Monday, September 29, 2014

Daydreaming

When I was in college in Boston in the late sixties back in the day of single sex institutions, I had a boyfriend who went to an all male school about an hour away by public transportation from my all female college.  He didn’t have a car and would take the T to pick me up for our Saturday night dates.  He always had a book with him.  I look back remembering how I was puzzled by his need to have something to read during the ride.  Even though I was always an avid reader, reading a book on this long stretch of free time seemed such a waste of good daydreaming space. 

Granted, he was a more ambitious and conscientious student than I was and I was still in my party-girl mode. My academic ambition did not kick in for another 6 or 7 years. But even so,  he wasn’t reading assigned books.  He was reading from a list of great books that one of his professors gave him for his own personal development.  I actually got that list and started reading those books too.  But that was later.  In those days, during college, I was still riding the train daydreaming—something I only do now when I can’t read or look at my phone and check my messages or Facebook or if I wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep. 

As I said, my academic persona did not kick in until law school and my writing identity was even later—when I was 32 and pregnant with my first child.  But in hindsight, that ability to daydream, to occupy myself for hours at a time thinking of stories and plot scenarios, was probably the beginning of my becoming a writer. 

My daydream scenarios always started with a heroine, a thinner, prettier and less self-conscious version of me.  They would take place some time in the future when school was done and I was on my own.  There usually was an apartment—often an artist’s garret or studio in New York City.  Of course there was also a hero and some sort of what I know now is a “meet cute” beginning.

But these daydreams also had extensive dialogue.  I was bashful then and had trouble talking to people until I knew them well.  In my daydreams my heroine was always having great conversations and they weren’t just to the hero.  She was confident and articulate and would talk to everybody including any impressive or intimidating person that I knew or wanted to know.


I have wondered over the years particularly as I’ve met other writers and discovered how much we have in common whether some of them were also daydreamers and if their daydreams were also previews for the books they would eventually write.


Deborah Nolan author of Suddenly Lily and Conflict of Interest published by Montlake Press and Second Act for Carrie Armstrong published by Desert Breeze Publishing.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Still Not Nesting

When I sold my first book to Avalon, I learned that the print run would be about 2,000 copies. Of course I was thrilled anyway, and the thought of having several thousand people read my book made me giddy. The print runs on the other four Avalon books were similar, and since I chose to put the last Wally Morris mystery out myself, with the help of CreateSpace, it was probably less.

But the amazing thing is that I once had an audience of over a million readers. A long time ago I had read an op-ed column by Anna Quindlen, a person whose opinions I respected, and I strongly disagreed with her. You can read my letter to the editor, thanks to the magic of the internet. Believe me, though, if I couldn’t have found it that way, I have copies of the newspaper from that day tucked safely away.

LIVING DESK

Nesting

Published: February 10, 1988

To The Living Section:

Anna Quindlen's column on the nesting instinct [ Life in the 30's, Jan. 27 ] reminds us that the grass is still greener on the other side.

Nesting is not all what a person who doesn't have a job does all day. Those of us who don't have jobs do not all spend the entire time our children are in school having lunch with our friends or furniture shopping and picking out wallpaper. We have the luxury of having time to do these things occasionally (and without the children, which is the only sane way), but we also feel strong responsibilities to various activities, which we probably wouldn't have time for if we were working.

We make sure our children get to their different after-school activities. We also work on committees handling such trivialities as improving our children's education and starting recycling programs in our towns. Some of us even have to find sitters to take our infants so we can have the time to do such things as performing in a puppet show that seeks to sensitize third graders to the handicapped. We don't expect help from working mothers for these things, although some of them occasionally ask us to chauffeur their children around since they think we have nothing better to do.

One thing that I have noticed is different: we don't have to send a sick child to school. That's usually the day we do a lot of nesting, because it stops our whirlwind of activities and there's not much else we can do. One or two days spent at home nesting, particularly with a cranky child, is plenty for most of us, and more than satisfies that need for months. JOANI ASCHER South Orange, N.J.

Looking at that letter all these years later. I hope I did not hurt anyone’s feelings. It is hard to get everything done, I’m sure, especially if a person has a full-time job. And now, from the standpoint of a writer trying to get book after book finished and published while people think that just because I only work part time the rest of my time is available for whatever, I find myself just giving in, putting off my work, so that I can do those jobs that full-time workers don’t have time to do. My children are grown and gone, and the only person home with me, during the days when I’m not working at my outside job, has four legs and a tail. But she needs time too, so that she can develop into a good Seeing Eye® guide dog.


And I can always hope that someday I’ll have a circulation closer to the one I had for my letter to the editor over twenty years ago before I started writing professionally.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Can We Trust Historians?

One of my recent works in progress is an historical romance set in New England during a turbulent period of American history. 


In order to write any historical fiction, some semblance of having done one's research is critical. Last month, one of my colleagues had been asked to review a novel set in a period of history in which she is a known scholar. Her estimation of the novel was low because the historical facts were at variance with her knowledge. The author included actual historical figures who had not yet been born, wrote about events that had happened decades earlier than the era current with his story. 

These, if aware of the period in question, can halt a reader in their tracks and send the book hurling across the room. But how precise do fiction writers need to be to give the impression of verisimilitude? 

Another of my colleagues has studied the history of clothing and medicine. Fortunately, I haven't made serious mistakes in my historical novels set in Wales in the 9th and 10th centuries for her to rush at me screaming but I was dismayed that so much of what we assume to be authentic is, at best, a misunderstanding and, at worst, downright dishonest.


While undertaking research for my American historical, I've learned that the saying "History is written by the victors" is disturbingly true. History cannot be accepted without question. All history is subjective, in the hands of the person or persons doing the recording, for whatever their reasons for presenting 'facts' or presiding over the elimination of other, inconvenient, 'facts.'

The same colleague who screams when she finds errors in fashion or medical treatment, declared that there was only one 'right' side of any conflict involving mankind: the side perceived by historians to be morally correct. However, there is another saying worth remembering: "The first casualty of war is Truth."

I had the honor of editing two volumes of women's autobiographical essays of their experiences  in Wales during World War II. While these were personal experiences and written in good faith, memory is always selective and sometimes faulty. 

Any personal account of an historical event may also be self-serving or deliberately falsified in order to put the chronicler in a good light or on the politically acceptable side of history.

Surely, when we are hundreds of years distant from an historical event that shaped our lives, we owe it to ourselves to take a deeper look, to find the Truth hidden by the convenient facts.  If we perpetuate untruths for lack of research, or will, we do ourselves and our readers a disservice. 

Mistakes about who was born or what events were taking place are much lesser sins than deliberate distortion. There is one more saying that encourages us to seek answers: "The Truth shall set you free." 


Monday, September 22, 2014

Procrastination

By Fran McNabb 

I’ll do that tomorrow.

I don’t have time today. Maybe tomorrow.

Today? Oh, no. I don’t have time.

Have you ever caught yourself putting things off until “tomorrow” only because you don’t want to tackle the task or you have no idea how to handle an issue? Of course you have. We’re all humans and all humans procrastinate—some more than others.

Procrastination is the art of putting things off. I call it an “art” because we sometimes have to become creative in coming up with excuses not to do something. I realize that sometimes we don’t have to be creative at all. We can simply look at something that needs to be done and say, “Nope, not now.”

Right now I’m falling into the second category. Seven months ago my husband and I had carpet pulled up in our den and replaced with tile. At the same time I picked out new carpet for my office and bedrooms, but when it came time to actually install it, I said, “Nope, not now.” Replacing carpet seems like a simple thing to do, but the idea of taking everything out of closets and, gulp, cleaning out my office so the workmen can put down the carpet has absolutely debilitated me.

I know it has to be done. I want it to be done, but I can’t face doing it today and those todays have grown into seven months. There is always something else that I find to do. I stand at my office door and see shelves of books that I can’t get rid of. How can I throw away pages and pages of words that have given me so much pleasure? Yes, I have a Kindle now, but those old books are my friends. I know I have to get rid of some of them or at least move them out and rearrange them, but, gosh, what a task.

The closet is another issue. Throwing out clothes that are two sizes too small should be an easy task, but by throwing out clothes that I no longer can wear means I’m admitting I will never get back into those sizes. Those small sizes certainly aren’t my friends as my books are, but it’s easier just to let them hang in the back of the closet than to do something about them.

So, what projects have you put off lately? Is it cleaning out the refrigerator? Sending out thank you notes? Starting your Christmas shopping early? Calling an old friend who has lost a loved one?

We procrastinate about all kinds of tasks. Today, I’m going to walk into my office and deal with some of my old books. (That was a hard sentence to write.) I’m going to face my task head on! My closets? Well, maybe tomorrow.

Fran McNabb lives on the Gulf Coast on a quiet bayou harbor, and she’ll be the first to tell you she’d rather sit in her sunroom and watch the activity on the water rather than do mundane tasks like cleaning closets. She writes light romances and uses her beloved coastline as the setting in many of them.  Visit her at www.FranMcNabb.com or mcnabbf@bellsouth.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, September 19, 2014

First Lines

by Sandy Cody

One thing writers try very hard to get right is their first line. Of course, we want to get every word, every line, right, but we all know that first impressions count, so we spend a little extra time honing that first line. So ... in the name of research ... and, just for the fun of it ... I took a little time to look at how some of my fellow Classic and Cozy authors began their novels. I found an interesting variety in the few I've chosen.

The first two begin (very effectively) with a one-word exclamation; for these two, I included the next sentence to give a sense of what prompted the single, excited cry. The third example is a short sentence that leaves no doubt that someone is facing a rough morning. The fourth is a bit longer, using a snippet of intriguing description. All, I think, do what their creator set out to do: arouse the reader's curiosity. The fifth is from one of my books, so I'll leave it to someone else to decide if it would entice a reader to continue (fingers crossed here).

In each case, I included a blurb after the first sentence to give an idea of where the story might be headed.


BLOND FAITH by Jayne Ormerod 
  
“’RUN!’ The command was redundant, as the sound of a gunshot had been a sufficient catalyst to get me galumphing down the dark paneled hallway faster than a speeding bullet.”

Blurb:  The sound of gunshot has Ellery Tinsdale running for her life, while Samantha "Sam" Green races to offer assistance.  Chaos ensues as the two team up to find out who pulled the trigger that killed the reverend.



A QUESTION OF FIRE by Karen McCullough



“’Miss!’  The word slithered from the bushes behind her, startling Catherine Bennett out of the few wits she'd managed to recover in the peace of the dark, quiet garden.”

Blurb: When Cathy Bennett agrees to attend an important party as a favor for her boss, she knows she won't enjoy it. But she doesn't expect to end up holding a dying man in her arms and becoming the recipient of his last message. Bobby Stark has evidence that will prove his younger brother has been framed for arson and murder. The man who killed Bobby saw him talking to her and assumes she knows where the evidence is hidden. He wants it back and he'll do whatever it takes to get it, including following her and trying to kidnap her.



REUNION IN OCTOBER by Gina Ardito

“No one should have to face a morning with decaf.”

Blurb: Francesca lost her first love. Emily’s teetering on her last nerve. Will they risk their hearts to gain everything they both desire? 

Five years after her fiancĂ©, Michael, left her for a job on the other side of the country, Dr. Francesca Florentino is focused on her work as an emergency room physician and has no time for a love life. That is, until Josh Candolero charms his way into her heart on the same night Michael returns, vowing to win her back. 

Meanwhile, Emily Handler, a 911 dispatcher married to her high school sweetheart for the last seventeen years, can’t seem to figure out what happened to that spark she and hubby, Roy, used to share in their marriage. A life-altering heart attack was not exactly the shake-up she had in mind. 

Amazon link: http://amzn.to/1mid2rh


RELATIVE CHAOS by Kay Finch


“I clomped over Aunt Millie’s threshold in my black steel-toed sneakers that looked like the Goodwill drop-off after closing.”

Blurb: Poppy Cartwright's Klutter Killer business is taking off. But when her Aunt Millie, hoarder extraordinaire, wants professional organizing help, Poppy moves Millie to the top of her to-do list. Surprised by the appearance of a handsome and mysterious handyman hired by her aunt out of the blue, Poppy is in for an even greater shock when amid the piles of junk in Millie's garage she discovers ... a corpse. Poppy is content to leave the case of the unidentified man to the police until witnesses begin to describe a suspect who matches Poppy's son to a tee. Now she must juggle her messy aunt, a suspicious cousin, and a booming business as she searches for clues that will clear her only child. One thing is certain Poppy won t rest until she lines up every detail, a task that might organize her right into a killer's sights.

Amazon link: http://amzn.to/XNetSS


LOVE AND NOT DESTROY by Sandra Carey Cody

“He stood at the crest of the hill, already shamed by the act he was about to commit.”

Blurb:  A baby is found in a basket on the grounds of a small-town museum during their annual Folk Festival. Twenty-two years later, a homeless man is murdered in the exactly the same spot. Connection? Or coincidence? Peace Morrow, the foundling, now an adult working at the museum, is haunted by this question and thus begins a quest that explores the nature of family, of loyalty and responsibility. As she tries to reconstruct the victim's history, his story becomes entangled with her own search for family roots. Her journey leads her through the dusty boxes in the museum’s storage area, to an antique market in a tiny hamlet in northern Pennsylvania, and, ultimately, to the innermost reaches of her own heart.

Amazon link: http://amzn.to/wxIV81


If any of you have a first line you'd like to share, either one you've written or one by another writer, please feel free to include it as a comment. Of course, as always, we welcome any comment you care to leave.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Falling in Love with Romance by Sierra Donovan

Some “firsts” stand out in our minds like a bolt from the blue. Others come so gradually they're hard to define.

Recently on Facebook, a fellow author asked friends to name the first romance they ever read. It was a fun discussion, triggering a wide range of responses and shared memories. But for some, the memories weren't so distinct.

Some could remember the author, but not the title. A few could remember the plot, but nothing else. And a few others admitted that the first romance they read, they didn't like.

So, the real question might be, “What book made you fall in love with romance?”

I dipped into romance one toe at a time. First, there were the teen “malt shop” romances – which fellow Montlake author Roni Denholtz reminded me of – written by an author named Rosamond Du Jardin. (If I may add, these books were at my junior high library, and dated back at least a little before my time.) They were funny and delightful.

Then there were the gothic romances, starting with a series books by Marilyn Ross based on the Dark Shadows soap opera. From there I discovered a lady named Virginia Coffman, whom I count as a favorite to this day. Her gothics were laced with humor and charming, roguish heroes.

When one of my school friends started reading the old Emilie Loring novels, then Harlequin Romances, of course I had to try a few. Bu they didn't really spark me – and some of those earlier Harlequin heroes could be, well, really chauvinistic jerks. One notable exception: a lovely writer named Lucy Gillen, who wrote lighthearted stories with – guess what – humorous, roguish heroes.

Eventually I “grew up” and moved on. I didn't pick up another romance until, many years later, a friend gave me a copy of Nora Roberts' The MacGregor Brides. Three cousins. Three linked novelllas. Three happily-ever-afters. And I started to see what I'd been missing. These heroes weren't chauvinistic jerks. They were likable men, and – I think this is key – the stories included the man's point of view. I've found one of my favorite things about a romance is watching the hero fall in love with the heroine.

Next thing I knew, I jumped into a tub of romance novels. And in a very short time, I knew I wanted to write one – which meant reading a ton more of them. Research, you know.

There's a little bit of wish fulfillment in every good romance. We get to experience that falling-in-love moment, over and over again, without ever cheating on our husbands. In fact, studies suggest that romance reader have happier-than-average love lives.

A lot of you reading this are undoubtedly romance fans. Do you remember the book, or the author, that turned you into one?

The Magic of Autumn

by Gina Ardito

As a writer, I find each season a sensory delight, but autumn has magic for me the other seasons lack. I have to admit, autumn (not officially here until next week) is my favorite time of year. 

Autumn doesn't have the extremes of summer or winter. The temperatures grow cooler, and days become more focused on family, on home and hearth.

Visually, it's a stunning time. The leaves on the trees beckon for an artist's touch, their bright green shade transforming by degrees into gold and scarlet. 



Lawns are decorated with cornstalks and pumpkins and bales of hay. Children wait at the bus stop, dressed in their new clothes. 



The air becomes crisper and carries the scents of apples and nutmeg. 

At home, I go into "domestic mode." Everything gets an update--from the curtains on my windows to the food in my pantry. I spend weekends baking bread and cookies, brewing huge pots of soup and other comfort foods, and keeping the boys well-stocked with football-watching goodies.

Other benefits? I can go for a walk on the beach without slathering myself in sunscreen or fighting to get through a crowd. Any day can be pajama day. Hot cider. And of course, new seasons of my favorite television shows.

What are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Organized Writer

There's a great satisfaction that comes from completing a novel synopsis. I recently wrote the synopsis for the second book in my Bad Luck Cat Mystery series. The story, suspects, and plot points flowed well, and I felt proud of myself. I've written Chapters 1 and 2 and have a plan for Chapter 3. Then I made the mistake of looking at the piles of paper in my office space.

Instead of sitting down to write the next chapter, I went straight into organizing mode. Because who can be creative when surrounded by such a mess? Is this a writing avoidance technique? Maybe just a little bit.

 
So now I can find what I need when I need it. I have crisp new folders for my research, character names, notes, drafts, editor and agent correspondence, you name it. I have a place for everything and everything's in its place – tablets, sticky notes, pens, toner, paper, clips, notebooks to hold the chapter drafts.

I'm awaiting editor comments on book one which has just been given an official title by Berkley – Black Cat Crossing, A Bad Luck Cat Mystery – coming in September 2015. In the meantime, I'll get moving on book two now that I'm organized. My characters are ready and waiting. My victim's days are numbered.  Alice,  my personal "good luck cat," supervises while I write, and she's threatened to crack the whip to keep me on the right path.


Mystery author Kay Finch is currently writing her new Bad Luck Cat Mystery series set in the Texas Hill Country to be published by Berkley beginning in 2015. Her Klutter Killer mystery, Relative Chaos, features a professional organizer who finds a dead body in a hoarder's garage. Kay lives in a Houston, Texas suburb with her husband, two rescue dogs and a cat. Visit her web site at www.kayfinch.com.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Soaking in Oxford, then Home Again, Home Again

I recently made a trip to England. A few years ago, my only son went to graduate school in Wales, met his future wife there, and later got a job with Osprey Press in Oxford. Two months ago, he and his wife welcomed a new member to the family, a baby daughter, so of course we had head over there to meet her. We had a great visit, enjoyed being with them, and delighted in getting to hold and cuddle the new grandchild.

Oxford, U.K.
Oxford is an interesting place to visit. Millions of tourists can’t be wrong—and they’re not. Despite the crowds of tour groups and visitors that pack the city in summer, it’s fun just to walk the streets and soak in the history, but there’s also the wonderful Ashmolean Museum, the Sheldonian Theatre, the Museum of Science, the Children’s Story Museum, and all the various colleges, some of which are open for tours at various times. For a writer, there’s all sorts of inspiration.

As a bonus, there are a number of interesting things in fairly easy driving.  This time we did Stonehenge, which is a ninety-minute or so drive from Oxford, and Highclere Castle, better known to TV viewers as Downton Abbey.

Highclere Castle from the back seen through the
wildflower meadow
We had lunch at a lovely pub on the Thames, the Sunday roast at one of the nicest inn/restaurants in Oxford, and high tea.  I’ve become a fan of scones with clotted cream. Fortunately, we did a lot of walking or I would probably have gained a lot more weight than the three pounds I added while there. Despite its reputation for bad weather, we only had one really rainy day of the ten days we spent there. The rest of the time it was darn near perfect. Sunny and warm, but not hot.

I did a series of blog posts on the trip and my observations and commentary on various things we did and experienced. The first of the series is here: http://kmccullough.com/kblog/heading-for-england-day-one/   (They’re not all posted yet. I’ll be putting up a few more in days to come.)

It was a great trip and I enjoyed every minute of it. Getting to hug and cuddle my delightful new grand-daughter was the most wonderful feature of the trip, but I’m always fascinated at experiencing the similarities and differences of the culture when I travel.

Still, there’s nothing like coming home. No matter how much I enjoy the travels, it’s good to sleep in my own bed, fix my favorite foods, drink my own coffee, and settle into my own armchair for reading.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why I Tweet


Where to Start

If you're Twitter savvy this blog post is not for you. There are still many people out there who just don't get the whole Twitter thing. The first thing they need to do is create a Twitter account. 

There are lots of reasons people use Twitter. I'm not a celebrity junkie so I don't follow any stars, but that could be a reason you might want to Tweet. Do you like to hear the news as soon as it happens?  Do you have a book or product you want to promote? Do you want to help your friends promote a product or book? Once you follow someone you can just click retweet and their tweet will retweet to your followers. 

Tweets

The best part of a Tweet is that it is short and sweet. Each Tweet is limited to 140 characters including punctuation and spaces. Twitter will automatically shorten any link you include. As you Tweet, the number of characters you have left appears next to the Tweet button. Did you bake a cake, review a book, or have a cover reveal? Tweet the info and include a link if you want to. No need to try and condense the entire recipe into 140 characters just add the link.:) You can pre-schedule Tweets just like you do a blog. You can also pay Tweeting companies to put your Tweets out there. I've never done this so I can't say if it works or not. Many of my writing groups are very supportive and we retweet often. Here's one of my Tweets from this morning.

Followers

In the search box put in a name or email of someone you're interested in following. Start with mine if you'd like. My Twitter name is benjaminzelda. If you want to mention me in a tweet you would type @benjaminzelda. People will follow you, but you don't have to follow them back.

Hashtags

Words preceded by a # sign are hashtags. They are used to categorize keywords and topics. Chocolate Couture is a story that has a fashion component. I want people with a kindle, romance readers, and anyone interested in fashion to check out my book.  Step out of your comfort level and use different hashtags.

Analytical Dashboard

This is something new. Twitter is allowing you to see your Twitter activity. Don't panic if you're just getting acquainted with Twitter. You don't have to do this.  It's not on your Twitter page. You have to go to analytics.twitter.com to find the info.
What I like about this feature is that I can check to see if certain hashtags are engaged more than others. I can correlate the number of impressions and engagements with the sales number of my Montlake books on my Author Central page. Do weekends get more impressions and engagements than weekdays? Does the time of day that I Tweet make a difference?

Read Tweets to see what engages you. Which hashtags get your attention? I've found that starting my Tweet with a quote related to the subject of the book I'm promoting gets more engagement than just Tweeting the link.

Happy Tweeting.

Peace, Love, and Chocolate.
Zelda



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Fall!

by Jean C. Gordon

Do you what September is? September is National Chicken Month. Thank you Little Gray, Yellow, Brown, and Yellow Spot for posing.

It's also the beginning of Fall, my favorite season. My birthday is in September. Our wedding anniversary is in September. It’s still warm in the Northeast, but not sweltering hot as August often is. We have the beautiful fall foliage. And school starts. I was enough of a geek that I always looked forward to going back to school.

Which brings me to a question: Does the season a book is set in influence your book choices? Aside from holiday-month books — I love holiday books — I never gave much thought to the season in which a book was set, either in my reading or my writing, until ninth book, Small-Town Mom. And the season only came to my attention when we were at the cover stage. The story takes place in the dead of a frigid Adirondack Mountains winter. But the book came out in June, and initially, the cover had no snow and looked like spring, not winter. The dusting of snow was added to bring it into season.

With the books I've written since then, I've thought about when it will be published and tried to mesh the story's season with the publication season (or close). And, just for fun, I checked the seasons my books are set in. Four are set in the fall, one in the winter, and the rest in the summer.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Blooming Friendships


By Sandra Wilkins


          Finding friends can be a tricky business.  You have to dip your toes into those murky waters of the unknown and decide if it’s safe to jump in.  You have to see if the other person has your type of warped sense of humor or you have to decide if they’re the more serious type.  After much splashing about, I’ve found that the creative types—writers, musicians, and artists—are more prone to see the world the way I do.  But, that certainly doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate other types of people.  The world would be a dull place if that was the case.  I believe the more friends you have, the prettier life is. 
          Writing and home educating my daughters are solitary endeavors.  Sure, there are those occasional outings so I can hawk my wares or “socialize” my kids so they won’t be too weird, but basically I’m at it on my own.  Research, creativity, writing and teaching are all pretty much up to me. 
          Friends and a helpful spouse can lighten your burdens or bring humor into your life.  I think that’s why all of the stories I’ve written center around friendships.  A true friend is there for the good times and the bad.  For example, I’m an excellent listener, but sometimes I need to express myself, too.  A good friend should be able to do both.
          It was only after several years of solitude and a bout with depression that I realized how lonely I was.  Thankfully someone suggested I reach out for help and another person listened and joked with me in the following years when I needed it most.  I trust they know how much I appreciate them.  I also hope I have been able to return the favor to them.  My life is so different now.  Joy, sunshine, and optimism are back in my vocabulary even when the occasional gray day slides past. 
          Robin Williams’ tragic death struck me particularly hard.  I didn’t know the man, but I admired his brilliance.  His light will no longer shine for the rest of us.  The ripple of anyone’s death is felt by more people than the deceased could ever imagine—whether they are famous or not. 
          If you suspect someone you know is hurting beyond those blue days, befriend them.  Ask them if they need to talk.  It’s amazing how verbalizing and getting all those dark thoughts out of your head can brighten your life.  If it seems like they’re in a deep dungeon they can’t climb out of, encourage them to seek professional help.  It really does lift that midnight cloak off of a person’s soul.  Depression doesn’t have to be a permanent situation.  Most importantly, if you are the person who just can’t get past the profound sadness, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  You’ve been on your own long enough.    
          My desire is that we can help each other to stand upright, side by side, and support one another in friendship—whether it’s with old or new acquaintances.  So, instead of letting the weeds of indifference or jealousy choke out the beauty in a field of wildflowers, let’s all bloom together.  The gorgeous hues and shapes can open in their own unique way.  After all, it’s more spectacular together.


            Sandra Wilkins is busy writing another series while home educating her two daughters.  Ada’s Heart, Rose’s Hope and Gwen’s Honor are her first three published wholesome historical romances.  Go to www.sandrawilkins.com to find out more about her and her books.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

What I Did on Summer Vacation...in 1972

posted by Jayne Ormerod

The “educational” tag is SO over rated.  Especially when it comes to summer vacations.  My parents (a self-employed business man and an elementary school teacher) made it their mission to make sure we learned something over the summer break.  So while my friends were water skiing on Lake Michigan or riding donkeys down to bottom of the Grand Canyon or hanging out with Mickey & Minnie, my family was marching through the Smithsonian in DC or traipsing along the Freedom Trail in Boston or sitting/snoozing through historical lectures in the City of Brotherly Love. 
Did I have VA-CAY Envy?  You bet I did!
But here’s a little secret I never told anyone…there was one “educational” vacation I enjoyed very much--the one to Williamsburg, Virginia in 1972. The beauty of the “living museum” in Colonial Williamsburg allows visitors to experience what life in the 1600s America was like by doing some of the tasks required for existence 400 years ago.  For example, my sister and I carded wool then spun it into yarn, used a printing press to make our own little newspaper, watched blacksmiths pound iron into hooks, and enjoyed horse-drawn carriage rides along the cobble stone streets.  (There’s something SO soothing about the sound of hooves clacking against the stone in measured cadence. Be still my heart.) Oh yeah, and we got put in "jail."  (In Colonial times, people would throw garbage--and worse--at people sentenced to time in the stocks.  Fortunately this was not part of my experience!) 
My one complaint?  The heat!  Southern summers are not for the faint of heart!  And those poor women who had to wear those heavy hoop-skirts and caps!  How did they do that?  I was practically melting myself, and I had on a sleeveless shirt, shorts and (as any well-dressed kid in the 70s had…) white Keds.
What I needed was a dip in the ocean.  I’d seen the signs for Virginia Beach.  Beach meant ocean.  Ah,  cool, refreshing water.
I asked.  I begged.  I got down on one knee and pleaded, “Please, please PLEASE!  Let’s go to the beach and cool off!  Please! Please! Please!”
“It’s four hours away,” my parents said. “That would make for a much longer drive home, too. It would take two days then Dad would have to take another day off work.”
I accepted that, as young children of the 70s did, not because I respected my elders but because I didn’t have the World Wide Web at my finger tips to prove otherwise. 
Fast forward twenty years when my military husband and I made the move from San Diego, CA to Norfolk, VA via Ohio.  That equated to nine days on the road, driving and eating fast food, with a three day layover in Ohio to visit family.  On our way south to Virginia we stopped at the Williamsburg exit to fill up on gas.  My parent’s voices echoed in my head, “Four hours away.”  At that point I honestly didn’t have four more hours of travel in me.  I suggested to my husband we find a hotel for the night.
“Why?” he asked.  “We’re only an hour away.”
<<insert sound of screeching record here…>>
“An hour?” I asked.
“Yup,” he said.
Needless to say, my first phone call to my parents once we got settled in our new home (this was in the days before cell phones, or trust me, the call would have been made there and then!)  “Hey Mom and Dad, did you know that Virginia Beach is less than an hour’s drive from colonial Williamsburg?”
Silence.
They’d known.
And then it occurred to me, Virginia Beach may have been fun and refreshing, but it did not push the “educational” button.
After living in the Coastal Virginia area on and off for the past 30 years and spending hours bike riding on the boardwalk or picnicking on the beach, licking an ice cream cone while watching tourists frolic at the water’s edge, I’ve learned that there’s something about being near that water is good for what’ ails ya.  The light is different, the sound of the crashing waves is relaxing, the smell of the salt water is refreshing.  It restores one’s soul.  I feel better after a day at the beach.  Probably not smarter, but then as I’ve said before, that “educational” tag  is SO overrated. 


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Are Your Windows the Windows to Your Soul?

by Victoria M. Johnson

Victoria M. Johnson Classic & Cozy blog post

I used to take my windows for granted. They were just the square glass fixtures in every room of our house. Sometimes I even remembered to give them a good scrub to help maintain their luster. But recently a neighbor friend came over for coffee and she remarked about the nice "view" from the living room windows. 
"You have the same view," I said. She lived next door, after all.
"But it's brighter and more cheerful from in here," she replied, glancing out wistfully at the rows of garbage cans we all put out for collection the next day.
She clearly was seeing something different than what I was seeing. I pressed for an explanation. "What's different about it?"
"Your windows are much larger, I think. And your flowers frame the bottom so nicely. Maybe the sun hits your house at a different angle or something," she said.
None of those perceptions were true. Our windows were the same size. She had blooming flowers under her windows, too. And the sun certainly didn't shine brighter on our house. After my neighbor left, I thought about her windows in her living room.
Hers had blinds that she sometimes kept shut and she had lovely, but heavy, curtains that hung at each side of her windows. I suppose those choices would make them appear smaller and would block sunshine from coming in. They hindered her looking out and I wondered if they also affected her mood.

It occurred to me that perhaps our windows are doing more than we realize. 

Is it possible we're unknowingly blaring out to the whole world our temperament, our personalities, and quirks? Are we also influencing our personalities? Let me know if you think I'm way off base. But first, take a look below and see if any of these "windows" fit you.

This European window has no barriers to the outside world. Everything and anything comes in: sunrays, scents and noise, insects; and things going on inside may be seen or heard out. I imagine a free spirit would adore these windows.

These windows let the sun shine in. They're ideal for looking out at nature, children playing in the yard, and seeing what's beyond the walls of your house. A woman comfortable with others looking back, seeing a bit of her inner world would like these windows.

This room looks most like my neighbor's. It's elegant and formal with inviting windowseats. But not much is visible unless you're sitting in the windowseat. This arrangement encourages a contemplative personality to sit and think.


You knew this was coming. Cat ladies, you know who you are, a home isn't a home without a cat lounging in your window. The window stays closed for practical reasons but you take pleasure in seeing your companion enjoying the weather and goings-on outside. 


Okay, let's face it, some people put up a brick wall both figuratively and literally. Would you say this house belongs to someone who wants to be left alone or someone who's busy and rarely home? I suppose it depends on if these blinds are ever opened. Either way if I were the neighbor I wouldn't stop over for a cup of coffee unless specifically invited.

Did I mention the ambience of my friend's living room fit her personality? She's private, formal, and reflective, among many other nice traits. What are your windows saying about you?

http://VictoriaMJohnson.com
Victoria M. Johnson knew by the time she was ten that she wanted to be a writer.  She loves telling stories and she's happiest when creating new characters and new plots.  Avalon Books and Montlake Romance published Victoria's fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma, (A 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist).  Her other fiction book is a collection of romance short stories titled, The Substitute Bride. She is also the writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries.   Visit Victoria's website at http://VictoriaMJohnson.com for inspiration and tips and find her Amazon author page or connect with her on Pinterest and Twitter.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Shredding Words With Sofie Couch, (Well, Kinda)

Okay, I'm not so much “Shredding Words” as carefully cutting and snipping around them while simultaneously talking about novel characters.
The book I'm mangling today was actually meant to be mangled. It's an old, early 1900s magazine. Sadly, there is just this one page left in a box of ephemera at the family antique mall. In it, I found this little guy, “Brother Bob”. Apparently, Bob’s entire family appeared sequentially in this particular vintage magazine. And this child was just so stylin’! Check out those cute little togs Brother Bob is sporting.

There is also something very zen about cutting out these little characters, which it makes all the more a pity that most of our children will never know the joy of paper dolls.
And while I was snipping out "Brother Bob" and his togs, I started thinking about how paper dolls - building them, dressing them, playing with them, is similar to building a character in a novel. You snip away at a composite – a stereotype. All written characters begin flat, like “Brother Bob”.
Then the writer begins to flesh him out. 
For example, did you know that Bob is a little rapscallion? (Yes, I said rapscallion.) He’s the youngest child in my novel, KEEPING UP WITH MR. JONES. He has a penchant for collecting dead animals. It’s a worry for his mother, but what she doesn’t know is that his real goal in life is to be a veterinarian. That dead bird in his pocket is research – a secret that he will share with the only male figure in his life – Mr. Jones.
So check it out! And the next time you’re in an antique shop, check out some vintage magazines and don’t be afraid to bring your scissors. J

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Holiday? Huh?

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
By the time you read this, the Labor Day holiday will be over, and I say thank Goodness!

Whoever started the canard that Holidays were for a holiday, a respite from work? I work harder on a designated Holiday than just about any other day. Like this last weekend – THE EGYPTIAN FILE officially released on the 30th, so there was all the attendant announcement publicity to do.

A digression - WHY does each book/readers site have different rules on publicity? Different days; different things accepted. Some will accept a post any day; some allow them only on certain days or on one specific day. Some will take only a simple announcement; some want everything – blurb, excerpt, links, cover, websites, everything but your blood type. Some take links, some don't. Some take cover shots, some don't. Some want blurbs, some don't. Some want excerpts, some don't. All seem to want something different in the subject line. Why don't they get together and make one set of rules for all that will be easier for writers and readers both?

Back to holidays. As I said, doing the basic release announcements takes a great deal of time and attention. Plus, The Husband is home, which at the least means more cooking. Plus, we're redoing the garage. The actual hammer-and-nails remodeling is done (thank Goodness, and before there was physical violence) but now we must clean out our various storage rooms and decide what to keep and what to give away. Worse yet, it seems that we each regard our own stuff as precious (mine is mostly antiques, by the way) and the other's as simply stuff, or worse, junk.

My head had barely lifted off the pillow on Saturday before The Husband began prattling about Let's Work On The Garage This Weekend. (When he asked me early in the summer what I wanted for my birthday, I told him two whole weeks in which he neither said nor wrote the word 'garage.' Instead I got a trip to Vegas and a huge kunzite ring. Sigh.) Of course, we were to start working right after I fixed breakfast. Normally cooked breakfasts are reserved for Sundays.

It's late summer in Texas, and ten minutes after dawn the sky is on 'Broil.' Needless to say, our garage is not air-conditioned. Neither are the storage rooms, and neither is our ancient but still (barely) running pickup. I keep telling myself I'd be paying money to use a sauna in some health club to be just as hot. It doesn't help.

The Husband doesn't seem to understand that when I am sitting in a reasonably cool room (who can afford to keep a room truly comfortable with today's abominably astronomical electric rates?) typing on a computer that I am truly working. Believe me, I am. I have blogs to write. I have release publicity to do. I have publicity on previous releases to do. I have future releases to get ready for my formatter and cover artist. And sometime – I don't know really when – I have to write on the next book, whose deadline is galloping steadily closer.

Thank Goodness tomorrow is Tuesday and his job will once more devour The Husband for the better part of the day. Don't get me wrong – I love him, he is the most wonderful man I have ever known and I love being with him, but he does have a fixation. Garage, garage, garage... I'm even coming to hate the sound of the word. I do love being with him. I will love it even more once the garage is finished.

We did work most of the weekend and got a fair amount done. At this rate we should have the job completed just when the weather finally gets cool enough to be outside without my becoming a fountain of perspiration. I do, though, have the dreadful premonition that when that day occurs his repetitive vocabulary will evolve from 'Garage' into 'Yard.' Help me...

Holiday? Phooey.



UPDATE

My publishing blitz is still going right on schedule, somewhat to my amazement. 

My August 15 release SHADOWED LEGACY marks the tipping point of my 30 June – 30 October publishing blitz. It’s a gothic romance set in Louisiana of the 1870s. The story is about an orphaned young woman who has survived by singing in the saloons of the Western silver camps only to be ordered by her unknown and autocratic grandfather to come to his plantation. She wants to be part of a family, he has other ideas and an unknown villain has more sinister plans. It was a fun book to write.


This fortnight's release is THE EGYPTIAN FILE, a contemporary romantic adventure which takes place in my beloved Egypt. Like THE JERUSALEM CONNECTION, my 30 July release, THE EGYPTIAN FILE is a brand new book, not a backlist rerelease.

I got the idea for THE EGYPTIAN FILE during my last visit to Egypt and it would not leave me alone until I wrote it. Luckily I was blessed with the research help of two good friends, Dr. Stephen Harvey (perhaps the world's most acknowledged authority on Ahmose I) and Dr. Dirk Huyge (Director of the Belgian Archaeological Mission to El Kab). They were both most generous with their time and information, and Dr. Huyge even allowed me to add a tomb to the El Kab site – mainly because things go on in that tomb that should never go on in a real one!


THE EGYPTIAN FILE tells the story of Melissa Warrender, who is sent by a telephone call - which may or may not have come from her dead father - to retrieve a mysterious file in Cairo. Others who are willing to kill for it want the file as well, and Melissa's only ally is a handsome Cairo cabby who may not be what he seems. As they flee across Egypt they know they must translate the cryptic message in the file if they are to survive. An unimaginable treasure is at stake if they can live to find it.