Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Good morning ladies!

Honestly, between two book proposal preparations this week and line edits, combined with an annoying head cold-I've got nothing today. However, I did get my photopass photos yesterday from our family trip to Disney, so I thought I'd share!

Sorry, next week-I'll have a real post:)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fairwell to Foxy - Carolyn

Today is bittersweet. I signed the papers to sell the last horse I bred. I know I’ll never breed another one, although Zoe is perfectly capable of producing a foal.  The sweet part is that Foxy, granddaughter of a champion thoroughbred and a champion dressage horse, went to a girl who has adored her for years, but couldn’t afford her. I know she’ll have a wonderful home with someone who loves and cares about her.
I originally bred her to become my dressage horse. Wrong! She has superb gaits, but from the beginning she has wanted to run and jump—the higher the better—over jumps that are as trappy as possible. Event horses must be brave and scopy. Foxy started looking for things to jump when she could barely trot after her dam in the pasture.
She was always too much horse for me. At my age, I do not need a difficult, powerful, opionated mare who never suffered fools gladly. She expects her riders to do their jobs and help her do hers. She’s a bit over 16.2 hands tall. (Big) Started off steel gray like her sire and grew lighter through the years—standard for gray horses. She has beautiful ground manners and is a real sweetheart to work around. I love her and always will. If I think about it hard I’ll probably burst into tears because the likelihood of my seeing her again is slim. Silly of me to want to hug her one more time, to feed her one more carrot, to watch her race around the pasture with white mane and tail flying. Silly, also, to want to have ridden her once. I never have—that crazy I’m not. I have very long, very strong legs from riding dressage. If I had wrapped them around Foxy, the chances are she would have snorted and come off the ground. I can’t ride bucking horses any longer.
I think it was Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s author) who said that he liked horses  better than he liked most people. I’m not sure about the ‘better’ part, but I would agree to ‘as much as.’ That’s why so many of my books deal with horses. I think it was Winston Churchill who said that there is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. Leaving out the male chauvinism, I agree with him.
I will miss Foxy, but I’m glad she’s gone to people who love her as I love her.
Now I think I’ll go out to the barn and hug Zoe, my driving mare and cry a little.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Weather in New Mexico - by Aimée Thurlo

As some of you may have heard, we've been hit by the most incredible storms. Last night (today's Saturday) we had gale force winds.... Stuff was flying everywhere, but all things considered, I think I'll let the US Weather Service tell the story.

 From the weather service....
What made Friday evening's severe storm even more remarkable was the fact that 16-18 hours earlier, a cluster of intense thunderstorms produced very heavy rain, flash flooding, and widespread power outages over many of the same areas in the city. Rainfall totals between the two impressive events totaled 4-5 inches. The spectacular picture here, courtesy of Don Armstrong, is a 6-second exposure from early Friday morning.
Our Zoo has different bands come play, music at the zoo, but the rain and the hail, and the winds...--
Photo: Here it was before I left.
 US National Weather Service Albuquerque New Mexico's status.
For those of you who wondered about tonight...
Albuquerque experienced one the most intense, severe wind-producing thunderstorms in recent memory if not on record. AVOID TRAVEL IF AT ALL POSSIBLE. Trees and power lines are down throughout the city, and the FLASH FLOOD THREAT is serious.
The 89 mph gust measured at the Albuquerque Sunport at 7:36pm Friday, July 26th is the strongest gust recorded at the ‪#‎ABQ‬ Sunport since 1939.
Clean up here is ongoing. As I write this, our phone line is hanging by a thread. That's why I want to put this up on Google so it'll post automatically in case we're off line.
It's been scary, but we're all right and that's all that matters.  A tiny leak in the roof (considering the wind, that's a miracle) lots of downed tree limbs, but nothing that can't be repaired. And we learned a few things - never stop stocking lanterns with LEDs, little flashlights don't work well enough, if you buy ice cream and the power goes out, grab a spoon. It's God's way of saying 'smile.'
Aimée Thurlo, author of the Ella Clah mysteries optioned by CBS, the Willa Cather Award winning Sister Agatha series, the Lee Nez vampire series, optioned by Red Nation Films, winner of the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense, and New Mexico Book Award winner

BLACK THUNDER - Forge trade paperback - available now
A TIME OF CHANGE- Forge hardcover - available now FALCON'S RUN - Harlequin Intrigue - July 2013
Forge Hardcover - November 2013HOMESPUN CHRISTMAS - Harlequin Heartwarming - November 2013
St Martins hardcover - Jan. 2014

Friday, July 26, 2013

Change--Do You Avoid It, or Embrace It? By Roz Denny Fox

I started thinking about this subject the other day when it came to me that while I used to always sat change meant growth and I looked forward to ne ideas and new things, now I more like my life to remain status quo.  I decided it must be age. But I don't want to get so set in my ways that other people see me as difficult. I remember working with some people who didn't want anyone touching a single things on their desks which they had arranged exactly as they liked it. So, I did some side research on the subject of change.
In a copy of Scientific American, Nikolas Westerhoff says personalities can continue to change in middle and old age, but openness to new experiences gradually decline to around age 60 when luckily "some" people become more open again.  Hey, there's hope for me digging out of my rut.
In Psychology Today, Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy D, who wrote "high Octane Women" has an article about change being hard, but the article tells why people should keep trying.  She's really talking about making behavioral changes.  But she does indicate you should always have a Plan B handy if Plan A goes awry.
What got me thinking about this whole subject was when I had to get a new computer tower.  It sounds simple, but really caused me great stress. First the cables from the old tower didn't match the spots to connect with the new one. It took me 2 trips back to the store. Then the new system didn't come with Outlook Express, so I had to buy a new Microsoft program that included a new, updated version of Word along with it. Office 2010 was quite different than Office 2013, including Word. I liked the old version, and was comfortable with it. Also Windows 8 comes with tiles that are supposed to go with a touch screen which I didn't buy.  Lastly the new system wouldn't talk to my high speed black and white printer that I loved. I spent weeks searching for a new printer. I finally did get one, but still like the old one better.
In the middle of this the place where we've always held our RWA meetings closed. Our next meeting this Saturday has to be at a new place. We only just found one. I liked the old place. I knew how to get there and how long to allow. I think you may be seeing a bit of why I am resisting change.

Back to what Ms. Bourg Carter suggests to help relieve stress attached to change:
    The change needs to be self-motivated
    Make sure you think positively instead of out of regret
    Set specific goals, but limit them to a manageable number
    Develop a realistic plan to accomplish the change
    Spend time with other people who accept change easily

And you need patience and persistence. I decided that's where I'm falling down in this arena of acceptance. I'm impatient and too ready to throw up my hands and give up totally.  Knowing this, I'm making progress learning the new functions of my computer programs.  It makes a difference if you don't have a choice to go back to the old way.  When it comes to accepting a new meeting place, I'll have to keep an open mind.  I've decided to tell myself we all need to shake up our lives to not fall into a rut.  I want to get back to being the person who thought change was good. How do you accept change in your life?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Awesome Road Trip

I love road trips. Especially impromptu trips. When the road calls, I have to follow.

So when I got an email from Harlequin informing me that the cover of my August Heartwarming release, Orange Blossom Brides, was going to be featured as an elevator wrap at the annual RWA conference in Atlanta, I had to go see it for myself.

What started out as a mission to see the cover ended up being a weekend full of fun and thrills. Thrilled to see the cover, yes, but I also got to meet with other fabulous Heartwarming authors and the editors for the Heartwarming line. Honestly, I have never met more warm, friendly women than those I spent time with this weekend. I am truly blessed to be part of this group as well as a Harlequin author.

You would think seeing the cover would be the highlight of the weekend, but that was just icing on the cake. I was able to visit with editor Kathryn Lye. We chatted  before she ran off to start her crazy, busy weekend.

I had lunch with Karen Rock, with whom I’ve been alternating Thursday blog posts. I was excited to finally meet her face to face. I also want to send a shout out to Jen and Rula, who also blog here for Heartwarming.

On Friday night, six Heartwarming authors had dinner with Kathryn and Senior Editor, Victoria Curran. We had a blast. Lots of laughs and getting to know one another by sharing stories about our lives and being writers. From there we went to the Harlequin party where decadent desserts called our names and the DJ kept everyone moving on the dance floor. What a night!

 This road trip did not disappoint. I’ll add it to the memory book, for sure, but I still look forward to the many trips to come!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Project Heartwarming by Syndi Powell

Last Thursday, one of my favorite shows had its season premiere. I absolutely love "Project Runway" for several reasons; but mostly because it sends the message that to be the best artist, you need to express the vision of how you see the world. The designers who win the show come at fashion from a specific viewpoint, and their clothes are an expression of that. They have a vision, a voice, and their creations tell their story.

It's those who let the "rules" or the "judges" overpower their voice that get sent home. Those artists lose sight of who they are as a designer. They forget who the woman they are creating clothes for really is. And in a sense, they lose themselves.

I'm sure you've read books by authors that seem to have lost their voice. Maybe you loved their last book, but the current one doesn't seem to have the same energy. You notice that the things you loved about their stories is missing from the one you're reading.

And you've also read books that seems to change the author you thought you knew. She's writing something different than her last book, but it feels real. It sparkles and shines. It's got that "it" factor that you wanted. It has an emotional impact that lasts long after you've finished the story.

If I were to give advice to a novice writer or one of the designers on "Project Runway", I would tell them to find your voice. Figure out the unique way you see the world. And then find the right story for your voice. If your voice is sweet, a suspense story may not be the right fit. If you have an edgy voice, a sweet romance won't sound right. The combination of your authentic voice and the right story will open doors!

And like Tim Gunn would say, "Make it work!"

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What I'm Reading

  Pamela Tracy here.  My family and I are just finishing vacation.  I'm counting the hours until I open the front door of my house because there's no place like home.  I thought I'd share my journey via books.

Leaving Scottsdale, all the way through New Mexico, and into Colorado:  FireBrand by Susanna Kearsley (awesome book; I give it a 10)

Colorado, Wyoming, and into South Dakota: All God's Creatures by Carolyn McSparron (Honestly, it reads like a memoir.  How Carolyn made fiction read like fact is beyond me.  I'm mesmorized.  Another 10 and I wish there were a sequel.)

Iowa and Nebraska:  The third Jim Butcher book.  It's on my Kindle and because I don't see the cover page but once, I can't remember the name.  (I loved his first two and am thrilled there's a bunch for me to read)

Nebraska and back through Colorado:  A new cozy mystery called Woof at the Door.  

Colorado and back through New Mexico: Dying to Read by Lorena McCourtney (I fell in love with her Ivy Malone mysteries.  They were like Mrs. Pollifax.  This is her new series).

Back in Arizona: An Irish Country Doctor

I never, never get to read this much.  I loved it.  My husband and son think I'm nuts. 

So, what are you reading, past present and future.

Monday, July 22, 2013

In which I meet my editors and forget to take pictures - Cynthia Reese

I am horrid. Just terrible. Ask The Husband. I have gone for years missing the capture of important moments in The Kiddo's life because I ... gasp ... forget to take pictures.

Used to, I had an excuse. I had to take a camera with me, and I always forgot to get it. So I could share the blame with The Husband because of course HE forgot to remind me.

But now? Now I have an iPhone. And now I have a camera with me. All the time.

Saturday I was fortunate enough to have lunch with my editors, the amazing Victoria Curran and Kathryn Lye, at Atlanta's South City Kitchen Midtown. They were in town for RWA '13, which I would have attended, except my anniversary fell right in the middle of the conference. So, since it would be a horrid sin for a romance author not to celebrate her anniversary with her hubby, I stayed home.

The Husband and I had planned to have a romantic dinner at home, while The Kiddo spent the night with her aunt, but then The Husband came down with food poisoning the day before our anniversary. So on our anniversary night, I wound up washing dishes and thinking how I COULD have been with all my author friends in Atlanta.

I consoled myself with the idea that I would, the very next day, meet Kathryn Lye for the first time and see Victoria again. It was a mighty fine consolation prize, I tell you!

Harlequin editors are a special breed, just like Harlequin authors. I've heard horror stories from friends who are published with other publishing houses, and I always give thanks that I have such good editors.

Like any big corporation, Harlequin has its share of shifts. I've wound up dealing with four editors since I first sold, and at least two before. All of them were dream editors ... it's exactly like you hope for before The Call: an editor who will bounce ideas with you, who will tell you what precisely is not working about your story ... and what precisely IS working as well! I've never had an editor with Harlequin who didn't care about my family or the catastrophes that so frequently befall us all. And when I had a scary first diagnosis of ovarian cancer -- thank God it was incorrect -- that I mentioned in passing to one of my editors for Heartwarming, Victoria was on the phone the very next day with warm wishes and good thoughts.

And I'm not special. I'm one of dozens of authors that they deal with, and they treat ALL of their authors this way. It makes you feel so valued -- you are not just a churner out of words, but a member of the Harlequin family.

I've recently been assigned to Kathryn Lye, and I admit, I was nervous. Change is never easy for me. But she has been terrific, which should have been NO surprise, since like I said, Harlequin editors are terrific! On the phone, she was so easy to talk with, and in person? Like Victoria, she's a ray of sunshine. They both follow the Ann Landers advice about good conversation and keep you talking about your favorite subject -- yourself. ;-) (Well, my daughter is my favorite subject, and close behind would be writing.)

So that's why I'm kicking myself that I can't show you a picture of all three of us together. I did think of it -- when we were all digging into our delicious lunches. But I hate photos of myself eating, and I figure they wouldn't like it, either. But at the end, they were due somewhere else, and I needed to make the three-hour trip home, so we all just hugged and went our separate ways, none of us thinking again about The Picture. We were just enjoying our time together -- which is what I tell The Husband every time I forget to take a pix of The Kiddo in a Very Important Moment. I was storing up memories that will last longer than a photo.

He doesn't buy it. And I suspect ... you won't, either!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Writing Emotion

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. -James A Michener

One of my favorite reference books is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi. I use it all the time in my writing, especially when my characters are experiencing emotions that I don't feel often and therefore find more difficult to bring to life accurately. The book is wonderful as it provides physical signals, internal sensations and mental responses for each emotion. But what I love most are the writer's tips along the bottom of each page.

Here are some of my favorites:

-For each scene, identify the emotion and think in terms of three...what three ways have you reinforced the character's feelings through verbal and nonverbal communication?

-When revising, look for instances where emotions are NAMED.  Nine times out of ten this indicates a lack of confidence that the emotion is shown clearly through thought, sensations and body language.

-Emotion should always lead to decision making, either good or bad, that will propel the story forward.

-To increase tension in a scene, think about what is motivating your character, and which emotions could get in the way. Introduce an event that creates the very emotions the character wishes to avoid.

-Force your characters to make choices between bad and worse. Evokes empathy from readers.

-When delivering emotional description, it's easy to rely too much on facial expressions. Instead, describe what the arms, hands, legs and feet are doing.

-To add another layer to an emotional experience, look for symbolism within the character's current setting. What unique object within the location can the character make note of that perfectly embodies the emotion they are feeling?

These are just a few, but the book is filled with great advice for writing emotion.

Off to RWA!! Can't wait to meet those of you who are attending and see Tara's book cover elevator wrap!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer in My Neighborhood

We live in Astoria's oldest neighborhood, just outside of the original fort built over 200 years ago when trading followed the Lewis & Clark expedition.  It's lined with Victorian homes and a few later additions built on vacant lots or to replace a home destroyed by fire.  We are halfway down the lea side of a hill that runs down to the Columbia River.

We live in a four-square Victorian, so called because every floor including the basement has the same square feet of space.  It isn't elegant, just comfortable, and has fussy old moldings and two half-columns in the living room. 

What I love best about the house is a front porch that runs the width of the house.  Here, again, there are columns at each corner, and spindle railings.  We have a wooden glider (the swing, not the airplane) in front of the window.  One particular slat along the back has been reduced to toothpick width by a long succession of cats.  In front of it is an old table bought at a church rummage sale that was supposed to be for Ron's studio to hold still lifes, but was commandeered for the porch the first time we had tea out there and was just never brought back in.

The women in our neighborhood and a few other friends meet regularly for girls' night out.  I had to miss last week because Ron wasn't well and I was afraid to leave him.  So everyone met as usual, then on Friday night, brought pizza, salad, and other goodies to our front porch.  Barb set up two long skinny tables covered with red and white checked tablecloths and two bouquets of daisies from her garden.  Her husband, Steve,  made a salad and Curt, who often takes us to doctor's  appointments, went all over town getting the kind of pizza everyone preferred.  In honor of the occasion, I brought out to the porch a twig settee that lives in the dining room but is seldom used.  It's covered in pillows, on one of which is embroidered, 'Writers never go to bed alone.' My agent sent it to me ages ago.

If you don't live in an area where it rains five days out of seven from October to May, it's hard to appreciate what a sunny evening on a front porch means.  We said grace, we chowed down, then we sat until dark talking and laughing and realizing what a precious moment in time it was.  We all enjoy each other's company so much and try to find excuses to party together as often as we can, but there never does seem to be enough time.  We run from jobs to home, taking care of the hundreds of demands, large and small, that take up our time.  But this summer evening, the blessing of free time enveloped our front porch - and some of the world's nicest people.

Life is good.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why writers don't (usually) turn into serial killers = Carolyn

I made the grave error of looking at my horoscope in the paper this morning. I generally avoid it like the plague, but today I accidentally allowed my eye to glance over it to read that from a possible five stars (good), I was down to two. It said basically that although I thought I might finally have a handle on things, I was dead wrong. Things were still a mess, as I would discover as the day went on. Thanks a lot. Everyone I know is having Karma problems these days, largely because of technology. Things break, nobody cares and nobody will come fix them.
At my Malice in Memphis writers group meeting on Saturday we were all commiserating. After two and a half months and nine visits from the repairman, I still had no icemaker. Then Friday the entire refrigerator (still under warranty) stopped cooling, and when I requested a repair, they offered next Thursday afternoon. Seriously?
Then the driver’s side door in my Expedition broke, so that I couldn’t get out of the car by myself. Does that really happen to normal people? I left the water on overnight in the barn again—very bad for both environment and the well—because I seem to be functioning at the level of semi-competent nutria. 
Our Malice group decided that we would write a book about a list of anti-repairmen, either incompetent, uncaring, or actually destructive.  Owner and manager of said list would be our serial killer, someone who has had one bad experience too many and snaps. The deaths would be a la Mikado—the punishment would fit the crime. The auto mechanic who punctures the air conditioning hose would find himself locked in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year in Death Valley. The man who did not repair the swimming pool robot would find himself shuttling endlessly, face down, in green slimy water while the robot trundled happily around the pool. You get the idea.
The good thing about all this is that because we are writers, we don’t have actually to do any of these things. We can get our revenge by envisioning the worst that could happen, writing about it, then letting it go.
Although that idea about the pool robot does have some appealing points…

Monday, July 15, 2013


Left brain/right brain. That sums it up rather nicely. My better half can choreograph a fight scene, or action scene better than anyone else, particularly me. However, elegant language describing the feelings between a man and a woman...not his thing.

One of our biggest arguments goes along the lines of "No guy would ever say something like that." Or take the time I showed him a friend’s book cover - it had a shirtless hunk wearing a cowboy hat and sitting astride a motorcycle. Hubby’s comment - "Are you kidding me? He’d have to ride at two miles per hour or the hat would fly to the next county. And when he stopped he’d be scraping the bugs off his chest."

You’re getting the idea. Sometimes I just want to shoot him.

However, when it comes to butching up dialog, my partner’s got no peer. My guys tend to talk way too much. His men get the point across in two sentences or less.

I think what makes it work is that I see with my heart, and he sees with his mind. The combination really fires up the pages of our romances.

We’re nothing alike. I yell - he’s beyond quiet when he’s ticked off. I hate to cook - he’s a gourmet chef. I hate storms - he goes out to the porch to watch the lightning and downpour. You get the idea. But it’s a match made in heaven - providing we credit God with a strong sense of humor.

July 31st we’ll be celebrating our 43rd wedding anniversary.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Weight Loss--What Does It Take By Roz Denny Fox

I must be at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to blog topics or I'd leave this one alone.  But almost everyone I know has been on or is currently on some kind of a diet. Well except for my sister who is a bitty thing. She and I are like Jekyll and Hyde. My whole life I've needed to watch what I eat, while our family doctor told my sister to drink milkshakes between meals to gain. She swears to me that needing to gain is as hard as trying to lose. Not sure I'm buying that.

I'm also blessed, or cursed, depending on how you look at it with a  primary care doctor who is a runner and is half my age. A week or so ago I saw where our government agency on health thinks doctors don't spend enough time talking to their patients about weight. My doctor never got that message. I see him twice a year for general check ups, once in the winter and once in the summer. The first thing that happens before I go into an examining room, the nurse weigh me. During my winter visit the doctor brings in my chart, shakes his head and always begins with--"Your blood pressure is good, but your weight is up." I always say, "I'm a fair-weather walker."  He says: "Bundle up, or join a gym.".  Generally my next comment is: "In the winter I like comfort food." He gives me the evil eye and starts to lecture about how weight gain is caused by one thing--expending less calories than you take in.

Of course I know that.  Anyone who has tried every diet that's the rage of the age knows that. When I was younger I could look at the scale, see the gain, adjust my intake and lose 5 to 10 pounds in nothing flat. Now it's almost impossible.  I talk to the doctor about my sluggish metabolism. He rolls his eyes. "It used to be zero," I say. "Now I'm sure it runs in the minus column." He says blaming metabolism is bunk.

I honestly don't think men understand how much more difficult it is for women to lose weight than for our male counterparts.  I don't take any men's magazines, but I wonder if they have as many articles on weight loss as every woman's magazine I've seen? My new Health magazine has 6 references to weight on the cover. "Lose Weight Faster", "Special Healthy Eating Issue", "Gain Mastery Over Cravings", "Yes A Flat Belly Can Be Yours", "Do You Need That Extra Cookie?" (Hello!)  And last an article titled: "New Secrets To Slimming Down."

Get ready for it--this new secret to slimming down is the age old commentary on the old mantra--"eat less, exercise more."  The exercises recommended haven't changed a lot since I had PE in elementary school. This article did point out one of women's biggest saboteurs is social eating.  Women bond over meeting for lunch and often order what sounds good instead of choosing a healthy alternative. Okay, I'll buy into that. I love to meet friends for lunch or dinner. However, I feel articles dealing with how to lose weight almost never take into account that women aren't all cut from the same mold. Like my sister has been smaller boned and over-all smaller than me from the time she was 7 and I was 1.  Some of us are born into families that equate food with love. That can set up a life-long battle against adding on pounds.

So since I've waded into this can of worms, let's talk frankly. Oh yes, I found another article titled: "Think Yourself Thin".  (Really?)  Yes, it's time to say what you think.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Unplug with a book…or not - By Rula Sinara

This past week we did a little bedroom juggling so that each of our three boys could have his own room. Two of them had been sharing, not only a room, but many of the books in it. Both are avid readers and book collectors, so you can guess what ensued. Now, if my kids had e-readers, the issue of which books got to rest on which bookshelves (in which room) would have been averted, but my kids don’t have e-readers. Yet.

And I like it that way.

The first thing my youngest said when he scanned his new room was, “Mom, I need more bookshelves. I want my room to look like a library.”

Man, did that get me right in the heart. I too was addicted to reading at their age, and just like them, I keep (and kept) the books I read and love. In fact, one of my favorite things to do is to share my old books with them. As they’ve grown up, we’ve moved from my picture books to the novels I read for English class. There’s something special about the fact that my teen didn’t just read A Midsummer Night’s Dream…he read the very copy I did, complete with my notes in the margins and my maiden name on the inside cover.

My favorite place to go as a kid was the public library, and to this day I love the smell of books. I love that when you walk through a library, it’s so quiet you can almost hear, or at least anticipate, the craziness, adventure, romance, fights and cries from behind all the bindings. Call me nuts, but if you’ve ever read the book or seen the movie Inkheart, you’ll know what I mean. Yes, I’m sentimental about traditional books.

I don’t have an e-reader myself, though I’ve read books on my PC. For the mere sake of convenience, I’ll be getting a reader soon, but I won’t be giving up my print books. I’ll probably even buy print versions of any book I fall in love with in e-form. The thing for me is, I associate reading a book with unwinding…unplugging. You’re not unplugged with an e-reader or pad device in hand. I already feel like my iphone is glued to my palm. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve read and loved many digital only books, it’s just that my heart is still in between paper pages.

So where do e-readers fit in with kids and unplugging?

On one hand, we want to make reading fun for kids, and nowadays most kids will jump at anything with a screen. There are also advantages to e-books, such as kids being able to look up word definitions with the touch of a finger. Of course, they could do that the old fashioned way (yes, mean mom here ;). The catch is, screen time is screen time, and both pediatricians and eye doctors recommend limiting a child’s screen time to no more than two hours a day. If you take the time spent on the computer (educational sites or not), time at the TV (again, educational or entertainment), time on phone screens if your kid is older, time the computer is needed for homework, and then factor in the number of hours we’d love our kids to read…yep, you do the math. We’re waaaay beyond two hours.

It doesn’t matter what a screen is used for or how high tech it is (though low glare helps), all that screen time has an impact on vision (eyestrain and myopia) as well as brain wiring. It’s like the recent ‘teach cursive or not’ arguments. Less things are hand written now, but learning those skills develops a different area of the brain. I think balance is key and in my house, that means holding off a bit longer on e-readers for my kids because 1) I think they’re bombarded enough with screen time and 2) I want to continue nurturing their love of print books. I want to share my old books with them. 

I know they’ll fall in love with e-books soon enough.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Picturing the characters

When I started writing "The Reluctant Bachelor", I wanted a hero that looked like a guy next door. A nice guy who viewers would fall in love because of his good looks and his charm. When I saw Nathan Fillion (above) on "Castle", I knew I had found my hero.

He had the good looks, the charm and a great sense of humor. He looked like I pictured my Rick Allyn.

So when I was creating my heroine, I wanted someone capable, strong and who was beautiful without realizing it. I've loved Evangeline Lilly since her days on "Lost", so I created my heroine using the petite brunette.

I enjoy taking a character and trying to picture what they look like. I often use celebrities because I can google their names and find them in different poses and emotions.

One of my current ideas that I'm working on right now "stars" Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams from "The Notebook". Wouldn't you like to read a book that featured them again?

What about you? Do you picture celebrities in your favorite stories? Who is your favorite starring hero/heroine?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A bunch of honorable men - Carolyn

Thursday is the Fourth of July, one of my favorite holidays. John Adams said we should celebrate with parades and fireworks. In my family we eat fried chicken, cucumber sandwiches and watermelon and watch the fireworks over the horizon. We also watch 1776, the film of the Broadway musical comedy. Every year I worry that we won’t get the Declaration signed.
There’s no way we could win.
We went up against the finest military force in the world with a bunch of undisciplined loners, many of whom were only here because they couldn’t make it back home. Let’s face it. Why on earth would you come to the absolute boonies if you were rich and comfortable already?
I was listening to John McCullough talk about history Sunday. He was deploring the ignorance of too many of our citizens about how we got here. I can’t remember who said that anyone who doesn’t know history is doomed to repeat it. Also, while we’re about it, in order to know where we’re going in the future, we have to understand the past. Too many of us don’t. History isn’t about dates. It’s about people. Benjamin Franklin was as womanizer. John Adams had the temperament of a scorpion that’s been poked with a stick. Thomas Jefferson died close to bankruptcy. The continental congress was people, and they were annoyed.
We were supposed to ship all our raw materials back to Britain, let them fabricate the lamps and the candlesticks and the woolen and linen fabric, then sell everything back to us at exorbitant markups. Paul Revere, one of the greatest silversmiths of this or any other age, was not best pleased with that.
We were not charmed to find half a dozen rough soldiers billeted at our homes without so much as a request. We were expected to feed and house them at our expense. Really? Soldiers eat like locusts, and are not known for being quiet when they come in at night from the tavern.
Basically, we felt like everybody’s cross-eyed stepchild. I suspect the initial reaction to the declaration in England was surprise, followed by the fury of a parent at an ungrateful brat of a child. Followed, of course, by the desire to punish said brat.
The moment this bunch of farmers and merchants and cobblers signed the declaration, every one of them signed his own death warrant for treason.
I would have refused to touch that quill, thank you very much, and ridden out of Philadelphia as fast as my horse could canter. But then I’m a coward. No doubt some of them figured they didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of pulling it off, but they signed anyway, because it was the right and honorable thing to do. They squabbled, snarled, and snapped at one another. By some miracle they got it done.
Because they felt it was the right thing to do. Amazing. What a concept.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Juggling and not very well

Used to, when I would pick up a Harlequin novel, before I ever dreamed of being published, I imagined the author's life as serene and calm. She would have an organized office. She would write during the day, and at night have supper on the table for her loving family. She would never suffer from writer's block. She was never frantic, at least not in my dreams.

In my life, at least lately, it's not like that at all. I live in the equivalent of an ant bed. 

I think most writers are sort of like this. Writing is hardly ever a full-time job. Most of the writers that I know have day jobs and families and all the chaos that comes with both. They write in fits and snatches. They battle deadlines. They suffer from the writer's block that comes from having a busy mind.

Frequently, my husband will ask why I bother. I guess that's a sign I whine much!

But on the face of it, it makes sense to ask this. If it is so time-consuming, if it is so hard, if I have a full playe already, what's the pay-off?

Simple. My characters won't shut up. They nag at me. They harangue me. They keep me awake at night. I'd go stark raving crazy if I couldn't write.

Yes, it's hard. There are not enough hours in the day or the night. But I love it. I love falling in love with my hero every single time. I love rooting for my heroine and hoping that she will become a stronger woman at the end of the novel  than when she starts out. 

That's why I write. That's why all writers write.

Friday, July 5, 2013


Good Morning!  Happy Friday!  (Does everyone else feel like it's Monday because of the holiday, or is that just me?)

Like all writers who 'can't not write' I find myself playing with ideas between deadlines.  And because category romance has guidelines that must be adhered to, I love to work with thoughts that are outside the category box.  I haven't sold any of these, mind you.  I haven't even taken any of them to completion, but I love knowing they're in my drawer.  (I love the Heartwarming premise and all it allows us to do, it's just fun to do other things when I'm on a break - or I'll have to clean house, or cook, or something.)

I have an idea about a young woman who wrote contemporary romance,  then was out because trends had changed.  She  moved to a place on the coast of Mass. to plot a Regency, just to see if she could do it.  At a church bazaar, she finds a cache of furniture from an old estate belonging to a parishioner and buys a Regency corner chair that's been in the attic for 150 years because the estate's owner, who inherited it from the relative to came to the U.S. from England, thought it was too ugly for the parlor.  My heroine puts it in front of her French doors into the garden, takes a shower, then comes into the bedroom wrapped in a towel and is shocked out of her wits to find a Regency-period gentleman sitting in it.  He was shot in the back in it all those years ago and is stuck in it until he can find out what happened to the woman and baby he left behind.  He helps her with research for her novel, and while she's researching, she tries to find out what happened to his family, and why he was killed.

A single mother in her late thirties takes her teen daughter to visit her family in the mid-West.   While they're looking down on the town from a hill behind it, they're struck by lightning.  The daughter dies and the heroine is left with the gift/curse of seeing into the future.  Destroyed by the loss of her child, she quits her job in the mayor's office, breaks up with her long-time significant other who is the deputy mayor, and wanders aimlessly at night, unable to sleep.  Until she has a vision of a man locked in the trunk of a car, on his way to being murdered - and realizes it's her ex.  She finds him again to find out who is out to get him,  He, of course, is determined to get her back.

As a good Catholic, I'm not supposed to believe in recycled people, but I think occasionally something happens that we can't explain that seems like reincarnation.  My research into it reveals that there is such a thing as groups of people who can reconnect through time over and over.  I believe they're called soul units.  Often a traumatic event they've endured together is responsible for this.    The interesting thing is that gender and age can be different when they reconnect.  A man in one life can be a woman in the second life,  and an old man can be a child. So, I can see four young men who work and play basketball together on weekends, who gradually discover they were spies during the Civil War - three of them for the Union, one for the Confederates.  I think it has great possibilities, but I'd need three months in a cottage in Bermuda to work them out and that just isn't going to happen.  At least not this year.  But can't you see the complexities?  (The idea came to me when a friend's precocious little girl said to her very seriously, "Remember before when I was the mom and you were the little girl?" Gave me goose bumps.

Anyway - just sharing in case none of this ever sees the light of day.  I'd like someone to know that I have a drawer full of good ideas.  What's in your desk drawer?  Or your idea file?  Or on your mind?

(A little parting aside - sharing the office with me at the moment are two critters on a little bit of a high.  Cheyenne (Husky mix) has been sedated because the fireworks make her absolutely crazy, so I put something from the vet in a bite of hot dog and she's been snoring on my futon since 8:00.  On my desk, with his hind foot on my laptop's number pad is Stormy (Tabby cat) who ate all the dog's food because she was too foggy to want to eat, and he's now lying on his side in a tight ball, except for the protruding foot, and the mounding stomach.  I love my life.)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4th Memories by Tara Randel

Happy 4th of July. Today is a day to picnic, hit the water and enjoy the fireworks. Most of us have the day off, so spending time with family is high on the list as well. Or maybe you’ll take advantage of the day off to catch up on reading or go to the movies. That’s the wonderful thing about living in America, we have the freedom to spend the day in any way we like.

One of the things I do around certain holidays is reminisce. We all have wonderful memories that mark special times in our lives. For me, the 4th has always been about being outdoors. As a kid, I couldn’t wait until it grew dark outside so the light show could begin. I still love when fireworks light up the sky, especially seeing the delight and wonder etched on the faces of the children I happen to be watching the show with. 

As I remember, we would spend the day having a picnic with other families in the neighborhood, passing the day by eating and swimming. Swimming was actually fun because we shared the pool with a watermelon. Yep, that’s right, a watermelon. My dad threw it in the pool to keep it cool until he was ready to cut it up. Finally, in the evening, my parents would load us into the station wagon, (yikes, has it been that long?) and head out to an open field at the edge of town. We’d spread out a blanket, eat the snacks my mother packed and get ready for the show. Soon, bright lights filled the summer night and we were enthralled. Of course, the show always ended much too soon and we headed home, falling asleep in the back seat. I’ll never forget those times.

In honor of the holiday, I asked my fellow Heartwarming authors to share their favorite memories. 

My 4th of July celebrations were often spent at my uncle's house. He had a pool, so all of us kids would spend our day in the pool while the adults sat on lawn chairs in the shade and discussed every topic from family gossip and history to recipes and current events. Then we'd have a barbecue where my Aunt Liz always made baked beans and my mother always brought desserts (and always more than one). When it got dark, the kids ran around the yard with lit sparklers until my dad and the uncles were ready with the (then illegal) fireworks. They shot off the fireworks as we all ooohed and aaahed. Then it was pack up the car and drive home while us kids tried to stay awake but fell asleep and had to be carried in by my dad. As my sisters and I got older and left for school and jobs, the barbecues slowly dwindled then stopped. Recently, my other uncle invited us all out to his farm for a barbecue. We had fun, but it wasn't quite what our celebrations used to be.
-Syndi Powell

When I was in my 20s, I went with a bunch of friends to a fireworks display.  We were sitting on the lawn of the public library.  I was besides one friend, and about four friends were seated in front of us.  We were back quite a ways from the actual display.  Dusk fell.  The first firework went off.  Then, a strange whiiisssh sounded.  In front of me, as if doing the wave, people stood and fled.

Yup, the city had forgotten to turn off the sprinklers.  The water stopped just in front of me.  I went from being way back in the crowd to having a front row seat.

When I was a kid, my dad set off most of the firework.  I had to content myself with sparklers and black cats.
-Pamela Tracy

For many years Aimée and I enjoyed the 4th of July fireworks with our two mares, Fran the mustang and Ariel, our anglo-arab. Each July 4th, when it started to get dark, we'd take our folding chairs out into the horse arena (bringing carrots for the girls) and watch the fireworks display up on the hill in Rio Rancho, the community to our west. We got to see it all, and our horses remained calm with us there beside them. Just before the display, we'd also see bats flitting around the cottonwood trees, feasting on insects. I (David) enjoyed the bats, Aimée, not so much.

Fran died one February (she was over 30), and when the 4th came, Ariel required a lot of extra attention because local children had been launching bottle rockets all day. When the fireworks started, Ariel got even more upset. I walked her around the arena from around 8:30 to 11:00 that night, finally getting her to relax, aided by a light rain that ended the residential fireworks.

The next 4th the neighbors were more cooperative, and we both watched and tended Ariel very closely, staying with her until everything was quiet again. It was the last 4th for her, unfortunately, and the following Independence Day we stayed inside and watched the TV displays from New York and Boston, without horses for the first time in over twenty years. This year, we'll still fly the flag, take in the display at the Balloon Fiesta Park, just east of Corrales, and give thanks for all the years we spent with our girls out in the arena.  
-David Thurlo

I hope you enjoyed our stories and couldn’t end the post without asking, what are some of your favorite memories?