November is in the air. Here in Ohio it doesn’t quite feel like it, but the wind is whistling with hints and screams that WINTER IS COMING. But before it does, November is the month of national novel writing, commonly called NANOWRIMO.
If you’ve not heard of this majestic/burnout inducing idea, the premise is to write 50,000 words in a month. Which if you’re aiming for it…is what we write for medical romances. So get those hot doc, sexy paramedics and flirtatious veterinarians down on page and send them to Mills & Boon.
I did my first Nano in 2014. It’s a book that will forever live under my bed. It’s entire purpose was to teach me that I wanted to write, didn’t yet really know what I was doing, and could sit for a while and get words on the page.
I’d love to tell you that this made me a NANO enthusiast, ready and willing to tackle the 50k each year. I write multiple stories of that length every year, so this shouldn’t be too hard. Except it always is. And that’s okay. I’ve written 50k in a month exactly twice since I started writing. Once in Nano and I didn’t write for almost three months after due to burnout. And once for a book I was contracted for; the burnout was real there too.
I am not saying this to dash Nano dreams. I have writer friends that live for this time year. It reenergizes them and gets the creative juices floating. There are YouTube videos that start in October, usually titled something like Plantober: Get read for Nano with me.
What I am saying is you are more than your word count. I run a weekly writer’s group and every November we spend our meetings doing write-ins. And without fail, I’ll have writer friends that panic or get down, because they aren’t hitting the 1,667 words needed a day to hit the Nano goal. I hate that. I hate it for them, I hate it for their work, I just hate it.
So if you are tackling Nano, here is my cheers to you! I am on the site www.nanowrimo.org as Juliette Hyland, feel free to make me a buddy. I probably won’t hit 50k (and that’s okay). If you have no desire to tackle it or you are hating on your word count….please use this as your mantra: you are more than your word count. Take a deep breath; it’s okay.
Just before Nano started I put a video about it on my YouTube page…it’s linked below if you want to take a look.
I think the last couple of years have been tough on everyone.
For me, the toughest bit has been losing my fitness. About ten years ago, I joined the gym, and discovered the joy of free weights/HIIT. I loved it. The gym was right next to school, so I’d drop the kids off and go to the gym on the way home.
But then my eldest went to uni, and my daughter decided to go elsewhere for sixth form, and it was simply too much effort to drag myself to the gym, particularly when I had deadlines and other stuff to do. Dog walking would be enough to keep me fit, I thought (and also I’d joined an adult beginners ballet class – it’s been a joy for mental health, and also good for my flexibility).
And then it was lockdown. And then I had this vile itchy rash on my leg that lasted for a WHOLE YEAR and I barely left the house (not because I hated how it looked, but because it itched and itched and itched and itched, and the only thing that calmed it down was cold compresses; the constant itching and waking at night seriously messed with my head). The NHS waiting list for dermatology is very long in my part of the world, so our nurse practitioner advised me to go private; the biopsy diagnosed eczema, but we never managed to pin down the cause (believe me, suffering it for a year, I went through all the possibilities – we’re left with ‘idiopathic’, which is very frustrating).
But now it appears to be in remission (no idea what did that, either), and I want my strength and fitness back. My husband and I have both been saying that we need to get our fitness back, and cancelling our gym membership during lockdown probably wasn’t a good idea. We hadn’t progressed much further than talking about it (!), but I happened to mention to a friend over lunch that I was considering a 6-week membership at a different gym that had classes for over 50s. ‘I’ll go with you,’ she said. ‘Let’s join NOW.’
So we did. Different gym; today, we have an induction (so we get to play with all the equipment); tomorrow is Pilates (which I’ve never done and am REALLY looking forward to); Wednesday is Zumba. Next week, we’ve booked aquafit as well, and I’m looking forward to going back to a step class (which I haven’t done since the 90s!)
The difference this morning was putting my gym kit on. It’s a bit snug, but I can live with that. It’s kind of nice to put the weights gloves back on. But the best bit by far was putting on my gym shoes. It’s made me walk taller and feel stronger.
Today’s the first step on my journey back. And I’m hoping that it will remind the sad little me who’s constantly battling deadlines and feeling a bit low that actually she’s awesome and can do anything 🙂
Have any of you struggled with fitness? What’s your best tip for helping to get it back?
I spent most of July on the road, traveling across the western part of Canada, the trip was about 10,000 kms by the time we got back home to our slice of heaven in the central western part of Ontario. It was just the DH and I this time, our kids stayed home with one of their aunts and our dog.
Since COVID, I have been amassing a lot of author copies and I was running out of room. I don’t plan on doing any signings this year, so I had to do something and I thought about the Free Little Libraries that were scattered all over the old city I used to live. I knew they were in other places, so I found a free app called Little Free Library.
I got the brilliant idea to drop off author copies as I make my way across across to Alberta and then do a reading of A Reunion, A Wedding, A Family in Jasper where it’s set. My videos and reading are on Tik Tok under Amy Ruttan (I refer to myself as a reluctant farmer!).
I signed the books ahead of time and marked them with a Canadian author sticker. I took my debut book from 2013 Safe in His Hands and dropped it by the closest Little Library to our farm in Seaforth, Ontario.
The next Little Library came at 8 in the morning after an eight hour drive. Yep, an eight hour drive, we left shortly after midnight, to get around Lake Superior from our house, it takes about 17 hours.
The Little Library I stopped in was in Bruce Mines, Ontario and after my visit there I woke up the next day in Thunder Bay to discover I had made their news! They were thankful for the book and encouraging others to donate to their Little Library.
The next day, we left Thunder Bay and were heading for Saskatoon Saskatchewan. Another 17 hour day. It takes two days to drive out of my province! First I stopped in Kenora, Ontario and dropped a book at Little Library outside a woman’s shelter. It was packed full and well used!
We had to cross Manitoba and most of Saskatchewan to get to Saskatoon. I had never been to Saskatoon, but it’s very bizarre to be watching for a city on a flat prairie horizon and not see it until you go down into a river valley. Saskatoon is beautiful and I found a gorgeous little library in a tree lined neighborhood know as Caswell Hill.
It’s not far to Alberta and we had a couple days to ourselves and headed to Drumheller, which is the badlands in southern, Alberta. Drumheller had an amazing Little Library with Moby Dick and Lord of the Rings quotes painted on it. After Drumheller we made our way to Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump and I left a couple more books in towns like High River (where they film the TV show Heartland) and an author friend Taryn Leigh Taylor left copies in her home town and a town near her.
After some days with my other sister in law at her ranch. We went into Jasper, Alberta the setting for A Reunion, A Wedding, A Family and I did a reading at Medicine Lake. Forest Fires have devastated the area. The last time I was there, Medicine Lake was lush with trees…now, just the ghostly remnants of them remain. It is a natural cycle to a forest though. And even though it had changed, I was still privileged to see elk, big horn sheep, wolf, black bear and my first time seeing a Grizzly Mama and her 3 cubs!
The nearest little library to Jasper, is Hinton, Alberta. And the caretaker there originally is from the town where I currently live. So that was a small world experience. I left a copy of A Reunion, A Wedding, A Family there.
After our time in Alberta, we made our way to Winnipeg on a day that Canada had a nation wide cell phone outage on the network I used. It also knocked out all Interac purchases. I was very glad we had our credit cards and cash. I was also glad our GPS in our Jeep was still functioning or we would’ve never made our way from Alberta, through Saskatchewan to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
I got to meet an author friend Elle Rush for lunch and visit the monument of Louis Riel. My ancestors were Metis, which is a mix of European settlers and Indigenous. Metis people are an Indigenous nation and have their own culture. Louis Riel is a founding father who fought for the rights of Metis, he was an elected politician and led resistance movements before he was hanged for treason.
As someone of Metis background, this has been a life long dream to visit his monument. My father, had to hide who he was for many years, to avoid residential school. For him and me, it’s been hard to try and process our loss of identity. Also to find ancestors, but I have been finding more and more names. Women, who were indigenous, often lost their identity when they married a white man.
I left a book in Winnipeg and we made our way back to Ontario and stopped in Thunder Bay. I am really getting to know Thunder Bay. My daughter goes to school there, so I make the drive often.
Thunder Bay is the lake head of Lake Superior. The last place Terry Fox stopped after his Miracle Run for Cancer because his cancer had returned and he collapsed, but one of the Little Libraries surprised me! It was on Ruttan street. Ruttan is my maiden name, so I looked up the history and discovered that Ruttan’s helped with the development of Port Arthur and Thunder Bay.
So of course I had to leave a book there!
And that was just a part of our trip. I dropped books off in Sault and Sudbury on the way home. I have way more pictures and a lot more special memories, but it was so good to get back to the kids.
I took a whole box of books and left them all on my journey.
If you happen to stumble on a Little Library I encourage you to donate or even just take a book too. Spread Literacy and help communities. I learned so much from this experience and fell in love with my country all over again.
It’s why I continue to write books set in the place I love the most. Canada.
Here’s a slideshow of some more pics along the way!
It’s hard to believe, at least for me, that 2021 is coming to an end. One of the things I love doing at the end of the year is buying a new planner. I spend a few weeks, lovingly adding them to my wish list, dropping off the ones that don’t “spark joy” before finally choosing my planner. My husband, who only uses a wall calendar (HOW?) laughs at my love of planners.
Last year he really wanted to get me one for Christmas and finally broke down and just asked me to order what I wanted so he could wrap it. I happily complied!
Planners are one of my true loves. In December I start getting my next year planned out. Life often gets in the way (looking at your 2020 & 2021) but I still like to put in all the things I know I need to do.
Like two more medicals – and hopefully more.
Next year I am also planning to use a kanban board to plan a quarter at a time. I don’t have a true office; I use a nook in our bedroom. I built the kanban board at the entrance to the noon – in our bedroom. My husband even helped me get it set up.
He may not understand the board, but he fully accepted it. True love really does exist!
Anyone else have a planner you carry everywhere? Or a kanban board? Or are you like my lovely husband and don’t need one at all?
I made a big move this summer, out into the country about two hours north of where I used to live. I grew up on the shores of the southern great lakes. Mainly Lake Ontario and spent many years near Lake Erie.
I experienced lake effect snow, but nothing like the lake effect I’ve been experiencing since making the move north.
Warning signs that I would regularly see way, way up in northern Ontario where my Dad was from, were gracing the roads here and I knew, from visiting my late inlaws, that the highway along Lake Huron would randomly be closed.
I get it now.
It started snowing early, like November 2nd. And just twenty minutes south, there would be nothing. All those summer storms and tornados, were suddenly turning into SQUALLS.
And not just the white fluffy stuff I was used to, but full on heavy, wet snow. When I complain to my Dad, he just laughs, but not too much as my brother and him are in the same weather system as me!
So winter has begun here, even though it’s still technically fall. I’ve had to light the big wood furnace, which scared me. I’m so used to just adjusting a set point and the furnace coming on.
Now, I have to stoke a fire, build campfires (thanks Girl Guides of Canada for that training it’s coming in handy).
One thing I do like about this snow and the country, it’s so quiet. So peaceful. My boys love the snow and the freedom of the big property to do whatever and now that we’ve upgraded our minivan to a Jeep SUV with 4 wheel drive, I’m a lot more confident in my winter driving.
I also live in hope (because the snow has come and melted three times in November) that I will get an actual white Christmas this year! Something positive, trying to remain positive as I hate winter.
FREAKING COLD. Dr. Henry Blake scowled up at the first few flakes of snow swirling around in the air. He hated the cold. He hated the fresh air, the woods and the windchill, and he scowled up at the cloud-covered sky, hoping he could melt every single last stupid snowflake that was falling down. Why am I here again?
So, how do you feel about winter or the change of seasons?
In my part of the world, it’s the first day of fall. And fall is my most favourite time of the year. Yes, I’m a pumpkin spice nut. I love everything to do with pumpkins, leaves and of course Halloween.
Halloween is my jam!
And this is my first year celebrating in the new house. There are going to be more leaves to rake and the colours started changing out here earlier. There’s a crispness in the air that I couldn’t always pick up in the city.
I’ve also been told that I can leave my decorations out and put them out earlier without worry of them being destroyed, which happened a lot in the city.
However, I probably won’t get trick or treaters. Which has me sad. It’s the one thing I’ll miss.
I’m also learning about harvest time and other farming things…though I have to admit not very well. I made my first venture into our properties original barn. All the years I was married to my DH and coming to visit his parents, I had never been in it.
Of course, while I should’ve been directing traffic to get my brother in law bins up into the barn, I was dancing to the Footloose soundtrack and picturing a dance in that barn. I must’ve done a good job, because my DH let me drive the tractor.
We’re settling into the family farm that’s been in my hubby’s family for a very long time. I love my new office, my proper office.
And with Autumn also comes my thirtieth book with Harlequin. It’s hard to believe. It felt like yesterday that I was celebrating my 25th! I’m super excited about Falling for His Runaway Nurse.
Could a runaway bride… …be the one to tempt him? Brooding Thatcher Bell enjoys the anonymity of life as a cruise ship doctor. But when beautiful Lacey Greenwood storms into his life—wearing a wedding dress!—to take up the vacant post as nurse, he’s shocked by their instant chemistry. Lacey is obviously escaping something, and Thatcher recognizes some of the pain she’s hiding behind her dazzling smile. But as they set sail, there’s no way of running from their real and ever-growing feelings!
What do you love the most about this change of seasons, wherever you might be?
Down here in Australia, it’s winter and the *&%#@! virus has reared its ugly head again as it does in cold weather. This means the annual Romance Writers of Australia’s conference will be impacted …perhaps we should move it to November when it’s warm!
BUT we need to focus on the positives so I’m doing that. I’m excited and honoured that readers have nominated JUST AN ORDINARY FAMILY as a RUBY finalist in the ‘romantic elements’ section. I have a rule whenever I’m nominated for anything– I celebrate it. Why? Because a win is never a given, in fact I never expect it, hence the celebration of the nom. I know the win is unlikely as I’ve been nominated many times and I’ve only won it once! I’m also excited because I adored writing Alice’s story as she navigates the many pitfalls of online dating.
I did a lot of research for this. I spoke to many family members and close friends who have met their current partner online. I heard the good, the bad and the ugly stories. I also went through the process of signing up to see how each website and app operates, how they differ, how they are similar, but I promise you, I never swiped left or right or engaged with anyone. Most hilarious story was when my sons found one app on my phone. The husband knew all about it they were away at uni. FBut it was a fascinating piece of method research! As a result, a lot happens to Alice during the book which starts in January and ends in December. It was Alice’s story that tips the book into romantic elements because the other relationships in the book are not quite as rosy. I turn the spotlight onto female friendship, which isn’t always as supportive and caring as we hope. I see you nodding there right along with me … I’m also excited as Alice’s sister, Libby is a GP cos in some ways, I haven’t strayed all that far from my MedRom roots 🙂
Whether or not I get to to go the conference or if I am watching the awards on Zoom, I will be cheering Alice because I truly fell in love with her grit and determination, not just in the dating stakes, but in turning her life around after it fell apart without warning.
Intrigued? You can read chapter one here or download a sample from your fave book store. The links are here. and the good news is, no matter where you live, you can buy JUST AN ORDINARY FAMILY in print, ebook or listen on audio. The only difference is the cover and the world edition has US spelling and I’ve translated a few Aussie sayings. Australians get the full Aussie lingo!
How do you celebrate a nomination? Or good news or anything wonderful? Fill me in!
For information on all my books head over to fionalowe.com. Want a free novella to read? Join my newsletter at fionalowe.com Stay safe and happy reading!! Fiona x
Long before I saw my name on the spine of a book, I liked to say that my puppies were my co-authors. No, they didn’t add much to the story line, but they were always there to snuggle when a rejection note came in and later helped keep me company on late nights writing for deadline. A few weeks ago, I had to say goodbye to one of my dear friends, and I wanted to give a farewell to one of the goodest boys ever.
Domino was a pound puppy. When we brought him home, the shelter told us he was a six month old Lab and Dalmatian mix, and they thought he would be around 50 pounds. I still remember the vet’s face as she asked if it was okay if he was bigger. I said yes, but what are we talking?
He was a three month old Great Dane mix. We had many conversations over the years about the fact that just because he could put his head on the table, didn’t mean he got too. A lesson made more difficult when my girls came along. As toddlers they believed it was their mission in life to ensure he ate at least a part of their dinner every night. A mission he fully supported.
Domino was my gentle giant. He never met anyone who wasn’t a friend. In his younger years, he accompanied us on walks all over town, gladly taking any of the pets on the head offered. He barked whenever the doorbell rang and then promptly ran up the stairs to avoid whatever mischief might have been behind the door (brave was not an accurate adjective).
Agnes Sligh Turnbull is quoted as saying, Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really. And I couldn’t agree more.
He was not great at editing, in fact he couldn’t tell a run on sentence from an expertly crafted one. But he was always at my feet while I typed away. Or laying his head on my lab to beg for a treat – which worked almost always (writers do love to procrastinate).
We still have out Abby girl, and a rescue near us has a lovable big guy that we are going to visit. But Domino will always hold a very special place in my heart, as all my lost fur buddies do.
So here’s to Domino…may the fields be green and the tennis balls plentiful until we meet again.
I was going to write something else today (ha ha, sewing related…), but events on UK media (social and otherwise) this weekend have made me so cross that I’m going to write a rant. (A measured one, but still a rant.) Even a cuddle with my lovely pooches (above) couldn’t restore my equilibrium.
“The worst kind of wimmins fiction” – that’s what I (and my fellow M&B authors) write, according to Jeanette Winterson, who burned her own books this weekend to show her displeasure at being compared to it.
Now. Firstly, she would’ve been consulted by her publisher and signed off the blurb and cover. Surely that was the time to say ‘no, I’m not happy’, not when they were printed? (This is what makes me think it was a badly thought-out publicity stunt, rather than the tantrum she later claimed it was. That, and the fact she sent a photograph to the media. If you have a tantrum about something, do you really send evidence to a newspaper?)
Secondly, there’s the burning of books. That always makes me think of Bebelplatz and also Fahrenheit 451. It’s really not OK.
Thirdly, there’s that dismissive swipe at a whole genre (one mainly written by women) AND by extension to its readers. And that is what really, really made my blood boil. Nobody has the right to sneer at other people’s choice of reading.
And just what is so wrong with romantic fiction with a happy ending?
I’ve had letters from readers who’ve told me that whenever they’ve had a really bad day, they reach for one of my books because they know it’s going to make them feel that the world is a better place. I’m very proud to have helped someone through a rough time. And, as a reader, I’ve done the same. When my dad had dementia (and visits were very, very hard emotionally) the thing that got me through it were books. Whenever life has been tough, I’ve lost myself in a book (often romance, precisely because of the happy ending) for long enough to let me cope again.
Making the world feel a better place: I happen to think that’s something to be celebrated, not sneered at.
So I want to do a shout-out to my M&B author friends. We include issues that women deal with on a daily basis – from divorce to infertility to miscarriage to bereavement to abuse, to being part of the sandwich generation caring for teenagers and elderly parents, and more. Our characters show that it’s possible to move on from the tough stuff to a happier place. That you can learn to trust again, to try again, to overcome the past and become who you want to be. That love will get you through. And if that message helps just ONE person… then it’s done something worthwhile.
I’m proud to write books like this, and to write them with other authors who do the same thing. And it’s inclusive. It doesn’t matter how old we are, what our skin colour is, what our nationality is, whether we’re gay or straight or somewhere else on that continuum. We’re all about love.
And that definitely deserves to be celebrated.
Kate’s latest duet – about two doctor brothers and a kidney transplant – is available in August, and can be preordered now.
(Today we welcome guest USA Today bestselling author Naima Simone, talking about where she gets the inspiration for her heroes)
Very recently, my mother-in-love (not mother-in-law, ‘cause I luvs me some her!) asked me a question: Do you read anything besides romance? And let me put this out there, she wasn’t asking it to be ugly. Because my mom-in-love has read every single one of my books, owns almost all the print copies and they occupy a special place on her bookshelf. She was genuinely curious. I answered her honestly. I do read some mystery thrillers—Lisa Gardner is the ish!—but for the most part, I’m a romance reader. There’s so much variety in romance that I can find it all there. Comedy. Suspense. Sci-fi. Historical. Horror. Contemporary. Paranormal. And of course. Love.
I freely admit it. I’m in love with love.
From the time my mother read me my first fairy tale, I’ve been completely enamored with love and everything it entails. The falling into it. The pitfalls of it. The dysfunction of it. The joys and pain of it. The edification and complications of it. The heroines and heroes.
Especially those heroes.
Because the heroes are my romance origin story.
Now, I have a confession. My first books and stories? Horrible. Like, hide in a chest, lock it, bury it and order three viciously horned dragons and a puzzle-wielding Sphinx to guard it, horrible. Yeah. That bad. LOL! But the heroes in them shaped the ones I write now. Who were these heroes? So glad you asked.
The first romance I wrote starred Ralph Tresvant, lead singer of the boy band New Edition. Soft voice, romantic and obviously sensitive. I mean, he serenaded women, sooo… And though I nearly killed him off in my book (hey, didn’t I warn you it was terrible?!), my kiss did bring him out of that coma, so it all worked out in the end!
The next short story featured Oliver from Oliver Twist. He was so cute with his tortured past. Kid has abandonment issues written all over him. And yes, yes, I know, he has a happy ending, but seriously. You know he has serious emotional baggage. And I live for the tortured hero he’s destined to become!
I followed him up with Duke from G.I. Joe. Alpha, strong, honorable, man in control Duke. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved the action and excitement and the whole good vs. evil of the cartoon. But I also obsessively watched for Duke and Scarlett. To see when, and if, they would ever get together. And since they didn’t to my satisfaction, I wrote their story. Over and over again.
Then there was Donnie Wahlberg from New Kids on the Block. Oh Donnie. *sigh* Bad boy. Rebel. A little wild. And from the way he could dance, you know he could…move. Whether he was a member of a boy band or a famous producer, or later, a millionaire, he provided the hero for several of my books and short stories. Including the one the first book I sold.
Though my writing has evolved—thank goodness!—the leading men in my books are all an amalgamation of my first heroes, my origin heroes. The core of honor, strength and alpha maleness of Duke. The sensitivity of Ralph. The tortured pain and hurt of Oliver. The bad boy wildness of Donnie. Their backgrounds, appearances and stories may change, but the heart of them remain the same.
Published since 2009, USA Today Bestselling author Naima Simone loves writing sizzling romances with heart, a touch of humor and snark. Her books have been featured in The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly, and described as balancing “crackling, electric love scenes with exquisitely rendered characters caught in emotional turmoil.”
She is wife to Superman, or his non-Kryptonian, less bullet proof equivalent, and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They all live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern United States.