Friday, December 30, 2011

This I Know For Sure...

While 2011 was better than 2010, it still wasn't the greatest year I've had.  I will be glad to see it come to an end. 

I'm looking forward to all of the possibilities 2012 has to offer.  I hope it's a much better year than the last two years have been.  I hope everyone, including myself, who needs a better year financially, health-wise, etc receives it in 2012.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Just finished Serendipity by Carly Phillips last night.  It's the first book by her I've read.  I'll be reading more. :o)

I'm going to start Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis next.  I really enjoyed her Lucky Harbor series so I'm hoping I'll like this one just as much.

Happy Reading.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What I'm Reading Wednesday

To all of my friends and acquaintances who celebrate the holiday, I wish 
you a very Happy Hannukkah.

I'm trying to read Only Mine by Susan Mallery but I've been so busy wrapping gifts, baking, and preparing for out of town family that I haven't had a chance to read very much of it. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Christmas Tradition

Everyone I know has at least one holiday tradition they look forward to every year from Black Friday shopping to family gatherings to attending that one special holiday party every year. 

I have two traditions I look forward to.  One is to watch Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.  I’m well past the age of believing in Santa Claus and flying reindeer, but it’s just not Christmas if I don’t watch Rudolph.  Every year, the night it’s on, I get in bed, prop up my pillows, and snuggle under my big fluffy comforter and watch the cartoon while my cat curls up at my feet.  Of course, there’s always a cup of hot chocolate involved too.

The most important tradition though is making Christmas cookies with my mom.  She started teaching me to cook when I was four years old.  Every December we would make cut out cookies in various holiday shapes.  She would mix the dough on a Friday evening and put it in the refrigerator over night.   My brothers and sisters and I would take turns peering into the refrigerator at the bowl of dough and asking when it would be ready for baking.

Finally, Saturday afternoon would come and she’d pronounce it ready.  She would roll it out and place the cutters on the dough.  Each one of my siblings and I would get a turn to push the cutters down into the dough.  My mom would peel away the excess, put the cut out pieces onto a baking sheet and into the oven.  We’d repeat the process over and over until every scrap of dough had been formed into a cookie.

Rows and rows of angels, reindeers, snowmen, Christmas trees, holly leaves, tree ornaments, and Santa Claus cookies would fill one end of the table to cool then be packed away until the next day, the most important day of all – the day we would frost them. 

My mom would make the frosting and allow each one of us to stir drops of food coloring into bowls of white icing.  We’d have a rainbow of colors and little bottles of colored sugar to decorate the cookies with.  We’d spend the afternoon decorating the cookies, making sure the Santa cookies were frosted red and white to represent his suit, the snowmen white with a strip of yellow around his neck and down his stomach to represent his scarf.  Christmas trees had brown frosting for the trunk and green frosting for the leaves and a dot of yellow at the top for the star just to describe a few.  When we were finished, my mom would lay them on wax paper to set.  We would ooh and ah over them like they were the most magnificent cookies ever made.

My brothers and sisters are all married with children now and building their own holiday traditions but for two days every December my siblings and I gather together and make Christmas cut out cookies with my mom.  It’s a tradition I hope we’re able to continue for many years to come.
On Tuesday, 12/20 I'll be talking about what a Christmas Orange means to me on the Authors by Moonlight blog.  Link:

Friday, December 16, 2011

This I Know For Sure...

I am beyond thrilled that it's December 16th and here in upstate NY we've only had .03 of an inch of snow so far. Last year at this time we already had 43 inches.  What I really know for sure is that when it does decide to snow, we are going to get a lot of it to make up for the late start.
Today, I'm at AJ's Tattered Pages talking about character names. Hope you'll stop by. Link:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Please welcome my guest, Rebecca J. Clark

Today I'm interviewing Contemporary Romance author Rebecca J. Clark.  Here's a little bit about her before we start the interview.

Rebecca Clark has wanted to write romance novels since she read her first Harlequin Romance at age 11. When she’s not writing, she works as a personal fitness trainer and group exercise instructor, where she teaches Pilates, Turbokick®, Zumba®, and yoga. She makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of 24 years, two kids, a German Shepherd beast who thinks he’s a lap dog, two cats, two rats and a gecko. In her not-so-abundant free time, Rebecca enjoys reading, watching Criminal Minds reruns on TV, and doing absolutely nothing. 

Welcome Rebecca, I'm so glad you could join me. 

   How long have you been writing and what made you decide to pursue a writing career? 
       I’ve always wanted to be a writer—well, since I was about 11 anyway. That’s when I read my first Harlequin Romance and was hooked. I saved all my babysitting money and bought every book in that line as it came out each month. My grandpa referred to them as “I Love You Truly” books. LOL. It took many years before I wrote my first book—I knew I couldn’t write about love until I had experienced it. And I didn’t experience it until I was about 22. Then life got in the way—marriage, non-writing career (graphic design at the time), kids. When my oldest was two I finally decided to pursue my writing dream. Then it took many years after that before I sold my first book.

  I love the name your grandfather gave the Harlequins.  Do you have a writing routine?  Where do you usually do your writing? 
       My day job has really crazy hours—sometimes I work a triple shift (I’m a personal fitness trainer and instructor). So my routine varies depending on the day. I think I’d be more productive if I had a set routine. For instance, if I could write from 1-3 p.m. every afternoon. Sigh. Someday. As for where I write, I have a nice little office to write in…but I prefer setting up my computer on the dining room table. It doesn’t feel as dark and closed off. Once a week I take my son to Seattle to skate (he’s a sponsored skateboarder), so I park it at my favorite Starbucks and get a few hours of uninterrupted writing in.

  I'm in awe.  I couldn't imagine working a triple shift.  I write at the dining room table too for pretty much the same reasons.  Why do you write in the genre/sub-genre that you do? Any plans in the future to write in a different one? 
      I write straight contemporary because that’s what I love to read. I also love, love, love romantic suspense, and I have a couple of story ideas that include a suspense plot…. We’ll see.

 Who is your favorite author?  (I know, an unfair question.  I couldn’t name just one myself.)
      Totally unfair question! But I will give a shout out to my two ultimate favorites: HQN author Laurie London (cuz she’s my sister) and Avon author Candis Terry (she was my first writer friend, first CP and still one of my BFFs).

  How cool that your sister is also a romance author.  How do you stay motivated when writer’s block hits or your muse won’t cooperate? 
      The only thing that works for me is BICHOK. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Then I keep my fingers moving. Sometimes (often times) I write things like, “This is stupid. I have no idea what comes next. My hero is an idiot.” Then I start brainstorming on the screen, asking myself “what if” questions. Sometimes, I might write pages of this self-talk/drivel, other times it’ll just take a sentence or two before I figure out the scene. Back to BICHOK—I find I get writer’s block way more often when I’m not writing every day. So I make sure I write every day. Period. Otherwise, I have no one to blame but myself.

  I love how you deal with writer's block.  I find I also get writer's block more often if I don't write everyday.  Do you have a critique partner or partners?  If so, do you think they help more in terms of moral support or in terms of line editing, brainstorming, etc?
      I have two CPs—both my favorite authors I mentioned above. But, unfortunately for me, I don’t utilize them as much as I should. When I do, it’s mostly for moral support (they often assure me, “No, you don’t suck.” “No, your story idea isn’t the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”) and for brainstorming. I also belong to a plotting group with the fabulous Cherry Adair, my sister, and about 8 other writers—we call ourselves the Cherry Plotters.

  I think we all need those same reassurances.  What’s the best writing advice you were ever given? 
      Can I share two? 1—Write every day (see my answer to number 5). 2—Don’t write for the market unless you can write really, really fast; otherwise, by the time you finish that book, the market will probably have changed.

  Tell us about your current release in a couple of sentences.  
      Her One-Night Prince is a Cinderella story about a shy and sheltered woman who wants to go back to her class reunion a changed woman. She just needs a little help from the hero first.

   Sounds interesting.  Can you tell us a little about your next project? 
       I am working on a sweet short story for The Wild Rose Press (one of my publishers), and a spicy follow up to my first book, Borrowed Stilettos. I hope to have the short story submitted next month, and the other by summer. But I’m a slow writer, so we’ll see on that.

Anything else you’d like to share? 
       Like my heroine, Lydia, from Her One-Night Prince, I tend to be a bit on the introverted side (used to be really, really shy, too). I have a blog for shy writers called Once Written, Twice Shy. So if any of your readers fall into that category, I’d love for them to stop by.

Thanks for the great interview, Rebecca.  Now let's learn more about Her One-Night Prince.

Blurb: Her One-Night Prince is a Cinderella story about a woman’s dream to be something she’s not for just one night at her class reunion.

As all fairy tales go, however, happy endings don’t come easily.

Shy and sheltered Lydia St. Clair is uncomfortable around men, so she advertises for a gay man to be her date and revamp her style. Mitch Gannon answers Lydia’s ad and he’s perfect for the job--he’s handsome and, even more important, he’s charming.

Unbeknownst to Lydia, Mitch is straight and answered the ad as the unwitting victim of a practical joke. Before he can reveal the truth, Lydia is convinced he’s her fairy godmother, ready to transform her into the belle of the ball. And Mitch, prince that he is, doesn’t have the heart to set her straight.

With a firm hand against her upper back, Mitch propelled Lydia out of the bar and out the door. She peered back through the windows and could just make out that waitress standing behind the bar and staring out at them. 

“She’s beautiful,” she said, turning back to Mitch. Something about that woman signaled a déjà vu of sorts in her mind, but she couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

“Who? Edwina?” He glanced into the pub. “Yeah, she is.”

Edwina’s showstopping figure and stunning looks caused Lydia to self-consciously smooth back her boring, pulled-tight-into-a-bun-as-usual hair. She couldn’t imagine a woman like Edwina ever advertising in the gay personals. She couldn’t imagine Edwina making a boob of herself by assuming Mitch worked at a gay bar. 

With the heel of her palm, she bonked herself in the side of the head a few times. “Just shoot me, will you?”

Mitch pulled her hand away from her head. “You’re too hard on yourself, Lydia.”

For a moment she zeroed in on the feeling of his large, warm hand holding hers. It felt good, like it belonged there, which was a crazy thought. Reality returned, and she pulled her hand from his grasp. 

“What in the world was I thinking?” she asked. Her skin burned from embarrassment, or the heat of summer, or his touch…or all the above.

“It’s understandable you’d assume I worked at a gay bar. I mean, you think I…er…”

She waved her hand back and forth. “No, no. That was just plain stupidity. What I meant was, I had this grand notion of you helping me out and transforming me into the belle of the ball. You know, Queer Eye my style or something.” She wrapped her arms around herself despite the warm air and strode down the alley. If a sinkhole opened up in front of her, she’d gladly fall into it. 

He jogged up beside her as they reached the sidewalk. “I don’t know about the clothing and hair stuff,” he said, “but I could certainly give you advice on men.” He cleared his throat and coughed. “I mean, since I’m a, ah, man.”

“That’s okay. It was a dumb idea. Besides, I don’t want advice on men. It would be pointless.” She pulled black-framed sunglasses from her purse and exchanged them for her regular glasses to block the blinding glare off the sidewalk. 

Mitch didn’t respond right away, so she knew he silently agreed with her. Finally, he asked, “Why would it be pointless?”

She had about a million reasons. “It just would be.”

Buy links:

 You can learn more about Rebecca at any of the links below:
Twitter @rebeccajclark

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Spirit

Every year as soon as Thanksgiving arrives, I look forward to Christmas.  Not this year.  I don't have any Christmas spirit this year and I can't figure out why. 

 I have done so little gift shopping so far I might as well say I haven't started.  I'm dreading fighting the crowds, and trolling the parking lots looking for a spot to park.  I listen to Christmas music at work, but it just goes in one ear and out the other, without any impact.  I've watched a number of the Christmas cartoons, movies, and specials, but still no spirit. We don't have our house decorated or the tree set up yet.  And I have no desire to do either.

What's causing me to have the Bah, Humbug feeling this year?  I can't really say.  Could it be because we haven't had more than a couple of inches of snow total so far?  Nope, don't think this is the reason.  I hate the snow and the less we have, the happier I am.

Could it be that with starting a new job, I can't take any time off?  Could be.  I usually would take a couple of days before the holiday to spend on all day shopping trips with my mother.  Can't do that this year.

Could it be that everyone I know is struggling and wondering how afford gifts for their loved ones?  I'm sure that's a big part of it.  I know giving gifts isn't just what Christmas is about but I love giving gifts to show my love and appreciation.

 I can't really pinpoint the exact reason, but I sure hope to find my missing holiday spirit soon.


Friday, December 9, 2011

This I Know For Sure...

The closer the holidays get, the crazier my schedule has become.  Shopping for gifts, wrapping said gifts, baking, planning get togethers, not to mention putting up the Christmas tree and decorating it leaves very little time for writing.  As much as I enjoy the holidays, I think I'll be glad when the chaos part of it is over.
On Saturday, 12/10 I'll be talking about a Christmas tradition I look forward to every year on Linda Laroque's blog.  Link:

On Sunday, 12/11 I'll be talking about the setting of Impetuous on Cathie Dunn's blog.  Link:


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I'm still trying to read Loose Ends by Tara Janzen.  I loved all of her other books, especially the Crazy series but I'm struggling to get through this one.  It's a bit depressing because this is JT's story and I was so looking forward to it.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Is Cooking Becoming A Lost Art?

The young women of my nephew’s generation (he’s 21) seem to take great pride in the fact that they can’t cook or as they say, “can’t boil water.”  Why is that I wonder?  Did their mothers not teach them how to cook or about the immense feeling of satisfaction when you make a meal or bread or a cake or anything else from scratch?  Did they not pass on the sense of pride one feels when given a compliment on how good something they’ve made tastes?  Or perhaps their mothers never learned to cook themselves.  It would be hard to pass on the art of cooking if one never learned themselves.

Maybe I find the concept of not knowing how to cook so foreign because I was taught to cook by a mother who very rarely used anything out of a box or can and to this day still doesn't.   I didn’t have a store bought cookie until I was a teenager and was at a friend’s house.  I’m only in my late 30’s so it’s not like store bought cookies were some new innovation.

I was four years old the first time I made cookies with my mother.  I remember kneeling on a dining room chair, helping my mom stir together the dry ingredients of a recipe, learning to crack an egg.  (She was smart enough to have me crack them in a separate bowl or else we would have eaten a lot of shell pieces with our cookies.)  She taught me how to use measuring cups and spoons by giving me my own bowl in which to measure flour, sugar, and baking powder into.  Over the years we made all different kinds of cookies from chocolate chip, to peanut butter, to ginger snaps to oatmeal and more.  As I grew older, I graduated from doing more watching than cooking to being responsible for mixing the dry ingredients together, to mixing them with the wet ingredients, to being able to take the hot pan from the oven (this was a big deal to a 12 year old), to finally making the entire recipe by myself for the first time.

Baking cookies with my mother throughout the years are some of my fondest memories and maybe the reason why, as an adult, one of my favorite things to bake are cookies.

Unfortunately, now-a-days making cookies means buying a package from the refrigerated section of the grocery store and either breaking the pre-cut dough into pieces or slicing a log of dough into circles and tossing them in the oven. 

When I do hear someone say they don’t know how to cook, I want to tell them they can learn.  If you can read and follow directions, you can learn how to cook.  Get a cookbook that looks interesting, read through the recipes, and choose one to try.  This is how I made Coq Au Vin for the first time.  Yes, I know how to cook but I’d never made it before and didn’t know anyone who had.  The first time, the chicken came out a little dry.  The second time, the chicken stuck to the bottom of the pan, but the third time, the third time, it came out great.   You can learn to cook.  It just takes patience and practice.   

And start with something easy.  Like cookies.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Winner/This I Know For Sure...

Sandra Sookoo is the lucky winner of Emma Lai's 11/30/11 guest blog giveaway.  Congratulations, Sandra!

This I know for sure...the older I get, the faster time goes by.   It seems like summer just ended and it's December 2nd already.  Maybe it seems less like December than usual because we've had great fall weather with average temps in the 50's or higher and barely a trace of snow so far.  Not that I'm complaining.  :o)

The holidays always seem to fly by with all the hustle and bustle of buying gifts and attending parties and family gatherings.  Before we know it, it'll be January 2012 and the beginning of another brand new year that's sure to fly by just as quickly.

Just remember to stop and take the time to notice all the great things that come your way throughout the year.