Smart Girls Read Romance

Smart Girls Read Romance -- so do the bestselling and award-winning Authors who write this blog. Join them as they dish about Books, Romance, Love, and Life.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pumpkin Everything by Kimmie Easley

This is me and @Daniel-Kimberli O'Brien knows it! ;)My name is Kimmie, and I am a self proclaimed Fall junkie. When people pass around the memes making fun of 'Pumpkin Everything', I wholeheartedly believe they are directing it towards me. And I am A-OK with that, because that means I'm one step closer to my favorite time of the year!

Yes, I am perfectly aware there is still a month left before it's actually fall. However, that's one of the Fall junkie symptoms. Do I ask my family if it's ok to burn pumpkin scented candles in late July? No. Do I ask them if it's ok to fill the candy dishes with candy corn? No. Do I care if I embarrass them in the store by squealing the first time I see the colors orange and black lining the aisles? Or when I hear the costumes stores are open? Nope.

They've learned to love me through it, particularly because there is no chance of my being rehabilitated.

The smell of spice, pumpkins, and apples lighten my mood. 

The creativity of costumes and decorations make  me feel young again, even for a short time. 

The family meals warm my heart like no other time of the year. 

And let's not forget about the first time you step outside and feel the crisp morning air. You know Fall is on the way, and from that moment on you drink your coffee on the patio.

As I sit with my A/C on high, and drink cold ice tea instead of coffee while my pumpkin candles burn in the background, I thought I'd share with you some of my musings that make me excited to be a Fall junkie and keep me motivated and on my author game.

A SAUCY HALLOWEEN PLAYLIST
Halloween playlist


VINTAGE 

I love vintage Halloween  Halloween in the 1970's....plastic masks

MOVIES

O.M.G. !!!!! Love it! Hocus Pocus...

Always watched with my momma

CREATIVITY

Next year turn your pumpkin into Cinderella's carriage!  Halloween makeup.  20 Pumpkin Carvings Inspired by Books | A BookLover's Diary

YUMMIES

pumpkin cookies with cream cheese filling

So, yes. As some are dreading the loss of summer and will miss swimsuits and amusement parks, I shall be bouncing around the house in anticipation. Of course, shorts and flip-flops are year round in this house, so some things will always refuse to change with the weather. 

What are you looking forward to as the seasons change? 



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Writing Challenges

As if ragweed season isn't enough to battle with major allergies and being a 'lifer' on the shots, I got sick on top of this infamous time of year. Came down with sinus, bronchitis, and bronchial spasms, so I'm back on the inhaler and an antibiotic. Herbal remedies failed me. Sigh. Unless I would have been that much worse without them. Like dead.

It's hard to write when you're blowing and coughing your head off. Inspiration fades and there's no snap, crackle, and pop (except in my chest). This is when I long for the writing elves to come and work on my novel while I doze in between bouts of hacking. An insightful dream would be most welcome, but mine are weird, cold med induced hallucinations. Nothing useful. I'll just have to make something up, I tell myself. Which probably sounds odd because that's what most people assume authors do. Actually, I don't. I have this deep sense of the story and of being led in its creation. Just making stuff up doesn't happen with me. The characters speak, if I can hear them over the honking. 


Meanwhile, I have good news to share. My latest historical romance novel, Traitor's Legacy, is out this month. Published by the Wild Rose Press. A big book signing event is in the works for Historic Halifax, NC in October. The bulk of the story is set in that area. The event coordinator tells me the interview I had with the editor of North Carolina's Eastern Living Magazine is out, and he did a fabulous job with it. I'm waiting for my copies to come in the mail. The story I'm struggling with is the sequel to Traitor's Legacy, entitled Traitor's Curse. I was sailing along. Then my grandbabies found two abandoned kittens for me to care for, which I undertook with exhausting devotion. Resulting in a lack of sleep, which may have led to my hack, sniffle, honk derailment. But the kittens are doing well. I've named the buddy brothers 'Peaches and Cream'. Perhaps they will inspire me. Possibly show up in the novel. I don't know when readers will pick up on this, but I have an orange tabby cat in nearly everyone of my stories, unless the characters are on the run in the frontier and can't take care of a cat. The orange tabby makes an appearance in Traitor's Legacy, in the wonderful old home featured in the story called Thornton Hall.


“A kitten is the delight of a household. All day long a comedy is played out by an incomparable actor.”
― ChampfleuryThe Cat Past and Present


Two kittens, double the delight. And the work.

“A kitten is, in the animal world, what a rosebud is in the garden.”
― Robert Sowthey


Yep, you're getting kitten quotes. Because this is a random post.

“The only thing a cat worries about is what’s happening right now. As we tell the kittens, you can only wash one paw at a time.”― Lloyd AlexanderTime Cat

And that might be good advice for me, as well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Can Too Much of a Good Thing Make You Sick?

For the last four mornings I've been waking up with chest pains. Odd chest pains. The kind that hurt when I would inhale. Exhaling was fine, but unfortunately I have this nasty habit of breathing in. I had a sore throat, earache and headaches in my sinus pressure points. So, Dr. Vonnie diagnosed herself as coming down with a sinus infection.

I wasn't happy about it. I'm in the middle of a major book promotion. I had better things to do. Calvin hovered over me until I called the doctor. Do you know when you hit your mid-sixties and call with chest pains, you get worked in right away? I barely had time to shower and I think my bra was wrong side out as he rushed me out the door.

Dr. Blue Eyes, as I secretly call him, slid his stool over and took my hand. "How's the book writing coming?" And to my utter embarrassment, I started to cry. I don't mean a few tears trickling down my cheeks; I'm talking major sobs so bad I could barely talk. Bless his handsome heart, he moved to sit beside me on the examination table and put his arm around my shoulders....and listened....and held the box of kleen-x in front of me as I bawled like a lunatic.

Can we spell humiliated?

What did I have to cry about?

Last Monday, the USA Today ran an article on why I wrote about bear shifters.

Tuesday, A HIGHLANDER'S OBSESSION was released and I had a twelve-hour facebook party. We had a blast!


For the next twenty-eight hours, my book trended at #1 on Barnes and Noble. Heck, I didn't even know a book could trend until my editor at Random House emailed me. Talk about a "duh" moment.


My numbers at both Amazon and B&N were good for me--not for a major author, now--but for this ole gal, they were great. I was thrilled. On Thursday, I found out "The Library Journal" reviewed the book and gave it very favorable marks.


And the majority of the reviews for my first paranormal were good too. I was in high cotton, as we say here in the South.

 
You know how if you're having a particularly rotten week and you growl through gritted teeth, "If one more thing goes wrong, I'll scream"? Turns out the same overwhelming emotion can happen with too much good too. After a very thorough examination, I was told my ailments were coming from good stress.
 
Hunh!
 

Leave it to me to get chest pains and other minor ailments from "too much good." I always was a weird duck.
 
 

Friday, August 22, 2014

THE OTHER SISTER IS BOOK ONE IN THE SISTERS SERIES

By Guest Author Leanne Davis

The beginning of this book has Jessie Bains kidnapped and being held prisoner in Mexico. Though the time spent there is short; the shock of what happens to her follows her through the rest of her life. The premise of this book and series first came about as I was figuring out what next to write about. I wanted something a little different from what I’d just written (my Zentih Trilogy) so I was randomly doing some internet browsing looking for some inspiration. 

I happened onto the subject of drug trafficking at the United States border which led me to Mexico, and eventually to how prevalent sex trafficking is, and how it has become tied into the drug cartels. From this research I started to design the overlying theme of this series. The concept for Jessie’s kidnapping was inspired by some of the stories I found and as horrifying as my fiction is; the real stuff is literally sickening. 

The shocking part to my book isn’t my fiction, but that so much worse is actually happening in real life. Now. Today.  

But since I write fiction, I wanted to bring this subject into a novel in a way that I could also tell a story, and thus General Travis Bains was born, Jessie’s father and the man behind much of the evil Jessie is exposed to. He divides his two daughters from a young age; Lindsey being his good daughter and Jessie being his bad daughter. 

Though I touch on some difficult, shocking and upsetting topics over the course of this story; in the end I hope I show Jessie’s journey through the novel is one of healing and hope. 

On September 12, 2014, I will be releasing the sequel to THE OTHER SISTER, called THE YEARS BETWEEN which covers more in-depth the first five years of Jessie and Will’s marriage and how these events in Mexico still plague them. This book bridges the five years from the end of THE OTHER SISTER to the start of THE GOOD SISTER, which is already available, and takes the reader into Lindsey’s journey trying to sustain her image of being the good sister, despite her own horrors she faces.

To date, the Sister Series first three books are available exclusively through the Kindle Store.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog today!  I can’t tell you how much it means to me to share a little bit about the writing of this book.

THE OTHER SISTER (Sister Series, Book #1)

THE OTHER SISTER Blurb:
General Travis Bains has two daughters, one who is good, and one who is bad. Everyone knows Lindsey is the good one, and Jessie is the bad one. 

Jessie Bains is the other sister, the bad sister, which she has proven more often than not, until the day she gets kidnapped and brutally raped. Will Hendricks, one of her father’s soldiers, rescues her, and brings her home, but fears she may be nearly destroyed by what was done to her. The most important thing, however, no one can know, per the general’s orders.

Jessie’s life was always far from normal as the daughter of one of the most revered generals in the world. No one would ever think or believe the general could abuse either of his daughters, except Will. When Will discovers the danger Jessie is living in at her father’s hand, he once again rescues her, but this time, only he can protect her. Will has survived the horrors of war, but is now engaged in a battle that has become far more personal and far more deadly. Will alone realizes what the general has done and will do to destroy his “other” daughter.

THE OTHER SISTER Excerpt:
He stepped forward, putting his arm around her. She was about to attack and he knew it. He didn’t blame her. “Not today, Jessie,” he said quietly into her ear. “Today, you’re just going to be quiet.”

Lindsey’s eyes opened in awe when Will glanced at her. How easily he managed to stop Jessie. How easily she responded to just a little bit of care, a little bit of respect, a little bit of love.

“I want you to let your sister help you.”

“And you? Do I pretend I never knew you?”

“No. Write to me. Like you did before. Only send them through a friend of mine. This time, no one will intercept your letters.”

“Will you call me?”

“No. I won’t contact you very much.”

“Why?”

“You know why.”

“I hate you for this, soldier.”

He looked into her eyes and saw the opposite. “I know.”

He surprised her, as well as Lindsey, when he lifted her off her feet, and held her to him. In his arms. Next to his face. Her arms encircled him, and he held her. He leaned down and his lips touched hers in a soft, gentle, closed-mouth kiss that spoke of leaving and longing and all the other things he couldn’t tell Jessie.

“I told you a long time ago, someday, things would be different for you. This is the only way I know how to fulfill that promise for you.”

With that, he released her and watched her eyes filling with tears as she nearly collapsed on the couch. Lindsey came over to her and they awkwardly figured out how to hug each other. Will leaned down and gathered his bag. As he turned to leave, he saw the two sisters huddled together, tears falling from their eyes.

“Goodbye, Jessie,” he said as he turned and left her.

ABOUT LEANNE DAVIS

Leanne Davis is an Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author whose books have appeared on multiple best seller lists including #1 in Top Rated Women's Psychological Fiction and #1 bestselling in New Adult by THE OTHER SISTER. 

She lives in the rainy area of Western Washington, and spends as much time as she can getting away from the rain by traveling to destinations all across the state where she and her family do tons of camping. Many of these locations become the settings for her books. She earned her business degree from Western Washington University, and worked for several years in the construction management field before turning to writing.

Leanne’s Books to date:
The Sister Series:
THE OTHER SISTER (Book 1)
THE YEARS BETWEEN - Jessie & Will (Book 1.5)
THE GOOD SISTER (Book 2)
THE BEST FRIEND (Book 3)
The Zenith Trilogy
The Seaclusion Series: Published through The Wild Rose Press
DIVERSIONS
RIVER'S END
Contact her through any of her sites or email to dvsleanne@aol.com.



Monday, August 18, 2014

GIVE US A KISS




The other day, I saw a movie. Whoa, you say, this is not earth shattering news here. I watch movies all the time. So much so that, in the older movies especially, I can spout a lot of trivia. But, I digress. In this movie, there was a scene where the heroine practiced for a date. She watched her movements in the mirror, talked to herself, checked out how she looked during conversation, smiled, flirted and kissed the back of her hand. All to practice.

This got me to thinking - a scary proposition on a good day. Plus, I was probably sleep deprived much as I am right now. Have I lost you? Are you still with Me? Oh, good, because you'll be asked to participate later on. So, anyways, that movie brought back a flood of old memories for me.


All of us receive our first kiss from our mother and, a wild guess here, our second kiss we get from our father. Nice. We rock along through the years being kissed by our grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. In this last case, the sibling kiss is dreaded and only given/received under duress by direct orders from the mother or parental unit. We've all heard at one time or another, "Kiss your brother/sister right now and tell him/her you're sorry. You know you love each other." I can't tell you how many times in those formative years, I would've rather taken a beating than to have kissed that chubby cheek. Love him now, back then it depended on the day. <G>

What I'm really talking about is that first boy/girl kiss. My first one came from the boy who lived next door to my grandmother. His name was Mike (first names only given here). We became fast friends the summer I was eight and he was a much older ten. We always played Gunsmoke in his front yard. He was the very handsome, Matt Dillon, I, of course was, Miss Kitty, and my brother was either Chester or the villain depending on which part was needed at the time. Mike played the roll of the sheriff very well and saved me multiple times, so naturally I received many kisses from my first hero. We became so close he wrote me a letter after his family moved away. That letter had smoochy lips, professed I love yous and a Dime Store diamond. Yes, Matt Dillon asked me to marry him. My mother nearly hyperventilated.

My second kiss came during a multi-family get-together. My parents bowled on several leagues back in the early sixties and on weekends they would have parties at the various houses. While the parents played cards, dominoes or listened to party records, us kids were relegated to the back rooms. The one evening that stands out in my mind was in winter and school was in full swing. A couple of girls and myself were thirteen, a couple girls were freshmen in high school and Rusty was also a freshman. He was tall, cute and we were giggly and we were playing spin the bottle. My knees turned to jelly when he kissed me. I made gagging noises as was expected, but  being kissed by a freshman football player - yowza!

For a few years after that, I did a lot of practicing. Unfortunately, I didn't kiss anyone else until I met my future husband. Was he the brave one? The stupid one? He says he'll never again pick up a girl at the A&P. Well, duh. There's simply no need, is there?

Ok, that's my story. Here's where your participation is needed. Tell us about your first kiss. We're all dying to hear your tale.

Thanks for stopping by today and hope you got a chuckle or two,
Carra


  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Best Quotes About Dogs

Our Wonder Dog is in Doggy Heaven
By Joan Reeves

Recently, Brenda Daniels blogged at Smart Girls about Distractions and Disasters and posted a picture of Nugget, her guest dog. So I had to post a picture of our late dog who's chasing squeaky toys in heaven now.

I miss having a dog, but our lifestyle doesn't make for adopting another companion at this time. Instead, I'm putting dogs in books now.

I'm working on a book that has a dog as a character. Well, not in the sense of it thinking, talking, and having a viewpoint, but in the sense that it has a larger than life personality and gives the heroine all kinds of grief. It's a standoff between them while they decide to "keep" each other. I named the dog in my work in progress Mozart. He's a Welsh Cairn Terrier like Toto in the Wizard of Oz movie.

As a dog lover--no offense to cats--I want to share some of...

My Favorite Dog Quotes

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. ~ Will Rogers

I've seen a look in dogs' eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts. ~ John Steinbeck

Anybody who doesn't know what soap tastes like never washed a dog. ~ Franklin P. Jones

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person. ~ Andy Rooney

A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. ~ Robert Benchley

If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons. ~ James Thurber

Ever consider what our dogs must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul -- chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth! ~ Anne Tyler

Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea. ~ Robert A. Heinlein

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man. ~ Mark Twain

You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, "Wow, you're right! I never would've thought of that!' ~ Dave Barry

Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell. ~ Emily Dickinson

If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two of them. ~ Phil Pastoret

If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. ~ President Harry S. Truman

Post Script

Joan Reeves writes Sassy, Sexy Contemporary Romance. Her books are available at all major ebook sellers with audio editions available at Amazon, Audible.com, and iTunes. Joan publishes Writing Hacks, a free newsletter for writers, and WordPlay, a free newsletter for readers. Find Joan online: Blog, Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. Joan lives her happily ever after with her hero, and she encourages you to believe that: It’s never too late to live happily ever after!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Genre is This? by Paty Jager

As I write more books, I find myself having a harder time trying to categorize my books. I tend to mix genres or write something that doesn't really fit a specific genre. I can usually determine if they are historical or contemporary. After that, sometimes narrowing the book down to a more specific genre can be a bit of a problem.

Case in point is my latest release. Staking Claim is a sequel to the Halsey Brothers Series. The Halsey Brothers books were historical westerns. Staking Claim starts in Liverpool, England spring of 1899. The characters sail across the Atlantic on a clipper ship and arrive in New York City. From there they travel by train to Chicago where they are helped by Pinkertons. After Chicago they arrive in Sumpter, OR via train. No horses other than Hansom cabs in New York. No gun play. Nothing that makes this a western, yet I feel compelled to categorize it a western because it is part of the Halsey Brothers Series.

Anyone have any thoughts on that?

Here is the cover, blurb, and a short excerpt.

Staking Claim

Book Two – Halsey Homecoming Trilogy – Colin’s story

Deceit, contradictions, and lies

On a ship bound for America, Colin Healy encounters a contradictory woman, whose beauty and grace intrigue him.

Livie Leatherby boards the ship as an imposter to get the information she needs to save her family. Befriending Sir Colin Healy is easy with his chivalrous tendencies. But she soon realizes discovering his past marks him for death.

Forced together to stay one step ahead of the Lord set on killing Colin for his estate, can these two get past the lies and deceit that has brought them together before one or the other meets their demise?


Excerpt

“Welcome!” boomed Captain Whiteside as the young woman stepped from the gangplank onto the vessel.
“Thank you, Captain.” She touched a gloved hand to her hat, then touched her earlobe showing beneath upswept copper-colored hair.
Colin didn’t want to think he was partial to red hair due to his mother’s fiery locks. This woman’s upswept hair was a more subtle hue. He found the shiny copper color mesmerizing.
“Your name?” Captain Whiteside inquired, holding a script with names and cabin numbers.
“Miss Olivia Leatherby.” The woman’s green gaze drifted from the captain to Colin. Her eyes widened, showing she recognized him from earlier. She made no move to thank or acknowledge him, and her gaze quickly returned to the captain.
Why didn’t she at least acknowledge my presence? Colin continued to study the young woman. The more he saw, the more he was intrigued. She was a good head shorter than he, but her curves and the way she set her feet to take the sway of the ship proved she wouldn’t float away in a good breeze. 
“Miss Leatherby, you will be staying in first cabin twelve.” Captain Whiteside tooted on his whistle and the cabin boy hurried forward.  “Jack, take Miss Olivia Leatherby to first cabin twelve.”
“Aye, Captain.” The young boy waved his hand for the woman and her belongings to follow.
Cabin twelve. That was two cabins down from Colin. Being practically neighbors, bumping into one another would be unavoidable.
He’d moved back to his spot at the railing when his gaze landed on another passenger whose fashionable attire and haughty manner didn’t fit with the usual sailing passenger. He’d come across a few men like this one since his return to England and taking charge of his estate. Why would a man of this class take a clipper rather than a steamship? He was the type who would think the accommodations on a clipper ship beneath him.
The wind didn’t carry the man’s name to him by the railing as Captain Whiteside greeted the stranger. It didn’t matter. He could always ask the cabin boy or the captain the gentleman’s name.
He turned his attention to the smoke puffing out of the Compania. A dark gray cloud puffed out adding more somber gray to the day. Passengers lined the deck of the steamship, waving at the people on the docks.
He could have been on that ship, surrounded by all the people and traveling in luxury, but he preferred the slower pace of the sailing vessel. He’d used his newly acquired connections in the shipping world to obtain a first cabin on the Americana. While he didn’t need the luxuries one had while on a steam ship, he did prefer traveling on a sailing ship in first class. The rooms were slightly larger, giving enough room to not feel as if he slept in a coffin, and the food, while not being served as elegantly, was filling and tasty.
The quiet, solitude, and time would allow him to go over the ideas his cousin Denis had handed him as he left Meath Hall. Even though he was excited to return to his family in Sumpter, he had become accustomed to riding about the thousand-acre estate talking to the tenants and discussing the best ways for them to grow better crops and livestock. Growing up, all he knew was mining, but living here, overseeing the land, he felt a kinship to both the people and the land.
“I guess you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” He grinned and headed to the first-class section of the ship. There would be a few more hours of spring sunlight streaming through his port hole. He’d best take advantage of the light to read the ideas Denis submitted.
He entered the covered stairwell and stopped. Angry words flowed up the opening.
“I heard you were late.” The steely deep tone sounded like a threat.
“Ah had to say good-bye…”
He knew that soft wispy voice. Colin hurried down the stairs.

Buy Links:  Amazon / Kobo / Apple / Nook / Windtree Press

Website: patyjager.net

Sunday, August 10, 2014

DISTRACTIONS AND DISASTERS




https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-S-UKcNes8Jo/U-OtSiM_ahI/AAAAAAAAAD8/1fdDFLZY7fY/h120/NUGGET.pngYes, I've heard of writers sternly telling their children not to disturb them unless someone is bleeding profusely or something is on fire. Try telling a dog that. When it's time to eat, there is no putting them off.

Pictured is Nugget, the guest dog. That demented look of anticipation is a blatant lie. He's so full, his belly almost drags the floor. I need to work, not have those pop eyes staring at me.

Sigh. I'm such a sucker.
By Brenda Daniels

Every writer has them. Distractions and disasters that take away from your work in progress. While I don't have human children, I do have dogs. One is mine and the other is a guest until his mom scrapes up the pet deposit. My fellow writers complain about husbands, kids, neighbors and everyday minor disasters that pop up just when the GREAT INSPIRATION reveals itself.

Then, there are the other distractions. Every morning, I get up and stumble to my office. (Well, most mornings.) My computer may or may not decide to cooperate. I really need a new one. My witch and wizard story is half finished and needs a lot of work. (Thank you critique partners.)  WORD is also problematic lately. How can it "Not Respond?"

After finally pulling up my pages, I see the vacuum cleaner out of the corner of my eye. Oh yeah, I should take care of that little pile of bugs and cobwebs lurking behind the recliner. (DISTRACTION!)

Back to my pages. My characters are not talking to me. I'm being ignored, except for the message I hear on the answering machine (yes, I still have a land line) extolling the virtues of their burglar alarms system. Thank you, but I have two noisy alarms who bark at a falling leaf.

Sure, these are all flimsy excuses. I admit it. My critique partners are so disciplined they put me to shame. I resolve to do better. Right after I peel the frantic dog off my knee.

Friday, August 8, 2014

WEATHER AS A CHARACTER?

By Mary Adair

Weather can play an important part in a story.

Weather adds dimension to the strength and weakness of your characters. Weather can be a villain, it can be a catalyst for romance. It can be scary and filled with clouds and flying specters. It can be fun as a gentle breeze tosses about colorful kites or fearful as strong winds threaten to sink a boat.

Boat on stormy waves
purchased from Dreamstime

We are having unusual weather in Oklahoma for the month of August. Last year this time we were breaking a record for the number of days above 100 degrees. Today it actually feels cool outdoors. The day is overcast and feels a lot like fall. This unusual weather, of course, brought to mind when we first moved to Oklahoma and the surprising weather was not so pleasant.

In my YA novella, CAPTIVE SPIRITS, Alexis had to escape with her small daughter during a snowstorm. I drew my inspiration for this from the ice storm we suffered through shortly after we moved to Oklahoma.

Snowy woods near our home

This storm became one for the records. We were without electricity, as was everyone else in the area. We lived in a rural area with tall pines all around us. The ice was so heavy on the trees that many trees broke, causing a sound very much like gun fire. The blast was very scary.

House in the woods, but not ours
photo purchased from Dreamstime

Ice also caused our power line to break. Because we lived in such an out of the way, hard to get to location, our electricity was off almost a week longer than our neighbors’. For three weeks, we and our four Italian greyhounds and our very old tomcat huddled before our wood stove in an otherwise totally electric home.

Can you spot the bird in the tree?
We had plenty of canned food for people and pets and, because we left the water trickling, we had water. However, keeping a fire going was a challenge with all the wet wood around. It really made an impression on me just how fragile people and animals are in the face of weather.

During that very cold, icy winter I developed a new respect for the strength of nature and the fragility of life. I now love to toss my characters into the fray of nature’s multiple faces while I explore their strengths and force them to display their character. 
  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

NEVER LET FACTS GET IN THE WAY OF A GOOD STORY!

By Fleeta Cunningham, Guest Author
            I spent a weekend with my daughter and her husband a year or so ago. My son-in-law is a wonderful man who loves my daughter and has been a wise and caring father to my grandchildren. He’s a businessman, with an accounting background, whose life is about balances and the bottom line. My world is in a time zone he doesn’t recognize. 
He’s a darling, but he and I have a hard time finding common conversation. On this particular morning, he was making a special effort to comprehend the writer’s life. Hoping to share the excitement I find in my work, I described my day, sitting in a quiet room alone, plotting, creating characters, designing dialog.
            His eyes lit with a glimmer of comprehension. “You mean, Mom, you spend hours all day, by yourself, making up places, inventing people to live there, and then talking to them and writing down what they say.”
            Delighted with his summation, I agreed. “Yes, that’s exactly what I do. That’s it.”
            His brows knitted together, but I caught a glint of humor in his eyes. “You know, Mom, there are places where you can get treatment for that condition.”
            I patted his hand. “Yes, I know about them, sweetie. But the people they treat in those places live in fantasyland. I just work there.”
            The life of a full-time writer is a little off-beat for the nine-to-five, office-and-home commuter world, I suppose. The rhythm is different. Hours are not just unpredictable, they’re incomprehensible.
Three in the morning? Eighteen hours at the computer? Five hours to write a conversation and you tossed it? And as for colleague conversation? Listen in on a recent coffee-chat between a couple of writers I know:
            Pat: My hero won’t talk to me.

            Meg: I know what you mean. I don’t understand my heroine at all. Sometimes she’s not                       somebody I could even like. There’s nothing about her my hero can love.

Pat: At least he’s telling you he doesn’t love her. Not only is my hero not talking to me. I have a plot knot that won’t come loose. I can’t find a way to hide the body so the heroine doesn’t look like she’s too stupid to live when she rushes back into the house and falls over it.

Meg: But you know where you’re going. I’m wandering all over the place. All that research I did on Chicago in the twenties was a waste of time. I finally had to move the story to California. The city didn’t have the right atmosphere for my Christmas sunrise proposal. Now my whole setting is wrong.

Pat: Oh, no! And you had such a clever opening for that story. I’m having just as much trouble finding the right way to kill my handyman. Nothing can start till I get the murder underway.

Meg: Starting over is so hard. Wish I could find the right way to get this epic of mine rolling. I’ve had those two characters meet five different ways and not one seems right.
Not your normal Monday morning coffee break chatter at the office, is it? And it’s hard to explain that the characters who aren’t “talking”, or plans for the “perfect” murder, or design of the make-believe world are as significant to the writer as the dark headlines, major football losses, and stock market downturns are to the rest of the world. Working in fantasyland has its pitfalls and burdens just like any other workplace. Even if we can do it in our fuzzy jammies and bunny slippers.
            People often ask where writers get the ideas for their stories. I have one author friend who began telling people, “Oh, I wait till Walmart has ideas on sale, and I pick them up half price.”
A bit cynical, sure, but the truth is most writers can’t explain where a story idea comes from. Maybe it’s from a conversation half heard in an elevator. Or a news article in the daily paper suggests a possible “what if” scenario. It might be the remnant of a dream. Family stories, stretched by time and filtered through generations, roam through a lot of my tales.
Field of Texas bluebonnets

My granddaddy was a cowboy, a real one, not the TV kind, who worked on a ranch up in the Panhandle of Texas before the turn of the twentieth century. I grew up on his stories, and as a result, as Willie Nelson said, my heroes have always been cowboys.
Most of my stories have a little cowboy wisdom sprinkled in and many can be traced back to some of the tales Granddad told me. I have his rope and his black campfire kettle setting by my fireplace where I can reach out and touch them for inspiration. They always work when I find myself in need of a hook to hang a story on.
Pharmacy in Lock Drug,
Bastrop, Texas

            For the most part, I write about small town life. I’ve lived in small towns all over Texas. I suspect small towns everywhere, whether Texas or Provence, have common threads. In small towns, an incident that would be unworthy of comment in the city can serve as the subject of the sermon in every single church come Sunday morning. The passing of a long-time resident will be noted not just by family and friends but by the community at large.
Wildfire

When my small town was threatened by massive wildfire three years ago, the population became a family. Every loss was personal, every home saved was a victory, and not one person was untouched by the plight of his neighbor. Little things hold people together here, whether it’s the annual city Fourth of July picnic and fireworks, or the Merrill’s son Tom asking Missy, oldest daughter of the Hammonds next door, to be his wife. Tiny dramas make up life and those shared moments give me a great place to start a story. They are closer to me in a small town world.
Small town courthouse
            Once in a while someone will ask if I make up everything I write or do I borrow a little from real life. I have to tell them that I write fiction—every story, every event, every word comes from my own scrambled mind. Not one bit of any scene ever actually happened. But I believe everything in my books is true. That is, it isn’t so far-fetched that it couldn’t have happened. It just didn’t, not anywhere except between the covers of my book.
And then I also have to admit I am constitutionally incapable of retelling any incident straight or exactly the way it happened. I will always see how a conversation could have been more interesting. Or how an incident should have been more dramatic. And what would give a scene a better climax. Even if I’m only telling what happened when the cable guy came to fix my TV reception.
            I guess I’ve been cursed/blessed with that trait all my life. My family, early on, recognized that asking me how something happened might result in a good story, but probably it would be a little short on factual information. When accused of “telling stories”, I had to admit I did.
I’m just fortunate that there’s a place in the world for people like me. Somebody who dreams in Technicolor, who always can think of a better way to end an argument two hours after the question is settled, and who fell in love with the sound of words as soon as she could talk. There is a place for somebody like that. On the line after the title, the one that says “Author”. Because some of us never let facts get in the way of telling a good story.



HELP WANTED: WIFE blurb:
Rancher Cole Witherspoon, a practical man, decides his ranch needs a woman's touch and he needs a wife; he goes about filling the vacancy in a practical way. He places a help-wanted ad. He doesn't suspect when Cherilyn bixby answers the ad how many lessons in love he'll be learning from the no-nonsense schoolteacher . . . and her big, red cat.


And, coming this fall --



DOUBLE WEDDING, SINGLE DAY Blurb:

Lucinda Parks has a little problem. She's coordinating a double wedding for sisters--one is an American Princess and the other is a Texas Rodeo Queen. Lucinda might manage their contradictory dreams if she could keep her mind on the wedding and off the father of the brides.


FLEETA CUNNINGHAM, AUTHOR

A fifth generation Texan, Fleeta Cunningham has lived in a number of small Texas towns. Drawing on all of them, she created Santa Rita and its inhabitants. After a career as a law librarian for a major Texas law firm, writing a monthly column for a professional newsletter and other legal publications, she returned to her home in Central Texas to write full time. Fleeta has been writing in one form or another since the age of eight. When she isn't writing, Fleeta teaches creative writing classes, is a frequent guest speaker for civic and professional organizations, and keeps house for her feline roommates. Her other musings can be found at www.authorsbymoonlight.com or her website www.fleetacunningham.com. She loves to hear from readers. 

The Santa Rita Series includes DON'T CALL ME DARLIN', BLACK RAIN RISING, ELOPEMENT FOR ONE, HALF PAST MOURNING, and CRY AGAINST THE WIND. The first book in her new series Confronting Destiny, BAL MASQUE, was released earlier this year. She also has short stories, "Close Encounter With A Crumpet" and "Help Wanted: Wife" available, and a novella, DOUBLE WEDDING, SINGLE DAD, which will be released in the fall.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Characters: Our Best Friends



Does anyone not
love these characters?
Characters are everything to me.

Whether reading or writing, the first thing that has to happen for me to enjoy the book is I have to fall in love with the characters.  I love to love the good guys and love the hate the bad guys.  I want to fondly remember them months later, and regret that there's no more book left to read.

Why is that? Maybe it's the emotional investment we put into stories.  Characters push us along the emotional path much more easily than other story elements.  Settings, sights, sounds, and smells can tug at us, but unless we truly care about the characters' well-being, their victory over whatever obstacles they face, we scan the pages, skipping ahead until the characters (especially the main protagonist) finally hook us and we absolutely must read on.

I can manage to read a book all the way through without falling in love, but I won't enjoy it all that much.  Writing, though, is different.  Writing is a much slower process.  Even if pearls of inspired prose fall from my brain to the computer without any effort in the brain department (wouldn't that be nice!), it takes a whole lot longer to type and edit a story than it does to read that same story for pleasure.

A writer spends a lot of time with her characters.  I spend anywhere from three to six months on a novel and at least a week or three for short stories with my characters.  A reader might spend four to eight hours for a novel.  Big difference.  So if a writer doesn't love her characters, she's in for a long, tough haul.

My current project is one where I got lucky.  Caroline Clemmons and I brainstormed over the phone and we both came away with characters nearly fully formed that we both loved.  That's because we're writing a duet, Mail-Order Tangle.  Caroline's book (yes, they're both full books) is titled Mail-Order Promise and mine's Mail-Order Ruckus.  

Cover reveal!
(Unless Caroline already did...)
Do you like it?

This story starts with a mail-order bride (Ellie, Caroline's character), who brings her older sister Laura (my character) with her to Texas.  Things don't go precisely as planned, however.  Cousins Kage and Matt Johanssen make sure of even more complication.

Caroline is writing Ellie and Kage's story, set in Texas.  I'm writing Laura and Matt's story after he leaves for Owyhee County, Idaho Territory.

If you'd like to meet one of the characters, zip on over to Romancing The West.  I'm participating the Meet My Character Blog Tour thanks to Karen M. Nutt.  The character I introduced is Miss Laura Dickerson, heroine of Mail-Order Ruckus.

We haven't talked publicly about this project much because we both had so much on our schedules that we wanted to make sure we could get it done.  At this writing, we're both hovering or past the three-quarters mark so yes, it's a go.  Yay!

And you know what?  We both love, love, love all our characters.  I wouldn't have a problem hanging out with them even after the books are done.  It absolutely has to be that way!

When you read a really good book, do you think about the characters for days and weeks, even months, after you've read The End?