Friday, August 30, 2013

Wedding Bells Ring Later In Life. Will That Impact the Age of Our Heroes and Heroines? by Roz Denny Fox

In the last few months I’ve seen an increase of articles in women’s magazines about how the average age for couples to marry has ticked up from 23/24 to 29/30 with an increasing number of women opting out of marriage altogether. I realized in my own writing that the age of my couples are often 30-plus, but thought it was because I give them a child or two and so put hero and heroine in their 30s.

When I checked out articles on the subject I found that some of the change comes from a couple’s decision to live together before they marry. Typically in our stories we don’t show our main characters doing that. Another reason behind putting off marriage is for one or both in a relationship to finish getting higher degrees. That works for our books. Giving our H or H a Master’s or Doctorate prior to when our story begins is common.

But I find it interesting that with the number of fairy-tale weddings splashed all over TV that young women aren’t in any rush to become brides. In 1970  60% of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married.  By contrast a study done in 2010 showed only 20% married by age 24. The sociologist who conducted the study says if the rate of decline continues getting married will hit zero by 2042. The decline doesn’t appear to be leveling off. Rebecca Traister, author of an upcoming book about unmarried women due out in 2014 maintains this is unprecedented in America. She says the decline is partly because women no longer see a need to marry for security. Also more men and women see that the traditional marriage didn’t work out for their parents, so they choose to wait until individually they’re more settled.  Ms. Traister cites the economy as a factor. More young people are struggling with college debt which drives them to return home to parents, or set up co-op living with friends. This staves off long-term planning.

Stephanie Coontz in her book, Marriage, A History points out that today marriage looks different than when death ended a marriage before divorce, and when men had the final word on all decisions within the family unit.  Today people live longer, are healthier and can procreate at later ages so there is less pressure to marry young.

 A sociologist at Johns Hopkins notes in a recent study that for the first time in history more women than men head into the workforce with higher degrees which translates into women with greater earning power. Thus women feel more liberated and more able to live on their own. Where marriage used to be the first step to adulthood, now it’s almost the last. Because women are moving up corporate ladders, opportunities to relocate for their jobs now mean if married, advancement opportunities can drive a couple apart. It seems there’s also less a desire on the part of men and women to have children before they explore a range of avenues at work and play. Many cite wanting to own a home and be settled in a good job before starting a family.

I think instinctively romance writers books reflect these shifts which show women as more independent, a little older, and choosing to get married when it feels right. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Wish for Tomorrow is Today by Karen Rock

I’ve been a Harlequin fan for as long as I’ve been a reader. In fact, my best friend from seventh grade, Lynette, introduced me to them during a sleepover where the only planned activity was reading her latest shipment of Harlequin Presents. It only took about ten minutes before I stopped griping (on the inside) and was hooked. Two days from now, Harlequin will play an even greater role in my life when it releases my first novel with them, WISH ME TOMORROW. To celebrate, I thought I’d share the book’s back cover blurb and a sneak peek excerpt J

Can they build a future on hope alone? 

For years nurse and grief counselor Christie Bates has been teaching her patients to confront their fears, express themselves and trust in hope. But as her feelings for cancer survivor Eli Roberts and his two children grow, can she overcome her own fear and love a man who lives every day with the possibility of recurring illness? 

Tackling cancer and single parenthood simultaneously has turned Eli into a devout realist. Which is why he finds Christie's perpetually upbeat attitude so aggravating. Still, despite himself, she's making a place in his heart. If only he could offer Christie more than an uncertain future.

Harlequin Heartwarming novels are tender, wholesome and deeply romantic. I hope the following excerpt from WISH ME TOMORROW meets that expectation. After weeks of grappling with feelings they find hard to deny, Christie and Eli take a step closer to what they want, but dare not wish for. This moment resonates with me because it reflects the heart of the book- that hope is the excavator of buried wishes and forgotten dreams.

 “So, why were you two talking about me?” Eli probed, shifting in his black Oxfords. In the background, the piano keys banged out the song “Let’s Do It,” an off-key chorus accompanying it.

Gran’s husky contralto rose above the rest, belting out the lyrics, “Let’s fall in love…” as she gazed down at an eyebrow-waggling John. Why was life so uncomplicated for them? They were enjoying each other’s company, plain and simple. So why, when it came to her and Eli, did their distance seem insurmountable?

“Something about Becca thinking we like each other.” Christie’s voice came out unevenly—he was standing very close to her, near enough that she could feel the warmth of him.

“Hmm. Guess she knows how to read her dad, at least.” He ran a hand through his hair, the intensity in his eyes making her flinch and turn away.

Her chest rose and fell, colored dots appearing on the edge of her vision.

“Christie. Talk to me.”

She shook her head mutely, unable to meet his gaze. There were too many secrets her eyes might tell.

He cupped her elbow and steered her farther from the party guests until they stood alone in a far corner. A sign outside the window cast red light on his pale face.

“Am I really alone in this?” His voice sounded as tattered as a retired flag. “I didn’t want to press you after our run in the rain because you looked so…surprised by my admission that I want more. But can you really tell me you’re not feeling something for me, too? Because I’m losing my mind, losing sleep. Every waking moment is me thinking about you…about us.”

His urgent tone made her look up into his pleading eyes, the surge of hope in their depths making her heart leap.

She nodded and felt his hand tighten, his hold draw her close. Her eyes shut, and she shivered at the caress of his breath against her temple. This was it. All this time, imagining what it would be like to have Eli’s arms around her, to feel him against her, their hearts beating together…it was close to coming true and she wasn’t going to deny it any longer…even though she knew she didn’t deserve any of it. And Eli needed to know why.

She wanted to admit what was in her heart before things went further, but she became suddenly conscious of the quiet crowd and the dimmed lights.

“Time to sing everyone,” Mary said. She carried a chocolate sheet cake with loopy writing and a blaze of candles. Luckily everyone was looking her way and not theirs.

John pounded out the opening notes to “Happy Birthday.” Christie avoided Gran’s speculative gaze as she and Eli stepped from the shadows and joined the assembly. Her voice blended with the rest, her body relaxing against the warm arm encircling her waist. Time to tuck away her rational self and live in this perfect, happy moment. There’d be time enough for doubts later.

“Make a wish, Eli” John called. “You’ll need a big breath to blow out all those candles.”

The group laughed then hushed as he closed his eyes and inhaled long and deep. Christie stepped aside to join Becca, Tommy and a tail-wagging Scout. Eli’s breath exploded from him, obliterating every pinpoint of light and smearing some of the candle wax on the frosting. Wow. Whatever he’d wished for, he meant it.

“What happened to Mister I-don’t-believe-in-wishes?” John wheeled closer and ruffled Scout’s ears.

Eli shrugged. He picked off the candles and dropped them on a paper plate. “Guess I’ve seen the light.”

“So, what’d you wish for, Dad?” Becca asked, grabbing hold of Tommy’s finger as it inched toward the cake.

When the lights came back up, his eyes leveled on Christie.

“Something I can’t live without.”

To purchase WISH ME TOMORROW in paperback form, please visit at or in Kindle form at and on Nook at

Thank you so much for stopping by the blog. I would love to hear your thoughts about my book or Harlequin’s Heartwarming line. Leave a comment in the section below and be entered to win an autographed copy of WISH ME TOMORROW. Winners will be announced tomorrow on Thank you so much


Before I get into my post I have to say a huge, heartfelt Thank You to my fellow Heartwarming bloggers. To me, true kindness is when a person does something for another without agenda and without anything to gain. And this week I was blessed with an unexpected, astounding amount of true kindness. Within hours of asking my fellow Heartwarming friends for help with a personal/professional project-they all came through. So, Thank You all so much for your help:) Hugs.

On to my post...

Foreshadowing in a novel is something that I personally love...if the author uses it well and it catches me off guard. I don;t like being able to predict the novel's ending from the foreshadowing on the first page, but when little clues are given throughout the novel-it's fun to go back and have those 'aha' moments once you reach the end.

In my writing, I usually finish the book, then make sure somewhere in the first chapters (if I can do it) there is some indication of the outcome, and I also try to use the following techniques that may be helpful to you as well:

-Foreshadow a major event that will happen to your main character by having a similar, minor event happen to a secondary character. The reader may not give it much thought at the time, but will remember it and connect the two later.

-You can also foreshadow by introducing a surprise effect. Create a predictable situation, but have the unexpected results happen. Readers will see where the story is heading, but they will be hoping that it's just a trick and that their instincts are not right. This is a bit of a gamble, but when done skillfully, it can keep a reader on the edge of their seats. (However, this tip may not be suitable to our romance genre-maybe more literary love stories.)

I'm always looking for new ways to create foreshadowing effectively in my writing, so I'd love to hear your tips:)


Monday, August 26, 2013

Football season, popcorn, and the crew

I love football, and no, it's not just the men in tight pants. (Please note the word 'just'.) I also love the sense of expectation, the fact you never really know what's going to happen next, the excitement when your team's ahead, the rooting and yelling at the TV when they're not,  and...the popcorn.

It's all a ritual, one that we love here in Casa de Thurlo. My favorite teams are the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers, and the New Orleans Saints. David's are the Broncos and Cowboys. But we watch anything, really. We like to watch Eli Manning (Giants) too.

 My favorite part of this is that we all pile into the family room, sitting in couches that are more like giant extremely comfortable daybeds! The dogs haven't a clue why we're cheering but they think it's great and bark along.

 For those two hours, we're not writers, we're just fans enjoying ourselves. It's very therapeutic. It all goes under the header of taking time to just have fun -what we do the least well.

 Here's the thing. When you work at a job you love, hours can slip away, and before you know it, you can lose track of life - you know, the real one just outside the office. Yet without balance, you can't 'walk in beauty', as the Navajos say.

 We're learning that when we make it a point to take time and have fun, everything else falls into place. Our work's better too.

That's where football comes in. We have our NFL caps - which we wear each time our teams play - because, as any fan knows, it brings your team luck! (Okay, we don't know that, but the last time we wore them our teams won. Just sayin')

So what do you guys do just for fun?

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Dog Walk

For all of our married life, Ron has walked the dog every morning, rain or shine.  For a ten-year period when we had two dogs, he walked them separately, every day, down to the river and back.  (He tried walking them together - a Lab and a Husky - and was nearly dragged to his death when a cat crossed their path.)  When Ron developed neuropathy, we had just lost Fred, a 120-pound Black Lab and had intended to try to live without a dog for a while.  With the diagnosis, I thought a dog would keep him walking as long as possible, so we got Cheyenne from the shelter, a Husky mix who weighs about 80 pounds.  Several weeks after we brought her home,  Ron was sidelined by a foot infection.   That was two and a half years ago, and the problems it created are with him still.

I have been the designated dog-walker since then.  I thought I would hate it, but Cheyenne was my idea so I - the sack rat - make myself get up in the Oregon weather and walk.  I discovered that early morning is a wonderful time, whatever the weather or the temperature. When the sky and the river are both blue, it's like paradise.  When storm clouds fill the sky and the river roils, it's still paradise, but with an element of dark, dangerous beauty.  On those mornings, the wind smells like Japan.

 Our path is one block uphill, two blocks west, or east, depending on what Cheyenne decides, then home again.  Takes us all of twenty minutes because she has to sniff every blade of grass, but it's very soul restoring for me.

We live in Astoria's oldest plat, and our walk takes us past homes that were built by the owner of a cannery, a former governor, the first priest to serve Astoria in the 1860s, and a business  man our guide book calls a wine merchant, but who really owned several taverns.  The houses are magnificent, with elegant old scroll-work, beautiful railings and columns, and old four-over- four windows.   Because they're on a steep hill, they are set on banks held back by stone or brick walls.  At this time of the year, what I'm sure are heirloom red and pink roses cascade over the walls and fill the morning air with the most amazing fragrance.

The oldest home on the block is the residence of a Giant Schnauzer who wants to kill us, but fortunately a fence prevents that.  Cheyenne, who grew up with fourteen other dogs in a drug house in the country, takes it all in stride.  Maybe the bared fangs and the deep-throated roar mean something else in dog and I'm taking it all too seriously.  Still, I'm grateful for the fence.

Every other morning we meet Jane, a lovely woman a little younger than I, who works three days a week in a doctor's office, and Gracie, a raggy little white dog, who loves Cheyenne and wags a spindly little tail like crazy when they meet.  We all exchange pleasantries and move on.

We cross 16th Street, which is so steep that the city closes it down when it snows because it's dangerous for cars, so kids sled and toboggan down it.  At 6:30 a.m., the traffic is usually light and we can cross leisurely.  The view of the river is magnificent from there - especially if the freighters are lined up, waiting for a berth upriver  in Portland and have to bide their time in Astoria.

At 17th Street, we go to the downhill side of the road and start back.  We pass an empty lot with remnants of a fragrant bush I can't identify,  a senior care facility, three old homes that were identical, but have recently been remodeled by a new owner so that they now have distinct personalities and beautiful landscaping.  There's a B and B,  it's  wide side-yard which affords another beautiful view of the river and the four-spired top of the Episcopal church on the block below, and our friends, Barb's and Steve's house (the people who created the party on our front porch.)  Their house is bordered by orange poppies and leggy daisies.

Then we turn down the hill to go home.  I unhook Cheyenne's leash, our two cats who've waited on the porch run up the hill to meet her and they all go home together.  Not matter what mood I was in when I got out of bed, I'm now feeling like the luckiest woman in the world.  The only thing that would make things perfect would be if someone else could cook breakfast.  But - small price to pay for having such richness in my life.

How do you start your day?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Too young to drive? By Rula Sinara

My oldest son just got his driver's permit...a milestone that has me a bit freaked out.

I should be thankful that Virginia is one of the states where the learner's permit age is on the older end (15 1/2 as opposed to 14) and teens have driving restrictions until 18. Still, the idea of my kid driving makes me nervous. I'm protective and the road is a dangerous place, even for safe drivers.

He had to beg me to let him drive me around the neighborhood. I told him, with my first line edits due next week, I couldn't risk my life or limbs. He laughed. He knows I love him. I did finally let him drive me around (after his dad served as guinea pig). I'm half joking here. My son proved he's a good driver. Hand-eye coordination, maneuvering skills and reaction time were great thanks to all the video game training his generation gets. A part of me is looking forward to one less kid to chauffeur around and to having someone to help with errands.

But I'm still nervous.

I don't care how mature a particular teen is, their behavior isn't always consistent. The fact that they often make bad decisions, are easily influenced or distracted by peers and are more likely to engage in risky behavior than their adult counterparts is all based on the fact that their brains aren't fully developed. In particular, the neural connections in their frontal lobe, an area critical to complex thinking such as weighing risk vs reward, are still immature. Research indicates that these connections aren't fully developed until about age 25 (a year or two sooner in girls).  I'm going to cheat (since I have those line edits to get back to) and give you the links to several interesting articles explaining this aspect of teen brain development and it's impact on their behavior and ability to drive safely. One is from an NPR report that came out in 2010 and another was a Washington Post article on the correlation between the teenage brain and teen crash rates.

Okay, done reading? See what I mean? I'm allowed to be freaked out. Right? Sigh.

I know we can't keep everyone off the road until their mid-twenties. Still, every year of development makes a difference. I'm glad our state has restrictions on young drivers (before age 18), such as the age and number of passengers allowed, driving at night etc... I know there are adults who also have restrictions due to vision problems. But with teens, it's the split second decisions, increased rate of risky behaviors and increased crash rate that scares me .

I guess a mom never stops worrying.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Family Recipes by Syndi Powell

Does your family have a recipe that gets passed down generation to generation? Or is there one recipe that you make every family holiday because it wouldn't seem like a party without it? In my family, my mom always makes pretzel jello salad. And around the holidays, my husband Jim is known for his peanut butter fudge.
In my book "The Reluctant Bachelor", my hero's family owns a pickle factory that employs a majority of the town. Every August, they have a pickle festival with a parade, rides and of course, food. One tent is devoted to pickle delicacies including the favorite fried dill pickles. While the Allyns might have other favorite recipes, I'm sharing this here:
Fried Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles
Seasoned Fry Mix, like Drake's 
2 eggs
1/4 cup of milk or buttermilk
Slice the pickles into 1/4 inch coins.  
Put the eggs and milk in one bowl, whip them together.  
Put the fry mix in a second bowl.
On the stove, add oil to a large pot to create a 2 inch deep frying area.
Dip the pickle coins into the fry mix, dip it into the egg/milk, dip it again in the fry mix.  It creates a nice crunchy coating.
Fry the pickles until they are golden to medium brown.
Remove cooked pickles to a plate with paper towels to soak up extra oil.
The nice thing about the recipe is you can fry as much or as little as you wish.
So now it's your turn. What is your signature recipe? Do you have an old favorite that you bring out at parties? Share your recipe here for a chance to win my book "The Reluctant Bachelor". I'll announce the winner Thursday night.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Computer Woes

Pamela Tracy here, and I confess, "I love my computer: all of them."

But, my absolute favorite is my years (and I do mean years) old personal computer that sits on the desk in my office.  Every morning from 5:30 - 7:00 I try to sit there and add my five pages.  My cat Tyre sits by the mouse pad, usually with his head on my hand, while I type.


About eight months ago, I lost the Internet on mycomputer.  Everywhere else - husband's computer, iPad, Kindle - got the connections, just not me.  I spent a month on the phone with a multitude of people telling me that over the phone they'd be able to help me reconnect.  It would save me money they insisted because sending a tech out would cost 80$.

Countless hours (and some strange device they had me buy at Staples) later (and yes, my time is valuable and so is the hair I pulled out!) I screamed, "Send me the repairman!"  I'd asked nicely a few other times, again to get assured that over the phone they could help me.  Let's just say I don't appreciate help that has me crawling on the floor looking at wires and saying words I can't say in front of my eight year old.

The tech fixed it in maybe 20 minutes.

It went out again three months ago. This time the whole house.  I didn't play around.  The first yahoo that told me they could walk me through the repair got the yelling.  Ask Roz.  I'm not a yeller.  I'm actually one of those chirpy people who are usually in a very good mood.  It took the guy two hours and two trips to fix it.

It's out on my computer again.  Just my computer.  This time I got a virus.  I took the virus off (applause here).  But, the force shut corrupted my aol software.

Me, I'm doing everything now on my Mac Laptop.  I'm not a Mac person.  This is a new laptop, purchased this summer so I could write as we traveled.  I'm now a Mac person because if something goes wrong with this Mac, I go to the nearby mall and walk in the Mac store and a person will say, "How can I help you?"

Service is everything.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bitcoin--Have Your Heard of It?--Will It Ever Replace Currency? By Roz Denny Fox

I saw a young woman on TV who claimed she had attempted to live on Bitcoin for an entire week. I was intrigued by some of what she had to say. In only opting in for a week she encountered problems, because bitcoin is traded online so therefore she couldn’t get a soft drink out of the soda machine in her building, although she did buy clothes, shoes and other things using the medium.

Bitcoin is experimental. It’s a decentralized currency currently in use around the world. (And I’d never heard of it before this month)

It’s managed mostly via software designed by a pseudonymous developer, Satoshi Nakamoto. Now other client software offer open source licensing. Bitcoin is the first implementation of a concept called crypto-currency, first described in 1998 by Wei Dai on the cypherpunks mailing list. (Well that explains a lot—I’m not on that mailing list and I’m willing to bet most of you aren’t either.)

However, you can find out more than you ever wanted to know about bitcoin by going to Wikipedia.

I figure the federal banking system, or indeed the world banking system will soon find a way to either shut it down or get a cut of the action. The woman interviewed on TV said purchases made with bitcoin currently aren’t being taxed by anyone. (That’s sure to change before it becomes a household word.)

Where it gets confusing to me is the part that claims it’s built upon the notion that money is any object, or any type of record, accepted as payment for goods and services, or repayment of debts in a given country or socioeconomic context. (Say what? That sounds like how people way before our time traded or bartered with chickens or cow or God forbid---rocks. Except this is more like smoke. It’s not tangible coin made out of metal or paper and doesn’t rely on central authorities. So where does it come from and how does a person get some?)

Well, the rules say the bitcoin supply is regulated by software and the user agreement. Coin is distributed evenly by the CPU power to miners who help secure the network. These miner/servers communicate over an internet-based network and confirm transactions, adding them to ledgers so the same bitcoin can’t be used more than once.

(Huh? Okay, I still don’t get where the initial bitcoin comes from other than it sits in the ether waiting for someone to download the software and call it currency.)

The more I dig into this, the more confusing it gets. Not surprising since I’m someone who still writes checks. I don’t use online banking, or a debit card. And this sounds way more complicated.

What caught my attention was that it’s just a picture of a square with a circle in the middle and a big “B” in the center of that. Each one has an exchange rate that fluctuates quicker than the stock market as near as I can tell. In 2010 over 184 billion bitcoins were generated. In late 2011 the rate crashed from $30.00 to $2.00. Wow, it’s digital and functions peer to peer, but it crashed?  Then I see in 2013 in a single month it roared back to $22.00 and went up from there. That seems radical, but if it’s Monopoly money, maybe it’s no big deal. Even reading all I did I can’t figure out if anyone makes “real” money dealing in these transactions. But, in March 2013 someone declared a split or fork in the chain and set up new software because the old software didn’t recognize the split. (Sounds ominous) I hope people aren’t buying our books with bitcoins.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What it is about Weddings by Tara Randel

What is it about weddings that people love? The romance? The promise of a future with the one you love? The pomp and circumstance of a large, elaborate affair or the small gathering to celebrate with close family and friends? The fairy tale culmination to an enduring relationship?
Everyone loves a wedding.

 Orange Blossom Brides

In my August Heartwarming release, Orange Blossom Brides, Lilli Barclay needs a groom—and she needs one now.  Not for herself, of course, but for her mother's glamorous wedding-themed benefit. Then Lilli can get back to what really matters, earning a promotion at work. Just her luck that Max Sanders, the ideal candidate, still holds a grudge against her for an incident that happened twelve years ago.

Persuading Max to volunteer will take longer than Lilli thought. Much longer. And the more time she spends with him, the further she ventures down Memory Lane. Pretty soon Lilli can't help wondering if Max could be more than a pretend groom. He still makes her heart race. But will he ever be able to forgive the past and consider a future…with her?

I had so much fun researching everything that goes into making a wedding successful. From picking out dresses, to planning the reception, picking out a color scheme, floral arrangements, and reception gifts. Planning a wedding is not for the faint of heart. And to think, the planning I did was for a book, not a real life ceremony! That’s when the pressure begins.


I’m going to carry the wedding theme through future books, so I still have lots of fun ahead of me. No matter what my characters are going through, the idea of a wedding in the story makes the writing so much more fun. It also gives me a great excuse to buy bridal magazines!

So for now, you are cordially invited to Tie the Knot, a wedding fashion show featuring vintage bridal gowns through the ages. I hope you enjoy reading Orange Blossom Brides to find out if Lilli and Max make things work between them and find true love.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Avoiding a saggy middle...on paper, I mean:)

Over my short career as a writer, I have been very fortunate to hear editors say 'Yay, no saggy middle issue', but believe me it's not because I don't feel the pain of that middle section of every book I write...I've just learned to 'get around it'.

Despite seeming to not have this issue with my writing, every time I attend a conference, I purposely sit in on sessions that deal with this because as I said-I find middles just as tough to write as any other author. And I always learn something new. So, I thought as a lot of us are writing new books right now, I'd share some of the techniques that I've found most helpful.

-Raising stakes-We all do this at the beginning of the book, but sometimes an unexpected twist in the middle that makes the protagonist's goal that much more important can help you get through the middle. Things like a compressed timeline-a deadline that is now even shorter or involving a loved one-someone else who is affected by his or her actions can add a richer element to the plot and keep the story moving forward.

-Throw a Curve ball-Have your protagonist realize that the goal they've been chasing is the wrong one and have them switch focus. Alternately, you can make the goal harder to attain or remove it entirely-now the character has to go in a different direction.

-Cripple your Hero/Heroine-In every story, the protagonist usually has things they can depend on...things helping them achieve their goal. Take these away. Remove allies-maybe the friend betrays them or leaves them. An ability they rely on could also be taken away. Ex. They are a runner-they break a leg.

-Switch characters- If a particular scene in the middle isn't working-switch out a supporting character. Choose the least likely character that you would have normally put in the scene and watch it take the plot in a direction you'd never have thought of.

-Skip over it-I know we've all been told that writing out of order is a bad thing-but it works just fine for me. Often, I know what scenes NEED to happen in the book, the ones that really drive the plot, the ones that excite me-so I write them first. I know the ending always as I begin a book, so usually I write it before the middle and then work backwards. For example-in book two of my series-I needed the heroine to be in her garage (she's a mechanic) toward the last scene of the book in order to make the ending work, so I wrote that scene, then figured out what scenes needed to happen before it to get her there:) Ex-she forgot I needed to figure out what she'd forgotten and how that item got there in the first place...and so on...

I hope this helps:) Happy Writing!!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Writing Tight - Carolyn

Here in West Tennessee we have finally been hit with summertime. So far we had managed to avoid the worst of it, but now we’re reaching our regular daytime temperatures of 95 degrees with 80 per cent relative humidity. I hate it. If I were to win the lottery, the first thing I would do is to buy a summer home in the mountains of North Carolina. Not Minnesota or Maine—can you say black fly, boys and girls?
In my estimation, this is the best time of the year to write. Too hot to ride my horse, too hot to drive my other horse, too miserable to garden (not that I ever do), too hot to shop. We hunker down inside under the air conditioning and think of Christmas.
That is why we in our local mystery writers’ group, Malice in Memphis, are finishing up final edits on the mystery short stories we’ve been working on for much too long. We started the project to get our non-published members up and writing. The stories all have something to do with crime in some well-known place in Memphis.
During the journey from ideas to final draft, everyone has learned and grown, not just the members who had never written a word before. And it’s a journey that every writer takes every time we sit down at the computer or pull out the yellow pad.
Ideas are not the problem.
Mystery writers search out neat ways to kill off characters everywhere they go. Romance writers see possibilities for conflicts between lovers in newspapers, television, casual conversations that pop on that light in our heads that make us think, “What if…”
Then come the nerves. Next comes the imperfect first page. How many of us have written and re-written that first page or that first chapter, sent it to contests, rewritten for more contests and not gotten further?
Eventually, we have to kick the ladder out from under ourselves, stop revising and plough on to the end before we look back. Then comes the tough part. Rewriting and editing. My friend Pat Potter sends in a book to her editor, who tells her how wonderful it is, gives her a few little notes and is happy. I’m not that good. I invariably get five or six or ten pages of rewrites. Unfortunately, I have always had wonderful editors. They are invariably right. I am the first editor on our short stories. I hope I am half as good.
I can’t remember who said, “I write novels. I’m not good enough to write short stories.” To write short means to write tight. Short strokes reveal a setting in a couple of sentences, put us inside a character’s head in a few words, cut out all the detritus without lessening the impact. It’s tough. But it’s also an excellent exercise. I think we have all learned to write tighter, to pick and choose our plots and characters more carefully. I only hope what we’ve learned will carry over into writing books. Maybe I can cut down my revision letters from ten pages to five.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Happiness Just Happens by Aimée Thurlo

Recently after pulling a muscle right below my rib cage, I was feeling blue. True to the song, "My Favorite Things" I started to think about the things that make me happy.

First there's David. Let me give you an example why. Knowing I was feeling down in the dumps, he made fudge for me, the kind Weight Watchers says is okay. The recipe is to die for and since it doesn't use phony sugar substitutes, it tastes fabulous.

David, my husband of forty-three years, came into my life in a totally unplanned way. We met at the beginning of July when I moved next door to him and July 31st we were married.

Then there's Gabriel, my one hundred pound poodle. My previous standard poodle companion, a rescue I'd adopted, had passed away and my heart was broken. A friend I'd met online, a person I didn't even actually meet till years later, wrote and told me about a poodle in South Carolina. He was huge (like my companion who'd passed away) and once I saw the photo, I fell in love. The dog was a refugee from yet another rescue organization which hadn't been able to place him, but the second I saw his face, I was in love. We had him flown here to New Mexico, and he's now my best bud. He and I are always together. He's never more than a foot or two away.

Our book for Heartwarming happened in much the same unplanned way. I had this terrific idea for a book - the theme was about never giving up.  To me, obstacles are life's way of forcing us to be creative as we find ways around, over or through them. 

Also, I love the creative arts (I crochet and knit), and like the story's hero, my brother-in-law and nephew have their own architectural firm. They fought the odds to pursue the dream, and worked hard to keep it alive during the recession. 

Although I was very excited about developing this new idea, I wasn't really sure there'd be a market for it. Then one day, as I was scrolling down Facebook, I happened across a description of Heartwarming in my newsfeed. I realized that the story was a perfect match for them, so I contacted Marsha Z., and the rest is history.

What all this has taught me is that the best things in life are usually unplanned. They're gifts that mostly find us, not the other way around - though a nudge in the right direction never hurts.

What have you discovered about the quest for happiness?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friends and Victoria Curran

I haven’t had a chance to blog since the Romance Writers conference in Atlanta, which seems like a dream now…albeit a dream I can’t catch up from! (Some of your agents are expecting a call from me, and I know exactly how many proposals you’re waiting to hear about…soon.) I wanted to point out how unsettling it is to meet people you’ve worked with in shaping their very personal stories, people you feel as if you’ve known for some time, but by appearance they’re complete strangers.

The afternoon that editor Kathryn Lye and I arrived in “Hotlanta”—which turned out to be cooler than Toronto—making our way to the Harlequin hospitality suite 15 minutes before the Heartwarming Open House, I wasn’t sure what to expect. At last year’s gathering, it was standing-room only as we announced that we were acquiring for a new line. I had to climb on a chair and scream a welcome and introductions over everyone’s heads; the food was gone within minutes and the second, impromptu order of food was gone moments after the first. Most gratifying, it seemed as if every writer there took the time to jot down a story idea and drop it in the Heartwarming ideas bag.

This year was a little more manageable—oddly, hardly anyone touched the food!—but the early bird writers clearly interested in writing clean romance began lobbing questions as soon as we walked in. I am so glad Rula Sinara was there since her first book to be published was one of the five ideas we requested to see after the open house last year. She delivered the full manuscript in February, revised it in April and The Promise of Rain comes out January 2014. We’re still going through the idea cards from this year with fingers crossed that we find another gem of a Heartwarming romance—stay tuned!

Close to the end of the hour-long event, I was delighted when Kathryn introduced the gathering—and me—to three Heartwarming authors I felt as if I knew quite well but had actually never met before: Cindi Myers, Karen Rock and Jennifer Snow. The realization that they were actually strangers to me took me aback, but I’m happy to say that by the end of the conference, we’d remedied that situation. I’m sure hoping to get to know even more Heartwarming authors in person next year in San Antonio and put faces to the wonderful writing. (I can’t believe we’ve never met, Muriel Jensen. What’s that about?)

About a week after returning from RWA, I had a similar experience of meeting a stranger who I’d actually known of for many years. And this chance meeting also took me by surprise and touched me deeply.

I’d taken a road trip with my sister for a long-overdue visit with my mom’s extensive and tight-knit family. Because of Atlanta, I’d already been separated from Millie the #editorcat, abandoned at the front door of Harlequin in May, and I wasn’t ready to be separated again so soon. Sap that I am, I took #editorcat with us.

On the last day of the road trip, the kitten got me kicked out of the dining room in the seniors home where we were trying to visit with my Aunt Crystal. While the others stayed put listening to the visiting musician, the nurses redirected me and Millie into the double room of two seniors who hadn’t gone to hear the music. “Emmie-May was a cat lady in Mindemoya,” one of the staff told me as she fairly shoved me into the room.

Armed with a Mento as a cat toy, I found myself on my hands and knees beside the bed, successfully enticing Millie to play with this woman I had never seen before, who clearly had dementia but who also clearly loved cats. I very quickly realized that this was “the cat lady” who had lived kitty corner (no pun intended) from my Aunt Margaret in a quaint, well-kept bungalow in my mother’s hometown. This was the woman whose house my mom and my aunt never failed to discreetly point out when we drove by it, lowering their voices as they explained that “the cat lady” lived there, as recently as five years ago. That was before my mom passed away and then Aunt Margaret a year later—before Emmie-May sold her little bungalow and, hopefully, found new homes for her rumoured 25 cats and moved to the nursing home an hour away.

I was able to keep Millie playing around Emmie-May, the cat lady, for about a half hour, while nursing staff kept opening the door to watch the two of them together. I wanted to tell them that this was my aunt’s cat lady; that my mom had always talked about her to me. #editorcat and I stayed until Emmie-May, this stranger who connected me directly to my mother and my beloved aunt, fell asleep.

In this age of social media, where we make connections over the internet without even thinking about it, we sometimes forget how truly complex and deep these connections can be. I’m glad I had these moments in the past few weeks to remind me not to take anyone for granted.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Must Love Dogs... by Karen Rock

When I think about my childhood, there are few memories that don’t include a beloved family dog. From a Siberian husky named Nugget who turned up her nose at pulling my sled, but slept at my feet every night, to a mischievous beagle mix named Happy whom we dubbed ‘Queen of the Garbage Cans’ for good reasons, dogs have meant the world to me.

As an adult, I was sure of three things. I would get married, have a child, and own a dog. However, while my husband Greg was excited to start a family, his version of it did not include a four-legged pet. He’d never had a dog and needed lots of convincing that dogs are called your best friends for a reason. Desperate to make our home complete, I scoured the internet, finding picture after picture of dog breeds until he finally weakened. His resolve wavered after viewing the kryptonite known as a Cavalier King Cocker Spaniel. Mere mortals cannot resist the charms of large, melt-your-heart brown eyes, long, curly ears, and a voracious tail wag that resembles a jet propeller.

Within a month, we’d adopted Lizzie, a ten-week-old puppy who flew all the way from Missouri to become a Rock. The moment my finger touched her wet nose through the pet carrier, I fell in love. Yet it was my husband who pulled her out of the container, cuddled her to his chest, and was so reluctant to let her go, that he consented to let me drive home- something he never, ever, lets me do. Lizzie was Greg’s first dog love and he fell hard. Within hours of reaching her new home, Lizzie had Greg wrapped around her tiny paw. I couldn’t help but laugh to see him scurry around the house, finding treats and toys to tempt her with, giving up most of his pillow when she howled, alone, in her bedtime kennel. As time went on, the affection between them deepened. So much so that Lizzie moped when Greg left for work and brought out her favorite toy (a cheetah–print octopus- go figure!) when she heard the garage door open.

Despite our happiness, a part of me felt a bit let down. Prior to Lizzie, my dogs had always been rescues, not pure breeds, and I felt guilty that we hadn’t opened up our lives to a dog in need. In secret, I began scouring ASPCA websites, looking for Cavalier King Cocker Spaniel’s less fortunate than our Lizzie. Then I found a five-year-old named Little Bit. Little Bit had lived a solitary life with an elderly woman who, unfortunately, had grown ill and could no longer care for her loyal puppy. After much cajoling, I convinced Greg to take the drive out to Niagara Falls to “see the dog” knowing that his heart had room in it for one more pet.

And I was right. We adopted Little Bit, who outweighs Lizzie by fifteen pounds, by the way, and our home was complete. Even our cat, Angel, seemed to like the gregarious Little Bit. She didn't have a favorite like Lizzie, and lavished her love on anyone within her tongue’s reach. Despite the fact that Little Bit is now deaf and responds only to touch, floor vibrations and hand signals, and Lizzie is a diabetic who requires Insulin shots twice a day, Greg’s love of dogs has never wavered. And neither has mine. If anything, owning special needs dogs has given me a deeper affection for these challenged canines. I know that I was fated to own them and I take my responsibility seriously. I’ve fed them freshly cooked chicken and rice ever since Lizzie decided she’d rather go into to Insulin shock than eat more dried dog food, and bought Little Bit a Thunder Shirt to help her through the anxiety her hearing impairment produced.

Sure, puppies are adorable, bright and shiny with the promise of long walks and loads of play time. But my life has taught me to weather the rhythms of dog lives the way I’ve learned to navigate the changes in my own. I’m forgiving of messes made on floors when an overloaded kidney can’t wait another minute, or of the need to carry a dog outside because she’s afraid to go out alone, in the dark, with only her sense of smell to guide her. I can only hope that someday, someone will do the same for me.

My upcoming novel, WISH ME TOMORROW, features a diabetic therapy dog named- drum roll- Lizzie J I couldn’t imagine better medicine for the oncology patients my heroine, Christie, councils, than this perky, affectionate dog who, like them, is battling a chronic, life-threatening illness. Please tell me about your significant pet others in the comment’s section below and be entered to win an autographed copy of my upcoming September release. I look forward to hearing about them J Please check tomorrow for the name of the winner. Thanks!     

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Living on a Budget by Syndi Powell

About two and a half years ago, I told my husband we needed to make some changes. We had been laid off the year before and found jobs that paid half of what we used to make. Despite the change in income, we were still spending as if we made the bigger paycheck. We were being crushed under a heavy load of debt, and I didn't know what to do to get out from under it.

Jim was a man with a mission. When I showed him our budget and how our grocery bills were high and among the easiest to reduce, he sprang into action. He googled saving money on groceries and found a couple of websites and blogs that taught how to coupon and cut the grocery bill in half. He watched videos, read articles and created a plan.

While we are not extreme couponers like you see on television, we do call ourselves coupon queens. My husband spends about fifteen hours on the internet looking for printable coupons and reading several blogs that lists available deals. We spend about three hours on Saturday afternoons going through our coupon binder and the sale ads to make our lists for shopping on Sundays. In all, we visit about four or five stores to find the best deals.

We no longer pay for toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, shampoo, conditioner or candy bars. With coupons and sales, we cut our grocery budget by 57% the first year (I tracked our efforts to see if it was worth our time... It was!). We've built up a stockpile and give away extras to families and friends who need it.

That's what we've found to help save us money, but I'd love to hear what you all have done to save money. Share your best moneysaving tip here, and I'll enter your name to win a copy of my new book "The Reluctant Bachelor".