Monday, October 30, 2017

Issues and hope

When I first started writing romance, there was a list of don'ts for writers. I'm not sure, but I think I taped the list over my computer beside my note from Muriel Jensen admonishing me, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up." On this list of the forbidden were things like acting or musician protagonists, sports-oriented stories, older heroines, physically flawed heroes or heroines, or overweight people. No one was a geek. (Boy, did I take that one personally.)

I remember that no one drove American cars--which I never have figured out. No one was a blue-collar worker unless they were functionally illiterate as well. Waitresses were all destitute. In steamier stories than we write here at Heartwarming, no one had morning breath or used birth control or...well, other things.

Much of this, other than our actual series guidelines, wasn't actually written down. There was no real book of rules. We just knew. And in those days, anything that had the word issue attached to it was a no-no. Romances were to be what way too many people had referred to as "light fare."

But things have changed. We have entire series based on sports now. A guitar is as at home in a story as a law degree. There's nothing wrong with being a mechanic or a waitress or a retail associate. There's room in the industry for all ages, all sizes, and all ethnicities.

And we talk about issues now. Because of my family history, breast cancer has been a player in more than one of my books. So has depression. The first time I read about seasonal affective disorder, it was in a Jackie Weger book. In That Camden Summer, LaVyrle Spencer wrote horribly and wonderfully about rape.

Many Heartwarming authors have written about issues and I hope they will list them here in the comments. Because they've also written about the hope that rises from confronting those issues in the romantic journeys we want our books to be.

To start the list, the heroine in my December book, The Happiness Pact, suffers from clinical depression and anxiety disorder. I hope I did it right and that you will like and understand Libby's story. And all of our other stories that address issues that are important to all of us.

Thank you for reading. Have a great week.

P.S. Speaking of issues, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is nearly over. If you haven't made your appointment yet, go ahead and call--we'll wait here.

Liz Flaherty

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sit Down Saturday with Melinda Curtis

Readers often ask writers where they get their story ideas. I like to tell people my story ideas often come from one person I know, have met, have seen on television, or have read about. For example:

I once asked my assistant what her biggest frustration was in dating and she told me autocorrect. Her stories about texting faux pas led to the plot line of Always A Bridesmaid. What happens if co-workers who are attracted to one another continue to have a series of autocorrect misunderstandings? Comedy gold, that's what.

The reaction of one family member to her mother’s will led me to the plot line in Love, Special Delivery. What happens if a grandfather’s deathbed wish is assumed by his children to have legal precedence over the man’s will? Conflict, that's what!

Of course, I didn’t make my assistant my heroine or my family member a villain in either book. But I used them as a springboard to bring the book to life.

The backstory of Support Your Local Sheriff also came to me from someone near to me. Many years ago, my brother dated a woman who discovered she had breast cancer. She went through chemotherapy and fell into early menopause. The doctors didn’t know if she’d ever ovulate again. Well, she did, but it was while she and my brother were breaking up (and not using birth control). Months later, she was terrified because she didn’t feel well. Turns out, she was pregnant. What a complicated way to get to a secret baby idea! My niece is a beautiful young woman today, btw.

But it's not all easy-peasy even with backstory gold. Support Your Local Sheriff is Book 10 in my Harmony Valley series. Sheriff Nate had been mentioned in several books prior to this one. Nate had a conversation with Mae, the retired dress shop owner in town. She was grilling him about his romantic past and guessed that he’d left someone at the altar. Cue time to write Nate’s book. Cue author head scratch.

How does one properly motivate a man to leave his bride at that altar on their wedding day without making him seem like a royal jerk?

Several head thunks later…

I wondered if Nate could have been in love with the bride’s sister, but for some reason he didn’t want to marry her. And then I remembered my brother’s baby mama. I was off to the races after that! You’ll have to read Support Your Local Sheriff to find out how I tied all the pieces together and made Julie my heroine.

Writers have different ways of coming up with story ideas and every book needs many ideas to keep it a full and rich reading experience for readers. Don’t ever think writers are tired of being asked questions. So, here's your chance to ask an author...well, not quite anything...but pretty much anything. Ask away!

Happy reading!

Melinda Curtis is an award-winning USA Today bestselling author of over 40 romances. She writes sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming (who published Support Your Local Sheriff), sweet romantic comedies (her latest is Rumor Has It in Christmas Falls, a full-length novel) and sexy contemporary sports romances. You can receive free samples of her writing by signing up for her mailing list at

Friday, October 27, 2017

When I Worked in Hospitals by Roz Denny Fox

In the 1960’s & 70’s when I worked in hospitals and later spent a dozen years in the offices of three busy pediatricians, I don’t recall anyone talking about more than a stray, accidental gunshot wound. Occasionally an unfortunate child found a loaded gun at home to play with.

In Portland Oregon at the Medical School where I began my working career, the large complex comprised of med school, county hospital, children’s hospital, TB hospital, research center, and lock-up ward. It was a trauma hospital. But I worked as a Medical Record’s Technician. However, the entire hospital and almost all workers participated in triage drills about three times a year. Those of us not doctors, nurses, interns or residents (baby docs as they were called) were assigned to be victims. Attention was paid to excessive burns, limb injuries, head injuries, etc. The big concern as I recall was planning for an influx of patients if Mount Hood erupted. Or if some extensive group of cars collided in the fog, or to a lesser degree when the fleet landed for the yearly Rose Festival Parade a few times groups of sailors went crazy in bar fights causing cuts and bruises.

For our triage events we worker bees received tags that told us what injury we were to present, and we were schooled to answer initial questions as we honestly thought we would should we be a victim.

What I felt it taught all of us was to be calm in the face of an emergency. Luckily in all of the years I worked at the medical school, no huge trauma befell us.

Later, in Seattle Washington I worked as a medical transcriptionist at Swedish Hospital, also a trauma center. Our big looming concern was that we’d have to one day deal with a massive earthquake. As in Oregon a mountain could erupt. Like Oregon, our triage practices mostly centered on crushed heads or limbs. I remember once I was tagged as having a severe asthma attack. And since my youngest daughter suffered from asthma I was very familiar with symptoms. Another time I supposedly had heart problems and I was told to start out in a faint. So I was tagged as a woman much older than I was at the time, but the triage team had to assess things that might be wrong with me when I couldn’t speak. Again, I don’t think anyone I knew had to present with gunshot wounds. During my time there the hospital did intake a number of knife wounds in a two hour time-frame due to a big ruckus at a nearby juvenile detention center. Police transported a dozen boys to our hospital and another ten or so to another facility. In my years of working at either hospital, we never experienced a lockdown situation.

I began thinking back to my training and our triage sessions this month when first responders in Las Vegas spoke about the frequency of their joint triage practices to deal with huge numbers of gun violence victims. While we were taught how to use whatever was handy to stabilize a broken arm or leg our trainers glossed over where to place tourniquets to stop bleeding from the rare puncture wounds. Lacking cell phones, we had to send someone to the nearest phone booth to call for orthopedic doctors from other hospitals, etc. In cases of our earthquake drills our triage scenes were often chaotic.

I can’t even envision what a dark nightclub, theater, or park filled with people bleeding from gun wounds, some multiple would be like to quickly assess. Or to have your emergency room be forced to check in and evaluate more than a hundred victims in a short amount of time. Doctors and nurses had to be going through Herculean efforts just to decide which victims were in need of immediate surgery, who could wait, and the sheer numbers of surgery suites required for such a massive influx of injuries is unfathomable.

Even with my past experience I hate hearing of the uptick in these awful senseless shootings. And I’m sure we aren’t giving enough credit to first responders, lay helpers, and hospital staff who get hit with one of these tragedies.

I hope this doesn’t cause bad memories for anyone, but I really wanted to give a shout-out of admiration for all of the folks in countless cities who have dealt so efficiently with these traumatic events.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Star-spangled Nights

By Beth Carpenter

An upcoming event – more about that later – got me thinking about stars. I grew up on a farm, about five miles from the nearest town, and one of the great things about living in the country is the clear night sky. I remember going outside one warm night with my dad. He showed me the Milky Way, Orion’s belt, and the Big Dipper which makes up part of Ursa Major (the Great Bear). The Big Dipper is special, because if you line up the two stars on the end of the dipper, they point directly toward the North Star, which is the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper. And if you can find the North Star, you can always find true north.

I grew up, got married, and moved to Wyoming. It was different than the Texas plains, but the same stars were there.

Photo by Bob Hoyle, park ranger naturalist and former professor of astronomy

Several years later, we moved to Alaska, and there was Big Dipper again, right there on the state flag. The flag was designed in 1927 by thirteen-year-old Benny Benson, who lived in the Jesse Lee Home orphanage in Seward. His design won him $1000, a gold watch, and a trip to Washington DC. Along with his winning design, he submitted this description, “The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaskan flower. The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, the most northerly in the union. The Dipper is for the great Bear — symbolizing strength." I may be biased, but I think Alaska's flag is one of the most beautiful in the country.   

One more star that’s special for me is the star that lights up over Anchorage every year at Christmastime, thanks to the crews from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. It sits on a mountainside in Arctic Valley and shines down over the Anchorage bowl. And whenever I see it, I smile.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

And speaking of smiles, I want to tell you about that event I mentioned earlier. We’re having a Starry Night and Romance Party and you’re invited! A group of Heartwarming authors and guests will be celebrating new books and holiday cheer next month on Facebook. We’ll be giving out great prizes and having lots of fun, so check it out here. November 29th will be here before you know it.

So how about you? Do you have any special memories under the stars?

 Beth’s next book in the Northern Lights series, A Gift for Santa, will release on December 5th and is currently available for preorder. The first book in the series, The Alaskan Catch, is on sale now.

And until Oct. 31st, you can enter for a chance to win A Gift for Santa on Goodreads.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Who Are You?

Who are you?
At the last RWA conference in Orlando, I picked up an interesting book on social media by Tyra Burton and Jana Oliver. The title is Socially Engaged. If you’re looking for a book to lead you through the complicated waters of social media, I highly recommend this one. It is written in a conversational tone, simple and direct, and understandable.

This blog today is about one of the first tips I gleaned from these authors. Know yourself, not the bland, every day you, but the you that sets you apart. Yes, this is about branding, but it’s a great exercise for anyone who leaves their house once in a while. Here’s the tip: Think of three words that describe you. Not words like “nice” and “kind.” Think of words that have impact in describing who you are.

I chose these three: Sensitive, witty, and social.

I believe these words describe me and fit in with the tag line I use in branding my author name. “Writing about big hearts in small towns.” Along with sensitive (and who hasn’t been sensitive to the tragedies in the world these days?) I am nostalgic  about the past and openhearted to the suffering of humans and animals. By witty, I don’t mean standup comic hilarious. I mean I try to see the quirky side to every story, and  if I find it, I’m quite likely to voice my discovery, good or bad. By social, I mean I like to go out. I can’t stay in my house for an entire day. My son once asked me how I can talk to complete strangers. I didn’t have an answer except to say, the stranger is behind me in line, we’re both waiting, so why not strike up a conversation?

I’m wondering how many like-minded people are out there. Do any of my words describe you? Great, let’s be friends. What one, two or three words are more apt to pinpoint the real you?

The point is this: Once you arrive at your three words, and if they are good, positive words, try to keep them in the back of your mind and let them help you through social media, life, relationships, and everything else. If your words are negative, work on finding positive ones. We’re all good people here. We’re readers and writers!


I'm in here somewhere because I'm social

I think there's something funny about a tree protecting a hydrant

I cried when a hurricane destroyed one of my favorite Florida towns.

Can't wait for my February release, the first of a trilogy, Cahills of the High Country.
Watch for Carter's story.HIGH COUNTRY COP, after you read this month's Heartwarmings.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Endings by Janice Carter

October sits on the edge of autumn, a teasing reminder that winter is on the way.  The weather is always up and down here in Ontario, prepping us for the inevitable.  Cold. Snow. Ice. For Canadians, Thanksgiving mid-month is the last hurrah so to speak.  After that holiday, everything winds down.  Leaves change color and fall from trees;  plants and flowers dry up.  We slowly close up our cottage, making several trips back and forth to the city with loads of laundry, books, special utensils or tools and uneaten food that my frugal side can't toss out.  There's always something bittersweet about this annual ending to summer.  I look forward to a more disciplined routine:  no pre-dinner drinks and snacks;  a return to exercise class - but I also hate to see those long, lazy summer days go. Still, saying goodbye to October isn't quite so bad.  For North American kids there's no more perfect ending to autumn than the very last day of this month.
    But Hallowe'en isn't my topic today because it's still a week away and a big part of the fun of special days is the anticipation, right?  The hype. The lead-up. Which brings me round to endings and how we writers envision them. Here are some synonyms for 'ending' that I found in my trusty Thesaurus app: closure; outcome; completion and consummation.
    The endings that we romance authors write contain elements of all those synonyms but also imply so much more, don't they? It's not enough to wrap everything up for our hero and heroine, we want to promise them a happily ever after.  The big HEA.  As a teenager, I believed in the HEA and reading romance novels fed that promise. I thought that everyone would eventually find happiness ever after with someone until I got to college and my English Literature major as well as a soured relationship informed me otherwise.  Estrangement, alienation and especially, tragedy, could be endings too.
Fortunately that outlook was merely a phase that I passed through on my way to adulthood and the discovery of real love, as opposed to infatuation. 
    While I was pondering the idea of endings, I skimmed through the conclusions of a few of my past romance novels.  It was fascinating reading those endings after all this time.  I found one outright proposal (from an early novel); a suggestion of consummation (!); a subtle proposal (from her to him) and a wrap-up of a secondary plot with the unspoken promise of a future together.  I realized from this brief look-back that as the years have passed and I have aged (gracefully, of course), my concept of HEA has shifted slightly.  The issues between heroine and hero aren't necessarily resolved (just as they may not be in real life) but the communication channels are open.  Perhaps that's the crux of the HEA.  No one really expects to have a happily ever after life or love and our characters are just like us.  But they (and we) want to have the hope of, and the belief in, happiness together.
    I must have been unconsciously thinking that as I finished my most recent book, For Love of a Dog.  Kai and Luca haven't figured everything out yet.  They don't know where they're going to live or what jobs/careers they will have after they leave the soybean farm.  All they really know is that they love each other and want to be together - wherever and however.  And for me, personally, that's a perfect ending.  What's your perfect ending?
Janice Carter
For Love of a Dog
amazon barnesandnoble  goodreads  iTunes Indigo

Monday, October 23, 2017

Patricia Johns: fantasy pregnancies

When I was pregnant, nothing went according to plan. I'd really been looking forward to cute maternity clothes and baby clothes shopping. I even wanted to agonize over cloth vs. disposable diapers. I mean, I totally knew I was going the disposable route, but I wanted the chance to at least consider options. I had really wanted a baby, and I was ready to throw myself into enjoying the whole process.

But I didn't get much of a chance!

By month 4, I was on bed rest. By month 6, I was admitted to the hospital, and by month 7, I was delivering a premature baby.  And that was my pregnancy. My little boy was born at 31 weeks, and about six weeks after delivery, I was able to bring him home with me. In the meantime, however, I had four different doctors sit me down and say, "Has anyone discussed future pregnancies with you?" Needless to say, we stopped at one child!

But I do wish I could have experienced a healthy pregnancy. There were so many things I was looking forward to. My husband took care of most of the "get ready for baby" things while I was in the hospital. He put together the crib, picked up baby clothes, got everything arranged by himself. It's a little heartbreaking to think about now, but we made it through.

So, in true writerly fashion, I enjoy writing pregnant heroines, because I get the chance to do all those pregnancy things I missed out on--even the pregnant lady waddle! (Seriously, don't take walking down the street for granted. LOL!)

My heroine for my November 2017 release, A BOY'S CHRISTMAS WISH, is pregnant, and she's adorable! She's all tummy, and she likes to do everything herself. But there is one little boy who has decided that she'd made the perfect step mom, and he hasn't given up on his Christmas wish. 

A lot has changed—and a lot hasn't 

Five years ago, Beth Thomas's engagement to Danny Brockwood ended when his secret child was dropped off on his doorstep. Now eight months pregnant—and about to be a single mother herself—Beth is back in her Alberta hometown, where the rugged mechanic is raising his son. 

She wants to hate Danny; discovering he'd hidden his toddler from her was the reason she left. And now Danny's bought out the beloved corner store that had been in Beth's family for generations. But their still-simmering chemistry isn't all they have in common. Can two single parents win back each other's trust with the help of one determined boy?

MONTANA MISTLETOE BABY is coming out in December 2017, and that heroine is pregnant, too!


Barrie Jones needs a Christmas miracle. Five months pregnant, she’s already the talk of Hope, Montana, because she won’t tell anyone who the father is. And now her ex, Curtis Porter, is back in town, throwing her life into chaos.

Curtis is about to retire from bull riding, which means selling the building that houses Barrie’s veterinary practice—essentially putting her out of business—so he’ll have enough money to start over. He’s the bad guy, right? And Barrie should know better than to give him a second chance, but Curtis seems different… He’s talking about settling down, maybe becoming a family man. Has Curtis really changed? And can Barrie change, too, and trust Curtis to do right by her and her baby?

So what about you? What things do you like to fantasize about through your fiction? Babies? Pregnancies? Wealth? Perfect weddings?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sit-down Saturday with Amie Denman

Today we’re celebrating the October release of Until the Ride Stops.

So, Amie Denman, where did you get the idea for this novel?

The main character, Caroline Bennett, emerged from the previous book in the series Meet Me on the
Midway. When Evie Hamilton fell in love with Scott Hamilton, I hope readers did, too. One of his most endearing qualities was his devotion to his sister Caroline. A police officer, she worried him night and day with her dangerous career choice. I didn’t originally plan for Caroline to have her own book, but I couldn’t resist writing a story about a smart, strong woman who fears nothing—not even the painful truth.

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say?

Like all my Harlequin Heartwarming books, I absolutely love the cover. They look happy and in love, but the background suggests wild movement and a thrill factor. Isn’t that life? I think my caption would say “Hold on for the ride!”

What is your favorite scene?

When Caroline and Matt spend a romantic evening at Starlight Point and get their caricatures drawn. The artist doesn’t miss a thing…and the final picture says a lot about their relationship. I love this scene because I love watching caricature artists at amusement parks and festivals. It’s amazing how they capture a person’s essence in only a few minutes. What talent!

Who was your favorite character and why?

I can’t choose between Caroline and Matt! She’s a gutsy and passionate heroine, concerned about truth and justice. He’s a man tortured by his family’s past yet desperately doing everything he can to protect the people he loves.

Tell us one thing you learned during research.

The book involves a cold case mystery and two deaths. A girl was killed decades earlier in an accident on an amusement park ride, and I learned a lot about ride-related accidents as I researched. They are more common than I would have thought, but mercifully infrequent compared to the number of amusement park rides taken every year. I also found it fascinating how amusement parks, fairs, festivals, and carnivals are inspected and investigated by the state in which they take place. In many cases, fairs and amusement parks are under the jurisdiction of the department of agriculture because of the tradition of the county fair. I read up on inspections, accidents, and consequences, and some of my research made me think twice about thrill rides—no matter how much I love them!

This is your 15th book, and your 5th book for Harlequin. Exactly what does that mean to you?

Writing for Harlequin was such a dream for such a long time, and now I can’t believe my 5th book has released! I’m so happy to say there are more in the works and the thrill will never wear off!

What do you plan to work on next?

I’m working on edits for a Harlequin Heartwarming releasing next summer—this one features my favorite kind of hero: a firefighter. If things go as I hope, it will be the first in a new series for Heartwarming.

What are you reading for pleasure right now?

I just finished the Danielle Steele novel Dangerous Games, and am currently reading a Debbie Macomber Rose Harbor Inn novel. I am also working my way through the amazing Inspector Gamache mysteries by Louise Penny. Mystery and romance are my favorites, and I hope readers will love the combination of these genres in Until the Ride Stops.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Why We Write

by Shirley Hailstock

In the last few weeks, I've written little. I've been consumed by the tragedies the United States has endured. My heart cries for people I do not know. The victims of fires, hurricanes, and mass murder have entered my life when I never thought they would. So why is my writing important? What do I give readers that can help them in light of the devastation that assaults our senses on every television station and streaming video?  Then I remembered something. A while ago, when the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, one of my friends and fellow writers April Kihlstrom posted comments on our chapter loop on why writing is important and what we give our readers and future generations.

I'm reprinting it here, not because I'm to lazy to write my own blog, but because I could not have said this important message any better or clearer. As I said, she wrote this after 9-11, but you can insert any day of the week, and any tragedy that has befallen our sisters and brothers and it will be just as relevant.

Words Matter

In the light of Tuesday's tragedy, I have heard people say they do not feel like writing. And I understand that feeling, we are all numb with shock. But we are writers. When we do not write, we cut ourselves off from something that is an essential part of who we are.

I know the impulse to say: It's only writing, it's not important. That's often the reason our writing gets pushed aside and given the least priority in our lives. But I would suggest that writing may be one of the most important things we can do right now, not instead of donating blood or giving support or helping in other ways, if we can.

We are writers. We can give voice to the pain and horror and fear and grief and courage and strength we are feeling and seeing. As hard as it is, I would suggest we all try to write about this time. I do not think it will be over quickly. And it will be important, later, to have a record of what went on. When children and grandchildren ask: What was it like when the towers came down? It may be the words we write that will provide the answer.

We are writers. When we put pain and grief into words, we help others understand their own pain and grief. When we write about fears, we give shape to what others may only hazily understand and when fear has a concrete shape, we can begin to take steps to guard against what it is we fear.

When we write about courage and honor and strength, we provide role models for those who may face challenges in their own lives, now and in the future.

When we write about joy and love and goodness, we provide concrete reminders that pain and betrayal and tragedy are not all there is in the world, even if it may feel that way for the moment.

We are writers. When we write we tap into something inside ourselves that can help us cope in times of crisis. When we write, the words we shape may help others cope as well. We give comfort and hope where they might otherwise be none. We give shape to the emotions others might not know how to name.

So I encourage you to write, even if it's only a page. Perhaps not on your current manuscript, but write about something, perhaps about the tragedy unfolding. Because words do matter. 

–April Kihlstrom

  September 14, 2001

Re-reading this made me remember and understand that what I do and what I give to the world matters. I don't write about tragedy per se, but I often use the emotions that I feel in my writing.

So pick up a book and bask in the story. At the heart of every book, whether it be light hearted or deeply complex, are real people with real lives and how they cope with the external world.

And now, I'm back to writing.