Thursday, August 28, 2014

They Get Me! Why my Writer Friends are Important

Dorothy Parker had the Algonquin Roundtable. The fictional character Richard Castle has his famous poker buddies. Just like those two iconic literary figures I have a close circle of writer friends that I consider my pals and confidants. Occasionally if our schedules allow we even get to hang out together in person. A few of them have been with me since the infancy of my career. They’ve known me since long before I became a published author. They’ve been with me through my thin and thick waistline, have weathered countless rejections and celebrated my first and subsequent sales. They know my family and I consider them my extended family. We are roommates at conferences and co-presenters at workshops. These same women also give me the kick in the pants I need when a writing slump hits or when I received that one particularly painful rejection and dramatically sob how I can’t go on. They are my cheerleaders.

And don’t we all need a cheerleader every now and again?

Writing is one of the most solitary careers out there. Days can go by when I swear I don’t speak to anyone other than my characters. It’s wonderful to know that when I turn on my laptop and head out to the internet that through any social media outlet I can connect with another writer. But nothing beats seeing them in person. Some of my friends I only get to see once or twice a year while attending conferences and writing retreats.  A handful of others I’m lucky enough to enjoy a cup of tea or a three hour lunch with.

Though I don’t have a name as auspicious as the Algonquin Roundtable for my circle of writing friends, I still depend on them to keep me sane. But more importantly I appreciate and love them for sticking with me all these years and I look forward to many more years of friendship and support. I want each and every one of them to know how much I cherish them. Oh and maybe I’ll start calling them Tracey’s Team! Just kidding…

An Amazon Top Ten bestselling historical romance author, Tracey sold her first book on 9/9/99! Tracey’s books have been translated into several languages. She has appeared on the award winning Cox Cable Television show, Page One and at the famous Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC. She holds membership in Romance Writers of America, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Novelists Inc. Tracey also writes women’s fiction contemporary romance.  You can learn more about Tracey and her books by visiting her websites at or

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Beautiful Things from Scraps

Log Cabin Variation Baby's Quilt
Writing is one of those creative endeavors that requires material from many different sources. We don’t just sit down and write with no experience from which we draw our stories. From people watching to research, we build information we have gathered into a whole story.

When I’m at a loss and my creative muses have bowed out for whatever reason, I’m inclined to turn to other creative efforts. Gardening is top of my list when the weather is warm, sunny and dry. Since I no longer have a garden, I dig around in pots and tubs on my balcony. This past weekend, that is how I spent the better part of Saturday morning, instead of working on my novel in progress, This Can't Be Love.

Welsh Pennsylvania Square from Scraps 
While potting around, I had time to think and breathe in the good earthy smells and let my thoughts wander freely. In the process, an idea bloomed for my monthly contribution to Classic and Cozy. I admire my fellow bloggers here who contribute and always come up with something worth reading and drawing others attention to.

I sometimes think of gardening and other forms of distraction as part of my attention deficit or displacement activities. Yet, they have a creative purpose all their own. When the mood strikes me or I have a good reason, one of my favorite activities is making quilts. This was a favorite pastime of my mother as well. In fact, sewing of any kind is a passion we both shared.

Attic Window from Found Fabric
I wasn’t always interested in quilts. My first love was dressmaking, but I went to an exhibition of Welsh quilts in Llanidloes, about ten years ago, put together by Jen Jones, another American living in Wales. A few years before, I had been to the American quilt exhibit at the American Museum in Bath, England.

Having a close friend, Sue Mordan, who is a talented quilt-maker, also encouraged my interest and I began with small projects such as wall hangings, pillow covers and table runners. I was also intrigued by the influence of Welsh quilting tradition on the Amish in Pennsylvania. Though the Amish quilts have gained international acclaim, their simple solid color quilt designs are based on traditional Welsh, multi-colored design patterns, as the book Making Welsh Quilts, explains.

Every quilt requires imagination, planning, design, choices. The process frees my head for other things. A form of daydreaming, the same sort of freedom that allows all thinkers to come up with theories and stories that may change the world.  For me, it seems a good exercise to prepare for writing a novel.
Making Design Decisions
© 2014 Leigh Verrill-Rhys
All photographs (except Making Welsh Quilts bookcover) © 2014 Leigh Verrill-Rhys

Monday, August 25, 2014

Milestones in Our Cycle of Life

By Fran McNabb

With the school year beginning, I started thinking about all the milestones we go through in our lives. As parents we celebrate, we worry over, and we look forward to those events that our children and we go through.

The beginning of school is one of those events. When our babies walk into a classroom for the first time, they begin a new cycle in their young lives. They might still be babies in our eyes, but they have taken on another role. They are little people eager to learn about and to experience what life has to offer. Their minds are like tiny sponges ready to soak up new information—and what new information there is now out there!

When my generation started the first grade, some of us had never been to kindergarten. We went in with blank minds waiting to be taught the things that today most of our children already know. Educational TV programs for little ones, involved parents, and daycare programs teach our babies things that many of us didn’t know until we started first grade.

My grandson just entered preK for 4-year olds. Like a lot of children, he learned to maneuver through apps on the iphone and ipad when I was still trying to figure out how to turn those devices on. It is amazing the things that little boy already knows, and it’s even more amazing to know what he will learn in the years ahead of him in school.

Life is made up of many milestones: entering and then graduating from school, going to college, finding the perfect partner for life and then getting married. That little boy will one day find his own perfect partner and together they will start their own cycle. They will have their own babies and will celebrate their own events in life.

I hope my husband and I are around long enough to see this little fellow through many of the special events in his lifetime. From one generation to the next, the cycle of life goes on. The older generation might have already gone through most of their milestones, but how rewarding it is to watch our children and their children go through theirs.

Fran McNabb lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband. Her two sons and two grandsons live elsewhere, but getting together with family is important to her. Several of her books include children and their role in the family. Visit her website at

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Intentional Omissions

Some people ask me why I don’t put recipes in my books. They point out that I often mention food, and cooking, especially in my current work in progress, and they also say that many successful mystery series have featured recipes.

All true.

Here is my response.

A.      I rarely cook. I can make some food my children liked when they were small, a Friday night chicken dinner, great brisket, and little else.  My husband does most of the cooking, which is why we don’t starve or eat cereal for dinner (which I do when he isn’t home.)

B.      I don’t like to cook. Pots require watching, stirring, tasting, all of which slips my mind, which inevitably wanders elsewhere.

C.      None of my recipes are my own, meaning that I would be publishing something that wasn’t rightfully mine. My husband makes up recipes all the time, but never writes them down. Whenever I try to do that, it requires take-out food.

As much as I don’t like to cook, I do like to bake, and I am pretty good at it. I can look at a recipe and tell whether it is worth the effort, or whether I should leave the cookbook page undirtied by splatters and crumbs.  Most of the time I am right and there are few pages in any of my cookbooks that advise me to not try that at home.

I mostly make cakes and challah, some pies, some cheesecakes, and sometimes a gallette or a clafoutie. I also used to decorate cakes for birthdays and other occasions.
I’ve done cakes of people’s faces, gym bags, tie-dyed tee shirts, a miniature golf course, a computer, and a basket of flowers for my mother that the restaurant did not realize was a birthday cake. I also did a wedding cake once, keeping it simple with fresh flower decorations. Luckily, I had time to wipe away the condensation in the humid venue before the bride saw it.

When I have a book signing, I do it at home, completely covering my dining room table with home baked goods, fruit, and cheeses. I serve wine and I honestly think I care more about people eating than buying  books.

What I like about baking is the simplicity (okay, not always) of making a recipe, measuring ingredients, mixing them as directed, and putting them into the required baking pan and then into the oven. I can set the time and do whatever I want until it goes off.

However, as with cooking, and maybe even more so, I cannot share my recipes with readers. They were not handed down to me through the generations, they come from cookbooks, magazines, and from the internet. They all belong to someone else. Sure I might tweak a recipe slightly to enhance the flavor, but I don’t do it much. I get rave reviews when I bake for other people, and I do share recipes, but I don’t take credit for them.

So I don’t put recipes in books. What I do put in is a slice of me, a pinch of my family, a dollop of my husband, a scintilla of reality, all completely my own. And that is what I’m willing to publish.

Friday, August 22, 2014

New Release Friday

Welcome to a new feature to our Classic and Cozy blog.  On the 4th Friday of every month our contributing authors will announce any new releases.  Of course, at any time you can refer to the New Release section in the right column, but here we can add pictures and text.  So here we go...

Jayne Ormerod is thrilled to announce the release of BLOND FAITH, a Blonds at the Beach Mystery, available both in e-reader and trade paperback format.  This is the sequel to her best-selling cozy mystery, THE BLOND LEADING THE BLOND

Here’s the blurb:

Ellery and Sam are back on the Braddocks Beach beat!

With 31,536,000 seconds in a year, what are the odds that the one minute Ellery Tinsdale and Samantha “Sam” Greene choose to break into the confidential files at the church would be the same minute Reverend John Thomas Hammersmith is brutally murdered while eating lunch at his desk?  But that’s the kind of bad luck Ellery experiences since moving to the small lakeside resort founded by her distant relatives.  Her and Sam’s close proximity to the tragic event makes them not only witnesses but suspects, too.  And when not one, but two, more residents are found dead, Ellery and Sam are the unlucky ones to discover those bodies as well.  Police Chief Lewis thinks it is more than a coincidence.  With limited sleuthing experiencing, Ellery and Sam rely on Blond Faith in order to track down the killers and clear their name.

Here's the links to buy the book:

Here's the link to learn more about Jayne. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I'll Show You My Workspace ...

... if you show me yours!
by Sierra Donovan

For this month's post, I thought I'd offer a peek at what keeps me inspired when I'm working in my home office. (The photo leaves out most of my cluttered desk, because to look upon that is to go mad.)

But here's the view from my chair. You probably noticed one peculiarity right away: a lot of Christmas decor. This isn't just because I hate to put it away (although that's certainly true). It also helps keep my mindset in the Christmas spirit, because I've been hard at work on my second holiday romance this year.

The other obvious theme is coffee. Like many writers, caffeine helps fuel my inspiration. In fact, a large portion of the current work in progress has been composed at my "other" office: my friendly neighborhood Starbucks.

But the center is where my heart really lies. The display on the fabric bulletin board shifts from time to time, but it's always a hodgepodge of personal mementos. An anniversary card from my husband. A photo of me with my sister and her friend on Coronado Island near San Diego, a photo booth strip with pictures of my husband and son, and a picture of me with my daughter. A book mark sent by a dear critique partner to remind me -- in the words of Winston Churchill -- to "Never, never, never quit."

And, up above, a plaque from my husband, reminding me where all my stories lead: "And they lived happily ever after."

For a closer look, just click on the picture!

What's in your workspace?

My Birthday Wish...To You

by Gina Ardito

Today's my birthday. How convenient that it's also my day to blog here at Classic And Cozy. Never mind how old I am. Let's just say, I passed the half-century mark a few years ago and leave it at that. With all those birthdays behind me, I have no need for additional gifts. Instead, I'd like to give all of you my birthday wish. I wish for you:

Books you can't put down.

Time to read them.

A cozy spot.



Good health. 

Magic moments.

People to share it all with.

Know joy. Embrace love. Give to others. Never stop learning. These are the keys to a life well-lived.

P.S.: To begin this wish, I've put my most recent release, REUNION IN OCTOBER, on free download from Amazon for Kindle this week. Beginning today through August 24. You can download your copy here.