Friday, December 30, 2011

3, 2, 1... launch!

It's almost time for the launch of TBR! On January 2, visit my first guest at TBR, Maria Zannini, and help her celebrate her latest release.

In place of the Author Spotlight and Author Chat here on my blog, TBR will feature three authors each week. You'll want to check back often, so please follow TBR and visit often! There's an exciting roster of authors coming up, and many will hold giveaways.

If you want to be interviewed at TBR, check the blog for information. I'd love to feature your work too!

Though the blog's official launch isn't for a few days, you can get a sneak peek at the January Featured Author - check it out!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Now the calendar's just one page

And the year's dwindled down to the last few days. For most, a time of both reflection, and looking ahead, when we stand at the edge of the old year and the uncharted new one. Some make resolutions, which to me seems nothing more than a wish list. Others have goals, which implies making a run at something.

This year, I'm going to plan.

Life thew me some curve balls at the beginning of this year, which I've briefly mentioned, but I don't  throw my problems into the ether for all to see. It may make me seem standoffish, but actually, I see it as being positive. I'm not going to dwell on the downside of it. Things happen for a reason, I believe, and for now, they are as they need to be. Sorry to be cryptic, but enough said.

But the loss of writing time really threw me. I did manage to finish some stories, and I'm happy about that. I have many more WIPs awaiting me, and I plan to tackle them as time allows.

I also plan to be more organized, not only with my time but in general. I wasted too much time this year because I wasn't.

I also plan to read some of the dozens of books I've accumulated. Literally, I have about fifty that I really want to read, and they're either loaded onto my Kindle or stuffed into the bookshelf beside my bed.

Most importantly, I plan to hold onto my dream. After waiting all my life to realize it, I'm not going to let it slip away.

What about you? Anything in mind for the coming year?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy holidays!

And no Christmas is complete without my favorite Jersey boy. :)

May all your wishes come true, this holiday and into the new year. Peace, joy and a cool Yule.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?

Reposting this from last year. Maybe I'll make it a Christmas Eve tradition. :)

The story of Rudolph's circulating as an email forward, so I thought I'd look into it. I should probably work for Snopes, lol.

While some of the email is true, it doesn't give the entire background. But I will. :)

Btw, I think my mom had dog-eared sheet music with this same image - supposedly the original 1939 cover. Though it's a little before my time, I remember it distinctly.

The Montgomery Ward department store's holiday tradition was to hand out specially printed coloring books to kids who came to visit Santa. In 1939, the store execs decided to try something different, and more economical because the Depression still gripped the nation. Rather than hire an outside firm to create a giveaway, they asked their advertising department to come up with a giveaway.

In turn, the ad department turned to their copywriter, Robert L. May. May worked on the story in his office, then took it home to read to his four-year-old daughter, Barbara. The little girl's feedback helped shape the story line, and she may have even named Rudolph.

Using rhyming verse, May's wrote the story of a little reindeer with a bright red nose who was born to ordinary parents in the woods. Like May as a child, Rudolph was lonely and had few friends. But, rather than dwelling on his problems, Rudolph had a positive outlook and did not let his unique nose hold him back.
In the original story, Santa discovered Rudolph on Christmas Eve while delivering gifts to the woodland animals. A fog rolled in and grew dense so Santa couldn't take off safely. Santa noticed Rudolph with his shiny red nose and asked him to lead his sleigh (I know, without any training. The reindeer union probably filed complaints.)

Well, you know the rest. All the other reindeer loved him after Rudolph saved the day.

Montgomery Ward certainly loved the results. Kids all over the country fell in love with Rudolph too, and the store handed out 2.4 million copies of the book. Because of the war, paper supplies were limited, and Montgomery Ward was limited to printing 6 million copies by 1945.

Though the hopeful story may have inspired his small daughter in a difficult time, the story's success didn't help Robert L. May's personal life. His wife died of cancer, and the medical expenses ruined him financially. He made no profits from the popularity of Rudolph, deemed a "work for hire" production, owned solely by Montgomery Ward.

By 1947, May decided to seek the rights to Rudolph. Surprisingly, Montgomery Ward sold them to him. May then published the story, which of course became a bestseller. He authorized a cartoon version for showing in theaters before the advertised movie. May teamed up with his brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, who changed the story slightly from May's original to the story we know today in the song. In 1949, Western singer/actor Gene Autry agreed to record the song, which became an instant hit.

Finally, May was able to enjoy the benefits of his labor. And kids - and grownups - everywhere still love the little reindeer.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Another giveaway

Enter at Romance Junkies' Winter Wonderland for a chance to win a beaded book thong and a bag of Hershey Kisses! I may throw in an extra surprise too. :)
Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Visiting LASR today

I hope you'll pop over this afternoon to the LASR Guest Blog, where I'm spreading some holiday cheer. :)

My post should be up around 2:00 p.m. EST. So grab an eggnog and head over!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Getting in the spirit

Less than a week till Christmas! Are you ready? Do you have your Christmas cheer on? This might help. :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A festive cookie for your holiday table

My mom used to make these cookies for the holidays. They're great for any occasion, really, but they do look festive during the holidays.

Italian Anisette Cookies

Cookie Ingredients
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons anise extract (or almond extract)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (may need up to 3 cups)
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 -3 tablespoons milk 

Icing Ingredients
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1/8 teaspoon anise extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For best results, line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
For cookies, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add anise extract.
Blend flour and baking powder. Start by adding about 1/3 of these dry ingredients to the butter/sugar in your mixer, then add 1 T. milk. Add another third of the flour and another 1 T. milk. Finally, mix in enough of the remaining flour until your dough is like a brownie batter (it should be softer than a drop cookie dough).
Use a teaspoon to make simple round drop cookies - use wet fingers to pat any rough edges.
Bake cookies 10-12 minutes. They won't be brown but the insides will be soft and cake-like.
For icing: mix sugar, milk and extract to make a sugar glaze.
Hold cookie in your hand and turn upside down so you can dip the top half in the glaze; turn over and immediately top with sprinkles so they will stick.
Allow icing to harden overnight; then store in air-tight containers or freeze.
And... gobble 'em up!

Monday, December 19, 2011

'Tis the season for giving!

My gift to you is a free download of my contemporary romance, Going with Gravity, a 2011 EPIC finalist.

Just enter code LD36V at Smashwords.

Hurry! It's only good through Christmas Eve. :)

Happy holidays!

Join me at TRS' Christmas party

And you're all invited. 
Like all great parties, there will be plenty of goodies. 
I'll be popping in and out, 
and hope to see some friendly faces there!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

SSS: Who is this gorgeous guy anyway?

Thanks to everyone who visits! And thanks especially for your comments, which fill me with as much cheer as Christmas. And that's a lot. :) 

Here's more from Ground Rules, my Christmas fantasy. Alice is a bit confused as to who, exactly, the handsome intruder really is:

“Are you here to…kill me?” The thought should have frightened her out of her mind, yet a cocoon of calm surrounded her.

He burst into laughter, tried to speak, but slumped over, hand atop his abs. Really great abs, from the skin showing where his black tee shirt had shifted, but that was beside the point.

Hooting, he took deep breaths and swiped his eyes. “Oh, that was priceless.”

Next Sunday's Christmas day! I'll be busy with presents and cooking and present cleanup and desserts and then hopefully dreams of sugarplums dancing in my head. May you and yours share a memorable holiday of joy, laughter and love. See you next year!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wonderful review for Ground Rules

The Romance Reviews rated Ground Rules 4 stars! I'm so grateful to Vixhen for her review. Here's part of what she had to say:

A perfect love story with a little hint of Christmas...
This was such a short, sweet, light-hearted story about finding love, even if you're not looking. Alice and Luke were both strong-willed and not easily intimidated. They had both been heartbroken and not looking to be hurt again. Ms. Masters took a simple love story and made it magical, drawing the reader into the world where angels can make your dreams come true. And the fact that Luke could make a mean margarita certainly didn't hurt, either. I'm a sucker for a Christmas story - throw in a hot angel on a Harley and we've got a party!

Thanks again, Vixhen! You've sweetened my holidays!

You can find out more about Ground Rules here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

An early Christmas present

Years ago, I read about mountain man Jim Bridger, who worked as a guide and scout, but basically lived free in the incredible pristine wilderness of the unsettled West. Though illiterate, he memorized many passages from Shakespeare's works, which he'd recite. This fascinated me, and I bought a few books about Jim. Once I realized how famous he already was, I knew I couldn't do him justice by writing about him anymore than he'd already been written about. But I loved the idea of a mountain man reciting Shakespeare.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of my favorites, so I wove the title into A Midwest Summer Night's Dream. It's one of the many stories I had languishing on the hard drive for a few years, and decided to finally finish it this year. My wonderful critique partners helped make it into a story I was proud of.

I nearly self-published it, but it's very difficult to find an image to accurately depict the 1800s, let alone a Western historical romance with a Shakespearean twist. So I subbed the novella.

This week, I had an acceptance from Siren/Book Strand! I've been doing the happy dance since. It's scheduled for an April 2012 release. Woo hoo!

Here's the newly tweaked blurb:
Open sky, Shakespeare, solitude. All Jebediah Greene needs. Alone since his teens, he’s never known loneliness, until he leaves Winona Young in California. Worse, he fears she’ll trap herself in a loveless marriage of convenience. After acting as her guide to San Francisco, how far will Jeb go to win her heart?
Reading provides escape for Winona Young. Usually. Fleeing Philadelphia, she learns her distant suitor isn’t who he seemed. Neither is her mountain man guide, in a good way. Intelligent, but mule-headed, Jeb’s impossible to speak to, in any language. Winona falls in love with the stunning beauty of the wilderness, with the simple ways of the Osage people, and with Jeb. But books can’t teach her how to tame a mountain man.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Visiting Paty Jager today

I'm at Paty Jager's, talking about stories that transcend the boundaries of genre.
I'm also celebrating the release of my Christmas fantasy, Ground Rules (yes, again!). I hope you'll pop over and visit!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another nice review for Ground Rules

Woot! Sizzling Hot Book Reviews rated Ground Rules a four-star read. Thanks so much!

Here's part of what the reviewer said:
Ground Rules is a cute story to make you in the mood for Christmas and miracles. Wish on a tree Angel seven times and receive a Angel in your kitchen.
Luke is the Harley, hunky not-like-you’ve-seen-before Angel. Had his heart broken and doesn’t want to listen to his heart. In Ground Rules he shows Alice that other’s have worse circumstances.
I really enjoyed Ground Rules. It reminded me of It’s a Wonderful Life with a love twist. If you want a good book to get you into the spirit of Christmas and miracles I recommend Ground Rules.

If your holidays need a little extra cheer, you can find more about Ground Rules here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

SSS: Alice has an intruder

Welcome back for another peek at my Christmas fantasy, Ground Rules, just released by The Wild Rose Press. 

Alice wakes up and finds a tall, hunky blond guy in her kitchen, rummaging through her liquor cabinet. She hurls a succession of objects at him, to no avail:

At his wave, a wall of light caught each item and held it. The bizarre sight of her belongings drifting in sparkles like dust motes in sunlight made her head spin. Clenching her fists at her sides, she released a primal scream of terror.

From behind the curtain of light, he shot her a scowl. “What are you screaming for? Your liquor cabinet’s practically empty, and I haven’t had a drink in decades.”

Have a great week!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Family holiday traditions

Do you have any? I'm sharing one of mine at Maria Zannini's blog today. Pop on over and share one of yours!

And visit till Dec. 22nd for posts on how to create cool crafts, or make mouth-watering dishes that'll curl even an elf's toes. :) 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Diana Gabaldon’s writing process

I love hearing other authors talk about their process. Diana Gabaldon's is similar to mine, in that she works on several at once.

What about you - do you concentrate on one at a time? Or find it helps your flow to switch between a few?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nice review for Ground Rules

The Long and Short of It Reviews had some nice things to say about Ground Rules. My favorite is the wrap-up:

This fun fantasy tale will keep you reading and waiting to see just what happens next. I didn’t see this ending coming, and I consider that an accomplishment for the author.
Why not try this read for yourself. It’d be a great book to read while sitting in front of the fire and sipping a hot chocolate. Just don’t drink and read at the same time ... you might make a mess when you laugh out loud at the great humor the author shares.

I love that the reviewer recommends reading Ground Rules. If you'd like to, you can order it from The Wild Rose Press.

You can also check out the blurb, excerpt, book video, Casting Call and more here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

SSS: Meet Luke, a not-so-angelic angel

Thanks so much for visiting for Six Sentence Sunday! And thanks especially for your comments.

Here's another snippet from Ground Rules, my Christmas fantasy. Luke, a Watcher Angel, isn't enthusiastic about the holiday. He has his reasons. So he tends to avoid the scheduled seasonal get-togethers. 

Oh please. Luke would give anything not to have to attend yet another boring event. Stand around and sing, chat up the bosses, flirt with the seraphim—to no avail. He’d give anything to have a little one-on-one time with a girl. A real, in-the-flesh, warm-blooded girl.

Thoughts like that could get him demoted.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Margaret Atwood's creative process

I'm still psyched from seeing Margaret Atwood at her reading Tuesday night, and booksigning yesterday. Ack! I never thought I'd get to meet my literary idol. She's amazing.

I was especially inspired by her answer when someone asked why she writes in so many different forms - poetry, speculative, literary, you name it. She said: "Because nobody ever told me not to." A great reminder to one of my writing rules - go with your gut.

One of the highlights of her reading came at the end, when she actually sang the theme song for the fictional Mole Day, and ended with audience participation.

Some have criticized her for rejecting labels of her work. Her book In Other Worlds (of which I now have a signed copy - woo hoo!) delves into this, but basically, she said most of her work which others want to label as SciFi take after the Jules Verne model, which "has its feet in plausibility, and such a thing is theoretically possible."

When an audience member questioned the world for A Handmaid's Tale, she cautioned that "any set of human laws can be reversed. They're made up by people. After 9/11, The Patriot Act passed with barely a blink."

Here's another treat - she shares her creative process:

And a little more advice. :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Casting Call: Ground Rules

Ground Rules was another fun fantasy to write. I love it when the characters come to such vivid life.

Alice Garner's a children's book illustrator who loves her job. She knows she's one of the best. But this year, despite nabbing a dream job illustrating a Christmas story by a famous children's author, she just can't deliver. So she wishes on her Christmas angel. Seven times.

Alice is caring yet feisty, vulnerable yet won't put up with crap. Even from an angel. Something about him tells her he has issues. Maybe a few she can help with. :)

Alice is actually named for the actress I had in mind while writing: Jennifer Garner. Jennifer always struck me as sweet, yet she could be a kickass heroine with the best of them.

Luke's a Watcher Angel. Not a very happy one. His job leaves him less than enthused. And Christmas - well, the holiday ranks even lower. Luke can't muster enough cheer to say 'happy holidays' let alone have one. So when Peter sends him to Earth on Christmas Eve to help Alice, he does what any unhappy angel would do. He mixes margaritas.

Luke hasn't yet mastered the fine points of his job either. He has no wings, no feel for humans' problems, and little sympathy for Alice, who seems to be doing just fine. Except that she's not. Knowing he'll catch Hell if he fails, Luke brings his unique take to the task. Helpful in a snarky way.

Since the first page, Luke has been Sean Bean. Ah, Sean on a motorcycle. In my kitchen, mixing margaritas. Sweet Christmas angel, yes.

Michael Goodman's an internationally known children's author, loved around by the world by his readers. Not by adults. Around them, Michael's surly, impatient, and downright unpleasant. Well, he too has an excellent reason. Two, in fact. But you'll have to read Ground Rules to learn what they are. :)

Ewan McGregor's the perfect Michael Goodman. Handsome, a versatile character actor who can play charming and surly equally well.

Check out more about Ground Rules here! Or make my Christmas wish come true and buy it here. :)