Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tornados & Such

Hey everyone. Not sure what you're seeing on the news but Northern Alabama took a huge hit when the storm came through last Wednesday. While we're all safe, we have been left without power until probably Wednesday at the earliest. Some of us have also lost phones, Internet and cell service. Not sure when we will be able to post again regularly, but we will as soon as we can.

Keep Alabama in your thoughts and prayers.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Remembering Beverly

FYI - the playfriends and mavens are safe, but without power, phones or Internet. Keep Alabama in your thoughts.

I will admit that I have dreaded this post all week. Not because I didn't love Beverly and not because she doesn't deserve every moment of tribute we give her. Aside from it just being difficult to write, I find myself in an odd place because Beverly and I didn't have many 'moments.' She and Angel were close. PC was her diva-in-training. But I always sort of gravitated to the Lindas. I'm fairly quiet and logical, Beverly was loud and emotional. I didn't always know how to relate to her like I did the other Mavens, who were more like I was.

Beverly was always fully done, from head to toe. You had to get up early to catch her before her hair and makeup were done. Her outfits were always perfectly selected and accessorized. In this area, I was the opposite again. If we weren't at conference, you'd catch me with a pony tail, jeans, a t-shirt and little to no jewelry or makeup. When I did dress up for the luncheon or the RITAs, Beverly would always be sure to compliment me. I always figured she was gently steering me in the direction of being more of a meticulously groomed Southern Lady.

We were hosting a librarian's tea one year before the luncheon, an opportunity for our authors to mingle with librarians and booksellers in the area. I volunteered to cater the event and save the chapter money. I think most people know I do cakes, but I also cater with my mother from time to time. Everything from 400 person church dinners, to weddings, to 10 person baby showers. My mother knows food and what works and I know the logistics, layout and display.

I don't know what Beverly was expecting of me, especially since I was flying solo. I guess to look at me - decidedly missing the fancy dish gene and steering far from most things prissy - she was just praying she had enough time to follow behind me and fix things so it wasn't a total disaster. But most people underestimate my creative and artistic eye, which can apply to many things, including food. I whipped out my multi-tier floating dishes, silver serving trays and fancy dispensers for lemonade and tea with sliced fruit floating in it. I decorated my platters with beds of greens and garnishes of raspberries before setting out dainty cups of chicken salad and spirals of sandwich pinwheels. We couldn't do real plates and cloth napkins, but I had pretty clear plates and red napkins set in decoratively fanned stacks. When it was done, you'd think I had absolutely nothing to do with it.

I wasn't paying much attention to what was going on around me. I was in the catering zone where my laser focus is set on getting the food out and perfect in time for guests. But when I finished and took a step back, I noticed Beverly watching me. She was absolutely beaming. Somehow, with my raspberry garnishes, I had proven to her that maybe I wasn't such a lost cause after all. I might not always walk the walk, but I knew the difference and could pull it out when necessary. She hugged me and told me how lovely everything looked. Coming from the queen of cloth napkins and good china, that meant a lot.

I think the best thing about the Mavens is that they each teach you something different, not only about writing, but about life. As fancy as Beverly may have appeared, she was really just focused on appreciating the beauty of the simple pleasures in life. No one valued a bouquet of fresh cut flowers or a delicate tea cup like she did. The laughter of her grandchildren or value of making someone feel welcome and special in her home. It wasn't about anything other than making the most of every moment. Why save that china for a special occasion? Make today special and enjoy what you have in your life. And now that there won't be any more moments with Beverly, it makes me all the more aware of the idea that I need to do the same.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reverting Back to Childhood

We talked earlier this week about how our title as 'children' was bestowed on us by Beverly. She and the other Mavens might have referred to us often by that title, but never did they make us feel like we were actually children. They've always treated us like competent, dependable, intelligent women...probably because we are. Don't get me wrong, we adore our title and wear the label with pride.

But there was that one time where I had flashbacks of my teenage years...

The Playfriends had recently taken positions on the HOD board - headed by Beverly as our new president. She invited us all to her home for an extended board meeting so that we could plan and begin our terms feeling confident in the responsibilities we were taking on. As the consummate hostess, she invited us all to spend the night.

As soon as we walked into her home, Beverly made us feel immediately welcome. We sat around talking for quite some time, but finally it was time to head upstairs and go to bed. I was on a root beer kick and had brought a bottle with me so that I could have something to drink. As normally happens, despite the fact that our intentions were to go immediately to sleep, the Playfriends ended up talking. And laughing. We could hear Beverly rummaging around downstairs in the kitchen getting things ready for the amazing breakfast she would serve us the next morning. Honestly, it reminded me of nights spent over at my best friend's house growing up.

To this day I'm a little fuzzy on what exactly happened - despite the fact that it was entirely my fault. I have a feeling I was laughing and trying to do two things at once. Never a good idea. There was a little sink and a tiny refrigerator involved. Maybe I was getting ice? Either way, I ended up knocking a decorative plate into the sink, making a racket, and spilling root beer all over Beverly's snow white carpet.

From down below we hear, "Girls, what happened?" And unanimously, I swear as if practiced, all five of us responded, "Nothing," in that singsong little girl voice we used try and pull one over on our parents. I have a feeling Beverly did not fall for the trick. As soon as we said it all of us looked at each other and died laughing again which probably reinforced Beverly's impression that we were up to no good.

It didn't take me long to realize that I had to go down and ask Beverly for something to clean her carpet with. I might have been acting like a child but I wasn't one. With butterflies in my stomach, I crept down the stairs just the way I'm sure I did when I was eight and had to confess that I'd done something naughty. I came clean, assured her nothing had broken (I think this was probably her worst fear) and then asked if she had carpet cleaner. I might have been close to tears, I'm not sure, but I think it's probably likely. Beverly was so gracious. She immediately assured me I was not the first person to spill something on that perfect white carpet. She exclaimed, "I have grandsons!" as if that answered everything. She smiled at me, making me feel better than I probably had a right to.

I carried the supplies back upstairs and cleaned up the mess I'd made. And I never forgot the way she reacted. I'm certain she had visions of losing something that was important to her. But she didn't yell. She didn't get upset. In fact, she went out of her way to make me feel better which considering the circumstances was more than I deserved. Ultimately, she set a perfect example for how I want to handle these kinds of incidences with my own children.

That night, for about five minutes, I might have actually felt like a child, but that's not how it ended. Yes, I will never live down that moment. But I'm okay with that. Beverly was so gracious. I hope that one day I can be just like her. And that memory helps me remember the standard I need to live up to.


Me, Beverly & Smarty Pants at our local meeting

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'll Always Remember

When I got the phone call last week about Beverly's death, I was stunned. I wandered around numb all day, unable to focus on anything. Heck, I'm still wandering around in a daze. That's a typical reaction to grief, and I'm no stranger to the grief process. I've gone through it with my divorce. But I had to lock down so many of my emotions for a number of reasons during the divorce. I'd bottled everything inside to the point of physical illness. I was beginning to wonder if I was even capable of crying anymore.

I learned the answer to that very quickly. I've cried more over the last week than I have in the last two years. Maven LJ made reference to age and giving birth to the Playfriends. Well, folks, I COULD have given birth to all four of the others (though PC reminds me she'd have been the illegitimate child since she was born a little over 5 months before I got married). Beverly and I weren't that far apart in age, and her death has made me ponder my own mortality.

As I stood at her memorial service and watched her family, I saw how much not only her children adored her, but her children-in-law. Like Beverly, I have a daughter-in-law, and Beverly was a wonderful example of how a mother should treat her son's wife. Her daughter-in-law's name was always preceeded with the words "sweet" or "precious." And I saw first-hand just how true those words were when I met Beverly's daughter-in-law. The love went both ways.

I was quite familiar with the name Beverly Barton before I ever joined Heart of Dixie. I was working as the review coordinator for Writers Unlimited and had reviewed an anthology containing a novella by Beverly. It was a spin-off from another of her books and I tracked down that book to see what had led up to the events in the novella.

Then I found her Silhouette Desires and Intimate Moments and began reading any of her category backlist I could find. Somewhere along the way, I rekindled a love of writing, found out about RWA and Heart of Dixie and joined both. I was warmly welcomed by Beverly and the following year became one of "The Children." Heck, a couple years ago she even dedicated a book to me and the FBI agent I put her in contact with. What an honor. Somewhere along the way, I discovered another side to Beverly -- the side that wrote damn scary books with serial killers and psychopaths.

My favorite Beverly moment was in October of 2006. My sister had driven here from her home on the coast of Georgia and we were going to travel the Natchez Trace from just west of Tuscumbia, Alabama all the way to Natchez, Mississppi. I suggested we stop in Tuscumbia to visit Ivy Green, the home of Helen Keller. Tuscumbia was also home to Beverly. And since we were going to be finished at Ivy Green around lunchtime, I called Beverly early that morning and asked if my sister and I could treat her to lunch.

She graciously agreed to meet us in downtown Tuscumbia at The Palace, a renovated and refurbished drugstore and soda fountain, where we ate and talked and laughed and were made to feel special as only Beverly could do. She also brought us both a copy of an anthology, which contained a novella by her. It was titled "Sugar and Spice." She apologized for having to cut lunch short, saying she had to get back to the computer and her work in progress.

When I emailed my sister last week to tell her of Beverly's passing, she replied with this: "I’m glad I was able to meet her and share her joy for living. I’ll always remember her signing off for lunch with an 'I’ve got to go cut somebody’s head off now' statement."

Yep, that was Beverly -- the genteel southern lady who loved her family and friends dearly and who could cut someone's head off on the page and leave you quaking with fear as you read about it. It never ceased to amaze me how that sweet, grandmother could write such deep, dark, gritty books. But she did. And she did it well -- well enough to hit the New York Times list. Her most recent romantic suspense, Dead by Morning, hit the shelves yesterday, and I was at the bookstore early to buy my copy. I may never read it because the trailer on her website was scary enough. But by damn, I'll do my part to help that book hit the Times list.

I sat on my patio sipping a glass of iced tea Sunday evening as the sun went down and the stars appeared. I know Beverly is up there at the Pearly Gates making sure everyone gets a warm southern welcome and wipes their feet before they step inside. Then she'll remind them to write thank-you notes to God and St. Peter for inviting them in. She was a friend, mentor and example of the Golden Rule -- do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I'm reminded of a quote from Christopher Robin to Pooh.

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Beverly reminded me of that often with hugs or smiles or handwritten notes. And I promise I will always remember.

Beverly and me at the RWA conference in 2006, not long after MY sweet, precious daughter-in-law had given birth to my sweet and precious granddaughter.

P.S. Instigator is guest blogging at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales today. Pop over and tell her hi.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Beverly and I shared a great love of all things other folks might consider “prissy.” And we were proud of it.

Beverly and I stood strong in our opposition to paper plates and paper napkins. I understand that there is a time and a place for paper goods, but my dinner table (or Beverly’s) is not that place. Beverly backed me on this. I’m not going to refuse to eat if you give me a paper plate, and I won’t condemn you for it, but don’t look for one at my house.

It was a bit easier for Beverly, because she had a china collection that anyone with a love of dishes would just turn pea-green with envy over, but she appreciated my attempts with stoneware and a random collection of cloth napkins. (Beverly could host the HOD Christmas party and actually set tables for 40 with matching china and coordinating glassware and linen. I couldn’t do that, but everyone had a real plate and actual napkin at the 2010 HOD party. Beverly was quite pleased with me.)

But I did join the Playfriends in horror that weekend we spent at Beverly’s a couple of years ago. Beverly cooked chili for lunch and set a lovely table complete with white cloth napkins. Now the white-cloth-and-chili-combo had us all looking at each other worriedly. White cloth napkins stain (which is why I only have a few light-colored cloth napkins and AC knows they’re not for use with red sauce of any sort). But these napkins also had a delicate lace trim. After you read Instigator’s story on Thursday, you’ll understand a little better why we were feeling a bit like barbarians anyway, and the last thing we wanted to do was add chili-stained white lace napkins to our sins.

The others asked for paper towels (which I knew weren’t coming because hell hadn’t frozen over yet), but I got Beverly to compromise with some red gingham napkins. They didn’t match the china, but at least we were able to eat. Thank dog it was only lunch, so there wasn’t a tablecloth to worry about!

I will miss having Beverly in my corner on this, but I know Jean and Lynn will help me hold the line here and advocate for all things prissy. Beverly would like that.

Beverly, I hope all the tables in heaven are set with real china, crystal, silver, and white napkins with lace trim.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A True Friend

As many of you already know, the Playfriends lost our beloved Maven Beverly Barton last week. Beverly was an incredible woman, full of spirit and laughter. A true southern Lady, she admonished us on correct etiquette, encouraged us to love our families, and applauded our go-to spirits. In fact, Beverly was the first Maven to call us “the Children”, and we will be forever grateful for the gift of her love and encouragement.

This week we will be making a departure from our normal blogging procedures to share with you a few of our personal stories about Beverly Barton – author, mother, and dear, dear friend. If you have your own stories – about meeting her, reading her books, reading her interviews, etc – we’d love for you to join us. This week, we celebrate the life and legacy of Beverly Barton.


Mavens and Children -- 2006

How the Children Got Their Name

(written by Maven Linda Winstead Jones)

It was July 2005, Reno Nevada. Linda Howard and I were both on the National Board of RWA, so we’d flown in several days early for a meeting before the conference. Beverly was coming out a few days later, and she’d planned to travel with a few of the newer members of HOD, bright, wonderful women we’d all taken to right away. Maybe if there had only been one or two of them we would’ve called them by name, but when Beverly arrived she told us she’d flown in with “some of the Children.” Immediately it took, and a day or two later we were asking on a regular basis, “Where are the Children?”

I’m not sure why she chose “Children.” True, most of them are young enough to be our offspring, but without naming names -- (ahem, Playground Monitor) -- we could not have given birth to all of them. But they were all new in the business, and we adored them, and it just seemed right.

It must’ve seemed right to others, too, because it stuck. Word spread quickly throughout the romance world, and within a matter of weeks our young friends were being asked, “Are you one of the Children?” Other writers from all across the country, people none of us knew . . . even editors. When Beverly first said those words, I doubt she had any idea what she’d set into motion.


Beverly Barton and Angel at the RWA National RITA ceremony, 2006

Though I’m sure many of the stories this week will make me smile as I remember them, the story I want to share with you today made me cry when it happened, and makes me cry even more today.

You see, a few months ago, Beverly approached me at one of our local chapter meetings. She barely had time to come in the door and put down her purse before she stopped me at the back of the room. “Honey,” she said – she often called me Honey – “I had no idea what was going on and I want you to know I’m so sorry.”

Beverly had only recently found out about the troubles brewing at my house, and her sincere concern pushed me out of my precarious hold on that ‘stoic’ face we show the world. I immediately burst into tears.

I’ll never forget standing in the back of that room with probably 20 or 25 people milling about, but we could have been somewhere totally alone. Beverly put her arms around me and held me close, speaking quietly in my ear. She told me how much she understood, how she knew it was hard, and what a strong woman she believed me to be. At that moment I didn’t feel strong, but I didn’t have to be. She talked to me about my writing, telling me my time would come, that I couldn’t give up, that I had to believe. She said, “I’ll do whatever I can to help you. Whatever I can.”

Those words meant the world to me at that moment, and they are even more precious to me today. Not just that she was willing to help me, but more because she believed in me enough to say them. She believed in me as a writer, as a mother, and as a woman.

We emailed several times after that in the weeks that followed. She offered more encouragement, and reminded me often how important marriage and family are. As I stood amongst her family at her memorial service, those words took root in my heart. She wasn’t offering pat answers, but instead speaking from experience.

I’ll be forever grateful that she not only counted me as a friend, but reached out to me in my time of need.


PS. Our friend Barbara Vey at Publisher's Weekly is blogging today about Beverly on Beyond Her Book. The link is in our sidebar. Barbara will be visiting us for the luncheon on Friday.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The Children are heartbroken today at the loss of our Maven Beverly.

We will miss her big heart and bright spirit.

Mavens and Children, Orlando 2010

I don't have any other words...

Whistling a Different Tune

I've been cranking out the pages over the last several days. 58 pages in 2 days. Don't get too impressed though, I followed those with a 6 page day. Any other time I would have thought that perfectly acceptable, but not after setting a new personal record.

Anyway, part of my marathon writing sessions included updating my iTunes account. My process is funky. Some books I write in the bathtub, some I write at the office and some I pile up in the bed with my headphones and rock music blaring in my ears. Apparently, this book requires music. And I discovered that I was woefully behind on said music selection. I honestly think the last time I hit the buy button was almost a year ago.

So, I'm basically wondering if I've missed out on some really great music since then. I have some personal favorites - Anna Nalick, Theory of a Deadman, Sugarland, Nickleback, Carrie Underwood, Josh Groban, Muse, Evanescence. Yeah, so my taste in music is a little eclectic. I also admit to having Justin Beiber, Hannah Montana and Selena Gomez on my iTunes, but I promise those songs are only there for my girls. Really. I swear.

Do you have a favorite artist? Favorite song? Anyone I should add to my favorites list? If you write to music do you find that you use specific songs to inspire certain emotions? I've got great sensual, angry, loving and sad songs that I go to every time I need some background atmosphere to help me get into the mood of the scene. Or does music while you're trying to write drive you insane?


P.S. Allyn is PM's winner from yesterday. Please email her at with your name and snail mail address to claim your prize.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's nice to be important

Last week was National Volunteer Week, but because it was also Best of the Bookshelf Week, I had to let it slide until today. But this week or last, volunteering is important. You shouldn't need a specially designated "week" to give back to your community and/or the world.

I've yet to hear of an organization that turns down volunteers. Every week my church bulletin is filled with announcements about this agency or that group needing help. Sometimes they need money. Sometimes they need supplies. And sometimes they need YOU.

A group of folks I know are very involved with a program called Foodline. It's a program to provide emergency food to individuals and families who run out of money before they've run out of month. I sat in on a Foodline session one day and I felt absolutely horrid about having complained I'd not had a steak in a month. Some folks have NOTHING. They are like Old Mother Hubbard, and the cupboard is bare -- at least until the next Social Security or disability check arrives.

Other folks I know are very involved with Habitat for Humanity. Our local group is building five new homes in the same neighborhood this year, and since 1987 they have provided 187 families with new homes in this community. In 2010, 4,651 local volunteers worked 26,475 hours and helped make this group one of the top 50 US affiliates of Habitat International.

A family in my church has a daughter who is currently serving in the Peace Corps in the African country of Burkina Faso. At the moment, she's contemplating extending for a third year. It's one thing to sit at a phone in an air-conditioned office and listen to folks tell you they have no food. It's quite another to give up two years (or more) of your life halfway around the world.

I am currently working with a program called Beginning Experience. It's a peer ministry for persons who are separated, divorced or widowed and is based around the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross model of five stages of grief. I attended the program as a participant and then felt drawn to help as a facilitator. It isn't easy to step into a room full of strangers and spill your guts about being divorced. It's also not easy to sit and listen as a facilitator. It takes me back to when I first attended and I often wonder, "Was I that much of an emotional mess?" (And the answer is yes.)

This isn't my first brush with volunteerism. When I started listing all the places I'd volunteered, I was quite surprised to see how much of my time I'd given away to a telephone crisis hotline, various churches, my boys' schools (I was always the field trip mom), three different neighborhood watch programs, the homeowners' association where I used to live, Cub Scouts and Romance Writers of America at both the national and local level.

Most of us think it's nice to be important. And yeah, it feels good. But...

And you don't even have to leave your desk to be nice and help others. Sites such as Free Rice let you click at the keyboard, test your vocabulary and donate rice to help end world hunger. Or just offering to help the elderly lady across the street can mean the difference in her having a bad day and having a good one. A kind gesture, no matter how small, can make an enormous difference.

Do you volunteer? One random commenter will get a book from my stash.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Random Ramblings Round Up

Ah, it's Tuesday. I have galleys to do, a chapter to write, a trip to court with a friend to make, and about a dozen other things to do as well. So it's a random ramblings round-up, y'all!


I'm now a proud owner of a compost pile -- or a bin that will become my compost pile, at least. I was so proud of myself today as I dropped in all the weeds from the flowerbeds, my used tea bags, and a few veggie scraps from dinner. However, I'm going to need suggestions as to what to do with my compost as I don't actually garden all that much, and now I'm rather worried that the family of raccoons that live in the storm drain are going to make my compost bin their favorite dinner out spot. Hmmm... stay tuned. While I may not reach Instigator's level of Adventures in Agriculture, I get the feeling my attempt to compost may be blog fodder in the future.


An FYI: "Taking the red-eye back from LA" sounds very cool, very sophisticated, but it sucks. Even if you come home and go back to bed, you will suffer the effects of a short night of uncomfortable rest for several days. The older you are, the worse this will be. Just warning you.


My current favorite video of the week is Julia Sweeney' s (former Saturday Night Live comedienne) discussion of "the talk" with her 8-year-old. It's not safe for work, y'all, and please put down your drink before you click. It's hysterical, especially if you can relate to that impromptu birds-and-bees discussion you had with an 8-year-old. After watching this video, I felt much better about my own "talk" with AC at the dinner table.

Oh, and another FYI: If you have a small child, and you hope to avoid some of the awkwardness by giving them a book first (in that nonchalant, this-is-no-big-deal way), be sure to provide a pronunciation guide for the child. Just trust me on this. Phonics is not your friend when it comes to the genitals and the reproductive cycle.


I've had my new car for almost a month now, and I still can't find it in the parking lot. This is getting embarrassing.


After an absolutely brutal BodyFlow class Saturday (an 8 minute ab workout. Seriously. I have a 12-inch band of pain circling my torso now), I looked forward to a long soak in the hot tub. The hot tub is broken. It's amazing how quickly I grew to appreciate the hot tub and how much I took it for granted at the same time. Right now, I have a lukewarm tub that does me no good at all, and because I got so used to having it, I'm probably going to be willing to pay a small fortune to get it back in working order. Sigh. You can't miss what you didn't have, and I'm now wishing I didn't have a hot tub to get used to...


I've got a stack of books I picked up at RT and I'm ready to give some away! Just comment on today's post for a chance to win!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Hanging Out or Going Places?

Spring Break was alive and well around here last week, and I had my first taste of juggling the kiddios and the new job. It wasn’t too bad, since the hubby goes in to work 2 hours later than I do and I get off work mid-afternoon – on the days both of us worked our “helpers” didn’t have to keep them for a horribly long time.

I did feel kind of bad about them not getting to do much “special stuff” during that week. Though we never go on vacation during spring break, I usually try to do a few fun things with them. This week I didn’t manage to do anything until Friday, when I took them to the movies, and they got to spend the night with cousins over the weekend. Not our usually modus operandi, but I did the best I could.

What about y’all? Did you have Spring Break plans? Do you usually vacation or do your kids want to do something special?


Friday, April 15, 2011

A Good Problem To Have

So, I've got a problem. I'm not complaining about being in this situation, so don't throw your shoe at me, but it something I have to figure out. Way back in the day when I had the Circle of Five going, I learned that the more submissions I sent out, the more rejections would come raining back on me. And usually all in the same week. I still recommend it, you're got to get stuff out there, but you've got to be prepared for the results.

Case in point. Last summer I took advantage of multiple pitching opportunities that came up, so I had several requests floating around. I decided to send a partial out on a book that hadn't made the rounds yet. Just keeping things moving around. Seeing what happens. I got a couple rejections and it didn't bother me because I had lots of irons in the fire. Then something funny happened. What I wanted to happen, happened. I started getting revision requests. Requests to see the rest of books that weren't quite ready to go out the door yet. A flush of new idea in my head I'm itching to work on.

So now I have a request for a book that isn't done (and the editor knows it, so no chastizing), a request for heavy revisions to a single title (big project that makes my head hurt, but I can't pass it up), and I'd started working on a new project that really excited me a couple days before all this came about. So much to do! I'm scrambling to check off one thing at a time, to move quickly yet still provide quality work. I'm about to pull my hair out. I guess its practice for after I sell and have to juggle the current project, the AAs and galleys for a prior project, while promoting the project that was just released in stores.

Did I mention I'm also dieting? Makes everything more dramatic in my head than it needs to be and since I can't eat a cookie to calm my inner panicking writer, I just have to ride it out. Anything piling up on you lately? Chores? Laundry? Work? We can dig out together.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Stages of Writing

I've been told repeatedly that I don't talk enough about my writing process on the blog. "But everyone wants to know how you do what you do," everyone says. Part of the reason I don't talk about it is because my process is rather messy. Sorta like whirlwind cleaning before company comes over, I like to pretend that my books pop out of my head beautifully formed and perfect without effort.

That is a lie.

So, because I'm procrastinating (yes, chapter seven is looming in front of me) I'm going to share the steps to my writing process.

First, I come up with an idea. Usually, said idea sucks. Big time. So I gather friends, champagne, wine coolers and if I'm desperate a hot tub. Voila, bad idea becomes wonderful idea. It's amazing how rosy the outlook can become after imbibing alcohol. The next day I look at my notes and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

So I go back to the drawing board and discover there's a spark of genius hidden in the notes that I've taken. I massage it, fan it, work on conflict, motivation, characterization until I have something vaguely resembling a plot. I'm excited with my book at this point. There are so many possibilities. I plunge into the first three chapters so charged to get this project started and off to my editor. I'm hoping she recognizes the genius that I am.

And then I remember I must write a synopsis. It's at this stage that I realize I have neglected that little thing called plot while I was playing with my people. So I dash off something that takes the conflict I've created and turns it on it's head. I will routinely gloss over chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7 with 2 to 4 sentences that are brilliantly written but say absolutely nothing. I concentrate on the beginning - because I've already written it - and the end because I know how the conflict must be resolved.

Feeling like I've hand wrestled a bear with nothing more than a safety pin - and won - I head back to my chapters. And realize that I've glossed over 4, 5, 6 and 7 and have no idea what happens next. I take a bath hoping the steam will loosen something in my brain. It usually doesn't. I phone a friend. During our conversations I remember the conflict I created in the first place and together we come up with brilliant and imaginative ways to torture my characters using that conflict. I finally write 4, 5, 6 and 7.

And after 7 - which is my personal nemesis, kryptonite and Achilles heel all wrapped in one - I give a sigh of relief. And realize I still have 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and probably 15, 16 and an epilogue to write. Thank God I usually know how the story ends.

So I write The End and then start over at the beginning. I reread what I've written - cringe a little, realize I'm not entirely a hack and layer in some of the details I've missed the first go round. I send it to some friends for their input. Only after they've confirmed that I'm not a moron for thinking this is good enough to send to my editor, I email said manuscript to wonderful editor (who will help me make the book perfect because she is a saint and should be cannonized at the first opportunity. However, revisions is an entirely different blog).

And that's my process. If you're a writer, does your process resemble mine at all? Please? Don't let me hang out here on the crazy branch by myself. If you're a reader, do you enjoy hearing about process? Do you like to learn the details that go in to bleeding across the page?


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Best of the Bookshelf -- April Edition

It's Best of the Bookshelf time again where the Playfriends share what they've been reading.

Last month, Problem Child alluded to her March release and I know I'm a month late and a dollar short, but I'm reading Girls' Guide to Flirting with Danger by Kimberly Lang.

Megan Lowe is a marriage counselor and Devin Kenney is the country's top divorce attorney. How odd is it that they used to be married? To each other? When Devin's hit book Cover Your Assets and his hit radio show begin to have a negative impact on Megan's career, something's gotta give or someone's gotta give in.

Girls' Guide to Flirting with Danger is a great read (and PC didn't pay me a thing to say that). It really is. It's sexy and sassy and Devin is a hunk. Megan is a strong heroine who has clawed her way up the professional ladder, and did I mention Devin is a hunk? ;-) You won't be disappointed with this book.

Angel is reading Secret Legacy by Anna DeStefano

Anna’s series about a covert organization experimenting on those with psychic abilities continues in Dark Legacy with Sarah’s mysterious connection to a little girl who haunts her dreams and the psychic warrior who will risk his all to protect her. I find books on psychic abilities very intriguing and Anna’s is no exception!

Smarty Pants is reading Instigator's April realease, What Might Have Been.

Ahh... peach farming. While it's a favorite pasttime of the Playfriends, there's one person it doesn't interest - sexy computer genius Luke Collier. Just his luck that his grandfather's death means he's inherited the peach farm he never wanted. And to make things worse, his old flame, Ainsley Rutherford, runs the farm. What he doesn't know is what Ainsley's been hiding from him all these years. Blending her trademark hot sex with a surprisingly emotional plot, Sinclair brings something unexpected and welcome to the standard Blaze offering.

Problem Child is reading When Harry Met Molly by Kieran Kramer.

A cute friends to lovers story with strong, adorable, loveable characters, and Kieran’s voice is lighthearted and fun. I inhaled this book in almost one sitting on the plane back from RT. As the first in a series of four connected books, I’m looking forward to reading the next three. (And since Kieran sat next to me at the RT booksigning, I managed to talk her into promising to send me the next one!)

Instigator is reading The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen.

Sarah has a way of taking a light paranormal element and blending it seamlessly into a lighthearted story with a genteel southern backbone that we don’t often see. Her writing style is easy and in some cases makes me feel like I’m reading about my own interesting neighbors. I highly recommend anything she writes – including The Peach Keeper.

What have YOU been reading?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A brush with celebrity...

So Instigator and I (along with Lynn Raye Harris and a thousand other people) spent last week in LA at the RT Readers' Convention. We had a blast. I'll get more pictures and things up later, but I have to tell you about our brush with the celeb lifestyle the day before the conference started.

We went out sightseeing. The Santa Monica pier, Venice Beach, Hollywood Blvd, and, of course, Rodeo Drive. (I'm a Presents author. Rodeo Drive is *research.*)

We're window shopping mainly. But in the window of Dior, I saw a beautiful purse and wanted to see it up close. Of course, I knew there was little chance I could actually afford something from Dior, but I wouldn't have another chance to fondle a Dior purse anytime soon. So we went inside.

Even though I was as travel-worn as only a day of sightseeing can make a girl, the Dior saleswoman was still nice to me, showing me the purse, telling me about it, etc. Then she offered us champagne. Now, I know if I drink her champagne, she's really going to expect me to buy the purse, and since we haven't mentioned price, I'm not hopeful it's in my price range. So we say no to the champagne (although I do wonder what brand Dior serves in their store...) So she offered us espresso. Now I'm getting worried I won't get out of there without eating into AC's college fund.

I will say that y'all would have been impressed at the very nonchalant way the three of us reacted when we finally got to the $2700 price tag. You'd have thought we honestly considered buying $2700 purses every day. But we got out of there PDQ after that...

But that wasn't my brush with being a celeb. (That was simply my anti-Pretty Woman moment, which was rather cool.) No, the celeb status came at the Coach store.

We'd been in earlier that day, and while Lynn made her purchase I made small talk with another salesman and mentioned we were romance authors. When we came back shortly before closing time, word of the romance authors had spread to the rest of the sales staff and they had tons of questions for us. But it was getting close to closing and I had one more thing I wanted to look at.
I apologized and told them I'd be quick since I knew they were getting ready to close and probably wanted to go home.

The salesman helping me just shook his head and told me to take my time because, they'd close the store and let us shop all we wanted. I, being a nice person, said that was very kind but we wouldn't want them to do that.

His response? "That's what we do for celebrities."

Me, a celebrity? Really? Cool. They treated us like superstars and it was fantastic.

Of course, then we left the store and caught a very non-celeb cross-town bus with the rest of LA's non-celebrity citizens for a very long, slightly smelly, ride back to the hotel.

That'll bring you back down to earth real fast, let me tell you.

But for a little while I was a celeb on Rodeo Drive, having sales clerks offer me champagne and drinking wine in trendy sidewalk cafes. The stuff of dreams.

Of course, now I'm home and the only sales clerk I'm talking to is the butcher at the grocery store. But a girl can dream of champagne, ridiculously expensive purses, shopping in a closed store, and the star treatment.

I love LA...


**Stephanie! You are the Free Book Friday winner. Contact SP at to claim!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Snowed Under in April!

Ack! Its that time of the year again.

What time, you may ask. Why, basket making time!


Each year I’m in charge of 40-50 raffle baskets created for our annual HOD Romance Readers Luncheon, usually held in May, though this year it is the last day of April. Now, you may wonder how hard it is to assemble baskets of this sort. Well, the actual assembly isn’t that hard, because a few chaptermates and I team up and do it all in one day. But before that can happen…

I have to collect all donated books and goodies, find containers (we use tote bags, beautiful baskets, specialty boxes—like hat boxes, etc), and THEN separate all these beautiful items into “themes” for each basket. This means seeing everything I have and deciding what goes with what. I’ve been working on it this weekend, so I can see what I have and what I still need.

My living room looks like a tornado went through it! Literally. At 6pm on Sunday evening there wasn’t even a goat path through. I just told them to stay away for fear they would become lost in the clutter.

But I have to admit, bringing order and beauty to the chaos is very satisfying, which is one reason why I continue to do this job. It just thrills my little organizing heart.

What about you? Do you have the organizing gene or no?


Friday, April 08, 2011

Free Book Friday - Luncheon Edition

Coming up at the end of this month, Heart of Dixie, or home RWA chapter, is sponsoring their annual romance readers' luncheon. This year, we have the fabulous and funny Kerrelyn Sparks joining us. We're all very excited and working hard to get this event put together flawlessly.

To commemmorate, I'm giving away an autographed copy of Kerrelyn's book!

Secret Life of a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks

Nothing's sexier than an man who can keep a secret.

A typical bachelor party is all about beers and beautiful women. A vampire bachelor party is no different -- except the men are drinking Blissky (whiskey-flavored synthetic blood). And no one can throw a party quite like Jack, the illegitimate son of the legendary Casanova. But when the party gets out of hand and the cops show up, Jack has some explaining to do . . . if only he wasn't struck speechless by the beauty of Officer Lara Boucher.

Lara is sure there's something more than a bachelor party going on. What is Jack hiding? And why is he so interested in the recent disappearance of young women all over town? Her investigation uncovers more than she wants to know, especially about this modern-day Casanova. But if she's ever to make detective, she'll need to expose all his secrets . . . if only her heart wasn't on the line.

To enter, comment with the phrase "He can take a bite outta me!" and let us know if you've ever attended a reader event like this. If so, what was your favorite part?


For more information on how you can come to our fabulous luncheon, click

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Out on a Limb

I know my place. I'll admit it. I've been reading romance novels since I was thirteen...longer than that if you count the preteen/teenage angst of the Sweet Valley High series as romance (I'm not sure I do but that's another discussion for another time). I exclusively read romance novels. I enjoy my happy endings. I have enough disasters and stress in my daily life, I turn to books for an escape not to be beaten over the head with what else could go wrong. I suppose there might be value in that - my life suddenly looks pretty darn good in comparison - but I don't usually fixate on that angle of things. Apparently, I'm a book snob and just never realized it.

I recently stepped out of my comfort zone and read a genre I don't normally read. I won't tell you what genre or the author of the book (I will say it was published by a well respected publisher) because frankly, I wasn't impressed. And I have no desire to bad mouth another writer or publisher. I realize that some books just aren't designed for some people. As an author I know that when I send my work in not everyone will like it and I have to be okay with that. But I think this goes beyond just my preferences.

The writing was okay but it wasn't original or spectacular. The plot was fairly weak. And my major problem was that the motivation of the main character vaguely resembled swiss cheese. From basically the first chapter I knew I wasn't going to be happy with the book. So why did I finish? Idle curiosity. Research. And my ego probably needed a nice stroking.

But it made me think. From speaking with someone else who's reading in this genre, the problems with this book aren't unique. I can't claim they are genre wide because I haven't read widely within the genre, but I think I can safely say this wasn't a one off deal of a weak book. It made me appreciate the caliber of characterization, motivation and unusual plot that I've come to expect out of my beloved romance novels.

So my question is, do you read outside of romance? If so have you found that one measures up to the other (as much as an orange can be compared to an apple)? Do you find that romance novels are stronger in technique? I'm wondering if this is the case, if it's because we're so well connected within the genre. If it's because we support our unpublished and teach them the skills they need before they're published. If that we expect more and therefore deliver more. Or if maybe I'm just biased.

What do you think?


P.S. I'm at RT today so I don't know when I'll be able to check in, but I'll try. Miss everyone!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Who Do You Wish You Were?

I recently saw an online article about the 100 most memorable female TV characters. I enjoyed going through the list because it was a trip down memory lane. I picked out a few of my favorites (and two who aren't on the list but I'll explain when I get to them). They are in no particular order.

Brenda Leigh Johnson of The Closer -- Kyra Sedgwich portrays a southern woman who heads up the Priority Homocide Division of the Los Angeles police department. She's smart, she's strong and she don't take no crap off nobody. Her interrogation techniques, which she learned when she worked for the CIA, are shrewd and usually result in a confession. That's why they call her The Closer. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Maddie Hayes of Moonlighting -- Maddie wasn't content to sit on her shapely rear when her modeling career ended. Instead, she waltzed into the Blue Moon Detective Agency, which had been purchased as a tax shelter, and decided to make it a working agency instead of a goof-off agency. And we all remember the clever banter between Maddie and David Addison. I still ask why they had to ruin it by having them sleep together.

Laura Holt of Remington Steele -- When no one would hire her as a private investigator, she took the name of a typewriter and a football team and created a fictitious boss. Then the jobs rolled in. All was well until Mr. Steele showed up. Uh oh.

Flo Castleberry of Alice -- She had big hair, a big attitude and a big mouth. When the boss got too grumpy, she'd deliver her famous response: "Mel, kiss my grits!"

Pepper Anderson of Police Woman -- Another strong cop but still very feminine. She was one of the first female TV cops and women's applications to police academies all over the country increased after the show's first season.

Julia Sugarbaker of Designing Women -- You can see why I like Julia Sugarbaker here. I can't believe she's been gone almost a year.

Olivia Benson of Law & Order: SVU -- Another tough female cop, Olivia is the product of rape but every day she works fearlessly to help other victims of sexual abuse. And it doesn't stop there. Mariska Hargitay, who portrays Olivia, began a foundation to help these same victims and works tirelessly to make a difference.

Uhura on Star Trek -- I was a fan of Star Trek from day one. I remember my sister and I watching it on the black and white portable TV in our bedroom -- the TV with the rabbit ears and fuzzy picture. Lt. Uhura (did you know her first name was Nyota?) was a role model for black women. Astronaut Mae Jemison credits Uhura with giving her the desire to become an astronaut. Uhura and Capt. Kirk also shared one of the first interracial kisses on TV.

And who was #1 on the list?

Mary Richards of The Mary Tyler Moore Show -- She turned the world on with her smile and inspired women everywhere. She was originally supposed to be a divorcee, but in 1970, the network execs were hesitant to make a divorced woman the main character of a TV show. So she became a single woman who's gonna make it on her own, and she did. Her character was a huge statement for the women's movement. There's even a statue in Minneapolis showing Mary tossing her hat in the air, a scene from the opening credits. Remember the "M" she had hanging on the wall of her apartment? I always wanted an "M" and now I do cause I'm gonna make it after all.

Not on the list was Kate Beckett of Castle. And why would I like Beckett? Aside from the strong, female cop thing (are you seeing a pattern here?), she gets to work with Castle. What more could you want?

But if I could be any character on TV, I'd be Penelope Garcia of Criminal Minds.

Forget the crazy look. OMG she has access to the most awesome set of search engines and databases in the world! I did a research job for a client last year and began to delve into the world of Google Scholar and the Alabama Virtual Library. But to have access to Penelope's world. I could, as Maven Linda said, "find Coronado's gold."

So who do you want to be on TV?

P.S. You can see the whole list here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Trix may be for kids, but these cross generations...

Yes, I know that “Good Parents” do not let their pre-school children watch television.

I am obviously not a good parent. (But we've covered that before.)

There were days when that 30 minutes of Dora the Explorer was all that separated me from the insane asylum. The day I discovered that Maisy was hypnotic baby crack that could keep AC frozen in place long enough for me to shower and check email was a grand day indeed. I wanted to hunt down the people who made that show and throw myself at their feet in groveling gratitude for the peace it gave me when there was something I needed to do. I made a tape of Maisy episodes to have on hand for emergency AC distraction. It was a ridiculous show and I hated it with a passion normally reserved only for large purple dinosaurs, but oh, mercy, I loved it as well.

Children’s television isn’t made for adults and most of the shows AC loved to watch made my eyeballs bleed. But there are some shows that were so good, I was disappointed when AC outgrew them and I didn’t get to watch them anymore.


The characters themselves are from an acid trip, but overall, it’s an awesome show. Great stories, original songs and real dancing. I swear, the Backyardigans crew had a real choreographer on staff. The songs were catchy and different. Just all around fun. And they always went in for a healthy snack at the end.

I actually watched a couple of these before AC was born. The cutest dog ever acting out classic literary masterpieces. ‘Nuff said. (He's in a Robin Hood outfit. That's just adorable!)

Granted, the baby talk could get a little old, but you had to love the teamwork and the puns for parents. I've even found a ringtone of the theme song and I'm so putting it on my phone (probably only for special occasion use. It can get a little irritating.) “Da phone, da phone is ring-ging…(If you have a small child in your life, you’re singing along already. And it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.)

But the one show I loved then and will still watch now – with or without AC – is Phineas and Ferb.

This show is brilliant. Funny, smart, catchy songs, and a secret agent platypus. And Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated. There’s a million things to love about this show, and I recommend it for all adults. (Because who doesn’t want to get up and dance to “Squirrels in my Pants”?)

So what kids’ shows do you love and occasionally still sing a line or two of?


Monday, April 04, 2011

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Heart of Dixie Romance Readers Luncheon 2011

The Undead are making a pit stop in the Rocket City! Vampires, werewolves, and angels are popular icons in today’s fiction.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kerrelyn Sparks combines them all in her popular Love at Stake series, and now she is bringing them to the annual Romance Readers’ Luncheon sponsored by Heart of Dixie, the north Alabama chapter of RWA. Sparks is the featured speaker for this annual event celebrating romance and literacy in the north Alabama community. Registration is now open for the 14th Annual Heart of Dixie event, held at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL, on April 30, 2011, from 11am until 3pm.

Special guest author Kerrelyn Sparks will share her vampire world during the keynote speech, host a table, and sign books at this year's event. Attendees will enjoy a delicious garlic-free lunch and blood-stirring conversation with fellow romance readers and favorite romance authors including Linda Howard, Beverly Barton, Linda Winstead Jones, Peggy Webb, Rhonda Nelson, Lynn Raye Harris, and Vicki Lewis Thompson. The Playground's very own Kimberly Lang and Kira Sinclair will be signing while the other playfriends run around doing every other task under the sun.

Kerrelyn Sparks’s first paranormal romance, How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire, zoomed out of the bat cave so fast it became the Borders bestselling debut romance of 2005. Each book in the Love at Stake series has become a USA Today bestseller, and the fourth book, The Undead Next Door, landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Ms. Sparks lives in the Greater Houston area with her husband, children, and a house full of garlic, but so far there are no vampires in her family.

HOD's Annual Luncheon also includes mysterious door prizes and celebrations. A book fair and autograph session with the attending authors following the luncheon is open and free to the public at 2pm. Profits from the book fair are donated to a local literacy charity. Join us as we celebrate romance in all its spine-tingling forms! Registration is $25 and must be received by April 15th. Seating is limited, so register today. More information and registration forms can be found at or call 256-586-5962.

Friday, April 01, 2011

A Change of Pace

So, I've realized recently that I've been seriously writing romance for eight years. Eight years. And piddling around a couple years before that. And I still haven't managed to sell a book. I get close. Marvelously, nail-biting close, where everyone tells you this is *it* but I can never seal the deal. I'm aware I don't suck and that it probably has more to do with a difficult and narrowing market. Doesn't make it hurt any less. I have to tell you it's starting to wear on me. Book after book going nowhere, story after story getting shoved under the proverbial bed. It makes me wonder if I'm cut out for this business. To quote Circle of Friends, "I know I may look a bit like a rhinocerous on the outside, but I've got quite a thin skin, really."

If I'd wanted to be abused and feel like a failure most days, I could've set my heart on being a dancer, model or an actress/waiter in L.A. I could've decided to major in calculus and never made it out of college. I could've gone into politics like I'd originally planned and been thrashed daily. But oh no, I decided to be a writer where even if you're successful every internet English major can critique and rip apart your book claiming they know more about it than you do. Where every fanfic writer can steal your characters and force them to do things they'd never do and you know full well they wouldn't because you created them.

Based on feedback I get from editors, I'm thinking maybe romance isn't my genre. They love my characters, love my writing, but there's usually an issue with the relationship part. I nearly vomit everytime I get an envelope with the Harlequin logo on it in the mail. I know what you're thinking - "but you're in RWA. Can't do it without the R." Well, yeah, technically, but I'm going to write in a new genre and wrap it in the essence of romance. Romantic elements.

I've done some market research and I've decided to write something completely different. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the hero and heorine must stop the evil madman from abducting and disassembling important political figures. Disassembling? Oh yes. Cause its a futuristic robot thriller. Will the hero-bot and heroine-bot find happiness while the ever-present threat of rust threatens to tear their futuristic robot society apart? Whatcha think? I think robot thrillers are the next big thing. And the title is the best part. I'm going to call it...







glitter graphics

Just kidding. I haven't given up quite yet. I generally suck at pranks, this one is no exception, but I couldn't pass up blogging on April 1st. What's the worst or best April Fools Day prank you've ever played or had played on you?


PS. Runner10 is Lynn Raye Harris’ winner from Wednesday! Email Lynn at to claim your book.