Thursday, December 15, 2016

ICYMI: A Royal Scandals Christmas

In case you missed it, all three Royal Scandals holiday novellas are now available in a single collection called A Royal Scandals Christmas. The collection is priced at a significant savings over buying the novellas individually, so now's the time to grab it! These stories feature some of your favorite characters from the Royal Scandals series:


Christmas With a Prince  - features Holly Elliott, Gabe Maddox, and Prince Stefano (set at the Famiglia Barrali winery.)

Christmas on the Royal Yacht - features palace carpenter April Dietrich and chef Ryan "Rock" Fournier, set in Sarcaccia at the palace and on board the royal yacht.

Christmas With a Palace Thief - features security chief Umberto Niro and Sara Angeletti, set in Sarcaccia.

You can purchase in ebook or print, or listen to the audiobook with iTunes or on Audible. If you've been thinking about joining Audible, they're currently running a promotion where you can try your first book free. It's a great offer! For more on the book, check out this video preview. And may all who celebrate it enjoy a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Season

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. Most people are big on the eggnog, caroling, Santa visits, or shopping. I'm all about the tree. Each year, when I open my box of ornaments, there are a few in particular that make me smile. Handmade gifts from family are at the top of that list. I also have ornaments I've collected while traveling, such as a Sydney Opera House ornament, one of Westminster Cathedral, or a flower from St. Lucia. Others come from living abroad. I was fortunate enough to spend six years in Germany (and my parents were there an additional three years, during which I made as many visits as possible) and collected a number of traditional wooden German ornaments and glass or crystal Czech ornaments that spoke to me. Here are a few of my favorites. If you celebrate Christmas, let me know about yours! What makes you smile each year as you decorate your tree?

A favorite: Santa's Nice List.
I bought four of these gorgeous ornaments in the Czech Republic.




A German Romeo and Juliet

German Geography professor, post-Berlin Wall.




















Don't forget...if you're in the mood for Christmas reading, the three Royal Scandals holiday novellas are now out in a single collection titled A Royal Scandals Christmas: Three Holiday Novellas. It's available in your choice of ebook, paperback, or audio. Hollis McCarthy does a brilliant job narrating the audiobooks for the entire series. She hit it out of the park with this one!

Thanks to all of you for sharing this wonderful year with me. I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2017.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

FAQ: Where Can I Find A Royal Scandals Wedding?

Today's FAQ: I heard that you have a free story called A Royal Scandals Wedding about Megan Hallberg and Prince Stefano from Scandal With a Prince. Where can I find it?

A: A Royal Scandals Wedding is a sixty-page story exclusively for subscribers to my newsletter. As you heard, it is free. You can sign up for the newsletter by clicking here: News from Nicole

Once you confirm your subscription, you'll receive info on A Royal Scandals Wedding. The story takes place behind the scenes of Megan and Stefano's big day. It also features their daughter, Anna.

Thanks for asking! I hope you enjoy the free read.

Monday, November 7, 2016

FAQ: What is the Order of the Royal Scandals Books?

The question I'm asked most frequently (other than, "when's the next book?") is for the order of the Royal Scandals titles. There are currently five full length novels and three holiday novellas in the series. In order, they are:
The three Christmas novellas are available individually as ebooks. They are also available as a single collection titled A Royal Scandals Christmas, which is available in ebook, print, and audio. Buying the collection will save you a few dollars/Euros over buying the novellas individually.

A Royal Scandals Wedding, a short story exclusively for newsletter subscribers, is set at the wedding of Prince Stefano and Megan Hallberg, who appeared in Scandal With a Prince. Chronologically, it takes place during Slow Tango With a Prince. If you sign up for the newsletter, you'll receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription. This will also give you the info for receiving your copy of A Royal Scandals Wedding.

The next book in the series features Lina Cornaro, the sister of Rocco Cornaro from The Royal Bastard. No release date yet, as I'm working on the story now, but as soon as I know, I'll send a notice to everyone on my newsletter list.

Thanks to everyone who's written to ask!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A FREE Royal Scandals Read

Did you get it?

Yesterday, all newsletter subscribers received a FREE sixty-page story, A Royal Scandals Wedding.

As of today, there are five full-length novels and three novellas in the series. Judging from my email, the characters you've most wanted to hear more about are Prince Stefano, Megan, and Anna from Scandal With a Prince. As a thank you gift to all of you who've been so supportive of the series, I've written a story set behind the scenes at Stefano and Megan's big day, Sarcaccia's first royal wedding in a generation.

If you aren't on the newsletter list but would like a copy, you'll automatically receive A Royal Scandals Wedding when you join here. Newsletter subscribers receive updates, insider info, and more. The list is spam-free and isn't shared with anyone outside NicoleBurnham.com.

Thank you, and enjoy this look into the lives of Prince Stefano, Megan, and their daughter, Anna.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Love Audiobooks? Announcing the Audio Review Crew!


Are you an Audible member? Do you love audiobooks? If so, you could be a member of my new Audio Review Crew!

Audio Review Crew members receive complimentary copies of my audio books from time to time. In exchange, members post an honest review at Audible.com or Amazon.com for the audio version of the book.

Membership in the Audio Review Crew is simple. You must be a member of my newsletter list and:
 

1)     Have an account at Audible.com 
2)    Commit to listening to the audio book and posting a forthright review within two weeks


As long as you continue to listen and review, you remain a member of the crew.

Interested? Send an e-mail to nic AT nicoleburnham DOT com with the subject line: AUDIO REVIEW CREW by Monday, September 19. There are a limited number of spots, so members of the crew will be chosen at random. If you’re not selected, your name will be put on a waitlist. When spots open, you’ll receive an email to ask if you’re still interested.

I hope to open the Audio Review Crew to those who get their audiobooks at other sites soon (iBooks, etc.), so stay tuned if your preferred vendor is outside of Amazon/Audible. There will be future opportunities.

A heartfelt thank you in advance to all who participate. Your reviews are a huge help to other readers.

On that note, to celebrate the 400th Amazon review posted for SCANDAL WITH A PRINCE, I awarded an autographed copy of the book to a newsletter subscriber selected at random. Congratulations to Amanda C of Carlsbad, CA. Amanda, thanks for being part of the Royal Scandals family!

In the coming months, expect more bonuses especially for newsletter subscribers. Not on the list? You can sign up right here!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Winners, all!

Thanks to all who entered the recent contest on Goodreads for an Advanced Reader Copy of The Wicked Prince, the fifth full-length title in the Royal Scandals series. I'm stunned by the number of you who wanted an early copy!

Winners were chosen the day before the book's release, and each was mailed an autographed ARC. Congratulations to Joyce Y. of Framingham, MA, Ann Marie M. of Deep River, ON, Anna C or Mariaville, ME, Carlos H. of Calexico, CA, and Leslie L. of Sunbury, PA. I hope you're enjoying the story of Prince Alessandro and Frannie Lawrence!

Didn't know about the giveaway? Then you need to get on Goodreads! Go HERE to join the site if you aren't already a member and to follow my page. Not only are followers notified about special giveaways, you have the chance to ask questions about upcoming books, add future releases to your virtual bookshelves, and talk books with others who read what you read. I also post about the books I'm currently enjoying.

See you there!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Making a Guest Appearance

I'm making a guest appearance today on New York Times bestselling author Lisa Mondello's blog. Lisa is the author of the popular Dakota Hearts series, the Texas Hearts series, and the classic romance All I Want For Christmas Is You.

I'm answering questions about my writing process, the Royal Scandals series, and what I'm reading now (my to-be-read pile is a towering thing of beauty!)

Stop by right here, check out Lisa and her books, and feel free to jump in and comment on her blog.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Wicked Prince is Here!

Elated to announce that The Wicked Prince is on sale TODAY, in your preference of paperback or e-book. For months, I've had e-mails and social media comments from readers asking for Prince Alessandro's story, so this feels like a holiday to me. Thank you!

If you’d like a peek inside the book, an excerpt is available on my website or using the Look Inside feature on either Amazon or iBooks 
 
Or…

He pulled back, but kept his hands tangled in her hair, holding her forehead to his.

"Frannie." His whisper was dark, a stark contrast to the gentleness of his touch. His chest rose and fell, once, twice...and his breath went ragged on the second exhale. "Oh, Frannie, what are you doing to me?"

It was a chastisement and a warning.

She didn't care; the risk had already been taken.

"Shh." This time, when her lips touched his, he didn't hold back.

Want a look behind-the-scenes? Visit the Pinterest board with maps, location photos, and a look at the actors I’d cast as Prince Alessandro and Frannie. You’ll also see the original Humphrey, the inspiration behind Humphrey the Ironically Named Camel. He’s every bit as lovable in person as he is in the book.

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on The Wicked Prince!

PS: For those of you who prefer listening to your books, stay tuned. The audio version of The Wicked Prince is in production and will be available soon!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Wicked Prince - Pinterest Inspiration Board

Now live on Pinterest: The inspiration board for next week's newest Royal Scandals release, The Wicked Prince.

This is your chance to look behind the scenes at maps, location photos, and who I'd cast in the roles of Alessandro Barrali and Francesca "Frannie" Lawrence. Feel free to give me your feedback...when you read the book, who do you envision playing these characters?


I have Pinterest boards filled with background for each of the Royal Scandals novels.  Click around (and repin!) to your heart's content.  Then look for The Wicked Prince, coming Tuesday, August 2!


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Travel to Croatia

If the Dubrovnik setting of The Royal Bastard made you consider a trip to Croatia, now is a great time to go. Check out this article posted today on CNN, which highlights the spectacular scenery, the explore-at-leisure Old Town, and the stunning architecture.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/05/travel/croatia-dubrovnik-riviera/index.html

With its rich history, ancient structures, and beautiful, unspoiled coastline, Croatia was the perfect spot to set The Royal Bastard. I hope you enjoy its pleasures, too!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Goodreads Q & A with Emily March and Christina Dodd

Fans of Emily March's romance novels, including her popular Eternity Springs series, have an active discussion group on Goodreads. The group is open to anyone on Goodreads, and they're about to start reading the compilation Family Secrets, which features one novel each from Emily, Christina Dodd, and me. (A great deal at only $5.99 for three full-length stories!)

Starting this week, Christina and I are joining Emily's group to answer reader questions. We'd love to have you participate! If you've never read a book from Emily or Christina before, this is a great opportunity to discover a new-to-you author.

To participate, or just to read along, visit the group page, then scroll down to Family Secrets.

If you're not yet a Goodreads member, joining is free and easy. The site is a gold mine of information for book lovers. You can find reviews, chat groups, reading suggestions, and more. Reading isn't limited to paperbacks and ebooks, either...even audiobooks are actively discussed.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A New Royal Scandals Book - The Wicked Prince

Great news! Book five in the Royal Scandals series, The Wicked Prince, is now available for preorder. Isn't the cover delicious?

The Wicked Prince is the long-awaited story of Alessandro Barrali, the rebellious twin brother of Sarcaccia's crown prince, Vittorio. If you read Slow Tango With a Prince, you likely remember Alessandro.

To whet your appetite, here's a brief excerpt of a scene between Alessandro and Francesca "Frannie" Lawrence, a woman who just might be Alessandro's match:
Alessandro’s kiss was like a blast of sunshine after a long bout of bone-chilling cold.  Soft and comforting, yet all-encompassing.  She opened to him, and he angled his head to deepen their connection, warming her to her core with the most tender, romantic kiss she’d ever experienced.
He pulled back, but kept his hands tangled in her hair, holding her forehead to his.
“Frannie.”  His whisper was dark, a stark contrast to the gentleness of his touch.  His chest rose and fell, once, twice…and his breath went ragged on the second exhale.  “Oh, Frannie, what are you doing to me?”
It was a chastisement and a warning.
She didn’t care; the risk had already been taken.
“Shh.”  This time, when her lips touched his, he didn’t hold back.

The Wicked Prince is set for release on August 2. Want your copy as soon as possible? The ebook can be pre-ordered now on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Print editions will be available on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble on or soon after August 2, and an audiobook edition is also planned. Sign up for my newsletter to be notified when new editions are on sale.

I can't wait to share the rest of The Wicked Prince with you. Alessandro's story was flat-out fun to write!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Updates on Your Favorite Authors

In my last series of blogs, I tackled the frequently asked question, "What's your writing process?" Today, I'll address another common reader question: "What's the easiest way to hear about new books or booksignings by my favorite authors?"

The best way to know when your favorite authors have a new book is to go directly to the source. Many authors have their own websites and offer a newsletter. Sign up! I'm a reader as much as I'm an author, so I subscribe to several authors' newsletters. If it gets spammy (some do), you can always unsubscribe. But that way, you know you won't miss a book you've been waiting to read. You're also likely to hear about sales, contests/giveaways, and new versions of your favorite books, such as when an audiobook is released.

To sign up for my newsletter, go HERE. I also have a box on each page of my website where you can fill in your email address to register. It looks like the image on the right. (To prevent unauthorized subscriptions, I'll have you confirm your intent to subscribe.)

If you want more information than an author newsletter provides, there are other resources on the web for learning about upcoming releases, author events, and even book sales.

The first is Goodreads.  Goodreads is a large online reader community. Members can post reviews, maintain virtual bookshelves (listing books as "want to read" or "didn't finish," for instance), enter contests to win books, and join discussion groups. There are even groups for audio books. If there's an author whose books you love, check to see if they have a Goodreads page. If so, there's a box you can click on their page to follow along.  Just look under their photo. Here's what it looks like on my Goodreads page:



You'll also see a "Ask me a question" box on my page. Not all authors have this, but many do. If you want to know about upcoming books, events, or why an author did something specific in a story, type in your question. I check my page frequently to answer any questions. I know other authors do, too.

Second, if you're a Kindle user or if you buy your books from Amazon, check to see if your favorite authors have a page there. As with Goodreads, you can sign up to follow an author. Amazon will automatically send you an update when the author is about to release a new book, and it will include a link directly to the product page. Here's what the follow button looks like on my Amazon author page:

To find an author's page, type their name in the search box at the top of Amazon's home page. It should bring up a list of their books. Click on the author's name on any of those listed books, and you'll be taken to their author page. Then click on the yellow follow button.

Finally, I've discovered several great authors via BookBub. BookBub is, first and foremost, a site that announces book deals. Sign up for their newsletter to receive sale information daily. You can filter your emails to limit the notifications to the types of books you most enjoy (say, nonfiction, romance, and mystery.)

BookBub also allows you to sign up for announcements about particular authors. I love the author feature, since it not only sends me a notice when an author has a new book out, it notifies me whenever that author has a book on sale. It's a fantastic resource. To use BookBub, go to the BookBub website and register. To find a particular author, type their name in the search box. If you type in my name, this is what you'll see:


Click the "Follow" button on my page and you'll receive a notification whenever one of my books is on sale, or whenever I have a new book out.

Of course, there are other resources for author updates. Like many authors, I have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. However, it's easy to miss a tweet if you have a busy tweet stream, and Facebook doesn't always show posts to those who follow a page (ah, the quirks of Facebook!) I've discovered that if I don't want to miss information from my favorites, author newsletters are number one way to keep updated, followed by (in no order) Goodreads, Amazon author pages, and BookBub.

Readers, please share in the comments: what resources have you discovered? Which have you liked, and what hasn't worked for you? What do you wish you could see? And...if you're subscribed to author newsletters, what information do you wish they'd include? (Because I'll make sure I include it in mine!) I'd love to hear your opinions.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Process, Part III


This is part three of a three-part blog on my writing process. In The Process, Part I, I discussed the origins of my books--how I get ideas and organize them. In The Process, Part II, I discussed how I flesh out those ideas to create a workable plot and characters. Today, I'll cover the nitty gritty: how I schedule my writing and get ideas onto the page.

Once I have my plot notes and have listened to my plot group tapes, I create a rough outline of the story. It always changes as I write--I come up with a lot of twists and turns as I put words on the page--but the basics are set.  At that point, I create a schedule. Early in my career, I used an actual calendar to mark off how many pages I should write each day, then I'd highlight my goal date. However, I once attended a workshop with author Susan Mallery in which she discussed her schedule. Her method resonated with me (thank you, Susan!) so I now use a format similar to hers.

Below is an actual schedule I followed to write one of my young adult novels. The contract called for a book of approximately 50,000 words. I had a three-month window in which to do the writing. At this point, I'd already done the brainstorming and had a good grip on the characters and where I wanted the story to go.

To create this schedule, I worked backward from the due date to figure out how far along I needed to be by certain dates. The number listed on each Sunday is the word count I expected to have complete by that date.

I blocked off the days I knew I would be at a Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference, since little to no writing gets done then, and I blocked off the time I knew my plot group planned to meet. During this period I also had an article due for an RWA publication. I blocked off two Saturdays to work on that article, since I didn't want it to cut into the time I needed for my book.


If you study this schedule, you'll see that I generally write 5 - 6 pages on the days I have blocked for writing. At 250 words per page, that's 1250-1500 words a day. Some writers do less, some do more. I know that this is a comfortable pace for me. When I agree to deadlines, I have this pace in mind. I also build in cushions. Look at the last half of July. By writing to this schedule, I finish the book on July 15. Maybe a day or two before, depending on the length of the book (remember, it's contracted for 50,000 words...I can go a few thousand above or below.) I left myself several completely empty days for reading through the finished manuscript and revising it.

I also am careful to build in Emergency Days. I never know when an emergency will crop up, so I schedule these in and float them. If, for instance, I'm perfectly on schedule on May 30, I'll go ahead and write my May 31 pages that day and continue on. If an emergency crops on on June 6, then I use that Emergency Day.

Similarly, I know from past experience that I need a day or two to catch up on mail/email when I return from a week-long conference. Because I've been away from my manuscript for several days, I also like having a day to reread what I've already written so my head is in the story. I build that time into my schedule. I also include an Emergency Day right before I leave for a long conference so I can pack and run errands if necessary. If it's not necessary, I work ahead to give myself a cushion on the back end of the conference.

I'm a visual person, so I color code my weekends, trips out of town, and deadlines. I consider those non-writing days, though if I get behind, I will write on the weekends.

Knock wood, but I've never missed a deadline. By building in a one- to two-week cushion, plus accounting for potential trips/conferences, and emergencies, I hope I never do.

This isn't a process that's for everyone. As I said in the first part of this series, every writer I know follows a different method for getting from point A to point B. This is what works for me. I'm a planner. I thrive on organization, so I like seeing a schedule that maps out what I need to accomplish each day. Working out the major plot points ahead of time--even if they change as I go along--and then keeping my brain engaged by maintaining a regular writing schedule prevents me from getting stuck. For writers who aren't wired the way I am, a schedule like this might cause more stress than it eliminates.

If you're a writer, I'd love to hear from you. How does your process differ? What works best for you? What have you tried that hasn't worked? Please share in the comments! And readers, please add your thoughts...is this what you envision when you picture a writer's workday? 

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Process, Part II


This is part two in a three-part blog about my writing process.  Here's the link to The Process, Part I, where I discuss how my stories originate.

Once or twice a year, I get together with friends and fellow authors Christina Dodd, Emily March, and Susan Sizemore for what we call plot group. We meet for three days. Before we get together, we send each other lists of our upcoming projects and we set up a schedule of what we want to plot. This is when I pull out my idea file. I might send the others an email along the lines of, "I'd like to plot a new Royal Scandals book. Here are the characters I have in mind..." and I'll send along what details I have. I'll also say, "here's what I have so far on the book" and include several plot points I've fleshed out from my idea file.

Plot group in Sonoma, California, with (l to r): Christina Dodd, Emily March, Susan Sizemore, me

When we get together, we take turns brainstorming each other's books. Now, this isn't WRITING each other's books...far from it. It's talking through them aloud, discussing different possibilities for the plots, fleshing out the reasons characters might make certain choices, and anticipating problems. Each of us have written books that are part of series, and we're familiar with each other's works, so sometimes we'll be discussing a plot point and someone will say, "If you do X, won't it be in conflict with what you wrote in the third book in the series, where Y happened?"

In the end, we come up with major plot points. Often times, the finished book will deviate greatly from what we plotted. The purpose of plot group is to help each author brainstorm different ways their story could be written. I can't tell you how many times I'll read a book we discussed at plot group and discovered that it's nothing like what we discussed! On the other hand, I can usually see how the finished product evolved from the concepts we tossed around, which is fascinating.

We do have a few rules for plot group. First, the author is the arbiter of all. If the author whose story we're discussing doesn't like what we're brainstorming, or the direction feels wrong, out the window it goes, no matter how great the idea. I've frequently said, "That would make a killer book, but the character I have in mind wouldn't do that. Instead, I want to explore this direction...." Second, if a story idea isn't working, we put it aside for another day. We frequently start discussing a story, get stumped, then discuss it again a few hours later and have several solutions to the earlier problem. Third, we need good food. When we're together, it's work, not social hour, tempting as it is to kick back and shoot the breeze. We need to feed our brains to be productive and focused.

During breaks, we each hide out in our rooms and write. We tape record our discussions and listen to them, either between sessions or on our flights home, so we can get back to each other with questions. At that point, each of us is on our own to put meat on the bones of the story.

Next, in The Process, Part III, I'll tackle the hard part: producing pages and editing.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Process, Part I

The question I'm most frequently asked is, "When will your next book be out?" Usually, I have an easy answer. However, a close second would be any of a dozen variations on, "What is your writing process?" In my next few blog posts, I'll tackle the answer.

First - I should note that there's no one way to write a book. Every writer I know uses a different method to get from point A to point B. I start with an out-of-the-blue idea.  It could be spurred by an overheard conversation, a snippet of a book or a movie, or an interaction I witnessed on the street or while traveling. Sometimes, believe it or not, I get ideas in dreams. Whatever the origination, the idea itself comes from asking myself, "What if?" What if that couple I overheard discussing the awful service at a restaurant vowed to take revenge on the waiter? What if the little boy I saw holding his dad's hand as they cross the street decides to find his dad a date?

From the idea file for Slow Tango With a Prince
Basically, I let my imagination run wild. I'll scribble down these snippets, then file them away. (Yes, I literally have an idea file.) However, an idea, in and of itself, isn't a complete story.

At the same time I file away possible story ideas, I think about characters. Characters often come to me the same way ideas do. I might sit up late watching SportsCenter and think, "What is day to day life like for a skiier on the World Cup circuit? Do they have difficulty maintaining relationships when they travel so much? What if they have a significant other who can't--or won't--travel with them for some reason? How would they handle it?" (That "what if?" line of thinking gave birth to Justine Cornaro, who became the heroine of The Royal Bastard.) Characters go into the idea file, too.

While I work on other projects, I let those characters and story ideas simmer in the back of my mind. From time to time, I pull out the file and add more details to the notes on certain characters or ideas.

Next time, in The Process, Part II, I'll discuss how I flesh out those ideas and characters to create actual stories. This involves my plot group, where I brainstorm with friends and fellow authors Christina Dodd, Emily March, and Susan Sizemore.

Then, in The Process, Part III, I'll tackle the hard part: producing pages and editing.

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.