Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Happily Ever After Lives On!
by Angel Smits

Today is my parents’ 58th wedding anniversary.  Holy cow!  (Congrats!)  They are currently in Blackhawk, Colorado celebrating and gambling. Probably putting a big chunk of my inheritance into the one-armed bandits.  Ha!

Hugh & Joyce Strong
     I remember celebrating my grandparents' 60th anniversary with a big open house.

Bill & Hilma Strong
  And I was a baby when my great-grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary.  This year my husband and I will hit 34 years. 
     My purpose in listing all these milestones isn’t for any accolades, though those are always nice.  But hopefully, to show the world that love and romance are still very much alive and well in our world. 
     My son, who is young and single, is surprised at how many young women he meets who don’t believe in the longevity of love, who actually have told him marriage is obsolete. 
     Poor kid, probably doomed having a romance author for a mom, but both my kids have always been taught—and I hope they believe in—the happily-ever-after type of romantic love. 
     It’s what I write about in my books, and what I love about reading romance.  And just like in real life, my characters have trials and tribulations in their lives and their relationships.  It isn’t all sunshine and roses.  My husband and I have certainly had our rough times. but we’ve worked through them and still very much love each other.  I know my parents do, and my grandparents did.  It isn’t something they can hide. 
     And while I know not everyone ends up like that—it is still very possible. 
     In our house Valentine’s Day is about the heart-shaped box of chocolates, and the pretty vase of roses.  It’s also about telling each other how much we appreciate each other.  Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Birthdays are all about that, too. 
     I know that a lot of my readers are older.  I get letters from them, plus just the aging of our population makes that a reality.  I’ve read articles about how our books compete with so many other things in the world for the young reader’s attention.  Is there a correlation? 
     My aunt gave me my first romance novel—handing my sister and I a sack of Harlequins when we were on a road-trip vacation.  I read that first book and I was hooked—both on reading the romance genre and on the idea that forever love was real. 
     Is it totally realistic?  Not always.  But fantasies and dreams are good for us all.  Plus, I read SO many romances that teach young girls (us older girls, too) about the way we can expect to be treated, about how to talk to people about things, about what is possible. 
     So maybe we need to be like my aunt, and share the joy.  Give or lend young women books that touch us, that showed us how things can be—encourage them to dream a little and expect certain things of how to be treated. 
     And to love.  Most of all be loved. 
      I’d love to hear how long people have been married, or together with their significant other.  Or tell us who gave you that first romance novel...honor the women who recognized this amazing genre before us.  Thanks, Aunt Una.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Don't Judge a Book -- or a Hockey Player -- by its Cover!

What do these guys all have in common?

The obvious answer, considering the books I write, is that they're all retired hockey players. And they are. What you may not appreciate is that these are some of the toughest guys to have ever played the game. From left to right, top to bottom: Donald Brashear, Georges Laroque, Tie Domi and Stu 'The Grim Reaper' Grimson.

But that's not the whole story. Look again at the captions beneath their pictures. Particularly that last one. Yes, The Grim Reaper is a lawyer!

For many reasons, hockey players don't get the respect they're due. Anyone who doesn't follow the game, talks about the violence and the fights. Never mind that fighting is now almost as rare as those proverbial hen's teeth. Hockey players are described as mindless goons, often portrayed with their missing teeth, to look like they're somehow dumb and dumber.

Yet, these are some of the hardest working, most humble and charitable guys you'll ever meet. Sure, there are some jerks, like in any profession. But there are also a lot of men who are intelligent and innovative, who care for their families, their friends and their neighbours. Who use their skills, their brains and their fame to give back. You'll hear endless stories about the injuries and the concussions, the blood and broken bones -- especially about the players who did the damage. You won't hear so much about the fights to help others in need.

Definitely hero material.Some might even say, the cowboys of the ice.

Which is why I started writing romances featuring hockey players. [Okay and because I got the chance to do fab research ... ;).] And why my first book was all about not judging a book -- or a hockey player -- by its cover.

If you haven't read any of the New Jersey Ice Cats' series yet, why not start at the beginning with Jake 'Bad Boy' Badoletti's story in A Perfect Distraction

Buy on Amazon

Or check out A Perfect Selection, an anthology of 6 bite-sized holiday-themed stories featuring NJ Ice Cats' players. Today is the last day it is FREE on Amazon!

Tell me, have you ever met someone who you thought was nice or nasty, but turned out to be the complete opposite?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Rose By Any Other Name, Etc...

By Jeannie Watt

I just got the title for my January Super—Molly’s Mr. Wrong. I love it! 

Coming up with titles is one of the hardest parts of the publishing process—for me anyway. I can only imagine what it’s like for the editors, who choose titles for many books every single month, especially considering some of the super lame titles I send in for consideration.

Here’s the process—I finish my book and feel as if I’ve just successfully run a marathon—and did well. Then I get an email reminding me to do the Art Fact Sheet and to send an alternate title list to my editor. Since my books’ working titles are along the lines of Finn’s Story or Molly’s Story, I honestly have to send in a list of possible titles. That’s when the pressure starts. Titles are important. The title imparts to the reader a sense of what the story is about—whether it’s playful or serious, whether a favorite trope is involved. In a matter of a second or two, a title can make a reader pick up a book or browse on. Perhaps that’s why I freeze up when I start writing my list of possible titles.

Or maybe it’s because the first ones out of my brain are always so lame. The Lost Love. Losing at Love. Winning at Love. A Lost Love Won.

The tearing of hair commences. Come on, Jeannie. You can do this.

Molly’s Lost Love. The Redemption of Molly’s Lost Love.

And so it goes for a day or two. Eventually the creative juices start to flow as panic sets in and the puns begin, as in Her Best Vet. Yes, I proposed that. My friend Ellen Hartman’s first book’s working title was Painted Love. I love that title. Puns are fun.

My best titles have come from the editors (especially Victoria, who seems brilliant at this) tweaking titles I’ve proposed. Her Inherited Cowboy became Maddie Inherits a Cowboy. Tempting a Cowgirl became To Tempt A Cowgirl, which in turn lead to a four-book series of To____ a Cowgirl. Easiest time I’ve ever had coming up with a title list. And another all-time favorite is Cowgirl in High Heels. The editors came up with that one. I was so grateful for such a perfect name for my book.

Titles I loved that didn’t get picked—His Goodbye Girl and Hidden Assets.  I hold out hope for those, because I recycle titles for my title lists. I keep my old lists and adjust. I have to. I simply do not have a genius title brain.

But I have a title I love for my next book and that’s what matters…right up until it’s time to name the next one.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Question of the Month: Writing With Music

Time for another question of the month, Super Readers! This time, we're talking music!

Music is important to many author's writing processes - do you use music while you're writing? And, if so, is there a particular artist (or song) that appears often as part of a playlist?

Vicki Essex: I often write with music on the in background, usually something without words. But I've often listened to The Killers and Aimee Mann as creative diuretics when I hit a writing block. Something about the moods and forward momentum of their songs help get me unstuck.

Mary Sullivan: I find it hard to write with music because, whenever I play music I love, I start to sing my heart out. I can't sing and write at the same time :-) I work better with silence; however, sometimes when I'm stuck in my writing and need to kickstart the process, I will listen to a fusion of classical and jazz that I've loved for years and years. It was composed by Claude Bolling and played with various classical artists, but the CD I use in particular when writing showcases Pinchas Zukerman and is called Suite for Violin and Jazz Piano.

Angel Smits: I can’t write in silence.  And if I try to write to music that doesn’t have words, my brain keeps trying to put words to it!  Drives me nuts.  So I have to write rough draft to familiar music.  And familiar to me is ANYTHING Keith Urban, and if a particular album fits a book, I plug that in LOUD.  Christian Kane and Charles Kelly’s new one are perfect for the mood of my next book.  Can you tell I love country music.

Kristina Knight: Music is such a part of my process that I have two phases, actually! Light jazz/classical when I'm drafting/plotting (otherwise I start singing along) and then my playlist comes into play when I'm editing/polishing. The playlist for Protecting the Quarterback had a lot of Lady Antebellum in it, but Smokey Robinson also made an appearance..and I can't seem to write a book without including at least one Keith Urban and/or Dierks Bentley song in it.

Tara Taylor Quinn: I grew up with a professional musician father so music has always been a driving force in my life. I use it to work out feelings, to grieve, to celebrate, and…to write. Each book has a CD that evokes the emotions for that particular story. I play that one CD over and over while I write the book. I turn the music on and it takes me down in. (I remind myself of a Pavlovian dog!) When I write, the music is mostly instrumental so words don’t intermingle with the voices of my characters. I have a CD of different variations of Pacabel’s Canon that is a particular ‘go-to.’ I listen to sound tracks – ‘The Godfather’, ‘Chocolate’, ‘Forrest Gump’, ‘Perfect Storm,’ to name a view. Enya is an artist that I listen to most often. I also like Adiemus ‘Song of Sanctuary’. In the morning, when I am preparing for work, I go to Grady Soine – his ‘Beautiful’ album.

Kris Fletcher: I have an instrumental playlist that I use as background music while actually writing. Lots of Bill Leslie, Loreena McKennitt, Natalie MacMaster. But I also do a singalong playlist for each book, which I will belt out while driving, doing housework, etc, just to keep me in the mood of the story. There's usually a ton of oldies music, a sprinkle of current stuff, a healthy serving of country, and - yes - often a track or two from Keith Urban!

Nan Dixon: I do have music playing when I work.  And there's always a song in my head.  (RIght now it's from Miss Saigon.) Sometimes I listen to my cable provider's light classical station.  That's my best drafting music.  Looking at my most played 25 songs on my iPod, there is Season One from SMASH, Bette Middler and Copeland's Fanfare for a Common Man and Appalachian Spring.  Revising music!

Sarah M. Anderson: I listen to a little bit of everything but I tend to write a whole book to just a few albums (I get stuck on repeat a lot). For my May Super, One Rodeo Season, I listened to a lot of Reba McEntire. The working title of One Rodeo Season was Cowgirls Don't Cry, which was taken directly from a Reba song! The other album I listened to a lot writing this book was Eric Church's The Outsiders. That album fit the hero Ian's personality perfectly!

Janet Lee Nye: Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't. I do my best plotting on the treadmill and I do listen to music during that. Usually my Pandora Maroon 5 station for the tempo. If I'm home alone, I don't listen to anything, but if The Fella is around, I'll put in earbuds and listen to music, usually 60's & 70's oldies.

Claire McEwen: I make a playlist for every book I write. As I'm thinking through the story, I add songs that remind me of the plot and the characters. When I write, I listen to the playlist and it helps transport me to the setting and the heart of the story.  Since I write mostly western romance, many of the songs are country, or folk/country. Lots of heartfelt music from Emmy Lou Harris and Patty Griffin, and Keith Urban has been on every playlist of my new Sierra Legacy series. In fact, his album Fuse took over the playlist for my upcoming July book, Return to Marker Ranch. So thanks for the inspiration, Keith!

Jennifer Lohmann: I have a couple Pandora stations that I cycle through, depending on my mood. It's got to be low key and nothing I *need* to sing along to. Sometimes a song will capture my attention and the mood of the book. If that's the case, I'll go back to that one song whenever I get stuck.

Anna Sugden: I wish I could write to music, because I love it and I’m always asked about playlists for my books. Unfortunately, I have an auditory brain and I end up focusing on the songs or music and not on the words I need to write! But, I also find it hard to write in silence (I blame my business days, plus all those years of marking children’s work during wet playtimes!), so I often have coffee shop noise on in the background via a website called

Joanne Rock: Although I'm a huge Emmy Lou fan too (Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town.... So. Good.) I tend to listen to classical guitar while I write as I enjoy the music without getting distracted by the lyrics. I have a Pandora station that I've massaged over the years to play some of my favorites and it always helps my brain gear up for work when I hear those tunes. When I revise, I don't mind listening to music with lyrics and might dial into the kind of music my character would like. But when I'm drafting and I'm doing the most deep thinking, I really enjoy the guitar.

Sharon Hartley: I love music -- all types -- anything from classical to country. But I don't dare have any tunes on while writing because it completely distracts me from the story.  I need silence to write, which can obviously often be a problem.

Pamela Hearon: The radio in my car usually stays tuned to The Highway--new country, and I plot the entire time I'm driving. Once I plotted an entire book during a drive to Florida with George Strait's 50 #1 Hits blasting from my speakers. But when I sit down to write, I like it quiet so the characters can speak to me.

Amber Leigh Williams: Music is great for plotting, anything that speaks to the mood of the book. I reference music a lot in my writing. In HIS REBEL HEART, the history between the hero and the heroine is mapped by the songs they listened to. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tastes Like Home

Kris Fletcher

Years ago, probably in university, I read that when people leave their home country for a new land, the last remnant of their culture to be given up is their native food. I was surprised - my bet would have been language - but as time has gone by, I find it easier to believe. It's more than just comfort food (not that there's anything wrong with that). It's a deep connection to the past, to days gone by and traditions kept burning, all wrapped up in something delicious.

I'm seeing it a lot right now when talking to my third boy (the one known online as my Mensch), who is currently doing a six month co-op in Peru. Is he having the time of his life? Oh yeah. But his Twitter posts talk about craving bagels. His Skype discussions include mentions of dreaming about his favorite Chinese food restaurant. And even though he won't be home until August, I've been told that he's already compiling a list of favorites that I need to cook for him once he's in the house.

(And even though he won't be home until August, I'm already hoping that the list doesn't include gefilte fish. That stuff is nasty.)

This craving for foods from home has been hitting me as well. We've had an eventful and sometimes heartbreaking couple of months here at Casa Chaos. I've spent a great deal of time on the road, making many trips to the Great White North. (By the way, I didn't come up with that name for Canada. Blame these guys:)

My trips have been filled with the foods that always say home to me: butter tarts, butterscotch brownies, the kielbasa that is only made around the place I grew up. Maple syrup. Homemade pickles. And, of course, a visit or two to this fine establishment:

It's more than just the nourishment, or the flavor, or the uniqueness of the food. It's all the memories that accompany them. Sunday pancakes with my brother and sisters. Sitting around the table picking the raisins out of the butter tarts (because EW. Raisins.). Coming home from school and walking into the kitchen and smelling fresh ground cucumbers, and knowing that meant there would soon be homemade relish in the house. My brother and I polishing off a whole pound of back bacon in one sitting. My father bringing home a half dozen doughnuts, and me holding my breath as I opened the box, hoping there would be a sugar twist or a lemon filled.

All those memories. All those tastes of home.

What tastes like home to you?
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