Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Eli Yanti, congratulations. You won the draw for my latest release, Bring Him Home. Send me your details at: and it will be speeding its way to you. And a reminder that the online book chat about it starts at SmartBitches at 9pm ETA tonight. Click HERE for a direct link.
Happy reading everyone!


Monday, June 25, 2012

New-to-you authors

Let’s talk books! Ever discovered a new-to-you author and then spent several happy fangirl months wallowing in their backlist?
Maybe you avoided them because they write steampunk and you’re still confused about what that is, or thinking a NYT stalwart couldn’t possibly live up to the hype.  Maybe you decided years ago that suspense novels leave you colder than the dead bodies within their pages.
For whatever reason – and I’ve been guilty of all the above – certain authors have passed you by. So this post I’m plugging some new-to-you authors and hopefully hearing about yours.

Robyn Carr – A Harlequin superstar, her Virgin River series continues to grow in popularity with every book. I read the first one, (yep, called Virgin River) and was hooked. What I love most about Carr’s books is that her characters are grown ups. There are no plot contrivances, no forced misunderstandings. Carr heroes and heroines are good people who tell each other the truth and the conflicts keeping them apart are real and honest and consequently intensely moving. I have no idea how this master storyteller puts pace into these gentle, meandering stories but she does.

Tess Gerritson - Came in on book eight of her Rizzoli & Isles series and it didn’t matter. Her writing is lean and muscular, her characters complex. Not romance, though both women have ongoing love interests. It doesn’t matter, she’s that good.

Meljean Brooks - Steampunk…Um.  Jules Verne-ish  stories that mix fantastical machines with Regency. Sounds like work. Then I read Meljean Brook’s novella in an anthology called Burning Up which I bought for Nalini Singh.
Brooks worldbuilding and unique characters sold me on her Iron Seas series. I’ve already pre-ordered her September release, Riveted.

These are all established writers, but if you’ve uncovered a debut gem I’d love to get in on the ground floor.

Comment and go into the draw for a copy of my June release BRING HIM HOME, or if you already have it a choice from any of my backlist (except MR IMPERFECT, I’m out of those).

Note: BRING HIM HOME is this month’s Smart Bitches Trashy Books Sizzling Book Club pick. The online chat is at on Wednesday June 27 at 9pm (Eastern Standard Time US). I’d love to see you there. Site owner Sarah Wendell said:  “I will warn that this book will likely make you cry and laugh. At one point I howl-laughed so hard I scared some ducks. It also made me sob, but all through the "OH SOB" was a big huge "OH WOW" for Bliss, who pulls off an amazing story.”
Read an excerpt on my site:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jeannie VS. Ellen: Part the Second

Girl Ellen was forced into dresses by her mom,
but secretly liked the corn-shaped barrettes.
Girl Jeannie styling in her horn-rim
glasses, cowboy boots and
cut-off jeans.

Please take the following quiz to determine if you are more like Superromance author Ellen Hartman or Jeannie Watt.


Because there's a prize involved.

Keep track of your answers, then follow the scoring directions at the end.


1) It's you, your hammock, a perfect summer day, and one hero from a classic novel. Who do you choose?
A. Rhett.
B. Heathcliff.

2) I reread favorite books:
A. All the time. If it's good, it's even better the second or twentieth time.
B. Rarely. Too many books, too little time—but I will reread favorite scenes.

3) Reading the end of the book first is:
A. WRONG. It's bad and wrong and should result in a loss of library privileges until you learn to read books properly.
B. Totally legal—especially if it’s an animal story.


4) The one movie I will not miss this summer:
A. Channing Tatum's stripper movie.
B. Magic Mike.
C. This is a trick question. Real fans of Channing Tatum's stripper movie know A and B are the same thing.
D. Who are these people?


5) My favorite old movies are:
A. 80’s teen movies
B. 40’s detective movies
C. 60’s beach movies


6) We agree that the all-time greatest sports movie ever is Slapshot, a hockey movie starring Paul Newman. So, what's the second-greatest sports movie of all time?
A. Remember the Titans. No...Miracle...No...One on One (young Robby Benson!!!!). Wait, Hoosiers is amazing and I have such a soft spot for Air Bud Golden Receiver. Ah, it doesn't matter anyway. Second place is really the first loser, so who cares what comes in next? Sports movies are awesome.
B. I can't believe someone made a list of sports movies that doesn't include Rocky.
C. The obvious answer is Major League. And number three is The Replacements.


7) I have a separate dresser entirely devoted to my underthings.
A. True
B. False. And I'm laughing at you if you picked True.

8) When it comes to shoes:
A. My most exotic pair has high heels and zebra stripes.
B. My most exotic pair would be completely appropriate for an afternoon of tennis. (Playing or watching.)

9) In 1985:
A. I got my hair permed in the salon--only a pro could give me those perfect spiral curls. 
B. At the kitchen table--the smell of the solution will always remind me of my mom/sister/cousin-who-went-to-beauty-school.
C. I may have been a girl, but I was not a Material Girl. No perms for me.

WEDDINGS (AKA An Excuse to Mention the Goat)

10) My wedding memorabilia includes:
A. A snap shot of my mother and mother-in-law having coffee under the wedding goat.
B. A life-size wedding portrait. (Almost as good as having a wedding goat.)


11) The things I write on my calendar include:
A. Nothing. I have a calendar because my family makes a photo one, but I don't write anything on it. Live in the moment, baby!
B. My menu, my to do list, my goals, my deadlines, my appointments—and anything else I can think of.

12) I plan my outfits for the week:
A. Never. How would I know what I want to wear on Wednesday until it' know...Wednesday.
B. Sometimes, but I reserve the right to change my mind.
C. Always. It saves me time in the morning.

13) The one organizational tool (calendar, phone, receipt folder, notebook, etc.) I can't live without is:
A. Nothing. Organization stresses me out. I don't even have a watch. If it's important, I write it on my hand. If it's really important, I use a Sharpie.
B. All of the above. Organization makes it easier to procrastinate well while still making deadline.


14) Neither of us is the primary cook in our household, however….
A. When I do cook, I get deeply into it and love to try new things.
B. When I do cook, I put lots of raw food in pretty bowls and call it a buffet. Or else I make grilled cheese.

15) If I had to choose a household chore as a favorite, it would be:
A. Polishing the silver. 
B. Laundry. I love the chemistry involved and the satisfaction of successful stain removal.


16) When I’m stressed while writing or working, I:
A. Drink lots of coffee or tea and become wildly distracted by…well…everything.
B. Eat M&Ms and watch the Magic Mike trailer on repeat.


17) When people purchase beer for me as a prize after winning Internet bets, I prefer my beer
A. As a slow pour with a shamrock drawn in the creamy head.
B. In a bottle. 
C. In one of those big, red plastic cups.
D. I don’t really care, as long as I’m sitting with my friends when the payment is made.

Each answer selection is followed by a J or an E. If you have more J’s, you’re more like Jeannie. If you have more E’s, you’re more like Ellen.
1. (a) J (b) E;  2. (a) J and E (b) no points  ;  3. (a) E (b) J;  4. (a) E (b) E (c) E (d) J;  5. (a) E (b) J (C) no points;  6. (a) E (b) E (c) J;  7. (a) J (b) E;  8 (a) J (b) E;   9. (a) E (b) no points (c) J;  10. (a) J (b) E;  11. (a) E (b) J; 12. (a) E (b) J (c) no points;  13. (a) E (b) J; 14. (a) J (b) E;  15. (a) E (b) J;  16: (a) J (b) E;  17: (a) J (b) E (c) no points (d) j and e


If you're an Ellen, you like your classic heroes broody and untamed, but your personal reading habits tend toward the orderly and well-loved. You not only know who Channing Tatum is, you've seen Step Up and the 21 Jump Street movie. When it comes to sports movies, you like your angst followed by triumph. You won't win any style awards based on the contents of your closet, but even Martha Stewart would approve the interior of your silver chest. Planning ahead gives you hives and you've been late for your share of RSVP's, but you can be flexible and like to rise to the occasion. Cooking will never be high on your list of fun times, but you have your staples and no one goes hungry (although they might go for takeout when your back is turned). Your favorite household chores are the ones with a stunning Before and After contrast--dusting just doesn't have the same rewards. Your favorite times are spent with good friends--beer's not necessary, but if they're serving it, you like yours cold. 

If you’re a Jeannie, you like your heroes with a touch of wry cynicism that hides a caring heart.  You wonder who Channing Tatum is and you’ve watched and loved the original 21 Jump Street. You like your sports movies raunchy, but have nothing against angst preceding triumph. You enjoy dressing up and your closet is organized—not because you’re OCD, but because you need to remember what all you have in there.  You also enjoy not dressing up—old sweats are your friend, but you don’t wear them to the grocery store...usually. You have a lucky shirt/socks.  You enjoy cooking, but you also love it when you can get someone to cook for you--no need to hog all the fun. Your favorite household chores are those that involve organization—like, say, laundry. Plotting, planning and scheduling make you very happy—as does a closet full of shoes. And yes, you may have a dresser dedicated only to your underthings--but it's probably a very small dresser, right? Your favorite times are also spent with good friends—who may well be buying the cold beer.


Please share in the comment section whether you are a Jeannie or an Ellen. We have a prize riding on the outcome. When Ellen wins, Jeannie will make her a glass mosaic mirror. In the very, very outside chance that Jeannie wins, Ellen will stop lying about who won the first time. And you, my  friends, have a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card and a copy of Ellen's book, The Long Shot and a copy of a book from Jeannie's back list--print or digital. We're looking forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

7 Writing Reminders

In my home office, I have large sheet of paper scrawled with vital writing wisdom I’ve acquired over the years. Whenever I’m working on a scene and get stuck, I look at this list to see if these points need to be applied in order to make the scene work.

There are many ways in which these tools are used, and they draw from each other to help build and deepen stories and drive character development. Don’t take my definitions as the gospel truth—these are my oversimplified versions of these writing reminders. Each one could be a blog post on its own.
I hope they come in handy to you as readers and writers.

1. Raise the stakes.

What do the characters stand to gain/lose if x happens? Why is it so important to them? I try at every step to keep the characters’ goals in mind, so that if they give up or lose, they stand to lose everything that is important to them. An example would be the police detective who finds out that the murder she’s investigating is part of a global human trafficking and child prostitution ring…and now, the kingpin has kidnapped her son. Here are some good posts about raising the stakes: 

2. Avoid coincidence, clichés and predictability: SURPRISE US.

Not only do I try to avoid clichéd writing, I also need to keep a vigilant eye out for deus ex machina, moments when key things occur coincidentally in order for the plot to progress, and anything that might seem a little too convenient. For example, characters repeatedly popping up in scenes and accidentally overhearing major plot points, magical solutions that appear exactly when they’re needed, and so forth. Whenever I catch myself doing this, I ask myself, how can I turn things upside down so that nothing comes easy? How can I surprise the reader and make things happen through conscious character action rather than coincidence?

3. Resist the Urge to Explain.

I learned this from my editor, Victoria Curran, during my first round of edits on my debut book, Her Son’s Hero. The readers can draw many of their own conclusions about a character’s past, their current dilemmas, etc. without needing to be told. This rule is also a reminder that I don’t need to write out every single detail so the reader can see what I’m seeing. Not every sentence needs a qualifier, not every question needs to be answered with a drawn-out explanation. I talk about RUE in greaterdetail on my blog: and also here:


I learned this from literary agent and author Donald Maass at one of his fabulous workshops. Making your characters truly suffer and figuring out how to dig them out of their hole is much more gratifying for the reader than making things easy for the protagonist. In every scene, I try to make circumstances worse, stakes higher, conflicts tougher. One of the best examples I’ve seen is in the movie Children of Men, where the protagonist, played by Clive Owen, spends much of the movie running from danger through some truly horrible settings…and he’s not wearing shoes.

5. Conflict: 2 dogs, 1 bone.

The essence of conflict as described in Debra Dixon’s G M C: Goal, Motivation & Conflict (and credited to Dwight Swain) is that two parties are fighting, and one will lose. Whenever I have conflict, I try to ensure that the stakes are such that even the smallest battles add up to losses on both sides.

6. Give it urgency—put a timer on it.

Giving a scene or scenario a deadline ensures characters don’t drag out their actions. They need to make choices and they need the pressure on them to do so. Timers add conflict and tension, and can inspire your protagonists to make poorly thought-out choices, which lead to consequences that make things worse. An example is the spy who finds the time bomb and must cut one of three wires to defuse the bomb. In his nervousness, the first wire he cuts speeds up the timer.

7. When a character gets what they most want, make it the WORST thing to possibly have.

When I think of the hero’s and heroine’s goals, I think about the romantic conflict and how that goal will be the most detrimental thing to the romantic relationship between the characters. As Victoria Curran told me, “To love is to lose.” For instance, if the hero land developer really wants the heroine’s family farm and manages to get the bank to foreclose on her mortgage, he’s got what he wants, but he’s ruined her life and any chance at them being together. You can read more about romantic conflict on my blog post about romantic conflict:

Writers: what writing tips do you keep top of mind?
Readers: have you noticed any of these tools used in your favorite books, shows or movies? Comment below!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Broken Pots May Not Mend But Herbs Do

The Herb Garden--Smashed to Bits
 Since I was on the road promoting NAVY RULES  when I wrote my last post I was unable to upload the photos of my herbal catastrophe. It's great to be able to share them with you today. As you can see, the Italian pot was indeed very pretty. But even a crushing blow from a rogue breeze couldn't daunt my herbs. I immediately conducted a gardener's first aid--I separated the large clump of herbs into two, and re-potted. This time into Polish pots that yes, I bought in Poland when on a crazy road trip from Belgium with two other military spouses. That's another blog!
Since I've transplanted the herbs (and cleaned up the dirt) they are thriving. I've made 2 batches of mint iced tea so far. Sweetened with stevia, of course, to keep it sugar-free.
I'm thinking that perhaps the herbs are doing better than they would have in that one pot. It was sad to lose it, but now I have the most productive herb gardens.
It's like that with love, too, in my estimation. Sometimes we just need a new setting or new goal to keep those embers glowing and to allow for some fresh air to bring about new flames. My editor would probably roll her eyes at this blatant cliche, but I think it's true. What do you think?
After Surgical Interventions

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Herbs Jumped

In the interest of keeping on with my gardening theme, I must tell you about my herbs. I started out this winter with seeds for oregano and basil. The basil sprouted. It grew, a bit. By April I caved and bought a planter of assorted herbs from the garden center. Herbs like to be crowded in their container, so with delight I watched the mint start to vine and thyme lengthen. The herbs did so well and I'm so happy that we're finally settled in one place that I realized this was the time to put the herbs into perhaps my favorite planter. I bought the lime green and azure blue ceramic pot in Vietri Sul Mare, on the Amalfi coast, when we were stationed in Italy. Sounds so glamourous but at the time it was the equivalent of taking a forty-five minute drive to K-Mart or IKEA. Except it was to the rugged Italian coastline where shop after shop of hand-painted ceramics delighted any eye, but especially my artist's eye. Surely the weight of the planter with all the new, organic, hand-packed dirt and herbs was enough to keep it on our patio table. Well out of reach of the nefarious activities of George, my local groundhog (or Molly the mole or Randy the rabbit). Until... A huge gust of wind not unlike a mini-cyclone swept across the plain of our yard (.20 acres) and SMASH the herbs fell to a fate worse than any barrel-rider at Niagara Falls. My husband, the master-gluer-of-all-things remarked "I looked at that pot, Geri, and there's no way I can glue it. It's done." My primary concern was the herbs. I frantically searched for something, anything to put them in so their roots wouldn't be exposed to the storm and I wouldn't lose my dream of mint iced tea this summer. All I could find were two smaller pots, also treasures from Europe. I'd bought them in Poland. Yes, my name is Geri and I am a ceramic addict. Surgery was imperative. I had to divide the herb family into two and tuck them away into their new homes. I've been away on business this week and while my mind has been occupied with all that is the writing business, I hear my mind whispering "will the herbs still be there when I get home?" Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


By Jeannie Watt and Ellen Hartman

It's Snippet Time! I'd like to thank my buddy Ellen for coming up with this great idea while we were hashing out the details of our next showdown--which happens to be on June 21st. I'm going to start by posting a snippet from my December 2012 book Crossing Nevada. Please feel free to post snippets of your own, either from your own writing or from a book you particularly enjoy.

Here's mine: 
[Background:Tess O’Neil had a successful modeling career until her face was slashed by a vengeful relative who promised to keep taking pieces off her until he gets the money he thinks she has. Now she’s hiding out in a remote Nevada community, afraid of being recognized and trying to avoid her overly friendly neighbors who keep showing up with casseroles and trying to get her to join quilt club.  Widower Zach Nolan lives with his three daughters on a ranch across the road from reclusive Tess, whose barn was struck by lightning the night before and burned it to the ground.] 

Tess‘s eyes flashed open as the dogs started barking. A split second later someone else pounded on her door. It had to be another fireman, but that didn‘t keep her heart from knocking against her ribs as she went into the living room and looked out the window to see Zach Nolan standing on her porch.
Feeling relieved that it was at least someone she was vaguely familiar with and that he wasn‘t carrying food, Tess opened the door a few inches.
“I have to check the remains of the fire and I wanted to let you know.” He sounded utterly ticked.
“Thank you,” Tess said. What else could she say?
He didn‘t respond. Didn‘t move, didn‘t do anything except stare her down with cold blue eyes. Tess shifted uncomfortably and was about to close the door in his face again when he said, “What‘s wrong with you?”
“Pardon me?” she asked, startled. Was he asking about her face? Which she thought she was keeping out of sight.
“I said, what‘s wrong with you?” He planted a hand against the wall and leaned closer to the open crack between the door and the jamb, so close that she could feel the warmth of his body. Or was it her imagination? “Have you always been like this?”
“Like what?” Scarred?
“Like what?” he asked on a disbelieving note. “Like being a person who slams doors in people‘s faces, chases away grandmothers with food and scares little girls.”
Tess pulled back at the unexpected attack. “I just want to be left alone.”
“That shouldn‘t be a problem, lady.” He pushed off from the door frame and started down the porch steps, reaching the sidewalk before he muttered a few words she probably wasn‘t meant to hear.
Well, she had heard—or at least she thought she’d heard. Regardless of the words, there was no mistaking the tone. Tess stepped out onto the porch, no longer caring about hiding her injury from him. She‘d had been through hell last night. No, make that more hell. Who was he to judge?
“I don‘t see how my interactions with other people in this community is any business of yours.”
Zach came to a dead stop, and then he turned toward her. “Oh, it‘s my business.”
His certainty perplexed her. “How so?” she demanded. “Because I won‘t let your ruddy cows onto my land?”
“No. Because that little girl you scared off your property two days ago happens to be my youngest daughter.”
That's it. Now please, snippet away!  

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