Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Writer's Wednesday - Sign Language

We're delighted to welcome Harlequin Super Romance author, Angel Smits, to the Pink Heart Society as she talks about how she copes with not being able to "see" her characters

In my day job, we have several employees who use sign language as their primary language.  I used to work in Human Resources and spent much of my time helping employees deal with their benefits, with the myriad of information that came from corporate offices, and just figuring out day-to-day messages.

So, when my boss at the time said they’d be offering sign language classes, I was happy to sign up.  I thought it would help me do my job better, as well as help my co-workers.  I never thought about how it would change my thinking and be the impetus for one of my favorite books.  

The teacher who showed up that day, was hearing impaired herself.  She informed us--through writing on the board and another of my coworkers who knew sign--that we would not be speaking in the class.  The looks on everyone’s faces when we figured that out was quite interesting.   I have to admit I was a bit uncomfortable—how the heck would I learn without asking questions?  Then it dawned on me--that’s probably how a hearing impaired person must feel walking into a room full of people who don’t know sign.  

It was very eye opening.  And it didn’t take long before my writer’s brain clicked in and started asking dozens of “what if?” questions.  

Each class, I found it easier to understand the signs, and sometimes easier to make them.  Both are difficult, by the way.  My fingers are not as cooperative as I’d like and looking at the signs, in reverse, is definitely a puzzle sometimes.  Watching someone sign at full speed, as quickly as I would speak, is daunting to say the least.  One of the first signs I got down pat was “slow” both to ask someone to sign slower and to explain my bumbling.  

As I learned, I came up with the story of Lauren Ramsey and Jason Hawkins.  It was a story that intrigued and scared me.  I want to write stories that are realistic and honest.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to portray someone whose life I couldn’t fully understand.  But I wanted to write it.  And my characters seem to want their story told.  They wouldn’t fade away like some story ideas I’ve come up with.  They just kept getting stronger in my mind.

So, I talked to my editor and she encouraged me to go for it.  And so I did.  But it wasn’t easy.  I struggled to get the words on the page.  I was late meeting my deadline, which really bothered me.  

But then I realized something.  I was focusing on the differences in our lives, not on the common ground.  And there is a common ground.  We all feel, we all have daily concerns, fears and dreams.  Once I figured that out, it helped the story come together, and—oddly enough—made it easier to communicate using sign.  I stopped worry and just did it.      

That story became THE BALLERINA’S STAND, which is a July Super Romance release.  It’s a book I’m proud of, but very glad it’s finished.  I’m not taking sign language classes any longer, though I keep practicing.  I even find myself signing absently sometimes.  It’s nice to realize I’ve learned something, from my class, from my teacher and even from myself.  Hopefully, readers of THE BALLERINA’S STAND will come away with something as well.  If you’re curious, please consider checking out the American Sign Language info that’s available in books and online.  It’s an easy alphabet to master, and the foundation of learning a whole new, fascinating language.  

Do you visualise characters when you write, or are you like Angel, and turn to pictures for help|?  Join our discussion in the comments!

Angel's latest release, The Ballerina's Stand, is out now:

Love reaches far beyond words.

When she was growing up, a deaf kid in foster care, dancing gave Lauren Ramsey a sense of belonging. Now she's a Prima ballerina with her own dance studio; everything's finally going right.

And then lawyer Jason Hawkins turns up and drops a bombshell: Lauren's unknown father has left her a fortune. Well, Jason can take that money and shove it. Except...he can't. Once he sees Lauren dancing, he can't stay away...

To find out more about Angel Smits, check out her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Talk-Time Tuesday - Finding the Happily Ever After

We're delighted to welcome Harlequin Intrigue author Angi Morgan back to the Pink Heart Society as she talks about happily ever afters...

The twins were all Josh Parker had in this world. So when they were kidnapped, he couldn't rely on his Texas Rangers star to get them back safely. Or involve Tracey Cassidy, the only person he trusted to care for his children. A family of criminals was asking him to break the law if he ever wanted to see his children again. But when Tracey caught wind of his plan, she knew no matter how big Josh's heart was, he had a future with his twins to look forward to. They needed their father. And this was one burden he wouldn't have to shoulder alone.

Josh thought he’d found his one true love when he married, but she was taken away. Can he find love again? Can he save his children? The subject matter makes for an exciting story and since it’s a romance you’re guaranteed a happily ever after.

Should real people believe and want a happily ever after? Is searching to find the love of your life just a fairy tale? Should we all get our heads out of the clouds and plant our feet firmly on the ground to trudge through life without hope? I don’t think so.

Three years ago, my daughter broke up with her boyfriend of over a year, this is a lose summary of our conversation three weeks later. He'd just apologized and asked if it was okay to speak with her, letting her know that he finally understood what the argument had been about.

MY DAUGHTER: "He asked if I had expected him to follow me after our fight. I told him, yes. Is that wrong? Have I seen too many romantic movies or something?"

ME: "Did you ask why he didn't come after you or call?"

MY DAUGHTER: "He was respecting my wishes. Now he knows that he's supposed to fight for me. I mean, isn't he? I don't know. I love him, but I don't think we can get back together. I don't trust that he feels the same way as I do."

ME: "Well, you need to talk with him again. I know you. And you're not going to let this go. You'll spend too much time wondering if you did everything possible to make it work. Did you do everything? Did you share how you feel?"

MY DAUGHTER: "No. But I've said everything before."

ME: "I don't think you were completely honest before. You never told him about the problems you've had or the sacrifice you make in order to see him. So how's he supposed to appreciate that…if he doesn't know?"

My daughter called with a list of the good and the bad and ended by asking what HE HEARD this time and also asking if he'd been completely honest with her. Afterwards, they took their relationship one day at a time, dated again with no pressure. In case you're wondering about their outcome:

The point of my story is that real people seek a happily ever after all the time. Is it a fairy tale story? No. Real life is full of the good and the bad. It's what makes us stronger. It's how we keep growing--separately and together. "AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER" indicates an end. LIFE is a series of stories, segments which come to a close, but baby…it ain't over 'til it's over.

So don't stop until you've done everything in your power to keep your 'ever after' within your grasp. Exactly like Tracey & Josh.

HARD CORE LAW is on shelves and like my backlist, always available on-line. Thanks so much for joining me today. I'd love to hear about your happily ever after moment! Have you had more than one?

Angi Morgan writes Texans on the run in Texas. Her work is a multiple contest finalist and Publisher’s Weekly best seller. She drags her dogs–and husband– around Texas for research road trips so she can write off her camera. They now have a map with highlighted roads they’ve traveled. Every detour somehow makes it into a book.
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Monday, July 25, 2016

Male on Monday - A Man Who Cares

This Monday at The Pink Heart Society, Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Nocturne author, Karen Whiddon talks to us about caring heroes.

I rescue dogs. And in some circles, I might even be considered a crazy dog lady. It’s funny, because when I was told the theme for my post was Male on Monday, all I could think about was having four male dogs and a husband. My lone female dog and I are sorely outnumbered. I love my boys and my man, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the rescue world, I see lots of caring men who do everything they can to help the dogs in need. Driving miles to transport them somewhere, fostering them, loving them, helping them heal, and finding them the perfect forever home. My husband is one of these men, but there are so many others.

This is what I find appealing in a man – the ability to care for someone or something other than himself. Fathers, uncles, brothers – you’ll find my heroes to be any or all of these. Rance Sleighter, the hero of my July Harlequin Nocturne Tempting the Dragon, is a widowed step-dad with a very sick little step-daughter. He will do anything and everything to make her dream come true – taking a leave of absence from his job even. What he didn’t count on was finding love too.

I’ve had a long-running Shape-shifter series for Nocturne – it started with One Eye Open back when the line was Silhouette Intimate Moments. I introduced Shape-shifting Dragons a few books back. They’re rare and often have special abilities. Rance Sleighter cares about none of that – all he wants to do is photograph an elusive lake monster for his step-daughter. And when his little girl disappears, he’ll stop at nothing to find her and bring her to safety.

And once he accomplishes that, he ends up with a few more unanswered questions. Who, or what is the so-called lake monster? And in the end, can a Shape-shifting dragon and a Shape-shifting wolf make a life together?

The story was an interesting challenge to create. I hit a few bumps during it, as my elderly father became ill and eventually passed away. I turned to my guys (and one gal) for comfort, and revised until the story was where it needed to be.

Every day, my dogs surround me as I write. They’re my kids and my co-workers, and I love them all dearly. Rescue is one of my great passions, and finding that has given me a purpose in life, in addition to the stories I have left to tell.

I hope you get a chance to pick up a copy of Tempting the Dragon. If you do, let me know if you enjoyed reading it.

Do you think that caring males make for the best heroes?  Join in the discussion in the comments!

Karen Whiddon's latest book, Tempting the Dragon, is out now:

What lies beneath... 

Investigative reporter Rance Sleighter had promised to prove the mythical Lake Creature existed. But its protector had already given him a heap of trouble, as well as inspired one too many hot fantasies. If Rance was going to get some answers, he'd have to get on the gorgeous Jade Burnett's good side…and keep her away from his bed! 

For generations, Jade's shape-shifting pack had kept the Creature safe. Now Rance's appearance had her rethinking all her vows. She'd seen him in her dreams, knew he was a shifter and that they possibly shared a life-changing bond. Yet could she find the courage to trust the dragon with the truth…and her own fragile heart?

To find out more about Karen and her books, you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Weekend Wildcard - Downsizing

Pink Heart Society columnist Jenna Kernan is talking about downsizing and writing full time...

As I write this in my longtime home in New York State, I realize that when it posts I will have already moved to my new home in Florida.  I'm making some big changes, including leaving my day job to pursue writing full-time.  Other changes include downsizing my lifestyle.  This reduces the financial burden and will give me more freedom.  But the process!! 

The last year has included yard sales, trips to donate household goods to my local charities, donations to my church rummage sale, Craigslist posts and giving away possessions to family members.


As I divest myself of possessions, I find, instead of regret or sorrow, an unexpected feeling of joy and freedom that comes from not having so many things to look after, dust, wash and store.  My husband and I shredded paper for one solid week.  I still cannot believe how much paper I had in closets, cupboards, filing cabinets and my desk. 

The Before Desk...

During the entire process, I have been writing.  First in my office.  Then in my stripped down office, then in my staged for sale office, then in my empty office, and then on my desk in the dining room after the sale when this surface doubled as our dining room table and finally at my breakfast counter when my desk was disassembled for transport.

Bookshelf Culling

So bon voyage to me and mine. I'm beginning again in a new place... but one thing that will not changed is my love for telling stories and finding a time and place to write.

So have you ever downsized?  What are the vital things you need with you?  Join in the discussion in the comments! 

Jenna's latest book, Native Born is the final book in her popular Apache Protector series for Harlequin Intrigue, and is out now:

Heritage or Heartbreak? 

Apache tribal counsel member Clyne Cosen needs the FBI's protection. But having Agent Cassidy Walker as his personal bodyguard presents its own dangers. His involvement in the custody battle for Cassidy's adopted Apache daughter muddled the lines between personal and professional. Now he has feelings for a woman who was not native born. 

Cassidy will do her job at any cost. But being so close to Clyne means the FBI agent sees him as more than just the man who could take her daughter—he might also steal her heart. Duty. Desire. Which path will Cassidy take…or will a bullet make that decision for her?

Jenna Kernan writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue, Western Historical fiction and paranormal romance for the Nocturne line. A Publisher's Weekly Bestseller, winner of the Book Buyers' Best award and two-time RITA nominee, Jenna is moving to Florida from New York. Her popular APACHE PROTECTOR series from Harlequin Intrigue concludes with NATIVE BORN (#4) June 2015.  Next up...THE WARRIOR'S CAPTIVE BRIDE, a Western Historical, September 2016.

Jenna is forming a new review team.  If you are interested in getting free pre-release copies of Jenna's latest visit her website to apply to Jenna's Review Team.

For more details about Jenna Kernan's stories, visit her EXTRAS page, subscribe to her newsletter on her website, visit her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter.