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Archive for July, 2013

Medium RareOn August 20, three weeks from today, Medium Rare. the second book in my Ramos Family Trilogy is released from Berkley InterMix. To celebrate, I’m giving away three copies of Medium Well, the first book in the trilogy, to a randomly chosen commenter, one per week. To be entered, leave a comment (and your email address so that I can get in touch with you).

All three Ramos siblings are reluctant mediums—Mom neglected to tell them just what they were getting into. The heroine of Medium Rare, Rosie Ramos, discovers her supernatural power the night she moves into the house she’s inherited from her grandmother. It turns out the house isn’t the only thing she’s inherited from Granny Riordan. Here’s a taste of Rosie’s new status in Medium Rare:

“Who’s there?” she called and then felt like kicking herself. Nothing like letting the potential burglar-rapist–serial killer know you were awake and aware that he was there.

“Good evening.” The voice was faintly accented, slightly British, definitely masculine and . . . vaguely familiar.

Rose peered into the darkness at the corners of the room. A lot of darkness, actually. More darkness than she’d been aware of before. In fact, it was the darkest freakin’ bedroom she’d ever been in.

Not what she’d call a plus at the moment.

Her hand scrabbled around the night table, trying to find her cell phone. She flipped it open, squinting at the keys in the darkness.

“Please don’t bother,” the invisible man said. “You don’t need the police. Besides, you’ll find you can’t get service in here right now.”

Rose stared down at the glowing screen. No bars. How the hell could she have no bars? She’d just made a call this afternoon from the living room.

“Sorry,” the man said mildly. “It’s me. You won’t be able to get service while I’m in the room with you.”

She took a deep breath, lowering the phone to the spread. Calm, stay calm. “Where are you? Step out where I can see you. And do it slowly—I’m armed.” She picked up her book, a hardback fortunately. Assuming she could hit him, he’d probably have a lump.

“Throwing things at me won’t have any effect. Except to increase your own sense of satisfaction, of course.”

She gritted her teeth. She really hated being the straight man in this exchange. “Show yourself anyway.”

“I already have. You’re just not looking in the right place.”

Rose licked her lips. Okay. You’re okay. “Give me a hint.”

“Look up.”

She raised her gaze slowly to the ceiling of the room. At the far end, something glowed a dim yellow-green, like some kind of night-light. She squinted. The yellow light became a blob, then seemed to elongate, becoming vertical, stretching from the ceiling halfway to the floor, perhaps five feet or so. Slowly, the light began to change, becoming bluish white, then gray, then resolving, very slowly into the outline of a figure.

Rose’s hands closed tightly on the coverlet. Her breath seemed to catch in her throat as her pulse hammered.

The figure became more clear. A man. Shortish. Stocky. Wearing a blue jumpsuit with a white undershirt showing at the V-neck. Hair slicked back, high forehead, deep-set eyes . . . Holy shit! A deeply satisfying wave of exasperation washed over her.

“Hannibal Lecter?” she snapped. “Really? Are you kidding me? Hannibal Lecter? What kind of sick joke is this? Get the fuck out of my bedroom!” Amazing how the combination of terror and annoyance made her sound like she was in control.

Hannibal Lecter floated a couple of feet away from the foot of her bed. His expression seemed vaguely disgruntled. “I was trying to find an appearance you were familiar with. I thought you’d like it.”

“Who are you?” She took another deep breath, trying to slow down her pulse. “And why exactly shouldn’t I just get the hell out of here right now?”

“If you walk out now, you’ll never know why I’m here, will you? And don’t tell me you don’t want to know.” Hannibal moved back a few paces. “Give me a moment and I’ll come up with something else.”

Lecter’s face became indistinct, the edges softening, blurring, then disappearing altogether. Slowly, he became a blob of light again. Rose stared, feeling slightly giddy, as if she’d been holding her breath too long. After a moment, the light elongated again, new features appearing in the face. Instead of the blue jumpsuit, the man now wore a tuxedo. The face was long and narrow, the hair parted at the side, nose slightly bulbous, narrow mouth spread in a faint smile. He raised an eyebrow. “Better?”

“I suppose. Who are you now?”

“George Sanders as Addison DeWitt. Won an Academy Award for All About Eve, one of the greatest motion pictures of all time. Your generation has forgotten him. Typical.” He had a pronounced British accent.

“All right.” Rose flexed her fingers, letting the spread drop. “So who are you really? And why are you here? And when will you go away?”

“To begin with your last question, I’ll go away after we’ve had our little talk.” George whatever-he-was reached into his pocket and extracted a cigarette in a cigarette holder. It was already lighted. He inhaled deeply and blew a cloud of smoke at the ceiling.

“Don’t smoke in here,” Rose said automatically.

George gave her a patronizing smile. “I hardly think this smoke will bother you.”

“So what are you—a ghost?”

George frowned slightly. “In a manner of speaking. I suppose it’s easiest if you think of me that way.”

“Are you haunting this house? Did you die here?”

He blew another cloud of smoke. “I died elsewhere. A very long time ago. And as for haunting this house, no. If you leave this house, so will I. I suppose you could say I’m haunting you.”

Remember: Leave a comment and be entered to win Medium Well!

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Me at a signingI just got back from the 2013 Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta. It’s still too soon for me to make any kind of coherent statement, but I can describe a few memories while they’re fresh.

1. Atlanta may be lovely—I don’t really know. I spent most of my time in the Marriott trying to figure out the room numbering system for workshops. This always seems to happen at conferences and it’s largely our own fault. We romance writers schedule a little free time at the beginning or end of conferences, but it’s never enough. Once the conference starts, it’s all conference all the time. The furthest I ventured from the hotel was the terrific pub where my roommate and I went to grab dinner one night, and that was maybe a block away.

2. The number of workshops at RWA is absolutely overwhelming. Even if you’re conservative and give yourself time for lunch and bathroom breaks, you’ll still reach a point where you can only groan. I wanted to go to a workshop right after my Berkley signing, but frankly I just didn’t have the stamina. I know I missed a lot of good stuff, but boy did I enjoy the ones I did manage to make.

3. There doesn’t seem to be as much promo pressure at RWA as there is at RT. Don’t get me wrong—there’s a Goody Room and I gave away three bags of book thongs. But since most attendees are writers rather than readers, you don’t have as much relentless anxiety about promoting your books all the time. You can sit in workshops as just one writer among many, listening to advice and information without feeling like you have to be out there selling every minute.

4. The famous writers tend to blend into the flow, amazingly enough. Nora Roberts dances to Bon Jovi at the Harlequin party just like everybody else. Jayne Anne Krentz rides the same elevators. Susan Elizabeth Phillips schlepps her own luggage. It’s sort of exhilarating to be reminded that not all big timers have multiple assistants and bodyguards to smooth the way.

5. On the same note, it’s reassuring to listen to famous writers describe the same dilemmas that most of us have. Nora Roberts sometimes has problems getting started. Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes way too slowly. Tessa Dare worries about disappointing her editors. You’re not alone, people! We all do it.

6. Parties are excruciating for shy people like me, but they’re also fun. I went by myself to the Berkley party and found several folks to talk to. In fact, I had a ten-minute conversation with one of my idols, Jo Beverley, which absolutely made my night.

7. You meet idiots everywhere, though. One agent asked me who I wrote for and when I said Samhain and Berkley InterMix, she observed, “But you’re not making any money.” Note to aspiring writers. If your agent is so clueless that she still thinks digital books don’t sell, you need to move on.

8. RWA is not RT—it’s more business-focused. But they still know how to party. The Samhain bash after the RITAs was a blast even though my roommate and I had to leave after an hour because of early flights the next day.

So come. Next year RWA is in San Antonio and RT is in New Orleans. It will be a great chance to see what conferences are like and enjoy vibrant cities at the same time. I’ll be there at both. Stop by and say howdy!

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My Ten Best

casablancaA couple of weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly hit a new level on the hubris meter: they listed the 100 best in a variety of entertainment categories, movies, television, plays, music, and books (and therein lies another blog post). Predictably, I disagree with a lot of their choices, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. Everybody has their own hundred best. There is no ultimate list, no matter what Entertainment Weekly says. So in  the interests of screwing with the Establishment, I’ve come up with my own ten best movies list—not twenty-five, not fifty, not a hundred. I make no promises that it’s final, and I should point out that it’s my list rather than the list. I say this to forestall any complaints from Citizen Kane/Gone With the Wind/Titanic proponents. Y’all undoubtedly would have different choices on your list.

1. Casablanca. The ultimate “movie movie”. If you’ve never seen it (and I didn’t until I was in college), you owe it to yourself to check it out. Crisp dialog, twisting plot, and a great hero. And yeah, I know I’ve called it the ultimate guy romance in the past, but that still doesn’t ruin it for me. It just works on most of the levels movies are supposed to work on.

2. Goodfellas. The movie that made me love Martin Scorsese. Yes, it’s violent—very, very violent. But it’s full of exuberance and energy and bouncy film technique, with possibly the best use of soundtrack songs ever. It’s a spectacularly well-made movie, with the longest panning shot I know (don’t tell me Touch of Evil; Scorsese does it better).

3. The Silence of the Lambs. You may remember this as another ultra violent movie, but you’d be wrong. There’s really only one very violent scene, and it’s absolutely necessary for the plot. The rest of the movie is all about dread, and it’s maybe the most fearful movie ever made. Plus it has a wonderful performance from Jodie Foster, one that simultaneously emphasizes her vulnerability and her strength.

4. Julie and Julia. Nora Ephron’s best as far as I’m concerned. About food and love and female accomplishment. And Meryl Streep is sublime as Julia Child.

5. Bullitt. Why I love Steve McQueen. The plot is so twisty that Robert Vaughn (who played one of the villains) says he didn’t understand it even after they finished making it, but this is the ultimate hero movie. Just relax and watch McQueen be McQueen.

6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid/The Sting. Don’t make me choose—I just can’t. Newman and Redford were the ultimate buddies who made “buddy movies” possible, and none of the others ever touched these two. Plus both movies are shot beautifully by George Roy Hill—I live nearby some of the settings for Butch Cassidy and Hill did a marvelous job.

7. Nashville. There were a lot of Robert Altman movies I revered and some I didn’t like much, but Nashville sums up his multi-character, overlapping plot structure better than any other. And the underlying message about politics and entertainment still holds up today if you can ignore the seventies fashions and hairdos.

8. Some Like It Hot. Go ahead—watch it without laughing. I dare you. That slumber party scene on the train may be sexist as hell, but it’s also freakin’ hilarious. Billy Wilder’s greatest (and yeah, I’m including Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity).

9. Singing in the Rain. Tart, fast, funny and the ideal musical. Yes, I know Gene Kelly wasn’t as nice as he seems to be on screen. So what? It’s still great.

10. North By Northwest. Hitchcock fanatics may prefer Vertigo. But this one has humor and thrills and iconic scenes (the crop duster, the chase across Mt. Rushmore). And Cary Grant playing a weaselly advertising man who’s redeemed by chaos.

So those are my ten best. Feel free to disagree. Feel free to add your own. Feel free to comment on the idiocy of anybody coming up with a “ten best” that purports to be anything other that a list of personal favorites. I make no claims to the ultimate here, but all of these movies are worth seeing. Trust me.

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