Friday, October 30, 2015

Who's Ready for the HeeBeeGeeBees?

Amber Leigh Williams
 

It’s after midnight at Chez Williams. The house is quiet. Those I love are sound asleep. I sit in my favorite chair up to my neck in wooly blanket. I am stalling because I don't want to write my October blog. You might be surprised to know that I procrastinate not out of laziness or because I lack a topic. I know exactly what I need to write about this month. The reason I am not writing it is because the subject in question creeps me out. Let me explain….

Whenever anything goes bump in the night, I’ve been known to lock myself in the closet with a flashlight and a frying pan. Once when the hub and I ventured out to the movie theater, I wasn’t informed until just before previews that we would be seeing a horror film. Subsequently, I spent an entire movie with my head burrowed underneath his leather jacket and my ears plugged. For the past two years, we’ve set up a scarecrow in the front yard during the fall season. Every day, at least once a day, I walk by the front windows of the house, see the scarecrow standing in the middle of the yard and jump out of my skin because for a split second (or two) some part of my spastic brain is convinced it’s a real person clad in overalls and a straw hat standing in my yard.

Those chicken feathers on the floor? I’ll be the first to admit they’re mine. Why do I spook so easily? Maybe because I’ve seen a thing or two on the ghostly side of things.

I live deep in the south. Ghost sightings seem to be as commonplace here as those terrible blockbuster paranormal/horror films that hit the big screen a handful of times a year. Once I heard someone, a northern woman who had come south for retirement with her husband and remained, comment that this is because of the brutality of southern history. I’m inclined to agree. The only book I remember checking out of my intermediate school library was called 13 Alabama Ghosts by Kathryn Tucker Windham and Margaret Gillis Figh. The tales of kid Jeffrey and the Red Lady at Huntington College… *shivers* It’s enough to make a preteen girl never want to leave the house again.
 
From the time I was ten to eighteen when I moved away from my parents’ house, my sister and I would occasionally hear strange noises there. I vividly remember lying awake in the dark and hearing footsteps in the attic overhead at night. My parents tried to convince me it was some sort of animal. I smartly replied, “Do animals wear HIGH HEELS?” My father began to work from home from time to time during this period. With my sister and me at school during the day and the house quiet around him, he began to hear strange things, too. He’s a practical man, one could even say a cynic, so for him to admit that perhaps there was a presence of some sort lurking about added some credibility to our adolescent claims. His theory was given a great, big push when he saw the fur on the back of the family dog’s back stand on end while they were both investigating said noises. The presence thankfully turned out to be benevolent. We all started to refer to her fondly as “Myrtle.” I’m happy to report that Myrtle never really did anything to truly frighten anyone…unless you count the time my sister’s new boyfriend was walking by the refrigerator and several frozen chunks shot out of the ice maker and ricocheted off his pant leg. We couldn’t have planned a better family initiation for the guy if we tried….

One October early in my marriage, I was sitting up late into the night hours writing in the makeshift office the hub had fashioned for me in our first love nest. I heard a scratch on the front door. The sound of this scratch was so commonplace for me to hear by this point that I mindlessly rose from my swivel chair, crossed the hall into the entryway and opened the front door…to nothing but still, grass-scented air. It was then I remembered that the scratching in question belonged to my husband’s beloved black lab, Rocky. For nine years, it was the dog’s signal that he was ready to come inside for the night. Only…at that point, Rocky had been dead for three months. I could see the slight rise in the ground where he had been buried in mid-August from the porch where I stood. I slowly closed the door and locked it before switching on the porch light and hot-footing it to the back of the house where I climbed into bed with the hub and our other doggies.

More recently, we took our son to see Minions at a nearby theater. We had heard several people who had worked at this theater throughout the years remark that it was most definitely haunted. Normally when we go to see movies, it’s amongst crowds of people so if we were ever privy to something eerie, we were too distracted to notice. However, this particular time I had to get up in the middle of the movie to take our newborn baby girl down to the aisle. She had woken up during one of the noisy action sequences. After feeding her, I knew she wouldn’t settle. She likes to be held high on the shoulder so she can look around and feel tall like everybody else. I walked down to the aisle where I could hold her, sing to her and bounce while keeping an eye on the movie (which I found highly entertaining despite my marked adultness) as well as on my son several rows up to ensure he wasn’t snagging too much popcorn from the hub’s bucket. Ten minutes later, I got a strange feeling. Have you ever known somebody was in the room with you before you hear them and turn around to face them? Well, I got THAT feeling. Only when I turned to face them, moving back against the wall to let them pass, there was no one there. What I did see were the shadows in the narrow passage leading to the exit door shifting slowly back into place. My insides froze over and my knees locked into place. My flight reflex kicked in at that moment. I snatched myself out of my fearful reverie and bolted. I didn’t get to see Stuart’s psychedelic guitar solo at the end of the movie. After the credits, the hub, popcorn-laden toddler in tow, found me and Baby-Cakes standing outside the ticket office soaking in a bright, warm beam of sunshine. It’ll be a while before I see another movie again.
There. I’ve done it. I’ve revisited all the creep-tastic moments through the years that will certainly keep me awake through the rest of the night, jumping at small noises. Thank goodness we’ll be gaining another sleep hour Saturday night so perhaps I can catch up. Now it’s your turn, readers. In the spirit of Samhain, feel free to tell a few of your own ghost stories!

I'll leave you with a favorite sequence from my October Superromance novel from last year, Married One Night, in which the hero, Gerald, took the heroine, Olivia, to her grandparents' abandoned pecan orchard in the country and things got a little spooky. Happy Halloween!
 
“Don’t move!”
Gerald stopped short, his heart banging against his chest. Looking up from his feet, he saw the giant, neon spider inches away from his face and stumbled back, arms milling. “Jesus H. Christ! What the bollocks is that?”
“Banana spider,” Olivia noted, laying a hand on his shoulder to balance him. “Big one.”
“Mother of God,” he muttered, lips numbing as he watched the spider’s spindly legs skitter up a length of its web.
“Calm down, she won’t hurt you,” Olivia told him. “But let’s not mess up her web. It’s pretty.”
He stared, aghast, at his wife and the spider in turn as the former took his hand and led him away.
“You all right?” she asked.
Gerald swiped his hand over the top of his head. “Feel all spidery—like it’s on me.”
She pressed her lips to hide a smile. It didn’t work. “Afraid of spiders much?”
“Only when it comes down to giant, mutant spiders the size of my godforsaken fist. That thing should be in a laboratory somewhere.”
“They’re pretty common around here. Particularly in wooded areas.”
“Forget what I said about living in the country. Christ.” Seeing an oak tree ahead, Gerald tugged on her hand. There was a tire swing attached to one of the high, thick, knotted arms. “What’s this?” he asked as he spied something carved into the trunk. It was a large heart with the initials O and W twined in the middle. “Who do the initials stand for?” he asked.
“Olivia and Ward,” she told him. “My grandparents. They must have carved it sometime in the `50s when they first bought the place.”
“I thought your grandmother’s name was Birdie.”
“That’s what everyone called her. She was smallish—she had bird bones so she was always cold come winter. Her mama nicknamed her Birdie. It stuck.”
“You were named for her.”
She nodded. “Olivia Rose. Olivia for Birdie, Rose for my mother.”
“Olivia Rose,” Gerald said. Looking her over, he beamed. There could be no other name for her. He wanted to hold her here on her family’s land, underneath the limbs of the tree the grandparents she had loved so much had carved their initials into. “Come here, Olivia Rose,” he said as he drew her into his arms.
She leaned back in his embrace with a wary sigh. “I don’t see Rex. There’s a creek just up the way. There might be cottonmouths—”
“You can tell me what a cottonmouth is later,” he said, banding his arms doubly around her waist, so their navels pressed together. The scent of vanilla drew him. He lowered his lips to nibble the spot below her ear and indulged himself as he hadn’t been able to before, either from her resistance or his own. “If it’s anything like a banana spider, though, you might have to spare me,” he murmured against the warmth of her skin.
“A cottonmouth’s a snake. The bad kind.”
“Is there a good kind?”
Olivia snorted, but sounded a bit breathless nonetheless. “You’re right about one thing. You’d be hopeless living in the country.”
Gerald turned his attention to the space of her shoulder, revealed by the widenecked cowl sweater she had chosen to wear. “Hold still, love,” he said in a soft, low voice, “and put your arms around me.”
“Gerald—”
“No, hold me,” he insisted. “I’m still shaken from the near-miss with the mutant.”
It made her laugh.
No sooner had he kissed her than the wind picked up and swept through the grove. The limbs of the tree above creaked. The leaves that littered the ground around them stirred into a makeshift tornado.
The tire swing swayed back and forth.
“Blimey,” Gerald said, lifting his chin to the top of her head as he watched the spectacle. “It’s like someone’s trying to tell us something.”
Olivia frowned at the branches tossing around above them. “Or knock us over.”
On the wind came the strong smell of wood smoke. “Do you smell that?”
Olivia lifted her nose to the air and he watched her brows lift in surprise. “Smells like…cigars. And lavender.” A shiver went through her.
Gerald tightened his arms around her.
“Okay?”
“Yeah.” She hunched further into his embrace. “Just…weird feeling, is all.”
“Bad?” he asked, raising a questioning brow.
She shook her head but said nothing more.
He held her closer, spreading his arms over her back as he turned his face into her hair. The wind lifted high for a moment before everything began to settle gradually back down to earth.
She breathed a sigh. He felt it move through her more than heard it. “I’m glad that’s over.”
The skin around her mouth looked a touch white. Framing her face in his hands, Gerald tipped her chin up until her eyes met his. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m fine. It’s just…for a moment, I thought I heard…something.”
“What was it?” he asked, rubbing his hands down the length of her spine in hopes of soothing the unsettled look in her eyes, the stiff rise of her shoulders.
Olivia opened her mouth to answer. Nothing escaped. 
 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Keepin' It Straight While Mixin' It Up

by Kris Fletcher

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked on just one book at a time.

Those were the days.

Part of it was because I only had one story in my head. I've never been one of those writers who have more ideas than they will ever have time to write: I have to hunt my stories in the wild, following their path and luring them back to my computer with chocolate and iced lattes. Also, way back when, I was so busy learning the new world of writing - wordsmithing and characters and plotting and Facebook and agents and contests and submitting - that there was no room left for more than one book. As Winnie the Pooh said, I am a bear of little brain. Choices had to be made.

Things are different these days.  I start my day brainstorming/plotting one book, switch to pages on another, and then often need to do revisions or copy edits or whatever on a third. It's a somewhat fractured existence but it works for me. Planning ahead means that by the time I've finished the first draft on a book, the next one is in a state of readiness. Revising while I write another gives me time to put some distance between myself and the first draft, making it easier to catch problems. And planning one story while writing or revising another in the same series makes it easier to set up elements in one book that will pay off in the next - or to make sure I follow through on a story thread set up in a previous book. Not that I would ever forget. Of course not. (See the aforementioned comment re: a bear of little brain.)

Despite the benefits, there are definite challenges to working this way. With five kids, I'm accustomed to dividing my attention in many directions, but I still need to pay attention. I haven't put the wrong character in a story (yet), but some setting elements have become a bit blurred at times. (What country am I writing in now? Anyone? Bueller?)

Many writers use collages or vision boards to help them switch from one world to the next. (For some amazing examples, check out these from Jenny Crusie.) I'm not a visual person, so the closest I come to collaging is to pin something on Pinterest (such as this board for Dating a Single Dad).

No, what really helps me make the switch is time and music. I do a soundtrack for each book. It doesn't necessarily follow the action, but each song will capture a mood, an element of character emotions, something that makes me connect to those characters. These all have lyrics, so I can't use them while I write pages. But I'll finish up my brainstorming time (done in silence), then crank up the soundtrack for the book I'm drafting and sing along while answering email or throwing food in the crockpot or writing a blog post. (Here's what I'm listening to whilst writing this.) When it comes time to revise, I repeat the music & time process. It anchors me in each world and - bonus - gives me a definite time to get through all the other little items on the to-do list.

What things help you move from one task to another?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Are You Ready to Think About Christmas?

Usually I don’t like to think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but as the family expands with sons-in-laws and grandchildren, I’ve decided I need to get cracking.  I also have A SAVANNAH CHRISTMAS WISH releasing December 1, 2015.  This is the second book in the Fitzgerald House series, but is a stand alone book.


Bess Fitzgerald, the heroine, is the middle sister of the Fitzgeralds.  She’s a landscape architect and also maintains the gardens for Fitzgerald House, the family mansion, now a Savannah Bed and Breakfast.

Bess is responsible for decorating the B and B for the holidays.  I like to imagine that this is how the entry looks.  They have seventeen Christmas trees in the B and B and each one has a different theme.

In my home for the holidays, I decorate two trees.  One in the family room that
contains all the wonderful homemade and embarrassing ornaments.  For my middle child during grade school, we seem to have picture ornaments from the school pictures almost every year.  And when my twins were going through grade school, one of the room mothers did ceramics.  I have two of all those ornaments and decorations.


The second, more formal tree, is in the living room.  It started out as the dancer tree, since all five of my kids danced for a while.  Now the theme has evolved to dancing, glass, white and gold.   Apparently I don't have pictures of this tree!


If you have a themed Christmas tree what is it?  If you could start over, what would your theme be?

I'm in the Christmas spirit!

If you're interesting in trying to get your hands on a hard to get paperback copy of A SAVANNAH CHRISTMAS WISH - I have a Goodread's Giveaway going on.  Stop over and sign up!

Goodread's Giveaway

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Little Free Libraries

There are wonderful creations sprouting up all over my town.  Beautiful, unique cabinets called Little Free Libraries.  The idea is simple. You build a library and leave books there.  People are encouraged to take books and leave books.  It's a great way to keep everyone reading for free.

But what's especially wonderful, in my opinion, is how people design and decorate their libraries. Some of them are works of art.  Others are just very unique and creative.  I took a drive around my neighborhood and photographed a few to share with you.

Let's start with the basic model.  Colorful and welcoming, it's like a cottage for books. And at the top it has the same directions found on all little libraries. Take a book, leave a book.

 And here's another one, built with bamboo.  A Little Tiki Library.

This one has a magazine rack on the bottom.  It's very cute, but you'd have to remember to take the magazines out before it rains.

When I stopped by this library I had the chance to chat with the owner, who was reading a book in a chair next to his library. I made this photo larger so you can read the signs underneath.  They add a very fun touch, pointing the way to the ocean on one side, and his house on the other. 
He made one library and it became so popular that he made a second for overflow.  He shelves all the children's and young adult books in the smaller library, so he decorated the sides with dinosaur stencils to show that it was for kids.  His main library has solar powered lights that come on at night so people can see the titles after dark.  And he added weather stripping to make sure the books stay dry in the rain.  He even created a homemade, aluminum foil reflector to send more sunlight to his solar battery, because his library is in the shade of palm and cypress trees.

This tiny library is truly a work of art.  At first look, I was struck by the mosaic roof, and the vintage bottle caps decorating the door.
Then I checked out the sides of the library and they are so sweet. One has a collection of miniature bottles, pots and pans and tiny gears.  The other side is equally wonderful, featuring a tiny artist's palette and brushes, a miniature painting on an easel and a finished painting of a bee.  

Even my son's school has built a Little Free Library. It's a great way to share children's books.

If you are interested in building a Little Free Library, there is a website, littlefreelibrary.org, dedicated to them.  It has all kinds of information.  You can even register your library to make it official and add it to a map of little libraries all over the world.  And I'm sure you can use the map to locate a Little Free Library near you. 

As much as I enjoy looking at the libraries, I haven't used one yet, I have too many books stacked by my bed waiting to be read.  But once I finish the next one, I will drop it off at one of my local libraries. And I'd love to hear if you have any Little Free Libraries in your area, and if you've ever made use of one. Thanks for joining me today!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

An Everyday Getaway

Kelly's Island from the ferry
I love small towns. When I was a kid living in a small town the last place I wanted to be was the small town...but as I've grown up, I've discovered that small towns have a certain charm that you don't get in other places.

Next month, I have a new Harlequin Superromance coming out - gah! how is it nearly November already? - and it's set in a different kind of small town: an island small town.

I grew up in Missouri's lake country, and a few years ago we moved to RadioMan's Ohio lake country - specifically a small town on the shores of Lake Erie...and a stone's throw away from the Lake Erie Islands. Before I met RadioMan I didn't realize Lake Erie has islands, I thought it was just a lake - similar to the Missouri lakes I've known all my life.

They are different.

The Casino at Kelly's Island
The Lake Erie islands are so remote - even though they're within sight of the mainland - that families will go together to get groceries. Week to week one family will head to the mainland for grocery stock-ups and they'll pick up what is needed for the other families up there...and the favor is returned when the other families go into town. During the winter, when the lake freezes, they are basically island-bound because the only way to get to the mainland is to fly.

There are at least ten islands up here but only a few are inhabited: Kelly's Island is one of them. Kelly's is like a really, really small town...that you can only get to from a ferry boat. There are fewer than 1,000 people living there year-round. It's the kind of place you go to relax. Have a beer on the pier and watch the sun go down or camp on the beach on the North side of the island.

Another of the inhabited islands is South Bass and Put-In-Bay is the largest town. During the summer months thousands of tourists hit the island's B&Bs or one hotel or another. There are bars and restaurants, tacky tourist shops, jet skiing, camping...you name it, you could probably do it.

One of the things I love about both islands is that the best way to get around is by golf cart. There is something very vacation-y about getting into a golf cart to tool around an island and people watch. At Put-In-Bay the residents make up their own parade every Sunday - they get out their convertibles or dolled up golf carts and take up all the room on the roads for a while.

RadioMan and I have taken both our bikes and our scooters over on the ferry and tooled around for a couple of hours, but my favorite way to get around is still the golf cart. And my favorite time to visit the islands is the off-season, before the shops and restaurants are crowded with tourists, and while you can still run into an islander and chat about nothing in particular. To me, the islands are charming because of the small town feel.

Do you have a favorite 'local' getaway near you? What do you love about it?
~  ~
Kristina Knight writes contemporary romance with a smattering of sass, sex and (of course) drama, and she loves hearing from readers. You can stay up to date with Kristina through her new release newsletter or website.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Question Of The Month: Our Favorite #Halloween Treats

It's October and here in the U.S. that means costume parties and trick-or-treating! What costume was your favorite and what is your favorite treat?

Nan Dixon: My favorite costume?  A black cat - so simple since I was a dancer.  I had the black leotard, black tights.  I crocheted a tail and put ears on a headband.  (We always had to make our own costumes.)  Add whiskers and ruin a pair of black ballet slippers by running around the streets and voila.  Black Cat.

My favorite treat?  We used to have a wonderful woman in our neighborhood who made popcorn balls.  Too bad that would be immediately tossed now.  Now I try and bury all the Butterfingers in the bottom of the witch's kettle I use for treats.  Then -- surprise - they are waiting for me after all the ghosts and goblins come through.

Claire McEwen: My favorite costume was when I was pretty young, probably eight or nine years old.  I went trick-or-treating as a mushroom.  Remember those old, clear bubble umbrellas that had sides? My mom and I covered one in a piece of white sheet and glued big black spots on it. I carried it and wore white (so I was the stem.) I wish I had a photo!

And treats? I have always loved chocolate, so any time I got something with chocolate I was thrilled. And candy corn. I still love candy corn!

Vicki's fun costume!
Vicki Essex: Any costume I can make with things I have at home are usually the best ones. Various types of garbage bags are quite handy: I've gone to work as a paper bag princess, a bag of candy and, last year's big win, the sexy "sexy costume" costume. I won a $100 gift card with this one: check out my presentation here.  As for treats, there's something uniquely Halloween about tiny chocolate bars. For one, they make me feel like a giant. And I can eat five of them at a time and pretend it's not as bad as eating a whole regular size chocolate bar.

Sharon Hartley: My favorite costume as a young adult was a ghost.  I wore a white long-sleeved leotard and tights and then draped myself with flowing, gauzy material.  Fun and a little sexy, too.

My favorite treat was/is always chocolate.  One of my neighbors used to create this big bowl where you couldn't see the treats and attach a string to the candy.  We'd pick a string and pull and get the surprise - always a full size chocolate candy bar. Yum!

Amber Leigh Williams: Last year, my family dressed up as super-heroes. Our little guy was Captain America (though he was rockin' some Thor-esque hair back then). His daddy was somebody from G.I. Joe and I was Black Widow (with a baby bump). Nobody dared mess with us with daddy dressed like this! This year, we're going with a Star Wars Theme - daddy's Han Solo, mommy's Princess Leia, the rascal is going as Luke Skywalker, and baby cakes will be our ewok! Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are still my favorite treat. Coincidentally, young Skywalker is allergic to peanut butter so I don't have to share.

Kristina Knight: When I was about 8, I think, I couldn't decide on a costume, and at the last minute I decided to go as a roller derby girl - I wore my skirted tennis outfit, elbow/knee pads with skulls all over them (stolen from my brother, natch) and my black skates that had Adidas-like stripes on them. It my my most jumbled up costume, but is still one of my favorites! This year bebe (age 7) is going as Mal (Maleficent's daughter from Descentdents) - she's got navy leggings, a black leather moto-jacket with a purple dragon and we're going to put some purple in her hair, too. It's going to be so fun!

starring Jennifer Lohmann as Lucille Ball!
Pamela Hearon: My favorite costume was a family afffair!  One year, I took large black trash bags and glued huge eyes and mouths on them that I created using Styrofoam bowls and colored felt.  I  cut armholes and small holes to see through as the bags went over our heads with the drawstrings at the bottom  We wore dark shirts, dark pants, and sneakers underneath.  My husband carried a large boombox, and we all danced in to the party to "Heard It Through the Grapevine."  We were the California Raisins!

Jennifer Lohmann: I don't remember my favorite costume from being a kid. Maybe my Alice in Wonderland costume. As an adult, I dress up every year as Lucille Ball. My favorite treat? I don't know. I don't generally eat a lot of sweets and can't finish a whole candy bar, so mostly I appreciate all the candy in small form. I'll also add that one year I dressed up as Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the femme fatale from the Maltese Falcon (at the library, we're supposed to dress up as book characters if possible). I matched a costume from the movie almost exactly and no one knew who I was. Even after I told them. I had just been reading Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie, so the Maltese Falcon was on my mind. Maybe that's why I thought people would get it. ;-)

Joanne Rock: I like dressing up as Wendy in Peter Pan, which gives you a great reason to wear a comfy nightgown and bring your teddy bear with you. It's the best way to trick or treat with no mask and no itchy costume, and you can always throw some leggings on under the nightgown to stay warm if it's chilly!

Tara Taylor Quinn: The only ‘costume’ I’ve worn as an adult was at a Romance Writer’s conference.  I dressed up as my book cover – Harlequin actually provided the ‘costume’ of two extra large poster boards, and they were attached at the shoulder.  Two other authors did the same and we were part of a production about the business of writing at one of the functions.  We were the ‘sexy promo sluts,’ and sang a song about having to promote our life’s work.  Can’t believe I ever did that!  The only Halloween costume I can remember wearing was my grandmother’s mink coat.  I dressed up as grown up rich lady with the jewels and make up so that I could wear the coat and be warm!!  And I can’t believe she let me wear it!

Mary Sullivan: My favourite costume was one I put together as an adult. Back a long time ago when I was still pretty thin, I found my old Brownie uniform from when I was about nine years old. Amazingly, I could fit into it. The sleeves came only to my elbows and the skirt to the tops of my thighs, but I wore a leotard underneath, black stockings and sexy shoes. I perched the cute little brown beret on top of wildly curled hair and put on a bunch of make-up. I went to a party as a Brownie Tart! Believe it or not, my favourite treat was always the Halloween kisses. I know most kids hate them, but I liked them just because I like the flavour of molasses!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Science of Hair…who knew?

Mary Sullivan

In my quest to stop fading away, to push against the ticking clock of the relentless onslaught of ever more stubborn grey hair, I decided I'd like to become a redhead. My hairdresser responded with a great big, "Yes! Love the idea! Let's do it!"

She chose a really gorgeous colour, not too phony bright and not too fake-looking, and I was truly happy with the results. It actually looked natural because it suited my skin tone. A great success. Then came all the warnings...

Apparently, red hair fades. I have to use special (red!) shampoo and conditioner, I can't wash my hair as often as usual, I have to go back to have it coloured more often than with the light brown/dark blond we were using, and I have to wear a hat when I go outside, especially on sunny days. Oh boy, just what I want in my life. Hair that needs to be coddled.

Despite my best efforts, it faded after a couple of weeks. At the next visit, she made it slightly darker and it's lasting longer because it's the second time, but still I can see that it is fading. The third time it should last all the way through because she's building up on the bit of colour that's left between visits.

She explained that the problem is that red doesn't get absorbed into the hair follicle, but rather sits on top of it. Who knew? I thought colouring hair was a relatively straightforward process. I learn a lot from my hairdresser. I know I could make something profound out of this, make great huge stirring metaphors about adding colour in all areas of my life, but alas, it's too early in the morning. LOL

I'll keep moving forward with the red, because it really is lovely. A woman (a stranger) stopped me in the park the other day to tell me my hair matched the leaves of a tree turning red and told me I should have my photo shot against the tree. It was nice that my hair stood out and that she mentioned it, but it isn't as bright a red as that incident makes it sounds. It is more fussy than my old colour, though, and that's a fact.

I must admit this isn't the strangest thing I've ever done with my hair. Remember those big old perms of the eighties? Yep. Did that. I shudder now.

What is the strangest, or fussiest, thing you've ever done with your hair?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finding Joy in the Everyday


I’ve never been one to write an “issue book.” You know, the kinds of stories that champion a cause or shed light on a social problem. I have always considered myself more of a “fun” writer, quick to lighten a dark scene with a joke or a shared smile, the same way I do in real life.

Writing for Superromance may have brought out my dark side.

It occurred to me last week as I read a really lovely review of my October release, Dances Under the Harvest Moon. A reader mentioned my tasteful handling of heavy subjects. She went on to list those heavy subjects—and they were all so heavy!—and I thought, did I really write all that? Yup. Every last dark, heavy subject was in my book, and they’re the kinds of things you don’t pass off with a joke or a shared smile.

It was interesting for me to think about this. How could I write “heavy” and not know it? Was I that un-self-aware as a writer? I assumed it was a Superromance issue and that writing longer, more complex romances meant that I’d reached for grittier backgrounds for my characters. I did a quick search on some of my older books—my lighter stories!—and found this review on Harlequin Junkie:

“This is a HOT novel that deals with some pretty serious issues such as childhood rape, repossession, insanity and attempted murder. Somehow even with all of this comes through a story about being oneself, falling in love and realizing that sometimes it’s okay to rely on someone else.”

This is in regard to Up Close and Personal, a 2008 Harlequin Blaze. Apparently I’ve been quietly tormenting my characters for longer than I’d realized.

But I still like to think that I shine some light on those dark moments. Maybe that’s how I’ve deceived myself for over a decade that I write fun books. More accurately, I think, I write characters who are determined to move past the dark times and embrace new joys. In my personal life, I try not to wallow. I’ve given this trait to many of my heroines—a strong need to find something positive in life, to always move forward.

Take for instance, the heroine of Dances Under the Harvest Moon. Heather Finley is on the verge of going after her dreams when a health issue crops up that makes her re-evaluate everything. Her first instinct is to march on anyhow—ignoring the warning signs that her illness could slow her down. But you can imagine how well that plan succeeds if you’ve ever tried ignoring your own health concerns. Heather needs to find balance—tempering her dreams with what she can realistically accomplish.

None of us wants to compromise our dreams for this kind of reality check. But Heather’s situation is one many people with chronic illness face. There’s nothing fun or light about suffering with a chronic condition. Yet there is something really rewarding about finding a way to carry on anyhow-- to mete out a rewarding life in spite of illness—and find a way to still live joyfully.

Romance embraces an optimistic view of the world and I do like to look on the bright side. Or at least search heard for a glimmer of brightness—no matter what hardships are in the past.


***As an optimist, I wish I’d gotten in on the #100DaysofHappiness trend I’ve been seeing online where people post happy things for 100 days. Let’s pretend we’re all adding something happy today—new shoes, a smile from a toddler, a long bike ride under a blue sky—what would be your happy snippet for today? Add a comment and you’re entered to win the prize pictured including a Runaway Bride tee and books by Catherine Mann and me!

Friday, October 9, 2015

When Disaster Strikes
~Angel Smits

My current release, Cowboy Daddy holds a special place for me.  In this book, my characters face something that twice in as many years, my community has had to face.  Devastating wild fires.
            Colorado Springs has lived through years of drought.  We are a state known for our snow and skiing, and as a kid, you could practically set your watch by the 3 p.m. rain showers that fell every day.  The evergreens were an integral part of life in Colorado. Then in 2012 and 2013, things changed.  
            That was around the time of my 30th wedding anniversary and my husband combined the gifts for both events by planning a two-week trip to Ireland.  I’ve always dreamed of going there, so on Christmas I opened the gift of the tickets, and in mid-June we flew away to the lovely Emerald Isle. 
            We were in a pub in Cork, Ireland, when we saw the news on the TV screens that Colorado Spring, USA, our home town, was dealing with one of the largest wildfires in its history.  The Waldo Canyon fire.  It began on our anniversary.  On the television above the bar, the beautiful Rocky Mountains on the west side of town were an inferno.  We were too far away to do anything but worry and wonder.  We watched as everyone and everything we knew sat in the line of the threat.  The pub patrons watched with us, curious and empathetic.  
            We were able to call home and found out that our business was forced to close.  Our staff was safe, as far as we knew, and our daughter, who we’d left home alone for the first time, was packing up what she could.  My parents, who live in Denver were trying to get to her to pick her up.  She wasn’t evacuated, but it was scary for her on her own. 
            Thankfully the loss of life wasn't greater, and our community has rebuilt much of what was lost.  
            A year later--we were home this time--and the Black Forest Fire struck.  Our home, and thankfully our business, weren’t threatened, but the dark smoke clouds in the sky were just as frightening as the images had been on that pub television.  The office where I work my day job was much closer, and people we knew and loved, lost everything. 
            As a person, I hurt for my community and as a writer, the words bubbled to the surface.  Sometimes writers write to heal themselves.  Sometimes it’s to fix something gone wrong, and sometimes it’s to do what we wish we could have done.
            The scenes were flooding my mind.  And in both instances, as I was online watching the events, I saw videos of what others did in such situations.  One particular YouTube video of a farmer working to save his livelihood had me hitting the repeat button.   


            I knew that I was watching a hero.  When Lane Beaumont showed up on the scene for my Hawkins sister, Amanda, the memory of that video leaped into my brain.  I knew right then that it was the right story for Lane and Amanda. And it fit into the whole family series as it was Wyatt's ranch.  (He was the hero in A Family For Tyler the first in the Chair at the Hawkins Table series.)
            In other words, the whole thing felt right.  Sitting down to write this story, those scenes flowed, which I’ve learned to trust.  
            So many times, my ideas come from seeing or hearing about everyday people, doing extraordinary things.  It's inspiring.
            And oddly enough, after the book's release, my father read it, and at lunch we discussed how he remembered people doing that back when he was a kid.  It was a nice connection.  A definite affirmation that following my gut on this story was the right thing to do!  


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Weddings!

A Savannah Christmas Wish, the next book in my Fitzgerald House series, is almost ready to launch into the world.  It releases to the public December 1, 2015, but I have the cover. 

I’m pretty thrilled that Bess, the heroine, is exactly how I pictured her.  I found her on an episode of International House Hunters and snapped a picture of the woman looking for a house on a Caribbean island.

In A Savannah Christmas Wish, the Fitzgeralds’s mother, Mamie, gets married.  I’m so happy this wedding made it into the book.  I had written the wedding scene for Southern Comforts, but cut it.  (My agent was sad I had cut it, but I needed the word count to explore fully Abby, Gray and Cheryl’s emotional arcs.)

It was a blast to rewrite the scene from Bess and Daniel’s point of view instead of Gray and Abby’s. 

Photo by CJ Bown
And last month I helped my daughter celebrate her own happily-ever-after.  She was married in Louisville in the beautiful St James church.  And small world, the makeup artist had been a Harlequin cover model!

There were so many times in the last few months that I wished the Fitzgerald sisters could help my daughter with her wedding.  Unfortunately, I don’t live in Kentucky.  And the daughter was working hellacious hours and then moved back to Minnesota.  So the wedding became a destination wedding. (The theme was Bourbon and Lace.  I've never participated in a bourbon toast at a wedding before!)

The wedding wouldn’t have come together without the wonderful help of Brandan Gravitt, a wedding planner we were lucky to find when the stress was piling up on the bride.  If you're ever looking for help in the Louisville/Lexington area, give The Brides Assistant a shout!

One of my favorite memories is the bride’s twin brother's speech about how special being a twin was.  The whole reception was wiping tears from their eyes.  And of course one of the bride's sisters told funny stories about the bride and had us wiping tears from laughing.  

Twins and groom
Thought I would include a few pictures here.   (Had to include the flower girl, Princess Fluffy Top.)  







There are more on my Facebook page if you want to stop over. 



Tell me--what’s your favorite wedding memory?


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Balls Bouncing Everywhere (Tara Taylor Quinn)

This week I told my family members that I felt as though I was standing in a gym filled with bouncing basketballs (not sure why that image popped up, I'm not a gym dweller nor a basketball watcher) and that I had to catch them all in two hands and corral them all into one basket.

What you get is a lot of mixed balls in one place.  Translating that into practical terms, I'm on the Superblog with a Heartwarming ball!

I have three Supers, all in the bestselling Where Secrets Are Safe series, out back to back starting in March of 2016.  I could tell you about the line edits and pre-lims that are going on right now for those.  But that's the boring stuff.

Of more interest to those who like to read my books...

This week sees the release of my second novel in Harlequin's Heartwarming series.  These books are exactly like my Superromances without any graphic sex.  And they're a bit shorter.  If you'd like a new ttq fix while awaiting March, here's the low down....

http://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-Marriage-Historic-Arapahoe-ebook/dp/B00V3S4A7W/ref=sr_1_5?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1443028943&sr=1-5
 
Marie Bustamante does not trust or love easily.  Growing up with a philandering father and an overprotective mother, she comes by her reservations honestly.  So after only three months, how can she be falling for her best friend's bodyguard?  This isn't like her at all.  But Elliott Tanner is strong, gorgeous and...trustworthy.  A least he seems to be.  Of course, some things about him remain a mystery.  Protecting the privacy of his client's is Elliott's job.  That doesn't mean he's hiding anything from her.  Does it?
 
 

I hope you enjoy this interim feel good!  Happy Reading, Everyone!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

October New Releases

Dances Under the Harvest Moon (Heartache, TN)
Joanne Rock

Chance of a lifetime 

It's finally Heather Finley's moment. After spending years looking after her mother in the tiny town of Heartache, Tennessee, Heather's about to follow her dream of singing country music. She can nearly hear the audiences hollering…until the town's handsome mayor, Zach Chance, comes to her with troubling questions about her late father's past. 

Once again, Heather has to choose: protect her family or chase her heart's desire? Zach is determined to help, and to convince Heather that she belongs in Heartache—with him. But is he just another distraction? Or could he be the one to show Heather how a small-town love can make her big-time dreams come true?

Cowboy Daddy (A Chair At The Hawkins Table)
Angel Smits

He loves them too much to stay 

Lane Beaumont has always loved Amanda Hawkins. If his life weren't such a mess he'd want much more than their current on-again, off-again relationship. But Amanda deserves a better life than he can offer. So when she gives birth to their son, Lane does the right thing and walks away. 

Amanda should be devastated. Except his reaction doesn't make sense. The Lane she knows would never turn his back on her or his responsibilities. Plus, she saw that cowboy's heart melt when he held their son. Something else is standing in the way of their happiness and she won't stop until she finds out what.

In Hope's Shadow (Two Daughters)
Janice Kay Johnson

Where does she belong? 

Now that the "real" daughter of her adoptive parents has returned, Eve Lawson can't help feeling edged out. It's a familiar isolation she sees all too often in her social work caseload. And her unstoppable attraction to divorced cop Ben Kemper only complicates things further. 

They're on opposite sides of a murder case, but their connection is still stronger than their doubts and fears. Eve is too close to the sexy single dad to walk away without a shattered heart. It's up to Ben to take a risk of his own and show Eve a family and love that will never let her go: his.


Scout's Honor (The Bakers of Baseball)
Stephanie Doyle

The game has always come first 

Jayson LeBec couldn't be the champion Scout Baker needed when he walked away without her years ago. But seeing her grief over the death of her father—the legendary baseball coach they both idolized—Jayson's now ready to step up to the plate. 

On the fast track to tanking her career and her reputation, Scout's in trouble. And while she'll agree to ex-sex with Jayson and nothing more, what she really needs is a friend. If only she'd let him be that! Because the only game plan he's ever had is "Love Scout…"


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