Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Traditions--Zoolights

Since we moved to Arizona over a year ago I've had a difficult time capturing the "feeling" of Christmas out here in the desert.  I was born and raised in Wisconsin and the memories of my Christmas's there include snow, cold temperatures, the family car getting stuck in the snow after visiting Grandma and Grandpa Christmas Eve, building snow forts, sledding down the hill we lived at the top of and filling the freezer with snowballs for a fight with the neighborhood kids.  Don't get me wrong—Christmas in the desert is unique and beautiful in its own way, but I miss the cold and snow—just around the holiday.   
So I've started a new Christmas tradition since moving to Arizona.  Each Christmas Eve we head to the Phoenix Zoo—voted one of the top 5 zoos in the nation for children—and spend a couple of hours walking around drinking hot chocolate and eating roasted nuts while taking in Zoolights.  It's an amazing and beautiful display of lights and decorations in a desert setting.  The zoo is transformed into a little magical Christmas village with millions of colored lights and a now- famous Music in Motion light display—twenty-six trees that dance to music around a lake.
Here's a youtube video of last years' Zoolights
So tell me...what family Christmas traditions do you look forward to every year?
Marin Thomas
Beau: Cowboy Protector *Harts of the Rodeo* Nov 2012
No Ordinary Cowboy *Rodeo Rebels* April 2013
The Cowboy Next Door *The Cash Brothers* July 2013

Monday, December 17, 2012

'Tis the season to be jolly...

Let me tell you, I'm living that phrase from the well-loved Christmas carol!

Although life has thrown many different opportunities—and, not to mention, a good number of curves—my way, the one constant since I was a little girl has been the knowledge that I wanted to be a writer.

I started scribbling stories well before I knew my ABCs—and I'll bet you can just imagine the trouble that gave my parents when I asked them to read my efforts.  LOL

After I learned how to use the alphabet to make spelling words, I knew the only thing better than being a writer would be becoming an author so I could share my stories with people outside my elementary school.  That wish came true a few years ago, and with two more books out this year and the recent sale of another Flagman's Folly story, I feel as though Santa came early to my house!  This explains why I'm so happy this holiday season.  J 

Along with the above, I have a lot to be thankful for, including the fact you've taken time out of your extra-busy schedule to stop by and read this post. 

I hope you'll also take a minute, maybe by sitting down with a glass of eggnog or a cup of tea and a cookie or two, to stop and think about what made your year wonderful.  And please share that with us!

To you and yours, I wish happy holidays and a happy, healthy, safe, and prosperous year ahead.

All my best, always,



Barbara White Daille
The latest Flagman's Folly books:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cocoa the Incredible Blind Flying Wiener!!!

Just when I think Casa Altom can't get nuttier--it does!!!  LOL!!!

As I have only fifteen or so minutes before our contractor arrives and I'm forced to run and hide from drywall dust and/or the tooth-rattling growl of the Sawzall, I'll keep this short by sharing only the freakiest, truly most unbelievable moment of the week.

We're undergoing MAJOR renovations on our decrepit old house and one change is replacing the deck off of our dining room.  This second story deck is a doggy favorite.  High in the trees, squirrels frolic there and anytime the magic door's opened, our three dogs charge past me, hot in pursuit.

I was under the impression that only part of the deck would be replaced, but by Tuesday afternoon, the whole thing was GONE.  After the contractor left, Hubby, son and I stood at the door, gawking at the mess.  Son was horsing around and decided to open the door to do a mock walk-out and fall.

That lone support beam is all that's left of our old, second-story deck!
Cocoa, our 12 year old blind wiener, heard that magic door open, just knew she'd finally catch an evil squirrel and bolted--RIGHT INTO THIN AIR!!!!

I screamed and cried, Son tore down the stairs to reach her, with me running after him.  I was crying too hard, certain poor Cocoa had died from the fall, to even know what Hubby was doing.

Here's the odd part--we all get downstairs to Cocoa and she's fine!!!  Like not a scratch, not spooked, no broken back or legs, but 100% awesome, smelly wiener dog!!!  I hugged her for a good hour, then kept a close eye on her all night, afraid she might have internal ouchies.  Two days later, she's doing great!!  Still chasing evil squirrels and growling when anyone gets too close to her Dingo bone!!!

Cocoa in her usual lounging position!!

I consider this a full-on miracle.  Our pets are part of our family and with everything else going on right now, the thought of losing Cocoa is unthinkable.

How about you?  Have any great pet miracles to share?      

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Year of Firsts!

I’ve come full circle. 

A year ago today, I sent off my first submission to Harlequin, as part of their So You Think You Can Write competition.  Nerves were an understatement, but three months later to the day, Kathleen Scheibling, senior editor of the American Romance line called me and changed my life. 

What a wonderful year of firsts…

December 13, 2011 – My first submission to Harlequin.  Actually, it was my first submission to any publisher.

My First Sale - March 13, 2012 – BETTING ON TEXAS made it to Harlequin’s American Romance Line.

First Celebratory Dinner – There was champagne, chocolate, flowers and Chinese food.  It was a night I’ll never forget!

First Blog – Fellow American Romance author Marin Thomas grabbed my hand and led me here.  I love visiting with all of you every month.

First Contract – I never saw a document more beautiful!

First Advance Check – You mean they pay me for doing what I love?

First Revisions – No author is perfect.  Our editors find the flaws and steer us in the right direction.  My editor is a dream come true.

First Art Fact Sheet (AFS) – This should have come with a warning!  This is a database where an author enters the fine details about their book, from a character’s physical traits, clothing, scenery, etc., which in turn allows the art department to create our amazing covers. 

First Title Change – For years, my book was known as Double Trouble.  The name had been previously used by another author (shame on me for not doing my homework) so I had to come up with another one.  BETTING ON TEXAS was born.

First Dear Reader Letter – I’ve read hundreds of these, yet when it came time for me to write mine, I had so much to say I didn’t know where to begin.  

First Dedication – Words can’t describe how I feel.  Thank you mom and dad!

First Line Edits – Editor extraordinaire, Kathleen Scheibling, read through and edited each line of my manuscript.  This was the final time for me to make any major revisions to the book.

First Copy Edits - A Copyeditor goes through the manuscript with a fine tooth comb and ensures every comma, every letter, every everything is in the right place.

First Author Alterations (AA’s) - This is the author’s final read through to double check for errors.  A proofreader at Harlequin simultaneously reads the manuscript and changes are made if necessary, before another proofreader runs through it again.

First Pre-Order – Nothing compares to the feeling of seeing your book become available for pre-order at all major booksellers.

First Book Cover – Squee!

I enlarged this puppy to a 16x20, framed it and hung it in my foyer.  People can’t help but notice my cover when they walk through the door.  Obnoxious?  Nah – just proud J

First Proposal – Fellow American Romance sister, Laura Marie Altom, guided me through the right and wrong way to submit a proposal (I am forever grateful!) – Things are much different when a contest isn’t involved.  There were many rewrites…and lots of rum! 

First Multi-Book Contract – The sequels to BETTING ON TEXAS, HOME TO THE COWBOY (August 2013) and LEGACY OF A LONE STAR (early 2014) are coming to a bookshelf near you!

Soon I’ll have my first review, first sales ranking, first time I hold my printed book in my hands and many more firsts I’m sure I don’t even know about yet.

If you had told me exactly one year ago today that I would have three Harlequin books under my belt with so many exciting opportunities ahead of me, I would have said you were crazy. 

I’m living my dream and I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. 

Thank you for coming on this journey with me, I hope you stay for the next one.  The next time we meet, it will be 2013.  Have a safe and wonderful holiday season and a Rockin’ New Year!

Amanda Renee
Betting on Texas (March 2013)
Home to the Cowboy (August 2013)
Legacy of a Lone Star (Early 2014)

Cover Art Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Come Along On A Florida Cattle Drive

In Rancher's Son, fourth-generation cattleman Ty Parker looks into his childless future and wonders what will become of the ranch he’s worked so hard to preserve.  His answer might be a five-year-old boy abandoned on DCF’s doorstep, but only if the rancher convinces a jaded social worker that he’s good father material on a two-week cattle drive through Florida’s version of the Old West.

Wait a minute.  “Florida’s version of the Old West?”  Did I hear that correctly?  Why yes, yes you did.  While Florida is better known for its orange groves and theme parks, as a setting for a cattle drive, it’s more fitting than a lot of people might guess.

Cattle ranching has been a staple of Florida’s economy for a long, long time.  We should blame Ponce de Leon for that.  He brought seven head of Andalusian cows with him on his second visit in 1521.  And, despite the mosquitoes and the floods and the heat, people have been ranching here ever since. 

Did you know that today Florida is the third-largest beef-producing state east of the Mississippi?  Or that 1.1 million head of cattle graze its pastures?  We use term “Florida Cracker” when we’re talking about someone who was born and raised in the state.  The nickname harkens back to the days when cowboys would snap long, braided whips over the heads of the cattle they were herding.  “Crack!”
In 2006, over 500 riders took part in the Great Florida Cattle Drive, taking more than 500 head of cattle on a mid-winter drive through the middle of the state.  That drive became the inspiration for my December release, Rancher’s Son. 
Of course, a story about a cattle drive wouldn't be very romantic by itself.  For this romance, I needed a heroine.  And there stood Sarah Magarity, the social worker who'd appeared in two of my earlier books (The Daddy Catch and Rodeo Daughter).  She was just waiting to find the man of her dreams. 

Not that Ty Parker looked like Sarah’s ideal hero.  Especially not when the cowboy flatly denied fathering the five-year-old she’d taken under her wing.  And since Ty bailed on the last two foster children she’d placed in his care, Sarah has no choice but to go along on Ty’s mid-winter round-up while they wait for the results of a paternity test. 
Over the next two weeks, Ty and Sarah grow closer while they face stampedes and angry rattlesnakes, but will their new love survive the truth about the boy they both want for their own?

Saturday, December 08, 2012


Since it’s December, the last book of the Harts of the Rodeo series is out, Tomas: Cowboy Homecoming. Yay! It seems as if I’ve been working on this book forever and it’s finally in stores. Yay, again! 

The series has come to an end, but the stories will live on. So take a cowboy home this Christmas. There are six hunky ones in the series: Aidan, Colt, Duke, Austin, Beau and Tomas. Books make great Christmas gifts. Please check out the contest on my Web site. I’m giving away all six books for Christmas. A great gift.

Every year I say I’m cutting back and not doing so much at Christmas. I say it, but I never accomplish it. Once Thanksgiving is over it’s rush, rush, rush to get everything done.  I’m not decorating as much this year though. We won’t be here Christmas Eve or Christmas Day so my thought is why bother. It takes too much time to put it up and then take everything down and store it back in the closet. And I have a book to finish. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’ve put a wreath on the door, a small-small Christmas tree is up and so is our nativity scene. That’s it. We’re ready for Christmas at our house, except for the baking.
Do you decorate a lot for the holidays?

Wishing each of you a fun-filled Christmas and an exciting New Year.

Linda Warren
Dec ’12 – Tomas: Cowboy Homecoming



Thursday, December 06, 2012

Where DO Ideas Come From?

Authors love this question (or not). We come in one of two sizes: either we have tons of ideas and can't decide which to write next OR we panic over never again having an idea good enough to merit writing a book. Not surprisingly, I fall into the panicking author type, always worrying about pleasing my readers. My answer to this question *used to be* a vague remark that ideas are everywhere. That's all changed now.

The difference came about when an author posted on a loop that she'd been sued for using pictures that weren't hers. It struck me hard. Authors hate piracy (people posting our books for free or profit to themselves without our permission). That's called stealing. I would never knowingly use a work not in the public domain, but  had I ever copied a pic here without checking? I could think of one instance, so perhaps I'd done it more often than that.

About this time, I began to think of pictures I would need for the cover of my self-published book, Holly & Ivey.  I needed Christmas trees. I considered snow, a steaming mug of chocolate, and of course people. Maybe a winter wedding or church dressed for the holidays. Where would I find these things?

The answer: my new project. I opened a Pinterest account ( and posted pictures there for authors to use. Free. No royalties, licensing or attribution needed. Anyone can download a picture and put it on their blog or website. Use it to make a cover.  I just ask that people let me know if they used a photo. If no one utilizes this project, I'll stop working at it. If a photo struck a cord and was used a lot, I'd post more like it (and take down that one for a while so it wouldn't be overused).

Now everywhere I go, I look for opportunities. Which means when I look at something, I try to imagine using it in a book and therefore on a cover. Train tracks = the one that lived on the other side. That got away. That ran away. That escaped. Or lost chances. Or new beginnings. So I snap a photo or three.

Need a picture of a rose or a mountain or a park bench? I have those. How about a sparkling lake? A dumpster could be used by a mystery author for that D.B. or a clue gone astray, but it also put me in mind of Julie Garwood's Roses series.

It's exciting, and I carry my camera everywhere. I'll stop to take a picture of clouds or a fence line, which may turn up in the background of someone's cover someday--and my family rolls their eyes.

I feel as though I see book ideas everywhere. A church. An airport. A snowman. I can imagine books for each of these. Next Spring when someone needs a bunch of colorful Autumn trees, I hope they check out my Pinterest page.

Do you post pictures on Pinterest? Is there something you need me to find a picture of for you?

I wish you all a Happy Holiday.

Megan Kelly
Holly & Ivey, available now

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Those Good Old Holiday Movies

‘Tis the season for holiday movies. I love those oldies as well as the new ones. Why, you may ask? (As if you needed to. :-) ) Well, sentimentality. Watching people who suffer through the hard knocks of life to emerge triumphant and maybe even happy–what’s not to like? You can’t beat a happy ending with a warm holiday theme, especially when you are vested in the characters and see them go through such travails.

Hey, isn’t that exactly what happens in a romance novel? You bet! Call me weird, but I love putting characters through all sorts of trouble and making them work hard for that happy ending. Back to holiday movies.

Here are some of my faves: It’s a Wonderful Life. Miracle on 34th Street (the original). The Holiday. Debbie Macomber’s Mrs. Miracle, parts one and two. Sheila Roberts’ On Strike for Christmas. And just about any Christmas movie on Lifetime.

I'm always up for new movies. What are some of your favorite holiday movies?

Until next month, and wishing you the happiest of season’s greetings,

visit me on Facebook  at Ann Roth Author
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Sunday, December 02, 2012


CONGRATULATIONS BW! You’re the November winner. To receive your free autographed books please contact Marin Thomas, Laura Marie Altom and Lee McKenize through their Web sites.


To enter the contest simply leave a blog comment and your name will go into the drawing. Simple and painless. And FREE BOOKS.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Secret babies revealed!

Sorry for the sensationalist title, but writing this post made me feel a little like a tabloid journalist. My theme is the ever-popular secret baby storyline.

Here’s the classic setup, pre-Facebook, pre-texting, pre-GPS tracking. Teenagers fall in love, but he leaves town and disappears (possibly into the Army). Finding herself alone and pregnant, the heroine marries an older man to give her father a baby. He conveniently dies. As the book opens, the hero returns to town, but believes heroine loved someone else and had a baby with him. Gradually he discovers it’s his child, and true love conquers all.

Not very believable today, but oh, the possibilities. I’ve written countless secret and unplanned baby stories, including, in my Safe Harbor Medical miniseries, The M.D.’s Secret Daughter (he thought the heroine gave up their baby for adoption) and The Surgeon’s Surprise Twins (he donated sperm and she’s the surrogate).

This brings me to yet another high-tech twist, which I’ll call the Egg Donor Secret (or Unexpected) Baby Story. How many variations can an author come up with for a romance sub-category within a sub-category? You might be surprised—I was.

One example is my upcoming March release, The Baby Jackpot. The heroine’s both a nurse and an egg donor who, after providing eggs to the recipient mom, has a tipsy tryst with her favorite surgeon. Because not all the eggs were harvested, she’s now pregnant--with triplets. She may be determined to give them to an adoptive family, but the surgeon, who’s falling in love with his family-to-be, has other ideas.

Then I was invited to write a short story for The Mammoth Book of Medical Romance, an anthology due out next year. In developing the plot for “What The Doctor Didn’t Tell Her” (my working title), I came up with, yes, another egg donor twist. I won’t detail that here, because short stories are, well, short, and I don’t want to give away too much.

When I can find the time, I’m also updating and revising some of my earlier books. I discovered that Yours, Mine and Ours, first published twenty years ago, had an egg donor twist, too. The widowed hero’s seven-year-old triplets have driven away every nanny he’s brought home. They want their strict dad to remarry so they can have a mom, and when the precocious trio ferrets out the fact that they were born from donated eggs, they manage to get their genetic mom hired as their new nanny, without her or their dad being aware of the relationship.

Yes, it’s far-fetched, but I think I managed to make it believable. Rereading it was lots of fun (I had forgotten many of the details). Those kids are wacky and the sparks fly between my offbeat heroine and stern hero. The plot also brought home just how versatile this type of story can be.

Yours, Mine and Ours is my December special for 99 cents at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can track my monthly specials at my website and/or Facebook author site. Hope you enjoy them!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lee's latest DIY

Since I was a little girl, I've wanted a dressing table, the kind with a little bench that slides underneath and a big mirror, so I was thrilled to recently find a set online. It's from the '40s so I'm not sure it qualifies as an antique, but it's definitely vintage.

The dressing table itself is in excellent condition, hardly a scratch, but the bench needed some work. It had been painted brown so it no longer matched and I knew that if I stripped it, I would never get new stain to match the table.

The upholstery was worn and stained so I removed that and discovered two more equally grim seat covers underneath.

When I look at how dirty that top layer was, about the only thing that comes to mind is "ick"!

For paint, I decided white was the safest bet, and I went with chalk paint. If you've never used it, I encourage you to give it a try. Annie Sloan is a good brand. The surface being painted needs to be clean but otherwise very little prep is needed. It has no fumes, dries quickly, and a couple of coats will cover anything! After the final coat is dry, the painted surface needs a light coating with wax, Annie Sloan makes that, too, and you're done. Oh, and this paint is completely water soluble, so clean up is a breeze!

For upholstery I used a remnant that coordinates with the bedroom drapes and bedspread, and I added extra layers of padding so the seat is nice and cushy.

An easy project completed in an afternoon! It still doesn't match the dressing table, but now they go together better.

If you enjoy DIY and other decorating projects as much as I do, then I hope you'll enjoy my next book, The Daddy Project, which will be out on Tuesday. RT Book Reviews describes it as well as I can:
THE DADDY PROJECT (4) by Lee McKenzie: Single mom Kristi Callahan has been hired to redecorate single dad Nate McTavish's house - not to fall in love with him. But Kristi and Nate have more in common than just being single parents; they are both feeling family pressure to start dating again. Pretending to be with each other seems the simplest way to quell the complaints, but they do not anticipate the very real feelings that spark between them. When Nate's house is complete, they wonder if the relationship is over as well - and hope it isn't. McKenzie's characters are clever, with a captivating warmth that readers will love.

To celebrate the release, I'll be doing a series of guest blogs and giveaways, and will be posting details of those on my website. The next issue of my newsletter goes out next week and there'll be even more giveaways for subscribers. If you'd like to be added to my mailing list, there's a sign-up form on my website.

Happy reading!

Until next time,
The Daddy Project (Dec 2012)
Daddy, Unexpectedly (May 2012)
Maggie's Way (Harlequin Heartwarming, May 2012)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rules of Engagement--Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving horror stories--we've all got one or two or three disastrous family-gathering stories we could share with others.  Why is that the holidays tend to bring out the best and worst in people, especially among our loved ones? 
If you're the one hosting this year's dinner (lucky you) then it's important to set the ground rules and let your family and friends know you're the captain of the ship and they'd better follow your command at the dinner table. I know, easier said than done.  This year if I was hosting the dinner I'd tell everyone that before they came to my house they had to read my latest release, because we'd be discussing story structure, plot and characterization over the turkey dinner.  But that's not the case, we're heading to my sister-in-law's home.
Beau: Cowboy Protector
November 2012

 Linda Lewis Griffith is a marriage and family therapist who recommends the following... 
Rules of Engagement
Be pleasant at all times.
Do not bring up hurtful issues from the past.
Engage in appropriate dialogue.
Discuss only mutually safe topics.  
Avoid possibly contentious subjects.
Show up on time.
Be helpful.
Monitor your own consumption of alcohol.
Do your best to get along with everyone at the gathering.
Encourage children to play outside if the weather permits.
Be attentive to your own children’s needs and actions.
If you believe your family is incapable of following your rules or someone always sabotages your good intentions (you know your cousin Claire was jealous that you got asked to the junior prom and she didn't) then you may want to consider the following
Spend the holiday in a public place. (Wishful thinking, I know)
If you are the host, don't exhaust yourself before Thanksgiving dinner.
Right before the holidays, furniture and rug sales always go up. Many family members, especially siblings, are in competition over issues like who has the best and cleanest house, who is the best cook, etc. If you are hosting Thanksgiving, don't get into this kind of competitiveness: it will only exhaust you and ruin your holiday. It is okay to cut corners. Include ready-made foods along with homemade ones, close off messy rooms, and accept help in the kitchen. Your relaxed mood will set the tone of the gathering.
Spend time and energy on planning entertainment.
Thanksgiving is the slowest afternoon of the year, says Dr. William Doherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota. The parade, the turkey, the football games and lethargy caused by overeating make it a long boring time, especially for children. Families get "cabin fever" and tensions arise.
Let the dinner end by early afternoon so that people can go to a movie or take a walk, if they desire. Give children the freedom to play outside; allow teenagers to go out by themselves. Bundle up and go look at store windows together. Have board games and other entertainment available.
Have a clever seating arrangement.
Try using place cards to assign seats so that you can separate people who do not get along. Although you may be tempted to, don't seat family members who have been feuding for years next to each other. 
Depending on the "Host Home" our family can have a very eclectic group gathering each Thanksgiving--family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and possibly even a divorced spouse or two.  A few Taboo Topics at our family gathering: Climate Change, Politics, Body Piercings, Body Weight, Hair Styles & Religion. 
Now for the fun part...what topics are taboo at your Thanksgiving Table?
Beau: Cowboy Protector November 2012
No Ordinary Cowboy *Rodeo Rebels* April 2013
The Cowboy Next Door *The Cash Brothers* July 2013




Saturday, November 17, 2012

Holiday Cheer...or Not

This begins the season of holiday parties, and you know all the good things they include.  I'll steer away from the dangerous topics of casseroles and desserts and chocolate—although really, those are some of my favorite subjects for discussion at any time of the year!

Instead, let's talk about gifts. 

Not the kind you love to give.  The kind you love to give away.  You know, in those grab bags and games you play where everyone receives a gift from an anonymous giver.

One year I participated in a "Silly Santa" grab bag and received a pair of fuzzy animal slippers.  Envision this:  they were purple, with red eyes and long black claws, and—I'm not kidding—from front to back, they were two feet long.

Let's just say I found them...



The slippers received a lot of attention at that particular Christmas party.  And you'd better believe they went right into the very next grab bag I could find.  (grin)  The winner absolutely loved them and wore them the rest of the night. 

Obviously, one person's "umm...spectacular" is another person's favorite gift.

To be fair, these games—and gifts—aren't all bad.  I'll admit I've been lucky, too.  At another party, I received a pair of holiday earrings that I still wear during the Christmas season every year.

Got any grab-bag stories, either for the best or worst gift ever?

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who will celebrate it later this week!

All my best to you,



Barbara White Daille
August 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Changing Times

To say life has changed for me this year is a bit of an understatement. The biggest change and the one that kicked off most of the others is that I took an early retirement offering from my employer. Now, just to set the record straight I always laughed at those people who retired and then said that they were so busy they didn't know how they ever had time to work. Well, I get it now. Sorry my friends for ever doubting you.

I'm a doer. I don't know how to stop when I have a goal. My first task was to clean house. I don't mean dust and mop. That stuff got done before. We're talking about cleaning closets, spider webs, baseboards. Toss out all that stuff that collects over time that seem to fill every available shelf or cabinet. Every time I leave the house, my car is full of old books to sell.  Or clothes to donate. Or DVDs to take to the movie exchange. The trash truck guys probably cuss me.  Goal: To get back to being a minimalist if it kills me.

Now lets talk about Yahoo Loops. All the folks who accepted the early retirement offer started a loop. I'm on other loops, but this one keeps my email box full of all the things that MUST be done.  Financial decisions. Medical decisions. Update or write a Will or Trust. A career placement service. Resumes, classes, and trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up. Did I mention that I'm really not old enough to fully retire?

Okay, now that I've made your eyes glaze over, the one thing all this has done is to make me thankfull. I'm thankfull that I have these options. Some people don't. I now have time to slow down enough to smell fall. Like fireplaces and bonfires. Time to consider all the wonderful things in my life. Like that I now have time to spend with my aging mom. Time to play with the grandkids before they get big and don't want to hang out with Grammy. Time to take a short getaway with a friend. Time to help out family members who still have jobs. I can pick up kids at school or run errands. The calendar is full.

The first cold front blew through this week and added to the Thanksgiving mode. The leaves are changing and we have a fire in the fireplace this morning. Time to slow down and enjoy the holidays. Lots of family headed this way next week for Thanksgiving, including my mother-in-law this year. So exciting.  The grocery store yesterday was already in chaos and I was able to actually enjoy it.

So what are you thankfull for this year?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Time Sucking Broken Eyeballs!!!

Since The SEAL's Surprise Baby is due the 15th, I thought it might be fun to look at all the ways fate has messed with me during the crucial last days before I finally type, The End.  In speaking with my author friend, Winnie Griggs, she also claims calamity strikes most when deadlines loom.  While I don't have time for an in-depth study of every author in the world, I thought it might be interesting to at least look back over the ridiculous amounts of things that've happened to me lately to keep me from writing:

Tuesday 11/6--Election day!!  Hubby and I decide to vote first thing in the morning to avoid long lines.  Wait 30 minutes at our usual polling place, whip out IDs, told our polling place is now no longer located at the nice, peaceful church it has been for 10 years, but Food Pyramid.  We head that way only to discover a 40 minute line snaking through the freezer section!!  Prime early morning writing time shot--albeit for a good cause.

Hubby in voting line!!  Yes--that IS a grocery freezer section behind him!!
After a brief Y & R break, I get back to work.  Son pops in for a visit.  I ask if he's voted.  He has not.  Off we go to his polling place.  2 hour line!!   Daughter brags she had no wait at all!!

Day's Page Count--4 out of my goal of 10
Wednesday 11/7--Fairly productive day save for Lowe's and the plumber and the counter guy calling at least three times each.  Get mail.  Daisy, our demon Yorkie, decides to run away.  I'm forced to walk the street barefoot, wagging a tempting slice of "cheezy cheese" to lure her home.  She warily takes cheese, but before I can grab her, bolts.  Can you say bad dog?!?! 

Day's Page Count--7 out of my goal of 10

Thursday 11/8--Plumber here forever.  They leave, I nuke soup.  UPS man arrives.  Dog eats soup.  Attempt to start writing, but counter guys show up.  I bought the wrong faucet for new sink.  Emergency run to Lowe's.  Back at home, lungs BURNING from counter glue fumes.  Added bonus?  Son and super-sweet girlfriend I REALLY like are breaking up--AT OUR HOUSE!!!  By the time Hubby gets home, we escape for dinner.  Fumes no better when we're done.

Day's Page Count--0 out of my goal of 10

Friday 11/9--Get comfy on the couch to begin what will surely be a great writing day, stretch backwards and knock my freshly opened Sprite over my head.  My hair, face, and sofa are now dripping with sticky Sprite.  By the time me and the sofa are clean, plumbers arrive to connect new sink.  They notice book covers on the wall and request signed copies.  By the time I'm writing anything other than my name and a check for extra parts, a huge chunk of my writing day is gone.

Day's Page Count--11 out of my goal of 20 

Saturday 11/10--I don't work weekends.  Hubby's off at his day job during the week, so I look forward to spending Saturday and Sunday with him and/or our kids.  That said, with my deadline perilously close, I HAVE to work this weekend.  Too bad the "simple" errands we need to run last a huge chunk of the day.

Day's Page Count--14 out of my goal of 20 

Sunday 11/11--Surprisingly calm day, but we have an Oilers game at 4:00.  We like to get to games an hour early to eat Billy's onion rings and watch the players warm-up.  That means getting to the BOK Center by 3:05.  That means my in-desperate-need-of-cutting hair needs to be tamed starting by 1:30.  Lots of writing time shot like a puck!!

Day's Page Count--16 out of my goal of 20

Monday 11/12--If you've been keeping track, you'll notice I just now made up my page count for the whole day I missed last Thursday.  Had those been the only days I missed, I wouldn't now be feverishly making up for those other bizarre days my page count was 0.

With my deadline being Thursday, I'm now in fevered-writing mode.  Got six great pages done when daughter calls.  After the free skate at Sunday's game, boyfriend accidentally elbowed her right eye.  She reports it's swollen, hurting and her vision's blurry.  Whaaaaat?!?!  All writing stopped to run her to the eye doctor.  

Day's Page Count--19 out of my goal of 20

Tuesday 11/13--Sit down to write and Hubby's lost his shoes and belt.  Since I'm in deadline mode, house is a MESS.  I help look.  Hubby leaves, I'm back to writing.  Thirty minutes in, Hubby calls.  Have I seen his work phone?  Stop writing to look.  Text Hubby--Found it!  Start writing, Hubby texts if he missed calls?  I don't know!!  And I'm not getting up to look!!  Day progresses in much the same fashion from here.  Lowe's lady calls.  Am I happy with our counters?  Slimy telemarketer tries selling me vitamins.  Daughter calls--her poor eyeball still hurts.  Her boyfriend's elbow owes me a $40 specialist copay and lost writing time!!! LOL!!!

Daughter and super cute Boyfriend's elbow before elbowing incident!!

Day's Page Count--23 out of my goal of 20

Wednesday 11/14--Overall, despite a gazillion interruptions, I've managed to get work done, but not nearly enough.  Today, I'm still writing feverishly, trying to make up for all the other little things that somehow crop up when a book's due.

Cross your fingers!!  This one's going to be a squeaker!!

How about you?  Do you find that the more you have to do, the more gremlins appear to divert your attention?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Good Things Come...

I know, we’ve all heard the phrase good things come to those who wait … The origin of the idiom is more diverse than all Heinz 57 varieties represented in that ketchup slogan from the 1980’s.  Younger peeps will know it as the Guinness beer slogan.  Regardless, they never tell you waiting is the hardest part, another phrase in itself, one of which many songs and poems have been written about. 

So, I waited for that next contract to come along.


Alright, who are we kidding?  I don’t know the meaning of the word patience.  I’m a take no prisoners, ass kickin’, top of the world, there’s work to be done so let’s make up the rules as we go along type of person.

But, still I waited, my toes tapping while I checked emails repeatedly over the course of the day and even gave my editor a special ring tone (When You Wish Upon a Star) that I swear I heard on numerous occasions, only to find a blank caller id instead – listen, there is no cure for me so don’t even try.

I played by all the rules of publishing.

And you know something?  It paid off.  I received the email and the phone call I was hoping for and I signed a new two-book contract.  Yippee!  The Bridle Dance Ranch saga continues with HOME SWEET COWBOY and LEGACY OF A LONE STAR.  Those Langtry men just can’t keep themselves out of trouble!

I think one of the biggest fears for a new writer is the thought of being a one trick pony.  For me especially, considering I was discovered through Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write competition.  I’d never been through the normal submission process before all of this.

I made my share of mistakes – trust me on this one.  Let’s just say, I’ve learned how NOT to write and submit a proposal.  I’m getting the hang of it, but learning everything was the equivalent of heading down a bumpy trail while facing the wrong way in the saddle.  Nerve wracking was an understatement.

Now I have deadlines…many of them.  Books, blogs, interviews, online chats, promos, and I’m sure there are few I don’t even know about yet.  The truth of the matter is, I thrive on every morsel of it.  Deadlines drive me to push myself even harder than I did before. 

Was it worth the wait?

You betcha! 

To learn more about my first year with Harlequin and how I'm Moving the Story Forward, hop on over to Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write Blog on November 19th and be sure to join my editor, Kathleen Scheibling and myself for a global Twitter chat at 10AM, EST.

Looking forward to seeing you there!  And remember, sometimes patience really does pay off :) 

Amanda Renee
Betting on Texas (March 2013)
Home Sweet Cowboy (August 2013)
Legacy of a Lone Star (Early 2014)