Saturday, April 03, 2010

Wild Card Weekend : Spring Fever

Inspy author Margaret Daley joins us for Wild Card Weekend - and a taste of spring!

You probably want to know what spring has to do with writing. Well, nothing directly except I find myself wanting to skip writing and spend more time outside after a long winter. It does become harder to plant my butt in the chair and write. So first, I’m asking what do you do to keep yourself on track when the great outdoors (with lots of sunshine and flowers) is calling you? Right now the gorgeous day is shouting my name.


What I really want to write about is what spring means and how it applies to a writer. When I think of spring, I think of renewing and refreshing. Nature does it and it is so welcomed by me. Nothing beats seeing the trees putting leaves on, flowers coming up, bushes leafing out and blooming. Nature’s colors change from dull, drab ones to vibrant colors that just looking at them helps me feel renewed and ready for whatever is next. That’s what I want to be able to do as a writer whenever I need it.

As much as I wish I could have spring more than a few months a year (Can you tell spring is my favorite season?), I can’t, at least not in Oklahoma where it will get extremely hot in the summer. So what do I do to renew myself as a writer throughout the year?

When I finish a book, I treat myself to a double dip ice cream cone (cookie dough) guilt free and a few days off from writing before I start my next project. I try to build in some rewards for accomplishing certain things, but is that enough? What do you do to refresh yourself? Give yourself a boost to accomplish what you need to do? Do you have favorite music you listen to? Read a special book? Go out with friends or family somewhere you enjoy? Any suggestions are appreciated.



Bio: Margaret Daley is an award winning, multi-published author in the romance genre. One of her romantic suspense books, Hearts on the Line, won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Contest. Recently she has won the Holt Medallion, Golden Quill Contest, FHL’s Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest, Winter Rose Contest, and the Barclay Gold Contest. She wrote for various secular publishers before the Lord led her to the Christian romance market. She currently writes inspirational romance and romantic suspense books for the Steeple Hill Love Inspired lines. She has sold sixty-six books to date. You can visit her web site and read excerpts from her books at http://www.margaretdaley.com.

Cowboy Protector, Love Inspired Suspense, March 2010

Two years ago, Hannah Williams left the Witness Protection Program—and she's been running ever since. To stay ahead of the mob, she changes her name and location constantly. So when she takes a job caring for a Montana rancher's sick daughter, she expects to leave soon. But little Misty Taylor tugs at Hannah's heartstrings—and so does her handsome father. Hannah knows Austin Taylor suspects she's keeping secrets. But how can she tell him the truth without endangering the pair she's come to love?

Love Lessons, Love Inspired, April 2010

Home schooling his daughter is new to devoted single father Ian Ferguson. To ensure his child gets a good education, the busy CPA hires a temporary tutor. Twenty-three-year-old college student Alexa Michaels is too young--and too pretty--to be right for the job. Yet his daughter is coming out of her shell and learning. Still, Ian is traditional, and sweet Alexa--who graduated from the school of hard knocks--is challenging some of his old-school ways. Can this dad learn some valuable lessons about love, family and faith from the least likely teacher?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Must Watch Friday - 30 Rock



Modern/Presents author Kate Hewitt joins us this Good Friday with a fave show - 30 Rock!

Several people recommended the TV show 30 Rock to me, and since it is set in my hometown of New York City and my husband has even seen it filmed from his office window, I thought I’d give it a shot. And wow, am I so glad I did! I think it is one of the funniest, cleverest shows I’ve seen in a long time. For those of you who haven’t seen it before, 30 Rock is a sitcom written and produced by Tina Fey, the former Saturday Night Live head writer and more famously, Sarah Palin imitator. The show centers around her quirky character Liz Lemon, head writer of a comedy sketch show (hmm...art imitates life!) and her slick corporate-minded boss, Jack Donaghy, played by the incomparable Alec Baldwin.


There are so many reasons to like this show, from the offbeat plots to the host of unique secondary characters, but the biggest reason I love it is the amazing rapport between Liz and Jack. I can’t call it a romance, because it isn’t one... yet. Even so, over the course of nearly four seasons, Liz and Jack have grown from adversaries to reluctant colleagues to best friends--even if they don’t admit it! They complement each other so perfectly; Liz is a slightly wacky, politically liberal, heart-on-her-sleeve dreamer, while Jack is a straight-and-narrow conservative who is eminently practical yet naive in surprising ways. They wise each other up wonderfully! Since I can’t do justice to their relationship myself, I thought I’d give you a sample of some of their dialogue:


Liz: Why are you wearing a tux?

Jack: It’s after six. What am I, a farmer?

or

Jack: Lemon, I want to thank you. For showing me that I could have a pleasant evening with a woman my age.

Liz: I'm twelve years younger than you.

Jack: A woman your age then.

or

Jack: You've been avoiding me, Lemon.

Liz: How do you do that without turning around?

Jack: To be perfectly honest, the first couple of people I did that to were not you, but... here we are.

It’s the middle of season four now, and Jack and Liz are closer than ever. When Liz arranged her root canal on Valentine’s Day so she didn’t have to deal with the holiday, Jack was the one who picked her up and took her home, even though she was embarrassingly woozy and talkative from the anesthetic. If that doesn’t point to true love, I’m not sure what does... and yet while I watch the show on the edge of my seat hoping desperately that Jack and Liz will finally get together, another part of me is reluctant to see all the romantic tension leak out of the relationship--and the show. It seems like whenever the two romantic leads on a TV show get together--think of Ross and Rachel--the show loses its sparkle, or jumps the shark as the saying goes, and I would hate that to happen to 30 Rock, or Jack and Liz. Yet I can’t stand the thought of them not getting their happily-ever-after either... I guess I just need to keep watching!



So if you haven’t yet seen 30 Rock, I encourage you to rent the DVDs from Netflix and see the magic! What TV couples have kept you on the edge of your seat? And if or when they finally got together, was it as good as you hoped? Let me know in the comments and I’ll pick a random winner to receive a copy of my April release, Her Mediterranean Playboy!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Thursday Talk Time : : Let's talk about research


A couple of weeks ago Anne McAllister asked for suggestions so that she could make the best use of her time in New York where she was attending a wedding. Life is not all attending weddings. Serious research also went on. She's here to tell you about it.

I had a fabulous time in New York. The wedding I went for was certainly research-worthy. It took place in a renovated loft in a warehouse in Queens.

Giving us directions, the groom said, "If you get to a place where you think you're definitely in the wrong neighborhood and seriously worry that you're going to be jumped, you've come to the right place."

Er, yes.

And nine of us arriving in a white stretch limo simply added to the incongruity. And the fun. Once we were inside the venue was lovely.

Up a flight of crumbling stairs we found a gorgeous set of high-ceilings rooms with a sort of French country house feel where the wedding and the reception and dinner and dance all took place. There is enough ambiguity to the space that it could be used hundreds of ways. That is, doubtless, much of its appeal.

And this time was no different. The wedding itself was as memorable as the setting -- very much like the couple getting married: warm, fun, happy, reverent and irreverent both.

It was unlike any wedding I've ever been to before. It perfectly suited the couple marrying. And in research terms, I have no doubt that I will be stealing bits and pieces of it for book weddings for years to come.

It was the highlight of my trip. But besides the wedding, I did lots of other things as well.

I went to the Brooklyn Museum to check out the Dutch houses. They were amazing -- they are whole houses, not just rooms. And as such, they really made family history come alive.

If I wrote historicals, I'd be right there trying to think of a way to work those houses into my book. I may try to figure it out anyway as I'm doing a book on an historic preservationist now.

After the museum we checked out the botanical gardens. I could get lost in there. I wish we'd had more time. It's really a destination by itself without involving the museum. I'm planning to go back.

We weren't quite done with museums because the next day we went to the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum where I was told that NO PHOTOS were allowed. Not even of my friend Nancy the Cat Slayer (so called because I have a potentially incriminating, but totally harmless, picture of her in Ireland with Archie the local cat and an African knife artifact that, in retrospect, looked a lot more lethal than it seemed at the time) in the cafe eating her soup!

I found this prohibition odd because the Brooklyn Museum would let me take pictures of anything as long as I didn't use flash. But it's an interesting detail to know. I can see right now a scene in which my heroine runs afoul of the Powers That Be at the Morgan! I'd show you a photo (theirs, not mine), but since their no photo policy exists, who am I to fly in the face of their authority? (grrrrr.)

We tried to see the Guggenheim the day before we left, even slogged through lots of rain and puddles to get there. But the line was around the block.

Crowded museums are not my favorite thing. I like space and quiet when I'm contemplating art. So does Nancy. So we left and went across town and down to Columbus Circle to the Time Warner AOL building where there is an inside multi-story mall and instead of watching art, we watched people. It was a different sort of museum -- one of commerce, I guess -- and still active, not simply there to be observed.

We pounded a lot of pavement over the past week. I relearned the Upper West Side neighborhood I knew very well a few years ago. Made it my own again. Got lots of details I can use next time I have a book set here.

I watched two plays that between them reinforced my notion that there is a huge range of material on Broadway. The Arthur Miller tragedy, A View from the Bridge, was intimate and intense and compelling.

It grabbed me, immersing me in relationships, making me think about love and desire and the pain that can come from those that go wrong. The issues tackled in this play aren't ones that I write about -- but every part of the human condition can inform the background of stories. All are worth thinking about, especially ones as well written and as well acted as that one.

The second play was the bright, sassy musical, Mamma Mia -- about as far from A View from the Bridge thematically and tonally as it is possible to get. The sheer energy of the production was uplifting. I emerged practically dancing my way up the street to catch a bus to get home.

How those two plays will figure into my books isn't clear to me yet. But I have no doubt that they will both find their way into the emotional landscape I write from. Writing is partly about physical details. But it's also about emotion. It's about the hopes and dreams and goals we have, about the families that shape us, about what we do with the opportunities we're given.

One of my other opp0rtunities was to take a walking tour. I mentioned last time that there were lots to pick from. Several readers of this blog -- not to mention my most recent heroine, Natalie, lobbied for the chocolate tour. Imagine that.

So on a bright sunny very crisp (actually pretty cold) day last week, Nancy the Cat Slayer and I set out to join a chocolate walking tour in Soho. What fun! First, possibly because of the rather crisp (no, it really wasn't frigid, honest) weather, we were the only two people who signed up for the tour. And the young man who gave it -- a part time chef and middle school teacher -- was doing his first stint with this particular tour.

We had a blast. We saw Easter chocolates being made and packaged. We studied chocolate-covered matzos. We saw hand-dipped chocolate of so many varieties and infusions that it made my head spin in shops that were barely big enough for the three of us to fit in.

We tasted tea-infused chocolate. We savored saffron-flavored chocolate. We had a chocolate-covered creme brulee that, we learned, was the toast of the cooking channel. We tried bits of bacon in chocolate and we sipped hot chocolate (60-70%) made with milk and made with water.

We finally finished a couple of hours later at a cheesecake shop where we each were given an individual cheesecake (I took the key lime and white chocolate). Most of the chocolate came home with us and we've been tasting it periodically, refusing to indulge ourselves. I can see that making it into a book -- a scene all about the heroine's self-control!

There were amazing varieties of chocolate. But my favorites (perhaps because I'm a philistine) were the tuxedo-clad, bow-tie wearing Peeps from Jacques Torres, appropriately called Chirp N Dales!

That was a detail I never expected to find. It was the highlight of the tour for me. It's things like the Chirp N Dales that make research so much fun.

Suffice to say, I had a great time in New York. I learned a lot. Refilled my well. Have masses of notes. Not to mention a bag of delicious chocolate (including Chirps).

I'll be happy to share my Chirps with you.

Tell me your favorite chocolate -- or tell me what I should see next time I come to New York -- and I'll let my golden retrievers, Mitch and Micah, pick a winner from among the comments. The winner will get a packet of Chirp N Dales.

While Anne was in New York, she got a slew of emails saying, "Congratulations." She thought that was a little weird since she wasn't the one who got married.

Then she learned that while she was dancing at the wedding and pounding the pavements of the Big Apple, this year's RITA finalists were announced -- and that her most recent book,
One Night Mistress . . . Convenient Wife, was among them!

She's thrilled, honored and very grateful to the judges for their choice. So are Christo and Natalie whose book it is. In fact, Natalie has been eating chocolate to celebrate ever since. Christo, of course, is more self-disciplined (ha).

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Writer's Wednesday:For the Sake of the story




Superromance author Linda Barrett explains about meeting her Waterloo and how she survived!!!



With each book I write, I wonder why simple ideas to enrich the story always morph into complicated ones. For example, a brief mention of a lighthouse led me to learn about Fresnal lamps. When using an apple orchard setting, I learned about fruit farmers, renting bee hives for pollination, and the seasonal life cycle of apple trees. Research has informed me about professions, life situations and facts on any subject from divorce laws to the vocabulary of downhill skiing. Usually I’m patient. I can read and absorb. I can learn. With my current release, however, I’m crying uncle. I’ve met my Waterloo.

Its name is NFL football.

I blame Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. A 16-0 standing in the regular season a few years ago got me daydreaming about a profession and setting I knew absolutely nothing about. Zero. Squat. Nada. Despite having three sons, I still knew nothing. I pushed my kids toward baseball and basketball. Football looked like a killer sport, and far too dangerous for this mama.

When I started thinking about QUARTERBACK DADDY, I didn’t know what a down was. Line of scrimmage? Nope. I didn’t know the number of players on a team and that a team really has two parts: an offensive line and a defensive line who are not on the field at the same time! As for the game’s vocabulary? OMG! Free safety, cornerback, passing plays, hang time, hole number, incompletion, offside… the list goes on forever. Trust me, the SAT’s were easy compared to football.

When a know-nothing like me watches a football game on television, the action looks like a huge mess with big guys plowing into each other usually going nowhere. I know the goal is to get a touchdown, but how do they do it? Without understanding the rules of play and the plays themselves, the game means nothing. We say that writing is not a career for the faint of heart. I can apply the same admonition to learning football.

There was no question I needed help, so I subscribed to Sports Illustrated. I scoured articles in the sports section of my daily newspaper and on the Internet. The more I read, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. I needed more help than these resources and my husband could provide. My dh’s patience ran out after three questions. Okay, I’ll admit I asked the same question twice, but gee, even reporters get to ask follow-ups.
Among my own reference books are PCs for Dummies and Word 2007 for Dummies, so I figured there must be a similar book about football for this dummy. I figured right. Lined up on the shelf with other yellow-and-black books in the series was Football for Dummies by Howie Long, a Super Bowl winning defensive end for the Oakland/L.A. Raiders during his playing days. I snatched it from the shelf and held on tight. Soon I began to think Howie was my personal mentor, maybe even my friend. His book became my bible where I marked up pages and attached post-it notes. I studied the illustrations of the gridiron, memorizing each player’s position. I learned “sacked in the pocket.” I learned what a field goal was. But I also needed behind-the-scenes information, and my new friend provided it.

How do players prepare for each game during the season? I learned that every weekday has different goals with customized activities geared for peak performance on game day. What’s the best meal to eat the night before a game? The day of the game? The combo of proteins, carbs and fat are different. And what’s the rice about? A hundred pounds of uncooked rice in a barrel provides great resistance for strengthening wrist and forearm. What about the number on each guy’s shirt? Nothing haphazard there. They each have a specific meaning – quarterbacks have the lowest numbers. Eli Manning is a ten. Tom Brady is a twelve. Dan Delito is an eight. Never heard of Dan Delito? You will if you read Quarterback Daddy.

Howie’s book stayed at my side during the entire time I wrote my story. I kept it on my lap while I watched a game. I hosted my first Super Bowl party and had a blast. So, I’m ashamed to admit that after all my effort, I still don’t understand the game well. I’m starting to think that learning by doing is undoubtedly a better method to master a physical activity. But if you think I’m suiting up to run up and down a hundred yards of grass with a football in my arms…Fuhgeddaboudit ! Research goes only so far.



Linda Barrett is kindly giving away a copy of one of her books to someone who leaves a comment.


To learm more about Linda and her heart warming books visit her website: http://www.linda-barrett.com/

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pink Heart Picks: Secrets of the Playboy's Bride

Welcome back to March's PINK HEART PICKS book club selection!  This past month we delved into the world of the DESIRE line - right at the same time as they are celebrating their 2000th book!

This month's selection was SECRETS OF THE PLAYBOY'S BRIDE by Leanne Banks.

I'll admit, it's been a loooooong time since I read a Desire.  And that's sort of the purpose of the Pink Heart Picks, really.  To explore and discover new lines and voices that we might not usually pick up off the shelf.  Leanne Banks has taken a few risks with this book, namely in the heroine, Calista.  She's kind of...mercenary in the beginning.  I had a hard time warming up to her at first, knowing she was marrying Leo for revenge.  This is a well-used hook and for a reason - it is immediate conflict and it can really set off fireworks.  The difference?  Well, I'm used to reading about high-powered men being the ones exacting revenge, AND I'm used to them not making any bones about it - the heroine is well aware of what's going on.  With Secrets of the Playboy's Bride, Calista has a plan to seduce Leo with the ultimate goal of marriage- he's going to pay for hurting her family.  But Leo has NO idea that he's being lied to.  That's where this is risky.

Of course, that also means that there's lots of room for character arc and to see both their feelings shift as they change and grow.  Calista begins to forget about all the reasons why she'd wanted to marry him in the first place, and just as she's falling in love with him, he finds out the truth.  From a conflict perspective, it really works. Then there's the fact that she's doing it for her sisters - and they adopt an adorable puppy.  All things that help soften Calista and make us realize that boy oh boy, realizing she's in love with Leo is going to hit her RIGHT between the eyes!

As an aside - why is it that we excuse that hook with heroes but we find it so hard to accept in heroines?  Hmmm.  That bears some thinking about.

It was a fast-paced ride that kept me turning the pages - I loved the section in Japan and was a little disappointed we didn't get to go to India!

The one place that stopped me up, though, was the wedding night, when Leo realizes that she is not a virgin, though she definitely implied that was the case.  She hadn't thought he would know whether she was a virgin or not.  Um...I'm pretty sure he'd know.  I found it hard to believe that one point.  It was far more believable in the next scene where she admitted she'd made a mistake.  She knows she let him believe that and admits it.  She confesses about an earlier relationship.  I just had a really hard time believing she honestly thought he wouldn't be able to tell.

Lots of passion between the pages (and the sheets!) and loved the reunion with his family at the end - especially the epilogue and how he and his brother agree to take the next adventure together.  Awesome.

So...what did y'all think?




And now....drum roll please!  I'm SO thrilled to announce April's Pink Heart Picks selection!  We're going to be reading a very special book - a mother and daughter duet - and a debut all in one! 

Romance superstar Rebecca Winters is paired up with her daughter, Dominique Burton for A MOTHER'S WEDDING DAY (American Romance).  This is Dominique's debut and what a way to kick off a career!  I'm really looking forward to reading this one!

Monday, March 29, 2010

RITA ROUND-UP!

A huge Pink Heart Congrats to the finalists of this year's RITA Awards!  RITA day is always a tense, edge of the seat affair and this year was spectacular as the nominations were announced!  There are several category romances shortlisted:

For Best First Book:

The Gladiator by Carla Capshaw


For Contemporary Series:
 
A Not-So-Perfect Past by Beth Andrews


From the Outside by Helen Brenna

The Snow-Kissed Bride by Linda Goodnight

Single Mom Seeks... by Teresa Hill

Revealed: a Prince and a Pregnancy by Kelly Hunter

The Christmas Love-Child by Jennie Lucas

One-Night Mistress...Convenient Wife by Anne McAllister

Duty, Desire, and the Desert King by Jane Porter

I Still Do by Christie Ridgway

Contemporary Series - Suspense/Adventure
 
Mountain Investigation by Jessica Andersen


The Christmas Stranger by Beth Cornelison

The Soldier's Secret Daughter by Cindy Dees

In Care of Sam Beaudry by Kathleen Eagle

Silent Watch by Elle Kennedy

Cold Case Affair by Loreth Anne White

The Christmas Present by Tracy Wolff

Historical Romance:

Make Me Yours by Betina Krahn

Taming The Irish Warrior by Michelle Willingham

Inspirational Romance:

The Gladiator by Carla Capshaw



Regency Historical Romance:

Lord Braybrook's Penniless Bride by Elizabeth Rolls

Novella:

“Annalise and the Scandalous Rake” by Deb Marlowe in The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor (Historical)




"Charlotte and the Wicked Lord" by Amanda McCabe in The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor (Historical)

“The Christmas Eve Promise” by Molly O'Keefe in The Night Before Christmas (SSE)





GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF YOU IN NASHVILLE, TN!  You rock!