Jack is Back!

jack_276I’m a sucker for second chance at love stories. Always have been, always will be. Sometimes those love stories themselves get a second chance, too.

My Lord Jack, my Scottish-set historical first published in 2002 with Berkley, releases today with Carina Press, Harlequin Enterprise’s exclusively digital imprint.

Jack is indeed back and he’s better than ever before. Working with Angela James and the talented editorial team at Carina Press, I’ve reedited the book–and yes, I’m hopeful that I’ve learned a thing or two in the past eight years of honing my craft.

I hope you’ll take two ticks to read an excerpt. Or take more than two ticks and visit me on one of my blog tour stops for the book. Most of my guest blogging gigs, including today’s at Romance Writers of America, New York City involve a prize giveaway: one or more of my back list print releases. Prezzies, we all love those.

tutor_276And if you’re in New York City, you might just catch me up close and personal at one of my upcoming readings for my other July release, The Tutor.


Behind the Scenes with…Biz Urban

Last August, I had the pleasure of spending the day posing for new publicity photos with photographer, Biz Urban. Whether shooting outside in the sticky August heat or in the air-conditioned indoors, Biz was creative, professional and unflappable. I was so impressed, both with Biz and the final result–gorgeous publicity photos that still look like me–that I ran a trio of blog posts (“The Nekkid Truth”) detailing my transformation from author girl to glammed up goddess…or something like that.

BizPhotographershotRecently I caught up with Biz, who kindly consented to answer my interview questions.

In publishing we say, “the writing is in the rewriting.” Similarly, the ”art” of photo editing/refinishing seems every bit as essential to a great final product as capturing that winning shot. Without giving up any “trade secrets,” how do you go about steering clear of overly plasticized perfection while conveying a polished yet natural look?

I pride myself in getting photos that still look exactly like the person that walked into the room.  As an actor, myself, I understand how important it is to have a photo that is a true representation of yourself.  The client wants to know that the picture they see if the person they are going to meet.  So when I approach photo retouching (which I totally agree, Hope, is 99.9% vital to making a good picture great) I stick with the bare minimum.  Do I see hair out of place?  Is there some laugh lines that can be softened?  Not, wow, that dude’s nose could stand to be a little smaller.  The retouch should only enhance what already makes you you.  When you see someone in person, you don’t notice the lines at their mouth, or a hair that is stuck to the side of their face, those things become much clearer on a still photograph.  So I remove only what is standing in the way of making the best you come through.

One of the things that struck me during our photo shoot–and folks, we shot for like five hours both indoors and outdoors in the August heat–is how patient, dare I say unflappable you are. And as I’ve confessed several times now, I am most definitely a blinker. For every keeper shot we got, we easily tossed out 3 or 4 bloopers. Without naming names, of course, would you be willing to share one of your more difficult client moments?

Thanks Hope, but when it’s what I love to do and I get to work with one of my favorite creative people, that day was easy and so much fun!!  I do have a story that to this day I still cringe…  When I was just starting out as a photographer, I met up with a client, a young woman, who had been a referral.  We had never met before.  She arrived and was blinking in one eye, apologized and explained that while curling her eyelashes with a eyelash curler, she accidently pulled out most of the eyelashes on her left eye.  Needless to say I told her we should reschedule.  But she insisted, she was FINE.  Oh lord, she wasn’t.  It was a long 1 hour.  And a few weeks later, she called me up and said that her friends said she looked funny.  Ummmm… yep.  I learned my lesson.  If I feel like there is a dynamic that is going to throw the shoot off, I insist on a reschedule.  I want you to look and more importantly, feel your best.

What makes a successful shoot for you?

The most important part of any shoot for me is someone who is up to have a good time.  I like to make my clients feel comfortable and I want the shoot to be as painless as possible.  If you are open and know that I’m there to help you and not murder you with my camera, we’ll be okay.  I adore shooting outdoors, which, when I shoot in NYC as opposed to LA can be tricky.  So a beautiful, slightly overcast day with some clouds in the sky, I’m a happy gal.
In looking at my photos, both the original and retouched versions, I really felt like you “got” me, not just my image but my spirit. When photographing human subjects, be it for a publicity or family photo, what are your goals? What do you strive to convey?

My goal is to give you a shot that is a great representation of you.  Sometimes your photo is the only thing people see and so it is so important to make sure it is you, in a way, telling the story of you.  In your case, we were able to get so many great sides of you.  As a writer, with your cats, in your neighborhood.  Your spirit just radiated through.  I love chatting with my clients, I find that the more I learn about them, they are more relacx
Do you have any mantras? It sounds a tad woo-woo, I know, but sometimes writers have pat phrases we invoke when we need to work through writer’s block, a difficult scene or plot point etc.

Well, when I want to get someone a little loosened up, or if I’m feeling a little low energy… sometimes I’ll surprise us both with a little “F— yeah”  (feel free not to print that but it helps).  🙂
What should someone look for in a photographer, be it for a publicity photo or say, a family portrait or wedding? Can you share some tips as well as red flags?

When you’re looking for a photographer, it’s cliche but a picture can tell 1,000 words.  In this case, literally.  Go to their sites, see what they’ve been doing.  Most photographers has a few specialties- if you see shots that you’d like, be if for your wedding, a birthday party or product shots, does the photographer have pics like what you need on their site?  If their headshots are still in black and white, move on.  If they only have 1 client and that client is posed with sexy clothes, that photographer might not be the person to shoot your childrens back-to-school shots!
In addition to photography, you have a background in theater arts and have worked professionally as an actor in LA doing sketch comedy, improv as well as commercials. You just finished stage managing a play here in New York City, I hear. Tell us a bit about your “other” life.

Theater has always been a passion of mine and I was very lucky to work for 8 years in LA working as an actor, in addition to starting my photography business.  I am looking forward to getting back to the improv world here in New York.  If you want to see some of my acting work, you can check out my reel at www.youtube.com/bizurban08.  Right before I left LA I shot a fun Dominos commercial that took place in Gotham City, a webisode series called Road to Altar starring Jaleel White (oh yes, Urkel) and a indie comedy The Burbank Playas Present: Manipede!  It was fun! But I’m so happy to be in this incredible city and work with so many people through my photography… especially brilliant writers like Hope Tarr!!

Thanks so much for taking time out to chat on my blog, Biz, and best of luck with your exciting projects and ventures.

Thank you, Hope, it was my pleasure!!!

In Memoriam: Blake Snyder

Screenwriter Blake Snyder passed away suddenly on Tuesday, August 4th, and I’m struggling to put into words how it is I feel so sad, so personally touched by the loss of someone I knew so little.

Blake Snyder, Photo courtesy of www.blakesnyder.com
Blake Snyder. Photo courtesy of www.blakesnyder.com.

But Blake was, is, that sort of being, a Light Bulb Being. Along with being super talented and successful, charismatic and funny, engaging and dare I say, wise, he had such a…light about him.

I met him at last year’s Romance Writers of America Conference in San Francisco. His mini workshop on adapting one’s romance novel into a screenplay unexpectedly and totally wowed me–and after sixteen years in this business, believe me, I am not easily wowed.

We corresponded occasionally by email. I was always amazed that someone who was such a…Name responded so promptly and so graciously. I think people, all people, just genuinely interested him.

I bought his book, Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need and was signed up for his two-day screenwriting workshop, which would have taken place next week here in New York City. When the email came through informing workshop registrants of his death, I was stunned. I still am.

What I also am is mindful, wholly mindful, of just how uncertain and yes, infinitely precious our lives are. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the so-so, it’s doesn’t matter, every moment counts. It’s life, our life, and I’m pledging to savor every single second of mine from here on.

Bon Voyage, Blake.


More Photos from the RWA Conference in San Francisco

Hi All,

I’m back from hiking Ireland–okay, not exactly the whole country but The Burren and Connemara. Despite an unfortunate lack of gills or fins–can we say “record rainfall”–I managed to stay afloat without floating away. But more on that later this week when I post my vacation pics.

Yummy news: I got back to find a “wee giftie” waiting in my email mailbox–more photos from the RWA Conference in San Francisco courtesy of fellow Washington Romance Writers (WRW) member, Yvonne Yirka. Thanks Yvonne!

Unfortunately being the Shutterbug means not being in so many pictures, at least not your own. The Fab Threesome, taken on a “real live” San Francisco streetcar which we actually rode is (from left to right), Terri Ridgell, me, and former WRW prez, Deborah Barnhart.

Girlfriend time, take time to savor.


Calling All Shoe-a-Holics: Better a glass slipper than a glass ceiling

Still waiting on all those RWA photos to rush in geyser style but in the interim Alert Blog Watcher and historical romance author, Diane Gaston sent me this link to author Esri Rose’s shoe review.

I met Esri briefly as she worked her way through the throng at RWA’s Saturday night Awards Ceremony dessert reception. Her mission: to snap as many photos of authors’ shoes as she possibly could. I, or at least my feet, are in the White Out Section, third photo down (and just above the really cool Italian glass beaded babies).

Oh, and btw, she’s running a poll so you can vote!

Keeping up with the Cinderella theme, Manhattan is a place where magical moments are happenstance, where expecting the unexpected quickly becomes a way of life. Last night I was savoring a lobster salad at A.O.C. Bistro in the West Village when who walks in but actor Mary-Kate Olsen. Or was it Ashley? Or does it even matter?

What I really want to know is where I can get a pair of those glass slippers.


(Almost) springtime in the city…

Well, I finally up and did “it,” made the move from Small Town, Virginia to Big City Manhattan–as in The Big Apple. On 2/14, yes, Valentine’s Day, my best friend, nickname of “Suz,” helped me drive my (sedated) cats the five hours or so north to our new home. The cats did great. I on the other hand, was a wreck.

But now we’re all here, unpacked (well, mostly), and settling in (well, more than mostly). I’ve traded in my SUV for a new set of wheels, a shopping cart courtesy of The Container Store. My routines, like regular sleep, have fallen by the wayside, but now that things are settling down, I’m determined to get back on track. So far I’ve only gone running once in two weeks, but in my defense, I’ve been getting organized, which burns a bunch of calories, I’m sure. And it’s been cold here, really cold and windy, too.

Still, things are settling down, settling in, slowly but surely shifting into place, not the old place or an entirely new place but, I hope, some happy melding of the two. Yesterday I attended my first RWA-NYC chapter meeting. What a nice group of not only women but men, too. Once chapter business was cleared away, Regency author Megan Frampton gave a talk on Plotting by the Seat of Your Pants. (Really, is there any other way?) Along with having a music industry background, funky cool glasses, and a wardrobe of all-black sweaters I would kill for, Megan had a lot of very helpful things to say about plotting a book. She will be one tough act to follow.

But follow I will. RWA-NYC has invited me to be their May brunch speaker, which is really super nice considering the treasurer took me aside during the break and tactfully reminded me I apparently am late with my renewal dues. I can’t say what my topic is (no, I really can’t, I haven’t a clue), but there will be food and drink and friendly faces. And May means spring in the city, so I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

In the meantime, I’m on deadline. Yeppers, Every Breath You Take, my super sexy Harlequin Blaze due out this October 1st was actually due in to my editor yesterday–as in Saturday. While I don’t flatter myself that she made a special trip into the office just to read my book, still, I really need to wrap things up so I can leave the apartment and go play. (Oh yeah, and getting paid would really help with those chapter dues). 😉

Spring really is close. The little quadrant of park space I can glimpse from my window is dappled with sunshine and though the people walking through that park and around it are bundled to the gills, still, there’s this feeling of anticipation, new beginnings on the horizon, of well, spring.

Springtime isn’t just a season. It’s a state of being, a way of looking at life–and not just looking on from the sidelines but stepping into the thick of things to savor, embrace. Yes, it’s still cold here and windy, and I’m guessing most of March will be spent wearing winter coats.

But in my soul, it’s 75 degrees and yes, spring.


Back from RWA in Dallas…

Hi All,

I’m finally rested up from the Romance Writers of America Conference held in Dallas and ready to dish. The conference kicked off on Wednesday evening with the Readers for Life Literacy autographing. Think 450 romance authors packed into the Hyatt’s grand salon signing their books and chatting up readers. That was enough to steam up even the most Arctic air conditioned of rooms.

Instead of my normal slinking to the hotel bar post-signing for vino and fried munchies, I joined fellow authors Kathryn Caskie and Sophia Nash on a out-of-hotel foray to Cowboy Red River, a “real live Texas cowboy bar” complete with mechanical bull. Romance Novel TV came along for the proverbial ride, film crew in tow. Courage bouyed by a very large and very strong Texas style Margarita, Yours Truly climbed aboard the about-to-be bucking beast. Maybe it was the tequila, maybe it was the white Stetson borrowed from a cute cowboy called Ray, or maybe it was just my stubborn Irish pride, who knows, but bumps and bruises aside, I managed to hold my seat for the full eight seconds. For those of you tempted to remark that eight seconds isn’t all that, I say this–Try It. 😉

That was, of course, only the first of my four days in Dallas. Other highlights include dancing to “Love Shack” at the Harlequin Party on Friday night with about-to-be Rita winner, Julia Quinn, dishing with RNTV emcee Sophia Nash on “the red carpet” at the Saturday night Golden Heart and Rita Awards ceremony and gala, and sipping champagne with Kathryn Caskie, Nocturne author, Pam Poulsen, and romantic suspense writer, Terri Ridgell in the Hyatt lobby lounge while the rest of the hotel guests evacuated in response to a (false) fire alarm–think the orchestra playing on the deck in “Titanic.”

Okay, enuf about me. Anyone else go?

I’m sure I’m leaving out lots of fun times and events, but summarizing four action-packed and star-author studded days into a single post would make for one book length blog. That said, I hope you’ll check back for pictures from the conference to be posted. In the meantime…

Happy Trails,

🙂 Hope

Off to RWA…

Just a quick note before I dash off to Dallas for this year’s Romance Writers of America conference. Each year, the RWA conference kicks off with a multi-author (think 450-strong) Readers for Life Literacy autographing, the proceeds benefiting a major literacy-related charity housed in the host city. While the conference programs are for registered attendees only, the book signing is open to the public and heavily publicized. I’ll be signing copies of Vanquished as well as The Haunting and chatting with readers, fellow authors, and media in the Hyatt grand ballroom.

In between “work,” there will be publisher parties galore as well as some hours logged in the lobby lounge sipping wine, eating far too many bar munchies, and catching up with writer friends I only get to see a few times a year. The conference wraps with the Awards Ceremony and gala on Saturday where everyone puts on the Ritz to celebrate the Rita and Golden Heart winners (and console the other finalists) with champagne and chocolate. 🙂

At some point during the conference, I’ll be blogging from the RWA media room set up in the conference hotel. To read the blog in progress, go to rwanational.org after Wednesday and follow the links.

Once I’m back, I’ll be posting pictures and tasty tidbits from the conference week. Also on the horizon is my blog on “Hope and Susan’s Excellent Adventure,” a post-Independence Day roadtrip to Roanoke, WV and Blacksburg, VA with my buddy, Susan. (Hint: If Susan lets me, there may even be a pic posted from that adventure, too).

In the interim,

Happy Trails–and Happy Reading,