96 Pages

I am a world class procrastinator. About a lot of things, actually. But when it comes to writing, character profiles will always land near the top of the list. They’re actually the hardest part of writing a book.

Why? Because if I don’t love my characters, if I don’t know my characters well enough … their books are going to be agonizingly hard to write. There’s also the fact that if I screw up this oh-so-crucial step, you won’t love my characters. And you won’t love their stories either.

I have just hated every second of creating characters for the past few years though. I’ve never understood why. One of the best parts of writing is breathing life into these people who live on my pages. So what happened? Well… Yesterday, I had an epiphany.

No matter how great computers are for writing, my brain needs to slow down, to have some more relaxed time to really think about my characters. What they’re like, their favorite things, their families, their childhoods, and on and on and on.

That same process is also very helpful in the early stages figuring out the outlines and timelines. And since I’m working on the new series, and adding to the Royal Sweethearts series (affiliate link, click here for more info), I need to make my brain happy by picking up my purple gel pen and going back to what I love to do. Write it out.

Yes, it’s slower than typing, but it works. And doing something that works is better than avoiding doing it at all, right? Especially when we’re talking more than a dozen books. So, while I finish editing three projects, I’m currently working on, I’ll also be spending the next couple of weeks figuring out who’s who, and doing some basic plots. 

96 pages? Yup. Thanks to some much needed inspiration and cool new templates from Abbie Emmons, I’m ready to get started now. Check it out.  🙂

And I’m TOTALLY excited about it!!!

Oh. A Couple more things.

First, before I forget – the pathology report came back all clear. I don’t have to have another test for three years. Yay!!!

And second, one of the projects I’m editing is the prequel to the Weko Harbor series. I’m planning on it being available the end of August or early September. And … the only way to get it is to sign up for my newsletter – because it will be free to subscribers. 

Time to get busy. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs, one that’s always on a playlist for when I want to be super productive. 

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513 Days Later….

Five-hundred and thirteen days? Yup. That’s how long it’s been since my life changed with a cancer diagnosis. I’m not going to beat a dead horse and go through all of it again. If you want to find out more about that, you can read more about it here: The Unluckiest Girl on the Planet?

This post is going to cover two other subjects, though they both have something to do with what happened last year.

First, last month, I had a test scheduled to make sure the cancer was still gone, and if not, that it was taken care of pronto. But the prep the nurse suggested – a pretty expensive one too – didn’t work as well as it should have, so I spent a few weeks stressing over it for nothing.

Fast forward another stress filled few weeks to today (technically, it’s still today on the west coast). This one included a two-day prep, with sixty hours of a clear liquid diet. It still didn’t work like it should have, though I drank over four-hundred ounces of fluid over that two days. Apparently, when you’ve had part of your colon removed, even a small part, even that part of life changes.

Long story short, everything went fine. The doctor dealt with the issue, removed a few polyps, and said even though they would be checked, he didn’t think I had anything to worry about. Even better, I shouldn’t need to come back for three years. Yay!

Of course, me being me, I kind of focused on the fact that there were no polyps (that I was aware of) during my colostomy reversal thirteen months ago. Now there were three or four? Of course, you know I Googled it, and found that more than two polyps is cause for concern, not panic. And I’m not panicked, just … concerned. And motivated.

Motivated?

Yes. I’ve been ‘playing’ with a low carb diet long enough. It’s time to get serious about it. I know that sugar (of all kinds) and refined foods help many cancers grow, and even thrive, and it’s time to stop messing around with my health. I’ve chosen the Trim Healthy Mama diet as one that will work with me. That’s an affiliate link. Learn more about what that means by clicking here.

I know where I’ve failed, why I keep falling off the low carb wagon, and I’m determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

It all boils down to being prepared. Over the next few days, I’m going to be making and freezing individual servings of meals, snacks, and desserts. Things I can grab and defrost or heat up fast when life happens and I need something in a hurry. Something that tastes good and makes it easy to say no to fast food joints and grocery store donuts and snacks.

I’m also making up triple and quadruple batches of other things, like seasonings and protein shake mixes – because all of those help too. The seasonings can transform a ground beef patty or a couple of chicken tenders from a blah kind of thing to something different and delicious that, when eaten with a salad or a veggie, makes me happy and leaves me satisfied.

This is what I did tonight. Not a lot because, thanks to very little sleep since Tuesday morning, I have very little energy. While the two-day prep wasn’t horrid, I only got about six hours sleep between Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. But now, I’ve got enough taco and Hubby Lovin’ Seasoning to last a while!

Okay. Enough of that. It’s time to get serious.

If talking about your colon, or the idea of having a colonoscopy makes you squeamish, uncomfortable, or embarrasses you, stop it. Just stop. You need to get over it. This is your body and your life. I discovered the hard way – but nowhere near as hard as others have – that life is fragile, and by no means guaranteed. Pay attention to your bowel habits, and to your poop. Yeah, I said poop.

If something doesn’t feel or look right, get to a doctor and get it checked! 

I still don’t know if my cancer caused the blockage, or if the blockage just happened, allowing the cancer to be found. No one ever said, or if they did, I was too drugged up in the days following the surgery to remember. I’m just so grateful to God that things went down the way they did because if they hadn’t, I don’t know how long I’d have continued to ignore signs that clearly pointed to colon cancer. And then, there’s no doubt that chemo, radiation, and maybe even funeral planning would have come into play.

We don’t always get a second chance, and cancer is a formidable enemy. In far too many cases, it wins. So educate yourself about the signs of colon cancer. And pay attention to your body.

If you want to learn more about colon cancer symptoms, click here: Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

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Posted in Health, Life, Love, low carb, Trim Healthy Mama (THM) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Discipline & Planners

Discipline? Something I lack a good portion of the time. 

Planners? Something I own too many of – and don’t utilize often enough.

Nope. There were no new blog posts this past week. I do have a couple of excuses this time. Sort of even legitimate excuses. I wound up sitting through two training webinars (one of them twice), and taking about twelve hours worth of notes.

I also spent countless hours working on these … until three-thirty in the morning a couple of nights. I spent so long working on them, in fact, that two days later, my right hand, elbow, and shoulder still ache. But they’re finished. What do you think?

Yup. Based on some expert advice, the Coach’s Boys have new covers. At least the digital books. I’m quite pleased with the way they turned out. By the way, affiliate link alert. Click here to learn more about them.

Based on more good advice (yes, from the webinars), I’m trying to figure out a schedule that will work for me. 

Part of that includes taking to heart the fact that I set way too many goals, likely in an effort to try and make up for lost time. Goals that, deep down, I know I can’t do, because there are always so many, I’d need to clone myself at least once to accomplish them all.

There’s also the fact that looking at the endless lists tends to be discouraging, and I get burned out before getting much done. And so I get nothing done. I tell myself that I will, but then I get lost in ‘busy’ work instead of real work. And I’m just really tired of failing all the time.

And so… I’m going to set a realistic schedule, which is harder than I thought it would be. Last night, I had to stop working on it when I realized the list was getting out of control again. Tonight, I’m going to narrow the tasks down to something I’ll actually have a chance to succeed at.

I used to love a saying about shooting for the moon … because even if you fail, you’ll land among the stars. It sounds really good, but for me, it tends to be more than a little overwhelming. So, at least until I establish winning habits again, I’m aiming a little lower – for doable goals and not pipe dreams. And maybe, for the first time in too long, I’ll have some exciting news in the not too distant future.

By now, you know I like to try and find songs that reflect my feelings on most subjects. After listening to way too many today, I’m falling back on a favorite I’ve probably shared too many times. But, I need to get this posted because I’ve got some editing to do. 🙂

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Chicknic Tables & Camp NaNoWriMo

Looks like I’m a year or so behind the times when it comes to chicknic tables but, in my defense, I didn’t own one chicken – much less five! – until early March. 

A what, you might ask…

The video below is a great tutorial on what – and how to build a chicknic table:

Yup. My daughter sent me a link a few nights ago and, after reading it, I’ve been thinking about it ever since. And making a mental pro vs con list.

Why I shouldn’t build a chicknic table:

  1. The coop and run were a lot more work than I thought they would be.
  2. I WAY underestimated the time it would take to build them.
  3. While I love Home Depot, we made so many trips there in May that it felt like a home away from home.
  4. I don’t have a pattern, or the correct ‘angle-y’ tools so, as with the coop and run, I’ll have to make up my own – and hope for the best.

Why I should build a chicknic table:

  1. They’re super cute!

There’s also the fact that there’s plenty of scrap wood left from the other project so … why not, right? And that means another mother/daughter woodworking project is probably happening in the not too distant future.

As is Camp NaNoWriMo. While editing the fourth Royal Sweethearts book, I realized I need to give a couple of minor characters a little more page time – and make a few too short scenes a little longer. So that’s my goal for July because I really want to have Quinn’s story published no later than the end of August. I’m also hoping to finish the outline for book five.

And now, I’ll leave you with a few final things on this Just for Fun Friday…

First, a fun blog post about Quinn, back when he first gave me an idea for his story. Click here to read it. And also, if you haven’t already read the Royal Sweethearts series (A Prince on the Run, The Physician to the King, and The Princess and the Bodyguard), you can click here to find them. And yes, those were affiliate links. You can learn more about those here. By the way, A Prince on the Run is always free!

Next, apparently, Scarlet felt the need to photobomb Natasha’s special moment.

And finally, from tonight’s playlist…

 

Posted in #contemporary romance, #romance, affiliate link(s), Just for fun, Life, Love, NaNoWriMo, New Book, Royal Sweethearts Romance Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heat (aka Behind Closed Doors)

The word ‘heat’ can apply to a number of different things. You turn the heat up in the winter. Heat rises in the summer. The enchiladas I love so much, while not terribly high in Scoville heat units, definitely bite back. And with the oven turned on to make them – in the middle of a humid 84 degree day – well, more heat.

Then there’s the heat scale in books. Specifically, romance novels.

Some people wonder why all of my stories, from historical, to paranormal, to contemporary fall into the sweet/clean & wholesome categories. And why I don’t bump the heat levels up.

Honestly? I’ve tried to do that twice in my life. When I was about twenty, before I’d written much of anything but short novellas, I decided to try my hand at a sex scene. A few handwritten pages later, and I was patting myself on the back for a job well done. In my opinion, it was as good as anything I’d read in a traditionally published book. And then a single thought popped into my head.

If this book sells, my dad will read it!

I spent the next twenty minutes scribbling out every single word on every single line – to the point where you couldn’t make out one letter from another. And then I tore it to shreds. And I mean I made a paper shredder look like it was cutting full sheets of paper.

And I never tried it again, until maybe 2011 or 2012, before my books started selling fairly well. This time, I decided I’d use a pen name and never tell a soul about it, but I wasn’t comfortable with it then either. At least deleting what I’d written that time was a whole lot easier than getting rid of the handwritten pages!

So, that’s as far as I got in turning up the heat in my career. It did make me feel better when a famous author (can’t recall her name) said that book couples were as entitled to their privacy behind closed doors as real couples. I couldn’t have agreed more.  

Now you know why I write what I do. And I guess if you like clean & wholesome/sweet romance stories that focus on couples getting to know each other, and reading about their paths to falling in love – paths that sometimes involve murder, stalkers, and other difficult situations –  you might enjoy my books. Like my Coach’s Boys and Royal Sweethearts series’ (those are affiliate links – learn more about them by clicking here)

And if you don’t, that’s okay. There are lots of fabulous authors in other genres out there just waiting for readers to discover them. 🙂

When I think of the stories I write, songs like these come to mind. Why? Because there’s a big difference between sex and romance. And the characters I write know that without one, there isn’t much chance of the other.

(You probably knew I was going to sneak an REO Speedwagon song in, didn’t you?)

Posted in #romance, Books, Coach's Boys Series, Love, Royal Sweethearts Romance Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

13 Things I’m Grateful For

Yesterday, an unexpected letter, followed by a Facebook memory, reminded me that June 24th was the one-year anniversary of the last of three surgeries in 2020. I’d known it was coming up, but hadn’t given it much thought. Until I opened the letter from the hospital – letting me know that the National Cancer Survivor’s Day Celebration wasn’t going to be happening this year.

Hmm. First, I had no idea there even was a celebration by that name. And second, I had no idea the hospital celebrated it. Enclosed in the envelope was an invitation to write something inspirational for those currently receiving cancer treatment.

Just reading those words makes me feel kind of like a fraud. My cancers were caught early enough that I didn’t need any sort of treatment beyond the surgeries that removed them from my body. How could my story possibly inspire someone whose cancer wasn’t caught early? How could that make them feel better in the midst of harsh treatments and horrible side effects?

Then, I thought … just because I didn’t have to have chemo or radiation doesn’t make me any less of a cancer survivor. So maybe a gratitude list might work?

  1. I am grateful that God thought I was worth a second chance. 
  2. I am beyond grateful for my family and friends, and that I get to spend the rest of my long life with all of them.
  3. I’m grateful for the extremely loud wakeup call, and that now I have time to make my health a much bigger priority than it was.
  4. I am grateful for my wonderful surgeon, Dr. T, and for all of the others who helped to save my life last year, especially my favorite nurse, Sam. He’s definitely going in a book!
  5. I’m grateful that I only needed the colostomy for four months, and that the reversal was pretty much textbook perfect. In a support group for people who have had similar experiences, I’ve learned that it could have been so much worse. And so I remain a member, in hopes that I might be able to help or encourage those who need it.
  6. I’m grateful for my scars. Between the one on the side of my nose, and the ones on my stomach, I joke about being able to try out for Bride of Frankenstein. The thing is, but for these scars, I probably wouldn’t be here today. So they’re a reminder of how blessed I really am.
  7. I am grateful for the sun that rises every day, for the stars that shine every night, and for music, and chocolate, and books, and bacon. And air conditioning. It’s summer. I can’t forget the air conditioning.

Yeah, I lumped the last seven together, but those are just a few of the things I’m grateful for. That I’m more grateful for than I was before because … well … I survived cancer. 

Honestly? I’ve never been able to dance, but this song kind of sums up my attitude about life now. I have a second chance. What a feeling! 

 

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The Chicken or the Egg?

I can’t remember if I mentioned that on March 12, 2021, I bought five baby chickens. Still pretty much winter in Michigan, I also bought a small dog kennel, a heat lamp, and other necessary paraphernalia needed to care for Martha, Natasha, Wanda, Scarlet, and Owlette until it warmed up enough to put them outdoors. 

It didn’t take long to figure out that chicken feed contains some form of magical growth dust because I’ve never seen anything grow that fast in my life. The photo below proves it too. ‘Adoption night’ is on the far left, where all five were bunched in the corner of the very tiny box (provided by the store). The middle one was five days later. And the far left was two weeks to the day after we brought them home.

It was then I realized that the kennel wasn’t going to work for as long as I’d hoped, which led to one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever had.

Always budget minded, I was appalled at the price of chicken coop kits, at least as far as what I considered value for the cost. So… I thought, my daughter and I are pretty handy. We’ve tackled some ‘guy’ type jobs many times – with good results.

“We can just build a bigger one ourselves – and save a lot of money doing it too. It’s just a chicken coop. How hard can it be?” Maybe not famous last words – but they would definitely be in that ballpark.

I looked at some pictures, drew a couple of sketches, wrote a few notes … and made the first trip to Home Depot. (heavy emphasis on first)

Days one and two were kind of fun. We were building a chicken coop! And it was looking like a chicken coop! How cool was it that two women, with no kit, pattern, or really any experience with that kind of thing were building a chicken coop???!!! 

The novelty began to wear off after the second trip to Home Depot, and was gone entirely by the time a fourth became necessary.

During ‘the build,’ I found myself quoting from a YouTube Channel I particularly love (Trent and Allie) … “I don’t care if it’s a ‘hair out of square.’ It’s a chicken coop, not a house.” By the time we got to the ramp, even my daughter had adopted that attitude. I am sorry I measured something wrong for the ‘roof,’ which is probably twenty hairs out of square – and is  attached with zip ties. Even so, we’re not doing it over.

It still needs the chicken swing and a roost in the run. I also need to do fold-down-doors for the vent areas. And then it needs a couple of coats of paint. Maybe now that we’re three weeks away from the headache project, we’ll get those things finished this week. But, such as it is…

Honestly? Even though it’s pretty much cobbled together, I’m pretty proud of how it turned out. Not bad for a couple of ‘girls.’ And Martha, Natasha, Wanda, Scarlet, and Owlette? They love it! 🙂

 

 

Posted in Just for fun, Life, Pets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s Friday! And yeah, I missed Tuesday. Oops.

It’s just been one of those weeks, but … I’m back.

And a heads up. My posts usually contain at least one blue affiliate. You can learn more about those by clicking here.

Okay, so… I’ve spent the past week going through Quinn’s book (part of the Royal Sweethearts series – and don’t forget, A Prince on the Run is always free!), making notes for what works, what doesn’t, what needs changed, and other things I needed to know before starting the real editing. I’ve also been working on the outline for book five in that series, as well as looking at what I’ve gotten done, and what remains to be done, for the Enza prequel. These three books are, tentatively, my summer projects.

To get in a more ‘romantic’ mood, which helps when writing, editing, and plotting romance novels, I’ve been reading books by other authors, watching movies that makes me swoon, and listening to music that makes me want to dance with someone special.

One thing I keep coming back to is the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie. While Elizabeth’s mother and younger sisters grate on my nerves, I do like her father and older sister. But I like her and Mr. Darcy even more, and have been skipping to the scenes that feature them together – more times than I’ll admit to. I just never seem to get tired of them.

It’s hard to imagine, in this day and age, a movie where the couple only kisses once – at the end. They did come frustratingly close to it once though, making you wish you were standing behind Mr. Darcy – either to give him a firm nudge toward Elizabeth … or to kiss him yourself! 🙂

I just find that man – the character – extremely sexy and romantic.

It’s the same with the song below. It is, quite possibly, the most romantic song ever. Yeah, I say that about a lot of them, well, a handful of them anyway. But I think this one would have to be in the top three. It makes you wish there really were guys like that. Guys who value women, who feel lucky to have them. The way he means it in the song. I know there are plenty of good guys in the world, but that one special man? They must be like the needle in the haystack.

And now, I’m going to leave you with a screenshot of my editing view this evening. To the left, I have the faces I use to represent my characters. To the right, a representation of the area where the story takes place. In the not quite center – well, that would be the story itself. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in #romance, affiliate link(s), Books, Love, Royal Sweethearts Romance Series, Updates, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Blog Box … and BIG News!!!

Over the past ten years, I’ve tried more times than I can remember to try and focus on one or two subjects. My intentions are always good, and I really do try, but… I get bored. And then I start finding excuses to postpone writing the post. And then I don’t post anything, and before I know it, weeks (or even months) can pass.

So… I’m breaking out of the blog box I put myself in. Again. But I’m giving in early, before I get burned out. And… I’m going to post whatever I want, just like I’ve done most of the time since I started this journey.

Maybe there will still be Just for Fun Friday or Take Some Time Tuesday posts. But maybe I’ll do Writing Update Wednesdays, Sweetheart Saturdays, or Mishmash Mondays posts too. And I’ll probably be just as surprised as you are about the topics in each one. After all, I AM the Queen of Procrastination, which means I’ll be scrambling for ideas up until the last possible second.

I’m not scrambling today though. Nope. Today, I’m so happy I could dance!

Why? Because … finally … I’ve finished the first draft of (working title) Quinn’s Book. If you’ve read any of the books in the Royal Sweethearts Series, you might remember Quinn McMahon as one of the hunky guards. (Affiliate link warning. Click here to find out more about that.)

I’ll probably share the real title and cover with my newsletter subscribers, along with some sneak peeks, so if you’d like to see those things, click here to subscribe.

Right now, it’s time to start editing. And outlining book five. 🙂

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Take Some Time Tuesday #3 … and National Best Friends Day

This week, I thought it might be nice to do something a little more serious. It can’t be all fun and games now, can it?

Find some kind of box. It doesn’t have to be a big box. Just big enough to hold ten regular sized envelopes (or bigger envelopes, if that’s all you have on hand). Next, grab ten envelopes and ten pieces of paper. Each of you take half of both, and head for different parts of your home.

Now, spend a little time thinking about some things that are important to you. Inexpensive things, or things that don’t cost anything at all. And write them down.

Need some examples? How about a ten second kiss before leaving for work every morning? Or giving up an hour of your phone time to dance with your partner instead? It could be watch a movie together, play a board game together, a foot rub, a couple’s shower. Or it could be something that takes a little more effort, like help wax a car, clean out a closet, organize the garage, or spend some quality time in your bedroom.

Use your imagination, but make sure whatever you write down is actually important to you. Your significant other should give this exercise serious thought too,

Now, write your partner’s name on each of the envelopes and put them all in the box. Each week, take two envelopes out, one for you and one for him or her. And then do whatever is written on the papers.

And now that we’ve got this week’s suggestion out of the way, let’s move on.

I didn’t know there was any such thing as National Best Friends Day, but there is. If you have a best friend, this would be a great day to call them up, give them a nice greeting card, or just do something nice to let them know how special they are to you.

Moving on again, I thought I’d let you know a couple of things. I’m about seven scenes away from finishing book four in the Royal Sweethearts series. Yup. Quinn McMahon is finally getting his own book. Big surprise, I know, but that was an affiliate link. You can learn more about those by clicking here.

I also have some super exciting news! If you follow my Facebook page, you already know about this. If not, well… I’m reviving my JJ Belding pen name because I’m partnering with Zoe McKay, aka Rhonda Hopkins – author of a variety of books, including a couple of really good zombie stories. I know, right? Me? Reading zombie books? But it’s true. And she has a new YA series out, too. You can find out more about those by clicking here.

Here’s a sneak peek at what we’re doing. If you want to see more of the cover as we … unravel it … follow us on Facebook, and keep checking back here. 

 

 

National Best Friends Day

Posted in Books, Cover Reveal, New Book, Royal Sweethearts Romance Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment