Behind the Scenes at RWA

Karen and I just returned from San Antonio, TX where we attended the Romance Writers of America Conference. We thought we’d share some of the highlights from the week so you could enjoy the fun with us. For writers, it’s always fun to share news and pictures from signings and reader events since it’s the most glamorous part of our work. Three hundred and fifty days of the year we are decidedly non-glamorous, parked on our couches and dreaming up scenes for our latest creations. To watch us work is not exciting! But when we meet with readers, it’s all good times.

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We had fun signing copies of our books for readers ruing the Literacy Autographing, where all the profits go toward literacy efforts. We were fortunate to find plenty of Young Adult readers in the crowd including these two awesome readers who snagged “I ❤ my Camp Boyfriend” tees.

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We were thrilled to be nominated for a Booksellers Best Award for Camp Boyfriend this year and got to attend a reception for the finalists. We spread the word about the new book in our series, Camp Payback, and hope we intrigued some new readers to try the series. But we also got to leave the conference hotel to explore San Antonio, which was really fun. I snapped a pic of Karen on our riverboat cruise along the Riverwalk:

20140722_204052I’d never been to the city and we were so impressed at how pretty it was. And the restaurants? Wow! We had some amazing meals. Friday night was a party night and we went out to dinner with friends and then on to publisher parties. 

jkpreHQ party

So yes… non stop fun for days! You can imagine it’s tricky to settle back down and start working again after all that excitement. I really liked going out to dinner every day. I didn’t cook or clean, I just had fun celebrating the accomplishments of another writing year. But if we want to attend this event again, we’ll need to settle down soon and write some books. Next year, I’m inviting you all to attend RWA with us so you can visit with other readers and writers. Next year’s conference is in New York City where we can spend mornings sightseeing, afternoons talking about books, and evenings indulging in much better food than we get at home. It’s a real treat, and even if it’s only for a brief time each year, it’s a really nice reward for all the hard work of the days in between. 

 

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Cure for the Winter Blues

Are you f-f-freezing yet? There are snow flurries in the air all the way down to the snowflake1-filteredFlorida Panhandle today!! We’re almost through January, but there’s more cold weather in store. Thinking we can’t be the only ones suffering from the Winter Blues, we cooked up some ideas to keep you warm and entertained with these cozy indoor activities.

1. Read- being snowed in is the perfect excuse to make a dent in your ‘To Read’ pile! Snuggle under a blanket and get caught up in your favorite story. Join us at Goodreads or set up an account if you aren’t a member already. They are great at recognizing your tastes based on your fav books and can recommend lots of wonderful new-to-you authors.

fireplace-tea-books2. Cozy up by a fire- Whether you have a gas or wood fireplace, there’s something soothing about a crackling fire! Bring your hot chocolate with you. And a blanket.

3. Make winter-themed crafts- Cut out paper snowflake garlands, recycle old greeting fireplacecard covers into bookmarks, create winter centerpieces using nature like birch bark, pine cones, and evergreen branches, knit warm garments like scarves, sweaters, mittens and hats. If you’re NOT as crafty as that, try hanging out at Pinterest and finding some easy to do crafts or just make a board of pics you love! 

4. Contact a friend- this a great time to reconnect with someone you’ve been missing. Write a letter, email, Skype or phone… the chance to talk will sweep away the weather blues 🙂 We spent an hour on the phone today and feel the happier for it!!

5. Shop- Okay… technically you aren’t in your house, but you’re are still indoors, and finding all kinds of sales! What a great way to get moving and around people than to visit the local mall and check out some new styles.

***How are you fighting the Winter Blues this week? And have you found any great books we should be reading as we huddle closer to the fire??

Behind the Scenes: Camp Christmas

Happy Holidays, friends!! Welcome to our last blog of 2013. It seems funny to say that 8403262-poinsettia-floweron “Scene 13,” a blog full of authors with debut releases in 2013. When we first heard about this group, we couldn’t wait to be a part of it and share our first YA stories with readers. Now, at the end of 2013, we’ve been fortunate enough to have two novellas and a novel out this year in our new “Camp Boyfriend” series. We’re calling the year a huge success, but even better… it’s been a lot of fun.

Camp Xmas cover 2Our new novella, Camp Christmas, released a week and a half ago. If you haven’t grabbed the FREE download at the Spencer Hill Contemporary website, we hope you’ll go snag a copy now! We had such fun writing a snowy holiday adventure for some of the Camp Juniper Point characters. We thought, just this once, it might be fun to follow the characters away from camp and see what their lives are like back home over Winter Break.

Today, we thought we’d give you some background on the setting for Camp Christmas whiteface02and share our personal ties to the geographic area where it’s set. Karen and I live near the Adirondack region where the story is set on Whiteface Mountain. The characters attend a private boarding school near the mountain and are taking a ski club trip.  It’s been awhile since I’ve skied Whiteface personally, but for several years, I’ve driven one or two of my sons to the mountain on winter weekends to ski or snowboard “the greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies.”

whiteface1There is a lot to do at the mountain. I’m partial to sipping hot chocolate by a fire in the lodge, but most people prefer to hit the slopes, the slides or the terrain park for a day of adventure and fun. My sons like to scare me by texting photos from the top of the mountain, especially when the conditions are iffy. They didn’t nickname the mountain “Iceface” for nothing. The snow can turn icy at the end of the day or when the temperature shifts from warm to cold.

During Camp Christmas, the characters get into some trouble because they don’t follow Telemarker on Cloudspinthe park rules and they ski a section of the mountain that is closed to the public. My sons would never do this—truly, it’s dangerous—but plenty of people have attempted to do so on this mountain and others in the area. Conditions can change fast when snow storms roll in or the temperature takes a bit dip. Even a warming trend can be dangerous because it causes a mist off the snow and makes visibility difficult. See why I prefer the cocoa in the lodge?

Although, if I had a cute guy to ski with, I suppose I could be enticed to step out into the snow. Our characters sure had a good time.

***How do you like to spend a cold, snowy day? Chat with us on the boards today and we’ll send one random poster an I ❤ my Camp Boyfriend tee, Camp Boyfriend mini flashlight and friendship bracelets!

To Pasta- With Love by Karen Rock/JK Rock

I celebrated jkrock3 tree picmy birthday last week doing what I love the most: spending time with my family.  It was a low key affair with maximum meaning. My husband, daughter and I shared a quiet day with a meal out, cake, presents, and a trip to see Richard Curtis’ (writer/director of Love Actually) latest film About Time. I’ve always loved his films, such as Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, for their emotional intelligence and sensitivity. Yet About Time offered more than a beautiful love story and intriguing characters. It contained a message that stayed with me past the end credits. To quote the main character, Tim, “Live life as if there are no second chances.”

In this time-traveler tale, Tim, along with the other males in his family, can go back in time to correct their mistakes.  Yet this beautiful story of unconditional love showed thaabout timet some things cannot be changed, however much we might wish it so. I completely identified with Tim’s longing to see a deceased relative. There are many moments in my life I wish I had a second chance to relive. Times when I let every day stresses and worries keep me from fully enjoying my life and those I loved.

If I could pick one day to revisit, it would be the day my nonna taught me how to make homemade pasta. As her health was failing, the need to learn our family’s Italian recipes became urgent. I’d already learned how to make her gravy (sauce as it is normally called), focaccia bread, eggplant parmesan and other recipes. Yet, as a busy college student, I hadn’t found the time needed to learn how to make pasta from scratch. I phoned my grandmother and planned a Columbus Day weekend visit. NonnaHowever, when the time neared, I regretted making that commitment. My boyfriend was acting strange and distant, I had a paper due, and my roommates hadn’t chipped in to pay the electric bill. When I called to cancel, my Aunt Pam lectured me. She said Nonna had been preparing all week for my visit and had spoken of little else in her excitement. Nonna had insisted, despite her arthritis, on scrubbing her entire apartment and having my aunt take her grocery shopping so that she could personally pick out the ingredients. It would crush her if I didn’t follow through. Resigned and resentful, I agreed to make the trip.

Nonna wasn’t one to show affection. She dished out her love through her food. When I arrived, she handed me a plate of my favorite cookies, her almond biscotti. It was her way of saying, “I’m glad you came, and I love you.” Yet I was too upset about my troubles back in Albany to notice. I listened with half and ear as she prattled in her broken English. Whenever she was excited, her speech was mostly in Italian, and I didn’t try translating it this time. Instead, I let the words wash over me as I thought about my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, Michael. I went to bed early, knowing she’d wake me up as she always did- at five am- by poking me with a broom’s bristles, followed by her booming belly laugh. But my restless night made me cranky in the morning. Instead of giving in and getting up, I refused to leave my bed until seven. When I finally showered and dressed, she’d been sitting at the kitchen table, ingredients at the ready, for almost two hours. Ungrateful person that I was, I barely apologized and we set to work, my hands following hers as we went through the steps and set the pasta out to dry.

orecchietteAlthough I went through the motions of making Orecchiette (pasta sometimes called ‘little ears’), my heart wasn’t in it. Nonna grew quieter as the day went on, sensing, I’m sure, my lack of enthusiasm. I spent the evening arguing on the phone with my boyfriend instead of watching television with her. In the past, we’d always poked fun at game show contestants, ranted about the evils of the world while watching the news, or clucked in sympathy with talk show guests. But this time, she sat alone, hunched on the sofa, silent, as I had what I thought was a crucial exchange with Michael. The next morning, I did get up at five a.m. But my early rise was motivated by my need to leave quickly. I wanted to get home and continue my fight with Michael, finish my paper, and round up my roommates’ share of the electric bill.

Well, I did get the money for the electric bill, I earned an A on the paper, and Michael and I made up- for the time being. Yet all of that pales in comparison to what I’d lost: the chance to fully appreciate the last time I’d see Nonna alive.  She died a month later, and all I have from our last day together is a hastily scrawled recipe. I would give anything to have a second chance to redo that time. To linger over coffee and almond biscotti with her, to pay close attention to what she said, to jump out of bed and help her set up for pasta-making, to patiently learn our family recipe rather than rushing through it, to sit beside her as we watched TV, her hand slapping my knee as she laughed, my head on her shoulder as I inhaled her favorite scent- gardenia.

italian thanksgivingAbout Time was a great reminder that life doesn’t give us do-overs. We shouldn’t let the stresses and worries of our everyday lives keep us from appreciating those we love and the wonderful blessings we’ve been given. The message couldn’t come at a better time given the Thanksgiving Season. Being thankful isn’t enough. It’s important to take action as well- to be engaged- to pay attention to the things that matter most. The normal moments I take for granted are the ones I will want back someday. Better to appreciate them now, than wish I had another chance to enjoy them. So my wish for this Thanksgiving is for us all to be thankful and to be giving. To commit our hearts and minds to those we love instead of allowing other, less important things, to steal that time from us.

campcoverwithquoteIf you could have a second chance, and go back in time, which moment would you relive? I’d love hear your thoughts! Answer in the comment section below, and be entered to win a copy of Camp Boyfriend, print/Kindle/Nook version- your choice. I will announce the winner on http://www.facebook.com/jkrockwriters tomorrow. Thank you so much for commenting! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of family, laughter, and unconditional love. Oh- and pasta too 🙂

Camp Fear

We’ve been writing about camp all year, so when nudged to write about our fears this month for the Scene 13 Blog, my brain went to Camp Fear and what a cool series that would be.

Summer camp is such a great setting for a scary book or film. Plenty of horror movie SleepawayCamppostervillains have already terrorized hapless campers, after all. The reason? The camps are usually in remote places and the campers purposely try to leave technology behind. There may be no phones or no cell service even if there are phones. Sometimes, there isn’t even any electrical power. And how spooky is that to be chased around the woods with nothing but a flashlight in hand.

Until you drop it…

Camp Fear is also a scary place because you’re usually with a bunch of equally summerscareclueless friends. You go to camp to goof around and cook s’mores. Only the truly hardcore types show up with survival equipment. When I camp, I’m more likely to have bug repellant and sunscreen then mace or pepper spray.

SD_Camp_Scare_coverCampers make for easy pickings, I guess.

But I think the main reason camp can feel scary is not because of knife-wielding maniacs or hockey-mask-wearing killers. Camp takes away our toys and the trappings of modern society. It puts us in touch with nature and the big, scary world beyond our safe experiences. That’s what makes it fun and exciting. That’s what inspires us to link arms with our best friend while we’re walking through the woods at night. Because, you know, what if a creepster hopped out of the trees like in every ghost story ever? Or a bear?

camppaybackcoverCamp Fear—and camp fears—are great reasons to have the summer camp experience. You learn to deal with those jitters and feel more self-reliant because of them. You learn practical ways to address the real fears and safety protocols to increase your personal confidence. Also? You learn to carry a stick when you head to the bathroom at night. And keep a steady grip on the flashlight!

***On another note, we are thrilled about our new Camp Payback cover! We’re running contests galore to celebrate. You can take a peek at them here: http://campboyfriend.net/fun-camp-stuff.html

Access Your Creativity

“Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw

Whenever I teach freshman composition courses, I like to start the class with a quote on the board. Sometimes we talk about it, sometimes we write about it, and sometimes it’s just there. I think it’s a good way to get fledgling writers thinking because before you can write anything, you have to engage your brain. We think first, then we write.

writingAs a writer, I always struggle with the thinking more than the writing. Some writers come to the page full of ideas and struggle to figure out how to write them. I come to the page ready to write, but often wonder who and what to write about next. I think it’s because I’ve already developed a lot of stories. I’m at the point in my career where I need to continually recharge my creativity.

If you’re new to writing, you’ll be surprised how soon this happens! You think you’ve got enough story ideas for a lifetime, but each book requires so many characters, so much conflict and so many layers of backstory. You tap a ton of creative resources each time you put you pen to paper. It’s important to recharge your ideas early and often before you turn to the blank screen and realize—“ack! I’ve got nothing!”

flowerNot that this has ever happened to me. Cough, cough. But I was fortunate enough to attend a fabulous workshop on maintaining creativity early in my writing journey and I’ve revisited the tips from my old mentor Dewanna Pace many times over the years. She advised a lot of practical things, really breaking down how to experience the world around you in a new way. There are the more obvious things like checking out the newspaper, or different news/magazines than you normally would and visiting new places. But she also helped me to see how to experience the world around me in a different way.

Rowan AtkinsonFor example, turn off the television and watch the actors. Learn about their moods and feelings through their gestures. Or explore the world through the five senses, really focusing on sounds or smells. Describe them. Write about them. Think about how your character would experience those same things. What smells have strong memory associations for them and why? What sounds would scare them and why?

eavesdropWriters learn early on in their journeys that as chroniclers of human drama, we must be keen observers. That means staring conversations with strangers. Eavesdropping whenever possible. Searching for subtext within the smallest of gestures. Make it a game and you’ll feel more creative. Try the exercises when you’re not on deadline and you can really have fun with them. – Joanne

wishme***What do you do to kick start creativity? I have a copy of Karen’s debut adult romance novel, WISH ME TOMORROW for one random commenter! If you haven’t read the reviews of her fantastic book for Harlequin’s Heartwarming series, please take a moment to visit her at http://karenrock.com today!

Camp Boyfriend… Sneak Peek

Aside

CampBoyfriendbutThis month, I need to go off-script just a little because there’s only one thing on my mind. And while it happens to be Joanne writing for J.K. today (hello!), I am positive there’s only one thing taking up all Karen’s thoughts this week too. Our debut book, CAMP BOYFRIEND, releases on Tuesday so we’ve been writing blogs, planning a book trailer, creating book club resources, going to conferences… all sorts of fun stuff.

Yet, with all the planning we’ve been doing to launch the book with fanfare, we realized we’d overlooked a key ingredient. A basic tool of promo that authors use all the time and readers LOVE. How could we possibly have forgotten to post an excerpt?

17371981Luckily, our Scene 13 day was coming up and we thought this would be a great place to reveal a sneak peek from the book. If you’ve read Camp Kiss, you will have already met Seth and Lauren. (Download a free copy here.) If you haven’t read the prequel, I think this is still going to be fun J. To set the scene- a small group of older campers have taken a canoe trip to a remote spot away from the camp where they are spending the night in lean-tos. Lauren gets a secret visitor late that night, and they visit on the roof of her shelter:

…..Seth continued to grip my hand. “Please hear me out, Lauren. This will only take a leantominute.”

“Fine. But just for a minute. That’s it.” I plunked down on the rooftop and swung my legs over the edge, back hunched, arms crossed.

All around us slept campers in lean-tos. By the moon’s low position, I guessed it was well past midnight. An owl hooted from a nearby pine, then took flight in a blur of white and grey.

Strix varia,” Seth breathed behind me. “Must be after a frog. Look at him dive.”

stars

I tracked the bird to the river. The current made a soft shhhhh sound as it flowed over and around rocks and boulders. I’d forgotten how much I loved this time of night- the peaceful, natural feel of it.

Seth’s shoulder brushed mine as he lowered himself beside me. Goosebumps broke out on my skin, every molecule in my bloodstream screaming to life. I took a steadying breath.the peaceful, natural feel of it.

He wrapped an arm around me. “Cold?”

I shook my head and edged away. “You said this would take a minute, so…?”

His finger pressed against my lips while the other hand pointed. My eyes widened at the sight of a portable field telescope set up to our left. Stargazing. As science geeks, it’d always been one of our favorite things to do together. I couldn’t believe he lugged the collapsible apparatus on the trip. Given the limited gear we were allowed to pack, he’d made some sacrifices to have this moment with me.

“C’mon.” Seth scrambled across the roof, peered into the eyepiece, and focused the lens. He looked up. “Last year we talked about seeing the Perseids together and tonight’s a good clear night for viewing. I didn’t want you to miss it. Have a look.”

stargazing-romantic-600x400He remembered this meteor shower that only an astronomer would love. My heart leaped. Say no, I told myself sternly in spite of its sudden jump.

“Okay,” came out instead.

My eyes flew to the sky. I hadn’t forgotten about the meteor shower and our promise to watch the skies together, but I’d put it out of my mind when I brought Matt to camp. But now… this was science, right? We could be nerds for a few minutes without acting on our hormones, couldn’t we? This was exactly what I needed. To rediscover my passion for astronomy, a part of me that I’d ignored all year, mostly because my dad had checked out of my life.

And didn’t that make me a lot like Matt—spiting myself to get back at my dad for ignoring me? I felt ashamed of myself and my pettiness.

Now, I knelt behind the telescope and looked down into the eyepiece. My breath caught at the otherworldly view. A streak of white light shown against an onyx sky dotted with twinkling stars. Behind it blazed another stream of periwinkle and azure blue.

Wonder filled me. I was transported, aware of the vastness of life and my tiny place in it. The familiar, otherworldly feel brought back my Aerospace Scholar ambition and memories of planetarium trips with Dad.

I grabbed Seth’s hand, wanting him to share this amazing moment.  But then his arms wrapped around me and he stared into my eyes, the stars reflected in his gaze.

Our breaths synchronized. He exhaled against my temple, making my chest flutter. I turned to tell him I had to go. But before I could speak, his lips captured mine.

My feelings for Seth rushed back with a pull as unstoppable as gravity itself. We tumbled against the roof, every nerve-ending awakening at his familiar touch. He was fantasy come to life. A forgotten dream remembered.

Seth pulled back and looked down at me with his expressive eyes. “I’ve missed you so much, Lauren.”

“Me too,” I admitted.summer6

He rolled us over so that I was on top. My hair hung down like a curtain, the dark strands blotting out the world….

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We hope you’re intrigued enough to read more! Please do check out some of our fun contests and giveaways and thank you for letting us share. J

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