Archive for the ‘Reading’ 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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I have many old books in my house.
Some are the Nancy Drews, Judy Boltons, Cherry Ames and other girls’ series books I grew up reading.  These books introduced me to young women solving mysteries and having adventures. They whisked me away to exciting places where the villains were always caught. They actually sparked my desire to become a writer, and I will always keep and treasure these books. They are in a special glass-doored bookcase and although I rarely reread them now, I often look at them fondly.
Then there are the adult books I grew up with–especially the “gothic” romances by Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart, and Victoria Holt. I can even remember the first books I read by each author (in order: Black Amber, Thunder on the Right and Mistress of Mellyn). These books are treasured as well.
And of course there are plenty of books in my home by favorite authors–new and old. favorites for many years like Heather Graham, Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn, and Barbara Michaels/Elizabteh Peters; new favs like Sandra Hill, Beth Ciotta and Judi Fennell. And tons of other books I’ve enjoyed!
When I was younger I reread my favorites, but I don’t often reread books anymore. There are so many new ones to try.
My bookshelves are overflowing but I have a lot of trouble getting rid of books. I never throw them away–I give them to friends or the library if I didn’t care for them or just know there’s no chance of reading them again. I actually find it easier to give away books I haven’t read.  The one time I actually threw out a book, was a text book from grad school that was almost impossible to read it was so confusing!
With so many books overflowing on my bookshelves, I am considering getting a Kindle or Nook. I have put it off because I do so love holding a book. I can’t imagine that holding an electronic device, even with the same words, would be quite as satisfactory. But I suppose I will bow to the inevitable at some point and buy one.
For those of you who have one, what do you think? Do you still buy actual print books? And do you find reading from a device detracts from the reading experience? And do you ever go back and reread old favorites?

Read on!

Roni Denholotz

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This weekend, I did an event with my kids that I LOVE doing each year: The Annual Book Buying!
It started when they were in first and fifth grades. A new Barnes and Noble had opened in the next town, Ledgewood, NJ. Since I love to read (and as a former teacher have always tried to instill that love in our kid)s, we wanted to explore this store. So, the day after school ended, I took the kids there and told them they could each pick out 4 or 5 books. They did–and so did I. We went out to lunch afterwards, and then we could start our summer reading! Those first few years, they read books like the American Girl books, Animorphs, etc. Then they graduated to books on winning at video games (my son) and Caroline Cooney mysteries (my daughter). Later they both discovered novels by Michael Crichton and others.
This favorite tradition–which I anticpate every year!–continued as they went through middle school, high school, and college. They both went on to graduate school after college, and we always did The Annual Book Buying in May or June, when school was over.
Last year was the final year I had someone in grad school.  But I told both of them that, even though no one was left in school, this was a tradition I wanted to continue!
So we figured out what a convenient day was, and on Saturday, we met at the Barnes and Noble in Edison, and continued our tradition.  My daughter’s boyfriend joined us.
Our daughter bought a few books on running and some romantic suspense novels by Lisa Gardner. Her boyfriend bought a humorous novel.  Our son bought a few Marvel and DC graphic novels and a book about innovative ideas.
What did I buy? The latest books by Heather Graham, Julia Quinn, and Sandra Hill plus a book by Elizabeth Boyle from a couple of years ago.
It was so much fun! And they took me to lunch since it was also my birthday!
This is a tradition I just love and hope will continue for years to come.
So what books have you bought for summer reading pleasure?
Happy Reading!
Roni Denholtz

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Yesterday was Memorial Day. My thoughts turned to those who are serving in our Armed Forces; and especially those who have served in wars and lost their lives.
My dad served in the Army during World War II. He didnt’ speak much about those times, but I know he was proud of his service. My father-in-law also served–in the Navy, also during WWII. Both men were lucky to come back, but they knew others who lost their lives. Yet they were proud to be a part of the war effort.
On Memorial Day I reflected on how glad I am to be an American, and how grateful I am to those who fought for our rights.  I too am proud to be an American.
We are so lucky to live in a country where we can enjoy freedom and democracy, and have the right to vote.
We also have the right to read what we want. While there are certain books I’ll never pick up (I’m not a fan of horror or sad stories) I believe anyone who wants to read something has that right. Censorship is a terrible thing, and in some countries, for example, women would not be able to read erotic books like “Fifty Shades of Gray.” I don’t know whether I will read that book in the future or not; but I am sure glad I have the right to determine what my reading material will be!
With thankfulness for our veterans and that we live in a free country,
Roni Denholtz

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Catchy Titles

Does a catchy title make you pick up a book?
I know when I go to the bookstore or library, sometimes I have an author in mind that I want to look for. But more often, I just enjoy wandering, looking for books to add to my To Be Read pile.
Often, I pick up a book because it has a catchy title that draws my attention. I’ll grab it, read the back cover copy, and if it sounds interesting, I’ll buy it.
Here are a few intriguing titles that caught my eye in the last few years. “In Over Her Head” by Judi Fennell (about a woman who is not only figuratively in a situation where she’s in over her head; but she’s also under water with a merman and literally in over her head!). “Jinxed” by Beth Ciotta (a woman who’s named after Friday the 13th believes she’s jinxed) and “Jinxed” by Sharon Horton (a woman who’s involved with a policeman nicknamed Jinx).  “The Secret Duke” by Jo Beverley (why is he secret? I wondered).  “Dangerous Ally” by Jessica Lauryn (if he’s an ally, why is he dangerous?).  All the above titles made me want to read these books!  And when I was a child, I was anxious to read the Judy Bolton series book “The Ghost Parade” because the title was so exciting!

Authors try to develop good, catchy titles to draw the readers’ attention.  Admittedly sometimes editors change the title, even in magazines.  But if you can come up with a great one, they will often use it.

Sometimes I’ve had a title before I knew what story would go with it!  In 1980, the title “Fire in Novemeber” sprang into my head.  I thought it would be a romantic suspense novel.  Instead, I used it in 1983 for a children’s mystery book (published by January Productions).

I was thinking of ideas for romances in 1997, and the abundance of runaway and kidnapped bride stories, when the title “Borrowing the Bride” sprang into my mind.  I just had to use it.  I jotted down my ideas, and much later that evolved into my book “Borrowing the Bride” which came out recently from The Wild Rose Press.

A great title can really draw readers to a story.  What’s a title that intrigued you enough to pick up a book recently?

Happy Reading!


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This year marks a milestone in the birthday department for me.  A couple of years ago, I had announced that I would travel to Italy to celebrate.  Well now that the time has come, I realized I wasn’t up for the adventure and decided to go to one of my favorite places to visit instead—Disney World.

One reason I like it so much is because I know what to expect.  The place is over-the-top family friendly and there’s good clean fun for all!

So my family and I went and we had a blast.  It was just as much fun as I remembered the last time.

This got me to thinking about the books I read.  Sometimes I want an adventure.  I’ll look through my piles and choose a book I wouldn’t normally read.  Sometimes I’m committed to my book club’s choice.  But when I really want to relax and just have fun I pick up a romance.  I know how it’s going to end.  Maybe the ride is different, but everyone lives happily ever after.

I might not be able to get back to Disney World for awhile, but I can pick up a romance novel in a pinch to get my fairy tale ending.



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I’m an avid reader.  Sometimes I forget the books I have read and have asked Roni, fellow blogger and friend, to jog her memory banks for me.  For some reason, I barely remember titles or character names even as I’m reading the book!

A few months ago I picked up Rene J. Smith’s The Book Lover’s Journal at Barnes and Noble.  What a novel idea, I thought!   Here was an actual book that was organized in such a fashion that readers could jot down information about each book as they read it.  I told my friend Roni about it, and she revealed she had been keeping similar journals for years.  Yikes! I wish I had thought to do that.

Sometimes I can recall a scene from a book I read long ago, but for the life of me can’t recall anything about its title or author.  When I joined my book club a few years back, I started writing lists in journals and notepads, but then I would forget which pad or journal book I used.  The key for me was to delegate a particular notebook to this task and finding the book journal was an even better option for me.

Now that I’m more organized in my reading, I can flip through my book journal to see the latest good reads.    I must admit that only books I’ve finished and enjoyed make it fully into my journal.  With all of life’s distractions and with so many fabulous stories to engross myself in, I will not waste my time with mediocre writings.  I do list these titles separately in the journal.

Here’s an update on the books I’ve read lately.  Some of these are new releases and others are a few years old.  This morning I just finished reading Tangled Up In You by Rachel Gibson and I loved it!  I had never read any of her books before; the novel was in my pile and the cover caught my eye.  Looking back, I must have picked it up at a writers conference.  I love when I find an author new to me and enjoy her book!

Speaking of new authors to me—I also read Harlan Coben’s Caught for my book club.  I couldn’t put down this thriller!  Elizabeth Jennings’s Pursuit was an enjoyable romantic suspense and Kristina Cook’s To Love a Scoundrel was a sweet historical romance.  I will add all these authors to my favorite’s list.

I recently read Christine Bush’s Cindy’s Prince.  I’ve read her books before and once again enjoyed reading this sweet romance.  I found myself laughing out loud at times!

Thanks to these authors I was able to escape reality for a little while and join their fictional worlds.

Next I’m going to read both Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games for my book club.  It’s the first time we chose two books to discuss at a meeting.  What are you reading now?  I’d love to know.

Happy Reading!



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