Archive for the ‘pets’ Category

This week we welcome guest blogger Nancy Herkness! A multi-published author from New Jersey who grew up in West Virginia, Nancy has a new release hot off the press–“Take Me Home.” I personally can’t wait to read this book since I’ve read all her others and really loved them. Reading, Writing and Ruminations sat down with Nancy and asked her some questions. If you have others, let us know and she’ll answer them!
What kind of romances do you write?
I write mostly contemporary romances with one foray into romantic suspense (Music of the Night). My first three books were set in the New York metro area, but I’ve gone back to my roots in the mountains of West Virginia with my new series. (I love saying “series” since Montlake Romance bought all three of my “whisper horse” novels. It’s my first series ever!)
Do you plot out your novel or write by the seat of your pants?
How I wish I plotted out my novel! But no, I have to noodle around, go off in wrong directions, change characters’ motivations mid-book, etc. I tried very hard to plot a book once but it killed all the joy for me and I never got past the fifth chapter. It has to be a voyage of discovery or I get bored.
So I start with the two main characters, often developing the hero first for some reason. I build in at least one conflict as I flesh out those characters and add other obstacles as I write. Generally, I have an ending in mind and I write toward that.
What I love about my method are the moments of revelation. In my current WIP (nearly finished now), my heroine has led a very sheltered life before she arrives in Sanctuary, WV. I had some superficial reasons why but I was missing something profound. One day I was working on chapter seven or thereabouts when it just burst into my brain. I jumped out of my chair, leapt around my office a few times, crowing at my cleverness, then sat down to rework the prior six chapters to include it.

You have a done a lot of research for your novels—for example, researching meteorites for “Shower of Stars.” Do you do research before writing or while writing or both? Do you enjoy this aspect of the writing process?
Doesn’t every writer love to do research? It’s the best kind of procrastination because you can justify the time you spend on it by saying it’s necessary for the book. I’ve done such fun things in the name of adding authenticity to my books: walking the George Washington Bridge, spending two days in the Smithsonian’s meteorite exhibit, sitting on stage for a rehearsal at Carnegie Hall.
My West Virginia series is a different kind of research: I’m mining my memories of my childhood in the mountains—and layering in a few new additions, of course.
I also do research on the fly when I’m writing. When I decide to introduce a new element into my story, I instantly check it for accuracy before I get too far down the road in the plot. Google is my friend.
Tell us a little bit about your new series—how you got the idea, what you’re most excited about, and your plans for the series!
Oh, thank you for bringing up that word again…and I didn’t even have to pay you! My new series is set in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia where I grew up. The town of Sanctuary is fictional but it strongly resembles my real hometown of Lewisburg.
In addition, I came up with the concept of a whisper horse. A whisper horse is the special creature you can tell all your troubles to so you don’t have to carry the burden alone. You can’t talk to just any horse; there’s one meant for you. A character in each of the books finds her/his whisper horse in Sanctuary at Healing Springs Stables.
The idea came from my real pony Papoose who was my constant companion all through my younger years. When I was upset or angsty, I would pour my problems into his ears. If you know horses, you’ll know their ears are very eloquent, so I felt I had a sympathetic listener.
Right now the series is three books long: Take Me Home (Nov. 2012), Country Roads (nearly finished), and The Place I Belong (merely a germ of an idea). I hope it will continue on past those three, although I’ve nearly run out of John Denver lyrics for my titles.
I’m having a blast revisiting characters from the first book in the second book. As I reader, I’ve always enjoyed that, but I’m finding it even more exciting as a writer. I was delighted when one of my critique partners read a scene from Country Roads in which the lead characters from Take Me Home appeared and commented, “It is so great to see Claire and Tim again! Now I understand why readers get hooked on a series.” Music to my ears!


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This weekend both of my kids went to Rutgers University to participate, as alumni, in Rutger’s Dance Marathon (DM).
DM is a student-run philanthropy which raises money for children with cancer and blood disorders. Each year since our daughter and son have been involved DM has grown, and is now well-known. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised to help children and their families.
When our son and daughter were little, we tried to set a good example of volunteering. We participated in PTA, Marching Band parents, Robotics parents, Drama club parents, the community soup kitchen etc. I’ve always felt it is important to give back to the community and the world around us by getting involved in a cause I believe in.
Once the kids were out of school and in college, my days of volunteering with school organizations ended. So I became more involved in New Jersey Romance Writers; and I began volunteering for our local animal shelter. I am now on the Noah’s Ark Animal Welfare board.
Not only does volunteering help those less fortunate (whether they are humans or animals or if you’re doing something for the planet); but it gives you a wonderful feeling inside, knowing you are doing something to help others!
This year DM raised over $442,000! Yay for them! That will help a lot of sick children in so many ways.
What kind of volunteer work do you do, and how do you feel about it?
In the spirit of volunteering,
Roni Denholtz

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Two weeks ago the world lost a bright light. Writer Judi McCoy passed away from complications of diabetes.  We were slated to do a booksigning on Tuesday March 6 with authors Tina Gabrielle and Jessica Lauryn.  Now the three of us will be doing it without Judi and we will miss her so much.
I met Judi at one of the New Jersey Romance Writers’ conferences, but then she moved to Virginia. However I got to know her better because in August of 2003 we did a booksigning together with authors Nancy Herkness and Eloisa James.  Judi was witty and enthusiastic and gave me tips on helping our shelter dog adjust to life in our home. Judi was a confirmed animal lover, especially dogs, and an advocate for all rescued animals–dogs, cats, bunnies, horses etc.
Over the years we shared other booksignings and I came to know her better. She had begun writing her dog-walker mystery series, and it took off and made her a USA Today bestselling author.
Last year she agreed to do a fundraiser for our local animal shelter, Noah’s Ark of Ledgewood, NJ; as she had done for other shelters. (Part of the proceeds of all her books goes to Best Friends Animal Shelter). She came to our Noah’s Ark Anniversary bash and signed books and held a raffle.  The following day she did a booksigning at a local pet store.
Sadly, that was the last time I saw Judi. About a month later she slipped into a diabetic coma and never recovered.
But Judi’s light shines on. She will forever be remembered by other writers, by animal advocates, family and friends–and her legion of readers, who loved her books. They shone with Judi’s sparkle and humor.

As writers we all hope that our words will live on even when we are gone.  Judi’s words and books will certainly do that, bringing happiness to multitudes of people.
I’m grateful I got to know Judi.  Rest in peace, my friend.

Roni Denholtz

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The Comfort of a Good Dog

Those who know me know I am crazy about my Lily dog. Even though she sometimes gets distracted like a teenager with an iPhone and a penchant for texting, she really is the best dog in the world.

This past week I’ve been horribly sick. What started out as a cold quickly grew into periorbital cellulitis. I know, it sounds awful…and believe me, it was just as much fun as it sounds. The infection went down in my eye, but then seemed to spread to my lungs. During this horrible bout of illness, my Lily has been by my side, curled up either resting with me on the sofa or curled up on the bed with me wanting to be near her mama while she didn’t feel well. (Except those times when her daddy took her walkies.)

This isn’t the first time I’ve noted her caring manner. A couple summers ago, I had wrist surgery to relieve the symptoms of carpel tunnel syndrome. While my wrist was wrapped in dressings that would make a pharaoh proud, Lily stayed off the sofa and down by my feet. It was as if she knew instinctually that I was hurt and she needed to be careful around me. Lily is about a 50-60 lb. golden retriever mix. She’s a medium-sized dog but very stout and on the muscular side. She plays extra rough with tug-o-war, tennis balls or the Kongs. I guess propelling her body plus four legs around an expanded ranch house is a challenge for her. (She does prefer running around in our backyard, of which we have a pretty good sized lot.) She is also the biggest bucket of love I’ve ever seen. So when she crawls up onto my sickbed with me and cuddles up beside me, I know it’s because she loves me and isn’t just looking for a warm place to snooze.

I’ve learned a lot living with Lily. I used to view myself as a very impatient person. I’m rather single-minded and selfish about my time and what I spend it on. There never seemed to be a conflict with this when I owned a cat. (My cat passed away the summer of ’07 during the great pet food recall that year. And yes, my poor 16 year old Persian got a hold of tainted food and died as a result.) – With Kittygirl, I hardly ever had to stop what I was doing to play fetch or pet her adoringly. She was content to crawl up on the back of the recliner in my office and sit to watch me work. Not so with Lily. She’ll insinuate her head between my lap and my hands as they rest on the keyboard and knock them upward to get my attention. Writing must then cease so we can go throw the ball in the backyard or go to the trails for a hike.

Do I mind the interruptions? Sometimes. But it is always met with a pet on the head, a kiss on her golden brow and a “Mama needs to finish this thought.” – Yes, I talk to my dog. Don’t judge. – Lily will blink her huge golden eyes at me and that white-tipped tail of hers will wag and I’m a complete goner. She’s turned me into a more patient individual. And that is a very good thing.

Lily Hugging her Teddy Bear

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New Loves

Meet Max

When my dog passed away suddenly after thirteen years, a little piece of my heart broke.  Crystal was a great friend and companion.  If you’ve ever had a beloved pet, you know exactly what I mean.  It took months before I could give away her things and I couldn’t fathom bringing a new pet into my home.  Nearly a year and a half  later, I still get choked up when I talk about her.

My husband, who never wanted a dog to begin with, started to make comments like, “Maybe one day we’ll get another,” instead of his usual banter of, “Not in my lifetime.”  He even went willingly with me to animal shelters just to look.  It became a family event each weekend.

My daughter stated that all she wanted for Christmas was a dog.  However, we decided it would be better to wait for the summer, since the warm weather would make it easier to train a dog.  Of course, as that famous quote says, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”

We found Max at our favorite shelter.  He was scared, neglected, and terribly thin.

Cesar Millan from the TV show “The Dog Whisperer” says something about us getting the dog we need.  I can’t agree more.  Max needed us then and we needed him.  As soon as they cleared him for adoption, we took him.

He will never replace Crystal because she was irreplaceable, but he’s a new chapter in my life.  Speaking of new chapters, he made me realize something.  It’s okay to make room for something new to love.

New Jersey Romance Writers started a writing challenge this month called JeRoWriMo.  I decided to join and start something fresh.  I had been revising two of my manuscripts for far too long.

Like my beloved Crystal, it’s time to put them to rest and open my heart to a new love.  I’ll never forget those stories and hope somehow, someday they will live again.  For now, like Crystal, they are a fond memory.

I look forward to my adventures with Max.  He is gaining weight and looking better each day.  And he and I can’t wait to meet new characters and discover their stories together!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  Do you have any new love stories to share?  I’d love to hear them.



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