Monday, April 20, 2015

I Got To Move It, Move It

Kris Fletcher

I've written in the past about my preference to stand, rather than sit, while I'm at the computer. Standing to write is still my preference - after all, it's a lot harder to fall asleep over the keyboard if I'm upright - but there are times when my legs and feet want a break. Also, as good as standing is, it doesn't add a lot of movement to my day. I still ended a writing session feeling slightly stiff and achy from holding one position for a long time.

Sitting at the desk or in a cozy chair appealed, but I know myself. Five minutes in a snuggly chair and I would be either nodding off or feeling like it was break time and reaching for something good to read. (Preferably while eating something chocolate.)

I had long thought about getting a treadmill desk, but seriously, those things are expensive. (A worthy investment, for sure, but still a decent chunk of change.) Besides, what I wanted was something that gave me a change of position.

The answer came not long before my birthday, when a friend posted a link to an Amazon deal on a bike desk. I clicked on the link, read the reviews, hemmed and hawed for a couple of minutes, and then told the husband that he was about to give me an awesome gift for my birthday.

I'm so glad I did it. No, I haven't lost (any) weight or built up any (significant) endurance or noticed any huge differences in my life, but then, I wasn't expecting thoseto happen. But you know what I did discover?

I think better when I'm moving.

I don't believe I'm a true kinesthetic learner, but I've definitely had more brainstorms while on the bike (or walking, or doing the dishes) than while sitting in a chair. Maybe movement keeps enough of my brain occupied that I don't have enough cells left to over-analyze everything, which is my usual pattern. Maybe it soothes me in some way. Maybe it's activating more neural pathways and building synapses and all that good-sounding jazz. I don't know, and I'm not going to jinx anything by digging too deep.

Here's what I know:
  • the bike desk is fun
  • it's good for me
  • it helps me think.

Add in the fact that it looks totally badass in my office, and folks, we have ourselves a winner.

Am I the only one who needs to move to think? Share your strategies in the comments. My family will assure you that I need all the help I can get!

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Modern Day Horse Story

by Amber Leigh Williams

Hubby and the horse in the corral....
My husband and I took a road trip with his brother and sister-in-law and two of their children in July 2012. It was a rescue mission. My in-laws are horse owners. Before our trip, they had three horses and room for more. When they heard of a wild, abandoned horse on a large property outside of the busy city of Mobile, they decided to help.
The story of the horse unfortunately has a lot to do with the economic downturn from last decade. A family built a beautiful mansion in the woods outside Mobile. It’s removed from the city and sits on many acres. The family, however, couldn’t afford the house and were forced to give it up to foreclosure. Instead of finding their horses loving and caring homes, they left them to roam wild on the land that now belonged to the bank. It’s rumored that one of the horses died because by the time my brother- and sister-in-law got wind of it, there was only one horse on the property. The upside to this tragic story is that the bank was concerned for the remaining horse’s welfare, so much so that they offered it free of charge to whoever could catch it.

Several people tried and failed. It seemed that the abandoned filly was a bit feisty. One Saturday, my brother- and sister-in-law traveled with a horse trailer across the bay to see if they could rescue the poor animal. They spent the better part of the day trying but couldn’t quite get the horse corralled. That night my brother-in-law called my husband, asking for his help. My husband agreed and the next day I tagged along for the ride.

When we pulled through the gate onto the property, we spotted the horse lingering around the house. She shied at our approach even when my sister-in-law got out of the truck and tried walking to her with a bucket of feed. We parked the truck and horse trailer so that it would be ready if and when we needed it. I was five months pregnant at the time so I sat with my in-law’s youngest child from a safe distance on the porch. Together, we watched as the horse ran into the woods and the others did their best to catch her. It was a hot day, as most are on the Gulf Coast in July. Thankfully, the bank had left the back door to the house open so we could take advantage of the air conditioning and restrooms if we needed to. My niece and I watched as the horse ran from the woods and into the fenced-in pasture where it was once stabled. The others hurried to build a corral with portable fencing we had brought in the truck at the entrance to the pasture. It took them less than an hour after building the corral for them to corner her inside. The four of them were already exhausted from running across the large property, but now that they had the horse in the corral they were so close to their goal of getting her safely into the horse trailer that they couldn’t stop.

Brother-in-law and hubby in the corral with the horse....
It was now clear to everyone that the horse hadn’t had any human contact for some time. Her diet was poor and she was dirty. The fact that she was small took everyone by surprise. My sister-in-law managed to get a look at her teeth when the horse took a treat from her hand. They were tiny, meaning she wasn’t more than two years old. Still, she didn’t make it easy for my husband and his brother to get her into the horse trailer. By the time they finally did so, their clothes were soaked clean through and everyone was in desperate need of some cold beverages.

The ride back to our side of the bay was a long one, but we made it safely out of Mobile and soon brought the horse to her new home. She shied away from the other horses at first, but by the time my husband and I visited a few weeks later, she seemed to be warming up to her new abode, the family, and their animals. She had started gaining weight and seemed to love the shade of the front pasture. While we were there visiting, she even went so far as to let me pet her face. When the veterinarian came out to inspect her shortly after her arrival, he informed my in-laws that she was barely a year old. They decided to name her Bella and cared for her for several years before giving her to another caring family.

The horse with her new family....
I love a good redemption story, especially those that involve animals. Further, I love those who rescue animals in need without question. It’s why including the story about hero Gerald Leighton and the stray dog in my second Harlequin Superromance novel, Married One Night, was so important to me. This was my way of recognizing everyday heroes like my in-laws and my husband who don’t hesitate to take action when an animal needs help or a loving home.

This month I’m celebrating the book birthday of my Harlequin Superromance debut, A Place With Briar! Happy birthday to my hero and heroine, Cole & Briar! Here’s a little after-HEA slice of life from their wedding day to celebrate….

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Read Local

Before I started in on my post, I wanted to share some news. Winning Ruby Heart won the 2015 RT Magazine Reviewer's Pick for Superromance! The fact that there are 4 Supers that are RITA finalists shows just how awesome Superromance is and I'm so pleased RT Magazine recognized Ruby Heart. Thank you, everyone, who has read Ruby Heart and recommended it to your friends.

Now, onto the rest of the post. . .

I've mentioned before that Durham, North Carolina is awesome and that I love my job at the library. There are times when being an author and being a librarian come together and I get to do something amazing. Read Local is one of those times.

Logo Read Local Book Festival
Read Local is the brainchild of Elizabeth Turnbull of LightMessages Publishing. Durham, like many areas of the country, is experiencing a "support local" movement. People are eating a locally owned restaurants, shopping at the farmers market, and buying their books at local bookshops. Elizabeth's idea was to have a festival supporting the local literary arts and to have the festival be a benefit for the library.

This, folks, is a packed weekend! Seriously, check out the schedule. Even if you don't live in Durham (and most of you don't), you'll be amazed at the kind of events a group can put together. There are several "dine with authors" events, including one I'll be at. There are panels on writing about sex, writing about music, writing about home, writing for social change, and writing for young readers. We have a stage where people will be reading passages from local author's books. And there's a "writers in the ring" event where writers will (gasp!) be given a prompt and WRITE A PASSAGE LIVE ON THE STAGE.

I'm so incredibly proud of this event. I've been involved since the beginning and it's gone beyond anything I ever imagined.

If you live in or near North Carolina (or know people who do), forward this information to them. Maybe they can come! The more the merrier.

If you don't live in my area, I want to know:

Do you have a literary festival in your area? What's it like?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Question of the Month: Do You Karaoke?

Here we are, back with another Question of the Month: Here in the US, the 4th week of April is National Karaoke Week. We want to know: if you *had* to karaoke, what song would
you choose and why?

Janet Nye: Do I Karaoke? Has torture become legal? I love to sing in my car. Alone. With the windows up. Where I can harm no one.

Dana Nussio: I’ve only done Karaoke a few times, but I have a standby song: “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee” from Grease. I might be a nervous public singer, but I can affect a mean Sandra Dee a la Stockard Channing.

I performed it last summer when I went out with several cousins after our family reunion. For the record, I’m from a singing family, with cousins who are professional Bluegrass Gospel singers and one who is a country back-up singer and  performed at the Grand Ole Opry. (Yes, she was in the group that night we went out. It’s always good to have a ringer with you at Karaoke.) Together, all of us also performed “Love Shack” by B-52s, and that was a blast.

Jeannie Watt: *shudder*

Joanne Rock: If I had to karaoke? I'd pass out earplugs like they do at racing events since I would sing a song I'm wildly ill-equipped to sing. Etta James' At Last, maybe. Or Aretha Franklin's I Say a Little Prayer. Barring the ear plugs and I needed a more conservative choice? One of my favorites is Emmy Lou Harris's Two More Bottles of Wine.

Kristina Knight: I haven't karaoke'd in forever! But RadioMan and I actually both took a turn at the mic at our bachelor/bachelorette party ~ he and his oh-so-inebriated buddies did a *cough* interesting *cough* version of Kenny & Dolly's Islands in the Stream ... my friends and I did an incredibly off-key version of Stop in the Name of Love. I think we may have scared everyone not part of our party out of the bar that night...

Pamela Hearon: I karaoke--but only in my head!  I sing along (really loudly!) to the radio when I'm alone in my car, traveling down the highway.  But in front of a group?  Never--unless a great deal of alcohol was involved.  Should it ever happen anywhere except in my daydreams, my songs of choice would be He's Not You by Patsy Cline or I Only Want to Be With You by Dusty Springfield.

Sharon Hartley: Never have.  Never will.  I worry  too much about the mental health of any potentially normal human beings in the audience.

Lisa Marie Perry: Do I karaoke? Yes, yes, yes! I don't claim to have the strongest voice in town, but I'm an enthusiastic performer. My go-to songs are "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar, "I Could Fall in Love" by Selena and my absolute favorite ... "Lips of an Angel" by Hinder! Take a look at the video to see why I love performing this so:

Kris Fletcher: I have never done karaoke, but since I am the world's biggest ham and have no problem making a public fool of myself, I would love to try sometime. As for what I would (attempt to) sing: Oh, no question. Paradise By The Dashboard Light. Except I would be singing the guy's part. Because it ROCKS.

Nan Dixon: I have done Karaoke and I am a trained singer/actress - so I go for the heart jerking songs.
Wind Beneath My Wings
I Will Always Love You  (Lots of alcohol for this one)
Or if they have Broadway Musicals - you name it!!

Angel Smits: There are few songs that I enjoy murdering, but if Keith Urban is singing…I’ll join in. Other than that?  For your own protection, don’t make any requests.

Tara Taylor Quinn: I used to sing in choirs – even one that traveled and performed as part of a theater production – I did solos.  But my singer father died, I hyperventilated next time I was on stage, and haven’t attempted to sing in public since.  I’ve never even been present for someone else doing karaoke! But since the question asked if…I have no idea if they are karaoke songs, but I’d belt out either “I Am Woman.” Or “I Will Survive.”

Jennifer Lohmann: I haven't done karaoke in years! I've got a terrible singing voice and couldn't carry a tune with a dump truck and help, but I love to belt it out. Of course, that's better done at home, where only the cats and dog can here me.

I think the last time I did karaoke, it was Garth Brooks "Friends in Low Places." But the year I lived in China, I did karaoke on a regular basis; it was the thing you did at parties and celebrations. Of course, that was almost fifteen years ago and the options for songs in English were limited to "Country Roads" by John Denver and "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion. I always chose "Country Roads." :-)

Vicki Essex: I love karaoke...after a couple of whiskeys. And if there's one thing I can't abide by, it's a silent karaoke room. That's why I'll usually warm up with a few 90s pop hits--Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, maybe some Britney Spears--before launching into some old school classics like Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and Billy Joel's "Piano Man". Once the vocal chords have warmed up, I'll do Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and, if I feel like blowing my voice in one go, I'll try the Glee version of "Don't Rain on My Parade." And then more whiskey.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Promotion…and the cost to the author

Mary Sullivan

I haven't posted to the blog in a long time and find I've missed being here. Last fall was crazy busy with writing my next book, creating and presenting my first workshop, attending book fairs, having a busy personal life…and promoting my October Superromance. I did a LOT of promotion. It was all great stuff, but left me tired. I guess that puts it mildly.

After meeting my December 15th deadline on my Super, I was supposed to send out my first newsletter with a free short story included, before Christmas, but found I had burned out. The story wouldn't come. The first chapter was awful and I wouldn't send out work I didn't like.

I've been struggling all winter with how to get this short story finished—after the disaster of the first chapter, it became a burden and I was frozen—even while meeting other deadlines and writing the next Super. I came up with a viable solution I really like. I need to have fun with it.

The biggest responsibility, besides the writing, that gobbles up an author's writing time at an alarming pace is promotion. Each and every book requires so much of it. I was developing the newsletter and my short story as a means of promotion…and that was the problem. I had put too much pressure on myself to promote.

Now? I want to connect with readers in a different way because I thrive on camaraderie, friendship and dialogue. On Saturday, I attended my local RWA chapter's latest workshop, which was excellent and at which this old dog learned fabulous new tricks, but the absolute best part of the day was touching bases with people I truly enjoy. So much warmth in that room. I made connections with new members, too, and came home filled with the joy of genuine, warm contact.

You know all of those funny memes and jokes that people share on Facebook and Twitter and through email every day? They brighten my day. They make me laugh. They give me energy. From the person sending them I get a little, "Hi, I'm here. Are you here? This is for you. Smile today,"and I love the connection made.

I want to have more dialogue with readers. My next Superromance won't come out until September, so this isn't about promotion for that book. This is about having fun.

So…in my effort to make a connection and to just have a good time writing this story, I've come up with this scheme…after changing the way I've been looking at this problem, I've managed to write a new first chapter I like—a lot—with a cliffhanger for an ending. Where will the story go next? Where will Chapter Two begin? Wherever the reader wants it to! 

I'm going to send out only Chapter One in my newsletter with a multiple choice question for the reader. Where do you want it to go next? After I receive reader responses, I will take the most popular choice, or even any suggestion from a reader that intrigues me (!), and will then put on my creative cap and write the second chapter. I'll send that out a week or two later with another multiple choice question at the end of the chapter…and so on until I finish the story.

Just the thought of working in this way has given me renewed energy for this story. I want to hear what readers have to say! How creative do you feel?

If you would like to join me in this adventure, please go to my website, click where it says NEWSLETTER SIGNUP and register to receive my newsletter. After a few minor edits, and figuring out how to send out the newsletter (I sincerely hope MailChimp is foolproof, because I'm all thumbs where technology is concerned, LOL!), I will send it along by the end of April.

I look forward to starting a dialogue.

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