I will be grateful for every person I connect with today, letting them know whenever possible.
What will you Pay Forward today?
Pay it forward. We like the sound of it. We learn the difficulty of it. We must find our own way to it. We must make it real on a personal level, before it becomes a guiding force in our lives.
For me, that way began with Building Community One Story at a Time, which is my 2014 challenge: for this blog going forward, for the life I’ve been blessed to have, for my family and writing and service and teaching and editing and mental well-being.
I’ve already experienced some amazing results this year, trying my personal Pay It Forward mantra on for size, taking it out for a spin, stretching it at the seams to see what gives, throwing a pebble into the stream and searching the ripples for what is real… You get the picture. And you’ll get more details here, daily. I’m so excited to share. I hope to inspire. I long to create a space where others can’t wait to do the same. It’s time to turn up the volume and live my 2014 challenge out loud.
I’m all in.
Meditating on what could be my chance to give is no longer enough for me. There’s more calling me than thinking about it. There’s more calling each of us.
Deadlines and responsibilities and demands and successes and failures and fears and dreams aside, there’s life to live. And paying what I’ve found forward, feeding myself with the energy of feeding others however I can, is that life for me. Living on “building” others up, in tangible and intangible ways every day, is already changing me. More than I could have imagined. It will change you, too. I challenge you to find out just how much.
Building Community One Story at a Time…
What does it mean to me? I’m not sure yet, but I’ll be finding my way out here every day. I invite you to search and experiment and share what you find, right along with me.
So far this year I’ve:
That’s my pay-it-forward start.
What will be yours?
It takes only one decision to go for it (in December of last year, Hearts for Hearts was only a flicker of an idea) to change your entire world’s view. Make that decision today. (more…)
I live in the arctic tundra… I mean, in the balmy Deep South. In the last three weeks, we’ve had more snow and ice than we have in the last ten years–COMBINED. No one hundreds of miles of us has been able to leave their house for days this time around, let alone shop for their sweethearts.
Looking for a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift for the book-lover in your life? Why not pay that gift forward to your community?
Romance novelist Anna DeStefano’s Hearts for Hearts initiative “to give back to their communities by donating books they already own to nearby assistance groups” such as “homeless shelters, Medicaid nursing facilities, or similar centers.”
There’s a lot of “Holy Valentine’s Day Interruptus Batman” going on around all over the place today. But what if Valentine’s weren’t about a single day? What if sharing love and inspiration and relaxation and escape were an everyday thing?
That’s what we want Hearts for Hearts to be. It’s a call to look closer at the community around you and find a way to help (the way the characters in my not-so-light-and-fluffy romance novels do). In my stories, there are always happy endings. But my characters and readers work harder than in a lot of other novels for their bright and shiny endings. The deeper emotions I hope their challenges stir ring truer to life, at least to me, and that makes the victories I live to write for these hard-working characters even more fulfilling.
So, yes, I write candy, hearts and flowers stories. Sort of. And I live in a candy, hearts and flowers neighborhood. Sort of.
But just a mile or so from me, there are pockets of need that I’ve been able to serve–by doing nothing more than giving away books. Books I’ve written, books I’ve read and loved, books my friends have been thrilled to share, too. My friends and I have personally given story (romance, fantasy, mystery, young adult, inspiration, non-fiction, you name it) to families living below the poverty level, foster care facilities, nursing homes, and even our local YMCA, where Hearts for Hearts has seeded new children and adult libraries for their members, many of whom join via scholarship.
What does a different kind of Valentine’s Day and paying it forward with story look like? After my initial Hearts for Hearts donation of a few hundred books to my YMCA, and my challenge to open libraries where books could be taken and donated without having to check them out (because so many of our members don’t have the ability the buy their own books and would want to take them home, and that’s EXACTLY what we want them to do) THIS is what the community “book drive” looked in January…
And the donations just keep pouring in….
And the library isn’t due to open until March! (more…)
The best love stories are about so much more than the romance on the surface, even when the happily ever after ending is what all romance readers look for.
Some romance readers like sassy, some like funny, some like sweet, some spooky or dramatic or heart-pounding. But we’re all going readers reading for an ending that inspires and encourages and gives up hope that our lives could be just as well-crafted and happily-ended.
But love stories can be about so much more.
It’s this “more” that love can speak to, that I write for. How we love and how we relate and how we deal with or lives is shaped by the world around us. Our families, the ones who made us and the ones we build for ourselves, define so much of what we see as ours, and sometimes what we think we can’t. Our world view can tell us we’re loved. It can insist we’re unlovable. OR it can challenge us to fight for the love we need, no matter how many people might be standing in line to let us down. The families and community I write about find their happy endings, but not before I show them fighting as hard as they have to, to conquer some of the very real challenges we all do
I want that CONQUER THE WORLD reality for my characters, my readers, and myself. I want the the kind of happy ending we all hope for, no matter what gets in our way. The one where we’ll fight, and we’ll never fight alone, until we claim our HEA. And I HEART stories where kids are fought for and families are fought for and communities are fought for, no matter their challenges.
I’ve talked a little about Hearts for Hearts, and I’ll be talking more this month, as we celebrate Valentine’s day. Hearts for Hearts is about more. Seeing so much more in the world and lives around us, and seeing if we can’t dig in and help someone else fight. (more…)
I’m obsessed with the number three. A lot of artists are. I’m convinced Jim Croce was. His songs break down that way a lot, and the lyrics follow a rhythm I respond to on an instinctive level, long before I know why. Snippets of Croce music have always been there for me, when I’ve needed them, and they converged while I wrote Love on Mimosa Lane, being there for my hero, who I was at times having a hard time seeing.
Law Beaumont was a bad boy (hence the Leroy Brown initials), but he’s not anymore. But who is he. He has no clue. Except he’s an honorable man doing his best to raise his daughter, feeling responsible for how badly her young life had turned out so far. But he’s going to keep walking that tough, winding road, not yet living a hidden dream, but he will be (say that in Yoda’s voice, it’ll mean more to you)…because leading characters to their dreams (more on that soon) and setting them free from the past, so they can thrive, is my pattern. I do it in threes, too, I’ve discovered over these last three books (more on that soon, too).
“If it gets me nowhere, I’ll go there proud…”
Not having pride about trying hard and failing is a good thing, until you let it distance you from dreams that have more to do with thriving than they do surviving. My survivor of a hero has lost sight of that at the beginning. We all have, once or twice in our lives, at least I have. We forget who we once were–we forget our “name” as it where.
And so, the first “third” of Love on Mimosa Lane got the working section title, “I Have a Name.” Law finds himself, who he was before it all went to hell, because it’s the only way to really help his daughter. Taking his identity back from all the damage and failures and mistakes is the only way to unchain himself and his child from their hold. It’s the only way any of us do, really.
“Moving ahead so life won’t pass me by. I’m gonna go there free…”
I’ve told you Law as a musician, right? That’s how he thinks of it. It’s who he was, not who he is now. Except, when Kristen comes into his life, when he allows her in after staring at her from a distance (in a sexy-as-hell, non-creepy way), so does his music. His creativity. His voice. His soul. She unlocks the parts of him he gave up to survive. She won’t let him be only what he thinks he’s become. She sees who he is and doesn’t let him off the hook about it, because to have her, he’ll have to be more than broken–she’s come from too much brokenness herself, to settle for that kind of half-life, and she’s just as good (better?) at protecting herself as he is.
And, so, the second third of Law and Kristen’s story happened with the working title, “I Have a Song.” (more…)
We have more winners (from this weekend’s contest which ended midnight last night ;o). And we have another chance for everyone to chime in about there love of music, as I share all week the Jim Croce lyrics that inspired me as I wrote Love on Mimosa Lane. I’m heading back to Facebook to give it another go there, but each day I’ll be posting here as well. Comment on FB or in any of the posts on the blog, or all of them to increase your chances. I’ll select winners randomly from all the comments. NEW CONTEST DETAILS and MAGIC FACEBOOK DISCLAIMER WORDS below.
But first, our winners (randomly selected from the blog and FB comments):
Ladies, please message me on FB or via email at Anna @ annawrites . com, to confirm your mailing address (Kathy) and email address (Angie, so I can send your gift certificate electronically). We’ll get your goodies to you ASAP.
New Contest (look for blog posts all week, in addition to this one, where you can enter).
Music lives with me daily. All my life, I’ve heard it. And I was good at making it for a while, though I was never an artist. I couldn’t create. I could follow notes on a page, but I could never let go of the counting and the visual and the fear of doing it wrong, and just play for the joy of it. Not the way I do with writing. But I HEART MUSIC. So does Law Beaumont in Love on Mimosa Lane.
Jim Croce came to me as I thought up Law (and changed his name to match the initials LB…can anyone tell me why?).
Excerpts from JC’s songs were slotted into each LOML chapter heading. They had to come out before publication, of course, for copyright reasons, but their legacy lives on in the story.
I’ll be sharing Jim Croce inspirations all week, here and on Facebook, in addition to the JC-inspired Pinterest Board I’ve put up. Chat here or on the daily blog posts through Friday or on my Anna DeStefano: Author FB page. I’m hoping to convince you to chat with me about JC or other musicians and lyrics that speak to you–because who wants to be a geeky music nerd, all by herself!
I’ll be checking the blog, FB and Pinterest every day, watching. At midnight Friday, I’ll select winners randomly from all the fun. (more…)
Can you tell from the cover of Love on Mimosa Lane that one of the central themes in the book is music? I hope so. We worked pretty had on that one (pats self on back).
More accurately, the healing, magical restorative power of music. At least it is to me, and to my central characters. Yeah, the book is about community and patching back together broken homes for two very special kids and still loving unconditionally when you think someone’s forever ruined your ability to be vulnerable in love, but music is a key factor for bringing everyone together in the end. Music has been a safe, deeply moving, motivational place for me my whole life. I wanted to share that.
Our hero in LoML is a singer songwriter. He’s given up for years his gift for moving his own soul and others with his creativity and talent and unique voice. Allowing inspiration to move within him again, because he can no longer hold it back each and every time he confronts our heroine (No, he doesn’t burst into song and dance, this isn’t a musical. But she DOES inspire him in ways only music has before ;o), is a first step toward healing for him and so many others in the book. I sense many artists are this “soul” place within their own realities, where their paintings or music or words or photographs or whatever transform more around them than they’ll ever know.
I actually patterned Love on Mimosa Lane, at least in theme, after a series of Jim Croce lyrics I’ll be sharing over the next week on my Anna DeStefano: Author Facebook page. Croce’s ability to tell a story with a few perfect words, to paint a picture with the movement of simple notes and the timber of his voice, is life transforming. He reaches into me with every song and phrase.
At one point while drafting the book, I included snippets of his lyrics at the opening of each chapter, to remind myself of the theme I was going for within. These had to be stripped away before publication for copyright reasons. But I squirreled away those moments (my husband says I save everything). I’ll be sharing them here and on social media. I eventually, at the end of the novel, have our hero sing a couple of Croce songs that melt hearts and reveal who he really is, soul-deep, more than he can possibly reveal without his music. I LOVE it when a plan comes together!
Can you guess which of Croce’s songs he chooses.
It’s an epic moment, symbolism-wise, even if I do say so myself ;o)
Music is an epic thing, if we let it work its magic in our lives.
I’d love to know what singer/songwriter/music can do that for you. I’d love to share the fascination (okay, borderline obsession) I’ve had with music since I was a small child. I’d love to know their are other freaks like me out there, who if they could write novels would dream and plot and fashion an entire novel around a musical theme, if they could ;o)
Which leads us to Release Week 2’s CONTEST ;o) (more…)
We have winners, everyone ;o) And I heard from earmuffs! And we’re going to have a week-long blog contest next, starting today (see my next blog post, later this morning) where you can post on FB OR on the blog (or both), and we’ll try not to get thrown in the pokie for raising hell in our bad, bad way.
Until the, Earmuffs had revealed herself to be... Marcia Boswell Carney! Congrats to Marcia, who’ll be receiving two signed copies of Love on Mimosa Lane.
And the bonus signed copy of the book and the $10 Amazon gift card go to… Audra Holtwick!
Okay, so Facebook has a lot of rules. Evidently my fans having a blast telling me what they’d do with two free signed copies of my spankin’ new Love on Mimosa Lane is against the rules. Either because I didn’t include the magic FB disclaimer words (see below for magic FB disclaimer words), or someone got in a snit and reported our fun as spam (see HATERS).
Anyhoodles, the contest was supposed to end with me announcing the winner…but FB pulled the post and all the entrants, including their FB contact information (see REALLY???). Fear not, I remember the post that made me spit Diet Coke onto my keyboard (see ARGH!). Now all I need is a FB contact to go with the entrant whose answer was something close to:
Given the weather outside, I’d find a way to fashion earmuffs out of them.
OMG. If I could be that funny, that succinctly, that perfectly, I’d make a living as a comedic writer rather than a snarky/angsty one (see NOT A CHANCE IN HELL). (more…)
Another writer said to me the other day that you have to “surrender to your characters.” I couldn’t agree more. And my heroes always insist on being flawed. Broken in the past and not completely being done broken. They don’t want Hollywood versions of what it’s like to have been a bad boy or a wounded hero or a shell of a man trying to believe in love again because he can’t seem to stop completely no matter how hard he’s tried. And did I mention I write romance novels ;o) LOL!
See, actually, I don’t. At least not anymore–not the category-type Harlequin novels that I love and began my career writing. I wish I still could–I had a good thing going there for a while. But these guys won’t stay out of my head. Or other writers’ heads, authors I admire like Susan Elizabeth Phillips and her Gabe Bonner in Dream a Little Dream, or Debra Dixon and her Sully in Bad to the Bone, or Linda Howard and her Webb in Shades of Twilight… This gives me comfort, because these are romance authors, too–the BEST at the game, IMHO. But they write bigger, deeper, gritter stories and characters who can challenge the reader through a full range of not always so comfortable feelings. Then they give us the most amazing happy endings. I LOVE that. Especially during release weeks for new books, when I can see readers responding to how I write flawed heroes, and loving it, too.
I wanted to WRITE that, back in the day I first started this ride–heroes, heroines, secondary characters and plots and themes that make others feel and experience and embrace the journey on the page (and in their imaginations) the same as these masters do . And now I am, in my own not-quite-romance, not-quite-women’s fiction, bigger book way.
Love on Mimosa Lane is my first full-on Valentine’s story. There’s a strong romantic central theme, there’s even a Valentne’s Dance and an amazing, happy ending where the central characters have just returned with the hero’s little girl from Disney World of all places. BEAUTIFUL, romantic, tough and challenging, hearts and flowers but only after real tears, because I’m also writing real problems and their ups and downs and aftermaths and crashes and then their rebounding and valiant recoveries that pull hearts and lives and relationships and entire communities together.
I HEART flawed heroes and heroines and communities and the amazing things they do to become who the need to be, once and for all, for themselves and the people they love so fiercely. And I’m so very lucky to be able to write these stories now, no holding back, no making them fit what every romance reader would want. These days, on Mimosa Lane, I get to write the whole story and characters that come to me, surrender completely, and bring eager readers along for a ride like they’d never find anywhere else!
That’s what release day really feels like, at least for this writer. I think for a lot of writers, we just don’t like to talk about it, because we’re supposed to be professionals and above it all and in this for the craft. Which we are. But we want to be read, all of us, and we want to dance with our readers while they discovery our characters and stories. We want to feel light as air, whimsy ensuing, each time a new book comes out. We want to weep for how badly we need it to be received by the hearts of those who’ve loved what we’ve done before, hoping that this time we don’t disappoint.
Which is a long way of saying, Love on Mimosa Lane releases today.
This is how my publisher sees release day (and the professional side of my writer’s mind). All business and clean and beautiful.
This is how the child in me sees it. All playful and fun and let’s have fun.
I SO love Kristen and Law’s story. It’s a Valentine’s-themed novel, and amazing that way. It’s a community novel, and amazing that way, too. The marketing for this novel even calls it a “Love story to an entire community,” there’s so much to read here about what it’ s like to raise kids and families and find your heart in a small town.
I SO want others to dig Love on Mimosa Lane for the same reasons I do. The creative child inside of me just wants to say, “Let’s play!” Except there’s all this other stuff going on I need to focus on, too.
Whimsy, weepy, dancing and want…
Bear with me as I share these next few weeks bits and pieces of Love on Mimosa Lane’s inspiration AND the marketing/promotion side of my business, too. It’s all the same thing, in a way. It’s all me, wanting to dance with you down Mimosa Lane, loving how this trilogy has come together in such an amazing, lovely, heart-warming Book 3!
Here’s today’s excerpt. For a new one every day, “Like” my Anna DeStefano: Author Facebook page, plus that will keep you in the loop on all the great giveaways and contests and amazing price breaks and things coming our way as we ease into a crazy new promotion blitz from my publisher!
Kristen could feel her heartbeat all over her body. She shouldn’t say it. She absolutely shouldn’t say it. But how could
she not, when it sounded as if he was saying good-bye?
“I’m not trying to fix you or anything else,” she said. “I’m not expecting anything from you, and I know you need to do what
you need to do now, without thinking about me. I’m just trying to care, that’s all. Like you care, a lot more than you want people to know. I see that every time I see you with Chloe. I saw it in how you handled Fin, even if you talked to him at first just as an excuse to get away from me.”
“What?” Law stepped toward her. He stopped. He stopped way too soon. “What did you see?”
“You never stopped caring, Law, no matter how many times you might have tried. Trust me, I know what it looks like when a
person cares only about himself. That’s not you. No matter what’s happened in the past”—and Kristen didn’t give a damn about his prison sentence or the mistakes he’d made before he’d grown up enough to make something more for himself—“you’re a good man doing right by his daughter and his ex-wife. You’re fighting a hell of a lot harder to do right by both of them than a lot of people would.”
She paused, expecting him to say something, needing him to in a pathetic way she despised. When he didn’t, she accepted that it was time to bow out. It was past time. But he seemed so alone, standing there as if her words had fractured something inside him.
He couldn’t seem to move now. So Kristen did, toward the parking lot. She slowed on her way past him, holding herself still for the few seconds it took to say, ”I think you’re amazing, too. If ever need to talk with someone who has just as hard a time trusting her feelings as you do yours, give me a cal..”