New Orleans as a book setting

Monday, August 30, 2010

I love New Orleans. I dreamed of visiting it when I read 'French Silk' by Sandra Brown. The ambience made my mouth water. My first experience was the 2001 RWA Conference, particularly memorable for me as I was celebrating my first book sale. Walking along the streets was an unbelievable experience: the architecture, the grillwork, the Cajun music blaring from the stores; the Dixieland bands marching in the streets.

The next time I saw NO was post-Katrina when I attended the 2007 Heather Graham's Writers for New Orleans Conference. The Katrina wounds were still fresh and raw. However, the revival was already underway with restaurants reopening and new homes being built. 

I returned in 2009 for the Florida Family Law retreat and the French Quarter Jazz Festival was fabulous.  Crowds roamed the streets and music filled the air. The energy was amazing.

I know NO has taken another blow due to the oil spill, but the city's spirit is precious and indominable. Here's to New Orleans and hoping Heather Graham's Writers for New Orleans Conference is a smashing success.  My question is:  what is your favorite book set in NO?  :) Carol

Books Remembered: Jane Aiken Hodge

Monday, August 16, 2010

Although I have always loved books, my true passion for them began with Jane Aiken Hodge. My mother introduced me to Jane when I was around eleven, resulting in an affectionate battle as to who would get to read her latest release first.

Ms. Hodge’s romantic suspense novels transported me to different historical periods and settings. Against the backdrop of the Regency England, the Napoleonic War, Greek War of Independence, and even the American Revolution, she wrote stories of strong, determined women who against all odds found their happily ever after. At the time, I didn’t realize the significance of one of her heroines being over thirty or books about the Napoleonic War being set in Portugal or Moscow rather than England. I simply knew that I loved them.

They were fast-paced, mysterious stories with emotionally satisfying endings. I read her books over and over again, so much so I suspect that I absorbed pacing into my very bones. Between 1961 and 2003 Jane published more than 40 novels.

Born on December 4, 1917 to Pulitzer prize-winning poet Conrad Aiken and his first wife [Jane’s sister was children’s author Joan Aiken], the writer Jessie McDonald, Jane achieved first writing success with ‘Camilla’ published in installments in 1961 in the US magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal. Later published in book form as Marry in Haste, 'Camilla' was set in Napoleonic Portugal.

Hodge’s first published book, Maulever Hall (1964), reflected her admiration for Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, whose biography Jane would later write. This was followed by The Adventurers (1966), dealing with thrilling moments during Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow; The Winding Stair (1968), another tale of romantic suspense in Portugal; and Savannah Purchase (1970), describing early-19th-century intrigue in the Southern US city where Ms. Hodge’s father was born. The titles go on.

My personal favorite was The Adventurers as the heroine disguises herself as a boy to flee after her family is killed by Napoleon’s retreating army and meets up the bad boy hero, a card shark. Against the backdrop of a world torn apart by violence, Ms. Hodge created an unbelievable tale of adventure where romance prevails. Sigh.

Jane Aiken Hodge died on June 17, 2009 at age 91. I still have all the paperbacks my mother bought, which is my memorial to the author who had immeasurable impact on me.

What is your favorite Jane Aiken Hodge book?

Dog Trivia According to Maddie

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Maddie here. Despite the fact that Carol gave me a bath today, I told her I would pitch in and help with her blog this week.  See how well you know canine trivia.

1) True or false: dogs are color blind.

2) Where did the expression "three dog night" originate?

3) Who first thought to use dogs to guide the blind?

4) What is the name of the dog on the Cracker Jack box?
a. Max
b. Bingo
c. Fido

5) What dog was the first one to star in an American movie?


1)  False. Dogs can see color, but it is not as vivid a color scheme as we see. They distinguish between blue, yellow, and gray, but probably do not see red and green. This is much like our vision at twilight.

2)  The expression "three dog night" originated with the Eskimos and means a very cold night - so cold that you have to bed down with three dogs to keep warm.

3) The Germans. At the end of World War I, the German government trained the first guide dogs to assist blind war veterans.

4) (b) Bingo.

5)  Jean the Vitagraph Dog, a Border Collie mix, who made her first film in 1910.

Later, Maddie off to get her treat


Sunday, August 1, 2010

My hat's off to Alison Kelly & the rest of the RWA staff for pulling off the switch in location for the RWA 2010 Conference. All in all it appeared to go smoothly.

On Wednesday I hit the road at the crack of dawn to get to the Harlequin Digital Clinic.  Harlequin and Carina Press digital guru's Malle Vallik, Jenny Bullough, Jayne Hoogenberk, and Amy Wilkins presented great information on how to use social media as an author.  Very beneficial especially for a novice like myself.  On a lunchbreak, I met up with fellow Wordy Wenches Sandra Madden and Vicky Koch for lunch. Congratulations to Vicky for placing second in the RWA Scriptscene competition for her screenplay adaptation of her published romantic comedy, HOLIDAY

Sandra Madden, Vicky Koch and myself.

Wednesday nite kicked off with the Literacy Booksigning. Over 500 authors participated with 3600 attendees, raising $55,000 for literacy, with the proceeds going to ProLiteracy Worldwide, Orlando’s Adult Literacy League, and the Nashville Adult Literacy Council.

After the signing, my fabulous agent treated her authors to dinner at Shula's Steakhouse.  The meal was too die for.  I managed to save the bone from my steak to bring home to Maddie [When I couldn't find a cooler at the conference hotel, Roberta came to the rescue with her suggestion that I put the bone in a water holder that was in our goody bag and fill it with ice.  Then when I arrived home, I popped it in the oven.]                
Roberta, Angela Knight and Angela's husband

Thursday I met with Roberta to discuss my career plan over breakfast.  I had waffles with Mickey Mouse ears!  I attended a reception in the Harlequin Hospitality Suite and caught up with Intrigue authors Lisa Childs and Delores Fossen.  Next I lunched with the Harlequin NASCAR authors and editors Marsha Zinberg and Stacy Boyd.  It was so nice to tell NASCAR stories!                                                                 

After attending a few workshops the Florida Romance Writer group gathtered. 

Nancy Cohen, Sharon Hartley, Lisa Manuel, Michael Meeske, Carol Stephenson, Traci Hall, Kathleen Pickering, Ona Bustos, and Debbie Andrews
I then dined with Wordy Wenches Marcia King Gamble and Sandra Maddren.  We were joined by Sandra Kitt and Laura Castoro.  Although she's not in the photo below, author Susan O'Connell also joined us for a laugh-filled dinner at Il Mulino.
Sandra Kitt, Marcia King Gamble, Sandra Madden on the L.
Laura Castoro and myself on the R.

We finished up the night at Kimono's for Heather Graham's karaoke party.  The Florida Romance Writers group rocked it out! 

Debbie Andrews, Traci Hall, Kathleen Pickering
FRW President & Golden Heart Finalist Kristin Wallace
Wordy Wenches Carol Stephenson, Marcia King Gamble & Sandra Madden
Heather Graham

Lindsey Brookes & Lisa Childs

I attended the Awards Luncheon on Friday to listen to the goddess Jayne Ann Krentz give an inspiring speech.  I sucked it up and got a new publicity photo taken [hate, hate, hate having my own photo taken!].  At least I didn't break the camera. 

Friday nite I dined with the Carina Press staff and met several of their exciting authors.  We ate at Il Mulino and the food was sheer heaven. Then the HQ "Picture Perfect" party capped off the nite at the Waldorf Astoria.  What a fabulous time!!!!! 

Sally Fairchild, Heather Graham & Linda Conrad go for a group shot
I'm framed for having too good of a time!

Marcia King Gamble strikes a pose

My thanks to my roomie Sandra Madden, my fellow Wordy Wenches and Florida Romance Writers for such a great time.  The Harlequin and Carina Press folks were phenomemal.  And here's to all the new writers I met and will be following on Twitter and Facebook. Can't wait for #rwa11 in New York City!!! :) Carol