Readers, as you know by now a bunch of us went to the RWA conference in San Diego last week. First stop was the multi-author signing, which benefits literacy programs. Here we are together.
I also got a shot of Theresa signing and my signing buddy Tina Gabrielle took one of me.
The signing had a few interesting characters too. This guy was promoting his wife’s book. What a great husband. It was hot in the ballroom.
Theresa, Kristan, and I met up again at the Rita awards reception. Theresa and I were celebrating, an Kristan took this shot of us in sunny San Diego.
We didn’t just drink and schmooze. We went to workshops and we discussed issues affecting our world. Julia Quinn was taking pictures of authors for the #whatireallyreallywant campaign.
And then it was time for the Rita awards. I can’t even explain how surreal it is to see your photo, name, and book on the big screen.
Neither Theresa or I won, but we sure had a fun night.
What do you really, really want? I have a bag of assorted books to send to one reader who comments. (Winner chosen randomly, announced Sunday, and contacted Sunday).
I hope you all had a great Independence Day! I’ll admit it, this holiday brings out the kid in me.
When I was young, my brother and I used to spend summers at my grandmother’s house. We always had a good, old fashioned Fourth of July celebration. The family would gather – aunts and uncles and cousins. My uncle would make homemade vanilla ice cream. We’d grill burgers and dogs and we’d watch fireworks. They lived out in the country and there was plenty of room to run around and have fun just being a kid.
That was ages ago, but I was remembering those good times this weekend as we celebrated the nation’s birthday. Our festivities started on Sunday evening and lasted through Monday night. On Sunday, it was just The Norwegian and me. Our neighbors across the lake always go all out and put on a fireworks extravaganza. Someone in their family must be a pyrotechnics processional because it’s like watching Disney fireworks in my own backyard– without the hassle of fighting the crowds and traffic. It’s that good! This year they floated a platform out onto the lake and proceeded to outdo themselves yet again. I sat on the back porch breathless, uttering, “Wow!” and “Did you see that? Can you believe it?” The show went on for about an hour. Even after the finale, the kid in me didn’t want it to end.
Monday, we joined friends for a cookout with their big, energetic, fabulous extended family (there were about twenty-six of us in all). I was so honored and happy to share the holiday with them. There’s so much love in that family. It was profoundly touching to be with them. We enjoyed delicious burgers with all the fixings and sides. The adults talked about life and bemoaned the stifling humidity while the kids played ping pong and basketball and had fun the way cousins do when they get together. As night fell around us, we settled into lawn chairs to watch more fireworks. For a few glorious moments, the sound of the laughter and the smell of the cookout mingling with the smoky sulfur of the fireworks transported me back to a time when things seemed so much simpler – to a time when my biggest worry was how much longer my uncle had to crank the turn on the ice cream maker before we could dive into the frosty goodness.
With all that’s been happening in the world lately, it was heaven to relax on the back porch and spend time with friends and enjoy good food and be grateful for life’s simple pleasures. How was your holiday?
I’ve started and stopped this blog post so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve had a hard time finding the right words. Yet, writing about something else didn’t feel like an option either.
I live in Orlando. Last week was a tough one. Three horrific tragedies happened one right after the other: first, the heartbreaking murder of a promising young pop star; the next night, the nightmare of the Pulse nightclub massacre unfolded. It’s the deadliest mass shooting in American history. That was followed by the devastating death of a toddler, who was snatched by an alligator from the shoreline of a Disney resort under the watchful eyes of his parents.
My heart goes out to the families of Christina Grimmie and little Lane Graves. Both were so young with so much life ahead of them. Not to diminish the magnitude of their deaths, because both are heartbreaking, but for me, the Pulse nightclub shooting hit a little closer to home. Literally.
It happened in my old neighborhood, within walking distance of the house where my husband, daughter and I lived for fifteen years. It was the neighborhood where our daughter was born. The club is right down the street from the house where she learned to walk and talk and sleep peacefully through the night. It was the neighborhood where she went to elementary and middle school. There are parks where children run and play and laugh. It’s a place where people mow lawns and walk dogs and wave at each other. It’s neighborhood where I always felt safe.
It’s a tightly woven mixture of commercial convenience and established homes on brick streets lined with ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Even though we now live across town, it’s still my neighborhood. I still shop in that area. My friends live there. I left a piece of my heart there when we moved. So, it sort of feels like we didn’t move away.
I’ve never been inside Pulse, but our lives were all around it — our grocery store, our hardware store, our Target, Einstein Bagels and 7-11. The week before the shooting, my daughter and I stopped for iced coffee and tea at the Dunkin Donuts right next door to the nightclub. As we sipped our drinks, we had a fleeting conversation about how Pulse, which is located on the busier thoroughfare that borders our old neighborhood, had always been a good neighbor. People seemed to have fun at the club, but patrons were never rude or rowdy or loud. People went to Pulse because they felt safe there. Owners Barbara Poma and Ron Legler opened the club back in 2004 to honor Barbara’s brother who died from complications from HIV. Pulse had always been a “safe place” (Barbara’s words) for people to mix and meet and be themselves.
It was surreal to see a portion of the usually busy Orange Ave. blocked off and Anderson Cooper reporting live. I hope no one ever has to see the national news media broadcasting in front of the 7-11 where you bought your child cherry-Coke Slurpees on ordinary Friday afternoons to kick off carefree weekends in your safe neighborhood. Until a week ago, this was a place where no one imagined a monster would barge in and take innocent lives. It’s so senseless and heartbreaking. I still can’t wrap my mind around it.
I won’t get into the politics of gun control (though I do have strong views and I’m sure you do, too. Since this is a safe place, I’m asking you, please, out of respect for everyone, not to discuss politics here. Just please don’t. Not today. If you feel strongly, please write to your legislators and tell them how you feel. In fact, I hope you will write to your senators and representatives and make your voice heard.).
I’m not I’m not going to go on and on about how hard it is to feel safe now (though, that is a very real struggle for many). I’m going to close with the positives that I’ve seen happening in my community.
People lined up and waited for hours to give blood, which was initially in demand. However, the turnout was so strong that the blood banks were at capacity within 24 hours of the call for donations. They actually turned people away, asking them to make an appointment and return later in the week. Others donated food and water for law enforcement officials, grief counselors and friends and families of those touched by the tragedy. Churches opened their doors to people of all faiths and lifestyles. Groups have organized to protect and support the families of the victims so they can bury their loved ones with dignity. A cemetery has donated plots for each of the 49 victims and the city is helping with burial expenses. An art supply story has put out a call for artists to donate art work that memorializes the victims and encourages people to reflect on kindness, love and human decency. They’re giving artists the supplies they need to create the works, which will be organized into a traveling show.
While sadness is palpable, and I suspect it will be for a long time, there is an air of kindness all around. I’ve seen the very best in people in the wake of this unspeakable tragedy. Orlando, the city beautiful, may be a little bent right now, but we are not broken. We will persevere, and most importantly, we will band together and prove that hate will not win. From the ashes of tragedy, we are rising above and proving that love always negates hate.
In honor of those who lost their lives, please hug someone you love and be kind to others. I’m sending love and hugs to each of you.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to meet up with some old friends I haven’t seen in ages. It started with a graduation party for a life-long friend of College Girl. The family is like family to us. The girls’ kindergarten teacher was at the party. It had been ages since we’d seen the family and the former teacher. It was heavenly to catch up!
Then a week or so later, I had lunch with one of my best high school buddies. We live in the same town, yet we only manage to see each other a couple of times a year, if we’re lucky. She owns a business and I’m on perpetual deadline. When we get together, we promise each ourselves we won’t let so much time pass before we get together again. But what I love about Robin is she understands quantity isn’t as important as quality. I appreciate the way we don’t count the days between visits. Or maybe a better way to say it is we don’t let it take away from the time we do see each other.
A few days later, I had a good, long-over-due lunch with a friend I made when College Girl was in high school. We’ve made a concerted effort to keep in touch even though our kids have long since graduated from high school and moved into new chapters of their lives. Despite the fact that we’re empty nesters (or maybe because of it), we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like. But we don’t give up on the friendship.
Are you seeing a theme here??
Yesterday, I got to see ANOTHER friend — my best friend from 4th grade. Trina and her family are in town for a Disney vacation. The last time Trina and I saw each other we were in our early teens. We lost touch after we went to different high schools, but we reconnected a few years ago through the magic of social media. Now, she lives on the west coast and I’m in Florida. While FaceBook is a wonderful way to keep up with someone, it’s not the same as sitting down face-to-face with a glass of champagne (or in our case a couple of flights of sparkling wine and a cheese tray) and filling in the blanks of those lost decades.
It was fabulous! We caught up on what we’ve been doing and where we are now. We talked about our kids, our husbands and careers. We reminisced about the past – about our old school uniform and how the gold blazer, with its crested breast pocket, looked eerily similar to that of a certain national real estate group. We remembered playing in the lawn sprinkler on those hot Florida afternoons and how we both adored our 4th grade teacher. We talked about the good times and even recalled some of the times we got into trouble. I won’t tell on Trina, but I’ll fess up to the time when I was so excited that I knew the answer to the question our teacher asked and I raised my hand so fast that I lost my grip on my pencil. It flew across the room and hit the wall. I got a “hullabaloo” demerit for causing a ruckus. I was sooo demoralized. (snort)
After we finished laughing about that, we burst into song (I’m not kidding) as we remembered the words to a ditty our teacher taught us to help us with a memorization assignment. We sang it together right there in that wine bar in the middle of the afternoon (and no, it wasn’t because we’d been day drinking – the entire flight only amounted to one healthy glass of bubbly). I can’t remember what I had for breakfast last Tuesday, but I remembered every single word to that song. In that instant, all the years melted away and we were in 4th grade again. I remembered exactly why Trina had been my best friend.
As I drove home, the first bands of Tropical Storm Colin were blowing into town. The sky was gray, but my heart was warm as I thought about friendship and how good it is for the soul. I even thought about people who’ve walked into my life and exited just as fast, never to be seen again. I thought some of them might’ve become friends, but, for one reason or another, the acquaintance didn’t “take” the way it did with Trina and the other life-long buddies I mentioned above. I realized that some people pass through our lives to teach us a lesson – maybe it’s to remind us to be kinder to others or to set our boundaries and not allow ourselves to be used or mistreated. I suppose we need those “almost” friendships to help us appreciate the true friends who stay and touch our hearts in priceless ways — even after — no — especially after decades have passed and you sit down on a cloudy Monday, toast your friendship and pick up right where you left off.
Have you ever reconnected with anyone from your past? How did it go? Was it fun (I hope so!) or was it awkward? I have a $5 Amazon gift card for one person who comments below.
I’m thrilled to welcome Harlequin editor Susan Litman as my special guest today. I’ve been fortunate to work with Susan on several Special Edition continuities and today we’re going to talk about The Fortunes of Texas series.
Nancy Robards Thompson: Welcome to the Jaunty Quills, Susan! Before we start dishing about The Fortunes, please tell us a little bit about you.
Susan Litman: Thanks for having me today, Nancy. I’ve been at Harlequin for 14 years now—hard to believe! I started as an Assistant Editor for Intimate Moments, and eventually became an Associate Editor, then Editor for Special Edition. While I mostly acquire for Special Edition, I still work with several Romantic Suspense authors, and in fact I just acquired a brand-new author for HRS a couple of weeks ago!
NRT: I will never forget the day I got The Call. It’s such an exciting time. Congratulations to your new author! In addition to other continuities, you’re in charge of the Fortunes of Texas. What’s it like to work with such a longstanding series? What’s your favorite thing about the Fortunes?
SL: It’s a pleasure to work on The Fortunes of Texas, primarily because I get a thrill knowing that we’re constantly adding new elements to a franchise that our readers have loved for twenty years now—and hopefully we can continue to bring in new fans with new characters as well as cameos from some favorite classic Fortunes stars. I also love that we can take some fun risks with the continuity—adding the British Fortunes, for instance, was so much fun, and I loved seeing our authors bring those voices to life in a Texas setting.
NRT: One question I’m sure many readers are wondering is how in the world do you keep all the characters and storylines straight?
SL: It’s not easy—but to be honest, I have a memory for the most minute details for anything related to pop culture. If it is in Entertainment Weekly, I’ll remember it forever. J So if it is in a continuity bible or book, I’m not likely to forget it—though I might need to refer back to a book once in a while to double check a detail. That’s probably the biggest concern I have when working on a new continuity—making sure that we’re not contradicting any plot elements, or characterization, that was previously established. And that’s very difficult to do from year-to-year, but I’m happy to say that I think we’ve managed to accomplish this.
NRT: What’s it like to work with so many authors on one project?
SL: It’s wonderful. We always put together a wonderful mix of a couple of new voices, plus those I like to call the “returning continuity champions,” who have often written for a previous iteration of the Fortunes. The authors always work well together—everyone tends to start brainstorming once they’ve read the bible, coming up with creative ways to augment the existing elements and bring “their” voice to their specific story. The authors are, without question, a huge part of what makes the continuity so special.
NRT: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Fortunes of Texas. How has the storyline changed over the years?
SL: I don’t think it has changed so much as grown! Naturally, we’ve expanded the family. There are new branches in Red Rock, and Atlanta; newly discovered relatives as close as Horseback Hollow, Texas and as far as London, England. And now, in 2016, THE FORTUNES OF TEXAS: ALL FORTUNE’S CHILDREN will explore the story of tech giant Gerald Robinson and his family of Austin, Texas. Could he truly be a long-lost member of the fabled Fortune family? To celebrate the 20th anniversary, we had the pleasure of bringing back the matriarch Kate Fortune, and even doing an online prequel to set the stage for this continuity (FORTUNE’S FEAST by Marie Ferrarella.)
Knowing how much the readers love this family and this continuity has enabled us to branch out, and really expand the world of the Fortunes—but always, always maintaining the focus on the elements that make this continuity so special: the concept of bringing family back together. Which, of course, is also what Special Edition is all about—characters who place importance on love and family.
NRT: What’s next for the Fortunes? For Special Edition?
SL: For 2017, we’ve got some fun stories coming your way as we get even deeper into the mystery of Gerald Robinson’s past—and the tangled love lives of his legitimate and illegitimate children! And Special Edition has a number of wonderful authors and titles coming in the next few months—the new Montana Mavericks continuity, THE BABY BONANZA, kicks off in July with MARRIAGE, MAVERICK STYLE! by Christine Rimmer, and we’ve got books coming from bestselling authors including Merline Lovelace, Rachel Lee, Stella Bagwell, Brenda Harlen, plus RITA-winner Caro Carson and new voices including Joanna Sims and Katie Meyers. And in December, we will have THE HOLIDAY GIFT, a brand-new Cowboys of Cold Creek title from RaeAnne Thayne.
NRT: Now, for the most important question– who is your all-time Fortunes crush?
SL: Unfair question (how can you possibly choose just one?!) But after lots of deep thought about my favorite hero—and heroine!—I have to choose Galen Fortune Jones and Aurora McElroy from FORTUNE’S JUNE BRIDE by Allison Leigh (THE FORTUNES OF TEXAS: COWBOY COUNTRY). I was a theater geek in high school and college, so I really “got” this story—and the idea of a curmudgeonly—yet sexy—cowboy getting suckered into playing an old-timey cowboy in an amusement park stage show was both endearing and adorable . . . and sexy! I also loved the very Hugh Grant-esque Charles Fortune Chesterfield of FORTUNE’S SPECIAL DELIVERY by Michelle Major. What can I say? I’m a sucker for good manners and a sexy accent. 🙂
NRT: What’s been the Favorite Fortunes installment/season/storyline?
SL: Augh. Another unfair question. Truthfully, to date, I love each one as I’m working on it, because I get completely immersed in details, plots, characters, and so on. And I think we really did outdo ourselves for ALL FORTUNE’S CHILDREN to create a 20th anniversary to remember! But we’ve got some great plans up our sleeves for 2017 . . . 🙂 Plenty of family secrets, cowboys both rich and poor, and the women who love them for all. Readers will not want to miss a word!
If you’re a Fortunes fan what’s your favorite story or who is your favorite character? If you haven’t yet read the Fortunes series, what’s your favorite storyline or hero archetype? Nancy will give a $5 Amazon gift card to one person who comments.