Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Pioneer Life

Debra reflects that she would have made a terrible pioneer.

With yesterday being a holiday here in the States (Presidents' Day), you'd think I would have gotten around to posting in a timely manner. Nope. I ran around and took care of some errands and shopping, and by the time I got home, all I wanted to do was sit on the porch with a book and read. Now granted, we're having unseasonably warm weather around these parts, so it's not often that I get to read a book outdoors in February. But still, I'd been busy all day and I just wanted to put my feet up and relax.

Ironically I'm re-reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. I read them all (probably several times) when I was a girl, and I reread them about ten years ago after I visited her home in Mansfield MO. I read Little House in the Big Woods to my kids at school every year, but this year I also revisited These Happy Golden Years as we recently hosted a book discussion at the Historical Society in our newly restored original one-room schoolhouse.
The restoration of our community's original school has been on-going for the past 15 years. We raised money to relocate the building to our campus back in 2009 and have been working ever since then to raise the money to restore it. A couple weeks ago, just in time for our village's 100th birthday, the job was complete. Now we can hold events and activities there. It's quite wonderful. I'm a big history buff, and to have something like this literally in my backyard (I live right behind the Historical Society campus) is a dream come true. When I walked into the building last week to set up for the event, I had tears in my eyes. It's just all kinds of wonderful.
For the event, we had 11 boys and girls come to discuss the book. We chatted about the book, made butter while we talked, ate lunch (ham sandwiches, apples, corn muffins, and stick candy) out of tin pails just like Laura used to, and then did a make and take craft based on the book. We chose that particular book in the series because it's about Laura going away to teach for the first time in a one-room schoolhouse of the day, so we thought it was the prefect tie-in for the inaugural event in our own schoolhouse.
It was a truly wonderful day, and as excited as the kids were, I think myself and my co-leader were even more giddy.

But I digress. The reason I found it ironic to be reading that particular series when all I wanted to do was rest and relax was because those pioneers never sat still. From sun up to sun down they worked: building houses, plowing, farming, taking care of the animals, cooking, doing laundry, doing dishes, sewing...just reading about all of it page after page makes me tired. Don't get me wrong...I work hard, too. With the balmy weather I took some time on Sunday to clean up leaves in the yard I hadn't gotten to in the fall and to remove some landscaping rocks from next to the front porch. But I always take time each and every day to read (at least for an hour before I go to bed each night) and if I'm really lucky, sit and watch a bit of tv with the hubby after dinner. I need my relaxing time. I love to sleep in. Go to bed early. Take time to just take a break.

So I could never be a pioneer. I don't have a strong enough work ethic, that's for sure. But it is amazing to think about those people of the past, and the work they did to build and grow our country.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Monday, February 13, 2017

Love and Hearts

As it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, the shops are full of cards with hearts, and heart-shaped balloons, cakes, chocolates, jewellery etc – because, of course, the heart is linked to love, and St. Valentine is the patron saint of love.

Throughout the ages, poetry and literature have concentrated on the heart as the centre of emotion, and there’s no doubt that the heart reacts to our feelings and reactions – it can thump, pound or thud, with emotions like shock, tension, fear, anticipation, excitement.

My characters’ hearts do all that, and more. I’ve learnt to be more restrained about their hearts after discovering (while editing one novel) that my heroine’s heart had not only thumped, pounded and thudded, but also jerked, jolted, jumped, and leapt (can the heart actually do those things?), and her heartbeat had accelerated, quickened, raced, skipped, missed a beat and done so many different things that she was in danger of an imminent heart attack.

And what about ‘heartache’ and ‘heartbreak’? Does the heart really ache? Can it actually break? The answer is probably no, but everyone knows what those words represent. In fact, a doctor actually gave Chief Joseph’s cause of death as being ‘of a broken heart’.

In the culture of all ages, the heart is everywhere, from the Roman poet Catullus with his heart ‘hardened’ (problem with his arteries?) to J.K.Rowling’s ‘The Warlock’s Hairy Heart’ (what??)

I’d actually contend that our emotions, feelings, and reactions come from our minds, but in romance novels, the heart continues be synonymous with love.

So I’ll leave you with a few quotations about hearts:

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.” (Blaise Pascal)

“A kiss makes the heart young again and wipes out the years.” (Rupert Brooke)

“Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.” (Leonardo da Vinci)

“The beauty of a woman must be seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” (Audrey Hepburn)

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.” (Helen Keller)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February Love

Jennifer talks about love...

February is the month of love.

Okay, maybe not. But with the push every holiday gets, Valentine’s Day takes on a huge role in stores—flower shops, chocolate and candy stores, jewelry stores and any other store that can come up with something suitable for your sweetie.

As a romance author, it takes on special significance, too. Because everything I write has to do with love. In my stories, love overcomes everything—horrible parents, rough backgrounds, difficult career decisions, physical and mental and emotional scars. No matter what happens, ultimately, love wins.

In books, love is often demonstrated with grand gestures. But in real life, love is often the simple, almost unnoticed, things. It could be a tone of voice or a touch. But it doesn’t even have to be romantic. This year, my husband is away for Valentine’s Day, so we won’t be celebrating. But he shows me his love all the time in things he does for me and by the support he offers me.

As a writer, I try to remember that when I show how my characters express their love for each other. It’s not always the “I love you” moment. Sometimes it’s more subtle than that. However their love is demonstrated, by the end of the book, the hero and heroine go off to live their “happily ever after.”

So, for those of you who write, remember the big and small “love moments.” And for those of you who read, I wish you your very own “happily ever after,” however that may be expressed.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, January 30, 2017

What's your Best writing advice?

Ana muses about a day (in the future) when she will be asked for her best writing advice.

What would I say?

Learn the rules (of sentence structure, POV, grammar, etc.) before breaking them.
Feed your muse. Read. Lots.
Love words.
Don't worry about your voice. It will come and it will evolve.

Don't write in secret. Find a critique partner. Join a writing group.

You can't edit a blank page.
Assign a time every day to writing.

What would you say?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Peek at "The Cowboy and the Princess"

Debra shares a peek into her WIP.

I have a good half dozen mss in their beginning stages. Some have just a few lines. Some have an entire chapter. This particular one, has about 16,000 words. Originally I'd intended for it to be a novella, but I'm leaning toward making this one a full-length. The opening itself seems more fitting for a full-length, as it does a bit of world building before the hero and heroine meet. With my novellas, they usually have contact by the first or second paragraph. (Although, Cal, our hero, makes an appearance in the very next scene.)

I haven't worked on this story (or any other) in months. But the other day I got a hankering to see what was in the archives, so to speak. I spent an hour or so opening word docs and reading my WIPs. And while it didn't motivate me to sit down and write anything new, it was fun to take a peek, and I feel it did get me one step closer to that moment when the author in me finally steps forward again.

So, for your consideration...here is the opening to "The Cowboy and the Princess".

Chapter One
"Hot dad alert. Lucky you."
Tessa McCormick applied a thin streak of blue eyeliner to her lower lid before glancing up. "What?"
"There's a really fine dad in your section tonight." Becky waggled her eyebrows.
"So?" Tessa brushed mascara onto her lashes. She blinked at her reflection. Long blonde ringlets draped over her shoulders. A round pendant suspended on a velvet ribbon hung in the lace-trimmed sweetheart neckline of the baby blue gown. When she tilted her head, the faux diamonds in her tiara sparkled in the mirror lights.
"So, you should check him out."
Tessa paused with the small brush in her hand. "Um, why?"
Becky yanked a yellow ball gown over her head. When her face emerged, she rolled her eyes. "Because he's hot."
"But he's a dad."
"You love kids."
"That's not the point. What about the mom? As in his wife?"
Becky waved a hand. "I didn't see anyone sitting with him. I bet he's single." Her rosy lips curled out in a pout. "You always have the luck. First you get to be the Blue Princess, and now you have the hottest dad in the world in your section."
Tessa laughed. "Does it really matter? We're not allowed to fraternize--" She made air quotes with her fingers. "--with customers outside of the restaurant." Her glance swept over Becky. "And besides, you get to be the Yellow Princess."
"Right." Becky fluffed out her brown curls. "'Cause walking around looking like a tub of margarine is what I've always dreamed of. While you on the other hand are a dead ringer for Cin--"
"Don't say it," Tessa admonished with another laugh. She glanced down the row of other girls primping in front of the mirror. All the colors of the rainbow were represented. "You know we're not supposed to be any specific princesses."
"Right." Becky flopped down in a nearby chair. "If I would have known there were so many rules, I never would have taken this gig."
"You're going to wrinkle your gown."
"Well, you'll just have to iron it for me when your fancy gown turns back to rags." She glanced at an imaginary watch. "Midnight is in, what? Another six hours?"
Tessa stuck out her tongue before applying a layer of shiny pink gloss to her lips.
"Now that's not very princess like."
A knock on the door was followed by the stage director's head poking through the open slit. "You're on in five, girls."
The flutter of activity in the dressing room increased as half a dozen princesses did a last minute check of make-up, hair, and gowns.
Tessa brushed a final stroke of peach blush across each cheek, then stood to follow the line of other girls toward the stage.
"Tell me again how you talked me into this," Becky muttered.
"Because it looks good on your resume. When we're big Broadway stars someday, we can look back and think of how far we've come."
"Places, ladies."
Tessa found her mark on the wooden boards of the stage behind the closed curtain. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Letting it out slowly, she visualized the steps of the dance and did a quick run through of the words to her solo in her head.
"Curtain in one. Lights in two."
Tessa opened her eyes and let herself become the Blue Princess as the curtain rose.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Starting a Novel

Paula looks at different ways of starting a novel.   

I’m in the final stages of editing my novel Irish Deceptions, and have already started thinking about my next novel, so I thought I’d pass on some tips I’ve read here and there about different ways to start a novel in order to capture the reader’s attention and interest.

Start with a question – that can only be answered by reading on.

Start by appealing to the reader’s curiosity, something that makes them ask who, what, why, etc.

Start with an image that focuses on one of the five senses.

Start with something unusual (like the clock striking thirteen in Orwell’s ‘1984’?)

Start with an action, preferably something out-of-the ordinary rather than a mundane action.

Can you think of any more ‘start’ ideas?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Year's Plans

I don’t make resolutions, but I do make plans. Lots of them. And then promptly hate that I have a plan to follow or that I need a plan or that I forgot about my plan and am now behind.

But, for 2017, I am determined not to fall behind, especially writing-wise. And this time, my plan is helping me deal with the angst of waiting. Because I have a few submissions out with editors and agents and I’ve been hearing from them—they want more, they’ll get back to me, etc. Which is great, but makes me want to check my in-box a bazillion times a day.

And if I did that, I’d get nothing else done.

So, like Ana mentioned last week, I’m sticking with my old writing habit of writing 1,000 words a day. They’re not always good words—quite frankly, I can’t wait to get to the editing phase so I can get rid of many of them—and sometimes those words consist of reminders to myself for when I go back and edit. But they’re words taking up a blank page and this past week, I wrote every day that my kids were in school.

I’m working harder on marketing my existing books, and taking advantage of select opportunities that I think will be effective. So I’ve sent marketing materials to Night Owl Reviews, which will be mailing them out to their readers. And I’m hoping to participate in some sort of a review opportunity to try to increase the number of Amazon reviews for my books. I’m sure there will be other things as well.

I hope to have some good news to post in the next month or two. If not, or maybe even in addition, I have a manuscript that I am thinking of self-publishing. It will require a huge learning curve on my part, because I want to do it right and professionally. Luckily, I have several people who have done just that and are willing to help me. So while I’m still in the “wait and see” mode, I’m getting ideas together. Because it’s been a while since I’ve published anything and I need to get something (and not just any old something, but something good) out there so readers don’t completely forget about me.

I’m trying to be more strategic in my social media posting and my blogs. Speaking of blogs, Heroines with Hearts is moving to each of us publishing once a month rather than once a week. So Ana was last week, I’m this week, Paula is next week and Debra is the following one. And then we repeat. And if there’s any writing subject you’re particularly interested in, let us know. We’re always looking for new ideas.

In the meantime, I’m plugging away, and hoping for news to share soon. Hoping your 2017 is off to a great starts and that whether you’ve set yourself a goal, made yourself a resolution, or are just taking things one day at a time, you are successful in whatever you do!