Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Reptile Brain Ate My Homework

I meant to finish this blog entry yesterday but interruptions kept nipping at me. And I interrupted myself by checking and writing email, sending text messages, and making a to-do list unrelated to the two projects I was toggling between on my laptop.

Sound familiar?

Jump to this post by marketer and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields. Go on. I'll wait while you read it.

You're back? You didn't turn off your laptop, phone, or iPad?

I didn't either, but I recognized myself in Fields' essay and know I pay the "ramping cost" he refers to every time I switch tasks. Yesterday, I was busy, but I wasn't productive.

I'm ready to change that.

Lark named this blog Reading, Writing, and Rambling--three activities that nudge if not force us to make sense of what's happening, whether it's in the pages of a book, on the document screen in front of us, or on a local bus in a country where we don't speak the language. Those activities help us "process, synthesize, allow connections between seemingly disparate parts…." Of course, we have to resist the urge to Google every question that enters our heads while we're supposed to be reading, typing, or gazing out that bus window/taking stock of our fellow passengers.

Even though my index finger twitches every time I get a new email message, I'm going to let it twitch. Why? Because I don't want to miss what Fields calls "the in-between."

I don't want you to miss it, either. Have a productive week.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011


I have a confession. Historical romances are my guilty pleasure. I love escaping into the past and meeting a man and a woman who have unsurmountable reasons they can't be together, and yet in the end live happily ever after. Not all historical romances are my cup of tea, but my good friend Sophie Jordan writes some of the best. Her newest release, WICKED IN YOUR ARMS, comes out tomorrow and I was lucky enough to get an ARC to review.  

Grier Hadley needs a husband. Her father, one of London's most unsavory characters, wants his illegitimate daughter to marry a title and is offering an enormous, ill-gotten dowry to whichever nobleman takes her to the altar. That’s why she’s hiding behind a potted plant at the ball.
Prince Sevastian Maksimi needs a wife—a well-bred young lady of impeccable reputation with a considerable fortune to her name. That’s why he tells his cousin to scratch the unacceptably common Miss Hadley from his list of prospective brides.
He doesn’t know she’s directly behind him.
She can’t help but dump her glass of lemon water over his head.
As first meetings go, theirs is definitely NOT love at first sight. But when they get thrown together at a house party in the country sparks fly and passion heats up. Marriage is out of the question, of course, but neither can bear the thought of being with anyone else.
Their story is told with humor, wit and skill that kept me up late into the night to finish.  This one’s a keeper. Actually, all of Sophie's books are keepers!

Friday, July 22, 2011


Inspired by Colleen Thompson’s wonderful romantic suspense, TRIPLE EXPOSURE, I took a nine hour  road trip across Texas to Marfa. This is where much of GIANT with James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson was filmed—the parts in the Middle-of-Nowhere-Texas. But my goal was to complete a major revision in a week, so the lack of distractions (including cell service, wifi and my husband) made the little house in the quiet town a perfect retreat.
That’s not to say I didn’t have a bit of fun. Again inspired by TRIPLE EXPOSURE, I viewed the stark West Texas countryside from a glider and spent an evening looking for the Marfa Lights (unsuccessfully).

And at noon I lined up in the pavilion in the center of town, waiting my turn at the Food Shark.
Makes me want to get on I-10 and head west. On second thought, I think I'll wait until fall.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


The BBC News Magazine recently published a piece on Americanisms and then posted UK readers’ comments online. Some I’d never thought of as American, others I abhor as much as anyone in the UK. Here are a few I found interesting.
When people ask for something, I often hear: "Can I get a..." It infuriates me. It's not New York. It's not the 90s. You're not in Central Perk with the rest of the Friends. Really." Steve, Rossendale, Lancashire
LBH: Not sure why this is offensive. I understand that “May I have” is grammatically correct, but infuriating?

The phrase I've watched seep into the language (especially with broadcasters) is "two-time" and "three-time". Have the words double, triple etc, been totally lost? Grammatically it makes no sense, and is even worse when spoken. My pulse rises every time I hear or see it. Which is not healthy as it's almost every day now. Argh! D Rochelle, Bath

Train station. My teeth are on edge every time I hear it. Who started it? Have they been punished? Chris Capewell, Queens Park, London
LBH: Gee, and what should it be called? I spend a lot of time in England and with English friends and I had no idea the expression was wrong…nor do I know what is “correct”!

Take-out rather than takeaway! Simon Ball, Worcester

I'm a Brit living in New York. The one that always gets me is the American need to use the word bi-weekly when fortnightly would suffice just fine. Ami Grewal, New York
LBH: We don’t say fortnight in any context, Ami. In fact, I doubt most Americans can tell you what a fortnight is. We consider it archaic. Welcome to the New World.

The most annoying Americanism is "a million and a half" when it is clearly one and a half million! A million and a half is 1,000,000.5 where one and a half million is 1,500,000. Gordon Brown, Coventry
LBH: Point taken. Blame the press.

My favourite one was where Americans claimed their family were "Scotch-Irish". This of course it totally inaccurate, as even if it were possible, it would be "Scots" not "Scotch", which as I pointed out is a drink. James, Somerset
LBH: I’ll admit, this one irritates me, too. A lot.

Surely the most irritating is: "You do the Math." Math? It's MATHS. Michael Zealey, London
LBH: Yeah, yeah. You say maths short for mathematics with an s, we shorten it to math. Let’s agree to disagree on abbreviations.

"Reach out to" when the correct word is "ask". For example: "I will reach out to Kevin and let you know if that timing is convenient". Reach out? Is Kevin stuck in quicksand? Is he teetering on the edge of a cliff? Can't we just ask him? Nerina, London
LBH: YES!!! I hate this expression sooooooo much I want to lash out viciously at anyone who uses it. It doesn’t sound friendly and sure as hell doesn’t sound professional. It sounds stupid. Whoever started it should be punished. Oops. I guess I understand these Brits’ pet peeves better than I thought.  

Are there any expressions, word usages, or grammatical atrocities that make you crazy?

Monday, July 18, 2011


I'm delighted to welcome Pat O'Dea Rosen who will be contributing periodically throughout the month. Pat is a a wonderfully talented writer, a fellow member of West Houston RWA, and winner of the 2010 Golden Heart for Best Novel With Strong Romantic Elements Manuscript.

Posted by Pat O'Dea Rosen
Late last month, Philip Roth told a reporter with The Financial Times that he'd stopped reading fiction. "I don't read it at all. I read other things: history, biography. I don't have the same interest in fiction that I once did."
Roth's stance didn't raise many eyebrows. Fiction writers hunker down with history books and biographies in the name of research every day. Roth's recent Nemesis, for example, is set in Newark, New Jersey at a time when World War II rages and a polio epidemic terrorizes the homefront.  When he met with The Financial Times' reporter, Roth was probably combing those aforementioned history books and biographies for the time period and setting of his next novel or the one after that.
Secondly, it's common for both baby novelists and the multi-published to take a hiatus from reading the kind of books they write while cranking out first, second, or tenth drafts. Why? Because no one wants to write under the influence of another author's voice. Thus, a suspense writer will unwind with historicals, and a writer of women's fiction will devour thrillers.
Thirdly, fiction writers say the darndest things. How many of us professed to having little or no interest in young adult novels three years ago but now buy or borrow them by the sackful? And that's when we're not writing them.  Those who once pooh-poohed werewolves are now writing about angels, demons, or shape-shifters. We know one great read can electrify us, change us, and divert the course of our careers.
If  Roth hasn't cracked a novel since last month's interview, I hope he does soon. Happy reading, Phil.

Friday, July 15, 2011


It’s summer, the time when everyone thinks about going on vacation. This month Lonely Planet published an article on “How to Travel with Friends (and not want to kill them).” I highly recommend it to anyone contemplating a vacation with a new squeeze, an old friend or anyone you haven’t traveled with before.

I frequently organize house parties with friends in foreign countries--usually with excellent results. I’ve also done my share of road trips in the US and abroad. Traveling with people I didn’t know well, and even some I knew very well, has had mixed results. Food issues, travel budget, and driving responsibilities rank at the top of reasons trips go bad. I must admit, however, I was almost driven to justifiable (in my mind, at least) homicide by non-stop stream-of-consciousness chatter on a 10-day road trip in Europe. I'd had reservations about this friend-of-a-friend when I was asked if she could come.  A lesson painfully learned.
Lonely Planet is geared toward young, adventurous travelers on a tight budget—not quite my demographic (although budget is a consideration) so my suggestions are a bit more specific and geared to 3 or more travelers. Take them with a grain of salt, tequila optional.
1.       Limit the amount of luggage any one person can bring to what they can carry up two flights of stairs in one trip. If you’re renting a car, it will fit even with three or four passengers. (In my experience, men rarely overpack so they're not likely to be a problem.)
2.       If one person will be driving the entire trip, she/he gets a day off now and then to hang out and rest.
3.       If you’re having a house party, expect to buy a lot of wine and learn how to recycle the bottles. This is especially important in Europe where recycling is mandatory almost everywhere.
4.       Be sure everyone is flexible and considerate of others’ interests. Unless the trip has a specific agenda, it’s unlikely everyone will want to spend every single day shopping, hiking, visiting museums, or eating in the most celebrated restaurants. A variety of activities makes a happier group.
5.       If anyone has any health or fitness issues which will affect the itinerary or activities, let the group know before inviting them. Planning a trip around one person’s limitations isn’t fair to the others unless everyone agrees up front.
6.       Don’t assume that because you’ve known someone for years, they’ll be a good travel companion. Assess their personality and quirks objectively. If your friend is unreliable or  doesn’t play well with others at home, she’ll be a nightmare at a house party in France! Trust me on this one.
Any tips to add to my mine? Stories to share? Come on, dish some dirt.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Out on submission. Finally.
For publishing civilians, that means my agent is shopping my manuscript with editors of publishing houses. We’ve worked hard to polish the story—a process that took two re-writes and a lot of blood, sweat and emails. She believes she can sell it and so do I. It’s the waiting that’s a bitch.
This week my critique partner, Sarah Andre, wrote about the amazing Jo Anne Banker and perseverance on the long road to publication. Veteran author Colleen Thompson wrote a brilliant piece on what to do while waiting. Their wisdom came at a perfect time.
But it’s hard to be patience when so much work and so many hope hang out there—maybe to be embraced, maybe to be rejected.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Last week at the RWA National Conference in New York I got to hang out with some wonderful young adult novel authors. Although I don’t think I’ll ever write for that age group, I love reading the books of such marvelous writers as Tera Lynn Childs, Sophie Jordan, Kimberly Derting, Suzanne Collins and many others. These books cover such a wide range of subjects and characters I’m awed by the imaginations who create them. Okay, and these are some very fun women as well as talented!
Is there any YA book you--or your kids--loved that needs to be added to my TBR pile? Why did you love it?
Each year RWA nominates books from each romance genre for the coveted Rita award. This is the romance writer’s equivalent of the Academy Awards. This week I’m giving away a copy of the 2011 Rita Award winner in the young adult category—IRON KING by Julie Kagawa. Just leave a comment any day this week, and next Monday I’ll draw a name for the book.

Here’s what the back cover says:
 Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined…
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.
But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.
Leave as many suggestions as you want! I read a lot!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


This morning I read the sad news that Cy Twombly died in Rome yesterday. The Telegraph said this about him:
Cy Twombly, who died on July 5 aged 83, was a reclusive American painter whose work was so individual it barely needed a signature.
I have to agree.  Sometimes an artist’s work just speaks to you and from the first time I visited the Cy Twombly Gallery of the Menil Collection in Houston, I was enthralled, delighted and thoroughly hooked. I didn’t know anything about his background or what inspired his work, only that the huge canvases in the Zen space affected me on a primal level. Sometimes a quick visit through the gallery lightens my day. At other times, I draw peace and inspiration from just sitting on a bench in front of the monumental Untitled (Say Goodbye Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor). Not everyone who passes through likes the paintings or the space, but for me the place holds a magic that never fades.
So, farewell, Cy Twombly, and thank you.

Is there an artist or writer who speaks to you in a special way? Who and why?