And the Winners Are

Rhonda, Penney and Sally J. Walker each won a signed copy of TO BE SEDUCED!  Congratulations and thank you for taking the time to comment; it was much appreciated.

You can use the ‘Contact Me’ page to email your mailing address.  I’ll get copies out as soon as I know where to send them!

Warmly, Ann

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I Didn’t do this Alone

Following the good example of Cheryl St. John, I’m going to celebrate the arrival of my first copies of TO BE SEDUCED by thanking the people who have encouraged me, advised me, and helped me on the way to holding my own book in my hands.  (A real book! With pages and words and everything!)

Sally J. Walker is a walking cheerleader for anyone who wants to write seriously.  A storyteller from childhood, she has moderated and prepared lessons for our weekly critique group since before I joined.  Her passion for the written word  in books, screenplays and poetry helped me take myself seriously as a writer.  Thank you, m’lady.  Your energy is a constant inspiration.

HRM Johnnye Gephardt’s autocratic slash and burn of unnecessary adjectives, her brutal assessment of passages as ‘boring’ and keen ear for repetition and clichés is painful and yet welcome.  I will delay my assassination attempts long enough to curtsy in gratitude and roll my eyes across the floor to Your Majesty.  May you strike terror into our pens for many years to come.

Kimberly Stokely’s encouragement keeps me going even when I want to give up and never wrestle with another word again.  If a writer as good as she is likes my stuff, I guess I don’t suck completely.  You can get an idea of her ability in the Jan/Feb issue of the Writer’s Journal, where she won the 2009 Romance Contest.  Kim, when you get your first book deal, you will leave the rest of us in the dust.  The cheering behind you will be me.

Cheryl St. John is one of those authors who seems to offer support and good advice as easily as she breathes.  Over the last year, she has dropped so many helpful nuggets into the lap of this new author.  I’ve learned to listen when you speak.

Jim McGowan, Cher Powell, Aaron Loyd, and Patti Lynn are fellow writers whose words inspire me, both in their own writing and their critiques of mine.

Peter Senftleben of Kensington Books has guided me through the publication process with unfailing courtesy and patience.  It has truly been a blessing to work with you.

Post a comment below about anyone who has helped, mentored or encouraged you.  I’ll draw three names to get one free copy each of TO BE SEDUCED and post them Tuesday 1/27/2010.

Alpha Males and Cheese Fondue

Okay, whatever mental picture you just conjured up, this article is probably not about that.

Heroic qualities have been on my mind lately, mostly because I’m writing a hero that I don’t think will come off as alpha  right away.  He’s actually a decent guy with heavy baggage, while my heroine is the loner with a black reputation.  I’m in that place where I’m worried the characters who have presented themselves to me won’t sell.  I know, everyone says to write what’s in your heart, but I’d be really thrilled if I could contribute significantly to our part of the college tuition bills.

To keep from spinning my wheels over characters I know I’m going to write anyway, I read this cheese fondue recipe at One for the Table.  It called forth a lot of memories.  My parents discovered fondue while my dad was stationed in Europe and we ate it often.  When I married, I registered for a fondue pot like my mom’s, but alas, did not get one.  I still have the same DH though, so everything turned out all right.

Fortunately, while in France a few years later on our delayed honeymoon, I discovered a marvelous fondue set.  Handsome red enamel, unyielding cast iron, strong enough for meat fondue and gentle enough for melting cheese.  It was the fondue pot of my dreams, and I wanted him — um, it — the moment I saw it in the store window.

My DH  acquiesced to my demands to obtain it, or rather an identical twin boxed up on the shelf inside.  (I only wanted the pot for its physical attributes.  Shallow but true.)  We emerged triumphantly from the store with my new love clutched to my bosom, and headed back to DH’s second cousin’s house.

This relative lives a good distance away from the small town where we made our purchase.  DH and I had enjoyed time alone on a bright summer day as we strolled in.  On the walk back, however, the fondue pot had joined us.  The cast iron fondue pot.  The sucker got heavier with every block we passed.

No one looks at my DH and thinks ‘alpha!’.  He wears glasses.  He insists on a conservative haircut due to his job, and prefers suits and ties to open shirts and tight jeans.  It took him awhile to figure out that the fondue pot was causing my shoulders and back to ache, probably because the first seven times he asked if he should carry it, I said “No, it’s fine.”

Eventually, he took the box and carried it the rest of the way back to his second cousin’s.  He also had to take it to the post office and the railway station to try and ship it back to the U.S.  Thanks to convoluted French regulations in place at the time, he ended up carrying it onto the plane  (before 9/11 you could still do that) and argue with customs in New Jersey to get it into the country.  He hated that fondue set, but he put up with so much inconvenience because it was important to me.  Which in my mind makes DH an Alpha Plus.

As for the hero of my WIP, I still think he qualifies as alpha.  He’s a master strategist who knows what he wants and goes after it.  He accepts the responsibilities life has handed to him.  Besides courage and determination, he also possess an innate sense of fairness, and he is fiercely protective of the people he loves.  He also responds to the heroine like no other man, and needs her as desperately as she needs him.  And he would totally lug a fondue pot halfway across Europe for her.

Misdirected link for earthquake relief

The one time I did not check a link before I sent it out on Twitter, it did not direct people to where I intended.  Instead they were sent to this blog looking for links to this article in the Huffington Post.  Please read the article, and if you find an organization you consider trustworthy, make a donation.  The loss of life will continue as Haitians suffer without clean water, food, shelter and medical aid.

I am heartsick at the devastation shown in pictures and videos, and would never, never use a tragedy of this magnitude for something as trivial as self-promotion.

Three weeks out…

It’s been nearly two years since I sent out the first chapter of my first book to a writer’s contest.  As God is my witness, I was only looking for more feedback!

Believe me, I’m not complaining about getting my first sale, but I thought it would take a lot longer.  And that I’d have more time to prepare myself for the publicity hat authors need to wear.  That said, these days I alternate between anticipation of seeing my book in stores and hyperventilating with fear that no one will like it.

(Yeah, my mind works that way.  I can find the dark cloud in any silver lining — my DH says it’s my special gift.  Just wish he’d quit rolling his eyes when he says so.)

I digress, however.  The first chapter of To be Seduced hasn’t changed much since I first mailed it out two years ago.  Here’s an excerpt:

“I regret to inform you, Mistress Dallison, that you will be coming with me.”  He knocked on the roof again.

“I — beg — your pardon?”  Dumbstruck, Bethany scarcely noticed as the vehicle lurched into motion.

“You will accompany me to my estate in Yorkshire, where we will be married.”  His matter-of-fact tone did not stop the air rushing out of her lungs in shock.  He looked at her sympathetically.  “I’m very sorry, my dear.  But I need a great deal of money very quickly, and you are the most accessible heiress of my acquaintance.”

He continued to observe her minutely during the long pause that ensued.  When she lunged to wrest the door open, he hand shot out to capture her wrist easily.

“No.”  The softly spoken word belied his iron grip.  Trying to pull away from him only resulted in an agonizing stab up her arm, and Bethany yelped in pain and anger.

He released her at once, only to move across to her side and examine her slender wrist in the light of the window.  “I apologize, madam.”  He looked at her ruefully.  “I did not realize you have such delicate bone structure.”  He looked bemused as his gloved thumb and forefinger encircled her wrist.

She froze as his hand slowly moved to her face.  His leather-clad fingertips grazed her cheekbone as his eyes looked soberly into hers.  Bethany caught her breath at the intimate touch, but a blaze of outrage cleared her mind.

The arrogant blackguard was trying to seduce her!  She glared at him.  “Get away from me and stop the coach at once.  I am most certainly not going to marry you.”

Instead, he released her and leaned back against the seat at her side.  “I believe you will have no other choice.  Rest assured, I have no desire to harm you, but after two days and a night in my company, the world will assume the worst.  You will either become Lady Harcourt or you will be ruined.”  Glancing her way at last, he raised his eyebrows suggestively.  “A title and an estate, my dear.  Many other females would snap me up without hesitation.”

As you see, Richard needs to be taken down a notch or two.  Fortunately, Bethany is the woman who can do just that.

Happy Twelfth Night!

No, not the play by Shakespeare, though it is named for the holiday.

Starting in the Middle Ages, Twelfth Night referred to the last of the twelve days that make up Christmas.  You know, like in the carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas.   It is celebrated January 5th, the Eve of the Epiphany, or on Epiphany itself, January 6th.

The holiday ended two weeks of revelry and role reversal.  Led by a Lord of Misrule, often someone of low status within the household, servants dressed as their masters.  Both men and women cross-dressed.  Songs and mummery entertained the wealthy, and everyone feasted.  Cooks prepared special food and drink, such as wassail and a King Cake.  In England, a bean and a pea were baked into a ‘plum cake’.  (This sounds like a precursor of the plum pudding of Dickens’ day.) Whoever found the bean won the title of King, while the recipient of the pea would be Queen.  If a woman found the bean in her slice, she was allowed to choose the King, and a man who found the pea chose the Queen.

Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Mexico have versions of the King Cake, with coins, tokens, or beans hidden inside.  There are references to Twelfth Night cakes in English cookbooks in Victorian times, and my mother-in-law speaks fondly of the King Cakes eaten during her childhood in France.

Although To be Seduced opens shortly after Twelfth Night, there is no mention of the holiday in the book.  My heroine was raised in a Puritan household, and they did not celebrate any part of the Christmas season.  As the Bible does not mention that the early Christians commemorated the birth of Christ, they considered it unseemly to acknowledge it.  And they objected strenuously to the secularization of Christmas — some things never change!  Under Cromwell, celebrating Christmas was outlawed.

My family’s Twelfth Night dinner ends with a cake of whatever flavor takes the cook’s fancy, with a quarter baked in. When my youngest was a toddler, I figured the quarter would be easy to find and hard to swallow!  As it is, the poor child didn’t get an uncrumbled slice of cake till she was about eight.  Whoever finds the coin is King or Queen and gets to (read: must) wear a paper crown for the rest of the night.  And our tradition is rippling outward now.  My oldest started throwing Twelfth Night parties in high school, and one of her college friends has asked about plans for the 2010 party.

Remember, if you decide to try a King Cake, TELL EVERYONE TO TAKE SMALL BITES!!  (Seriously! I almost choked on a penny when I was a kid!!)

Here is a link for a modernized version of a medieval King Cake.

And here is an eighteenth century recipe that looks like a plum pudding.

Twelfth Night,or King and Queen

Now, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where Bean’s the King of the sport here;
Beside we must know
The Pea also
Must revel, as Queen, in the Court here.

Begin then to choose,
(This night as ye use)
Who shall for the present delight here.
Be a King by the lot
And who shall not
Be Twelfth-day Queen for the night here.

Which known, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg’d will not drink
To the base from the brink
A health to the King and the Queen here.

Next crown the bowl full
With gentle lambs-wool;
Add sugar, nutmeg and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.

Give then to the King
And Queen wassailing;
And though with ale ye be wet here;
Yet part ye from hence,
As free from offence
As when ye innocent met here.
– Robert Herrick, 1648