Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The joy of getting rid of stuff!

Mary Sullivan

So, on the weekend I decided I could no longer stand the state of my closets and dedicated Saturday and Sunday to bringing them under control. One thing led to another and soon I was cleaning more than just closets, but also dresser drawers and under-the-bed storage.

I tweeted that while I cleaned I wore the pretty new earrings I had bought on Friday, my thought being that, if I were going to be involved in such drudgery, I might as well feel good doing it. :-)

I put on some of my favourite music and got busy, managing in the end to pull together two bags of garbage, two bags of recycling and two LARGE bags of clothing and items to go to Goodwill.

The shelf in my hall closet is so pretty now, so nicely organized with floral and colourful hat, file and photo boxes—not quite Martha Stewart-ish, but darn close for me! There's room for more storage when I can buy another stylish box or two, or another woven basket. I managed to gather together a lifetime worth of photos into two boxes, all while having a great time looking through my 'history.'



I came away feeling that I'd accomplished so much when it was only closet-clearing.

I also looked through my favorite storage piece, a small cedar chest made for me by a friend years ago. It contains all of my great-aunt's embroidery, sewing and crocheting. I couldn't bring myself to clear out any of it.


She also hand-sewed and embroidered this for my doll when I was a toddler. I have it framed and hanging on my bedroom wall.


All of these are treasures that I will never get rid of and am happy to store.

There is still more work to be done, including unpacking one last box left over from when I moved in here six years ago! That will be a big job, though. It's full of old writing and manuscripts. I will have to decide which, if any, will ever be useful to me in the future and which should just be shredded, not always an easy decision when you are close to your work.

Have you done anything recently that left you with that wonderful 'aaaah, I'm so glad I did that' feeling?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Deadline Zombie

by Rogenna Brewer

I'm about 12 hours in to a 24 hour flu so I'm going to keep this brief.  I wanted to talk about deadline zombies.  That's me on the left or at least how I look deep into deadline or maybe I should confess past deadline and working well into the night.

So I guess being sick afterward is all part of it too.  Turned in a book on Monday around 10am, but stayed up all Sunday night to do it after nursing a sick kiddo late into Saturday night.

Because it was mid morning and the sun was shining I didn't feel much like crawling back into bed and throwing off my sleep schedule so I stay up until just about an hour before my normal bedtime.

At some point in the day I got my second wind and caught up on a lot of things that needed my attention.  But would also just space out for no reason and kept drifting off in the tub which is when I decided, okay, time for bed before I drown myself.

After I good nights rest I woke up Tuesday ready for action.  I had a whole list of chores to tackle, not the least of which was cleaning my office.  Except I felt lazy and really didn't do anything.  By midday I started not to feel well so I had my excuse and shot a text off to my husband to make sure he knew.  Just in case he thought he was coming home to the clean house I'd bragged about that morning.

Spent the rest of the evening huddled under a blanket watching TV and thinking I should really write this post.  After Supernatural (Yes, I'm a fan of Sam and Dean Winchester) I headed upstairs to my office, sat down at my computer blew off writing this post for a few emails.  And then went to bed.

So that's a deadline Zombie for you.  At this rate it will probably take me a week to clean my office and get back in the swing of writing.

And just so this post isn't a total waste of your time I'm going to share the Dear Reader letter from my upcoming May 2012 Superromance The SEAL's Special Mission, you've heard me mention the story here under the working title A Stranger in the Family.


Dear Reader,
            Have you ever felt like chucking your old life for a new one?  While this has always been a favorite fantasy of mine, the reality is I’m far too attached to my life for that kind of change.  But what if you’d lost everything and had nothing more to lose?
            Such is the case for Kenneth Nash in The SEAL’s Special Mission.  Wrongfully convicted of his wife’s murder, the Navy SEAL accepts a deal from the Feds that allows him to go deep undercover in search of the real killer.  Seven years later, his cover is blown and he must choose between the integrity of his original mission or saving the son he’s never known along with the sister-in-law who testified against him.
            There are somewhere between 9,000 and 10,000 families in the Witness Protection Program, also called Witness Security Program (WITSEC).  According to the US Marshals Service, no witness who has followed the rules has ever been killed.
Some interesting facts about the program:
  • Witnesses can choose their new names, but are advised to keep current initials or same first name. 
  • Name changes are done by the court system just like any other name change, but the records are sealed.
  • Witnesses must not contact former associates or unprotected family members.  Or return to the town from which they were relocated.
  • If the witness has a criminal history, local authorities are made aware of the situation.  Only a small percentage of criminal witnesses return to a life of crime.
 Assuming you could take your loved ones with you or not if you'd rather not.  What's the one thing you couldn't give up from your present life?  Everyone who's bothered to read this far gets a FREE copy of my latest release One Star Spangled Night.  Just click on the link to smashwords.com and enter the promotions code: 

Promotional price: $0.00
Coupon Code: KU92V
Expires: November 27, 2013   

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Question of the Month: the Undiscovered Treasures Edition

Our Question of the Month for November: 

We all have undiscovered treasures - vacation destination, author, recipe, etc  - that we love and wish were known to the rest of the world. Here's your chance! Give a shout-out to one of your undiscovered treasures and let everyone share in the awesomeness!
(Apologies for the odd spacing. I can't convince Blogger to play nicely with me this month.)
 

Vicki Essex: There are so many things I love sharing with others...favorite books, food, musicians... But I think one of the best things I enjoy sharing are life hacks. That is, simple ways to improve an everyday activity. All my favorites are here. You can also go to lifehack.org for some more general advice about how to get through life.

My life hack suggestion? Cut orange slices by starting on the equator, not through the poles. That way, you don't get a line of pith on the top edge. (Not sure why so many people cut it the other way...)
Geri Krotow: Does it count that I love the Goo Goo Dolls? They are from my hometown of Buffalo, NY. I've only seen them once in concert--in 2010 I flew home from Moscow, Russia to see them perform in Darien Lake, New York. I had tickets in the pit, and took my daughter with me. My dream would be to meet the band and give them each a signed copy of one of my books. Their music is thoughtful and relevant, in my estimation. When I listen to them I feel 19 again (okay, well, almost).



  
Jennifer Lohmann: Since I am busy editing my June, 2014 release (Weekends in Carolina) set on an organic vegetable farm, I have vegetables on my mind. I also like to cook, which means I generally think about food a lot. So, my undiscovered treasures are two ugly vegetables that Americans don't eat as much we should (given how delicious they are) and are perfect for winter eating. If you're not an American reader, you may be more familiar with these foods.
First, the humble rutabaga (also known as the swede). This root vegetable is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. It's easy to peel and you should buy some just to add to your next dish of mashed potatoes. They can be boiled along with your potatoes--just cut them a little smaller because they take longer to cook--and you will be amazed at the sudden golden sweetness your potatoes now have.

Second, the kohlrabi. Also related to the cabbage, lurking under the thick skin of the kohlrabi is a crisp, white vegetable that is delicious cooked or raw. I like to slice mine into thin matchsticks and toss with a sesame dressing dressing as part of Chinese meal (see Every Grain of Rice by Fucshia Dunlop for the recipe).

I hope I've inspired you to give these veggies a try. What under-appreciated fruits and vegetables do you use in your kitchen (and how do you suggest preparing them)? 


Kris Fletcher: About a dozen or so years ago, my sons came home from camp singing some very offbeat, quirky songs about cows and men watching television and Celine Dion. "They're by the Arrogant Worms!" my boys said. I listened. I learned the lyrics. And my slightly warped heart fell fast. 
The Worms are my guilty pleasure, my go-to music when I need a laugh. Friends will tell you I can come up with a Worm song for almost any occasion. (I'm not sure if they mean that in a good way or not ...). 
Many of their songs are high in Canadian content - great for me, not so good with sharing with an international audience such as the Super readers. But I'm thinking The Coffee Song will have a rather wide appeal. 

Laura Drake:  You know when you read a book that just makes your heart sing? Through talent and some kind of magic, the book crawls inside your heart? Wow, I love when that happens - though, as an author, it makes me want to put a sign on my back, "Hack."

I picked up Coyote Dream, by Jessica Davis Stein. This book has stayed with me - my favorite kind - the perfect blend between women's fiction and romance. The author gives us wonderful characterization of two disparate cultures (NY Jewess and Navajo) and ethnicities in a believable, wonderful way. Her descriptions of the desert make you feel the breath of hot wind in your face. The character's journey, both inner and outer, are long, arduous, and believable.

Honestly, I can't recommend this book enough. I was heartbroken to realize this is her only novel. UGH!


Mary Sullivan: I discovered the musical group First Aid Kit last year through my daughter. I've been a HUGE Emmylou Harris fan for years and they sing a song they wrote about Emmylou that's fabulous. My daughter gave me a heads-up about the song and I fell in love with everything else they do. We saw them in concert at a small music hall in Toronto and they were amazing in person. They rocked with a drummer, but also sang folkier songs a cappella and their voices carried to the back of the hall beautifully. The crowd (everyone from eight-year-olds to eighty-year-olds, from the most conservative types to young guys covered in tattoos) were blown away by their talent.

They are a pair of sweet, authentic young Swedish sisters, hippy throwbacks who remind me of my youth :-)

Here's a cover they did live in a tribute to Paul Simon.








Readers, did any of these suggestions pique your interest? Do you want to give a shout-out to an undiscovered treasure? Tell us in the comments!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Winners for Cathryn Parry's Monday Blog Post

Scotland, romance, Harlequin
December, 2013
Congratulations to Mary Preston and Di!

Please let me know your mailing address, and I'll send an advance copy of The Sweetest Hours to you.  Here is my website contact form.

Thanks for reading our Superromance blog!  :-) 

Sincerely,  Cathryn
www.CathrynParry.com

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Acceptance

Those of us who write and read romance are lucky--we get to explore "what ifs?" on a regular basis. With each novel I write I'm able to explore my characters to their deepest depths. I don't always like what I find--is my heroine too witchy? Is the hero too unyielding? Fortunately there's a 'delete' function in my writing software--I can erase and rewrite the story, the characters, to be their very best. Not flawless, but more realistic. None of us are black-and-white; we're multi-faceted, our colors change at the most unexpected times, we feel pain as easily as joy.
And yet…sometimes it's necessary for me to accept what is. My heroine has a hard edge? Fine--instead of fighting it, I can use my writing skills, improve them, even, to show why she's less willing to show her vulnerability. Why is she so tough?
Can you tell that I'm in the midst of line edits for Navy Rescue (Superromance May 2014)? This is my last time to tweak the words so that you see the same story and characters on the page that I have in my head.
And yet…somethings are best left as they are.
Like trying to keep my rescue dog Misha dry during an early morning downpour. It doesn't work. Can you tell by the photo he's all but screaming at me "Mom, I'm a dog, and I look ridiculous in this jacket! What are the other dogs going to think?" Seconds after I snapped his baleful expression I took the coat off and he bounded to the furthest corner of the yard to do his wake-up routine. I do have micro-fiber towels to absorb the water and mud when he comes back in, however. I'm not accepting enough to let him dry off naturally all over the carpet and furniture!
Acceptance is such a gift, if I'm willing to take it. Is there something about yourself, your family, that you have been able to accept? Any tips for the for the rest of us who might have trouble letting go?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

When The Past Catches Up



This past summer, my oldest daughter took part in what is becoming a family tradition: she spent a week as a Time Traveler.   

No, not that kind of time travel. This is a camp run through Upper Canada Village, a recreated historic village located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in eastern Ontario. My family has made many a visit to the Village over the years. All three of my sons were Time Travelers, and now my daughters are following in their footsteps. 


  The camp is amazing. Very few kids in our neighborhood have had the chance to work with a tinsmith or slop pigs or help on a tow scow, but Time Travelers do that and more. They dress in period clothes, attend the village schoolhouse, work on farms or with the village shopkeepers, and learn the history of the area. They sing Temperance songs and eat vegetables from the gardens they've weeded and pose for photos taken by the folks touring the site.


 
The Village itself is a treat to visit, a place to step back in time and catch a glimpse of life in a bygone era. It was born out of a combination of progress and sorrow – many of the buildings were from areas flooded in the creation of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Today, it's a bustling tourist destination, a vibrant and exciting place to visit. 

And in my November Superromance, NOW YOU SEE ME, I burned it to the ground. 

 
 
Oh, not in the pages of the book, and not by name. My imaginary fire that destroyed the Old Village, as I called it, took place 25 years ago. Not surprisingly, the loss of the main tourist attraction dealt a serious blow to my make-believe community of Comeback Cove. And J.T. Delaney, the local bad boy who was spotted running from the fire, became seriously persona non grata in his hometown.
But as is so often the case, there's a lot more to this story than many folks in town would want to be know. They've sat on the truth for a quarter of a century. But when J.T. comes back and starts to show an interest in Lyddie Brewster, widow of the town's sainted hero, a lot of folks aren't very happy to think that the past might be catching up to them … 


Now tell me, readers - if you were able to travel through time, where and when would you choose to go?

Monday, November 4, 2013

“The Sweetest Hours” and Robert Burns

My new Scottish-set romance is available on the eHarlequin website this month.  The title comes from a line in a Robert Burns poem.  One of my favorite scenes in the story is centered on a “Burns Night” celebration, which is a supper traditionally held on January 25th, the poet’s birthday.

In my story, Kristin, the heroine, has always held romantic dreams about going to Scotland, the land of her grandmother’s birth.  But as the story opens, her reality is that she’s stuck working on a Saturday in a bodycare-products factory in her Vermont hometown, and left solely responsible for a shift of overtime workers as her bosses tend to their personal lives.  When she hears a Scottish accent coming from the plant manager’s office, she is thrilled, but she thinks she is dreaming.
Malcolm is at Kristin’s factory with a mission to acquire it for his uncle’s Scottish-set family business.  It’s critical that he keep his true plans—and his identity—secret.  Having attended school in the States, he’s pretty good at keeping his accent under wraps--the overheard phone call to his sister his only lapse--and easily explained away.

But it’s Kristin that gets to him—her care to the employees in her factory, her kindness to him, her enthusiasm for all things Scottish, including the dreaded, surprise Burns Night celebration he’s forced to sit through when the wintry Vermont weather delays his ride from picking him up.  Malcolm is determined that Kristin and her family not learn he’s from Scotland.  He will not slip!  And yet—he can’t help it.  For Kristin, he reads one of Burns’ poems, in his best Sir Sean Connery accent. 
Here’s a bit from the poem “To a Mouse”:

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!


Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!


Maybe you recognize some of the lines? 
I took a few photos relating to Robert Burns when we toured Scotland.   Above at a whisky store, here are some lines from Burns’ famous “The Selkirk Grace.”

To the right is his portrait from The Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

To the left, the Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh features Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

I’m giving away copies of The Sweetest Hours to randomly-selected commenters.  Do you like poetry—any favorites?  Or just drop a quick hello—I’m interested in hearing from you!

Thanks for reading--I’ll post winners on Saturday.

Cathryn Parry has written four Harlequin Superromances.  She lives in New England with her husband and neighbor’s cat, Otis.  Please see her website at www.CathrynParry.com.
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