Sunday, April 29, 2012

Super Authors Gifts and Critiques

It’s that time of year again—Brenda Novak’s Annual Online Auction for DiabetesResearch will begin on Tuesday May 1st and run through May 31st. There are tons of fabulous items up for auction and the Super Authors have their own page!
Here’s what’s being offered by the Super Authors:

Geri Krotow is offering the coolest prize—a Skype book club session, with books! The package includes the Skype session with Geri, 10 signed copies of her June 2012 SuperRomance Navy Rules and 10 small Navy related gift bags!

 Sarah Mayberry is offering all eight of her SuperRomance novels—A Natural Father, Home for the Holidays, Her Best Friend, The Best Laid Plans, The Last Goodbye, One Good Reason, All They Need, More Than One Night—and an assortment of Australian goodies for an authentic immersive reading experience! Including: Tim Tams, Vegemite, Cherry Ripe bars and other delicacies.

Mary Sullivan is offering an autographed set of all six of her books set in Ordinary, Montana—No Ordinary Cowboy, A Cowboy’s Plan, The Cowboy’s Son, Beyond Ordinary, The Ties That Bind and No Ordinary Sheriff and a critique of a 3-chapter proposal package.

If you are a prospective SuperRomance author and would like a critique from those in the know, the following Super Authors are  offering three-chapter proposal package critiques:

Karina Bliss


Rogenna Brewer

Joan Kilby

Carrie Weaver is offeirng a wonderful Arizona gift bag that includes autographed copies of Once a Ranger and Welcome Home, Daddy, both set in Arizona. The Best of the Best from Arizona Cookbook, a colorful t-shirt (size large) , a gorgeous insulated travel cup, Cerreta’s Cactus Chews and Redstone’s Red Chili Chipotle Chocolate  and a red bandana!

Linda Warren is offering a handmade brown and turquoise magnesite necklace with a western cross with aTexas star on it. There are chunks of irregular, round and barrel shaped turquoise beads surrounded by silver zinc findings and brown Chinese crystals. There are also matching earrings. Linda is also offering autographed sets of two popular Superromance seriesThe Belles of Texas, which includes Caitlyn’s Prize, Madison’s Children and Skylar’s Outlaw; and The Hardin Boys which includes The Texan’s Secret and The Texan’s Bride, which was recently nominated for the prestigious Rita Award.

Jeannie Watt is offering a cut glass mosaic mirror. This mirror is a repeat of the most popular mirror on her auction page last year and features pink flowers on a cream background.

Mary Brady's gift basket includes autographed copies of her three, Montana set SuperRomance books: He Calls Her Doc, Promise to a Boy, Winning Over the Rancher. Come on out and see how Happily Ever After struggles and grows in Big Sky country. Included in the basket are TossOn™ stretch bracelets and earrings. In deference of the cause, Mary mentioned that she’s left out (eaten) the chocolate.

Sure hope to see you there! Happy Bidding!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Slumps, tuning forks and soulmates

DRAW WINNER: Kristina Matthews won the draw for an advance copy of Bring Him Home. Kristina if you'd like to contact me with your address on I'll get a copy to you!

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I’m in a slump. Not a reading slump thank heavens.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading, Making a Good Writer Great, Writing Romantic Comedy, Writing Subtext (guessed I need inspiration yet?) and for fun the latest releases from J.R. Ward, Sarah Mayberry, Abby Gaines and some ‘new to me’ Karen Marie Moning. I’ve also got Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal from the library from a recommendation on Anne Stuart’s blog. And that's before I get to other new   Superromance releases.
But at close to fifty thousand words into the new book with thirty to go I’m tired of 'staying with the cattle' as writer Elmore Leonard describes the writing process. I want to ride into town, raise some hell, kick up my heels!
Still the book's taking shape (the fourth in my SAS heroes series - His Goodbye Girl). It’s about a soldier who comes back from the dead to discover his buddies have given his gal the engagement ring they found in his locker. Which he wouldn't have a problem with only he proposed on the eve of his departure - and she turned him down. Ouch!
I love the premise and thought lots of comic mayhem would ensue but the book’s taken another direction though it still has comic moments.
That’s the interesting part of writing...doesn’t matter what kind of detailed synopsis I labour over or how many times I juggle my scene cards the tone of the book works itself out through the writing. Sometimes I feel like I’m following my characters around with a tuning fork listening for the right note.
Bring Him Home, book 3 of the SAS series is out in May through e-harlequin and June through other retailers. While I was finishing line edits I did an interview with debut author Kyle Griffin about my writing process, which I’d never dissected before.
So instead of giving you the back cover blurb let me tell you how Bring Him Home evolved. A guy falls in love with his army buddy's widow. That’s the basic premise. Then I asked myself some ‘what if’ questions.
What if he had to make a Sophy's Choice (lesser of two evils) in the ambush that killed his buddy. What if his buddy was complicit in that choice?
What if he's so scarred emotionally he turns his back on his friends, the only family he has? What if his best friend's widow forces him to come home because his signature in a family trust is required in order for her sell the home and invest in a business?
What if she hasn't forgiven her late husband for something and the hero acts as go between? What if his own redemption is increasingly tied to reconciling the widow to her late husband at the same time he falls in love with her?
I also looked at my favourite genre conventions and tried to twist them. Let's have a widow who adored her husband. Let's have the late husband a major character in the book. Let's have the love triangle about the hero's loyalty to his best friend as much as his love for his best friend's widow. Let's have a woman who's moving on and a hero who can't.
Can you have different kinds of soulmates? Or one? How can I resolve the story so the reader believes that this man and no other is the 'one' while developing an affection for the late husband.

The book is set in Pataua, NZ renamed Stingray Bay.
Anyway, back to reading. I’m loving Going Postal, my first Terry Pratchett. What book has been recommended to you lately that turned out to be a great read? Or if you have a tip on how to be industrious when you don’t want to be, I’d be delighted to hear it.
Post a comment and go into the draw for a copy of Bring Him Home. You can read an excerpt here

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What is it with Men and Socks?

By Jeannie Watt

What is it with men and socks? Or at least the men in my life and socks?

When I was single, I had very few problems with socks, except for one or two that were eaten by the washing machine, but that’s just life. When I married, however, my relationship with socks—and not my own socks, mind you—started to change.  Nothing earth shattering, but certain phenomena began repeating.

One of those is the Invisi-sock Phenomenon. Apparently the Y chromosome renders certain objects, including socks, temporarily invisible.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stop doing important things, like reading blogs before getting ready for work, to find the missing pair of running/biking/hunting/white/brown/lucky socks that are sitting front and center in the sock drawer when I open it. When I hand them to my husband, the following exchange then ensues:

“Where did you find them!?”
“In the sock drawer.”
“I looked there!”
“I know you did. So, until tomorrow…”

Not to be smug, but in our several decades of married life, I have never once asked my husband to help me find my socks. My car keys, yes; my sun glasses, yes; but socks—never. (To be fair, however, I must mention that my husband rarely loses anything except his socks--and they aren't really lost. They're just invisible.)

After my son was born, I noticed another sock phenomenon that continues to this day. The Sock Shed, as in the boy sheds socks wherever he goes. If I want to find him, I follow the trail of socks.  Even when he tries not to shed socks, he does.  For instance, if I call a hotel because I think I’ve left something in the room, the first question I get after security checks the lost and found is, “Was it a sock?”.

So after many years of guy/sock dealings,  I’ve developed a Y-chromosome-sock theory. Nature, through specialized evolution, has made it impossible for men to manage their socks and therefore they eventually realize that, unless they want to spend their days sockless and blistered, they need a mate. Then they are able to pass that Y-chromosome on to new generations.

What do you think? Does the Y-chromosome render objects invisible and make it impossible to keep socks under control?

Hey--you know what? I just realized this is my second hosiery post in a row. What is it with me and socks?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

About That Spring Fever...

Rogenna Brewer mentioned that she had spring fever. Me, too. For me it manifests in the compulsion to get outside and work in my garden. Because of living overseas for 6 of the nearly 9 previous years, I haven't had much to work with...containers with annuals, herbs, some roses in our lovely Belgian garden (we'd call it a walled yard, they call it a jardin). So it's great to be back home in the USA in the house we bought 9 months ago with the high hopes of not moving again for many, many years. Did I emphasize no more moves for a good while?
Even though the home we bought is relatively new, it's 9 yrs old but with no landscaping. This is good and bad. Let's focus on the good. I get to put in my flower beds and trees wherever I wish. On Saturday I decided it was time to start. But I'm afraid of digging into our dog's electric fence, so I kept this one next to the house. It's in a spot that if I mess it up it won't matter as much as say, the front yard.
You can see my handiwork in the photo. It seemed simple. Dig up a 10' by 10' (3mx3m) area. Just lift up the sod. How hard could it be? And I decided to make it kind of heart-shaped. Easy, right? All I can say is that if not for the great workouts I've been putting in at the gym in cross-fit and cardio-fit classes, I wouldn't have made it. The unseasonably warm day had sweat dripping down my face within minutes. I kept telling myself I was working off all of the Easter Bunnies I ate last weekend.
Now, the fun part. I get to pick up some dirt, mulch, and plants. Probably a weeping mini cherry tree is in the lot. Of course, as a romance writer I am brilliant. I conveniently had a cortisone shot to the shoulder yesterday (planned before the sod busting) and I'll have to rely on dearest hubby and teen daughter to bring in the dirt and mulch. Tee hee.
What are your best gardening tips?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why I Love Writing about Teenagers - Ellen Hartman

My two boys before they were teens.
Wow. I never used the random number generator before. It was kind of exciting. Marcie and Summer are the winners. Please get in touch via my email: ellen AT ellenhartman DOT com. Let me know if you'd rather a print book or an ebook. 

With the two books I have coming out this year, I'm at a grand total of eight Superromances.  Exactly half of my books include a teenager in a significant role.

Sometimes I tell myself, "Smarten up, Hartman. Write about a baby, or better yet twins. Books with babies on the cover sell like hotcakes."

You want to know a sad truth about teenagers? They aren't even allowed on the cover of romance novels.* Who knows what their angsty, argumentative, sometimes sullen appearance would do for sales? (Note to the marketing department: The answer to that depends on the buyer. Forget hotcakes, I snap up single-parent-raising-teenager books like crispy, fresh bacon!)

I understand the appeal of baby characters, in theory. Infant are helpless. They need to be loved and protected. Infants are all about intense need and devotion. They cry and sleep and eat and...infants....umm...there must be more, right? Maybe I don't understand the appeal of babies, after all.**

Teenagers, on the other hand, are solid gold secondary characters for a romance novel.
  • Teenagers do dangerous, bad things. And their parents are rapidly losing the capacity (legal, physical, etc.) to stop protect them.
  • Teenagers are articulate, observant, and scathingly honest. Especially when it comes to their parents' flaws.
  • Teenagers want desperately to be loved and respected as individuals precisely at the moment in their lives when they are least able to ask for affection and connection from the adults who care about them most. The teenager and caregiver relationship is a delicate dance and it's so easy for either side to mess up the steps.
  • Teenagers know their parents' hopes and dreams intimately. This makes them uniquely suited to crush those same hopes and dreams.
Look at that list! Who wouldn't want to write about teenagers? They're chaos and heartbreak and love all wrapped up in a package capable of hilarious dialogue and rich, dramatic scenes.

There is an element of fear running through the interaction of many of my characters and their teenage children. In His Secret Past, Mason Star is afraid that he hasn't been a good enough dad to his son, that somehow his own inadequacies as a person have left his son open to succumbing to bad influences.

In Calling the Shots,  Clare worries that her son will stop needing her and that she won't be able to keep him safe, while Bryan worries that his daughter will decide to move to California because a relationship with him doesn't have much to offer. That fear brings out the vulnerability in the characters and reveals their deepest desires. It's rich territory for an author writing about relationships.

In my May Super, The Long Shot, Deacon Fallon is guardian to his 18-year-old brother, Wes, who gets suspended from college in the first chapter. Here's the beginning of their first scene:

Deacon slammed his hand against the glass door of the university administration building and stalked through. He made no attempt to hold the door for the idiot he called a brother. In fact, the way he felt right now, he hoped the door would hit Wes in the face. The kid desperately needed someone to knock some sense into him.

As if Wes wasn't trouble enough, Deacon also gets roped into coaching a girls' high school basketball team. I enjoyed myself thoroughly as I wrote all of these complicated and fascinating kids.

So who has a teen story for me? I want to hear about the time the teenage you pushed the boundaries or had a revelation. What about teenagers you've raised or worked with? What's a moment that captures the joy of caring for kids who are this special age?

I'm giving away copies of The Long Shot to two people who comment! 

*This is probably not exactly true. I'm just being dramatic. Although who knows...I don't remember seeing a romance novel with a teenager on the cover. Maybe they are banned. :-)
**Kidding. I know why babies are appealing. It's their tiny little toes. Plus the gummy smiles. And their soft hair. Or the way they snuggle up when you hold them just right...sigh. I have a new nephew and now I really want to drive to his house and hold him. 

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