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Meet True Horizons

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Meet Heath Carter, hero of True Horizon

Profession: Former Special Operation soldier, currently working as a temporary ranch hand at True Horizon Ranch.

Relationship Status: Single (though his heart is hung up on Grace).

Hobbies:  Working on his Harley Davidson motorcycle, taking care of the Longhorn cattle on the ranch, winning at cards and potato sack races against Grace.

Things he finds unenjoyable: Horseback riding, flashbacks of his time in the service, and seeing Grace with her fiance.

Dreams for his future: Heath has no dreams of the future until he arrives at True Horizon and meets Grace. Through the healing power of nature and falling in love, he starts thinking his future isn’t as dark as he once believed.

Favorite Line: “You’re better than I deserve. The smartest thing I’ve ever done was jump into the river after you.” His arms tightened around her. “You are the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, and I never in a million years thought I had any right to love you.”

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Get to Know True Horizon

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Meet Grace Murray, heroine of True Horizon

Profession: Cyber Security expert, self-employed

Relationship Status: Currently engaged to Tyler Ross, the man she’s crushed on since high school.

Hobbies: Now that Grace is home at True Horizon Ranch to prepare for her wedding, she enjoys horseback riding and play Solo (Uno) card games with her nieces.

Things she finds unenjoyable: Cleaning out the horse barn (don’t lose a bet to Heath) and having to say goodbye to her fiance while he pursues advancing his career.

Dreams for her future: Grace once dreamed of marrying Tyler and living in the city. Since she’s been home on the ranch, she finds the quiet country life calling to her heart. Heath Carter, her dad’s temporary ranch hand, calls to her heart as well.

Favorite Line: “Ever since I’ve moved home, I’ve felt this shift inside me. This place is reshaping me into the person I used to be. And you know what? I like it.”

After All



The Wild Rose Press


Two years after lifesaving surgery left her infertile, Molly Hernandez is running full steam toward her goal of becoming a DEA Special Agent. She won’t be distracted by falling in love with an Army veteran who’s focused on settling down and making babies.

Drew Atwater delayed marriage and family until his Army career ended. Now, he has a one-year plan to find the woman of his dreams. Unfortunately, the only woman he wants is a spirited cop determined to leave their peaceful town.

While working with troubled teens, Molly and Drew discover they make a powerful team, but their opposing goals threaten to pull them miles apart. Can the power of unselfish love prove their future together will surpass any dream they could accomplish alone?

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Morning Coffee Break


Why my characters aren’t ‘saved by love’

Welcome to the first post in my new blog series called “Morning Coffee Break”!

Today, I’d like to talk about a decision that I’ve made to avoid the ‘saved by love’ plot device. I write romance, so love always factors into the character’s emotional growth and healing. But I didn’t want to use the love of another person as a magic wand to wipe away all life’s problems.

In Home Field, Julie is deeply grieving the loss of her husband. When she first meets Reagan, falling in love again is not even a blip on her radar. In the end, she does open her heart to Reagan (what girl could resist?) but not after some time to let herself heal. I felt she needed time alone to come to terms with the loss and then find the strength to let herself fall in love again.

In True Horizon, Heath Carter suffers from severe PTSD. In an effort to be true to the struggle, I did not want to downplay the work that goes into recovering from the effects of war. Heath falls in love and love is his motivation for wanting a better life, but his healing only comes after professional therapy and hard work. In real life, most people with PTSD will still experience symptoms even after therapy. They learn techniques to cope. I wanted Heath’s journey to reflect that reality as well as offer hope.

Through out the rest of the books in the Warriors of the Heart series, I’ve tried to maintain the same model. My characters use love as a motivation to grow, but the real change comes by their own strength of will.


Review- Missing The Crown Jewels





What’s not to love about this book? A Kentucky horse ranch, a troubled vet who’s hopelessly in love with his best friend’s sister, and a woman who isn’t afraid to fight for what (and who) she wants.

I really rooted for Peyton and Storm. After they got together, I wondered how the story would keep its tension. Well, I didn’t need to worry. With the threat on the family and their prize race horse, and the push and pull of attraction between Peyton and Storm, I was hooked until the end. But what I want to know is…who won the Derby???

I thought the dynamics between the main characters was both true to life and mature. They had problems, and then talked about them like adults. Kudos to Valerie Clarizio for building a world I would love to live in.



After a devastating divorce, Peyton Crown is finally surfacing from a dark hole of despair. She finds herself hoping for a new life with Mason ‘Storm’ Starr, her brother’s best friend.

Storm’s intent is simple: hide in the quiet confines of his best friend’s family horse ranch in Kentucky. The perfect place to sort out his life after walking away from the Army, and fight his internal demons. His solitude is interrupted by his buddy’s little sister. The chemistry between them is off the charts, and he willing surrenders the battle.

The Crown family begins receiving threats, just weeks before the Kentucky Derby. The overprotective men in Peyton’s life vow to keep 24/7 tabs on her and the family’s prize horse—Prince Bourbonville—a hopeful for the next Triple Crown. Circumstances arise that threaten to keep Peyton and Prince away from the derby, but Storm and her brother Coach are determined they’ll attend, no matter the sacrifice.



Barnes & Noble:


About the Author:

Valerie Clarizio lives in romantic Door County Wisconsin with her husband and two extremely spoiled cats. She loves to read, write, and spend time at her cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

She’s lived her life surrounded by men, three brothers, a husband, and a male Siamese cat who required his own instruction manual. Keeping up with all the men in her life has turned her into an outdoors enthusiast, of which her favorite activity is hiking in national parks. While out on the trails, she has plenty of time to conjure up irresistible characters and unique storylines for her next romantic suspense or sweet contemporary romance novel.

Author’s Social Media links



Facebook Street Team:







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A New Balancing Act


What do publishingand running have in common-


Why can’t someone create a day between Sunday and Monday? An extra day to get caught up on all the little things that continue to get pushed back onto the to-do list.

Recently, I’ve made writing a priority in my life. Which means that pesky things like cleaning the house and doing laundry often become secondary to finishing my word count for the day.

Now that I have three books contracted for publication, I’m really finding it a struggle to find balance. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into getting a manuscript ready for publication. Then, there’s the marketing and promotion an author needs to do months in advance of the book’s launch. And during this time I have to have faith in the stories I’ve already written, along with all the ones yet to come.

So that extra day…probably not something I’ll see anytime soon. I’ll just have to continue to squeeze in a load of laundry in between editing sessions. And always remember to close my laptop when it’s family time.

What’s your secret to finding a good work/life balance?


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How I Write


There’s no magic formula for writing a full length novel. It just takes time…lots and lots of time. Time to plot, time to research, time to write…review, revise, etc. Each writer has their own method for how they spend that time, getting from a plot bunny to a finished manuscript. I thought I’d share the method that I’ve developed after writing four manuscripts (until I learn something new and change it up).

Every book starts with a plot idea, the beginnings of a story that won’t leave you alone. I spend hours daydreaming about my potential characters before I put anything down on paper. Once my characters become more real, like they could potentially star in their own story, I start writing down details in a notebook. Over time, my notes become more detailed, and I really flesh out who these people are: names, ages, backstory, family, motivations, good characteristics, bad habits, character arch, what’s standing in the way of them reaching their goal.

I plot very loosely. Basically, I break my story into four acts, then figure out the important plot points I want at the end of each section. It’s kind of like riding a wave, up and down, and the waves get higher and more significant as you reach the end. An example would be that half way through the MS (based on word count) I write an emotionally explosive scene, that usually involves kissing! I also start my research when I plot, but most of that comes during the writing phase, since I don’t start out with a detailed plot. I discover what I need to research along the way.

Once I have a loose plot, I start to write. I use daily word count goals and I write every day. When I was working full time, I’d write 1000 words(1.25 hours) on a week day and 2000(2.5 hours) on Saturday and Sunday. Of course, there’s wiggle room for life events. Some days I set a higher goal and others I would lower it. So for a 75,000 word MS, it takes me about two months to write the first draft. The crappy first draft. It is unpolished and full of errors, but I don’t care. I have the solid bones of a story.

Then I let it sit for at least two weeks. I don’t touch it, don’t read it, don’t open the file. It creates some objective distance between myself and my writing. Once I’m ready to work on it again, I print out a paper copy and read the whole thing within two days. I make notes about plot issues or any other issues I see. Next, I start writing my second draft. Up until now, I’ve rewritten my second draft from scratch. My first drafts are that bad. For this next MS, I think I might be in good enough shape that I don’t have to scrap the first draft, but work off it to improve.

After I’m satisfied with my second draft, usually after six weeks of working on it, I send it out to beta readers and critic partners. They have different points of view and can read the MS with objectivity. At this point, it’s a waiting game. This can be black hole of time, but I use it to start another manuscript. Believe it or not, I can write an entire first draft of my next story while I’m waiting for reader feedback.

So, it can be up to two months before I have enough feedback to start revisions again. I read the entire MS once out loud. It’s amazing the small mistakes you find when doing that. I go over it again, and again, and again. Maybe send it out to a few more people for more feedback. This usually takes another month or so, then I finally have a finished manuscript.

If you’re keeping track, you can see that it takes me about 6 months from start to finish. Yes, in that time I write the first draft of another story, but still…that’s a long time. I consider it an investment in a solid book.

That’s the method I found works best for me. If you’re a writer, how do you write?

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Okay, I’m an author…now what?


I’m proud to say that since February 2014, I’ve written three books. Two are complete, the third is currently a work in progress. I have these files stored in my computer, some of my friends and family have read my work, but what am I going to do with them?

For those who are interested, I thought I’d give a short update and let you share my ride.

Book 1: Home Field

I started querying this MS to agents last January. A query is a short email with the story’s main conflict and hook. Some agents want chapters to go along with the query letter, other don’t. Every agent is different, so it is important to research them online before submitting. No agent represents every genre. Since my MS is a contemporary romance, I needed to find agents that were looking for my kind of story.

When they say a writer’s work is never done, they weren’t lying! Just last week I did another read through (for I think the 1,000,000 time) and made plenty of revisions.

Over the past seven months, I’ve submitted to MANY agents and a few publishers that accept unagented manuscripts. So far I have a few interest parties who are considering Home Field, but no offers. For every one of those I have about seven rejections. And so it goes…

Book 2: True Horizon

This MS is the second in a potential series, following Home Field. A few weeks ago, I finally felt comfortable enough to start sending it out into the world. This one is a little tricky, since I still have several open submissions for the other book.  I have sent it to a few publishers and one agent. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I really want to sell both stories together as a series.

Book 3: After All

I’m writing the second draft of this one, a long and tedious process. I’m still working out character motivations and figuring out how to fix plot holes. This story deals with some heavy issues; infertility, cancer, teenage pregnancy, and domestic abuse. There is a lot I need to get right with this one, so I’m having to do plenty of research. After my second draft is done, (hopefully by next week) I will be sending it out to beta readers to get feedback. It’s always fun to hear everything that is wrong with your story, but it only serves to strengthen your work, so I guess that makes it alright!

As you can see, being a writer is more than just about writing. Putting words on paper is only the beginning.

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Writing to Set the Scene

Above is a painting by Monet called The Japanese Footbridge. I saw it, along with several other original Monet’s, during a recent visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Those beautiful Impressionist paintings got me thinking about the similarities between painters and authors. Both creative pursuits are only successful if they can build a convincing scene.

Most stories have one or two main settings, plus several minor ones. The main setting can be a town, the main character’s home, school, or anyplace you can imagine. If you don’t properly introduce the reader to the stories main setting, they are left staring at a blank canvas. The minor scenes are places where your main character moves through; a restaurant, lake, bar, etc. What you do with those places is also important. Every scene in your story should serve a purpose, so treat them accordingly.

Think of the scene your writing as an Impressionist painting. It’s created using broad strokes, yet with attention to detail.

Your writing should invoke all five senses. Is the room brightly lit or dark? How does the kitchen smell? What is the main character hearing? Is the food spicy, sweet, sour? You get my drift. A real person in a real place is bombarded with sensory information. When writing, don’t go through a laundry list, but pick out important elements that you’d like your reader to experience with the character.

Then start weaving them into the story. Tell us how your main characters view the scene. What would catch his or her attention? See it through your character’s eyes, not your own. Don’t be a Renascence painter and describe every intricate detail, i.e.- down to the last feather on the cherub’s wing. That’s a sure way to get your reader to loose interest fast.

Here’s an excerpt of a scene set in a meadow: 

They had discovered Cottonwood Field on a hot day like today. She remembered it like it was yesterday. The field  had sat at the end of a wrong turn taken during a run through a county park. It was covered in tall grass and purple wildflowers. A slow moving creek meandered through the middle, weaving back and forth like a shimmering snake. It smelled of pure nature, organic and bright; a scent she could recall to this day.

She had named it for the large Cottonwood tree that stood guard in the middle of the field. It had been late June and the tree was releasing an abundance of white fluffy Cottonwood seeds, which floated through the air like summer snowflakes. The soft puffs had filled the sky and stuck to her and John’s sweaty skin. They laughed and tried to avoid becoming covered in the cotton. John leaned in close to pull off a seed that stuck to her lower lip, which led to their first kiss.

This scene is experienced through the main character, Julie. The reader is provided with enough detail so they can imagine the setting, but still leaves freedom to fill in the rest with their own imagination.

Next time you enter a new place, pay attention to the sights, sounds, smells, and how they make you feel. Being self aware is good exercise for creative writing.

What are your favorite scenes from a novel? What can you learn from them to use in your own writing?

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Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. Sounds kind of confusing, right? But it’s not until we really start immersing ourselves in a particular subject of interest, that we find out how clueless we’ve been all along.

That was me when it came to becoming a professional writer. I was well aware that I had no idea how one went about getting professionally published, so I spent hours on-line reading articles on the subject. After that research, I was pretty confident that I had it all figured out.

And then I found Twitter…

I was amazed to find a wonderful, supportive, and diverse group of writers and publishing professionals who are very active in the Twitterverse. I have learned so much by following writers and Literary Agents. I’m a true hitchhiker, riding along for free on the knowledge they share. Everyday, I’m learning something new, and its all thanks to ordinary people who take the time to share their insights with the rest of us. My favorite posts are from Lit Agents who take ten anonymous query letters and give a short Twitter critique. I find these posts generally provide many examples of what not to do in a query letter!

But don’t forget the Blog…

Through links on Twitter, I have found several blogs that are super helpful for those trying to break into the published author sphere. By reading some of these little gems, you are getting a free course in creative writing. I can’t even begin to express how much useful information I’ve learned from reading blogs.

So where do I begin…

Twitter is the place to be for those in the writing community. It’s a big spider’s web, so find a few Lit. Agents that you think you may like to work with someday and start following them. It won’t take long to discover a network of wonderful people.

Find a few blogs that interest you and take the time to read them. Here are a few of my favorites:

Those are only a few of many. Do you have a good blog or website that is a go to for new information?

fire roasted tomatoes                       170                roasted jalapeno

This week, I’m sharing a new recipe…Fire Roasted Salsa…enjoy!

  • Olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 8 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 3 jalapenos, sliced (use fresh for salsa with more heat, canned for a milder flavor)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch of oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. dried cumin
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, drizzle 2 tsp. olive oil over the foil. Lay down cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic cloves, and jalapenos. Broil vegetables, setting the pan about 3-4 inches from the heating element, until charred.

Remove charred vegetable and their juice into a food processor. Add lime juice, pinch of oregano, cumin, salt and pepper, and cilantro. Blend and eat!