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Saturday, July 30, 2016

House Hunting--Not As Easy As It Looks by Suzanne Rossi

Hi everyone.

Two years ago my husband officially retired. At that time, we made a decision to move to the Memphis, Tennessee, area to be closer to my youngest son and his family. So we spruced up the house, did reno work in the kitchen and master bath, weeded out some of the junk we accumulated living here in Ft. Lauderdale, and put the house on the market last fall. We finally have a solid contract (three others fell through) and hightailed it to Memphis last week to find new digs.

We thought we knew where we wanted to buy--a smaller town outside the city and a home with some acreage for dogs and a garden. We've lived in the 'burbs or an urban atmosphere for so long, the thought of getting away from the crowd sounded wonderful. That bubble burst the first day our realtor took us to our preferred little burg, Covington. It turned out to be at least an hour's drive from my son. So it was back to the one place I swore I'd never live--Germantown, Tennessee, and suburbia. We lived there once before, but the city is just so stereotypical suburbia with a lot of rules and regulations. I don't like rules and regulations, however, since we're not getting any younger, it made sense. The city does have wonderful medical facilities.

We found two houses we liked and put in an offer on house #1. Another contract was accepted the day before our bid. Damn. On to house #2. Another offer was accepted two HOURS before we presented ours. Double damn! Houses in Germantown are flying off the market within days of being listed. Why? Schools.

About three years ago the Memphis City Schools and the Shelby County Schools merged. There are several independent municipalities within the county, including Germantown. They have their own mayors and city councils, police and fire departments, and so on. But the schools were under the auspices of the county. Residents of these cities were furious because they paid taxes--and a lot of them--to maintain county schools only. MCS is a mess, hence the merger with the assumption MCS would now have more money in the coffers. Naturally, taxes would go up substantially. So these cities formed their own school systems. Since Germantown is the closest of these towns to Memphis, people (especially newcomers moving to the area) are snapping up real estate like it's going out of style, which is the case in Germantown. The area is almost built out.

I consider us lucky to have finally found a house that suits our needs. Is it perfect? No. The kitchen is tiny, but what the hell, I don't cook much anyway. I'll want to unload the pergola on the patio and build on a screened in porch, but the pool and back yard are perfect as is the huge great room.

Along the way we saw a lot of houses. Some were in great condition, but more than we wanted to pay and out on the far eastern side of town. Others were in such bad shape, we didn't even go upstairs in one of them. I won't even describe the house where the owners ripped up the hardwood floors and painted the concrete.

So, in a month from today we'll close down here, pack up, and move back to the one area I've always liked. My next blog will undoubtedly be all about packing, moving companies, and the usual trials and tribulations of a major life changing event.

Needless to say, I haven't been working much. I just received the critiques back from my partners on the last chapter of a book I plan to submit soon, but for actually writing anything--nope. Not sure I'll get around to it until we're moved and settled in.

Have any of you moved lately? How did the experience go for you? Was it smooth and effortless? Or are you ready for an institution? I'll probably be in the latter category.

Hope you all are enjoying your summer. Talk to you next month.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

This Summer I Took Up Photography

By Beth Trissel

I've upped the time I spend outdoors this summer, working in my garden(s), and seeking potential images. The geese, flowers, sunsets, fireflies, any aspect of nature, are all subjects of my pics. Some of my images are surprisingly good. Many, not so much. But it's fascinating to see what I've captured. So far, I'm just using the camera on my Android phone.

You may wonder if I'm getting any writing done? I'm kind of stuck in my WIP. "Wibbly wobbly timey wimey...stuff," and I haven't figured out all the wibbles yet. But thoughts whir outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine--or rain. I go out if it's not a downpour to scout for geese and rainbows. 

When I began my garden forays earlier this spring, I was in slug mode. A half hours work and I was exhausted, my back aching. Now, I've gained more endurance. I still wear out, but not nearly as fast. Even after the cold weather returns, I plan to continue my journeys outside to take images. Being outdoors is good for the spirit, and photography rejuvenates me. I spend a lot of time sneaking up on the geese. I tried tossing grain in their direction to get closer, but they feared I was throwing stuff at them and fled. Suspicious gaggle. I happened upon them counting cows (image below). They don't count very well. However, they have a lot to say. Mostly random stuff. 

Cows are much easier to photograph. They're always hopeful I've brought them a little something. Sometimes I have. The geese hold frequent meetings. Yesterday, they voted on their favorite cookie. It was intense. Below, they're assembling before striking out on a grand adventure. They have no clue where. They rarely have a clue about anything. Barnyard geese are not overly bright.

We've had so much rain this summer, it's made gardening far easier. Also challenging because of all the weeds. But I'd rather fight them than suffer a hideous drought. I have many heirloom flowers that reseed themselves, in addition to wild flowers, perennials, herbs, and vegetables. And whatever the birds plant. A pic below of the main garden in its July glory before storms toppled a lot of plants. I'm trying, not very successfully, to prop them back up.

Sunsets are often wondrous here with the spectacular panorama of the meadow, farm pond, hills above our farm, and the barn. Most evenings, I scurry outside at sunset. Sunrise is tougher to capture, though I have tried and will continue to. If the sky is really amazing at sunset, I run from one side of the yard/barn/meadow to the other getting different angles, and back again. I've never liked exercise for the sake of exercise, but it's crazy what I'll do for a picture.

Endless possibilities for images lie before me. And the story ideas that come while I shoot away. 
This morning, I discovered tiger lilies blooming in my jungle of a backyard garden They are splendid in the light. Like jewels.

(White phlox below at sunrise.)

For more on me, visit my blog:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Keep it real, Grandma!"

By Vonnie Davis

Over a year ago when my editor told me she wanted a romantic series about former SEALs suffering with PTSD, I nearly declined. First off, how could I possibly make post traumatic stress romantic? Second--and more importantly--my second oldest grandson was battling his own PTS demons. A year to the day after he returned from serving in Afghanistan, he put a gun to his head. Thank God, it didn't fire. We still don't know why, except for God's divine intervention.

Josh had texted me shortly after arriving back in the States: Don't tell anyone. I'm in Texas.

Cryptic, even for Josh. Had he been reassigned? Was he keeping the news from an old girlfriend? What? I texted back: Why? Hey, I can be cryptic, too.

I don't want anyone but you to know I'm no longer in battle. I was injured.

Tell me where you are. I'm on my way.

No. I can't handle seeing anyone. I'll be okay. I'll tell you when I'm released, but no one else can know. I need to be alone.

I was in panicked Grandma mode. Josh had always been a headstrong child and we'd butted heads many times. He said he found security in my honesty and "house rules." So what was I to do with the few kernels of information he'd given me?

True to his word, he told me when he was released, again asking me not to tell his mother. I didn't understand all the secrecy or his refusal to tell me about his injuries. I told him about the new series I was writing, hoping it would prompt him to share. All he said was "Keep it real, Grandma."

I pushed. "What do you mean." And he finally opened up. His first injury had been to his bicep where a bullet wiped out his tattoo. He lost 2 close buddies in a mortar attack, their body parts covering him. He was standing in the hole of their vehicle, manning the machine gun, when a roadside bomb blew the vehicle up, causing a severe back injury and sending him to a hospital in Texas.

Josh told me about his triggers--for instance, he can't handle riding on the passenger side of a car because that side of the road goes "Boom!" There are night terrors. Depression. Avoidance of loud noise. He's on medication and seeing a counselor. He's making steady progress. I'm proud of his efforts to overcome his internal battle scars.

"I've ordered the first book in your new series, Grandma. You better have kept it real."

I hope I did.



Friday, July 22, 2016

social media and promoting

 due out end of July, second book in what is now called the Barrio Viejo series
Because I've been wrestling with how to best promote the next book, debating what is a wise use of my time in marketing, these two links were of interest.

To be honest, I felt a sense of relief reading that first one, as social media can suck up a lot of time. How much does it help? For writers who push their books a ton of places at once, I suspect it is more annoying for readers to find their news feed swamped by those blurbs. 

On the other hand, social media is one of the few places writers can let readers get to know them and their work. Most writers don't like doing promotion, but it's also no fun to see a book fall into Amazon's black hole-- and without readers, that's exactly what will happen. The following site then offered hope

It's not enough to get your book seen. It has to be seen by those most likely to read that genre. I would love to hear from those who are wildly successful at it as I have never understood what works. I use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email list signup, and do post new books on GoodReads (but don't do more there than that). Facebook is where I've spent the most time.

Often when I get a jump in sales, I can't tie it to anything I did-- nor have I ever figured out why suddenly there are no sales. I've used only one place to promote my books using $$-- boosting a post at Facebook. I then saw many coming to the site... but sales??? pffft.

In terms of social media, I guess I'll keep my blogs active (even when a lot of times I have to dig for something to say), notify my email list when new books come out, offer tweets every couple of days, and participate in places that I feel I can contribute something in terms of writing process. Also I'll share new books by other authors, when I have enjoyed their books.  I don't want to spend lots of hours in social media

For this week, I have a book to do the final edit after it comes back from the beta readers, creating a book trailer, writing a blurb, and am beginning to plot out the next book in this series. Overall, I think it'll do well... Okay, I don't know about that, but i am excited about the subject matter and mostly that's what it's about. 

These two guys are stray cats and they are also part of what is on tap right now. We are willing to give them both a shot at being house cats if that works out. It's uncertain that it will. The black one was marked as feral by having her ear clipped when she was spayed. The orange one got into a fight with a raccoon and ended up having an abscess treated when he was neutered. It's still iffy though if they want to be part of our home. Kind of like the books and maybe that's the lesson in it all-- do what you can and then sometimes accept it won't always go as you would wish. We haven't named them yet as if they don't come in at night, get along with our two, then we'll have to consider other options. I am not fond of the idea of inside/outside cats because of all the risks from predators and vehicles.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

#Dialogue, Y'all - by Sandra Nachlinger

One of the things I enjoy most about writing is creating dialogue, because it can be a lot of fun to put words into a character’s mouth! In writing I.O.U. SEX, my co-author and I had a great time with Peggy, a Baby Boomer with a strong Southern accent who loved Southern sayings. During Peggy’s creation, we searched our memories for truisms we’d heard over the years and we looked online, too, to find just the right thing for Peg to say. Here are a few gems we came up with.

In one scene Peggy admitted: I feel older than dirt and ugly as homemade sin. In another, she remembered that even a blind hog can find an acorn once in a while. She reminded herself to be careful: Don’t squat on your spurs. In a particularly tense scene, Peggy confessed that she felt as jumpy as a skillet full of fleas.

We called these “Peggy-isms,” and we both felt that they told a lot about the character’s personality and added color to the story. Besides, coming up with all those sayings was just plain fun!

Do you have any favorite sayings? I found myself muttering, “Six of one; half dozen of the other” recently, and “It’ll all come out in the wash” is one of my favorites. Maybe Peggy’s clich├ęs have had an effect on me!

PS: Both my books are set in North Texas .
I.O.U. Sex (co-authored with Sandra Allen)


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Weddings: The Ultimate Love Story? by Joan Reeves

In today’s world where couples live together and often have children without marriage, getting married seems to have become the ultimate commitment if not the ultimate love story.

Weddings are celebrated in ceremonies ranging from small, family-only events to splashy galas costing as much as a house.

Ancient People Knew What Was At Stake

It wasn’t always like this. Ancient history tells us that marriage was first a private, domestic affair.

According to Curious Customs of Sex and Marriage by George Ryley Scott (out of print but available at used book outlets), the basic function of marriage was to multiply. After all, the population was small. The planet needed more people. Marriages were simply a way of sponsoring procreation.

You may kiss the bride. Go forth and procreate.

Less Ancient Times

It didn't take men long to decide that the value of a woman--daughter, sister, or a female related by marriage--lay in making marriage contracts that enabled them (the men) to gain more wealth and power.

Yet, marriage was a hard sell to most men. Those testosterone-fueled beings didn't embrace the concept. They took persuading which is probably why the dowry played such a big part in landing a man who would enhance a father's power and wealth.

Perhaps that explains why so many nations (remember, just about all society was patriarchal) experimented with Polygyny, a form of plural marriage in which a man is allowed more than one wife, and Polyandry, a form of polygamy whereby a woman takes two or more husbands at the same time. So they could take a wife many times and get many dowries and expand the old power base.

Eventually, in most civilized nations of the world, monogamy was accepted almost universally, at least in theory, as the perfect form of marital union. As we all know, nothing and no one is perfect, but monogamy was probably what kept the world rocking along for a couple of millennia—dragging all of the customs and superstitions created along the way into our modern world.

Customs Transform To Fit The Times

Many marriage customs continue, with some slight alterations. Although some may still practice Marriage by Capture, that’s usually performed in an altered version called Elopement.

Betrothal in Infancy and Arranged Marriages still survive as do matchmakers. Even Marriage by Purchase survives elsewhere.

In our culture, cynics assert that Marriage by Purchase is alive and well. Just look at all the wealthy sugar daddies--and a few sugar mamas--who are always looking for sexy young sugar babies. Or maybe all of them are just looking for love like the rest of us.

Marriage of Convenience

Another classic tradition in the wedding arena is the Marriage of Convenience in which an unwilling man or woman is forced into a marriage. Sometimes this is because of the need for protection or for economic reasons.

I explore that theme in my romantic comedy, April Fool Bride. which is available at most ebook sellers as well as Amazon Kindle.

Is it a marriage of convenience or something more? Something that sizzles like steam heat between Maddie and Jake that neither can resist!

Oil heiress Madeline Quinn needs a husband by the time she turns twenty-five in order to claim her full inheritance. Mad Maddie, as the tabloids christened her, has learned the hard way that men only see dollar signs when they look at her.

Maddie decides a marriage of convenience is the only answer. She turns to the one man in the world she can trust, her housekeeper’s son who always treated her like a little sister when they were kids growing up together.

Jake Becker hasn’t seen Maddie since the night she tried to seduce him. Why should he help the woman who changed the course of his life? Simple. Revenge.

Joan Reeves writes funny, sexy Romance Novels--available at most ebook sellers. (Audio editions available at Audible, and iTunes.) All of Joan's books have the same underlying premise: "It's never too late to live Happily Ever After."

Joan lives her Happily Ever After with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State.

Readers, sign up for Joan's Mailing List/Free NL . Writers, subscribe to WritingHacks, Joan's free NL for authors. Connect Online with Joan: Blog * Facebook * Google+  * Twitter * YouTube.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

When Real Life Parallels Fiction

Occasionally, this happens and it gives you a strange feeling.

In the latest Dixie Cash book, YOU CAN HAVE MY HEART, BUT LEAVE MY DOG ALONE,  a foul-mouthed parrot is one of the characters. Jake is an African Grey opinionated, self-centered bird and here is his portrait. 

I did quite a lot of research of talking parrots in the course of writing this book. I watched many, many YouTube videos to get an idea of exactly how parrots talk. I wanted him to provide some comedy, so I looked for one of the better "talkers" among the parrot population. An African Grey is what I found, universally accepted as one of the smartest and most vocal of all of the parrots.  Their speech is often garbled and not understandable, but at other times, it is startlingly clear. 

They also mimic sounds, i.e., dogs barking, coyotes howling, sirens, cats yowling, etc. They appear to be better at making realistic sounds than at repeating real words. 

They seem to have cognitive powers and emotions. They have temper fits. They plot and scheme. They argue. They participate in simple conversation.

And that brings me to the gist of this post. The backstory I created for Jake was that he grew up in a biker sports bar. His vocabulary is a little blue and he's seen plenty. I wrote a scene where his owner is telling someone in a conversation that he witnessed a murder and told the cops who the culprit was, but the judge ruled that a parrot's testimony was inadmissible in court.  

Imagine my surprise when months after I wrote that scene, I read a news article about a woman who shot her husband and claimed it was an accident. However, the judge ruled that it was homicide because the African Grey parrot that lived in their house kept saying, "Don't shoot, Stella." The judge accepted that comment from the parrot as testimony that the murder was premeditated.

Then a few weeks later, another story surfaced where another African Grey parrot had witnessed a murder and the words he said indicated to the judge who the guilty party was. Here's a link to the TV news broadcast of that particular story:

Truth doesn't just parallel fiction. Sometimes it's stranger than fiction.

These birds are truly fascinating. So fascinating in fact that I sometimes think I want one. I suspect they cost a fortune. 

Anyway, Jake is a starring character in this book and hopefully he provides a lot of laughs. Oh, and when you have some time and want to be entertained, look at some of the parrot videos on YouTube.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

5 Reasons Smart Girls Read Romance by Paty Jager

There are most likely more than five reasons a person should read a romance book but I’m keeping the list short. You are more likely to read it if it’s short. ;) And it hits all the reasons I like a romance story. 
1) Happily Ever After – Readers know when they pick up a romance that the ending will me happy, the couple that struggled to be together throughout the book will have a Happily Ever After. We all want that for ourselves and sometimes reading it in a story that may have a bit of similarity to our own life, it gives us hope we could have the same type of ending.

2) Stories for Everyone – The romance genre has a subgenre for any reader. Just in the historical category alone you have 7 or 8 subcategories of any time period you prefer to read. I like historical because I know most authors do research to incorporate facts into the stories. I spend as much or more time researching than I do actually writing a book. There is contemporary, sports, westerns, sci-fi, paranormal of all kinds. Anyone can find a genre they like in a romance story. 

3) Emotional Roller Coaster – We read romance to go on that tumultuous journey with the hero and heroine. We want to root for both characters and feel their emotions.  The highs, the lows, the laughs, and the tears. If a book doesn’t have emotion it’s not a good read in my opinion. 

4) Strong Heroines – Readers these days love heroines who know who they are or are strong enough to discover who they are and what they want. They could survive without the hero, but they are smart enough to know having him around is a whole lot better. I write strong heroines. I’m an independent individual and my characters are the same.

5) Hunky Heroes – They don’t have to be an Adonis. Women these days see a man less as a provider and more as an equal. Someone who will share the good times and the bad. A man isn’t less of a man if he can understand the needs of the woman he loves. In fact, it makes him more of a man to be able to understand what she needs and help her gain either her inner strength or her outer goals. 
6) I’m throwing in one more, only because I think a lot can be shown about a character or a couple during or after a sex/love scene. Another reason smart girls like romance, especially steamy books, is to see the full evolution and completion of a relationship. A touch, a whispered endearment, or a relinquish of power during a sex scene can switch the feelings of the characters and deepen the relationship. 

That is my list of why smart girls read romance. Do you have other thoughts to add to this list? 

My newest book in the Letters of Fate series will release on July 16th. You can pre-order, Brody: Letters of Fate, now at a discounted price of $2.99!

Brody: Letters of Fate

Historical western filled with steamy romance and the rawness of a growing country.

A letter from a grandfather he’s never met has Brody Yates escorted across the country to work on a ranch rather than entering prison. But his arrival in Oregon proves prison may have been the lesser of two evils. A revenge driven criminal, the high desert, and his grandfather’s beautiful ward may prove more dangerous than anything he’d faced on the New York docks
Lilah Wells is committed to helping others: the judge who’d taken her in years ago, the neighboring children, and the ranch residents, which now includes the judge’s handsome wayward grandson. And it all gets more complicated when her heart starts ruling her actions
You can find an Author Note about the book and the buy links here.

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance.  This is what reviewers says about her Letters of Fate Series: “What a refreshing and well written love story of fate and hope! Very well written but sometimes sizzling love scenes!”

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

blog / websiteFacebook / Paty's Posse / Goodreads / Twitter

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