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End of summer. Typically a time of reflection for me, a chance to take a deep breath and look ahead to what’s coming up on the horizon. But not this year! Not only are things already starting (so much for that last gasp of summer!), but there have been some huge changes. The big news is that my oldest little guy is heading off to kindergarten next week. Kindergarten! It’s really hard for me to process that. And my two little ones are moving up in their preschool classrooms–big changes for both of them. I’m in the thick of things right now, so I haven’t had time to really ruminate on what this all means, but I’m sure it’ll hit me in a month or so.

I’ve got loads of stuff popping up writing-wise, too! I’ve been hard at work on the third and fourth Star Harbor novels, Long Simmering Spring and Slow Summer Burn, writing, writing, and writing some more. Long Simmering Spring is done, and is currently with my (generous, very kind) beta readers. I’ve also started planning my next project (in secret mode, for the time being).

And the big news–Blaze of Winter will be released on September 10th. You can read an excerpt on Scribd here. I’m very excited about this book because the hero, Theo, is just awesome – intelligent, a bit quiet, and rugged. Plus: he wears glasses. Hot. Officially, my blog tour starts on August 31st, but I’ve prepared a tempting post about all the Grayson brothers – and sneak peeks into the heroes of Long Simmering Spring and Slow Summer Burn for Romance @ Random today.

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When I thought about how to best describe the amazing whirlwind that was the Romance Writers of America’s National conference of 2012, it was really difficult for me to wrap my head around the event. After all, I just got home yesterday, and it usually takes me about a week or two – sometimes longer – to process the really important things. And let me be clear: RWA12 was really important for me.

I went into the 4-day affair with somewhat of a plan, and for those of you who know me well, this means that I had a set of goals. I won’t bore you with my checklist (you know I had one of those, too!), so I’ll just summarize: to meet as many amazing people as I possibly could, including my editor (and her boss!) from Random House, and the other Loveswept and Ballantine authors, to bolster my understanding of the business aspect of romance writing, and to introduce myself to the community.

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to several Random House events, so I was able to meet some incredible people that way, but equally amazing were the chance meetings I had with others in the industry…the unpublished writer who wanted someone to help her perfect her pitch (Ruthie Knox, Jessica Scott and I were happy to oblige)…the kind agent who two years ago wasn’t the right fit for me, but still gave me loads of encouragement…the Twitter friend with the amazing sense of humor who was just as warm in real life as she is online. These were the kinds of connections I was hoping to make, and that I think will carry me through the rest of the year.

Now that I’ve set the scene, I’m going to show you some photos as I talk you through my week in Anaheim.

Day 1 – Literacy Autographing

My editor, Sue Grimshaw had provided some print ARCs of my debut novel, Deep Autumn Heat, for the event, which looked GORGEOUS, as well as some Romance at Random sticky notepads, flyers, and bonus Hershey’s kisses. I wasn’t sure what to expect, given that it was my first day at my first conference, so I came armed with some 8 ½ x 11 color photos of the cover of Deep Autumn Heat, some business cards with the cover of Blaze of Winter on the front and my website address and QR code on the back (I called these my “tiny Theos”), and a piece of paper in case folks wanted to sign up for my newsletter. What can I say? I was optimistic!

Okay, what I really was was overwhelmed. 500 romance authors in a room and it was loud! Plus, I couldn’t believe I was about to give my first autograph to someone who’d read and loved my book! All I could think was: “Is this really happening?”

When there was a lull in the proceedings, I made a beeline for the incredible Robyn Carr, whose support and encouragement have been invaluable.

I look a bit manic in this photo, mainly because I was kind of in shock that I was meeting one of my idols. Sadly, this wasn’t the last time I squeed all over someone (more to come on that).

That evening, I got to have dinner with my Roguers – an amazing group of writers from Silicon Valley who I’ve loved getting to know over the past couple of years. It was a relaxing end to the day.

Day 2 – Meetings!

It was such a thrill to sit in the Random House spotlight event and hear about all the incredible authors the house puts out. I must admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed when my editor said my name and described my writing.

Later that evening, I attended the Random House cocktail party where I met so many amazing women. Here I am with Stefanie Sloane (who couldn’t have been nicer), and Karen Leabo (aka Kara Lennox – one of my favorite authors whose books are being re-released by Loveswept).

I also had one heck of a fangirl moment with Heather Graham.

Me: I’m Elisabeth Barrett. Pleasure to meet you.

Her: Nice to meet you, too. I’m Heather Graham.

Me: The Heather Graham?

Her: A Heather Graham.

My editor: Yes, she’s the Heather Graham.

Me: Oh, my God.

Then I proceeded to truly embarrass myself, but Ms. Graham was kind enough to ignore it. All I have to say to her is, “Thank you. You are amazing.”

Day 3 – Dinner, Whisky (Neat), and Bird Calls

In the morning, I attended a super workshop with the screenwriter Michael Hague. I usually don’t do so well with writing classes and workshops. I’m definitely one who learns by doing, not by listening, but Mr. Hague’s presentation was so engrossing and applicable, that I actually got a ton out of it.

The awards luncheon with speaker Robyn Carr was definitely a highlight of the week for me. So many things she said resonated, including one bit about how for young women writers who were juggling jobs and writing and family and children, it was never going to be harder than it is right now. I started crying. Yes, I admit it, okay? I cried! Twice, if you really must know.

That afternoon, I had a drink with Molly O’Keefe, author of the Crooked Creek series, which starts off with Can’t Buy Me Love. She’s a pretty amazing lady, and truly down-to-earth.

And that night, the Random House Loveswept team took us out to dinner, and I haven’t had that much fun in a long while. I got to use my piercingly loud whistle to hail a cab (like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s), ate some delicious desserts, and, in a slightly more mellow state, showed off my birdcall prowess later that night in the bar.

Day 4 – Random House Book Signing and RITAs

Another huge highlight was the Random House book signing. I gave away all my copies – what a thrill! And everyone got a tiny Theo to take home with them. I mean, he’s adorable. Why wouldn’t you want a tiny Theo?

I spent the afternoon lounging around with Ruthie and Jessica and my awesome roommate, Suzanne, drinking tea and hiding from the sun. By evening, I was ready for some fun, so I joined all the Random House folks at their table for the RITAs. I have no pictures of that event to show you, since I was showing much more cleavage than is decent. Instead, I will give you a photograph of the Three Musketeers, the first three Loveswept Debuts – me, Ruthie Knox, and Jessica Scott.

Also, before she left, I fangirled Jayne Ann Krentz. Her books were what made me want to write. She was extremely gracious!

I could go on for another thousand words, but it’s getting late (again!), so I’d better wrap this up. As you can probably guess, I had an amazing time. There were so many other incredible things I did, so many other lovely people I met, and so much information I learned, but to write that all would take a week. (If you’d like to see my other photos, please stop by Facebook for the full album!)

I told my editor and agent I felt like Cinderella at the ball, and I really did. Everyone was so generous with their time, and the positive energy was overwhelming.

See you all next year in Atlanta!

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Great news! I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve sold the next two books in the Star Harbor series to Random House! Long Simmering Spring and Slow Summer Burn are due out as part of the Loveswept line in Spring and Summer 2013, respectively. If you’ve been following along, you might know that the first book of the series, Deep Autumn Heat, was released on July 9, and Blaze of Winter is coming on September 10. I’m very pleased that Loveswept wants all four books, and that the full series will be releasd so quickly! A bit about the two books I just sold:

In Long Simmering Spring, Cole Grayson finally returns to Star Harbor as the town’s new sheriff. He and Julie Kensington, the local physician, have known each other since grade school, and she’s less-than-impressed with the bad boy he used to be. But after stints in the military and on Boston’s police force, this leopard has definitely changed his spots. It isn’t long before Cole realizes that his sweet, sexy doctor will force him to confront his past and help him to face the future.

Slow Summer Burn is Val’s story. The oldest Grayson brother has been a strong, steady presence in his younger brothers’ lives. Now that the other Grayson men are settled, Val is able to focus on himself … and he has gorgeous, privileged Cameron Stahl in his sights. Cam has just opened her second antique store in town, and is more than receptive to sexy-as-sin Val’s advances. But Cam’s family isn’t too keen on their precious daughter dating a DEA agent. It’ll be up to Val to convince Cam–and himself–that he’s worth it. And man, is he worth it!

Both new books will feature more of Star Harbor and its inhabitants (including fan favorites Buster and Babs), pirate lore, and a mystery or two to keep everyone on their toes.

All of this happy news just gives me more reason to celebrate at the RWA National conference, which I can hardly believe is coming up next week! If you’re going to be in Anaheim, California on July 25th, please come find me at the Literacy Autographing (Table 802), where I’ll be signing copies of Deep Autumn Heat.

If you can’t make it to Anaheim, and would prefer to follow me around from the comfort of your own home, check out the two guest blog posts I did this week! My topic at Romance@Random is “Act Now, Think Later,” and there are some tantalizing personal anecdotes in there, including one about Mr. B! I also made the rounds at RomCon, where I answer questions about Star Harbor, Deep Autumn Heat, and what’s coming down the pipeline! Leave a comment on either site, and you could win a copy of Deep Autumn Heat!

Catch you on the flip side of RWA!

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My debut release week for Deep Autumn Heat is drawing to a close! Thank you to everyone who made it such a success – my agent, editors, family, and best of all, readers! Wow, it feels really weird to say that, but I realize that now I have readers. It’s amazing and humbling and, to be honest, kind of surreal. I’ve gotten several notes, emails and tweets from people who love my writing, and I still do a happy dance every time I get one! Deep Autumn Heat actually hit the Top 100 Nook Books (at Barnes and Noble), which was awesome! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Should have warned you about all those exclamation points before you read that paragraph, hm? Sorry, but you have to admit, I’m kind of justified in being excited. It’s been a week of highs, and I’m hoping to hold onto this amazing feeling through the end of the month, when I’ll be attending the RWA National Conference in Anaheim, California. I’ll actually be doing my first book signing for Deep Autumn Heat at the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing, which is free and open to the public.

The Literacy Autographing will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center, and will take place Wednesday, July 25, 2012, from 5–8 p.m. PT in the Ballroom (third floor) at the convention center. The event is free and open to the public, but no outside books will be allowed in (from attendees, not signing authors). Proceeds from book sales go to ProLiteracy Worldwide, Read Orange County, and Literacy Volunteers—Huntington Valley. If you’re in the area, please consider stopping by this incredible event. I’ll be sitting at Table 802 and would love to meet you!

If you’d like to “meet” me sooner, this coming Tuesday, July 17th from 6-7pm Eastern, I’m participating in a live Twitter chat. The theme is Loveswept Heroes (hashtag #LovesweptHeroes), and I’ll be featured, along with Jessica Scott, Ruthie KnoxSamantha Kane, and Megan Frampton. Moderated by the inestimable Sue Grimshaw, you can ask us whatever questions you like (within reason!), and get free books! Please stop by with your questions about Sebastian Grayson – I’d love to chat with you.

So yes, big week – huge week – and there’s much more to come, including a special announcement very, very soon!

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Release day is here! Release day is here!

I’m am so excited that Deep Autumn Heat is finally available!

Thank you to everyone who preordered or reviewed an advanced copy! It’s been thrilling to hear what you’ve all thought about the book! If you haven’t already ordered your own copy, here are the links:

ORDER Deep Autumn Heat from Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBookstore (Apple) | Other Places.

Also, I’d be thrilled if you’d:

VISIT my website

FRIEND me on Facebook

SIGN UP for my Newsletter

FOLLOW me on Twitter

LIKE me on Amazon

So, this is it! No going back now! This fabulous, crazy journey has just begun!

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As the release date for Deep Autumn Heat approaches (can it really only be two days away?), and as things heat up for the Romance Writers of America National Conference in late July, I realize that I’m sitting on a mountain of “firsts.” First blog tour. First book published. First review. First time talking with strangers who want to read the novel (love this part!). First RWA national conference. First author conference of any kind, actually.

I’ve never been huge on firsts. For the most part, I’m usually too shocked to process what is happening. True story: I got my first kiss in the third grade. I was sitting at my desk, and someone came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. I looked left. Nothing. I looked right. Nothing. A boy said, “Up here!” I looked up, and he kissed me right on the lips. I was so surprised that I stood up and punched him right in the face! (My second kiss, much, much later, was lovely).

So for the most part, I go about my daily life, trying not to freak out about the book or the reviews or the scrutiny. I work. I try to exercise. I take care of my kids and my husband. I do laundry. I work on copyedits for my next book (Blaze of Winter is all set for a September release, yay!).

And then someone tweets about the Literacy Signing at RWA, where I’ll actually be autographing copies of Deep Autumn Heat, and I think, “Whoa! Is this really happening?” Or a friend wil ask me how I feel about my book coming out, and I’ll say, “Excited. Scared. Humbled.”

For as much as I realize that this is about firsts, it’s also about lasts. This, for example, is the last time I’ll be posting on this blog as an unpublished author. And instead of someone asking me when “the book is coming out,” they’ll ask when “the next book is coming out.” Will I feel less nervous? I doubt it, but at least it won’t be the first time.

See you on the backside (of July 9th)!

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All right, deep breath. My debut novel, DEEP AUTUMN HEAT releases on July 9th, and the official blog tour starts today!

Can I get a squeeeeeeee?

My lineup is pretty intense–24 stops in 3 weeks–but I’m thrilled to be doing it. I’ve planned something different for every stop, so if people actually follow me for the entire blog tour, I think (hope) they won’t get bored. What I’m most looking forward to is connecting with other readers and writers, talking with them, and seeing what they’re all about…kind of like a preview of RWA Nationals in Anaheim, which I’m attending in late July.

As far as the blog tour goes, I start off on my home turf at Romance @ Random, talking about Love at First Taste. Please come join me, comment, and you could win a free copy of DEEP AUTUMN HEAT!

And even though the book isn’t out for another three weeks, you can read the first couple of chapters here.

Deep breath, deep breath, deep breath, squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

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