Friday, June 28, 2013

IS IT A NEW MOVEMENT OR JUST NOSTALGIA FOR THE "GOOD OL' DAYS"? By - Roz Denny Fox

By now you probably know I like to make friends aware of new, non-fiction books I find interesting. Books that inform or have information we writers may find useful. I became aware of this subject on one of my writing loops when someone mentioned an article that said Chick Lit was being replace by Farm Lit and the very notion was met with a lot of scoffing. The next day I was scrolling through TV channels and chanced to see an author being interviewed about her book that pertains to that very issue. Emily Matchar's book is titled: Homeward Bound.

The chick lit to farm lit reference more or less said romance heroines who once depicted the fast-paced lives of upwardly mobile twenty-to-thirty somethings are suddenly showing that same age heroine leaving their corporate jobs and life in the city to return to a life their grandmother's lived.
(in other words, the way I lived growing up on a semi-farm in a rural small town) I say semi-farm because my father also had a logging company and ran his own machine shop. But we planted and tended a huge garden, and we raised animals that ended up as our food throughout the year. We cut quilt blocks in the winter, made our own clothes, and we canned fruit and vegetables, plus made jams and jellies that went into our fruit cellar.

Ms. Matchar's book explores what is happening in current American culture to make our best and brightest women leave high paying corporate jobs to put home and hearth above all other concerns, including making money.

I was curious to see what she found in her broad-based investigative study that led to what she calls: the New Domesticity. (Really it's a life-style many in my generation couldn't wait to leave behind.)

The crux of her study indicates that there are several factors driving young women out of the workforce. One is a big concern for what goes into processed foods and a profusion of chemicals in things like cleaning products. Some of the metamorphosis seems to occur after the women get married and after the first children are born. Today's women want to spend more time with their children. They often decide to home school them because they don't like what's happening in public education. Likewise those same women think feeding their families unprocessed foods negates a need to vaccinate the children. And so they gravitate into groups of like-minded moms.

The Internet also contributes to the new trend. Stay-at-home moms started to blog about from-scratch recipes, knitting projects, canning the food you grow, making jam, raising poultry in an urban setting and other domestic projects. Ms Matchar refers to it as "urban homesteading"and the blogs hold broad appeal for women disenchanted with working long hours and getting stuck in daily traffic. Rural life began to look like the panacea for the good life--for women looking to have it all. These very educated women thought they could become online entrepreneurs. They would knit items and sell them. They would make jewelry and sell it. They would grow fresh produce and set up a roadside stand. Soon their well-crafted blogs made the lifestyle look and sound so appealing they created a glut on the market of homemade goods. According to the author of Homeward Bound, her study indicated the DIYers also caused ill-will among "true artisans" who found themselves priced out of the crafts they spent years training for.

I continue to look at this changing demographic with interest. And indeed many romance books I've read recently do have heroines who maybe start a small town bakery, settle in a new place where they teach sewing, or make friends through joining knitting groups. Some have harvested and sold fruit, or opened a small café. Goodness, I've written heroines like that and may have other ideas for heroines who leave city life to explore country living.

What I find amusing is the notion of this being "new domesticity".  I see it as reverting back to what my mother considered "the good ol' days"--a lifestyle many from my generation looked on as a hard life where we got up early to bake bread, and worked late into the night snapping beans, canning fruit in a hot kitchen. To be honest I liked working outside the home. And my husband and kids enjoyed having me work. Otherwise they said I organized them to death--case in point, the time I color coded everything in our kitchen cabinets.

But I applaud women no matter their choices. I recommend this book as thought-provoking. As readers and writers I'm sure you'll have opinions. Please share them. I want to know what you think.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Book that Launches a Career by Karen Rock



I had a dream. And that dream was to become a published writer. It’s funny how dreams always end before they really ‘end’. You’re left wondering… what happens next? On July 2nd, I’ll realize that dream with the release of my first novel, my Young Adult romance, CAMP BOYFRIEND. Even better, I know how it ends- or doesn’t, rather. In other words, what my nightly imaginings (and daytime ones as well) failed to consider is that the debut of a book, whether you are a new author like me, or a veteran, demands time and care. Shepherding a novel into the world is like having a child, once it is out, the responsibility, the worry, and yes- the joy- really begins.

Having published over fifty books, my young adult writing partner, Harlequin Blaze author Joanne Rock, is extremely knowledgeable about this process. She’s been such a blessing in organizing the many tasks and details involved to ensuring the book is properly launched. Here are a few from our cheat sheet:

Write four weeks’ worth of blog pieces for our “Camping Out” tour and give them to our publicist. 

Craft a book trailer for a YouTube channel we created for the book.

Make a playlist for the novel and share it on iTunes.
Create contests that will promote the book and traffic on our website, Facebook page, Pinterest boards, Goodreads page, Tumblr account using Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn. (We are currently running five contests- maybe six- I might be losing count!). Here's a picture of one running on our current " CAMP CRUSH CONTEST"  on Pinterest. If interested in the contests, the link for all is ow.ly/mp9kG

Promote said contests daily- sometimes multiple times.

Reach out to communities we belong to that would be interested in knowing about the novel’s release such as discussion groups on Goodreads, library associations, camp groups, and bloggers/reviewers who enjoy contemporary YA.

Get a cover blurb for the novel (We got a fabulous one from NY Times Bestseller, and awesome human being, Carrie Jones, author of the NEED series. She was kind enough to say, “Fun, romantic and giddy, Camp Boyfriend brings real romance to summer camp with grace, humor and passion” WOW!

Create a unit plan (actually I made two) that was aligned with the new National Core ELA standards that demonstrated Best Practices for educators. As a teacher, that meant creating handouts, assignment task sheets, directions for the lessons within each unit and so on… and all of that needed to be burned to CDs that we could put in folders with copies of each unit plan to hand out at conferences and signings

Attend conferences. Joanne and I attended BEA in New York a couple of weeks ago, we fly to Chicago on Friday to attend the ALA (Librarians Association), and then leave for RWA in Atlanta to sign CAMP BOYFRIEND there as well. Each conference means promoting and signing.

Plan and attend launch parties, readings, and signings. We have a book signing event in Larchmont, NY on July 13th, a themed book event party, reading, and signing here in our home town thrown by our wonderful council of the arts on July 15th, a book launch party thrown by our publisher in partnership with a respected, dedicated children’s bookstore in Burlington, VT on July 16th. We fly to Atlanta the next day then come back and have another book signing.

Sign books in advance of our July 2nd release for a bookstore that ran a pre-order promotion.

Take pictures, organize, and mail out prizes. In one case, Joanne and I spent a fun morning picking and choosing just the right items to put in our basket for the RWA raffle.

Ensure that book reviewers have received ARCs of the novel and follow-up to see if they’ve been kind enough to post a review.


Express our deep gratitude to the incredibly generous people who have helped us along the way by hosting us on their blogs, sharing our facebook posts, retweeting our Twitter posts (thank you so much, Aimee!),  entering our contests, and last, but definitely not (so far from it!) the lightning bolt of support that came from YA and adult romance author Rachel Harris’ Flirt Squad. Despite having an upcoming contemporary romance release of her own on July 8th- TASTE THE HEAT- she’s gone out of the way to rally the amazing friends on her street team to help out Joanne and I by throwing her own promotional contest for us. She is the definition of a supportive writing friend, and an incredibly talented on at that if you’ve had the chance to read her YA romances such as MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY.

Finally, listen carefully to the sage advice given by those who’ve done it before and done it well. Thank you so much to Tara Randel, Roz Denny Fox, Muriel Jensen, Syndi Powell, Aimee Thurlo and Jennifer Snow who are always wonderfully quick to shoot me an encouraging email when I’m lost. It means so much to write with such a supportive, savvy group of women (and David!) and I cannot wait until my Heartwarming release, WISH ME TOMORROW, in September to try this out again… lol. It is truly a labor of love.

If I’m still dreaming, please don’t pinch me. I want it to go on and on and on and on…
 
This week, I'm giving my appreciation and love away instead of a prize... I think the internet would explode if I added one more contest. But I hope it's valuable still :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Let GMC drive you and your story



We writers talk a lot about character's goals, motivations and conflict, or GMC. It's what drives the story. But I'm discovering that it's also what drives our lives.

Goal: what you want. In terms of story, it's what the character will live for, fight for, and die for if necessary. When you look at your life, I'm sure there's something that you want. Maybe it's to lose weight or make more money or find the perfect relationship. We all want something so badly that we would do whatever it takes to get it. So what do you want?

Motivation: why you want it. This is the reason the character does what she does, says what she says and works so hard for her goal. The reality is that the stated motivation may not be the true reason. Sometimes it takes a little more thought to get to the true motivation. I may want to lose weight because I want to feel and look better, but when I get to the core of why I want to lose ten, twenty, fifty pounds it could be because I'm tired of being tired and feeling worthless. I want to feel like I'm worth it, that I deserve better. But even that may not be the true reason. It will take more reflection and getting down to the nitty gritty to figure out why. And once I do that, I'll be better prepared to make a plan to reach my goal.

Conflict: obstacles to getting what you want. It could be something as simple as traffic preventing you from reaching an appointment to a person pointing a gun at you to stop you. Sometimes the conflict is self sabotage (especially with my weight loss goal) which means going back to what you want and why you want. Creating a plan to overcome obstacles is meant to push the character (or yourself) through the story (or life). Overcoming conflict makes you stronger, makes the victory of achieving the goal all the more sweeter.

If your story has GMC, you have the start of a great story. Think about the movie "Finding Nemo". Marlin's goal is to get his son back. His motivation: his son is the only family he has left. But to find his son, he has a lot of obstacles to overcome. He is afraid to leave his home. He doesn't know where his son is. There's a big ocean full of sharks, jellyfish and whales. When he finds his son, how does he rescue him? And what if his son dies before he can be rescued? That's a lot of obstacles, both internal (his fears, his lack of knowledge) and external (the other sea life, the fishing boat). But a happy ending means that Marlin will reach his goal and be reunited with his son.

When you look at your life, do you have the GMC to drive you? What will it take to get to your happy ending?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Not Just a Writer, Also a Wife

This will be short. George is back in the hospital since last Wednesday with a nasty foot. They didn’t have to take any bone, but they did have to carve a hole in the sole of his foot. Not as gross as it sounds. Could have been worse. Anyway, it’s starting to be creepy. My Heartwarming Taking the Reins (September) has someone with a knee replacement—Pat Potter just had one. And a guy who has lost the front half of his right foot. Awfully close to George. Too close for comfort. Then we have one vet with no right hand and another who has burn scars. Believe me, I am staying away from power tools and lighting the oven.
Why is it that when the people we love get sick or hurt, our (my) first reaction is anger? When I get scared I get mean, and recently I have been scared a lot. Therefore, I have been a rip-snorting witch a good deal of the time. I pray for patience, but I don’t handed patience on a silver platter, and sometimes I don’t do my part. All I want is write, look after my family and play with my horses. At least he has his whole foot. So, sorry, guys. I’ll do better next time. Thanks for your forbearance.  Carolyn

Monday, June 24, 2013

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW - By David Thurlo

Write what you know, we’ve all heard that advice. Aimée and I have managed to use our very different backgrounds to create scenes, settings, and characters for dozens of stories over our careers. In our upcoming Heartwarming novel, Homespun Christmas, we both shared our unique experiences in developing our character-driven story.

Our male protagonist, Joshua Nez, is Navajo, and the Navajo Nation was my turf, so I was able to give the book something more than a story. I’d grown up there, and have always considered Shiprock my home.

Like it was in our fictional town of Independence, I’ve seen first hand what happens to a small town when the largest provider of jobs moves on. It happened to my family when we lived in Shiprock, and to this day, I’ve never forgotten the anxiety and sense of helplessness that comes with it. My family and I had to leave home and relocate. Like Joshua, I returned years later, but the place had changed and I was faced with what was in essence a different world and a new reality.
Aimée’s background and experiences also play a major role. In Homespun Christmas Joshua is an architect, and we were able to draw from the experiences of Aimée’s brother-in-law, an architect, who opened a new business at the beginning of the recent recession.

Myka, the heroine in our story, is an expert craftsperson, and Aimée is an avid crocheter and loves to knit. Those skills helped create the story line that centers around a community of crafts people rebuilding their economy.

We’ve also rescued our share of large animals, and know what it’s like to nurture a relationship with a big dog who has lost all trust in humans.

A writer also has to be able to research and learn, then write about what they didn’t know. For Homespun Christmas, we learned about Churro sheep and camels first hand from those who own and breed them. We’ve also learned about processing wool, spinning, and weaving.

When you love what you do, it shows in what you create. Our books are meant to entertain, and show the reader a part of New Mexico they may never otherwise discover. If we achieve that goal, then what better way to celebrate than by sitting down together, placing our fingers on the keyboards, and doing it again? - David Thurlo

Friday, June 21, 2013

Random Thoughts Because I Forgot My Book - by Muriel Jensen


My husband has been going to Physical Therapy two days a week for the past six weeks.  While waiting for him, I've been reading Stephen King's book on writing, and Elin Hilderbrand.  But this morning I was rushed at the last moment and forget to take a book.  Most of the magazines in the waiting area relate to health, exercise, and diet. (Jen, you'd be happy there.)  I finally found a large print Reader's Digest.  I've collected some fun facts to share with you.

This one actually can relate to creating character because it involves interesting, well-paying jobs.

PEARL DIVER - seriously!  If your hero/heroine doesn't object to sharing their work area with sharks, diving for pearls off the coast of Australia can earn one $1200. per day.

AIRPLANE REPO - Aircraft reposessors can earn 6% to 10% of the resale price of a plane.  One worth millions can bring in $900,000.  Try not to think about being shot at or thrown into a foreign prison.

WHITE HAT HACKER - With a degree in computer science or information technology, an ethical hacker working for the government or big companies can earn $125,000 a year.

Also writer-relatable -  Dealing with garlic breath if your characters are about to kiss.  If you add mushrooms to your tomato sauce the polyphenols will counteract the garlic's effects on breath.  Or, have fruit for dessert.  There are natural enzymes in apples, berries, pineapple, and kiwis that break down the offending compounds.

FROM THE TWEETER'S HALL OF FAME:  The marriage of Peter Sarsgaard and Maggie Gyllenhaal was the most spell-checked marriage in history.

5 OVERLY OPTIMISTIC BOOK TITLES (and they're real!)
You Can Make a Stradivarius Violin by Joseph V. Reid
You Can Master Life by James Gordon Gilkey
You Can Train Your Cat by Jo and Paul Loeb (Ha, ha, ha!)
You Can Stop Worrying by Samuel W. Gutwirth
You Can Find Uranium by Joseph Weiss

NEW RULES for staying healthy as opposed to OLD RULES

DON'T brush your teeth right after eating, just rinse with water and wait half an hour.  You can harm your teeth by rubbing in acids such as citrus, vinegar, and soda, thus wearing down enamel and dentin.

DON'T use hydrogen peroxide to clean and disinfect cuts, use soap and water instead.  Peroxide can slow down healing by also destroying the good cells essential for tissue repair.

DON'T limit your egg intake to protect your heart.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that egg consumption in healthy people didn't raise risk of heart disease.  Even those with high cholesterol can safely eat an egg a day.

DON'T sit up straight.  Reclining at a 135-degree angle puts less strain on spinal disks than sitting at a 90-degree angle.  Over time, excess pressure can cause your disks to bulge or lead to a herniated disk.

And at last - a joke.  This is a failure on the job-application front as reported by a hiring manager.  He asked the candidate to share his greatest accomplishment.  The interviewee replied that it was writing a short novel.  When the managed explained, "No, I mean something you did while at work." the candidate replied, "But I did write it at work."

So, there you have it; worldly wisdom brought to you by my hours in the PT waiting room.  I'm sure each of you has a nugget of truth, a pearl of brilliance, a joke, a quotation, something to contribute to our store of knowledge.  Please share!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Creature Comforts by Rula Sinara

When I was eight, I wanted to grow up to be Jane Goodall. Well, I wanted to be The Bionic Woman too, but chimp expert seemed like a more realistic goal. Now a Bionic Jane…hmmm. That would be something. Talk about my ultimate heroine.

However, my love of animals wasn’t limited to primates. My childhood was filled with pets, from dogs and cats to more unusual critters…like the African chameleon I ‘wore’ to school once. There’s nothing like the look on a teacher’s face when she realizes the big green bow on your head has eyes—that move. LOL. Hey. I didn't want my chameleon to get lonely.

My intentions were good…just as they were in my teens, when I gave CPR to a frog I found in our swimming pool. Okay, it was modified CPR, which is probably why he never turned into prince charming, though he did recover enough to hop happily away…towards a grassy area we referred to as ‘snake valley’.

You see, even with the best intentions, sometimes the choices we make or actions we take can lead to hurt and regret, something both the hero and heroine in my first Heartwarming, The Promise of Rain (Jan 2014) discover the hard way.

The Promise of Rain is set primarily at a remote camp in Kenya’s Serengeti. I haven’t been specifically to Kenya, but I have had the incredible experience of living in Africa and even camping in the Sahara. I grew up devouring just about every wildlife documentary on TV there was, many on the formidable Serengeti and its diverse wildlife. It was no surprise that I went on to earn a degree in biology. I've also had opportunities like, but not limited to, trekking through the Darien jungle of Panama or shadowing a zoo veterinarian for several years, as she worked to breed endangered species. Let me tell you, soothing a rhino with a scratch behind the ear or bottle feeding a baby dik dik  is a breathtaking experience for an animal lover.

But more breathtaking (to me), is the passion my heroine, a wildlife veterinarian, has for rescuing orphaned baby elephants and the soul deep comfort she gets from nurturing both the animals around her and her four year old daughter, while protecting herself from heartbreak.

I find comfort in animals and nature. They've always been a part of my life, and I suspect they’ll find their way into my books ;). I hope I do them both justice.

What about you? Any favorite animals or ‘wild’ experiences?

The Language of Love

Gestures, in love, are incomparably more attractive, effective and valuable than words.-Francois Rabelais

We've all heard similar sayings to the above-essentially-actions speak louder than words...but is that necessarily true or does it depend on the recipient? I think it depends on our 'Love Language'.

Gary Chapman describes Five Love Languages as such:

Words of Affirmation: These people appreciate hearing 'I Love You', unsolicited compliments, words of appreciation, humble and kind words. Insults are not easily forgiven or forgotten and can be detrimental to the relationship.

Quality Time: These people want your full, undivided attention. They want you to be there, fully, listening to them. They want eye contact, no distractions, no interupting and self-revelation of your own.

Gifts: These people are not materialistic. They value the thoughtfulness and effort behind the gift. To them, the gift means that they are cared for and loved. It doesn't have to be expensive, cost doesn't matter. These people just appreciate visible symbols of love, believing they speak the loudest.

Acts of Service: These people appreciate it when things are done for them. They appreciate a spouse who vacuums or cleans-anything to ease their own burden of responsibility. Broken commitments or making more work for these people tell them that their feelings do not matter.

Physical Touch: These people appreciate hugs, holding hands, a pat on the back. They love to sit close together in a group setting and making sure to give a kiss upon leaving or returning. Neglect or abuse hurts them more than anything else.

In writing romance (and in my own life) I try to keep these Love Languages in mind. When creating my characters and how they will show their affection, I usually lean toward one of these more than combining...though overlapping obviously occurs. I don't think many people are one way only.

I am definitely a Words of Affirmation type in both how I show my love and how I like to receive it-I love hearing it. My husband however is the Acts of Service type in how he shows his love and he is a Physical Touch in how he likes to receive it. Therefore, knowing this about one another-we make an effort to make sure we are showing our love in the other's Love Language so they feel appreciated.

What is your Love Language? Can you see these traits in your characters?

xo
Jen

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Brandwagon - Risk, Redemption, and Romance

I'm cleaning my house.  Yup, slowly, sometimes with help, and somewhat unwillingly.  I mean, there are so many things I'd rather do: write, read, watch a Quantum Leap rerun.  I'm cleaning in-between driving my son places.  He's got summer school, lego camp, and dive team practice.

Yesterday, plastered against the wall behind a stack of books I finally sorted (I'm actually giving away the books I've read because, really, who needs 2 million books stacked against walls, hidden in closets, overflowing from book cases -uUh, so far, I've decided I can part with six (one of which I accidentally bought twice - Heather Graham puts them out faster than I can read),  I found a tote bag that a bunch of authors had sponsored.

Since my name is on it, I sat on my bed (pushing aside a few dozen dusty books) and read the names.  Then, I really looked at the brands and started thinking.

So all your Harlequin Heartwarmers (That's the name of the girl band we will someday form.  Practicing, of course, at Muriel's house), I'm thinking you didn't even know that I had a brand.  I do.  It's The Three R's:  Risk, Redemption, and Romance can all be found in a book by Pamela Tracy.

I got to looking at the other brands and smiled.  We authors do like to have fun.  Here they are

1. Heartstopping Romance
2. Mystery with a Twist
3. Romance with a Kick
4.  Norway is the New Scotland
5. Romance Meets Humor
6. Real Characters - Skewed Realities
7. Sexy, Snarky, Sensuous
8. Romance with a Dose of Humor
9. Deadlines and Diamond

Not every other had a brand.  Some just had their names.  Others just put what they wrote, like Contemporary romance.

I didn't figure out a brand until I'd been writing for about eight years.  Then, websites became a must and I needed something catchy.  My true love is suspense (I'm crossing my fingers that Adrienne likes the suspense I sent her).  That's how I came up with my brand.  I needed it for my website.  The great thing, too, is I use it at booksignings. 

So, what do you think of the brands so far.  Of the nine above, I'm intrigued by Real Characters - Skewed Realities.

And, how about the rest of your Heartwarmers, what is your brand?  Do share!   

Friday, June 14, 2013

Have You Thought About How Color Fits In Your Life By Roz Denny Fox

Are you open to the light and wonders of the universe? It is said that the darkest hour is just before the break of dawn when sunrise begins to spread fingers of light throughout the world.
I love color. I like to see how I can fit color into my stories, from something as basic as picking eye and hair colors for my characters, to building the landscape in and around where they work and live.
Until a friend gave me a book titles: "The Encyclopedia of Birthdays" written by Theresa Cheung, and author versed in New Age subjects such as popular psychology and parapsychology, I'd never considered color being anything beyond preferential.  It didn't occur to me that color could have healing benefits.
I am drawn to rainbows. I thought everyone felt uplifted when a rainbow arcs across a blue or gray sky. According to Ms. Cheung, color therapists believe each of the seven colors on the rainbow spectrum is significant to an individual's personal harmony.  I have no supporting information to tell if this may be true, but it's sure to make for good conversation.
So, color therapists say:
Red--promotes energy, empowerment and stimulations.  It's thought to improve circulation.
Orange--promotes pleasure, enthusiasm and sexual stimulation. And it has anti-bacterial properties.
Yellow--is a sensory stimulant associated with wisdom and clarity.  It's thought to have decongestant properties.
Green-- located in the middle of the color spectrum it's surmised to affect balance.  The color green is calming and may have antiseptic, germicidal properties.
Blue--promotes communication and knowledge. It may eliminate toxins.
Indigo--is also sedative and calming.  It may help enhance intuition.
Violet--promotes enlightenment, revelation, and spiritual awakening. Holistic providers often use violet to relax muscles and calm the nervous system.

Another friend of mine who works with color reminded me that pure white is a composite of all color and she considers that to be the main source of strength.
Color analysts or chromatherapists believe each color vibrates with its own energy. Their work is built on ancient claims that color has religious and mystical significance.
Newer studies go beyond the religious and mystical to solid research in actual biochemical reactions to colored light. They are working in our military hospitals with color.
I find all of this an intriguing concept. However, all I really know is that I gravitate to clear, bright, warm colors.  Hmmm---so where is the energy they suggest I should get from wearing the color red? Maybe color needs to be combined with youth--like Tara mentioned in yesterday's BlogSpot.
Okay--this is my 14th blog on this site. Consider yourselves lucky I decided not to also explore numerology. Sorry, numbers don't excite me like color and words do. How about you all?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Youth and Excitiment by Tara Randel


 Tara Randel



I spent last night hanging out with some teens from our youth group at church. I have to say, I dragged into church, tired after a busy day. Next thing I know, I’m laughing, singing and sharing their excitement. Whether you like it or not, teens will drag you into whatever is going on. If they are going to have fun, they’ll make sure you are too. Their energy is contagious. Oh, if only it could be bottled and used the month before a deadline. 

The other reason I love being around young people is that I get a glimpse into a unique world. Their world view is vastly different than mine, but I have to say, I enjoy listening to their point of view. It challenges me. Makes me think. And as a writer, I love to think outside the box. 

Developing characters is a multifaceted job. I may start out with a brief idea of who I want my characters to be, but the fun part is expanding that idea to actually create a story. Real life intrudes on the development. The voices of my characters are all around me, from word choices, to style, even how I picture them in my mind.  

Being real is important when bringing a character to life. Teens are very real. Sometimes they share their problems. Often times they share their opinions. They aren’t afraid to tell you if they disagree. They talk. I listen. When I’m writing, I can hear their voices, which help to make my stories richer. And the best part? When I’m with them I get to introduce them to a whole new world. My world as a writer.

Once the teens find out I have books published, I hear all kinds of a story ideas. None I would use, mind you, but I love sharing their creativity and outlandish premises. When anyone comes to me saying they’d like to write, I take the time to encourage and motivate. With the avid readers, I suggest books they might like. I’m excited to tell the girls about the Heartwarming line. Just think, a new generation of readers will enjoy our books. 

Now that’s something to get excited about.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Idea Phase of Writing by Syndi Powell




I couldn't resist adding the picture of my cover here. Isn't he the cutest????

I've been working on some ideas for new stories now that the edits are finally finished on my book. But the process hasn't been easy. There's so many ideas, but so little time. I start one then think of another and that's followed by a third that might be even better than the other two. How do you decide on just one to develop? It's like trying to decide which child to send to college while the others learn a trade.

But the idea stage is often the most fun. There's the most possibility at this stage. You have a man and a woman. They each want something. Then there's conflict that keeps them apart. But the path they follow can vary depending on how you develop the idea. There's so many forks in the road. A lot like our own life's journey. One choice leads to another to another and so on... But if we could go back and change one thing, it would lead to a different path. A different story.

So I'm enjoying this phase but need to leave it soon and start the actual BICHOK (behind in chair, hands on keyboard) writing phase.


What phase are you all in right now?

By the way, we've just started a Facebook page for Harlequin Heartwarming authors to connect with readers, so we'd love to have you join the conversation. You can find us here: https://www.facebook.com/HarlequinHeartwarmingAuthors

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Cover for Carolyn McSparron's New Book

I just downloaded a preliminary copy of the cover for my September Heartwarming entitled Taking the Reins. It’s wonderful! The book is about a group of wounded veterans who are learning to drive draft horses on a breeding farm. During the course of the book there is a very special birth. The cover shows a mare and foal nuzzling one another. During the years that I’ve bred horses I’ve seen many scenes just like that. I generally cry. The love between them is so touching.

When I stopped breeding, not having at least one foal a year was like canceling Christmas. I’ve no business having any more babies, but boy, do I miss it!

Although delivering a foal can be harrowing. Unlike human mothers, mares spend only about ten minutes in the second stage of labor, although they may spend a couple of days in the first stage. If you don’t have a baby on the ground no more than twenty minutes after the mare’s water breaks, you have a major problem.  The normal presentation for the baby is first one front foot, then the other slightly behind it, and with the baby’s head flattened on top of the legs. A mare can deliver a completely breech baby—one in which both rear legs come out followed by the rest of the body, but it’s tough. I have had a mare who showed me one leg, then a nose, but no second leg. That means only one thing. The other leg is crooked back behind the mare’s pelvic bone. I had to get her back on her feet—no mean feat when she weighed about fifteen hundred pounds—shove the baby back into the birth canal, reach in, find the trapped leg and pop it free of the pelvic bone. A moment later the baby slid free normally, and I was left holding a two hundred pound foal on its way to the ground.

No big deal, except that if she mare gives a contraction while the arm is inside her, she can easily break the arm in several places. I was lucky. So was the baby.

A newborn foal with its great trusting liquid black eyes, is generally as flat as a pancake to facilitate birth. Within twenty-four hours the foal looks as though its been pumped up with a bellows. And within another day it is running free galloping behind Mama.

I know I don’t need any more babies, but Zoe is no spring chicken. I wonder if I should consider breeding her to my friend’s Friesian stallion? Somebody stop me!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Help Me, Obi Wan Kanobi

So, I'm between contracts right now.  It's the writer's way.  Finish a book, finish the revisions, finish the final edits, all the while working on the next proposal or proposals.  I sent in my last proposal in May and waiting to hear what comes next.

I'm not bored, though.  See, living at my house is this thing called an eight year old.  Yesterday, between church, I not only played board games, but I also build a lego train station (I'm not very good so this means I made lego benches).

Then, last night, at church, it's VBS.

As a writer, I get the fun job.  I help with puppets.  This year, our puppet play came with only three parts and five kids wanted to perform, so I rewrote the plays so everyone had their part.

Our theme is Star Wars, only that's copy-righted, so we're doing Scar Wars.

Still, I guess Scar Wars sounded so fun, that a few characters from Star Wars simply had to drop by.

Here I am next to the ship and a storm trooper (could be a sand trooper; I always get them mixed up) 

Princess Lia also helped out.  (Hmmm, I think I taught her in sixth grade.  When did she get taller than me?)

Somewhere I have a picture of me and Darth Vadar taken at a re-enactment.

Yes, I'm glad my son is finally into Star Wars.  I don't mind watching the DVD 150 times (I'm not kidding)

And, my favorite character is Obi Wan Kanobi.

Who's yours? 

Friday, June 7, 2013

THE FAMOUS WRITERS SCHOOL ADVICE



I did not go to college.  When I was 17, my father had cancer surgery and my mother had a heart attack, and going away to school seemed wrong.  This was 1962.  I went to work for Pacific Telephone as a mail girl in a suburb of Los Angeles.  I eventually became a teller, then a service representative and scribbled novel notes on scratch paper between customers.  For my 20th birthday, my parents gave me enrollment in THE FAMOUS WRITERS SCHOOL, a correspondence course I'd been longing for but couldn't afford. (The same company offered THE FAMOUS ARTISTS SCHOOL with the memorable ad in magazines of a girl's profile or a dog.  The caption was 'Draw Me.' If you submitted the drawing, you'd be told whether or not you had talent.) The gift came with a Smith Corona electric typewriter, and a red plaid smock.  (My mother thought all writers wore smocks to protect their clothes.  She was a seamstress, so was always thinking of the garment.)

I couldn't wait to read my lessons and do my assignments.  I completed the three-year course in two years.  The truly wonderful part about it was that  the teachers were all working writers, so the advice was practical and usually spot on.  Rod Serling, noted for his scripts for The Twilight Zone was director, and I remember that Mignon Eberhard - a mystery writer whose books I later saw on the shelf - once critiqued one of my lessons.  Mostly, I remember the kindness of their criticisms, and their obvious eagerness to help a fledgling writer. 

Many of the lessons learned there have stayed with me.  One in particular about descriptions - "A reader doesn't know what to think  when you mention 'a boat,' but if you tell him about 'a red canoe,' a precise picture forms in his mind."

Another was: "Your contract with the reader who paid $1.50 for your book (this was 1965, remember) is more important that your contract with your publisher."

And: "Dialogue must ring true, or all your beautiful descriptions mean nothing."

Also:  "Read everything you can.  What else allows you to go head to head with Shakespeare and Ernest Hemingway?"

My correspondence course was like any kind of bricks-and-mortar classroom work:  the student gets out of it whatever he puts into it.  I loved it.  I worked like a dog.  After graduation, I submitted scores of short stories and had enough rejection slips to sink the Titanic without the iceberg. After I was married and we had the children, I discovered Harlequins.  Then, I think because I could narrow my focus and aim my work at a specific target, I finally got through!  My first two novels were 'over the transom,' then I hired an agent because I hoped it would reduce the time I waited for a reply.  And it did!  Enormously!

Recently, I tried to write to THE FAMOUS WRITERS SCHOOL, certain they still existed out there somewhere, but I don't think they do.  At least, I couldn't find them.  I didn't want to boast that I'd sold as much as I wanted to tell them that I sold because I'd taken their course.  And that some really kind working writers had made all the difference in a woman's career.

How did you get to writing?





Thursday, June 6, 2013

Unexpected Love by Karen Rock

I mentioned one of my favorite movie couples, Melvin and Carole from As Good as It Gets, in my last Heartwarming post and it got me thinking. Melvin is an OCD misanthrope author and Carole is a waitress and single mother struggling to support and care for a son who suffers from anxiety. Given the issues that consumed their lives, it seemed unlikely either could find love, yet they found it nonetheless. How did it happen? Many love stories seem to feature people with so much going for them- he’s rich, she’s beautiful, oh- and he’s also gorgeous too… of course… yet we are expected to root for this seemingly perfect couple to find the last piece- love- to complete their pristine lives. Now I don’t begrudge such fortunate people a chance at happiness. Romance is infinite and should be possible for everyone. Yet, I can’t help but fall a little more in love with couples that aren’t perfect, yet are perfect for each other, like Melvin and Carole. Here are a few more such couples that have captured my heart.

Last January, I heard a lot of buzz about a movie and book titled Silver Linings Playbook. The author, Matthew Quick and screenplay adaptor and director David O. Russell, wrote an unexpected love story that moved me and millions of others. In the tale, Pat Solitano, a man with bipolar disorder, moves home with his parents after his release from a psychiatric hospital. He’s obsessed with winning back his estranged wife. In order to impress her, he joins Tiffany Maxwell, a recent widow who struggles with an addiction, in a plan that will also help Tiffany achieve her goal of dancing competitively. Despite the obstacles, these two, fragile souls, connect in a deeply moving, powerful way. I cried at the beautiful ending when each realized that though they might not be perfect, they were perfect together.

Another quirky couple I adore is from an older, smaller movie that is worth checking out: Benny and Joon. Johnny Depp stars in it (that alone is worth a viewing J) as an eccentric, illiterate young man named Sam who’s addicted to cinema and impersonates silent film comics such as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Joon, an intelligent, schizophrenic young woman, lives with her protective older brother, Benny. When a bet is lost and Sam moves in with them, the positive difference he makes on Joon doesn’t escape Benny’s watchful eye. Joon, in turn, teaches Sam to read. For the first time, they no longer feel like outsiders because together, they’ve found acceptance and love.

Physical health issues can sometimes be an obstacle to love, yet that is far from the case in John Green’s incredible novel, The Fault in Our Stars. Like my upcoming Harlequin Heartwarming, Wish Me Tomorrow- out September, 2013- the characters in this novel deal with cancer. Hazel is an avid reader and loner with Stage 4 Thyroid cancer stabilized by experimental treatment. When she meets Augustus, an Osteosarcoma survivor whose right leg has been amputated, she falls hard for his wit and self-confidence. At last, she’s lured out of her home to play video games, go to parks, and even travel to Amsterdam where Augustus uses his ‘Make-A-Wish’ to help her meet her favorite author. Though Hazel’s lungs don’t work without assistance, and Augustus can no longer play basketball (not that he cares) and is at risk for remission, together they are unstoppable. They don’t see the imperfections and neither do we. This couple is perfect together and ultimately that is all that matters in fiction and in life.

I cannot end this post without a quick nod to one of my favorite movie franchises of all time: Shrek. Through the years I’d grown used to beautiful, wasp-waisted princesses falling for buff, handsome princes. Then Dreamworks took an unexpected turn from the traditional fairytale romance format and gave us a gruff, reclusive ogre named, Shrek. Far from good-looking or adored, he’d become an outcast for his fearsome appearance and reputation. Despite the loneliness, Shrek had grown used to his solitary life until events make his path cross with a seemingly flawless princess named Fiona. His feelings for her develop once he realizes that she isn’t perfect and is, in fact, an ogre like him. He quickly convinces her that the curse that transforms her into this creature at night is actually a blessing and the two, imperfect characters find perfect love with each other.

I would love to hear your choices for favorite unconventional romances/couples. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and be entered to win my giveaway of Margaret Daley's Heartwarming novel CIMARRON REFUGE, an autographed bookmark of my upcoming Young Adult romance, CAMP BOYFRIEND, and friendship bracelets, one for you and one to share with the friend that is perfect for you! The winner will be announced on this blog post tomorrow as well as on www.facebook.com/JKRockwriters . Thank you so much for stopping by J

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Junque Cellar Treasures

Read. It'll inspire you to write as well as the authors who came before you. -Jodi Picoult

Whyte Avenue here in Edmonton is a street that has many unique and high end boutiques, second hand bookstores, coffee shops and restaurants and my favorite place-The Junque Cellar. I discovered this store when I was single and carefree, living in a loft style apartment (that was well overpriced) just off of the popular street and I fell in love immediately. I'm not a sentimental person or someone who gets lost in nostalgia very often, but this store brought out a side of me I didn't know I had.  Selling everything from old furniture from the sixties and seventies to records and old dishes-it was a wonderland of old, cool stuff.

And then way in the back of the store on several bookshelves I discovered them-Harlequin books from as far back as 1965:) I can't tell you how many hours I have spent standing in front of that shelf, reading the back blurbs, admiring the old covers...just touching them. (Weird, I know.) From the red rimmed pages to the old Harlequin logo and series number in the top left hand corner-they are perfect. The cover lists a price of 50 cents! And inside, written in pencil is the new inflated price of two dollars. At the time, I was poor but oblivious, so of course I spent grocery money on a bunch of them and these are the books, I can never part with.

Getting my first contract from Harlequin for a book I wrote, while surrounded by these old stories, was an amazing feeling. Writing category romance for a company as well established and known world wide for producing the best romantic stories anywhere is a great honor, but the thing I love most is that my book will be a part of a series. Therefore it doesn't matter how many times it may get reissued or reprinted in different formats...or if it goes out of print altogether-somewhere it will exist in a second hand bookstore (I pray in forty years they still exist) and an unsentimental twenty-something girl who'd rather read than eat may just pick it up and buy it-at an inflated price of course:) I wonder if there's a way to get royalties on that? lol

xo
Jen

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

TOP 5 DEADLINE COMFORT FOODS by Aimée Thurlo

These essentials will help keep you at your desk, focused on the story and characters, during the hot summer ahead.


1- Cowgirl coffee crunch white chocolate, a local brand 

2- Hot dogs - I buy kosher, add chopped pickles, mustard, onions, and wrap them in a flour tortilla. These can be eaten at a desk - if you're careful - but not over the keyboard.

3- Any Starbucks Frapuccino  - decaf after lunch

4- Babybel cheese. They're small but very tasty!

5- Cold Mango flavored iced tea sweetened with honey. Lipton has it in different flavors, but this one is off the charts good.

What are your comfort foods for those long scenes?



Monday, June 3, 2013

Brand squeaky new romances!

by Victoria Curran, Senior Editor

It’s June 2013 and I can’t believe it! We’ve been working toward this date for so many months now, it’s hard to grasp that it’s official: our two-year testing of the “clean” romance market—by distributing re-edited Harlequin reprints through our direct-to-consumer and digital channels—has gone so well that we’re introducing the first two original Heartwarming books this month. And as of July, all four stories a month will be original works. It’s a true milestone and very exciting.

Thank you to all the authors who contribute to this blog for being part of the launch, and to all the readers who are proving—through your steadily growing numbers—that you want a clean romance that’s still deeply emotional. And more good news, we just found out that the Harlequin U.K. office is going to test the original Heartwarming titles, selling the first ten digitally, starting in August. I feel like we’re riding on the little engine that could. Stay tuned for more good things ahead for this wonderful series.

            I had the pleasure of working with Marie Ferrarella on her June launch book, Innkeeper’s Daughter, which is the poignant story of a man who returns to the California holiday home of his childhood for his father’s funeral, and ends up (spoiler alert!) finding love through the sorrow at Ladera Inn by the Sea. And by the title of the book, you may have already guessed who helps this dutiful son through his grief…?
 
 
            Marsha Zinberg, who has been the driving force behind establishing Heartwarming and who retired after 30 years with the company at the end of last month, much to our chagrin(!), edited Ingrid Weaver’s Winning Amelia. It’s a chase-the-missing-winning-lottery-ticket romance that mixes a little suspense into the lives of two deeply conflicted leading characters. I know Marsha was very pleased with the story, and we’re sure everyone who reads it will be, too.

            I cannot overlook how important the refreshed Heartwarming books have been in helping us build this series from scratch. One of the two final refreshed stories we’re publishing is Roz Denny Fox’s The Hope Dress—and we’re delighted that Roz has not only contributed with reprints but she’s written Annie’s Neighborhood, a new work which will be out in July. Roz is a master storyteller and we’re happy to have her.

            The fourth June book is Inglath Cooper’s The Mayor of Macon’s Point. Inglath’s stories about love and family never fail to touch her readers’ hearts.

            Which brings me to my own family…all right…I’m a singleton! But I’ve got a new tiny addition to my home, and I can’t resist sharing a picture of Millie, who is probably three weeks old today. Her mom deposited her at the front revolving door to 225 Duncan Mill Road—Harlequin—on May 16. It was a rough start for the kitten, who hadn’t opened her eyes yet and only weighed 3.5 ounces. But Editorial Assistant Claire Caldwell and I rushed the feisty little squirmer to our local animal rescue the next morning and they fostered her through the most vulnerable days. She’s more than doubled her weight and I have a new, profound respect for moms of human babies. Cats grow out of this helpless stage a lot quicker than children!

            Embrace the ones you love, and enjoy your summer reading! --VC