Thursday, January 31, 2008

Here Come The Grooms!

Remember last year when Liz Fielding, Kate Walker and I had books out in February and they were all about brides?

We got together and had a Here Come the Brides! contest, run by our lovely heroines.

Only our heroes, Theo, Max and Dom were not to be outdone. Before we knew it they'd organized a "Here Come the Grooms!" contest and basically took over. Well, they're men. What do you expect?

This year we decided to harness all that energy right from the start. So this year while the brides plan their weddings, my Flynn, Kate's Raul and Liz's Tom are going to be putting on a "Here Come the Grooms" contest, part II.

Who are these guys?

Well over the next few days, we'll get to that. You can meet each of them here, one by one. Or you can -- and I hope you will -- drop by Liz's blog and Kate's blog or websites and meet Tom and Raul there.

In the meantime, you've all seen the cover for One-Night Love Child (or if you haven't, scroll down to the entry below). Now let me introduce you to Flynn.

When Sara (and I) met Flynn Murray, she was nineteen, he was twenty-six and I was old enough to be writing my forty-ninth book. It was called The Great Montana Cowboy Auction, and the heroine was Polly McMaster, Sara's mother.

It was a single-title and there were a lot of characters -- most of them Polly's children, as I recall -- and the oldest was Sara.

Sara was a wonderful foil for Polly. Polly multi-tasked in her sleep. She had to. She was a widow with children, dogs, cats, a widowed mother, and an inability to say no to good ideas. Sara was organized, straightforward, focused, idealistic. She was going to go to medical school and save, if not the world, at least her little corner of it. She had Plans, Ambitions, Goals.

And then she met Flynn.

The first time they met she knocked him off his feet. Literally. And he returned the favor, figuratively and literally both.

Glib, charming, Irish to his toes, Flynn Murray was a journalist covering a story. He was a here-today, gone-tomorrow sort of guy. In fact he stuck around three days. Something of a record for a guy like Flynn.

And he was as enchanted with Sara as she was with him. Something between them just clicked.

But it was the wrong time. The wrong place. And he was the wrong man.

Flynn knew that, even if Sara didn't.

He wasn't a settling down sort of guy. He had places to go, things to do. And he was honorable enough to have left her untouched. Or he would have been if she hadn't showed up at his hotel room that last night and, in her honest Sara way, challenged him about what had been happening between them.

A man only had so much self control.

And that night Flynn reached the end of his. It was wrong, and he knew it. She'd hate him, he knew that, too. But how was he supposed to resist the woman who wrapped her arms around him and told him she wouldn't hate him at all?

Well, he didn't.

But he did leave. He had nothing to give her. And besides, Sara had goals and dreams of her own. He wasn't a part of them. He had no right to upset them.

But faced with Sara's idealism, he found the determination to find goals and dreams of his own.
And when he left he didn't look back. He spent the next five years covering stories from hot-spots all over the globe.

Fast forward six years and, just like John Lennon promised, life happened to both Flynn and Sara while they were making other plans.

Flynn, raised as the spare, suddenly became the heir and just a few months ago, the ninth Earl of Dunmorey.

And Sara -- well, Sara was almost as good a multi-tasker as her mother as she raised her five year old son.

Their paths might never have crossed again -- if a letter Sara letter wrote years ago hadn't finally caught up with him, and Flynn hadn't discovered he had a son.

# # #

To enter the Here Come the Grooms! contest, you will need to answer three questions, one each from Flynn, Raul and Tom. Then go to each of our website contest pages (here's mine) and send us the answers. Or you can send an email to me through the 'contact Anne' tab on the sidebar of my webpage if you have trouble making the send entry gizmo work.

There will be three drawings on March 1st -- one by each hero -- and the winners get copies of all three books!

Flynn's question is: What story did he come to Montana to cover when he met Sara in the first place?

You can find the answer on my blog or in the excerpt to One-Night Love Child on my website. You can get Tom's and Raul's questions on Liz's and Kate's blogs. Have fun!

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hero Appeal

The last week or so we've been talking about heroes -- which ones are memorable, what you look for in a hero, what the traits of a hero are.

Margaret McDonagh
, who writes for Mills & Boon medicals, pointed out a salient characteristic that seems to sell books even though we authors generally have no control over it -- the cover.

In particular, the hero on it.

If you read the comments the other day, Mags wrote to tell me how lucky I was to have a Nathan Kamp cover.

And because I am out of the loop these days with regard to the cover art (this wasn't always the case, as my editors can tell you), I said, "Who?" And then I said, "Did he paint it?"

Mags said he did not. She said he was the gorgeous guy masquerading as Flynn.

I think he did a pretty good job. He certainly can be Flynn any time he wants as far as I'm concerned. I didn't have him in mind for Flynn because I didn't know he existed, but I must admit he makes it a very pick-up-able cover and I owe the artist big-time for that one.

I used to send in pictures -- scrap, they call it in the art department. But the truth is that doing so actually get some of the heroes I wanted on my covers.

But recently, fixated by a certain man in a towel, I haven't seen the point. They'd never get him!

Still, like the people who buy books because of the cover (yes, I've done it, too!), I like to know what my hero looks like. I like to have a man in mind to envision in the scenes I'm writing.

And I very much appreciate it when the artist comes up with someone who looks remotely like I pictured him.

For a while there I got the same man on lots of my covers. Nineteen of them, I think, at last count. Maybe twenty-three counting reprints. I don't recall right now.

I didn't complain. In fact, as often as possible, I asked for him. He was, to my mind, in almost every case, the perfect "McAllister hero."

And when he wasn't, I had another hero in reserve who fit the bill for all the rest. Between the two of them, I could cast almost every book -- providing myself with a tycoon or a cowboy or a ballplayer or a fireman or a photographer or a woodworker or almost anything I could think of.

It made life simple. It made me like the looks of my heroes. And it saved oodles of time doing the art sheets.

And whenever I got either of those guys, I was pleased. Sometimes more pleased than others, I admit, but only because some artists' renderings appealed more than others. Some were better artists, some caught more clearly the essence of the story.

I loved my first Dream Chasers cover. One of the later ones I quite liked, too. I was fond of MacKenzie's Baby and Call Up The Wind and Finn's Twins! They all caught both the hero and the feel of the book.

But sometimes, they don't even have to do that. The last really terrific cover I had -- before Flynn -- was The Inconvenient Bride.

Once I got over the Alp in the Bahamas and the fact that the book mostly took place in New York City, I embraced it as my own. Who cared that in the book the heroine had purple hair and the hero was a straight-arrow tycoon (well, mostly), it is my very own From Here To Eternity cover, it has great people on it, and even though the story mostly takes place in New York City, I'm delighted by it.

It feels right. And that's Dominic. Period.

I care that the people are right on the covers, that they fit the book even if the setting doesn't always get there. I like the mood to work and reflect the tone of the story. The Inconvenient Bride reflected the emotion between Dominic and Sierra.

And I think One-Night Love Child's artist caught the emotion between the hero and heroine. Mostly I think he caught the hero. I can look at it and say, "Yep, that's Flynn."

What about you -- readers and writers? Do you pick up books by the cover? Do you care? Do you put books down if you hate the cover?

Does the portrayal of the hero matter?

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

He did it!

No question about it.

Seb's my hero.

I don't know how he's going to deal with Neely. Frankly, I don't care.

All I know is, after standing there last night watching me flail about and bang my head against my computer in frustration, he said, "Let me" -- in just the right tone of voice.

No condescension. No "I can do it better than you, stupid woman." No "move over and let the expert at it."

Just a quiet, "Let me." With even a hint of question in his voice.

Who knew he had it in him to be tactful?

So I let him. I'm a sucker for polite.

He didn't know how to do it either. Not at first. And he did a bit of cursing under his breath and muttering about software design and more especially about the folks who write manuals without telling you anything you want to know. But he persevered.

I got on with writing my book review for another project, and periodically I checked with him. Once, early on, he kind of smiled wryly and said, "Why isn't Flynn Murray doing this? It's his book."

Which it is -- I needed to put up the cover for One-Night Love Child on my website, which is what started all of this.

But before I could reply, he said, "Never mind. We're almost there."

And, amazingly enough, we were.

Or he was. Anyway, he did it!

He got the colors matched and the layers fiddled with and a little consultation between him and my webmistress, and voila, we have a cover -- on the website, properly tilted, with the right color background. And a preliminary contest page, too. He got them both up -- despite the error messages and "you can't do that" flashing signs.

My hero. Mr Competence.

Kate Walker would tell you that's one of the hallmarks of an Anne McAllister hero. He gets the job done. He is -- whatever else he might not be -- competent.

I owe Seb a story for that.

He just lifted one of those very expressive brows and said, "Oh, yeah? I do you a good deed and you think that gives you license to make me suffer?"

Obviously he had been listening to our discussion about what makes a hero great.

"Not suffer," I said. "Well not much. Only so you'll grow. Change. Become more than you already are."

"More?" he said. The brow hiked a little higher. Then that gorgeous knee-wobbling grin flashed at me. "As in . . . even bigger?"


Of course, I ignored him. "Scram!"

He was still laughing when he went out of the room.

But now that he's gone, I can tell you that I do admire competence in a hero. And honor -- and a sense of humor.

Yes, I think Seb will make it as a hero, after all.

In the meantime, let me know what you think about a hero with a sense of humor. Does it work for you? Or not?

Is passion serious stuff? Too serious to laugh? Why? Why not?

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

He's Got to Be Tech-Savvy

I don't care what else my hero can do at the moment. But since I've spent the day battling with trying to access my website and make some changes and put up a new book cover -- none of which I've been able to accomplish -- the real hero in my life at the moment has got to know how to deal with this stuff!

I am usually pretty patient with tech stuff. But I am currently losing my mind . And having Seb looking at me like, "Well, I do CAD stuff, I'm not expected to be able to play games with your website as well," is frustrating.

Especially when he says, "Now, if you'd like me to design you a nice clean office building . . . "


I don't need an office building. I need an update on my webpage!



Friday, January 25, 2008

The Hero's Journey

Back on Wednesday we had a lot of comments from some great writers and avid readers about what makes a hero.

You are very welcome to go read them, because they articulate better than I can sum up the gist of what makes a great hero (in our estimation).

Seb took notes.

Then he came into my office and stood there staring down at me after they were gone. The silence went on for ages. I figured it was up to him to break it.

Finally he said to me, "So . . ." thirty second pause at least " . . . you're saying you want me to change."

It wasn't a question. But he didn't look convinced, either. He was tapping the edge of his design sketch book against the palm of his hand. His jaw was tight.

"Well," I said slowly, trying not to be confrontational just yet, "I think you'll want to change by the end of the book."


He didn't mind being confrontational. I could see that.

"Because things aren't exactly the way you think they are."

"Says who?"

"Well, I do. And I have information you don't."

"And you're not going to tell me." That wasn't a question, either. He knows me pretty well.

"It wouldn't be fair if I did," I explained. "Having a hero is like having a teenager -- you can't tell them anything. They have to go through a learning process. Go on a journey if you will. Start out one place and end up somewhere else. And they have to figure things out for themselves."

"A teenager? You're saying I'm not grown up."

"I'm saying you're just a little bit blind to certain things. And, um, maybe a little opinionated."

"It's not an opinion when you're right."

"Which is why we need to get you through chapter one. So you won't be quite so cocksure of yourself."

A dark brow lifted. "Nothing wrong with self-confidence."

"Nothing at all," I agreed. "And it's because you have it in abundance that I know you'll weather this and come out the other side a better man."

He narrowed his gaze at me and gave me the cool appraisal that got him the nickname "Iceman."
"Nothing wrong with me the way I am."

"Indeed not," I said. "You're almost perfect."

"Almost?" Now he was offended.

"You only need the love of a good woman."

He crossed his arms over his chest. "Not going to happen."

I just smiled. "That's what you think."

"What are you up to?" He glowered at me.

I shrugged. "Show up for work tomorrow and find out."

More steely-eyed gaze. Just a hint of grinding teeth. A little stubborn edge to his jaw. "We' see," he said. Then he turned on his heel and walked out.

What do you guys think? Will he be back? Does Seb have it in him? (God, I hope so! I don't know what I'm going to write if he doesn't. But for heaven's sake, don't tell him that!)

If you're a writer, what about the guy you're writing about now? Does he ever make you wonder if he's got it in him? Is he so hard-edged you wonder if he'll find the gentleness he needs? Or is he so mellow you wonder if he'll even bother? Do you audition your heroes or do they just show up and take over?

And if you're a reader, who are some of your favorite heroes? In books? In plays? In films? In real life?

If you're into family history, what about all those dead ancestors? Any heroes among them? Favorite characters?

Hey, ideas are everywhere.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Gentleman and A Cat

It is fitting within our discussion of heroes -- which was really good (take a look at the comments section on the post below) -- to mention a cat of note who passed away on Tuesday.

Ivan "Spiffy" Walker, one of the luckiest cats in the world because he lived at Kate's (which is basically as close as you can get to feline nirvana) crossed the Rainbow Bridge that day.

Kate paid tribute to him at length on her blog, as well she might since he enriched their family life for 16 years.

But I want to say a few things here to commemorate him because he was just a terrific cat. Kate said he wasn't the alpha cat -- and in the strictest sense of the word -- that's true. But he didn't need to be. He didn't need power or arrogance or to make things happen.

Things happened just because Spiffy expected they would.

He was a dapper cat, a charming cat, a self-deprecating cat with a sense of humor.

He was, if you will, the Cary Grant of cats.

He didn't throw his weight around. He didn't have to. He could accomplish as much with unassuming grace and a soft touch as the biggest blusterer in the world.

He reminded me of my father-in-law. Now there was a prince among men.

And Spiff was a prince among cats.

He didn't demand, he waited. He knew you would do The Right Thing if only he gave you time. You knew where the cat food was. You'd get to it. He understood. He was tolerant, patient, dependable. He was the epitome of a low maintenance cat.

You can never have too many low maintenance cats.

You can never have too many Spiffys.

The Prof and I were privileged to know him, to be thudded upon by him when he decided to allow us to pet him. He could have purred for England. I can still hear the rumble he made.

There will always be a hole where Spiff was. No one, not even the wondrous Sid or the flirty Flora or the gangster Dylan will be able to fill it.

God speed, Spiff. You will be deeply missed.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What Makes a Hero?

Inasmuch as Sebastian and I are not seeing eye-to-eye on what makes a hero at the moment, I thought discussing the topic might be a good idea.

I've been accused of having a "McAllister hero." Kate Walker describes them that way -- and I suppose to an extent it is true. They probably do have certain qualities in common, notably the things that I find heroic.

I've been telling Seb what they are. He says he's taking notes.

Since he's nowhere near a pen and pad of paper, I'd like to know how. But I'm not going to fight with him. I hope he's simply absorbing some of what I say -- and what other authors say.

I'll be asking some of my favorites to drop by and talk about what makes a hero in their eyes, what they look for when they 'cast' the main man in their books (besides whether or not he looks good in a towel).

I look on it as given Seb a few lessons. But sadly there's no such thing as hero school. One of the things I think all my heroes have in common is that they just get 'thrown in.' They are probably not innately even 'heroic.' They're accomplished in some area. Maybe they're even more than accomplished. Maybe they're 'the best there is.'

But that's not enough.

And what they think is enough -- or the direction they first choose to go in -- is quite often wrong. It's the path they think they should take. It's the one that's taken them where they've arrived to this point. But to become a hero means they have to take things to a different level, they have to open themselves to danger -- sometimes physical, always emotional. They have to go where they've never been before.

Seb is glaring at me. He says I'm full of it. But I think I'm right. I think he needs a challenge, one that will make him stop and question everything he's assumed about life so far.

Yesterday, when I was chatting with the Romance Banditas and with Anne Gracie, and we were discussing heroes, in response to Anne's asking me what makes a great hero, I said, "Great heroes? Guys with a flaw. A blind spot. Something that they've dealt with on a superficial level and think is behind them and they've got things under control -- and then, whoops, bang, it's back -- and it threatens to undermine the most important things in their life.

"Almost every hero I've fallen in love with has had to make a major readjustment during the story. He has to rethink his fondest views or come to terms all over again with an issue he's figured he has already resolved -- and very often it involves the one woman he discovers he can't live without -- damn it."

And she replied, " I purely LOVE that moment, too, when he has to really dig deep -- and guys hate that so much -- and then make the difficult decision. It's what I meant when I talked about taking emotional risks."

The terrific Presents author Annie West then chimed in with, "That point about the hero needing to deal with something he thought he'd already finished with is so right. And isn't it lovely when that blind spot is something to do with the heroine? That's when it all comes together for me. She makes him face up to the truth he's been avoiding."

I made Seb read this all over last night. He said he thought he was doing just fine, thank you very much. He didn't see any reason to change. He had what he wanted, didn't he?

And I just looked at him and said, "Is it what you really want?"

He says it is, but I hope over the next couple of months to change his mind.

Let's give Seb something to think about. If you're a writer, what's your definition of a great hero? What sort of guys do you write? And if you're a reader, what characteristics make a hero appealing to you?

Do you like him to change? To develop? Or do you want him to be 'the perfect man' in the beginning -- the Prince Charming who rescues Cinderella and takes her to a happily ever after in his castle?

Contrary to what some people think, there are no right and wrong answers to this question. They are simply responses to different 'romantic fantasies,' to the notion of what constitutes a romantic hero.

What do you think makes a great hero?

Besides a looking good in a towel, of course.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Speaking of heroes . . .

Well, I don't suppose we were, except tangentially. Not here anyway.

But over on the Romance Banditas site, Anna Campbell did an interview with Anne Gracie that started us off on a discussion of what makes a good hero. I said a few things off the cuff, but it started me thinking about it because I'm trying to convince Sebastian to be a good hero.

And it seems that his idea of being a good hero and my idea are not converging at the moment. He's being, um, difficult. He knows exactly what he wants -- and he expects me to hop to and get it done.

I expect him to have just a bit of patience. Books weren't written in a day, I told him.

"Not at the rate you're going anyway," he said.

I told him sarcasm causes baldness. He rolled his eyes.

So I've told him we are going to discuss heroes on Wednesday right here on this blog, and he'd better pay attention because there was going to be a test at the end -- to see if he'd got the drift.

So bring your ideas and let's tell bloody Sebastian what's what. If he's going to get a whole book about his life -- and love -- he's got some wising up to do.

I haven't told him yet who his heroine is. He's going to be appalled.

See? He has a long way to go!

And get ready for the Here Come the Grooms contest, part II -- on February 1st, when my guy, Flynn, is joined by Kate Walker's new hero and Liz Fielding's new hero. Theo promises to come back and give them all a bit of moral support.

He could give Sebastian a lesson or two as well.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

A Little Cooperation

I can hardly believe it.

Sebastian is cooperating.

He seems quite happy to have my attention again. We sit down at the computer in the morning and he hops right to it. He's taking charge, getting things done, snapping his fingers with impatience when everyone doesn't just 'jump to' and do what he wants.

How quaint. Wonder how long it will last.

Well, I'm not going to ask. I'm just going to sit back and watch -- and type. He's meticulous and detail oriented when he's absorbed in a project (he's an architect). I figured on that. But the rest of the time -- in his daily life -- he just 'gets things done.' They don't matter. He's focused on what he thinks is important, and the rest can go hang.

Looking around his high-rise condo, I can tell you he's definitely a minimalist. His place is all very modern, sleek, unadorned. No clutter in Seb's life. Not much 'life' either, from the looks of things.

Of course he'd disagree.

But good grief, talk about a workaholic.

I haven't introduced Neely yet. She's coming along later this chapter. He isn't going to think much of her, I can tell you that right now.

She sets his teeth on edge -- and he doesn't even know her. Not really. He just thinks he does. He's got her pegged, knows what she's after.

And he's not happy about it. He's going to do something about it, too.


I have my Seb and Neely box out on my desk, and I'm discovering I need to 'paper over' some of it since the houseboat moved from San Francisco to Seattle. I feel things shifting with the move. I see Seb is harder-edged. Doesn't suffer fools gladly -- and there are a lot of 'fools' in his world (he thinks).

Wonder what else will change?

Probably a lot. Books do that. So do characters.

I should have included Seb's cooperative spirit in the Seven Things no one knew.

I certainly didn't.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chloe Picks a Winner

Meet Chloe.

She's Anne Gracie's dog. She has sparkly collars and feather boas for all occasions. And in this case she was picking a winner from among the commenters on my blog about Anne over on Tote Bags 'n' Blogs on Monday.

So here's what happened, in Anne's words:

"Papers bearing numbers 1-18 were laid out over the rug. Wagging tail
and leaping dog (who knows a camera means Treats) disrupted original
neat layout.

A dried liver treat was tossed onto the rug. There was a flurry of dog
and sparkles and a piece of paper bearing a number got pawed away in
the scrum.

And the number on that piece of paper was #13, which was...
Michelle L, the winner."

So, congratulations, Michelle L! If you will go to my website and hit the 'contact Anne' button at the bottom of the sidebar (or just click the link here), you can leave me your mailing address and I'll see that you get your prize -- a copy of my The Boss's Wife For A Week and one of my favorite book of Anne's, The Perfect Waltz.

Thanks so much to everyone who commented. I think Anne enjoyed her birthday!

And for those of you who are contest-oriented, check back on Feb 1 when Kate Walker and Liz Fielding and I -- and those grooms! -- start up the second annual "Here Come The Grooms" contest.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Seven Things

Teagan Oliver tagged me to post seven things about myself that, presumably, people who read this blog don't know and might be interested in knowing (or not).


1) I can recognize the handwriting of several eighteenth century Edgefield County men. Just whirl a microfilm in front of me and I can say, "Oh, look, Eldred Simkins wrote that!" Or "Hazel Culbreath wrote that." or "Oliver Towles wrote that."

2) It took me more years than I want to think about to realize that in England villages are in parishes and not the other way around.

3) I gave our cat insulin shots twice a day for eight years which meant that for someone who isn't enamored of schedules, I still knew exactly where I was going to be at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m every day.

4) I can multi-task as long as one of the tasks isn't adding columns of numbers or remembering where I put the checkbook.

5) All of my sons can do laundry, cook a meal, repair a car, install a sink, catch a fish, and iron a shirt -- though some of them are better at it than others.

6) My dogs all understand English. Gunnar understands Norwegian. And for some reason he's fond of Proust.

7) I'm going to write a book about a hero named Eamon who is NOT a sheep -- and if Abby Green never reads it, oh well!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Where do you get your ideas, part 4

I have no idea how many times we've talked about where you get your ideas -- or I get mine. But there have been a few posts at least. So consider this a sequel and let's talk about football.


Why not? It was the best weekend for football all year. Four games between the eight best teams. What more could you ask for?

There was drama, excitement, snowstorms, controversy, old gunslingers and new kids on the block. All the stuff that great stories are made of.

If you watched, you would have a ton of story ideas. Who wouldn't warm to the Ryan Grant two-fumbles followed by three touchdowns and 201 yards bounce back from disaster? Who didn't delight with Brett Favre in yet another amazing game -- this one complete with snowballs?

Who didn't wonder whether Tony Romo should have gone to Cabo -- or if they didn't wonder that, they probably wondered why on earth anyone would care where he went and with whom?

And Eli? Who expected Eli to be the last Manning standing on Sunday evening? And who doesn't know who the Chargers' backup quarterback is now?

People ask, Where do you get your ideas?

Watching football. Or doing whatever else you did this weekend. You don't even have to write about football. In fact, if you're writing romance, you probably don't want to be writing about football because, Susan Elizabeth Phillips aside, most romance writers who tackle (only slightly intentional pun) football don't endear themselves to their editors -- or at least to marketing.

The point is, the ideas are there. It's being open to them. Spotting them. Twisting them and turning them. Perceiving them in this light, then in that one. It's all in what you do with them.

And anyone who writes will tell you that even given the same ideas, we all do different things with them.

Today I wrote a guest blog about a writer who does great things with the ideas that come to her -- and who never ceases to delight me when I read her books. You can find the blog over on Author Sound Relations' Tote Bags 'n' Blogs. Check it out. Leave a comment.

If you do, you might win a copy of my most recent book, The Boss's Wife For A Week. You might win a copy of my favorite book of hers, The Perfect Waltz.

Know who I'm talking about?

Anne Gracie.

And it just happens to be her birthday. Happy birthday, Anne!

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Making Maps

I've always been fascinated by maps. Those of you who were here in May 2006 may remember my map cabinet adventure. That was exciting enough -- getting a piece of gorgeous old oak furniture to house them.

But it's the maps themselves that entrance me. I look at old maps and wonder at the world as it looked to people then. I look at places on maps that are unfamiliar to me, and I speculate what it would be like to live there. I read maps the way some people read old familiar books over and over. I like to see where I'm going, where I am, where I've been in relation to everything else.

And, of course, maps are great in helping to figure out who all the people of the same name are who live in the same general vicinity but who don't happen to be one person with seven different personalities.

That's in fact what I've been doing the last few days -- playing with maps. And I am relishing my affair with Google Earth. I've discovered, with the help of a very patient researcher into the same area of Cornwall that I'm interested in, that Google Earth can be used to make reproduction maps that show exactly who was living where.

Oh joy! Oh amazement! Oh, I am so happy I could spend all day with Google Earth.

Unfortunately if I want to pay my bills, I can't spend all day every day with Google Earth. But it's tempting. Next week it will be WORK. But for the moment, I'm enjoying a brief fling with Google Earth.

It wasn't all dead relatives, I assure you. I made a map of my fictional world while I was at it -- locating all my books on it. It was fun, though I admit to a couple of instances when I had to pause and think, where did that book take place? I have, after all, written 60 of them now.

We'll have to celebrate that later this year when PJ and Ally come out. In the meantime we'll just celebrate maps. The Anne's World map is supposed to be going up on the page of my website. There's even a place for it on the sidebar just waiting for me to figure out what the heck I'm doing. And I will once I get my Google Earth for Dummies book.

In the meantime, bear with me.

I promise I won't go on and on about Google Earth for Dummies -- at least not the way I did about Tharp's The Creative Habit. That was a stunning book. I have no idea about GEFD, but I'm going to learn from it. And in the meantime, Google Earth is feeding my maps obsession in a way I hadn't imagined.

I'm loving every minute of it.

To contest winner, Rania: your prize box of books has gone out in the mail today. I hope it will arrive sometime next week. Let me know when it does, please! Thanks.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

We Have A Winner!

Gunnar has picked the winner of the 12 Books of Christmas contest.

Congratulations to Rania in New Mexico for being the person whose name he picked. All 12 books will be going out to you this week, Rania. I hope you enjoy them!

Thanks very much to everyone who took the time to enter. You overcame difficulties on my website (which still aren't totally fixed, but we're working on it) and I'm very impressed. Thanks for that!

And remember that beginning Feb 1 I will be having the second annual Valentine's Day contest along with Kate Walker and Liz Fielding. Last year, if you recall, the Brides started a contest -- a "Here Come The Brides" contest -- and were almost immediately challenged by Theo, Max and Dom doing their "Here Come the Grooms" version.

No idea what will be happening this time, but I can say that I'm sure Theo will be back at least once in February. He's already told me he'll be here.

I'll endeavor to have my contest page fixed by then -- or preferably sooner.

Congrats, again, Rania! And thanks to all who entered!


Monday, January 07, 2008

Mads on Monday

Over on the Pink Heart blog, I've got a Male on Monday slot today.

You know what that means: the onerous task of researching potential heroes.

Ah well, somebody's got to do it.

And ever since I saw him in Casino Royale, I've been looking for a hero to be Mads Mikkelsen (who was a great villain in CR). I haven't found one yet (I don't think). But I'm still looking.

And in the meantime, I decided to share him with the Pink Heart readers.

I already shared him with Michelle Styles who cast him in one of her Victorian historicals.

Which one, Michelle? And when is it coming out? I can hardly wait to read it.

Anyway, I promised the Pink Heart readers that I'd put up a few more photos over here. So that's why Mads is here (if he needed another reason).

Enjoy. Each pic is worth 1000 words, you know. Consider that I wrote a lot today. And even more on the Pink Heart blog. And there are a lot of good pix there.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Twelfth Night

It's the twelfth day of Christmas.

That means it's the last day you can sign up to enter the Twelve Days of Christmas contest on my website. You don't even have to know anything -- you just have to sign up.

Then tomorrow Gunnar will choose a winner from the entries and the lucky winner will get TWELVE books!

Which twelve? I'm so glad you asked.

Of course there will be a signed copy of my very own most recent title, The Boss's Wife for a Week. Here are the rest:

  • To Rescue A Rogue by Jo Beverley
  • Reunited: Marriage in a Million by Liz Fielding
  • The Naked Marquis by Sally MacKenzie
  • Cents and Sensibility by Maggie Anderson
  • Sofie Metropolis by Tori Carrington
  • What Price Love? by Stephanie Laurens
  • Over Hexed by Vicki Lewis Thompson
  • The Forbidden Mistress by Anne Mather
  • Millie's Fling by Jill Mansell
  • A Game of Chance by Linda Howard
  • Lady Jane's Nemesis by Patricia Oliver
How's that for a stack of great books? A few contemporaries, a few historicals. A few chick-lit, a few single title, a few series. Even a little mystery.

So stop by my website today, click on the contest logo on the left sidebar, and submit your entry!

Gunnar says he hopes there are a lot of entrants. More treats for him, thank you very much.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Back to the Box

Last year when I was reading Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit, one of the things she inspired me to do was start a box to use for collecting stuff that belonged in Seb and Neely's book.

I did. It was the most enjoyable part of the whole experience.

As you may or may not recall, Seb and Neely ended up taking their football -- and their box -- and going home. Unfinished.

There were issues that needed to be resolved before I could do them justice. So they went off into the sunset together for a while while I got on with PJ and Ally.

PJ and Ally had no box, but they had no issues either, so it worked out fine. But the slate is clear now, even if the desk is not.

And I am back going through Seb and Neely's box.

There are interesting things in this box. Intriguing things. And a lot of animals. There's a bloodhound, for example. And a rabbit and several Maine Coon kittens. I had no idea when I was filling Seb and Neely's box that their influence would spread far and wide and that Kate Walker and Sophie Weston would both become mums of Maine Coons before the year was out.

Life imitates art.

I'm delighted. So are Seb and Neely. They think this bodes well for their story. I hope so. We're going to try again.

We're going to hope that the second time's a charm.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Tools of the Trade

One of the fun things about prowling around the internet between books (besides looking for heroes) is that sometimes I run across great programs that make my life easier.

One of them I found just last week is the image viewer from FastStone. I discovered it by reading someone else's blog, thought it sounded intriguing, and went to check it out.

If you're in the market for an image viewer that will let you annotate and highlight and mark up images, FastStone's image viewer is worth a look.

No, I don't get a cut. No, they don't know I'm writing this. And no, it doesn't cost anything -- though you can certainly make a donation.

In my other life I do a lot of family history and local history. I spend much of my life looking at lists. And then filing them away, and then taking them back out and looking at them again. And trying to find all the people I thought I remembered seeing on them.

FastStone's image viewer saves me vast amounts of time and my eyes a lot of eyestrain. It gives me the whole screen to work on (I'm not stuck with three or four or five toolbars taking up a third of my space). And it magnifies.

So where are the tools?

They are lurking on the sides and at the top and bottom. Take the cursor, bump it against the edge, and toolbars magically appear.

You choose what you want to do, the program creates a space for you to do it on (drawing board gets a big workout from me) and you do it. Then you click "ok" and you can save your annotated or marked up image.

Very slick. Very helpful. And if you have ever spent more time than you ever want to spend with the 1790 census or any other long list, you might be glad to have this tool, too.

I've also been using it to make notes on research materials for Seb and Neely's houseboat adventure. I think it's got a ton of uses. I'm impressed.

Pity I actually have to write. I'm having so much fun highlighting and annotating it's going to be a struggle to get back to 'real work.'