Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Decembers are always crazy, but this one seems to have been worse than normal. I've done quite a bit of traveling, which when combined with kids stuff, probably explains it. There is also the matter of a certain book that needs to get written! Deadlines don't care about the holidays, LOL.

Hope all of you are enjoying a great break with lots of family & friends. And for those of you like me who have to work--we can commiserate together.

Here's to a happy and prosperous New Year for us all! Can you believe it's almost 2012? Wasn't it just the millennium?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

UPDATE: Sorry they're all gone

Cleaning Off the Bookshelf

I'm drowning in books! I realized I have a few extra copies of some of my books hanging around that need to find a home. Here's what I have: 3 copies of Highland Warrior, 2 copies of Highlander Unmasked, and 2 copies of The Hawk. I want to make this as simple as possible so my hubby can get them in the mail ASAP. If you want a copy send me your first two choices and your mailing address to the email here (make sure to check the "I'm a reader" box or it might get overlooked.) First come, first served :) Unfortunately, since my hubby is doing the mailing and wants to avoid the Post Office at all costs right now, only US addresses for this one. If you'd like it personalized let me know.

I also have some foreign copies of books to giveaway if anyone is interested in those (German and Spanish)--again only US addresses please.

I'm trying to think of a contest to do to giveaway a bunch of audio copies of THE HAWK as well, so look for that.

UPDATE: THE BOOKS ARE ALL GONE! Giveaway is over, thanks!

Monday, December 05, 2011

And the winners of the ARCs of RUN FROM FEAR are . . .

[Insert drumroll]

ShellyE who commented on the blog and Betty Kohler Hamilton who commented on Facebook!

Congratulations! Please send your mailing address to the email address on my website:

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Kicking off the Holidays Right! (With a Giveaway!)

The holidays are my favorite time of year and nothing sets the mood like getting together for a holiday luncheon with a fabulous group of friends. Actually, let me correct myself: there is nothing like getting together with a fabulous group of friends at Catherine Coulter's house for the holidays. To say it is decked out is an understatement. It's like walking into a winter wonderland. This picture shows the most miniscule part of it, but there are literally decorations everywhere--rugs, linens, wall-hangings, you name it. I am now officially in the holiday spirit!

So who are all those gorgeous women? From L to R: Barbara Freethy, Moi, Tracy Grant, Jami Alden, Catherine Coulter, Anne Mallory, Bella Andre and Veronica Wolff. Missing is Carol Culver who usually joins us but is traveling, and Penny Williamson who moved on us but we still miss. Pretty nice group of friends, huh? Not just one but two NYT #1 bestsellers in the group (Catherine & Barbara). Yes, I know, I pinch myself all the time at my luck. :) If you are wondering why Catherine is standing on a chair, it's because she always gives me a time for wearing high heels when I'm tall. This was to make her look not so petite in comparison, LOL.

To continue the holiday spirit theme, I thought it would be fun to giveaway two ARCs of Jami Alden's next release, Run From Fear, which hits stores in March. Jami is my CP, so you know how I feel about her books. We definitely share the same sensibility (or brain, LOL) when it comes to romance. This is the third book in her latest romantic trilogy. It's sexy, edgy, and has a hero to die for, what more could you want? All the usual rules apply (i.e. only one comment counts, must be 18 or over, must respond to email within 24 hours with snail mail addy, North America only, etc.). I will pick two winners from either the blog comments, Facebook comments or tweets.

During lunch, Catherine had the theme from Charlie Brown's Christmas playing. When she and the four(!) other ladies get together to decorate her house, that's what they listen to. Funny enough, Bella mentioned that it's the same music they play when they decorate. At our house, there are a couple favorites. I'm partial to John Denver's Rocky Mountain Christmas (it's what I remember from our family ski trips to Tahoe over the holidays), but my husband grew up with Johnny Mathis, so that's his holiday music of choice. I also like Elvis and Bing Crosby. Do you have any special holiday music that you like?

UPDATE: Oops, forgot to mention that I'll pick the two winners on Monday evening.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Holidays Already?

Huh? What happened? I feel like Rip Van Winkle. Wasn't it just summer?

I say this every year, but this year the holidays REALLY crept up on me. I was walking around a local mall last weekend and saw the Santa house going up! It gave me that little roll of anxiousness in my stomach, knowing that (1) I haven't done any shopping (2) I need to work on Highland Guard #6 through the holidays or I'll be way behind (3) parties and parenting obligations will be multiplying (4) all kinds of travel plans to coordinate (5) someone has to pay for all this (6) OMG, I feel ill...

Anyway, the holidays officially start for me tomorrow. My kids will be off all of next week for Thanksgiving. I really like having the whole week off, it makes travel much easier. Last year we went to London, and I was suffering serious withdrawals early today reading my buddy Candice Hern's FB page (she's there this week). I do have some fun things planned that I'll tell you more about later, but basically the whole clan is getting together on my side. My parents, sister, brother and both of their families. In total there will be 16 of us.

What about you, any big plans for the week? Does your holiday start tomorrow? Have you done your shopping yet? (And if anyone has actually finished I don't want to hear about it! :)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

So Where's the Honeymoon?

Honeymoons are a big part of getting married nowadays, and although it was a long time ago, I remember one first questions I would be asked after learning I was engaged was, "Where are you going on your honeymoon?"

But it's funny, honeymoons don't figure much in romances. I can count on one hand the books I recall that have a honeymoon epilogue. If anything it's usually the wedding. Maybe readers find them anticlimactic (LOL!).

I was fortunate enough to have a dream destination honeymoon, a place that I doubt we will ever top in terms of luxury. We went to a private island in Fiji, and it was amazing. If I was doing it again, I think I'd still go for the beach destination. Although my preferred "normal" travel destinations are more sight-seeing type places, a honeymoon feels a little different. Private, relaxing, pampering, that kind of thing.

So I thought it would be fun to pick your ultimate honeymoon destination. If you were planning a wedding (cough, cough, Julie) or doing it all over again and money was no object, where would you go?

Me? I'm thinking Tahiti or the Pitcairn Islands. Can you tell I'm a MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY fan (Clark Gable or Marlon Brando version--doesn't matter)?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Red-Headed Hero

An interesting discussion on Twitter (is that what you call it?) came up a few weeks ago about the article in the paper stating that red-headed sperm donors were no longer needed--not enough demand. Now, as a mother of a red-headed girl, I can tell you that I LOVE my red-head and am very jealous of her hair. But I must admit, it's almost always the first thing people comment on when they see her.

We started going back and forth a little about whether red-headed guys were "hot." We came up with a short list of actors: Kevin McKidd, Max Martini, Damian Lewis, and a couple others.

I must admit, I've never contemplated doing a red-headed hero. I'm not sure why, but I've probably steered away partly because of fear that readers wouldn't like it. About the closest I got was Jamie Campbell, who had dark brown hair with some lingering red/auburn from boyhood.

But I do think there are some "hot" red-headed guys. The guys listed above, and my new discovery the guy who plays Mike on Homeland (Diego Klattenhoff) pictured above.

So what about you...what would you think if you read the back of the book and it said the hero had red hair. Would you put it down? Be honest, and I promise no stones will be thrown and no names taken, LOL.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Huge Thank You!

I'll be popping open the champagne tonight because of you guys. I just got the call from my agent that THE VIPER not only hit both the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists, but it's also going back to press already! So to all of you, for all your support, a very big cheers from me!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Viper is in Stores!

I'm so thrilled to finally be able to say The Viper: A Highland Guard Novel (B&N) is now available! If the reader mail I received about Lachlan is any indication, I know many of you have been looking forward to his story. I must admit that when I first conceived the Highland Guard series, his was the story I was most looking forward to writing. I knew it would take a special heroine to break through his very hard shell, and when I read about the Scottish heroine Bella MacDuff, I knew I'd found her. Bella's story is pretty amazing. Once you read the prologue, you'll know what I'm talking about.

I can't wait to hear what you guys think. The early feedback so far has been wonderful, I really appreciate it! This is a big book for me. I always get great distribution with Random House, but this book should be everywhere. As always I love hearing where you find it!

Finally, I hope you guys will go check out the special event that Ing is doing on her As the Pages Turn blog. I love the special Highland Guard graphic she did (why can't I do things like that?)! Please make sure to check it out for some great opportunities to win the books. You also get points for "spreading the word" on Twitter, Facebook, etc., which is such a great idea. Thanks, Ing!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Visiting Scotland!

A few weeks ago, when I was posting few pictures from my trip to Scotland last year on Facebook, Brenda suggested that I pass on my list of "must sees" on a first trip to Scotland.

I've been fortunate to visit Scotland 5 or 6 times now, the last couple of trips with my good buddy & fellow Scottish Historical author Veronica Wolff. She's been gracious enough to let me drag her across all corners of Scotland--literally--to visit some of the places in my books so that I can put together my "Picture Books" that I have in the Special Features section of my website. We've been to some pretty random places that had our tour guides scratching their heads. I've covered most of Scotland now--the biggest hole being the St. Andrews area and the far east borders. They are next on the list!

A little aside... I've received a number of emails from readers asking me what's the best way to see Scotland. I've done it on my own, with a group tour, and with a private tour guide. All were fantastic, but I think the answer really depends on what you are looking for in your trip. If you want to go to the "big" cities like Edinburgh, Inverness or Glasgow, and see museums, castles, etc., you can basically do that on your own. If you want to go off the beaten path and you are good with a map and driving on the "wrong" side of the road, you can do that on your own as well. I'm not that brave! But to cover the most ground a private tour guide can't be beat. I did a group tour on my second trip to the Isles and was on a small cruise, which was the best way to see some of the smaller and more difficult to get to Isles. It would have been very difficult--and daunting--to try to get to St. Kilda (picture above) on my own. So I guess that's my long-winded answer of saying that there really isn't a "best" way, it really depends on what, where, and how much you want to see.

On my first trip to Scotland back in 1993 with my hubby we went to Edinburgh, Stirling and Inverness by train. It was a great trip, and funny enough, with all my trips since then, those would probably still be my first suggestions. Edinburgh is how I pictured a medieval town. I'd been to London, but you don't realize how much of the old London is gone (from fires). Edinburgh still has a lot of its original character. You can walk the royal mile from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace:

and see what I'm talking about. At the time of my first trip I was really into Mary Queen of the Scots, so Stirling was tops on the list. I still think it's one of the most magnificent castles and small towns.

The view to Stirling Bridge where Wallace defeated the English and Bruce's statute

at the castle were moving to me even then (when the Highland Guard wasn't a glint in my eye :)). Inverness was our base for the Highlands. Tops on my list at the time was Loch Ness (yes, I had to see Nessie) and Culloden. To this day, Culloden was one of the most eerie places I've ever been (the other being Finlaggan on Islay). You could literally feel the ghosts of all the Highlanders who lost their lives on that horrible day.

If you have time, I'd try to add one of the Isles to your visit. The easiest to access are probably Skye, Mull and Arran. If you like whisky, Islay is probably tops on your list. Picking the best to visit is hard, but I'd probably say Skye. The terrain is so beautiful and varied, you really get to see it all. My parents and I took the West Highland train journey to reach Skye, and it was amazing. It's supposed to be one of the most beautiful train journeys (it includes the famous bridge in the Harry Potter movies). We relied on cabs in Skye, which was a little tricky in the off season, so not sure I'd recommend that. Here's the magnificent kilt rock on Skye:

And--of course--Dunvegan Castle:

If you have the time and inclination, I highly recumbent trying to fit a "walk" (probably more accurately to Americans called a hike) into your itinerary. Veronica and I have done this on our past couple of trips, and I really think it's the best way to see the real beauty of Scotland. Those walks have ended up being the highlights of our trips. Climb to top of Varrich Castle last year:

And climb to top of Ben A'an a few years ago:

So maybe next time, I'll do destination for the second time or seasoned visitor.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

And the winner is...

Kalesmomma! Congratulations! Thanks to everyone who posted on the blog and on Facebook. If you didn't win . . . there's only two more weeks to wait for THE VIPER! :)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

An Early Copy of THE VIPER!

I posted on Facebook last week that I received an early copy of THE VIPER, and I think it was unanimously decided that a contest to give it away was a good idea :) So if you want to be eligible to take Lachlan home a little early, either leave a comment on my blog OR on Facebook before Tuesday (10/4/11) at 5 pm PST. I'll post the name of the winner on my blog Tuesday night, and the winner will have 24 hours to respond, so make sure to check back on Wednesday otherwise it's on to name #2. All my normal blog contest rules apply--blah, blah, blah--you are only entered once so no multiple posts, etc.

I'd love to hear how you are buying books these days. It's funny, in some ways there are fewer options (i.e. Borders) but in other ways there are tons more options (online). I still buy the occasional hardback (recent examples: Unbroken, Seal Team Six), and will also buy paperbacks when I'm at Target (25% off), but over 50% of my purchases are ebooks now--mostly because I'm not out shopping much. I'm too busy writing, LOL. What about you? Of course you don't have to answer the question to win, a simple "count me in" is enough.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Idiosyncrasies & Quirks

We all have them. Seinfeld made a number of hilarious shows about them. One of my favorites: George removing his shirt before going to the bathroom (see youtube video above). Along similar lines, anyone remember John Cage from Ally McBeal? He liked a "fresh bowl" when he went to the bathroom. I can get on board with that!

One of my oddities: I like to be the first person to read the paper. My husband has constant fun with what he (probably rightly) thinks is ridiculous--he'll purposefully mess it up before I get to it. Yes, we're still in High School. Don't get me started on the postman I used to catch reading my magazines on his lunch break outside my house.

I must admit, as I get older, I do like things a certain way. I find myself walking by things that are out of place and fixing them. I've even been known to move a few towels around in my day (I like them straight!), but my little quirks don't usually rise to "Sleeping with the Enemy" levels--at least not yet. :)

The other day I was printing off my manuscript and realized I've developed a couple of them with writing as well. I like writing in Times New Roman--other fonts really bug me. I've heard other authors mention this one as well. I also like to print off every morning and edit by hand in a colored pen. By contrast, when I'm starting a new book and writing out ideas, I do it with pencil. Not sure why, since I never erase anyway.

So what about you? Do you have any funny quirks? Are you over or under on the TP, LOL?

Sunday, September 11, 2011


On September 11, 2001 I was woken up early in the morning by a phone call--I want to say it was a little before 6:30 am. At the time I was a "single" mom of a 4 1/2 year old and 2 year old, my husband was still playing baseball. The team de jour was The Kansas City Royals.

As I've mentioned before, I'm not an early riser :) I remember thinking "who in the heck is calling me this early?" I let it ring, rolled over, and tried to go back to sleep. But something bugged me. What if it was my husband calling with an emergency? He was in KC that day, the Royals were playing the Indians.

Half-asleep I listened to the voicemail. It was my mom--obviously upset. I just remember her saying something along the lines of, "Don't worry, I'm okay. I'm at Logan airport and they're turning us around. The airport's shut down."

Wondering what she was talking about, I tried to go back to sleep. But then the phone rang again. This time it was my sister in a panic. She was up early to return to work after maternity leave and was watching the news, knowing our mom was flying out of Logan that morning. I quickly connected the dots and told her mom had left a message, and she was okay. Together we watched in horror as the events unfolded. The images are jumbled in my mind by all that I've seen subsequently, but I'll never forget watching the first tower come down. Later I would discover that it had been hit by a plane my mom might have been on.

My mom was at Boston Logan airport that morning to fly home after visiting my aunt and was turned around by airport authorities when word of what was happening spread. But had my sister not found a babysitter, she would have been on an earlier flight--UA flight 175.

My sister and her husband are both doctors. As I mentioned, she was returning to work after maternity leave with a 4 1/2 year old and 3 month old. There was a childcare snafu, and my mom was going to take an earlier flight out of Boston and connect through LA to SFO. But at the last minute, my sister found someone and my mom kept her original flight for later that morning.

That's how things seemed to happen that day, isn't it? One person stays home or goes in late for a doctors appointment or sick child and escapes death, another person doesn't. No rhyme or reason, just a quirk of fate.

That to me was one of the hardest things about that day. Trying to find an answer for why. We like to think of reasons why something happened, but what that day made clear for me in such a hideously massive scale is that there weren't any reasons. That was the true horror and unfairness. The randomness of it all. The utter injustice. My family way lucky, so many others were not.

There were so many stories that came out of that day. Some of heroism. Some of tragedy. Some of survival. Some of heartbreak. And many of hope. The people who fought back on Flight 93--it still gives me chills. I'm sure we were all remember where we were on 9-11, as the previous generation remembered the death's of JFK and MLK. It's a day that will live on in our collective consciousness. We are all connected in some way to the tragedy of that day. But my heart goes out to those who lost loved ones in the two towers, the Pentagon, and on a field in Pennsylvania. We honor you today. I hope that ten years has brought a measure of peace.

And in case I don't say it enough, I love you mom.

How did the events of that day change you? What were you doing when you heard what had happened? Ironically, my mom was one of the last people to know what had happened as she spent the day in travel chaos trying to get back to my aunt's house.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The truth about cats and dogs

Five years ago my husband and I gave in to the full court press from our kids for a dog. (That's Cooper above). Now, a dog isn't enough. My son is desperate for a cat. I come from a dog family and my husband grew up without pets, so we are at a loss here. What are the chances of the dog and cat getting along? Am I a masochist for even considering it? So all you pet owners out there I'm looking for a little advice. Why do I or don't I need a cat? Are they really as self-sufficient as people say? What's the training like?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thank you!

I just wanted to thank everyone for all the support last week in getting my Facebook Page off the ground. I have to admit it was much easier than I thought it would be. I was going to hold off on doing Twitter for a while but decided it was probably better to do them both at the same time. So now I'm on BOTH Twitter and Facebook, LOL. That's me, living on the edge.

I think I missed the point about social networking. I wanted to do a "dip a toe in the water" kind of thing, but word gets out fast. :) The idea was to work out the kinks before the book launch when I send out my newsletter and not put it on my website until then, but I might re-evaluate. But I still like the idea of taking it really slow. Don't want to do something "wrong" before I learn the ropes.

My initial impressions: Twitter is VERY fast--it felt like it got around very quickly that I was on Twitter (and by extension FB), but FB feels more interactive.

I was going to integrate feeds from both the blog and twitter, but I decided to hold off. I thought about it and wondered if that would make Facebook status items not feel as "fresh" and interactive. Maybe a link works better? Any thoughts from you all would be appreciated.

Along the same lines, I'd love to get your impressions of things you guys think "work" on Facebook. Is it a regular feature? Certain types of status reports? Just shooting the sh*t?

Thanks again for getting the word out and making me feel so welcome. You guys are the best!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monica Gets with the Program!

Okay, you guys convinced me! I set up a Facebook page that I'm planning to officially launch when THE VIPER comes out on October 18th. So stop by and let me know what you think. I'm hoping you guys will show me the ropes. It seemed much easier to set up this time around (I'd looked into it about a year ago), but hopefully I didn't screw anything up, LOL. It's a work in progress, so feedback is appreciated. I posted a bunch of pictures, so let me know if those don't show up...

Kids are back to school tomorrow...Hallelujah! (If you're in the mood for a little Jon Bon Jovi version of the song watch here).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ebook Sale! (The cover choice is for you Ing:)

If you haven't read my backlist and have an e-reader, Random House has reduced the price of some of my (and other authors') books. For example, Highlander Untamed is $5.99 on both kindle and nook, as is Highlander Unmasked. Highland Warrior, Highland Scoundrel (I think they mistakenly thought this was the second book), and The Chief are $6.99. Here is the list of all my books on kindle. And here they are on nook. They might be similarly priced on other sites, but those are the only two I heard about. Other RHs authors with trilogies have also been reduced. If you haven't tried Tessa Dare, Tracy Anne Warren, Allison Brennan, Christie Reece, to name a few, now's your chance.

You know how I found out about it? Twitter, LOL! Tessa Dare tweeted about it on Friday. And thanks to you guys, I'm inching closer to Facebook. I messed around with it a little this weekend. I'm probably going to do a "soft" launch soon and you guys can tell me everything I'm doing wrong!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tough Week

I didn't have any personal connection to any of the fallen soldiers in the horrible helicopter crash in Afghanistan, but I was deeply saddened by the news nonetheless. What a tragedy. All those young lives cut short. My prayers go out to all the families involved. And to the men who made the ultimate sacrifice, thank you.

From tragic to painful . . . how about that stock market. Ouch. Been a very bleak few days around Casa McCarty. It's getting so I don't want to turn on the computer anymore! Looks like the Fed tried to stop the bleeding by offering lower interest rates, but I sure hope it's enough. Didn't it feel like things were just coming back? Jeez. I guess the good thing is that we are quite a few years away from retirements, but I sure feel badly for all those people whose 401ks were hit hard the past few days.

I did have one fun thing happen this weekend. I had an out of the blue phone call from an old friend I hadn't heard from in about 5 years. Turns out he'd run into another old friend of mine in a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles--the funny thing is that I'd just seen her for the first time in about 10 years a few days before. How random is that? Anyway, it was great catching up with both of them. They are the type of friends that even though I haven't talked to them in years, I recognize their voice in seconds and within minutes we are talking like we never stopped. Since I'm not on Facebook (yet) I haven't had those random run-ins that I know a lot of you probably have. Anyone have any good stories? Any old boyfriends that you've always wondered what happened to them?

And finally, Ing is a frequent commenter on the blog. She had a really fun idea that I hope some of you guys might be interested in participating in. She wants to celebrate the release of THE VIPER by doing a series of blogs about the Highland Guard. If any of you might be interested in participating by writing a guest blog about your favorite guardsman, the series in general or your favorite book, she'd love to have you. It's still a couple of months away, so I'll remind you as it gets closer, but if you think you might be interested you can contact her on her blog here.

Hope you guys are having a better week than I am! Anyone going on vacation so I can live vicariously?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Monica Recommends . . .

A number of you mentioned that you liked getting recommendations from authors on other books/authors. I will try to find a regular place to update this list--either on FB (if I ever get there, LOL) or maybe on Goodreads (ditto). If I can figure out how to put it in a sidebar on blogger, I'll do that, too.

Here are some of my all time favorite authors (and I'm SURE I'm forgetting some):
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Julie Garwood
Shannon McKenna
Julia Quinn
Lisa Kleypas (historicals)
Linda Howard
Cindy Gerard
Karen Robards
Rachel Gibson
Marsha Canham
Judith McNaught

Also favorites (but full disclosure these are friends of mine):
Jami Alden
Bella Andre
Allison Brennan
Catherine Coulter
Carol Culver
Victoria Dahl
Tessa Dare
Barbara Freethy
Tracy Grant/Teresa Grant
Anne Hearn
Candice Hern
Christy Reece
Christie Ridgeway
Karen Tabke
Penelope Williamson
Veronica Wolff

Other Scottish Authors:
Julie Garwood (sigh)
Karen Marie Moning
Teresa Medeiros
Kathleen Givens
Lynn Kurland
Kinley MacGregor
Kresley Cole
Terri Brisbin
Margaret Mallory
Paula Quinn
Amanda Scott
Karen Hawkins
Karen Ranney
Maya Banks (new series coming out at the end of the month)
Veronica Wolff
Julianne MacLean
Sue-Ellen Welfonder
And our very own Laura Hunsaker
Melissa Mayhue
Pamela Clare

Recent Books I've enjoyed:
Just Like Heaven (Julia Quinn)
Unlocked (Courtney Milan) (note: anthology)
Bound by the Heart (Marsha Canham--old but new on kindle)
Any Man of Mine (Rachel Gibson)
Winter Sea (Susanna Kearsley--Scottish alert!)
Angel of Blythe Hall (Darci Hannah--Scottish Alert) (historical fiction)
The Silent Girl (Tess Gerritsen)
Breaking Point (Pamela Clare)

On my kindle TBR soon:
With No Remorse (Cindy Girard)
Can't Hurry Love (Christie Ridgeway)

Who am I missing? Any new romances you've read and want to recommend?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Time for the Yearly Check-in on . . .

Social Media! Once again, I thought I'd tap your collective brain to get a sense of where readers are at on the social media front. I have a Facebook and Twitter account, but I am not active on either platform. I do, however, watch from the sidelines to see how they are being used by others and to what effectiveness. I have some thoughts on the matter, but I thought I'd see what you guys think. So here are a few questions:

1. Are you active on Twitter and/or Facebook?
2. What is your preferred way to interact with authors: a blog, Facebook, twitter, email (or it doesn't really matter)?
3. Do you follow all your favorite authors?
4. Have you ever bought/not bought a book because of an experience on one of the social media platforms?

If you have any other thoughts, I'd love to hear them!

And just to keep those eyes entertained, how about this picture of THOR's Christ Hemsworth. I guess hair color doesn't matter--blond or brunette looks good to me. Maybe he can inspire more than one Guardsman . . . LOL.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Three Month Count Down is on!

THE VIPER will hit stores three months from today in a special mid-month release. I just posted an excerpt on my website for those who want to get a little taste now.

Those of you who like surprises can stop reading now. :) I'd hoped to be able to wait a little longer to announce the next book, but amazon has had it up for a few days now. Tiffani, you guessed correctly: Book #5 will be . . . (insert drumroll) . . . THE SAINT! It will hit stores on 3/27/12 and is available for pre-order here. No cover yet, but should have one soon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Do you want to be surprised?

I was reading the USA Today on my ipad today (best newspaper APP ever by the way) when my eye went to the picture of Sean Bean in THE GAME OF THRONES. If you haven't seen the show, you are missing out. It's right up there with SPARTACUS BLOOD AND SAND as my favorite. Season One just ended so you'll probably have to catch up with it on Netflix. Anyway, I digress . . . the USA Today story was about George RR Martin's release today of the fifth book in the series.

I'd read most of the first book by time the show started and am currently about 100 pages away from finishing the second (they are LONG books). So there I am reading the news story and before I know it, they're telling me what certain POV characters are up to. Ugh. The catch-me-unaware spoiler! The stories are told from multiple POVs and just knowing who is still around was kind of a bummer.

In books and movies I want to be surprised. Even in romances, where I *know* the ending, I never read ahead (I'm looking at you CP Jami Alden!). With series, I think part of the excitement is wondering "who's next." I've really tried to keep things secret around here with my HIGHLAND GUARD series, but with the book industry being the way it is (books going up for presale well before publication date), I can only keep it under wraps for a while.

I know some of you (cough, cough, Ing!) don't like waiting and want all the spoilers they can find.

What about you: do you want to be surprised or do you seek out those spoilers?

UPDATE: I'm blogging over at Borders True Romance Today about stories that keep dragging you back. If you have a chance, pop on over!

Friday, July 08, 2011

And the winner of the audio version of THE CHIEF is . . .

As picked by Random. org: Emily! Congratulations, email me your address, and I'll get it off to soon. I'll be giving away more copies on my website, so if you didn't win this time around there will be more opportunities. Have a great weekend!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Guess Where I was?

Yep, Rome (that's Trevi Fountain pictured) among other places. I know I mentioned it would be quiet around here, but I didn't want to broadcast exactly why. The McCarty family took a long planned vacation a little early this summer. We went on a Disney Cruise to the Mediterranean! It was spectacular. We traveled with a friend of mine from law school and her family (as well as Jenny Garth of 90210 fame and her husband Peter Fracinelli from the Twihard movies--no I don't know them, but they were on the ship). We sailed in and out of Barcelona and had 11 nights on board with a stop in Malta, four in Italy, and two in France, including Corsica. We were originally supposed to stop in Tunisia, but after the problems Disney changed the port to Sicily. I absolutely fell in love with Italy. Rome was amazing as was the Isle of Capri. I know it sounds cheesy, but Disney really is a great way to go with kids--they had a blast.

We were gone for two weeks, and then I flew directly to RWA so I've been "unplugged" for quite a while. Lots of fun things to tell you about. First off, I mentioned that my friends Jami Alden and Bella Andre and I were going to be on the cover of RT, well it's out! Here's the link: (you can click on the cover to make it bigger). We also did a video. It's about 7 minutes long and talks about how we got together as CPs and why we think it's worked so well. I managed to watch it without cringing too badly. God, I hate watching myself on video.

And finally, I found out THE CHIEF won the historical category of the OCCRWA Book Buyer's Best contest as well as the Top Pick overall (page down) and the Reader's Crown contest for best Long historical. All the books have been doing pretty well on the contest circuit. You can check out all the finals/wins on my website in the "news and reviews" section of each book.

Hope you guys are all off to a great summer and happy Fourth of July!

UPDATE: oops, almost forgot to mention some other exciting news. I came home to a huge package of my very first audio book! I'm often asked if my books are available on audio and now I can say "yes!" THE CHIEF is the first, but I'm hoping there will be more. I have a copy to give away to one commenter. I'll choose a winner on Friday. Usual rules apply.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Highland Guard Dream Cast

I'm often asked by readers whether my books will ever be made into a movie. The answer: I wish! It's very rare to have a romance made into a film, and even more so for a historical romance. I actually can't think of one. Not that I don't think the books would make a great movie--I would love to see it. But the chances are pretty slim.

That, however, doesn't stop me from coming up with my "dream cast" for the hypothetical movie. Take the very yummy Chris Hemsworth above--think I might have had him in mind for a certain swaggering, seafarer? LOL.

My friend Tracy/Teresa Grant told me about a very cool website that allows authors to "cast" their novels called Storycasting. I went ahead and did THE CHIEF. As I said in the note, some of the pictures they have for the actors don't exactly match up with my image (i.e. Viggo), but you get the picture.

I usually don't like when authors tell me actors they had in mind, so if you are like that don't click through. I don't want to ruin the image for you. But I thought some of you might enjoy seeing who I had in mind. :) The website also allows you to make up your own cast, so if your image differs have at it!

I'll be popping in sporadically over the next couple weeks, but let me know what you think!

[As an aside, I'm thrilled to announce that THE VIPER is going to be released a week early! So look for it to hit stores on October 18th!]

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Spontaneity and Getting Old

I used to be more spontaneous, but as I've gotten older (and had kids) my spontaneity factor has really diminished. But yesterday when I heard on the news that there were still tickets available for the U2 show at the Coliseum, I called my husband and told him we should take the kids and go. The tickets were pretty cheap, and I figured that even if we had to leave a little early no big deal. We had an absolutely amazing time. Made me realize how I really need to do things like that more often.

I used to be a huge U2 fan. I think I saw the Joshua Tree tour about 6 times--in Los Angeles and Oakland. I was at USC at the time and my roommates and I found out where the band were staying and went down to watch for them. As I recall, we saw the edge, but no Bono. Yes, my name is Monica and I was a groupie--or want-to-be groupie, to be more accurate.

The funny thing was that as I looked around the parking lot and noticed all the gray hair, I realized how long ago this was. The average age of attendees was easily over forty. Took me a minute to realize that was me, too. :)

Do you consider yourself spontaneous? What is the most recent "last minute" adventure you had? Anyone else feeling old lately?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Little Bragging

No, it's not about my children! Today, I'm talking about my two CPs Bella Andre and Jami Alden. I know you've heard me mention them many times before, but it's been a while since I've given them a shout out. We met very early in our writing careers (literally my second RWA meeting and their first) and have been together every step of the way, through all the ups and downs. Fortunately there have been mostly ups.

It's been a pretty amazing ride. We all sold within a year of each other (Bella first to Pocket, then Jami to Kensington, and I brought up the rear to Ballantine). I literally got "the call" on the way to Bella's booksigning for her very first release. How's that for serendipity? It pretty much followed the same pattern for a long time: something good for Bella, Jami and then me.

Over the years our roles as CPs have changed, but we've all stayed the best of buddies. Anyway, I'm really proud of them. Bella has been in the news a TON of late. Both in the venerable Washington Post and Forbes (impressing even my father!) for the enormous success she's been having as a self-published author as Bella Andre and her YA pen name Lucy Kevin. It really is staggering what she's done the past few months, I'm super impressed but not surprised. If you know Bella, she is a can't-stay-down kind of person and an incredibly savvy business woman--not to mention a phenomenal writer. She's been working crazy hours, and it's fantastic to see if all work out. She also has a new small town series coming out with Grand Central in a couple of months under the name Bella Riley.

I'm thrilled to be pimping Jami's latest book, BEG FOR MERCY, which was just released today! I can still remember when she first pitched this idea to me. I knew it was something special. I don't want to give away too much about the series, but if you like Alpha heroes and gritty romantic suspense, you won't want to miss these. If you've never tried Jami before, think a mix between Shannon McKenna and Karen Robards.

Here's the blurb:

Megan Flynn thought she was falling in love. Cole Williams wasn't just handsome and passionate, he was one of the good guys. Or so she thought, until he arrested her brother-the only family she has left-for a murder she knows he couldn't have possibly committed. Now, with her heart broken and her brother's life hanging in the balance, Megan will risk everything to prove his innocence. Even if that means throwing herself into the path of a sadistic killer with a hauntingly familiar MO.

Seattle Detective Cole Williams had given up on making Megan see reason where her brother is concerned. But when she insinuates herself into the most shockingly brutal case Cole has ever worked, he can't stand idly by. Plunged into a secret world where the city's elite indulge their darkest desires, Cole will do whatever it takes to bring down a madman who has made Megan his most coveted prey.

Hope you guys get a chance to check it out! Look for all of us again on the cover of Romantic Times Book Reviews in August (RWA conference issue). We'll be talking one of our favorite subjects: Alpha heroes. :)

I can't believe summer is only a few weeks away. Memorial day was great at Casa McCarty: golf, barbeque and my daughter did fantastic in an Irish dancing Feis on Monday. Anyone do anything exciting? Any big summer plans? I'm going to RWA in NY in early July and a cruise. Other than that . . . I'll be busy writing Highland Guard #5.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SEAL Appeal

Aside: Sorry for the radio silence around here. I've been dealing with an unexpected surgery for a family member, and things have been crazy. (Very happy to say everything went well).

As one of my friends tweeted about the above picture: makes you feel kind of . . . uh . . . patriotic, doesn't it?

I'll say. Hooyah!

I've been caught up in SEAL mania as it seems many people have since the news of Bin Laden's death hit. Well, actually, I've been caught up in SEAL mania since I read Suzanne Brockmann's first Troubleshooter book. As you guys probably know, it was my love of Navy SEAL/ Special Ops books that drove the Highland Guard Series. I pitched the idea to my CPs about 9 years ago as a "Special Ops in Kilts," blending my two favorite romance subgenres: special ops and scottish historicals.

My hubby and I happened to be watching 60 Minutes when they broke in for a special announcement. A few minutes later, they announced the rumor that Bin Laden had been killed. The newscasters were speculating on what had happened, and one of the CBS guys said that the CIA had taken him out. I turned to my husband and very authoritatively said, "No way, it was SEALs. The CIA might have had the intelligence, but special forces went in." (See, you do learn something from reading romance! LOL.)

I did a ton of reading about Special Forces to research the Highland Guard books, and there really is something different about these guys. I'm not sure I'd want to be married to one--I can't imagine how difficult it must be for the wives seeing their hubbies go into danger all the time--but I sure like the fantasy.

I'm looking forward to reading the new book about SEAL Team Six that just came out last week. I'd pre-ordered it some time ago, but Amazon sold out, and it's supposed to arrive tomorrow. I've seen a nice bump in my books the past couple of weeks--I think readers are searching out those Special Forces books. The Washington Post had a fun article about it.

Are you swept up in the SEAL mania? Do you enjoy Special Forces books (other than the Highland Guard, of course :))? Any favorites? What do you think makes Special Forces heroes so appealing?

And to any of you out there who serve or have family members who serve this feels like a great opportunity to THANK YOU!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Mother's Day Shopping! (No, it's not for Thor)

If you are out and about in the next couple of days and/or plan on buying any books at Barnes & Noble any time until May 8th, you can also support a great cause: The Tourette Syndrome Association. If you use the ID #10476034 AND check the book fair box when you check out and a portion of the sales will go to TSA. (The offer is also good in stores).

If you are wondering, "Why Tourettes?" it's not because I watch American Idol, LOL. (For those of you who don't watch it either, one of the contestants James Durbin has Tourettes). My 14 year old son has Tourettes. He was diagnosed about 7 years ago, and it is a constant challenge. You can't hide Tourettes--his tics are very loud. I usually try not to talk too much about my kids, but this must be my week for breaking the rules. First my daughter and now my son! But this is for a good cause.

I'm hoping to see THOR tomorrow night (Hello, Chris Hemsworth), play golf on Saturday, and go to brunch with my Mom on Sunday. Hope all you moms have something fun and relaxing planned. IMO it's a bit of a "Hallmark Holiday" but hey, I'll take it!

UPDATE: Another great cause...
Most of you are probably aware of Brenda Novak's HUGE yearly auction for Diabetes research? There are tons of great items to big on, including--you guessed it--a set of books from someone you know. :)

YET ANOTHER UPDATE! It's Highlander Week at Reading between the Wines and guess who has a giveaway?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Not As Good as Being There, But . . .

That's my 11 year old daughter at 2:30 am PST, celebrating with cupcakes and "champagne," as we watched Kate and William take their vows. I kind of debated on whether or not to wake her up, but I'm so glad I did. We had a great time hamming it up with our tiaras. It was really a special moment that I think we'll both remember for a long time.

As we were watching though, I couldn't help thinking that we should permanently excise the term "American Royalty" from our vernacular. We have absolutely nothing like the pomp and circumstance that they have across the proverbial pond. Most of the time that's probably a good thing--we did fight a rather significant war to rid ourselves of George III--but I can't help but get caught up in all the magnificence that is English tradition. It's hard not to be moved by the fact that Kate and William were standing in the same place William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066.

I think the high point for me was the first time William looked at Kate when she joined him at the end of the aisle. He murmured something like "you look beautiful." The exchange was both sweet and genuine. He also had that "shy" look on his face that reminds me so much of his mother. The reciting of the vows was also moving, but my second favorite moment was the always iconic shot of seeing Kate get out of the car for the first time. The dress surprised me a little bit--I didn't think it would be quite so traditional--but it grew on me. She's a beautiful girl, so she'd probably look good in a bag. I thought Pippa's dress was spectacular. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kate in something more streamlined for the party later tonight.

Anyway, that's this correspondent's take. :) My hubby and I are off for the weekend, leaving the kids behind with Grandma, to go to the annual "Passport Weekend" in Healdsburg (Sonoma wine country). It's a two day event of wine tasting and eating. Can't wait. I'll try to update the post with some pictures later--it's going to be a gorgeous weekend in the bay area.

Any other royalophiles out there who set their alarm clocks bright and early? What did you think of the dress?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Not-So-Grand Unveiling!

I know you've all seen it before, but I thought I'd post a big version of THE VIPER anyway. I swear that Amazon gets the scoop on me every time. As I mentioned in the comments of my last blog, I received the final version of my cover on Tuesday and Amazon had it up a couple of days later. I'd been planning to do the big unveiling . . . oh well. Hope you guys like it. :)

I've been busy getting started on Highland Guard book #5 (mums the word on who's story it is) and catching up on some of my reading. Sadly, I think I've exhausted Karen Robard's backlist on kindle, but I did have the chance to read an ARC of THE ANGEL OF BLYTHE HALL by Darci Hannah, which I will be giving a very enthusiastic quote for. I absolutely *loved* this book and devoured it in a couple of sittings, including staying up until almost 3 am last night to finish. If you like Historical Fiction you won't want to miss it. It takes place in 15th Century Scotland and it has everything you could possible want: fantastic historical detail, a great romance, a compelling mystery , and a little bit of a mystical twist. Most of you know I don't read much paranormal, but I really enjoyed this. It has a very gothic feel, and the writing was exquisite. Can you tell I loved it? I was pretty excited to see Bernard Cornwell's quote up there. He's one of my favorite authors and seeing my name anywhere near his will be pretty exciting. :)

I'm looking forward to Rachel Gibson's new book on Tuesday--love those Hockey players. I think I might start on Marsha Canham's backlist, which she recently put up on kindle. Not sure if you guys have noticed this trend, but a lot of authors with older, pre-ebook publications are self-publishing their backlist on kindle, etc. for really great prices.

So what's the last book that kept you up until the wee morning hours?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don't Let The . . .

I'm back from the Romantic Times Convention and had a great time except for the . . . yes, you guessed it: Bedbugs (screech!!!). I was fortunate not to have them in my room, but a good friend of mine wasn't so lucky.

So here's the thing: this kind of stuff freaks me out. I'm a bit of a germaphobe as it is, and after having dealt with a louse in the house I'm completely paranoid. Apparently with good reason.

I'm at the airport about ready to get on my flight and decide to look up the Westin Bonaventure on Trip Advisor. I see a number of reports of Bedbugs (on Yelp, too) and start to freak. My friends take pity on me, and we use Yelp to find a nearby hardware store that carries the spray. It took a while to explain to the taxi driver that we wanted to make a short detour, but eventually we are on our way, only to find out that Yelp has let me down for the first time: the address was wrong. Ugh. So not wanting to run up a huge taxi bill we decide to just go to the hotel.

At check in, I relay my concerns to the desk person, and she absolutely assures me (reiterating what I'd been told on the phone) that they DO NOT have bedbugs and that all those trip advisor reports were false. I have some land to sell you in Florida, too. This went on for a while, and she even gave me her card, which unfortunately I can't find. Anyway, I'm trying to believe her, but much to my friends' amusement I overnight bug spray from Amazon.

I get my room and take all the precautions: no luggage or anything on the floor, check the mattresses, etc. All my friends do this with their rooms, too. Everything seems fine until two days later one of my friends texts me: she'd just killed a bedbug on her comforter while she was eating breakfast. OMG!!! Boy was I glad for that bug spray. Talk about feeding the paranoia.

To make a long story short, the hotel moved her right away, comped her room, etc. On the surface their response was appropriate, but the underlying response was appalling. There was an attempt to dismiss her concerns ("Are you sure it was a bedbug" yada yada), and only did they admit she was right when her roommate happened to be in the room when the exterminator came and she quizzed him. Turns out there was the makings of the colony behind the bed at the baseboard. To me, there seemed to be a concerted effort by the hotel not to acknowledge the problem. So BEWARE the next time you are traveling. Ask questions and don't take "no" for an answer.

I came back and did the full "de-bedbugging" even though I didn't seem to have any in my room. The cost benefit analysis isn't even close. These things can be a nightmare. Big pain in the you-know-what, but I wasn't going to take any chances.

Okay, enough of my rant/public service announcement. The conference itself was really fun. That's me pictured with two of the cover model finalist hopefuls. I think the guy on the left was first runner up. He definitely had the best, or shall we say most appropriate, physique for my sort of covers. Cough cough muscles cough cough.

The big talk everywhere was the changes taking place in the industry, specifically the decisions by a number of authors to turn away from traditional publishers to self-publish on Amazon. I suspect we are only seeing the beginning of the changes in the industry.

My bedbug experience has me a little traumatized. I'm not sure what to do about RWA in NY. I've heard that hotel has had problems, too. Ugh... Anyone else have any phobias?

(P.S. Laurie, I tried to respond to your email but it keeps bouncing! Not sure what is going on).

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Viper!

Just a quick update to alert you to a website update. For those of you who've asked for more info on THE VIPER, here you go!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Great Cause!

Not sure if you guys have heard about the horrible loss in the online romance community. Fatin, a familiar "face" around the blogs, etc, lost her husband in a convenience store robbery. You can read more about it here. Anyway, the romance community has rallied and there is an amazing auction going on right now to benefit Fatin and her family. I donated books, and tons of other authors have ARCs, lunches, critiques, you name it. You can check it on ebay here.

We are finally getting some nice weather around here, but wouldn't you know it...I'm stuck inside doing revisions. Sigh.

Anyone other than Highland Hussy going to be in Los Angeles for RT next week?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's Your Sure Thing?

I happened to have PBS on Saturday morning and got sucked into watching a new version of Les Miserables--the Twenty-fifth Anniversary concert filmed at the O2 a few months ago. The picture is of two Valjeans (including the amazing Colm Wilkinson) and Nick Jonas as Marius. Who knew, but Nick (one of the Jonas brothers) started out on Broadway years ago playing the little boy Gavroche when he was only 9 years old! He was AWESOME.

Now to fully appreciate this story you have to know something about me--I'm a not so in the closet show tunes geek. I love musical theater, and Les Mis is right up there with Jesus Christ Superstar as my favorite. I've seen it at least a half-dozen times in the theater, and I own not one but two copies of the 10th Anniversary concert DVD (my kids were watching the other one so much I had to get my own, LOL). I told my kids if Broadway every calls, they'll have to fend for themselves. Since they've heard me sing, they aren't too worried.

There's one thing you can count on when I watch Les Mis. No matter how many times I watch it, I cry at two parts (when Fauntine dies and at the end when Valjean dies) EVERY time. It kills my husband. He thinks it's hilarious. It's not like I don't know what's coming. But it something about the lyrics and the voices, I don't know--it gets me.

There are a couple movies that are guaranteed tear-jerkers for me, too: The Notebook, Brian's Song, and Love Story.

It got me thinking about what drew me to romances. I love emotion. I love when an author can make my gut clench or make me care so much that I find myself crying along with the heroine when things *look* like they're not going to work out. Emotion is the magic for me. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does . . . that's my idea of a keeper. Judith McNaught was a master of this. Susan Elizabeth Phillips does it to me pretty often, too. Lisa Kleypas almost always makes my heart tug.

What about you? What are your "sure things?" Or are you not a crier?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Little Irish Jig For You!

The entire McCarty clan is looking forward to this movie! Having just gone through the process of purchasing my daughter's first solo dress, it definitely hits home. My favorite line: "It's like a Shirley Temple convention."

I had no idea this world existed until about three years ago, but to say we've been sucked in is to put it mildly. This is Irish dancing busy season, LOL, and tonight my daughter will be doing a performance in a local pub, which is convenient for mom and dad. :) So happy St. Patty's day!

And there's nothing like a good review to put a smile on my face. Check out this great one for THE RANGER on TGTBTU. Gotta love an A+!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Viper's Book is Done!

On Friday I hit "send" and sent THE VIPER on its way to my editor. There really is nothing like the feeling of finishing a book. This was actually my twelfth book (I have two Regency set historicals that I finished before I sold) and it hasn't changed much from the first to the twelfth. It's kind of this odd mix of relief and excitement. I'm really happy with how it turned out and can't wait for you guys to read it. I'll be posting a blurb soon--and hopefully a cover won't be too far behind.

Anyone else getting excited for spring? I know it's still a ways away, but with "Spring forward" so early this year I think I'm doing a little anticipating. I can't believe St. Patty's Day is just around the corner. I'm sure we'll be doing the usual with a round of Irish dancing performances for my daughter (and plenty of Guinness for Mom and Dad :)).

On a different note, I was thrilled to get a message from the ladies at The Romance Reviews that both THE CHIEF and THE HAWK were nominated for Best Historical of the Year. If you are so inclined, you can vote here.

Anyway, just wanted to do a quick update to let you know why it was quiet around here last week. On Monday it's on to book #5!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

E-Reader Check-In

It's been a while since I blogged about e-readers, and I thought it would be a good time to check in. I've had my kindle for over two years now, and the love affair is nowhere close to being over. I still buy some paper books--mostly friends' books and hardbacks that I know I'll want to pass on to my husband and/or look at the pictures. For example, I recently bought the paper versions of the new biography of Mickey Mantle (The Last American Boy), and Unbroken, by Laura Hilldebrand. [As an aside: If you haven't read Unbroken yet, I highly highly recommend it. You'll draw a lot of attention if you take it out. I've never had so many people come up to me in the gym and tell me how much they loved that book, LOL.] But the Kindle is hard to beat for ease, convenience, and instant gratification. I'd estimate 75% of my book purchases are e-books.

From the discussions online and the articles in the newspapers and industry rags, you'd think that everyone had jumped on the e-book bandwagon, but I think the numbers of e-reader owners are still relatively small (but growing). So how about you . . . do you own an e-reader (if so which one). If you don't, do you want one? Or are you happy with paper books and determined to resist all the hubbub?

There had been one interesting--and I think very exciting--development out of all this. Self e-publishing has become a very viable option for authors. I have a friend who is NY published with a major house but has also published a number of books on her own though Kindle, Smashwords, etc. She is having ENORMOUS success (can I stress enormous!). Self-publishing in the past year or so has really exploded, and I think has become a very exciting way to get books in front of readers that otherwise wouldn't have been published. For example, finishing a series that a publisher has declined to continue, or an author who's been let go by one house and unable to catch on with another, etc.

Anyway, just thought I'd check in and get your take!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Day In The Life: Process, Phone Calls and Sensibility

Kind of a broad title, isn't it? But I like anything that gives me a chance to post a picture of Willoughby. Sigh, one of the most yummy cads around. I know, I know, shoot me, but I was hoping Marianne would end up with him. :)

But I digress . . . as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago when I blogged about the plan for the series, I thought you guys might enjoy a little peek into my writing day--aka "the process."

If there's one thing that writers can agree on is that what works for one person might not work for another. My writing process has changed over the years--mostly because of deadlines and publisher requirements (i.e. the synopsis)--but the past couple of years, I've developed a pretty steady rhythm.

It takes me about 6 months to write a book. That's not actually all writing time. I give myself a good month of "macerating" to think about and develop the story, research the characters/historical background, and then write a synopsis. It might sound like a lot of time, but it really isn't. Fleshing out characters, trying to find their romantic arc, figuring out the all important BM, and trying to sync it all with what's going on historically can be a challenge. But other than writing "the end" this is probably my favorite part of the process. It's the time when I'm most in love with my story--correction: POTENTIAL story. When you actually start writing, all those great things you planned don't always work out. :)

I'm not a "seat of the pants" writer or a plotter but more of a "tweener." (Allison Brennan, Candice Hern, and I did a fun workshop on his once). Basically, I like to have a flight plan in place for where I'm going, but I don't necessarily want to know all the details. I want to give myself "targets" but have plenty in freedom in how I'm going to get there.

So before I sit down to write I like to have a couple of documents in place: (1) a synopsis (usually about 10-15 pages, which I give my editor for approval before I start), (2) a rough "outline" for lack of a better term. But what it really is is ideas for scenes mixed with turning points that I've used to write the synopsis, and (3) a "timeline" for plotting out the bigger turning point and ARC points of the plot and character. It sounds much more complicated than it is. :) Recently, I've started using index cards to mark the big "beats" of the plot (screenwriting term). I really like it, so I'll probably continue to do that.

The actual writing time is about 4 1/2 to 5 months, depending on vacations, school holidays, etc. With whatever time I have left, I send it to my critique partner Jami Alden (romantic suspense), beg her to read it quickly, and sit on pins and needles until she gets back to me. Most of my revisions come from Jami. By time it goes to my editor it's typically in pretty good shape.

Here's where the day to day stuff comes in.

After I get the kids off to school, I usually sit down at the computer by about 8 am and start tackling email for about an hour. Then, pretty much every day unless one of us is on vacation, I wait for the phone to ring. It's time for the daily phone call. For a good half hour to an hour Jami and I talk about what we're working on. Sometimes it segues from a discussion about a current book we're reading, sometimes it's a panic call, but most of the time it's just the daily slog of here's what I'm thinking, what do you think? I can't tell you how much good stuff comes out of these calls.

I swear we could talk for hours about this stuff (and sometimes do). This is where sensibility comes in. I think one of the reasons we've been so successful as critique partners is that we have the same sensibility when it comes to romance. With few exceptions we like the same thing: Alpha heroes, emotional intensity, and big black moments. Sometimes we sound like teenagers discussing a book. You should have heard the recent discussion we had after I read Karen Robard's "Forbidden Love." God, I loved that book! :) But the important thing is that we really know what the other person is going for, and I trust her to let me know if I have or haven't gotten there.

You wouldn't believe how many times we're discussing things and realize we've overlapped in some characterization or motivation. It's crazy. Even to the point of coming up (independently) with very similar plot points that are definitely NOT typical in romance. When Viper's story comes out, I'll fill you in. :)

After the phone call, it's time to write. Typically, I strive to write about a scene a day (roughly 1,500 words). With an occasional break for working out, I revise until about noon, eat lunch, and then write on my alpha smart until about 5 (with a break for picking up the kids). Sometimes those 1500 words go quicker, but more often they take longer. The alpha smart is supposed to cut down on my revising as I go, but I still manage to do it. Can't help it. :) When I'm closer to deadline, I'm working until 6 or 7, and also, sadly, on weekends.

Any promotion I do--answering email, blogs, website updates--is typically done on the weekend. Because this seriously cuts into already limited family time, promo is pretty limited. When people ask why I'm not on facebook, twitter, etc. this is why.

After I finish a book, it's right on to the next one. Literally. Only when I'm between contracts do I get a month or so break.

So that's it. Boring, isn't it?

You guys will have to read Jami's new Romantic Suspense series when it comes out from Grand Central starting in July, I swear sometimes we share the same brain. :)