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Introspection and Research

This week’s winner is Amy M! Thanks so much to everyone who  commented!

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I took an (inadvertent) two-week hiatus from blogging to get my head together with respect to my current WIP. It’s still not there completely, but I’m getting closer. The book takes place in Napa, so visiting helped a lot. My friend Spence (of Tahoe trip fame) is always up for a road trip, so last week, I dragged her north to do some research. Another friend joined us for part of the time, and let me tell you, it was a huge treat to be up in Napa with two of my besties. We left Silicon Valley after I dropped off the Barrett pack at school, and it only took us an hour and a half to make our way up to Napa. It was like a different world. Relaxed. Low-key. Low stress, too. The weather was beautiful, and the vineyard-covered hillsides were breathtaking. But don’t let me tell you. Let me show you.

First, we stopped at the Oxbow Public Market. It seemed like a mini version of San Francisco’s Ferry Building with all the artisanal food stalls (cheese, bread, chocolate, pastries, etc. inside). We ate here twice, and both times I really enjoyed it.

Oxbow

The exterior of the Oxbow Market. Yummy food inside.

We stopped at Hess Winery and toured the art gallery. There we found this flaming Underwood typewriter. My friends encouraged me to take a picture with it (“Get closer,” they said, but I was a little afraid to, given that it was totally en fuego).

Underwood

How I sometimes feel while writing.

We were able to see Napa at its best during this season. Unfortunately, the manuscript I’m working on takes place in winter-time, but I got what I needed from some friendly locals.

Napa.

Quintessential Napa.

The cheese selections at the local grocers were outrageously comprehensive. People love their cheese. And their wine, of course. :)

Cheese.

Nom nom nom.

Last but not least, Spence and I toured Jarvis Wines, which had a secret underground cave. I took this picture surreptitiously, since I’m pretty sure photos weren’t allowed on the tour. Spence is in the background, looking suitably mysterious.

Shhh!

Sekret picture.

It was good to get away from SV for at least a little while, and it was even better to get my much-needed research done.  Now, onward with the writing!!

This week I’m giving away a copy of Midnight Secrets by Ella Grace, a romantic suspense story I really enjoyed. To enter, just leave me a comment letting me know if you’ve ever been to Napa and what you loved about it. If you haven’t been to Napa, no worries! Tell me what you love about Napa Valley wine. If you don’t drink wine, just tell me something funny. :) Contest ends Thursday, April 10 at 9pm Pacific. U.S. only, please.

And for those of you who read to the end, this is my 100th blog post! Yay!

 

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Brenda Hook is this week’s winner. Thanks for your comments!

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Starting a new book always feels a little weird to me. There’s so much to hash out, so much to think about, and I’m often torn between plotting and just writing. I spent a week-and-change plotting and jotting down ideas for the novella I’m working on, and starting tomorrow, I’m going to be back on a pretty strict schedule until I finish. I’m excited to get back into the (writing) swing of things, even though it’s only been just over a week since I was in full-on writing mode. So, yay!

In life-news, I recently re-watched the 1996 Kate Beckinsale version of Emma, which I like fairly well. I don’t often have time to watch TV or movies or really anything, since I have a pretty full schedule, but when I do get a few free moments, I typically go for what Mr. B affectionately refers to as “wigmen” shows, since many of the characters wear wigs. Anyway, I like this version of Emma because Mark Strong is so severe as Mr. Knightley, and the age difference is pretty believable. I felt that difference less in the 2009 Romola Garai version, with Jonny Lee Miller (she was great and I liked his acting, but I felt he wasn’t forbidding enough). At any rate, I actually like Kate Beckinsale as an actress, and I thought this version was rich and credible.  I like both versions much better than Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1996 version. They’re a little less glossy, but that adds to their charm. For those of who who’ve seen these movies, feel free to weigh in? Which do you like, and why? And for those of you who don’t watch “wigmen” stuff, what other movies do you compare/contrast?

And for this week’s giveaway, and sort of in keeping with the theme, I have two books (not versions) in one: Midnight Special by Tawny Weber, which also contains Coming on Strong. Leave a comment, and one winner will be chosen at random. U.S. only, please. Contest ends Thursday, March 13th at 9pm Pacific.

p.s. Blaze of Winter is still on sale!

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Thanks to everyone who commented! Lisa Downs is this week’s winner!

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Hey, all. Long time no blog. I’ve been crazy life-busy over the last two weeks, with work, spring break for my oldest, visits from relatives, and doing a lot of solo parenting (Mr. B has had a lot of work lately). This weekend I was supermom. Seriously. Super. Mom. Here’s a partial list of what the kids and I did:

*made banana-chocolate-chip muffins
*visited the SF Zoo
*hiked and sketched the tidepools at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
*rode bikes for hours
*went grocery shopping
*practiced telling time
*read tons of books
*went on a bug hunt (no bugs were harmed)
*built awesome Lego stuff
*had fun

It’s tough making all three of the kids happy, but I did my best. And I really wore them out. On both days I had them solo, they fell asleep as soon as their little heads touched their clean pillowcases (I also did 7 loads of laundry. And made homemade meatballs.). Mmm . . .  I keep saying supermom, but really I should just say crazy.

Unsurprisingly, the kids aren’t the only ones who are worn out, but mama can’t take a break because I need to edit the first book in my Connecticut contemporary series, which needs some tweaking before it goes to my agent. This tweaking will happen this week since all three kids are in school and I only have one relative visiting. See what I did there? I put it in bold so it will happen. There. I did it again.

I’ll check in with you next Monday to let you know how it all turns out.

I’m really anxious to finish up this book, not just because people are waiting for it, but because there are other things I am chomping at the bit to write, and I want to get this off my desk before I start on something new. I wonder, do most people work on lots of different projects at once, or do they work on one at a time? In life, I juggle many things and don’t mind working on tons at once, but with writing, I like just one project. Strange, huh?

Anyhow, a giveaway is in order. This week, it’s a signed copy of Rachel Gibson’s Rescue Me. Let me know what will happen for you this week in the comments and you’ll be entered to win. It’s a paperback, so US only, please. Contest ends Thursday, February 27, at 9pm Pacific.

Also, Blaze of Winter, featuring the fabulous Theo Grayson, is on sale for two weeks for 99 cents. Please pass the word along!!

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Thanks so much to everyone who commented! Donna is this week’s winner!

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I’ve been with the kids all day (thank you, MLK, for making this country a better place!), but I had to check in this week to tell you that I am up to my earlobes in paper, but it’s all good because this paper is getting organized and most of it is going out the door.

I’m talking full-on organization/filing/recycling/etc. which is quite timely because last Saturday, I gave a talk at the Silicon Valley RWA about organizing. It happened to be about organizing time to write, which was also timely because it’s the new year (goal-setting, resolutions, etc.), and I have noticed that when different aspects of my life start overlapping it’s time to sit up and pay attention. As an aside, I did get a lot of great comments on my talk, which I’m really happy about. Organization is not a one-size-fits-all prospect, especially as it pertains to writing, and one of the main messages I tried to get across was that you need to do what works for you to keep moving forward.

So, anyway, back to the paying attention: After I dove head-first into my filing cabinet of doom and began pitching papers right and left, I started to wonder what else the universe was telling me. I definitely heard Mr. B telling me he could see the dresser because I’ve been doing a great job of giving away all my swag, which is awesome, but as for the universe, I’m not sure yet. I think I have to listen harder. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, this week’s giveaway is for Jennifer Ryan‘s Lucky Like UsJenn is one of my very good friends and fellow Roguer, and I’m very happy to be sending book 2 in her Hunted Series out into the wide, wide country for someone to enjoy. Contest ends Thursday,  January 23 at 9pm Pacific. U.S. only, please, and you need to be signed up for my newsletter to win. Just let me know if the universe has told you something interesting lately! :)

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Sarit – you’re the winner! Thanks to everyone who commented!

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First of all, thank you all for making release week for Christmas in Tahoe such a success. It’s still not up at iTunes yet (I’m working on it), but the launch was successful at  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. The book got some lovely reviews (Heroes & Heartbreakers and Guilty Pleasures, to name just two), and readers seem to be responding really positively to the work, which makes me very, very happy!

So now I’m back to my regularly scheduled life, which means writing, teaching, ferrying children around to school, activities, and appointments, and generally not taking care of myself (more on this in a bit). I have two writing projects I’m *really* jazzed about . . . one is that Connecticut contemporary I’ve been talking about for a while. I’m about 40K words into that, but I temporarily set it aside to get out Christmas in Tahoe, and I’m super psyched to get back to it. The other is Tahoe‘s follow-up novella, which I’ve started to map out.

But . . . and this is a big but . . . during release week, my mentality shifted. Not a huge shift, but enough to make me realize that for most of October and the first couple of weeks of November (in essence, while I prepped for Tahoe‘s launch), I completely neglected myself in every possible way. And I needed to do something about it. Those who know me well know that I am a take-action kind of gal (sometimes this gets me into trouble). But my point is that I was going to act, instead of thinking about acting.

This is what I did: On Saturday morning, I woke up and got my kids breakfast. Then I rummaged around my room for my exercise clothing. It took a long time to find everything. Not a good sign, but I persevered. I ended up wearing a pair of street leggings, but I put them on because I was wasting time trying to find my exercise leggings. Then, before I could lose my nerve, I told Mr. B where I was going and ran out the door. Yes, that’s right. Ran.

I was going to run around my neighborhood once. It’s a horseshoe-shaped street that hooks onto a larger road, and I thought, “okay, I’ll just run around the block once and call it good.” But as I ran to the main road, I thought, “go big or go home.” So instead of going around my tiny neighborhood, I ran around the big block. I wasn’t sure how fast I should go, or if I’d even make it around the big block (I’d clocked it before with my car’s odometer as being a mile), but I started it anyway. My goal was to keep running, no matter how long it took, and not to stop. That was it. Don’t stop. Keep going.

Immediately, my glasses fogged up, I started breathing really hard, and my chest started to hurt, but I didn’t stop. Not even when the sweat slipped down into my eyes.

I wanted to give up so many times, but the one thing that kept going through my mind was that this stupid run around the block was a metaphor for EVERYTHING in my life. Don’t stop. Keep going.

So I did.

I made it home in one piece, but I’m embarrassed to say I promptly collapsed on the living room couch. My kids crowded around me. “What’s wrong with mommy?” one of them said. “Why is her face all wet?” said another. (This is how often they see me exercise.). Mr. B came and gently shooed them all away and kept them occupied while I collected myself.

I tell you this in the hopes that if I tell as many people as possible that I’m trying to turn over a new leaf — not so much in terms of the mentality to keep going, but the idea that I can take care of myself, in addition to taking care of everything/everyone else–then it’ll actually happen. So I’ll keep at it, and keep you posted.

And just for getting to the bottom of this ramble, I’m doing another giveaway! Because release week went so well, I’m giving out a bonus digital copy of Christmas in Tahoe to one lucky commenter. In the spirit of taking action, tell me what you’ve done recently for yourself. Contest ends Thursday, November 21st at 9pm Pacific.

Oh, and one more thing: Slow Summer Burn still seems to be on sale everywhere for 99 cents. Enjoy it while it lasts!

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Melancholy + Hot

Whew, it’s been a whirlwind of a week/end with relatives visiting (total yay!), too much work (boo!), and way too many errands to take care of in a very limited time. So this will be a short post, but I really wanted to tell you how much I’m loving my current WIP. At least, I think I’m loving it. It’s hard for me to judge since I become, by turns, infuriated by and in love with the work. It’s melancholy and hot at the same time, and I really don’t know what to make of it at all except I guess this is the way my work is going now.

That Tahoe novella I wrapped up mid-year was heading in this direction, with two people who are a little lost–one more than the other–who end up finding and changing each other over the course of a long weekend. It worked because by the time they met, they’d both (mostly) dealt with the baggage. But with this MS, I feel like I’ve gone off the rails a bit. These characters have fresh wounds and they are struggling–with themselves, with each other, but honestly, mostly with themselves. There was one scene I wrote recently where I actually thought can I do this to these poor characters? but one of my critique partners assured me that yes, yes I could and should do that to them. And then things got even more melancholy and more hot.

So yes, a departure from what I’ve been writing, and I think I won’t know how everything turns out until I get to the end of the MS. I’m about 40K in, so I have a ways to go, but I’m hopeful it’ll turn out the way I think it should.

At any rate, there’s no giveaway this week because I’m going on vacation, but stay tuned for the week of October 14th when I’ll be back full force with a post and goodies galore!

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Last week, I started making a few life changes–small ones, just to get in the groove–and they turned out to be good for me. The first was taking a few moments a day for myself. It sounds crazy, but I wasn’t even doing that before! I stopped working a tad earlier than usual and actually got to watch a movie! Granted, it was over several days, which isn’t ideal, but still–a movie!! In the middle of the week! For a gal who rarely watches television (except for Masterpiece Mystery and Castle), this was a very big deal, let me tell you!!

Also, I started eating better. I didn’t go on some crazy diet or halve my food intake, but my new eating habits include less grabbing stuff on the go and more sitting down to eat properly. It seems like such a little thing, but it was enough of a change for me to notice the way I feel.

I started editing the first third of my current WIP–for some reason, I really like to have the themes of the first third solidified before I keep writing–and it’s going pretty well. More on that this week.

And I got some good news from my publisher–more info to come when I can share!

I’m really writing today to ask if you think the Monday giveaways are going well. I started the whole Monday giveaway thing as a way to share all the awesome books and goodies I received at RWA this year. I’ve made a small dent in my pile, which is currently arranged on a giant 5-foot-long dresser, but I wanted to get your thoughts on whether I should keep going. There are tons of places I can donate the books, but I’d rather they go to people who are interested in reading them. Drop a line in the comments and let me know whether you think I should keep up the giveaways!

Even though there’s no giveaway this Monday on my blog, I am doing a Goodreads giveaway of two rare paper copies of Long Simmering Spring, so please join me there and sign up if you’re interested.

Thanks in advance to everyone who leaves a comment!

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