The Golden Pen Contest and A Great Critique Partner

Today, I learned my two novels, Untrue Beliefs and True Deceptions earned first and second place in the Golden Pen Contest for Romantic Suspense. Unbelievable. Written last December, Untrue Beliefs, was my first ever romantic suspense. True Deceptions made its debut in the Golden Pen this year.

I discovered that Susan Scott Shelley, my critique partner, won her category in the Golden Pen because she happened to be sitting next to me discussing our next manuscripts when the emails arrived from Lorenda Christensen. Her entry, Shielded Hearts, won the Daphne du Maurier Contest this year as well as a few other contests. It’s a great story.

Susan Scott Shelley the night she won the Daphne. July 2013

Susan Scott Shelley the night she won the Daphne. July 2013

There’s definitely something sweeter in success when you have a friend to share it with.

So I’m taking this moment to say thanks to Susan

  • for last minute reviews of 300+ page manuscripts (and yes, another is on the way in a few days- sorry for the short notice over the holidays),
  • for a willingness to rehash my latest version of a scene over and over and over again,
  • for creating beautiful language in her own WIPs and making me strive to produce something comparable (a little friendly competition brings out the best in us),
  • and for a million smiley faces in the margins to soften her critical, yet accurate comments (and for never once making me cry, but occasionally causing major bouts of laughter).

Let’s hope 2014 is just as fun and twice as successful!

Watching a Deer Die

photo_64_20050928A simple act of driving my daughter to school turned into an event I won’t soon forget. Down a twisting country road, surrounded by horses farms and autumn trees, a buck was struck by a car driven by a woman dressed in a tailored business suit. The woman looked physically fine when I drove by, except for her strained face. Clearly, the trauma of the event stopped her normal day and made it into something else. Something that would cause her to be late for work and would follow her around for a few days prompting her to drive slower, more cautiously. Just in case.

The deer, however, was not fine. He was lying on the road with a large bloody gash in his side. A man had pulled over to assist and to protect the deer from any more suffering. The animal didn’t try to stand, but he lifted his head, crowned with four point antlers. He strained to turn his neck to look in every direction possible. The face was unharmed in the accident.  Brown fur and large glassy eyes outlined in black observed my car as it drove past and then he looked toward the man, his protector. Emotions poured out of the deer’s expression. Fear, pain and a strength that said he wouldn’t fight, but would accept his fate.

Staring into the eyes of a dying animal, one who wasn’t domesticated, ripped my calm emotions from the morning and replaced them with a tension that’s holding me by the back of my neck and in the middle of my gut. The image won’t leave my mind.

I hope the buck dies in comfort. I assume someone went to fetch a gun from one of the local farms. Sad, but merciful. Winding roads and fall weather create a dangerous combination for interactions between deer and humans.

New Jersey Romance Writers Conference 2013, Part 2

One of the best reasons for going to writers conferences is meeting some of my favorite authors. At this conference, I was honored to speak with Eloisa James, Jane Porter, Terri Brisbin, Rebecca York and Kathy Kulig.

These women are not only amazing writers, they are amazing people. Perhaps that’s what makes them amazing writers.

I love my job!

-Veronica

With Eloisa James

With Eloisa James

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With Jane Porter

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With Rebecca York

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Kathy Kulig

New Jersey Romance Writers Conference 2013

NJRW with Terri Brisbin, Susan Scott Shelley, Jacqueline Jayne, Kristin Contino

NJRW with Terri Brisbin, Susan Scott Shelley, Jacqueline Jayne, Kristin Contino

I’m spending the weekend at the New Jersey Romance Writers’ Conference.

Why is being a romance writer better than being a writer in any other genre?

The people.

Every person I meet has offered help and encouragement toward my goals. We laugh together, eat the chocolate cake before the main course is served, and offer each other a sympathetic ear when things don’t go as planned. Even if I didn’t have the disease that pushes me to my computer each day to write my stories, I’d want to be a writer just to hang out with such amazing women (and the occasional, yet rare, guy).

I’m already feeling energized to start editing one book and begin a new story about a blonde named Vicky.  It will have to wait. A few more workshops and the after party are calling my name.

-Veronica Forand

SEALS ON CAPE COD

by Veronica Forand

This is a picture of a seal. Actually, it’s an attempt by me to immortalize the seal in a photograph. I failed. Seals are tricky. They evade the camera as much as they evade capture from the great white sharks circling the area.

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I stayed calm and waited for the exact right moment.  Patience is my middle name, after Delusional and Quirky. The dark blob of the ocean floated toward the boat. And I waited. The seal lifted his head above the water, winked, and then descended before I had a chance to shoot it. IPhones are not made for action shots. IMG_0406

Everyone else on the boat returned to their seats. Not me. I stayed in the bow and watched, waited, swore a few times, and kept tapping the screen of my phone to prevent it from shutting down.

“Come on you slippery little mammal. One shot. Is that so much to ask?”

The boat started motoring away and I dropped my head in defeat, wiping a tear from my eye. On the horizon, the floating rodent popped up and, if the engine on the boat hadn’t created background noise, I would have heard the seal’s laughter.

But I had the last laugh. I hit the camera button and shot the mocking beast.

Don’t mess with me. I always get my man (or seal).

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Next time, I’m taking a video. They can’t hold their breath forever.

Old Fashioned Friends

by Veronica Forand

Did you ever wonder exactly how many friends you have in this world? Not Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or relatives, but the “help, my battery won’t start, do you have jumper cables” kind of friends? Real honest to God old fashioned friends.

I recently did a count and realized that I’ve let too many people go from my life because of obligations and commitments. If I called them for jumper cables, they’d be surprised to hear from me. That’s not right. And it puts me at the mercy of AAA.

I do have a small posse who I can rely on and who can rely on me for any number of things; coffee chats, lunches out, watching the kids, or plain old griping over the phone. Not redecorating advice, I’m pretty inept at decorating. I once decided on blue wall-to-wall carpeting, so I painted the walls the same blue. I then added a blue and white striped couch for contrast and a painting of a boat in blue water. Luckily, we moved and my friends never let me decorate again without assistance.

So I’ve come up with five steps for me to reconnect with some lost friends:

Call them. I need to get over my fear that they don’t actually want to talk to me. We are all busy, so I need to give them the benefit of the doubt. And believe me, there’s a lot of doubt.

Surprise them at their houses with coffee. Although the last time I tried this, the friend was just short of finishing her afternoon romp with her husband.  She won’t be inviting me over in the near future.

Pick up their children from school to give them a break. Generally, call first. Kidnapping charges are difficult to fight, especially with an irate parent sitting next to the prosecution.

Have my children join their children’s activities. Kids get more structured learning moments, because they don’t have enough, and mothers have a chance to connect. I first need to make sure John wants to join the ballet class, because pink tights aren’t comfortable for boys, or so I’ve heard.

Use social media. This generally defeats the point of personally reaching out to my friends, but time is limited and they should be happy with any contact I can give them.

Thanks to my friends (and various sisters in law), the rooms in my house have more than one color.

Alone in the Woods

Hiding in the woods on a fall afternoon is my favorite thing to do. I hike in about half a mile, carrying water, some Lara bars and my current read. The key is finding the right rock to sit on. Sitting on a log generally leaves my pants damp and bringing a folding chair defeats the point of communing with nature.

If I sit for about ten minutes, the birds begin to sing and sometimes a woodpecker will rap out a tune nearby. If someone or something comes close to my hiding spot, the birds stop. So as long as I hear my background music, I feel safe. The dog asleep at my feet gives me a sense of security too.

Usually, I can stay out for about two to four hours. No one around, no traffic sounds and nothing beeping or clicking or generally annoying me. By the time I return home, I’m refreshed.

The non-medicated way to stress relief.

Autumn in New England. Peaceful, beautiful.