Sealed With a Promise

A promise is a promise. No matter what. I’d like to say I’ve always kept promises. I can’t. I can think of only twice in my life I’ve broken a promise. There are exceptions when a promise would hurt rather than help the one you’ve vowed to deliver your word. Not only would the promise hurt the receiver, but could alter their lives. I don’t want to be responsible for life-altering decisions in others. Both times I broke a promise, the other party hadn’t failed to thank me. Phew! That was a relief. Believe me. I’m extremely careful now when I give my word.

The heroine in my next book wrestles  with such a promise. Her situation isn’t, nor has it ever been mine, but I believe many of our traits, thoughts  and beliefs hit the page. We may not like it, but where else do our words come from? Our inner selves. Things we’ve experienced or would like to experience. Things we wish we’d never experienced.

We can make all the Bucket lists all we want, but unless we act on them, we may as well light a fire with the paper. Probably get more from the paper’s warmth than holding onto dreams we have no intention of building on.

Building dreams and confidence that we can reach for those dreams, are promises we can make ourselves. Those we should keep unless circumstances beyond our control keep us from them.

Because promises matter.

Here’s a blurb of my next novel.

After nine years of being estranged from her father, Megan Phillips now faces the second most difficult time in her life. The man who hurt her the most, has summoned her back to Vail, Colorado, her childhood home. Even in death, her father dishes out the last word. One thing she knows for sure is, she won’t allow her father to dictate her future from the grave.

Either Megan secure responsibility for Adam, a seven-year-old brother she hadn’t known existed, or she loses a vast inheritance. Megan wants nothing from her father, and refuses the inheritance. But, her father’s love child has nothing to do with the rift between her and her father. She won’t abandon Adam without placing him with family or in a good home. Unable to locate the mother and after finding out the boy’s grandparents are only after Adam’s inheritance, her search ends. Megan’s life is altered in ways she never dreamed.

Then, there’s her father’s lawyer, the hunky Bret Evans. A bachelor, all business, Bret is married to his law practice. Love and a family of his own is far down the ladder of achievements. Megan, the woman who catches his eye from the start, could be the one who removes a few rungs in his ladder.

Whatever will Megan do with a man who makes her forget she never wanted children, a family? The man who takes her breath away.

Hidden in the shadows and bent on revenge, is a man Megan helped put away for abusing his children. Now it’s payback time.

My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.

You can find links on my website, here. http://caroldevaney.weebly.com/my-books.

A Dwindling Daylight Day in the Life of Stephanie Queen

Is it a coincidence that in this dwindling daylight time of year (sorry if this doesn’t apply to you folks from the South Pole) that holiday decorations and lights get amped up?

I think not.

A pair in my Holiday Sunglasses Collection (displayed on a manequin head of course)

Festivities blossom at the exact time when we all might be despairing about stocking up on light bulbs. So instead, we’re stocking up on strings of lights and tinsel too. And darned excited about it!

 So what’s your point? I can hear you asking now (yes, I’m a mind reader—but it only works on imaginary people who are reading my columns—then I get this fabulous insight about …okay, back to the point.)

My point is…well…it’s more an observation than a point.  Let me illustrate with a snippet from a typical day in my life during this magical sunlight-challenged, yet holiday-festivity-abundant time of year.

First, I do not wake up to the sunlight streaming in the window—I only dreamed about that. Instead, the cat woke me with extra loud purring because even she knows about the holiday excitement. (She watches too much TV and I’m afraid all the commercials have affected her.) So in the murky morning dark I follow the sound of the cat’s purring (and occasional screeching when I misstep) to the light switch.

Fast forward to coffee-drinking—or I should say slow-forward since there’s nothing fast about my pre-coffee activities (which include dressing and what-not) (what-not is a handy word isn’t it?). By the time I finish my last sip of coffee, bedecked in my red and green sweater sprinkled with sequence and felt cut-outs of Santa and his reindeer and random puffballs of snowflakes and a Christmas tree, I’m feeling awake enough to put on my holiday crown. It’s the one with multi-colored stars and flashing snowmen. I grab my sunglasses and whistle for Myren my Chauffeur. (The sunglasses are to protect against snow blindness.)

Myren pulls up sporting his Santa hat in place of the chauffeur cap and I’m sporting a big smile. That’s the whole purpose of Santa hats, isn’t it? Well, maybe I’m just a sucker for Santa hats. Reindeer antlers kill me too. I have a crown with…I digress—back to the day.

My mission this morning is to get a TREE. A live over-the-top, pine-scented tree with all the stuff on it. (I write for a living—I’m no decorator—although a couple of my characters are decorators, so maybe I’m trying to compensate in my fiction for…digressing again.) We drive around looking at countless tree stores—you know those parking lots with card board signs that say “Xmas trees for sale” with a previously homeless guy wearing a red and black plaid jacket and cap pulled low over his face holding a saw at the ready to wait on you?

Finally we end up at an indoor holiday store that used to be a swimming pool store not six months earlier that sells trees all tooled out in full regalia. There are about two thousand themes to choose from. So I take my time until lunch and then we wait on line at a lunch place for a while—I didn’t ask for Queenly preference to cut the line even though all my subjects were in awe of my royal presence (well, they were staring and seemed to be pretty impressed by the crown).

After lunch and more looking around, at about row 73 of trees, I found the perfect one (or at least it seemed perfect at this time—which was about the time my feet were getting tired and the daylight started dwindling. If it had been June, I’d have been looking at trees til 9 at night with energy to spare).

Myren hauled the bagged tree onto the roof and we were off. I was looking forward to a cozy fire in the fireplace and some eggnog about now. And I was looking forward to all those flashing lights amidst the shiny garland and sparkling decorations on my over-the-top themed Xmas tree.

So my point is, don’t be too hard on all that commercialism and craziness at this time of year. It all serves a purpose. It’s all about overcompensating for the dwindling daylight to keep our spirits up. Or to give us a headache to distract us from our depression about dwindling daylight. Either way, it’s not entirely a bad thing.

Stephanie Queen has some fabulous spirit-lifting novels perfect for reading this time of year. Check out her romantic comedy suspense series including The Throwbacks and The Hot Shots. Visit her website at www.StephanieQueen.com for more information.

ANTICIPATING CELEBRATION

It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, one of the best days of the year for me. I love to create food to share with the people I love and creating that feast with my husband and my children is, in a word, transformative.

Of course, it would be wonderful if the house would magically transform itself into a pristine environment, but I’ve come to appreciate that our house is very much a microcosm of life: kinetic energies mingling together in an environment full of potentiality and chaos. Even so, a not perfectly put together house that smells of pie, veg and whatever meat is the current offering is comforting. If there are a few socks the kitties have stolen milling about, if every bookshelf is overstuffed and haphazardly double-stacked and if every square inch of the fridge and pantry is covered with photos and random artwork well…welcome to my world.

My daughter is waking up in her bed this morning—at least I hope she wakes while it’s still morning as she’s still sleeping as I type—home from UW for the weekend. She’s put in her request that we bring up all the candle making supplies Thursday after everyone is gone and the cleaning up is accomplished. She wants to get an early start Friday making votives for Christmas.

Today it’s nearly 50 degrees here, about a half hour south of Milwaukee. Perfect pie baking and candle making weather! The doors can stay open, flushing the scents of autumn through our home. She says she misses that at school which cracks me up, because she’s never really been interested in candle making. She likes the candles, but it’s my son who helps me every fall and every spring creating our mini-wax-creations-of-love.

So this year, the energies flowing around me are converging into a stew of contentment and anticipation over what can happen surrounded by family.

My parents are coming tomorrow and we’ll serve all the traditional things they remember from their parents—with the exception of the pan-ultimately icky Jello mold corrupted by that sour cream layer of grossness my mom insisted on making every year which every child hates. At heart, and in the taste-buds, I am still a child, a purist of the highest order, when it comes to Jello. Some things should be sacred. Not-so-sorry, mom, but it’s not on the menu.

I digress…

This year my husband and I have picked out a handful of new dishes to try. This is huge since we’ve always been about tradition for Thanksgiving dinner, but this year has been full of firsts. This year has literally scared the (add the expletive of your choosing) out of us. We’ve started a new business built around our mutual love for all things Scottish, we’ve ridden the waves of the building market, and we’ve jumped into book publishing with eyes toward expansion and diversification.

Yep, it’s been quite a ride. And it’s far from over. But each new journey begins with shutting the door on your safe place and stepping onto a new path.

So, consciously or not, this has translated into Cranberry-Meringue Pie, Pumpkin-Chocolate Torte with Pumpkin Whipped Cream (which thank the spirits of the season we made early because I love pumpkin and chocolate), which is going directly in the garbage with mom’s Jello recipe, and turkey breast stuffed with walnut and mushroom stuffing. All the traditional items will be there as well. I’ll let you know what turns out and what we shrug off as culinary waste.

         This morning as I type this blog, which was supposed to be about Thankfulness, I’m smiling. Tomorrow, the house won’t be perfect; a flaw that will not go unnoticed nor uncommented upon. Something will be under or overdone. Someone will say something outrageous and most likely hurtful. And, on a day filled with old favorites and new potential masterpieces, I will be celebrating the moments as they happen, letting it all wash over me, grateful for the meaningful moments and the moments of absolute absurdity with those I love. 

So, I raise a figurative glass to you, my friends! May Thanksgiving find you well and leave you better. May you anticipate the up-coming holidays with love in your hearts and courage in your souls. May you always be warm, well-fed and loved.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, Leigh.

A Love Forged In Tragedy

In December of 1917, at the height of the First World War, a munitions ship exploded in the harbour at Halifax, Nova Scotia, decimating the North End of the city. Over 2000 people were killed and 9000 others wounded. Until the atomic bomb tests of the 1940s, it was the largest man-made explosion in recorded history.

This event is the backdrop of my upcoming novel, Sense of Touch. While it may sound like a rather depressing scenario, the story is a heartwarming account of love rising from tragedy.

The blast destroyed Amy’s home and killed her parents, while Sean lost his eyesight and the little sister he’d promised to protect. In the midst of disaster Amy and Sean found each other, if only briefly, as she helped him escape the destruction of the city.

Another chance encounter reunites them in 1923. Amy’s disfiguring scars and her need for security have led her to consider marrying a man she doesn’t love—until the touch of Sean’s hand sparks a desire for something more.

As their friendship blossoms into a passionate affair, Sean finds hope and strength in Amy’s arms—but as he struggles to find a sense of purpose without his sight, can love alone mend the deepest wounds of the heart?

Watch for Sense of Touch to be released in the coming days.

Meanwhile, my first release, the contemporary romance Divided Hearts, is FREE on Amazon Nov. 19-23.

Cinderella Rocks! By Joan Reeves

Nobody's Cinderella by Joan ReevesWith the holidays coming up, I’m checking my day planner every chance I get to make sure I don’t forget something or someone. Flipping ahead, I noticed that I’ll soon be celebrating the 1 year anniversary of publishing Nobody’s Cinderella. I love this book so I thought I’d talk about it today. Happily, readers seem to love it too. In fact, who doesn’t love a Cinderella story?

The Cinderella Myth is still one of the most popular folk tales in the world. You’ll find it in not only European countries but also in India, Vietnam, and Africa. In truth, it crosses all cultural lines. There are hundreds of folk tale versions of the Cinderella story.

Surprising History

You might be surprised to learn that one of the earliest recorded versions comes from China. According to the Chinese story, the heroine doesn’t have a fairy godmother, but a magical fish who helps her. However, a golden shoe leads a prince to her, and they marry. Some sources say the story actually originated in Greece even earlier.

Nearly 1200 years later, Cinderella is still having her story told by countless authors – including me. Don’t let the title of my romantic comedy, Nobody’s Cinderella (Book 1 of San Antone Two-Step), fool you. Heroine Darcy Benton is a Cinderella who wishes on a Christmas star instead of waiting for her fairy godmother to cast a spell and send Darcy her prince.

In this case, Darcy’s prince is Chase Whitaker, owner of an oil exploration/production company. Of course, I put pretty shoes on the cover of this romantic comedy. After all, what is Cinderella without a pair of knock ’em dead shoes?

Most Cinderella stories don’t show her and her prince living happily ever after. I plan to show that they do in Cinderella Blue, (Book 2 of San Antone Two-Step), which stars Darcy’s brother Bruce. You’ll meet him in Nobody’s Cinderella, and he’ll meet his match in Cinderella Blue.

I chose to give readers a glimpse of Darcy and Chase’s happily-ever-after in the second book, to be published before Christmas, because I like to see love validated. Isn’t that what a sequel is for?

About Nobody’s Cinderella

In this sassy, sexy romantic comedy, Darcy Benton is the oldest cliche in the world–a woman in love with her boss.

Other than that little quirk, Darcy is no-nonsense, practical, mature, and sober. She’s just the kind of woman Chase Whitaker wants as head of accounting for his company. She’s definitely not the kind of woman he wants in his bed.

Enter Darcy’s meddling, matchmaking best friend who has a plan to transform Darcy into a hottie designed to attract Chase’s interest. All it takes? A couple of little lies. Oh, and a wish on a Christmas Star. Darcy should have heeded that old advice. Be careful what you wish for.

Book Details

Nobody’s Cinderella is available at most ebook sellers, including:
Amazon * iTunes * Kobo * Nook

Nobody’s Cinderella Audio Book is available at Audible and iTunes.

Post Script

Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

(Joan Reeves writes funny, sexy Romances. Her books are available at all major ebook sellers and in audio at Audible and iTunes. Joan publishes Writing Hacks, a free subscription newsletter for writers, and Wordplay, a free subscription newsletter for readers. Info? Visit SlingWords or Joan’s Website.)

Deadline Panic and the Holidays

It just hit me that Thanksgiving is only a week away. That also means Christmas is just five weeks away. Which means that sometime in the next 5 weeks I have to finish writing two books, get two covers done, editing, proofreading, formatting, and uploading completed.

Yeah, in less than five weeks. The panic is setting in.

I’m one of those people who really get into gear as the deadlines close in. When I was in high school, I waited until the last minute to start major projects, but I always managed to get them done. Sometimes is was three in the morning by the time I finished, but I still got up at seven and made it to school, project in hand.

When I first started writing, I joined RWA, then DARA (Dallas Area Romance Authors), and I signed up for my first conference. By the time the conference rolled around, I had about 10,000 words written on my first book. And I had an appointment with Allison Lyons from Harlequin. I’d never had an editor appointment, I barely knew what I was doing at this point, but I sat down and told her about my book. All 10,000 words of it. I made up the rest on the spot.

And then I did the unthinkable. I promised she’d have the completed manuscript in six weeks.

A first time writer, producing 65,000 legible words, in six weeks. Yikes. But when the panic set in as soon as I got home and thought about what I’d done, I sat down and wrote. And wrote. Allison had the manuscript on her desk a week ahead of the promised date. No, she didn’t buy it, but she did ask for revisions and I met every deadline she threw at me. But I was too in love with my “baby” to make the hard choices and change the things that needed to be changed to make it a “Harlequin” book. I will always be grateful for her encouragement, though.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about writing, about rewriting and revising. And the more I’ve learned, the slower I write. I’ve lost the ability to just let the story flow and not worry about the rules as I go. I write, rewrite, edit each section before I move on. I sleep on a plot problem until it unravels. I beat my head against my desk (figuratively) until my characters talk to me.

Will I make this deadline in spite of Thanksgiving, Black Friday shopping, Christmas decorating, and my fortieth anniversary? Does a self-imposed deadline really matter anyway? To me it does, and I’m going to do my level best to make it happen. Sometimes life happens and things don’t go the way we plan, but if I don’t have a goal, and a deadline, nothing gets done. It’s a Gemini thing. It’s like when I go into the house to get something and I see something I meant to do earlier so I stop to do that, then I see something else and before I know it, I’m back in my office without whatever it was I went to get in the first place.

For a writer, everything is new and shiny and distracting. New blog? Oooh, I wanna go see. New pictures? Yes, show me! But when the deadline looms, you have to put away Facebook and Twitter and Bubble Safari and Cityville and get down to the business of writing.

What about you? Do you accomplish more with a deadline looming, or when you have all the time in the world?

A hot and sexy office romance with a twist!

Looking for a quick, spicy read? Check out Chemical Attraction, on sale for a limited time for just $0.99 on Amazon and B&N.

Seven Tricks for Clearing Out Brain Fuzz

November is Nanowrimo (write a novel in a month) and I’m not doing it. I never have. But I have published three novels in the last 14 months and I have two more novels about to hit the world and yesterday a writer friend asked me HOW and it made me think—and remember.

Not too long ago I was really happy if I could write 1,000 words a day. My writing stints lasted about an hour and a half. I would spend the first half hour going over what I had written the day before then spend another hour writing. After my stint at the computer, my head would feel fuzzy, I’d leave my manuscript with a prompt for the next day and I would return to doing all the things that a mom with large family needs to do.

About two years ago, two things happened to coincide. First, and most importantly my children grew up and second a writer friend that I really admire told me that he writes for five to six hours a day. I wondered HOW? Didn’t his brain get fuzzy?

I still have three children living at home, but they are grown-up functioning adults. I adore them but I don’t need to feed, bathe or scold them. This means that if I want to, I really can write five to six hours a day. But first I had to learn to overcome brain-fuzz.

Here are my writing tricks for dealing with a fuzzy brain.

  1. Define your writing goals and style. Do you want to be a Margaret Mitchell or a Harper Lee and write one brilliant novel? Or do you see yourself as an Agatha Christie with 80 stories to tell? (There isn’t a right or wrong answer here, but be warned, if you see yourself with only one story to tell, some of my advice won’t apply to you.)
  2. Have a definite goal. I’m not a math person, but I do have some numbers in my head. When those numbers are met, we will be debt (including mortgage) free, retired and living in a house on a lake. Because those numbers are concrete and very attainable, they keep me motivated and at my computer.
  3. Embrace brain fuzz. It’s your friend. It’s your body telling you that it needs something to drink and your blood needs to circulate. This is how you make the fuzz work for you. Write for one hour, then take a break, even if you don’t need or want one. Get up, sweep a floor, put in a load of laundry, jog around your house, jump rope. Your goal is simply to move your body for ten minutes. Make sure you have something to drink. Sit back down. Write for another hour. By following this pattern, I can usually write for three hours—until lunch.
  4. Always end a writing a session with a prompt for what happens next. I end each stint with something like “the guy with the gun arrives” written down. By doing this, my mind works out the next scene so that by the time I return to the computer, I’m anxious, excited and ready to tackle the next scene.
  5. Have more than one project going at a time. Because I’ve been writing almost daily for about thirteen years, I have a lot of not so great novels under my bed. The Rhyme’s Library, published in August, and Hailey’s Comments (about to be published in December) are both novels that I wrote years ago. Writing a first draft, revising and editing a final draft are all very different mental exercises. When the first draft hits a snag, it’s great to be able to turn to a novel that needs polishing or revising. When I got frustrated with drafting Losing Penny, the novel currently with my editor, I revised/edited Hailey’s Comments.
  6. Engage in other writing activities. Write a blog post. Look for and take advantage of marketing opportunities. Work on your character bible. Sketch outlines for future novel ideas. Take photographs of scenes you want to use in your books. Look online for book cover ideas.
  7. Most importantly, read with a pen in your hand. Underline sentences that you love, dialogue that rings true, and lines that are cornball. Read good and bad books and learn what to do and what not to do.

There really is only one bad way to write a novel, and that is to not write at all. Just like in tennis, you have to keep your eye on the ball, when writing you have to keep your mind in the story. That means that you need to learn to sweep out the fuzz.

Stealing Mercy, my first published novel, is currently free on all e-readers. It’s spent the last ten days on the top ten of Amazon’s list of historical romance. Here’s the link for your free book.

http://www.amazon.com/Stealing-Mercy-ebook/dp/B005FCFHZ6/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1352731916&sr=8-1&keywords=kristy+tate