Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Most Fun Characters? They Might Be the Difficult Ones!

I learned something while writing my new book.  The more challenging a character is to write, the more fun I have writing them.  In the long run, that is.  With hindsight.  Maybe not when I’m sitting at my computer totally stuck and drinking my gazillionth cup of coffee.  But in the end, looking back, Tess Cole, the heroine of my January book, Convincing the Rancher, really was wonderful to write.  I miss her now that it’s all over and her story is heading into the world!


Tess showed up in my first two books as a secondary character.  The wild and crazy best friend who loved to joke about sex and seemed to have a lot of it.  As I wrote her witty comments, I never thought of her as a main character.  I knew I was going to write her book, I even had a contract to write her book, but I had no idea how I’d do it - so I just tried not to think about it much. 

But then I finished my second book and the time was at hand.  Tess needed her happily ever after.  I stared at my blank computer screen for a long time.  Then I shut it off and went for a walk, which is what I do when I can’t write.  And in the rhythm of my footsteps I understood the dilemma I was in.  Somehow I had to make Tess understandable and sympathetic, but she didn’t want anyone’s sympathy!  Tess didn’t want anyone’s pity, or to be analyzed as to why she was so promiscuous and guarded, which is why she wore such a thick shell of wit and attitude.

I came home from my walk and grabbed a notebook.  Why didn’t she want anyone’s sympathy?  Why was she so private about her personal life, keeping everyone at a distance?

Suddenly I thought of my career as a schoolteacher and later, an administrator.  I sat in on so many meetings for kids who were in foster care.  Sometimes the child would be in a room with ten adults, if they had a couple social workers, a teacher or two, a foster parent, a probation officer, a counselor, the principal, a behaviorist and anyone else involved in their lives.  And in those meetings, their choices and behavior, school work and after-school life, were dissected and analyzed.  Decisions were made.  Decisions that, in other situations, might be made by a parent.  I always felt so terrible for the child in that situation. 

And then I had my answer.  Tess was that child. That kid who was never adopted, and who never found a stable foster home.  A kid like many I knew, who spent their life switching foster homes, switching schools, having their fates decided by committee.  Wouldn’t sitting in those meetings listening to adults go on about the intimate details of your life make you never, ever want people to know that much about you again? It would for me!  And that, I realized, is what happened to Tess.

Once I knew her motivation, the story opened up for me.  It was still difficult to write sometimes, because she was so guarded and feisty that it was challenging to find ways for the hero, and others, to reach her, but as long as I returned to her motivation, and tried to find ways to heal that wound for her, I found I could make it through whatever scene I was working on. 

It’s hard to believe that in a few days, her book heads out into the world!  I’m proud that she and I made it through and got her story told.  I so hope readers enjoy it and that I was able to convey how interesting and likeable she can be, underneath her sexy, successful image and prickly defenses.

Have you ever written about, or read about, a heroine who was really challenging for you?  I’d love to hear about it.  And I’ll choose one person from the comments to win a copy of Tess’s book, Convincing the Rancher!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

WINNER for Jennifer Lohmann's Christmas gifts post

Colleen C, you are the randomly chosen winner from my post about Christmas gifts. Email me at jenniferlohmann (at) gmail (dot) com with your choice of book, Winning Ruby Heart, Weekends in Carolina, or A Promise for the Baby.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


I was crazy about him.
We'd been dating a couple of years, somehow keeping up a long-distance relationship even though we lived an-hour-and-a-half apart and in different states.  I worked a couple of times a month in the town where he lived, which gave us time for lunches when evenings were too busy.  We'd both been married before.  He had two children; I had one.  I was in my early thirties, and he was five years older.  I was sure he loved me, but I couldn't get him to discuss the future.  I felt as though we were spinning in place, going around in circles and not getting anywhere.
In October of that year, he went to China on a business trip.  I missed him terribly and couldn't wait to see him when he got home.  He was supposed to arrive home on Sunday night, and I waited up for the call.  It didn't come that night.
It came the next day.  He was too tired to talk  the night before.  He was really busy with things he'd gotten behind on while he was gone.  We made plans to get together Wednesday.
My feelings were hurt.  It seemed to me I was much more anxious to be with him than he was to be with me.  For two days the hurt feelings festered.  On Wednesday when we finally got together, I broke up with him.
To say he was shocked was an understatement.
Over the next two months, he called often.  He sent cards and notes and had flowers delivered to my office and my home.
I was determined to move on and started dating someone else.  He continued to call although I was honest with him about the other guy.
On days when I worked in his town, I found myself taking the long way around so I wouldn't have to drive by his business.  I didn't want to take the chance of seeing him unexpectedly.
He sent me a Christmas card with a note at the bottom that read: You still have the key.  Yes, I still had the key to his house, but I knew he was referring to more than that.  The note made me cry, so I added another layer of ice around my heart to protect it from the uncomfortable feelings.
Two days before Christmas, I was scheduled for a meeting in his town.  Before I left my office, I mentioned to my secretary about taking the long way around.  She looked me straight in the eye and said," Maybe if you're afraid to see him, you should ask yourself why."
Her words played over and over in my head throughout the meeting.
Why couldn't I take the chance of seeing him?  Because I knew in my heart that I was still crazy about him and seeing him would only make the pain worse.
It was snowing when I came out of the meeting and walked to my car.  There was a note on my windshield.  Don't even think about leaving town without seeing me.
The note sent my heart into overdrive, beating so hard it made my stomach queasy.  I drove to his house knowing the time for decision had come.  He must have been watching because he met me at the door before I even knocked.  He held the door open and I stepped inside.  I don't remember saying anything.  I only remember standing there, looking at each other.  And then we were in each others' arms.
No kiss had ever felt so right.  My heart was still beating wildly, but this time with joy.
I couldn't stay long.  The snow was sure to make driving difficult, and I had to get home to my daughter.
He showed up at my house later that evening.  We talked ... and talked ... and talked.
And at the end of all the talking, he proposed.
That all happened twenty-nine years ago today.
I love him more now than I did then.  And that love has grown to embrace our children and now our grandchildren.
Every year around Christmas, I get a little giddy and overly sentimental, especially if it snows.  I remember the flowers and the phone calls and the notes and my secretary's sage words of advice.
Best of all, I remember the kiss that thawed my heart for good.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Childhood Memories of Christmas....by Rachel Brimble

I LOVED my childhood Christmases for one reason and one reason only – they felt as though they went on forever!

My parents set a tradition that our presents and celebrations were spread over the days from Christmas Day to New Years Eve which made for a week of surprises and good times. It was the same routine every year but in a child’s mind a week is a really, really long time when you’re waiting for gifts!

Christmas Day was spent with just the four of us – my mum, dad, older brother and me. We woke up in the morning and our biggest and most yearned for presents were always under the tree waiting for us and then my dad would spread out little surprise presents we weren’t expecting throughout the day which made it really magical. I can still remember my surprise when he came downstairs with a teddy bear bigger than me! I burst into happy tears…

Boxing Day was spent at nan’s house (my mum’s mother) with extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. More gifts were exchanged, food and drink consumed, games played. It was wonderful.

The next few days until New Years Eve were spent visiting friends – again, more presents, fun and games. But the piece de resistance came on New Years Eve when we spent the evening with my other nan (my dad’s mum). Again, a houseful of extended family where Christmas presents were given out and party games played. My nan, sadly now gone, was a true child spirit and was naughtier than any of her grandchildren, lol! The games were hilarious and she made them all up herself.

Christmas end was marked for me by the fireworks, saucepan banging and silly-string spraying at midnight New Years Eve – and what a Christmas it was each and every year! J

This year is made special by my very first Christmas story being published by Superromance…nothing could make me happier!

Christmas At The Cove

More family for Christmas? 

Scott Walker doesn't have time for a relationship. The sexy mechanic has career ambitions, not to mention a mother and three sisters to take care of. The last thing he needs is Carrie Jameson, the beauty he never forgot, arriving in Templeton Cove over the holidays with some unexpected news. 

Scott still finds Carrie irresistible, and he's not one to shirk responsibility. Scott's issues with his own dad make the prospect of parenthood a minefield. But if he and Carrie can overcome their fears, this Christmas could bring them the best gift of all.

Merry Christmas!

Find me here:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Got Any Holiday Gift Ideas?

"Are you done with your Christmas shopping yet?" is the question of the hour, with the slight variation of, "Are you ready for Christmas."

The answer--this year and every year--is a resounding no. Only this year is worse than normal. Normally, I have an idea of what I'm buying people for the holidays. This year, I'm fresh out of ideas. Part of this is my fault. I've decided to break the mold and not buy people books this year. I'm a librarian and an author, so books are my stand-by gift, but I wanted to try something new this year. Silly me.*

I've plowed through many of the gift lists online and nothing has struck my fancy. Time is running out. Available shopping days before Christmas are going to disappear and I'm already late for Hanukkah.

Basically, I'm asking the Superromance community for gift ideas. Good gifts for parents, brothers, aunts, friends (with kids and without), coworkers--if you've got suggestions, then I want them.

I'll even reward you for them. I'll give one commentor a signed copy of one of my books. You even get to pick from Winning Ruby Heart, Weekends in Carolina, or A Promise for the Baby. I'll announce the winner of the book on Saturday, December 27th.

*Note: I'm not making such a vow next year. Next year, I'm getting books for EVERYONE!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Holidays from Far Away!

And so we come to the holidays and the end of 2014. In lieu of gifts, my entire family—parents, siblings, their children, and their in-laws—are going to Cuba. This will be the first time we’ve all traveled all together as a family to an exotic location for a prolonged period. Frankly, I’m a little nervous about.

It’s probably just my writer’s brain and the years of exposure to holiday vacation disaster films like Home Alone or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation that has me so anxious. Stories about traveling during the holidays usually evoke sheer panic in me as I watch families scramble to get to crowded airports on time while fighting bad weather and quarrelsome relatives. In fact, I’ve never traveled out of country during holidays and peak travel periods for this exact reason. Going to Cuba with the family feels more like the opening of tragicomedy to me than a romping good time.

The thing is, my family has had a string of bad luck whenever one of us goes on vacation or to the cottage or even on a simple road trip. I’ve told my tale on my blog, and that’s not even the worst of it. 

A sample cross-section of tales from the group going to Cuba this year (without attribution, but I guarantee these stories are 100% real):

  • Stepped on a sea urchin: in which the only medical assistance available involved smashing the needles in the victim’s foot with a wooden paddle and then removing them by tweezer.
  • Violent food poisoning: in which five out of seven group members were bed-ridden for 24 hours.
  • Lost in a bog: in which we trod through thick black mud and climbed a barbed-wire fence in order to escape the swamp.
  • Caught in the path of a tornado: in which the viewers pulled over to the side of the road in a shelterless expanse of highway and watched as the twister bore down on them (everyone was fine, it was a tiny tornado).
  • Hospitalization for sand flea bites: in which three grown men were covered in painful, swollen nodules I can’t even think about without shuddering.
  • Fell off a collapsing deck: in which a hillside patio deck collapsed beneath the weight of several cottage-goers, sending some rolling under the cottage, others clinging to the railing.
  • Moored in a boat stuck on old underwater railway tracks: in which the ancient tracks were never put on a map, and the victims had to be rescued by neighbors.
  • Chased by a pack of wild monkeys: in which the victim learned even small monkeys run very fast.
  • Trapped in an alien-themed fun house: in which the victim was tricked into entering a carnival attraction by folks who promised her it was not a fun house, which she is deathly afraid of.
  • Assaulted by an overfriendly drag queen: in which a drag queen had excruciatingly accurate aim considering the position of her fingers.

No, of course it isn’t as simple as lost luggage. Not in my family.

I can only imagine the shenanigans my kin will get into, with my father and brother-in-law’s penchant for fishing, my young niece and nephew’s lack of social propriety filter, and my own questionable constitution. And while my family on the whole has always gotten along, I don’t think we’ve ever spent this much time together in one place.

I know as many precautions as I take, we can never prepare for that one thing that becomes the thing on our vacation. I suppose the worst-case scenario (and there are so many) is that we don’t get to go on the trip at all. But I’m trying hard not to think about the worst things and just revel in the glory of getting away to somewhere hot for the holidays. Maybe I’ll just play it safe and stay locked in my room for the whole trip.

Happy holidays and best wishes to you and your family, however you spend you vacations!

Got any vacation horror stories to tell? Share them in the comments below cuz they’ll make me feel better!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Somewhere Up There

These are busy days, these last ones of the year. I know I'm not the only one who wishes December lasted, oh, eight weeks instead of four - or that we could at least have a few extra hours to ensure we can fit in both the everyday and the joyous.

Moments of solitude, of quiet and serenity, are few and far between at this season. But there's one such time that I will always grab, if the sky and the hour cooperate. I slip out of the house in the dark, often with a shawl thrown over my jammies, and zip past the houses of my neighborhood to reach the open area of the school playground. I stand there, looking from an email on my phone to the sky above, scanning the darkness and peering among the stars –

And then I see it. The International Space Station, soaring above me. 

If you have never seen the ISS fly overhead, it's truly worth trying to make it happen. You can find the times when it's visible from your area here. (If you're like me, you can sign up to receive emails every time it's visible  from your location. Way cool.) 

Spotting the station is pretty easy. The website (or email) tells you in which direction the ISS will appear, where it will disappear, how high it will be in the sky, and how long it's visible. This is all very useful on paper. In reality, I usually look up and scan the sky until I see a very bright light the size of a big star traversing the heavens. Unlike a plane, it doesn’t blink. It's one solid light of awesome, approximately 215 miles above us, carrying folks like you and me around the world sixteen times each day. 

For the two or four or five minutes it's visible, I stand, usually in the cold, staring up and marveling at the knowledge and dedication that has made it all possible. I usually find myself singing a few bars of one of my favorite songs, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield when he was up there (see below). For a few moments, my usually crazy day is silent. And watchful. 

And filled with awe at what's happening somewhere up there.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Question Of The Month: The Holiday Entertainment Edition

'Tis the season to curl up with a holiday book or movie, so our question for the Super Authors this month was: 
Which one (or two) might be on your can't-miss list?

Jennifer Lohmann: I love the movie The Holiday, with Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black, and Kate Winslet. It's only a little bit Christmasy, but still so fun. And a bunch of girlfriends and I are getting together to watch Love Actually for the holidays, which is probably on a lot of people's lists. I always avoid It's A Wonderful Life, even though it has the excellent line about how the awful fate that befell Mrs. Bailey in the George-less alternate universe is that she became a librarian.
 Kristina Knight:  I always re-read two Johanna Lindsey books around the holidays - The Present (part of the Malory series) and Home for the Holidays. They're just filled with great characters and holiday goodness! As for movies, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is one of my favorites, and I love Meet Me In St. Louis, even though it's not *technically* a Christmas movie...but it does have Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"!
Tara Taylor Quinn: My favorite Thanksgiving movie – watch every Thanksgiving – is Miracle on 34th Street.  I own and watch both versions! My husband and I watch holiday movies from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.  We try to watch at least one a night.  My favorite is Elf.  I just love that movie.  Love it.  Love it.  Love it.
Vicki Essex: Christmas isn't Christmas without a viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. When else can I break out the Snoopy dance in context?
Joanne Rock:  I usually find a way to make time for the movie White Christmas. It's a good one to watch while I wrap presents so I can enjoy the dances and songs every year. On a cold family night, I will put in the Albert Finney version of Scrooge, which is my favorite version of the Dickens' story. As a family, we try to always read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, even though our kids are teenagers and when we all crowd onto the floor of one of their bedrooms we sure do fill the room. We mix it up though, and take turns reading, sometimes reading in character voices. So if we just watched Scrooge, someone might read the poem in their best Brit accent. Then there was the year my husband read it as McGonagall from Harry Potter and we all laughed so hard we missed the ending... 
Nan Dixon:  Must watch White Christmas while putting up the Christmas tree.  Then Christmas Eve my husband reads The Grinch and I read A Cup of Christmas Tea.  These are traditions from my family - where the The Grinch was cut out from the Family Circle magazine and my dad used to read it!
Claire McEwen:  I love Home for the Holidays with Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr. and Ann Bancroft.  I don't know why, really, and it's more of a Thanksgiving movie, but if you're from a dysfunctional family it captures that special, cynical holiday spirit!  I love It's A Wonderful Life and watch it every year.  And I still love Rudolph, the Grinch and that cute Charlie Brown Christmas tree!
Mary Sullivan: Love Actually! I watch it every year. It's brilliant. When my daughter was young, we would watch Home Alone every Christmas. The slapstick never got old. I'm pretty sure if I watched it now I would still giggle!

Cathryn ParryTwo Christmas traditions I never miss: Read A Christmas Carol, and watch It's A Wonderful Life while trimming the tree.
Kris Fletcher: Love, Actually is required. Max's Christmas and The Night Before Christmas are essential. But is it wrong that one of my favorite Christmas reads is Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel? Christmas just isn't Christmas without zombies, a murdered Santa, and a talking fruit bat. 
Now please tell us, readers - what's on YOUR must-see and/or must-read holiday list?

Monday, December 8, 2014


AKA SAVANNAH SIGHS (until an editor said—Weird Title while judging a portion of the manuscript in a contest)

This is release week of my first book.  It’s been an exciting ride.  And it’s made me think back on when I first came up with the idea for the story. 
I have three sisters and we take a long weekend together every year.  We’ve been doing this for 23 years.  It started with our mother.  (And dad used to pick up the costs—was that fun!)  But now it is just the four of us.  And for reasons that would take up another blog, one sister is designated the social director.  This rotates in age order each year. 

In 2007 I was the social director—I had the power!  (Did I mention we are four type A sisters?)  I found a reasonable airfare, back then you could, and we flew into Atlanta.  There we spent the afternoon at the Aquarium and the Coca-Cola museum.  (Don’t knock it until you’ve taken the tour!)  We stayed in Atlanta that night and then drove to Savannah.  I saw cotton for the first time.  I’m a Midwest girl.  It’s too cold to grow cotton up here.

We drove into the historic district and the trees and Spanish moss enchanted me.  You have to slow down in Savannah, because so many of the streets are one-way.  After making our way down to River Street for dinner, we took a ghost pub crawl that night.  I can’t remember the exact stories, only that the guide was a great story teller.  We walked from pub to pub and the guide would stop near an alley or a house or in the pub and tell his tales. 

And of course, according to the staff, the Inn where we were staying had ghost sightings.  On our floor.  We didn’t see any spirits, unless you call waking up in the middle of the night and being startled because one of your sisters hung their robe on the spindle of the bed a spirit.

We wandered around town, ate in wonder old mansions and that is when I got to thinking: what if sisters were trying to turn their crumbling mansion into a Bed and Breakfast. 

There were a few things in the first draft that didn’t make it to the final book.  A ghost, Aunt Persephone, who likes to chase Reggie the cat.  There were initially four sisters, now there are only three.   There was a wedding, but it’s been moved to Book two.

I called our sister trip successful!

Do you have anything special you do with your sisters or brothers?  Or even your family?

One commenter will be eligible to win an autographed copy of Southern Comforts, if they live in the US or an ecopy.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Winners for the Geri Krotow Super Authors Blog Posts

BW, you've won for the Thursday blog! And Penney is the winner for the 28 November blog. Please contact me with your mailing address via my website to claim your prizes. Congratulations! http://gerikrotow.com/contact.php

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Winner from Cathryn Parry's Wednesday Blog Post

The winner of a copy of Scotland for Christmas is bn100. Congratulations!

If you'll send your name and address to my website contact page, www.CathrynParry.com, I'll send the book to you.

Thanks for reading our blog!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Is it Christmas Yet?

Joy to you and yours!
No? Phew! At the risk of revealing my age (which isn't 29), each year seems to zip by more quickly than the last. The holiday season pops up to remind me that I have to plan to have a couple of days completely reserved for family and close friends, with all of our favorite traditions and meals. It'd be so easy to get into crazy mode like I used to years ago, running myself ragged to please others and try to find some sense of self-worth from all of the "doing."

That was then, this is now:

I have revisions due in less than 2 weeks, on a book (Navy Justice) I think has the potential to be my best Superromance yet, but um, potential is something that needs to be polished and coaxed out of the mess of words I gave my editor last month. There are two Christmas decorations in place so far: a lighted sign on my kitchen counter that spells "JOY" and the new Christmas tree that came yesterday (and I put up in 15 minutes, thanks to the new 'click and snap' construction). Decorating the tree isn't a priority at the moment. No cookies made, no dough in the freezer. Not yet. I don't need the cookies around, not until Christmas. And no more baking dozens of several different types of cookie--I asked my family to pick one or two that are their favorites. We can get to them when my college kids come home from university, closer to Christmas.
Bare-Bones Tree

I am making sure that I exercise at least 5-6 times per week if not each day, for an hour. And I'm getting to a yoga class twice a week. Healthy food is in the house. For the beloved part of any writer's day, the coffee/tea/snack break, this is especially important. I don't need junk food to stress out my body during what can become a very stressful time of year. I'll need breaks from the writing, of course, and I will use those times to decorate bit at a time. I found it's much more fun and pleasurable this way--and it helps keep me sane!
I wish all of you a wonderfully joyous and loving holiday season. If you celebrate Christmas, please accept my wishes for your Merriest Christmas yet.

As my gift to you I'll pick one person who leave a comment to send a copy of either Navy Christmas or Coming Home for Christmas, along with an ornament/bookmark. Check back to see if you've won!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

“Scotland for Christmas”: How the Book Came To Be (and a giveaway)

(Subtitle: More than you might ever want to know about how a creative-writer’s imagination works)

by Cathryn Parry

To begin with, I’ve always been interested in Scotland. I’m from Boston, and several of the branches on my family tree originated in the Western Isles of Scotland. My people were shipped to Cape Breton Island, Canada during the time of the Highland Clearances, which I always thought was one of the great untold tragedies of history. My forbears then later sailed to Boston, on their own, for work and better economic opportunity. Though they ended up staying in America, they kept their love of their heritage and passed it on to the next generations. I grew up learning Highland dance (can still do a mean sword dance and a vigorous Highland fling) and seeking out everything I could find about Scotland and its history. So that’s probably where my original idea to set a Superromance in Scotland was born.

Here’s the backcover blurb for The Sweetest Hours (December 2013 Superromance) which ended up being the first story in the Sage Family of Scotland series:
Kristin Hart has romantic notions of Scotland. Yet she never expects to find a real-life Scotsman in her Vermont hometown! Despite her instant connection with him, Malcolm MacDowall isn’t the Prince Charming she thought. Because no prince would shut down her factory—the one that means everything to her town.

Really, she has no choice. Kristin hops on the next flight to Edinburgh, determined to convince Malcolm her workplace should remain open. But the distraction of the man is almost too much. Still, the magic of the Highlands makes anything seem possible…even a happily ever after of her own.

About midway through the story, after Kristin realizes she needs to learn everything she can about Malcolm in order to have any hope of reaching her goal, she’s shocked to discover that his family lives in a castle and is quite wealthy. While on the grounds of his family’s estate in the Highlands, the two have the following exchange:

She rolled the purple flower between her fingers. “So…are you the heir apparent to John Sage’s empire?”
He grunted. “You know how to ruin a Saturday evening, lass.”
“I’m just trying to understand you.”
He opened one eye. “Very possibly, but none of us knows for sure who will inherit it. One of my cousins is studying international finance in New York City. Much more ambitious than I am.”
“Is he after your position as heir apparent?”
She. She is.”
“Who’s winning, you or she?”
“I don’t know. Does it really matter anyway? We’re all in this together, Kristy. We live together as a family, or we die alone.” He sat up and took a sip of whisky.

 In the margins, my editor wrote: “I’m interested in the cousin. Is she the heroine of a follow-on story?”
I honestly had no idea. The cousin’s story hadn’t been relevant to Malcolm and Kristy’s romance, so I’d “shut that door” in my brain. I find that I can get into a lot of trouble being carried away in reverie and never getting anything done if I let my imagination have too much free rein. I can tell you humorous stories of my misadventures as a head-always-in-the-clouds kid, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

For my own sanity, I taught myself to plot. Superromance stories are long (85,000 words) and deeply complex, so when I sit down to write one, I find it most helpful to do extensive pre-writing character work and detailed planning before I draft one word of the story. Naturally, though, I’m still a “pantser,” which is someone who enjoys letting the characters jump onto the page without thinking about it too much. To reconcile this, I’ve come up with a hybrid-compromise for myself: I plot the character-growth arcs and external-goal plots for the hero and heroine, but let the romance and all the secondary characters show up on the page and do as they will. I’m happy writing this way, and since I need to entertain myself first before I can entertain anybody else, this works for me.
Let me tell you about Isabel Sage: she is quite talkative. She’s capable. She has a great attitude, and it seems that everything she sets her mind to succeeds just beautifully. In the enneagram, she’s a classic “3”—the achiever/performer—though Isabel is a “3” who’s deeply unhappy inside. She’s lonely in New York City, and she’s envious of Malcolm and the relationships he’s made—both the working relationship with their Uncle John and the loving romantic relationship he has with his fiancée, Kristy.

Scotland for Christmas opens with Isabel getting set to attend Malcolm’s wedding in Vermont. For security reasons, her uncle has arranged a driver/bodyguard to transport her from Manhattan to Vermont. And the driver isn’t just anyone—he’s the son of a policeman killed during the kidnapping/rescue of Isabel’s young Sage cousins, years ago.
From the back cover blurb:

Jacob Ross needs Isabel Sage. She’s a beautiful, brilliant heiress to Scotland’s wealthiest family fortune—but Jacob isn’t interested in her looks or money. Isabel holds the key to questions about his past. And when he gets a weekend assignment as her bodyguard, Jacob finally has a shot at getting the truth. 
But Jacob never expected Isabel to be anything other than a spoiled rich girl. Never expected to feel such a connection. And when Isabel realizes why he’s really there, she’ll be furious at being used. Jacob will have to convince her that she’s become so much more than an assignment…

There’s one last Sage story in the works for August, 2015, and that’s Rhiannon’s story.

I have one copy of either Scotland for Christmas or The Sweetest Hours to give away, and I’ll choose randomly from those who comment to this post, with winner announced on Saturday. Here’s a question I’m curious about: What are your feelings about connected stories? Do you prefer standalone stories?

Thanks for reading!

Cathryn Parry’s website is www.CathrynParry.com.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

When It's All Just Too Much (Tara Taylor Quinn)

It's Release Week and it's the holiday season and my mother recently had a total knee replacement surgery.  I have a book due two days ago that is not yet done  - a new series I'm writing for Harlequin Heartwarming.  I have line edits due Friday on Book Six of the Where Secrets Are Safe Series.  And three chapters due on the second book in Heartwarming series on December 15th.

I woke up just before six this morning.  I got up.  I sat at the computer ready to write this blog.  I looked at the screen.  And reversed by steps.  I got up.  Went back to the bedroom.  Laid back down.  I decided that I was just giving up.  I was done.  I closed my eyes.  I laid there worrying about book sales.  About the stories.  About Christmas presents that were not yet purchased.  Yep, I was just going to quit.  I was going to lay in bed forever.

My pity party lasted about five minutes.  Maybe seven.  Because life calls me.  The stories call me.  The readers whose lives are touched by my books call me.  I don't know why I'm a writer.  I don't know where the stories come from.  I just know that I have them in my head and I'm driven to write them. 

Today I am taking things one step at a time.  I'm not facing all of the pages that have to be written, or edited.  I'm not facing all of the things that must be done for Christmas to happen.  I'm writing a blog.  I'm going to attend a video chat with the Superromance team.  I'm going to write some pages.  And at the end of the day, I will have made some kind of difference.  Because when it's all just too much, you just do one thing instead of all of them.  And then one more thing.  Some days you just do what you can and for that day it will be enough.

I'll get the book done.  And the line edits and the chapter work.  I'm sure my house will sing Christmas in every nook and cranny by the end of the weekend.  Presents will be purchased and wrapped.  Cookies will be baked.  I'll attend some holiday functions and watch holiday movies and see light displays.  Because this is living.  This is life.  We get up.  We do things.  We contribute to the world around us.  To our loved ones.  We make a difference.  Some days we might give more.  Some days might make more of a difference.  But every day counts.

Child By Chance is out this week.  It's a powerful book.  It's the sequel to Once A Family, which was out in June.  I have a few free copies of Once A Family to give away.  Let me know in the comments that you want one and I'll draw for the copies.  Have a great day, everyone!  Do something!

Monday, December 1, 2014

December New Releases

Charming The Firefighter (In Shady Cove)
Beth Andrews

Look who she attracted! 

One glance at the hot firefighter who responds to a misguided 911 call and Penelope Denning knows she's out of her depth. Leo Montesano is a charmer with an exciting career. She's an accountant focused on getting her son through his teenage years. Yet Leo is definitely pursuing her. How can she possibly resist? 
As the attraction between them ignites, Penelope discovers a wild side she never knew. The passion makes her think about a future beyond this affair…until her real life interrupts. And when she's convinced she must choose her son over romance, Leo does something she never expects! 

Child By Chance (Where Secrets Are Safe)
Tara Taylor Quinn

Will her secret tear them apart? 

At sixteen, when Talia gave her son up for adoption, she knew she was making the right decision. Now, as an adult, she's come home to Santa Raquel, California, where she volunteers at the Lemonade Stand and provides art therapy at local schools. One of her students is a troubled boy named Kent—the son she gave up all those years ago! 
She meets his widowed father, Sherman, and they develop an intense connection through their shared concern for Kent. But Talia wonders if the secret she's been keeping might drive away the man she's starting to love.

Scotland For Christmas
Cathryn Parry

These secrets won't stay hidden 

Jacob Ross needs Isabel Sage. She's a beautiful, brilliant heiress to Scotland's wealthiest family fortune—but Jacob isn't interested in her looks or money. Isabel holds the key to questions about his past. And when he gets a weekend assignment as her bodyguard, Jacob finally has a shot at getting the truth. 
But Jacob never expected Isabel to be anything other than a spoiled rich girl. Never expected to feel such a connection. And when Isabel realizes why he's really there, she'll be furious at being used. Jacob will have to convince her that she's become so much more than an assignment…

Southern Comforts
Nan Dixon

Rule #2—Never get involved with a guest 

Abigail Fitzgerald has always followed her mama's rules when it comes to running their family's B and B. But her mama never had to resist a man like Grayson Smythe. A long-term guest, Gray spends his evenings having dinner with Abby in her kitchen—and it's not long before their attraction begins to sizzle. 
Although Gray's kisses are a delicious distraction, Abby's priorities are the B and B and the dream of opening her own restaurant. And Gray definitely has the means to help her. But when money seems to be all he can offer, Abby suspects she might get burned.

Starting With June
Emilie Rose

Resisting June may be his toughest job 

Investigating small-town police corruption has never been on former Marine Sam Rivers's radar. Still, taking this assignment gives him the opportunity to figure out what's next after his medical discharge. The task should be a straightforward one. That is, until he meets Deputy June Jones. Almost instantly the warm, sexy woman occupies his thoughts. For a man who craves solitude, suddenly he can't get enough of her. 
He also can't forget his reason for being in Quincey, North Carolina. As his investigation progresses, it threatens his secret relationship with June. But can he turn his back on all the love and hope she offers? 

The Marine Finds His Family (A Chair At The Hawkins Table)
Angel Smits

His most important mission 

US marine DJ Hawkins is on a mission to locate his son's mother and discover why she abandoned the boy. To DJ's surprise, Tammie Easton is easy to locate, and it soon becomes clear she has her reasons for staying away. But can he protect her from her past? Determined to ignore the surge of renewed attraction, he vows to help her. 
Unraveling her life is intense and DJ respects the woman she's become…even as he catches glimpses of the girl he fell in love with years ago. Now, DJ will do anything to keep Tammie safe for his son…and himself.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Oh, those pesky stage directions

Mary Sullivan

Writing can be a joy, but of course, also a challenge. One of the challenges I face when I write is how to deal with the seemingly trivial task of physically moving characters around in a scene, of giving them something to do so they don't read like mannequins in a store window…those things that I call stage directions.

Often, I'm so frustrated by dealing with these when all I really want to do is get to the meat of the story—the falling in love, the emotion, the action scenes—that I will just throw in anything so I can move forward, but then I come back later to edit and give the characters interesting movements that make them part of the scene in more interesting and less repetitive ways.

In edits, I have to shift characters around by doing more than just walking. 'She walked across the room.' 'He walked across the field.' 'She walked toward him.' In the first draft, my poor characters have walked holes through the soles of their shoes.

There is also the issue of breaking up dialogue so they aren't a pair of talking heads floating in a scene. Too much description about doctoring their coffee (I have to watch that one!) or rattling the ice in their drinks can be irritating. Manipulating them around too much in a scene can also be tedious to read, but the characters have to do something, or the scene will be static. The reader has to see them in the room.

In my first draft, I end up writing a lot of repeated phrases that will eventually have to go. My characters do a lot of nodding. They read like the most erudite, thoughtful people on the planet. They also do a lot of looking, gazing, glancing, seeing.

A couple of years ago, I read a novel by a very well known author who 'moved' her characters everywhere. I lost track of how many times throughout the book that someone 'moved' across the room or down the driveway. The impression I was left with was that the book had been written too quickly and then not edited well enough. Kind of a shame in an otherwise good book. The clumsy stage direction had taken me out of the story time and again.

When reading, do you tend to notice whether the stage directions have been handled well? Do clumsy actions by the characters draw you out of the story?
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