Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Keeping My Writing Fresh…by Rachel Brimble



 
The market is full of romance books – mainstream romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, medical romance, cowboy romance…the list goes on. So how does a romance writer attempt to stand out from the crowd? To keep her or his precious readers interested and anticipating their next release?

I am lucky enough to write three romance sub-genres for two different publishers – I write mainstream romance and romantic suspense for Harlequin Superromance and Victorian romance for eKensington/Lyrical Press. The fact that I get to alternate between the three keeps me interested as a writer and, I hope, keeps my readers looking forward to seeing what type of romance releases next.

As I am currently writing my sixteenth novel, the issue of what keeps my writing fresh is a big one. I hope because I live so close to where my Victorian books are set and that Bath is a different city from London, I bring a different feel and atmosphere than many other historical romances.

For my contemporary work, I am the first author to have books in the Harlequin Superromance line with all British characters in a British setting. Again, I hope this makes my books different.

As for the stories themselves? My Victorian romances tend to focus on the lower classes and their problems, rather than balls, dances and upper class propriety. I like to research how the ‘real people’ lived in the late 1800s. The problems they faced, the changing world around them, domestic changes, moral changes, the fact that more and more women wanted to stretch further than keeping a nice house and a happy husband. I like that I am building a reputation for writing darker Victorian romances and the feedback from readers and reviewers has given me the confidence that there is a space in the market for me and my work.

The Harlequin Superromance line runs to 85,000 words so are the biggest of Harlequin lines. There is room outside of the central romance to explore. I have touched on domestic abuse, money laundering and drug abuse––issues you wouldn’t normally expect between the pages of a romance novel!

As writers, the world is our oyster :D


I personally feel that romance writing has as much scope and freedom as any mainstream novel…as long as the relationship of the hero and heroine is always at the forefront. I hope you agree and try one of my books!

Love,

Rachel x

Her Hometown Redemption - Harlequin Superromance (coming Sept 2015)
Christmas At The Cove - Harlequin Superromance (Nov 2014)
What Belongs To Her - Harlequin Superromance (Mar 2014)
A Man Like Him - Harlequin Superromance (Aug 2013)
Finding Justice - Harlequin Superromance (Feb 2013)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Winner from Jennifer's Jan. 15 post

Tammy, you are the winner from my post on January 15th. Send me an email at jenniferlohmann (at) gmail (dot) com to collect your prize! And thanks for commenting.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Those Cowboys! My Love Affair With Western Romance


I’m not the most likely person to write western romances.  I’m a former schoolteacher and administrator, a mom, and a resident of a Northern California beach town.  I rarely eat beef and I’ve never lived on a ranch or taken care of vast amounts of cattle or sheep.  But I did grow up riding horses, I worked on a farm where I cared for a few cows and sheep, and most of all, I grew up loving western movies.

My dad loved westerns.  I can’t tell you how many times we watched Red River and cheered at the classic moment when John Wayne turns to Montgomery Clift and says, “Take ‘em to Missouri, Matt."

And then there was the glorious Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which we watched every time it came on TV.   

My dad may have introduced me to western movies, but as a young girl it was my passion for horses that fueled my love of westerns.  When I saw The Electric Horseman, I was a lot more in love with the horse than the hero!  

My horse-loving friends and I watched The Man From Snowy River over and over.  It's a classic western romance… a young man who needs to prove himself, a disapproving father trying to keep him away from the woman he loves, he’s poor, she’s wealthy, their parents were enemies… it has all the conflict of a great romance novel.  But at the time what I loved best were the scenes of the wild horses running through the hills.  They were so beautiful!


As I got older, it's possible that the cowboys, more than their horses, inspired my love of westerns.  I’ll never forget the first time I saw James Dean brooding under his cowboy hat, in Giant.  Now if that doesn’t inspire a girl to love western romance, I don’t know what will!
 
And I’m not even going to tell you how often I’ve watched Viggo Mortenson and his adorable mustang in Hidalgo!   

He may not have a horse, but I have a massive crush on Charles Esten, who plays Deacon Claybourne in the TV show Nashville.  I'm imagining a new book about a troubled country musician, thanks to him!


So I’ll keep writing my westerns for a while longer… as you can see, those cowboys aren’t out of my system yet!



And I’d love to know – are there any movies that have inspired you?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Deleted Scenes

Vicki Essex, K9, and the TARDIS
Following my newly formed love of Doctor Who, I’ve been watching the special features on the DVDs and learning a lot from head writer Russell T. Davies’s commentary about why certain scenes were cut.

TV and novel writing have plenty in common, so I thought I’d share what I learned—spoiler free!

Reasons to cut scenes
  1. Time/word count: It’s always best to find the simplest and most direct way to explain things. Use as few words/scenes/analogies/characters/imagery as possible to get things across. This sounds like the simplest reason, but the decision to shave off a few seconds (or words, in book terms) must take into consideration most of the below reasons.
  1. Pacing: Sudden pauses for deep contemplation during action scenes? Internal monologues that gum up emotional moments? Magical plot devices that detract from a tearful goodbye? Take ‘em out! You want to keep the readers/viewers in the moment without stalling the momentum of the action or story.
  1. Appropriateness: Does the scene/dialog/moment fit with the rest of the book/episode’s tone/theme/plot? Does it tend toward literary when the rest of the work is fun and lighthearted? Are there too many incongruities that make your dramatic work sound comical? Sorry, but this may be one of those “kill your darlings” moments.
  1. Overexplanation/Beating the Dead Horse: While we all like to torture our characters, there are times when you can overdo it. Likewise with any extra information that simply reexplains a situation or tries to overemphasize a character’s emotional state. At a certain point, it can get ridiculous.
  1. Repetition: Repetition is not required to achieve emphasis. And a reader/viewer will get tired and roll their eyes at your supposed “cleverness” if you try to draw too many parallels in your work.
  1. Irrelevance: A lot of scenes involving one set of circumstances can be shaved down or cut altogether once a key moment can be removed without affecting the whole piece.

Other things I learned from Russell T. Davies:

Get second (and third and fourth) opinions: In the commentary, Davies frequently emphasizes how the final cuts were made as a team, and not by one single person. Davies worked with the other writers, directors and producers to produce leaner, meaner episodes. Working with beta readers and editors gives you a different point of view on every little aspect of your story. Don’t ignore those voices. To quote the Twelfth Doctor: Listen.

Kill your darlings: In Doctor Who, there were some major scenes from certain episodes that were left on the cutting room floor based on one or more of the above reasons. Even if the cut scenes were beautifully written, or completely cut out particular guest actors’ appearances, or left out enormous plot points, the team always made the decision for the good of the episode and not one single person’s ego. 

It’s a good thing DVD special features exist to preserve these golden fandom moments!

Ever watch cut scenes from your favorite TV shows or movies? Did you agree or disagree with the cut? Have you ever torn out your hair over something major that was left out? Comment below!



Friday, January 16, 2015

The Waggedy One We Miss The Most

Amber Leigh Williams

It was February 2005. My husband and I had recently taken a big step in our relationship and moved in together…or rather, since we were so young at the time (19 and 18, respectively), my parents talked us out of eloping and into living together for twelve months in order to see if our relationship had the legs. He and I knew it did, of course; we had been together for eight months already and had been contemplating marriage for October. However, the “trial run” as my parents called it seemed really important to them so we decided to play by their rules. We didn’t have much. In truth, we had very little. One of the things we did share, and I feel that it has been one of our greatest commonalities through the years, was a deep love of animals. He had a stocky, eight-year-old black Labrador mix named Rocky who was more brother to him than pet. Days after we decided to move in together, he gave me the gift of my first dog: a purebred chocolate lab puppy we named Kahlua.
Owning an animal of any kind was a bit of a departure for me. Raising Kahlua was a trial run of its own kind. I eagerly took on the bulk of her responsibility of her care and training. It was the first time I was solely responsible for the life of another. My husband knew I could do it. The experience, however, didn’t come without challenges. You’ve surely all heard the stories about puppy pitfalls. Shoes chewed to pieces. Mine weren’t simply “chewed to pieces.” A brand new pair of black leather sandals was digested and never seen again. The separation anxiety. Whenever I ventured out to do something simple like visit the post office or go grocery shopping, our house would be trashed by the time I returned. Bed hogging. Kahlua spent the first year of her life sleeping on my pillow with Rocky’s 90-pound bulk stretched vertically across the bed beneath her and me squished between both fur babies and my husband’s chest. It’s a good thing we liked to cuddle…. Within six months, the inevitable happened. Kahlua was pregnant. I was a little shell-shocked. I hadn’t thought my precious puppy was old enough to have babies and had only just managed to acclimate to Kahlua’s insatiable puppy energy. Imagine more puppies. Heavens! My husband admitted to his hopes of breeding the two down the road. Kahlua getting preggers only put his master plan into motion a few years sooner.

I was alone the day Kahlua went into labor, having skipped my college classes that morning to write. I was terrified. Nature has a mysterious way of taking control in such situations. Kahlua went about the whole two-hour interlude with complete grace and confidence. My little puppy metamorphosed into a mother and adult before my eyes. Additionally, I witnessed the miracle of childbirth for the first time. When it was all said and done, there were seven puppies, all round, perfect and healthy. Kahlua struggled to labor the last who was by no means the runt of the litter. It was a girl, a slick mound of black fur that seemed somehow bigger than all the rest. I fell in love with each and every one of Rocky and Kahlua’s babies, but this last one was special….

We went against the rules. My husband and I had agreed to keep one puppy, the black male who looked most like his aging Rocky. We made the mistake of naming and growing attached to all the rest and keeping them longer than the initial two months. Keeping just one puppy became keeping two puppies. Then three. We gave the four others to good homes, including the large seventh one to my future mother-in-law. Through a tragic set of circumstances that happened while my husband and I were honeymooning  in Florida after our wedding in May 2006, Kahlua passed away. We came home to the news and, knowing how much we grieved our baby girl's loss, my mother-in-law kindly returned the seventh puppy to us. Her name was Sassy.

Now Sassy was different in many ways from Kahlua. She was timid and mellow. She rarely disobeyed the rules, despite the antics of her two loping brothers, Duke and Jerry Lee. (The third puppy we initially kept of the seven, Wills, also tragically passed away within the first year of his life.) She loved playtime with my husband and would by no means let her brothers or Rocky push her around. However, when my husband left for work during the day, it was Sassy who curled up at my feet under my desk while I sat down to write. She never moved unless I did. We would sit for hours contentedly in the quiet of our home, her quiet puppy snores and the tap-tap-tap of computer keys the only sounds penetrating the quiet. In finding my husband, I found my soul mate. Loving him and sharing my life with him was all so natural. In truth, and as corny as it may sound, it was like coming home. Alternately, with Sassy, something very similar happened, only my spirit animal found me. In replacing Kahlua and coming to live with us, she came home to the place she was meant to be all along. I loved all of our fur babies, but – like I said – Sassy was special.

I wept profusely after picking her up from the vet after having her spayed. She was groggy and seemed so small and helpless and I couldn’t help feeling as if I had betrayed her somehow by taking away one of her most basic biological functions. Years later, when I was sick with the flu, my hip was aching terribly as bones tend to while ailing. Somehow knowing this, she curled up against my back and hip, lending me healing warmth until the ache was gone. I wish I had a count of how many hours she laid at my feet in my office, how many books and words I wrote under her restful vigil. I wish we’d had more hours at the park. She loved other dogs and would grow especially playful around other males. Whenever we took her in for her yearly check-up, she would cower behind me and turn her face toward mine if the nurse or doctor came anywhere near her. Shots were a torment. The only way to get her to stop cowering and shaking would be to enfold her in a giant hug. And by giant hug, I mean 90-lb animal. Very large. Very heavy. Yes, all of it sitting in my lap, ear-to-ear, paws around my neck.

Life for all of us changed when my husband and I brought our son home for the first time in 2012. A fur baby he was not. One of my greatest fears beyond his health and wellbeing was that he would have an allergy to pet dander. Sassy was especially curious about this bald puppy to whom I was so deeply attached, but for months I didn’t let even her anywhere near him. She likely thought she was being punished. I was so relieved when it became clear that our little guy was in no way allergic to dogs or pets of any kind. I was even happier when his love of the outdoors began to shine through and we were both able to venture outdoors more. We slowly, carefully introduced him to each of “his doggies.” Sassy was especially cautious around him. She knew how important this non-furry baby was to me. As much as she wanted to be near me, she wasn’t going to take any risks around the little guy.

Unfortunately, by the time my son began to cultivate an interest and his own relationship with the doggies, Sassy’s health went into decline. Out of the three, she aged the quickest. By the time she was six, the hair around her mouth and ruff had gone white. At age eight, she began to lose weight rapidly as well as her appetite. She slept more than the others and began to walk with a noticeable limp due to stiff joints. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that she was slowly, physically slipping away. The day came when she looked at me, really looked. The communication barrier between human and canine lifted and through this silent look I was able to hear her little voice inside me. It told me to prepare myself. Days later, it happened. She passed away during the night. While my husband kept watch over our son and the others, I held her and sang to her and talked to her. She’d been there through the ups and downs of everyday life for almost a decade. I owed her this: the close, constant comfort and vigil of her last minutes. Despite the fact that we knew, losing Sassy was a complete and utter heartbreak. My husband buried her early the following morning in the woods. His brothers came out to lend a hand. I received calls and messages from friends and relatives near and far offering heartfelt condolences. Though it could never replace her loss or make us forget, the outpouring of love in the wake of Sassy’s life was a great comfort.

I didn’t know until Sassy passed away the meaning of The Rainbow Bridge. The morning Sassy was laid to rest, my cousin sent me a special Facebook message, accompanied by a poem (below). Recently, when it came time to write the dedication for my third Superromance novel (on shelves July 2015), I couldn’t help but remember this and Sassy’s life and all those hours and words she had helped me write. Many writers are animal lovers and share their lives with fur babies of their own. I’ve heard many speak about their feline and canine friends via social media. I’m sure I’m not the only person, writer or otherwise, who has found her “spirit animal.” But after months of reflection, I feel it’s finally time to try to memorialize mine in the best way I know how: by sitting down at my desk for a few hours with the tap-tap-tap of computer keys, missing the little snores and snorts and that companionable warmth at my feet.
 
 
In 2008, when my husband and I moved into our first house, I did a vidblog about my new office space. Sassy decided to be adorable and crash it. Here's a glimpse of her waggedy tail and playful, kind nature, as we remember her!


Thank you, my dear friend, for nine wonderful years. We'll meet you at the Rainbow Bridge....

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Miracles of Modern Medicine

Happy New Year!*

I hope you all had a good holiday, however you celebrate. I got to have both Jewish Christmas Eve (Chinese food with a friend's family) and Christmas dinner with another friend. All lovely.

My mom also came to visit. That is where my holiday went off the rails and is the subject of my blog post. My 2014 ended scarily and 2015 started with me appreciating Duke University Hospitals.

My mother, as mothers are wont to do, offered to take on a cleaning project while she was visiting. In this case, my mom offered to clean my upper cabinets. Of course, I accepted this with alacrity and while I was at work on Tuesday, January 30th, she got started. I was only working a half day and I was going to stop at the gym before I went home.

I did stop at the gym and, luckily, before I got out of the car, I checked my phone. There was a voice mail from my mom and a text asking me to come home immediately. When I got home, my mom was lying on the guest bed. She'd been climbing onto my counter (!!!) to clean the top of the cabinets and fallen off. She'd landed on her butt first, then her head had slammed into the drawer pull on the other side of my narrow galley kitchen. She didn't pass out and had made it to the guest room and her phone to call me.

Needless to say, this was very scary.

She didn't have signs of concussion, but when people say head wounds bleed a lot, they aren't kidding. Off to urgent care we went. They bandaged her head, but we learned anyone over 65 with a head wound has to get a CT scan, signs of a concussion or no (and, they said, her head wound was bad enough they would have sent her for a CT scan anyway).

Off to the ER, where we spent 5 hours getting CT scans, x-rays, and stitches. The ER was packed. It's prime flu season in North Carolina and there were lots of people there. They were handing out masks at the door.

The ER only did x-rays because my mom kept complaining about pain in her hips, but we're so glad they did. While she didn't have anything other than a gash on her head, she suffered a compression fracture when she fell and we were told to schedule surgery for the next day. Compression fractures will heal without surgery, but the pain would be too great for my mom to fly home.

Surgery it was. And on December 31st, my mom had back surgery. Not many people get outpatient surgery on New Year's Eve, so amazingly, there were only three other people in the outpatient surgery area.

All of this has a happy ending. The surgery (a kyphoplasty) was amazing. The surgeon said it would provide instant pain relief and it did. My mom was able to walk around the block on New Year's Day and we went to an art exhibit on the Saturday. She flew home on the Sunday, having been scheduled to fly home on the 31st.

She still has to do physical therapy and wear a back brace, but really, this was a miracle of modern medicine and about as happy an ending as I could hope for.

Got your own stories of happy endings, medical or otherwise? Share them in the comments. I'll give away a paper copy of A Promise for the Baby (which relates to the above story) to one random commenter. I'll post the winner on January 24th.

*My library's deputy director said in a meeting yesterday that he learned you have until January 15th to wish people a "Happy New Year." I just made it!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Question of the Month: January 2015

Hi, everyone! It's time again for the Question of the Month. This time, we're taking a cue from Mother Nature and asking, "It's January and temperatures are dropping; most of us have just had our first snow day of the year. Which makes us wonder: what is your favorite way to spend a snow day (or other unexpected 'holiday')?"

Vicki Essex: Ideal: slipping into fuzzy, warm clothes, making some hot chocolate and popcorn, and marathoning Doctor Who episodes while I snuggle the cat.

Reality: slipping on the ice while I shovel and reshovel the walk, followed by a round of painkillers because I've probably thrown my back out.

Tara Taylor Quinn: I’m in Phoenix and we don’t have snow days.  And…since I work from home…any day that gives me free time, gives me more time to work!  When my daughter was younger and we had a day off, we’d have Shirley Temple and Doris Day movie marathon days and craft.  I’d give just about anything for one of those days now! 

Anna Sugden: Ah snow days – remember them well from our years in NJ! Sadly, over here in England we rarely get snow, let alone a snow day – though the country does come to a standstill if there are more than two flakes of snow! My ideal is to turn on the fire, snuggle up in my favourite chair (if I can beat our two cats to it) and read a book by one of my favourite authors from cover to cover. Uninterrupted reading is such a rare pleasure these days – usually only when I’m on a plane. Of course, I’m betting one or both cats will soon be snuggling up with me, so uninterrupted is a pipe dream!

Patricia Potter: I opt for a hot bath with candles, great book and wine.

Nan Dixon: Snow Days - We have so many here in Minnesota.  I love to build a roaring fire and curl up with a hot romance.  I'm either drinking tea or hot spiced cider, or if it is nighttime--a glass of wine or Prosecco.  Hot mulled wine sounds good right now since we are sub-zero with deadly wind chills.

Kris Fletcher: If it's the first snow day of the year, we bake cookies, watch the snow, and watch too much TV. (Well, the kids do that. Mommy still has to get some work done.) 

If it's the second, third, or fourth snow day, the kids have free rein of the house while Mommy hides in her office and mainlines chocolate.

Jeannie Watt: Snow Day = Cocoon Day  If it's a real snow day, it means I don't have to go to work, so I hang out in my flannels and watch movies or sew. Usually an Irish coffee makes an appearance toward late afternoon. I totally love an unexpected free day.

The last snowfall of 2014 at Kristina Knight's home
Sharon Hartley: Since I live in Miami, Florida, we don't have snow days.  Hurricanes, yes.  Our home is in a mandatory evacuation zone, so we put up the storm shutters, bring my orchids and anything that could become airborne inside, pack up necessary documents and the dog and relocate to a safer location -- usually with family -- where we wait for the wind to stop howling.  No electricity.  No TV.  Not a lot of fun since we're worried what we'll find when we get home.  

Jennifer Lohmann: If I'm lucky, I've planned ahead and brought lots of wood in. Then I can spend the entire day on the couch in front of my wood stove with a cup of tea, my animals, and a book (either the one I'm working on, or a delicious one to read). My wood stove is one of my favorite things about my house.

Kristina Knight: I love snow days - at least the first couple of the year! Usually bebe will head outside for a little while (you know, 5 minutes or so) then it's hot cocoa, movies, video games and fun. Like Kris, though, by about Snow Day 4, I can't really take the whole day off...so RadioMan and I will tag-team the kiddo so we can get some work done, too.

Geri Krotow: My favorite snowy day activity is knitting, followed by baking. Writing is so much more fun when it's snowy, too!

What about you, readers? How do you like to spend unexpected free days?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Surviving Winter -- Minnesota Style

The thermometer is going sub-zero and will stay there for quite a while.  Waldo, my cat, looks at me when I open the door, like I should be able to bring back warm weather and green grass.  Sorry—no can do.  He’s even more disgusted if there is snow outside.

It’s not only Minnesota this latest cold snap—the whole country is going to suffer.  Is it any wonder that I love to write about warmer climates when I pick a location to write about?  My debut novel, Southern Comforts, is set in Savannah.  And I am working on the second book set in the same place, right now.

Although Georgia may occasionally have cold and ice, it is nothing like where I live.  It is nice to dream about Savannah’s steamy summer, while throwing more logs on my fire.  Yes--that is a glass of Prosecco in front of the fire!


Winter Carnival Ice Castle
Of course, here in Minnesota we flaunt the snow and cold.  There’s Winter Carnival and Ice Castles.  The Ice Castles are amazing.  Some are formed by blocks of ice cut from nearby lakes, others are formed by sprayed water—but all are beautiful.  Love that they have added LED lights and create light shows with the ice. 
Eden Prairie Ice Castle
Rice Park Ice Sculpture
Mall of America Ice Castle


What do you do where you live to get you through the long days of winter?

  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Different Kinds of Creativity

The past few weeks I've been working on a different kind of project, along with my books. I'm not that great of a gardener (although I try) and while I can cook well I don't really enjoy it. But I do like (and I'm getting good at) sewing and quilting. And so when new fabric for a new baby nephew arrived I knew I would get right down to business cutting out squares and piecing together sashing and figuring out block placement and binding and all the rest.

I like quilting because there are rules - you don't put a navy fabric right next to a swatch of black, for example, because there isn't a lot of contrast. Just like - unless you like giving your fingers the twitchies - you don't cut down your squares or triangles into 1/2-inch pieces. And you don't sew Row 1 right side up and Row 2 right side down (unless you just enjoy sitting for 30 minute stretches with a magnifying glass, a seam ripper and some alcohol).

I also like quilting because you can break the rules. If a pattern calls for it, you can put navy and black next to one another and forget those rules about neon pink and orange because it's possible with the right placement they actually do belong together.

I also like to quilt because you can fix the problem areas. Those rows you sewed backwards? Yeah, you'll have to use the seam ripper, but you can fix them relatively quickly.

Yesterday I put the backing, batting (middle, fluffy, warm part) down along with the top side. And I cut the backing a smidge too narrow - like, less than a half-inch. Does it look odd? Right now, yes, but that is a thing I can fix when I put on the binding next week. And, as I was stitching in the ditch, bebe asked a question and I kind of left the ditch for a second. Stopped, pulled out those stitches and replaced them - this time with the door closed.

All the while I've been letting the new book percolate and I've been writing scenes and laying out scene ideas
on a ribbon board and picking out songs for my playlist and pictures for my pinterest board. And I'm loving the story that I'm telling. I also love that, whenever I see this quilt, it will remind me of the journey I took in this book while I was taking a quilting journey.

What about you, readers? Do you have a creative outlet? 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Resolutions for Romance

Joanne Rock

I felt very clever for coming up with the subject of my blog today. We are used to reading about resolutions for a “New You” that involve kicking bad habits, eating healthier, being more active, or working harder/faster/smarter. But how often do we think about resolutions in regard to our romantic relationships?

It seems sort of culturally revealing that this idea isn’t kicked around more during the time of year best known for taking stock of our lives and improving ourselves. Why isn’t romance important? Shouldn’t improving our relationships be one of the most rewarding and valuable tasks on our industrious January agenda?

I sure think so. But then, romance is perpetually important to me. Not just because I write about it, but because my romantic relationship is one of the most significant and challenging relationships in my life. Significant because it lasts the longest and will account for the greatest time investment. Long after my kids are independent from me, my husband will still be a daily part of my life. And challenging because… well, if you’re in a long-term relationship, I don’t think I need to explain that one. My twenty-year marriage is solid—fun and rewarding, for sure. But any romance needs tending.

Autumn Romance by Rachel.Adams CC

So let’s think about what we’d resolve this year if we were going to foster more romance. Here’s what I came up with…

1) Remember why you chose him. That sounds simple, but how often do we remember the reasons your guy is The One? Day to day living often makes us think about all the ways we are less than satisfied with each other. Remembering what makes you love each other most helps you to be more forgiving. Also, it makes you want to kiss him more, which only leads to good things.

2) Resolve things together. Tell him you want to make your relationship a priority and see what he’d like to add to the list for goals this year. You might be surprised and inspired. And even if you don’t feel like you’re on the same page with your vision, forewarned is forearmed. You can start planning for how to make both of you the happiest.

3) Spend fun time with one another. I hate to suggest “Date nights” since I know some people who feel ambushed by women’s magazines that tell them they must have more date nights in their marriage. I think the word “date” implies planning, expense and a certain amount of social pressure. So maybe just think about ways to spend fun time together. Take up a weird new hobby that interests you both or go for a Sunday drive. See a parade and bring hot chocolate. All that is required is that you do something fun. Together.

4) Reconsider your arguments. This part isn’t fun, but it’s so much easier to think about how you disagree with your significant other when you’re NOT actively batting it out. Resolve to play fair. Better yet, resolve to turn the other cheek a few times. I resolve this every year and don’t always succeed, but I think it helps to put it in the forefront of my brain. Trying counts.

5) Remind yourself that relationships are to be enjoyed. Sometimes we think about our relationships—especially the romantic ones—as parts of our life that need “fixing.” But I think this sets us up for disappointment and reinforces the idea that we should change our partner. A romance is something you chose for enjoyment and emotional nurturing. Savor those elements. Add to the wealth of joy and nurturing by doing some yourself. They are qualities that only multiply once you start adding to the pile.

I’m excited about my list. I think these resolutions will make me happier and I’m pretty sure my husband will like them too. Especially the “more kissing” and “play fair” parts. But I’m all ears to hear what you think. How do you maintain a romance? How do you nurture and grow a relationship so that it is all the more fun and rewarding for both parties? This is the epilogue, my friends!! The HEA we all want to live. Let’s do it better/stronger/smarter… and with more heart. We’re romance fans, after all. We can do this!

Share your thoughts with me and I'll give one random poster a copy of my February release, THE RIGHT MOVES.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Organization? It's In The Cards

by Kris Fletcher

So here we are, folks - the first Monday of a brand new year, which means that in all the ways that counts, the year starts today, right? This is the day when we gird our loins, hit the floor, and try to remember how to do a push-up. Or we toss the sugar bowl. Or vow to get organized. Or, sometimes, stare blankly at the calendar and wonder who the heck stole 2014 away from us when we weren't looking (please tell me I'm not alone in that one ...)

In any case, I couldn't do a push-up to save the whales, and my sugar bowl is surgically connected to my hips (which explains way too much right there), but if you, like me, are hoping to make better use of your time this year, then hey howdy hey, I have a suggestion for you. It's a radical system based on - wait for it - index cards.

I know, I know. App developers all over the world are weeping at this suggestion. But sometimes, going old school works. For me, this is one of those times.

This system is not my own creation. I've adapted the approach spelled out in excellent detail in Sidetracked Home Executives, by Pam Young and Peggy Jones. If you're looking to get a handle on household chores, they're the women to keep you on track.

I wanted to organize my household tasks while also getting a handle on my writing, promotion, and family responsibilities. Spinning off of Young and Jones' system, my first step was to sit down and make an index card for everything that needs to be done on a regular basis: clean out the fridge, cello lessons, blog updates, change the sheets, update my financial records, etc. Step two is to sit down at the beginning of the month along with my calendar and file all those cards into a file box set up with dividers for each day of the month.
Each evening I pull the cards that have been allocated to the next day, read them over, and make sure I have everything I'll need to accomplish the assigned tasks. Then each day, I work my way through the cards. (My favorites are the ones that say Sit down and read for half an hour.) When each card's task is complete, I file it where it needs to go next - tomorrow, one day next week, next month. 

The nice part about this system is that I don't have to worry about having 329 things to do in a week. All I need to do is get through today's cards. The rest will wait. To me, that fact alone makes it worth the time of organizing and filing the cards.

I'm always looking for ideas to better manage my time. What do the rest of you do to stay on top of life?


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Convincing the Rancher Giveaway Winner!

Mindy Hardwick - you won a copy of Convincing the Rancher! 
It turns out Colleen C.  had already won the book on a different blog 
so she's getting a copy of my second book, More Than a Rancher, instead.
Congratulations!  

Mindy, could you please e mail me your address at cmcewen.writer@gmail.com?  
And thank you very much to everyone who commented on my Dec. 30th post!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Very Delayed Winner Announcement

Sandra Owens won the copy of SOUTHERN COMFORTS!

Sorry I got so sick, I forgot to post the notice.  Sandra, I have contacted you through your website!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

January 2015 New Releases!

Convincing The Rancher
Claire McEwen

About that night… 

Benson, California, represents all that Tess Cole doesn't want. So she intends to keep her business trip there brief. Too bad her idea to quickly change the mayor's mind about some planning issues dissolves the moment she recognizes him! That one night with Slaid Jacobs remains a personal favorite for Tess—and for him, too, it seems. 

Even though he's gorgeous and hot, it's clear to Tess that the single dad wants a commitment—something she avoids. It's also clear Slaid is bent on convincing her they can build a future out of their passionate past. And that's a very tempting offer…

More Than Neighbors
Janice Kay Johnson

Temptation is so close! 

To protect her son, Mark, Ciara Malloy has moved to this rural area in Washington. The new beginning is off to a rocky start, however, when Mark gets too familiar with Gabe Tennert's horses. It's obvious their next-door neighbor prefers his solitude. Even so, he shows incredible patience with Mark. And when Gabe turns that intense gaze Ciara's way…how can she resist such a good, sexy man? 

But crossing the line between friends and something more is riskier than Ciara expects. As Gabe pushes for a commitment, she fears revealing the secret truths that could turn him away forever.


Tempting Donovan Ford (A Family Business)
Jennifer McKenzie

There's sizzle in this kitchen! 

Chef Julia Laurent has poured everything into her late mother's restaurant. When the time is right, she'll buy it herself. Before she can, though, the Ford family swoops in and acquires it out from under her! Suddenly Julia has a new boss—the sexy and intriguing Donovan Ford. 

Donovan and his family are legends in the restaurant business, so Julia will go along with his plans…for now. The chemistry between them is undeniable, but Julia remains focused on her goal of owning this place. Donovan has the power to help her—Julia simply has to convince him that he wants to.

The Daughter He Wanted
Kristina Knight

The Daddy Surprise 

Since the loss of his wife, Alex Ryan has been living a half-life. But with one phone call, Alex discovers he's the biological father of a four-year-old girl…and everything changes. 

Single mom Paige Kenner preferred to have a family without the man. Now suddenly there's Alex, who desperately wants to be a father to her little girl. A gorgeous, kind and committed father. Letting a stranger into their lives is far too dangerous—especially if his presence stirs a part of Paige that she longs to forget…
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