Monday, July 25, 2016

Share Your Summer Favorites

Okay, so I know August is just around the summer and soon these long, hot days of summer will draw to a close. But I'm holding on to these rays of sunshine - even though the temperature gauge reads 90+ (ewwwwwwww) - with a vengence this year. Holding. On. Seriously! We had a fairly easy winter (only 1 snow day - crazy!), and I'm fairly certain that means winter is going to come early and come hard once December rolls around. Even in 90+ degree heat, I'm not ready for snowboots or plowing or layering...

So, without further ado, here are three of my summer must-haves (and, yes, I'll be wearing them/carrying them around until the first snowflakes fall):

First, Nike Comfort Bed flip-flops. I love them because the bottom is similar to a tennis shoe (although much lighter) so you can actually walk and not worry about a sharp object impaling you if you step on it. Also, the color selection. This year mine are black and hot-pink. In years past I've chosen brown/peach, electric blue/yellow...depends on my mood. There is a pair at the mall now that is a white/coral/electric blue combo. I'm thinking about buying early for next summer!

Second, Jordan Essentials lotion bar. It's perfect for cracked/chapped heels and hands. I buy vanilla because I don't like heavy scents in the summer time. I rub the bar over my heels/hands whenever they feel a bit rough and - poof! - all better!

Third, a great scented candle. I picked up a couple of red velvet cake and jelly bean scented candles at Yankee Candle in April. They're all burned down practically to the bottom. Which is good, because I'll do a winter stock-up in a couple weeks. I burn candles year round, but in the summer the scents have to be light and airy. These were perfect!

Okay, your turn: what are a couple of your summer must-haves?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer Fetes and Fairs

Greetings from sunny, hot (yes, you read that right!) Cambridge! At the moment, England is in the grip of a heatwave, with temperatures soaring into the high 80's. To borrow a phrase from The Sun newspaper years ago - Phew, what a scorcher!

I know those of you in the warmer states and Down Under are laughing at what we call hot, but you have to remember that we don't have air conditioning. We're simply not set up for very hot (or very cold, for that matter) weather. Every year, during the heat-wave, we talk about getting a ceiling fan in our bedroom for the three or four days of heat ... by then, of course, the fans have sold out and when we're back to our usual, more temperate weather, we wonder if it's worth it.

The good news about the hot weather is that it's been perfect for our village fete. It's called the Feast and is a week-long festival of music, arts and entertainment, culminating in a traditional fair on the Sunday. Plenty of stalls and fun activities for all the family, and it raises money to be shared out amongst local charities, groups and organisations. Over the past decade, the Feast has given away over £250,000!

This year, our local W.I. (Women's Institute), of which I'm a member, served tea and cakes in the main refreshments' tent. Many of the villagers drop off home-baked cakes and cookies for us to serve - something regular visitors know, so they always stop by for a delicious treat. My cupcakes disappeared very quickly, which was encouraging. And the gorgeous sunny weather meant that everyone was in a happy mood.

It was hard work - we didn't stop from the moment the stall opened until we'd sold that last slice of cake! But we all had a blast.

Does your village or town have a fete or fair? Have you ever got involved with any of the stalls?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Authors As Characters

Kris Fletcher

As Joanne Rock mentioned in her excellent post, last week was the annual Romance Writers of America conference in San Diego. As always, it was a wonderful week filled with workshops and parties, learning and camaraderie.

It was also, I realize, the chance for our characters to exact their revenge on us.

Let me explain. Our job as authors is to take our characters - often perfectly lovely people muddling on as best as they can in lives they think are good, if not always fulfilling - and shove them into situations that are uncomfortable at best, terrifying at worst. We take these people and make them confront their deepest fears. Make them do the one thing they always swore they would never do. Make them find the giddy depths of love and then yank it away from them, just to make sure they truly prove that they are worthy of it. This would all seem incredibly sadistic if not for the fact that in the end, we reward them with the ultimate prize - a secure and loving relationship, one filled with shared laughter and hot sex and the delicious thrill of knowing that out of the billions of people on this planet, they managed to find the one other person who truly understands them.

Conference is a lot like that. (Minus the hot sex, of course, at least for most of us. Unless there's things happening that I've never heard about.) As Joanne pointed out, writing is a very isolating, often lonely occupation. While that can be difficult at times, it's often part of the appeal. Many writers are introverts. We like people. We just don't do well around a lot of them for an extended time. We like staying home with our cats and our yoga pants, making up worlds where we get to call the shots. We know this world. It isn't always the most thrilling, but it's safe and secure and ours.

Then comes conference. We have to leave home. We have to put on makeup and dress professionally. We have to be with LOTS of other people all the time, even in the bathroom (the conference hotel was excellent but even so, there are always lines for the ladies rooms between workshops). We have to talk to people - in lines, at workshops, at meals.  We have to venture out into new cities and master new transportation. (My roommate and I had our first Uber experience this year. We were so giddy over figuring it out that we were bragging to people in the elevator.) And let's not forget that all of this costs a big chunk of change.

Is it any wonder that our characters watch this and rub their hands together gleefully while muttering stuff about turnabout being fair play?

But just as in our stories, we get a payoff. Just as for our story people, our reward for yanking ourselves out of our comfort zone and venturing into strange new worlds is ... relationships. Connections. Shared laughter. Shared knowledge. Planning for joint ventures. Building support systems. And the thrill of realizing that we have found the place where not one, but dozens or even hundreds of people really and truly understand us.

Conference can be an intimidating place at times, but it leads us to a new, richer, more fulfilling writer life. That's a mighty fine payoff. Even without the hot sex.

Super Authors bonding at the Harlequin party: brand new Super author Heatherly Bell, Pamela Hearon, Lisa Dyson, Sharon Hartley, Jeannie Watt, Senior Editor Victoria Curran, Janet Lee Nye, Joanne Rock (in back) Nan Dixon (in front), Kris Fletcher.

So, readers, my question to you is this: where is the place or situation that led you through tests but brought you new relationships?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Question of the Month: What Is Your Favorite Trope?

The Romance Writers of America National Conference is going on this week in San Diego, and that has us thinking: What is your favorite romance trope?

Janet Lee Nye: My favorite trope? Not sure I have one. I know I write extreme opposites. I like to put two people who should run far away from each other together and see if I can get them to fall in love. In reading, again, not so much a trope, but I like to read about every day people, not billionaires and jet-setters.

Kris Fletcher: Funny thing - I have two favorites, and they're both sides of the same coin! I adore friend to lover stories. Something about watching two people learn to see each other in a whole new light just makes me melt. But at the same time, I get a huge kick out of secret identity stories. The torture as they fall in love and at least one of them knows it's all a sham ... I guess that appeals to my slightly twisted side.

Tara Taylor Quinn: I love the secret baby stories! They get me every time…

Kristina Knight: There are so many good ones!! Secret babies are always fun, and so are friends to lovers, and workplace romances...but I think one of my favorites is the marriage of convenience - there is something about two people who think they're too smart to fall in love actually fall!

Vicki Essex: I find that a well-executed story can turn even my most loathed trope into a fantastic read. But my favorite trope is a historical marriage of convenience to a rakehell. What a great word for an utterly unmarryable man. Brings to mind my current crush, Tom Ellis, aka Lucifer Morningstar of TV's Lucifer.

Jennifer Lohmann: I LOVE bad boy heroes/good girl heroines. I don't think I could write one, sadly.

Pamela Hearon: I love friends to lovers and especially enemies to friends to lovers. If he's her older brother's best friend and she was the twerpy baby sister who hated him, even better!

Sharon Hartley: I love reunion stories.  A couple -- of any age -- who meet years later after a failed romance in the past.

Cathryn Parry: As a reader and writer, I love a mix of romance tropes as well as a mix of settings. Variety is my spice in life.

Amber Leigh Williams: The marriage of convenience set-up always gets me as a reader. I snatch those babies up like they're on sale, which they often are not. I have no idea why but for me this trope, particularly in historical novels like Outlander, is my catnip. (Watch out for the flying kitty.)

Claire McEwen: My last three books have been variations on the reunion trope, so I must have a thing for reunions!  In fact, now that I think of it, the fourth book in my Sierra Legacy series has a bit of a reunion as well.  But I love reading and writing other tropes.  One of my favorites is when the hero and heroine have to work together. I like all that tension and conflict of work vs. romance. And I love the best-friends-with-the-heroine's-brother trope. It has so much potential for sweetness, and it usually also involves some sort of friends-to-lovers evolution.

Joanne Rock: My favorite trope is the one that a writer turns on its head. I am always drawn in by the tried and true --coming home story, reunion, matchmakers, snowbound--when an author does something really different with it. The coming home story is set on a boat or a remote island. The matchmaker story is a pair of ten year olds scheming to get a wife for dad. The snowbound story is a couple trapped in a cabin because of an encroaching fire on a nearby mountain. I guess I like the comfort of that familiar story line combined with the thrill of a skilled writer who does something special to make me see the story in a new way.

Anna Sugden: I love second chance at love and reunion stories. I also love conflict at work romances. My favourite is best friends to lovers – probably because that’s my own HEA! Like Joanne, I love to be surprised by a twist on an old favourite. Oh and I love Cinderella stories (and not just because of the shoes ;) … okay maybe because of the shoes too!)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Romance and Sisterhood

by Joanne Rock

I’m in San Diego this week at the Romance Writers of America conference. It’s always an exciting
event for me and many of the other writers who blog at Super Authors since we get to visit with each other, meet readers and chat with the incredibly talented people who work in our publishing house.

Last year's Harlequin Party-- Jules Bennett, Joanne Rock,
Danica Favorite and Super Author Dana Nussio
This week is a reward of sorts for all of us. Writing—while fun!—is an isolating sort of business. To be successful at it, a writer has to spend long hours alone with the computer, thinking and creating. Some days it’s fun and more days it’s incredibly difficult. Writing one book is a thrilling challenge. Making a career of this work means spending large chunks of time alone with no one to share the day to day challenges of storylines and characters that are unique to one writer’s brain. In other words, it’s tough to draw people into our strange little worlds! Readers won’t meet the characters we’re engaging with until long after we’re done with the hard work of penning their stories.

That’s where the reward comes in. Our yearly writing conference gives us all the chance to socialize. We celebrate our success, quietly mourn our setbacks, and share all the craziness of an otherwise lonely job. And feel fortunate for the outlet. I feel bad for writers of other genres who don’t have the outreach that Romance Writers of America has—we have a big network of support in one another.

Book #4 in Heartache, TN series
The romance community is bonded not just by the choice of books we choose to read and write. It’s also bound by a positive outlook that pervades our stories and—we hope—our lives. You see, authors of romance differ in many ways. But we are the same in our need to fight for a happy ending. I’ve wondered in the past how I got so lucky to know such a positive, uplifting group in my romance friends. But it’s occurred to me there’s a reason we’re all drawn to romance in the first place. We are the kind of people who hope that obstacles can be overcome with hard work, that relationships can be healed with care and effort, and that love is a beautiful driving force in the world.

Every year, I look forward to that kind of sisterhood—the embrace of a caring community that works to make the world a better place. And if that sounds like a romanticized view? It may just be. And that's precisely why I like it.

**Share the romance sisterhood with me today! If you need someone to lift your spirits, who do you call? Or who might you visit? Share with me today on the blog and I'll give one random commenter the prize pack pictured -- a copy of book #2 in my Heartache, TN series, plus a cute journal and a sign to hang on your happy place! Winner announced Monday, July 18th when I get back home and can mail it out :-).
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