Luncheoning with Julia London

Though I am completely mired in getting this book finished in the next two weeks, I took a short break this weekend to attend my chapter's annual luncheon. Heart of Dixie puts on a fabulous luncheon, y'all! And I'm not just saying that because I have to. We have a huge ballroom, a sit down meal, and lots of prizes — not to mention fabulous guest speakers.

This year, Julia London was our speaker. Long before I was published, I was a Julia London fan. In fact, one of my favorite contemporaries of all time is a Julia London book: Beauty Queen. I love this book with a deep and abiding love! BQ was the second book in the Lear family trilogy — all the books were good — but something about BQ really resonated with me. Rebecca Lear, the former Miss Texas with no discernible skills, a young son, and a rich husband who divorced her and left her a mess, is just wonderful to see in action. You'd think it'd be hard to sympathize with a woman this beautiful, but in fact it really is easy because Julia makes this character so likeable. When Rebecca meets Matt Parrish — they have a misunderstanding over a quesadilla — things really get interesting.

I have hauled this book around the world, and when I realized Julia was coming to Huntsville, I took it down off the keeper shelf and carted it to the luncheon. Julia very graciously signed it for me — and I didn't realize it was out of print until she told me. This book should be available on the Kindle! Everyone should have a chance to read the fabulousness that is Beauty Queen!

Okay, so I got Julia to sign my book. We chatted for a bit, and then it was time for the doors to open. I shared a table with the most wonderful people! Lonnie Payne and his wife Tabetha have been coming to this event for 10 years. They were also accompanied by Heather Hart and her mother (the only lady whose name I didn't get!), and Patricia Lloyd (attending her 2nd luncheon) joined us as well. Rounding out the table were my mother and her friend, Margie.

We had a great lunch, and then it was time for the basket giveaways. When I went up to draw a winner for my basket, I drew Julia's name! I hope Julia likes Harlequin Presents. ๐Ÿ™‚ My table won about 8 baskets between them, which was awesome. Apparently, Lonnie comes along because he has this knack of winning raffles. He doesn't read romance novels, but he supports his wife's love of them — and he won three baskets!

After the basket raffles, we had a book signing — and then several of us stayed and went to dinner later with Julia. It was a great day, and though I was completely worn out, I needed the break from this book. So now I'm back at work, but I'm glad I had that little bit of time away where I could chat with readers and other writers and have a generally great time. ๐Ÿ™‚

With the peeps at my table

Julia London and me

Signing books

Russian Nights

For the writers amongst you, I've put the links to my series on how to write a Harlequin Presents in the sidebar. Scroll down to the “For Writers” category, and all the posts are listed there to make it easier to find in future. Hope you enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚

I'm still buried in this Russian book, but things are looking better. I was browsing the web for images for my inspiration file, and I came across these that I want to share with you. (Yes, these were taken by talented photographers who are not me.) ๐Ÿ™‚

I believe this is from the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, but I'm not quite sure. (It might also be from the Smolny Convent.) Years ago, and I won't say how many, ahem, I had the privilege of traveling to Russia. We flew to St. Petersburg first (still called Leningrad, if that gives you an idea), and spent 3 days there before boarding an overnight train to Moscow, where we spent another 3 days. It was an amazing trip. The palaces are beautiful, and the landscape was prettier than I expected it to be. Fortunately, we were there in May, and it was quite warm. It also never got fully dark at that time of year.

This next picture is of Peterhof, Peter the Great's palace on the Gulf of Finland. We got to tour it, and I have a photo of me standing on one of the bridges over the canal with this palace in the background. It's an amazingly beautiful place, full of gilt and art and antiques. My hero also has a palace, but it's not this grand. And of course he had to buy it back from the State after the fall of communism. But looking at these photos gives me an idea of what his palace is like, though on a smaller scale.

This is the Winter Palace, also known as The Hermitage Museum. It's a gorgeous palace on the banks of the Neva river. We spent hours wandering through the galleries. I see this photo as representing my hero's home. The Winter Palace is actually quite grand and vast, but this small slice of it makes it look like it could be a grand house on an estate somewhere. I especially love the snow capped trees.

More info on the Winter Palace here.

I love finding photos for inspiration. It's one of the most fun parts of beginning a new book. Thank heavens for Google! You can have photos at your fingertips and start writing about a place you've never been in a matter of hours. Yes, I've been to Russia, but I've never been to Argentina (The Devil's Heart, July 2010 UK) or the Arabian desert (Kept for the Sheikh's Pleasure, Sep 2010 UK). As much as I'd like to go to these places for real, I'm grateful for the tools that bring them to my fingertips. Even with Russia, it's been a long time and I needed a refresher.

Vicarious travel

My hubby recently got to go on a business trip to Rome. Talk about jealous! I would have gone with him, but for two things: first, it was last minute and flights were more expensive; and, two, I carelessly let my passport lapse quite some time ago. ๐Ÿ™

I've had a passport since I was seventeen, and it's always been current, but once we moved back to the States permanently, I didn't feel any sort of urgency to renew it when it finally expired. Duh. I mean I filled out the application, had it with the passport, and kept planning to go get photos so I could mail it. But I never would get around to the photo portion. Finally, last week while Hubby was enjoying himself in Rome, I went and got those photos and marched down to the Post Office. The next time he has to go to Europe on business, at least I'll have a passport! I may not be able to control the flight prices, but I've got half the equation covered now.

So, he was supposed to get back on Friday, but once he landed in Atlanta, he was stuck because of the snow. All flights to our neck of the woods were canceled, though we didn't have a bit of snow here. He had to stay overnight and drive back on Saturday. But, he brought me lovely presents!

Though I didn't get to go, I did get to do some vicarious travel though his photos. I've been to Rome before, but it's been a long time, so these pictures really brought it all back for me.

Ahh, the Coliseum. When I was there, it was over run with cats. Hubby says there aren't so many cats now. I don't want to know what happened to them. ๐Ÿ™

Don't know precisely what it is, but it's pretty!

Recognize this from “Angels and Demons”?

Remnants of an aqueduct.

Would a trip to Rome be complete without a visit to the Trevi Fountain?

No, this isn't Chicago. It's Atlanta. This isn't supposed to happen in Atlanta. It's the South! It's Hotlanta! Where did all this snow come from?

I enjoyed my vicarious trip to Rome, but a real trip would be even better. Then I could think up a to-die-for Roman hero, give him a spunky heroine, and plop them down in Rome. What fun! Speaking of heroes and heroines, I better get back to the current WIP. It's yucky and cold out, and we even have a little bit of snow on the ground, so it's a good time to dream. Too bad I picked snowy Russia as a setting. Brrrr!


My author page is up at Mills & Boon. You can also click on biography and interview links once there.

As for my reprieve — it lasted a day. New proposal to finish for (hopefully) the next book…

And because you can NEVER have enough Hugh:

Happy Friday!!

On Being a Model

Ahem, so here I was trying to figure out what to post about today. (WordPress is LOVELY! But I may have trouble with my domain for reasons that are techie while I am not. *sigh* So stay tuned. For now, I'm still here.)

But anyway, I got a Google notice that my name had been used. Hopefully not in vain, LOL. So I followed the link.

At a post titled “A Touch of Romance in Photojournalism” you can read technical terms like you've never read before (or at least I hadn't) and learn how the photographer took my pictures for the newspaper interview.

I have a new To Do list:

1. What the heck is he talking about? Must learn this stuff. What is a snoot? I thought I knew, but apparently not. Is an octobank a type of octopus?

2. Lose more weight. Oh dear Lord!

3. He says I'm not an old hag. Must keep up with not being an old hag, however I managed it. Definitely see a treadmill in my future!

4. Photoshop is my friend. When I get my publicity shots done, and I'd love to use this photographer because he's great and he obviously loves what he does, airbrushing will be required. Yikes.

Do you like getting your picture taken? Is Photoshop your friend? Do you, like me, want to be airbrushed?

SF pictures

Finally got the SF pics onto the computer. Here's me with the RITA/GH board. No names on the board, but still too cool to know I was a finalist in one of those categories listed there.

A pic of the Heart of Dixie ladies after the ceremony. L to R from back: me, Linda Winstead Jones, Marilyn Puett, Linda Howard, Kira Sinclair, Beverly Barton, Kathy Bone, Jean Hovey. Front L to R: Kimberly Lang, Stephanie Jones, Andrea Laurence. Don't we look happy?

My Harlequin editor Sally Williamson (she's the thin gorgeous one) posing with me after the RITA/GH ceremony. Yes, in spite of not winning, I was happy. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a fun night, and quite the honor to be among the talented group of 2008 finalists known as the Pixie Chicks. Look out in the future, btw, because the Pixie Chicks are going to blog. We don't know when, we don't know where, but we're working on it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Ten things I learned at the conference (or in the conference city):

1. Never tell people you haven't had a cold in over two years. Kiss of death.
2. Double-sided tape does wonders to keep your bra from showing.
3. Spanx really are the bomb.
4. 400 women + open bar = hilarity for sure.
5. San Francisco really is freezing in July/August.
6. Seals smell bad.
7. No one ever escaped from Alcatraz and lived to tell about it.
8. Lining up for pitch appointments feels oddly like lining up to see the hangman.
9. Free books make some people crazy.
10. The conference will end and you'll realize you never met up with/talked to several people you wanted to see.

What have you learned recently?