Monday, April 25, 2011

Horoscopes, Heroes, and Heroines

You have to admit that, whether you truly believe in them or not, horoscopes are fun to read. If anything, they can energize you, give a spark of hope, or encourage positive thinking. Hey, we could all use some good planetary alignment once in a while. But I think there may be something to it. Mind you, I have a science background. I'm a dreamer, yes. It comes with being a pisces. However, I have a pretty close split between left and right brained dominance, so I tend to question things from a realistic/scientific standpoint.

Having doubts about planetary influence? How about the moon? I've personally witnessed animals (particularly birds) go berserk on a full moon...every full clockwork. Plus, there's this book I bought years ago on a whim. It's called The Secret Language Of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider and Joost Elffers. FREAKISH! You have to check it out (the link takes you to amazon). It goes beyond horoscopes to give you a personality analysis based on your exact day of birth. There may be one or two things that don't fit you, but I'll bet 99% of it does. It even worked on my family members (we had a few laughs reading it). So where do heroines and heroes come in? Well, for every birthday, it lists three main strengths and three main weaknesses. Every character needs strengths and weaknesses...along with other personality traits. There's no end to the ideas and strength/weakness pair ups you can get out of this book.

For example (opening book up randomly), if you're born on August 3rd, you're courageous, idealistic, and determined...but you're also reckless, self-destructive, and egotistical. For January 2nd, it's responsible, profound, and dedicated vs workaholic, self-inhibiting, and overdemanding. It goes on for every day of the year. Pair those key words up with the analysis it gives you, and there's no end to brainstorming characters.

Now if you want to read a horoscope and/or personality profile specific to your place and time of birth, check out Go to free daily horoscopes where you can put in several birthdays for free (no registering...I think). Here you can get charts that tell you your ascendant, exact positions of the planets at your time of birth, profiles, relationship stuff etc... It's pretty cool, but don't get so caught up in it that you zap your writing time, LOL.

Other fun and accurate horoscope sites include,, and These will give you monthly forecasts as well.

Need a different, fun way to brainstorm or dig deeper into your characters? Look to the planets.

What do you think about all this? Are you a horoscope reader? Have you ever read your birthday profile? Do you know your ascendant...or what one is? Do you know your hero or heroine's zodiac sign?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mining for books and coffee

Hey everyone! It's spring break for my kiddies, so this post is quick and sweet by necessity.

Many of you met my friend and Harlequin Superromance author, Jeannie Watt, when she stopped by for an interview. She never ceases to amaze me. Today, she's talking about the strangest place she's ever read a book. It includes talk about unusual jobs and related experiences. Even the comments include great inspiration for twists on the standard heroine careers. I commented on my experience with flying eyeballs. Yep. Not kidding. Head on over to the superauthors blog to read more.

AND she's giving away a Starbucks gift card and one free ebook download of any Harlequin Superromance book (winner's choice)!

I'll be back next week! Have a great spring and Easter!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tree Addict

I'm a little late posting today because my fingers, wrists, and arms are aching like crazy. Before you think that I was being a good little writer all weekend...and I broke some word count barrier...I must confess. Words aren't to blame, although everything constitutes working on our writing. Right? Even gardening can be considered a source of inspiration, time to think of story twists, or untwist a story problem, or just time to address a writer's health by getting their butt moving ;).
Peach tree in bloom

I gardened with my husband all weekend. We (husband is shaking his head and pointing his finger at me) bought more trees. I have a serious thing for trees. They're gorgeous, calming, and good for everyone and everything. I love looking through tree guides, and I've used them plenty in plotting out my landscape. I plant for spring flowers, fall color, winter interest (ie. cool branching and bark), strategic shading etc... It really is a science and an art (and I'm no expert by any means). Hey, some girls like diamonds or shopping for shoes. I like trees (any plant, actually) and shopping at garden centers.
Yoshino Cherry tree in bloom. These don't fruit, but they're amongst those famous cherry trees in DC. 

Young Yoshino Cherry tree
My hubby has a hard time appreciating that fact while he's digging tree holes. I do my share of digging and transplanting sod, but he works hard babying 'my' trees. We deal with a lot of rocky soil (enough that we invested in a pick axe). Enough said.

Plum tree in bloom. This one gives us a great plum harvest every year.

The pictures shown are of trees we planted about five years ago. I have a lot of fruit trees (apricot, apple, plum, peach, persimmon, fig, sour cherry, and a hairless kiwi vine), as well as ornamental trees (japanese maples, Yoshino cherries, tulip tree, weeping willow, sugar maple, blue spruce, and many more). This year we're adding chinese chestnuts (I love chestnuts), another cherry, and I'm planning to get mulberry and paw-paw trees. I told you. I'm an addict. The good news is that I'm limited by planting space...I'm just not there yet ;).

Purple plum tree in bloom (non-fruiting)

Any fellow tree/shrub/flower lovers out there? Are you more likely to plant it yourself, or pay someone to do the gardening for you?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Winner of Amy Knupp's Giveaway!

And the winner is...

Carol Kilgore!

Carol, you get to pick one of Amy's first three Texas Firefighters books. Email Amy with your choice and contact info at alknupp (at) gmail (dot) com.

Congrats and enjoy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Interview with Harlequin Superromance Author Amy Knupp

Harlequin Superromance author Amy Knupp is here to kick off April with book 4 in her Texas Firefighters series!!! The triple exclamation marks say it all. Burning Ambition hits shelves everywhere tomorrow (April 5th). Each book in the series stands alone, but trust me, you'll want to get your hands on all of them. Um...the books...not the firefighter heroes. Okay, them too ;). Seriously, Amy does an unbelievable job with characterization and conflict. She really digs deep into the hearts of her heroes and heroines. If you haven't read her first three Texas Firefighter books yet, just leave a comment or question below. Amy is giving away a copy of one of the first three books in the series to one lucky winner!

Oh, and I've included the covers of those first three books for your viewing pleasure ;). On to the interview!

1. I know many writers who have taken tortuous paths to reach their romance writing careers. You have experience in journalism, advertising, french and, of course, motherhood (hence child development, psychology, teaching etc...;)). Was there always a romance writer lurking in you, and was it difficult to embrace your new identity? What reactions did you encounter when you first revealed your writing plans to family and friends?

I did always hope to write romance "someday." It wasn't until I had babies and became a stay-at-home mother of 2 under 2 that I actually started toward that goal though. It took me close to a year to "come out of the closet" to non-writing friends, but when I did, I didn't receive any negative reactions. Some people were excited by the prospect, and others just kind of nodded and made a noncommittal comment (while I silently dared them to make a derogatory comment. LOL!) I've been lucky to have very supportive friends and family.

2. Call stories are inspiring and never grow old. With Burning Ambition, the fourth book in your Texas Firefighter series, hitting the shelves tomorrow, let's think back to when you had a 'burning ambition' to get published. We'd love to hear about your first Call!

Book 1: Texas Firefighters
I'll try to make a long story short. Or shorter, anyway. I'd sent in my second manuscript to Superromance and gotten a request for a full. Soon after, I received a personalized rejection that mentioned the biggest problem was my lack of a sustainable romantic conflict. Something the editor said in that letter resonated with me and I instantly saw a way to fix the conflict problem. I rewrote the story, sent it in and soon received...another rejection letter! This one was from a different editor, and it, too, was very encouraging. The editor told me the story still wasn't quite right but if I wanted to revise it again, they would reconsider it. (She was careful to say they could make no promises.) The letter was four pages long with very specific feedback and I jumped on the opportunity.

A couple of months after sending it in, I had just gotten back from my boys' tennis lessons. It was July in Kansas and I was sweating up a storm. I checked messages on our home phone and found one from Victoria Curran, editor of Superromance. All she said was to call her back.

Instead of calling her back right away (because calling an editor is SCARY) I called my critique partner. She told me to get off the phone and call Victoria. I agreed, hung up, and...called my husband. I refused to let him celebrate because I knew it could be just a phone call to discuss more changes or why it wasn't quite right. (I'd heard of someone else getting a call like that.) He told me to hang up and find out.

I called Victoria back...and she was at lunch. (Imagine!) I literally paced around my house, cordless phone in my hand, for the next forty-five minutes, waiting for Victoria to return my call. She did, and offered me a contract for the book...with the understanding that more revisions would be necessary. Trust me, that didn't faze me one bit at that point. Unexpected Complication was released the following April, in 2006. :)

3. You do such a fantastic job with digging deep into your characters. Do you have a 'secret' technique? Are you a character spreadsheet babe, or more of a picnic interview with Post-its kind of gal?

Ummm, yes! All of the above. I start by figuring out a character's GMC. Eventually I do a character chart. Usually when I'm stuck I end up doing a mock "interview" with the character. I have Post-its with thoughts and notes jotted everywhere. I wish there was a tried and true secret but I just have to get to the point where I inherently know how a character would react to a situation. There's just no shortcut, unfortunately.

4. Burning Ambition stars a female firefighter. I love seeing heroines succeed in male dominated fields. It takes a lot of confidence and drive to do so. Your firefighter series also does a phenomenal job of depicting the daily life of firefighters, drills, emergencies and all. How do you approach the research for these books (online, interviews...)?

Research to the kind of extent necessary to do these stories justice scared the ___ out of me, honestly. But I went ahead and proposed the books anyway, promising myself I'd figure out the details I needed lately. The first three books sold. A couple weeks later, I was at my kickboxing class and one of the men in it was wearing a fire department T-shirt. I nervously asked him if he was a firefighter. He's a retired firefighter who has answered endless questions from me and really helped make it possible for me to get details right. In addition, I've read a handful of non-fiction books about and by firefighters. These fascinate me so it's not been a hardship at all. Some of the situations in my stories have come loosely from real scenarios I've read about. Others, my awesome retired firefighter has helped me develop. I was so lucky to have such a willing, knowledgeable expert appear just when I needed him. :)

Book 2: Texas Firefighters
5. Congratulations on  your recent 4 book deal with Harlequin! Any hints? Are we in for more of your hot, Texas firemen, or do you have something else in store for your readers?

Thank you! I'm really excited to write more books for Superromance! The first of the four is NOT a Texas Firefighters book. It's a stand-alone book, not related to others I've written, featuring an Army helicopter pilot and a super-genius, somewhat geeky female computer programmer. It'll be released this December.

The other three...I'm happy to say are more of the men from the San Amaro Island Fire Department. (One is an EMT.) So there will be more in the series...unfortunately they probably won't be out until 2013 sometime. (There's a pesky little detail of me needing to write the books!) :)

6. How do you work the demands of 4 book deadlines into your already busy routine? Are you sacrificing social networking, sleep...sanity, LOL? Seriously though, any advice on time management?

Me? Advice on time management? (That's my husband laughing hysterically in the background.) I'm always working on this challenge. My main time commitment is to my older son, who I homeschool. I spend from 8:30am-3pm by his side every day, so I really have to schedule in writing time. Though I've always been vehemently anti-mornings, I've found that getting up and working at 5am is the only way I have any creativity to write. I'm sluggish at that hour, but lots more productive than I am after a day of working with my son (though don't get me wrong...I love my "teaching" gig!) My advice to writers with crazy schedules (seriously, who of us doesn't have way too much on our plates?) is to schedule a regular time every day to write. EVERY DAY. It's hard. There are days when the last thing you want to do is open a file and be creative. But if this job was easy, everyone would be doing it. It doesn't matter if you have a half hour to devote to writing each day or a six-hour block...just commit to it and treat it like a job, whether you're getting a paycheck yet or not.

I don't do a huge amount of social networking, but I make an appearance on FaceBook daily. It's not a chore to me, though, because I enjoy it. I do sometimes sacrifice sleep, and the sanity, well...that's been gone for years!

7. With so many proposals and books under your belt, can you share your approach to synopsis writing? Was there a resource or method you encountered in the past that made synopsis writing 'click' for you?

This time the hysterical laughing is me. ;) I detest synopsis writing and I've never found any kind of secret to doing it successfully. My editor, bless her, has told me in the past, "we're buying this book on the strength of the chapters," or conversely, they bought it in spite of the less-than-stellar synopsis. So really, I would say do the best you can with it but editors know synopsis writing goes against everything we do to write a novel. I know I've gotten better over the years, but I don't know if I'll ever be good at crafting a catchy synopsis!

8. Apart from not quitting, what's the one thing you did as a writer that you feel played a critical role in helping you achieve your goal of publication?

Learning to strip down a story, tear out the heart of it, and rewrite it differently. Being able to do deep revisions is almost a necessity with Harlequin. Band-aiding a story isn't enough. As was proven by my many rounds of revisions just to make the first sale, flexibility is key. How did I learn to revise? I guess by doing it. Even before I sold, I rewrote plenty. So I'd say once you finish a book, set it aside for a while if you need to, start something new, but go back to it with the attitude you're going to hack it up and make it even better. It paid off for me.

9. And now for a little fun...what's your quirkiest writing habit and favorite deadline crunch-time snack?

Quirkiest? Hmmmm. My entire writing process is quirky! :) I do light a candle every time I sit down to write. It's my way of telling myself it's writing time. As for favorite snack...I don't let myself snack very much, deadline or not. If I did, though, and didn't obsess about calories or food sensitivities (of which I have many), I'd say Dairy Queen Blizzards would rule my world.

10. You're a very funny person (I dare say hilarious, as evidenced by your blog posts), amazing mom, and wonderful writer. Sorry, no denying it! If you had to do ONE of the following what would it be? Stand-up comedy, karaoke, kidlit story-time at the library, or a day-trip on a Harley with a six-pack of Mountain Dew on board?

Aw, thank you! I appreciate the big compliment. Most days I worry I come across as half-insane! ;)

My choice of those options would be, hands-down, the Harley and the Mt. Dew (as long as it could be diet!) I don't like being in the spotlight so stand-up and karaoke are out for sure. I adore my own children but would be climbing the walls within thirty seconds of being in charge of a herd of other people's children. While I'm not a big fan of motorcycles, I'm willing to try it just to get the Mt. Dew! ;)

Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Rula. Your questions were fun and original!

Thanks for being here, Amy! You've given us great advice and great reads :)

Book 3: Texas Firefighters
GIVEAWAY: Amy is giving away one of the first three Texas Firefighters books to one lucky winner! Winner's choice...and you can't go wrong! Just leave a comment to enter. The winner will be announced this Thursday, April 7th.

BLURB: Burning Ambition

Captain Joe Mendoza has wanted to be fire chief since he was four years old. And now he's one step away from making assistant chief. But that's proving to be some big step now that the chief's daughter has joined his crew. He's promised he'll keepher safe—and promised himself to keep things strictly business.

Faith Peligni has battled her way back from an on-the-job injury in San Antonio, and she's stronger than ever. Even if as the first female firefighter on the San Amaro Island crew—and the chief's daughter—she's expecting some heat. But with the impossibly distracting Joe Mendoza as her captain, who knew it could get this hot?


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