Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where Did You Come From?

In Florida, spring is in the air. At our house, we’ve turned the heat off and the air on. Tiny leaves have poked through the soil in my freshly planted garden, and I have my fingers crossed that they’re cucumbers and not weeds. Daylight Savings starts tonight (don’t forget to move your clocks forward). And leaves are forming on the Chinese Ting that grows outside my office window.

So, with all this new life bursting on the scene, is it any wonder that I’ve been asking, “Where did you come from?” No, this isn’t a lecture on the birds and the bees. It’s a question about the heroes and the heroines in the stories we write.

Where do they come from?

For me, every new book starts with the characters. And because I write romance, I usually “see” the hero or the heroine first. I’ll be going about my business—shopping, cleaning, cooking, whatever—and one of them will pop into my head. Sometimes, they wave and keep on going. There’s a woman in an orange grove who’s been doing that lately. But she doesn’t stop, so I wave back and let her go, knowing her story isn’t quite ready to be told yet. When it’s time, she’ll come back and stay a while. She’ll start talking or she’ll do something that catches my attention.

That’s how it was with heroine in The Daddy Catch, my second book for Harlequin American Romance. Before I even started working on the book, I caught a mental glimpse of a feisty fly fisher landing a redfish in the Indian River. At the time, I was knee deep in edits for my first book (The Officer’s Girl, April 2010), so I just gave her a nod and went back to work. She didn’t leave, though. She hung around. She’d pop in at the oddest moments. Each time she did, I got to know her better. I learned that her name was Jessica Cofer, that she was a widow and had a little boy. She owned a fly fishing shop in nearby Merritt Island, and was passionate about preserving a slice of undeveloped riverside for future generations.

All well and good, but what’s a romance without a hero?

Dan Hamilton took his own sweet time making himself known. But one day, as I watched Jessica land another big red, I noticed this tall, dark-haired man in a business suit leaning against a palm tree on the bluff overlooking the river. Right away, I knew my hero had arrived on the scene. Of course, Dan didn’t think he needed a woman in his life. He was a thoracic surgeon, and he pretty much thought he had it all. In fact, he’d just received the sign that he’d “arrived” when a tightly knit cadre asked him to join them in building an exclusive cosmetic surgical center.

Clearly, Dan needed convincing. That’s where my job came in. The result was The Daddy Catch, my second book for Harlequin American Romance, one that I hope you’ll enjoy. The Daddy Catch will be available in June.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Louella Returns!

I've been having a lot of trouble getting on and completing Book #4 of my O'Malley Men series. I wrote the first half of this book in a week while staying at a spa hotel in Boulder, Colorado. I was loving the story, had some ideas on how it would end (I'm a panster). But then life got in the way, ie. I had to leave the spa. :-(
It went onto the back burner while I did edits and rewrites for Book#3, my latest release, Colorado Cowboy. But Luke's story was published in January and now I've run out of excuses for not finishing his firefighter brother, Adam's story. Since it's about a firefighter falling in love with a suspected arsonist, the subject matter was lending itself to another serious tale. Both The Sheriff and the Baby and Colorado Cowboy were rather serious tales and what I really wanted to write was another romantic comedy - to return to the fun days of watching Will the ski bum romancing the town judge in Colorado Christmas.
The inspiration on how I could bring back the romantic comedy elements to my writing was provided by a little English pig called Cinders, who apparently is afraid of mud!
Yes, this little piggie suffers from mysophobia - a fear of dirt. While her siblings revelled in the muck, poor Cinders stood shaking in her trotters. The farmers who owned Cinders just happened to have some miniature plastic bootie pen and pencil holders. They slipped them onto Cinders and now she happily plays in the mud. Apparently she loves them so much, she trots over to the farmer every morning to have them slipped on! (she's named Cinders after Cinderella btw) :-)
I thought at the time this was such a heart-warming story, and then I remembered Louella, the world's naughtiest pig in Colorado Christmas.
I'd had such positive feedback about Louella and she'd provided so many light-hearted moments in my debut novel that I thought: What if Louella made a comeback in Adam's story? What if Louella had a fear of snow and needed rubber booties (fur lined of course!) in order to get around town, and stick her snout into everyone's business?
Since Louella's return to the page, I've been happy as a pig in mud! (okay, sorry, very bad joke)
But seriously, she's helped everyone lighten up and inspired me to write what I hope is shaping up to be my best story yet.
If you'd like to win a copy of my latest novel, Colorado Cowboy about Luke, the oldest O'Malley, who runs the family ranch, tell me what makes you laugh when reading a book, watching tv or whatever. I'll choose the most inspiring.

Meantime, I'm making the most of
summer downunder.
Till next time!

Monday, March 07, 2011


Goose or dog?
This is not a problem many people have. If you do, please let me know.
We live on a lake in central Texas and when we moved here fourteen years ago there were a lot of geese, tame and wild, and ducks. Then they started disappearing. Our neighbor said a bobcat was getting them at night. That was one hungry bobcat. He got all but one tame goose. I think he was old and tough and not vey appetizing.
Luckily, most of the wild geese were able to fly away, except for two that were injured. So now that just leaves three geese on the lake and we’ve noticed they don’t socialize. The wild geese stay to themselves and the tame one is alone.

When my husband works in the yard or on his boat, the tame goose follows him around like a dog. I guess he’s lonely. As soon as my husband goes outside, the goose comes waddling and he has this annoying quack, kind of like a smoker’s quack. The more you talk to him, the louder he gets.

The goose has now figured out that when my husband disappears, he goes into the house. So the goose waddles to the patio and looks through the French doors trying to find him, quacking that annoying quack.

We named him Goofy. And Goofy doesn’t know if he’s a dog or a goose. In the mornings, as soon as we turn on the kitchen light, here comes Goofy, quacking, quacking, wanting someone to come out and play. We’ve even started closing the blinds so Goofy can’t see us. It didn't work. He’s still there quacking.

We’re hoping when spring comes and the wild geese return that Goofy will have company and stay on the water. Poor lonely Goofy.

Does anyone want a goose? He’s real friendly.

I’m thinking of putting Goofy in my next book. Do you think I can make it believable?

Her Christmas Hero – AR ‘10
Coming in August The Hardin Boys series.

Anniversary Celebration

This month marks the fourth year since I got THE CALL, the most exciting day of a writer's life. When someone (in this case, Kathleen Scheibling, senior editor at Harlequin American Romance) says they want to publish your first book, it's the realization of all the dreams you've imagined and the payoff for all the hard work you've done. It's validation. And I missed it. Sort of.

Can you imagine? Not that the offer would have been withdrawn, you understand. But to have the editor finally, Finally, FINALLY call with an offer and not answer the phone? Okay, here's what happened.

The date is also my mother-in-law's birthday. It was a Thursday. (Are you understanding how important this day became, that I know the day of the week?) So I had to clean house, cook a meal, bake and decorate a cake, etc. You know the drill. My kids were at school, husband at work, and I was...writing. You can imagine how glad I am now that I wasn't sleeping, shopping, or reading. That I was writing makes a better story. Phew.

I was in my office in the basement of the house. Outside my office door, a load of clothes was washing and another drying. I was also printing pages. Lots of noise. I never heard the phone ring.

I had an eye on the clock, and when it became the last minute (since I'm a deadline girl, lol), I saved my work in progress, closed the computer down, went upstairs, and did some cleaning. At some point in tidying the house, I had to take something to the room where the answering machine was and I noticed it blinking. I distinctly remember thinking I'd listen to it later; it was probably a sales call. But I do have kids, and although no school nurse had called my cell phone which I had with me while I was writing, it was possible it could be an emergency. So I hit Play.

Kathleen Scheibling had left a message.

Kathleen Scheibling. Senior editor. Who had my manuscript.
This is a weak-at-the-knees moment. Now, I was cautious. I'd received a call from an editor before, Brenda Chin, who bless her heart, directly after introducing herself said, "This isn't the call you're hoping for," enabling me to draw breath and listen. She, of course, meant it wasn't THE CALL.

Therefore, I tried not to get my hopes up this time. It was a little after noon here in the Midwest. I ran and found my copy of notes from the RWA PRO network on what to do when you get THE CALL. I skimmed it, took a deep breath and dialed Canada.

I got Kathleen's voice mail.

Jeez louise. Talk about roller coaster emotions! So I left a message that I was returning her call. Then I called my husband and told him I was waiting for the editor to call back, it probably didn't mean anything, not to get his hopes up, it was no big deal, and I was going back to cleaning and cooking and... (all of this in one breath, I'm sure). And while I'm reassuring him and hearing his excitement for me, the house phone rang. Caller ID read Harlequin Enterpr.

My husband wished me luck. I think I said goodbye before I closed the cell phone. Maybe. Kathleen explained the office was closing for the day due to a huge snowstorm and she almost didn't check messages, but she wasn't sure the office would be open on Friday. That's how intense the storm was.

And I'm thinking: I would have worried myself into anemia by Monday. (Okay, I don't know if it's possible to actually do that. But waiting would have made me a basket case.) Anyway, Kathleen offered for the book, I was so light-headed I had to sit down, and we talked details for a few minutes. We came to terms easily since I'd been studying up on this for a long, long time and knew what to expect from a contract, and that was that. I was a contracted author! Woo hoo!! I called my husband. I called my critique partner. And I went back to cleaning the house. Because as magical as it is to sell a book, the cleaning fairies didn't automatically appear to relieve me of mundane chores so I can write.

But my husband came home with a cake.

Megan Kelly
The Marriage Solution, May 2011
Stand-In Mom, Sept 2011