Monday, August 31, 2009

School Daze

A few days ago, I reminded my daughter I planned to snap her photo this morning before she left the house. Why? Because today was her first day of school. Not just school. College. I have photos of her first day of school for every year up to junior high when it became embarrassing that her friends might actually see her mother with a camera at the bus stop (let alone at the bus stop at all!) But even this time, she rolled her eyes.

"You are the world's biggest sap," she told me.

"Ummm...hello? Romance writer!" I reminded her. "I'm a sentimental sap and proud of it."

So, without further ado, I present Then and Now.

Tori, age 5, First Day of Kindergarten 1996

Tori, age 18, First Day of College, 2009

I can't believe how much she's changed, and yet, how much she looks the same! If you'll excuse me now, I need a very large glass of wine and a private place to cry a little...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guest Blogging Again!

Yup, today I'm over at the PASIC 2 B Read blog, discussing food. Because life isn't just about books. Stop by and say hi!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Release Day for A Run for the Money!

Today, my latest release from Avalon Books, A Run for the Money, is available at B&N, Amazon, and Avalon.

Interested? Maybe the synopsis will help:

Nicole Fleming and Dante LaPalma have nothing in common except an old man's legacy. Joe Corbet has promised them a great treasure awaits them--if they're clever enough to solve his riddles within a six month time frame. According to Joe's will, Nicole and Dante must participate in several excursions. After each adventure, a new clue will be presented and another requirement awaits. Only when they've completed every task in their journey will they discover the treasure meant just for them. Along the way, Nicole and Dante will be forced to share their secrets and place their faith in one another. But if they can learn to work together, they'll discover what's truly important in life. And maybe, just maybe, they'll find the greatest treasure of all: love.

Still not sure? How about an excerpt?

When Nicole Fleming squirmed, the sound of sweaty thighs unsticking from her leather chair resonated like a blaring trumpet. Inside the conference room for the law offices of Stern, Stern and Weitzman, two pairs of male eyes mirrored disgust. Oh, God, how embarrassing. Why hadn’t she worn pantyhose today?

Because encasing legs in nylon during Manhattan’s dog days of July better suited a game show challenge than a will reading. Between the hellish temperatures in subway tunnels and the swelter rising up from city asphalt street-side, an extra layer of clothing would have wilted her long before she reached the mausoleum lobby here.

Fresh heat rocketed up her cheeks. Muttering a low, “Sorry,” to the staring gentlemen, she averted her gaze to the wall of leather-bound books on her right. Their red and green spines, embossed with gold lettering, were at least two inches thick. Had the attorney really read all those books? Who had that much free time?

Not her. She barely finished one month’s Cosmo before the next issue landed in her mailbox.

At the head of the long mahogany table, Andrew Stern, Esquire, cleared his throat and shuffled a sheaf of papers atop a manila folder. “If I may continue…?”

Nodding, Nicole straightened. The man seated across from her stared with the intensity of a buzzard on a dying gazelle. Who was this guy? And why were there just the two of them in this room with the attorney? Papa Joe had dozens of friends, and, if memory served, a daughter with a family of her own. So how come she was stuck with Mr. Monogrammed Shirtsleeves and the unblinking vulture of doom? Where were the truly grieving? Those who’d loved Papa Joe the way she had?

“There are, of course,” Mr. Stern said, lifting a longer sheet from the pile of standard-sized papers, “a few charitable donations and family obligations. But the bulk of Mr. Corbet’s estate will fall to the two of you, depending upon your adherence with his final wishes.”

Nicole sniffed. Some estate. As far as she knew, Papa Joe’s only worldly possession was a mangled mass of chrome, once a primo 1980 Harley Davidson Roadster. At least, until a tractor trailer made an illegal U-turn, destroying both ride and rider.

Tears pricked her eyelids. Never again would she hear his folksy voice, spouting the wisdom of the ages. His chipped-front-tooth smile would never flash in welcome. She’d never again smell his unique scent of motor oil and Old Spice in her kitchen.

“Exactly how much money are we talking about?” the vulture asked.

His callousness transformed Nicole’s grief to smoldering anger. “Wow.” She forced a light air far from the turmoil churning her gut. “Did you leave your membership card at the door?”

Dark eyes flashed like the silver wrapper on a semi-sweet chocolate bar. “What membership card?”

“The one that verifies you’re human.” When he continued to stare blankly, she added, “You know. A guy with a working heart.”

With the speed of a snapped cable, his jaw dropped. Good. In the few minutes she’d spent with him here, she’d picked up his vibe. Few people dared challenge him.

Correction. Few women dared challenge him. No wonder, really. Whoever he was, this man had the sultry look of palm trees in sunset, drinks with teeny umbrellas, and warm Caribbean water kissing bare flesh. Under normal circumstances, she might have found the whole Fantasy Island package a turn-on. But Papa Joe’s sudden death had encased her in dry ice.

Eyes narrowing to cobra slits, the man whirled to the attorney at the head of the table. “Who is this woman?”

Mr. Stern blinked several times. Finally, he cocked his head. “Mr. LaPalma, this is Ms. Fleming. Nicole Fleming. Your grandfather’s stepdaughter.”

As if swerving to avoid an oncoming truck, Mr. LaPalma suddenly rolled back his chair. “She’s the succubus’s daughter?”

Fine hairs danced on Nicole’s nape. “Could you control the urge to talk about me like I’m the senile auntie in the corner? If you want to know about me, Mr. LaPalma, why not ask me?”

A smile, filled with the same snake-like malice as his eyes, bloomed over his face. “Yup. You’re the succubus’s daughter, all right.”

Any response she made now would only cause delight. So she ignored him. Not because of some perceived insult at his calling her mother a succubus. After all, Papa Joe had assigned that particular term of endearment to his ex-wife years ago.

No. Having this stranger draw a link between her and Ice Princess Rhoda stung. Okay, so maybe she should have expected a rude retort after her crack about him not being human. But his barb had struck extra-tender flesh. Hands folded in her lap, she settled her gaze on Mr. Stern’s disapproving frown.

“I’d advise you two to put aside whatever petty differences you harbor,” the attorney said. “Your tasks will be inordinately easier if you get along.”

“T-tasks? What tasks?” An anxiety train barreled through her veins, sparking jitters in her blood.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Phrases I'd Love Stricken From the English Language, Part III

Today's phrase is "What do you want (or what would you like to do) for your birthday?"

I know; it sounds innocuous enough.

But here's the thing: I've got a birthday coming up. And over the last several days, I've been pressured by family and friends to (basically) shop for myself. Now, I have to admit: The Girl tried to surprise me.

I've often lamented I never had a Sweet Sixteen, that in fact, I spent my 16th birthday babysitting my brother's children and didn't receive so much as a card from anyone in my family (though the kids and I made some really colorful cupcakes!) Sure it was decades ago. But I'm still scarred by it. (A joke, folks! I mention it as a guilt trip whenever my kids act like I "owe" them a party or celebration of some sort.) This year, the girl started planning me a Surprise Sweet Sixteen Party. Lucky for her, she decided to run the idea by me before it got fully off the ground. I love my kids, but I hate surprise parties. And the scheduling of this particular event would have been a major league nightmare. Between my own day job, football practice, and my friends' schedules, I probably would have wound up with a good twenty minutes of quality party time with all the invited guests. At least, she tried.

Her next suggestion? Let's tattoo Mom! I made the mistake of mentioning if I ever got a tattoo (fat chance) I'd put it on my big toe. This way, I'd know I had it, but no one else *except a coroner* would see it unless I opted to show it to them. Dear Daughter took that as a wish and decided I had to have a heart tattooed somewhere on my body. She's already lined up friends to go with me for moral support.

But I digress. The most pressure seems to come from the Hubster. I admit, I don't make it easy on him (or anyone else for that matter.) I have plenty of jewelry and I don't like massages so the standards are out. Flowers are nice, but they die within a week so what's the point? There are no concerts or shows I'm interested in seeing right now. I'm currently happy with my electronics and although I'm thinking of a new notebook and an e-reader, those are pretty big ticket items that I'd prefer dh didn't spend money on right now. (We're currently new car shopping and paying The Girl's college tuition.) So, okay. Just take me out for a nice dinner. Which inevitably leads to the question...

Where would you like to go?

I'm an oddity when it comes to food. Whenever dh and I go out to eat, I immediately look for one of two entrees to satisfy my palate--the two things I don't make at home (because no one else will eat them): duck or rack of lamb. Dh far prefers seafood to meat. I have a few fave restaurants I go to for my duck/lamb requirements, but this is a Special Night, so the "usual" isn't good enough. Which means dh wants to take me someplace new. And fearful, he might opt for a place that doesn't have my fave menu items, he wants me to choose.

You know what? Maybe we should just skip the celebration altogether. I already have everything I want in life: a loving husband, two terrific kids, an exciting career, and a car I want to be buried in. Who could ask for anything more?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Authors Night 2009

The joint was jumpin' so photo opportunities were few and far between, but I did manage to snap a few shots before the madness and one or two to show the crowds. The weather was perfect, the crowds were friendly and we even had a brush or two with celebrities!

We arrived about 30 minutes prior to the event, found our books piled on the table in front of our seats and set up our promo items.

The lovely Candace Gold at her seat (right next to mine!), before the public was allowed in.

This shot was taken from my seat so don't expect to recognize anyone. It's more about getting the feel of the crowd and a hint of just how many authors were in attendance.

Authors Night was a great experience. I spoke to fans and new readers, talked craft with other authors, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. You can bet I'll be back next year.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Authors Night Tonight!

Tonight's the annual East Hampton Authors Night. Please join me and more than 100 authors and celebrities at a gala event to raise funds for the local library. It promises to be a starry night!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Welcome to the Craft Fair

It occurred to me I haven't written a "craft" kind of post in a while. So, here goes nothing. (No, really.)

Recently, a fellow writer asked my opinion regarding POV (point of view). Her editor told her a sentence in her manuscript changed her POV, but she disagreed. I asked the writer to read me the entire paragraph before the sentence and...yeah. I came down on the editor's side.

How's the best way to explain POV? Pretend you're an actor/actress. The book you're writing is your script. Now immerse yourself in the character who's relating the scene. What does (s)he see, feel, hear, taste, and say? When it comes to POV, dialogue is the least important (though still vital--if your character is an eighteenth century duke, he's clearly not going to utter the phrase, "Surf's up, dudes!")

For argument's sake, let's use the names Linda and Larry. (I'm in an alliteration mood right now. Roll with it.) If we're in Linda's POV, she'll see Larry's expressions, hear what he says, feel her own reactions to what's happening around her. She can only assume what Larry sees, hears, and most importantly, feels. That last one usually gets writers into trouble (including my friend from the opening paragraph.) So if we're in Linda's POV, a sentence like, "Larry couldn't believe his ears" is a no-no. You can write, "Larry's widened eyes and slack jaw suggested he didn't believe her" because that's still in Linda's POV. Linda is assuming Larry's thoughts, based on what she sees. She might be wrong. Maybe Larry's wide-eyed and slack-jawed because there's a tarantula crawling up Linda's shoulder. But unless Linda suddenly feels the furry-legged sensation, turns and notices the black arachnid creeping closer, or hears the words, "Umm, Linda? There's a spider on you" she can only assume the reason behind Larry's expression.

Does that make sense? Or would you like another example? Write and let me know!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

It's a Contest, Auntie Em!

On August 24, my new book from Avalon Books, A Run for the Money, hits the bookshelves. This also coincides with my birthday in the same week. To celebrate, Coffee Time Romance is hosting a contest. You can win an autographed copy of A Run for the Money. How? Simple.

Start at my website's Books page where you'll find the cover for A Run for the Money. Click on the cover (or simply click here) to read the excerpt.

Go to the Coffee Time Romance Contest Page, scroll down to my name and answer the questions about the excerpt. A winner will be drawn from all those with the correct answers!

Good luck!