Monday, February 23, 2009

No Internet, O Noes!

Dear Romanistas,

A quick note to say that I'll be offline for the most part for the next few days. Our cable modem and network router blew out yesterday. Apparently, live-blogging the Oscars using the wi-fi and Internet while the electric egg beater was turned on caused the electronic catastrophe. REALLY!! I couldn't make this up; my imagination isn't that fantastic. :)

Perhaps not being plugged in and online for the next few days will turn out to be a blessing. Well, right now, it feels like the apocalypse, but I'm sure my conscience (AKA Amanda McCabe, Anna Campbell, and Diane Gaston) will agree that this is a good thing, because — Keira.will.get.some.writing.done.finally!

Tragically yours,

A Glamorous Day in the Life of an Aspiring Writer

Glamorous Life Clean House6:00
"Mama, I need to go potty." My alarm clock just went off. Hubby rolls over and burrows into the covers.

Negotiations over whether to do yoga stretches first or homework first. I insist milk and cuppa tea first. Meditate for five minutes—gosh, that really felt like the full thirty minutes.

Roust Hubby, who should've woken up a while ago, reluctantly from bed. Put snack and lunch together. Breakfast.

Glamorous Life HarriedGlamorous Life Harried8:30
Hubby not ready yet, drop kid off to school. Elect to skip today's Yoga/Curves, because didn't get enough rest in the night, feel twinges in the back, oh-goodness-so-much-to-do stress.

Enconse myself in the study armed with a fresh cuppa tea—coconut or lychee if the day outside is especially cold/wet/dreary/all-of-the-above. It's Seattle.

Glamorous Life Writing10:00
I meant to be writing an hour ago, but spent it chatting online. Justify the online romp as necessary to cajoling self into good mood. Ponder how some writers get so much done. Send them admiring e-mails.

Run a load of laundry. Start the dishwasher. Run the pressure cooker, because kid doesn't like the loud sound of the whistle.

Ignore sandwich hollering my name and determinedly walk back upstairs to the study.

Glamorous Life Surfing11:30
Researching online was great fun, but hard, hungry work. Head downstairs and make sandwich. Switch laundry from washer to dryer. Double-check that the pressure cooker was indeed turned off half an hour ago and hasn't exploded with food on the ceiling. Proceed to eat sandwich, while discussing with various other aspiring and newbie writers about the writing life, points on craft, etiquette about entering contests, and the potential list of workshops and outfits for the National conference.

Realize have a long list of chores to do today. Accomplish those outside chores by driving around like a lunatic and racing down store aisles like they're going out of style. Pick kid up from school.

Take kid on playdate. Wait in a cold car, thankful for book in purse.

Glamorous Life Cooking4:30
Return home. Chat with kid. Play. Fold laundry. Put dishes away. Cook. Harangue kid to do some homework. Manipulate kid into reading one book by promising to read one book back. Surf online to catch up on all the goings-on I've missed in the afternoon. Facebook for the 6th time. Tweet for the 17th time.

Glamorous Life Reading6:00
Dinner and bath. One final round of the web. Realize back's now stabbing pain. Take meds. Regret that didn't get much writing done today. Think again of those super-organized, super-disciplined writers. Read one of their books. Hope hardworking ability and storytelling talent passes by osmosis from book to palm to blood to brain.

Meditate with eyes closed. Lying down just puts body at ease, so mind is free to concentrate on mantra.

Wake up with a start to find bedroom lights blazing, book open facedown on chest, and Hubby working away on his laptop on the easy chair. Stagger from bed to kid's bedroom, take kid to bathroom, brush my teeth, stagger back into bed, grumbling to Hubby to sleep soon.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The 81st Academy Awards

Hugh JackmanOscarAt three o'clock (USPT), that is in less than half an hour, the Red Carpet show of the 2009 Oscars will start outside the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, and I'll start live-blogging the 81st spectacle at Candice Hern's Board. Will your eyes be glued to your telly and your bum to your couch? Mine will be, as my fingers fly trying to comment on everything I'm watching. Do come and join us Bluestockings in The Manor.

To smooth your welcome, here's a drink recipe from Oscar himself.

The Red Carpet Fizz
1/2 oz Pomegranate Juice
1/3 oz Orange Liquor
Add Fresh Raspberries
Top with Moët & Chandon White Star Champagne

Monday, February 16, 2009

Harlequin Romance Report 2009

Harlequin Romance Report 2009Through its annual global online survey this year, Harlequin conducted a study in which people revealed how their perceptions have changed regarding what is sexy, what they've secretly been fantasizing about, and how far they are willing to go for love in this new era. The results are summarized in their 2009 Romance Report: Perfect Love? Fantasy Meets Reality.

Perfect Love

North Americans...
Thirty-nine percent of North American men believe perfect love is best represented through television shows and movies, but 36% of women fi nd their perfect love aspirations within the pages of romance novels. Our survey also reveals examples of perfect love in our everyday lives. Twenty-seven percent of men find it in their
friends’ relationships and 21% of women see their parents as the best representation of perfect love.

We want to believe in the possibility of finding our one true love, but is this a fantastical notion? We are torn. Only half of women (51%) and men (52%) surveyed believe in the concept of perfect love. The vast majority of Australian men (91%) believe in perfect love, while their female counterparts (55%) are more sceptical. In India, both men and women strongly believe in the concept, while women in Hong Kong and Ireland are more jaded, with more than 80% admitting they are non-believers.

Fantasy Better Than Reality

North Americans....
What happens if one of your fantasies becomes a reality? Is it as magical as you imagined, or are you left feeling defl ated and wanting? Just over a third of North Americans who had the opportunity to meet their celebrity love interests were disappointed—39% of men and 34% of women—while one in three men and one in four women did not feel the expected spark after having sex with a stranger.

There must be something sexy about a man in a well-tailored suit. Half of the women in Belgium and one in three women in the UK fantasize most about businessmen. Thanks to the stars of Mad Men, the skinny tie has never looked so good. A quarter of Australian women revealed their desire for a man in uniform (firefighters/policemen), French women (71%) lust after doctors, German women (67%) crave athletes, and Italian women have many objects of affection including all of the above. Our survey revealed that Australian men (46%), Canadian men (32%), and Dutch men (29%) lust after the sweet-tempered, wholesome girl next door. Models and actresses are still a treasured male fantasy for half the men in France and the UK.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Harlequin Day!

Happy Valentine's DayI'm featured in my very own Harlequin story. Here's the back cover copy:

Wealthy Tycoon Hubby never thought his morning jog in the exotic Caribbean would draw him into a ring of cold-blooded killers. Or that one of the murder suspects would be Keira Soleore—the hopelessly romantic, half-conscious woman he found washed up on the beach… dressed in the clothes of an award-winning writer and dripping blood.

"Trust no one" was all the brainy femme fatale remembered. But as her memory of that night came back, so did an overwhelming fear and the feeling that she was in serious danger. With nowhere else to turn, she had to trust Hubby with her life. And in an unguarded moment, he seemed willing to trust her with his darkest secret.

But how long could they keep their mutual lust in check?

Heh. Enjoyed that? You can be featured in your very own story, too.

Sony-Harlequin ReaderIn celebration of its 60th anniversary, Harlequin and Sony have teamed up to provide six months of special deals, a special embossed cover, and 17 free books. Harlequin is also offering 20% off all books every day, plus free shipping on all orders over $25. They're also giving away 16 free eBooks. For the month of February, save 40% off on all Kimani books. If you find yourself in New York City on May 29, visit the Openhouse Galley, where Harlequin is sponsoring an exhibition of original cover art.

Join the Harlequin mail-order readers progam and get two books free. With every book order, Harlequin sends you two bonus bucks. These bonus bucks are later redeemable for your choice of free books or free gifts. Fridays are one free featured book day with your order. Save $4 off your first print book order any day of the week.

On Valentine's Day weekend, save an additional 14% off every book in your order, plus you'll automatically get the sexy Presents title The Markonos Bride absolutely free as well as a free eBook compiled especially for V-Day called A Valentine for Harlequin's Anniversary by Catherine Mann.

A Feb the 14th Special from Nora Roberts, about Inn Boonsboro, her inn in Maryland with a literary romance theme for each of the rooms. (Link to the video.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Spread the Love

The Romance Writers of Australia is launching a book appeal as they know many affected families who have lost everything in the devestating bush fires that swept southern Australia last week. Books will not be high on their list of necessities for some time to come. But these amazing Australian writers also know how valuable books can be in providing time out when reality gets tough.

So with the aid of some wonderful volunteers, they've put together a Romance Writers of Australia Bushfire Book Appeal and are looking for FICTION BOOKS. Romance books, children's books, genre books, literary fiction, whatever — either new or in sparkling condition. Feel free to pop a note inside, or if you're the author, sign the book.

If any of you have books you'd be willing to donate — it's expensive mailing them overseas, though, but they'd be so grateful to have them — please send them to:

RWA Bushfire Book Appeal
c/- 89 Rennie St
Thornbury Vic 3071

"The books will be boxed and delivered to the appropriate neighbourhood centres, community centres, and libraries in batches as soon as practicable. With thanks from Anne Gracie, Romance Writers of Australia Inc., and all our Australian friends."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

130, 101, 70: History of Mills & Boon and Jean S. MacLeod

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it's the perfect ocassion to celebrate one of the grandes dames of the romance genre.

Jean MacLeodOn January 14, author Jean S. MacLeod turned 101. She celebrated her 70 years of writing for Mills & Boon by starting her 130th book for them. No putting her feet up on the cassock with a hot cuppa for her.

MacLeod's first published romantic fiction was in 1938, entitled Life For Two. "I sent off a few ideas to Mills & Boon, and they liked them and that has pretty much kept me busy for the past 70 years," she said.

The Valley of Palms by Jean MacLeodDoctor in Bondage by Jean MacLeodResearch was vital to her, and she traveled all over the world to ensure that the settings for her stories were accurate.

MacLeod's thoughts on writing romances: "I never could understand why it should be thought a disgrace to write five books a year and sell them." Encouraged by Charles Boon, publisher, MacLeod made personal appearances and gave speeches to women's institutes and groups around the country. She courted her fans. M&B and its authors have single-handedly made the author book signings events where readers gets to meet the authors and vice versa. MacLeod noted that women from all classes and background wrote to her on how much they enjoyed her books.

Sugar Island by Jean MacLeodThe Ruaig Inheritance by Jean MacLeodA co-founder of UK's Romantic Novelists' Association, MacLeod made £1000 per anum in her first decade, which was a fairly solid writerly income in those times. However, she says, "Money was not a motivation for writing — we were only paid on a royalty basis. Even now, I still pick up around £68 a year in royalties, but the joy of knowing people were, and still are, enjoying my books is payment enough." For a 100-year-old publisher that sells one book every three seconds somewhere in the world, All About Romance asks, "Is somebody taking advantage of an old lady?"

Despite the content of the Mills & Boon books becoming racier over the years, MacLeod says, "I never use the word 'sex' in my novels — that is not what romance is about. It's about love and emotion."

Monday, February 9, 2009

The NOW Habit

Dr. Neil Fiore The Now Habit is a productivity book by Dr. Neil Fiore about "a strategic program for overcoming procrastination and enjoying guilt-free play."

The Now Habit It's not really so much a time and task management program, like Getting Things Done, as it is a philosophy about choosing priorities, leaving shame and blame behind, and successfully executing from a leadership perspective on life. It legitimizes guilt-free play while it improves the quality and efficiency of your work. Sounds illogical and contradictory, doesn't it?

Fiore defines procrastination like this: Procrastination is a habit you develop to cope with anxiety about starting or completing a task or a decision. It is your attempted solution to cope with tasks that are boring or overwhelming. When you use The Now Habit strategies to lower your anxiety, fears, and self-doubts, you can stop using procrastination as an escape and can double your productivity. When you learn to work efficiently—in the Flow State or Zone, using more of your brain-cell power—you have less reason to avoid important, top-priority tasks.

Reading Woman from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey Procrastinators are not lazy people. In fact, many procrastinators are workaholics. People often tender pithy advice, such as "break it into small pieces," "set priorities," "just do it," or "work harder." You already know this. You would do these things if you could, if it were that simply. People don't procrastinate just to be ornery. According to Fiore, they procrastinate because it makes sense, given how vulnerable they feel to criticism, judgment, failure, their own perfectionism, and negative concepts of work and yourself. Thus, procrastination is not the root of the problem.

However, procrastination becomes a habit through its rewarding system:
1. an indirect way of resisting pressure from authorities since you cannot openly rebel
2. a way of lessening fear of fairlure by provinding an excuse for a disappointing, less-than-perfect performance
3. a defense against fear of succes by keeping us from doing our best

Since procrastination can be learned, it can be unlearned also. The Now Habit works on negating the effects of the Puritan Work Ethic "you production determines your worth" and Freudian Views "your lower self must besubdued and disciplined by society. Instead, the book helps you reestablish a working relationship withink yourself that lessens inner conflict and allows you to engage your whole self in your task.

The ten tools of The Now Habit are:
1. Creating psychological safety to lessen fear of failure
2. Reprogramming negative attitudes through positive self-talk
3. Using the symptom to trigger the cure
4. Scheduled guilt-free play to reduce resentment toward work
5. Three-dimensional thinking and the reverse calendar
6. Making worry work for you and coping with distractions
7. The Unschedule (love this word!)
8. Setting realistic, not guilt-producing, goals
9. Working in the flow state
10. Controlled setbacks to practice recovering from failure

As I learn more about The Now Habit, I'll put up periodic posts to cover the entire book.

Romanistas, any thoughts on what I've summarized so far?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

RWA 2009 Update

RWA 2009Janet Evanovich is going to be the Opening Session Speaker!

"Join us at the Opening Session on Thursday, July 16, with Janet Evanovich, past president of Mystery Writers of America and New York Times best-selling author of the zany Stephanie Plum series. Originally a writer of romance, and hugely supportive of RWA, Janet has funny, serious and deeply inspiring tales to tell."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Guest Blogger: SB Sarah Wendell

Romanistas, I have the unprecedented honor of hosting blogger extraordinaire Sarah Wendell of the Smart Bitches as my guest. Here we go...

One of the things we talk about in The Smart Bitch Book (aka Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels) is that romance readers often shop by plot or plot trope, and for that reason we take a lot of crap from people who think we shop for our pornographic stimulation in specific, sugary-ruffled wrappers, and that romance is all the same (and whatever other stupid assumption about romance you can come up with).

Aside from all the pretentious prejudice, I definitely am attracted to specific plots. These are my top two:

1. The Smoldering Silent Hero. He has it BAD, and it shows in tiny, blink-and-you-miss-it ways. And if it's done right, it requires a re-read. And another. And omg, the smoldering.

2. "I don't want to like you, and I can't stop thinking about your hair." I talk about this one a lot — the hero or heroine who can't help being attracted to someone who drives them up a damn wall. If the bickering is funny and tight, the reading is right.

So — what's your favorite plot to revisit?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

25 Writers Who Have Influenced My Thinking

Looks like Sunday is meme day in Seattle-town this week. Thanks to Tasha Alexander, I have one more meme to waste my day on. Hooray!

Here are 25 fiction writers who have influenced my perspective on life. I'm deliberately staying away from poetry and nonfiction here.

In no particular order (and given my software engineering roots, my lists always start with '0')...

0. Dr. Seuss
1. Enid Blyton
2. Jane Austen
3. G.B. Shaw
4. Harper Lee
5. John Steinbeck
6. Pico Iyer
7. Kazuo Ishiguro
8. Alexandre Dumas
9. Jules Verne
10. The Brontes
11. P.D. James
12. Louisa May Alcott
13. Elizabeth George
14. Shakespeare
15. Lucy Maud Montgomery
16. Connie Brockway
17. Jo Beverley
18. Julia Quinn
19. Julie Garwood
20. Jean Auel
21. Umberto Eco
22. Georgette Heyer
23. Bernard Cornwell
24. Laura Ingalls Wilder
25. Charles Dickens