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I don't eat them, either, but aren't they cute?

Confession: It felt a little odd, having a Christmas book out before Halloween. I just couldn’t drum up that cozy, romantic mood that makes Christmas so special. The good news is, I ate the last of my Halloween candy for breakfast and NOW I’m ready to rock Christmas.

Here is a preview of Lakeshore Christmas. It’s worth opening the link because it gives you a few of the amazing recipes at the end. Remember my motto for this book: Bake some cookies. Save the library. Save the world.

You know, I’m so ready for Christmas now, I’m going to send somebody a signed book. You know the drill–write a Comment on this blog entry and you’re entered. In your comment, let us know the moment when you FINALLY feel the holiday season is here.

Winner will be picked via on Sunday after I get home from the Fire in Fiction workshop. Which btw you should be coming to.



Remember me? From that cheesy 70s TV show?

Next step as I stumble through this storyline is the love interest. If you’ve read any of my books, you know he is bound to be a manly man with a manly name.

Manly men have monosyllabic names. It’s a Rule. Deal with it:

Sam. Will. Mike. Rourke. Rand. Greg. Tom. Steve. Ross. Rob.

Here are some manly names you will never see in a Wiggs book, because I’m related to them so I can’t write about them as fictional characters (shudder): Nick, Jay, Jon, Dave…all good names, but too close to home to use.

The initial and final sounds of a male monosyllabic name are like muscular biceps framing a massive chest. I’m not kidding here. Pay attention, you might learn something.

Okay, they can have ONE MORE syllable if you promise to give them really cool surnames:

Ryan Calhoun. Jesse Morgan. Dylan Kennedy. Justin McCord.

If they’re really special and have a following even though their book is not yet written, they might get to have a totally special name:

Julian Gastineaux, anybody? Logan O’Donnell?

FYI – here are some move names you will NEVER find attached to the hero of a Wiggs book: Winston. Percy (even though it worked fine for the Scarlet Pimpernel). Vivian, Uriah, Seymour, Poindexter. To name a few.

Oh, and another thing. The name has to sound good next to their girlfriend’s. The female love interest in this one is Tess (short for Theresa) Lindberg. So I wouldn’t want Jess or Jesse. That’s just too cute.

His surname has to work with the girl’s name too, since she has to live with it the rest of her happily-ever-after life. So, Farraday. Someone mentioned that earlier. I’m thinking Quinn. Quinn Farraday. But maybe not, because Quinn + Tess looks a little suspicious, like someone just made them up out of think air. Lemme think on this.

What are your thoughts? What are some of your fave fictional manly names?

One of the perks of being a writer is that people send you advance reading copies (ARCS) of upcoming books. How much do we love that, people? I’m going to try to be more organized about posting my recommendations here. I read a lot and I read fast, so sometimes things just speed by.

Today’s recommendations–

The Promised World by Lisa Tucker
Lisa Tucker is a good fairy. She was nice enough to have her publisher send me an ARC (advance reading copy) when she saw that her upcoming novel was on my wish list. Would that all wishes were so easily granted! Her other books possess dark fairytale quality I find mesmerizing, and The Promised World has it in spades. Lisa Tucker writes with compassion and sensitivity about the fine balance between sanity and madness, the cost of secrets and lies, and the redemptive quality of love. This novel is also a first class page turner, with a twisty and absorbing plot that will keep you up all night. Major thumbs up!

The Promised World: A NovelThe Promised World by Lisa Tucker

Lisa Tucker is a good fairy. She was nice enough to have her publisher send me an ARC when she saw that her upcoming novel was on my wish list. Would that all wishes were so easily granted! Her other books possess dark fairytale quality I find mesmerizing, and The Promised World has it in spades. Lisa Tucker writes with compassion and sensitivity about the fine balance between sanity and madness, the cost of secrets and lies, and the redemptive quality of love. This novel is also a first class page turner, with a twisty and absorbing plot that will keep you up all night. Major thumbs up!

A Bad Day for Sorry: A Crime Novel

A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield. Okay, can we talk about titles here? And cover art? I would have bought this book based on the front cover alone. Totally irresistible. But the real story is between the covers. A smart-alecky narrator with the kind of attitude we all wish we had, Stella Hardesty is a woman on a mission. She’s a survivor of domestic abuse and the proprietor of a small-town sewing machine shop. Her mission–to help other women escape and avenge the violence done to them. It’s filled with danger, humor, suspense and a romance with a boyfriend named Goat. Trust me, you’ll love this one.

So over on Red Room, they’re discussing mistakes writers made early in their careers. Here’s a copy of my post (below). Lots of others make for interesting reading. There are so many ways to go wrong in publishing. The  only remedy is to keep showing up at the page.

“What was a misstep that you (or your publisher) made with publishing your first book–and how would you do things differently if you could?”

I sold my first book in 1986 while still in my 20s. Texas Wildflower was a genre historical romance sold to a publisher that was expert at publishing them so in general, it went well. My misstep was in contract negotiation. As in, I didn’t. I lacked an agent and was too intimidated and frankly, grateful, to tinker with the boilerplate.

The advance was low, but that’s to be expected. The two issues I should have worked on were the royalty percentage rate and the terms of reversion. These hardly seem to matter when you’re in the first flush of your first book deal. But a book can have a long life if you manage to make something of yourself. It’s to your advantage for the rights to revert to you so you can reclaim control of the work.

Years from now, you might want to renegotiate with the publisher or sell to another. Back in 1986, this was all new to me and now, 20+ years later, I’m still bound by that initial contract.

To the publisher’s credit, they did raise the royalty rate, but they didn’t have to. I’m just grateful they did.

My advice–get an agent. If you negotiate without one, at least join the Authors Guild. Key issues to look at–royalty rate, the meaning of “in print” and the terms of reversion. Also, the option clause. Good luck!

Real quick–what’s wrong with these pictures?

won the Holt Medallion

won the Holt Medallion

was a RITA finalist

was a RITA finalist

also a RITA finalist

also a RITA finalist

Quick answer: nothing. Not a blessed thing. Well, except  maybe they didn’t sell so well back in the early 90s, which put the author’s survival (sales-wise) in jeopardy.

Still, they look like lovely, interesting books. They even have inside illustrations of freakishly good-looking embracing couples, kind of a bodice-ripper secret bonus. I’ve always been fond of that kind of little grace note in my historical romances. English majors recognize the titles as snippets from the Bard Himself, everyone’s favorite Elizabethan, Shakespeare.

Forsooth! So how come those self-same books now look like this?

new duds for an old fave

new duds for an old fave

blonde ambition

blonde ambition

sexy stuff

sexy stuff

Multiple Choice:

  • A. to introduce old books to new readers who might have missed them the first time around
  • B. to dupe readers with a Vast Publishing Conspiracy

According to a number of bloggers, it’s Answer B.

But I kind of wish they’d checked in with me before declaring me a shameless hussy (which we all knew already). To clear up the misconceptions, here are some myths and realities of modern commercial publishing:

Myth: Publishers are greedy and will do anything to make a buck.

Reality: Publishers love books. They love readers. The people I work with in publishing are book geeks who want nothing more than to evangelize books and authors they love. In the 23 years since I sold my first book, I’ve never heard someone in publishing say, “Let’s fool people into buying a sub-par product.” In commercial publishing, the goal is to appeal to the widest possible readership.

Myth: New titles? Seriously???

Reality: Are you a Georgette Heyer fan? Did you enjoy Powder and Patch? Were you aware that the book was first published in 1923 as “The Transformation of Philip Jettan“? By somebody named “Stella Martin”? Oh, and guess what else? For her reissue, my gal Georgette cut some stuff, including the final chapter, before its republication in 1930. If Georgette can do it, so can the rest of us.

Out of print books are reprinted with new titles all the time. It’s been done by the likes of Stephen King, Sandra Brown, Catherine Coulter, Dean Koontz…and some–like Koontz–change both the title and the author’s name for the reissue. A few people might have read books by Leigh Nichols. But everybody reads Dean Koontz.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Not every title can be perfect and timeless. Sure, you’ve got Gone With the Wind and The Thornbirds…but you also have “The Transformation of Philip Jettan” and things of that ilk, which are sorely in need of a makeover. I actually have a couple of titles I don’t love.

Did my original Shakespearean titles need a makeover? When I was asked, I said no. Actually, I said HELL NO. But my publisher is used to hearing this from me. And they know when all is said and done, I will park my ego at the door and listen to their rationale and 99% of the time, I’ll be persuaded. Confession time: When I saw the proposed artwork, I was similarly not thrilled. But I was made a believer by the reaction of booksellers and readers everywhere. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this re-release.

Myth: A reissued book is dumbed down.

Reality: A reissued book is often word-for-word, identical in text to the original. (Lord of the Night even used the same cold type, I believe.) But sometimes, the reissue has been edited and/or updated. I like to think I’m a better writer now than I was 15 years ago. So I jumped at the chance to revise the Tudor Rose books. They’re cleaner now, more dramatic and smoother. Trust me, you won’t miss the stuff I cut: “What ho, varlet! Draw your weapon!” We don’t really need that, do we?

Myth: Reissues are a new ploy by publishers to get us to buy books we already own.

Reality: Based on the sales numbers for the original publications, you don’t own the books. Nobody but my mother, my hairdresser, and a hapless shopper who stumbled into a booksigning in 1994 owns the books. Reissues are a service to readers who are interested in early books of an author they’ve recently discovered. Now, if you do own the books, I have just two words for you: Thank you.

Myth: You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Reality: True, but you can give the cover a makeover. Books are repackaged with new cover art all the time. In fact, I love it when a smart publisher takes a classic and sexes it up with great art to get the attention of new readers.

Seriously, which novel would you be more likely to read?

classic naughtiness

classic naughtiness

same story, different duds

same story, different duds

So here’s today’s Super Special Offer. Post a comment below and you’re automatically entered. A virtual drawing via will determine the winner of both editions of my new/old book–Circle in the Water, and At the King’s Command. Sound like a plan?

Post now! Tell me your thoughts about reissued books!

The very generous and enterprising TJ Bennett is giving away totes and baskets full of RITA -nominated books and audios. You can enter by posting a comment on her blog here. My contribution is below.  Also note the question at the bottom of this post. Need your input!

[Ed. note (from TJ): We continue our RITA® giveaway with our final tote bag. Be sure to leave your comments on the posts for a chance to win. One tote per winner will be awarded, but you can comment on any post throughout the contest period, which ends July 18, 2009. Remember this week, there are four totes up for grabs: #7, 8, 9, and 10.]

Susan Wiggs, Snowfall at Willow Lake
[NOTE: Book in tote is audio (MP3-CD) version]
2009 RITA® Finalist for Contemporary Single Title Romance 

“Every writer I know started out as a reader. She was like me–voracious, insatiable, reading anything and everything she could get her hands on. Eventually she fell in love with genre fiction, and found a special affinity with romance novels. Like me, she probably cut her teeth on the big, juicy historicals of Kathleen Woodiwiss, Laurie McBain, Jennifer Wilde, Laura London. She stayed up late with A Woman of Substance, fantasized along with Princess Daisy and wept over The Thornbirds. She dreamed of Turtle MoonHoney Moon and Carolina Moon. She developed a taste for Like Water for Chocolate and maybe even started her own knitting and reading club. All this reading made her a better writer, and an incredibly savvy reader. Along the way, she joined RWA® and volunteered to judge the RITA®.

That’s why being a finalist is such an incredible honor. The judges are the pickiest readers in the world, and this year, they picked Snowfall at Willow Lake. This was extra-special for me because of the content of the book. Sophie Bellamy, the main character, was one of the most reviled and misunderstood protagonists I’ve ever created–chilly, competitive, deeply self-absorbed, a woman who had the audacity to be unhappy in her marriage–and to finally do something about it. Her journey from the international courts of The Hague to the storybook shores of Willow Lake was more than a plot, it was a quest for redemption. Landing in the finals was an affirmation that her journey was a success.

The competition is incredibly tough; I know, I’m always reading and I read a ton of terrific novels last year. So I’m deeply grateful and honored to be a finalist this year. I’m also thrilled to be slogging it out with some of my favorite writers for the final prize, the Queen of All Knickknacks. Because as soon as the list of finalists came out, I read all the others and was wildly entertained for days! There’s a reason the RITA® is the gold standard of prizes in our genre. I’m proud to be in the game. To read more about Snowfall at Willow Lake, and to find out more than even my husband knows about me, please check out my web site at and blog at”

About Snowfall at Willow Lake:

Can a single moment change your entire life?

International lawyer Sophie Bellamy has dedicated her life to helping people in war-torn countries. But when she survives a hostage situation, she remembers what matters most—the children she loves back home. Haunted by regrets, she returns to the idyllic Catskills village of Avalon on the shores of Willow Lake, determined to repair the bonds with her family.

There Sophie discovers the surprising rewards of small-town life—including an unexpected passion for Noah Shepherd, the local veterinarian. Noah has a healing touch for anything with four legs, but he’s never had any luck with women—until Sophie.

Snowfall at Willow Lake speaks from the heart about all the loves that fill a woman’s life, and all the ways that love is tested and made to grow. It’s the story of what comes after a woman survives an unspeakable horror and finds her way home, to healing and redemption and a new chance at happiness.


I need your advice! Last year I “won” a pair of Camper Twins when I didn’t bag the RITA. Should I fail to bring home the Queen of All Knicknacks this year, what should my consolation prize be? (I have an idea or two…)

life is good: nyt-bsl-51709 

dawn of a very good day

dawn of a very good day



So here’s a little interview I did with Paul Sladkus on the Good News Broadcast. In which I Tell All, including what’s sexy about firefighters, how to find a publisher and what the real meaning of passion is.

Aaaand! picked the winner from yesterday’s post. It’s MJ! WTG! Keep checking in, people. The month is young. I loved everyone’s Mothers Day suggestions. 

Today’s question comes from one of my favorite entries from yesterday–charitable giving. Where do you give your time or donations? List your favorite cause in the comments section. The prize–a signed copy of Just Breathe, and one of Invisible Lives by the incomparable Anjali Banerjee.

Angel Franco/New York Times

Angel Franco/New York Times

I’m feeling relevant today. As some of you might remember, I got in big trouble for a major plotline in Fireside–the one about a Latino boy whose mother’s immigration status is uncertain. Regardless of my Amazon one-star-bomber’s opinion, such situations do exist in this country. For some, it’s a prison. A limbo. This installment in the New York Times’s series talks about families of mixed status.

It’s bound to infuriate some readers, frustrate others and sadden most of us. The storyline worked out in my novel. In real life, it’s more of a mess.

Confession time–I stole a book title from Nelson deMille. I didn’t mean to. When I titled my historical romance, I didn’t realize it had been used on Nelson’s thriller. Fortunately, it didn’t appear to create much confusion. But regarding titles, this is something I get asked about from time to time, including today’s question in my e-mail. Number one, can you get in trouble for stealing a title and number two, why would you knowingly do it?

Coming up with the same book title as someone else is nothing new. Especially with internet title searches, Google and Amazon, you can find out in an instant if your book’s title has been used before. Chances are, it has been. Look up “Fire and Ice” on Amazon. Or “Fire and Rain.” Or “Once More With Feeling.” Lots of great minds are thinking alike.

The fact is, a book title isn’t subject to copyright. It’s no crime to re-use a title; it’s really just a matter of judgment. Common sense will tell you not to title your book Gone With the Wind, Clan of the Cave Bear, The #1 Ladies Detective Agency or The Da Vinci Code. Those titles are simply too distinctive and you’d look foolish for using them.

It’s easy enough to re-use a title unknowingly. Long after Home Before Dark was published, I learned there was another book titled Home Before Dark–by another Susan. I bought the book, of course. It’s a memoir by Susan Cheever, nothing like my novel once you turn the title page. I believe there was another The Raven and the Rose published in addition to my 1991 title.

Finding a good book title is hard. Finding the perfect title is a gift from heaven. To my mind, the perfect title captures the essence of the book in a powerful, evocative phrase–Saving Juliet. The You I Never KnewThe Killer Angels. The Princess Diaries. Bastard Out of Carolina. Harriet the Spy. Practical Demonkeeping. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. All those titles promise a good read–and deliver.

There’s an interesting article about titles here. It’s both an art and a craft. It’s more focused on nonfiction but you might glean some insights into picking a title for a novel.

If your books are related, they need to sound as if they’re in the same family. This can get tricky as the series evolves. The Lakeshore Chronicles are starting to challenge me. I really liked the simplicity of Summer at Willow Lake. My editor came up with The Winter Lodge. They other titles evolved amid much discussion. I’m really happy with The Summer Hideaway, which I’ve just begun working on. “Summer” is a great keyword that conveys the idea of a juicy, fast-paced beach read. My publisher loves the word summer. I’ve had A Summer Affair, That Summer Place, Summer by the Sea and Summer at Willow Lake! So hideaway is a nice addition, particularly since the word “hideaway” implies something intriguing and possibly dangerous, like a character in WITSEC (a witness protection program). Definitely a reason to hide. Away. In the summer. All summer long. See how this works?

It’s easy for a writer to be weird about her titles. I’ve pitched wonderful, glorious titles to publishers, only to have them changed, often for the most random of reasons. Sometimes I come up with a horrible title and it gets changed to a great one. Heavy Breathing became The Ocean Between Us, thanks to my friend Lois. It can work the other way, too. How cute is the title Twyla’s Ten-Year Reunion? That was changed to Husband for Hire. It was. Sometimes you just have to let go. 

Here are my contenders for Worst. Title. Ever. — and this one:

I am about to change the titles of three already published books. Yep, three of my out-of-print historical novels are going out wearing new titles. And I am going to be wearing a flak jacket, because this is a practice that drives readers crazy. I feel your pain, readers!

What are some of your favorite titles?

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