Posts tagged with: writing

Spring Books, Springboks, Reeboks and Heading into Bloooom Time!

snowWe got 10″ of snow in the DC area on Thursday.  The kids were off Friday too, thanks to that 10″ snowfall.  We’d already had a snow day on Monday, and two days off the previous week.  So, with that, we’ve had only two weeks since January 1 where the kids have been in school for a full 5-day week.

Now, for the kids, this has been fun.  For those of us who are parents, trying to actually do jobs for which we get paid?  Its a nightmare.  As a writer who works from home, it’s already hard enough to get everything done.  For those of you who’ve never tried it, working from home is a challenge.

It SEEMS like it would be great – do some work, sneak in an extra load of laundry, a little more work, do a little billpaying or whatever – then get back to more work, right?


Those home-things are the things you HAVE to turn off.  You have to put the hours in at the desk, doing the work.  If you start doing the other “home chores,” its too easy to get caught up in them.  As anyone knows, there’s a never-ending supply of house stuff to do at any given time. When you work in an office, one where you get up and drive every day to a building that isn’t your house, there’s a definite pressure to actually Do the Job, right?  Sure, everyone makes the occasional personal call – sets up a doctor appointment, takes a call from Mom – or steals a few minutes to write a few bills so they can be mailed.  But those are stolen moments, and peer pressure makes you get back to the WORK of work.HPIM1396

When you’re home, working, no one gives you the “Get back to work!” stink eye when your mom/sister/brother/friend calls.  No one cares if you take a two-hour lunch.  There’s no one to disapprove if you do the entire week’s laundry when you should be working, or pop up to school for an hour to see the Halloween parade.

Just you and the dog or cat or the simple silence.  So you, the worker, the writer, the owner of your business, YOU have to be the one who cares.

And that’s hard.

booksstackedBut I’ll tell you a scary secret….shhhhhh….lean in close…..Here’s the deal: If you don’t value your work time, your writing time, your creative time, or even you “me time,”  and protect it with jealous fury, then no one else will value or respect it either.

You’ll be barraged with “Oh, since you work from home, can you pick up all the kids?  I’ve got an important meeting…”  And, “Oh, you work from home?  Great!  You’ll be perfect for PTA President next year, you have LOTS of time!”

Why is it that people assume working from home means extra time?  I just can’t figure this out.  It’s WORKING from home.  Not Slacking From Home.  Not Pretending to Work From Home.

This, however, is not how books get written.BehindEnemyLinesfinalforBarnesandNoble

Books get written by assigning working time, making SURE its undisturbed even if you have to put up a privacy screen, and putting ye
olde butte in ye comfortable chaire and yon hands on yon keyboarde.

I’m hoping to get out a number of books this year, so I am jealously guarding that writing time.

One book, which is forthcoming this month, is a single story form of the novella that was in the Christmas Anthology, A Jewel in Time.  That story, BEHIND ENEMY LINES, is set in WWII.  Its my first historical and I hope to revisit the time period next year in another series.

But for now, I’m working on getting back to my roots, sharpening my Suspense and Mystery prowess and delivering a whole lot of rollicking good reading as we head into Spring, and Bloom Time.

(By the way, don’t you just love that cover?  Once again, the fabulous Lyndsey Lewellen delivers!!)

Saut_de_gazelle_SpringbokSo for those of you who’ve been with the Romance Bandits from the beginning, you’ll appreciate that I’m actually going back to “The Beginning.”

Coming soon, I’ll be reissuing the very first book I every published with Kensington/Zebra.  Originally titled Dark and Dangerous, the book will be updated, have a new title and some new scenes.

It will now start a series, as was originally intended when Kate Duffy and I started together.  The idea was that Dark and Dangerous would come out.  Dark and Deadly would follow it.  Then there would be a follow up book to Dark and Dangerous, then a new two-book series, and then the final book in the Dark and Dangerous trilogy.  Then more new stuff, then a follow-up to Dark and Deadly….you get the picture.

The illustrious dragon of the editing world, Kate Duffy, was a long-term planner.  She built careers, not one-book-wonders.  (Her words, not mine)  Gotta tell you, I still miss her.  She and I got as far as that two-book series….(Deadly Little Secrets and Deadly Little Lies respectively), but she died before we could execute (so to speak, bwahahahah!) the rest of the plan.

Now, with independent publishing, I’m going to be able to finish.

I LOVE the finish line.  LOVE.  IT.  Fall Winter 2014 009

I run.  Not well, not fast, but I run.  (Usually NOT in Reeboks, and definitely NOT like a springbok, tho I had fun playing with the names for the title of the blog!)  When I enter races, I love the finish line.  I love having run.  Don’t always love DOING it, but love finishing it.

Same thing with writing.  I don’t always love the process.  I don’t always love the editing.  I don’t always love the sheer amount of space writing occupies in my cranium.

But I love, love, love having written.  LOVE.  IT.  I love creating stories.  I love giving towns and people and love stories new life.  I love showing that love can always find a way.

HPIM0929So, those characters that originated in Dark and Dangerous will now be the genesis – The Spring Bloom! – of a new series.  Dana, Caine, Xavier and all the villains who chase them will leap forth to new, vibrant life.  (How’s that for flowery prose?)

The first book (formerly Dark and Dangerous) is retitled DEAD RUN.  Next month on April 8th, as we head into Bloom Time I’ll be back to Launch it.

Hope you’ll come back and see THAT new cover which Lyndsey Lewellen also designed.  And in subsequent months, I’ll introduce you to the characters from Dead Run who have thier own stories in which to shine.  You’ll find them in DEAD RECKONING, and DEAD WRONG.  These three books are the start of the #FaithfulDefenders series, all of which feature highly trained guard dogs, guide dogs, working and retired military dogs, therapy dogs, or Search and Rescue dogs.  (Those four dogs up on the right are my highly skilled BED dogs. They’re fearfully well trained at…nothing!  Grins.)

So, Banditas and Buddies, have you ever seen a police or bomb dog working?  

Have you ever seen a Guide Dog or Therapy Dog working or known someone who has one?

Did you watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show a couple of weeks ago?  (Or have you ever seen Crufts???  Going to Crufts is on my Bucket List!)

Do you think working dogs are interesting?Fall Winter 2014 018

What’s your favorite Spring flower?  I know Aus and everything in the Southern Hemisphere is heading into Fall, so what’s your favorite Fall Flower?

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, are you as ready for Spring as I am?  

What books are you looking forward to???

Let’s chat!  (That’s my guard dog over there…guarding the bed, and the clean sheets….)

(All photos belong to the Author except the SpringBok which is from Wikimedia Commons)

Even Turkeys get a Workout

IMG_1204One thing I’ve learned in this fiction writing journey is that the simplest things are often the most difficult.  Why?  Because a lot of work went into making that item look simple.  When I started writing, I thought one sat at a computer and just told the story.  Then I learned about pacing and how to keep the story moving forward.  I learned about where to place the power words to allow the sentence to make the most impact.  i learned dialogue could be more than dialogue – it could be banter with insight to character and subtext.  The simplest things require prep work and skill, otherwise they fall flat.

The same is true with turkeys!  🙂

Here in the states, every year about this time, the President pardons a turkey and thus saves it from becoming a roasted turkey.  It’s a good public relations move which allows for some joking and a nod to the National Turkey Federation.  The cute event will most likely be on television, so the turkeys have todinner be on their best behavior.

Now turkeys are a pretty exciteable lot, and not too bright as my acquiantance who once had a turkey farm told me.  They have to be trained to stand quietly on a table and be photographed.  I read an article about a man who does just that.  He chooses his pardon candidates from a selection of 80 turkeys and narrows them down to just two.  He trains them by lifting them from the ground to the table and then lifts them white turkeyfrom the table to the ground, twice a day for two hours each session.  They are isolated in a small training shed where loud music and sports (crowd noises) are played to get them used to strange ambient noises.  The trainer also introduces the turkeys to his dogs as the turkey cages will be checked by the Secret Service dogs when they approach the White House.  He doesn’t want the turkeys to get rattled by that check.  The trainer takes flash photographs of the birds while they’re up on the table so they’ll get used to the flashes and he invites school kids in to pet the turkeys so they’ll become adept at strangers handling them.

It’s a lot of work for 15 minutes of fame!  I have to say, I’ll be watching the film clip of the official pardoning with a better appreciation of the work involved.

And, if nothing else, I read these days looking at how authors make complicated emotions and plot transitions look so easy.  Nothing is ever simple, is it?

So tell me, dear readers, what have you found that looked easy at first but proved difficult on execution?   Was it creating a yule log, or a gingerbread house?  (I find the best cooking disasters involve chocolate.  Even if the project fails, it’s good to eat 🙂 )  Was it putting together a “some-assembly-required” project?  Or how about learning to drive a car?  It does get easy eventually, but seems impossible at the beginning.Tiny Treats

Let’s share accomplishments and I’ll send someone who leaves a comment one of my ebooks – your choice – OR – I have an autographed copy of “LAIRD” by Grace Burrowes.  But we’ll work that out later.

For a really treat,  don’t forget to download your FREE copy of Holiday Treats today!

Thank you Morguefile free photos for providing the photographs for this blog.


There’s No Place Like Home

There truly is no place like home.  And you know what makes you really appreciate home?  A vacation!

And yes, while home is where the heart is, it cannot be denied that vacation is where the restaurant food, hotel beds and far-away friends are.

And I just spent a week in the company of my beloved writer friends.  We laughed, we ate, we brainstormed & plotted, we dressed up, we dressed down & we hung out.  And it was so good for my soul.

More happened than I can possibly recap for you, but here are a handful of snapshots that’ll give you an idea.



There were these lovely hanging stars in the main conference hotel.  I found them strangely fascinating.  They were sort of a theme, actually.  I discovered different versions of them all over the place.  Is there an explanation for this?  Is is a San Antonio thing?  Or was it just a theme for the decor?  Either way, they were beautiful.





The talented & amazing Joan Kayse opened her heart–and her room–to me this week, graciously sharing her bed and her roommate with me.  (Hi, Lisa!  Hi, Karen!  I’m wearing pants!)  This is us lounging around in bed with snacks & a mere sampling of the free books we were showered with.  (insert big, happy sigh here)  Free.  Books.  I *love* RWA’s national conference!











Speaking of books, here’s a small sampling of the Romance Bandits who participated in Read for Life Literacy signing, giving away their books to raise money for literacy.  I couldn’t get photos of Tawny, Beth or Anna Sugden–I ran out of time–but I was proud to be among them all!













Then there was the eating & the drinking.  I love food–and I especially love food I don’t cook or clean up, so eating out all week would have been a joy in & of itself.  But the food in San Antonio came with friends!  There was dinner with my Romance Bandits & PJ Ausdenmore from the Romance Dish…







…Drinks in the bar with thehilarious Susan Gee Heino…








And breakfast meetings over bacon.  (Mmmmm, bacon.)








We wrapped things up with our version of the Oscars, the Golden Heart/Rita awards, where I was shocked & amazed at the line I had to stand in.  Evidently, other people also wanted to watch the proceedings.  Who could’ve known?



All too soon it was time head home.  I’m missing my writing friends something terrible but I’m using all that emotion to fuel the next story.  I’ve managed to hack my way to the end of Chapter One, & I think–I hope–I’m on the right path.  But if I’m not, I know who’ll steer me back to it.  I just spent all last week basking in their friendship, & advice is only an email away.

So tell me, what’s been the highlight of YOUR summer so far?




BanditBootyThanks to everyone for a wonderful day’s blogging yesterday when we talked about prologues and epilogues. The winner of the signed advanced copy of WHAT A DUKE DARES (complete with prologue AND epilogue) is:


Vivien, please email me on with your snail mail details and I’ll get your book off to you. Happy reading and congratulations!


Let’s Start at the Very Beginning…

Duke low resTo prologue or not to prologue? That is the question.

Well, at least today! We can cover the meaning of life at some later date.

Not long after CLAIMING THE COURTESAN was published, I attended a one-day seminar by the legendary and wonderful Jennifer Crusie which covered many things, including her hints for how to write a great book. As a diehard admirer of her work (seriously, if you haven’t read WELCOME TO TEMPTATION, run to your nearest bookseller), I hung on every word. One thing she said categorically was no book needs either a prologue or an epilogue.

Interesting, huh? Especially as, having written my first four books without epilogues and then had numerous readers contact me asking me to write them, it’s clear that romance fans in particular ADORE epilogues.

With all those books, I felt I’d covered all the plot points in the story. They didn’t NEED an epilogue, although I think if I were writing them now, I would include epilogues. Romance readers, I think, just need that last little bit of happily ever after before they can close the book with a blissful sigh.

Days of Rakes and Roses final-72The first book I wrote with an epilogue was MY RECKLESS SURRENDER. Anyone who’s read that book knows that there was quite a complicated plot that went beyond what I could tie up in a satisfying way in the “I love you, you love me” part of the book. So, tiptoeing very carefully past Ms. Crusie, I went wild and wrote an epilogue. I know, I’m such a rebel.

Since then, all my books have had epilogues, not just for the sake of a few more kisses and vows of eternal affection, but because there were questions that needed answering beyond tying up the romantic plot.

I held off from prologues for much longer. Personally I really like a prologue when it’s well done. I think it’s a much more satisfying way of filling in important backstory than flashbacks or great wads of narrative. And because the reader sees the events on the page, it’s vivid and dramatic in a way something recounted later as a memory isn’t.

prologueInterestingly two of my favorite romances of all time both include prologues. LORD OF SCOUNDRELS by Loretta Chase breaks all the so-called romance rules in the prologue too – it’s long, it’s in omniscient point of view, it’s mainly narrative and there isn’t a whiff of a meeting between the hero and heroine. And you know what? It’s absolutely brilliant. We are so on the side of difficult, passionate, emotionally wounded Lord Dain by the time he turns up in all his cranky splendor in chapter one, thanks to that prologue, that we stick with him for the rest of the story. Lots of people obviously agree with me that this is a prologue that works a treat. LOS is regularly voted among the top three romances ever written.

Another of my favorite books, and definitely my favorite comfort read, is A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS by Eva Ibbotson. The prologue of this one reads like a fairytale and it sets up the story of gallant, generous, lovely Anna Grazinsky who needs every ounce of her courage to face life in England after the Russian Revolution. The prologue also sets up the Cinderella element of riches to rags and underlines the poignancy of the romance with the Earl of Westerholme who owns the house where she finds work as a housemaid.  prologue 2

When it came to my Sons of Sin novella, DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES, which is a story about childhood sweethearts separated by the heroine’s father, I wanted to show that dramatic moment in Simon and Lydia’s lives, the moment that set both of them off on divergent paths. They only come together again when Lydia is about to marry someone else. I could have covered the essentials in backstory, but it just didn’t seem to have the same impact and I wanted to show that these two, who are quite prickly when they meet again, had once shared a profound love.

Since then, ALL my book have had prologues. A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS needed an inciting incident to set Richard off on his quest for the Harmsworth Jewel. Again, it seemed better to do it on the page rather than have the characters recollecting it.

Rake BDI’ve just received the advance reader copies of my next book WHAT A DUKE DARES which is out in August. And guess what? There’s a prologue in this one too!

One of the things a prologue does really well is create a sense of space between an important event that has later consequences, and the rest of the story. In Duke, my hero proposes unsuccessfully to my heroine in the prologue. They don’t meet again for another nine years which is when chapter one starts. Because of the prologue, you know what’s at stake for these two when he rescues her from bandits (of the non Romance Bandits kind) on her way back to England from Italy.

Again, I probably could have done it in backstory but I don’t think it would be nearly as vivid or have the emotional impact as when the reader sees the disastrous proposal in real time on the page.

Are you a fan of prologues and epilogues? Do you have any favorites where you think the prologue or the epilogue really worked well?

BanditBootyI’ve got a signed advanced reader copy of WHAT A DUKE DARES (along with its prologue!) to go to one commenter today. International. So good luck.

Fun with Grammar

Word NerdYes, I’ll admit it. I’m a Grammar Geek. A Word Nerd. A Dictionary Devotee. A Jargon Junkie. A Lexicon Lover. I write intentionally bad Haikus for fun. I dig word games the way a sixteen-year-old boy digs wearing pants that fall down.

You can imagine my delight when I stumbled across, a website that’s all about grammar – and about promoting The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, which I, for one, intend to buy. covers the minutiae of grammar rules on very specific topics. Oh, the joy, the joy! I found it in a search because I wasn’t sure whether I should say “Brooklyn Wainwright held onto the book” or “Brooklyn Wainwright held on to the book.”

Blue Book of Grammar and PunctuationOn to.


My favorite part of the website is the blog, which has regular, relevant, accessibly written posts about grammatical conundrums we face in our lives every day. (Or should that be “everyday”?)

“Words Can Be Bullies,” one article is titled. (Entitled?) And from this intriguing title, they launch into an even more intriguing first sentence: Words that start with the letter h don’t always act like it.

Are you quivering with delight, too, or is that just me?

Let’s play a word game! Do an internet search for your first name. Step one, from the first page of search results, pull interesting words matching these parts of speech. Don’t skip ahead. Get your words first before you move on to step two.

  • One adverb
  • Two adjectives
  • Two nouns
  • Two verbs

Got your words? Did you write them down?

Word search

Step two, complete the sentence below:

[Your first name], a/an [adverb] [adjective] [noun] who likes to [verb], was [adjective2] because her [noun] wouldn’t [verb.]

Share your sentence. Is it true?

Here’s mine: Kate, an eye-glazingly stylish celebrity who likes to visit, was dreary because her clothing wouldn’t glitter.

Yes. It’s true. I’m all about the glitter. SNORK!!!!!

Style over Comfort?

As you may have heard by now, my house has been undergoing an extensive renovation over the past year. One of the most exciting things about this renovation is that for the first time, I get my own dedicated office. Yay!

Admittedly, it’s approximately the size of a shoebox, but it’s MINE, ALL MINE!! And I’m trying to decide how to furnish and decorate it.

It’s important to me that my office be a welcoming, attractive space as well as a comfortable place to work.

Unfortunately, just as the most truly beautiful shoes seem expressly designed to torture one’s feet, practicality and style do not seem to go hand in hand when it comes to the office.

Ergonomically designed office furniture is exceedingly ugly–at least, the furniture I’ve been able to find is. Why that should be, I don’t know! But given the hours I spend at my computer at a time, particularly when I’m on deadline, I do need to think seriously about correct positioning of equipment so I don’t end up with serious RSI.

I am not the tallest person on the planet so most desks are too high for me. There are very few desks on the market with adjustable height so I’m thinking of a vintage kitchen table, which tend to be lower than desks and maybe a separate keyboard tray that I can screw in underneath. I’d like space on the desk to work on hard copy manuscripts and take notes etc, so I’d like a clear space or return that’s away from the computer.

I need a bookcase for research books, dictionaries, etc, storage for manuscripts and promotional materials, stationery and so forth. A filing cabinet for contracts and tax records. I’d love a whiteboard for plotting, too. Preferably wall-mounted so it doesn’t take up much space.

Our Jeanne is a whiz with interior design and she diagnosed me as an auditory learner, which means I don’t like clutter. She was definitely on the mark there so I have to have cupboards as opposed to open shelves. I want pretty colour because I live with men and this is my room, where I get to be as girly as I like. Not frou-frou, but a bit of pink or cranberry red here and there would not go astray.

The end result will probably be a compromise between style and comfort (as most of my shoes are these days).  I can’t wait to show you all some ‘after’ pictures when it’s all done!

What about you? Do you choose style over comfort? What’s the worst mistake you’ve made for the sake of fashion? Is there something you own that is so beautiful, it makes you happy just to look at it? Is beauty ever worth the pain?

A Reader & Writer Roundtable

Paulo eyed the fruit and veggie tray Sven was arranging. “I could take care of that.”

“Nice try.  You sample too much when you put platters together, and this is due upstairs.  You can take that tea service up to the library, where Nancy’s entertaining some other writers.  I’ll bring this up in a minute.”

“What other writers?”  Paulo took a step back.  “They’re not blowing things up, are they?  You know, I forgot to give Ermingarde–“

“The dragon can wait. And of course they’re not blowing things up, not in the library.  Go on, now.  Take that plate of chocolate chip cookies, too.”   As Paolo grabbed the tray and headed for the elevator, Sven sighed.  Really, that kid needed a backbone.  It was a wonder he’d lasted this long in the Lair.

Sven stepped back to admire the purple and white pansy cluster he’d put in the middle of the platter.  Yes, it would do.  The effect was perfect.  He set the platter on a tray with a stack of small, turqoise Fiestaware plates and a long, white segmented dish containing caramel dip, raspberry vinaigrette, and bleu cheese dip.  Carrying his tray, he headed for the service elevator, which arrived just as he pushed the button.

Upstairs, he found Paolo arranging the tea service and cups on one end of the conference table.  At the long table’s other end, Nancy sat with her guests, Maureen Hardegree, Barbara Monajem, Louisa Cornell, Gerri Russell, and Eilis Flynn.   Paolo hurried from the room, but Sven took his time quietly passing plates to the guests and arranging the food in the middle of the table.  Writer talk was always so interesting.

 Nancy glanced to her right, at Eilis Flynn.  “What are you reading these days, Eilis?”  

“I’m reading The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, basically the guide to the British series. It explores the world of Edwardian England and the life of the family currently inhabiting the estate, and how they are unknowingly on the cusp of the end of an era, with hints of a new one. I’m enjoying the book because it covers a period that hasn’t been overexplored, and I have long loved the fashions of the time – not quite the stiffness of the Victorians (though the corsets are still there), with a touch of the freedom to come. A little formal, a little wild! How can you not love it? And those hats! Those wonderful, wonderful hats!”

“What are you working on?” Louisa Cornell asked, pouring a cup of tea.

 “A man finds himself attracted to the comatose eyewitness of a murder, and though he’s never met her, the more he learns about her, the more he seems to know. Moreover, he finds himself dreaming about her, talking to her, and comes to realize that they’re not just dreams: They are in fact meetings in a dream-state reality – and she refuses to come out of it, knowing that her recovery will be painful and protracted. It doesn’t help that her very existence is being threatened, with someone around him leaking information about her whereabouts to those who want her dead. Will must protect her, convince her to wake up – and make sure she is alive to do it.”

 “Sounds like fun,” Louisa said.

Maureen glanced across the table at Barbara Monajem.  “What are you reading and working on, Barbara?”

“I’m reading The Cocoa Conspiracy by Andrea Penrose.

“Arianna, Countess of Saybrook, and her husband, the Earl, discover that someone they hold dear is incriminated in a treasonous plot. They journey to the Congress of Vienna to unmask the real traitor — armed only with their wits and their expertise in chocolate. 

“I’m loving this book because 1) it’s a combination of my two favorite genres, Regency and mystery, 2) the historical detail is spectacular, and 3) there’s a chocolate recipe at the beginning of every chapter. What could be better?”

As everyone nodded agreement, she continued, “My work in progress is a Regency romance. Lively, romantic Sally Carling puts up with the tedious rules of society in the hope of meeting her True Love, but when her reputation is accidentally ruined, she faces a heartbreaking choice: either become an outcast with no chance of marriage, or wed Viscount Garrison, a man so cynical that he doesn’t even believe love exists.

“It has a happy ending, I swear. :)”

“I hope so,” Nancy said.  “It sounds painful, but sometimes that’s the best kind of romance.  What about you, Louisa?  What are you reading and writing?” 

“Currently I am reading A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr. The third book in the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Medieval Surgeon, finds Hugh in pursuit of the lovely Kate, a bookseller’s daughter and in search of books stolen from his mentor, John Wyclif, Bible scholar. Life in medieval Oxford is tough enough without someone trying to murder a poor surgeon at every turn. One of Kate’s other suitors? The book thief? Or maybe a disgruntled patient? God only knows and no matter how much Hugh talks to him, God isn’t talking.

“I love this series! It submerges the reader in medieval England so seamlessly you don’t realize it is happening until you catch yourself throwing chicken bones on the floor. Hugh is a wonderful character, aware of his shortcomings, clever as they come and never afraid to question God about anything.” 

“I love medieval settings,” Gerri said.

Nancy nodded agreement and hastily swallowed the bite of cookie in her mouth.  “Louisa turned me onto Jeri Westerson’s Crispin Guest medieval mysteries.  Crispin is knight who’s been stripped of his spurs.  Very atmospheric.  What are you writing, Louisa?” 

“I’m working on His Charming SeductressPride and Prejudice meets the Addams family. In search of his missing friend, Dylan Crosby braves the most notorious house in England and meets the girl of his dreams. If he can just get past Eve Tildenbury’s pet python, her gun happy uncle, her casket sleeping grandmother, the lovely cousin who raises flesh-eating plants, a biting butler and a house that seems to grow a new wing every day he might just get the one thing he vowed he never wanted – a family.”

Eilis slid pineapple chunks on to a plate.  “What’re you doing now, Gerri?”

“I’m reading Anna Campbell’s Midnight’s Wild Passion, a fabulous historical romance about a rake’s redemption. Love those rakes…and the women who tame them. Campbell’s dashing rake, the Marquess of Ranelaw, is set upon revenge. He vows to ruin Godfrey Demarest’s daughter for ruining his own sister. But the girl’s companion, Miss Antonia Smith, turns his thoughts from revenge to desire as they banter their way through society and into each other’s arms. It’s a fabulous read!”

 “Yes, but so wrenching,” Nancy said.  

“Anna Campbell, gotta expect agony,” somebody muttered.

Sven smiled, having heard the banditas complain about Anna Campbell tearing at their heart strings.

Louisa ignored the mutter and  asked, “What are you writing, Gerri?”

Gerri poured a cup of tea. “I’m writing a Scottish historical that is a reunion story: one of my favorite plots. I love it when two tortured souls come back together in a way that is both sizzling and heartbreaking. I’ve tossed in a bit of paranormal elements as well, just to keep things exciting.”

Putting a cluster of grapes on a plate, she asked, “What about you, Maureen?”

“I’m currently reading Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. James, who is a mystery writer, revisits Pemberley six years after Elizabeth and Darcy marry. The murder occurs on the night before a ball at their estate. I like the book because James succeeded, in my opinion, in capturing Austen’s voice and I adore Pride and Prejudice. The fact that my husband, who has been know to buy me Christmas gifts at car washes, went into a bookstore to purchase this novel and really thought about what I’d like is a bonus.”

As everyone laughed, Maureen continued, “I turned in What a Haint Wants, Book Four of my middle grade/ YA Ghost Handler series March 1st, which features high school freshman Heather’s dealings with a lunch lady ghost. At the moment, I’m taking a breather before starting the fifth book. My current focus is getting costumes ready for the Northeast Atlanta Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty which opens March 16th and working on the concordance for my series.”

“Congrats on finishing,” Nancy said.  “And good luck with the ballet.”

“What about you?” Eilis asked Nancy.

“I’m reading Robin Perini’s Finding Her Son, a romantic suspense.  Her hero and heroine have both known betrayal and heart-breaking disappointment.  The hero is a cop working as a detective until his injured leg heals enough for him to return to SWAT.  The heroine is suspected of complicity in causing the wreck that killed her husband.  Her son was stolen out of the mangled car, and she’s determined to get him back.”

Barbara said, “You’re writing, aren’t you?”

“Yep.  I’m trying to get the proposal done for Book 3 in my mage series.  Then I’ll do a series Bible because I’m already getting confused, and then I have a Napoleonic Wars historical to dive into.”

Nancy glanced at Eilis.  “Are y’all ever coming to Dragon*Con?  It would be so fun.”

Sven slipped quietly from the room.  The women seemed to have everything they needed, and he, like Mr. Carson in that Downton Abbey series Eilis mentioned, prided himself on efficient and unobtrusive service.  

Speaking of service, he’d loaned Cassondra the key to the supply closet.  She’d hung it over the bar faucet, as he asked, and he’d picked it up . . . or had he?  He patted his pockets, in case he’d stuck it into one instead of hanging it around his neck, as usual.  No key.  Hmm.  Maybe he’d put it down somewhere.  

What with the dragon throwing a tantrum, the bandits celebrating with Barbara Vey, and company in the Lair on a regular basis, the month had been a bit chaotic.  And the Ides of March hadn’t yet arrived, even.   

He’d get the hockey hunks and the other cabana boys to help him look.  And tell them to say nothing to the gladiators.  Demetrius would laugh himself silly if he knew Sven had lost the key.

Sven shook his head.  He had only himself to blame.  Deviating from routines, like hanging the key around his neck immediately upon regaining it, always led to trouble.  

Where each guest’s name appears above her answers, the name is a link to her website.  Thanks to my buddies for joining us today!  

Stay tuned for more on Sven’s problem. 

 Meanwhile, we have a book giveaway package for one lucky winner. We have Haint Misbehavin’ and Hainted Love from Maureen, a download of Riddle of Ryu and a print copy of The Sleeper Awakes from Eilis, and Kindle downloads of Barbara’s Regency novellas The Unrepentant Rake and The Wanton Governess.  So tell us, what are you reading?  What are you writing or working on as a project?  Are you a Downton Abbey fan?


Better Together

Growing up, I considered myself something of a Lone Wolf: independent, needing no one, going it alone. I laugh at my young self now, because I grew up in a large family, where time alone was invariably at a premium? I was more pack animal than lone wolf, but I suppose it was the Lone Wolf attitude I adopted more than its actuality. My husband was much the same when I met him: fiercely independent, determined to do everything by and for himself. After we married, learning to depend on each other was quite a challenge, but having three children forces even the most stalwart loner to become quite interdependent.


I also recall that at work in the 1990s, “teamwork” was the buzzword in my office and companies everywhere. Learning to do group brainstorming, listening to others and incorporating the best ideas, regardless of their origin, was suddenly the fashion. I worked in engineering and the many lone wolves in the profession had trouble adjusting to this new corporate culture. For better or worse, those whose home lives hadn’t forced it on them had to learn to collaborate at last. Even in the writing industry, teamwork has taken off. Writing teams and collaborative story collections have gained popularity and seem to be here to stay.


I certainly have learned to love working, at home and in volunteer positions, alongside my husband. It made me realize that, rather than losing my independence, working with others has been a huge gain to me in any number of ways. I, and many others, have realized that  we can accomplish more, do more good and work more efficiently when we work together. We are, hands down, better together. This was brought home to me recently when I realized that my husband and I had, once again, overcommitted ourselves. This particular day, we had a Board meeting at 2:00, dinner for 60 to start cooking at 3:00, a reunion meeting of this volunteer group at 5:00, dinner at 6:00, dinner clean-up while part of the group did sponsorship training at 7:00, a communion service at 8:00 and a candlelight service at 9:30. Which put us home right before 11:00. I was exhausted just thinking about it!


But then a wonderful, unexpected thing happened. After the Board meeting, all the Board members streamed outside to help us unload food and equipment. Then, they hung around and helped in the kitchen. Anything we needed done was done quickly and happily. We finished food prep in record time and had plenty of time to visit, catch up with old friends, meet new ones and enjoy the rest of the evening. It was still long and rather tiring, but altogether an amazing experience. I should have known we wouldn’t have to do all those things alone, especially with this group, but I was forcefully reminded how much better we are as a team. Better together. The words that once made me shake my head in disdain – as if people who needed others were somehow wanting – are now words I live by. Happily! 😀


How about you? Are you naturally a Lone Wolf type or a born collaborator? Have you had any great experiences of being Better Together? Or were they all like that 8th grade “group project” you ended up doing by yourself? I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Banished Words

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

As readers and writers, I think we are more aware of words than most people. How many times have you been reading along and suddenly a word stops you cold because it doesn’t seem to fit in the story? Or maybe the word is used incorrectly? Or, the same word has been repeated three or four times?

Yup, happens to me, too. And as a writer, I have to be careful of not doing any of those things in my own stories. This is where my critique partners and beta readers prove their value by spotting ‘pet’ words or phrases that I’ve overused. Two words I have a tendency to repeat are “that” and “just.” One of my critique partners’ pet word is “it.” She once wrote a sentence with “it” used five times! YIKES! This is why we writers rely on revision.

Another thing that drives me to distraction is when I hear the same words and phrases repeated over and over by everyone around me. One such phrase that drove me bonkers back in the late 1990s was “don’t go there.” I swear I heard it at work a dozen times a day… every day! More recently, both the DH and I have developed a severe aversion to “at the end of the day.”

Looks like Aunty is not the only one who would love to dump overused words. Recently, I ran across of list of “Banished Words” put together by the Lake Superior State University in Sault Saint Marie, Michigan. Back in 1975, the LSSU Public Relations Director and a few friends created “word banishment” and put together a list which they released on New Year’s Day 1976. LSSU has released a new list of “Banished Words” every year since then. (If you want to see all the lists, go here

So here are a few of the words that made the banishment list for 2011:

VIRAL — used to describe anything that has attracted a great deal of attention. Since when is a term for disease seen as popular or even positive?

EPIC — used to describe common events. This is flat out incorrect. One commenter on the LSSU website said it perfectly, “… when the history books are written or updated and stories have been passed through the generations, the epic powder on the slopes during your last ski trip or your participation in last night’s epic flash mob will probably not be included.”

FAIL — used as a noun or adjective meaning something less than perfect. The correct word is FAILURE. Fail is a verb.

FACEBOOK/GOOGLE — used as verbs. Okay, I’ll admit I’m guilty of sometimes saying, “Google it.” But I haven’t slipped so far as to say, “Facebook it, Danno!”

In case you were wondering (as I was) here are some of the Banished Words of 35 years ago in 1976:


Any of those being back memories?

Do you have any “pet” words that you use too often? What about words and phrases that are so overused they make you want to scream? Which words and phrases would you like to banish?

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