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Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Season of Birthdays

Every year, today marks the beginning of a month-and-a-half long sprint through a ton of birthdays in my family.

It starts off a little slow. After my older sister's birthday today, it will be three more weeks before we see another milestone. But then we'll have my mother's birthday. Just over a week after that is my nephew's birthday. Dad comes three days after him. I'm less than a week after Dad. My younger sister comes a week and a day after me, and finishes us off for the fall round of birthdays. Of course, here in the U.S., Thanksgiving usually comes just over a week after her birthday, and then Christmas is right behind that, so our time of celebration tends to go on for about three months instead of just the simple six weeks of actual birthdays.

If we include the birthdays of some extended family in the mix, we could have started all of this a week ago. An aunt and a cousin both had birthdays on the 24th, and another aunt had a birthday on the 26th.

But if we're going to push the celebration back a week, why not take it back a full month, and get one of my brothers at the end of August, along with a couple more cousins and an uncle?

I guess you could say that in my family, we start partying in late August and don't stop until after the New Year. Only one of my siblings is left out of this. My baby brother was born in April, so he is pretty much on his own out there. In some ways, I think that's good. After all, we all tend to have more money when his birthday rolls around than we do for the rest of our birthdays, since we're all so clumped together. In other ways though, it tends to isolate him. He doesn't get to have a celebration that is all about him in the midst of the celebrations surrounding each of the rest of us.

Another thing I noticed many years ago (don't ask me why I was thinking about this) is that all of my siblings and I were likely conceived on or around a holiday. Knowing my parents as I do, and their . . . um . . . habits, this did not exactly surprise me. It was certainly rather enlightening.

In case you're wondering, I am a product of Valentine's Day, as is my younger sister.

Over the course of my writing, I've created a number of families. Some of them tend to take on some of these characteristics. Maybe one set of parents tends to feel a little frisky in the spring, when the flowers are blooming and the weather is warming up, so they'll tend to have children in the winter. Things like that.

Are there birthday trends like this in your family, where everyone's birthday tends to fall around the same time of year? Or are there other trends you've noticed with your family's birthdays, like the holiday conceptions in my family? As a writer, do you tend to think along these lines when you create your characters?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Little Doggie Valium, Please

Everyone who comes to visit our house for the first time asks what kind of dog we have. We don’t know exactly - she’s a rescue dog – but we suspect she’s part coonhound and Doberman with a huge dose of Woody Allen tossed into the mix. She’s neurotic as hell and always looks guilty when you walk into a room.

In fact, when we first got her and she’d hang her head in shame while peeking at us from the corner of her eye, we’d say in our sternest voices, “What did you doooo?” Chew up shoes? Rip the furniture? Wet on the rug? Nothing. Seriously, we’d search the whole upstairs, and there would be nothing out of place. The worst thing she ever destroyed was used Kleenex, which is really a weird behavior if you think about it.

Well, this morning I have to take Dani to see the vet, and I’m dreading it. Not only does she have a guilt complex, she has what the vet terms “nervous drooling”. Copious amounts of nervous drooling. In my car. Thirty minutes there and thirty minutes back. That doesn’t seem long, but in dog years… Needless to say, I’ll have to find the tarp.

We used to go to a vet much closer to home, but they were more whackadoo than my dog. (Actually, our current vet is a little odd too. He’s the only person I’ve ever heard use the word troubadour in a sentence. But hey, I can deal with an advanced vocabulary.) I remember the last time I took my dog to the old vet. Dr. Rainbow Bright raised her eyebrows and said, “Tell me what your dog enjoys doing?” as if I might say something really interesting like, “She has a passion for Anton Chekhov, parasailing and getting caught in the rain.” Um, she gallops like a horse, stands in the middle of my dining room table to see out the window and tap dances while sneezing when she wants us to feed her. (Those I didn’t make up.)

But the kicker came when I checked out and the receptionist handed me a small plastic container that looked like a compact and a Popsicle stick then told me I could bring in my dog’s fecal sample later. Now, I really thought I was doing them a favor and helping them save a little money when I said, “Yeah, I’m not going to do that, so you can have this back.” From the outraged glare she gave me, you would have thought I’d said I was going to shoot my dog in their parking lot. First of all, it was subzero weather and secondly, ew!

Some days, I feel she’s lucky to have a roof over her head, expensive dog food and medical care at all. She’s a thief, pure and simple. One day I pulled a leftover NY strip steak out of the refrigerator for my lunch, the phone rang, I answered it and when I came back, the whole thing was gone. In one minute, she inhaled my steak! Another time, I cooked a chicken breast for lunch, left it to cool on the stove and she snarfed it while it was still steaming hot. Now if I have to walk away from my food for even a second, I hurl threats at her first. “You touch my food and you’re so out of this house!” And I think she understands, because she doesn’t even go for it, as long as I threaten her.

Yet, despite her thieving ways, she’s my buddy. She naps in whatever room I choose for writing and moves with me when I need a change of scenery. Some days I even appreciate her neurosis. No solicitors stand a chance of selling me anything because there is no way Dani is letting them in the house. In fact, I can’t even hear their sales pitch over her obnoxious barking, so I don’t even try. I’ve even yelled, “I’m sorry, I can’t open the door because my dog will attack you.” I don’t think that’s true, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at her and it works great at getting rid of pests.

So, tell me, what does your pet enjoy doing? ;)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Top Five Things You Need to Know Before You Enter RWA’s Golden Heart® Contest

The Romance Writers of America 2011 Golden Heart® Contest for unpublished authors is open for entries. With 1200 entries each year, this is perhaps the biggest and most prestigious romance writing contest in the world.
Golden Heart® finalists get priority on appointments with editors and agents at the RWA National Conference, and there are numerous receptions held in their honor. Each year there are Cinderella stories of finalists who found agents and signed their first multi-book deals with major publishers. But the greatest prize of all is the support of an enormous network of past and present Golden Heart® finalists. I would be lost without my Class of 2010 Unsinkable sisters, who have guided me through everything from rejection letters to The Great Hair Debacle. Their talents and kindnesses inspire me every day.
Here’s what you need to know before you plunk down your $50 and take a chance on the Golden Heart:
  1. You won’t get any feedback: Golden Heart® entries are scored on a scale from one to nine. Entrants will receive their scores without any explanation of why they scored as they did. They will also receive information on how they finished in comparison to other entrants. For example, they will be told if they finished in the top quarter, middle quarter, bottom quarter, etc. Yet, this information is no predictor of how their work will sell. There are plenty of best-selling writers who scored in the bottom quarter and went on to have amazing careers. Conversely, there are many writers who final repeatedly in the Golden Heart, yet never sell.
  2. Yes, you really do need a completed manuscript: Although only the partials are judged, you do need to send in the entire manuscript. You have the option of printing out your full or sending the file on a CD. I have heard stories of CD’s getting lost and the entrants being disqualified. So if you choose that option, be sure to label the CD clearly.
  3. Enter Early: The deadlines for the Golden Heart® might be a little confusing for a new entrant. The first deadline, November 15, 2010, is for the entry form, which can be filled out on line or mailed. Your actual entry: six hard copies of both the partial and the synopsis plus one copy of the full must be received at the RWA office in Houston by December 2, 2010. Yes, you do have to send the actual entry snail mail. Last year I mailed mine ten days before the deadline and it arrived on the very last day possible. So plan ahead and allow twice as much time as you think you’ll need.
  4. Enter Often: One of the things you’ll hear over and over again when you’re talking to Golden Heart® finalists, is that they’re often stunned by which of their manuscripts finaled. They thought a manuscript that didn’t final was stronger than the one that did. But many factors go into the selection of finalists. The score required to final in one category might be higher than the score required in another. You can never tell which manuscript is going to appeal to the judges. So if you can afford to enter more than one manuscript, do.
  5. There are no guarantees: Your manuscript is flawless. You’ve gone through the checklist and met all the formatting requirements. You’ve paid your money and made all the deadlines. Perhaps you’ve even won some chapter contests. But even if you’re the greatest writer since Shakespeare, you might not final in the Golden Heart. The contest does have a system for eliminating scores outside the statistical norm. But judging is inherently subjective, and there’s no guarantee that the best entries will final.
So there you have my top five thing you need to know before you enter the Golden Heart. Good luck to all who enter. I would love to hear your Golden Heart®advice. Is there anything I left out? Please share your questions or words of wisdom.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It’s all in the Makeup

Makeup dates back centuries. The first known makeup was used by the Egyptians and made of copper and lead ore. They, along with Romans, also used makeup containing mercury and white lead. I am sure you are all familiar with pictures of ancient Egyptians with the darkened kohled eyes. Well, that was made from lead, copper, burned almonds, soot and other ingredients. Just what we all want lining our eyes, right?

Another well known makeup style would be that of the geisha. They start with making their entire face white made of rice powder colors. It is reported in Wikipedia (a favorite fun source for me. In fact all the factual information came from Wikipedia) that “the geisha would also sometimes use bird droppings to compile a lighter color.” I am not clear, if this was for the lips, eyes, cheeks or teeth (yes, I said teeth, which they colored for the ceremony). Regardless, ewwwww.

The color Queen Elizabeth I used on her face may have included white lead and arsenic. I am surprised she lived to be 69 years old.

Over the centuries makeup had changed and evolved. Colors come and go. Do any of you remember the light blue eye shadow that covered the entire lid and up to the brow?

I find I pay a lot of attention to hairstyles and makeup when watching older films that were contemporary at the time of filming. As for period films, I have to trust that the stylist did their research and what I am seeing is correct. There are two reasons I do this. One is I want to make sure the hairstyles my heroines are wearing would be accurate. A lady would not be wearing a Gibson Girl in 1811. The second reason is for the theater. Again, the colors and styles need to be accurate and nothing can throw me quicker than an out of place hairstyle or blood red lips when the person should look as if they are wearing no makeup at all. I try to make my actors and actresses as accurate to the period as possible.

However, I have to say the most fun makeup to do is when there are no rules. No certain period like Little Women or South Pacific, but more along the lines of Suessical, where you can branch out and have some fun. And then there is Halloween, where anything is possible.
Yes, I know, Halloween is still a month away, yet the costumes and candy hit the shelves within a few weeks after the start of school. And, Halloween has been on my mind. I agreed to give a makeup class to a theater youth group in a few weeks. I am pretty sure they could care less what the proper look is for a Von Trapp and more interested in creating the perfect vampire look.

So, as I am putting together my ideas of what I am going to show them, what would be your suggestions? Is there any special look you, or your children, are going for this year?

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s that time of year again. No, not time for early Christmas shopping. No, not back to school time. No, not time to buy Halloween candy. No, no, no.

It’s time for the new fall season of television. It’s that time of year when you’re inundated by slick ads both on tv and the internet showing stars of the newest tv offerings and those old favorites.

I had been waiting for months for the season premiere of Vampire Diaries and I was not disappointed. I watched the first episode last year because I was going through vampire withdrawals. New Moon wasn’t set to hit theatres until November and True Blood’s season had just ended. Honestly, I didn’t expect Vampire Diaries to be anything to write home about, and I wasn’t advertising the fact that I was watching teenage vampires on the CW. After all, I am closer to 40 than to 20. But I got sucked in and haven’t been disappointed in an episode yet. In fact, there hasn't been one single episode where my jaw hasn't dropped open in surprise. For me, that's saying something. And… almost everyone I know is watching this show too. This year, I don’t care who knows I’m watching teenage vampires on the CW.

I also have been waiting for the return of Parenthood. There’s something about this show that perfectly captures the generational differences and family dynamics, or maybe just my family’s dynamics. Watching this last year with my son, he could easily relate to the young generation and viewed Craig T Nelson’s patriarch as a caricature of my father. That was a bit eye-opening. Then there are the adult siblings. I won’t reveal which of the four characters I most relate to (though those of you who know me won’t have a problem with that at all), but I can see myself, my sister and my two brothers in each of the main roles.

Then there are the NEW shows...
The ones you get all excited about before having seen so much as the opening credits. This year I am really excited, for some reason, about Hawaii Five-O. Maybe it’s simply nostalgia because I remember my father watching the original all those years ago, or maybe it’s because of the current cast. I can’t say enough nice things about Scott Caan. I adored him on Entourage this last season and I’m really anxious to see him in a bigger role.

I can’t be the only one excited about this fall season. So tell me, what are you most excited about seeing? An old favorite? Or something new

Thursday, September 23, 2010

To Go Aviking

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine, "From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord."

Norway was first inhabited over 10,000 years ago during the Ice Age. However, the country’s greatest impact on world history came during a never to be forgotten 250 year period – known as the Viking Age - from 800 to 1050 AD.

Fearless sailors with a knowledge of ship building called clinker built ships that was way ahead of its time, the Vikings were presumed pirates but sported a much more complex culture than most believe.

My current wip is set in the Viking era about a Viking maid who declares war on her own people and like the age of sail, I have found myself engrossed with this fascinating history.

What else is fascinating about this culture and people are the fact that many of the words and phrases we use today came from the Vikings and the Viking saga’s. So as a little history lesson I thought to compile and share my little findings. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

WEDNESDAY- From Viking meaning Woden's Day or Odin's Day.

THURSDAY- From Viking meaning "Thor's Day."

FRIDAY- From "Frey's Day." Frey was a male god who gave his sword to a mortal (Skirnir) who lost the sword - so Frey could not battle in Ragnarok (that was the final battle or twilight of the gods). Another possibility is that it comes from Frigg's day - she was the wife of Odin, the Queen of the heavens and the goddess of love and the household.

Phrases in the Viking Saga’s:

Birds of a feather flock most together. Njal's Saga

When ill seed has been sown, so an ill crop will spring from it. Njal's Saga

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Njal's Saga,

Better is one crow in the hand than two in the wood. Laxdaela Saga,

Luck accompanies wisdom. The Saga of Olaf Haraldsson

A small bird makes a small catch. Fljotsdale Saga

A wise man does all things in moderation. Gisli Sursson's Saga

There is a time for everything. Grettir's Saga

Beggars always want to be choosers. Örvar Odd's Saga

Don't bite the hand that feeds you. Volsunga Saga

Quality over quantity. Volsunga Saga

the tables often turn. Volsunga Saga

Common words we use:

anger – (ON angr ‘grief’) [1220-1250]

birth – (ON burðr) [1016-1150]

bleak – (ON bleikr ‘pale’) [1250-1300]

bloom – (ON blóm) [1016-1150]

call – (ON kalla) [before 1016]

cast – (ON kasta) [1016-1150]

crawl – (ON krafla) [c.1350]

crook – (ON krókr) [1016-1150]

die – (ON deyja) [1016-1150]

fellow – (ON félagi) [before 1016]

gear – (ON gervi ‘equipment’) [1300-1450]

get – (ON geta) [c.1250]

hit – (ON hitta ‘to come upon’) [1016-1150]

husband – (ON hús ‘house’ and bóndi ‘householder’) [before 1016]

ill – (ON illr) [1016-1150]

kid – (ON kiþ) [1220-1250]

kindle – (ON kynda) [1016-1150]

knife – (ON knífr) [1016-1150]

law – (ON lag ‘law’)

leg – (ON leggr) [1016-1150]

lift – (ON lypta) [1250-1300]

loan – (ON lán) [1016-1150]

loose – (ON lauss) [1300-1450]

low – (ON lágr) [1016-1150]

meek – (ON mjúkr ‘gentle, soft’) [1016-1150]

rag – (ON rögg) [1016-1150]

raise – (ON rísa to rise) [1016-1150]

ransack – (ON rann-saka ‘to search a house’) [1220-1250]

sale – (ON sala) [1016-1150]

scare – (ON skjarr ‘timid’) [1016-1150]

seem – (ON sæma ‘to conform to’) [1250-1300]

skill – (ON skil) [1016-1150]

skin – (ON skinn) [1016-1150]

skirt – (ON skyrt) [after 1450]

sky – (ON skie ‘cloud’) [1220-1250]

slaughter – (ON sláter ‘butcher’s meat’) [1300-1450]

sly – (ON slœgr) [c.1250]

snare – (ON snara) [1016-1150]

take – (ON taka) [1016-1150]

thrive – (ON þrífa ‘to grasp’) [1016-1150]

trust – (ON traust) [c.1250]

ugly – (ON uggr ‘fear’) [1220-1250]

wand – (ON vöndr) [1016-1150]

want – (ON vanta) [1016-1150]

weak – (ON veikr) [1250-1300]

window – (ON vindauga ‘wind eye’) [1220-1250]

wing – (ON vengr) [1016-1150]

wrong – (ON rangr ‘awry, unjust’) [before 1016]

Also some others I could not find the origin of are husband, berserk, shirt, egg, plough, ugly, and steak.

Interesting stuff, what have you run across in your research that surprised you, good or bad. Share it with us here.

Please note much of this came from www.vikingrune.com and the Viking Answer Lady at http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/index.shtml

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Packing a punch with your first chapter.

I’m taking a dynamic class right now on getting past the slush pile, and one of the instructors, Lynn Rae Harris, gave us a homework assignment. We are to strip all back-story from our first two pages and then post it for everyone in our class to critique.  Lynne’s point is that back-story severely limits the pace of a story and should be sprinkled in like salt and pepper in your chapters. I think this is a great analogy. I had the brilliant, or perhaps not so brilliant, idea to do a version of this for my post today. I know we would all give our first-born, just kidding, to know the magical secret of getting an agent to pick your manuscript out of his or her slush pile of thousands of other hopeful writers. I’m going to be brave here and post my first two paragraphs of one of my stories right here where I've given Lynne's suggestion a try. Judge for yourself which example would make you read further, and then I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE if some of you other brave souls would share you tries with me and others reading this post.

Caveat**** No negative critiques please! You can say it works for you or it doesn’t, but we are not doing this to crush anyone’s honest efforts! Thanks!!

Example One – Includes Back-story

Paris, France 1806

The ties of love and family would kill Arianne because her brother was a Royalist fool bent on assassinating Napoleon. She had always suspected a time would come when she would have to give her life to save her brother, but she had not expected to sacrifice herself tonight, or at the hands of the Minister of the French Police, or in such an extended and torturous manner. Arianne folded onto the cold stone floor of the prison, wishing with all her heart that she were back in her warm bed in her mother’s house. Why had Remi, that fool of a younger brother, not listened to her warnings about the Royalist party? Unable as of yet to garner the desire to actually move her battered body, she sighed and concentrated on disregarding the pebbles of dirt digging into her cheek and the mouse that scampered in front of her as she lay sideways on the ground.

Fouché’s polished black boots appeared in her line of vision, moving the stale air around her as he kneeled. She cringed and prayed he had not seen her sign of fear. Parting her mouth ever so slightly, she sucked in a long draft of air to quell her quivering nerves. It distressed her that the man scared her so. The head of the French Police said nothing, but his daggered stare made her shiver. Did he want her to beg? But of course she would be more than happy to beg to end the torment. “Please.” She swallowed, choking out the words past her raw throat. “My brother was not a part of any plan to kill Napoleon.” Even now, she could hear Remi plotting Napoleon’s demise when he was en route to the Opera.

Example Two – No back story

Arianne folded onto the cold stone floor of the prison, wishing with all her heart that she were back in her warm bed in her mother’s house. Unable as of yet to garner the desire to actually move her battered body, she sighed and concentrated on disregarding the pebbles of dirt digging into her cheek and the mouse that scampered in front of her as she lay sideways on the ground.

Fouché’s polished black boots appeared in her line of vision, moving the stale air around her as he kneeled. She cringed and prayed he had not seen her sign of fear. Parting her mouth ever so slightly, she sucked in a long draft of air to quell her quivering nerves. It distressed her that the man scared her so. The head of the French Police said nothing, but his daggered stare made her shiver. Did he want her to beg? But of course she would be more than happy to beg to end the torment. “Please.” She swallowed, choking out the words past her raw throat. “My brother was not a part of any plan to kill Napoleon.” Even now, she could hear Remi plotting Napoleon’s demise when he was en route to the Opera.

Bring on the examples! I can’t wait to see what stripping the back story does for you ladies.

Have a great day!

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It’s that time of year again

It seems like the older I get the more stress I feel. It was only just yesterday that life was simple. Easy. I remember when the hardest thing I had to do was remember to get out of the house early enough to catch the school bus. And even if I missed it I had the chance to flag it down as it went past the house again.

But as life gets more complicated up goes the stress. You get a job, you learn what real deadlines are, not those wish-washy school things you fretted so much about. You get paid for what you’ve done. Not always what you deserve, but you’re prepared to give it a go and put the effort with the hope that you can get ahead.

Then we might take the crazy step of getting married. Married life is a constant juggle. We girls have moods, but from what I’ve noticed, so do men. We each have our own goals that we want to reach, and it’s so important to talk about what they are rather than just assume our partner knows. Men can’t read minds – or multitask – or accept that a full plate of protein is not a healthy meal. But my dh likes to insist he knows better than me on that score. I used to grind my teeth, and slip the extra BBQ chop to the dog. I miss that dog.

To get a better job I took on further study. I remember feeling distinctly isolated when I went back to further my education as I had no Mr. Ward or Mrs. Evans telling me I wasn’t putting in enough of an effort. My first semester back at learning was a very large nightmare. There could have been a reason for those first failures. I studied on the commute, and I was exhausted all the time. But I reenrolled for the course again and passed. And kept on passing until I had my degree.

Having kids is a huge stress too. The first one had a rough time, we didn’t do that mother/son bonding thing until very late, but the second child was a piece of cake. I have two amazing boys, both different, and a joy to talk to. They have different strengths, weakness but both have a killer sense of humor. But sometimes it’s hard to reach them when they stick to their guns.

But there is one stress in my life that ranks so much higher than everything else. It’s my mother’s birthday today. Enough said?

She has everything. She wants nothing. I’ve been trying to think of a gift for the last few weeks and I still haven’t come up with anything good. So aside from my humble company, I have no idea what I’m going to do.

So what do you give the woman with a technology phobia, a sweet tooth you CANNOT feed because of Diabetes, and who has more stuff crammed into her house than anybody needs to know? I know it’s too late for her birthday, she’ll have to put up with just me, but any suggestions would be a great help since Christmas, and the inevitable stress of chosing (or not) a gift for her, is just around the corner.

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

While I tend to anticipate and get excited about seasonal changes, none can excite me as much as the transition from summer to fall. I love the fall. I love pumpkins. I love corn mazes and hayrides. I love the smell of bon fires as they drift on a crisp, cool breeze. I love switching out my bathing suit and flip flops for long sleeved knits and my dark brown wool Mary Janes. Oh, and I love the return of seasonal treats like pumpkin bread, pumpkin scones, pumpkin lattes...are you seeing a trend here?

I think I'm even more excited about fall this year because I get to share it with our new little munchkin. I've been working hard at putting together her fall wardrobe, and I cannot WAIT to get her first Halloween costume (we've yet to decide what she's going to be - Pottery Barn and the Disney Store are neck-n-neck!)

But even more exciting is this...

12 years ago, when we were sophomores in college, our friend invited us all out to her parents' home in a rural area of NJ for a day filled with pumpkin picking, corn mazing and haunted hay-riding. We decided then that it would become a tradition. And in 12 years, there has only been one year that we did not gather at our friend's home in NJ.

This year, many of us now have children or are pregnant, and I'm so excited to introduce Bella to this great tradition, along with all the other little ones in the group. It is my hope that we'll continue this tradition for years to come, and that all our kids will know about the Annual Haunted Hayride gathering!

This is the group about 10 years ago, I think...

Eric and me being pushed in a wheelbarrow 10 years ago...

And now...
We were a smaller bunch last year, but this is most of the core group...

Bella's hanging out in my tummy!

Do you have fun fall traditions? I'd love to hear about them!

-Jerrica, Her Grace of Grammar

Friday, September 17, 2010

Joanne Kennedy, Guest blogger - Romance Smackdown: Cowboys vs. Vampires

Cowboys versus Vampires… it sounds like one of those cheesy old horror movies, doesn’t it? Frankenstein meets The Wolfman! The Human Fly meets The Orkin Guy!

No, we’re not going to stage a fight to the death with fangs and six-guns this morning. I just got to wondering how such different types of men ended up being two of the most popular heroes in romance fiction. What do men in chaps and Stetsons have in common with the original Men in Black that makes them both compelling romantic heroes? What do our range-riding boys in Wranglers have in common with the creatures of the night?

Well, for starters, they’re both grumpy.

You can call it strong and silent, you can call it impenetrable and mysterious, but many romantic heroes are downright disagreeable when they first come on the scene. Vampires are dark and deadly. Cowboys are quiet and laconic, hinting at hidden depths and secret torments. Then again, if romance novels are your guide to men, you could apparently say the same about all the Greek tycoons and Saudi princes out there.

Call me crazy, but there’s something about an antisocial guy, especially when he softens up for the right woman. And if that “right woman” is you—well. It’s like having a big, mean dog that won’t let anyone else pet him, or galloping off on a horse no one else can ride.

And when that big strong man faces danger, it makes him even more appealing. Whether your cowboy’s milieu is the rodeo arena or the ranch, he risks getting stomped by a bull, bucked off by a horse, or shot by a gunslinger. And vampires inhabit the night—which is dangerous by definition. In either case, a good hero has plenty of opportunities to face danger and triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds.

But most important, both vampires and cowboys live in a unique world where special skills are required for survival. Cowboys conquer the wide-open spaces. They need to know how to rope and ride, and how to nurture the land and care for animals. Meanwhile, most romance-novel vampires could qualify for advanced degrees in bloodsucking, evading pitchfork-wielding villagers, and even flying. Two very different worlds, but both specialized and unknown to the average Joe –or the average Jane.

Of course, Jane might be a cowgirl or a vampire herself—but I love fish-out-of-water stories where an everyday gal hooks up with a dark, mysterious, night-dwelling stranger, or a lattes-and-stilettos city girl finds herself in the Wild West and tames herself a handsome Wild Westerner.

As a reader, I always identify with the heroine—so when the hero welcomes her into his strange and challenging world, I get to go there, too. Frankly, I like sunshine and wide-open spaces, so the cowboy wins my heart every time. But I know a lot of women prefer to spend their evenings with those dark, handsome vampires.

How about you? Cowboys or vampires? Or do you favor a different breed of hero?

A copy of Joanne's lastest releasae ONE FINE COWBOY will be sent to two lucky commenters. Please include email addresses along with your comments so the winners can be contacted. **Available for only US and Canada residents.

He’s got a way with horses…and with women...
Nate Shawcross is perfectly content to spend his days training wild horses. So when a beautiful greenhorn unexpectedly shows up for a seminar from the famous “Horse Whisperer” of Wyoming, all Nate wants to do is send her packing…

The last thing she expects is a lesson in romance…
Graduate student Charlie Banks came to the ranch to learn about horse communication, but when she meets the ruggedly handsome cowboy, she starts to fantasize about another connection entirely…

Nate needs to stay focused if he’s going to save his ranch from foreclosure, but he can’t help being distracted by the brainy and breathtakingly sexy Charlie. Could it be that after all this time Nate has finally found the one woman who can tame his wild heart?

About the Author
Joanne Kennedy has worked in bookstores all her life in positions from bookseller to buyer. A member of Romance Writers of America and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, she won first place in the Colorado Gold Writing Contest and second in the Heart of the Rockies contest. Joanne lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming. For more information, please visit http://joannekennedybooks.com/.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cheer Me Up

I've been feeling a little down lately, and it has affected just about everything I do. I haven't been able to write. I haven't been able to focus on my schoolwork the way I'd like to. I haven't been good company to be around.

I know WHY I'm down. That's the easy part.

In a few days, it will have been a full year since my grandpa passed away. Just a few days after that, we'll be saying goodbye to my baby brother. He's in the Army National Guard, and he's headed back to Iraq for another year-long deployment.

It seems like the combination of these two events has me blocked up, in more ways than I ever thought possible.

So...I'm asking for help. I don't want to even think about writing or schoolwork over the next week or so. I want to immerse myself in things I enjoy, that don't require me to think too hard.

Anyone have any suggestions of some great, feel-good books I should read and movies I should watch? I'm looking for lighthearted, humorous, all around fun. Nothing too deep, please.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Romantic Movies I Love

Over Labor Day weekend, one of the cable networks showed movies they loved around the clock. It seems most of the movies they chose were essentially romance, including a hero, a heroine, a character arc, a black moment and a happy ending. When I first started writing, and admitting to it, I stumbled over myself trying to answer the question most everyone seemed to ask me. Why romance? Even I wondered why I had chosen the romance genre.

Well, this weekend of movies made me realize something. As my son says when referencing his video games, romance is my thing. It has been as far back as I can recall. And my love affair with this genre started with one movie, Walt Disney’s “Robin Hood”. I know how odd that sounds, but I was only three or four years old. The romance between Robin and Maid Marian swept me away. At the end of the movie, I simply sat there, hoping beyond hope that there was more. There wasn’t. I was disappointed at the time, but now I love that feeling when you finish a movie or novel and you want to know what happens next. I love a happy ending.

Since there wasn’t more Robin Hood, I had to move on to other romantic movies. Over the years, I’ve developed my own favorites that I can’t pass up when channel surfing. For one of my friends, her favorite go-to movie is “Pride and Prejudice”. She loves the scene where Mr. Darcy is stalking across the field, his great coat flapping out behind him as he hurries toward Elizabeth. That is a great scene.

Here are some of my favorite romantic movies:

Sixteen Candles (The scene where Samantha and Jake are sitting on the dining room table with a birthday cake still makes me misty-eyed.)

Gone with the Wind (Rhett sweeping Scarlet off her feet and carrying her up the staircase is still the greatest.)

The Princess Bride (She throws herself down the hill too when she realizes the pirate is her true love, Wesley.)

Dirty Dancing (Oh, my gosh! Everything about this movie screams romance. No one puts Baby in the corner.)

Bridget Jones’s Diary (Colin Firth. Need I say more?)

The Wedding Singer (A flash back to the 80s, Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. This combination just does it for me.)

Four Weddings and a Funeral (I absolutely love this movie for so many reasons, especially the ending where they show the photos of how everyone’s life has turned out to be happy.)

French Kiss (Don’t ask me why, but I can watch this movie over and over again. I must like the chemistry between Meg Ryan and Kevin Klein.)

Napoleon Dynamite (I know this isn’t considered a classic romance, but I love the relationships between Napoleon and Deb and Kip and Lafawnduh. And my heart goes out to Uncle Rico who wants to recapture his glory days to win back the love of his life. Then at the end, she rides up on her bike. I just love it!)

What are some of your favorite romantic movies and what is it about them you love?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Historical Romance or Historical Fiction

Historical Romance has always been my escape. Well, at least it has since I discovered them at the age of sixteen. It was a bit eye opening as well since I was rather naive (innocent) about many things back then. However, Historical Romances are still my escape, knowing that no matter what happens, whether I laugh or cry, or my knuckles turn white from holding the book so hard at an intense scene, I know at the end there will be a happy ending. I can sigh, put it away and just feel good. Sometimes the book stays with me and if the author has done exceptionally well, I want to continue reading the hero and heroine’s story.

Historical Fiction, on the other hand does not always leave me with the same feelings. I finished The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory this weekend. I pretty much knew how some of this story was going to end, at least for Anne. You would have had to live under a rock all of your life not to know Queen Anne Boleyn was executed by her husband, Kind Henry VIII. But, the book wasn’t so much about her execution. It was the story told from Mary’s perspective, Anne’s older sister, of her family and their life in the court of King Henry VIII, from the time the Mary was just about 14 (already married by the way), and what happened in the years that followed. I did not know her brother, George, was executed the day before Anne.

This book has stayed with me since I finished it, but not in the way a Romance does. I find myself wondering what went on in the mind of Katherine of Aragon while her husband carried on openly with mistresses in the court, and when she failed to provide the necessary male heir. Or, what was in Anne’s mind as she walked toward the executioner’s block? Or George's for that matter. Did either one of them regret decisions they made along the way? Did they lay blame with their uncle and father who used them as pawns to further the family and earn favoritism at court? These were very real people and not fictional characters where everything that happened to them within the pages of the book was pretend.

I’ve not read much Historical Fiction but I do want to read more. I understand there are some with regard to Queen Marie Antoinette that interest me. One the other hand, I may put them off for a bit, given the ending would be somewhat similar, just for different reasons.

If I am looking for escapism and a sigh at the happy ending, I will look for a Romance. If I want to be intrigued and maybe learned something new (even though it is fiction there is fact woven in), I will pick up Historical Fiction.

Do you prefer Historical Fiction over Historical Romance? Why do you prefer one over the other? If you read Historical Fiction, what would you recommend my next read be?

Amy De Trempe
Duchess of Decency

Thursday, September 9, 2010


At this point in the game, after fifteen years of learning my craft I am considering judging a contest. I’ve been told by the ladies on the blog to join pro status — that I was eligible years ago but I’ve been too busy...too tired... yeah, yeah hear my excuses. Either way, I’ve decided to take the plunge. Once I do that, I’ve decided to judge a few contests to help out.

I think the biggest pet peeve when I submit to a contest is the fact that I wonder just how qualified these judges are? How long have they been writing and what not? Most of them as you know are pro status. But all that truly means is they’ve been rejected a time or two, and survived. So with that said, I hesitated to become a contest judge because I thought to myself just how qualified am I? I mean my grammar isn’t the best but I know my strengths and weakness in my own writing. I know I’m pretty good with action scenes but I fall apart on love scenes. I know what show versus tell means, I know active writing versus passive writing and I know how to build a plot from the ground up. So what does that really mean?

As I’ve contemplated this for the last week or so, more and more contests are requesting judges. And I just simply haven’t held my hand up quite yet, not because I don’t want to volunteer to help my fellow writers but because I wonder what if I tell someone the wrong advice.

It would devastate me to know that I’ve done something or said something to hurt someone’s career in some way. The beauty of my crit group made up of these wonderful ladies here is that we’re all about building confidence — it was the very reason I joined. I’ve known all too often the devastating effects of the wrong word or phrase or even the tone of a critique. Listen, I know you need a tough skin to play this game and after fifteen years of playing, my skin is pretty thick. Trust me. But at the same time, I also believe you don’t have to be snide or rude to be helpful.

When it comes down to a critique that has shown me what I’ve done wrong and at the same time says you know it’s okay to make mistakes — we all do. Or a critique that tells me I’m a f***ing idiot for ever thinking this would work. Do I need to tell you what choice I’ll make. I’ve only gotten one crit like the second and to be honest the lady who gave it had better be glad we had several hundred miles between us and that is all I’ll say to that.

So now that I am considering giving feedback on another’s work, other than our little group, I have worried will I make the right decisions. Will I say the right thing? Will I be encouraging as well as be able to tell the truth?

Perhaps most of you didn’t go through this and think I’m crazy for worrying so. So be it. I’m not one to mince words by any means but I’m not really a confrontational person either. I’ve been on the other side of the fence and I really don’t want to be “that” judge. You know the one I’m talking about. That crazy — do—it—by—the—book — judge because there is no other way to do it. Yeah...you know who you are. So while I am contemplating making this decision I’d like to ask what are some tips or tricks you can give to a writer about to embark on the judge train? How do you balance your criticism with your praise? And any other advice on contest judging you can give would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Text from the edge.

Ever seen that movie Postcards from the Edge? Well, if you have then you know Meryl Streep is perched on the edge of insanity, and one more teeny tiny strand of stress may push the neurotic woman over the edge. Just think of me as Meryl. I’ve spent the last four months writing my latest novel while surrounded by my young children who were home for the summer. Trying to write while juggling play dates, popsicles and potty breaks is no small feat and can leave even the best of authors frazzled. You may be asking why I didn’t just wait until school started again to finish my book. I was afraid I would lose the story in my head. And let me tell you, in my overcrowded brain there is A LOT of ideas, appointments, concerns, and trivial facts that are fighting for space. So I pushed through the summer and finished my novel just as school started again.

My plan had been to take a couple of weeks to recharge after this latest book was done. When the time came to close the laptop, I actually panicked about not writing anything new for several weeks. I had, and still have, all these story ideas clamoring to be told. Taking time off didn’t seem like an option. Then my husband, who can sometimes be right, told me to take just one day and think about all the reasons why it was important to take a little time off.

I dutifully did my homework and was shocked at what I found. Here are ten reasons that screamed to me I had to live life, even if just for a few weeks.

1. I had over 2000 pictures saved on my camera because I have not had time since last year to download and order them.

2. My feet look like I survived concentration camp because I haven’t taken the time for a pedicure in over a year. I’m a runner to really give you the nasty picture.

3. Cook dinner? What’s that? I thought cooking dinner meant going to Moe’s Mexican restaurant, and unfortunately my lovely little cherub children think so to. Time to change that.

4. I turned down going on a girl’s night out because I wanted to finish a chapter on my book. WHAT??? Who turns down a girl’s night out with their best friends? Time to rearrange my perspective.

5. I read an interview with an author who said he didn’t need a family or friends because he didn’t have time for them. I do not want to end up like this. My writing should enrich my life not edge it out and become my life.

6. I have not gotten more than six hours of sleep in four months. This is no good for wanting to look young!

7. I’ve cancelled my dentist appointment five times due to writing. My dentist called me personally to tell me my teeth are going to fall out. Just joking. But seriously, I need to get to the dentist.

8. I had a pulled groin and hip flexor muscle but didn’t finish my rehab because it took away too much writing time. Hugh???? I am neurotic about my kids going to the doctor whenever they need it, but I don’t have time for my own health. They need me; therefore, I need to take care of myself. I will repeat this until I remember it.

9. I have only read one book in four months. I have eight books sitting on my nightstand to read.

10. Someone asked me what year I was married and I stared at them blankly until I finally remembered. OMG! Time to relax, rest, unwind, live life and get some sleep.

I’d love to hear how you know when you need a little break.

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Going Broke

No, not the money kind of broke. I'm talking about a short visit to the town of Broke. Unsure where exactly that is? Well here's a quick tip. It's not in the US. Go south, a lot, and then spin around to the other side of the planet. LOL. Broke is a small town in rural NSW, about 220 kilometres as the crow flies from Sydney, Australia. My family and I (Ok- I really did just tell them we were going) took a drive up through wine country to see what we could see.

On the way, we passed 7 working pubs and quite a few remodelled into other forms of business. It's amazing just how many of these beautiful buildings we found in Cessnock area alone. But that area, formerly a coal mining hub, was booming when these hotels were built. The early 1900's were obviously a good time for a thirsty working man. It's hard to find a country town without one of these grand building perched on a corner. 

Aside from the pubs there were my favorite country things: Sheep, cows, house-sized boulders, Kangaroo's bouncing off in the paddocks, four rumbling wooden bridges to cross, a two bedroom slab hut up for sale on 16 acres that my darling beloved tried to convince me was a bargain for the taking. (It wasn't) Of course there were a few casualties beside the road: three kangaroos, two wombats, one poor squished inland turtle. But the best find of the weekend, and something that completely made the trip worthwhile, was finding an Echidna on the side of the road. Alive.

These solitary, timid little darlings, an egg laying mammal with a pouch, are rare to find close to where I live on the coast. And honestly I nearly didn't see him. When attacked, the echidna will burrow into the ground or curl itself into a ball using its spines as a method of defence against any predator. That's what it did when I made too much noise. Oops - I scared it. Their long nose is very sensitive, they use this to find food and they use their long sticky tongue to catch ants, worms and other insects. They only grow to 50cms at the most, weigh up to 7 kg and I think this one was on the small side.

Female echidna's lay a single egg in their pouch. After ten days, the egg hatches and a puggle (baby echidna) is born. They are born blind and hairless, and consume milk from a gland within the pouch. After an average of four weeks, the puggle develops sharp spines, and must leave the pouch.

We were headed to Wollombi for lunch, but the town appeared to be overrun by mad Mountain Bike riders so I missed my opportunity to pick up a bottle of the infamous Dr Jurds Jungle Juice from the source. According to online sources Dr Jurds is cheap and potent, perfect for high compression motors and mixes with oil for 2 smokes !!!!  LOL. Well my brother was fond of it when he was young - I must remember to get him a bottle for Christmas.

Oh, and about Broke. Population 400, three churches, one school, a pub (of course), we spotted one general store, and a good handful of houses. Just your average Australian country town. LOL But at least I can say I've been there.

Anyway, that's me till next time. Hope you're having a great week.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Labor Day Food Coma

Somehow, despite the fact I'm aiming to lose weight, it seems that my entire life has come to revolve around food. First, my husband and I decided to embark on a NY Cupcake Tour (we've mapped all the NY cupcake bakeries by neighborhood and are testing and reviewing them on our blog!). Then, we found out that a Korean Fried Chicken place opened up in the next town over. It's called Chicken(s) Factory, and it's out of this world! We go at least once a week...sometimes three. Yes, we have a problem.

But nothing can compare to when our friend, Charlie, comes to town. He's a foodie and a connoisseur of alcoholic beverages as well, so his trips revolve around food and drink. We spend half of each day eating and the other half planning our next meals over drinks. Which should explain my current food coma.

So how did this weekend begin? Well, it started on Friday with a trip to Teppan, the swank Japanese/Hibachi restaurant that's in our building. I got my usual: Chicken Teriyaki box and a Philadelphia roll. Okay, not off to a bad start - a light, fresh and semi-healthy meal. Excellent. Of course, we had to follow it up with a trip to the recently-opened Tommy Two Scoops for gelato (Oreo/Peanut Butter combo.) Then a NY slice (or 3) for dinner, accompanied by a couple bottles of fine red wine. My healthy start quickly went down the toilet, as you can see.

While we ate our pizza Friday night, we were inspired by a Food Network show to make specialty grilled cheese sandwiches. So after I made oatmeal/blueberry muffins Saturday morning, I hopped off to the grocery store for all the ingredients. Ancient Grain bread, apples, mozzarella and cheddar cheese and brown sugar ham. After melting a tablespoon of butter in a pan (per sandwich), we grilled the sandwiches then wrapped them in tinfoil and put them in a 500-degree oven for 4 minutes. Oh...my...god. Amazing!

But the highlight of the trip happened several hours after our grilled cheeses when we left the baby with the sitter and traipsed into the city to dine at the famous (and hard-to-get-into) Waverly Inn in the West Village. Hidden on a tiny side street is a sunken-in restaurant that makes you feel as if you're in Ye Olde London. We were led through the Victorian-inspired, dimly lit dining room to the garden terrace at the back. Cool breezes kissed our faces as we dined on macaroni and cheese topped with black truffles, succulent biscuits with honey butter, chicken pot pie, pork chops and Golden Tile Fish and drank fine French wine. Are you puking in your mouth yet? Because I was, and the evening was only just beginning.

From there, we walked about a half mile through the West Village to the highly acclaimed Sweet Revenge, known for their cupcake and wine/beer pairings. Three cupcakes, three beers...all that was missing was my third stomach.

Finally, the food was done but we found ourselves at Pegu Club, a hidden speakeasy-style bar on the cusp of Soho that serves vintage cocktails. After a few sips of a Corpse Survivor, I was done. It was time to give my stomach a rest...we still had Sunday to get through, after all.

You mean there's another day??? Oh, yes. After eating more truffled mac & cheese at our local brunch spot, Amelia's, we took ourselves off to Hoboken, home of The Cake Boss (and no, we didn't stand in the 2-block line that had formed on Washington.) We did, however, stop in at Legal Beans for gigantic iced coffees (we were all having trouble keeping our eyes open, not because we were out late the night before, but because we were so weighed down with food.) Then we popped over to Crumbs Bake Shop, where we were pleasantly surprised by the over-the-top cupcakes we ate (By the way, you'll have to check out www.nycupcakeguide.com to find out all the details on the cupcakes.)

But the main (and final!!!) attraction in Hoboken was Chicken(s) Factory. Korean Fried Chicken is a huge movement in NYC right now. To learn more about it, check out this link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_fried_chicken). We walked along the waterfront and had cocktails at 340 Grill while we waited for the cupcakes to settle before we headed back to the main strip for chicken. When we probed Charlie to tell us what he thought of the chicken, his exact words were "Shut up." That's right. It's that good. So good that you don't want to talk or be talked to while you eat it.

Thus ended our whirlwind culinary tour of NYC. And now I don't have to eat until next Sunday.

-Jerrica, Duchess of Grammar

Sunday, September 5, 2010

And the Winner is. . .

Congratulations to Elisa Beatty who won a copy of The Irish Warrior, the 2008 Golden Heart winning novel by our guest blogger, Kris Kennedy. Elisa, please contact us at

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Congratulations to Jena Lang, our 100th follower. To show our appreciation, we will be sending her a prize package including:

A Gentleman Never Tells by Jerrica Knight-Catania

Loving Lydia by Amy De Trempe

One Wicked Night by Heather Boyd

Tall, Dark, and Wolfish by Lydia Dare.

Congratulations, Jena. Please email your physical and email addresses to ladyscribes@yahoo.com so we can send you your prizes!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Our Guest: Kris Kennedy

Our guest today is author Kris Kennedy. Wife, mom and psychotherapist, Kris writes sexy, adventure-filled historical romances. Her current release, THE IRISH WARRIOR, won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical Romance in 2008. Her next book, DEFIANT, comes out May 2011 from Pocket Books.


I believe this is one of the essential elements of good fiction. There are other elements to the stories that ‘grab’ us, but one of the main reasons fiction moves us is because characters do things we often back away from in real life: being irrevocable. Doing the thing that can’t be undone. Ringing the bell that can’t be unrung.

And doing it with actions that matter. In other words, I could spit on the sidewalk, and I can’t take that back, but what changes as a result? What consequences ensue? None and nothing. In our stories, though, characters say and do things that have consequences. They move into the After, and can’t ever go back to Before.

Irrevocable means it matters, and it means you’re committed. In for the long haul. The act, however unconsidered it might have been, is now binding.

For good or ill, that’s one of the most exciting parts of reading and writing fiction.

It’s part of the reason why the characters in novels don’t do the mundane tasks of their lives on stage. Things like cleaning the house don’t matter, in terms of Story. (Did you hear that? Just tell your family cleaning the toilet doesn’t have a fundamental turning point within, so you’re giving it up entirely. :-) ) Most of the mundane tasks of daily life are revocable. Nothing ‘turns’ on them. You could take them back, and no one would know or care. Nothing is fundamentally different as a result. They’re forgettable.

They never make a difference.

(In fact, cleaning is the the antithesis of irrevocable. At least in my house.)

You can walk away from a clean OR a dirty toilet. That is . . . unless you found a diamond ring resting there, after you’d pushed back the hair from your sweaty forehead with a forearm and knelt to scrub your 20th toilet of the week. And then you saw it. Sparkling. A diamond ring. Diamond rings don’t grow in toilet bowls, so that means someone lost it. Or tossed it. And you found it. And your rent is a month overdue.

NOW you have a story. Now you have a protagonist. Someone with a choice to make.

Make the right ones and you have a hero. Or a heroine.

In all our ‘keeper’ books, one of the things we generally find is characters actively getting themselves deeper and deeper into worse and worse trouble, particularly with the hero/heroine, and there’s simply no backing out. Nothing they do can be reversed.

Sometimes this is hard for us as authors. We like our heroes and heroines. We know their histories, their full potential and their pathetic pitfalls. We love them. Or at least really like them.

In any event, we want them to have a happy life. We don’t want them to be thrown to the wolves. To feel despair. To have Dark Nights of the Soul. To say ‘no’ when it’d be safer to say ‘okay, fine.’ To walk the plank. But we’ll do it.

For the reader.

Because in the end, we’re storytellers at heart. And while we might love our characters, we have to love Story more. We have to make our heroes and heroines walk through the fire. Happy, easy things happening to nice, good people, all of which can be taken back at the first sign of discomfort, is not drama.

Drama means conflict. And that means being committed. Doing, at least once, something that cannot be undone, ever.

Check out the books on your ‘keeper’ shelves. I’ll bet you can find at places the characters made irrevocable, un-take-back-able choices. Decisions that, even if done in the spur of the moment --especially if done in the spur of the moment!-- pushed them closer to the dark edge of What They Known, straight off the cliff into peril and danger and their own worst fears. Usually right in the hero’s (or heroine’s) arms.

Come share a moment of irrevocable choice in a book you’re reading or have read. A classic or an unknown.

And to the writers out there, what about the story you’re writing? Have an irrevocable choices? Unconsidered acts w/ real consequences that are un-take-back-able? What is irrevocably different after that choice, and why do you think it makes the story better?

I’m giving away a copy of my latest release, THE IRISH WARRIOR, to someone who gives a great example of irrevocability in romance fiction!

The Lady Scribes would like to thank Kris Kennedy for blogging for us today. Stop by her website http://kriskennedy.net to say Hi, sign up for the newsletter, get excerpts and all the latest news!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

There's Nothing Like...

...a good late afternoon thunderstorm. We had one yesterday. It thundered and rumbled overhead for over an hour and a half, and I was in heaven.

I've always loved a storm, ever since I was a little girl and my siblings would all run to Mom at every crack of thunder and flash of lightening. I don't know why they've never scared me. But instead of fear, I feel invigorated and alive when nature is giving us its worst.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've lived in North Texas all of my life other than one year spent in Alaska. I know the power and destruction these storms can have. When the clouds turn from dark gray or black to an off-greenish color, I know that means tornadoes are possible. I've seen (and felt) the damage done by hail. Even just strong winds can rip tree branches from the trunks, or even nearly uproot them from the ground. Only a few blocks from my house is an example of that . . . an old, gnarled tree that was ripped in two, straight down the middle of the trunk. One half still stands, but the other half has been on its side for as long as I can remember.

When I see the warning signs of imminent threat, I know to take cover.

But as long as it is just a powerful storm, but not a life-threatening storm? I want to experience it.

I'm one of those crazy people that would rather go for a walk in a thunderstorm than on a clear, sunny day. I like to feel the rain pounding down on my head and taste the electricity in the air and feel the rumbles of thunder rolling along under my feet.

Thunderstorms make me feel alive like little else in the world can.

So color me surprised when, during that year I lived in Alaska, I discovered that I could live there for years and likely never experience a thunderstorm. Most of the people I worked with while I was there had never seen lightening or heard thunder, other than on TV or in movies.

Apparently it doesn't get warm enough for the atmospheric change necessary to produce a thunderstorm up there.

Oh, sure. It rained. It rained a lot. Sometimes it rained really hard.

But there wasn't that sudden drop of temperature, that rush of wind coming up next to you, that fresh smell of rain-soaked clouds billowing overhead, that sense of excitement that comes with the first deafening crack that rents through the sky.

There was just rain.

More than my family, more than my friends, more than streets and stores I was familiar with, the thing I was most excited about when I came back home to Texas was thunderstorms.

Do you love a good storm? Or is there something else you love, which the rest of the world might think you crazy for loving?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Buck up, Buttercup!

Last night my little family and I sat down to enjoy the last dinner of summer vacation before school started, and I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Does every family live in chaos or are we just special?”

You see, something happened last night where we fell into a wormhole and transported into the future by an hour. It happens all the time. One minute the clock reads 5:45 pm and the next it’s going on 7:00 and “Cheese and crackers!” The table looks like Jackson Pollock exploded all over it, I forgot to put the biscuits in the oven, the kids still need baths, my son has no clean clothes and I think I’m hyperventilating. TOMORROW IS SCHOOL!!!

My husband sees I’m nearing panic mode and jumps into action, ordering our little artist to clean up her mess, setting the table, making a pitcher of punch (Did I mention I need to get groceries too?) and herding us all to the table. Only I have to bolt back to the kitchen for the biscuits that smell as if they are burning, and in a sense they are – slightly blackened on the outside, doughy in the middle. Grrr! I turn off the oven and let them sit for a little while to finish cooking on the inside before my brilliant hubby serves them upside down on the platter so the kids won’t notice the black.

Just as we rejoin the family and take a deep collective breath, our daughter accidentally dumps her migraine-inducing Bubba Gump glass of electric orange punch, drowning her chicken. Seriously, that cup has been nothing but trouble since day one. We were dining at the seafood chain while on a mini-vacation with the kids a couple of years ago. We thought, why not spend a bucket of money on a cheap piece of plastic? We were on vacation after all. Well, let us be a cautionary tale for all others tempted by the fancy shrimp in a top hat and flashing blue and red lights.

Not five minutes after the waiter delivered our drinks our son barely hit the glass and it spilled. Thank goodness for the Bubba Gump wait staff and bar towels. They cleaned up everything, assured us it was no trouble at all and replaced our son’s soda. Phew. That was embarrassing. We sure didn’t want that to happen again. In fact, I was going to make sure we didn’t have another accident by moving the glass out of the way. Yep. I bumped it and flooded the whole table again. Remember what I said before about embarrassing? Well, let’s just say I wanted to crawl under the table.

But back to last night. In the end, we managed to get both kids clean and in bed on time, although the little one kept getting up. And my son’s clothes went in the dryer at 10:35. Hooray! Another crisis averted. I would have patted myself on the back, but I was too tired to reach over my shoulder.

I know no one ever said it was easy, but must life be so hectic? I’m on a mission this school year to make life a little simpler, um, staring today. I could really use all the tips I can get.

Please tell me, what is something that has made your life easier?