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loveHappy Valentine’s Day!

No pseudo-scholarly piece today. You can look up the origins of this day and find it rooted in pagan times, Christian times, and/or a combination of both. Have fun with that.

I am setting aside the commercialism of it. I want to celebrate those who love. I asked a few women I know this question, “What does your husband do that you find romantic.” I told them it could be an every day thing. It didn’t have to celebrate February 14th.

R: First she said her husband cleaned out the cat litter box when it was her turn because she had to go to work. Then, she laughed and said they’d been married too long! A few days later she e-mailed. He bought me a day at a spa (massage, body scrub, facial, lunch, hair and make-up), the whole 9 yards. I was picked up by a white limo. After the spa day, he picked me up and we spent the night at the Anniversary Inn.

H: My husband always makes sure my car is filled with gas, even if he works late. He’s gone out at 4am before. I find that romantic.

L: He does a lot of little things every day…like rubbing my back and feet in the evenings and massaging my neck while I’m waiting for my ride in the morning. He gives me 2-3 cards on special occasions. He always wants to dress up and take me out to a nice, quiet restaurant for my birthday and our anniversary. Sometimes, he lights several candles in the bedroom when he knows he’ll be getting lucky that night. Probably, the most romantic thing he ever did was when he proposed—nice dinner, then we drove up to the Depot, walked out in the garden with the Capitol in the background, he got down on one knee, brought out the ring, and proposed.

J: I remember a few years back my family was going through a rough time and I was down in the pits! I felt broken inside and spent a good deal of time crying every night. Valentine’s Day came around and I was excited to finally smile (hoping my husband would do something). The day had started and there was no mention of Valentine’s Day from my husband. I figured if he wasn’t going to say something, then neither was I. The afternoon had come and gone and still no mention of Valentine’s. Not even a phone call to see how my day was. I remember calling my mother in tears because I thought he had forgotten. However, when I got home, the house smelled of bleach, the washing machine and dryer were running, and as I approached the kitchen/living room, there were no toys on the floor or dishes in the sink. In the kitchen was a huge bouquet of flowers, a box of my favorite chocolate, a card from my husband, and a homemade card from the kids. I was so overwhelmed that I cried all evening! I was more excited about a clean house rather than the gifts, but I also felt ashamed that the entire day I thought he had forgot about me and in turn I never said Happy Valentine’s day to him. In the end, it was a good day and worth the wait!

So now, lovely readers, tell me about what your husband/loved one does for you that you find romantic.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Love, romance

 

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What Chasing Squirrels Taught Me About Genre

I’ve heard other writers say that getting started is the hardest part. Not for me. It’s the middle and ending that are elusive. New story lines are to me what a squirrel is to a dog. Not only am I easily distracted and constantly chasing new ideas but I also engage in some serious genre jumping.

The first story beginning that I shared with my critique group could best be classified as a young-adult paranormal dystopian mystery romance. Did I lose you? Let’s call it a yaparadysmystro to make things easier. No? I quickly learned that each genre had specific guidelines that drove them and that it would probably be best if I chose one to focus on. It wasn’t long before my critique partners forbade me from showing them any new beginnings (and rightly so I might add). Thus, I began working diligently on my more genre-focused paranormal romance. About three quarters of the way through the rough draft I ran into a rather large problem. I like to refer to it as “the great computer crash of 2012.” Despite having an external hard drive for backup, as of this moment, I still have not been able to retrieve my work from the writing program I had been using.

After a few days of self-pity and a lot of chocolate, I decided to ditch the paranormal and start working on a contemporary romance story that I had been mulling over for a while. I was surprised to find the writing process so much more enjoyable this time. It was a relief to be free of the complexities involved in the type of worldbuilding that requires you to redefine universal laws. There was no more pondering whether vampires danced in the sun, shriveled up like a raisin or even sparkled because vampires didn’t exist! It turned out to be just what my overloaded newbie brain needed. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still incredibly hard work. It’s just that it feels like a better fit for me right now. I guess you could say that I’m not feeling as prone to chasing squirrels at the moment.

I’m curious to know what other writer’s experiences have been with genre. Were you always drawn to one? Or did you try out several before finding your niche?

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Idaho, romance

 

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WHY?

Why write?

This is not a new question. I’ve often asked it of myself when my writing doesn’t come easy. When I struggle with a plot problem or I’ve written myself into a corner.

In the past, as I’ve written my books, I’ve changed the plot a little, tweaked motivation and/or conflict, but on purpose. I’d found a way to make the story stronger.

Recently, I learned one of the reasons.

I started the scene with a clear vision of the goal. It came at the right time and the relationship development seemed natural, not forced. Imagine my surprise when my h/h wrested the scene from my perfect concept and blew it all to h-e-double toothpicks.

I wrote a few sentences, sat back in my chair, and said, “Huh. Really.”

Then I wrote more. “Wow.”

More. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

The scene flowed almost faster than I could type it. All the while, I’m astounded it’s taken this turn. It wasn’t in my plan.

It’s only one scene in a whole book, but it was EASY!

For me, writing is not easy. It’s grueling, demanding, and heartbreaking (especially when rejections flow in).

But, this scene, this one tiny scene, is why I write.

It’s thrilling to get it right. It’s humbling. It’s rewarding.

This “where did it come from” feeling is why I write.  I wish it came more often. But, I’ll remember this one forever.

 
 

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Guest Blogger Leigh Duncan

Romance author Leigh Duncan spent years moving about the country, but now calls Central Florida’s east coast her home.  Rancher’s Son, her fourth book for Harlequin American Romance is a December release.  Rodeo Daughter, was an RT Magazine Top Pick! for June 2012 and will be re-released in a Larger Print edition for the sight-impaired on November 1st.  Leigh is a long-time member of Romance Writers of America and serves as the published author (PAN) liaison for the Space Coast Authors of Romance (Florida STAR).  She belongs to several other RWA chapters, including the Washington Romance Writers, and is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America on-line women’s fiction chapter.  To learn more about her, visit www.leighduncan.com

Where Did You Come From?

It’s fall in Florida, but you’d never know it from looking at the thermometer.  At our house, the air conditioner runs full time.  In fact, an influx of migratory birds is the only sure sign that summer is on the wane.  Yesterday, an enormous hawk landed in our front yard.  The day before, a flock of red-headed woodpeckers took over the trees.  Within the next week or two, this year’s robins and butterbutts will fill my back yard.  They make the most delightful racket.

With all these visitors, I’ve been asking, “Where did you come from?”  But I’m not always talking about the birds.  Most often, I’m talking about heroes and heroines.

Where do they come from?

Every writer must figure out what drives their books.  Some authors are plot-driven.  Others, action-driven.  My stories begin and ends with the characters so I’m fairly safe in saying they are character-driven.  And because I write romance, I usually “see” the hero or the heroine first.

How does that happen?

When I least expect it.  I’ll be shopping, cleaning, cooking—whatever—and realize I’ve been thinking about, or even having a conversation with, someone I’ve never “seen” before.

That’s how Rancher’s Son came to me.  I looked up from my computer to catch a mental image of a cowboy moseying along on horseback behind a herd of cattle.  At the time, I was knee deep in edits for another book, so I just gave him a nod and went back to work.  For the next couple of weeks, though, he kept popping in.  Each time, he revealed a little bit more about himself.

I learned he was strong, opinionated, ruggedly handsome.  That his ranch had been in his family for four generations.  Okay, so now I was really starting to like this guy.  But then he said his ranch was in Florida. 

I have to admit, I was skeptical.

It took some digging, but I learned that Ponce de Leon brought the first cattle to Florida—seven head of Andalusians.  Despite mosquitoes and floods and heat, people have been ranching here ever since.  Today, Florida is home to over a million head of cattle.  It’s the third-largest beef-producing state east of the Mississippi.

Okay, so back to my hero.  Finding just the right girl for him and making him work hard to earn her love, that became my job.  But I didn’t go easy on him. He had to prove he was strong enough, honorable enough, to have his heart’s desire.

Did he pass the test?

You’ll have to answer that question for yourself.

As for me, lately someone else has snagged my attention.  A baseball player, a pitcher.  But I think there’s a lot more he needs to reveal about himself before I can sit down and write his story.

I hope he does.  I think I’ll like him, too.

 
 

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Welcome Guest Blogger, Liz Flaherty

On September 28, 1935, my parents went to a minister’s house and got married. My dad wore a double-breasted suit and my mom had on a hat. They stayed married through the rest of the Great Depression and three wars, through the births of six children and the death of one at the age of three, through failing health and the loss of all their parents and some of my father’s siblings. Dad died in 1981, Mom in 1982. They were still married.

From the viewpoint of their youngest child, who was born in their early 40s when they thought they were finished with all that, it was the marriage from hell. I never saw them as a loving couple, never saw them laugh together or show affection or even hold hands. They didn’t buy each other gifts, sit on the couch together, or bring each other cups of coffee. The only thing I was sure they shared was that—unlike my husband and me—they didn’t cancel out each other’s vote on Election Day.

“Why on earth,” I asked my sister once, “did they stay together all those years? Mom could have gone home to her family, even if she did have to take a whole litter of kids. Heaven knows Dad could have.” (He was the adored youngest son and brother—he could do no wrong.)

Nancy gave me the look all youngest siblings know, the one that says, “Are you stupid?” When you’re grown up, it replaces the look that says, “You’re a nasty little brat.” But I regress.

“Don’t you get it?” my sister asked. Her blue eyes softened. So did her voice. “They loved each other. Always. They just didn’t do it the way you wanted them to.”

Oh.

I remembered then. When they stopped for ice cream because Mom loved ice cream. How they sat the kitchen table across from each other drinking coffee. How thin my dad got during Mom’s long illness because “I can’t eat if she can’t.” When they watched Lawrence Welk reruns together and loud because—although neither would admit it—their hearing was seriously compromised.

And the letters. The account of their courtship. We found them after Mom’s death, kept in neat stacks. They wrote each other, in those days of multiple daily mail deliveries, at least once a day and sometimes twice. When I read those letters, I cried because I’d never known the people who wrote them.

I have to admit, my parents’ lives had nothing to do with why I chose to write romantic fiction. I got my staunch belief in Happily Ever After from my own marriage, not theirs. But how you feel about things and what you know—those change over the years.

As much as I hated my parents’ marriage—and I truly did hate it—I admire how they stuck with it. I’ve never appreciated the love they had for each other, but I’ve come to understand that it never ended. I still feel sorry sometimes for the little girl I was, whose childhood was so far from storybook that she wrote her own, but I’m so grateful to have become the adult I am. The one who still writes her own stories.

But—and this is the good part—these are the things I know.

Saying “I love you” doesn’t always require words. Sometimes it’s being unable to eat because someone else isn’t. Sometimes it’s stopping for ice cream. Sometimes—and I realized this the other day when my husband and I were bellowing “Footloose” in the car—it’s hearing music the same way, regardless of how it sounds to anyone else.

Marriage is different for different people. So is love. So is Happily Ever After.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Liz Flaherty is retired from the post office, she writes fulltime, and is having an astonishingly good time. She also makes quilts and talks her husband into traveling a lot more than he really wants to. She writes for Carina Press and Harbourlight Books. Visit her website at http://lizflaherty.com

 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Guest Blog, Idaho, romance

 

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The Little Things of Love

My husband and I went out of town last weekend. Just the two of us. Our two daughters went and stayed at Grandma’s – or rather she stayed with them to take care of our furry family members as well.

Nothing fancy. We drove an hour and a half to the nearest city, Idaho Falls, ID. Population hovering around 60,000.

Summer is always a busy time. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of activities. In our small area of the world it often feels as if we are on turbo speed. It’s a legitimate feeling. Winter runs about 8 plus months here. We are on a time clock to cram everything in.

It’s easy to get so caught up in life that the little things – the important ones – can get lost.

I found them again this weekend.

I hadn’t realized I’d lost them until I pushed aside the bike camp, the golf camp, the dance camp, the play dates and BBQs. The float trips and lunch appointments, the rushing here and there, the quick peck on the cheek “how was your day?” and the scribbling of notes to remind myself of things we need to discuss when we have the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I love summer and all the activities. The weather. The float trips. The time spent with friends and family.

But it is oh so very wonderful to take a moment and concentrate on those little things.

The touch of my husband’s hand in mine. His eyes are still as blue as when we met. A few more wrinkles and a lot more grey. We laugh at the same things. I love the way he expresses himself – that man can make me snort with laughter. He thinks it’s adorable when I have the occasional blonde moment. He loves to talk about our daughters and how wonderful they are. He knows when something is going to make me cry before I even realize it. He views every road trip as an opportunity to display his driving skills. He’s a guy’s guy and if he were a dog I know he’d pee all over me. He loves to kiss me good morning.

Falling in love is not a one time event. It is an ever-evolving occurence. Something you have to work at. And something you have to remind yourself of from time to time.

I still remember the very first time I looked into his eyes. His blue, blue eyes. I see so much more than the color now. I see the man inside. The one I continue to fall in love with.

Have you taken any time for yourself lately? Any time to appreciate the little things?

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Idaho

 

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Fifty Shades of Love

There has been a lot said in the media about the book “Fifty Shades of Gray.” I haven’t read the book and I’m not planning on commenting on it. What I would like to comment on is the romance genre in general.

Romance – in books termed Romance – has always been bashed by the media. I’ve never understood it. Ever. Audiences can flock to romantic movies, read Shakespeare and Jane Austen and a countless number of other authors and books can be written about dating and love and how to spice up a marriage and as long as they are all labeled something else (romantic comedy, classic literature or self-help) then it is okay to talk about.

If it is a Romance then it is something to be giggled over, snickered at and never admitted to actually reading. They are bodice rippers, something women only read, the language is flowery and ludicrous and, gasp, there may even be a sex scene or two. Or maybe the entire book is just about sex.

Dreadful.

And yet, Romance books hit the best-seller lists all the time. Romance authors can actually make a living off of their craft. Readers like Romance.

The Romance genre encompasses a wide variety of sub-categories from sweet to erotica and everything in between. An Inspirational book will have more emphasis on religion than the intimate relationship and a book like Fifty Shades of Grey will have more emphasis on the intimate relationship. But they will both be about the romantic relationship between the two main characters.

Romance is about love. It has a happy ending.

Dreadful, isn’t it?

I read just about every category of book out there except war. Romance is my all time favorite. I love the characters in the books – the ordinary ones, the kick-butt ones, the ones that make me laugh. I love the plot twists – the crazy ones, the end of the world ones, the every day life ones. I love the different writing styles – the humorous, the sad, the ones that make my eyes pop wide.

Huh, that sort of sounds like almost any genre. Oh no, wait. All of these books are going to have a happy ending too. What a shame.

I love Romance. In my books and in my life. It’s a lovely thing.

What about you?

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Idaho

 

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