Monday, November 26, 2007

Hang on...

It only gets better from here...

We sold our second manuscript to Ellora's Cave!

Yes, the second shapeshifter novel will also be published by Ellora's Cave. We're awaiting approval on the title and in the meantime, we're in the pre-edit phase on the first manuscript. To say excitement abounds is not an understatement! (insert mile-wide grin here)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And now, the reality sets in...

Email yesterday - delivery of TONS of information, all of which must be looked at, poured over, decided upon and returned as quickly as possible so that we can get down to the real "nitty-gritty" - REVISIONS!

Still, this is a ride I wouldn't change for anything in the world.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Marilu Mann Signs A Contract With Ellora's Cave
Cai and I got to meet in Austin this past weekend. I was down for an early Thanksgiving with friends and she drove over. Her mama sent appropriate romance writer wear for the signing and we gladly donned them.
Yes, we signed the contracts wearing large feathered hats and a feathered boa. And had a great time doing it. Conner W was the photographer for this momentuous occasion. He managed not to laugh himself silly while doing so!

Houston (and all other geographical areas), We Have A Title!

Yes, our title has been approved by our publisher, so our very first published work will be...


More info will (magically) appear here with release dates, cover art, etc., as it becomes available!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Change of Name...

We've changed the name of our blog address to correspond with our new pen name. Marilu Mann is the name we'll be writing under, Marilu in honor of Stephanie's mom & Mann in honor of mine! ;)

We'll post more info here regarding our first release date and any subsequent sales/news, so stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Stephanie & I are EXTREMELY EXCITED and proud to announce our FIRST SALE!

Ellora's Cave has extended an offer of publication to us for our manuscript - Changing Times.

We're thrilled, excited, bouncing off the ceiling and back again, and sooo looking forward to this whole scary ride. No idea on publication date as yet, but rest assured the information will appear here as soon as we know it.

For more info, visit our website where you can read all about our Changing series...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Secret Passion Of Simon Blackwell
Samantha James
ISBN: 0060896450

Stephanie said: Samantha James kept me up last night. I started this book because I couldn't find the one I was currently reading. I adore James' other books so I knew I could expect a pleasant read. What I didn't expect were the gothic undertones. I kept hearing Heathcliff pacing about the moors of Yorkshire as Simon revealed his tortured soul. I can't remember the last time a hero has been so brutally challenged by life as Simon Blackwell. James truly roasts this man on a hot fire. He is Heathcliff only with extra broodiness and angst.

Cai said: I agree 100%. It’s been a while since a hero has had the horrors to face that Simon does. He really takes the cake on the “Dark and brooding” hero. I also adore Samantha James (I thought her “Perfect” series really was…) I also love the way each chapter starts with an entry from Simon’s journal. Not only is he a tortured hero, he’s a very eloquent writer .

Stephanie said: And our feisty heroine Annabelle whom everyone calls Anne or Annie is more than spunky. She's a terror on two legs when she decides that enough is enough and her marriage is no longer convenient. When she sets out to tear down Simon's walls, all bets are off. She isn’t experienced, but she observes her erstwhile husband. These observations lead our very astute heroine down a path of seduction that crumbles him.

Cai said: Oh my…when Anne sets out to “get her man,” she truly does. I love the way she gets to Simon, the power she wields, even when she doesn’t realize what she’s doing!

Stephanie said: I cried while reading this one. I became utterly involved with Simon and Annie as they traversed the rocky road of love. This is not your typical romance. It starts out by actually obeying the rules of society and forcing two people together simply because they were caught kissing. Thank you Samantha James. You are now on my "automatic buy this author" list.

Cai said: Even though it doesn’t have the “typical” beginning, it truly has that satisfying HEA ending. And Samantha James has always been on my “auto-buy” list, this just solidifies her spot!! A ROUSING STAND-UP & CHEER from me on this one!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

REVIEWBALL: Dragon Heat (The Dragon Series, Book 1)

Dragon Heat (Dragon Series, Book 1)
Allyson James
ISBN-13: 978-0425215890
293 pages

Cai said: At first, I wasn’t so sure about this book. I love paranormal, I write paranormal, but it took quite a bit for me to suspend my disbelief long enough to accept that a ripple in space would allow a 50-foot dragon to live in someone’s spare bedroom. Then again, that’s successful world-building for you. Yes, Lisa Singleton has a most unusual roommate. Caleb is a dragon. Specifically, Caleb is a golden dragon, a warrior, and good luck. Lisa’s grandmother Li Na somehow managed to open this rift in time and space and Caleb lives in her spare room. He’s addicted to late-night television and popcorn, and loves to listen to Lisa talk about her day.

Stephanie said: I loved loved loved this book. Utterly no suspension of belief for me as this played in to some childhood fantasies of mine where you would open a door and find a whole new world. Thanks, CS Lewis! This book opens slowly with Lisa reminiscing a bit about her grandmother and her new hair look. Seems when grandma died, Lisa got a streak of grey in her locks. Then we meet Caleb and all bets are off. He is a cantankerous fella who doesn’t like that he can’t protect Lisa fully. Nothing like having an over-zealous dragon as a chaperone!

Cai said: Though the story took some time to take off, once it did, I was hooked. You see, there are witches, a black dragon, and lots of magic contained in this story. One of the witches is out for vengeance and is not above using others, including demons, to get what she wants. The black dragon, Malcolm, is a strong and interesting character, and at first I had a hard time with him. He also is not above using others to get what he wants, but his goal is not what you’re led to believe it is at first. The twists and turns in the story will keep you guessing as to who is on which side and who will ultimately triumph (okay, it’s a romance, we KNOW who’s going to triumph, but still…the question is raised as to whether or not a gold dragon and a woman with her own special powers can actually make a match).

Stephanie said: I liked Malcolm as well. His character nearly overpowered the book though because I kept wanting to get back to him. As a villain, he was nicely shaded with definite grey areas. Then James throws in a powerful plot twist that thrilled me. I loved the idea that I didn’t really know who the bad guy was at first.

Cai said: Lisa must come into the realization of her own power before she and the dragons can face off against the witch out for revenge. She must also discover the power of love, sacrifice and family.

Stephanie said: Caleb has to deal with the idea that he’s now in human form and has to deal with some very human emotions that dragons do not have. We learn about the various kinds of dragons as well. I found Allyson James to be very adept at world building. And her secondary characters stood out as well.

Cai said: I’m very glad to see that the next book in this series is Malcolm’s story. He deserves his own tale, especially with those he left behind and the unresolved story with Saba (another of the witches). Allyson James also writes as Jennifer Ashley, a fact I found very interesting as Jennifer Ashley also writes paranormal. Her books in the Immortal Series are fabulous as well. I look forward to reading the next in the Dragon Series.

Stephanie said: I didn’t realize James was Ashley, but I loved her Immortal book. Like Cai, I am delighted to see that the next book in this series coming out in October. You can bet that I will be at the bookstore on release day with my copy in hand. I highly recommend this book. It had many of my personal favorites such as dragons and Asian themes as well as highly redeemable bad boys.

REVIEWBALL: Mine Till Midnight

Mine Til Midnight
Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin’s Paperbacks
382 pages

Stephanie said: Finally we are given Cam Rohan’s story. For those of us who devoured the four stories of The Wallflowers (Devil In Winter, Scandal in Spring, It Happened one Autumn, and Secrets of a Summer Night) this is the story we’ve been waiting for since meeting Cam Rohan, the darkly mysterious and sensual half-gypsy. Most of us expected he would be Daisy’s match, but Daisy had plans of her own. I will admit to bitter disappointment when I picked up Daisy’s book and found that she would not be falling in love with Cam as expected. But Kleypas worked her magic and gave me a satisfying love story for Daisy and promised that Cam’s story was coming.

Cai said: And yet, I wasn’t disappointed that Daisy and Cam weren’t a match. I knew after reading Daisy’s story that she and Cam would have been a terrible pair. I wasn’t at all disappointed that they weren’t together, but I was disappointed that we’d have to wait for Cam’s story.

Stephanie said: So who would love Cam? Well, it turns out that a very determined Amelia Hathaway would be bowling him over. Her family has inherited, but her brother’s reaction to the money is to turn to gambling, drink and drugs. He truly is a wastrel of the first degree. She also has sisters, three of them, to watch over. She is a very sensible, responsible girl – a veritable Meg of “Little Women” fame.

Cai said: You have to admire Amelia from the very first. She’s determined that her sisters and brother will succeed, even if it means she’ll be the “maiden aunt” to the bunch.

Stephanie said: When Cam and Amelia first meet, there is an immediate spark that lets the reader know this will be no easy match. Kleypas likes to torture her characters and this is no exception. Amelia knows her duty is to her family and that marriage has passed her by. She has accepted this and is calm in the role life seems to have cast for her. Cam has decided to finally take up the life he knows he was meant to live – that of a Rom living out of doors like a free man and traveling with the Gypsies. When he meets Amelia, he denies the attraction even though they share a scorching kiss that leaves them both questioning what just happened.

Cai said: Cam’s reaction to Amelia is priceless. Though he truly wants to rid himself of his “curse,” he can’t deny his attraction to Amelia nor can he deny his desire to show her that she is not “on the shelf” as she appears to believe.

Stephanie said: Amelia and her family travel to their new estate that turns out to be in worse condition than her own brother who has been found in the hells of London and dragged out to detox in the fresh country air. From rockets to bees to near death, the country does not prove to be the idyllic setting Amelia had hoped for. Throw in a devious nobleman with plans of his own for the Hathaways and a past history with Amelia and you have a very typical Lisa Kleypas book.

Cai said: I love the scene with the rockets, and I’m sure you will, too. Having Westcliff, St. Vincent, Evie and Lillian return is just a bonus in this book. Ms. Kleypas brings us up to date on these characters in a most satisfying way.

Stephanie said: I found the story of Amelia and Cam to be more tense than some of Kleypas’ other books. I loved the tension between she and Cam and the introduction of the Hathaways seemed, to me, to be setting up another series with an intriguing family. There was a sub-story that never quite got finished between the ill Hathaway girl and their Gypsy family friend and servant. I wonder if we will be able to look forward to the story of Merripen and Win. And who will the mischievous Beatrix torment with loose lizards and kleptomania?

Cai said: The tension is palpable in this story, and I love Cam’s indecision. Will he go forward with his quest for freedom, or will he tie himself even more firmly to the gadjo world? What about his “curse,” will it break with his association with the Hathaway family? What will happen to Merripen, the mysterious half-gypsy who figures so prominently in the Hathaway family dynamic? As for the other Hathaway sisters, will Amelia find them “appropriate” husbands? They will need to be extraordinary men, and I’m sure Ms. Kleypas will tell their stories with the same enthusiasm she saved for Cam and Amelia.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Coming Soon...

Reviewball returns...

While at RWA's (Romance Writers of America)National Conference in Dallas I was able to obtain an ARC (advance reader's copy) of Lisa Kleypas' book - Mine Till Midnight. The long awaited story of Cam Rohan, first introduced in Devil in Winter, coincidentally the FIRST Reviewball we ever did. After I DEVOURED the book, I gave it to Stephanie. She read it, and we'll be reviewing it here very soon!

We each scored a ton of books at the conference, so we may be doing a LOT of reviewing here .

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Editing and Writing

I find that when I begin to edit a story, I have difficulty continuing to write on other stories. I want to completely edit one story - get it all the way through the editing process, and then I want to set it aside and begin something new.

Eventually, I will go back to the one I was editing and read it again - for content, for entertainment, to make sure it does what I want it to do and that the story arc is complete. But I have to have some distance from it for a short time.

I wonder if all writers do that?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Keeping the Momentum Going

I may have blogged in the past about "sagging middles," but that's honestly where I feel my main problem lies. When I, as a writer, get to the middle of the story and I know how I want it to end, I sometimes find myself losing interest in the story. Not that I won't finish it, I will, but I can't seem to drum up the same enthusiasm that I had for that story and those characters in the beginning of the book. That's when I want to do something drastic in the story. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

In any event, I'm working hard to get over that problem of losing momentum. I try various writing exercises like writing that scene from another character's point of view or writing it in first person or yanking the entire scene out to see what happens to the story without it. Sometimes they work, sometimes they frustrate me no end, hence the million and one "beginnings that have no middle and no end."

Eventually I will overcome that issue and begin writing again. I'll get involved with the characters and the plot and I'll finish the damn book. After the editing comes the part that makes me want to hide under the bed...submitting it to a critique group. Usually the feedback is good, and if it's not good, it's extremely helpful...but it's still hard to sit there and just listen without "defending" your work.

In any event, the time has come to get back to writing so I can get out of the middle of the book and get to the end...and then begin again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why read romance?

There's a good question.

Speaking for myself, I read for escape, for entertainment, and for that HEA. Yes, I will freely admit that I enjoy a happy ending. So often in life we deal with heartache, loss and pain. It helps to escape into a good story from time to time. It takes your mind off your current woes and takes you into someone else's problem, then offers you a happy resolution to those woes.

Romance novels, among all other fiction, will always have a happy ending. If they didn't, they wouldn't be romance. They might be romantic stories, but unless that HEA is there, they are not romance novels.

I also enjoy mystery, science fiction, fantasy, and suspense novels outside the romance genre. Do I expect them to have a HEA? Not necessarily. Do I mind if they do have one? Not in the least. It won't stop me from reading certain authors or series novels, but I have certain expectations from certain authors or types of books, and I do want those expectations met.

That's why I enjoy reading romance novels, because I know what to expect. I know they will end well for both the hero and the heroine. I know that they will ovecome the issues in their lives and have that happy ending.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


No, I’m not talking about Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, or Jack Davenport. I’m talking about PIRATES.

Scourge of the earth…or in this case, scourge to published authors everywhere.

It has come to my attention that there are websites out there where people have downloaded entire books and they’re actually linking other people to these books.


You are violating copyright laws – not just within the US, but Internationally.


If you have ever gone to one of these websites and downloaded one of these books, YOU ARE ALSO BREAKING THE LAW.

Even if you buy an e-book and forward that to someone else, YOU ARE BREAKING COPYRIGHT LAW.

Be aware people, you are stealing from the authors, the publishers, the editors, and everyone else associated with the publishing industry.


Do not visit these sites, do not partake in their thievery, and when you come across these people, TELL THEM THEY ARE BREAKING THE LAW.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sex, Love & Other Oddities...

There’s an uproar about romantica / erotica and “real” romance in the publishing industry. The question seems to be what, exactly, is romance? What is romantic? What is erotic? When does romance turn into erotica and when does romantica / erotica become pornography?

Here’s my take…

There are many facets to romance. What you find romantic depends on how you were raised, your belief systems, the person you’re with, and what you want out of a relationship.

If you’re a health fanatic, you’re not going to find a candlelit dinner of steak and lobster drenched in butter with ooey-gooey chocolate cake for dessert romantic –no matter how much time and effort your partner put into that event.

If you’re truly into the environment and saving it, you’re not going to be thrilled with someone who brings you a bouquet of wildflowers – even if they picked them themselves – actually, ESPECIALLY if they picked them.

If you’re focused on family and on a specific set of family values, you’re not going to be excited about a romantic get-away to a hedonistic setting to indulge in sexual fantasies.


If you’re reading about a health fanatic, you WANT him/her to be ‘tempted’ by that chocolate cake and the butter-drenched lobster…you WANT him/her to have chocolate dribbled on some part of their body for their lover to lick off. That’s erotic. If the licking turns to lovemaking, that’s romantica. If the two of them decide they can work past the indulgence of one and the sparseness of the other and have a lasting relationship in spite of their differences, that’s romance.

Monday, February 19, 2007

REVIEWBALL: "What Price Love?" by Stephanie Laurens


What Price Love?
By Stephanie Laurens
Avon (reprint January 2007)
ISBN: 0060840854

Cai Said: Stephanie Laurens’ latest foray into the world of the Cynster family concerns Dillon Caxton. Dillon is first introduced in Demon & Flick’s story, A Rogue’s Proposal. Dillon had managed to get himself embroiled in a nefarious scheme and needs rescuing. Along the way, he managed to redeem himself and since then has struggled to regain his honor and has maintained an impeccable reputation.

Stephanie Said: I did not read Demon and Flick’s story but I was able to easily grasp that Dillon had been a very bad boy, been redeemed and was not working towards said impeccable reputation. So this book stood alone for me quite well. I’ve read quite a few of the Cynster novels but even so I don’t think you need to be an aficionado of the Cynsters to be able to get this book.

Cai Said: Dillon is in charge of the breeding register and the stud books for the Jockey Club. His responsibility is one he takes very seriously and one that he will not allow to be compromised – no matter how beguiling the person asking. Enter Pris Dalling. This beyond-beautiful woman is in search of her missing twin brother. The fact that her brother is obsessed with horses and racing leads her to Newmarket, Suffolk and straight to Dillon.

Stephanie Said: What we also should mention here is that Dillon is beyond-handsome.

Cai Said: Pris is surprised by the extremely handsome man and senses a somewhat kindred spirit in him. They’ve both been judged by their outward beauty. No one ever seems to want to look beneath the surface.

Stephanie Said: At first I was bored by this pretty meets pretty story. I felt it had been done time and time again. What made this interesting was Priscilla’s knowledge and understanding of how she could use her body. She had the power of a femme fatale without the black widow mindset so often associated with that. I enjoyed her calculating what to wear in order to present precisely the right picture. She knew how to tone down or fully display her assets. This added layers to her “pretty” character that made her more enjoyable to me. I liked that she knowingly manipulated Dillon. Or rather, tried to manipulate him. His experience with how his own physical beauty affected others left him seemingly immune to Pris’s outer dressings. This caused an interested conflict for Pris because she had to seek other ways to interact with this man.

Cai Said: Much to Pris’ surprise, Dillon does look beneath the surface of her beauty. And he wants what he sees. She determines to use her beauty to her advantage, as she’s done most of her life, only this time she’s not sure. Dillon proposes a trade – her body for a look at the register. He doesn’t expect her to agree and he doesn’t expect his own world to be turned around by that agreement.

Stephanie Said: When Pris took Dillon up on his suggestion, I was rather surprised. I didn’t get the motivation for her having sex with this man other than as a way to move the plot forward. Laurens very nearly lost me at this point because I didn’t buy into the physical relationship between these too people. It just seemed far too contrived to me. Also the book seemed to really be dragging at this point and this did not help it.

Cai Said: They begin a sensual exploration unhampered by physical beauty. At the same time, Pris is trying to find her brother and Dillon is trying to find out why it is so important that she find out what is in the register. He’s afraid she might have something to do with the scandal he’s caught wind of.

Stephanie Said: I really wish we’d had more of a look at Pris’s brother. He was a fascinating character as a first-born who would leave his estate and position as heir to an earldom for horses. What motivates a man to do something that significant in that day and age? I wanted to know more about him.

Cai Said: Several of the Cynster family make appearances in this novel, along with Dillon’s friend Barnaby and some other interesting secondary characters. There’s romance aplenty, but the action truly comes near the end when the scheme is revealed and a small group of ‘warriors’ plot to unravel it.

Stephanie Said: The secondary characters at times just stopped the book for me. It was as if Laurens thought “This will make a good secondary plot line” and then decided against it. I had glimpses of characters and then they just went away. Very unsatisfying for me as a reader.

Cai Said: Suspense abounds near the end, but don’t expect a great deal of it in the beginning of this novel.

Stephanie Said: Do give this one a chance. I felt that the dragging, dull beginning was compensated for by the rapid-fire ending. Once the horse race/register problem is in the process of being solved, the book really does pick up. The ending is satisfying but truly, this book was not as good as some of Laurens’ other books. And I love her writing! It is always crisp and clean and evocative.

Cai Said: I give it a rousing cheer because I just can’t seem to get enough of the Cynster world!

Stephanie Said: I give it a half-hearted cheer for the dull beginning that made me feel as if I was slogging towards my expected Laurens story. It was almost as if she’d been half-asleep for the first part of the book. But when she woke up? Well, that made the whole thing worth it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I think I need help...

They say the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem...

Hello, my name is Cai and I’m a book addict.
I’m not trying to make light of addictions, I honestly believe I have an addiction to the written word.

If I have any “extra” money, I hit the used book store.

I ask friends and family to give me gift certificates to book stores instead of any other gift. - or I tell them books I'd like to receive as gifts if they ask.

I constantly surf Amazon, Books A Million, Borders & B&N websites to see what new releases are coming out.

I’ve signed up with various publishers to get their newsletters and be notified by email when my favorite authors have new books being released.

I hoard books that I’ve been given as gifts, taking them out over and over again to read them.

I recommend books to others, trying to get them as hooked as I am.

I’ve even been known to GIVE books to others hoping they’ll love the author as much as I do and then that they’ll share their addictions to other authors with me.

I buy e-books and devour them over my lunch hour at work.

I ALWAYS have a book in my purse or bag or in my car and if I'm sitting in the car or in a waiting room somewhere for more than 5-10 minutes, I will pull the book out and start reading.

I have a "connection" at a used bookstore who calls me when my favorite authors have a new release or when she gets a book in that she knows I (1) don't have, (2) am looking for, (3) have read other books by that author and haven't read this one.

I go into the bookstore with a list of books I want if I can't find them, I'll drive to another bookstore - no matter how far away it is.

I've been known to "hide" books so that no one in my family knows I've spent money on them.

I've foregone buying lunch to buy a new book.

Is there a twelve-step program for someone like me? Is there any hope for someone like me? How does one overcome an addiction to reading – and quite honestly, should one want to???

Thursday, January 25, 2007

First Chapter Contest

Well, we took the plunge. Just got the notification that "we're officially entered" in the First Chapters contest at

Here's the link if you're interested...

I hope we do well...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ideas that just won't go away...

We all have them. Those stories that keep haunting us even when we know there is no market for them or that we’ll never sell them because they’re just too “out there” or have questionable elements.

Why can’t we let go of these ideas? Do we harbor the hope that at some point in the future we’ll be able to use that idea in some form or fashion in another story? Do we hang on because, like a bad relationship, we just can’t see a way to let go? What is it that drives us to keep pulling that tired idea out and revisiting it?

I can only answer for myself. Either I’ve just got to use that character somewhere or I really want to write that storyline. I’ll hang on to them until it has been definitively proven to me that their story will never sell or that no one “gets” that character.

There are a few of these floating around in my head and eventually they’ll be on paper – whether they’ll ever sell or not truly remains to be seen.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Inspiration, Focus and Discipline

Inspiration comes in many forms for writers. We look at the world a little differently from non-writers. Writers look at a couple sitting across the table from one another and make up the story of their courtship. Writers look at a child playing and make up stories about that child, his/her playmates and the rest of his/her family. We look at someone jogging along the side of the road and make up stories about who they’re running from, where they’re running to, and why they’re running in the first place.

We listen to a particular piece of music and get inspired to write a fight scene or a love scene. We watch a particular ad on TV and get inspired to write a story based on something that happened there. We observe life around us and absorb inspiration based on what we see, feel, hear, smell, do, touch…

Inspiration can come from a picture, a song on the radio, an email we receive from a friend, and even from other writers.

Inspiration is what keeps us writing – Focus and Discipline are how we finish the story…

Focus – if you can keep your mind on what you’re writing and not let something else interfere – whether that’s a new story idea or going off on a tangent with the current story, you’ve got it made.

Focus is sometimes hard for writers due to the fact that we DO see the world differently from non-writers. What is mildly annoying to someone else can give us fodder for a month’s worth of writing.

Discipline means BICHOK – Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. That story won’t write itself! Discipline can mean writing SOMETHING every day (or night) or it can mean setting aside time during the week for a flurry of writing. Discipline will see you through to the end of the novel, even when you hit the wall and don’t know where you really want to take that story.

Inspiration, Focus and Discipline – yep, that’s what we all need to write, that’s what we can depend on to see us through, and what will get that novel written and eventually sold.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Look what we did! (big grin)

Our entry is titled "Brother's Keeper" and is one we've had on the back burner for some time...guess it's time to bring it to the front, huh?