Happy Thanksgiving!

contentHappy Thanksgiving! Today I’d like to share some silly and not so silly things those of us at Kiss and Thrill are thankful for.

Carey:

BillandElvisSilly: I’m thankful I’m not a turkey.

Serious and Silly: I’m thankful for my husband’s Elvis impersonation. I swear it made me fall in love with him. 

Serious: I’m thankful for my three incredible children and the beautiful world we live in.

Lena:

photoSerious: I’m thankful that my son and daughter will be home for the holiday.

Silly: I’m thankful that my son and daughter will be home for the holiday. (Seeing a trend?)

Krista:Rosie in my chair

The GirlsSilly: I’m grateful for Rosie who always keeps my favorite writing chair warm when I’m not sitting in it.

Serious: I’m grateful for my mom and sisters and all the laughter we share when we’re together.

 

 

 

Diana: 

Silly: I’m grateful for my DVR because it means I can take the time to talk to a friend or get interrupted by a family member and not worry about “missing” anything during my favorite show. The DVR puts me in control of TV, unchains me from the box, and means way less viewing time since it’s on my schedule, not theirs. Plus, fewer commercials. Yay!!Meissen+Figurine+Musee+Ariana (1)

Serious: I am grateful for my husband who is the love of my life, is always there for me, and thinks I’m great even when I’m not. What did I ever do to deserve him?

Rachel:

Silly: Rite-in-the-Rain notebooks for jotting down story inspirations while in the shower or tub.

matanuska glacierSerious: I’m thankful for all the wonderful people who fill my life and give it meaning, most especially, my husband, daughter, and son.

Gwen:

Gwen-ZoeSilly: I’m thankful to my golden retriever for forcing me to leave my home office a couple of times a day.

Serious: I’m grateful that I live where I can pursue my dreams and take that journey with the people I love most in this world.

Sarah:

Silly: I am thankful to Bonita Boarding and Kennel Camp for taking my little hooligans off my hands every morning.

704907FF-54A5-4030-8F6A-E32E8233DA9ESerious: I am thankful for the final safe return of my older brother, from 18 months in the US Embassy in Afghanistan. (In the picture he is holding Flat Stanley, some 3rd grade class drew and mailed it to him. Too cute!)

Manda: 

Silly: I’m thankful to Netflix and Hulu which kept me from losing my mind during my six weeks of mandatory IV antibiotic treatments.

Serious: I’m thankful for the doctors, nurses and other medical professionals and researchers whose hard work cured the infection in my heart so that I can keep on writing the books I love.Old+fashioned+TV (1)

Runner-up:  I’m thankful to my wonderful friends (Lena, Carey, Rachel, Diana, Gwen, Krista, Sarah and Sharon) who also kept me from losing my mind during those six weeks.

Sharon:

IMG_3154Silly: I am grateful for my Canon digital camera which lets me catch my children and their friends in all sorts of situations. All for future bribery/blackmail use, of course.

Serious: I am grateful for my husband and two children who have brought me more happiness than I deserve.

All of us are so grateful for your recovery, Manda. We love you!

If anyone wants to share a silly or serious thing they’re thankful for today, we’d love to hear it.

Up All Night with Harlan Coben

coben7Harlan Coben is no nonsense. He’ll sit down for an interview, give it his all, but he’s not the kind of guy to schmooze or waste time.

I want to keep you up all night”

An air of mystery surrounds him like an invisible cloak. Fangirls flirt with him at conferences, but you can always tell, though he might be flattered, they’re wasting their time. Because the one subject Harlan Coben will stop and talk about is his family and how much he loves them.

I sat down for an interview with Harlan and discussed how his own kids inspired him to write his Mickey Bolitar series. With twenty bestselling novels, every imaginable award, and over sixty million books in print worldwide, he’s a legend.

So much so that if you think I’m nervous interviewing this giant, you’re right. (Please, Harlan, forgive the insertion of an “R” into your last name. You must think me an utter fool, but were nice enough to never even correct me.)

His focus is amazing. Despite people knocking on doors and barging into the interview room, he never missed a beat. I am sure that’s what makes him the powerhouse he is. His take-no-prisoners, stick your butt in the chair and write, attitude means that he’s centered on quality product.

As he says in the interview,  “I want to keep you up all night, I want you to curse me in the morning, and that’s really my job.”

Celebrating Our Veterans

Heroes are important to writers — especially thriller and suspense writers. They are key to making a plot work, for giving us swoon worthy moments, for making our pulses race and our hearts beat faster as we turn page after page.

But no matter how well we write a character, there is nothing that compares to real life heroes. Ordinary people, sometimes with extraordinary skills, all with enormous courage to confront horrific situations and keep us safe.

NJ Coast Guard (c) Diana Belchase 2011

Today is Veteran’s Day, where we honor the men and women in the Armed Forces who so bravely serve the United States. Increasingly it’s a day we forget about. Lost in the maze of ethnic history months, pilgrims, trick or treaters, and holiday sales — all worthy events — we often disregard it as little more than a note on a pre-printed calendar.

But Veteran’s Day is important. So much so that today is also when others in the world also honor their military personnel. Canada, Australia, and Britain call it Remembrance Day but it’s the same holiday.

So often our unsung heroes are never thanked for the sacrifices they’ve made to protect us all. They receive poor pay, tremendous responsibility, dangerous accommodations, and they do it all with a smile. It’s now our turn to say, “Hey, thanks for being there, for serving, for doing for me what I cannot do for myself.”

So, to all our Vets, and also to those in clandestine service where there is no holiday — officers in the 512px-JTACCIA, NSA, FBI, Homeland Security, Secret Service, and too many others to list, I’m sending you all a huge

THANK YOU!

Each and every one of you — whether on the battlefield or behind a desk– work as a team to keep us and much of the world safe. You humble us with your sacrifice. Our debt to you will never be repaid. God bless you and keep you safe.

Please let our vets know how much they mean to you by leaving a comment HERE or below. We’ll spread the word to make sure they are seen.

Romantic. Isn’t it?

The minute Halloween ended, the stores had their Christmas decorations up. Yikes! So now I’m thinking Christmas gifts. And romance. Because, uh, romance writer.

Which got me thinking me of my first Christmas with my husband (a.k.a. The Engineer), back in our dating days. He bought me aftermarket cruise control for my car.

Seriously.

picture of cruise control

Right up there with vacuum cleaners you say?

Well, maybe. Would I have swooned for some jewelry? Oh yeah. But romance is about more than cards and flowers and gems. You can have all that and still end up with a dud instead of a stud. Flowers and jewels are easy outs. Pick one and I’ll probably like it.

Venice jewelry store display

No, the real challenge in my mind—and the real definition of romantic—is knowing your partner well enough to get a gift he or she will truly enjoy. It shows you’ve been listening and have given a lot of thought to what would please.

In that respect, in spite of what his roommate thought, The Engineer’s gift was wildly romantic. We had been driving two hours each way to another city every few weeks for family visits. Without cruise control, I was constantly battling my lead foot and my (then) sporty five-speed to stay within a reasonable speed limit. How much nicer life would have been if I had a newer car with cruise so I could relax. I definitely didn’t need any more speeding tickets!

Well, the newer car was out. We were poor college students, after all. But the cruise control… Who knew you could put something like that on after market? The Engineer, of course! And he installed it too. See? Smart, handsome, and handy with a tool. How could a girl go wrong? :-D

And every once in a while, he gets totally impractical and buys me something pretty that I don’t need. Like jewelry. Which makes it all the more special, because he also understands that sometimes I just want something that sparkles.

What’s the most romantic (or unromantic) gift you’ve ever received?

Word Wars! Twelve Shades of Midnight Authors Share Their Most (& Least) Favorite Things

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Twelve Shades of Midnight, an anthology of 12 all new paranormal novellas is out today! My novella, Midnight Sun, is included and I’m thrilled to be part of this amazing lineup of authors for my first foray into the paranormal.

I’ve had a blast working with the other authors in the making of this anthology! From brainstorming titles to coming up with Easter eggs hidden in the stories, the messages between the members of the group have been hilarious. How lucky am I to be in this amazing anthology?

Twelve Shades of Midnight

The stroke of midnight ushers in many things. From hijinks and mischief to danger and evil, romance is the magic that binds these paranormal novellas together. Join 12 bestselling and award winning authors as they explore the different shades of midnight in exclusive, never-before-released stories.

Liliana Hart – THE WITCH NEXT DOOR
Darynda Jones – A LOVELY DROP
Shea Berkley – DARK SECRETS: STONE COLD DEAD
Dakota Cassidy – WITCHED AT BIRTH
Claire Cavanaugh – MIDNIGHT RENEGADE
Rachel Grant – MIDNIGHT SUN
Trish McCallan – SPIRIT WOODS
Angi Morgan – BODYGUARDS IN HEELS: HIT & RUN HALLIE
Robin Perini – NIGHT OF THE JAGUAR
Robyn Peterman – SWITCHING HOUR
Ann Voss Peterson – THE SCHOOL
Jenn Stark – GETTING WILDE

Watch the Twelve Shades trailer: Facebook | YouTube

We’re celebrating the launch tomorrow with a Facebook party with lots of games and prizes. This is your opportunity to find out what I mean when I say how funny these authors are! Click on the image to RSVP.

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Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Barnes & Noble

Because I love exploring the similarities and differences in the answers, I subjected the Twelve Shades of Midnight authors to the Inside the Actors Studio quiz.

What is your favorite word?

Dakota: Serendipitous Robyn: Yes
Angi: Conundrum Rachel: Necropolis
Shea: I’m a writer. It’s nearly impossible to whittle it down to one…but I do love my name being said by someone who loves me. Jenn: Kabillion. Except that’s not a word I don’t think.
Robin: Cacophony, just because it sounds cool. Claire: Happy
Ann: Fabulous Liliana: Dude

What is your least favorite word?

Dakota: Can’t Robyn: No
Angi: Procrastinate Rachel: Racial and homophobic slurs
Shea: Snot. It’s just one of those words that sounds gross and refers to something gross. Jenn: Disappointed
Robin: Moist…just ’cause, well, yuck. Claire: Anything prejudicial
Ann: Ensconce Liliana: Moist

What turns you on?

Dakota: Serenity Robyn: Humor and a nice ass
Angi: Being shown love Rachel: Captain America
Shea: Kisses on my neck…soft, slow kisses. (sigh) Jenn: The eyes have it: If a glance is intentional, intense and interested (from the right guy), I’m in.
Robin: Slow dancing and swaying to the music Claire: Eagerness and humor. Cleaning my house doesn’t hurt either!
Ann: Coffee Liliana: Brains, baby. Followed closely by the ability to make me laugh like crazy.

What turns you off?

Dakota: Whiners Robyn: Negativity and lack of humility
Angi: Talk Talk Talk and More Talk Rachel: Rudeness
Shea: Hypocrisy and arrogance. They often go hand in hand except the person demonstrating these qualities rarely knows they’re doing them. Jenn: Abuse of any sort–mental, verbal, physical–no matter the scale. If you don’t choose your adversaries nobly, you suck.
Robin: Unkindness  Claire: Stress
Ann: Running out of coffee Liliana: Bad hygiene

What sound or noise do you love?

Dakota: Laughter Robyn: My kids laughter
Angi: Ocean waves and puppies playing Rachel: My children’s laughter
Shea: A drumline. It’s all about the beat, baby! Jenn: The gentle crash of ocean waves
Robin: A baby’s laugh Claire: My granddaughter’s magical laughter
Ann: Wind chimes Liliana: Rain and thunderstorms

What sound or noise do you hate?

Dakota: Sloppy eaters Robyn: My alarm clock
Angi: Leaf blowers Rachel: My husband’s alarm clock
Shea: My cat hacking up a hairball. Why is it always in the middle of the night? And does he clean up his mess? Nooo. He tries to bury it in the carpet, and I’m the one who’s got to clean up the nastiness he leaves behind. Jenn: My cat demanding breakfast at 4:15 a.m. Every. Morning.
Robin: Telephone ring Claire: A dentist’s drill
Ann: My alarm clock Liliana: Teeth scraping against a fork

What is your favorite curse word?

Dakota: Dicknuckle Robyn: Fuck
Angi: Damn Rachel: Fuck
Shea: Arse, but only when British people say it. It makes me giggle. Jenn: Fuck. Such a multitasker.
Robin: I don’t have one. Claire: Damn, and any variation thereof
Ann: Fuck. Really, so versatile! Liliana: Douchecanoe

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Dakota: Supermodeling Robyn: Chef
Angi: Photography Rachel: Travel writer who gets paid to go everywhere on vacation (Rick Steves, I want your job)
Shea: A falconer. Hunting with a bird would be fun. Jenn: Artifact Hunter
Robin: CIA Analyst, because I think it would be fascinating, and it would bring me that much closer to the books I write. Claire: FBI agent in my dreams. Travel writer as a possible reality.
Ann: Horse trainer Liliana: Professional shoe shopper and cheese fry eater

What profession would you not like to do?

Dakota: Porta Potty maintenance Robyn: Computer programmer
Angi: Anything with math Rachel: Wearing a hot dog costume and passing out flyers.
Shea: Sewage worker. Does anyone actually want to be a sewage worker? Jenn: Social worker. My heart would break or I’d want to seriously beat up people every day.
Robin: Sewer Maintenance. Self explanatory :) Claire: Anything involving strange smells. I have a weak stomach.
Ann: School teacher, way too tough Liliana: Anything dealing with poop

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

Dakota: “Your castle with a turret, high on a hill, with all your family members and pets inside is to the right.. :).” Robyn: “It was a close one, but I was owed some favors. I was in the middle of a Scrabble tournament before you arrived, would you like to join me?”
Angi: “Welcome home.” Rachel: “I’ve decided to make an exception for you.”
Shea: “It’s about time you got here. You did good. There’s an all you can eat chocolate section next to the sushi bar and steaks grilling on the barbeque. And the mashed potatoes are so creamy…and fully loaded.” (yeah, the way to my heart is to feed me comfort food) Jenn: “Good job.”
Robin: “There really is a reason for everything, and if you’ll come with me, I’ll explain it all.” Claire: “You really gave your guardian angel a work out, but I’m glad to see you made it, Claire.”
Ann: “Everyone you love is here or on their way… eventually.” Liliana: “Your family and friends are waiting for you. And there’s an all-you-can-eat buffet.”

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And the winners from last week’s post are:

Kieran Kramer won Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann’s Night Sky

and Kim K. won Heather Ashby’s Never Forget.

Congratulations, ladies! Please use our contact page to claim your prize.

Thanks to everyone who commented!  ~ Sharon

Yes, Mr. Angry Young Man. There is a Happily Ever After.

If you’re a romance writer, then you are probably aware of the drama going on regarding the question how much romance is necessary for a story to be classified a romance novel. I think of it as the Great Controversy.

If you’re a reader, hopefully you haven’t noticed.

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SInce I’ve always had more romance than plot in my manuscripts, the Great Controversy is something I hadn’t thought much about. Not because I didn’t care but because I know what happens when you try to quantify the subjective.

Fools run errands and those wild geese you’re chasing bite back.

It’s like trying to eat a spaghetti sandwich. It’s possible, but you’re left with a mess and you’ve lost half of your noodles.

So, this summer, I let the Great Controversy go. I left it to others who are more articulate than I to work out the answers. Then I forgot about it.

Until I went to the airport for my flight to San Antonio for the annual RWA Conference and met the Angry Young Man.

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Tall. Shaved head. Sharp tongue. His dark tattoos threatened to slash me, but it was his words that cut.

Romance novels?  Pathetic. Formulaic. Pornographic.

I stepped away quickly, not wanting to engage in an argument before boarding a plane.

Yet, despite his derision, his eyes held desperate questions.

Will I ever be loved?

Will I ever love another?

Are Happily Ever Afters real?

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My heart hammered and I felt nauseous. I hate conflict. And I had no words at the time, especially since we were on the same flight and might have to sit next to each other. But I was disappointed in myself. How could I aspire to be a romance writer when I couldn’t even defend my profession? I didn’t want to go to RWA anymore. Even if it meant missing the Golden Heart ceremony.

What difference did a Golden Heart final make if I couldn’t take away the pain in that man’s eyes?

Stuck with a non-refundable ticket and in desperate need of chocolate, I snuck away to the far end of the gate area. I searched my carry-on for my emergency dark chocolate with almonds candy bar. Instead, I found my RWA badge carefully tucked around my signed copy of Letters to Kelly by Suzanne Brockmann (which I take to every conference as my good luck charm).

The book dismissed me as a coward. My Golden Heart pins glittered, accusing me.

If my words couldn’t heal the Angry Young Man, then whose would?

Why was I so afraid?

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That’s when the truth slammed her fist into my stomach. The Great Controversy had stolen my confidence. All this worrying about my books not being romantic enough had made me doubt my stories, my writing, my career aspirations. I’d thought that by ignoring the Great Controversy, it wouldn’t touch me.

Like a true introvert, I’d just wanted to be left alone.

Instead, I’d left my heart’s gate unguarded and self-doubt had crept in.

My desire for chocolate died, and I watched people move in and out of gates, down hallways, dragging baggage and pillows and kids. But in many of their eyes I saw an emptiness. A sad kind of desperation.

Were they just weary travelers? Or were they in the same kind of pain as the Angry Young Man? Just less obvious?

I heard loud voices nearby and looked up. The Angry Young Man was arguing with the flight attendant manning the departure door. I couldn’t hear his words, but his dark voice made everyone turn. For a second, we all held a collective breath, all held together in the moment. A minute later, a security officer escorted the Angry Young Man away. When he passed me, I met his gaze.

Will I ever be loved?

Will I ever love another?

Are Happily Ever Afters real?

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I wanted to reach out and tell him that everything would be alright. That I had the answers to the questions in his eyes.

But he disappeared around the corner and everyone retreated back to their private space. Each person separate again, lost in their own thoughts. But something inside me had shifted, and I took out one of my Golden Hearts and pinned it to my sweater.

Although no one else would know what the pin meant, those mirror-image question marks holding the shape of a heart confirmed what I knew to be true.

I took strength from the heart’s beauty and found truth in its form.

Formulaic?  Romance novels bring order and comfort to the chaos and suffering of the human condition.

Pathetic?  Romance novels offer hope to the seeking, soothe the ill, and give solace to the grieving.

And the other word that’s not worth repeating?  Romance novels prove that true love given and true love received can change the world.

I’m still not sure if my stories meet the requirements of the Great Controversy, but I learned something that day in the airport. The power of a romance novel comes not just from its level of romance, but from its graceful ability to answer the questions of the Angry Young Man.

Will I ever be loved?  Yes. With great passion.

Will I ever love another?  Yes. With great truth.

Are Happily Ever Afters real?  Yes. With great beauty.

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Maybe, instead of asking the question of how much romance is in a romance novel, we should be asking if a novel fulfills its promise to the reader. A promise written with great passion, great truth, and great beauty. A promise of a happy ending.

I am proud to be a romance writer. I am proud that my stories offer a mix of adventure, suspense and love. I am proud that my manuscripts–like those written before and those yet to be–end with the same three simple words.

Three simple words which, almost invisible on their own, carry a force unlike any other.

Three simple words which, when strung together, hold the weight of a golden heart, the answers for an Angry Young Man, and the power to heal the world.

So yes, Mr. Angry Young Man. There is a Happily Ever After.

I, and my books, promise.

Now I’d love to know what is your absolute favorite romance of all time?

I will be offering two books for two lucky commenters: The first, in honor of my last K&T interview with Heather Ashby, will be an e-copy of Heather’s newest release Never Forget.

Second, in honor of my K&T interview coming up, I will be offering an e-copy of Night Sky, a new Young Adult novel by Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter Melanie Brockmann.

(You don’t want to miss it!  My fourteen-year old daughter and I will be interviewing Suzanne and her daughter Melanie for our first ever mother/daughter and mother/daughter interview. It’s going to be tons of fun!)

All photos courtesy of Sharon Wray

Dirty Drafting: 11 Quick Tips from Jill Sorenson

We have a special treat for the authors and aspiring authors among our followers today, a guest post by Jill Sorenson, who writes gritty, action packed, sexy romantic suspense. I love Jill’s books, so I’m thrilled to gain some insight into her process. She has some terrific tips here that I intend to try.

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Dirty Drafting: 11 Quick Tips

Hello Kiss & Thrill! Thanks so much for having me back.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is just around the corner. I’ve never participated in this event because writing an entire novel in one month sounds like a nightmare to me. Drafting is my favorite part of the writing process. Why would I want to stress out and rush the most enjoyable step?

Writing fast is practically a requirement for romance authors, but the key for me is writing steady and delivering a quality manuscript. If you hammer out an incoherent mess in a month and it takes you six months to edit, you’re not getting to the finish line any faster than someone who works at a less frenetic pace.

rdirty-647x1024I wrote my latest novel in three months, most of it while my kids were home on summer break. That’s pretty fast for me. Some authors write a lot faster. I follow people on twitter who do “1k in 1hr” sprints, 5k days, even 10k days. I don’t know how they do it, so I’ll just tell you how I do what I do. If drafting is painful for you and you can’t wait to tinker/revise, try NaNo. If you prefer editing as you go and writing a clean first draft, read on.

There is no one true way, just different ways that work better for different people. I’ve heard fast authors say that anyone can learn to be fast, and I don’t believe that. I believe that everyone can improve their speed, but we all have physical and mental limitations. If you’re a genius, your brain might be supersonic. Or you might be a slow genius. I’m not any type of genius. I’m more of an Emma Stone in Easy A than a Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. I want to be a commercial success, not a critics’ darling. I don’t have the natural ability to write 5k every day or the luxury to write slow.

So here are my tips for steady drafting.

1. Edit as you go (if you prefer) but always keep moving. Your first paragraph or chapter might make no sense by the time you get to the end. Characters change and develop over the course of a novel. Do what feels right in order to move forward, but don’t get bogged down by small details. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It will never be perfect.

2. Outline before you start. This is an important one for me. I research and do a detailed outline several weeks in advance. I’m constantly plotting, reworking and looking things up as I go, too. Stay flexible, but have a plan. An outline is a solid foundation that you can build on. You can also throw it out if you have to. Having plan makes it easier to move full steam ahead and avoid painting yourself into a corner.

3. Write every day, or almost every day. Taking long breaks will steal your momentum. Steady, daily progress is good.

4. Know where you’re going. Even if you’re not a big plotter, you can jot down notes every day before you start. Just a few minutes of concentration can make the difference between flying over the keys and staring at a blank page.

5. Don’t stop for the day at the end of a scene or chapter. Some authors stop mid-sentence. It trains your brain to keep thinking about the next sentence/scene/chapter, rather than closing the mental doors when you close the screen.

6. Take notes after you’re “done” for the day. This is my favorite tip for increasing speed and productivity. I love writing freehand notes. I remember things I forgot to do, continually reassess plot points, and jot down ideas for the next scene.

7. Get enough sleep. This is a challenge for me. Sleep well and your brain will function better, faster.

8. Beware of children. They require a lot of attention and feeding. If a childless person tells me that anyone can write 5k per day if they just try hard, I will twist her nose off and feed it to my child.

9. Exercise! I run almost every day, and I believe this has helped my output tremendously. It also helps keep me sane. If you spend too much time indoors, living with the imaginary people inside your head, you might end up with cabin fever, wielding a rubber mallet. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

10. Don’t force it. Sometimes you have to sit your ass in the chair and get it done. Sometimes you have to do the opposite. When you’re pulling your hair out, rewriting the same sentence fifty times, just leave it alone. Go do some laundry, get a snack. Switch to a notebook. Changing scenery can jog you in a new direction.

11. Keep a cuts file. I do this for every book, and it helps me when a scene isn’t working. I’ll save a copy of the problem section in my cuts file. Then I can delete and rearrange dialogue or paragraphs without worrying about losing any important bits. It’s a quick, efficient way to get unstuck and move forward.

So there you have it. 11 quick-n-dirty tips for those who prefer clean first drafts! As always, do what works for you, be passionate about your writing, and try to have fun. Remember that a writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. Find your own pace.

Are you a writer? Do you plan to attempt NaNoWriMo? Do you have any tips you’d like to share or thoughts on Jill’s tips? Share them. We haven’t had a craft conversation at K&T in a long time, and I LOVE talking craft.

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Jill SorensonJill Sorenson is the RITA-nominated author of more than a dozen romantic suspense novels, including the Aftershock series by HQN. She lives in the San Diego area with her family. She’s a soccer mom who loves nature, coffee, reading, twitter and reality TV. Jogging keeps her sane. Riding Dirty is her first erotic suspense novel.

You can find her at www.jillsorenson.com.

Lost Heroes

Columbus Day hardly gets much notice lately. There are furniture store sales, some government offices and banks are closed, a parade in New York City that is no longer nationally televised, and he’s no longer held up like a hero to school children.

(c) Diana Belchase 2012 Palermo Museum

I feel sorriest for kids everywhere who, it seems, are only entitled to heroes out of Marvel comic books and not from real life. It’s fashionable to hunt down every mistake our forefathers made, to talk of their wrongs against society, to hold them accountable for the barbaric practices that were commonplace in their time period.

To tear them down until there is no shred of heroism left.

Granted, Columbus was far from perfect. Just like the other great men of history who entered the slave trade, unwittingly spread disease, conquered lands that were not their own, and took treasure they were not entitled to, so, too, did he. Some say he might not be the first European to find America. But whether you believe that or not, he was the first to colonize and make these lands known to all of Europe. In essence, he was the first non-native American.

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I think of the dangerous voyage my own grandparents made to come to this country. They didn’t speak English, didn’t have a place to stay, no job waiting, yet they crossed an ocean in a ship much like he did, taking a chance that there was someplace better in this world for them to be. Like the settlers that came after him, Columbus crossed the mighty Atlantic in a fleet of three surprisingly small wooden ships, losing one on the way. That took daring, and intelligence, and perseverance that is rare today.

How many people could do that?

I personally have trouble going out of state without GPS, how did this man do this with only the stars to guide him? No maps, no computer, no one who gave him oral directions. Out alone on a rough sea. hoping to see land, commanding a crew who believed they might fall off the edge of the world and might mutiny any moment. He did this a total of four times in the late 1400’s a remarkable 522 years ago. It was equivalent of being the first man on the moon.

Amazing.

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Columbus means a lot to me as an American of Italian descent. My culture is riddled with forced stereotypes: Mafia bosses, New Jersey Housewives, loud arrogant members of the Jersey Shore. We’re thought of as pizza chefs and mobsters. Less widely remembered are the incredible contributions people of Italian descent have made — with our hands building the infrastructure of the U.S. — tunnels, roads, and bridges — with our genius sculpting and painting the decorative parts of buildings in every major American city, and with our minds as scientists and leaders.

The magnificence of the Capitol dome, scientific inventions like the telephone (only in the U.S. do people not know the true inventor of the telephone is Meucci) are ours. We are doctors, lawyers, and teachers. We carry the culture and refinement of the Romans, Tuscans, and Sicilians in our blood. Places non-Italians love to travel and somehow snobbishly distinguish from the Italians who live in the U.S. We are Supreme Court justices and the guy who carries your mail.

We deserve a hero.

Perhaps that is why I am a suspense writer and love the RS genre so much. RS stories are at their core about heroes, some unlikely, some highly trained, all imperfect individuals who must summon an extreme level of heroism and courage few, like Columbus, possess.

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Isn’t it a shame this is how we celebrated Columbus’ 500th Anniversary?

Seven percent of the U.S. identifies itself as being of Italian descent. There are probably more, but so many of us have been taught to be ashamed and try to hide the fact of our ancestry. Among us there is no unified voice that asks for a month devoted to our history. We deserve that, too.

This month is Hispanic History Month. I have been aghast at how little I know of Hispanic history — of which Columbus is a key figure.  It is right and apt that this Italian American’s birthdate falls in the midst of this particular month. Without the support of Spain, Columbus would not have discovered the Carribean and Latin America. He would not have been Governor of Hispaniola. He is as much a hero for those of Spanish descent as he is for those of Italian.

But let’s not squabble. To me, he is a hero for us all.

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