I celebrated a birthday yesterday. It wasn’t a milestone birthday, but I’d had a few things happen to me this year that had forced me to think through my life. Not the least of which is the fact that I can’t seem to keep my office (or desk) clean.
I’d read somewhere a few years ago that if your office is messy (and you’re typically an organized person) that means there’s something wrong in your life. This is especially true if you don’t THINK there’s anything wrong in your life. It’s your subconscious punching through, saying, Hey, Babe, take a breath.
So, on my birthday, I looked around the clutter that would put the house of any hoarder to shame, and said, What the heck is wrong? (BTW, I was going to post a picture but decided against it. LOL The place is that bad!)
Analyzing the clutter…reams of paper filled with notes from conferences, printed out emails that contain bits of wisdom on marketing, notebooks filled with potential story ideas…I suddenly realized what was wrong. I’m being pulled in too many directions.
I have ideas for books that I’m writing for Harlequin, ideas for books that I’m writing for Entangled, ideas for books for a yet-to-be-determined publisher…and books that I long to write but I don’t think any publisher will want them. LOL They have “indie pub” written all over them, but, seriously…Do I actually have time to write them?
The problem with living in interesting times is that everything is open to everybody. But there’s a saying that I love to remind myself every couple of weeks…Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.
If you really want your life to have meaning, you need definition and purpose. You cannot be all things to all people. Whether you’re a writer, or a mother, or a doctor, or a civil engineer, or a secretary or a barista at Starbucks, you need to decide a path. You need to define what you want to accomplish, break that down into goals and create a plan to accomplish your goals.
So on my birthday I did a bit of thinking and I did narrow things down a bit. The big question though has to be…What do you want to accomplish?
If you write that question at the top of a piece of paper and then write down the first 20 things that come to mind, you might surprise yourself. I know I surprised myself! LOL
Temporary jobs have always held an appeal for me. When I was an undergraduate at university, the idea of travelling the world teaching English as a second language sang a siren song to me—no matter that I had no desire to teach. Oh, and the idea of a working holiday in Alpine ski fields filled my soul with unbridled enthusiasm—no matter that I didn’t have a sporty bone in my body. And then there was those US summer camps where children spent the entire summer at gorgeous wooded lakes, yachting, swimming and hiking. What did it matter that I’d never stepped on a yacht in my life? What did it matter that I had little facility for crying children and none at all when it came to vomit (and we’re talking children here, there would’ve been vomit, right?)
As you can tell, I never did any of those things…and it’s probably just as well for all concerned. Mind you, I have had several temporary jobs in my lifetime. To save up for my first year’s tuition at university I took a temporary job for thirteen months. In a clothing factory. Sewing the crotch in men’s knickers. Believe me, there’s nothing like a production line to have one yearning for ski fields and determined to develop a tolerance for vomit. 😉
When I was at university I had two part-time jobs—one as a waitress/kitchen hand for a catering agency. So not glamorous. The other was working for the TAB (Totalisator Agency board). I travelled around the countryside to various racetracks, paceways and greyhound racing grounds putting on bets for the general public. Racing is generally considered glamorous, but it wasn’t on my side of the window. 😉
Which is why I have an affinity for Jo, the heroine of my April release. The Millionaire and the Maid opens with her arriving to take up a temporary position as a housekeeper in a remote beach house. Like me, she hasn’t made it to the ski fields. Her job is SO not glamorous. I did give her the beach and a glorious view to make up for the drudgery, though (one of the perks of being a writer ).
Have you ever had a temporary job? If so, was it exciting and glamorous…or, like my jobs, all toil and sweat?
In just a few weeks Summer on Lovers’ Island comes out from St. Martin’s Press. I’m so darned excited. This is one of my favourite covers EVER, and it’s the third book in my Jewell Cove series. Today I’m going to share the blurb and an excerpt, and I’ve included pre-order buttons just in case you want to snag your copy as soon as it comes out.
What happens when a seasonal fling turns into the love of a lifetime?
Lizzie Howard’s life has always been adrenaline-charged. Top of her class at Harvard Med and now a gifted trauma doctor, Lizzie’s medical career has always come before rest, relaxation, and especially romance. But when one careless mistake brings her future to a screeching halt, Lizzie’s only chance at reviving it is to temporarily take over a friend’s practice in Jewell Cove. The sleepy Maine coast, a world away from the bustling emergency room Lizzie knows and loves, leaves her feeling more lost than ever—until she meets widowed doctor Joshua Collins, and her heart starts beating a little bit faster…
Coming home to Jewell Cove was Josh’s salvation after his wife died. Looking for peace among the familiar faces of friends and family, he’s grateful to work in the town’s small medical clinic by day and spend his nights trying to forget everything he’s lost. Lizzie’s big-city sensibilities are a brash reminder of the world he’s pushed away, but he can’t deny that together they’ve sparked a flame that crackles higher and brighter every day. Maybe love is the best medicine after all …
* * *
This damned fog wasn’t helping matters any. He opened the back door to the office and flicked on the lights. Their assistant, Robin, was already ten minutes late, and when he booted up the computer the e-mail showed she’d be an hour late because her kid had popped a wire on his braces, requiring an emergency trip to the orthodontist. Josh turned on the radio for background noise and set to work making coffee.
“Dammit,” he muttered, running a hand over his hair. “Why do I bother hiring people when they never manage to show up on time?” Now he was on the hook for pulling the first patient files and making sure the exam rooms were prepared.
When the back door opened and shut again, his irritation spilled over. “It’s about time!” he called out. “Your appointment go faster than expected?”
“I didn’t realize I was late,” said a soft voice, and Josh paused, his hand on the trash can that hadn’t been emptied the night before.
He looked over his shoulder, knowing it had to be Dr. Howard but unprepared for the sight just the same. Medium height. A bit too skinny for his taste. Good eyes, though, he thought, and he suspected her dark hair would be quite a sight to behold if she ever let it down. Today she had it pulled back in a low, demure tail. Professional. He liked that. His own personal reaction? Not so much a fan. It had been a long time since the sound of a woman’s low voice made his pulse jump.
“I’m Elizabeth Howard,” she said smoothly, raising a perfectly groomed eyebrow at him.
“You’re Dr. Collins.” Her other eyebrow rose to meet the first, making it more of a question than a statement despite the inflection.
He wasn’t sure what it was about her tone that set him on edge, but it did. “Who did you think I was?”
“I don’t know. The janitor?”
Josh chuckled tightly and put down the trash can. Dr. Howard, on the one hand, was dressed in neat trousers and a pressed blouse and sensible flats. He, on the other hand, was in faded jeans and a golf shirt in muted orange. It was Jewell Cove, after all, and not Johns Hopkins. “I actually do have an assistant who normally looks after this stuff. She has an orthodontist emergency this morning. I thought you were her.”
“Oh.” Her lips thinned in disapproval, as if the tardiness was a reflection on the entire setup. “Where can I put my things?”
“Your office. End of the hall on the right. You’ll see Charlie’s name on the door.”
“Thanks.” She brushed by him but not before he caught a telltale pinkness coloring her cheeks. “I’m gonna kill Charlie for this,” he heard her mutter.
Josh trusted Charlie and she said that Howard was the best doctor she knew, but they hadn’t gotten off to the best start. He wasn’t quite sure if Dr. Howard was disapproving or embarrassed, but either way it was awkward.
He looked down the hall and saw Dr. Howard slide her arms into a white coat. At least she was on time—unlike his other employee. He liked Robin and she kept the office running like a well-oiled machine, but she did take liberties with the time clock now and again.
Dr. Howard came back down the hall and Josh decided to try a friendly overture to break the ice instead. “There’s coffee in the kitchen. I was just going to get a cup before I unlock the front. Want some?”
She followed him to the kitchen—a closet, really—and he pulled down two mugs from the cupboard. “There’s milk in the fridge, and sugar here,” he said, reaching for the coffeepot. He poured two mugs and handed her one. She stared at it for a moment before taking a cautious sip—black.
Josh grinned. “I like mine black, too. If the military didn’t teach me to drink it that way, twenty-four hours on hospital shift would. You take what you can get, huh?”
“I have an espresso machine at home, so I prefer macchiatos.”
Of course she did. With that one sentence Josh felt entirely inadequate. Erin had been that way, too, at first—an air of accepting nothing less than the best. Growing up rich and privileged seemed to bring with it a general expectation of standards and this Elizabeth Howard had the same way of looking at him that made him feel just a little bit . . . lacking. Provincial and unsophisticated. Like his little practice was beneath her. Then again, she was probably right. He’d seen her qualifications. Why she’d ever accepted Charlie’s proposal was beyond him. Even with Elizabeth’s current troubles, another hospital would have snapped her up in a heartbeat.
Josh’s family had never looked down their noses at anyone; there hadn’t been the money or the time. It wasn’t something he apologized for anymore. Maybe blood was thicker than water, but he’d take Sarah’s and Jess’s meddling any day of the week over the cold formality of Erin’s family.
“Well, no fancy coffee machines here. Just plain family medicine. Blood work is done at the local lab, radiology at a clinic in Portland. You’ll find requisitions in each exam room.” The back door opened and closed once more. “That’ll be Robin, I hope.” He looked at his watch. “Make yourself at home and any questions, ask.”
From Summer on Lovers’ Island, May 5, 2015
This is a serious question.
Yesterday was one of those crazy, bad days that saw me rushing from one calamity to another. As I was dashing off (late) to my last appointment of the day, I got a call from the dog groomer letting me know Pup Pup needed to be picked up. Since my husband was also running late, I did the drive by pick up and in my haste, forgot to tip the woman. I felt terrible, of course, because she did a fantastic job. I’m actually driving back today to deliver the tip.
This whole event, however, got me to thinking about tipping in general.
Originally tipping was an acknowledgement of excellent service. At some point though tipping morphed into acknowledgement of service period. And that’s where my confusion comes in. How do we decide who to tip and who not to tip? Do we tip the hotel doorman who holds the door? The dog groomer who is already charging $50 to bathe and groom the puppy? (Clearly, I’ve decided yes on that one.) How come we tip the coffee server at the drive through but we don’t tip the guy who pumps our gas?
When, for that matter, is tipping an insult? Is there a line where it becomes a sign of arrogance on our part?
Who do you tip and when? Have you ever not tipped? Help a girl out and give me some advice. ________________________________________________________________
Please welcome D.D. Ayres to the blog today, talking about canines and K9s – and the latest in her K9 Rescue Series, FORCE OF ATTRACTION.
The adage is, “The dog is man’s best friend.” That’s because the canine hunted with his prehistoric owner, protected the flock , and alerted the village of a possible attack. Yet, a recent study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science reveals that a dog was quite possibly Neolithic woman’s best friend, too. “Females were more involved in caring for the dogs — possibly more often the ones who fed them, organized living quarters for them, and cleaned up after them.” Sound familiar? Plus, women and dogs ate the same food and shared the same diseases. TMI?
The heroines of myK-9 Rescue Series aren’t the first to discover that in many ways, a dog is still a woman’s BFF. Many women I know consider their emotional relationships with their dogs to be one of the most important things in their lives.
Let’s look at a list of doggy characteristics from the female perspective. See if you don’t agree.
1. Dogs are loyal and generally obedient.
— as long as you didn’t leave the trash uncovered or a juicy steak thawing on the sink. As for the shoe that was chewed up? Maybe you left him alone too long. Dogs have feelings, too.
- A dog is ALWAYS happy to see you.
Make that, like you just came back from a six-month trek across the Sahara, happy. Even if it was just a quick trip to the grocery store. I think it’s this that wins a woman’s heart. Nothing like a moist doggy gaze of rapt attention to make a girl feel special.
3. Dogs are affectionate.
Doggy licks and kisses are always freely given at the moment she may need them most. If the award is a sweet potato treat –well, that’s the way the modern doggy rolls.
It’s a historical fact. “An analysis of ancient dog burials finds that the typical prehistoric dog owner ate a lot of seafood, had spiritual beliefs, and wore jewelry that sometimes wound up on the dog.” Dogs have been dealing with their female owners desire to deck them out in pretty things for millennia.
5 . A Dog’s need to protect. Even a lapdog will alert its owner to a strange sound, or challenge a stranger at the door. Better yet, most dogs can suss out a lousy potential mate in a sec – whether on four feet or two. A woman shouldn’t discount the fact her pup dislikes her new guy.
The phrase “sniffing around your heels” means your most loyal supporter is getting a snoot full of bio-chemical information pouring off his target-of-interest. If he smells a rat, he’ll let you know.
Caveat. Dogs can change their minds. If Boyfriend’s scent changes – maybe he was just mega nervous — Fido’s opinion may alter, too. Just remember: Who loves ya, Baby?
Tell me about your relationship with your canine. Is he/she Top Dog at your place?
ABOUT D. D. Ayres
A veteran author of romance and women’s fiction, D.D. Ayres is new to Romantic Suspense. She believes the lure of romance is always the human connection. Put that connection in physical jeopardy, and we learn a bit more about who we really are.
In reading her K-9 Rescue series, D.D. hopes you will enjoy her sexy, suspenseful portrayals of K-9 teams at their best.
D.D. lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and a soft-coated Wheaten terrier named Zoe.
D.D.’s latest release in the K9 Rescue series is FORCE OF ATTRACTION. You can visit her at www.ddayres.com.
This week, London’s publishing industry is all a-flutter because it’s London Book Fair. I’d never been before, even though the Fair has had events for authors for the past few years, but this year I decided to take the plunge yesterday and go along to see what it was all about.
I arrived at about 9.30 at Olympia, a huge exhibition centre in the heart of Kensington, and instantly I was through the main entrance I could see the huge stands that the big publishers had set up. Each had displays and plentiful tables and chairs where earnest-looking editors and agents, authors and marketing bods could chat. You could almost smell the deals being made.
Here’s a pic of the Harper Collins stand, Harlequin UK’s home this year:
I spent some time wandering round the fair, looking at the different stalls. It was all very interesting, seeing the different sections for publishers from all other the world to come and do their business. (Italy’s was definitely the most stylish, as you can see, with the funky green chairs.) However, it’s really an industry event and with no books to pitch or no agent to look for (my rather lovely agent, Lizzy Kremer, gave a talk about the relationship between agents and editors), I ended up spending most of my time at a little section called Author HQ, listening to the various talks and panels.
Here are a few top tips from some of the talks I went to:
From Effective PR and Marketing, Bethan Ferguson from Quercus said that if you’re an author with a small marketing budget that paying for a big ad somewhere isn’t really a good use of your money. Although big publishers do this all the time, it tends to be part of a much bigger, structured campaign. She suggested focusing on social media, and if you want to pay for ads at all, think about doing them with Goodreads, where you’re going to be seen by an already book-loving audience.
In the Kobo Writing Life session Harlequin UK executive editor, Joanne Grant, announced a new competition for romance authors! The lucky winner will receive a publishing contract with Mills & Boon for print and digital and will be promoted by both Kobo and W H Smith. If you’re interested, check out the Romance Writing Life competition here.
The last session of the day was The Principles of Successful Book Cover Design, and it was fascinating – probably because it’s one of the aspects of my books that I have the least input into. There was probably enough info to do a whole separate post, but I’ll leave you with the tip that Damian Horner, Brand Development Director at Hachette, gave us about doing a “blink test”. Book buyers these days will look at a cover for a mere couple of seconds before making a decision about it and moving on. Ask youself, “Can readers understand what my book is about from just a flash of the cover?” If they can’t, you might need to rethink.
All in all, an interesting day! I may even go back tomorrow for a second round.
Fiona Harper writes funny romantic fiction for Harlequin UK. Her next book, The Doris Day Vintage Film Club, is out next week!
I’m super-thrilled with the US cover on my April book, It Started at a Wedding – because this really encapsulates the setting for the first half of the book.
It’s Capri – a place I really enjoyed visiting with my family about five years ago, and the view on the book is very similar to a view we had from the top of Monte Solaro – see the rocks on the right-hand side? (I did indeed go on the chairlift – and I was as wussy as Claire is about it!)
I love stories about opposites attracting, which is why Sean and Claire clash so badly. She’s a flaky wedding dress designer (in his view), and he’s a buttoned-up businessman (in her view). And the book is basically how they learn to change their minds about each other
My UK cover is much more centred on the heroine (though she’s not a shopaholic – she spends her free time in the V&A in London, enjoying all the costume design displays).
I’ve also set part of the book in Camden in London – another place I enjoyed exploring with my family. I do think there’s possibly a barge story brewing, but my editor has a nerd radar and I’ve had strict instructions to behave.
In the meantime, this is the row of houses that inspired Claire’s flat/studio. I thought they were gorgeous.
And the vanilla ice cream definitely gets a walk on part 😉
(It tasted really good. But the novel way of producing it was right up my street! They use liquid nitrogen to freeze it.)
The toffee – well, that goes back a good few years to when I used to make it with my mum. So it was kind of a nod to some happy times (and, um – yup, Claire lost her mum at not far off the same age that I did, so I wanted to borrow some of the sweetness as well as the sadness, and the pun is most definitely intended!).
So which cover do you prefer – the US or the UK?
Kate’s latest releases are Bachelor at her Bidding (the cake book) and It Started At a Wedding… (which, if you love Italy, wedding dresses and toffee, will be right up your street). You can find out more about the books, and Kate, on her website (http://www.katehardy.com/) and her blog (http://katehardy.blogspot.com/) – or find her on Facebook
For the first time in over a year, I went ice skating last week. Getting back onto the ice in 2013 wasn’t much of a stretch. It took one 30 minute session and I had become one with the ice. It felt like it did when I skated on pond ice in Northern Wisconsin.
About 3 months after starting, I fell and hurt my shoulder. (I tell you, that toe pick gets me every single time.) The injury didn’t require surgery or physical therapy but a visit to urgent care followed.
I hesitated to get back on the ice until last week. An opportunity arose that I just couldn’t pass up: open skating for a select group of people at Joe Louis Arena. This is the arena where some of my favorite hockey players smacked that puck around and started some good old Hockeytown fights: Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Chris Chelios, to name a few.
I’d watched Detroit Red Wings games in the arena as a spectator but I’d never had the opportunity to put my blades on the same ice.
I was terrified, of course. I lacked the grace and confidence I’ve always had on the ice. I stuck very close to the walls and held on tightly at times. Some co-workers offered to lead me back onto the ice but I politely declined.
I wanted to squeeze my eyes shut and just push myself toward the center of the arena but I stuck to the sides. By the end of the evening, I’d let loose and almost made it to the center. I stopped more than once by the penalty box and snickered. To be honest, the fights were sometimes my favorite part of the game.
I’m certain writing takes more than just a leap of faith and I frequently wonder how others find the strength and courage to put hard work in the hands of others. Of course, with writing, you can’t squeeze your eyelids shut, type what’s needed, then move on. (Though I’m sure many have squeezed their eyes shut before hitting ‘send’ on the final document.) have It takes a significant leap of faith to send something out whether for editorial review or to be published.
What does it take for you to take a leap of faith? Do you need someone to be there with you to hold your hand? Or are you a rebel and just do what needs to be done without second thoughts?
A big thank you to the Chocolate Box Writers for inviting me to chat today. I’m very happy to be here! Eating chocolate is one of my favorite pastimes, so of course, that’s my topic for today. 😉
Since I thought it would be fun to start off with some chocolate facts and huge figures, I checked out a few world records. If you really want to sit salivating in front of your computer, make sure to swing by www.guinessworldrecords.com. Using the figures as shown at the site, let me go right to the heart of things and state the record for the largest chocolate bar. It weighed in at 5,792.50 kg (12,770 lb 4.48 oz) and measured 4.0 m (13 ft 1.48 in) by 4.0 m (13 ft 1.48 in) by 0.35 m (1 ft 1.78 in).
That’s probably enough chocolate to satisfy even me…for a while!
In keeping with the season, you might be happy to know the record shows the tallest chocolate Easter egg standing at 10.39 m (34 ft 1.05 in) and weighing 7,200 kg (15,873 lbs 4.48 oz). The largest rabbit made of chocolate weighed 3,850 kg (8,487 lbs 12 oz).
Which leads us to the Easter bunny…
Before I’d even started school, I had caught on to the fact that holidays and chocolate went hand-in-hand. At that age, I hadn’t heard of Valentine’s Day but knew we had plenty of other opportunities to indulge.
Halloween was okay, except those plastic pumpkins filled up with other kinds of candy that just didn’t have the same appeal.
Thanksgiving and Christmas weren’t bad, but the cakes and cookies and occasional individually wrapped piece of candy couldn’t satisfy the cravings. You all get those gotta-melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cravings, too, don’t you?
Then came Easter…and that holiday hit all the bases.
Every year, the Easter bunny would give me a solid milk-chocolate cross, packaged in its own gift-wrapped box and surrounded by tiny chocolate eggs wrapped in brightly colored foil. He would also leave a basket filled with comic books, pens and pencils, stickers, and small toys. And in the center of that basket was the best gift of all. Nestled into his bed of fluorescent-green grass sat a hollow chocolate rabbit.
Since those days, I’ve grown up and gone on to bigger and better (read: richer and creamier and yummier) chocolate. But as a kid, I couldn’t think of anything I liked more than that chocolate rabbit.
And that’s why I blame the Easter bunny for turning me into the chocoholic I am today. 😉
In almost all my books, you’ll find a mention of chocolate, and The Cowboy’s Little Surprise is no exception. Unfortunately, sharing the chocolate references from that book would lead to a couple of spoilers. Instead, here’s a peek at a clip from early in the story, when Cole has made a life-changing discovery.
Cole leaned in closer, probably to make sure she wouldn’t miss a single word. “You didn’t think I’d take one look at that kid and make the connection?”
“That kid is my son,” she snapped.
“Mine, too, judging by the looks of him. He’s about four, isn’t he?”
The accuracy of his guess made her flinch.
“I knew it.” Though he gave her a smug smile, his face had paled. “You might’ve always been the math whiz in school, Tina, but I can danged sure add—”
“Stop,” she whispered.
Her grandfather was approaching from the direction of his den.
Cole shot a look over his shoulder, then turned back to her. “We’re not finished,” he said harshly.
“You still here?” Jed asked. “Thought you’d be long gone by now.”
Cole pushed himself away from the desk. “On our way. Tina was just planning to walk us out to my truck so we could finish our conversation.”
“Fine,” Jed said, smiling.
“No,” she blurted. “I mean…I told Cole, I’ve got to go help Abuela in the kitchen.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Jed said. “She’s got everything covered. But I’ll head on back and tell her you’ll be there in a bit.”
She wanted to protest, but one look at Cole’s narrowed eyes and set jaw told her he wouldn’t leave the hotel without her—and if she refused to go, he would blurt out the truth right here.
Hope you enjoyed the clip.
And now, let’s chat! What’s your choice of chocolate or other sweet indulgence?
Barbara White Daille lives with her husband in the sunny U.S. Southwest. Though they love the warm winters and the lizards in their front yard, they haven’t gotten used to the scorpions in the bathroom.
Barbara’s thrilled to share news about the debut of a brand-new series, The Hitching Post Hotel, about a matchmaking grandpa determined to see his three granddaughters wed. The series kicks off in April 2015 with The Cowboy’s Little Surprise, followed by A Rancher of Her Own in July and a third as-yet-untitled book in December.
You can find out more about Barbara and her books at the following locations:
Find The Cowboy’s Little Surprise at your favorite booksellers, including:
The Cowboy’s Little Surprise – Barbara White Daille – April 2015
THE LONG WAY HOME
A guy like Cole Slater is hard to forget. Tina Sanchez should know—for years since high school she’s tried to bury the pain of Cole’s cruel betrayal. But it’s impossible to ignore the man she sees reflected in her young son’s eyes now that Cole is back in her life—and about to meet the child he never knew he had.
Returning home to New Mexico, Cole is determined to put his playboy reputation to rest. Especially now that he knows there’s a little boy looking up to him. And seeing Tina again reignites all the feelings Cole ran from as a teen. Despite his fear that he can’t be the man Tina deserves, he’s determined to try. For his son’s sake—and his own.