Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Goodbye ... kind of



So the Muse Newsers have given the blogging thing a big try. Okay, perhaps a LITTLE try (g). We've loved chatting with y'all and hope you've enjoyed our varied posts. However, all good things come to an end ... or wind down just a tad.

You won't be seeing many new posts on Muse News but we hope you'll pop in periodically to check out our announcements and new releases. And if you miss us in the meantime, scroll down and you'll see our blogroll list on the right. Many of us have individual blogs where you can drop in for a visit.

For now ... goodbye, adieu, ciao, farewell ...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Alpha or Beta

No, I’m not talking romance heroes. I’m talking mothers.

This morning on Today, I learned that there are two types of mothers: alpha and beta. Apparently, alpha moms are perfectionists and beta moms are, well, slackers.

So, which am I? Having given this some serious thought, I’ve decided I am an alpha mom with serious beta tendencies.

Or … maybe a beta mom with alpha tendencies.

I guess that makes me … a hybrid mom. Yeah, that’s it.

I can’t get rid of the alpha tendencies. It’s the lingering Type A/lawyer in me. I want the house to be clean, the homework to be done, and the kids to be outstanding and happy in all their endeavors.

On the other hand, I now think a layer of dust in a house is, well, charming, and if the kids hit each other now and then (or a dozen times a day) is that really a sign that they’re future felons? I don’t think so.

So, yeah, I’m a hybrid mom. And I think I’m comfortable with that. What about you? What kind of mom are you?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer begins...

Summer arrives today, appropriately enough the day after school ended here. It was just lovely not having to set the alarm last night, getting to watch my husband get up to go to work while I stayed in bed. Usually it's the other way around--I get up to rouse the kids and feed the animals and pack lunches and track down the missing homework and hunt the missing snowboots, while he stays snug in bed until the kids are gone, and believe you me, when it's 20 degrees outside, this REALLY gets me!

But now the kids are home. They've already had a fight. My son asked to play computer games before he even ate breakfast. My daughter, heretofore a major slug-a-bed in the morning, jumped on me at 8 AM, wide awake and ready to rumble. The dog is wired up because someone more exciting than I is home to play with her. And my husband was smiling as he left for work...

Every summer I make lots of plans. Mostly things I'm going to fix up around my house, but also fun excursions with the kids, cool things to do, write in the hammock, maybe even plot a romantic getaway with the hardworking husband while the kids entertain Grandma. Every September, I look back and realize we did the same thing over and over: go to the lake. The house is always a disaster, I rarely get more than a single sentence written all summer, and needless to say there is no romantic getaway, not even out to the patio for peaceful togetherness. Sigh.

So what does everyone else hope/plan to do this summer? And advice for the organizationally-challenged among us?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cats, Dogs and Big Hearts


A few years ago trucker, Wayne, and his wife, Cathy, rescued a cat. That kitty, named Bo, has become a trucker cat. He's travelled a lot. And travelled. And travelled. They figure the cat has trucked over a million miles. That's a lot of miles. And the cat loves it. As a matter of fact, he hates to even leave the cab of the truck. He's only been out of the truck cab twice over as many years. He actually gets frustrated if his owners stay off the road for too long and he'll show his disproval by parking his hairy butt on the steering wheel and honking the horn.

I like cats a lot but, truthfully, I'm more of a dog person so here's a dog story.

A woman named Debbie rescued a dog from a dumpster two years ago. One day she begins choking on a piece of apple. She tries unsuccessfully to perform the heimlich manoeuvre on herself. She was about to pass out when along comes her rescued dog, Toby. He knocked her to the ground and then jumped on her chest. The doggie heimlich dislodged the apple and saved Debbie's life. Toby ate the piece of apple afterward (eeeewww) but, hey, nobody's perfect.

What do these stories have in common? Both animals were rescued by their owners. I have a soft place in my heart for people who rescue animals. Do you have a rescued dog or cat that comes with his own tail, um, I mean tale? :)

Coldwater Creek vs. L.L. Bean

Back when my kids were in nursery school many, many moons ago, one of the other moms was quite taken aback to learn I was not into camping. Why would she think I'd want to forgo air conditioning and sleep on the hard ground? Because my wardrobe came from L. L. Bean.

I'm actually still a big fan of L.L. Bean. The clothes are predictable both in style and fit, and most of the pants come in medium tall and tall lengths. (The turtlenecks used to come in tall, too, but they seem to have discontinued that--another example of discriminating against people who have a few more vertical inches than the norm, sigh.) Plus I can shop on line or over the phone which is a very good thing as the women's sections in department stores cause my blood pressure to rise. They are large, sometimes not even on the same floor, and seem to be organized by label/designer/company, which is fine, I guess, if you know your Dockers from your Alfred Dunners. (I did have a kind of Dockers pants that I liked, but I think they discontinued that style.)

I have recently found a store I can manage, however--Coldwater Creek. Their pants aren't quite long enough, but I love their flowing, long skirts--they are fun to wear. I was there yesterday and found a number of interesting things. Regrettably I had an appointment, so I couldn't try stuff on. Maybe I'll make it back later this week.

So, what's your favorite women's clothing line or shop? I'm especially interested if you're a bit taller than average, but feel free to share even if you are well, um, short.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

This was a cool movie.

Let me preface this by saying I know nothing about comic book heroes, and I don’t know my Marvel from my DC. I do, however, like fun action movies with exciting special effects and a love story, and FF2 had all that.

Basic premise: bad things start to happen around the world, interfering with the ongoing attempts of superheroes Sue Storm and Reed Richards to get married. Turns out the Silver Surfer, the best high-tech character since the really awful (but in a good way!) liquid metal cop villain in Terminator 2, is behind the disasters, but there’s a worse bad guy out there, and he’s a-coming …

The special effects are amazing, the characters are funny and well written, and the Silver Surfer, with his super-abilities, soulful conflict, and voice of Laurence Fishburne is, well--dare I say it?--great hero material for the next movie.

And you KNOW there’ll be a next movie.

What about you? Seen any good movies lately? Looking forward to any upcoming movies?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hey, Kristina, while you're in Spain...

I forgot to ask Kristina if she could pick up a copy of the Spanish version of The Naked Marquis while she's gallivanting across Spain. I think it's being released this month. I'm not sure. I get hits on my website from a Spanish site, but I don't read Spanish. If you do, here's the link: http://www.elrinconromantico.com/sallymackenzie.htm

Maybe you can tell me what it says.

I think it is a very cool cover, don't you? Except it doesn't have the capital "K" in MacKenzie, sigh. And I don't think there were any masks in the story, but hey, that was the second book and I'm writing the fifth now, so maybe I've forgotten.

I'd LOVE to get my hands on a copy. I think my publisher will send me one eventually, but it could be a long time coming. So, Kristi...if you're near a bookstore....

Here's the U.S. cover--quite a different look, isn't it? But I love this cover, too.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Rain in Spain stays mostly in the Plain


Let's hope this is true! Tomorrow, my little family of four heads off to the south of Spain for a ten-day holiday (including brief jaunts to Gibraltar and Morocco!). I should be excited, right?! Instead, my stomach is in knots as I worry about *everything* that could go wrong. Let's see...first a 7 hour flight with two little kids (and did I mention that I've *hated* to fly since 9/11?!)--luckily, the flight is at night, but by the time we arrive in Madrid to change planes for Malaga, it'll be about 4 a.m., our time. Which means changing planes with two (hopefully) zonked out kids. Then, once we arrive in Malaga heavily laden with luggage, we have to get to the rental car counter, which is always fun. Then a one-and-a-half to two hour drive--in a foreign country, driving a stick shift as that seems to be all they have over there, and we have to actually FIND our rental house.

Of course, my biggest worry is the fact that my youngest daughter is deathly allergic to tree nuts. Of course, I'm bringing epi-pens and Benadryl, we've learned the Spanish word for every nut imaginable, and we've got a card written by a native Spanish speaker (from Spain rather than Latin America, as there are some differences) explaining her allergies, in case we have language issues. Still, I'm just terrified, especially as the region we're visiting is an almond hotbed. I actually refused to consider some rental villas because there were almond trees on the property! And I also worry about our cell phones working over there, despite the fact that I've checked and double checked, and YES, we have international roaming; yes, we have international data packages so we can get our email on our cell phones. Still, what if it *doesn't* work and I'm stuck with no cell for ten days, in a foreign country? What if my agent's trying to get ahold of me?!

And then there's my worries about home--dog is going to the kennel, for ten days. He's NEVER been there longer than a week. I worry about him. I worry about my cat, who's staying home where several people will be helping to take care of her. Still, ten days! She's getting old--nearly fourteen--and she likes human companionship. Poor kitty. I worry about the house, the alarm system....actually, I'm not sure there's *anything* I'm not worried about!

Is it even possible to enjoy my vacaation in this state of mind?! I hope so, because after two house floods and a *terrible* year in general, I desperately need a vacation, as does my hubby. I'm looking forward to this view from my terrace...


Am I alone in my pre-vacation worries, or do you stress like mad before you go away, too? Does it actually affect the vacation itself? Any tips for long-distance traveling with small kiddos in tow?!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Old Favorites: THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS


This weekend I watched one of my all-time favorite movies, TLOTM.

I cannot possibly tell you how much I love this movie.

I love the non-stop action and constant danger.

I love the breathtaking scenery.

I love the haunting, beautiful soundtrack.

Most of all, I love the love story between Daniel Day-Lewis’ Nathaniel and Madeleine Stowe’s Cora, and I submit to you that three of the sexiest non-sex scenes ever shot in moviedom are in this movie:

1. The Stare.

Cora: “What are you looking at, sir?”

Nathaniel: “I’m looking at you, miss.”


I just get shivers every time I see this scene, and I think it’s because of the unspoken subtext:

Nathaniel: You know you’re mine now, right?

Cora: Absolutely.

2. The kiss.

No words in this scene. Just music and scorching heat as Nathaniel looks for, then finds, Cora—and kisses her. This scene, I think, is all about Cora’s sexual awakening, and I love it.

3. Stay alive.

I just love the passion and desperation in this scene when Nathaniel is forced to leave Cora in the hands of their enemies. He’s taking a calculated risk with the life of the woman he loves, and he swears he’ll come back for her, no matter how long it takes, if she’ll only stay alive. Cora’s only thought is for Nathaniel to save himself.

Shivers, I tell you. This movie gives me shivers.

What about you? Does anyone out there love this movie as much as I do?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Summer Insanity

So, the dear husband reminds me this morning that this is the last free Saturday we have for about six or seven weeks. Why, you ask? Because it's summer here and that means the summer swim season has begun. Time to break out the sunscreen and check the beach towel supply. (Since this kid swims year round, it's time for him to switch from clear to tinted goggles, I guess.)

This is our 18th summer season--if I did the math right and if you don't count the 10 years I spent as a swimmer in the same league. When we started, we had little kids--the oldest was 8. Now the baby is 17 and heading off to college. He's actually eligible to swim until he's 18, so it's possible he'll come back next year. I hope he does, if for no other reason than I like to know when it's really my last time through something.

What about you all? Does your life slow down in the summertime or does it just switch gears into some other craziness? Do you have something you do every summer or are you a totally free spirit?

Oh, and this weekend isn't really free--time trials, the "practice meet," is tomorrow.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Good-Bye, SOPRANOS


Tony Soprano’s time is up.

As you no doubt know by now, the last episode of this epic series featuring angst-ridden wise guy Tony Soprano airs this Sunday night. It remains to be seen whether Tony will be alive or dead at the end of the last show.

I vote for dead.

Though I haven’t watched the entire series (we don’t have HBO, alas!) I have seen episodes here and there, and the ones I manage to catch always feature Tony personally whacking someone. Tony is a murderer, ergo, IMHO, he should be murdered. That would be poetic justice, the ultimate comeuppance, and a satisfying ending to the series. I mean really, does anyone want to see THE SOPRANOS: A CHRISTMAS REUNION ten years from now?

Yeah, I know Tony has his softer side. I know he loves his kids, his wife, and his various mistresses. Still. I think he should reap what he’s sown.

What do you think? Should Tony live or die? And do you even care?

The Winner...and My New Release

The winner of the Judy Blume essay collection is:

Zeek!!
(how cool is that?)

Congrats, Zeek...and you know how to get ahold of me to get your book sent off.

Also, I wanted to (ahem) mention that I also have a new release out this week...the second in my Buffy tVS meets Regency England vampire hunter series, Rises the Night.

(Here's a link for a $1-off coupon at Borders!)

In this installment of the Gardella Vampire Chronicles, Victoria Gardella Grantworth travels from a countryside house party in England to Venice, and finally Rome, in order to stop a powerful vampire from his evil plan! Mwhahahaa! And on the way, Victoria meets John Polidori, Lord Byron (and ticks off his mistress), as well as a secret society of vampire protectors.

Plus, she's got more than one handsome man vying for her attention! Lots of fun.

Congrats again to Zeek, and have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl, I Learned From Judy Blume

Is that not the best (truest) title for a book of essays...ever?

I've been excited about this book ever since I first heard about it--and it's got a fabulous run-down of authors included, such as Meg Cabot, Julie Kenner, Beth Kendrick, and my good friend (and author of The Secret Society Girl series) Diana Peterfreund.

I can't wait to read their takes on Ms. Blume and her books. I'm so excited about this book, that I'm going to give away a copy to someone who answers my question in the comments.

As for me, I remember passing around Forever during the lunch period at the Catholic grade school I went to (shhhh!). I still can't meet anyone named Ralph without giggling.

I also was particularly fond of Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great.

What about you? What were your favorite Blume books? Answer the question for a chance to win!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Release day jitters!


Today is the release day for my latest historical romance, TO LOVE A SCOUNDREL. Release day is always a weird day for me, a day filled with a strange combination of nerves, excitement, jitters, hope. As I sit at my computer, trying to concentrate on whatever new manuscript I'm working on, I'm also resisting the urge to run out the door, jump in my car, and head down to my local Barnes & Noble so that I can 'visit' my books there on the 'new release' shelves! Because there's something special about seeing your latest book on booksellers' shelves for the first time, its cover all shiny and crisp, just waiting for readers to pick it up, to write or email you and tell you how much they enjoyed it!

I always liken it to sending your 'baby' off to preschool or kindergarten for the first time. You dress them in their best and send them off, excited for them yet hoping that the other kids (and teachers!) will 'get' them, understand them, like them. You want them to be judged 'smart', to excel as a student. Yet all of this tempered with the notion that you will love them just the same, no matter what. Mostly you're just proud.

Well, it's pretty much the same with a new book, crazy as that sounds! You're so filled with hope on release day--hope that readers will buy it, that they will enjoy it, that they will deem it a 'smart' book and that maybe it will even garner great reviews and accolades.

But even if it doesn't, that's okay, too. You understand that, just as some people like vanilla but others prefer chocolate, people have varying tastes. Every kid can't be the most popular, nor can every book.

Still, I hope you'll look for TO LOVE A SCOUNDREL this week. She's a 'nice kid'--really, she is!

And finally, to celebrate release day, I'm giving away a SCOUNDREL t-shirt to one lucky commenter--the winner can choose any summer t-shirt from my Cafe Press store!


HE’S NOTORIOUS FOR HIS WICKED WAYS…Frederick Stoneham thoroughly enjoys the life he leads as one of London’s most disreputable rogues. When his father arranges for him to wed Lady Eleanor Ashton, he believes his decadent lifestyle can carry on uninterrupted. After all, he remembers Eleanor to be plain and timid--not the kind of wife who will demand attention or insist he leave his mistress. But Frederick has a change of heart when he sees the striking beauty Eleanor has become…


CAN SHE REFORM HIM?
Eleanor is stunned to discover she is to wed Frederick Stoneham--the man she has secretly pined after for years, despite his reputation. When Frederick’s former mistress tells her a horrible lie, Eleanor feels betrayed. But Frederick’s persistence--and a passion that refuses to be ignored--are slowly melting Eleanor’s resolve. Now Frederick must prove to Eleanor that his days as a rake are in the past and that she is the only woman he will ever love…

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Quotable Quotes

I like to read quotes. Sometimes I check my massive Bartlett's Book of Quotations. Other times I peruse one of the many little inspirational quotation books people have given me. I write them out, print them out or cut them out and put them up next to my computer. I don't know why, but reading profound words just makes me feel good. Because I like others to feel good too, I thought I'd share my current favorites with you :)

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated. -- Maya Angelou

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. -- Winston Churchill

Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. -- Arnold H. Glasow

Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on. -- Samuel Butler

I searched high and low for an epigraph for my book, The Remains of the Dead. I found that nobody's words of wisdom fit better than these by Andy Warhol:

Dying is the most embarrassing thing that can ever happen to you, because someone’s got to take care of all your details.

How about you, do you have any favorite quotes?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Graduation Day

My "baby" graduated from high school last Saturday. This is my fourth son to go through this school, so I've been connected to the institution for 11 years. People expected me to boohoohoo big time--and it was touch and go there when the mom next to me was sobbing. But I didn't shed much more than half a tear.

Why didn't I blubber all over my husband? Well, I am--I hope--getting over pneumonia, so part of my focus was on not passing out. But I also tried to think more about the future than the past. My son was ready to leave. (And ok, after 11 years, maybe I was, too.) And kids have to grow up, right? (I wish parents didn't have to grow older at the same time, but that's a subject for a different blog.)

When I graduated from my various schools, I tried to focus on the future, too. It was time for a new challenge, as scary as that often was. The rhythm of my life changed, but I wasn't giving up my friends. I might not see them regularly, but I could stay in touch via phone and letters--and these days via the Internet.

So how about you all? Do you pull out the tissues at graduations, do you grin and party on--or do you find some middle ground?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Television Season Finales


This is the time of TV season finales--so far, the ones I've seen have NOT disappointed me!

First up--The Office. Sigh....it was terrific! As usual, the writers managed to surprise me, while having the characters (well, Jim and Pam, at least)act in a way that seemed very real, very natural. Can I just say, once more for the record, that I LOVE Jim and Pam?!?!?!?!?! I really think they are the best TV couple ever. I have no idea how I'm going to wait till next fall to find out what happens next! Still my all-time favorite TV show.

Second--Dancing With the Stars. I've been hooked since the second season (I missed the first season--except for the 'dance off' between John O'Hurley and Kelly Monaco)--everyone in my house loves this show, even the kids! I thought this season was probably the best so far, as least so far as talent goes. By the time it was down to the final four--Ian, Laila, Apolo, and Joey--I was having a hard time picking a winner. Laila was probably my least favorite, but I adore her partner Maksim (he's not only fabulously good looking, but also an amazing dancer!). Apolo was so good, he almost looked like a professional dancer, and Joey was a great dancer AND a great showman. Ultimately, I think the fans chose the correct winner--though in some ways, I enjoyed Joey's performances more than Apolo's, I think Apolo probably had a more difficult challenge, as I assume Joey already had a fair amount of dance experience in N'Sync. All in all, a great season!

Lastly--LOST. Was anyone else as stunned as I was by the revelation at the very end?! And...the character who died (don't want to include spoilers, in case you haven't seen it yet), do you think he's really dead?! I hope not--I loved him! I think it's been a jaw-dropping season of LOST, and the finale was no exception. So, do you think Ben is really a good guy?! I'm starting to think maybe he is. Maybe he wasn't lying (regarding what he told Jack about getting rescued). And GO, SAWYER! I think we need t-shirts that say, "That's for taking the kid off the raft!". Sawyer is such a terrific anti-hero--how can you not love him? Anyway, I can't wait till next season!

Anyone else enjoying the finales? Any favorites so far? Any disappointments? Any theories about the above shows you'd like to share?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Existential musings

Things aren't working so well in the MacKenzie household. If you read the Blue Screen of Death post, you know the MacKenzie machines are on the fritz. Well, I found out yesterday I have walking pneumonia. (Why do I want to hum "Waltzing Matilda"?) Actually, I'm happy. I've got drugs. But it got me thinking about life and art. Hmm. Well, it got me thinking about stuff.

On this day 23 years ago at 1:20am, I gave birth to my second son. I'm glad I didn't have pneumonia then. And last year I was in the hospital also, but this time waiting for my mom to die. (She died a year ago tomorrow.) Again, I'm glad I didn't have pneumonia, though I did end up getting sick with something respiratory after the funeral. Last year on this coming weekend--Memorial Day weekend in the States--we had my mom's funeral. This year we have my fourth son's high school graduation.

Some people believe life just happens and others believe that Someone is overseeing things in some way. At the moment I'm just thinking it looks like things are going to work out for us for graduation at least. I hope. Knock on wood. (Graduation boy is off on a senior retreat, so we don't know for sure how he's doing. And we do have a few days left for a disaster or two.)

That's one of the nice things about writing books. As author, you're in control of the story. You can make bad things happen--or not. And in most romances--in my books, at least--the reader knows there will be a happy ending.

Here's to happy endings! (And Azithromycin Pak.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Urban Legends

Chain Emails. Sometimes they're sent by well-meaning, albeit misinformed friends. My inbox has seen a LOT of these.

The Glade Plug-in Scam: Unplug your air fresheners or your house will burn down!

The Perfume Robbers: Careful shoppers! Women are being approached in parking lots and knocked out by sniffing perfume samples.

Yesterday I received one telling me not to pick up calls coming into my cell phone from certain numbers.

"If the calls comes up from these numbers, its with very high wave length, and frequency. If a call is received on mobile from these numbers, it creates a very high frequency and it causes brain hamorage. It's not a joke rather, its TRUE. 27 persons died just on receiving calls from these numbers. Watch Aaj Tak (NEWS), DD News and IBN 7."

OMG! There is no way I want to have my brain suffer ham or rage (or hemmorhage for that matter) by a phone number! Of course, I checked it out at Snopes before tossing out my phone. It's pretty pathetic that Snopes needs to exist to save us from ourselves and all our well-meaning friends LOL.

So do you have a favorite email hoax or urban legend you'd like to share?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Blue Screen of Death

Do I need to say more?

My not-very-old laptop quit on me Thursday. I'd been working on the first chapter of The Naked Baron, trying to get into the characters. I was on my umpty-umpth (yes, that word is in the dictionary) revision and had gotten something to work. It was brilliant! I went off on a reward break to check email on another computer. When I came back....

The Blue Screen of Death.

I had to go out to buy a new dishwasher--obviously, this is a bad time for MacKenzie machines--so I turned the laptop off, said a prayer over it, and hoped it would be all better by the time I got back.

It wasn't. I didn't even get the Blue Screen of Death. Just this ominous message: "Read failure on internal hard drive. No bootable devices...."

The Geek Squad guessed that it was a bad hard drive and the chances of recovering my brilliant prose were only 50-50. About the chances of recovering it from my onboard computer, my poor head.

It could have been a lot worse. I think everything on that computer was backed up. (I always back up now before I turn the machine off for the day and often email the work to myself so I can get it if something bad happens to my backup disk.) So I only lost the day's work which wasn't that extensive. Brilliant, yes (at least it seems brilliant, probably because I can't recall it) but not really that much of a disaster.

I did have a moment of nostalgia for my old electric typewriter--no blue screen of death there. It was only a moment. Well, more a nanosecond. I never want to go back to the land of liquid paper fumes, where "cut and paste" meant getting out the scissors.

So I'll continue to back up at the end of the day and hope the new laptop has a long life and doesn't go belly up at a really bad time. But first I have to register all the darn software, hope I can manage to get my OED to load on, and figure out Vista.

Sigh.

Anyone want to share a computer disaster story? Misery loves company!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Dirty Dancing, Anyone?


DIRTY DANCING, one of the fun-est (is that a word?) movies of all time, is twenty years old.

Unbelievable.

I was in college when I first saw it, and I clearly remember the rush of scandalized excitement from the great music, the dancing, and, most of all, the love story between Baby and Johnny Castle. BTW, I don’t know if the producers could have come up with any campier names, but that’s not the point. I ran right out and bought both soundtracks on tape and listened to them endlessly in my car.

Those were the days.

To celebrate this twenty-year milestone, I recently bought, and watched, the DD DVD. I gotta tell ya, the movie holds up. I still love Johnny and Baby, and I still cringe, but in a good way, when Johnny says that dumb line at the end, right before they dance the finale, “No one puts Baby in the corner.”

Here are some other great dance movies, in no particular order:

Saturday Night Fever (duh!);

Footloose;

Save the Last Dance; and

Dance With Me.

Anyone else love Dirty Dancing? What’s your favorite dance movie?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Weird or Wonderful?



What do you think of this ring?
Too simple?
Not flashy enough?


Okay, how about this bracelet? It's kind of pretty, right?

These are Memory Jewels. They are made from (get ready for it) . . . your loved one's remains.

If someone you loved died, would you consider using their ashes to make a piece of jewelry? It has some practical uses. After all, in an urn your loved ones don't get out much. This way you can have them with you, even on you, forever.

You could have a complete collection ... Dearly Departed Aunt Mary circling your finger, Grandpa Bob dangling from your earlobes and your cat Fluffy on a pendant around your neck.

Would you? Could you?

Unpaid Endorsement

I spend most of the winter in a desperate and usually futile effort to keep my hands from feeling like sandpaper. I think I’ve tried every lotion on the market at least once, and only one or two of them ever really did the trick.

Still, hope springs eternal, so the other day, when I was roaming the mall instead of *COUGH* writing, and wandered into Restoration Hardware (what a name!) I was interested to see the following: No-Crack Hand Cream.

Yeah, right. I’ve heard THAT before.

I tried a little from the tester jar and … fell in love. The stuff WORKS. And it smells good, too—wonderful scents like Sweet Orange, Cucumber Mint and Shore.

I LOVE it—so much so that I bought a jar, and then, when I needed more for the car and my nightstand, I went back and bought 2 more jars.

Whew. I just needed to share. Restoration Hardware's No-Crack Hand Cream. Love it.

So what about you? Discovered any new beauty essentials lately?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

ADHD, anyone??

Recently, my oldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD--not a big surprise, as we've sort of thought she was ADHD all along. It was very hard to diagnose her, because she doesn't have any of the things that frequently accompnay it--learning disabilities, oppositional disorders, etc. In fact, she's an excellent student, very compliant, and very, very bright. She was one of those babies that was speaking in complete, sophisticated sentences by twelve months, reading by age three...you know the type. But she was also constantly in motion, like a little wind-up toy that just never stops. She talks all the time, and loudly. Is distracted. Loses things. Has to be reminded several times to finish a simple task (even getting dressed!). She's also impulsive, blurting things out in school, touching everything, distracting those around her.

Each day is a struggle for her, and she feels badly about it--she really wants to please her teachers/parents, to 'be good.' But sometimes she just can't. And when she is able to keep herself together and focused, it's totally exhausting and draining. That's not fun, for a kid. To have to work that hard, just to keep your impulses under control. Her self esteem should be soaring--she's smart, funny, interesting, and a real leader. Instead, her self esteem suffers daily, because she feels 'different,' as if something 'isn't right' with her.

The past few weeks have been filled with evaluations, testing, interviews, and consultations. And the long and short of it, she does fit the profile for ADHD--quite strongly, actually--and the only proven treatment, they claim, is medication.

Which, frankly, frightens me. My husband, particularly, is anti-medication--the guy has to be almost completely incapacitated before he'll break down and take cold medicine or even simple pain relievers. He's researched several 'alternative' treatments, though, and while some seem interesting, like biofeedback, none have actually been proven effective.

So...today we walked out of the neuro-psychiatrist/pharmacologist's office with a prescription in hand, but I have to say, I'm still feeling totally freaked out about the whole idea. Granted, these meds have been around a long time and have been proven safe with no-long term affects. In theory, that sounds great. But this is MY kid we're talking about.

Anyone have any experience with a child/friend's child/relative with ADHD? If so, was the child put on medication? How did it work out? Any stories to help me feel better about this decision?

Friday, May 11, 2007

THE END

There are some parts of writing a book I love: the first scene between the hero and heroine, the first kiss, the moment one of them says the big three words "I love you"...but by far the best thing is writing THE END. Because you're done. DONE. Nothing comes next. Well, sure, there's proofreading and maybe some revising and editing, and you never know what the editor will say so there might be loads more work ahead of you. But for the that moment, that one shining, glorious moment, you are done.

Finishing a book is the last day of school, the last day of work, Friday afternoon in the summer when you have a beach house for the weekend, and Cinqo de Mayo, all wrapped into one. Why Cinqo de Mayo? Because there are extra-large margaritas. Fiesta time! It's also like crawling to the finish line of an extra, extra, EXTRA long marathon, through the snow, with no clothes on, dragging a fifty pound weight behind you, uphill all the way.

And I...just...finished...this...week!

Now I can do all the things I haven't done for six months while I was writing/thinking about writing/agonizing about NOT writing/deleting huge portions of writing because it stunk/fantasizing about writing a completely different, new, book/writing, writing, writing. Here's my To-Do list:

1) Lie in hammock and read book. Any book I have not written. Perhaps TO LOVE A SCOUNDREL, if only I could get my hands on a copy...

2) Fix myself an especially tasty lunch (finishing a book seems to require large amounts of junk food, but now I can go back to eating good food)

3) Clean house...cut grass...blah blah blah...at some point.

That's pretty much it!

What's on your list? How do you celebrate Something Big?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Prom Time

I'm trying to start a new book. Whine, groan, grumble. I am not an author who delights at an empty computer screen.

Rather than bore you all to tears with my whining, I'll introduce a new topic--it's also prom time at the MacKenzie house. Since the prom goer in this abode is male, there's not a whole heck of a lot of excitement here. No shopping for clothes--the kid has already gone to rent-a-tux. I remembered to order the corsage--yes, I suppose the kid should be doing this, but I'm thinking of the girl here. I've been trying to pry some bits of a plan out of him, and I've supplemented those efforts by calling the parents of his friends. Since he goes to an all male high school, this means I'm talking to mothers of boys--the blind leading the blind--but whatever. I'm happy to say the picture is beginning to come into focus. Nice, since prom is tomorrow.

Anyway, in honor of the event, I invite anyone who dares to share a detail or two of his or her prom experience. I'll start, shall I? I went to an all girls high school. One of my friends set me up for the senior prom. I spent the pre-prom dinner upstairs in my friend's bedroom, in agony with killer menstrual cramps (can we say that on this blog?). My date was an aspiring priest who worked after school at a funeral home. (No, I am not making that up.) He came up to hold my hand and practice being sympathetic. When we finally got to the prom, he promptly deserted me to go minister to a boy who was throwing up in the men's room.

As to the rest of the evening? Hmm. I can't say I remember--the noteworthy stuff really happened up front. And then he invited me to his prom a few weeks later, but it was just a normal prom. I don't remember a thing about it.

So, any amusing--or touching--prom stories out there in cyberland? Was it a dream come true? (That includes nightmares.) Or did you, like my husband and third son, just give it a pass?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Truths About Publishing...

A few people have asked me about publishing and how an author 'makes it big', so I thought I'd address it here. Readers--the first thing you should know is, you are a very powerful force! As far as commercial fiction goes, the market is driven by what you buy, not by what you enjoy.

For example, say a book comes out about a tree frog's romance with a horned toad. Let's say the book is awful, just horrible, but people everywhere are talking about it. Suddenly, all over the 'net, you'll hear people saying, "Gee, my curiosity is piqued. I've GOT to buy this book, to see just how bad it really is." So the sales soar, even though the reviews suck. Next thing you know, publishers will be putting out tree frog/horned toad romances by the boatload. Forget the other romances out there--the ones with the excellent reviews. "Everyone wants tree frogs!" the publishers say. And that's what readers will get. "But I hated it!" a reader might protest. Truth is, that doesn't matter as much as the fact that they bought it.

It's all about NUMBERS--and by numbers, I mean sales. In 'ye olden times'--a.k.a. five to ten years ago--an author was allowed to build a career. Oftentimes, they'd put out ten, twelve books before 'making it'--hitting a bestseller list a decade after they'd begun their career. Nowadays, an author has two, maybe four books to break out, or they're in serious danger of 'game over'. Nowadays, there is no 'midlist.' There are bestselling authors, and there are new authors. Not a lot in between. If you don't make the cut, and quickly, you're in deep doggie doo-doo.

So, as a reader, what can you do to support your favorite authors? First off, buy new when you can. It's totally understandable that this isn't always an option--and yes, I firmly believe that libraries and used book stores can also help an authors' career (how many times have you checked out a book from the library--a new author to you--and enjoyed the book so much that you subsequently purchased the author's upcoming titles or backlist? I've done this!). But simply put, buying new is the only way to make your 'voice' heard by publishers and booksellers.

Also, buy a book during its official week of release (you can generally find out a book's release date by looking it up on Amazon.com, or by visiting the author's web site). Bestseller lists are generally computed by sales velocity, measured during the week of a book's release, rather than by actual sales totals. So, a book that sells 10,000 copies all total--all during its release week--will 'do better' than a book that sells 30,000 copies over the course of a month (meaning, that author is more likely to get offered a subsequent contract). Oftentimes, a book will trickle out one or two weeks before its actual release date, and those early sales actually hurt an author's chance of making any bestseller lists. So, best time to buy a book? The week it comes out!

What if you go into a bookstore and see that your favorite author's new title is sold out? Ask them to order more copies! They can, and they should--but if the demand isn't there, they won't.

Lastly, if you love an author's work, tell someone! Word of mouth is probably the best advertising there is. Tell your friends, your co-workers, your family. And don't loan them your copy--make them buy their own! Post a positive review on Amazon.com for a book you've loved. Talk about it on message boards and blogs. Write the author and ask if they have bookmarks they can send you. They probably do, and they'll be thrilled to send you a stack to hand out to your friends or to local booksellers. In fact, you'll probably make their day.

Spreading the word about a book you've enjoyed creates 'buzz' and buzz sells books--and selling books means that that author will have the chance to write more books for you to enjoy!

In fact, let's start here--now! I'd love to hear about a book you've read recently and really enjoyed. Doesn't have to be romance--it can be any genre!

I'll go first...I just read Tracy Anne Warren's THE HUSBAND TRAP, and loved it! Even though the plot set up is rather cliched (twins switching places), Ms. Warren managed to make it totally fresh. Both the heroine and hero were extremely likable. I actually don't read a lot of historicals these days, but I was hooked on this one from the very first chapter. I definitely plan on buying the other two books in the series--THE WIFE TRAP and THE MARRIAGE TRAP--to read on vacation next month!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Free Paris!

If you’ve been looking for a worthy cause to support, search no more.

Forget the tragedies in Darfur, the AIDs crisis in Africa, the tornado victims in Kansas, the families of the Virginia Tech massacre victims, and those citizens still struggling because of Katrina. No, friends, there is a worthier candidate for our collective energy these days.

I’m talking, of course, about Paris Hilton’s petition for a pardon from the Governator.

Yes, you, too, can go to Paris’s MySpace page, click the link, and sign your name to the petition. Maybe if enough of us sign, Governor Schwarzenneger will have mercy, and she will be spared that horrendous 45-day jail term to which she’s been sentenced.

Can a Paris Hilton legal defense fund be far behind?

What, still here? What’re you waiting for?

Anyone else besides me feeling a little nauseous about poor Paris’s travails?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Devotion


We went to the ballgame last night, so you'll have to forgive me for being a) late in posting; and b) braindead. It was a very exciting game, lots of runs scored, first by the visiting team (Seattle Mariners) and then by the home team (Boston Red Sox), and a late inning game-winning home run. We stayed to the glorious end, which meant getting home pretty darn close to midnight.

I was all set to let my kids sleep late this morning and just go to school late--I can't do anything when I'm half asleep, so it seems hypocritical to require them to learn in that state--but to my shock they sprang up even earlier than usual, ready to go. All they could talk about was the game: "Remember when the Red Sox were down by five runs?" "Yeah, but then they scored 7! And Manny hit TWO home runs!" "I know, that was amazing!" "I'm so glad we got to stay until the end!" At least, I think that's what they were saying; I was dozing against the wall, using a dish towel as a pillow.


This is the way it is with Red Sox fans, though. It's not just a sport, it's an obsession. I wasn't born a Sox fan--converted when I got married--but we are surely raising two devoted little fans. I have learned to warn teachers at school after a particularly heartbreaking loss at Fenway; my son roots hard, and he carries a grudge. When the Sox won the World Series, it was a month-long high.

So what's your team? Do you stay up late to watch them or do you have a TiVo?

zzzzzzzzzz.....

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Back in the saddle again....


Yesterday I went to ballet class. Not *just* to an hour-and-a-half ballet class, but I also stayed and took a half-hour pointe class afterward. Why is this a big deal, you ask?! Only because it has been SEVENTEEN MONTHS since my last ballet class. In fact, it's been seventeen months since I've done any sort of exercise whatsoever. Which wouldn't be such a big deal, except that I had been taking three or four ballet classes a week prior to that. I *was* in pretty good shape. And then my schedule got complicated, a slew of kids' birthday parties kept me from my weekend classes, and then the more classes I missed, the harder it was to go back. Time passed. My dance bag got stuck in the back of my closet. I put on 20 lbs., which is a lot on my small frame.

Finally, last week, I'd had enough. I saw pictures of me taken at a recent event, and I almost didn't recognize myself with that added weight. I'm tired all the time. I have no energy. My body aches. I just feel blah, uninspired. For months, I've thought about going back to ballet, but worried about surviving that first class; about having the stamina to get through it. About putting on a leotard and tights and having to watch myself in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors. I even worried about all my ballet class pals having moved on--what if I didn't know anyone?

But yesterday, I finally did it. I put on the leotard. I dug out my dance bag. I found my tattered old ten-class-card, with one remaining class. Drove myself to class, and, my knees knocking with nerves, walked into the studio. Lo' and behold, there were my old buddies at the barre, smiling and welcoming me back. The teacher went easy on me, knowing it had been way too long since my last class. I made it through class, only wimping out during the petit allegro--that would be the combination of small, fast, tricky jumps. I thought I was going to drop dead at the end of class from sheer exhaustion--but I did it! Not only that, I succumbed to peer pressure and dug out those pointe shoes and stayed for pointe class. No, it wasn't pretty, but it's a start. I pledged to my friends that I'd come to class every Monday and Wednesday morning--two classes a week is a good start. Maybe after that, I can add a third class. I bought a new ten-class card! I'm back in the saddle again, so to speak!

In the end, the class itself wasn't nearly as bad as the anticipation/anxiety leading up to it. Why did I take so long to get back to something that I love so much? That my body sorely needed?

Have you ever done this--quit exercise class, or yoga, or painting, or pottery...whatever your passion is? And then missed it terribly but found it difficult to go back to it? Did you finally find your way back? I'd love to hear your stories!

And for the record, yeah, I'm in AGONY today. Honestly, I can barely walk. But it's worth every ache and pain!

On a totally unrelated note, I wanted to tell you about a special contest I'm running on my web site from now till June 5th. The grand prize is this gorgeous ruby bracelet set in sterling silver, a $150 value, from Ross Simmons.


I hope you'll take a minute to check it out HERE.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Review: THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

This weekend I saw director Kevin MacDonald’s brilliant and painful story of a Scottish physician’s interlude with Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, The Last King of Scotland. I highly recommend this movie, which, along with, say, Schindler’s List, is one of those I’m glad I watched but don’t ever want to see again.

James McAvoy plays newly-minted Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, the idealistic, criminally na├»ve, self-destructive, yet oddly endearing Scot who spins a globe, sticks his finger on a spot, and finds himself in Uganda immediately after Amin’s coup. A chance meeting with the charismatic and childlike Amin leads to a job offer—personal physician to the paranoid dictator—that the good doctor can’t refuse. Garrigan enjoys the power, influence, and high-living a little too much, until he slowly begins to realize that Amin is brutal and unbalanced. As if his situation isn’t precarious enough, Garrigan’s own foolishness sends him careening from the frying pan into the fire.

This harrowing story has memorable characters and painful choices, not to mention the hauntingly beautiful backdrop of Uganda, a country I knew almost nothing about.

I didn’t dare blink while watching this movie, for fear I’d miss something, and two days later I’m still thinking about it. Don’t miss these incredible performances, including Forest Whitaker’s Oscar-winning turn as Amin.

Anyone else enjoy this movie? Anyone else have a recommendation to make? Anyone else looking forward to this week’s release of Spidey-3?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Egads.

As a child of the '80s, I was as much a Top Gun fan as the rest of my college friends. Yes, I admit to thinking Tom Cruise was hotter than Hades--no,wait, I never really thought that--and even had a fondness for Val Kilmer, even though he was the baddie.

(*cue* "Take My Breath Away....")

But holy cow! What has happened to those two?

Well, I know what happened to Mr. Crazy--er, Cruzy--er Cruise...but what about Mr. Kilmer? He was so hot in The Doors. And I loved him in Willow, too.

But, look at them now! Eeeeegads.

(Yes, that is Val Kilmer, April 2007, looking like a frigging beached whale. This photo is exactly what prompted this blog entry.)

And here's Mr. Cruise, who looks like he needs some...er...support. Not to mention a haircut, a bride who doesn't look like she's trapped, and a new religion.















And, okay, just for fun, I have to post this. It's a classic! (I'm still wondering why Oprah didn't give Tommy boy the same treatment she gave James Frey. Jus' sayin'.)


So, er...admit it. What do you think of Tom Cruise? And when did you fall off the Val Kilmer bandwagon? About the time he went bad-ass and blond?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Which Princess Are YOU?


Disney has joined forces with a designer to fill a serious gap in their marketing umbrella: princess brides. What? You thought Disney Princesses were imaginary figures like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, the inspiration for hundreds of puffy pink and white, child size 4 costumes at Target? Not anymore. Now grown women can be a princess, too- on their wedding day.

Apparently the Disney princesses are actually archetypes of feminine beauty and character (take THAT, Barbie, you pathetic wannabe). Ariel-AKA The Little Mermaid- is "sultry and alluring" and the Ariel inspired gowns are "ideal for the bride who feels comfortable with a more form-fitted look." [Hmm. Wonder how long until Disney joins up with health clubs to help brides get ready for the form-fitted look. Can we imagine a "Pirate Fantasy Workout?" Raising the sails, swordfighting, running from angry natives, chasing Johnny Depp, etc.?] According to Disney's press release, "a mood and fashion sensibility was assigned to each princess-themed gown: Cinderella is for the classic glamour bride; Sleeping Beauty is about pretty romance; Snow White is sweet elegance; Ariel is sultry allure; Belle is stylish sophistication; and Jasmine is bohemian chic."

Here I am modeling my favorite of the gowns, the gown I long to wear at my own wedding...if only I hadn't gotten married a long time ago already, in a gown that had absolutely no princess associations whatsoever!!! Curse you, Disney; where were you...uh...a long time ago when I needed you? It's a Snow White gown (keep it to yourself, Ann), sweet and elegant, just like me (shut up, Sally).

So which princess are you? Are you a princess at all, on your wedding day or any other day? And I'm really hoping SOMEONE posts that she don't need no stinkin' princess dress, she wants to get married in blue jeans and a Big Papi jersey at home plate in Fenway Park.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I'm in the News ... Kind of


I have key words set up on Google Alert so that I can be notified when there's mention out there in cyberland about me or my books. It works great. Some of the time. With book titles such Dating Can Be Deadly and The Remains of the Dead, it's inevitable that such words turn up on blogs and news with, um, unique stories. Today alone I've received the following alerts:

* in BEIJING — a crocodile shot to death in south China during a search for a missing 9-year-old student was found to contain the child’s remains.

* A Santa Barbara News-Press editor was smeared by publisher

* news about a dead bug taped to art paper

* an article (and a cartoon) on dowsing in the middle ages

Now I could become far more specific in the wording of my news alerts and weed out much of these kinds of notifications. Truthfully, most of the time I enjoy them. I never suspected that dowsing (divining rod stuff), for example, was still so huge in the U.S. and Canada. See, I learned something new :) Have you learned anything new today? Or do you know anyone who has ever dowsed (or performed dowsing) and you want to share?

Regency Ladies' Weekend--Follow-up!

I think I can safely speak for Sally when I say that we had a BLAST at the Regency Ladies' Weekend at Riversdale House! I went expecting to have fun, but I had no idea that I'd actually learn so much useful information, too--about Regency-era furnishings and household items, clothing, food, cooking methods, games and dancing. I can now play the dice games Hazard and Newmarket and the card games Sept and Faro (and I can safely say that, had I been a Regency lass, I would have been addicted to the dice games and to Sept!).

I also know what it feels like to spend an entire day (or most of it) wearing a corset and other period trappings (note to those who might want to try a corset: make sure you put your stockings and slippers on BEFORE your corset is laced up and your gown is put on, because it's awfully hard to bend down to reach your feet once you're laced and clothed!). Pretty much everyone wore period clothes all weekend, which was a lot of fun. I even got a heretofore-reluctant-to-dress-up Sally to don a period evening gown for Saturday night's festivities!

Other highlights: the food--it was all simply delicious, particularly the sweet potato pie. What made it different? Rosewater! Gave it a very interesting (and wonderful!) flavor. The company--I met so many nice ladies--period reenactors, clothing experts, literature experts, aspiring authors. By the end of the weekend, we were all hugging goodbye and exchanging e-mail addresses.

Another fun highlight--the 'hurrahs and huzzahs' movie night on Friday. We watched a made-for-TV movie from 1987, based on a Barbara Cartland novel, Hazard of Hearts (starrting Helena Bonham Carter, looking about 12). It was so bad it was good--in a campy way. I'm talking EVERY possible romance novel cliche, thrown in for your enjoyment! Even the characters' names are funny (Lord Vulcan?!). Netflix it if you can, just for fun--if nothing else, you'll certainly laugh! Seriously, though, I actually enjoyed it--a lot--as bad as it was.

I'll leave you all with a group photo of ladies on the house's front stairs, in our finery (I'm wearing blue, standing on the top row between authors Janet Mullany and our own Sally MacKenzie)...



...and one last question, inspired by my viewing of Hazard of Hearts. Are there any movies that you *know* are terrible, yet you love anyway? You know, movies so bad that they're good? If so, share!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

USA TODAY!!



Okay, I can't wait any longer. I had a nice little blog started on the book signing party my pal Debbie is throwing for me tonight, but I'm starting over. On a lark I went to the USA Today best seller site last night to see if the Earl by chance had made an appearance and--mirabile dictu!!--there he was. My jaw dropped. I asked Kristina to check, and she confirmed my eyes weren't deceiving me. As I write this, you have to click on "This week's printable list" in the upper right to see the list for the week ending April 15. The Earl is at #126. Yee haw!!

I am definitely jazzed. This means someone--many someones--are buying the Earl. (And, hopefully, reading and enjoying it.) But then I was trying to remember back to when I was "just a reader" before I got into the publishing biz. Here's a question for the assembled multitude in cyberland--do readers notice USA Today or New York Times bestselling author on book covers? And do those few words entice you to give a book a try?

The Winner Is....

Wendy Roberts!

Wendy has won a copy of an ARC of Rises the Night. (I know she's a Muse/News gal, but I used Random.org and she came up.) (All's fair here, you know.)

Sorry this post is a day late. I forgot to draw the winner. And I'm posting this below Sally's fantabulous news so the Earl can sit there on top for a day or so, as he well-deservedly should!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Regency Ladies' Weekend


This weekend, I'm leaving my flooded house behind and traveling to Riverdale Park, MD to Riversdale House, a historic 19th century home, for a "Regency Ladies' Weekend" (along with fellow Loose Screw Sally MacKenzie!). Sounds fun, huh?! From Friday evening at six till Saturday night at ten, we will experience Regency-era dining, entertainments, and accomodations (apparently there is one modern shower, however--though only one, and we have sign up to use it!)


On Saturday, we could choose from actitivites such as games and literature, collections tour, cooking, and bonnet making (I'm doing games and literature and touring the collection). Though it won't be an authentic 19th century English country house party, it should at least give me a taste of what one might have been like in such a grand home. Almost like traveling back in time!

My question to you is this: if you could travel back in time for one week and one week only, what era/location would you choose to travel to?

For me, it would certainly be Regency-era England, but only if I could be a 'lady'--not a scullery maid! Second choice would be an early Virginia settlement or another southern colony (because I can't take the cold!), just to see how wonderously beautiful this land must have been back then.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tell Me Something Good

Yesterday, as you know, a gunman went to the Blacksburg campus of Virginia Tech and killed 32 people before killing himself. Twelve other people are currently being treated for injuries. My thoughts and prayers are certainly with the families affected by this incident.

This terrible tragedy, on top of the whole Don Imus debacle last week, has me wondering, and not for the first time, what the hell is wrong with people.

I don’t know about you, but I could use some good news right about now. Does anyone have any to share? Has peace broken out in anyone’s corner of the world? Anyone won the lotto? Anyone’s cat given birth to a litter of adorable kittens?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I’ll start with my own small personal triumph: yesterday, after a week off for spring break, I successfully returned my kids to school. No tears were shed, no threats uttered, no recriminations made. Just a quiet, orderly transition. I’m so proud.

What about you? Please, someone, tell me something good.



Monday, April 16, 2007

Auto-buys and a Contest

I posted about this on another blog the other day, but since there's a whole new audience here, I thought I'd bring it up again.

There are certain authors who continue to delight me that I've placed on my aut0-buy list--meaning that I'll pick up and buy a new release (or pre-order it) without
1) reading the back cover,
2) caring what it says on the back cover,
3) even noticing the title,
4) or thumbing through the book

I love it when an author who's on my auto-buy list has a new book coming out! I usually rush to the store the day of the release.

So....who's on your auto-buy list?

If you list them, I'll enter you in a drawing to win an Advance Review Copy of the second book in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles--Rises the Night.

Rises will be released in June, and it's already getting great reviews from people who have and have not read the first in the series, The Rest Falls Away.

Publishers Weekly
called it, among other lovely things, "A fast-paced carnival ride of a book."

So tell us who your auto-buys are (and flattery will get you everywhere with the Muse/News gals....) and I'll pick a winner on Wednesday! (Randomly...so flattery won't get you that far!)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Deja vu....


Have you ever experienced it? That funny feeling of rememberance? Of a glimmer, a shade, of a prior memory? It's a weird feeling. To some, maybe weirder than others. I've experienced it loads of times-nothing of significance, but just of random memories, something from my subconcious that I didn't remember until That Excact Moment. It might sound wacky, but I've experienced it so strongly, my stomach ached-almost like being on the Parachute Drop at Six Flags. At times, it's almost knocked the wind out of me. And for what reason? I don't know. Like I said, from what I can recall, everything I've "remembered" has been insignificant little things-a conversation I'd had before, reliving a "scene", like walking into Kroger and passing a sale sign for canned pineapples and one of the cans falling to the floor, etc. VERY EERIE, but as far as I know, meaningless. Have you ever experienced deja vu? Ever get a stomach ache from it? Ever "remember" something extraordinaire? Let's hear it!

Friday, April 13, 2007

What's in a name?


Earlier this week Julia London blogged at Romance: Buy the Blog about the beauty of a man in a a suit, and then Monica McCarty at Fog City Divas blogged about the beauty of a man, period. To continue in the same vein, and get even shallower, I want to talk about names. Guy names.

From a writer's point of view, choosing the hero's name is really important. For better or worse, names pick up certain undertones, not always related to what the baby naming books say a name means. When a reader picks up a book and reads that your hero is named Horace, ripping abs and a chiseled jaw are probably not the first thing that spring to her mind.

Of course, sometimes all it takes is one hot famous man to make a name hot. George does not strike me as a 'sexy' name...except for George Clooney. Orlando made me think of that Virginia Woolf book or that sprawling town in Florida...until Orlando Bloom. Clive...I never loved it until Mr. Owen. It works in books, too. I wasn't fond of the name Stuart until I read Judith Ivory's Untie My Heart, and then...well, the hero of my first book is named Stuart. Same for the name Simon, which a friend of mine told me she associates with Simon Lagree, from Uncle Tom's Cabin, and she didn't think it was sexy at all. But read Julia Quinn's The Duke and I, I urged her, and she came around to loving the name, too. Just don't start thinking of Simon Cowell.

Why is that? Why does the name Sebastian make me think of dark, dangerous bad boys (like in Devil in Winter and The Rest Falls Away) but the name Albert doesn't? Why does Sam seem cool, sexy, and smart (Mr. Perfect and Sam Spade) but no such association springs to mind for Howard? Am I completely the victim of association-by-romance-novel when it comes to names? Because of course there can be smart, hip, sexy guys named Bob and Ralph, just like guys named Duncan and Colin are not, in fact, automatic hotties in real life.

So what's the worst hero's name you've ever read? Why did you hate it? Conversely, what are some of your favorite names, the names that come pre-packaged with sexy auras?

(and yes, I did have fun looking at pictures of guys named George, Oliver, Hugh, and Clive)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Warning Labels


The other day I was having coffee with a friend at a small, independent coffee shop. They had a large sign on their counter that stated, Warning: unattended children will be fed espresso and given a toy drum. Definitely enough to strike fear into the hearts of parents everywhere LOL.

I recently read at Paperback Writer's Blog about warning labels on our books. There are a number of great ones given, my favorites being "Warning: this novel has a realistic ending" and "Plot twists may be larger than they first appear."

If I had to put a warning label on Colleen's book, Rest Falls Away, it would have to say, "Warning: This book is seriously addictive and highly entertaining."

If I had to put a warning label on my upcoming release, The Remains of the Dead, I'd probably say "Warning: Although I seriously considered it, no person was murdered in the making of this mystery".

What kind of warning label would you put on books you've read recently?

Starting a new book

It's time for me to start writing a new book. Actually, I've started. I'm not writing yet or even planning, really. I'm just getting to know the characters.

This is my fifth book and if you'd asked me a few years ago, I would have been of the opinion that writing books must get easier. Once you've done it, you can do it again, right?

Aieeee!!

Sorry. Anxiety attack.

Maybe writing a book is like childbirth--amnesia sets in. I mean, I've had four kids--and four books....

Ack! Is there a parallel here?? No, no, no!!!

Deep, cleansing breath.

Frankly, as with labor, sometimes I'd have been happy to delegate the job to someone else. There were definitely points when I just wanted to quit. Obviously--at least with childbirth--I couldn't. And I do love the final product...well, most of the time. (My blood pressure is not faring so well recently, what with the triathlete wiping out on his bike in Honduras and the high school senior getting mugged in Madrid.)

There are some writers who love to start books. I met one once. She said she was so excited by all the possibilities when she looked at that blank screen.

I was very proud of myself. I didn't strangle her.

So now I'm trying to ignore the fact that I have 400 double spaced pages to pull out of the ether, and I'm just musing about the characters. Who are they? Who are their parents, their families, their friends? What makes them special?

Oh, and by the way, I'm taking a break from musing tonight to chat at Romance Junkies (9 PM EST), so if you'd like to stop by, I'd be delighted to "see" you.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Weekend Movies


Thought I'd follow up my TV post with some weekend movie reviews--since I'm in an 'entertainment' frame of mind. With the kids out of school the last (two!) weeks, I got to see a couple kids' movies--I'll start there (Grandma took them to see Meet The Robinsons, so I missed that one, but it got a thumbs up from my kids, ages 6 & 7).

ARE WE DONE YET?
Well, the reviewers universally panned it. Yeah, it's predictable, yeah, it's formulaic, and no, it's certainly nothing new. But hey, I like Ice Cube, and I find it particularly amusing to see him playing a 'dad' in a family-friendly movie (sometimes he'd say something, and I'd get this weird deja vu, remembering his rapping days--the NWA hardcore stuff--now he's a family guy?!). Anyway, maybe it was just the right timing for me, since we're currently going through home repair issues, I don't know, but I was perfectly diverted for a couple hours. I thought it was pretty funny, the kids thought it was pretty funny. It wasn't THAT bad.

THE LAST MIMZY
Oh my gosh, I *loved* this movie. I thought it was so interesting, so different...and exactly the kind of fantasy that appeals to kids. It's definitely what I call a 'quiet' movie--fairly slow developing plot, no out-there revelations, cool but low-key special effects. The 'message' was a good one, but they weren't beating you over the head with it. My kids loved it, though my *very* sensitive 7-yr. old got a little upset at a couple parts (scary Orcs running people through or Gollum trying to kill Frodo doesn't upset her--that's clearly 'fantasy' to her, but kids seemingly in peril or being bullied really gets to her). Both kid actors were particularly good, IMO, and Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office) as the hippie-dippie science teacher was a particular stand-out performance. I read the reviews (somewhat mixed) and my favorite quote was from the Boston Globe: "True to the emotional reality of its young characters and young audience and flattering the latter into thinking way outside the box. There are worse things to teach than intellectual ambition." So true! I definitely give it two thumbs up!

I also saw a new-to-me movie on cable this weekend--THE INSIDE MAN, with Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, and Jodie Foster (what a cast!--as if that's not enough, Christopher Plummer and Willem Dafoe were in it, too!). It's directed by Spike Lee, but he didn't write it. It's more of a genre-flick--a bank heist turned hostage situation, but with some really interesting twists, terrific acting, intriguing plot. It's one of those movies that I was *still* thinking about the next day. Very clever, very smart. I liked it a lot! I will confess, though, that I'm one of those (rare?) females who doesn't find Clive Owen attractive. Part of it might be the roles he chooses (CLOSER, anyone?! Blech!), I don't know, but he just doesn't do it for me. That said, *this* was a good role for him. Definitely thumbs up.

Oh, but the best part of my movie watching experience?! The trailers!! Talk about whetting my appetite! Saw the trailer for Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, which leaves me positively salivating--I *cannot* wait for that movie! I mean, I'm literally counting down the days. And I also saw a trailer for SPIDER MAN 3, yet another movie can't wait to see. Even the trailer for the new FANTASTIC FOUR movie looked pretty good.

Any upcoming movies you can't wait to see?!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

TV and plots



Recent TV watching has gotten me thinking about 'popular plots' and how they work in romances. Right now, I'm counting down the hours till The Office 'supersized' episode tonight (that would be in 9 hours--I'm DYING here! I've been obsessively watching this video over and over again all day!). Pam told Roy she kissed Jim before she broke off their wedding, and he freaked, and the the last episode ended with, "I'm going to KILL Jim Halpert," and.....oh, sorry. I got carried away. But The Office reminds me of the "Two friends but one is involved with someone else and one is secretly pining after the other, and then the other starts to have feelings, too..." plot. I personally LOVE this plot. I'm trying to think of a romance novel that utilizes it, but am drawing a blank. I know they must be out there, except it would mean a bit of a love-triangle and that usually doesn't fly in romance--unless the 'third wheel' is an obvious bad guy-girl so that there's no chance of readers rooting for the 'wrong' person. I'm actually using this plot in the first book of my newest trilogy, one I just started working on. But I've thrown in one more favorite element--older woman, younger man. You know, where they knew each other as children/teens, and the guy secretly worshipped the older girl, but the girl just thought of him like a sometimes-annoying little brother?! I guess that's yet another 'popular plot.'

And then there's LOST and Sawyer. Sigh...... I LOVE Sawyer--the tortured bad-boy. The rogue. The inveterate rake. We've seen, through flashbacks, how Sawyer (aka James) came to be the man he is today--a bad guy--and we *understand*, don't we?! Our poor hearts twist over what he went through as a boy. We've seen the bad things he's done, and yet we love him anyway, because we want to REFORM that bad boy. We want him to find love and happiness, don't we?! Of course, it doesn't hurt that the producers seem to find a way to have him shirtless and sweaty in just about every episode, or, even better, wearing those adorable reading glasses. He's the bad boy with secret pain, with depth. Definintely a popular romance plot: reforming the rake. My upcoming novel, TO LOVE A SCOUNDREL, uses it. I only wish I had the help of whichever writer comes up with the "Sawyer-isms," because, without a doubt, he always gets the BEST lines in the show!

Those are my favorite two, both used in recent television shows. What about you? Any favorite 'popular plots'?




P.S. Check out that last picture--am I the only one that was totally disturbed and freaking out when that Other's dude had the gun to Sawyer's head, about to kill him, and Kate told him she loved him 'cause she thought he was about to die--and so did I! I swear, I had my hands over my eyes, I couldn't even watch!