Thursday, April 30, 2015

I've been studying the creative mind for a while now and I've shared some of my findings in a workshop setting. Here's the description of my workshop:
You always knew you were a little different from so-called normal people right? Did you ever wonder why some of those normal types just didn’t seem to ‘get’ you? Or why a group of writers can sit in a box of rocks, and a good time will be had by all?
It’s because we think differently. Yup. We’re actually hard-wired in a distinctive way. The bad news is, we’re a little crazy. The good news is, we’re a little crazy—and only another creative mind would get that.   
Ashlyn Chase was a psychiatric nurse for fifteen years. She chose that field because she was fascinated by the human mind and the amount of uncharted territory there was to uncover. She has also been trained as a hypnotherapist, which taught her even more about the subconscious mind.
Oh, and she’s written and published a bunch of novels to keep her creative mind out of trouble.
And here's the good news!
Believe it or not, the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood and stress levels. In a study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times per week over the course of the four-month study was enough to make a difference.

It turns out writing can make physical wounds heal faster as well. In 2013, New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. The adults wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes, three days in a row, two weeks before the biopsy. Eleven days later, 76% of the group that wrote had fully healed. Fifty-eight percent of the control group had not recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress.

Even those who suffer from specific diseases can improve their health through writing. Studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don't; AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts. Cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life.
Why? Some scientists believe this act of expressive writing allows people to take a step back and evaluate their lives. Instead of obsessing unhealthily over an event, they can focus on moving forward. By doing so, stress levels go down and health correspondingly goes up.

You don't have to be constantly reflecting on your life's traumatic moments to get these great benefits. Even blogging or journaling is enough to see results. One study found that blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to the effect from running or listening to music.

I kept a journal all through nursing school. It helped me process some of the difficult circumstances I witnessed. I have a tendency to be empathetic when others are suffering.  A lot of writers are highly sensitive. But it's what makes us better writers...and writing makes us better physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

And the Snow Was Where???

I’m writing a teasing post about all my Northern friends who have been plagued with snow and flurries and the like and will probably get more before the spring is through. But I saw so many trees and flowers in bloom, I said I’d post about that and show what it’s REALLY doing up north. lol
Then I couldn’t download my pictures from my camera to my Surface. *sigh*

I’m home now, but my camera’s on switch was turned on while it was being jostled in my bag, and so charging up my camera now. Unpack, washing towels from the disaster before I left, and repacking. :)
daffodils and hyacinth (640x427)
Daffodils at the zoo in Milwaukee
Daffodils at the zoo in Milwaukee

We went to the zoo in Milwaukee, but didn’t get to see the wolves. I asked someone who works there and she said they’re sixteen years old. They were out in the morning, but sleep most of the day.
But they had peacocks all over. They are truly beautiful.
Milwaukee Zoo
Milwaukee Zoo

And Jaguar Pride cupcakes at Barbara Vey’s Reader’s Luncheon. Lots of fun!!

What a cupcake, eh?
What a cupcake, eh?

Okay, trying to get unpacked and do a million chores, more pictures to come!

We had a blast!

Have a super great Wednesday!

“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy is reality.”
Connect with Terry Spear: Website:
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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Things I Wish I’d Known about Writing a Series

by Amanda Forester

Little did I know when I began writing my first Highlander book that it would become a series. I wrote it for myself without the slightest thought that it would become published. In fact, I had my laptop password protected so nobody could sneak on and read my fledgling novel. Somehow, my feelings about this changed dramatically over time and I eventually sent it into Sourcebooks, who have published not one but three Scottish Highland books, thee Highland novellas, with two more novels on the way.

As I am now writing my 8th Highland story, I find I wish I had known from the start that I would be writing a series and taken some steps to help myself along the way. If I could create a time machine and give myself a little advice when I started, here is what I would say:
1)      Keep track of all your characters. You have no idea how much time you’re going to waste, going back through previous books to remember the name of somebody’s mother, or the eye color of an important character. This is series writing 101, but you think you won’t forget. Ha! Take the time to do it now so you don’t have to go back through at a later date. Be sure to write every character, their birth date, and a brief description. Same thing with locations. 

2)      Keep focus on the central love story. Often secondary characters in one book will become primary characters in the next book. I know you love your secondary character so much it is tempting to add them into a lot of scenes to develop their backstory, but your focus needs to be on the story arc of the main characters. Those secondary characters can play an important role, but their presence and their storylines should be in some way important in the story arc for the main hero and heroine.

3)      Don’t leave the reader hanging. Sum up the main plot points in each story. It is tempting to leave something for the next book, but don’t leave any main threads of the story dangling or you risk irritating the reader. Each book should have an adventure that wraps up with a satisfying conclusion, even while you’ve left room for another adventure to begin.

4)      One book’s villain could be the next book’s hero. Everyone loves a bad guy who finds redemption (it’s harder to redeem a bad gal, but that’s a topic for another blog post). The evil villain in one book may be the misunderstood antihero in a subsequent book. For this to be a possibility though, there are some things he really can’t do. There’s a different between the bad guy you love to hate and the jackass you just want to run over with a tractor. If your villain rapes women and kills puppies, he’s got to die. End of story.

5)      Plot ahead. Yes, I know you like to just write and see where the muse leads, but it’s going to lead you into impossible dead ends if you don’t spend some time plotting ahead. Think about the plot of the next few books. What are the main beats? What is important for those secondary characters to do now so they can be set up for their time on center stage? Get a large whiteboard and plot out the timeline (and take a picture of it before one of your kids erase it – word to the wise).

6)      Start writing and follow the muse. I know, it’s the opposite of what I just said. After you plot until you’re stuck and your plot lines look like a Gordian knot, it’s time to start writing. Some things you can only figure out en route. Get moving!

What other advice would you give to writers of a romance series?


Monday, April 27, 2015

A Smidgen, A Dab, A Dollop By Linda Broday

I love to read old recipes and imagine the pioneer women cooking up a batch of Hopping John, Son-of-a-Biscuit Stew or Molasses Cookies on their wood stove. I can just see them gathering their ingredients and setting to work building a fire. But getting it the right temperature was a problem all its own.

**A side note: Pioneer women gauged the heat of an oven by holding their hand inside and counting. If she could hold her hand inside for a count of 40, it was right for baking bread. A count of twenty would be sufficient for baking cakes and pies.**

Good heavens! Can you imagine?

Old-time recipes called for a smidgen of seasoning, a pinch of this, a dab of that, or a dollop (usually butter) the size of a walnut. And sometimes the recipe called for a dash of something or “enough flour to make a stiff dough.” I’m guessing that housewives pretty much cooked by trial and error and adjusted things to suit them because it would be extremely difficult to know what some of these measurements meant.

Is a smidgen more than a dash or a dab? And how much is scant of something?

My mother rarely used a recipe. She’d get out her ingredients and start mixing things together until it looked, tasted, or felt right. I used to love watching her cook. It was an amazing sight. And boy, did her dishes taste wonderful! She must’ve had the pioneer spirit instilled in her.

For the record, that talent was not passed down to me!!

To demonstrate the measurement difficulty, here’s an old recipe for Gingerbread:

½ cup sugar
2 dollops of butter
1 egg
1 cup syrup
Enough flour for a soft dough
1 ½ small spoon soda
Smidgen of cinnamon, ginger, cloves
Pinch of salt
1 cup hot water

Mix all ingredients together and bake in a medium oven

A medium oven? Precisely how hot is that? Good grief!

* * * *
Releasing May 5th!! TWICE A TEXAS BRIDE -- the heroine Callie Quinn hires on to cook for Rand Sinclair, the middle brother if my Bachelors of Battle Creek series. She soon learns that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

So, I’m many of you could cook using a smidgen, dab, dash, dollop, or pinch of ingredients? Aren’t you glad our recipes today speak our language?

You can Contact me:

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Congrats, Sheryl! You won the bracelet. I'll be contacting you via email. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, everyone!

Terri L. Austin

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Michele Summers

Tonight my son is going to his Junior/Senior Prom and I’m almost more excited than he is. Of course, he shoots me a huge-ass eye roll when I insist on taking his picture, looking all dapper in his tux with his Lilly Pulitzer bright-colored cummerbund and bow tie. But as he poses in front of the mantel, and outside next to the flowering trees, he smiles and hams it up and I know he’s secretly thrilled that I’m pulling an obnoxious Beverly Goldberg from the TV show The Goldberg’s.

Having attended an all-girl high school, I didn’t experience Junior/Senior Prom in the typical fashion. We had dances, for sure, and getting an invitation was coveted, (what guy didn’t want to attend a dance at an all-girl school?) but we had to do all the asking/setting up, etc. And since 90 percent of us were boarders, no parents hovered to take our pictures. We more resembled a sorority, running around the hallways with curlers in our hair, squealing and helping each other with our make-up.

However, I did attend prom with my brother at our local high school. 
Yeah, you heard me…my brother
Allow me to clarify. 
My brother was a regular Don Juan and girls chased him. 
All. The. Time. In his defense, he was a super nice guy (still is) and treated the homeliest of girls like she was a cover model (still does). It didn’t hurt that he was good-looking and played on the football team. But the true attraction was his ability to genuinely smile and speak to everyone. So, naturally, girls flocked to him. At the time of prom, he was probably dating three or four girls (all aware of each other’s existence) so, in order not to play favorites, he took his sister. The perfect excuse without crushing anyone’s fragile heart. And I was happy to tag along, because we were only a year apart and I had tons of friends who attended the same high school.

But the real reason we didn’t mind going to prom together…my brother and I could Shag…and we were good. In the South, knowing how to Shag was up there with college basketball, barbeque and homemade ham biscuits. At my girls’ school, we selected dates based on their shagging abilities (dance kind…not the other!) The truth: we wanted to dance. And if your date couldn’t dance…well, the night had disaster written all over it. Fortunately, my son has inherited his uncle’s dancing skills.

I hadn’t danced with my brother in years until my niece’s wedding last November. And as soon as the band struck up an old beach tune, my brother and I commandeered the dance floor. 
We still had it!

What are some of your favorite prom memories?

Michele Summers
NOT SO NEW IN TOWN, coming in July

Friday, April 24, 2015

Beadaholic: I Know I Have a Problem

I love beads. Shiny, wooden, expensive, cheap. Take me to a bead store—the overhead lights bouncing off rows and rows of colors and hues, blinding me with their brilliance—and I’m in heaven. Do not get me started on gem and mineral shows, because I will have a beadgasm right now.

When I first started beading, my blingtastic friends warned how the beads would take up all of my disposable income. I laughed. But their warnings were true. Beads take up time, money, and lots of space—odd, considering how small they are.
Here’s where those bead merchants gettcha. Say you want buy a blue bead. Do you want Czech glass, Swarovski, acrylic, or gemstone?
For purposes of this little exercise, let’s say you want Swarovski. Once you pick your shade—you can’t go wrong with blue zircon—you need to decide on which coating you’ll want.


 2X AB? 

Ha! I tricked you. A bling whore would never choose. She’d get all three, of course.
Next we need to pick a shape. Bicone, round, flat back, rivoli, rondelle? And size? 3mm, 4, 6, 10? You’ll need them all. Eventually. Because you won’t be able to sleep at night thinking about that 8mm shiny blue bead you decided not to buy. You think I’m kidding?
Do you see the lure here? It’s a never-ending cornucopia of choices.   
And I love it. My husband—not so much. He simply doesn’t understand why I need another blue bead when I have so many. I’ve given up trying to explain it. I think you either have the bling gene or you don’t.
I made this little bracelet a few weeks ago, using glass, Swarovski, Malay Jade, and sodalite. I’ve been playing with asymmetrical stringing.
It’s up for grabs. Leave a comment below to enter. (Continental U.S. only.) I’ll announce the winner on Sunday, April 26th.  Good luck!

Thursday, April 23, 2015


I was looking at data yesterday, and I came across this interesting info from the RWA Romance Reader survey. The top ten tropes that readers love are:
(1) friends to lovers;
(2) soul mate/fate;
(3) second chance at love;
(4) secret romance;
(5) first love;
(6) strong hero/heroine;
(7) reunited lovers;
(8) love triangle;
(9) sexy billionaire/millionaire;
(10) sassy heroine

We also know that some demographics go with this, for example, mature readers like the “second chance at love” trope, while younger readers prefer “first love.” (This seems natural and obvious, doesn’t it?)

So, it occurred to me that, in a subgenre that attracts a particular demographic (for example, romantic suspense and historical tend toward the more mature readership), we could stick with the tropes that this demographic favors OR, we could consciously focus on the tropes that the other demo looks for, thereby cultivating that readership. Either way, we (author and publisher) probably could be conscious about it. I’ll be experimenting with this; I’ll let you know what I discover!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Marie and The Very Bad Interview

I wrote this blog two years ago, but it's so relevant to what I'm doing now that I wanted to share it again. It has to do with research, and since I'm currently researching the heck out of my current characters for my next Sourcebooks series, I wanted to share the laugh. (And for the record, there is A LOT to know about the worlds of automechanics and nurses.) Note: I wrote this post while doing research for How to Handle a Heartbreaker.

I thought I’d talk about research today. I write steamy romance, and one of the most common questions I get from people is how I do my research. My usual instinct is to answer with something sarcastic, like, “Why, I just had a foursome the other day. I can honestly admit  that you can fit many things in places you never thought you could.” Or, “Why yes. I did just enjoy sex with a werewolf in the backseat of my Benz while a vampire watched.”
I mean, really. I’ve had sex. Yes. There. I admit it. I’ve also read a lot and seen sexy movies. I know how things fit together, and it’s not that difficult to write scenes of intimacy in my stories. However, for the more technical aspects of my characters—and I’m not talking breast size—as in, their professions or the cities in which my characters live, I do research.
I wrote about shapeshifters in Cape May, New Jersey—a place I’ve been visiting since I was a kid. My stories have been set in Augusta, GA, Bend, OR, and Seattle, WA, all places where I’ve lived and/or spent time. My Cougar Falls stories set in Montana have grossed hours upon hours of research into the state. At some point I’ll take a trip out there to see Glacier National Park, but until then, I’ve made do with books and the Internet.
In the course of my latest contemporary romance novels, my characters are real people. No psychics or shapeshifters, no monsters, aliens, or fetish enthusiasts. In the first book [The Troublemaker Next Door], an interior designer meets a sexy plumber. And in the book I’m working on now, the plumber’s business partner—also a plumber—falls for a romance writer. (Yes, her job is cliché, but work with me here.) I understand her easily. The plumber I needed more information on.
And now to the funny story…
A great guy referred by my mother worked on my house. The guy owns a landscaping and construction company. Therefore I felt safe asking him for a plumber to get some reference material from. Now the friend knows I write romance, so I figured he’d tell the plumber this. I got a phone number and called said plumber. I wanted to do the interview in person, but this guy wasn’t having it. From what I gathered, he was an older fellow. When he mentioned he was a busy man and would rather do the interview over the phone, because he worked for a living and didn’t “do computers,” I should have taken the hint and run.
Did I? No. I mean, the guy had agreed to answer my questions, so he couldn’t be too against helping me, right?
Uh, no. Not exactly. Not at all.
I called him last Sunday. The “interview” lasted all of three long, painful minutes. It was laughably horrible.
I rang him and cringed when he barked a hello. I reintroduced myself, and he then asked why I needed the information. When I told the older gentleman, who’d been in the plumbing biz for forty years, that I write romance, there was dead silence on the other end. Not to be discouraged, I was my normal cheerful, thankful self and asked my questions. What is common language for what plumbers do? What are the tools they use most? What types of jobs are more common than others? What are some common misconceptions about what he does?
For each question, I received short answers that didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. He wasn’t pleasant—at all—just curt and acting as if he wanted to be anywhere but talking to me on the phone. So after yet another of his one word answers, I again thanked him for speaking to me and told him I had finished. He hung up without another word.
Immediately, several thoughts went through my mind. None of them even remotely polite. That &^%^$$#$@!! What the @!#$!!!!??
But after I settled down, I shared the awful mess with a few friends, laughed at the absurdness of it all, and through another friend, contacted a nicer, younger professional who was more than willing to sit down for coffee and explain the ins and outs of plumbing.Does old equal grumpy? Not at all, but the new guy was a lot more open to romance books and computers in general. LOL
This whole experience has taught me something. Not everyone is happy to share what they do. Of course, I had thought that since the guy had agreed to let me ask questions, the interview would proceed without issue. But I was wrong. However, even terrible events make great stories. I know I’m going to work Mr. Mean in some story of mine in the future. I have to. He was just too awful not to write about.
And hey, he even gave me this blog post. I should thank him. But I won’t.


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