Friday, September 25, 2015

What Don't We Know?

I’ve known my husband, John, for just over fifteen years now, and we’ve been married for five of those wonderful years. We share everything from French fries to secrets. And yet, after all this time together, I’m still discovering mind-blowing new things about John.

Like the fact that he’s a baseball fan.

You’d think I would’ve seen more evidence of this particular interest at some point in our time together. But apart from the casual game that might be on at a restaurant or bar we were eating in, or the occasional Toronto Blue Jays game we’d attend with friends, I’d never seen John pay much attention to baseball.

He doesn’t play baseball. He doesn’t talk baseball. He doesn’t own or wear baseball caps or any kind of sports paraphernalia. I don’t think we’ve even watched any baseball-themed movies together. And yet, this year, he bought a membership to MLB.com and has watched nearly every single Jays game since early August—before the Jays started doing really well. (I will vouch for the fact that he was not a bandwagon jumper.)

When I discovered this, I was entirely befuddled. He explained that watching baseball games had been a part of his childhood—something I was not aware of. He’d always struck me as a quiet kid who preferred reading over playing or watching sports of any kind. His affinity for baseball was about as surprising as his love for old Godzilla movies.

I asked him what he’d learned about me that surprised him. He told me that he’d been surprised when I started writing fan fiction, and more recently, he was impressed by my painting skills.

It made me think about the things we don’t know about the people around us, no matter how long we’ve known them for or how close they might be. It’s been the theme of many a thriller or murder mystery, but it’s also the reality of life. With something bad, like a deep, dark secret, do we consciously turn away from all speculation or prying because we don’t want to know? I can list off dozens of things I don’t want to know about my family or friends, after all. Would you want to know about your loved one’s worst traumas or transgressions? I’m not sure I would, but every now and again, I do learn something new, and it sometimes gives me a newfound understanding or respect for the person they are.

If it’s something good—or at least innocuous—something we’d like to know about those who matter to us, something we want to share, how do we seek it out? I’d be hard pressed to answer the question “Tell me something about you no one knows,” and I’m sure others would be, too, especially with someone they’re more intimate with.

In writing, giving your characters secrets, special skills, talents or interests gives them depth, a sense of realism, and it surprises the reader into rethinking their feelings about a character, sometimes even redeeming or vilifying them. Sometimes those secret details translate into bigger pieces of information, too. For instance, in my book In Her Corner, the hero’s favorite board game is Settlers of Catan. Like the sport of mixed martial arts, the setup can be different every time, and the advantages and disadvantages each player has from the start often dictate how the game will go, though there’s no telling what will happen. And in my upcoming January 2016 release, Red Carpet Arrangement, the hero, an A-list Hollywood actor, has a secret passion for painting—something that intrigues and surprises the heroine.


What have you learned about people around you that has surprised you? How did those talents or pieces of information change your view of them? Has your opinion or view of a person ever changed because of what you discovered? Comment below!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Are You Ready for Emergencies?


Todd knelt down in the straw.  “Let’s see what’s in this backpack that can help us out here.”

She lifted the light so he could see inside

“Emergency blankets.  Yes.” He pulled a handful of foil bundles out of the backpack and quickly unfolded one.  It crackled when he draped it over Nora's shoulders.  She pulled it tight to try to preserve her non-existent warmth.
“Are you warmer?”
“I’m not freezing,” she said.  “Does that count?”

“It's a step in the right direction.  Let's lie down.  We'll put the blankets around us.  We’ll be okay.”

“Have I told you how much I love your backpack?  And that you’re organized enough to keep it in your truck?”
             His laugh made the sheep shed seem warmer.  “My backpack and I are gratified to hear that. Now lie down."  

In this scene from my book-in-progress (Wild Horses, March 2016) my hero and heroine get trapped by a flash flood and are forced to spend the night in an old sheep shed out in the high desert.  It's a dangerous situation, but luckily for them, the hero, Todd, has an emergency backpack stashed in his truck. When he realizes the heroine, Nora, is in the path of the flash flood, he grabs that backpack before he runs off to try to rescue her.

Writing about Todd and Nora's efforts to survive got me thinking about my own preparation for emergencies.  Living in California means living in earthquake country.  We are asked to have at least seventy-two hours of supplies on hand in case a large earthquake hits.  That includes food, water, clothing, medical and first aid supplies, etc.  

 

I have my family's emergency supplies fairly well organized.  This is mainly due to my friend Debra's advice. She's a professional  home organizer with some great insights into how to stay prepared.  Thanks to her, every year in early November we go through our emergency supplies. Any canned food that is getting close to its expiration date goes to Thanksgiving food drives and we shop for new canned food to put in our kit.  If a disaster hits, we'll have food to eat, and in the meantime we're not letting the cans expire, so their contents won't be wasted. We also update the rest of the kit at that time.

It worries me that many people I know and love are not prepared for disasters.  Tonight at dinner with friends, we talked about earthquakes and found that only half of us had our supplies ready.  Recently, talking with a few other close friends, I learned that none of them were prepared.  

I think people avoid getting ready for a couple reasons.  First, it's depressing thinking about all the terrible things that might happen.  Secondly, it feels really overwhelming.  I can't do much about the depressing part, but I do encourage my friends to utilize websites that walk us through how to be ready. Most major cities have a disaster preparedness website.  In San Francisco it's SF72 .  And here's the link to the site put together by New York City.  And at the Center For Disease Control's website, you can even learn how to prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse!

The emergency backpacks we keep in our cars were the inspiration for Todd's backpack.  We use pre-made backpacks that you can purchase on line or (sometimes) at drug stores.  The Red Cross sells them for $55.  


There is one part of emergency preparedness that we are still working on at my house. The Go Bag.  This is a bag of essentials that we can grab if we have to evacuate the house suddenly.  It should include any prescription medication and copies of important documents such as insurance, birth certificates, the deed to the house, etc.  It's good to include cash and anything else essential you might need, such as eyeglasses.  The idea behind the Go Bag is that if there was a need to immediately evacuate the house, you'd be able to have your essentials with you.

In California, people recently had to flee the terrible Valley Fire on extremely short notice.  On the news, many of the people interviewed said they came away with nothing.  But if they'd had a Go Bag in an easy place to access, maybe they could have grabbed it as they ran from their homes. And perhaps it would have helped them feel a bit more hopeful and comfortable.

If my hero, Todd, was here right now, he'd tell you how glad he was that he had that emergency backpack in his truck.  So I encourage you to take a look at your local websites, and start to put together your emergency supplies - if you haven't already. 

Stay Safe Out There! 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

AND THE WINNER IS...

Penney, you've won a copy of SAFE IN NOAH'S ARMS! Would you please contact me with your snail mail address?

maryes@rogers.com

I will mail out a copy to you on Monday.

Thank you so much for following the Super authors blog!

Congratulations!!!  :-)

Mary


Friday, September 18, 2015

The Summer Of Cooking Dangerously (Cooking Disasters Take 2)

Amber Leigh Williams

Several months back, I detailed some of my more unfortunate escapades in the kitchen…specifically The Broccoli and Cheddar Soup Disaster of 2015.

Although I haven’t had any other broccoli or soup-related incidents at the stove lately, I’m still indulging the little foodie inside me by reading and hoarding recipes as diligently as I read and hoard historical romance novels and by trying my hand at new challenges – such as homemade pie crusts, roasted vegetables, and mastering what is now lovingly referred to as Taco Night. I’ve made some meh dishes that either weren’t repeated or have since been improved upon with the aid of my burgeoning spice collection. I’m proud to say I’ve hit some dishes out of the park. My new rosemary chicken is requested every other week as well as the honey-glazed carrots that complement it like peanut butter and jelly.

However, if there’s one thing you can count on in experimentation, kitchen or otherwise, it’s the mess that comes with it....



This I have come to accept. Even if it does come with the occasional meltdown, kitchen disasters make great book fodder. Hence, the heroine of my current WIP, Roxie Honeycutt, a recent divorcee, learning to cook and - to the perplexity and horror of her unwilling roommate/guinea pig/hero - experiencing several kitchen disasters of her own. There are some kitchen disasters I wouldn't repeat, however...which leads me to the charred pages of last month's kitchen log....

I’m a clumsy kind of person. I don’t think I’m clumsy by nature. It’s more that I’m so internal, lost in thought, that sometimes…okay, a lot of the time I don’t pay as much attention to the task at hand as I probably should. Hence, more than my fair share of skinned knuckled while grating cheese or carrots…and, yes, several cuts while using the knives from the butcher block. Also, banging my head on the kitchen counter yesterday while unpacking the beach cooler—not just once, but twice. The first time hurt pretty badly and woke me up. The second knocked me flat and had my husband sprinting across the room to scoop me off the floor. A nice goose egg on the forehead resulted. Having seen more than his fair share of kitchen mishaps on my part, though the hub knows to stay at a safe distance away to watch me work, I’ve caught him standing on the threshold eyeing me and my angry potato peeler warily. (Is it just me or does nothing sooth The Mean Reds like peeling potatoes?) Only a few times has he ventured forth to intervene because I tend to growl at him whenever he gets near me and my stove. In this case, however, I'm rather happy he did choose to (almost literally) jump into the fire.

When I was little, my mother made THE BEST fried chicken and mashed potatoes. It was one of my childhood staples. So when I came across a yummy-looking fried chicken recipe on Pinterest, I decided to give it a whirl. The problem with this kitchen experiment is…well, I’m ignorant when it comes to frying things. Though I do own a fry daddy, it intimidates me. I usually only drag it out when the hub brings home fresh-caught fish from his brothers’ night-fishing trips. Even then, I tend to stand back and let him cook his well-earned feast. I know little about hot grease or frying in general, which is probably why I get spattered and burned most every time I cook bacon. I must note that one of my cooking philosophies is that challenges are meant to be hurdled. So I decided to suck it up and try my hand at frying.

The recipe didn’t call for the fry daddy. I wound up with hot oil in a shallow pan on the stovetop. Everything was going pretty well. The first batch cooked beautifully. Then I added the second. Anybody who’s fried anything knows that when you introduce pretty much anything to hot oil, things get a little messy. Soon I was wearing pot holders on both hands, oil was spitting onto the other burners on the stove in droves of hot specks, and I was starting to get a little harried. Enter the hub. We’ve been together over a decade and I can count the times I’ve seen his beautiful Cheyenne complexion go from healthy to pasty on three fingers. 1) The time he had walking pneumonia. 2) The time he spilled half a gallon of paint on my grandmother’s new flooring. 3) The time my blood pressure took a dramatic dip in the delivery room. This appeared to be the fourth time. He quickly elbowed me out of the way, turned off the burner under the hot pan and proceeded to tell me in no uncertain terms that I was about to burn the entire frigging house down. It’s taken me over a decade to convince the man I need my own fire extinguisher. I’ve set pot holders on fire. I’ve melted plastic tuberware lids in the dish washer. If this foray into fried chicken achieved anything, it was to convince him that yes indeed Amber should have her own fire extinguisher. (Still, it is difficult to toot my horn too much now that I know just how close I came to a grease fire.)

 
I’m thrilled to report that I am no longer the only one under this (blessedly still standing) roof who has endured a kitchen fiasco. Before I go any further, I should mention that prior to me venturing into my foodie adventures, the hub was the one who mastered the kitchen, especially when he spent a year in the restaurant business. He could make excellent cheesy, herby raviolis. Mmmm. He concocted his very own fried rice recipe, which I still dream about with relish (the happy kind, not pickled). The man taught me how to boil an egg, fry an egg, toss an egg to make an omelet…and to this day he’s still so much better at the latter than I am. His strawberry salads are to die for if you can bribe him into making them. And don’t even get me started on his hot cakes. Oh, the hot cakes….

Recently, we’ve become reacquainted with dieting restrictions. That is to say my nursing mother diet restrictions. No alcohol. Very little caffeine. Even more little dairy. If it’s wonderful, chances are I can only have it in moderation. Just like he refrained from Corona Extra and Crown Royal while I was preggers, he’s pretty much given up the delights of cheddar, mozzarella (though he still clings to his parmesan on spaghetti nights), and milkshakes. However, it wasn’t long after our second bundle of joy was born that I began craving dip. You don’t realize how hard it is to find dip without cheese and/or onion until you have to give them both up. Around mid-summer we discovered hummus.

Ah, where has hummus been all my life? I love it! As a bonus, it’s much healthier than my old fallbacks—queso or French onion. We’ve been devouring hummus by the bowlful for weeks. And this new eating habit has gotten a tad bit expensive in the meantime….

Last week, the hub bought several cans of chickpeas. He went to several different stores hunting tahini (ground sesame seeds, which puzzlingly enough comes in a liquid, not a solid). He then dragged out the dreaded blender (re: The Broccoli and Cheddar Disaster of 2015). “I’m going to throw this recipe together real quick,” he explained as I peered over his shoulder curiously. “It should only take ten minutes.”

Ha. Now that our little family has grown to four, things no longer happen “real quick” around here. Getting dinner ready on time? Don’t make me laugh. Getting ready to go out? Diaper changes, road snacks, and things like getting the corresponding pair of pants on the correspondingly-sized person tend to slow us down. Trips to the grocery store? That sound you hear is me laughing and weeping at the same time. Only two things tend to happen “real quick” around our house. One of them is showers, which sadly seem to be growing further and further apart. (Hehe, *sob*) The other only happens when Baby Cakes is napping and Big Tough Toddler Guy is happily installed in front of the television with Mickey Mouse and a book of stickers. As you might have guessed, Daddy’s hummus-making exercise was anything but quick.

I had retired to the living room to feed Baby Cakes. I could hear the sound of the blender churning away. Then I heard something crunch, followed quickly by the hub’s voice chanting, “No, no, no, no, no.” Thankfully, the crunch didn’t involve what I first thought it did—a digit. Instead, it was a rubber spatula. What the hub was doing with the top off the blender to begin with after witnessing firsthand The Broccoli and Cheddar Debacle is still unknown to me, much less why he felt compelled to stick a rubber spatula into a running blender. Nevertheless, chunks were missing from the end of the spatula and they were blending quite well with the not-yet-chopped-up chickpeas. After much cursing, the hub decided to try to salvage the recipe. Fifteen minutes of painstakingly spreading spoonfuls of the chickpea mixture out on a plate resulted in finding all (or most) of the rubber bits. “If you happen to get something you can’t chew, you might want to spit it out,” he advised. “And if you accidentally swallow it, it will probably pass through your system in five to seven years.” Well, that’s a comfort, I suppose.

If you’re wondering, the hummus turned out fabulously with (so far) no rubber chunks. We took turns comparing it to the store-bought version, deciding his had a smokier taste and was far more delicious. Since by that point it was eight o’clock at night, after putting the kiddies to sleep we decided to skip dinner altogether and pig out on hummus. We tried it on tortilla chips (nom), Ritz crackers (nom nom), and French bread with a dash of extra olive oil (nom! nom! nom!). We brainstormed other ways we could use it. As an optional topping for Taco Night. As a spread on sandwiches in lieu of mayonnaise. “Still,” I told him as I licked the spoon, “you do owe me a new spatula.” “Don’t talk to me about spatulas, woman,” he groaned.

So there you have it—the latest in cooking disasters from my kitchen. I’m certain I’ll be doing another round-up of foodie mishaps soon. Until then, happy reading and eating—and, of course, be free to sound off on your own cooking disasters. Bon appetit!

 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Quirky hobbies

Mary Sullivan



This month's release, SAFE IN NOAH'S ARMS, is my 12th Superromance. Twelve books later, I still love writing Supers!

The trick with each new story is to come up with fresh ideas for plots and character development. Even more challenging is the search for unique character traits.

This can come about in the most surprising ways. Monica Accord makes her own perfume. She can certainly afford to buy it, but enjoys the challenge of developing a unique scent. Every day, she fine tunes it.

As a result of one really awful mistake, she is court-mandated to work on Noah Cameron's farm for an entire summer. She knows nothing about plants and farming, so there is a lot of conflict because she is fairly useless to him. In time, she learns, though.

Noah turns out to have a sensitive nose and, one day, notes that her perfume is different. He successfully guesses the new ingredient. Monica is delighted. This was supposed to be an interesting tidbit in only one scene, but then I thought, what if this is a running theme throughout the book? It could be fun. It became even more fun when Monica decided she would dab the perfume on different parts of her body each day and have Noah discover where she'd hidden it. These scenes became playful and sexy and I had a blast writing them!

There is a lot of drama in this novel because of a startling family secret Monica discovers that really sends her world into a tailspin, so the funny scenes lightened that drama and were a relief for me to write and, I hope, for the reader, too.

The scenes change and become more sexually charged until…

That morning, Monica drove out to the farm strangely breathless.
Noah stood in the yard waiting for her.
Without a word, she stepped out of the car, walked around to the front and leaned back on the hood in a sexy pose. Or what she hoped was sexy. She didn’t have a clue.
His intense gaze followed her every move, touched every part of her body.
He stalked toward her like a hungry cat and said one word. “Where?” Maybe she did look sexy after all.
“Here.” She lifted the knot of her blouse an inch, baring her midriff.
Noah’s eyes widened.
He leaned forward. No, to put it accurately, he yearned forward, his desire a shimmering heat.
He bent, breathed on her skin, raised goose bumps and licked her. Good heavens. This man and his magical tongue, with his propensity for licking her, was sending her anticipation to heights she'd never experienced before.
He straightened. No smiles today. No cocky grins. No clever thoughts.
“We need to get to work.”

He stalked away, turned back, scrubbed his hands over his face and growled, “Soon, Monica. Soon.”

The other quirky hobby Monica has is collecting old Vogue magazines—she has an impressive and valuable collection!—as well as beautiful embroidery from days gone by. In Noah's attic, she finds a chest full of antique quilts, embroidered bed sitting jackets and exquisite, delicate handkerchiefs. He lets her keep all of it. She is ecstatic.

I'd like to give away a copy of SAFE IN NOAH'S ARMS to anyone who comments between now and the end of the week. On Saturday morning, I'll select the winner, so check back here then to see whether you've won.

What would you say is your most passionate, unique or quirky hobby?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Question of the Month: Your Favorite September?

Hi, readers! Fall is coming on fast, but there is still plenty of warm(er) weather before the real chill of fall arrives. What is your favorite thing about September?

Tara Taylor Quinn: September is the month I gave birth to my only child.  The most incredible moment in my life and the best thing I’ve ever done.

Liz Talley: Football!!!

Jeannie Watt: What Liz said!

Kristina Knight: The kids go back to school! Kidding, a little bit! I love the changes in September - in our area we go from 90+ temperatures during the day to much milder low 70s, and at night it gets cool enough that we can open the windows to let in the breeze...and, of course, the leaves start to turn!

Claire McEwen: On the California coast, the fog rolls out in September and we get to have our real summer weather.  So I love that I finally get to have warm summer evenings!

Jennifer Lohmann: In September the weather starts being cool enough that I can regularly run outside, not that you would know it from this stretch of hot weather. I run on my lunch hour and it is so much nicer to run through the neighborhood my work is in than to drive to the gym and run on the treadmill.

Mary Sullivan: The food! I'm crazy about buying local produce and the stores are chock full of it right now. The temperature should cool down enough (soon, I hope!!!) to do some serious cooking. Local produce, for me, means plenty of root vegetables and apples. I make huge pots of homemade soup and freeze it all to take me through the winter. I'm a little freaked out that here in Canada we're only ONE month away from our Thanksgiving...time flies!...but I always look forward to dinner! LOL

Sharon Hartley: It's definitely football for me, too. In Florida it's still hot and humid until October, maybe November.

Kris Fletcher: Three words: BACK. TO. SCHOOL.

Rachel Brimble: Ditto to what Kris said!!

Nan Dixon: Football!  And building fires again.

Lisa Dyson: I love everything about September, even now that I have no more children to send back to school! I enjoy the slightly cooler and less humid weather in the DC area, the food, football, the new TV season, the anticipation of leaves changing, and the clothes (I’m a jeans and sweaters kind of girl!). It’s also the time when I begin thinking about Christmas presents.

Angel Smits: September is the beginning of the slide into the holidays.  EVERYONE in my family, except my son and one niece have their birthdays between now and December 30!  10 in all, and there were more when the previous generation was still with us!  Today, the day I’m writing this is the first one, my Dad’s.  We’ll celebrate his this weekend—and just keep on rollin’.  Of course mine falls in there, too so it’s fun for us all.  Hectic but fun.

Joanne Rock: September might have been my favorite month even if it hadn't been my birthday month, but that just caps it for me. I like the way the month is a definitive time of change and new beginnings. I am called to the stores to buy pretty planners and new pens, both of which appeal equally to my creative and organized sides. I like organizing new calendars (I'm on a perpetual academic calendar, I guess) and planning projects. September is a month of dreaming and doing and I always feel a new energy this time of year.

Cathryn Parry: Back-to-school, football and I also enjoy preparing for Halloween. :-)

Amber Leigh Williams: September brings the first grasp of cooler weather. I won't go so far as saying "cool" weather because here on the Gulf Coast things don't feel cool until late October. But the air does feel lighter, more breathable. Oh, and of course, there's football. And chili. And pumpkin bread.

Vicki Essex: Right now, for me, September means just one more month to go before I pop a baby out! (Pregnancy is hard, you guys.)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Life's Too Short

Angel Smits

When I originally signed up for this blog, I picked the second Friday of each month just to help myself keep track of it.  I didn’t look ahead, I just started scheduling.  When the reminder came that this one was going to fall on September 11, I paused.  It’s a day that has such strong memories for so many people.  To be honest, it intimidated me.  Would I be up to writing something that would be appropriate?  The doubts that often plague me when I sit down to write came back, and I even considered begging off and not writing this post. 
            Then I woke up, as I sometimes do, and realized--that’s not me.  That’s not how this is done.  Life continues on, as it should.  So, I sat down to complete the task I’d set for myself, and I was surprised that I knew exactly what I wanted to write. 
            I remember being at my job at an assisted living that day.  I live in Colorado, where most days throughout the year, the skies are a bright, clear blue.  It’s usually crisscrossed with the contrails of a half dozen planes making their way across the world. 
            There weren’t any that day.  The clear blue sky looked so empty.  I remember sitting on a wooden bench out back, with several of the residents who were remembering other days.  Pearl Harbor for one.  We all kept looking up, wishing, desperately wishing, to see those contrails again. They were a sign of normal, and we all longed to return to normal.
            Simple things, like those white vapor trails, have become much more important to me.  I try to notice them throughout the day, and find myself giving some of my favorite things to my characters.  It’s what makes them human to me, and hopefully to my readers. 
            Things like, when a song I love surprises me by playing on the radio.  The taste of sweet corn this time of year.  Neon lights on the side of a Ferris wheel.  (We drove by a carnival tonight on the way home.)  Sunrises and sunsets.  Hot chocolate.  Homemade ice cream.  My dad’s smile when he tries not to laugh at something.  My mom’s daily emails.  My husband bringing me lunch at work.  Finding the perfect gift for someone.  Writing the perfect sentence.  My dog’s tail wagging happily when she knows she’s going for a walk. 
            A friend of mine reads the comics every night before she goes to sleep.  She says that at least that way, she knows even the worst days will end on a good note.  I sort of stole her idea, but instead of that laugh at the end of the day, I decided to find the gem in each day.  I try to think of at least one thing during the day that was special.  Not spectacular, but special.  Simple.  There have been very few days I couldn't find something.
            Are there little things that mean the world to you?  Are there moments in a day that make the rest of the day worth getting through?  Is there one thing that no matter what else is going on, you have to smile?
            Feel free to share your joys, or if you’re not sure what they are, take a minute, or two, and see if you can find them.  And if nothing else—if it’s one of those days--maybe just start with the comics.
            Life's too short not to cherish the joy, and sometimes that joy is simply a smile we give ourselves.  



Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Here Comes The Bus

Kris Fletcher

At last, my kids are back in school.

I am very blessed to be able to stay home with my children. I know that, and truly, I am grateful that when my husband and I decided this was what was best for us, it was possible. But that doesn't mean that there aren't times when being a mom-in-residence becomes a little - shall we say, challenging? Especially after two and a half months of summer break.

It was a good summer. My youngest son was home from university for seven weeks, something that is unlikely to ever happen again, given the way his program is structured. There was a trip to visit cousins at their lake home, and bonfires, and fireflies, and a couple of visits to Boston, and a visit from the California son, and treks to Canada, and games of Cheat over leisurely lunches. There were dips in the neighbors' pool and endless afternoons when all the neighborhood kids took over our dead-end road for bike rides and games of foursquare. There were camps and playground programs and visits to the apple farm and the Spongebob and Minion movies, both of which turned out to be very good for parental napping.

It was indeed a good summer. But dear Heaven, I am ready to have a quiet house and multiple hours in which to work. Because believe it or not, I have a hard time being creative with half the neighborhood running through my office and Taylor Swift telling me to Shake It Off over and over and over again.

So much as I love my children and much as I am grateful for our time together, I offer my apologies to John Lennon as I break into the End of Summer Song.

Here Comes The Bus
(to the tune of Here Comes The Sun)

Here comes the bus, here comes the bus,
And I say, about time

Little darlings, it's been a long and fun-filled summer.
Little darlings, I love you but it's time to go.

Here comes the bus, here comes the bus,
And I say, about time

Little darlings, the smile's returning to my face, yeah
Little darlings, it seems like years since I've been free

Here comes the bus, here comes the bus,
And I say, about time

School, school, school, time for school
School, school, school, time for school
School, school, school, time for school
School, school, school, time for school
School, school, school, time for school

Little darlings, I feel my brain cells atrophying
Little darlings, I love you but it's time to go

Here comes the bus, here comes the bus,
And I say, about time


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

You're Invited to Joanne's Birthday

It's my birthday!
by Joanne Rock

I realize it might be a bit shameless to make today's blog post about me, but it's my birthday and I thought it would be fun to share my day here with you.

As a long time celebrator of birthdays, I feel like I have gotten better at them. The early ones, of course, are easy. Ideally, moms and dads make those first ten birthdays extra special for you so you don't need to work hard to have fun. I remember my mother gave me a birthday party when I turned about six or seven and I wore one of my favorite-ever dresses-- a brown, smocked, knee length dress covered with Winnie the Pooh images. It had a ribbon around the waist and I picked it out at Sears, Possibly from the "Winnie the Pooh" collection. I learned that just having a special outfit makes a birthday more fun.

The next book in my Heartache, TN
series releases in October!
Another important birthday lesson also came during those formative years. My grandfather used to take my whole family out for my father's birthday and it was always a) fancy and b) an excuse to wear clothes like the Winnie the Pooh dress. I got to choose whatever I wanted to eat and my aunts shared with me the magic that is a Shirley Temple drink... ginger ale with a cherry. How special I felt to have a grown up beverage! I learned that a meal out is a great idea on your birthday and a special drink makes it even better.

My next significant piece of birthday wisdom was gleaned much later. I was speaking to a girlfriend about birthdays, and that year I was a bit blue I hadn't done a better job of celebrating my special day. She said, "Day? Joanne, you need a Birthday Week." Suddenly, it wasn't too late to celebrate because I was still in "my" week. I went to the florist that very day and bought myself the kind of bouquet I secretly longed for but no one knew to choose for me. I took an inordinate amount of joy seeing my all-purple arrangement and I learned a great lesson for all the rest of the years that followed. A) don't wait for anyone to make your birthday special for you when you are well-versed in what you love and B) it's never too late to spoil yourself.
A gift for YOU! 

So, as an experienced celebrator, I will make many plans with family and friends today and for the next week. And to cap off my birthday extravaganza, my husband is taking me to Disney for a quick visit and dinner out. I might even see Pooh. I know I'll definitely have a fancy drink while wearing my favorite dress.

**Have any favorite birthday memories from childhood? Share with me and I'll give one random poster a fun present suitable for YOUR special day-- a cute makeup bag, Fabulips and a pink, glittery makeup mirror to ensure birthday fabulousness at all times.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Celebrate Shelter Valley Month! (Tara Taylor Quinn)

Good News! This month Harlequin and I are spending time in Shelter Valley! You'll make a lot of friends in this Arizona town. I've written fourteen books set in Shelter Valley with talk of more on the way. This summer one of those books, The Sheriff of Shelter Valley, spent two weeks on the USA Today Bestseller List and five weeks on the Publisher's Weekly Bestseller List. To celebrate, this month Harlequin and Amazon Books are bringing you all fourteen books for just $2.99 a piece.Background
Population: 5911 Altitude: 1385 Median Income: $50k Average High Temp: 107 Average Low Temp: 37 Average Yearly Rainfall: 3 Inches
And Here Are The Books!
In Order:
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