Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Enough about sheep

Abby has vanished screaming over the Mountains of Mourne or someplace green. And Eamon was last seen following her, bleating.

And I am back in Ireland -- at least on paper -- because the proofs of Flynn and Sara have arrived to be read over. I'm marking them in green pen. Fortunately, so far, I don't have a lot of marking done. That means that, so far, the proofs, seem to be in good shape. Cross your fingers. I'd cross mine, but it's hard to mark proofs that way.

As a special treat, though, because we are back in Ireland, though sans sheep at the moment, I am posting a picture of O'Mally and Friend.

O'Mally, as you may recall, has a significant part in the Irish section of Flynn and Sara's book. He is Liam's best friend. O'Mally's friend here is not Liam. Liam is much older -- and has more hair -- than O'Mally's friend.

In the book this friend is called Eamon, but since we have now got a sheep running amok on this blog who is named Eamon, we aren't going to claim that O'Mally's friend is Eamon too. (If we did, Abby might throw herself into the Irish Sea)

Anyway, O'Mally's mom -- who also happens to be his friend's mom which I suppose makes O'Mally's friend really O'Mally's brother -- sent me this picture last week and said I could share it on the blog, so I am.

Where was this pic was when I was making my collage is what I want to know! Anyway, enjoy. I am.

Parenthetically, I also enjoyed a fantastic concert in Mineral Point, Wisconsin tonight by the Holman-Climax Male Voice Choir from Cornwall.

Mineral Point was, in the mid 19th century for quite a few years, one of the destinations of choice of Cornish miners. Well, this whole area was, but Mineral Point has hung onto its identification with Cornwall more fervently than other places. And they are lucky enough to get concerts like this every now and then.

We went. It was amazing. I will go to bed humming Trelawny. Or, more likely, because it's a tune I remember my grandmother singing, Camborne Hill.

Thanks, Mineral Point for the opportunity. And many many thanks to the Holman-Climax Male Voice Choir. You guys were fantastic.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hundreds of books, thousands of books . . .

Millions and billions and trillions of books.

Oh, no, that was cats, wasn't it?

But it feels like that many books are suddenly turning up in piles around my house.

Remember the TBR pile that I was so pleased to be making a dent in? Well, I spoke too soon.

I have indeed made a dent in it -- but I've got scads more books now piled onto it than I had last week. I made the mistake of going to see a friend of mine who reads a lot of romance novels. She isn't a writer so, presumably, she has time to read. And she heaped a bunch of them into my arms before I left, saying, "You have to read this . . . and this . . . and this."

So now I have all the J R Ward vampire books to read which, even though I'm not especially interested in vampires (or at all), she says are soooo good and the characterization is sooo good and the dynamic between the characters is sooo good that I'm reading them regardless.

And I have a Naked Earl on my TBR pile -- and copies of his friends, The Naked Duke and The Naked Marquis on order. Sally MacKenzie is a fun writer and I'm loving her books.

And then I have a very tall teetering stack of Jo Beverley books to read. I used to read every book of Jo's as soon as it came out. But then I got distracted by life and contemporaries and I didn't read any for a while -- and believe me, she's kept right on writing while I've been busy. So now I have probably a dozen to read.

And there are Kate Hardy's "posh docs" still waiting. And Barbara Hannay's book. But I did finish Betina Krahn's three -- and really am glad I spent the time with hers. And I read Vito -- Kate Walker's 50th. Vintage Kate!

But this is all going to have to slow down -- if not stop -- August 1st. Because August 1st I get to grips with Seb and Neely in earnest.

Still, I'm having fun right now!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

My Newest Correspondent

I know there are people who think that my getting letters from a cat -- even such an erudite cat as Sir Sidney St John Willoughby Portly-Lummox, ACOSB, DLitt Oxon, Earl of Blubberhouses, etc etc etc -- is a little strange.

But, of course, if you know Sid, you understand. He can't not write letters. He is consumed by a need to communicate. And, let's face it, how many people take the time to reply to letters from A Cat? Even That Cat.

They don't know what they are missing. He writes better than many people I know. And he apparently leads by example if today's mail is anything to go by.

Someone has noticed.

And now I have received a postcard from a sheep.

Not just any sheep either. This is a sheep called Eamon. An Irish (naturally) sheep called Eamon. A lonely Irish sheep called Eamon. A sheep who can apparently pose for postcards, buy them, write missives, put on stamps and mail them.

He didn't say much. He's clearly a Strong Silent Sheep. But he did mention being lonely. I'm sure he's looking for a nice young Irish lass.

I know just the gal.

She writes for Harlequin Mills & Boon. And Abby Green has a soft spot for Irish fauna (if you can deal with Irish actors, how could you not deal with Irish fauna?).

Abby is always on the lookout for a handsome hero, especially a literate one -- which of course Eamon the sheep is because, well, he did send me a postcard, didn't he?

Not only that, he comes with his own built in cardigan. No need to knit him one.

I'm sure he's exactly what you're looking for, Abby. And I have no doubt the feeling is mutual.

My Eamon has a slightly different look --and no cardigan.

Friday, July 27, 2007

And the winner is . . . Me!

I won!

There have been daily contests over on Kate Walker's blog in celebration of her 50th book (though the length of time this celebration has been going on makes you think Kate will have written her 100th by the time we all get done dancing in the streets -- or swimming in the case of UK writers). And earlier this week, I won one!

This is particularly cool because the contest I won had as its prize, Mr Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange. Amanda, who has written a number of straight regencies, has also created a sort of sub-genre with her diaries written from the point of view of literary heroes. She has written Mr Darcy's Diary, and Mr Knightley's Diary, and Captain Wentworth's Diary. And she has Edmund Bertram's diary in the works -- or maybe even finished.

What a great idea!

And what a treat to get to get inside each hero's head. I can hardly wait for Mr Darcy to swim across the pond -- or fly across in this case -- so I can read his innermost thoughts.

The other cool thing about this is that I won by telling who my favorite hero was. Literary hero. Get your mind out of the towel!

And I had to do a lot of long hard thinking about this as you might imagine. It's not easy to narrow down a lifetime's worth of work and come up with one. Well, in fact, I couldn't.

I came up with three. (Besides Mr Darcy and Captain Wentworth who seemed to have cornered the market).

Mine were Luke Turner from Lisa Gregory's The Rainbow Season, and two of Georgette Heyer's wonderful sardonic gentlemen, the Marquis of Alverstoke from Frederica and Max Ravenscar from Faro's Daughter.

It was Max that won the contest for me. Amanda loves him, too.

So thank you, Max.

I suggested she write your diary, too. But she reminded me that you are not out of copyright. Sigh. I can only wish.

In the meantime, I've put the TBR pile on hold while I go back and re-read your wonderful book!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The TBR Pile

One really nice thing about being "between books" (sort of) is that the To-Be-Read pile both shrinks and grows.

While it might be nice to see it getting smaller, there are always good books coming along that make it taller. And at least I get to actively do something about it. I contribute books to it -- and I even read a few and am enriched by enjoying other writers' creativity.

As Betina Krahn won the RITA this year in the Short Historical category for The Book of True Desires -- and since Betina has never written a book I didn't enjoy -- I decided to start with that one. It was delightful. It was a Victorian romp -- a combination of a sort of Amelia Peabody tackles Mexico story accompanied by a butler who might moonlight as Indiana Jones (except he was something of a botanist-chemist as well).

Give characters like that to Betina and prepare to be enchanted. I was prepared. And I was enchanted. Loved every bit of it.

And that led me to digging back into two of Betina's older books that have been on my TBR pile for a while -- The Husband Test and The Wife Test.

Having gone to school with my share of nuns, I was already smiling before Sister Eloise of The Husband Test got on the page. But when she and Peril tangled, I didn't want it to stop. Wonderful story, Betina. Sorry I let it languish on the TBR pile for so long! Now I have The Wife Test to spend the next few days with. Really looking forward to it.

Also recently finished Julia Quinn's new book, The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, which I enjoyed very much. Missed all those Bridgertons, though.

And I have Barbara Hannay's RITA book, Claiming His Family, to read, followed by all three of Kate Hardy's "Posh Docs" mini-series. They arrived -- straight from Kate -- in the post today, and it was all I could do to resist (well, I peeked at Charlie and I'm hooked. I'm just refusing to let myself read anymore until I finish Betina's books and Barbara's.

What books have you read recently that you would recommend? I'd love some recommendations. Might not get to them right away, but I'm sure to get there eventually.

When I'm not reading -- or cleaning my house, which needs it after The Invasion -- I'm working on Seb's synopsis. Have been listening to some of the music.

Found some good resource people. Making up questions I need the answers to.

Filling my box.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hunkthighs and Shoulderman Live!

Have you seen Kate Walker's blog today?

Hunkthighs and Shoulderman, Anne Gracie's wonderful "romantic?" heroes have made an appearance in honor of her 50th book.

She is rightly chuffed at their arrival, as well she should be. They were the darlings of the M&B authors' loop -- our mascots actually, while Anne was with us there. And since she is no longer there, I must say I've missed them.

They have occasionally written me emails. Did you think my only correspondent was A Cat? Think again. They even sent me a copy of their book. You didn't know they had a book? They do. Wonderful book. Wonderful "heroes."

Speaking of romantic heroes, I'm about 3/4 of the way through a very long synopsis of Seb and Neely's book. By the time I get it finished they will probably have 10,000 words that I'll never use again. But I hope it will make them come alive for me when I most need them to -- in the book!

I've never found it easy to write a synopsis, but if I think of it as discovering the emotional throughline of the story it comes more readily. I am less stumped by the "what" that is going to happen than by "how they are going to feel" about it and each other at any given time. That seems to work.

I remember writing the synopsis for The Eight Second Wedding and sending it to Barbara Bretton who said basically, "I get it now. They meet. He gets hit in the head. They go down the road together. He gets hit in the head. They live happily ever after."

And I said, "Um, yeah. That's about it."

What happened in the middle of the book was a mystery to me until I actually wrote it. I discovered last night a bit more of what is going to happen in the way of "events" in Seb and Neely's book. That might make it easier to write than Flynn and Sara's was.

I do think I've avoided the four month walk from the apartment to the cafe on the corner, which plagued me with them. For one thing, I moved the cafe -- and the city in question. And these aren't the same people. Good thing, too.

What are some good San Francisco tunes? Besides I Left My Heart In San Francisco, I mean. Since neither of them is leaving SF, the song doesn't apply.

I think I might need a bit of musical inspiration -- and I'm woefully lacking in song knowledge. I need something funky for Neely -- maybe a little "folksy" or a little "Grateful Dead"ish. Oddly I think Seb may prefer heavy metal. It drowns out the interference in his life.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sebastian and Neely's Box

I sent a pic of Sebastian and Neely's box to Anne Gracie, and she wrote back and said, "A 3-D collage!"

Well, yes. But even better, I can put stuff in it rather than have to worry about how I'm going to store it eventually.

And as I add more stuff to it, I'll be able to keep it all in one place, she said hopefully. Can you tell I am organizationally challenged?

I thought so.

But I like the box. And, who knows, I may even paper over some of the bits that are inconsequential later but seem to set the scene now.

I did that already with a pic of Alcatraz. I started with to remind me of SF and the bay. But as I got more stuff about the book, it vanished beneath Harmon the bloodhound. If you look close you can see a bit of it peeking out from behind his left ear.

I'm not sure about my Lombard Street road sign squiggle yet, either. That might vanish, too. It is a place holder right now.

But I found Neely. I'm so pleased with her -- though I only have the one picture of her. But then I only ever had one pic of Theo and it sufficed. I think I may have two of Sebastian. Don't know yet.

The rest of the gang is assembling -- the kittens, the rabbit, the guinea pig. His name is Howard. The rabbit is Grace. I don't know about the kittens' names yet.

I just managed to give Sadie the kitten a name in 'real life' for Mads (no, not that Mads!) but do you think I can name five of these guys? Not a chance.

Maybe we should have contest -- A "Here Come the Kittens" contest! What do you think?

Perhaps I could talk Theo into coming back to run it for me. I need to think of a prize -- or Theo does.

And you all need to start thinking of names for kittens.

Watch this space!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Onward the Box

Remember Twyla Tharp's book The Creative Habit?

If you were reading my blog a few months back, you must have got tired of me talking about it. But she really had some terrific things to say -- and some suggestions that make a lot of sense.

One of the things she said was that before you can write "out of the box" you have to have a box. And I posted pictures of several boxes, some more intriguing than others, but all basically generic boxes.

But now that I am back working on Sebastian's book, I decided to make him and Neely (that's his heroine) their very own box. In this box I intend to put pictures, music, bits and pieces, flotsam and jetsam that will, I hope, bring the two of them and their story to life for me (and help me write outside the box as well as in it).

I spent a good chunk of today working on Seb and Neely's box. I'm not done with it yet. But it's taking the place of the collage I did for Flynn and Sara. I always knew I would have trouble storing a collage, so I was loathe to do another one.

But a box -- well, a box stores itself and the stuff I put in it. So I'm working on the box. Should put up a pic tomorrow if the light is better than it was tonight.

On another note, a few months ago when Michelle Styles was casting about for a hero -- and she and I have something of the same taste in some heroes -- I suggested Mads Mikkelsen as a possibility. I liked Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, but I must say that Mads was the one who really caught my eye. He managed to look terribly sinister, but there always seemed to be this 'other side' that they didn't tap into in that film (of course not -- he was the villain!).

But I went in search of Mads -- and found several films in which he isn't sinister at all. The most recent is a wonderful Danish film called After The Wedding. It was nominated for an Academy Award as best foreign language film. I don't know what film won, but it must have been spectacular to beat After The Wedding.

All the actors are terrific. It's powerful and emotional, and from the blurb I thought, "This is another secret baby story." And well, yes, it was. But it was so much more than that, too. It was an excellent example of a good writer taking a time-worn notion and turning it into something that holds viewers riveted for two hours.

And Mads?

What can I say except it's too bad that Sebastian already has a doppelganger. But I'm keeping Mads on the short list for heroes coming up.

And Michelle, go get a copy of After The Wedding, even if you've finished writing your book. You'll get inspiration all over again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spence and Sadie's Book

Those of you who have been jogging along with me on this blog for a while may remember when Spence and Sadie had a lot of blog time.

They were the "flavor of the months" for more than a few months. Spence even blogged here a few times, as did Sadie. And they are planning to come back in August in anticipation of the publication of their book, The Boss's Wife For a Week, in September in the UK and in October in the US.

But in the meantime, I can show you the cover.

To be honest, I can't see any relationship between the scene on this cover and the book I sent them.

This is one of those "win a few, lose a few" covers in which I rather feel as if I lost. Or Spence and Sadie lost.

Granted, there is a bit of the book that takes place in New York City. But Spence and Sadie are at loggerheads during that time. They never spend any of their time in NYC on a couch, believe me.

And they were never in midtown except when Spence took Sadie to her room at the Plaza Hotel (he didn't set foot in the door).

Where did the book take place?

Well, Fiji mostly. How hard is it to come up with a good cover of a tropical paradise?

I suppose my editor thought that she'd used up all my 'palm tree good will' on the McGillivrays who suffered from a surfeit of palm trees. But the Chrysler Building instead?

They didn't deserve the Chrysler Building. They deserved a bure and a canopied bed and a tropical waterfall. They might even have deserved Dominic and Sierra's cover from The Inconvenient Bride (which took place in New York)! Come to think of it, maybe they could just switch the covers).

Am I disappointed? Yes.

It is, if possible, worse in the Presents version because the cover painting, as you may notice, is largely WHITE. And so is the Presents cover. So is my name on the cover (well, it's GRAY -- which makes it fade, too). Is invisibility what they were aiming for?

I just hope people don't only decide to pick up a book based on its cover. If they do, they'll be disappointed. And if they were looking for a book set in a wonderful tropical setting, they'll look right past the Chrysler Building. Sigh.

I just hope some people remember Spence from The Santorini Bride and want to know what his story is all about, why he needs a wife for a week, and the shock Sadie has in store for him!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happy 25th book -- Kate Hardy

Many of you know that we've been celebrating Kate Walker's 50th book which came out last month. And I've sent that Kate my blog piece so it should be turning up some time in the next week or two.

But today we are celebrating another Kate's milestone. Kate Hardy aka "Scary Kate" is celebrating the publication of her 25th Mills & Boon title this month.

That's 25 books in FIVE years! You see why we call her "Scary Kate." And that isn't the whole of it, either.

She also writes non-fiction books -- books of local history and house history under the name Pamela Brooks. They are excellent guides to how one can track down the history of one's house or one's village or some other aspect of British regional history. The principles in these books actually go beyond the UK and can be applied to all sorts of research all over the world. They are the first books of Kate's that I read.

Then I began reading her fiction and discovered this woman has TALENT. She can get right to the heart of a character without so much as a by-your-leave. She has an instinct for people which amazes me. Since I sometimes feel as if I take five years to write ONE BOOK, I'm in awe of Kate's speed, but more than that I'm impressed by her ability to read people, to bring her characters to life so speedily. What I wouldn't give for such an ability to zero right on them.

I met Kate somewhere sometime (I think it was last year at the Association of Mills & Boon Authors luncheon) but it seemed like I already knew her because I'd read so much she'd written. She's not at all scary in person -- she's simply delightful. And inspiring.

And so when she asked me to write a blog piece for her 25th, I was delighted to do so. She's putting it up in the morning she tells me (which should be a couple of hours from now her time). So please go check it out. And check out her amazing back list of titles while you're there. Read a few. Read all of them. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Adios, Mom Camp

Well, Mom Camp is over.


It was a blast. We are intending to do it again next year -- longer. And if we're feeling very daring -- with T-shirts. Though probably not. We do like flying beneath the radar.

Kid camp is over, too. Also sadly. They both had a terrific time. Let me rave briefly about Loras College's summer All-Sports Camp in Dubuque, Iowa. It began 25 years ago, the brain child of Dr Robert Tucker and his wife Judy who thought it was important to provide a place for student athletes to learn not just about how to be better in the sports they wanted to play, but also how to be better sports, period.

The camp stresses values such as perseverance, loyalty, discipline, attitude, and enthusiasm even more than it stresses how to bat, hit, climb, run, ride, skate, fish, shot, dribble, pass and all those other sporty things. My oldest son went to camp here the first year it opened (then he got too old). But his son went this year. It's the third year one of his boys has attended. The glowkid (his sister's daughter) went this year as well. We think highly of it or we wouldn't be sending them there year after year.

It is more about life than sports -- and more about all kinds of sports from football to rock climbing to dragon boat racing to bowling to horseback riding to golf t0 inline skating to baseball to fishing than about only those few promoted by the national media. There is pretty much something for everyone. It's about getting out and moving, about doing, about following through, being a good teammate.

Kind of like Mom Camp. The kids are saying they can hardly wait for next year.

They aren't the only ones!

ps: Some of my friends and acquaintances won RITAs Saturday night. Congratulations to Barbara Hannay who won in the traditional romance category, to Lori Handeland who wrote the winning long contemporary romance and to Betina Krahn who won for Short Historical Romance. I'm sure the others were all great, too, but I know these three ladies and they are terrific writers and fantastic people. Check out their books!

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Hecks are blogging!

You may (0r may not) remember the Hecks.

They are the hedgehog family living at the bottom of Kate Walker's garden. Among her 50 blogs in celebration of her 50th book is their contribution which is up today.

As they dictated to Sir Sidney and Sid dictated to me and I sent it to Kate, I feel a certain proprietary interest in their blog.

Should you wish to read it and about them, please jump to Kate's blog to read. Leave a comment and you could win a book of Kate's and one of mine (whichever she has in her office, which I have no idea about).

I am off to sports camp to watch the Olympics! You Brits and colonials (and more recent ex-colonials than we in the US) will be interested to know that the granddaughter and grandson are playing cricket in the Olympics. They were interested to know this inasmuch as they have never held a cricket bat before and have no idea what they are doing.

I think I'll take my camera!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Post Office and I -- or why I have learned to love UPS

I went to the post office today to mail two boxes. I came home with one of them.

Because the USPS now has employees whose tool of choice appears to be the tape measure. As if the lines aren't long enough and the postage already high enough, now they measure all the boxes. And if the boxes are "too big" they charge more for them.

Since when?

Since apparently they decided that machines rule everything, and that "machines are never wrong, ma'am." And if your box does not go through a machine (as defined by the USPS) then you get to pay them more. They did this before with those little square envelopes we had to pay more for because they couldn't go through machines.

I am assured by a friend who WORKS FOR THE POST OFFICE that the machines can now handle the little square envelopes. Have they rescinded the surcharge for square envelopes?


Anyway, I have a box here that was going to my granddaughter for her birthday. It was nicely packed. The box (said right on it) is 22"x18"x12". This is too much for the post office.

I feel sure it won't be too much for UPS.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Mom Camp

Well, the writers' camp idea has generated some interest.

But believe me when I tell you that "mom camp" is definitely a good thing.

The kids went off on Sunday and are happy as clams. Happier if possible. They are already making plans for next year. (That started on Sunday night). But for the mom of one of the campers and for her mom (that would be me) and for my cousin's daughter (she's 14 but we've drafted her as part of our contingent, giving her an early start), I think it's even better.

We've had so much fun.

We've talked and we've cooked and we've baked and we've walked dogs and we've gone for tea and tomorrow we're going over to visit Galena. We've made "adult food" for dinner which no one has turned their nose up at. And we've read books and gone shopping and laughed and laughed and laughed. Wonderfully refreshing. We want to do it again next year, too! In fact, if the campers are planning, so are we!

I had expected I would get some work done on Seb and be able to write in my blog -- and the truth is, I haven't had a moment. I'm barely even getting my email read. And right now I need to go to sleep because camp starts early tomorrow and I want to enjoy every minute!

I think we're going to write a book. If we can find the time. We'll see.

What's everyone else doing for fun?

I guess the RWA is starting this week, and the RNA finished on the Sunday just past. I will have to drop by some blogs and read what's going on. If I had time I would have a blog party like Lucy Monroe did last year for those of us who weren't at RWA. I think Lucy has more than enough to do this year. And believe me, I do. But if anyone would like to drop by and blog, would love to hear from you!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Summer camp

I'm thinking there should be summer camp for writers.

Maybe there is, but I'm not on the mailing list. And if there is, I probably wouldn't have time to go anyway. But two of my grandkids are coming this weekend to go to sports camp for a week, and I was thinking how much I'd like to be just playing with writing for a week alongside a bunch of like-minded people.

Okay, so I already played for a week alongside like-minded genealogists . . . and no one should be allowed to have toooo much fun. But I think it might be fun. I know there are conferences. But conferences are about networking and workshops and suchlike.

My granddaughter is taking horseback riding. And golf. Those sound like a lot more fun than networking and workshopping.

Don't you agree?

Maybe we should get a group together and do it next year. Or maybe we should have winter-camp. Like snowboarding. Anyway, I think we should have something just to put the fun back in writing.

Speaking of which, I have been reading a copy of The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, a novel by Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart and Eileen Dreyer. I'm not very far into it yet so I can't offer an opinion of the book. But I can tell you one thing, I'm fairly sure that Jenny, Eileen and Krissie had a fantastic time writing it. I would have. Spending time together writing it, batting ideas around, must have been like their version of summer camp.

Another version was one Anne Gracie and Trish Morey and Bronwyn Jameson and Marion Lennox and some other Aussie authors developed during a beach retreat a few months back. They spent a week together in a house on the beach talking writing, developing ideas, listening to each other, trying things out.

It sounded fantastic to me (and they got a lot of good stuff done, I hear). But while I'd love to go to Australia, it seems like a long way to go to camp from here.

Still, I'm tempted.

I'd love to take Sebastian and Neely and spend a week with them in the company of some other authors. I love working alone, but I also love batting around ideas with other authors, talking about people who don't exist. ( I wonder if this is why I also like genealogical research. These people existED, but they don't exist now. Still, they fascinate me. I'm always busy trying to figure out what motivated them).

Can you tell I don't have a book on the front burner?

I'm busy cleaning and changing the sheets and generally getting ready for the invasion. None of this occupies the brain. So I'm mulling over my own ideas for writers' summer camp.

What do you think?