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    Sunday, August 28, 2005

    Music is the Only Muse for Teresa

    In one of my earliest baby pictures, my mother is holding my scrawny little diapered self up over a record player. My dad tells me that it was Elvis playing that day and that I wiggled and gurgled with delight, all shook up by the beat and the sexy half-drawl, half-growl of that soft-spoken boy from Memphis.

    Since then, music has continued to hold sway over my imagination, becoming the key that unlocks my creative subconscious. I honestly don't think there would a single Teresa Medeiros book without its accompanying soundtrack.

    I may not remember the name of every secondary character in my books but I can tell you that Justin and Emily in ONCE AN ANGEL first made love to the haunting strains of the Guns N' Roses power ballad "Don't Cry" or that in NOBODY'S DARLING Billy Darling got shot and collapsed in Esmerelda's arms while "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" wailed out of my stereo. In the last scene of THIEF OF HEARTS, it was the music from "Jurassic Park's" end credits that went soaring over the waves when Captain Doom's pirate ship appeared on the horizon to carry Lucy away to her new life.

    My September release AFTER MIDNIGHT began on a similar note. I'd already fallen in love with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas music. (Think Christmas music on acid rock with wailing guitar solos and thundering drums.) Then I picked up a copy of
    BEETHOVEN'S LAST NIGHT, their first concept album in which Beethoven battles with the Devil for ownership of his soul. (Think Faust meets Scrooge.) The CD combines original music with some of the most unforgettable melodies ever crafted by Beethoven and Mozart.

    I froze when I heard the first notes of "Requiem (The Fifth)"--a wickedly sexy rendition of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. As the throbbing bass took control of the song, I could just see this mysterious and powerful man striding through the misty streets of London with his black cloak swirling around his ankles. Was he man or monster? Hero or villain? At that moment, Adrian Kane, Viscount Trevelyan, was born in my imagination and on the first page of AFTER MIDNIGHT.

    I'd found my soundtrack! Caroline's yearning for Adrian is perfectly captured in the original ballad "The Dreams of Candlelight," which catches you off guard with its classical climax perfectly suited for two lovers who can no longer resist surrendering to their passion. Haunting versions of the "Moonlight Sonata" and "Fur Elise" accompany Caroline's moonlit ramblings around Adrian's castle. "I'll Keep Your Secrets" perfectly expresses both her doubts and her growing devotion. It was the soaring, joyous "A Last Illusion" that was playing as I wrote the final scene of the book, then collapsed on my bed in a heap of tears as the credits rolled, the recipient of my very own happy ending.

    My mother gave me many gifts and I suspect on the day she held me over that record player so I could wiggle with delight, she had no idea she was giving me a key that would open the door to so many different and magical worlds. As Elvis would say, "Thank you, Mama. Thank you very much."

    Monday, August 22, 2005

    Teresa Falls in Love All Over Again

    Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a dangerous woman. I learned that way back in 1989 when I stumbled across her novel FANCY PANTS. In that richly textured, mainstream glitter and glitz women's fiction novel that still managed to be one of the most extraordinary romances I'd ever read, she first did the impossible. She made golf interesting. That's right. Her hero, Dallie Beaudine was the sexiest golfer to ever pull on (or off) a pair pants.
    Since then, I've been forced to govern my SEP reading with a very strict set of rules. Because she's on a very short list of writers who can make me care more about what I'm reading than about what I'm writing, I'm only allowed to read her books on vacation, on long car or plane trips, or when I've just finished writing one of my own books.

    Fortunately for me, a car trip to Florida coincided with the release of her brand spanking new Chicago Stars book, MATCH ME IF YOU CAN. Not since I first read ROOTS in the car when I was 13 have I enjoyed a road trip so much! From the very first page, SEP evokes empathy for her characters. We first meet modern day matchmaker Annabelle Granger trying to lure a drunk man out from under the wheels of her car because she's late for a very special appointment with high-profile sports agent Heath Champion, aka The Python. How can you not fall in love with a woman who smears lipstick on her lovely yellow shirt when she's trying to sniff her armpits for B.O. while driving? That's the beauty of SEP's female characters. They're not just the friends we'd long to have. They're already us!

    She also excels in choosing the right details. The very fact that the heroine owns a Hello Kitty cookie jar tells you everything you need to know about her. As a writer, I found myself utterly seduced by sentences like, "Her sister-in-law used perfume like bug repellant." And Heath Champion has to be one of the most luscious, three-dimensional contemporary heroes I've ever read. SEP knows men! She knows how they think and how they talk and she loves them anyway, which only makes us love them more.

    I also love the fact that the characters from the previous Chicago Stars novels weren't just marched onstage for a "Very Special Appearance" but were actually used to further the plot and facilitate the romance between Annabelle and Heath. I loved seeing Phoebe and Dan from IT HAD TO BE YOU with a few more wrinkles and a couple of teenagers of their own.

    So who is the author who makes you sigh with satisfaction every time you close one of her books? Who is the author who can make YOU fall in love all over again?

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    Megabacks: Hot New Trend or New Coke?

    Just last Friday, the New York Times ran a piece on the new trend in paperback publishing. (Here's a link to the NYT Article, so kindly provided by Manuelita over on the Avon Authors Board.) Disturbed by the aging of the baby boomers (and their vision) and the declining sales of mass market paperbacks (even though they still vastly outsell every other format available), several publishers have begun to market a new format for mass market paperbacks. These "megabacks" are exactly the same width as normal mass market paperbacks, but 3/4 of an inch taller. (To me, they resemble travel guides.) The longer page allows for an increased type size and more importantly, more white space between the lines to assist with ease of reading. The books will be marketed at a slightly higher cover price of $9.99. (Which as most of you know will probably be discounted in several venues.)

    One of the main selling points of these books for the distributors is that they are designed to fit into the same racks as the regular-sized mass market paperbacks. But I already ran into a problem with that theory at my local drugstore. The first 2 Bestseller shelves were tall enough to display the new Sandra Brown megaback, WHITE HOT. But the next 2 shelves were too short, so both the new Catherine Coulter and Clive Cussler books were LYING FLAT ON THEIR BACKS, which means you couldn't see their covers, which is Every Author's Nightmare and is obviously not conducive to healthy sales.

    I inspected several of these books at my local Borders this weekend. I liked the way they felt in my hands. They felt a little heavier, a little more durable and expensive. (Hey, if I'm going to pay more, I WANT more!) The print did look more pleasant to read. But one of my friends is already complaining because they don't fit as easily into her purse.

    Several of the book distributors (including Wal-Mart) are taking a wait-and-see attitude, ordering limited quantities of the new look. I think only time will tell if this new trend is going to catch on, but Sandra Brown's WHITE HOT is going to be the first Megaback to debut at #1 on the NYT paperback bestseller list!

    Monday, August 15, 2005

    Saturday, August 13, 2005

    Why Teresa Shouldn't Leave the House

    I want to love gardening. Really I do. But there are four problems:

    1) I hate to get dirty
    2) I hate bugs
    3) I hate to sweat
    4) I hate any sort of physical labor that involves dirt, bugs, or sweat

    But since the shrubs in front of my house were beginning to resemble some sort of wooly mammoths from the prehistoric era, I decided to drag myself outside this morning before the heat index climbed to 140 degrees and trim the hedges.

    Things were going well. I had a bottle of cold water. I had my supplies all lined up. The heat index was only 120. And I managed to trim the hedges in the back of the house without cutting the extension cord in two as I've done twice before.

    But then, tragedy strikes!

    As I'm trimming one of the front bushes, I suddenly feel this terrible pain in my left ring finger. A howlingly dreadful pain that must surely involve some sort of involuntary amputation. Unable to visually locate a rattlesnake of any kind, I finally see a wasp nest dangling inside the bush, guarded by the proverbial angry bee. Being a former registered nurse, I know exactly what to do. I drop the hedge trimmer and run inside, screaming hysterically for my husband. By now, the pain has mounted to nearly inconceivable levels. We apply our favorite home remedy--an ice cube smeared in baking soda (the baking soda is a base which will neutralize the acid in the wasp venom). Ignoring my protests that it will make me too sleepy to function, my husband insists on pressing 25 mg of Benadryl on me.

    Despite the fact that my finger is now roughly the size of my right elbow, I bravely sniff back my tears and decide to go outside and finish the job. Which is when I discovered that gardening is so much more pleasant when you're enjoying a slight pharmeceutical buzz.