Wednesday, November 14, 2018

When Children Dream by @lcrandallwriter

At times, we can feel beaten down by life. In those times, fulfilling our dreams can appear impossible. I know that so well. But when I feel discouraged by whatever life has brought to me on any particular day, I remember my son and his dreams. He is the redhead on the left of the photo.

I wrote the following piece years ago for E-Magazine, but it is still pertinent today. Always remember, Never Stop Dreaming.

On University of Illinois home football game days, the university's marching band, the Marching Illini, gather about an hour before the game inside the Armory to warm up their instruments. Next door, on the lawn in front of the Harding Band Building, the drumline assembles, drawing a crowd with their precision drumming. Each percussionist -- bass, tenor, snare -- wears a sober, very business-like expression while their hands fly, beating out incredibly clean, crisp and exhilarating sounds in alliance with the flashy cymbal players. To say this drumming event is soul-stirring is like saying winning the big lottery would be fun. Words can't adequately describe what it feels like to be in the midst of such talent and skill. It borders on the spiritual, in a mystical, cosmic sort of way. In fact, a quote from the drumline home page says it well: Any sufficiently advanced drumming is indistinguishable from magic.

If music was light, the Marching Illini would be a prism, casting an array of beautifully shimmering sounds out upon the world. The brass and woodwinds sound like heaven and make my heart soar. Percussionists punctuate and deliver power to the band. Admittedly, I'm partial to percussionists. My son plays the tenors. I know, you'd never have guessed.

I've stood in the crowd on the band building lawn watching my handsome son's participation and choked back tears. Okay, I'm his mom and yes, I'm proud of his ability. But it's more than that. It's a matter of all the cosmic tumblers dropping into place, confirming that life is good.

On a crisp fall day back about 10 years ago, my husband and I sat with our two youngest boys in the stands at Memorial Stadium. It was their first college football experience and they were really taking it all in. Part way through the game, members of the Marching Illini visited our section of the bleachers and played a song. To my 9- and 6-year-old sons, those band members seemed like celebrities.

"One of them smiled at me, " Andrew said, eyes wide.

"I touched one of their capes," Daniel whispered, as though he'd just touched a god.

That's when the light struck Daniel and he decided someday he wanted to be one of the Marching Illini too.

It's that little boy I think of when I watch Daniel stand tall in his place among the other tenors. I think of all the times he's felt the very human ache of aspiration -- to pitch the winning pitch, see his name on the basketball team roster after try-outs, get a date with "that one" girl -- and maybe felt the sting of disappointment. Seeing him grow into a wonderful young man is awesome enough. Watching him and listening to his dynamic drumming, I feel the glory of the symbolic message he has brought to life wash over me. It says, Believe.

Seems pretty simple, but it stands out like a bright star in a world of unknowns. Will my family be safe? Will my kids learn good lessons? Will they stay away from drugs, cigarettes, too much sugar, caffeine, pesticides, and reckless driving tickets? How many things in life can I manage and control thereby making certain my kids are safe, healthy, and happy? It's enough to make a parent go bananas!

Then I see Daniel performing with the band on the field at Memorial Stadium. With the brilliant sounds of their rendition of a popular song like Jurassic Park filling the stadium, I remember the little 9-year-old who had a dream, a glimpse of himself as how he could be. He grew into a man and made the dream come true.

Witnessing your child bring a dream into fruition is one of the rewards of being a parent. Not because you, the parent, get a pat on the back for your child's accomplishment. Giving them stability and a sense of themselves so that they can succeed is a parent's job. What I'm referring to is the confirmation that life is worth living, no matter what. The universal truth of believing that we can have dreams renews itself in our kids.

In dark times of worry, sickness, disappointment, or strife, we can believe in a world that is as much light as dark. Our children's dreams are proof.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Montana McKennas Boxed Set on sale! @maddiejames @romancerider #Gemsinattic

Guess what? Normally $8.99 the Montana McKennas Boxed set is on sale for a limited time at .99 cents. 

Pretty sweet deal! Six books in the series are included. 

“The complete Montana Ranchers series is well worth reading.”

And it was fun to write too! In 2017 Maddie James wrote about it in a "Gems in the Attic" blog Would you collaborate writing a series? I especially had fun in the prequel Long Road Home. Maddie wrote the first chapter. I wrote the second. We switched back and forth that way. Well, I dropped a little bombshell on Maddie and her character James when I made Liz pregnant. That's a bit of a spoiler, but you need to read the rest to find out how that changed the rest of the story.

Welcome to McKenna Ranch! 
Meet Brody, Callie, Mercer and Parker—the four siblings in the clan of James McKenna, a Montana rancher, and their mom/step mom, Liz.
Beginning with a short prequel novella that tells the story of James McKenna and Liz Caldera, and how they came to blend their families, these stories put you on the McKenna Ranch near Yellowstone National Park. This series continues with Jan Scarbrough’s Brody, followed by Maddie James’ Callie, with additional stories that bring all the siblings home to the ranch. These sweet to sexy stories give you a glimpse into Montana rodeo and ranch life, and of course, provide lots of contemporary cowboy love and romance.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

ONE WRITER'S JOURNEY @kathleenlawless

I’m writing this from a conference in Las Vegas with over 700 authors in attendance, many of whom have just hit “publish” to launch their very first book to the reading community.  I share their excitement and their thrill with some trepidation.  In most cases they have no one to tell them if their book is publishable or not. 

I am very glad I started my writing careers decades ago, when authors had to learn their craft and improve their writing skills, often for years before getting contracted by a publisher.  If Amazon had existed back then, I probably would have enthusiastically self-published my first, extremely dreadful attempt at crafting a novel. Which would not have done myself or the readers any favors.  I still have those early efforts “under the bed” so to speak, never to see the light of day.  They’re not good.  They can’t be fixed. They are unpublishable.  I consider them my apprenticeship.

I recall my first major conference back when I was young and shiny and new to the industry.  I looked up to the veteran writers whose work I followed, hanging on their every word at a workshop.  They were who I wanted to be when I grew up.

I won’t say I don’t feel old here.  I’ve seen eyes glaze over when I say I’ve been publishing for over 20 years or mention the ‘trad’ word.  I was writing before some of these new authors were born.  The youngest published author here is nine years old.   

The more seasoned successful authors here have been at it four or so years.   And guess what?  They might be the same age as my children but I’m hanging on their every word as they talk about marketing and readers groups and algorithms and exclusive versus wide.  All kinds of fun things we didn’t have before.   Are they who I want to be when I grow up? 

Not at all.  I’m glad I came up through the ranks the way I did.  I’m happy I have the writing skills to engage the readers and win them over into fans.  And most of all I’m very happy to have this opportunity to write what I want, when I want, the length and subject matter I want.  And I have my new young writer friends to help me out with the ups and downs of the indie-author journey as I reinvent myself in a brand new trope.  Something I never could have done in the old days.

Sign up to join Kathleen’s reading group and receive a free novella.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Is It Too Soon for Eggnog Latte? By Connie Vines #gemsintheattic, #charmendwriters

Is it too soon for Eggnog Latte? I asked myself while driving to the gym, the Hallmark station jingling joyful Christmas songs via Sirius Radio.

I recalled a tweet and chuckled.  “The eggnog latte was the only thing keeping me from beating people during the holidays. Please bring it back!” tweeted GeekyLady. In 2014.

While I am not now, nor have I ever been so inclined—even when I was a fragrance consultant (think: test PH levels and find perfect signature fragrances; not the spray unsuspecting clients upon entrance to the shop). Not when the shop stayed open until 12:30 am and staff custom wrapped each gift with hand-fashioned bows and designer gift paper in a back room about the size of a side-by-side refrigerator.

However, I love my eggnog latte and gingerbread latte (no whip on both) from Starbucks and Christmas music.

So, when do our readers like to snuggle under a quilt, or here in SoCal, or under a light-weight throw and read a holiday romance?

Is November too soon? 

Is January too late?

Writers, when plotting your holiday romance novel, to you begin in the middle of summer with the a/c blasting or do you wait until Fall?

I write my holiday novels during the season.  Yep, Christmas novels now.

I bake. I shop. I indulge in assorted crafts.  And yes, I drive to Starbucks—but not daily, for heaven sake.  I am thrifty-- I’m saving for Christmas gifts after all; and must watch the calories too.

Confession:  I have been known to fake my Eggnog latte.  I purchase the low-fat eggnog and add it warmed up a bit into my home brewed coffee.  My copy-cat gingerbread latte includes gingerbread seasoning and a trickle or two of molasses and creamer into my coffee.

Obviously, I have a great deal of distractions 😊. 

To get me started I will often journal with a few writing prompts (yes, pen to paper because it activates a part of the brain where creativity resides).

Pretend you have been given a baby reindeer to raise. Write about what you will do to take care  of it. What challenges will you have to overcome?
Write about the perfect Christmas Day. Include plenty of details.
Character A vows to do something nice for a stranger during the Christmas time. Character B is that stranger.

Since I write n multiple genres and cross-genres, my stories will often include a holiday without the holiday being the primary theme of the story.

Both “Brede” and “Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow” include the Christmas season without holiday being the theme of the entire storyline.

What is your favorite holiday setting?  What is there about a holiday romance that makes it special for you?

Share your favorite holiday memory with me. 

If you are ready to plan the holidays, you may wish to visit my Pinterest account:  novelsbyconniev . I have a wonderful recipe for eggnog Bundt cake and gingerbread recipes galore!

Remember:  Love, Forever Sampler is still free on Amazon!

Visit my website:  for links, book trailers, and links to my publisher’s contest and giveaways!


Friday, November 2, 2018

NEW: Month, Books, Giveaway by @JoanReeves #GemsInAttic

October came. October went. I barely noticed because I was inundated with family crises and spent most of the month out of the office.

My dear sister-in-law who spent most of September hospitalized is home and improving so I'm back in the office.

Now it's November, and the great race is on. That's how I always think of the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year's. There's so much to do and not enough time to do it all whether I'm talking about personal stuff like cleaning, cooking, Christmas shopping, etc. or finishing up writing projects, promoting holiday releases, and updating the accounting and clerical stuff that's never completely up to date.

Thrilled To Be Back in the Office

In the meantime, I mostly missed the excitement of our Love, Christmas 2: Holiday Movies collection hitting the USA Today Bestseller list.

Love, Christmas 2: Holiday Movies now has 88 reviews averaging 4.8 stars.

My book in the holiday collection is Brianna's Season for Miracles.

A Reviewer said this about Brianna's Season for Miracles:

"...this one happens to include one of my favorite authors Joan Reeves. Just finished Ms. Reeves contribution: Brianna’s Season For Miracles. It’s a charming, inspiring story.

"Brianna Walker is a beautiful, intelligent woman whose confidence has been crushed by a childhood stigma. She was let down, not only by the system but her wealthy parents as well, and she spent her youth living down to everyone else’s expectations. She’s managed to turn her life around, but the past comes calling. It’s the holidays, and her widower father wants her to come to the family ranch in West Texas. Her return home after years of estrangement is not what she expected, however. Things have changed, and the addition of sexy house guest Daniel Kelly is disconcerting if intriguing. Daniel is a published author, there ostensibly to do research and write. Yet his presence is not all it seems.

"As I was reading two things struck me. Small town West Texas is an iconic Christmas setting, a bit like stepping into another more tranquil, pastoral time. Snow drifts and horse drawn sleighs and hot chocolate chip cookies from the oven. My favorites. The other was-at least for me-the theme of the story, the all-too-common angst that exists in families and how it’s highlighted during the holidays. Who hasn’t had to deal with that? The romance is front and center, of course, but there’s healing going on, forgiveness. I Love multi-layered stories, not always easy to do in a novelette’s shorter format, but Ms. Reeves delivers in spades."

Love, Christmas 2: Holiday Movies is only 99cents so if you haven't grabbed this bargain of 26 all-new holiday romances, don't wait. Get it today for the weekend.

Breaking News

The latest news is the publication of Sweet and Sassy Suspense: Deceptions and Romance on October 31--yesterday! (The year seems to be passing at warp speed.)

Seven sweet and sassy suspense novels from NY Times and USA Today bestselling authors to keep you on the edge of your seat!

Suspense, intrigue, crime, secrets, deception, and lies--even some sassy, sexy humor too! That's what Sweet and Sassy Suspense: Deceptions and Romance is, and each story has a strong heroine yearning to find love with her heroes.

This collection is only 99cents to buy and keep forever, or read for free if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

My contribution to Sweet and Sassy Suspense: Deceptions and Romance is The Trouble With Love.

Southern Yankee Book Review said this about The Trouble With Love:

"HOT, HOT, HOT, with a side of funny! I enjoyed this book for quite a few reasons. First, I loved the characters and how there were multiple relationships showcased. Susannah and her mother Rory both have issues when it comes to love and they may both be wrong. Then there is that little almost one night stand Susannah had with the man standing in the little town's police station, where she just happens to work. Hogan is a hot as can be 'consultant' or is he? There is heat, passion, forgiveness, trust issues, and lots of fun."

BIG Giveaway

What's your biggest challenge from Thanksgiving to New Year's?

(1) Leave your answer along with your email address written out, NOT as a hot link, in comments to be entered in a random draw for one of the writing journals shown at left.

(2) I'll be giving away these 3 journals during the month of November along with other gifts to be announced through my various blog posts as the month progresses.

(3) Winners will be chosen by random draw from all those who leave comments on my blog posts. Increase your chances by leaving a comment in answer to the posted question on any of the blog posts I publish this month.

I'm blogging here today. My other blog dates are:

AuthorsBillboard on Nov. 6
Smart Girls Read Romance on Nov. 16.

You can also catch my blog posts every day on my own blog SlingWords.
(4) Winners from U. S. eligible for the prizes shown. Winners from outside the U. S. will receive ebooks instead.

(5) Drawings will be held on Black Friday, November 23.

(6) Winners will be contacted by email no later than Nov. 28.

So leave me an answer to my question: What's your biggest challenge from Thanksgiving to New Year's?


Joan ReevesKeeping Romance Alive…One Sexy Book at a Time—is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. All of her stories have the same premise: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.”

Joan lives her happily-ever-after with her hero, her husband. They divide their time between a book-cluttered home in Houston and a quiet house at the foot of the Texas Hill Country where they sit on the porch at night, look up at the star-studded sky, and listen to the coyotes howl.

Visit Joan online at any of these locations: Amazon Author Page * BookBub Author Page * Facebook Fan Page * Twitter * YouTube * Joan's Website.

Be the first to know about Giveaways, Bargains, and New Books, sign up for Joan's Mailing List.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Writing a Continuity Book

     Someone recently asked me how I could write continuities.  These are books - like my book that's out today Colton's Christmas Cop - where the publisher creates a story bible and assigns each book to an author.  For Harlequin Romantic Suspense, these are usually 12 book series.  I've been book 1 and all the ones in between, but never book 12.  Colton's Christmas Cop was book 11.  (I'll be book 12 for the next Colton's continuity series, which will be out in 2019.)
    While it's true that for a continuity book, the plot and most of the turning points, as well as the resolution, are already outlined by the publisher in the story bible.  So are the characters, from the hero and heroine to all the others.  However, for me the fun part comes in delving deep into the back story of the hero and the heroine.  Harlequin gives us free range with this and, since I always begin my writing of any book with the characters, having this liberty to create the inner people makes the story come alive for me.
      Some authors do complicated charts on their characters.  I've done this in the past, but I'm more of a free-style writer rather than a systematic one, so I don't make charts.  I do write down backstory.  Parents info, where grew up, dreams and goals, heartaches and setbacks.  The rest of the information is revealed as I write, by the character.  What kind of music they like, favorite beer, outgoing or introverted, they tend to let me know this as I write the story.
     Even the plot - which is already pretty much set up - has room for tweaking.  Motivation is a big one, as I love to set up WHY something happens rather than just have it happen.  And there's always room for more conflict, if needed.  I've found with the Harlequin continuities there is plenty of conflict and suspense.  I just add in extra romance, which is always fun.
     That said, each story can also be read as a stand-alone romance.  Most people do tend to buy all     the stories in the series, because there is always an continued suspense element that isn't wrapped up until the end.  Lots of fun!
     Truly, I love Colton's books.  Not only do they sell well, but the readers love them, and they help introduce me to a new group of readers. The artwork for the covers is always fabulous too - check out the cover of Colton's Christmas Cop.  This is one of my all-time favorite covers.  And, it's on sale NOW!

Purchase from Amazon here

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