Posted in ebook reader, writing

It’s a morning in May

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m a cold weather fan – I love warm sweaters and fuzzy socks, soft afghans, hot tea and a roaring fire. Arkansas summers are brutal when the temperature soars over a hundred degrees, but I must admit springtime in Arkansas makes it easier for me to say goodbye to the cooler weather. Azaleas, dogwoods, wisteria and other spring blooms are out in force now, which makes leisurely country drives especially appealing. I took the photo above last week at the Little Red River in north central Arkansas on a pleasant family outing. Local farmer’s markets are open, offering the fresh fruits and veggies I love. I enjoy attending small-town festivals, and I’m looking forward to visiting Toad Suck Daze this weekend in nearby Conway (I’ll post photos next week). Summer means vacation, and this summer all three of our “kids,” our son-in-law — and our new baby grandson! — will be together with us for the first time in two years when our family gathers for a visit to New England. So maybe I don’t mind so much leaving winter behind this year, after all (it doesn’t hurt that we’re having a particularly cool spring, letting me hang on to the fuzzy socks and the afghan a bit longer than usual).

Today also marks the release date for my newest Harlequin Special Edition, THE TEXAN’S SURPRISE BABY. Click the home tab above for story details. The book is available in stores and in e-format for all e-book readers. Whatever your medium, I hope you enjoy spending time with the Walker and Bell families as much as I did!

Visit me on my Facebook page (link at right) and tell me what you’re looking forward to this summer. From this cool, cloudy spring morning in Arkansas — happy May Day, y’all!

Posted in ebook reader, Kindle Fire, Uncategorized, writing

A New Point of View

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I finished another book this week — an as-yet-untitled Harlequin Special Edition — and I’ve spent the past few days catching up on all the things that piled up while I was submerged in the all-encompassing phase of completing a story. Tasks such as dusting and vacuuming, laundry and grocery shopping were all pushed aside until after I typed “the end.” The pantry and freezer had become so empty I felt as though I were on an episode of “Chopped” every time I made dinner. “Hmm, what can I make with a can of black beans, a half-box of quinoa and a bag of frozen crawfish tails?” The pantry and freezer are now full again, house clean and laundry basket empty, and I’m preparing to dive in to the next story to start the process over again. Even after this many books, the sight of a computer screen with nothing but the words “Chapter One” displayed on it can still be intimidating.

It always takes a while for me to get “into” a new book. To get to know the characters — who they are, what they want, what holds them back from obtaining their goals. The writing is always painfully slow at first, a few pages a day if I’m lucky, then speeds up as I grow more comfortable with the story I want to tell. Inevitably at some point  in every book I come to a screeching halt. I’ve been known to spend several days struggling with one scene, writing paragraphs — or worse, whole pages —  only to delete them, struggling to type a few words an hour. Pacing, frowning, referring to my notes, trying to distract myself by listening to music or watching a movie and hoping that will recharge my imagination’s batteries, only to find that I’m still stuck when I reopen the file. Usually when this happens, I find that it’s either because the scene is out of time — something that should happen later in the story, if at all — or, quite often, that I’m simply trying to tell it from the wrong point of view.

Most of the books I write are category romances for Harlequin. The stories are tightly focused, centered around two people struggling with problems — either external or internal — and finding their life partner in the process. When asked why I enjoy writing romance, I almost always explain it’s because I believe that almost every reader can identify with that desire to find a soul mate. A safe place to call home. Sometimes these romances take place within the framework of a family drama or a mystery or a career crossroads, but always the main purpose of the story is the coming together of the two main characters, the hero and heroine. In my category books, I tend to stick with those two points-of-view in telling the story. Each scene is told through the eyes and emotions of either the heroine or hero, though I’ve occasionally included a secondary storyline with additional points-of-view (VALENTINE BABY comes immediately to mind, which included a romance for the hero’s mother). As I begin writing each scene, I decide what I want to accomplish in the scene — how it advances the story, what is revealed to the characters, how I hope the reader will respond. Whose point of view the scene is told through makes a big difference in all those objectives. Many times when I’ve struggled for days with a scene, I’ve tried simply rewriting it through the opposing point-of-view — and I’ve been amazed at what a difference it makes to the flow of the story.

Perhaps because I’ve been a storyteller since childhood, having wanted to be a writer for almost as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated with why people behave and believe the way they do. I can usually understand both sides of a heated argument or debate, especially when I know the background and life experiences of the opponents. I am rarely drawn into passionate political or social debates because I can usually make arguments for both sides. I loved my psychology and sociology classes in college. My husband earned a degree in psychology (we met in college when I was a journalism major/psych minor and he double majored in psychology and sociology)  and one of our daughters is a psychiatrist, so a fascination with human behavior and what makes people “tick” seems to run in our family. I have a widely diverse group of friends of all races, religions, ethnicities, political parties, nationalities — and I love learning about all of them, seeing the world through their eyes. When I write, I ask myself, “Why would he/she do this? Why would he/she say this or want this? How can I make the reader care what happens to these people?” And very often in the books — as in real life — it all comes down to point of view.

For all my friends celebrating Easter or Passover or other holidays this week — much joy to you! Many of my friends are greeting the start of spring, while in the other hemisphere, my friends are moving into winter. Whatever season is beginning for you, may it be filled with love and with happiness.

♥♥♥

THE RIGHT TWIN, available now from Harlequin Special Edition, in stores and for ereaders.

Coming in May, THE TEXAN’S SURPRISE BABY. Click the Home tab above for details.

Click the “Books” tab above for links to purchase most of my earlier books for ereaders.

And join me on facebook (link available at right) for on-going updates about my books.

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

Going out with a bang

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It’s been just over two months since I posted last (hard to imagine that much time has gone by!), so I have a lot of news to share. Not long after I made that last post, on the Monday before Thanksgiving, my husband and I got a call from our daughter in Massachusetts that she was in labor and was on her way to the hospital. So excited we were all but bouncing, he and I jumped in the car for the twenty-five hour drive, expecting our grandson to be waiting for us when we arrived. We’d been on the road for several hours when our daughter reported that her labor had slowed and she’d been sent home to wait for it to intensify again. Her doctor expected to see her again later that night. John and I began to hope that we would actually be there in the waiting room when our first grandchild was born. We spent the night in Virginia and checked in with them first thing the next morning — only to find that the contractions were still sporadic and not gaining in strength. A terrible accident ahead of us in Pennsylvania backed up traffic so badly that we moved seven miles in four and a half hours! Fortunately, we had snacks and a cooler of sodas with us, so we had a snack-food dinner, finally arriving at our daughter and son-in-law’s house at two a.m. There we settled in to wait for our grandbaby. And wait. And wait. Kind friends of theirs had us all over for Thanksgiving dinner with their families, and then the waiting began again. Almost three weeks after our hasty trip, our grandson chose to make his grand appearance on December 8. We were in the waiting room, as we’d hoped (another example of being careful what you wish for). We enjoyed those weeks with our daughter and son-in-law before the baby’s arrival, helping them set up the nursery, meeting many of their friends, enjoying some central Massachusetts Christmas festivities. We were able to spend one week with them after the baby’s birth before heading home again. Needless to say, we absolutely loved having that time with all three of them, and we got in lots of snuggles and kisses before we reluctantly left. The drive home was relatively uneventful, made to the soundtrack of Christmas music from the radio.

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Because it was so close to Christmas, I did a minimum of decorating. I still had shopping to do, and my husband was far behind in the turned wood gifts he was making. He headed straight for his lathe while I put up just one of the two trees I usually decorate. Our other daughter from Seattle arrived the day after we got home. She is still recovering amazingly well from the stroke she suffered two years ago, and we were thrilled to see how much progress she had made just since we’d last seen her only a couple months before for a dear friend’s wedding. Christmas passed in a blur of family visits and traditions, including the annual Christmas Eve candlelight service we’ve attended every year since before our children were born. We spent a quiet Christmas morning with our daughter and our son, who had spent the night with us rather than returning to his apartment some twenty miles away. Christmas Day ended with us sitting in the cold and dark — a rare Arkansas snow storm had dumped more than a foot of snow outside and shut off electricity to more than 70 percent of central Arkansas customers! We were without power for a couple of days, without internet for a few more, but we were more fortunate than some in the area who lost power for a full week. Trees and branches fell on roadways, homes and vehicles and the damage was widespread, but we lost only one small tree and a few branches, so we were fortunate. 

After a lovely visit, a fun day trip with us and one of her former workmates to Hot Springs National Park, lots of shopping, eating and catching up with friends and family, our daughter will return to the Pacific Northwest tomorrow and the holidays will officially be over for us. 2012 ended with quite a bang for our family! Now we’re tired, a couple pounds heavier, and somewhat behind in work and other obligations — but all in all, it was a great year.

I have a busy 2013 ahead. Three new Harlequin Special Editions are scheduled for March, May and July — THE RIGHT TWIN, THE TEXAN’S SURPRISE BABY and A MATCH FOR THE SINGLE DAD. Introducing the Bell family of the fictional Bell Resort and Marina on Lake Livingston in Texas, the books also include appearances by characters from my long-running Family Found series. Don’t worry if you missed that series; these are all stand-alone stories. I’ll have other news to share in coming months, so visit me here again soon! I’ll try not to stay away so long next time.

Happy New Year to all my friends and readers, and thank you for dropping by!

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

The name game

I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about names, carefully choosing names for the characters in my books. Heroes and heroines, family members and friends, secondary and walk-on characters — each name has to fit the personality of the person I’ve envisioned as I write. I peruse baby name books, on-line baby name sites, watch credits after movies and TV shows for interesting names that seem to suit the people I’m creating … and sometimes the characters just tell me their names as I write. If I choose a wrong name for a hero or heroine, one that just doesn’t seem to “fit,” it becomes clear to me fairly quickly. The story just won’t move until I find a name that makes both me and my character happy.

In my March, 2013 Harlequin Special Edition, THE RIGHT TWIN, I’ll introduce a new family, the Bells (and reintroduce a couple of characters from a familiar family, the Walkers from my long-running Family Found series). The Bell family got their moniker when a name popped into my head while I was in Seattle visiting my daughter earlier this year and started outlining a new book one day while she was at work. I envisioned a quirky family matriarch named Dixie Bell, a woman who wasn’t particularly happy with that name, so insists that everyone call her by her grandmother name, “Mimi.” Then I started naming her family members — her husband, Carl Bell, Sr., sons Carl, Jr., and Bryan, granddaughters Shelby, Hannah and Maggie (all of whom you’ll be meeting in the next three books), youngest granddaughter Lori and grandson Steven. Whew. Lots of time spent at the baby name sites — a pleasant diversion as I get distracted reading name meanings, etymology, frequency of usage and any other trivia available there.

John and I spent many hours deliberating over names for our children (but then, we’ve been known to deliberate for days over names for pets). Our older daughter was named after a character in one of my favorite books as a teenager, our  second daughter’s name is an alternate spelling of her paternal great-grandmother’s name combined with a middle name taken from one of my and my husband’s favorite films, and our son is named partially after his father — the fourth “John” in five generations of his maternal grandmother’s family — and partially after The Incredible Hulk (the TV one, David rather than Bruce). His older sister chose that name because she loved watching reruns of The Incredible Hulk and loved the name David. As it happened, so did we. Even our cat Izzie is named from a family-favorite film. It has meaning to us.

I enjoyed watching our daughter and son-in-law go through the process of choosing a name for the little boy they’re expecting in December. They considered and discarded dozens, running some past their friends and family, debating others together. Choosing a child’s name seems so momentous — how will it affect his life? His relationships? His self-esteem? How will it look on kindergarten papers, diplomas, job applications? Quite daunting, actually, and a big responsibility. They considered favorite books, movies, historical figures, ethnic origins. And yet when they finally chose the name they knew was perfect for their son, it came from a restaurant menu. They’ll have a great story to tell little Ephraim someday about his name. Our son-in-law amusingly chronicled the ah-ha moment in his blog: http://1eyeatatime.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-story-about-lunch.html

Expecting our first grandchild has given my husband and me another challenge — choosing our grandparent names! Knowing how our parents became known to everyone by their grandparent names after the births of their grandchildren, we want something we don’t mind answering to often. I’ve had a name in mind for a few years (yes, I’ve planned for this event!), but John is still giving the matter careful consideration. It’s interesting to choose names for ourselves — the first time in our lives we’ve actually had that opportunity, come to think about it.

I hope you’ll enjoy meeting the members of the Bell family, beginning with THE RIGHT TWIN in March, 2013 and continuing in THE TEXAN’S SURPRISE BABY in May. In the meantime, many of my previously-published books are available in ebook format and from Harlequin.com. Click the Books tab above for details and links for Kindle and Nook readers.

Posted in ebook reader, Kindle Fire, writing

World building on a small scale

 

 

I’m always impressed by authors who can create entire worlds out of their imaginations and bring them to vivid life. As a reader, I believe in the the worlds created by Tolkien, Burroughs, Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling and so many others. In more recent years, I’ve grown intimately acquainted with the future imagined by Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb, and in the psychic-populated planets envisioned by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle. I love escaping into those fantastical worlds for hours of pleasure and adventure.

My own books have been more grounded in the present and in recognizable settings, usually in the South, where I’ve grown up and feel so comfortable, and often in my home state of Arkansas. As much as I love reading about those other worlds, my interest lies more in characters. I wouldn’t enjoy reading those otherworldly books if the authors weren’t equally as skilled at creating believable, fascinating characters for me to bond with and cheer for. My own writing focus tends to skew toward large, intricately interconnected families. Perhaps because I come from big families with complicated connections, myself. My parents were married fifty-four years before my mom’s passing five years ago, I had three younger brothers, my grandfather lived with us for a while before his death — which meant 7 people in a three bedroom, 1 bathroom house. I have too many cousins on both sides to count, some of them “double first cousins,” and my always-growing extended family includes stepchildren, adopted children, children-of-the-heart — in other words, the typical Southern American background with many, many real life stories to tell. I don’t base my characters on real life people or situations, though I’m sure I’ve been influenced by things I’ve seen, heard and read, but I’ve come to know most of my characters almost as well as people in my real life. I enjoy writing connected books including previous heroes and heroines because I like exploring what might have happened to them after the earlier books ended. For my Walker/D’Alessandro families (introduced in the Family Found series I started in the early ’90s and whom I will revisit in 2013), I have notebooks of family trees, character descriptions, progressive ages in each book, offspring names (yes, I’m now matching off the second generation, some of whom have started the 3rd generation). I’ve engaged cheerfully in SORA (soap opera rapid aging), but I’ve tried very hard to stay consistent with making everyone age at the same rate, which can be a challenge at times!

Still, on occasion I have created settings for my books — small towns, usually, which are always fun. The occasional private island (RAFE’S ISLAND and THE BORROWED RING come instantly to mind). For my next three Harlequin Special Edition books to be published next year (the first two featuring heroes from the Family Found series), I’ve created a resort set on Lake Livingston in Texas. The lake is real — the resort created wholly in my mind.

The scribbled sketch here is my conceptual map (obviously not to scale!) of the Bell Resort and Marina owned by the Bell family who will play such a big part of the next three books. As you can see, I’m not much of an artist — nor a cartographer. It’s not a real place and I’ve never stayed in such a resort — and yet, if you were to drop me at the gate of Bell Resort brought to reality, I could find my way around every inch. I picture it in my head as clearly as if I could step out my back door into the campgrounds. Once I’d crudely sketched it out, I’ve rarely had to refer to my map, because I know the place so well, just as I know the family who owns it. I’m sure those other authors are as intimately acquainted with their worlds, and that they enjoy spending time there as much as I’ve loved the hours I’ve spent at Bell Resort — without ever leaving the recliner where I do most of my writing.

I hope you’ll visit the Bell Resort and Marina with me next year and that you’ll enjoy meeting the family who lives there and falls in love there — with a few adventures along the way. THE RIGHT TWIN will be available in March, followed by THE TEXAN’S SURPRISE BABY in May (the third book not yet titled or scheduled as I’m just starting to write it).

In the meantime, click the Books tab above for links to my titles available now for Kindle, Nook and other ereaders. And if you haven’t yet read WAKE ME, my paranormal suspense book available for Kindle and the free Kindle reader app, now’s a great time to get it for only $3.99! With fall rapidly approaching, this is a story guaranteed to get you in the mood for Halloween.

♥♥♥

“Like” my Facebook page (link provided at right) for on-going updates and discussions with me and my readers.

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

An empty truck bed

Local schools start today, and the stores have been busy with shoppers filling their carts with pencils, lined paper, crayons and tissues. Back to school shopping was always a favorite task for me because I absolutely love an aisle full of brand-new notebooks, binders, pens and markers. I still enjoy picking out an occasional pretty notebook for myself for notes I still make by hand during the process of a book, but it’s not quite the same thrill as filling a new backpack with new school supplies for my children.

Our son, who started his second year of medical school last week, had dinner with us last night. As I packed zippered plastic bags with the peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies I’d made for him (I sometimes wonder if he makes regular visits just to refill the cookie jar in his apartment), it occurred to me that this is the first August in some fourteen years that my husband and I haven’t loaded hubby’s trusty pickup truck with plastic bins and furniture and moved one of our three kids into a dorm or apartment. The girls have been settled into their current residences for four and three years, respectively, and last year our son moved into the apartment where he plans to reside through the next three years of med school, so this year there’s no one to move. As I’ve read Facebook posts from friends who’ve spent recent days hauling boxes and hanging posters on dorm walls, I thought of how much fun those moves were — though some of them took place in the rain, others on stiflingly hot August days — and I’m glad I had those experiences. Even the experience of moving daughter number one into an un-air-conditioned seventh floor dorm room on a hundred-degree day when the elevator was unavailable. Now that was an interesting day – but we tackled it together, so I still treasure the memory. But maybe I’m a little relieved that I got to take it a little easier this hot summer.

Here’s hoping for a happy, safe and productive new school year for all.

And a note to my girls on their separate coasts … whenever you finish your current career training and are ready to move back closer to home, the truck is ready and waiting!

♥♥♥

HIS BEST FRIEND’S WIFE, my latest Harlequin Special Edition, is still available in stores!

Check out all my titles available for ereaders by clicking the “Books” tab above.

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

A truckload of trivia

Before I had access to the internet, the research I did for my writing was at the library or through phone calls or in travel books and encyclopedias from my own shelves. Even then it was difficult for me to stay on task when I started researching a question. I’ve always been intrigued by trivia, and learning one new fact often raised more questions I felt compelled to answer even when they had nothing to do with my story. Now that most of the information in the world is literally at my fingertips, I can spend hours lost in the web if I’m not careful. One question leads to another, one link leads to another I simply can’t resist clicking. Somehow I start a geographical search and end up reading recipes for homemade sausages I have no intention of making. Before I know it, a couple hours have passed and I’ve written half the words I set for my daily goal.

This is an example of one of those sessions yesterday:

I’m working on the second book set in a fictional vacation resort on Lake Livingston in Texas. It’s been years since I visited that area in person, so I’ve had to refresh my memory a few times with internet searches and photos. I mentioned that the heroine’s family had lived on the lake since the early 1950s. And then I remembered that the lake is a man-made reservoir and realized I wasn’t sure exactly when it had been created. Simple, right? Search the history of the lake. Two minutes later, I had my answer. The reservoir was created in 1969. Whew, glad I checked. Though I’ve made a few mistakes in my more than 100 books, I try very hard to be accurate. A simple change in the story, which meant I could get straight back to work.

But, while I’m here, maybe I could look at a few more photos from vacation resorts similar to the one I’m creating just to make sure I have the general atmosphere of the area. Oh, here’s a cute photo of a little boy holding up a fish. He’s adorable. Look at those freckles. A little freckle-faced boy. Freckle-faced Benny Haynes. Why did that name pop into my head? Oh, right. My favorite holiday tradition is watching the movie “White Christmas” with my daughters. Freckle-faced Benny Haynes was the brother of Betty and Judy Haynes. I remember they showed a photograph of him – seems like I read somewhere whose picture they showed. Search. Oh, yes, it was the actor who’d played Alfalfa in the Our Gang shows. Carl Switzer. Whatever happened to him? Search. Oh, how sad. He was shot in a drunken brawl at the young age of 31. I love the movie “White Christmas.” It’s over a hundred degrees outside again (more than twenty days so far this summer of one-hundred-plus temps in Arkansas), and dreaming of Christmastime is certainly tempting. Remember that song, Snow, Snow, Snow from the movie? I’d love to see snow now. I remember that Vera Ellen’s voice was dubbed in the movie, but what was the name of the singer again? Oh, yes, Trudy Stevens. And — wow, here’s something I never knew! Rosemary Clooney sang both parts in the song, “Sisters!” I knew Vera Ellen died of anorexia (so sad and so obvious in the movie), but when was that again? Hmm, I didn’t know Fred Astaire turned down the role of Phil Davis (Danny Kaye’s part) after reading the script. Or that Donald O’Connor was then signed for the role but had to drop out for health reasons. I can’t imagine anyone other than Danny Kaye in that role! Did you know Danny Kaye was an accomplished chef and actually made his own sausages?

Even now, I’m fighting the urge to search the name Danny Kaye, which would probably lead to more interesting trivia about the actor, which would lead to the history of UNICEF, and perhaps on to Audrey Hepburn …

No. I really need to work today. It’s going to be over a hundred yet again, so sitting in the AC writing with the Olympics playing quietly in the background actually sounds appealing. Wonder if Audrey Hepburn ever attended the Olympics. How many actors participated … Johnny Weissmuller was an Olympic athlete, right? Wonder how many medals he won. Speaking of Olympic records …

Wait. What was I doing?

Okay, back to writing. At some point today, I need to check on how many types of fish are caught in Lake Livingston. I’m afraid to look now, because I have a word count goal to meet before breaking for lunch. But maybe just a little peek … Hmm, fish recipes. I wonder if there’s such a thing as fish sausages?

♥♥♥

HIS BEST FRIEND’S WIFE is available in stores and on-line now from Gina Wilkins and Harlequin Special Edition. Click the Home tab above for more details.