Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thank You, Sandra Marton!

Like many of us, I broke my reader's teeth on Harlequin Romance, having graduated from the YA section in my library (school and public) by about the seventh grade. Was I old enough to be reading Harlequins? Not really, but the Romances were tame back then (as they are now) and when I happened on a stash in my grandmother's living room one summer I was hooked. The books were so much more satisfying than high school stories of summer love that I devoured book after book.

I tried Romance, Intrigue and then stumbled upon my grandmother's (and mother's) stashes of Harlequin Presents and...well, sigh. What junior high and high schooler wouldn't want to be swept away by millionaire/billionaires who, in the words of Iron Man, were 'billionaire, playboy, philanthropists' even before he was?

Yeah, I was hooked and the first Presents author to really hook me was Sandra Marton - From This Day Forward was dog-eared and the pages were beginning to yellow by the time I found it but I was absolutely captivated by the story. I started reading it one more after breakfast and by mid-afternoon I was sobbing because it was over. So I started it again...and then I started looking for Sandra's books all over the house.

I devoured them, too.

But this isn't just a post about my reader self, it's a post about my writer self, so fast-forward about....oh fifteen years.

I entered an RWA chapter contest, I can't remember which one, oddly enough. But I entered a book that I'd gotten some really good feedback on from my critique partners. I sent it in and waited...and waited. And then the winners were announced and....I wasn't one. Although my scores were high, I hadn't quite made the cut. But, bonus, I got some judge's feedback and one judge was Sandra Marton. Personal, happy, freaked out squee from Writer Kristina.

A little bit scared of what she might have to say, I opened her judging sheet and just looked at the scores. Above average but not stellar she-thinks-I'm-great scores. And then I got to the comments, in which Sandra asked me a very innocuous question: Did I really think I'd begun the story in the right place?

Hmmm...Yeah, I thought I did but...

And then, she went on to give me perhaps one of the best compliments I'd received to that point - she said she liked my voice and writing style, that the characters were great characters, but that she thought I was telling the wrong story - that I needed to go back and really examine where this story started, what the real story was and start over.

I was stunned. She liked my book? One of my writing idols liked my writing enough to give me a little tough love? Because, a couple of weeks after, I did go back and look at that book, those characters and that set-up. She was right. There was more of a story to tell and that story began before the book began.

I will always be grateful to have found Sandra Marton's books ~ she writes captivating stories about love that awe me. But I'll also be grateful that she took time away from her own writing to judge that contest...and grateful that she saw enough in my writing to give me some tough love and advice.

Thank you, Sandra!

And now, my Thanksgiving wish for all of you. And old, Irish blessing that is close to my heart:

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sisters! You really CAN go home again.

I’m bouncing with excitement as I write this.  A SAVANNAH CHRISTMAS WISH's book birthday is in less than 2 weeks!  December 1, 2015.  It is Book 2 in the Fitzgerald House series.  (Can I squeee a little because I have a series??)

This is Bess Fitzgerald’s story.  And her nemesis love interest, is Daniel, the contractor from SOUTHERN COMFORTS.  It was so much fun to keep writing about these sisters, because my sisters mean so much to me. 

Last year I wrote about the Origins of the Fitzgerald House series.  The idea hit me several years ago when my sisters and I were on our annual sister weekend and we went to Savannah.

Two weeks ago, my sisters and I headed out on our sister weekend again.  We have a social director, who is the only one who knows where we are going.  This year, sister #2 brought us back to our 
hometown.  Since out parents have died, we haven’t really traveled home.   Eech year, someone is responsible for buying a gift.  Many times they are Sister T-Shirts!  I am always the Good sister!

Birch Tree still lives on
The town has changed, but she filled our weekend with nostalgia.  She even contacted the people who live in our old house.  We spent almost an hour touring the gardens and seeing the changes and the things that haven’t changed.  The couple living there have changed so many things, but they have cared for the home that we grew up in.  And they haven’t pulled the decals off that wall that my sister put up! 

We also visited out high school, attended a play at the community theater where we all performed and ate at some of our favorite restaurants.

And drank a little Prosecco.

So today I want to know---

Is there some place you would like to return if you had a chance?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

If You Had To Choose....

Amber Leigh Williams

My favorite lake-side summer activity,
curling up with a good book!
(a little preggers here in 2012...)
There’s a quote by P.J. O’Rourke: “Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” An interesting thought, to be sure. But how likely? For me, perhaps less depending on what one might define as “good stuff.” For me, the good stuff involves beaucoup romance. Historical romance, especially. Scottish Highlanders. English rakes. Throw in a cowboy or a pirate with a good, character-driven plot, a little smut (maybe a lot of smut) and I’m set!

This opens up an interesting, somewhat morbid perhaps, yet slightly philosophical discussion. What would you like the last book you read to be? Would it be something you’ve read before – an old favorite or a comfort read? Would it be a classic? Something cerebral and thought-provoking? Or would it be something you read purely for pleasure, entertainment, or escape – romance, mystery, horror, fantasy, sci-fi? Would it have notes in the margins? Would it have yellowed, wrinkled pages turned down in the corners marking your favorite bits?

It’s a painful question to answer. Not because I find the possibility of death more unsettling than it would normally be, but because how does one choose? It’s akin to the other dreaded book lover question: what’s your favorite book? It’s impossible to narrow down one answer. I love many different books, each for a different reason. The first book I connected with on an emotional level was The Diary of Anne Frank. Reading it in jr. high was like hearing the voice of a far-off friend inside my head. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont made me roar with laughter and shed more than a few tears because it made me feel so much less alone in all my writerly weirdness.

Gone with the Wind was riveting, written so beautiful and lovingly. Still to this day, however many times I read it, I still feel as if I can reach out and touch the fabric of the words and the colorful world they paint on the canvas of my imagination. Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon feels the same way but deeper because the connection I feel to the small Alabama town where the young hero grows up is identical to what I feel when I think of my own small Alabama hometown.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The Hours After by Gerda Weissman Klein & Kurt Klein. The Bronze Horseman trilogy by Paullina Simons. The In Death series by J.D. Robb. All gorgeous books that have become dog-eared and brittle by use and/or time as all great books should be.

It is indeed an impossible question to answer, partly because there are so many great books I know I’ve yet to read. And all the more reason we should read what we love, yes? Readers, what would you like the last book you read to be? And, of course, feel free to list more than one if you can’t choose….

Heartfelt thoughts go out to the troubled parts of the world – those touched by terrorism and tragedy in particular. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been going through my writer-girl blog to save some of the material before I begin the bittersweet process of closing down the long-time site. I found a book quote posted November 4, 2007 that is more relevant today than I could ever have thought imaginable….

Our children have never known a world without machines: dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, electric beaters, blenders, furnaces electric pumps, saws, computers--there are more machines than we can possibly count; beware, beware, lest they take us over....

We can't absorb it all. We know too much, too quickly, and one of the worst effects of this avalanche of technology is the loss of compassion....
We are lost unless we can recover compassion, without which we will never understand charity. We must find, once more, community, a sense of family, of belonging to each other....

Marshall McLuhan speaks of the earth as being a global village, and it is, but we have lost the sense of family which is an essential part of a village.
- from A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L’Engle

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Creativity under pressure

Mary Sullivan

I'm sure many of you know about NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month.

I've never been involved in the past, but decided to try it this year. It couldn't be for the purpose of writing an entire first draft, because I have too many other writing commitments at this time to commit to that. I did it because I need a new proposal for my next book and had nada. Zip. Absolutely nothing.

As hard as I tried, I was coming up dry.

So I looked at a couple of paragraphs in my next Super, which comes out in April, 2016, and really liked two characters who play a small role in the book.

I took one paragraph in particular and used it as the basis for the next book. So…I had a hero and a heroine. I knew their names and had some backstory for the heroine.

I committed to NaNoWriMo. On November 1st, I read that one paragraph and wrote down their names and then…just started to write. By the end of the first week, I had a few thousand words and at the end of the second weekend, I had a proposal. Once I finish line edits that are due this week, I will refine and flesh out what I've written and send it off. Voila! The beginning of a new story.

Having to produce under pressure somehow triggered the creative flow.

The weekend before last, my daughter woke up on Saturday morning looking forward to a party she planned to attend that evening. It wasn't until she checked the invitation to find out what time to go that she realized she had missed that it was a toga party!

Not wanting to ruin her one pair of good sheets, or buy more, she rummaged through her closet and found old ivory curtains she will probably never use again. She ran to a nearby store and bought gold lace and trim, sat down and made herself a Greek-themed dress, with a high waistline wrapped with gold cord. She left it un-hemmed, folded the too-wide straps in on themselves and, to the bodice that was too revealing, added gold lace that she held in place with duct tape. She was only half an hour late for the party and fit right in! The dress looked fabulous.

I call it the Scarlett O'Hara of togas, because she made it from her old curtains. She's going to store it just in case she ever goes to another toga party. I think she should wear it next Halloween with a curtain rod across her shoulders. Remember Carol Burnett's Gone With the Wind comedy sketch? It still makes me laugh.

What is the most creative thing you've ever had to pull together under pressure, be it a cake, a costume, a last-minute gift for someone, or…anything?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Question Of The Month: Your Favorite Holiday Romance

Hey, there, Superromance readers! We're headed into the busy-busy holiday season...so why not learn a little more about some favorite holiday romances from your favorite Super-Authors?

Here is our question of the month:

What is the favorite holiday book that you've written, and what makes it so special? 

Nan Dixon: A Savannah Christmas Wish.  It releases on December 1st. I love it because Bess, the heroine, is a landscape architect, but she handles all the holiday decorating for the B and B.  And they celebrate the holidays with lots of decorations.  It was so much fun to write the deck the halls scenes.  Especially because the hero, Daniel helps her .  Who would ever guess that hanging garlands and stringing lights could be so sexy? I imagine the B and B has poinsettias just like these.

Anna Sugden: I don’t have a specific holiday book, but Iwill be giving away free holiday-themed short stories on my website in the run-up to my February release, A Perfect Compromise. The stories are connected to my New Jersey Ice Cats series with Harlequin Superromance. The current give-aways are A Perfect Party (Christmas) and A Perfect Reunion (Thanksgiving themed) and next month’s is A Perfect Storm (Winter). It’s been fun writing these as it gives me a chance to give some of the secondary characters that readers love a HEA and write something holiday-themed romances, too.

Joanne Rock: Joanne Rock: I just wrote an NHL hero for Last Chance Christmas and it's my favorite because the story is set in fictional Cloud Spin, Vermont, and is steeped in the unique joys of a New England Christmas. From the high peaks for skiing to the backyard ponds for hockey, the winter sports mean good times and flushed faces. The charm of a historic town--complete with Wassail Weekend-- gives the characters a chance to really feel a connection to the place they left behind as teens. I guess, bottom line, Christmas time is perfect for a warmhearted coming home story!

Kristina Knight: I haven't written any holiday-themed books - at least I haven't yet. So I'm going to break the rules a little bit and tell you about a couple of holiday reads that I come back to every year. The first is The Present by Johanna Lindsey ~ it's part of her Mallory series and it's just ... yummy. the characters are rich, the main romance is an older couple, but all of the secondary characters are the couples from previous Mallory books - so it's like getting a peek into what happened to them after their books were written. I just love it. And then, last year, I read Cathryn Parry's Scotland for Christmas and...I am still thinking about it - I think it's going to get a re-read in a couple of weeks. It's got a little intrigue, a huge secret kept and such a sweet, sweet happily ever after...

Jeannie Watt: My only holiday book is one of my personal favorites--Maddie Inherits a Cowboy. I wrote it as a Christmas story, but the holiday schedule was full, so it ended up coming out in February. I think the title--which my lovely editor, Victoria, came up with--perfectly describes the story.

Jennifer Lohmann: I've only written one holiday book and it's a holiday that doesn't often show up in non-Inspirational romances: Easter. To be fair, A Promise for the Baby isn't specifically about Easter, but Karl's big understandings about his life and how he loves and wants to be loved come together with the Easter season. And the story is about rebirth, second chances, forgiveness, and a new life. I love the sense of hope in the book.

Amber Leigh Williams: I loved adding a bit of a seasonal twist to Married One Night, my October Superromance from last year. It's set in my real hometown, Fairhope, Alabama, where every year close to Thanksgiving there is a Lighting of the Trees festival in the heart of downtown to ring in the beginning of the holidays. It's always been magical to watch the town light up in one beautiful burst and also romantic, which is why it felt right to include it in Gerald and Olivia's story!

Tara Taylor Quinn: I have three Holiday books that particularly stand out for me. The first is The
Holiday Visitor, because it’s a really unusual story.  I challenged myself with this book.  The heroine owns and runs a successful Bed & Breakfast.  She’s in love with a pen pal.  And yet, alone and lonely, finds herself enjoying time spent with a recurring guest.  I loved writing this book.  And love thinking about it, too. The second is The Heart of Christmas and I just love the story.  It’s the sequel to Father: Unknown. The heroines in the two books are identical twins who’ve lost each other.  Both of their stories are heart wrenching, emotionally compelling, and in this book, answers are found for both of them. And the third is Merry Christmas Babies,  just because it’s such a fun book and great cover!!  A divorced woman wants to be a mother and decides to have herself artificially inseminated.  But she doesn’t want to risk an unknown donor for her baby so she asks her ex-husband to donate the sperm.  The result is four babies. And a plethora of emotional complications!

Kris Fletcher: A Family Come True was originally intended as a Christmas book, but when schedules had to be rearranged, it ended up as a June release. Which meant that this book - all about a reappearing father and a wannabe father and a long-delayed return to the family home - came out in the month in which the US and Canada (and possibly other places!) celebrates Father's Day. The timing worked out beautifully!

Pamela Hearon: My Superromance His Kind of Perfection spans several holidays.  It begins in early summer, shortly after Memorial Day.  Halloween and Thanksgiving play major roles in the plot, but two of my favorite scenes happen at Christmas and Valentine's Day.  The story comes full-circle, ending on Memorial Day!
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