Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Best Christmas Recipe Yet

Don't miss this recipe!
Here in the States it's not even Thanksgiving yet (I do have 2 more days to get my menu together, right?) but I've been celebrating Christmas over at my blog all month long with a different guest author each day. This is a special release month for me as it's the first time I've had two books out at once, and the first time I was asked to be part of an anthology. I wanted to celebrate this by reaching out to those who make it all possible--the Active Duty military and their families.
I am a Navy veteran myself and I know what it's like to be away from home for the holidays. I also know the pain and tough moments of Christmas with young children while Dad is far away, keeping us all safe.
With an idea sparked by my webmistress, I approached Harlequin for help. Would they be willing to donate books for me? The answer was an unequivocal "yes!" For every 20 new subscribers to my newsletter (aka the Geri Krotow Loyal Reader Club), Harlequin agreed to send 1 new book. They believed in this so much that they provided copies of my two November releases in advance, and I've sent hundreds of books to military and their families who will experience holiday separation at home and abroad. Belgium, Germany, Djibouti and the DC Capitol area all received books because of you--my wonderful readers.
There's still time to support the military with my book drive this month--all you need do is sign up for my newsletter here. That's it! And I'm getting ready to write and release a newsletter in December that will include my super-secret Christmas Cookie cut-out recipe, complete with a special frosting. Don't miss it!
Leave a comment and you will be entered to win a copy of NAVY CHRISTMAS along with a custom bookmark ornament!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Introducing: Nan Dixon!

Hey readers! We at the Super Authors blog are lucky enough to have new authors join us fairly often. It occurred to me that we should do something special when we have a new participant - something such as, oh, an introductory post. So here is the first of what I hope will be many introductions. Let's all welcome Nan aboard!

I’m so excited to be blogging with this group of wonderful writers.  My debut novel SOUTHERN COMFORTS releases one week from today.  **Insert eardrum breaking squeal** It’s an event I’ve been looking forward to since I left the world of finance and starting writing full-time in 2008. 

I’ve been asked a few questions – so here we go. 

What made you choose Supers?  I have to go back to 2011 and my second Golden Heart final, SOUTHERN COMFORTS.  
After querying agents, I had my first phone rejection and was thrilled.  (Writing is such a strange business).  I then had another phone rejection from my now agent, Laura Bradford.  She spent almost an hour talking to me about what genre I wanted to write.  She’d reviewed my 2010 Golden Heart finalist manuscript which was a single title and then SOUTHERN COMFORTS which was category.  Laura thought I had a category voice.  After sending Laura 4 manuscripts, she finally signed me on a single title book which we are still shopping.  While we waited, Laura had me do a quick cleanup of SOUTHERN COMFORTS.  She then pitched the book to the then SuperRomance senior editor, Wanda Ottewell.  Wanda passed the book to Megan Long who read the book over the weekend.  I would like to say they bought it immediately, but alas, I had 2 revision letters before that happened.  Those revisions got me my first SOLD.  

Who are some of your favorite authors? I don’t think there is enough space in the blog for all my favorite authors.  I read everyone.  Nora Roberts, JR Ward, Kristin Higgins, Susan Mallory, Susan Wiggins, Valerie Bowman, Tessa Dare, Amy Patrick, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Suzanne Brockmann just to name a few.  I read in the name of research!  And what’s wonderful is I’m getting to read so many new authors like Lizbeth Selvig, Erica O’Rouke, Erin Knightley, and Sandra Owens because they’ve been Golden Heart finalists with me.  I know I am forgetting wonderful authors and I apologize to them.

What was the biggest surprise for you about the whole publication process? Things happened so fast!  I got the call April 30th and had revisions by mid-May.  The line edits and copy edits were completed by mid-July.  I got the cover sometime in August and the books in October!  It made my head spin.  (My lovely editor, Megan Long, said I was on a tight timeline.)

Favorite holiday?  It has to be Christmas. 
My kids are scattered all over the country, so it is the one holiday we have a chance of getting together.  I put up two trees and lots of decorations and one daughter brags to her friends that the house vomits Christmas.  I have wonderful Christmas china that I pull out after Thanksgiving and it stays out until Valentine’s Day.  (I may be too lazy to pack it all away.)  And the plates are smaller—and I need portion control after the holidays. 

Where you would live if you could live anywhere on the planet? 

I think I would move between the ocean and the mountains.  I love walking along the shore and have a container full of shells from our travels.  Possibly, Costa Rica for the ocean.  My oldest son lived in Nosara for a while and the ocean was like bath water.  But I also love snow skiing so I would want to spend time in Big Sky, Montana.  (Those are my twins.) And then I would want to get back to my family’s lake cabin in Minnesota.  As soon as I drive into the woods, the stress rolls right off me.   I guess I don’t want to decide where to live!

You can find out more about me through--
Website: www.nandixon.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nandixonauthor
Twitter: @nandixonauthor
http://www.pinterest.com/NanDixonauthor/  (But I’m a newbie at this)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Question of the Month: the Get 'Er Done Edition

Writing can be a joy, but there are times - especially when facing down a  deadline or juggling multiple projects - when it can be less appealing than at other times.. This month, we asked the Super authors: What are some things you do to keep yourself motivated and make the actual process as enjoyable as possible at these times?

Kristina Knight:  I use the carrot method: whenever something is stressing me out or just making me dread my time at the keyboard, I use the reward of an afternoon spent reading or a mani/pedi or playing video games as an incentive to meet my daily goal or deadline. And then, when the project is over, I
splurge with my time: a girl's night with my friends or a date night with RadioMan. I'm a big believer in rewards!

Tara Taylor QuinnI find my joy in writing by thinking about my life, about me and what I want to do and be.  Every single time I’ve done this over the years I am filled with a sense that I have to write.  I am a writer.  It’s all I have ever wanted to be.  The feeling inside drives me to the book.  It keeps me sitting in front of the screen even when words aren’t immediately there.  Sometimes I’ve had to sit for hours a day a week at a time, but the words always come eventually.  I just have to present myself to the possibility and the joy finds me.

Sharon HartleyI keep track of the words I write every day, especially when on deadline.  After at least 500 words – no matter how dreadful they might be -- I know I’ve achieved my minimum goal.  Often this relaxes me and allows scenes to flow smoothly.   If for some reason those first words just aren’t coming, I head to my yoga mat.  I close my eyes, breathe deeply, move into a few down dogs and twists, and before long I’m eager to get back to my story.

 Nan Dixon: In my prior life, I was a financial executive.  I love spreadsheets!  They keep me on task, tell me when I'm getting off track, or when I'm spending my time on the wrong things.  I log in and out of my writing spreadsheet all day long.  There I keep track of my time writing.  I track drafting, revisions, promotions and Board work for my writing chapter.  I also create cool graphs when I need to see that I really am making progress.  Here was a graph for Southern Comforts Line Edits.

 Anna Sugden: Like Kristina, I’m a big believer in carrots … and not just to improve your eyesight or make your hair curl! I work in small bursts and give myself a small reward at the end of the successful burst. Whether it’s chocolate, playing a computer game, going on the internet or just going for a walk. I also like to end the writing session on a roundish number eg 500 words, 1000 words, 2000 words etc and will make myself push through to get the extra words needed so I can have a nice round number <g>.

I also track my work on a calendar, so I can see how many words I’ve done each day. Not just great to see how close you are to the end, but also to see how much you’ve achieved.

Geri Krotow: I bribe myself with a pedi, or massage (although for anyone who has to sit as much as we do for a living, that's more of a necessity), or new top or even new shoes. Sometimes a new workout shirt, or nice socks. A nice box of tea. As you can tell, I'll do anything to get myself to the keyboard! Just like exercise, the "getting there" is far worse than the "simply do it" part. Often I'll finish up the writing day and realize I don't really need that enticement, after all. 

Cathryn ParryI keep up my inspiration with prayer, meditation, gratitude lists, journaling and walks in nature. During "crunch times" I make an extra effort to take care of myself with small gifts like a bubble bath or play with the cat. It seems as if I'm always in "crunch times" these days!  :-)

Joanne Rock:  I try to take time off to connect with readers and other writers between books to keep me motivated. There is no greater reward for a writer than hearing from a reader who is really enjoying their work. So I seek out readers by going to book festivals or blogging. Sometimes we lose sight of what we create in the hard slog of creating it, but taking the time to enjoy the result--and remember why we write-- is important. Once deadlines start closing in, I motivate myself with rewards like lunch out with a friend after I write the next three chapters.... something tangible when a goal is met. With my current book, the reward is a big Christmas shopping outing with my family. I can't wait!

Kris Fletcher: This is so embarrassing to admit, but I recently learned of a fireplace app for my Kindle. Yes, it looks like a fire and comes complete with crackling and popping sounds. I prop it beside the computer, start 'er up, and feel ridiculously warmed and cheered every time I peek over at it.

Pamela Hearon:  As a former teacher, I'm a big proponent of rewards, even when it comes to myself.  I always set a writing goal for the day.  Sometimes it's just the number of words written and sometimes it's that plus x-number of pages edited or whatever else has to be done.  When I hit my goal for the day, I reward myself with a a food treat, a dip in the hot tub, I go for a pedicure, or sometimes my reward is simply reading time on someone else's book.  I learned from being a teacher that pushing too long on any one thing generally results in an inferior product.  I have to temper work with fun and relaxation to keep myself at optimum performance.

Claire McEwen:  I use music to keep me motivated when the writing gets difficult.  I create an  iTunes playlist for each book and fill it with music I think the characters would listen to, or just songs that remind me of the story.   When I get tired I blast it!  I also try to write in different places.  I have my favorite coffee shop where I go when I feel like the walls of my house are closing in.  And I have a stand-up desk at home, so I can alternate between writing standing up or sitting down.  And then there's always chocolate and coffee... they've helped me make it to many of my deadlines!

Mary Sullivan: To rejuvenate my mind and look for inspiration away from the computer, I take long walks. If I can afford the time to walk in one of the nature trails that run throughout the valleys and ravines of my city, then I'm really happy. If time is at a premium and I can't walk, though, I make popcorn! When deadlines loom, the stress makes me want to eat! Sooooo bad for the waistline.

Vicki EssexI believe my answer to this is the same answer I give to many things: whiskey.

And now, readers, tell us - how do YOU keep yourself going when the tasks become a challenge? 


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Scorched Earth Cleaning and Life Lessons

As readers of this blog or my followers on Twitter (@iferlohmann) know, I'll be divorced come December. The end of a marriage is heartbreaking, it's true, but I'm at the end of the state-mandated one-year separation period and am at a point in the process where I am building my own life. This means learning to enjoy my life as me and not as part of a couple. And the freedom is pretty great, especially when it comes to my house. The walls are painted the colors I want them to be, the art is art I want, and the house is as clean as I want it to be.*

Throughout this process, I've been mindful to evaluate how I'm feeling and what I'm thinking about my new life and my new future. One of the lessons I should know from writing novels is that as soon as you think you've got your shit together, you realize you've been pulling the wool over your own self and that realization comes in ways you couldn't predict.

In my case, it came as I was hunting for Halloween costumes.

My ex-husband is a pack rat. And my first sign that I was healing emotionally was that I started cleaning, really cleaning. I took boxes home from work and went through closests, the attic, dressers, etc, packing up whatever I hadn't used in years and taking it to the Goodwill. There's still stuff to be gotten rid of, but I realized I had to take a break. I thought I'd been thoughtful about each item that had gone into a box, but the week before Halloween, I learned I hadn't been as mindful as I thought.

I'd gotten rid of most of my Halloween costumes.

I work in a public library and most of us dress up for Halloween for an entire week before the actual holiday. I don't need one Halloween costume; I need seven. And I'd built up many costumes over the years. I was using those random pieces of clothing. But in what had been a scorched-earth cleaning frenzy, I threw away small but important pieces of my life. When I packed up a vest, I saw only a vest I don't wear, I didn't see a key piece in my cowgirl Halloween costume. And I did this for a number of items--never for the whole costume, but always for the piece that makes or breaks the costume.

Now, not only am I building my new life, but I'm also building my new costume collection.

I probably needed the reminder that I'm not as mindful as I'd like to think I am. Or perhaps the lesson here isn't to be more mindful, but to be less confident in how much thinking and evaluating every last details prevents me from doing something stupid. Overthinking doesn't stop me from occasionally being an idiot, it just means my idiocy comes as more of a surprise.

What about you? Have you gotten life lessons in unexpected places?

*Don't get me wrong, I think marriage to someone you love and respect, someone who really sees and understands you, is worth compromising paint colors and a vacuumed floor for. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be writing romance novels.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Robots & Writing Characters: Humanity Comes with Flaws

This weekend I went to see the film Christopher Nolan film Interstellar, starring Matthew McConaughey. The story takes place in the near future where a dying Earth plagued with crop-killing disease is slowly starving the human population to extinction, forcing McConaughey’s character to embark on a mission to find a new habitable planet in another solar system.

I won’t say much more about the film, but what I actually want to talk about is robots. Interstellar features several uniquely designed robots with artificial intelligence. These rectangular, monolithic entities stride around on transformable articulated legs, like giant dominoes, and can morph into other hinged, geometric shapes to complete certain tasks or make their way over rough terrain. Best of all, each one has its own name and customizable personality. Tars, the main robot companion on the interstellar mission, has a quirky gallows humor, and was, weirdly enough, one of the most human characters in the film.

In fiction, robots and androids have long been analogs to human life and creation. From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein monster to the droids of Star Wars to the too-human replicants of Blade Runner, we seek betterment, perfection or some leap of evolution in our creations.

While I appreciate the more human-type robots like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Data, or Alien’s creepily conniving Ash, I’m partial to the classic chrome-and-lights-type robots like the above mentioned Tars, WALL-E and R2-D2. For me, putting the best aspects of humanity into less human shells somehow gives these characters more depth; they know what they are capable of, know their limits, and they work within them to achieve heroic deeds.

Creating fictional characters is a bit like making a robot that way; to make them believable, they have to have flaws, limitations and rules that govern their behavior. They must also strive to better themselves, to reach a goal, to carry out their purpose. A robot or a character with no purpose, no specific job or function, is a sad one indeed. Just ask SpaceStation commander Chris Hadfield, who reassured a five-year-old that theVoyager space probe wouldn’t be sad or lonely exploring the farthest reaches ofspace.

Who are your favorite robot characters? Who are your least favorite? Comment below!

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