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
--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


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.


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?