Monday, February 23, 2009

My Trip to Florida - The Last Installment

Time to wrap up my blog on my trip to Florida. Tomorrow I am blogging as part of the Romancing February group promotion, and Wednesday we have an interview with TWRP author Melissa Blue. Then it will be time for FWL again. How fast the weeks go.

I spent a full day with Dayana Knight before having to return to the frigid north. Her DH, Dayana and I started out with a leisurely breakfast at a real diner—I love diners and was thrilled to go to this one, which I had seen from across the street when we had our FRW cruise kick-off party at the Ale House. I had an awesome Mediterranean omelet (yes, I can still remember it weeks later, it was that good) and probably some home fries. Sorry, the omelet caught all my attention. I am definitely going to start using more feta cheese when I make eggs. The combination of flavors is…making me hungry again.

Then Dayana and I drove back up the coast for a boat ride on The Jungle Queen Riverboat, which took us through the intercoastal waterways of Ft. Lauderdale, where we saw rows upon rows of up to $30 million dollar mansions and $15 million dollar boats, some of them three stories high—like mini-cruise ships, they were—docked next to the houses. Houses and boats owned by federal judges and actors and the heads of mega-companies like Firestone, Waste Management, The Sunglass Hut and some Miami Dolphins. Houses used by film crews as locations for Al Pacino and Jim Carrey movies and others I can’t remember. Menopause, you know. It fogs the brain.

But now and then, in between these magnificent mansions, were these little flat-topped summer cottages from the 50s and 60s before big money decided to take over Florida, so you could get a glimpse of what was there before the mansions multiplied. I got the sense that before it became so developed, Ft. Lauderdale was just a place where the family went for vacation or to get away for the weekend and do a little boating to relax.

What was really surprising was the number of for sale and foreclosure signs on both the houses and the boats. The big ones. Not the little ones. The families who own the little ones, I am sure, are aware that they are sitting on potential gold mines when they finally decide to sell.

Still, I got the feeling the people who owned those humongous houses were so busy off making money to support them (the taxes alone on one house was $200,000) that they didn’t have time to enjoy them. The countless colorful iguanas sunning themselves on the docks and tree limbs had more life in them than I could see stirring in those houses.

The cruise took us to a little island where we could get something to eat and drink, stretch our legs and witness some alligator wrestling. We were directed to a pit where there were two alligators and a wrestler. The wrestler grabbed the alligator’s tail to shake it out of its somnolent state, and to show us how dangerous they could be when riled.

After a few vicious snaps, the wrestler approached the alligator from behind and in a very Zen, breath-holding for the audience way, climbed on its back and secured its legs with his own. Then he managed to reach around and slowly pull the alligator’s head up until its snout was pointing in the air and the man could tuck the snout beneath his chin and hold out his arms and keep the alligator immobile using his strength and chin.

At that point, the wrestler said there was no good reason for him to be doing what he was doing, and he lost me. I’m not into animal cruelty, even for alligators. Dayana and I wandered off to a nearby booth, where another man was selling Indian jewelry and dreamcatchers and sunscreen and photo ops for people wanting to hold a baby alligator.

That was where we learned that the reason they pull the alligator’s head up so high is to shut off the blood flow to the walnut-sized brain, and the real danger is when the blood flow returns and the alligator emerges from his man-induced fog in a reptilian fury.

He told us before the advent of casinos, alligator wrestling was the primary tourist attraction to generate income for the Seminole Indians. Now, the alligator wrestlers are hired by the state to go out and remove alligators when they wander too far from what little is left of their wild, and start scaring people. It’s either call in an alligator wrestler or shoot the damn thing. So they consider it a rescue mission of sorts. They’re saving the alligator from certain death.

He paused often in his story telling to listen to what was happening over at the pit. He said he needed to be on alert in case something went wrong and he had to jump in and wrestle the alligator. A couple of weeks ago, a wrestler lost part of his hand. Young kid, he said, thought he knew everything. He said part of the problem was they weren’t allowed to go all out in wrestling the alligators like they do in the wild. Then, it’s just man vs. beast and all bets are off, because both of them are fighting for their lives.

He said he does it for the adrenaline high, because there’s no money in it anymore, and no company will insure him—would you? He said he lives in downtown Ft. Lauderdale and has four alligators of his own, at least one raised from a baby. Kinda makes you wonder what the neighbors think about that :).

He also said the animal rights people are always coming to the island and giving them grief about the alligator wrestling, to which he says, “Did you arrive here by boat?” Because there are signs posted everywhere that this is a manatee zone, and, “I can’t tell you how many manatees I have seen with slash marks across their backs from propeller cuts.”

I, unfortunately, didn’t see a single manatee, but I can’t imagine how they survive with all those monster boats trolling up and down the canals.

Time to go back down the river, and see downtown Ft. Lauderdale and the prison and lots of fun-looking restaurants. But we were headed home, where Dayana’s DH had been slaving away making dinner and we had another fine meal of rice, steamed veggies, salad, and the best roast chicken I can remember tasting. Melt in your mouth tender, it was. A little classical music, some wine before the fire—I could have watched that fire all night—a leisurely walk around the block with Gypsy, and then we settled in to watch The Lake House, with Sandra Bullock.

Dayana’s DH couldn’t help but laugh at the way Dayana and I tore that movie apart, being writers, you know. We analyze everything.

We also made plans to do it again sometime, maybe take a long weekend and visit the Keys.

The next morning it was off to the airport, and back home to the frozen tundra. But as the plane flew over Florida, I couldn’t help but think, that with all the pink and coral and blue painted houses down there, the landscape looked like one of those beautiful beaded jackets, with soft pastel colors and sparkly baubles.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Guest Author, Charlotte Chalmers

Today's Guest Author is the effervescent Charlotte Chalmers, whose romantic comedy The Madness of Celia Summers is guaranteed to make you smile. Charlotte writes with a wit and poignancy that is impossible to resist, and once you pick up the book, you won't want to put it down. (Can you tell it's on my keeper shelf?)

My thanks go out to English teachers everywhere who praise their students' work and offer encouragement in a world where that seems at times to be an anomaly, but special thanks go out to those who encouraged Charlotte, because if they hadn't, we wouldn't have this gem of a book to enjoy. Welcome, Charlotte, and belated Happy Birthday!

Who are you?

Who am I? Good question. Well, at the moment I feel as if I have an identity crisis, as must many women, who are mothers/writers/workers and all round busy bees.

As women, I think we are nurturers by nature—I certainly am, with my son, who’s had some health problems recently, and my damaged rescue dogs to care for—and, I suppose sometimes, we tend to be cheerleaders for those people in our care. If you’re a mother, wife or significant other, perhaps a daughter to ageing parents, it’s easy to see that as your role and to neglect celebrating your own achievements. So, you’ve made me think, what have I achieved?

Well, I have an art degree, and I’m currently studying for a higher diploma in animal behaviour and psychology (vis-à-vis boarding sick or older animals in future). So, I suppose I’d class myself as a doer. I think most women are. Those who write certainly are—multi-tasking a must! If a room needs decorating, I do it. If a floor needs tiling, I do it. It took a while for me to realize I had some things I needed to do for me. For instance, I was terrified of spiders. Totally! We’re talking someone who backed so far away from one eight-legged fiend, she fell over the banister at the top of the stairs and landed in a heap on the hall floor. My son wasn’t impressed. So, I took a cognitive therapy course, and…OK, I don’t love spiders, but I can live with them now. I didn’t like heights, I threw myself out of a plane. Um, that jump was made with a parachute though. Son was, I have to say, impressed this time. I wanted to write, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. The submission bit…ugh! There were many times I thought my heart would break. But I kept at it. And I did it, and here I am, after almost twenty years. Motto of story: Be proud of your achievements, be they big or small.

What type of stories do you like to write and why?

I like to write humorously, therefore I tend to lean more towards romantic comedy, basically because I think there is too much sadness in life sometimes and we all need to smile. That said, I do strive to write about things I care about. About real people with the whole gamut of emotions—including men, they being human too :), real situations, good or bad, happy or sad, because often, when we stand back from what might have seemed like a tragedy, we see the comedy. How often do you see—if you stop to look, and I do—people perhaps remembering someone at a the saddest of family gatherings, start to smile at their shared memories. Then, before they know it, they’re laughing. Okay, it might be humour tinged with sadness; they might laugh until they cry, but no-one can deny that laughter is wonderful therapy when a wounded heart needs lifting.

And, what do I care about? Those pushed aside, abused or neglected or rejected by society, be they man or animal.

What type of stories do you like to read and why?

I think I can read anything that has good characterization. I have to believe in the characters--protagonists/antagonists, male/female—utterly. Identify with them and be able to absorb myself in them. Obviously, as I write romantic comedy, I do tend to read a lot of it, but if you look at someone like Marian Keyes--whose first novel Watermelon made me hoot, despite the diabolical predicament the heroine found herself in—she has the ability to do just that: bring you into the character. The novel mentioned was one of a series based around the lives of the sisters in one family, so a bit of family saga going on there. I love a good family saga, looking at the real dynamics of the family unit.

I can’t write it (maybe, one day!), but romantic suspense I can’t get enough of, especially where an author has the ability to splice in snippets of humour that make you smile at, and with, the character.

I also adore historical romance. I’m always in awe of author who can allow you to let go of your trials and tribulations and lose yourself in another era.

When do you write?

I’m self-employed, so I try to work straight through on “work” days, leaving late—with grand ideas of putting fingers to keyboard when I get home, once I’ve fed the dogs, and cooked and got changed, and … Ye-es. That doesn’t work too well! Being self-employed though, means I can steal time all to myself on non-work days--family crises, doggie illnesses, parcel deliveries for the neighbours, washing machine breakdown, and nervous breakdown permitting.

The thing that really annoys me is that—like many writers—ideas pop into my mind while I’m drifting off to sleep. Or worse, while I’m starkers in the bathroom, obviously, therefore, without the implements with which to write them down. Oooh, the frustration.

When do you read? Where?

Lately, I read late at night with my book perched on my Jack Russell. Sometimes, during the day, if I really want to read something. But then, I always feel guilty. Why is that, do
you think? Because I’m indulging myself, I suppose, when there are so many other scintillating things to be done, like cleaning the bathrooms. Oh, and don’t get me on the oven subject. I pretend I haven’t got one.

Where do you go to think?

I go to the park—or the woodland—with my dogs, though walking is a bit of problem with Snoops, who is blind and sometimes, sniffing something on the air, refuses to walk. So, I tuck him in his baby-sling…yes, I know, completely crackers—total bag lady…and carry on regardless, whatever the weather. It’s not so much my thinking time though, I find, as my freeing-my-mind time. I get mentally exhausted. Too much going on in there and not necessarily productive writing stuff. Family problems, work problems, as well as writing problems, can be a massive drain on your energies. So, I might not come back full of ideas and ready to write, but I do come back invigorated.

Why do you write?

In short, because I’ve tried not to, and I can’t! Seriously, I came from a large family. I was always the one at school with the hair parting that wasn’t straight, one sock up, one down, you know (cue violin music). Anyway, I tended to think I didn’t excel at anything much, and if I got noticed, it was usually to be told to pull my “sock” up. So, when My English teachers (one in particular, who gave me 10+ out of 10 for an essay—God bless Mr Tenby) started to sing my praises... Well, once I’d finished looking over my shoulder to see who they were talking about, I picked up my pen and started to realize I could write. Even better was the realization that I enjoyed it. And that, at the end of the day must be what it’s all about, because if you don’t enjoy it, there is absolutely no point. What use is something that becomes yet another chore?

Charlotte Chalmers is a mum, works on a self-employed basis in financial services and is an author, currently published with The Wild Rose Press Charlotte has been writing seriously for almost twenty years. She lives in the small town of Droitwich, in the UK--where she strives to stop her witty son typing – THE END – halfway through her manuscripts, and to keep up with the demands of her rescue dogs. Charlotte has a degree art, and is currently studying for a Higher Diploma in Animal Behaviour and Psychology with a view boarding sick animals in future.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cruise With Your Muse - The Final Hours

Okay, Cruise With Your Muse, day two and more…I left you hanging at The Dungeon. Well, not really, but I’ve been so busy working on Justice is a Lady (85 pages this weekend!!) that I haven’t gotten around to blogging. If I’m writing this, I’m not writing books, and if I’m writing books, I don’t have time to blog. Funny how that works.

A good thing I paused, though, because I forgot to mention Christina Dodd’s speech on The Sidewalk of Success, and how we all fall off of it now and then, but the important thing is to get back on it. And we can step back on it at any time. Success is relative. It can mean finishing a manuscript, querying an editor, getting an agent, that first sale, a multiple book sale, or hitting the NYT bestsellers list…you decide what success is to you and go for it.

Christina also told us about her first sale, Candle in the Window, which she was told would never sell because it has a blind heroine. Now, 16 years later, it’s still in print, and around her house they call it, “The book that won’t die.” Don't know about you, but I'd love to have a book that sells for sixteen years:) I read it way back when it came out, and it’s on my keeper shelf to this day. Precisely because the heroine was different.

So after that very inspirational talk, they had a drawing for a full ride to (oh, darn…I can’t remember now) someone’s very nice conference in the fall—plane fare, lodging and conference fee—about a $1000 prize, tickets were $10 each--donated by Heather Graham, which was won by M.A. Ellis, that dynamo of promotion I told you about earlier. I’m telling you, positive energy attracts positive things and I couldn’t have been more thrilled for her when she won. She was just glowing.

You can bet she will be selling her books left and right at that conference, too. M.A. actually lives about 45 minutes down the road from me and maybe we’ll get together for lunch or something to talk writing and marketing. It’s on my list of summer activities to consider. Maybe we’ll even have a beer. You know I’m all about multi-tasking. Why else would I attend a conference on a cruise ship?

Okay, so off I went to change for dinner and attend the FRW cocktail party in The Dungeon, a cavernous bar with low ceilings, and very low blue, almost black lighting. Lots of gothic-looking statues in alcoves. I spent the time sitting in a dark corner catching up with Maggie Toussaint and enjoying a very tasty rum punch. Then it was time to toddle off to for dinner, for our singing wait staff and another fabulous meal. I’d held back on dessert the night before, but this time I was going all out.

The first night I had pork medallions with mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes. I went for the mushrooms every chance I got on this trip, since nobody at home likes them. Tonight it was these little steak tenderloins with vegetables grilled to perfection, and this awesome pumpkin-apple soup. The group at the table ordered multiple appetizers and we shared. In addition to the soup offerings we had some kind of toasted ravioli and cool shrimp cocktail. We did the same for dessert—key lime cheesecake and strawberry shortcake were the ones I tasted. (Yes, I did gain three pounds on the trip, which took me two weeks to work off at the Y but it’s all gone now and only the memories remain :).

Afterward, I went back to my room and set my luggage outside the room in preparation for leaving the next day, then trekked through the casino and to the other end of the ship (one...more…time) to catch a stage show of hits from the 40s, 50s, 60’s etc., ending with this weird tribute to ABBA. The costumes were very white and space-cadet like. But I enjoyed it, and then headed back across the length of the rocking ship to sleep like a baby once again.

Breakfast was in the buffet lounge, and I sat with Rhonda Penders, Sandra Kay and Tina Gayle from TWRP as we loaded up our plates one last time before disembarking. We were already in port, and had all been assigned different departure times, based on cabin location. Finally I caught up with Rhonda outside of customs, where Mona Risk and her husband gave us a ride back to the motel, and we met up with Dayana Knight and went to---what else—a bookstore!

We noshed on some quiche and chocolate in the café before heading off to Dayana’s for the afternoon and using her computers to check our emails. Then we did some driving around sightseeing before we headed out to The Olive Garden for more good food. Afterward, we spotted a shiny new pink car and I took Rhonda's picture next to it so she could tell RJ, “Look what I bought!” on the TWRP company credit card :).

We then drove up the coast and took Rhonda to meet a friend she was staying with for a few days of well-deserved down time. Back at Dayana’s, nirvana awaited. Florida might have been balmy to me, coming from the sub-zero north, but Dayana thought it was cool out, so we turned down the lights, had some tea and visited while watching the fire.

I think it was the best moment of the trip for me. Comfortable clothes, a full belly, a cup of tea and good company in front of a cozy fire. My idea of what life is all about. As Dayana and I talked (we’d never met before), we decided we had to be twins separated at birth. We uncovered similarity after similarity…and we even had the same shower curtain and rug, both purchased around the same time, many years before. It was a hoot.

More next time on Millionaire’s Row and alligator wrestling….

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day -- Love Is


Love is all around us.
Sometimes it’s hard to recognize.
Sometimes it’s very clear.
But love is all around

Love is in a child’s smile.
Love is a deep sigh.
Love is a parent’s hand.
Love is sunlight on snow.

Love is all around us.
Sometimes it brings joy.
Sometimes it feels sad.
But Love is all around.

Love is trying to understand.
Love is crying with a friend.
Love is thinking about others.
Love is caring for ourselves.

Love is all around us.
Sometimes it challenges.
Sometimes it hurts.
But love is all around.

Love is sharing someone’s sorrow.
Love is disagreeing kindly.
Love is facing problems squarely.
Love is doing our share and more.

Love is all around us.
The most important thing in life.
Yet found in the tiniest gesture.
Love is all around.

Love is rejoicing in the small successes.
Love is trusting when we’re afraid.
Love is a quiet moment of peace.
Love is divine intimacy in our life.

Sr. Claire Hubert, OSB

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chocolate that Gives Love

I'm getting chocolates for Valentine's Day. Valentine Raspberry Hearts. Usually I get Godiva, but this year I'm trying something new. Chocolate that really does improve focus and well being. I've been a fan of chocolate for years, ever since puberty probably, but never knew why. I've never been big on sweets, but chocolate....there's just something different about it.

I can go for weeks without thinking about chocolate, and then, suddenly, it's all I can think about. I figure my body knows what it needs, even if I don't, so I always keep plenty of chocolate handy, for when the cravings come. I thought I might be craving magnesium. Turns out it's something in the cocoa. I didn't know until today that chocolate was considered the Food of the Gods. I mean, I've always considered it that...see my biscotti experience on the cruise (previous post) and what that did for my well-being. (And now that I think about it, my sudden craving for chocolate on the ship was right on time with my hormonal cycle, too.)

But I didn't know so many others considered chocolate so highly. So imagine my delight when I found this site about chocolate that gives love.

Intentional Chocolate is embedded with good intentions from Tibetan Buddhist Monks. It has been tested against non-enhanced chocolate, to show that it increases well-being. If you eat it yourself, you will feel better. If you give it to someone else, they will feel better. If you just buy it (not even eat it) you donate money to good causes and spread love in the world. They donate 50% of net profits and 10% of proceeds to non-profit organizations.

I lifted the following off the Intentional Chocolate Site for more information:

Chocolate and Intention Research

Positive intention is a thought, a prayer, or a blessing. Positive intention is also an offering to the world at large or to a friend in need and can come from the pure desire to help another. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that intention invokes measurable power and energy that can manifest across space and time. Researchers all around the world, such as those at Princeton, Harvard and the Max Planck Institute, are studying the power of intention.

The blessing of food with an intention has long been practiced within spiritual traditions and sacred ceremonies. These practices place certain energy into the food that is then offered back to benefit individuals and the community. At Intentional Chocolate™ we not only provide a product that can be gifted as a positive intention to another person, but we strive to lead intentional and purposeful lives. By paying attention to the effect we have on the whole through our decisions and actions we attempt to “do no harm and benefit others.” As we move throughout our day, we hold in our minds the desire to be in service to the “we.” We know that holding this desire is not easy. In our chaotic world filled with so many distractions and stress, people are yearning to return to simple values and meaningful relationships based on love and respect. The busier our lives become, the harder it can be to focus on positive intentions and to stick to them.

Holy Cocoa

Some have asked us, “Why chocolate?” For thousands of years humanity has intuitively appreciated chocolate’s power, turning to it for sustenance, to express emotions and to draw others near. Known by the ancient Aztec as a gift from Quetzalcoatl the god of air, light, and life, the cacao tree has long been revered for its mystical and healing energies. The botanical name for chocolate – the obramba cacao – literally means “food of the Gods”.

Not surprisingly, modern research is now confirming cacao’s many healing effects – its role in increasing antioxidants, decreasing the likelihood of cancer and heart disease, enhancing the immune system, lowering blood pressure and its ability to boost moods! It seemed a natural match to infuse the good intentions of optimal health and well-being into a food that already has positive energetic and even mystical properties.

With our secret ingredient (intention), Intentional Chocolate™ allows you to deliver the actual clear and simple intention of “Thank you,” “I love you” or “Be Well” through something that everyone enjoys. When you purchase Intentional Chocolate™ to send to a friend or loved one, not only do you get the intention for well-being embedded by experienced meditators, but you also can send your own intention. You may be surprised at the powerful impact this gift can have on those to whom it is given.

Intentional Chocolate™ and its research partner, the HESA Institute ( are leaders in the revolutionary new field of intentional nutrition proving that intention embedded into food can positively affect those who consume it. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that was published in the scientific peer-reviewed journal, Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing (October 2007), it was found that one ounce of Intentional Chocolate™ per day for three days increased subjects’ well-being, vigor and energy by an average of 67 percent and, in some cases, up to 1,000 percent, when compared to a control group.

The study showed [that benefits included]

Decreased stress
Increased energy
Less fatigue
Greater calmness
Enhanced focus
Improved general well-being

So here's your chance to make everyone your Valentine.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cruise With Your Muse - Day 2

Okay, Day 2 of the cruise. My roommate was up, and offered to go get coffee while I showered. I came out of the shower to find a wonderful plate of fresh fruit and these lovely little red raspberry-filled danishes (for what red raspberries mean to me, see my interview at Alisha Paige’s blogspot) and two mugs of coffee….but no roommate.

As I dressed, I wistfully eyed the fruit and mini-danishes and wondered if they were intended for me or not. I decided to wait until my roomie returned to ask…but she didn’t return. Eventually I decided they had to be for me, and bit into the fresh pineapple, always a favorite.

Guilt immediately consumed me. What if they were for her and she had been delayed and I had just helped myself to her food? Dilemmas, dilemmas.

My problem-solving skills kicked in. She had gone in desperate search of coffee and there were two mugs on the desk. Where ever my roommate had disappeared to, she was not without coffee. Of that I was positive. So I ate the fruit and cute little pastries and went to my first workshop of the day, Jumpstarting your Plot with Leanne Banks, where she led us through an interactive exercise about 20 ways to get unstuck on our WIPs. Next was a fun session with Cherry Adair on Layering and Texturing Your Novel.

I finally found my roomie (and more mini-danishes in the workshop rooms!) and learned that the fruit and coffee had originally be intended for both of us (so I was half right!), but while she was collecting it, she was invited to join some friends for breakfast, so she just brought the food back for me, God bless her. I was glad then I had not let it go to waste. And doubly glad she had saved me the trouble of having to go and get my own breakfast, so I could get to the workshops on time.

After the two workshops, I decided to take a break, thinking would be a shame to have come all the way out here and not visited the island. So I walked to the other end of the ship again and found my way onto a ferry. I was a bit nervous when they handed each of us a big fluffy towel as we got on board, but later realized that was in case we wanted to go swimming while on the island.

Coco Cay was not what I expected. Mostly man-made, it had brightly colored booths for Bahama souvenir shopping (cash only) and a few others for rentals and first aid. Snorkeling was available, as was parasailing. Otherwise you could swim, or sun yourself on the rows and rows of lounge chairs provided, or go shopping. Maybe take a nature walk.

I didn’t stay long, because I wanted to make sure I made it back to the ship in time to attend the Floridian Idol, where Heather Graham and a gentleman I didn’t know took turns reading one-page openings from immensely courageous writers while the editors and agents commented as to what they liked—or disliked--about each entry.

So I headed back to the ship and for the 24-hour buffet, only to discover they were closing up shop. All the food they usually serve was being sent to the island. But there was still enough food left to make a tasty brunch, and I found a seat overlooking a vast amount of water and sunshine in one direction and the island in another.

After that, I ran into the editor from Harlequin I had sat near the night before at dinner, who was also looking for some lunch. I told him none was available and we wandered back down to the glitzy promenade in search of food and people to chat with. We found both, in a little deli-type place, where as we started to sit down, we were invited to join three USA Today Bestselling authors, an agent and an editor at the next table. I obviously didn’t have anything to add to that conversation, but was perfectly happy to sit there and soak in what industry news I could.

When that broke up, I headed for the Cosmopolitan Lounge, which is on the top floor of the ship (#14) and resembles one of those all-window restaurants you see perched on the tops of buildings in big cities, only this one had a panoramic view of the ocean and islands. I found a comfortable armchair with an awesome view, and a few minutes later, was joined by the Harlequin editor again, and Rhonda from TWRP and Tina Gayle, also from TWRP. We ordered drinks.

Side story here: I am not a beer drinker, but once a year, usually in the summer, I’ll drink a Corona (or two) with lime in it as part of my “summer experience.” (Just like I eat one or two hot dogs every summer—that’s right, go ahead and make fun—but that’s the way I do it. I pretty much turn everything into a special occasion.)

My beer tradition started when I went to a friend’s house for a 4th of July party. They were serving Coronas with limes--and there you go. I was hooked. The next year I went back for two more. The following year I had one on vacation during a whitewater rafting trip—a story in itself. Last year I never got around to having my summer beer--so here I was, catching up on my Coronas while contemplating the islands and what it must be like to live/work there, while listening to editors and agents dissect the entries of several souls far more brave than I.

The highlight of the event was when one entry was read, and an agent said, “I like this, and I’d be happy to take a look at that manuscript.” Turned out it was from my roommate, who is already represented by that agent, she just hadn’t submitted it to her yet. Everyone got a good laugh out of that one.

After that, I was hungry again. On my way across the promenade (which was the most interesting path to cut across while going from one end of the ship to the other) and back to the workshops to see what was going on there, I had a craving for chocolate. I popped into that deli-type place I had been in earlier, and was thrilled to find they had chocolate biscotti.

This, I determined, was how life should be. You decide you want some chocolate, you wander into a shop and ask for it, it’s handed to you with a smile and free of charge, you smile back and say thank you--and keep walking, munching your chocolate as you stroll.

Nothing was going on at the workshops, so I went exploring again. I ended up discovering a casino, an arcade, an ice rink (!!) a children’s creativity center, a nine-hole miniature golf course, an inline skating loop, a basketball court and a fake rock-climbing set up. I played a couple rounds of miniature golf and watched the sun sink into the ocean. When it got too cool I went inside, and, overlooking the pool and several pool bars, watched a promoter-type person draw volunteers from the audience for what I thought was a karaoke contest, but which turned out to be a belly flop contest.

Oh, dear. You’d have to have more than two Coronas in you to do that one, I am sure.

I went back to my cabin and changed for the FRW cocktail party in The Dungeon, one of the many themed bars on the ship.

More on this, later.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cruise With Your Muse - Day One of the Cruise

So let’s see, day 2 of the big trip to Florida…We got up and headed off to our complimentary breakfast with a bunch of fellow WRP authors, then were told to meet in the motel lobby around 10:40 for transport to the cruise ship. We didn’t leave until around noon, and the atmosphere was one of confusion all around. When moving large herds of people who have no idea what’s going on, that’s only to be expected, I suppose. But we made it to the ship, after being told to pack our clothes for dinner in our carry-ons, in case our luggage didn’t make it to our room in time for dinner. First thing that happened on the ship was they snapped your picture for posterity and gave you an ID card that told you when and where you’d be eating dinner, and for you to use as cash on the trip—linked to your credit card, of course. Then we headed for the buffet, where every food imaginable was available for the asking, and it was all included in the price of the cruise.

The ship was huge….I think it holds something like 3000 people. It took me forever to find my room, which was of course at the opposite end of the boat from the workshops, so by the end of the day, my legs were numb from the knees down from all that walking. But I walked and explored (found the buffet and conference classrooms and library and casino and a few hallways I probably wasn’t meant to wander down, but were fascinating nonetheless) and ate and attended two workshops—Rhonda Pollero really knocked herself out putting together a workshop and handout worth its weight in gold on Crime and Punishment: Everything you Need to Know to Kill Someone—(I think she was selling the spiral bound handouts later for $10.00 to those who had not attended her session)--and sat in on an editor/agent panel before it was time to participate in the book signing on the promenade with all kinds of authors from every area of romance. A great chance to get in some more people watching, which every writer loves.

I was between Linda Carroll-Bradd, whom I had met the night before at the Ale House, and M.E. Ellis, a powerhouse of promotion. Watching her draw people in and sell her books was a lesson in public relations I will never forget. She knows whereof she speaks, as she and her publicist, Becky Scoggins, had just given an awesome workshop on publicity and promotions chock full of internet ideas for the terminally shy like myself.

By this time the ship had set sail, and I wasn’t sure if the swaying under my feet was because I was hungry or about to get seasick—thank God I never did. How odd to be standing on what looks and feels like a high-end small town main street with shops and pubs and eateries, and have people walking by laughing and smiling with drinks in hand (kind of like Bourbon Street in New Orleans) and the earth is moving beneath you. I wish I’d had a drink to blame it on, but instead was left to wonder if the effect was doubly wobbly or simply unnoticed by those already happily imbibing.

After the book sale/signing, we headed off to dress for dinner, an absolutely chaotic affair in a huge, elegant dining room with 200 servers and a grand staircase on which our waitstaff and more than 100 cooks gathered at one point in the evening to sing us an Italian song, since (I con only assume) the head chef was from Italy. That was a bit bizarre, but all in all a good time. The food was incredible, and the company relaxing, but since it was nearly nine o’clock before we were eating our main meal, the only thing left for this tired puppy was to go back to my cabin and sleep afterward.

And I did. Slept like a baby, straight through the night. Never even heard my roommate come in and get settled for the night. When we awoke the next morning, we were already anchored outside Coco Cay.

More on that, next time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Guest Author, Cindy Greene

Today's guest is Cindy K. Green, author of nine books, and seven titles with The Wild Rose Press. Today she is celebrating the release of her Inspirational historical short story, Dilemma of the Heart. With degrees in education and history, you know she knows what she's talking about! So without further ado, here's Cindy!

Who are you?

That is a question I’m still trying to answer. ;) Here are some stats: I’m married with two boys ages 11 and 4. I taught middle school before deciding to stay home and teach my own kids after the second was born. I have degrees in both education and history. To fill the void, I started to write and had my first publishing contract in July of 2006. I have 9 books released at the moment. Four of which just went out of print this December 31st as that publisher went out of business. I have three new books coming this year. I write in several genres: Inspirational, Historical, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Suspense. I have some YA ms I hope to finish one day as well. My publishers are The Wild Rose Press and Champagne Books. (By Grace Publishing and Moonlit Romance just closed their doors) In my free time (ha!), I love reading, photography, scrapbooking, Period Dramas, and spending time with family.

What type of stories do you like to write and why?
I love to write stories with humor that reach to the heart. I dearly love to laugh and I hope my stories bring smiles to readers and yet convey the emotions of my characters. Genre-wise, I love historicals and romantic suspense. My background is in history and research—so I just love that. And there really is nothing as fun as choreographing a fight scene or getting into the head of a villain in a romantic suspense.

What type of stories do you like to read and why?

My reading choices are very similar to my writing favorites. Historicals, Romantic Suspense, Fantasy, Inspirational, Classics and even Non-fiction history. These are the genres I’ve been reading since I was a kid and I probably always will.

When do you read? Where?

I read whenever I can grab a chance. Most often, it is before bed. I read my ebooks on my e-reader after my husband is asleep. Thank goodness for the backlight on the device. On the weekends, I sometimes catch some reading time as I lie on my bed. It doesn’t usually last long. ;)
Where did you get the inspiration for Dilemma of the Heart?

My current release, Dilemma of the Heart, is a historical. I have a degree in history and yet I did not have a historical book or story published at the time. I decided then and there I had to write one and this story of a young woman who had lost her sweetheart during the Civil War came to mind. My inspiration probably also came from my love of watching Period Drama films.

How did you come up with your title and main characters’ names?

The title really describes this story. The heroine has a dilemma of the heart. Can she forget the man who holds her heart and marry the one offering her a future? I purposely named my hero Frederick after Captain Frederick Wentworth in Jane Austen’s Persuasion which just happens to be my favorite book.

How long did you write seriously before your first book was published?

I didn’t start to write seriously until about 6-8 months before I received my first contract. That first book though was not the one published. It is still without a contract, a young adult historical. My first published book was a Christmas novella back in December of 2006. I wrote it in six days.

Why do you write?

Writing is something I have always done. As a teenager, I wrote lots and lots of stories. In college, my fiction writing was put to the side for non-fiction. When I became a stay at home mom a couple years ago, I found I really needed something else to occupy my mind. I returned to writing fiction and I love it! I can’t imagine working on one of my stories in some capacity each and every day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Flying to Florida - Cruise With Your Muse

Last week this time I was just getting back from my trip to Florida. So many impressions to blog about, so little time. If I’m doing this, I’m not working on my WIP, but if I don’t do this, the moment will get away from me. A few TWRP authors have already blogged about the cruise and weekend, Dayana Knight, my wonderful hostess after the cruise, Sandra Kay, whom I met in the shuttle from the airport to the hotel, and Mona Risk, who was kind enough to give Rhonda and I a ride from the cruise ship back to the hotel so Dayana could pick us up for our adventures afterward. So I won’t repeat what they said here.

My trip started when my friend Wendy picked me up to take me to the airport. We stopped at McDonald’s along the way for what I like to call “road trip” food, and a couple of Egg McMuffins later, we were on our way. My first flight was in what I’ve heard called a “puddle jumper,” a small commuter plane to Detroit with teeny tiny seats you can barely fit into. I sat in the back row and looked and chatted with the flight attendant, who had been 7 minutes late to work because of needing to clean her car off of snow and ice, and got more beautiful each time she passed by, as she was putting on her make up between seeing to passengers and passing out cups of water. Me, I’d had a choice between putting on make up or vaccuming the living room before I left, so I chose to vacuum. Call me weird, but I like to come home to a neat and orderly house after a long trip, not chaos :).

As I looked out the window, I saw miles and miles of perfectly delineated squares in the countryside. Nothing but white and these almost regimented squares created by the cleared off roads separating them. I looked down at all those neat, orderly squares and rectangles, and smiled and thought, “How God must laugh at us,” trying to create order and establish ownership over something that isn’t really ours anyway—we just like to think it is. I got the feeling of “This is yours and that’s mine, and you’d better not cross the line without good reason unless I invite you to.”

I saw a city in the distance, and, being geographically challenged, thought it might be Cleveland. Turns out it was Windsor, Ontario. We were flying over Canada.

We landed in Detroit, and I spent two hours exploring the airport. They have this awesome tunnel there between terminals where they play music and the colors of the walls change according to the colors of the rainbow, or the chakras, if you're into New Age things. Some of it was light and uplifting, other parts were downright creepy, with the walls all dark and red, and ominous music playing. Passenger reactions were mixed. Some were enjoying the light/music show, others were trying to escape it, moving as fast as they could. Inside the main terminal they had an unmanned subway-type train that went from one end of the terminal to the other. Since I had time and wanted the exercise, I walked to my gate, but after I found it, I went exploring, and took a ride on the train. In less than two minutes, you could get from one stop to the other. Good to know if you were in a hurry to catch your flight.

Something prompted me to buy something to eat, which turned out to be a good idea, since, much to my surprise, no meal was served on the flight from Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale. But you could buy a snack pack for $5 if you wanted to. I opened my chicken Ceasar salad and tried not to feel guilty for eating while my seatmates didn’t.

Got to see Cape Canaveral on the way down the Florida coast, and the Everglades (what is left of them) and Lake Okeechobee. How the landscape has changed in the 33 years since I took my senior class trip down to Tampa. And not for the good of the ecosystem, but that’s not what this blog is about. It’s just something I observed many times over on the trip.

Landed in Florida, and got my luggage back (thank God) and decided I was the only person in the airport still carrying a suitcase. Note to self: before your next trip, get one of those suitcases with a handle and rollers. Never have I been so glad that I work out at the Y as when I was lugging my 35 pound suitcase from point to point, dodging porters, as I had no idea where I was headed, and didn’t want to tie one up while I searched for my hotel shuttle.

Found the shuttle and met Sandra and got to the hotel, where my roommate Rhonda was already checked in. More lugging of the suitcase to our room on the other side of the outdoor pool and bar where people were already celebrating Happy Hour. It’s always five o’clock somewhere, right?

In the room, I discovered the air conditioning was not working and Rhonda had already called the maintenance people to come and fix it once. Not good enough, I said, thinking of a night of hot flashes in a motel room with no A/C. Rhonda called down to the desk, and we changed rooms. Yet more lugging of suitcases up and down the outside corridors.

We visited a while, then went downstairs to meet the others for dinner at a party put on by The Florida Romance Writers, where I got to meet fellow Roses Linda Carroll-Bradd and her husband and Dayana, and Maggie Toussaint, and Tina Gayle and Patrice Wilton and too many FRW authors to name. Rhonda is a circulator, and I’m the kind of person who finds a corner and stays in it, so she went off to do her thing and I enjoyed talking with the people closest to me.

Dinner was awesome, but our little group didn’t stay long, as all of us get up early, had had long days and were tired. Back to the motel for phone calls with family, a little more chatting with Rhonda, and a very good night’s sleep, thanks to the extra comfortable beds and working air conditioning :).

More next time when I get to it, as I’m running out of time this morning…but for an advance peek, check out the blogs Dayana, Sandra and Mona wrote. Sadly, a few days after our wonderful weekend together, Dayana lost her beautiful Sheltie Gypsy Lee to cancer, just another reminder of how fragile life can be. She seemed to be doing so well while I was there, we even went for a lovely evening walk, and they were so hopeful about remission.

So be sure to hug your loved ones today, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Romancing February Blog Contest

28 romance authors invite you to participate in a month-long event of love and laughter. Each day starting Feb. 1, 2009 (today!!) an author will throw a romance party at her blog and host a contest with a prize. The link to the next day's blog location will also be provided at each location. Just drop by and enter the contest. And get ready to heat up the cold, wintry days of February. You could win a prize a day! On February 28th, one person will be awarded the grand prize of a $75 Wild Rose Press gift certificate. All you have to do to enter the grand prize contest is make a list of each author in this blog event and name one book/short story title she has available. Submit your list to by midnight CST, February 27, 2009. The winner will be announced on February 28th--just in time to warm up that person's February. Visit on February 1st (today!!) to begin.