Monday, September 30, 2013

Cover! I have my cover!

Besides the phone call when an editor says those magic words, "I'd like to buy your book!" I can't think of a better moment than seeing your cover for the first time. 



Really, it's right up there with seeing a picture of your own baby ... And I have experienced both, so I'm not exaggerating. :)

Back in 2002, when my husband and I were waiting for our referral from China -- confirmation on the request for a baby girl -- what we were REALLY waiting on was a picture. We wanted to know what our baby looked like. 

I was at the office on our Referral Day, and Ricky had made me swear a solemn vow that I would wait for him to look at the photo. 

The call came in. They were sending me a pix of the baby girl we'd waited for over 18 long months. And true to my word, I waited a little longer for my husband to get off work and make the half hour drive to my office. 

In the hour or so it took him to get there, my co-workers couldn't believe I was not even going to take a peek. They started hatching plans to hack into my email. I believe they would have if Ricky hadn't come in the office door at the nick of time. 

Back then, it was strictly dial-up. I remember how Ricky and I crouched over the computer, waiting for the picture to download. For the longest time, all we could see was the crown of a bald head with just a touch of fuzz. 

I remember thinking crazy thoughts, like, "What if she's ugly? Will I still love her?" And that agonizingly slow download did nothing to abate my insanity, let me tell you!

Of course the photo finished downloading, and of course she was beautiful - really, have you EVER seen an ugly baby??

But those memories come back to me before I click on an attached photo of my book covers. I literally hold my breath. 

My doubts are always for nought, though. Harlequin's art department does a slam-up job with their covers, and SECRET SANTA, my November release, was no exception. 

Of corse ... Book covers could be like babies, and whoever heard of an ugly baby, right? ;)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Holiday Prep


I love Autumn.  I hate to see summer go because our wonderful old house, which stays so cool in the summer, becomes an igloo in winter, but there's a saying in French that goes, "C'est toujours la fete." (that first e in fete is supposed to have a circumflex accent, but I don't know how to do it)  Direct translation is, "It's always a party." I take that to mean, "Make the best of everyday." So, though we'll soon be wearing hats and long underwear inside, I'm getting ready for fall and winter.  One of my favorite rituals is drying hydrangeas.

My neighbor has two hydrangea bushes with blooms the size of cabbages on either side of her front porch.  One is blue and one is purple.  If you've never had up-close contact with hydrangea, let me tell you they're amazing.  They begin to change color about the middle of August.  The purple ones take on tinges of lavender, blue, and pink.  The blue ones become green, amber, rose.  If you dry them at the right moment, they'll stay large and bright and last all year - longer, if you're careful. If you wait too long to cut and dry them, they just fade and curl up.

After years of living next door to the flowers (neighbors have come and gone, but the flowers remain, and I'm always sure to ingratiate myself with the newbies in time to be able to pick blooms.  Weirdly, none of the neighbors who've lived next door has ever cared about drying them themselves.)  I've gotten good at choosing the right moment to pick.  I'm a little like a vintner that way.

The point of all this is to tell you I've made a wonderful discovery.  I use to laboriously hang the blooms upside down one by one in the basement and wait a month for them to dry.  This year, I went online to see what others do and found out you can simply cut them, put them in a vase without water, and let them dry that way.   They don't have to live in the basement for a month so you can display them, and they're so little trouble.  They fade just a little, but are still beautiful..

The optimum drying procedure is to put the flower heads in silica gel, but that's pricey stuff and it requires a lot of it.  A woman name Liz Schenk, however, found a less expensive formula using 60% cornmeal and 40% Borax.  Put an inch of the mixture in the bottom of a large plastic garbage container -  cut the stems off the blooms and save to reattach with florist tape - then put a bloom in head first and cover gently with the mixture  She suggests using a sifter.  Repeat with other blooms until the container is full.  They'll take two weeks to dry but their color will be as strong as it was on the bush.  Use a makeup brush to get all the residue out of the flower.

I have a large, fat-bottomed, blue glass vase filled with them on the dining table.  At Christmas time, I tie them with ribbon to a garland that I run up the stairway.  It doesn't look quite like a Sunset Magazine cover, but I think it's gorgeous.

What are you doing to start your holiday season?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rain, Rain, Go Away by Tara Randel


I don’t know about the rest of the country, but this summer we’ve had a lot of rain in Florida. In fact, as I write this, it’s still raining.

The summer weather pattern in Florida is daily rain, usually coming late afternoon. This year? Late afternoon. Early morning. During the night. And while the normal showers last a short while, we’ve had longer lasting soakings. In years past, we were begging for a little rain because of drought-like conditions. It got so bad we had water restrictions and limited days to water the yard, usually twice a week. Right now, I have a pond forming in my driveway. Several counties have set up pumps in low lying areas to keep the water from rising and causing flood conditions. And there are sandbags if we need them. If my pond gets any bigger, I may grab a couple bags.




My husband has been building a deck off the back of the house for a few weeks now (that’s another story) and the daily rain has slowed him down. For Floridians, being housebound because of inclement weather is strange. We’re used to sunny skies. Clear sailing. Beach weather.

Being a author, I can take any circumstance and turn it around to talk about writing. I look at rainy days as great production days. I’m stuck in the house so I spend my time writing. And for some reason, when it rains, my brain works overtime, so I’m not complaining about the weather!

I look out the window and I see how much the foliage has grown this summer because of all the rain. Again, writing analogy- the rain, or my story ideas, grow and become full blown stories as I nurture the idea to maturity. Kind of the like the rain making my plants lush and green. It’s pretty cool to see it all come together, both on paper and in nature.

Even though we officially moved into autumn last Sunday, it still feels like summer here. Rain, humidity and heat. But I love living in Florida. What is the weather like where you live?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cover Reveal-The Trouble With Mistletoe

Here it is! The cover for my November holiday release-The Trouble with Mistletoe. I couldn't be happier with it. When I started writing it-I had quite vivid ideas about how my characters looked. I went online and I searched for famous, beautiful people that captured what I saw in my mind. Those pics are posted on my Brookhollow series pegboard and underneath, I have no posted this cover image...And honestly, it could be their side profiles. Just the way Luke has his head rested against Victoria's with his eyes closed...perfect Luke! So, thank you art department for not making me wonder who these people are on the cover of my book:)

I'm on deadline this week for revisions, so I'm keeping this post short, but if anyone would like to read an excerpt, please check out my Brookhollow series blog at http://brookhollowseries.blogspot.ca. Leave a comment there or here to be entered to win a copy once it is released November 1st.

Also, here is my ad for the November issue of RWR. Designed by the talented Linda Horn!

Monday, September 23, 2013

A NEW PERSPECTIVE


I recently had a silly household accident that left me in incredible pain. David and I had an ancient mattress that needed to be replaced. Realizing that no mattress topper could fix its many sags and hollows, we finally decided to buy a memory foam mattress.

 We were incredibly excited when the 100 pound box arrived. The mattress was compressed in the box, inside industrial strength plastic wrap, and when we tried to cut away the cardboard to free the massive foam burrito, the bed popped out hard - much like refrigerator biscuits after a rap on the edge of the counter. The sudden expansion sent me flying across the room and bouncing off a wardrobe. I ended up with a bad muscle sprain and a bloody knee (from the cardboard - which, as it turned out, also had big metal staples on a corner.)

The weeks that followed left me walking with a cane. Then there was that pesky acetaminophen overdose when I took one too many. Once I was finally on the mend, I was still angry at the bed. Although I used it and it was undeniably comfortable, I hated it.

Finally, I decided that kind of thinking would get me nowhere, and it had to stop. I began by being grateful for the bed. I was born in a country where too many people didn't have one at all. They would have gladly taken the bumps in exchange for a wonderful sleeping experience.

As my attitude changed, I began to see things in a new perspective. I remembered what I'd been taught. Setbacks, like getting attacked by a foam mattress, , were nothing more than bumps in the road, something meant to keep me from achieving a goal - in this case, enjoying the bed.

Roadblocks, of course, are everywhere. When I tried to get my first book published, (No I'm not telling you the title- it was barely adequate and you'll look it up) I took rejection after rejection. David was teaching at the time and loved his job. I had something to prove, and I took those rejections hard, but editor number 70 finally accepted it. (In those days, there were really that many publishers in NYC) Getting published was a LONG road filled with many potholes, but now, here we are. 

In those days, rejections were my pot holes in the road, things that stood in the way of where I was going. I quickly learned that I had a choice to make. I could give up, or keep pushing forward. I'm pushy by nature, so my choice was clear, and the bottom line was that if you quit, you guarantee failure. A 'can do' attitude, on the other hand, can blaze a trail.

That's the heart of Homespun Christmas, a book about a community that must set aside its rivalries and come together if they're to survive. It's about pride in a label that says MADE IN THE USA. This is the greatest nation on earth, and Homespun Christmas honors the courage and the dedication that continues to make it so.

Homespun Christmas is about working class America, the unsung heroes who make a real difference, though you won't find them headlining the news. Most important of all, it's about the power of a dream.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Autumn: The Season I Used to Love Best By: Roz Denny Fox

In years gone by I always looked forward to stepping outside and thinking, ah, the smell of fall is in the air.  Here in Arizona fall spells the end on monsoon rains and a decrease in humidity. It's walking season where most flying, biting bugs have disappeared.  It's a time when I used to open my windows and doors and let fresh air flow through the screens.  I know winter is around the corner, but I can ignore that. I am not a person who likes to be cold. Which is why autumn with temps in the 80s always felt perfect to me.

Autumn springboards the big holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the frantic run-up-to Christmas. I love to decorate and I used to love Halloween. Well, until someone decided to feature big, black, yucky spiders.  Halloween used to be jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, scarecrows and black cats with maybe a witch or two thrown in. Tell me who and when some fool elected to showcase spiders and spider webs?  No matter how much I love craft stores, when fall begins I have to stay out of stores that think it's cool to hang giant spiders from every crossbeam in sight. Last year Home Depot, of all places, had the biggest spiders I'd ever seen hanging above every aisle.  Oh, and another thing, my fall catalogues began a couple of years ago to feature Halloween spiders as their idea of home décor.  If I turn a page and see a spider, into the trash that catalogue goes now, when before I maybe would have ordered Christmas presents or holiday cards from that company.

So call me a fraidy-cat, call me a coward.  I'm all of that and more when it comes to eight legged arachnids.  Always have been and always will be.

For me the greatest drawback to living in Tucson is that summer monsoons bring tarantulas out of their underground nests.  A year ago this month in a downpour during which I picked my daughter and grand-daughters up from the airport from a late night flight--we arrived home around midnight--I drove into the garage and we unloaded suitcases. I closed the garage door and we all marched single file to the door that leads from my garage to a courtyard we had to cross to reach my front door. Being first in line I opened the side door out of the garage and there on the threshold sat a salad-plate-sized tarantula. I screeched, slammed the door shut and about plowed over down the others in my speedy retreat. My daughter, being a braver soul than I, took a broom and said she'd go out through the main garage door and in the gate and sweep said spider away.  I wanted her to take a big shovel and whack the sucker dead. She's too soft-hearted by far. So, she swept him away down my sidewalk, where the spider promptly crawled beneath my neighbor's gate. I'm still mad at my kid for not dispatching him. I swear from that day forward I never open my front door morning, noon, or night that I don't make sure my courtyard is well lit and that it's free of him or his relatives. So far so good. But people tell me tarantulas generally travel in pairs. (Great) Should I ever encounter another of his ilk on my property it will be catalyst to sell my house and move.  Now you may think that's extreme. If so you don't share my phobia. I don't feel the same about snakes, scorpions, centipedes or even Gila monsters. Only spiders, and some spider-loving-fool has ruined my once-favorite time of the year.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Reviewers- the Unsung Heroes, by Karen Rock

As a debut author this year, the process of watching an idea hatch into a proposal, the proposal transform into a story, the story become a sale and the sale emerge, through revisions and edits, to a published book has fascinated me. Although I’ve been reading books on writing craft, what I’ve learned the most this year has had more to do with the actual business of book publishing and the integral role each person plays, from the slush pile reader who saw your story’s potential, to the editor who asked for more pages, bought your book, and molded it along the way, to the copy editor who caught more mistakes than this former ELA teacher cares to admit,  to the fabulous art team who combs through our Art Facts sheets to capture the best images and back cover copy to interest readers, to the sales/marketing department who researches and targets the best audiences, and the PR department for their tireless work in spreading the word about our novels. I now realize it’s a large machine and as a writer, I am only one part of it.



 http://bit.ly/19vi5Kg
But there is another, unsung hero in this process: the reviewer/blogger. Reviewers do not work for publishing houses, they may or may not get paid, must read a large number of books critically and thoughtfully, and commit their insights on blogs, websites, and social media in a very short time period. They can be easy targets: loved when a good review is given, dismissed when one is not. Yet these individuals sacrifice their time to provide a critical service to this industry. They help readers make informed decisions on book purchases. As an avid reader, I’ve relied on them and have even thanked them on their websites or Goodreads. As a writer, however, my gratitude turned to fear as the release of my novel WISH ME TOMORROW neared. Would they like it? Pan it? When I found out RT was no longer reviewing Heartwarming books, I was crushed. I was anxious about reviews, but, having read so many, eagerly anticipated an authority on romance giving his or her opinion about mine.

With ARCs not arriving until the day of my release, I had limited alternate reviewer options as many review sites won’t consider your novel unless they have it one to two months in advance! Nevertheless, I researched and found some that would review a book near or after its release date and wrote them, asking if they would consider reviewing WISH ME TOMORROW. Better yet, I heard from Harlequin that WISH ME TOMORROW would be available for review on NetGalley! Although it was still too close to the release date for some reviewers, many requested it. Additionally, it made a promotional blog tour possible. It starts Sept. 23rd and I’m thrilled. Since then, I’ve received reviews of WISH ME TOMORROW and I’ve been grateful for the knowledge they’ve provided both readers and myself.

http://usat.ly/1atwwit
The other day, I was on Goodreads and saw that someone who’d never read my book rated it a two based on interest. I felt crushed when I thought about the months the publishing team had spent to produce, market and distribute my story. Yet this rater is not in the same category as an actual reviewer. Although a formal review does not guarantee a good opinion of your book, it’s comforting to know that the reviewer is skilled, knowledgeable and has carefully analyzed your story. Even if a poor review is received, a thoughtful reviewer will back up that score with reasons that will inform both the reader and the writer. It’s incredibly helpful knowledge to have once you’ve drowned your sorrows in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a Project Runway marathon. Reviewers are the voice of the people, the book buyers we hope to reach. It is important to listen to what they have to say and value their opinions when we are fortunate enough to receive them.


http://bit.ly/1gAcN1J
To win a print-copy or e-copy of WISH ME TOMORROW, please share your experiences and thoughts about reviews in the comments section and include your email address or email me at karenrock@live.com with it. I’ll select a winner tomorrow and contact you. I look forward to hearing your thoughts J

 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What I Learned by Reading Romance Novels by Syndi Powell




Rula Sinara recently commented that she learned about how to repair a tire with Fix-a-Flat by reading a Debbie Macomber romance. And that got me thinking... What have I learned by reading romance novels? Here is a short list that by no means exhaustive:

1. Adding pickle juice to potato salad gives it a tangy taste and makes it fabulous (courtesy of LaVyrle Spencer's "Family Blessings").

2. Sailing terms (thanks to Nora Roberts' Chesapeake Bay trilogy).

3. How to deliver a baby when you can't get to the hospital in time (according to Marie Ferrarella's "The Baby Mission").

4. The prejudice against women riding bicycles in the 1890's (Deeanne Gist's "Courting Trouble" and "Deep in the Heart of Trouble").

5. Love transcends even time (Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series).

6. Wishes are meant to be shared (Debbie Macomber's "Twenty Wishes" is a MUST read. Go get it now!!!!)

7. Love conquers all (every good romance novel reminds us of this).

On the list, you'll find some things that are practical, others that deal with the heart which romance novelists love to do.

So now I'll ask all of you: What have you learned by reading a romance novel?

Think I'll go learn some more and pick up a new romance!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Life's Little Perks

I'm sailing away on my next Harlequin.  I'm on page 320 and very, very happy.  Of course, when I hit 420, I'll go back and fine-tune the romance because as I fall more in love with the hero I'm writing, I get ideas on how to make the book sigh-worthy earlier.

Speaking of sailing and of heroes....

This past Saturday, we went sailing.  The whole clan.  My husband has two brothers (and yes, one of them is married to another romance writer!). Then, too, my husband has a dad.  We call him Grandpa.

We went to Saguaro Lake and did a music steamboat tour.  Here's what it looked like as we left the dock.

Here's what it looked like when we returned.


This was my doing.  See, I always get these notices about AAA discounts and Group-on.  When I see one that looks good, I tend to go for it.  This turned out to be a fun evening as the steamboat hosted a band that played the likes of the Doobie Brothers and Modern English.

As for me, I'm thinking that there's not been enough steamboat contemporary romances written. LOL

Have a great day all, and hope you find a family adventure soon.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

In the Flesh by Cynthia Reese

It flat took my breath away.



Research is a pet project of mine, always, and for everything. I love to research. It would be great to get paid for research. Probably, out there somewhere, there is a job where I could Google everything all day long and get paid for it.

Until then, I explain my research habit by writing. ;-)

That's not the only reason I write, of course. I write, mostly, anyway, because I'm a control freak and writing allows me to achieve complete world domination on the page, at least. But it's always nice to have an outlet for my obsessive research about everything.

Take my latest project. I love old houses. And so when I decided to write a book about a girl in an old house, it had to be the perfect old house. It turned out, despite my control freak ways, that the style of the perfect old house wasn't a style I was familiar with AT ALL. 

Which is the ironic twist of being a writer. You think you're in control, and then your characters show you who's really boss.

The style of the house is called Second Empire. I'd never heard of it before, so I did what I always do: research. And my research led me to an example in Savannah. 

I saw it on a recent trip ... And, let me tell you, it was magnificent. I made my sister stop. I had to get out the car and take pictures. I wanted to go and knock on the door and ask if I could look around. I restrained myself.

And that is how Google can only take me so far. I had looked at lots of Second Empire homes on the web. But I never lost my breath when I looked at the pictures.

I did lose my breath in real life. And being there, seeing it, has helped me see it from my characters' perspective. 

And I can see it all the better if I could get in  that  house!  ;-)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Random Observations While Waiting


Hi, Guys!

I spend a lot of my life waiting.  When Ron and I were first married we worked together at the Los Angeles Times and rode to work together.  I was always ready thirty minutes before he was - even with a girdle and pantyhose!  He'd shout questions to me from the bedroom.  "Did you give the cat water?" "Did you remember our lunches?" "Did you grab my camera?"  Yes, yes, yes.

These days, I wait because the neuropathy has made him slower than a snail in molasses (it's okay - we both laugh about it) and because he doesn't get out much and loves words and artwork, he reads every flyer in every window on our walks, and every sign anywhere.  When he's using the walker, I have to carry his cane, which has a sort of cudgel handle.  The other morning, we were walking from the bank to the coffee house to have breakfast.  I was a little behind him in the crosswalk to make sure no one runs over him, and a driver pulled up and leaned out his window to ask if I used the cane to beat him to keep him moving.  Ha, ha.

I wait in the doctor's office, in the therapy office, in front of restrooms, while he talks to other Navy veterans who also wear caps with their ship's name on them so other veterans will stop them and ask when and where they served.  Because I'm always worried about getting my daily writing quota done, I make a point of observing while I'm waiting.  It helps me mellow out so Ron can enjoy his time out without me rushing him, and it makes me feel as though I'm working even if I'm not writing.  Because our youngest grandchild is now a very mature eight, I love to watch children.

One of our favorite little haunts is a little vegan place run by a collective and in one corner is a little toy kitchen with benches for children to use while their parents linger over coffee.  While waiting for Ron to come out of the restroom, I watched a little girl playing with the tiny stove.  When she opened the oven, she found pots and pans in it - and a rubber dinosaur.  She was first horrified, then took it out, salted it, and put it back in.  That's going to be one resourceful woman.

After church, while Ron was talking to a friend, I observed a little girl about four in lavender tights and tutu, wearing a tiara.  In one hand, she held a figure of Batman, and in the other, a cowboy.  I suggested to her parents that she was a complex woman.  They laughed and agreed that she was.

Near our home in a westerly direction (opposite from the walls with the roses and the dog that wants to kill us) is a neighborhood playground across the street from a daycare.  Ron loves to stop and watch the children at play, but I can't stand it.  That's why young people make good daycare staff.  The children hang from the monkey bars, from the very top of the slide, and swing from one place to another without concern for life and limb.  They go down the slide backwards or head first, and swing so high they should employ an air traffic controller.  My nerves can't take it, so Ron tells me what they're doing and I take notes.

Where Ron has therapy, there's a seven-year-old girl who's there because every time she sits down to write, the hand holding the pencil begins to shake.  Her mother has three other children who write and color easily, and she's very worried.  The doctor believes it's something neurological, but has no answers yet.  I'm praying that she has no such problems on the computer and becomes a romance writer.

Isn't it wonderful that everything and everyone in this world is so useful to those of us who can watch them and try to see their stories?  I observe those children and wonder about the romantic moment that brought them about, and where their lives will take them.  I pray that they're all as loved as they should be and that they will love in return.  And that one day, the little girl with the shaky hand will watch other children from her perspective as an adult, and plot a story.











Thursday, September 12, 2013

Heartwarming Interview at USA Today's HEA Blog! By Rula Sinara

Picture

I began interviewing authors shortly after the birth of my blog, A Writer's Rush, in 2010. You can imagine how thrilled I was when, last year, I was invited to interview Harlequin authors for USA Today's Happy Ever After Blog. In fact, my very first HEA interview posted last September and featured Harlequin Superromance author, Liz Talley. 

Today, my first Heartwarming interview is up at HEA! Many thanks to Karen Rock for being a great sport and for writing a beautiful, touching story. Check out Karen's interview HERE and find out about the real life story that inspired Wish Me Tomorrow

May you all have a heartwarming day and a happy ever after :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering...

Hi All,

Today I was planning to do a cover reveal, but then I remembered what day it is, so I changed topics. The cover reveal can wait:)

I think each of us can all remember where we were and what we were doing 'the day the world stopped' on 9/11 12 years ago. I was between classes at university, working at my uncle's office as a receptionist and everyone was crowded around the computer screen staring with disbelief at the news images of the fallen twin towers. I remember the feeling of sadness and horror and utter shock I felt that day, as I'm sure you all can relate.

So, in honor of that day, today I want to talk about a particular everyday hero I know who happens to be my source for research for book two in my series-What A Girl Wants. Richard Hynes is a firefighter in St. John's, Newfoundland. We went to high school together, but since then we haven't had a lot of contact, except of course through Facebook...We comment on photos or status updates, but that was it until I started writing book two and asked him for help with my hero's character as a firefighter.

He more than helped. He sent videos, walked me through how they would deal with certain emergency situations and helped me keep my lingo accurate in the book. His help was very valuable and I am very grateful for it.

But, as I was doing revisions last night and looking at my notes from him and thinking about what today represents-I was overwhelmed when I realized the scenes he'd helped me create-while fictional for my purposes-were things he and many others faced as reality everyday. Running toward the danger to help others when most people are running away. It takes a very special person to do what they do.

Richard is a real hero. So, once again Thank You Richard Hynes for helping me with my research, but more importantly Thank You for the job you do without hesitation every day.

xo
Jen

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Checking out historical stuff - carolyn


Yea! My author copies of Taking the Reins, my first Heartwarming, arrived today. I love the cover.
It’s the story of five veterans, wounded in different ways, who come to a draft horse farm to learn how to drive draft horses so that they can build new careers. But all wounds aren’t physical, and sometimes love heals when nothing else can.
I hope you read it and like it. Please let me hear from you. 
Last week one of my carriage driving buddies was married on horseback. She wore a pale blue silk riding habit of the Civil War era, and rode her great gray Percheron, Rebel, a saintly horse, aside—as opposed to astride. The whole wedding party and guests dressed up in Civil War era costume.
Several years ago I borrowed a sidesaddle from a local tack shop and took it to my local romance writers group to show the members what one looked like and the way it functioned. Amazing that even most of the writers of historicals had never actually seen a sidesaddle, nor had a clue how to ride in one.
It looks precarious, but in reality provides a remarkably secure seat. The saddle itself is much longer than a normal English saddle and nearly flat. On the left side one stirrup hangs down below a padded leather horn that can be swung down for pleasure riding, or twisted up to provide purchase for fast riding and jumping. So long as you keep your left knee pressed up against the bottom of the leaping horn, and the right leg, which is crossed over the saddle, pressing down from the top, you are held in a kind of scissors grip. So long as you keep your right shoulder back, you’re good to go. Allow your right shoulder to swing forward, however, and you may describe a balletic tour jete right onto the ground. I’d never have the nerve to canter in one, much less take a fence, but then I grow more cowardly the older I get. Maybe that’s because my dressage horse is 17.2 hands tall.
Msny historical writers don’t know how it feels either to drive a carriage, or even to ride in one. Off the paved roads around tourist hotels or Central Park, the ride is bumpy, the carriage sways from side to side, and trust me, it’s a long way down. To me, however, a leisurely drive through the woods on a sunny afternoon is guaranteed to smooth out whatever miseries my day has held. For some reason, the sight of that big  horse rump undulating in front of me is good for my soul.
If you are a historical writer, I highly recommend at least sitting in a sidesaddle and taking a carriage ride. You might like it. Be careful! You may wind up hooked like me.

Up Down Indignant

My cat is indignant.  Right now he's over eating his food and sulking.

See, this is my writing morning.  I have about 200 words to do before I can hop into the shower and then wake my son for school.

But Tyre - named after a goodlooking gunslinger in the movie Silverado - really REALLY wants to be petted.

So he does things like...

He walks over my laptop - I plop him on the floor.
He lays on my hand - I plop him on the floor.

Pretty soon he starts nudging items onto the floor.  There goes my Kindle, a clean spoon (I write on my kitchen table now), an empty bottle, a pencil,  ARG




He's back.

He's on the edge of the table, right next to my computer.  He's touching me with his paw over and over.  So, I take him in my arms, and he puts his paws around my neck.  He really does.  And, he buries his head under my chin (time for wet nose and cat slobber).

I pet him and hug him and put him gently on the floor, thinking all the while that I should pet him longer, hug him longer, because I miss the days when my son woke up and toddled from his bedroom right to my lap - just like the cat drawing me away from the computer.

Thank you God for cats, and kids, and husbands who remind me that I can't write about life if I don't live it.

Oh, I'm off to wash the cat slobber from my neck and wake the kid.  No time for the shower EW

Those two hundred words... I'll do them while I eat lunch.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Her not-so-silent partner - David



Though we write for Harlequin Heartwarming under the Aimée Thurlo name, most of you know that there are two of us. Today I’d like to give some insight on how we work together. Keep in mind that we’ve been writing partners since 1980, and that Aimée has always been the major talent and biggest contributor, especially with our romances, the Ella Clah mysteries, and the Sister Agatha series.


I’ve taken the lead with our Lee Nez and Charlie Henry books, and the non-fiction science workbooks, but we learned fairly early in our partnership who does what best, and wisely we stuck with a winning combination.

At first we had a lot to learn about how to create an acceptable manuscript as a team - something with one voice, not two. That takes practice. You can’t do it overnight. But it can be done.

Partnerships are the best way to write - though I am prejudiced on that. When something good happens, you have someone to share it with - someone who sweat right there along with you, someone who understands the sacrifices you had to make, the hours at the computer, the feeling in your gut when the scene you think is brilliant is out of character, or just doesn’t really work in the story.


It helps that we work together in the same house, though we do have different offices and work habits. Aimée has two dogs with her, a day bed, and shoes everywhere. I’m, let’s say, more organized, though Aimée would use the term compulsive. I think that’s because I can find stuff and I file folders using the English alphabet. And my dog guards the door, not my boots.


Fortunately, one component that makes our books better than they would be if we worked individually is that we aren’t at all alike, except that we’re best friends and we’re committed to bringing the reader the best possible book.
Early on, it became very apparent what our strengths are. I’m better with action scenes, descriptions, and plotting. Aimée hates choreographing action and has direction issues. Her ability to bring emotions to the page are far better than mine, however, and she’s great with dialogue, at least with women characters. One might suggest that this is a boy/girl type of thing, but I don’t mean to appear sexist.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned while working with Aimée is neither of us can ever suggest that `my words and/or ideas are better than yours'. Our teamwork and commitment to the project forces us to look at what we’ve written even more closely, and that makes our stories even better.

When I left teaching and my writing became full time, it was a test for us at first, but it’s been worth it, and I wouldn’t trade one second of working with Aimée for any other person, or career. We’ve lived a Heartwarming life together for forty-four years, and now, finally, we get to write about it. How cool.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Heartwarming originals: three months old! …by Victoria Curran, senior editor

It’s September, that fresh start and nippy mornings time of year, and we’re three months into the launch of Harlequin Heartwarming originals! Time to check in and see how we’re doing, don’t you think? First off, thank you to Pamela Tracy for launching this blog site in the winter, it’s an amazing way for Heartwarming to come together as a community. I hope more of our authors— contracted and hopefuls— join and speak up, and more lurking readers come out of hiding to share their invaluable insights and let us know if we’re hitting the mark.
 

Congratulations to social media-wonder and author Karen Rock, whose first Harlequin, Heartwarming’s Wish Me Tomorrow, is out this month and at the top of Goodreads’ Listopia for Best Debut  Romance of 2013 (http://bit.ly/1dobWow) with the highest score! Karen may have tremendous media savvy and a strong following, but it all starts with good writing, and her book is so touching—the story of a cancer support group leader who falls for one of the survivors…but has to face the risk that the cancer might return. Talk about a high-stakes romance: the two risk losing each other at the same time as they find each other. Minimum two hankies for this one.
  
We’re proud to include author Kristine Rolofson, who used to write for Harlequin Temptation (before it became the hotter series Blaze), as a Heartwarming author. In fact, we hauled her out of writing retirement—and she has sent me some great shots of her cowboy boot collection and one of her fanning herself with her share, as fiddler, of her band’s take after a performance. Well, I don’t care how much the band makes, Kristine, we want more Heartwarming books like The Husband School, the first of the Willing to Wed miniseries out this month. Similar to the reality TV show "The Bachelor," in Kristine’s premise, there’s a town full of Bachelors, and the TV producers ship the would-be brides to Willing, Montana, to see if romance can bloom…on camera…with a little bachelor-coaching at the local diner.   The Husband School was also chosen to be a free sampler to promote Heartwarming on TryHarlequin this year. Numbers just came in last night and the book has reached #41 on Amazon because of the promotional pricing. This can do nothing but good for exposure to the entire series, so get your free download at http://amzn.to/146vium.


 
I love Carolyn McSparren’s romances (we used to work together at Harlequin Superromance) because they always include animals and I’m a bit of an animal-mush. And Taking the Reins, her first Heartwarming, is no exception. In this case, we’re introduced to a handful of military veterans each wounded in some capacity and each at a ranch to learn the new skill of driving horses and, in the process, find healing and…wait for it…romance!
The fourth book out in September is A Forever Home, the second Heartwarming by Lynn Patrick, a two-person writing team with a rich history at Harlequin. The first book, Home to Sparrow Lake, was chosen as a Top Pick and given four and a half stars by RT Book Reviews magazine. I wish I could say Lynn’s second book set in Sparrow Lake was received as well, but unfortunately RT Book Reviews is no longer reviewing Harlequin Heartwarming. I’m still in discussions with the publisher about this and may have to settle for RT online reviews but I’m not giving up the battle for the print magazine yet because they seem to be under the misunderstanding that Heartwarming books are only available in digital and are short-format romances, which just isn’t the case. Wish me luck.

And finally, I’m so happy to announce that within the past year, Heartwarming has contracted ten authors new to Harlequin. This is quite a benchmark achievement and it’s fantastic to work with new voices. Welcome, all.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Love the Ducks by Tara Randel



I was surfing the Web the other day and saw an announcement for the casting of a new season of Dancing With the Stars. I have to admit, I’ve never watched an episode of the show. My mother loves to keep me informed, but I still don’t tune in. I’m more of a Voice girl, since I get a kick out of Blake Shelton. And I’m a singer, so I’m drawn to the musical talent. Not American Idol though. I watched a few of the early episodes and wasn’t impressed so I never continued watching. 

After reading the big deal made over the new cast of DWTS, I couldn’t help but think about all the different types of reality shows available on network television, as well as cable. My daughter used to love watching any of the Housewives, didn’t matter which city. I could never figure out the appeal. My husband likes any of the outdoorsmen/critter catching shows. Or anything to do with car restorations. Add in Storage Wars, Pawn Stars, American Pickers and any other show with people collecting stuff. He even went so far as finding a local company that does storage auctions in our area and went along to see what the fuss was all about. He has enough stuff at home so I encouraged him not to buy. Thankfully none of the storage units were interesting enough for him to part with his money.

When I think about my reality show choices I chuckle at the diversity. I watch Pawn Stars too, but also enjoy Project Runway, house projects on HGTV and yes, occasionally entertainment shows on E!. But my new favorite is the most unlikely show of all.

Duck Dynasty.




Yep. I simply love the Robertson family. I love rags to riches stories. People who accomplish much because they have drive and ambition. (To be an author you have to have those same qualities.) The Robertson’s make me laugh. Most importantly, their love for one another, and their faith, shines through each episode, no matter what kind of mischief they get into. Why can’t we have more television shows that feature functional families? I would say because viewers aren’t interested unless there’s all kind of self-absorbed drama going on, but Duck Dynasty has one of the highest ratings for cable television, so people are watching.  Which is good for fans of the show because they’ll keep taping.

BTW, the books about the Robertson family are good too. Just a tidbit for all the readers out there.  

So it seems there are reality shows for every type of viewer. What kind do you watch? Share your favorite show to be entered in a contest to win my book, Orange Blossom Brides. The winner will be announced tomorrow.