Thursday, December 30, 2010

On Competition and Writers

At the end of last year, I'd spent a lot of time pondering Criticism and Writers. This week, having reread those reflections, I realized I didn't have much to add to them after another year amidst the thrill, the chaos and the frequent insanity of being a part of the publishing industry. What was true for me 12 months ago is still true for me now. Although I have to admit, my determination to pull away from the gossiping maelstrom wasn't without consequences...

Two friendships I'd valued came to an end in 2010, both due in part to our having different approaches to dealing with life stressors and criticism. Letting go is rarely easy and that was certainly true in these cases. However, there are times when the path on which we're traveling splits and we have to make a choice if we hope to move forward and live a healthier life. This year was, for me, a reevaluation year, and while there were a couple of losses, there were quite a few more gains. I met some awe-inspiring people and had the pleasure of getting to know better or reconnect with some wonderful friends -- online and off. This year made me even more appreciative of the insightful, compassionate, secure and genuine travel companions who are sharing the journey with me...and I thank you all for that.

Now, as 2011 approaches, my thoughts have turned to a different but marginally related theme: Competition. I had an interesting, somewhat unexpected experience with it in recent months. I was taking part in a multi-author booksigning event and a reader came up to all of us to ask about our novels. Since the reader questioned me specifically about one of my books, I was in the midst of explaining the story's premise to her when the writer to my left jumped in and launched into a description of her own novel. It was a noticable interruption, but I liked the writer and attributed her behavior to a combination of over-eagerness and the simple desire to make a sale.

The reader, however, raised her eyebrows, took a step back and laughed uneasily. "What? Are you guys in competition or something?" she asked. I started to shake my head, but the writer jumped in again and immediately said, "Yes!" Before I could respond, another writer near us said emphatically, "Oh, no! Reading one of our books makes readers want to find others that are similar. It's not a competition." I nodded mutely in gratitude, but found I couldn't put into words all that I was feeling at the time. The issue is complex. It has logical and emotional components, real-world battles pitted against internal, intensely personal ones -- and rarely are all of these addressed. As a result, I haven't been able to get the incident out of my head.

Looking back, I probably should have been offended by the first writer trying to horn in on a potential sale, but I wasn't. I just thought it was ineffective, if it was a strategy (in the end, the reader chose to buy my book anyway), and merely strange, if it wasn't. I'm aware it's a mindset some people can get trapped by -- that whole zero-sum game where all the world is classified into winners and losers. In the realm of the arts, it tends to perplex me more often than not because, IMO, it may be an unavoidable business reality on one level, but it's a fallacy on a dozen others. Yes, there are Amazon rankings and, if someone else's book earns the #1 spot, that means mine will inevitably be lower. If someone else sells the most copies that means mine will sell fewer. If someone else's novel wins the fill-in-the-blank award that means mine won't.

Okay. That's true -- literally. But that's not the only game that happens to be in progress. And in the game that's most often in the forefront of my mind, the win-lose construction is almost...laughable.

Because I already won. I won years ago.

And so did many of you.

I won when I decided to pursue a passion rather than do something I hated. I won when I chose to write stories as honestly as I could whether or not anyone else on the entire planet liked them, understood them or cared about them. I won when the side of me that is grounded in self-belief chose to stand up to the side of me that isn't...or, rather, I've triumphed in a handful of battles against Lack of Confidence but the war is far from over. This much I can tell you about it, though: The end result won't be determined by a royalty statement. Or by the number of GoodReads raves or bashes. Those are irrelevant in the heat of such combat. Tell me, how many "wildly successful" (in the eyes of the society) actors, musicians, writers, athletes, etc., do you know who've crashed and burned when forced to face themselves? That have lost their fortunes, their families, their sobriety or their sanity? Yeah. A lot. So, a focus on comparing sales figures as a measure of success -- while not a wholly worthless endeavor -- is limited in scope when placed alongside all of the truly significant conflicts fought within.

I physically cringe when I see someone setting him- or herself up as some kind of opponent against me. I want to tell them to chill out ("Here, have a cookie!") and to please use their energy more productively. Out of fairness, they should know there's no external competitor in the universe more powerful than somebody's internal demons. The notion of a mere human rival being strong enough to turn my attention away from Fear...well, that's absurd. I wish the real battles were so simplistic.

Alternately, how can anybody put a price tag on having done what one set out to do? On reaching one's intended audience -- no matter the size? What author could possibly "lose" by overhearing a reader tell another author that his/her novel touched them? That a character the other author created was one the reader closely identified with? That the author expressed something for that particular reader that this person couldn't express for him- or herself? How do you quantify meaning and slap a win-or-lose label onto it?

No one will convince me that what's meaningful to 5 people is worth less than what's meaningful to 50. I don't believe that the thoughts and emotions of those 5 can be dismissed just because more people happen to agree on something else. I think of all the times I saw a film or read a book and LOVED it and, yet, my positive opinion was in the extreme minority. Is the fact that it changed my life of less significance than the fact that another film or book changed someone else's? I know more than one book and more than one film have influenced me, but I fail to see where the competition is between them. They were each a gift to my mind and my soul. Each brought me something I needed. Each shared with me a message of value -- even if it only illuminated a tiny corner of some concept. There is no ranking that can be stamped on illumination. Am I the only person that finds such attempts futile?!

Sigh. (Yeah, I'll get off my soapbox now... ;)

Of course, on the materialistic, tangible plane of existence, competition abounds and it's often hard to ignore. Writers can't afford to go on writing if our books don't sell enough copies. Publishers won't take a chance on a debut author without a P&L statement that's in the writer's favor, and they won't pick up our option books if the financial pros don't outweigh the cons. But just because I can't completely close my eyes to the reality of competition in the literary world, it doesn't mean I have wrap my heart around it. I know what I'll remember in old age about being a writer in 2010 will have far less to do with my novels' placement on one list or another than the thrill of knowing I fought off Fear or Lack of Confidence long enough to write something a few people told me they loved...

Wishing you all a 2011 filled with important battles won, meaningful memories created and peace throughout the process. And joy. May the New Year bring you much of that, too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Writer's 12 Days of Christmas

Wishing ALL aspiring and published writers out there these Christmas gifts:

12 5-Star Reviews on Amazon
11 Positive GoodReads Comments
10 Likes on Facebook
9 #FF Tweets from Tweeps
8 New Book Sales Per Minute
7 Compliments from Agent
6 New Facebook Friends
5 Kind Fan Emails
4 Manuscripts in Progress
3 Film Agents Showing Interest
2 New Novels Contracted
and An Editor Who Loves Your Voice.

And a very Happy Winter Solstice to you all as well!! :)
**Yes, that Santa is life-sized, solid milk chocolate!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

WGN Radio Book Giveaway--Only Today!

Hi, Everyone ~ Just a quick post to share the details of the WGN Radio giveaway that's going on today on WGN's Facebook page! We're giving away 10 copies of Friday Mornings at Nine -- all commenters who share a holiday memory they had with a friend (and post it on WGN Radio's Facebook site) will be in the running to win an autographed copy of the book for him/herself and one copy for their friend. The winning names will be drawn at 5pm tonight (Central Standard Time) by the WGN staff in Chicago. Hope the winners will enjoy the story!! And I hope everyone who's feeling as overwhelmed as I am at the start of this hectic holiday week is hanging in there ;-).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Free Austen-related E-books!

It's Jane's birthday and, in celebration, Sourcebooks is giving away FREE downloads of a lot of great Austen-related fiction and some of Jane's own writing TODAY ONLY! Laurel Ann at Austenprose listed these giveaways with links to them for the nook -- so check them out. Also, there's a blog party afoot around the web and throughout the world in honor of our favorite Regency author. Prizes can be won! Take a peek at the participating authors/blogs on Jane Austen Today.

Have a fabulous day!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Enid Wilson's Fire and Cross

Today, I have a guest visitor on Brant Flakes, a writer of Austeneque fiction -- Enid Wilson! Enid lives in sunny Sydney, Australia (and, boy, am I ever envying her city's weather right about now :). Her latest novel is called Fire and Cross. Take a peek at the blurb:

The combination of a lethal blaze and a garnet cross have ensured that ever since he was a boy, Fitzwilliam Darcy's future is promised to an unknown lady.

With danger looming from a suspected spy, and with murder close at hand, will Mr. Darcy cross paths with Elizabeth Bennet and win her affections? Mr. Darcy's journey to overcome his pride and find eternal love in Pride and Prejudice takes on a mysterious twist.

This sexy what-if story, told from Darcy's viewpoint, explores the demands of family members and other involved parties. Fire and Cross takes this perennial favorite in another direction, bursting with overpowering emotion and surprising plot twists.

Sounds intriguing! Enid warns us that the novel contains “explicit adult content” -- but I always love a story with a little heat. Welcome!


Thank you, Marilyn, for hosting me today. I first knew about Marilyn when she was launching her book According to Jane. What a wonderful idea and book, to have Ellie following Austen’s wise and witty advice when she’s dating! (Aww, thanks, Enid!)

Jane Austen is my favourite author. I think she was such a marvelous student of people’s characters that her books are full of excellent advice, about all kinds of relationships, even for today’s men and women.

I had dabbled into Jane Austen’s fan fiction three years ago and have published four Pride and Prejudice-inspired stories since. In my latest novel Fire and Cross, Pride and Prejudice with a mysterious twist, I’ve created a somewhat “father and son” relationship between Mr. Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Below is an adapted excerpt where Mr. Bennet was giving the younger gentleman help on how to court Miss Elizabeth:

“I am worried that Miss Elizabeth entered into the engagement without due consideration.” Mr. Darcy frowned.

“You need not be worried about that,” Mr. Bennet said. “Lizzy is not the kind of girl who rushes into things, even under provocation.”

Darcy thought for a moment and had to agree with Mr. Bennet’s assessment. Could he hope that she had begun to have feelings for him? “She wanted a long engagement, saying that she wishes to make sure she is in love with me before we marry.”

Mr. Bennet raised his eyebrow and asked, “And you do not?”

Darcy felt flustered by such a direct question. He replied honestly, “Sir, your daughter has enchanted me. I do not want to part with her from now onwards.”

“Ah, the romance of youthful devotion. Perhaps it is good that Lizzy asks for a long engagement. It can test your fortitude and constancy. Now, should we have your wedding in three years’ time?” the older gentleman jested.

Darcy swallowed and then shook his head in disagreement. “I hope to persuade her to marry me before Christmas. I am not a young man of one and twenty, Sir. And I have resisted the temptation of sirens and maidens for many years. I know my heart.”

“But Lizzy is not yet one and twenty. Perhaps when you present her to your society, she will run off with a more charming man,” Mr. Bennet said with a sly smile.

Darcy stood up and paced around the room. He had not thought about this before. His Elizabeth had not seen much of the world. She might not put another suitor’s wealth before his character, but could she resist the charms of a gentleman who was ten times more amiable than he?

“Now stop worrying, young man! You simply need to learn how to charm her. For someone as unsuccessful as I in marital bliss, I do have advice for you.” Mr. Bennet raised his cup for a toast. “Learn and observe from other happily married couples. I dearly wish Lizzy and you will be forever happy!”

Darcy stopped pacing and raised his cup. Yes, his late parents would be a good example. He needed to treat Elizabeth with respect and tender loving care as his father had done with his mother. He was looking forward to charming Elizabeth, commencing as soon as possible the next morning.

What do you think of Mr. Bennet’s advice to Mr. Darcy? Who do you turn to when you need guidance about relationships? Please leave your comments here.

I’m delighted to offer a pdf version of Fire and Cross and a lovely Australian souvenir to one lucky reader. Head over to my website and register for news to have a chance to win. Entry is open to Marilyn’s worldwide readers and closes on 31 December.

Many thanks again, Marilyn, for having me here today.

So glad you could join us, Enid!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wishing Jane a Happy 235th

It's Monday, it's morning...and I'm barely awake. Must have coffee soon!

Hope you all had a good weekend. Ours was very snowy. However, before the flakes began to fall, I made a trek up to Wisconsin to attend the annual JASNA-WI luncheon and Jane Austen birthday celebration. It's always such fun! I'm blogging about the event today at Austen Authors (the writers in the picture are all fellow members of that loop: Jack Caldwell, Kathryn L. Nelson, Abigail Reynolds, me, C. Allyn Pierson), so please stop by and say hello if you have a chance.

And, in honor of our dear Jane's 235th -- which will be this Thursday, December 16th -- here is a reprisal of my super-easy English trifle recipe:

Marilyn's Easy English Trifle

1 angel food cake, divided into halves
1 large package fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
1 container Cool Whip, refrigerated (not frozen)
8 individual vanilla pudding cups
Sherry to taste

Layer 1/3 of the strawberries on the bottom of a large, clear serving bowl, put half of the angel food cake on top of that (pull it into chunks so the strawberries are covered with cake), douse it with a little sherry. Then spread 4 of the puddings onto the cake layer and put half of the Cool Whip on top of that. Repeat with the next 1/3 of strawberries, the second half of the angel food cake, more sherry (!!), the last 4 puddings and the remainder of the Cool Whip. Use the final 1/3 of the strawberries to decorate the top.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John, Jane, a Giveaway Winner & a Top 100 List

Who's your favorite Beatle? I was always one of those people who admired John for "Imagine," thought Ringo was...odd, didn't really know anything about George, and focused most of my attention on Paul the cutie. Fine, call me shallow.

Of course, although I remember where I was 30 years ago today (yikes) when I heard Lennon was shot and even own a Beatles songbook that I'd entertain myself with in college (strumming the simpler songs on my guitar and pretending -- privately -- that I was a '60s-era hippy-teen), I've always been aware that their songs, much as I loved them, weren't my generation. I traipse around a lot musically, but I am, and will always be, an '80s girl. In fact, the closest I ever came to a peace march was spontaneously joining a "Hands Across America" group in May 1986 and taking a bus from Madison, WI to Paxton, IL to be part of the human chain... I remember some guy playing "American Pie" and "Blowin' in the Wind" on his guitar that day, in between rounds of "We Are the World." I sang along, but I'm not sure I can ever wear tie-dyed shirts or put flowers in my hair without feeling like a fraud ;-).

I also love the Regency period, although I have not a drop of English blood in me and would most certainly be opposed to corset wearing. This weekend, I'll be in Wisconsin at a Jane Austen Society of North America luncheon to celebrate Jane's birthday (Dec. 16th) and to sign books, too. A friend of mine from college, Andrew Hill, sent me a link to this video below, which he found on Roger Ebert's blog. Delightfully, it's even more anachronistic than an '80s girl singing '60s songs. Take a peek:

LOL! Thanks, Andy ;).

In other fun news, after a drawing early this morning, NovelWhore is the winner of Maria Geraci's The Boyfriend of the Month Club!! Congrats, Lydia! I'll email you for address info.

And, finally, I got an exciting surprise last night when I discovered that According to Jane had made an appearance on a VERY cool list: The Best Romance Novels of All Time. I am SO honored!! Many thanks to author Tulika Nair and Buzzle.com for including my debut book amongst such great novels. Made my week!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Conversations Over Coffee...and a Little Elvis Love

Happy Friday!

I'm blogging today over at Sia McKye's Thoughts Over Coffee, which is -- of course -- extra fun because Sia is such a sweetheart and because it's a Friday morning and I get to have virtual coffee there as I chat about Friday Mornings at Nine and having real-life coffee dates with friends. So much life imitating art and vice versa going on that I can barely keep it straight -- LOL! (There's a book/coffee giveaway there, too, btw. ;)

If you're looking for gifts for people on your holiday shopping list, I'm enthusiastically joining in with RWA and lots of writers to suggest BOOKS!!! Hardcover, softcover, e-book...all formats are good!

And, finally, because I was watching "Clambake" again recently (yes, it was for research purposes...and, okay, also because 1967-Elvis was very cute :), I wanted to share this video of "You Don't Know Me." Sigh. Love that song and the way he sings it with such feeling. Hope you enjoy!

p.s. Any of you have a favorite Elvis movie or song??

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Boyfriend of the Month Club (+ a Giveaway!)

I'm THRILLED to welcome my wonderful friend and fellow contemporary women's fiction writer Maria Geraci to Brant Flakes today!! Her latest release, The Boyfriend of the Month Club, is a book I've been long waiting to read...and I'll finally get to on December 7th, when Amazon delivers to me the copies I pre-ordered ;). I won't be the only lucky one, though... One person who comments on Maria's guest post (anytime between today and the book's release next Tuesday 12/7) will win my second copy, and I'll send it to that person along with an individual serving of the new Starbucks VIA Christmas Blend!

Publishers Weekly wrote about the new book: "Romance readers will revel in the Austen-perfect happy ending and the warm friendships among the members of the club." And below, Maria shares with us something that will entice us as well: Her mom's flan recipe!! Thanks so much for being here, Maria ;).


A few weeks ago I called out to some of my writing buddies asking for help in spreading the word about my upcoming novel, The Boyfriend of the Month Club. As usual, the warm and generous Marilyn Brant immediately emailed me back. So first off, I’d like to thank Marilyn for hosting me on her blog today. Thanks, friend!

I’m very excited to be here talking about my new book. Those of you who write, know how much love, hard work, sweat, tears, and more love go into writing a novel. It seems like we empty our very souls out onto the pages and hope that we’re able to elicit the same emotion in the reader that we had while writing the book.

The Boyfriend of the Month Club is a story about Grace O’Bryan, a thirty-year-old single woman living in Daytona Beach, Florida, who after going on the ultimate date from hell, decides to turn her dwindling book club into a boyfriend club, where women “critique” the men they’ve dated, comparing them to classic literary heroes and villains. And yes, there’s a Mr. Darcy and a Mr. Wickham and a Mr. Rochester, and well, you get the point. One of the best parts of writing the book was the research. I had to go back and reread many of the literary classics I referenced. I know, what a hardship, huh?

The other best part of writing the book was the fact that my main character, Grace, was half-Cuban (I’m Cuban-American, so this was especially fun for me!) Grace comes from a warm and slightly quirky Cuban-Irish family that along with the women of the club, make up the cast of secondary characters in the story. I love writing secondary characters. They can say and do things that your main characters aren’t allowed to. Without a doubt my favorite secondary character in the novel was Grace’s Cuban grandmother, Abuela.

Like my own grandmother, Grace’s abuela is a smart, loving woman who only wants the best for her family. There’s a scene in the book in which she teaches Grace to make flan. If you’re not familiar with flan, it’s a custard-like desert. The recipe Grace uses is my mother’s own recipe, which uses cream cheese and gives the flan a bit of a cheesecake taste. It’s easy to make and absolutely delicious. It also makes a perfect holiday desert! Here’s a bit of a scene from the book that leads up to Grace making the flan and the recipe itself.

Abuela managed to keep one eye on the screen and gaze at Grace at the same time. “What’s the problem, mi amor?”

“I need to apologize to someone. I was thinking maybe a nice card or—”

“Man or woman?”

Grace hesitated. “Man.”

“Flan,” Abuela blurted. “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. When your abuelo Pedro was courting me, my mother used to make him flan. He couldn’t resist it. Make him a flan and he’ll throw himself at your feet.”

Grace didn’t want Joe at her feet, but maybe Abuela was onto something…

•1 -8 ounce cream cheese
•1 tsp vanilla
•1 can 12 ounces evaporated milk
•1 can 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
•½ cup sugar + 2 cups of sugar for the syrup
•5 eggs
•Pinch of salt

Combine all the ingredients (except the 2 cups of sugar) in a blender and set aside.

In a large skillet melt the 2 cups of sugar over medium/high heat until the sugar completely melts into a syrup. Pour the syrup into a baking pan with a circle in the center (like a Bundt pan) making sure to cover as much of the pan’s surface with the syrup as possible. Let it set for a few minutes. Carefully pour the liquid egg mixture in the pan over the set syrup. Place the pan inside a larger pan filled with an inch of hot water (a baño de Maria ) and place the whole thing in a 350 degree oven. Cook for 35-45 minutes until set. Let cool to room temperature and chill well. Before serving, let the chilled flan sit out on the counter for about 20 minutes (so the syrup warms up a bit), then turn onto a plate letting all the syrup drip over the custard. Serve and chill any leftovers.

If you’d like to find out more about my books, the awesome contest I’m running or if you have a book club and would like to register for a freebie packet of goodies, please visit my website at www.mariageraci.com. You can also find me on my Facebook page.

Thanks again to Marilyn for hosting me here today. You’re the best! {{HUGS, Maria!! The pleasure was all mine!}}

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weekend in Valpo!

This past weekend was the 2nd Annual Valparaiso Book Club Road Trip! Sarah, Joyce, Karen and I trekked from northern Illinois to Valpo, Indiana to visit with Karen's parents (Karen's mom Gloria is pictured left and looking very lovely in green ;), to go pottery shopping at a favorite spot, and to join Gloria's wonderful book club. This year, they graciously read and discussed Friday Mornings at Nine...and even held their gathering at a local coffee shop! Below are a few more photos (and I made sure to get a close-up of the delicious pastries). Ladies, many thanks to ALL of you for such a fun weekend!!

In other news, I was up until after 2am last night trying to satisfy my seemingly insatiable desire to Facebook surf. The urge was quite accidentally triggered. The name of an FB pal and book reviewer I like popped up when I was visiting the fan page of one of my former universities. I had no idea we'd gone to the same college until then, so I checked out the other people who'd "liked" the page and scanned through my friend's site, too, to see if she and I had any mutual acquaintances. What I found stunned me.

Turns out my friend is also FB friends with someone I'd long ago dated and had no idea what happened to in the past 20-something years. I'd never thought to look him up on Facebook (and, no, I'm not going to friend him now...I don't need to behave like my characters ;), but I was glad I came across his page, however unintentionally. It was -- in his case -- a bit like an unsolved mystery for me. I had no idea where he lived now or what he was doing, and even though we aren't official FB friends (and I don't need us to be -- LOL), I could glean enough to know that he was doing all right. And I was happy to see that.

He's someone I remember spending a very memorable college Thanksgiving meal sitting next to and bickering with (as was our habit) for about 2 hours. We argued a lot in general, but that night it was all about what attitude we should to take toward the holiday. The history of Thanksgiving isn't unflawed, but I do think nothing beats getting to take a day once per year and give thanks for the blessings of friends and family. I am so grateful for all of you. Thanks for visiting me here and for being a part of my online (and sometimes offline) life.

Happy Thanksgiving on Thursday to all who celebrate it and, to everyone, everywhere, best wishes for a wonderful week!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday Sun-Times!

It's a new week and ohhhh, my, Thanksgiving is SPEEDING toward us! Can't you just picture that plump turkey racing in our direction on those chunky little legs? (I imagine Nikes on the bird's feet and a rather frenzied expression on his face...) I'm going to be in and out of the house over the next couple of weeks for various in-person family and friend events. Likewise, I'm going to be all over the web through the end of the month, too, popping back into my Brant Flakes home to say 'hi and how's it going' before dashing off again ;).

Some things that are going on: Yesterday, an interview I did with the Chicago Sun-Times was posted in the Sunday paper and online! The link to the web version is HERE. It was such fun to open up to the Books section and see the article there!

This week, I'm a guest at the Cherry Forums Book Club to discuss Friday Mornings at Nine. Wednesday, I'll be visiting my sisters at the Girlfriends Book Club to blog about some favorite Hollywood films. Friday is my fourth and final post in my relationship series on Spirited Woman for 2010. And this weekend is a road trip I'm taking with three good friends to Indiana for a second book-club visit with the wonderful women of Valparaiso! Really looking forward to that...

What are you all doing this week or next? Any pre-Thanksgiving celebrations? Events coming up that have you driving or flying long distances?? Wishing you all a fabulous week!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In Celebration of Fond Memories, Lovely Reviews & Pumpkin Ice Cream

Just a quick hello on this bright and sunny Tuesday morning! I'm blogging over at Austen Authors today about memories of a trip to England my hubby and I took once upon a time...

And, I just read a very thoughtfully written review of Friday Mornings at Nine over at Write Meg's blog. I loved the whole thing (!!), but I wanted to share this section here:

"But this isn’t a novel about infidelity. Before you’re turned off and click away, screaming, this isn’t a book full of cheaters — and there’s no tidy synopsis for Marilyn Brant’s latest novel, a carefully crafted, entertaining and yet philosophical look at love, marriage and family.

Brant, author of 2009′s According To Jane, masterfully writes on the intricacy of female friendship. In Friday Mornings At Nine, we’re dropped into an inner circle of women who have spent years forging their bonds of trust — but still remain skeptical of opening their hearts too much. Who hasn’t felt that way? That our inner lives are something to be guarded, something to be protected, even with close friends?

That’s what struck me most about this novel: how well Brant understands the complexity of women."

I'm sure you can see why I loved reading this :). Thanks so much, Meg!

On another note, a friend emailed me yesterday with talk of ice cream (really, it's an all-season topic for us, not limited to summertime -- LOL), which reminded me that we tried Edy's slow churned pumpkin ice cream for the first time this weekend. I wasn't sure I'd like it but, ohhhh, YUM! I'm a huge fan of cinnamon ice cream, too. What about you? Favorite seasonal ice cream flavors? Do you like the Thanksgiving ones or are you holding out (like my husband) for holiday peppermint?? Do tell...

Wishing you all a fabulous fall day!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Club Fun & the Spirited Woman

Pictured: Michelle, Evelyn, Jeanne, Gayle, Brenda, Julie, Me and Dina

This week, I had the pleasure of joining a wonderful Chicago-area book club for a delicious lunch and conversation about Friday Mornings at Nine (and we discussed lots of other topics, too ;). This group is wonderful company, and I've been fortunate to visit with them two years in a row now. Thanks so much, ladies!

Today, I'm back at the Spirited Woman blog talking about "The Secrets We Keep" -- my second in a four-part blog series I'm writing for them about women and relationships. (This one is about women's fantasies and their secret crushes...) I hope you'll stop by and see me there! Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick-or-Treating Around the Web

I feel like a little kid today, running from house to house, saying "hi" to neighbors and collecting candy! But, no, I'm not physically racing around the neighborhood, just hopping around virtually. I'm at three different blogs today, writing about three different subjects:

1. For you writing-craft lovers, I'm deconstructing Friday Mornings at Nine at Blake Snyder's blog and showing how I used the beat sheet x 4 to structure that novel.

2. I'm blogging about "Women of the Round Table" and the necessity of getting together with our girlfriends over at Spirited Woman. (The post should be up by early afternoon.)

3. And I'm reflecting on the supportiveness of those family, friends and writing pals who keep us going when things get tough at Magical Musings, my second blog home. And there's a 2-book giveaway involved with that one!!

Hope to see some of you around the web with me...and I wish you all a Happy Halloween Weekend, overflowing with chocolaty goodness and other seasonal treats!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Poisoned Appletinis!

Happy Wednesday!

Just wanted to let you know that I'm guest blogging today over at Cynthia Eden's awesome site as part of her fun-filled, month-long Halloween celebration! My offering to the party? The Poisoned Appletini recipe (along with a couple of variations) that I used for the grown-up Halloween bash in Friday Mornings at Nine. Hope you'll stop by for a glass! (And, um, no...it's not too early for a drink. They're virtual, after all. :)

There's one other reason I have for wanting to kick off this midweek morning in a celebratory way: I just found out that According to Jane is a best single-title finalist in the Aspen Gold Reader's Choice Awards! So, see -- I was already looking for excuse to make a toast or two -- LOL.

And I'm sure I could dig up some chocolate to go along with those drinks...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Scammers on the Loose

I have finally hit the big time. Bet'cha all didn't realize that "Brant Flakes" was prime blog real estate, did ya?! Yeah...me either. But just take a look at this new phishing scheme below. No, I'm in no way associated with "Sandra" or this scam (and I've sent the scammers an email saying as much), but if any of you get a message like this, please just delete it.

Many thanks to the friend who alerted me to this bogusness (reaching back to my '80s roots for that word, thank you very much :), and be assured that I will NEVER sell adverstising on my blog or have some "company" contact you on my behalf to sell you anything. I will, however, openly mock such foolishness:

From: sandra.sellers@ontime-ads.com
Date: October 17, 2010 8:36:34 AM MDT
Subject: Placing advertisements on marilynbrant.blogspot.com

Dear webmaster,

We, in Ontime-Ads, are glad to offer you payment on behalf of one of our clients for the publication of a small advertisement on marilynbrant.blogspot.com.

We would like to inform you that we are using a few advertising methods according to the selected website.

While reviewing your website I thought of a great way to advertise on marilynbrant.blogspot.com so it will fit it perfectly.

For full details please contact me at sandra.sellers@ontime-ads.com.

*If you have other websites which I can review for advertising please send me their URLs as well.

Sandra Sellers
Advertising Specialist

Aside from laughing, the only thing I can say about it is, "Wow. I am WAY more popular than I ever thought..." LOL.

BTW, Tech Review - TruXter got the same phishing message this summer, too, so I'm hardly the first.

Anyway, on to more fun news: I'll be blogging tomorrow (Monday the 18th) on Borders True Romance and giving away a copy of Friday Mornings at Nine!! Even if you already have the book, I hope a few of you will join me. It's my first time on Borders ;).

And I'd love to know what's going on with you all this week. Reading anything good? Looking forward to some fun TV shows? Any pre-Halloween festivities in the works? I just finished reading Cattitude by Edie Ramer and LOVED it!! And I'm gearing up for Halloween by window shopping for my candy. (I don't dare actually buy it yet or it'll be all gone by the 31st...really.) Trying to decide if I should go with Snickers miniatures, Almond Joys or the ever-popular Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Do you all already know what candy you're going to give out?!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Maureen Johnson's Manifesto

I have had SUCH a personal battle with this whole idea of "branding" that when I read this wonderful "Manifesto" by Maureen Johnson on the subject, I knew I had to pass it along. Many of you may have seen it already, but I so appreciated what she had to say that it's worth a repeat (or twelve).

I wanted to become a writer to share a number of ideas. Not just one. I wanted to try to touch upon subjects that cut across a range of human experiences that people (women like me in particular) might relate to in some way. Not just two or three things that can be stamped with a single branded phrase, categorized absolutely and then hammered into the heads of anyone willing to stand still long enough to read it online or off.

I'd like to think we're all far more than products in an already over-commercialized world, and I love that those of you who usually visit this blog leave your real thoughts and ideas in response to mine. Like an actual conversation. THANK YOU!! I don't consider you "commenters," I consider you friends. And while I hardly blog frequently enough or controversially enough to gather a huge reading audience, I love that the people who DO visit have become people I've enjoyed getting to know in the 3-D world whenever I can, not merely in the virtual one.

ENORMOUS hugs of gratitude to each of you. Wish I could give you all a hot cinnamon roll this morning for being so wonderful, too. While I try to figure out how to do that, please take a peek at Maureen's post if you haven't seen it. I very openly agree with her, but I won't go into a blog-screaming hissy fit if someone else doesn't. I can understand the flip side, in moderation... Sometimes we don't want surprises. Sometimes it really helps to have a sense that what we're getting when we buy something won't be a total shock. That makes sense to me, too. I don't think branding is worthless, just that it's not everything. And it's hardly the only reason I'm online.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject -- both as writers who have to deal with this issue from a creation standpoint as well as readers who have to face all the brands and labels out there. Wishing you all a wonderful week!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Three GREAT Days in St. Louis!

I had a fabulous time in St. Louis on Saturday, Sunday and Monday!! Still catching up, but I wanted to share a bunch of photos and thank all the wonderful people that made these events possible!

After I arrived on Saturday, I got to FINALLY meet in person my friend Susan McBride! In many ways, it was like we'd always known each other, and it was such fun to visit a few bookstores in the city with her and sign stock. Here we are at a really great Borders with bookseller David -- so nice!

The next day was "Wine, Wit & Lit," an event Susan had been organizing for months to benefit the non-profit organization Casting for Recovery (a post-treatment program for breast cancer survivors). So, we had wine tasting, appetizers courtesy of the Lone Wolf Coffee Company, raffle baskets, a silent auction and then a "speed-dating" event with the authors. It was delightful just to be a part of it and especially exciting to finally meet another online friend, Judy Merrill Larsen! She, Susan and I (pictured right) are all in the Girlfriends Book Club together, and I know I couldn't ask for a more supportive crew ;).

Angie Fox was another one of the authors in attendance. It was so good to see her again after meeting this summer in Orlando at the Kensington table during the RITA/GH dinner.

And I also got to meet author Jen Gauvain, her mom Colleen and fellow blogger Brittany Rochelle (from The Write Stuff :).

Mike Ward, on left, is a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine, and he offered me a sip of one of Missouri's sweet wines -- very tasty!

Kiki Strecker from Lone Wolf, on right, REALLY won me over with her delicious pizzas...ohhhh, I want to go back to visit just for that!

This lovely lady to the left is Meg, the winner of my raffle basket!! She was so sweet ;). We had over 25 raffle and silent auction baskets just packed with goodies -- it was wonderful.

And here's a picture with many of us: Patti Hummert (next to me in white, on the left side of the photo) is the Missouri Coordinator for Casting for Recovery. In the rest of the front row, it's me, Susan McBride, Judy Merrill Larsen, Anne Milford and Jen Gauvain. In the back row, starting behind Patti, is Angie Fox, Jody Feldman, Bobbi Smith and Sharon Shinn. Thanks to everyone's combined efforts, we were able to donate over $1,100 to the organization, raised in less than three hours!

But that's not all I got to do on my trip. (It was action-packed, I tell you. ;) On Monday, October 4th, I got to be a guest on the show "Great Day St. Louis" and I LOVED IT!!!

The KMOV/CBS studio is located in downtown St. Louis and was a fascinating place to visit. My husband and son were along with me on this TV adventure, so the three of us enjoyed watching the view of the set from offstage and the entire LIVE show... It's a very pretty, comfortable and versatile set -- they have a kitchen area off to the left, a relaxing sofa in the middle, a round glass table with raised chairs (where my interview took place) and a counter space for doing crafts and other activities to the right.

Kindly helping me out with the mic I needed to wear and with the muffins I brought was Sammi -- a very nice producer (pictured far left), who did a million little things behind the scenes during the hour and a half we were there. Sitting in the middle is Matt Chambers, one of the terrific hosts of "Great Day" and so gracious to all of us, especially to my son and husband, who had tons of questions. Matt spent a lot of time between breaks and after the program ended just talking to the guys and telling them things about the show. And then there was the absolutely warm and charming Carol Daniel (right), whom I just loved meeting!

I'm indebted to Carol for putting me at ease right away and making the interview process run so smoothly. She was such a pleasure to talk to, and she somehow managed to make me forget that I was on the air in front of thousands... It really felt as though I were having a mini coffee date with a friend ;).

If you'd like to see the 4-minute clip, I've embedded it below. (Hey, aren't you proud of me for learning this new techno skill?! Only took me 3 years to figure it out -- LOL.) And on the subject of live events, I'll be giving a free presentation at the Grayslake Public Library tomorrow night at 7pm. If you happen to be available and are within striking distance of northern Illinois, please join us. There will be chocolate!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Culminating 'Friday Morning at Nine'

It's here! It's here! The very last of the "Friday mornings at nine" leading up to Kensington's official release of the book!! Whoo-hoo! The on-shelf date for the novel was, of course, on Tuesday -- and I have photographic evidence to prove it! (Thank you, Borders and B&N, for being so nice to me when I visited and took pictures like a geeky girl. ;) Loved seeing the cover out at my local Borders!

Look right! There's Friday Mornings at Nine on the B&N "New Fiction" table! (It was really there in that lovely corner spot, too...made me smile. :-)

And look left! There it is on the shelves! (Sick of my pictures yet? Sick of my obnoxiously frequent use of exclamation points? No? Good, 'cuz there are more of both!!)

Here are the books IN OUR HANDS at the store! The dear and wonderful friend accompanying me is Sarah, btw, one of my real-life morning coffee pals, who's also featured in the fun "coffee date with the author" at the end of the novel. (Admittedly, we meet on a different day and time than the women in the story and, also, we rarely talk about choosing men other than our darling husbands -- we are both actually quite fond of our spouses -- although there are days that can try a wife's soul...LOL.)

And, yes, in case there was any doubt, we really did stop for Godiva chocolates! The whole book-release experience was so exciting, it just makes me want to give away something big...like a car or a beach house or, maybe, endless free downloads of a novel I wrote and rewrote over 4 years... Thankfully, my publisher decided to do that for me (!!) and, through tomorrow (October 2nd) they're giving away FREE ebook downloads of my debut novel, According to Jane! (I don't even have a working e-reader, but I downloaded a copy anyway. :)

To continue the party, please visit me today on Magical Musings, where I'm celebrating a little more and talking about persistence in the face of frustration. (Who hasn't been there, right?) Also, I'm not the only one having a bash around the Blogosphere. My awesome friends in Seekerville are celebrating their 3rd birthday with a HUGE event! TONS of prizes -- seriously, like 70 of them over the course of the month. These are WILD women! They KNOW how to party. Don't let that whole "inspirational author" thing fool you...

Finally, I'm headed to St. Louis for a long weekend of excitement and fun! After almost a year of email conversations, I'll get to meet my wonderful friend and fabulous author, Susan McBride, in person at last!! It's thanks to her that I'm involved with the Wine, Wit & Lit fundraiser on Sunday and, on Monday, she's the reason I get to visit "Great Day St. Louis" to talk about my new book on TV. So, it's going to be a few busy, thrilling days, but I'll be back soon -- with MORE photos and MORE exclamation points! -- as well as tales of my first trip to St. Louis since about 1995...

May you all have a terrific weekend!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On-Shelf Day!!!

FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE is on the shelf today!!! It's part one of the release-day week and, first and foremost, I thank you ALL for being so supportive and enthusiastic as I approached this day... xoxoxox!!!

I'm headed out of the house for the morning to visit bookstores/sign stock with a good friend (and get some celebratory Godiva chocolate -- oh, yes, really), but I'm visiting 2 new spots around the Blogosphere today:
An interview with Joan Reeves at Sling Words and...
My first post on the new Girlfriends Book Blog, where I have some big giveaway news I've been anxious to announce. Please take a peek!!

And on a completely unrelated note, anyone else getting addicted to the new "Hawaii Five-0"?? (I love the semi-amused, semi-antagonistic relationship between Steve and Danno.) Which new fall shows have captured your interest this season?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Q&As and More Giveaways!

More interviews and giveaways today in celebration of the Friday Mornings at Nine release tomorrow! Friends have been so gracious in hosting me, I feel I should be bringing chocolate treats as hostess gifts all around the Blogosphere ;). Thanks so much, ladies!!

Coincidentally, three of the places I'm at today have wonderful women whose names begin with 'M' (my fave letter, you know!). You can find me visiting:
Malena Lott at Book End Babes
Melissa Amster at Chick Lit Central
Maria Geraci at Writing Romance in the Closet

Back tomorrow with more fun tour stops *and* a VERY EXCITING giveaway for everyone that I can finally announce in the morning...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Giveaways and Q&As Around the Blogosphere

The Friday Mornings at Nine pre-release frenzy is building...and I've been so lucky to get to visit online friends all across the Blogosphere with even more fun coming soon!

Today, I'm a guest on two fabulous Girlfriends' blogs: Brenda Janowitz and Wendy Nelson Tokunaga!! Thank you, ladies ;).

And I just found out there's a Romance Reader at Heart book giveaway, with Friday Mornings at Nine as one of the prizes! How nice is that? There will be five packages given away and mine is in package #2 along with these wonderful authors below:

From the site:
WINNER #2 gets swept away into...

"INFAMOUS" by Suzanne Brockmann
"HOME AGAIN" by Mariah Stewart
"PERFECT BLEND" by Sue Margolis

Finally, for those who are Goodreads members, there are 5 advanced reading copies of my upcoming novel being given away there (contest details are here) and two days left to enter still... Fresh Fiction has continual contests, too, but this one is the most recent. Hope lots of people win stuff!!

There will be more coming up soon... Wishing everyone a great day!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Visiting Friends

Today I get to zip over to California (virtually, not literally -- unfortunately!) to visit my friend Robin Bielman, who has an interview with me on her blog today about Friday Mornings at Nine. Thanks so much, Robin!!

And the newly expanded Magical Musings is just getting started! Thanks to everyone who joined in our celebration over the weekend and to Barbara Vey, who mentioned us over at her Publishers Weekly blog!

The Janefest is still going on over at Austen Authors, too, so if you'd like to win some Austenesque prizes...

This is, to use a phrase I've heard rather a lot, a "crazy busy" time of year. I'm barely keeping up with everything, and everyone I know is swamped as well. I'm trying to remember take a break or two, amidst the hecticness of the day, and relax for a few moments -- talk for 5 minutes on the phone with a friend, send a quick email to someone I'm thinking of, snatch a little time to read a blog I like and, if life gets too crazy for even that, to simply pause for a second to send some happy vibes to everyone I know and love. It's 10:30am and already it's been a busy morning, so I need to make some tea and do that mindful little pause -- right now, I think ;). What do you do to help yourself relax?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Parties Go 'Round

It's a Launch Party! Magical Musings has E-X-P-A-N-D-E-D and I get to be one of the lucky newbies to join the crew as a regular blogger there. We're having a party (complete with giveaways) to celebrate today and throughout the weekend, so please join us!

Also, I get to party hop a little, since I'm the featured "Austen Author" today on our new Janeite blog! I got a little mushy and romantic talking about my Mr. Darcy... Check out "For the Love of Darcy," if you have a chance.

And, above all, Happy Friday!! Wishing everyone who reads this a fabulous weekend ;).

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Visit with Joelle Charbonneau!

Today, I'm so pleased to welcome my talented Chicago-North chaptermate, Joelle Charbonneau, whose new comedic mystery, Skating Around The Law, will be release on September 28th by St. Martin's/Minotaur!!

Can you tell us the premise of your new book?

First, thanks for having me as a guest today! I am thrilled to be here. I loved According to Jane and I can’t wait for Friday Mornings at Nine.

Tell you about my book? Well, I guess you twisted my arm. SKATING AROUND THE LAW is a comedic mystery. A woman goes back to her old hometown to sell an inherited roller rink and finds a dead body head first in a rink toilet. Now she’s stuck in a town she can’t stand with a Sheriff’s Department that is better at gardening than solving crimes. Desperate to get back to her real life, she decides to solve the murder herself. With the help of her randy grandfather, a sexy large animal vet and an ex-circus camel, she has to track down the killer before the killer finds her first.

What's one scene from this story you loved writing and why did it excite you? And what drew you to the mystery genre??

I have to admit that any scene involving the circus camel was a favorite to write. Researching how to ride a camel and then turning that into a scene was especially fun. The camel in the book is a dromedary, which means he only has one hump. I, like my heroine, was baffled as to how a person could ride a one humped camel. I haven’t had the chance to ride one myself – yet. But I plan on taking a spin on one this October.

Funny, but I have no idea what drew me to writing the mystery genre. I read them all the time, but, I was trying to write women’s fiction. However, the fabulous Nephele Tempest heard about my mother’s past career, artistic roller skating, and suggested I write a roller skating book. I laughed myself silly over that suggestion. Ten days later I started typing and there was a dead body at the end of chapter one. Suddenly, I was writing a mystery and I’ve loved every minute of it.

Name 3-4 of your favorite musical artists/groups. Did you use any musical references in your novel? If so, do they play a significant role?

Yikes…only 3 or 4. I’m a professional singer/actress by trade, so I admit that I love about everything with a singable melody. Billy Joel, Chicago, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are amongst my favorites. With a toddler in the house, I also listen to a lot of Seasame Street music. :-)

Because the book is set in a roller rink, it should come as no surprise that there are lots of musical references. Songs like YMCA and The Hokey Pokey aren’t integral to the plot, but you can’t write about a roller rink without them. (Ooooh, this is going to be so awesome to read! I can't wait! I have fond memories of the wacky music they played at the rink back in my junior-high roller skating days...)

Would your high school friends be surprised to discover you'd become a novelist?

The popularity of Facebook has allowed my high school friends to learn about this turn in my career and, yes, to say they were astonished would be putting it mildly. I was the singer/actress of the group. My best friend was actually the writer. Unlike many authors, I wasn’t someone who wanted to be published at an early age. I was far more comfortable on stage using words that someone else wrote.

Actually, I think the biggest shock is still to come for my high school friends. In high school, I was the serious friend. I’m talking REALLY serious. I was the straight man to my friends’ comedy routines. Skating Around The Law is on the comedy side of the genre. My friends are going to wonder what happened to me.

What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication?

Network. Susan Elizabeth Philips has been a mentor of mine since I first started writing. She gave me the advice to join RWA and meet everyone I could. As a professional performer, I am not a shy person, but I am also not one finds it easy to walk up to a group of unknown people and start chatting. But Susan said I should (and she should know), so I did. I forced myself to talk to other writers and to industry professionals. Not because that would help me get published, although for some writers it might, but because the more I learn about the industry the better off I would be if ever I got The Call. I’m glad I took Susan’s advice or I might be totally freaked. As it stands I only chew my nails and cower in the corner once or twice a day.

What's a personality trait you love about one of the characters in your novel and why?

My favorite character in Skating is my heroine’s grandfather – Pop. He’s a hoot. More important, he’s a person who always wants to try new things. Whether it be new careers, breaking and entering or trying a new lady friend on for size, Pop is ready to give it a whirl. So often in our lives we become settled and uninterested in change. I hope I grow up to be like Pop – always interested in finding out what is beyond the next horizon, or behind the locked door.

Writers are usually big readers too. How do you make time for reading and what are you reading at the moment?

Writing has totally cut into my reading time, but yes, I am a HUGE reader. Before writing I used to read 4-6 books a week. Now I’m down to one. Sigh. Part of that isn’t just the writing. I have a 2 ½ year old at home, who isn’t interested in reading the newest Caroline Haines or Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Thankfully, I enjoy the literary stylings Dr. Seuss and Curious George. (LOL! My son was a fan of both, too. ;)

Right now I am currently working my way through a stack of books by authors in my imprint. When I got my publishing contract, my husband went out and bought a large number of Minotaur books. He has supplemented those with additional titles every holiday, anniversary, birthday and sometimes “just because” days. I appreciate the gesture, although the pile is getting rather intimidating. That being said, I plan to purchase Friday Mornings At Nine while I am on tour and read that one in my hotel room at night. I can’t wait! (Oh, thank you!! I really hope you'll like it...)

Thanks again for being with us today, Joelle! Best of luck to you on your debut and on all the books to follow!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Visiting the Seekers (+ a Giveaway!)

Today, I'm off to Seekerville! I love the wonderful ladies there, and the awesome Tina Radcliffe -- whose debut novel The Rancher's Reunion comes out from Steeple Hill in January! -- was kind enough to invite me back to visit this year. Thanks, Tina ;-).

The topic is one dear to my plot-loving writer's heart: Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet. If I could only use ONE tool for novel-writing structure, it would be this one -- hands down. Come join me HERE as I walk through the 15 steps outlined in the beat sheet using 2 great films as a guide: Bruce Willis at his action-hero best in "Die Hard" and one of my Top 5 all-time favorite romantic comedies "When Harry Met Sally..." I'll also be giving away a couple of advanced reading copies for Friday Mornings at Nine to commenters, so please stop by!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Austen Authors Launches Today!!

An official invitation from the group (and, perhaps, from the ghost of Jane herself):


Writers of Jane Austen fiction cordially invite you to the Launch of

‘Austen Authors’

and to share in our passion for her world... because there’s never enough Jane Austen.

We look forward to the pleasure of your company on Monday, September 6, 2010, and daily thereafter.

Throughout September, during our Launch Extravaganza, there will be posts by many of your favourite Austen-related fiction writers as well as contests, quizzes, a scavenger hunt, oodles of information, spotlight guest Amanda Grange (Mr. Darcy, Vampyre), new release parties, author introductions, entertainment, humour, polls, secrets, recipes, games galore, and giveaways of gifts and books from the authors and their publishers. Mark your calendar, join us, and be sure to post comments.

"My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company."
~ Jane Austen ~


I confess I did not write this on behalf of our group, but I simply love the British spelling of "favourite" and "humour" and could not bring myself to change this :).

We're going to have a great September in our new Austen playground. Hope you'll join us!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's all in the Cattitude!

Today I have the honor of welcoming a friend and fellow blogger--someone who's definitely no stranger to Brant Flakes!--the lovely Edie Ramer. Hi, Edie!! So glad to have you here ;).

As one of the founding members of Magical Musings, Edie has blogged regularly and offered many book reviews, author interviews and insightful posts on various aspects of the writing industry. It's a treat to have her here to talk about the book she just released on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle: CATTITUDE!! (I love that title.)


Can you tell us the basic premise of your book? It’s all in the Cattitude

After Belle the cat switches bodies with a psychic on the run from a murderer, she wants her perfect cat body back instead of this furless human one. But she doesn’t count on falling in love with her former owner. Or that a CEO and a beauty queen want to use up her nine lives. Now is her chance to prove anything a human can do, a cat can do better.

What's one scene from this story you loved writing and why? My favorite scene features two secondary characters: the woman who switched bodies with Belle, and a lonely rich girl who befriends this confused woman in a cat body. I cried when I wrote it, and I cry every time I read it. It’s a good cry, the kind that happens when characters touch your heart and make you care.

What's your Writer Fantasy--i.e., to see your book make into a feature film, to be on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 consecutive weeks, etc.? One of my beta readers said she’d love to see Cattitude as a movie. Ever since she said that, I keep thinking about it and wonder who would play Belle. Jennifer Garner was one possibility, but she might be too nice. I need an actress with an attitude but still likeable. Any suggestions? (Hmm. Angelina Jolie is very cat-like, in my opinion, and also has an attitude...Jessica Biel, maybe...I'll keep thinking! Anyone else have some possibilities? :)

Being a on the NY Times bestseller list used to be one of my goals. Now it’s the Kindle bestselling list. Not yet, though. I know it’s not going to happen overnight. And that’s okay. The great thing about being an indie author is that you can build your audience. Your books aren’t going to be whisked off the shelves in a month or two. That takes a lot of pressure off the indie authors.

What's a personality trait you love about one of the characters in your novel and why? I love my cat, which is why I wrote a story about Belle, the heroine in Cattitude. I love her me-first attitude, her honesty, her independence. So when she became human, I had her keep all those traits. Plus, a few others, including a love of tuna, a dislike of vegetables, and a desire to scratch people who irritate her. (Which I find perfectly understandable, though it’s something I haven’t done since I fought with my brother when we were kids.) Belle is the most fun character I’ve written.

What’s the most surprising thing that has happened to you on your publishing journey? I don’t know if it’s surprising, but what’s wonderful is the support I’ve gotten from the writing community—from my CPs to writers I barely know. I mentioned on an online writing group that I was going to self pub Cattitude, and one of the newer members emailed me and offered to do my cover. She did an amazing job! The first thing people say about the book is how much they love the cover. (I agree--it's really eye-catching!)

When I think of my friends who’ve been there for me, I feel my heart swell. I think it must be three sizes bigger than before I published Cattitude.

Marilyn, you’re one of the heart-stretching culprits! Thank you for being a friend and having me as your guest. (Awww, Edie! It's my pleasure!!! I'm thrilled for you. ;)

Where can we find you on the web?Here is my website. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook and at Magical Musings.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Cattitude is available on Amazon and Smashwords for $2.99. I’m giving away a free e-copy to two different commenters on today’s blog. And starting Friday, I’m having an exciting release party with a fun contest. The details will be posted on Friday on my website, Facebook, Twitter and Magical Musings (see links above).

YAY!! Can't wait to read it, Edie, and to celebrate with you ;). Congratulations!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

End of the Summer...

I know summer doesn't REALLY end until about the 3rd week of September, but the last day of August always makes me think it's over... School has started again (I am not weeping about this), the days are marginally shorter -- if not actually cooler, and I'm even spotting a few early leaves that have changed from green to gold.

Some very fun things are coming up in just the next week, though, so I wanted to let you know about them: The Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, a group I've been a part of for two-and-a-half years, has recently launched our Girlfriends Book Club blog with (almost) daily posts from 35 women authors. It's such a fabulous group, and I'm just thrilled to be a part of it! Another blog launch, this one coming up on Monday, Sept. 6th, is for Austen Authors -- a collection of about 20 of us who've published novels that somehow involve our dear Jane. There will be MANY posts and MANY prizes throughout September! If you're an Austen fan, you'll definitely want to join in the fun.

Also, the lovely Edie Ramer will be visiting Brant Flakes on Thursday to talk about her new book Cattitude!! Don't miss that! And I'll be trekking over to see my wonderful pals, The Seekers, next Tuesday, Sept. 7th, to blog about Blake Snyder's beat sheet. I'll be comparing two great films -- "When Harry Met Sally" and "Die Hard" -- as well as giving away some more ARCs of Friday Mornings at Nine. Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Johnny...you impress me...how'd ya do it?

First of all, HI!!! Between various trips this summer and my book deadline that's fast approaching, I've been offline a lot more than usual lately. But, while I'm not allowing myself much by way of goof-off time until the manuscript is polished and turned in, I did need to take a mental break from revisions for a few hours this weekend...and I chose to spend it watching a handful of old episodes of 21 Jump Street.

Who else remembers this show? Johnny Depp, very clean cut. An '80s pretty boy who made the idea of a young cop undercover in a high school delightfully appealing. (He fought off gang members and drug users, put bullies in their place, and even had time to make out with the hot young English teacher--once he'd flashed his badge, of course, and his real age was safely revealed.) I remember the show fondly, if not with much critical accuracy. I liked the boppiness of the title track (sung by Holly Robinson, now Holly Robinson Peete) and the collection of young actors on the show, particularly Johnny. He delivered his lines well enough for the expectations of this youth-focused crime drama, but I fully admit he gave me no indication whatsoever back then that he'd grow into the versatile and wildly transformative actor he's become.

So, I found myself wondering, HOW did this happen??? What made him leap from typical young '80s actor to one whose dramatic prowess and unique characterizations have become legendary? What clicked for him in this artistic realm? What inspired him to elevate his acting craft to a level so far above that of many of his peers?

I liked Johnny 20+ years ago and thought he was "cute." I respected his growing skill throughout the years, too. But now, having watched so many of his later films and then seeing anew his early work, I'm deeply, overwhelmingly impressed by his growth as an actor, and I hold that level of profound improvement up as a kind of beacon of hope for all of us in the arts. If he could raise the bar for himself like that, perhaps the rest of us are also capable of reaching higher... Anyway, maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but it's inspirational to me ;).

For those of you who are Johnny Depp fans, what films are your favorites? Would love to hear!