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Saturday, April 24, 2010

News of the Year

Maybe you thought I'd won a Pulitzer? Got down to a size 2? Sorry, folks, but this news isn't about me.

It's about my all-time favorite under-employed actor crush.

Yup, that's right. Ben. Ben Brower.

The 411 is he's doing a pilot for the CW, a "dramedy" called Hellcats. The show is about (wait for it) college competitive cheerleading...! And no, Ben won't be appearing in one of those tiny dresses. He's playing Lancer University's football coach, Red Irvine, who also happens to have backstory with the cheerleading coach. Seems they had an affair while he was still married and after he left his wife for her, she dumped him. Now, he's looking for payback and trying to get her fired. He's described as "a handsome rogue who never lost the boyishness of youth." Can't think of a more perfect part for Ben.

The show is on CW so of course the young women on the team are the leads. My fingers are crossed that the two coaches will get some good air time, though.

Hopefully, the show will be picked up. And if it does get picked up that they'll keep Ben in the cast. It would be great to see him working again.

Give me a B! Give me an E! Give me an N!

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

What's Up, Doc?

I'll tell you what's up. My final romantic suspense.

TWO LETHAL LIES is in its last production throes. I've got the copy edits on my desk and they're done, done, done.

Tomorrow I'll overnight the ms to my editor and, hopefully, that will be that.

Hard to believe. Eight books.


If someone had told me I'd get one book published, let alone eight, I would have laughed in their face.

Who's laughing now, eh?

Well, the journey isn't over yet. There's still the release to come in October. I want to do another blog tour, so that will keep me busy. And some interviews and chats and whatever else comes my way. I also have a ton of behind-the-scenes stuff to add to my site. Some pretty nifty things, too.

But by then I also hope to be deep into Stella Moon and a whole new world.

My heart is pounding just writing those words.

A whole new world.

Gives me goose bumps.

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cover Up Redux

Way back in January I posted about my cover struggles. All's well that ends well, I suppose, since the cover looks great. But in that post I mentioned an article about James Patterson in the New York Times Sunday magazine.

Several weeks later, as is their want, the magazine printed reader reactions to that article, and one resonated so deeply with me that I want to post excerpts from it here. The letter-writer, Joe Claro of Irvington, NY, had been an English teacher for 40 years and took umbrage with the article's criticism of Patterson and his readers for "not measuring up to some vague standard of literary worthiness."

Claro continued: "Why do self-appointed critics allow for popular taste in television, music and movies but drift into almost religious solemnity when discussing books?"

Well said, Joe, and I couldn't agree more.

Years ago I was in a book club whose members read mostly "literary" works. When it came my turn to suggest a book, I was a little out of my element. But I chose Elinor Lipman's Isabel's Bed, about a tabloid blonde who hires a bookish, risk-averse would-be writer to author the femme fatale's memoirs. It's a fun read with lots of inside jokes about writing--and Lipman, who is often touted as a modern Jane Austen, is hardly a pulp writer. But you wouldn't have thought so from the group's reactions. Some went so far as to call it "trash."

But when I asked them about, say, Who Got Mail or Grey's Anatomy--those they all loved.

Like you, Joe, I don't get it.

What IS is that makes people go all proper and still when discussing books but not movies?People expect motion media to be entertaining, and if that's all they get they enjoy the ride. But a book that's merely entertaining--there's something wrong with that.

And yet millions must disagree because even during this recession, romance is still selling well. And the James Patterson, Inc company has another book on the best-seller lists.

I guess the solution is to ignore the bluestockings. Oh--and when you buy one of "those" books, just don't tell your book club.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Myth of Happiness

The other day I was in the car with my 21-year-old nieces, and we were talking about books. One of them listed One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as their all-time fave, despite the "unhappy" ending. In fact, she was miffed with the movie version that Hollywoodized the end. Not that she prefers UHEA (Unhappily Ever After) but that some stories need one to be true to themselves.

This is very interesting to a romance writer, whose books MUST include some kind of HEA--or, in the words of Romance Writer's of America--an "emotionally satisfying" ending.

But can't a story be emotionally satisfying without the characters walking off hand-in-hand into the sunset?

Romeo and Juliet, for example. Yes, it would be nice if Juliet woke in time to prevent Romeo from swallowing the poison and her own resulting suicide. But everything leads up to this ending. The feuding families, the secrets, the deaths of other loved ones. How else could the story have ended? The best the lovers could have hoped for was to run away together. And then what? With their families' against them, how would they have survived? Sad though the ending is, it's fitting.

Ian McEwan's Atonement, on the other hand, though beautifully written, concludes with an emotionally UN-satisfying ending--precisely because the author gives you a HEA, then takes it away. Pure trickery, in my opinion. Literary chicanery. (For more on that, see my rant on 9/3/09/).

Recently, I came across a discussion on the Romantic
Times forums about my 2007 book, Dead Shot. The posters complained because I didn't solve the subplot mystery--who killed my main character's mother. Since this murder shaped the main character--both professionally and personally--their idea of HEA meant the killer should be caught. So to them the ending was emotionally unsatisfying, despite HEAs everywhere else. BTW--I chose that ending because solving this 25-year-old murder seemed too pat and unrealistic. I wanted my heroine to learn to live--fully and happily--despite not knowing. Ambiguity is the way of the world. Sometimes we have to choose happiness without certainty.

But I do see their point. Maybe the story pointed too strongly to the subplot, leading readers to expect the killer to be caught--an unintended consequence of the way I told the story.

So--happy or unhappy? As a romance writer I prefer my HEAs, but not every story deserves one. So, I'm curious--what other books/movies/stories, etc. end badly but in a good way?

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Pie in the Face/March

The Pie Inspector is in the Otherworld Diner today, talking about the TV show, "V", which has it's second half of the season "premier" (!) next week. Stop by the diner and say howdy.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

To Be or Not To Be

Life has settled down a bit. At least enough for me to have a moment to catch my breath. My Internet service is finally back--I couldn't believe how hampered I felt without it. Hopefully all the bugs are out and connections will continue uninterrupted.


But at least I'm plugged in now.

On the book front, Two Lethal Lies has finally been given the editorial okay. The cover copy is done and the cover looks quite splendid, in my humble opinion. Now the only thing left is the rest of my life. Will it be more romantic suspense or something of a new and different variety?

That, dear reader, is the trillion dollar question to which I have no answer yet. I feel a bit like the cowardly lion--I need the wizard to give me some courage so I can jump off the cliff into Who Knows What Land.

My horoscope promises great things this year. But is it because I stick to what I know or strike out in a whole new direction?

Hamlet has nothing on me.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I'm in the Club Today

The Barnes & Noble Mystery Book Club has been featuring romantic suspense authors every day during the month of February. They kindly asked me to participate and today's my day. Check it out here.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Playing the WNBA

Last week's post was about romantic thrillers made by Hollywood. As I was re reading the list, it struck me that there were several that wouldn't be considered thrillers in the typical sense. Which struck another chord, this one from my recent panel participation for the local chapter of the WNBA.

No, not the basketball wizards. The Women's National Book Association. This is a really cool association, started in New York in 1917 by a group of women booksellers who were excluded from the all-male Bookseller's League. The only criteria was that members derive part of their income from books. Teachers, librarians, agents, writers, publishers, booksellers, production people, illustrators--all were welcome. Ninety-plus years later the organization is still promoting the role of women in this field through chapters across the country.

What better place to talk about romance--the one genre written (mostly) by women for women?

We had a fun and informative night talking about the history of the romance novel (most scholars credit Richardson's 18th century novel, Pamela, as the first), the subgenres it encompasses, and the future of the form and format (Kindle anyone?).

I was in charge of the subgenre portion and as I look back it's easy to see that there is just as much of a mash up in today's romance novel as there is in Hollywood. Whether it's Jane Austen and zombies or the paranormal Victorian mystery of Soulless, pretty much anything goes. As long as there's that HEA ending--or the implication of one.

Which, as Martha would say, is a good thing.

Anyway, here's a pic from the evening. That's Beth Pattillo on the left, whose new book, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, is out this month. I'm in the center, and Jody Wallace--who is the hoot and a half behind meankitty.com, and who writes paranormals and erotica for Samhein--is on the right.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Thrill of Romance

I decided to take a break from my own work and think about someone else's. So I was cruising around the 'net and came across a topic in Yahoo Answers. The question was:

What's the best romantic thriller ever made in Hollywood ?

Sadly, there was only one answer and I didn't like it: The Saint and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Although The Saint is a great romantic thriller, even with the silly cold fusion plot, but the Brangelina vehicle is too campy to be romantic or thrilling.

So, I scroll through my brain for my own picks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(this is me, scrolling my brain) . . . . . . . . . .

Okay, so there are probably plenty I've forgotten, but here are the ones I remembered, in no particular order:

1. Romancing the Stone. Romance writer Joan Wilder tries to save her kidnapped sister in Venezuela by enlisting the unwilling aid of a sexy smuggler who his own reasons for helping. Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas. 1984

2. Tequila Sunrise. Childhood buddies, now on opposite sides of the law, and the woman (and drug deal) that comes between them. Kurt Russell, Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer. Written by Robert Towne, of Chinatown fame. 1988

3. The Terminator. The one that spawned all the sequels (and James Cameron's career) with one of the most romantic lines: "I came through time for you, Sarah." Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, and Arnold Schwartzenegger in his career-changing role ("I'll be bahk..."). 1984

4. The Bodyguard. Probably my top choice. The romantic and thriller story are intrinsically entwined in this tale about a retired Secret Service agent, skilled to the bone, trying to protect a spoiled, self-indulgent pop idol from a deadly assassin. Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston. 1992

5. Blink. Not a big movie but I've seen it many times. A newly-sighted blind woman is witness to a murder but the cops assigned to the case don't believe her. Aiden Quinn, Madeleine Stowe. 1994

6. Notorious. Another top choice. Alfred Hitchcock directed this story of a "bad" girl hired to go undercover with a dangerous group of post-Nazi Germans. Ingrid Bergman is the amateur spy and Cary Grant her government agency handler. 1946

7. The Big Easy. More mystery than thriller, it still has one of the best bedroom scenes ever filmed: when Ellen Barkin's insecure assistant DA says she's never had much luck with men, smooth, easy-going homicide detective Remy McSwain (Dennis Quaid), gives her a slow, sexy grin and says, "your luck's about to change, cher." Sigh. 1987

8. Last of the Mohicans. You may not think of this as a thriller, but the race through the eighteenth century American wilderness to evade a vindictive Mohawk is as thrilling as any contemporary cop drama. And it contains another of my all-time favorite lines, as a desperate Hawkeye is forced to abandon his love to the encroaching natives: "You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you." Another sigh. Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe. 1992

9. Witness. A young Amish boy witnesses a murder and when it turns out the killer is a cop, the only place the boy will be safe is back on the farm. Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis. 1985

10. In the Cut. The grittiest one on the list. A serial killer is loose and a closed-off English professor may be the only lead the cops have. Mark Ruffalo is terrific as a tough, sexy detective putting the moves on Michelle Pfeiffer. 2003

11. Blade Runner. This futuristic sci-fi is another genre-bending entry. But who can resist Harrison Ford's weary, reluctant detective falling for an is-she-or-isn't-she-human beauty, knowing that if she isn't, he may have to kill her. 1982

12. Ghost. Love overcomes death in this supernatural thriller that has the ghost of a murdered man coming back from the grave to protect his love from his killer. Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg in her Oscar-winning role as the medium between them. 1990

13. Out of Sight. A bank robber plays a roguish cat-and-mouse game with the beautiful federal marshal trying to arrest him. George Cloony and Jennifer Lopez. 1998

That's it, folks. All I could come up with. Weird how the most recent one is six years old, and many are in the '80s. Is that a sign of my age, or a sign that Hollywood doesn't do these movies anymore?

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cover Up

I got the cover for my October release today. There's my name, nice and big, and--hallelujah!-- they even managed to include the word RITA-Winner below it. I asked them to include that on the last book and my editor balked. To say the least, I was annoyed, hurt, and pissed off.

All is forgiven now. Sort of.

It's the weirdest thing to have your name up there as if everything from cover to cover is yours. It's not, you know. Although the words between the covers are mine, the story would have been very different if it had been left up to me. It wasn't. Same with the cover. The publisher creates it and even if I have other ideas or objections, it's a done deal. Same with the back cover copy.

There was an article about James Patterson in the NY Times magazine this past Sunday. At one point it talks about James and his Giant Entourage meeting with the publisher to discuss marketing his empire. They showed him cover mock-ups to get his input. But that only happens when you reach Pattersonian heights. Otherwise, you get what you get.

Sour grapes?

Hell, yeah.

Okay, so it could be worse. I could have to self publish. Or languish around as I did for years, UNpublished. I should shut up and thank The Powers That Be for what I have.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And if you come a little closer I'll give you something to be thankful for. Right in the kisser...

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Last week I shared one of two interesting reader emails. Here, in summary, is the other: when is your next book coming out and isn't it a long time between books for a romance writer?

First off--yes, October 2010 IS a loooong time from May 2009, when my current book, One Deadly Sin, came out.

Second--it ain't my fault!!!

Okay, we'll that's not exactly true. I don't set the pub schedule, that's true. The publisher, in this case, Grand Central Publishing, sets the release date. The schedule is based on who they have lined up, how they're going to juggle the available slots (they only release a set amount of books/month), and how fast I can get the manuscript to them.

So some of that I can't control. But the latter--yeah, entirely in my hands.

And I'm afraid my hands just don't type very fast. When it comes to writing, I am not a quick study. I like to tell myself it's because my books are more carefully crafted than some, but you and I both know Nora's books are terrific and she's no slowpoke.

This "crank 'em out" issue is a dilemma. To have a real career in romance, it's an unwritten law. According to the research, romance readers go through piles of books a week, and they're always hungry for more. They want to be able to go back to the bookstore and read another one by a favorite author. What's this stuff about waiting a year for another book? The faster you can write the books, the faster your career moves.

I don't think it's the same with other genres. Michael Connelly doesn't put out more than one book a year, does he? Then again, neither does Susan Elizabeth Phillips. In fact, I once heard her speak at a conference and she said she writes one page a day.

One page!

Of course, it's a damn good page. But still...
I'm struggling with this need for speed. I've got a few ideas for series, but my agent is doubtful I could produce that fast.

Maybe she's right.

Maybe she doesn't know what the hell she's talking about.

In any case, isn't it the turtle who wins the race?

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mail Call

I received a couple of interesting emails from readers over the holiday. Each one sparked some thinking I thought I'd share with you.

First I received a note from a reader named Edie Swann curious about how I came up with the name of my heroine in One Deadly Sin, which was, coincidentally (for her) Edie Swann...

My first reaction was, how cool is that? I "invented" a name that a real person already has!
But then I had to answer the "how" and that got me thinking about character names. The christening of "my" Edie began with the kind of woman she was: a little bit rough and rootless--she does ride a Harley, after all--but not so kick ass that she couldn't yearn for the things she didn't have, like family and home.

Linguistically, the "E" in Edie is a soft sound, but the hard consonant "D" toughens that up. And the "ie" at the end is informal and casual, which is how I imagined my biker chick heroine.

So there was some real method behind the madness, at least when it came to her first name. How I came up with Swann, though, I have no idea. Sometimes I just try out names to see if they "fit."

In fact, I'm having trouble with names in my upcoming book. Two Lethal Lies. For spoiler reasons which I won't go into here, my editor had a problem with my hero's last name. I've spent weeks trying out alternatives and still haven't come up with anything that works.

I just finished Lisa Gardner's Hide and discovered in the Author's Notes at the end, that some of the characters bore the names of people Lisa actually knows. She also runs a contest that gives the winner a chance to name a character in her books.

I've never read a book with a character that had my name. Have you? I wonder if it's weird or wonderful. Maybe it depends on the character?

I did ask my reader if "my" Edie was anything like her, but alas, she declined to respond.

More on reader letters in my next post.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Playing Catch Up

My goodness it's been a while.

First there was the holidays, and then there was recovering from the holidays. I don't transition well. This is true in life as well as in writing. I need lots of time between endings, whether it's vacations or chapters or books.

In case you're interested, though, here are the highlights of the past few weeks:

Finished a first pass on the revision of Two Lethal Lies (October 2010)

Went to New York to visit family.

Ate TONS (for which I am paying double at the moment...), including:
  • Hong Kong style crab at the Imperial Palace in Queens
  • The best pizza in the universe at Positano's, Herricks
  • Wonton soup that actually tastes like it at Jade King, Roslyn Heights
  • Portuguese churrasquiera (spit-roasted over wood charcoal) from Barraida, Mineola
  • Ramen noodles and steamed buns at Momofuku
  • And, of course (because how can you go to NY and not) kosher dogs, mustard and kraut at the deli
Sat on my glasses and had to spend the rest of my time in NY with duct tape holding them up so I looked like a total dweeb

Watched lots of snow fall

Saw Up in the Air, which is NOT the feel-good movie the trailers make you think, but is thought-provoking character study that made me glad to be me and not him

Returned home and saw Sherlock Holmes, which was entertaining enough, but just enough

Had a wonderful New Years with friends playing Apples to Apples

Made a second tour of Two Lethal Lies

Sent my 3 proposals to my agent, who hasn't got back to me yet on any of them...

Watched snow flurry (I think it's the same 90 flakes being blown around and around)

Netflixed the movie Snow Walker, which I highly recommend


And now you're all caught up.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kindred Spirit

This morning I read the Sunday NY Times Magazine. Yes, it's Tuesday, but I'm at my mother's and in this neck of the woods the Sunday magazine comes on Saturday. By Sunday it's been swept off to recycling with the rest of the Saturday papers. Which means a trip to the garage and an archaeological-like dig through a mound to find it. And being the lazy person that I am, well--let's just say I skipped the magazine this week. But then it magically appeared on the kitchen table this morning--the puzzle done--which meant sometime between Saturday and today my brother did the traipsing and fetching.

So...what was I saying? Oh, yes, what I read in the magazine. It was a profile on artist Jenny Holzer, who puts attention-grabbing statements on everything from T-shirts to buildings, and who lives in a "half-fixed" farmhouse in Hoosick, NY.
Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the profile. Just sub "writer" for "artist" and you'll see what I mean:
Fantasy Career: To be a divine artist as opposed to a workmanlike one. And to save the world.
Work She'd Take Back: How about everything I have done to a certain extent? I disappoint myself routinely. If you are an artist and you are honest, you are never good enough.

Artwork She Covets: An all-black Ad Reinhardt would match my heart.

Favorite Line of the Moment: The future is stupid.

Ahh..how fun to run across like-minded folk.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Queen of Denial

Read a story about the musical "Memphis" in the NY Times today.

It was mostly about how the story changed over time while in its pre-Broadway tryouts. In one version the lead character was beat up. In another he died. But what never changed was the actor playing the lead. Never a household name, Chad Kimball has been playing this part since the show originated in Boston. But while the show was being fine tuned (and, I assume being financed) it wasn't a steady gig. In between bouts, Kimball did 2 other shows that were flops and that shook his confidence. He also suffered through rumors about the producers replacing him with a "star." By that time he was in L.A. and was so upset he almost thew up.

I feel ya, man.

Doesn't take nearly that much to shake my confidence.

His story has a happy ending, though. The show opened on Broadway to pretty good reviews, and his reviews especially were great. I saw him perform on The View yesterday.

Plunging into the creative world, whether it's performing or writing is a tough journey. Holding onto your faith in yourself isn't easy. Especially if you don't have instant success. I know people in the music business who came to Nashville to make it big and never did. Some of them left, but many stayed, and are still plugging away at it, doing gigs for little or no money. I wonder how they hold on for so long.

I wonder how long I'll hold on.

Did I mention One Deadly Sin was nominated for a 2009 Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award?

Pretty cool, huh?

Some days it's not cool enough.

Some days it feels as if nothing will be cool enough.

Well, here's to you, Chad Kimball. May your road be a little smoother now.


And as long as I'm talking about confidence and road-smoothing, I want to give a woohoo to my friend, Marie-Nicole Ryan, whose recent release, Seducing the Sherri ff, is on the Samhain Top Ten Best Sellers List. Way to go, MN!!

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Now Appearing...

If you're interested in where we authors get our ideas, I can let you in on the secret. But you have to go over to Romance Junkies, where I'm guest blogging. Stop by and say hello!

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Monday, December 7, 2009

The Idea Contagion

Ideas are funny little things. Like germs they're invisible until they take shape in the form of a book, business, or bad cough. And like germs they kind of float around and land randomly.

Take, for example, the plagiarism lawsuit against Stephanie Meyer. It was brought by Jordan Scott, the author of a 2006 book called "Nocturne," which, needless to say, has not had the mega success of "Twilight." Scott accused Meyer of lifting plot lines and other elements to use in "Breaking Dawn," the 4th book in the Twilight series. The suit was dismissed last week, but I bring it up here only as an example of how ideas spread.

On a personal level, I, myself have been accused of idea theft. My 4th book, BLIND CURVE, is about a homicide detective who has a stroke that renders him blind. My book came out almost at the same time as the now-defunct TV Series, "Blind Justice." A reviewer on Amazon accused me of stealing my idea from the show. Never mind that my book had been conceived and written nearly a year prior to the show airing. But as I said, ideas are like that. They flutter around, and who knows where they'll settle next?

In my case, they've settled in General Hospital, where James Franco has taken up the role of "Franco," a weird photographer/artist who captures and creates gory crime scenes of homicides.

Anyone who's familiar with my book, DEAD SHOT, will see the similarities. So...should I sue ABC?
It's been interesting to watch how the soap has tweaked the idea for their own uses. Several of their lead characters are mob-related, so Franco has plenty of crimes to home in on. Does he, like my Dead Shot heroine, Gillian, have a death wish? Or is he just a voyeur who wants to get closer to the object of his affection? Is there a particular crime--one that's very personal--he wants to solve or avenge? It will be interesting to see how many more (or less) similarities to my book pop up.

In fact, GH created a piece for the art show opening I wished I had thought of for the book: an actual bedroom set up to look like someone had been murdered there, complete with blood and a chalk outline (which, of course, the police no longer use , but what's realism when it comes to TV?). In Dead Shot, all the scenes were photographed. It would have been cool to have Gillian, create a scene using actual furniture, like a set.

But hey--that idea didn't land on me.

So if ideas are out there, thick as bacteria, what makes something iconic? Do you have to be there first? Well, we know Meyer wasn't the first with the vampire trend. Why aren't they making movies out of Sherrie Kenyon's books? Yes, she made the top of the Times list, but I guarantee she's not a household name like Meyer.

Were there others writing Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield? Maybe if we'd had the blogosphere and the media, Jane and Charles would have ended up in court, too.

Heard about other idea contagions? I'd be interested in hearing about them, too.

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Friday, November 27, 2009


The Pie Inspector is back at the Otherworld Diner.

Check out what she has to say about the steam punk book, Soulless.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009


I saw the Lee Daniels movie, Precious, last night. I understand, via the NY Times, that the movie has engendered criticism in the African-American community. I can totally understand how difficult it is to see negative representations of "your" people. The whole Madoff thing made me cringe. Definitely NOT good for the Jews.

And it wasn't all paranoia either. One of my best friends, well-educated and the antithesis of conservative, made a joke about the religious background of the key players in the financial meltdown, and believe me she wasn't accusing them of being WASPs.

So I get it.

At the same time, Madoff IS a scum bag. And there are plenty more where he came from.

Just like there are plenty of bad people whose skin is dark. It's a fact. But it's also a fact that there are good people, too. And despite the horror that is Precious's life, she has an innate goodness that only needs a few good people to help bring it to the surface. And those people are also black.

In fact, I don't think the story is only about black people. Yes, it's set within the African-American community and all the characters are black (except, I suppose, the social worker, Miss Weiss, whose ethnic background is deliberately left unspoken but who is played by the multi-racial Mariah Carey), but it's also more universal than its particular setting. The damage parents can do, the brutality that family can become, the way one person's interest can change a life--these cross over all ethnicities.

So, no, I didn't think the movie was racist. I thought it was what great art is: powerful, thought-provoking, and above all, profoundly human.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mall Princess

I was in the mall the other day, getting money back on a pair of pants that went on sale 2 days after I bought them. It was the middle of the week and the place was almost empty.

Now this is what we call an "upscale" mall. Kate Spade, Tiffany, Versace. It's quiet, airy, and always smells good.

I was on my out when I realized something.

I love the mall.

It's peaceful, it has fountains, and when you're there you're surrounded by beautiful things.

Shallow? I'm not afraid to admit it.

But really, where else can you go and experience the fantasy of being a princess? The place is kind of like a palace, with luxury everywhere you look. Inside each door is someone eager to wait on you. And when you leave it could be with something that makes you feel special and privileged.


I know there are plenty of people who feel exactly the opposite. But maybe the malls they frequent are more rowdy than royal. (And yes, I enjoy those, too.)

But for my princess fix, I recommend the regal variety. And the best thing about it? No purchase necessary. You can sit by the fountain, enjoy the calming fragrance, and pretend you have all the money in the world. Who's to know different?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Aack--It's That Time Again

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and even us busy writers have to stop and wonder WTF am I going to serve that day.

First off--organic or shot full of hormones? When I put it like that the choice is self evident. But have you checked out the price of organic turkeys? Sheesh, you'd think they were covered in gold. Then again, the health of one's family is priceless (yes, I'm full of cliches today...).

Second--inside or out? Stuffing or dressing? If you were raised in the north, it's the former. If you were raised in the south, the latter. So what do you do if you were raised in the former and live in the latter? You see my dilemma...

Third--sweet, white, or none. My nieces like sweet, I like white (since I almost never eat mashed potatoes and gravy any other time of year), and it would be a whole less caloric for everyone involved if there were no potatoes on the table at all.

Thanksgiving is a very complicated holiday.

Last week's NY Times Dining section led with an in-house duel between two of their food writers. One said Thanksgiving would be nothing without the turkey. The other said turkey shmerky, no one cares about the turkey. It's the sides that everyone looks forward to.

I'm a sides person myself, but you could take all the sides away and as long as you have the turkey it would still be Thanksgiving. Take the turkey away, though, and you just have another great meal.

So...here's a question (or two) for all of you out there: turkey or sides? Organic or the poor house? Stuffing or dressing? Orange, white or none? Share your holiday sagas (and recipes).

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Glow of Success

Over the weekend I went to a reception for Sue Grafton, the wildly successful writer of the Alphabet mystery series. Sue is a friend of a friend and she was in town for fun not business. But that didn't stop me and another local writer from seeking her advice. And she was gracious enough to talk career, agents, publishers, promotion and all the other woes us midlisters have.

It's a strange thing to talk to a writer who has reached the levels I aspire to. Strange because it lets you see the possibilities right there in flesh and bone (it can be done!) while also reminding you that you are nowhere near those heights and have no idea how to reach them.

Also at the same event were two young British men spending their Gap Year between high school and university in town. One of them wants to be an actor, but will return to England to take up the law at Cambridge. When I asked why he wasn't going to drama school he acknowledged that a successful acting career takes luck as much as talent. So he will study law and do as much acting as he can at the same time (evidently there's a lot of opportunities at Cambridge) and see what luck brings him.

Looking back, these two encounters form opposite ends of the success see-saw. For all the frustrations I've felt at the way my career has gone (or not gone) and all the things I've tried to do to break out of the midlist doldrums, there is a line beyond which I cannot cross. Or rather, cannot control. I can make sure my title, cover, back cover copy--my "package" as they call it in the industry--looks great. I can make sure the story inside the package is the best I can do. Beyond that is luck, and that, dear reader, is out of my hands.

Small comfort, I suppose. But comfort nevertheless.
So... here's to Luck. May she shine on all of us aspiring writers, and may the glow of success be your own.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Steam Punk

I know I'm late to the party, but I've just heard about steam punk. In books it's supposed to be the Next Big Thing. I gather it involves the 19th century, anachronistic technology--perferably steam-driven--and lots of metal doodads and goggles. I had trouble putting it all together until I picked up a copy of Gail Carriger's Soulless.

The books is set in an alternate version of Victorian England where vampires, werewolves and other supernaturals wander around under the auspices of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry, a division of Her Majesty's Civil Service. Ms. Carriger introduces the requisite "glassicals" on p. 10.

The book is fun and charming, though I'm trying to figure out how to translate the light touch and the humor to my darker, not-so-funny style.

I'm told that other icons in the steam punk library include The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, and the movie Wild, Wild West.

If you' re still having trouble picturing all this, check out some folks dressed up as steam punkers for Dragon Con, here.

So...anyone out there into steam punk? Read anything? Seen anything? If so, share. The whole thing has got me way curious.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Back in Business...the Otherworldly Kind

The Flu Blahs are gone...well, going. And just in time, too. On Friday I debut at the Otherworld Diner.

Now, I won't be cooking, though I will be cooking up trouble. You see, I'm the Pie Inspector, and I drop in from time to time (but mostly on the last Friday of the month) to make sure the Diner's pastries are up to snuff.

What IS the OD? Ahh, thought you'd never ask.

The OD is the home of cooks, waitresses, bakers, hostesses, and sundry romance writers who love otherworldly things, be they vampirish, ghostly, alien or the like. Can they read minds? Can they jump through wormholes? Do they have faery blood? If the answer is yes, you will most likely find them enjoying a home-cooked meal at the Diner.

Now this doesn't mean I'll start sporting a glitter wand instead of a .9 mm Glock. But I do have other interests, particularly if they're in the area of moving pictures. And I am a bit, well, opinionated. So look for me to spread my wisdom about paranormal and sci fi movies and TV shows.

To kick things off and create a buzz on the street, there's an interview with yours truly. It includes both the superpower I'd give myself if I could, and the one I think my friends and family would bless me with. But you'll have to read the interview to find out what they are.

Hope to see you at the Diner. Drop by, have a piece of pie, and stay a while to shoot the breeze.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

The End of Gourmet

The last Gourmet Magazine came today, and my husband is so traumatized that he can't even look at it for more than a few pages at a time.

I find this remarkably odd.

He never cooks. When I'm out of town he either eats cereal or toast or just has someone else make him dinner...at a restaurant.

But something about Conde Nast's cancellation of Gourmet has completely unnerved him.

I admit he liked to pour over every issue. It is--was--a pretty magazine. He'd spend time when it came, savoring whatever he savored and that was it. He rarely referred back to it or asked, three weeks later, for that rabbit cassoulet he read about.

Nor does he like to travel. The magazine was a trove of travel ideas, what to see, what to eat, where to go. But he hates to leave his house. In fact, when he does travel, he takes his house with him...his RV is a dear friend.

So I'm at a bit of a loss to understand why the demise of Gourmet has given him such a wallop.

Too much a sign of the times?

Perhaps. But I can't say he's one of those high life kind of guys. His favorite pastime is digging in the dirt. Seriously. One of his proudest (and, secretly, most enjoyable) achievements is the rain trench he dug around the shrub beds in the front and side of the house. When it rains he likes to go out on the porch and make sure those sunken alleyways are doing the job the way they were engineered to do. So it's not like he was managing a hedge fund or drinking Cristal and downing caviar while Rome burned.

But Si Newhouse struck a nerve, I guess.

God, it's a cold cruel world.

This Sunday in the NY Times Magazine, Ruth Reichl, the editor--former editor--of Gourmet did the one-page interview. Asked to predict the fate of another Conde Nast publication, The New Yorker, Ruth predicted that magazine would be around forever. Evidently, Si "loves" that mag.

Not my baby boy. He canceled our subscription to The New Yorker months ago. With Gourmet on the other hand, we had to wait to be dumped.

That's us. Always right in front of the trend.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

The Name Game

Play the Name Game with me on the Grand Central Cafe blog. It's fun. It's fascinating. It's positively fantastic.

And, yes, I am a little over happy today.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Retreat Pics

I promised pictures, and finally someone with a brain in their head who remembered a camera posted theirs. First up: view from the back of the house. Can you see the little valley back there?

It was very foggy out. Made for a dreamy, Wuthering Heights feel:

Here are some shots of the house:

The fireplace was huge and the picture doesn't do the size justice. It was cool up in the "mountains" so we kept the fire going all day.

Here's the Beersheba Springs museum, which chronicles some of the community's past. Among other things there's a room in the back kind of like a kitchen. They've got a table set with what looks like Sunday dinner china, and one of the things on the table is a lantern. Without electricity they'd need light to eat by. I also saw a match holder nailed to the wall by the door. Things we no longer think about...

Finally, there really were people at the retreat.

Below is Alf, our gracious host. Behind him is Marcia, our fearless leader who organized the retreat. The whole gang is gathered, minus Jennie Fields, who took all these lovely photos and kindly shared them.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Treat in Retreating

Had a great time over the past weekend. I went on a knitting retreat.

Yup, that's right. Knitting. Retreat.

Eight women, fabulous house, breathtaking scenery, and knitting needles.

There is really nothing like going away with women. I didn't know half of them when I got there, but I sure do now. We each prepared a meal, and it was all delicious. We knit, showed off some of our finished pieces, exchanged patterns. And talked, talked, talked. Sigh. What could be better?

Now if I was writing a book about the weekend, one of the women would have just been diagnosed with cancer, one's marriage would secretly be crumbling, one would have just lost her job, which was her sole identity. There would be a bitch, and an overly optimistic person. There would be tension and drama and in the end everyone would have learned something.

Thank God my weekend wasn't in that book. The only thing I learned were some new knitting patterns.

The fabulous house is in Beersheba Springs, TN, and was graciously lent to us by its owner. For those of you who aren't native, let me explain that Beersheba is pronounced BURshiba, and you kind of run the syllables together. The house had an incredible view of a picture perfect valley nestled against a foothill of trees that were just beginning to turn gold and red. As usual, I forgot my camera, but some of the other ladies took photos and as soon as they get them posted I'll put some up. In the meantime, here's what those hills looked like from our back porch:

Not bad, huh?

Beersheba Springs (pop. 500 as of 2000) was built up in the mid-nineteenth century by a Louisiana slave trader and later used by others to escape the heat and yellow fever of the low lands. The only hotel was wrecked by irregulars during the Civil War and though it was rebuilt it never achieved its prewar success. It's now part of the Methodist Assembly that seems to be the bread and butter of the town. But the 19th century layout of the town remains the same and there are some beautiful cottage-style houses there.

So for those of you who are stressed out, I recommend de-stressing with friends and strangers who can become friends. Oh, and don't forget the knitting.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Advice Worth Taking

Just a shout out to BookPage, a wide-ranging site that cover reviews and features related to good reads, from A.S. Byatt to, well, me. Every month Tom Robinson does an author forum on the site called Advice Worth Taking. I'm one of the group for October.

This month's question:

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?

Four writers, four different answers (natch). Together they make for an interesting, and, dare I say it, inspiring column. Frankly, I should take what the other guys say to heart.


Check out what we said here.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stargate Universe, The Review

Saw the new Stargate Universe last night. Since I am a huge sci fi fan, the new series was one I was looking forward to with great anticipation.

It didn't disappoint.

I will say at the outset that I'm not a huge SG-1 or Atlantis fan. Those shows get a C/B in my book. Watchable, but not addictive. I always found the writing too much on the nose. And I prefer my sci fi to be serialized, as Battlestar and Farscape were. That way you get sucked into the fantasy more. It always irked me that there was little emotional consequences from episode to episode in the previous Stargate shows. An enemy was defeated and the clock goes back to zero for the next enemy. The heroes never grew (except maybe Daniel in SG-1) or changed over time (okay, Amanda Tapping's hair changed). Even injuries, when they were sustained, never lasted from episode to episode. These shows were styled to be old-fashioned episodic dramas, like Bonanza.

But hopefully, Stargate U has taken a leaf from Battlestar's success. The pilot certainly hinted at that. The scenes shot in the present, on board the weird, damaged ship in the middle of nowhere, are lit with a lot of shadows and the set is nicely dark. Dr. Ross, one of the main characters, is equally dark and seems to hold a lot of secrets. Same with the commander, played by Louis Ferierra (who btw, plays the serial killer in Durham County with such creepiness you can hardly believe they're the same actor...). The Lieutenant with too much to handle was nicely out of his depth with plenty of room for growth, and he, too, has a secret. And secrets are the bread and butter of great drama.

The writing still has a bit of the Stargate cheesiness to it. There are stupid lines ("You knew, dammit, Dr. Ross!"), out of character speeches (Ross telling Chloe her father's death isn't his fault), and one-dimensional characters (the rep from IOA who challenges Ross's supposed promotion to Leader). Neither Cooper nor Wright have proven themselves to be subtle writers in the past. It will be interesting to see if they can tone themselves down for the rest of the series. Certainly the attack on the base with the whole "the planet is exploding, the planet is exploding" plot reason for the evacuation to an unknown gate address, was rushed and seemed contrived because of it.

BUT--what the hey. I still enjoyed it and can't wait for more.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Me Update

Me, me, me, me, me.

Am I warming up my throat with vocal scales?

Of course not. I'm writing this. And this, after all, is about


So here's the Me update:

Two Lethal Lies is on the editor's desk. I'm wondering what she'll change the title to.

I'm working on 3--count 'em--3 proposals at once. Never done this before. Always...mooched around after finishing a book. Shopped, movied, freecelled.

I have 2 inspirations for the new Me. Close to home, it's my friend Trish Milburn, aka, Tricia Mills. She's always got 2 or 20 projects going at once. She writes in two genres AND she manages to speak all over everywhere while still conducting a political career on the RWA Board.

Less close to home is everyone's wannabe: Nora. The New Yorker did a piece on her (gawd--the New Yorker no less...) and she puts her butt in the chair for, like, 8 hours a day. Can you imagine? Like it's a, well, a job.

Sheesh. Give me a large break.

Okay, okay, so, here I am. Trying to live up to my idols.

Or at least, one of them.

I hope it hasn't gotten past you that I'm blogging, not working on my proposals. The Great and Munificent Nora doesn't blog.

But, hey--Trish does!

Whew. I'm good.

But you there. You, reading this. You have two choices. Ask yourself: WWND? or WWTD?

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

The September Issue

I saw The September Issue yesterday with one of my fashionista friends. What an interesting glimpse into the real "devil" who wears Prada--Anna Wintour--and the real "Mode Magazine"--Vogue.

I'm always fascinated by high-powered women. AW came across as warmer than her movie counterpart, which was interesting. But the power both the fictional and non-fictional women wield is real. The rise of Thakoon (In Style just did a spread on power dressing, profiling Mrs. O, and she was wearing one of his dresses...) which is shown in the movie is a case in point.

But last night I had a nightmare about a photo shoot for which I was responsible and the shoot got completely out of hand with the director taking over and creating ideas that hadn't been discussed with the client beforehand. Thinking back on it, I realize the dream was inspired by the movie--and my former career as writer/producer in advertising.

The section in the film relating to the cover of the September issue really hit my emotional buttons. Especially when Anna, doing her review of the photographers pictures, isn't satisfied with what he shot and wants to know where the rest of it is. There are no photographs from one of the key locations. Turns out the photographer wasn't pleased with anything he got there and didn't keep any to send. I just about fell out of my seat. I can't imagine being the agency producer and having a photographer make that decision. Hence my nightmare.

I haven't mentioned Grace Coddington, the genius stylist behind so much of the amazing photography in Vogue. She occupied much of the movie and provided a tension point, as she and Anna didn't always agree, and Anna had the final say on Grace's work. That, too, felt like advertising, where you can work your butt off only to have the account guy or the client reject it often for no explicable reason.

Anyway--cool movie. All you style gurus and advocates for women in business should see it.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

OK, so the new TV shows have started and I'm loving some and not so much on others.

First...the returns. I still enjoy The Mentalist, but that Beckett woman on Castle just drives me nuts. Can she be any more wooden? That show would be unbeatable if someone really good had been cast as Beckett--and not just good looking, which Stana Katic, is no doubt. Is it too much to ask that she can act, too?
My pick to replace her : how about Mary McCormack from In Plain Sight? Now that would be interesting.

Casting's not an issue with Durham County. You lovers of creepiness, get ye there. This Canadian show is so eerie my husband refuses to watch it. The premise? What if the guy who lives in the house next door in the typically Spielberg subdivision--you know, the nice guy, the one with the wife and kid, the one who could have been a hockey star if only--what if he is a serial killer? It's kind of Dexter meets The Cosby Show--without the laughs. It's on the DVR list and I watch it in small doses.

I thought The Good Wife was compelling enough to make the list. Now there's a cast that can handle lines. And who could resist that slap Alicia gives her crooked politician/cheating husband?
Not to mention her struggle to separate herself from her last name and her husband's dirty laundry. It pulled me right in.

My taste runs to anything scifi, so of course I checked out FlashForward. I love the premise. And it's interesting to see Joseph Fiennes try out his American accent. From a sword to a gun. Hmm. Not very British of him. I won't say I'm hooked yet but FF is on the list. I'll give it a few more episodes to see how it plays out.

I'm also looking forward to the new Stargate show. I hear it's going to be darker and less episodic than SG-1 or Atlantis, which is music to my ears. Nothing can replace Farscape, but maybe this will help.

I'm not a huge comedy fan (bet you're not surprised to hear that...) but I did give Community and Modern Family a try. The former...eh. The latter I may watch again.

I do miss Burn Notice, The Closer, and In Plain Sight. Sigh.
If you've got any recommendations, lay them on me. Ditto to disagreements or endorsements.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nothing To Do

Still away from home. Very early this morning. Gloomy from rain. We are all up, but it is sleep quiet nevertheless.

Hubby is getting ready for business meeting. Son-in-law for his day of work. Daughter is writing and rewriting. I have nothing to do.

She offers a book, but I have a book. I have magazines, computer games, gameboy, sudoku, Morning Edition on the radio. But all that is nothing to do.

I have only a hard seed of an idea. A series. It rolls around in my head and sprouts only questions. Who? What? Why? There are no answers. The thing is greasy. I reach for it and it slips out of my grasp.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Meet Me in St. Louie, Lewie

My mother always pronounces it: St. Louie. Then again, she's from Brooklyn. I've been told it's a great faux pas to say anything but St. Lewis.

In any case, that's where I am--in St. Louis with the newlyweds.

The football is on, though muted, and we are talking about people who throw their cigarette butts on the ground. Larry wants a bumper sticker. Here are some suggestions from the group:

Butts are not attractive

Butts are garbage, too.

Littering is punishable by death (and that means you, cigarette smokers)

We all decided the last one was too long for a bumper sticker.

More later from the exciting life here in the gateway to the Midwest.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Specials

Hey, y'all! It's Friday, and, as promised, my "healthy writer" blog is already up and running. So click on over and let me know what you think about body issues and adressing them.

Changing the subject: Tonight the Jewish New Year begins at sundown. The holiday, Rosh HaShana--Rosh, meaning "head" or "beginning" and HaShana, meaning "the year"--celebrates the birthday of the world, or at least that's how they phrase if for the kinder (children).

You can't have a holiday without food--oh, wait a sec, if you're Jewish, you CAN have a holiday without food because the next one coming up, Yom ("day") Kippur ("atonement") is supposed to be a fast day, but never mind--MOST things Jewish come with food, and Rosh HaShana has its own epicurean traditions.

First and foremost that means sweet things, so that the coming year will be sweet for you. Traditionally that means apples dipped in honey--not my favorite. Now apples dipped in caramel--that works. But so messy.

Another tradition, at least if your family tree resided in eastern Europe, is brisket. Usually baked with a ton of caramelized onions, carrots, and a dab of ketchup. Several years ago I served this to my husband's fantasy baseball league, and the guys are still talking about it...

This year I'm eschewing all familiar tradition and posing as a Syrian (Iranian, Moroccan, you get the picture). I'm making Roast Chicken with Dried Fruits and Almonds.

You can't pretend to be middle eastern without couscous, so that's my side.

And for dessert, I'm substituting apples for the nectarines in this Nectarine Golden Cake, which is the kind of cake a non-baker like me can do.

So give me props for experimenting.

Happy 5770 everyone.

May your year be filled with the sweetness of heart, mind, and body.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sin in Book Clubs

As you may know, I ran a photo contest last month. You had to send in a photo of yourself (or your Barbie dolls, cat, dog, whatever) with a copy of One Deadly Sin. At the same time, I spoke at a friend's book club and told them about the contest. They all quickly gathered themselves with the book and snapped a picture.

Things being what they are...the photo never got sent.
Until now.

So, no winnings, but they do get a special posting. Here they are--the book club ladies Sinning away.

By the way--if you're interested in reading one of my books for your book club, let me know. I'll be happy to call and chat with your group about the book.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Learning

I'm almost through with the third book in my reading spree. The second was by Daniel Silva and this one is by Mariah Stewart.

Silva writes international thrillers with a continuing character, an on again-off again Israeli agent. Set in Europe, the book hops between countries--England, Switzerland, Italy, Spain. The story not only bobs between places but between plot points: chapters consist of many, many short scenes. Most are from the hero or antagonist point-of-view, but some are from the POV of more secondary characters.

The book didn't engulf me, although the hero has a haunted past that makes him interesting. But I didn't feel as though there was much at stake. Since the hero is a continuing character, no matter how badly he's beaten, you know he'll survive. And if he didn't, and his mission failed, the world wouldn't end. Injustice would prevail, but there is always the sequel...

Compounding the low-end stakes was the fact that main threat in the book--to a world-famous musician--never materializes into an actual attempt at killing her. In the end, the assassin decides not to do the deed after all, though he is in place and close enough to carry out his mission. I wonder if Silva found himself liking her too much to kill her off. Maybe she or the assassin will appear in another book?

But I liked the way he moved around the story, cutting scenes off, even sectioning off long scenes into shorter ones without changing POV. I've had several instances in my current wip where I wanted to do that but wasn't sure how. Now I know.

I'm two-thirds into the Mariah Stewart book. The book was hard to get into. Beyond the prologue, the writing appeared thinner than I like. But as I kept on I began to see the advantages of the style. It's mostly dialog with almost no interior monologue. This gives the book a super-fast pace. Again, the story isn't the most innovative or remarkable on the planet, but I suspect her fans don't care. Violence happens off-screen, the main characters are neither dark nor tortured, and the murders happen to strangers we don't really care about. All of which makes for a safe read. And I've met readers who don't want their mysteries to be too intense.

I've also met readers who don't like to read anything but dialog. I spoke at a book club a few weeks ago and one of the members reiterated this opinion. Stewart's book would be perfect for her.

As for me, it made me think about my own dialog to internal monologue ratio. Sometimes I write pages and pages of dialog and it feels wrong somehow. Too expository, and, well, icky. And by icky I mean, boring, cliched, unclever. But reading Stewart I see how it works.

I've got 2 more books to go after the Stewart book. I think the next will be by Laura Lippman. It was so intense my husband stopped reading it. It should be an interesting change from what I'm reading now. Wonder what I'll learn?

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Heads Up

Just an advance notice: I'll be blogging on Trish Milburn's Healthy Writer blog on Friday (this Friday, Sept 18, 2009). It's all about dressing your body, no matter what shape your body's in. So tune in and tell me what you think.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

After the Ball is Over

What a weird feeling. Yesterday I sent my book off to New York and today I'm without meaning and purpose...

It's a strange thing writing a book. Living with the story, the characters, the struggle of putting it all on paper--and then poof! It's done. It's...gone.

Move on. Snap out of it. Enjoy the freedom.

Bah. Humbug.

Can't live with it; can't live without it.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday on the Mark with Jane

It is Sunday, the hump of the long weekend. My daughter and her new husband are here and I'm looking forward to spending a glorious day with them.

To begin, we are watching the BBC production of Jane Eyre with Timothy Dalton. It's stilted and play-like, but the best adaptation of the book I've ever seen. Whole sections of dialog lifted from the book and spoken so beautifully and perfectly by the actors that the 19th century words sound normal. "She sucked my blood. She said she would drain my heart!" So speaks Mason after being attacked by his sister. "You long to recommence a life more worthy of an immortal," says Rochester. "My little mustard seed," he calls Jane after she agrees to marry him.

Sigh. Little mustard seed, indeed.

What a great way to start this day.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009


Warning: Rant Coming

Once my SFD (see below) was complete I promised myself I would take a week off and read. Ironically, since I began writing full time, I have stopped reading novels altogether. So this was to be an experiment. Could I could pick up the habit again? And, as an added component, I thought I would dip my toes into the sea of literary fiction and find out what the supposedly better half was doing.

My first choice was Atonement by Ian McEwan. I picked it because I usually like books set in the past. My brother loved it. And so did a million other readers, including those from La La Land. I finished it yesterday. What an amazingly written, engrossing, horror of a book.

Warning: Spoiler Alert

A day later, I am still furious. How dare he call the book Atonement when there is none? How dare he trick his reader into thinking all will be well, when it won't? How dare he lead us all down the garden path of happy endings, then pull the proverbial rug out from under us? That book is exactly why I write romance.

Are the deaths of the lovers more realistic? Perhaps. But who needs realism? Just turn on CNN. Is the cowardice of the liar more true to life? Perhaps. But surely there are people out there who would face what they'd done and ask for forgiveness. Is the long, prosperous, and hypocritical (re: philanthropic) life of the perpetrators unusual? No. But, as McEwan says at the end, the writer is God. He can manipulate the truth any way he wishes. Why, then, did he choose to create such a heartfelt and ultimately cynical book?

Clearly, he is not a Buddhist. There is such thick, deep suffering in the book, but it is not redemptive. And he is not Christian. There is no hint of death being the portal to "a better place." And he is no Jew. Jews must face those they've wronged, actively seek forgiveness, and work to right whatever harm they've done. I don't know much about Islam, but I'd take bets he's not Muslim either. So what is McEwan?

A coward. That is his religion.

He's a coward for not being brave enough to give his tortured lovers an ending that overcomes or makes sense of their suffering--which he clearly wanted to do. A coward for not braving the sneers of his fellow "serious" writers, who would call an "emotionally satisfying ending" a trip down sentimental lane. A coward for the slick, dirty joke he pulls at the end.

And now I need to wash my mind out with the brave words of my own kind. At least we don't play games with our readers.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Yawn, Stretch, Open Eyes

September is here, and the long sleep is over. Why I referred to the last month as if I were hibernating, I have no idea, since I was working my butt off. But who can know the intricate workings of a writer's mind? Certainly not me.

Had things gone the way I'd predicted my book would be off to my editor today. But in the great wide world of publishing things don't always go as predicted. Turns out my next book has been pushed back a month, giving me 4 more weeks to fidget and worry and revise, revise, revise.

In fact, if I'd been thinking, I would have revised all those dozing pictures to ones of furious output, which is what I was really doing, much to my surprise.

The other day I was commiserating with my friend, Jenny Fields, who writes literary fiction and is currently working on a book about Edith Wharton called The Age of Ardor. We were talking about how much more fun it is to revise than anything. That Shitty First Draft, as Annie Lamont calls it, is the hardest part of writing for me. I know you're supposed to just vomit something up but all that stuff at the bottom of my innards usually doesn't want to come out. I eke out those pages like hunting for water in the desert. Some days it flows. Most days it doesn't.

I did something different this past month. I wrote the last book, One Deadly Sin, at Panera's. I couldn't get back into the rhythm of that for this one. Instead, I got up early and while it was cool, sat on my screened in porch and finished the manuscript. I don't know why home worked better for this book than the last. But it did. Odd how place is important to writing. I won't be able to continue out here when the weather turns. Wonder where I'll go next.

Does every book need its own place? If so, I'm in deep doo doo. I'm going to start running out of places to go.

Most writers have offices. They write everything there. I have an office but I avoid it. It's too small, too messy, too overwhelming with...stuff.

Anyway, now that the SFD is done and I've gone through it a couple of times, I feel like I'm waking up to a spring thaw. My schedule is breaking up and I've got a little time to do other things.
Like this.
So, howdy world!

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mmn, Mmn, Good

Just popping up from my fog of story to say I went to the Farmer's Market this afternoon and bought some corn off the back of a farmer's truck. It was Kentucky corn, not Tennessee, but we had it for dinner tonight, and it was some of the best corn I've ever had.

When my husband was a younger man, many moons ago, he had a summer job soil testing for the Dept of Agriculture in southern Alberta, just north of the Montana border. When it was time for lunch, he and his buddy would pull onto the side of the road, walk a few feet into a farmer's field, "liberate" 7 or 8 ears of corn, and drive into Seven Persons, where they paid a restaurant to cook it for them. Now that's fresh.

We also bought white cucumbers at the market. They look like Kirby's but they're white. When you cut them open, the green seeds are so pretty.

Last but not least, heirloom tomatoes. Cherokee Strawberry, Mortgage Lifter, and some orange ones whose name I can't remember. If all you've ever had was the store bought kind you've never really had a tomato.

Nothing like food to get you out of your own head.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bring On The Cliches

Oy, it's hard being a mother.

Did your mother ever tell you that?

Up to now my daughter and I have been pretty cool about the upcoming wedding. But now that its a little less than two weeks away, the pressure is on. We've had 2 melt downs in the last 2 weeks. Not a good average, I'm thinking. Unless you take into account the previous 11 trauma-less months. If that's the case, I think we're batting close to .300.

I only hope that as the days tick on we can keep our stress level down. Why does such a wonderful time bring with it so much tzuris?

Stupid question, seeing as it's a huge turning point in our lives.

But it would be nice to avoid the cliches.

On the other hand, experience becomes cliche because most of us go through the same thing, right?

So, now that I think about it, WTF--bring on those time honored cliches: the meltdowns, the laughter, the tears of sadness and of joy .

We could hardly call it a wedding without them.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

You Can Have Me--Cheap

I'm participating in Brenda Novak's Auction for Diabetes Research. It's a pretty cool idea, whether you're a writer or a reader. There are tons of stuff to bid on, from baskets of stuff to lunches with authors to looksees from agents, and loads of books. And its all for a good cause.

I'm offering a critique of a first chapter, plus a signed copy of One Deadly Sin. And if my reputation precedes me you know I give good critique. Or maybe I should say I give a close reading and a detailed analysis.  Or if you just want me to gush, I can do that, too....

The best part? I can be had for a song. Bidding started at a mere $2, and as of this writing has made it to a miraculous $16. You get Bergdorf quality at a Target price. 

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Monday, May 11, 2009

On The Road Again

May's a huge month this year. Three--count 'em--three college graduations, and then, of course shortly after, the Big Day.

But right now we're between the first and second graduation. Which means we're on the road between Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Carolina Blue holds sway over UNC, and St. Louis, where no one seems to care what color you wear at Washington University.

The highlight of the trip so far--ceremonies aside--was Boone, North Carolina. With a name like Boone, I admit my inner city girl was a little snarkish. I mean how much could a place with a name like that in a southern state offer?
Well, put that city girl to bed. Boone was an amazing place. Home of Appalachian State U, it is a beautiful place. Hilly, like San Francisco, but with tree-covered mountains framing it.m Well, hardly mountains, says my Canadian husband, but not hills either. Just pretty, pretty, pretty.

In fact, the ride through the Cherokee National Forest to Boone, was worth the trip in itself.

And Boone was a great place to stretch out legs and catch a bite. We ate at Boone Drugs, which has been a part of the town since 1919. It has an old soda fountain set in the midst of herbal remedies. The food was only so-so, but we probably should have had hamburgers instead of the vegetable plate. But we enjoyed the atmosphere and the gold plates naming the regulars who have now passed on.

It was fun to walk up and down the main street with its vintage clothing stores (we saw beautiful wedding dresses in one), craft galleries, antique and collectible stores (vintage games like Go to the Head of the Class) and the metal-cast car place. Every vehicle you could think of in three-inch metal. My husband treated the place like a shrine and went around pointing out every car he'd ever driven or ridden in over the last fifty years.

Of course I can't go anywhere without thinking story, and Boone has a ton going for it--scenery, a university, the local mountain community, history, and possibility. It would be fun to spend some time there doing research. In fact, I saw a house there that looked almost exactly like the house I described in One Deadly Sin in which the elderly Ellen Garvey lived. I love it when something I imagined exists somewhere in reality...

Chapel Hill is another great place. UNC rules the roost there. The fire trucks, the buses, even the police cars are Carolina blue. Graduation day was a sea of sky as nearly 4,000 undergrads sat in Kenan Stadium and listened to Desmond Tutu talk about our role in the universe as God's helpers.

Graduation was on everyone's mind in Chapel Hill. Many restaurants had special hours and special deals for the weekend. The hotels were booked, and with Duke graduating the same weekend, there were many folks, like us, in that part of the state with smiles on their faces.

We get a one-day stopover at home and then on to St. Louis. It will be interesting to see the difference between a big-city graduation and what happened at UNC. The graduating class there is so big they don't call out individual names. I think things will be a little more intimate at Wash U. But I'll bet the city doesn't close down either, so you don't have that wonderful feeling that the whole world is celebrating with you.
Hope your month is as full of good things as mine. And of course, this is all just prep for the wedding, which comes in June.

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Monday, May 4, 2009


The One Deadly Sin Blog Tour is coming along nicely. It's helped introduce me to a lot of new readers.

But I do admit it rankles a bit to hear "I never heard of" or "read one of" after what feels to me like a whole library of books on my shelf. I wonder about those stories of the "overnight success" who wrote, like, twenty books before being "discovered." I'm not sure I can make it to twenty! I guess those are the folks who are more concerned about the journey rather than the destination.

To which I say. . . patooy.

I mean, who wants to be on an endless journey that never gets anywhere? Just a pile of hot, stinkin' patooy.

But that's not really what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is this great online chat I had last night at Writerspace.

I find it amazing that I can string the words "great" and "chat" in a sentence together. Usually, those things are SO uncomfortable for me. I'm there, clearly, for the purpose of promoting my book, which is, well, awkward. Everyone seems to know everyone, and, as per the above, no one knows me. And they're all talking a mile a minute, fingers going so fast you'd think they were nuclear powered or something. And me trying to get a word in here and there. Shudder.

So you ask: mah nishtana ha laila ha zeh?

Or, in the vernacular: Why is this night different?

Easy. Two of my buddies showed up.

Unexpectedly, of course. One was even in disguise, but she gave herself away by mentioning MCRW (Music City Romance Writers).

Finally, I knew someone in the room. Finally, I had some peeps around me.

Boy, what a difference. The hour just flew by.

Ain't it grand to have friends?

So here's a huge shout out to Jody Wallace, aka Ellie Marvel, AND Marie-Nicole Ryan.

Great writers, great friends, and two people I'm lucky to have in my corner.

And THAT ain't no patooy.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Let There Be Blogs

The fabulous One Deadly Sin Blog Tour begins today.

There are all sorts of giveaways and lots of cool stuff with yours truly;

What's my idea of earthly paradise?

Who would I cast as heroine Edie Swann?

Who is my biggest supporter? My greatest critic?

And why did I become a writer instead of a cat sanctuary owner?

All this and more on the ODSBT. So check out the schedule here and join the fun.

See you on the tour!

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

Just so you don't think I'm a grown up, I left my credit card at Casa Maya, the Mexican restaurant I went to in New Jersey AND I didn't realize it until two days ago.

Sheesh, what an airhead...

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