Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's in a Name?

A few days ago Kate Hardy said she was stuck in her current manuscript because she hadn't got her hero's name right and thus he wasn't cooperating.

People who don't write probably think that's daft.

It's not. Trust me.

I have had heroes who flat out refused to say a word because I didn't know their names. They just stood there, defying me to guess who they were. And finally, when I got it right, they opened up and eventually I got a book out of them.

Jared Flynn from my novella, Marry Go Round in With This Ring, was a case in point. He absolutely refused to do a thing until I figured out his name.

Lots of us have been tossing names at Kate for her quintessential English banker hero. Got any ideas? Go see Kate on her blog and tell her.

I'll be curious to see who he turns out to be.

In the meantime, I have something of the opposite problem.

Not Demetrios. I know his name. I know what he does for a living. I know a lot of his backstory and he's cooperating nicely. He even got off the street corner last night when I found him a good reason to leave and a means of doing so.

But he has a brother, George. George is a physicist. A reclusive brainy physicist.

George, against all odds, is destined to be my next hero. At least that's what my editor and I have agreed on. This was not, let me assure you, my idea. But apparently some people, editors included, think George can be a hero.

Probably he can be.

But he's got his work cut out for him. And so do I.

So I'm trying to get inside his head right now -- even as I work on Demetrios's book -- because I know I'm going to have to do some heavy-duty thinking about this man (and probably replay Kate Walker's master class in Alpha Heroes) before I get to grips with what situation is going to bring out the hero in George.

You're going to meet George's ex-wife, Sophy, in Christo's book, One-Night Mistress, Convenient Wife. I figure she has something to do with George being heroic, but I don't know what. If I don't start thinking about it now or I'm going to be in trouble when I need to start on his book.

So what do you think a physicist named George with an ex-wife named Sophy is likely to be confronted with that will make him pull up his socks, get out of the lab and act like a McAllister hero?

All suggestions seriously considered, believe me.

Just don't tell me to change his name. One of the problems of linked books is that names stick -- and authors are stuck with them -- and the most unlikely people become heroes and heroines because of it.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Welcome to Procrastination

As I've now left Demetrios standing on a corner (watching all the girls go by) for the past week, it should be no surprise that I understand the fine art of procrastination.

I need to get him moving again today. And I will because I finally (I hope) have figured out the reason he's still standing there. Short answer: Even though I knew where he was going next, I didn't know how to get him there. Now I think I do. And so I will.

But in the meantime, I've discovered that my dear friend Anne Gracie has developed two new levels of procrastination at once!

She's begun a blog. And she's taken up twittering.

While I completely endorse her blogging (as if twice monthly on Word Wenches isn't enough), and I'm happy she's twittering so I can follow her (though I don't twitter myself), I understand this for what it is -- avoidance.

I'm avoiding Demetrios. She's avoiding Luke. Why are we avoiding these strong compelling men?

Well, possibly because they are so strong and compelling we can't quite figure out what to do with them -- and we're a bit nervous of letting them do what they want. No, not a bit. In my case, I'm very nervous about letting Demetrios do what he wants.

So I've stranded him on a street corner while I figure out what to do with him. And the last I knew, Anne had set Luke to digging a grave.

Her scenario sounds way more interesting. You don't often get to have contemporary heroes digging graves as a matter of course. It's worth thinking about, though.

Anyway, I'm delighted she's blogging because I can read her -- and get to see pics of her very photogenic dog, Chloe.

And thus take even more time away from Demetrios.

Or not. Actually, since I'm off to see Henry & Ellie on the weekend, I need to get Demetrios off that corner and doing something seriously heroic.

I hope.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009


Congratulations, Lidia!

You have won a copy of Savas' Defiant Mistress -- or one of my backlist titles if you would prefer.

Please go to my website and use the "email" link on the bottom of the contest page to let me know your snail mail address and which book you would like (if it's a backlist title, this means I have to find it, so it may not be the one you want!).

I hope those of you who are writing romance have checked out Kate Walker's wonderful week of posts on "alpha heroes" and other heroes. There have been some really thoughtful sensible posts there. I've enjoyed reading all of them -- and I've got some good insights into different authors' approaches to their books now.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Welcome Henry!

Yesterday our seventh grandchild and fifth grandson, Henry Alvin, was born.

He has been much anticipated by his big sister, Ellie, who adores babies, and, of course, by his parents, and by all the rest of the family who know they are going to adore him, too.

He got off to a good start -- weighing in at close to 9 1/2 lbs. -- when he arrived yesterday morning. The nurses in the delivery room already think he'll have a career playing linebacker for Montana State. We'll see.

He was named for two of his great-grandfathers -- wise and wonderful men, both. So little Henry -- or "Big Hank" as his dad called him yesterday -- has some pretty good-sized and well-worn shoes to fill in his own way as he grows up.

Ellie will no doubt be there, pointing the way.

I'm looking forward to going to see him in 10 days. I need to get a lot written before I go, because unless Ellie takes longer naps than she is reputed to take, I won't be getting much writing done while I'm out there.

And why would I want to write anyway when I can bask in the presence of two such wonderful little people for two weeks?

My new "Mothers & Babies" contest should be going live this week on my website. So stop by and enter and you can win a goody box that Henry and Ellie would certainly approve of, if they read romances and ate chocolate and liked fun stuff turning up in their mail box.

Just answer three questions that you can find answers to on my blog and website, and send them to me via the link provided. The contest begins as soon as my webmistress gets up the information. It ends at midnight the night before Mother's Day.

Ellie and Henry and I will pick the winner (since Mitch and Micah will be home) and I'll post it on Mother's Day -- internet connection willing.

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The Alpha Hero -- all you ever wanted to know

All you ever wanted to know about the Alpha hero -- and his Beta and Gamma brothers -- is the topic of conversation on Kate Walker's blog this week.

Kate has taken herself off to bask in the rain of Ireland and, Tom Sawyer like, has deputized several of us to discuss our takes on the Alpha Hero.

Mine is up today at Kate's website. Sandra Marton was there yesterday, but before she left Kate put up a couple of really insightful posts about heroes. Start at the beginning (mine is the fifth in the series) and you'll find some interesting info. I know she's got some very interesting takes on the subject from various authors all week. So check it out.

I think the line-up should be fascinating all week long.

Kate herself has done a particularly good job of describing the way heroes can have all facets of the alphabet in their make-up -- it just depends on what's called for.

Amen to that. In fact, it's when they are solely one-dimensional, that they lose their humanity.

Drop by Kate's blog and comment. Comment here, too, about your own take on heroes. As someone who is usually cited as 'not fitting in' with what Harlequin Presents are ordinarily noted for, I have a stake in wanting to know your views of heroes.

Seb (an Alpha by his own contention, but with definite facets of other letters of the Greek alphabet) will pick the comment he likes the best to win a copy of Savas' Defiant Mistress -- or a backlist title provided he can find it in the attic, if you prefer.

He'll announce the winner here on Saturday. So check back.

New contest also beginning on my website, ending Mother's Day. Guess why!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

It's a Boy!

No, not the puppy.

Well, of course Beau is, too. But we are celebrating the arrival of yet another new boy in the family this week.

His name is Henry -- or as my son, his dad, says, "Big Hank" (not sure what his mom will think of that) -- and he arrived about 5 a.m this morning, tipping the scales at 9 lbs. 7 1/2 oz. Yikes.

No wonder his mom looked ready to pop on Easter Sunday. She was ready to go then, but he wasn't.

Still he arrived earlier than his Friday due date, and all is well.

No one took a camera, since it was a bit rush-rush at the last minute. But his other grandma should be there now, so I can count on some pictures later today (I hope).

I'm excited to see what his big sister thinks of him. She's all about babies. I hope she thinks he's as great in person as she has thought about the idea of him.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Speaking of rhubarb

If we weren't, we soon will be. It's that time of year again.

Last night as I was going to bed I thought, it's nearly time for our local farmers' market to start up again. And immediately following that I thought, Rhubarb!

It turns out that farmers' market opens officially next Saturday. But the very thought got me to write 'rhubarb' in soap on the bathroom mirror (how else did I ever remember things pre-Google calendar?) and get The Prof to check the freezer for last year's rhubarb just in case.

And guess what!

He found a small bag of it, all nice and chopped and just looking like it needed to be in a cake. So today I got ready for this year's rhubarb by closing out last year's and making a cake.

Naturally I couldn't find my recipe (again), so I called my daughter and asked her for it. She said, "It's on your blog, Mom. That's where I get it."

Right. So it is.

I googled it and it came right up. What a good place to store my recipes. Now I'll be able to find them.

2007 must have been a bumper year for rhubarb.

I see I've put up a couple of other recipes using rhubarb as well --including my dear friend Elda's fabulous rhubarb delight. Every year recently that I made it, I took a piece to Elda who had moved to a nursing home.

This year I can't because Elda passed away in January, just days after her 92 birthday. But I'll make it again this year -- and every year -- in her memory and enjoy it while I remember the warmth of her friendship and the stories that came with it.

So we have cake tonight and I have a chapter of Demetrios tucked away in good shape, and another one coming along, and several more in the pipeline. The weather is good -- April showers are making lovely flowers hereabouts.

It's beginning to look a lot like spring.

ps: those little blue flowers are back, too -- a bit later than usual this year.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Meet the Grandpuppy

There is a new puppy in the family.

A two month old Golden Retriever, he has been long anticipated and will be greatly loved. He came home last night and today he got a name -- Beau.

He will be my 8 year old granddaughter's best buddy for years to come. Lots and lots of years, we hope. My daughter, a deeply devoted dog person, is thrilled -- especially because she's heard there are now under-the-tongue allergy meds. As someone who has endured allergies for the joy of having dogs in her life, this may indeed be a blessing.

Beau is, according to his father, a great puppy with a nice, easy-going personality. He tries to eat tennis balls but, so far, his mouth isn't quite big enough to do more than barely get around them. No room for chewing.

Tomorrow he is apparently going to his first softball tournament because he and my son-in-law are on their own this weekend. He missed the golf tournament today, but I can see he's going to have a full athletic calendar.

I'm looking forward to knowing Beau better. Hoping to get to meet him in person (in dog?) sometime in the fall.

Mitch and Micah are delighted to have a new nephew.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Watching Burn Notice?

Well, not at the moment because USA network's biggest hit, Burn Notice, is on hiatus until June 4th.

But I'm counting the days. And I've been thinking about it more this week because Friday is my day to write about a "must-watch" film or program for the Pink Heart Society blog.

Guess what I'm writing about.

It is my prelude to Kate Walker's "Alpha Heroes" topic which she's rounded up comments for to use on her blog. I sent her my comments earlier this week.

But as far as I'm concerned, you can start with Michael Westen (wonderfully played by Jeffrey Donovan) of Burn Notice. He may not be the stereotypical billionaire -- or even close -- but he's the guy I'd want to be on my side in a fire fight, or anywhere else for that matter.

Alphas are the ones who take care of their own. They are the protectors, the go-to guys, the ones who get the job done.

That would be Mike.

Stop over and check out my blog on Burn Notice at the Pink Heart. Let me know what you think about the program and about Michael Westen if you watch Burn Notice.

And if you don't, check out the DVD of season one. Season two will be coming in late June on DVD, and season three starts on USA network on June 4th.

Mark your calendar!

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Hope everyone is having a happy Easter -- or whatever you happen to celebrate at this time of year.

We didn't dye eggs this year. Not much point with just the two of us here. The twins are coming tomorrow, but they will already have done the Easter egg hunt at their house, so I'm off the hook on dying eggs.

I seem to be off the hook on fixing dinner, too, since fixing dinner for four year olds and their father is something of a useless exercises. Especially if they'd rather have pizza. I love fixing Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner, but I've never been all that excited about Easter meals. So pizza is fine with me if it's fine with them.

More time to work on Demetrios.

He finally appeared today -- for the first time -- in the first scene. He's been waffling around poking his nose in various scenes trying to help me sort through the story, but he'd never officially "made an entrance" until today.

Holy heck. That man certainly does know how to make an entire room stop and stare.

I had no idea.

Maybe it's the "Presents hero" in him. He's pretty determined to live up to the chatter. He's heard mutterings about Seb being an "Iceman" but a softie underneath. And he's not sure he likes the notion ofbeing under the microscope of a lot of perceptive females.

He's a very private guy, our Demetrios.

I've promised to allow him to keep his protective shell ("Armor, damn it," he just said to me. "It's not a shell. You make me sound like an egg.") for a while. But I'm warning him that Anny is going to get under it.

He just said, "We'll see about that," and stalked out of the room.

I just love a reluctant hero.

Happy Easter to all of you, from all of us (that's me, the Prof, Seb and Neely, Demetrios and Anny, the twins, their father, Micah and Mitch the golden guys, and anyone else who happens to drift through the office in the next few days)!

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Friday, April 10, 2009

No More Mr Iceman

Seb here.

Those of you who were around when Anne was writing my story and Neely's have met me before. I blogged a few times to give Anne a break while she was working last year. And while blogging is more something Neely would do instinctively (she's the people person in the family), I have to admit, I had a good time.

She (Neely) didn't think I'd admit that. She says I have a reputation to uphold. All that Iceman garbage.

That's rot. The only reputation I want is one for designing great buildings. Well, and for doing the right thing. That pretty much goes without saying, doesn't it? I'm a Presents hero. We get misjudged regularly. No sweat. We know what goes on inside our heads even if we're sometimes a little hard to figure.

Neely was just as hard to figure, believe me. And nobody gives her any grief.

Well, I did. But I think we've figured each other out now.

If you want to know more about the book, check out Anne's blog on the I Heart Presents site where she talked about our houseboat. And if you want to read some of it, there's an excerpt on the Savas' Defiant Mistress page.

And if you just want to make a comment or ask a question, go for it. I'll be around, happy to answer anything I can. Or persuade Neely to do it if I can't.

Fire away.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Revenge of the Book Nerds

A couple of writers and readers whose blogs I frequent have been answering a book meme (something to displace what they should be doing, obviously. Ask me how I know this.)

So I thought, you know, I can displace as well as anyone. So here goes:

1. What author do you own the most books by?
Besides myself because my publisher sends them to me? Mmm, probably Tony Hillerman. Or Jane Donnelly. I have collected sets of both. I think, actually Jane D wrote more books. But they're both definite faves.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?
I have too many books to own mulitple copies of any except by accident. Ye gods, the mind boggles. I do have, by accident, two copies of The Structure of Cornwall if anyone is interested in the other one. Just let me know.

3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

Luke whose last name I can't remember from Lisa Gregory's The Rainbow Season.

4. What book have you read more than any other?
Persuasion, I think.

5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
The 13th is Magic by Joan Howard which I wrote a blog piece about a couple of years back. It's still a wonderful book.

6. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
The worst book I read is one I am sure I didn't finish, so I'm not even talking about it.

7. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Any of the C S Harris books about Sebastian St Cyr. They were all dynamite reads. Also the Temeraire books by Naomi Novik. And Joanna Bourne's Spymaster books.

8. If you could tell everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
The Day the Cowboys Quit by Elmer Kelton. It's readable, has a compelling albeit reluctant hero, and it captures a sense of American history and self-identity in a short space.

9. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Maria by Jorge Isaacs, because most of it was about the jungle (or if it wasn't, God help me) and I didn't have the vocabulary because it was in Spanish, and I hate reading description and skip it in English, but there was no way to skip this. So I plodded through. But I didn't enjoy it.

10. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

11. Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
Not Milton. Shakespeare probably, though what I've read of Chaucer I've liked. I was a Spanish major. Ask me about Cervantes or Pio Baroja.

12. Austen or Eliot?
Is there a choice? Austen, hands down.

13. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
All of Stephen King, Jane Eyre and Silas Marner and The Mill on the Floss. And if you consider it an embarrassment -- which I'm not sure I do -- the Russians and the French.

14. What is your favorite novel?
Oh, there are too many. Persuasion, probably. But I think Jane Donnelly's Behind a Closed Door ranks right up there.

15. Play?
Mary, Mary by Jean Kerr.

16. Poem?
The one about James James Morrison Morrison by A A Milne.

17. Essay?
Any of the ones in Jean Kerr's Please Don't Eat the Daisies. Or most anything by Corey Ford.

18. Short Story?
I don't read a lot of them, but I used to find good ones in the women's magazines my mother subscribed to. I can't remember the authors, though. And Corey Ford wrote some good fishing and hunting ones in my dad's old Field and Stream mags.

19. Non Fiction
The World We Have Lost, by Peter Laslett

20. Graphic Novel?

21. Science Fiction?
The Temeraire books by Naomi Novik, and Dragonsong and Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey.

22. Who is your favorite writer?
Hard to limit it. How about Jane Austen, Tony Hillerman, Elmer Kelton, C S Harris, K M Peyton?

23. Who is the most over rated writer alive today?
That's a matter of opinion.

24. What are you reading right now?
Rumour Has It, by Jill Mansell.

25. Best Memoir?
Seldom Disappointed, by Tony Hillerman.

26. Best History?
The World We Have Lost, by Peter Laslett.

27. Best mystery or Noir?
When Serpents Sleep by C S Harris.

Now I need to get back to working on Demetrios. He needs help and if I'm not there to give it to him, no one is. Seb will be here Friday to blog.

And I will be blogging on the I Heart Presents blog tomorrow (Thursday). Please stop by and say hi or ask questions.

If you want to do the Book Nerd meme, I hereby tag you. That means you, especially Kate Walker, who has finished her book, but probably doesn't have many brain cells left to do anything really creative.

Just cut and paste and fill in the blanks. And link back so I can go read your answers. Maybe I can find more books I want to read. More displacement. Poor Demetrios.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Savas' Defiant Mistress Reviews

Seb and Neely have been sent copies of their first reviews.

Julie Bonello who writes reviews for both CataRomance and the Pink Heart Society has read their book and sent me links to both the reviews which you can read at Cataromance and at the Pink Heart Society's review page.

But Seb is bugging me to post bits here because he's very proud of them and he wants to see them in print in more than one place.

So, for Seb, this is, briefly, what Julie had to say at CataRomance: "Funny, intense, emotional and wonderfully romantic, Savas’s Defiant Mistress is vintage Anne McAllister! Readers will not be able to resist sexy Alpha hero Sebastian ‘Iceman’ Savas and how can anyone not love Neely’s spirit, intelligence, heart and her assorted menagerie of animals? So inject some sunshine into your life and indulge in this wonderful romance by Anne McAllister - you’ll devour every word!"

And at the Pink Heart she wrote: "Refreshingly original, wonderfully moving and fabulously absorbing, Savas' Defiant Mistress is another Anne McAllister classic! Fall in love with feisty and independent Neely and gorgeous but guarded Seb in this amusing, enthralling and thoroughly captivating romance by this RITA award-winning author!"

Seb sends his thanks to Julie -- as do Neely and I, naturally. We are all three cele
brating her kind words.

Seb particularly likes being called "gorgeous but guarded." He says she understands him completely. He is definitely not a heart-on-his-sleeve sort of guy. But gorgeous? Oh, yeah. Our Seb is not vain, but he's delighted that Julie found him appealing.

Check out the reviews. Check out the book excerpt.

Seb is coming to blog here next week. He blogged when I was writing his book, but he hasn't been here in a while.

If you have questions for him, be sure to check back or send them to me now via my contact page and I'll pass them on to him.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Life on Mars?

Thanks to Kate Walker's lovely Christmas gift, I had a chance to see the original British version of Life On Mars.

I found it compelling, intriguing, occasionally irritating, but always watchable. I was as baffled as the hero, Sam Tyler, at times by what was happening. And I'd have thought I was going insane, too, if I'd had to wake up every morning in a bedsit with that wallpaper staring me in the face.

The US knockoff was different, but it had some things going for it, too. There were parallels that played nicely in both cultures. We watched the ending of the second British series Sunday night.

Last night we watched the ending of the US version.

Yikes. What a difference.

Because the US version was recently cancelled, I guess we can charitably put this episode down to someone's attempt to wrap things up and 'explain' what the heck was going on in Sam Tyler's psyche and in his life.

But what they did last night wasn't it. It was a complete betrayal of the audience's trust.

Spoiler alert: If you intend to see it and don't want to know, stop reading here.

If you already know, I'd be interested in your opinion. Mine is that it completely undercut our investment in the lives and relationships of the characters.

To have Sam wake up from his coma in 2008 or 2009, and have learned something from the time in 1973, okay. It was there in the premise -- "If I figure out why I'm here, maybe then I can get home." To have him choose, as he did in the British version, to opt for 1973, fine, too, because his choice was at least justified. He felt something there; it was the right place for him to be.

But the US version was to have the whole sequence be a dream of Sam Tyler the astronaut on his way to Mars.

Oh, come on.

It makes everything meaningless. We can't believe in the relationships at all. And to say he spent however long he was in space with his fellow astronauts (all members of the 1973 police force) working out his relationship to his father, embodied in Gene Hunt, boggles the mind.

Especially because there is no clue about what the relationship was 'really' about in this third reality we haven't been introduced to. Obviously it was adversarial. But, "I don't want to fight with you anymore, Dad?" as an excuse for a TV series? I don't think so.

Where was Blake Snyder when these writers needed him?

Where was their sense of appropriate pay-off for the viewers who invested time and emotion in the characters?

I felt totally ripped off. It was one of those 'throw the book across the room' moments. Unfortunately the television set was too heavy. And it wasn't the set's fault anyway.

It wasn't the actors' fault either, though I wonder that they could begin to play the ending with straight faces.

I should have known it was going to hell when Sam told Rose that little Sammy would grow up to read her Gulliver's Travels when she was old and gray. Gulliver's Travels is what The Prof wrote his doctoral disseration about. It is not bedtime reading. Or old folks' home reading. It's definitely not a book about which the night nurse says, "Oh, I just love that book."

Nope. Never. It is an allegorical journey however -- maybe something that the writers thought pointed toward the ending they were heading for. They'd have been smarter to let Sam fall off the end of the earth.

Watching it was certainly a wakeup call. It was a stark reminder about how important the emotional pay-off is and how sacred the unspoken contract between writer and reader or viewer: You read or listen or watch, and I will give you people to care about who will travel a journey you can buy into and which will fulfill your expectations in the end.

It's a lesson to remember. Don't jerk your readers around. Don't leave them dissastified. Don't change the rules. Don't leave them feeling as if they've been betrayed.

Make them care about your characters, yes. But then make sure there's a real honest reason that they should. And give them an ending that is implicit in the promise of the beginning. Don't lie to them.

If you listen to the voice over at the beginning (which is the same in both versions) there is no hint of anything that would imply this absurd ending. No promise. None.

Sad. And a waste of time. I won't be buying the US version DVDs, that's for sure.