A few years ago, my parents rooted out a bin of papers from my childhood. The bin held papers that had once been in a cardboard box, which got water-damaged at some point. What survived—though made creepy by water spots and bleeding markers—surprised me. The papers included stories, stories, illustrated stories, and more stories.
I have no memory of this whatsoever. If you’d asked me before I saw the contents of the bin, I’d have said, “Nah, I never wrote stories until I started working on my first romance.”
But check this out. I just came across some scans I made of the papers that weren’t too badly damaged. This is a story I wrote about a month before I turned four.
If I’m reading it right through the water damage, the transcription from my mom is “Hawk up up she went to the up rock.” Hey, I never said I wrote GOOD stories as a kid.
Here’s another gem. I was probably about six when I wrote this illustrated tale of gluttony.
In case my printing is hard to read, the story says:
The Canarys name is Beatrice
She was pecking (in the ground) for food
Bea liked Beatrice.
They were friends in love with food. (They were pecking food in the ground together.)
My guess is that I had just learned about parentheses and was enjoying trying them out. Bea probably is the other bird pictured. But who is the cat (if that is a cat) (yes, I still like parentheses) pictured at right? My six-year-old self was in sore need of a copyeditor to make sure characters were introduced consistently.
I’ve moved on to writing about people, rather than animals with excessive prepositions or food obsessions. But it was fun to come across these stories and realize that I liked writing fiction as a kid. My younger self might think it was pretty cool that I came back to it as an adult.
What were your favorite hobbies when you were a kid? Do you still have any of the same ones today? To one random commenter, I’ll send a print copy of my historical romance A Gentleman’s Game, which has more animals in it than most of my other books. International entries welcome. The winner will be announced on Sunday.
Yesterday was the release day for The Sport of Baronets, a prequel novella to my new Regency horse-racing trilogy. Two days ago, I turned in the second book in that trilogy to my editor. I’m not quite sure where the entire month of October went.
Anyway, now that I’m (temporarily) not on deadline, I’m ready to look around the real world again. Sunlight! Trees! People who don’t wear corsets! They’re all around, y’all. And this week, I’m letting myself enjoy the little things.
Sure, my Regency characters live a pretty good life, apart from all the emotional wringers I put them through. But do they get to…
…gorge on supposedly-for-Halloween candy?
No. They do not. Peanut butter hadn’t even been invented then, so my Regency characters each have a hole in their heart just the shape and size of a Reese’s. I’m not sure how anyone wrote a novel 200 years ago. The last third of my just-turned-in book was entirely fueled by Halloween candy.
…turn on a light when, thanks to the return of standard time, it gets dark out at 5 pm?
No. They do not. Even though I know from the movie National Treasure that Benjamin Franklin invented Daylight Saving Time (history is everywhere!), it’s never become a plot point in my books. My characters in The Sport of Baronets enjoy some long late-spring days, but when the sun goes down, they have to settle for oil lamps and candlelight. Which they seem to regard as both forgiving and conducive to romance. Oh, you characters.
…sit in a nice glider rocker while watching The Great British Baking Show?
No. They do not. Which is sad for them, for there is no greater bliss on earth than sitting in a nice glider rocker while watching The Great British Baking Show. At least to me, the day after a book deadline. Bart and Hannah of The Sport of Baronets would surely like the show, but they have to make do by watching a horse race. And for the chair, they use a jockey’s weight balance for…um, you know, you’d just better read that for yourself.
The Great British Baking Show airs on PBS on Sundays. Set your DVR!
National Treasure is pretty fun, especially the historian’s horror when they chuck the Declaration of Independence into the street or paint it with lemon juice.
Halloween candy should not be eaten to the exclusion of all other foods, even on deadline.
Um…I think that’s all the wise pronouncements I have for today. What’s up with you all? Did you have a good Halloween? What are you most grateful for that poor ol’ historical romance characters don’t get to experience? Do you like National Treasure and/or The Great British Baking Show? I’m feeling chatty, so just let me know what’s on your mind.
My latest release, MY FAIR FORTUNE, hits the shelves today!
This book is part of Harlequin Special Edition’s long-running Fortunes of Texas series. The 2015 series is called Fortunes of Texas: Cowboy Country. I was so honored to be part of this series because it meant that I had the great fortune of collaborating with five other fabulous women I genuinely like and whose work I admire.
Fortunes of Texas: Cowboy Country series takes place in Horseback Hollow where the beloved Fortunes and Mendozas must come to terms with change when a large western-themed amusement park moves in and threatens to tear the fabric of their close-knit community. It’s such a fun series and I felt particularly at home working on it because I live in Central Florida, the theme park capital of the US.
I thought you might like to know a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes of a series like the Fortunes of Texas. When you have six authors with vivid imaginations and a love of the written word, you can imagine that it takes some coordinating to make sure we are all on the same page – both figuratively and literally.
All of the Fortunes books are connected, but each stands alone. If you come into the series with, say, MY FAIR FORTUNE, which is book five in this series, it will make perfect sense if you haven’t read the first five books, but it’s also fun to see how the books are connected if you read all of them in order. In fact, Debbie Haupt reviewed MY FAIR FORTUNE for RT Book Club magazine and said, “… (Robards Thompson) gives us enough of a series catch up for this to stand alone ….”
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Why don’t we start at the very beginning of the process – nearly a year before the books hit the shelves.
When the authors sign on to write a Fortunes book, the editor who oversees the series sends each author a “continuity bible.” This document contains a basic sketch of the series and the over arcing storyline and a brief bio on characters past and present. Harlequin gives us a basic idea of who our characters are and a very general idea of the plot, but it’s up to the authors to flesh out the story and bring it to life.
One of the first things we do after receiving the bible is set up a chat loop so that the authors can communicate and brainstorm to make sure the storylines don’t contradict each other.
After the preliminary brainstorming, but before we settle in to write the books, each author prepares a proposal for the editor so she can see our plans for the stories. While the authors are responsible for their own books, the brave continuity editor has the job of making sure all of the stories flow right into each other and that the characters remain consistent. Each author has a hero and heroine and a central love story, but the heroes and heroines of the other books in the Fortunes series usually figure prominently throughout the series/in the other books. The editor makes sure that each of the authors stays true to the characters. For example, if the author of book one has written it so her heroine has a deathly fear of snakes, the editor makes sure in the other books the heroine isn’t featured as a secondary character who, say, likes to charm snakes in a side show at the Cowboy Country amusement park. Okay, I made that up, but you see where I’m going.
Jaunty Quill Cindy Kirk wrote the second book in the Cowboy Country series and as it turned out, our heroes were brothers. Cindy and I worked closely to make sure we each remained true to the characters. In fact, since her book came out in first, I asked her to plant something in her book – a situation that set up my hero getting the job he lands in book five of the series.
Once the editor approves our initial proposals, we each set to work on our books, but we pay close attention to the chat loop in case any of the authors have questions. When I wrote my book, I worked closely with Michelle Major, author of book four, because her hero is a secondary character in my book.
Our deadlines are staggered so that all six books don’t land on the editor’s desk at once. She reads (and edits) them in order and makes sure we’ve crossed all of our t’s and dotted all of our i’s. Not too long after that, the series is available (one book each month from January-June).
What do you think of this? Do you enjoy reading connected books or books in a series?
If so, what’s your favorite series?
I will choose three winners from those who post to win a copy of MY FAIR FORTUNE.
RT Book Reviews gives MY FAIR FORTUNE 4 stars and says:
…Thompson shows us what happens when you pair up a Chicago zoologist and a workaholic Brit in a small Texas town, and it’s quite funny. Her depiction of the tight knit community and family dysfunction was impressive, plus she gives us enough of a series catch up for this to stand alone as well.
UNBUTTONING THE BRIT…
In the business world, Brodie Fortune Hayes is known as a man of no mercy. The all-work, no-play PR consultant is sure he’ll have no trouble correcting the image problems plaguing the Cowboy Country theme park. There’s just one complication: the green-eyed beauty sitting behind the boss’s desk who makes his pulse race like a roller coaster!
Caitlyn Moore never imagined working side by side with Brodie after sharing a most out-of-character night of passion with him a few months before! And now, thanks to her dad’s absence-by-illness, she’s his boss? Brodie’s bottom-line mentality is as infuriating as his blue bedroom eyes are intoxicating—but Cait is convinced that there’s a heart lurking beneath his designer armor. Perhaps she can prove to him that love is the greatest Fortune of all…
As a full-time writer who works from home, I’ve become somewhat of a workaholic. I love what I do and I’m always working – on my work in progress, on proposals for future projects and on planning and promotion. If I don’t have my rear in the chair and fingers on the keyboard, I’m working in my head. My brain never willingly turns off the light and hangs up the “closed” sign.
I’m not complaining. However, sometimes I forget that I’m so much more productive after a short break. Here are my top ten ways to refill the creative well:
10. Play on Pinterest. It’s my happy place. There, everything is beautiful and the food is calorie-free.
9. Exercise. Okay, maybe this isn’t my favorite thing to do. You might say, I enjoy having exercised. Well, except for walking. I do love my walks and sometimes I forget their therapeutic power.
8. Clean house. I know. That’s weird. But some of my best ideas and breakthroughs come when I’m up to my elbows in dishwater.
7. Watch TV. Yes, I have been known to take in a series or several during the course of the season. And when the season is over, I may or may not turn to Hulu and Netflix… Gotta love a good binge session.
6. Read. This is one of the gems that tends to go by the wayside unless I consciously make time. I’ve been making time.
5. Cook/bake. I love to try new recipes. Sadly, when I bring them out from behind the Pinterest veil, the dishes are no longer calorie-free…no matter how I try to pretend. 😉
4. Play with my dog. She grounds me and helps me remember what is right in the world.
3. Get together with/talk to friends. This is another one that gets neglected. I try to make time at the end of my deadlines to see friends.
2. Work in my art journal. This is yet another love for which I have to consciously carve out time. I’ve made a deal with myself that I will take fifteen minutes that I might otherwise spend on social media and play in my art journal. I set a timer. It’s like a daily mini-vacation. If you’re attending the Romance Writers of America’s national conference in New York, Kathy Garbera and I are presenting a workshop on using art journaling to foster creativity. I hope you’ll join us.
1. Spend time with my family. In fact, when College Girl was home for spring break earlier this week and she and I spent some quality time together in the art room. We made our own journals. Here’s the one I made:
What do you do for fun or to refresh your spirit?
Here’s a joke I love about writing.
Author 1: You know the hardest part about writing?
Author 2: The part you’re working on now.
It’s so incredibly true! When I’m writing a book, I think crafting new pages is the hardest thing in the world. Some days all the words flow and the pages rush out of my fingers as if I’d already written them and just needed to set them down on paper. More often, each page seems to take an eternity as I stare into space and struggle over every single word. For me, this usually happens toward the latter half of the book, which makes it even more frustrating. The beginning goes so well, and then suddenly everything slows. Down. To. A. Crawl.
Recently I was in the midst of one of those manuscript crawls when I had the brilliant idea to pull out an old manuscript, rework it, and publish it. My readers had emailed me for years asking for Ethan and Francesca’s story. I’d actually even written the whole book, but I’d never sold it because it was chronologically before the events of my first published book, WHEN DASHING MET DANGER, and my editor wanted to go forward not back.
I pulled the book out, not even certain if it was salvageable, but after I read it and asked a few readers to take a look, I decided it was publishable with a few changes. I figured fixing WHILE YOU WERE SPYING would be far easier than writing a new book. I only had to polish it to rid it of some of my amateur mistakes.
You’re laughing now, aren’t you? You probably realize what I didn’t at the time. Sometimes it’s far harder to fix something flawed than to start all over again. And so for seven months—twice as long as I would have spent writing a new book—I labored over my “finished” book. I’m proud to announce it will be out next month. If you enjoyed WHEN DASHING MET DANGER and PRIDE AND PETTICOATS and ever wondered about Ethan and Francesca’s story, you’ll want to read this one.
Or if you just want to see what a book that doubles as an instrument of torture reads like, you’ll want to grab it as well.
Cover reveals and pre-order links and all that to come soon, but in the meantime, how about I give away the first two books in the series? They’re only available digitally because they came out in 2005 and 2006 (Throwback Tuesday!).
If you have a Kindle, and you’d like copies of both books, just comment below. Tell me your favorite thing to fix up—cars, houses, recipes—or maybe you prefer to watch other people fix things up on HGTV or Overhaulin.
The randomly chosen winner will be announced and contacted Sunday.