Thursday, May 31, 2007

May contest winners

Hi, everybody:

Here are the winners of the May contest on The Best is Yet to Read blog. Next to your name is the name of the writer who is going to send you a prize:

Sue A. - Peggy Webb
Shilo - Kate Austin
Stacy S. - Nancy Robards Thompson
tam - Jennifer Greene
Virginia - Hank Phillippi Ryan
Maura - Donna Birdsell

Can each of you send me an email at with your full name and address which I'll pass along and then you'll get a lovely prize in the mail.

Don't forget that this is a monthly contest, so starting June 1 you're going to want to check out the blog and keep posting for more great prizes. Next month's prizes will be posted June 1 or June 2, but you can post before then - just don't do it before June 1.

Good luck and congratulations!


What's NEXT in June?

What's NEXT in June are two great books, one by Hank Phillippi Ryan (brand new to NEXT) and one by Donna Birdsell, who you already know.

PRIME TIME - Hank Phillippi Ryan

Could an innocent e-mail offer really result in murder, mayhem and a multimillion-dollar fraud ring? The last person to ask is dead - but that won't keep Charlotte McNally from poking around. Face it: in the cutthroat world of television journalism, this seasoned reporter knows that she'd better pull out all the stops or kiss her cushy job (and that means her life) goodbye.

But all too soon her investigation leads her straight to Josh Gelston, who is a little too a lot too handsome. Could she trust a word he said? Charlie might have a nose for news, but men are a whole other story. Which means she is putting her job, life and heart on the line....

MADAM OF THE HOUSE - Donna Birdsell

It was a great idea — why not bring lonely hearts together and make money? Real estate agent Cecilia Katz's brilliant brainstorm gave a whole new meaning to an open house. Especially with her hunky new assistant hiring the hot young studs to mingle with bored housewives. Who dreamed a game of Truth or Dare would lead to a flourishing business for the nearly broke single mother?

Until a stash of drugs is found and the cops start nosing around. Add in a lethally gorgeous real estate rival, and a risky business just got a whole lot riskier. But Cecilia's up for the challenge. And with the help of Jake the babe- magnet, watch her transform a life that's boring and sexless to one that's hot and reckless!



Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Perfect Day? Hmmm...

Okay, first off, my perfect day has to be a lot more than 24 hours. (Hey, I'm a fiction writer--I can play with time, right?)
If I had more than 24 hours, I could both loll in bed late with my husband and also get up early and get e-mailing and that sort of stuff out of the way before the day started. I could have pancakes covered with sauteed blueberries because I'd not only have plenty of time to prepare them, but time to exercise the calories off after I ate them. (Cool, huh?) Maybe I would even sit with a cup of coffee and read the paper.
I would write twenty pages. . .before lunch. That way I'd be free for the rest of the day. I'd spend an hour using the webcam to visit with my granddaughter and watch her gurgle and coo and have a bottle.
Oh--This is Lela:

Then I'd take off in my convertible because my perfect day would be 74 degrees and sunny, and I'd find a craft fair to stroll through. Then I'd go real shopping and all the size 8s I tried on would not only fit, but flatter!
While I was shopping, my daughter would call and tell me what a terrific day she's having. I'd conference in her dad and she'd tell us all about how they are filming the episode she wrote for South of Nowhere.
Call waiting would interrupt us and I'd receive a call from my agent that publishers all over NY were fighting for my next series.
I'd meet my husband at the wonderful cafe up the lake where we'd have wine and dinner outside--bug free.
We'd leave his car there, to pick up on a less than perfect day, and drive home together under the stars in my convertible.
We'd be cold from the drive, so we'd hop in the hot tub and then hurry up to bed (here's where I close the door on the details. . .).

You know, yesterday was actually just like that.

Except for the breakfast. And the exercise. And the shopping. And the call from my agent. And the sitting with coffee and reading the paper. . .

But I did have a visit with my granddaughter, hear from my daughter about her great day on the set, go in the hot tub. . .

And you know what?

That's perfect enough!

Hope something is just perfect for you today!

Friday, May 25, 2007

My Perfect Day(s)

My perfect day?

That's easy. It was only yesterday. My birthday. And a great one it was, too.

I think I talked with everyone I love, which was awesome. Those little "gifts" of conversation went on and on, one here, one there, from morning until night. I even had a nice long chat with my one-and-only-brother who lives in Ohio. We don't get the chance to catch up all that often these days, and it was so good to hear his voice.

The weather cooperated yesterday with a gorgeous late-May day of clear blue skies, low humidity (a minor miracle in Tennessee), a mid-80s temperature, and a balmy breeze.

Isn't it wonderful to be able to wear summer clothes again, not all those heavy winter things?

I admit, I didn't work yesterday. Oh, I kicked a few ideas around for the next chapter in my new book, jotted a couple of lines of dialogue on a notepad, but I never booted up the computer to actually write. I gave myself permission to take the day off.

And sat in the sun.

Later, my husband took me to dinner at one of our favorite places, the Back Inn Cafe, here in Chattanooga where I was given (surprise) a free dessert (yummy Italian cream cake) to celebrate. The salmon I ordered for dinner was tasty too, but that cake definitely topped off the evening! Good thing it didn't have candles, though. Wouldn't want to light up the entire restaurant--and besides, at this point in life who's counting?

I think I'll pick a permanent age and stick to it from now on.


What did I get for this birthday? My husband presented me with the Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons I've wanted. Apparently, my few broad hints did the trick. So the next time we go to Cabo San Lucas, probably in December, I'll be fluent. I hope.

We were there in early May with our son Hal and his girlfriend Kim, but none of us had a good grasp of Spanish then. We did, however, have a marvelous time. It's hard not to in such a beautiful place among such friendly people. With family. Great company.

In Mexico, even on vacation I did do some writing. The timing was excellent. I was at the point in my new book where the heroine Tess and her ex-husband Grady unexpectedly spend a week together in --guess where?--Cabo. This changes their post-divorce relationship to the max. So imagine me on the deck of the condo on another gorgeous morning, gazing out at an expanse of the Sea of Cortez that stretches endlessly from the beach below the building to the horizon. Laptop on my, well, lap. And the words flowing from my fingertips. It was easy to get the details of setting right when I was sitting in the same spot, more or less, as my characters did. I hope they had as good a time as I did. I am a lucky woman.

I've digressed here, I know. One perfect day into another.

But something does tie these two times together--and that's people.

The people I love, real or even imaginary, are the most important aspect of any day for me.

Absolutely perfect.

Thanks, you guys, for being the very best part of my life.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

my perfect day

Okay, are we talking "Perfect Day" like in my fantasies? Like spending the morning with George Clooney, the afternoon with Johnny Depp, and the evening husband? Like eating chocolate croissants for breakfast, s'mores for lunch, and chocolate souffle for dinner?

How about a day where I'd see the sunrise without having to get up early, write ten perfect pages without effort, play with my kids without having to worry about the housework, and then go out to a five-star restaurant for dinner without worrying about calories (or the bill)?

No? You want reality?

Well, then. I'll tell you about some perfect moments I've had, and if I put them all together, I'd have the perfect day...

Sunrise on the morning I gave birth to my first child. I was holding her in my arms as I watched it through the hospital window.

Breakfast on the first mother's day my children were old enough to serve me breakfast in bed. Burnt toast, two strawberries (each with a bite taken out of them), and a mug of lukewarm tea.

The morning I walked into a bookstore and saw my first book on the shelves, for the very first time. I cried.

A picnic lunch in the backyard on a perfect spring day, sitting beneath a blooming spice bush. The sunlight shone in my daughter's hair, and she was looking at me like I was the best thing on Earth.

A summer afternoon writing on the back porch, listening to the sounds of birds and lawnmowers and children laughing.

The dinner when my husband proposed to me.

Prom night in tenth grade, when I was all dressed up and the music was playing, and my friends were all there, and I finally believed my mother when she said it would never get any better than that.

Watching the town fireworks with my husband and kids, leaning back on a blanket, the grass tickling my ankles as colors exploded above our heads.

If I could put all of those things together, that would be my perfect day. Although an afternoon with Johnny Depp wouldn't suck.

Donna Birdsell

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A perfect day

Hmmm, there are so many of them.

A spring day in Paris, sunny, warm enough to wear a sweater, my favorite walking shoes, and a companion who loves the city (and the art) as much as I do. Then a late lunch at a small cafe, wine and jambon sandwiches, then an afternoon nap. Then a walk along the Seine, a terrific dinner (mussels, maybe) and another walk back to the hotel.

Or a day like today. I started the day with a walk, then a little shopping, then breakfast by myself, then back home for a little work. This afternoon I'm off to the hairdresser (who's a great friend of mine) for cut and color, then meeting friends for dinner and a movie. Wine included, of course.

Or there's the day when the work is going perfectly, when everything I write feels fresh and clean and perfect. I love those days. And I can look out the window and see this view while I'm writing:

Or the days when I need a mini-vacation and I take the bus from Vancouver to the Victoria ferry and spend the hours on the ferry looking out at the water and if I'm lucky, I see a dolphin or a whale, but always see the ocean moving past, the islands, the boats. And then I spend the day in Victoria, gallery hopping, listening to buskers, going to museums, walking, walking, walking, having lunch and dinner wherever I want, and then I take the bus to the last ferry home. Coming back across the water in the dark and arriving home just in time for bed, feeling like I've been away for a week, rested, refreshed, energized.

Or the day when it's warm, but there's that soft rain, so soft you don't feel yourself getting wet. And I go for a long walk on the beach - and there's almost no one there. And the sky and the ocean merge into one and the mountains look like mist on the horizon. And the ocean is perfectly still and the only sounds are the seagulls mewing off in the distant. And the whole world smells like water.

And then there are those days - which don't happen as often as the others - when you meet a new friend and it's perfect from the moment you meet each other. You talk and laugh and learn about each other and everything you learn, everything you say, every time your eyes meet or your laughter drowns out the noises around you, you realize you've met someone that you'll know forever. And you'll always remember that first meeting. I have friends like that, male friends and female friends, and that first click of connection is like a miracle.

Or the day when I find a new writer and a book that I love and I spend the whole day with that book and that story and those characters. Those are some of my very favorite days.

And the day when you make your first sale (or your tenth!) - those are pretty good days as well.

But for me, the perfect days are the days that I can control. The days on the beach, meeting new friends, good working days - I can count on those days. I can plan for those days.

Perfect days for me happen often - it's an attitude more than anything, I think, at least it is for me. I wake up 99 days out of 100 knowing I'm going to have a good day. And I do. Because you know what? People respond when you smile at them, when you chat with them, and that reinforces the good day. Hard to have a bad day when people smile at you and chat with you and are nice to you.

Here's wishing you a perfect day.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Sorry I've been AWOL

Wow! So many responses to my blog about forgetting...and since I didn't answer any of them, you probably thought I forgot that, too!
I was out in Phoenix visiting my granddaughter again. Her daddy was away at a conference and I spent four days doing her night feedings as well as lots of her day feedings so that her mommy could get a few good nights of sleep and run some errands, etc. I got back last night and checked the blog and wowie!
So, to all of you who said they couldn't retain the books they read either, thanks for making me feel "normal!" And to those of you who can't part with your favorites, I've gotten lots of comments that my romance novels were "keepers" and nothing thrilled me more! I still have all my Lavyrle Spencer's.
My mom was a really avid romance reader and she had a fabric book cover that she'd keep whatever book she was reading in. She passed away before my first book was published, but I put a copy inside her cover and it sits on my shelf . . .
Anyway, thanks for all the comments! Keep 'em coming!

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Hi, everybody:

Each month, the bloggers at THE BEST IS YET TO READ are going to give away prizes to some of the people who post at the blog. The prizes will be contributed by many authors, especially we hope, those whose books will be coming out in the following month.

This month - MAY - is going to be a banner month because we're including the writers whose books are out in May and June.

The prizes will range from autographed copies of backlist books to chocolates, candles, bubble baths and other fun stuff.

In May, you could be one of the six lucky winners of a prize from PEGGY WEBB, KATE AUSTIN, NANCY ROBARDS THOMPSON, JENNIFER GREENE, HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN or DONNA BIRDSELL.

Post, and post often.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

I have many favorite books, but the first time I got this type of question I was embarrassed when I heard other replies. The real question was what were the first books that influenced you. Influence meaning changed your perception of the world. My friends and fellow writers were all mentioning books they read as children, Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, Harriett the Spy, Pippi Longstocking. I never even knew those were books. They were movies. I never heard of Nancy Drew until the television series came on. Laura Engalls was not part of my circle of influence. I read a series of young adult books by Rosamund du Jardin and I read biographies.

The first book that changed my perception of the world was The Stand by Stephen King. It’s a horror tale and you may be gasping in horror as you read this, but from that book I understood that all of us, me included, would have to take a stand on whatever we believe is right in this world. Life presents us with challenges and we were obligated, to ourselves if no one else, to do what we believe and to stand by that decision. So when I think of favorite book, The Stand is on the top of the list.

I cut my teeth on reading romance novels. Emilie Loring, who wrote books set in the 1940’s (contemporary times for her) and had already died by the time I discovered her, was the first author I read and loved. I wished I’d saved her books. They were full of the concerns that people in the northeastern seaboard had about Germans invading the U.S. during World War II. They also had what I came to know years after I began writing as the “feisty” heroine. Her heroines were no wilting flowers. They were strong and spoke their minds, even to the hero, especially to the hero. They were the women of the ‘90’s back in the ‘40’s.

Sandra Brown became a favorite later on and she continues to be on my automatic buy list. I’ve never been disappointed by her. Having her roots in series romance and then single title, she moved to writing thrillers and suspense with romantic elements. The plot twists of these larger books only added to my enjoyment. Charade, Exclusive, and Envy remain all time favorites, although anything she’s written is a favorite.

Dean Koontz, for me, is an author to study. If you read his books in the order he wrote them, you’ll find each one is better than the one before. I want to be like him when I grow up. Favorites are hard to choose because the last one is the best one. I especially like the Christopher Snow novels, Fear Nothing and Seize the Night. At the end of Seize the Night, I was convinced there would be a third book called Torpedo Alley. The ending was set up for a third book in the series, but so far he hasn’t written it and I have not written him requesting it. The Key to Midnight is high on my list of favorites. For Dean Koontz, I’m a collector. I keep all his books, in any pseudonym he’s used, even his children’s book and a book on writing. And, a little known fact to his legends of thriller/horror fans, he wrote romances at one time for Harlequin.

The first African American romance author I read was Sandra Kitt, Adam and Eva. She was the forerunner for an entire list of favorites. Donna Hill’s, Rooms of the Heart. Eboni Snoe’s The Ties That Bind. Francis Ray’s Any Rich Man Will Do. Felicia Mason’s For the Love of You.
I can’t forget Jill Jones, whose first book Emilie’s Secret spawned a genre of its own. Jill hasn’t written that many books, but her back list pumps a wallop in enjoyment of reading.

Like one other author said, the list of favorites can change from day to day. These are some of those I love. I hope you do too.

Shirley Hailstock

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Favorite Books? Oh My!

Okay, I have two confessions to make here.

One is that if I could remove two words from the English language they would be "should" (don't even get me started) and "favorite." When my kids were little they would always ask me what my favorite this or that was. "What's your favorite color, Mommy?" For what? Shirts? White. Walls? Never White! "What's your favorite food?" For what meal? "For dessert?" Hot or cold? Lunch or dinner? In summer or winter? I'd avoid it any way I could. Luckily, I had a boy and a girl so that when they asked about "favorite children" I could say which was my favorite son and which my favorite daughter!

I simply don't do favorites.

Second confession: I don't retain well. No matter how much I adore a book when I'm reading it (and I never read books that I don't adore--I just pass them on), when I'm done, I'm done. So to list my favorites . . . Ugh! That word again!

Oh, gosh! I've just realized I have a third confession. This one has to do with my mother, who was an avid reader, but this has nothing to do with reading. My mother had what we thought of as a very strange affliction. When she spoke with anyone who had an accent, she unintentionally picked it up and replied in the person's accent. Now, this could be very embarrassing because if you didn't know her, you'd think that she was making fun of you. One time she. . .but I digress.
(And while I am out there, digressing, I'm thinking that I really will have to give that problem to a character somewhere along the way. . .) Anyway, when I read, I think I pick up the "accent" of the author. Once I was writing a book and reading Pam Morsi at the same time. It was the one that took place in the Ozarks, I think. At any rate,one of my characters, who'd been doing just fine up until this point, suddenly admitted she couldn't read and started saying ain't. Sooo...I don't read when I'm actively writing, which is nearly all the time.

All that said, who/what do I like?

In no particular order:

  • LaVyrle Spencer, whose books led me to write romance, especially Years
  • Alexander McCall Smith's First Ladies Detective Agency Series. His simple truths appeal to me
  • Legal Thrillers, maybe because I'm married to a lawyer
  • Books in the Next series, because I'm not twenty anymore but I'm not dead yet, and the heroines in these books feel real to me
  • Diet books, because I always think that this one will hold the key to those five pounds I'm always trying to shed
  • Gardening books because winter lasts a long time in Upstate NY

There are probably loads more that I am forgetting. I love being swept away, forgetting I'm on a plane, or down with a cold, or worried about something. I love the act of reading, of cracking a new spine and feeling the pages in my hands.

I LOVE TO READ. And to write. I love the world we escape into together.

Stevi Mittman

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Kate's favorite books

This is one of the toughest questions any reader (or writer, for that matter) gets asked. Those of you who've checked out my website will know that I read an average of a book a day and have done so for almost forty years. Ouch. Didn't really mean to tell you how old I was - but there you go.

So what are my favorite books? They change - month to month, sometimes even week to week - but there are some books or authors that never change. I love:
  • Jane Austen - I like them all but I love Persuasion - maybe because it's about reunited lovers.
  • Michael Ondaatje - everything he's ever written, poetry, novels, memoirs - but my favorite is In the Skin of a Lion.
  • Gene Stratton-Porter - books I learned to read at my grandmother's house, written in the early part of the 20th century, about places I hope to go. Keeper of the Bees is my favorite.
  • Margaret Laurence's The Diviners, as astonishingly beautiful, insightful, perfect book.
  • Bronwen Wallace - both her poetry and her single book of wonderful short stories. Even her poems are stories in disguise.
  • Anything by Neil Gaiman and William Gibson - both amazing writers.
  • Harry Potter - I'm counting down the days to July 21.
  • Anything by Alice Hoffman - although my favorite is Turtle Moon.
  • Barbara Kingsolver, I love all of her books, but probably The Bean Trees is my favorite.
  • Al Purdy and Patrick Lane - great poets and both of whom have written fiction - Pat Lane's book of stories, Purdy's novel, A Splinter in the Heart.
  • Suzanne Brockmann is one of my heroes - especially the SEAL team books. I read them when I'm racing for a deadline.
  • Christine Feehan, though only the Game series; Marjorie M. Liu; Judith McNaught, but mostly the romantic suspense; Linnea Sinclair - fabulous.
  • Barbara Hambly's fantasy series; Mercedes Lackey's Victorian magic series; Mary Jo Putney's Guardian series.
  • Because I'm obsessed with the First World War, I love Timothy Findley's book The Wars, Pat Barker's Ghost Road Trilogy, poets of that war - Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke, John McRae.
  • Dick Francis, P.D. James - my favorite mystery writers.
  • Carl Hiaasen who always, always, always makes me laugh.
  • Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, one of my favorite books ever.
  • Short story writers Mavis Gallant, Raymond Carver, Alice Munro.
  • Non-fiction writers - Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point), Margaret McMillan (Paris 1919.
  • Art books of all and every kind.
  • Margaret Atwood - I like them all but my favorites (this month) are Oryx & Crake and The Handmaid's Tale.
  • Robertson Davies - he writes amazing complex perfect books.
  • Stephen King (who wouldn't love someone who can write perfect sentences?), Dean Koontz, Clive Barker - though not all of any of them.
  • Jim Butcher - I love Harry Dresden.
  • Charles Dickens - I want to be able to write that omniscient narrator like he does.
  • E.M. Forster's A Passage to India - I read it when I want to understand how to write a setting that is one of the best characters in the book and A Room with a View when I want to understand true love.

That's probably enough because I could go on forever and I know I've missed a whole bunch of writers I love. But if you saw my apartment - floor to ceiling books, books in drawers, books in closets, books everywhere - you'd know that I can't tell you how many different books I do love. All of them, really. Every single one of them.


What's NEXT in May

Last Night at the Halfmoon by Kate Austin

Every important event in Aimee King's life has taken place at the Halfmoon.

Her first kiss, Brad Mackey's proposal while parked under the starry sky… Even Aimee's son, Hayden, was conceived there. But as the Halfmoon Drive-In was readying to close its doors, her ex-husband was returning to the Sunshine Coast for the summer. Even though Brad could never stay in one place, he was always a welcome part of the family. It wasn't as if he and Aimee had ever stopped loving each other—and Hayden, more than ever, needed his father. But was it all enough to stop Brad's adventurous ways? Before the drive-in ran its last picture show, would Aimee discover that Hollywood endings aren't reserved solely for the silver screen?

Like Mother, Like Daughter (But in a Good Way) by Jennifer Greene and Nancy Robards Thompson and Peggy Webb

Don't miss these three unforgettable stories that look at the unbreakable—and sometimes infuriating—bonds between mothers and daughters. And the men who get caught in the madness (when they aren't causing it!).

Born in My Heart (Jennifer Greene). A heartwarming and tender look at what it means to be a mother, in her story about adoption.

Becoming My Mother, and Other Things I Learned from Jane Austen (Nancy Robards Thompson). A mother's surprise birthday visit teaches her daughter about living and loving in Paris.

The Long Distance Mother (Peggy Webb). A Mother's Day call brings a woman home to the two mothers who raised her…and helps her discover the answers she's been searching for all her adult life.