Highballs for all my friends!

Okay, with the upcoming release of Highballs in the Hamptons, I’ve actually been asked a couple times: What the heck is a highball?

It’s a fair question.

Those of you who’ve been reading my books for a while might have picked up on a theme… I write the WINE country romances, right? And my first book in the Girlfriends series was Men and MARTINIS, right? Are you seeing a pattern here?

It’s fair to say that I enjoy an evening cocktail or glass of wine. More than fair to say that, really.

So it’ll come as no surprise, I’m sure, that a highball is a cocktail. Kind of an old school throwback, really, and there’s a reason for that. Natalie Pepper and the other Girlfriends of Gotham were living large in NYC in the late nineties. It was a time of excess – not exactly Studio 54, but there was a fair bit of youthful entitlement being bandied about by those in their early and mid-twenties. That was all a result of the big titles, easy money and ridiculous success running in the streets thanks to the advent of the Internet. (Hard to believe that ever didn’t exist, eh?)

Anyway, those kids (and I can call them kids because I was one, and when I look back…man, we were young.) So those kids were kind of fancying themselves to be the new jet set, kind of rat pack NYC throwbacks. Lots of trends were retro at that point, and one of them was cocktails. Despite the additions of some new ones — Cosmo, anyone? Lots of folks were getting into old school manhattans (my current favorite drink, actually!) and gimlets and Tom Collins’s’s’ssss (may I just say how much I HATE having to pluralize names ending in S???)

So, in honor of all that, Book 2 is called Highballs in the Hamptons. And it’s a fun book. I hope you’ll read it.

But even if you don’t, I hope you’ll try a highball!

There’s no real trick to it — fill a glass with ice and add a couple shots of whiskey. Fill the rest with Ginger Ale, and guess what? You’ve got a highball!

Enjoy!

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Doing the Wrong Thing

I’ve been in a slump. It’s been hard to take because I’ve been more productive in the last two years than I’ve been in my life. And I guess I knew it couldn’t last…

The thing is…I have some deadlines looming. And instead of focusing on those, I kind of got off track. I’ve been writing something completely new. It’s not part of any series that I’m working on, and it isn’t like anything else I’ve written. It’s mainstream, I think – not quite literary, but not genre… But it doesn’t matter. Because it has no ending and I’m disillusioned and I have to put it aside.

To be honest, this happens with every book I write. I hit about 2/3 of the way through and become disenchanted. I tell myself that the whole thing is crap, that it all sucks and that I should quit. And then I power through and finish it and turn it in, or publish it, and everything works out in whatever way it will… But I don’t have the time to power through with this one. I’ll have to come back to it…some day.

Because I have a second book in the series for Carina UK to write. And I have the third Girlfriends of Gotham for Swoon to write. And I have a third Wine Country Romance novel to write. And no one anywhere is waiting for this other book. So it’ll have to wait.

I decided this last night. Because with school getting ready to start again, and summer marching toward a conclusion, I’ve come to realize that having a book due October 1st means I ought to probably be working on it. And so this morning I began. I pulled up a brand new project in Scrivener, loaded my synopsis and got up at too-effing-early o’clock to begin a whole new novel.

And do you know what happened? It changed my whole day. My whole attitude. Maybe it was because it’s a shiny and new project. And any writer will tell you that it’s easy to find energy for projects that are shiny and new. But I think it’s because I know someone is expecting it. And because I know where it’s headed.

The new project was an effort at pantsing. And being a complete planner in every other aspect of my life, I’m not sure why I thought that not planning a novel would work out for me. But I’m hoping that at some point I’m going to decide that I learned valuable lessons from the effort. And that someday that novel won’t be on the backburner. Because there are parts of it that I really love and think are wonderful.

But for today…I’m back in the 1920s, writing about an Upper East Side deb that is doing things that are definitely not what her parents had planned for her…

Are you a planner or a pantser? Do you think that once you’ve gone one way or the other you can’t ever be the other? I haven’t decided…

The Themes in Our Lives

I have a new post up today over at Operation Awesome about themes in fiction. I wrote it a week or so ago, and it’s funny how this idea of a central message keeps popping up in strange places. I went to a meeting last night of the Maryland Writers’ Association where I live, and the speaker — who is a playwright — touched on this, too. Her point was that every play she writes must have something universal running through it, something that anyone can relate to. The theme is what makes a piece part of the human experience, or identifiable to most people. I’m kind of obsessed with this concept at the moment — maybe it’s because I’m currently procrastinating like a BOSS. 

I started something new about two months ago. But I’m in that last third, that sticky part where you question everything in the last 20k words and wonder what the hell you’re doing. I always feel that way at this point in a book, but this one has been harder. Because this is a whole different kind of book. It’s not a romance, exactly. There is a romance in the story, but this is a different kind of story than the others I’ve written before. More literary, more lyrical. And that makes it harder because I don’t have any footprints to follow to get where I need to go on this one. My other books — the romances — generally contain some tropes, so those give me a lot of clues about what will happen. And romance usually follows a predictable arc to some degree. 

And I have to put the new thing aside because I’ve got a book due to Carina UK in October. And the second book in the Girlfriends of Gotham series publishes September 30th with Swoon, and I owe them the third and final in that series in December. And I’ve got a third Wine Country Book spinning around in my head and I know I need to get that bad boy on paper. And then there’s the new project that sits in the corner and seethes while I do all these other things. And I’ve got a shiny new editing project for one of my very favorite authors, Sarina Bowen. I’m diving into that this weekend and will have to constantly remind myself that I’m EDITING. Not reading for pleasure. But her books are… man, I just love them. 

Maybe that’s the theme in my life right now. Something in there – procrastination? No, more like planning. In my writing life and beyond, the end of summer seems like time for planning for all that comes when fall arrives. What’s the theme in your life at the moment?

New Cover Reveal! Forgotten Fairytales

There’s a great book out by a friend — Angela Parkhurst. If you like fairytale retellings, give this one a try. And she’s got a snazzy new cover that I can’t stop staring at!

Here’s the description:

Once upon a time, seventeen-year-old Norah Hart believed in the lure of fairy tales and happily ever afters. That was before she was forced to live in a fairy tale nightmare.

A psychotic, couture-clad, shoe obsessed Princess.
A not-so-charming, alcoholic Prince.
A hot Big Bad Wolf that she absolutely cannot fall for—no matter how well he kisses.

If Norah had known she’d be attending a boarding school for the nut job reincarnations of fairy tale characters, she would have insisted on going to Moscow with her father. But getting out isn’t as easy as she thought. Especially once Norah realizes she, too, is a storybook character. An Unknown. The first one in history. Soon Norah learns she has the ability to rewrite the stories, putting everyone’s Happily Ever After in jeopardy. Some princesses will do whatever it takes to protect their endings. Even if it means betraying the one closest to you.

And here’s the gorgeous new cover!

ForgottenFairytales ebook

And here’s everything you need to go grab your copy!

A Busy Summer Ahead

The weather’s warming up, the kids are excited to get out of school (though really, I can’t figure out why… since I work, they’ll just be headed off to a different variety of “school”… but don’t tell them that!) Anyway, I’ve got a few commitments coming to an end, and am starting to look forward to some freedom.

I think I talk a lot — or at least I think a lot — about making choices to keep life in balance. I didn’t do a great job of that this year. I let work get very stressful, which isn’t my norm at all. I’ve been president of our local writers’ group, and also served on the PTA (mostly to become known around the school and hopefully earn my little troublemaker another chance or two before he gets suspended from first grade!!) But it’s been a lot. And I missed a publication date that I just couldn’t make because I’ve been kind of chronically stressed.

But I’m stepping down from the writers’ group and PTA ends when the school year does… and I’m looking forward to having fewer people counting on me.

I’ve got a new Wine Country novella coming out next month, and the second book in The Company series is well underway and slated for August. Wine Country 3 is already plotted, and the second Girlfriends of Gotham (Highballs in the Hamptons!) should be out in the fall. I have a two book deal with Carina UK that I’m excited about, but it’s looking like those books might be out next year, so it’s a bit on the back burner at the moment.

The point is, as other things are winding down, I’m getting a burst of energy to get back to writing. And I’ve even managed to make myself work out again. For a former personal trainer, the loss of strength training in my life has been kind of personally shocking…

I hope that you’ve got good things planned for the summer too!

Gifts and Prizes and Books, Oh My!

I’m so excited to be doing my first official book signing this month at Book Expo America! I’m very flattered that my publisher, Swoon Romance, thought readers would be excited enough about my Girlfriends of Gotham series to come out and see me. Of course there is always the chance that I’ll be sitting at the table, pen poised, quietly waiting… for an hour… and then I’ll go home.

In an effort to ensure that doesn’t happen, I’ve devised a way to entice people to my table… You know, a reason beyond my fresh breath and sparkling personality… A GIFT basket that SOMEONE will win!

What’s in it, you ask? Well, let me tell you…

  • There’s a fancy hand-painted Lolita martini glass…
  • A pair of sterling earrings that look like little red wine glasses
  • A set of Ann Taintor coasters
  • A cute desk sign that says “It’s okay to have too much fun”
  • A set of designer stationery and matching pen
  • A cute pink tin of “flirt” gum
  • A fun set of cocktail napkins that says “I’d rather drink my martini than put on my bikini”

Fun, right? If you want to win it, you need to drop by and see me at the Swoon booth (PDZ638) on Friday, May 30 at 2pm!

Check out the goods:

BEA Basket

Sneak Peek at ADAGIO

Hi guys! I’m releasing ADAGIO on May 15th, and I can’t wait for you to see the inside world of the Union Ballet Company and meet Cain and Anna.

Just for fun, I thought I’d give you a quick glimpse now… Don’t forget, you can add the book on Goodreads right now! And the giveaway is still on over on my Facebook page. Go leave a comment telling me your most recent favorite book for a chance to win one of five fantastic recent releases!

Here’s your sneak peek:

CAIN

Cain Gilliam took his usual place at the barre in the center of the cold studio and tried to will away the headache that was thumping just behind his eyes. Hal and Ian, his roommates, took spots on the other side of the barre. It was nine o’clock in the morning, and Cain realized that it wasn’t that early — unless you’d spent the night before playing quarters and doing shots. And the three of them had. Cain moved slowly, stretching his muscles quietly in the few moments before class started.

“Cain,” Hal’s gruff voice forced Cain to open his eyes again, breaking the concentration he’d started to find — concentration he’d need for class. “Fresh meat.” Hal gestured to a willowy dark-haired girl taking a spot at the side of the room, on one of the barres attached to the wall. Her hair was swept back in a tight bun, and she wore black from head to toe, her thin muscles sheathed in tights and a leotard, a dark sweater tied in the front. She looked around through huge, fierce dark eyes as she adjusted her pointe shoes and pulled on a leg warmer at one knee.

“Huh.” Cain watched her as he stretched. She’d taken a spot at the veteran barre, which would surely prove to be a problem. For her. Dancers at Union were very territorial and superstitious — and they weren’t above being downright bitchy. “Should we warn her?”

“Nah.” Hal grinned, his dark eyes lighting up under the wavy blond hair.

“Boys,” Ian said, sounding bored as he leaned in to whisper to them. “That’s Anna. She’s been at the company school for the past two years.”

“Any good?” Cain asked.

Ian gave a disinterested shrug. It took a lot for Ian to notice women in any more than a cursory way.

“Did you know she was moving up?” Hal asked.

“Knew she was ambitious.” Ian stretched his shoulders as he spoke. “She auditioned last week, and I heard talk around the staff that she met him after the audition was over.”

Hal chuckled. “Guess he gave her a private audition.”

Hal’s comment irritated Cain for some reason, but he couldn’t figure out exactly why. He shook his head and turned his attention away from the new girl. She was pretty, he had to admit, and there was something vulnerable in her that he didn’t doubt played well on the stage. But, Cain reminded himself, most ballerinas were pretty. Unlike Hal, who was busily sleeping his way through the corps, Cain didn’t date dancers. At least not anymore. They were neurotic, anal, and generally difficult. And those were the ones he liked.

He tried to focus on stretching, but as the scene in front of him began to unfold, it was hard not to watch. Julianna Devereaux, the prima ballerina at Union Ballet, took a spot in front of the new girl. Inches in front of her. There was no way Anna could know she was on the wrong barre, but she was about to find out.

A perturbed look crossed her face as she looked up from her stretch, and then she clearly recognized Julianna and took two steps back, giving the prima space. Seconds later, Erica Forbes, a demi-soloist with a notoriously bad attitude, took her usual spot, about one inch behind the new girl. She turned her body and allowed her hip to press Anna’s back, causing the new girl to jump and step forward, into Julianna.

“This isn’t your spot.” Erica’s voice was nasty and loud enough to attract the attention of the rest of the company.

Julianna turned to look, but gave Anna no more than a cold up and down gaze before taking a step back and turning back around.

Cain cringed. He hated dancer politics. If Anna chose to stand her ground, which she had every right to do, she’d be forced to dance in about six inches of space. And neither Erica nor Julianna would be able to really take class either, but he knew they would stand firm just to make a point.

“Christ,” he breathed, as Anna looked around the room, her dark eyes blazing. He stood and walked toward her. “Hey,” he said in a low voice, smiling. “I’m Cain.”

“I know who you are.” Her voice was a hiss. She was shaking slightly, but it clearly wasn’t in fear. She looked furious.

Cain swallowed hard. Her dark eyes were fiery and she actually had him doubting his own resolve. He tried another tact. “So there’s kind of a pecking order here,” he told her. “First and second years usually take the center barres.” He gestured toward three barres standing in the center of the room.

“I prefer the stability of the wall.”

“Me too. But these ladies here,” he indicated Erica and Julianna who were both clearly listening while pretending to ignore them. “These ladies worked their way up, and they’re a little territorial about their spots. And they’re also very rude to new dancers.”

Julianna turned and raised an eyebrow at him. He raised an eyebrow back at her in an exaggerated mimic and then gave her a grin. She huffed and turned back around.

“You’ll get a better class if you have more than four inches to move.” He smiled. She wasn’t being friendly, but she was new and probably intimidated.

Anna’s face was reddening and he could tell she was not the type to back down easily. “This is ridiculous,” she whispered, but her hand dropped from the barre.

“Not everyone here is a complete ass.” Cain walked her back toward the center barres. He was glad she’d relented before class had begun. He didn’t like watching people suffer, and the other girls would have made sure she did. “Carla here is a pussycat.” He pointed to a wide-open spot behind a tall African American girl wearing a backless fuchsia leotard. The girl grinned at Cain and waved her arm to the spot behind her.

“Hey,” she said to Anna.

Anna nodded curtly to the girl and then turned back to Cain. “Thanks.” She took the spot at the barre and turned away from him.

Cain went back to his spot wondering why he’d bothered, just as Tatiana, the ballet mistress, entered the room.