Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Self-Promotion # 7,369

Okay. I don't really know how many times we've discussed self-promotion. I feel like I'm obsessed with it. I'm obsessed with what I should do and haven't managed to do or what I shouldn't do and already did or what I might do that might work that might launch me into the next phase of my career.

Nobody really knows what works and what doesn't. Every workshop and book and article I've read does have one common thing that they say. Do what's comfortable you. Leave the stuff that makes you uncomfortable alone.

With that in mind, I am going to quit tweeting. I hate it. I actually really enjoy twitter. Also, it's apparently dangerous for you. I love reading what OTHER people are doing. I like Maureen's tweets and Nathan Fillion cracks me up. My life, however, feels boring to me when I try to tweet about it.

I don't know if it's the 140 character limit that keeps me from elaborating the way I like or if I'm just dull as yesterday's dishwater. My tweets fall flat even to my eyes and I'm predisposed to like me.

So that's it. I'm done. I'll probably retweet other people's stuff on occasions and maybe reply to people here and there, but no more self-generated tweeting. I'm done.

Is there anything that you decided you hated too much to keep doing even if a bunch of the other cool kids were doing it?

Sunday, August 29, 2010


We're so edgy around here right now. Violence in kid's books. Gay sex on the small screen. Research.

I thought I'd bring it on home with my latest obsession - Eminem's newest song. I drove down to Detroit this weekend and swear to God the moment I crossed the border this was like the State Anthem. They love thier hometown hero down there.

I have always been an Eminem fan. Not huge. No tee shirts or ticket stubs for this white mother of two. But I find his writing to be harrowing and brutal and honest. His point of view isn't one that I always understand or agree with, but it's a point of view that's controversial, commited and genuine. His Slim Shady alter ego is less likeable, but the stuff that Walter Mathers seems to write - I'm pretty crazy about. His new video is from the male point of view in an abusive relationship. From what I understand about his private life - this song is his private life. Ignore the creepy Rhiannon bit, and just focus on how truly pained this guy is.

What do you think?

Friday, August 27, 2010

How far is too far when it comes to violence?

I still have not gotten my pre-ordered copy of Mockingjay. And I'm trying really hard not to see any reviews, or spoilers, but I did read one blog heading referring to the violence in the novel.

the one thing that surprised me was how violent and dark the YA genre can be. Hunger Games and Forest of Hands and Teeth have very dark images in them. But then, consider who is going to the plethora of horror movies released every year. Probably mostly teens.

To be honest, the violence didn't bother me. It would have bothered me had the writers not examined the consequences of the situations the characters were in. The consequences being, in some cases, injury and death.

The same goes for romantic suspense. We can't shy away from the truth of the story we create. Within reason - describing violence and wallowing in it are too different things.

I want to be scared, I don't want to be disgusted. Which is why I avoid the Saw movies.

Did the violence in any of the books you've read recently bother you? Or have I been desensitized after too many years of watching horror movies?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Research... why it's good for you.

I’m in the midst of doing research for my current WIP so I thought I would share in my misery. I’m not going to lie. I am part geek. I took history classes in college for fun. I love learning stuff. Small ridiculous facts fill my head from all different time periods.

However reading text books – BORING. I do it because I know it’s the best way to fill my head with a ton of information. Right now I’m carrying around what I’m sure is about a 10 pound book on the Victorian domestic household in my purse. Actually as far as text books go it’s not so bad. And I just learned this really cool fact about how they would whiten the outside steps which is going to become an awesome clue for me.

Now a lot of people might think I’m crazy. Who carries around bulky text books when all facts, all knowledge, all everything can be found on the internet?
Guess what – the internet as great as it is - isn’t enough. Yes, you can find facts. Yes, you can usually get direct questions answered. Yes, it is an invaluable tool and has made life easier for writers everywhere.

But if you want to be good – I mean really good - when it comes to historicals (or really any book that delves deep into a particular topic) you need to do more. You need to fill your head with facts. You need to know how these people ate, slept and thought. You need to read fiction of the time to see what they dramatized. You need to read letters they wrote to each other. Diaries – huge. I found gold with a book of documented interviews with thieves and prostitutes of the period I’m writing in.

Is it because I’m going to fill my books with facts? No. See above. Reading text books are BORING. But if I’ve learned anything from Joanne Bourne and Sherry Thomas it’s that they fill their books effortlessly (at least it feels effortless when reading it) with details. When I read their stories I’m not pulled out by the facts. I hate when that happens. A writer finds a tidbit (probably on the internet) that screams - LOOK AT ME! I DID RESEARCH - and they use it over and over again.

With the best it’s just layered into the story. If you haven’t read Forbidden Rose there is a scene where the heroine puts colored paper on her toenails. Amazing detail and you trust that Bourne knows women of this period did this. And if she made it up, she’s layered the story in so many other ways that it doesn’t matter. It fits.

Other times the details can be used for great effect. One of my favorite scenes in Thomas’s Delicious was when the heroine ran a bath. Hot water, into a tub, through plumbing. It’s like she dared you to question that someone in this time period could do this. Using what a reader might think was an anachronism but instead showcasing how much she knew about plumbing (freakin plumbing!) during this time period. She was dead right by the way. Most homes in London had running water by the 1870s. See what I’m learning!

I really believe you have to have it all at your disposal. You have to know the politics and the mood of the nation. The poetry and literature of the time. Who the modern day thinkers were back then and what scientific accomplishments were happening.

The only way I can hope to accomplish that is to shove it all in my brain. Total emersion. So when I’m writing a scene I’m not thinking is it okay for my heroine to take her hat and gloves off? Who would have answered the door? Let me check and see if I can find the answer on the internet.


I need to know it. Sure there are times when I do get stuck. But I’m learning with my second historical that the more you know in advance the better you can simply put your characters in the scene, knowing the world in which they live and tell the story.

My hope is that all this reading will translate into effortless detail. My fear is that I bog down the book with too much. But either way I know that White Satin was a euphuism for gin. Who doesn’t love that fact!

“Excuse me, bartender. Yes, I’ll have a White Satin and tonic.” Hee hee… I’m such a geek.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fall TV

The other night I was talking to Molly and Sinead and said something about TV starting up in a few weeks and we started thinking about what we were looking forward to and couldn’t come up with anything.

True Blood and Mad Men are already going. We had Friday Night Lights over the summer. Lost is over and Heroes died for me at least a season before it was cancelled, so it was hard to have that school’s starting excitement about the fall TV season.

But when I thought about it more, I did come up with a few things.

Vampire Diaries is starting up again soon, and I really did enjoy the first season, a lot.

Really hoping this second season of Modern Family is as good as the first. I do still love that show and am definitely looking fwd to it starting up, again. I hope/pray the writing will stay as strong in the second season.

Glee I’m hopeful about, too, but am terrified they’re about to, or have already, jumped the shark. But sounds like there will be some new characters, so as long as they don’t abandon their campy fun attitude from the earliest episodes, I’ll enjoy that, too.

On the drama front… I have to say, I can’t wait for Grey’s Anatomy. I know this is a love it or hate it show, but I’ve always been in the love it camp. Where I lost interest in other long running shows like this after four or so seasons, I still love Grey's. I find the characters compelling and well rounded and 3 dimensional -- even if they’re unrealistically pretty -- the men and the women -- for doctors. I’ve never seen female friendship depicted on TV like the relationship between Meredith and Christina, and that season finale last spring. Wow. That was the most tense 2 hours of TV I’ve seen in a long time. Maybe ever. And it’s interesting to see that one of the Dr.’s killed off in that episode has been resurrected as a nurse on Mad Men. ;)

I haven’t been paying much attention to the new shows for this season, except that it’s been hard to avoid the ads for The Event, even though I watch almost all my TV on DVR these days and therefore skip most of the ads.

What are you looking forward to this fall? What have I missed?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why I Miss Writing Chick Lit

My first four novels with a New York publisher were all chick lit. I was unapologetic for them being chick lit at the time and I still am, despite my recent suggestion that we refer to it as post-feminist humorous literature. I loved chick lit stories. I loved what they represented. I loved the laughter and the friendships and the drinks and the shoes.

I'm not writing chick lit anymore. It's a tough market these days. Publishers have cut way back on their inventory of those stories because consumers cut way back on what they were buying. It happens. I made the switch to writing romantic suspense and urban fantasy. I love these genres, too. But I miss my chick lit. It's a little like being wistful for your first love.

I know part of it is a bit of nostalgia on my part. It's hard to beat the excitement of getting The Call for the first time, seeing your first cover flat, putting your name in Amazon for the first time and having something actually come up. That was all thrilling.

I think I miss a bit of what the genre was about, though. I miss the laughter and the fun frothiness of it. There were times when I was writing chick lit that I'd sit at my computer and giggle because I was cracking myself up. I miss that mindset. I feel like I was lighter and funner and frothier.

That doesn't happen so much in romantic suspense. I'm jumpier. I'm tenser. I love the intellectual puzzle of putting together the plot (even though that's hard hard hard for me), but the other day I wrote a scene that completely grossed me out. I know it's kind of the point. The bad guy is now completely beyond any chance at redemption. He's gone too far. But it kind of weirded me out that I had that in my head.

So how about you? Does what you're writing affect how you interact in the world?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gay is so hot!

In a battle between Dear Author and Smart Bitches - I go with Dear Author, because they review books. I don't want to watch train wrecks, or authors and readers behaving badly. I don't want to hear anymore depressing industry news - I want to find out what books are worth reading. And Dear Author does a great review - and lately they are doing a LOT of gay romance reviews. Which is really interesting and suprising and I think says something about the romance reading demographic that is plugged into Dear Author, as opposed to the romance reading demographic that sent me hate mail for my novella last year.

At the same time I could not be loving True Blood anymore right now. It is tight. It is conflicted. The acting is fantastic. Unlike last year I'm no longer angry that they give me forty minutes of orgies and human sacrifices that I don't care about only to give me five minutes of something really juicy and conflicted - because it's all juicy. And some of the juiciest stuff - Lafayette. Lafayette and Jesus. Lafayette - probably because Sinead has made a shrine to him in her house - is one of the most outrageous and deeply sympathetic characters on tv right now. He's good and bad - he's trying very hard to keep the scattered ends of his life toghether - his people safe and his eyeliner from smudging. He is absolutely perfect. And now he's falling in love. And those scenes between Lafayette and Jesus are the hottest, most tense, most ROMANTIC scenes on television. Thier dialogue and kiss was way sexier than the Sookie and Bill soft-core porn scene later in the same episode.

In that same episode Stephanie's boyfriend - Eric - took off his shirt and had a gay make-out scene with a hugely different ending. And while I was very aware that Eric was kissing another man like a straight man with an agenda - he had his shirt off and that was hot.

Anyway - I think it's interesting and exciting that there is some gay love hitting the mainstream and that it's GOOD - is great for all of us. What do you think?

Friday, August 20, 2010

When I grow up I want to be Tina Fey

I finally got around to seeing the movie Date Night, and thought it was so great, but partly because it spoke to my life.
There is a scene in the movie where Tina has to dress as a stripper, and she finds a bustier, and explains that she chose it because it covered her c-section scar.

There's another scene where she talks about her fantasy.. and it's her, alone in a quiet hotel room, eating a sandwich in peace..

As a parent of small children, that made me laugh because it's so true. Sometimes all you want is a day of nothing, no noise, no demands, just quiet.

In this silly movie, with the somewhat ridiculous premise of a couple mistaken for thieves and on the run from gun toting baddies, they somehow found these wonderful moments of real truth, and it made the movie for me.

It's the grounding in truth and realism that can make a ridiculous premise work well. Watching the movie I realized that as I'm writing this historical horror, I need to find something real about all my characters, something that makes them really human and relatable...

That's what we try and do with all our characters, of course, but the more different our world, and the more far fetched our premise, grounding our characters and making them really relatable, is the key to making it all work.

As much as I always want to rely on plot, right now, I'm focusing more on my characters, knowing I can always fix plot later.

Did anyone else see Date Night and love it as much as I did? Anyone else slightly underwhelmed by this season of Mad Men?

Help me OUT!

I'm part of a community discussion over at eHarlequin and so far that discussion is a lot of me talking - if you have a chance and are so inclined, stop on by:

Click here

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Boundaries... I miss them.

I’ve talked a little (or maybe a lot – sorry!) about my current WIP. I had (what I thought) was this “great” idea. I wanted to do four different povs. I wanted to do romance and mystery and historical and mash them all up together. I wanted to make it BIG, BIG, BIG.

In a way I succeeded. My agent loved the idea. An editor read the proposal and liked it. (Although she ultimately passed.) So my agent decided that if we were really going to go for it I should write the whole book and try to sell it as fiction.

“FICTION!” I squawked. I really did squawk. “That’s crazy talk.”

I’m a romance writer. See my post on this from a couple of weeks ago. I only know romance. When my agent said historical with romantic elements… I was like okay. I get that. But now she’s talking FICTION.

There are no boundaries in fiction. There are no rules in fiction. I don’t have to do anything but write the story I want to write and not worry about any of it. Not the number of sex scenes, not whether my hero is heroic enough. Not how I’m going to tie it all together with a happy ending. Heck, if I wanted to I could pull a Nicolas Sparks and kill off one of my main characters for fun. There are four of them after all. (I’m soooo not going to do that.)

You get my point. My boundaries are gone. My path to the end is suddenly this foggy road. - I use foggy here because the story is set in Victorian London and let’s face it you have to fog. That’s at least one rule I know I have to follow.

I’m taking a week off from my day job to go all out on this book. I want to get the story out and rack up a bunch of pages and get back on a normal writing schedule. But just thinking about this week has me trembling in my boots.

I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about what it would mean to write a book without limitations. Without rules, guidelines, word count range, etc.

This is unchartered territory and I don’t know if I can handle it. I guess that’s part of the adventure huh? To just plant your butt in the seat and see.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

World Building

I've been thinking a lot lately about world building, but not so much about the how-to  advice like:  first you draw a map of your world and then decide how your creatures procreate and you figure out their religion, etc, etc.

All that stuff is great and fun, (except maybe the map drawing, that's a little to LOTR for my taste), but what I've been thinking about is not only how do you introduce and show your world in your actual story, but how do you explain it. How do you answer the question: What's your book about?

I'm judging a contest right now and boy are some of these writers doing a bad job of it. Either they're explaining too much, or they're leaving out so many important details that it doesn't hang together at all. Describing a story succinctly is always a challenge, but it seems to be a particularly difficult one for writers in the fantasy, paranormal and urban fantasy realms. Because they think they have to describe their world to describe their story. They sometimes think the world is the story and its complexity drives their conflict...

I've read a couple of helpful online posts recently. One was a short "workshop" in the WriteOnCon conference for children's writers that was held last week. The author was suggesting the key to world building was to make sure you show the readers something they recognize (especially if the creatures in your world are creatures we've seen before) and then change certain elements, but make sure you have good reasons/explanations for the changes. Pretty simple but sound advice.

I mean, if you've only read Bram Stoker, you think that anyone bitten by a vampire but not killed will become one. But if you've read Anne Rice, you KNOW that it's more complicated than that and difficult for a vampire to make another vampire. And if you've read J.R. Ward... well you KNOW that everyone else has everything backwards. The vampires are the good guys.

But moving on to the real eye-opener for me...

I saw a post last week (that I can't find now, so I apologize to the writer) which claimed that one of the pitfalls of fiction writing, in general, is that many beginner writers confuse complexity with conflict.

And this not only lit a lightbulb for me, it made me think about recent conversations I've had with Molly and Sinead about the importance of keeping it simple.... (Sinead and I are both working on YA stories with urban fantasy, alternate history, and/or post apocalyptic type settings.)

The insight I got from this post I read was that you can make your world as complex as you like, as long as you know what your key story is and can explain that part simply. It helps if your story fits in well with your world -- hopefully the details of the world make the conflict in the story more believable, or the stakes higher. But I think that might be less important than making sure you have strong conflict regardless of the world... I think you should be able to explain your story without mentioning the world, or much of it...

I mean I wrote an (unsold at this point) manuscript about a male creature and a human woman saving the life of a little girl. And the conflict came from the fact that he couldn't tell the woman why the girl was in danger, or what he was, and the woman couldn't trust him, especially since he kept trying to leave her behind and take the kid, making her wonder whether he was the real danger. Yes, I had a big mythology surrounding it, but at it's core, the world and mythology was almost superfluous to the conflict of the story. (I actually have done a crappy job of describing the story here, because I didn't capture the internal conflicts well, but I think it makes my point.)

Unfortunately, all this thinking has made me realize that I don't have a great snappy one or two sentence description for my latest WIP yet... I do think I've got real conflict... (not just complexity) but I'm having a little trouble seeing through all the complexity to what bits of my story are the key elements, the key sources of real conflict...  All I'm seeing right now are the details of my world and all the decisions I need to make about it.

I do think I've got a core story in there... Just not 100% sure what it is, yet, or rather what makes it special/interesting/compelling.

Hope I'm not making a mistake by not figuring this sh*t out first....

Speaking of sh*t.... An aside re: Eileen's famous bestselling cousin and his dad who says sh*t... I saw a funny tweet from @williamshatner the other day. At least from whoever tweets as William Shatner. One never knows. A year or so ago, someone was tweeting as Christopher Walken. The tweets were really too funny and too perfect to really be him. And of course it wasn't. But boy was it funny.

But back to Shatner... His tweet was something like:  have just shot an episode of Bleep. Starting to think the bleep they're referring to is slang term and not so much about defecation.

Okay, sorry. I thought it was funny.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Structuring a Novel

Structure is the bane of my existence. I simply don't get it and it drives me crazy. I come up with an idea. I create characters. I make them walk and talk and do other things (these are romance novels, after all). There's dialogue and setting and motivation and conflict, but when it comes to what order to put stuff in, I fall apart.

I always start out with the best of intentions and often with an actual outline. I start writing, convinced that I will start at the beginning and work straight through to the end. It never happens. I end up thinking about this perfect bit of dialogue that I don't want to forget so I jot it down, then another scene pops into my head and then I get hung up trying to write a transition and decide to just say screw it and write the part of the scene that's important and come back and do transitions later and pretty soon the first 200 or more pages are written, but they're an unholy mess of random occurrences.

I just hit that point on my latest romantic suspense novel, The Bones Will Tell. I then wasted an entire week of precious writing time, arranging and rearranging and rearranging again the first one hundred pages of the book. I was near tears on Wednesday thinking I would never be able to get it to work and would have to do a major rewrite. Then everything clicked into place.


Now I'm sailing. Everything's falling into place. A huge amount of the most important scenes are written. A lot of what's left to do is transitions and reaction scenes. I know this is my process, but quite honestly, I hate it.

Do you love your process? Do you love structure?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Winners and More Thoughts on Promotion

Out of the totally confusing and sometimes depressing tangle of PAN workshops at this years national conference I have taken one kernel of truth - and again, it totally supports my previous theory about promotion. Here goes: while there is nothing we can do that in any way can compare to what publisher support can do in terms of promotion - what we can do and what we SHOULD do is work on building our community of readers. Postcards and bookmarks aren't going to bring us new readers, great reviews in important places will. Publisher placed ads in magazines will have a better return than author placed ads in RWR or Romantic Times. So, that's nice - I can stop worrying about all those postcards I don't make.

But that community thing... Teresa Mederios is the queen of Facebook and Twitter. She has built a community. Readers have found her and like to talk with her via those two channels. She is a beloved author and she makes the effort to build the community. Kelley Armstrong does this too - when her first hard bound book came out she felt a little guilty for her long time readers so she posted on her website that if people sent in the receipt after buying her books - she'd send them a care package. She thought she'd get a couple of takers - she got HUNDREDS.

I'm doing a ridiculous blog tour for the next three months - giving away books and critiques - will it work? Will it bring me any more community? Any more readers? No idea. But I feel good about doing it - and that's what Maureen always says about promotion - you have to do what makes you feel good. So, I'll let you know.

Now! Winners -- Ceceila! I would LOVE to send you a book! Kwana and Sue Mason - you guys too! Please email me your addresses!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sometimes the best childhood is a miserable one

I had a lovely childhood, aside from the fighting with my siblings, both of them. There were some blips, like the time I threw a really heavy typewriter at my very annoying little brohter. He was 12, I was 14 and he really wouldn't go away! I honestly can't remember what he did, but I remember how heavy that thing was, and how he dodged it pretty easily and how I had been a spoiled brat to even think about throwing something that heavy at someone.

But my characters, well their childhoods are another matter entirely. All my heroines are either orphans, or only children, and none grew up with a strong maternal figure.

I remember another writer(sorry, I'd give credit, but I can't remember)saying that if her heroine had a mother, she'd ask her what to do in whatever difficult situation the author had put her in, and her mother would give her sound advice and the situation would be dissolved. I guess I agree, because mothers do not have a presence in my books.

And I've never come up with a suspense plot where family dynamics play into it, but now that I'm thinking about it, it's a delicious idea...
Because as I anxiously wait for Mockingbird, the last in the Humger Games trilogy, I wonder, would I have loved Katniss as much, had she not sacrficed herself for her little sister?

Now that I think about it, a lot of the suspense books I've read don't have much on family dynamics. Aside from Chevy Stevens, where those dynamics drive so much of the story.

Are there any suspense stories that have emphasis on the hero, or heroine's family?
(for you Stephanie, I'm ending with a question)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Premature posting!!!

Sorry everyone! That was supposed be scheduled. That's what I get for posting after 2 glasses of wine!!!!

How all my siblings would win Survivor...

For everyone reading this I hope you know the TV show Survivor. Outwit, Outlast, Outplay. In thinking about sibling week I struggled to find a way that I could showcase how much I’ve learned from all my sibs who are so vastly different. Then I remembered the one thing we all have in common. We all think we can win the game of Survivor.

My oldest sister is pretty and likes to flirt. A social player, you might underestimate her until you got hurt and she was treating your wounds. She transitions from happy party girl into practical hard core nurse in the blink of an eye. Weakness is not tolerated and she swims like a dolphin.

My oldest brother is the quiet smart one. He would work hard and never tell a lie. He wouldn’t play games with anyone and would attempt to keep the peace between everyone else. You might think he’s gullible. What you wouldn’t see coming is that he is a competitive beast. Winning is his only option. And having made it through a torture training program at the Air Force Academy life on a beach would seem tame.

My next brother is the funny guy. A UPS driver with a beer gut he will make you laugh until you pee. Seriously. You’ll completely underestimate his physical abilities until he shows you that he’s as graceful in the water as he is powerful on land. He likes to play dumb sometimes to disarm people, but we all know no one that funny isn’t also smart.

My next brother is the cranky character. He’ll be difficult to get along with and you’ll wonder what he’s so angry about. Do NOT discuss politics with him. He’ll be complaining about something while he’s building the fire, cooking the food, and keeping the camp organized and clean. What he lacks in physical prowess he makes up for with sheer tenacity.

My last sister will be friends with everyone. She’ll bring everyone together around the fire and chat with them. Making them feel comfortable no matter how horrible the circumstances are. Within minutes other competitors will be telling her their life story and darkest secrets. But she won’t use any of this information against them in the game. She will however win any challenge related to water. (She’s probably our family’s strongest swimmer but we don’t like to let her head get big.) She will have no problem securing the votes of her tribe mates in the end.

This is my crew. In many ways the bench mark for so many of the heroes and heroines I write.

We can stand to be altogether for exactly 2 and ½ days. After that… things get dicey. But oh those 2 and ½ days are fun.

I am a piece of each and every one of them. A true amalgamation. I’m also the only one who has actually applied for Survivor. Twice. Haven’t made the cut... yet.

Family Drama

Boy, do I know about family drama... and with our family most of it first arrived long after we reached adulthood. I’m the second of four and I’ve got lots of cousins I also grew up close to, so I sometimes feel like I’m part of a much bigger family, and perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to books that explore family dynamics.

And it’s certainly one of the reasons why I love Molly’s stories. Yes, her books are romances, and the most important emotional relationship developed and explored is the one between the hero and heroine, but in every one of her stories I can think of, at least one or the other of the two main characters also have family issues to deal with. Issues with a parent. Issues with a child. Issues with a sibling. And it’s usually the scenes in which those family conflicts and scars are exposed that make me cry in her books.

Her new series The Notorious O’Neills is great and I plan to read them all again now the books are in their final form. What I found particularly interesting in these books was the idea of a family of kids who were brought up thinking that they were bad. That their family was bad. That it was inevitable that they would therefore be bad. That no one would ever give them a break or let them be anything but the sum of their family’s history.

And each of the three siblings, Savannah, Tyler and Carter, react to the burden of being an O’Neill differently. These are siblings with flawed parents, very flawed, so their bond is about surviving and protecting each other from the world and their own parents.

And of course, the books are about finding that one special person who helps them heal and who can see who they really are inside.

Plus, there’s a great little mystery that runs through the three books and doesn’t get resolved until the last one. Awesome.

This post is turning into an ad for Molly, but she so deserves it, and at the risk of adding to that,  if you like stories about broken families, you need to also check out her series about the Mitchell brothers. (BABY MAKES THREE, A MAN WORTH KEEPING, and WORTH FIGHTING FOR. And revealing that it's a series of three, not two... is slightly spoilerish... Enough said.)
I’m sure you can still get them from Amazon or eHarlequin. Boy, the hurt those Mitchell boys feel… This series of books all made me cry.

What makes you cry when you’re reading? What's more likely to make you cry -- the movies? books? Hallmark ads?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sisters are doing it for themselves!

My sisters and I are super close. It's a rare week that goes by without me talking to each of them two or three times a piece. Sometimes more. They're the first people I call with good news and bad. The shoulders I'm mostly like to cry on and the backs I'm mostly like to have.

I'm always amazed at how much those relationships impact the ones I have with other people. Because I'm accustomed to being surrounded by women in a cozy way, I tend to surround myself with girlfriends. I deal with them in very much the same way I deal with my sisters and many of them have become what I call sisters of my heart. In other words, we might not be linked biologically, but we're linked all the same.

I see it among my friends, too. The super-competitive one who spent most of her childhood trying to show everyone she was better than her big brother. The quiet capable one who quietly fixes everything after a childhood spent with a mentally ill sibling that absorbed much of her parents' attention.

I think it's why I always people my books with family for my main characters. So far, I've only written one book that's an exception to that and it felt a little weird. I need to see where they came from to understand how they'll react to things and how they see the world and that sibling relationship is key to that.

(This next bit is for you, Steph. I'm going to end with a question!)

So how about you? Do you like books with lots of family entanglements? Or do you prefer to know only the here and now about characters?

Post a response and you'll automatically be entered to win a copy of the first book in Rita Award winning author Molly O'Keefe's new trilogy! I started it yesterday and can barely stand to put it down!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Free Books! And Siblings!

By the time you read this, I'll be gone. Living it up on a small island in the middle of Lake Michigan. Before you get too excited I'll be surrounded by my entire family - which is fun for me. Not for you.

I'm the black sheep of my family. My parents and brother are all still in the midwest about an hours drive from each other (hour and a half if Dad is driving, fifteen minutes if my SIL is driving). I'm not sure my brother would choose this arrangement - but he's a collegiate wrestling coach and he has to go where the jobs are. And the job is in Wisconsin.

Writing about The O'Neills for my Notorious O'Neill series (first book out this week - THE TEMPTATION OF SAVANNAH O'NEILL) I thought a lot about my brother. We're seven years apart and while that was probably wonderful for my mom, it made my relationship with Tim a tricky thing. Now, I was constant - my feelings towards my brother have always been a steady stream of hero worship. Tim, on the other hand fluctuated. If I wasn't ignored I was being beat up. (He broke my arm and leg - separate occasions, but still...) By the time I was interesting to him, I was in college and he was hundred of miles away. We started a tradition for a few years - hiking the Appalachian Trail. Which is far as traditions go, kicks ass. But then we had kids and life got in the way. Our new tradition is going to be Bruce Springsteen shows - which REALLY kicks ass.

I worry most of the time that my brother and I are falling out of touch. We don't talk much on the phone. But when we see each other a few times a year - this week in the summer included, it's a wild rush to catch up, to reconnect, to remember that out there in the world there's only one other person who has the same connection to my parents, the house on Main Street, the Appalachian Trail. By then end of this week the seven years between us will shrink to nothing and the distance we live in will seem easily overcome.

So, that's what I'll be doing this week.

I doubt I'll have internet access - so at the end of the week I'm going to give a way a few copies of THE TEMPTATION OF SAVANNAH O'NEILL - to a few lucky commentors who say something, anything one day this week.

How is that for a cop out?

(see, Steph - even ended it with a question!)

Friday, August 06, 2010


So I made a huge mistake. I watched the second in the Twilight series, and I was so interested I can't even remember the name of it.

I do remember thinking several times how badly I wanted the movie to end, and yet I still watched it all the way through. What struck me as I watched the heroine pine for the six hundreth time in the movie was that it didn't seem to know what it was. It had vampires that are pretty and kind, and some that are bad, but not really bad. It had werewolves, but not too scary and it had a love story where the leads are never together.

I know these movies made a kajillion dollars and billions of teenage girls are obsessed, and I still don't get it.

And it clarified a problem I've had in my own writing. I've never been a hundred percent clear on what I'm doing. Am I a suspense writer, a historical writer, a romance writer? I've tried to meld the three, with varying levels of success, but at the same time, allowing one side to dilute the others. I go into a romance thinking, this is about the couple, and then allow the suspense side to detract from the romance. In another book I started it thinking that it would be about the suspense, but then in my attempts to also create a believable romance, diluted the suspense plot.

There is a way to cleverly meld genres, but to do it, you have to be very clear on the driving force behind the book, whether it be romance, or suspense and then commit to it.

What till I read a book that brilliantly combines all elements equally and I'm sure I'll reverse my opinion.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Top Ten...

Things I learned at this year’s conferences… (Because I know how Molly loves lists and really it’s her week!)

1. Don’t say My Space when you mean Facebook – especially don’t do this in a room filled with published authors, big name editors and agents. It makes you look ridiculous. As a person who is known for mixing and matching clich├ęs incorrectly (I’m forever “throwing a monkey at the wrench”) I’m very lucky I didn’t ask… “But how many followers should one have on My Face to be taken seriously?”

2. Big first print runs are huge for an author and an absolute must for success. Re-orders are bad and causes you to lose sales. Unless you’re at a different panel. Then small print runs are much better for the author with multiple re-orders.

3. Trade is up and a great thing. Unless you’re an author, then trade sucks and is a bad thing.

4. Editors don’t edit anymore. Unless you’re an editor who says that’s bullshit.

5. No one knows anything about eBooks but we’re pretty sure it’s going to be the end of publishing as we know it.

6. Numbers are down across the board in publishing – including the mega sellers! Yeah - I’m crying inside because James Patterson and Nora Roberts must be feeling the pinch.

7. Ride the hard. Sorry folks… it’s not as kinky as it sounds. It means knowing that publishing is hard and embracing it. As Maureen mentioned it was the theme of Nora’s keynote address. As queens go Nora is a formidable one. I love that she doesn’t let people whine and make excuses.

8. My face is as round as basketball. I know this because Harlequin decided it would be a good idea to take pictures of drinking women dancing their asses off. My ass is as round as… well let’s not go there. (Note the absence of pictures. I just came back from a 3 mile walk tonight.)

9. Picture drama aside – the Harlequin Party is and will always be the best party in town in my opinion.

10. Molly won the RITA and said very profoundly that part of what made it so great was being able to say thank you to all the people who made a difference in her writing life in such a public forum. That was really cool.

How often do we do that? We should. So thank you Molly, Maureen, Sinead and Eileen for making me think about writing every day.

And Karen W. thank you in advance because the other thing I learned at the conference is that I’m going to have finish my Victorian which means I’m going to need some major critiquing help!

So who do you all want to thank? (I also learned that you should end blog posts with a question.)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Eat Hard for Breakfast

I still feel in celebration mode, so I'm mostly going to post some more photos of Molly on her big night, but I thought I'd mention one of the messages I took away from the conference, one that came from none other than la Nora herself. "Eat the hard." "Ride the hard."

Tittering over the possible sexual connotations of "romance writers eat hard for breakfast" I completely got what she was saying. Suck it up. Stop complaining. If writing and publishing were easy, then everyone would be doing it.  You can't beat Nora Roberts for telling it like it is. At past conferences I've also heard her say that there's no such thing as writers' block, just lazy writers. And you can't argue with the woman's success or work ethic.

But back to the fun stuff.   :)

I really did have a great time this year, in spite of the football-field-long steam room that those of us in the Swan had to walk through to get from our hotel to the conference. And in spite of the fact that I went to the conference in limbo about whether or not my First Sale ribbon was actually going to pan out (no pun intended) into actual books on the shelves (more on that next week, or soon).

Some highlights. One was the chick lit chapter's party on Wednesday night. I remember their parties in Dallas (2004) and Reno (2005) where there had to have been 200 writers in attendance, plus numerous agents and editors. I actually first met Eileen (she doesn't remember) at the chick lit party in 2004 and I met my former agent at the chick lit party in Reno in 2005, where Diana Peterfreund, whom I'd just met but who's now a great friend, pitched my book to her agent -- the first step to her becoming my agent, too. Here's a photo of Diana, Molly, RITA and me. (Diana had read my work, even though we hadn't met. It wasn't some random pitch. So don't hunt her down and tell her to pitch your book to her agent. LOL.)

This year, as a reflection of the current market for what a few weeks ago Eileen so wittily called post-feminist-humorous literature, there were about 20 of us at the chick lit party, I think. But it was really fun and great to catch up with some people I haven't seen for a long time and meet some new friends, too.

Next highlight was the Daphne awards where one of Molly, Sinead and my critique partners won her category!! Here's the lovely Ann Lethbridge at the Harlequin party. I didn't have my camera the night she won her Daphne for best historical with a suspense/mystery element, but did manage to take some with her camera you can see here.

And then the GH/RITA awards! Here's a snap of the four drunk writers in attendance, after the RITAs. The only thing that would've made this conference complete would be if Sinead could've been there. :( We missed you, Sinead. Sorry for the drunk messages and calls during the conference. :) Or you're welcome?

And then my all time favorite picture I took this year, Eileen gettin' some from Molly. :)

Or is it the other way around? Hmmm...

Anyway, great times. And so, so, so, excited about Molly's big win!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Yep! More RWA 2010 Conference!

I can't resist. Plus I'm still exhausted and my brain hasn't started fully functioning again. So here's how the Drunk Writers do Nationals.

I'd just registered and walked into the lobby and who should I find there? That's me (well, of course I found me!), Maureen, Steph and Molly from left to right. Molly shoved a glass of wine in my hand (I still don't know whose it really was) and we were off and running. Sometimes literally. Molly had me out dying in the humidity at 7 a.m. both Thursday and Friday.

There were, of course, tons of parties and lots of meetings and lunches. Then the whole thing wrapped up with the Ritas where our fabulous Molly was recognized with a huge golden statue and wild cheering. This is us celebrating afterwards.

Oh, and lest I forget, Steph and Maureen's shoes. If my brain was functioning again, I would be able to figure out how to turn the picture the correct direction, but it's not. Even sideways, they are still totally fabulous shoes.

I was thrilled to get home (especially after the shuttle picked me up at 3:40 a.m. to take me to the airport), but I miss everyone and I can't wait for next year. I've started dieting already.

Monday, August 02, 2010

There's a RITA in my house...

Right after the big win!!!
And a huge pile of laundry, a sink of dirty dishes, something sticky on the bathroom floor and a whole whack of emails in my in box - so reality has thoroughly rained on my parade.

A few years ago at one of the conferences I had gone to I remember thinking - I need a posse. A crew. A gang. Eileen has talked about this - about the importance of getting the girls together, kicking off your heels and gossiping and commiserating and dancing when the time comes. I'm not great at the meet and greet and I often say and do the wrong thing (for instance after walking into the Bantam Cocktail party with my agent, my new editor walked up to us just as I was grabbing a lovely crostini thing off a tray. In my mind it was HILARIOUS to put the whole thing in my mouth just before shaking her hand) And often at workshops I hear something and misunderstand it and without someone next to me to make a face or write something on thier notebook - I'm clueless. I try to be gracious and interested in all the people I meet - but sometimes, behind closed doors I want to vent and be mean, and confused and worried. And I want someone I know and love and respect to pour me a drink and say "I know! What the hell is going on?"

RITA on our table.
This was my first conference in five years and somehow in those five years I amassed an amazing posse. Between my critique group, new friends, old friends and the Drunk Writers, I would say I have the best posse around. I heard the screams and felt the love all weekend long.

As fun as winning the RITA was my favorite part of the night was watching Maureen and Stephanie react - it was like wild-eyed, open-mouthed, hands in the air excitement. Like they were this great roller coaster with me.

And I'm not lying - truly, I mean this - that was the real prize.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

And the winner is...

The winner of the copy of STILL MISSING by Chevy Stevens is......

Ken Woychesko

Congratulations, Ken!

Shoot me an e-mail and we'll arrange to get you your book!

Of course, the real news is that one of the Drunk Writer Talkers.... won a RITA award!!!!!

The RITA awards are the Oscars for Romance novels. 

I'm sure we'll be talking about this all week and posting tons of pictures, but here's a quick 


2010 RITA Winner for Best Romance Novella

Molly O'Keefe

"The Christmas Eve Promise"

In The Night Before Christmas
by Molly O'Keefe

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