Saturday, June 05, 2010

Introducing The Codys: The First Family of Rodeo


You all are readers—I know because you are reading this blog. As readers, you will likely agree with me that when you find an author you love, you want to search out and read all of their books. And when you find a miniseries that really grabs you, you want to read the books one after another. Well, I found one. And it’s called The Codys: The First Family of Rodeo.

I’ve always wanted to do a big family drama in American Romance—something with a western theme, of course. And one night (there may have been some wine involved) I sat down and tinkered away at the computer, coming up with an outline for a town, a ranch, and a big family whose members would find their happiness, one at a time, with the loves of their lives. But things didn’t get interesting until I emailed the outline to six amazing authors who truly created the world of the Codys.

Even after all these years of being an editor, it still delights me to see an author’s finished story. Going from an idea to a book is a long process. It’s fun to brainstorm ideas with authors, or work with them on sketches and small pieces of characters and places and situations. But actually reading the final finished books, and seeing how an author has developed her characters—emotionally, physically, mentally—impresses the hell out of me. Sometimes I think where the heck did she come up with that? Fantastic! And it all came out of one little germ of an idea.

From a small outline, six authors created six great stories. I’ve been reading the finished and polished manuscripts as they came in and they have made me laugh, and get a little teary at times, and most of all they have made me whoop with glee. Wow, guys. You have made this family tick, and taken these characters places I never would have imagined. A shout out to Johanna, who has worked with all six authors from proposal to finished manuscript. She has been an integral part of this miniseries, and is an all-around cool person and a fantastic editor. Way to go, Jo. You da woman!

Thanks, Rebecca, Marin, Cathy, Pamela, Trish, and Lynnette. It’s an honor to work with you all. Thanks for these stories—pick ‘em up, people! You’re going to love them. And who knows…we might end up back at the Cottonwood Ranch one day soon.

Kathleen Scheibling
Senior Editor
Harlequin American Romance

P.S. The pictures here are posters Johanna and I have up in our offices. When we embarked on this journey into the world of rodeo, I thought it would be fun to have some authentic inspiration. These posters are from the Cody, WY, rodeo. Mounted, framed, and hung with pride in our offices at Harlequin.

**Dear Readers don't forget to return tomorrow June 6th for the first One Day Only Social Media Blitz Contest when Rebecca Winters talks about her launch book in the series, Walker: The Rodeo Legend.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Recipes of the Month

The public library in Bonham, Texas has a romance author event every February. Authors introduce themselves and participate in a roundtable discussion, followed by questions from attendees, and then the fun begins. The library ladies provide a wonderful pot luck luncheon for all the authors, giving everyone a chance to eat and chat in a relaxed environment. Author Kay Sisk of Bonham is one of the organizers of the romance author event every year, and for that, all of us who have particpated thank you, Kay!

Sue Smith of Bonham prepared a unique and delicious "salad" one year and I asked her for the recipe. I'm not sure where the recipe originated, but probably with the company who makes Rice-A-Roni. Don't let the name or the ingredients fool you - this is really delicious, especially on a hot summer day, served with a green salad, fruit, muffins, and perhaps a hearty dessert.

Sue Smith's Cold Rice and Artichoke Salad

1 box chicken flavor Rice-A-Roni, prepared per directions and cooled completely
6 green onions, white and light green parts, chopped thin
1 jar artichoke hearts (I use 1 can of water-packed artichoke hearts, drained) quartered or chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) curry powder
Optional: 1 cup diced grilled chicken or 1 large can chicken breast, drained
Optional: red peppers, green peppers, olives, pimento, etc. may be added to your taste

Mix all ingredients together, chill and serve. Keeps well for several days in refrigerator.

Here's my mother's sugar cookie recipe, which would make a nice dessert with a salad lunch or dinner since you'll want to eat lots of them! My mother always made these cookies in her yellow ware bowl, which my nephew now has in Louisville, KY. I found one just like it at an antiques store and it makes me feel as if I'm still in my mother's tiny kitchen, making these cookies.

Virginia Chancellor's Sugar Cookies

1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 eggs
4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream shortening and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs and cream again. Add milk. Sift together dry ingredients and add to shortening/sugar/egg/milk mixture. Add vanilla and stir again. Drop by teaspoons on a greased cookie sheet. Add "sprinkles" if desired. Bake only until light brown on the edges; the cookie should be pale and spongy in the center when tested.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Family Game Night

My son is home from college, which means that our life has turned upside down again. I’ve begun to grocery shop every five days-our meager food supply will not keep one hungry eighteen-year-old happy for long. I’ve also started doing a whole lot more laundry. We now are back in the dining room for dinner-my daughter refused to eat in there when there was just three of us. And I’ve had to give up Suzy, the dachshund at night. Arthur likes sleeping with her, too.

One thing that has returned with a vengeance is ‘family game night’. Now, we’re just like any other family-it’s a small miracle to have all four of us home any evening after dinner. But for whatever reason-maybe the kids are just afraid to make me sad-they still stay home on Sunday nights.

Which is our family game night.

When the kids were little, we played Trouble and Clue and Life. Nowadays, we have two games that all four of us like to play: Hearts and Scrabble. We keep score and nitpick each point earned. And heaven forbid someone even thinks about putting down a word on the Scrabble board that cannot be validated in a dictionary.

We were all good with this little routine...until last Sunday night. That’s when my son pulled out Mad Gab. We had played it a few times last summer, and none of us were very good at it. But, well, I was sick of losing at Hearts, so we all decided to give it a try.

This was a very bad idea. First of all…Mad Gab is played in teams. Partners must rely on each other to decode phonetic sounding phrases. Timers are involved.

I’ll just go ahead and say it... None of us is very good at relying on each other for success. And none of us is very understanding about each other’s faults, either. After one round, the yelling began. Name calling was just around the corner. And wonder of wonders-I had to pull out my dormant completive spirit-otherwise no one wanted to be on my team.

Things got ugly. We kept switching teams. Finally, when no one could take it anymore…we gave up and put that darn timer back in the box. Later that night I made the call: Mad Gab will no longer be part of family game night.

There’s no telling when I’ll get everyone to stay home and play cards or Scrabble again. I might have to make a really good dinner in order to do that. Or maybe just promise that Mad Gab will never be attempted again.

Anyone have a game they play with their family?

Shelley Galloway

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

May Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Marcie--the winner of our May drawing! To receive your free autographed books please contact Laura Marie Altom and Cathy McDavid through their websites.

Each month we have authors give away a book to one luck winner. All you need to do is comment on our blogs and your name will be entered into the drawing--it's that easy!

June is a special month at Harlequin American Romance with the debut of the first-ever six-book continuity for Harlequin American Romance-- The Codys: First Family of Rodeo. Stop by June 5th for Senior Editor Kathleen Scheibling's blog and the very next day Rebecca Winters kicks off the One-Day only Media Blitz Contest with her blog about the first book in the series, Walker: The Rodeo Legend. Rebecca's giving away books and some delicious Rocky Mountain Chocolate!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Me? A Teacher?

Although I come from a family of teachers, I never saw myself as one.

My mother taught art in junior high school and, later, ceramics and other college courses to art students. My mother-in-law is a retired teacher, and my younger son is studying to be a high school biology teacher.

But me? Sure, I’ve enjoyed giving the occasional critique to fellow writers, but I’m impatient with people who aren’t seriously interested in learning a subject. Besides, the only thing I really know about is writing.

I had a lot of writing teachers. We can start with Mrs. Tyler and Mrs. Hitchcock in high school, and then there were some distinguished instructors in college, including Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Howard Nemerov and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright William Gibson (The Miracle Worker).

Later, while working as a journalist in Southern California, I took a few writing classes here and there, and joined a critique group that I’ve participated in for more than 30 years. Many members have come and gone – including Elizabeth George and T. Jefferson Parker.

I learned from my editors (don’t ask me how many – after 87 novels, I’ve lost count) and some of my agents (there’ve been three or four, but only two that count). I also learned from my editors at a daily newspaper and The Associated Press.

Along the way, I accumulated a lot of knowledge and skills. It seemed almost a shame to have gained so much insight when, let’s face it, I’m hardly Shakespeare or even J.K. Rowling.

A couple of years ago, a fellow writer tipped me off to a college-accredited distance-learning institute called Long Ridge Writers Group, for which she was teaching. I applied, was thoroughly evaluated and trained in their curriculum of short story & article writing and an advanced course on novel writing, and set loose on an assortment of students from all over the world.

During the last couple of years, I’ve learned something: that I’m a teacher. I doubt I could stand in front of a classroom and deal with bored adolescents or disciplinary problems, but I love working one-on-one with motivated writers from their teens to their eighties. The payoff is seeing many of my students make tremendous progress, and hearing back from them how much the experience has meant to them.

I’ve written an article called “Ten Things a Novelist Learned From Teaching Writing” and posted it at If you get a chance, I hope you’ll take a look.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Where are the emperor's clothes?

Maybe I’m the only kid watching the emperor strut down the road naked. After all, I haven’t read the reviews or checked to see what my Facebook friends are saying or listened to anyone’s Tweets. So, maybe I’m the only one who didn’t “get it.” But I felt cheated by the series finale of one of my fav shows this week.

For years I, along with countless others, tuned in weekly to get a dose of mystery and romance. I looked forward to seeing which flawed, but loveable, hero the heroine chose. I wished a supporting character would escape from under her father’s controlling thumb. Fingers crossed, I fretted over pregnancies. I smiled at babies, cried as beloved “friends” died off, and hoped for an end to one character’s run of incredibly bad luck.

Turns out, I’d have been better off reading (and would have enjoyed it more). Because, after the last show of the last season, my take-away message was, “Ha! Ha! You’re joking, right?” To me, that ending re-affirmed the importance of the promise every author of romance makes to their readers: We will deliver happily-ever-after. Not only that, we’ll deliver it neatly wrapped with a satisfyingly emotional ending. With no room for sappy sentimentality.

So, are you fan of series television? Ever wish the writers and producers were required to deliver the way romance authors do?

Leigh Duncan
The Officer's Girl- April 2010
Catch of a Lifetime-2011