Courtney’s Blog

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

What can’t you live without? #MFRWAuthor

This week’s prompt: Item I can’t live without

Well, I was going to say my phone because, just like everyone else, I’m totally addicted to it. But that felt like a generic cop-out answer. The truth is that we’re all addicted to our phones, right?

But mostly because it replaced all the things! Do you remember those memes that were going around circa 2010 about all the small electronics that the iPhone replaced? Bye-bye alarm clocks, white noise machine, radios, CD players, etc? It’s true.

But it also struck me that none of us are addicted to the phone in the same way. We all use it for certain things–phone, text, camera. I take about 37 pix of Fox a day! But beyond the “basic” stuff, I mostly use my phone to read in some form or fashion.

I’ve got my Kindle app, my Audible, my Scribd app, my Libby app, my Goodreads app…I’ve got a whole screen of book-related apps! (If you need some help with using e-reading apps, check out my article–No e-reader! No problem!)

And that’s when it hit me. The item I really can’t live without? Books. In all forms and fashions.

My earliest memories center around reading. My mom took us to the local library every week and I constantly checked out a whole bag full of books. I snuck peeks at my books when I was supposed to be doing my chores. I got caught reading To Kill a Mockingbird in Spanish class in high school. All my life, I’ve rarely been without a book in my hand.

Books have been my lifelong constant companion. Today, they might be made out of bytes and bits instead of paper and glue, but it’s still the same. Reading is essential to me.

How about you? What item is essential to you?


MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Ready for a Swim? #MFRWAuthor

Today’s prompt: My most memorable experience

It was tough to narrow down my memorable experiences for this week’s prompt. I’ve done several amazing trips and love to travel. As I’ve gotten (ahem!) older, I’ve become much more focused on having really cool adventures and exploring the world so I’m lucky to have a surfeit of experiences to choose from.

But ultimately, I kept coming back to swimming with the dolphins at Discovery Cove in Orlando. The Pilot and I met Hutch, our dolphin friend, got to play with him and even swim across the frigid cove with him. Dolphins like the chilly water! Here’s me giving Hutch a smooch:

After our swim, we got to sit in lounge chairs and watch the dolphins frolic with other guests as we enjoyed our picnic. It’s truly a magical experience. We are looking forward to taking Fox in a few years.

So, how about you? What’s your most memorable experience?

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Favorite Gifts Ever! #mfrwauthor

I’m combining this week and next week’s prompt because the posts were just too short individually. This week’s prompt: the best gift I ever got. Next week: the best gift I ever gave. I’m also going to talk about how I use gift-giving in my manuscripts. 

My friends and family are all gold-star gift givers. I’ve gotten a ton of really amazing gifts in my life so choosing just one for this prompt was tough. I finally chose the first Christmas gift my now-husband got me. Is there any more pressure than the first big holiday gift? We met in the early spring so we’d been together about 10 months when Christmas rolled around.

He got me a hand-drawn portrait of my beloved cat, Mischief. Getting this present involved working with my parents to get access to my house and snap a bunch of photos of the less-than-delighted cat (this was before the age of digital photos), getting them developed, and driving them to the artist house to deliver them, over an hour away. He then had to return to approve the proof and pick up the final portrait.

Mischief was my first pet. We had family pets when I was growing up, but Mischief was mine. And I adored that cat. As a devoted pet owner, I loved the final result and still do. Of course, I treasure it much more now that Mischief has traveled to the rainbow bridge.

As for the best gift I ever gave, I think it’s the Coach briefcase I gave my husband on our first Christmas together. He’d just gotten a new job, in a new career field, and I wanted to show him my confidence in him. My mother, my aunt, and I drove over 2 hours to the outlets, in a snowstorm to get it, since I couldn’t afford the retail price. My husband loves it and uses it to this day.

The reason these particular presents are so special to us is that they are thoughtful, unique gifts that reflect that the giver really knows the recipient. It’s intimacy made manifest. When I’m writing, I often use a gift-giving moment in my books to reflect that the hero or heroine really knows, really sees the other person.

For example, in Forever a Bridesmaid, Matthew gives Erin a miniature statue of the famous Waving Girl statue in Savannah. They’d just spent the morning touring the city when he gives it to her. The trinket isn’t valuable (I bought one myself in Savannah for less than $5) but he knew it was her favorite statue, they’d taken a photo together there, and he thought enough to get it for her because he wanted her to remember their time together.

Waving Girl by J. Stephen Conn via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Right now, I’m writing a Christmas series so I’ve thought long and hard about the presents each hero and heroine pair should give to each other. It’s an important moment and tricky to get exactly right. Often, I choose to have it be a handmade gift, as I did when Lauren gives Kyle a painting she did in Once a Bridesmaid. It should be a gift that has a meaning specific to the couple and far greater than the actual worth of the present.

What about you? What memorable gifts have you gotten or given in your life?

Book+Main, Bridesmaid Trilogy

Want a bite? Try Book + Main

Have you guys heard of this fantastic new site for romance readers? It’s called Book+Main.

Authors put up “bites” which are small portions of their books for readers to sample. There are no ads, no spammy content, no buy me now posts. Just great stuff to read. It’s a bookworm’s paradise. It’s a fun place to find out what your favorite authors are doing and to discover new favorite books.

You can browse by genre, trope, author–anything that you can think of. Here’s a great introduction to the site. Just remember–sharing is caring!

I just put up my first bite! It’s a deleted scene from Forever a Bridesmaid. I plan to put up new bites as time allows–maybe even a bit from my current work-in-progress. You can see it here. 

Please remember to share my bite and to follow me and all your favorite authors.

Book + Main is totally FREE to join and fun to browse. It’s my new favorite internet treat. Check it out here!

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Put a Pin in It #MFRWAuthor

Wow! Can you believe it’s week 20 of 2018 already? Crazy!

This week’s prompt is: Favorite Social Media Platform

Honestly, I like them all. But if I had to choose just one, I’d pick Pinterest. I can spend hours there, scrolling around. In fact, I often use it as a reward for getting my word count finished. I also use it if I need help with descriptions or ideas. I’ve got several boards for my different series there that you can check out here.

I also really enjoy Instagram. It’s relaxing to scroll through the photos.

I’m also on Facebook.

And on Twitter.

How about you? What’s your favorite? Are there any great sites that I’ve missed?

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Getting to Know My Characters #MFRWAuthor

This week’s prompt is: Work up character/setting profiles? 

So, when I’m developing a character, I do a few things before I start drafting. First, I’ll find a picture or two so I can get their physical details down. I often start with a celebrity for this and will watch a few YouTube videos to get their mannerisms down.

Back in the day, when I was just getting started, I’d fill out these endless character questionnaires. But I don’t do that anymore. I just do a few tried and true character exercises. One of my favorites is the Shadow Room by Holly Lisle

Then, I fill out this list of intimacy questions. I free-write the answers by couple. Often, the information contained in this free write will appear directly in the book during the get to know you sections.

Usually, I know that there’s a series so I’ll develop the secondary characters as I’m writing the first couple too and the general series information, including settings and background information.

That usually takes two or three days before I start wanting to begin drafting the book. I know it’s time to start when I can “hear” them talking (Sorry, I know my writer crazy is showing 🙂

I’ll sometimes try new character exercises and, if I get stuck, I often free-write in the character’s voice for a while.

Any suggestions for good ones to try?

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Read All the Books!! #MFRWAuthor

Week 17 prompt: Favorite romance genre to read or write

There’s an old bit from the TV show The Odd Couple (1970s version–I think it’s the Odd Monks episode) Felix, the persnickety roommate finds himself away overnight with nothing to read before bed. In desperation, he ends up reading the back of a tube of toothpaste. (NB: I remember this as Felix but the interwebz says it was Oscar). I was probably about 8 when my mom and I watched that episode (in reruns) and she said, “That’s you!”

I’ve always been a “read all the books” girl. I will read (almost) absolutely anything and, other than when Fox was a tiny newborn, have never gone a day without reading.

As a romance reader, I started with the Sunfire series of historical romance. Do you remember these? They always had a girl name for the title and featured a girl caught between two men as the plot line. They weren’t limited to any one historical era but I believe they were all American history based from the Mayflower forward.  My local library had them and I devoured everything they had. I seem to remember especially loving Oregan trail set Amanda which was published in 1984 when I was about 13. I started with those before I graduated to adult romances with Nora Robert’s Partners which I wrote about in a prior post.

In over three decades of romance reading, I have witnessed a series of trends. First historicals were hot, then they were dead, paranormal was hot, then it was chick lit…the list goes on. No matter what the trend was, I’ve loved reading them all.

Before I became a writer, I mostly read regencies (to get my Jane Austen fix) and small-town contemporaries. Now, since I write small-town contemporaries, I don’t read them much during the drafting process so I probably read more regencies. I also sometimes read YA or sci-fi or really whatever else takes my fancy. If it looks interesting or has my favorite tropes, I’m on board!

So basically, mom was right. I’m Felix Ungar 🙂

How about you?

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Pets in Books #MFRWAuthor

Week 16’s prompt: Family, friends, and pets that I’ve written into my work.

I don’t use family and friends as characters but I have written two of my pets into my books so far.

The first one is Lucy’s cat Frank from The Lost Art of Second Chances. I wrote extensively about Frank for a prior blog post here.

We found Frank as a kitten, along with his sister Carolina, in an abandoned barn on my father-in-law’s farm. He was a wonderful companion to me, especially while I was on four months of bedrest during my pregnancy with my son. Unfortunately, Frank had a congenital feline heart condition called hypertropic cardiomyopathy and we lost him far too soon, at just seven.

The second pet to get a guest appearance in my book is my sister’s dog, Casey. He appears as Kyle’s dog in Once a Bridesmaid. My sister adopted Casey as a puppy. He was such a sweet, kind, loving family dog. My father trained him to fetch the newspaper every morning, while my gray cat, Mischief, looked on as supervisor. They loved earning their morning treat together. Both have long since passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. When I drafted Once a Bridesmaid, I thought Casey was the perfect sidekick for my wounded photojournalist hero, Kyle.

We don’t currently have any pets due to Fox’s severe allergies. I’ve had pets all my life though and am sure that I’ll rely on the memory of my furry and feathered friends whenever a book calls for a pet. I’m in the drafting phase of Never a Bridesmaid right now. The heroine wants to be a veterinarian so I’m sure I’ll have more opportunities soon.


MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018, Uncategorized

Woohoo! Celebrate Good Times! #MFRWAuthor

Today’s topic: How I celebrate completing a manuscript

By starting a new one?

I’m only kidding–sort of. I’ve always been blessed with tons of ideas, more than I could hope to write in five lifetimes. Thank goodness for Evernote to keep them all straight. I’ve always got tons of new story ideas that I’m excited to explore.

The truth is that writing “The End” is always an enormous relief. I’m usually excited to get to the end of the current story and start something new, with new characters and issues to explore. Plus, my books always end happily so I’m sending the characters off to enjoy their new life, with their own happy ending.

Having said that, it is a bit more difficult to end a series. When a series is still going on, I can always drop in and visit on the earlier characters. Ending Cupid’s Coffeeshop was especially heart-wrenching for me, which is probably why I have not one but two spin-off series in development.

For a while, I commemorated each book by purchasing a small piece of jewelry. For example, when I wrote a book with a teacher heroine, I bought the Alex and Ani apple bracelet. But then, I realized I wasn’t really wearing all that jewelry so I stopped that tradition.

Writing this prompt made me realize that maybe I should have some smallish sort of celebration for finishing a manuscript. After all, it is a big achievement and the occasion should probably be marked somehow. I’m just not sure what I would do. Anyone got any ideas they’d like to share?


MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Seeking Gold Stars (#MFRWAuthor)

Week 14’s topic is “What I learned from my worst review.”

NB: I’ve missed a few weeks due to travel and illness and will be posting catch-up entries for weeks 11-13 in the next few days. I apologize for the delay.

Courtesy of Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

So reviews. Love ’em, hate ’em, can’t live without them. Of course, it’s always lovely to get a gushing review. Those can buoy one’s spirits for days. Often, a rave review will come in on the days I most feel like throwing in the towel forever and that’s always nice.

Sometimes a review will point out a pattern in my overall work. Reviews made me realize that all my books are sweet in tone, if not sensuality level.

And the ones that provide criticism, if done kindly and constructively, can be wonderful too. It’s all too hard to be objective about one’s work. I appreciate the beta readers and editors along the way who help.

Courtesy of Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

But my worst reviews happened on Pumpkin Spice, the 10th in the Cupid’s Coffeeshop series and actually alerted me to a problem with the file Amazon provided to pre-orders. It allowed me to fix the problem within just a few days. I wish that the reviewers that gave me a 1 star would go back and assess based on the book instead of the technology glitch but they haven’t so that book always has a low average. Still, I appreciate the reviewers telling me so I could fix it.

Courtesy of Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

Authors often fret about reviews, good, bad, and the lack of them. How do you feel about reviews? Do you think they’re important?

Do you read reviews before purchasing a book? Do you rely on them? How important are reviews anyway?