Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Clubbing (!!!!) and a Giveaway

We just got back from a 2-week-long family driving trip a few days ago (photos to follow soon), and to say I had "issues" getting an Internet connection on some of those days would be a massive understatement... It underscored for me just how attached I am to my computer and my ease of connectivity. You should've seen me sighing in relief when I walked through the door, turned on my destop and was online in seconds--I almost hugged my monitor!

However, on the days I was able to check in (thank you, B&N wifi!), I tried to get caught up on my virtual world and was met with lots of tidbits of good news. The fabulous Nancy J. Parra honored me with a "Meat and Potatoes" award (for blog content that is more than fluff :). Nancy, thank you so much!! Looking forward to passing it along once I've had a chance to catch up! And the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit is growing, and it'll soon include a NEW book club site!! The blog is currently being built, but its launch is one I'm really looking forward to this summer.

Finally, on the subject of book clubs, I got some fabulous news from my editor while we were away: the book club rights to Friday Mornings at Nine just sold to the Doubleday Book Club and the Book-of-the-Month Club/BOMC2!!!!!!! It'll be the "featured alternate" selection for October--yay!! ;-) Really hoping the book club readers who pick it up will enjoy it. And, because the advanced reading copies are finally here (!!!), I'll draw the name of one commenter from this post on Friday morning* (yeah, at 9am--LOL), and give one signed ARC away!

And how about you? What have you all been doing lately? Anyone in the States have big 4th of July plans? Looking forward to hearing from you!

*July 2nd, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Wishes

My dad is the true family storyteller. I have a thousand memories of hearing his fabulous, fantastical tales throughout my childhood. He's intuitively talented in the art of the cliffhanger ending...and I spent endless energy as a kid trying to get him to tell me MORE (now!!) of the story. Not to make me WAIT (no!!!) until its continuation the next day. Verbal page-turners, that's how I remember those magical tales.

My dad did not succeed in passing down to me his love of gardening (or, let's face it, any skill AT ALL when it comes to plants--LOL). I could never fall in love with the game of backgammon. And, while I always liked tennis, I didn't have his genuine passion for that, either.

I think of his stories every day, though, and I never cease to appreciate them. The creative structure, the excellent pacing and the strong morals inherent in the narration...the well-drawn characters and exotic settings...sigh. However much I may formally study the craft of writing fiction, a part of me will still always hold my dad's storytelling as the standard because, above all, I was compelled by his tales. I cared about what happened. And decades later, I still remember them.

Thanks, Dad. Happy Father's Day!! xoxo

Wishing all the dads out there a wonderful day as well. For those reading, any favorite memories of your fathers or grandfathers?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Summer Reading List

I am a lucky, lucky reader. In the past few months, I've either won or have been given as gifts each of these novels, and all five are on my personal summer reading list. I'm so excited about them! Yes, yes, I have writing to do this summer, too (The Grand European is not exactly drafting itself on my laptop), but I'm craving that introduction to new worlds, new characters, new perspectives. I want to lose myself in a story that's not just of my own making, jump wildly between genres and taste all the narrative flavors like entrees at an international buffet...mmmmmm. Let the summer feasting begin!

Even though I got this first book back when the leaves were changing colors and falling off the trees, I've been wanting to settle into a beach chair and read it from cover to cover in the sunshine. Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked... Oh, Darling Book, I've been waiting so long for you!

Visiting the warm and frequently hilarious oasis that is Seekerville, I met online the delightful Ruth Logan Herne, whose humorous comments made me laugh even in the depressing icy cold of February. Her debut novel, Winter's End, the first of her Love Inspired "North Country" series, has garnered a bunch of honors, and I already know it will be as funny and clever as the woman who wrote it :).

Back in San Francisco, at the 2008 RWA National Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting in person lovely Regency historical author Vanessa Kelly at the Kensington cocktail party. She has a terrific new novel out--with one of my favorite titles ever!--called Sex and the Single Earl. Thanks to a fabulous giveaway on Magical Musings, I won a copy of her book--and Jennifer's, too, below!

Jennifer Estep's latest novel, Web of Lies, from her "Elemental Assassin" urban fantasy series, is a book that caught my eye because of an enthusiastic introduction to her work by the awesome Edie Ramer. The opening pages hooked me immediately with a tremendously compelling voice and an intriguing premise. Looking forward to delving in all the way!

And, finally, I get to read a book I've long been anticipating from a fellow Kensington women's fiction author and absolutely fabulous lady, Cathy Lamb. Her next novel, Such a Pretty Face, is coming out at the very end of July. I'm thrilled, not only because she sent me an ARC to preview, but also because she's coming to visit "Brant Flakes" just before her release date! Over the past year and a half, she's shared with me a number of wise and insightful comments, so I have no doubt that an author Q&A with Cathy will be inspiring ;).

There are more books, too, that I'm anxious to read, including a stack of Austenesque novels (love those!!), but I'm excited to kick off the summer with these five terrific selections. What about you? What's on your summer reading list?

Friday, June 11, 2010

For the Love of Voice

About a month ago, I read a fabulous piece on "how to craft a great voice" written by literary agent Nathan Bransford on his blog. Writers, if you haven't seen this, you'll want to check it out. Really. It's one of the best explanations I've ever read, and I think it addresses the complexity of the subject very well.

He wrote, "Voice, at its most basic level, is the sensibility with which an author writes. It's a perspective, an outlook on the world, a personality and style that is recognizable even out of context. You could drop randomly into a David Sedaris story or an Ernest Hemingway novel and probably guess the author within a few paragraphs because they have strong, unique voices. An author's voice is often imitated (think: Tolkien), but a truly original voice can never be duplicated."

LOVE that.

He also describes some of what he considers "the essential elements" of voice. These are abbreviated from his post (so, please, read the full version...), but they'll give you a sense of what he suggests:

Style--the flow, rhythm, cadence of the writing; vocabulary, lexicon, slang and whether the author is wordy or spare

Personality--the unique way of seeing the world and choosing which details to focus on and highlight

Consistency--while it may get darker or lighter or funnier or sadder, it doesn't suddenly shift wildly in tone

Moderation--even the strongest voices don't over-do it, and they're not just made up of repeated verbal tics

Transportation--a good voice envelops the reader within the world of a book

Authority--quoting from Ink: "For me, one of the absolutely key elements of voice is authority. With a great voice you know the writer is in control, so in control that the writer vanishes and you see only the story... A great voice carries you through the story, compels you through the story. I think all great voices have that... There's a sureness to a great voice. The words are simply right and the rhythms of the prose are buoyant. You won't sink, not with these voices."

Originality--above all, a good voice is unique and can't be duplicated, and it is also extremely contagious

Authenticity--this is the key to finding the voice: your voice is in you; it's not you per se, but it's made up of bits and pieces of you

Thank you, Nathan.

I also think there are certain themes that we and our favorite authors tend to focus on. It's part of our unique perspective--those subjects that are so relevant to us that we MUST write about them. Personally, I love exploring a woman's journey of self-discovery as she tries to sift through the elements of her past and the relationships that shaped her worldview to come to a new understanding of her life in the present. I'm really hung up on characters learning to be honest with themselves, facing their fears and their fantasies, seeing and hearing each other more clearly. And I don't think there's a problem in the great universe that can't be improved with the support of true friends, a little humor and the occasional piece of chocolate. So, while I truly love reading across genres, I'm always pleased when I find authors who write stories like these...

But what about you? What kinds of themes do you love to write about and/or love to read? Who are some authors whose writing voice you really enjoy? Please share!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Crash Course in Flirting

I'll admit, I kind of wanted to keep that last post up for longer--partly because I'm still so excited about the award, but largely because I LOVE looking at that ice cream sundae picture...

Anyway, the weekend has been in full swing with neighborhood block parties and school-ending rituals. It really is June (a month that seems like it's never going to get here when we're in the midst of one of our icy Midwestern winters). My attention keeps jumping back and forth between the fun Austenesque things I'm still doing for According to Jane, the draft writing I'm in the middle of for The Grand European and the coming firestorm of excitement and promo that accompanies the release of a new novel, in this case, Friday Mornings at Nine.

Flirting plays a prominant role in all three of these books (no need over-analyze the reasons ;), so when I came across this Yahoo "Shine" piece a few days ago on "5 Things You Can Tell From His Flirting," I read it immediately and with a great deal of interest.

Here are the key points from the article:

The Playful Flirt
How you'll recognize him: Ever meet a guy at a bar or party who's clearly into you, the repartee between you so frisky, you can practically hear the "click"... and then poof! He disappears, never calls, totally goes MIA? This is the Playful Flirt. With charm that could melt an ice cap, he makes you feel on top of the ozone layer. He chats you up, knows how to flatter without being obvious, and never takes his eyes off of you.

His romantic profile: He probably hits on a lot of women. And, while he might jump into a relationship with one of them—and it could be hot—he's not likely to take it terribly seriously.

Is he really that into you? Sorry, but no. "These people are just looking for a self-esteem boost," Hall says. "He's flirting simply because he loves the way it makes him feel. It's like a sport to him—not necessarily an avenue for a relationship at all. He may even already be in one."

The Physical Flirt
How you'll recognize him: You won't miss this guy. He displays his sexual interest like a 12 million-LED sign in Times Square—but so appealingly, it's hard not to light up. At home in a bar or dancing at a club, he's ultra-comfortable with his body language, and an expert at reading yours (so he doesn't push where he's not wanted). And he's a master at the kind of private conversation that nuzzles easily into romance.

His romantic profile: This type tends to get hot and heavy pretty fast.

Is he really that into you? He's definitely attracted, but he's a big flirt. So while getting together is a pretty good bet, the long haul is more iffy.

The Sincere Flirt
How you'll recognize him: You might meet him at work or through a neighbor, and mistake him for a friend. But you'll notice he likes to talk and wants to get to know you—the inner you—and he's out to connect emotionally. "He might be cautious to make that first move," Hall warns. "These people believe it's respectful to let the woman develop romantic interest without having to be pushed or prodded or touched."

His romantic profile: He goes a little slower than Mr. Physical. But he's the kind of guy who has serious girlfriends with both sexual and emotional chemistry—the good stuff.

Is he really that into you? Very likely yes, and he's looking for his next close, meaningful romance.

The Traditional Flirt
How you'll recognize him: Depending on your point of view, you'll either think he's a chauvinist or refreshingly old-fashioned. Because this guy follows traditional gender roles, he'll make the first move, pay for dinner, decide where to go—or try. You may wonder about his romantic leanings, since he moves things forward about as fast as a growing stalagmite.

His romantic profile: He forms solid relationships. And he doesn't play the field.

Is he really that into you? Absolutely. By the time he makes a move (be patient), he's pretty certain you're the one he wants.

The Polite Flirt
How you'll recognize him: You probably won't. These guys hate anything to do with dating, and often the whole singles scene. If you even find him in a bar, he's the one hiding in a corner, having been dragged there by five other guys. Not that he's a shut-in. He wants to meet somebody. He just doesn't like the way people go about doing it. Often you'll think his interest is purely platonic.

His romantic profile: The Polite Flirt only bothers with someone he thinks is worth getting seriously involved with.

Is he really that into you? Most certainly, yes. Now, how you'll even get that far with someone who's such a non-romancer, is another question. "You might have to subtly up the stakes," says Hall, admitting to knowing a bit about the Polite style himself. ("Some of this research is actually me-search," he says laughing). If you have lunch plans, change them to dinner with a few drinks, or suggest a spontaneous walk to see the sunset. "I sympathize with singles," adds Hall, who ended up marrying a coworker (she had no clue he liked her until friends said something.) "Once you get past the initial flirting, it gets a little easier."

So, for the ladies out there...have you met any of these flirtatious male types anytime in your life? (You can think back to your teens, twenties...or, you know, last week...) Seen them in action? Are there other kinds of guy flirts (not listed here) that you've encountered? Do you remember the best pick-up line you've heard in real life or on TV? And, for any man brave enough to weigh in, turnabout is fair play--got any comments on female flirts?