Friday, December 31, 2010

Weekend Book Club: Best YA reads of 2010

In no particular order, here are my favourite YA reads of 2010:

SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready is in this list too but I didn't have time to search for the cover, what with New Year's Eve preparations.
I've reviewed each of these books this year and many more, my tally of books read in 2010 reaching around 90.
So what have been your stand out books this year?

(I'd also like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy New Year. May 2011 bring you everything your heart desires and more! And a HUGE shout out to all my loyal readers. Thanks for buying my books and I love hearing from you!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gems for writers

Regulars here know how much I like Larry Brook's StoryFix blog.

Well, he's made a list of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers.

Go check out the rest.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Enforced distance

Once a book is sold, there's usually several months of enforced distance, where you've moved onto writing a new book or taking a breather or whatever.

Then the proof edits land and you need to go over it again with a critical eye, picking up any mistakes, typos, etc...

I did this last night for GIRL IN A VINTAGE DRESS (hence the Rob Lowe pic. He inspired the hero Chase Etheridge. Not gratuitous posting of hot guy pic at all!)

I always find it amazing what a little distance from a story can do. Blatant word repetition or phrasing a few sentences apart or words that just don't fit.

And while this book had quite a few changes I picked up (including a head hopping scene for a paragraph, something I didn't write in the original) overall I loved Chase and Lola as much as I did when writing them.

Their resolution scene is one of the most honest and heart-string-tugging I've ever written, I loved it!

Come July, I hope you do too.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cows, milk & little sausages

If you're as frantic as me in the lead up to Christmas, you'll appreciate this for a laugh.
(It was emailed to me by a very smart lady over 50.)

In case you missed it on 60 Minutes, this is what Andy Rooney thinks about women over 50:

As I grow in age, I value women over 50 most of all.
Here are just a few reasons why:

A woman over 50 will never wake you in the middle of the night and ask, 'What are you thinking?' She doesn't care what you think.

If a woman over 50 doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do, and it's usually more interesting.

Women over 50 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you if they think they can get away with it.

Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be unappreciated.

Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 50.

Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 50 is far sexier than her younger counterpart.

Older women are forthright and honest... They'll tell you right off if you are a jerk, if you are acting like one. You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her.

Yes, we praise women over 50 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 50, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress.

Ladies, I apologize. For all those men who say, 'Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Here's an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage.
Why? Because women realize it's not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!

Andy Rooney is a really smart guy!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Writing a home run story

Yes, I'm directing you over to StoryFix yet again, this time for the first part in a 2 part series on How to Write a Home Run Story in 2011.

The first point in this article that leapt out at me was:

Perhaps, in 2011, you should do something different.

I love playing around with ideas, writing new things outside my usual genre.
Which gets me will I shake things up in 2011?
How will you?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Weekend Book Club: Waiting for the postman

If there was one book you'd stand by the postbox for in the lead up to Christmas, which would it be?

For me, it's this one.

Being released on Dec 21st, I've placed my order with the Book Depository and will be eagerly scanning my mail box daily for its arrival.

If you haven't read Barbara O'Neal (Samuel) do yourself a favour.
After glomming her last year, she's my favourite author. Her prose is rich, lush and thoroughly gorgeous.

Here's the blurb for her latest:

An unforgettable novel that celebrates food, family, and the unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters.
In a story as warm and embracing as a family kitchen, Barbara O’Neal explores the poignant, sometimes complex relationship between mothers and daughters—and the healing magic of homemade bread.

Professional baker Ramona Gallagher is a master of an art that has sustained her through the most turbulent times, including a baby at fifteen and an endless family feud. But now Ramona’s bakery threatens to crumble around her. Literally. She’s one water-heater disaster away from losing her grandmother’s rambling Victorian and everything she’s worked so hard to build.
When Ramona’s soldier son-in-law is wounded in Afghanistan, her daughter, Sophia, races overseas to be at his side, leaving Ramona as the only suitable guardian for Sophia’s thirteen-year-old stepdaughter, Katie. Heartbroken, Katie feels that she’s being dumped again—this time on the doorstep of a woman out of practice with mothering.
Ramona relies upon a special set of tools—patience, persistence, and the reliability of a good recipe—when rebellious Katie arrives. And as she relives her own history of difficult choices, Ramona shares her love of baking with the troubled girl. Slowly, Katie begins to find self-acceptance and a place to call home. And when a man from her past returns to offer a second chance at love, Ramona discovers that even the best recipe tastes better when you add time, care, and a few secret ingredients of your own.

So 'fess up.
Which book will you stand by the mail box for this Christmas?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

THE WRITE WHISPER: Steroids for writers

Yet another interesting article from Larry Brooks at StoryFix about how to give your story, every story, a major boost.

Putting your story on steroids.

Now, before you rush off and read it, let me say this.

I love 'how-to' stuff. Books and blog posts and journal articles on writing craft make me squee.
I devour them.
Then promptly forget them.

Yep, you read that right.

I love seeing how different people write, the different creative processes, but the thing is I've found what works best for me and I consistently do it.

A brief 2-3 page outline so I have a basic idea of the characters, a glimmer of a first scene in my head, then I sit down, start typing and off I go until the end.

No way could I plot a whole book using screenwriting tips (the one time I have, a complete mainstream I was buzzed about writing at the time, I haven't written. One fabulous chapter that made me cry and that's it. The idea languishes. Time factor, maybe? Or is it because I already know what happens?)

So I guess what I'm trying to say in my convoluted way is...with the posts I guide you to or stuff I find interesting is just that: interesting stuff to tweak your writing imagination but not gospel truth.

Find what works for you and stick to it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Readers' Crown contest

If you're a published author, you have to check out the Readers' Crown contest.

Loads of categories, including YA, and great exposure in all Borders stores if you win!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Weekend Book Club: To Be Read

I'm partially through a book this week so no review. Instead, let's discuss our To Be Read piles.

Here are the top 5 books on mine currently:

-Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
-Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
-The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
-Exposed by Alex Kava
-Edge by Jeffery Deaver

I have many more on this pile but it'd take me too long to list them here!

So what's the top book on your TBR pile this week?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Melting glaciers

Here's another snippet of the tension between Rhys and Jade in Alaska.

Surely she wasn’t the only edgy one yet there he stood, clutching his clipboard, master of his domain, cool, imperturbable, infuriating.
What she wouldn’t give to shake him up a little, test his mettle, see if work-focussed Ranger was as unflappable as he portrayed?
It came to her in that second.
She’d done the right thing over the last month, being the model employee, subduing her hurt at his rejection, agreeing to the emotionless terms he’d set. And where had it got her? His admiration for her job skills and little else. Uh-uh, time to change the status quo. Up the ante. He may have set the boundaries for their relationship but that didn’t mean she couldn’t push them, right?
Hoisting the heavy branch onto her shoulder for extra affect, she marched across the clearing and dumped it on top of the stack she’d already collected.
“That’s the last of them. What’s next?”
He didn’t glance up from his clipboard, his frown clear indication her jaunty tone pained him as much as her accomplishing another task in record time.
“Take a breather.”
“I’d rather keep going. Build up my stamina.”
He glanced up, his frown intensifying, while something unfathomable shifted behind those ice-blue eyes.
“You’ve done enough for today. Take the afternoon off.”
“Maybe Cody and Jack need a hand? Clearing undergrowth from the picnic area is a huge job. I’m sure they’d like some help—”
“You need a break. Take it.”
He swung away, but not before she’d seen guilt streak across his face. So the guy had a heart, buried deep beneath layers of self-imposed guilt and macho bravado.
She could do as he said, take the easy option. But their monthly supply run was coming up fast and this time it was their turn to head into Skagway. Things were tense enough now, no way would she put up with any more.
“I don’t need a break. I need—”
You. One little word, so simple yet so complex.
He swung back to face her, his expression wary.
Not willing to push that far yet, she pretended to examine her blistered hands.
“I need a manicure, badly.”
His relief was comical. “Can’t help you there.”
Spurred by a little mischievous imp residing in her brain, she stepped closer, rolled her shoulders.
“Maybe another of those massages you’re so good at?”
Heat flared in his eyes before he damped it with a deliberate blink.
“Pity, because I’ve got a really tight spot right about here.”
She lifted one shoulder before stretching it back, biting back a triumphant laugh when his gaze strayed to her breasts stretched against the cool wool of her crimson jumper.
“And here.”
Turning around, she pointed to her lower back, knowing where his gaze would end up—about a foot lower.
“Don’t push me, Jade.”
His gravely voice sent a shiver of yearning through her as she slowly turned back to face him, grateful it had come to this.
“Like how you’ve pushed me?”
“That’s different. It’s work,” he ground out, flinging the clipboard away and thrusting hands into his pockets.
Taking a step, another, she got right up close, close enough for her sensory receptors to hit overload the minute she inhaled his addictive outdoorsy scent.
“Is it?”
“Yes, damn it.”
His rebuke lost some of its force when she smiled, refusing to give an inch.
He took a step back, she took a step forward, spurred by the need to confront him and his crazy ideas of ignoring this thing between them.
“Here’s what I think.” She laid her palm against his chest. “I think you’re hoping I’ll crack. The harder you push me, you think the angrier I’ll get. Who knows, maybe you want me to quit?”
Her palm slid upward, rested over his heart, to show him she meant business. “Well, here’s a newsflash for you. I’m made of sterner stuff than that.”
Tilting her head up, she met his steely gaze unflinchingly. “I can handle anything you care to dish out and more, Ranger.”
He didn’t move, every muscle rigid, the hard angles of his face highlighted by the wan sunlight dappling the clearing.
She had no idea how long they stood there, toe to toe, each unwilling to back down, the silence amplifying every breath frosting the air between them.
Then a shift, a small one, as he angled his body towards her rather than stepping away, the corners of his mouth easing into a smile that snatched her breath and made her crave him more than ever.
“Maybe it’s time to ditch the Princess tag?” He gestured at the wood pile. “Perhaps Wonder Woman fits better these days?”
She chuckled, buoyed by his backhanded compliment.
“See this?” She touched his mouth, briefly traced his smile, before dropping her hand. “I want to see more of that in Skagway. Lose the angst. It’s not working.”
To his credit, he didn’t play dumb. “Focussing on business is easier than thinking about us.”
She snapped her fingers. “Well golly, Ranger, and here I was, unaware there was even an us.”
“Bit late for coyness.”
Patting his big, broad chest, she glanced up from beneath her lashes. “I’m not the one playing hard to get.”
He laughed outright at that and for a long, exquisite moment, when his gaze drifted to her lips, she thought he might kiss her.

If you're in the UK, you can grab a copy of WILD NIGHTS WITH HER WICKED BOSS off shelves now! Makes a great stocking stuffer or gift. :)

If you're in OZ/NZ, you'll need to wait until January.

In the USA? May. Though there's always online...!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Weekend Book Club: Good Oil

I love picking up a book by random, having heard nothing about it, and discovering it's a joy to read.

GOOD OIL by Laura Buzo is one of those books.
The author's voice captivated me from the start with its poignant realism.
And throughout the novel, I knew exactly how 15yo Amelia was feeling: crush on an older, unobtainable guy, the buzz, the inevitable heartbreak. Many readers will identify!

Here's the blurb:

'Miss Amelia Hayes, welcome to The Land of Dreams. I am the staff trainer. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei and I will give you the good oil. Right? And just so you know, I'm open to all kinds of bribery.'

From the moment 15-year-old Amelia begins work on the checkout at Woolworths she is sunk, gone, lost...head-over-heels in love with Chris. Chris is the funny, charming man-about-Woolies, but he's 21, and the six-year difference in their ages may as well be 100. Chris and Amelia talk about everything from Second Wave Feminism to Great Expectations and Alien but will he ever look at her in the way she wants him to? And if he does, will it be everything she hopes?

This is a great read and a fabulous first novel.
I'll be looking out for more YA novels from Laura Buzo.

What are you reading this week?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Wild nights

Here's a little taste of what Jade and Rhys get up to while cosied away in Alaska:

“Wait ‘til you see dessert.”
Jade gulped, unable to move as he reached over and took her plate, his hand brushing hers, sending sparks shooting from her fingertips to her toes. Their eyes locked and she could’ve sworn electricity sizzled in the air.
“Don’t move. I’ll be right back.”
Watching him stroll out of the room, faded denim clinging to his sensational butt, she wavered.
If she didn’t move, she was in serious danger of falling flat on her back and yelling ‘take me now!’ when he came back.
If she moved, she’d miss out on all the fabulous stuff that would happen if she did fall flat on her back and yell ‘take me now!’
Dilemmas, dilemmas…
He took the decision out of her hands, returning quickly with a platter of strawberries and melted chocolate.
“You sure know the way to a girl’s stomach,” she said, snaffling a strawberry and popping it in her mouth before he could set the lot on the rug.
He paused, sent her a sizzling look. “Maybe it’s not the girl’s stomach I’m after?”
The stomach in question belly-flopped at the intent in his eyes, her heart joining her tummy in an impressive somersault routine.
Thankfully, he glanced away to tend to the fire and she leaned back, propped on outstretched arms, content to watch, loving the way the muted firelight played across the sharp angles of his face, how it shimmered orange against his white Western shirt. Definite possibilities with that shirt, considering the pop buttons all the way down the front…
“That should keep us warm for a while.”
He sat next to her, his thigh barely inches from her own, a slow building heat radiating between them. Or was it just the heat from the fire, with her imagination working overtime?
His low, husky voice rippled over her and before she could launch herself at him with a resounding yes, he offered her the platter of strawberries.
“Thanks, my favourite.”
Before she could pick one he chose the plumpest, juiciest strawberry, whisked it through the chocolate and offered it to her, hovering a hair’s-breadth in front of her lips.
Guess this answered her earlier question of what was he doing. Every slow-motioned action, every glimmer in those too-blue eyes, every tilt of those sexy lips, screamed seduction.
After spending so many tense moments retreating from her, he’d finally decided to stop running. She should ponder why; why the sudden turnaround, why now, after he’d made it clear this wasn’t a good idea.
But as he brushed the strawberry over her bottom lip in a slow, sensual sweep, she wanted to lose herself in the moment and to hell with any questions.
Her eyes never left his as she slowly opened her lips, moved a fraction and enclosed her mouth over the deliciously smooth chocolate tip.
She moaned, her eyelids drifting shut as she bit into the strawberry, savouring the explosion of sweet tanginess mingling with the luscious chocolate, her senses on overload as she took the whole fruit in her mouth, her tongue flicking out, only to encounter a fingertip.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Hot in Alaska

I'd planned on posting an excerpt from WILD NIGHTS WITH HER WICKED BOSS today.
Instead, I give you the Australian/NZ cover.
While I love the new modern edgy covers, I love how this one encapsulates a scene from the book: hot tub/steamy stuff going on/snow capped mountains in the background.
Which cover do you prefer?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wild nights in December

Can't believe it's the 1st of December already!

I've been in revision stupor (finally finished YA revisions last night at 11.45pm and the manuscript is gone, back with my lovely agent) so the days have flown by.

December means I have a new release out in the UK!

More about this book tomorrow, when I'm awake.
Am currently floating in post-revision haze...