Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tick Tock Tick Tock

Lately, I've become acutely aware of how fast time is going by. In the last year, my father turned 75, I celebrated (and I use that word loosely) my 25th high school reunion and sent my oldest child to high school. Dan and I were talking the other night about how fast Emily's childhood has gone by for us. She'll be FIFTEEN this summer, she has a job lined up, she'll be taking driver's ed in the next year. And to us, she's still that three-year-old with the vocabulary of an adult and the attitude to match who used to love to watch for purple cars on our street. Luckily, Jake, who will be 12 in October, is bringing up the rear in fine fashion and we don't feel like the time with him is marching by quite so quickly. It helps that we held him out of school an extra year and will have him with us until he's almost 19. Our kids represent the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare.

The passing of many of the critical adults in my life hasn't helped to ease this mid-life crisis. My mother, my in-laws, two aunts, an uncle, the parents of close friends, and not for nothing, my two beloved dogs. All of that in the last six years. We like to refer to the last decade as the shitstorm of misery.

I remember almost 12 years ago when I hired my coworker Jenn right out of college and discovered she was ten years younger than me. When had that happened? Now the new "kids" in my office are 22 years younger than me, which is all the more shocking. Last week, when I was in Washington, I spent some time getting to know my boss's new assistant, a nice "kid" named Louise, whose father is a longtime member of our association. I liked Louise right out of the gate because she makes me laugh with her witty retorts. In the course of our conversation, I realized she is only going to be 25 this year. Cripes, I said, I've been out of high school 26 years this year. You know what that means? To which she replied in her typical witty fashion, Hello, Mommy. ACK! She's a brat, but that's another story. She calls me Mom now, which is kind of funny—and not funny at the same time.

HOW did this happen? WHEN did this happen? WHERE WAS I when this was happening? I'm staring down the double 4s this spring and I don't feel 44. Well, somedays I do, but for the most part I feel maybe 30. Then my taller-than-me daughter prances through the house at almost 15, a shocking reminder that I'm not 30 anymore. Hell, I'm not even 40 anymore. I'm in my *gasp* MID-FORTIES. ACK! (Are you sensing my theme word today?)

So what makes me feel better about all this getting older business? Well, Dan did me a huge favor by turning 49 last weekend, which reminded me that it could be worse. Much, much worse. :-)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Home Stretch and Other Musings

I'm closing in on the finish of my latest work in progress, Fool for Love, which is the sequel to Maid for Love, now on submission. Some question the wisdom of writing book 2 before book 1 has sold. Well, for me, it's a matter of maintaining my already fragile sanity. With a full-time job, two busy kids and a writing career to tend to every day, I'd rather write a book that might not sell that have to write one with a gun to my head. So far I've dodged the nightmare known as writing to deadline, and I'm okay with that. I'm sure my day is coming, but for now, I'm living off my reserves.

I mentioned on Facebook that I've just been through a brutal judging cycle, during which I rated 8 Rita books (RWA's best published contest) and 8 Golden Heart entries (RWA's unpublished contest) as well as the Between the Sheets contest (love scenes) and two critiques for my local chapter. While I love to judge and critique, this was WAY more than I can handle. It kept me from any meaningful output on my work in progress for a couple of weeks. I've discovered that I can't fight the "not-in-the-mood-to-write" moods that strike every now and then. I used to freak out because I worried that my muse had left me, but now I know she takes a vacation every now and then, but she always comes back. Today, for the first time in a while, I feel charged to write. So back I go to Fool for Love and the sprint to the finish.

Who is watching American Idol? The judges go through an awful lot to get to the final 24 but I think they're a pretty mundane lot this year. No real standouts like there were last year. I like Crystal, the girl with the dreads, and the guy Kara is lusting after. Otherwise, not all that interested.

Speaking of not interested, who cares about the Bachelor finale? Not me. I grow to dislike him more with every passing week. Don't really care for either of the remaining girls, but I howled when one of the other girls said Tenley probably dreams in Disney moves and shits rainbows. That was SO funny (and so TRUE!) Vienna just comes across as an opportunist and kinda skanky. If he picks her, he deserves her. Reality Steve gave away the ending weeks ago, and so far he's been spot on. I guess we'll find out Monday. Yawn. I am looking forward to Jason and Molly's wedding. I've always liked her and he's grown on me over time, even after his disastrous handling of his finale.

Looking forward to the figure skating finale tonight! How can we not all root for the Canadian skater who lost her mother? What a trooper! What's been your favorite part of the Olympics? For me, it's sitting on the sofa watching skiers fly through the air while telling my family, "What's the big deal? I could do that!" :-)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lucky Number 18

The number 18 has been very good to me. I've written about this before, but I have a recent addition to my growing list of cool things that have happened on the 18th:

July 18: My daughter's birthday (1995)

October 18: My son's birthday (1998)

May 18: The day I finished my first book (2005)

June 18: The day I signed with my current agent (2007)

February 18: The day I sold Fatal Affair to Carina Press (2010)

My friend Ilana tells me that 18 is a lucky number in Hebrew. This from Wikipedia: The Hebrew word for "alive" is חי (chai), which has a numerical value of 18. Consequently, the custom has arisen in Jewish circles to give donations and monetary gifts in multiples of 18 as an expression of blessing for long life.

I've begun to look forward to the 18th of the month. You just never know what might happen! When I gave Ryan Sanderson the uniform number 18 in Line of Scrimmage, my son Jake, a rabid Patriots' fan, was very concerned that people might think I am a Peyton Manning fan. When I told him I was going to write about lucky 18 on my blog, he asked me to set the record straight once and for all. Ryan was number 18 because both of my kids were born on the 18th, NOT because of Peyton Manning. We live in Tom Brady country. So hopefully this will satisfy Jake's concerns. :-)

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I'm very excited to report that I sold my romantic suspense novel, Fatal Affair, to Carina Press today! In case you haven't yet heard of Carina, it is Harlequin's new all digital line. So Fatal Affair will be released as an e-book in June. Carina is an exciting new endeavor, and I'm really excited to be involved in the early stages. My editor is also considering book 2 in the series, Fatal Justice, which continues Sam and Nick's story.

About Fatal Affair...
On the morning of the most important vote of Senator John O’Connor’s career he is late—again. His best friend and chief of staff, Nick Cappuano sets off to O'Connor’s apartment expecting to roust him from bed and hoping he is alone. But what Nick finds is that O’Connor, the handsome, amiable Senator from Virginia, has been brutally murdered, and Nick’s world comes crashing down around him. Complicating the disaster, the detective assigned to the case is none other than Sam Holland, Nick’s one-night stand from six years earlier, the woman who broke his heart and haunts his dreams. With six years of unfinished business hanging between them and more than a few scores to settle personally and professionally, Nick and Sam set out to find the senator's killer while trying—and failing—to resist the overwhelming attraction between them that seems to have only grown over the years.

It soon becomes clear that the Senator’s past holds secrets that not only led to his death but now endanger Nick and Sam as well. Working together to find a killer and rediscover the love they thought they lost long ago, they must put the past behind them and build a future that offers a world of new opportunities for both of them—including an offer from the Virginia Democrats for Nick to finish the last year of John’s term.

So watch for Sam and Nick in June, and thanks so much for allowing me to share my exciting news with you!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The House That Jack Built

Yesterday at the library event, the librarian mentioned the story I have on my website that I titled The House That Jack built. It's about my writing career, how it all started and the first character who ever took up residence in my mind as a real live person. I realized I've never shared that story with my blog readers, so here it is!

The House That Jack Built
Writers work toward the ultimate goal of publication. We stress over sentence structure, editing, agents, pitching, querying, etc. The list of things to stress about is endless. But how often do we stop to take a moment to appreciate the special journey we are on as authors? Since I started to write seriously four years ago (UPDATE: make that seven years now!), after saying for years I was going to, I've had a few amazing things happen to me that never would've happened if I hadn't embarked upon this journey. I have several anecdotes, but this is my favorite....

The first character to take up occupancy in my mind as a living, breathing human being, was a handsome, successful architect named Jack Harrington. Jack and I ran around together for a long time before I ever put fingers to keyboard to tell his story. I wanted to write about a man who has it all—a wife he still adores after twenty years of marriage, three beautiful daughters he'd do anything for, and a life most people would envy. That life is turned upside down when his wife is hit by a car and plunged into a coma. I wanted to show Jack's struggles to rebuild his life as he becomes the custodial parent for his daughters—two of them teenagers with all the accompanying issues—and I wanted to show his conflict when he finds a new love. These issues make up the core of my first book, "Treading Water," which led to two sequels, "Marking Time," and "My Side of the Street." It's "Treading Water," however, that is the book of my heart.

Since I finished "Treading Water," I've thought of my writing as "The House That Jack Built," tying into his career as an architect and the unexpected building blocks that came from "Treading Water." As I was finishing "My Side of the Street" in July 2006, I decided to drive out to Chatham, Massachusetts, so I could finish it in the town where it was set. Yes, this was a huge indulgence, but it coincided with the half-way point of summer vacation and my kids were driving me nuts. I had earned this night away! The first thing I did when I got to Chatham was drive around to check out the four streets I had chosen from hundreds on a map to place my characters' homes. I figured if there was, say, a cement factory on both sides of the street, the people of Chatham would know I hadn't bothered to come out there and check—if I was lucky enough to see the book published. I am pleased to report there were houses on all four streets, but on the corner of the fourth street, there was something else—a red house with a sign on the side that said, "The House That Jack Built." No, I am not kidding, and yes, I sat there and cried. If ever there was a "sign" that I was on the path I was meant to be on, there it was. It was without a doubt, one of the most amazing moments of my life, and I will never, ever forget it. (Thanks to my friend Janet Campbell for taking the picture for me!)

That same week, after I got home and told my sister-in-law this story, she approached me at a family party to say, "You won't believe this! I was having trouble sleeping at my friend's house the other night and got up to see if she had a magazine or something I could look at." She found an old copy of Architectural Digest, which is mentioned in "Treading Water," and there was a spread with the headline "The House That Jack Built." She had torn it out for me and that page is framed over my desk to remind me that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and it's about the journey, not the destination.

I still have fingers and toes crossed for the "Treading Water" books. Maybe someday...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fun day as an author

I just told my husband, Dan, that today I feel like a real, live working author. All of this happened today:

1. I had a really fun e-mail exchange this morning with an editor who is considering one of my books. Fingers crossed!

2. I drove to Duxbury, Massachusetts where I met my friends Emily Bryan, Dalton Diaz and Hannah Howell for lunch. We are all members of the New England Chapter of the Romance Writers of America, so we've met lots of times before. It was great to have a chance to visit with Hannah, who is a New York Times bestselling author of 50 (!) books! We had a great chat and Hannah told us she was published for 10 years before she felt like she was earning a living wage. Whoa! Nothing happens fast in this business.

3. Emily, Dalton and I sat on a panel at the Duxbury Free Library where we spent Valentine's Day talking about romance and how we got started as writers. We had a fantastic crowd who asked awesome questions.

4. I had a great chat with an attendee named Donna, who has finished her first book and was looking for advice about what to do next. (See below for more on my chat with Donna)

5. We signed books after the talk, which is always fun. The library director was in charge of moving us from the auditorium to the signing area. She said to the attendees who had lined up to speak with us, "The authors can speak with you after their signing, but I have to get them to where they need to be." I was tempted to look over my shoulder and say, "Is she talking about ME?"

Here I am (left) with Dalton Diaz, Hannah Howell and Emily Bryan. Hannah was good enough to sprinkle NY Times bestseller pixie dust on us. :-)

6. I returned home to a request from my chapter to do a critique for a new writer, which I enjoy doing.

7. And, I received this email from a reader: please add me to your list to keep updated on your books. Love at first flight is my favorite book and I will never get tired of reading it.

All of this in one day. My cup runneth over, and I'm enjoying every minute of this fabulous journey.

So back to my discussion with Donna. During the talk, I mentioned that I have a full-time job and two busy kids. She was curious as to how I manage to juggle a writing career, too. It is definitely a juggling act because my family and job come before the writing and have to be attended to during the day. That leaves me the after dinner hours each day to devote to my writing. That's not a lot of time. A couple of years ago, when I decided to get very serious about writing and getting published, I realized I had to make some adjustments.

I had to start saying NO a lot more often. I have no time to volunteer at my kids' schools. Once in a while I still participate in something that directly affects them, but otherwise I say no. I all but stopped drinking any form of alcohol. If I go out to dinner and have a few drinks, I come home and want to go to bed. If I don't drink anything, I'm good for a couple of hours when I get home. I've cut back on the dog-choking social life we used to have. I just can't do everything, and unfortunately, sometimes we have to say no so that I'll have time to take care of writing business. Are these sacrifices? Sure they are. I miss having more free time to read, to hang out with friends, and to just do nothing.

However, days like today make all the sacrifices worth it. Thanks to everyone who came to our event in Duxbury, to the organizers who invited us, and to the authors who shared the stage with me. We're living the dream, and we know it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Write, Edit, Revise, Repeat

Whoo, it's been all about revisions over here this week. For a variety of reasons, I've had to get up close and personal with six of my already written books this week. At various times, my eyes have felt like bloody meatballs that were going to fall right out of my head! As I've mentioned before, most of my writing work gets done at night after the day job and kids are attended to, so by the time I get to it, my eyes have already put in a long day. This week they were particularly challenged.

A lot of writers complain about revisions. I don't mind them. Usually whatever is being suggested makes the book stronger. I am always in favor of that! Since I don't do critique groups or critique partners, this feedback is invaluable and always welcome. My usual process when receiving a revision letter is to do nothing for the first few hours. I just think. And plan. And process. Usually what needs to be done is fairly clear by the time I dive in and it never takes me all that long to revise. At least it hasn't so far... I'm sure my day is coming.

Going back and re-reading already-written books is like spending time with old friends. I always enjoy that. Because a big part of my writing process involves re-reading what I've already written and because I'm a trained copy editor, my first drafts are usually pretty clean. So when I go back to re-read long after I've finished a book I'm usually reading for story more than grammar. Sometimes I've forgotten exactly what happens next, so plot twists and turns can be surprising to me (which I hope means they would be surprising to readers, too!)

So that's what I've been up to this week. Read. Read. Read. Revise. Revise. Revise. Not much writing got done—at least not enough to bother reporting it on the sidebar. But it was a week well spent.

What've you been up to? Any plans for Valentine's Day? My friends Emily Bryan and Dalton Diaz and I will be participating in a Valentine's author event at the Duxbury Public Library in Duxbury, MA tomorrow at 2 p.m. It's free and open to the public. Come on by and say hello!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Reader Mail

One of my favorite parts of my writing journey is meeting and hearing from satisfied readers. I get lovely emails from readers who've connected with my characters and my stories, and this is ALWAYS thrilling. Sometimes, however, you get one of those emails that really hits you where you live. Today, I received one of those mesages from Aimee in Michigan, who asked me to add her to my mailing list after she enjoyed both books. I asked how she came upon my books, and this is what she said:

I have always enjoyed reading however in March of last year I was ill and in some pain and my husband bought the dvd and subsequentially the books of The Twilight Saga, and became immersed in romance novels from that point forward. The characterizations, the intriguing plots, the sense of humor, the angst. I began reading JR Ward, Sherilyn Kenynon, Lisa Kleypas among many others. While looking for some different types of books to read on a recent trip to mexico to celebrate my wedding anniversary - I found Love at First Flight and went to Amazon to check out some reviews and thought it sounded interested and light hearted. Usually I can set a book down but with your book - I was immersed, enthralled and just dying to know what would happen next. I just was invested in your characters - it's a rare thing...It's only happened for me personally a few times. Next I read "Line of Scrimmage" and what did i find but the same thing!!! You have this wonderful ability to make the reader engaged and fully invested in your characters. I was hooked by chapter one and actually rooting for your hero in so many different ways! As a side note, it was the first time my husband did not make fun of my books because he was SUCH a big fan of football - I would ask him football related questions and he kept saying "I like this one." It was some good fun in our household.

Something about Twilight made me find my love of reading again - there are SO many fans out there that lost the love of a good romance paranormal or contemporary :) and I'm thrilled to have found yours!!! I have added reviews to amazon and will be spreading the world via twitter and Facebook about your books!

Isn' t that so sweet? Thank you, Aimee. As I said in our emails, you made my day, my week, and my month!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Line of Scrimmage Fresh Pick of the Day

Got this message last night:

Greetings from Fresh Fiction,

LINE OF SCRIMMAGE was chosen to be a Fresh Pick at Fresh Fiction. Your cover and a link to LINE OF SCRIMMAGE will appear on every page of on February 3, 2010 and mailed to the subscribers of the Fresh Pick newsletter on February 3, 2010. We'll also Twitter and post on our Facebook Fan page about our selection on February 3, 2010.

The Fresh Pick is chosen by a group of readers and is never a purchased advertisement or promotion. We've chosen your book
because it appeals to us and we like to share our diverse tastes in reading and hope other readers will give it a try.

YAY! Thank you Fresh Fiction!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More of My Personal Pet Peeves

You've been waiting breathlessly for this list, right? Well, I've been doing a LOT of reading lately, and my list of peeves grows longer by the day. So here goes nothing...

1. Abandoning the core couple halfway through the romance. I've read a few books lately where the main couple is all but forgotten for the last half of the book. I love a good sub-plot as much as the next reader, but if you've asked me to commit to your couple at the outset, give me their full story. Please.

2. Data dumping. I don't want to know your characters' entire life story in the first ten pages. Don't do this to me. Nothing is more boring to read than nonstop recitation of past history. There are so many clever ways to get this job done. Please be clever.

3. If you build me up with crackling chemistry and sensual encounters that lead to the happy couple landing on a bed, please oh please do not have the next scene open with the sun creeping through the blinds. I beg of you. Show me what happens. Especially if you are writing for a line that promises a certain heat level. I have expectations. Please meet them.

4. Please remember your characters' names. I recently read a book where the name of a secondary character changed halfway through the book. I notice these things. Please remember the names of the people you create. If you don't, who will?

5. Kids in romances who are bratty, not cute. Thinking of what I would say to the kid takes me out of your story. Please discipline your bratty fictional kids the same way you would if they were actually yours. Don't make me have to do it. Don't make me.

UPDATE: Bonus Peeve that I thought of last night after I posted this: unplanned pregnancies in romance. Sorry, ladies (and gents), it's 2010. We all know how to prevent pregnancy. The unplanned babies need to stop. We're also grown ups, not horny teenagers in the back seat of Dad's car. The minute you foist an unplanned pregnancy on me, I think your characters are too stupid to live. ESPECIALLY if one of those characters work in the medical field in ANY capacity. That makes them even stupider. Now I have a pregnancy SCARE in my next book because of a "malfunction." I think that's different, but you may disagree. If you do, let me have it! :-)

Those are the latest additions to my list. Tell me some of yours!

OH and please don't forget to vote for Love at First Flight for Best Book of 2009 at the Long and Short of It Reviews! We're in 2nd place!!