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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Morning After - Plus a Giveaway!

Folks, I ain’t gonna lie: I totally have conference hangover. It was a fabulous, wonderful, delightful week at the RWA National convention, but lord have mercy am I tired!  So I’m going to boil the whole thing down to one sentence:
The romance community is full of awesome :-)
There was this:
On the plane with Deb Marlowe, Olivia Kelly, Sabrina Jeffries, and her assistant Becky. And yes - shenanigans ensured.

And this:
My first Literacy of Life signing AND my first publisher signing! Just LOOK at the names on that board!
Me and Lydia Dare (the Tammy half)
Me, Olivia Kelly, Robin Delaney, Samantha Grace, and Louisa Cornell - Love my crit partners!

And of course this:
Olivia Kelly, Beatriz Williams, me, and Karen White. Oh, and those are CHOCOLATE Martinis!
Look at all the glorious free books - and that's not even HALF what I took home!

And OMG – this!
The one, the only Nora Roberts. And JD Robb (and me) - but mostly Nora, lol!

But most of all, the joy was in the connecting with people.
The writers, the readers, the publishing professional – the overwhelming majority are just darn great people. Honestly, I can’t think of a more supportive and warm community.  This year I was able to see this on every level, and even had the pleasure of paying forward some of the support and help that has been given to me in these last two years since I finished my first book and joined the community.
First of all, the readers just plain rock.  My very first signing at the Literacy for Life charity even was a big success, and I had the pleasure of not only meeting new readers who bought my book, but meeting several face to face who had already read it and enjoyed it.  I tell you, my friends, there are few things more wonderful on earth than the kind of warm fuzzy that experience provides.  I just loved chatting with everyone, talking about our favorite authors and who we had fan-girl moments over (I managed NOT to embarrass myself around Julia Quinn this year - that's a first!) :-) 
Secondly, as a published author, I got a different perspective of the agents and editors attending the event.  I teased one about how these sort of conventions must be a big boost to the ego, but she immediately shook her head in earnest. “Not at all. I want these aspiring writers to have a good experience. I want them to feel good about themselves and their product.” It truly made me realize that they really are just people, too, and they are more sensitive to the writer’s plight than I ever realized.  I didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t kind, or gracious, or funny. 
And lastly, I was able to meet more authors than ever, be they aspiring, published, or topping-the-chart legends.  Nearly every single writer I met this week was delightful, and I enjoyed many lovely conversations. I held my breath with those nervous about pitching (lots of success stories!), squee'd with newly pubbed authors like myself, and soaked in the wisdom and humor of those authors who have been in the business for years.
Yes, there were awesome workshops, and exciting awards, and inspiring speeches, but it will always be the people that bring me back year after year :-)
So tell me, what author would you most like to meet in person? I have DOZENS of signed books that I'll be giving away in the ensuing months, and one lucky commenter here will get the first pick!  Winner chosen Thursday at 9pm CT.
One lucky winner will get to pick one - or you can choose my own debut, MORE THAN A STRANGER!

Monday, July 30, 2012


Ever since I was a little girl, I've had a wanderlust I can't explain. Maybe it started because we moved around a lot when I was a kid. I know not everyone in my family loved that, but to me, it was fun. A new house to explore, new friends to make, new restaurants to try, a new school to navigate. Not that it was always easy. As a matter of fact, fifth grade was downright hard. It was my fifth school in as many years. I had actually been home schooled for 4th grade so my mom and I could travel with my dad (now that was awesome!), so trying to fit into a school where all the kids had been together since kindergarten was challenging. I found my place, though, with the pigeon-toed girl with the coke-bottle glasses, the girl from the trailer park and the girl with the sideburns. I've lost track of the first two, but the girl with the sideburns no longer has said sideburns -- she's quite a beautiful up-and-coming opera singer.
But I digress...
Top of the Empire State Building on my first trip to NYC at 17
As a preteen it was all I could do to keep from bursting with the anticipation of my first trip to NYC, which wouldn't come until I was 17 years old. That was a long, tortuous wait. But at 18, my parents loaded up our car and drove me 900 miles from Atlanta to NYC so I could begin my college education. Finally! I was a New Yorker!!
Here I am in Portugal, at the top of some medieval castle
I met a guy who was from Portugal, and every summer my dad would pay for me to fly over to spend 2-3 months with his family and explore the beautiful country. I do lament that I had my head so far up my a$$ over this guy that I never really enjoyed it as I should have. Frankly, I complained a lot that he wasn't attentive enough to me. Ugh. Young love. But still, it was an opportunity that few get, and even though I wasn't as grateful as I should have been then, I'm grateful now for the experience. And I know that I'm a better person because of it.
When I met Eric, we were both pretty broke college students. And we would be broke for a looooong time. Ha! But we still found ways to travel, to move, to adventure. Even trips-gone-wrong turned into great memories. Like the time we were supposed to fly to Florida for a long weekend, but the snow cancelled our flight, so we rented a car and headed for a B&B in Vermont instead. For hours we hung our heads out the windows of the car, trying to see the road through the onslaught of snow! It was scary, and needless to say, we didn't make it to Vermont. Instead, we ended up near Holy Oak, Mass, at a Motel 6, where the hotel staff shared their chili with us and we went swimming in our clothes in the indoor pool.
One of the thousands of pictures we took in London
One of my favorite trips of all time was to London five years ago. We watched the London episode of The Bachelorette a few weeks ago and with the Olympics there right now, I'm almost always in tears remembering the amazing time we had there. I can't wait to go back and discover more of what that incredible city has to offer.
My all-time favorite non-touristy trip was to Sandals this past February in Great Exuma, Bahamas. Wow. So incredibly beautiful. So much so actually, that in September, we're moving closer to it! That's right -- we're off on another adventure all because of a week spent in the Bahamas. And once we're settled there and saving lots of money as a result of moving OUT of NYC, we'll be off and running again, putting pins in our map of places we want to visit around the world. Thankfully, our 2-year-old has that same wanderlust that we do. Unlike most toddlers, our little girl is best behaved on an airplane, and she adores hotels (especially the Doubletree, but who can blame her?? Those cookies are cramazing!!)
We'll be moving near to here soon...paradise awaits!
Speaking of pins...Pinterest makes it easy for me to keep track of all the awesome places I want to visit or have visited already. Here's the link to my Favorite Places & Spaces board, if you want to see where I want to go.

But what about you? Do you love to travel? Do you embrace change, spontaneity and adventure? Or do you prefer to stay rooted in the familiar? What are some of your favorite places to visit or your most memorable trips?

Friday, July 27, 2012

This is the Blog Post that Never Begins

As I sit here, staring at the blank blogger screen, the little cursor blinks as it patiently waits for me to begin. But I've got nothing. Nada. Zilch.  A Big Fat Goose Egg.

Thinking of really cool blog posts wasn't the problem. Oh no. The problem was that they've already been done. Playlists, whachu reading, reader stats, kids playing  in the streets while zombies drove around in ice cream trucks. You name it, someone else's already written it that's not me.

Like Claudia Welch's blog post about Magic Mike. Or Carly Phillips missing RWA this year but winning a super cool award. Or even the Fight Club inspired post by Tammara Webber about her Writing Cave.

Then inspiration struck! I could blog about the playlist for my debut novel, Twice Tempted . Unfortunately, I got distracted by The Romance Man's blogpost on Men in Thongs. Then fellow Lady Scribe, Andris, emailed me about Angels, Demons and Bears wearing police uniforms. At least I think those bears were clothed.

So where was I? Right! Earworms. Here's my favorite:

So, Dear Readers, what song can't you get out of your head?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Character Spotlight

Hello, I’m Suzie Grant, action fanatic, mother of three boys in a house full of testosterone, and gaming extraordinaire. Okay so maybe that’s stretched a little but it sounded great. Being in a family full of boys all my life turned me into somewhat of a tomboy. And since my kids were little we’ve seen every action film ever made...okay, another exaggeration. Most every action film ever made. I can’t take my kids to go see chick flicks like romantic comedies or anything like that. Heck, I can’t even get my other half to go with me half the time. So I’ve learned to get them on DVD and pile on the sofa to watch them alone.
I’d like to think that in my stories you get the best of both worlds. Strong female characters who have just a hint of a feminine side. And each of these women have a journey to find themselves and along the way they learn something about themselves that sets them onto a different path. They learn that life tosses you a lemon and you’re forced to make lemonade so to speak.
And characters are what make any story memorable. We want to see life through their eyes, love what they love, hate what they hate and learn from their mistakes. It’s those three dimensional characters that make or break a story.
One of my favorite characters is one of my very first written characters. Blaze Marie Austin. She’s flawed in many, many, many ways. Life hasn’t been kind to her in the least, but she’s learned to endure and keep moving forward. But by the end of the story she’s also learned that in order to find true happiness she must first learn to trust in others as well as herself. She must let go because asking for help is something we must all do at one time or another.
I think we as women, mothers, and wives can all relate to having to feel as if we must do it all ourselves. So it’s easy to empathize with Blaze.  With the second book in the series looming on the publishing horizon I've created a little interview with her that takes place after the first book The Devil’s Daughter. I hope you enjoy meeting Blaze. And be sure to stay tuned for the second installment of the The Devil Ryder series, The Devil's Defiance.

Eden, Texas 1874
Hammers clanged and the consistent whir of a saw filled the air I climbed the steps of the boardwalk to newly rebuilt Whiskey Spades Saloon. I couldn’t believe that I was meeting my client in a saloon, especially a woman, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
I straightened my skirts and tugged at the pale yellow high collared blouse before entering the establishment. My eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and immediately found the bright red-head. She stood at the bar, one booted foot propped on the brass foot rail. Downing the shot of whiskey in her hand, she turned toward me, and wiped her mouth on her sleeve.
Grave, dark blue eyes studied me. “Eden’s first paper,” she whispered and leaned one elbow on the bar. “Interesting turn of events for this little town, don’t you think?”
“Exciting to say the least,” I exclaimed. “Along with our brand new sheriff and now our newest saloon owner who is a woman.”
Blaze Ryder gave a ghost of a smile. “Who would have believed I would marry a bounty hunter turned sheriff? Funny how life’s little turns takes us down trails we never would’ve considered.”
I smiled. Indeed, life had taken many turns for Mrs. Ryder. After spending most of her young life with her picture posted on a wanted poster her marriage to a man like Gade Ryder had surprised many people, including herself, I’m sure.
“I’d like to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind?”
I cleared my throat at the unintended pun and my hands shook as I drew forth my notes. “How exactly did you and Gade Ryder meet?”
Blaze chuckled. “His father found me in an alley with a bullet in my back and brought me back to his ranch.”
My eyes widened. I hadn’t really expected that. “Who injured you?”
She sighed. “Someone from my past wanted me dead and we’ll leave it at that.”
I nodded, not wishing to press the ex-gunslinger further.
“But I will tell you this, he wasn’t what I expected,” Blaze whispered.
“What do you mean?”
“The town painted him a very dark man, selfish and uncaring of anyone. I found someone completely different from the stories they told.”
“Can you explain?”
Blaze swallowed her whiskey and set the glass down on the bar. “Gade returned home to a father he’d been estranged from for twelve years simply because his father requested his presence. Does that sound like a selfish man to you?”
I shook my head but didn’t speak.
“No, it doesn’t. In fact I learned that he unwittingly played the hero quite often in his life, not because he was forced to but because of the injustice of it all. He was a man who couldn’t sit back and just pretend he didn’t see what was happening around him. He was a man who stood up for what was right, even when he had to stand alone. That’s a good man. That was a man I wanted to know.”
Indeed. It wasn’t often you found anyone standing up for what was right anymore. Not in this day and age. Not in the west.
“Speaking of doing the right thing, Mrs. Ryder, I’m certain you’re aware of the women’s rights movement taking place in New York City. Do you have any thoughts on this?”
Blaze chuckled and tapped the bar for another drink. “No. I wasn’t aware of any kind of movement to tell the truth but women aren’t cattle. We do what we must in order to survive and I’m certain you’ll find many untold stories of heroic women who aren’t looking for publicity. Instead, they simply want to live their lives as they fit, make decisions based on their beliefs, and take care of their families. Women have been doing it for years why is this suddenly considered news?”
“Well, you do realize women don’t have the right to vote yet.”
“You don’t need a man’s acknowledgment or the government to give you the right to vote to be a strong woman. All you need is a belief in yourself.”
“Spoken like a true activist.”
Blaze shook her head. “Oh no, I’m not an activist. I’m just a woman trying to live my life the best way I know how. And finally, I have something to show for it after all these years.”
“And what’s that?”
She smiled wistfully. “A wonderful husband and we hope a child on the way.”
“Where do you see the future of women’s rights headed?”
“The same direction they’ve always been headed. Forward.”
Well said, Mrs. Ryder. The Wild West wasn’t built by just cowboys. Oh no, many of the greatest tales are the ones that you don’t find in a book. Over time, women have fought and paved the way for other women in this man’s world. And the road here hasn’t been an easy one. But the one thing you can always count on is that a woman, no matter the time period or the place, will do what she must in order to get the job done. That’s always been the case.
And the same is true with the historical romance genre. Looking back through our genre’s history may bring us together but looking ahead into our future, you can rest assured knowing that the historical romance genre will endure both time and trends. 
So tell me some of the most memorable characters who've ever met in the historical romance genre and what was it about them that makes them so compelling.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Are you a light or heavy summer reader?

The other day one of my dear friends asked me to give her recommendations of books to read for a long airline flight she was about to take.  This was the second time in a week a good friend had asked me for reading recommendations for her long trip.  Not only am I a writer, but I am an avid reader, so you can always ask me what I suggest you read, and I’ll usually rattle off a long list of books I think are great.  I did exactly that with my first friend.  However, my other friend that asked me wanted what she termed ‘easy beach reads’ because she was going to be changing planes a good deal and she has a young child that frequently stops her in the middle of her book. 

I totally get it. I have young kids too and it’s hard for me to find a lot of recreational reading time, but I have never considered myself a ‘light beach’ read type of gal, and I told her as much.  I tend to like a complex plot, so I told her I was not sure the books I recommended would suit her desires.  After I explained my love of meaty books, she told me to hit her with my list. 
I felt as if I needed to go home and really think this through, almost like I was bringing a friend over from the dark side of light fluff.  After securing a night to think about it, I came up with my three favorite books this yearnovels I think would bring anyone over to the light side of complex fiction reading.  Pun intended! 

And since I know a whole gaggle of girls who are about to get away from their kids for a long weekend at the beach with their best friends, this list is for them and whoever else might be looking for a story to so transport them that they never want the novel to end, even if it is already over a thousand pages!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – The writing in this book is like the most exquisitely made box of imported chocolates.  The words melt in your mouth and leave a story you cannot quit eating at page by page.  The love story will inspire you, break your heart, and then fill you with hope once more.  The circus arrives unexpectedly and what transpires in the circus will defy your imagination with the lengths people will go to in order to see their ambitions come to fruition.

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory – What could make for a better summer read than a duchess descended from a river goddess?  The duchess Jaquetta has the gift of second sight and must be very careful when and if she uses it to weave through the tumultuous times she lives in at King Henry the VI’s court.  Throw in a love that conquers all between the duchess and her first husband’s squire and you will find yourself alternately weeping for sorrow and joy.

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon – If you have followed Claire and Jamie’s story, I need say no more, but for those poor, unfortunate ones of you out there that have not yet jumped on this bandwagon, you are missing a rich historical read with colorful character, strong family ties, an exquisitely created romance, violent loss and gains, heart filling reunions and heart wrenching departures and in this particular novel you will find time travelers living in Colonial America with the knowledge of the war to come and a hard choice of what they should do with this knowledge.

So what is on your ‘must read’ summer list? Are you a light or heavy fiction reader?

Have a great day!
Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reverse Marketing

If you could know exactly who your perfect reader was what would you really do with the information?

Countless book marketing gurus proclaim that authors should know who their perfect reader is. That we should know them almost as well as we know ourselves and that we should write and blog about subjects that appeal to them. We could conduct surveys to find the answer, spend our time haunting the social media sites like Goodreads to interact.

As a reader you know what you want. As an author, I haven’t a clue until you tell me.

However, I am also a reader. I love many romance books and their authors, too, but I’m not really the type to do surveys or do the raving fan thing. But in the interests of fair play, I’m willing to share my ‘reader profile’

:: My age is between 40 - 45
:: I went to work as soon as I left school and enjoy working
:: I have a degree, which I studied for whilst working
:: I have a family that keeps me busy
:: I work from home full time
:: I read romance: Regency England settings, Contemporary Romance set anywhere, and Paranormal (vamps most often), Erotic romance any subgenre
:: I only keep the romance stories I love and will reread them often
:: I autobuy (and preorder) certain author books as soon as I hear about them
:: I am willing to try ‘new to me’ and ‘debut authors’ if the story intrigues me
:: However, ‘buy my book’ marketing tweets and posts on social media sites or emails do not make me take a closer look at your book.
:: I have reluctantly given up reading recent releases from a few established authors although I still have their older books on my keeper shelf and adore them
:: I mostly buy digital editions now because I like to grab the story as soon as I see it (postage takes too long and there are few bricks and mortar bookstores in my area)
:: I read on my iPad and iPhone because of file sharing, but iPad is more comfortable for longer stories

That’s me - now your turn. What would your reader profile look like? Have you ever tried writing up one before? What suggestions would you have for interacting with a reader like me?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Letting your kids go in these crazy times.

Is the world crazier or is that just my perception of things?  I’m honestly not sure.

 We are inundated every day with story after story about someone else being killed.  One day I wake up and I read in the paper that someone has bombed a bus full of innocent tourists and a few days later I read that a man has walked into a movie theatre and killed and wounded more innocent people for no apparent reason.  A very normal looking man.  A man I bet my kids, though I tell them over and over again not to, would talk to.  And it’s not just these two incidents.  They are just on my mind because they have happened recently.

So I have to ask again, is the world more dangerous now than it used to be?  Sometimes I think it is, but sometimes I wonder if we are just better informed of all the horrific things that occur since most horrific acts are played out instantly on television and all the avenues of social media.

My point of all this is that whatever the answer, be it the world is more dangerous or it really isn’t, I perceive it as more dangerous, and I sometimes have a hard time letting my children spread their wings because of my perception.

When I was growing up I would play outside in the woods all day long.  I would ride my bike all over creation, and I would walk to school through the woods where I crossed a rickety log over a flowing stream.  On Saturdays, if I was good, my mom would let me walk the six or seven blocks to the Zippy Mart where I would purchase a soft drink and whatever candy my two dollars would buy. 

Now I am from a small town, where you can’t do anything without someone knowing it, but still small towns have bad people too.

Now, I live in a much bigger city, and when my kids ask me to go outside ON OUR STREET and play, my first instinct is to say NO!  Don’t they know there are tons of crazy people populating our world and it is my job to keep them safe?

I sometimes wish they would stay indoors and play with their hundreds of toys we have bought them rather than stressing me out by asking me if they can go outside.  But they ask, and since I’m not yet certifiable, I know I have to let them go.

I take a deep breath, put on my big girl panties, ask the armed guard at our front door to move, and let them out into the big, bad world.  Just joking about the armed guard.  I do check on them continuously, and if I can’t see them I do immediately go outside and knock on all our neighbors houses with kids until I find my kids, but I do let them go, despite how anxious it can sometimes make me feel. 

I wonder if our parents felt this way and have just forgotten?  I asked my mom and she said she was never worried.  Ah, to be so carefree!  I like being aware of the world and what is going on in it, but sometimes I wonder if are not just a little too informed.

So does anyone else feel like me? Do you sometimes have a hard time letting your kids spread their wings because of the scariness of our crazy world? I’d love to know I’m not alone, and I would love to hear how you deal with these worries.

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Bachelorette Pick

I’ve never tried to hide my obsession with "The Bachelor/Bachelorette". Yes, it can be ridiculously melodramatic and the set-up is totally messed up.

1 bachelor + 25 ladies(sleep deprivation and intoxication) = epic meltdowns

Did you know the cocktail party lasts all night and the rose ceremony isn’t until dawn? I’d be curled up on a couch and saying, “Who cares? Forget the rose. Give me a pillow!” But over-the-top drama and host Chris Harrison’s smirk aside, I love the show.

Most recently I’ve been glued to the TV watching bachelorette Emily Maynard’s search for love. If you don’t know Emily’s story, she was engaged to her high school sweetheart, Ricky Hendrick, a NASCAR racecar driver. They met when they were fifteen and they were together for four years before Ricky died in a plane crash on his way to a race. Days later Emily learned she was pregnant with their daughter, named Ricki in honor of her father. Emily has been the only single mother to be the bachelorette, and it has added a whole different dimension to the show. She is looking for someone who will not only be a match for her, but also a man who will be a good fit for her daughter. (Yet, Emily hasn't allowed any of the men to meet Ricki, and I admire her for shielding her daughter. I also respected her for not doing the overnight dates that are usually part of the show.) She’s had some great guys to choose from, but now it’s down to two.

There is the Indie racecar driver, Ari, who’s funny, sexy, and seems to have a really good head on his shoulders when it comes to kids. I liked when he said kids have to trust you as their friend before you can take on the role of their father, and I think that’s very true. Lots of stepparents make the mistake of trying to be a disciplinarian to their stepchildren before they have any type of relationship with them. So kudos to Ari! He would make a great choice.

Then there is my favorite, Jef. He’s a little shy, playful, and a true romantic. Plus, he has an adventurous side to him. He owns a ranch, skateboards, shoots skeet, and has a really cool off-road vehicle that reminds me of a dune buggy. Emily had a lot of fun on his hometown date, and she seemed at ease.

They have similar values. Family is important to both of them. Emily has worked as an event planner for a children’s hospital, which means she was involved in raising charitable donations for the hospital. Jef is the CEO of a water bottling company that helps people without access to clean drinking water. They are also both humble and sensitive.

I think Jef would make a great dad, too. He has given serious thought to how he would fit into Ricki’s life as well as Emily’s. I loved when he said Ricki was the most important person in Emily’s life and he hoped he could be the second most important person. He was also the only one to think about Ricki on one of their dates. He and Emily had picked out marionettes to represent each of them and he went back to buy one for Ricki, too. To me, he’s an all around wonderful guy, and I’m a sucker for the really sweet ones. (Jake Hillary from “Lady Amelia’s Mess and a Half” is my ideal hero.)

I’ve been a bit irked by comments I’ve seen on FB about how Jef is all wrong for Emily, mainly because of his hair. Some people have said he looks like a child, and Emily will be raising two kids if she marries him. They say he’s too young for her and he’s immature. First of all, he’s older than she is and anyone capable of running a successful company is an adult. (Interestingly, he has never given any indication he has money, but rumors have it his net worth is $3 million.) Secondly, judging a person simply on how they look is immature, so nana-nana-boo-boo! LOL

Of course, people making these comments are fans of Emily’s number three choice, Sean. He seems like a nice guy as well, but only Emily can know what’s in her heart. I don’t think she made a mistake, and I didn’t really like when Sean said he hoped Emily came to her senses sooner rather than later and realized she was supposed to be his wife. That wasn’t very gracious or humble, IMO. Nevertheless, it would be nice if Sean became one of the bachelor’s down the road so his fans can see more of him.

Whatever the outcome of Sunday’s finale, I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds.

Are you watching "The Bachelorette"? If so, who is your favorite guy and why? If you don't watch, do you have a favorite 'reality' show? In honor of nice guys everywhere, I'm giving away a signed copy of "Lady Amelia's Mess and a Half." Please include your email with a relevant comment. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It's Conference Time Again

               Next week at this time, hundreds of romance writers, editors and agents will descend on Anaheim, California for the 32nd Annual Conference of the Romance Writers of America.   

               The first year I attended was in 2008, San Francisco.   I had entered the Golden Heart (nope, I didn’t final *sigh*).  I knew it was time to take the next step in my writing career, which involved stepping out from behind the computer, enter the real world and actually talk to other authors and those in the industry.   It was kind of scary.  I knew NOBODY attending when I registered for the conference and made hotel reservations.   I am an introvert. I don’t have the skills of many of my LadyScribes (Erin) to be able to talk to anyone about anything. I am the one who would rather sit quietly in the corner and listen for fear of saying something incredibly stupid, mispronounce a word and/or name (I do this often by the way), or laugh at the wrong place and time.  But, that year I was not alone because I had just met the Ava Stone half of Lydia Dare online.  We had both participated in a romance writing contest on Gather.com and then she posted a question to the Beau Monde and I ended up talking to her privately about the question. 

It was around this time that Jerrica and I broke from the online critique group we had been a part of and started our own, with the intention of forming a positive, supportive critique group and Ava joined us.  Our motto “critique honest, but critique nice.”  Really, there are a number of positive ways to say “this really sucks” and I am sure Jerrica has discovered them all without bruising my fragile ego. 

That first conference I wanted to squeeze in as many craft workshops possible and learn as much as my brain could absorb.  I was mentally exhausted by Friday afternoon. What I learned at that first conference – pace yourself!

Meeting Ava in person was probably one of the highlights of that trip.  And, I also got to meet Lydia Dare’s other half (though they weren’t Lydia yet), Tammy Falkner and their good friend LJ Charles.  I count all three of these ladies as wonderful friends and my life is enriched because of them. And, it all started at that conference we attended, all four of us being conference virgins at the time.

I vowed that year not to miss another RWA Conference.  I learned so much and met so many wonderful people, and simply had the time of my life. 

The following year found us in D.C.  The critique group had grown over the past months and we had a number of wonderful and talented members and over half of us made it to D.C. in 2009.  Heather even came in from Australia (though I fear she was jet lagged the entire time). At this conference my focus was still on craft workshops, but I was edging toward career workshops as well.  (Really, if you have not looked at a workshop schedule before, be prepared to be overwhelmed with choices.  And I mean OVERWHELMED).

I am sure a number of your remember the hiccup of 2010.  We were supposed to be in Nashville and then that devastating flood happened. I remember looking at the pictures of the conference hotel online thinking how cool it was going to be to stay there and then, weeks later, pictures of the same place filled with water. I was just sickened by the damage to such a beautiful place, and Nashville as a whole.   But at the same time I was extremely impressed with how quickly RWA made arrangements for another venue, and on such short notice.  My goodness, there had to have been fairy magic right from Disney working to pull that together so quickly.  My hat is off to those who were responsible and didn’t miss a beat when a change had to be made.

By the time I arrived in Orlando and was looking over the conference schedule, I found myself marking those workshops geared toward career and not so much craft.  I had two published books under my belt and I needed to learn more about the business end of things. 

Then last year, NYC!  That was absolutely amazing.  But, I have to admit, I was more excited about getting to see my friends, the ladies I love and who have been with me since the critique group got off the ground.  I didn’t glance at the craft workshops, but a few of the career ones.  However, my focus was 1) marketing workshops and 2) spending time with my critique partners and those who I have met at the previous conferences.    

Over those four years, my focus went from filling my brain with as much craft information as possible (1st conference) to picking a handful of career and publishing workshops and then spending the rest of my time with my friends and meeting new people.  In other words, it became more social.  Regardless of where you are in your writing career, there is something (actually many things) for each attendee.

Sadly,  I won’t be attending the conference in Anaheim.  The same day hundreds of writers are entering theConvention Center, I will be boarding a plane with my family to visit my daughter in Portland, Oregon.

I hope everyone attending the RWA learns more than they thought possible, but more importantly, make friends to last a lifetime, as I have been lucky enough to do.

For those of you who are attending the conference, or maybe you are a reader who will attend the book signing, keep an eye out for Deb Marlow (signing), Samantha Grace (signing), Erin Knightley (signing) and Olivia Kelly. I am positive they would love to meet any LadyScribe follower.

What are some of your favorite conference memories? If you haven’t attended one, what are you looking forward to most when you do go?

Amy De Trempe

Duchess of Decency

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Counting Down the Days

In our household, school starts back this Friday.  And while I'll be doing the happy dance that the kids will be out of my hair (please, every mother thinks this), I will be Very Sad.

My oldest starts third grade and my baby, MY BABY starts Kindergarten a week later.  *sobs* Where has time gone? It seems like just last week that they were taking first steps and speaking their first words (and now all we want them to do is BE QUIET).  It's all happening way too fast for me, but not for them.

Oh no. They've been counting down the days until glue sticks and scissors. Until they make new friends and hug old ones. Until I get told 65 times a day that their teacher says and does things the best way ever. They're counting down days until graduation, college and careers (maybe getting married but the opposite sex has cooties in my house) while I'm trying to hold on to chubby, sticky hands and mispronunciations of words like forget and theater (get-for and movie-ater).

While I'll be holding back tears, my two babies will be running to their new classroom and hugging the new woman in their life that will teach them what they need to know. Not me.  I have equal parts of hate and love for this woman, born of jealousy and awe.

So think of me and all the other moms and dads that will be going through this very, very soon. Send us prayers, happy thoughts and bottles of wine. Remind us that this isn't just the end of an era, but the beginning of a new one.

What have you done to get through a very bittersweet moment like this? 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ack! Stress.

There are few things in this world that I hate worse than moving. One of those few is probably moving in the summer, when the temperatures are soaring and everything takes more out of me. Another is planning a big move on short notice.

It should be no surprise, then, that I'm now planning a cross-country move to take place within the next month.

Yes, that's right. I'm packing up everything and moving from Texas to North Carolina. In August. With only about a month to plan and execute the whole thing.

I should probably be committed.

So not only am I trying to finish writing a novella that is due at the end of this month, and a novel I should have finished more than a month ago. No, that would be too easy. I'm also packing up my possessions that need to be moved; sorting through what should be tossed, what should be donated, what should be sold; trying to find an apartment or townhouse that meets my needs and has availability; flying to Raleigh to do some of that; arranging for a moving truck and movers; picking out furniture and planning decorating schemes; and trying to remember how to sleep.

Oh, yeah. And I'm also trying to figure out how I'm going to move my cats. One of those cats, you might remember, is a bit of a problem child. Since I blogged about her two months ago, she sent the vet tech to the hospital. Seriously. She is so scared of the vet and what they do to her, that we now have to tranquilize her and hope for the best.

And I'm going to take her on a two-day drive across the country. Please, send your prayers, well-wishes, and good ju-ju my way.

While I sort through all of this mess, have any of you planned major moves like this in the past? How did you survive without committing a crime? Do you have any packing tips for me?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Don't Read This Blog...

No, really. If you have something else that needs your attention this morning/afternoon/evening, don't let me keep you. The less people who bear witness to my complete meltdown the better.

I swore I was not going to write this blog. I was not going to. Nope. It was not going to happen. Because I am not going to admit *this* awful thing to anyone. In fact, I want to find a corner, rock back and forth, chanting to myself, hoping to find a Zen state and never tell a soul what has happened. No one should ever know this ugly truth. No one.

But blast it all, my blog is due NOW, and… Well, I can’t think of anything else to write. Because this ugliness is all I can think about at the moment. Which is just awful. AWFUL, I tell you!

I suppose I should start off with admitting that I am a complete girl. There’s no shame in that. I like to wear dresses and high heels, have my nails done and be completely pampered on a fairly regular basis. Being a girl is nice most of the time. That doesn’t mean I’m weak. In fact, a lot of you know I have a reputation for being tough as nails. There’s not a *person* alive that I won’t take on and hold my own against in a verbal interaction (I’m not so much into the physical, which isn’t really an issue. I can usually do all the necessary damage with my acerbic tongue, but I digress.)

Where was I?

Yes - there’s not a PERSON I can’t handle. Creepy crawly things… spiders, snakes, insects, rodents… That’s a completely different situation. I don’t care how big, what color or what genus they belong to. I don’t like creepy crawly things, and there are no exceptions. You brave people out there may think I’m crazy, but I don’t much care what you think about the situation. I don’t like them. Not at all. Here’s why:

(1) They make me jump on couches, chairs, or low hanging branches and scream like the girl that I am.
(2) My natural defense doesn’t work against them. They don’t much care how acerbic my tongue can be. I can tell those things off all day and all night, they’re still going to beat me in the end, because they don’t understand my wit and they don’t speak English.

Now that all of that is out of the way… Two weeks ago, my twelve year old cat who has spent most of her dozen years chasing rabbits and birds, left a dead mouse at the bottom of my staircase. She has never *NEVER* in the dozen years she has lived with me ever caught a mouse. In fact, it has been a point of contention between her and I over the years.

Once I spotted a field mouse climbing the brick on the outside of my house. My cat was right beneath it, just watching. Not shaking her tail end, ready to pounce or toy with the thing… just watching the blasted mouse with no desire to do anything else. Lazy, good for nothing cat. I had to kill the mouse myself with the business end of a shovel as I – yes – screamed like a girl.

Anyway, I was more than shocked that she’d killed an actual mouse, and I prayed she’d brought the thing in through the dog door from outside. I didn’t want to even consider that I had one of those things living in my house. I still don’t want to consider that possibility. And if you make me do so, you’ll have to institutionalize me. That possibility is not on the table.

So yesterday, I headed home for lunch in the middle of the day since my son’s summer program this week allowed for a midday break, and it was an opportunity for me to spend a little bit of time with him during the day. It also afforded me the opportunity to throw in a load of laundry in the middle of the afternoon and get a jump on my weekend chores. After lunch with my son, I went to collect a towel I’d left on my bed that morning to throw into the wash.

And do you know what I found…? Yes, my heart rate has just gone through the roof at the mere memory.

A dead mouse placed beside the tv remote on top of my comforter. A freakin’ dead mouse! A dead MOUSE on my freakin’ bed! Why is the cat doing this to me?  Twelve years of no mice and now two in as many weeks?!?!

I did have an honest to goodness panic attack. I hyperventilated and it took me a good while to actually catch my breath. I would say you should have heard me, but you wouldn’t have been able to understand a word that came out of my mouth. My voice was so high, I sounded like Minnie Mouse on helium. And – no – that irony is not lost on me.  

So I have an exterminator coming first thing this morning because I couldn’t bribe or pay him enough to come out yesterday. Stinkin’ moral exterminator! And I am praying that he will tell me that my cat has become sadistic, that there is no community of mice who have take up residence in my walls and that she is plotting my downfall by bringing these loathsome creatures into my house and leaving them for me to find in the hopes that I’ll have a heart attack and she can take over my place as head of the household. But if the opposite is true, if I have *gasp* actual mice under my roof… You may never hear from me again.

I don’t think I’ll be able to handle that. I will lose my mind and be placed in a sanitarium somewhere. I cannot have mice. I simply cannot. That is unacceptable.

But if my cat has become sadistic after a dozen years, what am I going to do with her? We can’t go on like this. We just simply cannot.

I don’t know if I feel better having written all of this out or not. And if any of you breathe a word of this horror to anyone… I’ll hunt you down and let you experience my acerbic tongue for yourself, which is quite frightful, I’ll have you know.

So now that the threats are out of the way… Have any of you ever had critter stories you’re willing to share? Misery, after all, loves company. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guest Author: NYT Best-Selling Author Tammara Webber +Giveaway

I'm too excited to have Tammara Webber on Lady Scribes today! I first learned of Tammara's books via fellow author Elyssa Patrick. And I am so, so glad that I did!

Welcome Tammara!

1. Congratulations on achieving NYT Bestseller list status for print and e-book sales of your New Adult novel, EASY! Have you had a chance to breathe and enjoy your crazy awesome success?

I’ve been busier since I released EASY than I’ve ever been! The volume of email and other messages increased dramatically, and keeping up with the overall business of being an author, never mind the indie additions to that, has been a little overwhelming. (I did enjoy my husband telling the Starbucks barista that he was buying out ALL FOUR copies of the NY Times because his wife was on the bestseller list. I was trying to hide behind him at the time.)

2. What the heck is New Adult?

“New Adult” is the term for a category proposed by St. Martin’s Press in late 2009 to fill a perceived popular literature gap between YA (young adult) and typical adult genres (such as Women’s Fiction, Romance, etc). The idea was to focus on the time period when characters are technically adults, but they’re still learning the ropes. It didn’t quite take at the time, but some authors are reviving the attempt, thanks to the ability to self-pub. College Lit or Young Adult Mature are other name options.

3. EASY takes place at a college - a setting that I learned from reading your blog that traditional publishers didn't think people wanted. However, it seems like word of mouth was a key player in your sales and ultimate success (I know I found out about your books that way, and haven't stopped talking about them). So, would you say a good story trumps all, including setting?

Absolutely. In this case, however, I think the setting was key to the initial interest. I think readers want college settings, and I think they’re proving it with what they buy, and with the rapid word-of-mouth spread.

4. I read that one of your friends "pushed" you into taking the self-publishing plunge. What exactly was the tipping point?

In early 2011, my best friend (who’s not a writer) read an article about Amanda Hocking’s self-pubbing success. She told me, “Hey, you could do that!” I was all “Pshh, nuh-uh, that’s not for me.” I was still determined to go the traditional route. Besides, I’d already signed up for a February writers’ conference where I planned to pitch Between the Lines. Again. After the conference, she didn’t let up on the nagging as I waited for a response from that agent. (Seriously, she has nagging down to an art.) When I got the last rejection letter, I decided to go for it.

5. My favorite book of yours is Good For You (yes, I'm a sucker for bad boys redeemed). There was so much that could have (in my opinion) gone wrong with having a character like Dori Cantrell as the heroine. She's a do-gooder, daughter of a preacher, and basically says no to everything Reid Alexander says yes to. Yet she doesn't come off preachy or perfect, nor does she try to convert him. I loved her! What made (or why did the voices in your head) decide that Reid needed to be paired up with someone like Dori? 

With exceptions of Brooke, who broke Reid’s heart, and Emma, who knew better than to trust him, girls were all the same. They wanted him because he was hot, famous, rich, or some combination or those things. If Reid was going to actually fall for someone, it was going to have to be someone who would see something in him that the others couldn’t see. Emma and her “something more” comment really bugged him, but he didn’t think it was possible for him to be anything other than what everyone thought he was. The fact that Dori saw past his fa├žade, even more than he could, was what made her different. And of course he saw past hers as well.

6. How scary was it to leave your full-time job to write?

 I was working part-time by the time I quit, and I waited until I was making enough from writing for that decision to make sense for my family. Quitting meant I was able to write much of EASY during my best time of day (mornings). It was definitely the right move.

7. Do you have a certain song in mind while you write each book, or are there certain songs that remind your of your characters?

I make playlists that I make on iTunes. I usually end up with 40-50 songs on a playlist, and I just set it to shuffle and let it play at a low level while I’m writing. For GOOD FOR YOU, nearly the entire CD of Safetysuit’s Life Left to Go was perfect (especially Anywhere But Here). For EASY, the top three songs were Holcombe Waller’s Hardliners, Pat Green’s Let Me, and Kelly Clarkson’s What Doesn’t Kill You. Sometimes I just replay one song over and over while writing a scene – I did that with Hardliners for a couple of scenes in EASY.

8. I love the covers of the BETWEEN THE LINES Series and EASY. Did you design them or have them done by someone else?

I designed them originally, but I had help on the latest renditions. A graphic designer friend added the park background to BTL  (it was plain white before). The cover for GFY was from a commissioned photo, done at my house. I hired a cover designer for the first time when I did EASY. She used the photo I’d chosen and photoshopped it to look exactly how I wanted it to look. I love it. (She also redid the paperback BTL covers.)

9. You've indicated EASY is not the start to another series, which makes me happy and sad at the same time. Not every book has to have a sequel. However, this begs the question: What are you writing next?

I promised a fourth BTL focusing on Reid, Dori and Brooke, so I’m set to work on that, but I’ve got another story idea brewing furiously… I may try to write two simultaneously, though I think one will probably take over.

Thanks for being here today, Tammara! Cannot wait for the Fourth BTL book. Please don't make me suffer too long. I have to know Reid and Dori stay together forevah and evah. K?

Reading was one of my first and earliest loves, and writing soon followed. My first book was about a lost bear, but my lack of ability as an illustrator convinced me to abandon that effort and concentrate on passing 3rd grade. I wrote sad romantic poetry in high school and penned my first half-novel when I was 19, for which I did lots of research on Vikings (the marauders, not the football team), and which was accidentally destroyed when I stuffed it into the shredder at work.

Addictions: coffee and Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt. Also baby carrots, but not with coffee or frozen yogurt, because that would be disgusting. I love shopping for earrings, because they always fit - even if I occasionally "forget" to work out. I'm a hopeful romantic who adores novels with happy endings, because there are enough sad endings in real life.

You can find Tammara at these places:

When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, stalked by her ex’s frat brother, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Her econ professor gives her an email address for Landon, the class tutor, who shows her that she’s still the same intelligent girl she’s always been. As Jacqueline becomes interested in more from her tutor than a better grade, his teasing responses make the feeling seem mutual. There’s just one problem—their only interactions are through email.

Meanwhile, a guy in her econ class proves his worth the first night she meets him. Nothing like her popular ex or her brainy tutor, Lucas sits on the back row, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. At a downtown club, he disappears after several dances that leave her on fire. When he asks if he can sketch her, alone in her room, she agrees—hoping for more.
Then Jacqueline discovers a withheld connection between her supportive tutor and her seductive classmate, her ex comes back into the picture, and her stalker escalates his attention by spreading rumors that they’ve hooked up. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

Today I'm giving away a copy of Easy, in whatever format the winner prefers, to 1 lucky commentor, because I loved this book and every book of Tammara's. 

UPDATE: Tammara replaced the e-book version with a SIGNED COPY of EASY! Winner (chosen by random.org) revealed in comments!