Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day Three - And the fun begins...

Having an already published author as my roommate has been so cool. Not only is she one of the most understanding people I know, she's also a lot of fun. Getting her insider knowledge at this point in my career has been great. Yeah, this is back to the whole charmed life thing. :)

I'm starting out my day with this view from the room. No fog in site today. I even see hints of sun.

What a way to start the day!

Plus, I get to hear Victoria Alexander doing the Keynote today. <------ SO cool!

I'll Keep You Posted!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day Two - My pillow looks so nice...

Highlight of the night? I got to have dinner with my very dear friend from home, fabulous pre-published author Robin. She's out here at Conference, and she's got her whole gang of guys with her. Ed, Edward, Matt, and Luke are all enjoying the sights and sounds of SanFran while Robin does the workshops and works. (In this case, we all know that WORK=FUN, even though it is actually a LOT of work. Still though, this has got to be the best job in the world!)

Second highlight of evening? I got to send a pixmsg to my two oldest kids of this:

Yes, that is a VANS store. And they both love Vans. So, I am the really cool mom today. Honestly, the location for this year's conference is wonderful. We're just a block from great shopping, amazing food, and fabulous views. The only way it could be better would be if my whole family were here as well. I envy Robin in that she's sharing this experience with her family. I thank Robin because she shared her family with me for a quick bit.

No post would be complete without giving you the menu for the meal. This one was at Zazil, serving Coastal Mexican Cuisine. I had the sea scallops. Robin had the pork. Looks good, doesn't it?

Now it's time to say goodnight, as the four pillows on my bed are calling my name.

I'll Keep You Posted!!

Day Two - Sheesh, what a crowd!

I don't even have a pic for this post, but I'll be happy to try to create a mental image for you, because hey, that's what writers do, right? (or would that be - that's what writer's do - write!)

Picture this:

I step onto the escalator with a throng of other people, mostly women. But not just women. There are also men. And teenagers. And even a few babies. I understand this, as I want to have my babies here as well. The escalator goes down, to the lower levels of the hotel, and I step off into this gigantic mass of humanity. There seems to be some sort of order to it, so I follow the crowd and end up in a line. This seems like the best way to get through the magical doors to Book Heaven.

While in line, people stroll by handing out papers. "Here, play this scavenger hunt." (A scavenger hunt? Do I need to find an airline barf bag? A used ticket to Woodstock? A purple safety pin? No? Just signatures? I could maybe do that. Riiiight.) "Do you want to have some fun while you're in there? If so, take one of these." (Of course I took that paper, because, hey, I want nothing but fun, and taking that paper guaranteed me FUN!) "Have you bought your raffle tickets yet?" (Raffle tickets? Do I have to listen for numbers? I can't even hear myself think, how will I hear them calling numbers!)

Finally, the doors open, and the line starts moving. I get to the front and step through the doors into what is quite arguably the best room in the world. I mean, what else would you call a place that not only held thousands of Books, but also held the amazing authors that wrote all of those books. I've said it before, and most of you that read this agree - the authors are my Rock Stars. And to be in a room with so many of the people that have their names in books that are scattered all throughout my home? Ohhh, the bliss!

I, of course, thought that I would be so much more prepared than last year. I mean, I've done this once already, right? Last year I was so nervous to be in the presence of so much greatness that I felt like puking. Now there's an endorsement for the event - "So great it makes you wanna toss your cookies!" Needless to say, it was just as overwhelming this time.

I won't tell you all of the great people that I met, but I will give you a few highlights...
Kristan Higgins had her RITA flag flying high, and was very sweet.
Liza Palmer was just as beautiful as last year, and she had people buying books every time I walked by.
Pamela Palmer was my first buy of the night, and she was very nice, plus her book is based in DC.
Anne Stuart was charming as ever, and I got to tell her that I've got my Unfortunate Miss Fortunes Quilt in a place of honor at my home. She liked that. :)
Natale Stenzal is a writer from Virginia, so of course I had to get that one.
Kristin Hannah is just gracious, as always. Magic Hour is for Charity.
Kelly Para is a RITA finalist, and hers is an MTV book, so - one for my oldest daughter.
Karen White was just absolutely lovely, and I high-fived her when she answered "I write Southern Women's Fiction". Can't wait to read her book!
And then there was Victoria Alexander. You may remember that she was the highlight of my trip last year, so I was a little bit nervous when I got into her line. What if she had no clue who I was? I'd be crushed! Well, I got to the front of her line and asked for her newest book, told her I loved her work, she said thanks. Then she looked at me, and said words that made my night - "I remember you from last year!" Ohmyfreakingawd! Victoria Alexander remembered me. I could die happy.

And on that note, I gathered my books, taunted my roomie because I was heading back to the room and she was stuck there signing books for her adoring fans, and I left.

I spent more money than I planned, especially considering the amount of free books I'll be getting later in the week. But the purchases I made this year meant something. Money well spent? Yeah, I think so.

I have not a single clue what some of those papers they gave out in line were. I didn't buy a raffle ticket, though I did notice that they had a board set up for all the winners. I only got one signature on my sheet, because I was too star-struck to find the people on the list. But I did get my fun.

Only down side to the night? The gift card machine at Starbuck's was down. And I just refuse to spend any cash there. So I didn't get my mocha-java-chip frap. But hey, I can't always lead the charmed life, right?

I'll Keep You Posted!

Day Two - Sometimes I'm very lucky...

You know, sometimes I lead a very charmed life.

Case in point - Do you see NYT Bestselling Author Susan Mallery and RITA Finalist Kristan Higgins in this picture? Cool, right? I mean - two really FABulous authors, sitting at a table together. Well, that was my view all through lunch today... and they were both at my table!

Yeah, I'm serious. I had lunch with Susan, Kristen, and Julie today. I'll ask Kristan to send me the pic of all 4 of us together.

I'll have more to talk about later. Right now, I must go find snow globes for my wee ones. Frankly, they wouldn't care if La Nora wanted to buy me coffee and give me four hours of personal advice on my career. If I don't get them snow globes, the entire trip is a failure as far as they are concerned.

I must admit, Susan is so incredibly gracious. She is also very frank about the business, and very insightful. It was like my own personal workshop at lunch today, except I also got pretty great food. One fun moment occurred just minutes after Kristan asked Susan if she ever got recognized. Susan said that she'd never been recognized before. The host then walks up, almost as if on cue, and asks Susan if she'd mind signing a menu for the sous chef, as she is a HUGE fan of Susan's. It was just perfect! Check out the menu for Restaurant LuLu. Nice, yes?

I'll Keep You Posted!!

Day Two - Cloudy in San Francisco?

This is the view from my room in San Francisco. Can you see the fog?

Of course, that means that I made it here. My trip wasn't without its trials though. After missing my plane due to traffic on I-95, I got to spend most of the day in Cincy. Now, Cincy is nice but it isn't San Fran. I finally made it into the Foggy City and spent some time on the BART to get to the hotel.

The hotel is located right in the heart of the city, with a Bloomingdale's and an Apple Store within about a block. Frankly, I don't know how they could have picked a better location.

When I made it to the hotel last night, I dropped my stuff and met up with my roomie and her friend Julie across the street at Annabelle's. The food was amazing, but I won't describe it. After all, this is a BOOK blog, not a FOOD blog.

I'm having lunch with some friends today. I don't know when or where, but I'll post all about it later.

oh yeah... for the Celeb-spotting alert -
Kristan Higgins
Alesia Holliday
Barb Ferrar
Michelle Cunnah

I'll Keep You Posted!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Blogging Nationals

For those of you interested, YES - I will be blogging Nationals again this year.

I'll start tomorrow, when I get to San Fran.
I'll continue every day that I have the time and energy and topic to blog.
I'll finish on Saturday night, after the GH/Rita awards.

Also, just so you know... my oldest girl child will be on here on Saturday, during the ceremony. She's graciously agreed to bring you the awards almost-live, from my cell phone to hers. I'm getting that blog post together right now. There will be ONE post, with all of the categories and entrants, and she will update it every time there is a winner. Yes, I know that there will be a live feed, but she wants to do this, so I'm not going to say no. Besides, that live feed was lost a few times last year, and I want a few of you that are really interested in a certain award to know as soon as it happens.

Keep checking back for more.

Also, I picked a few of you to receive signed copies of Kristan Higgins' newest release - JUST ONE OF THE GUYS. I'll have her sign them and mail them out from San Fran. Check back on Tuesday to find out if you're a winner.

Keep Turning Those Pages!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just One Of The Guys, Kristan Higgins AND A CONTEST

You know, sometimes life is a little rough. I have a hellish commute to a job that I love/hate. I hear stories from people I work with about missing kids and cheating spouses and parents that don't understand them. I have friends with sickness, and my own Grams is battling that big ugly "C" word right now. It's not anything that you don't deal with as well. Your car breaks down. You fight with your spouse. Your sister finds a lump. Sometimes life just kicks us right in the teeth, right?

But sometimes? Oh man. Sometimes you come home from grocery shopping and open up your mailbox and find a little piece of paradise all wrapped up in a brown envelope.

That was my luck today.

And I have to say, bless my children's hearts for automatically knowing, and gracefully (if not exactly quietly) accepting that Mommy would be of no use to ANYONE today. Mommy got a new book in the mail, one she'd just unsuccessfully scoured Borders to find. Mommy would be Reading!

Yes, I got this long-awaited gem in the mail. And it couldn't have come at a better time. I needed a pick-me-up. That is, after all, why I was in Borders as soon as they opened today. I was hoping against hope that some college kid there (no offense to any of you out there, ok?) had ignored the silly lay-down date and slipped a copy of Kristan Higgins' latest book onto a shelf for me to find. Alas, it wasn't the case and I came home heavy hearted. Until my darling daughter came running back from the mailbox with an envelope. "Momma, I think you have a BOOK! Maybe it's the one with the dog on it!!"

And it WAS!! Bless Kristan Higgins' heart. :) And so began my journey into the life of Chastity O'Neill, who is ... Just One Of The Guys

Being one of the guys isn't all it's cracked up to be...
So when journalist Chastity O'Neill returns to her hometown, she decides it's time to start working on some of those feminine wiles. Two tiny problems.: #1 - she's five feet eleven inches of rock-solid girl power, and #2 - she's cursed with four alpha male older brothers.
While doing a story on local heroes, she meets a hunky doctor and things start to look up. Now there's only one problem: Trevor Meade, her first love and the one man she's never quite gotten over - although he seems to have gotten over her just fine.
Yet the more time she spends with Dr. perfect, the better Trevor looks. But even with the in-your-face competition, the irresistible Trevor just can't seem to see Chastity as anything more than just one of the guys...

As with Ms. Higgins previous books, Fools Rush In and Catch of the Day, I fell right into the heart of the story. Chastity O'Neill is a writer, a journalist to be precise. She's just moved back to her hometown. She's landed a sweet job at the local paper. She's glad to be back among her testosterone-filled family. And then she gets dumped. No, wait, don't worry. Getting dumped happens on the first page. Actually, it happens in the very first line of the book. And I couldn't help but laugh.

Of course, this being a Higgins book, I knew I'd be laughing a lot. And crying. And looking inside myself to examine some of the stuff that her books always seem to stir up, like so much dust on the floor in the middle of June. This book was no exception.

Chastity has a life full of men, but not in the way she really wants. What she wants is a husband, and babies, and love and laughter. What she has is four older brothers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that range from firefighters to members of the bomb squad, all heroes in their own right. What she has is a stiff-upper-lipped Irish firefighter father, that is at times more emotionally stilted than a chilled bottle of pinot. What she has is a mother that's had enough of playing second fiddle to her husband's career. What she has is a secret crush, of the I-really-LOVE-him variety, on a man that's been an honorary part of her family for decades. What she has, in short, is a real life, full of family and fun, but also tinged with heartache and disappointment.

When her mom starts dating again, Chastity joins her. And when, on one of those outings, Chastity meets her ideal man, things start looking up. Did I mention he's a doctor? Well, to be more precise, he's a trauma surgeon. He's incredibly hot, enough to turn Chastity's head from her two beloved dream men - Derek Jeter and Aragorn from LOTR. He's wealthy. He's thoughtful and polite. Really, he's perfect.

Except he isn't Trevor.

While Chastity's mom takes a huge leap into her new dating life and actually becomes the center of someone's world, Chastity struggles with what it means to know the love of your life but not have him. She's happy with her doctor (excuse me, her Trauma Surgeon). He adores her. He even says he loves her. But is that enough?

Maybe, sometimes, it is.

Maybe sometimes The Love Of Your Life doesn't have to be the only person you love in your life. Maybe you can learn to passionately adore the person that loves you. Maybe that's all anyone can hope for. Blah blah bleeping blah.

Written in First POV, with enough wit and heart to fuel an online dating community, Just One of The Guys is a true masterpiece. You'll love Chastity, all five feet eleven and three quarters inches of her. You'll love her brothers and her dad and her mom and her nieces and nephews and sisters-in-law. You'll love her Trauma Surgeon boyfriend, Ryan Darling. And yes, you'll love Buttercup, Chastity's dog. The only thing you won't love is that, like all good books must, this book ends. It may even end the way you want it to end. Maybe...

Maybe you should go out and grab this book! Because frankly, when my day started kind of crappy, this book made me smile. And cry. And laugh. And it's got that cute dog on the cover. And well, it's a Higgins book. What more could you want?

Keep Turning Those Pages!!

PS- If you'd like a signed copy of Just One Of The Guys, leave me a comment. I'd like to know about the ordinary people in your life that are heroes. If I pick your name at random, I'll have Kristan sign a copy of this book to you when I see her at Nationals in a few weeks. Yes, the contest is THAT easy. So go ahead, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Hey, I remember you..."

... she said shyly, as she slipped back into the room.

Where have I been? If you really want to know, click here. Otherwise, suffice it to say that there is just NO EXCUSE for me totally leaving you guys alone for so long. My goodness, the place is a wreck, there is dust everywhere, cobwebs from here to there, and I think a stray cat may have gotten in through the back door. I'll have it cleaned up in no time. I promise.

While I'm trying to get this place back in order, I thought I'd leave you with this...

Earthly Pleasures, by Karen Neches

Ms. Neches actually sent this book to me a little while back. I was planning on reading it as soon as I got it, then dishing it right away. Well, best laid plans aside, it didn't happen.

What did happen is that I picked it up one recent Saturday afternoon, after a rather rough week, and just got sucked right in.

The premise, basically, is that Heaven is nothing like my Preacher tells me. It's more like the ultimate cool town, where you can have literally anything you want through the use of your personal Wishberry. The Wishberry's like a Blackberry, but better, as it can even conjure up your favorite mocha latte in mere nano-seconds. The angels are stylishly dressed, there is the ultimate in shopping via Retail Rapture, and the secrets of life on Earth are taught through five Beattles songs. Oh yeah, and everyone can catch up on their favorite Earth people through the tv show called Earthly Pleasures. It's like Big Brother, but real.

One of Heaven's greeters is an angel named Skye. Skye loves everything about Heaven, and has no desire to ever be born and try her hand on Earth. Her life (for lack of a better word) is practically perfect, until the day that Earthly Pleasures current fave Rick Blaine ends up in her office. In the few seconds Rick spends with Skye before being revived on Earth, something happens. Skye becomes almost obsessed with secretly watching Rick on Earthly Pleasures, but she doesn't understand why. Meanwhile, Rick has some secrets of his own.

This novel was fast, fun, and totally unexpected. The writing was witty. The characterizations were solid. The ending was just enough to be satisfying without crossing the line into sappy.

Personal sidenote: I belong to a very independent, fundamental branch of Christianity. We have some pretty serious beliefs about Heaven and how to get there, as well as what it might be like if you do. This book didn't match those beliefs in ANY way. However, it is a BOOK, people. It's a work of fiction. The author doesn't say, in any place that I have found, that she has researched it and truly believes this is what it is like. It is a FUN read, and I in no way found it to be anything less than perfectly enjoyable.

Earthly Pleasures was a great find, and I am ever so thankful to have picked it up when I did. The light-hearted look at Heaven, as well as the deeper look at a love gone a little crazy, was just what I needed, when I needed it. Sometimes, it almost feels like I've got my very own wishberry. On that Saturday afternoon, I sat down on my front porch and prayed for a way to get my mind off that really rough week, and be whisked away to someplace magical, and then I picked up this book. And found laughter, and fun, and fantasy. And love.

And besides, taking a quote from the book, which borrowed a quote from a rather famous group... Love is all you need!

Keep Turning Those Pages!!