Monday, July 26, 2010

Off to RWA Nationals

I'm posting late today, courtesy of yesterday's severe thunderstorms that knocked out power and phone lines in the area. I hate to admit how badly I missed having internet access...more than hot coffee and air conditioning. I'll be brief. I'm off to RWA Nationals in a few days and have yet to pack. I won't be lugging my laptop, so there won't be a Therapeutic Thursday post. However, I promise to be back next Monday with loads of scoop (and hopefully pictures) on the romance meeting of the year. I'm so looking forward to the Literacy Autographing, PRO Retreat, amazing speakers and more!

Off to pack...see you Monday!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cars with the right character

How much thought do you put into your character's mode of transportation? If your hero or heroine lives in New York City, then the metro would make perfect sense...or maybe even a limosine or a taxi. Each one of those choices would paint a completely different picture of your character's character.

What if your main character owns a car or truck? Vehicles have character, and their character needs to match that of your hero or heroine. Got an alpha hero or heroine? Beta? You'd better believe there are alpha and beta vehicles out there. Cars have long reflected economic status, social status, and personality. Ownership could reflect anything from hobby and personal taste, to need. You know that single father hero with five kids? I see a stationwagon or minivan in the picture. The european billionaire? A Maserati, perhaps.

You get the idea. In Just Breathe by Susan Wiggs, her heroine discovers her husband with another woman. She'd spent her marriage adapting to who he was and trying to make him happy. When she leaves him, one of the first things she does is trade in his GTO for a little, blue Mini Cooper. It was her way of saying 'screw you', I'm driving something that reflects who I am.

Linda Lael Miller's Texas McKettricks keep their expensive sports cars in a garage as big as the average house, but when they're truly in their element, they ride their horses...or their women. And man are they great riders -- I mean drivers -- Uh, back to cars.

I have one manuscript where it was important for the heroine to drive a hybrid car. In another manuscript, there's a distinct difference in what the hero and heroine drive. He's a small town firefighter in a big-ass, American truck, and she's perpetually moving from city to city, hence a fuel efficient, Japanese compact.

So what do your characters drive? Is your character's car big or small? Dirty or sparkling clean? Falling apart, vintage, or brand new? What do different vehicles represent to you in terms of character?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Baked Salmon, Mango-Avocado Chutney, and The Spa

What do salmon, mango-avocado chutney and going to the spa have in common? Eating MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acid) rich recipes and enjoying stress-reducing trips to the spa are both great for heart health. One way MUFAs help is by reducing belly fat, thereby reducing fat near the heart. We romance writers are into emotionally healthy hearts, aren't we? What about physically healthy? I have to confess that I've never been to a spa. I've never even had a professional massage. That'll be changing very soon.

My husband and I recently celebrated our 17th anniversary. He got me a spa certificate and told me that I needed to put it to good use. I made him dinner (men are too hard to shop for). I like getting creative in the kitchen, and judging from his reaction, this recipe made the cut.

Rula's Dill Baked Salmon with Mango-Avocado Chutney and Brown Rice

  • Place boneless fillets of wild caught salmon in a baking dish (single layer)
  • Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and dried dill
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until done (flakes with fork and looks opaque...time varies with fillet thickness)
  • Peel and dice two mangoes and place in a bowl
  • Peel and dice one ripe avocado and toss it in
  • Slice and add 1/2c of pitted kalamata olives (I like the Peloponnese brand. The right olives makes all the difference in the final flavor.)
  • 1TBS white vinegar
  • 2TBS chopped cilantro
  • A dash of sea salt to taste
Top each fillet of salmon with a few tablespoons of chutney and serve with a side of brown (or wild) rice. Enjoy!

Note: I also tried the chutney with baked cod and by itself as a snack. It's great for a sweet and salty craving.

And now for that spa treatment...

Monday, July 12, 2010

RWA National Virgins

Only sixteen days left before this year's RWA National meeting kicks off in Orlando on the 28th! I was a Nationals virgin last year. A few weeks before the meeting, my nerves and doubts were kicking into high gear. What in the hell was I thinking, registering for the quintessential meeting of romance writers when I wasn't even published? I imagined getting curious side-glances and getting laughed at. It didn't happen. In fact, I came out of it feeling like the mother community of romance writers had taken me under her wing.

Cutting to the chase, I have a list of things that made my first Nationals meeting all the better (I'm not going to tell you how to pack your suitcase). It's geared for both virgins and veterans, so don't click that mouse!
  • First off, throw your shoulders back and doubts out the door. Chant I am a writer and I have the be at the meeting, that is. If they didn't expect virgins, they wouldn't have special 'First Timer' badges made and workshops on learning the craft of writing. Go with confidence (this coming from a shy person).
  • Smile and say hello. I had a huge time gap between checking in on my first day and waiting for the Literacy Autographing to start. I lingered in the lobby watching groups of attendees chatting and laughing like old friends (which they may have been). Walking up and introducing oneself to a group is easier said than done, unless your a super extrovert, which I'm not. Instead, I mustered up the courage to say hello to others wearing 'First Timer' badges. I'll admit, most said hello, but didn't linger to talk for more than thirty seconds. However, one did stay. We buddied up to go to the Autographing and stayed in touch, not only for the rest of the meeting, but for the entire year since. You never know where one 'hello' will take you. I gained the wonderful and supportive friendship of a fellow writer.
  • For all you veterans, reach out! I plan to this year. Last year, I mentioned on a blog comment that I'd be going for the first time, and a published writer reached out. She invited me to email her, she set up a time to meet her for dinner at the meeting, and she introduced me to another first timer from her RWA chapter. Just knowing that I'd 'met' someone, albeit not in person, before getting to the meeting made all the difference. When you see a first timer, introduce yourself. Say something in passing like, "You'll love this meeting." or "So and so is a great speaker." or "Hey, any questions?" Trust me, they'll appreciate it.
  • Attend the First Timers orientation. It's worth it. You'll quickly lose any sense of being the only virgin there. It's also an easy place to buddy up with other first timers.
  • I bought an extra large black purse. It looked almost like my standard one only it was large enough (tote-like) to carry my notebook, pen, handouts, goodies from the goody room and any books I picked up along the way. RWA did give us big bags which I loaded at the Autographing, but after that I wanted to consolidate. One big purse did it for me.
  • DO take a notebook to the workshops. Yes, the lectures are recorded and can be bought (recommended), but I like taking notes, and it's easier to reference specific things that stood out to you.
  • Layer or take a sweater. Enough said.
  • Keep some nuts, a bar or an apple in your purse for an emergency energy fix. You don't want your tummy rumbling during workshops.
  • Unless you're planning to leave a workshop early, sit up front. It's easier to hear, see the overheads, and some lecturers reward front row dare devils. Don't say I didn't tell you.
  • If you've completed a manuscript, prepare an elevator pitch and practice it. Be able to answer "So what's your book about?" without fumbling for words. I got asked the question by a published writer. Lack of enough practice mixed with nerves had me sounding like Eliza Doolittle with a mouth full of marbles. Thank God my victim was a sympathetic author and not an agent or editor. Don't be scared, be prepared.
  • Resist the urge to hide in your room. Go to the luncheons even if you're not eating. The speakers are so worth it. Check out the Literacy Autographing, the Goody Room, and other events so that you'll know what they're all about the following year. Get the full RWA experience.
  • Veterans, volunteer. Virgins can too, although I'll admit that I didn't. I was too overwhelmed with all the workshops and events and I was afraid to overextend myself. This year, I'll be a Literacy attendant and a moderator. Volunteering is a great way to network, reach out, and give back.
  • Be professional and don't gossip. My mom used to tell me 'The walls can hear'. Yes, well, so can the decorative planters, blind corners, and bathroom stalls. If it ain't nice, don't say it, unless you want to ruin your career. If you're with someone who's badmouthing an agent, editor, lecturer, fellow writer or anyone for that matter, excuse yourself. If you're in the middle of lunch and can't, then politely speak up and state your 'positive' opinion so that tuned in ears know that you're not guilty by association.
  • Raise your hand and ask questions. Stay on the workshop's subject, of course, but you've got all these experts at your fingertips. Don't be so shy as to pass up a golden opportunity.
  • Relax and enjoy! RWA Nationals is romance writer heaven!
I could go on, but I wouldn't want you to miss your flight in sixteen days. Just kidding. If you can't make it to Nationals, try to make it to a local chapter meeting at least once. Entering contests is a great experience with many benefits (that's another blog topic), but if I had to choose between dollars spent on contests and saving up to go to Nationals, I'd go to Nationals. Published or not, the experience will wash away any doubts that you are a writer and it'll set you many steps ahead.

Calling all veterans! Any more advice on attending RWA Nationals?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Author Interview with Kaily Hart

Please welcome the talented and newly published Kaily Hart. Kaily writes sassy and steamy contemporary romance with a delicious dose of alpha hero. Her debut novella, Picture This, released by Ellora's Cave on June 29th, is already stacking up fantastic reviews. No surprise there! Her strong voice, fast pace, and memorable characters make it hard to resist being drawn right into the 'picture'.

I had fun interviewing Kaily about her journey to publication, approach to writing, call story and more. She'll be popping in to answer questions, so read on and ask away!

1. You had a successful career in the IT industry. Describe the moment when you realized that you wanted t write romance. Was there a specific catalyst?

Yeah, I did, didn’t I? Think they’re hiring right now? LOL. Just kidding! I don’t think I’d swap what I’m doing right now for anything. I did the practical, responsible, ‘support my family’ route for a long time. I founded, built and sold my own company. I worked as an executive in corporate America for several years. Late in 2008 it was time to move on. Saying I was burned out was a severe understatement. At the time, I thought I was bowing out of that world to spend more time with my family, and the kids in particular. They were getting older, their interests were broadening and their homework was increasing! I wanted to be there for them, I wanted to be involved with their lives outside the house. I had I guess what you could call a romantic idea of what it would be like to be a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom). I had these visions of lunches with other Mom’s, taking classes in photography and art, learning about gardening and getting more involved at the kid’s school. Getting fit!! I had been so busy with my career, I hadn’t really had a chance to do any of that before, not really. Well, that lasted about 4 weeks! I was quite simply… bored. I’m a bit of a type ‘A’ personality. OK, probably more than a ‘bit’ and it just wasn’t enough to keep me engaged. Just like that I decided I was going to write a romance novel. Unbeknown to any of my friends or colleagues, I’d read romance for years. All genres pretty much. As I was writing I discovered (going through some old files, both electronic and hand written) something startling. I’d been jotting down ideas, stories and had even managed to write (kinda sorta) a novel over the years. It sounds weird, but it was a bit shocking. I’d actually been ‘writing’ and for awhile. I figure the urge and desire has always been there, but I’d suppressed it out of practicality. Now? It’s been unleashed full force!
2. What genres do you read? Did you know right off the bat which genre/category you wanted to write for?

I read across all the genres. Really, I’ve read probably everything at least once. I even recently read a male/male romance. It was interesting and well written, but not something I’d probably write. I’m too interested in the male/female dynamic for that. I don’t think of love, sex or romance as being genre specific, so if the characters are deep, the story compelling and the emotion intense, the genre doesn’t really matter for me. I started writing contemporary for a few reasons. For a start, I really love contemporary romance. I love current themes and modern language and being able to push things a bit. The alpha hero in contemporary romance has gotten a bit overshadowed by the vampires and werewolves in paranormal romance, so I like to think I’m able to still have a totally alpha hero who doesn’t have fangs or the ability to shift into an animal! For my first serious forays towards publication, I didn’t want to have to worry about doing extensive research or complicated world building, which would have been required for an historical or paranormal book. I wanted to just be able to focus on the craft of writing and penning the best story I could. I particularly love paranormal, so I’ll probably write in that genre at some point as well.

3. We all love call stories. Would you share yours?

The fact that I actually wrote a novella and submitted it to Ellora’s Cave (EC) at the time I did, wasn’t planned. At all! It just sort of happened. I was looking at their call for submissions for a special series anthology one day, and a specific idea for a story just came to me. I played with it for awhile in my head and basically had it all mapped out, but I exited and moved on. Or so I thought. The characters I’d thought up in that short amount of time wouldn’t leave me. Eventually, I relented and just wrote the story. It took me seven days and I fell in love with writing novellas! I figured at that point I might as well submit it. Twenty-two days later the editor emailed me. She let me know that if I was willing to make some revisions, she’d evaluate again but due to time constraints, the story could not be considered for the original series I’d submitted it for. My initial reaction? I was bummed that my story would not be in the special anthology. It took someone else to point out that that was probably a good thing because they were willing to possibly publish it as a stand alone story. It was a forehead slap moment for sure. When I really dissected the email, it was a very basic revision request resulting in minor changes. Sometimes the non-committal language an editor has to use is easily misunderstood! It really said, ‘there’s no guarantee, but if you make these changes to our satisfaction, we’ll publish it as a stand-alone book’. So, I revised it and sent it back. About 3 weeks later, I received another email. The editor was pleased with the changes and was going to recommend it for publication. Queue the non-committal language again. I wasn’t hugely excited at first, but on closer look, it was actually an offer of publication barring any major roadblocks. I was FINALLY excited!!

4. A writer's skills and methods are always evolving. How has your approach to writing (plotting, pantsing, outlining, drafting, playlists etc...) changed since your first manuscript? Do you tackle your novellas any differently than your fulls?

Well, I think of my first manuscript as a story I wrote at the end of 2008 BUT it was really a revision, expansion, rewrite of a smaller book I’d actually messed around with years ago. The thing about this first book that I’ll always remember, is that by the end? I’d found my ‘voice’, that unique way of telling a story that’s specific to a particular author. BTW I can’t write to music. I see a lot of authors talk about playlists, but the music just distracts me when I’m doing the grunt work of actually writing. It’s great in the car to get the creative juices going, though. I can write to background noise and just tune it out, but I can’t listen to actual music when I’m writing. The story of the music is competing with my own too much.

I’m not sure my approach has changed a great deal. Yet. One thing I do spend a lot of time on is characterization. I create a ‘character map’ for the hero and heroine. It’s a spreadsheet that lists everything about the character; their background, their history, their beliefs and thoughts along with all the demographic information about them. This is a time consuming and extensive process. Most of the information isn’t used explicitly in the book, but throughout this effort I know the characters so well, I can put them in any situation and know how they’ll act. For me, it grounds the book. I usually know the beginning of the story and how the characters meet. I usually know how it concludes and what draws it to an end. I know some of the scenes along the way, but when I start writing, I don’t have a complete outline. There has to be some surprises I feel, even for the author. I also have a style of writing I call ‘writing all over the book’. I don’t write linearly. I write whatever scene I feel in the mood to write or whatever calls to me that particular day. I used to wonder how directors filmed a movie with all the scenes out of sequence, but that’s exactly how I write. Perhaps it’s a longer process, but it’s what works for me right now.

I do write novellas differently than the full length novels. With the novella, I found I actually do develop an outline. It’s short so every chapter, every scene has to count and forward the story on, so I feel that when I start I have to know where every aspect is heading. I love writing novellas. It’s like instant gratification for the writer. They’re fast, every word has to count and the premise has to rock.

5. You have a wonderful blog at Are you glad that you started it before getting 'The Call' and would you recommend blogging (or having a website) to unpublished authors?

Awww thanks, Rula. I’ve actually put a lot of time into that blog and I’ve been happy with how it’s turned out. Absolutely. I’m so glad I started it before ‘The Call’! It takes time to figure out what you want to do with a platform like that and to connect with people enough that they would be interested in what you have to say. I always felt I needed to start to establish myself to some degree before publication, even if it was simply to familiarize myself with the different facets of social networking. Despite coming from the IT industry, social media is not natural to me. I didn’t think I would even like blogging, but I force myself to try everything. I ended up loving it and started the Just Published segment (talking to recently published authors) because I wanted to provide some educational value in an area that I was very interested in myself. Now, I’m addicted to socializing on the internet. In addition to several forums I frequent, I also now have a website, have started on Facebook, and am just about to tackle Twitter. I think it makes sense for unpublished authors to explore all these outlets and find which ones resonate. They’re not for everyone so you have to find what’s comfortable for you and fits with your style. Beware of the time suck, though! Writing should still be your priority.

6. Now for a little fun! If you were stranded on an uncharted island, which movie star/famous singer and book would you wish you had with you? Kindles are cheating! Plus, they'd run out of charge :).

Hey, wireless electricity is technically possible already and will undoubtedly be the way of the future! Besides, I have an iPad now J. You know, this was the hardest question you asked me. There’s not a lot of male celebrities that really interest me beyond the ‘oh, he’s cute’. I think if I was stranded, that would get old pretty quick. So… I’ll go with Angelina Jolie. I think she’s fascinating and between us we have a LOT of kids and we each have twins! I think we’d find a lot to talk about and I don’t think she’d just stand around waiting to be rescued. Neither would I! Now, for the book. The first thing that came to mind was the new book by Karen Marie Moning that’s due out at the end of this year. It will be the conclusion of a series I’ve been reading and I’m looking forward to it wrapping up. It’s gotten so that she’s been releasing a book a year and I want to see how it’s going to end! It would be nice to have extended peace and quiet to sink my teeth into it.

Thank you so much, Rula for having me here. I’m so glad you broke the ice with me at last year’s RWA annual conference in DC. I can pretty much be oblivious to my surroundings sometimes. Just knowing you’re there at the end of an email at any given time has provided great reassurance and support over the last year. Looking forward to catching up in person again in Orlando! All the best to you in your own writing pursuits!

Kaily, thank YOU for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be here. Likewise, you've been a wonderful, supportive friend, as well as my first blog visitor, follower, and interviewee. Thanks! I'm so glad we met, and I can't wait to see you again at RWA Nationals in Orlando. Best of luck!


Desperate and young, Jillian Moore did something she knew would one day come back to bite her in the ass. She’d posed nude. For money. Years later, and on the fast track to a successful career, she’s still haunted by her mistake. She can’t help but wonder when her past will catch up with her.

Samuel Steele is not short on female attention, but the women who warm his bed pale in comparison to the fantasy he’s created of the seductive temptress in the painting hanging prominently in his bedroom. A fantasy that has ruined his once satisfying sex life. When he discovers that her exact likeness works in his building—for him—things get…interesting.

The following links are intended for mature audiences only.

Find Kaily and read an excerpt at:

Don't miss her blog tour!

Kaily is holding a mystery prize drawing over at her blog. A lucky winner will be chosen at the end of the month. Just leave a comment and you'll be entered into the drawing!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Dream Writing Scene

If you could choose the ultimate spot on earth to sit and write, where would it be? Spread that imagination now (no excuses...we all have plenty of imagination)! I'm talking absolutely anywhere or any type of place. This is your ideal writing scene. A scene where your muse runs wild, where interruptions are nonexistent, where you feel rejuvenated and creative, and where the only conflict lies between your characters.

For me, it would be a serene beach. I grew up near beaches, and there's something about the power of the ocean that sweeps me away. It makes all problems and worries seem insignificant and pointless. It's rhythm lulls a person into a meditative state, no doubt lowering heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormone levels. Call it beach therapy.

I took the photo above a couple of years ago, during a vacation at The Outer Banks of North Carolina. A few palm trees would have been the icing for me, but I like all kinds of beaches, so long as they're not crowded. The more shells and sea glass, the better.

Some of you may be thinking, "Uh, sand in my laptop? No way." Remember, this is about an ideal (and the computer can stay in the beach house :)). What's your dream writing scene? Is it a cabin in the mountains? A contemporary, corner office in a high rise? A bustling coffee shop where you can people-watch while you write? Close your eyes and take yourself there once in a while. You deserve it.