Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

"The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation."
~Woodrow Wilson

Wishing all my friends in the US a very happy July Fourth!

We actually have 2 parties to attend this afternoon: one a small BBQ, and the other an ENORMOUS family reunion. My own family is quite small, but I married into a family that, with all extended relations, is supposed to number over 100 today. Yikes!

What are your plans for today?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Where to Set a Story?

"What is a city but the people?" ~William Shakespeare

A couple of readers asked me yesterday how I decided on Napa Valley for my latest novel. Hmm...that's a good question!

Since I began writing my "One Night" books a few years ago, two things came into play when choosing settings. First, I wanted to use locations I had actually visited. I know, with the Internet these days you can research just about anywhere in the world and get the details you need for a setting. But for me, I write a better story if I can draw upon actual sensory memories. What it looks like through my eyes. What it smells like, feels like to walk down a certain street. What the light looks like when the sun starts to set. Those sorts of things.

The second thing I consider in choosing location is marketing. Yes, it's not the sexiest reason, but there it is. I want to choose areas of the country (and perhaps in time, the world) that appeal to different people and readers. Not just the East Coast. Not just big cities.

So One Night in Boston was my first book, set in a city I knew very well -- then One Night in Memphis, where I spent one crazy night with my best friend after college (still a big city, but in a much different part of the country) -- and then One Night in Napa. In choosing Napa Valley, I wanted someplace in the western part of the U.S., and my husband and I spent time in Napa during our honeymoon, so it was already filled with romantic memories :) It's also a small, sleepy area, which is a nice contrast to the rush of the cities in my other books. Most of this story actually takes place inside a mansion in the hills of Napa, with just a few scenes in the town itself.

What's next? Well, ideas for both One Night in Savannah (South) and One Night in Cleveland(Midwest - and hey, it's the home of rock and roll!) are percolating on the back burner. I also have ideas for a book set on a coast in a haunted lighthouse. And I'm thinking that a trip to London or Paris might be in order sometime, just in the name of research! Why confine my One Night books to this continent, right??

Thursday, July 02, 2009

One Night in Napa Blog Giveaway Contest!!

In honor of my contemporary romance novel One Night in Napa, which will be releasing in ebook on July 21st, I’m hosting a fantastic blog giveaway from now ‘til then. All you have to do is leave a comment each day, right here on my blog, and you’ll be entered to win the prize package.

Every comment earns you another entry, so chat away!

What can you win? Well, since the book is set in Napa Valley, wine country of California, I thought it was only fitting that I help the winner host her very own wine and cheese party. So…if I draw your name on July 21st, here’s what you’ll receive:

Download of One Night in Napa ebook
Signed cover flat of One Night in Napa (‘cause I love the cover soooo much)
Wine tote
Adorable hearts corkscrew and wine stopper
Wine charms
Cheese plate and spreader

All you have to provide is the wine and the goodies! (Please note: I can only ship the gifts to the US, though if you're an international winner I'll gladly award you the ebook AND any other ebook download from my backlist.)

Now…let’s celebrate! Less than 3 weeks until the big release day!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Casey Quinn


Welcome to another edition of Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm chatting with the author of a poetry collection, Snapshots of Life, Casey Quinn.

Welcome, Casey! Can you tell us a little about your background?

Well, I live in Charlotte, North Carolina with my wife and two dogs. I work at a bank but always have hopes of writing full time.

I always had enjoyed writing just a little bit here and there but in the last five years I have really started to take a more serious approach to it. Carved out time daily to write either a few hundred words towards fiction or a poem. Started to send out some of my writing to print and online publications to see if it would be accepted and have had some pretty good success with it. Enough to keep me motivated and not stop. I mostly write short fiction and poetry where my focus is on poetry. I am also the editor of the online magazine Short Story Library – and the publishing company ReadMe Publishing –

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

My first poetry collection was published in 2009 called Snapshots of Life by Salvatore Publishing. The collection has been pretty well received from the feedback and the sales it has gotten. I was nervous at first with putting my work out there in front of people, you never know if A. They are going to buy it and the B. If they do buy it what they think of it. So far the experience has been great and I have found myself surrounded with a good deal of supportive people I have met over the years.

Here are some of the reviews the book has received so far:

"Casey Quinn is the real deal. There's no pretense in his poetry. No fakery. He just goes out there, day after day, and gets the job done. You can't ask for anything more than that." - poet John Yamrus.

"Snapshots of Life is a good first effort by budding poet Casey Quinn." - poet RD Armstrong.

"Quinn creates poetry that reads like the verbal equivalent of an expressionist painting or a punch to the gut. You read it and get it immediately." - Marc Schuster, Small Press Reviews

The book is available at the printer - but will also be available on Amazon and other online retailers at some point.

Great reviews - congrats!! Now, how do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

For me the key is never to try and overdo it. I try to set a pace and keep at it. I think the most prolific writers are the ones who can just be consistent enough to write something (anything) every day. Write 100 words. Write 500 words. Write a poem. Something. Every. Day. With that being said I also need to balance my editing and publishing responsibilities on top of my writing and work and home life.

Usually I will try and spend one hour each day and dedicate it to writing. I spend every Saturday and Sunday morning from 6:00 AM to about 10:00 AM reading submissions and getting the magazine ready for publication. In the other hours I try not to think about writing at all really. I try to just spend time with my wife, go for a jog and of course, need to work during the days from 9 -5.

Most of my writing ideas just come from interactions with daily life. Something I saw during the day, a conversation i overheard or something I was involved with. The key to my writing is getting out there and just trying to experience stuff. Stuff becomes notes for eventual writing. So for me, the balance of writing and the rest of my life are in harmony. The rest of life serves to provide fodder for writing.

When you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?

Well, I take notes all of the time. I write on a scrap piece of paper an idea that popped in my head or a moment which struck me as poetic. These pieces of paper get piled on my desk. Eventually I type them up on the computer in a notepad document on my desktop that is just called “notes”. These notes I save for a rainy day when I have nothing interesting going on and no motivation to write. I open up this document and pick something and write about it.
These notes come all the time though. Sometimes in the middle of work I have an idea and write it on a scrap of paper and shove it in my pocket for future reference when I get home. Sometimes the idea is so big it turns into a poem all at once. Unfortunately a lot of times I scribble with pen and paper and a week later when I try to work on the notes I can’t read my own writing and the idea is lost forever.

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

Writing poetry has to be because you really just love it. There is no fame or fortune in poetry. If you are easily frustrated by rejection or have big dreams becoming famous by writing poetry, stop and go do something else.

I have heard a lot of people say they write poetry because they have a story that needs to be told. A very specific story. One that describes a moment in life, a snapshot or second that they experienced and felt it poetic. Felt that others should feel the same moment and experience it on their own.

Too many poets starting out cover topics like life, death and love. These topics are too grand, too broad. If you want to write about love write about how you listen to her sing somewhere over the rainbow in the morning when she makes breakfast and she doesn’t know anyone is around listening. Show us love. Show the reader a moment when you experienced it. Don’t use broad terms or vague references. Don’t use words like “love” in a poem when you can show love and make it more impactful and meaningful.

Casey, thank you so much for being here today! I don't have the opportunity to interview many poets, so this blog post was a special treat !! Readers, here's a taste of Casey's work:

my niece
i talked to my niece

i had not
seen her
in years

i told her

how tall she got,
how grown up she looked,
how smart she seemed.

she told me

how fat i got,
how old i look,
how dumb i am.

it’s really great
to catch up
with the family.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'd Go Back and Do It All Again

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me." ~Erma Bombeck

Marianne had an interesting tag on her blog the other day that I'm borrowing for my own:

Choose 5 life situations you would repeat in slow motion (not change at all, but just repeat). Here we go:

1. College. All 4 years of it, even the icky, hard, and heartbreaking parts. It was such an enormous experience, that changed me (mostly for the better) in so many aspects and showed me who I was and who I was capable of becoming. Plus for the most part, it was fun!! Almost all of it.

2. The 2nd and 3rd years I lived in Cleveland (I was there for 4; the 1st and 4th weren't so hot). But the middle two: I was finishing grad school, teaching full-time for the first time in my life, I had great friends I spent almost all my time with, and the city was booming with great sports teams and new construction and a night life that has since died away. Sigh. I really do miss it.

3. My first year living and teaching here in Orange County, NY. I moved to a place I never heard of, to take a newly created job that was resented by a number of current teachers. It was the most challenging year of my professional life -- but I also met some wonderful people, including my husband!

4. Traveling to Europe with my husband, sister, and brother-in-law the summer of 2005. It was my first time abroad, and I loved every part of it, even hiking for 2 days in the Alps in the pouring rain. Yup, even that. I love experiences where you really get outside your comfort zone. I think you learn the most about yourself then.

5. May 2006. The class of 2006 was one of the best group of students I ever taught. They were 16 girls who got along marvelously and were the highest achievers I'd seen together in one room. That spring, we went on a conference to NYC and met a world-renowned teacher from CA, who was so impressed by my girls that 2 weeks later he came to our tiny classroom to talk to them some more. We went to each other's softball games and plays (and sadly, one parent's funeral). And we all cried together on the last day of school, when they gave me a card that said, "You have shown us the kind of woman we want to become."

I'm not tagging anyone, but if you want to, share your own 5 life situations you'd repeat in slow motion, either in a comment here or your own blog post. It's interesting to think about...

Monday, June 29, 2009

It's Almost Release Month!

In honor of July being the release month of One Night in Napa, I'm going to post a few excerpts each week, to whet your appetite. I'm also running a month-long contest, beginning Wednesday, and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment each day. And during release week itself (July 21-24), I'll be appearing as the guest blogger in a few different places, so you can enter more than once each day.

Want to know what you can win? Come on back later this week to find out!

In the meantime, here's a peek at the first time we meet the hero, Grant Walker:

Grant knew it was going to be a long day when he woke up and couldn’t remember the name of the woman lying beside him. His head throbbed. His stomach roiled. Late morning sun slanted across his face, and he squinted. He lifted himself onto one elbow and ran one hand over his stubbled jaw, then rolled over and stared at a digital clock he didn’t recognize.

He heard the sound again, the one that had jerked him from sleep. Somewhere across the room, his cell phone beeped. What the he—? Was it the weekend yet? Or was he supposed to be at work? Why did the room smell like vanilla? He groaned and struggled to pull sense from his sleep-muddled brain.

“Babe?” A manicured hand snaked out from the covers and caressed his bare chest. “Everything okay?”

Babe? He blinked, and the room swam into focus. “Um, yeah.” He slipped from between satin sheets, planted one foot on a throw rug, and ended up on his ass next to the bed.

She giggled.

He swore under his breath and pulled himself up. The room was small, decorated mostly in pinks and lavenders. A collection of candles sat on a pink-and-white dresser across the room, and for one horrifying moment, he thought a Hello Kitty stuffed animal stared at him with black plastic eyes. He shook his head and looked again, and the cat changed into a pink dragon with wings. Still a stuffed animal, though. He kept his gaze on the ground so he didn’t see any others. Near the door, his keys, phone, and boxers lay in a heap beside a leopard print bra and something made of clingy red fabric.

Grant licked his lips and silently called himself a few choice words. Again. I did it again. Maybe his father was right, after all.

He searched the bedroom until he found the golf shirt and shorts he remembered wearing the night before. Shots of tequila, he recalled. And a blonde at the end of the bar with a gorgeous rack and pouty lips who wouldn’t stop staring at him. His two vices, served up neatly at Mick’s, the local watering hole conveniently located at the end of his block.

“I’m late. Really late.” Now he knew what day it was, because he only hit Mick’s for their Thursday night wing special, which meant it was Friday. The day of his final interview with Francesca Morelli. And his last chance to please his father or lose his job, condo, and sports car in one fell swoop.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

On Book Signings

"If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful." ~Jeff Bezos

Here's the thing about doing book signings: even if/when you don't sell a lot of books (which was the case yesterday), you accomplishment a couple of things.

First, you get yourself out in the public eye. Customers in bookstores will often pick up a bookmark/magnet/piece of chocolate (oh yes, definitely chocolate!) as they pass your table. You also make contact with bookstore managers. And you force yourself to talk about your book(s) to people you do not know, which I think is just good personal development all the way around.

Second, you get a chance to meet and talk with other authors. I always love catching up with these women, most of whom I only see every few months, or in virtual world on various loops, so it's always nice to see what people are up to: what they're writing, what's selling, what conferences are coming up, etc. It's also quite interesting to talk business. I spent a lot of time listening to what Stella Price and Cat Johnson had to say about various small presses and what might be coming down the line for them. Since I don't interact with a lot of publishers, it's pretty interesting to hear what's being dicussed over drinks/coffee/lunch when some of the head honchos get together.

Bottom line: it's important to write, it's important to promote, and it's also important to network. Don't forget that!

With western romance/military romance author Cat Johnson (don't you love her boots?!)