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.

 

 

 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Love Checklist by Karen Rock


The Love Checklist- by Karen Rock

It’s a perennial debate. One that goes back as far as love has existed. Do we fall for the people that meet our expectations, or do our expectations change when our heart leads the way? Many of us have a folded, dog-eared mental checklist of what we must have in the perfect mate. These traits guided us when single, helping us select our partner for life. Yet does 100% compatibility guarantee happiness? Emily Dickinson said, “The heart wants what it wants— or it does not care.” Does that give us license to follow our feelings, and ignore logic and reason, when we meet someone who takes our breath away? Or is love something that can and should be approached methodically?

When dating, I had an informal ‘code’ and even a test to determine if a guy was a ‘keeper’. Introducing him to my pets was the first task. It was crucial he liked animals. Important that they felt the same way about him. My pets were my family and no one came between me and those who loved me unconditionally. Another task was settling up the dinner bill. I know this is controversial, but on a first date, one in which I’d been invited, I hoped he’d offer to pay. It showed a generosity in spirit that I looked for. A third task was asking something a bit embarrassing that I already knew about my date from another source. If he answered honestly, points in his favor. If not, adios. No room for liars in my life. Listening to me spiel girl power doctrine was another test to pass. I didn’t want a man who wasn’t strong enough to handle an equally strong woman.

 

True story: My husband Greg, of 21 years, and I saw a Julia Roberts movie on our first date. We’d barely taken our seats, shared some popcorn, and watched the end of the opening credits when poor Julia’s submissive character was beaten by her controlling husband. I turned to this relative stranger beside me and said, “If a guy ever did that to me, I’d cut his important bits off.” I held my breath, watching Greg in the gloom. As a corrections officer, my husband works up close and personal with dangerous criminals. It’s a macho job and I didn’t know what to expect. However, he simply nodded at my vitriol and said, “good.” My heart melted on the spot. A strong man who admired a strong woman.

Despite this, he still insisted on paying for our dinner, didn’t miss a beat when my Irish Wolfhound, Sport, nearly knocked him over at the end of the night, and confided that he’d shared a bedroom with his sister since eight children had to share two bedrooms in his mother’s house. It’s little wonder I agreed to get engaged six months after our first date. In truth, I knew he was the one within a week. Still, Greg doesn’t fulfill every one of my ‘must traits’. He doesn’t enjoy classical music concerts. Isn’t big on nature hikes. Was happy to have only one child. Will take spontaneous detours on vacations I’ve meticulously planned.  I’m not sure what our compatibility score would be, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.

In my September Harlequin Heartwarming release, SOMEONE LIKE YOU, Kayleigh Renshaw struggles to make sense of a broken engagement with her boss that upends her life. Recalling how her parents divorced due to incompatibility, she decides to create a smart phone app that will let people input their dating ‘must traits’ and check, before wasting time on a doomed relationship, how compatible they are. Her software designer and longtime friend, war veteran Niall Walsh, isn’t so convinced with her logic, but he’ll help her out— because of their friendship— and a dark secret he’s under orders not to reveal. This friends-to-love story challenges these two characters to figure out how to accept their new feelings for each other, even when it’s not rational or logical.

Now it’s your turn. What’s guided you in making decisions about love? Do you have any ‘must traits’ for a partner? Answer in the comments section below, and include your email address, to be entered to win a copy of SOMONE LIKE YOU. I’ll announce the winner on this post tomorrow as well as on my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/karenrockwrites . If you are interested in preordering SOMEONE LIKE YOU before Sept 1st, Here are the links: Print Book : http://bit.ly/1oN6puy  Amazon Kindle : http://amzn.to/1o9Bz0S  B&N Nook :  http://bit.ly/1gmWXxg  Kobo : http://bit.ly/1qRegXE I can’t wait to hear you thoughts!

 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thank You by Amy Vastine

Around here, the only thing everyone is thinking about/dreading is going back to school. I have three kids in three different schools this year. My oldest began his high school career last week, my daughter is in seventh grade (what a sweet and pleasant age, said no mother of an adolescent ever), and my youngest is starting his last year in elementary school. It also means back to work for me as a middle school social worker (did I mention what a sweet and pleasant age that is?) So, in honor of all those kiddies getting on a bus, I thought I’d steal a little gimmick from Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show. I’m calling this:

Thank you darling daughter for informing me that you have never in your entire seven years of school needed to use a gum and a kneaded eraser for art class and convincing me your younger brother will still pass the fifth grade if I can’t find them at any store within a 100-mile radius of my house.


Thank you people who don’t know about Target’s a little section of calculators in the electronics department for allowing me the opportunity to do the dance of joy (much to my high schooler’s horror) after snagging the last $140 must-have graphing calculator on sale for $85, especially when the other five they had in stock in the Back to School section sold out immediately.


Thank you usually purposeless living room for storing all the school supplies until school drop off so the kitchen table could be cleared off for dinner.

Thank you school supply drop off day. Even though it’s not all that fun to deal with the hundreds of people who also have nothing better to do with their time than to show up at the middle school at 4:00 in the afternoon to dump their kids’ school supplies off, it’s nice to be able to see the living room floor again.

Thank you pre-sharpened pencils packs for saving me from spending hours at the dreaded pencil sharpener that never really gets those cheap pencils I buy sharp enough.

Thank you Thursday for being the day all three kids will be in school but is still part of my summer break. You have no idea how amazing an empty house sounds right now.

Thank you Friday for being an Institute Day and allowing me to sleep an extra hour on my first day back, go out to lunch with friends I haven’t seen in ten weeks, and being the beginning and end of my work week!

Lastly, thank you summer for being a time for me to recharge my batteries, spend time with my family, and giving me some extra hours to fit some writing in.

Now bring on September! My novel, THE BETTER MAN, comes out next month and I am so, so excited about it. In addition to the romance, there’s family, some drama, and a little humor.

To celebrate the release of my book and all the kids going back to school (which hopefully means more reading time for some of you moms out there), I’m giving away a signed paperback and bookmark to a US winner or an ebook to an international winner. Comment on this post or share it on Twitter with #HarlequinHeartwarming for a chance to win! I'll post the winner tomorrow in the comments section. And if you don't win here, check out my Goodreads giveaway. The link is in the contests section of the blog.  Good luck!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Taking the Longhand Road, by Linda Hope Lee

     I wrote my first six novels in longhand, on college-ruled notebook paper, with a mechanical pencil. Yes, it had to be mechanical, with 0.7 lead. Then I transcribed the novels onto my computer, revising and editing as I went along.
     For the twenty-or-so books that followed, I gave up the paper and pencil and composed directly on the computer.
     Then last year, I got the urge to go back to pencil and paper. Could I write a novel that way again? Did I really want to?
     I decided I did. I bought several college-ruled spiral notebooks and took out my pencils. I wrote straight through the story, without stopping to revise. At the beginning of each session, I reviewed only what was necessary to pick up where I'd left off. I filled three notebooks. And yes, it took way longer than it would have with the computer.
     But I'd forgotten how relaxing writing in longhand is for me, compared to sitting with my hands poised over the keyboard. I'd forgotten how much I like the act of writing, of establishing a rhythmic flow of letters onto the paper.
     My research on the subject of handwriting vs. typing turned up a study that showed the brain works differently in each process, and that students who take handwritten notes learn better than those using a keyboard. I don't know how this translates into creativity, but there are more writers than I would have guessed still composing in longhand. Among the notable are Joyce Carol Oates, James Patterson and Amy Tan.
     Will I write another book in longhand? At this point, I don't know. I'm still revising and shaping the current one. I'll wait until the project is done and then decide.
     What about you? Do any of you take the longhand road?