Saturday, September 15, 2012


Not that! Get your minds out of the gutter, folks. Ha!

What I’ve not figured out how to properly do is retire. Two weeks ago, I officially reached a major life goal and left Corporate America. All in all, it feels great. We won’t mention getting an invite to my 40th high school reunion and retiring in the same week. Eeek! Talk about feeling ancient.

One would assume at my advanced old age, I’d slow down and relax a little. Prop my feet up and enjoy the morning coffee. Watch the hummingbirds perform their morning dance. But in fact, I’m running around like a crazy person. My muscles ache.

OMG, am I becoming my mother? We’ve often called her the Eveready Bunny. The woman just goes and goes and goes. Keep in mind, she does live with us now, so I’ll use that as an excuse as to why I’m having such a problem with slowing down. Not buying it? Yeah, me either. This is MY problem, not hers.

I haven’t written a word on my current work in progress. Instead I’ve cleaned out closets and cabinets, washed the windows inside and out, scrubbed down the plantation shutters, and washed half the ceiling fans and light fixtures. The other half will be done today if my body holds out. Ha! We’ve donated bags of old clothes to Goodwill and sold old movies and CDs we haven’t played in years. When the inside is clean, we still need to tackle the garage and flowerbeds.

My hubby comes home from work each evening and just shakes his head. This morning he told me to slow down before I really hurt myself. The problem is that my mind still thinks of this as a vacation with limited time to accomplish everything on a list that has been growing for 26 years while I was employed. It was so easy to put things off before. “When I retire I’ll…” But now it’s time to put up or shut up. No more excuse of having to work 50 hours per week.

A stack of books calls patiently from the nightstand, but my mind won’t slow down enough to get into them. My WIP is rattling around in my mind, but I can’t sit down long enough to get any of it on paper. Have I completely lost my ability to relax?

Any advice on how to quit the day job and actually RETIRE?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mayhem Magnets & Chillaxing!

Unglamorous me, trying to snap a pic of Daisy who just came from the doggy salon!   

Some people write super duper informative writing blogs or insightful political rants or even offer up fab cooking tips.  Sad to say, pretty much all I have to offer the blog world is sharing the oddball occurrences of my life.  Alas, since the kids have returned to school, I've noticed a dramatic downturn in all things strange.  Does this mean that after 20 years of me thinking I'm the weird one, turns out I'm actually fine and they're the problem?!  Hubby says YES!!  LOL!!

Actually, two out of three kids visited yesterday and I even got a bonus kid when Terry's new girlfriend popped in to watch a movie with us.  Color me happy!!

But back to my theory about the kids being mayhem-magnets, now that I think about it, Hannah and I did have one thought-provoking encounter yesterday.  The new Tulsa Oilers hockey season is fast approaching and since Hannah's going to be an Ice Girl again, she noticed yesterday that her tummy is fifteen shades lighter than her tan tights.  Off to the tanning salon we went.

Remember the whole "Tanning Mom" scandal?  (Not sure if I'm allowed to post a pic, but if you're unfamiliar with the Patricia Krentcil case, it's all over Google)  Anyway, as Hannah was entering the salon, a woman exited who was darker than dark.  Neither of us had ever seen anyone as dark as her--maybe on TV, but certainly not in Tulsa.

I'm curious about what motivates people to do what they do and as I had a few minutes to sit and ponder, wondered what could be going on in this tanner's life?  I'm guessing she was around my age.  She had a great bod and hair.  Didn't notice if she wore a wedding ring, but she seemed to be in good spirits.  As for motivation, my best guess was that she's from a sunny state and grew up tanning.  Tanning makes her feel youthful and happy.  She's been tanning for so long, that what may read normal-tan to her is beyond-normal to others?  But then who am I to say her "normal" isn't anything other than perfection?

All of that could be a crock and probably is, but it does bring up a theme that's been running through my week--loving yourself just the way you are.

Mom called Monday to tell me a couple of our fave Y & R stars would be on The Talk.  Well, not only were those stars on, but they didn't wear their usual glam hair and make-up--neither did Julie Chen or the show's other hosts or guests.  At first, the shock of seeing these familiar faces "naked" was jarring, but then they became exceedingly lovely--not unapproachable daytime divas, but women I could see hanging out with.  They became "real" in the truest sense of the word.

Yesterday on Facebook, a friend of a friend of a friend (Love FB's new lax privacy policies, don't you?) posted an incredibly powerful piece on self-esteem.  Today, an old high school friend posted a nice bit on not sweating the small stuff.

With the benefit of hindsight, I see "Someone" has been sending me subtle reminders to chill.  It's been a rough week.  My word count has been atrocious.  A person I respect wasn't nice to me.  A certain unnamed insurance company makes me crazy.  I've slipped off my diet.  My bangs need a trim, eyebrows resemble Santa's and I refuse to even talk about the horror of my nails.  But you know what?  NONE OF THAT MATTERS!!!  Taking a step back, how blessed am I to even have time for such petty worries to enter my head?

If you've made it this far into my ramble-a-thon, stop reading now to give yourself a hug!!!  Love yourself--fat, skinny, tan, great hair, bad hair?  Doesn't matter!!!  Love yourself as you are, right now, and keep that love flowing outward to others . . .  :-)             

Thursday, September 13, 2012

So I thought I could write…

Last year this time, I was just another writer. I say writer because you’re not officially an author until you sign on the dotted line. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t write. I learned at an early age that writing could be a weapon, a way to cope with pain, a reward or a vacation to any place in the world. Writing can be anything and I could be anyone. If I thought it, I could write it.

When you walk through my house, you will see quotes all over the walls (even the bathrooms!). Everyday these are my constant reminders that anything is possible.

I wanted to be many things when I grew up. I still haven’t grown up (do we ever really?) but in between wanting to be an architect, auto designer, actor, engineer, John Taylor from Duran Duran’s wife, one thing remained constant. I wanted to write…and I wrote.

And sometimes my words got me into a whole heap of trouble, and other times I was revered. For me, the freedom that comes with writing is like that of an eagle, soaring high into the clouds. Nothing can stand in my way.

Two years ago, I heard about Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write Contest. I looked at it, thought about it, did nothing. I was a member of RWA and a whole slew of others writer organizations, but I still backed away from submitting.

Last year, I was flitting around Twitter when I saw the contest was rolling around again. My Double Trouble manuscript had been sitting in a drawer for 7 years. It needed to be tweaked a bit…okay, it needed a complete rewrite, which is why when Harlequin asked me to submit it 7 years ago, I never did. I wasn’t ready and it wasn’t ready.

For those of you not familiar with Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest, imagine American Idol for romance writers. With two weeks until the deadline, I made a decision to enter. And in the middle of my rewrite, I came down with the flu. I had a fever for over a week, but I’d be damned if I was going to let that stop me. I can remember staying up until 5am, writing and rewriting in bed, on a netbook, with a thermometer hanging out of my mouth. I even remember hallucinating a few times, thanks to the wicked reaction I had to NyQuil.

That quote right there says it all and it's my all-time favorite. It sits in a tiny 2x3 frame and I look at it every single day. Whenever I think I can’t do something, I read it and then I get my butt in gear and just do it.

I submitted my manuscript – yep, last year’s contest meant submitting your entire manuscript. I worked hard, met the deadline and waited…and waited. When the winner was announced, I didn’t get upset. I don’t think I ever expected to win because I never looked at it as a contest. For me, it was an opportunity to get my manuscript in front of an editor by jumping over the slush pile. They said they were contacting other entrants with offers and I figured I was one of them.

As the days ticked by, I dreamt one night that I got “the call”. I phoned my mom the next morning, telling her how real it felt. I was more than confident. I was 100% positive. Not being offered a contract wasn't an option. In fact, the thought honestly never crossed my mind. Until the day they announced all follow-ups were completed.

I was devastated. I think I cried for 5 days straight. But I didn’t stop writing. I tore the manuscript apart and started over – Obviously, it needed edits since it wasn’t chosen, and I wasn’t quitting.

Then on March 13th, my mobile rang and the word TORONTO appeared on the caller ID. I knew who it was. Harlequin is in Toronto. Small problem though…I was frozen in place. I swear I answered the phone a split second before it went to voice mail. It was Kathleen Scheibling, senior editor for Harlequin American Romance.

Kathleen began by explaining my manuscript had been sitting on her desk and she would have called sooner, but she was really busy (understatement of the year – the woman has an amazingly full schedule!) and she offered me a contract.

For the first time in my life, I was speechless. Mute and drooling, I nodded my head as if she could see me. I was also typing short email bursts to my best friend, Kelli, filling her in. My vocabulary range eventually grew into 5 or 6 words. I was so embarrassed afterwards, I sent Kathleen a follow up email apologizing for my complete loss of the English language.

And then I hung up the phone, screamed, cried and jumped up and down - and quickly put my manuscript back together!

So I thought I could write…and I was right! 

Now it’s time for Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write 2012 – A global event where your dreams can become a reality.

I’m not going to tell you how to format your submission or how to write that winning manuscript. Harlequin and So You Think You Can Write will guide you with their community forums and an online conference. I’m here, sitting on your shoulder with a pitchfork (I’m no angel), jabbing at you until you enter this contest.

If you want to write for Harlequin, what is stopping you? Only one thing…you. Don’t blame your day job, your spouse, the kids, the “I don’t have time…blah, blah, blah”. I don’t want to hear it and I won’t sugar coat things either. No excuses – you can do this! We create our own destiny and there is nothing you can’t do.

A fool once told me I was a dreamer. When I said he would see my name on a book one day, he said “Ha! You can’t even write your name in the snow.” My response? “The hell I can’t! I just have to move around really fast, that’s all.” Bottom line, there are always obstacles in life. Sometimes you have to change course a bit in order to clear them.

So You Think You Can Write is an amazing opportunity – How many publishers hold your hand and walk you through the craft of writing and submitting? None that I know of.

On Monday, September 17th, So You Think You Can Write kicks off a free, 24/7 online conference. You have an opportunity to spend an entire week with 50 editors, from three countries, all from the comfort of your own living room! You can even wear your Betty Boop pajamas and pink fuzzy bunny slippers if you want to. This boot camp will help you prepare your submission for the So You Think You Can Write contest.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much my life has changed since 10:02 AM on March 13, 2012. Double Trouble became BETTING ON TEXAS, and two days ago, it became available for pre-order. It’s been 6 months since I received my call and I will never forget a single moment of it.

So You Think You Can Write is lighting the path and leading the way. Come join me and cross over to the Harlequin author side.

I’ll leave you with one last photo from my house…

Start Dreaming, Doing, Achieving 
The End Is Just A New Beginning
Live Life, There Is No Take Two

So I think YOU can write… 

Amanda Renee 
Betting on Texas (March 2013)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Unwrapping the Rancher's Son Cover

“Your Christmas book.” 
For months, that’s how my editor and I referred to my fourth book for Harlequin American Romance.  See, I’d told her the story took place around Christmas time, and she said something along the lines of, “It’d be good for you to have a Christmas book.”  So, even though the most of the story takes place after Christmas, it went on the December schedule.  And, until we decided on a title, we referred to it as “your Christmas book.”
Is it any wonder that when we started talking about cover art, I imagined a Christmas tree and gaily wrapped packages?
Months passed.  The story progressed from a one paragraph summary to a ten-page synopsis to a full manuscript.  For weeks, I rode along with Ty and Sarah on a cattle drive through Florida’s version of the Old West while their ties to the little boy abandoned on Sarah’s doorstep Christmas Eve deepened. 
Though we still occasionally referred to it as “your Christmas book,” the story found a great title:  Rancher’s Son. 
Then came the day when the cover art for Rancher’s Son arrived in my inbox.  I clicked on it and instantly fell in love with Harlequin’s Art Department all over again.  Because of all my covers, this is my favorite. 

Don't you think the cover perfectly fits the story summary? 
Her job with the Department of Children and Family Services has exposed Sarah Magarity to the worst side of parenting, so much so that the altruistic red-head has vowed never to have children of her own.  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 cowboy convinces the jaded social worker that he’s good father material on a two-week cattle drive through Florida’s version of the Old West.
One last thing, Rancher's Son goes on sale November 27th, just in time for...Christmas! With that pretty red bow at the top of the cover, it'll make a great Christmas present, won't it?