Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Under the Weather, Under the Gun

Under the weather today. Won't be going into work. Won't be snuggled under the covers either. I'm under the deadline gun. Wherever I plant my miserable self--in bed, on the couch--my laptop will be, well, in lap. Even if my pounding brain only cranks out one manuscript page, I'll be one page deeper into my story. Must. Push. Forward.

Here's an unedited snippet of what I'm working on...

Seth considered himself an expert on two things in life: wrangling criminals and seducing women. The trick was getting into their minds, learning what made them tick, and anticipating their actions and reactions.

Emily McBride was a brain buster. Hard to make sense out of a woman who made no sense at all.


Seated in the passenger seat of a ramshackle buggy, he glanced sideways at the young woman in possession of the reins. She didn’t dress, talk, or behave like a preacher’s daughter. Instead of twisting her pale blond hair into a conventional bun, she’d woven the waist-length tresses into two braids, tying off the ends with leather thongs. Her attire was equally unconventional. She wore a stove-pipe hat instead of a bonnet. A buckskin skirt, flat-heeled boots, a man’s white ruffled shirt, and black suspenders. She looked more like a circus sharpshooter than a librarian. The only bookish thing about her was her eye glasses. She wasn’t homely or beautiful. Quietly pretty, maybe. Tall for a woman, though not as tall as Seth, and thin as a desert grasshopper. She wasn’t overtly sensual and yet, since meeting her, he hadn’t been able to take his eyes off of her. He’d told her he was intrigued. That, for sure and certain, was the truth.

Romancing The West is scheduled for release in 2007. I'll no doubt alter the above passage in some fashion before it reaches book form, but you get the gist.

So what are you up to? Writing a book? A screenplay? Redecorating a room? Planning a trip? Chime in regulars and lurkers and let us know what projects are filling up your days.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Where's my Hershey Bar?

Behind on my WIP (work in progress). Hoping to complete 15 new pages today. I could really use a brain boost and I'm liking the sound of this.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sizzling Inspiration

Instead of writing yesterday, I cleaned house. I couldn't take it anymore. The clutter. The dust. I couldn't concentrate on my story, so I looked for inspiration in other people's stories. Specifically by way of DVDs in my movie collection. Fave movies that I've seen before. Movies that I could 'listen' to as I cleaned, stopping only to watch my favorite parts.

I stopped and watched a lot during 'The Last of the Mohicans'. I've probably watched this film a hundred times. The battle scenes are too brutal for me. As with Braveheart, I look away or close my eyes. But the cinematography overall is stunning. The soundtrack beautiful. The relationships between father and sons, brothers, sisters, and ultimately those brothers and sisters (primary and secondary romance) keep me rivited time and again. Every scene between Cora and Hawkeye sizzles. Some favorite lines...

Cora Munro: What are you looking at, sir?
Hawkeye: I'm looking at you, miss.

Cora Munro: They're going to hang you. Why didn't you leave when you had the chance?
Hawkeye: Because what I'm interested in is right here.

Hawkeye: No, you submit, do you hear? You be strong, you survive... You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.

And what about the scene at the fort, where he takes her hand and leads her to a private spot? The kiss. The passion. Be still my heart. I'm happy to say that this morning I am truly inspired and motivated. Is there a specific movie that jump starts your creativity?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Bit of Industry Buzz

I can't imagine that many will check in here today. I don't know about the rest of the country, but in New Jersey we're having a beautiful sunny and warm holiday weekend. In my small island community, people are out and about enjoying the beach, craft shows, yard sales, cookouts, and parades. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people. Yesterday I worked at the library. Today I'm writing. There's a part of me that longs to laze the day away, but the workaholic me, the me that's sweating a deadline won't step away from the computer and into the sunshine. Maybe I'll break away later tonight for a DVD movie-fest. Inspiration via a Rom-Com. Lord knows I own enough of them.

Speaking of romance on DVD (how's that for a segue?), Thursday's (or was it Friday? The days blur.) luncheon at the Romantic Times Convention was sponsored by a movie production company--'Lasting Romance'. Their objective is to turn our favorite romance novels into films. These films would go straight to DVD and would perhaps work on a DVD club or Net-Flix type of deal. They presented an impressive program and conducted fun surveys. The surveys touched on price point (what would you be willing to pay for a DVD? Would you rather rent or buy?), what romance novels we'd like to see transformed into film (yes, I named one of my own!), and what male actors we most see as romantic heroes. I had a hard time deciding between Mel Gibson, George Clooney, and Johnny Depp. But in the end, I voted for Mel. What can I say? He won me forever with his performances in Braveheart and What Women Want.

Lasting Romance also presented a fun powerpoint display of these leading men. The audience's reaction to different male actors was interesting. Although men such as Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, and Johnny Depp garnered eager applause, the man who whipped the women in a frenzy was Sean Connery. I agree. S-E-X-Y. But I was surprised given his advanced age. We also went wild for Pierce Brosnan. Hmm. Is it a 'Bond' thing?

No one applauded for Tom Cruise. In fact, the entire room 'booed'! Wow. I didn't boo, but I rolled my eyes. No one booed Jude Law or Hugh Grant, even though they strayed. Apparently we're still willing to view them as romantic heroes. But Cruise... a major fall from grace. Interesting.

I, for one, would LOVE to see romance novels in movie form. I'd join that DVD club. How about you?

More romance novel industry buzz...

* The popularity of Chick-Lit is waning.

* Paranormal still hot.

* Erotic romance, hotter still (flying off of the shelves).

* Sales reps are hitting resistance with the cartoon covers. Word is, buyers are seeing too much of it. They're over it. Many major pubs are going back to more photographic covers.

*Speaking of book covers, the classic clinch scene is as outdated as the term 'bodice-ripper.'

* NO ONE (editors, booksellers, readers) likes the new up-sized paperbacks. What are they called? Uppers? I can't remember, but NO ONE likes them. The font isn't bigger. The stories aren't longer. They just cost more and don't fit properly on the shelves. WHY?

I know it's not much, but that's the buzz I picked up at RT. Anyone have anything to add??

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Weekend Read



I had planned to blog about the last day of RT today. The bookfair and the Mr. Romance Competition. Due to time restrictions, I’ll do so on Monday. Meanwhile, here is a picture of me at the bookfair. I had a great time, met some terrific people, and sold a lot of books. LASSO THE MOON continues to do well proving that westerns are not dead! Good to know since I’m currently hard at work on my next humorous wild west adventure—ROMANCING THE WEST (coming 2007) Please enjoy an except from LASSO THE MOON and have a great holiday weekend!

“Sure you won’t stay for some vittles, Sheriff Grant? I can rustle you up somethin’ real quick like.”

Thorn Butte’s stationmaster was as well known for his longwinded story-telling as he was for his hospitality. If Josh stayed much longer, he’d be joining the lonely man for a walk down memory lane. “Much obliged, Ben, but I’m in a hurry to be on my way. Only stopped long enough to rest Buckshot and stretch my legs.”

“Where you headin’?”

“Chance.”

“Never been there.”

“You haven’t missed much.” He gripped his saddle horn and vaulted into the leather seat, not bothering to elaborate. As far as he was concerned, the less thought he gave to his new life, the better. Besides, Ben’s attention had drifted to a point on the horizon.

The stationmaster squinted against the noonday sun and scratched his head. “What in tarnation?”

Josh squinted in the same direction. “What is it?”

“The Overland Stage. But I ain’t never seen Moe Wiggins drive a rig that hard. They’re comin’ in fast. Too fast.”

An invisible knife twisted into Josh’s gut. A knife held by Hank, I-told-you-so, Fedderman.

Paris was on that stage. Sure enough, somehow, some way, she’d gotten herself into another fix. The knife plunged deeper as a vivid image of Mason’s runaway buckboard flashed in his mind. Fearing the worst, he raced his horse toward the rolling cloud of dust.

His heart leapt to his throat as he neared the careening stage. That wasn’t Moe driving. It was that accident-prone hellion, and she was doing a damn poor job.

Closing in, he whipped Buckshot around and pulled up even with the rollicking coach. Moe was either drunk or dead. Turkey Dan was plumb missing.

“Glory, glory, hallelujah!”

Paris was singing Battle Hymn of the Republic at the top of her lungs. “Are you crazy?” he shouted over the ruckus. “Pull back on the ribbons!”

“Are you blind? I am pulling back! It’s the horses who aren’t doing their part. His truth is marching on!”

“Stop singing!”

“Stop yelling!”

“Stop arguing!” A wide-eyed, chubby-cheeked man hung out the window. He shook a ringed finger at Josh. “Do something, man! I’m not ready to die! Oh, my Lord, my demonstrator model, my—”

The man’s whining faded as Josh spurred Buckshot forward in line with the lead sorrels. He grabbed onto the rigging and, using all his strength, gradually slowed the lathered horses into a winded walk.

The coach rolled to a stop just shy of Thorn Butte’s relay station. Ben hurried forward and took the snorting team in hand. The door slammed open and two men jumped out of the stage as though their seats were on fire.

Josh’s gaze drifted over the unidentified whiner and landed on Burgess Riley. Why was he here, and where in the blazes was Turkey Dan? Though curious, he was more concerned with Paris. Peculiarly silent, she’d yet to budge from her rooftop position.

He dismounted and scaled the stage. To get to her he had to climb past Moe. A quick examination proved the driver dead, the reason unclear. Josh squeezed his bony shoulder before moving onto the uncharacteristically silent girl.

Even though she was dressed in trousers and a man’s shirt, she looked feminine and fragile and, dammit, that chafed. His heart hammered knowing how easily she could’ve been thrown from the coach. Mason, a superior horseman, had met that very end, breaking his neck in the process. Josh breathed easier, noting the battered hat mashed down over her tangled hair. He thanked God for that hat. It reminded him that underneath that ruffled gambler’s shirt beat the heart of a spirited lunatic.

“You can let loose of the ribbons, sweetheart. Ben’s got hold of the team.” He gently pried the leather straps from her hands, frowning at the welts marring her palms. He wouldn’t blame her if she cried, but hoped she held strong. He’d never been good with weepy women. “Where’s Turkey Dan?”

“Gila City. Sick.”

At least he wasn’t dead, which is more than he could say for Moe. He glanced at Paris and swore. White as milk and trembling like a treed cat. “Safe to assume you haven’t driven too many rigs?”

She nodded, but didn’t answer.

He tried a different route. “Mind if I ask why you were singing?”

“Music soothes the savage beast.”

Biting back a smile, he used the pad of his thumb to wipe away the sweat on her upper lip. “Just a suggestion, but you might want to try a lullaby next time. You sang as though you were leading those horses into the heat of battle.”

“This is all very touching,” Burgess shouted from below, “but I’ve got a bone to pick with the one who was supposed to be driving this stage in the first place.”

“Yes,” the roly-poly man with the matching gray bowler and shoes whined. “What happened to Mr. Wiggins?”

Startled out of her daze, Paris lurched forward.

Josh caught her by the waist and held tight. “Nothing you can do, darlin’. He’s gone.”

A tear escaped through her lowered lashes, slid down her cheek, and smacked against his hand. Shit.

“The old goat picked a devil of a time to up and die!”

Josh glowered. “Shut up, Burgess and give Ben a hand getting Moe into the stationhouse. You too, Mr. . . . ”

“Hinklemyer. Horace Hinklemyer at your service.”

Josh kept an eye on Paris as the men maneuvered the driver’s body down from the stage and into the small wooden shack.

“I don’t understand,” she began in a shaky voice. “He seemed fine when I climbed up here to take a nap. Next thing I knew . . . ”

Her voice cracked, but instead of giving in, she looked away and blinked back tears. The fact that she was holding strong did little to ease Josh’s misery. Needing to comfort the both of them, he pulled her into his arms. He knew her tears would rattle him, but this was ridiculous. It felt like someone was squeezing his heart. What in the Sam Hill was wrong with him?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday at RT (Fall from Grace)







Although these pictures are a tad dark, you can see some of the authors who sponsored the fairy ball dancing around the Maypole. You can see that I was wearing a lovely, long chiffon gown. Friday evening at RT. The Faery Ball.

Of all of my performances, this was the most simple. The one I had been able to prepare for ahead of time. After the guests were seated, the DJ cranked up the music tracks I had given him. I sang an Enya tune to set the mood then, over instrumental Enya and Lord of The Dance music, I recited faery chants in an English accent while the eighteen authors who had sponsored the ball, paraded onto the dance floor in their amazing faery costumes and weaved ribbons around a maypole (held by cover model Mark Johnson). The entire sequence took twelve minutes and closed with me leading the audience in a toast and introducing the two lead faires, authors Cheyenne McCray and Eden Robbins.

The bit went beautifully. The eighteen faeires looked fantasic. I performed the Enya song and Faery chants without cracking or stumbling. I felt graceful and condient, mystical, magical and all that. I handed the mic to Eden and turned to head back toward the DJ to collect gift bags that the ladies wanted to present. That's when it happened.

The toe of my shoe caught under a rippled carpet runner that the faeries had walked on and .... BAM! I went down hard, face first, sprawled out flat.

The table I'd fallen directly in front of gasped collectively and several people (I can't remember who as I was in a mortified daze) rushed over to help me up. As if the fall hadn't been embarrassing enough, I couldn't even get up gracefully. The lining of the dress was tight, yet there were yards of flowing chiffon on the outside to contend with. Oy. Poor Eden, who'd been trying to talk on the mic, rushed over, looking quite concerned, bless her. She asked if I was alright. I was, I told her (although my pride was sorely bruised), then I went back and collected the gift bags for her. Friend, cover model, and fellow actor, Mark Johnson teased me mercilessly, because if you know Mark, you know that's what he does. Still, he assured me that he didn't think many people saw my fall from grace. "How could they not?" I asked. I mean it was right there on the dance floor. He pointed out that there were cover models standing in front of me and I went down between them and a table. Also mostly everyone was rivited on Cheyenne and Eden who were talking on the mic. Sure enough, almost everyone I asked that night did not see my fall. Amazing.

I can laugh about it now. Actually, I could laugh about it ten minutes after. Hard not to laugh when Mark is making fun. Oh, I did suffer one other bruise aside from my pride. My right knee cap must have taken the biggest bang. It swelled and turned a really ugly black and blue. It could have been worse, I told myself. I could have fallen during my performance. *g*

At any rate the Faery Ball truly was the magical night of RT. Connie Perry, special event coordinator and costume designer, transformed the ballroom into an enchanted forest. The food was delicious and the dancing a blast. The costumes were out of this world. A special thank you to the authors who sponsored the evening.

As for my day.... It started with a rehearsal for the faery ball, then a luncheon, then a rehearsal for the Mr. Romance Competition, then I spoke on a workshop panel for booksellers, then another meet and greet in the hospitality suite. After that I attended the on and only workshop I was able to squeeze in. This is where I learned some industry insight. And that's what I'll be sharing on Sunday. Tomorrow, highlights from the Bookfair and the Mr. Romance Competition!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

We Interrupt This Program...

....for a few exciting announcements! Awesome ladies, fellow authors and blogsters, are celebrating wonderful news. Please hop over and congratulate Charlene Teglia for her sale to St. Martins, Kate Rothwell (and her alter ego, Summer) for landing a deal at Pocket, and Shannon Stacey for selling a novella to Samhain. Erotic romance is hot, hot, hot!

Historical author (and all around nice guy) Scott Oden received another fabulous review in Publishers Weekly for his second novel, Memnon. Way to go, Scott!

Thursday at RT




In re-reading my posts, I realized that though I've been filling you in on how my days and nights were spent at RT, I've yet to provide you with any industry info. No doubt that's what many of you are hungry for. As you've gathered, I attended more rehearsals then workshops, but I did glean a wee bit of insight here and there. I'll rack my brain and list what I remember over the weekend.

Meanwhile back to me. *g* Thursday went something like this. Rehearsal for Heather's Vampires in the Caribbean play, a luncheon sponsored by a movie production company gearing up to make romance novel to DVD movies (more on that over the weekend), another rehearsal (tech) for Heather's play... then Mary and I raced over to speak on a panel for booksellers. The topic: Blogging, websites and newsletters. The panel: Webmaster Kelli Salkin, authors Mary Stella, Rowena Cherry, and moi. Kate Ryan of RT Magazine moderated. We spoke about how booksellers can use blogging, newsletters, and websites to their advantage. The workshop was interactive and fun!

I can't remember what we did after that. The days are blurring, but very soon after we had to rush to get ready for the evening show and party. I only suffered slight pre-show jitters. I had my 'mimes' down, my blocking, entrances and exits. Also, I had a gut feeling that the show was going to go over well. It wasn't too long, the characters and costumes were outrageously cute, and the script was fun. (Thank you writer/director Lance Taubold!) Lastly, everyone involved, no matter the size of their part, no matter if they had any 'acting' experience, was talented. My good friend and critique partner, Mary Stella, ended up with a huge speaking role. Her background isn't in entertainment, but she's funny, outgoing, and works in PR. I just knew she was going to nail her part and she did. Woo-hoo Mary!!

I won't describe the show. I'll just say it was fun and a success. Heather Graham was hilarious as Captain Jack Sparrow! When it was over, I wanted to change out of that dratted mermaid costume so I could relax and dance. I was truly uncomfortable walking around all night with my midriff exposed!

It wasn't to be. Everyone wanted their picture taken with 'the mermaid'. I'm not going to obsess on the fact that, in the photos I've seen thus far on other people's blogs, I look ten pounds heavier than I am. *sigh*

Abby Zidle, my editor from HQN showed up as people were tugging me here and there for pics. We talked for quite awhile and even danced! Hard to cha-cha slide in that dratted mermaid costume, but darnit, I did it! Later she mentioned something about my 2007 HQN book ALL ABOUT EVIE and how it takes place in the Caribbean... she mentioned HQN's marketing department and telling them about me as a mermaid.

Oh, no!

I don't want to think about it. Truly, I don't. I guess I won't be eating chips and cookies for the next year. *g*

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wednesday at RT



Continuing on with my RT adventures... here I am with just a few of my friends. (top to bottom/click on to enlarge) #1 with Heather Graham--NYT bestselling author, not actress--on Tuesday at the Luau Party. #2 with author Kathy Love on Wednesday at the Ellora's Cave Party. #3 with Heather's son Shayne, a real sweetheart and an excellent ballroom dancer. Love to 'hustle' with that man!

Wednesday morning, Mary and I were up at the crack of dawn. We had to be at an early rehearsal for Heather's play and we wanted to squeeze in breakfast first. We decided to attend RT's morning mixer sponsored by author Bobbi Smith. Bobbi is always a gracious and generous host and she always offers free books. Gotta love that. But a lot of convention attendees attended that mixer and by the time we got there the breakfast pickings were slim to none. So off to Starbucks we went. I can do without food but MUST HAVE COFFEE.

The rehearsal for Heather's show was three hours long. This meant missing out on morning workshops, but we only had two days in which to memorize lines and blocking. Better to miss a workshop then blow the play. Actor/writer Lance Taubold wrote the show. Very cute and funny. (Both Lance and the show) Before I knew it rehearsal was over and it was time for lunch. Sue Grimshaw of Walden Books spoke as did author Karen Robards. Both were inspiring. Convention food is never anything to write home about. This meal was no exception. I ended up picking at my food. For the best, I told myself, as I had to fit into that skimpy mermaid outfit the next night. Where's the coffee?

After lunch I was scheduled for a meet and greet in the hospitality suite. Just because it was crowded in there didn't mean anyone would want to stop and talk to me. I've been ignored before, so I was prepared to suffer the humiliation. At his blog the other day, Ken Levine wrote: "So what if it’s humiliating? You’re a writer. Get used to humiliation." I loved that. Anyway, quite a few people did stop and talk to me about my books so it was a pleasant surprise indeed!

Next came my first meeting with Rich Devin, writer and director of the Mr. Romance Competition. BTW Rich was also involved in the reality show version of Mr. Romance featured last year on the Oxygen Network. Okay. So, remember how excited I about co-hosting the show with the soap opera actor James Scott? Well, last minute, he (or his agent) canceled on RT. Unfortunately for us, fortunately for him, he landed a job on a new soap, Days of Our Lives, I think. He had to shoot the same weekend of our show.

So. Guess who was suddenly the central host? Uh, huh. Moi. Also two contestants dropped out at the last minute and a few other changes effected the show so... poor Rich had to write and rewrite and rewrite the show as the week progressed. One night he got exactly ONE hour of sleep. I'm amazed he was standing the next day. Not only that, he looked good. How do men do that? Anyway, it was at that first meeting on Wednesday that Rich informed me I probably wouldn't be seeing the final script until Saturday morning. The show was Saturday evening. And we had the mega important four-hour book fair in between. I'm one of those anal people who likes to be really prepared, so this was a jolt. Rich, bless his soul didn't seem concerned. "You'll be fine," he kept saying. Plus I wasn't alone, he recruited four veteran cover models to help me. (more about these friends and excellent actors in an upcoming post)

A friend/actress once told me, "Never be more nervous than the person in charge." It's something I always try to keep in mind, and since Rich knows me, and believed I'd be fine, I chose to believe it, too. It's the only thing that kept me from having a panic attack as the week progressed. That night, I set aside my insecurities and fears and enjoyed dinner with friends. After that we danced the night away at the Ellora's Cave Party. Repeat of heading back to the room much too late and setting the alarm for way too early. *g*

Tomorrow... Speaking at another workshop, more rehearsals, and the first SHOW!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tuesday at RT


Re-entering the real world after being at RT for a week is tough. A week of fantasy parties and balls, workshops and award luncheons. And for moi, oodles of rehearsals. Here I am with the same authors/friends that I posted a picture of yesterday. Only this is from Friday night at the Faery Ball, and this shot includes mystery writer, Lori Armstrong (far left).

Where was I? Ah, yes. Real world. Braindead. Still, as I'm on a tight deadline now, I had no choice but to dig in and work on my WIP yesterday. Even though I was fog-brained it went pretty well. Fog-brained and/or stressed-out-of-my-mind seems to be a positive creative state for me. Go figure.

This time last week, I was battling workshop presenter jitters. "You're a professional performer," Mary said. "How can you be nervous?" My lame but honest answer: "It's not the same." The primary focus is on 'teaching' not entertaining. Though it's a bonus if you can do both. Mostly, I was nervous about having to fill 90 minutes. Particularly since our topic was "The Great What If". The concept, a form of brainstorming, is so simple. How do you fill 90 minutes?

But we did. We gave examples from our books. From other people's books. We used some of the examples you so generously provided at this blog. The class gasped in horror at Cyndi's 'no caffeine world'. Quite comical. We bounced live ideas off of one another. We had interactive sessions and threw out chocolates and prizes. We eventually split the class (of about 40) into groups to brainstorm a story. Overall, we kept the presentation casual, accepting questions at any time. There were a lot of questions. I knew that this workshop was for beginners. But I didn't realize how new these attendees were to the writing scene until the questions started flying. Suddenly, I felt rooted and in a comfort zone. My nerves disappeared as I realized I really did have a lot to offer at this level and these writers were eager to learn. Their enthusiasm was infectious and their brainstorming efforts excellent. After the class, I received comments like, "I haven't read you before, but now I will!"

I continued to hear positive feedback throughout the week from these classmates. I was involved in a lot of special events this past week, but I do believe teaching this workshop worked best as a way of winning over new readers. I also very much enjoyed having a positive impact on another writer. My hats off to all of those who signed up for the two-day intensive beginner program. Educating yourself, learning your craft and the business is the single best thing you can do if you're serious about getting published. I heard some horror stories from a couple of editors. Huge mistakes made by new writers, mistakes that insured their manuscript will NOT be accepted. Maybe not even read. Word of advice to new-to-the-field-writers: Attend workshops, in-person or on-line. Ask questions. Read how-to books. Learn and practice proper etiquette. I did it. I still do. Getting published is hard enough. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by not knowing the basics.

After the workshop, Mary and I officially registered for the conference and the madness began. We attended a Luau Welcoming Party (complete with hula dancers) then skipped over to author Dolores Wilson's room. She graciously hosted a party for the attending Medallion authors. Several I had never met in person, so it was nice to put a face with a name. After about an hour or so, Mary and I had to tear ourselves away to attend a read through for Heather Graham's Vampires of the Carribean mystery play. This is when Mary learned that she was no longer the lead wench but the Oracle, and had a major speaking role! As the cursed mermaid (my voice had been stolen), I had no 'lines' but lots of 'mimes' and as other actors cued off of whatever I was miming, I realized I still had to memorize quite a bit. The readthrough was great fun. Our fellow cast members, each and every one, are friends and clowns. Sides hurting from laughing, Mary and I retired to our room around midnight. We went over our scripts (we had two days to memorize), gossiped, laughed, set the alarm for seven a.m. and collapsed around one a.m. A long but fulfilling day!

Tomorrow... Wednesday's adventures!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Best of Times

I'm back. I'm burt. I'm braindead. But I had the best of times. The Romantic Times Booklovers Convention holds a special place in my heart. I attended my first RT con in 1994. I've only missed one since there. So that's what? Eleven? Wow.

Many of my longest and strongest publishing relationships have been formed and nurtured at RT. Here I am with some of my best writer buds. Most of us published at just about the same time. Mary Stella, Kathy Love, Julia Templeton, and Arianna Hart. Our cherished party bud, Lori Armstrong, is missing from this shot (as are a couple who couldn't attend--Jordan and Cyndi), but I have a great group shot with her that I'll share later. I can't figure out how to post more than one pick at a time (distributed throughout) in one post. Jeesh.

Anyway this pic is from Wednesday night. The Ellora's Cave party. The fantasy party. The cheerleader thing didn't work out for me so I just wore a sheer, sexy black outfit. Julie was on the same wave length as me. Mary looked stunning in her sexy red dress. Kathy went all out as a hostess from Studio 54. You can't see her sparkly silver platform shoes and mirror ball purse, but let's just say... fabu! You also can't see Ari's sexy thigh high stockings and four inch heels --completing her naughty nurse outfit--but maybe that's for the best as I wouldn't want the guys who visit this blog to have a heart attack. Let's just say... yowza!

I mingled with several other friends. The list, I'm thrilled to say, is long. I'll touch on them over the next few days. I had hoped to blog every now and then while I was away, but I just couldn't do it. My days and nights were jammed. I think I averaged five hours of sleep a night for the entire week. Hence my exhaustion and hoarse voice. Ah, well. Small price. I had also hoped to share some industry news with those who visit this blog. That's not happening either. I spent my days in rehearsal for one or another event or as a speaker for a workshop. I attended one, that's right, ONE workshop. Nevertheless, I do have some interesting observations. Observations and realizations that might spark something in you. So check back. During the next week I'll feature stories, pics, and highlights of my experiences at the RT convention. It was a week in which my entertainment and publishing careers weaved together. A little odd. A lot fascinating. At least for me. This past week I learned some things about myself and my life as an author. This past week, as draining as it was, was truly... the best of times.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Leavin' On A Jet Plane

All my bags are packed. I'm ready to go....

Just a quick note to say I'm on my way to Daytona Beach for the RT Convention. I'll try to check in from there with news, gossip, etc.

Have a great week!

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Great 'What If'


Mary (Stella) and I are emailing back and forth about the workshop we're presenting at the RT Convention on Tuesday. That's us, fun-loving pals that we are, at last year's RT. Um, no this wasn't our attire for a workshop, but for the 20s party thrown by Dorchestor Publishing. Mary the Gangster and Beth the Flapper. Boop-boop-be-doo. Interesting note, we both look quite different today. We've both been exercising and eating right. I'm now a blonde and Mary, last I knew, has funky carmel highlights in her hair.

Where was I? Ah, the workshop. It's called "The Great What If?" A spin off on brainstorming. Our class is mostly made up of writers who are just starting out. We hope to stimulate them, to help them grow by exploring ways of sparking creativity. I 'what if' quite a bit when I write. At almost every phase of the project. What if Afia was born on Friday the 13th? What if her mother was a paraskevidekatriaphobic? (someone who fear Friday the 13th) What if the mother convinces Afia that she's jinxed? What if...

You get the picture. In fact, if you're a writer, there's a good chance you 'what if' yourself. Wanna help with our workshop oh-inspired-creative-blog-readers? Post a 'what if' scenerio. Just a line or two or three. We're going to mention our blogs and readers in the workshop, so why not mention you and a 'what if'? The wilder the idea, the better. Ready? Here we go.

What if . . .

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My Cup Runneth Over

I leave for the Romantic Times Convention on Monday. I'm so not ready. Then again I'm never ready for these things. Ever. I'll be organizing promo items, wardrobe, and notes for workshops, etc, right up until I leave. I work every day between now and then (including Sunday) so, yes, I have officially kicked into manic (er, panic?) mode.

Yesterday, I got a request to participate in another workshop. The workshop is on 'blogging'. Plus it's for booksellers. How could I say, no? Yesterday, I also received the rehearsal schedules for all of the special events. Since I'm performing at three major events, we're talking three rehearsal schedules. Add to that speaking at two workshops, my two scheduled meet and greets, and signing at the four-hour book fair . . . um, when am I supposed to meet with my editor? When am I supposed to catch up with my friends? When am I supposed to attend a workshop so I can learn something?

I know. I'm the one who agreed to participating in so many things. But in my defense, I didn't agree to everything at once. Requests trickled in over a matter of months. Each time I thought, this is a great opportunity. And of course they all are. I'm getting more exposure than a Playboy bunny. I'm grateful. I am. I'm just staring at my week's schedule, at some of the conflicts and trying to figure out how to be in two places at once.

The good news is, I'm no longer stressed about any of my performances. I'm numb. I also know, deep in my heart, that it will all work out. Somehow it always does.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Talkin' the Talk

I recently received an email from a reader (she knows who she is. *g*) saying she was reading and enjoying LASSO THE MOON. She mentioned how she'd been transported back in time and that I must have done a lot of research. Later she emailed, admitting she doesn't usually go for period pieces, but had finished LASSO THE MOON and loved it. Obviously, I'm thrilled!

Not too long ago, my publisher sent me a few emails from readers who had written to say they don't normally like westerns, but had a blast reading LTM. That made me feel like a million bucks, let me tell you. Converting my contemporary fans wasn't as hard as I'd feared.

The trick, I think, is to weave in enough research to give the reader a feel for the period without overloading them with historical facts or details. In any era, that would be called: info dump. Or TMI. Too much information. Note, I'm talking about historical romance, not historical fiction. Two different animals. A romance reader is more interested in the developing relationship than knowing 'specifically' how soap was made in the 1800s. Finding a balance is sometimes hard. I just trimmed a section I wrote in ROMANCING THE WEST about the Desert Land Act. I'd included details that didn't really advance my story. All the reader really needs to know is that President Hayes tried to encourage economic development in the arid west. That tidbit matters. Although the research for my western books is time consuming, I really do enjoy it. Part of the fun is learning the slang. In a book called Cowboy Slang by Edgar R. "Frosty" Potter, I came across this colorful cowboy saying referring to someone who's a mite talkative.

He was "Usin' big four-letter words as nobody could savvy without an encyclopedia an' two dictionaries."

And what about this one? "Used language so polished ya could skate on it."

I love that stuff! Anyway, for those keeping score I'm currently working on my second western and the story is finally clicking so my mood is good. The only reason it's moving as slow as it is... the research. I have an entire shelf of books on the wild west and life in the 1800s, but stacked on my desk right now? Cowboy Lingo, Roadside History of Arizona, The Gunfighters, Country Folk Medicine, Horses, Cowboy Slang, Everyday Life in the Wild West, Everyday Life in the 1800s, Arizona-1878 (info on flora, population, stage coach lines, etc.), Websters Dictionary, and Roget's International Thesaurus.

What's currently on your desk?

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

And the Winners Are...

Thank you for helping me celebrate SEDUCED's first birthday! I'm quite proud of this book and happy to be sharing it with five lucky winners. Chosen at random this morning...

ChrysCat, Olga, Bethany, Mark Pettus, and RobynL

Please email me at beth@bethciotta.com and provide me with a mailing address. Congratulations and happy reading!

Monday, May 8, 2006

The Game is On! (still)



Due to the surpisingly great response to my weekend giveaway, I'm extending the contest throughout today. Also, I'm now giving away five copies of SEDUCED (as opposed to three). I've so enjoyed your questions. Thank you to all who participated! There's still time to play. Don't be shy. Ask away! (See post below)

On another note, I'd like to alert all writers out there to a great post over at Mark Pettus's blog 'Writing What You Know' (or don't know). Affirmation that I really need to get out more. *g*

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Juggling Projects (plus bonus giveaway!)


Wednesday FeyRhi posted this comment: “I'm here at least once a day to take a peek to see what you are up to and more times then not learn something new about the life of a multi-published author.”

I haven’t talked about my actual writing life in awhile so I thought I’d post a brief update for FeyRhi and anyone keeping tabs. The key word is ‘multi-published’. Though a beautiful word, one that fills me with pride and wonder, it also represents multi-obligations. If you’re multi-published, you’re multi-tasking. That’s if you’re contracted for even more books and committed to promoting previous, current, and future works. (Read: Building your career)

Currently I’m…

* Promoting... LASSO THE MOON, my historical western romance released a mere two months ago from Medallion Press. This includes participating in on-line chats and discussion groups, interviews, live group Q&As, booksignings and special appearances (like the upcoming Romantic Times Convention), adding special features to website, and blogging.

* Writing... ROMANCING THE WEST, the second in my western trilogy for Medallion Press. Deadline: August 1, 2006. Release date: Sometime 2007. As this is set in the American west, 1878, I’m also researching my butt off as I go. As I go, because I couldn’t do it prior, since I was writing ALL ABOUT EVIE, the first book in a contemporary series—THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLES. That book was due to HQN (Harlequin) February 15, 2006. The detailed synopsis for the second book in that same series was due March 15, 2006. LASSO THE MOON came out at this same exact time, so I was neck deep in heavy promotion. Even though I dug into RTW on March 16, and worked on it in some capacity every day, I’m just now, getting my groove on with that story.

* Revising... ALL ABOUT EVIE. I received the revision letter from my HQN editor mid-April. The suggestions are excellent, and will make the story even stronger, but they are many. Some, mostly those involving the con-artist aspect, require research. The rest, just my imagination and ‘fingers-to-the-keyboard’ dedication. Revised manuscript due: Sept 1, 2006. Release date: Spring 2007.

That’s what’s on my plate right now and through the summer. In addition, SEDUCED, the third in my romantic-comedy-suspense trilogy for MP, just celebrated its one year anniversary. Woo-hoo! Hard to believe that book has only been out one year. It seems a lifetime ago. As more readers discover my work, hopefully they’ll want to read my previous titles. So there’s always a bit of on-going promo in the back list arena.

So there you have it. A peek into the life of a multi-published author. Minus my real life obligations and other jobs. But you know about all that. And if you don’t, you can, by skimming this blog.

I’m devoting this weekend to ROMANCING THE WEST, so I won’t be posting tomorrow. Instead I'm giving away three signed copies of SEDUCED to celebrate the book's one-year birthday. Win! Win! Win! Already have it? That's okay. It makes a great gift!

How to play: Post a question, any question about writing, promoting or publishing in general... or about my peformance life.... or about my dogs.... The more you post, the better your chances of winning. Winners will be chosen at random on Monday. Calling all lurkers and regulars, make my weekend and play. Sky's the limit so ask away!

Friday, May 5, 2006

Beautiful People

Good thing I read this post late last night and not this morning. Warning, Will Robinson! Content could cause morning java to spurt out your nose! Writer Ken Levine offers a funny (snarky) take on People's 100 Most Beautiful People.

Regulars of this blog know that I rant now and then about the emphasis on youth and beauty in the entertainment industry. It so often rates over talent and experience, at least that's what I'm experiencing in my neck of the woods. I appreciate my agents candor, I do. But I'm really sick of hearing, "They want younger." Anyway, back to People Magazine and those 100 Beautiful People. I don't buy People, but it comes into the library, so of course I browsed. I'm not saying the featured 100 weren't attractive (hey, Clooney was included!), I'm just wondering who picks these people? I mean, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

My list of 'beautiful' people includes people who aren't necessarily cosmetically, classically gorgeous, but who possess beautiful souls. So maybe Angelina Jolie does deserve the mag feature simply based on her humanitarian efforts. Still my list would differ greatly from People's. My list would include stunners like... the Dalai Lama. And what about any Peace Corps volunteer? My list also includes several non-celebrity friends and family members who make this world a better place.

Who's on your list?

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Rah-Rah-Sis-Boom... HUH?

Okay. So the Romantic Times Booklovers convention is a week and a half away and I've already picked out all of my daywear... including shoes. I tried on a bazillion ensembles before deciding. What? It's a girl thing. It's also an image thing. I'm known for my unique style. I have a reputation to think about. *g* I know what I'm wearing for some of the nightime shows/parties too. More on that later, or better yet, pictures. After.

The one party that I'm not performing at is the Ellora's Cave Fantasy Party. What to wear? What to wear? Hmm. The fantasy aspect is every man's fantasy, I guess, as Ellora's Cave publishes erotic or spicy romance. Last year I went as a Catholic school girl complete with saddle oxfords. One of my fave costumes ever as it was so comfortable to dance in. So this year I toyed with the idea of being a cheerleader. Men fantasize about doing it, uh, being with a cheerleader, right? And hey, bonus, I'd get to wear comfy saddle shoes again. I was a cheerleader in high school (surprise) and believe it or not, I still have the uniform. So today I dug the green and white sweater and skirt out of the attic. Ah, the memories. Anyhoo...

Amazingly, the sweater still fits! A tad tight in the bosom area. I didn't really have bosoms when I was fifteen. I'm not all that 'blessed' now. I was less blessed as a teen. Where was I? Ah, yes. The sweater. So cute with the little cheerleader on the front and my name on the back. I got a small thrill out of the fact that I could actually fit into something that I wore when I was 15!

Then I picked up the skirt.

Uh. Wow. Holy cheese and crackers. It's like a size ONE. I'm talking teeny. I'm talking a waist the size of Scarlett's after she got squashed into that corset! I'd be lucky if I got the waist of that skirt around one of my thighs. Okay. I'm exaggerating. But not much. What? Did I weigh like 75 pounds?! I quickly flipped through an old scrapbook. Found a picture of me at fifteen in that cheerleading uniform. (No, I did not scan it.) I blinked. Was that me? Or one of the Olsen twins? I was a STICK! I ate, too. A lot. I don't want to be that young again but I wouldn't mind that metabolism. Jeez. Yes, I know, it's thirty years later. I've matured. Blossomed. Whatever. I'm still stunned that I was ever that skinny.

So. I am not going to be a cheerleader for the EC Fantasy Party. Back to my closet and attic to see what else I can find. That is after I run downstairs and show my husband my cheerleading uniform. The top portion anyway. ;)

The 13 Letter Word

Self-promotion.

PBW would rather write books than self-promote. JA Konrath believes self-promotion is essential. I am a combination of the two. I'd rather write, but force myself to self-promote because I'm still a newbie and bookstores are flooded with new titles from established authors and upcoming authors with major pub 'push' every month. I feel confident that I can count on the readers who have already discovered my books and like them to buy upcoming releases. But there are bukoo readers who have never read me, and won't if they don't know I'm alive.

My publisher promotes prior to my release and the month of, but what about the other nine months of the year? It's up to me to get my name out there and I'd say I do a fair job given my spare time and budget. Except, these days spare time is something I do not have. Because of contracted deadlines, a dayjob, and life, I need to write. Self-promoting drains my energy and sucks up precious creative time. I could hire a publicist, but there's the money thing. So I continue to self-promote, but I'm very selective about what I do, because A) the time thing, B) the money thing, and C) Frankly, I'm not sure of what really makes an impact on sales.

One thing that I continue to sink time into is this blog. I look at it as a way of getting my name out there, a way for people to get to know me, and, honestly, it's just about the only way I socialize these days. I have fun chatting with you guys. So to me blogging equals self-promotion, flexing my writer muscles, and socializing. Win/win situation, right? Except MJ Rose now says a blog may not be an effective marketing tool. See her April 27 post: The Blog Trap. I read it and those old 'to blog or not to blog' questions arose.

For about three minutes.

This blog is now a part of my daily routine. The readers who chime in are welcome presences (presents?!) in my life. I blog because I am. And you am. *g* As for self-promotion... well, in a couple of weeks I'm attending a readers convention. One night I'll be dressed as a wood nymph singing fairy chants, another night I'll be a bikini-topped mermaid casting spells. That counts as exposure doesn't it?

Meanwhile, I have a book to write.

Monday, May 1, 2006

When I Was A Kid...

I don't watch a lot of television anymore. When I do catch snatches of one or another primetime show, I'm sometimes amazed at the extent of the graphic content. I have friends whose kids are absolutely hooked on anything CSI. Pretty heavy stuff. Especially when I think about what I grew up watching.

This is where I embarrass (and date) myself by sharing a few of my childhood faves. In no particular order...

I Love Lucy
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Andy Griffith Show
The Flinstones
Bewitched
I Dream of Jeannie
Get Smart
The Munsters
Beverly Hillbillies
Petticoat Junction
Green Acres
Gilligans Island
Walt Disney
The Brady Bunch (Stop laughing)
The Carol Burnett Show

Then there were the Saturday Afternoon Matinees and Primetime movies... Every Doris Day movie ever made. Ditto for Elvis movies.

Gee. Is it any wonder I write romantic comedy?

Your turn. Come on. What did you watch in your pre-teen years?