Monday, January 25, 2010

We are moving!!!!

moving truck Pictures, Images and Photos

Wow. Can you believe it’s been a whole year since the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales started blogging? During that time, we’ve grown far beyond anything we could have ever imagined. Because of that, we are packing up and moving to a brand new space – one where we can spread our wings to match our imaginations.

In times when other blogs are folding, we are going strong. That’s because we’ve expanded our menu and changed our recipe. We will continue to offer free reads, The Saturday Review (books, movies, TV), weekly Guest Chefs and of course, daily posts by our own bloggers. This year, in addition to these successful offerings, the blog will feature Atlanta Exposé, the long-awaited sequel to its popular first blog novel, Aspen Exposé; a Sunday Travel section Travel the World in Words – a new research tool for writers that highlights cities around the globe to help them set the scene (It’s the next best thing to being there); the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales twist on popular fairy tales (February); a special Gift Ideas page; and much, much more.

To find out what’s on the menu and be eligible to win some great prizes during our Grand Opening Blog Party, you’re invited to join in the celebration and see what’s cooking at the new location for the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. www.petitfoursandhottamales.com

We look forward to seeing you there!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Saturday Review


Bet Me

ISBN 0—375-43356-2
Random House

I’ve read a couple of Jennifer Crusie’s books and wasn’t impressed. I mention this to a friend and she suggested that I read Bet Me. So I found a copy, read it and I loved it. I’m glad that I tried Crusie again. This is an older book, written in 2004, but it is good story telling and a good story is worth reading at any age.

Bet Me opens in a bar where women are looking for men and men are looking for women. Cal Morrisey, a successful man, who always gets his way with women, is bet by Min Dobbs, ex-boyfriend that he can’t get her in bed within a month. Cal doesn’t take the bet but does agree that he can get her to go to dinner with him. Min agrees to the dinner only because she has over heard the original bet suggestion and wants to prove that she can’t be had. Dinner is a battle of wills between Min and Cal and they agree to go their own ways. As hard as Min and Cal try to stay away from each other, they continue to be drawn together.

Min is smart and accomplished but has spent years with a mother telling her she is overweight. Cal sees Min for who she really is and embraces that person. Min is nothing like the regular women Cal dates, and he finds her fascinating. Their relationship isn’t an easy one but discovering that they each fill a needed in the other makes for a fun, heartwarming and sexy story. Without giving too much of the book away, they both win the bet.

This book is made up of great writing, funny moments, snappy dialogue and extremely likeable characters. The book is a keeper and I will also use it as a guide for my own writing.

Reviewed by: Susan May
5 Petit Fours 4 Hot Tamales

Leap Year
http://www.universalpictures.com/leapyear/

Amy Adams
Matthew Goode
Romantic Comedy PG

I’m going to say it right up front that I’m a fan of Matthew Goode. I’m a member of his fan club. He is my favorite up and coming actor, so this review will be biased because he is the romantic lead in this movie.

Amy Adams, cute in anything she does, plays the female lead to the handsome Matthew Goode. As Anna Brady, she is the in-control yuppie girl from New York that can’t get her boyfriend of four years to propose. With her boyfriend gone to Dublin to attend a medical meeting, Anna’s father reminds her of the leap year tradition in Ireland of the female proposing. Anna makes plans to be in Ireland to propose on leap year day.

Bad weather brings her plane down in England where she gets a boat to Ireland but still needs to make her way to Dublin, which is all the way across country. Enter Declan, (Matthew Goode) a pub owner that she pays to take her to Dublin. He doesn’t want to go because he thinks there is nothing good in Dublin, because his ex-girl is there. When Anna offers him enough money to save his pub, he agrees to take her. After many mishaps and adventures, the two make it to Dublin. Each has learned something new about themselves along the way. Anna returns to American with her husband-to-be but realizes that she has left what she really needs in Ireland.

She returns to Ireland to propose to Declan.

This is a sweet movie. There are beautiful pictures of Ireland and the scene where Amy Adams climbs a large hill over wet ground to a castle in four inch heels is impressive. This is not the best romance I’ve ever seen, but it is a good one. At the risk of repeating myself, Matthew Goode is worth the trouble. I will buy the CD on the day it comes out.

Reviewed by: Susan May
4 Petit Fours & 1 Hot Tamales

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thoughts on Writing

My Achilles’ Heel
by Nicki Salcedo

I write for myself. Everyone says, “Know your target audience.” I am my target audience. I tried to write for a specific market once. I dreaded writing. I never once had the urge to go back and re-read my words. Now, I’m back to writing for me. I always wished that my grandmother or mother kept a journal. I write for me and my kids. I hope they’ll be curious about the world and how other people experienced the world. I’m still figuring out how to channel my creative voice into my novel writing voice. Ignoring industry advance is my folly. Isn’t folly a wonderful word? I write joyfully. I write for myself. Write for yourself. Write something you think no one else will like or appreciate. Then see if you aren’t, for a moment, free.


Writing is work
by Susan May


I think writing requires talent, imagination, but most of all I think it requires desire. It is hard work. Want it and want it badly. Being a writer, a published one, means having to keep moving forward, even when I feel like quitting. I prevent myself from quitting by surrounding myself with people who write by attending conferences, regular writing meetings, taking classes, reading writing relate magazines, listening to other writers experiences and most importantly by writing daily. I know if I'm receiving rejections it is because I'm sending material out which is necessary if I want my work published. The reward for writing is being able to share my story which is always worth the hard work.


J PERRY'S VIEW ON WRITING (as gleaned from others):

I can't say anything about writing that hasn't been said before, but here are some of the bits of wisdom that guide me:

1) Everyone who writes, writes crap. Give yourself permission to shovel a draft full.

2) You can't fix a blank page.

3) Persistence is of utmost importance.

4) Only praise in public. If you must criticize, do so in private. (I think Warren Buffet said this)

5) The writing community is a great mother. All you have to do is ask, and she's there.

6) Everyone who is on the writing journey, deserves to be there. Treat colleagues (published, unpublished, and industry professionals) with respect.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Time to Win Back Your Space


By way of introduction, my name is Kitty Grubbs, and no, I am not a professional writer. I am, along with my husband, Joey, however, a personal organizer as well as a professional musician by training and education. You may ask how I got invited to speak with you about organizing...that would be through my friend Debbie Kaufman, with whom I have had the privilege of working in her home. I hope that I will be able to offer you a number of organizing tips as well as enabling you to contact me with any questions regarding your personal workspace.

Recently, Debbie posted a blog about her former and present desks and how she works most effectively. I believe my job as a personal organizer is to find out how your work best in your space.

Now, I would like to show you my desk and some of the tools that are effective for me. I love to use baskets to organize "like" items in my desk area. Some of my baskets include items such as pens and pencils, batteries, scotch tape, glue sticks, scissors and notecards.

One of the shelves pictured in my photo includes an organizer for cards and receipts. Adjacent to the organizer is a row of "blank books" that I use to organize data for the many activities I participate in weekly. I also use these books to record the contents of my storage bins so that I know what I have available to offer others or to use myself. I also have a calendar stored in this area on which I pencil in appointments for the week.

On the third row from the top I store my budget notebook in which we keep track of our spending. This versatile desk unit additionally includes "hidden" hanging files. There are great books available on organization that include tips for workspaces that promote bulletin boards, labeling, and other useful ideas for making your space your own.

Our motto at Let's Get It Together, LLC is "Let Us Help You Win Back Your Space." May 2010 be your most productive year ever! I can be contacted with questions or to arrange a free quote at Kitg777@yahoo.com
Kitty Grubbs

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A neat freak's domain


This is my writing space. It's calming, packed with antiques and comfortable. I've always loved sitting here, knowing that every inch of this little nook will inspire internal thought.

The problem of course is that my internal thought, while reclining on my lovely hand carved chair, is more often centered on what decorator item I might add to the spot and my home in general instead of imagining romantic plots.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Basically this is an image of what your work space should NOT look like.

There are no colorful POST ITS tacked to the wall, scrawled with story ideas, character bio's or Editor emails. There are no easily accessible book shelves boasting a dictionary, thesaurus or any writer's help manuals.(The cute leopard print container, by the way, holds decorating magazines) There are no story boards or beneficial character collages any where in sight.

There's just a nicely decorated 1950's desk positioned beneath a collection of antique clocks, a 30's fan and some delicate French porcelain.

So I might be a contender for a spread in HOUSE BEAUTIFUL magazine, but I have yet to be recruited by HARLEQUIN or AVON books.

And isn't that the whole point for a writer's work space after all?

After a first hand look at my blog sister's work spaces I have decided to add a new goal to my 2010 list.

Get my office on track.

My writing track that is.

And then next year I can reveal a different nook, one that's carefully cluttered with the implements of my trade, filled with the inspiration I need to create readable works of romance.

I'd like to believe that romance reader's might benefit from my love of story telling far more than my compulsively neat and carefully decorated house.

Have a brilliant day and keep writing!!

Tamara

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Room With a View

By Marilyn Baron

If where you work is a reflection of who you are, then I must be a mess. To say I’m a pack rat is a bit of an understatement. People often compare my work space to the desk of 60 Minutes Correspondent Andy Rooney. In the old days (before advancing age syndrome struck) I could stick my hand in the pile and find any piece of paper I wanted. I knew exactly where everything was. In my mind, my desk was organized. That’s no longer the case.

I need to do some housecleaning. I tried it once. I moved everything into boxes and stored them in the basement. Then our basement flooded and all of the cardboard boxes were destroyed and had to be hauled away. Turns out I never needed that “stuff.” I don’t want another flood, but something of Biblical proportions needs to be done about my work space.

My desk is just a repository of paper and junk. I can’t sit at the desk, there’s no room to write there. And then there’s my husband’s desk. Most of the time when he’s not at work he’s on my computer. I can’t understand why he has to use my computer when he has a laptop he can use when he’s not at work. When my younger daughter visits and she wants to catch up on some work at the office, she uses my computer. When my older daughter visits from New York and she checks in at the office, she also takes over my computer.

Actually, I can understand why my office is where everyone wants to be. My office is bright, the walls are painted a soothing lemon yellow, my curtains are a yellow and blue striped and floral pattern and the rug is a diamond-patterned yellow hue. Hanging on the wall is my framed 2005 Maggie certificate for Third place in the Single Title Category for “The Colonoscopy Club.” I think I need to write a sequel because soon I’ll have to have another one of those procedures. A Bermuda print, called “Shutters,” depicts a pastel yellow cottage with a stepped pristine white roof against a blue sky background.

Probably one of my favorite things about my office is the view from the windows that open up to my backyard. When I’m not writing, I’m daydreaming, getting inspiration, talking on the phone and looking outside, and I can always count on seeing a lively squirrel chase; birds, ranging from red-headed woodpeckers and blue jays to hummingbirds; roaming coyotes and most often deer, sometimes five or six of them, walking on the trail by the stream in back of my house.

As far as inspiration, I don’t need candles. I don’t have a sense of smell so I would probably burn down the house and never realize it. I love music, but I don’t generally play it when I’m writing. To get me started, all I need is a phrase, an intro, a thought, a name and that sparks an idea and generates a story.

As far as the state of my office, I probably won’t change, not at this late date. I like order in my life and the rest of the house is in good shape. But my office reflects the chaos, ideas, creativity and excitement in my head. So maybe that’s not so bad.

What is your favorite thing about your office?

During the Reign of the Oak King

During the Reign of the Oak King

March 1997 – Fall in love with the mother of all destroyed late-Victorian houses. Buy house. Re-construct house. Think graduate school would be a good accompaniment to soak up the spare time.
August 1997 – Rent out previous house to save money. Camp in Victorian house while re-constructing and managing graduate course work. Get fired from horrible teaching job = rejoice/panic.
September 1997 – Get hired to teach college English courses. Produce one poem per week for graduate school. Decide adding a baby would be fun.
1998 – Baby+Victorian House+Graduate School = Not Quite Enough. Sign on to be editor-in-chief of literary magazine. Type twenty page papers with baby on lap while shouting instructions to carpenters.
2000 – Graduate coursework done, time to sit for MFA Comprehensive Exams. Carpenter and painter make great nannies. Think to self – I could pass my exams and write my thesis if I had an office away from baby+carpenter+painter+MADNESS. Ask universe for magic.
March 2000 – Disturbing dream about the Space Shuttle landing in back yard.
April 2000 - Clear day. No wind. Carpenter and crew working. Sudden crack and hair standing up. Giant oak tree splits at the union and comes down – taking out an outbuilding and narrowly missing carpenter. Carpenter stands up, dusts off, grabs chain saw.
June 2000 – Outbuilding now studio courtesy of the Oak King (and State Farm Insurance, but really my carpenter).

And that is how I came to have a studio and office in an outbuilding. The space used to be a one car garage so it’s long and narrow. In my space I have all of my sewing equipment, my desk, plenty of cupboards, and my favorite books. I burn incense and play my music (which ranges from Loreena McKennit to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs depending on the day). I know my good fortune is courtesy of the universe and that my “room of one’s own” where I can do all manner of creative endeavors is rare and precious. My kids are not allowed in there except by invitation. Sometimes they stand on the outside of the doors and look in longingly as I shoo them out to play. Over the course of years I’ve decoupaged the walls with images and pictures - mostly gardens and topiary. I like color so I surround myself with it. I would never use such strong and feminine colors in a family space, but in my own space I can.

On one side there’s the remaining garage and on the other is an apartment where random relatives sometimes live. Glass doors open out into the garden and are framed by roses on one side and a rosemary bush on the other – the inside of my door is painted the exact shade of the roses courtesy of the Home Depot color-match system. My desk is made up of old doors I’ve decoupaged and painted then covered with glass – the legs are wrought iron window guards formed together with tubes in-between to hold rolls of paper. Everything in the studio is re-claimed from somewhere else – my desk was built in trade with my carpenter – he got my old wrecked Mercedes and I got this amazing work space. Because of the work I do I have a super-huge monitor and all kinds of office equipment hidden all over. I didn’t just clean my desk for the picture – I actually usually keep it like that as I get disturbed when things aren’t tidy and neatly organized. I love my space. It’s where my heart beats truest.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Creating a Writing Space – Considerations & Alternatives


My husband and I both needed an office at home, so we came up with the brilliant idea to share a room. My portion of the office was going to be my writing space while his would be an old fashioned office. We divided the room up to accommodate our stuff and purchased a partner desk, which means we would be facing each other when we were both working. Things haven't worked out exactly as I envisioned. In our enthusiasm to create a nice office, I lost sight of the real goal – a small place to go to, slip into my imagination and create stories.

Things I failed to consider:
  • Work styles: We have opposite work habits that clash.
  • Size: The size of the office is not conducive to sharing, especially when all of our stuff is added to the room.
  • Furniture: A partner desk doesn't work for me. I can't stare at my husband across the desk and remain in my imagination. When I see him, I am jolted back to reality because he is so grounded. His world is all about business, computers, etc. My world, like most writers, is story oriented and in my head. My writing space was supposed to be my little corner where reality isn't a priority.
  • Choice of room: We chose the room in the front of the house. This room has a window that stretches down to the floor where my boys (the pups) can see cars and people passing by. When they see something, they bark. Obviously, my story world is destroyed by the loud crash into reality.
  • Chairs and space: My boys' special place is at the window, which is located a foot from the back of my chair that has wheels. You see the problem.
  • Climate: The front room is usually hotter than the back room.
We should have used both rooms as offices – one for him and one for me. The view of the backyard is filled with trees and other forms of nature. The view is so much more relaxing. My boys wouldn't bark so much because they can't see people or cars. The room is much cooler, and the lavender colored walls are more conducive to creativity.

The other issue I did not anticipate has nothing to do with the office. It is too much of a business environment. When I'm there, I constantly think of phone calls that need to be made, paperwork that needs to be done, etc. Additionally, whenever I sit in the office chair, my boys start to cry for attention. Needless to say, my creativity does not manifest itself here.

My solution is to write in the dining area, which we are converting to a sun room. It is in the back of the house, gets lots of light and the boys can sit right next to me, which makes them very happy.
Meet the boys:



Angus is on the left and Murray is on the right.





Atlanta Bread Company is my favorite place to write though. They have a couple of nice sitting areas with easy access to outlets. At least once a week, I meet some of my writer friends to write. Yes, we chat a little, but the focus is on writing. We affectionately refer to this time together as Write Night since we typically meet in the evening. Check out our favorite area:


The only thing missing are my little buddies, the boys, who aren't allowed in the restaurant :(






If you have a writing space, what would you have done differently? Do you have alternative writing places in or outside the home?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Saturday Review


No Nice Girl
by Penny Lindsay

Harlequin Special Releases, October 2009

Miniseries: Vintage Collection, Paperback, Suspense and Adventure
ISBN: 9780373837502

No Nice Girl is one of Harlequin’s 60 Anniversary throw back novels. I thought the concept was a pretty neat idea. They use the same ideas to celebrate football and baseball notable days, why not romance. I wasn’t aware that the books were available until I saw a few in the book store. I bought the one with the smallest number (#9 - or oldest book) I could find. That meant that No Nice Girl was written around 1949. Being a Georgia resident, it was a pleasant surprise to find that the book was written by a Georgian.
My impressions: Sex on the first three pages. Between two people not married. This was written before I was born and I had no idea anyone knew anything about sex until TV came along. I think some of the books written today are racy but imagine what was said 60 years ago about having premarital sex in a book. There were also cuss words in it, another surprise.
The story revolves around a young girl, Anice, who goes to New York to live with her cousin Phylis. Phylis has a difficult time liking Anice, as does the reader. Phylis has a good heart and a man friend, but believes she is in love with her rich boss. Anice is very judgmental of Phylis’s life style. Anice spends much of her time lying and creating havoc. The story ends with everyone getting what they deserve. Phylis realizes she loves her man friend and he returns her love. Anice marries Phylis’s boss after manipulating him into it.
The golden rule that good characters, conflicts and happy endings make for an interesting book hasn’t changed in 60 years, nor do I think it will in the next 60. No Nice Girl includes all three.

Review by Susan May
3 Petit Fours & 1 Hot Tamales

If He’s Sinful
Publisher: Kensington
ISBN-13: 978-1420104615

Lady Penelope is a woman who has a sixth sense. She can see dead people and she can feel what happened to a person by touching an object that person has touched. Kidnapped, drugged and chained to a bed in a brothel, Lady Penelope knows that someone has died in this very bed and it was not pleasant. As she glances around the room, her eyes land on a shadowy figure in the corner. The ghost makes herself known to Lady Penelope by whispering “Beware.” Fearful of who will walk in to the room, Lady Penelope tenses as the door opens. Shock replaces fear as Lady Penelope fixes her gaze on Lord Ashton Radmoore, her stepsister’s soon to be fiancé standing in the room in an ancient Roman outfit. But quickly, shock turns to utter disbelief as Lord Ashton begins to caress Lady Penelope’s legs and then completely disrobes in front of her. She never thought she would see this side of Lord Ashton.

When you are the eldest son of an adulterous father who leaves your family nearly destitute upon his death, you have to be a man who likes to stay in control and Lord Ashton Radmoore is no exception. He likes to be in control of the situation, in control of his emotions, and most definitely in control of his passion. Sworn not to be an adulterous husband like his father and trying to restore the family coffers, Lord Ashton begins courting a wealthy and beautiful yet somewhat cold young woman, Lady Clarissa Hutton-Moore. As the time draws near to ask for Lady Clarissa’s hand in marriage, Lord Ashton’s friends decide to surprise him with a night on the town, the pinnacle of the evening being dressing Lord Ashton as an ancient Roman and providing him with a woman for the night. Half way protesting this night of pleasure, Lord Ashton finds himself riveted by the beauty chained to the bed in the brothel. As he gazes into the mystical eyes of the beauty, Lord Ashton begins to realize he has met the one woman who will make him lose his control.

This novel is full of, well, everything. There is intrigue involved throughout the story (who would have Lady Penelope kidnapped, drugged and taken to a brothel). There is a cast of evil characters (the stepbrother and stepsister of Lady Penelope). There is a vast cast of secondary characters that are very entertaining and enchanting (a house full of innocent children who find themselves born on the wrong side of the blanket in the Wherlocke family but whom Lady Penelope loves and cares for). There is comedy (don’t get me started on what some of the little boys say and do). But above all of these things there is a consuming love story. A story of a man who gives up his control to enjoy the love of his life. A story of a woman who finds that one man to love her just as she is, sixth sense and all. As you can see from this passage, love and passion abound.
“This is madness,” Ashton mumbled as he realized he had begun to undo her gown.
“Tis a very sweet one.” She kissed his throat, savoring the taste of him, and heard him groan softly.

“Penelope, I am close to taking you right here, on the settee in your parlor.”
“Aye, it is, perhaps, not the best place for this.”

He lifted himself on his forearms to look at her. Her lips were kiss-swollen, her eyes a hot blue that now knew was caused by desire. She wanted him. He wanted her.“You are an innocent,” he whispered.

“Innocent, but not ignorant. I live a short walk from a part of London where every sin known to man can be purchased. I may be innocent in body, but I know more than I like to. I know where this will and I know I want to follow.”

It has been a while since I have read a Hannah Howell book, but I am so glad I did not pass up on this one. I found myself reading page after page and not wanting to put the book down. I am really looking forward to reading more of these series (Wherlocke Series) and seeing what other six senses the family members have been given. I hope you will pick up this book to see If He’s Sinful.

Reviewed by: Buffie Johnson - The Romance Dish
4 Petit Fours & 4 Hot Tamales

Friday, January 15, 2010

Writing Process


Susan May's Writing World

I’m still in search of my real writing process. I don’t know but I may always be in search of it on some level. My newest step is learning to embrace and appreciate a synopsis. Which I have done, and wish I’d done sooner. I begin a book by making notes about my characters, setting and story line. I use something similar to Deb Dixon’s GMC frame to start. It usually takes a week or so of making notes, thinking and making more notes before I can put something serious on the page. I would like to say I write on a new story every day but I’m more of a spurt person. Pages here and pages there.

J PERRY'S WRITING PROCESS:

I don't do anything without having ingested a giant cup o' Joe. That done, I reread ONLY the new writing I wrote the day before to oil my gears. I polish that up then forge on ahead. Wash, rinse, repeat the next day. After the whole draft is complete, I go through and polish 2-3 more times (I'm not a clean writer) and then I'm finished.

I write from a detailed synopsis I hash out with my critique partner before ever beginning the book. I don't do detailed charts--I'm too impatient to read through them--more of a bullet-point system of necessary plot details. Sometimes I stray from the details, but I'm usually pretty loyal to the plan. When I run into snags, again, my CP is my writing oxygen. She gives me a billion and one options, without ever getting getting too attached to the suggestions she's given me, and lets me pick and choose at will.

I Write in the Dark : Nicki Salcedo

Sometimes I turn off my monitor and write in the dark. When doing a deep revision, I don’t edit. I re-write every word of a chapter so I force myself to lose the extraneous words. It is difficult for me to write about things that I can see, but once I have an image in my memory I can create in on the page. I like to wake up at 3 a.m. and write. Well, I don’t really like this, but when I am awake at 3 a.m. I take advantage of the quiet and write. In this season of my life, I write long hand. I only recently went to this process. I think it reminds me of keeping a diary or journal growing up. I don’t write as fluidly when I type. I write better with pen on paper.

My Writing Process: CiCi Barnes

I started out with pencil and paper, writing anywhere and everywhere, especially when traveling with hubby. I have now graduated to the computer at home and a laptop or AlphaSmart Neo on the road. Pencil and paper creep back on the scene sometimes, but not often.

I have never been one to sort everything out before I start writing the story. I get a nugget of an idea and then start typing. My characters develop and lead me down the road they want me to follow. At some point, around the middle, I start to list bullet points of how I want to proceed to the end. Sometimes my characters agree; sometimes they don’t. I follow their whims, for they are usually right.

My writing day begins by 9:00 am and goes to at least 5:00 pm, if not 6:00 pm (depending on hubby’s empty tummy). I take a break around 12:30 for lunch. I also try to get up every couple of hours for about 15 minutes to do a quick household chore or just stop and breathe in some fresh air. I usually start out reading what I wrote the day before to refresh my memory and then move onto the next scene.

I used to edit as I went, but realized the process bogged down my writing. I fight the urge and leave the revising and editing until after I’ve written The End.

I’m blessed to be able to devote my days to writing without having to deal with a day job or children begging for my time and attention. My hat’s off to those who deal with life’s multiple juggles and writing too.

My writing process has evolved over the years. Some things I did at the beginning, still work, others have fallen by the wayside as I’ve learned, grown and attended more conferences to expand my knowledge. My advice: don’t be a slave to one way of working. Try out different methods and choose the one that fits your personality and lifestyle. Don’t scoff at trying a new way of doing things until you’ve tried it and it doesn’t work.

As in your writing, your methods of turning out the best book need to explore all possibilities.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sandy's Office

My Space, My Hideout, My Office
By Sandy Elzie

I've come a long way from sitting in a chair with a legal pad and a pen and then having to beg time on my husband's computer to type it up. He's a computer geek...even built one 30 years ago with parts he purchased from Radio Shack...so you can imagine that I had to whine occasionally.

After many years writing the Barney Rubble way, I advanced into the twentieth century and got my own computer, but I was sharing space in a tight little office (10x11 bedroom conversion) with my desk facing one wall and hubby's facing the opposite wall. (Back to back they faced each other....) And we still shared a printer.

Once I got into the Twenty-first century, I also got my own laptop and recently an Alpha Smart- Neo which means I can be creative ANYWHERE, but guess what? My favorite space is my office. I write faster and longer and just accomplish more at the desk. (although if the muse is slow I notice that I'm a little tempted to check e-mails more often than I should)


When we moved two years ago I was blessed with my own space. It's an octagon shaped room with 3 windows.



As you can see from this picture, I have a resident cat who owns not one, but two cat shelves so he can have a choice of which of the 3 windows to sleep in front of. (After all, the sun moves!) It isn't just grandchildren that grandmother's spoil. (I love you, Master Jack)

I also have a chair for visitors , note the framed certificate from Break Into Fiction on the wall. Hubby likes to join me in the morning with a cup of coffee since I tend to get up earlier and start writing and he gets up around seven and makes the coffee and brings it in. (I won't say that I've got him well trained...just in case he reads this. Shhhhhh, it'll be our little secret.)




This picture is my first cover framed with the Book Signing sign from M&M (my first official book signing)



Lastly, there is a short bookcase for my TBR books and a tall bookcase that holds service awards and books on the craft of writing as well as buckets for things like spare batteries, boxes of staples, tape, extra pens & pencils, ink cartridges, envelopes, etc.

Bottom line is that it's my haven, my place to relax and be creative. It tends to be messy on top of my desk, but it works for me. Oh, and the best thing is that my office has French doors that close to make me feel shut away and cozy in my space if there happens to be any noise in the house that I want to block out.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Clutter, Cleaners, and Concentration

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then, is an empty desk? -- Albert Einstein

A clean desk is the sign of a cluttered drawer. –Unknown

Work spaces are such a personal thing. When I taught school, my desk was always cluttered, mostly with piles of paperwork. I finally taped a sign on my desk that said “Einstein's desk was always this messy.” And indeed, it was.


When I began to write, I found that my “genius” fled in a state of clutter.

Strange, that.

I could sit in front of my computer to write, but found my mind cluttered and my concentration shot by the mess around me. Very little productivity came forth. So, I knew something had to change.

But frankly, you don’t take a woman whose only purchase of a decorative item beyond big ticket furniture is the sign pictured below and turn her into an organizational genius overnight. By the way, if any of you NEED a sign like this one, I found mine at a local Hallmark store.
I have compromised and now find that I work best if I can at least organize my own little space while I’m writing. Does it mean that I am now a total neatnik? Wait, I’ll stop laughing, pick myself up off the floor and continue this post in a minute after I consider that “neat” designation.

No, I’m not. But I have found ways to keep clutter or items on my “To Do List” from beating up my writing muse. Here, along with illustrations are my coping mechanisms.

1. I've limited my workspace. I used to write on this lovely, enormous antique writing desk. That's a picture of it to the left. It's missing it's drawers since I took this shot right before I sent it on consignment to a local antique store. Why? Because I soon I found that I had filled up the expanse of desktop with files and piles, virtually eliminating any space to work on. So, I got radical and bought this efficient little laptop table called "The Dave" at Ikea. Other than post-its with quick notes on it, I find it relatively impossible to clutter.

2. I designate my perimeter and, if all else fails, I pick up and move any clutter out of my work area. See? All neat and uncluttered.

2. Along with a laptop, I use an Alphasmart Neo. It is portable and I can write when I’m stuck in the dentist’s office or a carpool line. Oh, and I can also write by the pool when the muse strikes.

3. I go somewhere else and write. Usually I choose a local coffeehouse or my friendly, neighborhood library. This is a great workspace idea when there are other people in your home who will inevitably distract you. Let’s see. That would be my house. Almost always. But leave home and, except for the homeless lady who frequents the reference section, no one bothers me.

4. I hired Monica, the wonderful. Monica comes every two weeks and cleans my house for me. This has forced me into more and more organization. In fact, I’ve kept up with the house so well since hiring her, that Monica tells me she fears for her job. HA! Never fear, Monica. One of my few conditions in my upcoming house move is that Monica comes with me.

Yes, my home workspace is about to change. We are looking at moving within the next month. I have trolled the new house and can’t find my spot yet. I won’t have a whole room to myself, but like Carol Burnside said in her previous post, I will now have a blank slate. I am considering a computer desk with shelves for my reference books. If I go back to a "real" desk, I'm definiely heading to The Container Store since I can keep a desk neat if everything has a designated space.

I’m open to suggestions on how to set up a new spot. Clutter-free please.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Anna's Mind

I don’t play video games. They bore me. But I’m quite diverted by machinima, a form of animation that uses 3-D graphics, often from video games, and then adds new voice-overs to tell a narrative.

One of my favorite exampl
es of machinima is Freeman’s Mind.“Freeman’s Mind is a [online] science-fiction comedy series that follows the thoughts of Dr. Gordon Freeman, a 27 year old physicist and protagonist of the [video] game Half-Life...In the game Half-Life, Freeman is entirely silent and has no actual personality. In Freeman’s Mind, he is a highly vocal and neurotic individual with paranoid and delusional tendencies.” -- Ross Scott, creator of Freeman’s mind, www.accusedfarms.com

I was thinking how cool it would be to find a video game about a writer and add all the thoughts in voice-overs. Let’s imagine this scene – part of the series Anna’s Mind. The writer/heroine is jetting off to Puerto Rico for a thrilling week of writing, dodging bad-ass iguanas, and drinking staggering quantities of rum.

A tall, handsome dude sits next to the heroine on the airplane.

Heroine’s voice-over: “OMG, he looks just like the hero in my book. I can’t believe he’s sitting next to me. I can’t believe he exists in real life. Don’t turn red. Don’t turn red.”

She opens her laptop, mulls how to revise the sucky opening scene, and he asks, “Are you a writer?”

The adrenaline rush heats the heroine’s face.

In voice-over, she says with arm-pumping certainty, “YES! He talked to me and knows I’m a writer. He peered into my repressed little soul. He probably thinks I’m cool. I am cool. Well...I’ll pretend like I’m cool.”

Then Mr. Hero-lookalike asks the dreaded question, “What do you write.”

“About you,” she thinks aloud.

As the animator, I’m going to push button “A“ to move her laptop out of sight because she doesn’t want him to see that what she writes really is...crap.

Her voice-over says, “Jeesh, I hope he didn’t see what crap I write. I hate it when people try to read while I’m writing. It’s almost like having someone watch me go to the bathroom. I wonder if he’s a perv. He doesn’t look like a perv, but you never know. I hope he doesn’t put on those cheap-ass ear phones to listen to Kenny G. “

Hey, who invited that neurotic and paranoid Dr. Gordon Freeman into my machinima?

This isn’t going to work. No one will ever make a video game about the act of writing. It isn’t exotic or thrilling. It doesn’t involve guns or take place in underground tunnels full of aliens and radioactive goo. It involves lots of coffee and reward snacks and takes place in semi-daylight. For example, let’s look at where I wrote today. This morning at the coffee house, I sat facing an electrical outlet. The holes look like a sad face, like someone who’s disappointed that I ate the last piece of cheesecake. Voice-over: “Hey, you neither licked it nor put your name on it. It was so delicious.” Later, I plopped on the orange couch in the photo. It used to be a frou-frou, fugly country-blue plaid monstrosity, but I recovered into a mod masterpiece. Impressive, n’est pas? I wish someone would be that impressed by my writing. You put your soul into writing, but only your blood into upholstery (lots of blades, staples and big scary needles required, kind of brain surgery). By the way, that’s Pauline the Cat hanging on the window screen. Voice-over: “Get off the screen, you fat blob. I just let you out two seconds ago. You can’t want in already.” I stop everything I’m doing and let her in.

Alas, the act of writing will remain un-machinima-ed.

So, do you mind when people read your stuff while you’re writing?

PS – please leave a comment, but I might not be able to read it right away.

I’ll be in Puerto Rico on a wild writing adventure when this goes live.

Really.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Feng Shui or Phooey a la Hooey?

by Linsey Lanier

packrat
- noun
1. a collector of miscellaneous useless objects
2. any of several bushy-tailed rodents of the genus Neotoma of western North America; hoards food and other objects

I have to admit I froze solid when Tami announced January's challenge was about our workspaces. Yes, I'm a private person, but that's not the reason I was filled with dread. The real reason is that I would have to admit to the world what a packrat I am.

It's true. My workspace is usually a mess. That's because (1) I don't clean in this office. I write in it. (2) As a writer, I generate paper. Lot's of it. Edits of my current wip. Notes about books I'm reading. Notes about books I'm writing. Stray thoughts. Contest feedback. Notes on a napkin from a cop show. Etc., etc. (3) I accumulate books and I like to have them around me for inspiration (see photos). (4) Also, like many of my blog sisters, I collect quotations and other bits of inspiration (on cards, usually) to keep me going. (Unlike my blog sisters, I don't put the quotations neatly on a cork-board. I just tape them to the side of my monitor. See other photos.)

I've recently added the one on the bottom: "You have a flair for adding a fanciful dimension to any story. I love that. If it sounds like it came from a fortune cookie, that's because it did. I've been collecting them for years. I used to keep them together with a paper clip, but as of a few days ago, they are now in a plastic bag on my desk.

Why, you might ask? Because... hold your breath... a few days ago, I cleaned up my office!!!

Yes, it was the end of the year and I usually do something like that, but this time, I went all out. I even chronicled my progress in an e-book I've been intending to write for ages and ages. I hope to make it available on my personal blog, soon.

Don't stop reading here. Today we've got a bonus post. Be sure to check out Sally Kilpatrick's quest for a workspace.

Someday my space will come. . .




I would love to be the Felix to Linsey’s supposed Oscar, but alas I am not. If anything, I am more disorganized than she. I’ve been so busy carving out time to write that I haven’t given much thought to a place. Okay, so I tried writing in my closet, and that worked up until Christmas when my closet became the gift repository. Now, I can’t find my desk.

I have a front room, but it, too, is full of junk. One of my goals for 2010 is to clean out this room and keep it clean. After all, it’s just to the left of the front door, and it’s an eyesore for those who dare enter my house. Let’s face it, after eight years of teaching while going to class and bearing babies, my house is a wreck. I know others manage to do all of the above and then some while keeping a clean house, but I know my limitations. They say the first step is to admit you have a problem.

So, you can see the space that will one day be my writing space, and I will have my back to the strip of wall between the two windows. For me, the windows are distracting while I can easily stare through walls. Also, I have been known to get so into what I’m writing that, if my husband puts a hand on my shoulder, he sends me into orbit. Suffice to say, I like to keep my back to the wall.

Now, here is one of the two places where I do a great deal of my writing. This is one of the most cluttered corners in the house because there isn’t really a desk to keep all of my goodies. I also live in fear of forgetting to remove my laptop and having Lorelai fling a liquid substance on it because she eats in the spot just beside me.









I have also logged quite a few pages (over 500 in 2009) at Gabriel’s, a local bakery/restaurant. Gabriel’s doesn’t have Internet access, but they do have incredible muffins and breakfast sandwiches, and they have the added advantage of being just around the corner from Lorelai’s preschool thus minimizing time lost in travel. Sometimes I also write upstairs in the church where she goes to school; it can’t hurt to have a little divine intervention from time to time.

And that’s a sample of the places where I write. In 2009, I learned to squeeze out words wherever I could, so you can imagine me writing just about anywhere. Since we’ve been talking about writing spaces all month, I thought I might ask a different question or two. What’s the strangest place you’ve written 500 words or more? Also, anybody have any organizational strategies for the clutter impaired?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

SCOUNDREL'S KISS CONTEST WINNER

The winner of the signed copy of SCOUNDREL'S KISS is Linda Henderson!!! Yay!!! Linda, please send us your mailing information to pfhtbloggers@yahoo.com and we will forward it onto Carrie! Thank you, everyone, for coming by and visiting with us yesterday. And THANK YOU, Carrie, for blogging with us.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Saturday Review


Sand, Sun … Seduction!
Harlequin ISBN-13:978-0-373-83734-2
This book is made up of three short stories that take place in hot tropical climates.

Enticed by Stephanie Bond
Kimber Karlton, a woman with the perfect job, perfect man, and plans for a perfect life is derailed when she has trouble meeting her boyfriend on a south Pacific island where she’s heard he plans to propose. With round-about travel plans and a free spirited pilot Finn Meyers as help, Kimber hopes her new companion can get her to the island. Finn has other plans, showing Kimber a new side to life. By the time she does reach her destination, she has found a new definition for perfect - life with Finn.

Propositioned by Leslie Kelly
In St. Lucia, putting her life back together after an ugly divorce, Liz Talbot is surprised to see Jack Beaumont, her ex’s old boss. Jack is there to get Liz’s help with a business problem but finds the feelings he hid from Liz while she was married are still beating strongly. Jack woos Liz, but when she finds out what his visit is really about she is devastated. Jack faces his fear of water just to get her to talk to him. Liz discovers Jack is the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with.

Fevered by Lori Wilde
Macy Gatwick wants a news story bad enough that she is willing to track through the jungle of Costa Rica to talk to Armando Cutler. Licking his wounds from an experience with a dishonest woman, Armando wants nothing to do with another one. When a heavy rain storm develops, he has no choice but to invite Macy into his cabin until it passes. One day turned into three. Armando starts to trust again but when he finds Macy’s press pass he is furious. He wants her gone as soon as possible. Days later he wonders why his story hasn’t made the papers and finds out that Macy refused to release the story. Macy returns to the jungle and Armando’s welcoming arms.

I’m a little late (okay, a lot late) in reading this book. It was marketed for the summer as the perfect beach read but if you are cold and want to warm up during the Christmas season find this book. I like all three of these stories. I like them so well that the book is a keeper. If you are a writer this book is a good one to study to learn how to write romance well. These authors know how to do it.

Review by Susan May
4 Petit Fours and 5 Hot Tamales

Notorious Eliza
By Barbara Monajem

Harlequin Historical Undone
e-book: 25 pages
ASIN: B002WEPC0K

Eliza Dauntry has been commissioned to paint over the bacchanalia murals frolicking over Lord Lansdowne’s ballroom walls. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that while she’s covering over the more shocking elements of the paintings, someone is secretly watching her--and uncovering her with his imagination.

Patrick “Trick” Felham is looking to remarry. He wants a respectable woman, one that will love him and teach his young daughter what it means to be a part of polite society. Surely that is beyond the reach of the temptress altering his uncle’s murals. She’s the Eliza Dauntry, after all--the same woman who paints portraits of courtesans, and who once painted herself in a legendary nude—the infamous nude Trick secretly purchased years ago. How could such a woman, unable to be “shocked when (she) should be,” satisfy the yearnings of his heart, as well as his body?

With this refreshingly original premise, Monajem crafts the perfect blend of historical accuracy and sexy narrative. The paintings themselves provide an interesting juxtaposition with the fledgling, albeit sizzling, attraction between the hero and heroine. If you’re looking for something spicy and new, read Notorious Eliza.

Reviewed by J Perry Stone

Hot Tamales: 4

Friday, January 8, 2010

Where Imagination takes Flight



J PERRY'S WRITING SPACE:

I chose earthy colors for my writing space (to calm), and have decorated it with several items indicative of my genre: an antique bottle of actual Victorian smelling salts, a teacup and a little clay English cottage, to name a few. On my wall are several John William Waterhouse prints, as well as an actual leaf I filched from Hyde Park when I was in London two years ago (what customs doesn't know ... heh, heh). I have a candle on my desk that when lit, triggers my creativity (and makes me hungry), and I find I'm most productive when my space is organized. In that light, I take about 5 minutes to straighten up before I ever plant my tush in the chair.

The embarrassing detail I'll share with you is something I made. It's a picture of me holding a Rita award (read: my eventual Rita award). I've pasted it right at eye level on the window in front of my desk.

...because visualizing the mountaintop is half the climb, no?




I’ll Tell You What You Don’t Need to Know

Nicki Salcedo

I never listen to the radio when I drive, but I always wave to say thanks when another driver is courteous to me. I believe that controlling your own fate is your destiny. I try to remember to smile when no one else is around. I love seeing people read even if it is something I would never read. Cutting the grass is relaxing for me. I want to learn how to play the piano. I try to take the stairs when I can. I don’t watch TV. Part of enjoying life is observing real life. For me, writing is like telling secrets that belong to imaginary people.



"My Office" Susan May

My writing/office space is in the basement of my home. There are no windows but that may be a good thing because I don’t have to worry about staring out a window. I have pictures of flowers to posters from James Bond movies hanging on the walls. My newest item is a framed grouping of Harlequin romance bookmarks. Inspiration. Maybe one day I will have framed bookmarkers of my own. I have a large book shelf stocked with my keeper books. Close to my straight back chair and under the large winged table that I use as a desk is a dictionary and thesaurus. I’m big on organization so there are numerous file folders, along with different colored binders containing my manuscripts. My sewing machine also has a spot in my office. An antique sofa that belonged to my grandmother is used by my children when they come down to talk.



My Workspace: CiCi Barnes

I write in my study at a large desk with multiple draws, shelves and filing cabinets since I’m a bit of an organization freak. Over the computer are shelves with reference and research books. A large Thomas Kincaid lighthouse (the love of my life after my hubby, children, grandchildren and granddogs) picture graces the wall above the desk.
One floor-ceiling-window lets in the sun and gives me a great view of the pasture land in front of my house when I have the need to gaze out and think about my next scene or figure out what my character will do or say next.
There are multiple bookcases with all my keeper books. My non-keeper books have been relegated to the basement in seven huge containers. A rocking chair sits by the window along with an old elementary school desk my daddy acquired for me years ago from my old grammar school before they tore it down.
It’s quite a cozy abode for writing, thinking and playing on the computer. I use a candle for scent and always have a warm cup of green tea nearby. I’m not one to play music while I write, as a rule, especially music with lyrics. I tend to start singing along. But occasionally, for a super intense or romantic scene, I’ll put on “Robin Hood, Prince of Theives” or “Somewhere in Time” CD.
I also have a “Keep Out, Writing” sign on my door to keep hubby at bay. I would hate for him to lose an arm or a leg by interrupting at a crucial moment.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

If It Weren’t For The Last Minute, I'd Never Get Anything Done."

By: Maxine Davis

My wonderful brother gave me a plaque with that quote on it as part of my Christmas! It is so sad, but it’s true! My sister will pack for a trip two weeks in advance. My brother—being a typical man—relies on his wife. Me, the night before: “We’re going where, WHEN?”

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been that way. The blog (PFHT) can make me crazy. I have it on the calendar; I tell myself several times a day not to forget. Then, at the last minute, I get an idea and sit and write. Actually, I sit first and knowing it’s the last minute, an idea hits.

That is how most of my writing goes. Next year, I’m going to work on a minimum number of words a week. We’ll see if I get any sleep on Friday nights, because I will take some weekends off.

This all pretty much tells you how my writing space looks. Felix Unger, I am not. Oscar Madison, on the other hand, hmmm. My computer area, unlike the rest of my house, is a wreck. I had a visit from a colleague who had often groaned about my messy desk at work. When she walked in, she stopped, eyes wide open, and announced, “Your house is neat!” She quickly sputtered and tried to cover it, but there was no mistake, she expected the whole house to be a wreck.

So, ladies, does neatness help you? I’ve really got to try it one day. Actually, for 2010, that IS part of my resolutions. Maybe I’ll post a picture later in the year. On second thought, don’t count on it.


PS: There are plenty of pictures for you in Carol's post just below mine.
Welcome to My Space by Carol Burnside

This was my writing space when I moved into my home just before Christmas, 2008. A blank slate, waiting for me to make it mine, all mine. For the first time I have an office of my own that doesn’t have to double as the laundry/junk room. It’s in the front of the house rather than the far back corner. I love the window and the French door. Trust me when I say it has never again looked so pristine.

The rest of the pictures have my touches on the room - both good and bad. Good because I painted it colors I like, bought new furniture, added feminine touches and feng shui’d it. I have a scented candle, a tabletop water fountain and a little pet bed for the furry friends who drop in to nap. Bad because it's not the neatest office in the world. Yes, I have a tendency to pile things, but that’s a comfort thing. I like it a little messy, though having it right next to the front door means I can't let it get too bad.

My bulletin board holds only positive things and inspiring quotes. It's in the Career area of the Bagua Map (Feng Shui) and reflects the things I do to promote myself and my writing, including a contest win ribbon, and compliments others have given me regarding my work. The basket contains my thumb drives and quotes on stars given to me by Margie Lawson, quotes that spoke to me. I'm rather careful about what I post here. Only my writing craft books and hard copies of my manuscripts go on the bookshelf in that area.

I have a tall bookshelf to the right of the one you see beneath the bulletin board. Yep, those are books teetering on the edge of those shelves. Right now they're two and three deep.

As Feng Shui encourages, I only put things in my office that I like and enjoy seeing. Things such as the Mother Earth poster, a statuette of a loving couple, a graceful vase from a friend (Thanks again, Darcy!), and pictures of friends and family. I didn't set out to collect them, but bears have found their way into my life, most of them from my hubby with various Valentines Day gifts. Those have a place in my office as well.

I won't go into all the things I placed in strategic places, but the one mirror in the room hangs in the relationship area and reflects the Wealth & Prosperity area. That can't be a bad thing, right?

There's just one other thing you should know. Now that I have my own space, I pay bills in there, I plan and plot and check e-mail and set up blog posts and...just about everything but write. Yeah, I don't understand it either. I love my office, love being in there. But most of the time I head across the foyer to the living room, middle of the couch and rest my feet on a big ottoman/coffee table to write. Go figure.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Please Welcome Guest Blogger Carrie Lofty

1-7-10 6:42 am - - UPDATE!!!! The winner of the signed copy of SCOUNDREL'S KISS is Linda Henderson!!! Yay!!! Linda, please send us your mailing information to pfhtbloggers@yahoo.com and we will forward it onto Carrie! Thank you, everyone, for coming by and visiting with us yesterday. And THANK YOU, Carrie, for blogging with us.



Please welcome Carrie Lofty as our guest blogger today. Carrier blends her love of history, romance and research by writing historical romances set in unusual times and places.

Two reviewers describe her work the best:

"Carrie Lofty [mixes] a skillful chemistry of intrigue, action, explosives and suspense with just the right touch of sugar and passion..."Audrey Lawrence, Fresh Fiction

"With its atypical setting and unique characters, Lofty's latest sweeps readers into a historical plot that tackles many contemporary themes in a meaningful and thought-provoking way. Kudos to Lofty for her innovative approach." 4 Stars Kathe Robin, Romantic Times

Carrier's first venture into historical romance began with her manuscript that was set in 1804 Salzburg. Shortly thereafter, she wrote what became What a Scoundrel Wants--her swashbuckling contribution to the Robin Hood legends--and an Italian time travel called "Sundial," which won The Wild Rose Press's "Through the Garden Gate" short story contest. Both stories were accepted for publication in autumn 2007. The Castilian-set sequel to What a Scoundrel Wants, called Scoundrel’s Kiss, features a warrior monk and an opium addict.

During the busy holiday season while keeping up with her two children, husband, three tabbies and a fish, we were able to chat about her interesting writing career.

You have a passion for history. What is your favorite period of history to write about? Why?

My passion for history means that I'm a complete sucker for the new and different. Sometimes I think that writing romance is simply a way for me to research to my heart's content! There are very few times or places I wouldn't consider for a story if the right inspiration came along.

How far do you deviate from historical facts in your romance novels?

I try to stay as true as I can to fact while still telling a wonderful story. My take on the Robin Hood myth in WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS was a little odd because so much of our image of that era is colored by legend and Hollywood. But whenever I can, I let readers know when I've intentionally deviated from history.

Most of your stories have unusual settings. Were you nervous about trying to sell stories that are in non-traditional romance settings?

Again, this goes back to my butterfly attention span. I flit from one period or setting to another, mostly out of my own curiosity. But I don't get nervous about the business part of it, not while I'm writing. I simply try to tell a story that's so compelling that editors and readers can't help but go along with my daring.

In December 2008, WHAT A SCOUNDRAL WANTS was released. This story is about Robin Hood's rakish nephew. Tell us a little bit about the book. What inspired it? Is there a deeper message in here for your readers?

In WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS, Robin Hood's estranged nephew, Will Scarlet, rescues the alchemist who can clear him of murder, but she's blind, obsessed with fire, and sister to the woman he helped kidnap. I was inspired by, of all things, Christian Slater in ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES. He was such an unformed character--nearly noble, kind of selfish, borderline heroic. I amped up his heroism and gave him the spotlight.

As for the deeper meaning, I suppose that would go back to Meg and her blindness. She has a great deal of trouble trusting and depending on people, for fear of ridicule. She's very much a "no one is an island" parable, while Will's story is all about growing up and taking responsibility for one's own mistakes.

Do you have any advice for writers working towards publication?

Oh, keep working! I spent years fiddling with various ideas, never finishing anything. It was only once I took my own ambition seriously that I could expect my family to do the same. Just remember that your story is worth telling. Your job is to get good enough to tell it as well as you can.

New Release

Tell us your latest news?

My latest release is SCOUNDREL'S KISS, which makes me so happy. I love this book, and I'm excited to see how well it's being received.

What are the ISBN numbers?

ISBN-10: 1420104764 and ISBN-13: 978-1420104769

What's the book about?

SCOUNDREL'S KISS is the stand-alone sequel to my Robin Hood-themed debut, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS. When last we saw Ada of Keyworth, she'd just been rescued from the Sheriff of Nottingham and had seriously burnt bridges with her family. She and a young admirer, Jacob ben Asher, head off to Spain together. But she's haunted by the unlawful and sickening torture she endured and turns to opium for relief...

Gavriel de Marqueda is a warrior on the verge of taking his vows with the Order of Santiago. Before he can do so, he must pass one final test: save Ada from herself. He's vowed obedience, nonviolence, and chastity, but Ada refuses to be held against her will, even for her own good, and vows to use every possible resource to thwart Gavriel's offer of aid.

Is it set in Spain? Why did you choose this location?

It's set in the Kingdom of Castile, which comprises part of modern-day Spain. Thinking back, I don't remember exactly what first started me thinking about Spain as a setting, but I knew I wanted to feature two elements to this story: a warrior monk and an opium addict. That meant I needed to find a place where their love could blossom. Spain was not only a hotbed of religious and military activity in the 13th century, but it was also along Arab trade routes. The Arabs traded with the Chinese, which mean that opium was available for purchase in Spain. Ta-dah! I'd found my setting.

What inspired you to write your book?

Ada, the heroine, inspired this book. She is a very selfish, terribly vulnerable and hurting woman at the close of WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS. I took her rather impetuous character to its natural extreme and thought her ripe for substance abuse--someone who doesn't want to look at past mistake and who'd very much like a quick end to pain. Then it was a matter of finding a man who was strong enough--and surprisingly, vulnerable enough--to set her on a path toward both recovery and love.

What, if any, obstacles did you encounter?

Oh, plenty! Writing this book was such a challenge. It was like tearing out a part of myself, then finding it completely inadequate to express what I was trying to convey. I wanted to give Ada a romantic happy ending, but first I had to make sure that I believed she would be strong enough to hold on to that happiness. And neither did I want to trivialize the struggle that is addiction. But in the end, I think it's the best story I've yet written.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

We can rely on others for aid and support, but the determination to overcome obstacles has to come from within.

Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?

I initially conceived of Gavriel, the hero, as a warrior monk. To my thinking, monks meant celibacy! However, the religious order that Gavriel joins was actually exceptionally liberal. They allowed monks to keep their own property, to bear arms against Islamic opponents, and to get married! They only practiced celibacy during Lent and other holy days. So I had to find a way for my hero to make the vows despite the liberal attitudes of his order. I think the results are very interesting, in that it's his own will--not the will of an outside force--that determines his very strict actions.

Launching a publisher

Your work is going to be released during Carina Press's launch in June 2010. I couldn't find a title on your site. If I'm not mistaken, this is the very first book you wrote. Tell us about it. What inspired it? Why Salzburg?

The book is currently untitled. I know, it's a little frustrating for me too! Set in 1804 Salzburg, a widowed violin prodigy begins a steamy affair with a renowned composer, only to learn that he stole the symphony he's most famous for.

Yes, it was my first completed manuscript. I was inspired by the movie AMADEUS, which is one of my favorites, and to a lesser extent by IMMORTAL BELOVED. I adore Gary Oldman, and his intense, slightly psychotic Beethoven fired up my imagination. I didn't want to set it during Mozart's time, but that's where I got the Austrian setting. From there I imagined what it would be like to have an amazing talent, only to hide it purposefully for fear of what society would think, The hero's secret, that he may not be as talented as people believe, was the flipside of that question.

What made you decide to go with Carina Press? How do you feel about this being a digital only book? Is there any chance that Carina may release it in print at some point?

I submitted this book to Carina when it first opened for submissions. The premise that they were looking for the stories that weren't being published really appealed to me. I mean, Napoleonic Salzburg? Really? I took a chance in writing it, and I was glad to get on board with a house that wants to take a chance on publishing it. With this being all digital, I think we're part of a big experiment. I'm curious to see where it goes from here.

Upcoming Workshops

Snakebite Scenes and Hollywood Plots: Writing Action with Heart

You have the beginning. You know how it should end. But what to do with those hundreds of pages in the middle? Use my so-called "snakebite scenes" to help characters acknowledge their deeper passions and bond over moments of danger--even when surviving everyday dramas--and analyze movie classics to see how Hollywood tells a rip-roaring story. For plotters, pantsers, and everyone in between, this course can unblock your creative process and help you add action and heart to every page.

Writing Process

Can you describe your writing process when creating a novel?

I start with the setting. Always. Then I research and brainstorm in tandem, trying to find my characters. What sort of people *could* have lived in this time and place? Are they native? Just passing through? There for the long haul? Bored and desperate to get out? Once I have the setting and the characters very firm in my mind, then I start writing and never look back. You could call me a prepared pantser!

General Advice

What advice would you give to people who "run out of creativity" when writing?

When I start a book, I sit down and brainstorm every possible plot point that could go into that project. I don't care how ridiculous--for example, in SCOUNDREL'S KISS, Ada was supposed to a dancing girl at one point. I just write it down. I then save that list for when I get stuck. In going back to it, I get excited about what drew me to the story in the first place. I never use all of it, and many elements are radically changed along the way, but it's a way of jogging my memory and rediscovering my love for the story.

Writing Workspace

The theme for the month of January is writing workspaces. Please describe your special writing space. Pros/cons. What would you do differently? Do you have a picture? Do you have any special recommendations to writers just getting ready to set up their writing space?

I have a desk in the bedroom I share with my husband. We live in a small condo with our daughters, so that area is my office. Sure I'd love a room of my own, but that would mean cleaning it! However, I generally don't create while at my desk. I'm far too easily distracted by the Internet. I'll take my Alphasmart to the couch, or when I'm being particularly stubborn and unproductive, I'll go to a coffee shop or the library. The desk is for bringing it all together, for networking and screwing around, for revisions. I'd love a bookcase just for romance novels. Maybe one day! As for recommendations, do what makes you the most productive. I need few distractions, but others may work best with bits of inspiration gathered around. Don't feel obligated to do it any one way!

Free Reads

My best free reads are the two pastiche stories I contributed to:

"The Unfeasibly Tall Greek Billionaire's Blackmailed Martyr-Complex Secretary Mistress Bride"

And its sequel:

"The Italian Gourmet-Baby-Food Baron's Ironically Pregnant Virgin Mistress"

The other free reads can be found on the Freebie page of Carrie's Web site.

Contest

Carrie is giving away a signed copy of SCOUNDREL'S KISS. To qualify to win, leave a comment for Carrie. A random name will be drawn from the list of those who commented. If you are not in the continental U.S., Carrie will ship the book wherever the Book Depsitory ships to, but it won't be signed.

Closing

Carrie, thank you for joining us today. We have enjoyed the insight into your unusal approach to historical romances. I look forward to reading your novels.

To learn more about Carrie and her writing, visit her Web site: http://www.carrielofty.com/