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?