Monday, August 29, 2011

And they're off!!!

Today is the first day of school in our county. All my kids woke up long before they had to. You think they were excited much? LOL. It's funny how attitudes change from elementary school to middle school. My second grader's biggest concern was if he'd get to have reading time in 2nd grade (he loves to read). My sixth grader wanted to know if he'd be getting homework the first week of school, and my eighth grader lost no time in reminding me that it would be very uncool for me to go to the bus stop with them. Although I did go to the bus with my 2nd in hand...I gave in and took pics of the other two up by the house.

I feel lost.

Seriously. I've been craving a quiet house and me time, but I think it'll take a few days for it to feel normal. Mixed emotions are all a part of sending kids off to school. It got me thinking about the pros and cons, so I'll leave you today with a best and worst list for the first day of school (a mom's perspective of course).

5 Best things about the first day of school and beyond:

1. A QUIET house!!!
2. Uninterrupted writing time.
3. A QUIET house!!! Oh, I said that already.
4. Grocery shopping without the kids in tow.
5. Being able to book appointments (doctor, dentist etc...) for myself without worrying about childcare.

5 Worst things about the first day of school and beyond:

1. Waking up early to pack lunches (I have allergy kids, so I have to pack).
2. Homework battles.
3. Dealing with a child's test anxiety.
4. Bedtime battles.
5. Getting sucker punched by the fact that your babies are another year older, not just in age but socially and physically too. My oldest passed my height by an inch just last week!!! It freaked me out, LOL! His feet and arms are longer than mine too. Geesh!

I do want to add my prayers for everyone in areas where schools are closed because of damage from hurricane Irene. I'm so sorry for the loss of lives. We were in the outer bands but didn't experience much more than a rainy day. The photos of east coast damage are horrible.

Do you have kids or childhood memories about the best and worst of back-to-school?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The winner is...

j. barrett

Congratulations! You're the winner of Beth Andrews' Superromance, Feels Like Home. Just send your contact information to Beth at P.O. Box 714, Bradford, PA 16701 or email her at beth (at) bethandrews (dot) net.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Interview with Harlequin Superromance Author Beth Andrews

Award winning author Beth Andrews is here today! Beth was a double finalist in the 2006 Golden Heart Awards. She then finaled and won the 2007 Golden Heart for Best Long Contemporary. Her winning manuscript (titled All or Nothing) went on to become her first published Harlequin Superromance, Not Without Her Family, in 2008. Beth's character's are strong, unique, layered individuals who face some pretty edgy relationship and life situations. It's no surprise that she took home a RITA in 2010 for A Not-So-Perfect Past.

Although Beth isn't very nice to her characters ;), she's incredibly sweet in person. In fact, she's giving away a copy of Feels Like Home. Details are below, so read on!

1. Your latest release and third book of your Diamond Dust trilogy, Feels Like Home, had my heart in knots in chapter four. That says a lot about how gripping both your main and secondary characters are! If anyone needs an example of pulling off a third character POV to perfection, they should read The Prodigal Son and Feels Like Home. Your third character POV carries a fairly strong role in the trilogy. How did you decide which secondary character would take the honors? Were there other contenders who got ruled out?

Wow, thank you so much, Rula! I'm so glad you enjoyed the third characters' POVs in the stories. I didn't decide to have a third character's POV in the books until I received the revisions for the first story, A Marine For Christmas. My editor at the time, Victoria Curran, suggested I play up the love triangle aspect between the hero, the heroine and her sister (hero's ex-fiance). I wanted to know how the sister felt about her sister and ex becoming involved and what feelings (if any) she still had for the hero. Having her POV in the story also gave me a chance to explore her relationship with her new husband and to show how she finally learns to let go of the past. In The Prodigal Son, my first thought was to have the heroine's older daughter be the third character POV but then I wondered if it wouldn't be stronger to give that POV to Aidan (the third brother). In TPS, I wanted readers to get to know Aidan a little better in preparation for his story. I also felt he had the most to gain and lose in the trilogy and wanted to set that up. In FLH, I knew right away who I wanted in that third POV because she's the driving force of the stories and I wanted to show her in a way that would (hopefully) explain her actions.

2. There's something inherently romantic in a vineyard setting. A Marine For Christmas, The Prodigal Son, and Feels Like Home take place on a family run Virginia vineyard called The Diamond Dust. What made you choose Virginia, as opposed to say, California? Not all research makes it into a manuscript. What was the most interesting detail you learned during your Diamond Dust research? Has your research made you an official wine connoisseur :)?

I chose Virginia because of a magazine article about the state I've had saved for years. Every time I read something about a place that interests me, I save it and then when I'm looking for settings, I go through them and see which one will work best for the story. The more I researched Virginia vineyards, the more in love with the state I became. I've learned so much in the course of researching the Diamond Dust trilogy, so much so that I've tried (unsuccessfully *g*) to get my husband to move to Virginia and start a vineyard! It wasn't the most interesting detail (honestly, I found all the research fascinating and could've spent days on it alone) but the most important thing I learned was that wine (like candy) is basically recession-proof. When I'd first come up with the idea for the Diamond Dust, I'd pictured three brothers coming together to save a struggling business. I just couldn't make it work that way and ended up with a whole new idea *g* LOL on my being a wine connoisseur. I wish! I think I'll have to drink a lot more wine before I reach that point. Luckily, I'm willing to put in that time and effort :-)

3. Secrets have played a big role in many of your books, examples being Not Without Her Family, Do You Take This Cop, and His Secret Agenda (Hot hero! Just sayin'). However, in Feels Like Home, you take the popular matchmaking theme...something readers expect to be done on the sly...and bring it right out on the table. The fact that the hero and heroine know what's up, and still can't fight it, is a refreshing twist :). Writers are told to always ask 'why' and 'what if'. Did you plan all along to pop the cork on the matchmaking early on, or was it a twist that came up after the manuscript had aged a bit?

LOL - glad you liked Dean in HSA! For FLH, I'd planned on Aidan realizing he was being set up from the beginning, mainly because it's pretty obvious what's going on *g* Plus, by bringing it out in the open, I was able to make things much worse for him and Yvonne (the heroine). For Aidan it was a pride issue and for Yvonne it was accepting the fact that she wasn't wanted for herself, but so she and Aidan could get back together.

4. They say mothers are honorary psychologists. I say writers are too! You address some pretty tough topics in your books, such as emotional abuse, PTSD, sibling loyalty vs love, family outcasts, and broken marriages, to name a few. You really nailed the character psychology in each instance. Do you have a favorite psychology research resource (books, internet, TV, interviews etc...)?

I'm a character driven writer so the first (and my favorite) resource is The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes. I'm all about the archetypes when I'm plotting but then don't think about it again when I'm writing *g* I also like to check out the Enneagram Institute's website: Mainly, though, I get a lot of ideas just from watching and interacting with people. I'm fascinated by the fact that my kids have the same parents and were raised the same way, in the same house with the same circumstances and yet, they're so completely different from each other *g* If my son gets in trouble, he'll admit it - but only AFTER he's been busted. My older daughter won't admit it even if you have proof to show her, and my younger one will turn herself in before you've even realized she's done it :-) The only time I worry about one of my kids is when they don't act like themselves so that's what I try to do with my characters. I get to know them and then I think about how they would act/react in certain situations, not how I would act/react because. And to be honest, I've written characters who have made decisions that I don't agree with and that's so much fun to get out of my own head and into theirs!

5. Before winning the Golden Heart and the RITA, your kids awarded you with the honors of The Meanest Mom in the World and Only Mom in Town Who Makes Her Children do Chores, LOL. As a mom of three boys, I've received similar honors (you can let your kids know they're not alone ;)). Pursuing a dream amidst the demands of motherhood isn't easy. Fellow writers, readers and moms would love to hear about what prompted you to write your first romance, what's become of your early manuscripts, and...of course...your call story.

LOL! I'll gladly tell them, Rula, but they won't believe me. They're fairly certain other kids have it way easier *g* I knew I wanted to write romance books when my son was a baby. I can't say what actually prompted it but I've always had stories in my head so one day my husband came home and I just told him I wanted to be a romance writer. He was all for it but I didn't get serious about my writing until 9 years later when my youngest started school full time. I finished my first book and sent it to every editor at Harlequin/Silhouette *g* and every agent who accepted series romance. Needless to say, I received a pile of form rejections but then I discovered Romance Writers of America and really worked on learning the craft of writing along with the publishing side. I wrote four manuscripts before I sold. The first will never see the light of day, the second was my first sale, the third is actually the basis for my work-in-progress and I hope to tweak the fourth into a future Superromance.

I got the call on my husband's birthday, August 21, 2007. My editor had judged my book, Not Without Her Family, in the Golden Heart and offered to buy it for Superromance. I was thrilled, especially since, up until that point, I'd been targeting a different Harelquin line and had received a rejection on the same book the weekend before the conference (after it had been passed up to the sr ed of that line). So, though I was beyond ecstatic to win the Golden Heart in Dallas, I was also at a loss as to what I should with the story and which direction I should take with my writing. It was the second time I'd had a story passed up to the sr ed of that line and rejected and I couldn't help but wonder if I was trying to write for the wrong line. I'd decided to submit NWHF to Superromance, had it all printed and ready to ship to Canada and was literally on my way out the door to the post office when I got The Call :-)

6. An author doesn't have to be agented in category romance, yet there seems to be a number of category authors who have chosen to be agented. For many, it boils down to keeping their writing and their 'business' separate, and not having to discuss business matters with their editor. I can totally understand that! What do you feel you've gained from being agented in category?

I do like the fact that my agent handles contract negotiations. Knowing she's looking out for my career and has knowledge of the industry that I don't have, makes it a lot easier for me to concentrate on my writing.

7. Apart from not quitting, what's the one piece of advice you'd give writers struggling to achieve their goal of publication?

Write, write, write, then write some more. Find your process, what works for you, then refine it, tweak it until it's the perfect process for you. If you're not sure what your process is, read books and magazine articles, listen to workshops, take classes on-line until you find what works FOR YOU then refine it, tweak it and make it perfect. Can you tell I've recently realized that all the time I spent trying to find a new 'better' process should've been spent working on making my own process more efficient? *g*

8. With The Diamond Dust triglogy under wraps, what can your readers look forward to next?

I'm currently working on a new trilogy about three sisters who discover their mother hadn't abandonded them eighteen years ago, she was murdered. The working trilogy title is Mystic Point and the books are Keeping Secrets, Seeking Truth and Finding Home - though I'm sure those will all change since I'm not very good at picking titles *g*. I'm really enjoying Keeping Secrets which has a hardass police chief hero, a bossy, controlling cop heroine and a really rebellious teenager :-)

9. I have no doubt readers crave your books :). When you're writing, do you have any cravings? Any favorite deadline crunch-time snacks?

I crave salty snacks when I'm in a deadline crunch; pretzels and Triscuits. I always crave coffee with lots of vanilla creamer and Mountain Dew (I know, I know, I'm too old for MD but I love it.) I've actually cut way back on the MD but if I'm stressing over a book, I'll cut myself some slack about it   :-)

10. I know The Diamond Dust has their own labels, but if you could recommend one 'real' wine for your readers to try (curled up with one of your books, hint, hint ;)), what would it be?

I visited Casa Larga,, a vineyard in Fairport NY (the Finger Lakes region has gorgeous vineyards and fabulous wineries!) where I brought home lots of knowledge about making wine along with a bottle of Rosso which is a sweet, light wine - very good! Their ice wines are also fantastic (and it's so interesting how they make them!)

Another favorite is Sleepy Hollow Red from Flickerwood Wine Cellar, Flickerwood is in a nearby town (my mom's hometown *g*) and Sleepy Hollow Red is made from Pennsylvania grapes. And I hope anyone who is in the Richmond, VA area will check out James River Cellars, They were a big help to me as I researched Virginia wineries :-)

Thanks so much for being here today, Beth! A cyber toast to your Diamond Dust Trilogy and to your future Mystic Point series :)
GIVEAWAY: Beth is giving away a copy of Feels Like Home. Just post a comment or question and you'll be entered in the drawing. The winner's name will be posted here on Thursday, August 25th.
BLURB: Feels Like Home, Harlequin Superromance, August 2011
She's planning a wedding…not a romance!

Keeping up appearances is Yvonne Delisle's forte. But this job is going to test even her Southern belle mettle! It's not challenging enough she only has six weeks to turn a ramshackle carriage house into the hottest society wedding venue in Virginia. It's also located on her ex–husband Aidan's family vineyard. The home—and the man—she yearned for.

But Yvonne's up for the challenge. In the time since things went south with Aidan, she's become the most sought–after wedding planner in the state—popular enough to arrange her former mother–in–law's second wedding. Except…it's becoming suspiciously clear she wasn't hired for her professional expertise. Someone is plotting a reconciliation.and Yvonne is more tempted by the day. Let's see who actually walks down that aisle…


Barnes and Noble


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wild Ponies

In between all the house work, writing, and back-to-school errands this past week, I did manage to squeeze in a little beach therapy. We usually head out to The Outer Banks of North Carolina (blog photo locale), but this time we decided to check out the Maryland coastline. The pollution at the Ocean City Boardwalk beach area was anything but therapeutic, but just south of that are Assateague's National Park protected beaches...home of the famous Assateague ponies. I couldn't resist taking a few snapshots from my car.

There are actually two herds that are divided by a fence. The Assateague ponies are on the Maryland side, and the Chincoteague ponies are on the Virginia side. The latter gained some fame in 1991, when author Marguerite Henry published Misty of Chincoteague, which won the Newbery Honor.

The ponies are considered feral and are believed to have arrived on the island during the 17th century. There are signs everywhere cautioning visitors to not feed or get closer than 10ft of the animals. Unfortunately, not everyone listens or realizes that feeding the ponies draws them closer to cars...and danger. I witnessed people walking up and feeding them. Very frustrating. You can see from my pictures (taken with zoom of course) that the ponies end up way too close to danger. They even had car-pony accident pictures posted near the beach, but I guess people can be stubborn.

There was plenty of 'evidence' that they hang out here too.

Seeing these beautiful creatures was still therapeutic in and of itself. I had the music from the movie Spirit, sung by Bryan Adams, running through my head the whole time. There's just something about them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Break time

Hey everyone! I'm taking a break this week. It's that point in the summer when things pile up, including the back-to-school to-do list. I'll be back soon, and I promise to make it up to you. On August 22nd, I have an amazing interview scheduled with award winning author, Beth Andrews. Trust won't want to miss what she has to dish!

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer. I'll try to pop in on your blogs this week, but forgive me if I'm scarce. Later! :)