Thursday, February 24, 2011

Friday Night Book Clubbing

This past Friday night, I had the pleasure of joining an area book club to discuss Friday Mornings at Nine, and what a fabulous group it was! My friend and Chicago-North RWA chaptermate, Clara Kensie (pictured with me), gets the credit for pulling together this gathering, and I'm thrilled she did.

Our wonderful host, Karen (right), made me feel welcome at once, and the drinks/treats everybody shared were delicious! As for the actual details of our conversation...well, I've been sworn to secrecy. You know there's that unwritten rule that what gets talked about in book club stays in book club ;). I will say that the four hours I was there sped by in a blink and, by the end of the evening, I knew I wanted to find a way to get together with these ladies again. I'm totally gonna crash one of their morning coffee dates. They happened to let it slip when and where they meet...so they'll have no choice but to see me again.

Here's half of the wild crew (from left to right): Toby, Jeni, Karen, Kathy and Sandra. And, if you check out the table, you can also see the tasty cream-cheese dip we devoured. SO good! As well as those chocolate-peanut-butter truffles that Liz brought us (she's a Dove chocolatier!) -- YUM.

On the other side of the room, we have: Clara, Tina, Diane, Liz and Cheryl (who's Karen's mom!) and more great posing with the books. I just loved the way everyone in the club spontaneously held up my novels and postcards the very second I pulled out my camera -- you ladies rock!

Since I caught Tina with her eyes closed in that last shot, here's another one. And, oh, did I mention we also had some wine? Mmmm, yes...

This final shot of Diane and Liz searching for a passage in the book was actually the first picture I took during the evening. Although, after I learned that Diane is a terrific photographer, I turned my camera over to her and got her to take a few additional photos for me.

To all the ladies, thanks so much for making the night such fun. And to the Awesome Mystery Woman out there -- wherever she may be -- who is the originator of today's modern book club, I raise my glass to you. You created something good ;).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Don't Wait for Heroes

Just a quick post to let you know I'm over at the RWA-Women's Fiction chapter's blog today with a post called "Don't Wait for Heroes." (My homage to the wise words of Dennis DeYoung of Styx and how it relates to writing fiction. ;) I'm so excited to get to see DeYoung and The Mojo Daddies this weekend. Well, weather and good health allowing...both have been a challenge this month.

Today, there's more Austen Project twittering (#A4T) and I'll be back in a day or two with photos from a really delightful book club I got to visit with over the weekend. (I know I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: I LOVE BOOK CLUBS!! Such fun. :)

Wishing you all a very good day!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Writer's Block, Twittering & More Magical Musings

Just launched! The Austen Authors now have a story board for posting excerpts, novellas and short stories, and it's called The Writer's Block. Many of the offerings are, of course, Austen-related, but there are places for those of us to contribute tidbits of our other novels as well. I've never posted on fiction boards of any kind before, so this is a new venture for me -- and a fun one, too.

Another new venture -- having just completed our second week out of thirteen -- is the Austen Twitter Project, which is a hoot! It's a collaborative effort between Austen lovers from around the globe (anyone can participate, btw, it's not restricted to published authors), during which we're writing in real Twitter time a story called "The Ball at Pemberley." Each participant tweets the next lines in the tale during a set time slot every Tuesday. You can follow the meandering -- and often hilarious -- story with the #A4T hashtag and, also, every Sunday on the Austen Authors blog, the new transcript of the week will be up. (Here is part one.) Sign up for a slot and join us, if you'd like!

Finally, I get a to have double the fun at Magical Musings this week. Today, I'm interviewing debut historical women's fiction author Kristina McMorris (and she's giving away a copy of her fab novel, Letters from Home). And, tomorrow, I've got book giveaways and great romantic moments from three wonderful romance authors and friends: Robin Kaye, Laura Moore and Tina Radcliffe. Very excited to get to share these with all of you!

Hope everyone has been having a lovely Valentine's Week ;).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Interview with Robin Kaye!

I've been looking forward to having my friend and fellow '007 GH Bond Sister, Robin Kaye, visit me on Brant Flakes for ages, and I'm thrilled that I get to finally interview her here! Her new and sure-to-be-hilarious novel, Yours for the Taking, just came out from Sourcebooks early last month, and I'm SO looking forward to reading it ;). Welcome, Robin!

1. Can you tell us about your new book?
Yours for the Taking is a modern-day marriage of convenience with an urban twist.

2. What's one scene from this story you loved writing and why?
There’s a scene where my Gina, my heroine thought my hero was gay and is questioning it . She decides to test him and ends up getting more information than she planned to. I just love Gina and how her mind works! The scene turned out to be really funny! Poor Ben didn’t know if he should apologize and protect his privates or thank God that he got caught.

3. 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?
I think I’ve used a few musical references in my novels. Nick Romeo thought of Frank Sinatra as the patron saint of single men everywhere and he and Rosalie danced to I’ve Got You Under My Skin. I think I might have mentioned one of my favorites Corrine Bailey Rae in Too Hot to Handle, and maybe even On the Wild Side (I’m in the middle of revisions for that book.)

As for my favorites — that’s an impossible question. I have over 15,000 songs on my iPod and can’t imagine going anywhere without them. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of David Wilcox since I just saw him in concert again last week. He’s an amazing lyricist and guitarist. I have eclectic tastes ranging from ‘40s Big Band to The Sick Puppies and everything in between. I really like Landon Pigg, Jamie Cullum, Neko Case, Iron and Wine, Ben Taylor, Chris Botti, Dashboard Confessional, The Postal Service, The Goo Goo Dolls, Leigh Nash, Lifehouse…the list is never ending. (LOVE these, Robin! The Goo Goo Dolls and Lifehouse are very high on my list, too. ;)

4. Who was the first person you told when you got The Call announcing you'd sold your first novel?
I think I called my husband first, then my mother, my aunt, my dad, and my best friend.

5. What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication?
Madeline Hunter came up to me at the STAR conference after Romeo, Romeo won The STAR contest for Best Contemporary Single Title. The final judge had requested the full manuscript, which wasn’t completed — I had another 250 pages or so to write. Madeline was in full lecture mode and told me to get myself home, put my ass in the chair, and finish that manuscript in 30 days. She demanded that I email her once a week and tell her how things were going, if I got stuck, I should email her. Then she told me that I had a great opportunity and it was mine to take and run with or lose. She said not to make the same mistake so many others do by letting opportunity pass them by. I finished the manuscript within 30 days, and Madeline Hunter has been one of my favorite people since that conference.

6. Do your neighbors/hometown acquaintances know you're a published author or did you just choose to tell those closest to you?
Most of my neighbors and acquaintances know since there have been a few articles about me in the local papers and magazines. I wouldn’t think to hide it, I’m really proud of what I do and my work.

7. What's a personality trait you love about one of the characters in your novel and why?
I love that Ben is a chameleon — he fits in wherever he goes and shows different sides of his personality depending on who he’s with or where he is. It confuses the heck out of Gina at first, but I think it really shows so much about his life — he has so many different roles that are sometimes complete opposites. He’s had to ‘change color’ to blend in from the time he was a small child. Who doesn’t love a man who looks as comfortable in well worn hiking boots and Levis hiking through the wilderness as he does in a Hugo Boss suit at a board meeting, or in his trendy monochrome, slacks and sweater dealing with a new artist on display at his gallery? Ben fascinates me.

8. Do you pay attention to book reviews? If so, has there been any particular review that made your heart do a little dance?
Everyone pays attention to their reviews, even if they don’t admit it. I have no problem admitting I read them, but I don’t obsess over them.

I danced for days when Eloisa James featured Yours for the Taking in her Barnes & Noble Reading Romance Reviews. It was almost as cool as when I saw her on Twitter and thanked her for the wonderful review. She tweeted me back and said I was welcome and that she really loved my book.

9. Writers are usually big readers too. How do you make time for reading and what are you reading at the moment?
I used to be a book-a-day reader but with all my time commitments my reading time has decreased drastically — something I’m not happy about. I have a hard time starting a book and putting it down to get work done, so I try start a book until I can give myself the 4 – 6 hours it takes me to read it from cover-to-cover. The last book I read was The Heir, by Grace Burrowes. It was amazing!

10. What’s the most surprising thing that has happened to you on your publishing journey? Have you learned things about the industry you never knew before?
The most surprising thing that happened to me was winning the Golden Heart, heck, even finaling shocked me.

I’ve learned so much about the industry I never knew before, but then I knew so little when I started. When I began I didn’t know what Point of View was. I think RWA is so fabulous about teaching, not only the craft of writing, but the business. Most everything I learned was by attending conferences and listening to the recordings of RWA National Conferences. I have six years on my iPod and listen to them over and over and over again. You never know what you’ll pick up. (I agree, Robin. I think RWA is simply an amazing organization. I've learned so much from the generosity and wisdom of our fellow writers...)

11. What's your writing schedule like during the day/week?My life is really hectic. I’d love to say I write from 10 – 5 every day, but with three kids in two states, my life is insane. Sometimes I drive to Pennsylvania for my 15 year-old ballerina and get a few hours here and there at my favorite Starbucks, sometimes I can’t sleep and write 3,500 words between 10 PM and 3:45 AM, sometimes I sit at my desk all day and write like crazy but there’s never any schedule. For me it’s better to know I how many words I need to write per-week to make my deadline. Right now it’s about 9,000 words, not including the business end, blogs, and then of course procrastination. :)

12. What’s next for you? Is there a new book in the pipeline?
I’ve started the Domestic Gods Gone Wild series, the first book, On the Wild Side is in revisions. I have two more of that series under contract, and an idea for a fourth book. We’ll see what happens.

13. Did you have a writing mentor? If so, in what ways did he/she provide guidance?
I don’t think so. There were a lot of people in The Valley Forge Romance Writers who were always there to answer my stupid questions or an encouraging word, but no one who really worked with me as a mentor.

The nice thing about RWA is there are so many people willing to help. Some of my heroes in the business have been so wonderful to me. I remember I was sitting next to someone at National and we started talking. I had no idea who this person was, so as we were finishing up our conversation, I introduced myself and she said she was Maureen Child. I screamed OMG! I love you! I’ve read every one of your books! (I know, I was such a dork). She thanked me and told me that she really needed to hear that. A few years later, I was at the Rita and Golden Heart Awards rehearsal and I saw her. She asked how I was doing, so I showed her my ARC and she asked if she could keep it. I said, sure and if you want to give me a cover quote, I’d really appreciate it. Maureen Child had to hunt me down to find me and give me some of the nicest cover quotes I’ve received.

14. Any other questions you'd like to answer?!
No questions, I just wanted to thank you for the interview. You’re a doll!
(Awww, Robin! You, too!! Thanks so much for being here. ;)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hearts & ISBNs

As I was working on a post for next Tuesday's Austen Authors blog, I came across a number of delicious-looking websites including Cheryl's, which had these fabulous frosted cookie-heart bouquets. YUM! You can have your flowers and eat 'em, too...

Here, we are going to have a very low-key Valentine's Day. We don't do any elaborate celebrations or give big gifts (in fact, my husband and I only exchanged Valentine's Day presents once, during our first year of dating ;), but we already have some chocolate onhand that we both really like, and there will probably be a dinner that I don't have to cook sometime this weekend -- most likely Thai carryout, since that's marginally healthy -- along with the exchanging of cards.

My husband doesn't have to do much more than that to make me feel loved and appreciated (although, if he baked me a tiramisu every now and again I would probably consider him to be the perfect man -- one that could rival even the Old Spice Guy, lol). From the publishing world, however, I got my Valentine's treat early and in a non-edible form: The ISBN number for A Summer in Europe appeared on Amazon this week, and that never fails to make me squee aloud and say, "Oh, my God, it's real!" No cover yet. No product description. Nothing more than a placeholder page, really, but I have yet to tire of the experience of seeing these things pop up.

Anyway, it's Friday and the start of the weekend...what are you all going to do? Any special/romantic plans?? Will you do your celebrating tonight, tomorrow or Sunday...or will you wait for the official day on Monday to share your particular words of love with your Valentine? Regardless, I wish you all a Very Happy Hearts Day! xoxo

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Free Book Friday!

Just popping in for a sec to let everyone who might be interested know: There's a 3-book giveaway (for Friday Mornings at Nine) and interview (with me ;) going on right now on Free Book Friday! The winners of the drawing will be announced tomorrow...

And for those who didn't see it, yes, this picture (courtesy of the Chicago Tribune) was taken of Lake Shore Drive this week. They've been calling it "Snowmageddon 2011." Yeah. Why doesn't anyone want to sing "Winter Wonderland" when we get 20+ inches of new snow in one day, hmm?!

Wishing you all a fantabulous weekend. And, because my Bears-loving husband and son are STILL home, thanks to 2 consecutive snow days, and they are STILL pouting because Green Bay beat their team, I also have to say, very loudly: GO, PACK!! (*waving to everyone in my home state of Wisconsin*) Best of luck on Super Bowl Sunday!