As a special treat today, I asked some of the Quills about their most memorable Valentine’s Days. Here’s what they said:
Shana: When I was in high school, there was one Valentine’s Day that I didn’t have a boyfriend, and I felt so sorry for myself. I moped all day, didn’t get out of my pajamas, and didn’t put any make-up on or fix my hair. This was in the days of lots of make-up and big hair. My mom kept telling me to get dressed, but I was having a pity party. What I didn’t know was that a guy I’d dated a few times had called her and asked if it was okay if he stopped over and surprised me with flowers. He showed up, and I was so embarrassed. It was actually very sweet of him to bring me flowers but being all of sixteen I was too worried about how I looked to be as excited as I should have been.
Nancy: I don’t know that I can single out one most romantic Valentine’s Day in particular. That’s because The Chef is a master at making all Valentine’s Days special and romantic. He never forgets and always brings me a dozen red roses, champagne and the perfect card. Usually, he gives me chocolates, depending on how loudly I’ve proclaimed I’m on a diet. Still, calorie counting or not, there’s always a fabulous meal: lobster or filet with cognac peppercorn sauce. Or Lobster AND filet with cognac peppercorn sauce…. One of the best touches is that he also gives our daughter flowers-a bouquet of pink carnations. There’s something extra romantic in him not only being a great husband, but also being such a wonderful father.
Kristan: My first Valentine’s Day out of college, I was alone in a new city, worked for poverty wages and didn’t have too many friends. Boo hoo! Valentine’s Day with a guy? As probable as running into a Saudi prince at the pizza place on the corner. Imagine my surprise when a beautiful bouquet of flowers was delivered to work! “From your secret admirer,” the card said. I called my dad and thanked him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, but I could tell he was smiling. He died that same year. I think of him every day, but I always smile on Valentine’s Day, remembering how dear old Dad made sure I got flowers from someone who loved me a whole heck of a lot.
Kathy: One of my favorite Valentine’s days was when my kids were about 8 and 13 and they got totally into the holiday picking out stuffed animals and chocolates for each other and my husband and I. They even made Valentine’s for us from our dog. It was such a fun time for us all.
Mia: This Valentine date was the first time I’d gone out with this red-headed guy I knew from church and it promised to be a lovely one. He took me to a dance at the Surf Ballroom, a place that epitomized romance in my little corner of the upper midwest. And I did enjoy the evening of dancing, but then he ran out of gas (Does anybody ever really do that?) on the way home (which was about 20 miles away). He had to hike back into town for a can of gas while I froze my tootsies in the cold car (February in Northern Iowa is no joke!) To make matters worse, we were cutting things close on my curfew. I’m a railroader’s daughter. At my house, not being on time was regarded as only slightly less heinous than becoming pregnant out of wedlock! I knew I was going to catch it when I got home.
However, my date was not in a hurry to let me out of the car once we got in my driveway. I managed to pull out of his grasp, but he tailed me to the pool of yellow light at my back door and forced a kiss on me. It was our first date and I really didn’t want to kiss him. I wanted to get inside so I could explain to my folks that it was not my fault I was seriously late. I finally told the guy I didn’t think things were going to work out between us and made a break for it. Then he stalked me for the next six months and made creepy phone calls. So the moral of the story is…beware of red headed men!
Cindy: Worst Valentine’s Day? Most memorable Valentine’s Day? I racked my brains but couldn’t come up with anything. My husband and I have been together since high school. We’re the kind of couple who goes out the weekend before the big day, so we don’t have to fight the crowds. We buy the boxes of heart-shaped Valentine’s Day candy after the big day (when it hits 75% off )because it’s a better deal. I’d call us practical. You might call us boring. But we’ve been together a
long time and hey, it works for us!
Robyn: Valentine’s Day is one of those I’ve had a love/hate relationship with. As a little girl, I loved it because my Daddy would give me sweet cards and my own (small) heart-shaped box of chocolates. I loved that. But with a series of disappointments through high school and college, I pretty much ignored the holiday for a few years. Then I met The Professor. Our first Valentine’s Day together was actually a month before we got married. I was trying to eat healthily so that I could fit into my wedding dress so he went to a gourmet chocolate shop here and bought me sugar-free candies. I thought that was so sweet and thoughtful. Every year he brings me a sweet card (that I know he spend so much time trying to find the perfect one) and roses. I know that might seem too traditional and not creative, but I love it!
Margo: The absolute best Valentine’s Day gift was from my mom. Our kids were about 2, 4 and 6, and Mom called and said she would take the kids overnight if we wanted to make reservations somewhere. Omg, it was hard to know what to do! Stay home and enjoy the peace and quiet? Go to a Red Wings hockey game, drink some beer and go home? (not) When it came down to it, we went to a play, had a late, romantic dinner, and then stayed the night at the Ritz Hotel. In those days when it was non-stop kid stuff, that night out was absolutely heaven!
Do you have a Valentine’s Day memory that stands out? Tell us, and we’ll pick three random participants who will each receive a copy of one of our books. Come on – what was your most memorable (good or bad) Valentine’s Day?
It’s the beginning of a new year and time for all those Best Of lists. My Jaunty Quills want to let you know some of their bests from 2012. These recommendations are not to be missed. Add pine nuts to each, and they’re even better!
Terri Brisbin has a suggestion for Best TV show of 2012—IMHO “Once Upon A Time” is the best TV show of 2012. It draws on familiar mythology and fairy tales, tweaks and twists them, makes characters come alive and shows the power of true love, too. How could a romance author not love a series that does all that?!
Robyn DeHart says, Okay I’m probably jumping on the proverbial bandwagon here, but the best new website of 2012 was Pinterest! I love being able to have a visual collection of recipes and ideas for my house and my biggest obsession, organization ideas! Long before this lovely website came along I used to cut things out of magazines and put them in photo albums, having a way to store ideas of cool things to do. This makes it so much easier and everything is in one tidy location and I can sort to my heart’s content.
Personally, I like to pin pictures of pine nuts.
For Best Book of 2012, Shana Galen recommends THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass–romance, mystery, intrigue, royalty…what more could you want?
Best chocolate of 2012. Okay, I say this as a professional chocolate taster (or as close as one can get to being a professional chocolate taster). I love Lindt, Ghiradelli, Godiva. I love me some of the Whitman’s Sampler, and I love Hershey. White chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, malted chocolate balls, chocolate Santas…I think I probably eat chocolate every day, and I have no intention of stopping. But the best chocolate I tasted this year was in Seattle at Fran’s Chocolates. A salted milk chocolate caramel that tasted like angel tears and unicorn kisses. Try them. I command you. And happy new year! –Kristan Higgins
In 2012 Cindy Kirk discovered J D Robb’s In Death series and was hooked! If you like a suspenseful tale mixed with a health dose of romance, Cindy recommends you check out this series.
Margo Maguire: My most amazing experience this year was surviving a nasty case of appendicitis, in spite of myself. On December 1st, I overcame my denial (yes, denial that I had a serious problem that wasn’t going to just go away) and went into the ER. Within a couple of hours, I’d had an appendectomy, managed to get past a crash in blood pressure, and a post-operative spike in temperature. I went home the following day and walked a quarter mile – and kept at it until I was up to my usual 2 miles a day. Thank heavens for modern medicine! And Hooray for the timing. I didn’t have to do any Christmas shopping this year!
Emily McKay has a recommendation for Best new recipe of 2012—
This is a great pot pie recipe if you:
a) love pot pies (and I do!)
b) are trying to eat more veggies (and I am!)
c) are trying to eat less meat (and, again, I am!)
d) just love ridiculously yummy food (duh, who doesn’t?)
I really can’t stress how yummy this was. The ingredients seem very humble, but somehow the result is amazing. You might be tempted not to make the crust yourself, but I urge you to try. I didn’t roll mine out, so mine looked nothing like hers. I just patted them into big fat circles and plopped them on top of the bowls. They weren’t pretty, but they weren’t around long enough for it to matter.
One question, Emily. No pine nuts?
Best 2012 Smartphone App: Christmas night, Nancy Robards Thompson and her family went to see the Les Miserables movie. While they were waiting in line to get into the theater, they struck up a conversation with the family in front of them. This is where they learned about a phone app called “Runpee.” It tells you the best times to run and er… do your business so you don’t miss anything important during the movie. Among other features, it even has a timer that makes your phone vibrate to give you the heads-up on when you can “go.” It’s available for all smartphones.
Readers, your turn. What’s on your best of list?
I think we can all agree that it’s essential in a romance novel to get a good feel for the hero and heroine. Think for a second how we as readers usually get to know these characters.
We learn what a character is like based on:
* How they act in in different situations.
* What they say (and how they say it)
* What they don’t say and why
* Through a card game
What? Through a card game? How can that be?
In the book I’m currently writing that will be out in May 2013, I invented a card game. It’s called Heart to Heart (who said I couldn’t be creative?). Supposedly the heroine had received this game/deck of cards from her friend several years earlier.
The game consists of a deck of cards with questions on them. Each card also has one or two hearts on it. The deck is shuffled and each player takes turn drawing a card. They have to answer the question on the card they’ve drawn. If there is one heart on the card, only the one who’s drawn the card answers. If there are two hearts on the card, everyone playing answers that question. Pretty clever, huh?
I thought it might be fun to give you one of the questions the hero had to answer. I had him get this question specifically because he’s having issues with his father, who is the person he’s most like.
The question he got was: Who do you think you are most like in your family?
Let’s pretend there are two hearts on this card and we all have to answer this question. Everyone who comments will be entered into a drawing to win one of my books (their choice–as long as I have one in stock). I’ll draw the winner Sunday night…so check back then.
I’ll go first. Here’s my answer. “I’m not sure. My mother and I shared many similiar characteristics so I’d have to say her. My brother and I were nothing alike. My father was more quiet…and I’m not that quiet….so final answer: my mother.
See how easy this is? Your turn…
I saw this game on Facebook and thought it would be fun to play here since we love authors and books. The Rules: list fifteen authors (poets included) who’ve influenced you and made an impression. Don’t take too long to think about it. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.
Here’s my COOL FIFTEEN list:
VICTOR HUGO – For LES MISÉRABLES alone Hugo will always be on my best-loved list.
EMILE ZOLA – Nineteenth century France is one of my passions. So many things about that period speak to me – the Impressionist painters, post-Haussmann Paris, the literature… One of my favorite writers is Emile Zola. Like Hugo, Zola provides a vivid window into this world.
JANE AUSTEN – What’s not to love about the original romance writer and her body of work?
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD – Nick Carraway had me at chapter one. When I reached the end of GATSBY, I was hungry for more Fitzgerald.
ALICE HOFFMAN – She’s brilliant with magical realism.
SYLVIA PLATH – The way she weaves words and turns phrases brings me to my knees. In my book, she’s a literary goddess.
JK ROWLING – Harry, Ron and Hermione are like personal friends.
DOROTHEA BENTON FRANK – She speaks to the southern girl in me. I want to be her when I grow up.
TRACY CHEVALIER – The beauty of her smart books takes my breath away.
NORA ROBERTS – Nora is the one who made me want to write romance. Her well-crafted storied still sweep me away.
As an author, one of the perks of the job is meeting other writers and getting to know them beyond the pages of their books. It’s only natural that some of my favorite authors have become my friends. I dedicate this portion of “15 Cool Authors” to them:
KATHERINE GARBERA – Kathy was the very first published author I met…way back when. We became acquainted through our local RWA chapter. Since then, she’s became one of my very best friends. I’ll never forget the day I met Kathy. It was my first RWA chapter meeting. I was nervous and unsure of why I was even there. It just happened that on that same day, Kathy walked in with the cover of her very first book (THE BACHELOR NEXTDOOR wasn’t even out yet and she’d just received the cover flat). I was awe struck. Standing right in front of me was a living, breathing author, who was so talented, yet so personable and approachable. She made me feel as if I’d always been part of the chapter. Her smart, sassy prose hooked me from the get go and her sweet personality has made her friend for life.
CINDY KIRK – Cindy and I met at my first RWA conference. Synchronicity had a hand in our friendship when by chance we found ourselves at the same luncheon table two days in a row (amid 2,000 women and no assigned seats). We were both unpublished, but dogged determined to change that. We became fast friends and corresponded over the years – mind you, this was pre-email, back in the prehistoric days of the telephone and letter. Now, Cindy is not only a good friend, she’s my plotting and brainstorming partner. Her books are fun and heartfelt and I always look forward to reading her next release.
CATHERINE KEAN – Catherine writes rich, beautiful historical romances. I’ve always described Catherine’s books as “jewel boxes” full of exquisite treasures. Her beautiful touch has influenced my work, too, since she’s been my critique partner for fourteen years.
KATHLEEN O’BRIEN – Kathleen is the wise woman in my life. She has such a poetic soul that radiates from the pages of her books. She was an established author when I met her. Now, I am so very fortunate to call her a friend and brainstorming partner.
KRISTAN HIGGINS – Kristan is fabulously funny and talented, and she has one of the most generous spirits of any writer I’ve met. Her Rita-winning novel “Catch of the Day” was the one that hooked me. Now, I count the days until next Kristan Higgins release.
So, there you have it…my Cool 15. I’m dying to hear who’s on your list. Since I’m celebrating being part of a group of six more very cool authors who have each crafted books in the latest FORTUNES OF TEXAS series (I’m book five out of the six-book series – book one launched this month. My title FORTUNE’S UNEXPECTED GROOM will be released in May 2012), I will give away the first two titles in the FORTUNES OF TEXAS series: Karen Templeton’s FORTUNE’S CINDERELLA and Marie Ferrarella’s FORTUNE’S VALENTINE BRIDE to one lucky person who posts their own 15 Cool Authors list.
When you start writing there are always things that you wish you could do better. Sometimes it’s dialogue or plotting. For me it was making my characters come alive on the page. I struggled with this through four books that didn’t sell. Then I wrote an inspirational romance. For those not familiar with that term, it means the romance had a faith element central to the plot.
Having the characters deal with real life issues related to their faith (The hero had a plan for his life and he failed to take into account that God might have another plan. The heroine was running from life, blaming herself and God for the deaths of her parents). Getting to this level helped the characters “come alive” and sell the book.
I no longer write inspirational romance, but I now try to give the characters characteristics that people can relate to…
In my book that will be out the end of this month, If The Ring Fits, I had Mary Karen be a person who had her dreams but got pregnant in college and all her plans went out the window. Travis was a guy who, because his parents died and he had to raise his seven younger siblings, didn’t want kids. He wanted to enjoy life. Even if we’ve never had anything like this happen to us, we can relate to such people.
I think it’s also easy to relate to the fact that Mary Karen and Travis were friends since childhood. He was the best friend of her older brother, someone she’d always looked up too. I don’t know about you but I had a crush on several of my older brother’s friends. (They didn’t know I was alive).
Regardless of how an author does it, you have to care about the characters or you’re not going to keep reading.
I’d be interested in knowing what book you’ve read where the characters really spoke to you…and what do you think made them come alive for you…