Friday, May 31, 2013

New Health Problems That Our Parents Never Had by Roz Denny Fox

I take a health magazine and the June issue has an interesting article titled: Modern-Day Health Woes, Solved: by Laura A. Beil.  Her piece explores several health problems that were not around in previous generations.
Two areas she researched, doctors dealt with issues she terms "tablet neck" and "Blackberry Thumb". It seems our increasing obsession with constantly checking our tablets and smart phones can cause more than a passing headache or crick in the neck. According to a doctor she talked to: it can lead to being diagnosed at younger and younger ages with arthritis or tendonitis.  Ms. Beil mentions a study done in a journal called: "Applied Ergonomics" where 84 % of mobile phone users report pain in at least one body part. Most often is the base of the right thumb. A hand surgery specialist indicates so called "Blackberry Thumb" can eventually require surgery. And in another study done by the same journal, as many as 91% of us who stare done at devices held or fixed at navel level, strain the back of our necks.
Suggestions to relieve both conditions require simple steps. If you use a tablet don't keep it lying flat. And hold your phone chest high. Don't slam your fingers on either a screen or keyboard. Get up and stretch periodically instead of spending long hours hunched over a tablet or smart phone. Lastly they suggest interspersing texting with making actual phone calls.
Another modern-day danger Ms. Beil researched for the article deals with "Earbud-induced hearing loss." A condition once limited to construction workers, rock stars or the elderly now is a concern for run-of -the mill folks of all ages. For that information the author referenced a report from the John Hopkins School of Public Health which stated the country may be facing an epidemic of noise-related hearing loss partly from the grown use of personal listening devices. Conditions such as tinnitus, or buzzing and ringing in the ears are showing up in younger patients--this from a family practitioner at Baylor University.  It's thought earbuds provide high volume, high fidelity sound right through your eardrum. And the convenience afforded by the smaller devices account for multi-tasking which make it easy to listen to favorite tunes while watching TV shows or movies on hand-held tablets (again with your necks bent).  Suggested solutions for ear-related problems are to turn down the volume and limit the amount of time you or your children listen to music through earbuds.

The article I found highly informative also delves into two other areas considered a sign of the times.  One is "Screen-related Sleep Disorder" and another called: "Stiletto Strain".
The first we writers are probably especially guilty of since more and more of us spend hours in front of a computer screen and stop to spend our free time reading from hand-held e-readers.
Apparently research suggest light--termed blue-light from LED screens inhibit the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and disrupt circadian rhythms.
The last portion of the article devoted to stiletto strain deals with the popularity of spike heels and their proliferation at lower and lower costs. Podiatrists say the higher risk for osteoarthritis. Researchers studying the effect of wearing heels say wedge or platforms are not a safer bet. While they place your foot at a less-severe angle, the way you walk still puts added weight and on the bones of feet and toes.
Because all sections of this informative article speak to little discussed health issues many of us currently face, I recommend finding Laura A. Beil's article in June issue of Health magazine where you can read all of the studies Ms. Biel discusses.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Summertime



With Memorial Day behind us, we have moved into summer. Okay, not officially, but Memorial Day is like the bridge that ushers us into the months of warm temperatures, the kids home from school, and the lazy days of reading begin. Yay!

My favorite memories of summer revolve around reading. As a child, I signed up for the summer reading program at the library. I checked out more books than I could carry, but I had a blast. Worlds I had never imagined opened up to me. Characters made impressions that stay with me even today. The life-long reader in me was hooked. 

Later, in high school, I had required reading during the summer. As much as I loved reading, I didn’t necessarily enjoy the book list. I must admit, I like to pick out my own reading choices. Still, I learned a thing or two from the books and got good grades on my reports. When my daughters had required reading in school, I encouraged them to keep up with the book list, but still took them to the library or book store to select their own choices. I’m proud to say I have some well read and intelligent daughters!
As an adult, I still read frequently, but those long days of summer hold special memories. To this day, I love camping out at the beach, soaking up the sun, waves and words on the page of the book I’m reading.
                                            
With vacation time around the corner, I hope you get a chance to read some of the books you’ve been collecting. With the new Heartwarming titles available, you can escape into a world of romance for a few hours. As Heartwarming authors, we encourage you to take a peek at our books as they are being released in the upcoming months.

Enjoy! And let us know what you think.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Harlequin Taught Me About Romance



I've been reading Harlequin romances since I was twelve, so they informed a lot of my ideas about what romance is. Here's a few things I learned in my thirty years of reading:

1. There's not always an immediate attraction, but there is an immediate emotional response. Whether positive or negative, the hero has a response to the heroine and vice versa. Maybe he loves the way the light hits her hair. Maybe she can't stand the way he holds his fork. Whatever it is, they have a response to each other from the start.

2. Opposites attract. But similarities make the romance last.

3. The road to romance is never ever smooth. There's always conflict and arguments and break-ups. But there's also making up and making love.

4. Sex is always amazing, but especially when it's between two people who have an emotional connection as well as a physical one.

5. The people in the hero's/heroine's lives can help and/or hurt the romance. And they may think they're doing one when they are really doing the opposite.

6. Anyone's life can be exciting and the subject of a story. Whether the character is a construction worker, a waitress or a billionaire, their life becomes more when romance enters the picture.

So what about you? What did you learn about romance by reading Harlequin novels?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gallantry - Carolyn


On memorial day TCM plays all the classic war movies. I don’t watch. I cry too much. I’m embarrassed to sob out loud even in my own den. That’s why I won’t go to see War Horse.
I do not understand gallantry, but I respect it and the people who display it. What makes a man risk his life to rescue a buddy trapped between the lines? Or dive into an icy stream to save a drowning child? What made those first responders rush IN to the Twin Towers? Or a fireman run into a burning building? Or a cop shield a civilian with his body when the bullets fly?
Oh, I’ve heard the theories. It’s training. Or it’s not wanting to let your friends down. Or it’s the herd instinct. It certainly is not a desire for publicity or approbation. You think that Medal of Honor winner was thinking that he might win a medal for holding off an advancing army so his buddies could get away? I know men and women who wear so many ribbons they look like dictators from a banana republic. Most of them have forgotten why they were awarded.
I have been married to an army officer, now retired, for over forty years. I met him at the bar of the Karlsruhe, Germany, officers’ club in the years I lived in Europe, married him in France, and spent our first year of marriage in Italy. I worked those years as a civilian employee of the army mostly at the headquarters of our army command in Germany. My first husband was in the army chorus, and I’m a navy brat, so I’ve spent a good deal of my life among the military.
They never talk about the bad times. They tell funny stories. They talk of camaraderie and getting the job done so they can come home. George said after his tour in Viet Nam he was surprised anybody could live scared to death for over a year. Didn’t stop his doing his job. I would have been curled up in a corner sucking my thumb.
So here’s to all those gallant men and women—civilian and military—who pile into Moore, Oklahoma, or Falujah, or drop down a mine shaft to bring up someone who’s hurt, or climb a mountain to find a lost tourist. Who do the job and take the risks. Who give us cowards their gallantry. Please, Lord, keep them safe.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Where Does the Next Idea Come From? (subtitled) BE VIGILANT SO YOU DON'T MISS IT!

While I was writing for American Romance, I was scheduled to have surgery to remove a growth from my throat.   As all writers do, I made sure all deadlines were met.  As all wives and moms do, I prepared and froze a week of meals.  And I still had two weeks to wait for surgery.  Because the doctor wasn't sure if the growth was benign or not, or whether its' removal would affect my voice, my smile, or general movement of my lips, I tried to distract myself from focusing on it by preparing a proposal.

At the time, I had two ideas that were nagging me.  One involved the heroine being a nun (my sister, Lorraine, was a nun and had left the convent to live a 'civilian' life - I had lots of inside stuff!)  The other was just a flash in my mind.  I imagined a hero and heroine walking down a dark street when suddenly there are three men ranged across the sidewalk, presenting a real threat.  As the hero braces himself to take them on, the heroine pushes him aside and quickly dispatches all three with brilliant moves.  I imagined his open-mouthed shock.

I couldn't decide which book to write.  Then, in one of those moments that confound me, something in my brain said, "Why not put the ideas together?" I sat still and said aloud to myself, "An ex-nun who has a Black Belt in Karate?" just to be sure I knew what I was dealing with.  And that something in my brain said, "Sure.  Why not?" I replied to myself, "Because it's stupid, that's why not!"

The more I considered it, the more I thought I could make it work.  It's all in the supporting backstory and the motivation.  I created a heroine who was raised by a single father in the military who taught martial arts to Special Forces.  So, what did he do when he had private time with his little girl?  He taught her what he knew.  She entered the Convent because she'd been lonely so much of her life and the nuns she knew in school became her family.  So she joined the order, then realized several years later, that looking for friends was not the basis for a vocation.  So she left the order, determined to live her own life.

She took a job with a photographer who had lost his wife and daughter when they were picnicking on the lawn and a drunk driver lost control and killed both of them.   The hero hated God - so you can kind of see where I was going with it.  I finished the proposal the day before my surgery and mailed it off.  ( That was the old days, Guys.)  Anyway - the surgery was successful, the growth was benign, and the only evidence of the invasion of all those tiny nerves is a weird little dimple on the side of my chin.  Several days later, I was home again, still feeling the effects of the sedation, and sat up in the middle of the night and thought in horror,  "Did I really send out a proposal about an ex-nun with a Black Belt in Karate??" No.  It had to be the residual anesthetic.  I imagined editors passing it around the office and joking,  "We can call it Sister Samurai!" Someone else would say, "No, no.  Let's call it The Ninja Nun!" I wanted to die.

A week later my agent called and said my editor loved the idea and wanted to buy it.  You could have knocked me over with a noodle.

I guess the point is, don't dismiss an idea out of hand because you think it sounds outrageous or even just silly.  If you can prop it up with sufficient substance to make it's outrageousness believable, someone will relate to it.  Don't all our lives have outrageous elements?  That book is called, THE MIRACLE and has done pretty well for me.  And, I believe I'm right about this, there's no sex in it until the Epilogue, after they're married.

Last weekend, a neighbor took me with her to see a performance of a man who reenacted the life of Teddy Roosevelt. 'He's always been one of my favorite historical character, so I was excited.  While we were wandering around the lobby before the show, Teddy Roosevelt walked out into the lobby right in front of me.  I was so shocked, and because he looked so, so like him, I extended my hand and said, "Mr. President!" In character, he shook my hand and said, "Bully!" A photographer took a photo, showed it to me, and I thought, "Great.  Now everyone's going to think I'm old enough to have known Teddy Roosevelt!"

And in one of those moments I described earlier, my brain said, "You have a minor accident on the way home, get a concussion, and wake up with this photo in your hand of you and Teddy Roosevelt."

Okay, probably not a Heartwarming, but something, don't you think?  Do you get ideas in a more normal way, or are you a little dingy, too?  Please share.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

'Melt Your Heart' Scenes by Karen Rock


There are moments in love stories when you can practically feel your heart melt. How do writers achieve such unforgettable scenes? I can’t speak for all, but am excited to share with you the qualities I value most in such moving scenes.

Authenticity: A deeply romantic scene works beautifully when the dialogue sounds real rather than forced.  We’ve all heard bad pick up lines, trite lyrics that give us tooth cavities, and Hallmark cards that could be poured over pancakes. No matter how flowery the language, it doesn’t touch our hearts because it doesn’t sound real. The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks has great authentic dialogue that feels natural and organic. In a scene in which Noah, the male lead character, is reunited with his long, lost love, Ali, their realistic and compelling conversation goes like this: Noah: “You’re different.” Ali: “What do you mean?” Noah: “Just the way you look. Everything.” Ali: “You look different too, but in a good way.” Noah: “You know, you’re kinda the same though.” This simple exchange in a row boat is so powerful for what is said and isn’t said. You can feel the characters grappling, in real ways, with how to deal with the return of their long denied emotions.


Vulnerability: There is nothing more powerful when two characters open up to each other. Saying “I love you” is scary… and it does make the characters vulnerable. But a strong romance writer knows to go further and strip away the walls the couple has put up to protect themselves. A scene that melts my heart usually has an almost confessional feel to it. The man and woman trust in each other completely and let down their guard. Vulnerability means that in a ‘Melt Your Heart’ scene, a character should admit to mistakes, flaws, and regrets. And we love them all the more for owning their past. In my upcoming novel, WISH ME TOMORROW, out this September, Christie confesses her darkest secret to Eli, thinking it will end their budding relationship. Yet her brave vulnerability moves Eli and takes their relationship to the next level. Television writers also do a wonderful job in creating such moments for their characters. For example, The Gossip Girls’ main characters, Chuck and Blair have an interaction that moved me to tears. Chuck to Blair: “I’m sorry for losing my temper the night you told me Louis proposed to you. I’m sorry for treating you like property. I’m sorry for not waiting longer on the Empire State Building. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I loved you when I knew I did. Most of all, I’m sorry I gave up on us and you never did.” Wow. MELT.

Honesty: Billy Joel devoted an entire song to it. His lyrics are simple and straightforward and say it all. Honesty, he sings, is mostly what people need to hear and in the case of romance, that means our readers. Heartfelt scenes are sincere and create chances for characters to speak the truth. There is nothing more powerful than hearing a couple stop misleading each other, or themselves, and reveal how they actually feel. No sugar-coating. Here’s an example from one of my favorite movies, As Good as It Gets. In it, an OCD novelist, Melvin, breaks out of his comfort zone to woo a stressed single mother and waitress, Carol, who’s dealing with her son’s anxiety. Melvin: I’ve got a really great compliment for you, and it’s true. Carol: I’m so afraid you’re about to say something awful. Melvin: Don’t be pessimistic, it’s not your style. Okay. Here I go: Clearly, a mistake. I’ve got this, what- ailment? My doctor, a shrink that I used to go to all the time, he says that in fifty or sixty percent of the cases, a pill really helps. I *hate* pills, very dangerous thing, pills. Hate. I’m using the word “hate” here, about pills. Hate. My compliment is, that the night when you came over and told me that you would never… all right, well, you were there, you know what you said. Well, my compliment to you is, the next morning, I started taking the pills. Carol: I don’t quite get how that’s a compliment to me. Melvin: You make me want to be a better man. Carol:…that may be best the compliment of my life. Melvin: Well, maybe I overshot  a little, because I was aiming at just enough to keep you from walking out. This emotionally honest scene melted every moviegoer’s heart and won Jack Nicholson an academy award for Best Actor for this heart-tugging performance.

I would love to hear your thoughts about writing these scenes or your picks for best ‘Melt Your Heart’ moments in movies/books/TV. Post in the Comment Section below and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Anne Marie Duquette’s heart-melting novel , FOUND AT SEA, an autographed bookmark for my July release YA romance CAMP BOYFRIEND, and a friendship bracelet, one for you and one to share. The winner will be announced on my Facebook page (where I have another contest running for “likes” :-) at www.facebook.com/JKRockwriters.com. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and about your favorite scenes!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What do you mean-they're not real?

Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained. For those two hours he has been in a different place with totally different people. -Roald Dahl

Whenever my husband has to ask me the same question ten times to get an answer, he usually just looks at our son and says-She must be in Brookhollow. I may be in the room, staring right at him even, but my mind is somewhere else completely. I think my son is actually starting to wonder who all of these people are that I talk about all the time as if they are real...with the problems they are facing...and better than average names lol:)

Some days I drive to work and I don't even know how I got there (thank God for muscle memory, I guess), but I do know how I will tie in the loose element that has been nagging me all morning or I'll have discovered the perfect opening or ending line to a scene that hadn't felt just right. I'm actually considering putting a sign in the back window of my truck that says 'Caution-writer on board'.

Then, for me, one of the best feelings of validation is when other people start talking about my characters or my settings as if they are real. And after seeing my storyboard of my fictional town of Brookhollow with the pictures of all the beautiful people I image when I write, they fully understand why I 'spend so much time there'. Another way I can tell that I've created a 'real' character is when I'll discuss plot points with my husband and he can point out what will or will not work, because it is 'out of character' lol. When an unromantic, I.T. guy cares enough about a fictional person to point out a possible discrepancy, I know I've created a good one. (Or more likely that I've MARRIED a good one.)

But I think immersing myself in the book as fully as I do, is what helps to create memorable, relatable characters. If I can create a place where I love to be, hopefully my readers will want to be there too:)

xo
Jen

Monday, May 20, 2013

What Do Romance Authors Do For Fun


I used to sew a lot.  Then, I sold my first book and suddenly sewing time took a backseat.  It was that or give up reading time - not going to happen.

My favorite craft is crochet.  I learned when I was about twelve.  I babysat for the woman next door and she taught me.  Pretty soon every female in my family owned a shawl in some outragous color (usually orange).

Now I pretty much stick to baby sweaters and dolls.

This is one of my dolls.  She's in the Brenda Novak auction right now.  People can bid on her and the money goes to diabetes.  My father-in-law has diabetes and so did my grandmother.  If you'd like to see what a bunch of romance authors do, not for fun but for serious, head on over to the auction.  Brenda's focus in on childhood diabetes.  She's making a difference.

I've included the link after the photo.


Brenda Novak's auction

Friday, May 17, 2013

Do You Agonize Over Choosing A Title? by Roz Denny Fox



After characters show up in my head and badger me until an idea germinates with a story where I might put them, I start kicking around possible book titles. It has always seemed important to me to have a working title I think will grab a reader’s attention and will in some way exemplify my story.
My first title thoughts are always too wordy. A wise author once told me to keep a title simple.  Yes you want the title to fit the tone, the general theme and of course your sub-genre, but short is better. Two words fit well on a cover. I was told to use descriptive nouns and short words with punch. I think it’s true because consider successful movie and song titles. Many are one or two words.
I do review current song titles when I’m looking to title a book. I like the Country-Western titles because many of my stories are contemporary cowboy or ranch stories. I check out the “somebody done me wrong” titles, but find many too long and too funny to make use of.
The authors I know want something original. Given the number of songs, movies and books out there, cobbling together a totally new title seems pretty impossible.
I spend way too much time gnashing my teeth over titling my story. But I’m a list maker so I start a list of possible choices. It gives me an excuse to go to the bookstore. I see what current titles are on the shelf and which ones “speak” to me. I like to go through books of poetry and see if any words that evoke emotion stand out. (Okay—so I dink around with this when I should be writing the book.)
And the more books I write, the more difficult this process is. I sometimes sketch my rough idea to writer friends and ask them for title possibilities which I always think are better than mine. I add those to my growing list.
The truth is, after all this work and angst I try not to get too attached to what I settle on as a working title. My editor may hate it. Or maybe they’re going to publish a book with a similar title that I know nothing about. Early in my career I had good luck picking titles that ended up on my books. Now—not so much. In fact I sometimes end up sending in nearly all of the titles on my list and still need to go back and search for more.
I have one writer friend who thinks I’m silly to waste time I could be writing on titling my work in progress. She lists hers and Work 1, Work 2, etc. When her book is finished she brainstorms titles with friends, relatives and her editor. And I must say her titles are crisp, concise and compelling. But my OCD tendencies want an honest-to-goodness possible title at the top of every page I write.
You probably already know that titles of songs, movies and books can’t be copyrighted. So it’s okay to filch partial or whole titles that you like. Also remember to look to the pages you’ve written for words that resonate. Is your story about forgiveness, revenge, heartbreak, honor or justice? Do you have a bit of introspection or dialogue that’s smart, snappy, and perfect for your title?
Do any of you care to share what you do to arrive at a book title? Also, do you think titles matter to readers?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Finishing A Project by Tara Randel

Tara Randel 


Oh, the joy of sending the finished manuscript to the editor. As a writer, this is a very happy day. Sure, there is an editorial process that continues until the book is released, so there will be more work to do, but the book is written. Phew. 

Now, back to real life. Whoever thinks the life of a writer is glamorous, keep reading!

Stages after the deadline:

1. Decompress. Yep. Authors get exhausted. Sign me up for a nap.

2. Clean the house. Time to sort through the accumulated clutter that collects about the last month before the deadline date. This is push time for the author. And crazy time for the family, but everyone survives. 

3. Yard work. This is actually nice. Getting outside for a few hours to enjoy the sunshine.

4. Catching up with friends. Yes, we have them trained not to call until after the deadline. Well, the last two weeks before submitting the manuscript anyway. 

5. Start the next book. No rest for a storyteller. I may take a week to rest and catch up on life, but then I dive back in. New story. New characters. New adventure. I can’t wait!

So, after reading this, let me know what you think of the writer's life now!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Losing Track of Time



Is it really Wednesday already? Oh my. I do apologize for being late with my post.

Today's post was going to be how almost everything I learned about sex was what I learned from reading a Harlequin romance.  But that post can wait until next time.

Instead, I'm going to write about time management. Ironic considering I lost sense of what day I needed to do post LOL. But time management is essential to managing a writing career, a family, a life.

When I got my first contract, I was thrilled. It was a dream come true. And then came the revision notes and the need to get it to my editor in a short amount of time. The same was true when I got my line revisions. I had a lot of work and limited time. To make my deadline, my family ate off paper plates and had takeout most nights. My husband did the laundry and housework so I could focus on editing my book to be the best possible.

The reality of a writing career is far different from my perception. I thought that a writing contract would mean I would know what I was doing when I sat down at the computer to write (umm... not so much). I thought that writing would be easy and fast. But the truth is, it's hard work and it takes a lot of time. Which means having to prioritize what is important.

My rules for time management:
1. Family doesn't come last, it comes first. Just because I have a deadline doesn't mean I can forget my family. Sure, they may be eating pizza and McDonalds most nights, but dinner time is family time.

2. Ask for help. My husband really stepped up to the plate when my time got limited. I couldn't have made it without him.

3. Learn to say no and mean it. Activities that weren't as important got pushed to the side temporarily. I told family and friends that I'd get together after the book got sent in.

4. Take some time for yourself. Even though my time was limited, I still need that five to ten minutes of downtime sitting and being still. Listening to music. Closing my eyes and imagining that I was sitting on a Hawaiian beach with a fruity drink in my hand. Those mini vacations helped me keep going. I still had to take care of myself. Otherwise, it wouldn't matter if I did make my deadline only to make myself sick.

5. There are no rules; only suggestions.

Anyone else have suggestions on how to manage time better when on deadline?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mother's Day - everyday - Carolyn


Sunday was Mother’s Day. On my other blog, I wrote about my mother, and you’re going to get some more about her. Beth was a little southern girl, youngest of five children—I think an ‘oops’ largely raised by my auntie, who was fifteen years older.  When my father was being sworn in as a naval officer at Fort Schuyler, New York, she, my aunt and I (I’m not about to say how old I was, but I was weensy), sat up for two days on the train from Memphis to Pennsylvania Station, then took the subway at rush hour up to where he was meeting us. We were carrying all (too much) of our luggage, and I was toting the enormous baby doll I still cherish. My mother never turned a hair. I know what they say about New Yorkers, but one smile, and my mother had men falling all over her to lug our bags up the stairs.
When they were sent to Brunswick, Maine, so that my father could teach at Bowdoin, she went with him. At that point she had never in her entire life eaten a broiled steak, nor a clam, nor a lobster. But she did know that you didn’t wear white shoes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, and you folded your towels in thirds.
They had a great marriage. Too great, I guess, because he was killed in a commercial plane crash four days before their twentieth wedding anniversary. At which point my own special steel magnolia had to put her life back together with no college education and precious little money. She ran fashion shows, taught modeling, ran beauty contests, had her own television talk show, did TV commercials, and was a leading lady at several of the community theaters in the area. That’s when she became for everyone, including me and her granddaughter, Beth.
One day when she was in her sixties, she sat me down and said, “Bob has asked me to marry him.”  They had known one another literally all their lives. His wife had been dead a respectable time, so he asked. “I suppose I’ll have to marry the darned man. People at church are talking.” They were married in a small church in Tunica, Mississippi, because she said if they were married in Memphis the newspaper would print how old she was. She wasn’t having that. They, too, adored one another, until he died.
The eve of the Fourth of July several years ago, she polished the silver, organized the paperwork, put on a nice robe, sat down in front of the television, and died of heart failure. It was her final gift to me, one I value more and more the older I get.  As one of my actor friends said when I called him to tell him, “That Beth. The woman sure did know how to make an exit.”