Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Series

I can't believe it's been a year since I went on my grand adventure to the Baltic States with my favorite cousin. There he is at left, my hunky cousin Mike, dressed up in his racing gear. He's a well respected sprint car driver that suffered a pretty serious crash back in August. Ironic considering the fifth day of our trip one of his friends nearly died in a racing accident and is still in an institution getting treatment for his severe Traumatic Brain Injury. I thank my lucky stars that Mike was more fortunate than his friend.

In his last race of the season, my cousin crossed the finish line in first place and lost control of his steering. He hit the wall doing 100 miles per hour, and suffered a severe enough concussion that his vision is still impaired. The doctors expect it will be a few more months before the swelling in his brain reduces enough to restore the rest of his eyesight.

Anyway, thinking back on our trip I'd have to say my favorite parts were visiting Paris, and a little place in western Lithuania called the Curonian Spit. It's a narrow sand spit nestled between Klaipeda, Lithuania, and Kaliningrad, Russia. Baltic mythology claims a giantess named Naringa formed it by throwing sand out of her apron.

I've recently started my first paranormal series, and the books link the Curonian Spit and surrounding area with ancient legend and WWII history. I can't tell you how excited I am about the premise for this! Hope it turns out as well as it looks in my head :)

We were there in early October and the Baltic Sea was stormy and wild. Chunks of amber still regularly wash up on the beaches after storms.

The tiny resort town of Nida is nestled at the tip of the Spit, and it was absolutely gorgeous. It reminded me so much of the little village at Crescent Beach here at home that it made me even more homesick. Nida has the same feel to it; a summer seaside town with shops and restaurants, with breathtaking views from the sand dunes built up by the winds blowing off the Baltic. Each year the dunes lose approximately 10 meters of sand from the wind blowing it into the lagoon. Nida was where all the Soviet well-to-do spent their summers during the Communist era. Today it is the most expensive resort area in Lithuania.

Local legends and customs abound here, and they are evident in the traditional wooden flags still used in Nida today. Each color and image on the three-layered flags tells a story about the people they represent. For example, the black and white checkered square at the bottom symbolizes Nida, and the red and white symbolizes the Curonian Spit. Most traditional houses here are painted blue, brown and white, symbolic of the pagan tradition of the elements earth, water and air.

The entire area is magical. Mystical. When you have a chance to tour around, it's not hard to see why.

The cemeteries in this part of the world are in forests, due to pagan tradition. This particular cemetery has Curonian crosses from the 19th century. They were unpainted, weathered wood with different designs and shapes. "Male crosses were made from male trees such as oak, maple or birch. Female crosses were made from female trees such as pine, cherry and apple. The male cross would have a horse design on it because a man rode his horse in his next life. The female designs would be with birds because a woman would fly to the beyond. These crosses would be placed at the feet (not the head) of the burial site." (from my step mom's blog)

Pagan tradition is an essential part of the area's history and culture, and I've used it heavily in my new series. Folklore and legends of witchcraft abound, especially in what was our final stop in Nida last year.

The Hill of Witches stands on an ancient pagan ceremonial site, and is now covered with intricate wooden carvings depicting local folklore of magic, witches and devils. When you take the tour you begin in sunlight with the "good" figurines, and work your way up into the forested hill toward the shadows where the witches and devils play, waiting to lure unsuspecting mortals to their doom. This lit a fire under my muse that I haven't been able to extinguish, and so my paranormal series was born. I don't want to give away too much, but suffice it to say I'm using this site and the surrounding area for the books. There are so many amazing details and legends for me to intertwine with the plot threads and I can't wait to tell you more about it! Stay tuned :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I Won!

In terms of writing, I had a pretty great weekend. I submitted my first erotic romance novella, and on Friday I got word that Romantic Times gave Relentless a 4 star rating with a glowing review, so that was pretty great. But as of about twenty minutes ago, something even better happened.

I just found out that Cover of Darkness won first place in the romantic suspense category of the Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Awards contest! I get an engraved trophy and everything. And, as if that wasn't reason enough for me to think about drinking a celebratory mojito (because I rarely touch alcohol), No Turning Back won second place. You know what? I'm totally okay with coming in second to myself :)

I had my suspicions when I wrote the books that COD was the best of the series. I love NTB too, but it's really graphic and I wasn't too sure how readers would feel about that. I'm so happy people are loving my books! Luke's is due out in a couple months, so I've got high hopes for that one too because it's the most emotionally wrenching of the five. Guess we'll have to wait and see what the consensus is.

I haven't gotten a trophy since my last years of competitive softball in my mid-twenties, but you can bet I'm putting this one right on the mantle in my bedroom so I can see it every day. It's going to come in very handy for those days when I doubt my ability as a writer. Fingers crossed that people will love Absolution as much as I do! Now let's hope this will help generate a few more sales for this series :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Best Date EVER

I can safely say I'm the least spontaneous person I know. I'm not a spur of the moment kind of gal, never have been. So yesterday when my hubby waltzes in the door at lunchtime, I thought something was wrong.

Me: "Did your computers crash or something?"
Him: "No."
Me: "You got fired."
Him: Glares. "No. We're going out."
Me: "What? No, I can't. I've already arranged a play date for the kids." Plus I've already got stuff laid out to do a painting project for my powder room. The entire afternoon is spoken for. Don't mess with my schedule.
Him: "Play date's cancelled."

I look over at my mom, who's standing behind him. She and her twin sister moved in with us in mid August and are staying until the renos on their new house are complete. Anyway, mom's shaking her head at me to get my attention and then puts on an excited look, starts prancing behind him in joy to prompt me. As in , hello? Cue excitement anytime now.

Oh, right. Don't kill the guy's effort by not being thrilled. I'm supposed to be excited. My bad.

So I mentally switch gears, put on a smile and off we go. He won't tell me where we're going, but soon enough I figure out we're heading toward the border. Well fine, if he won't tell me, the border guard will find out soon enough when we declare where we're off to in the good old U.S.A. But hubby's foiled that plan too. He's tucked a note to the border guard inside my passport so the surprise won't be spoiled.

I'm starting to get a real kick out of this. He's obviously put in a lot of effort. My mind starts humming. He's taking me to find a Victoria's Secret store where I can indulge in my lingerie fetish.

No, he says with a little smile.

I'm getting puzzled. Why else would he be taking me down south in the middle of the day? My eyes light up. A ball game?

"You're taking me to the Mariners game." I gasp. "Oh my God, are the BoSox in town?"

Another grin. "Maybe." He's still Mr. Mysterious.

Nah, I think. The M's usually play at 1 or 7, not in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday.

About twenty minutes down the road, Hubby can't stand it anymore. "Yeah, we're going to see the M's play the BoSox."

I gasp. Hooray! I'm so stoked. I spend the next hour and a half writing in my little plotting notebook (I never leave home without it), and we finally arrive in Seattle and make our way to Safeco Field.

Next great surprise--our seats are 19 rows behind home plate. Dead center. Awesome! Now I'll have a great view of the whole field, not to mention the catchers. (Please let Varitek be catching...)
We sit down and hubby leaves me with my bag of roasted peanuts to go in search of some better food. He comes back with a hot dog, garlic fries and a hot chocolate for me (what a guy), and the starting lineups are announced. I hold my breath when the BoSox lineup comes over the PA system. Please let Varitek be playing. Pleasepleaseplease...
Nope. Victor Martinez is catching. Bummer! Ah well. Maybe Varitek still isn't healed up enough to play, and it's late in the season anyway. They're not going to make the playoffs this year, so maybe they're just giving him some extra time to heal his foot.

It's all good though. I'm on an unexpected date in the middle of the day with my man, and there are no little boys fighting beside me or whining for more junk food or that they're bored. I've got nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the game. That in itself would have been more than enough to made the day incredible. But there's more.

Partway through the third inning, hubby nudges me. I look over to the third base dugout, and my heart trips. There he is, in the flesh. My heartthrob. The hunky Red Sox captain is leaning over the dugout railing with his back to me. Be still my beating heart! I can barely take my eyes off him.

Two innings later, he shoulders a ginormous duffel bag and heads onto the field. I perk up. He's going to the bullpen!

I grab hubby's hand. "Come on," I said, tugging him impatiently out of his seat.

"You really want to watch him warm up the pitchers that bad?"

"Uh yeah, he's on my list." All you Friends fans out there know what I mean by that. Varitek shares my five-man list with The Rock, Gerard Butler, Ben Affleck (who's not only hot, but a die hard BoSox fan), and one spot I haven't filled yet. So yeah, I'm going to the bullpen.

Hubby rolls his eyes and comes along for the walk around the stadium to the bullpen, where the relieving pitchers warm up.

I spot him the instant we round the corner. There he is, not forty feet from me, number 33 with all his gear on. Oh my God he's sexy. I take up position at the far end, right next to the stencil of home plate, and camp out there. And I'm watching nothing but him. I couldn't care less who was standing next to him. Not even Papelbon, their famous closer. My eyes are for Varitek only while he does his stretches.

About the 7th inning he's finally all limbered up and grabs his mask. He strides toward me. I swear my mouth went dry. He plays catch for a bit to loosen up his arm, then drops into his squat. Like, fifteen feet from where I stood. My insides go all jittery. He can tell I'm there, but he goes about his business and I'm way too shy to wave or call out to him. We're sorta hard to miss though, because we're two of about five people standing on his end of the pen. And trust me, I'm not at all being subtle as I stare at him.

I feast on the visual treat before me. I watch his positioning, the way he sets up behind the plate, the tape around the fingers of his throwing hand (helps the pitcher see the signals he's giving), the way he grips the ball. His throwing mechanics. After a couple minutes they take a break and he stands up. Looks over. Sees me. My heart pounds.

"He just checked you out," hubby says in outrage, and steps closer to me to put an arm around my waist.

While I roll my eyes, Varitek goes back into his squat and catches a bit longer. "He did not. He looked at me because I'm standing here gawking at him. It's a natural reaction."

"No way. He was totally checking you out." Hubby's arm tightens. Jeez, maybe he's taking this whole list thing too seriously. It's only a hypothetical list, for fun, and I'm way too shy to do anything about it even I Varitek and I were both single. I think hubby's pretty safe. I push him aside so I can see better.

We watch Varitek catch for a while longer. Next time he stops, he stands up. Looks over. Tips his mask back.

Holy hell, he's looking right at me. I go rigid and stare back with a stiff smile on my face.

Varitek grins at me. And then...he winks. I swear on my childrens' lives, the man winked at me before tugging his mask down again.

My heart nearly stops beating altogether. While my face goes red as a tomato, hubby whirls to face me with a look of astonishment on his face. "Did he just wink at you?"

My face is about to combust it's so hot. "Um, yeah, I think he did." Oh no, I don't just think it. I know it. My heart is still all aflutter thinking about it as I type this.

Talk about the perfect way to top off an awesome date with my hubby. And let's be honest, how many husbands would willingly stand there and let their wives ogle a man on her list? The man won serious brownie points with me yesterday.

Come October the BoSox won't be in the post season, but I'll still be a faithful member of the Red Sox Nation. And you can bet I'll be cheering for whoever's playing against the damn Yankees.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Point Of View. Is There A Magic Number?

Today I'm at Writers Gone Wild, asking you all for input on a very important question I'm struggling with at the moment.
Some of my favorite writers use many different POVs in their books. (Think Suzanne Brockmann and JR Ward.) Because I love reading that style and love to get into characters' heads, I like to write that way as well. If you have an opinion about how many POVs you think should be included in a single title book, please stop on by and let me know about it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Five Stars for Relentless

Another great review for Relentless, this one from The Reading Reviewer, Mary Gramlich. My military romantic suspense series (which I dearly regret not naming, by the way) is going to be featured over on the SOS Aloha blog next month, so I'll be sure to post details. I'm happy to report that The Wild Rose Press and its owner, Rhonda Penders, have stepped up to help support the cause by donating books for military personnel and their families. Thanks Rhonda!

To read the review, click here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mary Gramlich: The Reading Reviewer

Hi gang! Stop by Writers Gone Wild so I can introduce you to an incredible lady, Mary Gramlich, and her worthy cause, SOS America. Please consider donating some books or other things to her so she can give them to soldiers and their families. Come learn about Mary and see how you can help support our troops.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How typos and other mistakes make it into a published book

Ever wonder how those annoying little mistakes make it into the final version of a published book? It's easier than you might think! I'm over at Writers Gone Wild today, telling my own story about that particular pet peeve.