Monday, November 21, 2011

Book of the Week Award Winner - Thanks to You!

Jennifer Blake's reissued Silver-Tongued Devil is this week's winner of the Long and Short Romance Review's Book of the Week award!

The award is especially significant because it means not only did the reviewer give the read a 5 out of 5 rating, but the blog readers themselves voted for the book and review to receive the honor.

You can read the quite lovely review here.

The new trade paperback edition will be released December 6, but you can preorder it now for 21% OFF at     Amazonor     BN

An ebook version is also available at     Amazonor     BN

Happy reading!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Traveling Writer

Writers can write anywhere; it’s not only a maxim, but a definite benefit of the craft. Trouble is, we’re expected to take our work, or the tools for it, everywhere we go. On returning from a recent three-week getaway, I realized I’d transported more equipment to work with than clothes to wear. What does that say about me? But it also occurred to me that packing for an extended trip involves a fair amount of organization if you're to have what you need. Aha, fodder for a blog post! So here’s a rundown of what I normally take:

Travel journal:
I like to keep a record of where I went, when, and what I did on certain days. It comes in handy later, when people are scratching their heads, wondering what year we went where. It’s also great for settling arguments!

Research books or materials:
You may not need this item. I always do—especially if I don’t have it with me.

Printed manuscript pages, as needed:
Proofreading on the printed page is far more accurate than proofreading on a computer screen. Why? The screen doesn’t display as much text as a page, so you miss repeated words and phrases. Also, its glare often obscures missed commas or periods. In addition, the printed page is more like printed text so sentences read differently, are perceived differently by the brain. All right, I have no proof of the last, but it seems that way to me.

Notepad—actual, not electronic:
No matter how integrated with the digital world you may be, there will always be times when a low-tech paper-and-pen combo is faster and more convenient than a high-tech gadget.

Pens in your favorite brand and style:
Pens are illusive things. No matter how many I drop into my purse or stand in the pewter cup on my desk, there’s never one available when I need it. I buy them by the box, and, still, the only thing I can find to write with on the spur of the moment is one of those cheap pens everyone lifts from hotel rooms. Do the best you can.

So you may look like a road warrior—you still need some means of keeping all your paraphernalia together. I have a leather hard-sided briefcase, a leather soft-sided one, two rip-stop nylon soft-sided ones, and a cheap one with wheels and a handle that I bought at Wal-Mart. Guess which one I use.

Laptop, Notebook computer, or tablet:
This is an indispensible item, even if you’re absolutely positive you won’t be writing anything longer than research notes, character sketches or scene notes. Leave it behind, and I guarantee the complete plot for the opus of the century will arrive full-blown in your mind while you’re somewhere over the Atlantic or in the middle of Texas.

Padded cover(s) for your precious electronics:
Nothing is sadder than an iPad with a cracked screen from being dropped on a hard surface. I’ve seen it. It’s not pretty.

Chargers for  electronics:
Between the two of us, my husband and I had nine different chargers with us on this last trip—phone (x2), laptop (x2), camera, eReader, iPad, iPod, and GPS. Too wired, yes. But guard these with your life, for you can do nothing without them. It’s a good idea to buy a carrying bag of some kind that’s dedicated to nothing but chargers. I also like to put each charger in a separate zip-type plastic bag and label it. No, I’m not compulsive; it just annoys me to have to scrabble through a bunch of wires to find what I want.

External hard drive or thumb drive with appropriate stored files:
Yeah, yeah, I know you’re connected to the cloud, but what if there’s something between you and it? It can happen in the Wild West where canyon walls and mountain tops often block signals. Bad weather can intervene anywhere. Better safe than sorry.

Paperclips or bulldog clips:
I hate having to reorganize papers when a simple paperclip would have saved the time and irritation. How colorful or fancy these may be is up to you. Have fun; writing has become way too serious these days.

Pre-glued Notes
Sometimes, it’s useful to attach your handwritten note to the MS page it’s meant to elucidate. It just is, trust me. And an idea per page, and the pages in a neat little pile, is… Fine. Maybe I am compulsive. But organization is still a good thing.

Since publishing her first book at age twenty-seven, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over sixty-five historical and contemporary novels in multiple genres.  She brings the story-telling power and seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her eighth-generation Louisiana heritage.  When not traveling, Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Promise-Keeper

This post was originally published July 9, 2010 - from Phoenix Sullivan's Confessions of an Animal Junkie blog.

(I live on a small farm in North Texas with a handful of horses, a couple of goats, a flock of chickens, ducks, dogs, cats and an iguana. I blog about life on a farm and the lessons we learn from the animals around us. I'll be collecting some of my Vet Tech Tales from the blog into a series of ebooks that will start releasing next month.) 

While I was at a horse breeder's two summers ago, scoping out her pen of throw-aways looking for a playmate for my 4-month-old colt, I noticed a roan filly with a pretty trot and a dash of flash. She was half Shetland pony and half Miniature horse, registered as both. At 6 months, she was the oldest, and biggest, foal in the pen. She was going to be big enough that kids could ride, so I wasn't concerned about her being able to find a home, and I wanted a horse that would be hard to place. My dad, still spry at 80, was talking with the breeder's husband and I noticed he kept looking the filly's way. When I told him I was buying a thin little colt instead and that the breeder would deliver him in a couple of days, Dad seemed happy enough.

The next day my dad and I were sitting on my porch and he asked me why I had chosen the colt I did over, say, the big, pretty filly we'd seen. It was clear he'd been smitten. I made a quick and easy decision.

"There's no reason I can't get two horses instead of just one," I told him.

"How much do they want for her?" That was Dad, ever practical.

I shrugged. I saw how much he wanted the horse so, within reason, the price didn't really matter. "I'll find out if she's still available."

She was, and the breeder would be only too happy to bring her out along with the other colt the next day.

When I told my dad everything was arranged, he shook his head and said, "I want to be the one to buy her."

I didn't understand. "Why? You'll get to see her all the time anyway."

"I want to buy her for you. Your mother and I promised a long time ago that we'd get you a horse. So I want to give you that horse now."

I flashed back to a Christmas 41 years earlier when my big present had been a promise: a handwritten certificate entitling me to "one horse, one saddle and one saddle blanket." I would have to wait a little, though, till the time was right and we had the money to get the horse. I hung on to that certificate with all the faith an 8-year-old has in the world. I memorized it. Kept it in a safe and treasured place. Dreamed about it. And waited.

A year passed and we moved, then a year later moved again. When it looked like we would be in one place more than a year and I dared to start looking at livestock and boarding facilities in the classifieds, Dad was laid off and there was no money for a horse. He eventually found a good job, but it took a handful of years to recover financially and another couple before he and Mom felt comfortable enough to spend beyond the essentials. By then I had graduated. And by the time I moved out on my own at 17, I had put my childish hope away.

I folded the certificate along with its empty promise and threw it into the trash.

I may have resigned myself to letting it go, but my dad had never forgotten. And now, 41 years after he'd made that promise, he was ready to make good on it.

He wanted to name the big-boned filly Beauty. We compromised on Bella. She's an easy-going girl who loves company and will follow you around like a puppy. She'll even carry the 50-pound feed bags when asked, though it's usually too much trouble trying to keep them balanced, even on her broad pony back. And while not every horse can pull off the style, she looks terrific with a mohawk.

Mostly, though, when I look at Bella, I see my father's abiding love. In her trot I see his fierce determination not to disappoint his daughter, and in her eyes I see his delight at being able to fulfill a nearly forgotten promise made 40 years ago.

I'm glad he died knowing he'd made his little girl's dream finally come true.

Phoenix Sullivan's short stories have appeared in various pro anthologies and magazines. In the corporate world, Phoenix was a professional writer and editor for 23 years. Before that, she was a registered veterinary technician, working with small animal clinics and wildlife rehab centers. She taps that knowledge in SECTOR C, a near-future medical thriller with a vet heroine, a CDC analyst hero and a pandemic that crosses both species and time.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chivalry Lives in Texas

(This post by Jennifer Blake first appeared Sept 9, 2010 on the Mira Books site)
During a recent drive from our summer home in Colorado back to Louisiana, my husband and I stopped at a convenience store in Clarendon, Texas. While he was putting diesel in the RV we use for travel, I went inside the store. As I came out again, a woman with a young child was almost at the door, so I held it for the two of them. When she had passed by me and gone inside, I started out again but saw a boy of nine or ten coming who was obviously with the woman. I paused again, waiting for him to enter. He stopped, however, and took the handle of the heavy glass door, holding it open for me. “Go ahead, ma’am,” he said in his polite Texas drawl.
Now I’ve lived all my life in the South where a man holding a door open for a woman is an everyday occurrence. This was different because, first, the boy was so young and, second, he commandeered this small act of kindness instead of accepting it from me. And in those brief seconds that it took for me to smile, say thank you and walk away, I knew several things about this young man: 1) Somewhere in his background was a man who had taught him how to behave toward women, 2) he was a boy who could think on his feet, 3) he was not afraid to take the initiative when he felt he was doing the right thing.
Thinking about this now, as a writer, I’m reminded of the importance of the telling gesture in fiction, that one small action which shows more about a character than reams of narrative. I’m also reminded of how much courtesy, honor and chivalry mean to me as a story-teller, how often these things turns up in my books. It’s a couple of lessons re-learned. Well, okay, the incident is also a story-starter as I begin to picture the kind of man who might bring up a boy like this, and think, hmm, what if the guy was divorced or a widower, and what if….

Since publishing her first book at age 27, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over 65 historical and contemporary novels in multiple genres. She brings the story-telling power and seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her 8th-generation Louisiana heritage. Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.