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Monday, December 26, 2011

End of 2011


Since I started writing this blog, I've hit my self-imposed deadline of Monday morning every week. Well, it wouldn't be titled "Monday Morning Musings" if I posted on Tuesday, would it? This week, I missed the morning part. Instead, today was a day to celebrate Christmas with my grandchildren. Oh, sure, husband, daughter, and son-in-law were there, too. It's just such a delight in celebrating with young children. Consequently, my priorities shifted today and the blog took second place.

There is something about the week after Christmas that makes us look back on the year. Newspapers do a year in review, television news reports do entire segments on it. Perhaps it's that sense of ending that causes us to reflect on the immediate past.

Like many people, my husband and I put together a letter summarizing the past year for our far-flung friends and family. To do that, we start with the same old question "where did the year go?" We try to put a positive spin on the events—nobody wants to read doom and gloom during the holiday season. There have been years that weren't so good. The three years in a row when we lost a close family member or when the job market took a nose dive carrying one of us with it. Despite those events, there were good times like the birth of a grandchild or milestone birthdays. We figure it's a plus when we're still alive and kicking.

In 2011, the world took some weird turns. The aforementioned news programs will be sure to concentrate on war, revolutions, natural disasters, and so many other tragedies that it feels as if the only thing to be grateful for is that the year is over. Gee, what would happen if they only reported the good? Maybe nobody would believe it.

Besides celebrating that my children and grandchildren are happy, that we're all fairly healthy, that we have extended family and good friends who care about us, I'm happy that this year my writing career got back on track. Thanks to advice from other writers, I found a way to give new life to a book that I thought was over. That encouraged me to finish the sequel and renewed my enthusiasm for other stories that were languishing in my computer. Consequently, I'm looking forward to the new year and new opportunities.

I hope as you look back on 2011 you will find good things to celebrate.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Christmas Gift

      After two weeks of “chatting” with writer friends, it’s back to our "regularly scheduled program". In the bustle of gift buying, parties—the ones we give or attend—decorating the house, sending out cards, there doesn’t seem to be time to do all that we want or to sit back and just enjoy the holiday season.

     Like most people, I’m usually rushing around trying to find that last gift or stocking stuffer or being gently harassed by my husband to finish our annual letter (he writes it; I add, correct, tweak...). This year is different. On December 1st, our son came from Phoenix so we celebrated Christmas early. The house was clean, decorations were up, gifts were wrapped, food stocked—all by the time he walked in the door. You could even see the top of my desk—a miracle that only happens when I can’t find something. Did we do all this for our son? Heavens, no. Well, not all because of him. He’s used to the chaos of our house. He knows when he visits there will be clean sheets on the bed and the bathroom will be cleaned. The rest...let’s just say House Beautiful won’t be setting up a photo shoot. This visit was different. He brought his girlfriend with him. We met her in October and spent a lovely week on vacation with her and our son. On future visits, she can see the “real” thing. Just not the first time.

     With almost everything done early, I’ve had time to muse about Christmases past. Many come to mind as an adult. Not so many as a child. Except for the Christmas I was ten. That was the year I was convinced Santa would bring a puppy. While I didn’t believe in Santa anymore, I had to pretend because of younger siblings. And “Santa” knew I wanted a puppy. My parents repeatedly said “no pets”, but I just knew they were pretending. During the night, I was sure I heard a puppy whining. On Christmas morning, I looked and looked for a box big enough for that puppy. There wasn’t one. When I opened my gift, I found a Brownie Hawkeye camera.

     A camera, not a puppy. Ten-year-olds don’t mask disappointment well. I’m sure my mom was hurt by my reaction, though I don’t remember her ever saying anything. But then, ten-year-olds are oblivious to how they affect adults. What I didn’t realize until much later was what a truly wonderful gift that camera was. I got over my disappointment in not getting that puppy. I took pictures of many, many things. Siblings, giggling girlfriends, vacations. Since then, I’ve always had a camera. From that Brownie Hawkeye to an Instamatic to a Canon SLR to the digital camera I have now. I’ve had movie cameras from a Super 8 to a camcorder and movie capability on that digital camera. I’ve recorded memories from the mundane to the momentous. I’ve taken enough slides and home movies to cure everyone of insomnia. The wonder of what that first camera started was brought to mind as I watched our son show his girlfriend the photo albums that captured his past.

     As my brain reaches overload and kicks out old memories to make room for new, I’ll see a photo from long ago and the whole event comes right back. Not just what happened at the instant the shutter snapped but everything before and after. Trips with friends then with husband, our newborn children, their first Christmases/birthdays/schooldays/graduations, daughter’s wedding, grandchildren. Treasures.

     Maybe Mom just thought a camera was a nice gift for a ten-year-old. Or maybe she knew it would lead to a lifelong fascination with capturing memories.

     As I wish you and your families happy memories of this holiday season, I’m curious. What was your most memorable gift?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chat with Margo Hoornstra

Today, I’m visiting with Margo Hoornstra. She’s a talented writer and a good friend. Here’s her bio:

Personal: Wife to one, mother to four--seven if you count in-law children, which I do--and grandmother to three so far with one more on the way. Resident of the upper Midwest.

Work Experience: magazine editor, television producer, script writer, speech writer and public relations specialist.

Additional: Founding member, Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America.

Diane:  Welcome, Margo. I’m excited to hear about the Three-in-One Virtual Blog Tour you just completed. How did it go?

Margo:  Beyond my wildest dreams. No really! The presentations on the blogs were nicely done. I was very proud of them. The commenters were positive, thoughtful and encouraging. Not to mention the books I was promoting Glad Tidings; Next Tuesday at Two; and To Be, Or Not each received some fabulous reviews—read FIVE STARS. Those were very, very nice, and heartening to read. I’d like to put in a plug here for Marianne of Goddess Fish Promotions, who made it all happen.

Diane:  Tell me about your latest book.

Margo:  Do you mean my three for the Class of ’85 reunion series or my current WIP? Just kidding. Discussing my WIP would probably turn into a massive critique session, so I’ll tell you about my books that are currently out.

They all end in happily ever after. But, that’s part of the deal, right? Glad Tidings has a line I and my editor are particularly fond of. My heroine contemplates her current relationship with the hero and thinks - What kind of woman buries her husband in the afternoon and sleeps with his best friend that night? Although the book starts out a bit steamy, it is really about second chances and hanging in there to get what you want to out of life.

In Next Tuesday at Two, Blane Weston knows exactly where she’s headed in life and how she’s going to get there. Matt Durand has other ideas for her. The fun part for me of writing this story was creating what I call an anti-hero, Aaron Goodwin, who pursues Blane to no avail. I enjoyed writing so called ‘love scenes’ between Aaron and Blane which she, of course, wanted no part of.

In To Be, Or Not I was able to use a fellow Class of ’85 author’s character, Bison County Sheriff Rory McElroy. It turned out the sheriff was the only male character who could make the hero, Barry Carlson, sweat.

Diane:  Your books are about second chances. How do you relate to that?

Margo:  How much time and space do we have? Second chances seem to be what I’m about. As I wrote for one of the blogs on my Three In One Virtual Tour: My life has late bloomer written all over it. (If you don’t count that I was married at 18 and had my first child at 19.) I earned an English Degree in 1997, thirty years after my original entry into college right out of high school. At 32, I gave birth to twins who joined their brother and sister, thirteen and nine. And, after several years of seeking publication and ultimately giving up for a time, I’m now enjoying the achievement of being multi published in romantic fiction.

Diane:  How difficult was it for you to start over with your writing career?

Margo:  Not difficult at all, because I never really left it. I was constantly thinking about stories and kept my hand in, if you will, by writing short stories that eventually sold to Woman’s World and Country Woman. Also, my day job required me to do a lot of writing, but other people’s words, not mine.

Diane:  Love your short bio (at the top of this post). Care to expand on it?

Margo:  To begin with, the one on the way grandchild arrived on December 2nd at 4:16 AM.  For the rest of the expansion, I will revert again to my blog tour. One host asked if my careers in the entertainment world helped me become a better writer. Full disclosure here, I don’t want to mislead anyone about my stints as a television producer, script writer and magazine editor. Those jobs weren’t as glamorous as they sound and took place during my twenty some year career in public relations. The television shows were more educational than entertainment, they were what’s referred to as the ‘talking heads’ format, one host asking questions on a specific topic with two guests who were experts on said topic. The script writing was to fill viewers in about the subject being discussed and to give them some background into the credentials of the experts. Think newscast information. And the magazine editor was a monthly of the educational slash scientific variety, which was, I will say, a nice looking glossy with pictures. And, I would have to say, yes, those jobs helped me become a better writer because I had to produce under pressure, no matter what. And, as far as listing myself as a founding member of the Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America, I’m very proud of having done that.

Diane:  Those of us who are members of MMRWA are very glad you did. What question was never asked on your tour that you’d like to answer?
Margo:  That’s a tough one, being that I feel I was brutally honest, maybe too honest, with the tour interviews and essays. I’m stumped.
Okay, not so stumped having thought about this. First and foremost, I appreciate you having me as a guest on your blog today, Diane. But, beyond that, I want to thank you for what you are doing for your fellow RWA members, specifically, and the romantic fiction profession in general. One of your early posts talked about exploring the Final Frontier, ala the Star Trek phenomenon. You, my dear, are a living example of that. When it would have been so easy for you to ‘fold your tents as it were and give up on your writing, you sought out new ways to succeed and share your work. What you have done in taking the initiative to put Switched and soon to be Switched Too on to Amazon and Smashwords is an inspiration to all of us. The social media avenue is the way of the future, and from those of us who are still cautiously navigating our way, thank you for stepping out to be a leader on our trip. Best of luck with your ‘new and improved’ writing career.
Diane:  Wow. Thank you so much. Now, I’m the one who is stumped for something to say—a rare phenomenon. It’s been great chatting with you, Margo. Thanks for stopping by.
Readers can find Margo on line at her blog and on FaceBook

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Chat with Nancy Gideon

Instead of my usual musing on Monday morning, I'd like you to meet a fabulous author who has been my friend and mentor since I started writing, Nancy Gideon. She's a prolific writer who turned me onto vampire romances years ago and with her new series she’s making me a fan of shape-shifters.

Nancy’s writing encompasses romance genres from historicals and regencies to contemporary suspense and the paranormal. Under her own name, she’s a bestseller for Silhouette Romantic Suspense, has written an award-winning vampire romance series, and has a six book shape-shifter series with Pocket Books. Also listed on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), she collaborated on Indie horror films In the Woods and Savage with screenwriting and ADR script credits, and even played a small role. She attributes her creative output, which once peaked at seven novels in one year, to her love of history and a gift for storytelling. She also credits the discipline learned through a background in journalism and OCD. The due date for her third book and her second son were on the same day . . . and both were early! When on deadline, she turns on the laptop between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. to get a chapter in before work.

Diane: Nancy, your energy puts me to shame! I am so pleased you’ve taken time out of your busy schedule to chat about your latest release, Hunter of Shadows. Let’s get right to it. I just downloaded Hunter onto my Kindle and am halfway through already. Without giving away any spoilers (which I know you won’t) tell me about this book.

Nancy:  Hunter of Shadows is the fifth book of my dark paranormal By Moonlight shape-shifter series. The first four By Moonlight books followed the same couple; shape-shifting mob enforcer Max Savoie and NOPD detective Charlotte Caissie. Subsequent books, beginning with Hunter of Shadows, will expand that preternatural world with new main couples. Hunter of Shadows features Silas MacCreedy, an undercover NOPD detective with his own agenda to restore his family’s place in the Shifter hierarchy, and assassin Nica Fraser who is determined to get in his way both professionally and intimately. “Sparks fly immediately. Vivid writing, intriguing plot twists, and a satisfying ending will have readers coming back to Gideon’s magical NOLA,” says Publishers Weekly in their review. Hunter of Shadows will continue the underlying storylines and contain the regular characters that inhabit the By Moonlight world.

Diane:  Great review! I’m curious. What is the appeal of shape-shifters?

Nancy:  They are the ultimate Alpha Male:  Powerful, aggressive, protective, dangerous, yet loyal and, well, sexy! Not to be confused with werewolves, in my By Moonlight world, Shifters control the degree of their transformation and are completely aware of their actions.

Diane:  You’ve written over 50 books. How did you get started writing?

Nancy:  Back when dinosaurs roamed . . . well, back before computers, anyway, I always had a story begging me to find pencil and notepaper. I’ve always written, because I couldn’t NOT write. I was a stay-at-home mom who’d finished four romance novels and finally got up the courage to submit one to publishers I’d found in an old copy of Fiction Writers Market. I was so ignorant of the entire process (remember, this was before online writers groups!) and so isolated from everything but the local bookstore and library, it’s amazing I sold. But I did, on the second submission, and have continued to, in areas from historicals and contemporary suspense to paranormal and horror screenplays, right up to my latest negotiation which is currently in the works.

Diane:  How do you keep coming up with new ideas?

Nancy:  Ideas aren’t the problem—time is. I’ve always got several book plots, or even entire series, cooking on the back burner (I’m a compulsive plotter!), but working full time for going on 12 years limits the number of hours I can devote to developing them. Ideas are everywhere—in music, in TV shows, walking down the street, on Twitter and Facebook—you just have to know where to look and how to see them.

Diane:  I totally understand that. Too many stories, too little time. With that in mind, what inspired you to write Hunter of Shadows?

Nancy:  When I was contracting for books 4-6, Pocket wanted to expand beyond the initial concept with Max and Cee Cee, so I reworked the already written book four, Bound By Moonlight, to wrap a lot of their story arc. Then I needed a strong hero and heroine to move the plot lines forward. I needed characters that were involved in the NOLA world, and could interact easily with the characters already established there, but none of my existing secondaries were quite right. So, I brought in outsiders, two new characters briefly introduced in Book 4, and then built upon their mysterious ties to the Shifter clan in New Orleans. And I really enjoyed them!

Diane:  Speaking of characters, which of your characters is most like you?

Nancy:  I think we always tend to write characters than embody traits we admire or would like to have (if we don’t already). I could never have a TSTL (To Stupid To Life) main character, though they do serve a purpose in minor roles. All my characters are strong willed, smart, self-sufficient, but not without quirks and insecurities. Sound like anyone you know?

Diane:  Yes, indeedy. On that note, which of your characters do you wish you were more like?

Nancy:  The ones who are secure in their happily-ever-after. And the rich ones . . . with long legs who can wear stilettos!

Diane: LOL. Don’t we all wish. Why have you set so many novels in New Orleans?

Nancy:  It’s my favorite city, and the perfect setting for everything paranormal. So many facets of the culture, the mythos, the architecture, and even the atmosphere lend themselves to an eerie and sultry backdrop. Doing research there was not what I’d call a chore.

Diane:  Of all the cities in which your books take place where would you like to live?

Nancy:  I’d like a house at Lake Tahoe and a condo in the French Quarter, then I’d never have to leave home to research either my westerns or my paranormals. And I’d never be lacking for company. Both are breathtakingly unique.

Diane:  You’re right about company. I’ll be first in line for an invite. You have a non-fiction series out, also. I’ve read the first two installments of Getting It Out There: PR and Social Media for Writers and found them very helpful. How did the concept come about?

Nancy:  Getting It Out There started as a serialized e-book series with a different social media focus coming out each month. It sounded soooo fun and timely. But I quickly realized how much time it consumed. What I’d planned to do in a couple of weekends sucked up the entire month for research and outlining and extra content. Then buyers balked at the short page length even when we lowered the price. The first two installments on Branding and Budgeting Time and Money are available on Amazon and all other e-outlets and, I think, are well worth the investment. Currently Wise Words and I are reconceptualizing the project for a new type of release.

Diane:  What’s up next for Nancy Gideon?

Nancy:  I’m in the middle of contract negotiations with Pocket for two more books. I’m also aggressively pursuing the rights to my backlist. So hopefully, 2012 will be a busy, busy year. Seeker of Shadows, By Moonlight Book 6, is slated for release on June 26, 2012.

Diane:  I’ll be sure to look for it. How can readers learn more about you and your books?

Nancy:  For information, check out my website at: http://nancygideon.com. For fun, go to my blog at: http://nancygideon.blogspot.com/

Diane:  Thanks so much for stopping by. I’d best let you get back to your writing. And I’ll get back to Hunter of Shadows. Trust me, folks, like all of Nancy’s stories, this one is hot.