Tag Archive | Writing

Are You Puzzled?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved puzzles. Mainly, jigsaw puzzles, but I’m also fond of word games like crosswords and word searches. I’ve heard that doing those keeps your brain active, and as I grow older, that becomes more and more important. My parents are in their eighties and still sharp as ever, so I’m hopeful that I’ve inherited their sharpness genes.

So what is it about jigsaw puzzles that draws me in? Maybe it’s because I like to fix things, and if I see something all discombobulated, I want to make it right. Plus, it’s so much fun watching an image come together. I don’t know about you, but I get a happy thrill every time I put a piece in place. I guess it’s good that it doesn’t take much to amuse me!

My first puzzle memory is from when I was about six years old. We lived in Spokane, Washington at that time, and there was a local fair a short distance down the road from us. It was one of those sorts that was likely put on by the high school and run by teenagers. They had all kinds of games and activities for children. I can’t remember what the particular game was that caught my eye, but the prize for winning the game was a puzzle. They were used puzzles donated by the organizers of the event. Used or not, I didn’t care. Trouble was, I didn’t have any money and couldn’t play the game. So, was that a good memory? Oddly, yes, since it makes me smile to remember it. I didn’t get a puzzle from that fair, but my desire for jigsaw puzzles never left me.

I have quite a collection now, and many of my puzzles have been put together more times than I can count. Most of them have 1,000 pieces, and I can usually put them together in a few days’ time. I like to work on them in the evenings after a day of writing. It helps me relax, but it also allows me time to gather my thoughts for my next day of writing.

I like the puzzles that have interesting pieces–those that aren’t a typical shape. They make the entire process more challenging. However, I also appreciate pieces that fully interlock. So, I guess you could say, I love any type of puzzle.

I recently put together the most tight-fitting puzzle I’ve ever encountered. So tight that I could hold it up in the air while it still had a lot of pieces missing. Hopefully, you can see what I mean in this photo.

Yep! You can see right through the middle, and nothing fell apart when I held it up. Crazy! This is the kind of puzzle that wouldn’t even need glue if you decided to frame it.

I always start by putting together the border. I think that’s pretty typical, thought my son tells me it would be more challenging if I didn’t. From the picture on the box, I also know what it’s supposed to look like when it’s done. Again, my son tells me not to look at the image to increase the challenge of putting it together. I try that sometimes, but there are certain puzzles that stump me and I have to look.

I think my writing style is similar to the way I construct puzzles. I know how I want a story to start, (thus the border), and I know how I want it to end. (Like the finished picture). But the middle often takes me in different directions. I may add a piece that takes me down an unexpected road. Those little surprises makes the process so much fun! A character who I think is minor becomes a major part in putting together the puzzle of my story.

I suppose I also like to fix the discombobulated lives of my characters. I promise a happy ending–eventually–but they usually go through many challenges on their way to attaining it.

Thank you for reading, and I’d love to hear your ‘puzzling’ stories, too!

Write on!

To Review or Not to Review

I don’t ever like to say something bad about anyone or anything, but on occasion, it’s good to let people know if you’re disappointed with something. For example, there have been two times in my life that a manufacturer has changed a particular food product that I enjoy. Supposedly, they’ve made it “new and improved” and “better-tasting.” In the two instances I’m referring to, I completely disagreed with the manufacturer. So much so that I wrote a letter to one stating my disappointment in the change, and the other, I made a phone call and left voicemail. I suppose you could say I’m passionate about food, and when a beloved recipe is altered, I find it disappointing.

Of course, my grievances did little good. They didn’t say, “Oh, my goodness, Jeanne Hardt doesn’t like this new recipe, so we’d better go back to the old one!” I don’t have that kind of pull. Although, I did get a coupon from the manufacturer I wrote to for future products. Still, I would have rather had the original item before the recipe changed.

So, where am I going with all this? Well . . . as an author, I can say without a doubt that positive reviews are always welcome and appreciated on my “product.” Hopefully, none of my books will leave a bad taste in your mouth or the desire for a change in my recipe. It would be wrong of me to say, “Don’t write a review if you didn’t like my book,” regardless of the fact that I prefer reading the positive comments! Not everyone has the same taste in literature, and I’ve gotten my share of negative reviews. Honestly, even they can be helpful. I never respond to any review, because that’s not my place to do so, or the purpose of a review. Still, I put my mind to what was said and ask myself if there’s something I need to improve. Most of the time, I simply accept that my style isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.

The main purpose of a review is to help a potential new reader decide if they want to give the book a try. So, with that being said, reviews are important to those potential readers. They might base their decision solely on the rating of that book or a particular comment that a reader has made. Because of that, I encourage you to post reviews. I believe that many venues will also allow you to post a rating alone, without a written review, which is also good.

If you’re unsure what to write, simplicity is best. It’s as easy as saying, “Great story.” “Captivating.” or “A page-turner.” Those kinds of comments are always appreciated, and hopefully, you’ll feel that way about what you read. Most importantly, honesty is best.

There are a few things I’d caution you NOT to do:

1. Don’t give away secrets. Nobody likes spoilers, and if you tell the big ‘aha’ moment in the book, you’ll be spoiling it for the potential reader. So choose your remarks carefully. If you like or don’t like a particular character, it’s fine to say, but don’t give away what that particular character does. We all like to be surprised, don’t we?

2. As an author, I’m so blessed to have friends that read my books. And, of course, I hope that never changes! If you know an author and post a review for their books, it’s a good idea not to say, “this author is my friend,” in the context of the review. It can affect the validity of your review, because the reader might think you’re simply being kind to your friend by saying something nice about their book.

Authors wouldn’t have careers without readers, and we appreciate each and every one of you! We strive to write stories you’ll treasure, and we thank you for taking the time to let us know your thoughts.

Appreciating the ‘Simple’ Things

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve said, “We’re living in crazy times.”

For anyone who has lost a loved one from this virus or is currently ill with Covid-19, I’m sure the words to describe it would be much harsher than ‘crazy.’

We’ve all experienced loss. As it is with this new virus, sometimes it’s unexpected and tragic, other times, it comes from a lengthy illness or simply because we’ve reached the age that our bodies shut down. But even when we have the chance to prepare ourselves emotionally for the moment we’ll have to let go of the person we love, we’re never ready. We don’t want to lose anyone we cherish.

Life never guarantees another day. That’s something else I’ve heard and said for as long as I can remember. The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom in being told to appreciate the simple things and enjoy every moment with the people I love.

Since there’s more than enough gloom and doom in the media, I don’t want this post to be about the negative aspects of what we’re facing. I want to express the good I see in being alive every day. In addition, I’d love to hear from you and know what you enjoy the most in your day-to-day living.

I love that first sip of coffee that’s waiting for me the instant I walk into my kitchen. I’m grateful for the electricity that continues to flow through my home, even when I’m sleeping, so that my automatic coffee maker comes on at the right time. And speaking of electricity–that alone is something to cheer from the rooftops!

I have hot water for my shower and to readily wash my hands umpteen times each day. Electricity powers my laptop, so I can continue to write, and it recharges my phone, so I can stay in touch with family and friends. It keeps my refrigerator cold, so my food doesn’t spoil, and it keeps the food in my freezer frozen for the long haul.

I have a sweet husband who’s happy to go out and do the grocery shopping and other necessary tasks like picking up the mail. As for me, I stay comfortably at home, writing. And what a blessing that is! I still get to escape with my characters to other times and places, and I’m graced with wonderful emails and messages from readers who thank me for taking their minds off the current issues. If that’s not a good reason to smile, I don’t know what is. Thank you, readers!

I have a loyal dog who gets me moving when I’ve been sitting too long. We may only go out into the yard, but at least I’m getting out of the house for a few minutes. He’s been overly happy lately, because I never leave him.

I bought the ‘Stay at Home Dog’ shirt months before this virus came to be. At the time, I thought it was simply cute, but now, it’s fitting. He loves being at home, and I’m thankful he’s here.

I have word games on my phone to entertain me when my brain needs a rest from writing, and jigsaw puzzles that I love to put together. The bigger the better. I even dug out some puzzles that I’ve had since I was a little girl. The photo at the bottom of this post is one of them. I try to challenge myself by not looking at the picture while I’m working them, but I still like to start by putting the border together. My son says I shouldn’t do that. He’s trying to get me to work them from the middle out, but I have yet to try that. With one exception… I found a border-less puzzle that not only didn’t have a border, it also had five additional pieces, just to throw me off! It was called an “Impossible” puzzle, but I’m happy to say that I mastered it. Such fun!

I’ve been taking the time to experiment with new recipes, and I’ve also cooked things that I hadn’t made in years. Like old-fashioned tapioca pudding. It’s so good when it’s hot off the stove! And if you want a wonderful treat, cook up some stove-top chocolate pudding and put it over vanilla ice cream. It’s delicious. Even better than hot fudge.

I’m grateful that I’ve not lost touch with my church friends. I sing in the church choir, and we’d been practicing for an Easter cantata, but of course, that didn’t happen. Still, we meet once a week on Zoom. We don’t sing, but we lift each other up in prayer and share how our lives are going. Eventually, when we can get back together again, we’ll sing the cantata. Easter should be lived every day of our lives, so even though the date might not be the ‘right’ one, the message always is. God is gracious and still in control, and though we might not understand why we’re going through these troubled times, He knows. His love never leaves us.

Maybe we all needed the opportunity to take a deep breath and slow down. Even so, I hate to see anyone suffer. I’d like everyone to be able to get back to work and doing what they love.

So, tell me what makes you smile, and what you love the most! We’ll get through this together and be stronger for it.

Write the Right Thing

When I began my writing journey, I confess, I was basically clueless on the industry and the methods of writing in general. Thanks to the guidance of my writer friends, Romance Writers of America, and the Nashville, Tennessee Chapter, Music City Romance Writers, I was given direction as well as an abundance of encouragement.

I discovered that my stories aren’t true romances, and what I write is often categorized as women’s fiction. However, a lot of women’s fiction ends sadly, and I do promise a happy ending. It sometimes takes a while to get there, and maybe not until the end of a series, but there will be a happily ever after.

I’ve always had a passion for history, and that love led me to write historical fiction. It’s so much fun to imagine myself walking into the past and what it might have been like to live in a different time. I enjoy the research and love to intertwine real history with my fictitious characters.

I appreciate every reader who picks up one of my books and shares my journeys. I think many of you wondered why I deviated from historical fiction this past year and ventured into medieval fantasy. I guess I can chalk that up to another learning experience! I followed my heart and wrote what moved me. Plus, I had it in my head that the medieval time period was in essence ‘historical,’ however, since I didn’t base my stories on anyone or anything ‘real,’ I definitely took a sharp turn away from my usual stories.

That being said, I hope you’ll give the Shrouded Thrones series a read and shoot me a message with some feedback. I like to think of this series as a grown-up fairy tale. In book one, “Island in the Forest,” the kingdoms are at peace. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BJ2P283However, by book two, the story gets a bit dark when power-hungry evil rulers seek total domination. The final book in the series, “Queen of Prophecy,” will soon be released, and I’m excited to share how everything comes together. I’m going to miss the characters in this series, as well as the time period. Though set in fictitious realms, the story embraces the feel of historic England, with maybe a bit of a King Arthur flair.

I will soon be returning to United States historical fiction, and I’m excited to start on my next project. “His Heart’s Long Journey” will be based on the true story of one of my friend’s relatives. It will be set in the old west and end up in the small mining town of Murray, Idaho.

So, how do I know that I’m writing the right book? Every one I start is a new adventure, and I simply follow my heart. It guides my mind and fingers, and I just sit down and type. The funny thing is, sometimes in the morning, when I read what I wrote the day before, I don’t remember writing some of it. I guess I ‘get in the zone’ and just go. My characters frequently tell me what they want to say and do, and I just record it. Is that strange?

Unusual or not, I’m thankful for the freedom I have to write what I want. What a blessing to be able to do so!

If you are a writer, keep at it! Follow your heart and write what moves you. And if you’re a reader, thank you for every book you pick up and read. You keep us writers motivated and give us the ability to do what we love.

Medieval Fantasy

I never believed a story inspired by my five-year-old son’s request for a bedtime tale would one day become an epic fantasy. What had initially been a children’s fairy tale has grown into a very adult adventure.

When I wrote my Southern Secrets Saga, I introduced the devious, John Martin. I thought he would always rank highest on my list of nasty and cruel characters. However, John Martin is a saint compared to Princess Angeline and Prince Frederick in the Shrouded Thrones series. They are devious, manipulative, selfish, and of course, quite evil. And, I admit, I thoroughly enjoy writing their scenes! Not sure what that says about me…

When you step into the medieval world I created, I hope you’ll be drawn back in time to a much simpler and oftentimes barbaric way of life. It’s easy to romanticize the time period, but things were quite ugly then. Even though my kingdoms are fictitious, I set the stage as if traveling into the world of King Arthur and his knights. (Also fictitious, but based on actual history.)

I’ve had several readers ask if this story will have a happy ending. For many of the characters, yes, it will. However, as with all my books, I put everyone through many tests and trials. I enjoy catching readers off guard with unexpected plot twists. Even so, I rarely ‘kill off’ the most beloved characters.

Book one, “Island in the Forest,” is the original story I told my son thirty years ago, now matured for an adult audience.  It comes to a conclusion, though it will leave you wondering about a few details. At the time of “Island,” the kingdoms had been at peace for more than one hundred years. However, in book two, things take a dramatic turn. The story gets a bit ‘dark.’ When evil people are trying to put themselves into power, it’s to be expected.

I’ve told some people that this story is “Game of Thrones” light, with five kingdoms instead of seven. If you enjoy medieval fantasy, I hope you’ll give my series a try!

Here’s a little bit about book one:

 

Olivia has lived her entire life behind the walls of Padrida, a kingdom unknown to the rest of the world. As the king and queen’s only heir, she is destined to rule. Though given all that she needs, she wants only one thing.

Freedom.

Boredom plagues Prince Sebastian of Basilia. The realms have been at peace for more than a century, and he has little to occupy his time. He journeys to Black Wood, seeking adventure. The dense forest has a dark reputation, and Sebastian intends to uncover the truth of the many horrific tales that have troubled him since childhood.

He finds something else entirely.

Here’s the link! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BJ2P283

Available in e-book and paperback.

Also available are book 2 and 3. Books 4 and 5 will be released in 2019!

Mountain of Masks, Shrouded Thrones, Book 2: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DZ253W4

Bane of Black Wood, Shrouded Thrones, Book 3: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L8VSD2L

Thank you for traveling with me on these adventures!

Getting to Know Lucas Larsen

If you’ve read my Smoky Mountain Secrets Saga, you already know Lucas Larsen. And if you haven’t read any of the Cades Cove books, this is your opportunity to get to know a little about the obnoxious, red-haired brother who gives everyone in the family grief.

Born January 9, 1852, Lucas was Buck and Rose Larsen’s first son. When he came into the world squalling, his two older sisters didn’t know quite what to think of him, but they did all they could to learn how to love him. Lucas didn’t make it easy.

When he got old enough to understand the importance of working the farm, his pa had already been teaching Lucas’s oldest sister, Lily, how to run things. Violet, his other sister, paid no mind to working outside and spent her days doing women’s work alongside their ma.

Lucas became bitter, feeling no one paid him the attention he deserved. He wanted to be the one at his pa’s side, working the land, but it seemed there was no place for him. He grew to hate the farm and everything associated with it.

His ma birthed several more babies after him–some of which died–but eventually, he was given two little brothers, Horace and Isaac. Lucas enjoyed having someone younger to boss, and he took advantage of tormenting his brothers whenever he could. He teased them relentlessly, to the point they started to fear him. But, Lucas liked it that way.

He learned how to cuss at a young age and frequently got scolded for it. His family was active at the Baptist church, and his ma oftentimes quoted scripture. She claimed God didn’t like cussing, but Lucas had never heard Him complain, so he couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about.

When the war came between the North and the South, Lucas wanted to fight, but was too young. He believed soldiering would be a perfect fit for his aggressive ways, not to mention, get him off the farm. He was one of the few people in the country upset when the war ended. He’d never gotten his chance to fight.

Regardless, Lucas managed to cause other kinds of trouble. He carried out some despicable things, and hurt those closest to him. You can read his entire story in the three-book saga, starting with “Whispers from the Cove.” https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZYYY5WK

I appreciate the many readers who have asked me to continue this saga. And, truthfully, Lucas himself has been pestering me to tell the rest of his story!

His many inner demons continue to haunt him. His story continues in book four of the Smoky Mountain Secrets Saga, “Rumors of the Renegade.” This book is still being written, and I hope to see it released in early August. So, stay tuned!

If you’d rather listen to “Whispers from the Cove,” it’s also available on audible.

https://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Whispers-from-the-Cove-Audiobook/B07B3GFRYP

Book two, “Hushed into Silence” is currently in production.

I’m thrilled to be able to share my love of Cades Cove with you all! I hope the Larsen family has worked their way into your hearts, just like they have mine.

And please, if there are others in this series who you’d like to hear more about, please tell me!

Happy reading!

 

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway! Island in the Forest

Enter for a chance to win one of ten signed copies of “Island in the Forest!”

This medieval fantasy has been in my heart and mind for thirty years and is finally in print. I grew up loving fairy tales, and I was especially fond of the story of Cinderella. When I saw the musical version starring Leslie Ann Warren as Cinderella, my love grew. It brought the story to life in a way that captured my heart.

In my teens, I read the Arthurian Legend books by Mary Stewart. Her writing drew me in and for years I had a crush on Merlin. She captured him in a way I hadn’t envisioned him before. If you have never read her books, I highly recommend them.

“Island in the Forest” is a love story unlike any you’ve read before. Though it’s set in fantasy realms, I hope when you read it you’ll feel like you’re stepping through the gates of Camelot. However, in my story the gates are locked and no one can leave.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Island in the Forest by Jeanne Hardt

Island in the Forest

by Jeanne Hardt

Giveaway ends May 20, 2018.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

 

Book Signing in Nashville, TN!

More than most anything, I love to meet my readers in person! It’s hard to explain how happy it makes me to know that my books have been enjoyed by someone other than myself, and that the characters seem real to other people, too.

I’m attending a weekend-long convention in Nashville, TN at the Airport Marriott, March 16th-18th. A Weekend with the Authors is a time for authors and avid readers to mingle and share ideas centered around the love of books. Registration for this event is open until March 10th. For more info, check out their site. http://www.aweekendwiththeauthors.com/

If you can’t attend all three days, be sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, March 17th, from 3:00-6:00 pm. Not only is it St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s also the day of the book signing. This part of the event is open to the public and FREE! Come and meet nearly 50 multi-genre romance writers! There will be plenty of books to peruse and purchase, plus some fun giveaways.

Be sure to stop by my table and check out the special rates on my boxed sets. The boxes are quite pretty in their own right. You can also enter to win a mega goody basket that includes the complete 7-book set of the Southern Secrets Saga. No purchase necessary to enter, but you must be present to win!

I hope to see you in Nashville!

 

 

 

Cover Reveal! Island in the Forest!

I promised to reveal the cover for my new medieval fantasy, and here it is! It’s going through the final editing stages, and I hope to see it released next month or early in March.

 

Olivia has lived her entire life behind the walls of Padrida, a kingdom unknown to the rest of the world. As the king and queen’s only heir, she’s destined to rule. She’s given everything she needs, but wants only one thing.

Freedom.

Boredom plagues Prince Sebastian of Basilia. The realms have been at peace for more than a century, and he has little to occupy his time. He journeys to Black Wood—a dense forest with an evil reputation—seeking adventure. What he finds is something else entirely.

Happy New Year!

2018 already?

Where did 2017 go?

I noticed that my last blog post was in May of 2017. Ouch! Of course, I added pages to my website when my new books were released, but those don’t run in my blog.

I get so caught up writing my books, that I lose track of time and forget to post a blog. I’ve always enjoyed blogging, so I’ll do my best to post more of them this year. And please, if you have any particular things you’d like me to blog about, send me a message. I’d love to hear from you!

Currently, I’m delving into a new genre. Light Medieval Fantasy. I love the medieval time period, and as you know, I enjoy writing historical fiction. My new series, “Shrouded Thrones,” is set in medieval times, similar to King Arthur’s era. I say ‘similar’ because my story will not have actual history or real historical settings. The story takes place in fictitious kingdoms, and that is why it will be classified as fantasy.

It’s scary branching out into other genres. I hope those of you who enjoy my historical fiction will give this new series a try. “Island in the Forest,” book one of “Shrouded Thrones,” will be released in late February or March.

                               I love castles!

People often ask me what inspires my stories. This particular story’s inspiration is a tale in itself!

When my son was about five years old, I was tucking him into bed, and he asked for a bedtime story. I usually read to him, but that particular night, he wanted me to ‘tell’ him a story. I think I started recanting “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” He’d heard that one before, so he said, “No. A different story.”

I don’t recall what I attempted to tell him next, but it was something else he’d already heard. He made it very clear that he wanted something new. A story I made up just for him.

Way back then, writing books wasn’t part of my daily routine. His request was a tall order, but from somewhere deep in my mind, “Island in the Forest” came to life. Of course, since I was telling it to a child, I told it as a fairy tale. Simple and to the point. He loved it, and I felt like a pretty decent mom!

Night after night, I’d continue the story. Years later, I wrote it in book form, still a fairy tale. I attempted seeking a publisher at that time and got some very nice ‘passes.’ I didn’t understand the book industry back then, so I tucked the book away and forgot about it.

About 15 years ago, I was doing a lot of musical theater. Both acting and directing. I pulled “Island” from my file cabinet and did a major rewrite. I wrote 12 songs, as well as a complete script, and turned it into a musical. I hired someone to score the music, but something happened along the way, and the score was never finished.

My life took some major changes at that point, and I started writing novels. Once I got my first books published, my mind drifted back to that wonderful story that had already gone through many changes. I decided to do one more. “Island in the Forest” is no longer a fairy tale. It’s a grown-up novel. I’ve been able to dig deeper into the feelings and emotions of my characters and have made them real. Though it’s set in a fictitious world, I hope you’ll find them and their complex story completely believable.

Soon, I’ll be revealing the cover, so stay tuned!

And for those of you who are mourning the end of the Smoky Mountain Secrets Saga, I plan to return to the cove later in 2018. (Yeah!)

I have no doubt this year will be exciting, and I can’t wait to see where it will take us!

Thank you for traveling with me on this fun adventure.

Write On!