Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Destination Christmas

"Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends." ~Margaret Thatcher

In recent years, my side of the family has met at a Bed & Breakfast to celebrate an early Christmas. We reserve a block of rooms and meet in one for all the festivities. So that's what I'm doing this weekend! No other news, as I'm off to open stockings this morning...

Current Word Count for Entwined: 22,022

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: She does not believe in ghosts – at least, she tells herself she does not – but what else can explain the feeling of dread, the nausea, the icebox room above her head?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Questions

At Christmas, all roads lead home." ~ Marjorie Holmes, American writer

This one comes from Diane - thanks! I haven't done one of these in a while. Anyone else want to borrow and play?

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both, actually. Whichever's easier for the gift itself.

2. Real tree or Artificial? We've done both. This year it will be a real one. Yay ~ I love the pine smell!

3. When do you put up the tree? Whenever we get around it. I'm hoping for this weekend.

4. When do you take the tree down? Ditto above, though usually before we go back to school after the new year.

5. Do you like eggnog? No - yuck!

6. Favorite gift received as a child: A stuffed Paddington Bear. I still have him, well-loved.

7. Hardest person to buy for? My inlaws. They never give us any ideas.

8. Easiest person to buy for? Either hubbby or my sister.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail ~ I love sending and receiving both.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Can't think of one.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? “It's a Wonderful Life,” of course!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Yikes, whenever I can find the time. Right now I'm about half-done.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas Gift? Probably, though I can't recall right now.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Chocolate and Christmas cookies!

16. Lights on the tree? Of course - both colored and white.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Too hard to choose...

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? I like to stay home, but we usually end up traveling. This year we're home, though!

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? One present on Christmas Eve, the rest on Christmas Day.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? How crowded the malls and parking lots are.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Don't really have one.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Turkey.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Spending time with family. And a three-book contract for a six-figure advance. But I'll take the first :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yesterday in Borders

So here's a very cool thing: I was on a Christmas shopping spree yesterday afternoon, and I stopped by my local Borders. I walked directly past the ENORMOUS display of all things Twilight, past J.K. Rowlings' newest release, and found the "B" shelf of the Romance section.

And there sat my books.

Now, this in itself is oh-so-cool, but what's even cooler is that as of my signing there a few weeks back, the store had roughly 10 copies of both One Night in Boston and Lost in Paradise. Yesterday, I saw 5 copies of the latter and only 1 of the former. Neat, huh?

Of course, when I came home and told my husband, he said, "Are you sure they just didn't have them in the back?"

Sheesh. What a killjoy.

Current Word Count for Entwined: 21,853

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: She thinks of gray-green eyes and lets a hand drift to her belly, to the unborn child that rests inside her, growing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Anne Hope

Welcome to another Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm chatting with Anne Hope, a fellow Samhain author who has some wonderful insights on breaking into the writing world and creating dynamic stories and characters.


Hi, Anne! First off, can you tell readers a little about your background?

My background is in marketing. I have a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in business administration. I worked as an account executive in a marketing agency and as a product manager for Neutrogena. As much as I enjoy marketing, my first love will always be writing, and I’m thrilled to now have the opportunity to make a career out of it.

Hmm...Neutrogena, huh? Any way I can score some free samples? (just kidding) When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?
I officially started writing when I was eight years old, but I was spinning tales long before that. I was an only child for ten years and was pretty introverted. I entertained myself by creating characters and stories in my head. Now, I’ve become far more social, but I’m still making up stories. I guess some things never change!

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

My debut novel and Golden Heart finalist, Where Dreams are Made, is now available from Samhain Publishing. It’s a deeply emotional Beauty and the Beast story with loads of sexual tension.

Daniel is a reclusive toymaker trying to atone for his sins. Jenny is a hunted woman, secretly hired to mend his heart. One magical Christmas, these two lonely people learn that love can heal the deepest scars, but it comes at a price. Even as Jenny struggles to hold on to the tenuous sanctuary she’s found, the world she’s desperate to escape refuses to release her. Someone from her past is watching. Someone who will do absolutely anything to own her. Even commit murder.

Congrats on publishing your first novel! How do you go about developing your characters?

The first thing I do is write the first chapter or two, which I subsequently end up completely rewriting. But it’s my way of getting the characters talking. Once I start hearing them, then I have a better idea who they are.

The next step is to fill out a GMC (goals, motivation and conflict) grid for the hero, the heroine, and the villain. This gives me a better understanding of where the book is heading and what plot devices I need to incorporate to challenge these characters and help them grow. It also points out my villain’s weaknesses, which the hero and heroine can use to defeat him or her throughout the course of the book.

Finally, I write a short blurb on backstory for each character. Backstory is a wonderful tool when used wisely. Unfortunately, I often feel compelled to tell the reader everything about the hero and heroine in the first chapter (that’s why I usually chuck the first twenty pages or so and start over). Writing out the backstory in a separate document helps me overcome this compulsion. It also allows me to integrate specific information in dialogue or introspection that increases the depth of the characters, motivates their actions, and enriches the story.
What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

First and foremost, learn your craft. Like with any career, there’s a learning curve. You never stop growing or improving, and there are always techniques you can glean from more experienced authors that will allow your work to shine.

Second, don’t give up! Believe in yourself and in your vision. This business is very subjective. Just because someone rejects your manuscript, it doesn’t mean the next person won’t love it. I firmly believe it’s all about perseverance. You only fail if you quit.

Third, don’t underestimate the importance of a strong high concept. Many editors and agents will request your manuscript based on a query letter. You need to be able to hook them with one or two paragraphs, and that’s very difficult to do without a compelling high concept. In many romance novels, the hook is the emotional growth of the characters and the development of the love story. Unfortunately, this is very difficult to convey in a couple of sentences. That’s where high concept comes in. If the premise is interesting and the conflict is powerful, you’re more likely to get a request.

Finally, always challenge yourself. Look at the market, at what’s selling, and ask yourself: how can I capitalize on that and still do something different? Trends are important. They tell us what the market wants. But by the time a trend is set, hundreds of books have been written in that particular style or genre. You want to aim for something different, while still giving readers what they’re looking for. That’s what will set you apart.

That's wonderful advice. But what do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult part of writing is facing the blank page. Every time I sit down at my computer I wonder if I’ll be able to write, and not only write, but write in a witty, creative way that will keep readers turning the pages. It can be quite daunting at times, especially on days when I’m not feeling particularly witty or creative.

The greatest reward is when I type in the last word, then read the book with a fresh eye and think: “Hey, this isn’t half bad. Did I really write this?” Another incredible reward, which I have recently discovered, is getting an e-mail from a reader telling me how much they enjoyed my book.
How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

Not very well, I’m afraid. I have two young children and finding time to write can be a challenge sometimes. Now that they’re both in school full time, it’s gotten a little easier. Still, writing isn’t a nine to five job. You write when the inspiration comes. You will often see me running to my computer to type in a couple of lines, then get back to whatever it is I was doing before my muse interrupted me.

Generally, I try to write when the kids are at school or after I’ve put them to bed. Of course, the laundry often sits in baskets for a few days and meals aren’t nearly as interesting as they used to be.

What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?
Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. I absolutely love that movie! Is there anyone Mr. Darcy couldn’t inspire? I think he may be behind every smoldering look I’ve ever written. That movie is a great example of chemistry and subtext. As much as the hero and heroine pretend to hate each other, the viewer can see the attraction sizzling between them. That’s what I strive to achieve in my books—a balance between conflict and blood-pounding chemistry...

Ah, yes, the allure of Mr. Darcy. I wonder how many romance novels he's inspired?? Readers, hop on over to Anne's website today to find out more about her latest book. And have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tentative Good News

"Problems are the price of progress. Don't bring me anything but trouble. Good news weakens me." ~Charles Kettering

I like today's quote -- even though I do admit to liking good news -- because it's a variation on the "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" theme. It's true: I've learned much more from my struggles than from my easy successes.

Speaking of good news, though, I've been sitting on this for a few days, but I thought I'd share it...even though it's not entirely set in stone.

My (new) editor at Samhain read One Night in Napa, sent me revisions she'd like to see, and then offered me a contract pending those revisions. looks as though it might find a home sometime in 2009!

What's funny, though, is that the same day I heard from her, an agent responded wanting to see the whole thing as well. I sent it off, since it's not under contract yet, but in one sense I'd almost like to have it at Samhain since that's where my other 2 One Night books are. The editor even emailed me yesterday (she's putting together my contract) to ask if I wanted to consider this a collection/series and add "A One Night Novel," to the cover, since it'll be my third. What do you think?

Current Word Count for Entwined: 20,771

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: He wants her to be the last, the only, the always.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Another Holiday Shopping Idea

"I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this." ~Cormac McCarthy

I just found out about this online auction, being held to raise money for an author whose husband died earlier in the year. Lots of great items up for bid, including author, editor and agent critiques, signed books, gift baskets, and more. Plus the proceeds go to a good cause. If you're stumped for a unique holiday gift, this might be the perfect place to find one!

Current Word Count for Entwined: 20,442

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: It was the secret they shared, the one that bound them and the one, they both thought, that had drawn them together in the first place.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The First Snow of the Season

"It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air." ~W.T. Ellis

Yesterday, in anticipation of the first real snowfall of the season, I put out the holiday decorations (I also figured it was past due for the pumpkins to be put away). I listened to some carols. I planned a cookie exchange for school. And I waited for the snow that was supposed to come - 'cause, I enjoy it, the first few times it snows. Just not anything after, say, January 1st.

Anyway, we got a teeny little dusting on the lawn. That's it. It's not even worth taking a picture of, though I had my camera ready to go this morning.

Still, I'm in the holiday spirit, so here's the link to Santa and his Singing Reindeer, which I post every year because it's just so fun to watch.

Current Word Count for Entwined: 19,583

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: "Go talk to one of the sorority bunnies over at Kismet Hall, why don’t you?”