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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

An Almost-Johnny Depp-Sighting... But I'm Still Feeling a Bit of the Betty!!

I know, I know... where have I been!! Long story, so sit a spell.

You never know what's coming at you next. Best way to deal with life's pot shots (some of them fabulous, so stay tuned)? Strap on you flight suit and enjoy the ride!!

Work-week interruptous #1

My LA-working husband who's been doing the coast-to-coast thing for a while now says, "Why don't you guys come out for the weekend?" My response--do I look crazy to you? Of course it was, "Heck Yeah!!" So off my son and I went for a jet-lagged frenzy of a long weekend that included Legoland and Knott's Berry Farms. Johnny Depp scooped up Disney all for himself Saturday night, so the Magic Kingdom-West got dropped from the agenda. I could be bitter, but Johnny's one of my fav. artists, so let's take a moment to drool instead.... Sigh...

So off I went, in the middle of discussions with my editor about revisions for The Perfect Daughter--you guys are going to LOVE what where' cooking up for that book. The excerpts you read a few weeks ago...we're kicking them up a notch or two. Can you say HERO TO DIE FOR??? I have the world's best editor ;O)

Where was I? Oh, yeah, off I went with a notebook and a carry-on bag, and of course my son, for a roller coaster-filled weekend of husband time, amusement park mayhem, and hand-writing the first few chapters of the contemporary paranormal I've been teasing everyone about...I think this book's going to be freakin' good, my friends ;O)

Did I take pictures, oh yeah. Can I share???? Well, that leads us to...

Work Week interruptous #2

Death to all who spam or aspire to spam like the demons plaguing my site.

I couldn't tell my online buds I'd be away from home, because who knows what kind of hoodlum would take the info and do something nefarious with it. I have lovely pics of my family and me stealing our little weekend of fun in the sun, but can I post those??? Not a chance, because my beautiful child is in each and every frame, and too many website friends of mine have received ucky emails about their kids lately. So, so much for inviting my blog faithful for an upclose and personal glimpse of my happy homelife.

And to top it all off, I come back home to an inbox full of some hacker's idea of a qick way to make money--spamming me through my guest book!! So, now that my email address is gone from everywhere online but my contact page, and my contest page is being revamped even as we speak because the only safe place to run my monthly giveaways is through my password-protected blog, it's time to yank the guestbook, too, and find some other way to communicate to readers who only make it as far as my site...Ask me how I really feel about my personal spam monkeys, then stand way back or lightening might strike us both as pure evil pours forth. Yes, this what I look like as I'm grinding away at the HTML code that will hopefully protect us from more interruptions. Can you see the jet lag setting in??? Care to join me in a malevolent chant or two!! I'll settle for website housecleaning...gotta get every last spammer out of my inbox, leaving them no nook or cranny to grab hold of on my site. Sorry for the changes to come, but we'll all be better (and less violent) for them, I promise.

I've saved the best for last--you're going to be cheering instead of jeering before I'm done, I swear...

Work week interruptous #3

Remember when I said I'd be guest blogging on wnbc.com/romance later in July (a huge site with tons of regular readers, based out of NY)? Well, hold onto your hats. The website editor read my July book last week, LOVED it, had a spot open up, and emailed me Monday asking if I could get back to her ASAP, because she'd like to spotlight me and The Prodigal's Return next week. You know, on the romance page where she's never spotlighted a category book before...where her latest spotlights have been for Julia Quinn and the likes...where thousands of folks come every week to see what's new and what's hot... Could I get back to her instead of getting back to work when I got home...oh, okay...HECK YEAH!!! She mentioned The Prodigal's Return in a single post in her blog last week, and the amazon pre-release purchaces of the book shot up...here's hoping next week will deliver a windfall ;O) The thought of new readers discovering my stories has me quite giddy!!

So, the interview's done, she's going to review the book complete with a cover shot and my photo, and I can hardly wait. How, HOW, and I supposed to work on revisions and new pages while all this cool stuff is going on???

Help me folks!!

Remind me that I'm only as good as my NEXT book. I want The Perfect Daughter to be great. My still-to-be-titled, single-parent continuity is due in August, and I'm loving the three chapters I sent in last week--too bad there are fifteen more unwritten ones to go. I love my work, but I want to take a few weeks (that I so don't have) to have some more fun as the buzz for my July book builds... I wanna be Betty for just a little while longer, as stare down the tunnel at slaving the rest of the summer away at my computer in all my Wilma glory...

Best thing you can do for me is to hang out here and have fun with me. A few minutes a day with my online buds will keep my going... I'm counting on you... Maybe slapping at a few online spammers would be fun, too. Wanna help me with that, too ;O)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Betty Dreams of an Ordinary Girl

Angelina Jolie...don't care what you think about her politics or her crazy past, but you've got to give the woman credit. She knows how to park her perky buns on the front page and keep them there (even is she has to steal another woman's husband to keep her hooks in the "don't you want to be me" tabloids).

Anyway, I digress...oh, right, anyone who seizes her most fabulous self and refuses to let go like Angie has, impresses the hell out of me!!!! She's been having the most fabulous day ever for so long, I suspect she keeps a groundhog chained in her halogen-lit, sans-shadow basement.

She's the golden girl, and I dig a brunette who can pull off the glittery gold thing. She's glamorous Betty to the rest of our Wilmas. Cosmetically altered to the point that her dewy glow has been preserved to perfection (intact, even, just days after a C-section, we're now told), while us mere mortals are left to age about as gracefully as a peeled apple left out in the sun. Okay, not that quickly, but everything's relative, and have you seen Ms. Brangelina lately??? We're so not Betty-worthy...

And, oh yeah. This guy she's hanging out with? He's more perfect than she is... Okay, we kinda have to hate her for that, but he's kind of screwed his ex to be with Ms. A, so how fab. could he really be?

Digressing again...

My point is, wouldn't it be nice to be a Betty for a day??? My theory is we all have our Betty moments, we're just not always paying attention... Say, like when your'e dancing with a girl friend at a reader convention full of, say, perfect-looking men...and one of the models who's a good friend of hers sidles up to dance with your group...and someone wants to take a picture ('cause everyone's always taking his pickie)... and that someone says, how 'bout a kiss???

LOL!! A friend sent me this picture from another friend's site (thanks, Dana)... I'm not Angelina, but it was a pretty hot dress, and Bill Freda is not only a fun man to dance with but a FREAKIN' HOTTIE!!! Sure said girlfriend and I went back to our real lives where we're busy writers and wives and mothers (so Wilma sometimes, it's easy to lose who you are in the midst), but for just a moment, we got to be Betties!!!

Don't forget to celebrate your Bettiness, ladies (and for my gentleman visitors, your Bradness, without the whole being a bastard to your wife part) ;O). When you're drowning in every day, you can't always see the montaintop. It's good to have a momento to remind you (this picture's going in my scrap book for sure). And Betty inspiration is good for all kinds of practical applications beyond boosting the ego. My husband thinks my dress is hot, too. He's taking me out to dinner so he can have it (that is, me) to himself all night ;O)

Have you ever had a "Dancing with Bill Freda" sighting, a Betty moment, or otherwise have stumbled across your most fabulous Angie self when you least expected it???

Sunday, June 18, 2006

New Post...Blogger likies the picies better over here

Don't know what happened. Don't care. After trying countless times to upload pics of launch party prizes to Friday's post, were' going to enjoy the view here instead...where I'm not being dissed every time I try to upload!

These are only a few of the goodies to come starting on the 12th. I also share my Marshals and TJ Max finds when I blog or chat elsewhere, so look me up (times and links coming soon). And I'll be doing a giveaway at the literacy book signing at RWA in Atlanta...

This great straw shoulder bag is summer-perfect...and just large enough to carry a paperback inside...I'm just sayin, in case you can't put the one you're currently reading down ;O) Sandra!!! You're my bud for letting me know you've already dived into TPR.

Talk about spanking, take a look at this set of Guess lovelies...I couldn't resist...I think these might be a grand prize or something, cause otherwise I'm going to have a hard time letting them go!

For the travel-savvy...a BCBG travel bag is always a good choice...there are oodles of travel-size containers inside to carry your potions and lotions in.

I'll post more early next week...don't want to fry Blogspot's mind now that it's playing nice (it took me several tries to get everything to upload this morning, so I'm already pushing my luck). Of course, I'll be offering man-friendly goodies again, too, like gift certificates...Come out and join the fun. We'll find stimulating, and pointless, things to think and talk about in July, I'll be book clubbing it on eHarlequin, and basically making a pest out of myself all over the Net!

I love that so many of you have small milestones to spank/celebrate, too. Keep your eye on the good stuff, and you'll find yourself stronger every day you have to deal with the bad ;O)

Toodles until tomorrow!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Spank me, I'm done!! Oh, and here's what's coming in July ;o)

Okay, that's a little joke around my house. When you have as many balls in the air as I do right now (writing the proposal for a new book due in August, doing art sheets for the book I just turned in, prepping for revisions for said last book, itching to spend serious time on a new single title idea that's got me plotting like a demon, not to mention promotion and RWA chapter responsibilities), you're always behind in something. Well more than one something, ususally.

But, you're also always finishing something. I'm a deadline girl and set my own deadlines so that by the time I owe someone something, I'm ususally past done. And I've learned to celebrate the doneness of even the smallest things. It's better than drowning in what's waiting next. Well, the few hundred things that are next. And around my housel, the catch phrase is, "Spank me, I'm done!" Don't ask me why. I think my son heard it in a music video one day. Or maybe I did. I'm partial to hard rock these days--something about the beat energizes me. And look at the fancy phrazes a girl can pick up ;O)

What was I saying??? Right, I'm done with the rough cut of the proposal due to my editor early next week (for the Single Father book that'll be out in May as part of a Single...With Kids Superromance continuity you don't want to miss). So, time to slap some high-fives (I'm a basketball girl at heart, no matter how much refined tennis I play), spank whatever you need to to enjoy the moment, and LOOK FORWARD TO JULY FUN!!!

We have a launch party coming up, among other things. The Prodigal's Return will be in a store near you around the 10th of the month. You've read the first chapter or so already...can't wait to hear what you think of the rest. You can chat up the book with me on eHarlequin--one of the hosts has picked Prodigal for her bookclub choice, and we'll be discussing the dickens out of it throughout the month. I'll post the link here and on my website once I have it. As always, I have some chats lined up, and I've just learned that I'll be a guest blogger on WNBC.com's romance page on the 14th--check out this site, it's totally cool, and the bloggers are wicked (hope I can keep up ;O) www.WNBC.com/romance

But back to the launch party...lots of fun and friends, great topics I'm working on to keep us busy...the party will start July 12th and run through 17th. And I have some great daily prizes lined up...picks have been sprinkled through this post (actually, I've tried to upload them but BlogSpot is misbehaving...keep checking back, I'll get them up as soon as I can), and I'll have more for you to drool over next week.

Tell your friends...let's blow out the web this time around. I'll have lots more to spank about by the (LOL!!). Come out and join in the fun.

For today, tell us what you have to celebrate, no matter how minor the milestone. It's all about finishing and moving forward, knowing you'll finish what's next, too.

Oh, and I wanted to chat a bit about paranormal single titles. What am I thinking about doing? Cant really say yet, sorry. Except that my agent is psyched by the idea. Except that I'm wanting to take my emotional family dramas up a notch and do something amazing with them in a larger format. Something that has a paranormal bent but is so contemporary and believable that you could imagine it happening in the world around you. No vampires for me...I want super-girl to be your next door neighbor...kinda spookier that way ;o) Did I mention I'm thinking of taking this toward the thriller end of the spectrum, too? Whatcha think???

Okay, one more cool bag to come back and duke it out for in July ;O)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Son in Camp...So the last excerpt had to wait--Sorry!!!

This week, I've been hanging around my past again. You guys know how much I LOVE doing that.

My son's in tennis day-cap at GA Tech, so I've been working on my latest chapters in the same student center lounge I used to group-study in with my friends. The World Cup is on the flat pannel screen, there's always Diet Coke on tap, and the memories are lovely.

Unfortunately, I haven't had a good enough Internet connection to upload a final scene from The Prodigal's Return...and no time to get it done when at night when we have to pull things together for the next day...but, tonight things are slower, so...

Here's another winner:

Carol, your choice is On Blue Falls Pond by Susan Crandall or an early copy of The Prodigal's Return. Email me and let me know ;o)

And one final excerpt (come back later this week for the promised sneak peak of next month's launch party prizes and topics...like, who can catch the pretty big inconsistency I've already shown you in the early part of the book???):


"No," Neal barked over the cell phone, about a half hour past the butt crack of dawn. "I don't want anyone talking with Edgar Martinez but me. I'll be there in half an hour to go over your notes. But I'm taking the meeting."

He'd be there in half an hour? Since when did Stephen Creighton get into the office first?
Since Neal had started falling further and further behind, his everyday case load turning into one unheard of delay after another. Since he couldn't sleep, couldn't focus, for thinking about the non-conversation he'd had weeks ago with a certain Doctor Wilber Harden. Then Nathan had hung-up on him the one time Neal had gotten through to the man over the phone, revealing nothing but a few choice curses.

And what did Neal have to show for the aggravation? Finishing his Friday morning run with the added bonus of the wet-behind-his-ears lawyer he'd hired a year ago chewing on his ass.

"I don't know what's going on, man," Stephen said, taking another bite. "This case is a no-brainer. If you don't have time for it, let me take over. Edgar Martinez--"

"Martinez is my problem until he goes to trial. And if I thought it was a no-brainer, I would have advised him to settle."

"The DA's offer is a gift." Nonplussed by Neal's ex-con rep, Stephen plowed forward where other colleagues treaded more delicately. The kid had the pedigree of a philanthropist, but the guts of a street fighter. Neal's kind of guts. "The public defender wanted Edgar to take the plea a week ago."

"It's a tired-ass offer, and we're not taking it." Neal's legal aid center, funded first by his mother's exceptionally well-invested money, then by grants and donations from several silent partners from Atlanta's legal community, had become the bane of Georgia's prosecutors. He took the cases of defendants who were being shafted by the legal system, refused to accept a dime from his clients, and he never plea bargained until he'd squeezed the last ounce of concession from the District Attorney's office.

The best lawyer he'd ever known had taught him that tactic.

Ride the DA's ass until the wheels come off his case, Nathan Cain had been notorious for saying.

"Push too hard on this one," Stephen argued. "And our client's going to end up with no deal at all. This is a county DA, and he's not taking kindly to being put on hold. Neither is the public defender."

"And Edgar shouldn't take kindly to them railroading his son. The PD wants to plead this one out, to save herself a trip to Statesboro for the court date."

"You don't know that. You won't even take her calls. I have, and--"

"Well, don't! You're making us look anxious to settle, and that cuts me off at the balls. Be ready to bring me up to speed, then stay the hell away from the meeting if you can't stick with the game plan."

Neal ended the call and flipped the portable phone onto the heap of tangled sheets atop his bed, more angry at himself and his increasingly bad mood than anyone else.

Stephen was right. He'd let the Martinez case slide. Meanwhile there was an eighteen-year-old kid sitting in a south-Georgia jail, counting on Neal to get him out. Only Neal had spent more time away from the office than he'd been there the last two weeks, as he tried to first ignore and then come to grips with the realty that his father was sick. Damn sick, even if Doc Harden wouldn't say any more than it was about time Neal up and paid attention to the man.

Oh, he was paying attention all right. He was standing there soaked to the skin from the near-freezing rain outside, his teeth chattering for a hot shower, when where he should have been hours ago was in the office doing the job he did better than anyone else in town.

It was criminal, the number of inmates he'd met in prison who'd, unlike him, had no business being there. Only they'd gotten shafted by some overworked public defender's lame advice. Determination to do something about it when he got out had become a lifeline, pulling him from the darkness he'd clung to for too long. Putting him in the path of people like the Martinez's, who could benefit from the focused, single-minded man he'd become. His refusal to curl up and die, no matter that Bobby had gone first, and for a while Neal had stupidly wished he'd follow.

And until now, he never let a client down--not like he was dangerously close to failing Edgar and Juan Martinez.

He kicked off his shoes and peeled out of his sweats. Turning the shower on full-blast, he cursed every hour he'd let slip though his fingers since Buford's call. He should have followed-up with Martinez days ago. Should have worked out Juan's release, and be pushing for a pre-trial settlement the DA would hate but be inclined to live with. Whatever it took not to be dragged into court to face the very talented, but anal-retentive, Stephen Creighton, who was an ace at slow-playing the proceedings, drawing them out indefinitely, if that's what it took to get their client the best deal.

Neal caught his expression in the mirror gone hazy with shower steam. On the job, he put himself out there one hundred percent. No holding back. He manufactured Hail Mary deals that changed the lives of the innocents that got snared in the churning cogs of an overburdened legal system. He cut through the bull, found the truth, then hammered away until the courts bent to his will.

Only this time, instead of forcing a solution, he'd become part of the problem. One more person Edgar Martinez and his son couldn't trust to put their interests first.

Because the battle he should be fighting wasn't here. And it refused to be dealt with over the phone, no matter much he needed to take care of things long distance. The life he'd made in Atlanta, a life that mattered to the pseudo-strangers he never let get close enough to be anything else, wasn't working anymore. He'd lost his focus and there was no getting it back. Not until he'd dealt with the sick old man, and all the memories that came with him, that Neal no longer had the option of avoiding.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Excerpt Three, and Feb. 07 Cover Dreams

Okay, enough venting about predictibly nice reviews...let's dream about my Feb. '07 cover today.

You read excerpts of The Perfect Daughter last week. Everyone fell in love with Matt Lebretti, my tough NYPD detective. Wanna know who I had in mind in each and every scene? Who I'd KILL to have on the cover...

Yeah, if you're a regular, it's no big surprise... Peter DeCicco is my cover model dream guy...

Peter, if you're lurking out there, you're the man. Everyone else, is there any doubt he'd sell oodles of books? Start sending in petitions to Harlequin now...we need as much Peter in our lives as we can get ;O)

Just in case you need more incentive to exercise your civic duty and get out the vote... Need I say more!!! Doesn't he just say, "Don't mess with my girl!!!" Grrrrr.

I want a close up of the hero on the cover, like they did for The Runaway Daughter, this time with a shot of Matt's (okay, Peter's) to-die-for blue eyes as he holds Maggie against his chest, cradling her head to his shoulder. Sigh...

Oh, and we have a winner from yesterday's comments... catslady, pick either On Blue Falls Pond, by Susan Crandall, or
Chill of Fear, by Kay Hooper...or I have my author copies of The Prodigal's Return, and I can send you one of those...You'll have yours in time to take part in eHarlequin's book club thread on the book--one of the hosts chose TPR to read and discuss with her online buddies. Email me and let me know your choice.

And speaking of The Prodigal's Return, here's our last excerpt for this week (I can predict it's a tear-jerker ;O).

Come back next week for one more, and a teaser of the upcoming fun in our July launch party!!!

Rivermist, Georgia

Jenn Gardner nearly ran over the old man before she saw him wandering down the middle of the road. Screeching to a halt mere inches away, she tracked his unsteady, weaving journey across North Street.

"Critter," he yelled into the evening's darkness. "Where the heck did you get off to this time? Crrritterrrr..."

She glanced from the deserted intersection to the clock on her ancient Civic's dashboard. She'd only been back in Rivermist for three months, and she hadn't yet acclimated to how early things shut down in small southern towns. By nine-thirty, most of Rivermist was already in bed, or at least at home in their pajamas. But there was still enough intermittent traffic on the road that the bum she'd almost made roadkill might walk headfirst into oncoming traffic if he wasn't careful.

Since he looked about a fifth-of-scotch past sober, careful seemed a long shot.

Grateful she was alone, that she'd just dropped her six-year-old, Mandy, off at a sleepover, she locked her doors and lowered her window enough to talk through the crack.

"Sir, do you need some help?" she asked, pulling alongside.

"Gotta find Critter," he mumbled, walking right past her in his search for what sounded like a lost pet.

Something in his voice, something about his threadbare plaid coat, rang oddly familiar.

That in itself was nothing new. Déjà vu moments lurked behind every corner of this place she'd sworn as a teenager never to return to. Living memories that taunted her. Nightmares she refused to relive, just because folks here tossed reminiscing about the good ol' days around as easily as a curious smile and a hearty welcome back.

So why was she rolling forward, lowering the window a little more?

"Are you looking for your dog, mister?"

"No, damn it. Got no use for dogs. Crritterrr..." he groused, stumbling into her fender, then shuffling off again.

Got no use for dogs.

The phrase churned up more unwanted memories. Another man, sitting on a porch swing, had said exactly the same thing to her when she was a little girl. He'd been holding a cat named--

"Critter?" she said out loud. "Mr. Cain?"

It was hard to tell, looking through the darkness and the unkempt hair that partially hid his face. But as she drove closer and set the hand brake, the resemblance was unmistakable.

"Mr. Cain!" She rolled the window the rest of the way down and grabbed him by the arm. Good Lord. " Mr. Cain, Critter's been dead for over ten years."

"What?" He rounded on her. Bleary, bloodshot eyes blinked. "Who are you, and what the hell do you know about my Critter?"

"It's me. Jennifer Gardner."

The man who used to jokingly refer to her as his daughter didn't recognize her. Little wonder. His and her father's friendship hadn't survived the first year after Neal's sentencing. It was like he hadn't been able to look at her anymore, spend time in her home, with her parents. With anyone, really.

"I was there when you and Neal buried Critter, remember?" she prompted.

"What?" A tear trickled down his cheek, breaking her heart. "Critter's dead?"

She pulled to the shoulder and got out. Hurried to his side, the frigid night air blasting away at the lingering warmth from the Honda's rattling heater. "It's freezing out here. Why don't I take you home? You'll feel better in the morning."

"No!" From the smell of his breath, beer had been his best friend tonight, not scotch. He wiped his eyes and looked wildly about. "I've got to find Critter."

She steadied him as he stumbled, steering him toward the car. "Why don't we check your house? Critter's probably waiting at the back door, wondering why you're not there to let her in."

"You think so?" Hope spread like sunshine across his face, pushing away the sick pallor of too much alcohol and years of dissipation. "You think she went home?"

"I bet she's there now, crying for her dinner. Why don't we get her some milk?" Jenn opened the passenger door and turned him until he fell backwards into the car. He cursed when he bumped his head on the way down.

"Critter loves milk. That's what Wanda started giving her when she was just a kitten. Critter was always Wanda's cat." His voice roughened, and his tears made a return appearance at the mention of his long-dead wife. "I've gotta take care of her. I promised Wanda."

Jenn made sure his arms and legs were out of the way and shut the door. Shivering, she slid behind the wheel and reached over to secure his seat belt. "Don't worry, Mr. Cain. We'll take care of Critter."

"You've always been such a good girl." He patted her hand. A split second later, he began to

Wealthy, indomitable Nathan Cain, the Howard Hughes of Rivermist, was sleeping it off in her car. Her heart turned over as she absorbed his deteriorated condition.

It was an unwritten rule that she and her father never discussed the Cain family, not after her parent's final falling out with Nathan only a few months after Neal's conviction. And she hadn't exactly pushed the issue since moving home for the first time since she'd run away at seventeen. She and her dad had enough to deal with, just trying to learn to live together again. They didn't interact with or discuss the Comptons either, except for the odd run-ins she kept having with Bobby's younger brother, Jeremy.

All that avoiding took a butt load of work in a town this size. Only in Mr. Cain's case, it had been easy. He'd been holed up in his empty mansion for years, she'd heard, grieving his son, angry at the world. But nowhere near as angry, she knew from personal experience, as he probably was at himself.

And she of all people hadn't even bothered to stop by and check on him. She glanced at the bum beside her. Panic attacked as swiftly as the rush shame. She couldn't look at Nathan Cain, she realized, even in his current condition, and not see Neal.

Cut it out! Give the smelly man a ride home, and be done with it.

Squaring her shoulders, sliding the heat lever to high, she checked for oncoming traffic and made a U-turn across the center line. The Cain place was at the other end of town, amidst the avenue of antebellum homes that had been built before the Civil War, yet somehow survived its destruction.

No doubt her dad would still be up, keeping track of her comings and goings as carefully as he had her last year at home as a teenager--the year she'd been hell-bent on destroying her and her parent's lives. The year before she'd ditched the memories and the nightmares, and everyone who came along with them.

He would want to know why she was home late. There'd be no point in dodging his questions. By morning, Rivermist would be abuzz about her giving the town pariah a ride home. Heaven knew how the news would spread at this late hour, but it would. And Reverend Gardner was going to freak.

But easing Mr. Cain's mind about a long-dead cat was the least she could do for this man she'd run from the longest. A man who'd lost everything, and like she had for too long had chosen to give up.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Next Scene, and now let's talk about the word "nice"

You guys were great with the synonyms for "predictable." Today, let's try a new vocabulary word...nice.

You see, in most of my stories, you're going to have to read about gut-wrenching emotion. The lead characters, and often their friends and family, have to work for that predictable happy ending you know I'll give you before you're done. My books have been described as gritty and heart-felt. Troubling, sometimes, because the issues I choose to deal with hit so close to home for a lot a readers. Inspiring and hopeful, yes. Dry wit, sarcasm, even laugh out loud funny scenes, or lovely emotional images that make you smile. But nice?

This reviewer has twice now used that word to describe the back cover blurbs of my stories. Back cover copy, by the way, is our editorial team's attempt to summarize the category hooks in our books, so the die-hard Harlequin reader will give my story a chance when she's browsing the bookstore shelves. Back covers are not places to go for a mini-synopsis. Most of the amazing reviewers I've run across in this busienss are aware of this marketing trueism...my friend at RT, I'm not so sure... But I'm trying to be fair. I'd like to give her the benefit of the doubt...

So, by nice, I'm wondering if she means...isn't it amazing how the writer can touch such deep emotion and still make you want to keep turning the pages, tears and all!

What do you think? Come on, time to help the reviewer again. You guys are so good at it. You make me proud ;O)

Yesterday's winner from the comment section (wish I could give you all something for being so supportive...come back for the Launch Party in July, and we'll see what we can do about that)--Kimw...pick a book from the followinig list, or let me me know if I can tempt you with The Prodigal's Return (I'm assured that my author copies are on their way):

Darker Than Midnight--Maggie Shayne
On Blue Falls Pond--Susan Crandall
Chill of Fear (Hard Cover!!!)--Kay Hooper

Email me your choice and snail mail address. I'm doing a mailing today for the last few winners, so keep an eye out for a package from me later this week or early next week.

On to another excerpt...Neal was an amazing character to write...


Midtown Atlanta, Georgia. Eight Years Later

"Your daddy wouldn't call you himself, Neal, but somethin's not right." Buford Richmond's slow southern drawl blended into the phone's staticy connection like a bad omen. "I'd bet money the man's sick."

Since Buford had laid down good money on the Birmingham races every Saturday of the last twenty years, the man not betting might have been more cause for concern. Still, Neal gave up pretending to work.

Your daddy wouldn't call you himself...

That was the Gods-honest truth.

There'd been no contact between him and his father for ages. Not since their last fight a year into his eight-year sentence. He'd refused, again, to file for early parole, still naively determined to do right by Bobby. As if pissing away what he could do with his life would bring his friend back, or give the boy's family a speck of peace. Exactly his father's point. But Neal hadn't been ready to hear reason then, and his father had shouted that he wouldn't be back.

Not for the next month's visitation. Not ever. If Neal wanted to give up, if he thought rotting in prison would somehow make up for Bobby's death, that didn't mean his father had to watch.

You're a selfish sonovabitch, Nathan had railed. Thinking of the man as Dad hadn't been possible after that day. You don't know how to do anything but quit, And you don't care who you're hurting by giving up. Well, I've hurt enough. I can't do this anymore.

And neither could Neal.

Nathan giving up had been the right thing for both of them. A fitting end, leaving all ties neatly severed.

So why had Neal's heart slammed into his throat at the suggestion that the man might be sick?

He shoved aside the papers on his desk. Shoved back at the memories. Focus on the here and now--that's what he'd promised himself after that final argument. Let go of Nathan. Let go of Bobby. Let go of the past.


Never look back.

That's what had gotten him through the remainder of his sentence. Nothing much had changed three years after his early release--parole garnered by model behavior, instead of his father's legendary briefs. Briefs Neal studied religiously now, to learn everything he could.

He wasn't a lawyer like his father. He never would be. But kicking legal ass consumed his time all the same, the way studying law books had those endless days and nights in his cell. Giving back, making up, it was a decent enough life. It made forgetting possible. At least it had until Buford's call.

His father's ex-law partner, Neal's only remaining contact to Rivermist, touched base from time to time to discuss financial matters. Rarely by phone. A registered letter from prison was all it had taken to give Buford temporary power of attorney over Neal's mother's sizable trust, set up for Neal after her death when he'd been only five. Ever since, they'd had an understanding. If Neal wanted to talk about his father, he'd ask. And he never had.

"My father's a very wealthy man." Neal rocked back in his second-hand desk chair, in the second-hand office that was more a home than the tiny apartment he rented. Rubbed at the tension throbbing at the base of his neck. It was late in the afternoon. He'd cast off his suit coat and rolled up the starched sleeves of his dress shirt hours ago. And long, solitary night of work stretched ahead--exactly the way he liked it. "If Nathan's sick, he'll find himself a doctor and get it taken care of."

"How much do you know about you daddy's situation?"

"I know he's alive. That he wants me out of his way. He has the means to take care of himself. There's no reason for me to be involved."

"I'm not sure Nathan wants to take care of himself, hang all that money he has in the bank." Buford, a litigator skilled at finessing juries into believing whatever version of the truth he represented, sounded a bit like a man feeling his way barefoot through shattered glass. "I wouldn't have called you if I thought we was doing okay, or that he'd listen to anyone else."

"Have you even talked with him since he dissolved your law partnership?"

"I tried." Buford chuckled. "The bastard actually challenged me to a fist fight the one time I stopped by the house."

One of Buford's first correspondence to Neal had explained the break up of his and Nathan's friendship, as well as their law practice. He'd asked if it made a difference in Neal's feelings about Buford handling his money. Since Neal had stopped feeling anything by then, he'd assured Buford it hadn't mattered a bit.

The more distance, the better.

"So why involve yourself in his life now?" he demanded, needing every bit of that distance back.

"Nathan's and my history isn't the point, son. When your daddy lost you, he did some terrible things out of grief. I forgave him for that years ago. That man introduced me to my wife. He's godfather to my two girls. When I was sitting by my mother's bedside watching her die, Nathan was the one sitting with me, praying with me, cursing with me. He helped me accept what had to be. There's nothing I wouldn't do for him, even if he is too stubborn to ask for help. He's lived alone all this time, and I was happy to leave him be. But that don't mean I think he's been taking very good care of himself. And now--"

"Buford, I..." Damn it, looking the other way hadn't hurt this much in years. Nothing had. "...I can't get involved."

His chance to make amends with Nathan...with anyone else...was long gone. Cutting the people who loved him out of his life had been a conscious choice. The horror of prison was unbearable with his mind still stuck on what he'd lost. Quitting, giving up, had been too appealing. And once he'd gotten out, inflicting himself on the people he'd left behind, people who'd moved on years before, would have been cruel.

Some mistakes couldn't be fixed. Especially the ones designed to stay permanently broken. Opening a door to the past now, just a crack, meant everything unraveling. Every rotting memory he'd buried, worming its way back to the surface.

And for what?

"I know you're busy." Buford's tone inched perilously close to wheedling. "And the work you're doing there is important. But, if you could just see how bad the man looks, what little Nathan comes to town anymore--"

"I can't." An image of his father's devastated expression as he'd walked away that last time escaped the pit Neal had banished it to. Fast on its heels came the echo of Jennifer Gardner's sobbing on the witness stand, the heartbreaking picture she'd made as she'd listened to him finish destroying what they might have had together.


He no longer felt anything for her most of all.

"There's nothing I can say to change your mind?" the lawyer asked.

"You knew the answer to that before you called." Neal squeezed his eyes shut.

"Yeah. Guess I did." The pause that followed conjured a picture of Buford kicking back in his own beaten up chair. "Don't hold it against an old man for trying. Can't help it if I think it would do both you and your daddy some good if you made your peace before it's too late."

...before it's too late.

Warning bells stopped tickling and began clamoring at the back of Neal's mind. He was being played by a crafty attorney, but it didn't seem to matter.

"I'd better let you get back to it." The master manipulator sighed. "I hear you're busting judicial balls in Atlanta. If your daddy only knew what you've been up to with your mamma's money, he'd bust a gut--"

"Buford," Neal said through clenched teeth, biting down hard on a curse. He never cursed. He never lost his cool. To the world he now ruled, he was buttoned down, spiffed-up professionalism at its best. With just enough of the hardness he hid deep edging through, to keep people conveniently off balance at work, and happy to leave him to his privacy everywhere else.

"Yeah?" The lawyer's faceless reply was hope at it's gotcha best.

Neal stared at the folders sprawled across his desk. Paperwork representing the lives of people he barely knew who'd turned to him for help because they'd exhausted all other possibilities. He was their last hope. Atlanta's prince of saving lost causes. All of them but his own.

Damn it!

"Give me the name of my father's doctor," he heard himself say.

"Doc Harden's the only one your daddy would ever go to." A sly smile warmed each southern-tinged word. "But even if Doc knows something, I'm not sure he'd talk it over with you. He certainly wouldn't with me, the closed-mouth bastard. Whatever's going on, someone's pretty much going to have to bust your daddy's door down to get to the bottom of it."

"I'll make a few calls, that's it," Neal said. The phone slamming into it's cradle cut off Buford's next sentence.

Just a few calls, that was all. One to the doctor, one to his father. Simple enough, and he'd be done. Except contacting his old man would result in the kind of backlash no one wanted, him least of all.

He'd had his reasons for shutting down. Shutting the world out. Damn good ones. And his old man had baled, too. If Nathan was lonely now, it was by choice, same as Neal. Besides, who said being alone was the abomination Buford made it out to be? Alone suited Neal just fine.

The arguments were solid. Logical. Best for everyone.

So why did he suddenly feel like a class-A bastard for allowing the silence between him and his old man to drag on for seven years?

Whatever it takes, that had been his rep in prison. He'd been a vulnerable kid who hadn't a clue what he'd set himself up for. A pretty boy, and everything his father had feared would happen had come at him like a demented welcome wagon as soon as he'd been placed in general population. He'd learned fast to do and say and fight however he'd had to, until the filthy predators with filthy hands, and the memories screaming how much he had to lose, finally let him be.

In a matter of months, the pretty boy had died and the man he was never meant to be had taken the kid's place.

A man rumored to have no emotions, no fear. Only here he was, turning chicken-shit at the thought of making a couple of phone calls to check on the father he supposedly hadn't cared about for years.

Monday, June 05, 2006

New Excerpt, a New Winner, and Time to Help The Reviewer!!!!

Look for the first excerpt from The Prodigal's Return below...but first, I have what's becoming a "predictable" bone to pick with the RT reviewer for the Superromance line. And I need your help with a little grammer experiment ;O)

Once upon a time, there was an RT reviewer who loved my depiction of small, non-costal southern towns, dramatic families, and heavily emotional romance...unfortunately, she only stuck around long enough to review my first book, and since then I seem to be boring her replacement to death. While I've won awards, wowed countless other reviewers and received thousands of emails and letters from readers who say my stories get better and better with each book, I swear the current RT reviewer never makes it past the back cover copy before she nods off to sleep the night before her copy is due.

Which is fine. One person's perspective is just that, the subjective likes and dislikes of one person. And them's the breaks in this business. She's given each of my subsequent boosk 3s, while they've all earned 5 Stars from most other reviewers, to which I say, thank goodness for the variety that makes up the reading (and reviewing) public. A 3 is decent...nothing wrong with the book, it just didn't get her rocks off.

But then there's that word, predictable...she's used it twice now for my books. For The Runaway Daughter (which other reviewers have called "riviting, thrilling, and spine-tingling"). And now for The Prodigal's Return (which has already been called, "The Best Yet!" and "A Wonderful Story" by reviewers and NYT Bestselling Author Haywood Smith).

The RT reviewer is trying to be nice, I think. She's used words like "somewhat" predictable, and this last time, "a bit predictable." But you see, I don't want to be somewhat or a bit of anything in my writing. Like me or don't. Get the story, or put it down...but don't suffer through reading something that's a bit too anything...at least not something of mine.

My theory is, this particular reviewer's reading the back cover copy, seeing that my stories are emotional family drama set in a small southern towns, feels her stomach start to turn, and writes the review based on the back of the book.

For instance, in The Prodigal's Return alone, you'll find not just the central romance about two prodigals come home to deal with their past, but two fully developed secondary plots with each of their fathers, a secondary plot with a pregnant teen and the trouble she has with her parents, a surprise stalker, and the most important secondary issue of all, watching one of the beloved characters slowly losing his battle with an illness, and how everyone learns to say goodbye and to cherish the time they have together. None of which is covered in the few paragraphs on the back. So you can understand the reviewer's challenge if she doesn't take the time to read between the covers...it's a theory, that's all I'm saying.

Anyhoodle, this week's giveaways (when the books from RT run out, I'll include advance copies of The Prodigal's Return, which will be part of an eHarlequin bookclub thread next month, so you'll have your copy in time to read it and join in) will be all about helping the RT reviewer come up with some more descriptive words to replace predictable... Leave a suggestion, save a reviewer from phoning it in...maybe even win a prize ;O)

I'll start. I know you creative folks will find even more useful suggestions for her:

Maybe by predictable, she really means
...complex and requiring more than a casual glance to understand the subtleties of the story themes...

Okay, on to our Friday/weekend winner...lesliedt23!! There are only a few books left, or you could pick The Prodigal's Return if you don't mind waiting for my author copies to arrive. Here's the list of remaining RT books. Email me your choice and mailing addie:

Darker Than Midnight--Maggie Shayne
On Blue Falls Pond--Susan Crandall
Chill of Fear (Hard Cover!!!)--Kay Hooper

And as promised...the first (dare I say it, NOT predictable) excerpt of The Prodigal's Return. I don't usually begin stories in prologue, but this is an epic love story interrupted, and the story begins when our hero and heroine's lives fall apart... You can buy the book now through eharlequin.com, or look for it around the 10th of July in stores near you ;O)


"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" a courtroom officer asked sixteen-year-old Jennifer Gardner.

"What?" She blinked at the bailiff who stood before the witness box, tearing her gaze away from where Neal Cain slouched beside his father at the defendant's table.

Tell the truth.

That's what Neal wanted her to do, or so his dad had said.

He knows the prosecutor's going to call you to testify, Mr. Cain had insisted as he'd prepped her that morning--more a surrogate father at that moment than the county's top litigator. Don't be afraid. Just answer the DA's questions, and everything will be fine.

But normally fun-loving Mr. Cain looked worried. After his wife's death ten years ago, he'd built his world around his son and his law practice. Now, Neal was on trial for involuntary manslaughter.

Mr. Cain didn't believe everything was going to be fine any more than Jenn did.

"Miss Gardner?" Judge Pritchard's voice dragged her attention to where he sat on a dais beside her. "Even though this is merely an arraignment to determine if a trial is warranted, your are required to speak the full and complete truth, under risk of perjury. Do you understand?"

She nodded, and the legal preceding began, with every eye in the room locked on her, all of them but Neal's. She fought not to throw up as the district attorney took the bailiff's place and forced her to relive the worst night of her life, one painful memory at a time. Like a vulture, he honed in on the fact that she'd allegedly chosen to leave the homecoming dance early, to walk the mile and a half home, alone, in her formal gown.

"Did you by any chance arrange to meet Bobby Compton at his car?" The ugly suspicion in DA Burnside's question echoed what many in town had been thinking for weeks.

"No!" Jenn said to the entire courtroom. "I was going home. That's all."

Good little Jennifer Gardner, her father's secretary had whispered to Mary Jo Reece last Sunday. She hadn't noticed Jenn and her mother sitting only a pew away, so why bother with the charity and tolerance Jenn's pastor father expected from his staff. I just can't believe it. The preacher's daughter, making out in the school parking lot. Drinking. Lord knows what else. And those two boys fighting over her. She was leading them both on, everyone thinks so. What else could it have been...

"I didn't know I'd run into Bobby when I left," Jenn said through tears that blurred the DA's face.

"Your statement to the sheriff says you became angry with Bobby Compton at the dance." Mr. Burnside made a show of reading notes from a file.

"Yes, because--"

"Yet you left early without your date, so you could have a private moment with the boy in a deserted parking lot? A boy the defendant had just been fighting with."

"Yes--no! I left early, but not to talk with Bobby. It wasn't like that."

The DA's forehead wrinkled in confusion. "You told the sheriff you got into Bobby Compton's car."

"I couldn't let him drive home the way he was." She glanced at her dad.

Concern filled Joshua Gardner's eyes. Sadness. Disappointment that she'd never seen before a few weeks ago. Never thought was possible. Not from the man who'd been her hero. Her rock.

"Drunk, you mean?" the lawyer asked.


"You stopped because you thought Bobby was drunk?"

"Yes. I... I'd seen him drinking at the dance."

"And were you and Neal drunk as well?"

"No!" she insisted over the debate that erupted amongst the onlookers.

Her parents and their pricey Atlanta lawyer had insisted she not speak about that night to anyone before now. Not even to defend herself against the rumors flying all over town.

"But you had been drinking with the deceased?"

"Y... Yes." Her father closed his eyes, crossed his arms, as the courtroom's attention shifted his way. It had sent shock waves through the county, the preacher's child admitting to the police that she'd been drinking since she was thirteen. "Bobby, Neal and some of the other football players snuck some beer in. A lot of us were drinking it, but Neal and I weren't dru--"

"But Neal and Bobby had been fighting before you decided to leave the dance?"


"Because Mr. Compton kissed you on the dance floor?"

"Bobby... He'd just broken up with Stephie Blake. He was upset. I was talking with him, trying to make him feel better... To get him to stop drinking. He said I was being so sweet, that Neal was lucky... then... I'm not really sure how it happened, but--"

"Bobby Compton kissed you?"

She chewed her lip, shuddering at the memory of the argument that had followed. Bobby trying to shrug off Neal's hand. Hauling her even closer. Neal's accusing glare as it shifted between her and his best friend. Her plea to Bobby to stop it. To let her go.

"Miss Gardner?" the DA pressed.

"Yes." Neal wouldn't look at her, no matter how long she stared. He hadn't spoken to her since the night Bobby died. "He kissed me."

Shock whispered through the room.

"And he and the defendant fought?"

"They... Neal was angry, and Bobby wasn't thinking straight."

"How long have you and the defendant been dating?"

"Almost two years." The most perfect years of her life.

"Yet, you kissed his best friend right in front of him?"

"Bobby kissed me--"

"Would it surprise you to learn, that I have eye-witnesses from that night who would testify to the contrary? Maybe you wanted your boyfriend to see you kissing--"

"Objection, Your Honor." Mr. Cain shot to his feet. "Miss Gardner's behavior is not on trial. It's irrelevant to these proceedings who kissed whom, or why."

It took several pounds of the judge's gavel to settle the room.

"Mr. Burnside," he warned. "Keep your questions focussed on the defendant's actions."

"So," the prosecutor continued with a nod. "The defendant and the Bobby Compton fought over you at the homecoming dance. Mr. Compton left. Then you followed him."

"I didn't follow Bobby."

The DA laid his folder on the witness box's ledge. It was open to a report that ended with Neal's signature. "The statement the defendant gave the sheriff says that when he found you, you were inside the car with Bobby."

"Ye... yes. I took Bobby's keys away so he couldn't drive home. He asked me to sit with him while he cleared his head."

"You sat together?"


"In his car?"

"Ye... Yes."

"And then?"

Jenn swallowed the lump her breakfast kept making in her throat. "Bobby grabbed me again."

"Your Honor!" Mr. Cain was on his feet once more. Neal stayed seated, his fists clenched on the tabletop.

"I tried to stop him," she insisted.

"Get to your point, Mr. Burnside," Judge Pritchard warned.

The DA placed his hands on his hips, every speck of friendly gone from his unsmiling face.

"Miss Gardner, please describe for the court Neal Cain's reaction when he found you trying to stop the advances of his best friend."

"Neal was angry. He was hurt."

A hollow weight filled her chest. If Neal would only let her close again, maybe then she could survive everyone else deserting her, even her parents. She searched his downcast features, desperate for any sign that he hadn't given up--on both himself and her.

DA Burnside retrieved the folder from in front of her. "The defendant pulled Bobby Compton from the car?"

"Yes." Her stomach took another threatening roll upward.

"And they began to fight again."


"And the defendant hit the victim."

"They were hitting each other." She swiped at her tears. If only there was some way to wipe away the memories. "I tried to stop them--"

"You tried to stop the defendant?"

"Yes... No! Both of them. I tried to stop them both."

"But you couldn't."

"No. And then Bobby fell and he... He hit his head against the curb."

After a long pause, the DA plucked more papers from his briefcase. "The police report states that while Bobby Compton received a blow to the head--one we now know was the contributing cause of his death--the defendant escaped the confrontation with little more than a black eye. If they were fighting each other, as you say, how do you account for the defendant's lack of injuries?"

"I don't know." She gripped the edge of her straight-back chair. "Maybe because Bobby was drunk, and Neal was--"

"Angry?" the DA offered.

"Neal didn't mean to hurt him." She turned to address the judge directly. "They were best friends."

"But Bobby Compton was hurt," the DA interjected. "He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, where he later died. While Neal Cain spent that night, and every night since, sleeping peacefully in his own bed."

"But he hasn't. I don't think he's slept at all." And anyone who thought differently didn't know him. Neal had already convicted himself for Bobby's death, so had the rest of the town. But she couldn't. She never would. "He's devastated by what happened. He's lost his best friend."

"And Bobby Compton lost his life," DA Burnside added softly, his words carrying through the now-silent room.

A stifled sob drew everyone's attention to the back, to the very last row of benches. Mrs. Compton, her face partially buried against her husband's burly chest, was shaking, clinging to him.

Jenn closed her eyes against the sight of the same shock and grief that were eating her and Neal alive. She looked to her father for... For what?

Understanding? Forgiveness?

Not a chance.

Not for her.

Not now.

It was as if her parents had become strangers to her. They didn't understand her anymore, or at least they didn't want to.

"Please, stop this," an heart-stoppingly familiar voice begged.

Her body jerked.

Neal was on his feet beside his father, pulling away from Mr. Cain's grasp.

"Sit down!" Mr. Cain bit out.

"Stop it, Dad." Neal faced the judge. "Your Honor, for the sake of Bobby Compton's family, please, call this charade off."

"Neal!" Mr. Cain looked ready to deck his son to keep him quiet, when Jenn knew he loved Neal too much to ever hurt him.

She'd always marveled at the bond, the honesty, between them. At how much they even looked alike, despite the difference in their ages. They shared the same blond good looks, the same height and effortless athleticism and dreamy dark eyes. The same intensity when they were determined to have their way, as both were now.

"Your Honor," Mr. Cain pleaded. "My son's distraught over his friend's death. He doesn't understand--"

"I do understand." Neal's voice was the scariest calm Jenn had ever heard. "And I want to plead guilty."

"No!" Jenn and Mr. Cain cried in unison.

The room burst into a sea of babbling voices.

"That's enough." Judge Pritchard's gavel rapped. He leveled an accusing stare at the spectators. "I'll have no more outbursts, or this courtroom will be cleared."

When silence returned, it was harder to bear than the gossipy confusion it replaced. Because in the room's quiet, nothing remained but the end that Jenn knew she'd never survive.

Judge Pritchard returned his attention to the defendant's table.

"Have a seat, Mr. Cain."

"But, Your Honor--"

"Have a seat!"

"Son," the judge said when Neal was standing alone. "Do you understand the consequences of what you're saying? You're not being charged as a juvenile. You'll serve your sentence in an adult correctional facility."

"Yes, sir. My father's explained everything to me. I'm pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, and I'm going to prison. It's where I belong. We all know that. Don't put Bobby's parents through the motions of a trial that won't change anything."

"Neal." Mr. Cain's voice sounded too old, too lost, to belong to the fearless defense attorney prosecutors all over the state dreaded facing in a courtroom. "Please, we can find another way."


Jenn wanted to run to Neal. To beg along with his dad. But she couldn't move. Worse, nothing she said would make the tiniest difference.

"I told you this morning, Dad." Neal shook off his father's touch one last time. "I have to do this."

His gaze finally connected with Jenn's, his dark eyes at first apologizing, then emptying of every promise and dream they'd shared.

"Bobby's gone because of me." He continued to stare, through each awful word, as if to be sure she understood most of all. "There is no other way. It's over."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Writing Through the Mist

The Shenandoah Valley wrapped its arms around me as we reached our stop for the night.

Anything at any time can tickle my imagination and make me dream. I never know where the next idea is coming from, but the mountains are always a touchstone.

That's why I love driving through this part of the country. The Blue Ridge is something you have to see at least once in your life. Majectic, ancient, grey-tinged beauty, shot through at sunset with shades of the most amazing color...

Is it any wonder I worked on two manuscripts while we drove yesterday? My next Super, which is due in August, and a contemporary paranormal novel my agent is waiting for, as soon as I can get her something to pitch to mainstream publishers.

Thanks again, everone, for the raves for the The Perfect Daughter. I'd love to share more, but copyrights are sticklers about things like that. Besides, wait until I finish my revisions and edits, and it'll be even better. Look for the book next Valentines Day!!

But just to keep my visitors happy, I'll start excerpting my July The Prodigal's Return next week. This story will grab you heart, too, I promise. Another strong heroine, an epic love story, and a hero to-die for!!

Yesterday's winner from the comments, you ask...n0odz1, pick a book and email me your pony express address. Here's the list:

Darker Than Midnight--Maggie Shayne
The Dark One--Ronda Thompson
On Blue Falls Pond--Susan Crandall
Chill of Fear (Hard Cover!!!)--Kay Hooper

Ladies, I think this is our first manly winner of the week!! Everyone say hi to our Y-chromosome-laden buddy ;O)

Okay, to sum up...I'll be talking mountains and poetry when I get a chance to post this weekend (or perpahs Manhatten, since that's my eventual destination). You never know what I might come up with when I get out of my office and start writing on the road. Monday, look for the first excerpt from The Prodigal's Return and more prize giveaways, starting with a winner from this weekend's comments. And we're just a few weeks away from the July Launch Party--great goodies await my faithful online friends, so come back!!

Off to smile at my mountains while they're still there...