares of the people in her row. She made her way down the grandstand steps, engulfed by the chattering sea of people, her heart still hammering to the beat of those ponies’ hooves. Michael had told her to meet him at the truck, and as she gazed out over the vast field full of vehicles, she tried to recall which row it was in. The rest of the week was theirs to enjoy as they headed to San Bernardino, California, and she had no trouble imagining how they’d spend most of it.

An arm hooked around her shoulder and she gasped. Up close, red war paint and feathers looked truly startling. Michael laughed, swallowing her surprise in a fierce, ravenous kiss.

“Let’s take a shortcut to the truck,” he murmured against her ear. “Time for the real games to begin, angel.”



Thanks for sharing, Melissa. Don't forget everyone! Leave a comment for two chances to win a Cowboy of your own!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Alpha Heroes and Why We Love Them

Politically correct? No way! Alphas don't give a dang what anyone thinks of them. They do what they want, say what they want, and, in the case of my pirate hero, take what they want. But if Alphas are such knuckle-dragging Neanderthals, why do we love them?

For one thing, they are frequently damaged in some way. Gregory House is wracked with constant pain. Jennifer Ashley's Ian MacKenzie suffers from Aspergers Syndrome centuries before it was diagnosed. Edward Cullen is undead and unhappy about it. In Loretta Chase's LORD OF SCOUNDRELS, her hero Dain was convinced as a child that he was a monster, unworthy of love. And as a man, he set out to prove them right. If you haven't read this terrific story, I urge you to run out and find a copy today! It's Beauty and the Beast writ large.

Alphas aren't limited to historical venues. My DH received the first season of 24 as a Father's Day gift and we sat down to watch it. (Warning: The series affects the nervous system like heroin. We had to finish the whole thing in just a couple of days!) The hero Jack Bauer is an uber-alpha. Smart, tough, overflowing with physical courage, he does what needs to be done, regardless of the personal consequences. He exhibits one of the most attractive qualities of an alpha--self-sacrifice.

But not all alphas are so high-minded. Bad boy heroes have captured our imagination since Bronte first created Heathcliff. There is an enduring feminine myth that any man, no matter how degenerate, can be brought to heel and reformed if the right woman sets out to reclaim him. While this makes for engaging fiction, I suspect actual cases of bad boys turning good can be counted on one hand.

So what about you? Do you like alpha heroes? Do they make you want to run the other direction? Who is your favorite Alpha?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Anything can be Funny

Last week in DC, I gave my NEUROTICA Workshop (No, it's not about writing some hot new brand of erotica! It's not a sex talk. It's a funny talk. Better luck next time!) I firmly believe we can choose to laugh at anything, so I always end that workshop with my colon cancer spiel.

Last year, just before Christmas, most of you know I was diagnosed with colon cancer. My oncologist gave me this little blue awareness ribbon. I was so relieved I was when I saw it was blue. I mean... just imagine what color it might have been...

Anyway, the cancer came as a total surprise to me. I had no symptoms, no family history. But I had an eager beaver physician who convinced me that I deserved a colonoscopy. Far be it from me to turn down something I deserve!

Long story short, I was hustled into surgery where I met this extremely handsome surgeon. No lie, I'd love to have him on the cover of my next book. A couple of my friends asked if I minded that my surgeon was so cute. Not a bit. If I take my clothes off and lay down for a guy, he better be cute.

Anyway, the surgery was successful and because I had that screening colonoscopy, we caught the cancer early enough that it hadn't spread. No chemo, no radiation, thank you, God! If it doesn't return in 5 years, I'll be declared “cured.”

So now everytime I speak, I preach the value of a screening colonoscopy. This cancer is very survival if found early, so fear shouldn't keep anyone away. Embarrassment might, so I want you to think about this.

First they give you really good drugs, so you don't remember a thing.

And lastly, however unpleasant a screening is, it helps to remember there's a doctor on the other end saying to himself, “This is what I wanted to do when I grew up?”

I'm off to my oncologist this morning for a quarterly checkup. I feel terrific, so I'm expecting a green light. Thanks again for all the prayers and well wishes you've sent my way!

'Life may not be the party we hoped for... but while we are here we might as well dance!'~ Anonymous

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Must a Romance have a Happy Ending?

Fashions in literature change over time. In the 70s and 80s, romances were filled with rape fantasies, which women shudder at now. I've been involved in a discussion over at GoodReads for the last couple weeks that has me wondering if another distinctive of the romance genre may be on its way out.

Does a romance have to have an HEA ending?

Purists contend that it does. A "happily ever after" is part of the romance novelist's contract with her readers. No matter how awful things get, somehow it will all end well.

Still others say "happy for now" is sufficient or even just a "satisfying" ending, will do. Insisting on a HEA means even classics like GONE WITH THE WIND, which is primarily about a love/hate relationship cannot be technically termed a romance.

Where is the balance between "formula" and realism? Do you feel cheated if the H/h don't fully commit to each other by the end of the book?

What do you think?

PS. After you leave a comment here, please pop over to my STROKE OF GENIUS Name a Character Contest and cast your vote for your favorite name if you haven't done so already. Voting continues till August 1st and then the drawing will be held and one lucky voter will receive a WHOLE BOX OF BOOKS (all of them with a guaranteed HEA)!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Home Again!

RWA in DC was a great time, but it's grand to be home in Boston! I'm sorry I didn't post while I was there. The Marriott charged $12.95 a day for an internet connection, even for its wifi in the lobby and it was a matter of principle not to pay for something Holiday Inn Express includes for free. (Especially when you consider the ridiculous room rate we were charged by the Marriott! And I talked to a couple authors who paid the $12.95 for a connection but dropped it after one day because it was so spotty.)Anyway, I'll give you the rundown now.

I had countless fangirl moments--rubbing shoulders with the likes of Sherry Thomas, Tessa Dare, Madeline Hunter, Elizabeth Hoyt, Jo Beverley--all my favorites! I'm hoping to have several of them on as blog guests soon.

Meeting my new agent (Natasha Kern) and her assistant Becky was a real treat. Natasha is a real dynamo and I think we'll work well together.

I spent some time with the Lollies (Ladies of Leisure!) CL Wilson, Christie Craig, Jade Lee, Colleen Thompson (who was up for a RITA in a field crowded with all the big names in the romantic suspense genre and she fit right in with them!) Angie Fox, Cindy Holby, Bonnie Vanak, Natale Stenzel, Anna DeStefano, and newcomer Caroline Fyffe. I also had a lovely, tear-inducing chat with Diane Stacy (VP of Direct Sales for Dorchester) about life, love, books and everything in general. She remains one of my favorite people of all those I've met since I first published.

My humor workshop went off well. It really helped that my mom gave me something to start with. I was talking to her before I left and confessed that I was a little worried about giving the workshop because comedy is hard and I've seen humor workshops really fall flat. She said, "Nonsense! You have so much to share. Just go down there and elude confidence!" My workshop attendees thought that was a real hoot, typical motherly advice and a wonderful example of malapropism all at the same time! Thanks, Mom.

A big part of what made my conference special was getting to know my roommate, May Boonpitak. May is from Thailand and we first met a few years ago when MAIDENSONG (my debut Diana Groe title) came out. She'd read it and made a point of finding me at RT to tell me she loved it. She's a delightful person and it was fascinating to learn more about how people live in her country (She thinks Americans are mean to kick their kids out of the house when they reach adulthood. She shares a home with her parents, sister and nephew. No one ever has to live alone.) Anyway, I loved sharing my 'down time' with her.

And now I can't wait to start doing what my agent says is my Prime Directive. WRITE MY FINGERS OFF!

P.S.--Voting is still open for my STROKE OF GENIUS Name a Character Contest. Everyone who votes is entered into a drawing to win a WHOLE BOX OF BOOKS! Please help me name an important character in my current WIP by casting your vote today!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What Else to Pack

Aside from the right clothes (still not sure I'm settled in that department!), there are some essential things a writer should bring to a great conference like RWA Nationals. And they don't have to fit in your suitcase. Here's my list:

1. Patience--RWA isn't DisneyWorld, but there will be lines--for registration, for free books, for food. Use the time to make friends with your fellow line-dwellers.

2. Social Courage--As writers, we tend to be a little introverted. Resist the urge to find people you already know to sit with for meals. Most attendees are either published or working toward it. You already have plenty in common with them. Half the world is waiting for the other half to say "Hello." Be in the "Hello" half.

3. Room Avoidance--Don't cocoon in your hotel room. Ok, an occasional "gotta-put-my-feet-up" is allowed, but remember you're there to learn, to connect with writing friends and to network with industry professionals. You can't do that if you're watching Pay-per-View.

4. Teachable Heart--Writing is an ocean and I've only dabbled my toes in the shallow end. There is always more to learn about the craft.

5. Common Sense--No editor or agent stalking. Try not to stare when Nora Roberts walks by. (It's perfectly ok to wish for a little of her mojo to wash over you, but don't be obvious about it.)

6. Open Mind--This specifically refers to attending the General Meeting which I fear will turn out to be a gripe session of catfight proportions, if the message boards and blogs leading up to it are anything to go by. There will always be tension in an organization that strives to serve such a diverse membership. In a group this large, we need to give each other the benefit of the doubt and believe the best of each other. Remember what unites us. Whether we write inspirationals or erotica, the common thread is love. I hope we show each other a little.

7. A Plan--I have a number of meetings planned (very excited about meeting my new agent, Natasha Kern and her assistant, Becky!), but I'm taking care to leave room for some serendipity. You never know when you'll run someone whose ideas will revolutionize your writing or your career. Factor in some down time. Otherwise, by Saturday night, you'll be stumbling about on swollen feet, blubbering incoherently.

When I went to my first Nationals (2003 NYC!) I was unpublished (unless you count letters to the editor of the local newspaper!) with only a sad little western manuscript to my credit (a manuscript that still lurks in obscurity with the dust bunnies under my bed! And deserves it!) I didn't have an agent and couldn't even get a pitch appointment (in retrospect, probably a good thing. See sad little western comment above.) But the conference jazzed me up and for the first time, I felt like a real writer.

I missed the 2004 conference because my DH was out of a job (along with the rest of the R & D department in the company). If your family is going through a period of unemployment, I feel your pain. I've been there and it's rough, but it doesn't mean you have to give up your dream. Thanks to my e-critique partner, Darcy Carson, who delivered regular kicks in the pants when I needed it, I kept writing. When I attended the 2005 RWA Conference in Reno, I had a contract for my first book MAIDENSONG in my hot little hands.

Each year, as my understanding of publishing changes, my conference experience changes as well. I've met publishing powerhouses like Sue Grimshaw (Borders' romance buyer) and opinion-makers Barbara Vey (PW Beyond her Book) and Chicago Tribune's John Charles. I've learned from authors I respect and admire: Jo Beverley, Jayne Ann Krentz, Lisa Jackson and Anne Stuart. I still enjoy the workshops, but I spend more time networking now. That's the real beauty of the RWA Nationals. It offers something for every author, no matter where she/he may be along the writing road.

So if you're attending, I hope to see you there. I'll try to be the one who says "Hello" first.

And if you're not attending, I'll be posting updates on the conference each day right here. With pictures, if I can work the camera. And if I can get a decent wifi connection. The DH (my personal computer guru) won't be with me for this trip (heavy sigh!). Say a prayer for the anti-techno queen!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Time to Pack

I'm starting to pack for my trip to DC for RWA Nationals. I've heard it said that men dress to impress women. And women dress to impress other women. It might be true. And if it is, I'm in such trouble.

I write full time, so my work uniform is usually raggy sweats and my faded black one-size-fits-all T-shirt dress. I only put on shoes when it's time to take the dogs out! Clothing has never been a big priority for me (anyone who's seen my wardrobe agrees with that assessment!) But for the 5 days in DC, I have to look like it is. I so need the gang from WHAT NOT TO WEAR to swoop in and remake me.

Since that's not going to happen, it's time for me to suck it up and take a hard look at my closet. I bought a couple new outfits for RT last April, but the dress code for RWA is much more business-like. So, much as I hate to admit it, I'll have to go shopping.

Those of you who follow my blog know I believe there is a level in hell where people are forced to wander a mall looking for something no one is selling. Shopping falls somewhere near having a root canal in my list of least fun things to do. That's because I've had so many shopping disasters in the past. Though last time I shopped, I stumbled into to a store where everything fit and they were having a gimungus sale. It was a totally zen-like experience.

And one I fear I won't be able to recreate. So cross your fingers for me on Monday. I'm headed for the mall.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Going Dutch!

I'm soooo excited! I just have to share!DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS (which is currently up for a Book Buyers Best Award) is already available in the Dutch language. But I just received a letter from Dorchester letting me know that PLEASURING THE PIRATE and VEXING THE VISCOUNT have just sold to a Dutch publisher and will follow their older sister to the land of Hans Christian Andersen.

When I was growing up, my dad always warned me that certain things would get me "in Dutch," which was his way of saying "Stay out of trouble!" However, the Dutch language has been a lucky one for me. My debut Diana Groe book MAIDENSONG was my first title to sell in Dutch.

Then ERINSONG followed quickly. As you can see, the Dutch publisher produces its own covers for the books they choose to market. (Thanks again, Nynke for helping me find this cover art!)

As soon as I learn what the Dutch make of my PIRATE and VISCOUNT, I'll be posting those too!

Have a wonderful weekend. The DH and I are planning to go to Boston Harbor to see the flotilla of Tall Ships that are visiting now. What are you doing?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Who's Going to RWA Nationals?

I am, I am! (Hopping up and down and waving my hand over my head!) I leave for DC next Wednesday morning (by way of connecting in Cincinnati--don't ask! I gave up trying to figure airlines out a long time ago.) I'm looking forward to a number of great things.

First there's a booksellers & librarians mixer on Wednesday afternoon (provided I can slog from the airport to the hotel in time.) It's always fun to meet the people who I hope will put my books in the hands of a new reader. Then there's the Literacy Bookfair at 5:30. Thanks to the generosity of our publishers who DONATE the books so RWA gets all the profit for their charity, RWA is able to support literacy projects aimed at women all over the globe. I'll be there along with several hundred of my writer friends, signing and having fun!

At this RWA, I'll meet my new agent for the first time! (Sadly, my previous agent had to close her doors due to health issues.) But I recently signed with the fabulous Natasha Kern! We've had several very productive phone calls and she's already given me many things to think about. I'm looking forward to meeting her and her assistant, Becky in person.

On Friday, I'm giving my first ever RWA Nationals workshop: Neurotica: How Adding Humor Can Jumpstart Your Career like Crazy! (It'll be Friday the 17th, 2-3PM in the Maryland C room in case you're interested!) I've done workshops for RT, PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association), New England Chapter RWA, Iowa Romance Novelists, Eastside RWA in Seattle, and Ozarks Romance Authors. But this is my first time at RWA, so I'm a little nervous about how it will go.

And last, but by no means least, I'm hoping to meet YOU! Please let me know if you'll be going to RWA in DC. I'd love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Look, Ma! No Oven Mitts!

Today is going to be a sort of "catching up" post, tying up loose threads from recent blogs. We'll start with one that relates to my OVER PROTECTIVE MOTHERS CLUB. Here's a picture my little scoot of a daughter sent me from her 4th of July celebration (Please note: Against all her early training, she elected NOT to wear oven mitts when she did her sparkler!) You know, you do what you can. You try to raise them right, but sometimes, kids are just determined to rebel.

WINNER ALERT! This next loose thread comes from Phyllis Campbell and her post about Love Comes Blindly. She's declaring EVERYONE who left a comment the day she was here a WINNER! So, Carol L, Heather D, Jane L, Ibeeeg, and Patricia B (along with moi!) have won a free ebook. Please send Phyllis an email at phylliscampbell84302(at) (Use the real @ symbol of course. I'm just trying to confuse the blog crawlers.) You see, it really pays to post a comment!

And lastly--an update on my STROKE OF GENIUS Name a Character Contest. I'm thrilled to report the voting has been fast and furious and the field is spread rather like a golf tournament--a couple names running neck and neck, another one stroke back and all the rest well within striking distance. I found this picture to use for more inspiration for my as-yet-unnamed character. You have to pretend he has red hair, but I love the frenetic energy and the onery expression on his face. He's up to something. Probably several somethings.

Or someones.

But what is his name? Here are the top ten finalists:

Phineas Rowan
Thaddeus Puck
Caleb Flynn
Gordon Rigsby
Bryce Wickham
Nash Rowley
Tuck Willet
Hoyt Pennington
Addison Quinn
Jasper Willoughby

Please cast your vote right now. Everyone who does is entered in a separate drawing for a big box of beachreads! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Men are from . . . Venus?

In May my DH and I took a cruise to Bermuda. We had a great time and part of the fun was the onboard art auction. I wanted this embellished serigraph on wood. The woman in the painting has an impish, almost elvish look about her. She's definitely up to something. There seemed to be a lot of emotional content. I thought she'd be interesting to look at and build a backstory about.

My DH wanted this lithograph on silk of . . . a boat. Ok, the way the artist handled representing the water is mildly intriguing, but it's just a boat. It doesn't make me feel anything. Where's the emotional content?

My DH said, "Suppose a guy rowed his girl out on a moonlit evening in the boat? What if a kid went fishing with his granddad in it? What if a guy built the boat while he mourned someone? Is there emotional content now?"

His imagination shamed me.

And it reminded me that men have just as many emotions as we women do. They just hold them in or express them in different, more concrete ways than we tend to. They may not be from Venus, but their planet is much closer to ours than I suspected.

Oh, and just in case you're wondering, we bought both art pieces.

Has the guy in your life surprised you lately? Please share.

Quick note: Voting for my STROKE OF GENIUS Name A Character Contest is going hot and heavy. Be sure to cast your vote for the best name! You might win a whole box of beachreads!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Guest Blogger Phyllis Campbell

Sometimes, I host guests here on my blog. Today please welcome Phyllis Campbell. As always when I have a guest, my words are in bold and my guest is speaking in italics. Take it away, Phyllis!

The Wait Is Over!

A few years ago, I started a Victorian series, the stories mainly around three brothers: Nicholas Fielding, Gregg Fielding, and Ian Fielding. My reader started with MY HEART BELONGS TO YOU (out of print), and was introduced to Ian. Then MY KNIGHT, MY ROGUE (out of print) came out, and readers were introduced to a secondary character, Nicholas. In ALWAYS, MY LOVE, readers devoured Nick’s story and got to know his younger brother, Gregg. Also, in VOWS OF DECEPTION, Gregg was brought back to be the secondary character. Now…the wait is over, and Gregg’s story is here in LOVE COMES BLINDLY!!! All these books have been published with Champagne Books.

Love Comes Blindly

If love isn’t blind to past indiscretions, can absence truly make the heart grow fonder?

Lord Gregory Fielding has been wounded when he travels to Scotland to find the next big story for his London newspaper. Now blinded, he relies on the soft, comforting touch of one of the nurses at St. Mary’s Abbey. He thinks she’s a novice, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting to make her sigh in passion.

Madeline O’Neil cannot believe her misfortune. The man she had almost married three years ago is back in her life. Gregg doesn’t know who she is and she doesn’t dare tell him. Not until she makes him like the new Madeline. But as each day passes and her heart grows fonder, she fears he’ll hate her for certain once his eyesight returns. Especially when he discovers the secret she’s been keeping from him for three years…

I’ve received my FIRST review for this story, and I’m thrilled! I was dancing on the ceiling when The Romance Studio gave me this review:
5-Hearts!!! Ms. Phyllis Campbell did a great job of writing this book and keeping this fast-paced story moving at the speed which defied monotony. She created her main characters so that there were multiple levels to their personalities. This just made the couple more than fascinating. The supporting cast members were believable and the plot was so remarkable that it was almost impossible to put it down. The sensuality between the couple was incredible. Campbell definitely knows how to put the sizzle in a relationship. The tension written into the script just showed her ability to capture her readers. The myriad of poignant scenes captivated me and I’m so glad to have read this story. The surprises were non-stop. I loved this book and highly recommend it to others.~~ Brenda / The Romance Studio

Here’s a teasing blurb from my story. I hope the tease works… heehee

Gregg really didn’t want to call her Sister. He wanted to think of her as a real woman, not a nun. The tingles racing through his body reminded him how pleasurable a woman’s touch could be.

She moved to stand, but he grasped her hand and pulled her back down to the bench. “Mary, thank you for telling me. I feel I know you better now.” He rubbed her soft fingers.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have told you, but I feel like I know you better, too.”

He nodded.

“And Lord Gregg?”


“Please call me Sister Mary.”

He grinned. “I know you’re not a nun.”

“But it’s not proper to call me Mary. I would hate to explain this to the other nuns.”

“Indeed, so I will only call you Mary when we’re alone.” He shook his head and chuckled. “It’s hard to think of you this way. I feel we’ve become close friends.”

“We have.”

“I wish... I wish I could see. I want to see your face. I’ll bet you’re beautiful.”

Taking both of her hands in his, he pulled her closer. Soft, delicate fingers rested in his palms. He ran the pad of his thumb across each finger. Slim. He suspected her body would be this way, too. Slowly, he moved his touch to her wrist, which was also small. As he continued up her arms, she stiffened. He waited for her to stop him or pull away, but she did neither.

He paused again when he reached her shoulders. A slight quiver came from her. Cautiously, he moved his fingers over her collarbone to her neck. Smooth skin met his fingertips, as did a wild pulse. Her throat moved in what must have been a swallow, and he copied that movement with his own, trying to add moisture back into his suddenly dry mouth.

Had he been the first man to touch her like this since she studied to become a nun? The thought thrilled him and made him want to keep touching. Small gasps came from her, and he enjoyed hearing them.

He continued up her slim neck toward her face. Quick, hot breaths exhaled from her mouth and fanned his skin. Excitement gushed through him, and his own breathing became ragged. His manhood stood at attention as encouragement to do more. He’d never became this aroused by touching a woman, especially with her clothes on. And to think he didn’t know what she looked like. Yet for some reason, it didn’t matter.

She had a small chin, and when he reached her dry lips, they were parted. He couldn’t stop from sweeping his thumb across her bottom lip. He wanted so much to stroke her tongue, and he struggled to keep from pushing the tip of his thumb into her mouth.

Licking his own parched lips, he continued the exploration and moved his fingers over high cheeks before stroking closed eyelids. Long, thick lashes tickled his skin. When he touched her hair, she sighed, and he nearly joined his voice with hers. Soft, silky, and curly, a lock of hair brushed his fingers.

He imaged what she looked like, and Mary was very lovely.

He dropped his fingers to her mouth again. This time they were moist. She must have licked her lips. His arousal ached with need. How he wanted to kiss her.

“You’re a very beautiful woman, Mary,” he said huskily. “I imagine your eyes are an amazing color, also. Let me see if I can guess.” He paused for only a moment. “, they’re blue. No, they’re turquoise.” Her gasp made him smile.

“How did you know?”

“I’ll confess. My friend, Lord Calvin, told me.”

She took his hands from her face and pushed them away. “I need to get you back to your bed now. Afternoon prayer time will be starting soon, and then I will have to help prepare the mid-day meal.”

Her voice wasn’t sensual any longer. Instead, it was edged with panic. Had he disturbed her as much she disrupted his thoughts?

She moved around him and pushed his wheelchair. By her hurried steps, he knew that he’d upset her. His heart ached. That was the last thing he wanted to do.


“Sister Mary, please.”

He scowled. She really didn’t sound like a nun. She didn’t smell like a nun, and she didn’t gasp like one, either.

“What do you want, Lord Gregg?”

“I want you to call me Gregg.”

Her long pause made him hold his breath.

“If you wish,” she said.

“I do. I also want to tell you I’m sorry.”

The wheelchair slowed. “Thank you.”

“Do you know what I’m apologizing for?”


“Sister Mary? May I ask you another personal question?”


He chuckled. Her reply came too quickly. “Have you let other men touch you like that came to live at the Abbey?”

She expelled her breath and it blew across his neck. He grinned. Yes, he disturbed her, to be sure.

“Lord...umm, I mean Gregg, I’ve made many mistakes in my past. I’m not immune to a man’s touch.”

“But you haven’t allowed a man to touch you since?”


“Is that why your heart was racing?”

“Yes. But, Gregg, you can never do that again. Do you understand? I...cannot have those feelings.”


Thanks for stopping by, Phyllis!

Please leave your comments and questions for her here. (And be sure to stop by my STROKE OF GENIUS Name A Character Contest and cast your vote for the best name! You might win a whole box of beachreads!)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

STROKE OF GENIUS Name a Character Finalists!

In case you aren't aware of my STROKE OF GENIUS Name a Character Contest, let me explain how it works. Readers are helping me choose a name for a character in my current WIP whom I've designated as XXX for now. (He's my hero's best friend and manservant and he looks suspiciously like the Brits' Prince Harry!)

For the past month my readers have sent in their entries. And now I've finally decided on the 10 names that will advance to the next round. Whew! (If you check out my Contest Entries page, you'll see what a tough job that was!)

Now I need YOUR help! Please pop over to my website and vote for YOUR favorite name. If you do, you'll be entered in a separate drawing for a WHOLE BOX OF BOOKS that I bagged at RT last April. One vote per person please and you must be at least 18 to vote.

If you'd like to leave a note here explaining why you think your choice is the best one, that'd be grand.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Over-Protective Mother's Club

Ok, I'll admit I might be just a teensy bit over-protective. Of course, I always insisted my kids wear helmets when they biked. They had to look both ways before crossing the streets. Those seem like normal and reasonable precautions. But today my daughter reminded me that I used to make her use hotpads when she did sparklers for the 4th of July. (In my defense, those little metal things can get REALLY hot!)

Yeah, maybe that was a little obsessive. But I was determined for my kids to reach majority in a reasonably healthy configuration.

Have you ever been accused of being over-protective? What silly thing did you make your kids do that seemed imminently sensible and prudent at the time?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Widgets & Blidgets & Badges, Oh MY!

I was surprised to learn that I'm over at 1st Turning Point today sharing what I've learned about using widgets on the web. Please pop over and visit me there!