Saturday, October 25, 2014

How My Trip to England Inspired The Rake's Handbook

 My debut Regency-era novel, The Rake’s Handbook: Including Field Guide, will be released soon on November 4th. Some of you may already know that the inspiration for this book is the BBC’s TV program of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’ll discuss my pathway to publication on this blog when the book is released. Today I’d like to tell you about a trip I made to England that became the inspiration for my all of my books in The Rake’s Handbook series. 

After viewing North and South, I became fascinated by the cotton industry around Manchester at the beginning of the 19th century. I had already read the Gaskell book and other so-called “industrial novels” written by people like Charles Dickens. I also read a few nonfiction books, like Friedrich Engels’ book on the working class in England and treatises on cotton manufacture. Then I joined a message-board of intelligent ladies, mostly living in Great Britain, who posted many online conversations about this very subject. I devoured them all. No details were too small or too obscure. The workings of a carding machine? Victorian drains? Yes, please. I’m all over those topics. 

Later I discovered that many of the members had previously met in Manchester to view the TV program and take a tour of the cotton mills used in the filming. That sounded like heaven to me. Geez louise, I wish I lived in England.

Then one day, the message-board invited everyone to celebrate the second anniversary of the TV show by meeting up at a hotel in Edinburgh. Count me in! So I packed my bags. Okay, the plane doesn’t leave for three months, but that’s fine, I’m ready.

Once in Edinburgh, our happy band of North and South sisters visited many of the sites used in filming the TV show. That’s me standing in front of the Hale house. Afterwards, I traveled to Manchester and gave myself a tour of all things cotton. In the end, I left for San Diego with a suitcase full of cotton (at various stages of the process to make cloth), mud on my shoes from tramping around Ancoats, and information from a private tour of Gaskell country. So when I decided to write a book, my trip to that part of England became my inspiration. What I learned about those crucial moments in world history will probably end up in every book I write. Subjects like steam engines, dandy horses, to foundries will sneak onto the pages. But I never would have been inspired to write any book, if I had not put my boots on the ground in the very part of England where our modern world began.

Has any location ever changed your life forever and inspired your writing?

Friday, October 24, 2014

NESTING...stop the madness

Lately I’ve been nesting. NO, I’m not pregnant but going through that nesting stage during pregnancy where I want to clean and scour every countertop and rearrange every closet and junk drawer down to military precision. I can’t explain this sudden urge to pitch and purge except to say I’ve been battling a weird autoimmune disease that has left me feeling helpless with only a quarter of my cylinders spinning. So when the multiple meds kick in, I get the urge to straighten and dust and rearrange and throw out missed-matched socks and my son’s deflated footballs hiding in every corner of my house like last year’s Easter eggs. 

Which leads me to designing. Yup. Once the de-cluttering commences, the designing begins. Because now I can see my spaces with a fresh eye. For example, I’ve moved the dining room table (actually I bribed my kids to move it) into the breakfast room for better use and now I have this small but empty dining space with infinite possibilities. *rubbing hands together gleefully* Picture this: repainting tired, boring white wainscoting a deep dark chocolate brown, adding contemporary yellow floral wallcovering, new chandelier and custom-made, round drape table surrounded by acrylic chairs. A room no one will use except my sisters, girlfriends and me, of course. Perfect. 
These Ghost chairs!

No window bench, but round table with tablecloth!
My son, who only has two more years before he heads to college, will finally get the draperies and bigger bed he’s been begging for since turning thirteen. 

Replace the K with a B and my son will be in heaven!

And take my office…please, I beg you…take it! Today it would make Niecy Nash from Clean House break out into de-cleaning sweat. 
" need an intervention!"

But not by the end of the month, because I’ve ordered the coolest writing table with extra storage to serve as credenza and extension to my much larger writing table. And I’m adding a huge metal grid to one of my walls to hold my various white boards, notes, scarps of fabrics, pictures, ribbon, trim…you name it. I’m getting all the crap stuffed in bags (cute bags, but still) off my floor so I don’t fear navigating a land mine every time I enter the “danger zone”.

Can't wait to get my new writing table!

All before it’s time to pull out the holly and deck the halls for Christmas. How about you? Do you get the urge to pitch and purge? What sets you into a cleaning frenzy?

Michele Summers
Find My Way Home

Thursday, October 23, 2014

On Community, Conversation, and Life is Great

I'm here at Novelists, Inc. and I'm struck once again by the power of community. We're here to talk about books, authorship, publishing models and the future, and the most exciting thing is that we're here to create the future together.

Every author here has a unique path to success. Every author we publish at Sourcebooks has a unique path. A couple of days ago I read this marvelous blog post from Emma Dryden.

Yes indeed comparison is the killer of joy.

Every quarter at Sourcebooks we have a managers meeting and we all read a book on leadership or about our industry. Some time ago we read Tribal Leadership and what stayed with me all this time is the "five levels" of attitudes in a tribe or group (I'm paraphrasing).

1. Life sucks. (This is where people "go postal")

2. My life sucks. (Well, at least there's some hope.)

3. I'm great. (Implied: uh, you're not)

4. We're great. (And implied: but no one else is)

5. Life is great.

This last is where you're in it for the love of the game, the competition doesn't scare you because you're having such a great time exploring and innovating and learning.

This is where I want to live, don't you?

I'm with Sourcebooks, I'm at NINC this weekend with some of the most brilliant minds in our industry, I'm looking for everything I can bring to being a best-in-class publisher, I adore my authors, life is great.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Not-So-Scary-Movies List by Terri L. Austin

If you’re old enough, cast your mind aaaaallll the way back to the 80’s, when cable came in one variety: basic. We made do with a handful of channels and considered ourselves lucky. My children wonder how I lived through such depravation—no streaming, no interwebz, no cell phones. Somehow, I struggled through and made it all the way to adulthood before texting. Oh, the tragedy of it all.  
Anyhoodles, back in the day, local stations didn’t carry seventeen late night talk shows and were forced to get creative and develop their own programs. Hence the boom of the late night horror fest, with dozens of Elvira knockoffs who introduced scary movies to the kiddos and a few adults who had nothing better to do.
In our market, we had Friday Fright Night, and during my tween years, watching a trio of schlocky movies became a ritual. So every Friday, after the local news, I’d be huddled up with my friends, and with the lights off, we’d watch horrible horror movies that would send delicious shivers of terror up my spine. But I knew all would be well, because after a particularly frightening scene, car commercials broke up the tension and gave us the opportunity to grab handfuls of popcorn and talk about boys.

The movies weren’t very scary, not really. I’ve rewatched some of them as an adult, and boy, are they stinkers. But these cheesetastic favorites take on the warm glow of nostalgia, because I watched them with my childhood pals. So I’m going to give a few that I remember fondly.
Prom Night—the original from 1980. Before Jamie Lee Curtis became the yogurt lady whose concern about our intestinal health got a little obsessive, she was a scream queen. After Halloween, she put out a few more slasher flicks, including this one. Everything about this movie—from the tedious, drawn out flashback at the beginning to the incomparable Leslie Nielsen, in an ironically serious role as high school principal/Jamie Lee’s dad—bears all the hallmarks of a teen slayfest. Kids getting killed while having unprotected sex in the back of a van? Of course! Bizarre weapons used on mean girls wearing prom dresses? Like, duh. But…this movie has the added bonus of Leslie Nielsen disco dancing. Yeah, you read that right. Leslie, performs some seriously smooth moves with Jamie Lee on the lighted dance floor. You’re not going to find that type of entertainment just anywhere.
And speaking of Jamie Lee, we have Terror Train—1980. On board a party train, a sadistic killer is picking off teens, one by one, to right a wrong no else remembers. Isn’t that always the way with these sadistic slashers, always exacting overly complicated revenge? This plot is almost identical to the above mentioned Prom Night. But sadly, no disco dancing. And the teens here are in college, not high school. However, where else are you going to find David Copperfield—yes, that David Copperfield—in riveting role as a magician? Um…

Moving on, we have Satan’s School for Girls—1974. This was originally a made for TV movie directed by Aaron Spelling. Bonus feature: it stars Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd. Yes, before they were Charlie’s Angels, they were Satan’s schoolgirls. This movie is bad. I mean bad, bad. Our heroine’s sister is found dead, so even though she’s like, thirty-six, she enrolls in Salem Academy for Women to find out the truth. Our girl should have known something was up when she was issued a gas lamp because the lights often went kaputz for no apparent reason, and, oh yeah, no one wants to talk about all the dead girls piling up like chicken bones at a picnic. On the plus side, we get manly eye candy in the form of a groovy art teacher who says profound things like, “You have to let your mind hang loose.” Word, Professor Good Hair. finally, no awful horror movie list would be complete without Halloween III: Season of the Witch—1982. What makes this movie so bad, you ask? Aren’t the Halloween movies, featuring the recurring hockey-masked Michael Myers, a classic franchise? Yes, I answer, they are. But this movie isn’t connected to the Halloween movies in any way, other than the title. You see, some old dude is making masks and he advertises them incessantly, accompanied by a highly irritating, electronic song counting down the days until Halloween. And some dad figures out the old dude is shady. So he decides, like all good dads would, to head to the parent company and ask a few questions. ??? Along for the ride, is a woman he wants to schtup. ??? But after the schtupping and sleuthing, our duo are taken prisoner by the old dude—Oh Noes!—and have to stop the clock before the chip embedded into all the evil masks makes the kids’ heads turn to mush. Not sure why the old dude is going to all this trouble. All he needs to do is wait a few years for the video game boom, and then their little brains will be mushy in no time. But I digress. So, the dad gets free and saves most of the kids. Whew! What a close call. This movie is laughably bad. Therefore, I bought the DVD and watch it every Halloween.  
And so ends my list…for this year. But I’ll be back. Mwhahahaha. No seriously, if you get the chance to watch any of these movies, you have way too much time on your hands. But they are worth a chuckle.
So, do you have any awful horror movie memories? I’d love to hear all about it!  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Refilling the Well

You might think that Casablanca Authors write all day, every day to give readers more top notch books to read, and because we love it. And we do! But sometimes, we need some down time to refill the well, so to speak. To find new inspiration. What do we do then?

We read, and we watch movies or shows. I just went to see Gone Girl and was delighted to find the movie as good as the book (well, pretty darn close, anyway). Yes, I loved Gone Girl. Two twisted leads, not knowing quite who to cheer on. I admire the way Gillian Flynn made me want to keep reading even when I didn't like any of the characters all that much. Well played, Flynn. And how can we keep writing great books if we don't take the time to read great books? There's nothing quite as inspiring as reading a well-written book. Reading, my favorite way to spend an afternoon. Or an evening. Or a week. Or... yes, I love reading.

We listen to music. Every book I write seems to start with an inspiring soundtrack. My Edwardian romance Thornbrook Park was driven by the White Stripes Seven Nation Army, believe it or not. The relentless beat helped me to craft the unstoppable hero, Marcus Thorne. I also love the Dream Academy for setting a mood. Do you remember the museum scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off? The Dream Academy's cover of the Smith's Please Please Let Me Get What I Want played in the background. What worked for John Hughes also works for me.

We go to writer's conferences and reader events! A great mix of fun and business. The truth is that we love meeting readers, because we are readers too. We know what it's like to meet an author we really love, and to read a book that gets us excited, and to try to keep calm and act natural in front of a beloved author when we just want to gush and sigh in admiration. My most recent brush with fame? I met Susan Mallery and Mariah Stewart at a New Jersey Romance Writers Conference. Just try to keep calm after meeting one of your favorite authors! Not easy.

And we love talking to other writers, because no one understands us quite like our colleagues. I watched my friend Dee Davis get inducted into the NJRW Hall of Fame, which was pretty darn cool. We started writing in the same year and Dee is one of my best friends for over 15 years now. Along with Julia London and Julie Kenner. And... well, I could name drop all night. I have a lot of author friends (one of the perks of being an author-- as long as you don't get caught in the trap of comparing careers).

We travel! Which probably goes hand in hand with going to writers/readers conferences. As you read this, I am on my way to St. Petersburg FL for, yes, another conference. A week of staying at the beach, brainstorming with other authors, discussing industry news... did I mention the beach? By the time I get back, I should be ready to write a bestseller! Hey, I can hope.

My sincere thanks to all of you who gave Thornbrook Park a chance, and who plan to read An Affair Downstairs (A Thornbrook Park romance), too. And to my fellow Casablanca Authors! We're a very supportive bunch, and it warms my heart. Kindle and Nook

What do you do to refill your well? Your favorite books, movies, music, travel experiences? 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pre-Order HER LONE WOLF and HER SECRET AGENT, the next books in the X-OPS Series!

Did you know that you can pre-order HER LONE WOLF, Book 2 in the X-OPS Series (Release Date Nov 4th) and HER SECRET AGENT, the FREE X-OPS Novella (Release Date Dec 2nd)?! There's even a bonus excerpt in the novella from HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF, Book 1 of my new SWAT (Special Wolf Alpha Team) Series!

Leaving him was Impossible...
It took everything she had for FBI Special Agent Danica Beckett to walk away from the man she loved. But if she wants to save his life, she has to keep her distance. Now, with a killer on the loose and the stakes higher than ever before, the Department of Covert Ops is forcing these former lovers into an uneasy alliance...whether they like it or not.

Seeing her again is even worse
The last thing Clayne Buchanan wants is to be shackled to the woman who broke his heart. She gets under his skin in a way no one ever has and makes him want things he has no right to anymore. All he has to do is suffer through this case and he can be free of her for good. But when Clayne finds out why Danica left in the first place, everything he's tried to bury comes roaring back-and there's no way this wolf shifter is going to let her get away this time.


John Loughlin, Director of the Department of Covert Ops, is in New York City on a recruiting mission. Cree Forest is a clever fox shifter-and very foxy. John is keen to hire her brilliant mind onto his team.

But Cree isn't what she seems. Just as John has been watching her, Cree has been spying on him. Now John is getting too close-both professionally and personally. On opposite sides of a lethal game, can they trust each other with their hearts?



Hunky Heroes, Kickbutt Heroines, Unforgettable Romance!