Saturday, May 30, 2009

New Cover Day--Part II



Came home from a meeting with Dunes & Dreams and found a large brown envelope in the mail. Tucked inside? Copies of the cover for my new release from Avalon Books, A Run for the Money.


Since this is the actual cover and not an emailed jpeg file, it might not be as clear as I'd like. (I scanned it on my home computer.) Until I get a clearer copy from my editor, enjoy the sneak preview!



Thursday, May 28, 2009

And the Raves Keep Coming!

Thanks to G-Girl Gilda, who found this review from Passionate Reviews and told me about it. In a nutshell, my new favorite reviewer wrote about A Little Slice of Heaven:

"...I just loved this story. It made me feel very warm and fuzzy as I read it..."

Wow! Thanks! This review made me just as warm and fuzzy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I Should Have My Head Examined!

No, really.

I'm still suffering from the same ailment I've had since January--a staph infection in my sinuses. Since I've been on half a dozen antibiotics, three different nasal sprays, and that medieval torture device: the Netti Pot, I really shouldn't still be in so much pain. So tomorrow, my ENT specialist has set me up with a CT scan to take a look at my thick skull.

At least it's not the swine flu. But boy, I'd sell a kidney to ditch the headaches and the constant post nasal drip. Of course, the constant rain here only exacerbates the condition. Maybe my brother was right: I should just live in a mall.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

New Cover Day!

One of the things I love about working with The Wild Rose Press is the talent of their cover artists. And once again, they've come through with a gorgeous bit of art for my book, Kismet's Angel. Special thanks to the talented Tamra Westberry for capturing my words in such a beautiful picture!


What say you?



Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Trouble With Pantsing



Since finishing No Earthly Business, I've toyed with several ideas for new stories or revamping old ones. Unfortunately, Gertrude (my enigmatic muse if you're new here) hasn't really settled on one she likes yet. Gertrude has Writer's ADD, an insidious illness that strikes those of us not disciplined enough to say to our muses, "I don't care what you say. I'm writing this story, so deal!"




Now, I admit. I'm not a really stern parent. I'm more a don't-sweat-the-small-stuff kinda gal. So I tend to let Gertrude run amok until she finally seizes upon something that commands her focus. And then, we're off and writing. When this procedure works, the result is a terrific story and an excitement to hit the keyboard every day that hums around me. The best part of all? With Gertrude and I in synch, I've never been disappointed in the final result.



When Gertrude is still scattered, however, it can be frustrating for me and my legion of readers. I'm constantly asked, "What happened to that story about...?" And my standard reply is always, "I scrapped it for now."



There are lots of reasons Gertrude and I will scrap a story. The plot might not be coming together the way we originally anticipated. Our hero and heroine might not like each other. Maybe the conflict isn't strong enough to sustain the amount of pages needed.



Currently, I have six manuscripts I've scrapped at different intervals. I don't delete them; they simply sit in a temporary folder until Gertrude finally figures out the flaws and gets excited to work with the characters again. So if my progress bar doesn't move for a while or I suddenly switch gears and start talking about a different story, be patient.



Eventually, Gertrude will lead me to something stellar. After all, she hasn't let me down yet.







Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chapter 215!

No, not in any WIP or book I'm reading. Chapter 215 is the official number given to Dunes & Dreams as one of the newest chapters of RWA!

It began over lunch at a local seafood restaurant on a cold Sunday afternoon in December 2008. In attendance were myself, Debora Dennis and Candace Gold. We discussed our ideas for a new organization for romance authors, geared toward those far-flung members on the eastern end of Long Island who had difficulty attending meetings in Nassau and Western Suffolk counties. As the Diet Coke flowed, we tossed around ideas for a chapter name, a logo, a motto, a contest, and even, eventually, a conference. We thought about prospective members we believed would most benefit from our location and our mission statement.


Jazzed on excitement and caffeine, we immediately began the task of making our conversation into a real entity. The result is Dunes & Dreams RWA, Chapter 215 of the Romance Writers of America. If you're looking for a chapter that will help you make your writing dreams come true, why not give us a try? You don't have to live on Long Island to gain benefits of membership. And if you do live on Long Island, we'd love to meet you and let you see for yourself if we're your perfect fit.


Our next meeting will be on Saturday, May 30 at the Mastics/Moriches/Shirley Library. Join us to celebrate this milestone, get involved in our organization, and take a step toward making your publishing dreams come true!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another Book Rant? Well, sort of...

One of my recent reads was a book by an author whose works I used to devour on a regular basis. At one time, I had half a dozen favorites among her collection, stories I'd re-read again and again, or just flip to favorite scenes to analyze how she'd put them together and figure out what made them work for me. This last one almost hit the wall. My problems?
1. Too much backstory: the history of two countries plus a whole bunch of machinations between secondary characters.
2. Too many secondary characters: I had to start writing them down to keep track.
3. Too much headhopping.
4. The H/h don't meet until Chapter 26!!!
Chapter 26! Swear to God!
To be honest, I don't know why I kept reading (particularly if you read my post on life being too short for bad books), but I plowed onward, ever onward. Eventually, the book got better. And I enjoyed the main characters and their storyline. BUT... (you knew there'd be a "but," right?)
Why did it have to take so long to get there?
Did Famous Author decide she no longer needs an editor? (Because she's dead wrong.)
While I liked the story, I didn't love it. The issues stayed with me throughout and I knew the ending long before I got there. The upshot? I'll definitely think twice (or more times) before I pick up another book written by a lady who used to be an "automatic buy" for me.
Has any author disappointed you this way? If so, what issues caused you to break up with that author?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Excerpt Monday: Kismet's Angel--Prologue

It's Excerpt Monday over at the Romance Divas. For today's treat, I thought I'd share the prologue for my first historical romance, written under my alias, Katherine Brandon, for The Wild Rose Press. I hope you'll enjoy it.

PROLOGUE

In a glistening castle spun from vapor and dreams, Kismet, the goddess of fate, sits upon her celestial throne. While she awaits word from her handmaidens, her fingers drum the armrest, scattering astral dust into perfumed air.


At last the dark-haired Rosamond, mistress of the virtuous, flutters into the chamber and makes her obeisance. “She has arrived, Peerless One,” her melodic voice sings. “Nearly a month too soon.”


“Nevertheless,” Kismet replies, a gentle chastisement, “she is welcome.”


Rising in the mauve sky, the goddess transmutes to pour as incandescent gold into the viewing room. While a cluster of lovely women watches, the light grows denser until the goddess returns to her opaque form. “Where is she, Rosamond?”


“Hyderabad, India, Peerless One. On earth, the year is 1793.”


From her special aperture, Kismet searches the blue planet, but discerns nothing save darkness and rain. A wave of her hand sends a flash of lightning to hurtle downward, illuminating the earthen sky and a ramshackle cottage’s occupant...


****

Summer lightning speared the gloomy room, startling Ahmed Manu from his chair. He trudged to the window and lifted a trembling hand to the ragged curtain. Nothing stirred but the banyan trees, shuddering beneath the wind’s fury, weeping in grief.


I will not cry. He dropped the curtain. I will not cry.


What would become of him now? Only Kismet knew what the Nizam would do when he learned of his favorite child’s death. The hairs on the back of Ahmed’s neck prickled at the imagined cold steel of a royal executioner’s axe.


Outside, thunder rumbled, combining with the low thud of approaching hooves.


Inhaling courage from the storm, he opened the scarred wooden door. The wind whipped, and the force knocked Ahmed against the wall. On the heels of the gusts, a man raced inside.


“Sarita!” The man removed his sodden cloak, tossing it on the chair before turning to Ahmed. “Where is she? Where is my wife? Is she well?”


Dropping his gaze to the rainwater pooling on the dirt floor, Ahmed choked out the dreadful words. “She--she is dead, Louis. And the child with her.”


“Dead?” The pain in Louis’s voice tore into him like talons. “No, she can’t be.”


I will not cry...

“I-I’m sorry. The midwife did all she could. But the babe was too big. Sarita could take no more.”


“Our child,” Louis murmured. “Was it a son or a daughter?”


“The babe was a girl. She never took a breath. Now she sleeps in her mother’s arms for eternity.” Ahmed dared not look at Louis, couldn’t bear to see the agony his words inflicted. He’d made Sarita a promise--his very last service to his beloved princess. Despite the wrongness of it, he’d hold fast to his vow. “Your wife’s only thoughts were of you. She insisted you leave India before the Nizam learns of our tragedy.”


“I would see them first.” Louis strode toward the bedchamber. “I would say goodbye.”


Panic welled. Ahmed leaped to place his hands flat upon the man’s chest, halting any forward motion. “Sarita did not wish you to see her in death. As for the child, your loss will be easier to bear if you’ve never seen her. A faceless memory does not linger.”


As if voicing displeasure, the winds howled and rattled the door. Another stab of remorse pierced Ahmed’s heart. Why had Sarita heaped such a large burden upon him? How long could he keep his secret from Louis’s acute senses? In an effort at distraction, he reached for the sodden cloak still draped over the chair. Rainwater rolled off the garment and splashed onto his bare feet, the rhythm of tears.


I will not cry...


Pulling the grief-stricken man forward, he wrapped the cloak around him. “I’ve secured your passage onboard a merchantman, The Christman. She leaves on the morning tide for Batavia. From there, you must find your way home.”


“Home?” Louis’s dirt-streaked face clouded with grief. “I no longer have a home. Sarita was my home.”


Guilt sliced Ahmed in half. Before he broke and allowed the truth to escape, he led Louis out into the maelstrom. Hard rain pinged his cheeks as he helped Louis mount the saddled horse still standing in the midst of the deluge. “May Kismet smile upon you always, sir,” he shouted above the monsoon’s wind.


Slapping the beast on the rump, he sent horse and rider away. When their shadows disappeared in the dark and rain, he sloshed through ankle-deep mud to return to the house. Once the door closed on nature’s fury, he pressed his dripping head to the rough wood. The deed was done.


A mewling cry broke from the bedchamber. Ahmed hurried into the room, careful to avert his gaze from the lifeless body lying atop blood-soaked bedclothes. The cries grew louder when he lifted a swaddled bundle from a wooden cradle at the bedside.


He removed the blanket covering the child’s head and kissed the feathery hair. “Hush, my little princess,” he crooned, rubbing the infant’s back. “All will be well. Did I not promise your beautiful mother I’d take care of you? Uncle Ahmed is here. I’ll always be here. Don’t cry.”


Unbidden, the litany began again in his brain. I will not cry. I will not cry...


At last the babe quieted and snored against his neck. Only then did he allow the tears to slide down his cheeks. He cried until he was completely devoid of moisture as the storm clouds outside did the same.


He was twelve years old.

***END***

And don't forget to check out a few more excerpts, available through the Excerpt Monday list! These talented authors would love to share their genius with you. Need a few recommendations?

For another take on historical, try Kaige's excerpt from The Flower Queen's Daughter.

Inez Kelly's got a great rom-com excerpt from Jinxed.

Like a little suspense with your romance? Then check out Annie Nicholas's Bait.

For a hotter historical read, pop over to Vivienne Westlake's blog for an excerpt from Secrets Uncovered (over the age of 21 only please!)

And if you're looking for a middle grade adventure, you can't go wrong with Ansha Kotyk's Gangsterland.

Enjoy the samples and be sure to drop a note to the authors to let them know how much you liked their work. Monday Pop Quiz will return next week, so be ready!



Saturday, May 9, 2009

Juggling On a Tightrope Above the Flames



The fact that I currently have a heaping plate of issues screaming to be addressed on a daily basis can only mean one thing:


It's time to start my next WIP.





I know. I'm a lunatic. But it seems I not only thrive on pressure, I crave it to the point I self-administer. By the gallon. Don't believe me? Here's a partial list of current items on my to-do list. (I reiterate: this is a partial list! Some things going on in my personal life are far too personal to discuss here.)





As President of Dunes & Dreams, I'm on a whirlwind promo tour for our upcoming Mid-Summer Day's Booksigning (some details can be found in the right margin of this blog; more will be forthcoming as the day nears).






We're also thisclose to receiving our incorporation from NY, the final stumbling block to RWA chapter affiliation. And we're recruiting members and guest speakers for upcoming workshops and programs.






The Girl is in her last throes of College Shopping. Let the car shopping adventure begin. I have one (count 'em...ONE!) payment left on my car. Now originally, we bought dh's car with the idea that when the Girl got her license, she'd take that one, dh would take mine, and, knowing we'd be just about finished with the loan on mine, I'd get a new car. Sounds good, right? But... I love my car. I've always claimed I want to be buried in my car (which is bizarre because I want to be cremated, but I figure they can just cram my rigid corpse into the driver's seat and then set the whole vehicle ablaze--my own version of the Viking Funeral.) I'm not so sure I want to give it up. We could buy a new car for dh, but he parks at a train station all day and I hesitate to have him leaving a brand spanking new baby unattended with some of the inconsiderate jerks I've seen parking in those lots. And so the dilemma runs rings around us.








I have four (count 'em...FOUR) graduations in the coming few weeks. My godson graduates college next month (and I couldn't be prouder of that kid if he were my own.) My Girl graduates high school, as does her cousin (my godson's brother). And My Boy graduates elementary school. Somewhere along the line, we screwed up the Family Planning bit. Epic fail there.






I'm Agent Shopping my last manuscript, No Earthly Business and I just won The Knight Agency's Book in a Nutshell Contest for my blurb on that story. I've also figured out a way to revive Nobody's Darling...possibly for Avalon Books.




July brings RWA National and the annual family vacation (which may be extremely poignant this year, but that's a story for another time). August brings the release of A Run for the Money.






So...umm...yeah. Now's the perfect time to start a new book. What's it about? Well...it's a sequel to No Earthly Business. As yet, it's untitled, so I just call it "Sean's Story." I'll be adding a progress bar to my margin of goodies on the right so we can all see how well I really do under pressure. Stay tuned for all the inherent pitfalls when I burn a toe or two on this high-wire act!






Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Is Life Too Short for Bad Books?

I used to be one of those readers who'd keep slogging through a story--no matter how bored I became with it. Before my publishing days, I did it in the naive hope the story might get better. When I started writing, I continued reading to the end of every book to figure out what about the story made it publishable. (I often came to The End with no real conclusion!)
Now, I find myself growing too impatient to continue reading all the way through. And when I do continue, I often become more judgmental about the scenes or plot holes that bother me.
Case in point: I'm currently reading two books I'm having trouble with. In the first, our intrepid heroine is being chased by bad guys. What's a girl to do but have sex with a virtual stranger--not once, not twice, but half a dozen times? (All with the same guy, but still!) And the hero has decided he's in love with our hormonal-enslaved heroine within two hours (or three sex sessions, if you prefer to keep track that way) of their meeting. Ain't love grand?
In the second book, our heroine is in a rut in her marriage and suddenly decides she's in love with her newest employee-- a guy she obsesses over for the next three hundred pages. At work, at home, at dinner parties, she's constantly thinking about this guy, fantasizing about him, anticipating every meet-up will end with a kiss, even though he's given her no indication he's the slightest bit interested in her. I knew this was going to be a difficult story when she was checking out his butt during the interview. And of course, conveniently, halfway through the book, the reader discovers the husband is having an affair (I'm guessing the author knew we'd be dividing our loyalties and sought to soothe our heroine's conscience.)
The first book...I gave up and tossed it. The second? Despite my constant utterances of, "Oh, come on already! This is ridiculous!" I'm still reading it. Why? I think because it's like that proverbial accident on the side of the road, I just can't stop myself from seeing how far into the bizarre we'll go.
So...what about you? Do you toss the book against the wall, or, for whatever reason, continue to read?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Happy Birthday to Two of My Favorite Girls!

Today, May 3, two very special ladies celebrate their birthdays. The first is my little girl--who is quick to remind me she's an adult now. Eighteen. Dang! How'd that happen? I swear, I blinked and bam! The baby became a lady. So a special message to the girl who still makes my heart smile every time she walks in a room:


I luv ya, kiddo. Keep making me proud and never forget what I've told you when it comes to your future. Love what you do; do what you love. The rest will take care of itself.


Our second birthday crown wearing gal is the uber-talented, prose-so-damn-good-she-makes-me-weep author, Shelby Reed. This lady challenges me to be a better writer, as well as a better person. She's got a heart wide as Texas and a generous spirit you can't help but admire. If you've never picked up a Shelby Reed story, do your soul a favor and treat yourself to the magic of her stellar words. You won't be disappointed.


Happy birthday, my lovelies. May each of you live your own Happily Ever Afters every day of your lives. You deserve nothing less!





Friday, May 1, 2009

I'm Baaaaaaack!

Well, it took a few days and a lot of finagling on my part, but both my Gina Ardito site and my Katherine Brandon site are updated, fully functional, and active once again. Next project? Maybe I should get back to writing? Okay...Monday's soon enough. Today, I have a few minor things to tackle before I can fully focus on a new (or soon to be revised) story.
I've been playing in my head with an oldie but goodie: Nobody's Darling. One of a trilogy about three sisters and their relationship with their men and each other. "Darling" was the only story I ever completed and while I love the hero and heroine, the plotline's become a little dated since I originally wrote the manuscript. So...it just might be time for a major league overhaul. IF I can come up with a plausible setup for these two.
Don't forget: Sunday I'll be at the Wading River Duck Pond Day Festival under the Bookworm Publishing tent! I'd love to see you there!