Thursday, April 20, 2017

Do one thing a day that scares you by Piya Campana

“Do one thing a day that scares you” is the sort of suggestion I usually ignore because it doesn’t fit into my cocoon of books, Netflix and chips. But I definitely saw the value in it on my vacation to Belize in March.

Belize is a wonderful country to visit because it has so much to offer—if you like the beach, there are the sunny Cayes. There is ample opportunity to snorkel, scuba dive and kayak. The inland offers beautifully preserved jungle, fresh-water swimming holes, Maya ruin sites and a vast cave system.

Friezes on El Castillo at Maya ruin site Xunantunich
In the ten days I was there, I did many fun and exciting things I’ve done before, like swim in the ocean, read on the beach, explore new cities and eat at least four times my weight in local food (if you visit Belize, be sure to try the fryjack, the papaya, the rice and beans, the stew chicken, the conch curry…). And for the whole trip I had been looking forward to one particular expedition. Well, sort of.

It was with a degree of fearful excitement that I had been describing the ATM tour to others before I left for Belize. ATM, or Actun Tunichil Muknal, is a large cave an hour from San Ignacio, in the Cayo district. It is believed to be a Maya sacrifice site and is home to calcified human bones (including a nearly intact skeleton called The Crystal Maiden), pieces of ceremonial pottery and cave formations that were apparently modified into altars or carved in certain ways to create silhouettes and cast shadows of faces, figures and animals.

No cameras are allowed inside (thanks to one tourist who dropped theirs during the tour a few years ago, breaking a thousand-year-old skull), but that turned out to be fine with me! Because after a forty-five-minute hike through the jungle and shallow rivers, as well as a swim into the mouth of the cave, I needed both hands and all of my energy in the next three hours to squeeze through tight spaces, climb down into tunnels of rushing water and scale slippery rocks as we made our way around.

When we weren’t swimming through the cave’s river system, we took off our water shoes to walk the dry chamber areas in stocking feet to get up close to the artifacts. It was dark, damp and cool and we occasionally shared the space with some cute little bats…and a huge spider that I studiously avoided. I was grateful for my headlamp!

While wildly outside of my comfort zone, the ATM tour was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

In the spirit of pushing limits, what’s a story idea you’ve always wanted to explore but were too afraid to? Please tell me in the comments!

And if you’re interested in learning more about ATM and seeing some photos, here’s a good resource.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring is Here ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

by Kristina Knight

Hey, there, everyone! April is almost over and that means spring is definitely here - at least in our area...and at least for today!

bebe and I have been taking in the scenery at one of our local nature preserves, and the scenery has made me so glad that I live at a lake. Ask me that again once December rolls around and I might say I was crazy...but when the weather warms up, and the flowers begin blooming, and the lake is starting to warm...its just perfect.

Here are three of my favorite things about spring:

3. The nights are still chilly. I'm over the super-cold, below-zero temps, I swear. But I do like a little bit to the air. For me that bite has a smell, it's sharp like the perfect cheddar. I smell it in the fall, too, before the first snows fall, but in spring it is just a bit sharper.

2. The feel of warm sunlight through the windows. There are moments when I just stand in the sunlight and bask, along with Hazel the Pup and Angel the Dog. Its the promise that things are changing and will continue to change, a reminder that I'm not always in control and that it okay.

1. The color. I'm not sure about where you live, but here in the winter it is very stark - grey when there is no snow on the ground and brilliantly white when there is. When we drive along the lakeshore there is a vast tundra of white and grey jumbled together and its pretty. But once spring comes, the grass turns green, the tulips bloom and it seems as if all of that starkness softens into every color you could imagine.

Kristina’s new book Famous in a SmallTown, is the first in her brand new SlipperyRock series and releases May 1!

Lifestyles of the small-town famous
Forced to leave Nashville after a scandal, Savannah Walters has come home to Slippery Rock, Missouri, with a bruised ego and her singing career in jeopardy. As if that isn't humiliating enough, on her way into town she's rescued by her swoon-worthy childhood crush, Collin Tyler.

His hands are full running the family orchard and dealing with his delinquent teen sister, so Collin doesn't need to get involved with someone as fiery and unpredictable as Savannah. But the intense attraction between them can't be denied. And when disaster strikes, they'll both be surprised by who's still standing when the dust settles.

Kristina Knight is a contemporary romance author, part-time swim-kid wrangler, and full-time Thin Mints enthusiast. You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Question of the Month: What Are You Looking Forward To This Spring?

Spring is in bloom across the US, and we hope it's warm wherever you are, too! The nice weather has us wondering: what are you most looking forward to this spring?

Amber Leigh Williams: Springtime means a return to the beach! It's a struggle in summer to enjoy it because of 100+ weather and visiting crowds so springtime is our chance to grab as many beach afternoons with sun, salt and serenity. I love watching the kiddies rediscover seashells, dolphins and stingrays (these from a distance) and chase sand crabs, herons and seagulls. Plus, the hub brings home fresh Gulf fish. Nothing like a little kingfish or pompano for your dinner table!

Kristina Knight: Baseball! From Spring Training all the way through the World Series, I just can't get enough baseball. And I prefer going to the actual games, but I'll watch my favorites (Go Tribe!) on TV...or even listen on the radio if we're on a roadtrip.

Claire McEwen: I love the wildflowers in spring, and this year, after so much rain in California, the flowers are just gorgeous.  I also love the longer days, and we usually get some really great beach weather before the summer fog starts rolling in.

Tara Taylor Quinn: I am most looking forward to the return of my desert heat! It’s like an instant gift of a soothing hot tub without the water, or need to dry off! Anytime I want or need it, I just step outside and my body relaxes and spirit finds calm.

Jo McNally: Since moving to the South from the Northeast five years ago, I have a whole new love affair with spring. There is nothing genteel or subtle about a Southern spring--everything just bursts into blossom (seemingly overnight), and the world is suddenly full of color and perfume and birds singing. It's sort of an "in your face" springtime here, and I love its total lack of propriety!

Kris Fletcher: We moved at the end of August, so this will be our first spring in our new house. I'm excited to reclaim a couple of rock walls on the property that have been overgrown with brambles and picking out flowers to start there. And I can't wait to see what plants are already here, waiting to pop up and meet us!

Jennifer Lohmann: I'm with Kris. I also moved into a new house, so spring has been a time to discover what's growing. The Viking and I have ripped out some ugly shrubs, planted a pollinator garden, and are making plans for azaleas, a sitting place by the creek, and raspberries. I'm sure that's too much to conquer this spring -- but it's nice to imagine!

Sharon Hartley: Kayaking!  I love venturing out on Tampa Bay in my kayak to bird, but am a total wimp when the weather is chilly.  I really miss my kayak during the winter, but the days are beautiful and clear now  -- time to get back out on the water. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Retrospective Road Trip

Baby Organa & Young Skywalker with Scout, Dill, & Gem

It’s no secret I’ve found my nest near the white sand dunes of the U.S. Gulf Coast. But, growing up, I knew something slightly different and once every March/April I’m reminded of that. I’m the product of a Monroe County, Alabama childhood. First, I lived in a teensy town called Burntcorn before my family moved to Monroeville around the time of my sister’s birth. Before moving south to the coast, my parents built their first home in the middle of a dandelion field in Excel. Little did I know, just a few miles down the weather-beaten road in Repton, my husband was being raised as well. (Coincidentally, his clan moved to the coast within a year of mine though we didn’t meet there until I turned eighteen.)
Monroeville is known for many things. It’s billed as the literary capital of Alabama thanks to the long-time residency of literary giants Truman Capote and Pulitzer Prize-winner Harper Lee. Popular opinion has established Monroeville as the real-life equivalent of Maycomb, Alabama, the setting of Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. To my husband and me, it’s the place we come back to get our taxes done. We pile the kids into our road-style Millennium Falcon and hit the interstate. Everything’s uphill from there. There’s a sign for a Creek Indian Reservation just before our exit. Monroeville’s a bit off the beaten track. It sits in the center of a rural county. Gentle green hills roll into fields of crop. The road bumbles over uncordoned railroad tracks. Tiny towns tick by on the GPS with nothing much to show for them but quaint city halls, box post offices and southern churches. There are houses and shop facades Lee and Capote might’ve seen in the Depression era, some that have been redeemed and renovated and others that have faded with the times. Our kids offer sound effects as we pass herds of cows, horses, goats, one preserved rail car in Fresco City (not actually a city) and a rusted graffiti train as we close in on our destination...

When we were young, Monroeville seemed like a hopping place, but the doors of the Vanity Fair visible from the house I lived in when my sister was born have long been shuttered. The sign for the Goodies department store my husband remembers his mother often shopping at stands, but the store itself closed years ago. As we cruise into town, memories come alive. Immediately to our left is the Monroe County Hospital where my husband was born (all ten pounds, four ounces of him). I point to the pizza place where one of my favorite birthday parties was held. He notes the outdoor market where his family regularly bought feed for their menagerie of animals and the fast food place with its once-wooden playground where he would chase his brothers. I remember another birthday party there as well as a celebratory play date after my preschool graduation. We were strangers then, but we can both recall the exact sound of the rickety bridge that stretched from tower to tower, the grainy texture and earthy scent of the bark mulch that littered much of the lot. I can still taste and feel the cold sticky touch of a vanilla soft serve ice cream cone dripping down my arm faster than I could eat it while my friend and I hid from the summer sun, resting against the cool walls of the round metal tunnel.
Our priority for much the journey involves sitting in an office building for an hour plus. For the last two years, we’ve rewarded the kids for behaving (mostly) so our trusty accountant can tell us how much we owe our government by taking them to the Monroe County Heritage Museum. Here lies the legacy of Harper Lee and Truman Capote. The impressive brick structure with its white clock tower was once Monroeville’s city hall and was used as the model for the courthouse in the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird. It hosts the Alabama Writer’s Symposium, reading clubs, teacher workshops, theatrical productions of To Kill a Mockingbird and more. Since being made into a museum, the main part houses an life-size replica of the courthouse from the Oscar-winning movie. It’s also the centerpiece for the downtown walking tour and bus tour featuring the homes of Lee and Capote, the law office of Lee’s father (the inspiration behind the character Atticus Finch), and even the site of the hotel where Gregory Peck stayed in preparation for filming To Kill a Mockingbird.

This year, the museum was closed by the time we arrived, but the kids still got to run around the gardens and picnic area, interact with the statues of Scout, Gem and Dill and sneak in on an outdoor rehearsal for an upcoming performance of To Kill a Mockingbird. In the last afternoon light, I got to watch my daughter walk all by herself up the steps to the rotunda and hear my son giggle from his hiding spot behind a jasmine-lined trellis. We snapped pictures on the bench as we did last year for retrospect. We soaked in the last glow of nostalgia and my husband snipped the end off a jasmine vine by way of a fragrant memento. 
On the ride south toward home, I watched the sun sink beneath a tree-lined horizon. I was overwhelmed by nostalgia. I love the rich environment my parents eventually migrated to, just as I love raising my children there just as they did. Monroeville is a simple town. The pace of life there hasn't changed much since I was a girl. Yet I’m nevertheless struck by how fortuitous I was to have lived there – to at any point have been rolling my miniature shopping cart next to my mother’s at the Piggly Wiggly passing the distinguished likes of Harper Lee in the aisle -- to have accidentally bumped into the kid-sized version of my future spouse on the playground as children are ought to do. It’ll be years before our kids grasp why we continuously pilgrimage to the place neither of us think of as home anymore. But hopefully, one day, they’ll understand the sentiment as much as the history behind it.

There's still a chance to follow the virtual book tour for my latest Superromance novel, Wooing the Wedding Planner, for a chance to win a $50 Barnes & Noble Gift Card! Offer ends April 28th. Enter here!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Writing: A Job You Can Take Anywhere - Dana Nussio

Educators do most of their teaching in classrooms and labs. Archeologists  dig on excavation sites. Even the President of the United States is forced to perform the lion's share of his/her duties from a big white house and inside an office that isn't even round. But writers? We can write anywhere.

I came to this realization earlier this week as I sat scratching out words and scrawling new ones in a tiny spiral notebook while on a pretty nerve-racking flight (two really) from Atlanta-to-Detroit-to-Atlanta-to-Detroit. It started out that I was only writing in the notebook while waiting for the plane to reach cruising altitude, but that darn "Fasten Seatbelt" sign never clicked off, so my laptop had to remain stowed. Apparently, that was a good call on the pilot's part, that and the decision not to ascend to 30,000 feet since the cabin refused to pressurize. As passengers (and pilots for that matter) often lose consciousness at high-altitude situations when their lungs are starved for oxygen, I couldn't even fault him for returning our plane to the Peach State for repairs.

If I could draft words in that...we'll call it a heightened situation, I have to believe I can do it anywhere.  

Over the years, I must have been on a mission to prove that point, whether I realized it at the time or not.  I've written stories in notebooks at the pediatrician's office, in the lunchroom at my day job and at more soccer tournaments and swim meets than I can count. I've tapped away on my laptop at hospital patients' bedsides, in a lovely cabana at Romance Writers of America San Diego and at my neighbor's awesome lake cottage in the middle of a snowstorm. I've even written on my AlphaSmart at poolside while my little girls splashed not ten feet away (lifeguard present, of course).

Sure, I work in my sunny yellow office and on my beaten-down couch where I'm typing now, but I've spent enough time  writing in coffee shops that I would expect a scratch-and-sniff page with the scent of good java to be included inside each of my novels. My March Superromance, FALLING FOR THE COP, particularly, should have the sweet scent of a vanilla latte as much of that story I wrote among coffee lovers.

Hmmm, from the number of locations where I've been driven to put words to page over the past fifteen years, you would think that I would have written more than just eighteen titles. But that's a blog subject for another time.

Often, though we creative types say we want to share our stories, we give ourselves too many excuses not to write. We're too busy. We don't have any free time. We're dealing with this month's crisis or still recovering from the one last month. But just as we must challenge any of these excuses if we truly wish for our stories to become more than daydreams that live inside our minds, we must accept that though no writing location is perfect, we can write wherever we make the effort.

Writers write. It's what we do. We have these stories inside us that insist on being released whether we're on our lunch breaks, summer vacations and even on airplanes limping back to airports.
There'll never be a perfect writing location. So just grab your laptop, tablet, notebook or phone and let the words and your stories flow. Any place is just write.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Name Game

Kris Fletcher

I'm deep into writing my next Superromance, at the point where the characters are usually becoming fairly familiar to me, but I'm still having a problem with my hero. He has a great backstory. I know a lot about him. I'm figuring out his humor, what's important to him, what can reduce him to a pile of mush before he even knows it - but something is still wrong, and I finally put my finger on it.

He needs a new name.

I usually change names for my characters many times through the course of a story. It has to fit, you know? And even when I think I have the perfect name, it often changes, usually because I've learned more about the character and the original name no longer fits. Most of the time, that's easily fixed with a find-and-replace. It's not so easy when the character is one I used in a previous book and the name is one I would never have chosen if I'd known exactly how much time we would end up spending together.

This time, though, there was a different problem. This is a brand new guy, so I had a blank canvas to work with. I wanted a name that was one syllable, but not super short. It needed some depth to it. I went with Boone. Really, it was his last name, but for many reasons he went by that instead of his given name of Jackson.

Boone. Not bad, huh? Not really common, yet everyone knows it. Kind of rugged, but playful at the same time. Has great associations.

Yet it still wasn't sitting right with me.

The reason totally eluded me until I sat down to send an email to one of the young men in my family. His name is Daniel. When he was younger, we called him Daniel Boone. Or just - yep - Boone.

Well, heck.

I sighed, went back to my  taped-together favorite name book (The Baby Name Wizard, by Laura Wattenburg), and hit the drawing board. Levi? Eli? Doyle? Flynn? Rafe?

Rafe ....

That one lingered. It's been on my name radar for a long time, as one I would like to use but hadn't yet found the right character to wear it. But this guy ... this man who had a heartbreaking childhood, who now lives in South America but maintains his Canadian citizenship, who has been tested by time and circumstance but still has a core of decency that makes him desperately want to help ... this might just be the guy.

Hello, Rafe. It's good to meet you.

That is, unless you turn out to actually be a Joe ...

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April 2017 New Releases!

Boss Meets Her Match (The Cleaning Crew)
Janet Lee Nye

She can't fall for a guy like him… 

With kick-ass-and-take-names flair, hardworking Lena Reyes has everything a successful woman could want. Well…almost. She's still single, which means her family is practically auditioning guys for Hispanic Bachelor. But none of these guys compare to her newest client: a sexy trust-fund artist who's making Lena crazy in every way possible.

Born into wealth and privilege, Charles "Matt" Beaumont Matthews V is everything Lena isn't. So why does she find him so deliciously irresistible? Now their attraction is breaking all kinds of rules. Worse still, Lena's falling for Matt—hard. He's either the perfect mistake…or her perfect match. 

Plain Refuge
Janice Kay Johnson

 He's her only defense…and a frightening temptation 

Rebecca Holt thinks she's doing the right thing when she takes evidence proving her ex-husband is hiding a murder. But after two attempts on her life, she flees with her six-year-old son to rural Missouri, where the pair hide among Amish relatives, dressing "plain."

County sheriff Daniel Byler was raised Amish, but his protective instincts put him in conflict with his family's beliefs at an early age and he left the faith. Yet this background helps him to recognize Rebecca as someone who is out of place, in danger…and lying to him. 

The Soldier's Forever Family (Soldiers and Single Moms)
Gina Wilkins

 A weekend to remember…leads to the surprise of his life 

Adam Scott never thought he was missing out. Since leaving the military, he's been working at a luxurious resort: no commitments, no complications. Just the way he likes it. That is, until the morning Adam meets a young boy on the beach—a boy who looks very much like him. His son.

Six years ago, Adam and Joanna Zielinski indulged in a passionate, no-strings weekend. Even now, their chemistry still burns. But Adam knows all too well that some men shouldn't be fathers. He'll protect his son the best way he knows how…even if it means saying goodbye to the family he never knew he wanted. 

The Baby Arrangement (Business, Babies and Secrets)
Lisa Dyson

A nine-month business deal 

Bree Tucker's company is her everything. So when she becomes pregnant after a fling, she knows she can't be a mother. She has no room for a baby in her life and zero maternal instinct. But the father, Nick Harmon, vows to raise the child on his own. Fine by Bree. Thing is, he wants to be right by her side for the next nine months. That can only mean trouble. Nick makes her feel things no other man has. Surely her growing attraction to Nick is pregnancy hormones and not the idea that he'd make a wonderful dad… 

April 2017 Box Set

 Harlequin® Superromance brings you a collection of four new novels, available now! Experience powerful relationships that deliver a strong emotional punch and a guaranteed happily ever after.

This Superromance box set includes:

by Janice Kay Johnson

The Cleaning Crew
by Janet Lee Nye

by Lisa Dyson 

Soldiers and Single Moms
by Gina Wilkins

Look for 4 compelling new stories every month from Harlequin® Superromance!

Join HarlequinMyRewards…com to earn FREE books and more. Earn points for all your Harlequin purchases from wherever you shop.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hoping I never run out of stories...By Rachel Brimble

Running out of stories has to be every novelist's nightmare and as I plan my twenty-first and second, I had this feeling overwhelm me which pretty much led to my paralysis for a few days. The fear well and truly gripped me until I started to doubt every previous book I'd written, my ability as a writer, whether all those fabulous readers who gave me four and five star reviews over the years were just being nice...the negative thoughts whirled around and around in mind, making any creativity impossible.

Thankfully, the paralysis didn't last long. Why? Because I am a writer with a problem, an addictive problem. When I started writing it was because it was something I wanted to do, to see if I could do it, if I could actually finish a novel. That was back in 2005. The Wild Rose Press published my first book, Searching For Sophie, in 2007.

After that? Bam! I was addicted and now I write because I HAVE to - it's literally my drug of choice.

I am just preparing to send my editor my eighth book with Harlequin Superromance and the eight instalment of my ongoing Templeton Cove series. I think my paralysis came because I couldn't think of another story to set in my fictional UK seaside town and that scared the life out of me!

So, what started me plotting again? What started the adrenaline pumping and my fingers tapping away at the keyboard? I started to think of a new series, a new town, new characters and situations and, what do you know, I've written full outlines for not one, but two books.

Now, I've just got to hope and pray my editor likes my new ideas - watch this space!

Why do I tell you this story? Because I know how many readers longed to be writers but are too afraid to get started. Do it today! That fear, that apprehension is always there, no matter how many books you might write so you may as well get started - the journey is worth it. Promise!

Rachel x
Author of the Templeton Cove Stories & more...

Monday, March 27, 2017

Romance All Around Us

One of the things I love the most about Superromance books is that the characters seem like real people. The heroes and heroines aren’t perfect. They have flaws and troubles and messy families and challenging relationships. They are trying to figure out how to raise kids or run a business or get promoted. Just like the rest of us.

So how is this romantic?  Romance novels are supposed to be an escape.  As readers, do we really want to read about everyday problems?  I would say yes, as long as those problems are elevated by romance.

Because romance lifts us up. And the great Superromance novels I’ve read show everyday people, with their everyday lives made better by romance. Little bits of romance that light us up with glimpses of what might be. And as the stories go on, they remind us that passion, romance and love are possible amongst the challenges and responsibilities of life.  Even our own lives. Because  Superromance novels find the beauty and romance all around us.

We all have frustrating days and challenging times.  And we all know that stress is bad for us.  It's important to escape from it, and since we can’t walk around all day with our nose buried in a romance novel, we have to find a different kind of escape. So on stressful days, I take a cue from Superromance novels and look for the small bits of romance that surround us.  Pieces of beauty like the morning light on the clouds. A sunset. A bird.  Whatever it is, look, and notice. Take a deep breath.  Let the beauty tug at your heart and soothe your stress.

As little son would say, with a sigh in his cute voice, when he teases me about what I love to write and read. “Ah…. Romance.”

On my blog, aptly called Romance All Around Us, I post about the bits of romance I find in my life. It could be something simple like a flower growing unexpectedly.  

Or it might be a project to bring a romantic aesthetic into my own home. An old piece of furniture restored.  A collection of seashells rearranged on the mantle.   

My latest pursuit of beauty and romance is a lawn that I am trying to turn into a meadow of wildflowers.  We'll see if the bugs and birds let the seeds grow!

On Instagram I try to share the little pieces of beauty that I see.  One day it was the way these berries looked on a white plate.

On another day, I came across these weeds in bloom in my neighborhood.

 So I challenge you to look around today. Try to find something pretty, something romantic, something that makes you happy.  And most importantly, allow yourself a moment to really enjoy it.  To let the beauty sink in.  And if you can’t get out and about to see the beauty, perhaps you can create some in your own home. Or on your desk at work.  Because we all deserve romance all around us!

If you'd like a glimpse of some of the beauty and romance I discover as I go about my days, please visit my blog or follow me on Instagram.  And thanks for stopping by the SuperAuthors Blog today!

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Baby Steps Between "Om" & "Aw"

Amber Leigh Williams

Summer 2010
I stood in the check-out line at Academy Sports + Outdoors wondering why. Why must I buy this? I hadn’t gone into the store to buy the cylindrical item tucked under my left arm giving off the faint whiff of fresh thyme to passersby. In fact, I’d been coerced to walk from one side of the mall to the other by my much more fitness-minded hubby so that he could upgrade his weight bench. Serves me right, I guess, for making him spend an hour-and-a-half tucked between the intimate stacks of Barnes & Noble. Truthfully, I blamed him. He’s good at many things. One is the art of the impulse buy. Another is offering the delicious/devilish temptation to nudge agonized individuals such as myself into making an impulse buy. “This is ridiculous,” I kept saying. “I won’t use it.” He stood behind me with his barbell and his 25's. “Yes,” he murmured with a slight hiss that made me think of the Snake. You know the one; the one we sometimes blame for mankind’s misfortunes. “Yes, you will.” I didn’t have to turn to see the man’s certified understanding. Sometimes he knows things. Or maybe he just knows me.
The next day, I unlatched my impulse item and rolled its contents out in the middle of the bedroom floor. The yoga mat was the Kelly green of Irish hills (my favorite color). The room smelled instantly like the inside of an herb garden. The trusty yoga book I’ve had since I was sixteen stood at the ready, flipped to its beginner pages. It’d been a while since I had done this. A very long while. But the man was right, I reminded myself. I needed it.
This was the year my anxiety levels had skyrocketed. The medication my long-time physician had prescribed had only made things worse. I was having multiple panic attacks on an exhausting everyday basis and I was done - drained mentally and physically. The hubby seemed to think that exercise was my best recourse. You don’t have to have a thyroid disorder like me to know how unmotivated one can be when confronted with the prospect of voluntary sweat. So instead of running, Pilates and every other form of cardio, I chose to compromise with an old fallback – yoga.

My grandparents in front of their "Paradise" lakehouse
Yoga was a comfort to me long before my high school health teacher encouraged me to give it a go. How vividly I remember summer and winter weeks spent with my paternal grandparents. My sister and I became quickly acquainted with after-lunch quiet time. We were given the choice between reading and napping during this half-hour period while talk and play were discouraged – and, to my sister’s horror, absolutely NO television. While she tried to find the quietest way of bending the rules, I sought the pages of my books and hoped silently that she would get herself into trouble. More vividly, I remember the sound of the metronome tick-ticking from the next room where at any given point I could raise my head and see my grandparents engaged in an impressive sequence of advanced yoga poses. I remember the low sound of one of their voices as they read cross-legged from a well-worn, leather-bound yoga tome and the deep inhales and exhales that proceeded with each flowing movement. As I advanced into my early teens, I frowned over their daily regimen. It should’ve been ridiculous – my beloved Pitty Pat and Gramps stretching, twisting, contorting into the odd shapes the book told them to. Frog, Cobra, Tree – what would be my son’s personal favorite, Happy Baby. But it wasn’t ridiculous. They looked natural and at ease. After, they seemed more contented. Centered. Some days, verklempt. Once, they did give my sister and me a shock, however, when we tiptoed into the kitchen of their winter Gulf-facing condo to grab a stealthy snack and were confronted with both of them doing head-stands in front of the wide glass balcony doors, the turbulent blue vista beyond them. In truth, the shock quickly faded into admiration. My sister and I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to duplicate their rock-steady mien. Talk about balance and core strength!

The yoga did calm me down between 2010-2011. In fact, it wasn't long before the hubby's "You're going to be okay"'s morphed into a smiling "You're okay." I prided myself on talking myself down with a daily dose of om. It’s leagues better to heavily meditate than to heavily medicate. I might even sometimes point to yoga/meditation as the culprit for my first pregnancy, which fell within a year of my Kelly green purchase. In my third trimester, when my blood pressure began to increase, I turned to prenatal yoga. It worked beautifully until Week 39 when my son entered the world. Shortly before his fourth birthday last year, he started preschool at home. I noticed his tendency to learn better from movement. We introduced kiddie yoga to our repertoire. Within a few days, he had mastered Tree Pose (not easy for those who squirm). We spent an exciting week warming up for lessons with dinosaur-themed yoga. And my not-yet two-year-old can do an impressive Downward-Facing Dog - barking, of course.

Yoga Baby #1 and I call this one Heart Pose <3
That trusty yoga book is still on my shelf but I’ve since moved on to power yoga. It gives me an energy boost in the morning and the added challenge of two kiddies using my Warrior, Pyramid, Plank and Wheel as their living Limbo sticks. (“How low can you go, mama?”) I prided myself recently on getting the hubby excited about starting Bedtime Yoga to help soothe his troubled sleep cycles. I could tell you I do it for the flexibility and the balance of both body and mind. Truthfully, I do it to reacquaint myself with the quiet inside my head. You don’t have to preschool two youngsters or wrestle bouts of Generalized Anxiety Disorder to need a little more om in the space between your ears. And thanks to yoga, I'm a better human. I'm a more present wife and mother. I'm more courageous and strong. It might even make me a better writer! (Added bonus the day I can finally Chin-Stand or Peacock like a rock star.) Namaste, Super readers!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The surprising things we say

By Senior Editor Victoria Curran

I once told my neighbor to leave me alone. I wasn’t joking and I blurted it out with a lot of emotion and I barely knew the woman. She turned and went into her house and shut the door. Surprise: we haven’t really been close since. It was about six years ago and even if I lose my memory to dementia I’ll never forget that, as an adult, I once said “Leave me alone” over the fence to another adult! Who does that?

I walked back into my house in shock. Did I really just say that using my outside voice? Why did I say that? In my life, I am the hero not the villain, so how can I salvage sympathy after saying such a hurtful thing?

Of course, I knew why I was talking to her in the first place and why I had a lot of emotions churning in me. I’d moved in a year earlier—my first house, bought with my own stash and a hefty mortgage—and within a month, she’d erected one of those splash pools against our property fence with the motor sitting on a plastic pail, grinding away 24/7. My house didn’t have air-conditioning so I had to open the windows and live with a deep bass thrumming through my body all that first summer. I tried to come up with solutions (heroic and villainous): donation of two cinder blocks to replace the plastic pail, suggestion that she didn’t need to run the motor at night when the sun wasn’t creating algae (that’s when she first started to sense we weren’t kindred spirits, I think), looking up municipal bylaws to see that I was right: you can’t erect a pool against a property line, it needs to be four feet away…should I call the police (?!) (for the record: I didn’t), spending my new homeowner fast-dwindling cash to convert my house to central air....

For months, I agonized over this pool motor and couldn’t let it go.

Until the next summer when my neighbor started pulling out equipment and assembling in the exact same spot. I snapped and raced over to the privacy fence to quickly suggest that she run a longer line and situate the motor to the back of the property where it wouldn’t be against our fence…knowing that she now hated me and the only time I ever spoke to her was to complain. I was incredibly nervous but also desperate to make my summer bearable before the pool was in place. I was highly motivated and my obstacle was myself: I hate confrontation and somehow I couldn’t communicate with this person without being inflammatory.

As I opened my mouth and began to stutter out my convoluted request, I saw over the top of the fence that it wasn’t a pool she was erecting, it was a trampoline. I stopped stuttering mid-sentence, and said quite brilliantly, “Oh, you’re not putting up a pool. You’re putting up a trampoline.” At this point, my neighbor, who hadn’t said a word, wasn’t looking at me (couldn’t look at me?). And that’s when I said the infamous, “Leave me alone” and she turned and went into her house and shut the door and I staggered away in shock.

I told my colleagues this story right after it happened and one of them made sense of it for me. Apparently “leave me alone” was my go-to catchphrase at that time. Once it was pointed out to me, I heard myself say “leave me alone” at least once a week. “Leave me alone” in Victoria Speak translated into “Oh, sorry, never mind. I was wrong” in Normal Person Speak. I often said it in meetings! Who knew? (I hope I’ve grown out of this phrase.)

I never had a chance to redeem myself to my neighbor, to translate “leave me alone” for her. We never developed that “hail fellow, well met” relationship that men on the street do so well. Last week she put the house up for sale and it sold in two days (for $110,000 over asking, of course, because this is Ontario and what is going with real estate???), so that’s the end of my journey of villainy. Cross fingers.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve been reading incredibly well-written romances with the most fleshed-out dialogue that distinguishes character from character within the same stories, which is a masterful technique. And I’m also reading romances where characters have rich inner dialogues but say lovely, sweet things in their outside voices…possibly because their creators are worried about their likeability and are worried about losing reader sympathy. It’s powerful stuff: that struggle between wanting something and the needs that drive us to take actions that risk losing that thing we want.

Kudos to the Harlequin Superromance authors for bringing this struggle to the page. For motivating their characters to that breaking point and letting ‘er rip! However, unlike me, I wish all of your characters redemption by the end of their journey.

Victoria, heroine

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Question of the Month: SuperAuthor Drinks

The Superromance Authors have a bit of spring fever (or maybe deadline fever, we aren't sure which) and are feeling particularly silly. This month's question, is definitely a silly one (but we hope you'll also find it delicious!), here we go:

If you could name a drink after yourself, what would it be called (bonus answer: what would it be made of)?

Kris Fletcher: This one is a challenge, because I really don't drink much, but I guess that if I could name a drink for me, it would be called the a Laughing Maple. The ingredients would include maple syrup, Newfoundland Screech, and sparkling apple cider. Slightly sweet, kind of strong, and definitely bubbly - my kind of drink!

Amber Leigh Williams: Banana Pepper Rita - I'm copying the ingredients of your basic Agave Ginger-Rita. With its mix of simple ginger root syrup (for spice), lime juice (for a dash of sweetness), tequila (cheap for frugality's sake), an egg white (for substance) and salt (because who isn't a little salty?), it reminds me of the saying - "I'm spicy like a pepper but sweet like a banana!" Add a banana pepper for an amuse-bouche and salt the rim!

Kristina Knight: I have about two drinks a year, and neither is adventurous, so I'd create a non-alcoholic sort of a drink. Something with a little mint and cocoa (not much of a coffee drinker, either, I know, shocker!), and iced. Definitely iced. I found this recipe for Hot Cocoa Affogato this winter...and I think it should be renamed Kristina's Cocoa Delight because it's right up my alley!

Nan Dixon: I'm all about Prosecco and it mixed with--everything. So Nan's Spicy Sparkler would be -- Ginger Simple Syrup, Prosecco and maybe a dash of pomegranate syrup for color.

Jo McNally: This is a tough one! I'll go with Jo's Sparkly Irish Martini - edge the glass with sparkly gold sugar (because I'm all about the bling!). Fill halfway with champagne (because I have champagne taste), and top with Guinness (my beer of choice). Don't mix - the two liquids stay in separate layers (like my multi-layered life) until you drink. This is a twist on a yummy drink called an Irish Black Velvet. Perfect for St. Patrick's Day, which is a major holiday in the McNally household!

Jeannie Watt: Take a lot of money to the liquor store and buy the best single malt scotch you can afford. Go home and pour 1.5 ounces into your best glass. Add one drop of water to open it up. Sit back, sip and enjoy life. I call It Jeannie's Sanity Saver.

Claire McEwen: I'll be hanging out drinking with Jeannie...  because I LOVE a great single malt!
But, I also make a drink that I'll call a Clairita.  Mix tequila, limeade or lemonade, and soda water.  Add some sprigs of fresh mint.  It's so refreshing and yummy!

Anna Sugden: Great question! Hmm Should it be something related to shoes, or penguins, or hockey? Given my series, it should probably be A Perfect something … and definitely served on ice! Let’s go with A Perfect Fizz. Since Nan’s taken all the Prosecco (and she’s too far away for fight for it LOL), I’ll make it with Mio Sparkling Sake, a splash of apple juice, a dash of pomegranate juice and a slice of lime.

Heatherly Bell: This is easy, since I just did something similar on my page. I'd be made out of cream, pineapple and rum. Blend together with ice, serve with fresh chunks of fruit, and call me a Pineapple Bell.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Heroines Battle Dark Forces...and Thick Thighs - Dana Nussio

I got you with that headline, didn't I? I was sitting here trying to come up with an interesting blog topic, and great heroines came to mind. What makes us a love - or hate - a heroine in fiction? What makes a Scarlett O'Hara or Josephine March - or a Katniss Everdeen for that matter? And what makes us care about them?

Sure, great heroines are stronger, often wiser and just better than the rest of us. They are heroines, after all.  But I believe their flaws, their insecurities, their mistakes are the things that help us to relate to them. Those details show us that beneath their superhero capes, they're just like us. They worry that others are laughing behind their backs. They're unsatisfied with the face that looks back at them in the mirror or the thighs that rub together beneath their skirts, even if someone out there will find them perfect just the way they are.

Let's start with my three examples: Scarlett from Gone With the Wind, Jo from Little Women and Katniss from The Hunger Games. Though all three are strong women, who fight their own battles - one for her home and way of life, another against the limitations placed on women of her day and the the last, for her very life in a cruel game - we can relate to those parts of them that make them human. Scarlett's pettiness. Jo's hot temper. Katniss's lack of sensitivity and reluctance to lead.

In my March Superromance, Falling For the Cop, some of my favorite things about my heroine, Natalie Keaton, are her insecurities and her flaws. The biracial daughter of a single mother, Natalie is uncomfortable with secrets involving her heritage as well as with her body. She is convinced she is too tall and gangly, instead of thinking of herself as willowy, the way her hero will see her. She is closed off and unforgiving and quick to blame all police officers for the mistakes of a few in that high-speed chase that changed her family forever. In other words, she's as complicated and imperfect as the rest of us. Only she gets to meet Trooper Shane Warner. Lucky Natalie!

Yes, besides being some of things I most enjoy writing in my own characters, I believe that character weaknesses and insecurities help us to connect to the protagonists in the stories we love. Their journeys move us, change us. Their attempts to overcome these frailties signal to us that we, too, might vanquish some of our own. That they might convince us that we can escape from a burning Atlanta or lead a rebellion against an oppressive government as well? Those are just bonuses.

So here's the challenge: Name some of your favorite heroines, and share why you feel you relate to them. 

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