Thursday, May 24, 2007

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Living With Gratitude

I saw the coolest DVD recently. It's called The Secret. Maybe you've heard of it; not only has the book been on the bestseller lists, but Oprah talked about it on her show. I'm always a little leery of anything that's getting a lot of hype, but someone I know recommended it highly, and when Netflix had it available, I put it in my queue.

Overall, I thought it was excellent. I didn't agree with everything that was said and a couple of the presenters seemed a little, well, smarmy to me, but it was definitely worth the time to watch it.

So why am I blogging about it today? The subject seemed to fit Thankful Thursdays perfectly. One of the things that was talked about in The Secret was how we as humans tend to focus on what we don't want to happen or on what we don't have rather than on what we'd like to see or on what we do have. I know I'm as guilty of this as anyone and there were several helpful suggestions to help change this.

My favorite idea was called a gratitude rock. One of the men said that he started to carry a rock in his pocket, and whenever he touched it, he'd think of something he was grateful for. Just touching it was a reminder to give thanks.

It's a simple idea, but what a wonderful way to remember what's positive in our lives!

If you have a moment right now, why not think of some things you're grateful for in your life? I'll even start. I'm thankful that my mom is out of the hospital after suffering congestive heart failure and is doing better every day. I'm thankful that I have a full-time job that pays my bills and keeps a roof over my head. I'm thankful that I finished my latest book and that I can take a break and spend more time with my parents. I'm thankful that my fifth book will be out in August and that I've been able to write another book of my heart.

Even as I wrote those things, it was so tempting to qualify them. I'm thankful, but-- I resisted, though.

Another suggestion from The Secret that I really liked was called the Vision Board. What you do is cut out pictures of what you want and paste it to a piece of cardboard or whatever, then you spend time every day focusing on them. I think of it as visual goal setting. I heard somewhere that goals are more likely to be achieved if they're written down and this is the same type of thing, just done with pictures rather than words.

I always used to tell people who scoffed at my big ideas that if I was going to dream, I was going to dream big. From the time was in eighth grade, my greatest desire was to write stories and have other people read them. When my first book was published in 2002, I walked around with a copy of it in my hand everywhere I went (yes, even at work!) because I couldn't believe my dream had come true. Sometimes I still look at the books I've written and it seems surreal that something I've wanted since I was fourteen has come true.

I'm a big proponent in pursuing dreams. When I sign books, I'll often write "Always pursue your dreams" instead of Best Wishes or Happy Reading because I want other people to find the joy that comes from chasing their rainbows. Mark Twain has a wonderful quote and I have it pasted on my cube wall. He said:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Dream. Discover."
What are you grateful for? What are your dreams? What are you doing to achieve them?

Patti O'Shea
In the Midnight Hour - Aug 2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fessing up, part 2

Since no one is scheduled for today, I'll butt in and get this off my chest. A while ago I think I blogged here about reviews. As I remember, I was sort of cocky, saying how I read my reviews and sometimes learn from them.

Well, I've changed. I've now adopted JoAnn's policy of not reading reviews unless they come up and bite me in, you get the idea.

Why am I not reading reviews? Because suddenly they make me crazy. Not crazy mad. I fully understand that everyone is entitled to her opinion and that some people will not like my books. And I do think people are also free to share their opinion with the world. But I've also decided there's no requirement that I know that opinion. That, in this case, ignorance is bliss.

I mean, a book really isn't like a child. If one of my boys was tipping cows or drinking sarsaparilla out behind the pool hall, I'd want to know so I could do something about it. If the book's misbehaving...well...I guess it's more like my adult children. I've done my best. If they're going to cause trouble, there's not much I can do about it now.

Yes, this means I miss the good reviews, but so be it. If I need those quotes a few months from now, I'll go googling. By then I'll be well into writing the current story (I'd better be!) and hopefully more detached from the one already out in the world. But for now, I've sworn off the google function and I haven't visited that Amazon page in forever. It's really rather liberating.

Now excuse me while I liberate myself from the Internet entirely to get back to work on that work-in-progress.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fessing Up

Yesterday I was at a loss for a proposal I've been working on, and a friend of mine pulled out two books that she always prefaces with an explanation, something like "this one is full of horrible little writing exercises. I bought it for $1 from the Borders sale. . ." and a tiny book of conversation starters. I always think it's funny, and cute, that she sort of apologizes for not only having bought, but for using, these dorky little books.

Still, no bones about it, they were helpful. She pulled out two ideas at random and threw them at me -- I chewed on them for a while, and they didn't end up in my proposal, but they did get the wheels turning and I managed to finish a draft of a new proposal by the end of the day. She had me thinking maybe I needed to try to find a couple copies of those books for myself.

We all have some of those books the shelf, the book that we put in a place where no one will notice, or that we preface with "It only cost a dollar" or "A friend gave it to me." But at the end of the day, we get something from them, even if we can only admit it to ourselves.

In my case, it's the copy of Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul -- it pains me to admit I have it, but a friend gave it to me for my birthday, and bless him, he actually apologized in the card (I think he might have threatened me if I let anyone know he sent it). Chicken Soup books are pretty much one of the few books I swore I would never have in my home, the ones that make me shudder when I see them at the bookstore, seeping their sentimentality and stories of "if only I'd sent her flowers before she died" to teach us life's lessons.

However, I pick it up and read it now and then because I love my friend, and he gave it to me, and I want to honor that. In truth, the book is full of short essays by writers I like: Ray Bradbury, Sue Grafton, Clive Cussler among them. When I bring myself to read them, there are inspirational bits and pieces, and there's even some good advice in the book (though there are still the requisite stories about people who died...). If nothing else, it makes me think of my friend, and gives me a laugh every time I think that he actually sent me this book. And it's something I can hold over him should I have to. ;)

What are the books hidden on your shelf? Feel free to make apologies and excuses as necessary... ;)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Up In The Air

I was recently asked by my agent to give an estimate of when I might be able to get her a revised final copy of the complete manuscript she's currently shopping around for me. I really wish I could tell her.

Not because I don't have a clue how long it takes me to type in (I'm one of those freakish throwbacks who writes first drafts in longhand) and revise half a manuscript, but because my "life" is currently up in the air. The fella is waiting to hear on a job offer that will potentially have us moving halfway--no, about 3/4 of the way across Texas. We currently live in the Panhandle (that's the square, not-very-panhandle-looking part that sticks up at the top, for those of you who aren't familiar with the nomenclature), one of the more westerly parts of the state. The new job, if it happens, will take us to the Texas Gulf Coast. (Yeah, I know, they have hurricanes. We have tornados. Not a lot of difference, IMO.) But until I know whether I will be packing up my household goods and moving them over the summer, I don't really know how long it will take me to get this ms. revised and sent off to the agent, because I don't know how much time I'll have.

Summer is already filled with three conferences (an all-genre one in June, RWA's conference in July, and a science fiction/fantasy con in August), plus the mandatory visits from the grandboys, so I'm already working around those as is. If we add a move (and the insanity-making elements of selling and buying a house) to that--well... But I do keep thinking how much fun it will be to introduce my landlocked grandsons to the beach. I don't want them, like my nephews once did--mistaking a golf course sand-and-water hazard for the beach...

(My middle sister lives in Idaho, and when our kids were little and her family came to visit the Texas branch of the family, we got a golf course condo in Rockport, on the Aransas Pass (No "k" in Aransas, and it's pronounced ah-RAN-sahs), because we thought it would be safer with a horde of pre-schoolers. There was a pond behind the condo, surrounded with sand, and when we all arrived, the nephews spotted that pond, and went running out to it screaming "The beach! The beach!" They were duly impressed when they saw the "real" beach.)

I do know in general how long it takes me to write a book of a given length. And I know how long it takes me to get it revised and ready to ship out. Of course, given the fact that my books tend to grow when I'm writing them, it can sometimes take a little longer than I expect to reach the end. The writing business is insane as it is. When you add life to it... the insanity compounds.

Has life tripped you up lately? We'll listen, if you want to share.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Friday I'm in love..." The Cure

Since this is a Friday post, I was trying to think of a Friday type song, so amazingly, I came up with a line from one!

It's appropriate, isn't it, since we all write with strong romantic elements, no matter what our specific genre. I think everyone wants to be in love (every day, not just every Friday,) and so even if they can't personally do so, it's certainly nice to read about people who do and experience the rush vicariously.

Now here's a question - how do you personally feel about love stories that don't have an HEA (happily ever after) ending? And how do you classify them - something that I keep harping on, I know, but our entire world is so classification-crazed these days.

Is it the love story itself that makes you 'fall in love' or is it the HEA? As long as the story is rich and satisfying, does the resolution always have to be positive?

I raise this question and yet even when I am writing a sad love story, the ending is, in its own way "happy." I like HEA, even if it is non-traditional. I think it is a definite human urge, need, belief - that things are resolved in a positive fashion. What do you think?

Dipping back into classification madness - I love my XM radio. I wish I didn't, I wish there was just RADIO, you could hear all different types of music without having to specify a category. Anyway, with the demise of possibility in local, over the air radio, here I am in XM land. Where there is alternative country, country, adult acoustic rock, contemporary rock, "real" jazz, alternative rock, cutting edge rock, alternative rock of the 90's, alternative rock of the 80's -- all on my punch buttons.

Are we over categorized? not just in terms of music, and our writing, but in terms of our lives? Are people niche marketing themselves?

Okay, wandering from far afield back to the specifics - We're supposed to be announcing our news here on FRIDAY , but I haven't much NEW news to report, so I'll go with a quick recap of things -

-signed FIVE O'CLOCK SHADOW and THE MODEL MAN at the Los Angeles Times Book Fair the end of April. I had my kids pass out about 250 book marks and yes, my Amazon numbers did go up afterward. I was also amazed to meet people who actually knew who I was (from local newspaper articles last year, reviews and such.)

-my erotic romance novella from THE COWBOY, Rodeo Man, finaled in the Passionate Plume

-and the warm buzz and new contacts made at the PASIC conference in NYC continue, I'm still getting requested material out there

Five O'Clock Shadow - available NOW

Videos and Awards?

When I signed up to blog on this day a few weeks ago, I had news. Funny thing, you'd think, having spent several years writing for Arizona's largest daily newspaper, I would've remembered that news is only really news, when it's, well, new.

However, since this is Thankful Thursday, I'm still thankful that my edgy video for No Safe Place, from the brilliant Circle Of Seven, won Cameo Awards for Best Suspense trailer, Excellence in Writing (script, Sheila English; visual concepts Mike Miller), the Viewer's Choice award, as well as a Cameo for Promotional Excellence, the top award for all trailers.

There's been a lot of talk about whether or not videos actually sell books. I've had five videos created so far and have no idea. I just know they're a lot of fun, and for me, that's worth doing them. (I'm already working with COS on utilizing actors and incorporating scenes from the books for my upcoming trilogy.) Also, my website statistics show that visitors enjoy watching them, and a recent contest where viewers voted on which of two very different No Safe Place videos they preferred proved hugely popular.

Meanwhile, Simon and Schuster, having decided videos are good way to sell books, will begin creating them for some of their authors. Proving that timing is, indeed, everything, they announced this just a few months after I moved from Pocket to NAL. LOL

Although I've never been much for entering contests, I've judged the RITAs for most of my 26 years in RWA, going back to when the contest was called the Golden Medallion. This year I judged both the preliminary and final rounds and stayed up until two this morning rereading an entry before ranking the books, which, for me, is always the most difficult part of judging. The best part of judging is that I never fail to discover a wonderful writer I've somehow missed. This year was no exception and I'm proud -- and thankful -- to have been able to spend so many years working in a genre boasting so much stellar talent.

Recently some of us have been having a conversation about whether winning the RITA actually makes a difference in a writer's career. Which brings me back to those video awards.
Borrowing a bit from Wondering Wednesday, I'm wondering if viewing a video has actually ever made you want to buy a book? Does seeing a sticker on a cover announcing that the writer has won an award -- a RITA, a Newberry, an Edgar, whatever -- make you more likely to pick a book up? And better yet, does an award make you more willing to risk your money on a new-to-you author?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wondering about Research

If you've ever wondered about how a writer researches to write a book. Here are some of my recent adventures.
My new project is set in Portland, Maine. It involves gun smuggling, a good topic for a port city. Lots of my research can be done on the Internet, but some has to be direct, in person. So I needed to see locations and picture events there. Portland has the nearest airport to where I live, so it was convenient to visit prior to a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit friends. First, I went to the Old Port, the renovated part of the old city that has trendy shops, restaurants, and condos on the waterfront. I walked around the docks and took picture after picture with my trusty digital camera. Then I drove farther along the harbor toward the more industrial section so I could figure out where my murder takes place. I found a really spooky spot beneath a bridge but I have to go back at night to see how dark it is. I may freak myself out. My final stop was in the West End, to check the neighborhood where my heroine lives and to choose a building for her. While there, I had a brainstorm for a scene of the villain chasing her as she jogs on the Western Promenade, a paved walking trail overlooking the harbor. Now I need to go to direct sources--a cop, a Marine Patrol Officer, and someone in the port authority.
That's it. Researching can be fun, but it can suck a writer in so you want to put it all in the book. I have to rein myself in.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Reading for Research

Today is Tempting Tuesdays and were supposed to blog on things we're reading. Currently I'm trying to get a feel for real-life war scenes, since I write romantic action/adventure featuring military heroes. But I ran into an interesting book the other day and passed it up the first few times. But then, having cracked it open, decided I needed to read it. It's called "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier", by Ishmael Beah. It's his story. True and turbulent. Here's a story about an honest boy forced by circumstances into hell. It's real. That's what gets me the most. And more frightening than any horror flick. I haven't finished it yet but found it engaging. I've posted the piece from the front below. And you can check out this link for more:

New York City, 1998
My high school friends have begun to suspect I haven’t told them the full story of my life.
“Why did you leave Sierra Leone?”
“Because there is a war.”
“Did you witness some of the fighting?”
“Everyone in the country did.”
“You mean you saw people running around with guns and shooting each other?”
“Yes, all the time.”
I smile a little.
“You should tell us about it sometime.”
“Yes, sometime.”

Many blessings,

~ Lise

How much danger would you face for the perfect romance? Lise Fuller,,, ROMANTIC TIMES REVIEWERS CHOICE NOMINEE, 2006; Pikes Peak Romance Writers 2006 Author of the Year
~On Danger's Edge, print-03/07, available in e-book, Cerridwen Press,, 4 1/2 Stars from Romantic Times
~Intimate Deceptions, available in e-book, Cerridwen Press,, RECOMMENDED READS from Coffee Time Romance and Joyfully Reviewed
~Cutting Loose, print-04/07, available in e-book, Cerridwen Press,

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mom's Day

My blog today has nothing to do with writing. It's all about Mother's Day and the brilliance of one teacher. My husband always takes the kids out to do Mom's Day shopping the day before. But this year, my youngest son's grade 1 teacher summed it up perfectly. He told the kids that moms like gifts their kids have made better than gifts they buy. I've received some absolutely gorgeous gifts from my boys over the years, both hand made and purchased, but this one took the cake this year. My son insisted we had to go for a walk down a trail because he needed to collect sticks. So I'm shaking my head and thinking "I wonder if mothers of girls get requests like this?", but away we went, and he diligently collected stickes, measuring them with his arms, making sure they were long enough, or short enough, and that they weren't too dirty or too crooked.

When we got home, he shooed me inside the house with instructions that I was NOT to come out on the back deck. The poor kid was out there for over an hour, running in occasionally to stock up on more tape. Yes, I was a little concerned, but my husband didn't seem too worried, and he had access to the activities outside. Sunday morning, I was taken by the hand outside where I was shown a stick portrait of myself. Now how adorable is this, I ask you?

We then had to find a piece of cardboard big enough to transfer it to, so I could hang it in my office. I particularly like how my legs are long and THIN. If a girl can't have her dreams come true on Mother's Day, when can she?

Friday, May 11, 2007

How We Met

Fridays at the 2BRead blog are for First Alert, but I thought I'd go back and talk about an old first. Like the first date I had with the fella. We spent the night together.

On a band bus with 43 other people in the college marching band. We'd met early on in our freshman year, at the band picnic. He was dating another girl (who became my roommate the next two years) at the time and we all got into the same game of spades. Then we discovered that we were in the same chemistry class. (And I never thought about all the cheesy puns that could be made about "chemistry" until now. Really.) He still exclaims about all the times I walked barefoot to class in the rain. It made sense to me...feet dry better than shoes, and once my feet were dry, I could put on dry shoes and warm my feet up. So we would talk in chemistry class, and walk together to our next class--same building, different rooms.

As the time came for the annual overnight band trip, to the University of Arkansas this particular year, he started talking about band trips and "what happens on the band trip stays on the band trip" but I just couldn't believe he was flirting, because we're exactly the same height (I look taller these days, because he's gone to the Captain Picard hairstyle) and in my experience, guys just didn't flirt with girls who might be taller. Turned out I was wrong. And so we spent the night together on the bus coming back from Fayetteville.

Our romance was entirely too dull for any romance novel, which means it was much more pleasant to live through. Reading this, I'm sure people are asking "But where's the conflict?" Well, there was a little, but very little, and it came later. If we did fit a romance-novel story, it would be the "good friends who discover something more" sort of story.

So what did you and your honey do on your first date? And what kind of romance novel would it be?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Vanished by Margaret Daley

Vanished is my May Love Inspired Suspense book. This is the sequel to So Dark the Night, my March release. I love writing romantic suspense stories, but they are very intense and emotional.

As a detective in Chicago, J.T. Logan had put away a lot of criminals—and had made a lot of enemies. However, the last thing the widowed father and current small-town sheriff expected was crime in his own backyard. Until his young daughter was kidnapped.

FBI agent Madison Spencer found herself working with J.T. again, on a case painfully different from their previous one. She could only watch as she struggled to remain coldly professional while his heart was in anguish. And what of her own heart? Romance should be the furthest thing from their minds. All she could do was hope—and pray—for them all.

This was one of the hardest books I’ve written. There were a lot of clues and red herrings that pointed to various suspects. I felt like I was putting a jigsaw puzzle together—sometimes in the dark. I have a book to give away. I will send the first person who emails me at an autographed copy of Vanished.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Since today is open, I wanted to pop in with a general "wondering Wednesday" question that I think affects us all at some point or another:

What do you do when you're stuck in your writing? Or stuck in your thinking about your writing? It could be writer's block, but also, in between books, when you take time off, and it's just hard to start anything new or get back into a regular routine? Or when you keep starting a book, and nothing sounds "right"?

I was watchingNumb3rs on DVD last night, and one of the mathematicians said that when you were overwhelmed or stuck on a problem, it was usually because you're trying to solve too many problems at once, so the best way to solve the bigger problem is to focus on one small part and just solve that. I thought that was really interesting -- so while your book or idea might not be working on several points, maybe the best idea is to just pick one area, one character, one plot point, etc and work the devil out of it.

So that's my contribution to how we might solve "stalls." What other bits of advice and wisdom are out there?


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tempting Reading: SUGAR DADDY by Lisa Kleypas

It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I began reading Lisa Kleypas’ Sugar Daddy. You see, she’s one of my favorite romance writers in the historical genre while Sugar Daddy is her first contemporary romance. Not that I have a preference for one time period over the other (after all, I write contemporaries myself). It’s just that historical authors don’t always transition well to such a different period and tone.

I shouldn’t have worried. Sugar Daddy has everything I adore in Lisa’s novels: characters that leap off the page, emotion, warmth, charm, and an addictive story line. She adds something new in this novel: Texas, a place she knows and loves. The sense of place and how it affects the people who live there is a powerful addition to an already great story.

Sugar Daddy is not a romance in the classic definition of the word. It begins when the heroine Liberty Jones is barely a teenager. Her father’s dead and her mother has just moved the two of them to a dismal trailer park in Welcome, Texas. Here Liberty meets Hardy Cates, a troubled young man who becomes her idol. Hardy is smart enough to know that he needs to get out of Welcome or he’ll be sucked into the same downward spiral his father was. So despite his love for her, he leaves Liberty behind.

Liberty is a heroine you root for all the way out of the trailer park, through beauty school and on to her strange new life as assistant to billionaire Churchill Travis. Through it all, Liberty cares for her baby sister Carrington and never forgets Hardy. That is, until she meets Churchill’s eldest son Gage. Then her loyalties are divided to the breaking point.

Liberty’s voice carries the book: she’s smart, funny, spunky and a shrewd observer of her fellow human beings. Comments like “Hair is serious business in Houston” make you howl. Her down-to-earth common sense gets her through many a tricky situation. She’s someone you want to spend a lot of time with and yet you find yourself racing to the end of her story because it’s such a great ride.

So, fear not, Lisa Kleypas is as great in the 21st century as she is in the 19th!

What other great books are folks reading these days? Now that I've finished Sugar Daddy I need another good read.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Seriously. What is the Deal with Mondays?

I know I've posed this question on the blog before: Namely, what's the deal with Mondays? (Or, probably more accurate still, what's my deal with Mondays?) But it's a favorite topic of mine . . . especially on those Monday mornings when I've agreed to blog and I have no idea what to say.

Sort of like today, for example.

I mean, on a typical Monday morning, I think I'm doing good if I can find my way to the coffeemaker without tripping over the cat. As for why that is . . . .

Okay, I figure this could take me awhile. In the meantime, do what I usually do on a Monday morning and read your astrological forecast for the week.

I'm a Pisces and mine says that I should do some planning during the early part of the week.

Good advice. I'm planning on not doing much of anything until after the caffeine kicks in. *g*

What about you? What's your forecast for the week? Care to share?


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Family Stories, Available Now!

Last Monday, I did an errand for my son and realized I was next door to the bookstore where I would soon be holding my book signing for my new release. Even though my book wasn't supposed to be out yet, I thought I would slip in and see where it would be shelved. When I rounded the corner of the romance aisle, I saw three copies of the book already displayed!

At first, I wasn't sure if the books were really there. Over the years, I've done a lot of positive imaging, standing in front of bookshelves and envisioning my book next to some of my favorite authors. A tiny part of me wondered if my active imagination was once again helping me with this writing process.

This time, no imagination was involved. The books were really there!

FAMILY STORIES, for the new Harlequin Everlasting Love imprint, is my first mass market book. I've published others for a more select market -- the libraries and educational markets. Finding the books listed in the library was fun. But seeing the books on a shelf in a bookstore was a much different thrill. Now I can have friends go into a real store and buy the book, rather than selling author copies out of my car trunk. While that's satisfying in its own way, seeing the book on the shelf makes this whole process more valid to me.

I stood in front of that shelf for a few more minutes and then started to leave, planning to come back later with a camera. Then I remembered my sons had convinced me we needed phones with cameras this time. I stopped the nearest stockboy and asked if he would take a picture of me with my book.

He gave me an odd look. I quickly assured him this wasn't just a book that I was buying but one that I had written. I grinned at the look he then gave me. He looked at me and then my book and then snapped a picture of me standing in front of the Romance Series section, holding a copy of Family Stories.

I thought I could include the picture today but the computer-savvy son is off at University and I had to finally quit trying to make it happen. Instead, I'll direct you to the copy of Family Stories listed on the side of our blog. And if you'd like to stop in and pick up your own copy -- at a real bookstore -- well, my next picture is going to be me walking in and not finding any books on the shelves! Because that means somebody bought them!

A Non-Alcoholic Toast

Back in November my doctor ordered some routine blood work. It had been a couple of years so I was due. I'm not a big fan of the medical profession, especially now that I'm getting a little older and the warranties on some of my parts seem to be expiring, but I'm usually fine with blood work. Not to boast or anything, but I've got great blood.

Well, pride goeth before the fall, heh? The doc's office called the next day. Two of my liver enzymes were off the charts. (That news didn't do good things for my blood pressure, but that's a whine for a different blog.) So more tests and no more booze. No beer, no wine, no margaritas.

Don't you just hate it when you go to the doctor's feeling fine and then discover something's not quite right?

Anyway, I'm happy--thankful--to report I recently got the good news that the enzymes are now back in the normal range. What caused them to go wacky? Got me. The current theory is I was exposed to a toxin, maybe the ant spray my dear husband applied liberally to the kitchen counter.

My months as a teetotaller--months covering the holidays and many personal triumphs all worthy of toasting--gave me a new perspective on alcohol use, particularly in my own little social corner of the world. It also had me searching for some festive, non-alcoholic, palatable beverages. I don't like soda--too sweet. So what else is there? Water, even sparkling water, is a tad...dull. I found sparkling fruit juices (Izze makes some nice ones) that are pretty good. Non-alcoholic beer isn't so bad, though the non-alcoholic wine my husband brought home didn't get my thumbs up. But maybe it's a matter of finding the right label. I wasn't a fan of sparkling cider until I tried a new brand.

So here are my questions for you in cyberland: 1. Do you have any good non-alcoholic beverages to recommend? (Even though I can now climb off the wagon, I've decided I'd like to add some variety to my liquid options.) And 2. How do you like to celebrate good news? Pop the bubbly, open the chocolates, treat yourself to a day at the spa--or something else?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Another Tuesday Temptation

Since it's Tempting Tuesday, I'm going to be totally self-serving and tempt you with my new book, Damsel Under Stress, which hits stores today. This is the third book in my Enchanted, Inc. series, which includes Enchanted, Inc. and Once Upon Stilettos. This series follows the adventures of Katie Chandler, a small-town girl from Texas who moved to New York with hopes of being more extraordinary than she stood a chance of being back home.

In the first book, she'd been in the city a year and still felt like a hick, since she hadn't yet managed to learn the New Yorker trick of pretending not to see weird things. It didn't help that she kept seeing some really weird things, like people getting on the subway wearing fairy wings. She later found out that she was actually seeing things most others didn't because magic didn't work on her, not even the magic used to hide magical things. That odd talent landed her a job at Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc. (basically, the Microsoft of magic, only not evil).

In this third book, the stakes are higher than ever before. There's a rogue wizard on the loose trying to market dark spells, and now he's managed to get enough financial backing to buy ads and open a real store. Katie and her wizard boyfriend Owen have to figure out what's going on and where that money is coming from. And speaking of that boyfriend ... just when she didn't need any help in the romance department, Katie suddenly has a real, live fairy godmother. Supposedly the fairy godmother is there to help, but it seems like every attempt at dating and romance ends in disaster. No wonder Katie is a Damsel Under Stress.

As you can probably tell from the description, these are serious, dramatic literary works (and in case you're immune to sarcasm, they're really not. They're meant to be funny). I certainly have fun writing them, and it seems like readers are having fun reading them. I originally pitched the series as "Bridget Jones meets Harry Potter, as it's a blend of chick lit and fantasy. Just for fun, here's a list of reasons why people might want to check out my books for themselves:

1) I write faster than JK Rowling, so you won't have to wait as long for the sequel (the next book is coming in January 2008 and is already written).
2) You can read each book in a few hours, especially if you're willing to sacrifice nonessentials such as sleep, homework, housework or food (or so my readers tell me).
3) My books are funnier than anything Oprah recommends.
4) Talking gargoyles! Talking gargoyles who drive!
5) You think your boss is an ogre? Read these books and you'll meet a truly evil boss -- and I'm not talking about the one who's green and has fangs.

I'll be doing a mini book tour throughout Texas, so if you're in one of these locations, the more, the merrier!
May 3, 7 p.m., Borders at Preston and Royal in Dallas
May 5, 2 p.m., Barnes & Noble in Tyler
May 9, 7 p.m., Hastings in Round Rock
May 12, 2 p.m., Barnes & Noble on University in Fort Worth
May 16, 7:30 p.m., Borders at the Quarries in San Antonio

For more details on all of these or on the books, visit my web site.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Maniac Monday--so true

I figured if anyone can blog about Maniac Monday it is me. This year I have felt more than Mondays were that way. With school ending in a month, things are heating up at my day job as a teacher. But on top of that I have a book to write in two months! At this moment I’m asking myself: why did I do this to myself? Good question. Why do we push ourselves to do more and more in the same amount of time?

For me I’ve come to the conclusion I’m a workaholic. (Also, I’m a caramelaholic. For my birthday the other day, I had a hot caramel sundae instead of cake. Much more satisfying. But I digress. Back to the subject.) There is so much I want to do in life and only so many hours in a day. Wouldn’t it be nice it a day was say thirty hours long or I only needed a few hours of sleep a night to be refreshed? So when my publisher offered me a continuity, I couldn’t turn it down. Instead of writing the usual three books in a year, suddenly I was writing four.

It has been a challenge. One of the things I’ve had to give up is reading for pleasure. For a writer and lover of books, that is a sacrifice. I’m counting the days to summer. I hope I’ll be able to read for pleasure again, at least some. And when I go on vacation, I’m taking a stack of books and hanging out at the beach with them. I can’t wait. Nothing’s better than reading with the waves sounding in the background and the warm rays of the sun beating down. What do you have to give up when life gets crazy?

Margaret Daley
SO DARK THE NIGHT, Love Inspired Suspense, March 2007
ONCE UPON A FAMILY, Love Inspired, April 2007
VANISHED, Love Inspired Suspense, May 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

More flowers

Since there's no one signed up for today and Gail's post inspired me, I'll jump in to share more flowers--these are the flowers my agent sent me for making the USA Today bestseller list.
I was thrilled! Well, of course I was thrilled to make the list, but I was just as thrilled to get the flowers. No one ever sends me flowers, and these just made the whole experience seem more special and more real.
I was looking at them yesterday, admiring them, wishing I had someone to share them with. (I live in a family of men. They just don't get the flowers thing. Food? Yes. A bouquet of cookies? My seventeen year old would have been all over those. But flowers? What are they good for?) And I was thinking how fleeting cut flowers are. By next week they'll be gone.
So here they are, captured on...well, not film--in pixels, maybe?
I'm taking them as a reminder to take time to celebrate every accomplishment--from making a list to making the finals in a contest to finishing a manuscript or even a scene or a bit of dialogue. Take time to pull yourself out of the rat race once in a while, look around, smell the flowers, and just enjoy all you've accomplished.
And on that note, a big congratulations to all the PASIC members who just found out they made the finals of the National Readers' Choice Awards. Way to go, ladies!!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Stopping to smell the flowers

For some reason, I thought I'd signed up to blog here on Tuesday of this week. Tuesday was my 31st wedding anniversary. It was also the day of the combined community- junior college choir concert, and I joined the community choir this spring. The community choir has six to eight members (depending on the weather and whether our tenor who works for the highway department has to be out on the highway to deal with flooding or tornados). The college choir has around 15 members. So every one of us had to be there, both for dress rehearsal on Monday and the concert on Tuesday.

Tuesday, I also had to drive the 60 miles into Amarillo to put money in the bank for our son at college. (There are banks in our little town--two of them--but none of them are also in Waco.) Baby has to pay his rent, you know. And then I had to drive home again in time for warm-up. I didn't even think about computers or the Internet, much less blogging, until Wednesday. Fortunately, I hadn't signed up, so I was safe. (whew!)

And I'm trying to revise a book I just finished writing. For some reason, just after I've finished something, my life is much less organized than it is when I'm driving for the finish line, heading frantically for the point where I can write: The End. Now that it's done, I have to go back and look at the beginning again and figure out if the beginning matches the end, and if it gets lost anywhere in the middle and--well, lots of stuff.

But when I walked home from picking up the last couple of days' worth of mail at the post office this afternoon (it's only 3 blocks away--if you don't count the swing around the park and baseball fields), I noticed the iris blooming in my front yard. I inspected each one of them and picked off the faded wads of old blossom. I pulled up the nasty thistly dandelion thing that isn't a dandelion, but tries to fool you into thinking it is. (Should have pulled up a lot more of them, but the ground's a little hard.) I stopped to smell the flowers. And I wanted to share them with you. I hope flowers are blooming where you are. Go take a whiff, okay?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cherry Garcia vs. Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how subjective taste is. What makes one person love something that another person has a hard time swallowing, let alone enjoying? The other night my husband and I sat down to watch a movie. After fifteen minutes he left the room to watch a hockey game on another television. I continued to watch the movie. It wasn’t the best movie I’d ever seen, but it wasn’t the worst, either. I found the character studies fascinating, even if the plot left a bit to be desired. And I enjoyed the movie enough to want to sit through it until the end to see how the conflicts were resolved.

Sometimes that happens to me with a book. I’ll continue reading one I don’t particularly love because I either a) find enough enjoyable about it that I want to finish it, b) am hoping it gets better, or c) am hoping that even though I figured out whodunit by chapter three, the author will prove me wrong and give me a totally different ending I didn’t see coming (and man, when that happens, I love it!)

But there are other times when I pick up a book and toss it aside after a chapter or two. Often it’s a book that has gotten rave reviews. Sometimes it’s even a book by an author I’ve read and enjoyed previously. When this happens, one of two reactions occur. I either a) wonder if there’s something wrong with me that I don’t get what everyone else sees in the book, or b) scratch my head, wondering why everyone else can’t see the flaws in plot and character that jump off the page at me.

Then there are times where I fall in love with a book and recommend it to friends, only to have them question my taste. Or worse yet, my sanity.

For many people peanut butter is the perfect food. For me it sets off my gag reflexes. I’m more a Cherry Garcia kind of girl. Taste. It’s one of the unsolved mysteries of the universe. Why do you suppose that is?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What I'm Reading

I'm reading FIREFLY SUMMER by Maeve Binchy, and really enjoying it.

It's set in a little Irish town, where a wealthy American businessman "comes home" to return to his Irish roots. He buys the property once owned by a powerful family that turned his family out when his father was just a boy. Patrick O'Neill wants to put things right, and make the little town of Mountfern more than what it is. But his plans could eventually put the local pub, owned by the Ryan family, out of business….

It's a lovely story because there aren't any heroes or villains per se – just flawed people with good intentions (unless you count the crooked local car dealer). It's leisurely, sprawling, slice-of-life stuff, where you get to know more and more people in the town as the story goes on. This is the first Binchy book I've read, but it won't be the last.

I'm discovering I really like gently-paced, small town stories like this one. Curtiss Ann Matlock's novels set in Valentine, Oklahoma are another example. Anyone have any others they'd like to recommend?

Monday, April 23, 2007

There Was a Time...

…when people didn’t have air conditioning and they used fans or slept on fire escapes or out in the open air.

…when we didn’t have cell phones, and there wasn’t a need to call someone as soon as we left the house and got into the car. All of a sudden, everything’s an emergency. What did people do before cell phones made instant contact a way of life?

…when there was no such thing as speed dialing. You had to put your finger in the little holes on the phone or on the little buttons and, oh my God, actually dial the number.

…when we didn’t have call waiting, and you weren’t rudely put on hold so that the person you were talking to could find out who was calling, and sometimes never get back to you. Man, talk about feeling insignificant. It used to be called a busy signal which meant the intruding party had to hang up and call back.

…when we didn’t have computers, and writers wrote on, gasp, typewriters, or, even bigger gasp, by longhand.

…when we didn’t have e-mail and people sat down and wrote letters or made phone calls.

…when you had to go to the library and take out books on the subject you were researching instead of hitting the search button.

…when you had to look at a map to get to where you were going instead of depending on Map Quest (which, by the way, isn’t always right).

…when you had to walk around the block for exercise and actually got somewhere, instead of hopping on the treadmill and going nowhere.

…when you had to heat up your leftovers on the stovetop or in the oven and they came out hot, instead of nuking them in the microwave and having them turn cold two seconds after coming out.

…when you had to get up and change the channels, forcing you to get some exercise, instead of sitting there in couch potato mode working that remote with death-defying speed while your butt gets wider with each passing year.

Now, I’m not suggesting that I could do without any of the above modern marvels. I’m a slave to the treadmill, and I rationalize that all the exercise I’m getting makes it okay for me to change channels from the couch. Air conditioning is a must, especially here in South Florida and when you’re waking up every hour with night sweats. The microwave is my best friend when I heat up frozen dinners. I got a cell phone to lower my phone bills (you gotta love those roll-over minutes). E-mail is a big part of my day job and comes in handy when I don’t want to speak with the co-workers I can’t stand. I frequent the library much less often these days since anything and everything I could possibly want to know, and even some things I never wanted to know, can be found on the Internet. Despite my disappointment in Map Quest which, instead of the directions pointing me west, sent me so far east that I literally hit the ocean, I’ll probably use it again. And my computer, well, I wouldn’t be posting this blog here now without it, would I? But I refuse, absolutely refuse, to get call waiting. I’ve got my limits.

I’m all for making life easier through technology, but I think we sacrifice something for all this speed, like peace of mind, serenity and a slower pace of life. Along with the technology comes increased stress levels and tons of frustration, like when the computer eats up all your files, e-mail is down, cell calls are dropped even though Cingular promises fewer dropped calls (yeah, right), a lightning strike here in the lightning capital of the world shorts out your air conditioner, you hit the up arrow on the treadmill instead of the down arrow and find yourself traveling at the speed of light, the TV, VCR and/or DVD remote stops working despite the addition of new batteries, and all that microwaved food you’re eating makes you wonder if your insides are glowing.

With these technologies come words with new meanings. Download, for example. I do it, but I hate it, always fearing I’ll do it wrong. Hard drive. It used to mean driving over potholes. Now, I don’t know exactly what this is, but I’ve had several of them. Worms. Sounds like something I would bring my dog to the vet for, but yuk, they’re in my computer. Browser. Isn’t this someone who just looks without buying? Server. Isn’t this the person who brings my food in a restaurant? RAM. Isn’t that the culprit who got the ewe pregnant? Byte. Something you used to take out of a doughnut. Now, with different spelling to dress it up, who knows?

Recently, I stopped watching the nightly news for one week, and lo and behold, my stress levels went down. I felt calmer, more peaceful. I don’t shut myself out of the world. I’m well aware of all that’s going on locally, nationally and internationally, but there’s a difference between being informed and being pummeled with it night after night. That’s how I feel about all this technology overload. I could live without some of these things, but could I “do” without them? Probably not.

What about you? Is there anything that you could do without that you feel would make your life simpler and better? (No, I’m not talking about your significant others. We’ll save that subject for another day.)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

First Alert, um, Saturday

Well, since yesterday's post didn't post til this morning anyway and the weekend free for all seems rather free, I'll post the alerts I technically should've posted in the last post (got that? I'm not sure I do.)

Next Sunday, April 29th, I will be signing copies of both The Model Man and Five O'Clock Shadow at the Los Angeles Times Book Fair on the UCLA campus in booth 355 near Royce Hall, for anyone planning to attend, there will be - assuming I can figure out how to create them, fast - free bookmarks too. And candy. Because everyone likes candy and I don't have to make that.

Also, I was very pleased that my erotic romance novella, Rodeo Man in The Cowboy (Aphrodisia) finaled in the Passionate Plume.

Okay, NOW I think I've done what I was actually supposed to do.



The Body of your Work

I know that many writers say that their characters came alive in the course of writing them, that the characters even directed the story, took the plot or theme in a new direction.

But how many of you - writers and readers - feel that the story itself can become a living being - the plot of course is the spine of the work, the characters are the mind and heart, the theme its soul. And once the body of your work starts living and breathing on its own, it's important to feed and clothe it - with your best possible prose. It's important to introduce this new creature to the world - readers other than yourself.

Sometimes when we're stuck on a scene, or an entire book, it helps to let this creature breathe on its own. The old saw of stepping away from your work, taking a walk, doing something physical, often does work to renew your ability to write. I like to think of it as pumping some air into the lungs of this book/being - until it's ready to just take off running on its own. Or as is certainly sometimes the case with me, to take off crawling slowly in circles around kitchen floor and knocking into the cat bowls.

At any rate, I think books do come alive for readers, and that it's not too far a stretch to say the stories are living, constantly mutating, growing "bodies of work" as writers shape them, too.



Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wow, what a month

After a miserable October (with $2,000 in insurance co-pays ) where I hit an 8-pt deer and had smoke damage to my house, April has roared in with a bang--in a good way.

I don't think I've ever had a month quite like this. First, Nine Months' Notice hit #9 on the Borders Group/Waldenbooks series best seller list for the week ending April 14. The book is also selling out Wal-Marts everywhere in my area--took 3 days for the store closest to me. I'm pinching myself, because this month seems surreal for I also made my 20th sale to Harlequin.
Twenty. I still can't believe that either. In September 1999, I sold my first book as a result of an editor appointment at RWA national. Before the next convention, I'd sold book 2.

Speaking of sales, my 15th, 19th and 20th sale were Harlequin Special Releases: Stories Set in the World of NASCAR. This is a new venture for me, and one I'm thrilled about. It also represents a chance to step out of just writing for one line, which was one of my goals. To meet this goal and selling 20 could not have been done without everyone believing in me, even when I didn't believe in myself.

So, since I'm long winded, let me get to the point (ah, you say, finally!):

In October 2000, I sat in a Waldenbooks signing my first book. It was a dream moment, and I looked around and felt this profound joy. But I knew that it was that type of joy that is fleeting. But I had it, for that one moment. A glimmer. The next month my then-husband lost his job, my mother had health issues, I learned I was going to have to give up my dream job, my dream house, etc. to move to Texas. Life went downhill fast. In 2001, I got divorced, survived a car accident that required a surgery in March 2002, and was hit again by a different driver in Dec. 2002. My dad also died. My teaching job was subject to budget cuts so I changed jobs over the next few years. I moved. I dealt with some personal issues involving my mother's illness. I continued to write, for that is what I do.

Seven years later, the world is not what I pictured it would be. But it's great. I love my current teaching job and I will be teaching all journalism classes next year. My writing career seems to be on an upswing. I'm in a new house that I love. I'm still single, but that's because a certain race car driver hasn't figured out that I'm his dream woman or even that I exist (had to throw that in).
But life is good. I've weathered tough times. I know there will be more. But blessings exist, for God has always been gracious and has always provided, both financially and emotionally. I'm surrounded by supportive people who love me. Thus, I'm grateful that this is simply, my life, complete with all its hills and valleys. I have discovered something beyond joy, beyond happiness that is fleeting, something that only comes through perseverance. I have discovered contentment.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Two books out this month

This is a big month for me. It Happened One Wedding, the second in my To Wed Or Not To Wed series is out this month. Also my women’s fiction debut, Another Life. Talk about exciting! So far it’s doing well. Some of the reviews are posted here:

There was more excitement at the end of March. I spent four fabulous days in New York city for the PASIC writers’ conference. The Harlequin American offices are in Toronto, but the Silhouette offices are in the old Woolworth building on Broadway, just a few blocks from where the Twin Towers once stood. I’ve been there before, but went back for a tour and lunch with Mary Theresa Hussey, who is a great editor (not mine—I work with the amazing Kathleen Scheibling, who’s in Toronto) and a wonderful person. Best of all, she gave me my pick of books to bring home. Needless to say, my to be read pile is now humongous!

I visited the Kensington offices, too. They are far away from Silhouette, but just as impressive. John Scognamiglio , my editor, has a spotless office that puts mine to shame.

Publishing houses always astonish me. They are constantly acquiring manuscripts, editing, designing covers, doing PR and marketing, and a number of other things. Well-oiled machines, for sure.

New York itself amazes me with its fantastic museums and shows. While I was there, I saw three shows. Avenue Q, which is an irreverent, funny musical with a message to enjoy today because tomorrow things may change. The Pirate Queen is brand new and pure romance. I don’t know for how long it’ll be around, but I certainly enjoyed it. The Year of Magical Thinking is a serious play with only one actor—the amazing Vanessa Redgrave. Joan Didion wrote both the book and the screenplay and I truly enjoyed her beautiful writing.

During the day I enjoyed conference stuff—panels, talks and discussions—and loved all of it. I reconnected with friends I only see at conferences and forged a deeper friendship with my roommate, Ann Defee.

All in all, a wonderful experience. I wouldn’t trade a second of it. And yet… it’s great to be home again, sitting at the computer and creating stories.

Ann Roth
Another Life, April, 2007
It Happened One Wedding, April, 2007

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In the News

I'm supposed to write about something I'm reading today, but the news beats out any book I have handy. Nothing like the freak Nor'easter we're having to remind us of Mother Nature's power. My house is on high ground, but other people are stranded in libraries because the causeway or bridge they take to their island home is washed out. Roads and parking lots are flooded and wide-spread power outages have the repair trucks working 24/7. On the lighter side, local people have taken the opportunity to view the ocean's fury. Yes, the dh and I were among those driving to the truck down to see the waves crashing over the seawall at the public landing. Water surrounded the harbormaster's office and a local restaurant.

On the other hand, spring also means rebirth. The Biodiversity Research Institute has a live eagle cam. The camera focuses on a bald eagle nest 70 feet up in a white pine tree on the coast of Maine. The pair of eagles has raised chicks in this nest for several years. At first, this spring's odd weather seemed to threaten their success, but now observers have seen one fuzzy head appear above the nest and they're hoping for two. This picture isn't today's shot, but one from last year. Today's pictures show a storm-swept nest and fog. If you visit the site, you can contribute to the cause. Here's the URL:

Monday, April 16, 2007

Manic Mondays

I love that song by The Bangles, "Manic Monday." It first came out when I was a young woman with a husband, a young child, a job and writing aspirations. It defined my life. If you'd asked me back then, I'd have said I'd have my life in order by now. Hah, naive young thing I was back then.

Every Monday hits me with a wave of panic about all the things that I need to do for the week. I've been battling the manic-panic approach to the week with some success for the last two years. However, as soon as I let down my guard (buttressed by square breathing and conscious-positive thinking) and think about my to-do list, my heart starts to race.

All this panic is detrimental to the creative process. I know this, so I battle on. Life's little disruptions make it difficult, but life's big disruptions make it almost impossible to drop down into the dreamworld of my creative conscious. I was going to complain about that today, but I can't...

Because, while I was strugging to tame the to-do devil, I heard on the radio about the shootings at Virginia Tech. My little battle with life's difficulties suddenly seems so tiny. I have it good. Healthy husband, healthy children,

So, today I don't need to square breathe my way out of my relatively trivial worries -- shock and pain and sympathy have knocked me out of my petty panic phase. If I am lucky enough to get down into a creative state, I'll be grateful for that, too, because I know for certain I'll be coming up to reality on a regular basis to sit with the knowledge that there are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and children who are facing unimaginable loss today.

Sorry to be such a downer, but sometimes life punches someone else in the gut, and takes the air out of the innocent bystanders' lungs. Today was definitely that kind of day for me.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Superstitious, anyone?

Today is Friday the 13th.

Did you shudder when you read that? Look over your shoulder? Or did you merely yawn and think...yes? and your point is...?

If you didn't bat an eyelash, I salute you. I don't think I'm terribly superstitious, but I do notice when the number 13 and Friday coincide on the calendar. And I'm not the only one to take note of 13 or the lack thereof. On an airplane recently, my son noticed there was no 13th row. And how many of you have been in buildings that are missing a 13th floor? (Are they any buildings with a 13th floor?)

So I'm mulling the question, how superstitious am I? Would I book a room on the 13th floor? I think so, especially if it meant a discount! But would I mail an important proposal on Friday the 13th? Hmm. I'm less sure about that. I probably would, since I'd be anxious get it out the door, but I might look for a little extra luck throughout the day, just in case. (See a penny, pick it up....)

So, how about all you out there in cyberland? Are you superstitious or not? Do you dodge black cats? Avoid walking under ladders? (Well, duh, that makes sense!) Have a special routine that seems to align the stars in your favor?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Once Upon a Family

My April Love Inspired, Once Upon a Family, is the first in a series called Fostered by Love. As the local high school principal, Peter Stone knew troubled student Sean Williams needed his expert assistance. And as a Christian, Peter knew God was leading him to help. Yet it was the boy’s mother who captured Peter’s noticed. Laura, a widow caring for her four children and ailing aunt, had no time for romance or religion. Somehow, despite her protests, Laura found herself and her brood frequent visitors to Peter’s ranch and the church he attended. Soon it seemed her family was meant to complete Peter’s life.

Once Upon a Family was Top Pick for Romantic Times for April. “Peter and Laura share an immediate connection. Cheesy by no means, this terrific family story does a fantastic job of dealing with serious issues facing children.” (4½) Robin Taylor, reviewer for Romantic Times.

As a writer I have been fortunate to be able to put some of myself in each book I write. I don’t think I can totally separate myself from my books. I decided to write a series about some of the serious problems I’ve seen as a high school teacher that children have to deal with. This was a therapeutic exercise for me—like writing in a journal. There are so many times I’ve felt impotent and unable to do anything to help a student. At least by writing this series I hope to highlight some of the issues facing children. What are some of the things you do to help yourself work through concerns that upset you?

Margaret Daley

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Getting Rid of the Ex

No, I'm not talking about that former spouse you may wish you could chop up and bury in the Mojave Desert. I mean our fictional characters' past relationships.

Most characters in a romance novel start out with a past. And, unless the characters are super-innocent, that past usually includes at least one serious relationship. This is especially true when it comes to pregnant heroines, or those with children, for obvious reasons.

Which leads to my question: What went wrong with the old relationship?

Often a bad past relationship is a major part of the internal conflict. Maybe the ex was a lying, cheating scum, and the heroine is afraid to love again. Or maybe he fell down a flight of stairs, and the heroine is now terrified of stairs. Enter our hero, who lives upstairs and the elevator is broken….

Okay, I haven't seen anyone try that one.
But it's a rare book in which either of our main characters are coming off of a positive relationship. Not that I haven't seen it done, and done well. (Usually because the ex has passed away. Could this mean the only good ex is a dead ex?) But I'm wondering if sometimes it's a little too easy for us to negate our characters' past romances. Maybe it's the notion that true love only comes around once, so those other times don't count.

I admit I've done the same thing, especially in my current book, MEG'S CONFESSION. I wanted to have a pregnant heroine … so in order to have her ready to love again so quickly, I figured had to be something wrong with her marriage. Light bulb! They had a fight just before he died, and he said he didn't want children. When he dies, Meg is still angry and guilt-ridden, which is what leads her into the confessional.

And what do you know, my latest work in progress has a heroine who's had some bad experiences and doesn't especially trust men….

Okay, an ex from a good relationship is pretty hard to pull off in a book – maybe even harder than in real life. But since we're all products of our experiences, I'd like to think some good can come out of those past involvements, even if they didn't last. So in my next book, I'm gonna try to include at least one former romance that ended on decent terms.

What about you? How do you usually deal with your characters' old relationships? How do you get rid of the ex?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reading while I Write

I know there are writers who don’t read books in the genre that they’re writing, especially while they’re writing, but I’ve never been one of them. I can't help myself. I suppose it's in part the reason I want to write a certain kind of book in the first place -- I love that kind of story, so it makes perfect sense to read it. From an industry perspective, I also like to know what's out there, what's selling, etc, though you can't obsess on those things, of course (yeah, right).

Lately, I’ve been sucking up as much paranormal/urban fantasy as I can find, primarily because I love it, but also because I want to write it. So, for a while I’ve been reading a steady diet of paranormal/UF, but recently it's been all I read, namely Eileen Wilks, Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, JR Ward, Christine Feehan, and Nina Bangs, among several others. They all take me to new, exciting places as a reader and a writer, and I always learn a little something.

What fascinates me at the moment is how a writer can make a big story happen in a small setting. McKee says something about this in STORY, about making your setting small to increase impact, but I was never as conscious of it as I have been recently.

When setting constrains the story, a writer manages to create something very intense, all focused on character. I’m thinking of the movie Phone Booth, which I thought was brilliant, and The Bourne Identity (while Ludlum takes his character through many settings, we don’t really notice them – it’s all about the character).

When a writer digs deep into character, a lot can happen in a confined space – right now I’m reading Christine Feehan’s Deadly Game, and I’m about halfway through, and realized she’s had me on the edge of my seat like the best action movies will, but still, not a whole lot has happened externally. There actually hasn't been a lot of action. They change location, have a few close calls, but if you think about it, not a lot has actually happened. Feehan manages to give the impression of action, but she doesn't let a lot of external action/movement distract us from what's going on with the characters.

It’s because she goes deep on character, and that’s where the real action is. In Feehan’s book, the intensity of the interaction between the characters, the immediate sexual tension, the imminent danger, and the backstory all serve to provide a sense of action. They talk a lot, think a lot, and yet it’s not boring in the least. She also focuses on the attraction between the characters on every single page -- she almost never leaves it, like the best marketing, she "stays on message." I don't know if I've ever read a book with his much focus.

So, while I'm reading I'm enjoying myself, but I'm also absorbing all of these lessons, which is another reason I like to read what I write. We have to have role models, those who go before us to not only show us how it's done, but to show us how we can break free and do it our own way -- it's tough to know if you have anything new if you don't know what's out there in the first place.

What do you read while you write? Do you read what you're writing, or things that are very different?


Monday, April 09, 2007

The Honeymoon

Industry wisdom says the relationship between a writer and her literary agent should be like a good marriage: it needs chemistry, support and excitement. I guess that means I'm on the honeymoon because I just got a new agent a couple of months ago. That's one of the writing life's great "ups": finding an expert in the business who loves your work.

I'm feeling especially up because at our wonderful PASIC conference last weekend I sat down over a glass of wine with my new agent and we talked about all kinds of things, including my writing. She took me on as a client on the strength of an unpublished book which I adore; it's about a hockey goalie and a poet. Not only that, the poet is seven years older than the hockey goalie. This manuscript won PASIC's Book of Your Heart contest which I was especially thrilled by because it truly is a book of my heart.

However, I wasn't sure why my new agent had been drawn to it so I asked her point-blank. Now it may seem as though I was simply fishing for compliments. Not true (although compliments are always most welcome)! Readers may enjoy a book for many different reasons, some of which will surprise an author. It was important to me to find out what my agent saw as the strengths of my work so I can play to those and know what sort of projects to develop in the future. I also wanted to make sure that she wasn't going to expect something from me that I wasn't interested in duplicating in my next books.

I was thrilled--and relieved--to hear that she loved the same things in EMPTY NET that made it so special for me (most especially the hero!). Now I know she and I are truly on the same page (go ahead and groan at the pun). I can write what brings me pleasure with no shadows of doubt creeping across the computer screen. Whew!

Since we're talking about agents, what else do folks on this blog feel is important in an agent-author relationship?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Castles in the Air

My first exposure to romantic fiction was through fairy tales, all those stories (and their Disney movie counterparts) about deserving young women finding their princes and going off to live in a castle. I was lucky as a child to get to live in Germany for a while, where we had an actual castle (okay, a ruin) on the hill over our neighborhood. You can't beat a real castle as a playground for acting out all your fantasies about knights, princes, princesses and fair maidens (who also do their own swordfighting, of course). Even as an adult, I've got a thing about castles. When I travel, I can't resist visiting and photographing any castle I come across, and since the weekend is a free-for-all, I thought I'd share a few of my castles. These are from a trip I took back to Germany about ten years ago, where I visited some new castles and rediscovered some favorites from childhood.

This is probably the most famous German castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein, which apparently was the inspiration for the castle at Disneyland. It looks like the ideal medieval fairy tale castle, but it's actually relatively modern, dating from the 19th century. It also isn't finished and for the most part is an empty shell. To take this picture, I had to go out on an ice-covered, rickety wooden bridge suspended hundreds of feet above a rocky gorge. I'm glad it turned out okay.

This is the "real" castle nearby, Hohenschwangau. It really is medieval. I didn't get to go into this one.

Most of the true medieval castles in Germany are ruins, but this one, Burg Eltz, has never been conquered or damaged in war, from medieval times all the way through to WWII. When I was there in 1997, it was still privately owned by descendants of the original family that built it, and while parts of it are open to visitors, the rest of it remains a private residence.

Heidelberg Castle was one of the ones I visited in childhood. It has a fairly tragic history and was burned by the French at least once. Now they do an annual "burning" with a fireworks display that makes it look like the castle is on fire. Someday I'd like to be there to see that.

So, that's part of my German castle collection. If there's interest, I can also post some British castles. I've even started discovering American "castles" and visited one near New York during the PASIC conference last weekend.

The booksigning event of the Year...

This is Friday, Good Friday and the lists seem quiet. Writers are either writing because they're off from the day job for the day, or they're not writing because of the nature of the holiday.
I'm planning to recuperate from a steady week of writing. Some weeks I write because I have a deadline. Either a real one or one I've given myself.
Other weeks I write because I have a head of steam. Like the old idea about steam locomotives getting up a head of steam in order to pull all those cars...all that freight.
I *had* a head of steam on Monday. I used it to push and pull a load of story along a track. Little by little I wrote all the steam out of my head. Squeezed the brain dry like a used sponge. So, today, I rest. Today, I refill my well. Soon, the well will boil and bubble into another head of steam.
Hopefully by Saturday, so I can pull a few more train cars farther along the track.
But Fridays are for talking about our booksignings and appearances.
The next time I set foot out in public toting books and business cards will be at the Romantic Times convention in Houston.
This will be my first RT. I've heard rumors of parties. Of dancing. Of cover models dancing. Whoo-hoo!
I'm doing what I can to prepare, of course. My excerpts are printed: 1000 each of Midnight Confessions and the sequel MC II. I'm picking up new business cards today. I have my clothes planned. My shoes, well, if not completely comfortable...they all come off easily.
I'll be in Club RT a couple of times...when I'm not slated to be there, I'll probably hang out anyway. I'll have tons of friends to catch up with. My publisher's planning a signing on Friday morning. And finally I'll be at the book fair on Saturday.
I'm a people person, for the most part, so I'm really quite happy talking to strangers. I dance (not well, but enthusiasm must count for something), I play nice and have been told I'm pretty funny.
So, that's all good.
My main concern about RT is: how do I survive? I need tips for getting through 6 days of wild fun and late nights. Anyone?
Any suggestions?
Bonnie Edwards

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thankful Thursday and New Book

I have a book coming out on the 10th (although it is available for order rather than pre-order now on Amazon). COMPETITION'S A WITCH is the second in my teen witch-cheerleader series (SALEM WITCH TRYOUTS out last August and SHE'S A WITCH GIRL out this August).

I'm thankful for much today about this book -- that I still love Pru and her friends as much as I did when I was writing the series (the last one has already been revised and copyedited). I'm thankful for a wonderful agent and a super editor who believed in my series. I'm thankful that the cover artist captured the spirit of the book and created three beautiful covers (I just got the cover for the last book in the series -- gorgeous!) I'm thankful that my readers are enjoying the series, and that they write to tell me so through my website and in comments on my MySpace page.

Most of all, I'm thankful that when I had this idea (came out of nowhere in response to mishearing someone say the title of a book, which was actually the more usual Salem Witch Trials), I ignored my impulse to count myself out of writing for teens because I'm almost finished raising mine. Or because I had been the nose-in-a-book mousy girl in high school rather than the outgoing cheerleader.

If I'd listened to that doubting voice in my head that tried very hard to squash my instinct to write this story for fun and not worry about whether it would sell or not, I wouldn't have come to know Pru, to know more about cheerleaders (cheering is a sport, people!), and to realize that listening to your instincts is a great way to bring magic into your life!


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Where Does the Time Go?

It's "wondering Wednesday" and I have no question to be answered--at least not one that somebody else asked me. So I thought I'd ask myself something. Or rather, ponder the answer to a self-imposed question. (I'm known around town for talking to myself, because if I didn't tell myself what to do, I wouldn't know, would I? So of course, if I talk to myself, I ask myself questions. And sometimes I even answer them.)

Then I got to wondering what kind of question I could ask myself--er, ponder. And then of course, I got sidetracked into wondering whether I would get everything done this week that I need to get done, which evolved into a question. Where does all the time go?

I could get silly with this question--pondering whether time pours into all the cracks in the sidewalks and works its way down into the earth's core where it... Okay, it's way, way early, or maybe late, and I tend to get silly when I'm tired. Time doesn't literally slip into the sidewalk cracks. At least, I'm pretty sure it doesn't. But it's really slippery and squishes through our fingers when we try to grab hold of it.

I don't have a day job. I'm really very lucky to have writing for my full time job. And I'm very careful to protect my writing time. I tell people I work in the mornings, and it gets me out of a lot of volunteering. (I'd write in the afternoons too, if it weren't for my nasty predilection for falling asleep on top of it.) But there are still funerals to bake cakes for, and spouses (spice?) to spend time with, and grandboys to find Easter goodies for, not to mention books to read and movies to watch and nasty prickly weeds to pull from behind my rose bushes. And when the end of the week rolls around again, I'm always surprised it's arrived Again, already.

Where does your time go? Do you know?

Um, while you think, I guess I'd better go fix the jelly beans and Easter cards to mail to three little boys, and then I'm probably going to have to chase down my time and tackle it before it gets completely away from me. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Naked Earl and The Pirate Queen

Today is The Naked Earl's official release date!! It's also "Tempting Tuesday" when we're supposed to talk about what we're reading.


Can I tempt you into reading a little Naked nobility?? (Nudge, nudge; wink, wink.)

Ahem. Pardon me.

About reading. I just got home from New York City and our fabulous PASIC conference. Instead of digging into my bag of books while I rode the train back to D.C., I proofread some summer swim league guidance and then leafed through the playbill for The Pirate Queen, the musical many PASIC members attended Friday night.

I really enjoyed The Pirate Queen. It's set in late 16th century England and Ireland. There's a lot of Irish dancing and singing, cool set changes...well, D.C. isn't the sticks, but the last play I saw was a high school production. Good, I'm sure, but not quite Broadway quality. So I was dazzled--but another part of my brain was running parallel to the play's story, wondering about the actors, who they were, how they felt pretending to be someone else.

Sunday on the train I studied the cast pictures and "Who's Who." I had worried about the young boy in the musical, how he could be up so late, how he could go to school and get his homework done. I was happy to see that there were actually two boys playing the role on alternating days. But still, what would it be like to be nine years old and working with adults? How would that experience change you? And then I saw one of the dancers had graduated from my alma mater and worked at a public relations firm. What did her co-workers think of her other career? And another cast member added a dedication to his children, but not his wife. Was he divorced?

So, is it the writer in me or do normal people do this, too? Am I just weird? (Okay, maybe you'd better not answer that!)

Anyone else wonder about the actors behind the characters?

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Best Conference Ever!!

I've just returned to my room after the last workshop for the PASIC Power Conference 2007, aka, the Best Conference Ever!

What a blast!

The workshops were awesome - New York was awesome! Many cudos to the entire PASIC Power Conference 2007 committee!

Letting the Hair Down Day

It's Saturday at PASIC conference, which means jeans and hair down day--no editors here, no agents, no need to look professional (not that I ever do much anymore anyway). Today is writers talking writing and business--meaning war stories day. Everyone swaps books, too, as well as what's up, what's down. And I wonder.

Are we ever where we want to be? It is always about looking ahead? There's been talk of goals and dreams, and knowing the difference. And I wonder.

The dream used to be to get published. That was the goal, too. To just finish the book. Then the next book. Then a book that would sell (there are seven under the bed that are not getting out anytime soon). Then it was the book sold, so it was promote the book--signings, bookmarks, ads. Do that whole thing. And the next book done and the next contract, and the next, and trying the whole build a career thing. And I wonder.

Is there such a thing as too many goals? So many you can't see that dream anymore--or it's become a waking nightmare. Or maybe you've got the wrong goals--goals that are doing more harm than good in getting them done? Or you've got goals and you're meeting them, and it's all good. But there's still so much focus on tomorrow that today gets neglected. And I wonder.

Is this perhaps the real blessing of between contracts. A time to skip past dealing with the day-to-day of deadlines? A time to think and breathe and remember doing something you love so much you'd do it even if no one ever paid you a dime? I love to let a book sit a spell. It gives perspective. It's not a bad thing to let a career sit a bit. Get perspective. Gives time to wonder again.

And I'm ready--lord, am I read--to get back to the writing. Thank god that after all the talking and the sessions and the gossip and the market trends, the written word is there. Because these days, for me, it's back to just that one goal. Finish the book, make it good, tell this story, get it written. That's the place to not wonder so much--it's more about the doing than the thinking. I like that place.

And, I begin to think, as writers, maybe we all think too much; try to plot a life the way we do a book. When, in truth, sometimes we really just have to live.

Friday, March 30, 2007

New York, New York (or if this is spring in every other year it must be PASIC conference)

Taking in the blurry eyes this morning, I'm not sure a cocktail party is the best way to start a conference--but it was all terribly New York (very chic, which means a place where you don't want to eat much for fear of wearing it). Also, many editors and writers and too little space and the hot air was not just from idle chatter; the corner by the bar had no ventilation. EVERYONE seemed to be there--want an agent, turn around and you could bump into one. Or, put it this way, you could have taken out the entire romance publishing industry. Patti Berg finally threw the last of us out well past seven, and folks wandered off to dinner (or to plays), or just to way too much talking (lots of husky voices this morning, too).

Since it's Friday, it's down to business day. Sue Grimshaw of Borders started the day--well, actually, Patti did with the welcome, but Sue got into the details of book and Borders and what's going on. As almost everyone must know, WaldenBooks are going away--malls are not the places they used to be, it seems. But Border Superstores are doing great, so more coming. And Borders is getting its own online act together, so more good stuff I hope (they have a chance to use the latest tech at least). So--what's good for authors to get the word out? ARCs to bookstores, bookmarks to Borders romance specialist stores. Websites (well, yes, this is a blog, right). Sue encouraged authors to let her know about cool stuff being done--as in those great video or audio trailers that seem to be the new rage. (Big hint, put faces in--Borders creative folks want to see trailers with actors so the trailers look like the books are about 'someone' not 'something' or 'someplace'. I imagine that holds true for just about everyone else, too.)

There's more--and I'm sure it'll be covered in loops, but a blog only does so much.

Seemed like everyone wanted to know about promotion--and what's selling. No one's willing to say what might sell next and that seemed a wise idea.

Then it was an editor's panel. Avon, Berkley, Pocket and Dorchester were all represented. A lot of the questions put the focus again on the business side of thing--dull stuff like numbers. The editors all agreed they like steady sell-through numbers (and great books) more even that best seller lists (but USA Today list was picked as being good for honest sales numbers, even if it doesn't show the entire life of a book--which makes me wonder, does any reader really look at best seller lists? I never do--I always look for my favorite authors). MySpace got a mention for promotion, so did Amazon Connect, but it all came back to writing (which is like well, duh time again on that).

Then Kensington came in to talk covers -- Kate Duffy, who always has the best stories, arrived with Creative Director Kristine Mills-Nobel. They're both smart, and droll, so it was soon the Kate and Kristine show, and I'm not going to retell anything, because I wouldn't do any of the stories justice. But it was way more fun to see some of the covers that didn't make it to the final cut. There's more this afternoon--way, way more. And even more tomorrow. (Can we spell exhaustion at this point?)

Personally, I'm at the place I always get a day into these things where I want to go home and write--this is why I've learned to bring my laptop. It's not the comfort of home, but it is hte comfort of the written word. But, honestly, I love these things--I've already met more new instant friends (went to a play with two of 'em last night, and I'm rooming with another one). And it's just nice because writing is so solitary and this isn't. So bring on the coctails again--tonight I'm almost ready.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Believing it

Since this is Thankful Thursday, and I am thankful for many, many things in life, I was trying to think of what I have been most thankful for lately. The answer hit me right away: I am thankful for people, readers, friends, family, who keep me going. However, among that group, I am particularly thankful lately for industry professionals, namely editors and agents, who are able to see a writer's potential -- not just what they can do now, this moment, this book, today, but the ones who have a real visionary sense, who can look at you and say "you have talent, you have "something special." We expect the people who love us to say this, but when someone in the business says it, it takes on a completely different meaning.

Perhaps you handed them an idea, a rough manuscript, and while they were honest enough to tell you what didn't work, they also knew that there was "something" worth pursuing, and they are willing to invest themselves to help you get there. They could see through the crap to the gem, they know it's there, and they make you believe it, too. In a profession riddled with doubt and focused on dollar signs, this is not small beans. They have faith.

I have been fortunate enough to have both an editor and now an agent who have given me this particular gift, and it makes you want to work harder, to strive farther, to do the thing they believe you can do, even if you don't believe it yourself sometimes. I don't know if our industry is filled with many of these people nowadays -- the 20 or so agents who rejected me saying "loved the idea, hated to book, sorry," would seem to prove not -- most are looking for something already formed, not something to discover.

I was fortunate to find the person who finally said "love the idea, hated the book -- let's work on doing it again the way I know you can do it."

When people like this -- people who have been around for so long, and who have seen so much, and who know so much -- believe we can do it, how could we not do it? They make you believe that falling short of their expectations is not possible. It changes your entire outlook.

Who are you thankful for? Who keeps you going, and makes you want to work harder, go farther?