Snow Books, Snow Dogs and Recharging the Batteries!

Sometimes, when it snows, you need to stop shoveling, stop worrying and just curl up with a hot cup of cocoa/tea/coffee and a damn good book. Right? It’s one of the best ways ever of totally recharging your life, your writing batteries, and your whole soul.

Earlier in the month we had a good snow here in DC. It was supposed to only be six inches, not that much,  considering it came early in the day.  The plows would be able to take care of that, I thought. Not a problem.  There would be school for the kids the next day, of course, because hey…not that much snow, right?

Wrong!

We did get 6″…then it stopped snowing and the plows came through. I kept my usual schedule because, as I said, there would be school and work and everything because this was a small snow.  Very pretty, but not a problem.

Then it started to flurry again.  Then to actively snow.  There were points when it was almost blizzard-y in the sheer volume of snow coming down.  We got just over a foot of snow, when it was all said and done.

So much for all that shoveling I’d already done!

It was still relatively early in the day as this second half of the storm hit. Only about 6 pm when I realized that we were going to get a LOT more snow than they’d predicted.  I also realized there would not be school the next day.  Probably not much getting out and about, either.  Not till at least mid-afternoon from our neighborhood anyway.

My sons were ecstatic. No school.  With just as much glee, I realized I could take a “me-day” – a reading, sleeping, catching up, fun day.  Sure, I’d have to help shovel at some point (we have some older neighbors we do for, plus our own stuff) BUT…

I could take a whole morning. Just. To. Read. 

Ahhhhhhh!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I read all the time.  As a writer you HAVE to read.  You just have to.  You lose your creative edge if you don’t “fill the well” with great stories.  At one point in my writing career, life got complicated and I didn’t read much.  It sucked.  It got harder and harder to write.  The less I read, the more I felt like I  couldn’t tell good stories.  I didn’t feel the spark of story-ness in my soul and it was like slogging through cold molasses to get words on the page.

I will never do that again.  It was torture!

So, now I read a lot. Sometimes it’s research stuff, sometimes it’s Science Fiction, Fantasy, YA, or books I’m judging for contests. (I’m about to start my RITA Award reads – SO Excited!) Sometimes its revisiting old favorites in every genre. A good read never fails to stimulate my mind, engage my senses, and take me on a journey to the most fascinating places.

On this lovely snowy day, I managed to visit some amazing places! From 1820’s London (A friend’s manuscript draft) to the modern-day UK, including York and London (Nancy Northcott’s The Deathbrew Affair), I stole away for about five hours.  Soooo wonderful!

The DH, our boys, and I got out and played in the snow – a moral imperative! – made snow cream, and then got down to the business of shoveling out a little before total dark set in.  Since we’d already cleared after the first dollop of snow, it was pretty easy!  As darkness fell, we went back to playing with the dogs.  For those of you who have them, do yours chase snowballs?  Ours do! Then they look super surprised when the “ball” disappears into the snow on the ground! Where’d it go? It’s hilarious.

We all finally tromped back in, had soup and grilled cheese – YUM! – and settled in for the night.  The DH opted for a movie in the living room. The boys headed to the basement man-cave for some video gaming. Me? I headed to the big cozy chair by the fireplace with a massive mug of Constant Comment tea, a plate of apple slices, cheese and crackers, and a re-read of Nora Roberts’ Shelter In Place.

The next day, I snuggled in bed with yet another fabulous read, Sue Coletta’s Wings of Mayhem – SO GOOD! I’ve gotten to know Sue via her fabulously informative writers blog, and on social media. Such a fab writer and a generous social media presence as well! That can also be said about the author of my late afternoon reading choice, Jordan Dane.  Got her The Last Victim, the first in her Ryker Townsend series. Also riveting.

SUCH a great reading day, snow day, and dog fun day.  After playing for hours in the snow, the dogs were worn out enough to curl up with me in the reading chair and on the ottoman.  I was pretty much cocooned with dog fur. They snored and I read.  Same thing the next day. We played and shoveled, then they snored and I read.

When the next day dawned, with school for the kids and the DH off to work, it was back to the regular routine for the most part.  However, I came to the day relaxed and refreshed because I’d been on a book vacation.  While there was heart-pounding tension, it wasn’t work related, it was story related.  What a joy.

So I know that a lot of people dislike snow, but I find that I’m longing for another snow day, another day to just dream, read, and sip tea by the fire.

What about you?

Do you like snow?

What’s your drink of choice while reading?  I love hot tea, but it frequently goes cold when I get so involved in the book and forget to drink it!

Have you had a good snow-day-reading-day yet this winter?

Fill me in!

(The lovely teacup/book graphic is from Pinterest but was unsigned. No copyright infringement intended and the work is that of the artist, not mine.  All other photos are mine.)

The Labs – Daisy and Dakota – are mine, as is the imminently silly Irish Water Spaniel, Tucker. The dachshund, Coco, belongs to my dear friend Sophia Nash. If you haven’t read her Whispering In French, you are missing a treat. (It got a coveted starred review in Publisher’s Weekly!)

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Annnnnnticipation…..

First, let me wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Pens, Paws and Claws!

I hope you all had a wonderful turkey day.  Like many of you, I traveled for my feast.  My family gathers at my sister’s house for the big meal and then we watch football and, on Friday, go shopping and then bowling.  I cooked this year, and thankfully it turned out well.  It’s fun, it’s tradition, and we look forward to it every year.  That’s the first of two turkeys I cooked, and the sweet potato casserole waiting to go in!

The only thing we don’t look forward to is leaving our dogs at home.  My sister is allergic, so the dogs stay home with the dog sitter and we have to go four days without our dog fix.  When you live with pets, no matter how many or what kind, when you have to be without them, its just…odd.  No one to bump your elbow and ask for pets, no one to clean the floor if you drop something, no one to warm your lap when you sit down or lie across your computer and interfere with your work.

Seriously, how is even possible to live without pets?

So, as much as I love being with my family, I am looking forward to getting home to my dogs.  We also have another fun thing to anticipate on the way home.  We’re stopping by to see more family on our way home and they have….wait for it….a new puppy!

WOOT!  We’ll get a puppy fix before we get home, then, we’ll get home to slurpy kisses from our own beloved pets.

Ahhhhh.  After nine hours driving it will be: Home, sweet pet-filled home.

The only good news about 9 hours of driving is that I can write for most of that.  I’ve got a holiday novella to finish (another mystery-in-space with my co-conspiriitor, Nancy Northcott.) I’m going to finish and publish another paranormal romantic suspense as well, before the end of December.  That one, A Spirited Life, is in final edits, so I may be doing that during the drive!

So, then we’ll be on to the winter holidays!  Hannukah, Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Years.  I’ll start decorating the house next week.

What about you?  

Do you take your pets with you for the holidays, or  do you host and let your family bring their pets to your house?

Did you have a great Thanksgiving?  Did you have pumpkin pie or pecan?

What’s your December Holiday?  Are you ready to decorate the day after Thanksgiving, or do you wait till December 1?

What day do you put up your tree?  Is it up? If so, post a picture!

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Meet Nancy Northcott

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

As my bio says, I’ve always loved stories of adventure, romance, and mystery, and I fell in love with history at an early age. I also read comic books growing up, much to the vexation of my mother.  But I loved the superheroes and science fiction they offered.

I write mages (like wizards, but if you mention wizards, people tend to think of Harry Potter, and this is not that) because they’re kind of like superheroes but also incorporate elements of fantasy.  The mages battle ghouls and demons hoping to take over our world—more fantasy elements there, as well as action and adventure.

I’ve also written, but not published, historical romance and have published historical fantasy. The Herald of Day is the first part of the Boar King’s Honor trilogy.  I loved doing the research to build those historical worlds.

I just launched a romantic spy adventure series that lets me incorporate adventure, suspense, and action with hot romance.  Finally, I’m writing a space opera series with Jeanne Adams.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

We just adopted a new dog, a black lab mix.  Whatever she’s mixed with is a smaller breed because she’s much smaller than the lab we had for a few years.  She’s still settling into our family.

We also had a very large, male golden retriever named Hudson at one point, and he’s the only one who is a story model to date.  At least for stories I share with the world.  I used to make up stories featuring him and Maggie, the golden/Irish setter mix we had at the time. He was kind of like an Edwardian gentleman, very proper, while she was just zany.  They offered a lot of character contrast. I told those stories to entertain our son when we were waiting in a restaurant or elsewhere, but I never wrote them down.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

So far, my only recurring animal character is a very large golden retriever named Magnus in my Light Mage Wars series.  He’s the one modeled on Hudson. Magnus is the constant companion of Miss Hettie Telfair, a retired lawyer and recurring character in my imaginary town of Wayfarer, Georgia.  I’d like to think he has a personality even though he doesn’t play a big role in any scene.

I had a mare named Calypso in The Deathbrew Affair, and we’ll see her again down the road.  The hero of the series is a horseman from North Yorkshire, so horses will figure in some of the books going forward.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m juggling three at the moment, the next Light Mages book, a Christmas novella for the space opera series, and a Christmas short story for the Light Mages.

 Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s hard to pick a favorite author among the many whose books I love. My all-time ever favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird because I like and sympathize with the characters and admire the way it addresses a crucial social issue.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

I grew up with dogs that were treated as part of our family.  Over the years, we had a fox terrier/Chihuahua mix and a couple of English bulldogs. The bulldogs were very sweet but prone to breathing and skin problems, unfortunately.  The fox terrier/Chihuahua was also very sweet and generally pretty calm.  She liked to sleep on the foot of my bed in the winter, and I liked that.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

Magnus is a character in his own right, though a minor one. The hero and his best friend in The Herald of Day, which is set in 17th-century England, each have a horse, Zeus and Neptune, but they figure primarily in the opening part of the books.  They’re not exactly characters but are more than mentioned in passing.

The Deathbrew Affair includes a mare named Calypso, whom we meet briefly before events pull the hero and heroine away from the riding ring.  We’ll see Calypso again, though.  Because the hero is an equestrian with an estate in the horse-breeding area of North Yorkshire, he’ll have a horse in a future book and the heroine will learn to ride.  The penultimate book in the series is currently planned to center on a horse.

The animals in the space opera series so far are not pets but creatures on the planet we created.  None of them actually qualifies as a character, nor are they likely to.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I like animals, and I like to have them in a story when there’s a reason.  I also think the way a character relates to an animal reveals that character. Magnus helps show us Hettie’s nature and has been a bridge between her and other characters.

Horses are a soft spot for controlled, plan-oriented Jack, the hero of The Deathbrew Affair and its siblings, but they were essential in The Herald of Day.  During the era when the book is set, they were the transportation for those who could afford them. The hero and his best friend have horses, and at one point we see the hero’s carriage horses.

When dealing with an alien culture, as in the space opera series, creating animals is part of building that world.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

I enjoyed Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.  I generally avoid movies and books centering on animals because so many of them end tragically, but our son wanted to see that movie when he was small. I enjoyed the characterizations by the actors, and I loved that it had a happy ending.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

I have three TBR piles–one in a plastic bin, one on the shelves in my study, and one on my tablet. The piles mix various genres of romance (primarily historical, paranormal, and romantic suspense), science fiction and fantasy, and mystery/thriller books.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

First, that there’s no one “right” way, that every author has to do what works for her. For example, I don’t write every day, in the sense of sitting in front of the computer.  I do think about the various projects daily, but many people don’t consider that writing.  It works for me, though.

Second, that the marketing department plays a huge role in purchasing decisions at traditional publishing houses. A book that veers too far off the center field line, unless the marketing people think it’s lightning in a bottle, will have a hard time finding a home.

Thank you to everyone at Pens, Paws, and Claws for having me today. I’d love to chat about people’s first pets.

About Nancy…

Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman.  Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, history, and romance. A sucker for fast action and wrenching emotion, Nancy combines the romance and high stakes (and sometimes the magic) she loves in the books she writes.

She’s the author of the Light Mage Wars/Protectors paranormal romances, the Lethal Webs and Arachnid Files romantic suspense series, and the historical fantasy trilogy, The Boar King’s Honor. With author Jeanne Adams, she co-writes the Outcast Station space opera series.

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