Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Winner of Jeannie Watt's Crossing Nevada

The winner of Crossing Nevada is Eli Yanti! Please send your mailing address to jeanniewrites@gmail.com and I'll get a copy of Crossing Nevada in the mail.

Thanks to everyone who posted!

Jeannie

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Random Gratefulness and a Give Away


By Jeannie Watt

I'm grateful for Chili Cheese Fries!
As the year edges to a close, it’s a time of reflection, and I try to concentration on thankfulness.  I have a long list of things I’m hugely grateful for—blessings of family, health and a career I love. But there are smaller things that enrich my life that I am also thankful for, so here is my list of random gratefulness:

I’m grateful for Spanx—finally a foundation garment that doesn’t try to slowly murder you while you wear it.

I’m grateful that low rider jeans are no longer the only choice available and that I can finally tuck my shirt in. Low rider pants also led to more thong sightings than I care to think about, so all I can say is hurray from “sits one inch below natural waistline” jeans.

I’m grateful that the big stiff hair from the 80s hasn’t made a comeback. Ditto for spandex bike shorts.

I’m grateful that I discovered small batch gin—not in large quantities, mind you.

I’m grateful that colorized movies didn’t catch on.

I’m grateful that the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. 

I’m grateful that eBay makes it possible to find random stuff to replace things I've lost or broken--like the power cord on my old sewing machine.

I’m grateful for texting so that when I have the choice of two different video/audio cables to hook up my new DVD player, I can ask my son which one I need and get an answer before I leave the store.

I’m just flat out grateful for the internet. Such a resource.  I asked my husband the other day how we used to plan trips without it. He said we used to drive and hope we found a motel. Funny how I’ve blocked that from my mind.

I’m grateful for all the many men who serve as inspiration for the heroes in my books.

What are you grateful for? I’m looking forward to hearing your responses and will give away a copy of Crossing Nevada to a randomly chosen respondent..

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Love Looks Like ....


This morning, I folded a load of my son's laundry.

This may not strike you as a big thing, and in truth, it's not. But in our family, once you hit grade 6 and have completed the laundry unit in Family & Consumer Sciences, you become responsible for your own clothing. You watch the dirty pile grow higher, you lug the clothes to the washer and dryer, you fold your own stuff and put it away. It's a small lesson in Life 101, which I consider to be one of the most important gifts I can give to my kids. By the time my offspring leave home they are competent in laundry, groceries, cooking, mending, cleaning, scheduling, and all those other essential tasks that make up regular life. Here at Casa Chaos you need to be either sick or physically not present to get out of doing your chores. Or both :-)

But sometimes, in addition to prepping the kids for the big world that awaits them in the future, a mom needs  to let her kids know that they are cherished right now. Maybe the child accomplished something he or she never believed possible. Maybe the homework and the college applications and the volunteer work have started to press in. Maybe the son or daughter took younger siblings to the playground so mom could have a few minutes of peace to sip a cup of coffee and wrap Christmas gifts without little eyes trying to catch a peek.

And sometimes, sometimes a mom needs to do something small but still special for her kids just because she loves them. And because it has been brought home to her, and the world, that the chance to offer up those silent gestures of love can be ripped away without warning.

Love is all around us, especially at this time of year. It's in the songs and the gatherings, the efforts we make to be together, the way we make sure to pick up a box of fruit-flavored candy canes along with the peppermint stripes because one of the kids doesn't like mint and every kid should be able to enjoy a candy cane at Christmas. In a season of miracles, love still shines bright in the littlest things: A dishwasher unloaded without request or complaint. A hug, not just on walking in the door, but once the boots are off and there's no coats to get in the way. A phone call that says, "I just heard this song on the radio and it made me think of you, so let's sing it together."

Sometimes love looks like shooting stars and fireworks and roses in winter.

Sometimes it looks like this:


How does love look to you these days?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Favorite Christmas Movies

Merry Christmas!
 


We've been making a habit of watching holiday movies in my house, and rediscovering some great, old favorites along the way. 

Do you remember these classics:


- How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

- Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

- A Christmas Carol (1938, 1984)

- White Christmas (1954)

- It's a Wonderful Life (1946)


Some of these we hadn't watched in years, but we enjoyed them all.  Then, there are these more recent favorites:

- The Holiday (2006)

- A Christmas Story (1983)

- Love, Actually (2003)

I'm looking for more titles.  Any suggestions?  What are your favorite Christmas movies?


Cathryn Parry is the author of two Harlequin Superromances.  Her second, THE LONG WAY HOME, is in stores now.  You may find out more about Cathryn at www.CathrynParry.com.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Winner of a copy of Back to the Good Fortune Diner

Congratulations, Eli Yanti

You've won a copy of my latest book, Back to the Good Fortune Diner.

Thanks for commenting on my blog post, Christmas Gifts for Writers.

Please contact me at vicki@vickiessex.com to claim your prize!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Alphabeta soup


One of the problems of writing hero point of view is keeping your guy a guy. He’s looking out into the world, and any introspection is a brief lifting of the lid rather than the full rummage into the bottom of the psychic suitcase that women (okay, this woman) enjoys.
There’s no, ‘Hey, there’s where I left that old guilt…if I let out the seams I think it’ll still fit me.”
I’m a very hero-centric writer. Most of my story ideas start with an idea around a hero and as a reader he’s the most important element in a romance for me.
So I’m always interested in the ongoing discussion about alpha versus beta heroes on reader/writer blogs and boards. Is he a tough warrior alphahole or an affable, easygoing friend?
I read an interesting comment by Ruthie Knox here where she described alphas as having the tendency to lead and betas the tendency to nurture.
My hero preference as a reader is alpha with a sense of humour
I think the stereotypical “alpha male” is a leader who has to learn to nurture the heroine — or perhaps who doesn’t instinctively nurture, but is compelled to care for the heroine. Whereas my idea of a stereotypical “beta male” is someone who’s more of a follower, who nurtures instinctively."
Recently I came across a blog that talked about delta’s (‘normal’ guys) and gamma’s (introspective, socially unskilled) and omega’s (social losers).
But the category that intrigued me as a romance reader and writer was sigmas.

“The outsider who doesn't play the social game and manages to win at it anyhow. The sigma is hated by alphas because sigmas are the only men who don't accept or at least acknowledge, however grudgingly, their social dominance.
In a social situation, the sigma is the man who stops in briefly to say hello to a few friends accompanied by a Tier 1 girl that no one has ever seen before. Sigmas like women, but tend to be contemptuous of them. They are usually considered to be strange. They are at the top of the social hierarchy despite their refusal to play by its rules. Sigmas usually acquired their outsider status the hard way; one seldom becomes immune to the social hierarchy by virtue of mass popularity in one's childhood.”

Sounds like our archetypical bad boy doesn’t it? James Dean, Dirty Harry, Wolverine. Except the description applies equally well to Sherlock Holmes as played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC series.

So who’s your favorite fictional hero, movie or books? Is he alpha, beta, sigma or in a class of his own?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Gifts for Writers


Over the past couple of years, my family has donated money to charity rather than spend money on unwanted gifts for each other. This has saved out wallets and our sanity—no more Snuggies for the aunt who has everything!—but I admit I still enjoy the occasional gift. As a writer, I’ve discovered there are things I love that I will never turn away. If you’re stuck for ideas, consider these for the writer in your life:

Notebooks, paper paraphernalia: I love notebooks. I have tons of different kinds to jot in and travel with. For me, there’s nothing quite as thrilling as getting a blank notebook to fill. While I’m partial to a bouquet of multicolored spiral bound 8.5”x11” workbooks from the dollar store, I’m told Moleskine is the Lexus of notebooks. 

Pens: Studies have shown that holding a pen in hand actually stimulates nerves in the fingers that trigger creative energy. Pens come in all kinds of wonderful varieties, too, so if you feel like spoiling a writer, get a nice pen engraved. It’ll come in handy the day they sign a book for you. Personally, I’m coveting a Tiffany rollerball pen.

USB thumb drives: A writer can never have enough backups or ways to cart around files. USB keys make great stocking stuffers, or, if you shell out for a USB 3.0 (which has a higher speed) it’s a great gift on its own. For added value, load it up with a playlist of MP3s, photos to inspire them or free ebooks you can download from any number of websites.

Typing gloves: Writers are notorious for getting cold hands and developing wrist problems while pounding on the keyboard. Help keep their hands warm and healthy with special typing gloves. There are tons of different types out there, from wrist-supporting gloves to USB plug-in warming gloves. www.usbgeek.com/products/usb-heating-gloves

Gift cards for books: A writer can never have too many books. Never. Instead of trying to figure out what book they don’t own yet or what they might like to read, give them the gift of choice and the chance to splurge on boxing week deals at their favorite book nook. This goes for ebooks, as well. If you’d rather be more personal, see if they have a wish list available on their favorite website.

Booze, chocolate, food for thought:
Writers love to relax with their favorite vices. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Writer’s Tears Irish whiskey: For the days they get their first rejections...or revisions. 
  •  A bottle of good champagne: For the day they hit the New York Times bestselling list. I’m a fan of Veuve Clicquot myself. 
  •  Nonalcoholic beverages: A selection of good coffee beans, tea bags, gourmet hot chocolate...the writer in your life could always use a hot drink while working.
  • Snacks: While it’s easy to stock up on chocolates, baked goods and candy during the holidays, many writers worry about their waistlines and health. If you want to help them make their new year’s health goals, put together a basket of healthy snacks: banana chips, roasted soy beans, rice crackers, dried fruit, etc. Ask your local health food store for suggestions.


Membership fees and subscriptions: There are all kinds of organizations out there for the aspiring writer, and they all charge membership dues. Do your writer a favor and pitch in for them!

Services: A writer’s most valuable asset is time, which means priorities get shuffled and chores don’t get done. Why not purchase a gift certificate for a housekeeper, gardener, babysitter, dog-walker, or in-home chef? Or, if you’re on a budget, make a coupon book and do the services yourself.

Time, silence and solitude: If your significant other is working hard to make a publishing dream come true, do them a favor and respect their writing time. Take the kids and pets out of the house for the afternoon. Don’t disturb them if they say they’re on deadline. If you show them you understand how important their goals are, they will love you all year round.

A chance to relax: Writers work hard. Too hard, sometimes. Remind them that you appreciate all they do and force them to leave their computers for a few hours. Offer to take them out to dinner. Or plan a spa day, a trip to the salon, a mani/pedi, a massage or a night at the movies.


What’s on your wish list? Do you have suggestions to add? Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win a copy of my latest book, Back to the Good Fortune Diner. Contest closes Friday, December 14th 11:59 p.m. EST.

Vicki Essex is an author for Harlequin Superromance. Back to the Good Fortune Diner is her second book. For more information, visit www.vickiessex.com. You can also find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vickiessexauthor and on Twitter @vickiessex.




Sunday, December 2, 2012

December 2012

The Spirit of Christmas
by Liz Talley
Harlequin Superromance
ISBN: 9780373718184 (#1818)

Brennan Henry doesn't have time for holly and jolly. He's been too busy boosting the bottom line for the family business. That is, until his eccentric grandfather hands over a lot of money to a stranger on the street. Some nonsense about her being the true spirit of Christmas. Yeah, right. All Brennan can see is he's now got a situation on his hands with one Mary Paige Gentry.

Then he meets Mary Paige. And no matter how deep he searches, it seems she's the real deal. Kind, compassionate and just enough sass to keep him very intrigued. The spark of attraction between them could land him on the naughty list! But his is still a dollars-and-cents world…unless she can prove there's more to the season—more to life—than money.


The Time of Her Life
by Jeanie London
Harlequin Superromance
ISBN: 9780373718191 (#1819)

Susanna Adams is too young to be a widow. She's still in her thirties! There will be no sitting around trying to fill empty days for her. Instead, she's accepted a big promotion, moved states and is embracing her own dreams again. She might even be open to a little romance.

The new plan doesn't unfold quite as smoothly as she expected. The job is a lot tougher thanks to Jay Canady, the man she'll eventually replace. Working with him and his high standards definitely tests her resolve. Not to mention all the sparks igniting between them. Office affairs have never factored on her radar, but Jay is so…hot, she might make an exception. After all, this time it's all about her.


The Long Way Home
by Cathryn Parry
Harlequin Superromance
ISBN: 9780373718207 (#1820)

Life on the road suits Bruce Cole just fine. And after what he went through back in the day, he's in no hurry to face his hometown again. Until his little sister asks him to return for her wedding. One brief visit can't hurt, right? Especially when he meets a beautiful stranger at the reception.

Except Natalie Kimball isn't a stranger. In fact, she knows more about Bruce than anyone else in Wallis Point—including the secret he's been running from all these years. The woman Natalie has become is fascinating…and so different from the girl he remembers. If anyone can change his mind about what home really means, it could be her.


Crossing Nevada
by Jeannie Watt
Harlequin Superromance
ISBN: 9780373718214 (#1821)

After the attack that ended her modeling career, Tess O'Neil wants only to feel safe. She thinks she's found a sanctuary on a Nevada ranch, where she can live in solitude. Too bad rancher Zach Nolan isn't getting the message. The single dad wants to lease her land, and he won't quit until she says yes. That means he's always around!

Letting the cowboy with the see-right-through-her baby blues into her life is too dangerous. Almost as dangerous as the wild hope and yearning Zach and his three daughters are awakening in Tess. She's already risked so much. Maybe it's time to take the biggest gamble of all on the one thing she never dreamed she'd find—a home.


Wish Upon a Christmas Star
by Darlene Gardner
Harlequin Superromance
ISBN: 9780373718221 (#1822)

The odds are about a million to one. But after eleven years, P.I. Maria DiMarco jumps at the possibility that her brother might still be alive. And when she makes a wish on a rare pre-Christmas shooting star, well, it could be a sign. Logan Collier doesn't think so. Not that Maria should put her trust—or hope—in her ex-love, who long ago left her heart in pieces.

Yet here Logan is in Key West, helping Maria chase down leads and, like her, trying—and failing—to ignore the attraction heating up between them. Even if her search takes her nowhere, Maria isn't giving up. Not on finding her brother…or on a second chance with Logan.


Espresso in the Morning
by Dorie Graham
Harlequin Superromance
ISBN: 9780373718238 (#1823)

The last thing Claire Murphy wants is a man in her life. Things work best with just her and her son, Grey, a solid team of two. Yes, some days are chaotic, but she's confident Grey doesn't know why she needs that chaos—until he brings home the local cafĂ© owner, Lucas Williams, to help. How could Grey? Having someone as good-looking as Lucas around doesn't feel right.


Or does it? It turns out there's more to Lucas than the ability to brew a great cup of coffee. And sure, she knows she's benefiting from his knowledge about recovering from trauma. But she also knows that she's falling for Lucas and she's not sure she's ready for that!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All I Do For Christmas


The holidays are upon us! The arrival of December heralds what for many is the busiest and most stressful time of the year.

Women especially take on a lot of extra work to make the holiday bright for their families—shopping for gifts, cooking big holiday meals, hosting parties and drop-ins, sending cards, decorating the house...it’s exhausting just thinking about them. Part of me has always wondered if the impulse to put oneself through all this holiday hullabaloo is associated with the innate gatherer instinct passed down through our genes over thousands of years. All the shopping, cooking, baking and decorating always make me feel like I’m preparing my cave for a long winter.

My husband and I currently enjoy a child-free home. Part of me celebrates that I get to relegate most of the traditional holiday activities to the rest of the family, while another part mourns that I don’t have to take on those responsibilities myself. Without children in the house, I don’t feel any strong need to make every Christmas “the best Christmas ever.” I don’t feel the need to fill the house with pine needles and clove-covered oranges and candy canes. We have a sparsely decorated five-foot fake tree, but the only gifts under it are usually for the cat.

So what is it about Christmas that makes me want to jump into the festooned fray, even though I’ve been campaigning for more simple holidays with my family? Have I succumbed to the commercialization and commodification of the holiday spirit? Am I associating gifts and extravagant meals and reindeer-shaped candle holders with the warm and fuzzy nostalgia I’ll never recapture from my youth?

It made me fear for the future. Will I one day insist on stringing popcorn garlands with the children in an effort to provide them with happy memories patterned after idyllic scenes from TV commercials and Christmas specials, even though all the kids want to do is play video games? Is Bing Crosby’s crooning going to be the background music of their holiday nightmares? Will my kids grow up to perpetuate a false sense of happiness by associating enforced family time based on what I made them do in some misguided effort to be good parents themselves?

The answer came to me after a tall glass of merlot and a smack to the side of the head: No. I will not buy into the idea that more gifts equal a better Christmas. I am not a bad person because I don’t do any Christmas baking or decorating. I will not compare my family and social life to the ones on TV, and berate myself for not providing the same festive cheer and ambiance well-dressed and sober party hosts do.

I will, however, remember that the holidays are a time to appreciate time spent with family and friends. I will treat the holidays as an end-of-year celebration that gives us an opportunity to give thanks for what we have, think about the less fortunate and give back where we can.

And if I can just manage those little things each and every year, I think it’ll be the best Christmas ever.

If you could drop one holiday tradition, what would it be? No more shopping for Christmas gifts? No more huge family dinners? A ban on all Christmas music played before Thanksgiving? 

Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Special Thank You



Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the US, so my brain is jumping between thoughts of turkey (and prepping rooms for guests and making stuffing and amusing kids who aren't in school) and moments of trying to stop and realize how enormously blessed I am.

(Actually, since I'm a Canadian living in the States, I've had these thoughts since October and Canadian Thanksgiving – but I digress.)

I want to share a moment when I was incredibly thankful for – wait for it – the Harlequin logo. You know. This guy.

It was five years ago, on a Sunday in September. My husband & I were in the midst of adopting our fifth child, a daughter from Russia. We had already made our first trip, to meet the child and sign the papers that started the legal process. Now we were on trip two, when we would appear in court and find out if our petition would be granted. Needless to say, it was a rather stressful time which was exacerbated by the fact that (a) we had to spend a couple of days in Moscow first, to undergo the infamous eight doctor exam, and (b) my suitcase got lost and I had nothing to wear but the clothes on my back. That would be jeans and a white tee shirt. For court. Yeah.

So there we were, in Moscow, sleep-deprived and jet-lagged, anxious and alone and nervous as all get-out about the next day's doctor visits. We decided to explore the area around our hotel. We wandered into one store and found that – oh joy – it was a bookstore! We had planned to pick up some Russian books for our little one, so this was a great chance to do that. We wandered the aisles, checking out the selection, trying to not feel too overwhelmed by being surrounded by books we couldn't read, when I wandered past a bin of paperbacks and caught sight of that familiar little jester. My heart did a little jump. Something familiar! I picked up one of the top books and, with my very rudimentary Russian, sounded out the name of the author. It was Cara Summers, one of my RWA chapter mates! I picked up another: it turned out to be by my friend Holly Jacobs! I went through that whole bin, finding names of friends and people I didn't know but still recognized. 

Suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone or lost. I had friends with me. My world had suddenly become a bit less frightening, a bit more familiar, all because of that logo. 

Thank you, Harlequin, for being there when I needed a friend. I'll never forget it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Draw Winner

Tammy, you won the Karina Bliss draw for a copy of Bring Him Home. Send your postal details to karina@karinabliss.com!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Only Thing to Fear...


Things that go bump in the night just don’t cut it anymore. Or do they?

Despite the glorification (and perhaps oversaturation) of vampires, werewolves, witches, the undead, disasters and post-apocalyptic societies, we’re still pretty easy to scare. The fight-or-flight survival instinct is hardwired into us to ensure we avoid danger. Some people take advantage of that by spreading ridiculous rumors via the internet. (If you ever get an email about tampons made of asbestos or AIDS-infected needles being slipped into return coin slots, make sure you check it out on Snopes.com.) Others try to profit by instilling new fears in us--marketing is very good at this. 

And still others make a living trying to scare us. Just look at all the haunted houses that pop up in October...and see how many people pay to go in!

Fear is a universal emotion we all experience in different forms. Some fears are so extreme, people will literally run screaming from them. And it’s not always as simple as being afraid of the dark. Phobias are nothing to laugh at, and can keep some people trapped by fear.

There are many things we’re—legitimately or not—terrified of. We have personal fears of abandonment, failure, rejection, losing control and getting old; and there are mundane ones such as fear that you’ll get into an accident, get sick, lose your job or won’t make next month’s rent. Sometimes, these can be almost as detrimental as phobias, keeping us from achieving our greatest potential.

Some of the most common fears include snakes, spiders, rats and creepy crawlies. I even know people who are terrified of Canadian geese. I myself have a great aversion to centipedes (horrifying creepy-crawlie alert on that link!).

And then there are those odd associative fears. Things that, most likely as children, we were exposed to and have bad memories of. For instance, I had onion rings for the first time at age six, and that same afternoon I came down with the stomach flu. It lasted more than two weeks. It was so bad that, to this day, I cannot help but pause before eating an onion ring.

As writers, we often give our characters some fear they must face in order to grow or progress; just think of Indiana Jones trapped in the pit of snakes, or Harry Potter facing the Dementors. But in real life, we often shy from those things we most fear, mostly likely because an aversion to mice, say, is not interfering with our lives as much as a Dementor might...

When we do conquer fear, however, it can be one of the greatest feelings in the world. I, for one, know my life is richer for eating onion rings now that I’ve finally gotten over them...twenty years later....

What are your fears? Do you think they’re valid? How would you overcome them if you had to?

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Emergency Halloween! Quick and Cheap Costumes for the Time- and Cash-Strapped

I love Halloween. I love getting dressed up and going door to door, begging for sweets and constantly explaining my outfit. Because the look on people’s faces when they finally understand why you have a CD hanging around your neck while wearing an eyepatch is the real treat.

(In case you haven’t figured out the above, it’s a software pirate. Arrr.)

When I was a kid, my older cousin went to the fabric store and gathered all the materials to help make our costumes. Cats, witches, ghosts—they were always beautiful, tasteful, and well designed.

Sadly, none of her sewing skills were passed on to us, and as we got older and she got busier, my sisters and I had to rely on our own creativity, wits and crafting abilities to cobble together decent Halloween gear.

I recall our first attempt at being “punk rockers.” For some reason, we were all wearing garbage bags. It wasn’t a great success, but we were proud anyhow.

Toward our high school and college years, however, we got to see and make some really cool stuff, mostly thrown together last minute and on tight budgets. And they were some of our best outfits ever.

If you’re struggling to find something to wear tonight, I’ve put together a short list of some easy-to-do ideas I’ve come across over the years:

Me, as a bag of candy.
  • Wear all pink and tie a shoe to your head: you’re a Piece of Gum!
  • Turn a giant paper leaf bag into a smock dress: you’re the Paperbag Princess!
  • Fill a clear plastic garbage bag with balloons and cut out holes for your feet and arms: you’re a Bag of Candy!
  • Wear the ugliest non-matching clothes you have and put on terrible makeup: you’re a Fashion Disaster!
  • Alternatively, wear clothes that are on the verge of falling apart: you’re a Wardrobe Malfunction!
  • Wear any of the above and include a large empty picture frame around your neck: you’re Art!
  • Grab a big box and decorate it with wrapping paper: you’re God’s Gift to Men/Women/Humanity!
  • Tie a pillow to your tummy: you’re human sushi!
  • Put a lampshade over your head: you’re the light of someone’s life!

Got any last-minute costume ideas, advice, suggestions or tips to share? Let us know in the comments!
Have a safe, happy and crafty Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Play it again, Sam


Music taps into emotion faster than any other medium. A song comes on the radio and suddenly you’re an angst-ridden teen pining your first love, itching to dance, or smiling on a mood updraft. Music can bring past into present, make housework bearable, and even inspire a baby to shake and wiggle.
It can change brain waves - quietening our minds (Gregorian chants) stimulating us creatively (slower Baroque) or stirring passion and activity (Rock).
Some writers have music playing in the background when they’re working. I prefer to find a song that encapsulates the mood of the love story and listen to it when I get stuck.
It’s the fastest way to recall the emotional core of the book.
Sometimes the song I’ve picked as a book’s theme tune loses power as I explore the characters and eventually gets dumped.  Sometimes I choose a song that feels right but I’m not sure why and discover the reason through the writing. Best of all, the process of linking music to story is fun.
Interestingly my first published book had a theme tune and I didn’t use one again until the last two books when I began to realize how useful music can be to finding story.

Here are some examples of how I use it.

Mr. Imperfect is a reunion story. Look at these lovely lyrics. “And I held your hand through all of these years/But you still have/All of me” My Immortal by Evanescence. Here’s the link: 



Bring Him Home – A widow fall for her husband’s best friend in a military story. Both have unresolved grief and the sweet sadness of Pearl Jam’s The End encapsulates that perfectly. “What were all those dreams we shared/Those many years ago?/ What were all those plans we made now/Left beside the road?/Behind us in the road.”

           

Prior Engagement, the fourth and final in my military heroes series will be out May 2013. A back from the dead story about two people who didn’t have the trust to make it work first time around but are fated to be together. Civil Wars’ song - Poison & Wine -  uses lyrics like: “I don’t love you but I always will”  and “I don’t have a choice but I still choose you.”



How about you? Do you have a song that hits you in the heart every time? Make a comment and go into the draw for my latest release Bring Him Home.

Friday, October 26, 2012

From the Gut

By Jeannie Watt

Have you ever gone into a restaurant, looked at a menu and knew immediately what you wanted...and then started to notice other stuff that also looked good? If so, and if you’re anything like me, you chose something other than your first impulse and often times regretted it. Especially if your significant other ordered what you'd originally wanted and it's better than what you ended up with. I’ve decided that, as far as menus go, I should stick with my first choice. If my first instinct is the French toast, I won't  order ham and eggs.

I’ve also found out—the hard way, the way I discover almost everything—that I need to follow my instinct when I write, too. One time when I got into deep trouble with a story, it was because I forced myself to follow the synopsis, even though my gut was yelling, “No, no…” I turned the book in and ended up rewriting it during revisions, because my instinct had been correct. Fortunately, my instinct had a pretty clear idea of what should have happened, so I was able to revise it successfully.

When I first started writing, I enjoyed following my gut and writing into the mist, but that was when I didn’t have a deadline. If I wrote myself into a corner, I had time to get myself back out. Now if I write myself into a corner, I’ll be staying up late getting myself back out. But after a period of being nuts about planning and sticking doggedly to my plan (in order to get the prescribed amount of sleep), I realized that it was okay to follow instinct. I had been afraid to go with the gut because of the aforementioned late nights if I made a mistake, but some of my best stuff seems to appear out of nowhere.

For instance, when I wrote my latest book, which I am now editing, I had a hero who was self absorbed in the beginning of the story. For reasons dating back to his childhood, he  needed to compete and he needed to win. Unfortunately, he’s suffered a potential career-ending injury that he’s in denial about. He’s deeply into himself, his comeback, his need to compete, at the expense of everything else, which doesn’t make him great hero material—unless of course he is redeemed.

In my plan, the heroine redeems him, but in chapter three he drives home after a confrontation with the heroine (who has his horse and won’t give it back) and  his cousin is parked in front of his house. (At this point I say to myself, really? His cousin’s there? Who’s his cousin?)

Come to find out, his cousin has helped him out in the past and now she needs someone to watch her teenage son while she takes a temporary job.

(I’m surprised at this turn of events and think, “A kid? Are you sure you want to write about a teen? I mean you spend almost every day around teens…”)

The teen stays in the story. He’s fourteen years old, kind of a character, and is used to hanging with adults. He’s totally comfortable with the hero, who is totally uncomfortable with him, but is now forced to think of someone besides himself. His world starts to open up because of this kid. He’s still focused on winning, but he’s also learning to enjoy other aspects of life. Because of his relationship with the kid, the heroine, who wasn’t a fan in the beginning, sees a different side of the hero and begins to realize that he’s a pretty good guy after all. None of this was in my synopsis, but it seems to be working.   

So...hurray for writing—and making menu decisions—from the gut.

How about you? Do plan or follow instinct? Or both, depending on the situation. I'll give a copy of my December book, Crossing Nevada, to a randomly selected postee. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Scary Stuff - Ellen Hartman

A few days before Halloween, I bet you thought a blog with that title would be about ghosts or haunted houses.

Nope.

I'm thinking about how the thing that terrifies one person can be no big deal to another.  I love writing heroes who are confused about the vulnerability their heroines feel and who offer unconditional support--not grudging, not condescending, but wholehearted.

So what's an example of something that scares some people and not others?

My family is hosting an exchange student right now.

All of the extroverted readers are wondering when I'm going to get to the scary part. And all of the introverted readers are nodding their heads and shaking in their boots. That's right, fellow shy people, I invited a stranger to live in my house!

I have a lot of strategies that enable me to be a fake extrovert at my job and socially, but my home is my sanctuary where I retreat to recharge and recenter myself. I spent the summer worrying about how it would feel to share my home with and care for a teenager I didn't know.

There are folks reading this blog who can't comprehend being scared of a social situation. I personally have never been afraid of traveling alone. I'm irrationally afraid of fire, but I actually enjoy speaking in front of groups. I have a very difficult time breaking rules of any kind, but I am rarely intimidated by a challenge or steep odds of success.

The characters in our books all have that type of rich set of issues that informs their life choices. My first heroine was afraid to open herself up to love because so many of the people she loved had died. My second hero was terrified he didn't understand the rules of normal society and would never be worthy of love because of it. In my September book, Out of Bounds, Posy worries she's too big emotionally and physically for Wes to love, while he's carrying a burden of emotional debt to his brother.

The nice thing about writing romance novels is that I always know everything is going to be okay in the end. And you know what? The same is true in my life, too. Despite my fears, I've genuinely enjoyed our exchange student and I'm going to be sad when he leaves next week. Hosting him has been a wonderful experience for our entire family, and one I'd tackle again in a heartbeat.

What about you? What scares you? Have you ever had to confront a fear? What scares other people but isn't a big deal to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fun & Cholesterol On The Road



My family does a fair bit of traveling. My husband loves to plan trips, to the extent that my friends have dubbed him Travel Agent Ken. (Does that make me Luggage Hauler Barbie?) TAK, as he is affectionately known, thinks nothing of driving from our home in Central New York state to the New York City area for a Broadway show, a college visit, or a soccer game. Any excuse to pop down to the Big Apple will work for him.
The rest of us are not as enamored of the whole bright lights, big city thing, but we can always be lured into the car with the promise of one thing: a visit to Sheetz.
Sheetz, for those not lucky enough to have visited, is a chain of convenience stores located across a half dozen states. They are not found here in NY, but when we drive through Pennsylvania to reach NYC, there is one at the perfect halfway point. We pile out of the car, gas up, hit the restrooms, and then venture toward the big attraction: the food. Yes, my family will happily drive hundreds of miles for the chance to belly up to a counter equipped with touch screens where we can custom order sandwiches, burgers, drinks (I crave their iced hazelnut nonfat lattes), and other greasy goodness.
This makes absolutely no sense. We know that. None of us can really explain the appeal. It might be those touch screens, that let us choose exactly what toppings we want on our cheeseburger sliders. It might be the fact that we are almost always in a good mood when we're there, heading off to a family vacation but not yet thoroughly sick of each other. It might even be that the food is just so darned good.
All I know for sure is that this past weekend, while driving home solo from the fabulous New Jersey Romance Writers conference, I stopped at Sheetz for lunch. I texted my youngest son with the taunting message, Guess where I am right now?  His reply: If you don't bring home something from Sheetz I am disowning you as my mother.
So tell me – what is your (or your family's) guilty pleasure?

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