Sunday, April 30, 2006

Website Redesign

I managed to go a whole seven or eight months before I completely redid my website this time. I just decided the white background, while very readable, wasn't very atmospheric for a romantic suspense writer.

So I redid the site. I also created my first ever Flash movie for my book--go to my website and check it out! (But when you reach the end of the movie, don't click where it says click--instead, click on "skip movie" to get to the next page. I'm not sure why the click-through doesn't work, but I've done about all the web design I plan to do today).

Final note--tomorrow, May 1st, FORBIDDEN TERRITORY should be available through the Harlequin Website.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Guys Watching 24

This is hilarious.

I just want to know how they managed to get the commercial break to last that long. I can't even take a quick bathroom break without missing the first part of the next act.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Where Have All the Blond Hotties Gone?

I'm trying to cast the hero of my new WIP, and I thought I'd go with a blondish hero for a change. But I'm having a hard time casting him. I think the problem is that while I find some blond guys cute, I don't always consider them romantic suspense hero material.

Take Dierks Bentley.

Cute, cute, cute, and sexy in a boyish way. Boyish being the operative word. He's perfect as a beta hero in a sweet romance, but I'm just not buying him as an action hero.

How about Jensen Ackles?

Sexy, pouty, pretty. Too pretty. And a little too young.

I've always had a soft spot for Sean Bean. Rugged, British, sexy.

But he's edging toward too old for a category romance hero, and definitely too old for my current hero.

What about Leslie Wainger's beloved Viggo Mortensen?

Kinda hot as Aragorn. Not so hot as Viggo. Don't tell Leslie I said that.

I know, I know! David Wenham.

Sexy as Faramir. Freckly and dorky as David.

And while I'd say Kiefer Sutherland's definitely hero material...


...he's already cast in my WIP as the ruthless CIA spymaster who will manipulate several couples over the course of my upcoming series before he meets his own love match.

So tell me. What blond hotties am I forgetting?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Contest! (UPDATED)

I'm running my first contest, and the prize is a $20 gift certificate from Amazon.com.

This is the easiest contest ever! All you have to do is go to my website, check out the contest corner and click on the link to an excerpt from my upcoming book, FORBIDDEN TERRITORY. Answer the question posed there and be the first to email me. Voila! Instant gift certificate.

Once I get my author's copies of FORBIDDEN TERRITORY, I'll be holding more contests to give autographed books away.

UPDATE

Congratulations to Jennifer McKenzie, who correctly answered the contest question first and will receive a $20 gift certificate.

Check back often for more contests.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006

Four Stars from Romantic Times!

I have no idea what the Romantic Times reviewer actually said about my book, but she gave it four stars!

Anybody with online access to RT's subscription services want to check it out and e-mail me the details? My e-mail's listed in my profile. (I'm an RT subscriber, but my magazine comes in a wrapper, and I always forget and throw away the wrapper before I save my membership number, which is what's necessary for registering online).

UPDATE

Thanks bunches to Gina Black for e-mailing me the review, which is just lovely:

FORBIDDEN TERRITORY
by Paula Graves
RT Rating: 4 stars
Category: SERIES
Publisher: Harlequin
Published: June 2006
Line: Harlequin Intrigue

Psychic Lily Browning may be the only hope a kidnapped child has, but dubious detective J. McBride suspects she has ulterior motives. Lily is used to the doubts about her gift, but is drawn to help the child; McBride is tough and tender, and reluctantly sizzles in Lily's arms. A past incident has colored McBride's perception but he can't deny the attraction he feels as he wades into Forbidden Territory (4) in Paula Graves' wonderfully twisted story of compelling people dealing with a terrifying situation. When McBride's secret pain is revealed, can he trust Lily enough to love her?

- Pat Cooper

Chunk Update

Chunk is staying at the vet's overnight. It's still up in the air whether or not she can improve. She doesn't have diabetes, and her liver function is fine. But the doctor's worried about her kidney function, plus she's still not eating. He's putting her on IV fluids and a stronger antibiotic for her upper respiratory infection. By tomorrow, we'll have a good idea whether this is something she can get through or not.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Difficult Weekend

My oldest cat, Chunk, the love of my life, is going downhill. She's only sixteen, but she's had thyroid trouble for the past couple of years, and over the past three or four days, she's deteriorated quickly. My mom's taking her to the vet again tomorrow morning. The doctor will probably do tests to see if she has diabetes, too, and then we'll have some decisions to make.

If he doesn't think she'll get significantly better than she is now, even with treatment, I can't let her go on this way. She's tottery, has lost interest in food or socializing, and it's just no life for a cat. It will break my heart, but seeing her the way she is has already broken it, so what's a few more tears? At least she'll be at rest.

So, y'all be thinking of me and my cat tomorrow. I'll post an update when I know more.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Free Books!

Tracy Montoya's giving a free book to the first three people to post comments on some of her past blog entries. If you haven't read her Intrigues, you're in for a treat! Go. Comment. Win!

Today on Romance Magicians . . .

I blogged on using the neglected senses in your writing over on Romance Magicians, my local RWA chapter's group blog. While you're there, check out some of the previous blog entries--we have a talented bunch of writers contributing to the blog.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Don't Make Me Do It, Helen..."

Blogs4Bauer suggests that, with the resignation of Scott McClellan as White House spokesman, the perfect replacement would be Jack Bauer.


B4B's Top 10 Changes Jack Bauer Would Bring to the White House Press Corps:

10. Positive stories about Bush increase 145% in his first hour alone.

9. Five moles weeded out of press corps by Bauer.

8. Ask a stupid question; get hooked up to the sensory deprivation device.

7. Podium replaced with bullet-proof barrier with gun ports.

6. All press conferences last an hour, with all tough questions coming at 45 minutes past the hour.

5. By the end of a press conference, a minimum of 34 people would have been killed.

4. "No comment" replaced by "We don't have time for that question".

3. Gary Bauer mistakenly showed up to a press conference, once.

2. All comments will be yelled.

1. Blogs4Bauer starts to live-blog press conferences.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Post-Easter Opportunism

So my six-year-old niece comes into my room last night, carrying a little tray of her easter candy. "Aunt Paula, would you like a piece of candy?"

Awww, how sweet. I pick out a little yellow M & M and make a big deal of how good it is.

Ashlee flashes me her sweetest smile. "Two cents, please."

Free market grade-schoolers. Gotta love 'em.

(But she needs to work on her pricing analysis. I bought a little chocolate bunny for a quarter, when I figure I'd have paid at least twice that at the grocery store. Free market goes both way, baby cakes. Welcome to Capitalism).

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Someone Must've Bought a Book


As of 8:44 pm CDT, FORBIDDEN TERRITORY was ranked #10 among all Intrigues on the Amazon.com top seller's list.

I know it's really not much to be #10 on such a narrow list for such a narrow period of time, but I'm all squishy inside about it anyway. :)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My Version of the Biological Clock

So I had this dream last night about kittens. In the dream, I found four little kittens, darling little things about six weeks old, just weaned. I can even remember what they looked like--three were tabby mixes, two brown tabbies with a lot of white and one silver tabby with a lot of white. The fourth one was a tortoiseshell. A male tortie, which made him extremely rare, since most tricolored cats are females.

I decided to keep the tortie and spent the rest of the dream trying to find good homes for the other three. When I woke up, I wasn't sure whether to feel sad or relieved.

When I first moved out of my family home many years ago, I got a couple of cats to keep me company. Within three years, my cat household grew to five, despite my conscientiousness about spaying and neutering, because I am apparently a stray magnet. However, of the original five, only two are left. Chunk is sixteen and in relatively fragile condition due to her thyroid problem, and Samantha is thirteen and still fairly healthy, but she has a growing dark spot in her left eye that the vets say is probably a slow-growing tumor. My mom had a cat with the same condition. She eventually lost the eye, not too long before she finally died at the age of nineteen.

As my cats get older and my time with them grows shorter, I'm struggling with the need to have a new little face in my life. I can't do that, though, because I no longer live alone. My mom and my sister and her kids live with me. And I'm not the only one in the household with cats. We have two young ones--under the age of three--that my mother and I found when they were tiny kittens. My sister has three cats of various ages, from eight to seventeen, and my mom has a seventeen year old cat as well. Plus the two dogs. We don't need any more animals.

But if a male tortie wanders up, I swear I'm going to consider it a sign . . . .

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fishing With Mom

Alas, we didn't exactly fill a creel this morning when my mom and I went fishing, but the day was enjoyable regardless. We drove up to my uncle's little RV trailer on the banks of Lake Guntersville and caught a few bluegills. Only one was really big enough to consider keeping, but since I'm the fish cleaner in the household, I quickly decided it was going back into the lake.

The sunscreen did its job; I'm a little more freckled, perhaps, than usual, but no sunburn in sight. And we really didn't get hot until around 11 am, and even then, the occasional breeze off the lake kept us from getting too uncomfortable.

It was nice to spend time with my mom doing something we both love to do. Unlike a lot of mothers and daughters, my mom and I have always had a close relationship, as much friends as parent and child. I suspect that if I'd been a more difficult or rebellious child, that relationship wouldn't have been possible, because my mom is pretty firm about being a parent to her children and setting boundaries. But I never felt constricted by her boundaries, and I'm very grateful to have had such a terrific mom all these years.

When my ultra-pragmatic father tried to convince me that I was wasting my time trying to write and get published, my mom was the one who didn't let me stop dreaming. She always wanted to be a writer when she was young, and she made sure I never had to give up my dream the way she'd given up hers.

When I sold my first book, she was out of town. The most vivid memory I have of that day was trying to track my mother down at the beach to tell her I'd sold a book. I reached her, finally, when I got home from work, and our conversation was short because she and her friends were headed to the beach. But it wouldn't have felt real without talking to my mom. Unfortunately, my father never lived to see that my goal of selling a book wasn't so unpractical after all. But I think he knows about it anyway.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Book by Any Other Name . . .

My friend Debbie Matthews pointed out this interesting article on book titles.

I got lucky with FORBIDDEN TERRITORY. Not too many books by that name, believe it or not. And I haven't found many books with the title DANGEROUS PURSUIT, either, so if my second book sells and the editor likes the title, I may be in good shape there, too.

Just Dribs and Drabs

A few things that have occurred to me over the past couple of days.

1) I don't have a problem with President Weenie on 24 being behind a lot of the bad stuff going on. Sometimes great evil comes not out of strength but out of weakness. However, I'm having a lot of trouble buying that a guy like RoboCop would actually kill innocent people to protect President Weenie.

2) Who's idea was Queen night on American Idol???

3) The first season of Nashville Star was great. The subsequent seasons have gone downhill. Now we're stuck with Wynonna Judd and Cowboy Troy as the cohosts, and the show couldn't even manage to get three judges to agree to judge each night, so they have a guest host each week. And I swear, if Wynonna does any more of her WomynPower schtick or calls one more woman "sister-friend," I may explode. Yeah, we get it. Women are powerful and awesome and have a right to seek their dreams. Now shut up and let the contestants sing, please! (On the up side, the contestants each year have been pretty darned good. And I rather like Phil Vassar, one of the judges).

4) I had a dream the other night where I conflated Tom Amandes of Everwood with Hugh Laurie of House, MD. Apparently I have a thing for sarcastic, dyspeptic TV doctors.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Super News

Literally. Congratulations to Adele Gautier, my FTHRW chaptermate who just sold to Harlequin Superromance!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

How Did I Miss This?

Belated but heartfelt congratulations to Marley Gibson, whose quest for publication I've been watching for a while, on selling a YA series to Puffin, a subsidiary of the Penguin group.

Way to go, Marley!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Standalones vs. Series

If my editor buys my second book, then my first two published books will be connected books rather than standalones. The heroines of these two books are sisters, both with paranormal gifts that affect the plot of the stories. There's a third sister, but I currently have no story for her. It may just end up being a two-book series.

I have another completed manuscript that I think may eventually sell, but it's not connected to anything I've written before or anything I've got in the works. I suppose there are secondary characters in the story who could warrant their own book, but I haven't really thought toward that. So it may turn out to be a true standalone.

And the WIP I'm working on now is planned to be the first in an ongoing series about a private international security and threat assessment agency made up of former government agents from a variety of agencies (and even countries) who all shared a common past experience--a deadly terrorist incident in a fictional central asian country. This experience will in some way inform and affect the characters and their stories in each manuscript.

Personally, I love interconnected series. I'm a big fan of Gayle Wilson's Phoenix Brotherhood, Deb Webb's Colby Agency books, Dana Marton's SDDU series, etc. But do readers get turned off by series, fearing that if they come in on things in the middle, they won't know what's going on?

So, what about you? Do you like series books (specifically in category lines) or do you prefer standalones? If you're a writer, which do you prefer to write?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Performance Anxiety

Tomorrow I have to blog on my RWA chapter's group blog, Romance Magicians.

And I got nothin'.

Zip.

Anybody have any ideas? Any burning issues in publishing that need to be addressed? Any superduper new software that writes your synopsis for you? (hmm....money-making idea forming...)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Oh No He DINT!

I don't normally Idol-blog. It's not something I'm proud of watching or anything. But I just have to say this...

Excuse me, Mr. Simon "My tight T-shirt cuts off the circulation to my brain" Cowell...but that Keith Urban song you just dissed was written by Mr. Rodney Crowell, who has more musical talent (and sense) in the fingertip of his little finger than you have in your whole swelled head. Normally, I'm with you on about all of your judgments, Simon...but you have no business judging Country Music night when you obviously don't have a clue what Country Music is all about.

By the way, Simon has been right about most of the song choices on this particular American Idol episode. Um, Taylor, baby, I was expecting something like "Desperado" or one of the half a freakin' billion bluesy country songs out there. Not "Country Road, Take Me Home," which was old and stale THIRTY YEARS AGO. What were you THINKING??? That's the song I taught myself to play guitar with...when I was EIGHT.

Mandisa singing Shania is just wrong. On a bad day, Mandisa makes Shania sound like a karaoke queen. She has the pipes to sing the stew out of a Trisha Yearwood or Martina McBride power ballad. I'd have paid money to hear her do "Georgia Rain" or "Independence Day."

Ace, Paris, Bucky, Kellie, Chris and Katharine all chose good songs. Props for that. Elliot continues to impress.

Still shaking my head over Taylor's choice, though. Let's hope it doesn't get him kicked off the show. That would be a shame.

Update on Book Two

I heard from my editor. She's given me the greenlight to proceed with DANGEROUS PURSUIT (good thing, since the first draft is finished). She had notes for me, none of which looked scary, and I'm hoping to have a polished full to send to her by the middle of May. (Wish me luck!) She said she thought it had the makings of a salable book. Whee!

Pantsing It

I've confessed in previous blog entries that while I started life as a pantser, I've learned that I'm more productive when I do the work necessary to plot out a basic outline for my book.

However, on my new WIP, I'm pantsing it, at least for the opening chapters.

I do have a basic idea of what the story is about, who the villain is, and some of the turning points for the story, but it's very nebulous and, at the moment, completely in my head (as opposed to written down somewhere). Instead of focusing on my plot points, I'm sitting back for the first three or four chapters and letting my characters do all the driving.

I think one reason I can do it that way is that the hero and heroine, and even most of the secondary characters, are very real and fully formed to me already. I don't know every detail of their backstory yet, but I understand who they are, if that makes sense. I can see them and hear them. I know how they'll react to situations. I know the kinds of things that will drive them together, threaten to tear them apart, push their buttons and break their hearts. At the moment, I can't list specific events that will create their escalating conflict and crisis points, but it doesn't matter. I know Audrey and Connor.

I'm very curious to see where these two characters and their band of merry co-conspirators will take me over the first few chapters.

I love when a book gets under my skin and won't let go. It doesn't happen every time I start a new story, and I've gotten to where I can still write a book in a relatively short time even when I'm not consistently "in the zone." But there's nothing like writing when everything's clicking, when it's a movie playing out in your head and no matter how quickly you can type, you can't keep up with the story flowing into of your fingers.

It's crack for writers. ;)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A Little Intrigue Insider Info

One of the things I've always liked, as a reader of Harlequin Intrigues, is the helpful Cast of Characters page you find at the front of an Intrigue. It introduces the main characters as well as the various suspects in the mystery that makes up the plot of an Intrigue.

However, until I sold FORBIDDEN TERRITORY, I always assumed that the editors wrote the cast of characters. So I had a mild panic attack when my editor asked me to work up a Cast of Characters for my book. However, it turned out to be easier than I expected, and I've actually figured out that I can use the cast of characters as a plotting tool.

Usually when I start plotting a story, I have a basic idea of the overall plot (is it an adventure, a mystery, is it gritty or cosy, is it a caper or a thriller, etc.) and I know the hero, heroine and probably the villain. What writing the Cast of Characters forces me to do is think through my characters and their goals, motivations and conflicts. What drives the hero and heroine into the heart of my mystery plot? Who's going to be an ally and who's going to be an obstacle (if not an outright villain)? Who are my red herrings? (Every Intrigue should have at least two or three, minimum, although their strength as red herrings may vary). Who is my ultimate villain?

By creating the Cast of Characters, I not only get a better look at my main characters and the conflicts that will drive them through the story, I also get an idea of some of the steps they'll have to take along the way (in order to meet some of the secondary characters I've created in my cast of characters). It helps me get a mental roadmap of what my protagonists will face over the course of the story. Once that's in place, it's exponentially easier to fill in the blanks of the plot.

So if you're ever floundering around, looking for a road map for your story, try creating a Cast of Characters page for your own story. It might work just as well for a straight romance as it does for a romantic suspense.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

A Bleg

(That's a beg for information via a blog, hence...bleg.)

For my next book idea, the hero is a Brit, a former MI-5 agent who has emigrated to the U.S. My heroine is a former CIA agent who had a forbidden romantic relationship with him a few years earlier before she had to choose between him and her job and chose her job, a choice she's since come to regret.

This book is going to take a lot of research, and I'm looking for suggestions for where to get started. Here are some of the research needs I have for this manuscript:

1) Insider info on MI-5 (at least, that which won't earn me a visit from grim blokes with pasty skin in Savile Row suits).

2) Inside information on life inside a U.S. Embassy. (I have bought a few books that will be helpful, but if anyone knows anyone who's actually worked in a U.S. embassy abroad who might be willing to talk to me, that would be fantastic).

3) Someone who lives in or is intimately familiar with life in the Smoky Mountains, either on the Tennessee or North Carolina side of the range, or a good travel guide or book that will give that sort of non-tourist picture of the area.

4) Anyone who lives in or is familiar with Key West, or a suggestion of a good travel guide or book for people who want to experience the non-tourist side of life there.

5) Any information on the inner workings of the CIA that won't involve a breach of U.S. national security, men in black knocking on my door in the middle of the night or the sudden appearance of black helicopters buzzing my neighborhood.

6) Information about torture methods of foreign countries. (Google's more than happy to tell me all about the allegations of torture by Americans, but the links on foreign torture are hard to find. Must have something to do with open societies vs. closed ones).

Any and all accurate information will be greatly appreciated. Any tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theories will be saved as story fodder for future books. Contact me here.