Wednesday, January 31, 2007

There Go The Brides!

The Brides' Contest is going to be over in an hour and twenty-one minutes, give or take a second or two. I'm going to bed as soon as I finish typing this -- and when I get up in the morning, Gunnar and I will be picking a winner.

Well, Gunnar will. I'll just have to type in who it is. And I'll announce it here. But I'll also ask my webmistress to post it on my website. She has lots of updates to do at the beginning of the month, though, so don't expect the answer there instantly. It will be here, though.

Thanks to all of you who entered. Martha, Louise and Alice had a lot of fun with it. So did Kate and Liz and I. We'll have to do something like this again sometime. Maybe sometime in the autumn we will again have a surfeit of brides.

Remember, of course, that the Grooms' BIGGER contest is still going on -- and will be until February 10th. So you have plenty of time to enter that if you want. Of course you have to work a little harder than you did for the Brides' contest. But that's because Max and Theo and Domenico are g.u.y.s and they believe in getting out there and WORKING. Or they believe you should.

They, of course, are off on their respective honeymoons. Ted stayed behind at the last moment. He said it was all right with him. He enjoys it here by the fire in the winter. And he figured that Martha and Theo might be just a little busy with each other and not have quite enough time for him. Doesn't matter to him as long as he has treats -- and the last word.

Staying here, he has both.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Oops, I've got a life . . .

So I was sitting here contemplating my collage -- and my first chapter which seems to have bogged down in the coffee shop (what do these people WANT?), and I got an email from the editor of two different genealogical periodicals that I write for.

She said, "Just a reminder that you have an article due February 1st."

And I consulted my calendar and wrote back, "Actually, you'll see that I have one due February 15th."

And she consulted her calendar -- and our email correspondence and wrote me back: "Yes, you do. But that's for the other magazine. You have a different article due February 1st for this one."



Nothing like a deadline in a day (when I have to take my mother to the eye doc 85 miles away tomorrow) to concentrate the mind. So I spent part of the day interviewing the head of the program I'm writing about and part of it figuring out the lead-in (which is the hardest part) and part of it making sense of the notes I took, and now I've got, um, about a third of an article. But I will get the rest done tomorrow. I might even get a little bit more done tonight. But not much. My eyes are crossing.

And I also had to write the monthly feature blurb for our Harlequin Presents Authors site (I'm the featured author for February on account of having a book out. Remember Theo and Martha? I thought you might.)

And I wrote answers to questions about writing for one of the romance book sites which I will tell you more about when I find out more about it. Suffice to say, today I was just interested in answering the questions. Where they go from here is not my problem.

And then, I walked the dogs and paid the bills and discovered that if I switch my internet provider and the tv (which we never even had for years, but now that the kids are grown, we do) to another provider, I can save $60 a month, and my head did the math rather more rapidly than I'm used to and thought brightly, "I could fly to England every year on what I'd be saving." So that looks like it might happen.

It's also snowing a little, which means sweeping the walk. Not snowing as much as this, but we already had this and most of it is still here. It also means fielding phone calls from my mother who spent 75 years in California and has blotted the years in Montana right out of her head. So she wants me to tell her how to dress. Um, warmly. Lots of layers. LOTS of layers.

It's about -1 degree (F, not C) which make the snow squeak when you walk on it. She walks slower than I do. She needs more layers.

And I'm sure that's more than you wanted to know about my day.

Sometimes just sitting home and working on the book is more interesting than having a life. More restful, too.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Collages redux

Remember the collage?

The one I was making so I could find my way inside Flynn and Sara's story? The one that had me scouring the internet and filching my friends' upscale lifestyle magazines so I could nail down Irish castles and such? Not to mention my vast collection of pictures of Flynn and my several versions of Sara and such?

I put it together and it is still hanging above my computer. I can stare at it now, even as I type (except at night I have to lean to the right because the light reflects off it and I can't see it unless I sit somewhat tilted). I still love it.

But I'm a little worried because the brother is on it. The dead brother. (I've got to give him a name. I can't keep referring to him as the dead brother).

He was going to be Callum, but he can't be Callum, because Callum is still alive and has a story in my head -- and while he's not going to be Flynn's dead brother anymore, I couldn't take everything away from him. And no, Jennifer Y., this is not another case of 'authorial control.' It's a case of Callum insisting that enough is enough, and give the dead guy another name, please. So I will. But first . . .

I keep seeing possibilities for what might have been and now they're not there anymore. I think that I might have to 'rewrite' the collage. And that sounds like more work than rewriting the book.

But now I realize that when I look up, I see what Flynn sees -- a world that no longer exists. A future he thought was possible -- and then was snatched away from him. It actually works pretty well. Sometimes.

But other times he's going to have to be looking at Sara and not at his brother, and when he does that he's got to be thinking life looks pretty damn good (at least when things are going well, he should think that. And at the moment he is still under the mistaken impression that they might be -- good, that is).

But of course, he's wrong. We wouldn't have a book if he wasn't.

So I think I might need a new collage to reflect that. A collage of Flynn's life as he gets to know Sara again. A collage of the two of them building a life together. A collage where we add bits and pieces as we go along to reflect the book?

I think this might work into part of the Q&A I'm going to be doing on the site next week. I will post a link as soon as I find out what it actually is.

From Monday to Friday, February 5-9, I'm going to be writing about and answering questions on "creating fictional worlds."

It started out as a Q&A about writing linked books and how one goes about making sure that everything makes sense. But even if you only write one book, things have to 'track.' They have to make sense. The world has to work.

And I think, perhaps, the collage has to work, too. It's giving me something to think about.

And I'm almost tempted to make one for Theo and Martha because Martha, being a muralist, is a very visual person. She would love the idea of doing a collage. It's what she does often in her murals. And, in fact that's sort of what her students end up doing on the walls of the theater. When I have time, I just might try it for Theo and Martha. I'm sure Ted will provide lots of pictures of himself and expect me to add a few 3-D dog treats for "realism."

But for now, I'm going to be gathering bits and pieces for the Flynn and Sara collage, 2nd edition as Flynn and Sara and I come to grips with their story.

When I started this I never thought my collages would need rewriting, too.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I've Got The Bride!

Hi. Theo here again. The book is out -- The Santorini Bride, that is. Grab it. Read it. Don't be too shocked when you discover we don't actually get married there. We should do another contest to see who guesses where we do get married.

No, we should not! Enough contests, already! Hi, everyone! It's Martha. Yes, the book is out and I hope you enjoy it half as much as we have. Well, admittedly there were parts of it when I absolutely wanted to KILL Theo. But in the end -- well, in the end, he redeemed himself.

Redeemed? Me? Oh, come on! I was there for you for months. MONTHS! And you kept throwing me out!

Why shouldn't I have? After what happened on Santorini --

Santorini was fantasic. Wasn't it? WASN'T IT, MARTHA? Remember when that night when you --

Yes, yes. Of course, I remember!

And the day at the beach with the paints?

You're making me blush! And of course I remember. How could I forget? But I remember some other times, too. it wasn't all wonderful. There was the day you left -- I remember that!

I had to leave.


I thought I had to. No, I did have to. I needed some space. I needed to think. Nothing like that -- like YOU -- had ever happened to me before. But I came back. Didn't I come back? And where were you?

Never mind.

Right. Uh-huh. So it's not all my fault. Is it, Martha? Is it?

Stop it! Quit tickling me! And kissing! You're not supposed to be kissing now! This is a G rated blog. Well, a PG-rated blog! And the dog is watching, Theo!

Maybe he'll learn something. What'd you say, Ted? Want a girlfriend of your own?

Stop corrupting Ted!

I'd never corrupt Ted. We have an understanding, Ted and I. Don't we, fella?

You bribe him.

I feed him when he's hungry. Not the same thing.
He's always hungry!

Guys are like that. I'm always hungry. But not always for food. Come on, Martha. Time's up. We promised Anne we'd blog. We've blogged.

We had a great time with the readers -- and with Max and Louise and Alice and Dom (he's not here, so I'm NOT calling him DoMENico). And the contests have been a blast. Yours is almost over now -- just a couple more days for that. But they can still win a BIGGER prize with our Grooms' contest until February 10th.
Enough with the BIGGER, Theo!

Whatever you say, sweetheart. Here we go --

Put me
down, Theo! Put me -- Oh, fine. Don't! Bye, Anne! Bye, everyone! Theo, at least wait until we're out of the room!


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sundry Stuff

There is a comment on last night's blog from CJ of ClustrMaps explaining why Invercargill might not have been mislaid after all. It has to do with where the ISP of the person connecting actually is. So maybe Pat Snellgrove's ISP is in Christchurch . . . or Wellington.

I'm so impressed with how well they monitor the comments about ClustrMaps. Amazing customer service. Thanks again, CJ et al!

And, if you are from Invercargill, drop by and say hi (and tell us where your ISP is!). And while you're here, reassure me that Invercargill is where I left it, please. Thanks.

I got a copy of Max and Louise's book, The Valentine Bride, in the mail today from Liz Fielding. I can hardly wait to read it. I started it before dinner and almost didn't get the meal on the table. It was too much fun reading about Louise and Max. That's Louise over there beneath the pic of Max. She does look like she can give Max a run for his money, doesn't she?

I'm hoping to ask Liz a few questions for my upcoming week of Q&A on the eharlequin boards beginning Feb 5. I'm going to be talking about "creating fictional worlds." And while I have done it for my own books and in conjunction with a couple of other authors when we've linked books, I've never done it with a "bible" provided by the publisher. Liz has. She did it in The Valentine Bride. So I'm hoping she'll be on hand to answer some questions.

If anyone has questions about the topic, please post them in the comments section before Feb 5 or drop me a line from the "contact" tab on my website and let me know what you'd like to talk about. I think it should be fun -- especially if we get a good dialogue going. Please stop by. I'll post a link as soon as I can figure out what it is.

Flynn and Sara are doing well. They sent their best wishes from the coffee shop in New York -- the one I never thought they'd get to. It took 40 days and 40 nights of walking the streets of NYC, believe me. More, in fact. And finally I just started outside the coffee shop, junked the earlier stuff, and, hey, it worked!

Of course I had to throw out 6000 words, but it's a small price to pay for some sort of progress -- and energy. Can't minimize the energy.

Theo and Ted and Martha should be around tomorrow and will, I hope, provide some sort of blog before they head off on their honeymoon (yes, Ted is going, too). I had to get them all registered on "new blogger" today because I got forcibly switched (no choice involved really) this morning, which put a crimp in the first half of my day.

They all have gmail addresses now (well, all except Ted. You have to draw the line somewhere.). How weird is that?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Who Moved Invercargill?

Two and a half years ago my husband and I spent a month in New Zealand. It was one of the best months of our lives. We had a wonderful time everywhere we went from Bay of Islands where we visited wonderful Harlequin Mills & Boon author, Robyn Donald and her equally wonderful husband to the tip of the South Island at Bluff and many many places in between.

It would be hard to say which bits I loved the most because I loved so many of them in so many different ways and for so many different reasons that the list would run on and on. But for sheer, "this place feels like home" attraction, it would have to be Invercargill.

We only spent a couple of days there -- one on our way via the Southern Scenic Route to Milford Sound and Te Anau and a sheep and cattle station not far from there -- and one on our way back via Lumsden and Gore and Mataura. The whole drive back felt like home because it was like driving through Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and Iowa and ending up in the midwest-by-the-sea. In other words, pretty much my comfort zone.

Even renting a car in Invercargill ended up being in my comfort zone because everyone in the Invercargill airport, it seemed, helped us get on the road. They gave us directions, maps, let us make phone calls from their office, drank tea with us and offered advice, gave us rides to garages and lugged our suitcases around. By the time we left, I felt like they'd taken us into the family. And when we came back a week later, we were treated like long-lost relatives.

I wrote about Invercargill a few months ago on this blog and hoped that someone from there would show up to read it so I could have a dot where Invercargill is on my ClustrMap. Someone did -- my "minder" from the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference where I was speaking, Pat Snellgrove. Pat doesn't live in Invercargill, but she doesn't live a long way away. It counted.

Except on the map.

The map says no one in the bottom half of the South Island has been near my blog. That can't be true. Pat was here.

Did someone move Invercargill? I desperately hope not. It's on my short list of places I want to go back to. If I had to make a list of places I would go to live if given half a chance, Invercargill would be in the top five.

So they better not have moved it!

Maybe the ClustrMaps people need to re-examine their dotting structure. Maybe their dots have drifted north.

I do know that I am pleased that the map is working again. For a while there it seemed frozen. But apparently they've moved servers and now all is well again. Thank you, ClustrMaps (and CJ who answered my questions when I asked even though I'm sure there were many other more urgent questions from people who get far more hits than I do).

And speaking of wonderful add-ons, the flag counter folks have detected more countries! We're up to 49 now! I'll have to go through my list and figure out which ones they are and celebrate them next week. Maybe by then we'll hit 50. Who do you suppose 50 will be?

Norway would be nice. Or the Bahamas? Someone from beautiful Harbour Island, perhaps? Russia? The Ukraine? Ghana?

Theo is going to make an appearance early next week. He and Martha are back, beaming, because they've just heard from my fourth cousin once removed that their book The Santorini Bride (Theo told me to plug the title) is on sale in Waverly at the Wal-mart. He figures if it's in Waverly at the Wal-mart it should be pretty much everywhere. He suggests you all go out and look for it! So does Ted.

And don't forget, the Here Come the Brides Contest ends January 31, so if you haven't entered, check my website for details. And Theo's own contest, which he will be back to talk about next week still has a couple of weeks to run. But it is more work, he reminds you.

BIGGER PRIZE, he also says.


And if anyone knows where they've moved Invercargill, tell them to put it back. It was perfect right where it was. And I want to go there again. Preferably soon.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Power, Control and other myths

Yesterday's post about how neatly -- and surprisingly -- I'd killed off Flynn's poor unsuspecting brother brought a comment from Jennifer about how neat it must be to be a writer and have all that "power and control."

Um, no.

You can kill off people, yes, which I suppose counts for a sort of power and a kind of control. But it isn't all power and control. It comes with responsibilities.

You can't kill them off for no reason at all (unlike real life which just seems to happen). You can make it so they never existed, which is not the same thing. But if you kill off a character, you need a reason for it. If he was there for a reason, he has to die for a reason, too.

And that reason is the real power behind the decision. How does it affect the story you need to tell? There are going to be ramifications.

If you kill off someone's brother, he isn't the same. No one losing a sibling is. There's a hollow in his life. An emptiness. A loss that can never be filled. The future changes. So do expectations. That's what happened to Flynn.

Since his brother died, I understand the edge to him that I didn't understand before. It colors his view of everything that has happened to him since. And even though it happened over a dozen years ago, its impact continues.

And while I might be an "accessory" to this death in order to be faithful to the story, I never feel as if it's me controlling them or bending the characters to my expectations. Remember, I'm the one who couldn't kill anyone off a couple of months ago. Apparently because it didn't belong in the story.

This time it did.

And when I went back this evening and re-read the sections of The Great Montana Cowboy Auction where Flynn and Sara met I understood them even better than when I'd written the book five years ago. Reading it now, I am reminded of how young and impressionable Sara was at the time, how innocent and idealistic and occasionally, where her mother was concerned, judgemental. And I recall Flynn's charm and at the same time a youthful recklessness that I didn't completely understand then. Now, having discovered the dead brother, it makes a lot more sense.

Is this control? No. Power? I don't think so.

Usually I'm not even remotely in charge (though as you'll recall with Theo I do occasionally try to influence the way heroes behave). What it is is simply the determination to show up every day with my pen and paper or my computer turned on, and sit poised to listen and write what I hear.

Some days they don't talk, or I write without hearing, and they come along after and say, "No, no, no. That's not what I meant." And then we try again. And sometimes again.

It's fun sometimes and painful other times.

And occasionally (like yesterday) I can pretend I'm powerful and in control. But mostly what I am is there -- listening, focusing, trying to make the right choices to illuminate who these people are, to show them growing, changing, developing -- becoming through the story more the people they were meant to be.

Or is that bee?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Killing off characters

A few months ago an author friend and I spent a week trying to kill someone.

We wanted to write a mystery -- and for most mysteries, you need a dead body somewhere along the line. You don't even have to kill someone on the page. They just have to have kicked the bucket under mysterious circumstances sometime in the not so distant past or in the foreseeable future. Not a big deal.

Except for us.

We had a week. We couldn't do it.

We tried. No one would stay dead. Everyone we thought of doing in seemed to pop back to life the minute we left the dining room table to make cups of tea. Very disconcerting. We decided, on the basis of our week's inability to knock anyone off, that mysteries weren't us.

We moved on. Abandoned the idea. Developed a new one. I think we'll be fine with it. And thereafter I simply accepted this inability to snuff characters as just part of my make-up as a writer, like my inability to write description that doesn't bore me to tears.

Imagine my surprise, then, today when I blithely did away with Flynn's brother.

I loved that brother. I had great plans for him. He even had a book in his future. But now he's dead. No future. No book.

The upside is I finally have a book for Flynn and Sara -- a romance that does not get sidetracked into a family drama about the titled class of Ireland.

And aren't we glad about that? Oh, yes.

I'm wondering now if I should ring my friend and suggest we take another look at the mystery project.

The thing is, I didn't really kill the nameless brother. He got stung by a bee.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Different Perspective

There are a lot of authors who, when they are writing a book, absolutely will not read anything remotely along the lines of what they are writing. If they write romance, they won't read it. If they write sci-fi, they won't look at that.

They don't want to be influenced, they say. Or they are afraid that the book will no longer be their own. If they read in the field, their book won't have the purity of vision that they would have if they had foregone all contact with books of the same genre.

I'm the opposite. I read voraciously all the time. It doesn't matter to me whether what I'm reading is romance or not. I read because all the time I'm reading I'm thinking about my own book. I'm looking for a different perspective.

I'm trying to see the world from this other point of view -- and then see not just the world, but my fictional world through that same lens.

Maybe it's just that I've always had such bad eyesight that I'm forever looking for new ways to look at things, to see them better. But very often the lens of another book brings my own story into sharper focus.

Just before I began writing fiction I did a master's degree in theology. And because I had three pre-school kids at the time and combining my "worlds" was a matter of necessity, I decided to write my thesis on growth of spiritual understanding and development through the reading of children's literature.

I used, as a "lens" for that, a book by John S. Dunne called The Way of all The Earth. In it Dunne discusses what he calls "passing over" -- or moving from one's own view of the world to another's view. While Dunne deals with the process in terms of religion -- where a person who passes over by sympathetic understanding from his own religion to other religions then comes back with new insights to his own -- the experience of "passing over" and coming back works in literature as well.

It's a growth out of the egocentric world of the child to greater understanding of "other." Such excursions out of oneself not only broaden and enrich the experience of the "other world," but upon return, of own's own.

It's the same thing that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote about in one of his essays (I forget which now because it's been so long ago) that was published in his book Tree and Leaf. If I had it to hand (and I need to get a copy because I really loved that book. It's the only book of Tolkien's I really connected with.) I could quote it for you, but sadly, I don't. In it, though, he talks about reading being a way of stepping outside one's own world, of gaining entrance to another's mind, of seeing the world through other eyes, other windows. And his own world is, ever after, richer because of it.

I take both Dunne and Tolkien to heart whenever I write.

My tale is my view, yes. But as I write, I seek to understand my characters, my story. I write to learn what happens. I write to learn what matters. I write to learn who my characters are.

And reading other writers while I do so enriches my tale. I look at Theo and Martha or Spence and Sadie or Flynn and Sara through other lenses. I look at them as I read another book and envision how they would react to the dilemmas that other writers pose for their characters.

How would Theo react? I wonder. Would he do what this character does? Why? Why not? What makes him different?

And, often -- why didn't I think of that before?

Reading keeps me fresh. It provides me with challenges. It makes me think about my characters in ways I might not have thought about them before. I read historicals, I read contemporaries. I read chick lit and regencies. I read mysteries and westerns and, every now and then, a bit of "literary" fiction.

Whenever I do, I "pass over" into another world; I live in it for a time. And just like when I come back to my own life and see it a little differently, so do I see my book, my characters. And they -- and I -- are richer for it.

# # #

I meant to tell you yesterday what Leena Hyat said in her review of Theo and Martha's book, The Santorini Bride. But I got distracted by turning off the music and trying to put together the things my webmistress needs for the redesign of the website.

So, here it is today from my Totebag which you might want to check out on a regular basis, as Leena tracks down interesting books and authors and always has something useful and insightful to say about them.

"Incredibly sexy and more engrossing with every chapter, Anne McAllister's newest novel is a very entertaining and delightful treat for all readers of Harlequin Presents. The story is peppered with intriguing characters who charm and delight with ease and I almost felt guilty about enjoying it so much. Notice, I said 'almost'! A compelling and fast-paced read, THE SANTORINI BRIDE proves McAllister's worth as a gifted storyteller and prolific writer. . . A wonderful story!

Thank you, Leena. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Monday, January 22, 2007

You Only Have To Ask . . .

The music is gone!

On my website, that is. Actually my webmistress just flipped the switch or did something equally helpful. So now you can have the music if you want it, but you don't get it unless you specifically go looking for it.

So check it out. Spend all the time you want -- in silence. Or with whatever you want playing in the background. We aim to please.

She and I had a good conversation today about how to make things work. She actually treated my mock-up kindly. She did not burst out laughing. Or if she did, she got over it and managed to sound straight-faced when we got together on the phone. But she said it was not going to be as simple as I had hoped.

She said, "It's a whole new look." I said, "Well, yes . . ." She said, "Then we can't just change colors and tinker and be done with it." And I said, "I suppose not. . . " And she said, "So, what do you want to do?" And I took a deep breath and said, "Let's go for it."

So we are. But it's going to take longer than Valentine's Day now. Easter, maybe? I don't know. I'll hope for St Patrick's day. That would be a good Irish time to aim for.

Anyway, I will keep you posted. But I'm excited about it. I think it will be a nice change.

If you have any more suggestions, please send them along. It's not too late. And with luck, this will be a design that we can add onto easily and not have to go back to the drawing board if something new turns up.

Also, a month ago I won a book on Ebay about Irish castles. It got lost in the Christmas mail and then got sent back to the seller. Today it finally arrived. It's HUGE. There are so many glorious pictures that I'm enthralled. I can definitely get great ideas from this for Flynn's castle -- though many of these don't look drafty at all.

I wish I could find a book that would give me as clear a picture of what's going through his head. Damn, this man is complex! Charming one minute. Hard-edged and impatient the next. And very definitely "lord of the manor" through and through. He does want what he wants -- but it goes against what he believes he must do. He doesn't just have to battle Sara. He has to battle himself. Why can't he be straightforward and get get on with it?

I can hear Kate's answer even as I ask: Because he's a McAllister hero, that's why.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Answers . . . and Moving On

I spent the day trying to determine what I want on my new website -- and checking out other peoples' opinions, too. I really appreciated the comments from those who put them on the blog or who sent me emails.

Here's the list:
1) No music! (Glad we agree!)

2) A clear way to indicate which books are connected to which.

3) Maybe a map to make things more visual and clearer.

4) Easy to navigate interface

5) Clean, crisp, clear, friendly, inviting

Right. So I've been looking at lots of other site (Kate's new look is very appealing, but I can't steal Kate's!) There are others I've seen that I like parts of, too. Now I'm trying to figure out what it is that they have in common so I can spell it out.

I've made some notes. I even made a mini-mockup of what I meant (which proves how good it is that I write because I certainly can't do anything else artistic!)

I sent it all to my very talented webmistress today -- and tomorrow, I hope, we talk.

The plan right now is that this will all go "live" around Valentine's Day (when I'm out of the country, though I didn't exactly plan it that way!).

In the meantime, after I finished the web prowl, I made lots more notes on Sara and Flynn and related characters, trying to understand who lives in their world. Demetrios does, I know that. He's been very protective of Sara -- and of Liam. Theo would be proud.

And today I think I discovered something about one of the secondary characters -- the blonde in my collage.

If it's true, what I just discovered, it's going to create an interesting dilemma for Flynn and Sara. He won't have problems with it, but I am sure she will. But is it true or did I just imagine it? I'll have to spend some time with the blonde -- Claire -- tomorrow and find out.

I'm feeling excited. Eager at last to plunge back into the manuscript. The story has had a chance to brew now. The pieces are coming together, making patterns. The castle is real. Flynn has an agenda. Sara has plans. I have a collage.

Sparks are about to fly.

Nine more days for the Brides' Contest.

Nineteen more for the Grooms'.

If you haven't entered, answer the questions you can find at each of the above links, then send them along to me and to Kate and to Liz on our websites. Because we're all three doing it, you get three chances to win copies of lots of great books!

Speaking of which, the lovely Leena Hyat at My Tote Bag has written a wonderful review of The Santorini Bride which I'll post tomorrow. If you want a sneak peek, go there now and take a look.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Questions . . . Answers?

Okay, your turn.

I'm the one who writes every day (or nearly) and some people actually respond (thank you very much. You know who you are!) But today I'd like to ask a few more of you to help me out.

Before Christmas I said that I was hoping to get my website revamped by mid-February. I'm still hoping.

My webmistress and I have been batting around ideas, trying to come up with something that will do justice to the variety of things I write or have written. The current look is a little more "western" than most of my books have been in the past three or four years. But we developed it when I was still deep in the Code of the West books.

Of course now that I'm working on Flynn and Sara, I'm going back to characters from those books. But I've also been all over the map recently in other books -- the Caribbean, Montana, New York City, Santorini, Los Angeles, Fiji . . . And in a couple of weeks I'm off to Ireland.

So the website needs to reflect that breadth.

It also has to be a place where people can come and check out current titles and backlist. I want to make it helpful for people who discover my books for the first time and say, "What else has she written?" and "Am I interested in reading it?"

Those things are there now, but are they easy enough to get at? What else ought to be there?

If you've checked out my website anytime in the past, could you tell me what you think? If you haven't, and you'd like some input, could you check it out now and make comments?

I'd like to know what people who go there are hoping to find and how to make it easy for them to find it.

So tell me, do you get lost when you go there? Do you get too much information? Too little? What's missing? What would you like to see there that isn't there now? Would you arrange it differently? How?

If you particularly like any other writers' websites and visit them regularly, could you please let me know which sites and what you like about them?

The website is intended to be different from the blog. It's more static. It provides background. The blog -- crazy as it can be -- I want to continue to use for up-to-the-minute communication and connection with readers. It's here so we can connect in a more timely fashion.

But if you were redesigning my website, what would you do?

I'm tinkering with ideas while Theo and Martha have been busy re-connecting. I've spent the day prowling websites, noting down likes and dislikes, then trying to come up with a feel for what I want -- trying to describe "in three words or less" what it is that I do so my webmistress can come up with a concept that will reflect it.

Yikes. I am so not verbal when it comes to that stuff. I get totally tongue-tied.

I finally just managed today to come up with the single-sentence "what if" that is my focus for Flynn and Sara. In the end, of course, it was simple: What if you had a second chance with the person you'd once loved?

See? Simple. And pretty much universal.

And, to be honest, I stole it from Conversations With Other Women.

I bought a DVD of that film last week. It was directed by Hans Canosa, and starred Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart, and it has dialogue and story and backstory and characters! All the things I love. It's really more like a two-person play than a film, though it couldn't be done as a play with quite the same effectiveness. Definitely worth watching.

I have -- so far -- watched it three times. And not only to watch Aaron Eckhart -- though I must admit to a certain, um, tendency to watch his half of the split screen more than I do Helena's.

But I digress.

The website. Right.

The thing is, I'm not analytical. I just write and let the stories develop on their own without conscious effort on my part. They do, through a slow process of accretion and some judicious head-banging on the wall on my part. And then, once I've got them, I go back and make sense out of them.

Unfortunately I can't help my webmistress put together a website the same way. She doesn't need a "rough draft." She needs words, concepts, ideas -- mental lumber, if you will.

And since this is not my forte, I'm hoping you might have ideas to share that will make it better and more useful.

Help. Please.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Strong, spirited, sexy . . . and sweet?

Theo and Martha are still out walking.

Or actually, they've been out. Martha went to find Theo and Ted as soon as she got here last night. And you should have seen them when they got back. You should have seen the grin on Theo's face. It was beautiful.

And then, this morning, they left again -- just the two of them.

Ted stayed here with me. The snow was too deep, they said. And that's true. But frankly, they had eyes only for each other. And it looked to me as if they definitely needed more time in each other's company -- one on one. There's a light -- and a joy -- in Theo's eyes this morning. All is right with his world again.

So Ted and I are here by the fire and the lovebirds have gone out again.

It's amazing really -- how Martha coming back just settled Theo right down. He didn't even bother to turn on the computer. He said, "You'll keep an eye on the contest entries, won't you?" And of course I will.

Theo just needs time with Martha. He's missed her. When they aren't out walking, they're in here cuddling by the fire, and Theo is making sure she's comfortable and, basically, doting on her. It's lovely to watch -- quite another side of our Theo. Not quite the man who was, a couple of days ago, about to give his brother away! A kinder, gentler Theo.

He and Martha are very cute together. But don't, for heaven's sake, tell Theo I said that. Theo does not do cute.

I'm a little worried about telling him about a couple of reviews the book has had, too, even though they're great reviews.

Stephanie Schneider at Romantic Times said, "Martha Antonides and Theo Savas have traveled separately to the Greek isle of Santorini to be alone. When fate throws them together in the same house, it isn't long before passion blooms, but each is holding onto an important secret that, if left unspoken, will keep them apart. The Santorini Bride (4), by Anne McAllister, is a sweet love story with some very endearing moments. Martha and Theo are likable and well developed, and their encounters have both heat and humor that engage from the first page."

Theo is going to be delighted at the "heat and humor" part -- especially the heat. But I think he might freak when he sees the word sweet. Knowing him, I'd have to say that Theo does not perceive himself as "sweet." He might let Martha call him "sweet" -- but that's about it.

But there must be something to it because Marilyn Shoemaker used exactly the same word in her comments on Marilyn's Romance Reviews!

She wrote: "Anne McAllister has penned a wonderful story, the second in a Greek Family series . . . It's a passionate and a very sweet journey in finding love by two strong and spirited people, Theo and Martha.

In April 2006 Anne's book The Antonides Marriage Deal debuted and the reader is introduced to the Antonides and Savas family. The head of the Antonides family has not only wagered his Santorini family home in Greece but also a share of his ship building business.

In The Santorini Bride, you are introduced to Martha Antonides who is running away from her cheating boyfriend to Greece to heal her wounds. Then throw into the mix, sexy Theo Savas who is hiding out at his newly family acquired Greek retreat to hide from women and the press as he was named the world's sexist sailor. Want sparks, well you'll get them and then some!"

I'll make sure to highlight the other adjectives for him -- like strong and spirited and sexy. But I think, if he thinks about it, he'll be flattered they also think he's sweet.

If you're all those things, Theo, it's okay to be sweet, too. It makes you well-rounded. It makes you the man that Martha fell in love with -- a man who cared so deeply that he came halfway round the world to find her, a man who, though he knew all about rejection, still faced it head on for love, who found the strength to risk everything when it mattered.

Thank you, Stephanie and Marilyn, for seeing The Santorini Bride in all its many facets and for recognizing that strength, humor, passion and tenderness are all part of the very real love that Theo and Martha share.