Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Journaling in the New Year

by Joanne Rock

I gave away a pretty journal on my author Facebook page last week and asked readers if they had ever journaled before. The comments were interesting and got me thinking about my own experiences with journal writing.

I can’t imagine what prompted me to start writing in my first diary when I was in third grade, but I do remember my very messily written entry about a sleepover at a friend’s house. I drew a diagram of where my bed was in relation to the rest of the room, starting a trend that I continued well into high school for providing visual aids. Spatial relationships must have been important to me that I felt compelled to draw them. Fast forward five years and there is a diagram of who sat at what desk in an eighth grade class so readers could better appreciate the juicy rumors overheard and the significance of a cute boy’s “look” my way.

Some years I wrote less entries and some years there were more. When I was at my most committed to journaling, there were lots of details about everyday things. Mostly though, those old diary entries were full of excess passion and excitability. There are exclamation points galore. I think that vehemence of emotion reveals an important function of diary writing—an emotional outlet.

On my Facebook page last week, many of the comments referenced this for a reason to journal. To help stay focused on a goal, or to let off steam, or to better understand messy emotions. Then again, a diary can be just that—a safe spot to vent and keep those messy emotions so they don’t trip us up in our relationships with friends and family. That caught my attention as I hadn’t ever employed a diary for that specific purpose.

But how cool would it be if I skipped an argument with my husband in real life because I’d sufficiently vented on paper? Or if I was able to limit the time spent in tears after a hurtful life event because I had found some consolation from writing out my sadness? It’s almost laughable that—as a writer—I would neglect to employ this powerful tool in my own life. Or, at least, I neglected to use
the tool for such a valuable reason.

So I am still giving away that pretty journal to a winner. But I’m going back to the store next week to buy a nice, shiny new one for me. It’s been too long since I had a good chat with a diary, and no matter the cool, calm and collected writerly exterior I show to the world, I’m still that girl who is full of exclamation points inside. I’m anxious to chat with her again J.

What about you? Have you ever tried keeping a journal or diary? If you had a pretty book like one of the above, what would you write in those blank pages? Chat with me this week on the blog and I'll give one random commenter the prize pictured, including book #4 in my Heartache, TN series, Whispers Under a Southern Sky.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Back To The Way We Were

Kris Fletcher

We were lucky enough to have two of our three sons home for Christmas this year, our first in our new house. Some things were very different as we faced questions that had never been an issue before, like - where do you hang stockings when you don't have a fireplace? (Our answer: in the windows.) Where do you put the tree in a house just big enough for the furniture you have? Heck, where do you put the extra kids in a house just big enough for four people and two cats?

Some things, of course, remained the same: Christmas brunch had the usual menu, there was a family trivia game while opening gifts, and yes, I managed to lose two presents before they made it under the tree. (Still haven't found them.)

But my favorite moment of things staying the same happened when my boys took their sisters sledding down the hill that goes right beside the house. I happened to look out the window in time to see my sons wrestling in a snow pile, rolling over each other as they tried to stuff snow down each others backs, or something similarly mature. I stood and watched, and suddenly, they saw me. And I swear, at the same moment, these two adult males - one of whom is married - both saw me standing there and immediately froze, their faces caught in that unmistakable expression that says, Oh, crap! MOM!

It was probably my favorite moment of the entire holidays.

That's the thing about families, isn't it? No matter how old we are or who we are in our everyday lives, when we get back together with our siblings and parents, we fall back into those old patterns. Those ingrained behaviors and habits are hard to change.

It's one of the reasons I love writing about families. Take a bunch of independent, successful adults, toss them in some kind of problem that makes them interact with their parents and siblings, add in the world's worst-timed romance, and voila. Instant trouble.

Of course, it's not just families that bring out our old  behaviors and habits, as any New Year resolution-maker can attest. In my upcoming Superromance, Picket Fence Surprise (yes, it's the one that required the last minute title change), that's one of the big issues between my couple. They both made some serious mistakes in their pasts, ones that reached beyond themselves and caused a lot of hurt to those they love. They're both in much better places now. Because they're both reinventing themselves, they can understand the other in ways no one else could - but they are also well aware of how easy it would be to slip back into those old patterns ...

 Lucky for all of us, it is possible to make those changes. Though honestly, I hope my kids will always act like kids when they're together.

And I hope I can always put the fear of God into them with one well-timed look.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Research: Putting Reality in Fiction - Dana Nussio

Some writers love researching for a new book almost as much as they enjoy writing the story. Others consider research about as fun as a deep cleaning at the dentist's office. I fit more closely to the first group than the second. Though my searches might not rise to the level of a historical  romance writer looking into Regency-period dresses, I have spent many hours online, in libraries and in face-to-face interviews, researching everything from child-custody law and religious cults to hospice care and cake decorating.

But my favorite research project of all has been for my stories about heroic police characters, particularly those in True Blue series. Getting tasered (by choice) was only part of the fun. More about that later...

Maybe it comes from my background as a former newspaper reporter, but it's really important to me to get the facts right. To put as much reality as I can into realistic fiction. I also love talking to people about their lives, getting to see their world up close and sometimes even going along for the ride. In the case of my research to build strong police characters, that meant going on ride alongs in patrol cars. Over the years, I have taken passenger-seat rides with five police officers who worked in three different Michigan police agencies. (And only once was I forced to have the officer stop for Dramamine after a particularly fast and swervy ride.) It was great spending hours with these real-life heroes and learning about the work they do and the risks they take every day to protect the public.

I hope I have conveyed some of their valor in my police characters, including Michigan State Trooper Shane Warner, the hero in my March Superromance release, FALLING FOR THE COP. In the story, Shane is recovering from a gunshot wound he receives while helping a domestic violence victim. I can easily picture any of the officers I met during my research making sacrifices just like Shane does in the story.

Yes, ride alongs have provided great  information to help with my books, but did I mention that I love research? I wanted to do more. When I learned about the Lakes Area (Michigan) Citizens' Police Academy, a free 10-week course offered to area residents, I thought I'd died and gone to geek heaven. There was so much to learn whether I ever used it in a book or not. We had speakers on the canine unit, the bomb squad and crime scene investigation. We visited the county medical examiner's office and learned that you can't really solve the questions of a suspicious or sudden death during a one-hour TV episode.

I loved it all, but I have to admit that my favorite part of the academy was having the opportunity to experience a few things for myself. I sat in the backseat of a patrol car (I swear it was the only time). I stood inside a holding cell next to a criminal court room. I even climbed into the driver's seat of a fire engine. At the police shooting range, I had instruction and the chance to fire both a Glock and a Sig Sauer. We even had the opportunity to use the police simulator, learning just how difficult it is to make split-second decisions about the use of deadly force.

And, yes, I had my date with the Taser. They took volunteers, and after a couple of tough guys and a young woman hoping to enter the police academy took their turns, the officer asked if anyone else wanted to try it. My hand shot up. As nervous as I was, I knew I would be sorrier if  I didn't take the chance while I had it. The officers told me it wasn't even a "full ride," just a touch of the Taser to my arm. But my legs dropped out from beneath me just the same, and, oh man, it hurt. As I sat down afterward and tried to write with a hand that didn't seem to be receiving messages from my brain, I came to one conclusion: I would do almost anything for my readers.

So it's back to research again. This time on teen suicide, divorce during incarceration and identity theft. I know, I write about some heavy stuff. No, I don't plan to experience any of these things for myself this time. I did say I would do almost anything, right? I'll continue to searching for these answers, anyway, and I really want to get the details right. I write fictional heroes, but the people they represent are the real thing.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

THE OTHER TWIN and Dyslexia

I've been having a blast celebrating the release of THE OTHER TWIN. What a lovely way to bring in the new year.

If you are looking to buy the book, the easiest way is to click on the Buy link of your favorite retailer on my website. Click HERE.

Nathan Forester has dyslexia. He's always believed he was flawed because of his disability. Researching this learning disability was fascinating. I have to say I am amazed at what some poeple have to overcome to learn how to read.

But when I sat on a plane next to a young man who told me about his experiences living with his disability, our conversation made it real. This bright young man had always thought he was slow, stupid, until he was finally diagnosed with dyslexia. He did have trouble remembering life-time friends and reading street signs or following directions. Words and numbers would get scrambled--but not all the time. He thinks in 3-dimensions and I can't fathom what that would be like. But he'd mastered his disability and was programming for a major auto manufacturing. I hope I captured the frustration and the triumph in Nathan.

It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards. Lewis Carroll

I have a Giveaway going this week inspired by the surprise Nathan gets when a four-year-old daughter is dropped on him.

What's the best surprise you've ever had in your life? (You may have to click again after you click on the leave a Blog Post arrow.)  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 2, 2017

A New Year and Many New Books (Tara Taylor Quinn)

Happy New Year, Everyone! I'm starting off the year with a brand new release!


The Cowboy's Twins is my last novel with Harlequin Heartwarming and I'm so happy to be able to share this story with you here. I love the cover. I love the twins. They entertained me from page one! And inside...you meet a woman that is a lot like me in some ways. She needs her career as much as she needs breath. And she needs love, too, to thrive and remain creative. Who she is makes it hard for her to give to a relationship what it needs. She can't change that. She's got some incredibly difficult and painful decisions to make. And in walks a cowboy with some significant secrets. Thank goodness for the twins. As children so often due, they innocently put life into perspective. I am indebted to them.

I'm also excited to start this new year with a long-standing contract with Superromance!! I'll be bringing you four new Super titles this year with another four next year!!! Three of the books are written - the rest are waiting for me to get my fingers back to the keyboard.

I face the new year with a full and grateful heart. With the knowledge that all of you are out there. If there is anything I can do to make your reading experience more enjoyable, more complete, fuller, please let me know! If there's anything you'd like to see, I'll be here checking in and am sincerely open to your desires!

In the meantime, for a chance to win an eCopy of the first two books in the Family Secrets series (my final Heartwarming series and the prequels to The Cowboy's Twins) leave a comment below! (A bit of housekeeping - I am currently on an 8 stop cross country road trip so the winner will be chosen early next week!)

I wish you all a year filled with hope!
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