Tuesday, October 31, 2006

first pages

In her blog a few days back (while I didn't have a life), Julie Cohen talked about what goes on in the first page or two of her books. How she isn't just nattering on, but is laying groundwork for things to come. And she challenged other authors to tackle the first page or two of their books and discuss that topic.

So, here I am -- discussing. I thought I'd take a look at The Santorini Bride -- a sort of sneak-peek as it were of my next book which should come out in late January 2007.

This is how it goes:

One more hill.
Looking up the stone steps that twisted up from the dock, Martha could see the house at last. Thank God.
When she’d got off the launch in Santorini she’d thought, “I’m home.” But she’d forgotten the climb and she hadn’t told Ariela, the local lady who took care of the house, that she was coming. So no one knew to meet her. setting the stage geographically and also emotionally. Martha is weary and desperate to get home and she's not announcing her arrival.
No matter. She’d been determined to get here on her own, to be here on her own. The climb was just the last part of it. Still, she was exhausted and sweating and her duffel bag, packed for a move back to New York, not a spur-of-the-moment desperate flight to Greece, felt like lead as she dragged it behind her. She ordinarily lives in New York, but considers the family home in Greece her "real" home and her flight here was definitely not planned. SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED!
She looked up again. In the shimmering summer heat the walls of the two story white stuccoed building seemed almost like a mirage, a dream. Martha had been running on adrenaline so long that it could well have been a hallucination if she didn’t know she was down to her last dollar having spent nearly every cent in her savings account to get her plane ticket from JFK yesterday afternoon. Martha's finances are not enviable and she didn't get help from anyone to get here. She's doing this on her own.
Was it only yesterday?
It seemed like another lifetime since she had blithely and eagerly bounded up the stairs to her boyfriend Julian’s loft apartment in Tribeca, already anticipating his killer grin, his open arms that would grab her and swing her around in joy when she announced she was back for good, that she had finally finished the mural in Charleston that had taken her out of New York for the past month, and that while she was gone she’d made a decision – she was ready at last to share his bed. Martha is something of an innocent. She's deliberately taken a long time to make a commitment to Julian and she's about to burst in on him unannounced and take their relationship to the next step.
She had opened the door, calling his name. Then, hearing the sound of the shower, she had thrown caution to the wind. What better way to prove to him that she was ready for the intimacy he’d demanded –
And so she’d kicked off her sandals, stripped off her shirt and was shimmying out of her skirt as she’d opened the bathroom door. Once Martha makes up her mind to something, she does it.
And discovered Julian wasn’t alone. Oops. Here's the reason for Martha's headlong flight away from New York and back "home" to Santorini. Her judgement has let her down. So has her taste in men.
Through the steamed glass she could see two bodies beneath the spray – Julian, his blond hair plastered flat, and some curvaceous brunette with an all-over tan. Their bodies bare, their limbs entwined.
Martha had stopped dead, gut-punched, rooted to the spot as she gazed unblinking at the sight of her fantasies, her dreams and hopes crashing to bits. Martha is an idealist. She had a dream of what her life would be like, and it's just been shattered.
And then the cool blast of air she’d brought in when she’d opened the door caused Julian to look up. He wiped a hand over the glass, clearing it briefly to stare straight at her stunned face.
His mouth opened and an expletive formed on his lips. Martha’s own mouth was as frozen as her feet as she watched the woman rub against him unaware. Julian shut his eyes for a moment, then opened them and met her gaze again. This time there was less shock and more defiance.
And thank God, Martha found that her feet would move. She isn't going to stand around and let life run over her. She's on the move at once.
She spun away, snatching up her shirt to cover her own bareness, her foolish vulnerability. She yanked it on, face burning. heart slamming – but nowhere near as hard as she slammed the door on her way out.
She’d run down the stairs, her duffel bag banging along behind her, desperate to get away into the street where crowds of people passed, unconcerned, unaware of her humiliation, of her world spinning out of control. Nothing had changed for them.
But for Martha the world had just gone upside down. And it's in this frame of mind that she arrives at her family home in Santorini -- and meets the force who is going to spin her upside down world even faster. But Martha has already been shaken up -- and she's ready for anything now. And determined to deal with it -- which on the next page, she will!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

the fun part of writing

Eureka! I've found it -- the fun part of writing!

I spent a small chunk of today in the office supply store. It was marvelous. Paper. Pens. Flash drives. Memory cards. Index cards in multitudes of colors. File boxes. Graph paper. Notebooks. All fresh and bright and new, exuding promise.

It's all that potential that's seductive. It's all that possibility that intrigues, tempts, beckons. Of course, having written 58 (yikes!) books, I know that there will be drudgery involved. I know that characters will come along, like Spence and Sadie did, who will give every indiction of being marvelous, bright, witty and sexy -- and within pages they will turn surly, truculent, irritating and, worst of all, mute.

But now -- who cares?

Now is the time to think positive, to dream impossible dreams, to know that Flynn and Sara (who weren't mute last time I met them) might actually get a chance to tell their story -- and allow me the chance to meet again all those old Code of the West folks I've been missing. Dunno. Not sure. Maybe. It makes me smile just to think about it.

Or maybe I will do something else -- something new and different. Different scheme of things. Different format. Different genre perhaps? Dunno. Not sure. Maybe. Again, I can feel giddy at the prospect.

I know now to relish this feeling. It's all too brief.

I have a new ClustrMap, I've just discovered. So, Nicki in Perth, you are finally a dot in my world! And so are lots of other new dots. My goal this time, in case you know someone who lives there who would like to be a dot down the road a piece -- is to get dots from Invercargill, probably my favorite place in New Zealand, Peru, because I always wanted to go there, and Fiji, because that's where Spence and Sadie is set.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Look, Ducks! Ma's got eyes!

I spent the last three days taking my mother to the university hospital a couple of hours away so that she could get what amounts to vastly improved vision. In the "old days" it would have been a corneal transplant or implant or something like that. And it would have taken months for her to get results and she'd have had a much more substantial convalescence.

But yesterday they basically removed the bottom layer of her cornea (which looked rather like the craters of the moon) and replaced it with a transplant of healthy corneal cells that will function as a much more efficient filter so that her vision will (everyone hopes) stop being cloudy and fuzzy all the time. And last night she went back to the hotel. And this morning I drove her back to the doctor's office, where they pronounced her "good to go." And I brought her home.

She's supposed to lie down for the next 24 hours, more or less, as she did from this time yesterday. And then she can get up and around and live life as she normally does. And already she reported brief moments of incredible clarity. Of course it blurs again, but she says she hasn't seen that clearly in years -- however briefly.

So . . . ain't medical science wonderful? I'm so astonished by how they actually think of doing these things, let alone figuring out how to do them. My hat is off to them all.

And frankly, the doc in charge could easily be a shoo-in for a "male on Monday" at the Pink Heart Society blog! But I won't embarrass him by posting him there -- lots of women would be having corneal transplants just to get smiled at by him. Even my mother fluttered a little!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Look Ma, No Ducks!

So, the ducks have gone -- and in fact, have gone again, winging their way west this time.

I had a call this morning from my editor who had read them -- and cried at the end, she says. Presumably good tears, though possibly just tears of relief that I'd finished the damn thing. She accepted them, has finished line-editing them, titled them, and this afternoon sent them winging on their way back across the pond to Toronto for copyediting.

Whew. Must be nice to be able to move that fast. I wonder why writing takes so long.

Anyway, Spence and Sadie are going to be called The Boss's Wife For A Week. Trust me, this is not my title. But it is at least a title that reflects a part of the book's premise, though I promise you it is more than a simple "hiring a wife for a week" story. Promise, promise, promise. I am rather fonder of simply Wife For A Week (yes, I know Kelly Hunter just used that title. In fact I read her book on the plane home from England. Good book, too!). But the editor says she wants the word "Boss" in there because people buy the word "Boss." (I wonder why I keep spelling it "Boos" and then having to change it. Freudian? And if so, what does it mean?)

So, I hope lots of people really want to buy the word "Boss" which is not exactly a 'grabber' for me, but must be for some. Whatever. I don't care.

I have a title for my next book already in my head. I just need a book to go with it. I'm thinking about Flynn and Sara from The Great Montana Cowboy Auction. Their story seems to be bubbling up.

But first, I'm really thinking I need to dust about a hundred pounds of dust out of my house. Amazing what has accumulated while Spence and Sadie were taking up all my time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

ducks . . . redux

They are slimmer and trimmer ducks now. They have a new (I would not necessarily use the word, improved, but at least editorially mandated) back story which one (that would be me) hopes makes the editorial mandator happy.

She cheered them on. And after an all night session of duck regimentation (which I am getting too old for) she sent me a lovely hot cup of cyber- tea. I enjoyed it immensely -- almost as much as I enjoy a real one.

And now, thanks to other joys of cyberspace, Spence and Sadie are already across the pond and printed out and waiting for her to read them. How are they? I have no idea.

I have no perspective on them anymore. When you change an element of backstory, you basically change someone's whole life. The events may stay the same, but the reasons for them are different. The characters reactions are different. They make different choices. They get different outcomes.

It frankly wouldn't have surprised me if Spence and Sadie had taken one look at their altered back story and decided they didn't suit. He might have said, "I'd rather join a monastery given what I know now." And she might well have said, "Who's that guy I dated last year trying to forget you? I think he'll do after all." (I have the strangest feeling that there is a guy like that somewhere in the new chapter one. If there is, I'll have to go check and make sure I get rid of him, because one thing I'm sure of is that he never appeared again.)

Characters in books are rather like children. They're yours. You raise them until they're five. You civilize them a bit. And then you send them off to school and all of a sudden there's a new influence in their lives.

They have teachers with different expectations than yours. And teachers must be pleased. The comparison stops there, of course. Because with kids, they are the ones who have to do the changing and fitting in with new expectations. And with characters, sadly, the author is still responsible for their behavior.

So I hope Spence and Sadie are living up to expectations. I hope I remembered to get rid of the other boyfriend. We'll see.

In the meantime, the ducks are flying south.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Let them eat cake . . .

There is nothing like a pair of two-year-old assistants when it comes to frosting a cake.

They take a very definite hands-on approach to the project. And they think that checking out the taste of each layer before the cakes is assembled is imperative. After all, you wouldn't want to use one if it didn't taste good, would you? And with the frosting, no one will notice those nibbles.

Well, not the nibbles, maybe. But almost certainly someone will notice the great gaping gouges where enthusiasm took over. Let us just say that both layers, the bottom even more than the top, met with double approval.

Let us also say that they have a saint for a big brother because he didn't complain when they tried to help him stir the frosting, and he just sighed and rolled his eyes when they smeared chocolate all over their faces. He didn't even mutter when they patted chocolatey hands on him. Eight is a truly wonderful age.

Two year olds walk around with this sort of "color me astonished" look on their faces. As if they are just coming to grips with all sorts of things and they need to check it all out. They find licking mixer beaters an amazing experience. They find getting birthday presents confusing. Why, if you get something, do people make you put it away before you can play with it? Just because it needs to be put in the car to go home, why can't you play with it NOW? (very good question).

They also have opinions. The blue cup with the cartoon Tasmanian Devil on it is highly prized by one. The purple with some other creature on it is the only one the other will look at. One doesn't care which jacket he wears. The other wants ONLY the red one. One thinks the dogs should come in. The other thinks the dogs should go out. I think my son has his work cut out for him. It's a good thing that one of his gifts is that he raises boys so well.

Anyway, the cake was lopsided, droopy, held together by toothpicks and had six baseball players stuck into the top of it, knee deep in frosting so that when we took them out to cut the cake, they looked as if they had been slogging through mud. But no one cared. Everyone loved it. We all ate lots. One more birthday to go. What fun!

ps: if you haven't entered the scavenger hunt and would like to, please stop by my website and go to the contest page. The "first" winner has already been selected. But everyone who gets the answers will be in the drawing for the Grand Prize "Here Comes Winter" goody box. It's been a lot of fun so far. I'm impressed with how many people have stopped by and answered the questions! Thanks.

pps: yet another Batakis has surfaced!

ppps: Spence and Sadie who?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Only a little chop . . .

Halfway there. On Spence and Sadie. The worst half -- the tsunami half -- is behind us. And ahead of us is, if not smooth sailing, then at least only the occasional white cap. I think we're going to make it. I'll let you know on Monday.

In the meantime, the family history fair went extremely well. I think that the organizer had a perfect idea -- do half a day and do it well and leave them wanting more. There was almost no publicity for this fair. It was mostly word of mouth that brought out participants. And we had over 60 of them. I was amazed. I think we all were.

And everyone seems to have been pleased with the result. It's on again next year-- and the evaluations were all positive. We even got some that said, "Do those again!" Sounds good to me.
There were several I would have liked to have heard -- one particular speaker on Irish research especially -- and unfortunately she spoke at the same time I did. So I guess I'll have to go out to lunch with her sometime in the near future and pick her brain that way.

She's off to Salt Lake City tomorrow for a week's research at the Family History Library there. I've never been there. It's one of the places on my To Visit list. But since I got to do Cornwall this year, I'm not expecting any other dreams to come true. Not right away anyway. And I couldn't have learned what I learned in Cornwall by going to Salt Lake. They don't have the records microfilmed that I consulted. I got to use the originals! It's amazing to sit there holding a document in your hand that your seventh g-grandfather held in his hands -- and made his mark on -- over 200 years before.

Back to work!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Life is what happens . . . or birthdays, football and assorted other distractions

Was it John Lennon who said, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans?" I think so. Whoever said it, he was right.

All week long I have been planning to finish Spence and Sadie and send them to my editor to spend the weekend. But guess what. They're still here. Not only that, I expect they will be here until Monday -- and if I'm lucky they will leave then.

The worst of the sorting is sorted. And the tsunami of ripples has been tamed. But there are other ripples along the way that I need to smooth down. And so I'm trying to find time to work on them.

But this happens to be the week when my mother, three of my grandsons and my son-in-law all have birthdays within four days of each other. Which means that while I had made other plans, what I really have been making is birthday cakes. Three of them so far.

I've also been birthday present shopping. Fourteen is a hard age to shop for, believe me. Fisher-Price doesn't extend their range that high. Fortunately he's a football fanatic, so there's always something footballish to look for (he has a remarkable collection of jerseys to which, this year, I felt we didn't need to contribute. Been there, done that quite often enough. Besides, what can I get him for Christmas if I do the jersey thing now). Also, I need to do my research first.

It's important, I think, to only buy jerseys of good receivers who are also good role models. Some aren't. At least they don't live up to my standard -- which is, do I want my grandson wearing that guy's name on his back? Suffice to say, he doesn't wear jerseys of players that his parents and grandparents do not think are worth looking up to -- regardless of whether or not they can catch a ball.

So, fourteen is tricky. Two -- especially since the people turning two are twins -- is also tricky. Especially it is tricky because they are the third and fourth boys in a family of boys boys and more boys. Which is to say, they pretty much have everything boys of two need (did I mention that they stand to inherit a remarkable collection of vintage football jerseys provided the jerseys survive that long). So, poor little lads are getting winter boots and mittens. How boring is that?

Eighty-seven is a hard age to buy for, too. So I spent today -- when I'd been planning to do Spence and Sadie -- instead putting together a photo album of eighty of the best pics of the last four years, including weddings, holidays, vacations, and people blowing out the candles on birthday cakes. I think she was pleased.

I don't even want to talk about the son-in-law who is impossible to buy for. I sent him a check. I hate doing that, but sometimes a person just has to throw in the towel, say, "You know what you want better than I do," and hope it's true.

And Saturday, when I should be working on Spence and Sadie, I'm going to be at a Family History Fair all day -- being useful in a general sort of way, and then giving a talk for an hour about using collateral relatives and neighbors to break down genealogical brick walls.

Wish me luck because I have never talked on a genealogical topic to anyone, let alone a room full of people who actually expect me to know something. I hope I do. Otherwise, it would have been better for all of us if I'd stayed home and worked on Spence and Sadie.

But late Saturday afternoon (I have a plan!) all my commitments are over for 18 hours (until the birthday twins show up on Sunday morning) and Spence and Sadie and I are going to put our collective noses to the grindstone and get this sucker over with.

Monday they are going to London -- ready or not!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Back Story . . . or Revisions Redux

You may recall that I've been doing revisions on Spence and Sadie. Probably you think I should have got them finished by now and be halfway through another book. Some writers undoubtedly would be. Sadly, not this one.

I am wallowing in back story -- the stuff that happened to Spence and Sadie before they were ever a twinkle in a writer's eye. And it's the back story that I've had to revise. That was where the editor had her hang-up. And that was what we spent a week discussing -- and finally more or less agreeing on.

But agreeing and doing something about it are two entirely different things. Saying something will work and actually making it work integral to the story and the characters and not just "tacked on" is tougher than it looks. In this case I practically had to go back to their conception. Literally. Well, maybe not that far, but in Sadie's case back as far as high school. And really, though he wouldn't admit it, it would have been about that time -- when Sadie was in high school -- for Spence, too. And then I had to rework the precipitating event SUBSTANTIALLY.

And, of course, everything that follows then undergoes a transformation too. My first editor called this "the ripple effect." It is -- but in the case of Spence and Sadie it's a ripple the size of a tsunami.

But I think I've got it now. At least the back story holds together. It feels as if it could have happened (but for my money, so could the original version). And what's happening now is a result of that -- and who they are now. Even so, there's a lot of restructuring involved to get them to where they need to be in chapter four. Then I hope the sailing gets smoother. But I won't know until I get there.

Writing -- it's an adventure.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Scavenger Hunt

Before I went to England I said that when I got back I'd post a new contest on my website. And after the fun we had with tracking down The Eight Second Wedding a while back, I thought that this time I'd make you work a little. So I've put up a scavenger hunt of sorts (it's not terribly demanding. Here are the questions:

1. Which book by Harlequin romance author Liz Fielding won the RITA in 2006?

2. What day is Hugh Jackman's birthday?

3. What country is Presents author Miranda Lee's home?

4. British author Christina Jones wrote a book about a woman who owned a greyhound. What is the book called?

5. Who plays Mark Antony on the television series "Rome?

6. Harlequin romance author Sophie Weston's latest book is called The Cinderella Factor. What's the hero's name?

7. Presents author Kate Walker has four cats. They are called Dylan, Spiffer, Bob and ?????

8. Who is the sculptress heroine of my book McGillivray's Mistress?

9. Theo Savas and Martha Antonides are the main characters in which one of my books?

10. What character does Hugh Jackman play in the X-Men movies?

Find the answers to the following questions and send them to me at from the "contact Anne" link at the top of my home page.

The first response with all ten questions answered correctly wins a not-yet-published copy of my upcoming book, The Santorini Bride (as soon as I get my paperback copies)! And all entries with the correct answers will be entered into a drawing for a grand prize "Here Comes Winter" goody box with lots of books and stuff to keep you going through the snowy months ahead (except last year the winner was from Florida!).

So, please drop by and enter!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Santorini Bride

My new cover!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I guess I can leave you to work out at least a part of this story.

A man -- Theo Savas -- looking for some anonymity and solitude, a woman -- Martha Antonides -- on the run from heartbreak, a gorgeous Greek island -- Santorini -- and a boat.

Well, for starters.

Of course things move around a bit from there. Things happen -- things neither Martha nor Theo expect. It was a treat to see the cover -- and hold the book in my hands. That 'holding the book' part never gets old. It's always a thrill.

And it's a particularly handy thrill at the moment because as I'm just working on the revisions for Spence and Sadie, I need to refresh my memory about some of the things that happen in Theo and Martha's book. Yes, Spence and Sadie's story is a spin-off. It's just one big alternative universe out there where all those McAllister characters live! Most of them recently seem to be on islands, don't they? Pelican Cay, Santorini, Fiji. Well, there's a little Montana thrown in, trust me.

And a French bulldog.

Did I mention the French bulldog? No? I will. But that's another story.

What do you think of the cover? Inquiring minds (mine, anyway) are curious.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Batakis Search Report . . . and assorted other comments

A couple of days ago I wrote about The Search for Batakises which came about as a result of my having a character called Mark Batakis in my book, The Antonides Marriage Deal.

I am happy to report that one Batakis family member reads blogs. Or at least searches for the name Batakis on them (besides the original searcher, that is). So I have now sent searcher #2 on to searcher #1, and with luck they can combine resources and find more family. If they have a reunion -- and tell me about it -- I'll let you know. And if any more decide to appear, send me message and you can join the ranks. Maybe we'll find there are more than a handful out there. Here's hoping.

It does make me think, after the Antonides appearance and now the Batakis family, that I am missing the boat here. I should be posting my own research queries. So, if anyone is connected to the Hazels from Edgefield South Carolina -- who went to Alabama and to Texas and to Oklahoma and points west, I'd like to talk to you. Ditto if you're related to Moses Guest who moved from Benton County, Arkansas to Texas after the civil war.

And, of course, if you are related to Spence and Sadie and want to contribute your thoughts to revisions, get in touch. We're on the last gasp of them (I hope) and sometime early next week they should be out of here. They will undoubtedly have a few things to contribute of their own to this blog before they go. And then I think they might turn it over to Theo and Martha whose book should be coming out right after the first of the year.

Did everyone celebrate Hugh's birthday? Should we get a start on it now for next year?

Over at the Pink Heart Society there has been a discussion about Irish names. I love Irish names -- even the ones I can't pronounce. I think we should discuss favorite names here. What's your favorite?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Celebrating Hugh . . . Hero Material

One of the obligations of the romance novelist is having to ogle handsome men.

I think of it as a job requirement. How could I write about them if I didn't observe them closely? Learn what makes them tick? Study them in their natural habitat?

Some people watch birds, after all. More power to them, I say. Whatever turns them on.

Which brings me to Hugh. It's Hugh Jackman's birthday October 12th. It's time to celebrate. They've already celebrated him at the Pink Heart Society. Hugh was their first "Male on Monday" right after the site went live. If I hadn't already joined up, I would have. These women obviously have good taste.

Lucy Gordon introduced me to Hugh when we were writing Blood Brothers quite a few years ago. He was, at the time, starring in Oklahoma on stage in London. And she said, "You have to see Hugh Jackman playing Curly. He's brilliant." And I thought, yeah, right. An Aussie playing an Okie in England. Brilliant. Uh-huh. That'll work.

May God forgive me for doubting. It worked. He was brilliant. He was charismatic. He was gorgeous. He was talented. I was hooked.

When Kate Walker's son, who was working at Blockbuster in England at the time found an ex-rental copy of Paperback Hero, she sent it to me for Christmas. Best present I could have received. I fell in love.

After that I watched Erskineville Kings. I watched old Australian television programs. The joys of the multi-format video tape player are not to be dismissed. I was delighted when I heard he was going to be Wolverine in X-Men. Lots of people said, "Hugh Who?" Not me.

I saw every film he made. I wasn't thrilled by the script of Someone Like You. I thought some of the time traveling in Kate and Leopold was a little iffy. Van Helsing was not precisely my cup of tea. But Hugh was. You name it, if Hugh was in it, I watched it. I had it on tape. I have it on DVD. I can actually sit and watch the Tony Awards over and over just for Hugh. (Can you say, there is no hope?) All I can say is, I work very hard at my craft. No sacrifice too great.

But it isn't just the acting and the singing and the dancing and the intensity he puts into his roles -- or how good he looks in a tux -- or even a towel.

It's what a genuinely nice guy he seems to be. What a devoted married man he is. How much he dotes on his family. How determined he is to be a good father. I've never heard or read an interview in which he didn't spend at least some of the time talking about his wife and kids. In an industry where big egos are rampant, he's refreshingly not all about "me, me, me." Hero material, in other words.

When Kate Walker and I gave our talks in New Zealand and Australia two years ago, Hugh was our centerpiece. If we could have had him there in person, of course, it would have been perfect. But even in transparency form, he kept our listeners'
attention focused. They didn't dare drift off -- they might have missed a glimpse of Hugh-in-a-towel.

And if that's all they remember about what we said two years later, well, what is it they say about a picture being worth a thousand words?

If we gave them nothing but that memory of what a hero ought to be like, I still like to think we did what we set out to do.

Happy birthday, Hugh! And thank you!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Name Deal

A few months ago, not long after the publication of my last book The Antonides Marriage Deal, I had an email about how I'd chosen the name Antonides.

I wrote back and explained to the writer that I had been casting about for a nice Greek name, preferably one that started with an A, and since I'd used Alexakis before, and since Aristides seemed a bit too close to a certain Haitian dictator for my comfort, I decided I liked the sound of Antonides.

And she wrote back and said, terrific, but was I aware that most of the Antonideses in America were Dutch.

Well, I wasn't. But now I am -- and from what I've heard from her and from a few subsequent emails regarding the connections of my husband's Dutch New Yorkers and her Antonides Dutch New Yorkers, we might actually be connected -- and apparently there was a bit of a buzz about the book at the Dutch Antonides family reunion this past summer. Bless their hearts. I hope they all keep an eye out for the next book, The Santorini Bride, which probably should have been called The Antonides Bride, but how would marketing have known that would have been a blockbuster title? Besides, the hero's last name is Savas. But that's another story.

The story now is that this past week I got another email. This one said, "How did you come up with the name Mark Batakis?"

Mark Batakis, for those who are not keeping score, was the name of Elias Antonides's sister Cristina's boyfriend. Spoiler: she married him. I'm not going to write a story about them. So there.

But I did reply and said basically, um, well I wanted a nice Greek name that was easy to pronounce and Kate Walker lent me her list of Greek names. I liked Batakis. Thus Mark had a last name. And then I told the writer about my Antonides experience and said, "The Batakises aren't Dutch, are they?"

And she wrote back and said, no, but a lot of them are Lithuanian.

So I give up. The next Greek I write is going have the last name Trevaskis, which is about as Cornish a name as I can think of. Just don't tell marketing.

Anyway, she told me that Batakises (Lithuanian and Greek) are rather thin on the ground and she would like to track down more of the Lithuanian ones. As a genealogist myself, I totally sympathize with her quest. So I am hereby requesting all Lithuanian Batakises to drop me a note or raise your hand or wave a flag or do something to let us know where you are. There is a Lithuanian Batakis who would like to get in touch with you.

Anyone else want me to advertise their surname for potential family reunions? Send me a note. Maybe I can name a hero after you and kill two birds with one stone.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

When Writers Party

Many writers are extroverts, strange as it may seem. Or maybe they just get so tired of their own company that when they get in groups they make a lot of noise. Or maybe it's just a lot of people in a room that makes a lot of noise. But the day of the AMBA lunch, we made a lot of noise. It was a cheerful, glad sort of noise that happens when people who rarely see each other finally get in contact with each other in a three-dimensional way. Ordinarily we email, we talk on the phone, we read each other's books. But it's a rare day we all turn up in the same room.

It's a lot of fun. I really enjoyed meeting everyone I hadn't met before, and renewing old acquaintances with those I had. Several people asked me -- and Kate -- for a picture of the two of us. So here it is.

Had a chance to finally catch up with Kate Hardy. I've had a sort of on again off again conversation about local history and houses with Kate for months, but had never met her before. But she is terrific. I just wish I'd had more time to spend with her.

I got to wave at Sharon Kendrick several times across the room, but never had a chance to talk (best intentions. sigh). I got to meet a couple of Dutch editors and one from the German office.
Best of all, I got to meet some of the new Presents authors as well as some of the Tender/Romance authors I hadn't met before.

I got to catch up with Michelle Styles (thanks for the honey, Michelle. It was greatly appreciated!) and Julie Cohen. I got to meet Julie's "bump" currently called Elvis, who may (one hopes) have another name by the time he arrives on the scene.

I got to eat breakfast before the lunch (heavens, we did a lot of eating that day!) with my dear friend Lucy Gordon with whom I once wrote a book, Blood Brothers, for Silhouette Desire (and some kind soul just read it after all these years and sent me a fan letter which pleased me no end).

Then I got to visit with terrific historical author, Joanna Maitland, and chat with fellow American Presents author, Sandra Marton, brand-new Irish Presents author, Abby Green, the wonderful Margaret Mayo who was leaving for Australia shortly after the lunch and is probably there now (lucky her!). There were so many people it was impossible to catch up with them all.

And after we'd had a marvelous lunch there, we went to tea (see, what did I tell you about eating) at Fortnum and Mason's. Of course all I could manage was a glass of lemon something or other, but the atmosphere was worth it! And then we were off to Brooks' -- the gentleman's club we often read about in regency romance novels, which is still right where it always was in St James. Only now, on special invitation, women are permitted to enter its hallowed halls.

What fun. I snapped more pix of the environs than I did of people, I think. At least now I'll have a good idea of where all those regency heroes went off to brood or sulk or get wasted or bet against each other whenever I read about them in books.

Got to visit with my editor there, briefly. Also got to meet more authors and many editors who hadn't been at the lunch. I took a photo of Kate Walker and her editor Maddie Rowe and one of Sophie Weston and Sheila Hodgson (not Sophie's editor, but one who edits lots of other people).

I also got to congratulate Liz Fielding on her RITA award which had been sent to the editorial office and which was presented to Liz at Broooks'. It was great fun, a delight to see so many people. And, of course, there was more food. Everywhere we went there was food.

You wouldn't think we needed dinner -- but we did need a chance to unwind after so much revelry. So Joanna Maitland and her charming husband invited Sophie and me back to the RAF club for a quiet dinner. It was where the AMBA lunch had been held. But this time it was in a quiet dining room, very low-key and elegant. A perfect end to a wonderful, exhausting day.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Remembering Ben

The Mills & Boon evening at Brooks will have to wait because there is more important business today. There is Ben.

Ben Jonson has been my friend for a lot of years. I first met him when he was a spry yet solid and definitely opinionated feline of six years. He was living with Sophie Weston and enriching her life in much the same way Sid enriches Kate Walker's and as the best of cats do for the humans privileged to share space with them. He was very kind and welcoming during my first visit. He invited me into his conservatory, and he allowed me to bask in the sunlight there and in his back garden.

He made me feel right at home. He even sat on my manuscript the same way he always sat on Sophie's -- the theory being, I suppose, that if he sat on them, they warmed more quickly, hatched faster, left the house sooner as completed books, and thus allowed the writer more time to give Ben exquisite head rubs and ear scratches. Sid notwithstanding, Ben was a true connoisseur of head rubs and ear scratches. He definitely improved the quality of life around Sophie's house (not that it wasn't already wonderful).

Ben was there waiting for me on the stairs when I went to Sophie's from Kate's two weeks ago. At 16 years plus, he was something of a shadow of his former self. And yet he was always a gentleman, always happy to see you (unless you were Sophie trying to stuff a pill down his throat).

He'd been struggling through a variety of illnesses these last few months. His housemate and chasing-around-the-house pal, Sandy, had died in the spring and Ben wasn't up to much chasing himself. But he was still very much A Presence in Sophie's house.

Earlier this year when we were planning my visit, Sophie and I had decided to head down to Cornwall for a week and leave Ben to the tender care of a Gentleman Companion whom Sophie had intended to import to keep him company. But right before I arrived Ben got ill. Very ill. And Sophie knew she couldn't leave him to anyone else's care. He was, after all, Her Cat -- and she was His Person.

So she stayed home on Cat Care Duty (though it really was no duty at all, but only what a friend would do for a dear dear friend). I went to Cornwall by myself because I had work to do down there, and Ben did not need two people hovering over him.

Periodically I checked in on Ben while I was gone. He had good days and bad days, but mostly he had days with Sophie -- and that was what was important.

Against all odds, when I came back at the end of the week, Ben was there to greet me. And he was as delighted to see me as I was to see him. He was particularly pleased that I didn't come bringing pills. I brought him Rodda's Cornish Clotted Cream which I'm sure is not on any cat's dietary regimen, but Ben loved the tiny spoonfuls he got of it. (Someone should consider putting cat medicine in Cornish cream.) And I gave him head rubs and ear scratches and brushed him while he purred. And he rewarded me with his presence and the joy of seeing him again. He even got up at 4 a.m. to see me off the morning I left. Always, to the end, a gentleman.

This afternoon he left, too, leaving us all sadder but heartened by having known and loved him. Rest in peace, dear Ben. May you have an eternity filled with head rubs, ear scratches -- and every now and then just a bit of Rodda's Cornish Clotted Cream.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I figured yesterday would be the tough day -- the one where I fell asleep standing up and didn't know the answers to the simplest questions. I was wrong.

Today I'm bleary-eyed and dazed and confused. And I owe it all to Airport Overload. But, I will survive. I am halfway unpacked, halfway to getting my clothes washed and dried and put away, halfway to getting my photos sorted, halfway to getting to grips with the course I'm reviewing for a genealogy mag. And no way at all toward doing my revisions.

It's all a matter of priorities, you see.

Not that Spence and Sadie aren't important. They are. Very Important. But I need a brain to deal with them with. And sadly I don't have one yet.

So I will entertain you instead with a few photos from the first part of the trip -- the visiting Sid and Kate part, followed tomorrow by the Mills & Boon "drinks" party and some of the folks I met there.

As you probably know, this is Kate Walker in her newly redecorated office. Surely you can tell it's redecorated. Can't you tell? Trust me, it is.

Behind Kate on the window sill there is a cat rug. That is Sidney's. He isn't on it though in this pic. I think he was hiding out or eating salmon for tea or otherwise keeping himself busy elsewhere.

I have a lot of pix of Sid. There are more pix of Sid than there is space to upload them. So I will do my best. Just don't expect commentary.

After all, what can I say?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Home Again

I am in recovery. I spent 25 hours getting home yesterday. Well, that's more hours than there are in a day, but truly, the day squeezed another one in.

It all began at 4 a.m. in London. The first part of the journey went rather quickly when the car to the airport finally showed up. And the first leg of the trip home -- to Dublin -- (don't ask why Dublin, I don't know) went equally smoothly. After that all bets were off.

The plane to take us to the States was still somewhere over the Atlantic, heading towards Ireland, and didn't land for another four hours. So we, of course, waited. No big deal. Dublin has a nice airport and plenty of good food. But that meant I missed my next connection on the commuter flight home.

So I spent an extra seven hours in Chicago. I got a lot of exercise there because they changed the gate three times -- in each case making the destination further in the opposite direction than it had been in the first place. All the movement was good for me, though, I'm sure. I wished I had Sophie's pedometer. I'll bet I got in my 10,000 steps! But it felt good after sitting for hours and hours.

I also got a lot of books read, and I figured out a bit of a plot (who, me?) for an upcoming book. And I watched X-Men 3 (Did the powers that run airlines know I would need a Hugh Jackman fix to get through a 25 hour day?) without the sound, but it can be appreciated in silent mode very well indeed. I also got to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and have to say I wasn't enthralled. The book captured my imagination. The film was just unsettling -- and too weird.

Today I've been attempting to unpack and get my pictures sorted. I did manage to get them in some sort of order. And so I'm going to begin as I mean to go on -- with a picture of Sir Sidney.

Sid, as you may know, is Kate Walker's cat. Whenever I visit England, I go visit Sid. And as it happens, this trip my whole itinerary was basically dictated by cats, as you will see over the next few days. But before I go into all that, I need a few more hours of zzzzzzz's.

So . . . for now, here's Sid in all his glory.

And while you enjoy him, I'm going to go get a good night's sleep.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The 5 Minute Blog

Long time no hear. Or see. Or whatever.

I'm in an internet cafe in London, having had virtually no email contact with anyone since I left Kate's before the AMBA lunch and the 'drinks' party at Brooks in London which Harlequin Mills & Boon hosted. Lots of fun all of it -- and then I went to Cornwall on Saturday and didn't get online until this morning after finally getting back.

It was a great trip. The whole thing has been amazing. And I promise to catch up -- with pix -- when I finally get home. I should be there tomorrow night. So expect something on Wednesday and then more as the week goes on. I also need to get Spence and Sadie sorted and sent back. Having dinner with their editor tonight. Should be interesting.

Thanks to Nicki in Perth for turning up on my ClustrMap! Well, she won't be there yet because something like 1000 people have to turn up before I get a new map, but eventually she will be there. So thanks, Nicki! Glad to have you visit!