Welcome! Kick off your shoes, get comfy and join in as we chat about books, romance and the ups and downs of everyday life.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Today's Special - - Lenora Bell


PJ here.  Remember how I mentioned in a recent RWA blog about how you meet the nicest people in the hotel bar at romance conferences? Today, it's my pleasure to introduce to you a lovely woman I met when I stopped to chat with Tessa Dare in the hotel bar at July's RWA National Conference in San Antonio.  She's smart, engaging, an accomplished writer and this year's Golden Heart® Award winner for historical romance. And she has great taste in shoes!  As her official bio says:

Lenora Bell writes fun, sensual Regency-set romance novels that feature strong, sexy heroes who can only be reformed by the most extraordinary heroines.  
           
Past careers include sultry lounge singer, vintage store owner, and, far less romantically, salmon cannery grunt.

Lenora has lived and worked on five continents and currently shares a home in Bolivia with her carpenter husband, cranky twenty-one-year-old cat, and precarious piles of books.


Connect with Lenora online at Facebook, Twitter and her Blog.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can welcome her here as a published author. Today, I've asked her to share with us her writing journey to this point.  Please give a warm welcome to 2014 Golden Heart® Award winning writer, Lenora Bell!  


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What do you dream about in the dark? When your mind roams free from the day’s tether, and you can be anything, do anything?

I dream about my name curving over chiseled abs or flowing satin on the cover of a historical romance novel.

I’ve scribbled romance plots on cocktail napkins and grocery receipts the world over. Australia, France, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Bolivia. The constant in my shifting world is this crazy dream. Someday. Someday my books will be on the shelves in my tiny Alaskan hometown library.

There’s not much to do except read during those long, dark Alaskan winters. I fell in love with Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Luisa May Alcott, Virginia Woolf, Anaïs Nin. But it wasn’t until 2005 that I read my first mainstream romance novel, Eloisa James’ Potent Pleasures. I devoured it in one night and I was hooked. 

I immediately started writing my own historical romance. I pounded out three hundred pages...of complete drivel. Seriously. She was a squeaky-clean missionary’s daughter dragged into the seamy underworld of 1890’s Shanghai by a bad boy opium trader. Unfortunately, the star-crossed lovers didn’t meet until page 60. And there was not even a hint of romance until page 100.

The next year I entered the Avon Fan Lit online writing contest and met Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan and a group of other supportive writers who were passionate about romance. We became friends and critique partners. I’ve followed their supernova careers with so much happiness and pride, celebrating each new success and adoring every book. Have you read Courtney’s latest, The Suffragette Scandal? Talk about the perfect combination of smart and sexy. She blows me away every time.

I left romance writing to pursue a master’s degree and start a new career that took me overseas. But every now and then, Courtney or Tessa would ask me when I was going to start writing romance again. It’s because of their gentle nudges, encouragement, and inspiration that I finally worked up the courage to enter a book in RWA’s Golden Heart contest.

I thought of the title CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY before I started writing. It popped into my mind while I was thumbing through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I thought, hmm…this is kind of like a romance novel plot--a rich, successful, powerful guy who needs an heir to his empire. What if I wrote a novel about a duke who invites a group of ladies to his estate to compete for his title? Sort of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Bachelor. It felt right.
Later, while my husband was cheering on his Green Bay Packers, I started writing romance again. Clay Matthews’ biceps might have had something to do with it. Anyway, that was the start of what became my Golden Heart winning manuscript.

When I found out I was a finalist, I didn’t think I’d be able to go to the conference in Texas because I was working in Bolivia. But then one of my best friends planned her wedding in Alaska the week before the conference. So I could justify the trip because of the wedding. Romance all around! I went to my favorite Brazilian shoe store and found a pair of red sparkly golden heart shoes that turned out to be my good luck charm, and a great conversation starter in the elevators.


I was utterly shocked when my face appeared on the screen at the awards ceremony. I had honestly never considered winning. I thought there were too many talented writers in my category. You can see from the photos that I have that lemur-caught-on-camera look. I was stunned, saucer-eyed, overwhelmed. 



RWA’s Golden Heart contest is an unmatched opportunity for unpublished romance writers. Nothing can guarantee you success in the romance business, but the Golden Heart final helps ensure that your pitch is heard by agents and your manuscript floats to the top of slush piles. It’s a big part of the reason I connected with my amazing agent, Alexandra Machinist with ICM Partners.
Wait, what? I have an agent? I still can’t believe this is my life right now. 
I am one step closer to my dream.
And that’s really all you can do. Open your heart to inspiration. Surround yourself with support and love. Solder words into sentences, and then fuse those sentences into pages.
Put one foot in front of the other.
And keep dreaming.


So, what’s your secret or not-so-secret dream?

Have you ever found the absolute perfect pair of shoes for an occasion and loved them so much it was almost kind of weird?

How much do you adore Courtney Milan and Tessa Dare? I know, right? Other favorite historical authors?



I’ve created a little Bolivian gift basket that I’d love to share with a randomly chosen commenter. It includes a box of yummy organic Bolivian chocolates, a cute fuzzy llama, a colorful woven basket, and a small purse made from Bolivian fabric and leather. (open internationally)

Hugs!
Lenora

76 comments:

  1. Congrats on the award, Lenora. Hope we'll get to read your books soon. I have enjoyed many of Tessa's historicals, Other historical authors I enjoy include Meredith Duran and Gaelen Foley.

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    1. Hi Jane! Thanks for stopping by! I LOVE Meredith Duran! I'm a bit behind on my TBR pile, so I just read Wicked Becomes You. That scene in the Moulin Rouge was so fun. She really brings historical settings to life in a fresh, modern way. I have Fool Me Twice on my Kindle and can't wait to read. Hugs!

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    2. Hi Jane! You can count me among Meredith Duran's fans too. She's a brilliant writer.

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  2. Congratulations on your selection as the Golden Heart Award Winner. I enjoyed your post. If your writing style in your books is similar, they will be winners.
    How fortunate to have been able to travel and live in so many places. Good for Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan keeping in touch with you and prodding you along the way to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). They obviously saw the potential you have. I look forward to seeing your books on store and library shelves. How wonderful it will be for a small town to have a local writer become successful and be able to put her books on their shelves.
    As for favorite historical authors, there are way too many to list, and my bookshelves, and piles, show it. Julie Garwood holds a special place because her medieval romance THE PRIZE was the first romance I read and it is what got me hooked on romances.
    Best of luck with your writing. I am sure we will see a book by you on our store shelves soon.

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    1. Hi librarypat! Love your name :-) Thank you so much for your kind words. It really means a lot to me. Julie Garwood is magical, but I haven't read THE PRIZE. Thanks for the recommendation! - L

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    2. Julie Garwood is one of my favorites too. As many of you already know, Garwood's Saving Grace is my all-time favorite comfort read. I adore her historicals!

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  3. It is my dream to one day go to Ireland and take my mom with me :).
    And yes I LOVE both authors other favorites would be Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Alexandra Hawkins, Elizabeth Hoyt and so many more.
    As for shoes.... YES lol my sister thinks I'm crazy because I buy shoes and refuse to wear them out of fear they will get ruined and on the rare chance I do wear them I'm extra careful and the second I get home I wipe them down and put them away... Sooo for the question do I have a crazy shoe love the answer is yes

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    1. Hi Savannah! Wow, you are a crazy shoe girl just like me :-) I have some extra special shoes like that wrapped in their original tissue in my closet that I rarely wear. I bet you could find some good leather boots in Ireland. That would be such a beautiful trip. Here's hoping you and your mom can take that trip very soon!

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    2. Ireland is one of my dreams too, Savannah, along with Scotland. I descend from both countries and would love to explore them. One day...I hope! :)

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  4. My big dream was to always own my own home. I worked hard & made it happen. It's cute & it's all mine. LOVING the heart shoes.

    I think I can safely say that I have all historical authors on my favourites list & the list keeps growing.

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    1. Congrats on the cute house, Mary! So glad you like historical romance. Some people say historical is going through a lull right now...but I say there are still tons of readers who love to escape into another time and place. I know I do! Hugs!

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    2. Congratulations on achieving your dream, Mary! That's wonderful!

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  5. This was so much fun to read. I can say "I knew you when," too! FanLit really prodded a lot of people along the writing path.

    Now, if you could find me some flats like that, I'd wear them next year in New York. :) Can't wait to see your name over a waxed chest!

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    2. Maggie! I know, Fan Lit was such a fun, supportive community. I'm so happy for all your successes. And can't wait for August 19 to read THE RELUCTANT GOVERNESS. I preordered mine!

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    3. Hi Maggie!

      Readers, be sure to stop by next week (Tuesday, August 19th) when Maggie will be our special guest!

      Lenora, I just finished reading THE RELUCTANT GOVERNESS and you're in for a treat. I am loving Maggie's Ladies Unlaced series so much!

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    4. Yay! So glad to hear it! Looking forward to next Tuesday! XO

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  6. Hi Lenora!
    Lovely post! So great to see you here at The Dish. You and many others already know of my deep love and adoration for both Tessa and Courtney so I'll spare y'all my gushing and fangirling.

    My dream? To also find a fabulous agent who is the perfect match for me and see my name on a book cover too!
    I also must echo PJ's sentiments. I was so happy and grateful to have met you last month at RWA! Celebrating your win Sat. night with you was a top favorite memory/highlight. You really are a sweet and lovely person and I can't wait to see your career take off! *hugs*
    P.S. I know I owe you an email. Next couple of days-promise!

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    1. Lisa! Meeting you was one of the highlights of the conference for sure! So glad to have a new writing friend and can't WAIT for your email :-) xoxo - L

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    2. Hi Lisa! I hope those dreams come true for you. You deserve them!

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  7. Hi, Lenora! Congratulations on your success as a writer. I enjoyed your post today. Tessa Dare is a great author, isn't she?
    My dream is to....well, long ago, my sister and I thought about buying a children's bookstore. We also thought about opening a tea room. Just let me warn you, do not, do NOT take my sister to an auction. We were bidding on a round, white table with six ice cream parlor chairs. We got the set for $125; good price. ONLY, she held up two fingers, why, I don't know, and we ended up with two tables and 12 chairs for $250.
    Anywhooo, I'm really not sure what my dream would be....I am a teacher and look forward to the day I can "retire".
    What a lovely prize you're offering today; so sweet and generous!

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    1. Oh, I also used to obsess about shoes. My favorite pair was burgundy flats made of very soft, brushed leather. LOVED those shoes and literally wore them til the last thread was bared, I did buy a pair of black, soft leather high heels 25 years ago to wear in a friend's wedding. I kid you not, they are still in spectacular condition (after all, I paid $80 for them in 1989, a lot of money then) and I wear them still.

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    2. Hi Deb! Hilarious. I'll be sure and stay away from auctions with your sister :-) But you know, sometimes those funny moments make the best family stories and you can tease her about that forever. My sister and I dream about writing a book together some day. When we were little we would draw birthday cards for people and we had a company name and we drew a little trademark symbol and everything. I love the bond that sisters have. So special.

      The gift basket is just a few Bolivian things I picked up at the market near my work. I might even throw in a little surprise as well. The best things to buy in Bolivia are the chocolates, alpaca wool, and custom-made leather jackets for only $45 dollars.

      Cheers!

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    3. Custom-made leather jackets for $45? I think I need to visit Bolivia!

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    4. Love that auction story, Deb! Btw, whatever happened to those ice cream parlor tables and chairs? ;-)

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  8. Hi Lenora,

    You live in Bolivia!! How long have you lived there? How do you like it there?

    Congrats on your award! Best wishes to you as you publish your first book.

    Go Packers! Your husband picked a fantastic team. I grew up 35 miles from Green Bay. I will always be a fan.

    My dream was to get a job, own a home, get married and have children. Luckily that has all fallen into place.

    Shoes- I wear tennis shoes most of the time. I'm very active. I love to be outside walking, biking, swimming and reading.

    Historical authors- I've only just finished a book of Ms Milan's, Unclaimed. I do like Tesa Dare's books. Other recommendations: Karen Hawkins, Madeline Hunter, Jillian Hunter, Alexandra Hawkins, Victoria Alexander, Susan Wiggs, Claudia Dain, Theresa Romain, Shana Galen, Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, Julianne MacLean, Cathy Maxwell, Kat Martin, Catherine Coulter, Lorraine Heath, Julie Garwood, and Sabrina Jeffries.

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    1. Hi Laurie, GO PACK! I never even watched football until I started dating my husband. Alaska doesn't have a football team. But now I'm a fan and I wear my Packers hoodie, and leggins, and hat and get all excited about the games. I really do think Clay Matthews has a lot to do with it :-) Love that man.

      What a beautiful dream and I'm so happy it all came true for you.

      That is an fantastic list you put together! I've never read any Claudia Dain. I'll have to check her out! Thanks so much for commenting and have a super weekend!

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    2. Oops just realized I didn't answer your questions, Laurie. I've lived in Bolivia for 1.5 years. The altitude is difficult -- we live at 12,000 feet, but the people are so lovely, the views are stunning, and Bolivia is a beautiful country to explore. We've also been able to travel to Machu Picchu in Peru which was absolutely magical. Hugs!

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    3. Hi Laurie! Those are wonderful dreams and I'm so happy for you that they've all come true.

      I share your love of tennis shoes. In my younger years, my closet was filled with gorgeous high heels that I wore to work every day. Which, according to my orthopaedist, is why tennies are my fashion statement today. ;-)

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  9. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. I love these stories even better than Call Stories--they're just so inspirational and I guess because they're the next step for me to attaining my dream. And those are some lucky shoes!! Huzzah! Not so secret dream--basically yours. *LOL* Finish a book that's actually good. Get it noticed. Get an agent. Get an editor. Get published. Marvel that this is my life. Favorite shoes? Flip flops. I do have some stiletto types that are cute and what I consider "lucky" which is weird since I'm always about to fall when I try to walk in them...and falling doesn't seem lucky. I should stick with flip flops. Those are writer shoes. Love Tessa Dare's books; and I attended Courtney's presentation at RWA this year and it was really good.

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    1. Ooh love your avatar, MsHellion! You seem like someone I wish I had met in the bar at the RWA conference. I'm here to tell you that writing dreams do come true. So put on those lucky flip flops, put your butt in a chair, and WRITE! Like the fate of the universe depends on it! *hugs!*

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    2. Hellie, as someone who has been enjoying your writing since the (pre-FanLit) Eloisa James bulletin board days, I have just one thing to say. Listen to Lenora!

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  10. Hi Lenora!

    Thanks for visiting with us today! I was so excited for you when you won the GH. Lisa and I were screaming our approval in the audience. Keeping my fingers crossed that you will soon join the others from Fanlit who are now published authors. I want to read your book! :)

    The reason I'm late to the party today is because I was indulging my love of historical romance by staying up until 2:30am reading an ARC of Anna Campbell's August 26th release, What a Duke Dares. I'll be diving back into the book shortly. It's one of those stories that refuses to let go!

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    1. OMG, PJ -- that's the best reason for being late, EVER! I'm super jealous! I love Anna Campbell's books and eagerly await each new release.

      Thanks so much for hosting me. It was a highlight of my conference to meet you and Lisa. Your homemade truffles are divine! Thanks for keeping your fingers crossed. I would be so thrilled and honored to join the ranks of pubbed FanLit alumni.

      OK, get back to your book!

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  11. Favorite historical authors: Hmmm. Margaret Mitchell and Beverly Jenkins. I'm not terribly big on shoes; I just want them to be comfortable. They weren't last year at the GH ceremony--this year they were. Great post--glad to find out about you!

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    1. Hi Piper! Thanks for stopping by. I read Gone With the Wind when I was about 14, I think. I do love a good sweeping saga.Thanks for recommending Beverly Jenkins! I just went to her website and her books look amazing. Even more to add to my TBR!

      It was so lovely to meet you at the RWA conference and can't wait to read The Preacher's Promise!

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    2. Hi Piper! Thanks for stopping by! Congratulations on being a two-time Golden Heart finalist and on the recent publication of your first full-length novel, The Preacher's Promise. It's getting wonderful reviews!

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  12. Congrats on your win. I enjoy Tessa as well as many other historical authors. Eloisa James, Sabrina Jeffries, Elizabeth Boyle, Julia Quinn, this list could go on and on

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    1. Hi Regency Girl! I guess you like Regencies :-) So glad you stopped by and yes, yes yes to your entire list! Especially Eloisa. I'm reading A DUKE OF HER OWN right now and it's just delightful.

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    2. Thanks for stopping by, regencygirl! You know how much I love Eloisa James...and the others on your list too!

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    3. Lenora, have you read THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X yet? I think it's the best book Eloisa James has written...and that's saying something!

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    4. PJ - I'm ashamed to say I have not read Lady X yet. How can that be? I just have such a huge TBR pile, especially after RWA where I was downloading books from all the authors I met. OK, I'll finish A DUKE OF HER OWN and then dive right in to THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X. Thanks, again, for letting me guest blog. It was a blast!

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  13. Congratulations on your win. That's great! I have been reading Courtney Milan and Tessa Dare since their first books and love them. They were also both lovely to meet in person. With young kids I haven't had as much time for reading as I would like lately, but school is starting soon so hopefully I can squeeze in some more books!

    I went on your website and read the excerpt to your book. Not that I wouldn't love to win the gift basket, but I'll make you a deal. Keep the chocolate, send me the book. ;)

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    1. Welcome, Crystal! Awww...you make me smile. How about chocolate AND the book! Actually, if I get a book deal, I'm thinking of having custom chocolate wrappers with the book cover on them made in Bolivia.

      I don't have kids yet but I know from helping out with my friends' kids that reading can fall by the wayside. Hopefully when the little ones are in school you can steal some romance time. *hugs*

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    2. LOL @ Crystal! Doesn't reading that excerpt make you want to go shake a few publishers and say, "BUY THIS BOOK!" I'd happily forego the chocolate for Lenora's story too. :)

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  14. Lenora,
    I love hearing more about you in different blog posts. :-) I wish we had more opportunities to hang out in San Antonio, but hopefully you'll make the trek next year to NYC. I'm sure you'll have much more to celebrate then--and maybe you'll find another pair of shoes to lead the charge. :-)
    Love the idea of your book, and I can't wait to get my hands on it.
    Good luck!

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    1. Yay! So awesome to see the Dream Weavers here. I know I really wish we could have had more time to hang out as a group in San Antonio. Glad you're thinking about NY already. I'm going to try my best to get there! Congrats on your four (FOUR!) Golden Heart nominations!

      Big hugs! - L

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    2. Hi Kimberly! Thanks for stopping by. I'll echo Lenora's congratulations. Four Golden Heart nods is pretty freakin' awesome!

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  15. Lenora,
    I cannot wait to read your book. From the first time I learned about the premise I was hooked. Congrats again for your win! Great interview and post!

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    1. Hi Denny! Thanks for stopping by! Have I told you how much I love the title of your Golden Heart winning book? CHASING DAMN is just so evocative. Can't wait to read!

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    2. Hi Denny! Loved your acceptance speech in San Antonio. Congratulations on your win!

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  16. Congratulations and best wishes. Reading is my passion and walking in running shoes. Your award was well deserved. What a delightful and great post. Wishing you much happiness and success.

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    1. Hi there, traveler. Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed. I'm so grateful to PJ for having me on the blog. Wishing you lots of happiness and success as well!

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  17. What an impressive and lovely post today. Your book would be an experience and an escape. Historicals provide me with a dream. Travel, and beaches. Congratulations and celebrate this special time.

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    1. Hi, petite! Travel and beaches, and reading romance on beaches...totally my dream, too! Unfortunately there are no beaches in Bolivia :-( Thanks for the congrats! Totally celebrating...in between revisions and starting a new project. Cheers!

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  18. Big congratulations. I love historicals and have many authors that I love - the one that I just found last year that I really enjoy is Grace Burrowes but I have a very long list of favorites. I always had a hard foot to fit (very skinny) so I detest shoe shopping because I can never get what I want but just what fits (sigh).

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    1. Catslady, love your name! I'm a catslady, too. I have a twenty-one-year old cat. She loves Bolivia because it's dry and good for her arthritis. We make her wood fires every night and she lolls about and soaks in the heat. I haven't read any Grace Burrowes. Off to research her!

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  19. I'm a fan of historicals and look forward to reading your book. What a great story of how you got to the Golden Heart Awards! Congratulations.

    I have a pair of heavy duty Lands End slippers I bought for traveling because the floors are always so cold when I visit family up North. I am wearing them as I type because I have found they are the best work from home footwear. :)

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    1. Hi LauraL! Those slippers with thick soles sound super comfy and practical. I do like Lands End for towels and bedding but I've never bought any of their shoes. I'll have to check it out. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  20. Love the shoes, Lenora...and your choice in historical romance authors, because yes, Courtney Milan and Tessa Dare are among my favorites. I look forward to being able to read your book, as well. Thanks for such a nice post. Congratulations on the Golden Heart.

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    1. Thanks, LSUReader! Glad to hear you like Courtney and Tessa. I'm still grinning about the Golden Heart. What a thrill. Take care!

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  21. So I just realized we missed our chance to sing karaoke together at RWA! Drats. I enjoyed getting to meet you anyway, and I'm rejoicing over all your good news. It's the shoes, isn't it? We all need to go shopping in Bolivia to make our dreams come true. Mine is to be able to support my family with my writing. My hubs supports us now, but I'd love to be able to give him a choice about where and when and how to work... and we've got two teenagers with college on the horizon. Not a sexy dream, but who knows where that free time for my honey could lead? ;)

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    1. Amy! I know, what happened to our karaoke? I saw that you were a lead singer in a house band in Tennessee. I was looking forward to some blues! Another conference for sure. I've seen photos of your beautiful family. Your sons are so adorable! I think your dream is very sexy ;-)

      Congrats on the release of CHANNEL 20 SOMETHING!

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  22. Oh my!! Congrats on your win. And to live in Boliva, I would love to hear more!!

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    1. Hi girlygirl! OK, you got it! I'll write about Bolivia really soon on my blog and post lots of pics. Thanks for stopping by!

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  23. Lenora,

    What a wonderful success story! Congratulations on your win and on an awesome pair of shoes.

    Julie Mulhern

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    1. Another Dream Weaver! Hooray! Thanks for reading, Julie. Appreciate all the support.

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  24. So great to learn more about your writing journey. I've mentioned your shoes elsewhere, because I am hopelessly in love with them. This often happens between shoes and I. :-)

    My shoe obsession is so weird that I actually remember occasions by what shoes I wore to them. A few years ago, I messed up my ankle and now have to be very selective in what type of shoes I wear. So now I buy way less shoes per year, because there are only so many I can walk in, but the consolation prize is that I buy more expensive ones. Also, boots work well with my overextended ankle, so my winter footwear collection has grown tremendously. :-)

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  25. Hi Asa! You're a girl after my own heart! Sorry to hear about your ankle injury :( Fewer and more expensive is probably better in the long run though. That's a lesson I haven't learned yet. Thanks for commenting. So nice to see the Dream Weavers here!

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  26. Thanks for visiting with us today, Lenora. We wish you all the best as you continue your writing journey!

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    1. PJ, thanks so much for having me! You are so sweet to give an unpubbed author the chance to guest on your blog. Thank you!

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  27. I am quite late but wanted to say congratulations once again, Lenora! You gave a fabulous speech in San Antonio. I too was in that Avon FanLit fun. Once again, Romance is such a small world. I have found some awesome shoes over the years, but the cutest ones always seem to be the most painful.

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    1. Terri, you did FanLit? So awesome! We'll have to talk more about that. Thanks for the congrats! Buy the shoes big and put cushiony inserts in. That's my philosophy :) xoxo - L

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  28. Wow, LOVE this story, Lenora!! I am so happy for you. I am blessed to have a good friend with the same foot size who is addicted to beautiful shoes. She passes hers on to me when she has to make more closet room. So I have a shoe for every occasion, whether I bought it myself or not! Although I did buy the strappy sandals I ended up wearing to the GH gala, I seriously considered the hand-me-down-but-in-perfect-condition red stilettos in my closet right now.

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