Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Kid Effect

By Angel Smits

   We have new neighbors. That’s not all that unusual since the house next door is a rental. So every couple of years, we get new neighbors. This time, however, it’s a bit different. These people have four small children.
   Our neighborhood has aged since we moved in twenty years ago. All the kids, my kids ran around with are all grown. Some of their parents are still around, but most have downsized or moved away. In a largely military community, many have moved “back home.” So this change isn’t what’s caught my attention.
   In what’s been a fairly quiet neighborhood the last few years it’s strange to hear the high-pitched sound of children’s voices. I find myself looking out our upstairs windows, hearing their giggles and laughter, wondering what they’re up to. And missing when my kids were that little. ( I quickly change that thinking when they start fighting over a toy, or slugging it out in the toy box—but let me keep my rose colored glasses for a bit longer.) I’m enjoying their antics. And the giggles. There’s no better sound in the world than the happy giggles of little kids.
   The other day I heard a new sound, a familiar, long forgotten one. The sound of those battery-powered cars that kids have. My son got one for his birthday when he was two or three. I watched the little ones next door for awhile drive theirs around the yard, then went to the closet to dig out the old pictures. I found some I’d taken of my son and daughter riding around in the back yard.

If only we'd known...
Hang on!  
How young they were. There’s one of my daughter driving, and my son hanging onto the back of it for dear life. They were so cute. Since then we’ve gone through driving school and the unfortunately inevitable cars—real grown up cars—that have been wrecked by both kids. If we’d know then what we know now, would we have let the speed demons loose in the back yard? I don’t know. They sure had fun, and I had fun watching them.

Good thing Dad's always around to help steer!!
Recently, I gave a workshop at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference about using kids as secondary characters. I love to have kids in my books, and they do make great secondary characters. Mainly because you can have them do—and say—things no adult could get away with. And that’s what they do in real life, too! It’s such fun. And I think it’s a way that I can keep my kids, in my mind at least, little forever. They grow up so quickly, and while that may seem clichĂ© (don’t we just hate those!) But it’s all too true. Thank goodness they invented the camera! I took a lot of pictures when they little, thank goodness. All I have to do is pull out the photos, open the windows and let the laughter drift in from next door, and remember. Such fun memories. And the sound effects sure help.

Monday, April 25, 2016

3 Lessons I've Learned From Quilting

I talk about quilting a lot when I blog - maybe a little too much, but I learn a lot from sewing and quilting, and I'm a chatterbox, and I like to share what I know. So...yeah, here we go. Another post from Kristina about sewing (and also about writing).

I'm finishing up a new project and I can't tell you about it because the person it's for might be reading this blog, but let me tell you it is CUTE! I can't wait to share pics (pinkie-swear, pictures will be shared!). During this project, as well as a few others, I've learned a few lessons:

3. Sometimes you have to start over. I can't count the number of times I've 'faced' the front of one fabric with the back of another (normally it's front-facing-front, back-facing-back before you sew)...and not realized it until it's all sewn up. And then I have to get the seam ripper out. Even with our books, sometimes we have to start over. Yeah, it blows...but a fresh start means a second chance to get those details right.

2. A new project is like cotton candy - irresistible. Our job is to resist. I currently have 5 projects going and patterns for...oh, 10 more. And that's with the sewing. New projects are irresistible - I find a new pattern or see some really great fabric and I just have to start. But then the older projects don't get finished. Same with writing - my rule is: finish 1 draft and then start another. I may edit older drafts as I'm writing fresh stories or make notes about future projects...but no starting multiple first drafts. I don't have enough room on my harddrive...

1. Details matter. This picture is a checkerboard baby-pink-and-white. The ribbon is pale pink satin and the thread is a variegated pink. That's a lot of pink. When I first started
this particular project, I had a darker pink ribbon. It looked bad. Like, baby vomit bad. As I laid everything out, that ribbon did not work. It should have, but it didn't. The same is true with writing: sometimes the perfect motivation is just...wrong. Sometimes the Mr. Right we have picked out for our heroines is...wrong. When we pay attention to the details, we see those little things. And we can fix them.

What about you? Do you craft? What lessons have you learned?

Kristina Knight's new release, Protecting the Quarterback, is available for pre-order now, and
will release May 1, 2016.

This is more than just a her
Sports broadcaster Brooks Smith has always been more involved with the game than the players. But after she shares the spotlight at an awards ceremony with tabloid sensation Jonas Nash, one night of letting her guard down around the infamous quarterback spirals into many heated days and nights together when she gets assigned to the story of the year….

The hottest player in professional football is hiding a secret that could end his career for good. Now Brooks is caught on the sidelines between the job she loves and the man she is falling in love with.

Amazon    B&N    iBooks    KOBO    Harlequin

You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram

Friday, April 22, 2016

On Writing

I’m working on a novel that’s a stretch for the me. The storyline is different, the subject will be controversial, and I’m experimenting with point of view. Plodding along and haunted by my own fears of failure, I decided to listen to On Writing by Stephen King, which anyone who’s read it has said is the best craft book out there. Hell, I figured, even if I don’t learn anything, I need the inspiration.

I’m listening to it on audio. King is a great narrator of his own work. His gravelly voice works well for moments when he’s wry and self-deprecating and for when he’s telling the rest of the world to fuck off. I’m entertained. I’ve chuckled. I’ve gotten ideas for the new project.

But King’s story has been niggling the back of my mind. He’s written stories since he was a kid, sending some off to horror magazines (collecting hundreds of rejections) and selling others to kids in his school. Ask authors around the country—no matter the genre—and most will tell you the same thing; they all have notebooks of stories collected from the moment they could grasp a pen to now, when they are holding copy of their most recent book in their hands.

Confession time: I don’t.  

I was not a scribbler of stories as a kid. Nor as a teen. I didn’t take a single English class in college; the two literature classes I took were in modern Chinese literature and Chinese ghost stories. I didn’t start writing a story until I read a romance novel, thought, I can do better, and started the novel that would become Reservations for Two.

Of course, I have lots of starts and stops in between then and the publication of my first book. I have a Dropbox folder with nothing but half-finished (maybe better to say half-started) novels. But I wasn’t a person who always wrote.

Listening to On Writing isn’t the first time I’ve felt like I’m posing when I say I’m an author. Feeling like I’m faking it all the time is par for the course for me, and for most writers I know. But the fact that I’ve not been writing stories since I was knee high to a grasshopper has always been my particular bugaboo.

A couple weeks ago, that irksome knot shifted in my mind. The Viking had taken me to the ballet. At the close of one piece, the male dancers carried the female dancers off the stage. As we watched, I noticed that the last pair to leave were struggling. Not a lot, but the guy’s arms were shaking as he held his partner up. He was straining and she was balanced above him, dependent on his strength.
As they disappeared behind the curtains, I caught myself weaving a story in my head. In the couple seconds between the dancers being on stage and off stage, I had created a backstory for them (why the male dancer was so tired) and introduced a conflict (they argued as soon as they were out of sight of the audience).

In this moment, it occurred to me that I may not have always been writing, but I have always been telling myself stories. I do this at the library; a couple walks in and I make up a tale in my head about how long they’ve been together, where they met, etc. At 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning in a grocery store, if I see a man buying flowers, I tell myself a story about why. And when my neighbors put their house up for sale, I create little scenes in my head about them talking with their realtor, looking at new houses, and breaking the news to their kids.

Let me be clear: these are all made up stories. With the exception of my neighbors, I don’t know these people from Adam. And, especially in the case of library customers, I certainly don’t treat them as if the stories I’ve made up are true (if I create a story in which a library customer is a villain, I don’t treat her as if she is a villain).

Which brings us back to Stephen King and his book. On Writing is part-memoir, part-writing advice. While King has lots of writing advice, the one he returns to over and over is that good fiction is about stories and nothing—not plot, not character, not fancy writing—should get in the way of the story.

Which is fine advice by me. I may not have always been a writer, but I have always been a storyteller.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Balancing Contemporary and Historical Romance - How I Divide My Writing Styles...

I often get asked how I divide my time between contemporary and historical novel writing and in an ideal world, I like to alternate the two subgenres to keep my writing fresh and interesting. For the reader and me!

I began my career writing contemporary because I’d always been told to ‘write what you know’. I have devoured romantic suspense for as long as I can remember and so my first two novels with The Wild Rose Press were romantic suspense. I then wrote a romantic comedy. Throughout writing and promoting these books, my mind started to wonder whether I could attempt an historical….after all, I didn’t ‘know’ how to abduct or murder anyone as the characters did in my first two books J

Like most (if not all) writers I read voraciously and reading historical work, whether novels or biographies, is amongst my favorite choices. I love history! I am drawn to British Royal history especially, but also love the social and industrial changes of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. As I was and, still am, intimidated by including real people and events in my work, I decide my first attempt would be Victorian and focus entirely on fictional characters and their emotions.

Emotion is key in romance. Love, hate, revenge, loss, joy and tenacity would have been felt in the same way in the late 1800s as they would today. So with this thought at the forefront of my mind, I dove straight in and wrote The Arrival of Lily Curtis (The Wild Rose Press). It sold a lot more copies than my previous contemporary work so that gave me the confidence to continue.
Today, I am lucky enough to write contemporary romance and romantic suspense for Harlequin Superromance and Victorian romance for eKensington.  I love that my writing has fallen into a routine that I find so satisfying. I now aim to alternate my releases between contemporary and historical…although this year, it is a little more heavy on the contemporary!

My latest release is Her Hometown Redemption, book 5 in my Harlequin Templeton Cove series and Saved By The Firefighter will be released in November.

Happy Reading!

Rachel x
Twitter: @rachelbrimble

Decisions, Decisions

By Jeannie Watt

I’m in the process of moving, and let me tell you—I’m quickly coming to appreciate the beauty of minimalism. Unfortunately, I’m not a minimalist. I’m a maximalist—not quite at hoarder stage, but I have a predisposition to keep stuff “just in case”. And you know what? I’ve used the “just in case” stuff often enough that it’s very hard to let things go. Very. Hard.

The decisions I hate the most concern those things that are on the cusp of being antiques, but not quite there. The things that, if I hang onto them, will
be the next big rage, like those ugly electric fans from the 1920s were. I figure that if I think something is heinous now, then it’ll be the next big thing. For instance, old suitcases—now I wish I’d hung onto mine—hideous furniture from the 1960s...ahem, I mean Mid Century, of course…that I was forced to take to college and now wish I still had. Those kinds of things. I chose wrong there—always. Of course, I’m married to the man who destroyed his Howdy Doody
porcelain head doll in the early 60s, thus kissing a future $20K goodbye, so as I sort through things, I have a strong feeling that I’m giving away future $$$$ when I let things go. But if I hang onto those items, they’ll end up being relatively worthless, like the Vinnie Barbarino doll that I bought as an investment in the 1980s. Therefore, I may as well just let things go.

Yep. Just let ‘em go…

On a side note, I think the clothing in my closet is replicating when I close the door after cleaning it out. I’ve packed up three big black trash bags and every time I open my closet, it looks the same as when I started.

So wish me luck as I sort and decide, sort and decide. Tear my hair out. Sort and decide. J

Friday, April 15, 2016

Question Of The Month: Do You Have a Furry Writing Partner?

Tara's Taylor
Writing is a solitary job, even with social media and email, but that doesn't mean authors are alone all the time. Many of us have furry friends who warm our feet, mess with our keyboards and otherwise influence our writing. These are our fuzzy writing buddies:

Tara Taylor Quinn: My website says I’m a secret dog whisperer, and I believe it. I’ve had a ‘baby’ attached to my side since I became a ‘mom’ for my thirteenth birthday.  My current writing partner not only shares my desk chair every single day, but she shares the author name, too. Her name is Taylor. You see her in the picture just as she is every single day. (Complete with Raggedy Ann & Andy.)

Kristina's Hazel
Kris Fletcher: We have no pets here at Casa Chaos. They have been outlawed in our state. And anyone who dares tell my kids otherwise will feel the wrath of Mom! :)

Kristina Knight: I've had two sweet, sweet furry companions. The first was Sammi, a rescue-pup who liked to sleep on my feet. She was convinced her true talent was in foot-warming. Sadly, she passed away in 2008. Hazel came to our family in 2014 ~ she's the most lovable and loving dog I've ever met. She's a snuggler and likes nothing more than to cuddle up to a warm, human neck to relax...or play a game of peek-a-boo. Both of which can make writing hard! When she's not cuddling, she's exploring, usually with her ball in tow, and after eleventy-billion nudges of the ball at my feet, I can usually be encouraged to play...but only for a little while!
Molly  Editor-Cat-In-Training

Janet Lee Nye: My late great editor cat Loki used to be my constant companion at the keyboard. Molly has assumed this responsibility but she's still a young editor with much to learn, such as standing on the keyboard is not part of her job duties.

Smartikus, Vicki's non-editor-cat
Vicki Essex: I have a few choice names for my cat, Smartikus, but "writing partner" is not one of them, and I couldn't share the others without putting money in the swear jar. While I love him to death, he can be an attention hog, and will paw or bite my elbow while I'm working, or else get on the table next to me, block the screen, lie on the keyboard, or swat at the mouse. I had to install a lock on my office door to keep him out while I was working!

Sharon Hartley: Rocket, my Jack Russell 'Terrorist', lays beneath my desk while I write --  until she
Rocket, Sharon's Jack Russel
thinks I've done enough work and it's time to play.

Claire's Chauncey
Claire McEwen: My writing companion is Chauncey, the scruffy terrier mix. He sleeps close by on his bed while I write, and pokes me with his paw when he thinks I've been writing too long.  He's a cautious little guy. I put a much braver version of him in my upcoming July book, Return to Marker Ranch.

Joanne Rock: Sometimes my cat, Duchess, steps all over my keyboard while I'm working and that's not at all helpful. But I do like it when she's in her Thoughtful Spot-- like Pooh- and feeling
Joanne's Duchess
contemplative. She inspires me to think deep thoughts and, often, to sleep. This is necessary creative recharge time as my Muse always wakes up refreshed after a cat nap.

Anna's CC
Anna Sugden: My two writing ‘assistants’ are Jersey Girl (tuxedo) and CC (black). Jersey is our shy girl and she likes to be near her peeps at all times. She’s often somewhere in my office, but her favourite place is my chair. She likes to sleep on my lap while I’m working, but if I make the mistake of getting up, she’ll
be up and on my c hair, fast asleep in seconds! CC is our chatty cat and pops in an out during the day to say hello. On sunny days, she likes to find a spot in the warmth and sleep. Even if that’s on my desk!
Cathryn's Otis

Cathryn Parry: I mention Otis the cat in the bio to all my books, just because he's so important to me. He was even featured in THE LONG WAY HOME. Here is Otis the cat, keeping me company on a snowy day. Otherwise, he'd be outside. At 16 years old, this neighborhood charmer is still going strong!

Jennifer's Seamus
Jennifer Lohmann: I have THREE writing assistants, two aggressively affectionate cats (Alistair and Beatrice) and one friendly, but standoffish dog, Seamus. The cats like it when I write because they will both sit on my lap or legs. They will sit there for as long as I am willing to let them. The dog could care less. He's old, and only wants a comfortable place to sleep where he won't be bothered.

Starting in May, I will add two new writing assistants to the mix, because I'm moving in with the Viking. I'll have another cat and a snake to keep me company. I'm not yet sure how good a job they will do helping out :-)
Nan's Waldo

Nan Dixon: My writing companion is Waldo.  (Named because we lost him under a bed in the first hour after bringing him home! I still call - Where's Waldo.)  With all his black fur, it's hard to get a great picture of him.  He used to sit on the back of my red office chair while I wrote, but he's gotten so big--he doesn't' fit. If he tries, he can actually spin me around.  Now he will scrunch onto the ottoman in my office.  My Waldo is a big boy!

Patricia's Little Guy
Patricia Potter: I have two rescues, an elderly Australian Shepherd named Katy and a new arrival, Little  Guy, who is a very happy little eight year old poodle.   Katy has leg problems (two operations to repair her hind legs, ie ACL) and can no longer go up the stairs to help me write.   She's very jealous of Little Guy who doesn't leave my side.    Katy tries her best to block Little Guy if she gets to the stairs first.  Her attitude is: If  I can't help my person write, well, then the invader should not.   Thus, I have to make frequent trips downstairs to make Katy feel just as needed.
Angel's Maggie

Angel Smits: Our dog, Maggie is a border collie mix with a heart of gold and a wicked sense of humor.  She’s helps me with my writing by being a great companion for my daughter, who lives with us and has Aspergers.  They keep each other busy, which gives me time to focus.  Now, if we could just get Maggie to stop goosing everyone she meets.  I swear I can hear her laughing every time someone jumps and lets out a squeal.  Even in this picture she looks like she’s laughing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Parsnips are a Writer's Best Friend

Kris Fletcher

I am not a huge fan of summer. It's not just the heat (I am Canadian: my natural state is bundled). It's not just the fact that my children are home, draped all over me, begging to have a playdate/go to Target/see a movie/have a snack/do SOMETHING. (Okay, it's largely that.) It's not just the hudity. It's not just the mosquitoes. It's not even the fact that this summer, we will be moving to a smaller house with a lot more land, meaning that I'll spend two months wandering around in a daze, unsure where to find my oven mitts or computer cords or, probably, the children.

No, as if those weren't enough reasons to have summer condemned as a season, there's the fact that cooking in summer sucks. You can grill something or you can overheat your kitchen. Yeah. The choices are overwhelming.

Cooking in winter, though ... ah, that's a different story. It's a treat to preheat the oven when it's snowing outside. It's a joy to make roasts and stews and hearty soups when you know you'll be eating them after fighting a bitter wind chill. It's fun to spend snow days making cookies and memories, baking bread and mulling cider and then spiking it when the kids aren't looking because seriously, after the third snow day in a row, that's the only way you're going to survive.

Not that I would ever do that.


One of my favorite winter foods is roasted vegetables. I can and do grill them, but there's nothing like a
medley of slow-roasted onions and beets and sweet potatoes and peppers and - yes - parsnips.
Parsnips have a bad reputation, and I'm not sure why. Maybe because folks look at them and think they should taste like a carrot. (A logical assumption.) Maybe because, when they're not cooked right, they have a peppery bite that some folks find off-putting.

Roassted vegetables and polenta. Because YUM.
But when you slice a parsnip into sticks and toss them with some olive oil and salt and pepper ... when you pop onto a baking sheet that's been preheated, so they sizzle the moment they make contact ... when you roast them until they are golden and browned and soft, with just a hint of chewiness on the sides ... when you do that, those parsnips are transformed. They are creamy and sweetened and mellow. They have become their best self. Their full potential has been achieved.

Which brings us to the characters in our stories.

At the beginning of a book, a character is like a raw parsnip: a little odd, a little bitter, a little stiff. Then the story begins. Other characters are mixed with our little parsnip, seasoning and spicing him or her. (You can make your own call about how and where the olive oil fits into this analogy.) We take these characters, already changed because of who they're dealing with, and we throw them into the plot oven. We hold them to the fire. We keep them in there, making things hotter and more overwhelming, until our little Snip is on the edge of burning out.

But then ... then, Snippy makes it out of the heat. And just like the humble root for which she is named, our gal Snip has become her best self. She's been transformed by the people and events of the story. She's still the same person ... and yet she's not. She is changed. She is sweeter. She is the best danged vegetable she could ever be.

She is a Parsnip.

(Many thanks to the amazing Sally MacKenzie, who answered my call for a blog topic with one word: parsnips.)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

We have winner!

SNOOKIE, you've won a copy of CODY'S COME HOME! Please email me with your mailing address!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

At last!

Mary Sullivan

It took me only six or seven years, but I've set up a Facebook author page. Finally! I should have had one all along.

I resisted for two reasons. I really have a lot of fun on my profile page. I like how casual things are there. I like sharing tidbits about my life—nothing earth-shattering, but friendly and nice. Many of my readers follow me there. Occasionally, I post promotion about recent releases, or about authors whose books I really like, but would rather keep promotion to a minimum.

On the other hand, I've been told I can still have a lot of fun on an author page. It doesn't have to be all about promotion. I can post all of those fun tidbits there, too. I like the sound of that.

The other, and probably main, reason I resisted is that technology and I have a love-hate relationship. We don't always get along. Even though my website is simple, I take a deep breath before updating it because I'm certain I'll do something wrong and lose the entire thing into the ether! LOL!

I know that's unlikely, but I worry nonetheless.

On the weekend, I decided to try to set up a Facebook author page and it turned out to be incredibly easy! So, for the moment at any rate, technology and I are lovey-dovey. We'll see how long it lasts…

I've scoured author-ly advice about how to care for a FB author page and the biggest piece of advice is that I should post every day. Oh boy, that's tough. I don't have interesting things to say every day! Usually, on my profile page, I share only when something catches my fancy, or a funny event happens in my day, or I post a photo of the new scarf I made, or when I have a new book out.

Now I should be posting every day? I can try to do that, but on the days when I really don't have anything interesting to share, I won't push it. There is an overload of info out there floating around the internet these days. The world doesn't need my 'duty' posts.

I will, though, share my fun tidbits as they arise!

If you would like to join me on that journey, please pop over to FB and Like my page :-)

Then, if you want to, please slip back over here and let me know that you've done so and I will enter your name into a draw to win a copy of my April release, CODY'S COME HOME.

Friday, April 1, 2016

April 2016 New Releases!

The Secret Between Them
Cathryn Parry

They share more than a past 

Wounded, weary and wiser, ex-marine Kyle Northrup had planned to stay far away from Wallis Point. But after his stepfather's passing, he must return home and claim his unexpected inheritance: the ice rink he grew up on. Except he has to share ownership with Jessica Hughes, the hometown girl who got away and whose figure skating career he ended. 

He'd hoped the rink would save him once more, as it had when he was a grief-stricken youth, but working with Jessica will be hard. Especially since his teenage infatuation is now full-blown adult attraction. And the last thing he wants to do is hurt Jessica again.

Cody's Come Home
Mary Sullivan

Back where he belongs 

Bad choices have dominated Cody Jordan's life since leaving home ten years ago. Grieving a broken marriage and the death of his baby, he's back in his hometown of Accord, looking for redemption and a fresh start.  

Old friend Aiyana Pearce and her little girl are a breath of fresh air. Aiyana quickly steals his heart. Being with her reminds him of the man he once was and could be again. Cody's not ready for a relationship, though—not yet. But when a threat to Aiyana's life resurfaces, putting his heart on the line is the least of his worries.

Second Chance Mom
Emilie Rose

It's the reunion she didn't expect 

Rachel Bishop's reckless past is back to haunt her. Her sister's death has made her the guardian of a sullen teen and has brought her home to the secrets she'd run from—starting with Matt Johnston. Matt was the good guy who'd cracked her rebel-rousing teenage veneer. 

Now the handsome high school coach could destroy her hope of peacefully raising Chastity, the baby she secretly gave up to her sister years ago. To protect Matt and their daughter, Rachel must lie to them…but the heart won't be ignored. If Rachel wants a second chance at family and with Matt, she must take a risk on love.

A Soldier's Journey (Home To Covenent Falls)
Patricia Potter

One brave step at a time 

Lieutenant Andrea Stuart survived the war-zone attack that took her fiancĂ©. A therapy dog and a cabin in Covenant Falls are all the risks the former military nurse is willing to take anymore. But as Andy's drawn into writing the history of the small town, she's also drawn to Nate Rowland. 

As rugged as he is jaded, Nate's committed to helping fellow veterans—and avoiding a new relationship. Keeping her distance might be smart, but it's hard to stay away when Andy sees that Nate has a few scars of his own. Together they might find a path toward healing…and so much more.

Harlequin Superromance April 2016 Box Set

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