Monday, December 29, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Thanksgiving came upon me somewhat quickly this year. We traveled down to Houston to visit my in-laws for a long weekend the week before and returned home Tuesday. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's house (she loves doing all the cooking and I have no inclination to object, LOL!), but then came my "surprise."
I was walking up the stairs and heard a strange clicking noise coming from my home office. I didn't think much of it until I tried to check my email and my computer wouldn't respond. I tried to shut it down, but eventually had to unplug it to reboot. I'm sure some of you are guessing what had happened: my hard drives (I actually had two) had crashed. While I was happily eating turkey and the trimmings everything on my computer had turned to electronic dust. All my documents, pictures, itunes library, outlook folder (with ALL my contacts, emails and calendaring) gone.
Of course I backed up, right? You've probably guessed the reason for the title of the post: not so much. I have an external hard drive that I had backed up to in May and I send important documents (like manuscripts or anything I'm working on) to a Yahoo email account (my main email is POP, i.e. not web-based). I did have some pictures still on my camera, but for some reason I hadn't uploaded all of them to Shutterfly (which I also usually do immediately). I hadn't backed up my itunes library or my outlook folders (the latter because it's not all that easy to do--hidden files and all that). Basically it meant that except for a couple of key documents I was missing almost 6 months worth of info. NIGHTMARE.
But surprisingly I was pretty calm. I'm in between books so I didn't lose any work. The pictures and outlook were what I really was worried about. But this kind of thing happens all the time, and I knew there was a way to recover data. A few phone calls later quickly cured me of that idea. Estimates ranged from $500 to $3,000, but all the data recovery people I spoke with said it would likely be on the higher side because of my particular disk configuration (Raid 0-striped). Needless to say, I decided to try to piece together what I could before putting that kind of money into trying to recover my data.
With a little legwork I managed to reconstruct most of it, including the pictures. The outlook and itunes library are the only things I will have to reconstruct. I've already missed one appointment, I'm sure I'll miss a few others before the dust has settled.
I guess the only good thing to come out of it all is that I've decided to take the opportunity to do something I've been planning to do for a long time: switch to a Mac.
I've been a PC girl for over twenty years. My father was an early computer and intel believer. Now that Macs use intel chips I decided to give Apple a shot. I LOVE my ipod and the idea of being integrated really appeals to me. Everyone that I know who has a Mac loves it with almost an evangelical fervor. I hope to be joining the cult, but I admit I'm nervous about the transition. I'll keep you posted...
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Okay, I'm a little late to the party, but better late than never, right? On my recent trip to Scotland (tired of hearing that yet?) I downloaded season one of THE TUDORS to watch on my ipod. OMG, so good. Episode one and I was hooked. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is yummy as is the guy who plays Charles Brandon (Henry Cavill pictured above). He just might be my new inspiration for my next hero. The costumes are fantastic. How could I have been missing this? So if you haven't had a chance to see it yet, check out showtime and watch an episode and/or add it to the Netflix queue.
Although the show is set about a century earlier than my Highlander series, it's good for setting the mood. I'm doing revisions for book #3 and adding an early court scene. I decided to reference one of my favorite songs from the period--Greensleeves--and wouldn't you know some nice person at You Tube has put together a video with scenes from the Tudors. So now, when you read that scene you'll know my inspiration!
Are you a Tudors fan? Any other costume dramas that I'm missing out on?
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
On my recent trip across the pond, my travel companion, Scottish Historical author extraordinaire Veronica Wolff, told me this phrase one night over a discussion (and a whisky or two) about how relaxing it was in Scotland away from all the "white noise" of normal life.
It really resonated with me. She was referring (or at least I took it to mean) all the "stuff" we have going on in our life, all the things we surround ourselves with, all those extra things that drown out what's important and add to the stress. For me it's the driving the kids around to endless activities, signing up for this or that, over-stuffed closets of clothes and toys (i.e. the junk!), email, internet, paperwork...all those demands on our time that sometimes feel overwhelming and out of control.My kids' weekly schedule is ridiculous: dance once--sometimes twice--a week, two soccer practices, two soccer games, tutoring, tae kwon do for both kids twice a week, boy scouts once a week, and cross country twice a week. All this for only TWO children. Most of these also require some amount of parent support. These are the "normal" activities, factor in doctors appointments, ortho appointments, conferences...
You get the point. And I haven't even mentioned work-related stuff (websites, promotion, blogging :)).
I know I'm not alone in wondering how I do this to myself.
When I was in Scotland I vowed to simplify when I got home. It hasn't happened. It's hard to know where to cut, where to simplify.
I think living in America, where we have so much available to us, it's hard not to take advantage of it and get caught up in the rat race. If your seven year old shows promise as a baseball, soccer, tennis, (fill in the sport), there's the temptation to "give them the opportunity" and hire a personal coach. Really? A personal coach for a seven year old? Talk about upping the ante.
When I travel, I make it a point to cut myself off from the internet and email. It's amazing how freeing it is. Usually I don't even bother to connect, although this trip we had free wi-fi at a number of hotels and I popped on a couple of times (mostly to email photos to the family).
Both Veronica and I were talking about how amazing it would be to rent a cottage on some Hebridean island for a few months (or a year). Part of the appeal for me, I think, is to remove myself from the hustle and bustle of modern american life. I'm sure I'd miss the fabulous restaurants, the cinema multiplexes, the Starbucks :), Target, the knowledge that if I want something its probably only a few miles away, but I can definitely see the appeal on getting away from it all for a while and reconnecting with what's really important.
What about you...do you have too much "white noise" in your life? Have you ever considered chucking it all for a while and moving somewhere remote?
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Sigh, when can I go back? I better hurry up and write more books so I have an excuse!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Okay, so how many of you immediately started singing: "I can't get no..."?
The title of this post actually has two purposes. First, I "finished" book number three (HIGHLAND SCOUNDREL) and there is nothing quite like the feeling you get when you type "the end"--unless it's the feeling you get when you walk in the bookstore and see the book on the shelf. :)
I put finished in quotation marks because I still have quite a bit of clean up to do before I actually turn it into my editor. I revise heavily as I go along, so it's usually pretty polished, but I do keep a running list of things to do at the end. These run the gamut from easy (i.e. make sure name of XXX clan is consistent) to slightly more involved (i.e. trickle in XYZ earlier) to a few complicated things that I don't know how to handle so I leave them for the end.
The good news is that I'm exactly where I wanted to be in time for my trip to Scotland. I love to do one big read through and because this book is long, a ten hour plane ride will be perfect.
Okay, about that other meaning. The other day I was driving my kids to one of their many classes and Freebird came on the radio. Immediately I started thinking about a skiing trip I took with a friend in middle school when we borrowed her brother's Astrotunes (these were the precursor to Walkmans). Yes, I know I'm ageing myself. LOL. It's amazing to me how certain songs can bring up very visceral memories, and "classics" like Freebird even more so.
To me, Freebird is one of those seminal rock songs. Satisfaction is another. If I had a list of all-time classic rock songs they both would be on it. It's hard to delineate exactly what puts a song in this category, but it's kind of one of those "I know it when I see it" type of things.
Here's my list:
Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)
Baba O'Reily (The Who)
Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd)
Freebird (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Satisfaction (Rolling Stones)
Back in Black (ACDC)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
I'm sure there are some I'm forgetting. What do you think is the seminal rock song? Do certain songs bring back memories for you? On another note...I'll be gone for a couple of weeks, but I'll be back in October with tons of awesome pictures for you!
Thursday, September 04, 2008
I'm looking forward to the return of THE OFFICE later this month, but other than that I'm not all that excited about the Fall season. I'm still waiting for Battlestar Gallactica in January and LOST--I can't remember when that's supposed to be back.
What about you? Any fall shows you are excited about?
Friday, August 22, 2008
How is it possible that the kids are going back to school next week? Did this summer just zoom by or was it me "lost in time" writing? Months seem to go by before I stick my head up from its fixed position at the computer screen.
My deadline for book #3 is creeping up (as is my trip to Scotland...yea!) and I've had the nose to the grindstone so to speak. Not much to report on other than the news that the Fog City Divas blog has decided to call it quits. It was a difficult decision, but I think we had a great run. I'll be doing my last blog next Thursday (28th) and we'll be giving away prizes all week so I hope you guys will pop by and say "hi." Who knows, I may even have a signed set of new coverflats to give away. :)
And in the kind of fun department...I received a few copies of my first foreign versions of Highlander Untamed from Spain. Love it!
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I'm back from conference and finally recovered. It was exhausting, but as always very fun. Playing catch up the week after, however, is not. LOL. Candice Hern has some great pictures posted on the FCD's website (page down) and blog so check 'em out.
I had some great meetings with my editor and agents and it got me to thinking about "what's next" and publishing schedules. It wasn't so long ago that one book a year by an author was the norm. Now, I'd say most authors shoot for two. Some authors (like Susan Elizabeth Phillips for example) have less than a book a year (SEP's last book was published in Feb. 2007 her next one is slated for Feb. 2009). SEP could publish a book every five years and I would still be lining up to buy it. Most of us, however, don't garner that kind of loyalty. I'd say most authors think we have to get books out to the readers frequently enough so that we are "fresh" in the mind.
My first trilogy was published in back-to-back months which is a fantastic way to launch a debut author. It can also give an established author a big push. A fellow Ballantine author Nicole Jordon who has an extensive backlist had a back-to-back trilogy recently that did extremely well. I believe the third book hit #5 on the NY Times list. Why do readers love this publication schedule? Anecdotally, I think it's because people love to not have to wait for the next books in a trilogy. As an avid reader myself I can attest to this love of virtually immediate gratification--if I've enjoyed the first book in the series I don't have to wait months or years for the next two.
Because the first go around went so well, my second trilogy will also be published in back-to-back months starting at the end of January with Highland Warrior. The trade off, of course, is that since I need to write not just one book but THREE books, my new readers will have to wait about 15 months between Highlander Unchained (my last MacLeod book) and Highland Warrior. It might sound like a long time, but believe me to get three books ready for publication it's very fast.
It takes me about six months to write a book--five if I don't have other distractions. This is a speed at which I'm comfortable. I could do it faster--and some books are--but I need to make sure I have enough time to fully develop the story.
I'm in the final stages of writing book #3 (Highland Scoundrel) right now and starting to think about what comes next. I'm not just thinking about story ideas, but also pondering timing. Of course, none of this is really in my control, but I thought it would be fun to see what readers think about publication frequency in a very non-scientific poll. I'd also love to hear your thoughts... so feel free to comment.
Monday, July 28, 2008
I'll be across the bay in San Francisco all week for the Romance Writers of America's National Conference. If you are in the area make sure to pop by the literacy signing on Wednesday at the Marriott (details here) where I--along with hundreds of other romance authors--will be signing books for charity. I'll be back next week with some fun pictures, but until then to get everyone in the mood . . .
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
One thing I love most about writing is that there is no right answer. Give ten people the same scenario and they'll create ten very different stories. My friend and fellow Diva Candice Hern is taking this point to heart--she and three other writers are coming out with a novella where they've each written a story with the same premise called It Happened One Night. You can read the premise here. Occasionally, however, for yours-over-analyzing-truly this no right answer benefit can present a problem: too many options.
This happened to me today. The "process" for all writers is different. Over each book I've written my process gets a little more refined as I realize what works for me. I started out writing "seat of the pants" but I quickly learned that this didn't really work for me. I don't use a detailed outline, but I like to have a pretty good road map of where I'm going. This usually takes the form of a good working synopsis.
But every once in a while I'll get stuck. Usually because I have too many options and I'm trying to figure out which is the "best," meaning which makes sense for the characters at that point of the story and which is going to give me the most emotional bang.
So what do I do? Pick up the phone and call one of my critique partners. Today it was Bella Andre who answered the call (while on vacation no less!) Instead of sitting beside the lake on her Adirondack chair in upstate NY she was patiently listening to my jumble of different plot points for a book she hasn't even read yet. But here's the magical thing (other than Bella :)): for me just the simple act of verbalizing the options and talking through the different scenarios usually frees me up. It worked today, I was setting speed records after getting off the phone.
Isn't it funny how "just talking about it" helps. Not just in writing, but in life. Just the process of getting it off your chest can usually make you feel better.
And can I just give a huge thanks to Bella? Thank you, Bella!
Do you find talking things out helps you as well? Who answers your call when you are in need? If you are a writer how do you deal with little road blocks?
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Where has the year gone? Seriously. I think I've been locked in my writing cave a little too long. :) But the Fourth will be a busy day for us. We have a local parade that is a pretty big deal in our small town and my daughter will be performing in it (Irish Dancing). All the dancers are going to congregate at our house--which is basically on the parade route--early in the morning and then later that evening we have a huge block party. Oh yea, in the middle of the day after the parade we go to a swim party. Very busy.
What do you have planned? Quiet day of relaxing or lots of picnics and fireworks? (I'll let you in on a little secret about me...I'm kind of a fireworks scrooge.)
I'm blogging over at the Divas on Thursday about the American Revolutionary War period and romances--so pop on over and chime in.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I've been taking a great online class through Celtic Hearts Romance Writers on the clan system and one of the recurring topics (as happens quite a bit in Scottish romance classes) is the correct terminology of "xyz" for "xyz" period. If it's before 1600 in the Highlands, usually that means its a Gaelic word.
Now here's the funny timing issue on this. Right now I'm going through the copy edits for Highland Warrior (it's so nice to have a title!) and my editor must have circled every other Gaelic word I used--meaning she wanted me to get rid of it--and I don't think I use that many. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of defining the term in context, but I guess maybe not. I basically use Gaelic for the clothing (i.e. Breacan Feile or Arisaidh) and smatter in other "local" words for flavor (i.e. birlinn; yett; barmkin).
But with each book the Gaelic gets less and less. Why? Because I think the words trip up most people other than the hard core Scottish fans and that last thing an author wants is a frustrated reader. So occasionally, this might mean I use a Scots word or English word for something (i.e. Whisky or Laird).
I thought I'd see whether you guys agree...Do you like to see Gaelic in your Scottish romances? A smattering or the more the merrier?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
It's not that I don't like to watch sports anymore, but frankly I just don't have the time to spend a few hours in front of the TV. But this past week/weekend I was caught up in the frenzy. I happened to turn on game 4 of the Celtics/Laker game right before the Celtics started their big comeback. Then it was Tiger. Isn't he amazing? Saturday was one of the most exciting rounds of golf I've ever watched--of course I had to watch Sunday (and part of Monday, too). Stanford (where my husband and I went to school) is also playing the College World Series so we've been watching part of those games. See what I mean?
What about you...do you enjoy watching sports on TV? Any team you follow religiously?
Friday, June 06, 2008
Hope you saw the update on my website, but I have titles (finally!) for my next trilogy. Drumroll please . . .
Highland Warrior (Jamie Campbell's story)
Highland Outlaw (Elizabeth Campbell's story)
Highland Scoundrel (Duncan Campbell's story)
As you can probably tell, I ran out of "un" words. LOL. I'm still waiting for covers, but I hope to see those very soon. It will be hard to beat the first series, but the art department at Ballantine is amazing so you never know.
I literally just got the titles and yet when I checked Amazon a few minutes ago . . . low and behold the first two are aleady up for pre-sale (thus the link). Amazing. Not quite as exciting as seeing that first book listed for sale, but pretty darn close.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Is it me or does it seem eerily quiet in romanceland? Posts on both loops and blogs I frequent seem to be way down. I know I'm busy with wrapping up the school year (which always seems to be crazily busy) and trying to get deep into book #3 so I can enjoy the summer vacations we have planned--maybe everyone else is, too.
We aren't doing anything exciting--a trip to the "Gold Country" and maybe a trip down south to Disneyland for my daughter's birthday. The "big" events will come at the end of summer when the Romance Writers of America's national conference comes to San Francisco and then in September when I head across the pond to the UK.
So what about you . . . have you been busy getting ready for the summer? Any big trips planned (BTW, it is NOT okay to tell me you are going to Hawaii!)? Are you planning to go to RWA this year?
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
What do those all have in common? They are my excuses for being so quiet this last week.
Christmas has become such a production last year my husband and I had the great idea of doing something different next year. So last week I started investigating Disney World. Well, let me tell you--it is quite a project. I am now the proud owner of two DW travel books and am a subscriber to numerous "mousesaver" type of newsletters. Don't get me started about the review sites. There are so many they can make your head spin. My husband said "information overload" and he's exactly right.
As my friends and family can attest I am something of a "Julie MacCoy." Those of you old enough to remember the Love Boat will get the analogy. I love to plan vacations, research all the available options, and find the best deal. This is absolutely impossible with Disney World. They have 22--count them--22 Disney properties. If you call the Disney "vacation specialists" everything is quoted in packages so it is very difficult to price out individual items. Usually one thinks of "package" as getting some kind of break for purchasing a bunch of things together--i.e. rooms, food, and tickets. Not so. I don't think it saves you $5. Special deals around the holidays...forget about it. Not saving SOMETHING goes against every bone in my body. When I get a bee in my bonnet I won't stop. So there I was obsessively researching every possible avenue. Can you say headache?
But the fun doesn't stop there. On Saturday, my email decided to stop sending emails. Thankfully I could still receive them. This has happened before and it typically sorts itself out in a day or two. Not this time. Apparently, after doing a little searching on-line, my internet provider (ATT) decided to change their server settings which meant that their customers had to change theirs. Dutifully I poured over the ATT site, printed off instructions and, holding my breath, tried. Nothing worked. It actually made it worse because I stopped receiving messages too. So then came the phone call. After a lengthy call of trying different things, the guy finally figured out that because I've had DSL for so long I never had an account created, thus the new server couldn't authenticate my email. UGH. Two days of computer stress later it was fixed.
So what's more fun than computer problems? How about root canal! Yes, on Saturday and Sunday I realized that something was definitely wrong when my normal tooth pain (I have quite a bit normally) turned into something more painful than . . . I don't know what. I told my husband I could see why in the old days people would pull out bad teeth with plyers. It hurt so much I was thinking about it. So today I had root canal.
What a fun weekend...huh? At least I hope I have a good excuse for being so quiet. Violins anyone? Off to pop the pain pills!
Friday, May 02, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
I just finished an ARC of my friend Karin Tabke's upcoming Medieval Historical--MASTER OF SURRENDER. (How about that cover!) I absolutely devoured it. Karin has always done a fabulous Alpha Hero (her "Hot Cops" books are full of them), but they really shine against a medieval background. I love these guys and I'm already lobbying for an ARC of the next book. Hey, being a friend has it's advantages!
MOS is the first book in Karin's BLOOD SWORD LEGACY series. Here's how Karin describes the series:
Bound by a brotherhood forged in the hell of a Saracen prison, eight Blood Swords—mercenary knights for William the Conqueror—set out to claim their legacies the only way they can: by right of arms, by right of victory, by right of conquest.
Sound fabulous, don't they? I think these books are really going to hit a note--ever since Madeline Hunter stopped writing medievals I know that I've been dying for a gritty medieval historical. (I'm especially a sucker for a good Norman v. Saxon story. ) It seems like certain time periods/books come in waves and after years of Regency domination it's great that other settings are coming back.
Although there does seem to be more variety out there lately, certain settings/sub-genres are still hard to find. Personally, I'd love to see more of the sweeping style of romances of the past. I also have a weakness for Viking romances--Josie Litton had some great ones a few years back, but I'd love to see more of those.
What about you...what sub-genre/type of romance have you been missing?
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Just wanted to alert you all to an exciting booklovers extravaganza contest taking place over at Samantha James's website. She's giving away hundreds of prizes over the next month from twelve fabulous authors (including yours truly :)) starting day 1! So make sure to pop on over there for your chance to win a set of signed coverflats from my MacLeod trilogy!
I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter and/or Spring Break. My kids have something called "ski week" in mid-February, so unfortunately our break isn't for a few weeks. I am, however, taking a mini-vacation this week to attend a writer's conference in NY, so I thought I'd leave you with a fun clip. My mom is a big old movie buff so I grew up watching all the old musicals. What's fun is how much my kids enjoy them (especially Sound of Music and Hello Dolly). Me? Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Oklahoma.
What about you . . . what's your favorite old musical?
Monday, March 17, 2008
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
About 6 months ago (maybe a little longer) I was introduced to a new author from my local RWA Chapter who would soon be publishing her first book--a Scottish historical. I was so excited, but it kept getting better and better. Her books are set about fifty years after mine, we both were writing about actual historical figures, we are almost exactly the same age (she's five days older--LOL, you didn't think I'd miss pointing THAT out, did you?), we both have two kids, and her name is Veronica (we got the whole "onica" thing working)! Her book hit the stands a couple of weeks ago, so if you are looking for more Scottish check out MASTER OF THE HIGHLANDS. I was fortunate to read an ARC of this book and the next and loved them.
I'm in a Scottish mood lately, I just finished the wonderful Terri Brisbin's latest (SURRENDER TO THE HIGHLANDER) and loved it (I just visited the Orkneys so it was really fun to read a book partially set there) and I'm just about to pick up Janet Chapman's latest.
Any new Highlander books that you recommend?
Friday, February 08, 2008
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
On a recent trip to England, my family and I visited Battle (as in "of Hastings"). It was one of the highlights of the trip. English Heritage has put in a new visitor center near the Abbey (seen in the picture above) where the kids were able to watch a good video explaining some of the history behind "1066" country and then they played with a few interactive exhibits (swords, etc). But the highlight by far was walking the actual battlefield. It was drizzly and cold, and I think we were the only people there, but it was amazing to listen to the audio guide and really "feel" what it must have been like all those years ago. My kids (8 and 10) loved it.
When we were there one of the guides mentioned that every year they re-enact the battle. I would love to see this some time. I think they do something similar here in the US for the Battle of Gettysburg.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
I hope you all had a nice holiday "break." The reason I put that word in quotations is that having the kids home for two weeks while on deadline doesn't feel like much of a vacation. By the time January 7th rolled around even they were ready to go back to school. LOL.
We usually head up to Tahoe over Christmas, but this year we decided to stay home. It was actually really nice, and I was glad not to add the stress of travel to an already hectic schedule. I was even more happy to be home when Northern California was hit with some pretty crazy storms last week. Most of my Diva buddies were without power at some point of another, but we were lucky.
The good news is that I'm about half-way through with Book #2 of my next back-to-back trilogy--right on schedule which is always a nice place to be. Now let's hope it stays that way!
Did you have a boring holiday like me or did you do something exciting? Anyone do any traveling? And if you went to Hawaii, I DON'T want to hear about it. :)