Thursday, February 28, 2013

Keeping Busy

By Jeannie Watt

Jim Rockford and I have been spending a lot of time sewing together lately. I enjoy his company.

I've always listened to TV while I sew and for a long time I thought I hated to do things without the TV on. After moving to our off-the-grid home, where we schedule our TV watching around having the power on or off, I discovered that it's actually the opposite--I hate to watch TV without doing something. I stockpile handwork to keep me busy while I watch--hand sewing, crocheting, knitting. I can't do handwork during depressing shows, because I associate whatever I'm watching with the finished product and who wants to think dour thoughts while wearing something they've made?  Since I can't do handwork during depressing shows, I don't watch them. I think this has given me a cheerier outlook on life--something one needs when teaching junior high school.

I made my daughter a large single crochet afghan after she graduated college. It took me over a year to finish it and when I mailed it to her, I included a note that said, "There are hours of So You Think You Can Dance, Top Chef, Project Runway and Justified in this blanket." And there were--single crochet is not a speedy process when one is making a blanket.

After the year-long afghan was done, I had nothing to do because none of my sewing projects involved hand sewing, and watching TV with idle hands wasn't working. I missed my crochet hook. Therefore I had to buy eighty dollars worth of yarn and make a two-year afghan. Ah, the shows I watched during that one...

Do you need to do something while you watch TV? Or are you like my husband and happy to just kick back and focus only on the action on the screen?




Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The power of a scene

Mary Sullivan

Last night before going to bed, I looked up an author's website. Earlier in the evening, a friend had mentioned this woman's name and I thought I would check out her work. I found an excerpt on her site and the writing is really wonderful. I will definitely pick up her books.

HOWEVER...the scene she excerpted was a prologue that started well—and benignly. The characters were likeable and intriguing. By the end of the scene, they were dead, killed by a pair of young people who had not a speck of conscience. The murder was gruesome, but not described so, thank goodness. The author ran through the description fairly quickly, so there was a minimum of blood and gore. There was, though, plenty of understanding of the victims' horror just before death.

During the evening, the storm that had been predicted hit my town. It started as rain and I wondered when it would change to snow.

I went to bed and snuggled under my warm blankets. Very soon afterward, I started to hear noises that kept me awake. Someone was banging on the side of my apartment building and also on the ground below my window. I kept watching my window to see whether shadows appeared against my curtains. I honestly thought that, at any moment, someone was going to break in.

Finally, impatient with my own cowardice, I went to the window and looked outside. I'm on the second floor. I looked down. There was no one there.

The rain had changed to snow, though, and the accumulation of the wet, sloppy stuff was fast and furious.

Very quickly, the bedroom side of my apartment building was covered. The noises I'd been hearing were of sheets of gloopy, wet snow sliding from the side of the building and landing on the ground. Honest to goodness, it was so wet and heavy, it sounded like someone was pelting the building with boulders. It kept me awake all night.

I'm not usually such a scaredy-cat and wondered why the noises had freaked me out so much, then realized it was because of reading that very effective and well-written murder scene before going to bed.

I had to laugh at myself and my fanciful imagination. No one who was trying to break in would ever make that much noise.

I remember years ago seeing Wait Until Dark with Audrey Hepburn. Does anyone who saw it remember that scene in which the murderer jumps out of the darkness at her, totally scaring the daylights out of the viewers? The entire theater audience screamed. Oh my lord, I had nightmares for quite a few days after that!

Are there any scenes from books or movies that left you shaken and scared and almost believing that they could be true? That they could happen to you?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A February Beach Break

I live in New England, and the winter this year has seemed excessively long.  We were housebound with a snowstorm this past weekend, and from the weather forecast, I see we are due for another tomorrow.  Spring cannot come fast enough!

So I've been daydreaming...if I had a plane ticket (or a time-travel machine), which beach would I transport myself to?



How about Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, with the surfers and the high-rise hotels?






Or the Cape Cod National Seashore in July?






Here is the sea around Santorini, Greece.  I've never swum there, but I can imagine.




A beach near Naples, Florida:






I think I would choose my local beach, Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, during the month of August. 



How about you?  If you could take a February beach break, where would you like to go? 

(All comments enter you to the monthly drawing for a complete 6-book set of Harlequin SuperRomance books. I'm also randomly drawing two commenters to this post for a copy of one of my releases. Good luck!)



Cathryn Parry's December Superromance, The Long Way Home, is set in Seacocast, New Hampshire.  For more information, please see her website at www.CathrynParry.com.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Love at first sight


When I met my guy twenty-four years ago I thought he was cute  - and someone’s kid brother. It wasn’t just that he looked younger than late twenties, he was also more open, which after five bruising years living in London I misread as naiveté.  
But my point is, there was no thunderbolt moment, no recognition that he was my soulmate. It took nearly three years for us to realize we were, in fact, perfect for each other.
My take on the occasional news stories of ‘love at first sighters celebrating a Golden Wedding Anniversary’ is that it’s down to the same dumb luck that blesses every enduring relationship including mine. Whether you fall in love after ten seconds  or ten years, the ‘til death does us part’ commitment comes down to a daily renewal of faith.
But as a romance author I’m intrigued by the idea of instantly recognizing your soulmate. 
So for my May release, A Prior Engagement I came up with a hero who believes in love at first sight and paired him with a heroine whose mother’s inability to distinguish between frogs and princes made her childhood a misery. 
Through sheer sexy exuberance he seduces her into a relationship and then blows it by proposing after six short weeks. She rejects him badly and he deploys to Afghanistan before they can reconcile. And is killed.
Grief-stricken she accepts the engagement ring from his unsuspecting army buddies. 
Nineteen months later, our hero comes back from the dead to find her ensconced in the bosom of his family. Ouch.
And once they work out that awkwardness they still have to find a way past their very different ideas of what constitutes true love.
So what do you believe? 
Are you with actor Jeff Bridges who says; "“For me and my wife, it was love at first sight.” 
 Or are you on the side of humorist Sam Levensen.  “Love at first sight is easy to understand; It’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle.” 

And if you'd like to go into the draw for one of my backlist go to the contest page on my site here.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Stand-Up Writer



I am not what anyone would call a fitness fanatic. I am far too fond of food for my own good, and while I am faithful to my morning walks & yoga sessions, I will never be one who looks forward to working up a good sweat. Look, I'm Canadian. Heat and I are just not friends.

Nevertheless, I do know that it's important for me to get off my well-endowed bottom and get moving or at least upright. We all know of the many health dangers associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Thanks to our many hours at the keyboard, writers need to be even more aware of the health risks of too many hours sitting. (True story: riding the elevator at one writing conference, a couple noticed my badge and asked what kind of group we were. When I said that we were romance writers, they started laughing and confessed that they thought it was a gathering of Overeaters Anonymous.)

A couple of years ago I started looking into setting up a treadmill desk. That hasn't happened yet, though it's still on my dream radar, but I realized that even if I couldn't pull off the treadmill, I could still make a move in the right – make that upright - direction. 

My first thought was to buy an adjustable desk – one that allows the used to switch from sitting to  standing with a few simple adjustments. They looked nice, but in considering my office space and my current desk, which was built into the bookshelves crammed with all of my supplies, I realized that this wasn't a practical option, either. But a little more research provided me with plenty of examples of do-it-yourself standing desks. 

This, I could do!

With a little willingness to think outside the box and less than an hour spent scrounging up materials, I transformed my writing space into my own (sort-of) adjustable desk. . Here's how it looks now: 



The monitor is propped up on an old safe. The upper keyboard and mouse are atop an old basket and a lovely gift box. Someday they will undoubtedly need to be replaced, but it's been well over two years now and they're holding strong. I use this keyboard and mouse when I stand, which I do as much as possible. My guideline is to stand for email, Facebook, etc. - all those peripheral parts of the writing life.
When I am actually writing, I sit and use the lower keyboard and mouse, located on a shelf that slides out of reach when I use the standing equipment. 

Being able to quickly and easily move from sitting to standing hasn't made any visible differences in my hips or endurance, but I know it's better for me. The benefits were driven home this weekend when I holed up in a hotel for an intense writing blast. I spent the bulk of the time working at the desk. I got a huge amount of work done, but I also have a stiff neck and an incredibly sore butt, all thanks to my enforced sedentary behavior. I can't wait to get back to being a stand-up writer again once I return home. 

Oh, and if anyone is wondering about the picture on my monitor – it's a great little five minute walking workout by Leslie Sansone, available on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bot9ma_sIh0). It's a fast, fun way to work out some of the kinks that can accompany those hours at the keyboard. 

What are some other easy ways to get more movement/upright time into our lives? I'm open to all suggestions!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Silver Linings

It's a funny story.

At least, that's what I will be saying in hindsight once this day is over. You see, I should be in Boston right now on vacation with my husband for his birthday. We'd planned this trip back in December and have been highly anticipating it. Unfortunately, Snowmageddon 2013 hit and we arrived at the airport to discover our flight, and pretty much all others to the eastern seaboard, have been cancelled.

I do not generally get overwrought about such inconveniences when forces of nature interfere with my plans. Instead of getting mad or frustrated at things no one can control, I look for silver linings buried in the snow.

So here's a list of the pros that went with the cons on this misadventure:

Con: only remembered last night that I had to clean the house in preparation for Lunar New Year, and did the fastest vacuum and clean ever.
Pro: came home to a clean house.

Con: entire trip had to be cancelled.
Pro: it's Lunar New Year on Sunday--my favorite holiday--and I had lamented missing the celebration for this trip. But now I get to be a part of the festivities with my family!

Con: arrived at the airport after an hour-long trek through the snow via public transit to discover our flight was cancelled.
Pro: spoke face to face with a rep from Porter Airlines and had the amount for my flight credited back to me in voucher form without hassle.

Con: went to get breakfast at Casey's, but discovered it was closed.
Pro: ended up at the Fairmont Royal York hotel's Epic lounge for a sumptuous breakfast buffet. While there, trying to recover from the blizzard, hubby and I tweeted about our cancelled weekend. @FairmontRYH picked up our tweets and sent a customer service rep down to the lounge with a cheesecake surprise for John to cheer him up on his lost birthday trip. A splendid surprise from the classiest hotel ever.

Con: hubby has thrown his back out.
Pro: we're here, where we can get free health care and not feel like we're wasting a trip if he ends up flat on his back for the rest of the weekend.

Con: my calendar only reminded me that I had to write this blog post this morning before I left.
Pro: You're reading this post now, aren't you?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Question of the Month: Trapped in a Movie?

We're starting a new feature here on the SuperRomance Authors blog. Each month we'll pose a different question to the authors and bring you their answers. With this crew, it proves to be an interesting (ahem) experience :-)

February is the month of everyone's favorite holiday, Groundhog Day. (Aha! Bet you thought I was going for the pink hearts, didn't you?) In honor of the fabulous movie of the same name, the SuperRomance Authors were asked this burning question: 

If you had to be trapped in a movie to relive day after day, what movie would you choose, and why?

Geri Krotow: I know I'll get flak from my Super sister Liz Talley, but my favorite movie for this is Sweet Home Alabama. Yes, this Yankee loves me some southern romance. My family was stationed in Alabama for 10 months years ago, and the movie captures the beauty of the south plus has a wonderful romance to boot. I live for the kiss in the pet cemetery, and of course the happy ending on the beach. I can watch it again and again (and I have!). 

Joan Kilby: Before Sunset. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy fell in love over the course of one night in the prequel, Before Sunrise. They parted, planning to get back together. But things happened and they lost touch when he went back to the States and she, to her home in Paris. Ten years pass and they meet again in Before Sunset by chance. The spark is still there but their lives are more established now and coming together would be a lot trickier than ten years ago. They spend the day together, falling in love again against the romantic backdrop of Paris. It's a lovely movie, smart and funny and touching. The ending is so sweet. Will he or won't he miss his plane and stay? The movie keeps you in suspense until the last minute.

Mary Sullivan: I would have to choose Out of Africa and play Meryl Streep in all of those great clothes and hats. If I could I would edit out all of the bad things that happen to her, though, and keep only the love scenes with Robert Redford! LOL.

Vicki Essex: I'd have to say The Princess Bride. I love me a little fantasy, and there's nothing like a timeless classic and a dashing, handsome Dread Pirate Roberts telling you "As you wish," when he really means "I love you." Sigh.

Tara Taylor Quinn: My movie would be Yentl.  Every scene, except where her father dies.  That one is too sad.  But the books, the learning, the studying – and the last scene…  That last one as she’s leaving her home country and sailing to America, she’s on the bow of the boat her arms are spread wide to the sky…that’s the scene I would repeat over and over and over again – she’s singing at the top of her lungs, ‘Papa can you hear me?  Watch me fly!’  Love it.

Cathryn Parry: May I be Baby in Dirty Dancing? I want Jerry Orbach as my Dad, and Patrick Swayze as my guy. I could learn to dance by day, and spend my nights with Johnny. (swoon!) And I promise I will never get a nose job. I don't need Dancing with the Stars, either. Nope, just give me Johnny Castle. :-)

Pamela Hearon:The movie I would relive over and over would be Dirty Dancing.  I would get to play the part of Baby (Jennifer Grey), spending my summer at a fabulous resort and dancing (among other things) with Patrick Swayze in his gorgeous prime.  I would indeed be a Happy Camper!

Linda Warren: Since someone has already mentioned Dirty Dancing (loved to dance with Patrick Swayze), I'd like to relive Sweet Home Alabama and be Reese Witherspoon and having to choose between Patrick Dempsey (sigh) and Josh Lucas (sigh). Either way, I win, but like a Harlequin romance love helps Melanie to make the right choice. Love that. 

Rogenna Brewer: I'll take Top Gun.  A young Tom Cruise.  And the part of my life I've been missing since living it in the 80's.  

Kris Fletcher: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Seriously. Okay, I could do without the scene with the snakes and the skeletons, but I would love to drink the locals under the table and explore Biblical treasures. And, of course, learn how to handle Harrison Ford's whip. 

Darlene Gardner: I'd relive While You Were Sleeping. Not only would I get to be a young Sandra Bullock, I'd fall in love over and over again with a young Bill Pullman. Sigh. I've got a weakness for beta heroes. It would also be the holiday season, and everybody in his family would love me. And since I'd know everything works out in the end, I wouldn't even stress about the guy in the coma waking up and exposing me as a fraud.
 
Jeannie Watt: Assuming that I got to be the female lead, I would relive The Proposal over and over again, because I’d get to be an editor, I’d have great hair, I’d be hanging out with Ryan Reynolds—in Alaska, no less—and I’d get to have an excellent HEA time after time.  Also, it’d be great to break free of protective barriers and get a great guy in the process.

Ellen Hartman: I want to be Jeannie's stunt double for the scene in The Proposal when her character comes out of the shower and bumps into Ryan Reynolds nude. It involves some physical stunts that might injure Jeannie (or Ryan!) so I'm stepping in purely from a charitable point of view. And yes, I'm fine with reliving just this one scene and not the whole movie. ;-)
If Jeannie's contract doesn't allow for a stunt double (she might have to fully commit to the movie for artistic reasons), then I will go with my second choice. I would relive the last 2 minutes of Bridget Jones's Diary. I already own the shapeless gray cardigan and sneakers so I'm ready to start work at once. 


(Rebuttal from Jeannie:  Sorry, Ellen. My contract expressly forbids the use of stunt doubles--something about union regulations. Anyway, I am committed to reliving that scene over and over and over...you get the picture.)

Liz Talley: OMG! Ellen stole mine. I want to kiss Colin Firth in the snow wearing my knickers and trainers! Okay, I’ll take Notting Hill. I love the hopeless romance of a huge celebrity falling in love with a travel bookstore owner (who works for Horse and Hound on the side). I love the ensemble secondary cast, the scene where time passes by to “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone” and that park bench in the private garden. I don’t have a thing for Hugh Grant, I just have a thing for every character he plays. He’s so uncomfortably charming. Oh, and I love the line, “I’m just a girl standing here asking a guy to love her.” Swoon!

Karina Bliss: Colin Firth in Bridget Jones's Diary was all very well but darlings, seriously. The man was made in Pride & Prejudice. So aside from being the wardrobe assistant who tweaks the duckweed off his sodden shirt as he emerges from the pond, I'd swap with Lizzie for that final screen kiss in the open carriage as they drive away to Pemberley after their wedding. And I'll take the sequel. Married to Darcy, living in Pemberley... Fans self...No wait, isn't there a servant to do that for me now?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Clothes to Make the Author

A few weeks ago, my sister went through all the closets in the house and culled a ton of old, outdated, ill-fitting clothing and donated it to a local charity. It got me thinking about the clothes we wear for our jobs, and the expectations and perceptions attached to one’s unique sense of style.

Currently, my day job requires simply that I be comfortable and relatively neat looking. Whenever I wear a nicer business suit or dress, perceptions change. At an old job, I was frequently asked, “Are you going for a job interview?” My response was always the same: “Nah, it’s laundry day.”

Then it occurred to me that writers don’t really have uniforms. We often work alone all day, usually in the comfort of our home office. I was surprised to find out how many writers get fully dressed to write instead of wandering to their computers in their underwear. Considering how writing has become an after-work ritual for me, I couldn’t conceive of wearing anything that might stifle my creativity.

Which brings me to my “writing uniform.”

I can’t quite imagine Margaret Atwood, Nora Roberts, Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen schlupping around in their footie jammies while penning masterpieces, but neither will I believe couldn't be comfortable and look fashionable while working.

Unfortunately, I can only achieve one of those at a time.

In my opinion, the writer’s uniform should play two important roles: it should (a) be comfortable; and (b) indicate to the outside world that you are WORKING, and that you CAN’T BE DISTURBED RIGHT NOW.

Note: I’m sure there are people out there writing in three-piece suits and high heels, so comfort is subjective. In my definition, comfortable means that state in which you can produce the highest word count possible.

My writing uniform starts with stretchy cotton jogging pants and a soft sweatshirt. I have two of each in my “writing clothes” drawer. A pair of cozy fun socks is essential; I usually opt for either my knee-high rainbow socks or the puffy spa socks I got for Christmas.

Sitting in front of a screen and not moving for hours means your blood stops circulating and you get pretty cold, so I will usually don an oversized zip-up hoodie. The one I own has what I call “writer’s elbow”--a giant hole in the left elbow worn in from propping your chin up while sitting in front of the monitor.

Unfortunately, a sweatshirt and hoodie aren’t usually enough for me, since I am a cold-blooded lizard woman, and because I’m somewhat frugal and enviromentally conscious of energy use, I don’t usually turn up the heat. Instead, I’ve taken to wearing hats indoors.

I have two hats for writing: a hand-knit beanie, and THE SERIOUS HAT. If I am wearing THE SERIOUS HAT, it is because all the blood has gone to my brain. THE SERIOUS HAT is very warm. My husband and cat both know not to talk to me when I wear it. If I am wearing it, I have likely locked my office door because I’m on deadline. One look at me in THE SERIOUS HAT, and you will understand that I AM SERIOUS about writing.

Finally, to combat the dreaded “mouse hand,” I put on a pair of Dickensian writing gloves. They’re a pair of white cotton dollar-store gloves with the tips cut off. When I put them on, I like to pretend I’m Bob Cratchit, counting beans for Mr. Scrooge who won’t turn the heat up.

I think you'll agree, my outfit definitely gets the job done.



Do you have a uniform you wear for a specific activity other people wouldn’t wear one for? Maybe you have a vacuuming outfit? A poker night suit? A wine-drinking dress? Bacon-frying socks?

Let me know in the comments!
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