Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Audio Alert!

Many of you have written to tell me that you don’t want to start listening to the Royal Scandals audiobooks until all four of the current titles are out so you could do a binge-listen. Well…great news! The Royal Bastard, the fourth book in the Royal Scandals series, is now available in audio!


Once again, the fabulous Hollis McCarthy narrates. The Royal Bastard is the story of Rocco Cornaro, the mysterious son of King Carlo of Sarcaccia. When thugs kidnap Rocco’s wife and his private life is blown apart, only Queen Fabrizia—a woman he despises—can help.  Here are the book’s opening lines:
Five hours after Rocco Cornaro buried his mother, having tossed the last shovelful of dirt over her grave while wishing her a swift ascent to heaven, Satan knocked at his front door.
More accurately: Satan’s driver rang the bell at Rocco’s wrought iron security gate.
Rocco stood at a second story window in his Dubrovnik villa, seething at the gall of the woman hidden behind the tinted windows of the rented black Mercedes.  The uniformed driver hadn’t given his client’s name, but Rocco knew.  Her appearance was inevitable after she’d phoned two days ago and he’d hung up after informing her that he had no interest in anything she had to say.  He’d thought she’d at least give him the day of his mother’s funeral in peace, but apparently royals did what they wanted when they wanted, and to hell with anyone else.

For those of you who’ve been curious about audiobooks, Audible.com allows you to download a trial book for free. When you visit the site, click on the orange “Start Trial Membership” button and you can listen to the entirety of The Royal Bastard for free. (Or, start at the beginning of the series with the audiobook of Scandal With a Prince) There are also "sample this book" buttons on each page to let you hear a five-minute sample. It’s a great way to see if audio is for you.

Enjoy!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Oscar Predictions 2016



Prediction Number One: This Sunday night, I will spend the pre-awards, red carpet time on my treadmill, ogling all the gorgeous gowns at this year's Academy Awards. During the last ten minutes of reporter babble, as the nominees take their seats, I’ll sprint for the shower. By Chris Rock's opening monologue, I'll be parked in front of the television with my marked-up ballot in hand.

Prediction Number Two:  I will not make it to the first commercial break before I uncork a bottle of wine.

Prediction Number Three: I’ll finish at or near the top of my Oscar pool, because I LOVE making these predictions and spend far too much time on them. If you’re participating in an Academy Awards pool, take the time to do some research on the so-called minor categories. If you nail a few of those, you’ll have a huge edge on everyone else in your pool. If you’re too lazy or time-crunched to research, feel free crib my list.


Best Picture 

Nominees:
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Winner:
The Revenant

-- It wouldn’t be my personal pick—too long, too cold, too many plot holes—but The Revenant it is.


Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees:
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Winner:
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

-- Matt Damon was incredible in The Martian. However, at long last, this is Leo’s year. I’ll be a spoilsport and say I wish he wasn’t winning for this role. While his performance was stellar, I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Revenant. I’d have much rather seen Leo win for The Aviator, The Departed, or What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. (If you haven’t seen Gilbert Grape, DO IT NOW. Fabulous flick.) While I didn't consider the movie worthy of his performance, pick Leo. This year's Oscar is all his and I suspect he’ll receive a well-deserved standing ovation when he takes the stage.


Actress in a Leading Role

Nominees:
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Winner:
Brie Larson, Room


Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees:
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Winner:
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

-- Tom Hardy’s performance was the best thing about The Revenant. Without his cold, evil antagonist, we wouldn’t care about Leo’s character. However, Stallone knocked it out of the park in Creed and this is his year. Michael B. Jordan also deserves a shout for his stellar acting in Creed. If Stallone takes the stage, he should mention the compelling nature of Jordan’s performance. If you haven’t seen Creed, do. It deserved more nominations.


Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominees:
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Winner:
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

-- While Kate Winslet snagged a Golden Globe and press photos of Kate and Leo holding Oscars would be adorable, this is Vikander’s year.


Best Director

Nominees:
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Winner:
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

-- Don’t be surprised if George Miller pulls off a win here. Mad Max: Fury Road was fifteen years in the making and has a slew of other nominations. However, the buzz around Hollywood is for Iñárritu.


Original Screenplay

Nominees:
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton

Winner:
Spotlight


Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:
The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room

Winner:
The Big Short


Foreign Language Film

Nominees:
Embrace of the Serpent, Columbia
Mustang, France
Son of Saul, Hungary
Theeb, Jordan
A War, Denmark

Winner:
Son of Saul, Hungary

-- Mustang has been making a late run (see what I did there?), but I predict Son of Saul takes home Oscar.


Production Design

Nominees:
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Winner:  
Mad Max: Fury Road


Makeup

Nominees:
Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

Winner:
Mad Max: Fury Road


Animated Feature Film

Nominees:
Anomalisa
Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

Winner:
Inside Out

-- One of the few non-acting categories this year that’s a lock. Run with it.


Sound Editing

Nominees:
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Winner:
Mad Max: Fury Road



Sound Mixing

Nominees:
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Winner:
Mad Max: Fury Road


Visual Effects


Nominees:
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Winner:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

-- This is a tough call. If not Star Wars, then pick Mad Max: Fury Road. The two are neck and neck here. I’m going for Star Wars, since Mad Max is likely to take home a slew of other categories.


Cinematography

Nominees:
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario

Winner:
The Revenant


Documentary Feature

Nominees:
Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Winner:
Amy

-- I consider Amy a lock. If your pool includes this category, take Amy for an easy point.


Documentary Short Subject

Nominees:
Body Team 12
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
A Girl in the River: The Prince of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

Winner:
Body Team 12


Film Editing

Nominees:
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Winner:
Mad Max: Fury Road


Short Film, Animated

Nominees:
Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

Winner:
Sanjay’s Super Team

-- Both World of Tomorrow and Bear Story have a lot of love. I believe voters will split on those, which is why I'm going with Pixar and Sanjay.


Short Film, Live Action

Nominees:
Ave Maria
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
Shok
Stutterer

Winner:
Shok


Costume Design

Nominees:
Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Winner:
Mad Max: Fury Road

-- Many experts have picked Cinderella, so be aware that I’m taking a risk with this one.


Original Score

Nominees:
Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Winner:
The Hateful Eight

-- Ennio Morricone, who scored the movie, falls into the “it’s his time” category.  Plus it’s darned good. Pick it.


Original Song

Nominees:
“Earned It,” Fifty Shades of Grey
“Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction
“Simple Son #3,” Youth
“Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground
“Writing’s On The Wall,” Spectre

Winner:
“Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground

-- This is one of the tougher categories. “Til It Happens To You,”was performed by Lady Gaga and written by eight-time nominee Diane Warren, which makes it hard to beat despite the fact both "Earned It" and "Writing's On The Wall" have a lot of buzz (and "Writing's On The Wall" won the Golden Globe.) Know that "Manta Ray" and "Simple Son #3" don't have a chance.

All right...those are my official picks. There are some close calls in the sound categories, but I’m confident in my acting, directing, and animated feature picks. Go forth and win your pool, enjoy Sunday night's show, and let me know how you do!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Dreaming of Buenos Aires

If you've read Slow Tango With a Prince, you know what it's like to spend (fictional) time in Buenos Aires. Today CNN posted a fantastic article on Seven Things To Do For Free in Buenos Aires. Given the number of you who've written to me to say that the book made you want to visit Argentina, I wanted to share.  (Note: a few of their suggestions appeared in the book!)

Enjoy the food, the city's eclectic neighborhoods, and--of course--the tango.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fifteen Years

Fifteen years ago today, a phone call changed my life.

Often, when someone says that a phone call changed their life, it's bad news. The death of a loved one, a job loss, a frightening diagnosis. However, in my case, the woman on the other end of the line was Gail Chasan, a senior editor at Silhouette Books. She offered to buy my first romance novel.

It was 12:01 PM on December 1, 2000.

Going to the Castle When I hung up the phone, I called my husband, got his voice mail, and left a message asking him to call me immediately. Then I told myself I'd make the most of the opportunity to write for a living.

Going to the Castle hit store shelves in December 2001, and I've been a full-time writer ever since. I wouldn't change it for the world.

There's been a lot to celebrate in the last fifteen years. I've had letters and emails from readers that have made me smile and—on several occasions—laugh loud enough to scare my dog. I've made lifelong friends I never would've met otherwise. Three of my books have been RITA finalists and one even won. Best of all, I spend my days writing stories about compelling people and the challenges they must face.

That's not to say there haven't been bumps on the road. When I made the decision to become a full time writer, I quit practicing law, a career for which I'd studied long and hard (and let's not talk about law school tuition.) It was a big risk, knowing it'd be difficult to go back if I couldn't make it as a writer. During my first years as a published author, I also wrote for a number of magazines as a freelancer, which meant crazy hours but more income.

Eventually, I sold a young adult novel and dropped most of the magazine work in order to maintain both a romance writing career (as Nicole Burnham) and the young adult career (as Niki Burnham.) Still crazy hours, but they were more predictable. Eventually, due to contract changes and editorial shuffling, I found myself down to one publisher and a less-than-ideal contract. I made a difficult choice—but the right one—and, once again, took a risk and walked away.

Offers came from other publishers, but nice as they were, the stories they wanted me to write didn't tap into my strengths as an author, nor were they what my readers wanted to read. By this time, I'd built a small but solid following, so I decided to write what I knew would work both for me and for those readers: a series of romances centered around a sprawling, messy royal family from southern Europe. I wanted to make each story different, yet give readers the uplifting tone they desired and a spectacular setting they would relish revisiting.

I took the leap and self-published a novella and the first two books in the Royal Scandals series simultaneously. Two more full-length books and two novellas have joined those first books.

Many of you who read my books from the very start with Silhouette picked up the Royal Scandals series. Others who found me via my Niki Burnham books for teens (and who are now adults!) have done the same. Better still, you've shared your love of the series with your friends, and the series has grown steadily in popularity.

Thanks to you, I've been able to keep the promise I made to myself when I received that life-changing phone call fifteen years ago.

Needless to say, there are more Royal Scandals books on the way. I'm also planning a new series, one I think you'll enjoy.

In this season of gratitude, I wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you to Gail Chasan for making that phone call and believing in my talent. Most of all, I want to thank you, my readers, for fifteen wonderful years.

I look forward to the next fifteen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Now in Audio - Honeymoon With a Prince

If you're in the United States, odds are good you'll be in the car this weekend (or enduring a longer-than-usual commute over the next few days) due to the Thanksgiving holiday. I'm happy to share that, if you choose, you can have a sexy Barrali prince for companionship.

The wonderful Hollis McCarthy has recorded the audiobook of Honeymoon With a Prince, and it's now available from iTunes, Amazon, and Audible.com, where it already has a 4.9/5 rating. Hollis does a spectacular job capturing the rich feel of Sarcaccia and the excitement that surrounds the Barrali family, particularly battle-scarred Prince Massimo.

If you haven't enjoyed this story yet, be sure to check it out in audio. It's easy listening while you walk or commute. For more on Hollis, her background, and the prep work that goes into audiobooks, be sure to read my recent interview with her.

I look forward to hearing what you think of Honeymoon With a Prince! And stay tuned...Hollis is in the midst of recording my RITA finalist novel Slow Tango With a Prince, so look for it soon.

PS: If you've wanted to try audiobooks and aren't sure where to start, check out the deal now running on Audible. You can try their monthly audiobook subscription program for 30 days for FREE. It's a great way to grab Honeymoon With a Prince and see if audiobooks are for you.