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Oh, fun! The Winter Lodge is up for a Reviewers Choice Award from RT Book Reviews. It’s up against some of the best books of 2007. I am in good company–every single author in this category is one I regularly read and love, so there’s really no down side to this. Here’s the whole list:  

Best of luck to us all!

Tonight the RITA Awards were given out in Dallas. Summer at Willow Lake was a finalist. It would have been my fourth RITA and I cannot tell a lie, I would have been thrilled to win. However, I told myself that if I don’t get the statue, I can get a new pair of Camper Twins (cutest shoes ever) to wear on the plane to New York next week. How’s this for a consolation prize?Camper twins

Congratulations to the winners! My feet are doing the happy dance for you–honest!

Ask almost any avid romance reader which book got her hooked on the genre, and she’ll likely name a title by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. For me, it was Shanna, which held me mesmerized behind my college math and poly sci textbooks and was a revelation to the budding writer in me.

Millions of readers were saddened by Kathleen’s passing. I was privileged to know her, having met her when she opened her amazing antebellum home to a group of writers who had come to Alexandria, Louisiana for a workshop. She was soft-spoken and gracious. You’d never know, to meet her, how vast her influence was on our industry. She was incredibly humble. To meet her, you’d never know she’d taken the publishing world by storm. My favorite room in her home? The Shanna master bath. It featured the original painting from the book cover and was done in the same lush color scheme.

I gave her a copy of one of my books, which she read and later told me she enjoyed it a lot. (I still have that letter in a special place, tucked into a signed copy of The Flame and the Flower.) Later, I’d get the occasional e-mail from her, letting me know she’d read my latest and giving me glimpses of her journey from Minnesota homemaker to blockbuster author, the likes of which publishing hadn’t seen since Grace Metalious or Jacqueline Susann. According to Kathleen, there were few expectations attached to her first book. She told me the initial print run target was about 30,000 but the actual number was a great deal higher–600,000. Although the book was not an immediate blockbuster, her next one, The Wolf and the Dove, hit #2 on the New York Times list, and a phenomenon was born.

Here’s a snippet of the opening of Shanna, the book that started it all for me and so many others. The writing speaks for itself. Even now, decades later, she takes me away, to another time and place. She was a true original.

Shanna“Surely, madam, you jest. To propose marriage to a man about to hang? Upon my word, I cannot see the logic in it.”

” ‘Tis a matter of some delicacy.” Shanna presented her back to him as if embarrassed and paused before continuing. She spoke demurely over her shoulder. “My father, Orlan Trahern, gave me one year to find a husband, and failure shall find me betrothed to whom he wills. He sees me a spinster and wants heirs for his fortunes. The man must be of a family privy to King George. I have not yet found the one I would choose as my own, though the year is almost gone. You are my one last hope to avoid a marriage arranged by my father.” Now came the hardest part. She had to plead with this filthy, ragged colonial. She kept her face averted to hide her distaste. “I have heard,’ she said carefully, “that a man may marry a woman to take her debts to the gallows in re turn for an easing of his final days. I can give you much, Ruark–food, wines, suitable clothing and warm blankets. And surely my cause–”

At his continued silence, Shanna turned toward him and tried to see his features in the gloom, but he had carefully maneuvered their positions until she now was presented full to the light when she faced him. The wily beggar had moved so stealthily that she had not been aware of it.

Ruark’s voice was somewhat strained as he finally said, “Milady, you test me sorely. A gentleman my mother tried to teach me to be, with good respect for womanhood.” Shanna’s breath caught as he stepped nearer. “But my father, a man of considerable wisdom, taught me early in my youth a rule I’ve long abided.”

He walked slowly around her, much as she had done with him a few moments before, then halted when he stood at her back. Scarcely breathing, Shanna waited, feeling his nearness yet not daring to move.

“Never–” Ruark’s whisper came close to her ear, stirring awake a tingling of fear in her. “Never buy a mare with a blanket on.”

Shanna could not suppress a flinch as his hands came over her shoulders and hovered above the fasteners of her cloak.

“May I?’ he asked and his voice, though soft, seemed to fill the very corners of the cell. Ruark accepted her silence as consent, and Shanna braced herself while his lean fingers undid the velvet frogs. He drew the cloak from her, and though lacking splendorous trimming and fancy laces, her deep red velvet gown enhanced her beauty divinely. She was the gem, the jewel of rare beauty which made the dress more than a garment but rather a work of art. Above the hooped panniers which expanded her skirt on the sides, the tightly laced bodice showed the narrowness of her waist while it cupped her bosom to a most daring display above the square decolletage. In the golden glow of the tallow lantern, her skin gleamed like rich, warm satin.

Ruark stood close, his breath falling softly against her hair, his head filled with the delicious scent of woman.

I have a banner ad! Go look–it’s a first for me. Thanks to my publisher and to Authorbuzz for this very cool gizmo on my web site.

Lakeshore banner

Writing is a solitary pursuit, so it’s important to remember to take time to celebrate. Lori & Susan, 1963I’m blessed with the best writing buddies in the world, and we’re really good at recognizing the good things when they come along–a first sale, an award, a placement on the bestseller list. Sheila's cake for Christmas in CarolHere’s a slide show of the fun side of writing and publishing.

And here’s one of my favorite cakes–an olive oil cake, also known as Ladi Tourta. Bon appetit!

What are the things you celebrate? What cements the good memories in your heart? Chocolate, flowers, champagne, wearing funny clothes, a spa day, shopping for new books, calling your friends and screaming, doing the Snoopy Dance with your sister? I’m always open to new ideas in this department.

I can’t go this year. I am chained to the computer, working on the Book That Will Not End. Here is an entry I wrote about the book show last year. I put it up on another blog site where it languished in unread obscurity. Maybe there’s a reason for that, who knows. But this is a post about BEA 2006:

BEA (Book Expo, held this year in Washington DC) was fabulous–three days of frenetic conventioneering. Stayed at the Mayflower where, 22 years ago, I got pregnant, so Jay was not allowed to come this time. I hadn’t been to DC since I was the national speaker for RWA in 2000, and the whole atmosphere is different, thanks to 9/11. There were barricades, security & political protests everywhere. Impeach Bush logos everywhere you look (including in the Washington Post). You can be walking down the street, and suddenly they’ll close it and make you go somewhere else. I saw a motorcade of a dozen black SUVs, Mary Cheney & Newt at the show and that was the extent of politics for me. Loved the international spy museum. “Embassy Row” — a neighborhood — is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

I had a booth signing and a chute signing. Giving away books is the ONLY way to have a booksigning. I wish it could be that way every time. I gave away ARCs of SUMMER AT WILLOW LAKE with friendship bracelets (summer camp theme) to hundreds of appreciative librarians and booksellers. [NOTE: This year my publisher is giving away Dockside.] Attendees are all so earnest and supportive–gives you hope for the book industry. Note: who knew people coveted friendship bracelets? I ran out quickly. Publicist was clever at matching the bracelets with people’s outfits.

Familiar faces–Some of my favorite people–Kathy Carmichael! Shirley Hailstock, Heather Graham & her husband, Carla Neggers, Christina Skye, Sandra Kitt, MJ Rose, Susan Grant, Gayle Wilson, Jill Limber, Hope Tarr, Linda Seger, Alfie Thompson, Bruce Wilder, Nora Roberts…all people I love and never get to see. Dinner at the Westchester at Grove Park. It’s a 1920s luxury residence, and the restaurant used to be the dining room for the residents. You can get escargots and a grilled cheese sandwich, anything you want. We had an impromptu home tour of Katherine Neville’s incredible vintage apartment, which was unforgettable. This is thanks to my agent, who is so friendly and lovable that everyone just wants to hang out with her. I had a lunch with the president & vp of Harlequin. We went to a Turkish restaurant so exotic I can’t even spell the name of it. I adore these women, love their smarts, their focus and their taste in shoes. I got to share news of the feature film option & we toasted iced tea. There was a Harlequin party at Maclean Gardens for industry people–a different crowd from the usual romance event. Many more boys. PW staff. Lots more drinking, less dancing. I was impressed that, with so many parties to choose from, people picked this one. The party dessert was cupcakes that are world famous. I never thought a cupcake could bring me to ecstasy. I was wrong.

Booths & ARCs:

  • I got the new Sally Beauman (I’ve always loved her books) from Warner.
  • Golden Country by Jennifer Gilmore (S&S) — they are so enthusiastic about this book–a saga. Lovely folks in a friendly booth.
  • a new Donna van Liere (sp?) from SMP (she does the wildly popular Christmas books). People at SMP are very warm & welcoming.
  • Losing our Democracy by Mark Green (political books were EVERYwhere)
  • the new Lisa Tucker from S&S — love her books. LOVE THEM so I’m excited about this one.
  • Lights! Camera! Fiction! by Alfie Thompson (a writing book with an intro by Michael Hauge)
  • Jesus Rode a Donkey: Why Republicans Don’t Have the Corner on Christ by Linda Seger
  • Bertelsman booth was gigundo. I visited with a couple of editors, realizing that if you stick around long enough in this business, you meet everyone.
  • I think S&S seemed to be giving away the most books and ARCs, my impression, anyway.
  • The big book of the show seemed to be THRILLER, the anthology from MIRA.
  • Recorded Books – my audio publisher. I was glad to meet them and effuse about THE OCEAN BETWEEN US reader  who did such a good reading. There are lots of innovations in audio, including a disposable listening book.
  • I met Elizabeth Flock, who is as nice as she is adorable, but we were signing next to each other and barely had a chance to talk.
  • The RWA booth was adorable, set up like an Italian cafe. I didn’t love where it was located but people seemed to be finding it. They were giving away members’ books and info.
  • I bought a book (memoir) from a Holocaust survivor, Jack Ratz. It was an incredible moment.

On the down side–I did not bring the good camera (too bulky).

People at the show looked exhausted on Sunday. I went to a museum with a writer friend from Maui, had lunch with some people from Mira, then flew home and made the 9pm ferry. Streak cried like a baby. Jay had cleaned the house, Jay-style. I have a very intimidating e-mail queue but I’m slowing getting through it.

That Summer at Willow Lake is a finalist for the 2007 RITA Award. BOO YAH. (For an interesting discussion of this award, check this out.)

RITA statue

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January 2021