Thursday, December 17, 2009


I don't know why this didn't post as a link the first time....let's try again, shall we?? Hope to see you at the new site!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Hello everyone! I'm in the process of moving my blog...actually, it IS moved, I just have some formatting to do on some of the older posts. And when I say "I" I mean my husband.

So, you can all migrate over to (this is my starting attempt at getting all 'pro' or something like that...)

Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Character and Building it

There's been a lot of discussion over at about characterization. One of the commenters suggested using astrology to help nail down a character, and that got me thinking of all kind of fun things a person might try...

The Myers-Briggs personality test...taken as your hero or heroine of course! Here's a link: After you score it, make sure you click on the link that will break down what the personality type means. (I'm ESFJ, for those who wanna know!!)

Also there's the 'temperament test' (I'm Sanguine Choleric)

And a little Chinese Zodiac (I'd be the tiger!)

Have fun!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I've often joked that the process of submission, rejection, revision, submission, like the world's longest job interview. Your submission is your resume and the ensuing revisions and contact with the editor are like your interview.

Can you take direction? Do you meet deadlines? Are you easy to work with? Or are you a whiny, petulant artist who believes their work is perfect on arrival? The editor is going to get a sense for all of this via revisions and other contact.

Writing is a competitive business. And it is a business. We, the writer, need to make a product that the distributor can sell. That's our job. Not only do we have to write something great, we need to do it their specifications, and, I believe, we need to be easy to work with.

Because talent is only a piece of it. It matters, trust me, but it isn't the only thing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Comp Results: The Saga Begins

Well, there's an absolute controversy brewing on the ihearts site due to the fact that the winner and runner up for Presents Modern are published authors. Now, as Jane pointed out, if they are not currently on contract with HM&B this not a rule violation. I will say that upfront.

However, having had two friends who entered Presents chapters, I understand why people are upset about it.

So, I'm not going into the right or wrong or fair or unfair. What I will go into is this: You don't need the contest.

The contest has given the winners an amazing opportunity to bypass the slush pile, which will save lots of time, trust me. But, as someone who didn't do well in comps (to put it mildly) and who made it through slush to The Call, I can tell you, it happens. Just because you don't place in a comp or get good comp feedback does not mean you don't have talent.

People have said on ihearts that the winners of the Presents category didn't NEED the contest. Well, no one NEEDS it. Not in any way minimizing what was won here, because trust me, getting an editor to work with you is huge. HUGE.

I got mine through slush. I needed more time to refine some things, but the editor saw the potential, even if it wasn't all the way there yet. She helped me get there.

I emailed my editor to ask her if I could enter this contest because when it was announced I was not under contract, neither did I really think I would be any time soon, and she told me that I didn't need the prize since I had an editor already. That made my week...month...let me tell you.

Success comes from these competitions, look at Lucy King and Lynn Raye Harris, and very soon, Gill Clegg :-). But success also comes from other places. This isn't the end. For me, a 'failed' contest was the beginning.

Keep writing, friends. And submit, submit, submit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Congrats to the Winners!!

Okay, I am bursting with absolute pride and joy, because my dear friend and critique partner Jilly, Gill Clegg on the iheartpresents site, has won the Modern Heat category of the Harlequin contest!!

Her chapter was truly amazing. I had the wonderful opportunity to read it before she hit send, and I can honestly say the feedback she got from the group on it was, 'You're brilliant. It's brilliant, don't change a thing!'

She's a wonderful person, a wonderful writer, and my wonderful 'sister.' She spent lots of hours critiquing my writing and helping me get my own book in 'up to publishable standard' shape. I can't wait until she gets The Call!

So, sorry for those who didn't place, but, if it helps, I was in this exact same position the last two comps I entered. Not only did I not place, I did not receive personalized feedback. And it was tough. But, that wasn't the end of my journey, it was the beginning. So get out there and sub sub sub!!!

Congrats again, Jilly! I love you much and I'm so happy!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Comp Announcement Tomorrow!

The Iheartpresents comp results are going to be announced tomorrow! Best of luck to all who entered!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Fangirl Delights Keep Coming!

I just submitted my The Call story post to be posted on iheartpresents on Dec. 21st! The Harlequin fangirl that lives inside of me is dying with glee. Seriously. It's just a wonderful added bonus to not only be a full-fledged Presents fan, but a soon-to-be-published author with the line I love the most!


Monday, December 7, 2009

Music and Writing

This conversation got started on Twitter and I thought I'd move it over here.

For me, music is just about the ultimate inspiration. I'm from a musical family, married to a musician, and it's always been a hugely important part of my life. (right up there with books!)

I have a playlist that is home to a lot of my favorite songs that have been a huge part of my MSs for the past few months. Not every song was a 'theme song' for an MS, but I have each of them on there for a reason.

Well, Paolo Nuitini is on there because my three year old likes that song. Anyway, enjoy my inspiration! And, share some of your own...what inspires you?

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Friday, December 4, 2009

Title and Release Date

Many of you may have already heard this, but I'm just enjoying typing it continually because it all makes it much more real!

My title and UK release date landed in my inbox yesterday, and it looks like it's slated for August of 2010 with the title His Virgin Acquisition. (so fun!)

I haven't slept much since my Call came because now it's like every night is Christmas eve and I can't sleep because I want so much to be up experiencing the morning I know is coming. This is what it's like to be doing what you love so much.

I am counting my blessings.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Okay....apparently The Blog is eating comments. So I thought...maybe if I started a new post it would kinda right itself...

Oh! I got asked to blog on I Heart Presents about my call! Should be on or around Dec. 21st! And I am so looking forward to that. One of the coolest things...well, okay, this whole thing is beyond cool. And yes, I said beyond cool. Getting published didn't suddenly make me not a big geek. :-) Anyway, one of the coolest things is that I am such a major Presents fan.

I've always written, but it wasn't until I picked up a Presents about two and a half years ago that I knew what I wanted to write. And it wasn't only my dream to get published, but to be a Harlequin Presents author. I wanted the white cover with the red stripe and the circle and the beautiful people. So blessed to have it!

You've just got to go for your dreams. Why not?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Call

When I got up this morning and grimaced at my alarm clock, I did not think I would be getting any kind of life changing news. I was thinking I have to go get my son enrolled in preschool, go buy a backpack for him, clean the kitchen, the living room...etc.

I did not think I would be getting The Call.

I checked my email at about 7:30 and discovered I had an email from my editor asking if she could call me and chat about my MS. So of course I emailed her straight back with something like "heck to the yes". About a half hour after that came The Call.

I've been offered a two book contract with Harlequin Presents. Which I said yes to, of course! Actually, she said, we'd like to buy your book and I said something horribly clever like "well, I'd like to sell it to you. "*snerk*

So yes, I'm in shock a little bit. But I am set to be a published author. For the romance line I love the most. It is my dream come true and to have it happen so soon in my life is more than I could ask or hope for.

Thanks to God, my family, my editor, and last, but oh so definitely not least, the Sisterhood. Without you girls it wouldn't be happening and I love you all so much!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Get Published Quick! Write a Romance! (or...hahahahahahaha!)

We had an interesting discussion in my crit group yesterday about loving your genre. Because if you don't, your reader will notice. If you're cynical about romance, or find the genre to be beneath you, the reader will notice.

Now, I think the majority of romance writers really love the genre, but I do think there are some who are sort of 'winking' at the reader. Or sneering, as the case may be. They have an attitude about it being a stepping stone on their way to the bigger and better. Well, I have news for you. Romance is about the biggest thing there is. As it's been pointed out, just about every genre has romance as a part of it.

What really burns my biscuits is when people act like they're going to get published quick by writing one of those romance novels. Like it's the pyramid scheme of fiction, or something.

But thinking that way does a big disservice to the writers of romance and the readers. And those of us who have been trying to get published for any length of time know it's not just a matter of 'boy meets girl, boy gets girl, writer sends to publisher, writer gets the contract.'

Like any other writer, we practice the craft. We learn about it. We refine it. We take it seriously. Not too seriously, which is something I love about the romance community. We know we're writing entertainment, but it's entertainment we love.

As I've said before, I love romance. I love to read it. I love to write it. And writing it is not a quick, simple way to get your name on a book cover. No matter your genre, I don't think there is a quick, simple way to do that that doesn't cost you a decent amount out of pocket.

Amen my fellow writers?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Alphas Again

Okay, yes, perhaps I've over posted on alphas. But they're darn tricky to write, because there is a fine line to walk between alpha and alphole sometimes, and no one wants to write the latter!

So my dear sister, Aideen, sent me this lovely quote that she saw on a documentary last night and I thought it was absolutely brilliant:

The true Alpha male is not a bully or a brute. He is the guy who is first to lead the charge for a worthy cause. He is supremely equipped, physically and mentally, to fight for success in the ultra-competitive world we inhabit.

The true Alpha male embodies the best characteristics of the male of our species, namely rugged outer qualities such as muscularity, strength and power, but also inner qualities such as confidence (without conceit), courage (without recklessness), commitment and a conscience.

The true Alpha male has the combination of physical and mental toughness but also a concern for other humans as a whole.

A true Alpha male meets the ideal of contemporary masculine excellence. In other words, the true Alpha male has all the core qualities of a hero.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Internal Conflict, and How it conflicts Me Internally

I've done a post on internal conflict before, but it bears repeating. I give the whole subject a lot of thought, after all. As we all should, since getting it wrong seems to earn a lot of very talented writers some very fast rejection letters! I was fortunate that my own conflict issue has only gotten me revisions at this point.

I was reading a post on Waiting For the Call, and it got me to thinking about why internal conflict is so much more effective than external conflict. Then it hit me, it's about character development.

If the conflict is external it doesn't require the characters to confront anything more serious than a moustache twirling villain or a scheming maiden aunt. Internal conflict forces characters to confront the demons inside of themselves and really change in order to get to that place of Happily Ever After.

Because if the conflict was caused in the first place by Scheming Maiden Aunt, who told the hero the heroine didn't want to marry him because she couldn't stand the thought of being tied down to one man (hussy that she is!), well then, what's the say Moustache Twirling Villain won't enter the scene after the HEA and break them apart again?

But if the HEA is reached only after the hero or heroine is forced the confront the internal issues keeping them apart, and they have to change these parts of themselves that are the most damaged, or the most staunchly set in its way in order to find happiness with each other, well that's an HEA I can believe in. They had to bleed for their love and because of that it's all that more precious and real.

It isn't just about the hero slaying the dragons, he's got to slay the ones inside of himself. Because that is what makes a lasting relationship in life. Changing yourself and getting over old hurts...not easy things for us to do. So seeing a character face all of that in the name of love, changing and becoming better...well, that's much more satisfying than, "Sorry, darling, it's just that from my position in the bushes it looked like you were encouraging him to take liberties, not biting him and pushing him away. Now that I know we can get married!"

So, what's your take on the whole conflict thing?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Needing Some Laughs

I'm in desperate need of some levity today. Has been an interesting week in the writing world and I just can't handle all the seeeerrrriousness anymore!!

Good news: my oldest son has been undergoing autism evaluations. The verdict is that he isn't autistic, he's just stubborn. As one of my lovely writing partners put it, "he just does things at his own pace, what he wants, when he wants. Typical alpha."

His speech delay is affecting some of his behavior, but that will be quite easily corrected and he's already doing much better with eye contact and name orientation. When he feels like it.

And also, Smart Bitches ( are doing a contest, deadline midnight EST tonight. They were challenging people to rename current Harlequin releases with the old 1950's flair. Winner gets the whole line of the vintage stationary (which I wants!!).

But me being me, I could not just sen
d in a text entry. I was too inspired. So, here's my Old Timey interpretation of 'Sheikh Boss, Hot Desert Nights' by Susan Stephens.

I call it...One For The Harem!

It made me so happy to make. :-) And it lifts my spirits.

So, how 'bout it people? Entertain me!! :-D I know...let's play a game! Comment me your fave OTT romance novel euphemisms...go for it.

I'll start!

"Log of Love" (this was not in a pubbed book, it was in a rejected MS...not mine!!!)


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth..

Nothing, and I do mean nothing, pulls me out of a story faster than wooden, unbelievable dialogue. And it's not an uncommon problem, even in published books.

So what can be done to guard against this hideous, heinous problem?

In a lot of ways, I think it's an extension of character development. Who is your character? How old is she? Where is she from? What's her socio-economic class? Is she loud or soft-spoken? Brash or timid? All of these things are going to change the way she speaks. A thirty-something career woman is going to speak differently than her grandmother or her sixteen year old sister.

For example, in this snippet from one of my MSs, my heroine Stacey is completely outspoken. She's from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak, and she doesn't do well censoring her thoughts. Jack, the hero, while also from the West Coast of the US, was raised in a wealthy family. Control is important to him and he isn't the kind of person to just run off at the mouth. (scary offering up my own dialogue as an example, but here it goes...)

She looked past him. “I want you to know, I tried to call you. I did. I left a message with your PA and you never called back, and so I came here to see you, only I couldn't get in to see you, so I was just going to go home.”

“You're rambling.”

“Yeah, I do that when I'm nervous. But you try telling some guy you barely know that you're pregnant and see you calm you feel.” She clapped a hand over her mouth in a belated attempt to stop the uncontrollable flow of words from escaping.

Jack's eyes narrowed. “You're what?”


“And this has something to do with me?”

Her blood reached the boiling point. “No. I thought I'd come all this way to let you know I got knocked up by some random guy. So, it's been real, I'll look you up next time I'm in the area.”

His temper snapped. “This is not the time for sarcasm.”

She let out an indignant huff. “Well, ask a stupid question.”

“So, you're telling me it's my baby?” he began to pace the room. He felt dangerously close to losing his trademark cool. In every situation in his life, business or personal, he was always in control. Except, it seemed, with Stacey.

“Of course it's your baby! Do you think I hopped out of your bed and into someone elses?”

His blue eyes flashed dangerously. “Well, you hopped into mine pretty fast.”

Her cheeks flamed. “You hopped just as fast as I did.” Of all the chauvinistic double standards.

He had the decency to look somewhat cowed by that. “I'm sorry. That was uncalled for.”

Especially with Stacey, I don't let proper grammar get in the way of creating realistic flow in the conversation. (who am I kidding? I don't let proper grammar stand in the way of anything...) And I wasn't out to make Jack sound overly stiff, just demonstrate a subtle difference in the way they react to things. And that she, like most women, has ten words to his every two. :-)

Run-ons, fragments and all kinds of grammar no-no's sound a lot more realistic than a perfectly structured sentence that reads like an homage to proper syntax.

Contractions (the pregnant lady grips her belly at the usage of that one) are another thing. I can't tell you how annoyed I get reading this in a book, "I am glad that you came. You are going to owe me for being late." "Yes, I know. I am sorry that I was late. It is icy out on the road and I did not want to drive unsafely."

BAHHH!!!! Now, maybe your character talks that way, and if he does, fine, but if that's the case then it will feel natural, an organic part of the character, instead of just stilted and unreal.

One good way to see how a section of dialogue is flowing is to read it out loud. Does it sound like something people would say? Like something your character would say? Like something they would say in the era you're MS is set in?

Don't look for a post on writing beautiful prose from me though, as that's just not my thing. It's a struggle really. But if any of you want to post on it, I'd be happy to go glean info from it...

So do you find writing dialogue easy or hard? What are your tips and tricks for making it real? What challenges come for those of you writing in different times or even different worlds?


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tone of Voice

The MS that I just finished was a lot darker than what I generally write. We had a dead wife and all kinds of baggage between the H and h, and while there was humor (I simply can't help but add some!) the overall tone was a little bit heavy.

In contrast, the MS I just started is much lighter. Of course, a lot of that is owed to the situation and the characters. They're not coming from as dark of a place, which makes the overall feel of it much different. And so much depends on who the characters are.

My heroine, Caitlin, has just discovered her fiancee in a very compromising position with her sister, and while it's a heartbreak for her, she's handling it with a little bit of humor. Not everyone, or every character, would handle it this way, but after the twelve hour crying jag she's more interested in moving on than wallowing.

As this is my thirteenth MS *screams* I've noticed that, while my voice is my voice (and re-reading my own writing I can get very tired of hearing myself 'talk') the tone of it does change, even though my MSs are all aimed at the same line. So much depends on those characters!

In my third MS I had a heroine who suffered from foot-in-mouth disease and tended to just spout whatever came to her mind without censoring it. That, of course, made the tone of the MS lighter and added a bit more humor naturally. I've also had characters coming from a place it's hard to find humor in, and with that the overall tone was much darker.

I really enjoy writing both, just as I enjoy reading both. I like a good laugh and I like a good, heartfelt cry. If I can get both in the same book, as a reader or writer, all the better!

So, how 'bout you? Do you find the tone of your voice changes? Or are you a little less schizo than me? :-)


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Building Character

So, I'm starting a new MS and of course, this means I'm creating a new set of characters. Ideas always come to me a little bit differently, sometimes the characters come first, sometimes a scenario comes first. When the scenario comes first I tend to think 'well, okay...what characters would have the most conflict with this!'

In this instance, the plot came before the characters. I knew I needed a prince, and I knew I needed a commoner. Beyond that, I had nothing in mind. So I had some free rein in creating the people that wanted to inhabit my new little world.

First order of business was to figure out who the hero was. He had to be commanding, of course, and sexy, and powerful. He's a prince after all. And as I'm partial to dark haired, dark skinned men, he was lucky enough to be blessed with hose attributes. But that isn't who he is. So I had to dig deeper and figure out what his internal conflict was. What would hold this man, with wealth, power, everything he could want at his fingertips, back from falling straight into love with the heroine?

So as the picture of my hero began to form, the heroine started taking shape. I knew the hero was going to be all about duty and honor, a very straight laced, traditional kind of guy. And I knew that with that, I wanted a woman who didn't back down from a challenge, who had wit to spare and who knew how to hold her own. Her personality was formed as a foil to his, so that she was someone who would both compliment and challenge the hero that I had created. Even her looks were designed to be in opposition to something: the woman my hero is *gasp* engaged to.

Then I started going deeper into her, figuring out where she came from, and what things are hang-ups for her, what sorts of things would bother her and which things would roll off her back, and ultimately, what would be the breaking point for her in a relationship.

From the character histories that I created came all kinds of things about them, the way they move, the way they talk and the way they react in certain situations.

Caitlin, my heroine, for example, is from the Midwest and has a much more casual speech pattern than Renzo, the hero, who speaks English as a second language and grew up in a much more formal environment.

Character building, for me, is never the same thing twice. With my last MS I created two people with a fairly complete history and then though: What would be about the most difficult situation for them to deal with? Then I threw it at them. As far as internal conflict went, this made writing that MS pretty straightforward.

How do you do it? How do you build characters and bring them to life? What comes first, the characters or the plot?

Monday, November 9, 2009


I've mentioned in past posts that I consider revision letters to be little chunks of gold. And being the proud owner of three, count 'em, three, that pertain to the same manuscript, I'm starting to get an idea of some of the pitfalls we unpublished writers can fall into.

So, I thought I would talk about some of the main points made in my letters, to give you an idea of what the editors are looking for, using my folly as an example. Hey, someone oughtta learn from my mistakes, right?

A lot of this relates specifically to Harlequin Presents/Modern, but also could be translated to any publisher of any genre, because good writing, good story construction, is pretty universal.

Pace: After my second round of revisions I had added in some new scenes, which was a bad idea, because while, in my mind, I was building a mood, in reality I was slowing the pace. I had added these scenes that were fine enough, but they weren't advancing the story. Especially in these shorter novels, pacing is a big deal.

Recently, with all the contests floating around, I've seen a lot of the people who judge contests saying that the biggest problem they see in entries is pacing. Too much time is spent describing the mundane and not enough time spent propelling the story forward.

I heard it described this way once: In the classics, like Dickens for example, description was much more important. The author might spend two paragraphs explaining a cobblestone street. Because maybe not everyone knew just what a cobblestone street was. Now we're inundated with images, we've seen much more, and in our movie culture we demand stories with a more movie-like pace, rather than one that spends four pages telling you about the gables of a house.

When editing, ask yourself: what is this scene doing to advance the plot? As it was put in my letter, "In this case the reader is almost waiting for the point of change, or a secondary layer of conflict."

And I didn't deliver it. What I had was some boring scenes that just sat there.

Conflict: Oh, this is the biggie. Conflict. Internal stinking conflict. In my letter it was put this way, "Readers respond to strong, believable conflicts that stem from the character’s fundamental personality, and which exist within the construct of the relationship itself."

Well, that means that (and this seems like a no duh, but it took be long enough to get it) the conflict comes from within the characters, not an outside source. External conflict is there, it's essential to most plots.

For example: The h and H have to get married to secure an inheritance, but they'll only stay married for one year.

But that's not what keeps them apart, it's not what drives them or what makes them who they are, and ultimately it's not the twelve month limit on the relationship that's going to end it, it's their own issues. And no, it can't be a crazy ex-girlfriend, I tried that. That's also external.

But what if the hero believes that no one can love him? His own mother left him, and since then, since acquiring his vast fortune, everyone in his life has just been a leech, after his wealth. So he rejects the heroine's love because he believes it to be false, based on an insecurity within him.

Probably not the best example, but I thought it up on the fly. And anyway, you get the idea. Internal conflict is not the crazy exes or evil aunts or half-heard conversations.

Character: Now, she had a lot of good to say about my characters, but she had some very valid points about some things I'd done wrong. This is from my third letter and she mentions that especially during revisions, it's easy to have characters slip out of...well...character.

With my hero especially, as I've mentioned, I had to really make him more alpha than he was in my first draft, and while I did that, there were moments where Old Marco came out and undermined New Sexy Marco. It was essential that I made sure I knew Marco so that I could read through the MS and know right away if he was acting 'off.'

As for my heroine, I was guilty, at times, of falling back on cliches. Elaine is a strong woman, educated and career oriented, yet at times she did things simply because it's what the heroines do. When Marco reached for her she gave a cry and pulled away. And it was brought up in the letter 'why would she give a cry?' Good question. Why would my very non-shrinking violet heroine turn into a swooning Southern Belle suddenly?

The editor's words were, "have faith in your characters. Don’t try and emulate what you have read before, but build believable, three-dimensional people who have honest reactions. Don’t fall back on the stereotype."

And that's great advice for every author and every MS in every genre. If the reader can't buy into the characters, they won't care about the book. We have to make people that are real, who say real things and react to situations the way real people would. Even if they are richer and prettier while doing it. :-)

And in closing, she reminded me to let my natural voice shine through, because that's what they want. Authors who can bring their own twist and flavor to the line, not retreads of what's been seen before.

Write happy, my friends!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Excerpt from His Unwanted Wife (first draft)

I just love a story with some unrequited love, not to mention some very big obstacles. So I gave Cade and Sabrina both to contend with. I love these characters so much, and I'm really looking forward to getting into some edits!

Here's a very rough excerpt from my just finished MS, His Unwanted Wife! Enjoy!


Sabrina clapped a hand over her chest to try and still her beating heart. Cade had never looked more handsome than he did tonight. And she was certain she’d never loved him more.
She knew there were plenty of people who would say that a young woman of eighteen didn’t know what true love was, but she did. She knew she did. She had from the first moment she’d seen Cade scowling in the entryway of her family home, his protective grasp on his mother’s arm, his misgivings about his newly inherited family clearly etched in his face.

He’d been the only man for her from that moment on. Not that he’d ever noticed her in that way. She was just his annoying stepsister as far as he was concerned But that was going to change tonight.

Smoothing her hands over the slinky burgundy velvet that hugged her abundant figure like a second skin, she began to walk out from her parent’s grand ballroom and onto the terrace. Cade was there, his hands gripping the railing tight, his focus on the ocean that crashed against the rocks below. He was so handsome it took her breath away. No, not just handsome, sexy.

One thing that had changed about her feelings in the past eight years was the nature of her desires. When she’d first met him she’d thought him the most handsome boy she’d ever seen, and she’d hero worshipped him to the point of driving him crazy.

She no longer worshipped him, not in that way. She wanted him. Like a woman wanted a man. She longed to kiss his sensual lips, to caress his chiseled jaw and twine her fingers through his thick dark hair. She wanted to kiss his neck, his chest. Everything. Everywhere. It had become an absolute madness inside of her, this need for him both emotionally and physically.

He was so handsome, his broad tall frame backlit by the silver glow of the moon. She placed her hands on her full hips, horribly self-conscious of the fact that she wasn’t the essence of female perfection. She felt wide and ungainly suddenly, not exactly like a sexy siren.
She took a breath the steel herself against the nerves that were threatening to overwhelm her. No going back now. Cade was her birthday present to herself. She wanted him and she wasn’t going to deny herself anymore. It was her birthday party after all. Shouldn’t she get the one thing she wanted most?

“Hi,” she said, suddenly feeling a lot more timid and a lot less like the brazen vixen she’d imagined she might transform herself into with a form fitting dress and stiletto heels. Instead she was just conscious of the fact that any rogue bubble of fat might choose that moment to shift and make itself visible to his piercing brown gaze.

“Happy birthday,” he said, lifting a glass of champagne in her direction.

“Could I have some of that?” she asked, gesturing to the fizzy drink in his hand.

“Maybe in three more years, princess,” he said, her childhood nickname sounding oddly intimate on his lips tonight. Maybe it was just her wild imagination wanting everything he said to sound intimate.

“I’m not a child, Cade,” she said, trying to make her voice sound a little huskier, a little more sensual.

“I didn’t say you were. But the law is the law.” He tipped back another sip, a mocking grin on his handsome face.

She rubbed her lips together to smooth out a lump she could feel forming in the dark red lipstick. “And you’re nothing if not an upright citizen.” Which served her just fine since, as of tonight, it was officially legal for him to take her to bed. The thought made her insides twist with nervous pleasure. She didn’t know that much about men, but she’d done a lot of research on the subject of sex. No sense going into anything a total novice, not when one could prepare.

She moved closer to him, the scent of his cologne combined with the musk of man teased her nose. No one smelled like Cade. He was intoxicating. A low pulse began to beat at the apex of her thighs and her nipples peaked. It was always like this when she was around him, and she was finally doing something about it.

“That’s me. I’m just an upstanding kind of guy,” he said with a lopsided grin.

“So how is…how is business going?” she asked, leaning in a little closer to try and catch some of that forbidden scent again.

“It’s going well.” He treated her to a real smile, one that showed his perfect teeth and her heart melted. “Our charters have increased by twenty five percent in the last quarter.”

“Who would have thought that renting out yachts and planes could be such a money maker?”
The teasing glint in his eyes melted her bones. “Well, I did. And I’ve more than paid back everyone who invested in the start up.”

She reached a hand out and put it on his arm. She shivered when his bicep flexed beneath her fingertips. His eyes snapped up and met hers, his expression inscrutable. Her breath hitched.


“Sabrina! Cade!” At that moment Caryn, Sabrina’s best friend, came waltzing out onto the deck, her chin length bob sleek, not a dark hair out of place. Her figure was perfectly sleek too, none of the little bubbles of imperfect flesh destroying her smooth lines.

Her friend grinned and a little dimple appeared by her full lips. She looked back at Cade and saw she’d lost his attention. He moved away from her, the cold left by his retreating body heat had her feeling bereft.

Then he was at Caryn’s side, too close for it to be casual or accidental. He wound his arm around her waist and she flashed him a glowing smile.

Shock slammed her chest with the force of a brick, nearly knocking her back with the weight of it. Caryn looked sheepish, a slight flush covering her cheeks. “I didn’t want to say anything until I knew if it was going to turn into anything,” she said.

“What?” Sabrina’s voice sounded stupid and hollow to her own ears.

Of course Caryn didn’t know about her feelings for Cade, no one did. The sheer weight of what she felt for him, combined with the forbidden aspect of him being her stepbrother, had always kept her from confiding in anyone. But surely she had to be hallucinating. He couldn’t be with Caryn, not that way, not now.

Cade flashed her a wide smile and drew Caryn closer to his body. “We’ve been seeing each other for a couple months.”

“But because of our friendship we didn’t want to say anything in case it didn’t work out,” Caryn finished, her eyes sparkling.

“But since I’ve asked Caryn to marry me and she’s accepted, we thought it would be a good time to tell you.”

“We’re going to be sisters!” Caryn exploded. “Happy Birthday!”

Sabrina felt the hot rush of tears sting her eyes and she knew she couldn’t let them fall. The cake she’d eaten earlier rolled in her stomach and she wanted more than anything to lean over the railing and heave it back up. She swallowed against the suffocating ache that was climbing her throat. “Congratulations.”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Alpha-betizing Your Hero!

Okay, image is kind of unrelated, I just love this cover*. But really, this guy is pretty hot, can you blame me?


When I received my first revision letter back on Oct. of '08, for the partial MS I had submitted, one of the main things the editor wanted me to change was the way my hero reacted to the heroine, and to the situation in general.

The paragraph on the hero is as follows: An alpha hero is noted for his control of the situations he finds himself in, so in order for him not to lose when she presents her proposal this we need to see a little more from him as a character. Maybe we could see a little more cynicism from him with regard to her proposal? At the moment he seems to weaken a little quickly for a successful businessman. We need to see a little more of the ruthlessness that got him to the top!

Truth be told, I had set out to make something of a kinder, gentler hero, which, I realize now, just doesn't translate to Presents!

So I had three chapters to take my hero and bring him from beta to alpha. So I did a lot of reading on the Harlequin sites about what makes an alpha (see previous post!) and I sat down to see what I could do with Marco, my hero.

This is going to sound really silly, but I swear to you it worked. I looked through a lot of the dialogue and did some very simple changes. The first thing I did was change his questions to commands.

Example: "Will you accompany me?" becomes "You will accompany me." Simple. But effective. And it went a long way in helping me tip the balance of power back to him.

Which is another thing: Nobody puts an alpha in the corner.

My heroine was the instigator of the marriage of convenience in my MS, which forced me to walk a very tricky line, one I didn't walk very well at first, to have it be her proposal, but to have him be the one with the control.

So it helped for me to put it in Marco's POV, so show him taking the proposal and thinking of the ways it could be used to his advantage. I think it was important that the stakes were higher for the heroine. Financially, it was beneficial to Marco, but he was successful on his own. So while it would mean more money for him, the marriage wasn't as necessary for him as it was for her, which reversed the power balance on poor Elaine, my heroine.

As long as the need was greater for her, he held all the cards. She approached him, and plan was hers, but the ultimate terms and conditions were up to him.

The one thing I did not do to make my hero more alpha, was weaken the heroine. Elaine is a strong, independent woman with goals and aspirations and I did not want to sacrifice her strengths in order to make him look stronger. And I didn't need to. A weak heroine doesn't add strength to your hero. If anything, it makes the whole dynamic of the relationship a watered down disaster where the hero really is just a bully and the heroine might as well have 'Welcome' stamped across her forehead.

In fact, I think a strong heroine enhances the hero's alpha-ness. He can get away with a lot more if she's able to stand up for herself, stand her ground.

Adding the alpha to Marco didn't mean adding cruelty, although New Marco did say some things Old Marco would never have dreamed of, but New Marco had that alpha freedom, that ruthless streak that enabled him to speak with such confidence that he would plainly speak his opinions and lay out the reality of a situation without sugar coating.

What's your secret for crafting a deliciously strong alpha male? Share your thoughts on the process!!


*Cover from The Desert King's Bejewelled Bride by Sabrina Philips. If you haven't read it already, then what are you waiting for? Check it out!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Alpha Male *hoooowwwwl*

Ah, the Alpha Male. He's the cornerstone of the bulk of the category romances. He's the ultimate feminine fantasy, the untamable, seemingly complete man who has everything (and every woman) his heart desires, and yet when he meets the heroine, our 'everygirl', he realizes that she's the one thing he doesn't have, and she's the one thing he needs. Oh, he doesn't realize it right away, that takes much conflict and tension and passion, but by about chapter 10 he ought to be on his way.

So what is an Alpha Male? You can put National Geographic away because I'm not talking wolf packs. You can put Twilight away too, because neither am I talking werewolves. This is one of those special romance novel definitions (much like 'mistress').

Like his title implies, the Alpha Male is in charge. He's successful, he's driven, and he's an entity unto himself. He doesn't need anyone, least of all a woman, except for, well, you know, and he certainly doesn't need love!

Above all, Alpha Male does not mean bully. I read that on the eHarlequin site and I thought they nailed it with that. An Alpha Male has to have his own moral code, which he lives by strictly. He's not amoral and he certainly doesn't belittle people to elelvate himself. Now, he may lash out when cornered, or challenged emotionally, but 'alpha' is not synonymous with 'man who spends entire book degrading heroine and calling her awful names'. Granted, I've seen this, especially in older romances, where the hero is just inexplicably mean and by the end of the book the groveling is just too little too late and I want to bean him in his handsome face!

I think it's a cop out to write a hero as alpha that way, especially when there are other ways to do it that don't make him a one dimensional character.

Not to say he and the heroine can't have some pretty blistering fights, or that he won't say things that are hurtful, but there's yards between that and a guy who's just taking advantage of, and picking on, someone physically, and maybe emotionally, weaker than himself.

Above all, beneath his hardened exterior, the Alpha Male is a good man. He's honorable. He's the man we want to see the heroine tame (but not neuter!). And he has to be someone we care about, not just a trite caricature.

What makes a great Alpha for you? What books have some of your favorites?
P.S. The use of Fabio was entirely tongue in cheek. Also, I was going to write about the transformation of my decidedly beta hero to a much more macho alpha hunk, but this got long, so that will be part deux!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Dead Zones

It's been a very busy week. Emergency doctor appointments and ultrasounds and vaccinations and the usual demands of catering to two very high energy little boys, both of whom are still in diapers. Not to mention the cooking and the cleaning that comes with being a little (nesting!) house wife.

Combined with the above distractions I have reached a very slow point in my WIP. It's an unfortunate phenomenon that happens to me. I have vision for where I want to go, it all went good up to this point, but it seems like at about 20K words I can get a little lost for what needs to happen NOW. I can't wait for the scene that I've envisioned for three scenes from now, but I just don't know how to connect the dots and get there! In short, I have fallen into a dead zone.

So I've been slowwwwwly creeping that word count up. What do I write when I don't know what to write? Oh, it varies. But I do try to write something. One of my dear crit group friends said 'you can't edit a blank page' and she's very right. I could sit there and stare at the screen, waiting for inspiration, or I could just blaze past this point by writing what seems best. I can always go fix it later (as you remember from my earlier posts, I have no issue at this point with completely erasing mass chunks of MS if need be) and sometimes some of the best little moments come about between my h and H when I'm just 'writing blind'.

Now, there's a method to my madness (oh how often I claim that!) I try to think 'what does their relationship need?' Does it need more conflict? More sexual tension? Or do they need a moment of calm, maybe even some camaraderie. Above all else, I want my reader to know that the h and H are meant to be with each other, and only each other. So in order to answer the question 'why her/him?' I do try to give them a well rounded relationship.

So in these moments, that aren't so driven by events and plot, my characters can have their moments together. Granted, sometimes they end up slow and rambling, but again, I can cut it later. But it also gives some really good character building, relationship building opportunities.

Even though the 'slow times' still frustrate me, I'm past the point of fighting against them. I just try to make them work for me, rather than against me.

So, what do you do when you reach slow points? (or do you 'real' plotters never have those?)


Friday, October 23, 2009

Plotter? Pantser? None of the Above?

If there's one thing I've learned over the last year it's that there are an infinite number of ways to approach writing. There's plotting, there's pantsing and there's all the wonderful methods in between and somewhere way off in left field.

Now, I think 'the process' is such a nebulous thing that it can be hard to explain, especially since it rarely makes complete sense even in my own mind. But I'll give it a shot.

I think I'm a weird sort of plotter hybrid. The beginnings of each MS start out differently. Sometimes it's a character that sticks in my mind and I build an MS around him or her. Sometimes I think 'what if a very uptight corporate woman met an equally driven playboy and they had to get married?' and build characters and reasoning from there. In the case of this last MS, I decided I wanted to do another marriage of convenience, because they're about my favorite plot line, so I spent some time thinking of characters and situations and stuck with the one I was able to imagine most clearly.

So from the little seeds of an idea I created my characters, Sabrina and Cade for this MS, and I started thinking about who they were, why they were that way, and what would ultimately cause conflict between them. What's going to stop them from just confession true love when it's clear they're right for each other? And how are they going to overcome it?

So after I had their internal conflict and their back story I thought, okay, now how can I throw them together. I was aiming for MOC with this one and after I came up with the reasons they would both agree to it I started thinking of what journey they needed to take.

I know their issues so the next step is to figure out what they need to grow. I always try to think of what someone with their particular set of conflicts would need to overcome in order to fall in love. What do they need to get from each other? What do they need to find on their own? So, I don't know that I plot events as much as 'milestones' I feel my characters need to reach inside so that they can grow.

Then of course I like to have my 'black moment' planned, and then a rough idea of the resolution. Rarely do I write any of this down, but I actually did this time.

However, I reserve the right to change whatever I want during the writing process, or get rid of an element I see isn't working.
So I guess I plot to give myself a direction, and then I pants as needed. :-)

What's your method for crafting a story?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Another question for you writers out there! How do you do your research?

I know for the historical novelist this is going to be a much different kettle of fish than for us contemporary writers. I can't even imagine all the work that must go into historicals. From clothing to homes to speech to customs. It's daunting!!

For me I use a lot of Google. Thank God for Google! I can use it to see the interiors of private planes, take virtual tours of resorts and private islands and million dollar homes in Aspen. Oh, and Google Earth. I rely on it to kind of give me a sense of direction when I'm writing about places I've never been.

Then there's people watching.

I used to go to Starbucks to write, much more often than I do now, and I would always spend a good portion of my time listening (yeah, okay, eavesdropping) to people's conversations.

I heard a love story about a couple who met once in Australia and then again, by chance, or not, in Oregon. I listened to people meet each other, talk for hours, exchange phone numbers and make plans to meet again. I got to overhear a job interview for an exotic dancer position at a strip club. People are fascinating. There is a lot of good information to be gleaned from just listening to people talk.

Though I've never used direct snippets from these overheard conversations (because I've never had an exotic dancer in on of my MSs ;-) I feel like I've taken my observations about these people that are so different from me, and that I've been able to use it to help me with character development in my various MSs.

So, fellow writers, what are your research tricks?


Monday, October 19, 2009

Recommended Reads Again!!

The Wild series, By Stacey Kayne

I enjoyed all three of these books immensely. A great Western continuity. They take place in Wyoming in the late eighteen hundreds and feature twin brothers Tucker and Chance Morgan, and in the third book, their brother in law Garret Daines.

Mustang Wild

The first in the series. Skylar Daines has spent most of her life traveling with her father and younger brother, herding mustangs and disguising herself as a boy (at her father's insistence).

After her father dies she finds herself accidentally married to Tucker Morgan, the man who owns the land her father promised to her. A lot hinges on them getting an annulment, but they have a very hard time fighting their attraction for each other.

It was a lot of fun to see Skylar experience being treated like a woman for the first time. She'd never been given compliments or any kind of special care, and it made her relationship with Tucker all the more special.

Maverick Wild

Chance's story. Chance always vowed he would never get married because of his evil stepmother, but when he encounters his stepsister for the first time in nearly twenty years he finds himself attracted to her in spite of the fact that he thinks she's probably just like her mother.

Cora has run away to Wyoming to find her stepbrothers, the only real family she has. Her mother has abused her horribly and tried to trap her into a marriage she doesn't want by allowing a man to assault her. Chance was the best person in her childhood, so she seeks him out when she needs a place to go.

Their love story was very sweet, and appropriate considering everything poor Cora had been through. I love the lost childhood love aspect of it too.

Mountain Wild

This book takes place quite a few years later. Garret is only thirteen at the beginning of the series, and he's twenty three in this book.

After being trapped in a snow storm he's rescued by a reclusive woman who lives in the mountains that everyone in town knows as Mad Mag.

Maggie has spent her life avoiding people and living in fear, but Garret gets under her skin in a way no one else ever has. Much like with Skylar in the first book, Maggie has never known any kind of tenderness in her life, not since the death of her father.

Garret was a unique hero, not afraid to proclaim his feelings and show some real tenderness, while Maggie was much more cagey and fearful than your average heroine. And interesting role reversal that I really enjoyed.

Can't recommend these books enough. They really were wonderful. A great example of what a Western romance should be. I'll definitely be looking for more from Stacey Kayne.

Happy reading!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

All the News That's Fit to Print

Big doings going on over here this week! I could do with a little less excitement in all honesty.

The abbreviated version: I put in a new kitchen and bathroom floor, which I think for one little (hahaha) pregnant woman was quite a task. Then, a couple days after that, my youngest son, with the aid of my oldest son, escaped. After much running around, crying hysterically and calling emergency services, we found him safe and unharmed and just a little annoyed by how his mother clung to him and cried. So, thank God we have him back safe and sound. There really are no words to express my thankfulness. Glad God covers where I fall short.

The good news, my editor contacted me! It's been fourteen weeks since I submitted the latest version of my full, and while there's no news on that score, she's offered to look at my next MS should it not work out with this one, which is a huge, huge happy thing to me. No more slush!

Also, I started a new MS. I like to have a project going at all times and I just finished a revision round on the MS I'll be submitting next, so I'm letting it rest while I work on this new project. I'm very excited about it. The characters are really fun and I did myself a favor, for once, and focused on the internal conflict as I was plotting this story. So, while I don't know for sure what all actual 'events' I want to have happen, I know the essential conflict of the characters and what they need to overcome and work through before they get their HEA. And the NEED their HEA.

I'm moving a little slower than I usually do, I blame the stress, but I've been enjoying the process and am hoping to make some serious progress today, children willing.

Have a blessed week everyone!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Internal Conflict, A Subject on Which I am No Expert

So I'm working very hard on this internal conflict thing, something I hadn't given a lot of thought to prior to submitting my first MS to M&B.

Of course, when the revision letter came back 'less external conflict, more internal' I had to figure that out real quick.

I think Michelle Willingham summed it up perfectly when she said this on the subject: ...

"Emotion is what forms the backbone of the romance. You have to be able to remove every external conflict and still have a compelling reason for the hero and heroine to be conflicted.
If the hero is a damaged man, who's never been loved, he'll be suspicious of the heroine's efforts to love him. He'll draw false conclusions and he'll fight against his own feelings for fear of being hurt. As the book progresses, you play on those fears, and at the end, he should face his greatest fear (loving the heroine and almost losing her).
The heroine might be someone who isn't afraid of love, but maybe she's made bad choices. Maybe she thinks she's not good enough for the hero (Cinderella story). The more she tries to get close to him, the more he pushes her away(that plays on her feelings of insecurity and being not good enough)
You use the external conflict to push them into the wall, to face those tough emotions. Make 'em bleed."

The internal conflict is all about what keeps the hero and heroine apart. Sure, there are external forces at work such as a marriage of convenience for the sake of the hero's business, or an unintended pregnancy, but in the end, the reasons for the h and H for being apart, or not falling in love, have to come from within.

It's so frustrating to read a romance where the whole conflict could have been solved through a conversation. Say the ex of the hero shows up, telling the heroine what a cad the hero is, how he left her pregnant and destitute, then forced her to have an abortion, so the heroine leaves, that was an external force. The issue the heroine has with the hero has come from somewhere else.

In contrast, say you take that same heroine, same situation. Take out the plot device, i.e the crazy ex, and ask what the heroine's deeper issues are. What if she's frightened of being with a man, loving a man, who doesn't love her. She watched her own mother self destruct as a result of her father's indifference and she knows she can't allow herself to suffer the same way. Even if she is carrying his baby. So she leaves.

In that case, the problem is not so easily solved, and we stay away from the simple solution of 'but, darling, that's just not true!'
'oh, okay!'

The end.

It's always better when the journey to "The End" is centered on the journey and growth of the characters, and to really accomplish that, the conflict has to be internal.

I'll let you know when I master it. :-)


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Interracial Romance

Yes, it's true, that technically more than half of all Harlequin romances are interracial. The men are typically dark skinned, Italian, Arabic, Greek, and most recently, Indian, while the heroine is usually the pale, English rose type. Not only do the hero and heroine have different skin colors, they are also typically from different cultures and backgrounds.

There is, however, only one from category romance that I know of where there was an interracial relationship between a white and African American hero and heroine. (Taking Care of Business, by Brenda Jackson) The focus of the book was largely on the heroine, who was black, dealing with dating a white man.

This is a point of interest to me because, for those of you who don't know, I myself am married to a very handsome African/Italian/Czech man. :-) And while I can, and do, enjoy a romance with people of any ethnic background at the center of it, sometimes I want to read one that 'represents' my relationship.

So here's the thing though, what I really want is to read a romance with an interracial relationship where the races of the hero and heroine aren't at the center of it. Why? Because it's not at the center of my relationship. My husband and I do not have the same skin color, but that's not the sum total of our marriage, or even any part of it at all.

Not that we've never experienced discrimination based on the fact that he's black and I'm white, but it's been very rare, and when we met and fell in love, race never came into it for the two of us.

I have written an MS, aimed at Presents, but not submitted yet, where the hero is based off of my husband and is half African American. It is not an issue in their relationship.

So here's a question: Are people ready for that? Can it really be presented as a non-issue in a book? What are your thoughts on an interracial couple in a romance?

(yes, that is a picture from my wedding)

I Love Romance

My name is Maisey Yates and I love to read romances. I am not ashamed. I love the passion, the intensity, the sensuality, the happily ever after that I know will be waiting for me on the last page.

Keep your existential works with two men wandering in the desert discussing the futility of life. I want to see the beauty in life. I want to see two people overcome the odds and find one of life's greatest gifts: love.

The Cowboy and the Well-Bred Lady forced to marry for to complete the terms of a will, the Italian Billionaire and The Waitress dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, two friends seeing each other in a new light. I love it all.

Predictable? Sure. But if it wasn't predictable, that means it ended wrong. Unrealistic? I don't think so. Amplified? Maybe. But to me, it's all still totally relatable.
Whenever I read a good romance it reminds me of how special it is to be married to that one wonderful man who takes your breath away. No, my husband isn't an Italian billionaire, but he's that one man for me, the lifetime love. A good romance novel reminds you of why that's such an amazing find.
I can leave reality and tragedy on the six 'o clock news. Give me love, give me romance, give me passion, and a Sheikh and his Forbidden Virgin!

Friday, October 9, 2009


For me, inspiration can come from a lot of different things. A song that I connect with can establish the whole mood or concept of a manuscript, a movie with an element I want to tweak can do it too. Sometimes a character just pops into my head and their story just sort of fills itself in.

So what inspires all of my fellow writers out there?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Rancher's Convenient Mistress Exerpt First Draft

Chapter One

Acacia Masterson bit out a word that would have gotten her mouth washed out if she’d been in her mother’s presence. Of course, if she’d stayed near her mother she wouldn’t be in her current situation.

She turned and faced the gorilla-man that was escorting her from the livestock pavilion and thrust her nose in the air, trying to affect her best Manhattan aristocrat manner. “I am not a…whatever you called me.”

“A buckle bunny,” he said, not disguising his obvious admiration for her curves.

“Yes.” She jerked her arm out of his iron grip. “That. I’m not a buckle bunny. I have no interest in getting near Mr. Rivera’s buckle. I’m a member of the press and I want to speak to Mr. Rivera about…”

He laughed. “You ain’t getting anywhere near Mr. Rivera. He do interviews.”

“But I can assure you I have the proper credentials and I…”

The man cut her off again. “Credentials don’t mean anything to Mr. Rivera. He don’t speak to the press.”

She successfully held back another uncharacteristic curse. “I know that typically Mr. Rivera doesn’t grant interviews, but I had hoped to speak with him.”

“Then all your hopes were in vain, missy. You might have had better luck if you were after his belt buckle.”

The gorilla-man turned and went back into the pavilion, slamming the red metal gate behind him. Acacia turned on the heel of her new western style boots and kicked the nearest truck tire with them. She hadn’t come out to the middle of Podunk, Oregon to be denied her interview. She needed it. She’d told her boss she would get it. And if she didn’t she could kiss her permanent position at Success Magazine goodbye.

Domenico Rivera had shot to fame seemingly overnight riding saddle broncs in the pro-rodeo circuit. He’d earned millions competing in the big competitions and since retiring and becoming a rancher and livestock broker he’d earned millions, if not billions, more. And he didn’t give interviews, that she already knew, which was what made him such a hot commodity.

Which was why she was at the Pendleton Roundup trying to squeeze past security at ten o’clock at night.

The stockyard was essentially deserted. Most everyone had packed up and left already, but not Domenico Rivera. His fleet of white trucks and gleaming white horse trailers emblazoned with the Rivera Estancia logo were still scattered over the dirt lot, the doors to the trailers open, waiting for the animals to get loaded in.

She crept over to one of the trucks and peeked in the window. It was immaculately clean, not even bits of hay in the floorboards, which was a feat considering there was hay dusting every square inch of the place.

It was nothing less than she should have expected from a man of Domenico’s reputation. He was renowned for being a perfectionist, a hard worker who demanded the same level of dedication from his employees and he demanded of himself.

Yes, Domenico Rivera was legendary, and not just in the rodeo circuit, but worldwide, for the quality of the cattle he raised and for the extreme levels of success he’d managed to elevate himself to. He was a success for the modern age, a man who had used hard work and dedication, rather than connections, to make his fortune.

She clenched her fists tightly, adrenaline coursing through her veins. She needed this interview. If she got it her position at the magazine was secure and her career would be off to a blazing start. At twenty-two she was the youngest of the interns, and she was by far the least worldly-wise. But she wasn’t going to let that stop her. She’d made up her mind the moment she’d walked out of her parent’s New York penthouse, leaving behind her piano and every expectation her parents had ever had for her.

She had no choice now but to succeed. She was not going back home with her tail between her legs to receive a very haughty I-told-you-so from her mother and father.

Voices, one she recognized as belonging to her old friend The Gorilla, carried through the night air. She scanned the area, looking for a place to hide, just until Domenico’s bodyguard was out of the area.

A small side door next to one of the open ramps on the horse trailer was slightly ajar and she ducked inside as quickly as possible, shutting the door behind her. The tiny space was filled with tack, the smell of leather filling up the enclosure. She pressed her ear to the door and listened carefully for the voices, trying to discern whether or not they’d passed by.

She exhaled when the only sound she registered were crickets and pressed lightly on the tack room door. It wouldn’t budge.

She leaned against it, putting all of her weight behind it, which, she knew, at her size, was ineffective at best.

What to do now? Call for help and risk getting thrown to the curb by gorilla-man and subsequently barred from all pro-rodeo events in the country? Or look for another way out?

There had to be another way.

She felt along the seam of the door, hoping to find a lock, a hinge, something that might give her a chance to get herself free. The seams were smooth. All of the hardware was on the outside of the trailer.

For the second time in a few minutes she mumbled a curse word.

Time to kiss the interview goodbye.

She opened her mouth to scream but stopped short when she heard an engine roar to life. The horse trailer jerked and then lurched into motion. She gripped the bridles that were hanging on the wall and tried to steady herself. And then she did scream. Loudly. The only thing she was rewarded with was the sound of stomping on the other side of the wall. Horses, not people. No help.

She screamed again and kicked the wall, the sound rattling through the metal space. Nothing. Her moving prison began to pick up speed and the bumpy surface of the dirt lot had given way to smooth pavement beneath the wheels of the trailer.

She clenched her teeth to hold in the wail of despair that was climbing her throat. It was the first time since she’d left home to pursue her career in journalism that she’d thought her mother might be right. That she was too sheltered, too pampered, to tackle a profession so demanding.

The floor was clean and Acacia sat gingerly on the hard surface, trying to fight the tears that were threatening to overflow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More Recommended Reads!

The Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers

Some of the best books I've read in my life. Passion, romance, gladiators, and amazing faith set against the backdrop of ancient Rome. These books follow Hadassah, a Jewish slave brought to Rome after the fall of Jerusalem, Marcus, the son of the family who buys her and Atretes a Germanic warrior enslaved by the Romans and trained to fight in the arena.

Marcus and Hadassah and their forbidden love are central to the story in the first two books, as is Hadassah's quest to remain faithful and be a witness for Christ to those around her, even though her faith could cost her not only the man she loves, but her life.

Book two, An Echo in the Darkness (my favorite) is mainly in Marcus's POV and focuses on his intense quest for truth, and for his lost love.

Atretes is introduced in book one, A Voice in the Wind, and returns as the main focus in Sure as the Dawn, by which time he's earned his freedom and is making a return to Germany, along with his newly discovered son and the woman who has come to care for him as her own.

Seriously life changing and moving books. I cannot recommend these highly enough!

The Desert King's Bejewelled Bride by Sabrina Philips (Harlequin Mills & Boon Presents/Modern)

Sabrina Philips is a newer author. She's also the youngest Presents author in the history of the series, and it shows. (in a good way)

She has a very modern take on the some old themes, and I quite enjoyed! Kaliq is still as alpha as they come, but he's actually got a bit of a sense of humor. And our heroine Tamara doesn't let the guy just run his mouth! She's sassy, and she really holds her own against a formidable, royal man.

And I have to say, it's worth buying this books just for the man on the cover.

Four star rating on the book, and on the cover model!

Fortune's Forbidden Woman by Heidi Betts (Silhouette Desire)

This one is a repeat read for me. In fact, I found myself reading it again this week. I've enjoyed every book in the Dakota Fortune's Continuity that I've read, but this one is the fave.

Forbidden love? Check. Years of pent up longing? Check! A hero that needs the love of a good woman to soften him up? Double Check.

Maya and Creed have wanted each other for years, but the fact that their part of the most famous family in the state, and that their stepbrother and sister has always stood in their way. Until one night...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Revisions, Revisions!

I'm a pro at revisions by now. Not so much at getting them done right the first time, or fifth time, but at receiving revision letters. And, as hard as it can be sometimes, it has been a valuable experience for me as a writer.

I read that 80-90% of revision letters from publishers are ignored. In that, the person who receives them never follows up. I think there are a few reasons for this, one is that it's daunting to have to re-imagine something you've already done, and sometimes it's tough to know where to go. Another reason is the writer's worst enemy: ego.

It's hard to have someone essentially tear apart something that means a lot to you. I've been the recipient of three revision letters, all for the same MS. The last of which meant doing a complete rewrite on the last half of the MS.

I've come to realize a few things through this experience. While I don't believe there's room for self-doubt and false modesty in writing, I also don't think there's room for the big ego. The editor is a part of the publishing world, and the editor knows what sells. If the editor can sell your book, they will buy it. So it's my job as the writer to create a product that will sell. And if an editor is willing to help with that, all the better! Those revision letters are like gold mines. An opportunity to glean information, and valuable help with creating a better story, from a professional in the industry.

A revision letter is a blessing, not a curse. An editor won't waste their time if they don't believe in you. The fact that they're taking the time to help you along is an incredible opportunity.

The other thing I've learned? Nothing I write is sacred. It can all go. And in the end, I may very well have something much better.

As I mentioned, my last revision letter called for a rewrite of more than half of my MS. That scared the pants off of me to be honest. How could I change something so major? How could I think of another, better way, to end the book? So I took a few days to quietly panic and reassess what I had done, then I looked at the letter again, took a deep breath and deleted more than 25,000 words.

The end result? It's much better than what I had done originally. But I had to be willing to sacrifice the original to get there. And I'm so glad I did. With help, I crafted a much better story than what I had done on my own. The outside perspective didn't take away from my original vision, it added to it in ways I couldn't have imagined by myself.

I'm also blessed to have an amazingly supportive, brutally honest, writing group. Their help and perspective on each revision letter I've received has really helped me think about the criticisms on my work from a lot of different angles.

Revisions are part of writing. Taking criticism is part of writing. And if we can embrace it, I truly believe that's when we can be better.


What to Write?

The answer to this question can be pretty basic. Write what you like, write what you like to read. That's true, to an extent.

You may love romance, and within romance there are a lot of different categories and subgenres. So where to go from there?

When I went on my hunt to decide what to write, I selected category romance for a very simple reason at first. Harlequin accepted unagented, unsolicited submissions. There was no way I was going to be able to get an agent, and who was going to solicit me? From there, I selected my favorite imprint, Present/Modern to aim at. And that was the beginning.

I think it's important to have an idea of who you're writing for before you write it. It's all well and good to just start on a book idea you have in your head. (and who am I to say it won't be the next Twilight Saga?) But from a pragmatic standpoint, having an idea of where you want to send your manuscript, whether there's a market for your idea, and if there's a publisher who will look at your MS, is an important place to begin.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Writing From a *gasp* Practical Standpoint

Writers. We're an interesting bunch of people. I took creative writing in college and was exposed to an interesting group. More than half of the class of thirty, including myself, were left handed. Lefties are notoriously scattered and a little on the 'eccentric' side of things. Again, being a lefty, I'm familiar. And if you're not left handed, well, having the creative mindset is sort of like being honorarily left handed.

What does that mean? It means that we creative types tend to let our creativity yank us around like it owns us! Well, at the risk of sounding like an ancient Kung-Fu sage, if we don't master our creativity, our creativity will become our master.

Our Creativity Master might tell us we can only write at 2AM, or when it's quiet, or that we are bored of our current WIP and want to start on a new one...that has zombies!

So is there hope?

Yes! There is!

It just takes a little bit of, oh man, do we creative types HATE this word...discipline. What does that mean? Sometimes, for me, it means making sure I write every day, even when I don't feel like it. Even when I only have five minutes, as long as I do it. And yes, sometimes I have to do it when the creative juices aren't flowing so much and it means I get two pages in an hour instead of six, but it's been a (here's that word again!) very worthwhile discipline for me over the past year and a half.

It can also mean finishing a manuscript that may have lost its bright, shiny lustre in the face of a brand new SHINIER idea. My solution to this, not a unique one by any stretch, is to create a little file dedicated to my new idea, a little one page write up, and then I save it and leave it alone until I'm done with my current MS.

I love to write, but I'm not in it solely for the enjoyment, I want to make it a job, and with that in mind I've set out to treat it like a job. I think if the aim is publication, that level of practical thinking has to come in somewhere.

Next up, I'll talk a little bit about picking a market to write for! (yay)


Friday, October 2, 2009

Recommended Reads

Harlequin Presents/Modern

The Ruthless Greek's Virgin Princess, by Trish Morey-

Great book. It opens in a very unexpected way and it just keeps you hooked from there. For you writers out there, I think it's a very good example of internal conflict.

It makes the most of the emotional baggage the hero and heroine have, and of their conflicting emotions for each other. They have a lot of passion/love/resentment that has had thirteen years to simmer, and when they meet again at the heroine's brother's wedding, it's pretty explosive!

The Sicilian's Baby Bargain, by Penny Jordan

Wow! An alpha hero with a real sense of honor! His desire really was the best interest of the heroine, although lust might have clouded his judgment at times...It was nice to see his genuine caring for her, and even nicer to watch his feelings strengthen, and to see the two of them develop real love and trust.

Harlequin Historical

His Lady Mistress, Lord Braybrook's Penniless Bride, A Compromised Lady, by Elizabeth Rolls

I loved all three of these books. Great love stories that really had a lot to say about the constraints society put on women at the time (kind of Jane Austen era) Witty dialogue, great description, very likeable characters. A Compromised Lady is a little darker because of its subject matter, but I think I liked it even more for that reason. The hero was just wonderful. Actually, all of the heroes were! Men that any woman would be lucky to have, and that makes for a good read.

Single Title

The Twilight Saga

I resisted reading these for a long time. Vampires. Ugh. Teen angst. Double ugh. And then I read them. All of them. In three days. I loved this series. It was compelling and moving and just really, really good.

I expected it to be really dark, but it really wasn't. And truly, I enjoyed the underlying theme of abstinence. Kind of refreshing in the world of Gossip Girl and pop-culture phenoms of that nature, that there was a series of books, a popular series, that glorified self-control and showed that a guy who is willing to wait for you is darn romantic.