Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Blushing Virgin

It seems to me that I've read a rash of contemporary romances lately in which the heroine was a virgin, and I realized that it was starting to bug me. I wasn't bothered by their virginity per se, but by the fact their virginity felt so contrived. In this day and age, there simply aren't a huge number of attractive, outgoing, personable women in their twenties who are virgins. The ones that are usually have a good reason for abstaining: religion, some illness that kept them out of circulation, some paranormal power that kills off any man who touches her breasts, whatever. Good reasons. I'm totally on board with that.

But, it just seems to be a plot contrivance for a modern day heroine to be a virgin for no good reason other than, it simply hadn't happened for her yet. And I've read SO many of these books lately. What's wrong with a heroine having a sexual history? I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I think it makes her real, it gives her a past that makes her interesting and dynamic, and will affect her relationship with the hero. Does it make it a better love story to have her be blushing with shock at her first penis sighting at age twenty-seven? IMHO, unless there's a good reason for her to be so pure, I find that it yanks me out of the story. It makes me think, "Hmm... the author wanted this character to be a virgin so she could do the ol' big-virile-man-is-gentle-lover-introducing-innocent-flower-to-true-passion thing." Then boom, I'm out of the story and I'm annoyed.

Historicals? No problem. I'm with you there.

Really good catholic girls? Yep. I'm on board.

Exploding breasts? She has my deepest sympathy and I'm oh-so-interested to see how the hero's going to get around that problem.

Just never got around to having sex? Sorry, not working for me anymore. It's simply not believable and it's annoying. I feel like if the author felt it was that important to make her heroine a virgin, then the author should have spent some serious time working on backstory to give the heroine a really good reason for being so pure. A really good reason will then make it so much more interesting when the hero shows up with his hot kisses and talented hands. Then, it won't simply be a matter of, "oh, I've never done this before, please show me how it's done, you burning hunk of masculinity." It becomes a matter of "oh, I've never done this before and I really want to, but holy cr*p! How are we going to get around this major impediment and get us both naked?" That's when I'll be sucked in.

What are your thoughts? Anyone?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Author Q&A: Laurie Stolarz (young adult suspense author)

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1) Can you give us a blurb about your current book, RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE?

"I Know You're Alone . . ."
Nothing has been the same for eighteen-year-old Stacey since her boyfriend Jacob died. For months she stayed at the beach cottage they shared before Jacob's tragic accident, refusing to give up hope that somehow, somewhere, Jacob was still alive. But Stacey knows she can't put off rejoining the world forever. Lucky to have a full scholarship to prestigious Beacon University, Stacey hopes she can finally put her past behind her. Trying to get through her first week of college as just another normal student, Stacey is devastated when she starts having more disturbing dreams. And keeping them secret is not an option when the college president calls her in for a private meeting – and reveals that his daughter Porsha is having nightmares too. But while Stacey dreams of a ghost, Porsha is dreaming of a murder she's convinced hasn't happened yet. Porsha's fragmented nightmares foretell a brutal murder, and may also shed light on a shocking revelation that could change Stacey's life forever. Together the two must decode their dark dreams to save a life – a risk that may cost them their own.

2) Your series follows Stacey through high school and the beginning of college. Can you talk a little bit about how Stacey had grown over the course of these books? How do you keep each book fresh?

She's learned how to trust her instincts and intuition. She's much more accepting of herself as each novel progresses. She always has a lot on her plate, saving people from stalkers and all, and she makes mistakes along the way. But she also learns from her mistakes. She's learned to forgive herself. She's a much stronger, more confident person now.

3) Your books are about nightmares, stalkers and killers. How do you balance the thriller aspect with the age of your audience? Do you hold back at all or do you push it as far as you want?

I think teens are aware of these things - perhaps not personally - but they know they exist. I try to honestly show how one character deals with these things. The emphasis is not on the danger per se. The emphasis is on how my main character deals with that danger. She needs to face her fears and learn through her mistakes. In addition to the danger, my character is also a high school student who must deal with things like passing class, not getting along with her mom, falling in love with her best friend's boyfriend.

4) What kind of research have you done on nightmares and premonitions? How did you get interested in this subject?

I did a ton of research on dreams - how we can use dreams to tell us what we want/need to know. I also did a ton of research on Wicca, Witchcraft, and folk magic. When I first started writing Blue is for Nightmares, I had no idea I would delve into these topics. I only knew I wanted to write a suspense. Stacey became a practicing Wiccan quite by accident during a freewriting class in grad school. It totally caught me by surprise as well. But, it definitely worked. I knew that my grandmother had some experience with the sixth sense. I started asking lots of questions, researching passed down home remedies within my family; this brought me closer to my grandmother even though she had already passed away.

5) What was your path to becoming an award winning published author? Was it a tough road to get published? What was your background? When you were in highschool, did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first book when I was seven and I still have it. But because we didn't have a lot of money growing up, studying English or writing in college was considered a luxury. I ended up studying business with the intent of making lots of money in something practical. Once I was done with my undergrad, I was determined to finally pursue my dream of writing. I took out some school loans and ended up in a graduate creative writing program, which, to me, was unreal - being in class with people who are just like you in that respect. We all shared the same dream. Once my first novel was complete, finding a publisher was challenging because I didn't have any contacts. I was looking for agents and editors at the same time, doing research on who was publishing/accepting what. It took me a little over a year to find an editor who was really excited about my project. I sent my manuscript to Llewellyn because I knew they published new age young adult fiction. The rest is history.

6) Stacey and her friends go through some tough times in high school. What's your worst memory from high school?

Getting peed on in the middle of a cheerleading competition. I was one of the base people, supporting another girl's knees during a shoulder stand. She lost control right on my head in front of a thousand spectators.

7) So, when you were in high school, were you cool?

No, I wasn't considered one of the cool kids. I think I was just considered average in terms of popularity. I had my groups of friends. I hung out with some of my cheerleading friends as well as some of the smart kids. I wasn't particularly fond of high school. I had much more fun at my part-time job. My friends there were less serious and intense, more fun.

8) What's the coolest/worst reader email you've ever received?

I am very fortunate to receive many fabulous reader e-mails. I'm always so flattered when readers tell me how they've learned so much from Stacey, how strongly they identify with her. One girl even told me that the books have changed her life.

9) Can you give us a sneak peek at your next book, BLEED?

BLEED explores chance and coincidence and the way our decisions influence each other's lives - sometimes unintentionally. It starts out with one girl's decision whether or not to betray her best friend by pursuing her best friend's boyfriend while she is away. We see how that decision has a domino effect, affecting other people in the collection.

Visit Laurie on the web

Friday, January 27, 2006

my weekend is MADE!

Earlier this week, I was exercising my dogs at the school behind my house. There are about six fields and a chain link fence goes around all of the fields. At the bottom of these fields are all these thick woods and blackberry bushes (nature preserve).

So, anyway, I'm strolling along with my pooches on Monday afternoon around 3:30 and this man is on the other side of the fence at the top of the fields. He's in his seventies and calls me over. So I go over (not too close in case he wants to abduct and kill me), but once I get close, he asks me if I'd seen a white dog. I said I hadn't, and he proceeds to tell me that his dog Angel has been missing for five days.

He'd taken her to the vet down the street and she'd bolted as soon as he opened the door (she's afraid of the vet) and had been gone ever since. The seventy-three year old guy had been looking for her for TEN hours a day for five days. They'd gotten three sightings (including one at the school) but she hadn't been around anymore when he'd arrived. So he's all worried and upset and telling me how he's sure she must be so hungry and how he has put up flyers at all the vets. So he gives me a flyer and there's a photo of "Angel" and she's on what is clearly his bed, so this dog is LOVED. So I take the flyer and shove it in my pocket and continue on my way, wishing and wishing that I could find this poor hungry dog for this seventy-year old man spending ten hours a day searching her.

So, the week goes by and I'm thinking (hoping and hoping) they must have found this dog by now, but I kept looking whenever I was at the fields.

So, today, I had a business lunch, and then played tennis and then worked out, and by the time I got in the car to come home it was so late that I decide the dogs weren't getting their romp in the field this afternoon. I simply had to get work done.

But by the time I got near my house, I decided I'd exercise them. Just ten minutes.

So I drove straight to the school and hit tennis balls for them just at the top of the field. So after about twenty minutes, I decided it was time to go, so I turned and was heading back to my car. I took one last scan around the field and suddenly saw this white blur waaaaay far away at the bottom of the field (remember, this is like three fields away). So I stare at it, trying to see what it was. Finally, I decide that it's definitely got four legs. But lots of owners walk their dogs here, so I'm looking to see if I can see a person.

I can't.

So I sprint to my car for a leash and then turn and run all the way down the fields (I'm not a runner so I was near to passing out by the time I got down there). By the time I got down there, she was gone, and I was pretty sure she'd actually been on a hill behind the school fields that went into the woods.

But as I was running down the field, I saw a man heading up that field where I'd seen the dog (he was strolling along slowly, so I knew he wasn't the owner of the missing dog b/c he was too relaxed), so I wondered if maybe the guy owned this white dog and they were heading off for a stroll in the woods.

Either way, I wasn't going to go off in the woods where some strange guy was, so I decided to just walk along the bottom of the field, where a chain link fence separates the field from the woods. So I'm walking along and then all of a sudden, I SEE THE DOG! She's right on the other side of the fence and I know it's her!!!! So I call her name and she stops and stares at me.

So I call her again, and she looks at me.

Then she turns around and RUNS AWAY!


I can't go after her because the fence is in the way, so I sprint along the fence to where it ends and run across this bridge and then down the boardwalk that goes through the wooded area. So I'm calling her and calling her and she's not coming. But I KNOW she's in there.

So I turn around and run/walk all the way back to my car (I'm sweating buckets by this point and my chest about to explode because I am NOT a runner). So I throw the dogs in and drive back to my house, rush inside, throw my coat on the floor as I vault up the steps to my bedroom where I'd left the flyer with the phone numbers on it. I have to call them and get them to the field before the dog leaves. So I get to my dresser, and THE FLYER'S NOT THERE!

I search the trash can in case my dh tossed it, I look under the dresser, I look everywhere and it's GONE! I can't believe I was so close to the dog and can't do ANYTHING!

Then I remember that he said he'd posted it at the local vets, so I call my vet. I'm frantically telling them that I saw this lost dog and I couldn't get her and I think the flyer might be there. So the receptionist runs out to the reception area, finds the flyer and reads me the phone numbers.

So, I call the first number and NO ONE IS THERE! So I leave a detailed message and my phone number.

Then I call the second number and NO ONE IS THERE! So I leave another detailed message and my phone number.

Then I sit down at my computer, thinking of this poor dog that has been lost for NINE days and this poor seventy-three year old man out there searching for her ten hours a day and my heart is breaking because I had come SO close and I'd failed. I felt horrible!

Then ten minutes ago, the phone rings.

It's the owner.

He told me he'd gotten my message, raced over there and went down the boardwalk calling her name. Then suddenly he heard her barking!!!! But she was stuck in the thick woods and blackberry bushes and couldn’t get to him! So, she’s barking like crazy, desperate for him to come get her, but he couldn’t reach her, so he had to LEAVE her there and go back down the boardwalk and over the bridge and along the fence that I'd been walking beside when I saw her.

And he called her and she came racing over to the fence, barking like crazy for him! She was right there, on the other side of the fence. But he couldn't get over the fence!

So he went along the fence, searching for a way over, and then he found this tree that had fallen over the fence, so this 73 year old man crawled along this tree trunk to get over the fence. He did it, and got to his dog! Then they had to find their way out of the woods, but they did and now they are both home! He said he was so shaken up by finding her that he could barely think!
He said today he'd finally started thinking that it was time to give up. She'd been loose in a high-traffic area for NINE days. He said if it wasn't for my call, they wouldn't have gone back. They would have given up. But instead, she's home and he's happy and everything is perfect.


So, this is my feel-good story for the week!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

anyone know anyone who knows someone?

Have you checked out the AWESOME book trailer on Allison Brennan's website? Christine Feehan has a bunch of these as well for all her books, which you can see on www.cosproductions.com. Christine swears by them as awesome marketing tools, and we all know that Christine is brilliant. I've done a some research on them, and I'm thinking that she and Allison are onto something. So, I've decided to bite the bank account bullet and ante up the dough for one for my May paranormal in my first big foray into the world of self-promo. According to my research, it seems you can get a pretty professional job for $500 to $2000 dollars. An investment, certainly, but I think it might be worth it. It's a great Internet tool and nothing spreads faster than on the Internet. I've put out a couple feelers to companies that do this, but I'm not getting responses (what? do I have a rat on my head?), so I was wondering if anyone knows anyone who knows anyone who does this sort of thing. Anyone?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

An Agent's View: Category Romance & Contracts

Agent Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency weighs in on category romance vs single title and contracts. She loves answering questions, so please feel free to post any questions for next week!

Last week I was faced with an icky case of writers block. This week, I am sooooo thankful for Wendy who has totally eliminated my need to stare at a black, blinking line. Fortunately, I can get right down to business!! So, thanks, Wendy, for helping me to put my thoughts in order!

1.)In today's category market (proliferating lines, shrinking sales), do you think category can aid and abet a single title career? If so, how?

It's been really interesting to see the changes in the category market over the past few years. Harlequin is an extremely innovative publisher, and has always tried to be on the cusp of the latest trends. Luna is a prime example. When Harlequin first launched the line, other houses quickly followed suit.

And while the series lines may be shifting, they truly are Harlequin's bread and butter. NEXT has been a tremendous feather in Harlequin's hat, and the books seem to be doing well in the marketplace. There is still a demand for traditional contemporary romances and romantic suspense and Harlequin will soon be launching a new paranormal imprint to capture that segment of the marketplace as well. So, growth is still a big part of Harlequin's business model.

My best advice to series authors, and to writers who are aspiring to be, is to learn to adapt. Across the board, Harlequin is trying to modernize their lines. They are eliminating romantic cliches and want readers to easily identify the characters and the plotlines in the stories they publish. Many of the books are starting to have a more single title feel, which is good news, especially if you want to move in that direction.

I've seen many authors who have had successful category and single title careers. But, I've also seen category authors who have tried to break into the single title market unsuccessfully. The key is to study and to understand the differences in tones between category and single title. A single title book is not just a longer book. Today's single title romances are extremely multi-layered. While the romance is still the key component, other important elements such as plot and characterizations need to be threaded through. As a category author, you sometimes have to work extra hard to prove to a single title editor that you can pull it off. But, it definitely can be done!

2.)What is the value of accepting single title contracts with low (ie, four- or five-figure) advances?

I think everyone dreams of hitting it out of the ballpark at least once in their writing career. And your family and friends may think that since you are a writer, you are rolling in the dough. However, very few authors are able to quit their day jobs with their first sales.

It may be hard to accept a lower advance than you would like. But, unfortunately, oftentimes until an author has developed a name and strong numbers, publishers like to offer low advances. They do so with the excuse that they do not have any numbers on the particular author. And unless the agent has any numbers in her hip pocket, we can only fight with the promise that our author will deliver a manuscript stronger than they ever thought possible, and that our author will do whatever she can to make this project a huge success.

Some things to ask yourself as you evaluate an offer:

1) Will this contract help my career in 5 years?
2) Can I legally sell my project to another house (some contracts have confidentiality notices)?
3) What sort of numbers can I use to help me negotiate a great deal?
4) Where will I be placed on the list?
5) What type of marketing will the publisher do for me?
6) How many author copies am I receiving? (if you negotiate from 25 copies to 50, you are getting bird in the hand.)
7) What is the non-compete clause?
8) What rights can I keep?
9) How dedicated is the publisher to me and to my career aspirations?

Sometimes publicity and promotion can trump a lowball offer. For example, if the publisher has fantastic plans in mind for promoting your book, chances , are you will more than make up your advance on the flipside.

Good luck!!! Please feel free to email me again if you have more questions!

Until then,
See you next week!

EZ Button

Have you seen that new ad campaign for Staples? With the EZ Button? If you're running into problems at work, hit that EZ Button and everything gets done for you. How lovely!

Well, there ain't no EZ Button in the real world.

Writing is like losing weight: There's no easy solution. You want to drop a few pounds? You have to take in fewer calories and expend more. No EZ Button. No short cuts. No magic wand.

Same thing with writing, whether it's the actual writing process or finding the motivation to tackle a tough scene. If it's hard, guess what? No EZ Button, sweetie pants. I have found that when I'm lacking in motivation, it's usually because I'm struggling with something tough. Every once in a while I'm actually fried, but usually, if I'm honest with myself, it's because I'm struggling with a scene or book that's difficult to write. My defenses spring up and I feel unmotivated, but really it's because what I'm trying to do is just so damn hard that it's way easier to give it up.

Like when I used to be a lawyer. I'd be sitting in that law library reading case law and bored out of my mind, and within ten minutes, I'd be sound asleep and drooling all over the Code books. Was I actually tired? No. It was because what I was doing was tough (or boring) and my body was pretending to be tired when really, my mind simply didn't want to work. (and you wonder why I'm not a lawyer anymore...)

I don't fall asleep at the computer, but sometimes I'm equally as unproductive. Like on Monday when I posted about my missing motivation. Well, as soon as I posted that, I sat back and thought about what I'd written, and realized I was lying to myself. The real problem was that I'd been wrestling with my proposal and I simply couldn't get a handle on it. It was just too damn difficult, and my brain shut down.

Taking a day off wouldn't help. I'd come back to the computer, and the same problem would be staring at me, but it would be even bigger because I'd be rusty and I'd have to go back and review everything to freshen up my mind.

So I shut down my email and my explorer for two days and busted it out. And you know what? It worked! I worked through my issues and ended up with a proposal that I'm really happy with.

Now, sometimes it's good to step away. If you're so frustrated that you're blocking your mind's ability to really assess the problem, then yes, walk away. But other than that, the only solution is to sit down and do it.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Lost...and not yet found

Missing: Motivation. Last seen on Friday, January 21st. Disappeared suddenly and without warning at approximately 11am after wrestling with a particularly stubborn proposal. Abdication of motivation is possibly due to an overextension for the last two months, during which it had to propel two manuscripts and page proofs into completion stage. Or possibly due to a workplace rebellion at not being allowed to take a week off to recoup after ms #2 was finished and sent off. Am willing to offer a week off at the end of February in exchange for immediately reappearance with sufficient juice to propel me through a new proposal this week and a third manuscript to be finished by 2/19. Will bribe with brownies, snuggly puppy kisses and gazing at beautiful sunsets (ahem, okay, the sunsets won't happen until summer). Any tips leading to the reacquisition of said motivation will receive significant reward, the exact terms of which shall be negotiated to the satisfaction of all parties involved. To report hot tips, send email to the woman repeatedly banging keyboard with her forehead.

You will now be returned to your regularly scheduled program.

Friday, January 20, 2006

It's all because of me!

Guess what? Our auther Q&A guest today, Michelle Rowen, got great news today! She sold two more books to Warner! Hooray! I am SO sure it's because she was on my blog. The Stephanie Rowe vibes did it. Fer sure. I'm so awesome. I mean, really, you think it's a coincidence? Her Q&A goes up. Offer comes in. I mean, hel-loooo, could the connection be any stronger?? PLUS, get THIS! My very first author Q&A guest was Stephanie Feagan of Bombshell fame. Well, she ALSO sold a book today. Hooray for Stef!!! I mean, hel-loooo, how much more obvious do we need to be? Do a Q&A on Stephanie Rowe's blog and amazing things happen for you. Done deal. The kharma is in motion. I have The Vibe. Yes, you can touch me, but only if you promise never to put lipstick on your eyelids and pretend it's eyeshadow. Yeah, you. I've seen you in your bathroom mirror. It's not a good luck. Trust me. I mean, really, trust me.

Galley Alert! Galley Alert!!

I'm so excited! My editor just emailed me that she's shipping me my box of ARCs! For those of you not steeped in author-speak, an ARC is an advanced reading copy that is sent out to key accounts and reviewers considerably ahead of the release date, to drum up interest in the book. The cool thing about Warner is that they bind the ARCs with the real cover (lots of publishers just put a brown paper cover on). They could still have typos etc b/c it hasn't gone thru the final proofing and they aren't for resale, but they are the completed and bound book, very close to final production form. So, it's almost like getting your actual book!! I'm SOO excited. I'll be giving away a copy or two or three on my blog and on my website, so stay tuned!

Author Q&A with Michelle Rowen

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1) Can you give a blurb about your current release?

BITTEN & SMITTEN is about a girl named Sarah Dearly who gets turned into a vampire by her blind date from hell. Running away from him and the vampire hunters who show up, she meets Mr. Tall Dark and Intimidating, a master vampire named Thierry de Bennicoeur who is trying to end his life after six hundred years. He agrees to help show her the ropes of the vampire world if she’ll help him end his life.It’s romantic, but I’d describe it more as a vampire chick-lit. It’s all about Sarah’s new life and troubles as she tries to cope with her new other-worldly status which is definitely not like it is in the books she’s read.

Click here to read an excerpt

2) The concept of a suicidial master vampire is hilarious. How did you come up with that?

I was thinking about immortality and how great it would be. Imagine all the things you could accomplish if you had hundreds of years. Plus, looking good the whole time! But on the flip side, I thought that it might get a little boring. Once you've seen it all, done it all... what then? If you don't die from natural causes and there's nothing that interests you in life anymore, really the only way out is to jump off a bridge.

3) So, where does your love of immortal hotties who suck blood come from? Are you a Buffy fan or what? Spike or Angel?

I am the biggest Buffy fan I know. It's sad, really. Even now, almost three years after the show went off the air I'm still an addict. I even have a Buffy tattoo. So, yes, my love of all things vamp comes from that show that turned the vampire legend on its head and did it in a way that combined comedy, drama, action and romance in one tidy package. Joss Whedon is my hero.And the age-old Spike or Angel question, huh? That's kind of like the "Maryanne or Ginger" question for guys, isn't it? Spike and Angel are so different, and yet both so hot it's hard to pick one. But since I go more for snark than sullen, I'd probably end up with Blondie Bear. And if you don't know which one that is, I can't help you.

4) Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? How did you go from ordinary reader to published author of kick-butt, hilarious, vampire fiction?

I've always wanted to be a writer. But for most of my life I lacked the confidence in my writerly abilities, or the follow-through to actually apply butt to chair and finish anything. When I turned thirty I figured that my dream wasn't going anywhere if I didn't put some effort into it. I signed up for a course through Writer's Digest in which I was mentored through the first chunk of writing a book by a published author. I decided to write what I liked to read and watch on TV: a comedic story with an edge of drama and action; an "everygal" who becomes something extraordinary. I tried to have fun with the course, while still taking it seriously.The author I worked with on my assignments was so complimentary about what I was writing (what was to become the first draft of BITTEN & SMITTEN) that it bolstered my confidence enough to think that... maybe. Maybe this might be more than just a pipe dream. So I focused. I finished the book, knowing that vampires were a hard sell since there are so darn many people who write about them. I researched the market and made my list of agents and was rather shocked when I received an offer of representation from the second agent I queried. He was able to sell the manuscript in record time. My head is still spinning, to tell you the truth.

5) Now that your book is on the shelves, you are getting hit with what every author fears: reviews! You've gotten some amazing ones from Booklist and Publisher's Weekly--congratulations! What does it feel like to be putting your work out there in the world for review?

Oh, I never read reviews.I am so lying.Okay, I read them. And I love the good ones, of course, and I've been blessed with quite a few that stroke my fragile ego. However, the bad reviews, quite honestly, feel like somebody has punched me in the stomach. My road to being published was not paved with a lot of rejection so I am having a hard time building up my "protective shell" when it comes to reading negative opinions about my work. But the more time goes by, the less it affects me. Probably the best thing for me to do is not read any reviews at all. Just focus on the writing, and doing the best I can. And keep a lot of chocolate on hand for when I get weak and google myself.

6) Have you ever met a real vampire? If so, was he hot and what was it like when he bit you?

No, I haven't. Stephanie, honey, vampires are *not* actually real. However, I am currently dating the nicest werewolf.

7) In BITTEN & SMITTEN, your heroine goes on a blind date from hell. Literally. Was this inspired by your own blind date experiences? What is the worst blind date (or regular date) that you've ever been on?

Alright, I have a bad blind date experience to share. I had arranged to meet a guy at a local bar. We'd only spoken on the phone so I told him what I looked like and that I would be carrying a purse with a dog on it (it's cooler than it sounds. I like funky purses). I arrived and wandered around looking for him. He thought it would be funny to watch me search for a few minutes without saying anything. It was a bad few minutes. For me. And then he proceeded to hit on the female bartender for the next half hour.Okay. Now I'm depressed. Moral to the story: Blind dates are bad. Fangs or no fangs.

8) Can you give us a sneak peek at your next release?

My next release is called ANGEL WITH ATTITUDE and it's out in July 2006 with Warner Forever. It's about a fallen angel who travels to the Underworld to search for the stolen Key to Heaven that she plans to use to go back. She's accompanied by a talking rat and a very hot, very tempting demon named Nathaniel.

Michelle Rowen



BITTEN & SMITTEN, Available now! Read an excerpt!


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Trainwreck city!

Tonight I was at dinner with a few folks.

Things were going along nicely, until I happened to glance to my left, along the table. Something "wrong" caught my eye, and my gaze dropped to the lap of one of the guys, without my even really thinking about it. There was some weird thing on his lap and I couldn't figure out what it was. So I'm studying it, trying to figure out what it was, and finally I realize it's his ID badge, sort of at this weird angle.

Excellent. Mystery solved.

Then I realize that his badge is sitting on his fly. And I'm staring at it. And I've been staring at it for about five minutes.

I jerk my gaze off his crotch, completely horrified by what I've been doing.

And then, for the REST of the dinner, it's like a bad train wreck. My gaze keeps wanting to crawl back to that damned ID badge. Every time I glance down to that end of the table, I feel this burning urge to see if that stupid badge is still there. Because I know I can't look. But I have to look, just because I can't.

It was horrible. I'm never going out to dinner again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

An Agent's View: Writer's Block

Agent Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency talks about Writer's Block.

Writer's Block!

Today has been eye-opening for me. As I stared at the black flashing line on a stark white computer screen, I finally understood the pain and agony of writer's block.

What to write? What do the readers want to know? How can I be witty yet smart, interesting yet informative? What words can I put down that will inspire?

Well, my friends, your guess is as good as mine!!! So, here we go - I'm going to channel.

It's a technique that I've heard many writers do. They write what comes to them. They do not edit. They just put down on the screen whatever pops up in their minds without ever hitting the backspace (unless they get sloppy fingers like me to fix their spelling!)

Or, maybe I should pull out my story board. I can plot out all pearls of wisdom.

Then again, maybe I should pull out a blank sheet of loose leaf paper and jot down anything that comes to my mind and brainstorm, all the time reminding myself there is no such thing as a dumb thought.

On the other hand, I'm feeling kind of gabby - maybe I'll pick up the phone and call a friend to see if we can brainstorm some ideas out loud.

Hmmmm... on second thought, maybe I'll surf the web for a couple of hours and research some other blogs. There have to be some sights out there that I can gain some insight from.

I guess the point is, there are many ways to overcome writer's block. Unearthing what works best for you is the key to success. For me, rambling thoughts seem to work best... go figure!

But, if you all are interested in helping me out with some ideas for next week, I'd be eternally grateful!! So, please ask away - we can e-storm together! :)

Have a great week!

and the winner is....

The title has been selected for my HarperCollins YA. It's going to be called ALL THE RIGHT NOTES!

I'm really excited about the title and I think it hits the tone of the story well. Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions!

Monday, January 16, 2006


Today isn't just about having a day off (not that I got one, being self-employed, but that's not my point). Today is about recognizing a great man who stood for things that our country should be built on. Things like equality and opportunity and treating everyone as they deserve to be treated, no matter what they look like on the outside. On some levels, our country has come so far, and on other levels, we're just as awful as we were one hundred years ago. It's frightening how much racism still exists at all levels in this country. It's frightening how people who aren't directly affected by it don't notice it, or don't think about it, or don't think it exists. Look around you. Really see what's going on. And then do what you can to make a difference. Each little thing matters. Do your part to fulfill a dream that is long overdue. We all owe it to each other.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

the best feeling!

Deadline for my HarperCollins YA: 1/15/06
Today's date: 1/15/06
Most satisfying activity undertaken today: emailing the completed ms of my HarperCollins YA to my editor.


I am SO not a fan of taking things down to the wire, but I couldn't help it with this book since I didn't get the green light on the story until the middle of the December. Normally, I would be very stressed at the prospect of starting to work on a book less than a month before it's due (I prefer to turn my books IN a month before they are due!), but I worked REALLY hard at staying organized and managing my time, and not getting caught up in the big picture or the "what if" game (like, what if I get the flu and I'm down and out for two weeks??? what if i can't get this story worked out to my satisfaction in the amount of time I have? what if i run into problems with the writing? what if my computer crashes and dies...oh, wait, that actually happened...). I kept focussed on my little daily goals, stayed confident that if I kept to my schedule I' d be fine, and fought against any surge of panic.

Amazingly enough, it worked! I was able to really enjoy the writing process, instead of fixating on the moment when I could say "the end" and know I'd beaten my deadline. And I think the book shows it. I loved every minute of writing this book, and I think it's my best effort to date. And I really believe it's because I was in such a positive frame of mind the whole time I was writing it, immersing myself in the joy of writing instead of knocking myself out with the worries and stress of making the deadline. I do this job because I love it, but so often it's easy to get so burdened with the stresses that I lose sight of the joys.

Not this time.
This time I enjoyed every minute of the ride, and it was awesome.
And now that I know what's it's like, I'm going to do everything in my power to have this attitude from now on, no matter how close that deadline is or how much stress is trying to crush down on me.

So there!

Friday, January 13, 2006

The disadvantages of being a wimp

I'm a wimp.
There. I admitted it.
For a long time, I denied it, pretending I was tough and fearless.
It's all a lie. I don't like risking serious bodily harm, even if the risk is small.

Mountain biking down the side of steep hill? I let my husband do his thing and I sit in the car and read my book. I used to go with him, climbing off my bike and wheeling it over the scary parts. Now, I stay home. A woman has to set boundaries, right?

Waterskiing? The turbo enema I got after falling on my butt convinced me it wasn't my thing. Now, I put on my sunglasses and sunscreen and take pictures. Much more satisfying and it doesn't cause a week-long interruption in bathroom duties.

Calling our credit card company to contest a bill? Not my thing. I know, like the customer service rep is going to jump through the phone lines and wring my throat for causing trouble, but I still hate it. Confrontation sucks. I hand the phone over to my dh and promise that when I become rich and famous, I'll buy him a Porsche. Surprisingly, it works. Men will do anything for their toys.

So, I'm a wimp.

Maybe even the Queen of the Wimps.

Or so I thought...until my dog's episode the night before last. I have been replaced as the leader of the wimps.

It was a dark and stormy night, (really, it was, I'm not making that up) and around eight o'clock, my 90 lb black lab ducked out the doggie door into the backyard.

Then he didn't come back, even though it was raining and cold.

After about 45 minutes, I stuck my head outside only to find him run up to the door, all happy. Um... okay. Guess he wants to get wet. So I go back inside.

An hour later, he's still outside. I try to get him inside, but he simply turns and runs back out the doggie door every time I bring him inside. This is the dog who has slept on my bed every single night since we got him. He's an indoor dog. A softie. So what's up with the sudden X-Games attitude?

My dh comes home and tries to get the dog inside, but he'll still have nothing of it. That's when I notice that the bar of Dove soap is missing from the sink. I figure that my dog ate it, and he's now having lots of fragrant and bubbly soap issues, so that's why he's staying outside. He's not acting sick, but what else could it be?

So, for the ENTIRE night, I get up every hour to go check on him. He won't come inside, even though he's soaking wet and shivering. I bring him inside, towel him off, drag him up to our bedroom, get him on the bed, order him to stay and hold him down. But within 5 or 10 minutes, he's so frantic that I let him go and he bolts off the bed, sprints down the stairs and goes outside.

I'm thinking major digestive issues going on, right?

This goes on for FOURTEEN hours. Every hour I bring him inside, dry him off and try to hunker down with him, but he refuses to stay inside. Finally, at ten in the morning, he's miserable and wet and whining, so I decide to take matters into my own hands. I dragged him inside and shut the doggie door. He spends the next hour pawing at the doggie door trying to go out, but I won't let him out. I told him that if he has to go to the bathroom that badly, he can just go in the house because he needs to dry off and warm up. Strangely enough, he never goes to the bathroom in the house, even after an hour. Maybe he's not sick???

Then I notice that the handset to our phone is beeping because it needs to be charged. So I hang it up.

And my dog stops trying to go outside.

Yep, you got it. He spent 14 hours outside in the rain because he was afraid of the beeping phone.

I concede defeat. My poor dog is the King of the Wimps.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


My Warner editor asked me to send her three "nuggets" about me that she could include in some promo material. I wasn't sure exactly what she was looking for, so I sent her an assortment of "nuggets" to choose from. Though y'all might find some of them amusing, so I'm posting them below:

1) Hometown: technically, Beaverton, OR, but I'm a Bostonian at heart and still consider myself from Boston even though I haven't lived there in nine years. Go Patriots!
2) I once got my elbow stuck in a trampoline.
3) In my past life, I was an attorney in a Boston law firm...before I saw the light.
4) I am a TOTAL dog lover and have two black labs who are the best dogs EVER. They have deluxe dogs beds in my office and hang out with me all day.
5) I am a terrible waterskiier.
6) When I was a senior in high school, I gave a speech to my class on "how to get a man." Obviously, my destiny as a romance author was firmly established from the start.
7) When I was in elementary school, I won the blue ribbon at our public library's summer reading club for reading the most books over the summer.
8) I developed an adult onset chocolate allergy which I continue to test on a regular basis to see if it has gone away. It hasn't. Woe is me.
9) When I was in law school, a friend of mine was astonished to learn I don't drink coffee. He said that no one could be as insanely high energy as me and not be a caffeine drinker. I don't think it was a compliment...
10) I met my husband by picking him up in a bar. Eleven years and still going strong...
11) I am an avid tennis player and only rarely hit myself in the head with my own racquet while playing.
12) I wrote 18 books before selling my first book.
13) I won the Romance Writer's of America Golden Heart Award for Short Contemporary in 2003.
14) Wolverine from the X-Men is my movie star boyfriend. Yum, yum. X-Men #3 coming out this summer. How will I withstand the wait???
15) I wrote my first book when I was ten years old, then abandoned the idea when someone wanted to read it. Good thing I overcame that phobia, eh?
16) My favorite book as a youth was THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES. Guess my interest in fantasy started early, eh?

Author Q&A: Sheila Curran

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1) Can you give us a blurb about your current release?

"DIANA LIVELY IS FALLING DOWN is a terrific pick-me-up. You couldn't find two more disparate landscapes than Oxford, England and Arizona, and that's exactly what one British woman discovers when she crosses the Pond to find herself a fish-out-of-water -- only to realize that for the first time in her life, this means she can stand on her own two feet. Filled with characters who make you laugh out loud even as they break your heart, this is a funny, warm, inventive, original book."
Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of VANISHING ACTS, and MY SISTER’S KEEPER

Click here to read an excerpt of DIANA LIVELY IS FALLING DOWN

2) The heroine in DIANA LIVELY IS FALLING DOWN is a misplaced Brit departed to Arizona. What kind of research did you do to be able to write about a Brit?

I lived in Oxford for ten months, and then in London for three years as a child. Lots of British friends. I started writing the book when I was around the accent and diction, so it was easier than I thought it would be when I started out.

3) The cover of DIANA LIVELY is hilarious--fun, unpredictable and edgy. What kind of input did you have on the cover?

My editor was very sweet about hoping I liked it, but basically, the publisher did the whoe thing.

4) DIANA LIVELY is your debut book. Congratulations! Was it a tough road to get published?

I can’t tell you how tough. I’ve been writing for twenty plus years now, and trying to get something published since 1983!

5) Can you tell us about your path to getting published?

Serendipty was finally kind to me. I found my agent through my husband. She is British and loved the book. Then she submitted to so many editors and all rejected it until we found Susan Allison at Berkley Penguin, who loved it and pushed for it to be published....what luck!

6) One of your themes in DIANA LIVELY is that everyone gets what's coming to them? Was it fun to let loose on the bad guys and give them what they deserved?

Oh, so much fun but strangely enough, my biggest complaint from readers is how they are so sorry I didn’t persecute the vile husband more. They would have enjoyed torture, poisonous snake bites or something very very painful.

7) Like your heroine in DIANA LIVELY IS FALLING DOWN, you spent much of your life being dropped into new and unfamiliar places to live. How did you draw on your personal experiences to give your heroine a realistic touch?

I knew how much anxiety figured into the picture, and also how you are given perspective when taken out of the familiar environment.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006


So, it's official. Brad Pitt knocked up Angelina. And they've been claiming they're only friends. Hah! How stupid do they think the American public is? They are so busted. Only friends. Indeed. Friends with benefits, apparently.

Why do so many celebrities think it's not a big deal to have babies with lots of different people, half of whom they aren't married to and have no intention of marrying? Whatever! Don't these people read romances? Apparently, they need a slap upside the head of happily ever after to help them get their ducks in a row.

Only friends. Hah! Nice try, Brangelina.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A battle to the finish line

My book is due Monday.
I'm getting sick.
Sore throat creeping up.
First draft done.
All I can think about is crawling into bed.
Must get revisions done and to my agent before I collapse.
The finish line is approaching.
Can I hold off the enemy? Can I push through to victory?
I will not give up.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Title help needed!

We're in a title crisis for my YA romance from HarperCollins. We need a fun, hip, extremely happenin' title, and we can't come up with anything! Here's the down-low: the heroine (Lily) is a classical pianist and she's had it with having no life other than piano (which all the other kids think is a total loser thing to be doing), so she drops piano and gets in with this band playing keyboards. Of course, there's a way hot drummer who she starts to bond with. Too bad he has a girlfriend and thinks she has a boyfriend....

My editor would love to have the title that has something do with music, but I haven't come up with anything decent. Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

always on the clock

Last night I went to a wedding. The man sitting next to me was someone who I used to work with back at the day job. He asked me how life had changed for me since I became a writer, whether it changed how I looked at the world. He then also asked the common question of whether all my fiction was based on my life. I said that one of the big differences was that everyone I spoke to, every experience I had, every movie I saw, every news program I saw, all went into the story idea bank. I was always thinking about how I could incorporate the experience into a story, so in a way, yes, everything in my books was based on my life, in that it was something I'd been exposed to, but not lived myself.

Then, later on the in the night, the band came on stage and started to play, I nearly fell over myself. Why? Because the wip that's due in a week is about a teen girl who plays piano and then starts playing keyboard for the band! So I rushed up to the stage and stood behind it, watching the keyboard player play, listening to how the band members talked to each other during the songs, watched the drummer, etc etc. I was up there for probably an hour, absorbing it. When I finally came back to me seat, my dh was like "Where were you?" I explained where I'd been, and he just nodded in understanding.

And after the wedding was over, I stalked the keyboard player, asked him some questions and got his email address for further inquiries.

And to think I used to be shy!

So, there you go. Being a writer turns a wedding into a research project, and turns a formerly shy woman into someone who will march up to strangers, ask personal questions and wrangle an email address.

I love my job!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Q&A with Lara Rios

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1) Can you tell us a little about your current release?

Absolutely! BECOMING LATINA IN 10 EASY STEPS has been classified as chick-lit, but to me it's just a story about learning to be who you really are. I wrote Becoming Latina in response to hearing quite often from reviewers and readers that the books by Latino writers were not "Latino enough". A funny comment, because Latinos are such a varied group of people. What is very Latino for one group, may not be at all for another. So I created acharacter, Marcela, who must face this issue. She is not Latina enough for her family and decides to become so. In showing the way Marcela attempts to become a bunch of clichés and fails miserably, I hope to show in a comical way that we (all women, not just Latinas) are all individuals. Each person has to follow her own dreams and not let society, family, or friends influence or dictate who she should be.

Click here to read an excerpt of BECOMING LATINA

2) BECOMING LATINA IN 10 EASY STEPS is about finding your roots and discovering who you are. Is this a theme you have in other books, or how did you come up with this for this story?

Yes, it's definitely a theme in my stories. Maybe it's because it took me so long to figure out who I was and what I wanted from life. My family (dad) wanted a submissive, family centered daughter, society told me to toughen up. I was confused about whom to please. I found that many 2nd and 3rd generation ethnic-Americans face the confusion of living in two worlds at the same time. So I like to write about following your dreams and not allowing yourself to be pushed to be someone you're uncomfortable being.

3) NYT Bestselling thriller author Tess Gerritsen recently posted on her blog about race and best-sellerdom, offering the opinion that as, a ChineseAmerican, in order to reach the level of success she strived for, she needed to be marketed and defined not as a Chinese American, but simply as a thriller writer, leaving her race out of the equation both as an author and in the race of her main characters. You and your publisher have obviously taken the opposite approach, embracing the Latino heritage of your characters and your stories. What kind of process did you and your publisher go through in determining the platform for your stories? Was it a difficult choice to make? What are your thoughts on this subject?

Wow, well, how do I answer this question? My feeling is that Latinos have been stereotyped quite a bit. Much of what has been published was from the1970's seemed to be political statements about the struggles of Chicanos in America. I wanted to take many of the stereotypes out there and say that we haven't all experienced the same thing. In my book, I attempted to populate it with different "groups". The rich Latinos, the middle class, the gang member, the political activist, the Latino who is simply an American and could care less about her roots. My editor is Chinese and she told me that when she read the manuscript, she could totally relate to theheroine. So, yes, I am embracing my heritage, but more than that, I'm saying, "hey, guys, stop with the stereotypes." Take a real look, we Latinos are just like you. We don't all speak Spanish, can't all dance, don't all cook wonderful meals, and some of us have never stepped foot anywhere outside the United States. So our platform, if we have one, is to bring attention to our heritage, but to make everyone aware that our ethnicity is only one small part of the whole person.

4) What's the best part about being an author?

Freedom. Working anywhere -- home, a coffee shop, or on vacation. Also, I think it gives me the chance to reach many people and perhaps make a difference in someone's life. I was a teacher for lots of years and loved it for the same reason.

5) What's the coolest/weirdest reader letter/email you've ever received?

It was from a little boy who wrote to tell me how much he loved my books and how they touched him. I was stunned. Could a little boy have read my romances, I wondered. I received about three more emails from children, and was baffled. So, I looked up the book they were referring to and found that there is a children's author who is also named Lara Rios. She lives in Central America. Lara and I have since emailed each other and I forward her any mail I mistakenly get for her. Pretty funny.

6) Can you give us a sneak peek at your next book?

Of course. It's called BECOMING AMERICANA, and it basically takes theopposite view from BECOMING LATINA. In BECOMING AMERICANA, the heroine, Lupe, wants to leave her roots behind and become Americanized, but keeps getting pulled back in by her family and her own insecurities. Her challenge is to recognize that she doesn't have to choose one or the other. She can be both American and Latina. Lupe is a secondary character in BECOMING LATINA. After this, I'll probably leave the Latino issue alone : )

Thanks! Nice chatting with you!

Lara Rios

Thursday, January 05, 2006

rebelling against resolutions

Today is my day to post on the Warner Women's blog. Zip over there to check out my anti-new-years-resolutions post!

An Agent's View: New Years Resolutions

Literary Agent Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary agency weighs in on New Years Resolutions.

After two weeks of too much food and too much fun, I am armed with a list of New Year's resolutions that this year I vow to honor. And, if making a list for myself wasn't enough - I helped my daughter come up with a few of her own. Namely, cleaning her room. The conversation on Monday went something like this:

ME: Clean your room.
Dear Sweet 7-year-old: In a minute, Mommy. I'm playing with my stuffed animals.

Two hours later:
ME: Clean your room.
DSSYO: In a minute, Mommy. I'm playing Barbie on my computer.

Three hours later:
ME: Clean your room.
DSSYO: In a minute, Mommy. I'm finishing my picture.

Then it was time for bed.

So, we had the talk.
ME: Sweetie, have you made a resolution this year?
DSSYO: What is a resolution?
ME: It's when you make a promise to yourself to do something good for you.
ME: I think your resolution should be to keep your room clean.
DSSYO: That's a good idea.

Flash forward to January 5. Is her room clean? No, it's better than before, but not clean to my standards. To her, she can see floor, so all is well in the world.

Moral of the story - as nice as it would be to set goals and resolutions for our friends, you can't change someone who doesn't want to be changed. So, rather than to focus on how much nicer life would be if I didn't have to say, "clean your room" twenty-five times a day, I set my own resolution. To help my DSSYO clean her room every night before bed. Then we can both feel satisfaction on a job well done. Plus is will give us some good girl time together to share our days.

Because writing down your goals make them real, here I go.

1) I resolve to exercise every day. There always seems to be an excuse why not to. "My emails are backed up." "I have tooo much to do." You name them, I've come up with them already. So, I found a really cool program on Fit TV which I am becoming addicted to. ALL STAR WORKOUTS is a really cool show what changes up workouts every day - yesterday I was doing pilates, today kickboxing. Later in the week, we move into Belly Dancing. For me, the change of pace is just what I need to keep me interested.

2) I resolve to not sweat the small stuff. (I'm going to leave the sweating to my workouts!) Running my own business has turned me into a type A personality. I am not happy until everyone around me is. So, I've worked my booty off to make sure that everything is perfect. That my house is clean, that everything around me is just as it should be. While I am still going to strive for perfection, if my house is a little out of place before I'm going to go to bed, I'm going to let it go. And, if my 2005 Christmas cards have suddenly become Happy 2006 New Year's cards this year, well...

3) I hereby resolve to catch-up on emails. This will probably be my trickiest yet - I receive literally over 100 emails a day. So, keeping up with them can be a challenge. But, I resolve to block out time each day to answer them. Feeling caught up will be a huge stress relief!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and that 2006 brings you all that you wish for. Good luck with your resolutions! I would love to hear what they are, so, please post away!!

Me, I'm off to write some emails!

Until next week,

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Big Apple

Yesterday I spent the day in NYC meeting with my Warner editor and my HarperCollins editor, neither of whom I'd met before. What an unbelievably worthwhile trip. There is simply nothing that can compare to face-to-face contact with the folks in charge of championing your career and editing your work. I was able to ask questions that I probably wouldn't have had the courage to ask over the phone or email, and we engaged in some frank discussions about my career and opportunities at both houses for me. It was so inspiring and really charged me up to get home and get to work. Both editors are approachable and warm, but I was especially impressed with how smart and savvy they both are. I know I'm in good hands with them, and I feel very fortunate to have two such amazing people as my editors, and I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to write for two such incredible publishers. I always hear authors who say how important it is to get to NY at least once a year to meet and greet, and now I'm on that band wagon myself. I don't care if you have to get yourself in a car and drive for three days and sleep in the backseat, but if you're published, find a way to meet your editor(s). It's invalubable. Do it!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

uh, oh, spaghettios

I just got an email from my BIL. Things aren't looking good for the ol' computer. Apparently, it's not the OS. The hard drive is toast (after only 1.5 years!) He tried to make a copy of it and got an error message after only 7%. He's going to try something else, but he said it's not looking good. You know, just last week I was thinking that I should print out all my contacts and my favorites JUST IN CASE, but did I do that? Nuh uh. Who's laughing now? Not me, so much. I have all my word and excel documents, but those dang outlook files. I did try to back them up about three weeks ago, so I guess I will try to restore from that point when I get my computer back (he'll put in a new hard drive), otherwise, if you've been waiting for an email response from me about something, you'll have to keep on waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting..... or email me again!

So, here's the question of the day: about a month ago, I ran a hardware check on HP's website, and it said my hard disk failed and I should back up all my work and take my computer in for repair immediaetely. I put that on my list of "things to do after my book is turned in." Was that a wise decision? Hmm... not so much...