Well, it's that time of year again, time to revisit what's been accomplished, and what will be accomplished in the coming year. I've always been a huge supporter of goals. Setting them, busting tail to meet them, and having nifty little boxes to check off on my "Project Plan". Although, in reflection of 2010, I realized that some "stuff" happening near the end of the year bogged me down. No... correction... the stuff didn't bog me down, I allowed it to.

So my first goal moving into 2011 is to revamp and find a schedule to get that production momentum swinging again.

I now have a timer at my desk. I'm developing a daily calendar for the first few months to make sure I develop the habits I want to form. I've looked at what I can control: my productivity. My focus. My commitment.

I've looked at what I can't control: children interrupting, things that crop up on a day-to-day basis (otherwise known as environmental factors.)

So the end result looks something like this:

1. Fifteen minutes per day (thank you, Shannon), on Twitter. Then it gets turned off and stays off until the next day. I will find someone to engage with each day, be it friend already, or a friend-to-be.

2. Two blog posts a week. Tuesdays and Fridays.

3. One hour devoted to promotions, three times a week.

I haven't figured out the schedule on a per-hour basis, yet, but that's what I'm looking at professionally, outside of writing itself.

As for writing -- these are fairly lofty. But I concurr completely with Dean Wesley Smith,'s remarks about productivity and prolific writers in the year 2011.

Another thing I agree with Dean about is that a writing goal has to be different than a writing dream. Goals we can control. Dreams we cannot. Selling a book is a dream. Writing a book to shop it, in hopes it will sell, is a goal.

That said.

My goal for 2011 is to compose 7 full length novels. Figuring a rough total of words at 700,000, that breaks down to roughly 2000 per day, including weekends.

Completely and utterly doable. For me, at least -- every writer is different.

There will be days that I don't accomplish this. Looking at a full weekend off, that would be 4000 words I'd need to make up in the following week, which breaks down to only 800 additional words daily, over the course of five days. On average I can do 2500 in one writing sesssion. Bumping this up by 300 is not troublesome.

What am I going to write? Well, that's posing the most problems on my end. I have things I really want to do. Things I have a moderate love for. Things I could let go. So, I decided I wasn't going to commit to 7 ideas on my vast "Idea List". Instead, I'm breaking it out like this:

1 -- 2 Templar romances. (This is a concrete)
2 -- A Christmas project for TWRP (also a concrete)
3 -- Complete the "Special Project" (also a concrete)
4 -- A historical to be determined later
5 -- 2 other books, undetermined at this time, written as the urge strikes and based on which "Idea List" plot strikes my fancy when the time's right.

I also don't believe I'm going to try and commit to setting the order in which I write these yet. As long as I get my 2000 words in daily, I think I'll let the creative passion just flow and see where it takes me. If the time comes where I find it stagnates or stalls, I'll look at some more forcible means of setting and reaching goals. Like marking out "This book first. This book second."

The only exception to that is my TWRP project has to be done by an early 2011 deadline. So that one will be slotted accordingly.

Okay. All of those are goals I have the power and ability to control, work toward, and reach. Whether they sell or not is a dream. But they certainly can't sell if I don't write them.

What about you? What are your 2011 goals at this point?

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Bah Humbug! Dyann Love Barr started her novel, A Perfect Bride For Christmas, with this famous line. I'm stealing it from her.

Let it be said that Christmas is my favorite holiday, seconded only by Halloween. I don't care so much about the gifts, those are serious pains in the rear ends to plan. But give me the decorations, the smells, the hot cocoa... the baking...

This is the one time of year I can convince myself it's okay to make any kind of sweet treat, candy, cookie or cake without hesitation. And believe you me, I will, if given the opportunity. A few of my favorites are Toasted Hazelnut Chocolate Cheescake, the tried and true Chex mix, Fudge, and Tollhouse Cookies.

This year, I have a friend over in Iraq, and I thought I'd send a care package full of homey Christmas-type treats. I have my lists made out. I'm waiting on a gift I ordered otherwise I'd have already shipped it.


First on the list -- Peanut Brittle. I've never made Peanut Brittle before. The recipe looked simple enough. My heroine in All I Want For Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes made it look simple too.

After trying it, I say: Bah Humbug!!

It turned out edible. But it is not what I would send to a former chef. Mutter. The issues began when, after searching Hen House, I couldn't find raw peanuts and went with plain dry roasted ones. They burn, FYI.

And this recipe didn't specify no margarine, but real butter. (By now, you'd think I would know this in relation to baking.)

The result: An edible concoction with a slightly burned flavor that just doesn't taste "right".

Today I searched a second store for raw peanuts. Wal-Mart evidently doesn't have them either. Tomorrow I will phone the remaining grocery stores in my area.

Where do you find raw peanuts, people??

And for those of you who are adept at peanut brittle, are there any tips you'd like to pass along before I write this one off as one of Amanda Masterson's fictional expertises not meant to be reproduced in real life?


~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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There are three things I love most about writing, in this order:

1. Sale Announcement Day
2. Release Day
3. Release Date Day

After almost a year I received a release date for Waiting For Yes!

It seems like I've been waiting forever. The book was contracted before A Christmas To Believe In, but with that release having a firm scheduling day, and the business with Tor, my editor and I collectively agreed Waiting would be a bit delayed.

With much ado:

Waiting For Yes, releases April 20, 2011.

A winter snowstorm. A horse with a past.
A woman who has everything riding on the line.

One man holds the ability to fulfill her dreams...
If he can vanquish the nightmares.

Gabrielle Warrenton gave up everything to pursue her dream of a first-class Egyptian Arabian breeding farm. Her future lies in her new stallion’s success. Though she possesses an exceptional eye for horseflesh, she lacks the training knowledge, and Bahadur Mamoon has a date with the nation’s most affluent show in three weeks. Nothing that would present a problem given his previous credentials. Only, the sellers disguised one critical fact—he’s crazy.

Jake Lindsey-Sullivan was once part of an exceptional Arabian training team. Under his mother’s guidance, he developed an instinctual talent, but she was the star, the cornerstone of his life. Until she met a premature death. Grief-stricken and plagued by guilt, Jake abandoned the world of horses. Now an over-the-road truck driver, he evades the memories.

When a snowstorm throws two Arabian professionals into close-quarters, they discover an engulfing passion. But will Mamoon rip open emotional scars, or forever seal them shut?

---------------------------------------

While I've included the blurb, I know you've heard me say it before, but I want to say it again. My stallion, WDA Orion, is on the cover!

A brief bit about how he came to be a part of this story. First and foremost, let it be said that Orion never suffered the stuff Bahadur Mamoon goes through in the story. He was never, not right in the head, for any reason. In fact, Orion was an in-your-pocket kind of horse who would have been completely at home in my house, had he been housebroken. And had my old floorboards been able to support his weight.

But this romance is about an Egyptian Arabian, and in my eyes, Orion was one of the most beautiful examples of the Egyptian Arabian I know. So when I was writing this, I used the only life-picture I had. I didn't want to go with black, or bay, or bold chestnut... so thus a physical replica of Orion made it into the story. And then came the cover nail-biting... what kind of horse would end up on the cover, and how many Arabian lovers would freak out if it wasn't an Arabian at the least, let along Egyptian Arabian.

I had nightmares about "Oh, gosh, what if the artist puts a Polish up there?"

So I begged to use my own photo and released rights for use on it.

And I think I cried when the cover came back and everything was good to go. (Let me give a shout-out to the wonderful staff and artists at The Wild Rose Press, right here!)

So Orion has his day in infamy and is immortalized in some way. That makes me happy, especially in the light of his loss. And it means so much more to me that TWRP allowed the use of his portrait.

I also want to give a shout-out to Kevin Swalley, who taught me about big rigs and helped with Jake's driving scenes. Without him, my book would have stagnated at the idea phase.

Anyway -- more to come when Waiting For Yes gets closer to release!

~Claire

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Because everyone is familiar with big name movies, I'm using some examples here. Note, not every example has a book format, nor am I necessarily saying that those that did, used a prologue in the writing. I'm using the visual to explain what I'm driving at.

1. The 13th Warrior

It's a first person narrative. The movie begins with Ibn telling us about how he happened to be assigned to his mission. Action is employed all the way through the meeting of the Tartars and the pursuit. Intrigue/drama is given with the mention that the Norsemen might kill them if they linger. Conflict is he's supposed to meet with people. By this time we're no longer hearing his voice, we're experiencing the action. The oracle tells him he's the 13th warrior and has no choice but to go.

All of that is, essentially a prologue. Without it, if the movie began on the boat scene north where he already understands their language... the reader is lost. He could tell us how and why and what's going on while they sail north. But he (Ibn) showed us with a prologue what happened before the forward action of the plot (finding the things in the mist) begins.


2. Gladiator

Gladiator comes equipped with it's own prologue. It's written on the screen, grounding us in the events of the world at that time. However, I ask -- is that first battle a contributor to the forward-moving plot (which is the fate of Rome).

Nope. It sets up character and "the prologue" ends with the echoing, "Mighty victor!". It shows us why Maximus was chosen to restore Rome. It is an excerpt from Maximus' immediate past, justifying his future role. It also puts the stakes of Rome, herself, beneath our nose by linking the written prologue with the action of the final unification.

The forward moving plot doesn't truly begin until Claudius appears on the screen and his motives are seen.


3. Bolt

Bolt's prologue is unique. It's a prologue within a prologue. It begins with telling us how the dog had special powers, which is all a lead in to the fact that the dog is a movie star who believes he's really saving his human. We learn how it is plausible (because until we've seen it once, we think it's real). We learn why the dog behaves as he does. Goal, motivation, conflict.

There are many, many, unanswered questions in each part of each prologue. The answers unravel as the story goes on... the forward-moving plot is the dog's quest to return to his owner. He could have told us he was a super-power dog, but we wouldn't believe it if we hadn't seen the pre-prologue, and he could have told us how he'd gotten away from his human, but we wouldn't understand his motivation without knowing the second prologue.

The plot begins when Bolt is separated from Penny.

Classic.


4. Avatar

Avatar's prologue is shown 100%. It is the portion of the movie where we're learning how this handicapped, formerly enlisted Marine, managed to end up with an Avatar. We don't know what is purpose is. We don't know what's going to happen, or what his conflict is. But we've been shown, as opposed to his telling us by explaining it to the lead scientist, how he got there and why. We learn all the rest as the movie goes on.

The forward-moving plot is the conflict between the races and the struggle for the land.


5. Cars

Cars' prologue is the race in the begining which shows us the animosity between the green car and Lightning McQueen. It sets the stakes -- what Lightning wants and could lose if he looses the tie-breaking race.

All of this is shown to the viewer. The forward moving plot is the quest to get to (and win) the tie-breaker. It begins when he's riding down the road in his semi and rolls out. Lightning could have told us what had happened at the previous race. But we were shown it, thus engaging us in a portion of this characters' past, that was action-packed, brief, and set the stage.



All of these can be argued that because they are movies they are inherantly shown. But imagine these as books. Imagine those scenes cut off from the rest of the plot and written out as an engaging four or five pages, titled PROLOGUE.

Think of the unanswered questions at the point of cut off. Step through the movies and see when, and how, those questions are answered. Analyze those scenes to see how they set the stage and note that every one of them is jam-packed with action.

And now, I shall step off my soap-box on prologues :)

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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I put the question up yesterday and had some interesting responses. I'm going to share one that was posted on my Facebook, where this blog exports to, because it's not visible over here on Blogger. It's from a reader, not an author, and a woman who I consider an "educated reader".

Shannon says: "As a reader, I can skim through a prologue and decide if I want to take time to read a book."

This relates indirectly to what I want to talk about. Keep this thought in mind, as you read what I was taught.

Before we begin, it should be mentioned that many people advise, and subscribe to the theory that prologues should be avoided. I am not one of them. I love prologues. Both in my stories and in other people's stories. There is a trick, however, to using and crafting them effectively.

First and foremost, as a couple of you said, a prologue should be short. 4-5 pages as an average. I think this is pretty well-accepted, as most authors are aware there is a significant number of readers who just skim past the prologue and start with chapter 1.

Second, it should set the tone of what is being written about through the course of a book.

Third, it should absolutely be engaging. Think hooks, authors. A prologue has to have stronger hooks than even the first chapter because of the tendancy to have them overlooked. If it doesn't start with a bang, chances increase it will get skimmed. If it ends with a bang... odds increase you've now spurred a reader into the longer first chapter.

But the purpose, ie when to use it or when not to, is what I was driving at here, and what is it supposed to achieve overall.

A prologue should directly relate to the plot (most often the conflict) that is about to occur in the next however many pages. It will often be a glimpse of the past events in the character(s) lives. That does not translate into a heavy back-story dump. It is (I stress this) a glimpse. Some key event that happens to set the stage for what will be the journey the reader will travel.

Let's take for example a scenario where the overall romance is going to be between a never-been married heroine and a widower cop, whose former wife died in a home break-in while he was on duty and answering the call to break up a bar fight. (Can we say guilt?) Let's add into the mix that she's seven months pregnant with their first child.

Well, to give the reader an effective bond with how difficult this might be for the hero to overcome, we can use the technique of weaving her death into his backstory. But how much more powerful is it if the event is shown from the wife's point of view, as she's being stabbed on her bed, looking at her photograph of her husband in uniform, and thinking about their child, while trying to fight for her life? We don't even have to be in the hero's point of view to bond with his grief. We are already grieving for her.

Assuming the prologue ends without full revelation of whether she lives or dies -- let's say the prologue stops as she fades into unconciousness -- if effective interest is sparked and effective hooks are employed, someone is turning that page to Chapter 1 to find out what happened.

Let's toss this up a little bit and make it a romantic suspense. We'll change our hero to make him a detective. We'll put the prologue in the killer's point of view, and HE notices the picture beside this pregnant woman's bed. We know she dies. Let's end our prologue with the lines: "He glanced at the photograph of the decorated captain and his bride and smirked. One down, three to go."

Volia! Stage set.

But we don't know why the killer is doing this in either scenario, nor should we in the prologue. If we're working with the second scenario we have no idea who the other two might be -- three more women, three more men? Is this guy going to be a threat to our hero or our heroine? The prologue sets the stage, tone, and drops a hint as to what is to come.

A prologue does NOT answer the questions. In fact, it should generate questions a reader wants to know the answers to. It should not detail out the conflict. It should set a level of suspense/intrigue/drama to kick-start a story.

This plays right into what Shannon said. By reading this passage she's read essentially an excerpt from the book in the sense she now has a feel for how the author writes. Are the killings going to be gory? Is that killer believable? Is she compelled to discover the answers? Is the writing itself engaging or is it over-complicated, or conversely, over-simplified?

Moreover, if she's not interested in the prologue, she's probably not going to be interested in the rest of the plot.

I want to go back to what a prologue does not do...

It should be understood that the prologue does not tell the story because it isn't a back-story dump. It should be absolutely understood that there are a whole bunch of things coming down the pipe that explain the questions, and the author may or may not choose to reveal them all in Chapter 1.

Chapter 1 is the beginning of the book, of the forward-moving plot. There will still be unanswered questions, there will still be unresolved issues, just as there would be in a novel without a prologue. In fact, in the second example, the killer's motivations aren't going to be known until either his victims figure out his motives, or the author reveals the motives in his POV. (A choice dependant on the overall plot arc).

A reader should not expect to have everything spelled out by the end of chapter 1, and an author should not feel compelled to spell out the prologue by the end of chapter 1.

That's not the purpose of a prologue, and those who expect the prologue to explain all the unknowns are looking at the prologe as exactly what it shouldn't be: a dumping of back-story that can be achieved in the novel itself.

So, in sum:

What a prologue should be: Short, engaging (ie: action), intriguing, and an indication of what is to come or what the character(s) must combat either externally or internally.

Typical uses of a prologue:
1. To show a past event (briefly!) that poses emotional turmoil for one or both of the characters
2. To show a past event that sets up an external conflict (the first shots that start a war)
3. To explain a complicated aspect of the story through action, not summation, that relates to the plot or subplot (such as the prediction of a prophecy)
4. To show motivation of primary or key secondary characters (villians fit here often).

The key here is use of show. A prologue shows and engages. Back-story tells, no matter where it occurs, and although necessary, is flat.

Guage for yourself:

He knelt before the frail old woman and bowed his head. This was what he'd fought for, what he'd taken life for.
Bony fingers touched the crown of his head. Her voice rasped above the moans of the men who lay dying in the dirt. "Go, warrior. To the east you are called. Do not make the mistake of believing the war is over. Your battle has just begun. The woman who knows the ancient words that will heal you, bathes in your father's blood."

Or

Three years ago, after a monumental battle, he'd knelt before an oracle rumored to hold the cure for his disease. She'd told him while his squadron lay dying on the ground, that the only one who could heal him had killed his father.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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I'd like to start a discussion here. Please use the comments to respond and please pass this little poll along.

Question of the day:

What is the purpose of a prologue, and how do you, as an author, believe it should be structured?

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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About two years ago, Heather Snow taught our RWA chapter the basics on making a book trailer. Until that night, I'd never even heard of the things. But I found that I really enjoy making them. They may not be 'movie grade', or full of bells and whistles, yet they're still fun to do. Fun to analyze the book from a different creative portion of the brain.

As such, I'd like to share my newest one with all of you. It was a blast to develop!




If you'd like to take a peek at my others, visit my YouTube page: Claire Ashgrove

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Oh, how I love release days! They are so exciting, and this year even more, because it's happening right at a holiday, for the holidays. Double WHEE!

Snoopy Dance too.

To celebrate, I'm blogging at Coffee Time Romance today, and would love to have you pop in and say hello.

So with much ado, I'm uber excited to announce that A Christmas To Believe In, is here at last!

It's the third book in the Three Kings Series, and tells the tale of Clint King's struggles, both with his heart, and with his dreams. I fell in love with Clint, and I hope you will too.


A CHRISTMAS TO BELIEVE IN
The Three Kings, Book 3

When a man's dreams are in ruin, all he needs is someone to believe...

Struggling Thoroughbred breeder, Clint King, hasn’t been home for Christmas in five years. Like his brothers, Alex and Heath, life has kept him away. Clint’s farm is barely hanging on. His prize mare's due to foal any day, and in the wake of his father’s death, Clint can’t stand the idea of returning. The memories are too much, let alone his father’s imposing shadow. Except, Alex is getting married on Christmas Eve, and their mother’s put her foot down. She’ll have her boys at home. With his mare in tow behind him, Clint prepares to meet a sister he’s never known and Alex’s unexpected triplets. The one salvation he looks forward to is childhood companion, tomboy Jesse Saurs. Yet when he reunites with Jesse, he uncomfortably discovers she’s become all woman.

Jesse Saurs has everything she needs – financial security, a home, and a foster child who’s about to become her son. She’s spent two years breaking down Ethan’s emotional barriers, and with the final hearing scheduled just before Christmas, this year promises to make his dreams come true. When she learns Clint and his brothers are returning, she anticipates a holiday reunion that’s sure to entertain Ethan. But on the night of Clint’s return, the ‘brother’ she expected leaves her trembling after just a single hug. Even worse, Ethan makes it clear Clint's not welcome.

Will this Christmas destroy what's left of hopes and dreams, or will it give the three the gift they've all been longing for?


EXCERPT:


“You’d like him, Ethan. He was a lot of fun when we were younger.

”“Uh huh.” Noncommittal, he answered in a flat tone.

Jesse lapsed into silence, sensing she walked a thin line. Still, she couldn’t let the subject rest. There had to be a way to convince Ethan that Clint wasn’t a threat to his stability. Until she achieved that, she couldn’t just let go and let him harbor hate. Clint didn’t deserve it. Cautiously, she ventured, “Horses could be a lot of fun.”

Ethan snorted.

“You might give it a try. Something new and different. It can’t hurt, at any rate. If you don’t like Angel, well, then you’ve at least given it a shot.”

He tossed his controller in front of him, his interest in the game lost. She braced herself for the inevitable, knowing full well, whatever came out of his mouth next would hurt.

“Give it up, would you? I don’t want to know him. I don’t have to like your friends.”

“But Ethan-”

He scooted away like she’d cracked a whip in his face. “Enough! Don’t you get it? I don’t give a fuck about him.”

“Ethan Scott!”

“What? Too crude for you, Jesse?”

She flinched, drew in a deep breath and held it. Jesse. He hadn’t called her by her first name for over a year. Exhaling slowly, she set her controller down and slid off his bed. Though she knew in her heart, too many years of pain drove his emotions, the barb stung. On the same hand, she’d pushed. Ethan couldn’t tolerate pushing. He had to come to things on his own time.

Foregoing the lecture, she crossed to the door. “Goodnight, Ethan.”

He said nothing. Merely picked up his controller and set the options back to one-player. On a heavy sigh, Jesse left his room.

Inside hers, she clicked on the lamp by her bedside and reclined against her pillows. Tears brimmed in her eyes. She closed them to keep the salty flow at bay and curled her fingers into the sheets. In a thousand years, she never would have imagined that the only man she’d ever truly wanted would be Clint. In his arms, she felt safe. Protected. Undefeatable. He lit her up in ways she had only begun to comprehend, and it seemed as if fate determined to work against her.

If she weren’t careful, she’d lose Ethan. Every agonizing step she’d made would crumble under the weight of his fears. He’d close up, inevitably turn back to the life he’d known before he entered hers, and she couldn’t stomach the thought of where that would lead him. Jail, if he were lucky. Dead, if he wasn’t.

Yet, shouldn’t she be allowed some personal happiness as well? There were so many unwritten rules to parenthood – sacrifice for the children, put all personal goals aside, give up everything to see to their happiness. She’d exchange her life for Ethan’s in a heartbeat, but Clint offered something no child could. Even if it was only temporary, and this giddy feeling that brimmed in her soul would end when he left, he promised fulfillment of a need that ran so deep she couldn’t name it.

A tear slipped between her eyelashes and trickled down her cheek. She sniffled to hold the rest in check. She never should have let him kiss her a second time tonight. The first had been catastrophic enough. The second…

She wouldn’t be satisfied with anything but all of him after that second kiss. Instinct demanded she leap at what lay in front of her. Hang on to it until it burned itself out with his inevitable departure. Logic, on the other hand, warned her that if she did, she’d lose the one thing that mattered most – her son.




~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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**NOTE: This is a rant.**

The title is a little misleading, because I've always been a writer. But I did make a devoted shift in professional paths, from horse breeding to full time author. Do I still raise horses? Absolutely. I always will. It's the business of horses I want nothing to do with.

This shift has come gradually, and it all began when I had a stallion standing at stud. The very same gentleman I lost yesterday. Before I go further, I feel it's necessary to mention that 3/4 of the people I associate with, in the world of Arabians, are wonderful people. I'm on a couple list-serves with folks who are genuine and just good human beings. These folks (you know who you are) are obviously exempt from my rant.

It began with the species known as "Mare Owner". Now, I own mares, and I've bred to out of state stallions, in state stallions and dealt with the other subspecies called, "Stallion Owner." When I became the latter, I figured "What a snap. I'm a mare owner, this can't be as difficult as I've heard."

WRONG.

After a season and a half of wishy-washy commitments, spending money to ship out stallion packages with no return, and then dealing with Mare Owners who expect Stallion Owners to leap when Mare Owners don't abide by contractual agreements, or expect Stallion Owners to bend the rules for them, or simply cannot fathom that in the end, what I do with my horse is my choice, and if I want to take my horse off the market for a season, hmm. Guess what. I can. Particularly if the folks I have agreements with are on the same page, and agreements not made directly through me, that I've chosen to be ameneable to just because I'm a generally nice person, really don't pertain to my decisions.

(That is a terrible sentence, by the way)

What it boils down to is, if I want to shoot my stallion's breeding career in the foot by making him available under certain circumstances, certain times, or not available at all, it's my choice within bounds of contract agreements already signed. It is not the Mare Owner's. Period.

And as a Mare Owner I've experienced my own frustrations with Stallion Owners who either I didn't read the contract closely and got lectured, or just simply vanished off the face of the earth with the registry not even knowing how to contact them.

So I do sympathize, but really... in the end, the stallion belongs to me. And it was this seemingly obtuse perception that random people I didn't know from Adam could dictate what I would, or would not do with my own horse, pushed me into leaving the business.

Today, it was reconfirmed that indeed I made a good choice and I was not cut out to ever stand a stallion full time in a demanding market. Namely when word made it through the grapevine that my stallion had died and suddenly Mare Owners are in my email box.

Quick note to everyone whose emailed me:

a. I will not be addressing your emails 24 hours after his death. He's not a money-machine, he's my friend and I hurt. Have a little consideration. No one's breeding horses in November, except for the race track, and you aren't in that circuit.

b. Read your contract before you email me. If there are things to discuss, we'll do so. But be sure you read what you signed first. It's not my fault you made assumptions.

Everyone else who has no clue what I'm talking about:

Imagine your grandfather passing. And then, less than 24 hours after the fact, every extended family member starts phoning you asking which part of his estate he/she is entitled to.

Ugh. So glad I write. All I have to do is do what my agent tells me, do what my editor tells me, and produce creative content that keeps my readers entertained.

So much easier. So very much easier.

**End of Rant**

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Since I began this blog, I've tried to keep it completely "Claire", with a heavy slant toward publishing, writing, and promotions for both myself and my fellow authors. But I write for a reason -- it's therapeutic -- and I am a writer, which means I'm typically good with written word, not so much spoken word.

Besides, today I've decided this is my blog. I can write what I want to. Period.

And today I need to say goodbye to a cherished friend. Look closely, the horse on the left is the horse on the cover of Waiting For Yes... His name is WDA Orion, and he was a dream come true.

Not only for my breeding futures, or the business plan for my Arabian breeding program. No, this handsome man was a friend. Like so many Arabians, he had a personality that refused to let him be "just a horse" or "just a business investment." Not only was he breathtaking to look at, he was breathtaking to be around. He communicated with me through his eyes. When we drove into the farm, he came running up to the car door and waited for us to get out. Once or twice, he even tried to follow us into the house. Would have, if we hadn't ushered him right back outside.

Today I'm wishing I had let him come in and explore just once. See what he might have done. The big urine spot I was so afraid of, doesn't seem all that significant in the wake of losing one of the most special horses I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

By nature of the beast, I've become accustomed to losing equine friends. Each one takes a little bit of something, but some of them really grab on and hold tight. Orion was one of them. He toted my sons around on his back, bareback, without any thought to the mares around him. He knew those little boys loved him, and gosh darn it, he was going to take care of them. And he did.

And now he's gone, a victim to the fragile beast called "horse". This morning he twisted a section of his intestine, and we quietly bid him goodbye in the boarding facitily where I spent my early years with people I consider second family. The old man even nuzzled me while I wept into his fuzzy neck, as if to tell me "It's okay." As if he wasn't the one in pain.

When I lost my Thoroughbred stallion two years ago, I almost left horses completely. The barn wasn't the same without his head poking over the bars and his gentle spirit there to greet me each morning. Today I experienced the same mixed bag of emotions. Orion helped me through that earlier loss, and now it just seems... surreal... that he's gone too.

Strange, how life comes full circle, and he left this world in the one place where I truly discovered my pasion for horses. One stall down from the stall my first horse inhabited. The very stall my third horse, and my first stallion, called home. Maybe he and Zakk are playing in green pastures together -- they both loved the company of others, even other stallions.

Anyway... No need to dwell on this with all of you reading. But I needed to voice my thoughts. Thank you for listening.



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Hello everyone! Today I'd like to introduce you to contemporary romance author, and long time friend, Dyann Love Barr, who's here today to tell us about her debut Christmas novel, A Perfect Bride For Christmas. It's the first book in the Three Kings Trilogy.
Dyann, you've been studying craft for a long time and have been a great inspiration for me. Would you briefly share your journey with everyone else? When did you start writing, did you start in the genre you’re published in now, what hurdles did you have to overcome, etc.

DYANN: I started writing because I wanted more of the types of stories I liked to read but couldn’t find. At that time, back in 198HMPH, western historical were all the rage. I don’t like anything with Indians, steamboats, or cowboys on the cover. Give me a good Regency. I read a ton of Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer, but I got tired of the super sweet heroines. I wanted a gutsier lady who was ready to take on the hero. Then I read Kathleen Woodiwiss’ Wolf and the Dove. I wanted more. Flame and the Flower came next but after that, I felt her stories lost something. So, I thought, ‘Really, how hard could it be?’ I had no concept of craft and felt frustrated with my first awful attempts.

Several years later, my husband saw an article in our local paper about a writer’s group forming in the area and said I should check it out. I hemmed and hawed, thinking of every excuse in the book why it wouldn’t work. He called my bluff, so I went. I piddled and played at writing until five years ago when I got serious about learning craft, joined an excellent critique group, and learned to take the hits along with praise for my writing.


As an aside, that hubby of yours is an inspiration all to himself, and every author would be lucky to have a fan like him. I have never met a spouse so absolutely dedicated to seeing his partner to succeess. But returning to the interview...

Obviously you write contemporary romance. Is that your favorite genre to read? Do you write in any other genres, or under any other pen names you’d like to share?

DYANN: I love a good paranormal with tortured heroes and the women who love them. Shannon K. Butcher and Sherrilyn Kenyon are two of my favorites. J.R. Ward is right up there. Right now I’m trying my hand at paranormal. When I want something else to play with, I’ll dabble in Regency or medieval historicals.

Ah, after my own heart! Maybe that's why we tend to share brainwaves -- we must have similiar brain cells. (Laughing).


This is your first book, how does that make you feel?

DYANN: A Perfect Bride for Christmas is my first book, so—A Perfect Bride for Christmas! I’m excited about this book because the story is one my mother and I tossed around over twenty years ago. Now that she’s gone, I thought it would be a great tribute to her. I also had the privilege of working with Claire Ashgrove and Alicia Dean on The Three Kings Trilogy.


So, now that you've mentioned your mom, there's a special story about A Perfect Bride For Christmas, that I think everyone would love hearing. You know the one I'm talking about. Would you share it with us? I think it adds an additional layer of heartwarming feeling to the story.

DYANN: My inspiration for A Perfect Bride for Christmas came from many tabletop discussions with my mother. She read Harlequins by the bagfuls and the hidden baby was always her favorite storyline. Mom came up with the original concept and wrote notes about the ideas we bandied back and forth. After she died, I asked my father if he knew where she’d kept her notes. It was the only thing I really wanted to remember her by. I was heartbroken when I realized no one knew where she’d kept her scribbles. However, I remembered enough of her original plot, gave it my own twist, and wrote the first chapter as an exercise. The rest is history.

The paranormals were started several years ago when I got tired of the vampires and werewolves. After a while, everything I read was the same. So, I delved into other aspects of the supernatural, held long brainstorming sessions with friends who were intrigued by my ideas, and finally, I researched the hell out of it.


What other things spurr your ideas?

DYANN: My ideas stem from thoughts that make me go—hmmm. It might be something I read or saw on television. What if I took this person, put them in an unusual situation? How would they react?

Let's move right on into A Perfect Bride For Christmas. It's the first book in the collaborative Christmas trilogy, The Three Kings, between you, Alicia Dean, and myself. In it, we meet the youngest King brother, Alex. Tell us about him. What's one thing about Alex that we wouldn’t necessarily learn in the book?

DYANN: Hmmm. Alex is so self assured. I can see his best friend, Jesse Saurs, taking him down a peg or two. She’d probably steal his clothes while they were skinny dipping. Ten-year-old boys should never tell her she’s nothing but a little kid. Especially one like Jesse. How humiliating to have his older brothers come to his rescue.

In romance, all heroes are unforgettable in one way or another. What’s one thing about Alex that makes your heart go pitter-pat?

DYANN: I think it’s the way he falls so irrevocably in love with his children. He’s always been in love with Zoe on some level. Yes, he desires her like crazy, but he really doesn’t understand the true meaning of love until Macy, Michaela, and Mia latch on to his heart. Maybe that doesn’t sound alpha in some people’s books but for me—wow, a man who can love little kids is the bomb.

Those little girls are awful precious. He was kinda doomed from the get go. But I have to agree, his affection for them is exceedingly touching.

How's Alex feel about cats?

DYANN: There are kittens in the story but I can see Alex with a golden retriever. The breed, or the ones I’ve had contact with, are strong, loving, and good with kids.

Well, no hero is complete without his heroine. Give us a preview of the amazing, Zoe. What's her greatest fault?

DYANN: Lack of self esteem. Even when she gets her life together, the old tapes that haunted her past, start to play in her head. It happens to all of us.

Without giving away details that might spoil the story for those who have not read it, could you tell us the one strength Zoe provides to Alex?

DYANN: She becomes his anchor, his touchstone. Alex’s a man who thinks he knows what he wants, but he’s totally clueless.

You're a mom -- if Zoe was your daughter, what advice would you give her upon meeting Alex for the second time?

DYANN: Run, run, run. Girl, he tore your heart to shreds and I don’t care if you think you can handle meeting him again, run.

If we peek in on Alex, Zoe, and the girls, in ten years, what would we see?

DYANN: I can guarantee that Alex and Zoe will have a set of twin boys, a house full of toys, pets, and lots of mayhem. There might be a few squabbles along the way but they will never go to bed angry.

Before we come back to you, let's share this amazing story with everyone else. I feel like I'm sitting on a secret, and it's time to let it out of the bag. So with much ado, here's A Perfect Bride For Christmas, which is already receiving some FANTASTIC reviews:

Alex King wants to follow the family tradition and marry his perfect bride on Christmas Eve. There’s one little hitch—Bianca dumps him at the altar. He wakes up in Vegas with a hangover, a ring on his finger, and in bed with his best friend, Zoe Hillman. She’s overweight and plain, nothing at all like his image of the perfect wife. So begins the shortest Vegas marriage in history.

Zoe loved Alex from the moment he walked through the law firm’s doors. He can charm the panties off any woman, but he’s never tried it with her. The chance to grab for the golden ring is within her reach until everything blows up in her face. Now, five years later she returns to Kansas City with triplets in tow and a brand new look. Catering Alex’ next wedding should prove interesting.


EXCERPT:

December 2005, Kansas City

Scrooge had it right. Bah, humbug! Christmas sucked long and hard.

Lights twinkled on the tree, reflecting off the windows of the darkened office. The smell of holiday spices wafted from the potpourri dish on Zoe Hillman’s desk, filling the room with false cheer. It was Christmas Eve, and not even the large, make that huge, bonus check lifted her spirits.

“Bah, humbug.” She sniffed, wiped her tears for the umpteenth time before she checked her resignation letter to Cox, Zuckerman, Howe, King, and Dunne. No matter that her heart was shattered, her life over, it wouldn’t do for her last act as Alex King’s personal assistant to be sloppy and unprofessional.

She reached into the candy dish on her desk, absentmindedly unwrapped one of the truffles, and popped it into her mouth. The chocolate melted in a creamy, dark lushness designed to put a Band-Aid on her broken heart, but tonight her drug of choice didn’t work. Candy wrappers littered the floor, along with half a box of used tissues. The clock on her computer read seven PM. Alex would be married and on his way to Las Vegas by now. Bianca Freemont would be his bride. Zoe’s brain whipped up an X rated vision of the wedding night, and she grabbed another tissue to wipe her red nose and puffy eyes.

Her breath hitched, and she hit the SEND key before she could change her mind.

God, she was so stupid.


Ah, that just makes me smile. I know what happens. And everyone should run out right now and find out for themselves as well. Zoe is truely a unique lady, and you've given her amazing strength. Absolutely amazing.

Real quick, before you go, I have a couple other things to ask.

As a writer, what is your greatest strength?

DYANN: I’ve been told the way I can work humor into a story without overdoing it and the ability to summarize a character in just a few phrases.

That's so very true. You have a natural gift for humor without it being over-board, and you have the ability to make an impact with very short, concise, and powerful words.

Since you write so often, how has it changed your life?

DYANN: I still didn’t believe everything was real until I saw my book listed on The Wild Rose Press and Amazon. Wow. My reviews have been very positive so far. I had one woman squealing that she knew a ‘real live author’. Talk about strange. I’m all for the live part.

What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?

DYANN: Your best tool is a good critique group. I’m not talking about one where all your critique partners tell how much they love your writing. You need to be prepared to have a little blood spilled. Honesty is paramount. Be prepared to take the hits when someone you respects says your paragraph sucks, or you use a particular word too often. Also, learn the craft of writing. I’m still working on my grammar.

Be fearless and write what you want.


Thanks, Dyann, for not only sharing that tidbit of wisdom but stopping in today and giving up a few moments of your precious time. I know you're busily working on other projects, and every minute is accounted for. Before you run off, tell us where we can find you.

DYANN:

Twitter: writergal2007
Face book: Dyann Love Barr
Website: http://www.dyannbarr.com/


If you have a newsletter, how can we sign up?

DYANN: I don’t have a newsletter as yet but I’m working on it. However, I do blog on Dreamweaver Authors and my website.
Thanks again, Dyann, and keep up the writing!


~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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If you put a pause in between Jewelann's name, the title fits "Santa Clause is Coming To Town", incidently.

So yes, I'm super duper excited that two Missouri chapters elected to bring Jewelann Cone, from the Cascade Literary Agency, (my agent) in to speak to their authors about the industry, generally meet and greet, and hopefully garner some mutual benefits!

I've always wondered how I would handle my first face-to-face meeting with my agent. And not just since signing here, but back in the days of still searching. I presumed it would transpire at a convention, like Nationals, and I'd be nervous. I'd wonder if I talked too loud, if my laugh was funny, and I'd wonder if I was dressed horribly out-of-fashion.

Now, though, as the reality of things hits settles around me, all of those pesky worries are gone. I'm excited! I'd say, kinda like getting a new puppy, if I didn't feel that might come out all wrong. (Shh. I didn't say that.)

I'm not intimidated, and I believe this is, in part, because I've been made to feel at home from day one. My perception used to be that agents were a far-off partner, only really dealt with when active business was on the table. Oh, how wrong, I was. It's much more than that. A very mutually-supportive relationship.

But anyway, this isn't meant to be a sales pitch. I've accomplished little to nothing all week because I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas Eve, and can't keep focused. When it's over, I'll give a brief overview. And who knows, maybe I will even have a funny story to share!

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Everybody, please welcome Guest Author, Elaine Cantrell.

Hi, Elaine, I'm thrilled to have you here with me today. Your new book looks absolutely wonderful, and it's always exciting to get to know more of the authors I work with at The Wild Rose Press.

So let's talk writing!

We all start in different places on this path. Different influences drive us to write, different experiences push us onward. Would you briefly take us on the journey with you – when did you start writing, did you start in the genre you’re published in now, what hurdles did you have to overcome, etc.

ELAINE: I started writing in 2001 because my son came home and told me he wrote a book. I couldn’t believe it! I’d always wanted to write myself, but I didn’t think I could. Now, here was my younger son handing me a manuscript. He told me that he had always made up stories in his head to amuse himself, so he thought he might as well write them down.

Oh. My. Goodness. I had always done the same thing! I sat down at my computer, and after staring it for about ten minutes I started writing. I haven’t stopped since. No one liked my first book, but I didn’t care. I was hooked. I immediately started the second book.

About that time I heard of a small press called Oak Tree Press. They sponsored the Timeless Love contest every year, and the prize was publication of your book. At the last minute I sent off my manuscript, then promptly forgot about it. Imagine my surprise when months later the publisher called me and told me I’d won. That book was a contemporary romance which is what I mostly write today. I’m trying to do a paranormal and an inspirational, but I’m mostly a sweet to sensual contemporary writer.


You know, that's interesting, because I hope that my boys find the same love for writing as I do -- whether they choose to use it professionally or not. It's nice when our children can motivate us to greatness too.

Now, you just said you write primarily in the contemporary genre. Is that your favorite genre to read? Do you write in any other genres, or under any other pen names you’d like to share?

ELAINE: I do read romance, but I read other genres too. Right now I’m reading a cozy mystery called The Teaberry Strangler by Laura White. I have an account on Goodreads where I list all the things I’ve read. As I said I’ve written both a paranormal and an inspirational romance, but they don’t have homes yet.


I can relate to that. I have a historical and a romantic suspense without a home yet too. You've got a substantial back list. Of the books you've published, do you have a favorite? If so, which one and why?

ELAINE: That’s a tough one. Each time I work on a new book I like it the best, but if I had to pick I’d choose my new one Return Engagement. I fell in love with my hero, so much so that I have a sequel written and have started on a third book featuring him and his family.


Since I mentioned it, would you mind to share your published titles and tell us about anything coming down the pipe next?

ELAINE:

A New Leaf http://www.blogger.com/www.oaktreebooks.comThis one is the one that won the Timeless Love contest.

Grandfather’s Legacy is available from me as a PDF because the publisher died and the publishing house was closed.

Purple Heart http://www.blogger.com/www.thewildrosepress.com

The Welcome Inn http://www.blogger.com/www.wings-press.com

The Best Selling Toy Of The Season http://www.blogger.com/www.midnightshowcase.com

Return Engagement http://www.blogger.com/www.whiskeycreekpress.com

All of the books are also available from amazon.com.

I do have one more book that’s coming soon. It’s called Kara’s Change of Heart and will be published by Lachesis Publishing. You won’t believe the things that happen to my heroine!



Well, we came here to talk about Return Engagement, and this book is one that really shouldn't wait. So with much ado, let's talk about this new release!

Tell me about your plot development? How did the idea spur, did you have to do much research, any interesting tidbits that we should know?

ELAINE: My entire idea revolves around the idea of “what might have been.” I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t wondered about that. In this novel I explore what happens when two people get a second chance at love. Research for this one was minimal. I had to look up a couple of descriptions, but that’s about all.


I sense you have a hero to die for. Perhaps even literally. Tell me more about Richard. What’s one thing about your hero that we wouldn’t necessarily learn in the book? A secret dream, an embarrassing habit, an episode from childhood.

ELAINE: Richard, my hero, is impulsive which is obvious in the book, but the extent of his recklessness won’t become apparent until the sequel which is tentatively titled Blue 52. At that time we learn some about some very disturbing consequences of his impulsive behavior.


If Richard doesn’t have a pet in your novel, what kind of pet would best suit his personality?

ELAINE: A Doberman. The Doberman is sleek and muscular, loyal to those he loves, and willing to protect his loved ones at all cost.


All heroes are unforgettable in one way or another. What’s one thing about your hero that makes your heart go pitter-pat?

ELAINE: He’s awfully good looking, but I think what I like best is that he’s a one woman man. He’s an Alpha male with a soft spot for his Elizabeth. He’s willing to kill for her and even die if necessary.


There's that 'dying for'! I knew it! Only I had it backwards. He sounds like you picked him right out of my ideal hero dreams. I can't wait to meet him, Elaine.

Since you mentioned Elizabeth, and since these two are obviously inseperable, share a bit more about her, if you would. Everybody has flaws. Sometimes they are endearing, other times they are annoying. What is your heroine’s greatest fault?

ELAINE: She’s too cautious. Of course after her life I can understand that.


Without giving away details that might spoil the story for those who have not read it, could you tell us the one strength your heroine provides to your hero?

ELAINE: Stability. He’s fire and action, and she calms him and tempers his recklessness.


Mmm. That makes my heart sigh just thinking about it. A perfect counterbalance.

If your heroine was your daughter – what advice would you give her upon meeting your hero?

ELAINE: Be careful. This guy will upset your life in ways you can’t imagine.


That's absolutely intriguing, and definitely sound "mom" advice. Though, it's intriguing enough I'm not sure I would want my daughter meeting Richard. Laugh!

If we peek in on your hero and heroine’s lives ten years from now, can you give us a glimpse of what we’d see?

ELAINE: He’s the most powerful man in the country, but they’re struggling with infertility.


Well if he's going to be the most powerful man in the country, I don't suspect we should keep him waiting. He's probably not too fond of that. So let's have a face to face.

Here's a tempting bit about Return Engagement


Blurb:

Elizabeth Lane has heard the call of the four most seductive words in the entire English language: what might have been. Would you risk everything you hold dear to find out what might have been? That’s the choice which Elizabeth has to make.

Elizabeth is lucky, for she has it all, money, fame, a satisfying career and a devoted fiancé. Her humble beginnings are all but obscured, but she isn’t the kind of woman Senator Henry Lovinggood wants for his son, Richard. Senator Lovinggood plans to make Richard the President of the United States; he’ll need a woman from a wealthy, powerful family by his side. Ten years ago he broke Richard and Elizabeth up, but this time it won’t be so easy, for Elizabeth wants to know what might have been. This time she’ll fight back, a struggle which ultimately leads to kidnapping and attempted murder and alienates her from the man of her dreams.



Excerpt:

This excerpt takes place after Richard and Elizabeth met on the beach after a ten year separation.

“Look at the moon, Richard. Have you ever seen anything so big and beautiful? Isn’t it lovely the way it’s reflecting off the water?”

“Yes, but not as lovely as you are.” Richard made a sound of disgust. “That is so trite. You’d think I could do better, but all evening I’ve had trouble saying what I mean.”

Elizabeth laughed. “Maybe it’s because you’re trying too hard, but for the record, I think you’re doing just fine.” She shivered and hunched her shoulders as she hugged herself. “That wind is cold.”

Richard immediately removed his jacket and handed it to her. “Here, put this on."

“Won’t you be cold?”

“I’m fine. I’ve got on long sleeves and that’s enough.” His eyes twinkled in the moonlight. “In fact, I kind of like the idea of you wearing my clothes. Sounds like high school, huh?”

The chilly wind that blew across the moon-drenched water snatched Elizabeth’s laughter away. “Who cares? Sometimes it’s nice to be as irresponsible as a teenager.”

Richard tugged on her hand. “Let’s sit down and watch the moon awhile.”

Elizabeth willingly sank into the damp sand and cuddled close beside him. My gosh the man had muscles she hadn’t known even existed!

“Richard, about this evening….”

“Elizabeth, about Alex….”

“You go first,” Elizabeth urged. Her shoulders marginally relaxed. She wasn’t looking forward to telling him she couldn’t see him again.

“All right, I will.” Richard turned slightly, an almost angry look on his face. “What the hell do you think you’re doing getting yourself engaged to Alex Crawford? It’s obvious to a blind man that you don’t love him. You’ve been teasing me and flirting with me all evening. You’ve even kissed me.” He stirred up the butterflies in her stomach when he gently caressed her shoulder. “Right now your body language makes me think if I wanted to take this snuggling any further you’d be willing.”

“Wha…” Elizabeth sputtered.

“You don’t strike me as the type of woman who’d pick a man for a night of sex and then go back to her fiancé like nothing had happened. If that’s true I don’t think you love Alex as much as you think you do. The question is: what are you going to do about it?”

Elizabeth moaned and hid her face in her hands. Richard expected this surprise meeting to lead to something more that a hot dog on the beach, a casual meeting between two old…friends. I’ve done enough damage for one evening; I’m going home before I cause any more trouble. I’ve betrayed Alex and given Richard hope for a relationship with me when there is no hope.

She tried to jump up, but Richard grabbed her and held her close. “The wind is cold, and you can think just as well, no better, in my arms.”

Elizabeth gave up the effort to get away from him. There was no way she could argue with those hard, muscled arms. “Yeah, right. Being in your arms clarifies everything! I’m so confused I don’t know if I’m coming or going,” she cried. “I do love Alex. I do! That’s why I agreed to marry him, but with you I feel like a different person.

“I know I shouldn’t have flirted with you and kissed you, but I couldn’t help myself.” Her eyes misted with tears. “I didn’t want to help myself. It’s like it was ten years ago only better because now nobody can accuse me of corrupting a minor. You asked me what I’m going to do, but to tell you the truth, I don’t know. The only thing I’m sure of is that I don’t think I can stand it if you walk away again.”

Elizabeth threw her hands over her burning face again. “What kind of woman am I? I haven’t seen you in ten years, yet here I am leading you on and encouraging you to… What’s wrong with me!”

Richard jerked her hands away from her face and kissed them. “From my point of view things have finally taken a turn for the better.” Satisfaction oozed from his voice.

“You’re willing to admit you don’t want to lose me. It’s taken ten years, but we’re back where we belong-together. Everything I ever felt for you came back the minute you spoke to me.” His voice lowered and became husky and persuasive. “Don’t tell me you didn’t feel it too.”

“I…” Elizabeth fell silent. After all; what could she say?

“Let me help you make up your mind about what to do.” Richard pushed her back into the sand and kissed her, a delicate, brushing of lips that deepened as hearts caught fire.

* * *

Oh yes, very nice. May I keep him? Please?

I'd like to go back to you for a minute, before we say goodbye.

What do you find most difficult about your job as an author?

ELAINE: Undoubtedly, it’s promotion. I’m not very good at it since I’m basically an introvert.

How has writing changed your life?

ELAINE: I’ve learned that dreams can come true. I have a lot more confidence in myself now than I used to.


What has surprised you the most about being a published author?

ELAINE: What surprises me the most is that people assume all authors are making a fortune. I wish!


Laugh! I wish too! Wouldn't it be nice?

It's been a pleasure having you visit, and I hope you'll come back with your next release. We'll let you get back to creating dangerous cirumstances and crafting yummy heroes we'd like to take home with us. Before you go, would you tell us where we can find you? (Website, blog, twitter, etc.)

ELAINE:
My web site is http://www.elainecantrell.com/
My blog is http://www.elainepcantrell.blogspot.com/
My twitter account is http://twitter.com/ElaineCantrell I’d love you to follow me.
My Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100000153041486 Do send me a friend request.
My MySpace page is http://www.myspace.com/elainecantrell Send me a friend request.


If you have a newsletter, how can we sign up?

ELAINE: Go to my web page and scroll down until you find the yahoo button. Click it and follow the directions.

Thanks again, Elaine, and I hope to see you back soon!


~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Making Dreams Come True

0 Comments Posted by Claire Ashgrove at 3:12 AM

Well, here she is, my personal Best Horse of the Century bid.

Her name is Zenyatta. But hold on folks, bear with me, we aren't talking about horses today. Not... exactly.

For those of you unfamiliar with horse racing, Zenyatta went into this past weekend's Breeders Cup Classic undefeated, 19 starts, 19 wins. Her racing record is simply unheard of, and her career on the track brought life to a sport that long needed someone to rally behind. She ran against the boys for the second time (having won last year), on dirt for the second time (California circuit is all synthetic track). She may not have been the most favored when looking at records, etc, but she was, hands down, the crowd's favorite.

And she lost. By a head. But her race is still being talked about because of the heart she put into it.

To think... this 19-1, near perfect, crowd favorite mare who's earned over six million dollars in purse money, was purchased for a mere (yes mere) $60,000 and reportedly was "considered a good-for-nothing horse at one point because she had ringworm."

Someone believed in Zenyatta. In return, Zenyatta gave everything she had.

Which is a bit like Clint King's struggle in my new release, A Christmas To Believe In.


Clint's racing stable is struggling. Every dream he owns is in his prize mare who's due to foal before she should, in order to grant him a foal worthy of competition. All of his adult life he's struggled with living up to his father's expectations.

Clint's only ever needed someone to believe in him.

Now, don't get me wrong, Clint's not wallowing in his circumstances, and he's not full of self-pity. He knows what he wants, he knows how to get it, and nothing's going to stand in his way.

A bit like Zenyatta knew how to get over that wire 19 times, when starting at dead last.

It just goes to show what a little love can do. And for Clint, love becomes more priceless than any gift he's ever known.

So, all that said, everybody has dreams that we hold dear. Secret fears, hopes, and aspirations we share with only a select few. I truly believe that A Christmas To Believe In is one every reader can relate to. There might be a horse on the cover but it's not about horses. It's about love, and how important it is. Not just to Clint, but to Jesse, and to Ethan, Jesse's foster child, as well.

Please check it out! It's available for pre-order now, and will release in digital and print on November 24th!

In the meantime, here's a bit from the book:

OFFICIAL BLURB:

Struggling Thoroughbred breeder, Clint King, hasn’t been home for Christmas in five years. Like his brothers, Alex and Heath, life has kept him away. Clint’s farm is barely hanging on. His prize mare's due to foal any day, and in the wake of his father’s death, Clint can’t stand the idea of returning. The memories are too much, let alone his father’s imposing shadow. Except, Alex is getting married on Christmas Eve, and their mother’s put her foot down. She’ll have her boys at home. With his mare in tow behind him, Clint prepares to meet a sister he’s never known and Alex’s unexpected triplets. The one salvation he looks forward to is childhood companion, tomboy Jesse Saurs. Yet when he reunites with Jesse, he uncomfortably discovers she’s become all woman.

Jesse Saurs has everything she needs – financial security, a home, and a foster child who’s about to become her son. She’s spent two years breaking down Ethan’s emotional barriers, and with the final hearing scheduled just before Christmas, this year promises to make his dreams come true. When she learns Clint and his brothers are returning, she anticipates a holiday reunion that’s sure to entertain Ethan. But on the night of Clint’s return, the ‘brother’ she expected leaves her trembling after just a single hug. Even worse, Ethan makes it clear Clint's not welcome.

Will this Christmas destroy what's left of hopes and dreams, or will it give the three the gift they've all been longing for?


EXCERPT:

“You’d like him, Ethan. He was a lot of fun when we were younger."
“Uh huh.” Noncommittal, he answered in a flat tone.

Jesse lapsed into silence, sensing she walked a thin line. Still, she couldn’t let the subject rest. There had to be a way to convince Ethan that Clint wasn’t a threat to his stability. Until she achieved that, she couldn’t just let go and let him harbor hate. Clint didn’t deserve it. Cautiously, she ventured, “Horses could be a lot of fun.”

Ethan snorted.

“You might give it a try. Something new and different. It can’t hurt, at any rate. If you don’t like Angel, well, then you’ve at least given it a shot.”

He tossed his controller in front of him, his interest in the game lost. She braced herself for the inevitable, knowing full well, whatever came out of his mouth next would hurt.

“Give it up, would you? I don’t want to know him. I don’t have to like your friends.”

“But Ethan-”

He scooted away like she’d cracked a whip in his face. “Enough! Don’t you get it? I don’t give a fuck about him.”

“Ethan Scott!”

“What? Too crude for you, Jesse?”

She flinched, drew in a deep breath and held it. Jesse. He hadn’t called her by her first name for over a year. Exhaling slowly, she set her controller down and slid off his bed. Though she knew in her heart, too many years of pain drove his emotions, the barb stung. On the same hand, she’d pushed. Ethan couldn’t tolerate pushing. He had to come to things on his own time.

Foregoing the lecture, she crossed to the door. “Goodnight, Ethan.”

He said nothing. Merely picked up his controller and set the options back to one-player.On a heavy sigh, Jesse left his room.

Inside hers, she clicked on the lamp by her bedside and reclined against her pillows. Tears brimmed in her eyes. She closed them to keep the salty flow at bay and curled her fingers into the sheets. In a thousand years, she never would have imagined that the only man she’d ever truly wanted would be Clint. In his arms, she felt safe. Protected. Undefeatable. He lit her up in ways she had only begun to comprehend, and it seemed as if fate determined to work against her.

If she weren’t careful, she’d lose Ethan. Every agonizing step she’d made would crumble under the weight of his fears. He’d close up, inevitably turn back to the life he’d known before he entered hers, and she couldn’t stomach the thought of where that would lead him. Jail, if he were lucky. Dead, if he wasn’t.

Yet, shouldn’t she be allowed some personal happiness as well? There were so many unwritten rules to parenthood – sacrifice for the children, put all personal goals aside, give up everything to see to their happiness. She’d exchange her life for Ethan’s in a heartbeat, but Clint offered something no child could. Even if it was only temporary, and this giddy feeling that brimmed in her soul would end when he left, he promised fulfillment of a need that ran so deep she couldn’t name it.

A tear slipped between her eyelashes and trickled down her cheek. She sniffled to hold the rest in check. She never should have let him kiss her a second time tonight. The first had been catastrophic enough. The second…

She wouldn’t be satisfied with anything but all of him after that second kiss. Instinct demanded she leap at what lay in front of her. Hang on to it until it burned itself out with his inevitable departure. Logic, on the other hand, warned her that if she did, she’d lose the one thing that mattered most – her son.



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Well, today is the big day, for anyone who follows racing. It's the 27th Running of the Breeder's Cup Classic, and all eyes are on Zenyatta.

I don't know if any of you have seen this gal run, but I watched her last race in California a few weeks ago and she's just fantastic. There's no rushing out of the gate, stealing first place and holding it all the way. No, not for the showy lady who marches before her race, poses for the camera, and simply oozes character.

Zenyatta makes her fans wait with baited breath as she claims dead last, then slowly picks off horses all the way to the lead. Here -- just take a peek. I dare you to breathe easily.




An April Fool's Baby, she's undefeated and today is her 20th race. She's running against the boys, not running in the ladies Classic, just like last year. Question is... can she make her final race her greatest? Will she make today a perfet 20-0?

Tune in to ESPN and watch for yourself. Even if you don't bet, don't have a passion for racing, this is one horse everyone can admire. She defines the epitome of dreams.

And she's certainly inspired me.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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There's a certain energy about a new story, and I think this is probably my favorite part of writing. First, the idea takes hold. Then, the plot unfolds (because I'm a plotter.) Then, about a week later, I get to put words down... and for me, there's no better thrill. All that thinking starts to develop. All that imagry comes to life.

For the first time in my life, I'm doing NaNoWriMo, and I put off starting my Templar book until the 1st of November. Add into the fact that this is one of the stories I've been wanting to write since I developed the concept, and the fact that the outline has been done for months, and there was some serious anticipation building!

Now though, I'm fully immersed in the story, and having the time of my life. About six chapters to the end, I will wish I was already done, and then I'll hit the final climax, and won't be able to write fast enough to keep up with the ideas in my head.

It feels good to be writing after a few forced weeks doing nothing but edits, housekeeping stuff, and critiques.

How about all of you? Do you share that special energy when you get to put those first chapters down? Are you NaNoing this year at all?

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Well, after listening to two years about this NaNoWriMo stuff, I decided to give it a shot. It was time to start my next Templar book, so it all fit together very nicely.

What have I decided? This NaNo stuff is kinda fun. It pushes me. Not that I particularly need to write any faster, but I am obsessed with that little graph. How high can I get it to climb in one day? And when the blue bar crosses over the purple one... boy that seriously makes me giddy!

My critique partners and I have also challenged one another, and when I saw Dyann creeping up on me, I had to write some more. (Evil laugh!)

Anyway -- is anyone else out there NaNoing? What are your experiences so far?

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Hello fellow authors and blog-mates! It's me, Claire, again.

Last month, while I was trying to sift through an insane amount of email, I found buried in one of my folders a notice for workshop proposals for a conference that, although I haven't been there, I've heard outstanding things about. This would be the NOLA Star's, Written In The Stars, conference, put on by the chapter who hosts The Suzannah contest each year.

So, I dug out a workshop I'd put together for my local RWA Chapter, did a little cutting, did a little revising, crossed my fingers and sent it off.

Last week they accepted my proposal!

So, in March of 2011, I'm going to my first out-of-state conference, as a guest speaker! And I'm trying to convince everyone I know to register and attend. Unfortunately, our esteemed leader, Jewelann won't be present, but it looks like there are some awesome programs being offered, and who can go wrong with Louisiana?

Personally, Louisiana has been on my list of 'Intended Destinations' for a long time, so I'm doubly thrilled! Downside -- I won't get to stay in that haunted planation house I've always wanted to see. Oh well, maybe next time. I'm more excited about meeting authors and interacting with the folks I admire and respect than meeting some ghosts. And, to top it all off, I just heard this morning it looks like one of my critique partners is going to make the drive down with me.

Which means, quite possibly, we might not have to rush off that Sunday morning. Though work schedules will come into play, I'm sure.

Ahhh... Shreveport, here I come! I do so love the south.

Here's a blip about the workshop:

Gone Fishing!
Everybody knows to catch the fish you have to have the appropriately baited hook. Catfish gnaw on hot dogs. Trout are picky. Bass like things that sparkle. But what'll make an editor bite? Published author, Claire Ashgrove, will discuss five different types of hooks and illustrate how to make your manuscript sparkle appropriately when the submission pool is full of generic bait.

For more information: 2011 NOLA Stars Conference

Please come join me, I'd love to see you there!



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Now... I'm not going to names, first and foremost.

But tonight I set aside the first book that I've ever picked up and started to read. The book was published by a house I usually gobble up everything they put out. The author was new to me. (And if you've watched my posts at Cascade -- no it wasn't one of the two books I mentioned there that I was interested in.)

In the first three pages of the story I changed points of view so many times it was frightening. And that just set off the nails on chalkboard feeling for me. So, I literally tossed the book aside. I don't know about the rest of you, but after listening to class after class on craft, I have become more or less a POV purist. I want the change blended smoothly if it isn't at a scene or chapter break, and I want to stay there for at least a page. I don't like author intrusion -- when a character starts describing things they couldn't possibly see/know about themselves -- and I don't like to feel like a ping-pong ball when I'm trying to follow a story.

Ask my poor crit partners... these things drive me nuts.

I even double-checked the publication date on the novel -- 2010. The cover was awesome. The premise really enthused me... but wow... I just can't get past the head hopping and author intrusion and how it cleared an editor's desk. Espeically out of this house where everything is usually something that makes me wish I had written the book.

Anyway, it got me thinking about how I've grown. I remember one early critique partner pointing out my head hopping, and to think that my personal writing avoids even the blended POV shift now is kinda funny.

I've heard pre-published authors talking about "Well so and so does it..." and I hadn't really realized how much of this still happens beyond some of the big, established names. (And to my knowledge this author doesn't qualify as "big" "established"). But now I can see where confusion comes from. I can see how come folks have trouble with "my manuscript was rejected for head hopping" when published authors are doing this.

Have you all noticed this? I say, I have to toss my hat into the "confused" pile now.

Anyway -- Folks, don't succumb to the 'cheat' of head hopping. There's a place and a time to switch POV, and it isn't a bad thing to switch POV. But switching every three to four paragraphs tends to infuriate readers like me.



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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First things first -- sorry folks for being late with my posting today. I usually post late at night, but last night exhaustion set in before I could type anything.

So, this week, I've been doing a lot of house-keeping related to writing. Fleshing out a few ideas, smoothing out some rough spots in an existing manuscript, doing edits for Waiting For Yes, and a bunch of other stuff related to chapter work, critiques and other general things.

The result was, by mid week, I was pretty unenergized in general. So what did I do? I fed my shoe obsession. Somehow that always works well.

Allow me to introduce you to the cutest pair of shoes I've ever set my eyes on.









Contrary to my fellow shopper's opinion of, "You've got to be kidding", as I toted these shoes through several department stores looking for something to wear with them, I got rave reviews. Regardless of anyone else's opinion, these perked my spirits like nothing else. I was struck with the need to write about a woman in snappy shoes. Hee.

And then the first pair of high heels I've ever owned:




They don't look it in this picture, but they are four inches tall. And I confess, the sudden urge to own a pair of platform stilettos came from the heroine I just finished writing about. More aptly, her job. That's all I will say there. With a little luck, that story will come out in print and we'll talk about that later.


It's funny -- I haven't been shopping in, quite literally, years. Yet, this little spree really energized me. I'm finding myself anxious to be done with all the house-keeping necessities and ready to put new words into action.


But before I do that, I have one more trip to make.

I thought I'd give these two (new to me) romance authors a shot.






Then, I think I'll knuckle down and do some writing come November.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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So last week I mentioned I couldn't go into specifics about a contest. This week, I can, and I'm super happy to be able to share.

I entered SOLA's Dixie Kane Memorial Contest, a contest that I really enjoy the feedback in. After much nail-biting, they posted the Official Winners List, and I found my name in there... three times:

1st Place Paranormal -- Seduced By Fire
2nd Place Historical -- Bound By Decency
3rd Place Single Title Contemporary -- Love's Redemption.

I kermit danced for a while (only now my chapter members are asking me to demonstrate that one.) We'll see how The Suzannah plays out. I entered two pieces, one not in the above list.

Also, in exciting events, I decided to give both online workshops and conference workshops a go for the coming year. I've received word that my online workshop for Digital Publishing was accepted through both Black Diamonds RWA and Lowcountry RWA. I'll be teaching those workshops in February and August, respectively -- hope you'll come!

I submitted a different proposal for a couple conferences (one being RWA Nationals) and fingers crossed that they will go. I really would like to present. Really, really.

So it's been fun and exciting this week on my end. Other news to come next week. Anybody else have any fingers-crossed stuff they can talk about? Or achievements? I'm anxious to hear.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Shew!

I used to have this perception that being an author wasn't, necessarily, work. Writing is fun -- erego not a job. WRONG.

I figured this out somewhat after my first book saw publication and the world of, dum-dum-dum promotions became part of my life. So, website up, blogs somewhat active, presence scattered, newsletter out... Added that into my schedule.

Kids, it only gets worse!

This week, I had a deadline that I was in a rush to meet because the project was new for me and some of the elements are unfamiliar. Then it was 2 hours on the phone with my agent, discussing a multitude of things and options, one of which was a slight request for revisions on a previously submitted manuscript. Then, as my week of catch up and downtime is beginning to fade, I get edits back for a contracted manuscript.

In short, each day that passes, I learn more about the job of being an author. Promotions never fade. If there's nothing slated immediately, there's a need to keep back list material circulating. Add in the need to keep interest up about what's coming down the pipe -- promo work increases exponentially to the number of titles (at least at this point in my career).

The website is never current enough. The newsletter never feels engaging enough. Workshops to plan and propose. Chapter responsibilities which also increase with more available titles (and they should within reason).

There's a constant learning curve. My PAN membership went through, and now I'm learning more about what I should be doing, and what to expect as things unravel more. I tell ya -- if anyone ever tries to tell you being an author is a "cush job" -- please laugh in their face. It's seriously not. We do have the benefit of working from our homes -- but try and convince family and children that just because you're sitting in the living room at the computer, doesn't mean you can't get up to attend to their immediate needs or carry on a conversation.

So for anyone who's seeking publication, get a handle on this stuff now. Add it into your routine. Trust me, having it fall in your lap can make you topsy-turvy in ways you'd never imagine.

Those of you who've already mastered it -- big kudos from me!

And on that note -- what are your promotional tools?

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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In working with this new project, I've had to change up some of my habits and break some routines so my "boundaries" wouldn't be the same. One of the things that I've altered is, I've started listening to music while I'm writing. Not anything I'm a crazy fan about (like good classical, or sweeping orchestral because that totally distracts me.) Pop music actually. Which is great for a drive, but not normally part of my writing formula.

Anyway, I've discovered something that I probably should have realized a long time ago. There are a few songs that I absolutely cannot stand because they provoke such intense reactions. For instance, Rhianna's Unfaithful. When I first heard this song a year or so ago, it really made me ill. The message conveyed in there just... well, it bothered me.

Now, the song bothers me because it's very... raw. I've gotten over the need to preach "Hey. You can control yourself, lady." Now it just twists my guts because of the deep emotion in the song, even though I don't agree with the "message". Eminem's song, I Love The Way You Lie does the same thing to me. I mean for goodness sakes, lyricwise, the message is pretty disturbing. But combined together with the vocals and how the vocals are sung, it's a very moving song.

All of which, in an odd sense, has made me change a few approaches in my writing. Being able to appreciate the artistic value of songs that I'd previously snorted over, has allowed me to expand my own writing horizons. It's made me realize that it is okay to use a word choice that might not be pleasant for someone. (Always depending on context). It's okay to, where appropriate, have a little shock value.

I haven't been a writer who's afraid to use profanity, or afraid to open the bedroom door, or liberally apply blood. Don't get me wrong. But with this project specifically, it needed to be a little raw. Which I've been able to achieve with moderate ease, after pushing different boundaries.

And the moral of this little rambling? Sometimes it takes literally removing the box, not just stepping outside it, to grow. If, as a writer, there's something you want to accomplish, but perhaps you aren't certain you can, before you decide whether you're really capable or not, change your habits. Explore new territories. In the end, you'll appreciate the fact you have.

And now, back to writing, so I can meet my commitment of having this to Jewelann Monday. EEP!

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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"Victorians used the term 'limbs' as a euphenism for legs, which were thought to be so sexually exciting to a man, even a glimpse of a table leg could incite him to sexual frenzy. Table skirts were invented to prevent any unnatural unions between men and furniture."
~
(History Channel International)

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