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Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest Blogger: Dana Marton




Just yesterday, I was complaining to friends about not being able to find my Christmas spirit. I was telling them how since it's called a Christmas Break, I keep thinking I'll actually get a break, which could not be further from the truth. There's more shopping, cleaning, baking, wrapping, and visiting to be done than ever. I did get some great advice on what to do to get myself in the mood, ranging from egg nog, to committing random acts of kindness to watching Love, Actually. Okay, I'll give those a try. But, seriously? They'll take even more time! And my main problem was having too little time to start with.

Well, be careful what you wish for.

Yesterday evening my daughter and a friend were watching music videos on my computer and managed to download a virus that completely destroyed the computer to the point that it cannot even be turned on. My husband spent the whole night putting together a PC for me from spare parts. All I have today is Internet. (But all my research bookmarks gone.) I still don't know if my files with all my past and future books and all the family photos can be recovered. I don't even have Windows installed on this new unit yet.

But I found my holiday spirit. It came with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I'm grateful that I sent in my copy edits for my next book a few hours before the computer crashed. I'm grateful that I have a husband who stayed up all night so I can at least have email today. I'm grateful that, most likely, he'll be able to recover my files and I don't have to pay several thousand dollars for that someplace else. (He's a software engineer.) And I'm even grateful for the time I have today to go through my email and catch up with all those wonderful friends who've been waiting on a response from me through this last rush job with the next book then the edits. I'm writing everyone. Then I'm going downstairs and decorate the tree that has been standing there all week, waiting for me to find the time. Maybe all this will turn out to have been a blessing in disquise. Well, as long as hubby will get my files back. If not, you'll hear me screaming into the night, wherever you are :-)

Wishing you happy holidays,
Dana Marton
THE SOCIALITE AND THE BODYGUARD, Harlequin Intrigue

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest Blogger Susan Wiggs





Where Do You Get The Books You Love?



It’s nothing new (pun intended)–used book sales have been a part of the publishing equation ever since the first undergrad sold her first college textbook back to the bookstore in order to get money for Christmas presents. A book is one of those things that is the same whether new or used, content-wise, anyway.



With online swap sites making it ridiculously easy to acquire books for little more than shipping costs, the impact is finally taking a heavy toll on publishers and authors. The book you buy for a penny + shipping is a sale that will never show up on a royalty statement. No one except the reseller and the post office will see a penny from the transaction. Yet it’s not the reader’s job to care about this. Like any responsible person, the reader is probably looking for the most economical way to indulge her passion. I don’t blame her. I’ve bought plenty of second-hand books in my time. The used book I buy today was once manufactured and sold new, and the publisher, bookseller and author each got their cut. Now the book has been released into the wild, and any further readers it finds are simply a bonus. In my genre, books go out of print quickly, often within months of their release, so having them available used is a way to keep the backlist alive. I don’t make money from those sales, but I might find new readers.



The New York Times weighs in here with “Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It” by David Streitfeld. The headline sums up the dilemma. We love books so much that we can’t get enough of them. But we’d go broke, buying everything at premium prices, so we buy used books, even knowing that some publisher’s sales are going to slip, and some author might find herself out of work.



Streitfeld is frank about his motives and methods. He’s an avid reader whose appetite for books conflicts with his sense of responsibility. I do wish the article had offered the obvious solution. People who want books at no cost should borrow them from the library. That way, everybody wins. The reader pays nothing for the book, the library wins a patron, the publisher sells a new book and the writer gets her royalties. Okay, so maybe the independent bookstore is left out of the equation, but in my community, the library and bookstore often cooperate.



These days, many libraries offer the option of downloading an audio or e-book directly to your home computer, so you don’t even have to go anywhere. My new novel, Lakeshore Christmas, is more than a love story featuring food, friends and family. It is also a passionate drama involving an institution near and dear to my heart–the public library. I don’t have to tell you that this most precious of resources is facing serious economic troubles. Please support public libraries this season. See my blog (http://www.susanwiggs.wordpress.com/) for suggestions.


Where do you weigh in on the debate? Do you buy books new to support the industry? Do you buy them used to save money? Or do you use the library?



I clicked the used-book aggregator link in the NYT article to look up my own books. Somebody’s charging $292 for a copy of my novel, The Lightkeeper. Good gawd. I’d sell it to you for half that price.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest Penny Watson




I have been asked many times "What was the inspiration for your book?" My debut novel, Sweet Inspiration, is definitely a departure from a typical paranormal story. It's a 55,000-word light paranormal Christmas-themed, spicy romance about Santa Claus and the North Pole. A bit outside of the box for romantic stories, but also a fun and refreshing reworking of the Santa legend.


I took great joy in playing around with the standard Santa myth...making Santa into a fitness buff, Mrs. Klaus a bohemian knock-out, the elves a bunch of hard-cussing workers, and Santa's five sons a sexy group of bachelors who all help to run the North Pole. I must admit that there is one source of inspiration from my childhood that helped to mold my novel. The classic 1970 animated holiday film, Santa Claus is Comin' To Town, narrated by Fred Astaire, is the story of Kris Kringle (voiced by Mickey Rooney) and Miss Jessica (voiced by Robie Lester), the future Mrs. Claus.


As much as this children's film is the story about the origins of "Santa Claus", it is also a love story between Kris and Jessica. It's a great little film, filled with villains, magic, a loving elf family, music, and of course the healing power of the Christmas spirit. Jessica is a lovely, strong-willed and loyal woman, with gorgeous red hair (just like my heroine Lucy!), and she is the perfect companion for Kris Kringle. The scene where Jessica and Kris are married in the evergreen forest, with only the animals as witnesses, is a touching and romantic moment. Even as a young girl, I totally appreciated the sweetness of that wedding scene. They are married under the stars, with nature's beauty as the "decorations" for their ceremony. This film really captures the wonder of the holiday for children, and I certainly hope that my Christmas story has captured some of that magic for adults, too.

What is your favorite holiday film/book that really captures the Christmas spirit for you?

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Happy Holidays, Penny

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest Wendy Roberts




Mistletoe and Murder

Ah December … the time for Christmas cheer, goodwill to mankind and, in my world, bloody messes and murder. For the last three years the books in my Ghost Dusters mystery series have been released the first week of December. This series is about a woman who cleans crime scenes for a living and happens to talk to the dead. They’re definitely not your usual holiday tales.

This year, Dead and Kicking hit shelves December 1st and I’m hoping that it’ll find its way into shopping baskets alongside copies of Holiday Decorating for Dummies or Night Before Christmas. Even though my story is lacking in holiday cheer, my readers don’t really seem to mind the distinct lack of candy canes and sugar plums. I like to think of the stories as a welcome relief to all the sweetness abounding throughout the holidays.

Having spent a few days now shoulder-to-shoulder with the masses fighting for the best Walmart deals, I have to tell you that my mind is full of murderous thoughts. I watched a grown woman elbow a small child out of the way to get the last Holiday Barbie and it’s enough to make me think arsenic instead of sugar cookies! So this evening after I put up the mistletoe and have a cup of cheer I’ll sit down and write a little murder plot.

How about you? Anything about the holidays make you think of murder?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest Ann Pearlman







“Christmas Curls”

My sixth Christmas we spent at my Grandmother, Lala’s house with Mum, my great grandmother, who lived with her. We rode from Chicago to Pittsburgh on a train arriving on Christmas eve. The house was decorated for the holiday. The tree was lit up, the fireplace mantel decorated with fresh pineapples and festooned with swags of evergreen. A fire helped to perfume the house with heady fruit and forest.

That Eve, before dinner, I cut out a string of paper dolls. Lala pointed to one and said, “That’s me.” Her gnarled finger moved to the left and she said, “That’s Mum, and that’s your great great grandmother all the way to the distant past, to Eve.” Then she skipped over the figure that was hers and moved to the right. “That’s your Mommy, and you, and your daughter and grandchild off to the unimaginable future.” I stared at the paper figures holding each other’s hands so tight.
What I wanted for Christmas that year, I could not have. Curly hair. Ringlets like some of the girls in my first grade class. Not my straight hair that fell out of the sparse ponytails or crept away from the barrettes that Mom pinned in a vain attempt to keep it neat. But real curly hair.
My aunt, Anne, who was only nine years older, tried to help me out. She wet my hair and wrapped sections in socks, tying the cuff and toe together. I was skeptical of my aunt’s endeavor when I saw my sock curlers scattered across my head.

“It’ll work,” she reassured me.

“Your hair is curly.”

‘I’ve done it for friends.”

That night, I struggled for sleep in my grandmother’s attic and watched car lights from the street sweep across the room revealing the gigantic red roses splattered on the wallpaper. I listened to their sound as they approached and then whooshed away, willing myself to sleep so that Santa and morning would arrive. At least the socks didn’t poke me like bobby pins.

The next morning I was more interested in my curly hair than Christmas. I crept into my aunt’s room and woke her to untie the many socks. “See, I told you it would work.” We stared at each other in her mirrored vanity. I had soft coils all over my head.

When I came downstairs, proud of my curls, dazzling wrappings greeted me. The entire living room and dining room were crowded with red, green, and white boxes tied with glistening bows, adorned with pinecones, vivid miniature fruit, Christmas ornaments. Piles as tall as me. Several crowded together. After all, there were presents to be given out and received for over twenty people.

And my presents, my birthday presents for Christmas is my birthday, were in their own special stack, off to the side, not wrapped in red and green, but gold!

I don’t remember everything I got. I know the adults were eager to see my reaction and I always smiled, even though I thought the baby dolls were strange and lifeless. I later spent hours building log houses with Lincoln log but could not appreciate my creations in the chaos of the day. I loved the pencils with my name on them. I carefully saved the bows and pressed the paper.

The adults listened to the radio. I helped Lala set the table for dinner, helped her pass out her pecan butter balls and Stollen.

After dinner, after the roast beef, and green beans, and homemade mashed potatoes, and trays of pickles, olives, spiced peaches and candied crab apples, after the desert we called ‘a kiss’ which was a baked meringue filled with ice cream and maroons, I grinned and opened my birthday presents.

And then my last present-- a box wrapped in printed paper with a hand tied bow.

“This is from Mum,” Lala said. Mum sat on a Queen Anne chair, her hands cupping the arms, her back straight. Wisps of white hair struggled out of her hairpins. Blue veins mapped the backs of her hands, rode up her sinewy arms. Each joint of her fingers was tipped with bulges, her nails blunt. She smiled at me and nodded, her lips curved as she worked her hands massaging the knuckles of one with the other. My last present. The last one for an entire year.

I unwrapped the box to find a doll’s wardrobe covered with wallpaper of plump red roses and sprigs of lilac. I opened the top drawer on the left, pulling the ivory knob, and, laying like fallen rose petals, were doll’s peach slip with a ruffle, an eyelet pinafore. The next drawer held a dotted dress with sash, trimmed with tiny lace around the collar and a ruffle at the hem. Next to it was a matching bonnet banded with miniature yellow velvet flowers.

The middle drawer was divided. Pajamas. Bathrobe. A little Red Riding Hood cape. A pink silk dress, a flowered dress. Pantaloons. Slips. All old fashioned clothes.

“Mum made this, made this by hand,” my mother said. I squinted at the stitches no larger than the machine ones holding my dress together.

The bottom drawer was turned into a bed with pink quilted sides, a pillow and blanket of white trimmed in lace. The doll was made of china, a red painted circle mouth, long wavy hair, eyes that opened and closed with painted long eyelashes. She was dressed in pink silk dress, the collar, ruffle at the hem edged in minuscule lace. On her head was a pink crocheted hat with pale roses and ribbons. Over her shoulder was a matching purse that opened with a pearl button to reveal a hand crochet handkerchief.

Mum blinked her eyes behind glasses that magnified her pupils.

I carefully examined the clothes and hugged her, smelling lavender and talcum. Her hard hands gently patted my shoulder as she kissed my cheek. “You like it?” she asked.

“Oh, yes.” The love proven by the tiny stitches, the spectacular wardrobe belied the somewhat taciturn woman. Perhaps it was the exhaustion of age.

Later, Lala pulled me aside and told me that Mum had been a famous seamstress with people pleading with her to do their fancy clothes. “This is her last. Her fingers ache and her eyes have trouble seeing her own stitches.” Lala’s hands rested on my shoulders. “You have received the last gift, her last sewing.”

At six, I didn’t understand the treasure I’d been given. I only sensed the love and hard work and talent.

“You must be very careful.”

I was. I did not play with dolls much, but I appreciated the honor of the present.

“They’re museum quality,” my father said, almost half handedly.

“Save them and your children can enjoy them, too,” my mother suggested.

Only occasionally would I open the flowered chest, carefully remove the doll and dress her in different underwear, slip, dress and bonnet of a by gone era. I examined the delicate precise stitches, the clever crochet, the stiffening in the brim of the bonnet. Carefully, I unbuttoned the tiny pearl and welcomed the detailed handkerchief inside. I imagined the doll walking across bridges and meeting boys. Going to parties and being the belle of the ball. I imagined Mum sitting on that Queen Anne chair with petals of fabric fashioning the wardrobe. And then I slid her back in her drawer to sleep. She was a sleeping beauty.

Other dolls were added, one that my brother won that could wear the clothes. A china doll who almost instantly got her head smashed.

And then I was a mother with daughters of my own. On special occasions, birthdays, holidays, or when they were sick, I pulled down the treasure chest, took out the doll with the clothes made by their great great grandmother and we played together. Yes, they had their Barbies but there was something magical about the old-fashioned, hand stitched clothes. The clothes fit a Madame Alexander doll perfectly, and she snuggled in the bed next the one Mum had given me whose hair was now mostly worn off, but her eyes still blinked. And then my granddaughters carefully dressed the doll with clothes that their great great great grandmother had made. All those years. All those loving times spent between the generations. The worn china dolls still the most fascinating.

Maybe it was the garments themselves. Maybe somehow Mum’s love for me and her hopes for the future, in which she would not be around, were stitched into the fabric to hold the magic of her experience and hard hopes. But there they are, evidence of a great grandmother’s love and efforts for her progeny. Like that string of paper dolls stretching from the past into the future. Of my presents as a child, all those toys, all the clothes, only this and a few books remain. This and a book that Mum also gave me of Snow White when I was only three. I know this, because it is signed to Baby Ann and dated.

There’s a picture of me taken that night. I sit in front of the fireplace with the doll in my hand. She wears the flowered dress and bonnet. I’m already in my pajamas. If you look closely, you can see that I still have a few curls left in my hair.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest HelenKay Dimon




This lady has proven that it is hotter anywhere she chooses to write about! Welcome to our blog - HelenKay Dimon!!








I have no idea where November went...or May, for that matter. This entire year has been a big, racing blur. But it's hard to be upset about being perpetually behind or anything else right now because it's the holiday season! I love this time of year. Something about all the lights and the Christmas music playing in restaurants and bookstores puts me in a good mood.

It's also easy to be a little extra merry when I have releases out around the holidays. This year I have two – a single title, HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO, and a novella in the holiday anthology KISSING SANTA CLAUS. I remember writing the Christmas-themed novella, "It's Hotter At Christmas" at the beginning of the year. I wasn't feeling all that Christmassy then. See, it was after the holidays. The tree was down and the gifts put away. Jumping into the holiday spirit at that point was a bit tough.

Well, it would have been except that I was writing about one of my favorite places – Kauai, Hawaii. Yep, a Christmas novella based in warm and sunny Hawaii. Instead of snow and gloves I talk about fireworks over the Pacific Ocean and hiking Waimea Canyon. Not exactly what people think about when they imagine Christmas morning. But for me it worked because I love Hawaii as much as I love Christmas. My husband grew up there, my in-laws live there and my hubby proposed to me there. It's special. Writing a Christmas novella set there reminded me that the holidays are really about being with the people you love, in the place that you love. Hawaii turned out to be the perfect setting for a holiday happily ever after.

Is any going away for the holidays? Anyone escaping to somewhere warm? And does anyone want to win a copy of the Christmas anthology I was in last year, TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT? I'll select a winner from those who comment here.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest - Red Garnier

Reader's, let us welcome the lovely Red Garnier!





Keeping your cool during the holidays . . .

Oh my goodness, Christmas is upon us! When I was younger, it would feel like decades passed between one Christmas and another, and now that I’m older it seems that I’m barely recuperated from a holiday when I’m greeted with the next.

There’s tons to do, and so little time to do it.

This year, December was a big month for me. After almost a year and a half after finishing my first full length single title, it finally released. My family moved, so getting settled in a new household has taken up most my time during the past couple of months.
Between book promotion, gift purchases, house cleaning, and writing deadlines, I tell myself that I’m not stressed and yet there are a few telltale signs that I am: little sleep, hair loss, anxiety, and a ball full of energy that keeps simmering inside me without release.

So how to cope with the tornado of Christmas and all it brings with it?

Here are a few things I’m trying.

1. Holiday music – they do bring the cheer. We all know the songs, and yet usually my kids are the only ones to listen to it. It’s amazing how much peace and contentment “Jingle Bells” brings!

2. Extra hot showers – a soak in the bathtub or an extra hot shower instantly loosens up all the taught muscles in my back. Sometimes I wish I could stay soaking in a warm bath all day!
3. Lists – they’re proving to be extremely helpful in organizing my time. My mind keeps spinning with all my things to do, and yet once I put thoughts to paper, there’s an immediate and wonderful sense of relief.
4. 5 minutes a day – that’s it. Five minutes to just breathe, relax, and try to pull myself together. I used to be a smoker – and sometimes, I admit I still crave a cigarette. But what I’ve discovered I most crave is maybe not the tobacco itself but the five minutes you get to sit down and inhale and relax and hear yourself think.
5. Snuggling – after a hectic day, your heart is pumping faster, your nerves are frazzled, and the last thing you think you should be doing is sitting down to snuggle with your loved ones. But that’s just what I’m doing, and wow, it feels so good. And it works! Snuggle with the kids or with hubby and three minutes later I feel the stress start to dissipate.

Holidays are beautiful times that come and go so quickly, I’m determined to enjoy mine to the fullest this year. I plan to forget all the things I have to do and just enjoy a moment of health, love, family, and happiness. And I wish the same for you!

What are you doing to keep your cool during Holiday Season?

Don’t be shy and share your tips with us. A randomly chosen commenter will win a Redlightbooks.com relaxation kit – complete with lotion, CD, and black sleep shape mask!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It Is That Time of Year!!!

Hello, everyone!! It is that time of year again!! The Christmas Parade is just around the corner and TRRC is gearing up!! On the schedule so far we have:

December 4 Red Garnier

December 10 Helen Kay Dimon

December 14 Ann Pearlman

December 15 Wendy Roberts

December 16 Penny Watson

Be sure to join us and see what they have to say!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guest Blogger: Karen White Owens


Recently, I went to Amazon.com to take a look at the reviews for my latest release, I Can Make You Love Me. Yes, I know I shouldn’t do this. But I’m like that driver on the freeway who can’t help slowing down and gawking at the roadside auto accident. It’s in my nature.


Anyhoo, I was surprised by the title one reader gave her review “Cougar Story Tastefully Done.” I sat up straighter in my chair and fumed, glaring at the computer screen with my lips pressed together as mentally willed the reviewer to see my displeasure.

Cougar story? I don’t write about animals. This story is about sensitive people that find love, but battle issues and problems along the way. My heroines are women with careers who find themselves involved in older woman-younger man relationships.

Contemplating the term cougar, I discussed the phrase with a coworker. When I think of a cougar I envision a slick, beautiful animal perched in a tree, stretched along a branch, lying n wait for an unsuspecting younger man to stroll by. Suddenly, the woman notices a prospective cub and she pounces. The cougar catch of the day as been caught.


Being an adult reference librarian, I did a quick search using Google. I typed in the term ‘cougar’ and was surprised by the number of hits I received. I truly expected to have to refine my search strategy. There was even information about cougar dos and don’ts.


A co-worker and I pondered this lifestyle and why this trend is so popular. We came up with several scenarios, including the fact there has been a role reversal for women. They are now in running multi-million dollar companies. Also, ladies have the financial freedom to make any choice that suits them.


Also, at this point in most women’s lives they are unconcerned with what others think. It’s a time to do what makes them happy and feel good. Younger men do a fine job of helping the women enjoy life.


Now that I’ve discussed the concept of cougars, I want to tell you that I Can Make You Love Me is a sensitive story about a man that finds the love of his life in a woman that happens to be thirteen years older than him. It is up to the hero to convince the heroine that they belong together. Although the heroine is willing to get involve with him, she is unwilling to allow her children to get attached to her new and younger lover. Problems arise when the heroine’s ex-husband tries to control the heroine’s love life.


Take a look at the book and pass your thoughts to me via e-mail. I can be reached at karenwowens@gmail.com. I’m always anxious to hear how readers view my stories.
Remember, don’t be a stranger.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Please welcome our guest blogger - Cheryl Norman!








Hiding Behind a New Identity
by Cheryl Norman



For my newest book Reclaim My Life, I had to research the Witness Security Program because my heroine, Sofia Desalvo, is hiding from a contract killer. One of my best resources was the book WITSEC - Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program, co-written by the program's creator Gerald Shur. Although most protected witnesses are criminals, too, the program offers protection for the innocent witness as well, like Sofia.



Everything I’m about to relate happened to Sofia a year before the beginning of Reclaim My Life (what we writers call "backstory") and won’t spoil the story for you.



After Sofia reported the crime she witnessed, the police learned the suspect was part of a larger investigation by the feds. Moved immediately to a temporary safe house, Sofia met with personnel from the U.S. Marshals’ office for a pre-admittance interview. Once the U.S. Marshals determined her to be a candidate for the WitSec program, they paired her with a handler, in this case Special Agent Cory.



Working with several government agencies and under total secrecy, Sofia was given a new identity and all supporting documentation for her new persona. First they moved her to Athens, Georgia, to enable her to complete an accelerated degree program. Relocated in a new town—Drake Springs, Florida—where she was unlikely to be recognized, she secured a job and a place to live, helped in part by reasonable financial assistance for living expenses. In exchange for all the tools necessary to create her new identity as Elizabeth Stevens, English Professor, she had to agree to adhere to all rules and guidelines of the program—no easy task. But following the rules keep witnesses alive.



The strictest and most vital rule is no contact with anyone from your former life. According to the U.S. Marshals, no one who adhered to the rules has been killed.



While Sofia/Elizabeth followed the rules to the extreme—enjoying nothing or wearing no clothing or jewelry she loved in her former life—she was lonely and isolated. Eventually, she made new friends but with reluctance, knowing she could be ripped from her new home and relocated with no notice if her new identity was compromised. Not a day went by that she didn’t look over her shoulder or wonder if she’d somehow betrayed her identity. Scrupulous and honest, she felt like a fraud, yet she became adept at lying. Lying kept her alive.



As you can tell by the title, more than anything Elizabeth wants to reclaim her life as Sofia, before a murderer and racketeer drove her into hiding. But can she? Reclaim My Life is a new romantic suspense from Medallion Press. I hope you’ll give it a read.
 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

We are back!!!

The site is back up thanks to the wonderful site admin ladies!!! You guys are awesome!!

Next order of business, a new guest blogger, just for you guys!!! Cheryl Norman will be joining us on September 1st! Be sure to join us!!!!

http://cherylnorman.com/

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pardon our Construction!!!

The Romance Reader's Connection has hit a new high! We had so many viewers to our site, that we overloaded the server! Thanks to all the fabulous readers who come to see what we are reading! Temporarily, we are down. However, we are hoping to be up and running very soon and will keep you all updated on our progress as we switch to a new server.

Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER: VICKI HINZE




IS WRITING WORTH IT? Yes, When You Write from the Heart






As writers, we often ask ourselves if writing is worth the sacrifices it takes. We often wonder if we should keep writing or stop. We often wonder if we’re going to get to the end of our life and look back with regret that we spent it as we did.






If you’re like most writers, you’ve wondered these things and more. And if you’re a people person you’ve no doubt asked yourself this type of thing even more because writing requires you to spend so much time alone.





For many writers, it’s a dilemma. But it’s one I’d like to solve for writers today through two examples.






A few years ago, a close online friend was dying. I was one of many writers called on to send messages to her. And I’m telling you, that was the toughest writing I ever did. So tough that right after her passing, I wrote an article about it. I’m sharing it here so that you get the full grasp of my thinking on this dilemma.










The article is the first example, and it follows:






There are times of uncertainty and doubt in every writer's life. Times when all the hard work, the frustrations, the efforts, and the isolation inherent to executing the craft seem to narrow to one question in the writer's mind: Is it worth it?

Is it?

We give up our hobbies, or limit our time investment in them, to focus more intently on developing our skills. We lower our standards in areas of our lives that we once had adhered to fastidiously. Now, we consider it far more noble to ignore chores in our homes to study, so that we might get past that psychic distance challenge we're facing in Chapter Three of our current Manuscript-in-Progress. By necessity, we isolate ourselves from those whose company we enjoy--during deadlines, even from our families. We're confident that our dedication will propel us to success. Our investment is worth it. We will reach our goals.

And then something traumatic happens (our publisher ceases operations, our line at the house folds, our editor leaves) and we're tossed into a pit of despair where investment doubts return with unrelenting vengeance to assault us with that confrontational: Is it worth it?

We debate, mull, and consider. Discuss our uncertainties with our families, our peers, our mentors. We weigh and measure and, somehow, we adjust to our new circumstance, then focus on alternatives, on solutions, on new paths to explore. We endure. Our creative selves survive. And we again convince ourselves that we are spending our time wisely--and exactly as we must spend it. We are writers. Writing is worth the physical effort, the emotional investment, the sacrifices it demands. We go on, pursuing our dreams and working toward our goals.

As if being rewarded for our persistence, some small success (which seems large to us, due to our need) comes our way and we feel vindicated. The investment was wise, the struggle worth everything it took, and more. Confirmation smells so sweet and brings us such contentment.

Until the next time we're dumped into the pit and doubt assaults us.

Then we suffer a focus shift because Is it worth it? now has company. A new question lands on the scene to torment us: When will these doubts stop?

Obviously, I can't answer for everyone. But I can answer for me. My doubts ended on January 8, 1995 at 12:50 p.m. CST: the moment a beautiful writer named Suzanna died.

Suzanna exemplified my vision of a heroine. She was clever and courageous and beautiful, inside and out. Her battle with death was a long, hard one that she fought admirably. She inspired smiles, and she radiated strength.

In excruciating pain, two days before her death, Suzanna reached out to friends, saying she needed their strength. These friends were a group of writers on GEnie's Romance Exchange. I was one of them.

Most people are uncomfortable with death, and shun it. Writers are not immune to this discomfort, yet we rallied and wrote individual letters to Suzanna. I was very worried about writing this letter. Suzanna had been such a tower of strength throughout her illness. A person who reached out to help others, but rarely asked for anything herself. Now, she desperately needed support, and I didn't want to fail her. When I sat down at my desk, I knew I would be composing the most important writing of my life, and I wasn't at all sure I was up to the challenge.

I prayed for the right words, for the ability to link them cohesively and clearly, to say precisely what needed saying in the right tone and style to give Suzanna what she hoped to find on the page—strength. I prayed for competence, for the skill to convey a message of sincere support, but not of pity. Suzanna was far too remarkable a person to pity. And I remember being comforted because I wasn't alone. I knew all my GEnie sisters were composing their letters, suffering these same fears and doubts, praying these same prayers.

The decade's worth of studies and struggles, of time and effort, the wisdom gleaned from my many mistakes, my every trial—all merged inside me, and I wrote the letter. I did not use the word heal nor death—the time was near, we both knew it, and I would never insult Suzanna's intelligence or the courage she'd displayed by pretending otherwise. Yet I somehow was blessed with not being reduced to falling back on time worn clich├ęs. I reminded Suzanna of all the kindnesses she'd shown others. Told her that she had made a difference. And I wished her peace.

Along with those of my GEnie sisters, my letter was read via phone to Suzanna. Within moments, I plunged into the pit of doubt. Had I said the right things? Said them the right way? Was the tone comforting? Would the strength she said she needed be there for her in what I'd written on the page? Again, I feared, but I wasn't alone. I knew that all my writing sisters were suffering these same doubts about their letters.

The next afternoon, I got that most dreaded call. In her husband's arms, at 12:50 p.m. Central Standard Time, Suzanna had passed away peacefully.

Peacefully.

My doubt died.

While I'll never know for certain if my letter had any part in bringing about Suzanna's peaceful passing, I do know that writers rallied and showered her with heartfelt support when she needed it most. And I know that she knew her life had value, that she mattered. I know because I told her. Many of us told her. There's a great deal of comfort in that.

And if I should never write another word, then every moment I've spent studying, struggling, and sacrificing to develop my skills still has been time well-spent.

In the length of one letter, I received indisputable proof that, yes, it is all worth it.

The day Suzanna died peacefully.






The second example happened many years later. Actually, this past October—the 15th, in fact. That’s the day my mother-in-law found out she had three months to live.






After getting the news and leaving the doctor’s office, on the way home she saw the most beautiful rainbow she’d ever seen. And she wondered if it was for her—God’s way of letting her know that he was aware of what was happening to her.






I asked if she knew about the Rainbow Covenant. She’d been a Christian all her life, so I thought she probably did, but she didn’t relate it to her specific situation. I sat down and wrote The Rainbow Covenant and made it into a card and sent it to her.






She kept it close those last three months. This writing that I had done relaying promises made to all believers brought her comfort during the most difficult and challenging time of her life.






When she passed, the card was with her personal things, and now I keep it close and remember her. Her courage, her faith. I read the words I wrote and remember her, and each time I see a rainbow, she and faith flood my mind.






The wounds are raw now from her passing. But to think that words relaying the promise brought comfort . . . well, it’s worth it.
As I discovered years ago, and rediscovered recently, writing can be worth whatever it takes. Like so much else, it depends on purpose and what is done with it.






I’m fortunate. Twice I have seen firsthand. And now, so have you. I ask myself, is writing worth the sacrifices it requires? I answer. Yes. When you write from the heart, yes, it is. For me that resolves the issue and it troubles me no more.






And so I share with you the reasons why it is no longer an issue, and I hope when the question arises in your mind, you’ll remember Suzanna. You’ll remember the Rainbow. And I hope you’ll write from the heart and feel the worth of your work, too.






Blessings,
Vicki
Vicki Hinze
www.vickihinze.com

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Interview With An Author - Marjorie M. Liu







1)Describe your creative process. Any rituals or specifications when you sit down to write? When do you prefer to write, and for how many hours daily? I think avid readers and aspiring writers are always curious about this aspect.



It varies from book to book, but I usually like to start early in the morning, before dawn, with me heading straight from the bed to the office. I sit down, work for a couple hours -- or until I get really hungry -- eat breakfast, check some email -- and then get back to work. I stop for lunch, then work for another couple hours, stop for dinner or a snack, work a little more, and then just sort of quit at the end of the day when I feel like it. It's a natural rhythm, but not set in stone. If I'm really on fire, I won't quit for anything, not even to eat. I just push through. But typically, I work anywhere from seven to fourteen hours a day, every day.No rituals. Just comfy clothes. Lots of water or tea. Anything to make me comfortable.



2)Maxine Kiss, the heroine of the Hunter Kiss series, is one of the most complex, dynamic, and interesting characters I have ever come across in Urban Fantasy. She has these incredible supernatural powers, yet is so relatable and realistic. Are there any autobiographical features in the character of Maxine?


That's very kind of you. Maxine is always fun to write, because she's so straightforward -- too much so, at times. Her social skills leave something to be desired, partially because she's been raised in a peculiar kind of isolation, always as an outsider. And because she hasn't dealt with that many people -- on a normal, human basis -- she's both shy and bold, confident in some ways -- and insecure in others.But as for autobiographical features...that's a tough question, in a way. I just write the characters as they come to me, without much conscious thought. I'm not as tough as Maxine, not by any stretch of the imagination, but we do have a shared fondness for cowboy boots, 80's music and pop culture, hot chocolate, and books.



3)How much of your life experience is woven into the Hunter Kiss series? How are your interests reflected in your writing?


I think that every aspect of our lives -- our experiences, no matter how small -- are woven into the fabric of our unconscious minds, and that's the place we draw from as writers. So if you want specifics -- I could say, for example, that I lived in Seattle for many years -- but the series as a whole has been developed organically, very much from the seat of my pants. I never intended Maxine to have a grandfather, for example, but Jack sort of...marched onto the page, for better or worse, and established himself in the thick of things.I will say this, though -- I've always been interested in science, and I minored in Bioethics in undergrad, with a similar focus in law school. Those kinds of issues are part of a long-running theme that can be found in many of my books, including DARKNESS CALLS.



4) In the novella, HUNTER KISS (available as an ebook), Maxine meets Grant and they begin to forge a relationship that is carried through into THE IRON HUNT. Can you explain the evolution of their romance and how it changes in DARKNESS CALLS?


As a romance author, I've always found it difficult to chart the evolution of a relationship in one book. Some writers manage it beautifully in a single go, while others set up characters over the run of a series until they receive their own chance to fall in love. The thing I find liberating about the Hunter Kiss series is that I can take my time with Maxine and Grant. Which might seem like an odd thing to say, as they meet in the novella, and are pretty much joined at the hip in THE IRON HUNT. But, as we all know, even if you fall madly and deeply in love with a person, that doesn't mean you both stop growing. It doesn't mean that what you have between you won't change -- for better or worse.For Maxine and Grant, I wanted to write something that was very quiet, a deep partnership between two people who share an intense friendship and trust. They love each other, passionately, but there's more to each of them than the other realizes -- and in DARKNESS CALLS I explore that further, especially in Grant's case. He's always known he was different from other people, but he's about to find out that those differences are far more profound than he realized. It's going to shake him up -- and Maxine, as well.



5) Anything else you would like to say about DARKNESS CALLS?



It was a blast to write. I go deeper into the mythology of the world, hopefully taking it in unexpected directions, and there's a little something for everyone -- time travel, genetic engineering, demons, psychic barmaids -- as well as that evolving relationship between Maxine and Grant, which is potentially...well...apocalyptic.




I also urge folks to check out the web-exclusive promo letter that I wrote to celebrate the release of Darkness Calls. It's a letter from Grant to the unborn daughter that he hopes one day to have with Maxine. Part three just went up, and can be found here: http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/exclusive-darkness-calls-teaser-part-iii-of-a-letter-from-grant-cooperon-by/

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Summer Reading Recommendations from the TRRC Staff!!

In this post, you will find many different reading recommendations for this summer. Some are old favorites and some are new releases we are dying to read!! From our many varied tastes, there will be plenty for just about everyone!

Must-Read Mysteries for Summer by Angela Etheridge:


As a teacher, I love summer for many reasons, but additional “reading time” is the best reason of all! A new Lisa Gardner book, THE NEIGHBOR, is coming out this June, and Ms. Gardner is an automatic purchase list. All her books are absolutely gripping, intense, and highly original. Also highly recommended is Kelley Armstrong’s MADE TO BE BROKEN; this unusual tale follows the experiences of a female contract killer. Neither of these books are light, summery reads, but they are sure to keep you reading late into the night! For lighter summer fare, Cynthia Baxter’s MURDER PACKS A SUITCASE really fits the bill—with a tale about a travel writer exploring Florida . Highlighting the kitschy parts of Florida , this lighthearted mystery packs an unexpected punch. If you are like me and hope to lose a few pounds this summer, consider reading Kathryn Lilley’s Fat City mysteries series, starting with DYING TO BE THIN. With characters as real as you and I, Ms. Lilley’s books are fun and believable. No matter where you go or what you do this summer, don’t forget to pack a mystery!


From Sarah Siversmith:

Must reads for this summer, there are a bunch of books coming out this summer that I think are must reads for those who like paranormal books and romantica.Emma Holly has a trilogy coming out in her Upyr series. These revolve around Edmund St. Clare and his family. Kissing Midnight, Breaking Midnight and Saving Midnight. Nalini Singh also has a new book coming out in her psy series, Branded by Fire, which is highly anticipated. Laurell Hamilton's newest Anita Blake book - number 17 is out, Skin Trade. Of course there is J R Ward's Lover Avenged, which came out last month, but still a must read for this genre. Karen Marie Moning's newest Fae book, Dreamfever comes out in August. Jeaniene Frost's fourth Night Huntress book, Destined for an Early Grave comes out in August as well. Who can forget Lora Leigh's next Breed book? Bengal's Heart comes out in August. All in all, a banner summer for HEAT books!

From our Paranormal Coordinator - Lori Sears:

Summer reading at it's best can be found in the paranormal genre with my following choices for June and July releases.
Alyssa Day has a duo of books scheduled for release in The Warriors of Poseidon Series with ATLANTIS UNLEASHED in June and ATLANTIS UNMASKED in July. Both books are fantastic and very sensual.

Brenda Joyce releases her next book in The Masters of Time Series in August. DARK LOVER was absolutely awesome and my favorite Master's book so far.

Carolyne Jewel has MY FORBIDDEN DESIRE coming up in June. It is the follow up to MY WICKED ENEMY and is perfect for poolside reading.

Let us not forget one of my favorite authors, Lara Adrian and her Midnight Breed Series. ASHES OF MIDNIGHT is due out in June as well. This particular series has continued to grow with each installment and the latest story kicks butt!

Last but not least, my newest discovery in the paranormal genre is a book that actually came out in April and was a really fun and intriguing new series. Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampire Series Book 1 is titled SOME GIRLS BITE. It has a refreshing and contemporary feel and I totally loved it.

Livia, our Editor, sends her Young Adult recommendations:

ELEVEN, TWELVE and THIRTEEN by Lauren Myracle, the adventures of Winnie Perry as she experiences life begining in the sixth grade.

CAMP CONFIDENTIAL SERIES - Books 1 thru 21 by Melissa J. Morgan
A fun series for girls ages 9-12 featuring the members of summer Camp Lakeview,
Bunk 4C. This series is definitely about summer camp years but also extend to the school years.

From Monica:

This summer I have decided to catch up on a few series that have been piling up. While, I have many books in that wonderful tbr pile I have found myself picking titles where the men are dangerous and the women are more than up to the challenge.

With that said, I am recommending Cindy Gerard's Black Ops Inc. series for those of you that must have your romance with a twist of suspense. Three books have been published so far and they are all outstanding. The first book in the series is, Show No Mercy and is followed by Take No Prisoners and Whisper No Lies. Reading these three will definitely be a primer for the next installment, Feel The Heat due out later this year.

Now, for those readers looking for a little more heat, Lora Leigh's Nauti series is sure to ignite a few fires. Four titles have been released each one should come with a warning. Nauti Boy is the first title, followed by Nauti Nights, Nauti Dreams and Nauti Intentions.

Happy Reading and I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did.

Monica

From Geri:

If you've never read them, I highly recommend the four books that make up Nora Roberts Chesapeake Bay stories. They are about family and relationships and romance and are delicious. I've read them each at least 2-3 times over the years. The titles are: Sea SweptRising TidesInner HarborChesapeake BlueMore recent recommendations would include the very quirky but excellent new book by Erica Orloff, FREUDIAN SLIP, about guardian angels and the devil. ONE RECKLESS SUMMER, by Toni Blake, is a steamy romance with a good girl and a bad but misunderstood boy. Lovely, lovely romance that I highly recommend. If you want to go off to a foreign land and intense, passionate writing, get a copy of Olivia Gates' THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. The first in a new trilogy, this one will be fun to keep reading. Finally, for Tori Carrington fans, their newest, BRANDED, is an outstanding and hot category romance with a western theme. Yum!

From Jasmine:

Well the summer months are considered beach months. Hence, my first recommendation in the Inspirational genre is Beach Dreams - a story centered around a beach house that has been instrumental in a lot of relationships and lives. While this is the fourth book in the series, it is not necessary to have read the other ones. Another recommendation is A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist. A historical read, it is sure to transport you to a different place and time if and when the heat gets unbearable. Ms. Gist is an exceptional author and pens the story of Anna Ivey and Joe Denton. Anna is tricked into a bride wagon and is handed off to Joe Denton, without her knowing that she is supposed to marry the man. And a final recommendation from the Inspirational mystery/suspense genre The Justice Game by Randy Singer. The story deals with a murder and its aftermath. I ensure you that you won't go wrong with Randy Singer. His writing will captivate and keep you on the edge of your seat. Have a good summer and hope you enjoy the recommendations.


This summer must read by Gloria Gehres:

An old classic THE BRIDE by Julie Garwood, is an excellent Highland romance. Alec Kincaid must take an English bride. She is headstrong and challenges him at every opportunity. For a laugh out loud funny book, I would choose, FINGER LICKIN FIFTEEN by Janet Evanovich, due out later this month. Is the next installment in Stephanie Plum's complicated life. SAVED BY THE MONARCH by Dana Marton is a romantic suspense, where a royal wedding is more a duty to ones country, or so he thought. KNIGHT OF DESIRE is a fast paced historical romance by Margaret Mallory, due out In July. She brings history, intrigue, romance, all together in one amazing book. Contemporary Romance, VISIONS IN WHITE by Nora Roberts, four friends combine their talents and create the perfect wedding planning company. But will they find love themselves? This is definitely the summer, for relaxing, grabbing something to drink, and reading a good book.

From Deb, our Regency Goddess:

If you're looking for a delightful beach read that's perfect for the sun and sand, then I recommend the Harlequin Historical anthology, THE DIAMONDS OF WELBOURNE MANOR, Regency-set with three related stories by Diane Gaston, Deb Marlow, and Amanda McCabe. You'll fall in love with the Fitzmanning family and cheer when the three heroines find their happily ever afters. Also, if you haven't read Jane Porter's single title FLIRTING WITH FORTY--a real beach book indeed, then you've missed a wonderful novel with Porter's exquisite voice about second chances and love with a younger man in Hawaii. The Lifetime Channel made FLIRTING WITH FORTY into a tv movie, so after reading the book, head over to the Lifetime website and view exceprts of the movie and an interview with the star, Heather Locklear...later, check back to see when Lifetime will re-broadcast the film...

and, now, my two cents worth:

Summer is here and I am looking forward to time to relax and unwind. One of my favorite ways to do that is by reading! I love a hot romance and I have several on my plate. Fyre Brand by Lora Leigh is the first! This Ellora’s Cave release is about a woman with an elemental talent for fire. She is one tough cookie and it will take two special men to tame her! After that, I am looking forward to perusing their stock to find some new hot reads! Also, I think I may read back over some old favorites, like Lora Leigh and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down! Emma Holly is giving us three new books this summer Kissing Midnight, Breaking Midnight, and Saving Midnight, featuring Edmund Fitz Clare from her Catching Midnight and Courting Midnight – both of which are excellent reads for vampire and erotica lovers, alike! Other than these reads, I will be exploring the YA genre with my daughter who has just discovered the fun of reading romances! Sci-fi will be on the menu with my son – rereading Harry Potter. Yes, Twilight will most likely be one of my picks for my daughter, but who can resist a hunky vampire and all his teen angst!

Happy Reading!




Saturday, March 28, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER: Cynthia Eden




Let’s begin with death…

Yes, this was my thought when I started to write IMMORTAL DANGER, my upcoming paranormal release from Kensington Brava. Maybe starting the book with my heroine’s death wasn’t the nicest thing that I’ve ever done to a character—the woman barely has screen (er, book) time before she’s attacked.

But for this particular story, the beginning had to be about death.

So my heroine, Maya Black, dies in the first few pages of my book, and it is only with her death that her character truly comes alive. Because Maya doesn’t stay dead. She comes back, better, stronger, and ready to kick butt like never before.

From that death, the rest of my story unfolded. The novel appeared for me, the characters and plot points all fell into place, and, well, all it took was a little death. J

Since I’m talking about my beginning, why don’t you share your favorite book openings with me? Maybe I can add some books to my TBR list! And one commenter will be selected to win her/his choice of an autographed book from my backlist.

Thank you so much to the wonderful folks at TRRC for having me here today! It’s a pleasure to visit your home on the web!

Cynthia Eden
http://www.cynthiaeden.com/
IMMORTAL DANGER—03/31/09 from Kensington Brava
Believe in monsters. They believe in you.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER: Susan Mallery






Let me start by saying it's not my fault. I didn't plan to write a women's fiction book. I'm a romance writer. I love romance. I love all the firsts. First meet, first kiss, first—well, you know. But I had this idea for a story...

The heroine came to me one Saturday afternoon while I was watching Project Runway. (I’m obsessed with Project Runway.) With great excitement, I told my agent all about this quirky, artsy girl. Megan was one of those kids who could take an outfit from ordinary to awesome with nothing but scissors and some thread. She saw art in fabric and texture, put together odd combinations that shouldn’t have worked but did.

What would happen to a girl like that, I wondered, if she bowed to family pressure and got a “sensible” job? And how would she feel about a sister who rejected sensibility to pursue her own crazy dream?

“Sounds fabulous,” my agent said. “You realize, of course, it’s not a romance.”

Not a romance? Heresy! Of course it’s a romance. I’m a romance writer. So I pulled out Travis, the Boy Not Taken. The bad boy Megan loved but let go. See? A real, live hero. They kiss. They—well, you know. (Hope I haven’t ruined any surprises for you.)

My agent patted my hand condescendingly. “Not a romance,” she repeated. “You want to tell Megan’s story.”

She was right, as she often is. Travis is a big part of Megan’s story, but her annoying sister and hypochondriac mother also play major roles. Sunset Bay is Megan’s journey. Rediscovering her quirky, funny side. Making peace with her less than perfect family. And yes, finding the man who will appreciate everything that’s unique and wonderful about her.

Sunset Bay was such fun to write that I almost hated finishing it. Almost. To celebrate its release, I’m giving away $250 in gift cards to some of my favorite department stores so that some lucky reader will be able to enjoy a fashion spree. You can enter at my website, http://www.susanmallery.com/.

Sunset Bay is, I’m forced to admit, women’s fiction. But wow, the line between romance and women’s fiction sure is blurry. At least for me. What’s the difference between the two for you?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER: Susan Krinard




Okay, I admit it. I'm a drama queen.

Anyone who's read my books knows that I am not a subtle, delicate writer. I love drama. I love big, windswept tales of passion and adventure. My characters are unabashedly larger-than-life, and so are my stories.

That's why, when a new Publisher's Weekly review of my forthcoming book, Lord of Legends, called my story “overwrought,” I really wasn't surprised.

That's right. I'm as overwrought as a New Mexico sunset, a raging Pacific Ocean, a Texas thunderstorm. As melodramatic as one of those humongous historical epics Hollywood doesn't make any more. As unapologetically romantic as The Prisoner of Zenda, King Solomon's Mines, or The Mask of Zorro. I love duels to the death, hair-raising escapes, operatic sacrifices, and eternal love.

In short, I'm an old-fashioned storyteller.

So, this is a warning to any reader who prefers a quieter, more refined type of story. I don't believe in false advertising. If you don't care for swashbuckling characters, intricate plots, “overwrought” sacrifices and explosively dramatic finales, I'm not for you.

And that's okay! Where would we be without a good range of different types of writers and stories? I happen to love Jane Austen as much as Jane Eyre, and would be lost without them. Not everyone is a drama queen, nor should they be. I'm thrilled that we can all find what we want, that reading can bring such joy to our lives.

Well … now that you've been warned , may I tell you a little about Lord of Legends?
I've always loved writing paranormal stories, of course. Way back in the early 90's, when werewolf protagonists were almost unheard-of in romance and those few that existed were “cursed,” I wrote my first romance novel, Prince of Wolves. Luc Gevaudan was not cursed … he controlled his own Change, wasn't affected by silver bullets, and was very happy to be what he was. Little was I to know that fifteen years later werewolves (the non-cursed kind) would be all the rage.

Meanwhile, I've been plugging along with my paranormal romances for over fifteen years, continuing with my werewolves series and adding vampires, time-travel, ghosts, reincarnation and witches into the mix. And I'm always looking for something a little different, a little new … which is why I took a chance on setting my three werewolf/vampire novels in the 1920's.
That trilogy didn't go over as well as I'd hoped … seems that once again I'm ahead of the curve. I'm willing to bet in less than five years the 20's will be all the rage, too.

But back to Lord of Legends …
I decided a few years ago that I'd like to explore some of the “faerie” myths of the British Isles. After a bit of research, I created my “Fane” … the Fair Folk of Celtic legend, also known as the Sidhe (pronounced “shee”.) Though most faerie lore shrinks the Fair Folk to a diminutive size, I decided to go back to the old Irish legends that paint the Sidhe as resembling humans in stature. I placed my Fane in the Land of the Young, Tir-na-Nog, a plane where life is eternal and beauty commonplace.

Like most Faerie folk, the Fane were not always kind to mortals. In fact, my Fane tended toward selfishness, arrogance, and disdain for humankind. There were exceptions, of course: my hero Hern in The Forest Lord, for one. And their half-human children, like Donal in Lord of the Beasts, were often torn between the magical Fane world and troubled earth, between immortality and love.

Since I've always adored shapeshifters, I considered how I could fit them into my Fane world. I wanted to do something different. So I came up with the idea of a shape-shifting unicorn: the King of the Unicorns, Arion, who is exiled from Tir-na-Nog and forced to take human form.
Arion begins by despising the human world to which he's been condemned, a helpless prisoner of the mortal lord who longs to hunt him as the rarest of game. But his arrogant heart is slowly awakened by the woman who saves him, Mariah Marron, the new but untouched bride of the Earl of Donnington. He'll have to decide if he can sacrifice his true nature—even his very life—for the sake of the woman he's coming to love, or abandon her to her own imprisonment. And Mariah will have to make the same choice between captivity and her love for the man she calls Ash.

It's a dramatic story. It's larger-than-life. It doesn't come with a warning label, but if it did, it would say:

Caution: Raging Romance Ahead!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER: Susan Crandall


















ROMANCING THE MUSE

The question I’m most asked is, “Where do your ideas come from?” I always respond with something logical, something that doesn’t make me look like a crazy person. And my answer is partial truth. I do get my ideas from observing what’s going on around me, from newspapers and overheard conversations, from family experiences and observed relationships. But the whole truth is I have a secret relationship that spoon feeds me ideas, characters, conflicts and many a surprise ending that I’d never seen coming.

“Ah, ha!” you say. “I knew there was more to it than Susan was letting on.”

You’d be right. But there’s a reason for my partial truth. It’s very complicated to explain the muse and my relationship with her. She is a very delicate creature and requires an extraordinary amount of attention and wooing for me to remain in her good graces. She doesn’t like to be tired. She doesn’t like to be hungry. The sound of the phone ringing sends her off to hide in a closet (after which she won’t come out for hours because I was fickle and talked to someone else). She sneaks up on me in the middle of the night just to see if I’ll pay attention to her. And she never, never works when she has a headache.

Sometimes she whispers in my ear. Other time she clubs me on the head with a shovel. And every once in a while, she jumps out of nowhere in the dark and startles me breathless.

My dearest, my muse, must be nourished on a steady diet of movies, books, undivided attention, and silence

“No problem,” you say. “Who wouldn’t want to take her to the movies and read her wonderful novels?”

If only it were that easy. The problem arises when you can’t figure out what mood she’s in. Does she need a comedy? Is she hungry for drama? Would she rather go for a long walk instead? Believe me, she won’t give as much as a hint beforehand. It’s like dating a … a woman.

If all of the above don’t work, I have to ignore her completely. As with any fickle creature, she can’t stand it. Sooner or later she’s telling me what I need to know – usually at the most inopportune moments; when I’m on the lawn tractor far from the house without a notepad and pen; when I’m on a long drive by myself and have no one to tell, “Hey, remind me later….”; in the middle of a public function where I must remain engaged with real people. Truly, she’s quite a handful.

But as with any worthwhile relationship, I accommodate, I indulge, I persevere.

I hope you’ll read my latest release, SEEING RED, and let me know how you think my muse is doing. You can send me an email (susan@susancrandall.net), or stop by my message board at http://www.susancrandall.net/. It’s completely safe to speak the truth; the muse isn’t allowed to see either of these things. I may need to modify my wooing strategy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monica Burns Dangerous Giveaway

Monica Burns is an Ultimate Staff favorite here at TRRC. Some of us love our romance from the steamier side of page. Monica knows how to deliver, time and time again. We have enjoyed many of her erotic romances. I was ecstatic when Monica contacted me about a contest here at the blog. She has offered up her latest release, signed, to a lucky TRRCreading reader who gets my pleasure(scavenger) hunt right. It will be easy and painless, I guarantee.

Simply email the answers and or a picture of the requested item to :ultimate@theromancereadersconnection.com

Also, you must comment on this post letting us know what you think of the blog! Both actions are required of the winner!!!!

1. Who is the author that has an advertising for the third and final book in a series on the front page of TRRC's review site.

2. Who has the 187th Romantic Suspense review at TRRC?

3. A cover of Monica's THE ART OF PLEASURE.

4. Where will Monica be appearing on June 6, 2009?

5. A cover of Monica's Dangerous.

6. A quote from Monica's Victorian Closet -hint: it is somewhere at her website.

7. A depiction (drawing, painting, etc...) of Isis, the Egyptian Goddess.

8. How many Ultimate Romance reviews are currently posted at TRRC? I am aware this may be a fluid number, as the site admin ladies are constantly adding new ones, I will take the answer that fits the time frame you emailed me!

9. A nice pic of a hot guy - just to add to my collection. Make it as naughty or as clean as you like, just make him sexy!

I will post a PG version of the winning pic along with the winner of the contest on February 27, 2009.

If the winner is someone from outside the continental U.S., then they will receive a free e-version of this book.

Thank you all for joining me in my fun!!!!

Thia

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER: Caridad Pineiro



Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you! It’s one of my favorite times of year, although the idea of a love for all time certainly takes on new meaning when you write about vampires. LOL!

There are lots of challenges to envisioning how two people will react to spending millennia together or in the case of the hero and heroine from FURY CALLS, the next novel in THE CALLING vampire series, how they will manage to put aside old grievances to have a happy ending.

I knew the relationship in FURY CALLS was going to be a difficult one since I first introduced the characters years ago in TEMPTATION CALLS. Blake, the hero, had accidentally turned Meghan, the heroine, into a vampire. Meghan has hated Blake ever since and yet, beneath all the fury of her hate, there lingered other emotions for Blake.

An interesting conflict, made even more interesting by the fact that Blake is not your typical hero. He’s a bad boy in some ways including dressing the role with lots of black leather and chains. But that bad boy exterior actually hides a gentle man who has had a lot of pain in his life and who is searching for love after centuries of being alone.

It only makes it harder for him that the one true love of his life is a woman who hates him for taking her life.


As a writer, I love imperfect heroes. They are so much more fun! There’s something about making heroes like Blake and Meghan rise above their fears and weaknesses to really do something special. I think readers truly enjoy that and even more, can identify with such characters because they, too, have had to overcome their fears and weaknesses in life.

I knew that when Blake and Meghan first came to life years ago that they deserved a full story that would explore all those conflicts. Even more importantly, I wanted to do a story that would let Blake shine as a hero because he is so wonderfully complex. It was truly enjoyable to see Blake rise to the occasion (and in more ways that one!)

Although FURY CALLS is a romance, there is lots of action because as a writer, and as a reader, I enjoy books with a solid suspense line. In FURY CALLS, the suspense revolves around an Asian vampire – a chiang shi – who has come to New York City to create problems for the resident vampires. When bodies start turning up, Blake, Meghan and the rest of their undead friends are going to have to find out what is wreaking havoc in their underworld.

I think the suspense elements in THE CALLING are what help readers who don’t normally enjoy vampire books cross over to the paranormal area. Likewise, those readers who are paranormal fans get a kick out of seeing real world suspense elements woven into otherworldly tales, especially in dark, edgy stories.

I want to thank TRRC for giving me an opportunity to tell you the story behind the story about FURY CALLS. Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog before midnight Friday, February 13th will be eligible to win a CALLING t-shirt, copy of DESIRE CALLS and SOLDIER’S SECRET CHILD. The winner will be chosen at random from all the blog comments.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER: Susan Wiggs




Getting The Words Out - guest blog by Susan Wiggs




When my daughter was about eight years old, she asked me, "Where do all the words and paragraphs come from?"
I gave her the simple, magical answer: "They're all right here, up inside this pen."
She thought about this for a moment, then said, "I need to borrow that pen."
The pen doesn't look like anything special. It's kind of beat up now, a Sheaffer fountain pen I was given as an award. It’s engraved “Teacher of the Year, 1983.” It has a very fine tip, which works well with my cramped handwriting. I use Skrip cartridge ink because it dries instantly on the page. If you’re left-handed, you know why this is important. I’ve ruined many a sleeve, dragging it through wet ink. And for me, color is everything. My favorite ink color is peacock blue. When I was very young, I found some old papers of my mother’s from college, and she used this same color ink. So it must be in my blood.











But there’s tragic news for us lovers of Peacock Blue. Because, okay, they still make the ink and it still looks the more or less the same. But they changed the name to turquoise. What’s up with that? Peacock blue is evocative. It’s romantic. It means something. Turquoise is just a color.

I’m curious about the marketing decision that resulted in changing the name. I wish they’d checked with me first. Writing is hard enough without messing with our heads about the tools of our trade. From thehttp://www.pendemonium.com/ web site:

“In July of this year, Sheaffer announced that Skrip was being re-formulated and would be available in new colors….Sheaffer also took this opportunity to inform us that Skrip was now being manufactured in Slovenia! A mild panic set in amongst pen collecting Skrip fanatics… And just where is Slovenia? …. Favorite colors such as peacock blue went the way of the Skrip-Well. Gone are the transparent cartridges where you could easily see how much ink was left. In their place are just very slightly translucent cartridges that appear opaque at first glance. The new cartridges are the same color as the ink inside them….Prior to the recent changeover to Slovenian Skrip, the available colors were: Jet Black, Blue, Blue Black, Green, Red, Brown, Lavender, Gray, Kings Gold, Burgundy and Peacock Blue. Sheaffer discontinued Lavender, Gray and Burgundy entirely. They replaced, or perhaps better said, renamed Kings Gold to Gold and Peacock Blue to Turquoise. Both of these colors have changed; the new turquoise is still definitely turquoise, but darker than the old Peacock Blue.”

Okay, so that’s probably too much information, but I am down to my last cartridge of real peacock blue, courtesy of Barbara Bretton, one of my favorite authors and friends. Who knows how my next book will turn out? Will it be darker? More obscure? We’ll see–I have to start work on it tomorrow.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here’s a great quote. When THE MARCH by E.L. Doctorow won the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction, Doctorow said in his acceptance speech: “A book written in silence and read in silence goes from heart to heart and soul to soul as nothing else can.”


I’m just as particular about the paper as I am about the ink. I use only a Clairefontaine notebook–wire-bound, graph ruled and tabbed by color. The pastel-tinted paper is thick, with a silky writing surface, and putting the words down is a meditation and a pleasure for whole minutes at a time (I’m not one of those writers blessed with effortless first drafts). In French, the notebooks are called “velin veloute,” a reference to the smooth texture of the paper.
When I’m working on a book, I tend to drag this notebook around with me everywhere. When it’s not with me, I try to keep it in a safe place, like in the freezer. So if there’s a fire, it’ll survive.

















The U.S. distributor put up a list of writers who use Clairefontaine notebooks, including yours truly, as well as the main character of Passing Through Paradise:
“Best selling author Susan Wiggs, in her...novel, Passing through Paradise, devised a heroine who uses Clairefontaine tablets and peacock-blue ink. This is no surprise, since the author herself always writes her first drafts with a special fountain pen, peacock-blue ink, and, yes, Clairefontaine notebooks.”


Author Anne Tyler once said that writing a book in longhand is like “knitting a book.” Maybe, but I don’t think that hard when I knit.




[Author bio:



Susan Wiggs's life is all about family, friends...and fiction. She lives at the water's edge on Bainbridge Island, and she commutes to her writers' group in a 17-foot motorboat. She's been featured in the national media, including NPR's "Talk of the Nation," and is a popular speaker locally and nationally.




According to Publishers Weekly, Wiggs writes with "refreshingly honest emotion," and the Salem Statesman Journal adds that she is "one of our best observers of stories of the heart [who] knows how to capture emotion on virtually every page of every book." Booklist characterizes her books as "real and true and unforgettable." She is the recipient of three RITA (sm) awards and four starred reviews from Publishers Weekly for her books. Several of her books have been listed as top Booksense picks and optioned as feature films. Her novels have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have made national bestseller lists, including the USA Today, Washington Post and New York Times lists.




The author is a former teacher, a Harvard graduate, an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier and terrible golfer, yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. Her latest novels are Just Breathe and Fireside, both from Mira Books. Currently, Fireside is the #1 bestselling book on the New York Times list. Readers can learn more on the web at http://www.susanwiggs.com/ and on her lively blog at www.susanwiggs.wordpress.com.]

Monday, February 09, 2009

Guest Blogger: Kelli A. Wilkins


Love and Romance, Living Happily Ever After
By Kelli Wilkins
Amber Quill Press Author

Happy Valentine’s Day! On this day more than any other, love is in the air. Take a quick trip to the mall and you’ll see expressions of love and romance everywhere – lacy lingerie, “I love you” diamonds, red roses, pink hearts filled with chocolates…all that’s fine, but it’s not always realistic or practical. Where does such “perfect romance” leave the every day, “everything’s not always roses and sunshine” love? What about the rest of the year?

As an author of romances, I write stories based around characters who find each other, fall deeply in love, and live happily ever after – but not without going through some emotional ups and downs. Although my characters love each other, they have to face reality and learn a few lessons (about themselves, trust, and honesty) before they can live happily ever after.

For example, Princess Elara in A Most Unusual Princess has to open up and develop trust. In Dalton’s Temptation, Elara and Dalton learn important lessons about temptation and fidelity. Lord Adrik in The Dark Lord is moody and misunderstood, until an innocent girl teaches him how to love and trust again. All these trials and emotional hardships are realistic challenges that people face every day.

Sometimes love can be a surprise. In some of my stories, the characters aren’t looking for love – it’s the furthest thing from their minds – but there it is! Lauren in The Sexy Stranger quickly found herself falling for her ex-con “captor.” Claudette from The Pauper Prince had Prince Charming literally stroll into her dress shop, and Brian found his true love on a deserted beach in Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover. Although these relationships are uncommon, they’re about more than just meeting the right person and having a wild love life — the characters focus on commitment and being there for the other person, no matter what.

Many of my characters only find true love when they are willing to open their hearts and risk sharing their deepest emotions, darkest secrets, and intimate desires — and then discover that the other person loves them even more for it. (Julian and Annabelle from A Midsummer Night’s Delights are excellent examples of this.)

People read romances for many different reasons: for great storylines, to live vicariously through the characters they care about, and to know that whatever obstacles these lovers face, they’ll overcome them together.

However, in real life, not every relationship turns out the way we’d hoped. Promises aren’t kept, hearts become broken, egos get crushed, and sometimes people end up alone and looking for love all over again. That’s why I enjoy bringing unique and interesting characters together in my novels. Sometimes I never know where the story will take me – but I’m always sure of one thing – that my characters will end up together, forever. And that’s the way it should be.

Remember back in grade school when Valentine’s Day came around? Everyone got a Valentine! So today, take a few minutes to let someone (or everyone) special in your life (a lover, brother, sister, best friend, cousin, parent, grandparent, and especially your cat) know you care.

With love,
Kelli
*************
Author Bio: Kelli Wilkins has published seven romances with Amber Quill Press. Her paperback romance anthology, Naughty Nobles is being released in February. To learn more about Kelli and her writings, visit her website at: http://www.blogger.com/www.KelliWilkins.com

BOOK LINKS:
(I included these in case the links I embedded in the text don’t show up. They all link to the book purchase page on the Amber Quill site.)

A Midsummer Night’s Delights - http://www.amberquill.com/AmberHeat/MidsummerNightsDelights.html

Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover: http://amberquill.com/AmberHeat/ConfessionsVampiresLover.html

A Most Unusual Princess - http://www.amberquill.com/AmberHeat/MostUnusualPrincess.html

The Dark Lord - http://www.amberquill.com/AmberHeat/DarkLord.html

Dalton’s Temptation - http://amberquill.com/AmberHeat/DaltonsTemptation.html

The Pauper Prince - http://amberquill.com/AmberHeat/PauperPrince.html

The Sexy Stranger - http://www.amberquill.com/AmberHeat/SexyStranger.html