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?