Kay: Learning Experiences

I wrote here a couple weeks ago about my first three novels and how they’ve been languishing on my hard drive—and my recent efforts to finally bring them into the world. I did a few strong passes on the first one, tightened the language, sharpened the conflict (what little of it there is), and cut about twenty-five percent. Now it’s almost ready to launch.

I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but writing these books was a learning experience. You’d think I’d get the hang of it quicker, but no. Well, you could make the argument that every book presents its own challenges, and I’d be happy to make that argument myself. But I still always feel that I should be finding my characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts a lot sooner, not to mention figure out what they like for breakfast or where they go on vacation. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Community Support

Writing can be a solitary business–just you, a blank page, and the characters in your head clamoring (or not) to get out.  We’ve talked before on the blog how important community is in the stories we write and it’s equally important for us as writers.  Whether it is a group of critique partners you brainstorm with; friends you do writing sprints with; or more formal organizations that provide conferences, support, and mentoring, a strong writing community can make writing both more connected and more productive.

Many of us were members of Romance Writers of America back when we first started this blog and enjoyed meeting up in person and learning new things at their annual conferences.  After RWA’s crash-and-burn a few years back, that community fell apart.  Some folks stayed with the organization–helping build it back better–but others took a step back and looked for other supportive communities.

Since that time, RWA has undergone quite a transformation–new board members, new strategy, new programs, a new award–and they are continuing their work supporting authors. Continue reading

Michaeline: Four Questions for Harper Cross

Author Harper Cross, also known as Eight Lady Nancy Hunter, aka Nancy Yeager, author of the five-story series, Harrow’s Finest Five (Starting with novella “Too Clever by Half” and followed by four full-length Victorian historical romance novels) answered a few questions for me regarding her new book, Baby One Last Time, the first book in her series, The Agents of HEAT (published April 29, 2021).

The lighthearted romantic suspense book is a second-chance romance. Cynthia has been expelled from the secret spy agency, HEAT, and her only chance to redeem herself is by working with her “tall, dark and diabolical” ex, Derek Wilder. Harper calls it “a shot of action & adventure, a dash of snark, and a twist of fun.”

She’s got a lot of fun things to say about the process in her interview, too!

Hot guy in black v-neck t-shirt with bracelet and looking over squarish sunglasses at viewer. Tropical palms, fire/scorched earth imagery.
Baby One Last Time is the latest book from Nancy, writing as Harper Cross. and is a stand-alone novel with no cliffhangers from the Agents of HEAT series. Image from Harper Cross.
Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Bike to Work Day” (if you’re reading this on May 21st)–a day that probably received more activity when there were more people actually having to commute to work.  It’s also “National Strawberries and Cream Day” and “International Tea Day”, which seem to go together quite nicely. 

Great, now I’m craving a cup of tea and a bowl of strawberries and cream.

For those who missed it, yesterday was “World Bee Day.”  

To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN designated 20 May as World Bee Day.  The goal is to strengthen measures aimed at protecting bees and other pollinators, which would significantly contribute to solving problems related to the global food supply and eliminate hunger in developing countries.  We all depend on pollinators and it is, therefore, crucial to monitor their decline and halt the loss of biodiversity.

I’ve been doing my part by choosing bee-friendly plants as I’ve been populating my backyard garden, and trying to carefully waft the bees back outside when they randomly wander into the house  So far, that’s worked out well for all of us.   For now, I’ll be continuing to work on “Stay Away from the Computer Day” on my Friday off along with “I hope the plumber doesn’t find any terrible problems” day. 

Fingers crossed on that.

Whether Friday brings a bowl of strawberries, good news from the plumber, or visiting bees, I’ll definitely be adding another minute to my elliptical workout routine (I’m up to 32 minutes) and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Michille: Summer Reading Lists

Alternative title: Like our TBR Piles Aren’t Big Enough

Memorial Day Weekend, which is generally viewed as the unofficial start of summer, is fast approaching. In the US, we are in the midst of another one – college graduation season – so the summer starts for them now. Only one of these lists is specifically romance but most include at least one. One surprise is that there is very little overlap on these lists. Usually there are a couple of books that are on everyone’s list. Not this year, except maybe People We Meet on Vacation – that’s been on a couple. Another surprise is that the maven Nora Roberts isn’t on any, even though she has one coming out this month.

I found a good list at Shondaland. It isn’t specific to romance but includes several on its “YA to adult romance, graphic memoirs to epic fantasy” list.

Barnes & Noble has some duplicates from the Shondaland list but separates into categories. I LOVE Stacey Abrams so I may have to check out her While Justice Sleeps story.

The New York Times has a great list with categories. My favorite is: I want to read the book everyone will be talking about. Frankly, this list didn’t have a single title that looked good to me.

And last, but not least, I had to throw a strictly romance list in. 30 Best Summer Reads for 2021 If You Love Romance has a bunch on it that I either have already read or plan to. The Soulmate Equation is ready and waiting on my Kindle.

Happy reading!

Elizabeth: It’s “Research”

Honeysuckle Cottage

As a fan of Regency historicals and English mysteries, the books I read tend to be set in and around the English countryside.  Having been born and raised in suburban California, with cookie-cutter houses set side by side in uniform rows, it can be a little difficult for me to visualize some of those settings, especially for stories that rely on the layout of a house or village as a plot point.

Having spent a fair amount of  time in London and slightly less time around Oxford and the Cotswolds, I can picture some things, but houses and estates and the like aren’t always clear to me, based on the author’s descriptions.

Fortunately, the internet has come to my rescue via the UK’s Country Life magazine.  I’ve purchased electronic copies of the magazine from Amazon from time to time–always taken in by a great headline and cover photo, only to find myself wading through virtual page after page of real estate listings for properties far outside my purchasing power or interest, before getting to the actual articles I bought the magazine for. Continue reading

Michaeline: Treat Myself with The Assassins of Thasalon

It has been a hard week of gardening, muscle recovery from gardening, and dentistry, and I haven’t opened my computer for days. So, it’s quite a treat to find that Lois McMaster Bujold’s new ebook, The Assassins of Thasalon, came out May 10th! Believe it or not, it’s book 10 of the delightful Penric and Desdemona series, about the life of a young man who contracts a demon — a demon with the accumulated memory and personalities of 11 women, a mare and a lioness.

A rope breaks and a person in black plunges one story to a tiled stone floor, where an older man is looking up at the person.
The Assassins of Thasalon is the 10th Penric and Desdemona story from Lois McMaster Bujold. Image via Goodreads Blog; the cover art is by Ron Miller.

Lois’s work has touched my life in so many ways, and shaped my thinking. It’s a rare week that goes by that I don’t think of a quote from her collected canon to describe something going on in life or politics.

The other Penrics are novellas, while this one’s word count launches it into the book arena. Most of Lois’s stories can be read as stand-alones, and since this takes place two years (in book time) after “The Physicians of Vilnoc”, I think it’s safe to say you don’t need to read all nine to enjoy the tenth . . . however, you may want to!

So, off I go for an afternoon and evening of good reading! See you next Saturday!

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Buttermilk Biscuit Day” (if you’re reading this on May 14th). It’s also “National Chicken Dance Day” which makes a certain amount of sense.  Chicken and Biscuits do go together fairly well.

Here in the States we’re unexpectedly celebrating “No More Masks if You’re Vaccinated Day.”  I’ve gotten so used to wearing a mask that I think it’s going to take me a while to feel comfortable going without one.  It will be nice to see faces again though.  

Probably.

For now I’m going to continue working on my “Stay Away from the Computer Day” on my Friday off.  You wouldn’t think that would be so hard, but I’ve yet to master it.  I’ll also be doing a little gardening–removing a few plants that have lost the will to live and replacing them with some other with a more positive outlook.  

Whether I manage to stay away from the computer or not, I’ll definitely be adding another minute to my elliptical workout routine and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Kay: Finally Getting There!

Phoebe 2 cover smallI’ve been in a flurry of literary activity lately, finishing up my endless trilogy (the Phoebe novels) and contemplating whether my first three books can be resuscitated. (They can! Or at least, one can, for sure.) This effort then requires time spent scheduling editors, formatters, and cover designers. Sometimes I have trouble keeping it all straight—is this the book that’s going to formatting, or going to the editor? What’s due from the cover designer? But the good part is that I think that I’m finally in the home stretch for many of these projects. Not only with my newer work, but also my older work.

I’ve complained so often about the problems I’ve had with the Phoebe trilogy that you all are probably happier than I am that I’m finally finishing them up. (There are way too many links to post back to. Seriously, you don’t want to revisit any of that.) But now that I’m finally getting past my logjam with them, I thought I’d show you the new cover for Phoebe 2. What can I say? I love the cheerleaders. (Editors note: I admit I was a high school cheerleader, but I deny all insinuations that this novel is autobiographical.)

What about you? How are things going on your side?

Elizabeth: Exercising Creativity

After more than a year of pandemic concerns, political upheaval, and social unrest, my creative brain can best be described as “in deep hibernation.”  Rather than getting words on the page, I’ve been hiding out in old favorite comfort reads and watching rebroadcasts of game shows from the 1970s and 1980s.

Calming, perhaps, but probably not a good long-term strategy.

Now that I’ve been successfully vaccinated and can leave the safety of my living room (theoretically), I’ve begun to try to get back to something approaching normality.  As I mentioned the other day, one of my first changes has been to acquire (second-hand) an elliptical machine like I used to work out on at my office gym.  Now I’ll be the first to admit that I pretty much hate working out (even after years of doing it), but after more than a year with only virtual workout classes available, I have definitely missed the benefits of working out.  Fortunately, the workout equipment shortage from the early days of the pandemic has subsequently turned into burgeoning supply of slightly used exercise equipment.

Thus, I was able to purchase just what I wanted and at a pretty good price.

I’m now three weeks into my new routine, adding another minute to my workout time each day.  After a few days I noticed that, in addition to some newly sore muscles, my brain seemed to be a little clearer and I actually had a creative thought or two.  According to the recent New York Times article Can Exercise Make You More Creative?, that’s not unusual.  Apparently, “active people come up with more and better ideas during tests of their inventiveness than people who are relatively sedentary.

Who knew? Continue reading