Friday, September 18, 2009

Excerpt from Plan B: Boyfriend

I like to post an excerpt of upcoming books here, but this time I'm torn. The opening scene is all the heroine's. It's a good scene (I think), and makes a fine excerpt. The issue is that I love the hero, Charlie McNulty. He's why I wrote the book. So...I'm posting the opening scene here, but there's a link at the bottom to my website where there is a second excerpt that's all Charlie. :-)

Sarah Finley examined herself carefully in the mirror on the back of the closet door in her front hall. The gleaming walnut woodwork surrounding the mirror provided a dark counterpoint to her “hip, yet involved and respectable mother” outfit—a knee-length charcoal skirt with a slight flare at the hem to soften it, crisp, white shirt patterned with pale pink circles from the newest Talbot’s catalog, and a cropped black knit jacket with chunky, artistic buttons.

She was debating about the abstract print scarf. If she wore the scarf would it say “I’m taking this issue seriously” or “I’ve just come from shopping?” She’d never faced this situation before; wasn’t confident she was approaching it correctly. She seriously doubted, however, if even Emily Post knew the exact dress code for meeting with the school principal to discuss the possible expulsion of your first-grader.

Sarah bit back a semi-hysterical laugh. She couldn’t allow that laugh. Not now. That laugh had burst out inappropriately with increasing frequency ever since Erik left her eight months ago. For a while she’d thought she was managing. But the repeated appearance of the laugh and its distressing tendency to morph into a sob made her wonder just how well she was coping. Not well, she was beginning to suspect.

Which was bad.

Because Sarah was a coper. It was her claim to fame. Her hallmark. It was why she was always the vice-president or the volunteer coordinator rather than the president of groups like the PTA, the pool association, even the block party committee. Sarah Finley could cope with anything.

Except, apparently, her husband’s infidelity, her resulting divorce, and the fact that Simon, her well-loved if perplexing six-year old, was in danger of being chucked out of Carol Ryan Memorial Elementary before he’d mastered alphabetical order.

Sarah ripped the scarf off her neck and stuffed it into her mouth in a vain attempt to stifle the laugh. Which did turn into a sob. Which she was only able to control by thinking of Simon. Her baby. Currently in lock-down in the principal’s office on what Jessica Jordan, the school secretary, had ever so sweetly informed her was a weapons violation.

Oh, Simon.

Sarah dropped the scarf, grinding it under one tasteful, black sling-back as she headed out of the house.

Note: Go here to read Charlie's excerpt.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Super Title Puzzle Game

I'm going to be part of the newly launched Super Authors blog on eHarlequin. We're having an official kick-off week starting June 1, but since the space is there and the community is there…it seemed like a prime opportunity for a little word game!

Last December a community member posted a game where we guessed retitled holiday songs? Example: Embellish Interior Passageways = Deck the Halls.

Jeannie Watt and I adapted that game by running the titles of the 2009 Supers (January-May) through the Obfuscation Machine. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to decipher the real titles.

Jeannie and I will each choose a name from the comments to win a book. I’m giving away The Boyfriend’s Back, and Jeannie is giving away The Cowboy’s Redemption. (Both of them are on the list--there's a clue!) Kay Stockham is also giving away one of her books.

If you want to be in the drawing to win books, post guesses in the comments on eHQ.

Here they are, the New 2009 Super Titles in all their incomprehensible glory. Have at ‘em.

Hint: You can find title lists at the romance wiki.
  1. Stances, Actions, Or Endeavors Undertaken As A Result Of Or In Direct Relation To An Emotional Attachment

  2. An Act Deemed To Be Inappropriate Or Wrong Perpetrated By A Heretofore Unfamiliar Individual

  3. A Factual Or Investigatory Exploration Into The Particularities And Networks Observed Among Individuals Descended From A Common Ancestor

  4. A Person Once Linked Romantically With Another (but Not Betrothed) Completes A Homecoming Journey

  5. A Diminutive Human Endeavors To Resolve A Difficult Or Possibly Dangerous Situation

  6. A Written Or Oral Record Of Events Creating A Barrier

  7. A Missive For The French Diminutive Of The Latinate Form Of Hannah

  8. Transgressions Against Accepted Moral Custom Enacted By A Heterogametic Individual Whose Normal Abilities Surpass Those Of His Peers

  9. A Party Bound In Troth Is Accessible Anew

  10. Post-infant Pre-adolescent Recreational Activity

  11. A Representative Of The Female Gender Could Not Consign an Adult Homo Sapien To Oblivion

  12. Maternal Being Soon to Exist

  13. One Of A Number Who May Resemble Or Appear Similar To a Female Individual

  14. A Child in the First Stage of Life in Her Upper Extremities

  15. A Fault Resulting From Defective Judgment, Deficient Knowledge, Or Carelessness, Committed By One Of The Feminine Gender

  16. Her Favored Companion's Male Gendered Sibling

  17. A Bovine Collector Loses The Fetters Of Shame

  18. Reproductions Of Me And Those Close To Me

  19. Structure Used As A Domicile, Most Often By Humans, Invested By Concealed Facts

  20. Having an Inherent Sense of Paternal Responsibility

  21. A Person Of The Male Persuasion Vocalizes A Short Form Of Her Occupational Title

  22. Arcanum Harbored By A Member Of The Fair Sex

  23. A Defective Period Prior to the Present

  24. Progenitor (Masculine) In Stupefaction

  25. French Form of a Name Meaning Wisdom's Clandestine Matter

  26. To Infinity And Beyond Accompanied By Relations

  27. Traditional Bonding Rituals Observed Among Genetically Linked Humans

  28. From Solstice To Equinox In Proximity To A Collection Of Matter Changed From Solid To Liquid

  29. Domiciled In Familiar Environs After Years Away

  30. A Peerless Reproduction Of A Childbearing Female

Happy Guessing,
Ellen

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

FAQ for The Boyfriend's Back

I’m a technical writer. That means I write Frequently Asked Question pages (FAQs) on a regular basis. Did you know that most FAQs are made up by technical writers and have nothing to do with actual questions anyone has ever asked? Yep. It’s like writing fiction, except about bytes and bandwidth and secure passwords. And also the FAQs are usually nonfiction. Usually.

Anyway, I wrote an FAQ for His Secret Past and the comments were a ton of fun so I thought I’d do one for The Boyfriend’s Back.

1. The title is The Boyfriend’s Back, but the cover shows his front. What’s up with that?

Um. Good observation? But the title refers to the fact that The Boyfriend was gone and has now returned. He came back. Get it?

2. See that part on the cover where it says “Going Back?” Is that because her hair is blowing back in the wind? Is it, like, a caption? Because I didn’t think her hair needed a caption.

Well, no. Sorry. You’re 0 for 2 here. Going Back means this book is part of the Superromance themed series about characters who return to their hometowns. In this case, The Boyfriend. He is back. In his hometown. Get it?

3. In the book, JT has a degree in robotics from Carnegie Mellon. You went to Carnegie Mellon. Is your degree in robotics?

Not exactly. My degree is in Creative Writing—that would be the English department, not the engineering school. But I had a job in a robotics lab one time, which is what gave me the idea of sending JT there.

4. So you majored in writing and built robots in your spare time? Cool.

No. I majored in writing and did some writing for a robotics project in my spare time. The project was an early speech recognition program. I had to copy edit the manuscript the robot created. It was pretty cool.

5. It doesn’t sound cool to me.

I guess you’re not a writer/geek like I am.

6. I think I'm okay with that.

Did you have another question?

7. I read the back cover copy and it sounds like a secret baby book—guy leaves home and comes back fifteen years later. Girl has secret she’s afraid to tell him, and she’s got a daughter. Secret baby, right?

Well, fifteen years…not exactly a baby anymore, is it?

8. Are you supposed to be sarcastic when you’re answering these questions?

Sorry. Not a secret baby. Not exactly, anyway.

9. Are you supposed to be evasive when you’re answering these questions?

Argh. Do you want me to give away the entire plot? Is anticipation not part of the fun?

10. Stop answering my questions with questions. So in the cover picture it looks as if Hailey is getting ready to have her way with JT. What page is that scene on?

Heh. 30.

Any other questions?

Ellen

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pride vs. Prizes or Why I'm too Logical to Compete Properly

His Secret Past, my May 2008 Superromance, has been invited to the Big Dance. It’s one of the 64 lucky books chosen to compete in the Smart Bitches/Dear Author March Madness Tournament (DABWAHA—Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hellagood Authors).

Sweeet!

The author in me is delighted. What an honor.

I must immediately go to the contest site, fill in my bracket, and crown my book the ultimate champion, right? Because it’s all about pride and I am proud of my book. (Look, I devoted an entire page of my website to it!)

So yeah, I’m proud.

The trouble is, on the tournament page there are prizes. Really good prizes like a Sony Reader and fantastic gift certificates and more. You win those prizes by guessing correctly about which book will ultimately win the tournament. Of the more than 400 people (as of this writing) who have so far filled out a bracket, not one has picked His Secret Past to win.

(Umm…Mom? Hellooo? Too busy for the internet today?)

So that’s my dilemma. If I pick my book, I’m obviously not going to win the yummy prizes.

Pride or prizes?

What’s a girl to do?

It’s a tough choice, but…dude, a Sony Reader. Seriously.
..
..
..
..
..
Go Spymaster’s Lady, Go!
  • Fill out your bracket here.
  • See my bracket here.
  • Check the champions list to see if my Mom gets on the stick and picks my book here.
P.S. Much like my hometown Cornell Big Red (invited to the NCAA Tournament through the auto-bid for being Ivy League champs aka Best of the Nerd Schools), I’m glad to be part of the party, even if I am a total underdog. Thanks Dear Author and Smart Bitches for making romance fun. ;-)

Excerpt: The Boyfriend's Back

Thought I'd post an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Boyfriend's Back. It's available from Harlequin Superromance in May 2009.

Here we go:

Church, bar, church, bar. Statlerville was exactly the same as the last time JT had been here. But he was lost. How did a person get lost in their own hometown?

Move away and stay away for fifteen years. That’s how he’d done it, anyway.

Now he was late which was just perfect. He was only coming because his brother, Charlie, said he couldn’t do this without him and now he wasn’t going to make it in time. He glared at the empty expanse of dashboard. Of course his rental didn’t have a GPS—why use technology when you can keep right on making the same stupid mistakes forever?

He should never have agreed to this. But Charlie had asked him. JT rolled down his window and took a good look at the streets of Statlerville. Something would ring a bell—show him the way.

There. St. Pete’s, his high school. His mom’s funeral was being held at the Statlerville Volunteer Fire Department hall. Four minutes tops and he’d be there. Looked like he was going to be on time after all.

###



Hailey was on the floor of the main treatment room at Viva, the rehabilitation and physical therapy center she ran. Her first appointment of the day, Rita Temple, rehabbing after a hip replacement, finished her last set of lifts when Hailey’s cell phone vibrated in her pocket. She handed the check out sheet to Rita as she opened the phone.

“Hailey?” It was Sarah Finley, her best friend, speaking in a barely audible whisper.

“Sarah, where are you? The opera?”

“Melanie McNulty’s funeral. Olivia’s here.” Sarah paused. “Hailey, she’s sitting with the family.”

Hailey stared blankly at the photo of Bing Crosby in White Christmas hanging in front of her on the wall of the treatment area. She couldn’t make her brain process what Sarah had said.

Melanie McNulty had died three or four days ago; she’d missed a curve on Route 6 driving too fast in the dark. Hailey hadn’t realized the funeral was today, but her daughter apparently not only knew about it, she’d decided to skip school to be there. With the family.

“I’m on my way,” she said before hanging up.

She asked the receptionist to reschedule her clients because of a family emergency—which was so ironic she almost laughed—and was putting the key in the ignition of her ancient Mustang convertible before she realized that she hadn’t asked Sarah if JT was there.

But he wouldn’t be there, would he? He’d never come back. She’d heard he never even spoke to his parents on the phone.

He couldn’t be there because Olivia was there and that was bad enough…but not unfixable. As long as JT wasn’t there.

The funeral was already underway when she got to the hall. She had a clear view up the aisle at Olivia. Her daughter had dressed up, wearing the navy sweater and kilt from last Thanksgiving, the extra half inch of thigh between the hem and her knee a heartbreaking reminder of how fast her girl was growing up and out of childhood.

It was funny, she thought a moment later, how she might not have recognized her daughter. Olivia’s narrow back and tall-girl, teenage slouch looked unfamiliar only because she had one hand on the back of Jack McNulty’s wheelchair.

Hailey’s eyes moved next to the two tall, broad-shouldered men in dark suits standing next to Olivia. Charlie. And unmistakably JT.

JT McNulty was standing with Olivia. Olivia thought she was standing with her dad.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Reading Challenge: What's on your 2009 List?

Last year, my friend, Diana Holquist, posted a reading challenge on her blog. I stole her idea and we had quite a fun time on eHarlequin posting our reading lists. I thought we might as well try it again this year, especially since I found some great books and new authors by reading the lists other folks posted! The eHarlequin post from last year is here: 2008 Book Challenge.

So, here we go. You post 12 books you're planning to read in 2009. Doesn't have to be all romance--it's tons of fun to see the range of reading we all do.

Here are the 12 books I've preselected.
  1. Natural Born Charmer--Susan Elizabeth Phillips. This was on my 2008 list and will continue to be on my list for as long as I'm reading books.

  2. How to Tame a Modern Rogue--Diana Holquist. She's the godmother of the list so she deserves a place of honor. Plus she's my buddy and I've read a bunch of drafts of this already but haven't seen the finished work.

  3. A Cowboy's Redemption--Jeannie Watt. I don't miss a Watt book, no matter watt. Heh.

  4. What I Did for Love--Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I can NOT wait.

  5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--J.K. Rowling. I read this in 24 hours the day it was released. We were driving home from the beach and I devoured the book. Yum. I'm going to read it out loud to my 4th grader this year. I'm looking forward to seeing things I may have missed during that rush read.

  6. Fever 1793--Laurie Halse Anderson. I love her writing. I bought this for my older son for Christmas and I'm looking forward to stealing it back pronto.

  7. The Eleventh Man--Ivan Doig. Doig's novel, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, is one of my all-time favorites. His new one combines, sports, war, and a writer, all topics I love. Highly anticipated book!

  8. Too Good to be True--Kristan Higgins. Higgins was new-to-me in 2008. I loved the book of hers I read last year. Looking forward to a new one.

  9. A Kid to the Rescue--Susan Gable. Susan is responsible for my career so I'm obligated to read her books. Wink I would read them anyway, actually, because she's so good!

  10. A Dance with Dragons--George R.R. Martin. I doubt this book will actually be out in 2009. I'm putting it on my list in the hope that I can manifest it somehow. It's been toooo long, George.

  11. How Green was my Valley--Richard Llewellyn. Another old favorite. I thought I might read it again and see if my older boy would be old enough to enjoy it.

  12. TBD--I'm saving this spot for one I scoop out of the recommendations others may post. I wonder what will catch my eye/mind/heart the way Not Even if You Begged (Francis Ray) did last year.


So that's my list. What's on yours?

Ellen