Friday, October 30, 2009

Fabulous Friends, Friday Fun & a Fantastic New Release

Fridays are fun--especially when your writing friend Lainey Bancroft has a new release! The Trouble With Tessa (The Wild Rose Press) is the story of Erin Sanders who, at age 35, has resigned herself to a single, childless lifestyle. Then dynamic Tanner walks into her office and proposes that she pretend to date him in order to assess the mental well-being of Tessa, his orphaned niece. Erin falls hard and fast for the man. As an added bonus, she and the delightful Tessa come to adore each other. But like all things too good to be true, she discovers her perfect stud may be a perfectly deceptive dud.

The Trouble With Tessa was a First Place Winner (yay!) in the single-title category of the San Antonio Romance Authors Merritt "Magic Moments" Contest last year. But now you can get it on Amazon (click here) or on The Wild Rose Press website (click here), and at many other bookstores. WAY TO GO, LAINEY!!!! I'm thrilled for you and wish you many, many sales!

A week ago, I got the chance to visit Ruth, lovely B&N bookseller and YMCA friend (who works out more often and far more effectively than I do!), and I discovered that she'd chosen According to Jane as a "Staff Pick" at the Vernon Hills B&N. Even more exciting, she put my book right next to Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked!!! I get to sit next to Nick--someone who loves '80s music as much as I do! (Or, rather, Jane gets to sit next to Juliet...but you know what I mean.) Just to prove it, I had to take a picture. Thanks so much, Ruth, you're a sweetie. :-)

Also last Friday, I had a really nice coffee date (although it was far too short...) with three friends I hadn't seen all together since our time at the Jane Austen Society conference last fall. (Pictured L to R: Elaine, Abigail and Pamala.) The occasion was a celebration of Elaine's visit from Switzerland. (Yes, she gets to live in the beautiful land of Alps and Swiss chocolate...I'm only a little envious--LOL--"Take me back with you, Elaine!") So, she flew in, and Pamala Knight, Abigail Reynolds, Elaine and I got to chat all together...at a bookstore, of course, where it is reported that they had very tasty pumpkin bread, indeed.

Next week, I have the honor of being the author guest on Jennifer Crusie's Cherry Forums. According to Jane was chosen as the Cherry Forums Book Club Pick for the first half of November! So, if you are up for a book discussion, or you just want to stop by to say hello, please join us :).

Incidentally, I'm fairly new to the book-club thing. Not that I didn't read and discuss a lot of novels in college classes or informally with friends, but I've never been a part of an actual Book Club. Being that I'm going to be involved in four of them during the month of November alone, I feel as though I ought to get some tips or something. For those of you who have book-clubbed before, do you have any suggestions for me??

Finally, Happy Halloweeeeeen to everyone! May your trick-or-treat bags overflow with whatever your favorite goodies are this weekend. I have a bit of a weakness for those Snickers miniatures...well, and black licorice twists...and, um, also those cherry Starbursts...really, everything in a wrapper...

Monday, October 26, 2009

There Are No Germs in the Blogosphere...

...which means you can't catch the nasty flu virus sweeping through our house.

It was an exhausting weekend of illness and Tylenol here and, unfortunately, I'm not seeing a quick end to it now that it's Monday... However, even though I won't be setting foot out of my real house this week, I get to party around the clock at a number of wonderful blog sites elsewhere:

**Awesome writing friend Caryn Caldwell has an interview up with me today on her site The Book Lady! You can read about what being a debut author is really like and comment to win one free book!

**I'm the Free Book Friday author guest this week (and will be giving away three copies of According to Jane to contest participants :).

**Romance Reviews Today has their review up now of my novel. The words "fun," "quirky" and "charming" were used, so I'm very pleased!

**I'll be visiting the wonderful Heidi Betts in The Dungeon tomorrow for the final Part 3 of my October visit to WIPs & Chains, and we'll be talking about paranormal novels!! There will be prizes up for grabs there, too--an According to Jane t-shirt, a 4-pack of tea and a Victoria's Secret "Big Caramapple" lip gloss (my fall favorite)--so please join us if you can.

**Finally, throughout the next five days, The Knight Agency is hosting a Halloween Week on their blog, complete with a Scavenger Hunt! Books will be given away every day, and participants in the Hunt are eligible to win a $50 Visa gift card. I'm going to be the featured blogger on Wednesday the 28th and will be talking about things I love about the autumn and ways the season shows up in my writing. Hope to see some of you there for that, too. :)

Have a good week, everyone, and please stay healthy.

Antiseptically yours,

Friday, October 23, 2009

In the Circle

Just a quickie post this morning to wish you all a very happy FRIDAY (yippee!) and to share with you one cool link that my Kensington publicist forwarded to me yesterday. Family Circle magazine has an online edition called "Inner Circle," and Cheryl Grant, one of their editors, read According to Jane and posted a little something about it here. Definitely made my day/week (!!!), despite all the rainy, cold weather we've been having... Hope it's sunnier where you are.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone :).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Brant Flakes TOP 5

This is the first time in my two-and-a-half years of blogging that I've done a Top 5 (or a Top 10, Top 20, Top Anything for that matter...), but this has been a month of firsts, so I guess it's fitting. Without further ado, he's my Rocktober Top 5:

1. My book came out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I got to celebrate around Chicagoland *and* around the Blogosphere with THE MOST FABULOUS FRIENDS EVER!! (Thanks to ALL of you!!!!)

2. According to Jane has been on the Amazon Kindle Bestseller List for 4 straight weeks!! (It's still on there--between #18-#24 today--in the categories of Contemporary Romance and Fantasy, and it actually hit #1 in both of those categories earlier this month.) I'm well aware that it didn't get there by itself...so thank you to everyone who picked it up in paperback or ebook form. *smooch!*

3. I got an excited email from the truly wonderful NovelWhore last week telling me that my book was featured in the Barnes & Noble Review and had made it on "The Long List" for the week of October 13th!! The book was described as: "Fresh, original, and lots of fun." To that B&N-online writer: Thanks. You have rocketed your way onto my list of Favorite People for 2009!

4. After months (literally) of debate, my second novel finally has a title!! Coming October 2010 to bookstores everywhere: Fridays at Nine (Kensington trade). Like an Oxygen Network version of a Grimm's fairy tale, it's the story of three forty-something suburban moms who ask each other if they made the right choice in marrying the man they did... Interesting situations follow.

5. Last but far from least, I have the world's most awesome brother! He not only came to my book launch, bought several copies of an incredibly women's fiction-y book (despite being a very manly guy) to give as gifts to his friends and promoted this novel with the drive of a marketing exec, but he ALSO got us tickets to the Rob Thomas (with One Republic and Carolina Liar) concert to celebrate my book's release! To be able to sign my first novel AND dance to Rob singing "Smooth" and "This is How a Heart Breaks" in the SAME day...that was pretty memorable. Thanks, Bro!

I'm visiting Number One Novels on Monday and will be going back to The Dungeon with Heidi Betts on Tuesday!! As always, you're all welcome to join me, and I hope some of you will :).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Looking Inside

I've been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now, mostly because, when any book is released, readers have certain expectations. That's always been true for me as a reader, no matter what genre I pick up. Of course, with a "mystery," I know there will be a crime and it'll get solved somehow. With a "romance," I'm sure there will be a love story with the hero and heroine winding up together in the end. The "women's fiction" genre may leave a few additional doors open, but it's still a story about a woman's journey. What happens on that journey differs, of course--depending on the style of writing, the needs of the plot and the personal worldview of the author--but I'm not above glancing at the cover art, reading the backcover copy and making a prediction or two about how I think that particular journey will play out.

The best way I've chosen to deal with the potential dichotomy between (a) What I Expect from a Book and (b) What is Really in the Book, though, is to actually open up the book. If it's a print copy, I literally flip it open and read a few pages. Some of those pages are from the start of Chapter One, but some are just random pages from the middle of the book. If it's an ebook or a novel that hasn't been released yet, there's a really nifty feature on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble online where readers can often "Look Inside" the book. I'm then able to do in electronic form what I do when I'm holding a physical book: I get to read sample pages from various sections of the story. (Here's Amazon's Look Inside spot for my book.) And authors, myself included, frequently put scene excerpts up on their websites. (Here's mine for According to Jane.) Reading these pages or scenes gives me a strong sense of a writer's narrative style, so I'm not inclined to be "shocked" by the tone or the use of language.

None of this is to say that I haven't ever been in a situation where I thought I'd prepared myself for reading a book only to be surprised by a plot point that jarred me or a character trait that annoyed me. That stuff happens. I have not, however, encountered a book where the use of swearing, drinking or adult sexual situations "came out of absolutely nowhere."

Personally, I'm not so big into violence. While I can, on an intellectual level, understand the love some readers have for thrillers and serial killers, stories like those give me nightmares. Since I scare easily and know this about myself, I choose not to read them. One of the things I always check for when selecting a new book is the level of graphic violence. If I suspect I won't be able to read it without breaking into a cold sweat and imagining all kinds of horrific things for years to come, I DON'T READ IT. I do not, however, force myself to finish it and then go on a review site and blast the author for having dared to write so much violence in his book that the images are now burned into my brain and will never, ever go away no matter how many peace-loving, gentle-spirited novels I read later to comfort myself...

I'm just sayin'.

Fantabulous and funny women's fiction author Maria Geraci has a post up about this subject, and she suggests that books should have rating levels on them (G, PG-13, R, etc.) like we have for movies. Not a bad idea, in my opinion. What do you think?? Or how about this: a spot somewhere on the book cover where the author and/or publisher could mark off things readers might come across in the novel, like Profanity, Violence, Use of Drugs/Alcohol and Adult Sexual Content. What are the pros? Cons?

But for now, and when in doubt, please "Look Inside" the book... No author wants any reader to be "very disappointed" by something as preventable as a miscommunication of narrative style. A little initiative and curiosity about the text prior to reading can go a long way toward avoiding unmet expectations.

Today, author and reviewer Kelly Moran is featuring an interview with me about According to Jane on her blog and hosting a giveaway! If you have time, please stop by. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Visit with Therese Walsh

I have a visitor this morning that I've been looking forward to hosting on Brant Flakes for a few months, the lovely Therese Walsh. She's the founder and president of our new RWA Women's Fiction chapter (yay!) and an incredibly talented writer. Her debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy (Shayne Areheart Books) is out TODAY, and it's a book Publishers Weekly praised as being a "pleasing blend of mystery, romance, and the supernatural."

Welcome, Therese!!

1. Can you tell us the premise of your book, The Last Will of Moira Leahy? First off, thanks for having me, Marilyn. It’s a pleasure to be here at Brant Flakes!

The Last Will of Moira Leahy is a women’s fiction novel that borrows liberally from other genres: psychological suspense, mystery, family saga, romance and mythical realism. It’s about a woman who lost her identical twin--and a large portion of herself--about a decade ago, but reconnects with her former life after purchasing an artifact from her past. Through interwoven narratives, we see Maeve Leahy as she was and what led to the tragedy with her sister, Moira; and we travel with her in the present day as she unravels the truth about the artifact--who's following her and leaving her notes. We see her transform as layers of her past are peeled away and the course of her future is forever altered.

2. What was one scene you especially enjoyed writing and why? One scene is particularly special to me, because it was my touchstone when I began rewriting the manuscript in 2005. (I’d worked on a previous version of the book from 2002-04.) Before tackling the rewrite, I had to decide which elements to focus on; there’d been too much going on and the narrative was confused. I realized I couldn’t live without one scene, which I can’t describe in detail but features the twins Moira and Maeve Leahy. That scene is one of the very few to survive the mass slaughter of the first version of the book and—happily—is reflected pictorially on Moira’s cover.

3. What's your writing background like? Was Moira the first novel you wrote or have there been others? The Last Will of Moira Leahy is my first novel-length fiction. Since I wrote it twice, though, and the stories are so different, maybe you could say that I have a manuscript under my bed.

I worked as a freelance health writer while writing my fiction, mostly for Rodale Press. I’d previously worked as a researcher and writer for Prevention Magazine, and Rodale is Prevention’s mothership.

4. Your group website, "Writer Unboxed," has won a number of Writer's Digest awards for being one of the 101 Best Websites for authors. It's a great informational site for writers. How did it come into being? Thank you! Kathleen Bolton, who was one of my trusted critique partners, approached me one day and asked if I’d like to form a blog with her. I agreed. We weren’t sure of the blog’s focus at first. I remember telling her Rodale Press’s secret formula: provide empowering info, and they will come. We wanted readers, so we agreed to give it a try: provide empowering info to writers with posts on the craft and business of genre fiction, and interview a wide array of authors and other publishing pros.

5. What's your favorite and/or least favorite thing about being a writer? My favorite thing is engaging the muse. I love it when she surprises me—when a scene twists in a way I’d never envisioned or when the words come effortlessly. (That last is a rare but much appreciated phenomenon!)

My least favorite thing is the solitude—the number of hours you must spend alone before the computer screen to accomplish your goals.

6. What other art form inspires you as much as writing? Music. I was once a music major and still sing occasionally with a local performance group. That phenomenon with the muse I just described? When you’re singing some pieces—like Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium—you can experience that same sort of high, grateful just to be in the moment. The nice thing about music though is that you can anticipate those moments, phrase by phrase; they keep you coming back for more.

7. If you could have lunch with one author, one actor and one musician (these three people can be living or dead), who would you ask to join you? This took some thought!

Author: Barbara Samuel O’Neal, because I love her dearly and she adores food as much as, if not more than, I do.

Actor: Johnny Depp, because my children say so.

Musician: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, just because.

8. What's your next novel about? Is it related to Moira in some way? The next book won’t be a continuation with the same characters or setting, but it will be another work of women’s fiction melded with mystery, psychological suspense, family saga, love story elements and mythical realism. It’ll take place entirely in West Virginia , as the characters travel the state on foot. There is so much about this book I am falling in love with.

9. Any tips for aspiring writers that you'd like to share? I think many writers send out their work prematurely. Take your time, and polish, polish, polish. It’s too easy nowadays for agents and editors to say, “no,” so make it impossible by giving them something that’s both fresh and finely crafted.

10. What's one question you wish you could ask your readers? I’d feel happy with an affirmative response to this: Did The Last Will of Moira Leahy make you laugh, did it make you cry?

Thanks again for having me, Marilyn, especially since I know this is a crazy month for you as well. Congrats on the release of According to Jane!

My pleasure, Therese! :)

**Also in the Blogosphere today, I have the super-duper extra fun of being Heidi Betts's October guest on WIPs and Chains...in The Dungeon! Part one is up now, but I'll be back for the next two weeks, too. (Thanks, Heidi. ;-) I've also got an AuthorBuzz contest up this week for anyone interested in that. AND I've had a few new interviews and book reviews pop up online from some fabulous people, including Joni Rodgers, Nadine Dajani, Kristi at Books and Needlepoint, VVB32 Reads and Michele from The Rewrite Cafe. Thanks, everyone!!**

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Book Launch Dance Party!

On Wednesday, October 7th, I had the honor of being asked to speak at a local library about my writing journey. Afterward, I had the further delight of getting to go out with friends for margaritas! What a wonderful group!!
(pictured left to right: me, Janice, Ann, Anne, Heather, Karen, Sarah, Lisa, Erica and Joyce)

But the fun for the week was just getting started. Yesterday, October 10th, was my first big book signing! It's been in the works for months, so it was exciting to finally have a chance to launch the book officially...and to do it with a bona fide 1980s soundtrack! I brought my old boombox and a bunch of "The Best of the '80s" CDs to Borders, where we were greeted by the lovely Pamela Kramer (pictured below). We let the music play, munched on cookies and chitchatted. I got to sign lots of books and talk for a couple of hours with friends old and new. Below are just a few of the many photos we took!
(pictured: Ruth Kaufman, me-->seated, Jen Stevenson, June Sproat, Erica O'Rourke and Borders bookseller Pamela Kramer)

My high-school friend Erika surprised me by driving down from Wisconsin for a visit!! (left)

I had the chance to see Simone Elkeles and Kelly Farmer, too, who are writing friends from my very first weeks in RWA. I met them both 7 years ago... (right)

My friend Pam from my teaching days popped by to see me as well! (left)

And here are writing friends Eliza Evans, Karen Dale Harris and Simone Elkeles. Fabulous smiles! (right)

Finally, the photo below includes many amazing members of the Chicago-North RWA who took time out of their weekend to celebrate with me. Thanks to Erica, Heather, June, Simone, Karen, Pamala, Ruth and Jen!

Whew! I feel a bit like a bride post-wedding... It's hard to believe an event I'd planned for and waited to arrive for so long has finally come and gone. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and to all who sent me congratulations cards and emails. You helped to make these past couple of weeks very, very exciting. :-)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Books, Bonbons and Bestseller Lists

Last night, I had the pleasure of visiting the Grayslake Public Library and doing a little program on my journey toward publication for the patrons. It was SUCH a nice evening, largely due to the wonderful friends who showed up to support me, the library staff's incredible sense of organization and the tremendous spread of treats brought in by both the librarians AND my friends! OMG the chocolate!! Plus, it was really wonderful to have a chance to meet some new readers and aspiring writers. Here's wishing all of them the best as they work toward this dream... Quite a wild adventure it can be!

Today, the online magazine Single Minded Women featured an excerpt from According to Jane on their "Books and Bonbons" page! It was delightful to come across that online :).

Finally, I've been getting emails from friends about this all week and have been obsessively keeping an eye on it myself...but the Kindle version of According to Jane has been popping up on some Amazon lists lately. It's shown up with different rankings between #2 and #97 just today, depending on the category, but the fact that it's been in the Top 100 at all has been pretty exciting! So fascinating to watch it slide around...

It's updated hourly, so I don't expect it'll stay in this position indefinitely (although I wouldn't complain!), but at this moment, my debut novel is at #2 on the contemporary/romance list, far lower on the regular bestseller list (I just can't catch that Dan Brown!) and in a whole bunch of slots in between. To all of those readers out there who've bought the book this week in ANY format, THANK YOU!!

Hope you all have a great rest of the week and a relaxing Columbus Day Weekend :).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Trip to Stephanie's (Written Word!)

This week, I have the pleasure of being a guest on Stephanie's Written Word, where I wrote a post about my experiences taking a class on Jane Austen...in England...with my husband... Note the picture of us playing croquet on the university lawn. (Yes, I was a dozen years younger then--sigh--and thinner, too. :-) This is the "nice" photo, by the way. We were behaving ourselves and attempting to look very proper. I also have another one--locked deep in our family photo album--of me holding the croquet mallet, the bottom of it poised only inches from striking the top of my dear hubby's head--LOL!

We had a great visit. There's nothing like a shared reading of Pride & Prejudice or Persuasion, followed by a rousing group discussion over trifle, to bond two English lit geeks. But the best part was that we've also had years of laughs and a treasure box of memories thanks to that trip. Writing about it was a pleasant stroll back in time to where one of my favorite Austen adventures took place.

I'll be giving away 3 signed copies of According to Jane to commenters on that post so, if you're interested, please feel free to stop by. Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Goin' on a Book Hunt...

Today, the lovely and talented Therese Walsh, author of the soon-to-be-released novel The Last Will of Moira Leahy (can't wait to have her visit here on 10/13!) is interviewing me on Writer Unboxed. Please stop by--not only to read the Q&A but to take a look at the wealth of helpful posts geared toward writers. It's an outstanding site.

Also around the blogsophere, Margay Leah Justice has a very nice review up on Moonlight, Lace & Mayhem (yay!), and I'm continuing my Girlfriends Cyber Circuit tour with visits to the blogs of writing pals Melissa Senate, Maggie Marr, Melissa Clark, Roberta Isleib and Joanne Rendell!!

Finally, I've been anxiously awaiting the day I'd get to take pictures like these: On Pamela Cayne's blog, she's posted photos of Jane in the American Southwest (squee!), and just this morning, Maria Geraci emailed me this photo of Jane in Florida!

Here in the Chicagoland suburbs, I've come across Jane as well and, thanks to the FABULOUS staff at the Borders in Gurnee, IL and to a group of awesome, intelligent and very good looking friends (they told me I had to say that, but it also happens to be true :-), I had a lot of fun at my first in-store book sighting/stock signing!!

On the left is Borders sales manager, Kathy, who not only arranged to get extra copies of the books in for me, but she's putting together a special "local author" endcap display, too. (Thank you!) On the right are Marie and Joe, who were both so funny and helpful in the store Tuesday night when we all gathered there.

Below, I'm holding my debut novel in front of its spot on the "new paperbacks" shelf!

The last two photos are of the very first group of visitors who stopped by to pick up books--a few old friends and a couple of new ones: Candice, Autumn (who works at Borders!), Christina, Annette and Josh. On the top is their "happy-reader" pose. Just below it is their "action" shot--LOL!

And, in honor of it being "educator appreciation week," they were also serving cupfuls of this strawberry-cheesecake-like thing, which my son declared, "Delicious!" I couldn't snag the exact recipe for the dessert, but it was something like this.

Hope you all have a wonderful and relaxing weekend, and THANK YOU ALL for helping to make this week such a celebration!