Monday, April 30, 2007

No dozing this time!

So there I was, watching 24, wondering if I was going to be dozing off again when...ZOINKS! That guy kissing the blonde's Michael Shanks! AKA Daniel Jackson on Stargate SG-1. Wow! I had NO idea!

Then along comes Secretary Heller. Also wow! And he's mean. Poor Jack!

Nadia and Doyle are so gonna wind up together.

Then on Heroes, we have grim, tough Future Hiro, plus cute Present Hiro, and Ando being all "what the...?" and a scarred Peter. Ah, the scarred hero -- both vulnerable and yet tough. What's not to love?

Speaking of heroes, tomorrow I must work, work, work. I thought I'd finished most of the revisions on this particular chapter, but...ahem...apparently not.


I decided that other template for my blog was ugly. So I changed it -- only this time, I was smart and saved all the code for the links first. It's amazing what going to bed early will do for your with-it-ness.

In other news, I am dismayed that the Chas are out on The Amazing Race, but their hearts just didn't seem to be in it. So I'm glad I didn't plan to go to TARCon...This One Goes To XI. What is TARCon? A bunch of fans who visit the Television Without Pity forums get together in a sports bar in NYC to watch the finale. I tell ya, ya wanna know excitement? It's great fun, made even greater by the eventual appearance of many of the racers, Phil (and his delightful aftershave) and the producers.

The Amazing Race was originally scheduled to debut on 9/11. When it did eventually make it on the air, its survival was somewhat precarious, until -- so legend has it -- the good folks at TWoP (specifically Miss Alli, the recapper) championed it. And ever since, in gratitude, the producers have come to TARCon.

Unfortunately, while this series has been pretty good, the early elimination of some of my favorite teams have made it less than great for me. In contrast, Survivor: Fiji, which started out so poorly, has come to be one of the best seasons of that show ever, coming hard on the heels of the previously outstanding season. I won't be surprised if Survivor finally wrests the Best Reality Show Emmy from TAR this year.

Tonight, Heroes. Also, 24. But I have to confess, I have fallen asleep during the past two episodes of 24. I just can't muster up the same enthusiasm. I think I miss Tony and Michelle too much. Also, I'm finding it hard to suspend my disbelief when it comes to Jack and his recouperative powers.

And of course, I'm working my way through what I hope will be the last draft minus one of the work-in-progress. I got a new writing book that's made me think of a couple of things in a slightly different light. More on that later this week, because now -- I've gotta get to work!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Egyptian

I just finished reading THE EGYPTIAN, by Mika Waltari, a Finnish writer. First published in Finnish in 1943, it was translated and published in the U.S. in 1949. It was the best-selling historical novel up until THE NAME OF THE ROSE by Umberto Eco (first published in 1980, in English in 1983).

The story is about Sinuhe, an Egyptian physician, as well as the pharaoh who tried to establish a monotheistic religion (Akhenatan), Cretan bull dancers, King Tut, Nefertiti, the Hittites... I tell ya, Sinuhe got around. The best part, I thought, was the beginning, where Sinuhe's learning about medicine and rising in pharaoh's court. In fact, it was so interesting in terms of both character and history, I was sure Mika Waltari must have a PhD in Egyptian history.

Nope. Man just did his research.

The latter parts of the book, where Sinhue travels around the Middle East and Crete, weren't quite so interesting, but I still enjoyed it. Sinuhe is a fascinating, very "human" character, and there are a couple of interesting female characters, as well. Kaptah, Sinuhe's slave/best buddy, seems a little over the top (can anybody really talk himself out of so many tough spots?), but he brought the funny, too, which was needed, or the book would have been too grim.

I'd never heard of either the author or this book until I happened upon the Hollywood version, made in 1954, on TV recently. I realized it was some kind of historical film, so I lingered. I first recognized Victor Mature (not an inducement to continue watching.) Then I saw the actor playing the Egyptian, Edmond Purdom. Who is that? thought I, for he was a lot younger and better looking that the picture on the IMDB. And then there was Peter Ustinov, playing Kaptah, and I was hooked. When it was over, I looked it up in our movie guide, saw that it was based on a book, and knew I had to read it.

Since I have Peter Ustinov's autobiography, DEAR ME, I also looked up what he had to say about this movie. Not flattering, to put it mildly. However, he did reveal that Sinuhe was supposed to be played by Marlon Brando, until he saw the final script and suddenly got "sick." That would have been...weird.

The movie left out a lot of the story -- no surprises there. The whole Cretan portion is gone, for instance (and no great loss, IMHO). The fate of the two interesting women was very different as well. I don't think movie audiences in 1953 would have accepted their actions, which basically involved utilizing their sexuality to get out of a terrible predicament in the case of one woman, and to exact revenge in the case of another.

I enjoyed and was impressed enough by THE EGYPTIAN that I wanted to read another of Waltari's historical novels, specifically THE ROMAN. I like reading about Rome. Unfortunately, none of the libraries where I live carried THE ROMAN.

So I bought it. Hardcover. I believe that means I qualify as a fan.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reviews and Respect

Recently at Romancing the Blog there was a discussion about reviews, as in who should review (authors? readers? "experts?") and how a more critical approach to romance reviews might engender more respect for the genre and/or improve romances in general.

As far as garnering more respect for the genre, I can say that romance is getting more respect than it has at any other time in my career. I think RWA's grant program to encourage academic study of the genre has been one of the greatest ideas ever in that regard.

I also think the statistics about the sheer volume of romances sold and the amount of money involved have played a part, as well.

I think the covers were a big problem. Fortunately, they've been getting a lot less cheesy and thus less prone to mockery, with a few notable exceptions (Steven Colbert and American's Next Top Model come to mind).

Can more critical romance reviews "improve the quality" of romances, and will that give the genre more respect?

Maybe -- but who sets the standard? And that's the big problem I see with this notion. There's no one standard of what makes a "good" romance, and there never will be. It's too subjective.

It may also come as a shock to some, but no published writer I know thinks they write poorly. They may not believe themselves to be the best writer in the world but they don't think they totally suck, either - and who are you to tell them otherwise? Heck, we writers have to ignore a lot of the criticism, or we would be completely confused about what works and what doesn't. Opinions on the same book can be completely contradictory. What one person loves, another hates. I've had that happen many times. Who's right then?

I believe what will generate more respect when it comes to reviews is having reviews of romance novels that aren't confined to genre-specific magazines or websites. The Chicago Tribune recently reviewed some romances. This thrilled me no end, and not just because they were positive (although, yeah! And no, none of the books were mine). This is the sort of placement of a review that may help gain romance more respect because it's outside the genre.

I don't think respect for romance novels can be generated by those who write or read it. To be truly meaningful to the world in general, that respect has to come from "outside" sources. RWA has helped tremendously in that regard with their grant program, and it seems some newspapers are taking notice.

But yes, we've still got a ways to go, because until romance novels are reviewed more generally, whether positively or negatively, in more media and not just around Valentine's Day, until romance is considered a genre worthy of academic attention, until people from outside the romance publishing industry start to realize romance novels are as valid a form of literature as the mystery or literary fiction, our books will still be dismissed as fantasies/wish fulfillment for lonely, ignorant women.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Insert, delete, insert, delete...

There are many, many things a writer can obsess about, but I have finally stopped worrying about whether or not my manuscript is going to be long enough. My first draft may very well be short, but I shouldn't panic because I will find many, many places that need, as I so helpfully note in the margins, "more." With every book, the manuscript expands, then contracts, then expands and contracts...kind of like I'm playing a squeezebox.

I have learned I can cut out whole scenes, and the book will not be too short. And not only can I, it's vital that I cut out anything that slows the pace. I will always find other places to add "more" that won't bring the story to a screeching halt.

I don't worry if my first draft is too long, either. My record is, I believe, 440 pages. This is about 40 pages too long. But that was fine, because it meant I had too many scenes doing the same jobs, so I combined some, and others just got cut entirely.

So now that's one thing I've stopped worrying about. But alas, there are plenty more!
In TV news, you can bet your booties I will be clued to the TV for Survivor: Fiji tonight. That was a glorious tribal council last week -- it made up for my extreme dismay over the ouster of Michelle. Here's hoping for an Earl, Yau Man and Cassandra final three!
P.S. Notice something different? I've changed my template because I've got a new book coming out in June -- THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT. Unfortunately, I shouldn't do such things when my sleep has been disrupted. I lost all my links, so I had to redo them this morning. But that's okay -- I streamlined them while I was at it.

I also updated my website's homepage this week in anticipation of the release of THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT, the sequel to MY LORD'S DESIRE.


So once again I am awakened early. This time, the awful hour of 4:15. And I know I'm nearing a deadline because I cannot get back to sleep.

It doesn't help that the Count, our cat who weighs about 12 pounds, has decided I am the perfect thing for him to sleep on. Or that Luis, his brother, who apparently thinks he was a vulture in another life, has perched on the headboard above my pillows.

So I get up, and it is so early, neither of the two daily newspapers I read have been delivered. Argh.

I make a tea and try to go back to sleep. No joy.

I spend the morning basically trying to sweeten up, 'cause the mood I was in? Is no mood in which to be revising a love scene. A battle scene maybe, but not a love scene.

I finally get my head in a decent space and do some revising. And then, after lunch, I have a nap. A loooong nap - and believe you me, I am well aware of how wonderful it is that I can do this.

Guess who'll be working tonight?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Onion School of Writing

Over time, I've realized I write my books in layers, like an onion, and from the outside, in.

My first draft is pretty much dialogue and, to use a theater term, blocking -- who moves where, when. This is when I figure out exactly what's going to happen to my characters. I also provide the character basics -- what they look like, how they sound, and their most basic motivations. This is the outer layer.

The subsequent layers, which require at least one more complete draft of the entire manuscript, and often several drafts of various scenes and chapters, involves adding physical details (clothes, furnishings, food), and -- more importantly -- delving more deeply into the characters' motivations and getting to the core of their internal conflict.

I've noticed that the first layer of conflict is usually quite specific to the setting; the deeper I go, the more universal the internal conflicts become.

For instance, in the book I'm writing now, the first layer of conflict is based on class. The hero is an outlaw, and the bastard son of a whore. The heroine is a noblewoman. Obviously, different social status, as well as the hero's law-breaking, is a hurdle. The heroine believes she shouldn't have feelings for a "bad guy." The hero has no particular admiration or respect for the nobility; that's why he has no problem stealing from them. However, he finds himself liking this particular noblewoman. What's up with that?

But let's go to the next layer:

Because of the hero's determination to help his brother, the heroine comes to appreciate that many times, she's put her own needs ahead of her family's. If she runs off with the hero, she'll be doing that again, with some potentially serious consequences for her family, too. This conflict now involves a woman's relationship with her family as well as the hero.

The hero's never murdered or raped, but honor has been something he told himself he couldn't afford -- until he meets the heroine, and sees himself through her eyes (or thinks he does). Now he wishes he could be honorable, to be worthy of her love. Given his past, however, to do that, he should leave her. This conflict is now about a man with a dubious past trying to do the right thing for the woman he loves.

Sometimes I know these deeper layers right from the get-go. More often than not, though, they come as I work on the book. It's like I have to get my characters on stage and talking before I can find out what really makes them tick.

This also means however, that I can still be adding another little layer to the onion even when I'm on the umpteenth draft. I may have read the same scene fifty times, and then, on read-through 51, I realize I can add a line or two that provides just that little bit extra about a character's past or motivation, and suddenly, I'm excited about the story all over again.

And that's my motivation.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ya gotta love it when....

Ya gotta love it when people who don't write for a living, or even for fun, tell writers how to do their job. Like, a writer should take at least a year to write a book, or else it's not going to be very good.

In my experience, in fact, the opposite is true: the books I've written the fastest have been some of my most well-received, in no small part, I'm sure, because I was so excited and enthused about the heroes (and yes, it's always been the heroes). I simply could not wait to write every day. And revision proved to be minimal.

Sadly, this is not always, or even often, the case, because I cannot simply conjure up such characters with much musing. They seem to just pop right into my head, fully formed. I know how they sound, what their issues are, what's going to make them fall in love. If they don't, it's a much different, more laborious writing process, because I have to construct those characters piece by piece, over weeks. I love 'em all by the time I'm finished, but it's the difference between starting a fire with a match and rubbing two sticks together. Still have the fire, but getting it is a whole 'nuther story.

Another thing non-writers may not appreciate is that you can actually polish a story so much, it becomes dead in the water. You take out all the life, all the energy, by reworking and rewriting.

And then there's the fact that I could have gone in the totally wrong direction, and I'm blind to it, so I'm not going to find out until my editor tells me so. In other words, working a long time on a manuscript doesn't necessarily mean it will be perfect by the time I'm done. It may still need a lot of work.

The other factor to consider is financial. I don't get paid by the hour; I get paid for completing a book,whether that takes me three months, six months, a year or two years. If all you know about publishing is gleaned from newspapers and magazines, it may sound as if I could easily afford to take a year or more on a book. But here's the thing: one reason such stories are newsworthy is because that sort of money is rare. It's certainly not the norm.

There's another factor at work, and authors who do work for a year or more on their books obviously don't share it with me. I would get bored working on the same book for so long. Bored out of my creative mind. I know I'd be doing a lot of other things to amuse me during that time, because I simply couldn't devote hours and hours a day to the same story for that long.

And then there's the matter of the readers. Some readers may be patient and happily wait for years between books. That's great. But by then, many more will have found another author they like, perhaps several. Your next book is no longer the anticipated publishing highlight of the year.

So in the end, what determines how long it "should" take to write a book? It's up to the individual author -- temperament, process, financial situation, life in general. But most of all, I think it's important to realize that a book written over a longer period isn't automatically going to be a better book. It may be.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"It's the hard that makes it great."

Yesterday, that wonderful movie, "A League Of Their Own," was on TV. I didn't watch it all (got a book to finish, y'all!), but I love this movie because:

I love Jon Lovitz as the scout. He's hilarious.

I love that women are allowed to be shown as fierce and competent competitors.

Apparently some people think Dottie, played by Gena Davis, lets her sister win the last game of the series. Not me, and here's why: throughout the movie, Dottie's portrayed as very competitive. Yes, she smiles and she's nice, but when it's game time? It's game on.

There's also a clue at the very start of the movie, when "old" Dottie talks to her two grandsons who are playing basketball. She says to the eldest, "Let him take some shots." She does not say, "Let him win." She lets her sister have her chance when she agrees to try out for the league because her sister wants to so much, and unless Dottie goes, she can't. But I don't think that means she was willing to lose a major game on purpose. And that's fine by me, because I think Kit would have known it if Dottie hadn't given her all, and her triumph would have been bitter instead of glorious.

But most of all, I love this movie for the part where Dottie, the best player in the league, is leaving the team before the big game. The team manager doesn't understand how she can give it all up at such a crucial time. She says, "It's too hard."

His response hit home to me (no pun intended, but hey, it works) the first time I saw this film, and it still does. He says, "It's not supposed to be easy. If it were easy, anybody could do it. It's the hard that makes it great."

It's the hard that makes it great.

It's the hard that makes success all the sweeter. It's what separates those who wish for something from those who work for something. It's what makes the difference between everybody who says, "I'd love to write a book someday" and those who do, between those who dabble and those who strive to improve their craft.

And because it is hard, and does take work and dedication and sacrifice, when you succeed? The hard transforms all the angst, frustration, work and worry into something great.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wrapping it up

I'm going through the last chapters of the work-in-progress, and once again, I'm reminded that every stage of writing a book has its own particular problems. That's something I tend to forget when I'm trying to find the best beginning (which, I have recently realized, is actually on page 5 of the current work-in-progress...sigh), or trying to navigate the best possible middle.

I try very hard to make sure I've got a satisfying ending. I want the readers to believe my couple is still going to be together five, ten, twenty years down the line.

I want to wrap up all the subplots in the best possible places.

I want the pacing of my book to gradually slow down and glide to "the end," for a nice, gentle farewell. I don't want a series of bumps, then a sudden jerk.

I don't want people thinking, "Hey, but what about...?" (Well, unless I have a sequel planned.)

And of course, I want the words to flow and the characters to be engaging, and the dialogue to work...all the usual things.

I've heard that the opening of the book sells that book, but it's the ending that sells the next one. I'm not sure that's a hundred per cent true, but it certainly inspires me to work just as hard on the end as I do on the beginning and middle.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The New York Public Library and I do not see eye-to-eye

So The New York Public Library has released a list of the top ten greatest love stories of all time (full article here). Note they say "stories," not books, and love, not romance.

Here's the list, with my comments. It's not clear if this list was compiled in any order of priority.

1. Wuthering Heights. Or as I call it, Withering Heights. I hated this book. Hated. So much melodrama, so many confusing names, and Heathcliff is beyond-the-pale abusive at the end. Female author.

Also, Wuthering Heights and not Jane Eyre? Already I know this list is not going to reflect either my preferences.

2. Anna Karenina. Never read it. It always struck me as one of those books I ought to read, not that I'd choose to read. Doesn't Anna throw herself under a train at the end? Male author.

3. Romeo and Juliet. Two teenagers fall victim to their hormones, much violence and death ensue, including that of the ill-fated teens. I don't think what Romeo and Juliet feel is love. It's lust, but lust portrayed by Shakespeare and what a difference that makes! Male playwright.

4. Casablanca. Frankly, I don't get the appeal of this movie. I much prefer It Happened One Night. But again, in Casablanca, the couple wind up apart. Three male screenwriters, adapted from a play by two playwrights, one male, one female.

5. Midsummer Night’s Dream. This one totally baffles me. Oberon and Titania? There's a romantic couple, fighting over the kid they abducted. The other four crazy kids running around in the woods? They're enchanted. Yep, magic, that's what it's all about. (It's only one short step from here to the glittery hooha!)

Of all of Shakespeare's comedies, this is the one they pick? I just don't get it...but I suppose I should be happy nobody dies. And again, it's by Shakespeare. Male playwright.

6. Doctor Zhivago. Oh my word. Can't one of these stories end with the couple together and, ya know, alive? Male author.

7. Sense and Sensibility. Finally, a story where love is not destructive and/or tending to make one utterly miserable. If there had been no Jane Austen books on this list, I would have been frothing at the mouth. Female author.

8. Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. There's another Hunchback of Notre Dame by somebody other than Victor Hugo? Who knew? Never read it. But again, not a happy ending. Male author.

9. Dangerous Liaisons. What the heck? Poetic justice is done because Valmont the cad dies, but it's considered a love story? Twisted, abusive relationship story maybe, but love? Not as I define it. Original novel written by a man.

10. Pride and Prejudice. Only the second story where love makes people happy, not miserable and suicidal. Better than nothing, I guess. Happy ending, written by a female author.

In defense of the unhappy endings, they're unhappy because love is thwarted, either by circumstances or death or both. It's not love itself that's bad; it's frustrated love that causes all the trouble.

Still, if one is going by this list, a story about frustated love makes for a more "worthy" love story than fulfilled love. Especially if it's written about by a man.

Don't get me started....

Thursday, April 19, 2007


For the past few weeks, aka The Great Dimness, when the sun never shone and the air was frigid despite the fact that it was supposed to be Spring, I've been checking the backyard for Mr. Bun-Bun, the rabbit who comes to nibble the grass and probably my flowers, although I am such an indifferent gardener, I really can't tell.

Late yesterday afternoon, along with the return of the AWOL sun, Mr. Bun-bun came literally leaping into the yard! And there was much rejoicing at Casa Moore. We were worried he hadn't survived. Last year there was also a Mrs. Bun-bun (slightly smaller) and Baby Bun-Bun (much smaller), so it could be that we saw Baby Bun-bun in his adolescence instead (which might explain the great leaping). We shall keep our eyes peeled.

At the same time, there was a brilliant red cardinal in the leafless branches of a shrub. Gorgeous! And how do such small creatures manage to make such a loud song? Also spotted was a female cardinal, and two robins.

My poor crocuses that have been huddled together for warmth, no doubt muttering darkly about the cold, opened their faces to the sun and spread wide.

Yes, it seems we are finally, finally, finally getting some spring weather. This weekend it even promises to be hot. I tell ya, I may go a little bananas. I'm definitely going for walks!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What's in a name?

On the weekend, I finished the first draft of the end of KNAVE'S HONOR, typing "The End?" (yes, with a question mark, because there is still much work to be done).

After I typed "The End?", I had a moment of revelation. I want the next book I write to be linked to KH, and had a sort of vague connection in mind. But then it occurred to me that I could make the villain's wife in this book the heroine of the next! That'll work! And here's how...and my mind went into serious planning mode, which is always exciting.

Then I encountered a problem. The villain's wife's name is Selinda. Now, I like that name. I think it's pretty. However, the way I originally envisioned (and wrote) her, she was spiteful, then "saw the light" and wound up on the side of the good guys. Because she didn't start out a nice woman, I was fine with the sibilant "s" at the start of her name. But I don't want that long "s" at the start of a heroine's name, because it sounds like a hiss, and a hiss is not a sound I want associated with my heroine.

So now I need to find a new name. And after 42 books and novellas? This is no easy task. I want it to be new, as in, not previously used for a hero or heroine of mine before. I also have to like it, and like the way it looks on the page. That narrows the field down considerably.

So I turn to my two primary sources of names. One is a binder, with lists made by me, back in the pre-computer era when I was just starting to write. I went to the library and got a big book of baby names that listed their origins. I went through that entire book, dividing the names by origin and making a new list based on that. It took a long time, but I was also trying to get my typing back up to speed.

Now we have the internet, so I also look there, starting with this site, which is actually a gamers site, but I like it because of all the variations available. If my character is of a particular background (say, Irish or Welsh), I do a search of names based on location.

I also want the name to sound appropriate to the time period, so no Whitneys, Britneys, or Tiffanys for me, no matter when they actually came into use. If a name sounds too modern to me, it's out.

I try to take into account when a name was actually used, but if I like it and it sounds like it could have been in use in my time period, I'll use it anyway. Rhiannon comes to mind. Although it was the name of Welsh goddess, it wasn't used as a given name before the 20th century. I used it in a medieval.

This time, my daughter was home, so she was my consultant. I trust her judgment. But if you ever need proof that a writer's family can engage in some bizarre conversations, here's how parts of this discussion went.

"Look at this one -- Geuecok. Gooey-cock? Euuww!"

"And this one -- Molde. Gooey-cock and Molde, ye olde STDs."

"Gooey-cock and Molde, attorneys-at-law."

"Gooey-cock and Molde, the ugly step-sisters."

Then I found a name I liked, but it started with "A." I already have a couple of secondary characters whose names begin with A, so I said, "That's out." To which Daughter-Whose-Name-Begins-With-An-A replies, "But all the best people have names beginning with A."

I stand firm. I can't use names starting with the letters B, G, F, or W, either.

I go to R. Rosalynde...that's out because of Roberta Gellis's book. But here's what happens when the well is starting to run dry: I start playing and coming up with variations that may or may not have been in actual use.

I write "Roslynn."

Roz-lynn. I like it. Looks fine on the page. Not obviously modern. But where have I heard it before???

"She's the president on Battlestar Galactica," Daughter points out.

Hmmmm, says the ever-eloquent I. Also, duh.

That doesn't rule it out completely, but does give me pause.

Now that I've thought about it more, I like the president. She's a tough cookie. So Roslynn it will be... at least for now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's about emotions, not magic

There's a discussion that goes on in Romanceland from time to time about heroes who make love with other women after they've met the heroine. For some readers and authors, that is an absolute no-no.

Jennifer Crusie blogged about this, calling it the "literary convention" known as the "glittery hooha." Basically, the GHH theory proposes that the heroine is endowed with a sort of magical vagina that leaves sprinkles of glittery magic, and the spell cast ensures the hero never strays again.

Okay, this is kinda funny, but it's also kinda sad, because too often, I see this as the only possible explanation for what happens between some heroes and heroines in romance novels. The hero and heroine meet, have wild sex's love and no other woman will do because, well, she must possess a glittery hooha. And the book's in the romance section. There is no other explanation or motivation for the hero's fidelity.

Here's how it works with my heroes:

The hero has had lovers in the past, sometimes several. He may have great affection for them, but he has not, and never will, fall in love with them. He knows this, and he's fine with that, because he doesn't want to get that close to another person. He doesn't want emotional intimacy; he'll certainly accept and enjoy physical intimacy, but that's as far as it goes. In fact, for many of my heroes, emotional intimacy is something they fear more than a physical wound. To them, it makes them vulnerable, and vulnerability is the last thing they want or need. Love is a weakness, not a strength, and in their world, weakness is unacceptable.

Some of my heroes simply believe that love isn't really possible, for anybody. It's a charming fable, but not "real life."

Then the hero meets the heroine, and from the first moment, this woman both attracts and frightens him (although he would never, ever admit that fear, even to himself) or at least shakes up his world, because he realizes that with that particular woman, there is a chance of a deeper, emotional, truly intimate relationship beyond the physical.

Whatever the reason for that new and different connection (and yes, there must be at least one and it comes from the hero's backstory), the heroine appeals not simply to his lust, but to his heart. Because he fears emotional intimacy, he fears that a relationship with her will make him vulnerable, and that makes her a woman to be avoided or rejected. If he thinks love is just a pleasant fantasy, he finds his whole world view shifting, and that's not a comfortable feeling.

Yet however the heroine disturbs him, he still craves that emotional relationship with her because it will fill what he now recognizes as a void in his life.

Now any other sort of relationship, especially one based solely on the physical, is lacking and unsatisfactory. He doesn't make love with another woman not because he's been stunned by some kind of spell, but because he no longer wants to. He sees the difference between the shallow relationships he's had and the possibility of a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with the heroine, and deep in his heart (how deep depends on the hero) isn't willing to settle for the lesser of the two.

Should a hero never make love to another woman in the course of a romance, then? Why not? I've written such a scene -- and what such a scene does for me is show the contrast between the hero's past relationships and his relationship with the heroine. It shows the reader why he didn't fall in love with the other woman. The sex may be great, but now he's had a glimpse of a very different, deeper intimacy -- one that has a lot less to do with hoohas than with his heart.

This is also why I don't always write heroines who are beautiful, because the hero's attraction to the heroine should be on a more profound, emotional level than her physical appearance. If the heroine is beautiful, that physical appearance may be the first thing he notices, but he very quickly realizes there's a lot more to his attraction to her than that.

This is also why I don't write totally alpha heroes who never have a moment's doubt that the heroine will love them and want to be with them. I want that moment where the hero wonders if she's right to reject him, that maybe he's not such a prize after all. I want him to be emotionally vulnerable, or what does he really gain by winning the heroine's heart? A sense of triumph? Oh, yes, I am the greatest? How has he changed? I want my heroes to be both ennobled and humbled by their relationship with the heroine.

So it's not magic that makes my hero want to be with only one woman for the rest of his life. It's not physical intimacy that keeps them together.

It's emotional intimacy.

But if a romance novel doesn't show that? All we're left with is the glittery hooha.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What She Said

Relating to my "launched into the stratosphere" blog below comes an interview with an author (Lionel Shriver) whose last release, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, won a major literary award, the 2005 Orange Prize.

Speaking of that book and her new release, and the expectations raised because she won that prize, she says, "It's like being a horse and you have to win the race. I feel that. You're a product. You make products; you have people counting on you and they may seem to like you and they may really like you. But that's not the point. You want to be able to sell a lot of products. And you have to produce and it's a little unnerving. Also nothing to be complaining about."

In the same interview, however, she expresses her dismay that her new book has been given only to female reviewers. To quote from the article:

"....the fact that almost all reviews were assigned to women was bugging her more, and bugging her bad.

"It's not a women's book. I don't write women's books," Shriver says in an accent that shows no traces whatsoever of her 20 years in Britain.

"There's a ghettoization of books by women. Especially if they have a female protagonist, then it's for the girls and they give it to a woman to review."

Although The Post-Birthday World is a novel about romance and love, it's not a romantic novel. It's not a book about a star couple smiling gleefully on the cover of Hello! magazine or, in Shriver's words, the "moments when the champagne arrives."

Instead, it's a novel that revels in those dinners when lovers run out of things to say by the time they've placed their orders. "It's trying to talk about romance on the level we live it and not as in that glossy magazine way," she adds."

Okay, first, I don't get what she means by "that glossy magazine way." Unrealistic? I try to make the romantic relationship between my characters believable; I want my readers to think it could have happened that way. And there's not a lot "glossy" about the Middle Ages.

I also have yet to read a romance novel that's all about the "moments when the champagne arrives." That would be the end of the book. The very end. What about all the drama and conflict before that?

I doubt Ms. shriver has actually read a romance novel. In fact, I suspect she would consider that beneath her. The way this interview sounds, it's like she's saying, "I don't write women's books" the way she would say, "I don't shovel shite."

I understand what prompts a writer to say such things. She wants her work to be respected, and she feels that if it's considered a romance, it won't be.

Welcome to my world, Ms. Shriver.

It's bad enough that men disparage romance novels. We don't need women writers to disparage them, too.

Ghettoization? Pot, meet kettle.

ETA: If the disrespect disturbs you, too, check out this interview at Dear It made me want to stand up and cheer.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Salve, Italia!

One of the great joys of the internet is that my readers in various parts of the world can contact me easily. I know my books sell overseas -- my royalty statements tell me so, and often, I get the foreign editions. It's really fun to see the different covers, or how the cover art is used in a different way. I have a webpage about it (link below). But it's easy to forget that all those sales = actual readers, so when I have contact with a reader from a foreign country, it's an exciting reminder that those numbers on my royalty statement really do equal people buying my books.

And today, thanks to the internet, Italian readers can read an interview of me on Isn't it romantic? I'm very grateful for the wonderful opportunity to connect with my Italian readers!

I love the title, too:
Margaret Moore: A Modern Amazon Between The Medieval Warriors

The title also makes me ponder being the filling in my own hero sandwich. Which of my heroes would I pick for the bread? Or maybe I could do a different sandwich every day? What if I have one medieval hero and one Victorian? How 'bout my Regency duke and the Viking?

This is the sort of delightful distraction that can keep an author from her writing....

Margaret's Books In Many Lands

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Mrs. Bennet and Me

I've always found Mrs. Bennet, of Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, a really funny character. Her melodramatic highs and lows, her willful blindness, her chatter, all made me smile.

And then...

We've been invited to a large social event. My daughter is no longer a teenager, and is currently without a significant other.

I thought, "Maybe she'll meet a nice young man and...EGAD! I'm doing a Mrs. Bennet!"

Since I'm a writer for whom thinking "why did s/he do that?" is key, I thought about this some more.

Let me say one thing loud and clear: I don't think a woman needs or should be married to be happy. I think there are plenty of worse things than not marrying, and many ways to achieve happiness, contentment and security. For a long time, I honestly believed I would be in the ranks of happy, contented singles, but lo, I eventually met a great guy and we've been very happily married ever since.

I want my kids to have that kind of relationship in their lives. I want them to know the sort of joy, security and just plain fun I've had being married to my husband. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, since I'm well aware this would be but one road to happiness and contentment. But it's the road I know based on my own experience.

And now poor, dear Mrs. Bennet isn't quite so cartoonish to me anymore. She wants her daughters to be happy and comfortable, and in her world, there's only way to achieve that. I can appreciate where she's coming from, in her own loud, nattering way.

I just hope I never find myself Googling some guy to see if he earns 10,000 pounds a year....

Friday, April 13, 2007

Launched into the stratosphere

Super Librarian had an interesting blog post yesterday, concerning a book coming out in September. It's called HEARTSICK, by Chelsea Cain, a columnist for the Portland Oregonian, and there are two more books about the same characters to follow. I'm not sure if this is this author's first foray into fiction, or if it's not. Amazon has other books by a Chelsea Cain, but then, Amazon has books by other Margaret Moores, so who knows? The Chelsea Cain website provided gives no clue.

Whether it is this writer's first novel or not, the publisher is pulling out all the stops to promote this book, including a $250,000 advertising campaign, 4,000 advanced reading copies and a 200,000 first print run. It's likely the publisher gave a big advance for these books, so one reason for the big PR push is to be sure they recoup their investment.

This is also how a debut book gets on the New York Times bestseller list. It's not the only way, of course, but it's what I'd call a damn fine launch into that stratosphere. If this book doesn't make the list, I will be gobsmacked.

(Just to compare, for my first Harlequin Historical, there was no advertising campaign -- the only ads were those I, and my fellow HH authors for that month, paid for -- and no ARCs except those I made and mailed myself. The print run remains a mystery, but it was certainly less than 200,000 copies.)

However, the publisher wouldn't be spending all that money if they didn't think HEARTSICK was (a) really, really good and (b) had broad appeal. I think it helps that the author is a newspaper columnist -- already known to some part of the public at least, not just toiling away anonymously in a garret somewhere. Also, this author is going to understand deadlines.

So what's the book about? The plot description on Super Librarian's blog says:

"...Detective Archie Sheridan... can't forget the woman who kidnapped him. For ten days, she tortured him to the brink of death, then mysteriously set him free and turned herself in. Now two years later, he's addicted to pain pills, estranged from his family, and obsessed with her. Gretchen Lowell is behind bars. But she still has all the power. Smart. Sexy. Vicious. She's a beauty. She's a killer. As Archie trails a new case, he needs Gretchen now in more ways than one - to catch a killer and to release his soul. Love hurts, sometimes in torture."

I read the (very little) excerpt on Chelsea Cain's website, and it reminded me of DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER by Jeff Lindsay, about another serial killer. Now, I enjoyed the first Dexter book, but the second was too graphic and the killer's methods so gross, I'm leery of reading the next one. Serial killers really aren't what I like to read about anyway and I can truly do without the mental pictures such books put in my head, so I don't have any plans to read HEARTSICK, either.

Somehow, though, with all that PR and the sales that will likely result, I don't think Chelsea Cain or her publisher are gonna notice, or care.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Survivor: Nooooooo!

I tried to be positive today. I really did, and it was working, and then came the nail-biting episode of Survivor and alas, the ouster of Michelle.

Here's my theory about Dreamz: I think Dreamz is not strongly allied to anyone, with the possible exception of Cassandra. I think he's planning to vote out Stacy as soon as it's most advantageous to him. I also think Jeff asked everybody why they would vote off everybody else, and only Alex's response was shown in full, because he was so blatant.

So why did Dreamz vote out Michelle and not Stacy? By doing so, he tipped off Alex and Stacy that Mookie (who also has possession of the immunity idol) is not loyal to the alliance.

By voting off Michelle, he's broken up the alliance of Earl, Yau Man and Michelle -- and also made himself and his vote more necessary to the remaining alliances, especially if he and Cassandra are a voting unit. They go from being on the bottom of the totem pole to having some influence.

As upset as I was at Michelle's boot, this was one exciting episode. Yau Man continues to rock, I was actually feeling sorry for Boo...heck, they even had me feeling sorry for Mookie when he got back and everything was gone from Camp Comfy.

I gotta hand it to the producers - after a rocky start with the haves and have-nots, this is turning into a very interesting, emotional rollercoaster of a season!

Oh, and then Ugly Betty was a clip show. Ugh. At least I had The Office to bring the funny. And I wrote an entire chapter today.

On a more positive note...

Despite the lousy weather (again, still -- spring, where art thou?) and a lousy start to the day (woke up at 4 a.m., lay awake till 5, got up, had breakfast, read the papers, went back to bed, nodded off, had wacky dreams...yargh), I have resolved to take a positive approach to the day.

Here's what's good about today:

I got white bread to make stuffing for a chicken, and have some left over, which means I had toasted white bread with my breakfast. Oh, the indulgence!

I got some nagging secretarial business out of the way. Not annoying in itself, but enough to be a bit of a distraction.

New episodes of Ugly Betty, Survivor and The Office tonight!

I'm well into the 300's of page numbers; the end is getting closer. Yes, I'll have plenty of revising to do, but realizing I'm on the downward slide is always exciting.

I'm reading a good book, because of a movie I got sucked into watching last week, called The Egyptian, which is also the title of a book by Mika Waltari. I'll blog about it more extensively when I'm finished, but this morning, there was a funny part. While I'm really enjoying it, this isn't a laff riot of a book, so that was a nice change.

Despite the weather, my folks are opening up the cottage right now! That means summer will be here soon, and a great, stress-free holiday at the cottage, lying in the hammock, eating homemade pies (not homemade by me, though -- even better!), reading and playing board games.

And now, while I'm on the downward slide, I still have a lot of plot elements to wrap up, so...better get at it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

When An Author Changes Course

A certain sort of crie de coeur crops up from time to time on message boards lamenting an author's move from one sub-genre of romance to another -- from say, historical romance to romantic suspense. I understand that this is based on the reader's disappointment, and it's really a compliment to the author.

But. But, but, but...

I wish the reader would understand that when an author makes such a change, their intent is not to punish their former readers. I can't speak for every one of the authors, but I believe the majority truly appreciate those readers, and are forever grateful for their support.

Yet they make the decision to switch anyway. Why? Is it just because they, in their selfishness, want to -- gasp! -- make more money?

Well, that's probably part of it. Yes, there are writers who write purely for the love of it, but I doubt those writers are sending their work to publishers in the hopes of being paid for it.

Callous? Calculating? A betrayal of their art?

Who's paying their bills? Who's paying for the kids' braces and university education? Unless somebody wants to step up and become a writer's patron, I don't think it's unreasonable for writers to take potential income into account when making such decisions.

Maybe the authors are tired of working really hard on a book only to see it languish on the shelves, and feel that by switching genres, they'll get more readers. We write to be read, after all. I'm sure such authors hope that their former readers will follow them into the new genre, but if they don't, that's a gamble they're willing to take on the chance that they'll find a new and larger audience.

Maybe the writer's always wanted to write in that new genre, and now has the publishing experience to make the switch.

Maybe that writer is bored with what they've been writing and a change will re-invigorate their creativity.

Maybe the writer's always wanted to write in the new sub-genre, but those books weren't selling until more recently.

Heck, maybe the writer's simply hopes to get a little more attention because maybe, just maybe, if those same upset readers had taken the time to write the author and let him or her know how much they appreciated their work before the decision was made, the author would make a different decision. We are not mind-readers.

In the end, the authors' needs and desires and goals simply have to outweigh those of their readers, because it's their happiness and income that's going to be the most affected by their decisions. I'm sure many an author is sorry to hear that readers are upset by his or her decisions, but they really have no choice. They must make their decisions on what's best for them, not whether or not some readers are going to be miffed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Pet Peeves

I like to be upbeat whenever possible, but in the spirit of the post below noting that "sex sells, but hate really sells," I'm going to list some of my pet peeves, starting with

Snow in April. That is just so wrong. As Lucy Maud Montgomery put it, it's like a slap in the face when you're expecting a kiss.

Turning nouns into verbs. "Journaling" -- ARGH. It's "writing in a journal." You assign priorities, or make priorities, you don't "prioritize." I could go on, but I may blow a casket if I do, so I'll stop there.

People who feel that responding to an issue calmly means you really don't care about the issue. Oh, I care -- I just don't think frothing at the mouth is particularly productive.

Folks who tell me that romance novels -- whether reading them or writing them -- are a waste of time. Clearly they are operating under the delusion that I want to hear their opinion, or will care about it. I don't.

People who spout rule after rule and convention after convention about what should or should not be in a romance novel. Really, my head fairly spins sometimes. I've been writing romance novels for over fifteen years, and I had no idea the genre was so restrictive. If it's a romance, I'd say the hero and heroine should be together at the end, and in a way that the reader can believe the relationship will last, but otherwise? Have at it, in your own way.

Reviewers who can dish it out, but get all defensive if somebody questions their views, going on about their right to their opinion. That's absolutely true -- they do have a right to their opinion, and to voice it however they wish. However, it's the right of the person disagreeing with them to have an opinion and voice it, too.

Copy editors who mess with my punctuation. Unless a sentence is really confusing, messing with my punctuation is also messing my voice, and I don't like it.

Revising a chapter, realizing I had it right the first time and not being able to blame the about-face on anybody else's stupidity.

When the newspaper delivery guy throws the paper into the garden (gardens my paper?) when it's snowing in April.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Blades of Glory: Pretty Much As Expected

This afternoon, since I'm at the stage where I tend to get a backache because I work for longer stretches, I took a break to see Blades of Glory. I've been thinking that in some ways, figure skating has its obvious targets for mockery, like romance novels. The costumes = the bad covers.

The movie was pretty much what I expected, meaning I was mildly amused, but certainly won't be getting the DVD. Basically, it was a Will Ferrell movie, no more, no less. He always seems to play the same sort of doofus, and I think I've seen enough.

Before we left for this new movie, I caught part of an old comedy called Ever Since Eve while I was having my lunch. (I just discovered, while looking it up on the Internet Movie Database, that the female lead was Marion Davies, better known for her relationship with William Randolph Hearst.) It was about a writer, so that got my interest, and featured the heroine pretending to be somebody she's not, sort of like the book I'm writing.

Talk about a contrast! It had no real physical comedy to speak of and there was no way it would have been allowed to have the same sort of vulgar humor, so the laughs depended on the situation, and the dialogue. Here's a sample:

Heroine's Best Friend's Boyfriend, confused about what's going on and unable to figure it out: "I'm going nuts!"

Heroine's Best Friend (dryly): "That's news?"

Later, Heroine's Best Friend's Boyfriend, still completely confused: "Then who am I?"

(Trust me, this was funny in context.)

Compared to "That (or I) put the bone in Zamboni."

I'll take Ever Since Eve.

Sidenote: We saw a trailer for Disturbia. Now, when I first saw a commercial for this, I thought they'd come up with a good twist on Rear Window. Instead of being stuck in an apartment with a broken leg, the protagonist is under house arrest, and he's a teenager. Ohhh, thinks I, that would make people a lot less inclined to believe him if he tries to tell somebody he's seen a murder.

And then I saw the trailer, which seemed to give away pretty much the entire movie. There's a marketing decision I don't understand.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

What's with the attitude?

There's an article in the New York Times today called "Rise of the Takedown" by Alex Williams. It's mostly about hecklers, and how they are getting more prevalent and vocal. However, the author also includes blogs and the internet as places where people can see the "rise" of "all this vitriol."

I was reminded of complaints about the level of snark (aka scorn and derision) in some online reviews.

Now, I've had some nasty reviews in my time, and some that had a sneering tone I certainly could have done without. Example from an old release of mine: The hero "is not a likable character, which is not likely what the author intended." Gosh, ya think? (And no, I'm not going to tell you which book or where, because the fewer people who read that review, the happier I shall be.) All the reviewer had to say to convey her opinion was that the hero wasn't a likeable character (and here's why).

I don't think snarky reviews are new, though, and I don't think they're ever going to go away, because there's something else at work here that has nothing to do with the information to be conveyed. As Michael Addis, who's directed a movie about hecklers, put it, "sex sells, but hate really sells."

When it comes to getting attention, vitriol gets more than sweetness and light. Reviewers, like all writers who put their work before the public, want to be read and snark gets noticed, whether because readers share the scorn or are drawn to it like looking at a car wreck or out of schadenfreude.

However, I'd like to point out something about Television Without Pity, which is mentioned in the article as an example of "internet meanness." Yes, there is plenty of scorn to be found there. But -- and I think it's a huge but -- Television Without Pity's recaps and boards are not always negative. If they were, I wouldn't go there nearly so much. If the recappers and posters love a show, they say so, with great enthusiasm.

Current case in point: Earl, Yau Man and Michelle on Survivor are almost universally adored. Especially Yau Man. The show Heroes, too.

There's also a wealth of information available. For example, if there's a question about a legal point raised in a show, sooner or later a lawyer will post with the answer. Ditto questions/comments about other show details.

And one thing TWoP does very well is monitor their boards. No flame wars allowed there; if there's snark, it's about the shows, not the posters.

There's another reason I go to Television Without Pity that's not so much about TV and the shows I watch as it is about my job, and one aspect of it. The posters there remind me that people can have extremely diverse opinions about the same thing. I need to have that reminder sometimes.

Especially if I've just gotten a snarky review.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Racing to the finish line....

Have you seen the movie Stripes, starring Bill Murray and the late, great John Candy? It's about a couple of guys who join the army and endure basic training. Other things ensue, but for my money, the film really ends with their graduation ceremony.

At one point, the men are running an obstacle course. As their platoon commander looks on, John Candy et al come running down the hill, screaming, arms flailing, like a bunch of zombies hopped up on something.

I am at that point in my manuscript where I feel like one of those soldiers. I have run part of the obstacle course (the most difficult part, to my mind) and am careering and careening toward the finish line, which is now in sight. If I'm screaming, it's with joy, not frustration or dismay.

Not that I'll be done the first time I type "The End" (and yes, I actually do that). Oh, no. It'll be back to the start of the course. But this time, I'll know the route, so hopefully, I won't wind up smashing into a wall or falling flat on my face.

Yep, the end is nigh -- in a good way!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Survivor: Earl Island

Oh, my, oh, my! Earl. Earl. Earl. Dancing and fierce and all kinds of hot! I tell ya, I might consider going on Survivor if Earl was...

Oh, who am I kidding? I hate roughing it. I like flush toilets and hot showers.

But to watch Earl is to be delighted, especially while he was dancing. I say again, Oh, my.

I also cackled with glee as Yau Man continues to dominate in the challenges. Seriously, watching this episode with the laughing and the clapping and jumping up to demonstrate the proper way to draw a bow (although it's been many, many years since I was on the high school archery team)'s an aerobic workout!

Truly a great episode, topped off by the voting off of the person I totally wanted to see gone.

And then we watched The Office, which was also wonderful. Plus, I straightened out a knotty bit in the ol' manuscript (seriously, I had a skein of plot threads that were like a big knot of goings on and reactions to said goings on) and came up with a different take on the next bit which I like, so other than the freakin' snow, it's been a great day!

This thing called voice

I've just posted a new column/article on my website, entitled "What is this thing called "voice?" wherein I talk about an author's voice. What is it? Et cetera. I also discuss unity of voice. You can find it here.

In other news, I've just discovered the DVD of the first season of the new BBC version of Robin Hood starring Richard Armitage is going to be on sale on Amazon June 5. It's expensive, but I don't care. I'm buying it. The intense Richard Armitage as the villainous Sir Guy of Gisborne, who sees Marion as his key to redemption? Baby, I'm sold!

And can it possibly be any worse that the Kevin Costner version? (Such a waste of Alan Rickman. I'm still upset about it.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Joys of the Office Job

Presumably because I have a book due in six weeks (or at least that's the best reason I can come up with), I've been waking up before 6 a.m. the past few days -- and let me tell ya, that is not my preferred time to rise. I am an owl, not a lark.

So the afternoons? Have been pretty much a wash out in terms of energy. Monday, I dozed off at about 4:30 and man, I zonked. I woke up about half an hour later and was all, "Huh? Dinner? Wha...?"

Yesterday afternoon, I wasn't much livelier after my Law and Order lunch hour, so I decided to do "administrative" type tasks -- correspondence, website maintenance, totals of expenses for my taxes, that sort of thing. I also did a little paint scraping in the room I'm going to repaint.

As I was doing those tasks, it occurred to me that for lots of people, that's what their day job is like -- and I gotta tell ya, I could see a real upside to that. When those type of tasks are done, they are done. No wondering if maybe you should have used a different point of view in that scene. No worry that maybe you should have had that happen at the climax instead of what you did. No wandering around thinking, thinking, thinking, about what should happen next to your hero or heroine.

You get to talk to real people in an office. I'm working alone, all by myself. Nobody to talk to except the cats. I haven't yet reached the stage where I converse out loud with my characters, but it could happen.

When office workers leave their place of work, they leave their work behind. My office is in my house, which is akin to having your house in your office. The work is always there, waiting. Lurking. Haunting...

I don't get a vacation. I take a vacation, which is not quite the same.

I don't get sick days. If I've got a deadline, there's nobody else to take up the slack.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love my job, and I realize I am very, very lucky to be able to do the work I do and to not have to go to an office and endure some of the rigamarole that goes on in the corporate environment. I don't have to sit through boring meetings, or play office politics. I can work in my jammies if I want (although I never do). I don't have to listen to the interminable yammerings of some person two cubicles over.

But there are times when it would be so nice to have the sort of job where I do what I did yesterday: have a checklist of things to be done, and when they're finished, they are finished. And I wouldn't mind sitting in a meeting or two, especially if pastries are provided.

Still celebrating!

I'm still celebrating the sixteenth anniversary of the day Tracy Farrell from Harlequin phoned with the offer to buy my first book, A WARRIOR'S HEART. That book was yesterday's blog give-away.

Today, I'm giving away five autographed copies of THE DUKE'S DESIRE, the one and only Regency I wrote for Harlequin Historicals, to the first five people who email me at with the title in the subject line, and who haven't already received a free book from me.

THE DUKE'S DESIRE is also my one and only "secret baby" story.

The hero's first name is Galen, after this physician. I was researching something about medieval medicine, and thought it was a cool name.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Prison Break: Noooooooo!

Oh, woe is me! My Lance is no more! Unless he managed to escape The Van o' Doom, which I doubt, considering his final words.


And what airline does Dr. Sarah use that she got to Panama so fast? I'd like to use that myself, because whew! No waiting at the airport for her, apparently.

But otherwise, a great season finale. Now Linc's on the outside and Michael's on the inside, along with other assorted characters. And what the heck is going on in that lab??

I'll be back next season, even though my pretty Lance is gone.

Anniversary Presents!

It was sixteen years ago today that, after spending the afternoon volunteering in my daughter's kindergarten class, I got the phone call that changed my life. "This is Tracy Farrell from Harlequin Historicals. We love your book and want to buy it."

was pretty much my reaction. And then I tried to sound all professional, but when I'm excited, my voice is, shall we say, not soft. I'm sure I just about ruined the poor woman's ear drum.

In honor of the sixteenth anniversary of "the call," I'm offering two autographed copies of my first book, A WARRIOR'S HEART, to the first two people who email me at with the title in the subject line, and who haven't already received a free book from me.

And I gotta say, I still get quite the thrill looking at that cover, especially the depiction of my man Emryss.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Great Story

Since this is Palm Sunday, I've been thinking about a story that I once heard.

The obelisk now in the center of St. Peter's Square at the Vatican used to be in the Circus Maximus. Pope Sixtus V decided to move it to the square, and because the feat of engineering was so tricky, decreed that no one either working on the task (about 900 men) or watching were to make a sound.

The task got underway, but as the obelisk began to move, the ropes holding it began to snap from the strain. It looked as if the obelisk might fall and smash when a seaman called out, "Wet the ropes! Wet the ropes!"

Dampening the ropes made them stretch, so they didn't break and the obelisk was saved.

Because he'd broken the pope's command, the seaman was brought before the Pontiff. Instead of being angry that his order had been disobeyed, however, the grateful pope asked the seaman to name his own reward. The seaman was from a family whose farm was pretty much useless in terms of agriculture, but they did have palms, so he asked that his family always be the ones to supply the palms to the Vatican for Palm Sunday.

Now, I don't know how much of this is true; it may only be fiction (although I did find this on Google). True or not, though, I think it's a great tale. Can't you just imagine that tense silence? And then the ropes start snapping and everybody's (quietly) panicking and suddenly, a voice rings out, "Wet the ropes! Wet the ropes!"

Imagine the seaman being hauled before the Pope, and when he's asked what he wants, doesn't say money or jewels; he comes up with a way to make the family farm pay in perpetuity.

I bet somebody could make a pretty good romance out of this, with that guy as the hero.