I was going to say something witty about the fact April showers bring May flowers, but it’s April 7th and there’s snow on the ground where I live. Boo!
I love April, even though it’s usually a rainy month. April is my birthday month. It means, ice cream cake! WOOT!
Although, since starting Weight Watchers in January I might opt for some frozen yogurt. *little woot*
April is also a very busy month for me. Ever since I sold to Harlequin, I always seem to have a deadline around or right before my birthday. I’m not complaining, because I love the work. And honestly, I never really noticed before until my husband started building my office in the basement.
See, I had this great office in the spare bedroom in the basement, but then my daughter became a teenager and wanted her own space (and bathroom), so I gave up that room so she could get away from her brothers. The boys each had their own room upstairs and I worked in the living room, with stuff scattered in boxes in the unfinished part of the basement.
Then, my boys missed being together. So they took their bunk beds and moved back into a room together. I took the other upstairs room. I loved it. I loved having that office again where I could close a door and work. I wrote One Night in New York and my Sealed with a Valentine’s Kiss duet in that room.
Ahh. It was heaven. That lasted about a year. Then, the fighting and bickering started as they got older.
I went back to my boxes in the basement and have been working in the living room. I escape to hotel rooms near my deadline to work, because it’s hard once the kids come home to write in the living room. Since I dropped Diet Coke for good, I can’t pull all nighters and with working out …I don’t want too. I’m tired.
My husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said a small room where I can shut you all out. I love my family, but for my sanity and career, I need a door between us.
So, he went to work. Everything is done (as of writing this blog post) but the door.
The first thing up was my new wardrobe. It’s massive and I was finally able to take all the copious author copies from 14 books (currently out) and store them somewhere safe. This picture isn’t even the foreign translations. I keep one copy of foreign translation books and I’m shipping out a bunch to different libraries.
Then after the walls were up I got bookshelves! They’re pretty bare, but it’s a work in progress. Nice to have all my books together. Something to look at.
The table I work at is one my Mom made when she was moving into her first apartment, or rather she was going to move into her first apartment alone and then met my Dad. LOL
I can’t wait to finish unpacking, but I’m headed to Toronto this weekend for an all day workshop with the Toronto Romance Writers. Since it starts bright and early Saturday, I’m spending the night in my old hometown by myself in a hotel room to write.
And I’m taking the train. I love taking the train, especially business class because I can work on the train. It’s a 3 hr train ride (roughly) to downtown T.O.
It’s only one night away, since I’m catching the late night train back to London, Ontario Saturday night, but I’m planning on enjoying the silence and cranking up the word count.
Maybe, just maybe there will be door to my office on my return.
Oh and in March, I had 2 releases! Check them out.
Nurse Shay Labadie’s one exquisite night of passion with Dr. Dante Affini was meant to be a beautiful memory. But now Shay’s expecting…and Dante is expecting her to take his hand in marriage!
Dante’s proposal is shocking enough, but then he drops an even bigger bombshell—he’s not just a doctor, he’s a prince! Now to win his child and the woman he loves, Dante will have to prove he can master his most important role yet—as the husband Shay deserves…
Former Navy Seal Jack Crane walked away after a chemical attack wiped out his platoon and scarred him, forcing him out of the military–the hardest thing he ever had to do…Until Omega Team contacted him to protect an undercover agent at a secret lab.
Lisa Morgan had nothing to lose when she took on the assignment to uncover Bio-Tek’s dark secrets concerning the deadly chemical agent that killed her brother and cost her the only man she ever loved a decade ago when he walked away.
When the man hired to protect her turns out to be Jack, she’s forced to trust with her life the man she couldn’t trust with her heart, and make sure the antidote for that terrible chemical gets into the right hands before it’s too late.
Valentine’s Day is one of those days where true love takes over, and all things chocolate, flowers, cards, romantic dinners and gifts are on our minds. Well, most of our minds. I could do without the chocolate and my cats eat my flowers. But I do love gifts and romantic dinners. Have you ever wondered, though, what Valentine’s Day is all about?
It’s said that this festival for lovers had its origin with Emperor Claudius II, who didn’t want Roman men to marry during wartime because marriage distracted them from their killing. Bishop Valentine, an Anglican and a right romantic gent, went against Claud’s wishes and performed secret weddings. For that, Valentine was jailed. While there, he wrote a note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it “from your Valentine.” He got caught, and was beheaded the next day–on February 14, sometime near the year 270.
It wasn’t until the 14th century, though, that the date February 14 became linked to romantic intentions, largely thanks to the tradition of courtly love, which abounded in the circles of Geoffrey Chaucer. Still, it took another 4 centuries before the day became about gifts, and candy and all those other things we typically think about.
And just an aside here–about 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year. Whether or not it’s true, the first Valentine’s Day card may have been a love letter from Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Makes sense, considering Charles was a Frenchman and France is noted for its romantic traditions. Oh, and in case you’re interested, teachers receive the most Valentine’s cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, sweethearts and pets. But don’t feel sorry for poor Fido and Fluffy, who come in last in cards, because they get 3% of all the Valentine’s gifts given. Not bad for a loved one who has a wet nose.
Speaking of love letters, every Valentine’s Day, the city of Verona, where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet. But Verona isn’t the only place where letters or notes are popular. In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine, then write that name in a heart-shaped note and pin it on their sleeve for everyone to see–especially the one whose name was on the note. Hence, the phrase: “to wear your heart on your sleeve.” It’s still a tradition in South Africa, today and, in some cases, it’s how South African men learn of their secret admirers.
But South Africa isn’t the only country with a unique Valentine’s Day tradition. In South Korea, the gift-giving commences on February 14th, with the women in the wooing mood when they give their men chocolates, candies and flowers. The guys return the woo on March 14th with a little one-upping by adding lavish gifts to the giving of chocolate, candies and flowers. Not to be outdone, however, in Italian tradition, young, unmarried girls wake up before dawn to spot their future husbands, believing that the first man they see on Valentine’s Day will be the one they will marry within a year. Of course, if that doesn’t happen, they have a back-up plan to help them save face, where they simply say, “Well, at least he looks like the man I’ll marry.” That plan runs a distant second to actually marrying the guy, but it’s something to hang on to. Back-up plans like that one are good though, and sticking with Italy, their next back-up plan is to come Valentine-calling with Baci Perugina in hand. It’s a small, chocolate-covered hazelnut wrapped with a romantic quote.
Yes, chocolate… Everybody loves it, including the Brazilians who go a-courting with it, as well. But not on February 14, because it’s too close to Carnival. So they hold off their lovefest until June 12, when they celebrate Dia dos Namorados, or “Lovers’ Day,” And yep, chocolates, along with flowers and cards, music festivals and performances.
So, why chocolates? Why not licorice, or cinnamon red hearts? Honestly, nothing spells romance better than a gummy worm, don’t you think? But, we have chocolate, and it’s been hanging in as the lovers’ favorite since the early 1800s. Back then, though, it wasn’t a romantic thing. Doctors prescribed it to their female patients to help relieve those certain symptoms associated with that special time of the month. It calmed them down, so it was said. Of course, so did those vibrator treatments those wacky doctors were giving out, personally, in their offices, back then. A vibrator AND chocolate…must have calmed m’lady right down into a perfect bliss. Oh, and about chocolate–Richard Cadbury produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day in the late 1800s, and more than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of pure, silky ecstasy are sold for Valentine’s Day any given year.
Cards, love notes, chocolates…isn’t it romantic? Actually, word romance wasn’t associated with the romance we know. It was originally a Latin adverb for Romanicus meaning “of the Roman style.” You know, when in Rome… The Romans considered themselves a chivalrous people, and their earliest tales of romance were actually stories of chivalric adventures. It wasn’t, until the late 17th century that the chivalric adventures turned more to the romantic escapades we know today. Probably had something to do with the hunk on the cover of a romance novel one of the ladies of the day was reading. She took one look at his bare chest, his long flowing hair, his well-muscled arms, his steely thighs…well, you know what I’m getting at.
Being the proper lady that she was, though, she surely hankered for the gift of a red rose from her true love, since chocolates weren’t around yet. Which is just another way to transition into why red roses have become the traditional Valentine’s flower. First, the red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. That’s as good a reason as any. But there’s more… red roses are also considered the love flower because red stands for strong romantic feelings, blood and fire, passion, desire, heat, longing, lust, sexuality…it’s a pretty long, self-explanatory list. Or, in other words, red just works.
So does the Welsh tradition of giving a love spoon for Valentine’s day. Only, it’s not exactly Valentine’s Day. It’s the celebration of Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, on January 25th. The hand-carved spoons were given as token of affection for the women they loved, and different patterns were carved into these spoons, including horseshoes for good luck; wheels to symbolize support; and keys for the keys to a man’s heart. Often, spoons given to lovers had two handles intertwining to form one. Interestingly enough, this tradition of giving spoons known as “spooning” makes it especially fitting when two handles intertwine. We all know what comes of that!
So, before I end this history lesson, let me leave you with a few more romantic traditions, like an old one in the Netherlands where prospective couples were put in separate sacks in the same bed to sleep together, but not allowed to engage in any premarital hanky-panky. Talk about tough love. Then there was that time during Italian Renaissance when the gentlemen would give their lady loves erotically-inscribed belts which would both remind them of their chastity while at the same time inciting them to horniness. Also, there’s that old, popular stand-by called the bridesworth, which went beyond the offering of the dowry, but could include acts of humiliation or entertainment such as chariot racing, singing, dancing and grueling interviews with the bride’s family. Often, a bridesworth could last for an entire year. And finally–the eating of the haggis every day, from Valentine’s Day to Valentine’s Day, for a year, to prove a man’s worth to his lady love. Actually, I just made that one up. But it sort of fits in doesn’t it?
There are so many kinds of wacky, wonderful, strange and romantic ways to celebrate your love, and that’s something I try to capture in my books. The different ways we go about it. To each his own, as they say. For some, Valentine’s Day is an expression for every day of the year. For a dear friend, it’s the biggest heart-shaped box of chocolates her husband can find. My grandfather always gave my grandmother red carnations for Valentine’s Day, and my grandmother always gave me a fresh, brand new five-dollar bill straight from the bank. For me, personally, Valentine’s Day is all about the thought, not the deed. Deeds are nice, but in end, I’ll take the thought any day. So what about you? Are you doing something special for Valentine’s Day? Gifts? Chocolates? A romantic dinner? Staying home together in your jammies, eating popcorn and watching a romantic movie? Or a scary one that’ll make you cuddle up?
Whatever your Valentine’s Day will be about, I hope it’s everything you wish for. It’s only one day of the year, so enjoy (unless you take up that haggis thing, then it’s for a whole year!).
And now…promo time. My latest, The Nurse and the Single Dad came out on the 1st. It’s available in all the usual places. That’s it. No more promo, no more wacky Valentine’s traditions like the one where, in 19th century rural Austria, an eligible lass would keep an apple slice crammed in her armpits during an entire evening of dance. At the end of the evening, she would give her used fruit to the guy she fancied. If the feeling was mutual, he’d wolf it right down, which sounds like true love to me. I know the old saying is something about the apple of his eye, but the apple of her armpit? Okay. I’m really done now. Promise.
I know it is a new year and I’m looking forward to a great one, but I wanted to take a few moments to look back at some of my favorite happenings during 2016.
I had 3 books out.
I spent a wonderful week in London where I met many of the lovely authors from this blog. In this picture I’m having an afternoon tea sundae. (The weather was hot.) Can you tell how happy I was? This was at Fortnum and Mason’s. I can highly recommend.
Christmas with my family. All 26 of us. We have two more on the way for next year. We all had to wear an ugly sweater. Some of us were uglier that others. We had great fun together playing games even though we exchanged no presents. That is my mother in the middle.
My nonfiction book a WWII Flight Surgeon’s Story was used as a prop in a crime scene on the show NCIS: New Orleans. Mine is the blue book to the left.
A trip to Pennsylvania to a WWII reenactment weekend. There is a whole world out there I knew nothing about. Great fun! My husband and I got to spend a entire week together.
My youngest son (27) celebrated 25 years with a heart transplant.
I’m away at a horse show today, but while I’m gone, I’ll share some pictures of our newest addition to the family. A puppy! A cute, uncomplicated, well-mannered little doll. Okay, so none of that is true except for the cute part. You can guess from the title of this blog post that a) we have a puppy, b) she makes puddles in unfortunate places, and c) she has a penchant for grabbing the hem of our jeans and letting herself be dragged along (no matter how many times we tell her that it’s simply unacceptable).
Yesterday I was texting my husband about the puppy’s latest escapades, and he finally texted back: I thought empty nests were supposed to be quiet (we just sent our youngest off to college last year). Hmmm…he had me there. I finally responded: Well that would be true, if we actually left it empty. Score one for me. Or maybe that point goes to the puppy.
Anyway, here are some of my favorite puppy moments:
The day we brought her home from our friends’ house, where she was born. One would never suspect the changes that would soon befall our little household, where only a cat, a chinchilla, and an elderly pug reside.
. This is our pup’s normal routine: Find stuff. Chew stuff. Make puddles and piles.
Redecorating the house. Every home needs a dead tree in it, according to Miss Puppy. And yes she can fit through the cat door. For now. She’s only nine weeks old and growing fast!
Getting ready for bed. My favorite time of day. She loves her pillow. And we love that she loves her pillow.
What about you? Any funny pet stories you would like to share? Or training tips that have gotten you through the worst of the worst?
And because I also have a book being released this month, I’ll share my cover. I can’t help but wonder what this sweet scene might look like if our puppy had her way!
Just recently on Facebook, there have been a whole sheaf of bucket lists appearing where you either tick or place a heart next to the things that you have done. To me, these mass bucket lists are bit weird. Some of them have things like, see a dead body; watch someone die; fired a gun.
Odd, really. None of those should be on a bucket list! These lists are about aspirational things, surely?
I have a few things on my bucket list.
Visit New Zealand.
Go on safari in Africa.
Swim with wild dolphins.
Write a bestseller! (of course! lol)
Be a passenger in an off road rally car.
But there’s one place I really want to go. A place I want to wander around for weeks, just absorbing the atmosphere and soaking up the nature and that place, is Yellowstone Park.
If ever there is a documentary about this place, then I watch it. If I come across someone else’s account of being there, I read it. Avidly. I stare at pictures on Pinterest, I dream, I wish, I wonder…
And so I decided to set a book there. Seven Nights With Her Ex. I figured that if I was going to write a book there, then I ought to go there (at least) and research it properly. I told my husband, who was thrilled at the idea and then we mentioned it to the kids.
Big mistake! My eldest son suffers from really bad anxiety, panic attacks and OCD and part of his OCD and anxiety are the thoughts that something really bad will happen to us. So when we mentioned we were thinking of planning a research trip to a majestical spot that just so happens to have a giant super volcano underneath it (that’s apparently due to go off at any moment, but its late, like a woman with a dodgy menstrual cycle) he told us, in no uncertain terms that we were not allowed to go!
So, I had to make do with my trusty, well-thumbed, Lonely Planet guide to Yellowstone and Teton parks. Oh, and my Pinterest board!
Seven Nights With Her Ex will be out September 1st, here are the pre-order/book buy links below. And do tell me what’s on your Bucket List!
Romance writers get to play with plenty of fabulous words – for example, ‘I love you’, ‘I want you’, ‘You hurt me’, ‘Marry me’ and ‘I’m pregnant’, in all their various permutations. But the two words that fill me with a joyful satisfaction like no other are: ‘The End’.
The joyful satisfaction, however, is all about knowing exactly when you can let yourself type those two beautiful words. I’m actually quite superstitious about it, and can’t seem to whack them down just because the first draft is finished.
That’s because the frustrating truth is that my first draft never – as in never! – bears much resemblance to the version I ultimately send off to my editor. (Check out the examples I’ve included here of the start of my latest book, Escaping Mr Right – first draft, final draft!)
Between the first draft and the final draft comes a lot of re-reading and rewriting, cutting and polishing, checking it for ‘impact’ and playing with words – which I know I’m not alone in doing ad nauseam. Even when I insist I’m on my last read, if I do anything more than change an occasional word or neaten up some punctuation, I can’t not read the manuscript all the way through again, just to make sure it all still hangs together.
I’m waxing lyrical about this just now because a week ago, I did in fact type ‘The End’ on my ninth story. And it seems to me that I’ve been announcing ‘final read’ on this one for the longest time, only to give it one more go.
So I wanted to share with you the 10 point checklist I use as I strive to reach The End.
Is the story itself sound – is there not only a solid tale to tell, but one where a lot happens?
Does the order of the scenes and the way the chapters flow allow the story to unfold naturally, with a little mystery sprinkled here and there to keep the reading experience exciting?
Is the right character driving the story forward in each scene, and is it clear whose head we’re in?
Are all the love words, all the fighting words, the sad and happy and sexy words, fresh and real, and does every single word mean something, even if it’s a character simply saying ‘Um…’?
Has the story made me want to laugh, and cry, and throw something in frustration?
Have I kept any repetition of distinctive words, action and dialogue to the bare minimum?
Has all the extraneous description, the boring minutiae, the dull dialogue and gratuitous sex been excised?
Have I caught all the spelling and punctuation mistakes? (This is an impossible quest, but at least I have to believe I’ve picked them all up)
Have I started changing things, only to change them back to the way they were?
Am I contemplating turning my romance into a crime novel and murdering my hero and heroine?
It’s not until I get to #9 and #10 that I know I’m really ready to get my hands off and send my manuscript out into the world to try its luck. And even if it doesn’t end up getting lucky out there, at least I can be proud of the fact that when I finally typed ‘The End’ and ushered it on its journey, it was wearing clean underwear and its best clothes, and was sporting a full face of make-up and a fabulous hairdo.
Meanwhile I’m in the lucky position of having my seventh book, Escaping Mr Right, out right now. And boy, oh boy, did I pore over this one – I had to, because I fell for the hero like a ton of bricks and wanted him to have the best story ever!
I’d love to know if there are any triggers for you, as either a reader or a writer, that make you wonder if a particular book could do with a little extra cooking time…
Sometimes Mr Right is Mr Wrong, and Mr Wrong is definitely Mr Right . . .
Television reporter Chloe Masters is a woman of cool control . . . except when Casanova rugby league player Nick Savage is around. Then cool control goes out the window. Her boyfriend, Marcus, is everything she ever wanted – but it’s getting harder to deny her body’s reaction to Nick . . . Nick Savage has been head-over-heels since he first laid eyes on Chloe – just a moment too late to stop her connecting with his team mate, Marcus. But when the goalposts shift and he and Chloe are thrown together on a week away, Nick dares her to get physical in whatever way she wants – with a kiss, a punch or anything in between. And if Chloe claims to feel nothing, he’ll leave her alone for good.
How can Chloe say no to a week of mindless passion with the man she hasn’t been able to get out of her head?
Trouble is, a lot can go wrong (or right) in a week . . .
This month my mother celebrated her 80th birthday. I told her I was going to give her a party and asked her what she would like to have. She wanted lunch with the family and a few friends after church on the Sunday before her birthday. That group turned out to be 65 people. Some of the attendees came from as far away as Florida which is a six hour drive one way.
The event was held at a park activity center. Because there was no kitchen available my nephew in law hulled his food trailer there to use as the cooking space. Thankfully, I have a niece with a culinary degree who teaches at a high school. She catered the event. Her students did much of the preparation for the meal. My niece planned a menu of citrus glazed pork loin, roasted potatoes, green beans with bacon, Waldrof salad and rolls. And of course, cake and ice cream.
I handled all the decorations. I made a six foot 80 in 3-D which I painted orange. Happy Birthday was strung across it. Without my mother knowing it, I had gone through her pictures. I found ones of her when she graduated from high school and college. Pictures of my family when I was growing up and some just ten years ago. I had them enlarged to poster size. With the help of my daughter, daughter in law, sister in law and nieces I stationed the pictures and decorations around the room. I also did a table of what had happened in 1935. My mother is the same age as Micky Mouse and the game of Monopoly.
My mother wore a tiara and was the princess of the party. We spent time sharing stories about her and taking family pictures. Mom enjoyed herself and couldn’t say enough about how pleased she was with everything.
I have a Christmas book out this month so I thought I’d share.
Unwrapping Dr. Reynolds…
Sports physician Dr. Melanie Hyde is used to being treated as one of the guys—but just sometimes it would be nice to be treated like a woman…
So when hotshot orthopedic doctor Dalton Reynolds flies in to Niagara Falls, his brooding good looks ignite feelings Mel never even knew existed!
Dalton’s flight leaves in a few days, and yet after their short but steamy time together Mel knows that she’s already fallen for him. Can she melt Dalton’s heart and convince him to stay…just in time for Christmas?