Monday, September 1, 2014

When Do You Write by Anna Adams and Melinda Curtis

Writers are often asked when they write. For Melinda Curtis and Anna Adams, it's become a case of how they write. They're both able to choose unconventional hours, and that helps, but if you have trouble getting words down - for a blog, a journal, or a book - maybe you should consider sprinting.

What is sprinting? You decide to write either alone or collectively during a specific time period - an hour or two. There is no social media allowed during this time and you better have hit the potty and refilled your coffee cup as well. Penalties help if you need motivation - shaming, dollars in the dinner fund, etc.  This isn't a new idea. But recently, Anna Adams and Melinda Curtis rediscovered the joys of sprinting together. They've decided to let you in on their sprinting sessions where they tag each other through text messages.

Anna: Here's how we start. Usually, it's me pinging Melinda.

Melinda: (Clearly this screenshot is from my phone where I identify myself by my puppy's picture - Anna, I need a picture of you.) We check in after an hour. Please note that Anna always has more words than I do in the first hour. I suck wind in the first hour (either that or she's fudging numbers...hhmmm).

Anna: I'd never fudge numbers! But I do fudge. Social media. I take a second to scan Twitter or FB. I answer texts from my daughter or the phone or door. But I'm painfully aware of our more honest friend, Melinda, out there, having collected her coffee and made sure she won't be slacking a second of the hour, and that gets me back to work. Otherwise a second of slacking could easily turn into hours of procrastination.

Melinda: Okay, apologies. I'm slow (the irony of sprinting, I suppose - she's the hare, I'm the tortoise). Even when we edited together you blew right by me page-wise. This second shot indicates I'm editing and Anna is racking up the words (despite all her distractions).

Anna: I don't think Melinda gives herself enough credit. Sometimes I'm faster. Sometimes, I'm asking why I don't run away and start a new online identity, so I don't have to 'fess up to Melinda how little work I've managed to complete.  Oh--that's the biggest benefit of sprinting to me. Accountability. I work harder, knowing I have to tell Melinda how hard I'm working.

And now your turn: Whether it's writing or a household chore, what do you do to make things go faster or easier? We know we'll hear a lot from Heartwarming writers, but any other writer or reader who comments is in the running to win a $5 gift card (either to Amazon from book-crazy Anna or from Starbucks from coffee-crazy Melinda).

Anna Adams and Melinda Curtis, along with their friend, Anna Stewart, have the pleasure of writing the first novella collection for the Harlequin Heartwarming line. Christmas, Actually is set in Christmas Town where local tradition has it that a kiss underneath the town square gazebo on Christmas Eve means wedding bells for the couple in the new year. Follow the highs and lows of the Banning siblings as they journey toward a happy holiday with a bonus kiss!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Are you a collector? by Marion Ekholm


A dear friend of mine had such enthusiasm for a collection of elephants she’d seen. “I’d love to have a collection like that,” she told me. So when her birthday came, I thought what should I get her? I found elephants – with the trunk curved up because that meant good luck. And her collection began.

Any time I was in a thrift store, an antique shop, a garage sale or a jewelry store, I had a mission – find my friend another elephant for her collection. And it was growing. So much so that she had to invest in a curio cabinet to hold the 60 plus elephants she had collected.
One day, just before Christmas, I brought her a gift. Yes, another elephant – and she cried. “I don’t know how this started, but for years everyone gives me elephants for my birthday and Christmas. Elephant jewelry, elephant stationery, elephants on shirts – on everything!” she said through her tears.

The lower left corner has my first dishes.

“It’s my fault,” I said, giving her my final elephant gift. “Don’t you remember when you said you’d like an elephant collection?” Of course she didn’t, but she was happy to know how it started and that it could end.

Some people are collectors; some hoarders. I keep things I like, and for the most part, they’re valueless to anyone else but me. But I loved perusing for those elephants. Why not collect something for myself? I like miniatures and had my children’s dishes from when my mother pulled them out of the soapsuds she used. Remember those days when a toy came with a product?

This children's set dates back to around 1915, my oldest set.

Although my collection does include several full sets, most of the thirty plus contain just the teapot, creamer and sugar dish. They’re in porcelain, metal, tin and glass and come from Japan, England and Germany as well as the USA. I love when I find a set made from the same mold with different decorations. On several occasions I’ve had the opportunity to display them and women from three to ninety enjoy all the memories they invoke.
My granddaughters play with the tin items in the foreground and the "imitation" silver set. Note they are unbreakable!
So have you a collection you love? Have you tired of it and wish people would stop buying you those frogs, owls or Star Wars figurines that you get every time you open a present? Be aware that any comment might get another addition to your collection!



Friday, August 29, 2014

August Hilarity by Muriel Jensen



Good Morning all Heartwarming Heads!  

August began as a trying month for me.  The funeral of a very dear, long-time friend, followed by a colonoscopy, then a ginormous revision.  There weren't a lot of laughs around here.
Then they started coming.

First, as I was waking up from the colonoscopy, the doctor leaned over me and said, "You have the colon of a twenty-year old!" Yahoo.  But that's hard to brag about, or so I thought.  My friend's daughter had a t-shirt made for me.

Second, the dog needed a bath.  We have an old claw and ball bathtub.  If you haven't seen one, the sides are taller than the average tub, and the base is a little narrower.  The dog is 92 pounds and Ron can no longer help me lift her into it.  Enter a new pet store in Astoria that also offers do-it-yourself dog bathing facilities.  I thought it was the answer.

Each unit is set up like a raised stall with running water, a very short leash attachment, and floor boards that allow the water to run through.  There's also a sort of hose/shower head thing, only mine didn't work exactly right, the clerk said - it didn't shut off.

There are three steps up into the stall and Cheyenne, who is a little neurotic anyway, refused to climb.  The clerk took the leash from me, thinking she could do it.  No luck.  She told me she didn't think this would work for us after all.  I said, "I have one more thought.  If I climb up, she'll follow me."  I did. She did.  But she was very frightened.  I sat on the floorboards to explain it all to her and while I was talking, I hooked up the small leash attachment, and took her leash off.  The clerk was exultant.  "I'll go turn the water on," she said, running to the back.  Meanwhile, realizing I was about to leave her, Cheyenne took me down and stood on top of me whining, the malfunctioning shower head thingie right beside me.  I heard water go on, the dog wouldn't get off, and I was pinned to the floorboards, one Skecher-clad foot in the air, arms flailing, dog howling.

The clerk brought me a rubber apron a little too late, and helped me out of the stall.  Once Cheyenne realized what was happening, she gave herself over to the experience, practically raising an 'arm' so I could shoot the area with water, turning this way and that for optimum effect.  I'm sure if she had language, she'd have sung "O, Sole Mio." 

Across the room were two blow driers, but they were being used by two Prom Queenish Collies who looked at Cheyenne disdainfully as their beautiful honey and white coats rippled like wheat fields in a wind. Fortunately, I had brought a couple of bath towels in my backpack, and she enjoyed the rub-down.

Third, Our neighbors Barb and Steve, and Ron and I have a lot of friends in common who live in the neighboring town.  We were invited to a birthday party there and Steve offered to drive.  He has a Volkswagen beetle.  A wonderful car - unless you're trying to put a walker in it.  The walker folds, but along the width, not the length.  It wouldn't fit in the trunk, so Barbara and I sat in the back with the walker on our laps. She has such a cheerful disposition, she makes me look like Pagliacci (I know, I'm in operatic mode.)  She talked away about how fun it was to ride together, how wonderful it was going to be to see everyone, all the great things she was going to do the last two weeks of summer - and all the while she talked, she was looking at me through the walker's handles, and I was answering her through the wheels.  We laughed a lot.

Fourth, we have a new independent ice cream truck running through the neighborhood.  It's a pale blue, fairly old station wagon with pictures of the products taped to the side.  I heard his musical arrival the other day and ran out with a fistful of ones to see what I could buy.  The proprietor, a very pleasant man with a buzz cut, gave my order to a helper in the back, who pulled things out of a big white freezer.  "All juice bars are on sale for a dollar," he said with real enthusiasm.  "I have to go back to the shop and restock for tomorrow 'cause we're doing a tattoo convention."  (Maybe you had to be there, but doesn't it strike you funny to think about the little blue station wagon filled with ice cream at a tattoo convention?)

So, thanks to the Funny Fates, I'm going to make it to September. Please share with us what the FFs have done for you. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Asking (and Answering) Some Tough Questions by Carol Ross



This is me 'watching' football.


One of my special gifts in life is appearing as if I’m paying attention.  Some of you may deduce that this means that I have a short attention span.  Not the case--you see, I’m one of those ‘gifted’ people who is often contemplating some of life’s most perplexing questions while seemingly engaged in another task altogether.   For example, like other good American couples, my husband and I are sometimes invited over by friends or family to watch sporting events like football or basketball games.  I’m not really a fan of either, but I love spending time with these people.  Plus, I am a huge fan of the snacks that always accompany these gatherings.  So I snack and stare at the TV as if I am interested, when in fact I can sit through an entire game and not even know which teams are playing.  Because my brain is busy pondering--and sometimes even solving--some of life’s most important and vexing issues, such as…

Waiting for dessert…   Can someone please tell me what we are waiting for?  For it to get better?   Pretty sure it’s already good.  And for you cruel “dessert delayers” who say things like, “Let’s wait a bit before we cut the pie,” or “I’m too full for dessert right now,” which in turn forces me to wait… I’m telling you now that I don’t want to wait.  And just so you know--nutritionists agree that if you are going to eat dessert, it’s best not to wait because when you consume sugar directly after a meal it doesn’t spike your blood sugar as dangerously as it does on an empty stomach.  See--it’s healthy to eat dessert right after the meal.  Please--I beg of you--give me my dessert.

The Parking Lot Game…   My sisters and I named this activity during the countless hours of our childhood we spent riding around in parking lots while our mom looked for a “closer spot.”  Sorry, Mom (and all of you other primo-parking-space-seekers out there) but I could buy my groceries, load them into the car, get a pedicure, bowl two frames, and drive-through Starbucks by the time you find a suitable spot.  I know it’s difficult but I think it’s important to ask the question--is it worth it to burn hours of your life and eighty dollars of gas to park twelve feet closer?

Books and movies that don’t end…  I guess these are supposed to be ‘thought provoking’ and ‘profound’?  Not for my peanut brain (and by ‘peanut’ I mean highly sophisticated.)  I like things resolved, tied-up, satisfied.   If I want to read a book or watch a movie where I have to guess the ending then I’ll just spend some time looking at my own life and guessing how it might end...  I seek out books and movies because I want to escape my life for a little while.  I’m sure there are people out there who want to be left guessing and that’s fine.  All I’m asking for is a warning sticker on the front of these books for those of us who don’t want to guess.  Something simple like--'Warning: This book doesn’t end and may leave you frustrated for days'--would do nicely.  Is this too much to ask?

Ice cold butter…  This one is super important and probably highly controversial, but I feel it’s important to tackle these hard questions, so here goes…   Dear restaurant people, I love the soft fluffy buns you serve to tide me over until I get my meal, but why does the butter have to be as hard as a rock?  Is there a way to spread this butter without mangling the bread?  If so, please share.  Instructions delivered along with the bread basket would be ideal.  Thanks.

There, now aren’t you glad I don’t really watch those football games?  How would I have time to tackle these tough questions if I became a genuine sports fan?  I would love to hear about something that baffles you, too.  In fact, please share…so I know I'm not the only one who is feeling weird and alone.  (And by ‘weird and alone’ I mean brilliant and profound…)


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Use Your Words! by Dana Mentink

I used to tell my little girls that all the time. Use your words to show how you feel, not tears or fists or tantrums.  So allow me to use mine to explain why I cried when traded in our vehicle. It wasn't about the car, the old white mini van with scratched paint and a window that wouldn't roll down. It’s wasn't the engine that was worth, in the heartless pages of a blue book, only a few dollars. It wasn’t trading away that vehicle that set my tears in motion. 

It was the little Barbie purse I found in the back seat of that old van, a small leftover from the dolls that went with us everywhere. The CD player that never worked quite right? It was thanks to a wee one who pushed a dime into the slot when we were killing time before some swim lessons.  The stain on the carpetwas from a juice box dropped on the floor, perhaps after a zoo trip when little red cheeked girls fell asleep in car seats on the way home.

It wasn't the car. It was the knowledge that I am not the mini van mom anymore. I am not the woman with little children in tow, always ready with a bag of goldfish and an extra set of clothes tucked under the seats just in case. I am not that mom with soothing answers to all questions and a stash of secret snacks in the glove box. I am not that mom, not anymore.

Now there is texting and laughing in our new vehicle, the one with the buttons that I can’t figure out. High school dances replace zoo trips and Mommy and Me swim classes. I am the driver, the quiet chauffeur, who listens to the teens chattering in my car, silent and reliable, watching my girls turn into women via the rear view mirror.

I am not that mom. And they are not little girls. And the tears are not about the car.


Did you ever experience a  moment like this? 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sit-Down Saturday with Marion Ekholm


Today we’re celebrating Marion Ekholm's release of 
An Act of Love.

So, Marion, where did you get the idea for this novel? It's an idea I've had for years - a woman dealing with everyone in her family wanting to know when it would be her turn to get married.

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say? My cover speaks for itself. Not only is a wedding about to take place, it's in a beautiful outdoor setting. I love it.

How long did it take you to write? I started this story a long time ago with the intention of having my heroine, Marley, getting back together with Richard, the man she was in love with when she attended college. After about seven chapters into the story I had to stop. Brant indicated he'd make a better hero than Richard and my affection had shifted to Brant. I put the story aside for several more years before I could figure out how to make Marley fall for Brant. Something happened I hadn’t expected: a rivalry developed between Brant and Richard for Marley's affection.Thank goodness Marley decided she wanted Brant by the end of the book. 

What is your favorite scene? It's a tossup between Brant's demonstration of how he kisses actresses, his girlfriends and his wife versus Marley's four-year-old niece helping him propose marriage.

Who was your favorite character and why? Brant! I loved how his face lit up with a smile whenever he dealt with Marley.

If you could pick fictional characters to play the hero and heroine, who would they be? Patrick Demsey as Brant and Jennifer Garner as Marley (with long red hair).

Tell us one thing you learned during research. Research is best when it’s fun. I had so much enjoyment learning about music and how to play the guitar, all things that helped develop Marley’s character

What music would match the mood of this novel? Marley played the guitar and the music I enjoyed while working on this came from Bud Dashiell and Travis Edmonson, two folk singers who also played guitars. I loved their harmony. 

This is your 2nd book. Exactly what does that mean to you? It’s a delight to know my second isn’t a stepchild but one as good as my first. 

What do you plan to work on next? Today I’m working on a series of several books that take place in the Deer Valley Community College, based on the college where I work.   

What are you reading for pleasure right now? I’m catching up on the Heartwarming books I received at the RWA conference.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Blog by Roz Denny Fox


 

Happiness Is Attainable At Any Age

 

An insurance newsletter I get often has information I like to share. The latest has an article on finding happiness. Their sources came from articles posted in a May 2013 Scientific American, and a September 2013 Huffington Post Health Living.

Happiness was once considered an elusive quality. Now it is believed that anyone can increase their happiness regardless of age, health, wealth, gender, ethnicity, or education.

The article lists 9 areas anyone can choose to develop.

 

1.    Express Gratitude: Happy people appreciate and value what they have. They recommend starting each day with a gratitude list. Watch how day by day the list grows. Remember that sad thoughts make you sadder. Angry thoughts angrier. Being thankful leads to more reasons to feel grateful.

2.    Develop Optimism: You can cultivate optimism. Seeing a glass half full or half empty is a matter of perspective. Train your thoughts toward seeing your world as a source of endless wonder and opportunity.

3.    Stop Comparing Yourself To Others: Compare and despair. This is prevalent among writers. But comparing yourself to another person causes unhappiness. Either you feel better than other people, which creates separation from them. Or if you envy others it makes you feel bad about yourself. Think about the fact you compare yourself to others using conditions you know about your life, but only think you know about theirs.

4.    Practice Acts of Kindness: It’s scientifically proven that being kind increases serotonin level in the brain. It’s the feel-good hormone. Believe that you reap what you sow. In order to collect vibrations of joy, practice kindness. Smile at strangers. You will feel happier and so will they.

5.    Be Social: Studies show that people with relationships are happier than loners. Regardless of your marital status, you can develop close relationships with family members and friends that will bring you joy.

6.    Develop Coping Strategies: Know that everyone experiences challenges, loss, and life setbacks. Be aware, maybe even list what you will do and where you will turn when you hit a rough patch.

7.    Learn to Forgive: This is so important, but also know that forgiving doesn’t mean you let the person who harms you off the hook. It means you let you off the hook. Because harboring hurt and anger infringes on your happiness.

8.    Take Care of Your Body: This may be the biggest hurdle to overcome. It’s hard to be happy when you are in physical pain or discomfort. Since you have one body to last a lifetime, don’t ignore it, but nurture it. Treat your physical being with the reverence it deserves.

9.    Practice Spirituality: This is last but far from least. It’s great if organized religion works for you. If it doesn’t you still need to find your own path to tap into the divine, creative energy of the universe. Meditation calms the restless spirit. Being spiritual lets you transmit good thoughts out into the world.

 

Making the above nine suggestions an important addition to your daily life, will help your days, weeks, months and years blossom, and you’ll find yourself feeling happier.