Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Five: Five Favorite Books I Read in 2011

I set myself a goal this year on my Goodreads page: to read 50 new books between January and December. (For the record, I read 57, which means I have to up the ante for 2012). Here are a few faves from this year's reading list (with links to where to find them on Amazon):

1. Reason to Believe by Leslie Ann Dennis
2. Shut Up and Kiss Me by Carolyn Hughey
3. Blood and Bone by Dawn Brown
4. Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis
5. One Summer by JoAnn Ross

I hope you found a new treasure in this list. Feel free to recommend something to me! I've got a lot of reading to do for next year!

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Still Just $7.07 at Amazon!

Yup. You can still get your copy of Book I of my Nobody series, Nobody's Darling, for seven bucks at Amazon. That's a $16.00 savings! So why haven't you ordered one? For yourself, for your friend, for that lady at work who's always reading, for your mom (it's sweet with no sex, violence, or harsh language!). It's a great stocking stuffer for any reality television fan, for any romance fan, or for anyone who might need a little warmth in the coming winter months. Need a sneak peak to whet your appetite? Okay. I'll oblige, but first, the blurb:

April Raine was married and pregnant at eighteen, divorced ten years later, and has struggled to provide for her children. Now a successful businesswoman, she accepts a challenge from a daytime talk show to compete in a thirty-day battle of the sexes. April is up against a television psychologist who claims her organization hurts the very people she alleges to help.

Dr. Jefferson Prentiss, television's Dr. Jeff, is haunted by the loss of his wife and newborn son, and by his role in their deaths. To atone, he's dedicated his professional life to the ideals of family. The talk show challenge presents him with the opportunity to prove not only the sagacity of his self-help book, but the inherent danger of paying strangers to perform those family tasks that should be done out of love and nurture.

Once inside an isolated cabin filled with videotaping equipment, April and Jeff learn from each other, tackle their demons, and discover a new awareness between them: love.

Now, the excerpt:

The rich, nutty smell of coffee tickled April’s nostrils, rousing her in a way a buzzing alarm clock never had--subtly, sensually, one heavenly sniff at a time. She couldn’t decide whether to get up and follow the hypnotic odor or snuggle deeper into the blankets for more sleep. Her eyelids fluttered once, twice, but she didn’t have the energy to fully open them, no matter how intoxicating the scent around her.
The coffee’s aroma mingled with spicy cologne. Cloves, one of her favorites. Content to allow her other senses to revel in the stimulants they experienced, she refused to open her eyes.
“Wake up, darling,” a male voice whispered low in her ear.
“Mmmm,” she sighed and rolled over. “Five more minutes…”
Hold it. A male voice? In her bedroom? And calling her, “darling?”
She sat bolt upright in the bed, eyes round and wide, heart pounding. Her hands clawed at the blankets until she clutched them to her chin. When her vision finally focused, Jeff’s solid frame and easy smile registered on her frantic brain cells.
She let out a deep sigh of relief. “You scared me to death!”
Jeff was already dressed in a sweater and jeans ensemble. The sweater had a charcoal gray shadow-stripe pattern. The hue brought silver glints to his eyes, like dew sparkling on freshly mowed grass.
Wake up, sweetie! It’s a little too early in the morning to wax poetic.
“I brought you a cup of coffee,” he said, indicating the white mug he held. “David will be here in an hour. You’ll probably want to shower and dress before he arrives, and it’s important we discuss how we’re going to handle today’s interview. Privately.”
Only one sentence in his little speech registered in her sleep-filled mind. “You…brought me…coffee?”
God, she sounded like the heroine in a bad comic book movie--ready to swoon because the hero brought her the magic elixir of life. But no one had ever brought her coffee in bed before. Not even on Mother’s Day or her birthday.
Squelching ripples of delight, she reached to take the mug from him. It really was coffee, and it was still hot. She sipped the brew, and the spicy tang tickled her tongue.
“Thanks, Jeff. This was just what I needed before today’s torture begins.”
“No charge,” he said as he took the cup from her and headed toward the door. “There’s a full pot downstairs when you’re ready. For now, I’ll give you some time to get up, shower, and dress. But don’t take too long. We want to rehearse what we’re going to say to Grant and Jocelyn before David shows up and starts screeching about spontaneity.”
Once she was certain he’d returned to the kitchen, she tossed off the blankets and rose from her bed. Stretching the kinks out of her back, she heaved a deep sigh. The last two people she wanted to face today were Satan’s sidekicks--Grant and Jocelyn. At least having Jeff on her side, rather than against her, would ease today’s interview. The man exuded confidence. Not to mention sex appeal.
She shook her head to dislodge her bizarre thoughts.
April, honey, you really have to get a hold of yourself. Remember that song from South Pacific.
With a broad smile stretching across her cheeks, she broke into a chorus of, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.”
Yes, indeed. A nice hot shower is what I need to clear the idiocy from my brains.
She strolled into the bathroom humming her new mantra and stopped short before the sink. Ah, and so it begins, she thought with disgust. Globs of green shaving gel and black stubble coated the basin. He couldn’t take a minute to rinse this filth out? So much for being thankful Jeff was with her.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Another New Cover!

Today, it's Katherine's turn to brag. She finally got her cover and release date for her latest historical, Echoes of Love. Once again, the multi-talented Tamra Westberry captured my story to perfection. What's that? You want a blurb? Okay!

Royal governess Chesna Dubrow must protect the five-year-old king of Amatia from Napoleon Bonaparte's invading army. To do so, she'll be forced to wed one of the emperor's loyal soldiers. But Pietor Gabris isn't any soldier. Years ago, he broke Chesna's heart, forgetting the vows they'd made to love each other forever.

Pietor's return to Amatia is embroiled in subterfuge. Amidst the deceit surrounding him, he clings to the one truth he cannot ignore--his timeless love for Chesna. Yet confessing what's in his heart would sentence them both to death. To keep Chesna safe, he must portray the role of traitor, ensuring her animosity continues to blow hot and harsh.

As danger and intrigue swirl around the palace, can Chesna place her faith--and heart--with the one man she swore she'd never forgive?

Echoes of Love will be available in May 2012 from The Wild Rose Press.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Cover!

Came home to a few nice surprises yesterday, and the email from Avalon Books in my inbox was one of the top two. It contained the cover for the third book in my Nobody series, Nobody's Perfect. Ready?

Nice, right? It matches the other two in the series and I love the little heart on the microphone. Why a microphone? Because my hero this time around is a radio deejay. Here's the blurb:

To outsiders, Summer Raine has a perfect life. But inside her perfect home, her perfect marriage has fallen apart. Still, she never expected to have her husband's infidelity aired on Cliff Hanger's nationally syndicated radio show. Once she's tossed the cheater out, she hopes to start her own business as a wedding planner. Funds, however, are in short supply. Lucky for Summer, her sister April hires her to work at Rainey-Day-Wife until she can get back on her feet again. But...Summer? A nanny?

Craig Hartmann spends his work days as Cliff Hanger, shock jock, but in real life, he's a quiet, divorced father of three trying to hang onto his family and his sanity. What he needs is someone who'll help him find the perfect balance. When he seeks an expert at Rainey-Day-Wife, he's stunned to find himself face to face with the woman whose life he ruined in a radio stunt gone awry.

Juggling sports practices, temper tantrums, and trips to the emergency room while planning the celebrity wedding of her sister's dreams, Summer discovers that the "perfect" life is one where nothing ever goes as planned. But this hunky deejay, his three rambunctious children, and all the chaos they engender just might be a close-to-perfect fit for Summer.

Nobody's Perfect will be available in February 2012.

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In Memoriam: The Day That Would Live in Infamy

Take a moment today to remember the loss of so many brave and dedicated people!

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Five: Five Things I'm Looking Forward To This Weekend

It's the first weekend in December and I've got big plans! "What are you up to now?" you ask. Well, I'll tell you:

1. I'm speaking at the monthly meeting of the Rhode Island Romance Writers tomorrow. The topic is Hips Don't Lie: Body Language Between the Sexes. I've added some new facts and fun into the mix so if you're in the area of the Cumberland Library, stop down (or up).

2. Did I mention I'm going there with Trisha and Flo? Because what's a star without an entourage? And these two ladies always keep me laughing and always make a fun time even better simply by being there.

3. The Newport Mansions are all decked out for Christmas and we'll be at the Breakers tomorrow night for their special celebration.

4. Providence! No, not the divine intervention, silly. The city. I've been assured Rhode Island's "not that big." So we'll spend time in Providence on Sunday before the drive back home. Yay, sightseeing! And I hafta hit a Christmas store for an ornament/souvenir. Family tradition.

5. While I'm partying in Rhode Island, my local chapter, Dunes & Dreams, will hold its annual elections, and guess who's on the slate? Yep. I'm running (unopposed) for 2012 Vice President. (Only in RWA is it not a demotion to go from President to Vice President.)

Don't worry. I'm bringing the camera.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: Will You Be Missed When You're Gone?

This week's rude awakening doesn't just apply to writers, but to anyone who works in an organization (be it a volunteer or paying gig) with more than two other people.

We all have opinions, we all have ideas, and we don't always see eye-to-eye. Healthy debate is good for any organization or corporation. Some of the best ideas come from brainstorming in a friendly environment where diverse opinions get people thinking outside their comfort zones.

But what happens if you're on the losing end of the debate? Do you pick up your toys and go home? Sulk about the fact your voice wasn't heard? Do you become so steamed you quit?

Okay...first, deep breath. Let's analyze your position. Why would you quit? Have you lost the argument or have you lost your passion? The first is a matter of pride, the latter is a matter of the heart. The two are not synonymous and yet, many people allow their pride to dictate to them in matters of the heart. Be aware of what you're throwing away and why.

So, now, you've thought about it, and okay, it's pride that makes you want to quit, but really, how on earth can you continue to work with people who just don't respect your genius? And if they don't appreciate you, your passion is wasted on them. So it's a vicious circle.

Hey! I'm not here to judge. This is your choice. But let's go to the next step.

What do you think will happen when you quit? Have you made a difference to anyone at all? Were you involved in the daily goings on? Did you offer valuable input on a regular basis? What exactly will your former compatriots lose with your absence? More than a warm body? Did you contribute? Did you share? Did you offer your time, your assistance, yourself to these people?

Take a good look in the mirror and answer these questions honestly. Because if you didn't really contribute anything of value, if you didn't embrace the experience with that passion you claim you lost along the way, maybe you never had it to begin with. In which case, take your toys and go home. I doubt you'll be missed all that much. Spectators can always be replaced. Those we value are those who value us enough to work hard and make a difference.

Wherever you go, don't just leave a footprint. Leave an impression.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Come Talk to Me (and maybe win a book!)

I'm over at the Avalon Authors blog today, talking about one of my favorite subjects: me! Stop by, leave a comment. I'm giving away one copy of each of my latest Avalon releases, Nobody's Darling and Nobody's Business.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thoughts on a Wedding

Last night, I attended a wedding where I had no familial involvement. I wasn't a friend of the bride or groom: the groom actually works for my husband. As a student of body language and a writer by nature, this "third wall" gave me an opportunity to study the characters without allowing emotion to cloud my judgment. I'm happy to report that romance is alive and well (and apparently spending time in NJ right now)! How do I know?

For starters, when I spoke to the groom, he confided how wowed he was when the church doors opened and he spotted his bride. His face took on a glow, love shimmered in his eyes, and he told me, "She's the best thing that ever happened to me."

The bride's father toasted the couple with confirmation that they had found in each other the perfect partner, support system, and potential parent for their children. The best man (the groom's younger brother) assured the bride that her groom would take care of her and love her the way said groom had always loved and taken care of him. The maid of honor (the bride's sister) found a way to work in a toast from the bride's favorite television show and insisted that in the groom, she'd found the brother she'd never had and always wanted.

But the love in the air didn't just settle on the wedding's stars. Guests, too, showed how a wedding brings out the happiest in all of us. Couples obviously married for decades still smiled into each other's eyes as they danced. Soon-to-be parents sighed and reflected upon their wedding and the someday they'd be hosting a wedding for their as-yet-unborn child. Soon-to-be marrieds drank in each moment with excitement for their own special day.

Weddings are not all about the bride and groom, not about the gowns, not about the food or the band. Weddings are about love: no matter where it comes from, how long it's been around, and where in the journey a family stops to rejoice.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Five: First Five Pages of Nobody's Business

It's out! To celebrate the release of Book II of the Nobody Series, Nobody's Business, from Avalon Books, I'm allowing you a sneak peek into the first five pages of the book. Take a gander here. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Miss my little lectures? Sure, I thought you did. So did I. So welcome back to my soap box.

Respect. It's a lost art. The thing about that simple word is that, in order to get respect, you have to earn respect. How? By respecting yourself, respecting your work, and respecting others and their work.

Let's start with work. If you sign up to do a job, do it to the very best of your ability. If it gets too tough for you to handle, ask for help. Don't walk away halfway through. Don't stop communicating with people who are expecting results from you. Editors, agents, chapter members, coworkers, relatives, and friends will all understand if you suddenly find yourself in the weeds and admit to it. Not only will they understand, they might pitch in to dig you out! But if you simply quit with no explanation and walk away from your responsibilities, don't be surprised if those editors, agents, chapter members, coworkers, relatives, and friends lose respect for you. By quitting without communication, you've disrespected the work and those counting on you to do it.

Words are just as powerful as actions (or lack thereof). If you insult others, reveal someone else's personal information, or address others in a derogatory manner whether in person or online, you're showing a blatant disrespect to everyone around you. Healthy debate should never deteriorate into name-calling or bad manners. No matter who you are, how important you are in any business, or how successful you've been over the years, be gracious and respectful to others. It's called "professionalism." Learn it, live it.

Disrespect breeds disrespect. Respect earns respect. It's a two-way street, my friends.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Five: Five Great Workshops at the NJ PYHIAB Conference

I'm currently in NJ at the Put Your Heart in A Book Conference, hosted by the New Jersey Romance Writers (NJRWA) where I've just finished my workshop, Hips Don't Lie: Body Language Between the Sexes. But I'm not the only draw at this event. Here are five workshops I'm looking forward to attending over the next two days.

1. Book in a Week: April Kihlstrom will share ways to make writing easier and more fun and GET THE BOOK DONE.

2. Going Deep: How to use POV, Voice and Show vs. Tell to make your writing more powerful and emotionally rich with Toni Andrews.

3. Love, Monsters & Mythology: Stephanie Dray will give a brief but fun overview of ancient monsters and what they represent to deepen the message of your romance novel.

4. Write the Right Book and the Emotion Will Follow: If you're not writing what best brings out the emotion in you as the author, Stephanie Taylor thinks you might want to switch up your genre.

5. No One Cares You Had a Muffin: Hope Tarr offers ten tips for using social networking sites to build author brand and create buzz for your books.

It might be too late to join me in Iselin this year, but next year, you might want to plan on being here. The NJRWA knows how to throw a conference!

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!

She won't see this because despite the many times I've shown her how to use her new laptop, once I leave, she puts the laptop away and doesn't crack it open again 'til my next visit. Which, of course, means she forgets everything I reviewed with her and we have to start all over. I suspect she does it to either get me to visit more often, or because she thinks it's funny. Still, I want to tell you about my "Mom."

I married her son, so as she tells it, I wasn't born into the family; I came late. But I'm not her daughter-in-law, I'm her second daughter. And yes, she goes out of her way to find greeting cards addressed to son and "daughter" (the quotes are extremely important to her.) In fact, for our 25th wedding anniversary last month, Mom bought two cards: one that signified 25 years, and one with the son and "daughter" headline. (She addressed one to Phil and Gina, the other to Gina and Phil. She's a stickler for those pesky details.)

Mom's one of those ladies that everyone talks to. I remember an incident when she had to be transferred from one hospital to another via ambulance. By the time the medical techs brought her into the second hospital, she knew their names, their marital statuses, and I swear they're still on her Christmas card list. During winter snow storms, her neighbors argue over who'll be the one to shovel out her driveway. Everyone who knows her will tell you about her generosity, her laugh, her great capacity for love.

Her grandkids think she's cool because she'll play Flip Cup with them. On Easter Sunday. (That's Grandma, draining the red cup of beer)

I often tell her if I ever divorce her son, I get to keep her in the custody arrangement.

This year is a milestone for Mom (her 80th!) and she'll have to celebrate without the man who'd been beside her since their high school days. But she has tons of friends. And her family, a family who thinks the world of her. And a "daughter" who is so lucky to have her in my life.

Happy birthday, Mom! I luv ya!

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Five: Five Ways to Find More Time

Lots of people ask me where I find the time to do everything I do. Seriously, at any given moment in my life, I generally juggle half a dozen involved tasks at once. How do I manage? Here are five of my secrets:

1. Take on more. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But for me, the more projects I have to work on, the more time I can devote to them. Let's say I'm writing a new story, judging a contest, editing a sold manuscript, and revamping my website (all tasks I've done on a regular basis and often, at the same time.) If I'm stuck on my WIP, I'll pick up a contest entry. Then I'll edit a few chapters. After that, it's a page of my website. The trick for me is that I never have "nothing" to do and thus, I can never be bored or wasting time that could be focused on a particular project.

2. Don't wait to start. If you're going to take on more, you have to be realistic about your time allotment. Just because your editor gave you until the end of the month doesn't mean you wait until the 23rd to dig into those revisions. Start the day you get them or, at the very latest, the first weekend you get them. The more time you have to devote to the work, the more quality you can provide.

3. There's no such thing as downtime. You can still spend time with the family, still watch your favorite television show, still go out with friends. And your tasks can come along with you. Print out pages to read or edit in the car, on the couch, during your lunch hour, in the bathtub. Playing around on the Internet? Play with info that will benefit you! Word games are not only fun, they enhance your vocabulary and keep your brain stimulated. Puzzles train you to think outside the box. Just don't lose too much time in Gameland.

4. Don't be afraid to ask for help. No one is SuperPerson. Everyone needs help once in a while. And it's better to ask before you become overwhelmed. What's the worst that could happen? You ask for help, you get it, and you finish earlier than you anticipated? Yeah, I can see where that might be painful for ya. (Insert sarcasm here.)

5. Do as much prep as you can before you commit. Just like agents and editors expect a completed manuscript before you query, you can have a workshop ready to go before you shop it to chapters, writing groups, or libraries. Use calendars, timers, day planners, white boards, etc. to keep you on target. The more you have on your plate, the more you need to keep track of. Do so, and don't be ashamed.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's Free Coffee Day!

Back in 1964, 7-11 introduced a new concept: coffee to go. And they chose little old Long Island as the guinea pig for this radical idea. Nearly fifty years later, most of us can't conceive of not stopping someplace to pick up that pick-me-up for a long drive, our morning jolt, or just to reboot. "Oh, thank heaven for 7-11!" (And thanks to Long Island residents too for embracing the idea with so much passion. I'd like to take credit for that, but I was only two at the time.)

In honor of that momentous occasion, 7-11 is giving away free coffee today. Stop into your local 7-11 between 7 and 11 am (duh!) today, and get a free medium coffee. Writers everywhere fall to their knees in gratitude.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Five: Five Questions I'm Often Asked Regarding Writing

I do a lot of workshops for new and ambitious writers. Whatever the subject of the workshop, there's always a Q&A, and the same questions seem to pop up over and over again. Here are a few, along with the answers I provide:

1. How long does it take you to write a book?
Honestly? It depends on the book and whether or not I'm on deadline. I've churned out some books in ninety days, others can take over a year. I tend to work well under pressure, but I also like the freedom of time to really explore my characters and the plot by meandering through, chapter by chapter.

2. Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. Overheard conversations, the couple in the car next to me when I'm stuck in traffic, dreams, bad books or movies I want to rewrite, a really good "how we met" story. Everything I hear or see is an inspiration.

3. Should I pay for an editor to review my work?
If you're planning to self-publish, YES. If you're publishing through the traditional route, NO: an editor will be assigned to you by your publishing house.

4. How much money do you make?
How much do you make?

5. Why romance?
Why not? Actually, romance gives me the greatest variety of avenues to explore. I can write contemporary, historical, or futuristic. Or I can combine all three! I can incorporate a murder, a kidnapping, or suicide. My main characters can be living, dead, or undead. Any age, any gender. They can have magical qualities, the ability to transform into something else, or just be the normal girl/boy-next-door. I can set my story on Earth, another planet, or another realm. So long as at the heart of my story, two people fall in love and hint at the promise of a future relationship, I've got a romance. The possibilities are as endless and eternal as True Love!

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy Fall!

In my hemisphere, autumn officially It's my favorite season: the colors, the cooler temps, the farewell to barbecues in favor of soups and roasts. And pumpkin! Oh, the pumpkin: breads, pies, cookies, coffee!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: Quitters Never Win

I can't believe I actually have to address this topic. But here goes. In the writing world, as in The Real World, things don't always go your way. Now, when the road gets rocky and the results aren't what you anticipated, you can refocus your efforts, try a little harder, and keep going--climb over the rocks, adjust your pace to clear the hurdles, your eyes firmly fixed on the golden horizon. Or you can turn around and walk away; give up; quit.

Before you choose option number two, let me ask you: Why?

What exactly did you expect when you took your first steps on this journey? Were your plans realistic? Or did you dive in head-first, thinking the world was going to kowtow to you simply because you wanted this dream so much?

Writing isn't like selling Tupperware or leading the local PTA. You can bust your butt for ten years and still wind up writing another decade before your first sale or a royalty check worth more than a dollar. Your sparkling personality is not enough to get you a multi-book publishing contract.

Writing isn't like high school. The prettiest girl isn't automatically voted Queen. Sucking up to the most popular kid doesn't vault you into the elite circle.

Writing isn't like your marriage where a few days of the silent treatment gains you your heart's desire. You're not an editor or agent's "one and only."

Writing is hard. It's supposed to be hard. Writing requires dedication, professionalism, talent, passion, knowledge, excellent communication skills, drive, and a lot of luck. Published writers are the ones who didn't quit. They absorbed the rejections, traveled the rocky road, and kept their gaze fixed on the horizon. There isn't anything you're facing that a successful published author hasn't overcome to reach the gates of bestsellerdom.

Still want to quit? Go ahead. You obviously never had the fire inside you anyway.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Permission to Fly!

Yesterday, I was watching reruns of Project Runway from a few years back. If you're unfamiliar with the show, PR is a reality show for fashion designers. Each week, the designers create a look based on some kind of challenge (unusual materials, artwork inspired, to match an accessory, etc.)

Writers can learn a lot from Project Runway. The products created by these designers can often be ripped to shreds by the judges, and unlike writers who get their rejections privately in emails or letters, the designers stand there and take it while a worldwide audience looks on. The show is a study of grace under pressure, a recommendation to think outside the box, and filled with fun moments (and fashion!)

Now, in the particular season I was watching yesterday, designers' models also faced the chopping block. After the winning and losing designers were chosen, post-runway, the model who worked with the losing designer was offered to the winner. If the winner chose to stay with his/her own model, the losing designer's model was sent home. Fast forward to that moment. The winning designer, Daniel Vosovic, faced his model and the losing designer's model, a lady named Danielle. Danielle was in tears because she knew she was on her way out.

And then came the words of wisdom from Daniel to the crying Danielle (forgive me for paraphrasing): I'm not sending you home; I'm giving you permission to fly off for something better.

How profound is that? I know it made Danielle smile. But more importantly, it struck me as something of a mantra for writers. When we receive rejections, when the story just won't gel, when our characters refuse to follow the script...give yourself permission to fly off for something better.

You never know what's beyond the horizon.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Five: Five of my Favorite (Semi-) Guilt Free Snacks

I'm closely creeping toward a milestone birthday, but since my thryoid issues fifteen years ago, it's a lot harder for me to avoid packing on the pounds. And the thing is...I love my snacks. Meals, I can skip. Snacks? Not so much. So I indulge in my snacks but I try to be careful. Here are a few things that give me the feeling I'm cheating without resorting to carrot and celery sticks.

1. Quaker Quakes. Oh, I love these little rice cakes the dh calls "flavored styrofoam discs." Cheddar cheese, vanilla creme brulee, sour cream and onion, even chocolate! Mmmm...

2. Archer Farms Yogurt. The flavors, the flavors! Apple raisin bread, Boston cream pie, apple cobbler. And most of them are under 100 calories. These beauties from Target are the perfect start to my morning. Delish!

3. Turkey Hill Light Recipe Ice Creams. Yeah, ice cream is my weakness. So when I really want to treat myself, I scoop up a little of these decadent yummies. Creamy, flavorful, and without that ice milk consistency most light ice creams have. And lots of terrific flavors to choose from!

4. Fiber One brownies. Yeah, I know. I doubted it too. But they're fudgy enough to satisfy your chocolate craving and bigger than an M&M in portion size. Yay!

5. Special K Cracker Crisps. Potato chips for dieters! And they're really tasty. So much so that I have to hide them from the locusts I live with.

There you have it. These are good days to be a dieter. Gone are the cottage cheese/cantaloupe/Jello options of the past. Unless, of course you like that stuff. But if you're looking for treats that feel like you're cheating, you can't go wrong with the new kids on the low-cal block!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

25 Years (And They Said It Wouldn't Last...)!

The hubster and I are married 25 years today. Originally, I thought of showcasing our wedding song as Music to Write By, but honestly? He and I are not the same couple who chose "Suddenly" by Billy Ocean because we danced to it on the beach on our first date. Too many songs have come and gone over the years for me to choose just one to represent all that we've seen, done, experienced, or survived.

What hasn't changed is that he's always been my best friend, the one person who can make me the angriest, hurt me the most, and then turn around and make me laugh the hardest or feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. We've faced our share of challenges, had some great fights (like the time he claims I "tried to run him over" with the car...I say he should've removed his arm from the passenger window when I put the car in reverse), and fantasized once or twice about throwing in the towel. But we never did. Know why?

Well, I can't speak for him but I honestly can't picture my life without him in it. In any given day he gives me a thousand reasons to smile, to feel secure, to feel LOVED. Whether he's complaining about my lack of sufficient chin, flirting with me in the kitchen, or driving me crazy because he can't find his car keys and is about to miss his train, he's still mine. And I'm his.

Isn't that what romance is all about?

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Friday Five: Five Unusual Places to Find Writing Inspiration

Every once in a while, we all become a little drained creatively, whether it's due to stress, health, weather, or personal issues. Why not try a unique locale to rejuvenate the spark? Give these places a shot:

1. A church. No, not for mass (though, if that works for you, go for it!). Churches, particularly those you don't normally frequent, are full of unique opportunities to absorb creativity. The architecture, the art, and that blissful silence all combine to rejuvenate the spirit and feed the writer's soul. Study the expressions on the faces of the images whether painted, sculpted, or in stained glass. Breathe in the odors of candles, flowers, and incense. Better yet, crash a wedding ceremony. Nothing says romance like a wedding. Note the beaming bride and her equally ecstatic groom. Check out the guests' fashions, the gorgeous floral arrangements, the hairstyles. Bathe in the happiness surrounding everyone. Lots of inspiration to soak up.

2. A cemetery. There's a great one near my house, on the bluffs of the Long Island Sound. It's out of the way, very private, very old, with some terrific views of water and shoreline. Read the headstones for interesting names, the history of families, and to let your imagination run wild.

3. The food court at the mall. Find a table in the thick of the crowd and watch. Check out how people interact, what they wear, what and how they eat. Study facial expressions and body language. Take notes and take all that insight back for your story!

4. The day job. Got one? Or a place you go routinely: Mommy & Me, book club, a play date? Even the weekly get-together with friends is rife with characterization. Social circles have lots of personalities. The leader, the follower, the nurturer, the martyr. Draw your characters from those archetypes you know.

5. Any historical landmark. Every town has some kind of historical attraction: an old house, an art museum, a historical society. Visit! Open up your senses to the possibilities. In some historical locales I've visited near me, I've heard stories of murders and haunted houses, viewed a collection of carriages (and sleds from the Russian steppes!), lost myself in works of art, and sipped birch beer on the veranda.

Now go forth, experience, then write!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Five: Five Words to Challenge You

Sometimes the right word is all you need to propel you forward, whether it's a word that promises hope or a word that inspires your muse. Here are five words to set you on whatever journey you hope to take today!

1. Possibility. Is there another word that promises so much hope? Endless destinations await in this arrangement of letters. Go forth and find your goals!

2. Dream. I've written entire stories based on dreams I've had at night. And if you're not a writer, that doesn't mean you can't follow a dream or find inspiration of your own from the places where your mind wanders while you sleep. Go there. Take notes.

3. Dare. Take that leap, think outside the box, challenge yourself. Don't worry about a safety net. Fly!

4. Today. You know the saying, "Yesterday is gone, tomorrow hasn't come yet." All we have that is truly ours is today. Seize today and squeeze out every drop. If you're lucky, you'll get a chance to do it again.

5. Nourish. Feed your soul, feed your mind, feed your heart. Surround yourself with love, joy, and encouragement. Success will follow.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

And the Winners Are...

Sia Huff and Lisa Renna!
Ladies, send me your contact info as soon as possible. You've won copies of Nobody's Darling for posting comments on my blog (Sia for my hurricane post, Lisa for the birthday contest).

Congratulations and happy reading!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Me, Myself, and Irene

Yup...we're bracing for a hurricane after the shortest beach vacation ever: the fam and I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and were forced to evacuate on Friday morning. But that's not what I'm writing about today. Today, I want to share what writers can learn from Hurricane Irene (and other examples of nature's fury) that they can use in their manuscripts.

First, there's only so much preparation you can do. You can read the how-to books, get the perfect laptop (or the perfect pen if you're a scribbling type writer), arrange the ideal space for the Muse's visits, and let everyone know you're writing. Eventually, though, you have to stop preparing and hit the ground writing.

Hurricanes start out slow, building as time goes by, and they absorb the atmosphere around them. Writers do the same: absorbing what they read from other books, advice from critique partners and professionals, and honing their skills through continual practice.

Take no prisoners when you're writing! Sometimes we become so attached to our characters, we don't want to hurt them. No one wants to read a story about a pretty, kindhearted girl who never has a bad hair day. We need conflict. Hurricanes are full of conflict, drama, and take-no-prisoners attitude. Mother Nature doesn't care that a heroine runs a shelter for puppies, orphans, or the elderly. Her fury barrels through, wreaking havoc, and anticipating people will rebuild the destruction afterward (often so she can send a sister hurricane a few years later to destroy it all again). Save your sympathy for real life and wreak havoc on the page.

The aftermath can be devastating. Rejection hurts, whether it's your first or your hundredth. Sometimes, they're not as bad as you thought (particularly if you get some great feedback with a rejection), sometimes you'll get something so scathing, it feels like a hot knife to the heart. Do what all hurricane survivors do: pick up the shattered pieces, fix what you can, and move on.

Hurricanes have been around for centuries and are in no danger of dying out anytime soon. Once you're done with this writing storm, be prepared to build up drama for another manuscript. Write on!

To paraphrase "the most interesting man in the world": Stay safe, my friends!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Five: Five Television Shows I Never Miss

Sure, I'm a writer. But that doesn't mean I don't have a few guilty pleasures on the "boob tube." In fact, there are several I'll DVR if I know I won't be home to watch or might fall asleep before they're over. Here are a few of those television shows I'm addicted to. P.S.: I've listed these by the night they air, not by personal preference ('cuz that's my obsessive way)

1. Dexter. Love the books, love the series. I own all the previous seasons on DVD and pull them out to re-watch when I'm in a morose or dark place. And I'm stoked for the new season.
2. Rizzoli and Isles. Again, love the books, love the series. I appreciate the differences between the original Gerritsen dynamics and still find myself smiling along with Jane and Maura, as if I'm in on the friendship.
3. Top Chef Just Desserts. Yay! It's back! I love all the Top Chef incarnations and the sweet treats are sooooo amazing. A guilty pleasure with no calories.
4. Project Runway. I admit, I refused to watch the finale last season because I believed Michael Costello got rooked and hearing who won only left a sour taste in my mouth, but I'm back (if warily) for this season. I like the 90 minute length but it does interfere with Show #5, requiring a DVR moment weekly.
5. Wilfred. Have you seen it yet? OMG, it's funny, it's irreverent, it's brutally honest and one of the most original ideas I've seen in ages. The whole family quotes our favorite lines, week after week. If you haven't jumped on the Wilfred bandwagon, catch up! (Warning: it's an in-your-face show and definitely not for those who don't like sexual innuendo and bold sexual situations!)

There ya go. A peek into my twisted viewing mind. What shows do you never miss?

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Today's the Day

I'm currently en route to Oneonta to take my daughter to her junior year in college. Those of you who know me know how close Tori and I are. And yes. I'm trying to hold back the tears. Because as sad as I am to finally let her go, I'm also so extremely proud of her. She's bright and beautiful, generous and loving. She's independent and compassionate. In short, she's all I dreamed she could be when she was born. 

I wish you the best of everything, T-kat! I love you. Learn, dream, grow.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Five: Five Ways to Guarantee Failure in Publishing

There are lots of writers willing to share their success stories with you. But because I'm a rebel <grin!>, I'm going to give you a few tips on how to fail.

1. Write an 800+ page manuscript (yes, I've done this.)
2. Pitch your erotic romance to an inspirational publisher (aka not doing your homework)
3. Bad mouth editors, agents, and other authors in the industry, complain that they all handle garbage far below your level of artistic genius.
4. Plagiarize major chunks of your story.
5. Quit.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: Your Loves Don't Give You Presence

A fairly well-known predatory company that calls itself a publishing house has a great idea for you to reach the bestseller list: sell to your family and friends! Umm...okay.

I don't care if you hit every person in your high school graduating class. You're gonna top out at (maximum) 500 sales. Let's take a little time for reality, shall we? Because unless you're Snooki, your name and your acquaintances aren't going to be enough to push your sales into the stratosphere of best-sellerdom.

Whether you sell to a Big 6 publisher, a small press, or self-publish, you'll have to promote yourself. Book tours are expensive for those of us without a marketing department behind us.

What's a writer to do? Get creative. Play to your strengths. Got lots of technostuff on your computer? Create awesome book trailers or mini-commercials. Are you a former police officer who writes mysteries? Consider hosting workshops for other mystery writers who don't have your expertise. Ditto nurses, auto mechanics, or other experts in fields where you find errors in plotlines. Mentor. Judge contests. Attend booksignings. Contact other authors in your area. Talk to your local bookstores and libraries. Is your book only available in electronic format? Get your name and book out there! Join reading forums, find reviewers willing to read your book. Comment on popular blogs. Often.

What shouldn't you do? Don't sit back and do nothing. Don't shrug off promo as unimportant or impossible because of time or money constraints. Don't fall off the radar. Don't decide because you blog three times a week and occasionally Tweet a photo of your recent manicure that you're doing all you can to reach readers. Don't expect to get rich because your husband's coworkers, your neighbors, and the parents of your kids' friends follow you on Facebook.

Be proactive. And of course, don't forget to write that next book. The bigger the backlist, the more readers you can reach.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Guest Blogging About Authors Night in the Hamptons

Last night, I was out in the Hamptons for Authors Night. Wanna know a little about it? Check out my blog post on the Avalon Authors blog:

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nobody's Darling excerpt

Here's a little taste of my latest release, Nobody's Darling, for readers of Sweet Saturday Samples! April Raine is the owner of Rainey-Day-Wife, a parenting services organization that helps overextended parents handle the day-to-day duties of family life. On a morning talk show, she comes up against television psychologist and author, Dr. Jefferson Prentiss, who believes her company actually harms families by handing over the responsibilities of love and family obligations to profit-seeking strangers. Take a look at April and Jeff's conversation on the air:

“In case you’ve just joined us, we’re talking with Ms. April Raine, founder of Rainey-Day-Wife, a parenting services organization, and Dr. Jefferson Prentiss, author of Love Is a Contact Sport. Now, April, you said you wanted to respond to Dr. Jeff’s comments about your organization’s negative impact on marriage and family.”
“Yes, Jocelyn, thank you.” She turned a steady gaze toward him. “First of all, I’d like to say there’s nothing mercenary or shameful in what I do. I provide a service to families who need help, and I am compensated for that service. Don’t you profit from the problems of others, including problems due to troubled relationships?”
Jeff frowned. “I hardly see that as the same thing.”
“No? Do you only treat healthy, well-adjusted patients?”
“Of course not.” Where was she headed with this topic? “But my practice is geared toward healing their ills, not taking advantage of them.”
“And if you can’t heal those ills, do you waive your fees? Are you a philanthropist, Dr. Prentiss?”
“I’m an educated professional, Ms. Raine.”
Her only reaction to the barb flared in the quick blink of her eyes. But in a steady voice, she replied, “I’ve read your book, you know. Unfortunately, I found vital information missing.”
“Oh?” He arched a brow at her. “Such as?”
“Such as a successful relationship takes two people…” She held up two fingers in front of his face. “…working together, twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Endlessly loving rapport with a spouse is not easy to attain. Bette Davis once said, ‘Love is not enough. It must be the foundation--the cornerstone--but not the complete structure. It is much too pliable, too yielding.’”
His frown deepened until he sensed the camera zooming closer, and he cleared his expression to casual. “If you read my book, you know I never claimed loving rapport was easy. Nothing worthwhile in life is easy to attain. Certainly, by the time a couple decides to have a family, however, they should be secure in their partnership and ready to face new challenges.”
Shaking her head, she smiled, as if she knew a secret he wasn’t privy to. “No one can fully prepare for the stresses of parenthood. Whenever a child is born, priorities change, and a couple’s life is irrevocably altered. Raising a family is the most difficult, gut-wrenching job two people can attempt. Sometimes, the experience makes them stronger. Other times, it tears them apart. But whether their partnership succeeds or fails after the arrival of children, no one’s life should be judged by that outcome.”
Several ladies in the audience cheered, and their hoots and whoops echoed off the soundstage.
Jeff leaned back and waited for the volume in the room to return to normal before continuing. “I realize how demanding a parent’s role is these days. That’s why my book stresses couples must maintain a relationship based on infinite acts of love and consideration, toward each other as well as their children. So they don’t find themselves abandoned, juggling too many responsibilities, and ignoring their children’s true needs in the process.”
Her voice grew soft, almost sympathetic. “How much experience do you have juggling responsibilities, Doctor?”
Now, he blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“Have you ever lost a job because you stayed home with a sick child once too often?” she demanded. “When was the last time you tried to balance your attention evenly between your spouse, your children, your boss, your home, and yourself? Have you ever spent a sleepless night worrying that the check you sent to the gas company would clear your account before your deposit did? Parents are often stretched so tautly, it’s a wonder more of us don’t snap. Frankly, my services help save families teetering on the edge of a breakdown because my staff and I offer them the gift of time. And every parent, no matter how devoted to family, benefits more from extra time than from the acts of love and consideration you espouse.”

Nobody's Darling is available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble from Avalon Books. You can check out links to other Sweet Saturday Samples here.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Five: Five Places You Can See Me Before the End of the Year

I'm a busy girl. And I've been booking workshops and talks all around the East. So here are a few places you can see me and learn some great tips about writing in the coming months. Check my sidebar for links and details!

1. East Hampton Library, East Hampton, NY on Saturday, August 13.
2. Farmingdale Library, Farmingdale, NY on Thursday, September 22 and September 29.
3. Renaissance Hotel, Iselin, NJ on Friday, October 21 and Saturday, October 22.
4. Uniondale Library, Uniondale, NY on Saturday, October 29.
5. Cumberland Library, Cumberland, RI on Saturday, December 3.

Come out and see me!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: When Opportunity Knocks, Do You Say Yes?

Opportunities pop up for us every day. The trick is to recognize them when they appear and to seize them before they escape.
Ever see the movie, Yes Man, starring Jim Carrey? Okay, so life's not a movie. But there's still a message to be learned. In order to truly experience life and all its gifts, we must learn to say, "Yes," when the universe offers us something. Success in the writing world relies on that same magic.
Yesterday, for me, was a day filled with opportunities. I hope I seized them all, but it was almost like that gopher game at carnivals where they pop up so fast, you can't keep up.
My day began with an invitation to become a regular contributor to a large social blog (sort of a Huffington Post for the publishing world). Of course, I said, "Yes!" I was thrilled and honored the editor-in-chief thought of me and my little writing diary here. I'll be sharing details of this development as they become available.
In the afternoon, over lobster ravioli and peach sangria, I became involved in a discussion about last week's Navy SEAL tragedy in Afghanistan. This sparked an idea in my head and, with some help from a few mega-stars in the romance writing industry who eagerly said, "Yes!" (as well as my partner in crime for all these brainstorms of mine), I'm well on my way to participating in something special for the well-deserving family of an American hero. Again, details will come later.
While leaving the restaurant, my cell phone rang. The caller wanted to book one of my workshops for her local library. My answer? Yes, of course.
At each of these junctures, I could have said, "No, I don't have time." I could have kept my big wazoo shut, rather than throwing out that idea that wasn't even fully formed in my head yet. I could have backed down from contacting those mega-stars in the romance writing industry because, after all, who am I to ask them for a favor? I could have. But I didn't.
I said, "Yes" to each and every one. And I got "Yes" in return from everyone I came in contact with.
Why am I writing this as a Rude Awakening? Because yesterday evening, I ran into someone who asked me about another writer. Apparently, Writer X had volunteered to read a few of this lady's pages and send her some commentary. Two and a half weeks ago. To date, she's heard nothing from Writer X. Oh, I'm sure, eventually Writer X will get back to this lady, particularly once the lady contacts her to ask for some kind of status. But that's not the point.
The point is that Writer X didn't embrace "Yes." She uttered the word, sure. But she didn't follow through. She left this nice hopeful writer hanging. And destroyed an opportunity to connect, to show generosity, and perhaps, to create a new fan for herself.
Forgive me for waxing philosophical here, but the universe notices these things. You squander enough opportunities, and they'll soon dry up.
So what will you do when the next opportunity appears in your landscape? Will you say, "Yes" and ignore it? Let it pass you by altogether? Or will you say, "Yes," and run with it?
The choice, the opportunity, is yours.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page: