Everybody needs a little time away . . .

Chicago had it exactly right.

One of my goals as an author this year was using this gorgeous website, posting daily in the various categories and keeping everything updated. And for quite a long time, I was good about it. Having the categories to keep me on the straight and narrow really helped.

And then June came.

June meant finishing writing The Plan. Gearing up for the release of the box set. Working on book-related business, including Indie BookFest, and attending two book events. Whew!

I’m happy to say that I’m back, but I’m also glad I gave myself that break when things got crazy.

But enough about that. Today I want to share with you a little about the thin and hazy line between real life and fiction.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]If you’ve been following me for a while, you might remember that The Posse was my first non-YA, non-paranormal novel. I never intended to write it; once I’d finished with The King Series, I fully intended to write Rafe’s book and then Nell’s. Contemporary romance was never part of the plan. Then one day, I was driving home from New Smyrna Beach, a small beach town on Florida’s east coast. We’d just begun going there, since we’d moved over to the east side of the greater Orlando area; prior to that, most of our beaching had been done on the Gulf coast. But after a few visits to NSB, I fell in love with the quaint little town. It felt very much like home.

On this day, I hadn’t been thinking about books or stories, but something must’ve been lurking in the back of my head, because as I drove home, most of the plot for The Posse fell into my lap. I knew Jude’s name. I knew her late husband’s name. I knew how many kids she had, all about her friends . . . and about her family restaurant. Suddenly, it seemed, I was writing a contemporary romance novel for adults, since there was nary a paranormal element and the leads were most definitely grown-up.

I returned to NSB often during the process of writing The Posse, and slowly parts of the town made it into the story. One was a sweet B & B that was being rebuilt and restored. In the book, this bed and breakfast was the last planned project for Jude’s late husband Daniel and his best friend Logan. Jude’s involved in the final stages and the opening of the Hawthorne House during the course of the story.

For the last two years, I’ve walked past the Hawthorne House–or the Inn on the Avenue, as it’s known in so-called real life–watching its growth and evolution. We stay in NSB fairly frequently, but it never worked out to stay at the B & B until last night.

As I type this post, I’m actually still in bed in the beautiful Starfish Room at the Inn. It’s a lovely spot, welcoming and IMG_0005friendly, and I’m thrilled that we actually were able to do this. But I’d be lying if I said there hadn’t been a surreal aspect to being here.

As a writer, my characters are very real to me. I can tell you all about the house where Tasmyn Vaughn lived in King. I can describe the dorm where Julia and Ava lived at Birch College. I could walk you all around the Reynolds’ family farm in Burton, Georgia. And I’ve definitely pictured The Hawthorne House Bed and Breakfast in Crystal Cove. So walking into the Inn on the Avenue, my brain was reeling, trying to reconcile how I’d seen the house with reality. To be honest, it wasn’t really that different. There are a few minor changes, sure, but overall . . . being here as been oddly like stepping into one of my make-believe worlds.

IMG_0008I half-expect to see Abby come around the corner and ask me if I like my room. Maybe Emmy will stop in to deliver some pies or breakfast pastries. Jude could pop over from the Tide to say hello before Logan comes in to pick her up. And there are a few other characters you’ll meet or get to know better during The Path who might wander in.

Will some of the ‘real’ Inn and New Smyrna creep into the Crystal Cove romances a little more? Perhaps. But in most ways, Crystal Cove will continue to be its own lovely, enchanted spot, a place where families grow and men and women live and love.

And that’s this author’s life today.

Five From Juli Valenti

Welcome to Five From Friends Friday!

Each week, I’ll share with you five quick and quirky questions and answers

from some of my favorite author friends.

I think you’ll see some familiar faces in here, too.

Quickies from Juli Valenti

I was trying to remember exactly how I ‘met’ Juli Valenti. I know we were chatting about something bookish related, and then she was involved in a promotion we did this past winter. We also met up at Coastal Magic in February . . . she’s a fellow Floridian. Give her a big hello!

Q: You’re a Florida girl. If you were offered your choice of an annual pass to any local amusement park—transportation included—would you choose Disney World, Sea World, Universal or Legoland?

A: Disney World!!!! I’m a huge child at heart and I’ve only been once.

Q: You’re on a cruise, and the captain says you get to choose the dinner menu for the last night at sea. What will be served?

A: Hmm. tough one… depends on my mood, I guess. Probably Prime Rib, Green Beans (just like Outbacks) and a Caesar salad. For dessert: Key Lime Pie, Black Forest Cake, and Strawberry shortcake

Q: A genie offers you the chance to take your best friend and spend a day in *one* of the worlds you created in your books. Which book-world will you visit with your friend?

A: All of my worlds are real-time, and not different from every day life. If i could visit ANY world, though, it would probably be Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series 🙂

Q: What’s the one item you must have with you at the beach?

A: Sunscreen! A LOT of it. Maybe I need to go into business making sunscreen that protects the ultra-fair peoples like me. (I’m the only perpetually pale person in Florida!)

Q: The Property Brothers are going to help you find your dream home. What three elements are absolutely essential for your perfect house?

A: Light – I want to see the outside when I’m inside, using less electricity. Open floor plans with high ceilings and not a lot of walls (walls make me claustrophobic). A large backyard with a patio so I could sit outside and watch my kids play safely while I write and bask in the warmth of Florida (covered, of course, so I don’t burn like bacon!)

***

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Juli Valenti grew up in a small town in Arkansas, known for Wal-mart, which is no longer small but is still known for the grocery store. Lucky for her, she didn’t retain an accent, despite her overuse of ya’ll when talking. She currently resides in sunny Florida with her husband and two young boys. If her world wasn’t crazy enough, she also works a full time day job, as well as owns her own editing company (Juli’s Elite Editing).

Follow Juli here:

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Website

 

Pieces in Chance

Drew Townsend has lived anything but a charmed life. When her mother died from cancer, her father snapped, using her as his own personal punching bag. After taking one too many beatings, she took things into her own hands. Determined to escape the Pieces in Chance Ecovernightmare she was living, a desperate Drew does the only thing she can think of to end it all.

Jensen Marks, a former Marine and now police officer in the small town of Chance, had seen a lot of things in his years – war, beatings, crying children – yet none of it kept him up at night. So once he met Drew, he’s perplexed by the way she got under his skin. After years of everyone turning their back on what was going on, Jensen takes it upon himself to see a change in her.

Can Jensen help Drew pick up the missing pieces of herself or will he push her into losing yet another piece in Chance?

Amazon/Nook

A Writer in the World: At the DMV

 

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A few weeks ago, I found myself in the DMV, or whatever its name is in the state of Florida. For the third time in my life, I was waiting while one of my daughters took her road test in order to earn her license.

As I sat there, it occurred to me that this is one of the most tense, anxiety-provoking situations that a parent experiences. Because, you see, there is nothing you can do. Your job is done. You cannot take the test for your child; you cannot even be in the car to provide moral support or words of assurance. You have to sit back, hope you’ve done your best to prepare her and try to keep the nerves from getting the best of you.

As a writer, I experience something similar every time a book is released. I’ve written the best story I can. I’ve revised, edited, revised again. I’ve had it formatted, chosen the best cover I possibly could. And then I release it out into the world.

I can’t go with it. I can’t be there every time someone buys my book to explain why I made the choices I did, why a character says what she does. I have to let it go and trust that I’ve done my best.

That day in the DMV, my daughter dashed back into the waiting room wearing a triumphant smile: she had passed. The hard work had paid off, and it was time to celebrate.

Since I’m gearing up to release a new book, I know I’ll be back in my virtual waiting room again soon. I hope the results are just as awesome.