Sunday, July 31, 2011

Birthday Scavenger Hunt

August is my birthday month! What better way to celebrate than to give gifts away to my readers? So I'm hosting a Birthday Scavenger Hunt contest on my website all month, with a new treasure to find each week.
Jump over to my Contest page on my website for the details, then get hunting.
Prizes include t-shirts, mousepads, tote bags, hats, notebooks with pens,
keychains, and even books.

Well, what are you waiting for?
I'm not getting any younger here. Click below.


Friday, July 29, 2011

What do you pack for vacation?

It's vacation time. Most of us have a variety of equipment that we rely on daily--laptops, iPads, iPods, iPhones--aye, aye aye. I've had the experience of dragging along a wheeled computer bag that weighed almost as much as the luggage I checked for a flight. And then I had to try to jam it under an airplane seat because I knew lifting it overhead would be a struggle. What was it filled with? My electronics and communication equipment. All that stuff I believe I simply cannot live without for more than twenty-four hours. (Twenty-four hours? Let's try four hours.)

I recently left town for a one-day workshop that required an overnight stay. I broke into a cold sweat as I weighed out whether or not to take along my mini-notebook. I was going to be in a workshop the full next day, then driving four hours to return home. I would have a few hours in the evening after arriving at the hotel, but would be having dinner and meeting up with a few friends. Could I really not live without checking email for one night? With trembling hands, I removed the notebook from my travel bag and set it aside.

I know, most of you can check your email anywhere from your iPhone or a similar phone. I've deliberately avoided having that feature or the texting feature on my phone. My phone is just that--a phone with voicemail.

I've lived long enough to remember the old, ugly black dial telephone that was tethered to the wall, usually in a central place in the house. One phone and you had to stand or sit right there to use it. I'm all for techno advances, and I love carrying a cell phone that makes instant contact convenient. I sometimes wonder how I managed without one. What did I do years ago when the car broke down along the highway? And what might have happened if I could have multi-tasked and taken care of business while doing other things--like driving? I could be a millionaire today. (Okay, I'm being facetious.)

I learned something, however, from my brief freedom from my laptop. I learned how dependent I've become on having an immediate cyber-connection to my friends, family, and the rest of the world. As an author, I'm certainly dependent on my devices to capture those fleeting but brilliant thoughts that pop into my head.

Now I'm looking at planning a vacation later in the year. The decision looms: What to pack, and what to leave behind? Is it really a vacation if I drag a laptop along so I can work? Will my friends or family post an obituary if they don't hear from me for a week?

I'm curious. How do you determine what to take along on vacation and what to leave behind? Can we literally live without electronics for a week, or are we just as tethered to our wireless devices as we once were to that old, ugly wall-bound telephone?


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Shutting Down (just for a day)

Every so often, we just have to shut down, step away from the laptop, and recharge. I'll be spending this Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama with the Southern Magic RWA group for a workshop presented by Margie Lawson.

I'm looking forward to the time with other writers and Margie's presentation. See y'all on Sunday!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Author Spotlight - Allison Knight

Today's post is the first of my new monthly feature called The Author Spotlight. Today's spotlight shines on author Allison Knight.

Years ago, my little sister and I played opera. So what on earth does that have to do with being a writer? Why, I was into pretend. Of course, I was always the heroine. As I grew, I read. One of my greatest joys was sneaking off to a private corner where I could read. Once a week, we'd go to the public library and during those years I read every Cherry Ames Nurse books. Okay, so right away you can tell I went for romantic stories.

It was about then I began to write, at first poetry. In the eighth grade, one of the local organizations offered a scholarship award, a whole fifty dollars, based on the best essay. I abandoned poetry and turn to writing essays. I won the scholarship and I knew then I would be a writer. The question - what would I write - never entered my mind. I would be a writer. I do have to smile though, remembering my college English professor. Nothing about my writing ability pleased her. In fact, if I remember correctly, she begrudgingly gave me a "C-" for a final class grade.

After college, I began to teach, and met the love of my life, married and began our family. I discovered the romance genre. I found I loved the feel good, happy endings you always got with romances. One day I began a book which became the genesis for my passion to write historical romances. The book was well written - I thought. But I found problems with the book. The heroine's eyes changed color twice. A mother-in-law who played a small part disappeared, never to be heard from again. An important character suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and I remember thinking at the time, where did he come from. I sat in our bedroom, my reading corner and stared at that book. I just knew I could do a better job.

I dragged out the typewriter and announced I was going to write a book. My children thought it was hilarious and my daughter told me, "Oh, yea, Mom. When cows fly."

My husband didn't crack a smile, bless his heart. He built a place in the basement of our home so I had a special place to write. When I started having trouble planning the action, he suggested I plot the story out using a time line. He even supplied the paper. When I sold my first books I came home from school to find a stuffed toy cow, adorned with a set of wings flying around the family room attached to our ceiling fan. It seemed "Cows could fly." I dedicated that first book to my children, telling them to look up.

I've learned a lot over the years but I do believe if I hadn't read so much and didn't love books, I would never have tried to write. And I found you can never learn too much. If you don't continue to grow, to develop, to improve, you can not succeed. Looking at each of my seventeen books I can truthfully say, I have learned, I have grown, I have improved. Am I finished developing, learning? Nope, not a chance. There's still a lot more to learn.

Buy Link

Award winning author, Allison Knight began her writing career like many other authors. She read a book she didn’t like and knew she could do a better job. Since that time, Allison has written and published seventeen romances for both paperback and digital publishers. Her third medieval romance from her 'song' series is at the publisher awaiting approval. A digital short story is scheduled for release in December 2011.
Because she loves to share her knowledge and her love of romance novels she often blogs with other authors. She also loves to talk about the growing digital market.

You can find her at:

She blogs once a month for The Writers' Vineyard,

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Letter to Congress

A Letter to Congress

July 4, 2011

Dear Senators and Representatives,

Happy Independence Day! As I’ve watched the Fourth of July celebrations from various parts of the country, listened to speeches about our hard-won freedoms and to songs, old and new, that sing to that freedom, I find myself often in tears. And I wonder what that’s about. I’m not that easily moved to tears.

For some time, I have found myself feeling less than hopeful about the way decisions are made by all of you and how those decisions continue to impact the people like me. I’m not a politician, and I won’t pretend to know the dynamics that go into the making of a politician. I have great respect for anyone who dedicates his or her life to serving, whether it is in politics or in some other area, based upon the belief that he or she will make a positive difference.

In my own frustrations over the state of our country, I have been one of those who make sarcastic jokes or laughed at your missteps and foibles at times. For that, I apologize. However, with that apology comes an expectation.

I have learned, on a much simpler plane, the value of open discourse and common purpose when it comes to making decisions of import. It saddens me to see members of Congress dig in their heels in the name of party line, rather than sit up, enter into the open discourse with an open mind, and show a willingness to make decisions that will favorably impact the people of this country they serve.

Every day, I am confronted by people, citizens of this country, who barely have enough to put food on their tables, maintain shelter, and cloth their children. I watch the costs of medical care rise and see people who have no access to treatments and medications they need. I see how much there is ‘not enough’. I look back fifty years to a time when I would never have imagined this America. I see these people losing their homes, their families—they are the new face of America. And it frightens me.

I’m one person with one vote. A right that, again, was hard-won, particularly for women. I’m one person who may not be all that well educated about the workings of government (my own fault). I’m one person to whom you have each pledged your service. I’m proud to be an American, and I wouldn’t trade my citizenship for anything.

My expectation is this: that you put aside your party politics and get back in touch with why you have chosen this course for your life. I don’t think any of you sat down one day and said, “I’m going to be a politician so I can conquer the opposing party and reign supreme.” I think you’ve chosen your path out of a true desire to keep this country great. I believe you are each motivated by good hearts and good will.

On this Independence Day, I’ve heard a lot of talk about remembering. Remembering where we came from. Remembering the struggles we have endured. Remembering the gift of freedom we hold dear. Remembering those who have fought and continue to fight for those freedoms.

Today, I’m asking you to remember and to be guided, not by taking sides, but by that desire that once drew you to serve the people and preserve the integrity of our country.


Linda Rettstatt

Happy Fourth of July

                             Happy Independence Day! 

I got nostalgic this morning, thinking about Fourth of July celebrations in my youth. I grew up in a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania--Brownsville, to be exact. I remember the parade that came through town and ended at the Little League baseball field, right across the street from my house. I always thought it was really cool to be able to sit on your own front porch and watch the parade. Of course, we always anticipated the moment when my dad, an Army reservist, would march by and we would cheer loudly.

Then the baseball games would commence. People parked their cars everywhere, and no one got a ticket. It was a town celebration. My dad would fire up the old kettle charcoal grill while we kids splashed in the inflatable pool that held no more than eighteen inches of water. He would stop grilling long enough to turn on the water hose and create an arc of cool water for us to run through (we didn't have lawn sprinklers.)

After a dinner of hot dogs, homemade potato salad, baked beans and ice cream for dessert, we would all pack into cars driven by Dad or Pappy, and head for the community park and the fireworks display. There was nothing like sitting on a blanket on the hood of the car, oooing and aaahing with just about everyone in town as colors burst overhead.

Then we'd join the slow caravan of vehicles out of the park, through town and back at home where we could usually convince my mother to give us more ice cream before bed. Cradling a bowl in our laps, my sister and I would sit on the top porch step and listen to the adults talk about their Fourth of July memories--not all that different from the ones we were creating at that moment.

It didn't occur to me at the time that my own father fought in WWII in the name of the freedom we celebrated.

Let's take time today, away from the food and the fun, to remember those who have and who continue to serve in the name of freedom.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

An Interview With Two Real Characters

I thought it would be fun to post an interview with two real characters from Shooting Into the Sun--Rylee Morgan and her sister, Lexie. Well, Rylee is the focus of the interview. But, as you can see, Lexie just cannot contain herself.

Interview with Photographer Rylee Morgan

Interviewer: Today I’m interviewing nature photographer Rylee Morgan. She’s preparing a show at a local gallery and has just returned from a cross-country trip on a photo assignment to capture The Faces of America for noted photo book publisher, Paul Devonshire. As a bonus, Rylee is accompanied by her younger sister, Lexie. Welcome, ladies.

R: Thank you. Lexie will be sitting in to see how an interview is conducted, but she’s promised not to interrupt. (casts a serious glance at Lexie)

Int: Well, it’s a pleasure to have both of you here. So, Rylee, how did you get interested in photography as a career?

R: I’ve had a camera in my hand since I was four years old.

L: Our father taught Rylee to take pictures before he… (trails off at Rylee’s glance her way)

Int: So, your father taught you the craft, Rylee?

R: Yes. I then went on to study photography and actually teach some classes at the Art Institute in Pittsburgh. It’s been interesting to watch the shift from film to digital.

Int: And this new project you just completed. Tell us how this came about.

R: Paul Devonshire needed three photographers to capture photos for his new publication, The Faces of America. I took the toughest assignment to travel up north to the Michigan peninsula, down through the Grand Canyon, and to the Pacific Coast and Yosemite National Park. It was an amazing adventure.

L: Especially after we picked up Josh.

Int: Josh?

L: He was a hitchhiker going our way. Rylee had a rule about no hitchhikers, but he seemed harmless enough. Rylee has rules about everything. (rolls her eyes)

R: The point is, the trip turned out to be both business and…er…vacation.

L: Pleasure. (murmured with a smile)

R: Excuse me. (turns to Lexie) What did we discuss before we came in here?

L: (makes zipping motion across lips and sits back in chair)

R: I’m sorry. You were asking about the photo trip. It afforded an opportunity to see places I’ve never seen and meet people from other parts of the country.

L: Like hunky doctors. (whispered)

R: (shoots Lexie a warning look, then continues) It also gave me a chance to search for our father. He left when I was twelve years of age and Lexie was only four.

Int: Did you find him?

L: You’d be surprised at all Rylee found on this trip (spoken with eyebrows raised). I hardly recognize her now. She has a permanent smile plastered on her face. (glances at Rylee, who is glowering) Well, almost always.

Int: I see. Well, I’d love to know more about the reason for that. Rylee?

* * * * *

And if you’d like to know more about Rylee’s trip to find her father, the hitchhiker she meets along the way, and the smile on her face, get your copy of Shooting Into the Sun today.

Available now at Champagne Books and at Amazon for Kindle