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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring Fever




It's Spring and it isn't raining and I have Spring Fever. I'm painting everything in sight. My bedroom, the bathroom, and lawn furniture. So what am I doing today? I took apart the yard bench and am repainting. Oh, my back is killing me and I'm at the end of my madness. But I've got one more coat of paint to put on this bench.

While I'm doing this work, I'm thinking of the plot for my next book. I'm at the point where I've got to get to the computer and write. I'll do that tomorrow. Tonight, I'm taking a hot bath.

 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Coffee shops and creativity


Dana Corbit here. What is it about writers and coffee shops? Comedians poke fun at them in their monologues. Coffee-shop owners count on them to keep their books in the black. These laptop-toting artistic types share table space with college students, traveling salespeople and crowds of chatting moms as they sip double espressos and type furiously on their versions of the great American novel. I know a lot about these people because I happen to be one of them.


Several days a week I can be found in my favorite coffee shop, the Biggby Coffee franchise in Novi, Michigan, tapping away on my work-in-progress, making revisions or doing line edits. My double-tall skim vanilla bean latte is always within reach. In fact, I've hung around so often that the owner, Mike Waltersdorf, stocks my books now alongside his insulated coffee cups and greeting cards. I even plan a "Girls' Night Out Book Signing" at the shop each fall to hang out and share books with my friends. Are you asking if I'm there this very minute? Er...no comment.


What makes coffee shops such great places to breed creativity for so many people? For some it might be the smell of coffee, but I doubt that's what it is for me. I never even drank coffee until the last few years - until I discovered lattes. Some might get inspiration from the TV entertainment, but Mike is attached to ESPN, so I don't even pay attention to that.


Now the white noise, that's my thing. It's great having music playing and a bunch of people around me talking, especially when no one is talking to me. I love that noise. I know there are people out there who have to have total silence to work. I just can't relate to them. As a kid, I wrote all of my research papers in front of the TV. (Shhh, don't tell my daughters that.) And quiet libraries...I have about as much luck staying awake in those as I did in my college personal finance class.


The coffee shop has other pluses for me. Telemarketers can't call and try to sell me vinyl siding. The dryer buzzer can't go off to tell me that the light load is finished. My pit of a house can't announce that its annual cleaning is long overdue. All that and the place has coffee, too. They're lucky I don't just move in.


Well, I had better get back to work. The noise level is good, the music's just right, and the latte is kicking in. Ahhh! Let the creativity begin.







 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mother's Day gift


Hi, happy spring! I love this time of the year. The tulips are in bloom and the grass is growing a nice vibrant green. Mother's Day is just around the corner. And I have a book coming out in May, a perfect gift for Mom.
DANGER IN THE KEYS
Boston homicide detective Angie Carlucci thought was getting a much-needed vacation. But her Florida Keys holiday is interrupted when she sees someone dump a body bag in the ocean. In the tangle between arms dealers and treasure hunters, she's the only witness--and the main target. Unless a certain boat captain can keep her safe...
A pretty cop complicating his mission--and endangering her cover--is the last thing federal agent Jason Bodwell needs. Yet the more Jason and Angie work together, the closer they grow. Jason's willing to risk his life to solve the case...
what will he risk for love?

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Prom and Post Prom



It’s prom season, or rather SENIOR prom season in my house. I can’t believe it, but my daughter—my baby—is graduating high school in a month and this is the last go-round for prom. We went dress shopping a few weeks ago and I have officially declared prom a racket! Oh, yeah, you see prom dresses are now going for more money than I spent on my wedding dress. Even if we go the department store route (which my daughter whole-heartedly resisted) we’re looking at a small fortune. We found the perfect dress. It was quite literally made for my daughter, until I looked at the price. The sales consultant had to bring in smelling salts. When I firmly said no, my daughter chose to spend her own money. I’m praying there’s a lesson in all this for her. Time will tell.

If you’re interested in the types of dresses the girls are buying, and the accompanying prices, check out www.promgirl.com for fun. I mean…phew!!!

On a happier note, we have a lovely post prom tradition up here in Nebraska. It’s called Post Prom. The parents join together to put on a drug and alcohol free event in the school gym. This is a huge event, with an equally huge budget that requires a committee of fifty plus parents and donations from all over the city. The festivities begin at midnight and last until five a.m. Once the kids enter the facility they may not leave and no one is admitted after 1:30 a.m. Only juniors and seniors (and their dates) may attend and they don’t have to attend prom to come to post prom. Security is tight.

Post Prom is THE best part of prom, at least that’s what the kids say. Once they’re done with the fancy/official prom they change into jeans and shorts and head over to the school. Inside, we have food, entertainment, carnival games, casino games (with fake money), prizes, food, food, oh, and more food. I can’t think of a better to keep the kids off the streets (and out of hotel rooms). The best part of all, the kids love this event. And since it’s a tradition up here they have no idea prom night is supposed to be any different than this. Once we kick them out at 5 a.m. they all go to breakfast.

Guess who’s on the committee this year? Yep, me. I’m in charge of publicity and ticket sales. The theme this year is A Night at the Oscars. The decorations are amazing and I’m wondering why I accepted a writing deadline around the same time. I also have a book release this month. LOVING BELLA is the third book of my Charity House series. I pray God will provide me with the words for the book I’m writing, the energy to promote my latest release and the fortitude to get through this last prom season.

So, tell me. Anyone have similar prom traditions in your school districts? I forgot to mention that Post Prom is a tradition for the public schools up here. Gotta love the Midwest.

For my information about LOVING BELLA and my other upcoming releases, visit me at www.reneeryan.com

 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A House, a Car, and a Few Secrets

Ramona here, and a few weeks ago, I finished my next book for Love Inspired Suspense. I’m still a little giddy about that, and I can’t wait until its release next April. House of Secrets will be my fifth book for LIS, and in it, I get to celebrate one of my dream cars: a 1968 Corvette Roadster.

This emerald green beauty belongs to my heroine, June, and is almost as much of a character as she is. A gift from her late husband, the car represents some of the key elements in their relationship—sacrifice and endurance as well as a few unexpected quirks under the hood. And like all great mystery characters, it’s in for a few troubling times before the story is finished.

The “house” of the title also holds a few unexpected surprises. Based loosely on the Chenault House in Decatur, Alabama, the house was built in the early 1900s and renovated twice.

I had a lot of fun treating the house as if it were a jigsaw puzzle. Around every corner lies a new secret, a new piece of the puzzle, including one that opens the door on a murder almost 25 years old.

One of my joys as a writer is taking pieces and parts of my own world and turning them into fictional wonders. A small town I love becomes the birthplace of a hero. A trail I love to hike turns into a frightful murder scene. A beloved car becomes a idiosyncratic “character”. . . and future crime scene . . .

Ah, but I’ll save that “secret” for later. In the meantime, I’m working on another book, and I have to go bury a body in a basement of my favorite restaurant . . .

 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Researching the CDC


by Debby Giusti

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hosting the 59th Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Conference this week, and I was there today to soak up all the great information about the outbreaks they've investigated this year.

Stephen B. Thacker, the Deputy Director for Surveillance, welcomed all those attending at the beginning of the morning, and at 10:15 AM, CDC Director Tom Frieden escorted Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius into the ballroom. Ms. Sebelius commended the CDC on the great work they've done especially in regard to the H1N1 outbreak.

One year ago at EIS 2009, the scientists were discussing the first cases of a new virus first seen in California when news surfaced that Mexico had been hit with the same deadly disease. The CDC went to work, identified H1N1 and led our country's response to the crisis.

Although Ms. Sebelius' praise of the CDC was well-deserved, I was more interested in the four Secret Service agents protecting the HHS Secretary. Every suspense author loves a guy who carries a gun, and today I had a firsthand look at four members of our nation's finest security team, complete with communication earpieces and wrist radios.

My focus was directed to an especially burly guy, scanning the audience, until we locked eyes. He kept staring, and it wasn't because he thought I was cute so I turned my attention back to the podium. Ms. Sebelius wasn't nearly as intriguing, but I didn't want Mr. Secret Service to think I was up to no good. After all, I'm known to kill people daily...at least, on the written page.

I'm headed back to the conference tomorrow and hope to gather even more information that I'll use in future books. Deadly pathogens, foodborne outbreaks, pandemics...hmmm? I'm already thinking up new stories to write.

Happy reading! Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti
http://www.debbygiusti.com/
http://www.ladiesofsuspense.blogspot.com/
http://www.crossmyheartprayerteam.blogspot.com/

Visit me tomorrow at http://www.seekerville.blogspot.com/ where I'll be talking about Laptop Ergonomics.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

A Most Wonderful Weekend

Pamela Tracy here. I had the best weekend. Yup, the best. See, my local RWA chapter has a conference every two years. This past weekend was it: the Desert Dreams conference. This year I was co-chair of the speaker committee as well as co-chair of on-site registration. My partner was also my best friend Cathy McDavid who writes for Harlequin American. We started recruiting speakers more than a year ago. Since I'm president of the local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers, I asked my group what inspy author they'd like to hear. They voted on Robin Lee Hatcher.

Steeple Hill was represented. Besides myself, there was also Kim Watters and Glynna Kaye.

Friday Night, I hosted the inspirational table. I met two new authors. One was Pam who is interested in writing young adult. The author is Jean who writes Native American journey novels. I knew everyone else at the table. On the agenda that night was a costume parade (Only Jean dressed up. She was Mother Earth). Then, quite a few authors, editors, or agents told funny stories. One editor told about an wannabe author who sent a big box. Everyone near this editor watched as she opened the big box. Only to find another box. Five boxes later, there was a manuscript with a Barbie tied to it.

The proposal, by the way, neither involved Barbie or was purchased.

Saturday started to a slew of workshops. Besides workshops, I met with my agent Steve Laube who was taking appointments and giving a workshop. That night, after a massive booksigning, the ACFWer's, including those who hadn't attended the conference, met with Roblin Lee Hatcher for Q and A. She was very gracious and open.

Sunday, Brad Schrieber of the Chris Vogler camp spoke.

All in all, great conference.

What I learned: Urban Fantasy a bit glutted - mostly female protagonists purchased; e-book sales still only a single percentage of all books purchased; maybe the Kindle is a wiser choice than the Ipad; historicals are getting bigger (more demand); more and more pubishers are starting to pay in four parts instead of three; the biggest hindrance to my writing is me.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

A New Day--Leann Harris



These last two months in Texas have been unusually wet. And cold. I thought for a while I lived in Seattle, because all of Feb and a good part of March it was overcast and rainy. I can't remember as rainy a year as this year.

Well, that miserable time brought the most beautiful flowers this month. I grow Irises and they are tall and blooming up a storm. And the bridal wreath and primroses. And everything is green and we are no longer under drought conditions.

Now why am I giving you a weather report? God showed me that out of all that darkness and rain came such beauty and renewal. So if you are going through a dark and rainy period in your life, know that God is watering those seeds in you that will bloom into beautiful flowers.

 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Swimming lessons

As a relatively new grandmother, I can't keep from sharing news of my sweet little granddaughter. I'm always anticipating the next time I get to see her because she lives much too far away. Right now it is seventeen days and counting. It is tough to have so much distance between us. Since we have a swimming pool, and her parents have a swimming pool, her mom and dad have enrolled her in a safety swimming course for toddlers. Her dad was a bit skeptical about whether, at sixteen months, she would even understand what the instructors were trying to teach her about staying afloat if she accidentally fell into the pool. But even though, she cried at her first lesson, her dad's now a believer after he saw her holding onto the bar at the side of the pool by herself.

Here is a photo of my granddaughter in our pool with her mother when they were visiting a year ago. She was already enjoying the pool.



I'm pleased that she is learning some pool safety, even at a young age. Of course, there is no substitute for adult vigilance and safety alarms when it comes to swimming pools and little kids, but it eases my mind that she would know what to do if she fell in. I still remember taking my two girls for swimming lessons when they were still babies because we had a swimming pool. I'm thankful that they learned to swim at a very early age.

When did you learn to swim?

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An unexpected visitor


Pat Davids here.
I have to complain about this. Our quiet, sleepy neighborhood has become a mess. The city is repairing a main bridge on our end of town and all the traffic is being rerouted past our block. It's a sand street and I am living in a Kansas dust bowl as dump trucks and heavy equipment rumble past our house all day long raising clouds of choking gray dust. I wish it would rain.
Then yesterday, out of the dust, came a young visitor. She barely got out of the way of a speeding car.
She doesn't have a name. She has a collar but no tags and a tail that wags in spite of her thinness. You wouldn't believe how thirsty she was. I think she just got lost in all the confusion and changing traffic patterns. I don't recognize her from our neighborhood.
My yellow lab, Sadie, didn't care to have her home invaded, but I couldn't leave this poor girl out on her own. After some stiff-legged growls and a huff or two, they decided to be friends and chase each other around the yard.
How strange is it that when our lives seem all a mess and nothing is going right, God sends us a small reminder to be grateful for the little things. Like a bowl of water, a new friend and our own loving home.
I've been trying to think of a name for my visitor. I know I can't keep her. I've put up signs to direct her owner this way. I hope someone wants her. She's so sweet. Tomorrow, if no one claims her, she'll go to our no-kill shelter. Did you know black dog are hard to adopt out? Who could not want those pretty eyes and wagging tail. Perhaps her white markings will make her more acceptable.
I thought of Twinkle Toes for a name. She got those cute white feet. Or maybe Lucky Lady because the car missed her. Blacky just won't do. Okay writers and readers. I need a name for this girl. I'm not taking her to the shelter without one.

 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Taking Time to Say Thanks


Sandra Robbins here with the report of a wonderful experience I had this weekend. Some months ago I was invited by the Magnolia State Romance Writers Chapter to participate in a book signing that they were going to sponsor. As an author I'm always delighted to get a chance to meet people who love to read and sign my books for them. So last Friday I traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, for the book signing on Saturday.

This book signing, though, was different from any I'd done before. Participation was by invitation only, and authors had to have ties to Mississippi. Although I live in Tennessee, at one time my husband and I lived in Mississippi as we attended school at Mississippi State University and then lived for a time in Jackson. We've always felt a strong bond to the state and the people who live there.

Another difference about this event was that authors who participated were donating all proceeds from the sale of their books to the Mississippi Association for Adult and Community Education. As a former teacher and principal, adult literacy is a cause that I've supported for years. As an educator, I knew the staggering numbers of adults in America who can't read or have never finished high school. It was an honor to be a part of an endeavor to support the cause of literacy in Mississippi.

You may have seen the bumper sticker that says "If you can read this, thank a teacher." I'm thankful for my teachers who instilled the love of reading in me, and I thank God for them. If you haven't thanked one of your teachers or thanked one of your children's teachers lately, I hope you'll take time to do that. Nothing makes me feel better than for former students or parents to come up to me with big smiles on their faces and say, "Do you remember when..."

I guarantee you'll make a teacher's day if you take the time to say thanks.

 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pine Pollen is Raining Down! by Missy Tippens

Missy Tippens, here.

Well, after Marty's post on Tuesday about spring cleaning, I thought I'd show you what we're dealing with in Georgia--which might just make Marty crazy! :)

First, this photo is looking off my deck. Gorgeous! But on the deck...check the next photo. That table is not supposed to be yellow. On Tuesday, the pine pollen (here, NE of Atlanta) started falling like crazy! You could see it thick and blowing in the air. Luckily, pine pollen is too large to be an allergen. But it sure is an irritant! :)

Oh, and check the last photo. That is our glass table that's supposed to be clear. It got an awful coating of pollen on Tuesday! Yes, I wrote a message for you. :)

I'd never seen pollen like this until I moved to Georgia. What about you? Do you get it this bad in the spring?


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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

SPRING CLEANING by Marta Perry


What is it about the first warm days and the appearance of daffodils in the yard that makes my mind turn to housecleaning, of all things?! A young man's fancy may turn to love at this time of year, but for me, it's the urge to have my house clean, inside and out. It must be something in the Pennsylvania Dutch genes--that's all I can think. When I was a child, my mother treated spring cleaning as seriously as a spiritual ritual. Everyone had to help, and everyone got to share in the satisfaction. And in those days, with a coal furnace, the house got really dirty over the course of a long, cold winter!

Just now, with a book due May 1st and another due August 1st, I have plenty of excuses not to dive into spring cleaning. After all, houses don't get nearly as dirty now as they used to. But the urge wouldn't go away. As a sort of compromise, I started with my office. After all, a clean office will make my work go better, won't it?

I began with sorting out my storage closet. Oh, dear, oh, dear. There were things in there which hadn't seen the light of day in years. I became slightly side-tracked, reading through old magazine stories and wondering whether this or that old manuscript might be re-cycled into a new story. I discovered connection cords for printers long gone and several hundred feet of telephone cable. Wonder what I was saving that for?

Finally, buried in with office supply receipts from 1990 (Tip: you don't have to save records for the IRS for more than seven years, it seems.) I discovered a list I'd made sometime in my first few years of writing. Turns out that my first year of actually selling what I wrote was 19**, and in that year I wrote twelve short stories and sold six for the magnificent total of $185! Somehow, that hand-written sheet brought back all those feelings I had when I sold my very first story. Someone liked my writing enough to pay me for it! Real people would read and perhaps enjoy the story I had created! I was a writer!

Over the years, that excitement sometimes gets buried under deadlines and publicity opportunities and galleys to read and talks to give. But you know what? It's still there. It's just as exciting to sell a book now as it was when I sold that first little story to a children's Sunday School paper. I just need to be reminded of that once in awhile.

So now not only do I have a clean office, I have a renewed sense of purpose about my writing. That was certainly worth a few hours of hard labor, wasn't it? I'm diving into the last few chapters of the current work with energy to spare.

I wonder what I'll find when I start on the kitchen?

Have a great spring, everyone.

Hugs,
Marta

 

You Know You Need Therapy When ...

Camy here! And yes, I am admitting I probably need therapy.

Since January, I’ve been learning how to spin wool into yarn. Yes, going way old school! I decided to learn because a lot of knitters spin yarn, and I thought it sounded kind of neat, and I may as well try it.

Well I bought a drop spindle and loved learning how to use it! Spinning is incredibly soothing. Something about the feel of the wool and the physical motions of drafting and stuff is just really relaxing.

So then I started haunting Craigslist and found a used spinning wheel for really cheap. The picture above is what it looks like. It’s a Louet S15, basically a beginner’s wheel.

And here’s the yarn I made! You can see the varying degrees of ugliness. :) I am also experimenting with different drafting methods so that’s also why the second skein from the left is so incredibly uneven.








So why do I need therapy? Possibly from LOVING THIS NEW HOBBY WAY TOO MUCH THAN IS HEALTHY FOR ME! I stay up late spinning! I can’t wait to ply my yarn! I want to try all kinds of new types of spinning! I have even calculated that spinning my own yarn can sometimes be cheaper than buying it and I am seriously considering spinning my own yarn for a cardigan I want to knit!

Aaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuugggggghhhhhh!

I need serious help.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novels Single Sashimi and Deadly Intent are out now. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveaways!

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Monday, April 5, 2010

The Story Behind Love Lessons


The Story Behind Love Lessons
By Margaret Daley

Steeple Hill asked me to write a three book series about homeschooling because I was a teacher for twenty-seven years. I said yes, then delved into the world of homeschooling. I have friends who homeschool their children and one worked with her grandchildren. I talked and interviewed tons of people who are doing it. I visited a school where homeschoolers come to take classes, especially elective ones like music, art and drama. I saw a friend’s room where she taught her children. Even as a teacher, I dealt with students who were learning at home because of medical or behavioral reasons.

I discovered there were many reasons why a parent decided to homeschool. In my series I show only three of those reasons. For this first book, I wanted to show a father involved in his child’s homeschooling. So many of the people I talked with were women, but sometimes both parents worked with their children in homeschooling. I personally never talked with a father who did, but I wanted to show it could work and does.

Although the books don’t go into depth about homeschooling because the stories are a romance first and foremost, I wanted to show some of the problems that arise when homeschooling as well as the rewards. Parents wrestle with different issues—some how to do it, others about their capability to teach effectively, even others motivating their children or managing their time to get everything in. It is time consuming—a job—an important one. Trying to give your child all the opportunities he needs to learn and socialize with others isn’t always easy with the resources in some communities. Online support has helped some parents as well as co-ops in their towns. A lot more curriculum has been developed in the past years to assist parents. It is becoming more recognized in some states, but parents do have to check the requirements in their state.

Have any of you homeschooled? Do you know someone who has? What are your feelings concerning homeschooling children? Pros? Cons?

Blurb for Love Lessons:

Homeschooling his daughter is new to devoted single father Ian Ferguson. To ensure his child gets a good education, the busy CPA hires a temporary tutor to help out during tax season. Twenty-three-year-old college student Alexa Michaels is too young--and too pretty--to be right for the job. Yet his daughter is coming out of her shell and learning. Still, Ian is traditional, and sweet Alexa--who graduated from the school of hard knocks--is challenging some of his old-school ways. Can this dad learn some valuable lessons about love, family and faith from the least likely teacher?

Love Lessons, out in April, is the first book in the Love Inspired series. Then comes The Heart of a Cowboy in July, and then finally A Daughter for Christmas in November is the last in the Happy Homeschooling Series.