Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving. Seriously. (19 years ago today, I was diagnosed with #lymphoma)

Nov 28, 1994, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and told I should not expect to live more than 5 years. My kids were 5 and 7. Getting my first book published was still a pipe dream. My husband Gary Rodgers was my life raft.

Nov 28, 2013, I'm still here, my kids are grown and gorgeous, 7 of my first 14 books are NYT bestsellers, and the Gare Bear and I recently celebrated our 30th anniversary. Life is good, and I am profoundly grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Colleen Thompson's serial thriller THE BEST VICTIM = #YesPlease (with a bullet!)

Colleen Thompson is doing what she does best in her new serial thriller, The Best Victim, taking us back to the intense emotion, taut plotting, and eerie atmospherics that makes critics to invoke Tami Hoag and Tess Gerritsen. Smart serial publishing by Amazon's Montlake imprint doles the story out one tantalizing episode at a time at a price that's easy to click.

The timely story is just the right amount of gruesome: a vicious online stalker called the Troll King gets his jollies by relentlessly dogging vulnerable young women until they commit suicide. And that can really piss a big sister off...

I've been waiting for the series to launch, which it did today! BAM. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

#2MinRevu CITY OF LOST DREAMS by Magnus Flyte = magical, mystical nerd-a-palooza

City of Lost Dreams is the magical mystical sequel to City of Dark Magic, which I raved on and recommended last year. Drawing on the art, music and history of Vienna, it follows the adventures of Sarah, a young musicologist on a mission to help her friend, a pianist with a sixth sense.

Terrifically spirited (pun intended), well-written, and intelligent. I ended up babbling a bit when I tried to sum up the complex plot, but trust me, it works. Highly recommending you read City of Dark Magic first.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What I learned when I learned to play the piano (from the Earth to Joni archives)

Tomorrow morning, piano movers are coming to pick up the vintage Acrosonic piano that's lived in our dining room for about 15 years. Esmerelda, as I called her, will be going to a wonderful family, and Gary and I will be one step closer to our goal of owning nothing larger than a suitcase. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I thought I'd share a tidbit from Earth to Joni, my syndicated column of yore. This piece originally ran in newspapers in January 2003.

The Piano Lesson

On my twenty-first birthday, I made a list of goals for the next twenty years. Approaching my forty-first birthday last week, I had to accept that I was not going to Harley across India, learn to speak French, or procure a third child by Wednesday. Fortunately, I came in just under the wire on one item. At this unlikely age, I’m learning to play piano.

We purchased the secondhand spinet two years ago, envisioning our 12-year-old daughter Jerusha thundering Bach and Rach. Unbelievably, Lil' Miss Bad Seed had the nerve to tell us she didn’t want to play! She wanted to do gymnastics.

“You’re too old for gymnastics,” I told her. “They measure girls in dog years. Twelve is like Margaret Thatcher. You’re taking piano.”

“You can’t make me!” she cried. (Red flag words no adolescent should wave in Mom's face.)

“Someday you’ll thank me!” I said. (White flag words parents optimistically substitute for “someday you’ll forgive me.”)

Determined to bless her with this opportunity, whether she liked it or not, I said, “Sweetie, music is the melding of spirituality and mechanics. I’d have given anything for piano lessons when I was your age. Just looking at it makes my whole soul hungry.”

“Why don’t you play it then?” said Jerusha.

“Sure,” I huffed. “I’m going to learn piano at my age. Just like you’re going to start gymnastics at yours.”

The piano sat idle for months. My hunger to hear it played lingered, along with my daughter’s inability to see how much joy I was trying to shove down her throat. Meanwhile, Jerusha watched the International Games and did back bends over the easy chair.

She was less than graceful. Fish out of water at best, head-bonking at worst, but her tenacity inspired me. One day, arriving to fetch her from a friend’s house, I was appalled and enthralled to discover her on a backyard trampoline, flipping socks-over-teakettle, performing some fairly impressive acrobatics in defiance of gravity and my expectations.

Not long after that, I approached the piano like one of those monkeys at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odysey. I set my hand on the megalith and plunked a tentative “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” After an hour, though it was fish out of water at best, head-bonking at worst, I could sort of play “Norwegian Wood.”

Having learned basic party-caliber guitar as a teenager, I quickly realized the piano is just an 88-string guitar. Chords are chords. The shape of the instrument has no effect on basic music theory. The secret to playing keyboard by ear is giving it the finger. Yes, that finger. To play a G chord, for example, place That Finger on G, and a higher intelligence in the hand does the rest; the pinkie finger goes up a third to the B, and the thumb rests a natural fourth down on the D. Flip off middle C; pinkie is on the E, thumb craves the G.

Soon I had all the basic chords, plus variations, which probably have technical names, but I just call “Claptonized”. I’m still slow to read notes, but I can accompany hymns and Beatles Anthology sing-alongs and even play a few classics by ear. (Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” was born for the That Finger method.)

For thirty-nine years, I had this treasure in my hands and never knew it. I always said, “I’d give anything to play piano,” but I never gave the one thing required: the simple act of sitting on the bench. In my twenties, I dabbled, stank, and quickly gave up. Ambition faded to dream, dream to pipe dream, pipe dream to impossibility.

Then along came Jerusha.

Somehow my Paralyzed-By-Insecurity Barbie self managed to spawn this little motorboat who’s oblivious to all obstacles, including her mother. Adult heads are often divided into “Stuff I Can Do” and “Stuff I Can’t Do”; Jerusha’s head is divvied into “Stuff I Can Do” and “Stuff I Can’t Do—YET.”

She’s taught me that if you’re brave enough to accept being temporarily dreadful at something long enough to give it the effort it won’t be denied, you’ll be like the very first fish-out-of-water. You’ll flop around for a while, and then you’ll evolve.

Post Script from the here and now: I played the piano thousands of hours during the subsequent ten years. I was never fantastically great at it, but it gave me a huge amount of joy. Jerusha is all grown up, and this year, in addition to donating bone marrow to a little boy with leukemia, she launched her own freelance editing firm, Rabid Badger Editing

If you'd like to read more tidbits from Earth to Joni, check out my mini-memoir, Love & Other Natural Disasters.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Best Victim Begins November 26th

If you're like me, there are a few special shows you're so hooked on, you tune in every week and never miss an episode. My next full-length romantic thriller, The Best Victim, will be released in that same fashion, with each weekly episode ending in cliff-hanger fashion, beginning with Episode One's release on Nov. 26th.

Here's the cover copy, to whet your appetite:

You don’t deserve to live.
The ugly words delivered online finally hit their mark. The younger sister of web security specialist Lauren Miller took the taunts to heart—and took her own life. Devastated, introverted Lauren has nowhere else to turn but the arms of a man who shares a similar pain…and a burning need for vengeance.
FBI agent Brent Durant is determined to unmask the Troll King, a vicious Internet stalker he suspects of preying on the weak, goading his victims into suicide. Victims like Lauren’s sister. Working off the grid as a rogue agent, Brent risks it all—even his freedom—to bait the clever killer. But when he involves Lauren in his deadly game, their unexpected chemistry complicates an already tangled web. With his dark obsession all-consuming, can there be any room in Brent’s life for the passion Lauren stirs within him?

What's been fascinating to me, as I embarked on this venture with Amazon's Montlake Romance, is that the serial is nothing new at all. So many of the books we now consider classics were originally published this way, from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina to Jack London's Call of the Wild to a host of Dickens' classics, including David Copperfield. Eager readers followed the story via their favorite magazines and newspapers. Only later were the episodes compiled in a single volume.

These days, serials such as The Best Victim are usually first published electronically, delivered weekly to the readers' Kindle devices for one low price ($1.99, in my case, for all the episodes). Once the novel is completed, usually in about 9-10 episodes, it will then be published (at a higher price point) as a single volume, in electronic, paperback, and audio editions.

Writing the book has been both a delight--I love these characters so much--and a challenge, as I'm frequently composing one episode, doing developmental edits on another, and sometimes also copyediting a third! Fortunately, I plotted the book in detail ahead of time and outlined which events would occur in which sections, which has proven crucial in keeping me on track.

If you're a Kindle reader, I hope you'll consider preordering or jumping in with the episodes at any point. If you'd prefer, however, late April will mark the release of the full-length novel.

Happy reading!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

THE POETS LAUREATE ANTHOLOGY educates, entertains, and on occasion, confuses

As a record of poetry, The Poets Laureate Anthology is groundbreaking, charting the course of American poetry over the last seventy-five years, while being, at the same time, a pleasure to read, full of some of the world’s best-known poems and many new surprises. Elizabeth Hun Schmidt has gathered and introduced poems by each of the forty-three poets who have been named our nation’s poets laureate since the post (originally called Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress) was established in 1937. Poets range from Robert Pinsky, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop to Charles Simic, Billy Collins, and Rita Dove. Schmidt’s spirited introductions place the poets and their poems in historical and literary context and shine light on the interesting and often uneasy relationship between politics and art. This is an inviting, monumental collection for everyone’s library, containing much of the best poetry written in America over the last century. 43 black-and-white photographs

Friday, November 08, 2013

ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME by Julie Berry is like Speak meets The Crucible

Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family.
Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas.
But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever.
ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

ELEMENTS OF STYLE by Strunk & White is the best book to have on your shelf

Every English writer knows Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. The book’s mantra, make every word tell, is still on point. This much-loved classic, now in its fourth edition, will forever be the go-to guide when in need of a hint to make a turn of phrase clearer or a reminder on how to enliven prose with the active voice. The only style manual to ever appear on bestseller lists has explained to millions of readers the basic principals of plain English, and Maira Kalman’s fifty-seven exquisite illustrations give the revered work a jolt of new energy, making the learning experience more colorful and clear.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

MARCH Book One by John Lewis aims to get youth politically involved

MARCH is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis' personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement. 

Book One spans John Lewis' youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall. 

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book "Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story." Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Help Me Celebrate Another Book Birthday: The Colton Heir

I hope you'll help me celebrate another book birthday!

Today's the long-awaited release for my latest Harlequin Romantic Suspense, The Colton Heir.  This book is #5 of 6 in the popular Coltons of Wyoming miniseries, and although it stands alone, I think you'll enjoy the others just as much as I have! It was so wonderful, working with so many talented authors and our amazing editor, Patience Bloom, on these stories.

Book One: The Colton Ransom, by Marie Ferrarella
Book Two: Colton by Blood, by Melissa Cutler
Book Three: The Missing Colton, by Loreth Ann White
Book Four: The Colton Bride, by Carla Cassidy

And don't miss next month's exciting conclusion to the series:
Book Six: Colton Christmas Rescue, by Beth Cornelison

One final note: Today is the release of the e-book edition. Paperbacks should be in stores by Tuesday, Nov. 5th.


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