Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Rockville 8 Welcomes Author Kathy Altman

Kathy Altman writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense and the occasional ode to chocolate. Her work has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Daphne du Maurier. She’s also a regular contributor to USA Today’s “Happy Ever After” blog.

When Kathy’s not writing, reading or putting in her forty hours a week as a computer programmer for the Air Force, she enjoys baking, watching the CiarĂ¡n Hinds version of Persuasion, and making other people feel superior by letting them win at Scrabble.

She lives in rural Virginia with a crowd of cats and her sweetie, who’s a fellow book addict and an avid fly fisherman. Kathy lives in hope that one day he’ll actually agree to use their passports (before they expire again).

Kathy is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Washington Romance Writers (WRW). You can find her online at, or email her at—she’d enjoy hearing from you!

The Rockville 8 would like to give Kathy a warm welcome!


Every June, I spend a fortune on strawberries. I buy them in 3-quart flats from a local berry farm, and those 3 quarts don’t even last me a week.

Usually I enjoy them plain, but I have been known to toss a few into a blender (just to keep the rum and/or ice cream company). And every now and then I’ll top a bowl of the berries with fresh whipped cream and toffee bits. Yum! Anyway, by the end of the season (and of course it is already the end of the season), I’ll have spent easily a couple hundred dollars on strawberries. And I spend another six weeks loudly lamenting that the strawberry season is far too short.

So why don’t I just grow my own? I’ll show you. This is one of my flowerbeds.

Need I say more? Yep. I’m a full-blown tragedy in the garden. Perennials quiver, tomato plants titter, and weeds greet me like old family friends whenever I venture outside. When God was handing out green thumbs, I thought He said “demon rum”, so I politely refused. I’m making up for it now, though. Take another look at that picture—can you blame me?!

This is why I chose to live vicariously through my heroine Parker Dean. She nurtures not only three greenhouses worth of thriving plants, but uses her strawberry brilliance to produce juicy red morsels of home-grown joy. If I want strawberries from my own yard, I’m stuck with the wild kind—the kind that god-knows-what-critter has peed on. (It’s also called the mock strawberry—and yes, I choose to take that personally.)

I also gave my heroine gorgeous red hair, and her very own Army soldier to play with. Alas, two things we don’t have in common. But we both share less-than-stellar fashion sense, and our steadfast belief that a stack of chocolate chip pancakes contains a lot of happy.

Why haven’t I figured this out before, that I can live vicariously through my heroines? Besides pairing her with my current Hollywood crush, I mean? I’ve always been so concerned with making sure a reader could identify with my protagonist that until The Other Soldier I completely missed the opportunity to endow my heroine with one of the many skills I’ve fantasized about cultivating. (Obviously I’m a late bloomer—and of course I use the word “bloom” very loosely.)

Earn a helicopter pilot’s license? My heroine could do that. Learn Arabic? No sweat—heck, she could learn that and Mandarin at the same time! Master the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira? Done. Hang glide off a Hawaiian volcano? She is so there. Become a firearms expert? Pastry chef? Private investigator? Check, check and check. Guess I’d better get busy dreaming up some plots to showcase all of those talents!

So if you’re a writer, what super special skill have you bestowed on your hero or heroine? Have you ever read or written a character that inspired you to learn how to do something in particular? (Writing about Parker and her strawberries has definitely made me determined to try growing my own again—though this time I’ll make sure I have supervision. And my hero Reid knows how to rappel—that’s a definite addition to my bucket list.)

Have you ever written a character with whom you have nothing in common? Huh—is that even possible?

I have a copy of The Other Soldier I’d love to share with someone, so please leave a comment. Once I’m done teaching my heroine how to pick a lock I’ll pick a winner.  :-)

Many thanks to everyone for stopping in today! And a very special thanks to all of the lovely and gifted Rockville 8 ladies for inviting me to blog! You never fail to entertain and educate here—thank you for letting me be part of the fun!


Corporal Reid Macfarland has one mission: to make amends for the mistake he lives with every day. That friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan that killed a fellow soldier haunts him. Maybe if he can help the widow, he'll find some peace.

But amends are easier said than done. Just one meeting with the independent and engaging Parker Dean makes it clear that forgiveness is a little more complicated than offering money or an apology. If he really wants to help, Reid has to stick around for a while. The more their daily lives intertwine, the more he realizes her forgiveness isn't the only thing he needs—he needs her.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Watch Me Work

            Any writer I’ve ever known loves to watch people.  I love to talk to people, engage with them and discover their story.  Sometimes as writers we look for the stories.  Other times, they fall into our laps. 
            My husband and I were the only two people in a bar last night.  I spoke to a 22 year-old bartender, whose father died of cancer five years before.  She told me she was leaving our small town to move to a nearby state. She remained very upbeat throughout the conversation, looking me in the eye as we talked.  But when she started talking about her father, who I knew as well, I noticed something.  She started stocking the fridge even though it was just before closing and she could hardly fit another bottle of beer on the shelf.  When our bartender finished that, she started scrubbing the counter around me even though there wasn’t a mark on it. 
            I tried to change the conversation since it seemed to upset her but she brought it back to him.  She stopped what she was doing and leaned in.  A friend of her father’s had visited the bar one night and cried while talking about him.  She told me this was what she couldn’t take and why she couldn’t stay.
            Everything reminded her of him.  Everyone telling her how much they loved her father, how much they missed him, how much she looks like him, and what a great guy he was.   She stopped for a moment and looked off into the distance. 
            “I just can’t take it any more,” she said in a half-whisper. 
            Though she didn’t say and may not even know it, I realized that she needed to get away to heal.  Her father’s death was a constant open wound.  She didn’t tell me this.  But this is what I understood from her words and body language.
            The same thing happens to us in our writing. Or, at least it should.  We as writers should be able to convey this through writer observation.  If I were writing this scene, the bartender shouldn't tell the patron, “See, I have to get away because I need to psychically heal in order to return to the world I’ve always known.”  The subtext should come to the reader naturally and not be spoon-fed to them, the same way this information comes to us in our daily lives.
            I keep thinking about our conversation.   It affected me.  I hope it turns out well for her.  If she were a book, I would keep turning the pages to find out how it all turns out.  This is the type of book I want to write. 
            Let me know how what you observe plays into your writing.  What kinds of things have you observed that have helped you in your writing?

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Eight Hosts Jill Shalvis Blog Tour Stop #4

The Rockville 8 is participating in the official Hachette/Grand Central sponsored Jill Shalvis Summer Blog Tour today. And we couldn’t be more thrilled! We’re stop #4 on kickoff day of a tour that will travel from blog site to blog site from July 16 to July 26. For a complete listing of tour stops, see the below.

So, let’s jump right in talking about Jill’s back-to-back releases of Lucky in Love (released June 1, 2012), At Last (released June 26, 2012), and Forever and a Day (released July 31, 2012).

First off, let me say that I love anything written by Jill Shalvis. I came late to reading her books when Simply Irresistible, the first of her Lucky Harbor series books was released in October 2010. Imagine my delight when I found I had a brand-new-to-me author who’d published over three dozen other romance novels. Oh, baby! I love when that happens. And that hadn’t happened to me since I found Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Since then, I’ve found and purchased every single book Jill Shalvis has written. And I love each and every one of them. She’s a master story teller and I can always count on her to deliver a rich, sexy, poignant love story that grips me from beginning to end, no matter if she’s writing for Grand Central Forever, Harlequin Blaze, Brava, Harlequin Temptation or Berkley Sensation. I love them all!

Lucky in Love ~ After I’d finished Lucky in Love, I thought it was my favorite Lucky Harbor novel to-date. And it was. For June 1st. It didn’t get much better than Ty Garrison--hot ex-Navy SEAL who’s dropped in to Lucky Harbor to rehabilitate his leg injury (and later we find his wounded heart and soul as well)--and hometown favorite do-gooder Mallory Quinn who is a nurse and the resident nurturer of the small, quirky Washington beach town of Lucky Harbor. In this book we get the story of a wounded hero and the steadfast woman who begins to fall in love with him, despite his clear status of Mr. Wrong. It’s a beautiful love story of healing and trust that’s just hot, hot, hot.
At Last ~ Then I read At Last toward the end of June and found my next Lucky Harbor keeper. In At Last, hunky former cop turned forest ranger Matt Bowers is the Lucky Harbor resident with stronger local ties. But he’s set adrift when he begins to fall in love with Amy Michaels, a woman who is on a journey to find hope, herself, and love in Lucky Harbor by following the footsteps of her grandmother on the nearby Sierra Meadows Trail. Amy’s been on her own, and down-on-her-luck since she was sixteen. She has trust issues, huge trust issues earned by a rough life as a homeless teenager. Matt rescues this feisty heroine time and time again as she tromps through the forest to find the legacy she thinks she’s seeking. Only when she begins to help Riley, a young girl running and on her own, does Amy open her heart and her life to the healing she really desires to find. We fall in love with Matt, Amy, and Riley in this heart-warming, tense, funny story where we root for the heroine to find her heart and the love of her life.

Forever and a Day ~ Finally, I just read a review copy of Forever and a Day, due to be released on July 31. And I adored Dr. Josh Scott and Grace Brooks. Theirs is a story where a natural caregiver (Dr. Josh Scott, an ER doctor who took over the sole care of his rebellious paraplegic sister and his young son) must learn to trust and accept the care of a woman who falls in love with him. Grace Brooks is, a power-hitter in the banking industry who stops over in Lucky Harbor one stormy night and stays to fall in love with the town, its people, and a certain hot ER doctor, his hell-on-wheels sister, his son who is more likely to bark than speak, and a pug puppy who’s dubbed The Anti-Christ).

These three books were my favorite of the Lucky Harbor series of books, however, all six books in the series are winners for any reader of contemporary romance. The small-town quirkiness of Lucky Harbor and its town inhabitants is enchanting and fun. The worldbuilding and the characters' emotional journies suck in a reader and hold her rapt from cover to cover.

Visit Lucky Harbor today, where all the heroes are hot, hot, hot and all the heroines are feisty and smart.

You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

So, go ahead, tell us what you love about Lucky Harbor! Let’s dish.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Visible Goals

I read something for a friend recently--not for critique, but because she had some specific questions based on feedback she'd received from others--and the main thing I had trouble with was the heroine's goal. It wasn't clear to me.

When we sat down to discuss I gave her my thoughts and I said, "Her goal seems to be [blank] but I can't picture that. What does it look like if she gets it?" And I explained to her what little I understood about "visible goals" based on a Michael Hauge workshop I'd attended (which is also explained, nicely, here).

Writers hear this over and over. GMC. Goal-Motivation-Conflict. I always think of myself as having trouble with writing conflict, but the more I work at it, the more I have come to believe that what I have trouble with is setting up positive, visible goals for my characters.

Yes, I love internal and angsty. But the internal angsty stuff is hard to make visible and if the reader doesn't have a gauge, it can feel like the story is going on forEVER. So my favorite books take all that internal angsty stuff and wrap it around a visible goal.

The visible goal is something the reader can picture. Like Rocky running the museum steps. His goal is to make it to the top and we see him trying it and failing, but getting closer every time. We want him to make it. We're invested in him getting to the top of those steps.

In one of my favorite recent reads, About Last Night, by Ruthie Knox, the heroine, Cath, is working on an exhibit on the history of hand knitting for the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her background is a litle scattered and her position is a little dicey and she very badly needs to make the exhibit a success to cement her job. That's a visible goal. That was something I could follow. I knew when she getting closer to that goal, and I damn sure knew when she was missing it. And because I cared about Cath and the delicious hero, Nev, I was cheering her on all the way.

In another favorite recent read, The Replacement Wife, by Caitlin Crews, the heroine, Becca, desperately needs money to pay for her sister's education. Now, The Replacement Wife is a Harlequin Presents book, so it's not a story about Becca taking on more jobs to make money so that she can write a check to her sister's school. LOL. But that visible goal is what draws her into the alpha hero's orbit and, again, it's something we can understand and root for, something tangible.

My friend said a light bulb went off when I used the words "visible goal" and she is already tweaking her story to show this.

My question is, why is it always so much easier to see these things in other people's work than it is in my own?

I have no answers here, oh how I wish I did, particularly when it comes to positive visible goals. But I do have something that might help you with that and it comes from my favorite podcast on writing, Storywonk. If you struggle with this like I do, listen to what Lani says about the difference between positive and negative goals.

And if you struggle with it like I do, you'll listen to it over and over and you'll still find yourself writing a heroine with a visible goal that she can't talk about. Which is no help. So now I need to figure out how to give her a visible goal that the reader can follow along with because it's one thing to take the reader on a journey without a map. It's another thing to lead them into a deep dark forest and swipe the flashlight . . .

In this respect, I am like Rocky running those steps. Every book I write, every page I revise, gets me closer to figuring this out.

I have no doubt that one of these days I'll reach the top of those steps.

It's my goal.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hold That Thought

Last Friday, one of my writing pal’s and I go to Snow White and the Huntsman. We’ve planned the outing for a least a month so our arrival at the theatre has nothing to do with the record breaking temps in DC that day. Nice side bennie, though. We have dinner, we buy our tickets, we bet on how many previews we’ll see before the movie (I bet four, Julie bets five. She wins.).  We settle in, happily creeped out by Charlize Theron’s wicked queen, enjoying the yumminess that is Chris Hemsworth, and, at least for me, trying to figure out the appeal of Kristen Stewart and coming up a little short.

Halfway through the film, when Princess White and Mr. Hunt are in the Dark Forest and about to be jumped by a bridge troll, the lights flicker and the movie rolls on without sound. Then we get sound and no movie. Then the lights fade to black, no movie, no sound. We, the audience, sit there like obedient puppies waiting for our doggy treat to be returned.

Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Argh! And WTF?

A few minutes later, a workerbee comes in to tell us the mall has lost power, use your ticket stub as a receipt and come back for another crack at this fractured fairytale. Buh-bye.


You can’t leave me hanging like this, cursed weather anomaly Derecho! What happens with the troll? Does Snow White end up with the Huntsman or William? Just how do they defeat the evilness that poisons the realm? What other cool costumes will Queen Wicked wear and how sick is her relationship to her brother? Run of the mill sick? Kinky sick?

Enquiring minds. We want to know.

Which brings me to another Friday event. I start reading a book before work. Really get into it. Scroll through page after page, la-di-da, la-di-da. What, me worry about the clock? Oh shit! It’s 5 after 9:00 and I haven’t even showered! But how can I walk away from these two characters who have captured my heart?


Does this happen to you? Do you become so lost in a story, you stay up until 2:00 in the morning when you know you have to wake up and function the next day? Have you been ripped away from a movie and spent the next several days obsessing about the outcome (even if it’s based on a fairytale and you kind of know how it turns out) because you’ve gone on vacation and can’t make plans with your friend to return to the theatre for a rematch for at least a week?? (Okay, so that last one is a bit specific. I did use the word obsess for a reason…)

Sometimes I feel like I’m a hostage to an entertaining story. 
Maybe this should upset me. 
I find it doesn’t.