Friday, December 25, 2009

Warm Wishes for a Merry Christmas

Most of you know I’m a Florida gal. Florida, where temps often hover in the 80’s, even in mid-winter. Most Christmas Days, my fervent hope is for things to cool down enough that I can light our once-a-year fire in the fireplace. The only boots I own are the ones I use wading in the river when I go fishing, and my scarves are light, frothy things designed to add a dash of color (not necessarily warmth!) to otherwise drab outfits.

Not so this winter. This year, I’ve had to expand my wardrobe for a visit to my daughter’s in Maryland over the holidays. Suddenly, curling up under the blankets beside a roaring fire doesn’t sound like such a strange thing to do. This picture, taken from her back porch, will tell you why.

Wherever you might be this Christmas, the authors of Harlequin American Romance wish you warmth and joy and the merriest of holidays!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lee’ s Christmas Checklist

Dear Readers,

By the time you read this, I will be pretty well ready for the holiday.

Shopping done (as many 100-mile gifts as possible). Check.
Menu planning and grocery shopping for Christmas Eve buffet, Christmas morning brunch and Christmas dinner. Check.
Pick up the turkey (organic free-run) from the butcher. Check.
Gifts wrapped. Check.
House decorated. Check.
Get into the spirit of the season by watching my favorite holiday movies (While You Were Sleeping, Love Actually and White Christmas). Check.
Today . . . Christmas Eve . . . I only have two things left to do. Decorate the tree and wish you, our dear and cherished Harlequin American Romance readers, a holiday filled with joy, peace and love.


PS: To celebrate the much anticipated (by me!) release of my July American Romance—FIREFIGHTER DADDY—I’m running a contest on my blog, The Writer Side of Life. The prize? An autographed firefighter calendar and other goodies. Every time you post a comment on one of this month’s posts, your name will be entered in the draw. To increase your chances, you’ll receive five bonus entries if you become a follower of my blog (click on the link in the sidebar) and ten bonus entries if you sign up for my Very Occasional Newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, simply send an email to lee (at) lee mckenzie (dot) com. I know you know the drill—remove the spaces and insert the symbols.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Writing Tip...Sort of

Well, I got out my trusty book, A Novel Idea, this morning, ready to once again share a writing tip, but after some thought, I thought of another tip that might be of better use this week.

Just write.

Right now, I'm in full vacation mode. My son is home, my daughter is finally on Christmas break, and my husband is due to stay in town for the next two weeks. I can think of a hundred reasons not to even look at my computer. And actually, from last Thursday to yesterday afternoon, I didn't even step in my office. I was tired of emails, Facebook, and deadlines. All I've been wanting to do is sit on the couch and watch Christmas movies.

Maybe some of you felt the same way?

But yesterday, when I was a little snippy with some people (okay, my husband), it occurred to me that maybe what I needed wasn't to make another batch of cookies, run to the mall, or organize the pantry. Maybe I needed to do the one thing that made me happy, no matter what....write.

So I wrote four pages.

It's not much. Most days I have four pages written by the time I eat breakfast. But it was enough to keep my mind on my current WIP. Enough to convince me to stop worrying about Christmas menus, relatives arriving, clothes not fitting and the frigid weather outside our door.

Immediately, I felt a lot better! Maybe some of you will feel the same way.

So, my writing tip for the month is to write. Even a little bit. Even if it's not very good. Write because you're a writer, and it's what we do.

Then you can go bake some more cookies. : )

Shelley Galloway

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bumps and Thumps in the Night

So, we're at the lake house ... again. I hope you don't mind me mentioning my new "toy." I'm a bit obsessed, trying to get the house ready for Christmas company. Here's a photo from this morning, facing west, about a half hour after sunrise.

The thing is, we've lived in the same house in Richardson, TX for 32 years. Now we've owned this place only five weeks and I've been here about seven times, some visits for the day only. I haven't gotten accustomed to it yet. There are different sounds to the blowing of the heating and air conditioning, the dull, slight roar of the hot tub, the steady hum of the heater on the porch. The mattresses are different and the furniture makes one pause when navigating in the middle of the night. The upstairs ceiling slopes and if you're not careful, you'll bang your head hard enough to see stars. And not those endless stars in the night sky outside, without the city lights.

These differences seemed minor at first, but this morning, I started to realize that they are shaking up my creativity. (At least, I think they are; we'll have to see when I write the next book.) I've started whole new "what if" scenarios in my head. My imagination runs amok when I hear noises in the night. While soundly sleeping I swear I felt the bed frame get bumped. Two night ago I thought I heard my car door open and close, but of course, no one was outside and the car was locked. Last night there was a mysterious low beeping noise coming from downstairs. I couldn't locate it or see any blinking lights, like a fire alarm battery going bad or some small appliance left on too long. When I finally turned on the overhead light, the beeping stopped. I still have no idea where that sound was coming from, but I'm fairly sure I'll hear it again.

Is my lake house haunted? I don't think so, but I can see where people come up with the idea that a house could contain mischievious or evil spirits. Since I've written paranormal romances before, I can certainly imagine all types of situations where my heroine (or hero) might feel irritated or in danger. I never felt that way in my own familiar home in the city, where the concrete slab doesn't shift and there are no footsteps overhead. (Just the occasional raccoon or cat running across the roof, taking a shortcut from one food dish to another.) In the city there are no pine cones falling from the huge tree outside, landing on the deck or roof, and there are no birds that sound like strange creatures wailing.

I went into the city of Mineola a few days ago, right around sunset. Many of the businesses were closing for the day. The darkening clear blue sky still held an orange glow. Christmas music played from speakers along the main street. Twinkling lights and decorated trees glowed warm in the flower shop nearby. All this atmosphere, and yet, I saw no other people around me for several minutes. I was only one street away from Broad, which is also US 80, but no car doors slammed or tires hummed on the pavement. I felt almost as if I were in a episode of "Twilight Zone," for those of us old enough to remember that series. I experienced a vivid reminder of how my heroine might feel when she arrives in Brody's Crossing, searching for her family.

So, I'm embracing these new experiences as much as I'm loving the lake and the trees. I think they will make me a better writer. At least, I hope they will. You'll have to let me know when the book finally comes out in 2011, tentatively titled Texan in Her Heart. I'll start writing it after Christmas. Have a very happy holiday. I hope you find joy in simple things and experience all the warmth of the season. I'll post a new recipe on January 4th, and when I do my next blog, I'll be well into the book and will probably have more updates from the lake. Best wishes for a wonderful new year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


This month I thought I'd talk about blessings. I haven't been thinking about romance much these past few months as I've been working on nonfiction projects and dealing with my mother's illness.

Yet Laura Bradford asked on our HAR writers' loop about when she'd get her January author copies, and so I remembered to ask for my cover of my February release. I absolutely love it, and I'm not saying that because I'm supposed to either. So here it is for you to see:

I must admit that I am not a holiday person. The holidays have always been a time of great stress. My mother was born on Christmas Eve so we have her birthday. Then as a kid of divorced parents, it was always at least 5 places to be.

This year before the season gets crazy (my mom will be 72) I wanted to stop and count my blessings. I love my family. I have a great job. I've written 23 novels. My Idiot's guide is finished. I've been asked to write articles on teaching for I have great kids and a fabulous teaching career. I have eight healthy cats who tell me they love me daily, probably because they're hungry, but still. It's the warm fuzzies that count.

And I have you, my readers, who have hung in there with me. I can't believe it's ten years. Christmas 1999 I was polishing up book #2 and trying to get my editor to buy it. Now I'm looking forward to 2010 and all the possibilities that are before me.

Have a joyous holiday and a wonderful New Year everyone.