Monday, December 31, 2007

Reflecting on 2007 - Part 2

And here we are, in the final hours of the year. Can you believe it? Here are my reflections on July - December:
July 1, 2007

"Fifteen Things for which I am Truly Grateful (Appearing in no particular order)

1. My family - my parents, my sister, my husband. My niece and nephew. Everyone who shows me what unconditional love is."

The beginning of a cool meme - I was happy I had no problem thinking of 15 things, and probably could have gone on for more! It's always good to stop, take stock and give thanks, I think.

August 1, 2007

"Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today we have another author interview, this time with fantasy writer Jim Melvin. Sit back, relax, and learn about his six-book series premiering in fall 2007, The Death Wizard Chronicles."

This was one of my early author interviews. I've really enjoyed doing them every Wednesday; I've learned so much and met some really cool people. I already have authors lined up through May 2008, so watch out!

September 1, 2007

"First off, a big THANKS to everyone who visited my blog and played along in the One Night in Boston trivia contest this week. I'm hoping you enjoyed getting to know some of the characters in my novel and will read on to find out what unfolds for them next!"

This was one of my first giveaway contests...and the one that Dru won...read on to find out more about Dru!

October 1, 2007

"Last Friday, I was setting up an activity for my students when I overheard a piece of their conversation: "Man, I love this class. It's like - remember when you were in kindergarten, and you loved going to school every day because it was fun? That's what this class is like."

Ah. Always good to remember my day job, the one that pays my bills and keeps me sane when writing makes me crazy (well, okay, teaching makes me crazy too, but in a different way). I still enjoy it, most days, and feel lucky to have my cozy classroom to go in to, every morning.

November 1, 2007

"Ah, the day after Halloween...All Saints' Day. There's actually a Catholic school in town that's closed today, for the holiday. Interesting, huh? Of course, for the most part, November 1 is like the quiet, unassuming little sister, whose bad boy big brother, All Hallows' Eve, gets all the attention."

I love finding out new things, and this fact about Catholic schools being closed on November 1 was one of them.

December 1, 2007

"I'm off to the NYC Independent and Small Press Fair today...and while I'll admit I'm a little intimidated, I'm trying to keep an open mind and just learn from the whole experience."


Considering where I started the year, this was a smashing good place to wind it up, I think. I did survive, and I did meet a lot of other authors. One of the best perks of this day, though, was meeting Dru in person - fantastic!

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Man, this was a great 2-day reflection for me. I learned so much about writing and editing and publishing and marketing this year. I can't wait to see what 2008 brings!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reflecting on 2007 - Part 1

Borrowed this one from Marianne: the idea is to pull your opening lines from the first blog post of every month of 2007 and then comment from your current perspective. I'm doing Jan - June today and July - Dec tomorrow. Kind of a nice way to wrap up the year...

January 1, 2007

"A brand new year…exciting! And just to start it off really well, 2 great things happened to me in the final days of 2006: I got to meet, in person, one of my virtual writing friends, Marianne and my manuscript One Night in Boston was accepted by Samhain Publishing!!!!!!"

Wow...that was definitely the way to start off a new year. 2007 turned out to be a great year for me in terms of moving my writing career forward. It's funny to think it all just started one year ago.

February 1, 2007

"Today’s the day! My article about character building is supposed to be up at WOW. "

Ditto the forward progress of my writing. I had a ball writing this article, and I have two articles in the works for WOW (Women-on-Writing), coming up in the next few months.

March 1, 2007

"For a little something different, I thought I’d post an excerpt from my WIP Lost in Paradise, which is in its umpteenth revision since being pulled from Virtual Tales. It’s also being read as a partial right now by The Wild Rose Press, so fingers crossed."

I actually forgot I originally agreed to publish Lost in Paradise with another, small e-press. Deciding to terminate that contract was a huge, nail-biting decision...but it paid off, since TWRP liked it and published it!

April 1, 2007

"Well, I never was a big one for "celebrating" this day - I'm not a prankster by nature, and I can't remember the last time someone really got me. Still, in honor of this day you might be interested in reading the History of April Fool's Day."

Still true (and the link still works, so check it out for some interesting facts)!

May 1, 2007

"First off, a big thanks to Marianne, who nominated me for "The Best of the Best" Blog Entries, and to everyone who voted for "Why I Harbor Hope"...I ended up winning!"

Oh, yeah, the blog post where I shared an email from a former student. Update: I continue to keep in touch with her; we just had lunch the other day and she told me all about her first year at graduate school. She's doing fabulous, of course!

June 1, 2007

(It was a Friday Feast day):
Appetizer: Name something you think is “the best.”

"Hmm...the end of a long day, when I've time to go for a long run in the morning, and I've had a student say "Thanks, I understand now," and I've just enjoyed a favorite dinner, and I'm sitting in the living room with my hubby and my cats and a handful of dark chocolate which contains no calories, and we're watching a favorite TV show together while we chill out from the day (this rarely happens, which is why when it does, it's THE BEST kind of day...)"

All still true!

See you tomorrow for the LAST DAY of 2007...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Movies and Such

Thanks to Blockbuster Online, I saw a couple of decent movies in the last few days:

Apocalypto - Quite a brutal, but interesting, story (directed by Mel Gibson) that takes place during the heights of the Mayan civilization. You see the grandeur and celebration at the temples but also the way the most powerful rulers pillaged villages in the surrounding forests to find human sacrifices. It's pretty bloody and graphic, but also quite suspenseful as, of course, one man gets away from his captors and spends most of the movie trying to outrun them. Oh, and it's done entirely in subtitles, which I didn't know ahead of time but didn't mind. [Actually, when I looked up the link on IMDB, I found out it had been nominated for quite a few movie awards - and won a handful]

Ocean's Thirteen - Yes, the third in the clever "ring of thieves" movies with a star-studded cast: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Andy Garcia, Al Pacino, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, Matt Damon (who's hilarious, by the way, as the geeky kid who really wants to be a cool cat like Pitt and Clooney but isn't)... In this one, the group works to steal profits from a hotel/casino owner who double-crossed one of their own. It was good, not as good as the first one, but OK. I figured out the twist at the end before it happened, while Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve surprised me, so enough said.

And there are actually a couple in the theaters I wouldn't mind seeing: Atonement, Juno, I Am Legend, National Treaure 2. It's just a matter of finding the time (sigh). Seen any good ones lately that you'd recommend?

Friday, December 28, 2007

TGIF!!

I can't believe it's Friday already! Of course, I do love the way you lose track of the days when you're not working...

OK, here it is, the last Friday Feast of 2007!

Appetizer
Name 2 things you would like to accomplish in 2008.
I'd like to publish another book, and I would like to improve my fitness/workout regime. It's OK right now, but it could use some tweaking!

Soup
With which cartoon character do you share personality traits?
Cartoon character? Honestly, I don't even watch cartoons.

Salad
What time of day (or night) were you born?
Around 8:30 AM - my hubby tells me that's why I'm such a morning person and not a night owl!

Main Course
Tell us something special about your hometown.
My hometown growing up as a child: It's an old, historic New England town (translation: beautiful) that still has old hitching posts in front of many of the homes on Main Street.

My hometown now, as an adult: It's the site of one of the old sanitoriums, where people from New York City used to come to recover from tuberculosis. Even more interesting: Agnes von Kurowsky, the great love of Ernest Hemingway's life, worked as a nurse at this sanitorium for 3 years back in the 1920s.

Dessert
If you could receive a letter from anyone in the world, who would you want to get one from?
Actually, my paternal grandfather, who passed away about 20 years ago. I'd like to know what he thinks of all I've accomplished..

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Climax, a Church, and a Cool Contest

Whew! It's been a lovely few days, celebrating Christmas with the various sides of the family, but I am glad to be home again! I am bound and determined to make some headway through the last few chapters of Summer's Song. I'm at the point leading up to, and including, the climax, which will be a challenge since I'm changing a lot of it, but oh well!

Hey, did you see this article about the church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, that gave away $50 to every member and then challenged people to double the amount? Pretty cool. And Chagrin Falls is a charming little town outside of Cleveland, by the way, in case you're ever driving through the state of Ohio and feel like stopping :)

And I can't leave today without mentioning the very cool contest that the folks over at The Long and the Short of It are running - you can win books! Doesn't everyone want to win books? Go forth and enter!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Mary Eason

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday ~ hope you're enjoying your holiday :) Today I'm chatting with chick lit author Mary Eason. Her novel The Things You Think You Want just released last month with Samhain, so let's find out a little bit more!

Hi, Mary! Thanks for stopping by during this busy holiday season. So, can you tell us about your latest writing project or published title?

My latest book, entitled The Things You Think You Want released through Samhain Publishing on November 27th. It is a chick lit romance that I’m very proud of because it has a lot of me in it. It's about a woman who realizes finding love is the easy part.


Carrie Sinclair thought she knew exactly what she wanted from life until she came face-to-face with the bluest eyes in Texas.

Ooh, I love that tagline! OK, what advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Chances are, unless you are Nora Roberts you aren’t going to get rich by writing. Do it because you love it. Writing is a roller coaster ride. The highs are very high, but the lows can bring you to your knees if you aren’t tough. You have to find a way to learn not to take rejection personally.
What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I read many different romance genres, but my favorites are Romantic Suspense and Romantic Comedy. My favorite authors are Lisa Gardner, Rita Herron, Brenda Novak, Nora Roberts, and Lilly Winston.

Now for a tough question: What do you find most difficult about writing?

For me, the most difficult part of writing is the distractions from it. Today, with the internet, authors are required to do more of their own publicity. That in itself can be a full time job. It’s easy to get caught up in promoting and lose your writing time.

Very true! So what do you find most exciting or rewarding?
My favorite part of writing is seeing my name on the cover of my book and hearing that someone loved the story I created. There’s nothing like those two things to keep you going.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I love being with my family as well and with my granddaughter Ava. I’m a huge reader. I read everything I can get my hands on. Also, my hubby and I have a vacation home in the Colorado Rockies. We love spending time there.

That sounds amazing! So when you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?

My method of writing is my laptop. When I start a new project, I give myself permission to simply write the story that’s in my head all the way to the end without editing it.
Once I’m done, then the fine-tuning begins.

This has been a great interview. Anything else you’d like to mention?

Only that I love hearing from my readers. They can contact me at maryjeason@netzero.com
And I’m always, always, always giving something away over on my website. So, stop by and check it out.
http://www.maryeason.bravehost.com/

Other places to find Mary?

Thanks for being here today, Mary, and good luck with your writing!

Thanks so much for having me, Allie.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!



Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas Day...and if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a peaceful day spent with people most important to you!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Eve!


Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.


The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.


When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.


The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.


With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!


"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"


As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.


And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.


He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.


His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.


The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!


He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.


He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!


He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Winter Reading Challenge

Hey everyone, I blogged yesterday over at Samhain's Blog...and my post is a little lonely. Would you hop on over and maybe leave me a comment there?

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Marianne posted yesterday about The Winter Reading Challenge, which seems like an excellent way to start the new year. 12 weeks of winter, or so, and given my time constraints, I think 6 books (+ an extra couple for LASR) will be the most I can attempt.



So here they are:

1. Nineteen Minutes - I've been wanting to read this one by Jodi Picoult, about a school shooting, for some time now. It's supposed to be pretty powerful...and not what you'd expect.

2. A Thousand Splendid Suns- The follow-up novel to The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. Loved the first one and have heard good things about this second one.

3. What is the What or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (I put both on my Christmas list, so it depends on which one I get!)

4. Carrie Pilby - This chick lit novel by Caren Lissner features one of the characters from a novella in Scenes from a Holiday (see yesterday's post), and I found a copy used on Ebay. UPDATE: Entertaining enough, it's the story of a teenage genius who's just finished Harvard and is now living in NYC trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. There are some funny moments, as well as some poignant ones, though Carrie's "poor me" attitude kind of wore on me after awhile. I did like the main character, because she's not a typical chick lit heroine (she's smart and only 19, so her whining can be forgiven a little, I suppose). But I actually liked the novella in Scenes... better. The minor characters (especially Kara, Carrie's colorful, bisexual best friend) were more interesting, and the plot seemed tighter. Read that one if you have to choose; the saga about Carrie and her lack of a social life is about the same in both works.

5. The Red Tent - A fictional account of the life of Dinah (daughter of Leah and Jacob), written by Anita Diamant, this one's been recommended to me by a couple of students. UPDATE: Loved this book, a beautiful fictional retelling of this minor character from Genesis. It's a lovely, lyrical story highlighting the power of female friendships, motherhood, and the power of women, especially in a patriarchal society. The character development is rich, the scenes are moving, and it's also a really nice historic view into a long-ago time period. I highly recommend it!

6. Something by Tori Phillips - She's my new favorite historical romance author, and there are a few used copies of her books floating around Ebay too, so we'll see.

7. And whatever I decide to read and review for LASR.

Whew! What about you? Want to join the challenge? Or just share which books you'd like to read in 2008?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Scenes from a Holiday

Just a reminder: 10 more days until I choose a winner from a random drawing of everyone who's posted comments on my blog this month. Prize?




A new (well, once-read) copy of this book! Want to read a review of it? Click the cover, above.

And here are some scenes from another holiday, yesterday's party at school. It was so nice, really. My current students gave me a couple of lovely gifts (though you didn't officially read that here, 'cause they're probably not supposed to...), and even better, about 15 of my alumni from class years 04-07 came back to visit! Here are some pics:


Alumni from various class years

Me with two dear alumni from '06


The current class!

Friday, December 21, 2007

TGIF!!

Last day of school before winter break...yippee!

Actually, I'm really excited, because today is our annual holiday party and alumni reunion, and a whole bunch of my former students are coming in to visit. It's one of my favorite days of the year!

And here's a trilogy of trailers for you. They're for Judith Rochelle's three western romances...she picked the music, and I love it!





Thursday, December 20, 2007

Musical Connections

OK, here's a question for you that has nothing to do with either the holidays (!) or writing (!!)...

How strong is the connection, for you, between music and memory? I've been playing with my birthday present these last few days, downloading music etc., and every so often I stumble across a song that pulls me right back into the past.

Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" always makes me incredibly sad, because I heard it on the radio in the car after I saw "Brokeback Mountain" (the first time) and I was still weeping over the movie.

The Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah" reminds me of hot weather and poolside margaritas, since, of course, it was popular this past summer and we listened to it all the time while we were vacationing in North Carolina.

And here's the funny one:

Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You," a fairly happy, upbeat holiday song, always depresses me. Why? It must be about 12 years old now, and it came out right after I ended the most serious relationship I'd had, up to that point in my life. I walked through most days like a zombie, missing my ex so much. And that song just amplified every maudlin emotion I was feeling at the time. I was like, yes, I'll give it all up just to have that guy back in my life for the holidays.

When I heard the song for the first time this holiday season, I thought, "Oh, I like this song. It's fun. Wait a minute...why I am so sad all of a sudden?" I'd actually forgotten the connection...but something in my memory hadn't.

Weird, huh?

Any songs call up powerful memories for you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with P.L. Parker

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm featuring an interview with fantasy romance author P.L. Parker:

P.L. Parker is a newly published author of fantasy romance novels with a twist. Her modern day heroines find themselves transported back in time to live in ancient lands where they encounter peril, romance, treachery, and ultimately, love. She enjoys creating stories in both the light and dark paranormal. You will be captivated by the engaging and unique stories found in P.L. Parker's novels!



Hi P.L.! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
In my real life, I am a legal secretary for a downtown law firm in Boise, Idaho. For many years, I performed, taught and choreographed beledi dancing (or belly dancing as we here in America call it). I've always written, but mostly for family things and for the fun of it. I'm an avid reader, reading usually 3 books per week.

Wow, that's a lot of reading! What about your own writing - what's your latest project?
My latest project is another time travel romance, this time dealing with a young woman who ends up on a wagon train to Oregon. I am almost finished with it and have titled it "Aimee's Locket."

How do you go about developing your characters?
As to developing my characters, in school, I was heavily involved in theater and when I write, I imagine myself as each character and try to develop the emotions that character is feeling.

That's a great strategy. Do you have any other helpful advice for new writers?
My advice to new writers is to write with passion, write about things that move you, be it romance, adventure, or whatever, but write about things that excite you.

Do you have a favorite genre or author?
I love vampire stories. My favorite author is Christine Feehan.

How do you stay motivated with your writing, especially with the demands of everyday life?
I try to write some every day. In that way, I don't lose the focus of my story and it stays fresh in my mind and the ideas just seem to spring up.

Do you write on the computer? Write everything out long-hand? Dictate?
I compose on the computer. So much easier to get my thoughts down and edit them to the point I feel they are what I am truly attempting to portray.

What's your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?
My favorite movies are either Sci-Fi or historical in nature. I love ancient history and that's what brought about the birth of "Fiona." I watched the Discovery Channel one night and they did a show on the Urumchi Mummies and I couldn't get it out of my mind. The main character "Fiona" grew from that spark.

Thanks for a great interview, P.L.!

Want to know more about this author, or her books Fiona or Riley's Journey? Visit her website or her MySpace page...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Drafting or Revising?

Ugh...I can't decide which is harder on my brain these days, drafting new stuff or revising old stuff. I'm working on Summer's Song, a full-length contemporary, and it's the 2nd or 3rd time through. This time, though, I'm making some major plot changes. So some scenes I have to write from scratch, and others I either have to revise or figure out where to move. I've been doing a lot of shifting around of chapters, too, which is making my head spin. I keep forgetting where the characters are in their whole growth process. Hmm...maybe I should actually jot down some notes? I do have an outline, but I keep straying from it.

And I just want it to be done! I can see the ending, I know where I'm going, but darn it, the actual process of getting there is slowing me down. I'm losing patience. I'm having the hardest time lately parking myself in a chair and just WRITING.

Help.

Your Psyche is Yellow

You have a ton of energy - both physical and mental endurance.
You are rational and logical, and you can help almost anyone think clearly.
Optimistic and bright, you also have a secret side that's a little darker.

When you are too yellow: You will do anything to get your way, and no one will be the wiser

When you don't have enough yellow: you lack confidence, drive, and humor

Monday, December 17, 2007

What a Teacher Makes

Have you seen this? It's been around for a while, and I've read the text in a few places. Still, it's worth watching...'cause it's so true...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

And the Storm is Here...

The big storm arrived last night, and it's been sleeting since about 9 pm yesterday. Not a lot on the ground, but man, the ice and the winds are definitely taking their toll. I keep thinking we're going to lose power at some point, so I'm blogging quickly this AM.

Here's my birthday present from hubby!



It's a Zune, an mp3 player, and while I'm not hugely technologically savvy or needy, I'm a BIG music person. I can't wait to download music (legally, Marianne) and create cool playlists (oh yeah, I'm definitely making one of all my fave 80s tunes). Speaking of which, remember the Walkman from the 80s, with the big ol' headphones and the tape deck? Man, things sure have gotten smaller over the years, haven't they? Plus, it holds pictures and videos too: I loaded all the book trailers I've made onto it, and they play in amazing quality on the little screen.

I know, I know, many of you have probably had one for ages...but this is brand new for me, and I'm excited!

OK, I'm signing off now...have a great day and stay warm (those of you in the storm region) and stop envying me my snow (those of you who aren't) - just kidding :)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Interesting Facts About December 15th

1. It signifies the first day you can start counting down to Christmas on both hands!

2. The Bill of Rights was ratified on this date when Virginia gave its approval, in 1791.

3. It's the day before Ludwig von Beethoven (1770) and Jane Austen (1775) were born.

4. Exactly 10 years ago today, the San Francisco 49ers retired Joe Montana's number, #16.

5. On this date in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declared homosexuality was not a mental illness.

6. "Gone With the Wind" premiered in Atlanta on this date in 1939.

7. It's the 349th day of the year (350th, in leap years).

8. It was the day that band leader Glenn Miller disappeared over the English Channel, in 1944.

9. It falls in the zodiac sign of Sagittarius. (Sagittarians, by the way, are "friendly, sociable, and outgoing. They have a reputation for being blunt speakers who don't worry how their opinions will be received. Like their male counterparts, Sagittarian women love to travel and are curious about other cultures. Like other fire-sign females, they are not afraid to take risks").

and finally,

10. Yours Truly was born...though the number of years ago shall remain confidential...

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Big Storm


Well, we got it yesterday: the first big snowstorm of the season. It snowed for most of the day, a good twelve hours, and we ended up with about 9 inches. Here are the before and after pictures (actually, not a true "after" picture, as it kept snowing for about 4 hours after I took it...but it was dark then):

9:00 am 12/13/07



3:00 pm 12/13/07

And hey, here's the Friday Feast!

Appetizer Make up a word and give us its definition. One of my students came up with this one (unintentionally) "ostrichsize" ( instead of ostracize)...shoving oneself off to the side (instead of someone else) and sticking one's head in the sand as a result.

Soup What is currently your favorite song? I can only pick one? OK, I'm still liking "Everything" by Michael Buble. It's just so happy!



Salad What’s at the top of your Christmas wish list this year? Stress-free, non-work time spent with the people I love. I'm not really into material things. I have everything important I could need.

Main Course Name a scent that reminds you of someone special in your life. Dial Soap...my hubby has always used it :)

Dessert Who is someone on television that you feel probably shouldn’t be, and why? I can only pick one? OK, then Paris Hilton - honestly, people, she has done nothing except had the luxury of being born into a rich, privileged family. She has no talent and not a whole lot of brains. Yet she has a TV show, a recording contract, and actual fans...see why I'm so sad about the world sometimes?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Books and More Books

No school today 'cause of the impending snow/ice storm ~ yippee! I think teachers enjoy days off just as much as students do!

You know, this December book give-away has been such a great way for people to stop in and visit my blog, I think I might do it every month! What do you think?

And speaking of getting free books, I'll put in a plug here for The Long and the Short of It ~ they desperately need more reviewers. If any of you new visitors are interested, go on over and let Marianne know. She's looking for anyone who'd be willing to read 2 books a month (or short stories - hey, there's a lot of those too!) and share your opinion. You get free reads, and even better, they just started an incentive program where you can earn points for every review you write...and the points can be traded in for Amazon gift certificates or cool items from CafePress, among other things. Just let her know I sent you!

Of course, one of the things you'll find as as reviewer is a wide range of stories and writing abilities...and editing polish, apparently. I'm reading a novella right now that is chock-full of spelling and grammar errors. Not cool. It really takes away from my enjoyment of the story. Sigh.

P.S. Received another wonderful email regarding Lost in Paradise, from a cyber-writing friend of mine:

"I have just finished reading your book. Just fantastic. One of the most enjoyable reads I've had for a while. Loved the characters and the situation they find themselves in-you kept the momentum going right till the end."

Thanks, Rosalie!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Tricia Ballad


Welcome to another Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm chatting with Wild Rose Press author Tricia Ballad. Her short story "The Perfect Candidate" just released last month, and today it's received a 5 Book review over at The Long and the Short of It!

Hi Tricia, and thanks for joining us today! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I took the scenic route getting here. I wrote constantly in high school, but when I started considering career options and college majors, a certain well-meaning advisor strongly suggested that I focus on a career path that would give me a fighting chance at supporting myself. As I'm rather fond of having food on the table and a roof over my head - and the occasional bout of retail therapy - I majored in Computer Science. Five years later, I graduated and landed a job as a web applications developer. A few years and a few babies later, I realized my heart wasn't in the world of software development. I was good at it, but I was bored.

So I made a huge change, quit my job, and sat down to become a professional writer. Over the past three years, I've become fairly successful in writing non-fiction - mostly technical works drawing on my web development background. Earlier this year, I realized that I've been doing everything BUT what I've always dreamed of doing: writing stories. Once that realization hit, I knew it was time to focus on fiction with the intensity and commitment that got me this far in non-fiction. I wrote two short stories, to test the waters. One was rejected by a weekly print publication and the other is currently available from Wild Rose Press

Congrats on your publication! Tell us a little more about it.

"The Perfect Candidate" is the story of Caroline, a young woman who takes a big step forward in her career - only to find out that she may end up sacrificing her relationship with the man she loves. She senses changes afoot in their relationship and fears that by the time her work life settles down, her romance with Joshua may be nothing more than a lifelong regret. Caroline hopes to heal the cracks she sees forming in their relationship, before it's too late - but Joshua has other plans.



OK, now what advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Research markets and submit your work! I've known so many beginning writers who agonize over every word in their manuscripts until they are simply too terrified to actually send anything out. Accept that nothing you write will ever be 100% perfect, and that 90% of the time, you're the only one who will see the imperfections. Ok, having said that, the opposite is also true. No matter how brilliant your work is, expect it to be edited. You will get the manuscript back full of comments and suggestions from your editor - and that's a good thing. If you aren't comfortable with having your work edited, the cold hard truth is, you're not going to make it professionally. Keep a journal, write a blog, have fun - but unless you can accept constructive criticism and suggestions, you won't make it as a professional writer.

Writers have a lot of luxuries - we get to work curled up on the couch in our PJs if we want to - but that can also make it harder to take our work or our commitments as seriously as we would if we put on a suit every morning and drove into the office.

What it really comes down to is finding a balance between professionalism and artistry. That's the secret of most successful authors.

That's truly great advice, Tricia. So what do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult part of writing fiction has been my own mental block - It's taken me a long time to get to the point where I can sit down and dream up characters and storylines and honestly call it working. I've been stuck in the mindset that working meant writing non-fiction because quite frankly stories are just too much fun to write! Nothing that energizing and fun could be work, right? Once I got past that, I was finally able to set aside the hours I needed to get this story written, edited, and published.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I brute force my way through it, or go back and do some more brainstorming and outlining. For me, writer's block comes from one of two sources. Either I'm not prepared to write, so I need to go back and do more research, brainstorming, and outlining, or I'm just distracted by the fifteen other things that are constantly competing for my attention. In that case, I either rearrange my schedule so I can write after my husband comes home from work and give the kids the attention they need at that moment, or if it's something like the perpetual sink full of dirty dishes, I just flat out ignore it. Militantly sometimes! I refuse to allow dirty dishes to interfere with my career - after all, if I were working a corporate job, my boss wouldn't let me take the afternoon off to clean my house. My writing career is just as much a commitment and a priority as a corporate job.

That's a terrific attitude! Now let us in...describe your writing space.

I write all over the place. I got a laptop so I could work wherever the kids are playing. That way, I'm on hand to mediate disputes and I'm there with them while they play. I even took it with me to pick up my son from school this afternoon so I could work on this interview while I was waiting for him! I've had a dedicated home office in the past, but in our current home there really isn't the extra space, so when I have kid-free work time I write at my desk in the bedroom or curled up on the bed under a quilt - depending on what I'm working on and the mood I'm in!

The one thing I simply must have in order to work - aside from my laptop of course - is a cup of good coffee. It's a psychological thing, I guess. Without my cup of coffee, I can't seem to focus on the task at hand.

Ah, coffee...the life blood of many an author (and working mother) out there! Thanks, Tricia, and good luck with your future writing, non-fiction and fiction both!

If you'd like to know more about this author, visit her website at http://www.triciaballad.com/ And she'll be stopping in today periodically to read your comments and answer your questions, so have at it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Update on the Book-Blog Giveaway!


If you've been paying attention this month, you know I'm giving away Scenes from a Holiday to one lucky person at the end of this month. The more times you comment on my blog in December, the more times your name is put into the randon drawing! Anyway, I just finished reading it, and I thought I'd share my review:

"These three chick lit novellas are an entertaining holiday trilogy that’s perfect for this time of year! The authors capture the spirit of the season – or, more accurately, the frustration of the season, for a single girl – in light, easy reads.

In The Eight Dates of Hanukkah, Nicki Heller is a successful events planner for the singles scene, who on the first day of Hanukkah breaks up with her boyfriend, opts to work late, and ends up confronting a robber and getting knocked into a coma by an over-sized menorah. She spends the next eight days trapped in Menorahville, which looks a lot like New York City filled with desperate women who can’t wait to get married. Suddenly, Nicki realizes that, just maybe, she’s been too hard on the singles in her life and on the one guy, Mark, who actually wants to commit to her.

This novella was my least favorite of the three. Nicki is a fun character, but slightly neurotic and self-absorbed. I also wasn’t crazy about the over-abundance of exclamation points in every chapter. Nicki’s highly dramatic, woe-is-me attitude got a little old. Still, her discovery at the end of the story – that she has everything she needs in her life already – was a nice, “It’s a Wonderful Life” ending to this story.

Carrie Pilby’s New Year’s Resolution follows the adventures of twenty-year old Carrie, a genius who graduated Harvard early and is now trying to develop a social life and meet a man in Manhattan. I really enjoyed this story. The first-person narrator is likable in her insecurities, and she tries so hard to find a way to meet other people that the reader has to feel for her. She does meet Nolan, a smart, well-read vegetarian who seems right for her in theory, but really, she just wants to get down and dirty with Kurt, the brainless hunk she meets in a bar one night. Still, with the help of her over-the-top, best friend Kara, Carrie discovers that staying true to herself is the best way to meet someone else. The whole story is fun and sincere.

Finally, Emma Townsend Saves Christmas is a great tribute to the charm of New England small towns that drape themselves in holiday cheer from October to January. Emma is a farm girl from Vermont who escapes to New York City, becomes a high-powered lawyer, and meets rich Eric Wesson. The only problem? Each year she has to go home to the town of Bethlehem, population 226, and help her family with the annual Christmas Faire. Emma can’t stand the event, and she wears Anne Klein heels and Diesel jeans in protest. But when she discovers that her high school crush, Tim Latch, has signed on to help with the Faire this year, things change. This story was a heart-warming look at what is important during the holidays and how touching family traditions can be. Emma and Tim make a charming if unlikely couple, and the many scenes where Emma’s pretentious attitude is turned upside down are quite funny. Emma’s cousins, along with the townspeople, steal the show and remind this character that Bethlehem, Vermont, really does embody the spirit of Christmas, flannel and all.


All three novellas in this trilogy are entertaining and heart-warming, especially at this time of year. Scenes from a Holiday reminds readers what’s important all year round: family, friends, and staying true to oneself no matter the circumstances. Enjoy!"


So keep those comments coming!

P.S. Here's the latest trailer I made~

Monday, December 10, 2007

To Get in the Mood...

OK, on this sleety and cold Monday morning, here's an old classic holiday favorite from "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" - come on, you know you want to sing along!



I still can't believe Christmas is only 15 days away. I'm defintely behind on my, well, on my everything. I just got the house decorated this weekend. I ordered my Christmas cards and are hoping they'll arrive sometime before, I don't know, like the 20th. I'm about half-done with my shopping but haven't even started buying for my husband and don't have an idea what to get him this year. Haven't bought any wrapping paper or ribbon. Haven't gotten a tree. Have almost forgotten that my own birthday is coming up this weekend.

Hmm...how on earth do you find time to do it all???

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Before I forget to mention it,, The Long and the Short of It is running a "Best Romance of 2007" contest on their site. Want to enter a great romance you read this year? Email them and enter your nomination! And hey, if you feel like One Night in Boston or Lost in Paradise should be in the running, then all it takes is a single email...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

An Awesome Review

So yesterday I received a WONDERFUL email from a woman who just finished reading Lost in Paradise:

"The Senator’s daughter. The repairman. Sharing a house. Desire. Friendship. All she ever wanted to do was live her life like she wants. Not the life her parents created for her. All he wanted to do was forget the past. What started out as friendship turned into love and respect. The future is theirs to have, once all misunderstandings are out in the open. Oh man, I loved this story. There were some sad moments but I loved how they both bit the bullet and professed their love for one another. Thanks for sharing your stories."

Isn't that awesome? I always loved this story, so when other people react to it the same way, it makes every minute of agonizing over the writing, or sending it out to agents and editors, or working through the edits, or trying to brainstorm new promotion, totally worth it!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Santa and His Reindeer Sing White Christmas

You remember it from last year, right? That great little clip of Santa and his reindeer (actually The Drifters) singing "White Christmas"?? Well, here it is again, for your viewing pleasure!




Friday, December 07, 2007

A Belated Friday Feast

FYI, today's work presentation went very well, better than I had hoped. "Phenomenal" and "very impressive" were a couple of the compliments we received :)

Reminder: I'm having a neat little book giveaway for the entire month of December - all you have to do to enter is post a comment on my blog! The more comments, well, the more chances you have to win~

Friday's Feast

Appetizer
What was the last game you purchased?


Believe it or not, I can't even remember. Maybe an updated version of Scrabble? Not including the educational games I buy my niece and nephew, of course :)

Soup
Name something in which you don’t believe.


Negative thoughts.

Salad
If you could choose a celebrity to be your boss, who would you pick?


Wentworth Miller - he's yummy to look at and he's a Princeton graduate. I would mop the floors if he asked nicely :)

Main Course
What was a lesson you had to learn the hard way?


To think before I open my mouth, especially when speaking to my superiors. In fact, I'm still learning that lesson!

Dessert
Describe your idea of the perfect relaxation room.


Dark and quiet, with a masseuse nearby...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Updates

Update on the trailer biz: I just finished one for my TWRP editor, who has a novel out herself, Dancing on the Edge. I'm pretty pleased with it. Take a look:



Update on Summer's Song: This is my latest WIP. It's been kicking around for a while, but I'm tackling some serious revisions these days. I was planning on targeting NY houses and agents, but I think I've changed my mind and may submit it to The Wild Rose Press instead. My thinking? It will be close to 90K words, which means it should go to print with them. Also, it's a sweet (well, more sensual) contemporary romance, not anything terribly ground-breaking, and I'm not sure it's unique enough to break into the big presses. And finally, I've been pleasantly surprised with how well Lost in Paradise has sold with TWRP. If I can develop a following there, maybe I can set the stage for snagging an agent later down the line. Anyway, I'm really hoping to finish and fine-tune Summer's Song by the end of the year!

Update on the rest of my life: Yeah, I do have a day job - at least until Oprah calls :) So I probably won't be blogging tomorrow, since I'm scheduled to give a presentation with a colleague to the State Education Department on our teaching programs and what we do. Kind of a big deal, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Anita Davison


Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm talking with British author Anita Davison,. Settle in and enjoy the interview!

Hi Anita! Can you tell us a little about your background?
I don’t really have one, not professionally. My first real attempt was to write a series of children’s stories for my son when he was very ill with chicken pox. I still have those stories.

Tell us about your latest writing project.
My debut novel is a coming of age story set in 17th Century Devon. Helena Woulfe waves her father, uncle and elder brother off to the Monmouth Rebellion, expecting to see them return as conquering heroes. But the Duke of Monmouth is defeated at Sedgemoor and suddenly Helena belongs to a family of traitors. She and her younger brother, Henry leave the city of their birth for London, to forge a new life for themselves.

Sounds like a great story! How do you go about developing your characters?
I try and put myself inside their heads. What would they do in a certain situation is this or that event happens. How would they feel, react and solve the problem. Then I gave them different personalities so those reactions would differ. I have lived with them for some time and know them as well as, or even better than, my own children. They are real to me.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?
Join a critique group. I didn’t like the sound of that either at first, because suppose they hate it? I shall be so discouraged; I’ll hurl my novel into a corner and never write again. But then, I told myself I could always hide behind the internet and no one would know it was me, so I applied to the group with a sample of my writing. My first submission attracted not only constructive criticism, but a lot of praise too, and far from wanting to discard it, I couldn’t wait to get back to my laptop and implement some of the ideas and rules they gave me. The group moderator, Anne Whitfield, who is also a wonderful author herself, told me I had a good story, I just had to learn how to write it.

Thus I ventured into the world of literary jargon where terms like PoV, active versus passive voice, gerunds, weaving backstory, how to avoid info dumps, dialogue tags, exposition, are bandied about amongst the initiated. Slowly, my manuscript went through an evolutionary process and Anne was right, the story is still there, but now benefits from some intensive polish. Now it reads like a proper novel! I learned so much from critiquing the work of the others in the group, all of whom submit a wide range of historical fiction from ancient civilisations to Regency England.

What an accurate description of the process! OK, what kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?
My favourites are historical fiction writers of course, like Suzannah Dunn, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles and Michael Jecks, who writes medieval detective stories based in Devon. I also enjoy Harlan Coban detective stories and Kathy Reich’s forensic thrillers.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?
Discipline and momentum. I either write manically, not stopping to eat or wash up the breakfast dishes and work for hours on end. Or I can only manage an hour of consistent composition because I get distracted easily and go off to check my Bebo and MySpace pages for notes and comments. Both great vehicles for procrastination and time wasting.

Very true! So how do you balance writing with the rest of your life?
Badly, for the reasons listed above and the fact my husband and I are trying to run a business, are selling a business, and buying a totally different type of business in another country. Fortunately I don’t have any school age children - our son and daughter are grown up, well sort of, or I would be even more chaotic.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
Not for scenarios, I always have an abundance of them and my critique group know where to come when they run out of plotlines. Each chapter has to have a structure, with character growth, conflict and goals. Sometimes I have difficulty getting those objectives into a chapter. Usually because I am in the wrong mood. I cannot write sad scenes if I am upbeat, they turn out wooden and emotionless. What do I do to darken my mood? I just open my credit card bills. If I need to be on the verge of manic hysteria I open my husband’s.

(Big grin) Describe your writing space...
Sitting on the sofa in my sitting room with a laptop on my knee. I have been known to write sitting in hotel lobbies between meetings, on planes, even in Starbucks. When ideas, a phrase or a description appeals to me, I need to get it down. I have lots of ‘Notes’ files on my hard drive and I am onto my third laptop. I wear the letters off the keyboard!

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Reading historical fiction novels, scouring Borders and Waterstones for research material. My husband keeps reminding me that now the kids have left home, we should do things together, rather than just sit at my laptop. So we go to see films, have dinner and just sit talking in pubs overlooking the Thames. So I make myself stop writing and go out – and he’s right, I enjoy our time together.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?
That I can actually write. No honestly, I had no confidence in my work at all. For years I really thought no one else would see any merit in my stories. My critique group changed all that. I’m still flaky though. When my editor at Enspiren sends me edits, I always e-mail her asking, ‘Yes OK, but what do you really think?” She must think I’m a nightmare.

What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?
Steel Magnolias, and No. Wrong time, wrong country. But it’s a film I can watch over and over again.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Promotion is the hardest part of being an author. You have to be shameless about it and being English, that’s not easy for me. I’m happy to talk about my books and my characters endlessly, but not about me. After all, the reason I create complicated scenarios in the 17th Century, is because my own life is fairly mundane. Not unhappy, just not very interesting to an outsider. But Helena Woulfe, well that lady is fascinating and beautiful. She’s worth reading about.

Oh, and the sequel to Duking Days Rebellion, Duking Days Revolution, will be released by Enspiren Press early in 2008.

Great interview, Anita - thanks!

Duking Days Rebellion by Anita Davison is available on Lulu in print and e-book, at Fictionwise as e-book and at Amazon.com as trade paperback, October 2007.

And if you'd like to find out more, or leave this author a quick note, visit any of her sites:

Anita Davison’s Blog
Anita Davison’s Website
Anita Davison’s Bebo

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Contests Galore!

Hey, if you haven't already, check out the contest page over at The Long and the Short of It. Lots of cool prizes to win!

And take a visit over to my newly-set up YouTube Channel, where you can see the latest trailer I did for fellow WRP author Tiarie Vaughn-Lazzar (The Diary of Castaways Island). You can subscribe to the channel too, and find out whenever I put up new trailers (I know you're just dying to, right?) I'm not sure about the pink background on the page, but I figured for now since I'm mostly doing romance, it'll work. What do you think?

Guess what? Lost in Paradise just made it onto the Wild Rose Press front page, overall best-seller list! It's hanging on at #1 over on the Champagne Rose Full-Length List, but I'm psyched to make it onto the "big" Top 10 list, especially since that features all lengths, and books that are in print as well. (By the way, you can read a review of it today, too). Yippee!

Monday, December 03, 2007

The 5 Things I Learned

OK, here they are, the 5 things I learned from going to the Book Fair on Saturday (there were probably more, but these 5 stand out):

1. Smile. Really, at everyone, especially if you're new to the business and you don't know who's who. The person wearing jeans and hauling around boxes to get everything set up could very possibly be the best-selling author sitting at your table. And people are more likely to stop and at least look at your things, maybe pick up a business card or bookmark, if you smile at them, make eye contact, and say hello.

2. Looks are important - when it comes to your promo items and your table, anyway. Don't overdo and bring 15 different kinds of items. It clutters the space. Do arrange your books nicely (one of the authors had a black velvet throw that she put under her books, which were all set at different levels on the table. Looked cool.) Do bring something unusual if you can, that relates to your books. The author next to me had a scented candle made by some woman who has a side business, and this author does a lot of promo packages - buy a book AND a candle. She said she sells more of both than you might guess. And more people stopped to smell the candle than stopped to pick up a book, at first glance.

3. Be prepared to listen to people talk about the books THEY'VE written. I heard more people talk about the next best-seller they had lying at home, than I can count on both hands. At least three people said, "Oh, it's fresh and original. There's nothing else like it out there." Then they went on to talk about it...and it wasn't, not really. But that's OK. People who like to talk about writing are usually readers, so you have a chance of convincing them to buy your book. A chance, anyway.

4. Even if you don't sell a single book, the networking at these public events is priceless. In six hours, I made more connections with other authors, publishers, and book distributors than I have in probably the last 6 months. I have promo opportunities for 2008 that I didn't have when I arrived there. And getting your own name out there is just as valuable. Now they know me, and hopefully they'll remember me when they see my name in other places. On the flip side, it was amazing to hear how many authors do little to no promotion once their books hit the shelves.

5. Chocolate is always a hit. I had a tin of Hershey's kisses in front of my display, and almost every person who walked by took one. And a majority stayed as they unwrapped it, to look at what else was on the table. Chocolate. Every time.

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Finally, I'm running a contest for the month of December: every time you leave a comment on my blog this month, I'll put your name into a drawing for Scenes from a Holiday. I bought this book to read and review for The Long and the Short of It, so it's a brand new copy. Hope to have the review done soon, too, so you can read it before the winner is announced...right after the first of the year!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Pics from the Book Fair!

So I survived my first public appearance as a writer, yesterday, at the New York Small and Independent Press Book Fair in Manhattan! Had a good time, met some fellow authors, and best of all, met Dru, one of my online fans and fellow bloggers. It's always cool to finally put a face with a name, when you've been chatting in the virtual world for so long. I have a great picture of the two of us, but I know some people don't like their faces up posted in Internet world, so I won't put it on my blog unless she gives me the OK ;)

View from above: looking down on the main floor of the Book Fair



At our balcony table - isn't the banner behind us great??

Me chatting with Tilly Greene (on the left) and Stella Price (on the right) - both very cool, very friendly authors. I'm hoping to do some more PR events with them next year.

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I'll be back tomorrow with a longer post about all the wisdom I learned (along with a brand new giveaway contest that I'm running for the whole month of December)...so stop back, OK?

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P.S. It's snowing like crazy here, the first real storm of the season!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

And the Holidays are Upon Us...

Got this one from Judy - you've got to see it to believe it!



I'm off to the NYC Independent and Small Press Fair today...and while I'll admit I'm a little intimidated, I'm trying to keep an open mind and just learn from the whole experience. The other authors I'm sharing a table with are way more published than I am (Stella Price, Cat Johnson, and Samantha Sommersby among them).

But then I remember that one year ago at this time, I didn't even have a publishing contract. Now I have my second novel on the top of the Champagne Rose Novel Best-Selling List! Not too shabby for a year in the business, huh?

I'll share pictures and all the wisdom I learn today on a later post...stay tuned!

Friday, November 30, 2007

TGIF!!

I'm so glad it's the end of the week! How is it possible that around holiday time, things always, always, get busier than any other time of year??

Ah, well...

Friday's Feast

Appetizer
What is your favorite carnival/amusement park ride?

Roller coasters, definitely. Though I prefer the ones that loop upside down to the ones with all the stomach-losing free falls.

Soup
How do you react in uncomfortable social situations?

Turn red and wish I were somewhere else? I do OK in them, I think.

Salad
On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how much do you enjoy discussing deep, philosophical topics?

Depends on the person and the topic. I had a friend in college (a philosophy/religion major) with whom I regularly stayed up all night discussing them (wow, I miss those days. Not a whole lot to worry about except class and what you were doing on the weekends...). So I'll give this one an 8-ish.

Main Course
Did you get a flu shot this year? If not, do you plan to?

Yup, I do every year. I'm a teacher - lots of germy hands out there!

Dessert
Approximately how many hours per week do you spend watching television?

I don't think I'm TOO bad. Probably around 6-8 hours/week.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm One Happy Girl!

Here's my interview, in my hometown paper! (Under my right hand...well, on the left from this view...go ahead, squint really hard until you see it)


And here's my beloved cat, who got a clean bill of health from the vet on Tuesday. Actually, the vet was surprised to see that his heart had decreased in size (it was abnormally enlarged back in August)...which never happens. He said, "Usually, we just hope for it to stay the same. But in almost every dimension, it's reading normal."

Hooray!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Ilene Schneider


Welcome to another Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm talking with Ilene Schneider, author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery Series.

Hi, Ilene! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was one of the first six women rabbis ordained in the U.S. I also have a doctorate in education, and most of my professional life has been spent in education and academia. I’m currently coordinator of the Jewish hospice program of Samaritan Hospice in Southern New Jerseey.

When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I’ve always loved to write, and my undergrad degree is in journalism. My goal was to become the first woman editor of the New York Times, but I got a bit sidetracked.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

My first novel, a cozy mystery called Chanukah Guilt, is, not surprisingly, about an aging baby boomer rabbi in So. Jersey. (Sound familiar?) When a young woman Rabbi Aviva Cohen counseled commits suicide, Aviva is drawn into investigating what may have led to the suicide. But it's not a grim book, or a thriller. It's got a lot of humor (I hope) and realistic situations. You can read all about it at www.rabbiavivacohenmysteries.com. I’m also currently working on a non-fiction book called Talk Dirty: Yiddish, slated for release November 2008 by Adams Media. And I’m developing the next in what will be a series of mysteries featuring Rabbi Aviva Cohen.

How do you go about developing your characters?

The ubiquitous "they" say to write what one knows. Physically, Aviva resembles me, but otherwise our lives are different. I did not base any of my characters on any one person (a point I emphasize to the members of my husband’s congregation – he’s also a rabbi), but they are composites of types. Sometimes the characters turn out differently from what I first thought, but I let them dictate to me, not the other way around.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

While writing Chanukah Guilt, I read lots of advice, and then ignored most of it. Find your own voice. And persevere.

Great advice! What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

Mostly fiction, mostly mysteries with strong female protagonists, interspersed with “literary” fiction. I have too many favorites to pick just one.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

Most Difficult: sitting down and actually writing. I compose largely in my head, but then have to remember what I came up with and get it down on paper, or, rather, hard drive. Most exciting: when I’ve gone off on what seems to be a tangent, and it turns into a major plot point.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

I don’t.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I sometimes find myself in a plot dead-end, but I can often come up with a scenario that solves the dilemma when I’m in the shower. I was very clean while writing Chanukah Guilt.

Describe your writing space for us.

Usually, I write on a laptop on the dining room table, where I can spread out any research materials (for the non-fiction) and stare out the window at my bird feeders. Sometimes, I use the desk top in the very cluttered second floor study. Other times, I take the laptop to a place like Border’s and look impressive (or, more likely, pretentious). And everything is backed up on both computers and on a flashdrive.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I’m a birder and a sort-of gardener.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

That I could actually write something longer than 200 pages.

Thanks for joining us today, Ilene! If anyone's interested in finding out more, or inviting this author for a book-signing, leave her a comment here or visit her website. And have a great day!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Trip I Don't Want to Take...

Some of you will recall that I had to take my poor sick cat to the (super-expensive but worth it) animal hospital back in August. While he's doing SO much better now (yay - gotta love drugs!), today I have to take him for a follow-up visit.

Not looking forward to it.

It's about an hour's drive, and he doesn't do well in cars. He used to, once upon a time; we used to drive back and forth from graduate school to my parents' house (about a 6 hour trip), and he'd just curl up on my lap or on the passenger seat and sleep. Not anymore. He will howl first, then throw up, then look forlorn and howl some more. I'm stocking the car with paper towels and hoping I only have to stop once to do a clean-up. I'm seriously considering asking the vet to drug him after the appointment, for the return trip.

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And this is exciting news: of all the bazillion press releases I sent out in the fall for One Night in Boston, one was picked up, and I was interviewed by one of the local papers near the town where I grew up. The link is here. Cool, right?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Monday!

First of all, a big congratulations to Sarita Leone, who was the winner of a free download of Lost in Paradise after this weekend's excerpt and trivia question contest. Thanks to everyone who played!

Second, I'm thrilled to share the news that Lost in Paradise is currently #2 on the Champagne Rose Full-Length Best-Seller List (and #6 on the Champagne Rose best-seller list for all lengths)...and that's three days after its release! So thank you, thank you to everyone who went out and bought it. If you've read and enjoyed it, go ahead and write a review for me at The Wild Rose Press site, would you?

Finally, recently I've been approached by a few authors who are interested in having me make book trailers for them, which is oh so cool since I enjoy it anyway! Here's one that I finished over the weekend, for TWRP author Patrice Wilton:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

This Weekend, Get a Little Lost...



Okay, on to round 2 of this weekend's Lost in Paradise trivia contest. Remember, just read the excerpt below and email the answer to allieb@allieboniface.com to be in the running to win a free download of my novel! (By the way, after only 2 days, it's up to #3 on the Champagne Rose Full-Length Best-seller List! Let's keep it going!!)



“Nice place, huh? I mean the house, the street, and all.” Eddie waved to the ceiling above them as he leaned back, settling himself into the cushions.

Ash followed the movement and noticed strong, calloused hands, with scars on the knuckles, and one pinky finger bent in an odd way. Warmth filled her belly. She always noticed men’s hands. Maybe that’s why she found baseball players and cellists so sexy. She liked hands that looked powerful and rugged. Hands that could take on the world and throw it into its place when need be. Strong hands that turned soft when they wound their way along her body late at night. Eddie’s hands looked like that.
The warmth reached her cheeks again, and she willed it away, afraid it would betray her.

“So how’d you end up moving in here?” Jen asked him.

“Mm…long story.”

The bleach-blonde propped one elbow on the back of the couch. “We’ve got time.”

Eddie’s face changed a little, and he switched the subject, smooth as cream. “What about you, Jen?”

“What about me?”

“You and Ashley-what’s your story? You guys from around here?”

Ash cringed a little when he said the name. Ashley. Her alias. The one she’d just made up, to take the place of her true identity for the next few months. Already she felt guilty about lying to the guy who would be sharing her house. Darn it. Why couldn’t things ever work out the way she planned?

“Not really,” she began, with a quick glance at Jen. How did she answer his question without revealing too much? “I mean, we just graduated and…”

“We’re from Boston,” Jen finished when Ash trailed off into silence. “Ashley decided to take a summer to herself before jumping into the big bad world. You know, enjoy some peace and quiet. I’m just along for the ride.” She leaned in closer. “That, and to interview any housemates she might have. To make sure they pass inspection.”

Eddie looked over at Ash. “And do I pass?”

She felt her cheeks warm and wondered if that was answer enough.

Jen smiled. “Oh, I’d say you do.”

Trivia question: What does Ash find so attractive the first time she meets Eddie?

Email the answer to allieb@allieboniface.com - and check back here tomorrow to see if you're a winner!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

This Weekend, Get a Little Lost...



Time to celebrate the electronic release of Lost in Paradise! (which, by the way, is currently 4th on the Champagne Rose best-seller list...maybe we can move it up a few notches...) Just read the excerpt below, then email the trivia question that follows to allieb@allieboniface.com. The contest runs today and tomorrow (different excerpt tomorrow!), and the winner will be announced here on Monday.

What do you win? A free download of Lost in Paradise, of course!


Willing her feet to step one in front of the other, Ash followed Jen to the front porch. “What am I doing? What if this was a stupid decision? What if I’m really supposed to open my own law practice, go into politics, like Jess and Anne? Like Dad?” Like everyone else in my family? Her knees felt funny, and she sank onto the bottom porch step.

Jen tried the door. “You’re not,” she said over her shoulder.

“How do you know?”

“Because you spent the last two months of law school miserable and because you needed a change.”

“My parents are going to kill me.”

Jen joined her on the step. “To tell you the truth, I think your parents have other things on their minds these days.”

Like explaining to the press why my father was caught with drugs and a nineteen-year-old prostitute in his car? Two months before he was about to receive the Democratic presidential nomination? Ash dug her toe into the pavement, tracing cracks and watching ants scurry.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Suddenly, her decision to leave Boston and the center of the Kirk family scandal didn’t seem like the worst decision in the world. In fact, when she thought about it, it seemed downright practical.

She eyed the car and wondered how long it would take her to unpack. Not that long, she decided. The apartment was supposed to be furnished, and she’d brought only a few clothes and books. Most of the memories she’d put into storage or burned.

Jen worked her fingernail beneath some peeling paint on the porch railing. “Just because your father and both your sisters went into politics doesn’t mean you have to. Even if you did graduate from Harvard.”

Ash hugged her elbows. “Yeah, but it would make things easier. How the heck am I supposed to explain that I turned down a job at one of the best firms in the city?”

Jen shrugged. “You’ll figure something out.” Her voice softened. “Besides, you need this. You need a summer to yourself. You need to be…” she paused, searching for the right word. “…away.”

“Away from the media circus? Or away from Colin?”


Trivia Question: Why has Ash just left Boston?

Email the answer to allieb@allieboniface.com