Saturday, October 02, 2010

SEPTEMBER WINNER!!

CONGRATULATIONS Julie Hilton Steele! You’re the September winner. To receive your free autographed books please contact Dominique Burton and Barbara White Daille through their Web sites.

To enter the contest simply leave a blog comment and your name will go into the drawing. Simple and painless. And FREE BOOKS.

So check back often and be sure to leave a comment. Good luck!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Here, Kitty


It’s a jungle out there. In my back yard.

When we moved from beachside to mainland eight years ago, Dear Hubby and I made the decision not to clear the back half of our one-acre lot. I have to admit, initially I envisioned something a little different from a wild abandon of palmetto and pepper trees. My original plan for the back yard included paths winding through the wilderness, hostas edging the line between grass and growth. Maybe a tree house and a swing. But since neither DH or I particularly like working outside in Central Florida’s ever-present ninety degree heat, yard work is, yeah, a problem.

Instead, we’ve decided to let Nature do her thing and hired people who mow the grass and keep the jungle behind a line that ever wants to creep forward. Some of my neighbors have clear-cut their back yards. They mow an acre of sod in straight rows. Not us.

We love the birds, I exclaim to anyone who bold enough to ask why. Our plot of overgrown jungle is on the map handed out to various species before they take off on their annual migration. So, twice a year—coming and going—every tree limb fills with robins, and the ground becomes a carpet of tiny little butterbutts. (See my Tipsy Robins post from 2/25/10.) We enjoy watching the squirrels, I tell neighbors who complain about torn screens and furry animals that can outwit the smartest bird feeder. I’m not so crazy about the raccoons, but once we wrapped our enormous hobo in bungee cords, those scavengers left the garbage alone.

Lately, there’s been a new addition to the menagerie of birds and opossums, armadillos and raccoons, squirrels and the occasional red fox that live in our back yard. A bobcat. Who, apparently, thinks we’ve laid out the welcome mat. He’s certainly made himself at home. This week, he prowled through the back yard, sniffed at the screen door, and bounded into the woods.

Pretty, isn’t he? I hope he doesn’t expect a bowl of milk ‘cause that’s one kitty who won’t be invited indoors.

Coming of digital age

It used to be that readers wanting to purchase a Harlequin after a few months might have trouble finding a new copy. A year or so later? Only if the publisher decided to reissue the book.

Now, our books will stay in print virtually forever thanks to the digital age. It came a lot faster than many of us expected.

I’ve heard statistics that, a mere three years ago, less than one percent of book purchases were for ebook readers. Today, that hovers around 12 percent, and in 3-4 years, it may go as high as 50 percent.

You don’t even have to own an ebook reader to enjoy digital copies. My son announced that he was reading Kindle books on his smart phone, downloading them while traveling in Japan. Although he’s since bought a Kindle, you can download a free app – a small program – from Amazon.com so you can read these digital books on your computer or smart phone.

My son, who’s 24, says he’s reading more books than ever. Isn’t that great? Another friend is buying more books now, too, and reading them on his phone. I can’t imagine wanting to read on such a small screen, but he loves it.

If you’ve checked my Web site recently (www.jacquelinediamond.com), you’ll see that I’ve uploaded two of my non-Harlequin books onto Amazon for $2.99 each (I’ve posted the first chapters on my site, so you can read them for free). One is a paranormal romantic suspense that nearly got published in print and technically got published digitally, but both times the publishers went bankrupt. Not my fault, honest! The second book is a darkly funny mystery that was published in a beautiful hardcover edition – but with a very small print run aimed at libraries.

Now, they’re both available for anyone who wants to read them. I’m getting some of my other older books scanned into Word, including my Regency romances. I plan to re-edit them as needed, attach new ISBNs (tracking numbers) and design new covers. No more languishing on remote, dusty shelves for them!

So if you missed a Harlequin American from a few months ago or even last year, you can find it there. If your favorite bookstore runs out, you have options. Isn’t the digital age great?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Holdin' Out For A Hero

Without a doubt, one of my favorite parts of writing is characters. Sure, I love crafting a plot, but characters? They're the best.

In my mystery series (written under the pen name, Elizabeth Lynn Casey), I've created a whole cast of characters that return in each book. Characters with quirks and personalities that are as unique as, well, real people. When it's time to write the next book in the series, it's like spending time with old friends. When I'm done writing, and it's time to send the book in, I miss them.

Because they're real. To me. And, I hope, to my readers, as well.

Come November, I'll have my first holiday romance--MIRACLE BABY--with Harlequin American. It's a story about loss and healing and, of course, love. But it was the characters that I most enjoyed writing. They made the loss and the healing real. And the love? Well, it got me choked up.

The hero in this book, Rory O'Brien, is just that...a true romantic hero. The kind of guy you root for from page one. Not just because he's good looking, but because he's special. The kind of guy who sees beyond the exterior to what's inside.

And then fights for it.

As a writer, you hope that what you set out to portray is, in fact, what the reader gets. So when I read Romantic Times' review of the book this past weekend, I was thrilled.
Because they got it.

They got him.

"Both Maggie Monroe and Rory O'Brien have known the devastating pain of losing people they loved, but Maggie hasn't moved on yet. Slowly, Rory insinuates himself into her life, bringing her joy and hope. A truly romantic hero swoops in to save a woman from her fear of living her life. Rory and Maggie are soul mates and Bradford's story is touching, romantic and perfect for the holidays."

Okay, pinch me.

Rory is, in every sense of the word, a giver. The kind of person that doesn't keep a tally sheet. The kind of man that makes you believe in love and its power. To heal. To nurture. To grow.
So tell me, what makes a true romantic hero for you?
~Laura

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Music and Writing

Music and Writing

One of the most beautiful gifts we have in the world is music. It has the ability to break down language and show the exquisite splendor of other cultures. I am an avid music lover who will listen to just about anything. I love classical, oldies, big band, disco, eighties, just about anything on the radio and music from around the world.
When I was eighteen, I had the chance to travel to Europe on a bus tour. As we drove through the Spanish Pyrenees, they played, “The Gipsy Kings,” a famous flamenco group that strummed haunting rhythms on their guitars. It filled my soul with a love for something beautiful and different than anything I had ever thought or dreamt of before. Their music caught the essence of the land, a country that seemed to be alive and pulsating.
Soon the bus drove through Austria and I put on my Walkman. Yes, I am that old. I had brought my tapes of Mozart and Schumann along and soon realized why they composed such timeless music. To live in such beauty where you look out the window and see a green that is beyond emeralds. It’s a fairy tale, a dreamland, a place where glorious mountains rise to over eleven thousand feet high.
I believe that art begets art. For some artists, they can look out a window and find beauty inspiring their inner muse. For others it’s a piece of art or other great works of fiction. For me, music is my muse. There are times I can hear a piece of music and suddenly I have a scene already written. I have to run to my computer or grab a piece of paper to jot down notes. Other times I’ll hear something on the radio that conveys an emotion that I have wanted to write. Music is an amazing tool at breaking through writer’s block and I pray that it will continue to inspire and help me.
I’m curious to know what types of music you love.

Ciao,
Dominique Burton

Monday, September 27, 2010

Feel the Romance

On Saturday, the Maryland Romance Writers had a booth at the Baltimore Book Festival. A lot of the writers from the group—including me—read excerpts from their latest books. We also answered questions about everything from writing to character arc to works in progress.

When I was finished with my reading, one of the visitors mentioned that she was a writer of women’s fiction. She hastily added that she wasn’t sure what the difference between women’s fiction and romance was. Then she said that she had only been reading romantic fiction for two years and that was the source of her confusion. After we all reassured her that none of us knew the difference either, we started to talk about when we had first discovered romance novels.

I grew up in a book-loving family, but I don’t remember my mother reading romance when I was young. My first encounter with the genre was in my early teens, when I visited my grandmother in upstate New York. She was an avid reader of Barbara Cartland. I must admit, I still have a soft spot for those na├»ve, breathless heroines and their masterful, older heroes. After that, perhaps the same year, a neighbor passed on a pile of Harlequin romances. Through them, I saw a world outside small-town Idaho. Those slim volumes broadened my horizons and made me wonder about the lives of other people in other lands. They were also the genesis of my urge to travel. I still remember the name of the heroine—Lavinia, Vinnie for sort—who took me to the Alhambra for the first time. When I saw it for myself, years later, I couldn’t help but think of her.

But there was more to romance than those sweetly formulaic offerings. When I was a bored babysitter looking for something to read, I found The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss on a bedside table and picked it up. I was thrilled to find out there was more to romantic fiction than masterful men who sat a horse well or who ran corporations with the help of spunky heroines who tamed them. There was sex. Before marriage! On ships and in carriages and outside under the wide blue sky. The heroines were still spunky and heroes masterful, but the stories were deeper, richer and far more complicated emotionally. In short, there were good romances and then there were good books.

From there, I was hooked. All these years later, I still am.

Who got you started reading romance? Any author whose name can still make you sigh and say: “remember when?”