Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy New Year (Almost)!

I'm back from Disneyworld where we spent Christmas.  Disney does the holidays up right and it was a pretty special place to be on Christmas day.  The kids were concerned about Santa, but miraculously he managed to bring a few presents to Florida as well as dropping off the rest at home.  He's a pretty organized guy that Santa.  My kids (and husband) insisted that I take a picture with Lady Tremaine, Cinderella's evil step mother.  I can't figure out why. 
No major plans for the McCartys this week for New Years.  We usually get together with my sister and her family for a "New York New Years" (aka celebrating it at 9 pm--yes, I'm getting old) but she hasn't invited us over yet (hint, hint).  

On the writing side, I'm gearing up for the release of HIGHLAND WARRIOR and at the suggestion of my (brilliant) web designer I'm thinking about trying something new.  In addition to doing "picture books" and having them available on the special features section of my website like I did for the first series, I'm thinking about doing larger sets of pictures and having them available as slideshows, etc. on Flickr.  Here's my first attempt of Castle Campbell which figures in HIGHLAND OUTLAW (book #2 in Campbell Trilogy): here.  

Let me know what you think.  Is this something you'd enjoy seeing more of?  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Holidays Beckon

How is it possible that Christmas is a week away?  Is it my imagination or do the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to shrink every year?  The fact that we are traveling makes it even worse--all the shopping (and wrapping) has to be done before we go.
I've really tried to cut back this year and it's helped, but I still have that slightly frazzled feeling that is becoming par for the course lately around the holidays.  And of course my recent computer woes haven't helped any.  Tuesday was the first day I've sat at my desk in a long time--it was awesome.  I'm loving my MAC so far and I can see why Apple followers have that evangelical fervor.

I hope all of you are enjoying the season and have fun things to do planned over the next couple of weeks.  I'll return after the new year all ready to start thinking about HIGHLAND WARRIOR.  Can't believe it's only a little over a month away...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I'm an Idiot (or why I've been so quiet)

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

More Reasons to Love You-Tube

I'd seen one of these commercials some time back in London, but Veronica Wolff sent me a link with a bunch of them. So if you are looking for a time-sucker, look no further! Gotta love those Scotsmen!

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Little Inspiration

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

Halloween is Coming!

I have to admit I love Halloween. We live on what is known as "the" Halloween street in the neighborhood. I kid you not, last year we handed out about 600 pieces of candy in a little over two hours. My mom, who lives only a few blocks away, hands out maybe 40-50. We take the kids out early just so we can get back to sit on the porch (we gave up answering the door about 1/2 hour into our first Halloween) and see all the kids come by. At the height of the rush, from about 7 to 7:30, you literally look out on a sea of people in the street. The only thing that comes close to what it looks like is the old fraternity row parties I used to go to at USC when they would block off the ends of the street with beer trucks--but I'll save that for another post, LOL.

I can't think of any holiday that has changed more than Halloween since I was a kid. It must be second only to Christmas in terms of commercialization. I was at Target last weekend (buying about 700 pieces of candy!) and was completely blown away by the aisles and aisles of decorations. For some reason the commercialization bothers me less for Halloween than it does for Christmas--and I have to admit we have a few witches, scarecrows and pumpkins adorning our porch. I was tempted to add to the collection, but refrained (at least until the after Halloween sales). As much as I'd like to scoff at the idea of "decorating" for Halloween, it's pretty fun seeing all the decorations go up around the neighborhood and the kids love it.

This year I have a ghost and a bunny--nothing too elaborate. The one thing I don't do is sew, so the kids usually put something together or get store bought. My mom, on the other hand, used to make me some pretty amazing costumes. The ones that stick out: Princess Leia, Wonderwoman and a Raiderette. Thankfully all of these were pre-digital so I don't need to fear that Raiderette picture popping up somewhere. :)

So are you ready for Halloween? Anyone dressing up in your family? Has Halloween become too commercial for you? What's your favorite holiday?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

White Noise

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 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

I'm back!

Scotland was amazing--though how could it be anything but? I can't believe how quickly 12 days sped by. I traveled with fellow Scottish Historical Author Veronica Wolff and it really was the trip of a lifetime. We were mostly around Argyll (Campbell and MacGregor country), but also took a ferry to the Isle of Islay which was definitely one of the highlights. In addition to a fabulous local guide (Iain Watson from Doodlebus), we had an amazing run of good luck. Not only did all of our flights take off as scheduled and all of our luggage arrive on board, it stopped raining the day we arrived and didn't rain again until the day we left.

You'll be seeing what amounts to a photo travel journal over the next few months as I took plenty of pictures for my website of all the big places in my upcoming Campbell trilogy, but here is a picture of Veronica and me on Loch Katrine (above) in Trossachs National Park.

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

New Fall Show Alert!

I read a glowing review in my local paper of a new show that debuted last night on FX called SONS OF ANARCHY and decided to give it a try. How's this for a byline: Hamlet on a Harley.

With a comparison to the Sopranos, it sounded like something I might like. If the first episode is any indication, it's going to be awesome (but not for the weak of stomach). Like the Sopranos and another FX favorite of mine RESCUE ME, the writers have done a great job in setting up another complex anti-hero in Jax. Jax is played by actor Charlie Hunnam (pictured above)--who goes into my category of one of those rare hot blonds, LOL. The audience is immediately drawn to him, but lest we get confused about what kind of guy he is there is a scene in the middle of the episode that won't let you forget.

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

The End of Summer Already?

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

Optimal Publishing Schedule

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

A Wee Break!

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

They're Here . . .

Ready for more strapping lads in plaid? I'm thrilled to be able to share my new covers with you! Pop on over to my website to check 'em out and let me know what you think. Sigh, so many muscles, so little time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Talking it out

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

The Fourth of July!

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

To Gaelic or not to Gaelic...

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

An Exciting Week of Sports

So I did something this weekend in between kid activities and father's day that I rarely do anymore--veg out in front of the TV and watch sports. It wasn't so long ago that this wasn't such a rarity. I used to watch quite a bit of golf, football, basketball and occasionally tennis.

You'll notice I left out baseball. That's the one sport that I do watch regularly--we subscribe to the MLB package on Direct TV so most nights I'm watching the Red Sox at dinner. It's nice because when my husband flies back to do TV work for NESN (the Red Sox station), I can watch him.

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 enjoy watching sports on TV? Any team you follow religiously?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Just a Quick Heads Up!

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

Summer Slow Down

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

A mouse, a server and a bad tooth

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

Brenda Novak's Auction For Diabetes

Fellow Diva Brenda Novak's annual auction for diabetes started this week and there are some amazing items up for bid, including a "HIS and HERS" item from the McCartys. I packaged a signed set of the MacLeod trilogy with a signed card and ball from the 2004 World Series--my husband Dave was part of the 2004 team. I'm also part of a mentoring program with the Divas. So definitely check it out! All the money raised goes to a great cause. What Brenda has done amazes me--I can't imagine how she manages to organize and hold a huge auction like this, take care of 5 kids, AND write fabulous books. Makes me feel like a serious slacker. I can barely manage to get dinner on the table. Sorry, kids, it's pizza again tonight . . .

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What have you been missing?

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

Historical Fiction v. Historical Romance
I had an interesting phone conversation with a friend this morning who doesn't typically read romance, but has really been enjoying my books. She is, however, a historical fiction reader. We got into a discussion about the differences between the two--which at time, admittedly, can be difficult to qualify (Outlander comes to mind, as do Katherine, or The Other Boleyn Girl). In general, I think romances focus on the relationship whereas in historical fiction, the romance is just one of the plot threads. I read both, and I guess I've always assumed that readers of historical romance probably also read historical fiction (although not necessarily the other way around) but maybe I'm wrong. Not surprisingly though, my favorite historical fiction books have a strong romance plot.

Since you are reading this blog, I figure it's a good bet that you read historical romance...but do you also read historical fiction? (Phillipa Gregory, Sharon Kay Penman, Dorothy Dunnett, Anya Seton, Elizabeth Chadwick, etc). What about Gabaldon . . . do you consider her books romances or historical fiction?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Contest Opportunity and a quick note. . .

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

Couldn’t resist the picture—it’s from a Red Sox event in 2004

Last night we watched a great movie from Netflix called GONE BABY GONE. It stars Casey Affleck and is Ben Affleck’s directorial debut (thus the picture!). We’ve been struggling with the movie rentals lately (scraping the bottom of the barrel because of the writer’s strike) and we really enjoyed this one. The story takes place in Boston and Ben really brings the city to life—almost as if it’s a character in the movie. Kind of like the Highlands in a good Scottish historical romance, right? But I digress . . .

One of the things I really loved about the movie was that Patrick, the Casey Affleck character, faces a big moral dilemma at the end. One of those situations where there is no easy answer—the kind of thing that makes for good “water cooler” discussions at work.

Ironically, the weekend before we’d watched another one of these type of situations on 60 Minutes. I’m greatly simplifying, but in that case a man had been sentenced to life in prison for murder. Turns out, during the trial many year ago, ANOTHER man had confessed to his attorneys that he’d actually committed the crime. The moral dilemma in that one was that these attorneys could not tell anyone what they knew because of attorney client confidentiality. Eventually the real murderer died and before he did one of the attorneys had him sign a waiver allowing him to tell what they knew. It looks like it will probably be enough to get the man who was wrongly convicted freed.

So essentially—no matter how badly they wanted to tell—these two lawyers had to sit by and watch an innocent man serve years (I think it was well over twenty) for a crime he didn’t commit.This is the kind of questions law professors love to give on ethics exams. Although every instinct is to want to tell what you know, as a lawyer you owe a duty to your client (in this case the guy who admitted the murder). The ethics code/laws are very clear—even the innocent man’s attorney acknowledge there was nothing the other attorneys could do.

These kind of things not only make for great water cooler conversations and law exams, but they can also be great sources of conflict in novels. I love when a character is faced with difficult choices and the “right” answer isn’t always the one that is easy. Or better yet, where there is no clear right answer. Of course it’s a little harder to do in a romance where ambiguous endings aren’t so good. LOL.

I’m in the planning stages for book #3 of the next trilogy and all these fun kind of questions are on my mind. And yes, that means I “finished” the first draft of book #2—I’m waiting for my fabulous CPs suggestions (Jami Alden and Bella Andre) before I send it off to my editor.

Do you love these kind of situations like I do or do you prefer a more clear cut answer? Any movie that you can think of that has a good moral dilemma?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

I thought it would be fun to see what everyone's favorite Highlander movie is. Here are my top three. There are a few others I could have included (Brigadoon, The Master of Ballantrae, and Mary of Scotland), but I thought these all had the same feel. Any I missed?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I'm blogging over at the Divas today about Alpha Heroes--basically arguing that they aren't necessarily jerks. I also raved about Shannon McKenna's latest book, EXTREME DANGER, which might have my favorite romance hero of all time! Pop on over and let me know what you think. (The picture of Viggo is just to set the mood for the discussion--he was who I had in mind for Alex in HIGHLANDER UNMASKED. Shhh.... :)).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I meant to post this last week, but my looming deadline has been working against me. Book #2 of the next trilogy is due at the end of March so--fair warning--I might be a little longer between posts.

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

He's Everywhere!

Not only is Nathan Kamp gracing just about every other romance novel (not that I'm complaining, mind you), but he's also popping up in my home catalogs. So there I am the other night flipping through the Pendleton catalog and wham, there he is. Does this man ever take a rest?

If you read a lot of romance as I do, you can't help but become familiar with some of the more common cover models. Most of the time, I don't find them all that attractive. Nathan, however, is the exception. When I started thinking about covers for my first series, I kept thinking, wouldn't it be awesome if I ended up with him? Too embarrassed to lobby for something like that, I still remember opening up the package with the picture of my covers for the first time and seeing his face (okay, partial face). I was over the moon.

Does he help sell books? I don't know, but it sure can't hurt. :) Have you ever bought a book based on the cover model? Do you even notice the cover model?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Old Favorites

There's just something about ice skating. It's one of those sports that is "cool" around the Olympics, but forgotten at other times. My husband groaned last week when I put the nationals on the TV, but soon he was just as involved as I was. Our kids were watching it as well and I happened to mention what I think is the quintessential skating movie, ICE CASTLES, and was appalled that my husbsand had never seen it.

Netflix to the rescue! We watched it last night with my 8 year old daughter and I was thrilled with how well it held up. I used to have the biggest crush on Robby Benson. So here's the shocking part: it's 30 years old and Robby Benson is now over 50. Sigh.

It got me thinking about favorite childhood/young adult movies. Who (in the 40 year old range) can forget BLUE LAGOON and LITTLE DARLINGS? My other big favorite was THE OUTSIDERS. I was a huge Matt Dillon fan and there was a small movie called OVER THE EDGE that I must have watched 100 times (kind of scary given the subject matter!).

What about you . . . any movies that hold a special place in your heart?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Monica Goes to 1066 Country

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.

I have a good fellow writer friend who is big time into costume re-enactment, but it's never really something that's interested me. I've always thought it would be fun to dress up one time for a party or renaissance faire, but the amount or work and expense keep me away. But it does seem like a fun way to really experience history.

What about you? Have you ever been or participated in a re-enactment?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I'm blogging over at the Divas tomorrow (Thursday 17th) about a new book that is all the buzz around the internet called THE SPYMASTER'S LADY by Joanna Bourne. I had a chance to read it this past week and LOVED it. One of the things I noted in my blog over at the Divas was that I really loved the heroine. Usually I read romances for the sexy Alpha Heroes--and her hero is certainly that--but it's the heroine who really stuck with me.
So what about you read romance for a sexy hero or for a strong heroine? Have you had a chance to read TSL yet? Any new books you recommend?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Happy (belated) New Year!

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. :)