Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year in Review

As 2008 comes to a close, I'm watching snow and wind derail my plans for tonight. Boo hoo!

This has been a difficult year for our country. The publishing business, in no risk of receiving one of those lovely federal bailouts, has suffered just like many other industries. I've said before that the only thing we as writers can do in this economy is to keep writing and hope for better days ahead. I still firmly believe that the stories we're working on right now will contribute to the industry's resurgence in 2009 and 2010. Three weeks from now we'll inaugurate a new president, and I can't wait to be dazzled by him. But before we step into the New Year, here are a few of my writing highlights from 2008:

--Seeing a book cover with MY name on it for the first time.
--Getting PAID for my work. Twice. WOW!
--Gaining admission to RWA's Published Author Network, a major feather in a romance writer's cap.
--Returning from vacation this summer to find a box full of MY books on my front porch.
--Sharing the moment I first held Line of Scrimmage as a real live book with my husband and kids.
--Getting one excited e-mail after another from friends and family, letting me know their pre-ordered copies of Line of Scrimmage had shipped from Amazon.com.
--Receiving many wonderful reviews for Line of Scrimmage, including this one from Booklist, "With its humor and endearing characters, Force’s charming novel will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers, reaching far beyond sports fans." (To read all the lovely reviews, click on the "reviews" link below this post.)
--Signing with agent Kevan Lyon, who has been TERRIFIC to work with and lots of fun to hang out with, too.
--Walking into Barnes & Noble and knowing MY book was there after years of wishing just ONE of the thousands of books in the store could be mine. (Ryan and Susannah's wedding song, "You're in my Heart" by Rod Stewart, coming on the radio as the kids and I were pulling into the B&N parking lot gave me chills and made me feel like my late mother was with me, sharing in the joy.)

Here I am visiting Line of Scrimmage at my local Barnes & Noble!



We're in a very good neighborhood next to Lori Foster, one of my favorite authors and a new e-mail buddy this year.



--Holding a launch party for Line of Scrimmage, where I was able to recognize and thank the friends who'd held me up on the long road to publication.



--Befriending Elena, the author liaison at my local B&N, who referred to me as her "most successful local author" in the four years she's been with the store. She says we're going to lunch when the 100th copy of LOS sells in her store. At last check, we were at 88. She held a fabulous book signing for me in September, made me feel like a star on more than one occasion, and became a valued new friend and advocate.
--Receiving real, live fan mail! One of my favorite comments about Line of Scrimmage came in August from J. Kaye Oldner on her blog: "It was a book that made me laugh as well as cry. The three-dimensional characters were so vivid. I’d have no trouble plucking each one out of a crowd. LINE OF SCRIMMAGE is Marie Force’s first novel. Her next is scheduled to be out in the spring of 2009 and it’s titled SAME TIME SUNDAY. You can bet I’ll be in line to get my copy, because hands down, this is the best romance I’ve read this year."
--Attending the National Romance Writers of America annual conference for the first time in my favorite city of San Francisco where I met so many of my online friends, rode in a limo to the publisher's dinner, and met my editor, publisher, agent and publicist in person.

Here is the Sourcebooks Casablanca gang at the publisher's dinner in San Francisco:


Back row (l-r) Michele Ann Young, Linda Wisdom, Dominique Raccah, Gail, Beth, Sharon Lathan, and our lovely publicist Danielle Jackson. Front row (l-r) Deb Werksman, Robin Kaye, Marie Force, Malena Lott, Judi Fennell and "Aunty Cindy" Loucinda McGary.

--Selling my second book, formerly known as Same Time Sunday, during the RWA conference. (New title pending, hopefully in early January.) I'm very excited about this book and can't wait to hear what readers think of it. I take a few risks in this one by showing my hero and heroine with other people before they get together. (And when I say with other people, I mean WITH other people... Tee hee, yes, there's sex in chapter 2!)
--Being featured twice in local newspapers.
--Attending the New Jersey Romance Writer's Conference where I participated in a multi-author book signing for the first time and connected with readers, one of whom gave ME a gift to thank me for writing a book she loved so much. That was pretty cool!
--Signing books at Annie's Book Stop in Sharon, MA. Thank you Merry Cutler, a great friend of romance writers! Hope we can do it again when the second book comes out.



--Making an astounding array of new friends, both writers and readers, who have been so supportive and invested in my writing career. My fellow Sourcebooks Casablanca authors have been such a joy to me, keeping me sane, focused and enormously entertained. You ladies are my favorite writing friends, bar none. Our Casablanca Authors blog has been a lot of fun this year, and I look forward to the start of another terrific year together.
--Participating in a group signing in Baltimore's Inner Harbor B&N with my good friends Robin Kaye and Kendra Leigh Castle, with whom I also share agent.



--Starting this blog and committing to it as an almost-daily endeavor beginning in November. Nearly 3,000 readers have stopped by, which is a major accomplishment in and of itself.

Yes, there have been downs to go with the ups, but as I look over the list above, I realize that the highs have certainly outpaced the lows. I will look back at 2008, my debut year, as a year to be remembered and savored as I go forward, hopefully for years to come, with new books, new adventures, and more new friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who loved Ryan and Susannah, who wrote glowing reviews, who took the time to send me fan mail to tell me they loved the book, and who made my year by getting what I was trying to convey about a marriage in crisis. I know this may sound hokey, but I also want to thank Ryan Sanderson for being one hell of a fun character. He is the heart and soul of Line of Scrimmage, and readers have responded with passionate love for him. Publishers Weekly said of him, "Ryan . . . is a good guy desperate to fix past mistakes, a terrific change of pace from the typical reluctant hero."

By far, the best part of this debut year has been sharing the excitement with the people I love and seeing my Dad enjoying every minute of it after years of urging me to get serious about my writing. At every party, cookout, gathering, and event I get grilled on how it all works: how you write a book, how you sell a book, how it feels to be published, etc. As my fellow writers will attest, we love to talk about what is for most of us a lonely, solitary pursuit. My secret life came busting out of the closet this year. I'm a writer, and now everyone knows it.

Wishing you good health, good friends, and good books in 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rumor Has It...

...That the Tom Brady engagement story is FALSE. His father was quoted in People magazine saying the airplane, the roses... never happened. Does that mean I can use the Tom Brady False Engagement Scenario in a romance novel someday? The team spokesman says Tom likes to keep his private life private. Damn him. I heard a snippet of sports talk in the time it took me to relocate a car in my driveway the other day in which Tom was being vilified for getting engaged during the season that he sat out after blowing his knee in the first quarter of the first game. I have to admit, even as Tom's biggest fan, I wondered why he didn't wait a week or two to propose until the team was either done for the year or in the playoffs. Guess what? I feared he would be vilified in the Boston market for having ANY kind of life outside of football during the season. Surprise, surprise, he was ripped up, and now we hear the story might not even be true! This is a tough place to be a professional athlete. Fish bowl anyone? I saw a comment online after the engagement story broke where someone said that Giselle (hello, the SUPERMODEL) looks old enough to be Tom's mother! LOL! Who are these people?

How sad it is that I can't WAIT for the next season of The Bachelor to begin on Monday? The reality matchmaking show with the DISMAL success rate sucks me in every time. I keep planning to not watch it, but have yet to succeed in meeting this goal. For those who are not fans, single dad Jason was on his way to bended knee when De-ANNA stopped him in last season's Bachelorette finale. She picked oddball snowboarder Jesse over Jason, who is cute but let's face it. He's no Andy Baldwin. After watching every season except the first one, I've noticed some patterns. They spend a LOT of time at the very beginning showcasing people who end up going the distance, so it was no surprise to me that Jason went all the way to the finale after the long intro they did featuring him and his too-cute-for-words son Ty during the first Bachelorette show. Now he is the first-ever single dad Bachelor and he's said he's engaged and madly in love. For once, I find myself hoping for it to take, but I'm going into it with a healthy dose of skepticism so I don't get my heart broken again. (HA--just kidding! I love the train wreck romances that come out of this show!) If you love to make fun of The Bachelor, you MUST read Lincee's recaps on the I Hate Green Beans blog. She is freaking HILARIOUS, and she's already handicapping the likely finalists. Check back here for frequent discussions of the insanity during the season.

Our New Year's Eve plans are in peril thanks to snow... I hate New Year's Eve but I'm looking forward to seeing our friends The McMahons, who were our neighbors in Jacksonville. What's everyone else doing on amateur night?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is Anyone Else Feeling Lazy?

How did it get to be the 28th already? Whew... Not much motivation to do, well, anything around here. It's all I can do to get a load of laundry all the way to the dryer. Yesterday, I did get Jake's room totally cleaned. It was one of those cleanings that includes getting rid of too small clothes and outgrown toys. I want to hermetically seal the room so it will stay that way. I paid Emily $10 to help us, which was money well spent. Without her, I'd still be in there. Ask her to use her powers of organization in her own room? HA! As if!

Let's see, since we last chatted, we had a fun Christmas Eve at Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob's, an annual family tradition stretching 30 years. This year, Cliff Claven got to play Santa. Now that we no longer have believers in our house, he can do it without shattering any illusions. Some of the older kids at the gathering outed him, but not before he successfully read the Night Before Christmas and distributed the gifts. Doesn't he look cute in red and white fur?



As expected, the kids freaked when my dad gave them the Wii on Christmas morning. He comes over every year to open presents with us and eat pumpkin bread for breakfast. I'm so glad he does that, because the kids love having him here. This was a big electronic Christmas. I gave Cliff a home theater system, which he loves. He's already got it all installed. My refrain all day has been TURN IT DOWN. It's loud. Really loud. The kids got all kinds of stuff to go with the Wii, including Rock Band from my cousin Steve (who is Jake's godfather) and all the racquets, bats, swords, etc from my cousin Jean (Jake's godmother). They also got the tennis game from my brother George and his wife Holly. We also gave them a karaoke for their iPods, which I am secretly more excited about than they are! Cliff is freaking out about all the stuff that has to be connected to the game system center downstairs. His long weekend has been all about finding batteries, some assembly required, crawling around in the attic, and, for good measure, replacing the plumbing on the kitchen sink, which suddenly let go tonight in the midst of our Patriot's football gathering. (The Patriot's won, the Ravens and Jets lost, so the Pats are out of contention. Boo hoo! With an 11- 5 record no less! And Tom Brady got engaged, which I still can't talk about. Speaking of boo hoo! The kids reminded me that I'm married. Details.)

Holly outdid herself with Christmas dinner, which consisted of tenderloin and baked stuffed shrimp. I made my friend Cheryl's potatoes and they were a big hit. The day after Christmas, my annual "Boxer Day," in which I normally don't get dressed at all, was interrupted by a send off lunch for my dad who left for Florida at 1:30 am on the 27th and made it all the way from Rhode Island to southern North Carolina the first day. Yes, that would be 12 hours and more than 800 miles. He's a mad man. Either that or he's fleeing as fast and as far from his koo koo family as he can get. I suspect it's the latter.

Last night, Cliff and I had a fun night out with some new friends, and today we had football madness with my brother, sister-in-law and a bevy of cousins.

Anyone surprised that I'm not getting much writing done? I can't believe we're already down to one more week of vacation. I'll need a vacation to recover. Tomorrow I promised the kids a shopping trip to spend their gift cards because God knows they don't have enough stuff!

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays! I need a nap!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas is Saved!

Up until recently, our house has been referred to as "Little House on the Prairie" by our smart-aleck friends. No play station, no Wii, no gadgets except for a karaoke machine and a couple of high-end computers. Big whoop for the kids. Last New Year's Day, Jake and I struck a deal: If he read every night (or close to it) until his October birthday, we'd get him a play station for his birthday. Well, he held up his end of the deal and so did we. He used his birthday money to take it even further: he bought a PSP, a hand-held game system. I joke that we haven't seen him since October. People tell me the obsession will wear off in time. Not seeing any sign of that thus far...

Since we've crossed the threshold into the 21st century, I decided to go all the way and get them a Wii from my dad this Christmas. Except, being totally ignorant in the way of most things electronic that aren't computers, I waited until yesterday (Dec. 22) to look for one. Last week, I was at a Game Stop in Massachusetts and saw the store was loaded with Wii boxes, except Jake was with me and I hadn't yet discussed this big idea with Cliff Claven, who's even more of a dinosaur on this subject than I am—and that's saying something. I held off on buying it last week because I figured they were fat with them and there'd be plenty left when I went out to make the buy. I've since learned that the boxes in Game Stop are only for show. They don't necessarily mean they have them in stock! I also figured the Wii has been out for a couple of years and people are probably over it by now. I said as much to the guy at Best Buy yesterday. He just smirked and said, "Yeah, not so much. Not over it."

I came home and called my dad. "We're screwed," I said, bummed mostly because I was loving the idea of him being the Christmas morning hero. My kids adore him, and the gift would be huge coming from him. He and I agreed that they were old enough at 13 and 10 to cope with an IOU especially since they're getting plenty of other loot.

Then, today, a miracle! My cousin Trisha calls about something totally unrelated and mentions that she bought a Wii today! WHERE? I cry. She tells me where she bought hers and then mentions that she's at Game Stop—the same one I visited yesterday only to be told there wasn't one in the entire state of Rhode Island. Guess what? They had ONE. BUY IT! I screamed. Laughing, she asked me to stop screaming in her ear.

The THING is in my house. She's been paid. Christmas is saved.

Note to self: next year plan ahead. Second note to self: hope the kids don't read the blog. They don't read the blog. Do they?

Merry Christmas one and all. Thanks for all your support this year, for your kind words about Line of Scrimmage, and your excitement about the still unnamed second book. I'll be back after Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Yes, it Snowed...

...but not until 1 p.m., so yes, the kids could've gone to school yesterday! I will admit that once the snow started, it went from zero to 90 in no time at all, which is probably why they cancelled school. If that had happened before the kids were home, it would've been a mess. Still, you know it's an unnecessary snow day when even the kids are grumbling about missing what is easily the most fun day of the school year (other than the last day, that is!) We got about a foot of snow.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Day

We saw the sun yesterday! YAY! Today, in a massive overreaction, school was cancelled across the state of Rhode Island in anticipation of a storm that isn't expected to really arrive until 2 p.m. Umm, okay. Why the overreaction? Last December, a mid-day snow storm hit with unexpected fury, leaving scores of Providence school children stranded on buses until as late as 11 p.m. So now we overreact and cancel school even when it's not necessary. They could've gotten in a half day today rather than having an extra day tacked on in June.

Neither of my kids nor my good friend who teaches Grade 6 were pleased by this cancellation. You see, the last day before Christmas vacation is FUN. Everyone is in a festive mood, the teachers can wear jeans, no real work gets done, there are treats and snacks and movies and parties. Jake's Grade 4 breakfast was scuttled, Emily's Grade 8 dessert exchange cancelled. They were not happy! Our superintendent all but admitted in her note to parents that she did not agree with this but had basically been told to do by the RI Emergency Management Agency. In other words, if she didn't do it and something happened, she wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

The same thing happened after the devastating nightclub fire in 2003. Granted, major changes were needed, but the extreme upgrades required to fire prevention systems has shut down many a business. The cost to add sprinkler systems to existing buildings is staggering. This week we heard recommendations that one of the elementary schools in our town needs to be closed. Apparently, the cost of installing the sprinkler system in the existing school would be more than the price to build a new one. Yikes!

I'm all for safety. My kids would tell you I'm obsessed with their safety. But sometimes we can take it too far. My kids should be in school today. Instead, their 15-day vacation just became 16 days.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Traditions

Another day of gloomy weather here in RI, and we're not even getting the snow that everyone else seems to be getting! I'm sick of rain and gray skies. Enough already! Once again, it is raining slush today, which will freeze later, making a huge mess.

Despite the rain and gloom, we are pressing forward with holiday preparations. One of my favorite of our family traditions is our annual trek to a local mall where the kids pick out a Hallmark ornament to add to their collections. The plan is that when they move to their own homes (Emily most likely at 18, Jake hopefully by 40), they will take those ornaments with them. This year, Emily picked a High School Musical "locker" that sings "We're All in This Together" when the door opens. The ornament reminded her of her stint as Ms. Darbus in HSM when she was in sixth grade. Jake chose an Ironman ornament, in honor of his favorite movie of 2008. Cliff Claven takes Emily to Indiana for a weekend every May, during which Jake and I usually go to a movie of his choice. Last year, I sort of suffered through Spiderman 3. This year, I was dazzled by Ironman, so I definitely approved of his ornament choice!

The ornament outing also includes a trip to the Olive Garden and pairing up with mom and dad to finish their shopping. With some variations, my original family used to take a similar trip every holiday season—to the same mall we go to now. Those trips are the ONLY time I can ever remember being with my father in a mall. My kids will be able to say the same thing about their father! Last night, we added a new twist to the tradition. As we were leaving the mall, the kids talked us into getting their pictures taken in a photo booth. After we paid $3 for four extremely goofy pictures that I will keep forever, they informed us that the photo booth is now part of the routine.

I hope they will remember these things we did together when they are grown up with families of their own. I suspect they will because they are already holding us to them. This year, we changed church parishes and both of them have already asked me if we will be going to our former church at 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve the way we have since we moved here six years ago. Yes, I assured them. St. Mary's is part of our Christmas tradition. We won't be changing it.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Round Up

If you want to know why it's so hard to make money as an author, read this. Uber agent Richard Curtis offers an outstanding summary of the issues that threaten the publishing industry, with a novel-worthy twist at the end. Three words all authors dread: reserve against returns. The more I learn the more I wonder if people would really set off on this journey if they truly knew how very difficult it can be. Thank goodness for the writing! The fun, the joy, the bliss!

Agent Rachelle Gardner offers up a list of 10 Ways to Be a Dream Client here.

It's raining for like the tenth straight day in Rhode Island. I used to think seasonal affective disorder was a myth. But now I'm buying in. Ten solid days of grayness and rain messes with your head—no matter how peppy you try to be. Try writing in the midst of that gloom... Blah!

Friday, December 12, 2008

TGIF

You ever have one of those weeks where everything that can go wrong does? Just when you think nothing else can happen, something else does? That pretty much describes this week for me. Work was crazy, book stuff was crazy, kids were crazy, holidays were crazy... Are you seeing the theme here? CRAZY!

So how do we rise above it and keep the creative juices flowing? Well, sometimes we don't. I had so much going on and so many other things competing for my limited brain power this week, that I raised the white flag and surrendered to the madness. I took care of the things that needed taking care of so that when I get back to the WIP I'll have something to give it. As writers, we put so much pressure on ourselves to produce pages and to finish what we started that sometimes we forget this is supposed to be fun. Yes, you heard me right, FUN! Sure, writing is a career for those who can afford to do it full time. That's not me. Even if I could afford to give up my day job, I don't think I would. My job, my title, and my work are a big part of what defines me, and I've been doing it a long time—long before I decided to give fiction writing a whirl. In short, I like my day job.

Things have changed this year. I've gone from unpublished to published and have had a whole litany of accompanying challenges to navigate. Contracts and clauses and promotion and blog tours and book signings. It's all wonderful and every bit the dream come true that I hoped it would be. But there's a lot of juggling. A full-time job, a second all-but-full-time job, two kids, a husband, a soon-to-be 17-year-old dog, a house that needs to be cleaned more than once a month, and laundry that never quits. Sometimes, *gasp* the writing stuff isn't fun. And that's not how it's supposed to be. So I'm dedicated this holiday season to putting the fun back in my writing "career." I write because I love to create stories that entertain me first and then hopefully others. I write because it's fun and because I've been blessed with stories that come to me in the oddest of ways almost daring me to take them on. THAT is fun. THAT is why I do this. THAT is why I will always do this. Because it's FUN.

What keeps you going when life conspires against you and your writing? Or your personal creative outlet?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Moments of Magic

I'm in my eleventh year of working full time from home. Some days I'm like a drooling, pajama-wearing, housebound freakazoid who talks to herself and the dog—and swears the dog answers back. But I digress. I like working from home. I like my routine, and I love being here for my kids, who are now 10 and 13, and don't know it any other way. To them, Moms work at home, and that's just the way it is. I put my son on the bus at 8:30 every morning (right in front of my house so no need for real clothes) and get him off the bus at 3:30. Another important aspect of the daily pick up and drop off are the biscuits the monitor gives Consuela. To her, yellow school bus = biscuit wagon.

Since Jake called me out one day to the monitor for still being in my PJs at 3:30 (this was when he was in 1st grade), I make a point of being properly attired before Emily gets home from middle school at 3. Usually, the proper attire happens MUCH earlier than that. Some days, when work is nuts, it happens five minutes before she gets home, which is my own little secret. Well, after all these years of greeting school buses, you wonder if your presence is any more significant to them than say, the sofa or the fridge or the TV. Actually, I think the fridge and TV come in well ahead of me on their significant household item lists, but they would probably say otherwise to spare my feelings. Today, I had to take my daughter somewhere right after school, so Cliff Claven came home early to get Jake (now in 4th grade) off the bus. When I got home, I asked Jake how Dad did on bus duty. "Well," he said, "he didn't hold the door open for me."

I stopped what I was doing and turned to him. "What?"

"The door," he said, exasperated to be interrupted in the middle of a pressing video game. "He didn't hold the door open for me."

I thought about it for a minute and realized that every day, almost without fail, I lean out the front door to thank the monitor for Consuela's biscuit and then hold the door open for Jake. And he notices. I gotta tell you, that struck me right where I live as the mom who is just HERE every day. I mean, who cares? Who notices? Apparently, Jake does, and with that one little comment, he made my day, my month, my life as a work-at-home mom. It matters that I'm here. It matters to him.

Last week, I had a similar moment with Emily. She is dropped off one house up the street. As I've mentioned before, the high school is at the top of our hill, and the high school teams run wind sprints up and down our street after school. So Emily is coming down the hill from the bus stop just as a pack of high school boys come running down the hill. She knew they were there but never turned to take a look. Instead, when she saw me watching for her, she sashayed down the street, playing it up for me. If you'd caught the scene on TV, it would've looked like a pack of boys was chasing my girl. As she approaches the door, she sends me a knowing grin.

"Friends of yours?" I ask.

"Just some people I brought home with me," she replies with nonchalance.

Never once did she look at the boys. Instead, she kept her eyes firmly on me and shared the small, magical moment of total unity and humor at a time when we struggle to see eye-to-eye on anything. It helped me to remember that underneath all the teenaged angst and attitude, there's a girl I adore in there.

They tell me she'll be back some day. I'll be here waiting, and I'll hold the door open for her.

Madness Abounds

Sorry for the quiet on the blog this week. Things are crazy:

1. At home: kids = crazy + Christmas = insanity

2. At work: jamming five weeks of work into three

3. In book land: we're still trying to rename the book formerly known as Same Time Sunday. Hopefully, more to come on that soon!

I'm looking forward to a nice long vacation later this month. My company does a lovely thing for us each year by closing down from Christmas to New Year's. Since I only had to take four days off to get 16 days off and since the kids are home the full two weeks during a time of year when there is less than nothing to do, I figured I'd take the break. I did this last year, too, and I've decided it's my favorite vacation of the year. There's not as much pressure to get out there and DO as there is during summer vacations when the weather is perfect and the beaches are open. At Christmas, there's more time to watch movies, read a good book, or maybe write one. I'm looking forward to finishing up the WIP from hell soon and starting on a new light contemporary that has been running around in my head for months.

I'm also looking forward to some plans with our former neighbors from the Florida years. Our families haven't gotten together in more than a year, and we're planning to spend New Year's Eve together and to do some snow tubing. Have you ever done that? I love it! Of course my oh-so-competitive Cliff Claven has to be like an Olympic bobsledder. He goes SO fast, he jumps the net that's there to catch you. He literally DISAPPEARS off the slope and then comes crawling back up the side of the containment area. I never laughed so hard in my life! And the last thing you want to do on a snowy slope is come close to a urinary incident! Suffice to say that watching Cliff on the tubes is a recipe for said urinary incident!

Are you taking time off at the holidays? What do you have planned?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Two New Reviews for Line of Scrimmage

More than three months after it launched, Line of Scrimmage continues to snag some great reviews! YAY! Here are the two latests ones:

Romance Junkies
LINE OF SCRIMMAGE is about getting a fresh start, a new beginning. Ryan and Susannah are clearly made for each other. I loved their interactions and conversations. Ms. Marie Force did an excellent job of putting the reader in her character’s shoes. The story is filled to the brim with characters you fall in love with, plot twists you’d never guess and plenty of action in between. LINE OF SCRIMMAGE is a fast-paced read that will warm you on the inside and make you believe everyone deserves a second chance for their happy ending. Read the full review!

A Romance Review
"Marie Force does many things right: Ryan is sexy, has enough ego in him to be a football player but is also a straight shooter and is unafraid to share his feelings with his wife. Susannah is an intelligent woman who fears giving Ryan her heart again. Her conflicts were natural, but so was her genuine love for him and her decision to support his career for so long. I really liked this story!

Line of Scrimmage is a romantic and sexy football romance. Athletes often make for some of my favorite heroes and Ryan definitely lives up to some of my past favorite characters. This story has heart and depth! Read the full review!

Thanks to the reviewers for their kind words!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Signing Books in Baltimore

Yesterday, I signed Line of Scrimmage in Baltimore with my friends Robin Kaye (Romeo Romeo) and Kendra Lee Castle (Call of the Highland Moon and Dark Highland Fire). It was great to see Robin again and to meet Kendra for the first time. Besides sharing a publisher, we are all represented by the lovely Kevan Lyon. After talking our faces off over lunch, we spent the afternoon at the Barnes & Noble at the Power Plant in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

It was fun to be back in Baltimore, where we spent a lot of time when we lived in Maryland (from 95-98). I remember my now 13-year-old daughter fighting to get free of her stroller as we walked through the stores in the Inner Harbor. My next book, the one formerly known as Same Time Sunday (new name pending, stay tuned), is set in Baltimore. I love the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Little Italy. It's a great city, and Robin, our new BFF at the B&N there was super to us. Thank you Robin!

Here are a few photos:

Marie, Robin and Kendra



Robin's husband Stephen, the original Domestic God, who kept us in coffee during the signing.



With my friend and co-worker April Pardoe, who "loaned" me her former home in Baltimore to use as my hero's home in the book formerly known as Same Time Sunday. I'll post some photos of that fabulous place when the book comes out!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Optimism in the Face of Pessimism

The news is glum these days. Layoffs and bailouts and plunging stock numbers... Viewing the nightly news requires a stiff drink and a mild sedative. Even though it's usually seen as recession-proof, the publishing business has had its own challenges lately. Yesterday is being called "Black Wednesday," a day in which Random House completely reorganized. Maud Newton does a good job of explaining what the Random House reorganization means to the industry and to authors.

Yes, the news is discouraging. Yes, it will be harder to get published and stay published in this environment. Yes, everyone is worried. But what can we as writers do about it? Not a damned thing. Who will bail out the publishing business? WE WILL! Yes, we will! Without us, without our books, the industry can't survive. So when times get tough, get busy! Keep writing, keep thinking up amazing stories, keep on doing what you do best! I've been on a tear with the work in progress lately. I can't wait to get back to it every night. I wrote a scene today that made me laugh so hard I cried! Is there anything more fun than that? Since it can take a year or two for a book to wind its way to publication, by the time this one makes it to the shelves—if it makes it—our country will no doubt be back on its feet and thriving once again. The books we are working on right now will be key to the industry's recovery. Write them! Let others worry about how we're going to turn this whole thing around. That isn't our job. If we do our jobs and they do theirs, we'll get through this.

In other news, I had my first request for a blurb this week. A chapter friend is having her first novella published and it's a contemporary, so she came to me for an endorsement. It was another first in this year of firsts, each exciting in its own way.

Finally, my Sourcebooks sister Cheryl Brooks has started a new erotic blog for readers who enjoy her spicy books (Slave and Warrior with Rogue and Fugitive coming next year). Her blog is not for the faint of heart, which is why it comes with a warning. Enter at your own risk! Cheryl cracks me up every day with her funny emails so I have high hopes for a funny, entertaining daily dose of her wild thoughts!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's All in the Name...

I learned yesterday that the title and cover of my second book, formerly known as Same Time Sunday, will be changing so I took it off the sidebar of the blog for now. I thought I was going to get lucky with two books published under the names I gave them. But since the name and the cover are so critical to selling the book, I will hope for a great name and cover to give the book the best possible chance for success. That's Zen Marie talking there. She's pretty evolved, isn't she? I'll let you know what we come up with for a new name and cover! Stay tuned.

In Entertainment Weekly, I was reading a profile of Meryl Streep, who at 59, is suddenly the most powerful actress in Hollywood—based on box office dollars. In fact, her numbers have been so strong lately thanks to Mama Mia and The Devil Wore Prada, that she has eclipsed many of her male peers, including De Niro, Pacino, Hoffman and Nicholson. I saw Mama Mia and loved it, even Pierce Brosnan's singing. Despite all this success, Streep still receives scathing reviews, and they still hurt. "Acting," she says, "is very satisfying if you can manage to not have your feelings hurt when they don't like you. I haven't really had any breakthroughs in that area. It still hurts my feelings." Interesting to know that Hollywood's biggest female star, the winner of two Oscars and countless nominations, is still hurt by bad reviews. That gives the rest of us who put our hearts and souls out there—to possibly be trounced upon—some comfort in knowing we all feel the same way about critical reviews, no matter how we choose to stretch our creative muscles—and as much as we claim not to read them!

I'm looking forward to a signing this weekend at the Barnes & Noble Power Plant in Baltimore's Inner Harbor with my friends Robin Kaye (Romeo Romeo) and Kendra Leigh Castle (Call of the Highland Moon and Dark Highland Fire). If you're in the Baltimore area this Saturday, come by and see us from 2 - 3:30! I'll post some photos on Sunday.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Line of Scrimmage: The Next Chapter

This is running tomorrow on the Casablanca Authors Blog. Come on by to join the discussion. Wonder what became of Ryan and Susannah after we left them at the end of Line of Scrimmage? Well, read on!

Line of Scrimmage ends with an epilogue in which Ryan's number is retired at an elaborate ceremony before the final home game of the Denver Maverick's season—their first season without Ryan as their starting quarterback. Attending the ceremony with Ryan are his wife Susannah and their daughter Hope, who is four weeks old. Ryan hints that he's anxious to be "back in the saddle" with Susie, but as we moms know, there's no saddle action for six weeks after a woman gives birth. So if you wondered how Ryan and Susannah's story continues, here's the next chapter. It picks up six weeks to the day after Hope's birth when the family is getting ready for a cozy Christmas at their cabin in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Ryan hated Christmas tree lights. He hated unraveling the huge, knotted ball of hell, he hated trying to get them evenly distributed on the nine-foot tree, he hated the way Susie always made him re-do it at least once and often twice, he hated the way his fingers became sticky with sap. Most of all, he hated teetering on a ladder while she barked orders from the safety of the floor. However, when he thought about last year and the Christmas he'd spent alone in his barren apartment while he and Susie were separated, he attacked the knotted ball of hell with gusto. This year, everything was different. They were back together where they belonged, they finally had the child they had yearned for, and he was grateful for the many blessings this year had brought.

Unfortunately, he was also insanely horny after having to go without the last couple of months. Susie's pregnancy had been deemed "high risk," which translated to "hands off" for him. But earlier today, she'd come home from her six-week check up in the city all smiles and talking about green lights. He'd wanted to drag her off to bed that very minute, but of course Hope had picked today to be unusually fussy. So while Susie tried to get the baby down for what he hoped would be a two- or three-hour stretch, Ryan wrestled with the knotted ball of hell and tried to keep his mind out of the gutter. Was it so wrong to have a one-track mind? Was it so wrong to be turned on by the sight of his wife breast-feeding their baby? Since that went on for most of every day, he'd been taking long treks through the icy woods to deal with his raging libido. Maybe there was something wrong with him if all he could think about was getting his wife horizontal. He was supposed to be preparing for his job as the coach of the Arlington High School Colts, but even that new and exciting challenge couldn't seem to get his mind off the other issue.

"Hey," Susannah said when she came into the room looking exhausted and drained. Damn it! "What're you doing?" She took a closer look, her eyes widening with surprise. "Did you actually get the lights out without me holding a gun to your head?"

"Yeah, so?"

"Are you sick? Do you have a fever?"

"Very funny." Ryan's grumpy mood turned sullen when he realized that while she might have the green light, she probably didn't have the energy for what he had in mind. He eyed the fire he'd built up earlier, hoping for a do over of the night they'd spent in front of the fireplace last winter when they most likely conceived Hope.

"What's wrong, Ry?"

"Nothing," he snapped as he fought with the lights. "Everything's just fine. Perfect in fact."

She came up behind him and wrapped her arms around him. "No, it isn't."

Ryan was afraid to move. Hell, he could barely breathe.

"Tell me," she said, pressing a kiss to his neck. "You're so tight and tense." She massaged his neck and shoulders.

Ryan tried counting, he tried counting backwards, he tried breathing. But the more she touched him, the worse it got. When he couldn't take one more second of it, he spun around, scooped her up with one arm and set off for the bedroom.

"Ryan!" she said, breathless. "What're you doing?"

"Taking my wife to bed."

"But wait—"

"I've waited months. I can't wait one more minute."

She shocked the hell out of him when she grabbed handfuls of his hair and dragged his mouth to hers.

Ryan saw stars.

Her legs hooked around his hips, she went wild in his arms.

"Susie," he gasped. "Wait."

"I've waited months. I can't wait one more minute."

"Hey! That's my line."

"It seems," she said with a saucy smile as she dragged the sweater over his head, "that it's our line. Now shut up and get naked."

Never one to have to be told twice, Ryan moved fast. And then skin was against skin, hard against soft. "God, Susie, I've missed this. I've missed you." He devoured her, as if he had in fact been starving.

Hope picked that moment to let out a lusty wail.

"No," Ryan moaned. "Doesn't she care at all about her Daddy?"

Susie laughed and disentangled herself from his embrace. "Hold that thought." She got up, put on a robe, and ducked into the large walk-in closet that was doubling as Hope's nursery at the cabin.

Ryan wanted to weep, he wanted to wail. Instead, he buried his face in the pillow and prayed for a quick return to sleep for his daughter. By the time Susie slid into bed half an hour later, he was almost more interested in sleep than sex.

Almost.

She caressed his back and coaxed him out of hiding. "Now, where were we?"

Turning on his side to face her, he said, "We don't have to." He couldn't believe the words had come out of his face. "You've got to be tired."

"Ryan Sanderson, I swear to God. If you don't make love to me right now—this minute—I'll go get the Christmas lights and use them to tie you to the bed so I can have my way with you."

Astounded, Ryan stared at her. "Well, that's one way for me to to get out of untangling them."

She laughed, and Ryan, never one to have to be told twice, did as directed.

Forty weeks to the day later, Susannah gave birth to a nine-pound baby boy they named Luke. He had his daddy's brown eyes and deep dimples. Turns out the doctor meant it when she said breast-feeding wasn't foolproof birth control. Who knew? Who cared?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

NaNo-BLOG-Mo

While many of my author colleagues worked this month to write a first draft of a novel as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), my goal was to blog every day. I achieved my goal for the most part, blogging twenty-six days out of thirty (I left the last posting up for a few days since it took me an hour to make it all work properly). Like writing itself, daily blogging can become a habit if you DO IT every day. After a few days, you start to think differently. You notice things in the news, in the blog-o-sphere and in everyday life that are blog-worthy. You pay attention differently. You plan to blog, and so you do. At least that's how it went for me. Along the way, I noticed my daily numbers going up—ten, twenty, thirty a day. Some days more. If you build it, they will come. So I will continue to build it and hope you'll come.

Late last week, I read this heartwarming post from author Barbara Samuels on Romancing the Blog. It was called A True Connection, and it was about her parents' 50th anniversary. It's the story of an amazing marriage and family. It's a story worthy of a classic romance novel. I left a comment about my own parents' lovely marriage.

I've mentioned here and on other blogs about being a late-in-life football fan. I blame Line of Scrimmage for this new-found affliction. We were out earlier and I hustled my family home to be in front of the TV in time for today's 4 p.m. kick off of the Pats-Steeler's game. I think my transformation is now complete. I wanted to get home to watch the Pats. And Tom Brady isn't even playing. I am a fan. Shocking!

Alrighty, back to the last of the Same Time Sunday copy edits. We're in the home stretch, and of course I'm freaking out knowing this is the last chance to tweak. Oh the pain of separation! Does anyone else ever feel this way?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Books Make Great Gifts!

As the holiday shopping season begins this Black Friday, I thought it would be a good time to pass along some personal recommendations for your book buying pleasure. I've read just about all of these books and each of the authors is a good friend of mine. Peruse the list below and you will see, there's something for everyone on your list. Now, of course, I have to start with my favorite published book from 2008:

Line of Scrimmage
By: Marie Force
The Hail Mary play of a lifetime . . . An NFL quarterback has just 10 days to convince his soon-to-be ex-wife to give him another chance, and he has to act fast—she’s already engaged to her ex-boyfriend. Readers will laugh and cry and hope—that at the end of the day, these two lovers, who clearly belong together, will somehow find their way back to one another.

“With its humor and endearing characters, Force's charming novel will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers, reaching far beyond sports fans.” —Booklist

BUY IT


Dating da Vinci
By: Malena Lott
A gorgeous young Italian, with nowhere to go . . .His name just happens to be Leonardo da Vinci. When he walks into Ramona Elise's English class, he's a twenty-five-year-old immigrant, struggling to forge a new life in America - but he's lonely, has nowhere to live, and barely speaks English . . .She knows she shouldn't take him home . . .Picking up the pieces of her life after the death of her beloved husband, linguist and teacher Ramona Elise can't help but be charmed by her gorgeous new student. And when he calls her "Mona Lisa" she just about loses her heart . . .

"Delightfully affirming romance!" —Booklist

BUY IT


Romeo Romeo
By: Robin Kaye
Rosalie Ronaldi is a woman focused on her career. She has no intention of ever getting married nor is she a domestic goddess—both major points of contention with her traditional Italian Catholic family. However, when she gets a flat tire and is stranded on the side of the road, a mechanic with a tow truck pulls over, and gives her a hand.
Turns out that “mechanic” is actually Nick Romeo, “Brooklyn’s Donald Trump,” a self-made millionaire and serial dater. He’s instantly attracted to Rosalie, even though she’s far from his usual type of girlfriends who are fortune-hunting sticks with breasts. He quickly realizes, though, that he would have no chance with her if she knew who he was—the multi-millionaire playboy who, back in his misspent youth, got her older brother arrested. So he neglects to mention that detail. Somewhat inexplicably to both of them, they click instantly (helped along by Nick’s protective instincts when Rosalie gets pneumonia), and Nick suddenly becomes her live-in caretaker, cook, housekeeper, and lover, all rolled into one. Looming over his head, though, is his hidden identity and the fact that his company is at odds with Rosalie’s.

“Wonderful Laugh Out Loud Humor, a sexy and precious love story with twists and turns until the very end. Do Not Miss This Treasure!!” —Single Title Reviews

BUY IT


The Wild Sight
By: Loucinda McGary
Cursed with the Irish clairvoyance known as "The Sight," Donovan O'Shea fled to America to escape his "gift." Fifteen years later, his father's illness has forced him to return to the family homestead where years earlier, Donovan's mother disappeared into the fens and was never seen again. Now the same fens are offering up secrets, both ancient and recent, and restoring a terrible legacy that just may drive him mad. And if this were not trouble enough, a beautiful woman walks into his life, claiming to be his half-sister.

Rylie Powell never knew her real father. Her mother would only say he was a charming Irishman who seduced her, married her, and then abandoned her and his baby daughter. But after her mother's death, Rylie finds tantalizing clues about her father that send her off to Northern Ireland and an archeological site on Dermot O'Shea's property, the man listed on her birth certificate as her father.

Did Dermot O'Shea father both Donovan and Rylie? What is Donovan's connection to the Celtic High King Niall of the Nine Hostages? And what secrets do the fens hold that invites murder?

"...brings elements of the supernatural into this smashing romantic suspense novel. ...McGary never shortchanges the sizzling romance... as she weaves in ancient legend and recent murders, building to a dramatic, memorable conclusion." —Publisher’s Weekly Starred review

BUY IT


Slave
By: Cheryl Brooks
Looking for something different? If you'd like a strong heroine, plenty of adventure, steamy romance, and hot, erotic sex with an irresistible alien lover who can purr, then this first book in The Cat Star Chronicles series is for you! Join Captain Jacinth "Jack" Rutland and Carkdakund "Cat" Tshevnoe on their rescue mission on a planet with facscinating world customs, danger, and a surprising secret!

"A hugely remarkable first foray into the written word, SLAVE will enthrall and entice. The sexual tension and compatibility of the two main characters are hot enough to start a fire. Add in a thrilling new world and my reading experience was complete." —Romance Junkies

BUY IT


Warrior
By: Cheryl Brooks
Action, adventure, sizzling romance, and another irresistible Zetithian lover are the hallmarks of this second book in The Cat Star Chronicles series. Join the powerful witch, Tisana, and Leccarian "Leo" Banadansk, a golden-haired Zetithian warrior, in their race to find two kidnapped boys and earn Leo's freedom from a lifetime of slavery! Plenty of laughs are provided by the local animals with whom Tisana can communicate telepathically, but watch out: This witch can set you on fire!

"Ms. Brooks masterfully combined Sci-Fi fantasy, paranormal elements, hot and sensual alien attributes and hilarity with characters that wiggled their way into my heart and dreams. My advice is to rush out and grab a Warrior of your own." —Whipped Cream Erotic Romance Reviewers

BUY IT


50 Ways to Hex Your Lover
By: Linda Wisdom
What’s a witch to do? 700 year young Jazz Tremaine lives the good life as a curse eliminator and driver for All Creatures Car Service even if ghostly Irma haunts her precious 1956 T-Bird convertible and magick bunny slippers Fluff and Puff make life crazy for her. Now her PI ex vampire Nick Gregory is back in town and needs her help with a serial killer of vampires that’s using dark magick. Can Jazz work with the sexy vampire without reliving the past? What do you think?

“With clever writing, a high sensuality factor and an unfettered imagination, Wisdom makes a sparkling entry into lite urban paranormals.” —Publisher’s Weekly

BUY IT


Hex Appeal
By: Linda Wisdom
Jazz’s life is never boring. Now she’s having disturbing nightmares that involve Nick and he’s having them too. Someone doesn’t want them together and to make matters worse, Jazz’s beloved magick bunny slippers, Fluff and Puff are accused of eating a carny were-weasel! Once again Jazz is doing her hexy stuff to find out who’s messing up her usually blissful dreams and who dared to frame Fluff and Puff when everyone knows were-weasels taste nasty.

“Bless Jazz Tremaine’s witchy, Prada-loving heart – she’s captured mine! I can’t get enough of Jazz and her vamp lover Nick. Kudos to Linda Wisdom for a series that's pure magic!” —Vicki Lewis Thompson, NYT bestselling author of Wild & Hexy

BUY IT

The Lady Flees Her Lord
By: Michele Anne Young
She’s desperate for peace and safety… Unfashionably plump Lucinda, Lady Denbigh, is running from a husband who physically and emotionally abused her because she has failed to produce an heir. Posing as a widow, she seeks refuge in the quiet countryside…
He’s returned from the wars, wounded and tormented… Lord Hugo Wanstead, with a wound that won’t heal, finds his estate impoverished, his sleep torn by nightmares, and brandy his only solace. When he meets Lucinda, he finds her beautiful, body and soul, and thinks she just might give him something to live for… Together they can begin to heal, but not until she is free of her violent past…

"This is a wonderful book. Beautiful historical background with two characters who just are not perfect. It makes the story so much more real when you can relate to them. I look forward to reading more from this author. Armchair Interviews says: Highly recommended for those who love historical romance." —Arm Chair Interviews

BUY IT

SEALed With a Kiss
By: Mary Margaret Daughtridge
Even a hero needs help sometimes… Navy SEAL Lt. Jax Graham is as at home in the water as…well, a seal, but he’s completely out of his depth when his ex-wife dies and he must find a caregiver for the son he hardly knows. He intends to let
Tyler live with his grandmother—until he spends the weekend from hell with the two of them, that is. One look at bright, bossy, and sweetly sexy Pickett Sessoms and Jax knows she’ll expect more than he has to give. But right now, he needs help with his sad and silent son, and she knows a lot about kids. What about Tyler? Well, Tyler is only four years old. He doesn’t know a lot about anything. But he's sure he needs a mommy who isn’t dead, a daddy he can trust, a dog, and a bed of his very own.

"With a hero who's not only a tough Navy SEAL but also an insecure, vulnerable father and a pretty but unsure heroine with a big heart and a huge amount of love to give, how can this story miss? It doesn't; it delivers in a huge way. Throw in a lost little boy and some great dogs and you get a heart-touching story that will keep you smiling and cheering for the characters clear through to the happy ending." —Romantic Times, four and a half out of five.

BUY IT

Books to Look Forward to in 2009

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ahh, The Teenage Years

My nephew Jesse turned 13 today. A cute, smart, thoughtful kid, he's one of the best people I know. Whenever he's at my house, he'll offer to help me with whatever I'm doing. He's fascinated by my writing and asks insightful, interesting questions about my process, where I get the ideas, and how it all comes together. Three of my dad's four grandchildren are now teenagers. "That makes me feel old," Dad said tonight. Good thing for us he doesn't act old! My 16-year-old niece Isabel passed driver's ed today and was walking on air. It seems like five minutes has passed since she was a baby, and now she's about to drive a car. Fortunately for all local drivers, she still has to get 50 hours of driving time in before she can solo. My dad is going to teach her how to drive. God bless him!

In other news, if you're a writer, READ THIS.

If you're looking for an agent, READ THIS.

Great advice in both blogs.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Transition

I have a confession to make: I miss the election. Is there a 12-step program for coming off a political season the likes of which we just lived through? No election in my lifetime has ever been as riveting or as important as this one, which is why I probably got so sucked into it. But the real reason, if I'm being honest, is I genuinely love all things political. I have neglected my laundry, my housecleaning, my writing, my children (kidding), and definitely my dear husband in my pursuit of just one more news program about the election. My TiVO was full to overflowing with shows I failed to watch in a timely manner. So I've spent the last few weeks reclaiming my life as election fever wore off. However, even though election is over and I'm thrilled with the outcome, I can't stop reading about it.

Take this article in today's Washington Post: Much to His Chagrin, 'Plain Old Barack' Is Gone. It details the huge adjustments Obama has had to make to the routine that reportedly keeps him sane now that he is President-Elect. How confining it must be to have to travel in a 20-car motorcade to get anywhere when you're used to walking around your neighborhood unencumbered. However, I'm relieved to hear that such enormous effort is being made to keep him and his family safe.

On the other side of the aisle, came this story about the "bruising" year White House Press Secretary Dana Perino has withstood. It can't be easy to be her right now. As a former reporter and media junky (second only to politics and pop culture on my junky list), I found this story to be fascinating.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bad Sex or No Sex?

What's your preference when reading a book? Bad sex or none at all? I read this article today about an award given for bad sex scenes in otherwise literary novels. Some of these writers would clearly benefit from spending a little time with us romance writers. We'll show em how it's. . . ahem. . . done.

Here's an example of what qualified as bad enough to be nominated for the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award:

"He wasn't sure where his penis was in relation to where he wanted it to be, but when her hand curled around it once more, and she pulled him towards her, it felt right," Alastair Campbell writes. "Then as her hand joined the other on his neck and she started making more purring noises, now with little squeals punctuating them, he was pretty sure he was losing his virginity."

Quoting from the article:
Paulo Coelho for his novel Brida, in which the act of sex – on a public footpath – is described as "the moment when Eve was reabsorbed into Adam's body and the two halves became Creation".

"At last, she could no longer control the world around her," Coelho continues, "her five senses seemed to break free and she wasn't strong enough to hold on to them. As if struck by a sacred bolt of lightning, she unleashed them, and the world, the seagulls, the taste of salt, the hard earth, the smell of the sea, the clouds, all disappeared, and in their place appeared a vast gold light, which grew and grew until it touched the most distant star in the galaxy."

That is what we writers refer to as purple prose. Writing sex it hard (no pun intended). Many romance writers say it's the most difficult thing to write. But under no circumstances should your sex scene include seagulls. No matter what!

I also enjoyed this blog post today on Murderati about why we write and who we write for. Powerful stuff.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Buy A Book, Save An Author

The book business needs you this holiday season. Like every industry in America, publishing has taken a few knocks lately, so you'd be doing me and all my writer buddies a huge favor if you could include a few books in the gifts you give this season. Books are an inexpensive way to provide hours of entertainment for someone you love. Whether the people on your list love a good scare, a great romance (Line of Scrimmage), a thriller/mystery, or an intriguing biography, you can help me and my friends by buying just one book. I'm not saying you have to go out and buy my book (Line of Scrimmage). Any book will do (but Line of Scrimmage is pretty good, if I do say so myself). And when you and your friends are done with the books (except for Line of Scrimmage, which you should keep forever), consider donating them to your local library. I thank you, and my writer friends thank you!

Today, I ventured into the maelstrom of Christmas shopping madness. I actually made a decent dent in my list on the first outing. While my teenaged daughter and her friend burned through their report card earnings on their own, my son and I trudged through the mall. He was a pretty good sport for a couple of hours. Then he finally looked up at me and said, "This has been fun and everything, but can we go home now?" So we called his sister to say time's up. I had just talked to her, so I knew she was fine, but she didn't answer her phone. So I called back. Still no answer. Can all the parents out there appreciate what goes through the mind of a mom in those five minutes between no answer and her breathless call, full of apologies, didn't hear the phone, etc.? After her friend went home, she asked me if she was in for a "talking to." I simply said what my mother used to say to me—I hope I live long enough to see your kid scare the hell out of you. My mother didn't live long enough, but I'm sure she's up there saying, SEE, it's no fun, is it? As always, Mom was right.

Finally, a moment of silence in honor of the 45th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy. He lived and died before I was even born, but I've been fascinated by him and his family my entire life. If you're ever in Boston, I'd recommend a trip to his presidential library. It's well worth your time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Divergent Goals

My work-at-home buddy, Consuela and I went for a walk at lunchtime today, even though it was 25 degrees out, and I had an ice cream headache the entire time. She and I frequently take a mid-day stroll to emerge from the bat cave and get some air. I've decided that our walks mean different things to each of us. While I'm looking to get some exercise and get the blood moving, she's out to sniff as many trees, fences, sign posts and inanimate objects as she possibly can. Her goal is to obsessively mark the trail to let the dog world know "Consuela Was Here."

Now this dog is pushing 17 years of age (yes, you read that right) and has lived with us 16 years as of next month. The sad thing is, she has never developed any semblance of leash manners. Three times today on our two-mile walk, I went left around a street sign while she went right, clothes-lining herself. Back I go to unwind her. I gave her the full lead on the leash and kept on going, thinking maybe I might actually get my heart rate up before she has to stop again. Inevitably, I run out of leash before she's done sniffing, and for a 25-pound dog, she sure can dig in when something (usually nasty) gets her attention. Cliff Claven questions which one of us doesn't have good leash manners, claiming the clothes-lining doesn't happen when he walks her. Whatever!

On the way up the hill, she has this funny little boogie-skip jog she does in between sniffing stops. On the way back, she tends to stay closer to me as her energy starts to flag a little. When we got home, I went back to work while my lucky pal took a nice long nap. It's a dog's life. (BTW, she doesn't like being held the way I'm holding her in the photo. She was NOT happy with posing. In fact, she was spring-loaded and ready to bolt the whole time!)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mystery Solved

Yesterday, I mentioned that the body of Joseph "Joe Onions" Scanlon had been found here in Rhode Island, 30 years after he was killed in a mob hit. Today I found out where he got that nickname. Apparently, Joe made all the girls cry! LOL! Don't you just LOVE that? As a fiction writer, that's something I wish I had thought up. Truth is, at times, definitely more entertaining than fiction.

While we're on the subject of Rhode Island, tonight on one of the entertainment shows, they featured this fabo new hotel in Dubai, which was described as "a city the size of Rhode Island." Cliff Claven LOVES when people compare things to the size of Rhode Island. It happens more often than you think. Let me know the next time you hear it. I don't get why no one compares things to Delaware. They're not exactly Texas, either.

Today I got the copy edited version of Same Time Sunday from the publisher. Now, let me tell you, as a copy editor my own self, it sure is stressful to get your baby back after it's been through someone else's review (Note from the copy editor: "my own self" is not proper English and should not be mistaken as such). I'm pleased to report that the editor commented on how "clean" it was. YAY! Cleanliness is very important to a copy editor. It may even be more important than Godliness. I'm just saying...

Also today, I got totally cool fan mail (from a real live person who I do not know—this is still an amazing thing even after it's been happening for a while). This is what my new BFF in Virginia Beach had to say about Line of Scrimmage:

A Wonderful Read
Hello Marie,
I had to e-mail you after reading Line of Scrimmage. I love Sundays when I can curl up with a good book as my husband and sons are downstairs watching football. I couldn't put your book down and stayed up past midnight to finish it. I'm 52 years old and have been married for 32 years; I have also read quite a number of romance novels in my time. Your novel was a story that really touched on the characters emotions, feelings and lives, separately and together. It was so easy to relate to them. By the end of the book I was cheering for Ryan and his Susie and felt as if they were friends, not characters in a story. I'm looking forward to reading anything else that you write and wish you all the best in this well chosen endeavor.

If that doesn't just make your day, I don't know what will. Thanks for taking the time to write to me, Marilyn!

Moonrat posted a hysterical story today about the goings on in her office building. I seriously laughed out loud. Check it out.

Finally, Yahoo reported on five TV characters who really have to go. Izzy Stevens on Grey's Anatomy was one of them. THANK YOU! What did I say last week about that damned Denny ghost floating around Seattle Grace? Just too weird for words. I cringe at the notion of them getting it on tonight as the previews suggested they will. EW EW EW! I'm pleased to report that as I suspected it would be, the story line is being universally trashed. I wish the writers would check with me before they air this stuff. I could tell them it isn't going to work. If you happen to talk to them, please give them my number!

:-)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Only in Rhode Island...

Big news tonight that the body of Joseph "Joe Onions" Scanlon may have been found 30 years after a mob hit. I want to know how you get the nickname "Joe Onions," or maybe I don't. Also an interesting article in the paper today about 300 murder convictions achieved without a body. I love this true crime stuff. I gravitate toward the crime news in about six daily papers, and some of it finds its way into my romantic suspense novels. I've decided a slightly twisted imagination is critical to writing romantic suspense. What does it say about me that I love to write a nice, juicy murder?

Another Rhode Island story caught my eye tonight. Our governor had to pay a fourth ethics fine, this time $2,500 for hiring his niece. Actually, she's the niece of his wife, and he tried to call her his niece-in-law. Guess what? That didn't fly. Duh! The biggest little state in the union is known for some out there corruption, and these stories are often met with a collective yawn. Personally, I find it amusing that a governor in office nearly eight years thought he'd get away with something so obviously wrong. Again I say DUH!

Watching the depressing news about the auto industry tonight has gotten me thinking that this might be a good time to replace my nine-year-old Honda. Hmmm, do you suppose they'd be willing to cut me a deal? Off to go do some online car shopping!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bits and Pieces

Had a fun lunch today with a writer buddy. It's so great to talk about our processes, what works, what doesn't, how the thinking changes over time, etc. I was late in joining the Romance Writers of America (RWA). I had already written my seventh book, Line of Scrimmage, when I joined, so I don't have a huge network of writer friends the way others do. My network has definitely grown and expanded in lovely ways since I joined RWA, and the discussions with other writers are great fun. I think we both walked away feeling a little less alone in this solitary pursuit, and I thank her for being a regular blog reader!

There's a great post today on Writer Unboxed by Therese Walsh, whose book "Unbounded" will be out soon. She's starting to feel that panic that sets in when you realize real people—people you know and see every day—will actually be reading your sexy, R-rated book. Been there, done that! I left a comment on her blog encouraging her to enjoy every bit of the great experience of welcoming her debut novel to the shelves without allowing detractors to take anything away from her huge accomplishment. I've experienced the disapproving vibe a few times since September. You know what? I honestly don't care. Before the book came out (when I still had time to put it out under a pen name) I told my dad, my husband, my children and my boss that the book was sexy. I asked them if they'd be embarrassed by that. Each of them said the same thing: they were proud of me and would be proud of my book, too. In fact, my dad said, "Who cares what anyone thinks? You'll be laughing all the way to the bank." Having that kind of support from those closest to me allows me to say "who cares?" whenever that disapproving vibe resurfaces—and actually mean it.

I found this post today on a new-to-me-blog by agent Rachelle Gardner, who makes an interesting point about maintaining the passion for our "calling" as writers. I love how she asks her writer friend if she feels genuine passion for her husband every day. Well, not EVERY day, the friend replies. Then why do you expect to feel that passion for your writing every day? Good question, great point.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Delayed Gratification

The other day, I posted the following on the Casablanca Author's Blog. I'm interested in what my blog readers have to say about this. Let me hear from you!

Yesterday I had lunch with a new-ish friend who read and loved Line of Scrimmage. The last time we dined together she asked if she could read another of my books. I said sure and sent her my latest, a romantic suspense. Today, she asked if we could talk about the book. She had so many questions about the process and the origins of the story. (She also mentioned that my brain must be a busy place. Personally, I prefer the word chaotic.) Did I want to talk about the book? You betcha!

As writers, we wait FOREVER (or so it seems) for our work to see the light of day. It can take years from when we finish a novel until the day we hold it in our hot little hands as a real, live book. "Same Time Sunday" will be out in the Spring of 2009—only 10 years after I had the idea and three years after I finally wrote it. In many other creative fields, the gratification comes a little sooner. Write a song? Here, let me sing it for you. Complete a painting? Put it up on a wall for all to admire. Finish a book? It's kind of hard to shove 400 pages at your visitors and say, LOOK! I wrote a BOOK! So we wait months, sometimes years, to learn whether the story that touched our hearts will touch others as well. That takes perseverance.

I've been very lucky to have a corps of dedicated, enthusiastic readers who have read every word I've written and who kept me going during the long road to publication. Some writers shudder at the idea of showing their work to readers prior to publication. I'm not one of them. I've been asked if I worry that no one will buy the book when it comes out in print. Every one of my readers bought copies of Line of Scrimmage for themselves and everyone they know. I signed scads of copies for each of them. Most of them re-read it as a book and found the experience—as I did myself—to be entirely different. Their reactions, their comments, their passionate response to my stories and my characters have provided me with my own focus group over the years. Without them, I probably would've given up long before my seventh novel became my debut book. I think it takes a lot more courage to show our work to people we know than to put it out there for the masses. Our writing is a window to our soul, one most keep closed to others their entire lives. We choose to expose ourselves and our innermost thoughts and imagination to the world. This takes courage, and it takes perseverance.

I'm closing in on the end of my twelfth novel. And like a proud mom, I believe in and have high hopes for every one of my dozen "children." Each of them has taught me something new or forced me to go places I'd never been before. I've delved into alcoholism, chronic illness, murder, ethical dilemmas and family dynamics. I've ventured into romantic suspense and learned that while I love the outcome, the process is draining. After I finished the first one, a book I called "The Wreck," I was a wreck! I didn't write a word for three months while I recovered. I've written two series, which taught me a whole other form of storytelling. The first series began with the book of my heart, "Treading Water." This is the one that if and when it is one day published, I will be able to say NOW, now I have achieved the goal of my lifetime (other than raising two healthy, productive human children, of course). Every mother has a special affinity for her firstborn. It is no different for writers. While many may come after it, none are ever again quite the same. As I hope for the opportunity to share more of my stories and characters with readers, these experiences, along with the friends I've met along the way, sustain me.

What sustains you during the long wait from finished novel to printed book? Do you allow non-writers to read your work? If so, why? If not, why not? To the readers out there, do you like reading a book in manuscript format?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Make New Friends But Keep the Old

Last night, I went out with four high school classmates under the guise of starting to plan our--GULP--25th reunion. That's such a HORRIFYING number! LOL! We agreed it just doesn't seem possible that nearly a quarter century has passed since we departed high school. We also decided, in the six or so minutes we spent talking about the reunion, that we want something casual and simple next summer, perhaps at a bar by the beach. Sounds good to me! In planning our 20th reunion, I became good friends with a classmate I hadn't known all that well in high school. We traveled in different circles back then, but today, with daughters the same age (who even spent a year in the same 2nd grade class), we found that we have so much in common that we laugh like two fools who've been friends forever whenever we see each other.

I was struck last night by the "anything goes" tone to our conversation. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, was off limits. On the way home, I wondered why five women who haven't spent all that much time together over the last quarter century found it so easy to share things we wouldn't tell most of the people we are closer to today. I decided there's comfort in having known people so long you can't remember not knowing them. Maybe you weren't friends "back then," but you shared a common experience in a time and place that, like it or not, binds you for a lifetime. Five women with nine children between them, a menagerie of pets and husbands, one divorced, one who's had significant health problems, united by a common factor--we were members of the Middletown High School Class of 1984. And judging by the screams of laughter that attracted more than a few stares from others in the bar, the reunion promises to be a good time. My classmates were thrilled to hear that I'd become a published author since we last saw each other. Two had already read Line of Scrimmage and the other two were planning to buy it today. Their support and enthusiasm were overwhelming, and it was fun to share it with them.

I got home last night and realized I totally forgot to blog yesterday! DOH! And here I thought I was getting into the habit! In other weekend news, my cousin Jen called yesterday afternoon to invite my kids to sleep over. She had her teenaged niece for the night and her own son (my son's great pal). There's good news and bad news, she told the kids. The good news is I want you to come sleep over. Yay! The bad news is we're going to church at 5. "What kind of sleep over is that?" my son Jake asked, crestfallen. My husband and I snickered behind our hands and sent them on their way to church! I let Jen know that her sleep over approval rating hovered in negative numbers before it even started. Jen, being Jen, was just fine with that!

Jake got even by getting up at 5:18 a.m.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Authors Promoting Authors

Line of Scrimmage is featured today on Authors Promoting Authors where you take the book that was promoted before yours and post it to your personal blog. So here is a fellow author's book:

Crash Into Darkness, Suzanne Perazzini

Amber has no reason to leave the daily turmoil of life aboard a prison ship, created to house those with the violent Cleaven gene. Though now rehabilitated, she has chosen to stay and counsel the inmates who struggle to come to terms with their imprisonment. Possessing extraordinary gifts - an ability to assess situations with perfect clarity and to feel the emotions of others - her skills are in great demand in the volatile environment of the ship.

Jaden, also rehabilitated and with the special gift of mind reading, ploughs the seas on board the boat that delivers supplies and prisoners to and from the ship.

Amber and Jaden are thrown together when the prisoners rebel and an explosion breaches the hull of the ship during a storm. Together they battle the elements, a new, cold-eyed prisoner who has Amber in his sights and their traumatic pasts which sent them to the ship in the first place.

Buy CRASH INTO DARKNESS

VISIT SUZANNE'S WEBSITE