Friday, January 31, 2014

LAUGH LINES - why I have them

Good Morning!

Ron was feeling confined and kind of blue today, so we got to talking about funny things that have happened.  He reminded me of an incident years ago that had the neighborhood talking for weeks.  It even made an old Harlequin Newsletter when I was invited to share an example of how art imitates life - or, in my case, life imitates art.

I've never been petite, but in my forties and fifties, I was a formidable woman.  Our children were all on their own, Ron was taking a print-making class at the college, and I was about to head to town to have my keyboard fixed.  (Yes, it was that long ago that we still fixed them because they were pricier than they are now.)  It was raining, I was going to walk to town, so I put on my raincoat and took my wallet and keys out of my purse to put them in my pocket so I had less to carry.  Well - those of you who have cats will understand this - one cat wanted in, one cat wanted out - and when I finally left, I had the keyboard, my wallet, but no keys.

I didn't realize I was keyless until I got back home and couldn't get into the house.  Two of my neighbors have copies of our keys, but neither was home.  Ron wouldn't be home for two hours (still no cell phones in common use yet) and there was not a window unlocked.  What to do?

I wandered around the outside of the house, thinking.  What would one of my heroines do?  Then I noticed the dog door on the back porch.  Ah, hah!  One of my recent heroines couldn't reach her grandfather and saw through the window that he'd collapsed.  She gained entry through the dog door.

It did occur to me that my heroine was a size 6 and I wasn't.  But the dog door was purchased to accommodate a Golden Retriever - not the biggest dog, but good-sized.  And it was either go in through the dog door, or wait two hours for Ron on a rainy front porch.  I got on my knees.

The dog door was placed about six inches off the floor because the dog had long legs.  I should also mention that the year after this event,  I had breast reduction surgery - and lost 4.8 pounds.  Okay.  I pushed my way in.  With a little wriggling, I had the upper body through!  I was excited, telling myself the worst was over,  this was going to work!

Until my hips got stuck.  I tried to think small and force myself forward.  Not happening.  Finally deciding that positive thinking wasn't going to get me inside, I tried to back out.  But I couldn't.  I tried to push forward, to wriggle back.  Nothing.  I was well and truly stuck.  I could imagine my neighbor across the back yard calling the police to report something strange protruding from the Jensens'  back door.

With my knees on the back porch, and my hands on the floor of my kitchen, I was determined to remain calm and think.   Then I heard Amber, the Golden Retriever, awake from her 'nobody's home' slumber at the sound of something in the kitchen.  She was the dearest, sweetest, gentlest dog - unless she encountered a threat to her family, then she became Cujo.  I could hear her running down the stairs, a deep growl in her throat - Thrump!  Thrump!  Thrump!   Grrrrr!

My biggest fear was that I could be eaten up to my elbows before she realized it was me.  So, as she raced toward me, I shouted, "Amber!  Hi, Amber!  It's Mom!"

Thrumping!  Grrrrring!  "Amber!  It's Mommy!"

She raced across the floor, skidded on the tile and came flying toward me.  I braced myself for the worst.  But she stopped an inch from my face, looked at me in confusion, the recognizing me, slurped my face once, then went to her food bowl.

Great.  I made a mental note to attach a key to her collar, should this ever happen again.

Now really uncomfortable and anxious to get my knees and my hands in the same room, I craned my neck far enough to see the bolt on the door.  Mercifully, it wasn't a lock that had to be turned, but a bolt that just had to be slapped open if I could . . .just . . .turn. . . . sideways . . .  I did.  I slapped the bolt.  The door opened a few inches and I crawled with it, still stuck, only one hand now on the floor because I'd turned sideways to reach the bolt.  I don't think any device used during the Inquisition could have inflicted as much pain.

Finally, I was able to back out of the door.  I sat on my knees on the back porch for a few minutes, wondering if all that had really just happened.  It had.  I had the abrasions on my sides to prove it for a good long time.

Moral of the story : If you lock yourself out of the house, wait for someone with a key, even if it's raining.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

To Gift Or Not To Gift By Tara Randel

Valentine’s Day is coming up soon. Romance will be in the air. Flowers and chocolate will dominate television commercials. How about jewelry? Most women find anything with bling is welcome. On top of the pressure to come up with something special for our certain someone, we’re bombarded by ads helping us come up with the perfect gift. Is there such a thing? 

My husband and I fell victim to some bad Valentine gifting early in our marriage. We laugh about it now, but back then, those gift mistakes were serious. It set a precedent that either made Valentine’s Day fun or miserable. Thankfully, we have a great relationship, and figured out early on what worked for us.  No presents! LOL. It’s kind of a private thing between us, knowing we won’t fail under the pressure of Valentine perfection because we aren’t shopping. Our special gift to each other.

When my children were young, I always got them a little something. A card slipped into their lunch, crazy socks covered with heart motifs or lip gloss. While they appreciated the gesture, they were looking forward to the Valentine exchange in class, which usually included candy. 

Last year, my daughter came up with a lovely gift for Mother’s Day, but it would make an awesome Valentine’s present. She’s a cash strapped student who doesn’t usually get me anything, but she made a lovely gift I keep near my writing area year round. If you’re crafty, any size mounted canvas and a few different colors of paint will do the trick. You can leave a message in the center heart, or maybe mount a collage of pictures. The nice thing about this gift is that it’s great for grandparents, or even hubby/dad to mount on the wall at his office.

Gifts or not, the important thing is to tell the people in your life how much you love them. That is the real heart of Valentine’s Day.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

49 more days! by Syndi Powell

I don't think I've ever looked forward more to the first day of Spring than this year. There's only 49 more days until we reach March 20th, and it couldn't come any sooner!

The warm touch of the sun as it beats down on gardens starting to show signs of life. The scent of dirt after a Spring rain. The chirp of birds in the morning. The first pale green blades of grass pushing up on the lawn. I'm looking forward to all of these.

The poets often wrote about Spring. It's a season of rebirth and renewal. Of hope and resurrection. A young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love. We move from gray, cold days to those filled with bright warmth. While April may have their showers, we know that the pay off is the beautiful flowers in our gardens when we head into May.

So yes, I'm looking forward to Spring. While the colder weather has given me more opportunities to stay inside and enjoy my favorite books, I'm ready to trade in my winter coat for my jean jacket. I'll even welcome the Spring rain if only to splash through the puddles.

What are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Turn off the Worry Button by Marion Ekholm

How do you turn that worry button off in your brain? This past week has been full of tension and unexpected problems. My son left Wasilla, Alaska, missed the ferry to Seattle and headed through Canada to get back to the states. That’s right. Through Canada in January.

My daughter, son and I share our cell phone service, so he asked me to contact them so he’d be able to use his phone while traveling through Canada. I did. Problem solved.

My second novel needed the art sheet for the cover completed, and I hadn’t looked at the book for six months. While I was rereading it, and attempting to write the required synopsis, my son kept texting me from Canada with some beautiful pictures as well as several short messages.

Here’s a sunrise.  

One interruption after another while I tried to concentrated on my novel. I  must have rewritten that first paragraph a dozen times. Then my daughter joined the mix because she was getting messages from him as well.

Have you ever wanted to toss your phone? I certainly wanted to, but I couldn't. It's my hot spot for getting onto the internet where I was putting in all my information.

Well, obviously my son couldn’t toss his. He needed it to find open camp grounds – that’s right, he’s CAMPING in Canada in January! – or other accommodations, so he’s using his phone to find these things. He gets a warning that he’s using too much International roaming. Guess why? He’s taking more pictures! A bison crossed in front of him. Thank goodness it was during the day when he could actually see the herd of about twelve.


I contacted the cell phone company and listened to ten minutes of advertisements before a person could help me. I reminded him this was the second time I’d done this. The man was very pleasant and sympathetic. I’ll pay the $15 charges. Problem solved.

Within the hour my son sends me another text. Too much International roaming. His phone’s cut off completely even when he gets to the states. I’m back to the International operator again. Another ten minutes of advertisements. The same sympathy and promise to fix it. This time it’s $30 . Finally, it’s settled, and I’m still on that same first paragraph.

 Another text. This one from the phone company. How did you like your service? Would you recommend us?

I finished the Art Sheet and went off to my job at the community college. There on my desk were three tiny glass animals from my daughter to add to my collection. She knew how frustrated I had been and wanted to brighten my day. She did. 

My son finally made it to the states. He’s now with friends in Colorado.



Monday, January 27, 2014

Writer's Block? No such thing!

Good morning, all. Dana Mentink here and I'm just dropping in with a bombshell. I've recently concluded that there's no such thing as writer’s block. There, I've said it. 

Writer’s block occurs in people who can afford to indulge it. Me? I’ve got a deadline. Block or no block, I’m sitting in that chair meeting that word count every day. If the muse isn’t cooperating, the words aren’t going to be fabulous, and they will have to be rewritten, or maybe even tossed in the trash can, but by golly those keys are clacking along in spite of any temporary lull in the motivation supply. I tell myself, just write, even a sentence or two can get the ideas started again. Or if I’m completely stymied, write something else. I’m always working on two books at once so I can alternate if needed. But you don't need to take my word for it. Here is some wisdom from two writers much more accomplished than I. 

Phillip Pullman says, “Writer’s block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?”

My favorite piece of advice comes from the fabulous Barbara Kingsolver.
“I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.” Maybe this attitude is what propelled her to write books that have won accolades from the James Beard Award to being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

What are things in your life that you just have to force yourself to do sometimes? For me, there's a quite a list. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Choose Good-for-you Mood-elevating Food and Beverages by Roz Denny Fox

Everyone who has worked an 8 to 5 job has probably endured the three o’clock crash. Office vending machines often offer sugary snacks that only create a short-term energy boost. Really the blood-sugar fall that comes after not only makes you feel draggy, but can cause irritability, depression, and other mood swings that negatively affect your performance. Drew Ramsey, MD, co-author of The Happiness Diet maintains that food choices we make every day influence the brain’s ability to grow and heal. Dr. Ramsey cites a large study done for Harvard School of Public Health that found women who drink 2 cups of coffee regularly had a 15% lower risk of depression than those who didn’t drink any coffee. The risk decreased by 20% when they drank 4 cups a day. He says it’s because caffeine triggers a release of dopamine in the brain which sharpens, focuses and improves your outlook. But don’t drink coffee to the point of jitters. And space your cups of coffee throughout the day.

So what makes us happier than having a satisfying fatty snack? Not much claims Mary Morreale, MD and psychiatrist at Wayne State University. Fat digests slowly and calms the blood sugar. Of course not all fats are created equal. Studies that compared mood disorders in several countries found that where residents consumed 3 seafood meals per week and took in high omega-3 fatty acids had much lower rates of depression and other emotional disorders than residents who ate lower levels of omega-3 foods. These fats are said to help the function in areas of the brain responsible for regulating emotion. If you’re a meat-eater, choose grass-fed beef, chicken and pork over corn-fed. Or make your afternoon snack half an avocado or a quarter cup of walnuts.

Judith Wurtman, PhD, co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet and former director of MIT’s Clinical Research Center in Women’s Health thinks carbs are crucial. She says the 3 or 4 o’clock mood slump can be warded off with ¾ cup of Cheerios. Because that’s a small caloric price to pay for feeling good. Green tea plus a caramel rice cracker offers similar results as do a few baby carrots dipped in hummus. Susan Bowerman, RD purports that carrots to humans are like a rawhide bone to a dog. Chewing is a stress reliever. And the crunch of carrots also satisfies a sweet craving, while hummus is salty and provides carbs, all equaling a hit of afternoon happiness. Susan, who is the assistant director of UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition believes a bliss trip needs tryptophan. While it used to be that people thought tryptophan made you sleepy, new studies show it may more likely be the key to calm and happiness. Serotonin, a necessary amino acid that the body can’t produce on its own, needs tryptophan. Poultry, beef, eggs and nuts supply some. She suggests having turkey in a whole wheat wrap, or a slice of whole grain toast, or a few graham crackers midday which will cause the body to release insulin and in turn boost the amount of tryptophan.

Back to Dr. Ramsey of the Happiness Diet—he says spinach in your salad will give your lunch a brain-friendly shot. By trading romaine lettuce for spinach which gives more B vitamins, your afternoons will be freer of fuzzy-thinking. (Hey, I’m all for that)

The last bit of mood-enhancing data I found comes from Paul Bosland, PhD and horticulturalist at New Mexico State University. His studies have been in using spices to make you a nicer, less depressed person. Curcumin, a staple in Indian curries and present in turmeric has natural anti-depressant properties. Like serotonin and dopamine, adding turmeric to stir-fry, soup or chicken will give you a brighter outlook. As well he recommends liberal use of black pepper, preferably fresh-ground, plus chili peppers, both will release feel-good endorphin receptors in the mouth.

So, all of the above suggestions I think are easy changes to implement if they indeed lift the afternoon spirits, improve the mood, and help make a person happier. Can anyone give testimonials to these diet tips, or other easy ones you’d care to share?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Retro Romances: I Want You Back by Karen Rock

Retro Romances are the latest trend in romance. Thanks to Facebook and other social networking sites, it’s now easy to find and reconnect with ‘The One that Got Away’. Sure, you’ve thought about him, how your relationship ended, wondered how life would be if you’d stayed together and the itch to give it another shot takes hold. But should you? Here are some thoughts about whether to go ‘retro’ with your love life and, if you do, how to have a happy- and lasting- reunion.

1. Before reaching out, ask yourself a couple of important questions. First, do you truly still care for him, or are you possibly just tired of being single? It’s always better to be alone than with the wrong guy. Second, did you and your ex have a positive, healthy relationship? Without him around to remind you of the things that drove you nuts, are you focusing on only the good? Try to look at the past objectively and honestly assess whether being together made you and your life better. You don’t want to return to a negative relationship.

2. If you answered YES to both questions, then it's time to reach out. Be sure to keep your initial contact light and casual. Don't put pressure on him and, most importantly, on yourself. Leave a Facebook message such as, "It was great to see your name on Facebook! How are you?" The way he responds will give you a lot of clues on whether or not to go forward. If his answer is short, like, "I'm good. Hope everything's well with you." That's not a good sign. Ideally, he'll ask you questions about yourself and sound enthusiastic to have heard from you. If so, that's your signal to take things a step further.
3. Find out if he’s single before asking him out. If he doesn’t list his relationship status online, check out his Facebook photos. If you see a lot of recent ones that show him looking affectionate with the same girl- someone you don’t know- that’s a sign that he might be seeing her. You could also, through conversations about your personal lives as you catch up, find a subtle way to ask him about his current dating situation.

4. All systems go? Time to suggest a low-key meet-up like going out for coffee or something neutral. You don't want to put too much of yourself out there until you are sure he's interest in a renewing his romance with you. Another idea would be to suggest a restaurant you both enjoyed, an art gallery you used to frequent, an activity, like biking or skiing, you both enjoyed. Going back to places that hold good memories will remind him of the great times you had together and rekindle old feelings. 

5. Talk about funny, romantic, and exciting times together while on your meet-up, like a great trip you went on or how you first met. Walking down memory lane together will resurrect those old feelings you had then. Add in a bit of subtle, casual physical contact like letting your hands brush as you pass him things or knees touch under the table. If he leans in and relaxes, that’s a good sign. Pulling away from any contact would raise a red flag, or at least a ‘proceed with caution’ sign.

6. Don't get carried away yet! Think about why things didn't work out the first time and look for signs that things will be different now. If you broke up because he spent too much time partying, notice how he acts when you're out. Pay attention to how much he drinks. How much does he talk about going out? The bad habits and routines that drove you apart should be done to make this retro romance a lasting one. Take things slow and most of all, trust your gut.
In my upcoming release, HIS HOMETOWN GIRL, my main character, Jodi, must decide whether to give her childhood sweetheart, Daniel, and her hometown, another chance. Share your experiences with retro romances in the comments section below and be entered to win either an autographed print copy of HIS HOMETOWN GIRL, or an ebook- your choice J The winner will be announced on Friday on this blog post as well as on my author Facebook page, . Thanks so much for stopping by and I look forward to reading your comments!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Real romance...and a lot of drugs

Hi Everyone!

I never told many people (I guess I'm telling a whole bunch now lol), but I had surgery a few weeks ago-nothing serious, just an outpatient procedure-and for the first time in my life I was on drugs-a lot of drugs lol as they prepared me to be wheeled into the operation room. Let me just say here that I usually take nothing-no vitamins, no regular medication, a Tylenol for a headache maybe once every two months, that's it, so the meds they injected into my I.V. hit me hard.

And in my silly, confused, VERY relaxed state I realized two things about myself-One-I talk way too much and Two-I married the most romantic man in the world. Here's how it happened-the realization I mean...

Once the drugs started kicking in, my nervousness about going under for the first time disappeared completely, they could have told me they were about to remove a leg and I would have helped them do it. So, of course, I start talking-mostly about all of you lol. I bragged about Heartwarming and how wonderful the books are, I was Amy and Rula's personal publicist as I made each of the nurses promise to buy a copy of your books this month, and I talked about how much I love LOVE.

One of the nurses turned to my husband and said-Wow, you must be quite the romantic if you're married to a romance writer. And she asked me-Is he the inspiration for your books?

Immediately I laughed and said-Are you kidding-this guy is the world's most unromantic man. (Debbie Macomber claims to have him, but really I do).

She said-What? You mean you don't run her a bath and leave rose petals on the floor as a trail?

He said-Nope, I'm the guy with the vacuum cleaning up the mess.

And right then in my fuzzy state-I realized just how wrong I am when I say he is not romantic.

He may never have given me flowers or candy or stuffed animals that would have found their way to a garbage can anyway...His wedding proposal was as practical as it can get-'We're here at Tiffany's in Las Vegas, we may as well just buy the ring now. Just keep it on and I'll pay for it.' And he doesn't interrupt his super stressful, busy workday to call me just to hear my voice...

He does so much more! He believes in my writing ability much more than I do, allowing me the option to stay at home and write if I choose. He bought every superhero costume available in kid size and adult size so he can dress up like superheroes to play with our son. A work-aholic when we met, he no longer works past five so he can be home for dinner with his family. And when a plot idea comes to me as I'm dozing off and too lazy to get up to write it down, he does! You really can't get much more romantic than that.

That's when I also realized that the heroes in my books ARE inspired by him. For whatever reason-readers are loving Luke Dawson-the hero in The Trouble With Mistletoe and now I realize why-like my husband-Luke has an undying love for the heroine, one that never falters or fades, despite the crap she puts him through and he shows it in deep and meaningful ways. I never consciously modeled him after my husband, but now I know why I love both of them so much:)

Our one year anniversary is coming up in a couple of weeks, I guess that's why I've had all of this on my mind...thanks for letting me indulge:) Sorry for babbling on and on...maybe those drugs haven't quite worn off yet lol.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Where Ideas Come From Courtesy of an Eight-Year-Old

Ideas are everywhere, but surely the best ideas come from children.  I've long wanted to write a book set on the Titanic.  Right now would be the perfect time as my eight-year-old is enthralled with the ship and its sinking.  So we (over and over) watch the movies: the old Barbara Stanwyke, one from England, and, of course, the epic Jack and Rose.

Sunday was church.  My son had a lesson about Adam and Eve in his third grade classroom.  Adam and Eve gets taught a lot so it's rare for my son to reflect on his lesson.  Sunday, however, a plot line caught Mike's attention.  In a way, for Mike, Adam and Eve became Rose and Jack (I wanted to turn the conversation to Noah, because surely I could do a comparison with Jack and Rose and Noah and Mrs. Noah, but I don't DON'T wanted to picture Leonardo as Noah.  Kate as Mrs. Noah is fine with me, but no no.)

Back on topic.

My son asks as we're driving home, "Mom, if Adam and Eve hadn't sinned, would we be naked today?"

This is what I get for telling him to LISTEN in class.

"Ah, maybe." (Bad visual)

He's not done.  "Mom, if Adam and Eve hadn't sinned would all the people on the Titanic have been naked when the ship went down?"  (Hmmm, a remake of the Titanic with a Hair component.  One word: ICK.)

So, yes, you can someday expect this conversation to appear in a book by Pamela Tracy.

And just in case you needed one more chuckle.  My son got a lego Bible for Christmas (Really someone has taken the Bible and illustrated the stories with lego characters.)  He's flipping through it and comes to a photo of a lego man laying on the ground with another man standing over him holding a sword.  My eight-year-old carefully sounds out the word under the photo: cir cum cise.

He looks up at me, points, and says, "Mom, this is just wrong."

Your turn.

What new and improved plot ideas did or do or will your kids give you."

Monday, January 20, 2014

Those Voices Inside My Head by Melinda Curtis

Recently, someone asked me how I create characters.  My gut instinct was to say, "I don't create them.  The girls in the basement do." Which is something Jennifer Crusie says about the creative process - leave it to your subconscious. Now, I don't know if I have girls in the basement, but when I ask myself a question about a character - if someone answers (see Cheryl Harper's post about blank pages) - it isn't a Greek chorus. More likely, it's something like this:

Me, to Flynn from Summer Kisses: What's up with your hair?  Shoulder length? Baseball cap?  Do you have dandruff?  Enough with the hat already - it's been two books now.  Let's give it to someone.
Flynn: Don't.  I look like my dad and I don't like it.
Me: Lots of people look like their parents -
Flynn: He went to prison for robbing a bank.
Me: Forgiveness, Flynn. That was a long time ago. Kathryn (my editor) doesn't like clich├ęd grudges.

I won't tell you what he said to that, but I was a bit shocked.  It was one of those I'm in the writing zone moments that you wish came more often.  That's when characters come alive.

Speaking of coming alive, I'd like to bring Flynn in the room for an in-the-moment interview for our Heartwarming fans (imagine a man with the charming smile of Prince Harry with longer hair - at least at the beginning of the book).

Me:  Flynn, talk about your holiday and any new year resolutions you made.
Flynn: I stayed in Harmony Valley. I know, weird for a bachelor to stay in a town where nearly everyone is over the age of 65.  Someday soon, I'm going to get a life and see the world.  But for now I like it here.  And, of course, I live with my Grandpa Ed, who's slowing down and needs some help.  He raised me after my dad...
Me (jumping in quickly): Readers may not realize you scored a big pay day selling a farming app.  What've you been doing with your days now that you don't have to worry about money?
Flynn: I've become the town handyman (shhh, don't tell my college professors).  I don't get paid and I don't usually charge anyone for materials either.
Me: I'm so proud.  Talk more about your work about town.  What's the oddest fix-it job you've had?
Flynn:  It's a toss-up between adjusting Mr. Mionetti's TV antennae so he can watch Dancing With the Stars - how old school is that? - and repairing Roxie's chicken coop.  Those hens are escape artists!
Me: You and Grandpa Ed have been trying to attract more people and businesses to Harmony Valley.  What's your pitch?
Flynn:  Besides being able to walk to work and a zero crime rate?  You can be yourself here and celebrate life.  We've got retired race car drivers and Broadway chorus girls, ex-spy masters and retired sailing captains. Life here goes no faster than Grandpa Ed in his walker, but where else can you find a beer belly serenade during Indian summer? Or pumpkin bowling to award the Harvest Queen crown?  I may want to see the world, but I know for certain I'm coming back here to stay!

And there you have it - my constantly smiling, Heartwarming February hero.  My thanks to Flynn for stopping by today (he talked to me in between plugging a leak in Agnes' bird bath and fixing a leaky faucet at Mae's house).  What do you think?  Is Flynn living in my basement?  Or is it "the girls"?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sit Down Saturday with Amy Vastine

Today we’re celebrating the January release of

So, Amy, where did you get the idea for this novel?

A friend of mine asked me if I ever thought of writing a storm chaser story because she loves all those TV shows and even follows her local weatherman on Twitter (she gets very excited when he replies to her!) The idea sort of stuck with me. I wasn't sure I could write something action-packed like the movie Twister, but I liked the idea of someone obsessed with weather-related things like my friend.

Tell us briefly about "The Call!"

I was standing outside of Panera Bread with my daughter, waiting for my mother, who was meeting us for a girls only lunch. My youngest son had just called me from home, already wondering when we were going to be back because he was bored. In the middle of that lovely conversation, my mom showed up and Victoria called almost simultaneously. I told my son to go bother his brother and took Victoria's call. There was some jumping up and down (much to the embarrassment of my daughter) and lots of gesturing to my mom so she knew to whom I was talking. It was pretty much the best phone call I ever received, especially because my mom was there and she has truly been my biggest supporter in all this.

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say?

I am terrible at taglines. Terrible. Almost as terrible as I am at summaries. If I had to choose something, I do like the last line in the back of the book blurb - "Falling in love isn't nearly as easy as predicting the weather."

How long did it take you to write?

First manuscript - about one month. I wrote it so quickly that I wasn't too surprised when it didn't make the finals for the So You Think You Can Write I wrote it for! But when I had to revise it for the Heartwarming line and make it about 70,000 words, I had to step away from it for a little bit to really figure out how I wanted it to look and sound. So, in the end, it took me another six months or so to get it all finished.

What is your favorite scene?

Good question because I try not to get too attached because the scene I really, really love always seem to get cut! I do have a couple scenes I really love in this one. One is just a sweet exchange between Summer and Travis when they both know they have fallen in love but haven't shared that information with one another. They are flirtatious and happy and have no idea that something is about to happen that's going to knock them off their happy cloud. I love those kinds of moments - the calm before the storm (pun intended!) There is also a scene between Travis and Summer's grandparents that I picture in my head like a movie. They are trying to get him to see that he really does know what he wants to do with his life, but they want him to figure it out without having to flat out tell him what it is. Their frustration and his cluelessness makes me smile.

Who was your favorite character and why?

It's a tie between Big D and Mimi, Summer's grandparents. I love her grandfather's quiet, gentle demeanor. He is both wise and loving. Mimi is sort of this strange mix of my grandmothers and my husband's grandmother. She loves to tease Summer, but there isn't anything she wouldn't do for her granddaughter. Mimi and Travis have similar arcs in this story. They both love Summer but to be worthy of her love, they have to let her go.

Tell us one thing you learned during research.

I learned more about strange weather phenomena than I ever thought possible! Summer spouts a lot of random weather facts when she's nervous. I did learn that a dust storm is called a haboob, and I pretty much fell in love with that word because sometimes I am as mature as my 13-year-old son.

This is your first book. Exactly what does that mean to you?

Everything! I can't even put into words how amazing this experience has been. I never imagined I would be an author. Since I was young, I knew I wanted to work with kids and counsel in some way. But I have always been a daydreamer. I entertain myself with silly stories in my head. I really only started writing to make sense of some of the nonsense going on in there. When I first started writing, my husband thought I was crazy to spend all that time on something I wasn't going to let anyone else see. So, I decided to find out if anyone found what I wrote as interesting as I did. Luckily, they did!

What do you plan to work on next?

I am working on a three book series featuring three sisters. Each sister gets her own love story. I don't know how much to say, but I plan to tug on lots of heartstrings and all three books may require a tissue warning. The first one is tentatively titled, THE BETTER MAN, and centers on a young widow and her son, who happens to be a selective mute since his father passed away. As a social worker in my other life, I have seen the struggles both parent and child go through when there is an anxiety disorder such as this one. I can't wait to get them all written and out there for public consumption!

What are you reading for pleasure right now?

I am halfway done with fellow Heartwarming debut author, Rula Sinara's THE PROMISE OF RAIN. The best thing about being a part of the Heartwarming group is discovering all these wonderful stories! This is the third Heartwarming novel I've read and I love it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

"DO IT ANYWAY." by Mother Teresa

It's said that the verses below were written on the wall of Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta, India and widely attributed to her.  They seem, though, to be based on a composition originally written by Dr. Kent Keith, a dynamic speaker and writer whose mission is to help people find personal meaning in a crazy world.  Mother Teresa appears to have rewritten the second half of the verses in a spiritual way.  I'm presenting both because their generosity is amazing, and good models for all of us. 


People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. 
     Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough..  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

DR. KENT KEITH'S  'The Paradoxical Commandments'

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.  Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.  Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.  Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.  Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.  Thing big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.  Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.  Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.  Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.  Give the world the best you have anyway.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Who's Who in Heartwarming? Rula Sinara & Amy Vastine

Hello everyone! It’s a game and giveaway day here at the Heartwarming blog so get ready for some fun! How well do you think you know the Heartwarming authors? You’re about to find out!

Today our ‘contestants’ are Amy and Rula. The Weather Girl and The Promise of Rain. A fated match if there ever was one :).

All you have to do is guess which of the following statement are true for Rula, Amy or both. Leave a comment listing the statement # and your answers in order. Later this evening, the correct answers (and winner) will be posted in the comments. The person who guesses the most correct answers will win one copy each book—The Weather Girl by Amy Vastine and The Promise of Rain by Rula Sinara—plus bookmarks! If multiple people tie, they will be pooled in a random drawing of one winner.

Ready? Go!

1. Had an umbrella hanging on her Christmas tree this year...just in case the forecast promised rain.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

2. Loves rainy weather.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

3. Has a large collection of monkeys.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

4. Once performed modified CPR on a frog drowning in her pool. Frog lived.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

5. Has an obsession with Tupperware and Office supplies. Organization rocks!
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

6. Hates the smell of scented candles and crayons.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

7. Loves weather and natural disaster movies like Twister.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

8. Her heroine is always looking for an adrenaline rush.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

9. One of her characters was orphaned.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

10. Two of her children were born on the same day four years apart.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

11. Has never bought an umbrella.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

12. Has visited seven countries.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

13. Her favorite season is spring.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

14. Has scratched a rhino behind the ear to keep him relaxed.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

15. Her debut book includes a helicopter flight.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

16. Her debut book includes a hot air balloon ride.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

17. Her heroine takes bucket showers.
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

18. Celebrated the first day of 2014 with a debut Harlequin Heartwarming!
a) Rula
b) Amy
c) Both

That's it? What are your guesses? Leave them in the comments for a chance to win a copy of each book, plus bookmarks!                  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Musical Inspiration by Amy Vastine

I am a huge music lover. Always have been. I was one of those teenagers with posters of every rockstar on her walls. I love a good rock song, bop along to the latest pop tune on the radio in the car, and still melt when I listen to a sweet ballad.
My first music crush
Music and lyrics have been fueling my daydreams since I was kid. I remember wanting to fall in love with a rockstar who would sing Journey's "Faithfully" to me on our wedding day. It's no wonder that the very first story I wrote was based on a song. The Counting Crow's "Anna Begins" was the title of the song and my story. The song tells the story of a guy who falls in love with his friend, Anna, but doesn't want to call it love because he believes everything will be ruined if he says the words. I absolutely love that song and created an entire backstory for the guy and crazy, drama-filled love story for him and his best friend/true love, Anna.

I tend to listen to music when I write. Maroon 5 has helped improve my mood when suffering from some terrible writer's block, and the song "Lunatic" by Andy Grammer was my theme song while writing The Weather Girl

Sometimes a song gives me an idea and sometimes I hear that perfect song that matches what I already have written down. I love creating a playlist for my stories. The Weather Girl didn't have any musical inspiration, but it does have its own soundtrack. Of course, there are lots of weather-related songs out there that make the cut simply because they have a weather theme. "After the Storm" by Mumford and Sons.  I love, love, love "Rainy Zurich" by The Fray. But my favorite is "Brighter Than the Sun" by Colbie Caillat. It would definitely be Travis and Summer's song!

A good song can bring a scene to life in a writer's mind. It can set the tone for the book or create the perfect mood for writing in general. I am currently hooked on the song, "Say Something" by A Great Big World. It is the song for a new story I am getting ready to write. Every time I hear it, I picture a pivotal scene playing out like a movie in my head with this song playing in the background. It makes me that much more excited to write it!

Do you have a song that reminds you of a certain stories? Share your music inspirations with us!