Friday, May 18, 2012

Delta Secrets Giveaway Winners List!

Congratulations to the winners of my Delta Secrets giveaway!  

Winners of an advance copy of THE ONLY MAN FOR HER and a 10.00 e-gift certificate are:
Barbara V.

Winners of a complete set of Delta Secrets books are:

Please click on this link and fill out the contact form to confirm and to receive further instructions on how to claim your prize.:)

Many, many thanks to all the participants!  

*** The above link (click on 'this link') did not initially connect to the contact form directly.  If you've attempted to claim your prize and did not successfully complete the form, please try again.  Just type Prize Claim in the text box and I'll get back to you with the information I need.  My apologies for the glitch!--Kristi

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Contest is now closed.

The Delta Secrets contest is now closed.  Stay tuned for a list of the winners, good luck and thanks for participating.:)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Stories We Never Forget

We've all read or heard them… those special stories that somehow leave an indelible mark on our souls.  We've read them in newspapers, magazines, online and yes, in books.  Some have been verbally passed down through generations, shared by those who've come before us.  Sometimes we're fortunate to have heard or read more than one.

As an author, I've luckily been on the receiving end of some phenomenal stories shared by readers, like the grandmother who sent me a letter and a photo of her hearing-impaired grandson after reading my first book, Cowboy For Keeps, that featured a single mother with a profoundly deaf daughter.  And I'll never forget the young woman who sent me poetry she'd written about how she survived domestic violence after reading His Sheltering Arms, a book centered around a women's shelter.  I still have those letters and a few others, and I'm still moved by each and every one.  

But long before I ever considered writing a book, one particular story from my childhood stays with me still, even after the passage of time.  A moving story of acceptance delivered by a soft-spoken pastor on a long-ago Sunday morning.  I believe I must have been at least ten years old when I heard it, otherwise I would have been in the children's playroom drinking Kool-Aid and coloring, not sitting in the sanctuary for the grown-up service.  I can't recall the exact date or even the time of year, but I do recall the reverend's message in detail.  

He spoke of a couple who wanted a child more than anything, and after many, many years of waiting, they were finally blessed. When it came time for the birth, the mother, who was put into "Twilight Sleep" during delivery, initially remained unaware that her precious baby girl had been born with a defective arm—"withered" the reverend called it.  The father, deeply concerned over his wife's reaction to their daughter's imperfections, summoned my pastor to the hospital for support.  

As soon as the wife came fully awake, she immediately asked for her baby, so the nurses brought the completely swaddled infant into the room and laid the little girl in her mother's awaiting arms.  And as most mother's will do, the woman immediately began to unwrap her daughter's blanket while the fearful father and sympathetic clergyman looked on, worried and wondering.  As it turned out, they had no reason to worry. After studying her baby from head to toe, the new mother smiled up at her husband and simply said, "God made her to need us as much as we need her."

If you have a story that's personally moved you, please feel free to share it here.  You never know when that story could change someone else's life. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You Know You're An Author When...

  • You mention the word 'deadline,' and your family runs.
  • Your accountant suggests you take a portion of your royalties and invest in Starbucks.
  • You're so far out of the loop you think Harry Potter is a popular kid in your son's class.  
  • You overhear someone say, "That's a novel idea!" during a cocktail party and you pull your iPad from your purse to take notes.
  • Your oven's on the fritz and you're mildly annoyed.  Your coffeemaker goes out and you're extremely homicidal.
  • You plan to buy catheters and IV fluids before your next deadline.
  • Your cousin calls to say you should plan a family reunion, so you immediately start plotting your next five-book series.
  • You watch your favorite TV crime drama and spend most of the show identifying the turning points.
  • Frozen dinners are your best friends, second only to your spell-checker. 
  • You claim NoDoz as a legitimate business expense on your taxes. 
  • You haven't worn your hair this long since high school.
  • You used to keep paper and pen on the nightstand in case you remembered an item you left off the grocery list.  You now keep it on the nightstand in case your characters speak to you in the middle of the night.
  • You're down to your last roll of toilet paper so you limit usage to two squares until you have time to leave the house.  You're down to your last ream of printer paper and you immediately hop in the car and speed to Staples.
  • You put on a bra and makeup and your husband mistakes you for the Avon representative. 
  • You take that long-awaited beach vacation and spend hours photographing shirtless men to provide inspiration for your next hero.
  • You can name all your characters, but not your kids.  
  • You consider yourself fashion-forward when you place an order online for sweats in all the latest spring colors. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

We Are Women

International Women`s Day 2012 

In honor of International Women's Day....

We are women—sisters and mothers, daughters and grandmothers, family and friends. We are a vast array of skin tones, religions, cultures, ages, shapes—from lips to hips—patently unique yet joined by our gender. That is our beauty. We may not have the power to move mountains, but we do have the power to bring about change through our voices and our votes. And together we fight on…

We are corporate CEOs, heads of households, single moms. We are skilled doctors, legislators, keepers of the home fires, soldiers protecting the front lines. We work thankless jobs, sometimes two or three, to provide for our families, to prove our worth. Many times we work without equal pay or respect. We’re told to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, only to fall back on our derrieres, but we get up and try again. We do it every day, because we are determined to fight on.

We are mothers and sometimes childless by choice or circumstance, making us no more or less a woman. We are the palm on the fevered forehead, the healers of scrapes, the soothers of nightmares, the teachers of morals.  We are the “Hi, Moms” on national television, the driving force behind many a successful man, at times with no thought of our own success. We might not know exactly where we came from, but we know where we’re going—straight to the top of the respect ladder—as long as we fight on.

We sometimes seek shelter when fists and words are used to beat us down, but we are not defeated. We are often criticized for our presumed meekness and in turn, derided for our strength, yet we remain strong. We stand for the cause of righteousness, wearing symbolic colored ribbons on our lapels and raw emotions on our sleeves. We see no shame in crying, for tears express both joy and broken hearts. Yet some of us live in places where we're punished for speaking our minds. We still risk that punishment—even death—by removing the veil and shouting to those who will listen. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we are silenced, sometimes we die, but still we fight on.

We will teach our young men to recognize a woman’s worth, to respect and love her for who she is. We will teach our young women to respect themselves, to think with cool heads, keep company with compassion. We will teach the new generation acceptance of other’s differences, not tolerance; after all, the rainbow is accepted and revered, not tolerated, for its beautiful array of colors. We understand that the world is a tapestry rich with varying textures and tones, and we continue to weave the fabric that keeps families together. We serve as the voice for those who cannot speak as we struggle against injustice, even when we wonder if we have any fight left.

We are far from perfect, yet at times we expect perfection—from ourselves. We long for honest love, but in the absence of that love, we cannot give up, because we deserve nothing less. We must learn to acknowledge not only our faults, but our gifts. Only then will others acknowledge them too. We can rise above poverty and despair, smile when we want to weep, love when we’re afraid to feel, hope when all hope seems forever lost, because we are brave. We will strive to be all that we are meant to be, all that we are destined to be, finding solace in knowing we have survived to fight another day—a battle we will most surely win. After all, we are women—sisters, mothers, daughters, grandmothers and friends. 

Strong, sexy, wonderfully flawed fighters.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Daydream Believing


The day I learned of Davy Jones' death, I picked up the phone and called good friends and writing colleagues, Kathie DeNosky and Roxann Delaney.  The sad news set off a round of reminiscing about our pasts once populated by those 'cute guys' that caused our prepubescent hearts to pitter patter, Davy being among them.  We talked about magazines like Tiger Beat that included tear-out photos suitable for framing, or displaying as wall decoration, depending on your preferences.  I chose the wall option, thanks to my big sister who introduced me to the world of pop culture and pin-up posters.  Our entire shared bedroom soon became graced with pictures of the Monkees, Paul Revere and the Raiders and of course, The Beatles.  In a very short span of time, very little of our four walls remained uncovered.  Probably not even an inch. Funny, our mother never really complained.  She simply allowed us to express our love of music—and the musicians—through glossy pictures that chronicled our adolescent crushes.  Then again, she was a Davy fan, too, and absolutely loved Daydream Believer, I suspect because her name was Jean.  

I've always found the power of music truly amazing and how certain songs prompt clear recollections from my youth.  Just Walk Away, Renee by The Left Banke immediately sends me back to one morning while I was having breakfast—cinnamon toast and hot chocolate, to be exact.  A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procal Harum brings me back to a summer night where I sat on a swing, barefoot, listening to the radio with a warm breeze blowing across my face.  Other tunes remind me of those all-important milestones—a first kiss, a first love, the birth of my first child—all tied to deeply-ingrained memories. 

Music continues to be an integral part of my life to this day, and not only as a catalyst for memory-making.  Before I sit down to write a book, I populate a playlist with songs that fit the mood of the story through the melody and/or even the lyrics.  Those playlists are an eclectic mix of genres, from country to classical, that aid in sparking my imagination, stoking the creative fires and evoking those emotions so important to writing a solid love story.  

Even though the posters have now been replaced by grown-up artwork, and my taste in music has somewhat matured, I will forever be grateful for those artists, past and present--the cute guys, country crooners and delightful divas--who've formed my personal history through their songs. 

So Davy J., heartthrob extraordinaire, thanks for all the memories.  This daydream believer will never forget you.       

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Twelve Signs You're Too Obsessed With Technology

I know when the obsession with technology began for me—after I purchased my first PC.   Then came email, though I initially had to rely on dial-up (I can still hear that funky sound in my head) before the advent of high-speed internet.  It didn't matter if it took several minutes and sometimes several attempts to connect.  I was just darned happy to be a part of that new thing known as The Worldwide Web.  Of course, we can't forget those first cell phones, the clunky kind that could double as a weapon, before everything went streamlined and portable and affordable. With the arrival of social media, people became joined by a virtual umbilical cord that can easily be severed if you un-friend someone.  Most teens have no concept of conversations that don't involve text messages.  We no longer have to be home to watch our favorite TV shows; we just fire up the DVR.  Our CDs have given way to MP3s and our playlists are more extensive than a mortgage contract.  Now traditional books are being replaced by e-readers that practically do everything but the laundry, although I sure hope they develop that application soon.

Though we've gained many advantages through recent technology, I have to wonder if perhaps we're giving up too much old-fashioned face time.  So how do we know when enough is enough?  Here's a list I compiled that could indicate you've gone completely over the edge. 

  • When your sister invites you to grab a bite, you grab your laptop and take off for the nearest computer superstore to buy more memory.
  • You attempt to purchase groceries from an App store
  • You meet your gal pals for a night on the town and you spend the evening tweeting each other from your perch at the bar.
  • You marry your fiancé in Vegas… via Skype because you can't leave the chat room.
  • In the aftermath of an amorous interlude with your spouse, you send him/her a text that reads, "Was it good for you?"
  • You name your twins High and Definition.
  • You inform your children about the birds and bees with a PowerPoint presentation.
  • You upgrade your cell phone and two days later, you sell your great aunt's antiques so you can upgrade it again.
  • While planning your son's bar mitzvah, you exclude your parents to make room for the computer tech guy and his girlfriend.
  • Your children discover they have a new step-daddy from your status update on Facebook.
  • Your car's GPS stops working and you can't find your place of employment.
  • Your baby's first word is OMG.

Now ask yourself this—if some obscure law suddenly forces you to give up all but one of your favorite forms of technology, i.e. cell phone, laptop, etc., what would you keep?  If the thought of even answering that question sends you into a cold sweat, put down the cell phone, step away from the computer, and consider techno rehab.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Hero Of My Own

As a romance writer, I learned early on it's imperative to include an irresistible hero in your books.  Those dashing, romantic, honorable men a girl can't help but fall in love with.  Some skeptics don't believe they really exist, but I'm here to tell you they do. I had one of my very own  my husband, Steve.

Our love story began in earnest when he lowered to one knee, asked for my hand, gave me a beautiful ring, then took me to a Willie Nelson concert.  For a girl who cut her teeth on country music and more than appreciated a good romantic gesture, this was the perfect proposal, so of course I said yes.  A few months later, I began our married life together with a lot of clothes and not a whit of equine knowledge.  Steve entered our married life together with an organized closet and a slew of horses.  We went on to raise three children and too many foals to count, and I suppose I should consider myself lucky it wasn't the other way around.  

Admittedly, Steve and I were pretty much polar opposites. He chose his words carefully, I spewed whatever came to mind.  He was a planner; I was a jumper.  He was also the consummate family man as well as a respected neurosurgeon.  His colleagues and patients knew him as the cowboy physician who wore polished boots, dress jeans and a starched white lab coat.  I knew him as the husband who wore scuffed boots, holey jeans and a T-shirt that read "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV."  

They knew the M.D. who could toss out orders without missing a beat; I knew the rancher who could toss a fifty-pound bag of feed as if it weighed no more than a nickel.  They knew the doctor who carried a chart down the hospital hall with authority; I knew the first-time father who proudly carried his newborn daughter around the delivery room—until one nurse reminded him that the baby's mother might like to have her turn. They knew the surgeon who donned gloves to wield a scalpel with precision; I knew the guy who liked to repair fences without gloves, much to my mortification. They knew the healer who could navigate a brain practically blindfolded; I knew the typical male who wouldn't consult a map to save my sanity—and refused to ask for directions.  They knew "the look," the one that had nurses coming to attention; our children knew "the look," the one that clearly stated, "Listen to your mother."  

They knew the doctor who spent a good deal of his time in the OR, the ER and the office;  I knew the husband and father who spent his free time at home, kissing a crying baby's boo-boos and assembling toys without bothering with the instructions—keeping all the extra parts "just in case."  I still have them, along with a box containing almost every greeting card I ever gave him that he secretly saved. 

Yet very few knew about the Parkinson's Disease that prematurely ended his career, and subsequently his life.  For fifteen years I witnessed the toll that insidious disease slowly took on his body and mind, yet he never let it touch his spirit—until  eighteen months ago when he grew weary of fighting.  Needless to say, letting him go wasn't the least bit easy.  All those things I loved about him, little things I'd forgotten when I assumed the role as his constant caregiver, precious memories that returned during his last days on earth, made me hold on even tighter. But as much as I clung to the hope that he would come back to me, I eventually recognized that willing him not to leave would only be selfish. If he could have stayed, he would have, because that's what heroes do, but only as a whole man completely in charge of his body and mind, not the suffering man who sometimes forgot my name, though he never failed to recognize me.   

I will always cherish Steve's final fleeting moments of clarity, the I-love-yous and quiet goodbyes before he found that much sought-after peace.  Maybe illness robbed him of dignity in the end, but it could never erase the unconditional love he had for his wife and children, or the countless lives he saved.  It could never steal the true essence of my hero.

So on this Valentine's Day, I celebrate being completely loved by a man who hasand will always bethe cornerstone of every hero I write.  I only hope that everyone will be so blessed.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sweetbreads and Fried Beer and Free Books, Oh My!

In keeping with my recent guilty-pleasure theme--and because apparently I have little life beyond the DVR--I've decided to reveal yet another of my favorites.  I've recently discovered cooking competition shows and I've found they're as addictive as… well… food.  I've been following Top Chef: Texas, just finished watching The Next Iron Chef and I try to catch all the cake/cupcake bake-offs whenever possible.  But I have to admit that Chopped is probably my current favorite.  In case you haven't tuned in before, this show features four chefs competing to create culinary masterpieces from a basket of sometimes bizarre ingredients in thirty minutes or less.  The three rounds—appetizer, entrée, and dessert—are critiqued by four notable chef judges who are charged with sampling the food then chopping one competitor each round until they're down to the final two.   The winner walks away with ten grand and the title Chopped Champion, as well as the knowledge that apples and anchovies can exist harmoniously in a pound cake.       

But does it walk off the table
 when you're done?
Now I personally can't peel potatoes in thirty minutes or less, so I'm totally enthralled watching what could prove to be a disaster if the contestants don't get it right, or on the plate, right or wrong.  Not to mention, I don’t recognize half the ingredients most of the time.  Who cooks with rose water anyway?  Someone who doesn't mind if their buffalo tenderloin tastes like body lotion?  I'm not even sure I'd want to pick up a blue-foot chicken—with the feet still attached—much less prepare it.

Maybe it's just my lack of sophistication.  After all, I cut my teeth on good Southern cookin' in my youth.  My grandmother's motto:  if you got it, fry it.  Apparently that motto still applies at the State Fair of Texas as I've been told you can find everything from fried beer to fried butter.  Fried butter?  If you think that should  earn a citation from the saturated fat police, think again.  Every year they give the Big Tex Choice Award   selected from a list of top fried food finalists.  Fried bubblegum made that list this past year.  Yum! Not.

I'm proud to report that my palate has developed over the years and I no longer limit my options.  I've exchanged standard box mac and cheese for the kind with creamy Velveeta.  I've graduated from iceberg lettuce to romaine.  I purchase shredded parmesan as opposed to the ground-up kind.  Oh, and I've learned about béchamel, thanks to my oldest daughter, who happens to be a chef.  I don't know what to do with it, but I know what it is.  Sort of.  But regardless of what's cooking on whatever show I'm watching, whether it be cupcakes or cod, I always come away with two undeniable reactions—hunger, and the urge to hire a personal chef who'll work for free books.

Speaking of those free books... I'll be giving away two sets of the first two Delta Secrets books—The One She Left Behind and The Son He Never Knew.  In order to enter, just leave a comment about your favorite food, your favorite food show or a food you'd like to see fried.  Winners will be selected in a random draw by the end of the week.  And if you have a spare minute, be sure to cast your vote in the new poll located in the upper right hand corner.

Happy Tuesday, and  bon appétit!  Which in Texas translates as, Enjoy that fried baloney, ya hear?


Friday, January 27, 2012

Tune in Tomorrow For Another Episode of 'Do You Really Expect Me to Believe That?'

Years and years ago, I admittedly became quite attached to soap operas.  Some might even say I was totally addicted, but I'm inclined to disagree.  So what if I ignored the Lamaze method and breathed in time to General Hospital's Dr. Tony Jones' heart monitor during labor with my second child?  I mean, the TV was on and Tony had been shot by Jack Slater, although I can't remember if that was before or after he'd been rendered temporarily blind.  I do know that Tania had not yet perished in the car accident….

Anyway, I set aside time  to watch four daytime dramas and managed to keep track of every evil patriarch, pregnant debutante and routine tragedy.  I gladly believed in five-minute paternity tests, the boarding school that accelerated a child's age by fifteen years in less than six months, and every heart-stopping whodunit that remained unsolved for weeks, despite the obvious suspect.  I also admired that even among the fictional chaos, they managed to raise awareness of some very important issues, like HIV and breast cancer. Yet at some point in time—and I think it coincided with my writing addiction—I stopped tuning in. 

Skip forward fifteen years or so to this past summer when I begin watching two of my favorites again with my daughter (the Tony Jones heart-monitor baby). You'd think I might have problems catching up after such a long hiatus, but it hasn't been too difficult—except when it comes to the next generation and trying to pin them on the correct parents since it's not uncommon in Soap Opera Land for someone to pass off a child on the incorrect father.  I'm beginning to think maybe a spread sheet might aid in avoiding confusion.  

Anyhoo, I've recently discovered I don't so easily buy some of the scenarios this time around.  What trauma surgeon leaves a shirtless, hunky cop, who's bleeding out with a gunshot wound to the chest, alone with only his non-medically trained fiancé to attend him?  Where did the mob boss get the magic drug that brings a purely evil femme fatale out of a incurable coma to wreak more havoc?  My habit of asking these questions during the show drives the TJHM baby insane, and she's quick to point out this is a soap opera, not real life.  She's absolutely right.

Soap operas are designed to allow a viewer to escape the rigors of reality and enter a world of make-believe.  A world where kids grow up extremely fast and almost everyone has untold wealth, a target on their backs and a hairstylist on call.  In general, they operate on what is known as 'suspending disbelief', meaning you're willing to quit questioning the journey and just enjoy the ride.

Although I tend to write more reality-based romance these days, I have asked readers to ditch their disbelief on several occasions.  I have happily been a part of the best-selling Harlequin Desire series, The Texas Cattleman's Club, featuring a small West Texas town populated with so many millionaire ranchers and sheiks and such that you can't throw a stone on the street without hitting one.  And you don't want to hit one because they're all highly-trained military types--and of course, very good-looking.   With my Gothic-style romance, House of Midnight Fantasies, I invited readers into a mysterious antebellum plantation where a woman with telepathic powers taps into the equally mysterious--and gorgeous--owner's fantasies about her (like that happens every day).  I've written about secret babies, an Internet mistaken engagement, a hot air balloon that lands on a yacht, and an Irish-American family with five successful siblings who find love in some unexpected ways.  In contrast, I've also written stories highlighting deaf culture, childhood diabetes, domestic violence and blindness.  But the common denominator in all my books involves two people overcoming obstacles and finding love as they strive for that happily-ever-after ending that doesn't always happen in real life.  Simply stated, every time I write a book, I'm asking readers to escape into a fictional world where two strangers could meet, fall in love, break-up, marry in less than a week and mate for life.  Where rich, honorable men are readily available and love is the greatest power of all.  Come to think of it, I firmly believe that last part is true.   Guess that's why I love what I do.

I'm also of the opinion that everyone needs to escape reality now and then. So how do you escape?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Welcome To Authordom!

2012 marks a huge milestone for me.  It's been twenty years since I set out for that magical place known as Authordom.  I began the journey armed with only a kernel of an idea, a computer and encouragement from my sister.  For seven years I battled rejection dragons, greatly fearing failure monsters, while guided by my fairy godmother, Perseverance and her mouthy sidekick, R.U. Insane.  Several times I wanted to leave the foreboding publication forest and almost did, when I encountered that often elusive Lady Luck, who gave me the keys to the kingdom with my first sale. 

Thankful I'd finally arrived, I stormed the gates and rushed into the castle, only to discover that I'd been somewhat mistaken in my expectations.  Where are the bon-bons and the chambermaids?  What do you mean there's no throne aside from the one in the bathroom?  As it turns out, I don't keep company with ladies in waiting or dashing men in tights—aside from those in my stories.  Without the tights, of course, since I write contemporary romance.  I don't wake up every morning to breakfast in bed and don a red satin ball gown to begin my day.  I eat cereal and put on ratty sweats and a T-shirt, keeping my bra nearby in case I'm summoned by a mysterious messenger dressed in brown.  The banquet table isn't stocked with pheasant, fine wine and decadent desserts.  In fact, I have no banquet table, but I do have a microwave and TV dinners at my disposal.  And chocolate.  Lots and lots of chocolate.

I've become well acquainted with the deadline dungeon, a dark place where I chain myself to the computer, talk to imaginary cabana boys and learn to exist on five hours sleep, not knowing whether it's night or day or if I'll ever be able to lay off the caffeine again.  And just like that old "Writing a book is like giving birth" adage, I conceive a plot, nurture it until it's ready to be born and finally release it as a full-formed book.  I then take my place on the cyber balcony, the proud parent filled with anticipation, preparing to greet my loyal subjects/readers… only to have someone in the courtyard yell "Your baby's ugly!" It doesn't matter if a few people in the crowd applaud my offspring, I only hear those words repeated over and over.  Ugly baby. Ugly baby.  Ugly baby.  And still, I return back inside the castle and do it all over again, avoiding the moat so I won't get eaten up by self-doubt sea serpents.

While residing at the kingdom—or the queendom—I've become an expert juggler, so much so I could be the court jester if the writing thing doesn't pan out.  I've learned to juggle family needs, socializing with friends and the ever-changing publishing realm.  I've also learned that no matter how strong or how high the fortress walls, sometimes the challenges of life intrude into the inner sanctum, and terrible, awful loss sends you back out the gates and into the real world for a while.  Yet somehow you eventually return to the castle and your writing with a shattered heart and the realization you have to move forward, one word at a time.  Back to the dungeon to attempt to escape into your imagination, only it isn't quite as easy as it once was.  Then again, you're not exactly the same person, either.  A little wiser, maybe, but definitely grateful for the little things.  Even TV dinners and dungeons.

When things get tough, I try to remember everything I've learned to this point, and I often recall someone saying you should write what you know.  And what I know is how it feels to be truly and completely loved by a real knight in shining armor.  This knowledge carries me forward and encourages me to honor and celebrate that kind of love in every book I write.  If I can continue to keep my place in the castle—and I'm certainly going to try—I can only hope that I'll be residing in Authordom for another twenty years.  Looks like I better stock up on chocolate.  Lots and lots of chocolate.