Archive for October, 2012

Fearless LoveThe first six of my Konigsburg, Texas, books began at the Dew Drop Inn in downtown Konigsburg. I started doing this in Venus In Blue Jeans because I’d come up with a scene where the hero and heroine really wanted to meet eat other (they were powerfully attracted across a crowded room), but just couldn’t seem to manage it. The next three books were all about the other Toleffson brothers, and having them hang out at the Dew Drop made a lot of sense. Book 5, Brand New Me, was a little tougher since the hero, Tom Ames, owns his own bar, so I had him checking out the competition. Having Nando Avrogado, the hero of Book 6, Don’t Forget Me, start off at the Dew Drop also made some sense since he was drinking to forget his lost love.

Fearless Love, Book 7, starts in a chicken yard. In fact, nobody in Fearless Love goes anywhere near the Dew Drop. I didn’t exactly do this deliberately, but I knew this book was going to be different the further along I got. I love Konigsburg, and I love the people I’ve created there. But sometimes it’s fun to branch out, and I did that a lot in Fearless Love. It has new characters, new places, new situations. And I think that’s a plus. In a long-running series, you need to try new things just to keep it fresh.

Most of the book takes place at either the Rose restaurant (located at the Woodrose Inn, the plush bed and breakfast that’s shown up in several of the books) or the, shall we say, humble chicken farm owned by the heroine, MG Carmody. MG and the book’s hero, Joe LeBlanc, go into Konigsburg occasionally, mainly to visit the Faro and the folks who work there, so those of you who have read the other books will get to see a few familiar faces. But a lot of Fearless Love happens in new places around Konigsburg—a couple of honky tonks, for example, and the kitchen at the Rose.

So no Dew Drop. No Docia’s bookstore. No Sweet Thing. But a lot of new places and people to meet. It might take some getting used to, but I think you’ll like it. There’s more to Konigsburg than Toleffsons, after all.

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Fearless LoveI’m a plotter, which means I usually work out the plots for my books in advance. I even have an Excel spreadsheet I got years ago from Delilah Devlin’s plotting bootcamp that makes you lay out your story chapter by chapter. I have to admit—the plot usually changes once I start writing (and I’ve been known to summarize a chapter by saying something like “bad stuff happens”), but I usually have a general idea of what’s going to take place in a book before I start writing.

I did this with my most recent Konigsburg book, Fearless Love, available now from Samhain. In fact, I did it twice.

When I first started working on Fearless Love, I was going to use something like the plot in one of my favorite movies, Songwriter. I knew the heroine was a struggling singer, MG Carmody, and that she’d come back to the Texas Hill Country after some problems in Nashville. But in my original version, MG was being pursued by bad guys because she’d taken evidence that they’d stolen one of her songs and put it out under someone else’s name. Or she had a tape of one of her songs being sung by somebody else and she wasn’t getting the royalties. Or something. I don’t exactly remember what all was going to happen but it involved bad guys from Nashville and MG hiding out under an assumed name and all kinds of intrigue.

It was the intrigue that finally did me in. I was trying to work it out, chapter by chapter—when the bad guys would find out where she was, what they’d do, what she’d do, what the hero would do—and I got lost. Totally. I’m sitting there, staring at my spreadsheet, wondering how I can pull all of this together when a simple thought occurs to me: if I’m lost, the readers will be even more lost. I don’t want to do this.

So I threw it all out. That sounds simple, but let me tell you, it was terrifying. I’d spent a lot of time working over this plot and now it was gone. Where was I supposed to go next?

Where I went next was to step back and look at the basics. I had a hero, Joe LeBlanc, who was the chef at a classy restaurant. I had a heroine, MG Carmody, who was a singer living on a chicken farm in the Hill Country. How could they get together and what could happen when they did? As it turned out, they got together because Joe bought eggs from MG and then gave her a job in his kitchen. And MG, down on her luck and trying to get her singing mojo back, started playing gigs at a couple of honky tonks in the neighborhood (it’s the Hill Country—everybody has honky tonks in the neighborhood). And MG’s Great-Aunt Nedda, who had the mortgage on MG’s farm and a grudge against MG’s late grandfather, provided an extra bit of conflict but not nearly as much as thugs from Nashville. Oh yeah, and there’s a cooking competition and a petty thief. Still not exactly The Wire.

Fearless Love has great food and great music, something the Hill Country provides in abundance. It also has a simple, straightforward plot so that you can get to know Joe and MG and understand what happens to them.

And the next time I find myself lost in the intricacies of the Plot From Hell, I’ll just tell myself “Back to basics, honey, back to basics.”

Here’s the blurb for Fearless Love.

Fearless Love, Konigsberg, Texas, Book 7

Sweet music doesn’t come without a few sour notes.

MG Carmody never figured her musical dreams would crash against the reality of Nashville. Now the only thing she has going for her is her late grandfather’s chicken farm, which comes with molting hens that won’t lay, one irascible rooster, and a huge mortgage held by a ruthless opponent—her Great Aunt Nedda.

With fewer eggs to sell, MG needs extra money, fast. Even if it means carving out time for a job as a prep cook at The Rose—and resisting her attraction to its sexy head chef.

Joe LeBlanc has problems of his own. He’s got a kitchen full of temperamental cooks—one of whom is a sneak thief—a demanding cooking competition to prepare for, and an attraction to MG that could easily boil over into something tasty. If he could figure out the cause of the shy beauty’s lack of self confidence.

In Joe’s arms, MG’s heart begins to find its voice. But between kitchen thieves, performance anxiety, saucy saboteurs, greedy relatives, and one very pissed-off rooster, the chances of them ever making sweet music are looking slimmer by the day.

Warning: Contains hot kitchen sex, cool Americana music, foodie hysteria, and a whole lot of fowl play.

Buy link: http://store.samhainpublishing.com/fearless-love-p-7011.html

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Fearless LoveToday six sentences from Fearless Love, my next Konigsburg book, released this Tuesday by Samhain! It’s from the first meeting of my hero and heroine. She’s being pursued by an angry rooster, and he’s being a nice guy.

The man standing on the other side of the fence was massive, or maybe he only seemed massive because he was blocking her path to freedom. His bald head shone with perspiration, along with his forehead and his biceps—even his short beard and moustache looked damp. Now that she got a good look at him, she could see the sweat marks on his T-shirt stretching down his broad chest: Running shorts, New Balance shoes, okay, that at least explained what the hell he was doing up and around this early in the morning, although how he came to be standing outside her chicken yard was still a bit of a mystery.

“Who are you?” she blurted.

He gave her a lazy grin. “Darlin’ you’re being attacked by a rooster; does it really matter who’s getting you out of there?”

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Selling the Jerk

GrandmaYou’ve all probably see the commercial that inspired this particular rant—it’s the one for Direct TV’s moving package. As the scene opens we see a man, let’s call him Mover Guy, loading a U-Haul truck, obviously in the process of moving himself. Another man, let’s call him Neighbor Guy, arrives and (after declining to help Mover Guy), takes a seat on a carton. Mover Guy reminds Neighbor Guy that he owes him $500 (leading me to believe that Neighbor Guy is actually Brother-In-Law Guy since I can’t believe anybody would loan this moron five hundred bucks otherwise). Neighbor Guy begins to extol the wonders of Direct TV’s moving package which will allow Mover Guy to get connected at his new place. At one point Neighbor Guy consults something written on his palm so that he can get the name of the package right, making it clear that this is all A Plan. At the end of his spiel he points out that this moving package is worth more than five hundred and that it’s free, so, he says triumphantly, “it’s like you owe me.” Mover Guy grins to himself and shakes his head while Neighbor Guy does a triumphant dance in the background.

I hate this commercial on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start. First of all, of course, Neighbor Guy is so obnoxious you want to reach through the television screen and throttle him. But more than that, you want to shake Mover Guy so hard that his teeth rattle. You want him to turn to Neighbor Guy and say, “No, Chuck, you still owe me the five hundred. And if you don’t pay up before I leave town, I’ll send over my friend Big Vinnie to break your kneecaps.” You want the commercial to end with anything other than the Triumph Of the Jerk.

I’ve never been clear on the logic behind commercials where the representative of the product is a jerk. This isn’t the only one out there. For example, there’s the one for Athenos hummus where the unbelievably nasty Greek granny calls a girl a prostitute because of her (not particularly revealing) dress. Then we’re supposed to want to buy the hummus because Granny the Bitch likes it. I’ve never taken a course in advertising, but it seems to me that you want your product to be identified with admirable people since you want potential buyers to get the message that if they buy your product they’ll be admirable too. Jerk commercials, on the other hand, seem to imply that if you buy a certain product, you’ll be one with jerks everywhere. Is that really the right message to send?

But of course an advertising person would point out that the whole point of any ad is to make you remember the product. You may forget the ad itself over time, but with any luck you’ll remember the product name, and that’s the point. Apparently, even if you hate ads like these, the logic is that you’ll remember Direct TV and Athenos because of your strong reaction. And that’s supposed to be good.

I really hope that isn’t the case, although I can’t guarantee that it isn’t. I don’t have cable or satellite, so there’s little chance that I’ll be buying Direct TV in the near future, but this commercial is enough to put me off if for life. And frankly, I didn’t even remember that the annoying Athenos commercial was for hummus (I thought it was for yogurt)—all I remembered was how offensive Grandma was. I’m so annoyed by these commercials, in fact, that I’m willing to take a pledge never to buy these products if I can possibly avoid it.

My reasoning? I run into enough jerks on the highways of our fair city. I don’t need to run into more of them on my TV. And they sure as hell don’t make me want to buy the products they’re pushing.

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