Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bumpy ever after - enjoying the differences

       “A great marriage is not when the 'perfect couple' comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” ― Dave Meurer

Duane and I will have been married 44 years come Friday. It didn’t look, on that hot day, like it was going to be an easy marriage. He was a Vietnam veteran and I was a single mom. We didn’t have any money and had been apart for 19 months of the 24 we’d known each other. Other than core values, we didn’t have much in common. Well, no, we didn’t have anything in common. But we respected each other. We were friends. We both loved my son. We were in love. In just that order.
 
          I will admit that it hasn’t always been an easy marriage. When two people disagree on almost everything, it makes for a bumpy ride. We seldom discuss who we vote for, because it’s not usually the same person. He drives the speed limit in a Ford, while I drive a Chevy a hair faster than I should. He watches TV and I read. He loves hot, sultry days and I like 75 degrees with no humidity. I love to travel and he loves to...not. I am a Pollyanna and he can find the negative in any situation without even trying. He was a city boy who married a country girl.
          Good grief, what were we thinking?
          We bought flowers Sunday. Ones to plant, I mean, not florist ones. He pushed the cart and told me to just get whatever I wanted. Then he said, “Oh, are you going to get those?” on the ones I chose and “Those are nice. What about them?” about the ones I did not. When the cart was full—at two different stores—we came home with plans to plant them on Monday.
          But when I came back from walking (I love walking—he doesn’t) he had the soil prepared. “I thought we’d go ahead and get started tonight.” (I’m a morning person, he’s a night one. I have no energy in the evening, especially if I’ve forced myself to exercise then. He has none before noon.)
          We planted them all. We talked and laughed. He planted carefully so that his flowers will be both colorful and artistic as they grow. I planted quickly. My flowers will be colorful. He suggested that I plant two small corner spots so they would mirror each other—I seem to have broken the mirror.
         
It was a good time. And we know, as those flowers grow (other than the ones I manage to kill), they’ll blend together so that no one will be able to tell where his planting stops and mine begins.
          I love the people I write about—I feel safe in saying all Heartwarming authors do. They are not “characters” to us—they are beloved friends and relatives. We are so lucky that we are able to give them their happily-ever-afters.
          But I hope they don’t always get along. I hope they have differences and slam doors once in a while and roll their eyes behind the other’s back. I hope when they plant their flowers, they each do it their own way. I hope they always have a good time just because they’re together. And I hope they respect and love and are best friends with each other forever and ever, because that’s as good as it gets.
          Happy Anniversary, Duane. I’m in for the next 44 if you are.


Monday, May 25, 2015

What Are You Waiting For?

by Kathy Damp

Oh, I am so very much Waiting for Sparks!

In junior high, once I was through the kid fiction wall in my Adirondack Mountain small-town library, I wandered across the lobby, past the curved circulation/information/librarian desk and into the adult section. They had potted plants over there, I noted. Now I was in the big time. 

On the bottom shelf, near the back, on perhaps the first (and second?) shelves were the Harlequin romances. Since this was the 70s, the romances there were sweet and covered lots of foreign countries. I read and read and even tried my hand later at handwriting a couple, each in their own spiral notebook. What a wonderful thing it would be to be published by Harlequin, I thought then. 

Those stories? They're still in a drawer in my filing cabinet, unfinished. But one I wrote as an adult, is going to bear the Harlequin name and debuts June 1: Waiting for Sparks. What? What's it about, you ask? So glad you did. 

How about this: Does the past have to dictate the future for broken hearts? In the small Rocky Mountain town of Heaven, Sparks Turner, a fireworks designer with itchy feet and a big secret, and Emma Chambers who's declared a man moratorium just to save her sanity, will find out.

The story came about one day while I was standing on the shore of Bear Lake that edges the village of Garden City, Utah, thinking I wished I lived in a small town again. So much better than suburbia, I thought. That's when a thought danced in: what if? (That's how most of my stories begin in my head, when I get a bit of an idea and it says, what if?)

What if having to come back to your small town was the LAST thing you wanted to do? What if you'd vowed never to come back under the tractor beam of control that your only relative, your grandmother, seems to wield over you and everyone else? What if everything changes with a phone call? Then what if you find...well, that's giving the story away.

Doug "Sparks" Turner leaped into the story just as he is, gorgeous, smiling, funny, and hiding a yearning that keeps him trotting the globe with a license to blow things up.

On June first, Waiting for Sparks arrives and I'm so excited. Secrets. Fun. Heartache. Villagers just the left of normal. A dog. A lake of strange blue in the Rocky Mountains.

I hope you like it. I hope you write and tell me what you liked best. Drop me a line at mailto://kathleen@kathleenwright.com

June first...eeeeeee. It's almost HERE.

~Kathleen


Friday, May 22, 2015

Someone Midnight Requisitioned My Flag by Roz Denny Fox



I’m the product of a flag-flying family. I wasn’t very old during WWII, but my dad trained welders for the war and my mother, bless her heart, learned to bake tons of cookies with honey which we got from our own bees, because of sugar rationing. She delivered coffee and cookies to the men on troop trains that stopped to refuel near our home. All men, because back then only men went to war. No matter the time day or night we loaded my little red wagon and because I wasn’t yet in school like my sister, I got to help deliver the goods to grateful soldiers. Very young men, I realize now looking back. Many were far from home and slipped my mother their name and unit address so she could write to them---which she faithfully did.

But I digress---this blog is about flying the flag. My dad welded together a steel pole he buried in concrete between his machine shop and our house. The flag went up at sunrise and came down to be folded at sunset every day that I recall. The habit of flying a flag went with me when I moved away from home. And as luck had it, I married a military man whose family also always flew a flag.

Throughout our many moves and various homes, one of the first things we always did after unpacking was to erect some kind of flag holder to our house. My husband believed if the flag had a light on it that you didn’t have to take it down at sunset. So we flew our flags day and night. Of course if they showed the least tatter, we took them to the local Legion for proper disposal and bought a replacement.

After I sold my home a few years ago and bought a smaller place, I was delighted to find a complex of townhomes where they came with flag holders attached to every garage. On my street at least half the homes have flags out all of the time. Recently it’s been windy and we all go out several times a day to unwind our flags.

Two months ago my neighbor’s flag went missing. He’s an old guy with a couple of vocal dogs. His dogs didn’t set up a fuss during the day, so he assumes someone swiped his flag at night. I commiserated with him, but wondered why anyone would steal his flag. Plus, they would have gone right past mine, or others if the thief came the other direction down our street. It remains a mystery. My neighbor is angry and didn’t replace his flag.

Well, I came down with a horrid cold after Easter. I literally didn’t go outside my house for 2 weeks. And when I did—my flag had disappeared. I asked everyone I saw out if they maybe noticed if my flag blew away in the wind. No one could shed any light. And if it had blown away they all agreed someone would have picked it up and asked to whom it belonged. Also our flag poles are fairly solidly in the holder.

I can’t not fly a flag on Memorial Day, so I have bought a new one. I’d like to find a way to chain it to the holder, but the kind that are nailed to the wall don’t leave room for anything but the pole. But I’m really curious as to why someone would steal any flag, let alone two. And why only two on a street lined with many more? One person suggested it’s probably kids out doing mischief. However, I have to take out a step stool to slip the pole in or out of my holder—so I’m picturing a really tall kid. On the other hand I can’t picture any adult going out at night to steal U.S. flags. The flag I fly stands for freedom and honors our military men and women who fight to keep us free. No one who steals my flag can take that away.

Ideas anyone?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Afternoon Tea with Helen and Lee

For our first Harlequin Heartwarming blog together, we are inviting our readers and fellow authors to join us for afternoon tea. Please up a comfy chair while we pour you a cup, and let’s chat!

LEE: Hello, Helen. Welcome to Harlequin Heartwarming! I’m so excited that we get to be blogging partners. Tell us what kind of tea you’re drinking, and please share a little about your first Heartwarming.

HELEN: Earl Gray is my favorite tea both for its flavor and for its appearance. I have a glass teapot that lets me enjoy its color, a deep rich amber, while it steeps. I generally have a big salt-glazed stoneware mug beside me as I write.



Helen's amber tea set
Right now I'm in the throes of producing a three-book series for Heartwarming. The first novel, tentatively titled Cameron's Pride, is in the production process while I churn ahead with the second book. The series concerns a ranch family in southern Colorado involved with the sport of Professional Bull Riding. What are you working on these days?

LEE: Bull riding? Wow, Helen, that sounds like an exciting...and somewhat dangerous...sport. And oh my goodness, who doesn’t love a cowboy hero?

Right now I’m working on the first book in a trilogy about three sisters, set in a small fictional town called Riverton, Wisconsin. The first book, the middle sister’s story, is tentatively titled To Catch a Wife. The title is meant to be a play on the old film title, To Catch a Thief.

This afternoon I’m sipping an organic Chinese green tea. It brews a lovely jade color and it’s packed with antioxidants.

Tea time in Lee's folly
So tell us, Helen, how did you become interested in bull riding?

HELEN: I grew up on horseback in Kentucky and fell in love with the West and rodeo after spending time on a dude ranch in Colorado. I fell away from the sport after many years in New Hampshire but got hooked again by watching bull riding on television and then traveling to live events. Bull riding is totally insane, but there's a crazy magnificence about it going back as far as the Minoan bull leapers. And I love the care and concern with which the bulls are treated. There are dozens of stories in the PBR waiting to be told.


Inspiration for Helen's next book: a statue honoring professional bull riders
What about you, Lee? Tell us about the hero in your next book.

LEE: The hero in To Catch a Wife is Riverton’s new chief of police and a former Chicago PD homicide detective. He’s seen a lot of bad stuff in his career and he’s ready to settle down, although he’s having trouble getting the heroine to believe it. I’ve only written a cop hero once before and I have to say, they can have a lot of attitude. I love it!



Inspiration for Lee's next book: a gazebo on the bank of the Mississippi
Helen, I understand you now have a new title and release date for your first Harlequin Heartwarming. Please share that and tell us a little about your characters.

HELEN: Yes, I've interviewed a lot of cops while researching an earlier book. Lots of attitude and a bizarre sense of humor to us "civilians"—insulation against the bad stuff, I reckon.

I've been calling my first Heartwarming novel Cameron's Pride, but my editors have decided to use that as the series title and chose Into The Storm for the first book. I love it; storms of various kinds figure prominently in the story. The hero is a rancher dealing with his wife's death and a rebellious teenage daughter. The heroine is a traveling horse trainer perpetually running from tragedy in her past and threats in the present. Setting and weather act almost as characters in the action, potentially matters of life and death in wide-open country as I've learned first-hand.

LEE: That’s a wonderful title, Helen, and we’re so excited to have you join the Heartwarming family!

HELEN & LEE: Readers, we hope you’ve enjoyed having tea with us today. To celebrate our first joint blog post, Helen and I are offering a little giveaway. Tell us about your favorite heroes in a comment on this post—rancher, cop, doctor, bad boy, Navy SEAL, the guy next door or...? And yes, you can have more than one! On Saturday we’ll have a random draw and post the winner’s name as a comment.

The prizes? From Helen, some New Hampshire maple sugar candy, and from Lee, a copy of one of her Heartwarming titles (winner’s choice) and a little tin of her favorite organic green tea.

Happy reading! Until next time,

Helen DePrima and Lee McKenzie

Monday, May 18, 2015

How I Started Writing . . . by Kate James


I always wanted to write. While I was attending university, I started two manuscript. But after graduation, my career took off and those partially finished manuscripts were relegated to a storage box in my basement. Fast forward a number of years. My husband and I were on vacation in the Caribbean. My husband likes to sleep in a bit when he's not working, but I’m always up early so I use the time to catch up on business-related e-mails, read or find other ways to occupy myself. I was sitting outside by our pool one morning, sipping my coffee, when I happened on a notice for a short story writing competition. I wrote the story, entered it in the contest and placed 52 in my category. Now that might not sound like much of an accomplishment, but the contest received over 12,500 entries! Still, I put it aside. (Ultimately the short story became my first Heartwarming book, A Child’s Christmas.)


A few months later, it’s my birthday and I am opening the gifts from my husband. I am a very hard person to buy gifts for because there’s not much I can think of that I want or need, and I virtually never give hints. Yet, my husband almost always finds the perfect gifts for me. On this particular occasion, one brightly wrapped package contained a beautiful white laptop. I smiled graciously at my husband and thanked him profusely, all the while thinking what the heck do I need another laptop for, when I have a perfectly good one from work that’s with me nearly 24/7?

But my husband knew better than I did. As I spent so much time on my work laptop, the last thing I was inclined to do was use it more during my free time to write a book. The fact that my personal laptop was white instead of the normal business black, made a world of difference, too. It didn’t look or feel like my work computer, and it created an entirely different mindset.

In six months, working very early in the mornings before work and late at night after our evenings ended, I wrote my first book, Silver Linings. Six months later, I had a contract and another six months after that, my debut novel was in print and in book stores! Silver Linings did well considering the publisher was a small press. It received first place honors in two out of two reader’s choice contests as well as some other recognitions. The fall of that year, I took the most significant step in terms of career change. I left my “day job.” I am still involved in business but not on a full time basis, enabling me to put considerably more time and energy into my writing and associated promotional efforts. It also gave me the opportunity to seek a relationship with a larger publisher, and I am thrilled to be now writing for Harlequin.

I suppose the moral of the story is that my husband knew best, and I owe him a big thank you! That white laptop was the start of a very enjoyable journey for me.

The Truth About Hope has just been released and is available in print and e-book formats.

Buy Link

Next up will be the first book in my K-9 trilogy, When the Right One Comes Along. It's scheduled for release in October, with the second book following in January 2016. I am grateful to the York Regional Police and PC Jim Hilton and his explosives detection canine partner, Max, for their invaluable assistance with my research.






As always, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below, or contact me through my website, on Facebook or Twitter.

Happy reading!

Kate


Saturday, May 16, 2015

SIT DOWN SATURDAY WITH CATHERINE LANIGAN

                         SIT DOWN SATURDAY WITH CATHERINE LANIGAN
                                                           KATIA’S PROMISE

     Before I even begin to talk about the book and some long ago inspirations. Here’s my inspiration for my hero, Austin McCreary.
   
Okay, now he’s a real cutie, right? I loved The Mentalist, but now it’s off the air. Sigh.  A few years ago he did a three year series called The Guardian which my husband and I are now bing watching on Netflix. I highly recommend it.

      This is my cover for the book and when I saw the first images that Heartwarming sent to me, I sat down in awe. This guy is really sweet and his eyes are mesmerizing. Together, they make a darling couple and I liked the way she was cuddled up in his arms. Again, another sigh.
I don’t know how the cover gurus at Heartwarming do it, but frankly, I haven’t seen a cover yet  for any of us that didn’t make me want to buy the book.  Those people need an extra box of chocolates from all of us! 
So, here’s the cover---






      This book in my series is especially important to me, because it was the image of Katia and Austin that prompted my entire Shores of Indian Lake Series.  It all goes back to the night that I woke up at three in the morning with my dream still in my head about this auburn haired, beautiful woman standing under a street lamp, around midnight, looking up at a single burning bedroom lamp in the mansion across the street. In my “vision” the woman turned to me and stared. She told me that I was to write her story.  I knew instantly that she was in love with the man in that house and that he was awake thinking of her.  I also knew that she wouldn’t “go” to him because he would have nothing to do with her. She was the one who had broken his heart when they were teenagers and not only had he not forgotten her, he had become the town’s recluse because she abandoned him. Katia’s story did not evolve the way some stories do for me, but was just “there—everywhere.

     Austin was very real to me because back when I was in high school, I had a teacher who was a bachelor. Everyone wanted to know his “story” and one day in class, he blurted out that he’d been left at the altar by his bride. The church was packed. He was wearing his tux and she never showed up. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that would actually happen. He was a good looking man, very kind to his students and I thought he made literature quite interesting. As the years passed, he became a recluse. A bona fide, agoraphobic. He quit teaching and retired and lived in a world of books. His library was massive. It was said that when he died, you could barely walk through his house because the books were in stacks to the ceiling. He had first editions and he came to every book signing I had in those days.  His estate of books brought over three million dollars when he died.I will always remember him, so in many ways, Katia’s story is inspired by these true events.  
    
     I’m ALWAYS interested in the favorite scenes of other authors, so here’s mine:
     
      At one point Katia is so desperate to get Austin to talk to her, that she “breaks” into his house to see him.  Katia had been the maid’s daughter in Austin’s parents’ mansion when she was a little girl. Therefore, this house had been her childhood home as well. Once she was a teenager, she fell in love with Austin and he with her. However, Katia’s mother feared their growing relationship and moved Katia and herself to Chicago on the eve of Katia’s trip to New York for Austin’s senior prom. Austin waited at La Guardia for Katia to show up, but she never did. Katia was ashamed that her mother thought she might become pregnant and was too embarrassed to ever call Austin again. Austin never forgave her—and never forgot her. Katia has kept the key to Austin’s home all these years. Once she comes back to Indian Lake, he won’t talk to her about the insurance policy she is trying to sell him. So, she goes to his house, uses the key and lets herself in.  The security guards are alerted by the electronic security system. The cops show up. The housekeeper, Daisy, comes running and its pandemonium, while all this time, Austin is upstairs in the shower. It’s an embarrassing, but very humorous moment for Katia and Austin both!

      The other interesting fact about KATIA’S PROMISE is that Austin and his family collect antique cars and he’s in the process of building a car museum. In our little town of La Porte, one of our residents DID build an antique car museum. It has now been donated to the city as the Heritage Foundation Building. However, it is gorgeous and looks just like the Hermitage. I have always been fascinated with antique cars.  I had so much fun researching the 1926 blue Bugatti convertible, Silver Cloud Rolls Royce and the Maserati he might own. For me, sitting in an antique car is one way of traveling back in time. The velvet upholstery that was used, the silver bud vases in the back seat, the quilted chrome dashboards, reinforce to me that these cars are literally like time machines.

     I also want to thank Claire and Victoria for allowing me to write about antique cars, which is not a very feminine hobby/passion, but it’s one I adore. My husband had a 1946 Cadillac that he’d learned to drive when he was sixteen and which we kept up on “blocks” in our garage in Scottsdale. When we sold his house there, he gave the car to some friends in Long Beach, California. Our friends restored the car fully to its former glory and whenever we go out to California for business, we make it a point for all of us to drive to dinner in that car. It really is amazing how being in a car like that gives a person a different perspective of their surroundings and situations.

     So, I’m curious.  Would any of you choose an antique car, say a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud or a 1960’s Mercedes Benz convertible or a revved up 1968 Corvette over your current car?


   

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Writer’s Use of Television
by Shirley Hailstock

I don’t watch much television.  At least, I didn't think I watched a lot of it.  But I’ve discovered I watch a lot of television.  I can write through the noise.  Growing up with a lot of sisters and one brother, the television, record player (we had records then), and radio could all be going at once, not to mention conversations.  I learned to either tune it out or work with it.

I thought working with television began when CSI-Crime Scene Investigation debuted on the small screen.  They would show what happened inside the body when an event occurred, like a bullet penetrating a lung.  I thought of it as research, giving myself permission to watch it for writing purposes.  But then I remembered back when I was in high school, I used to used Walt Disney Presents (Sunday nights at 8:00) to write my book reports.  It wasn't until later that I discovered books and movies were different.  Luckily, I stuck with the legends, so I was all right.




Going to the movies was something a friend and I did often when I lived in D.C.  When the movie ended and everyone else was leaving the theater, my friend and I were still sitting there after the credits rolled, discussing the film, its meaning, what was true, possible, or impossible.  It wasn't just what Hollywood had sent us.  We’d dissect it every part of it.  And this was long before I began writing and dissecting what made a good book.  I didn't know it at the time, but sitting in that theater, analyzing what happened, was training for becoming a writer.


Movies also sent me to books.  If a story was intriguing, I often wanted to know more about the characters portrayed or I wanted to know what was in the book that didn't translate to the screen.  By now I’d learned that what I saw was only a fraction of what a book could tell me.  These were often biographies.  I wanted to separate the truth from fiction.  Amadeus was one of the first ones I watched and went almost immediately to the library to check out several books on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Mozart isn't my favorite classical pianist.  That would be Chopin, but the story behind Amadeus was so intriguing that despite the wonderful music, I wanted to know more about the man and his relationship with his wife, his absent mother and his stern father.


Books also send me to learn more about other people’s lives.  The book Emily’s Secret by Jill Jones led me to learn more about the Bronte’s.  Emily’s Secret, a work of fiction, was recommended by the publisher through a teaser booklet.  I read the teaser and then haunted bookstores until the book was released.  After reading it, I discovered it was one of those books that you tell everyone they have got to read.  And of course, I did.

But let’s go back to television.  I’m not a reality fan, but I watch some shows for the science or the technology.  McGyver and his ingenious use of whatever was available was one of my favorites.  I have the entire series on DVD’s.  I was a chemistry major in college and still wondered if some of the improvised concoctions he used would work.  Years after it went off the air, there was another program where they tried the physics and chemistry of McGyver.  Most of it didn't work.  However, the takeaway from this is that there are things my characters can do with only what is available.  And before you ask, no, I never used anything I saw McGyver do on television in my books.  But he was certainly good to look at.  And still is.

Today I watch Scandal with Kerry Washington.  She’s a fixer.  Until I saw Michael Clayton with George Clooney, I’d never heard of a fixer.  I thought they’d have a sexier name.  I can’t think what, just that they would.  The problems they have and the solutions they come up with are amazing.  As a writer, it’s a not to be missed program.  And of course, NCIS is on my list program that I watch over and over again.




So, when readers ask me where did the idea for a book came from, sometimes it came from something I saw on television.  Of course, it’s not exactly the same, but the germ of the plot can spark an entire book.  Sometimes only one line in a movie gives me an idea for a story.  I have to quickly write it down, so I won’t forget it.  Once I got the idea for a book from a bumper sticker on the back of a truck.  All it said was Summer Thunder.  I thought of writing a book about the permanent residents of a summer resort.  They referred to the influx of hard bodies during the season as Summer Thunder.  It’s still in the idea file, waiting for me to write it. 


The idea for my latest book, His 1-800 Wife, did not come from any television program.  It came from commercials.  There were so many late-night commercials for people to call 1-900 numbers.  Those were for more exotic and they had a pay-per-call feature.  Right after I saw one, another came on for some mortgage company and their number began with 1-800.  My thought was about the 900 number people looking for love and installing a phone to find it.  And that's when Catherine Carson and Jarrod Greene entered my mind.

Catherine Carson needs a husband...temporarily.  Devising a plan to keep her sister and mother at bay, she installs a phone to find the perfect man -- no the imperfect man.  One she could marry and happily divorce in six months.  But Jarrod Greene has other plans.  And Catherine must discover what she really wants. . .a future with Jarrod.

So sit down and watch television program.  Some of the best programs are based on books – or the other way around.

As always – keep reading.