Monday, August 31, 2015

Romance Novels and Me

Looking back on my childhood, I remember the stacks of Agatha Christie novels on our bookshelves, the Ellery Queen Magazines in a neat pile on one of the end tables and the latest Mary Higgins Clark novel always on my mother's bedside table. Needless to say, my mom was a dedicated mystery reader. She also bought me the entire Nancy Drew collection which I still have.

I stumbled across the very first romance novel I read quite by accident. I was in the library and had decided I'd read all the young adult novels the library owned that interested me so I was on the hunt for something else. Something new. Something different, maybe even a bit more grown up. Deciding to try reading one of those mystery books, I headed for the mystery section.

Along the way I had to pass a circular rack of books with white covers with oval centers picturing men and women in various poses. I'd stumbled upon Harlequin Presents. With titles like Bond of Hatred, A Woman Accused, and Hostage of the Hawk I thought these were mystery novels. With my mother hurrying my siblings and I toward the circulation desk, I picked up A Woman Accused by Sandra Marton and stuffed it between a few Babysitter's Club books a friend suggested I try.

I tried to reading one of the Babysitter's Club books and decided it wasn't for me. I then picked up the Harlequin book and was hooked. Every week when we'd go to the library, I'd pick up one or two more of those Harlequin Presents novels. Soon I was moving on to historical romance with their tales of dashing pirates and reformed rogues. From there, I moved on to romantic suspense, contemporary romance, and paranormal romance.

While I dealt with a lot of teasing from my siblings for reading romance, I stood fast and kept reading them and still do. I am  proud to say one of my older sisters now reads romance. And my mom has been reading romantic suspense novels the last few years. So now we trade books - I give her the romantic suspense novels I've read and she gives me the mysteries she's read.

Now if I could convince my two other sisters to give romance novels a try...

Friday, August 28, 2015

This I know for sure...

As I've mentioned before, I'm always looking for books by new-to-me authors. I especially love it when I discover a new-to-me author who has a large back list or has a number of books out in a series that I can read one after another.

I was lucky enough to discover Carrie Vaughn and her Kitty Norville series when she had already released 8 or 9 books in the series. When I discovered Diane Kelly and her Death, Taxes series, she'd already published 5 books in the series.  I just recently discovered Marie Force and her Fatal series. She's published 6 books in the series with the 7th coming out this fall.

The downside of finding a new author who has a number of books out is after being able to read book after book after book in a series pretty soon you've come to the last book that's been published to date and then you're just like everyone else and have to wait (impatiently in most cases) until the next book is released and then usually a year or so until the next book comes out.

So while I'm waiting for the next book in a series I already read to be released, I'm off haunting libraries and book stores looking for that next new-to-me author that has a number of books out that I can read one after another.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

This week...

My current WIP (work in progress): My critique partner is away on vacation this week and next so I'm taking a good look at all of the suggestions she's given me so far and working on incorporating the necessary changes.

Quote of the week:  “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work." ~ Colin Powell

What I'm reading: No Strings Attached by Susan Andersen. This is the first book I've read by Ms. Andersen. I'd recommend it to others who are looking for a good contemporary romance to read.

Random things: As much as I hate the thought that each day brings us closer to the dreaded winter weather, I'm looking forward to fall. I love the cooler weather, apple picking, hot apple cider, and the beautiful colors of the fall foliage. 

Random Photo of the Week:

                                                 My newest favorite treat

Monday, August 24, 2015

Please Welcome My Guest

Please welcome my guest, Author Melinda Curtis. Melinda is an award winning, USA Today bestselling author.  She writes the Harmony Valley series of sweet, light-hearted romances for the Harlequin Heartwarming line. Brenda Novak says: “Season of Change has found a place on my keeper shelf.”  Melinda also writes the sweet romantic comedy Bridesmaid series and fun, steamy romances. 

Melinda’s latest release is A Heartwarming Christmas. This holiday season, warm your heart with 12 connected sweet holiday romances set in Christmas Town from 12 Harlequin Heartwarming authors who are USA Today, national bestselling, and award-winning authors.

There are four connected anthologies in A Heartwarming Christmas. That means each set of three novellas shares characters and storylines! This collection of PG-rated holiday romances are all set in Christmas Town, a location introduced in the 2014 Harlequin Heartwarming release Christmas, Actually. A Heartwarming Christmas will bring you laughter, tears, and happily-ever-afters (no cliffhangers), for more than 1200 pages. Foreword by small town lover and New York Times bestseller Kristan Higgins.

Magic Apples

I grew up on my grandparent’s 50 acre sheep ranch. My brothers were three and four years older than me and mostly uninterested in playing with a girl. My mom worked during the day. Television – dare I admit it – was black and white, and had barely ten fuzzy channels. The only kids’ programming was Captain Kangaroo in the morning and the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. My grandparents were old school, and I was expected to use my imagination and amuse myself during the day.

Which leads me to my heroine in A Comeback Christmas – Chloe Wright. She also grew up in a small town during a simpler time. Chloe has a knack for being able to see the potential in things. When she sees her childhood crush, Ted, trying to sell apples and failing, she immediately knows how to make apples more than just apples. She makes them magic apples that children can make a wish on when they take a bite. Ted resists, of course, because he’s a linear thinker and apples will always be apples to him.

I enjoyed writing Ted and Chloe’s journey to a magical place – a place where legend has it a kiss under the gazebo mistletoe in the town square predicts wedding bells in the future. And I especially loved being a part of A Heartwarming Christmas anthology. It’s rare that 12 authors from a Harlequin line come together to write stories set in the same place – Christmas Town – much less connect their storylines.

So prepare to settle in with a magic apple, some mistletoe, and a collection of sweet holiday stories to warm your heart. Christmas Town is waiting.

Excerpt from: A Comeback Christmas
Theodore Lincoln could not screw up.
If he did, he’d let down the ten previous generations who’d run the family apple farm and the three generations expecting a Lincoln family Christmas with all the bells and whistles.
Everyone – dead or alive – expected Ted to make the right decisions.
But there was a glut of apples on the market driving the price down. Last year’s crop income had barely covered the taxes, much less retirement income for his parents or Uncle Ben. His younger sister Abigail was on a crash course to have another child with that loser Frank Farasi, who barely acknowledged three year-old Lizzie. And Lizzie? She expected Christmas to be magical. Big tree. Sparkly lights. And presents. Credit card bending presents.
Ted shouldn’t be standing in front of the Write grist mill thinking about taking out a home equity loan to expand the farm.
“Well if it isn’t Teddy Lincoln.”
Not her.
Not her.
Not her. Not her. Not her.
Chloe Wright was the only one who called him Teddy. She’d had a crush on him since she was in the third grade and he in the fourth. Back then she was a non-stop talker. Nerd to the nth degree. Overbite. Brillo copper curls. Belly fat. Dress her in green tights and a pointed red cap and she could have been a stand in for a garden gnome.
She’d followed him around like a puppy. Through braces and bras and middle school. The other boys in Christmas Town made fun of her. And of him. Ted had wanted her to be struck by lightning. Dropped into a manhole. Teleported into another dimension.
And then on the first day Chloe entered high school – a day Ted had been dreading – he turned at the sound of her laughter and realized she wasn’t a roly-poly puppy with an overbite. She was tall and curvy and word-stealing pretty. Her smile was worth every penny her adopted parents had paid. And her hair…She’d finally grown it out and straightened it. Every guy in high school bent over backward for her attention. Every guy but Ted.
He’d treated her like dirt for so long, he couldn’t swallow his pride and be nice to her.
Buy Links for A Heartwarming Christmas

Special Offer -
Readers of this blog will be sent a FREE sweet, romantic comedy novella (You’ve Gotta Kiss a Lotta Frogs) by signing up for Melinda’s book release email newsletter. (Note: you must close the loop on sign-up by confirming you are a living, breathing reader via email.) Link:

You can find Melinda at the links below:

Twitter: @MelCurtisAuthor

Friday, August 21, 2015

This I know for sure...

Here in upstate NY, it's getting to be that time of year - time to start buying new school supplies and getting back into the school routine - early bed times and doing homework.

I always look forward to this time of year. To me, it always seems like September should start the new year instead of January. There are new schedules, new friends to make, new things to learn whereas in January, everything pretty much goes back to the way it was before the hustle and bustle of the holidays - there's not really anything new and different to the routine.

I love shopping for school supplies, not for others, but for myself.  I buy single subject notebooks, pens, loose leaf paper, colored pencils, folders and a pack or two of post it notes. I stock up every August when these items are on sale and then use them throughout the year until next August comes along. I use all of these items when I'm writing or revising. The colored pencils are especially useful when revising.

So while the kids are all moaning and groaning that summer is ending and school will be back in session soon, I'm anticipating all those nice, new, shiny, school supplies just for me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

This week...

My current WIP (work in progress): I didn't get much revised last week due to a bunch of appointments after work. Part of me just wants to take the rest of the month off from working on revisions and spend some time reading or doing other creative things to help me recharge and then start again in September when school starts. Other part of me says this idea is just me trying to procrastinate.

Quote of the week: "You are the sole deciding factor between procrastination and progress." ~ Josh Duhamel.  I thought this quote was appropriate considering what I wrote above.

What I'm reading: I just finished Fatal Consequences by Marie Force. It's the third book in her Fatal series. I plan on starting the fourth book, Fatal Flaw, this evening. I don't know what I'm going to do once I've read all the books in the series she's published up to this point. They're very addicting. My mother and sister are now reading them too.

Random things: The nephew I use to babysit has gotten engaged! My, doesn't that make me feel old. His fiancee is a great girl that we're all excited about officially welcoming to the family (although we already consider her part of the family). They've been dating about 5 years and met while freshmen in college.  

Random Photo of the Week:

                        A photo of the fire truck my nephew is assigned to (and drives).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Learning to Write

I'd written for years before deciding to seriously pursue publication. Once I started on that path, I realized there were a lot of things I didn't know or didn't know how to do correctly such as point of view, proper manuscript format, and more.

When I decided to submit my story to editors and agents for the first time, I was told I needed a synopsis in at least 2 forms - one ranging from a single sentence to a couple of paragraphs to include in my query letter. The second form was a longer version to submit to an agent/editor upon request along with the first 3 chapters. The general rule of thumb for a synopsis is to summarize the highlights of the story into 4 to 5 pages. My first attempt at a synopsis was 24 pages long. And I felt I'd only included the "important stuff." Luckily, I met a few great women who were more than willing to share their wisdom and their time.

If you live in an area that doesn't have a writing group close enough to join (like me), there are some great places on the web that can teach you what you need to know. One of the best places that I've come across is Janice Hardy's Fiction University - Fiction University    Ms. Hardy has posts on nearly every aspect of writing as well as posts on how to query agents/editors and editing after that 1st draft is finally finished. She also has a section on the writing life.  Just one word of caution, make sure you have a few hours to spend online. Once you get started reading all the great articles posted, you'll lose track of time pretty easily.

Friday, August 14, 2015

This I know for sure...

It's been crazy hectic around my house the last few weeks. We had family visit from out of town and when one set of relatives left, another came. It was nice to see and catch up with everyone in person instead of through quick posts on Facebook or emails.

This week I had four separate appointments that I had to get to. Thankfully, only one of them was early in the morning before I had to be to work. The other three were in the afternoon after I got out of work. While I normally prefer early morning appointments, it's too hard to make up the time when I go in late to the day job.

I'm looking forward to getting back to my regular boring routine. :o)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

This week...

My current WIP (work in progress): I made much less progress than I was hoping to. It seems like these revisions are taking forever, certainly much longer than I expected.

Quote of the week: "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it." ~ Jack London.

What I'm reading: Fatal Justice. This is the second in the Fatal series by Marie Force. These books are addictive. I plan on picking up the third book from the library tomorrow.

Random things: I can't believe that it's time to start shopping for school supplies and related items. It seems like summer just started.

Random Photo of the Week:

                      I don't think the kitten has mastered the art of sleeping in his bed yet.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer Cooking

Our house is situated so that the sun shines on the back of house in the late afternoon and evening. Unfortunately, the kitchen is in the back of the house. On those 80+ degree days, the kitchen can feel much hotter than the rest of the house even is I keep the back door and the window blinds closed.

This makes me less inclined to want to make a meal cooked in the oven. In fact we often joke that the oven is "broken" from June to early September because we don't use it during that time. (Though we do use the toaster oven because it doesn't heat up the kitchen any more than it already is.) The downside of not making any oven meals is by the time mid-August rolls around I'm really tired of paninis, of salad - various pasta types and the lettuce types, sandwiches, pizza and other types of take out. Plus I still try to make healthy meals at least 5 days out of the week.

One day last week I was complaining to my sister that as much as I don't want summer to end, I'll be glad when the weather gets cooler so I can use the oven and not pass out from heat stroke. She hates the hot weather in general so she's always glad when summer comes to an end. (She wears shorts even when it's in the middle of winter because she's always overheated.) Anyway, she said that she uses her slow cooker/crock pot a lot in the summer and gave me the recipe listed below. I made it for dinner one night and it was a huge hit so I thought I'd share it.

Slow-Cooker Enchilada Lasagna

1 lb ground beef (I used 90% lean)
2 cans (10oz each) enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso brand)
1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained (to make it spicier, use diced tomatoes with green chiles)
1 8oz package softened cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 8oz package shredded cheddar cheese (Colby-Jack works well too)
6 uncooked lasagna noodles

Cook the ground beef until browned. Drain any fat that has accumulated during cooking. Leaving the cooked ground beef in the pan, stir in the enchilada sauce, black beans, and tomatoes. In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese and milk until well blended. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese.

Place 2 cups of the meat sauce in the bottom of the slow cooker. Layer 3 of the lasagna noodles over the meat sauce. (You'll probably have to break the noodles to make them fit properly into the slow cooker.) Next layer in the cheese mixture. Repeat all of the layers one more time. Put the rest of the meat sauce over the top of the last cheese layer and cover with slow cooker lid.

Cook on Low heat setting for 4 hours or until the liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese over the top. Let stand with the lid on for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Uncover and let stand an additional 15 minutes before serving.

Makes approximately 8 servings

Friday, August 7, 2015

This I know for sure...

I watch very little television during the summer. In fact other than the Next Food Network Star on the Food Network, I only watch one other program. Needless to say, watching so little television should give me a lot more time to read once I've written my designated number of pages for the day.

In the past, that's definitely true. I'm sorry to say that's just not the case this year. It seems like it's taking me much longer than usual to finish a book even when it's a great book that I can't put down. I've been reading the same book since the weekend and I still have 122 pages out of 412 pages total left to read though I do hope to finish it this weekend. I have way too many books borrowed from the library that are going to have to be returned before I get a chance to read them at my present reading rate.

Do you find you read more or less during the summer?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

This week...

My current WIP (work in progress): Still have family visiting so no real progress on revisions. Hope to get back on track next week.

Quote of the week: "It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." ~ Confucius   This seems very appropriate for me lately.

What I'm reading: Fatal Affair by Marie Force. This is the first book in the Fatal series. Ms. Force is a new author for me. I'll definitely be reading the rest of the books in the series.

Random things: An update on my mom's rosebush. I read that coffee grounds are good for rosebushes so I'm saving the coffee grounds from our morning coffee to mix into the soil and will be keeping my fingers crossed that the rosebush survives.

Random Photo of the Week:

Our first trip to the vet. He definitely doesn't like to ride in the car. He cried the entire time.