So, I introduced a little contest when I was at Literary Love Savannah 2019. In the spirit of my next release, Glass Hearts, I thought I would make it an art contest since the main character is an artist. The theme? "True Love." I limited the contest to 12 entries--but only three used the kit and entered. That's okay, though, for two reasons:
1) I'm still thrilled by the entries I received!
2) It made my job choosing winners easier. There were supposed to be two winners--one for being my favorite one and then a random winner. Each would receive a print copy of Glass Hearts when it comes out. But here's the thing about me--I hate making people feel excluded! So I'm not going to have two winners, leaving the only other entry out. Not my style. So, I ditched the randomizer and have three winners! Now, while I did love all the entries for various reasons, I'll list my favorite first.
From the lovely Kayla, reader extraordinaire, who used watercolors for the first time on this painting! I love this sweet couple. Awesome job, Kayla!
Next up, Jan, an avid reader who is synonymous with fun, painted the logo for 2020's Literary Love Savannah. If you have never been as a reader or author, you need to attend! Thanks so much for that, Jan. It is a convention that so many people truly love!
I really love this image of a couple's clasped hands that Michelle's daughter did. Michelle was another person at LLS who really knew how to have a great time! It has me thinking about the couple in Glass Hearts for reasons I can't really talk about without possibly doing the spoiler thing!
Thanks again, everybody! As soon as Glass Hearts is ready, I'll be sending it out to the three of you! Hope to see you all again soon!
P.S.: For those who have not read my work, I hope you'll check it out! Glass Hearts will stand on its own, but you might want to meet some of the characters earlier through the first story arc in the Awaken My Heart series.
What happens when you spend close to a year thinking about a convention and prepping for it? You wind up seriously hoping it's all worth it--that you have highlights you won't forget afterward. Well, Literary Love Savannah 2019 did not disappoint!
My list of highlights:
I sat there, phone in palm, wondering where to go to burst into tears without an entire university student union witnessing it. I read the panicky texts my daughter had sent me over the last couple of hours again and again:
"Do I really want this major?"
"So, now I don't want to go to college."
"I'm never going to find friends here."
It was the second day of an overnight college orientation for my daughter and I was about done with the endless seminars on everything from health on campus to financial aid tips to--no joke--learning football cheers. Some sessions were together, others for parents while students broke into small groups elsewhere. Emotionally and physically exhausted, I longed to be done with putting on the 'isn't this exciting' face for my daughter's sake while all I could think about was how I wouldn't be seeing my sunshine every day anymore come August. At the same time, I want to watch her soar. So, all of a sudden to think maybe this place wasn't for her after all? That her sensitive nature would be her downfall? In the moment, it was all too much.
Now, I have lost 12 pounds over the last few months, but I was so 'done' I decided to hit Starbucks for a frap and a chocolate chip cookie I knew I would pay for in heartburn hours later. Because you know that makes everything all better for the amount of time it takes you to eat it! I had just hit the line when my phone pinged again:
"FOUND A FRIEND!"
This, people, is (one reason) why parents lose their minds.
Still, I started laughing, got off the line without tacking on thousands of calories ... and sent her an "I told you so" gif. Then I hit the ballroom with a smile on my face in time to hear all about transportation around campus.
And it got me thinking: At any given moment, we are potentially seconds away from a positive experience ... a turning point. The key for me is to remember this when I'm losing my mind. So this is my new mantra. May I remember it and may it inspire someone else:
I am mere seconds, minutes, hours, days--one STEP--away from ...
And if you see me NOT remembering this new mantra, smack me up the back of the head, will you? Thanks!
In a word ... no. They're slobbery, klutzy, and constantly look like they've just arrived on the scene after someone spiked their water dish. BUT ... are they not the most loveable creatures?
By AKS.9955 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75293197
A friend of mine, we'll call him Ferdie, isn't the sort who reads romance novels. Not at all. He is the sort to do anything for a friend, though (except hop a flight to come down to Florida-ehem) and my life would be rather drab and sad without him and his insights. Since he's that sort of friend, I didn't need to twist his arm to read the Awaken My Heart series so far. The fact that he loved it on many different levels? That surprised me, but he did. Now Ferdie is a fan of background characters in books. His favorite in mine? Avocado the English Sheep Dog ... a key member of the Zabriese family ... according to him.
The more I think about it, he might be right: The bumbling Avocado does have his place.
“Easy, kiddo,” Katherine rested a hand on my shoulder. “Avocado is about as dangerous as … well, an avocado. All he wants is love.”
And I suppose he might have played a small role in fate's plan for bringing Ren and Gale together....
In one swoop, Galen’s arm swung around my waist just as I fell backward.
When I was a kid, we had an English Sheep Dog living next door. He was the biggest one I had ever seen before or since. Lord Fitzgerald aka Fitzie, was loveable and as dumb as a box of rocks covered in concrete. One day, the latch on the fence he often rested his mammoth paws on to watch passersby came loose. The gate swung open. I was terrified! If he bounded toward me, he would knock me over! But at the sight of me, Fitzie jumped on the gate as was his habit ... his paws of course having nothing to rest on. He tried again. And again. And again. He had no clue the gate was no longer there. Maybe he just couldn't see anything under his mop of fur?
I often tell people that nobody in Awaken My Heart is based on anyone I've ever known. I should say, 'No person'. Lord Fitzgerald is alive and well in Avocado.
Anyone out there have an English Sheep Dog? How about a dog they knew from years back that influenced your decision in choosing a pet in adulthood?
So, here's the deal--and I'm not psychic or anything, but I am pretty sure you regularly do one or more of the following:
Where is this fantastic place? Come to Literary Love Savannah for a gathering you'll never forget. It's an event where scores of authors and readers hang out together, get to know each other, and enjoy experiences in beautiful Savannah, Georgia--right on the water at the Savannah Riverfront Marriott. (Get tickets here.)
Thinking you're in? Join the LLS Attendee Group on Facebook!
What happens at this fantastic event, you ask?
LLS 2019 List of programming
Special Bundle and New release book signing and Open bar
Welcome event (includes welcome bag, Freebie Books and MORE!)
Blind Date Book Party
Open night for meals
First Date Breakfast
Panels (to Include: AUdiobooks, YA/NA, WoC, Mystery, Horror, Suspense, and a few others)
Why Choose Candy Bar and Party (Reverse Harem themed)
High Tea for History Party
Night Open for Dinner out
Scifi-Fantasy Dance Party
Naughty Trivia (erotic and Erotic Romance author lead)
Erotic Readings (late night)
First in a Series Brunch
Booksigning (partially open to the public) 1-4
Faerie Ball (light and Dark!)
Fairwell (out by 10am)
Shifter Scavenger Hunt
Tattoo and Corset Room (yes we have an In house tattoo artist AND master corsetiere and OMG you WANT to get tied up!)
Offsite hangouts (Thursday, Friday) and tours and such
Meals Out (Thursday, Friday nights)
Side parties and events (room parties, trips to the beach or HHI, Or the outlets or the Waterpark)
Wed and Thursday Writing and marketing workshops (mini)
My inspiration for Corinne's Glass artistry....
Image: Pixabay / nataliaaggiato
Ever been to a place that made such an impact on you that you've never forgotten it? I'm not talking about an island, town, or city. Just a small space that impacted you more in a couple of hours than places you go to on a daily basis?
In the past, I went to an inn in the Catskills that I frequented with friends and family once or twice a year. One of my last years doing that, we took a long side trip to a little art/cafe boutique called Blue Pearl. Owned by glass artist Ulla Darni, the little building had this air about it that all was--or at least could be--right with the world. Ulla herself was not there that day, but a friendly, bubbly, peace-exuding salesperson--I wish I remembered her name--showed us around the place and told us how she and Ulla had brought back many of the items for sale in the boutique from their travels. That idea fascinated me--and it sparked an idea for the vocation of Corinne's leading man in her upcoming novel. (And let me just tell you right here: He is something!)
That salesperson ... she was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable ... wound up as inspiration for a character in a different series and genre. And she totally touched my heart that day in a way I have never forgotten. My friend was trying on a batik dress in a curtained corner of the room and was having trouble. I wanted to help her with the zipper but my hands were full with my son--he must have been about ten months at the time. The woman offered to hold him and ... despite my being so overprotective ... I felt completely comfortable letting her. As I helped my friend, I heard her talking to him:
"Hello, Little Gift of God! What a great person you're going to be. And yes, you're such a sweetie, aren't you?" Afterward, she was complimenting me on what a good boy he was and how blessed I was. I know lots of people say that to new mothers ... but there was something different about that time. Was it the way she said it? The words she chose? The fact that she just seemed representative of the better part of this world? My coffee was stronger than I thought that morning? I'll never know.
My eyes well up with tears thinking about it, because that's exactly what he was ... my gift with awesome potential. Now in college, he's working toward fulfilling that potential. How time flies, huh? And that woman ... I didn't know her from a hole in the wall, but she became my idea of good in the world: a person who had seen it all (or much of it, anyway), offered unabashed words of kindness, and who had seemed to find her happy place. She is the woman Katherine Zabriese (Galen and Corinne's mother in my series) wholeheartedly strives to be despite the obstacles she has faced. In my experience, the people I know and have met who have traveled the world extensively just seem to be the most kind, loving, compassionate sort. Perhaps because they have actually met enough people to put the idea that we are all the same on some level to an actual test?
Anyway, I never got back to Blue Pearl because the next time we went to the Inn, nobody had time to go, and then I never got to go again for economic reasons. Oddly enough, Blue Pearl closed in 2008 for economic reasons. But guess what I discovered today? They reopened in 2015 and now I just want to scream because I can't go. It's a must the next time I get up North, though.
I adore Ulla's gorgeous artistry on glass--we actually went to her studio as well that day, which wasn't far from the shop--and one day I would love to own one of her pieces. (This sconce is one of my favorites!) Yet another incentive to make it in this writing business! Although, I just noticed she started selling phone cases of her designs so that's a thought! Anyway, the brightness of the colors Ulla uses is similar to Corinne's work, only Corinne doesn't do much with florals.
If you go to this link, and scroll down, you'll get a glimpse of Blue Pearl. Now, in my upcoming novel of Corinne's love story, Corinne's actual gallery is very open and bright, but her boutique area is modeled in a similar style to Ulla's.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this story background glimpse inside my head!
What small experience has affected you in a big way?
In my books, you might have noticed a 'Genevieve Trudeau' in the Acknowledgments sections. Genevieve has been a friend since college and the ornament above was sent by her to my daughter one year from Budapest. Sometimes, it's so hard to stop during this busy season and truly reflect on people, places, and situations in our lives, but my Christmas tree ornaments always help me do that. Genevieve is easy to reflect on because I've been lucky to have her as a friend all these years.
My groups of friends vary widely in experience, politics, religion, education, hobbies, careers, location, and temperament. Genevieve is extraordinary in that she has traveled extensively, worked for impressive non-profits that make a difference in the world, has lived overseas, is well-read, and has the sort of compassion that--if the world had far more of her--we'd be living on a rather fantastic planet. On top of all that--and I only learned this a couple of years ago--she can belt out some damn powerful karaoke.
She's the person I turned to for information on Tibetan boxes that I needed for a story and insights on topics I'm exploring in my next Awaken My Heart series novel. She knows what makes a good story (she's my prime beta reader), and she has one-liners that can make me laugh no matter how I'm feeling.
Like most of us, she has her share of things she would like to change about life...sometimes real tough stuff, but I've never seen someone so contantly battle to keep challenges at bay. Maybe it's because she's freaking brave and bold in ways I wish I could be. Apart from moving across the Atlantic back and forth and venturing into third world countries, she has hunted down relatives in another country to find out more about her past--and took on a new language to facilitate that.
I'm grateful for her friendship and her willingness to beta for me this Christmas!
One of my favorite things to hear about the Awaken My Heart series is how people love the Zabriese family. Readers have said they want to be adopted by them and they wish Katherine was their mom!
I agree. I have always wanted a big family. I wanted to know that when one person wasn't available to tag along somewhere or help solve a problem, someone else likely would be. In short, a large supply of unconditional love, and the Zabrieses are full of that. They're open-minded, full of empathy ... yet, as any fan of the series knows, they are not perfect. I suppose that's what makes them so appealing: They have had their tragedies, arguments, family issues ... but they rise above it all, tripping and stumbling along the way. Most important? They take care of each other--perhaps to a fault at times, like the way Galen always feels he must safeguard his siblings and his mother, preserving the deep bond between them all. I love the idea of that emotional security.
I grew up with one sibling, a cousin who was like one, and a friend who became like a brother from a young age. Those were special relationships to me and I thought they would last forever. Much of it drifted away, though when I was older and the sadness over that did a number on me. Still, it might have been even worse if it wasn't for something else ...
Around age 15, I met a group of friends--four guys and one girl--who became family. Although one has steered in another direction, the rest have been the closest I could ever get to the Zabrieses. They've seen me at my worst and never cast me aside afterward. So, when I ruminate over wishing I had come from a large family, I am reminded that those friends filled in the empty spaces to become real uncles to my kids, examples of loyalty and love.
So this Thanksgiving, I'm going to concentrate on being grateful for the people and things that filled in the empty spaces. After all, part of what makes the Zabrieses so fantastic is the group of friends they typically have around them. I have that. They might be way too far away these days, but I do have them.
And my immediate family? It might be just the four of us, but if there was one thing I've ever done right in my life, it was raising two really great kids...awesome people. So, this Thanksgiving, I'll be feeling a bit like Katherine, I suppose.
Who are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
I realize July is nine months away ... but I have to share: I'm going to be one of 50+Authors rocking Savannah July 25 - 28, 2019! I can't wait to meet readers of the Awaken My Heart series and meet new ones!
Have you registered yet? If you do before October 31st, you are entered to win cool experiences with authors. Certainly sounds like a lot of fun and I can wait to enjoy drinks with a new reader. There will be prizes, opportunities to dive into a variety of romance genres. We'll be signing, selling, partying with all of you, so what are you waiting for? Here are the links for more information:
Facebook Event info: www.facebook.com/events/871256626393289/
So sign up quick so we can talk outfits. I mean, what are you going to wear?
I've been spending unexpected moments longing for odd things lately--especially this weekend. I was in St. Augustine, walking the streets ... George Street, residential streets, and I longed to live there and I couldn't figure out why.
Was it the atmosphere? The history? The fact that the houses were all different like I was used to back in my neighborhoods up north? Was it the cute little shops--all different with fewer chain shops and restaurants? That had to be it--uniqueness. Was that the theme? Different homes? The uneven sidewalks that had seen countless generations walk to school as they fought against old tree roots? Different shops? Different coffee origins? I do gravitate toward unique things and people.
But at one point I walked past a corner house that wasn't particularly spectacular on the outside--many St. Augustine homes are not: they are often old and beaten up from flooding--and I suddenly wanted to go inside. I stopped walking a moment and wondered what was wrong with me. I mean why? I didn't know the people. I thought, thought, and ... then I had it.
Roots. The home looked like the people living there had roots they put down over the years. The flower pots looked like they had been there a long time. I could see some stuffed shelf units through a window. There were rocking chairs on the beat up porch and an older shed in the backyard that I imagined held a mower and a family history worth of junk.
I grew up in the two-family house my father grew up in. I found my grandparents' old Christmas ornaments in the attic. Our home was ... ours ... our history. I had found marbles my father and uncle used to play with while digging in the backyard. My mother always spoke of the past as if clinging to it even though she had left England in her early 20s. Both my parents were very regimented in the way they did things. I grew up very adverse to change, always seeing the sentimental in everything. Always trying to hold onto the past.
It was exhausting.
Eventually, that way of thinking made me feel stuck and I grew a fear of the past repeating itself ... seeing school pictures of your father on his first days of school standing exactly where you did in yours will do that. By 17 I was craving change--but I went to a close college where I didn't need to stay in dorms. Going further was discouraged. But that's another story.
When I got married and moved out, then later moved a little further into NJ, it was to a town where we used to visit family friends. I had dreamed of moving to that beautiful suburb my whole life. It was like a dream come true. After a while, I did find its drawbacks--I suppose every town has them. Still, I wasn't prepared to move from my comfort zone and all the way down South three years ago.
Now I'm in a brand new development where the houses, despite variances in style, all look the same to me. There are rules about what can be displayed, etc., and I feel like I've lost my roots and that much of this new area has been wiped clean of its past. But change happens. I know this: You can't step into the same river twice.
After renting it out for years, my parents sold my childhood home shortly before I moved out of NJ--with many of the things they had deemed so worthy of hanging onto still in it. And when I moved fom my home, so many things had to be given away or sold first. And I hate the sadness of so much being gone, but it was just stuff--not important. Yet, sometimes I need to remind myself of that. So, now I'm surrounded by chain everything, and the only sense I can find of history and roots is in antique shops--which I can't stand. But that, too, is another story.
So, I'm caught between running from the past and wanting to feel roots. Looking to the future and missing the past. And this, too, is exhausting. So, looking at that house on a little street in St. Augustine, wanting in, perhaps was my heart's way of wishing to experience roots even if they were someone else's. And that ... I think ... is just plain weird.
I guess what it means is that I'm still in transition down here...even as more changes are heading my way with kids going off to college. It really is time to look toward the surprises of new horizons and while I do enjoy the idea of that, part of me is stubborn, still trying to grab the past and hold it close, and asking myself, "For what?"
Before leaving St. Augustine, I walked on the beach, played with the shell-strewn sand. Finally, I relaxed. Fiddling with small handfuls of shells out of gajillions, watching huge amounts of water tumble, roll, and seep up onto the shore ... it became a momentary peace. I was small in comparison, yet I had my place in it all. The shoreline balanced my love and hate of nostaglia, my craving for the past and my yearning for something new and fantastic in the future. I wish I could bottle that feeling.
Anyway, like I said, it's complicated.