Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yikes! It's the 29th ...

... And I haven't yet posted a blog. How many excuses can I come up with? I'm very good with excuses. Being a creative excuse-maker is handy if one is as scattered and forgetful as I am these days.

Here is my list of excuses:
1. My Microsoft Outlook calendar is supposed to remind me, and it didn't. What's up with that?
2. I have a Thanksgiving hangover. I made the whole dinner this year, turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, pie (okay, my husband made the pie) and I entertained my family for a whole day without yelling at any of them. The decompression period after such an effort is at least a couple of days.
3. I had to get my car inspected before the end of the month (tomorrow) and, to get that done, I had to get up at the crack of dawn and take my car in to the mechanic's place or he wouldn't be able to squeeze me in.
4. It's the second-to-last day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I still have six thousand words to write if I want to finish and win my certificate.
5. (Here is the real reason.) I'm putting an offer in on a house in California, and I've been on the phone, the Internet, reading long legal documents and standing over the fax machine (so it doesn't jam) for two days. It's all I can think about. I tossed and turned for hours last night, wondering if we're doing the right thing (so I got no sleep, another fine excuse).

So there you have my list of, in my opinion, very credible excuses for why I didn't post a blog this morning when I was supposed to.

Yes, all right, I could have written it a long time ago and scheduled it to run so I wouldn't have to worry about it. But I don't plan ahead that well!

In other news, my new book will be out in December. THE PREGNANCY SURPRISE is Book Two of the Second Sons trilogy about a trio of New York cousins who move to a small Texas town to collect an inheritance from their black sheep uncle, a fishing charter business. THE PREGNANCY surprise is Reece Remington's story. If you like geek heroes, you'll love Reece and his rocky romance with free-spirited Sara.

Now, I'm off to write another eight or ten pages today. I hope you'll forgive me and my fried brain. I'll be back on Dec. 11 and I'll try to be on time and have something relevant to say

Happy Holidays,

Friday, November 28, 2008

Interview with Tanya Michaels

Hope all our US readers had a great Thanksgiving! I wanted to post earlier but was having internet troubles. Better late in the day than never...

This month, it was my time to answer some interview questions about myself. It was lots of fun, and as always, I'm thrilled to be among so many other HAR authors!

How did you make your first sale to the line?
I used to write for Harlequin Temptation, which I enjoyed, but once my husband and I had children, I noticed family and community sneaking into more of the stories. For Temptation, which was a steamier line, the editors (and readers!) preferred that the focus be more on the couple than secondary characters like siblings, kids or lovably meddling neighbors. My editor suggested that American Romances—which definitely tell the story of a man and woman fall in love, but have more room for the supporting cast that I have so much fun with—might be a better fit. Boy, was she right!

Tell us a little about your family and where you're from.
My dad was in the Army, and we moved around a good bit during my childhood, which made it hard to be “from” anywhere. I always craved a sense of home, and creating that for my characters—a place to belong, someone to belong with—is one of my very favorite parts of writing for American. I’ve particularly had fun writing my Four Seasons in Mistletoe miniseries (the first, Mistletoe Baby, is in stores now) because they’re all set in the fictional town of Mistletoe Georgia and returning for each of the three subsequent stories feels like a homecoming to visit old friends. My husband, two children (a kindergartener and a first grader) and I live in Georgia. We’ve only been in our current house for a couple of years but in the state for a decade now, so Georgia officially feels like home!

Tell us about your book.
This particular book is something I’ve never tried before—a story about a couple who are already married. In Mistletoe Baby, David and Rachel Waide had temporarily separated but agreed not to tell the rest of the family until after the holidays because they don’t want to ruin a Christmas wedding (the hero’s brother is getting married). So for the duration of the holiday season, they’re having to pretend that all is well. And in doing so, they start to remember why they fell in love in the first place. By the way, I did a November podcast about this book which you can listen to at, a wonderful site where you can learn even more about Harlequin American Authors and even buy our books if you’re so inclined *g*

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Well, I sold the four-book series way before it was time to actually write the stories (I had other projects that had to be completed first). Oddly enough, when the time came to work on the manuscript, we were coping with an illness in the family, the stress of which was really taking a toll on my husband and me. It was bizarrely ironic that during my only book about a husband and wife, my husband and I were weathering the roughest patch in our ten year marriage! So some days, I just felt emotionally raw. The good news is, I think it made the book even better. And the really good news is that writing about a couple coming that close to losing each other was a daily reminder not to take my own spouse for granted! I am firmly of the belief that romantic happily ever afters are completely realistic in life—as long as you’re willing to put in the effort—and also of the belief that romance novels have a lot of value, whether it’s to help you smile through a difficult time or a reminder to cherish those you love.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Aside from spending time with my family, I like to read and watch movies! (Come to think of it, I often read to or watch movies with my kids or husband, so those can be family activities, too.) I read in all genres, books from my fellow Harlequin American sisters to fantasy to young adult to nonfiction. I couldn’t possibly list all the writers and books that I’ve enjoyed (I was trying for a while to keep a running tab of the books I read just this year on my personal blog, but it got away from me—I read far more that I update) but a few of the authors I enjoy include Holly Jacobs, Jennifer Crusie, JD Robb, George RR Martin, Dave Barry, Stephanie Bond, Elizabeth Hoyt, Eloisa James, Laura Marie Altom, Jane Graves, Dorien Kelly, Kresley Cole, Juila Quinn, Jennifer LaBrecque, Shelley Galloway, Teresa Medeiros, JK Rowling and Trish Milburn.

Some of my kids’ favorite books include Click, Clack Moo and related tales, the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne, the Geronimo Stilton chapter books, Peter and Fudge stories from Judy Blume, the hilarious “Pigeon” and “Knuffle Bunny” picture books from Mo Willems, and, for early readers, beginning stories featuring lovable dogs Biscuit and Noodles. I think it’s important to instill a love of reading early!

What is your writing routine?
What is this “routine” of which you speak—I know it not. My work schedule looks more like something out of chaos theory—getting up early (only to have the seven year old hear me and wake up. 7 tries not to bother me by pouring milk without asking for help…a white lake leaking beneath the kitchen appliances and tears ensue), I get the kids off to school, but only have an hour because kindergartener’s class is going on field trip and each child needs an adult escort, get home at about 3, write for fifteen minutes before refereeing sibling squabble. Write for a whole two hours (glory be!) before must stop to fix dinner (there are only so many nights I can tell themselves to grab a Lunchable from the fridge before the school nutritionist and our pediatrician hold an intervention). After dinner, I help with homework and baths and bedtime reading and accidentally nod off myself before hubby wakes me up and asks, “Aren’t you on deadline?”

True story—two weeks ago, while I was trying to use the comparatively quiet nighttime hours to work on a book, 7 woke up at a quarter to ten with a sick tummy. Then 5 woke up with a nightmare two hours later, followed by 7 waking up to ask for a drink of water and later 5 also waking with a sick tummy. (Neither went to school the next and, coincidentally, I got no writing done.) Routines are great if you can swing them, but I’m also a big believer in staying flexible and creating opportunities. The other moms in carpool line know not to come knock on my minivan window and chat if they see my laptop propped against the steering wheel. Heck, all these interview answers were typed while at Chuck E. Cheese.

How long have you been writing?Since grade school, children’s book I still read to kids. Wrote first full length (400+ pages) manuscript my freshman year of college (I was 17) and sent it, unrequested, to an editor at Pocket. They never even acknowledged it with a rejection (in retrospect, the writing was so bad, I can’t say I blame them). In college, I got my first writing related job which I followed with a string of freelance jobs either writing or copy-editing. I joined RWA in 1998 (Romance Writers of America, which helps educate writers in both craft and business matters), then sold my first book to Harlequin in 2001! But it was just last year that my first Harlequin American was released.

I hope for many more HARs in the future!!! And I wish you all a lovely weekend and happy reading.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The story behind the story

Last week, I met my agent in New York City for a meeting with my young adult editors. While in the city, we went to see Wicked. I'd heard many good things about this Broadway production, and I came away wishing I could see it all over again.

I'm a fan of reimagined stories, so this depiction of Oz in the years prior to Dorothy's arrival was right up my alley. For those of you who don't know, Wicked is the story of when the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch were in school together. It's an imagined origin story in that we see how these two witches came to be who they were at the beginning of the Wizard of Oz. There's even a romantic story thread, which made my romance writer heart flutter.

What I found interesting was how the play showcased how no one is all good or all bad. Each of us has elements of each in us. Elphaba (the future Wicked Witch of the West) wasn't all bad, and Glinda wasn't all good. To me, they were much more three-dimensional in this play than in the original story. This is a good thing to keep in mind when we writers craft our characters, to not rely on two-dimensional stereotypes, to make each character as real and three-dimensional as possible.

In addition to the story, I really enjoyed the music in Wicked. My two favorite pieces are "Popular" and "Defying Gravity." I even bought a "Defying Gravity" T-shirt, but considering I drove through a snowstorm in Virginia today on my way home from Washington, D.C., it'll be a few months before I can wear it. Here are a couple of YouTube videos showcasing these songs from the play:

Have any of you seen Wicked? What did you think?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Our 25th anniversary—thanks for being part of it!

The Harlequin American Romance authors wish to thank everyone who took part in our 25th anniversary celebration, especially the editors and guest authors who took time from their busy schedules to blog with us. In case you missed any of them, here’s the list, complete with links back to their original posts.

Johanna Raisanen, September 6
Kathleen Scheibling, October 9

Guest Authors:
Karen Toller Whittenburg, September 12
Elizabeth Sinclair, September 20
Judith Arnold, September 30
Vella Munn, October 6
Barbara Bretton, October 12 and October 19
Debbie Macomber, October 20
Ginger Chambers, October 30
Anne Stuart, October 31

Thank you for making this anniversary such a special and memorable one!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A 100-Mile Holiday

This year my family has decided to celebrate the holiday by being a little kinder to the environment, and to ourselves.

I must start by saying we have never been extravagant spenders at Christmas. My husband and I have been married for thirty-one years and raised two amazing children, and our one “rule” about the holidays has always been that if we couldn’t afford to pay cash for gifts and other holiday items, we didn’t buy them.

This year we’ve decided, as a family, to take this one step further.

We’re having a 100-mile holiday.

As much as possible, everything under the tree and served at Christmas dinner will come from a 100-mile radius of where we live. This might not save much money, but that’s not really our goal. The things we buy will not be shipped halfway around the world, so we hope to minimize our ecological footprint and support our local economy.

At first I wasn’t sure we could pull it off—and I’m still not one hundred percent convinced we can—but we’re going to give it our best shot.

Christmas dinner shouldn’t be a problem. I always buy a locally raised, organic turkey, and there’s lots of fresh, local produce available. A number of local vineyards produce stellar wines, so that’s covered, too! The flour in the bread stuffing will have to come from afar–no wheat fields here on the west coast—but we’ll be sure to use locally baked bread.

So what about gifts? Believe it or not, that’s been the really fun part. Without giving too much away—my family reads these posts!—I can safely say this will be an interesting Christmas.

Local craft fairs offer lots of options—hand-knitted socks and scarves and mittens, unique works of art, consumables (pickles, jams and hand-rolled beeswax candles, etc.), and gorgeous one-of-a-kind Christmas ornaments.

We’ve even purchased wonderful little stocking stuffers that have an added bonus—the sellers are donating all proceeds to a local charity.

And after thirty-one years of marriage, my husband and I are enjoying the quality time spent choosing gifts at craft fairs. Who knew?

A few people on my gift list will receive gift certificates this year, and I'm kind of hoping they plan to reciprocate ;). The possibilities are practically endless. Grocery stores, thrift stores, house cleaners, manicurists, massage therapists, hair dressers, auto mechanics, gardeners, university bookstores, daycare centers, dog groomers, etc., all offer gift certificates.

So, can my family do this? Will there be compromises? Exceptions? You bet there will. We’ve already decided we can live with a few.

Books make great gifts but there are no publishing companies where we live. However, we can buy books from locally owned, independent booksellers.

Recycled items are often just as good as new, so if something comes from a secondhand store, or a thrift store that supports local charities, the item itself can have originated more than 100 miles away.

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year—I really do love it—and I’m looking forward to this one more than any other I can remember. For me, it’s all about family. I love to decorate the house and prepare the food and spend Christmas Day with the people I love. And when you think about it, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

This year I also hope to do the holidays in a way that’s eco-friendly and stress free, and I hope for the same for you and your family.

Until next time,
Lee's blog
Lee's website

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Welcome to the Family, Ozzy

Anyone who's even casually acquainted with me knows I'm an animal lover. Unless I have a bunch of four-footed creatures sharing my house (and my yard!), I'm not happy. This past August, my daughter started college. She moved out and got a small apartment near campus with one of her friends. She took her dog and cat with her - which meant my indoor pet family was suddenly cut in half.

Since then, I've gone back and forth on getting another cat or dog. Part of me told me to hold off. My dog is beautifully trained and a great companion and the old cat is an "easy keeper". The other part of me didn't listen and would visit the local humane society or county animal control web pages, viewing the adopable animals.

Two weeks ago, I made the mistake of stopping by PETsMART on my way home from work. Halo, a no-kill animal rescue organization, was at the store and conducting a drive, attempting to find as many homes as possible for their "unadoptable" cats.

Oh, boy.

Well, you can imagine what happened.

I don't know what made Ozzy so unadoptable, other than he's quite plain. He and his three, possibly cuter, siblings were found on the streets at four-months-old. Four months later, all his siblings had found their new forever homes. Not Ozzy.

I'm always amazed when an animal with such a rough start in life or that has been mistreated can still be loving and affectionate to people. Ozzy quite literally spends twelve of every twenty-four hours purring, cuddling, and following me around the house. If I sit down, he's in my lap. Even now, I'm gently nudging him away because he's alternately rolling on top of and walking all over the keyboard.

He really is a perfect addition to my pet family. I guess going into PETsMART that day on my way home from work wasn't such a mistake after all.

Warmest wishes,

Cathy McDavid and Ozzy