Thursday, June 30, 2016

The SUmmer Hit List

Kris Fletcher

Summer and I have a love/hate relationship.

It goes a long way back. Even when I was in school, I had mixed feelings about summer vacation. Oh,I was more than happy to sleep in and be free of homework. But if I had my druthers, I would have had that break in winter. Because seriously, who can sleep late or enjoy themselves in the middle of Hazy, Hot, and Humid?

I can't say that there's been much change since I became the mom. I do like letting my kids stay up late to chase fireflies and sleep as late as they wish. I like relaxed afternoons and having the time to teach the little darlings how to plan, shop for, and cook a meal. I still love the freedom from homework. (Who knew that supervising your kids assignments can be even worse than doing it yourself?)

But I'm not a fan of excessive amounts of unstructured time. (Some is good. Too much leads to Armageddon, and I'm not talking about the movie.) I could live without the interruptions. And I still really loathe Hazy, Hot, and Humid.

But there's a long stretch of summer ahead, and I don't want to spend it grumpy and counting down to autumn. With that in mind, I'm staring a list of  Things To Love About Summer. I  figure I'll post it on the fridge to read as needed.

In addition to the items mentioned above, I am very fond of:
  • fireflies
  • fireworks
  • barbecue 
  • potato/pasta salads (Yes, I know I can make them at other times of year, but they just don't taste right)
  • fresh local strawberries
  • fireworks
  • Canada Day and the Fourth of July (especially this year, when one is Friday and one is Monday which translates to a Double Long Weekend here at Casa Chaos)
  • movie matinees
  • my family's annual Beach Day get together
  • the clothes are less bulky, so there's less laundry
  • the RWA National Conference, where I get to connect with all my Super sisters! 
Okay. That's a decent list, but September is still a long way off, so I might need to expand it. What's on your Summer Hit List? I'll draw for a $10 (US) gift card to the online bookstore of your choice from those who comment. Winner will be posted July 9.  Let's make this list an impressive one!


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Finding a Great Critique Buddy



Hopefully, as I write this post, there are as many aspiring Superromance writers as there are readers who visit our blog because I thought I'd share an invaluable writing tip...find a critique buddy!

Finding a person or persons to whom you entrust your work, before acceptance, is a tough call for any aspiring writer to envision, let alone action. As writers, we spent months (sometimes years!), with a body of work that is often spattered with our blood, sweat and tears. To then share that work or, more accurately, invite it to be criticized is a tall order.

An order that it took me writing three full-length novels before I decided I wanted to find someone to read my work before I submitted it to agents or publishers. Lord, how I wish I’d come to understand how vital having someone read my work BEFORE I submitted was so important to the book’s success.

There’s no doubt about it, finding a good critique partner/s is hard. Once you make the decision to look for one, the path is fraught with danger. You’re taking a huge risk that the person might be too harsh, too thin-skinned to accept your returning critique or worse, they proceed to change every word you’ve written until their suggestions completely obliterate your individual voice.

However, if you find a partner/s who are kind, considerate, informed and vying for your success as much as their own, you will want to keep that person with you for the rest of your career and wonder how you ever managed without them.

For me, I had several misses before I hit on the three critique partners I have now­­––three fabulous romance writing, romance loving ladies who have worked with me throughout the writing of my last five novels.

I would truly be lost without them!

We work by exchanging a chapter at a time for critique during the first draft stage of our novels. The thought of sharing that messy, discovery stage of your work might fill you with horror BUT I can genuinely say (for me, at least), having someone comment and critique your brand new words can lead to wholly stronger, more vibrant and exciting following drafts. To have character inconsistencies, plot holes and repeated words highlighted at the stage when you still have so much time to fix, change and delete is fantastically freeing for your creativity.

So, how do you find these wonderful partners/friends who will hold your hand and cheer for you at the finishing line? Firstly, join as many online and real-life writers groups as possible. Talk to these writers, get to know them, come to like and understand them as individuals. Who would you avoid? Who makes you laugh? Whose writing aspirations match your own? Who shares a love of the same genre and authors? All these questions will give you a good chance of narrowing down that person/s who will improve your work.

Be brave and make the decision to start on the path to finding your critique buddy today – more than one is even better because you’ll have differing opinions on the same piece of work. If the two or three partners say different things, then it is up to you to decide what is right for YOU. However, if two or three partners comment on the same area of your work…you would be foolish not to revisit it and make some changes. Clearly something there isn’t quite right.


Happy hunting! I promise you’ll come to fully understand and love the benefits of no longer working solo. Good luck!

Rachel x

Author of the Templeton Cove Stories
Saved by the Firefighter - coming Nov 2016
Her Hometown Redemption - Sept 2015
Christmas At The Cove - Nov 2014
What Belongs To Her - Mar 2014
A Man Like Him - Aug 2013
Finding Justice - Feb 2013

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Visiting the Harlequin Offices!

As regular visitors know, I dreamed about becoming a published author long (long, long!) before I sold my first book - A Perfect Distraction - to Harlequin SuperRomance. What you may not know is that I also dreamed that one day I would be able to visit my publisher's office.

Earlier this month, that dream came true!

My husband and I were visiting Canada, because he was giving papers at conferences in Ottawa and Kelowna, and we made a special stop in Toronto, so that I could spend the day at Harlequin head office. And what an amazing day it was! I had such fun meeting everyone and finding out what happens behind the scenes.

First, I was welcomed by my editor, Victoria Curran, and the rest of the wonderful editorial team for SuperRomance and Heartwarming. As you can see, they made me feel so special by popping open champagne and making Mimosas/Bucks Fizz (that's another one for my Two Nations Divided feature - every Friday on Facebook). I brought them a special tin of Biscuiteers biscuits from England, which were made to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday.







 Next I was given a tour of the various production areas, where I met the fabulous people who work so hard to turn the manuscript I send them into the book you hold in your hands or get on your ereader.







These lovely ladies run the copy editing and proof reading departments for all of Harlequin. Yes, even the offices in New York and London! Their teams ensure that books are printed with as few mistakes as possible.




Shane showed me how my book cover was built up from the base template, adding my name and title, back cover copy, the bar code and finally the cover image. This was fascinating for me as in my marketing career, I'd had many dealings with packaging development. Only in those days, it wasn't all computerised!






Then, it was on to the Art Department to meet the guys responsible for our gorgeous covers. They try hard to match the authors' vision for the hero and heroine and create a cover that will pop and sell!

Time for lunch! It was great to be able to spend time getting to know all the editors, as there is rarely time to do that when we meet at conferences. Especially when they edit other lines than SuperRomance.


After lunch, I got to meet the lovely ladies responsible for the Harlequin Reader Service. Many of you loyal SuperRomance fans use the Reader Service to receive your books, so it was great to meet them and learn about what they do.


The tour continued with, among others, the legal department and the executive floor. Nice office, Craig!

Last, but definitely not least, was a stop in Diane Moggy's office to see the famous peregrine falcons nesting on the opposite building. Unfortunately, this was the best photo I could get with my cell phone of the four chicks.

The whole day was amazing and special, truly a dream come true. Many thanks to Victoria for taking time out of her busy schedule to organise the visits to all the departments and to take me around to meet everyone. And to all the wonderful people at Harlequin who made me me feel so welcome!

Is there a place you'd love to visit? Have you had a visit dream come true?






Visiting the Harlequin Offices!

As regular visitors know, I dreamed about becoming a published author long (long, long!) before I sold my first book - A Perfect Distraction - to Harlequin SuperRomance. What you may not know is that I also dreamed that one day I would be able to visit my publisher's office.

Earlier this month, that dream came true!

My husband and I were visiting Canada, because he was giving papers at conferences in Ottawa and Kelowna, and we made a special stop in Toronto, so that I could spend the day at Harlequin head office. And what an amazing day it was! I had such fun meeting everyone and finding out what happens behind the scenes.

First, I was welcomed by my editor, Victoria Curran, and the rest of the wonderful editorial team for SuperRomance and Heartwarming. As you can see, they made me feel so special by popping open champagne and making Mimosas/Bucks Fizz (that's another one for my Two Nations Divided feature - every Friday on Facebook). I brought them a special tin of Biscuiteers biscuits from England, which were made to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday.







 Next I was given a tour of the various production areas, where I met the fabulous people who work so hard to turn the manuscript I send them into the book you hold in your hands or get on your ereader.







These lovely ladies run the copy editing and proof reading departments for all of Harlequin. Yes, even the offices in New York and London! Their teams ensure that books are printed with as few mistakes as possible.




Shane showed me how my book cover was built up from the base template, adding my name and title, back cover copy, the bar code and finally the cover image. This was fascinating for me as in my marketing career, I'd had many dealings with packaging development. Only in those days, it wasn't all computerised!






Then, it was on to the Art Department to meet the guys responsible for our gorgeous covers. They try hard to match the authors' vision for the hero and heroine and create a cover that will pop and sell!

Time for lunch! It was great to be able to spend time getting to know all the editors, as there is rarely time to do that when we meet at conferences. Especially when they edit other lines than SuperRomance.


After lunch, I got to meet the lovely ladies responsible for the Harlequin Reader Service. Many of you loyal SuperRomance fans use the Reader Service to receive your books, so it was great to meet them and learn about what they do.


The tour continued with, among others, the legal department and the executive floor. Nice office, Craig!

Last, but definitely not least, was a stop in Diane Moggy's office to see the famous peregrine falcons nesting on the opposite building. Unfortunately, this was the best photo I could get with my cell phone of the four chicks.

The whole day was amazing and special, truly a dream come true. Many thanks to Victoria for taking time out of her busy schedule to organise the visits to all the departments and to take me around to meet everyone.

Is there a place you'd love to visit? Have you had a visit dream come true?






Monday, June 20, 2016

The Birthday Police

By Jeannie Watt

Yesterday was my birthday. It didn’t start like most of my birthdays.  I woke up from a dead sleep to find that it was light outside, which startled me. I go to bed at 8:30 and get up at the crack of dawn. It was way too light to be the crack of dawn, so…?


That was when I heard the voices and the knocking on the door. We live in the middle of nowhere; no one drops by my house. I haven’t had a single Trick-or-Treater in twenty-two years, so a knock on our door at any time, unless it’s Fed Ex or UPS, is very strange. Heart-poundingly strange.

I headed out to the living room to discover that the house was pitch black, despite my bedroom window being lit up. And there were two men on my porch. Figuring that if they were bad guys, they wouldn’t be knocking, I opened the door and found myself facing two deputies. I had neglected to put on my glasses, so they were blurry deputies,  silhouetted by the headlights of their vehicles, which were creating the pseudo daylight outside my bedroom window.

“Hello, ma’am. We’re here because a neighbor wanted us to check on your welfare.”

Uh…yeah…okay. Welfare.  “I’m…fine?”

“We have a report that this house has been unoccupied for days.” Blurry deputy #1 stares suspiciously at me. I’m wearing a fuzzy red robe and squinting at him because I can’t get him in focus.

“Nope. Been here the entire time.”

“This house hasn’t been unoccupied?”

“I live here. I’ve been here.”

The deputies then go on to explain that my neighbors were concerned because my house has been dark for days and they saw a car drive past the driveway and then turn around and drive in. They were afraid we were being robbed.

Okay, even with my heart pounding and my brain scrambling to make sense of these strange goings-on, I found that incredibly sweet. Our newest neighbors live a half mile away. They just bought the house and we’ve yet to meet them, but they cared enough to call the sheriff when they thought one of their new neighbors was being robbed.

I explained to the deputies that the house hasn’t been empty—that we live on a generator and go to bed before dark, so that’s why the neighbors haven’t seen lights. If someone turned down our driveway, they weren’t there now and so the deputies were free to go on their way.

They were quite happy to do that—after I showed ID and proved that I was who I’m supposed to be, which was the homeowner and not a fuzzy-robe-wearing robber. I might sound glib, but I appreciate that they did that. I mean anyone could bring a fuzzy robe and pretend to be a befuddled homeowner and distract the deputies while a partner continued to bag the family silver.

So the day started with the cops arriving a little after midnight. Several hours later, one of my good friends had a healthy baby boy.  My family called me, I made incredible meat pies and then  my husband broke out the good Scotch. We toasted birthdays--both mine and little Cullen Finn’s--as well as Father’s Day, healthy happy kids, caring new neighbors and being blessed in general.

Truly a full and rich day.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Winner of Claire McEwen's Giveaway!


Thank you to everyone who commented on my Who's Rescuing Who? post!!

Colleen C, you are the winner!  




(Horns blaring!  Fireworks exploding! Confetti falling!) 

Please contact me at cmcewen.writer@gmail.com so I can send you your book! 

Thanks for joining me at the SuperAuthors Blog!


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Who's Rescuing Who?

I've always loved animals, and have been blessed with several beloved pets over the years.  But it wasn't until two years ago, when we adopted a dog named Chauncey, that I really thought about what I was receiving from my relationship with animals.

When we brought Chauncey home, he wasn't pleasant to be around.  He'd been a stray and he was very uncertain about living indoors.  And he coped with his uncertainty by trying to bite our legs when we walked around the house.  Or by barking and growling at anyone who came to visit. Or by snarling when anyone tried to pet him on his walks.

Chauncey when we first got him. Cute, but very guarded.
On Chauncey's second day home with us I called a local trainer, desperate for help.  She came over and spent some time with Chauncey and said "I think you adopted the wrong dog."  My heart dropped to my toes.  Unless," she studied me carefully, "You're willing to put in a lot of work."

I didn't much like Chauncey at that point, but he was a pathetic, scruffy scrap of a thing who clearly needed help.  Plus, I wasn't going to send a message to my young son that we give up on our fellow creatures that easily.  So I agreed to do the work.

Chauncey guarding my son's dinosaur puzzle, so my son couldn't play with it!

Following the trainer's advice, I walked Chauncey several times a day to calm him down.  My husband, son and I spent countless hours training him.  We even got my husband's parents involved.  They'd come over to our house, sit at our table, and then get up suddenly to walk around, triggering Chauncey to bark at them.  Then we'd put Chauncey on time-out so he could learn that his behavior was wrong.

During the first several months of living with Chauncey, I had many moments where I questioned why I was doing all of this.  Why was I investing so much time and energy into a twelve-pound scrap of grumpy fur?  Our progress was slow.  It was weeks before he'd let my husband near him, let alone a strange man.  Weeks before he'd come near me willingly when I sat down on the floor to play with him.

Watching pelicans on the beach and learning to relax.

But then there was the day when he approached me nonchalantlly and climbed onto my lap.  I couldn't quite believe it.  Chauncey the terrier-terror (as we'd come to call him) wanted a cuddle?   I sat very still so I wouldn't scare him, witnessing this breakthrough in his doggy-soul.  Concrete evidence that all the time we'd put in was actually making a difference.

Chauncey overcoming his fears and shaking paws with my son.

It's been over two years since we adopted Chauncey, and he is a very different dog.  He's beloved by us and also around the neighborhood.  He greets everyone, even men, with boundless joy.  In fact, trying to contain his exuberant love is my new challenge!  He's calm in the house, doesn't mind strangers too much, and loves cuddles.  He's happy! And he's cute!  He's gone from scruffy to fluffy.

Pure happiness on a family trip to the beach

But this post is about more than me helping Chauncey.  What I realized, as I questioned myself through this process of training and taming him, was that Chauncey wasn't the only one in our relationship who was growing and changing.  Working with him made me more patient and compassionate.  I had to put aside my to-do list to be there for another creature.  One who didn't always show his appreciation for my efforts.

And working with Chauncey healed me.  I'd really wanted a second child, but we weren't blessed with one.  After trying to make it happen for years, after miscarriages and attempts at adoption that fell through, my husband and I decided that we were finished trying to grow our family.  Even though I knew it was the right decision, I was very sad.  Working with Chauncey gave me an outlet, a fur-baby who needed me, a distraction from my sense of loss.  I may have rescued Chauncey, but ultimately, he rescued me.



And since I'm a writer, it all ends up in my stories, somehow!  Chauncey wriggled his way into my upcoming July book, Return to Marker Ranch.  I'm sure you'll spot him if you read the book.  My hero and heroine, Wade and Lori, rescue animals in the story.  Or maybe the animals rescue them?  Because in the end, Wade and Lori have grown enough, and healed enough, to rescue each other.



And I'd love to know... has owning an animal, or an experience with an animal, ever felt healing to you?  Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win a signed copy of Return to Marker Ranch!

(The winner will be announced here on the blog this weekend.)

Thanks for joining Chauncey and me on the blog today!







Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Question of the Month: Favorite Childhood Reads

For this month's author Q&A, we're going back in time! Summer reading programs are starting up all over the US. What was your favorite childhood read?

Janet Lee Nye: From ages 12 to about 20, it was me, a beach towel, baby oil on my skin, lemon juice in my hair, an oven timer (got to keep that tan even) and "Gone With the Wind".

Kris Fletcher: On summer Saturdays, after our chores were done, my mom would load us all up into the car to make two important stops: the library, where we would all load up on books, and the corner store, where we would get ice cream sandwiches and - if Lady Luck was smiling on me - an Archie comic book. I read anything and everything on those blissful days, but nothing beats the memory of licking the side of my ice cream sandwich while seeing what was up with Archie, Betty, Veronica, and the rest of the gang. 

Jeannie Watt: I read Mad magazine. I loved satire! Before that it was Mother West Wind Stories and anything with a horse. 

Sharon Hartley: I devoured every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on!  I used to hide from my mother so she wouldn't interrupt my reading.

Kristina Knight: There were so many to choose from! As an elementary school reader, it was anything Beverly Cleary, and then anything Judy Blume (Tiger Eyes is a particular favorite)! Somewhere around eighth grade, I found a series called The Girls from Canby Hall - I think there were about 20 books in all, about an all-girls boarding school. Some were straight up romance, some mystery...and I loved every single one.

Tara Taylor Quinn: All of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Books! I devoured them. I also loved Highlights Magazine. I couldn’t wait for it to come in the mail! 

Joanne Rock: I remember reading constantly from third grade through sixth, devouring book after book. I got a library card and there was no stopping me. In particular, I remember sobbing over Black Beauty and being surprised at how a story could feel so real it made me cry like that while I was sitting comfortably in my own bed. I also tore through all the Nancy Drew books and passed copies back and forth with my girlfriend, who was as obsessed as me. I hauled big shopping bags full of books to my friend's house so we could trade!

Pamela Hearon: I started with The Hardy Boys mysteries because my best friend was a guy with four older brothers so he had a complete shelf of them in his room.  Hooked by the mystery genre, I went on to Nancy Drew.  My first foray into fun "girl stuff" was the Donna Parker series.  My absolute-favorite-hands-down-best-book-I-ever-read-as-a-child was A Wrinkle in Time. Madeleine L'Engle lured me into a lifetime love affair with fantasy.

Jennifer Lohmann: I'm not sure I could name my favorite childhood read. I read TONS of Babysitters Club books, as well as Sweet Valley High. I loved The Westing Game and Sarah, Plain and Tall. Oh, and I dreamed of being The Girl with the Silver Eyes one day. Every time I read that book, I tried to move things with my mind. Never once was I successful. :-(

Angel Smits: Oh my gosh, the list is endless. My mother was constantly telling me to get my nose out of a book to do my chores!!  I LOVES Laura Ingalls Wilder and anything similar.  I went through a stage of reading biographies for awhile.  I found Harlequin when I was like, 14 so I was reading any romance I could find after that.  

Claire McEwen: I loved so many books when I was young that I decided to pick a category for this post!  Horse books, since I now write western romance.  I LOVED books about horses. There was one called A Pony for Jean that had been my mom's book when she was little - I read it at least a zillion times. And the Black Stallion Books and the Misty of Chincoteague books, and Thunderhead and Black Beauty and National Velvet.  And another special story called Fields of Praise and a series I adored called Flambards.  I'm sure there were many more!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What Your Bookshelves Say About YOU


My Superromance series, Heartache, TN
You can’t deny that you occasionally judge a book by its cover. Not just in the bookstore either. Figuratively speaking, we draw conclusions about people and places based on visual clues. We can sum up certain things about a homeowner based on the coziness of their front porch or the neatness of the front yard. Are the gardens neat and orderly or cottage style? Are the colors vibrant and warm or cool and calming? We draw other conclusions based on clothing (bohemian versus sporty, elegant versus easygoing), occupation, choice of car, choice of neighborhood, or choice of pet. But for me, I don’t feel like I really know someone until I’ve seen what’s on their bookshelves.

It’s the most intriguing moment for me when I visit a new friend—better than seeing what dessert she’s made for lunch (although I’m easily won over by sweets, I will admit) or what personal photos are hanging on the living room wall. It’s such a fast snapshot of someone’s interests, from what books they choose to display (and how) to what books receive the most prominence and special positioning. Is there an obvious keeper shelf full of well worn reads? A shelf full of vintage finds with beautiful leather spines or illustrations? A coffee table of art books that look more for show (and to coordinate with a room) than for reading?

I will admit, I have all of the above. I have put books on a coffee table because the colors look nice with the furniture, although I’ve never purchased a book for beauty alone. I have enough titles that I can “shop my shelves” if I want to put out something pretty on my nightstand. Only in recent years have I decided that books should live outside the bookshelves for me to enjoy in other areas around my home. I like to see them, remember them, think about them more than I’d like to see random art objects. So why not decorate with books?

I have a friend who has literary quotes on her walls. That was as neat of a find as seeing her bookshelves. Her love of story was obvious! I am intrigued by the new trend of arranging bookshelves by color of the spines so that all the white titles might be in one room or the blue titles together to accent a room that’s otherwise gray. Pinterest has lots of ideas for bookish decorating from making the stair treads look like famous book spines to creating book nooks around a window or stair landing.

So far, I’m still a novice in literary decorating. For the most part, my books are very much on my shelves, and I tend to arrange them thematically—books about history are together. Feminist studies things are together. Divination and texts about myth and magic are all grouped close to one another. And then, down low, all the art and history books that are too heavy for the high shelves.
 My romance shelves are another bookcase all together. I have keeper shelf upon keeper shelf grouped according to subgenre and author. I even have a bookcase of my own books now that I’ve got over seventy titles to my name, each of which has spawned beautiful foreign editions. I like seeing them to remind myself I can do this.


Win a $10 Amazon gift card!
If I stopped by your house today—inquisitive soul that I am—what might I learn about you from a sneak peek at your shelves? Do you collect old cookbooks? Have as many MAD magazines as you do modern day romances? Do you keep only the non-fiction titles? Or are you a digital reader with shelves online? Share with me today on the blog and I’ll give one random poster a ten dollar Amazon gift card so you can add something fun and wonderful to your collection.

**Joanne Rock's fourth book in her Heartache, TN series releases in September 2016. Whispers Under a Southern Sky is available for pre-order now.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Treasures from the Past

My sisters and I have a lake home/cabin that my parents built back in the 50s. When our parents died, the property passed to us.  As we cleaned out our childhood home, we sent photo albums and items that were family history to the cabin not knowing what treasures were there.
On Memorial weekend, one of my daughters and I were going through some old photos that my aunt had dropped off and somehow began looking at my Mother’s wedding book – appropriately titled—Orange Blossoms.
My mother and father’s courtship was unusual. My father was drafted near the end of WWII and was stationed near Gloucester England. Two days after arriving in England, he met my mother at a Red Cross dance on Christmas Eve. They dated until my father left for France in early April. Then they wrote  for three years while he was in France, Germany, the Philippines and then finishing the last two years of college!
On June 26, 1948 she arrived in New York City for a vacation. My father was auditing for General Mills on the east coast and met her as she came off the boat. She traveled with him as he worked. In Pittsburgh on July 24th, they were engaged, and instead of a vacation, she and my father married on August 5th in Minnesota. Of course only my father’s relatives were at the wedding. My mother was an incredibly brave woman to leave everything familiar and come to the US to marry someone she hadn't seen for almost 4 years.
What we found as we explored her Bridal book was that some of the mementos she received as gifts when she left England, were scattered throughout the cabin. They were gifts given to her to remind her of England. 
Brasses depicting her 2 favorite Englishmen-Winston Churchill and William Shakespeare. A brass dinner bell that was always rung for meals at the cabin. And a warming pan-that used to hang next to the fire – but is now gone.
She also received a brass tray etched with Gloucester Cathedral.
All the things she talked about were always around the cabin—and I never realized how important they were to my mother. Reading her words was like bringing her back. I could hear the voice I still missed.

Do you have small treasures that mean a lot to you that you want to pass on to your heirs?


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