Saturday, January 29, 2011


CONGRATULATIONS Estella! You’re the January winner. To receive your free autographed books please contact Lee McKenzie and Cathy McDavid 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!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Top 10 Things that Get Me Through January

It has been a long, dark, dreary, cold, snowy month, much more so than usual for my little slice of the South. As I write this, we're under yet another winter storm warning with a predicted 2-4 inches of snow on the way. Sigh. But the end is in sight. There's something about changing the calendar over to February that makes me happy. January is my least favorite month, and this one has been a stinker. And even if it's still cold and wintry in February, in my mind I'm thinking, "Spring is just around the corner!"

But I've managed to get through January fairly well considering I'd much rather be in South Florida where they never see snow. Here's are my coping mechanisms, in no particular order:

1. Exercise! I have some ambitious weight-loss and fitness goals for this year, so I'm exercising regularly. Side benefits including improving my mood and keeping me warm. :)

2. New TV shows -- There are returning favorites (White Collar, V, Supernatural) and new programs (Off the Map, Fairly Legal).

3. Reading RITA entries. I have eight to judge, and I read them while I'm on the treadmill or snuggled under the covers at night. The first one I read was really good, and this second one is also really good so far. I love getting off to a good start.

4. Re-watching the Harry Potter movies and re-reading the Harry Potter books. Yes, in preparation for the movie series finale this summer.

5. Work. I cranked through a first draft of an American manuscript this month and have also done some freelance work. Keeping busy makes January fly.

6. Couponing. My sister is a whiz at getting deals at the grocery. That, combined with a fascination about the extreme couponers (you know, those people who can get a cart full of food for like $1.50) has me learning more about saving on our grocery bill. I still have a lot to learn, but I learn a little more each day.

7. Connecting with friends and readers through Facebook and Twitter. When I sign on to either, I always find something interesting.

8. Planning for a trip to Texas in March. I have to go to Austin for the RWA board meeting, so I'm tacking on a trip to see a good friend in San Antonio and a research trip through the Hill Country for the trilogy I'm working on for American.

9. Daydreaming about someday being able to live in a Florida beach community. I simply adore the idea of being able to go walking on the beach and listening to the waves every day.

10. Curling up on the couch with the hubby to watch football or movies.

Are you a fan of winter, or do you slog through it on your way to spring? What gets you through the winter months?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Progress Box

Shortly after I quit my day job to write full time, several of us would-be authors started holding weekly get-togethers where we’d look over each other’s work and bemoan the state of our yet-to-be-discovered talent. These meetings usually involved plenty of wine along with our whine, but—amazingly—I almost always walked away with at least one piece of useful information. One night, in particular, the take-away was an invaluable hint for keeping track of my writing progress: Use the printer.

Such a simple idea, really. At the beginning of each book, I place an empty wire basket on one corner of my desk. And, at the end of every writing day, before I check my email one final time and start fixing dinner, I print out the pages I’ve written that day. I don’t read them, not necessarily. Instead, I pile them in the wire basket. And as I watch the pile grow, I remind myself that I’m moving forward.

By the end of the third chapter, the basket usually overflows, so I transfer the growing stack to an empty cardboard box. Which I leave in plain sight. On the days when my writing goes well, I rarely look at it. On the days when the writing feels more like slogging through quicksand (and believe me, we all have those days), the box serves as a reminder that I’m moving closer and closer to giving my characters the happily-ever-after moment they deserve.

I have to admit, as the writing progresses, the box gets messy. By the time the manuscript is finished, the carton is full. It overflows during revisions, and guests start questioning my housekeeping skills. Edits and polishing can require a second box. But at last the time comes when the final edits have been completed, the characters I love have fallen in love with each other, and it’s time to say good-bye.

Then, and only then, is it time to empty the box and prepare for the next story. And that’s what I did last week after turning in the final edits for my June release, The Daddy Catch. I emptied the box, bagged up the papers for recycling, and placed a new, empty basket on the corner of my desk. Soon, I'll start filling it with pages for my next Harlequin American Romance.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Authors are often asked where they get their ideas and inspirations, and every time I’m asked that question, I have to say there’s a different answer for every book. Jess Bennett, the heroine in The Wedding Bargain, appeared in Firefighter Daddy as Rory Borland’s best friend. As soon as I met her, I knew she needed a book of her own.

Jess barely ekes out a living at The Whiskey Sour, the bar she owns in San Francisco’s South of Market neighbourhood, so it didn’t seem likely that she would own a car. So I gave her a little red Vespa instead.

Jess had a bit of a rough upbringing, so she needed a hero who would sweep her off her feet and give her the fairy tale ending she truly deserved. Enter Michael Morgan, CEO of Morgan Estate Winery. I fell in love with him the moment he strolled onto the page. It took Jess a little longer. While on a winery tour of Napa Valley (gotta love research!) I fell in love with the Andretti Winery, and it became my inspiration for Michael’s family home.

And since every fairy tale ending could very well include a fairy tale wedding, Jess would have to have the perfect gown. It had to be timeless, elegant, and not too fussy. If she was going to get married, this was the dress.

I hope you have as much fun reading Jess and Michael's story as I had writing it! Happy reading!

Until next time,