Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Blazing Good Time!

The Blaze booksigning was this morning, from 10-12. The line of people waiting to get in stretched around the hotel floor. For two hours, the line never let up -- there were five authors actually signing books (those with July releases, I think) and for two hours, all they did was smile and sign. Tawny and I stood to one side of the room and just greeted people as they came through. It was so much fun! Initially, they were letting people get one copy of every book, but even with the crates of books they had available, it was clear they were going to run out, so they began limiting books to two per person. They ran out completely about ten minutes before 12. It was awesome to see so many Blaze fans!

Here is a pic of Kira Sinclair, whose first book, Whispers in the Dark, just came out, moi, and Tawny Weber...I had so much fun with Tawny; we tried to outdo each other by being the first to hand out our bookmarks to everyone who came through.

The Blaze editors had covers of all the current and upcoming releases on display behind the booksigning table. I have to say, some of these covers are amazing! Right now, mine is on display on the dresser in my hotel room.

The luncheon keynote speaker was Victoria Alexander; she was so funny and personable, and had the entire audience laughing. I've read several of her historicals, but listening to her talk was a real treat. Here is a picture of Nina and Cathryn at lunch. We sat with some fun ladies; one was a book reviewer (I slipped her a copy of Overnight Sensation along with a couple of $100 bills--okay, I'm totally kidding. I was broke, or I might have!). I still haven't made it to a workshop, yet. Maybe tomorrow.

I also sat next to this really interesting woman who designs websites for a living...I've been thinking about redoing my own for some time now. Something more romancey and less military. I liked the military theme until my mom said she finds it a little frightening. I think she's right, and the more I think about it, the more I'd like to go with something a little flirtier.

Later, the Blaze authors and editors met up in the lobby and we went to dinner at this fabulous Italian restaurant a few blocks from the hotel. The food was amazing. The entire night was amazing! We had a small room with one long table and three or four oversized booths. I sat with: Tawny Weber, Jamie Sobrato, Jordan Summers, Leslie Kelley, and Wanda Ottewell. My face still aches from laughing so much. There was wine, bruschetta, homemade pizza, salmon filets with pesto, lasagna, the most delicious cheese manicotti I've ever tasted, lots of fresh veggies, and the most decadent chocolate cake and cheesecake I've ever seen--huge, glistening slabs of chocolate, sitting in puddles of dark chocolate syrup. Yum. I took a picture, but didn't realize I'd left the memory card in my room, so can't download the image. Just picture a huge slab of chocolate cake, and then double get the picture. So now I'm back in my room, feeling fat and happy. I could write, but that takes too much energy, so I'm looking forward to curling up with my brand new copy of The Brother Returns by Jeannie Watt, instead.

Booksigning in San Francisco

Having a great time at the is a picture taken at the booksigning...

I sat with a lovely lady named Emily Forbes from Australia, who writes medical romances. Her husband and two little boy stopped by and I asked them if they liked Vegemite. Her husband said he loved it, and promptly pulled out a tube of the stuff and started licking it adoringly. Here he is, displaying his manly appetite for Vegemite (eewww!).

And finally, here is a picture of me and my roomie, Cathryn. She and Nina were my groupies!

Brenda (my editor) came by to say hello and showed me a template for the new Blaze covers they'll be switching to in Jan 09. Very nice!! The new covers will feature the title and author's name at the top of the book, across a red banner, rather than being overlaid across the cover art. She also gave me a few tempting details about the cover for my Feb 09 release, Able-Bodied. She said the cover will feature the hero laying on a bed and all you'll see is part of his face, his bare chest and his military dog tags...sounds great to me.

Our conference drink this year is the Pomegranite Martini...delicious.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Going to the Ball

So here it is, two days before I leave for the RWA conference in San Francisco, and I haven't even begun to think about packing. Okay, that's not entirely true. I'm thinking about it now, hence this post. My friend, Cathryn, is so organized. She has this great list of things to bring and has her outfits orchestrated for each day, each event. She has what she calls her conference clothes, and they are beautiful! For me, my conference clothes are the same clothes I wear to work, the same clothes I wear when I go out with friends, the same clothes I wear for everyday. How boring is that? I want conference clothes, too!

Last year, I decided to go with all travel knits; outfits that wouldn't crease or wrinkle no matter how I mashed them into my suitcase or balled them up in my carry-on. I buy 99.9% of my clothing from Coldwater Creek, and last year I was really into the travel knit dresses, paired with a knit cardigan. But the problem is that I'm only 5'4" tall, and the dresses all but dragged on the floor. Looking back at those photos, I looked frumpy and fat. Plus, I overpacked. I brought more clothes with me for that four-day conference than Ginger brought with her on that 3-hour cruise, and that's saying something!

So this year, I decided against the travel knit thing. I once overheard somebody say that when you get to the point in your life where you're wearing a) elastic-waist pants, or b) polyester knit clothes, it's time for a retirement home. Yikes! I'm officially an old person, according to my wardrobe! That needs to change. So this year, I've decided to go young(er). I'll bring capris and tank tops and sandals, and actually show a little skin. I bought some cute white capris, some comfie denim capris, two pairs of black cropped pants (no elastic waist) and a bunch of pretty tops. So I think I'm all set for what to wear for the booksigning, the workshops, and any sight-seeing we do.

My big dilemma is the Harlequin party. What will I wear? I have my reliable standby; a black, travel knit dress, LOL! It's sleeveless and long, and paired with the right jewelry, would be fine. But it wouldn't disguise my belly. Or my butt. I mean, look at these beautiful women who attended last year! I'll be a frump by comparison. Ugh. I hate this.

I have a chocolate velvet dress that I wore on the cruise this past winter, but...well, it's velvet. In August. In San Francisco. Besides, the trouble with both the chocolate dress and the black dress is that the neckline comes up so high. It makes the dress look damby. I want a cute little pink dress like the one this gal is wearing! Or a pretty black number that plunges in the front and scoops in the back and swirls at the knees, you know?
So for this year, I guess it's the black knit dress. But for next year, I'll be more prepared. I'll diet my butt off (literally) from January to June and in July I'll go shopping for something fabulous. year. That'll be the year when I'll go to the ball looking like this:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Write Life

In the spirit of Cathryn's blog over at The Moody Muses (see link, at right), I thought I'd share some pictures of the places where I find the most peace, and where I do most of my writing. This picture is of my sunroom, and although you can't see, there is a long bank of floor to ceiling windows facing the couch. This room is my favorite; it overlooks both the yard and the water. In the afternoon, the entire room shimmers with the reflection of water on the walls. This is Caitlin, my 14-year old daughter, reading a letter from Duncan, who is away at camp. She's sitting in my favorite spot. I love to curl up here with my laptop, with my research material spread out around me.

If the weather is nice, I'll take my laptop outside and sit on the patio, where I can watch the boats go by and listen to the sound of the water. This picture was taken yesterday, after more than a week of torrential rain. You can see everything is overgrown and wet, but on a nice day there is no better place to be.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Pirate's Life for Me?

This past weekend, Salisbury, MA hosted the first Maritime Festival at the Salisbury State Reservation, featuring a chowder festival, a beer tent, concerts, water competitions, and three gorgeous tall ships open to the public. Our good friends, Mike and Lois, took us to the Captain's Gala Reception the first night that the ships arrived. There was a live Reggae band, a raw bar, hors d'oeuvres, and cocktails. A monsoon moved in just moments after we safely entered the festival tent, and the thunder and lightning and driving rains were truly awe-inspiring! The interior of the tent, which resembled a Barnum & Bailey circus tent and could easily accomodate 400 people, began flooding with rain water. The band had to stop playing while they moved all the electrical cords safely away. Even after the storm moved through, leaving a hazy mist in its wake, lightning continued to illuminate the skies over the ocean and around the tall ships. Very cool.

It was wonderful, but the best part was touring the three ships. There was the Roseway, from St. Croix, the Mystic from Mystic, CT, and the Spirit of South Carolina from...well, you know. My personal favorite was the Roseway, and not just because it had some of the cutest crew members! The ship itself was beautiful and graceful. The Mystic was also lovely, and wouldn't it be wonderful to book a week-long cruise through the Bahamas aboard that ship?
We took our time going through each of the ships. I loved seeing the different galleys and the sleeping compartments. The Mystic was by far the most luxurious, since they are set up for private charters, but I loved the Roseway, with its small, boxy bunks and intimate living arrangements. I'm sure by the fourth or fifth day, such tight living quarters become tedious and the smell is probably

more than a little funky, but it seemed very romantic. Here I am, at the helm of each of these lovely ships...

I always thought I'd love to be at sea; to stand on a deck and feel the ocean surging beneath the prow, with the sea wind blowing in my face. However, the reality is that I'm a complete wimp and being out on the open sea only conjures up images of me, floundering in mile-high swells until I finally sink to the ocean bottom. Last night, we went out to sea on our friends' boat to watch the fireworks over Salisbury. We didn't leave until 9 pm because of threatening weather, and the night was overcast and misty. It was eerie going out through the mouth of the Merrimack River under these conditions, but not nearly as bad as it might have been had the tall ships not been docked there; the no-wake zone imposed by the Coast Guard made it so much less treacherous! We cleared the mouth and turned north, toward New Hampshire, and once we had gone out a ways, turned the engine off and just drifted. There was a full moon last night, but it wasn't your typical full moon; it was a blood-red moon, which only made the night even more eerie. The fireworks were amazing, and then we made our way back through the mouth and inland, to Amesbury. It was an exhilarating ride, but the entire time I was certain we were going to be smashed against the jetties, or collide with another boat. We didn't, of course, but the experience just reminded me that although I think I'd like a life at sea, the reality is that I'd much rather be seaside, preferably under an umbrella with a cocktail in my hand!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Glamorous Life of a Romance Author

When I think "romance writer," I think glamour. I think of Mary Fisher from the movie, She-Devil (played to perfection by Meryl Streep), living in her pink mansion by the sea, wearing her flowing chiffon scarves and being served cocktails on her private patio by a buff young man-servant who wears nothing but black shorts and a bow-tie.

And of course, there is the romantic icon of my youth, Dame Barbara Cartland, who graced the back cover of more than 500 romance novels, dripping with diamonds and surrounded by gold gilt and velvet, cuddling her little pooch. Of course, the reality is probably more like Joan Wilder in the classic romantic comedy, Romancing the Stone, who finishes her manuscript with a combination of joy and sorrow, and then sits down to celebrate with a solitary microwavable meal and her cat.

I've completed three romance novels and am working on my fourth, and yet my family remains singularly unimpressed. Don't they understand that I'm a romance writer? That I shouldn't have to do dishes or laundry, or spend my time on anything as mundane as food shopping and cooking? I am a romance novelist! My life should be spent sitting on my patio being served dainty pastry puffs and cosmopolitans (or whatever it is that glamorous romance writers eat). As wonderful as that sounds, the reality is that romance writers are just regular people. We still have bills to pay, bathrooms to clean, and (for some of us) day jobs to go to.

But then there is this wonderful thing called the RWA National Conference, where for four glorious days we get to bask in the warmth and attention we so rightly deserve, where every minute is devoted to being a romance writer, where there are catered lunches and dinners, booksignings, and opportunities to schmooze with editors and agents.

Even before I was published, this annual conference was a much anticipated event, and only reinforced my passion for the romance genre. I remember watching, in complete awe, as all the glamorous romance novelists, sparkling in thier finery, climbed into taxis and limos that would whisk them away to a publisher's private party. Oh, to live that kind of life! And for the first time, I've also received an invitation to a publisher's party. But I've also realized that I am neither glamorous nor awe-inspiring, and that being a romance writer is just one part of who I am. It's a wonderful part, but one that needs as much work and dedication as the other parts; the day-job worker part and the wife part and the mom part. So thank you, Harlequin, for making me feel--even for just one night--like a glamorous romance author!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cruising Plum Island

Yesterday was my day off, and since the kids were at summer camp and it was about 109 degrees in the shade, my husband and I decided to take the boat out. There's nothing like being out on the water, with the wind in your face. Sheer joy. Of course, I always feel guilty when I go out on the boat, like there are a gazillion other things I should be doing (writing, or doing laundry). But the day was so beautiful, I decided that one day wasn't going to impact my deadline. So I packed a light lunch, threw some bottled water into a cooler with ice, and away we went. Here is a picture of John with the boat.

Our plan was to follow the Merrimack River to Newburyport, and then cut in behind Plum Island and follow the narrow channels that cut through the marshes, all the way to Ipswich. We caught an out-going tide, so made good time to Newburyport Harbor. On a typical weekend, this area is teeming with activity, and the whale-watching boats and deep-sea fishing boats, as well as the huge lobster trawlers, turn the mouth of the Merrimack into a surging, plunging washing machine of turbulent water. I hate going out to the ocean because doing so means having to navigate this treacherous stretch of water, and it terrifies me. I'm always afraid we're going to end up like the boat in this photo--smashed up against the jetties! We have a friend with a bigger boat than ours, and they go out all the time. However, their 8-year old daughter clings to her seat and screams the entire way, until we're safely out in the open ocean. I never make fun of her. If it weren't for the fact that I'm an adult, I'd be screaming, too!

But yesterday was a Monday and the entire harbor was quiet. The water was like glass and feeling brave, I told John we should go out through the mouth to the ocean. We followed two sailboats through the narrow passage and made it through safely. Once we were past the jetties, the temperature dropped by ten degrees -- it was wonderful. The ocean had these huge, gentle swells that just sort of buoyed you up. We went about two miles out, keeping land in sight, and headed south along the coast of Plum Island, a barrier island that runs eleven miles from Newburyport to Ipswich. Only about a third of the island is inhabited, and the remaining 4,662 acres have been preserved as an enormous wild life refuge for plover, herons, egrets, cranes, and bald eagles. The area behind the island is comprised of miles and miles of marshes and wetlands. If you know what you're doing, you can navigate a boat through these narrow channels.

We continued along the coast until we came to Ipswich, and turned inland at Crane's Beach, toward Plum Island Sound, which is the large, open bay directly beneath Great Neck and Little Neck, and extends along the back side of Plum Island until you hit the marshes. Here's a photo of the entrance to the sound, from the ocean. We dropped anchor near one of these sandbars and had lunch, and then began making our way through the sound to the marshes. It's a little tricky since all the narrow rivers look identical, and we kept a close eye on our depth meter, since some spots were just about 2 feet deep. Thankfully we have a flat-bottom boat that requires very little water in which to maneuver. But it was fabulous -- we saw so much wildlife, and even though we made a couple of wrong turns, just being out there was amazing. You feel like you're in a different world! We did finally maneuver our way back to the Merrimack River, and then it was a quick ride back up the river, with the incoming tide, to home. We came back sunburned and tired, but happy.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Last Cowboy in Saugus

The strangest thing happened to me on my way to work this morning...I generally leave the house pretty early, around 5:15 a.m. This morning I slept in a little and didn't leave until 6:00. I was driving south on Route 1, and traffic was fairly heavy considering it's a vacation week for many people. For anyone unfamiliar with Route 1 through the Danvers/Saugus stretch of Massachusetts, it's known as the restaurant capital of the world due to the huge and varied number of eateries on either side of the six-lane highway.

I was making pretty good time when I crested a hill and saw a parking lot of brake lights stretched out before me, and just a brief glimpse of flashing blue lights. I groaned, thinking there must have been an accident. But as I drew closer, I saw I was wrong. I had to blink several times, unsure if I was seeing things. No wonder every other driver on Route 1 had slowed to a don't see cowboys riding along the highway every morning!

Yes, cowboys.

And they looked like the real deal. There were only two of them, and a state police cruiser paced just behind them, keeping motorists at a safe distance. I so wish I'd had a camera! It was like they'd ridden straight off the set of Open Range onto Route 1. These guys were in full western gear, with leather chaps, heavy "cowboy" coats, Stetsons, gloves, and boots, complete with saddlebags strapped to their mounts. They looked bone-weary. They were dusty and dirty. One of them turned his face in my direction as I drove past, and I could see his jaw was covered with a couple days worth of stubble. They rode effortlessly, one hand on the reins, one hand resting casually on their thigh. Their horses were beautiful.
But what were they doing on Route 1? Heading to the Hilltop Steak House to reclaim their missing herd of cattle? Protesting the high price of gasoline by hoofing it to work? I checked the local news channels to see if there was any mention of a traffic tie-up due to a couple of cowpokes, but there was nothing.
So I can only speculate about who they were, where they'd come from, and where they were headed. And I can't help but feel that my day has been made a little more special for having seen them.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Diary of the Dead

I'll admit it; I love zombie movies. Actually, I love any movies or books that involve a virus or plague (or vampires or aliens) that could potentially wipe out humanity. I've read The Stand by Stephen King at least six times. The Omega Man is one of my all-time favorite flicks, and I watched I Am Legend with a sort of terrified glee. It's not the mass destruction of human life that fascinates me, but the tenacity and ingenuity of the survivors. It's amazing what one will do to survive, even when faced with the possibility of being the only survivor. I confess to having spent way too much time thinking about what I would do if faced with a pandemic or a swarm of flesh-eating undead. The reality is that I'd probably be one of the first to die, since I'm so out of shape I probably couldn't outrun a zombie, and I'm usually the first one in my house to succumb to a cold or virus. Besides which, I'm a total wimp and just the thought of being alone in my own house at night gives me the heebie-jeebies, never mind being alone on the planet! But having an overly active imagination, I can't help but wonder, "What if...?"
So imagine my surprise and delight when my daughter found this book in a used bookstore in Salem, MA! It's called The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead. If you've ever wondered how to protect yourself against zombies, this is the book for you. Not only does it give you great tips on how to survive, but it also explores the origins of zombie-ness, and details the behaviors and characteristics of zombies so that you can anticipate how they will react in any situation, providing you with the necessary information to either kill them, or escape from them. For example, I'd always thought if the world was overrun by zombies, I would escape in a boat. Perfect, right? You're isolated and safe. But did you know that zombies can walk on the bottom of a riverbank or lake or even the ocean? So keep a spear or harpoon handy for when they try to sneak up on you from beneath the water!

Last night, the girls and I were surfing for a good movie, and they wanted to watch The Secret Life of the American Teenager. I knew it was the story of a girl who becomes pregnant, and thought it might provide a good moral lesson, so we switched it on. Hello!! In the first five minutes, there's a scene where a 16-year old boy is asking his 15-year old girlfriend how long they'll have to wait before they can have sex, and she replies when they're married. So then he asks if oral sex counts. The room was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop, about a second before I leaped up and changed the channel. Who writes this stuff?? Bill Clinton?? No way were my girls watching that instead, we changed it over to Diary of the Dead. Yep, I'd much prefer they watch a movie based on someone's twisted fantasy about zombies, filled with gratuitous violence and plenty of gore!

The movie was filmed in the same style as The Blair Witch Project -- as if it was a documentary. It started out slow, and I was sort of kicking myself for having paid $4.99 for it on Pay per View. Initially, it seemed that the only redeeming feature was that it starred hot Canadian actor, Shawn Roberts, as one of the would-be survivors. However, fifteen minutes into it, the girls and I were glued to the screen, watching the horror unfold about a group of college kids trying to get home. At one point Caitlin said, "Okay, I am now officially sketched out!" It was pretty gruesome and about as realistic as a zombie movie can get. On a positive note, not all the characters died; three of them ended up locking themselves in a panic room inside a mansion, as the house itself became overrun with zombies. I can think of worse fates than being holed up with someone as adorable as Shawn Roberts! So I say, "Zombies?? Bring 'em on!" I have my survival guide...