Friday, March 30, 2012

Love, Freebies, and What I Wore


It’s now ten days and counting until I head off to Chicago for this year’s Romantic Times Convention. This means I have ten more days of being me before I assume my alternate identity as Romance Author. You see, RT is all about alternate identities. Sometimes these alternate identities are actually accompanied by costumes, but more frequently they’re accompanied by a change in attitude. It’s a place where you no longer have to try to reconcile your writing with your daily life. For five days or so, your writing is your daily life.


Last year seven of us Naughty Nine made it to RT. This year, we’re down to five—PG, Kinsey, Kelly, Erin, and me. We’ve been emailing each other for weeks now: “What are you bringing?”, “What should we do about XYZ?”, “Who’s got room in her suitcase for ABC?”, and most of all “What are you going to wear?”

Now some people might think that last question is petty, but I’d argue it’s crucial. Coming up with an outfit that matches your persona is a major part of events like this. Plus, as Ilene Beckerman shows in Love, Loss, and What I Wore, a lot of us tend to mark events by the clothes that went along with them.

I’m going to wear a variety of things myself—none of them geared for any particular party (although I’m bringing my jeans and Pueblo jewelry for the Samhain party). For example, there’s my Diva Jacket:

I bought it at a small boutique in a small town, Morrison, Colorado. If you’re from the Denver area, you’ll recognize Morrison as the town that’s just outside the gates of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a famous setting for rock, country, pop, and just about every other kind of music show. The boutiques in Morrison (there’s more than one) specialize in clothes that appeal to people who are either going to or coming from bigtime concerts and who maybe picture themselves (just for a few moments anyway) as rock stars. But for me, when I saw this jacket in all its burned out velvet and sequin glory, I thought “RT.” I’m thinking it’ll look great at our Cover Model Karaoke Party with the Smutketeers. Of course, then I’ll have to wear it to our workshop on group blogging right afterward, but what the hell, it’s RT, right?

Then there’s this jacket:

I got it in Santa Fe at a wonderful boutique called Zephyr. It’s by Wabi Sabi Wares, a one-woman company based in Colorado Springs that takes authentic vintage kimonos and refashions them into new jackets. This is silver silk in a relaxed, boxy style that I just love. I figure it’s a natural for a book signing or two. Comfortable, funky, able to keep me warm in large, echoing ballrooms full of Ann Rice fans.

Last year I bought a Wabi Sabi Wares vest at the same boutique. Looks like this:

I’ll be wearing it too—more funk, more style, more RT.

So anyway, if you’re around the Chicago area on April 11-15, drop by the Hyatt O’Hare in Rosemont. There’ll be lots of romance authors running around, including Smutketeers, Naughty Novelists, and me. In my sequined glory. How can you pass that up?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Joy of Getting It Over With Or, Why I Wish Someone Would Invent a Tabata Regime for Writing.

Dorothy Parker once said, "I hate writing, I love having written." I feel exactly the same way.

A lot of people who hear this, especially my writer buddies, find it odd. I love my secret career; I love the friends I've made, the emails from readers who enjoy my books and take the time to tell me about it, the extra money that allows me to provide things for my family I otherwise couldn't.

I love creating characters and building worlds. I'm not crazy about having to think up stuff to happen in those worlds, to those characters--plotting is hard--but I love inventing stories. It's just the getting it down on paper, or into pixels, that sucks.

I've got some pretty serious attention deficit issues. As I tell my Diva, that's not an excuse--it's a burden. For each hour I spend on my laptop I probably get, at best, twenty minutes of real writing done. The rest of the time is spent Not Writing, at which I excel. I'm currently stuck at about a quarter of the way through two WIPs (works in progress), and I'm starting to panic because with all the current chaos in my life (we're doing a bunch of house renovations and living out of suitcases) I have even less time to write than I normally do and I'm even more distracted than I typically am.  My Diva is on ADD medication and I've seriously thought about popping one of her pills just to see if it helps.

The thing is, I adore the feeling I get when I've managed to pound out a few good paragraphs. There's (almost) nothing better than reading a few pages of WIP and thinking, "That's good. I wrote that, and it's good." And the feeling when I turn in a completed manuscript, and my publisher offers me contract? Elation. Ecstasy. Ebullient rejoicing. (At least, from what I remember. My last book was turned in over a year ago.)

Another thing I find hard to do, but love the feeling of having done, is working out. I'm approaching fifty and I'm not by nature slim, so if I want to lose weight, I have to exercise. Some people really can lose weight by diet alone; I'm not one of them. Even though I know how essential exercise is to a healthy mind and body, though, I can think of a million excuses not to do it on any given day.

But once I'm on the treadmill or the elliptical, or once I'm outside with a dog or two on a leash, I actually enjoy it. I like running with the dogs, and when I'm on cardio machines I can read, which I never have time to do. (I can't say the same thing for writing -- even when I'm in the zone, pounding out the paragraphs, I don't enjoy the process. I can't read a book or watch TV while I'm writing.)

I love how I feel after I've worked out. I'm not talking about the mental or emotional satisfaction I get from crossing it off my endless to do list. I mean I love the physical feeling after a really hard workout. I've been living at my sister's for two weeks while our house is repaired. She lives in a huge, suburban master planned community. I make fun of her being a Fort Bend Barbie, but this place is gorgeous, with miles of tree lined walking trails. I've been doing hour-long power walks, and when I come home I'm a delicious kind of exhausted. My legs are rubbery while the rest of my body is all loose and warm, I feel calm yet kind of buzzed, more focused yet more relaxed. I feel even better if I've spent an hour swimming. But even so, even knowing how awesome I'll feel after I'm done, it's still hard to force myself to carve out the time for it.

So I was pretty excited to learn about tabata, a particularly intense form of interval training. I already do interval training when I'm on the cardio machines at the gym; tabata is a shorter and more intense version. A four minute tabata session is said to be the equivalent of forty-five minutes of cardio. If you do it right, according to my sister and others I've talked to, it's the longest four minutes of your life because you're going as flat out, hard core, high intensity as you can. The first few times she did it, my very fit sister thought she'd throw up. The results, she says, are well worth it. (Seriously. Read about this, it's fascinating.) As soon as I kick my latest round of bronchitis I'm going to try it.


Now if only I could figure out a way to do the same thing with writing...

What chores or unfun activities would you like to apply the tabata principles to?


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Message to reviewers...

This past weekend I came across a blog at a review site that got me thinking (again) about the issue of authors commenting on reviews. Mary at Mary’s Naughty Whispers (ETA:  Mary has removed her original post and the comments but you can still read some of her thoughts there) presented a different perspective on the issue. In her opinion, it is courteous for authors to thank the reviewer for reading and reviewing their book. She said: “My main problem is when some author contact me, ask me to review their story and once my review is published on my blog, never feel bond to even acknowledge the time I spent to give a review.”

Some authors responded in the comments at Mary’s blog, trying to explain their point of view. There was reference to a recent post at Dear Author “Is there room on the internet for authorial interaction?”. That post and the ensuing comments talked about different kinds of interaction—more than just saying “thank you” they also talked about authors who try to explain points of their story to the reviewer, or defend their story, or even authors who defend each other. The general consensus was that authors should not do that by commenting on a review, but should use a different platform such as their own blog to explain their perspective. The post included a comment from Meljean Brook: “I think there’s room for author interaction in the comments of a review, but it’s very limited room. In general — unless the reviewer has notified the author directly about the presence of a review and invites a reply — I think that it’s best not to comment at all. We all know that many authors are online, seeking reviews of their work and looking in on discussions; there’s no need to tap the readers on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I’m here,” because it’s likely to have a chilling effect…and for good or bad, the best thing for an author is for readers to talk about her book. Why shut that down?”

Comments on the post came from readers, authors and other reviewers. Las said “But I don’t want to seem the responding to reviews in the comments, even to post something as simple as “Glad you liked it,” or “Sorry it didn’t work for you.””

Donna said: “The minute I see an author’s comment appear below a review, no matter how gracious or insightful, it has a chilling effect. It changes the nature of the discussion. I suddenly feel called upon to put politeness before honesty, and I either refrain from commenting, or refrain from commenting honestly.”

Mandi, who is a reviewer, said: I’m not necessarily against author interaction in certain circumstances, but overall I don’t think their comments on reviews helps the discussion. When I get into discussions about books on Twitter, I realize that the author of the book I’m talking about can read my discussion, but I don’t really like it if they pop-up into it. … There are so many factors that play into online interaction, I don’t have a conclusive answer, but I do lean towards less involvement from authors.”
Jane from Dear Author, who is of course a reviewer, commented on her own post to someone else: “Thank yous have always made me feel uncomfortable because I didn’t write a positive review for the author, but because I loved the book. Thanking me implies I did the author some kind of favor.”

Commenters at Mary’s Naughty Whispers pointed out that thanking a reviewer for a positive review can be seen as sucking up to the reviewer, which is the point Jane makes above.

Although I’ve been a published author for a few years, I feel like I’m still learning my way in this business. When I first got reviews, I was careful to thank every reviewer who reviewed my books. I said, “Thank you for taking the time to read and review my book.” I was not thanking them for a good review; in fact there were times where I wasn’t all that thrilled with the review and still sent that message. If the review was really positive, I would sometimes add “I’m glad you enjoyed it.” In a couple of cases where the review wasn’t so great, I added, “I’m sorry the story didn’t work for you.” 

Looking back at that, I cringe a little that I did that, but in one case it turned out to be a positive thing. The reviewer appreciated my comment and because of it chose to read another of my books which she very much enjoyed.

After reading the Dear Author post and comments noted above, I had to rethink whether it was appropriate to thank reviewers for taking the time to read and review my books. I still think it is. But I have stopped doing it on the actual blog post and rather usually email the reviewer privately.
Mary likes to see thank you comments from authors on her blog whereas others do not. Mary says: “I am very humble when an author decide to leave a comment when the review was not requested by her. I find it very (VERY) nice and it is appreciated as it should be without double meaning.”

Mary also says: “I must be in the rare portion of reviewer thinking that without an author, I would not fulfill my reading passion.” She thinks there is a mutual gain to be had when a reviewer posts a review and an author comments on it or quotes it on their blog, website or newsletter, or re-Tweets it. And I agree—there is benefit for both of us. While Jane at Dear Author doesn’t like the implication that she has done an author some kind of favor by reviewing their book, the truth is…she has (positive or negative review). 

Here’s my message to reviewers:
Even if I don’t comment on your blog or email you to thank you for the review, please know that I do appreciate you taking the time to read my books and the time it takes to write and post a review. Every review of my book brings attention to it in a way I can’t do myself. There are so many books out there, when a reviewer reads one of mine, I am very grateful. Authors need reviewers to help spread the word about our books. Of course we always hope it’s going to be positive, but we know it’s not always going to be. Even so, it is appreciated. 

It’s a fine line to walk for authors. Do you comment and risk making the reviewer uncomfortable because they feel like you’re sucking up to them? Do you not comment and risk offending the reviewer for not appreciating the time they spent reading and writing the review? Will posting even a simple thank you prevent other readers from commenting about the book because they know the author is present there? What do you think?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guest Blogger Denise Tompkins - Finding Faith in Murky Waters


I love this image. Every time I see it, it makes me smile. Seriously, who can’t relate to this? Even when we know who we are and we know what we’re capable of, we still often reach for our support items, whether it’s a pair of control top pantyhose to rock that little black dress, or snorkeling gear for swimming lessons. Opposite extremes, obviously, but it’s all support gear nonetheless.

I felt this way when I started to write. I clung to my support items with white-knuckled fury. No one was taking away my thesaurus, laptop, notepad, pen, calculator, post-its, spiral notebook, highlighters, paperclips…you get the picture. Anything I might need was typically within arm’s reach. After all, I didn’t want to lose the rhythm of the writing because I might need a specific shade of fuscia to highlight my heroine’s backstory placement, right? We’re talking real threat here.

Yeah, not so much. What frightened me was the threat that I might not be as good at writing as I needed to be, and one of the multitude of tools available to me (Swingline stapler, anyone?) might have made the difference between my success and my failure. And there, that last word, was my fear manifested. Failure. I struggled mightily with it, racing ahead of it as hard as I could, feeling as if it was dogging every step I took. I dodged left, it followed. I wove off to the right, it was there.

Then came The Moment of Clarity. Someone very near and dear to me had watched me weaving this erratic pattern as I tried to make my way through the veritable field of landmines that every new author faces. She stopped me and said, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I shuddered. “I’ll fail.” She smiled and I swear the light of Heaven shone down on her head when she asked, “According to whom?”

This wise woman had seen all along that the only thing dogging my heels had been my shadow. In the simplest terms, I was running myself to ground because, let’s face it, you can never outrun your shadow. So no matter where I went, my shadow was there and it carried with it the fear of failure. Failure according to whom? Me. With this knowledge, I became an entirely different person. I put away all of the crazy accessories of my writing life and pared it down to the bare essentials: computer, notepad, pen and caffeine. (What? Caffeine is as critical as a QWERTY keyboard!) I changed my own perception of failure and began to work toward my goal of publication with a different mindset. I redefined my concept of success and made it more reasonable. It broke down to this:

If I’m happy, I’m a success.

That’s it. That’s what drives me to write like mad. It makes me happy. That simple goal allowed me to put away the majority of the insecurities and simply focus on telling the story. And when I got to that point, when I allowed personal success to take precedence over everything else, publication followed. It may not always work like that, but for me? It did. Here’s hoping you find that same level of happiness in your writing and reading.

For a chance to win a Kobo reader, leather cover and a copy of my new release, Wrath, pre-loaded, all you need to do is leave a comment on this blog in the comment section. That’s it. No bells to ring, whistles to blow or hoops to jump through. Winner will be randomly chosen from comments on this blog and my personal blog at www.denisetompkins.net.

The nitty-gritty: Must be 18 years old or older to enter. Winner will be selected using Random.org. Internatioanl shipping is offered. Any taxes, import or otherwise, are the responsibility of the winner. No exchanges, credits or cash value replacement. Package will be shipped insured with the most reasonably priced carrier. Any claims for non-delivery must be filed with that carrier. Author assumes no liability.




WRATH

Haunted by personal betrayal, stalked by a murderer
and taunted by destiny. Finding justice—not
to mention a little faith—has never been so hard.

A murderer is terrorizing the streets of London, targeting women who look suspiciously like Maddy. Under the mantle of darkness, the killer attacks his victims from behind, severing their heads with startling efficiency and single-minded brutality. A single gold coin is left at the scene of every crime, buried in the neck of each victim. Nothing adds up, and the deeper Maddy gets into the investigation, the more she learns that there are hostile eyes in every faction—some malicious, others murderous.

Amid her struggles to stop a seemingly unstoppable killer, Maddy learns that dreams are far too fragile to juggle. Her newfound love is crumbling around her under the burdens of guilt and blame, and where one man abandons her, another is slated by the gods to take his place. Defiant, Maddy finds her struggles with free will versus destiny have only just begun.

Figuring out whom she should trust, and when, will force Maddy to reassess her alliances…and reaffirm her fragile mortality.

Warning: Contains Scottish and Irish brogues, heads that—literally—roll, seriously random acts of violence, heartbreak and hope, explicit m/f sex in a variety of locations, a voyeuristic vampire and one dinner table that will never be the same.


Denise Tompkins lives in the heart of the South where the neighbors still know your name, all food forms are considered fry-able and bugs die only to be reincarnated in aggressive, blood-craving triplicate.

Thrilled to finally live somewhere that can boast 3 ½ seasons (winter’s only noticeable because the trees are naked), her favorite season is definitely fall. It’s the time of year when the gardens are just about to pass into winter’s brief silence, and the leaves are out to prove that nature is the most brilliant artist of all.

A life-long voracious reader, Denise has three favorite authors. Why three? Because favorite authors are like chips: a person can’t have just one. Her little house was so overrun with books last year that her darling husband bought her an e-reader out of self-preservation. He was (legitimately) afraid she might begin throwing out pots and pans to make room for more books, and he didn’t want to starve.
You can find out more about Denise by following her on Twitter (@DeniseJTompkins) or fanning her on Facebook.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fifty Shades of Fuming

Fifteen years ago, I was hooked on a TV show that featured a "will they/won't they" relationship between the two main characters. As the fourth season drew to a close, the couple broke up again. In the last minutes of the finale, the heroine was at the altar with a childhood sweetheart when the hero showed up, ready to declare his love. Aaaaaaand - season ends!

Unfortunately, the season finale was also the series finale, as the show wasn't renewed for a fifth season. So fans of the show were left with a cliffhanger that would never be resolved.

I was so irritated by the lack of resolution that I ended up writing my own. And thus, I was introduced to the world of fanfiction.

It was awesome. I discovered a community of other fans of the show, from all over the country, all as passionate about the characters and the storyline as I was. We spearheaded a (doomed) attempt to get the network to bring the show back to the schedule, but most of our focus was on fanfic. 

And the most important rule of fanfiction, the first thing I learned when I dove into fandom?

DO NOT PROFIT FROM FANFIC.

When you're writing fanfic, you're playing in someone else's playground, using their toys. They've done the hard work of creation. For the most part, they're doing you a favor by turning a blind eye to the underground creativity that drives fandom. So it was always understood - both explicitly and implicitly - that fandom was just for fun, not economic gain.

It wasn't just in that fandom that this was the rule of the day. I've participated in many fandoms since then, both as a reader and as a writer, and it was always expected that you were never intending to profit. Most stories even have that as a disclaimer at the top of the page.

Which is why I'm infuriated at the actions of EL James, her publisher, her agent, and the big movie studios currently throwing obscene amounts of cash in her direction.

Fifty Shades of Gray, and the other two books in the trilogy, originally started as Twilight fanfiction. It was an Edward and Bella AU (Alternate Universe) called Master of the Universe. And a year or so ago, James pulled the fic off the web, did a search-and-replace for the names and a few other details, and published it.

I don't care if her Edward doesn't sparkle, or if Bella is a college student instead of a high school kid. It was written in and intended for the Twilight fandom, and should have stayed there. And if James wanted to be a published author? She should have written something completely new. I believe it would have been the ethical thing to do.

I started writing romance in fanfic. It was a chance for me to try out a new genre with the framework of characters I already knew and loved. But when it came time to write for publication, I never considered using my fanfic writing. And I never will. (And yes, I still write in some different fandoms from time to time, but that's completely separate from my professional writing.)

Will there be fallout from this? For James, probably not. She's got a seven figure book deal, a potential movie deal that will likely bring her even more, publicity from almost every media outlet imaginable, and multiple weeks at the top of the bestsellers lists.

For fandom, most likely. The writers and producers who have allowed fanfic to flourish outside of their notice may now decide it's not worth the risk, and start invoking their copyright claims. Why should other people profit from their creations? I fear a crackdown while at the same time I don't blame them if they choose to go that direction.

So James got hers, and the rest of the fanfic writers, readers, and fandom participants will get the blowback. Which is why I will never read Fifty Shades or the rest of the trilogy, and why all the attention leaves me Fifty Shades of furious.

What do you think? Are the rules of fanfic changing? Should people be able to profit from fanfic? Or should those boundaries be respected?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Me, IceMan and PoolBoy


My sister recorded a hilarious video of my little nephew wandering toward her couch, calling my name in toddler-speak, then looking utterly mystified when I was nowhere to be found. How could I not be on the couch? I'm always on the couch, leg up in the air, ice machine whirring.

I had knee surgery last week and I'm camped out at my sister's because I live five hours away from the nearest acceptable knee surgeon. My life has become exceedingly odd. Mostly I stare at my leg, propped up on pillows. Sometimes I read, until I get a headache because it's basically like reading upside down. I try to write, but I have to prop my laptop at such a strange angle I'm afraid it's going to fall on my head.

The tedium is relieved by pain -- in the form of physical therapy. Have you ever done these exercises? Heel lifts for 10 minutes, 3-5 times a day ... quad somethings for two sets of 10, 3-5 times a day ... 15 heel raises two times a day ... or is it one ... and always something kinky with the exercise ball. I have to check my cheat sheet every single time, which makes me wonder if all those pain meds have any permanent consequences. Don't these people know I was pumping morphine through my veins a week ago? Now they expect me to count all the way to 15?

Life gets very exciting when my husband takes me to the physical therapist for a session, and I get to do all those same exercises while looking in a mirror at my grotesquely swollen leg. The therapist keeps telling me how great I'm doing, but it doesn't look great to me -- I feel like an old lady stumping around with a crutch. Luckily my crutch has jagged little ice cleats on the tip, so if anyone makes fun of me I'm armed.

But I have made a new best friend. His name is IceMan and he sits next to me and very kindly circulates ice water through a pack on my knee. I adore this machine like a second lover. How's that for a menage a trois? Me, hubby, and ice-in-a-box. One Wicked Icy Night? (Kelly, take it away!) And of course we'll have to make room for PoolBoy in our lives. PoolBoy will help me swim in a couple months -- I'll have to keep him between my legs while I do all the work with my arms. I'm already fantasizing about him and all the good times we're going to have.

So that's my life in the post-ACL reconstruction era. The bright side is my husband's been taking great care of me. He even went to the bookstore and picked up some paperbacks for me, reading the back cover blurbs over the phone so I could make my choice. "Brooding stranger branded by a secret pain? Yes, I'll take it!"  Now that's the sign of a real man.

What I wish I could do is fly Erin Nicholas up and make her move in with me and be my own personal physical therapist. Erin, any chance of that?

I promise I'll share IceMan and PoolBoy with you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Hunger Games and Books to Movies

Tomorrow is the release of the highly anticipated The Hunger Games movie. I imagine it will break some box office records since I read someone recently that they had already sold over a million pre-sale tickets. I was supposed to be going to an advance screening tonight but that little thing called life sort of snuck up on me instead. I think my sister appreciated the tickets though. :)

I'm not going to get in to what I loved and didn't love about the series except that I devoured the first book, enjoyed the second and really wished I could have enjoyed the third book as much as the first. Didn't quite work out that way unfortunately, but I still really liked the series overall. All of which makes it harder to go watch the movie. For me the book is almost always better than the movie, and I can't help but worry a little that The Hunger Games movie will be a bit of a let down.

When my sister started dragging me to the Harry Potter movies, and I started enjoyed each movie more than the last one (really loved the last one) I just couldn't bring myself to start reading the books. I was worried I wouldn't enjoy the last couple movies if I got sucked into the written series. I still haven't gotten around to reading them just yet, but plan to this summer. :)

After I've seen some movies I've gone back and read the books to see what was different and it's surprising just how much was changed between the book version and the movie one. But what about you? Do you avoid reading a book that you know is being turned into a film? Do you skip movies of books you've really loved? Or do you enjoy both?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RELEASE DAY & GIVEAWAY-- Everything You've Got



Yesterday was the release day for my 7th book-- Everything You've Got!








(seven? wow-- not sure how that happened )



You first met the hero (Luke) and heroine (Kat) of EYG last year in Anything You Want



Well, FINALLY, they get their story told!



Long story short: I wrote an entire book (it was then titled Falling Hard... or, in more casual circles, This F---ing Book) with Luke and Sabrina as the primary couple.



It wasn't until I was done... yes, done, that I realized why the book never seemed to really work.



Sabrina was with the wrong guy.



There was a reason the sparks flew whenever she was in the same room with Marc (who, incidentally, I thought I'd hook up with Kat... just sayin')



Once I realized that she belonged with Marc, their story came together easily. But it left someone with a broken heart. Being a fan of happy endings and happily ever afters I, of course, had to give him a girl too! And turns out... she was already there. And crazy about him.



Not that Kat's easy for him. She makes him work for it-- for some very good reasons! Luke's pretty used to getting his way, so... well, I hope you find it as fun to read and I did to write!





And to celebrate I'm giving away a copy of Everything You've Got to someone who comments today!



Here's more about Kat and Luke...



Everything You've Got
Erin Nicholas



A girl, a guy, a set of handcuffs… What more could happily ever after possibly need?

Anything & Everything, Book 2


Luke Hamilton’s requirements for the perfect woman are straightforward: live, work and play in his beloved hometown—and get along with his mother. Dr. Kat Dayton’s got it all. And Luke’s noticed.

It’s obvious to him that his long-time friend belongs with him, especially after the world-rocking kiss she lays on him at his birthday party.

While Kat can’t deny she’s imagined a kiss like that—and more—for years, she’s less convinced they’re destined for happily ever after. Still, Luke figures that’s nothing a friendly kidnapping and a three-day road trip won’t fix.

Kat would love to let Luke in, but if he discovers the truth—that committee meetings bore her to tears and she’d rather have a root-canal than go to another potluck—his white-picket-fence dreams will be crushed.

Being stuck in an RV with Luke should be three days of flirtatious fun, but for Kat it’s heavenly hell. The close confines and good old-fashioned lust are making a mockery of her perfect-woman fa├žade, and if he finds out about the mistake that might cost her job— and force her to leave town for good—it’ll take more than a sexy pair of handcuffs to keep him close.

Warning: Contains a man who's willing to do anything for the perfect woman, an RV and surprise road-trip to help him prove it, and a woman who's wondering just what the hell she's gotten into.


Excerpt
copyright Erin Nicholas 2012



“You ready?” she asked, her breath on his cheek.



“Is anyone ever really ready for you?” he asked.



“Aw, you say the sweetest things.” Then she touched her lips to his.



The contact was relatively chaste, and the heat and want that washed over him was completely out of proportion. But one taste and he had to have more.



When she started to pull back, Luke reached up with his free hand, cupped the back of her head and opened his mouth.



She didn’t even hesitate. She groaned as she leaned into the kiss, meeting the stroke of his tongue with hers. The next thing he felt was her straddling his thighs and climbing onto his lap.



From there everything went crazy. Her hands went to his hair, holding his head still. His hand went to her lower back, pressing her closer. His hips lifted and her pelvis pressed down, pulling moans from both of them.



Then her hands went to the front of his shirt while his hand moved to the back of hers. She unbuttoned buttons while his hands slipped under the stretchy fabric of her blouse and onto bare skin. Goose bumps broke out under his hand and she shivered as he ran his hand up her spine to her bra and down again.



And then the song “Be Our Guest” from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast erupted from her purse.



Kat tore her mouth from Luke’s. He felt her panting against his lips.



The song continued. Because it was Kat’s ringtone for Marc.



“Ignore him,” Luke said gruffly, once again cupping the back of her head and attempting to bring her forward.



But she pushed against his chest. “Hold on. I have to talk to him.”



Luke pulled the blindfold from his eyes. “It’s Marc. He’s got nothing interesting to say.”



She slid back and off his lap. “Let me just—”



“Put him off,” Luke said firmly. “Then get back up here. We’re not done.” Damn the handcuffs.



Suddenly he realized they weren’t as great as he’d first thought. He couldn’t grab her as she was backing away.



She met his eyes and for a moment she froze. Now, without the blindfold, he could see it in her eyes—everything had just changed.



They had kissed. Really kissed. The kind of kissing that involved so much more than only lips. The kind of kissing that led to other things. The kind of kissing that changed friends into much, much more. Not the kind of kiss that had anything to do with done.



That was a just-getting-started kiss.


Buy

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Guest Blogger Tracey Lyons - That's So Retro


When I hear the word Retro I think of hip huggers, platform shoes, orange kitchen counter tops, long straight hair, which by the way I never had in high school—mine was short and curly. Can you tell I grew up in the seventies? To put this word in further perspective when I was in high school back in the 1970’s retro to us was anything from the 1950’s and 60’s. Bobby socks, peddle pusher pants, head bands, anything pink or neon green, Frankie Valli and Annette Funicello, yup you got it...they were so retro!

The word Retro is derived from a Latin word meaning backward as in retrogress. In short it means something from the past. I’ve heard it used in the slang form as in; “that’s so retro.” I’ve said that a few times myself when watching my favorite designer shows on TV! In years, according to my research, retro goes back minimally fifteen years. That means for all you young thirty-somethings out there, your high school clothes, hairstyles and even the cars you drove are now considered retro! Scary thought, huh?

I guess it’s the same thing as saying “everything old is new again.” And frankly, I prefer to think of myself in those terms rather than someone saying that I’m retro. Umm….I’m not saying I’m old…by the way…

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that something I did in the past, other than have those faux wood-grained countertops in my first kitchen thirty some years ago, would be considered retro. And yet this is where I find myself now—as a Samhain Retro romance author.
This publisher came up with a brilliant concept to bring back all of our favorite romance books and authors from the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s by purchasing the rights to and then republishing our backlists. The line launched at the end of 2011 with an assortment of contemporary and historical novels from authors you may have read back in the 1980’s.

I have to say it was a great experience working with this publisher. The books were re-edited and given new covers, sort of like reupholstering your favorite piece of furniture. You know how it’s been worn in in all the right places, but still has enough wear left in it that you don’t want to toss it out? Well that’s how I think of the refurbishing of my first published novel MOUNTAIN JEWEL. It went from something that I’d loved and nurtured and didn’t want to forget about to a book with a new look that’s back in the marketplace.

So now I’m thinking maybe being Retro isn’t so bad after all. Though you will never see faux wood grained counter tops in my kitchen ever again!

Tracey Lyons has been writing romances for over twenty years. Published in book length romantic fiction, her titles include, MOUNTAIN JEWEL, Kensington Publishing Precious Gems Historical; A SURPRISE FOR ABIGAIL, LYDIA’S PASSION and MAKING OVER MAGGIE, Avalon Books. She holds membership in Romance Writers of America, Liberty States Fiction Writers, and Novelist, Inc. She is the current Past President of the Published Authors Special Interest Chapter.

She lives in southern New York State with her husband, two dogs. When she’s not writing, or wine tasting, Tracey is busy making her husband crazy with home renovation projects! You can find her Samhain Retro romance MOUNTAIN JEWEL at http://store.samhainpublishing.com/retro-romance-retro-historical-c-144_168.html. Visit her website www.traceylyons.com

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Underdog of Gifting

As another birthday approaches, I'm faced with this question: What DO I want? Over the years, I've found that some presents I'm convinced I'll use--before I get them. Others, the gifters give me the oddest looks upon hearing my gift request, but it's for something I want to, and DO, end up using.

Case in point: As someone who is practically inseparable from her smartphone, I KNEW I would make use of a tablet computer. And as soon as I had it in my tech-friendly hands...I didn't use it. I mean it gets used on occasion, but what my other half, Phin, told me was true: with a laptop and a smartphone, I just wouldn't use a tablet. Not that I ever want to admit to him that he was right ;)

Second case in point: At Costco, I fell in love with the SodaStream. Yes, the booth boy giving demonstrations and samples was a little campy and yes it seems like a ridiculous tool in a kitchen already overflowing with specialized gadgets, but I after having it for three months I couldn't live without it. I used to go through soda in disgusting quantities; now I guzzle plain seltzer water instead, which suits this gift perfectly.

I've noticed that when you ask for something practical for a birthday or holiday present, the gifters usually feel put out, or try to get you to ask for something more frivolous. Do you get this reaction? And how do you deal with it? Finally, tell me what your favorite underdog gift is!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Starting Over

So...traditionally, this time of year is a time of new beginnings. It's Spring, the Sun moves to Aries...okay, we still have a week to go. I know that. Work with me here.

Anyway, I have a lot of new beginning types of stuff going on in my life right now too. New house. New housemate (my MIL is coming to live with us). New office. Shiny, new, poppy-red desk (hai, Kate ;)


...okay, the paint's new, the desk not so much. It's also probably the cleanest this desk will ever be again. And, as of last night (as those of you who follow me on Twitter might already have heard) I have a freshly-scrubbed, almost completely blank computer. Oh, the joy. Let's re-visit some of the better newnesses, shall we?

Here's the view this morning from the window of my new office (or, the dining room, as the rest of the family insists on calling it).


As you can see, it's raining and somewhat foggy today but on a clear day you can see Napa...which is probably where I should be right now, drinking heavily. Those lights in the sky are the reflection from the chandelier (what? doesn't every office have a chandelier?) NOT alien space-craft...I don't think.

And here's my dog, with his poppy-red collar, lounging on the color-coordinated carpet.

Yes, I'm all about the color coordination these days. And that's my desk in the background with one of the side panels of my computer. Sigh. So, I guess we're back to that again. (note to self: new beginnings are a GOOD thing). 

See, what happened was this: every few years my husband gets a new computer custom built for him with all the newest, fastest, bestest hardware ever. HE likes change. Me, I like to wring every last drop of usefulness out of an object. Take my desk, for instance. Up until a few days ago, it was yellow, turquoise and lime green. (better than it sounds) Before that, it was stained wood (kind of a redwood, cedar-y shade). Now it's this gorgeous red that makes me very happy and (hopefully) very productive. But, to continue...when my last desktop showed signs of terminal quirkiness (ie it refused to turn on most of the time) about a year ago, just as my husband was getting ready to retire one of his still-stupidly-new (IMO) computers, I thought it sounded like a great idea for me to take possession of that computer rather than buying yet another computer when there were so many other things I'd rather spend money on. Going to RT, for example. 

The only trouble was, his computer was set up with Windows XP-64 and a lot of things (Adobe, for instance) have stopped supporting that system, which meant every time I accidentally opened a page that had flash or video or anything of that sort on it (or any time I tried to watch German Soaps onYouTube) the computer would crash. Which was just a little problematic for me. It would also crash if I tried to open more than one pdf at a time. REALLY problematic. I also couldn't download a lot of the drivers I wanted on it. I couldn't access Skype, I couldn't use my webcam, I couldn't use my printer, I couldn't make it wireless... Basically, I was writing on my desktop computer and doing everything else with my laptop. And either emailing everything to myself, moving flashdrives back and forth, or using dropbox. Which, ironically, is why what happened next was not a complete and total disaster.

Okay, deep breaths. Let's look at that view again...


Obviously taken on a sunnier day, but never mind that.  

So, all I wanted was to have Windows 7 installed on my computer so that I could use it as something other than a big, clunky, somewhat expensive word processor. Should have been simple enough. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a lot like the copper pipe scene from Moonstruck. "It's good, unless something goes wrong. And something always goes wrong." What went wrong in this instance was that somehow all of my files were overwritten leaving me with exactly what I said I wanted: Windows 7...and nothing else. *thunks head on pretty red desk* 

Here's the view from my bedroom, by the way...


See all that shiny stuff in the background? That's San Francisco Bay. Nice, right? That's worth some missing files...isn't it?

Actually, the whole thing could have been a lot worse. I could have lost more than just the last three months worth of notes on my ongoing projects (that haven't been going so well anyway)  and a lot of pretty pictures of sexy guys that I didn't see the need to back up on the laptop (BIG mistake. Huge.). Who knew being in a writing slump would turn out to be a good thing?  I actually lost very little that wasn't backed up on one of half a dozen different flashdrives. And the computer is working great. Hasn't crashed once all morning. Of course, I still have quite a few programs to re-install before we're back to something approaching normal and I missed the deadline I was going for on the novella I was working on...I mean am. I am working on it and the next two vampire books...right after I finish putting my 'puter back together...and buying a new (red) futon for the family room couch...

(Mm. Fireplace. Good.) ...and you, know, stuff like that.  

So, even though I'm not generally a big fan of change or starting over I am trying really hard to remember that sometimes it can be fun, in a roller-coaster kind of way, sometimes it can be as refreshing as...well, Spring rain. 

And, hey, sometimes a little rationalizaion is a very healthy thing. New beginnings. Woohoo. 


By the way, I just learned that A Clockwork Christmas has been nominated for Best Anthology by The Romance Reviews. Here's the link, if you'd like to vote for it...

http://www.theromancereviews.com/viewbooks.php?bookid=4417 

AND...Thanking the Receptionist by Juniper Bell has also been nominated for Best Erotic BDSM Contemporary. http://www.theromancereviews.com/viewbooks.php?bookid=2889

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Does She Or Doesn't She?


I’ll save you the suspense—I do. Definitely. For those of you who never saw those Clairol commercials, I’m talking hair dye here. In the old days (the fifties through the seventies), Clairol ran a series of ads where the tagline was “Does she or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” Back then there was something shameful about coloring your hair (think of all the jokes on I Love Lucy about Lucy’s decidedly unnatural redhead). Today, it’s sort of the opposite—if you don’t color your hair, people wonder why.

It’s now around three weeks until the Romantic Times Convention, so next week I’ll be trudging down to my local salon to let Dagne, my go-to stylist, spend three hours putting in highlights. Dagne isn’t what you’d call the fastest stylist in town, but when she’s done, those highlights will look like I was born with them. I figure it’s just my parents’ fault that I wasn’t.

Nora Ephron has pointed out that the widespread use of hair color is one of the reasons it’s so hard to tell a woman’s real age anymore (the others include exercise and the fact that nobody smokes). And I suppose the whole “wash away the gray” thing is part of the reason I get my hair done. My normal dishwater blonde is bad enough—gray would probably make me look so pale I’d blend into the wall paper.

But I think there’s more to it than that. Forty years ago, women were supposed to be self-effacing. Changing your hair color was supposed to be a mark of vanity or deception—an attempt to be something you weren’t, and thus an indication that you were well on your way to floozyville. My mom got her hair done, but she wouldn’t have considered coloring it. My MIL still wears her graying black hair in a teased bouffant, just like she did in the sixties. No deception here. No siree.

Me, I’m more interested in seeing what I can do with myself. Particularly now that I’m writing, I get a kick out of trying on different personas just for the heck of it. So my hair isn’t naturally streaked with honey-colored strands—so what? I’ve also got a purple velvet “diva coat” that I fully intend to wear to at least one RT event. Self-effacing romance authors are in the minority.

Of course, I’m not really interested in going the Katy Perry route. Blue or pink hair probably wouldn’t do much for me. And I admit that occasionally I wonder if at some point I’ll just say the hell with it and let my hair go natural. Maybe when I’m in a walker. But for now, bring it on, Dagne, bring it on.

So what about you? Hair color or hair natural?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Let's talk about That Book

Please note for the record that I did NOT forget that tomorrow was my turn to blog--at least, not exactly. I saw the calendar notice this morning and said to myself, "Ah. Okay. I'll write a post when I get home." I even knew what I wanted to write about. Then I got home and immediately went to work helping Hub move more stuff into the barn in preparation for next week's foundation repair and attendant remodeling and I didn't think about the blog until about 15 minutes ago. And no, I can't recall what I wanted to post about, okay?

But. I did write a post over the weekend concerning That Book ("Fifty Shades of Oh My God! Rich Yankee Chicks are Reading a Durty Book! What Does It All Mean"?), and it went up at my place today. Also today, Jane at Dear Author did a post comparing 50 Shades of Gray to its predecessor, the Twilight fanfic entitled Master of the Universe. The Random House imprint that's going to publish FSOG for mass distribution asserts in its marketing that the book is NOT a retelling of Master of the Universe; i.e., they are claiming that E.L. James did not pull her fanfic story, slaps some cursory changes on it, and then publish it for profit. So Jane ran the two books through some comparison programs and let's just say that, if we were talking about two college papers, the author of one of them would be facing academic discipline.

The comment thread for the post is extremely interesting (or at least I thought so). I've never read the Twilight saga, or MOTU, or FSOG and I don't plan to. I did wonder how closely MOTU/FSOG (because let's be honest people, they're the same book) stuck to Edward and Bella's story; see comment 46 for a lengthy plot-point-by-plot-point comparison.

I'm interested in what y'all think, as writers and/or as readers. I've read some fanfic but never published any, and I've never been involved in any fanfic communities. I do think I understand why so much of the fanfic community feels that James' behavior has been extremely unethical, at best. I admit I kind of want to see Stephanie Meyer go after her, but maybe Meyer's lawyers don't feel she has a case. As I address in my post, I strongly believe that readers should be allowed to read and write fanfic, and I've never agreed with those authors who consider it a danger to their brands or a dilution of their own work. Something like this, though, could have a chilling effect on fanfic.

James is not guilty of plagiarism but still, it feels to me like she did something wrong when she published FSOG for sale. Christian and Anna are clearly Edward and Bella; they have the same family structures, the same friend relationships, and their romance follows the same path. OTOH, it's not like Twilight introduced any new concepts to the YA, romance or vampire genres, and I think Edward and Bella can be charitably called stock characters. So is writing fanfic for profit okay as long as the work you imitate is derivative to begin with?

Finally, do you know anyone who's asked you about FSOG? Has a friend sidled up to you at a kid's birthday party and asked you about it in the same tone of voice they might use if they were looking to score some drugs or arrange a hit on their husband? Do you have friends or family members who've never read romance, or at least not erotic romance, and they're both intrigued at the concept of mommy porn yet somewhat embarrassed to ask about it? (Yes, I hate the term too, but come on - that's what people who don't know any better are calling it.)

My non-romance reading friends have asked me about it, and all I've said so far is that the origins of the story bug me and I've read enough negative reviews to know it's not my type of book. But I do enjoy well written erotic romance, and I've been recommending different authors to different people.

If your sister-in-law asked you for recommendations for good dirty romance (I do like that term, BTW), what titles/authors would you suggest?

This could be a great opportunity to introduce the romance genre to women who've previously scoffed at it. So how do we spread the word?

[NOTE: If you've read FSOG and liked it, by all means please speak up. I'm very comfortable judging a book I've never read, but I can understand why others would object to it.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Guest Blogger Mandy Roth - Research Trips


Research Trips—it’s so hard to be good when surrounded by so much hunky man meat.

One of the best parts of being an author is research trips! You get to see the world and it’s for work. You get to meet hunky man/men from other countries, in Speedoes (let it be noted sometimes this is not an advantage) and again, it’s for work! I can’t think of a job I’d love more. Some of my highpoints to date have been touring the Mayan ruins, swimming with stingrays, shark watching to assure others weren’t eaten while they snorkeled a reef (hey, don’t judge, I saw JAWS when I was five and it freaked me out for life), margarita tasting with author Michelle M. Pillow, visiting a historic fort in the Bahamas, talking with locals and getting a “hands on” flavor of the locations I’m writing about—not to mention tasting the local foods. Example, fried conch—didn’t know that was a food. Eating fried alligator—that should NOT be a food. Tasting authentic red beans and rice—once you’ve had the real stuff you can’t go back.

All of these things helped to flavor my books, giving a more accurate account of settings. And best of all, when the hubby travels with me, I get to research some naughty tidbits too. What is your take on books that are set in different/exotic locales? Do you notice when something isn’t “right”?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Blonde moments


I'm not exactly a blonde, although my hair has been called strawberry blonde. Now it's a little darker red, although truthfully my natural colour is...grey. Ha! But I've had my share of blonde moments - like the time I had to pack up everything in my office to move, and when I went to unpack realized I had packed the scissors I needed in one of the well taped-up boxes. The other day at work I walked around all day with the zipper of my dress half undone. Luckily I had a cardigan over it, but I did take it off for  a while and couldn't for the life of me remember if I'd left my office like that. Or how about last fall when I went to Seattle...when I got off the plane I went to find the baggage claim. I followed the signs, took an escalator down and got on a train. I checked the signs for which airline was at which stop, thought I found the one I needed, got off there and took an escalator back up - right to the gate where I'd just gotten off the plane. I rode that damn train in a circle and got off right where I started. *sigh*






Here's a whopper of a blonde moment:



I like a good blonde joke, which is all in good fun, since I consider myself blondish. This is my favourite :

A blonde calls her boyfriend and says, "Please come over here and help me. I have a killer jigsaw puzzle, and I can't figure out how to get it started."

He asks, "What is it supposed to be when it's finished?"

The blonde says, "According to the picture on the box, it's a tiger."

Her boyfriend decides to go over and help with the puzzle. She lets him in and shows him where she has the puzzle spread all over the table.

He studies the pieces for a moment, then looks at the box, then turns to her and says, "First of all, no matter what we do, we're not going to be able to assemble these pieces into anything resembling a tiger."

He takes her hand and says, "Second, I want you to relax. Let's have a nice cup of tea, and then....." he sighed, "we'll put all these Frosted Flakes back in the box."

***

And I like this one because blondes aren't really stupid:

A blonde and a lawyer are seated next to each other on a flight from LA to NY. The lawyer asks if she would like to play a fun game? The blonde, tired, just wants to take a nap. Politely she declines and rolls over to the window to catch a few winks. The lawyer persists and explains that the game is easy and a lot of fun.

He explains, "I ask you a question, and if you don't know the answer, you pay me $5.00, and vise versa."

Again, she declines and tries to get some sleep. The lawyer, now agitated, says, "Okay, if you don't know the answer you pay me $5.00, and if I don't know the answer, I will pay you $500.00." This catches the blonde's attention and, figuring there will be no end to this torment unless she plays, agrees to the game.

The lawyer asks the first question. "What's the distance from the earth to the moon?" The blonde doesn't say a word, reaches into her purse, pulls out a $5.00 bill and hands it to the lawyer.

"Okay," says the lawyer," your turn." She asks the lawyer, "What goes up a hill with three legs and comes down with four legs?" The lawyer, puzzled, takes out his laptop computer and searches all his references. No answer. He taps into the air phone with his modem and searches the Internet and the Library of Congress. No answer. Frustrated, he sends e-mails to all his friends and coworkers, to no avail. After an hour, he wakes the blonde and hands her $500.00.

The blonde says, "Thank you," puts her head on the pillow and goes back to sleep.

The lawyer, who is more than a little miffed, wakes the blonde and asks, "Well, what's the answer?" Without a word, the blonde reaches into her purse, hands the lawyer $5.00, and goes back to sleep.

Got any blonde moments of your own??