Cover Reveal: “The Beekeeper’s Bride” A St. Helena Vineyard Novella

You may already have heard about Marina Adair’s upcoming Hallmark movie “Autumn the Vineyard,” based on the first book of her bestselling series. It will show this Saturday! I adored the book. And Marina is one of my favorite people, so when she asked if I could write a novella to help celebrate the launch of her movie, I said “Sign me up!” Eighteen other writers, including me, are launching novellas in the St. Helena Vineyard Kindle world tomorrow.

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We are having a Facebook Hop tomorrow starting at 6 a.m. so, check on my page tomorrow morning. It’s a great chance for you to get to know the other writers–and maybe win some prizes. Marina has also set up a special page for this event. so, if you want to know everything  that’s happening, check there from time to time. Many of the other authors are hosting other fun events. So go forth, have fun, and get to know some of the fabulous writers!

 

 

 

 

 

Five things I learned about at the ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA conference

DSCN4710I was thrilled to attend the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Annual conference in New York City this year. I was on a panel with some fabulous mystery writers—Sheila Connolly, Linda Johnson, Maggie Sefton, and Denise Swanson. We didn’t get much of a crowd—but we were up against some very big names (Suzanne Elizabeth Phillips, anyone?).   Here’s a little something about what I learned. (Okay, some of it really is more of an affirmation of what I already knew.)

  1. Romance writers are passionate about writing. When they get together they talk about craft, marketing, and offer one another much support, sharing resources, names, and so on. Wow. I felt the love.
  2. Having two pen names is hard. Yep. I know that. But I went to a panel, which was really not a panel. It was one woman being interviewed on how she made the two names work. Her answer didn’t work for me because her two writing selves are more closely aligned than mine. She cross promotes herself now. The two blogs, two Twitter/Facebook accounts, and so on? She gave it up after about a year. I’ve been doing it for about four years. Rather successfully on one, not so much the other. Am I giving up romance? No, but I will be either using my own name or able to cross promote in other ways. But it was great to see that there were several other writers like me, writing in a variety of genres. That matters.
  3. I love having a publisher and I love my publisher. I heard the way other people were talking about Kensington–without knowing I was a writer for them–and they came off well during the conference. You’d think I’d know this right? And I did–and I do. But sometimes it’s easy to dream about making a lot more money self-publishing, for example. We hear about all the success stories, and I am happy for those folks. I’m always happy to hear about other writer’s success. But hearing Rebecca Zanetti express why she chooses to remain with a publisher was an ah-ha moment for me. I want to be writing. Self publishers write, but they spend much more time on the business than what I want to. I’m not saying I will never self-publish. what I’m saying is that for now, it’s not for me in my current life situation.
  4. Romance readers are voracious. At a book signing sponsored by my publisher, where they were giving away books, my cozy mystery went as quickly as the romances. This was the experience of my cozy-writing friends who were there, as well. I’m not sure mystery readers read across the genres like that. I tend to think readers read across genres. But I can’t see straight-up romance writers at a mystery conference, but I may be wrong. There ARE a lot of romances within mysteries.
  5. The layout of a conference hotel matters. I hated the Marriott Marquis and will never go back. Usually I say never say never, but in this case it took away from a lot of the conference. The elevators were freaky and sometimes very slow. And the escalators were arranged in a weird way. Like sometimes you had to cross a the span of the hotel to go up or down on the things. Not good for the foot weary conference goer. Also, the meeting  rooms were not large enough. Some of them were standing room only and some had people in the hallways spilling out of the rooms. Not cool. The conference is very expensive. If you can’t get to your session early enough for a seat (because of the escalators and elevators) that is more than too bad, it really egregious and poor planning.

So there you have it. I’d love to go back to another RWA conference. I highly recommend it—just not at the Marquis. The best part of the conference was catching up with friends that don’t live near me and seeing my editor, who I adore.  It’s always good to see your editor in person once a year or so–if not more.

Have you been to any writing conferences? Which are your favorites?

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A Real Happy Ever After in My Cozy Mystery

So many mystery writers do a great job of adding a little romance into their stories. As came up in one of the panels I was on at the Virginia Festival of the Book, readers love those relationships. I like them, too. In the my next book, SCRAPBOOK OF SHADOWS, there are some surprising new romances. But if you are looking for that kind of romance in a mystery, you should definitely steer clear of my first book, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS. Most of the women in my book are married and more of the focus is on the women and the relationships between them, rather than their marriages, although that does sneak in from time to time.

It’s that “sneaking” that has gone over a particular reviewer’s head. (And while I don’t respond to most negative reviews, I felt that I should address this issue.) This reviewer said my book wasn’t a cozy mystery because there was no romance. A lot of cozies DO have romances, but if it’s a prerequisite, it has completely escaped my study of the genre—as well as my editor’s. That said, there IS a little bit of romance in my book. It just happens to be between married people. Imagine that.

Annie and Mike Chamovitz have obstacles to overcome in their relationship because they have money problems and they have two toddler boys. Parenting can wreak havoc on relationships. Annie and Mike find time for each other—even after their evening is interrupted by a child who needs to be rocked to sleep, for example. Mike is still waiting for Annie in their bed when she returns, tired, but still wanting her husband.

This is the real stuff.

It’s also in the memories they’ve built as a couple, the way he told her when they dated: “We are about so much more than sex.”

It’s also in the way he not only ignites her body, but also her mind, making her want to be more.

It’s also about the way she pours herself into making his favorite spaghetti sauce, preening over it just to make sure it’s good enough for the man she loves.

It’s also about the way in which he calms her when she almost loses her temper with the boys and tells her that she should get out of the house by herself.

And the way he manages his work schedule so that she can work on her articles.

But it’s also about the little bumps that they have in their marriage. She has agreed to stay at home with the boys and give up her journalism. Yet, she finds herself pulled back in. Mike grapples with this, tries to support her, yet isn’t happy about it.
They find their way in the muddle of their lives—standing beside one another through the money struggles and the daily weariness.

Once again, this is real stuff. This is what the years of dating, hearts and flowers, and passionate embraces gets you. This is what we all want. This is a real happy ever after. Even with the messes and joys of parenthood, the struggle to find time as a couple, and the wondering if bills will get paid, there is love and yes, a bit of romance.

So while when it comes to reading, I will agree that some things are in the eye of the beholder, but this one thing is not. Look again. Readjust your glasses. You will find not only romance, but also love.

Lessons Learned about My Own Book

Last night I was the guest at a book discussion group meeting at Stone Soup Books in Waynesboro. SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS was under the microscope. As a writer, this was an nerve-wracking experience. It really forced me to look at my work in ways that I had not really considered—which is an odd feeling, to say the least. But I am so close to my characters and my story that sometimes I wonder if I see my work clearly at all.
Here are some surprising revelations I learned from readers last night:
1. My cozy mystery is really pushing boundaries of what a cozy mystery is. (This was not my intention, necessarily.) One of those reasons, according the readers last night, is that it’s a complex story line—not simply about the murder but also about these women’s lives and families and so on. I think other cozies do this, as well. But because I have three points of view, it’s more prominent, perhaps. But make no mistake, my book is squarely in the cozy genre—there is no graphic violence or sex, meaning you don’t SEE it happening. All of it takes place off-camera, so to speak.
2. This book is reflective of the community in which I live. By community, I suppose I mean “region” as well as Waynesboro, my town. The readers who were there last night were all people who moved here—not locals—and they related to Annie’s experiences as an outsider. I knew I was writing about my area, of course, but what I didn’t realize is the extent to which it’s recognizable.
3. Beatrice’s knife in her neck business has a lot of people talking. Suffice it to say, I based this on a true story I had read about years ago.
4. When I was asked about the sex component in my book, it gave me pause. I really don’t know why I chose the particular discussion about the particular kind of sex in my book. All I can say is that I found it interesting and I think most other people think it’s interesting, as well, though they might not admit it. That intrigues me in the same way that many of American’s puritanical views of sex intrigue me, when the porn and erotica industry continues to thrive. We, basically, are hypocrites about sex. As a writer, I like to play with that idea, as well as the idea that we never really know what our neighbors are up to. And sometimes that’s a good thing—sometimes, it’s not.
5. People are trying to figure out who I based my characters on. As writers, we are really sponges, soaking up all of our experiences with people and events and so on. As I was writing the book, I in no way intended any of the characters to be reflective of myself or of anybody I know. But, of course, bits and pieces of myself and everybody I know are in my characters. You don’t really think about this when you’re writing, or else it will drive you batty.
6. Many, many, cozy mysteries have a romance element in them, as was pointed out to me last night. I think this is due to the fact that many of the amateur sleuths are young-ish, single women. All of my croppers are married—at least at the start of the book—and so their views reflect that. The only romantic element is within marriages, all of which has ups and down. Later, in the book, there is another romantic element that comes into play. But we never see that—just hear about it. In fact, as I thought it about it last night, I think my book is kind of an anti-romantic mystery. It’s more of the day-to-day-working-it-out kind of book—which some of us find romantic in another kind of sense.
All in all it was a great discussion and I hope to meet with more book groups both in my area and outside of it. I’m available by Skype and am eager to try that out. In the mean time, I hope to meet some readers this weekend at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. I’ll be on a panel Saturday morning—“Add Murder to my Resume”—then I’ll be signing books. If you’re in the area, please stop by.

Five things I thought about during my morning walk:

1. It’s positively balmy. I’ve overdressed.

2. Book group this afternoon. Thrilled that I can make this one. I loved The Lotus Eaters and I love going to Susan’s house. So welcoming.

3. Emma wanting to go to school with Audrey tomorrow. I hope she has fun. I’m kinda thinking she will…;-)

4. So I am still reading The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo. I probably will be for A WHILE. It’s huge. I’m still relatively unimpressed, though I will say the woman character is interesting and probably the only thing that keeps me reading.

5. Meeting with Leeyanne the other day. I have a STACK of books from her. We are really studying genre and having fun doing it. She’s really helped me with my WIP, The Durian Chronicles. She told me my characters can’t be sleeping around with other people. (What? Oh, no!) It’s not done in the romance genre. One man. One woman. I thought by cutting out their other dalliances, it would cut the story in half. But it only cut a couple thousand words. Turns out, there was more story than sex…which, since it’s not erotica, is a good thing. I think. I never know.

Five things I thought about during my morning run:

1. Seeing Beth and Alice this morning. Two of my favorite people. They
have both been incredible mentors at different times. And good friends,
too.
2. Ooooo. When that wind blows, it makes my face hurt.
3. A big hot steaming bowl of oatmeal. Yep. that's what I need.
4. So I am reading a lot of mysteries these days because I am writing
one. I kept veering off into romance and a little erotica. Don't know
what's wrong with me. lol.
5. Got to get the car inspected today. Seriously messes up my whole day.

Five things I thought about during my morning run:

1.The way every muscle in my legs burn this morning. Sometimes, it doesn't bother me at all. This morning, it does. But I keep moving.

2. Emma trying to prank call us–not once but twice. First, she tried a British accent. "Excuse me madam, is your refrigerator running?"  Next, a Southern one. "There's been a bear spotted in your neighborhood."

3.Last King of Scotland. Really good film.

4. The other romance I picked up yesterday. Much better than the one I was reading from the publisher my agent has high hopes for Tempting Will. I feel much better.

5.  Kevin in Rome–LAWD, have mercy.

Five things I thought about during my morning run:

1.The way every muscle in my legs burn this morning. Sometimes, it doesn't bother me at all. This morning, it does. But I keep moving.

2. Emma trying to prank call us–not once but twice. First, she tried a British accent. "Excuse me madam, is your refrigerator running?"  Next, a Southern one. "There's been a bear spotted in your neighborhood."

3.Last King of Scotland. Really good film.

4. The other romance I picked up yesterday. Much better than the one I was reading from the publisher my agent has high hopes for Tempting Will. I feel much better.

5.  Kevin in Rome–LAWD, have mercy.