Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy 25th Harlequin American--Author Memories

Hi, I'm Michele Dunaway, and this month and next I'll be turning over my blog space to introduce you to some current and former HAR authors and share some of their memories. I was excited to do this, because these people are my heroes. I was reading their books while dreaming of some day seeing my own. So let me get going and introduce....
Karen Toller Whittenburg

Wrote for HAR from 1987-2004
30 books (give or take a couple)
First HAR title: Summer Charade
Latest HAR title: The Matchmaker's Plan
Favorites: A Matched Set; Perfect Pair; Nanny Angel; Baby By Midnight; The Braddock series

Karen has lived on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but prefers to reside in the Green Country of Northeastern Oklahoma, where she grew up. She enjoys the changing seasons in Tulsa, where she lives with her photographer husband and their floppy-eared schnauzer, A.J.
An avid reader from an early age, she wrote stories as a child and began seriously pursuing a career in publishing in 1981. A writing class convinced her that writing a novel wasn't as easy as it looked, but she finished her first manuscript in a few months and began work on another...and then another. Her first book was published by Dell in 1984, and after writing eight novels under the pseudonym of Karen Whittenburg, she became a Harlequin American Romance author and began publishing as Karen Toller Whittenburg in 1987. Karen credits her love of daydreaming as the catalyst for her life as a writer. She is currently at work on her next novel.

Karen's thoughts:
I have great memories of writing for HAR. It's been a great ride -- working with wonderful editors (Debbie Mattuecci, Tahti Carter, Bonnie Crisalli, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Melissa Jeglinski...just to name a few!) and writing books that centered on the themes of family, small-town values, and (of course) romance. From the beginning of the line -- when the books were more realistic -- through the fanciful times when angels, ghosts, and unexplained mysteries were allowed, I've always felt that Harlequin American was the place my voice belonged. HAR wasn't my first publisher, but the line offered me the opportunity to grow as a writer and develop my career. I will always be grateful for that opportunity.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Community Is Where You Find It

Anyone who has spent significant time on the Internet knows how strong bonds can form among people who have never met face to face. I remember my first experience with it, on Genie. A group of women, who came together originally to discuss writing, became so enmeshed in each other's lives that we all felt as connected as sisters. When we actually met in person at a retreat, it was as if we'd known each other for years.

Sometimes this magical thing happens, and sometimes it doesn't; I've been a member of countless e-mail loops, forums and bulletin boards, most of which were friendly and cordial, but that was it.

Recently, however, I had one of these virtual "sisterhoods" spring up almost overnight, and very unexpectedly. It was on an online marketplace where I sell my crafts and vintage items. The site has a forum, and I was invited to play a promotional game there where you "Buy 'n' Replace"--You buy an item to get on the list, then someone buys an item from you and kicks you off the list, and it all plays out on a forum thread. I've done them before. Usually it lasts for a couple of days then peters out.

This one, however, was different. From the beginning, instead of advertising our own shops, we started promoting each other. Then we started sharing bits and pieces of our lives, and within two or three days this forum became this vibrant THING with a life of its own. The generosity and warmth exuded by these women (oh, and one man!) is so genuine I can't stay away from it. I feel so completely loved there. At one point, this cute baby dress crocheted by one woman inspired another woman to decide to have a baby! Seriously! (It was a big group hug, nauseatingly mushy, and I'm already thinking how I can turn this into a book!)

Most people say the Internet has turned us into a nation of impersonal mouse clickers, where face-to-face exchanges are no longer necessary. But I think in some ways the Internet has made connections easier. Community is where you find it! Doesn't have to be a blood family or a building or a town. It's wherever people share with each other openly and generously.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My personal assistants

One of the blessings and the curses of being a writer is that I spend the majority of my days without other human company. I like my own company and enjoy solitude, so that's not a big drawback for me, but I'm grateful that I'm not completely alone all day.

I have a couple of able assistants who are always around to cheer me up, keep me company — and try to convince me to take them for a walk or hand out treats.

Yes, I refer to my two dogs, Snoopy and Katie. Snoopy, an 11-year old beagle mix, has claimed the upholstered chair in my office as his own, and surrenders it only under protest. He's usually there, near my desk, unless a thunder storm rolls in. When that happens, he's under my desk, his head in my lap, hiding from the big, bad thunder.

Katie, a three-year old Chow mix, prefers to nap in my bedroom, across the hall from my office, but she is alert to my every movement. I can't step into the kitchen for a drink or a snack without both dogs following, hopeful for a handout.

Our morning walk gets my brain working and prepares me for a day at the computer. My two canine companions are also great listeners — they've been a rapt audience for many exchanges of dialogue between my characters. Of course, the dogs think all my words are wonderful. From
their reactions, you might think I was describing a sumptuous roast beef dinner in every scene!

Of course, when my husband arrives home, both furry traitors abandon me to greet the man who's been away all day. No castaway rescued from a deserted island could receive a warmer welcome than my husband at the end of the day. If I try to stay at my computer and continue to work, the dogs will take turns racing back to my office to announce, as only they can, that "Daddy's home!"

But I forgive them their momentary abandonment. I know the next morning they'll be right by my side, ready to help as only they can. I've come to consider them an essential part of the creative process and now I can't imagine writing a word without them!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Happy Grandparents' Day

Looking at my calendar reminded me it's Grandparents' Day here in the US. So here's a virtual hug to all those who've achieved this milestone. A little credit goes to your kids, sure, but I read somewhere that being a grandparent is your reward for not killing your children, LOL, so don't forget to give yourself a pat on the back, too!
I made a reminder to have my kids call their grandmas, and then I thought of my own grandma, the only grandparent I knew. She'd probably want to be remembered as a sweet, church-going, God-fearing lady, full of the heavenly spirit. And, yeah, when I remember Grandma, I think "spirited," but maybe not in the way she'd prefer. :) Grandma was...well, feisty. When the tavern across the street got too loud at night, she'd open her windows and play hymns on her organ. (And no, you can't use that; that's a tidbit for one of MY books!) When solicitors came to her door, she'd give them what-for and send them on their way. Thinking of Grandma makes me smile and hope I inherited some of her genes. She lived into her early 90's and enjoyed good health for the majority of that time.
Grandma also gave me my first Harlequin to read. That story is on the bio page in my books, as well as on my website. So I owe her big-time for starting me down this path. Love you, Grandma.
The hero's mother in my July release, The Fake Fiancee, goes to pretty drastic measures in her quest to become a grandmother. Her antics made me smile, and I could barely wait to see what popped up on my screen when she was in a scene. I'd say she made a scene in more than one sense.
I hope you enjoy this special day. If you're lucky enough to have a grandparent, get in touch today. If you're lucky enough to be a grandparent, congratulate yourself on your restraint when your kids were teens!
And don't forget to share your memories of those wonderful people in your lives. I've shared one of mine here, so it's your turn. Do you have a favorite memory about a grandparent?
Megan Kelly