Monday, April 30, 2007


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 naïve, 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


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 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


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 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! ( 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?


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).

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.

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!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Target, the Root of All Evil

I love Target.

I hate Target.

I love it more.

Love the bright, cheerful, uniform décor. Love the fresh popcorn-y smell. Love the dollar bins right when you walk in, which always have 5-10 dollars’ worth of things I didn’t know I needed one minute ago, but now must suddenly have.

Things I also love about Target, in no particular order:

  • The pharmacy, which is prompt and professional and doesn’t tell you a prescription will be ready by X o’clock, and then act like you’re crazy when you show up at X o’clock to get it;
  • The clothes;
  • The shoes;
  • The pillows;
  • The linens;
  • The international market, when they have it;
  • The school supplies in the fall (LOVE school supplies!)
  • The Christmas and Halloween decorations, which are always cool;
  • The toy department, which generally has whatever I need;
  • The small electrics; and
  • The books, of course.

Things I hate about Target, in no particular order:

  • The popcorn, because I always have to have it, even though I don’t NEED it;
  • The toy department when I can’t drag the kids out of it; and
  • The fact that I can’t step foot in the place without spending WAY more money than I need to.

What about you? Any other Targetphiles out there? What’s your favorite thing about it?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Earl is out!!

Yes, today is The Naked Earl's official release date. I hope you find the book, buy it, like it.

I find this time rather nerve wracking, a strain on my poor blood pressure. Some people will like the book--I hope!--but others will not. That's just the nature of writing for publication. Positive reviews are much pleasanter than negative ones--especially those of the scathing variety--but at the end of the day, a writer can't really be swayed by other people's opinions. (Well, unless the "other people" is her editor!)

So, I'm off to get started on the next book--well, the next after the next, since the next is already handed in. But first I have to answer a few questions lovely Miss Caroline has given me. She's been nagging me. Look for them shortly (I hope) on her site.