Monday Mayhem – Run away! Run away!

I retreated this weekend. Grabbed my coconuts and took off as fast as I could. But, instead of running from the plot bunnies that had been chasing me, I took them with me to the Diamond State Romance Authors writing retreat.

I planned to take a lot of pictures, but, being me, I left my camera on the coffee table at home. Luckily, Brinda Berry – hostess with the mostest and retreat planner extraordinaire – posted some on her blog. Check this place out! Yes, it was every bit as fabulous as it looks.

I also thought I’d write a blog post about the experience, but my fellow loft dweller, Megan Mitcham, posted this write up on the DSRA blog this morning.

Whew! My work here is done!

What’s that? You want to know more? Okay, fine, I’ll do the work… Here’s how this went down:

On my way through Conway, I picked up my road trip buddy, Voirey Linger, and we took off for the hills. I didn’t scream (much) as we twisted and turned our way up into the Ozarks, and my feisty little car handled like a champ. We arrived in beautiful Ponca, Arkansas in time to horn in on the first of seven two-hour writing blocks scheduled.

I set up camp in an Adirondack chair on this fabulous second-story screened porch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it grew too chilly and dark on the porch, I shared these comfy couches in the loft seating area with Brinda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, I managed to clock a total of 3,809 words. By Saturday, we were well into the swing of things. I finished one short story and started another, hitting 7,263 words by the end of the final writing block. Woot! I was stoked. Been a long time since I was able to put up big numbers. It felt good.

Between blocks, we stretched our stiff joints by strolling along the deck or creek, and our stomachs by trolling the snacks in the kitchen. We counted helpless giggles as out weekend abs workout, and adopted a few select euphemisms as the key words of the weekend. I’d share them but…yeah. Look at this group of degenerates – do you really want to know?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, it was a fabulous experience in a gorgeous setting. What could be more exhilarating for a writer than setting the plot bunnies free in the woods?

It’s your turn to share now. How was your weekend?

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Monday Mayhem – Randomosity

I have nothing prepared for today’s post, so I’m just going to throw a handful of randomosity at you and hope that something sticks. You ready? Here we go!

1) My husband and I just had a ten minute discussion about geometric theorems which concluded with heartfelt declarations of our utter relief that we don’t have to take Geometry class ever again.

2) I participated in a 5k race on Saturday. I managed to run about 2 1/2 of the 3.1 miles and finished in 37:45. I was happy. 🙂

3) As I type, I am wearing a rather fetching pair of University of Arkansas at Monticello Boll Weevil socks. Fear the weevil!

4) I ate birthday cake today. And chocolate ice cream. Je ne regrette rien.

5) Spring Chickens is now available…everywhere! Tell your friends and be sure to check out this fabulous GoodReads giveaway that starts tomorrow!

The winner of the $20 gift card from last week’s post was Carol. Thanks for your comments and continued support! My readers are the best!

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Monday Mayhem – Picking Favorites

The gift card winner is: Carol! Thanks for your comments!

It’s release week for Spring Chickens and I am doing a happy dance. If you haven’t heard my crowing already, here’s the 4-1-1: Trade Paperback can be ordered NOW! Digital versions and all outlets other than the Wild Rose Press Bookstore will release Friday, April 27th!

Whew!

An author once told me she gets ‘the jitters’ each time she has a new release hit the shelves, despite having over a dozen titles out there. She’s not the only one.

This never gets old. Each release is exciting and terrifying at the same time. Like a first date without the pointless rambling and the possibility of spilling food down the front of my shirt. (Which I will do anyway, but you won’t see it so it won’t count against me.)

I can’t help but wonder if you’ll like my writing. Will you fall for Lynne and Bram the way I did? Will there be a second read? What if I never hear from you again?

Oh, the hand wringing!

Just like dating, all I can do is put myself out there and hope we connect on some level.

Spring Chickens is a different sort of story for me. My hero and heroine are a little older, a bit wiser, and a whole lot warier than they were when they were young, but in a way it’s much more optimistic than anything I’ve written before. I know authors (and mothers) are not supposed to have favorites, but…Shh. Don’t tell the others.

Desert island time! If you had to pick only one book (no cheating and naming a series!) by your favorite author, which would be your favorite and why?

One lucky commenter will win a $20 gift card to the online bookstore of their choice! Winner will be drawn on Sunday, April 29th at 6PM US-Central time. Please tell your friends!

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Monday Mayhem – Simple Pleasures

This weekend, I experienced a number of life’s simple pleasures. Even better, I took the time to appreciate each and every one of them. Here are the top five:
1) The crispy, seared edges of a perfectly grilled Steakburger.
2) The sweet smell of a baby’s soft, downy head.
3) Helpless laughter. The kind that spawns tears. (Thank you, Mom.)
4) Friendships as comfortable as the perfect pair of slippers.
5) Welcome home hugs and kisses from the hottie waiting at the airport.
How about you? What simple pleasures have you experienced lately?

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Monday Mayhem – A Hail of Bullets

This week’s stream of consciousness babble:

  1. Ran two miles – a few times. Also attended my second yoga class on Saturday. I’ve decided I like having an hour of quiet movement here and there.
  2. A new great-nephew due to arrive any moment. Will be smooching the sugar off babies this weekend.
  3. My awesome friend and invaluable critique partner, Julie Doner, signed her first publishing contract with Turquoise Morning Press!
  4. Less than 3 weeks until Spring Chickens is released! Bookmark this page!
  5. I’m addicted to almonds. I buy a pound of natural then roast them in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. I only allow myself 15 at a time for fear I’ll end up eating the whole bag.
  6. Speaking of food—72 hours until I get my Steak ‘n Shake. Not that I’m counting…
  7. The girl who works at the Khiel’s counter (*cough* my daughter *cough*) told me Kim Kardashian uses the stuff she sold me. I’ve been using it for two weeks and I’m still not a rich reality TV star. My skin is really soft, though.
  8. Tim Bunny has finally succumbed to my charms. It’s only taken six years, but I can now hold and cuddle my recalcitrant rabbit at will.  
  9. I’ve been dreaming about Chicago a lot lately. I blame all the Twitter chatter about the Romantic Times Convention, the untamed plot bunnies in my head, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. In that order.
  10. And last but certainly not least…I have cover art for Inamorata (June 2012)! Check this out:

 

You like? Here’s the blurb:

After twenty-five years of cooling his jets in a wall sconce, Frank DeLuca figured the afterlife owed him a break. Hadn’t he been a model ghost? He didn’t possess little kids, screw up the television reception, or throw random objects across the room just to get attention. Hell, he never even made creepy noises in the dead of night.

All he asked was a peaceful existence where someone would turn him on every once in a while. The light, that is. He needed just a little bit of light in his afterlife.

Instead, he got a sullen, silent little boy who cried for his mommy every night. The kid came with a set of hyper-tense grandparents whose marriage was crumbling under the weight of old insecurities and words left unspoken. As if that weren’t enough to drive a guy to hide out in his light fixture, providence tossed in a little a spitfire of a girl who flipped his switch in every way.

Gina Ferro turned out to be the kid’s mother. She also happened to be a ghost.

Thrown together by Fate and bound by history, Frank and Gina must learn to trust each other with the keys to their pasts in order to unlock their eternity.

Heh. Never gets old.

That’s all I have for this week. Now hit me with your best shot!

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Monday Mayhem: Springing Eternal

Today is the day the Romance Writers of America announce the RITA/Golden Heart contest finalists. For those of you who don’t know, the RITAs are for published authors, and Golden Heart entries are unpublished. There are many prestigious and esteemed awards in the romance community, but these two would be the equivalent of the Oscar/Emmy/Tony awards.

Last fall, the staff at Turquoise Morning Press voted to put two of their 2011 titles up for consideration for RITA awards and they chose Grace Greene’s Beach Rental (Best Inspirational Romance & Best First Book categories) and my Contentment (Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category) as TMP’s official submissions.

I couldn’t believe they picked one of my books from all of the titles they published in 2011. I might have had a total Sally Field moment. Maybe. There’s no video, so there’s no proof. As you can imagine, RITA and GH submissions are huge. The chances of being chosen as a finalist are super-slim – particularly for a small press author. But even as I filled out the entry form, I will admit that I was picturing myself as that camel passing through the eye of a needle. Without the hump. And the overbite. And the spitting thing…

I’m realistic enough to know my phone will probably not ring this morning. I’m not just saying that to be self-deprecating. Those of me who know me well know I have a ginormous ego. Huge. At times, monstrous. But I will say it’s also pretty well grounded in reality.

I love my baby, but I’m not so blind that I can’t see its flaws. But still…Maybe….

And there it goes again – springing eternal and all that jazz. I can’t help myself. I came equipped with this tiny little flame, flickering and sputtering deep inside of me. Standard equipment on this model, I guess. It won’t ever be extinguished, not even after the name of the last of the 2012 RITA finalists is posted on the RWA website.

Being an author is all about having hope.

We hope the story idea rattling around in our head is as good as we think it might be.

We hope we’ve chosen the right words to paint a picture, tell the tale, and spin a web so sticky you’ll never want to put the book down.

We hope it touches someone somehow.

Hope is the key ingredient that makes each and every romance (real or fictional) a possibility. It spurs us to press ‘send’ on that agent or editor pitch. Hope keeps us clicking the refresh button multiple times a day. Each time I open a new document, I’m filled with hope, expectation, and the tiny trickle of trepidation that accompanies any risk worth taking.

And if that phone call never comes, that’s okay. There’s always next year, right?

Spoken like a true Cubs fan.

Happy Monday, my friends. What are your hopes for the day, week, month, or year?

ETA: Just wanted to thank you all for your support. Contentment wasn’t chosen as a finalist, but I will have three (!) 2012 releases to choose from when it comes time to submit again. Thanks so much. You all are the best!

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Monday Mayhem – Special Guest Stars!

Today I have a special surprise – I’m turning my blog over to two of my favorite chickas – The Karens!

Not long ago, I met Karen Stivali and Karen Booth on Twitter. In the blink of an eye, we were best friends – braiding hair…finishing sentences…dishing about our hot dates…raiding each other’s closets…. Oh, and they also write fiction.

Fabulously sexy fiction.

Today they are visiting Writings and Ramblings to celebrate the release of their co-authored story, Long Distance Lovers! Woooot! Without further ado, here are The Karens nattering on about one of our favorite subjects – British boys!

*Cranks the Duran Duran and pretends she didn’t just lick a picture of Colin Firth*

Brits, Brits, and more Brits

When did your fascination with British men start? Who was your first Brit crush?

Karen B: I started young—seven or eight years old, playing Beatles 45s for hours at a time on the record player in my dad’s den. It was the 70s. We called a man’s home office a den. My first Brit crush was also my first rock star crush—dreamy, fresh-faced and clever Paul McCartney. In middle school, I had a crush on a boy in a Beatles cover band. I remember thinking that he would have been the perfect guy if he were British. Not a lot of British boys in Minnesota. Dammit.

Karen S: My earliest fascination with British men came from listening to The Beatles. I can remember being no more than five years old, lying on the area rug in my dad’s den while he worked. I’d be alternating between drawing pictures and studying the covers from his collection of Beatles albums. Paul and George were my favorites, especially in the photos from their early mop top days (the scraggly bearded look didn’t do it for me then and still doesn’t all these decades later). I’m guessing it was the combo of British accent and floppy hair that later led to my first celebrity crush, on Davy Jones from The Monkees. I must have been ten by then, and even though the show was in reruns and Davy was more than old enough to be my father, I thought he was the cutest, funniest guy ever. Once again, the accent had worked its magic. Around the same time we moved to England for a while and lived there for several months over the span of a few years. I fell in love with Oxford, the beautiful old buildings, the fluffy down beds, the dessert trolley at tea time. Everything enchanted me, and the local men with their charming voices and witty jokes were no exception. I was hooked.

Karen B: Why am I not surprised we were both obsessed with The Beatles when we were little? Why am I not surprised we both decided to use the term “den”? I’d say we were separated at birth if we didn’t have completely dissimilar appearances.

Why write Brit characters?

Karen B: Write what you love? That’s one excuse. There’s a safe exoticism to the Brits. They’re just different enough. No language barrier, but you have the accent, the irresistible British sense of humor, and those funny things they say like bugger and brilliant. I’m such a goof, a good-looking British guy could tell me I was sixes and sevens and I would still swoon.

Karen S: I write both British and American male leads. The ones who are British are just, for lack of a better word, different. The sense of humor is different. The charm is different. There are things American men can do that seem completely awkward or unnatural coming from a Brit, and vice versa. Also, when I write I “hear” my characters talking in my head. It’s very easy for me to hear my Brit characters because I’m so familiar with the accent. I’d have a very difficult time writing a character with an accent I had less familiarity with, so I stick with what I know. I have a close Aussie friend who keeps insisting I need to write a good Aussie leading man. We’ll see…

What about British snacks? There’s mention of them in the book.

Karen B: In Long-Distance Lovers, Tim has a bit of a sweet tooth and he’s disappointed when he realizes he can’t procure the candy he likes from home. Jenna introduces him to pretzel M&Ms, which he loves, and it’s one of the things they bond over. I get all of my best British treats from Karen S. She sends them to me.

Karen S: One of my favorite things about traveling is having the chance to sample local foods—the produce, the traditional regional specialties, and of course, the candy. There’s always an array of new snack foods to choose from and I love to try them all. I usually return home from trips with a stash of tasty snacks I’ve discovered on my journey, and I miss my favorites when my supply inevitably runs out. Nowadays, with the Internet, it’s fairly easy to order hard to find snacks, but I don’t. Instead I prefer to troll the import aisle at supermarkets or specialty shops. I love the excitement of stumbling upon a favorite treat I can’t normally get locally. And I often buy an extra, to ship to Karen Booth.

Food is also closely linked to memories for me, which is why Tim, the charming British lead in Long-Distance Lovers, needs to experience some quintessential New York treats. One of the things I miss the most from when I lived in New York City is the cannolis. Not just any cannolis, either, the ones from Veniero’s Bakery. Those can’t be found or duplicated anywhere else, so I had to let him enjoy them. And trust me, he really enjoys them.

Long-Distance Lovers

British musician Tim Wentworth trades his London flat for an apartment in NYC so he can record with a promising American band, but he arrives in Manhattan to learn the gig has been canceled. With no job and a two-month stay in the States, he wonders if the trip has been a waste of time, until he meets charming and talented jewelry designer Jenna Bradford.

Unlike the groupies who throw themselves at Tim after shows, Jenna couldn’t be less impressed by his music credentials. Bad experiences have led her to have a strict “no-musicians” policy. But when Tim rescues Jenna from an obnoxious drunk, she bends her rules and they embark on a sensuous courtship filled with steamy, passionate nights and intense, unexpected emotions. While they try to find a way to prolong their time together, a family tragedy forces Tim to return to England. Jenna and Tim must each decide how far they’re willing to go to see if their whirlwind romance can lead to a lifetime of love.

 

Karen Booth and Karen Stivali are critique partners and co-authors of the new Ellora’s Cave erotic romance, Long-Distance Lovers, out now. Further info at thekarens.com.

Buy now at Ellora’s Cave or Amazon!

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Vacation – all I ever wanted…

Vacation – I need to get away…

Later this week, I will be on vacation for a few days. That means I’m scrambling to tie up loose ends at both the day job and on the author gig. I’m not taking any work with me. This time I mean it.

Okay, so I’ll have my laptop. And my thumb drive. I do have a galley to proof…I could convert it and put it on my Kindle…There will probably be some airport time…I could use to write a few paragraphs just to make the wait go faster…I’d really like to finish this bit up by the end of the month and the flight is two hours long…I could get a few hundred words in before beverage service begins…

Yeah. Have I mentioned that I’m a bit of a control freak?

How about you? Have you got this relaxation thing covered, or does downtime make you nervous?

See you next week! (If I don’t spontaneously combust…)

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Monday Mayhem – Frog kissing

Everyone knows you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. Lord knows I puckered up a few times, but I’m proud to say I never got warts. And I never gave up hope. As Valentine’s Day is still a bit over a week away, I thought I’d share an anti-love story with you this week, and then next week I’ll share my real-life love story.

Sound like a plan? Just a heads up: I’ll be asking about yours too, so start mining the memories…

Because I don’t mind being the subject of your amusement/derision, I am going to give you the sad tale of my one and only blind date.

Let me preface this by reminding you, that I spent many, many years firmly ensconced in my spinsterhood. There were some, uh, dating dry spells. Many, many dating dry spells. This story takes place in the spring just after my first annual 29th birthday, a time so arid I could hear the air around me crackle….

A friend wanted to set me up on a blind date with the really cute new guy in her office. After some none to gentle prodding, I relented, and the numbers were exchanged.

I am sad to tell you that I can’t even remember my date’s name now (it has been more than a dozen years), but the events of that evening are indelibly etched in my mind.

First of all, he lived up to the hype. Hel-lo hottie man!  

After a surreptitious Snoopy dance, we went to dinner at the local Mexican restaurant. The plan was to go to a comedy club for the 9PM show, but we were early, so went to the bar next door to pass the time.

I would love to blame the booze for what happened next, but even I am not that much of a lightweight. Stone cold sober, we were walking the approximately 100 yards from the bar to the comedy club when I tripped.

Over nothing.

Nothing at all.

Did I stumble a little? Did I flail and catch myself? Did my knight in a black leather jacket catch me and press me to his manly chest?

Alas, no.

I took a flying header on the sidewalk just outside of the club, landing on my arm and bouncing my forehead off concrete. The fall itself was so spectacular, that people waiting in line for the club left the line and hurried over to help me up while my date stood staring at the clumsy lump on the ground.
Of course, I was mortified. I brushed myself off, insisting that I was fine and trying to laugh about it. Did I mention it had been a couple of years since I dated?  Yeah…So…The date must go on!

Fighting back tears of pain and humiliation, I excused myself to the ladies room to clean up where I promptly fell apart. The other women in the room, some of whom had witnessed my Chevy Chase pratfall, were sympathetic and consoling. Luckily, many of them worked at the day spa that occupied space in the same strip mall. Cool paper towels were pressed to the growing knot on my head. They whipped out massive cosmetic bags and fixed my face. My hair was combed to cover the lump. Finally, I was handed a cup of ice water and given a gentle shove back out into the lion’s den.

There were three comedians scheduled that night. We laughed along with the crowd, but I noticed that my head wasn’t what was bothering me as much as my growing inability to lift my left arm to applaud. By the time the last guy was finished, I’d also lost my ability to keep up any pretense.

When my date asked if I wanted to go somewhere else, I told him that I really didn’t feel well, and that I thought I should call it a night. Oddly enough, he seemed slightly peeved. Not so strange was the fact that I didn’t care.

My roommate was staying at her boyfriend’s that night, so I called her and sobbed the entire story—leading with the headline, “I think I broke my arm!”

She assured me that it was probably just a sprain and told me I should ice it, elevate it, and if it wasn’t better by morning, she would take me to the emergency room. Since it was already after 1am, I thought that it seemed reasonable. I propped my arm on the extra pillow, plopped an ice pack on it and tried to sleep.

By 6am, I was calling her back and saying, “I’m sorry, but I think I need you to take me to get an x-ray.” We spent a lovely morning hanging out in the waiting room, my arm supported by a makeshift sling created by a chiffon scarf patterned with sailboats which I paddled up the river Denial.

When the x-ray tech told me to turn my arm over for another angle and I almost peed down my leg. Finally convinced that it was indeed broken, I was plastered up, given a prescription for Vicodin, and sent on my merry way. The girlfriend who instigated the set up and my faithful roomie were at my side for the rest of the weekend.

Mr. Blinddateman? Never heard from him again.

When my friend saw him at work the following Monday, she mentioned something about my arm being broken.

His response? “Wow, really? Well, she did fall really hard.” 

My thought? “Luckily, it wasn’t for you.”

The moral of the story?

Blind dates can be hazardous to your health.

Just a reminder.

Okay, your turn! Tell me your worst date scenario. Ready? Go!

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Monday Mayhem – Meet Maggie and Tom!!!!

Just in case you haven’t heard me shout it from the rooftops…It’s release day for COMMITMENT!!!

All digital formats are now available – trade paperback coming later this week.

The ebook is only $3.99 at the TMP Bookstore, Amazon, B&N, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords . Whew! That was a lot of links. I hope I got them all right.

Okay! Let’s talk about Maggie and Tom…

We first met these two in Contentment,  but their story is not truly a sequel. Commitment runs concurrent to Contentment. That’s a fancy way of saying, the timelines overlap. If you’ve read Contentment, you know what’s going on with these two, but you don’t really know how they got there or how it will turn out for them. Well, now you know…

Author true confession #1: I did not read Paramour or Contentment after they were released.

I mean I never sat down (or in my case, crawled into the tub) and read them like I book I just picked up. It’s not that I don’t love the stories or the characters. If you had any idea how real these people are to me, you’d call the men in the white coats. It’s just that by the time a book gets to market, I’ve been through it at least 6 times since I turned it in to my editor. After a while, the words begin to blur.

True confession #2: The first draft of this book took  me a total of 9 months to complete. Getting to the point where I could type ‘The End’ almost killed me.

Those of you who were around when I was writing Commitment know. It was so frustrating. I loved the characters. I loved the story they had to tell. I knew exactly where it was going to go and how I wanted to get them there, but something kept holding me back. I simply could not force the words from my fingertips. Thankfully, I have one of those painfully honest friends who pointed out a few areas she thought I could improve. In other words, she gave me all the reasons why she hated my book. I didn’t agree with her, but the feedback lit a fire under me. I went back in to make a few changes, determined to prove her wrong. Voila! It all clicked. For that, my painfully honest friend will receive extra kisses of gratitude.

True confession #3: I adore Tom and Maggie.

These two crack me up. Their story is much more light-hearted than the one I hung on poor Sean and Tracy. There’s nothing I love more than two snarky people in lust. Or love. Or both. LOVE these two together. I love the steam that rises between them. I think of all the couples I have ever written, Tom and Maggie are the most evenly matched in tone and temperment. That makes their tug-of-war more fun to watch.

True confession #4: I started reading Commitment on my Kindle last night.

I didn’t mean to, honest. I opened the file to re-read the dedication (because I couldn’t remember what I wrote) and thee next thing I knew, Mr. Man was snoring away and I was five chapters in.

True confession #5: In a roundabout way, I may have dedicated this book to myself.

Want to know how?

Buy the book. 

Happy Monday to you all, my friends. I hope your mayhem is marvelous. 

 

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