Christmas shopping in September

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Most people cringe at the thought. In fact, I personally know people who get downright stabby when they hear a tinny rendition of Santa Baby piped into a store before December 1. Do NOT push them. They will think Christmassy thoughts when they are good and ready, and they deeply resent being nudged into it by retailers and ad campaigns.

I’m not one of them.

Christmas shopping on Fifth Avenue, 1900

Christmas shopping on Fifth Avenue, 1900

Now, I’m not Christmas shopping in September because I feel so Christmassy. It’s actually more boring that that. I shop in September, because the financial blow hurts less if you spread it out over a couple or three months. When it comes to Christmas shopping, I don’t whip it off like a Band-Aid. I pull it slowly, slowly, tearing out one arm hair at a time. ;) A little gift here… a little gift there… You can actually squeeze a gift out of your grocery budget if you time it right! However I do it, I refuse to have any Christmas debt come January.

Dave Ramsey would be proud. That’s called be “gazelle intense,” when it comes to debt. It’s also called “annoying your friends and fans with untimely Christmas references.”

So today, the last day of September, I dropped my son off at school and headed down to Walmart to check out the toy department. I’ve crammed my purchases into the back of my closet, and heaved a sigh of relief. I’m not done, but I’ve started, and like novel-writing, having started takes off that edge.

Now we can bring on Thanksgiving. And here in Canada, that’s coming up in about two weeks.

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I think I got off track there…

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I hate fighting. MMA and UFC competitions make my blood run cold. It’s just so barbaric–pitting two people against each other in a ring until either one of them gets knocked out or a doctor steps in. It rouses the Mommy in me, and I have this undeniable urge to grab both of them by their ears and drag them out to have a talk. Or a lecture. Or some grounding. You know–whatever it takes to stop that insanity.

timthumb2.phpI literally have a fully formed lecture ready, just in case I ever find myself in that unlikely situation.

My 6  year old takes a martial art, which might sound a bit hypocritical, but I wanted him to know how to deal with bullies on the playground. Which he now knows, so it’s excellent. And he’s learned a lot of other valuable things too, like focus and persistence. Anyway, during one of his classes, I was sitting with the other parents on the bleachers, and I watched one of the coaches’ UFC fight on another parents’ iphone. It was scarring. Seriously. I’m pretty sure that a brain is such a precious commodity, that we really shouldn’t allow others to smack around its casing, you know?

Another young guy in the gym is going to do a professional fight one of these days soon, and I cringe for him. It doesn’t matter if he wins or loses (and apparently he’s won before), he’s going to come out of that fight in rough shape. He can’t be more than 20 and he has impeccable manners. It kind of upsets me to think of this young man being pummeled by a stranger.

This wasn’t supposed to be the point of this post. The point I was originally going to make was: I find that I can get a surprising amount of work done while I sit on the bleachers during my son’s class.

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Right there–I just started the first scene of NURSING A SOLDIER’S HEART today.

But apparently, I feel more strongly than I thought about professional fighting. Sorry about that.

Playing tricks on 6 year olds

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Last weekend, this is what I was up to–basketball with my favorite two guys!

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Aren’t they adorable? My heart turns to pudding when I watch them play basketball together. Daddy does lots of lifting, and I do lots of ball-fetching. It works for us.

DSC03259And just to prove that I was really there…

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Our little guy got a piggy back partway home. We’d played the nasty trick of making the walk to the basketball court very long and meandering. He was wiped!

And this is how the Johns family rolls. ;)

Cover Reveal!

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After a long wait, I finally have permission to share the cover for The Rancher’s City Girl. I couldn’t be more thrilled with it!

Thumbnail.ThumbnailServletIsn’t it gorgeous? The back cover reads:

When Cory Stone discovers that the father he never met is gravely ill, he brings the ornery man to his Montana ranch along with his round-the-clock nurse. Once again, Cory finds himself falling for the wrong woman–a city slicker, like the ex-fiance who broke his heart. But in Eloise Leblanc, Cory also finds a kindred spirit. The caring beauty knows firsthand about love and loss. Neither of them is looking for a new romance, and Cory certainly isn’t searching for love. But can the independent city girl heal the heart of a broken cowboy?

A lot work goes into making a cover, and if you’re interested in the process, here is a link. For my part, I fill out a lengthy form where I describe what my characters look like, the feel of the book, the main scenes that would make good cover material… That sort of thing. It’s very time consuming, but worth it, especially when you get a cover like this one!

The Rancher’s City Girl will be in a bookstore near you in January 2015. I can’t wait to see it on a shelf!

 

What this romance writer reads

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While plotting my historical novel, I took some breaks for me… Imagine! If you have small kids at home, or have at any time had small children plucking at your sleeve, asking for snacks, you’ll know what I mean.

So I picked up a book and curled up on front of our faux fireplace. Today it was The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.

Reading is an absolute pleasure, and I thought it was high time I got reacquainted with the sound of my own thoughts. Or C. S. Lewis’s thoughts… or a mix of the two. I love C. S. Lewis because he had such an amazing view of the world around him, and I think having lived through two World Wars gave him a distinct perspective. Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t pretty. But there IS beauty.

4x6-blog-photos-landscape-page-002I am often asked what I read for fun, and people are surprised to find that I read more than romance. I love to write romance–in fact I tend to see the world through romance colored glasses–but my reading tastes tend to be a bit more eclectic. I read philosophy, theology, murder mysteries, historical novels…. I read fairy tales and children’s stories, and articles on science and archeology. And I’m a firm believer that all of that comes together in this writer’s brain into the most important thing we’ll ever do on this planet, and this is to love someone.

Like C. S. Lewis, I believe in more. So much more. But all it all comes together into our deepest human need–to love and to be loved.

I might long for this luxurious time alone to think, but what use is it without that little boy who plucks at my sleeve, asking for his snack? My mind longs to think and chew things over, but my heart–my heart beats for the people I love.

My wildest, research-y dreams

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I’ve started researching my 1920’s book in earnest, which meant a weekend trip to our local historical park. I wanted to get a feel for things… Research books are one thing, but stepping into a reenactment is another. I had hoped to sleuth out some useful information, but in my wildest, research-y dreams I didn’t think I’d come across an interpreter like Miss S.DSC03227

She was fantastic! Miss S had worked in several different buildings that were along the 1920 street, and she was an absolute wealth of information! She had this binder full of wonders that she could refer to now and again, and no matter what I asked, she had an answer. A gentleman in a WWI soldier uniform came in and helped fill in some blanks for me, too, surrounding the Great War. It rounded out a very productive day that consisted of a fistful of papers filled with my scrawl. Perfection!

DSC03245And to round it off, I’m going to include a really awful picture of me. But since I’m a firm believer in our true beauty lying in our hearts and minds, with a fair dose of general hygiene thrown in, I’m posting it anyhow. I’ve looked better, but let’s be honest–I probably look like this more often. Especially when squinting into sunlight. ;)

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“That Neighbor”

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I am the proud owner of a new grain mill. Isn’t it pretty if you mentally erase that big ol’ piece of plywood that we’ve screwed it onto? Oh, and the C-clamps. Mentally erase those, too.

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Seriously, I wasn’t about to screw that bad boy to my tabletop, so the unattractive plywood is there to stay.

Now, we bought this because we are sensitive celiacs. That means that even the tiniest amount of gluten (say the amount of gluten present in the grain alcohol that floats the flavor in a cup of Earl Gray tea) makes me horribly ill. I’m really fun at a dinner party. Anyway, I can now make gluten-free rice flour, which translates into fresh baked, home made gluten-free bread. Or pancakes. Or french toast. Or garlic toast… Hurrah!

So I started milling some rice. It took an awful lot of muscle,and admittedly took a LOT more time than when my husband puts his muscles into it, but I managed to grind a few cups of flour, and I was quite impressed with myself. Until there was a knock on the door from my mildly annoyed Down Stairs Neighbor (we live in an apartment) who came up to find out why there was a horrible grinding noise reverberating in her apartment below. Sigh! We have a six-year-old boy who is an early riser so we have enough to apologize for to these people.

Anyway, I may now be That Neighbor, but I’m also That Neighbor who can eat bread again. And while the Down Stairs People might have thought they hit the jackpot with a quiet writer who clatters away on her computer all day…. well, maybe I can invite them up for a sandwich? :/

Rocks in the mail

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I don’t often get rocks in the mail, but I did today. In fact, I was hoping this package was the grain mill I’d ordered a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t. Obviously.

It was this:

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As you might know, before writing for Harlequin, I’ve written for other smaller presses, and this particular press had used this rock in a marketing campaign over the summer, and then emailed asking if I’d like to have the rock for myself. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it, but honestly, how often does someone offer to give you a rock with your book title engraved on it? Not very!  It was a very sweet gesture on their part.

I still have no idea what I’m going to do with it. It’s about ten pounds, and while it might go well in a garden, I live in an apartment… I’ll think of something! Door stop?? Blunt object with which to attack intruders? (PS. Please knock before coming into my home.)

 

An era I can get behind

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About ten years ago, I published my first historical novel set in ancient Judea at the time of Jesus. I went on to write three more in that time period, and I learned something important: if you stick to one time period, every book gets easier because you are building on a foundation of knowledge from previous books. You also get pretty good at it!

So when I decided to try my hand at some historical romances, I needed to choose my time period carefully. Which time period would I find interesting enough to devote several novels toward?

I had a few options that I discarded:

John_Wayne_-_1961Old West–I always thought they’d be fun to write, but they’d been done and done again. I wanted something a little fresher.

 

 

363px-Style45_Lady's_WaistVictorian–I enjoy the dresses and the pregnant pauses in the parlor scenes. The civil backstabbing is delicious and the dresses… did I say the dresses? But again… done.

 

 

 

Viking–Fun! But hard to mesh with Christian romance. (And harder than you’d think to find a copyright-free image for, too!)

Photo by: Southend Museums Service

Photo by: Southend Museums Service

I headed off to my fridge (something I do when I’m grumpy at the creative process) and thought to myself, “I wish I could just watch some Downton Abbey. When does the new season start again?”

And then I knew my time period–Between the Wars, 1918 and on, just after WWI. It’s perfect: fresh, ripe with romance and possibilities for the female characters. It’s a time period full of upheaval and change. Now that’s an era I can get behind!

Plus, the dresses, the jewelry, the soldiers returning home in uniform…

I’ve found my era.

(For historical novels, at least. You’ll still have my contemporary novels coming your way!)

Glue

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With my son in school, I read more. Oh, bliss, I read more!

For the last few days, I’ve been reading Sue Grafton’s W is for Wasted. I love Sue Grafton, and while reading this book, I came across a fantastic quote that I can’t for the life of me find again. I’ve searched. I’ve even Googled. I’ve done my utmost to find the passage once more, but I can’t, so I’ll have to paraphrase.

Basically, she says that the Meaning of Life is the goopy, sticky stuff that holds together those random things in our lives and makes it into a whole. We all choose to apply different meanings, I think, and if we look at the unsaid assumptions that make up our story, we know what our glue–our meaning–is.

Photo by: Simon A. Eugster

Photo by: Simon A. Eugster

Every story needs glue. If we take the same basic plot kernels, we can turn them into any kind of story we like. A romance, a mystery, a thriller, a ghost story… We are either the hero or the victim. It all depends on how we connect the dots.

We all look at the events of our lives, the people we’ve cared for, and string them together in a particular way in order to make a narrative. If we look at our story, and look at those unsaid assumptions that make that story make sense, we find the meaning of life… or at the very least, the meaning of our life as we see it.

So what glues together the pieces of your life into a whole? What holds it all together and makes it make sense?

A search for love, a knee-jerk reaction to protect our hearts, suspicion, anger, jealousy, hunger, fear, longing, curiosity, faith… Something glues together your tale, and it gives your life meaning. And when you identify the meaning in your life, is it worthwhile? Is it worth devoting your entire existence toward?

What’s your glue?

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