Monday, July 28, 2014

Savoring San Antonio

As many of you know, the national conference for Romance Writers of America just wrapped up yesterday in San Antonio, Texas.  I was lucky enough to be there, and today I am reveling in my memories and recovering from several days of not-enough sleep and a few too many delicious Texas margaritas!  These first two photos were taken at the Alamo, which was a short walk from the conference hotel.  I loved the grounds even more than the interesting museum.  Just beautiful!

The conference hotels were right along the River Walk, a lovely path that follows the San Antonio River as it travels through downtown.  It was extremely hot out during the day, but dining or strolling along the walkway in the evening was a real treat.

What fun it was to talk with fellow authors, make new friends and reconnect with people I met at the conference last year.  I also got to spend some quality time with members of my local RWA chapter and celebrate their conference successes with them.  I participated in the annual "Readers for Life" literacy signing, in which hundreds of authors signed copies of their books to raise over fifty thousand dollars for charities that promote literacy.  Here I am - it was my very first book signing ever!

I attended informative workshops on creating emotion in stories, using more vibrant, animated language in my writing, and marketing my books.  But I think my favorite event was the Superromance Open House, where aspiring authors came to learn more about the series.  I am so newly published - just one book away from where they are - and it was nice to be in a position where I could encourage them to reach for their dreams, just as others encouraged me.

I'm starting my week filled with gratitude and good memories, and looking forward to the RWA National Conference next summer in New York City.  And if you're thinking of attending too, please let me know.  Maybe those of us who write and read the SuperAuthors blog could meet up for a drink.  It may take me a year to recover from too many Texas margaritas, but I'm sure by next summer I'll be ready to indulge in a few Manhattans!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Question of the Month: The RWA National Edition

This week (as in right now), romance writers from across the globe are converging on San Antonio, Texas for the annual Romance Writers of America National Conference. With that in mind, we posed this question to the Super authors:  
If you are going to National, what are you most excited about? If you're not going, can you share with us a quick story about something fun that's happened to you at a conference?

Jennifer Lohmann: I am going. I love getting to see friends that I only interact with online. I also love dancing, so the Harlequin Party is a highlight.

Joanne Rock: I'm going to RWA and am most excited about the Literacy Autographing as you never know who will show up at your table! I like the excitement of seeing readers and writer friends, some of whom I've only met once before or have only chatted with online. I dole out a lot of hug that night, and I consider it a great success if I've knocked over my book display at least a few times during the hugging! I won't be able to sign a Superromance yet, but I'm excited to show off my new cover, which I've already printed for a table stand.

Pamela Hearon: I always look forward to the time spent with other writers at the conference--it gives me another year of validation that I'm not nearly as odd as the people in my small town think I am :-)  But this year, I'm MOST excited that my second Harlequin Superrromance THE SUMMER PLACE is a finalist in the National Readers' Choice Awards, which will be announced Friday afternoon!

Cathryn Parry: I'll be at the RWA conference this year, and I'm most excited that my roommate, Blaze author Karen Foley, is up for a Rita award!  We've been friends since Mrs. Fitzgerald's class in second grade at the Red Oak School, and sometimes I still can't believe that we've been so blessed to have our longtime "author" dreams come true.  I'll be cheering for her--for everyone, actually--and especially for our Superromance author finalists, as well. I'm also excited about seeing the Alamo!  Am I the only one who loved Davy Crockett as a kid?  

Tara Taylor Quinn:  I’ll be at conference and what I enjoy most is the chance to be wholly focused on writing in a place consumed by other writers.  I love the sense of being with people who are like me, who get the strangeness of how our minds work, how we can sit alone and be consumed by the feelings of others, how voices speak to us even when the room is silent.  I love the energy!  And I love seeing, in person, the people I work with all year long.  When I am at conference I always feel that buzz of hope that anything is possible.

Claire McEwen: I am going to National and I am most excited about immersing myself in writing. Like so many of us, I write in the spare bits of time around raising my son and caring for my family, and it never feels like I have any real time to think.  I can't wait to take workshops, practice my craft, talk with other writers and just luxuriate in writing!  And I'm looking forward to spending time with friends, Superromance writers and editors as well!

Mary Sullivan: Unfortunately, I won't be attending National and will miss meeting everyone! :-(

The story that stands out for me from a past conference was my first RWA National. I was a Golden Heart finalist and had booked an appointment with an agent I admired. My book was about a rancher who brought inner-city children who were in remission from cancer to his ranch for a rare opportunity to have fun while they recovered. The heroine was there to close it down because it was losing money. I made a homemade business card with this equation: 

   1 rancher 
+ 1 city girl 
+ 10 children
=a dozen reasons to fall in love

As I looked at the attendees around me with their beautiful professional business cards, I thought I had made a serious error in judgement. I should have gone professional rather than cute and fun. Extremely nervous, I sat down in front of the agent and handed her my poor little homemade card. She glanced at it, did a double-take, smiled broadly and said, "Oh! I really like that!"

After I described my story, she asked to see a partial, e-mailed within a week quoting parts of my first chapter and asking to see the full. In the meantime, a second agent I had also been courting offered representation so I turned down the agent from the conference, but she was extremely gracious and offered me many good wishes for my future.

Sometimes it's not such a bad thing to step outside of the box and be a little funny!
Now readers, you tell us: have you had any fun conference experiences? Or have you ever encountered a romance writer in the wild? 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Grateful for Good Neighbors

I love Durham. If you read my June Superromance, Weekends in Carolina, it should be obvious how much I love my adopted hometown and one of the things I love about it are my neighbors. I have the best neighbors and I live in the best neighborhood.

This is on my mind recently because of a group a couple of my neighbors started: The Village People. It's a neighborhood garden club, but it's not a garden club like you normally think of them. The Village People are a work group. Everyone has those projects in their yard that would take one or two people and entire day to do, but a small crowd could knock out in two hours. This is where the Village People come in. For two hours, several of the neighbors come over and help out. It's a small commitment for them and makes a world of difference for you.

YouDee the chicken explores the newly laid mulch

It may not look like much, but all that area was cleaned out by The Village People. Because of some personal things in my life, my yard got ignored last summer and the last thing you want to do in the South in the summer is ignore your yard--nature (in the form of weeds, many of them invasive) takes over. The whole area under mulch looked like that green portion to the right: i.e. Japanese stilt grass, English ivy, and poison ivy. In two hours, with the generous help of my neighbors, I was able to reconquer most of it, put down a protective barrier and spread mulch. Come fall, it will again be ready for plants I want.

Next on the agenda of The Village People is to help an elderly neighbor clean out a carport full of...well, no one really knows what's in that carport.

Things like this remind me that I'm blessed to live in this neighborhood. I know not all neighborhoods and not all neighbors look out for each other like this. While walking our dogs, my neighbor and I like to joke that it's like living in a Leave it to Beaver episode sometimes. We often make this joke after stopping to talk to other neighbors and sharing the latest in neighborly news. I love it and have a hard time imagining living anywhere else.

Do you live in a neighborhood like mine? If not, would such a helpful (and sometimes nosy) neighborhood drive you crazy, or do you think you would like it?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Super Reads: July 2014

The Super Authors are trying something new in July (and for the coming months): sharing what we're reading.

Kris Fletcher

I just finished The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, by Fannie Flagg. It's really two stories: a contemporary woman who learns that she isn't who she thought she was, and a woman who became a pilot during the 1930's. I actually listened to this one as an audio book read by Fannie Flagg herself, and it was a sheer delight to hear her bring the stories of these remarkable women to life. 

Liz Talley

I just completed Codename Verity, a YA book set in WWII revolving around a female spy and pilot’s friendship while working for the RAF. The spy gets capture in German-occupied France and tortured while the pilot, who is shot down, is hidden by the French Resistance. Both are concerned about fulfilling their mission but struggle against the forces of war. It’s brilliant written and I highly recommend. Currently, I’m reading a historical romance by Anne Barton – Once She was Tempted.  Not far enough to give much feedback.

Rogenna Brewer

The Compound Effect is based on the principle that little, everyday decisions shape your destiny.  It's the little decisions that can take you to your hearts desire or to disaster by default.    

Rachel Brimble

An almost classic and written in 1954, Katherine is a novel based on the relationship between Katherine Sywnford and John of Gaunt. The book is beautifully written and rich with detailed research as well as being romantic, full of scandal and intrigue. A must read for anyone interested in medieval history!

Pamela Hearon

I'm enjoying Written in My Own Heart's Blood, Book #8 in the OUTLANDER series by Diana Gabaldon.  Fabulous!

Joanne Rock

I'm reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, a fictional story of a girl who rode one of the last trains that shipped displaced children out west. I'd never heard about this, but apparently over 200,000 orphans were sent to find new lives this way in the late 19th/early 20th century. It's a fascinating read. My sister read it for her book club and recommended it to me. 

Mary Sullivan

I've just started reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Very intriguing.

Anna Sugden

I’ve just finished Lisa Gardner’s Touch and Go, which was excellent. She had several twists which really got me! Before that, I read Bryan Gruley’s Starvation Lake. Not my normal fare, but the hero is a hockey playing newspaper editor! Great story. Next up is either Mary Burton’s The Seventh Victim or Maggie Shayne’s Sleep With The Lights On. Unless I feel like a more light-hearted read <g>.

Jennifer Lohmann

I'm reading Gary de Becker's The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence. It's not a comfortable read, but it's one all woman (and men) should read. There's important information on trusting your intuition, learning to read signals from people who want to control or harm us, and more.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Question for Readers

Mary Sullivan

Hi, everyone! I have a question for readers (and any authors tuning in) today. I posted this on Facebook yesterday and got some interesting responses.

In November, a colleague and I will present a romance novel writing workshop at Inspire! The Toronto International Book Fair. Along with my author bio, they need a photo.

My promo photo, shot by a wonderful photographer, and which I love, is now ten years old. I've stopped using it on my website because I feel like I'm cheating when I use it. I've aged a lot in the past ten years! LOL. I don't want readers to get a shock when they see me in real life if my promo photo is too far from what I really look like.

Here is the shot:
Lindsey Maier Photography
I have always been partial to B&W portraits. While the photographer provided colour versions, I really loved this one.

It's classy, straightforward and not too flashy.

When I finally do get current photos taken, I will ask the same photographer for another black and white portrait.

Last year, a friend took a photo of me that I thought was really nice. It is casual and natural. As my mother would have said, there is nothing added nor taken away. It is just me. Here it is:

Kate Bridges
Unfortunately, it is slightly out of focus because I'm using a small portion of the original photograph. Also, I'm wondering whether the best thing in this situation would be to use the professional shot even though it is now out of date.

A friend attended Thrillerfest on the weekend and was surprised that many of the authors were using photos on their back covers from when they were younger. He knew they were old photos because he was meeting the authors up close and personal and could gauge their real ages; however, in all of our promotion, we want to look our best.

As a reader, how important is it to you for authors to have photos that are close to how look like currently?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kris Fletcher's Winner

Many thanks to all who offered suggestions regarding books, movies and songs! I'm going to work hard to find ways to integrate them into the story. My winner is SUMMER! Summer, please contact me ( and let me know which online bookstore you prefer, and what email address I should use.

Thank you all!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Are You There, Blog? It's Me, (Needy) Author

A quick note: you may have noticed that old posts are suddenly reappearing on the blog. We had a minor housekeeping issue that required the authors to go back through their old blogs to tidy and repost. Things may be unsettled for a few more days as we work through this, but please be patient, bear with us, and hum some of your favorite oldies but goodies while reacquainting yourself with some blog blasts from the past.

Dear readers, I need help!

Back in January, I asked you for help choosing a meal to prepare for my winter writer's retreat. You came through admirably. Now I wish to draw from your collective wisdom once again. 

I am working steadily on my next Super, which stars a brother of Hank North, hero of DATING A SINGLE DAD. (No, I'm not telling which brother, though I'm open to requests.) Darcy, the heroine of this yet-untitled story had a very lonely childhood. She spent a lot of time reading. As a result, when faced with a decision, she will often refer back in some way to a children's story, such as in this (unedited, subject to change) passage: 

He wasn't talking about visitation or overnights or taking Cady on trips to meet his family or any of those other scenarios that had made her wonder, wildly, if it was possible to stuff a one-year-old back in the womb. He simply wanted to see her again right now. One bullet, dodged.

But not for long.

Cady was his as much as hers. He had rights. Not just moral ones, but legal ones as well. And she would have to honor them.

Are you there, God? It's me, Darcy.  

See what I mean? A fleeting reference to a well-known story that should, I hope, strike a familiar chord with a number of readers. (And if by chance you aren't up on your Judy Blume, this passage refers to that tween-age classic, ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.)

What I need are suggestions of other stories you, dear readers, think might be familiar enough to others that I could safely refer to them in some way. Movies are also acceptable, as are nursery rhymes. If it makes a difference, Darcy is in her early 30's, Canadian, and ever so slightly warped.

To thank you for helping me, one commenter will receive a $10 gift card to the online bookstore of his/her choice. Many many thanks to all of you, and – GO!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Karina Bliss asks….Cover envy – are you a nerdist or a jockster?

Anyone else seen Jaci Burton’s wonderful cover around the blogosphere? If not, look left (like you haven't already). I showed it to one of my best pals, Super author Abby Gaines.
She admired it, then casually mentioned he was built a little buff for her tastes.
This is not the first time I’ve been shocked by our differences. Abby writes a first draft in six weeks, I write mine in six months. She is Superwoman, I am Super good at making lists which will lead me to becoming Superwoman (in another lifetime).
But Abby’s throwaway comment made me think. My favourite kind of cover does not necessarily appeal to all romance readers.
Excluding professional sportsmen, Abby thinks guys who devote substantial time to working out as a bit ‘girly’. She admires a leaner frame while I have a penchant for muscle, whether it’s achieved through exercise, chopping wood or building something with those capable hands.
In fact I insist on it.
Going back through my books, a clear hero pattern emerges. The wealthy entrepreneurs in my Mr series built their empire on adventure tourism and one was a former Olympian. In Like Father, Like Son, my corporate real estate broker went to the gym.
Regularly, Abby!
My rock star hero in What The Librarian Did had a weight room in his house. I even forced my ‘nerd’ hero - a software designer – in Kiss Me, Santa to go jogging to justify a muscular frame. And my current series is based around Special Forces heroes.
I love physical men.
I have a terrible suspicion that Abby wouldn’t mind if her hero didn’t have wilderness survival skills, but I’m too scared to ask in case she confirms it.
She would probably argue that her heroes would outsmart the bear or the serial killer. Ha! Assuming my hero hasn’t overpowered them first…the bear and serial killer, that is.
Like us, our heroes would be friends.
The supreme irony in all this is that among her many books, Abby Gaines has a beefcake cover I admire even more than Jaci Burton’s. (Top right).

Now that’s almost enough to break up our friendship.

What are you cover preferences? Covered or uncovered? Maybe you even prefer a hero in profile or with his head cropped so you can supply your own imaginary hero.
Make a comment and go into the draw for a dumbbell…just kidding. A paua necklace from New Zealand.

Here Comes The Groom, featuring my first Special Forces hero, Dan Jansen is out now. In my August release, Stand-In Wife, Dan’s former troopmate, Ross Coltrane spends ALL his time working out, trying to get back to combat fitness. But Dan’s sister, Viv, has far more important tasks for him. I think Abby will like her.

Karina Bliss asks, Twin stories: love ‘em or hate ‘em?

Every book I write has its own challenges, usually discovered at a point of no return. After starting my Special Forces series with an issue-driven book in Here Comes The Groom I figured I’d change the pace with a light-hearted caper for the second – Stand-In Wife released in August.
When my editor, Victoria Curran mentioned Super readers like twin swaps, I thought, ‘Perfect. I’ve read some great twin swap stories (my favourite's by Daphne Clair - Wife to a Stranger - which had a plot twist that caught me completely by surprise).
My twin heroine, impetuous, impulsive Viv, had no problem writing herself into the story and I already had her hero - alpha soldier Ross Coltrane, friend to the hero (Viv’s brother) from Here Comes The Groom. All about control and economy of emotion, the Iceman needed a topsy-turvy ride through a book with a heroine who pretty much railroaded over him.
Then I hit a snag. Plausibility. How do you make a twin swap believable in a contemporary line like SuperRomance, which has a brand promise - Romance has never felt so real!
Gee, you’d think I’d have thought it through, right?
As usual, other writers had made it seem easy.
My swap was of more than twin sisters, it was of lifestyles, of a single career woman with a separated mother of two. I had to come up with a good reason for the exchange for both of them. I mean why would a mom leave her two kids in the care of a sister who’d never shown much interest in them?
Also families tend to be able to tell each other apart. So do husbands - ex or otherwise. I had to make it plausible that at least some of the twins’ family bought the swap....which led to even more plot twists. Turned out it wasn’t only the hero who got a topsy-turvy ride.
And speaking of heroes, I had to deal with the fact that my hero couldn’t find my heroine attractive as long as he thought she was his brother’s ex wife. Doh!
Eventually I answered all these questions and have hopefully added another great story to the twins’ sub genre. I guess you’ll let me know. G>
So what’s the draw of twin stories? There’s intrigue and suspense - can they pull off a swap? Multiple happy endings, not just in the romance but between the siblings themselves as they solve longstanding differences. And there’s the chaotic fun of watching someone live a very different life. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘You can’t solve a problem at the same level you created it.’ A twin swap automatically throws a different perspective and approach to a situation that might have stymied her twin.
Romantic Times describes twin stories as “hilariously funny what-ifs. There is a dramatic interplay between the twins, who appear to be mirror images, but in reality are far from similar, and the reader is the only one besides the pair that is aware of a charade….Inherent in all twin romances is the opportunity for another chance.”
The chance to do things differently…don’t we all want that sometimes?

Writing this blog I checked out twins and romances and found a host of books. Here’s a quick list if you've got a thing for twins: False Colors by Georgette Heyer, Dancing on the Wind by Mary Jo Putney, Twin of Fire and Twin of Ice by Jude Deveraux, Silver Angel by Johanna Lindsay, Thursday’s Child by Sandra Brown (lots of people seemed to like this one). All I want for Christmas by Nora Roberts. Seize the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon; Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward. (Read it, loved it). Beautiful Stranger by Ruth Wind, Catch of the Day by Kristin Higgins. (Again, read it. Loved it).
And lo and behold, I discovered some SuperRomance authors have trodden this path before me and will be hunting out their stories: Kathryn Shay with The Unknown Twin, Barbara McMahon with Cinderella Twin and C. J. Carmichael with A Sister Would Know.

So twin stories…love ‘em or hate ‘em? Got any recommendations? Opinions? Make a comment and go into a draw for any two books (except Mr Imperfect, I'm down to my last copies) from my backlist. Or, if you can stand to wait a couple of months, an autographed copy of Stand-In Wife.


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