Saturday, August 28, 2010

Past and Proper Perspectives

I'll admit it, I have a hard time keeping things in perspective sometimes. I'm amazed at how easily I can forget how far I've come and how much I've accomplished in the past few years.

Ten years ago, I was working in a stressful job that I hated, but I knew I had to do it for a certain length of time for my eventual retirement. I had twenty-six people working under me, and several of them resented me and were determined to make me look bad. A few were even openly hostile. My boss didn't support me, and the employees knew it and would whine to her if they didn't like a decision I made. I worked 40+ hours every week and had to play office politics for far too many of those hours. I found myself with very little time to do any of the things I enjoyed.


Five years ago, I no longer had my stressful day job.


True, I had very little money, but my time was my own to do what I liked to do (writing). However, I was struggling to find an agent, a publisher... anyone who would read my manuscripts. I felt like I was beating my head against a wall and getting nowhere.

Eventually (about four years ago), all that changed. DOUBLE YAY!!

I finaled in a couple of contests and I SOLD A BOOK!

Today, I have three published books on the shelf and they've each sold thousands of copies. Not as many as I'd like, but certainly more than I ever dreamed possible ten, or even five years ago! Not all has been going smoothly in my writing life these past few months, so I need to stop and remind myself of all the things that have gone RIGHT.

Do you have any methods or tricks you use to keep things in their proper perspectives? I'd love to hear them!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Old Book, New Review

It's always a thrill when new readers "discover" my books. While it is true that none of them have been around that long, the very nature of publishing and promotion has forced me to move my focus to each new book as it is released. So a few weeks ago, I was very pleased to discover a new review of The Wild Sight!

The lovely Diana at Book of Secrets discovered my books when she started a "reading challenge" to read books set in Ireland or that had Irish characters. Here's part of what she had to say in her 4.5 heart review:
"I loved this book! I was captivated from the first page until the end. This enthralling story was a perfect blend of romantic suspense, paranormal romance, mystery and even some Irish history - all of my favorite genres. The author has a talent for describing a place in rich details where I could easily picture myself there too. She avoids postcard perfect descriptions of Ireland, but rather gives us the beauty and charm combined with the sometimes harsh reality of daily life....

"...The plot is fast-paced and full of twists and turns that will hold your attention. Fans of paranormal romance and romantic suspense will be pleased with this book. Highly recommended!"

THANK YOU, Diana! I'm so glad you enjoyed The Wild Sight,
(to read the entire review, just click on the title of this blog post) and hope you like my other two equally as well.

If you'd like to find out more about the Ireland Challenge go here:

Thursday, August 19, 2010


A few months ago, the DH and I took a little jaunt to celebrate our anniversary. This time around we stayed pretty close to home, only a few states away. We went to Arches National Park near Moab, Utah and close to the Utah/Colorado border.

As anyone who knows Aunty will attest, she is NOT an outdoorsy type. But the sights at Arches were just too spectacular to view strictly from the car window. Within an hour of our arrival in the park, I actually found myself doing something I literally had not done in years --HIKING! But there was just no other way to see these fabulous rock formations, which are unlike anything I've ever seen anywhere else.

Here are a few of my piccies so you can see what I mean:

The Windows

One of the most famous formations in Arches National Park. Individually they are the South Window (on the left in this picture) and the North Window. They, and all the other fantastic rock formations in the park are the result of wind and water erosion over hundreds of thousands of years.

To put the size of the Windows into perspective, here's the DH (all 6 feet 5 inches or 1.97 meters of him) standing in the middle of the South Window.

I'm standing about 100 yards down the hill so that I can fit the whole thing in. And yes, it was a stunning day, as evidenced by the clouds and blue sky behind the South Window.

Delicate Arch

Probably the most photographed and therefore the most famous of all the formations in Arches is this one. Also called "Bloomers" or "Cowboy Chaps" for obvious reasons. I viewed it from a very long distance and let the DH hike the extremely steep three mile trail for a closer look.

Delicate Arch stands 52 feet (or 16 meters) tall, and sits all by itself on the edge of a rocky plateau in the absolute middle of nowhere. This photo does not do the bright red and orange coloring of the arch justice. It is absolutely striking (even through binoculars down in the parking lot)!

Landscape Arch

This is the longest arch in the park, and I'll have to take DH's word that this is it. Once again, I stayed behind and read a book while he make the arduous hike through the Devil's Garden to view this arch and the other formations. It does look like the other pictures I've seen of it, so I guess I can trust his word that this is the genuine article.

One of the rangers told us that ten or fifteen years ago, a piece of rock cracked and fell from the center of Landscape Arch. Luckily it happened at a time when very few tourists were around and nobody was hurt!

The Three Gossips

Finally, a formation that is not an arch. The guide book described these gigantic pillars that look like over-sized human figures as the Three Gossips. I personally thought they resembled the Three Wise Men of New Testament fame. Or perhaps three ancient Egyptian dieties.

The park is full of pillar type formations. Some of them were undoubtedly arches whose middles collapsed. Other formations look like giant ships or castles. I won't bore you with any more of my less-than stellar photos. If you check Google Images, you'll see many fabulous ones.

Better yet, take a trip to Arches National Park yourself. Aunty guarantees you won't regret it!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

First Kisses

Here's a blog I'm especially fond of because it deals with a subject I enjoy: First Kisses! This post originally appeared on Moonlight, Lace, and Mayhem as part of my blog tour for The Treasures of Venice.

Recently one of my critique partners and I were discussing favorite scenes in books, what we liked and why we liked them. After throwing out a few and analyzing our choices, my CP came to the conclusion that she consistently liked scenes where the hero and heroine kiss for the first time. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much I liked those scenes too! I loved reading them and writing them.

Unfortunately, the details of Aunty’s very first kiss are somewhat blurry. It was so very, very long ago… (I think, perhaps, it may have been Og and he hit me over the head with his club before he dragged me by my hair, hence the faulty recollection.) But I have very fond memories of first kisses from special ‘dates’ over the years. Usually the anticipation of those kisses proved more enjoyable than the actually lip contact, but AH! – the build-up!

Maybe that is why first kisses in fiction make such enjoyable scenes? The author can take her time building up all that wonderful tension between the hero and heroine and the actual moment of contact never has to be disappointing. Unlike real life, no clubbing, hair-pulling, bad breath, or tangling of tooth braces need ever happen! The author can revise and reinvent to her heart’s content, and the reader can savor all the lovely anticipation as many times as she wants.

Since my new release, The Treasures of Venice has a dual storyline and two sets of lovers, I got to have all the fun of writing the ‘first kiss’ scene twice! Here is the first kiss between my contemporary hero, Keirnan Fitzgerald, and my heroine, Samantha Lewis:

She stopped abruptly and pulled her hand away. Keirnan followed her gaze across the street where white letters on a green cloth awning proclaimed “Bello Giardino.” Window boxes filled with pink and yellow primroses decorated the front of the four-story hotel.

“Looks like we’re here.”

His libido suddenly over-rode his conscience, and urged him to do more than walk away.

Impossibly bad timing! He fought back the urge.

“Thank you again for being such a good sport, Samantha.”

When had he raised his hand? But he must have because it was poised next to her face. Of their own volition, his fingers cupped her cheek. Her smooth skin felt overheated in the cool air. Those ten thousand volts sizzled up his arm and made his pulse hammer.

“And I meant what I said back there on the Bridge of Sighs. He’s a fool. You’re better off without him.” And me.

Though shock flickered across her expressive eyes, she said nothing, the tip of her tongue moistening her bottom lip His hand moved from her cheek to cradle the back of her head, the silky strands of her hair flowing over and through his fingers. He lowered his head and slanted his mouth across hers, his own tongue lightly following the path of hers. She tasted warm and sweet. But without warning, the painted image of Serafina Lombardo flashed behind his closed eyes.

Saints in heaven, he was losing it! Keirnan pulled back and dropped his hand, but instead of releasing her as he’d intended, he grasped her hand and raised it toward his mouth.

“Take care, Samantha, luv,” he murmured and pressed his lips lightly against her palm.

Blood roared in his ears, but somehow he managed to drop her hand before he made an even bigger and far more stupid blunder.

And here is the first kiss between my Renaissance couple, Serafina and Nino:

Nino paced the open space in front of the bench. His graceful movements made her think of dancing. Who had he danced with during Carnevale?

“Well, he was right about the Doge’s niece.”

Serafina shifted her voluminous skirts so that he could sit next to her on the bench. He hesitated for a moment before he sat down.

“Maybe so, but he should not have poked fun at you.”

“I…” As at the cemetery isle, warmth seemed to radiate from him to her. “…don’t mind. Besides, I may not have a wart on my nose, but my jaw is too square and my mouth is too small.”

She repeated the faults her mother so frequently pointed out, except she never should have mentioned mouth. The instant she spoke the word, her eyes immediately went to his.

She watched in fascination as his lips parted and he spoke. “Your mouth looks perfect to me.”

“Not…” Her hand moved of its own accord. “…so perfect as yours.” Her fingers lightly brushed across his cheek and traced the edge of his lower lip. “Yours feels so soft.”

Serafina lifted her face and his warm smooth lips touched hers. The unexpected contact jolted them apart.

“Forgive me!” Nino leaped to his feet.

“Kiss me again,” she whispered, pulling him back down beside her.

Now THAT is a woman after Aunty’s own heart! I’ll bet she could even handle Og.

What about you? Care to share some memorable first kisses, either your own or fictional?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Exotic Settings

With my latest blog tour behind me, I've decided to "recycle" a few of my guest blog posts here (from all three of my 'tours'), especially posts that I felt didn't receive a wide audience.

I'll start with one I wrote for my most recent tour for The Wild Irish Sea (though all three of my books figure in it) about my exotic settings.
Everyone who knows me, or who has looked at my website or one of my blogs, knows I’m a travel fanatic. I’m always on the go to some new place foreign, domestic, or sailing off on yet another cruise (sixteen so far with number seventeen booked for November). I’ve always had the yen to see new and exotic locations, but my dream finally started to come true in the mid 1990s when my DH overcame his twenty year fear of flying.

Once he cleared that not-inconsiderable hurtle, we became a pair of traveling fools! At last count, we have visited 47 states and 32 foreign countries. I believe that travel broadens a person’s outlook in a way that few things can. I’ve discovered fun and fascinating things in almost every place I’ve ever visited, and almost everywhere I’ve been I have met lovely, friendly people.

Before I became the traveling fool, I loved to read books with exotic settings and enough lush details that I felt I was right there with the characters. Mary Stewart was one of my favorite authors who was a master at this. Whether you were on a Greek Island or a cottage in the English countryside, you were right there experiencing the sights, smells, and feel of the flora, fauna, views, and everything else surrounding the characters. Diana Gabaldon is another author whose settings are so real I feel like I’ve been in the Scottish highlands, or onboard a wooden sailing ship, or in a log cabin. When I decided to seriously commit myself to writing with the intent to publish, I wanted my novels to have settings that put the reader firmly in the place with my characters. Fortunately, by then I’d been to a lot of wonderful places and soaked up plenty of experiences that I could draw upon for authenticity in my writing. But one thing I never know is what will come in handy, or turn up in my prose.

For example, the childhood home of my hero in The Wild Sight was actually the house where my DH’s grandmother was born and raised. It still remains in the family and I remember the first time I saw it, I kept thinking about raising ten children in two rooms and a loft with no running water or electricity! Here’s a peek at the house as I described it in an opening chapter of The Wild Sight:

“…Rylie looked around the room, which was dominated by an enormous stone fireplace that had once served for both cooking and warmth. She peeked through the open doorway into the adjoining room, where the same fireplace had a second hearth. …

“Cold seepe
d from the flat gray stones of the floor through the rubber soles of her sneakers, a testament to the uncomfortable reality Donovan had mentioned earlier….

“…He motioned to a steep set of stairs build into the wall behind the front door. ‘My sister and I slept in the loft, same as my mother and her sister had done… The roof was thatch when my mum and Aunt Fee were little, but my grandfather replaced it with tin.’”

I’ve always thought Venice was one of the most unique, atmospheric, and romantic cities in the world. It was a no-brainer for me to set one of my books in such an exotic but at the same time recognizable location.

I’ve only visited Venice once, but it was a very memorable three days. I always keep travel journals where ever I go along with photographs. So even though it had been several years since I’d been in Venice, when I sat down to write, after a few hours of pouring over my photos and journal entries, I was instantly transported back. Here’s a scene from the book that eventually became The Treasures of Venice based on a late night walk my DH and I took through the streets of La Serenissima:

“It was eerily dark out on the street… Mist hung in wet wispy spirals over the water, and deeper shadows pooled in the darkness beside buildings. The chilly dampness distorted sounds so that the creaking of wood and slapping of water seemed to come from living entities….

“Sam followed as Keirnan snaked his way down a tight path right next to the water. The four and five story buildings on either side of the minor canal blotted out all light….

“Another diminutive bridge, this one with iron railings, arched up next to them where another canal intersected the one they followed. Instead of crossing, Keirnan crawled down next to the footings, then motioned her to join him.… A pale light filtered down from a second story window to reveal a profusion of orange peels and cigarette butts floating in the nearly motionless canal…. Sam scooted slightly to one side and noticed the building had a yawning mouth of black water where the first floor would have been.”

Sometimes places that aren’t actually in the location I’m writing about fit into the story so beautifully that I take ‘artistic license and put them in anyway. This was the case with my current release The Wild Irish Sea. When the hero and heroine discover a sea cave being used by a colony of seals, I remembered a couple of visits I’d paid to Sea Lion Caves on the Oregon coast and was inspired to include my impressions (especially of the smell!) even if the actual cave was far away from the Irish coast:

“Nearly overcome by the stench, Amber followed Kevin inside the cave without further protest. After climbing down and around a pointy sentinel of rock, they were out of the rain. She heaved a sigh of relief and almost choked on the over-powering odor.

“They scrambled over a few more jutting rocks onto a stone ledge. A large pool of water spread below, and on the sandy shore opposite their perch lolled dozens of seals…. More than half seemed to be babies and the cave echoed with their cries.

“Trying not to breathe too deeply, she leaned an elbow against an upright boulder and surveyed the interior. The shelf where they stood appeared to be the only flat spot on their side of the rocky cavern, and it looked too high for the sea lions in the pool to climb up.”

So whether it’s a tiny cottage in the Irish countryside, a Venetian canal, or a mysterious sea cave full of seals, I hope I’ve given you some insight into the way I use my travels to create exotic settings for my books.