Thursday, December 31, 2015

Z is for Zach

Zach Rawlings is the hero in Debra's This Can't Be Love.

Zach started out as one of the 'good' guys in another story, and he remained that good guy throughout his own story as well.

We first meet Zach in This Time for Always. He's one of Sharlie's best friends. The guy who was always there for her. The guy always hoping she'd think of him as a bit more than a friend. I always knew Zach would have a story of his own, but I really didn't know what it would be. While vacationing in the Ozarks, I decided I wanted to use the location as a setting for one of my stories. One day it dawned on me: Zach's story could be set there.

So....Zach became the house sitter for someone he knew from The Corral. Zach wasn't looking for a full-time career. He loved being a bouncer at The Corral, and this side job suited him perfectly. Along comes Jessica, who isn't amused to find Zach at her grandfather's ranch while he's off touring the world. She also isn't amused that Zach has zero ambition in life. She's met far too many men just like Zach.

There is, of course, an immediate attraction, but Jessica is gun shy from her past, and Zach doesn't want to damage the trust Ben put in him by making a move on his granddaughter. No matter how much he wants her, he's not going to take advantage of the situation. See? One of those good guys.

Thankfully, this being a romance with a HEA, the good guys gets the girl in the end. Zach deserves to be happy, and he certainly finds happiness with Jessica.

Here's the blurb:

After the disastrous end of another dead-end relationship, all Jessica Hart wants is solitude and time to heal at her grandfather's mountain retreat. Instead she finds Zach Rawlings.

Zach has made himself at home at the cabin. He's house-sitting while the owner is away, and the temporary nature of the job suits him perfectly. For Jessica, Zach is everything she wants to escape.

As she gets to know him better, she realizes there's more to him than meets the eye. His patience and tender concern begin to heal something deep inside of her. But can she trust her heart to a man like Zach?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Z is for Zombies

Paula’s not talking about the living dead, but about using the passive tense!

I invariably grit my teeth when I see any writing advice about not using the word ‘was’. It appears regularly in lists of ‘words to delete from your writing’.

In some cases, I would agree, particularly when ‘was’ is used with an adjective. ‘He was happy’ or ‘She was upset’ are examples of telling, and it is far better to delete ‘was’ (plus the adjective) and show the emotions in a far more effective way.

However, some style ‘pundits’ try to tell us that the use of the word ‘was’ with a verb indicates passive tense, and this is where I disagree. For example, ‘She was sitting by the window when he entered the cafe’ is not passive. In this example, ‘was’ is part of the past continuous tense, indicating an ongoing action or state i.e. she was already sitting there when he entered the cafe. If we change the sentence to omit the word ‘was’, the meaning changes. ‘She sat by the window when he entered the cafe’ would give the impression that she sat by the window at the same time as he entered the café.

So where do the zombies come into all this? Recently I read that if you can insert by zombies after a verb, and your sentence still makes sense (in a way!), you are using the passive mode.

So, for example, “He was told (by zombies) to go immediately to the police station’ or ‘His car was hit (by zombies) at the road junction’ are both passive sentences, which could easily be converted into active mode e.g. His wife told him to go immediately to the police station’ or ‘A large van hit his car at the road junction.’

Grammatically speaking, the passive mode consists of the word ‘was’ followed by the past participle of a verb. However, although the general advice is to avoid passive verbs, there are times when they cannot be avoided. Sometimes this is when the person(s) performing the action is/are unknown e.g. ‘The building was demolished in the 1970s.’ Yes, you can insert by zombies in this sentence, and, assuming you actually know who demolished it, you could change it to active tense, e.g. ‘The local council (or the owners, or whoever) decided to demolish the building in the 1970s’ – but in this case, you could be introducing extra information that is irrelevant to your story, so this is an occasion when I think the passive tense is acceptable.

Therefore, by all means use the by zombies trick to indicate passive tense in your work, but, as with all these so-called ‘rules’, use your own discretion!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Z Is For Zzzz

Jennifer talks about sleeping...

It is probably not a coincidence that my blog post is about sleeping on the day I got little, if any sleep. When I went to sleep last night, or attempted to, I had no idea what I was going to write for Z. And when I woke up at 2:30 this morning, I still didn’t know. But I went back to sleep and 6 and now, I’m inspired!

Inspiration. It happens to writers at all different times. Many times are inconvenient. But for me, the most frequent time it happens is right as I’m drifting off to sleep. I love my characters, and I’ll often think about them when I’m trying to empty my mind of the stresses of the day. Therefore, I often work out plot problems or motivation issues or any number of things right before I fall asleep.

I used to think I’d remember my solution in the morning. Hah! Fat chance. So now, I have a few things I use to help myself. One is paper and pen. The problem with that is I don’t want to wake up my husband, so what I scribble is often illegible. Another is my iPhone or iPad. I can jot a few notes down and then fill them in the next morning. And recently, one of my critique partners gave me this cool notebook with a light attached for this very problem. I can’t wait to use it!

When are you inspired?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Z is for Zed Hawkins

Ana's WIP heroine's father is recovering from a heart attack. He's been forced to rest, and essential work on the ranch is falling behind schedule. The hero is fitting in too well as the new hired hand, in the heroine's opinion. 
The hero does have a scheme in mind and has just talked Zed into step 1.
Zed, though, has one of his own: ensuring the future of the ranch and the happiness of his only daughter.

Before dawn, Stormy panics when she doesn't find Zed in bed. She needs to tell him she's taught Blade everything she knows about fencing, and he has team with someone else now.

Zed sat at the dining table with Blade, Brownie and Running Bear. He looked fit as a fiddle. As she approached, he slapped the table gleefully, something she hadn’t seen him do in months. “I think it’s a fine idea, son,” he said.
            “What’s a fine idea?” she asked.
Blade looked down and fussed with his coffee cup. Brownie picked at a scab on one knuckle. Running Bear got up and walked into the kitchen.
Zed blinked several times before he answered. “Drawing a detailed map of the ranch.”
“We have to finish the fence,” she said. “We don’t have time to draw.”
“A schematic that includes the new section would be useful,” he said calmly.
“Useful for what?” she demanded. “We know the lay of the land.”
“Blade doesn’t.”
She wanted to shout, ‘So?’ but she could count. Four against one were bad odds. Biting her tongue, she marched into the kitchen. As she dished hash for her breakfast, she heard more whispering and then the scrape of chair legs. Certain now that the men were up to something, she sidled to the doorway and peeked out.
Running Bear walked out the front door. Zed, Brownie and Blade stood in front of the big bookshelf. Zed pulled his box of carved chess pieces from a shelf and opened it.
Blade plucked out a rook. “I’m not very good, but I’d love to play.”
Zed’s eyes glinted. “This evening?”
“All right, sir. It’s a deal.”
“Time to giddy-yup!” Running Bear’s voice rolled through the house like a rumble of far-off thunder.
Blade and Brownie scooped up their hats and gloves and hightailed out the front door.
Stormy dropped her plate of food onto the dining table and pushed past Zed. This was not the plan they’d agreed upon last night.
The angry shout rising to her lips fizzled to a soft sigh as she watched Blade stride across the yard. From the heel of his boots to the crown of his Stetson, he moved with the grace of a dancer and the sureness of a hunter. He mounted his mare in one smooth motion and looked back at her.
His gaze heated her body, lighting fires in places she didn’t know could burn. Just when she was sure she could not endure any more, he touched the brim of his hat, reached for Belinda’s reins and rode out between Brownie and Running Bear.
Her fluttering heart gradually regained a normal beat.
Two more weeks. He’d leave, and everything would return to normal.
She walked back inside. “Why isn’t Blade going for posts?”
“Because you are.” Zed opened the corner wardrobe, where they stored their special occasion clothes.
Her day turned from bad to worse. She could avoid Vance, but as soon as townspeople saw her, they’d remember how she’d slapped Blade in front of the Land & Loan. “No, I’m not.”
Zed pulled a button from the pocket of his Sunday jacket. “I need you to stop at Mrs. Rosenbaum’s. Find a button to match this one or buy thirteen new ones. I’ll sew them on this afternoon.”
Stormy tried to think of an excuse. The clothing emporium sold frilly dresses and breath-robbing corsets. Shoes with ribbon ties. Useless white gloves.
Suddenly, a truly awful image stabbed through her mind: Zed laid out in a pine box wearing this black jacket.
She forgot about the clothing emporium, and how surreal she felt whenever Blade was near. Maybe Zed was feeling poorly and wanted to get everyone else out of the house so he could talk to her alone. “Are you dizzy? Any pain in your left arm?”
“I feel fine.” He thumped his chest like a jungle ape. “Good enough to go dancing.”
Skeptical, she lifted his hands and examined the tips of his fingers. To her relief, they were pink and warm. “No dancing,” she said sternly. “Doctor’s orders. Remember?”
Zed smiled like a Cheshire cat. “Your breakfast is getting cold."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Y is for Yuletide

Debra shares blurbs from her three Christmas stories.

Maggie Pearson has no time in her busy life for love, but an immediate attraction draws her to a mysterious stranger at The Corral, a local bar. However, any romantic feelings are ruthlessly squashed when he accuses her of having an affair with his brother.

As a divorce lawyer, Van Rawlings has seen the ugly side of marriage too many times to believe in love. But having gotten off on the wrong foot with Maggie, and genuinely contrite over his faux pas, he offers to help her with an upcoming Christmas charity dinner. The more time they spend together, the more he realizes he’s never met anyone like Maggie, who gives so generously of her time.

Can Maggie and the magic of the season help Van believe again? In Christmas and in love.

Newly single, Heather Morgan gathers her courage and decides to take a Christmas ski vacation on her own. However, the festive holiday atmosphere reminds her how dispirited and alone she feels. When she meets a mysterious stranger, her lonely vacation takes an unexpected turn.

Sam is at the resort at the urging of his brother, who thinks he needs to get out and have a little fun. Having no desire to get involved with anyone, Sam needs a way to get his brother off his back. The intriguing Heather seems like the perfect solution to his dilemma, so he makes her an offer she can't refuse.

Sam restores the joy of the season to Heather. Their time together is magical, something she'll never forget. Soon her feelings for him deepen beyond their romantic holiday fling. But Sam has a secret, one that could prevent the fantasy from ever becoming real.

A chance meeting. A friend of a friend. Mia Preston hasn’t been able to get Ethan Chase out of her mind. A cozy coffee house leads to a night of romance. But will their kiss under the mistletoe lead to heartbreak or the love of a lifetime? (This is a FREE read from The Wild Rose Pres.)

Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Y is for Yes!

Paula loves those ‘Yes!!’ moments.

We’ve all had them – those ‘light bulb’ moments when you suddenly realise the solution to a tricky issue in your story, or when a character reveals something about themselves that you didn’t know before.

Occasionally those ‘yes’ moments come when you’re sitting at your computer, but, in my experience, many tend to happen when you’re doing something completely different. Some people say they get their best ideas in the shower, but mine tend to come when I’m washing the dishes – so there’s an advantage to not having dishwasher! Other times, a sudden idea can come into my mind while I’m driving, and I really think I should invest in one of those voice-activated recorders to capture those thoughts, in case I forget them before I have a chance to write them down. The same applies to those amazing ‘yes’ moments that always seem to happen as you are about to drop off to sleep. ‘I’ll remember that,’ you tell yourself in your last waking moment, but of course by next morning you’ve forgotten.

I’m lucky in that I have a ‘brainstorming partner’ who, although, or maybe because, she is a reader, not a writer, knows exactly the right questions to ask to turn my mind away from the tramlines on which it is stuck, and start thinking in a different direction. With Irish Intrigue, she did it with four words, “Or with the children”, at which point I raised a clenched fist with a rather loud response of ‘Yesss!’ which made everyone else in the pub restaurant where we were lunching looking round at us. A similar thing happened with Irish Secrets, my current WIP, when I needed someone to ‘find’ an important item. We discussed various possibilities while we finished our lunch, but it was that evening when she called me with an idea she’d thought of. At least this time I was in the privacy of my own study when I let out that yell of ‘Yesss!’

What have been your best ‘yes’ moments, and where and when did they occur to you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Y Is For Yippee!

Jennifer is almost at “The End”…

There is nothing better than writing the words “The End” at the end of your manuscript. Okay, maybe there is—chocolate, selling your first book, chocolate—but bear with me.

As a writer, we start with a kernel of an idea. We push through the self-doubt that whispers, “This isn’t good enough to write about,” and begin writing. We get stuck and throw our hands up in despair. We talk to our writing friends who hopefully convince us to keep going and help us figure out what we’re doing wrong, or help us further develop our characters and plot so that we can move forward (even if, during the process, we have to go back and fix a whole lot of things!). We write as we juggle day jobs, families and distractions. We write when the words flow easily and we write when there is not a single word we can think of to put down on the page. We write from outlines and we write from the top of our heads. We talk to our characters and we shout, “Hold on!” when we get an idea in the middle of something completely unrelated to writing. Until one day, we’re done. And we write, “The End.”

We know there is editing and critiquing and more editing and deleting and rewriting that has to be done. We know that eventually we’ll have to send our manuscript out into the world for editors and agents and readers to see, and we cross every body part we can, hoping they like it. We know we’ll have to write dreaded synopses and marketing plans and talk about our writing and try to get people to purchase, read and review our books.

But at the very moment we write “The End,” we are filled with a sense of accomplishment. Because we completed what we started.

Within the next two days, I expect to type those two words on one of the two manuscripts I’m currently writing. It’s one of my fastest works and I’m pretty impressed that I completed it so quickly. I tried a new editing process with it as I went along, but I’ll still have massive amounts of editing and adding and deleting and rewriting to do.

But I’ll by shouting “Yippee!” when I type those two little words. Because no matter what happens next, I did it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Yep: Yap

Ana revels in words.

The Flip Dictionary is a great thesaurus reference.

The word Yap lists the following:

babble, bark, bumpkin, chat, chatter, chodhopper, gab, gossip, hillbilly, jabber, lecture, prattle, rustic,
scold, yak, yammer, and yelp.

I never thought of Yap as a noun. This must be an old-fashioned meaning.  (This bit of trivia might come in handy when writing historical stories or playing Jeopardy.)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Snippet

A further extract from Margaret's book Unwelcome Stranger

When a short time later one of the women from the main office came to see her Grace felt a fluttering in her stomach. Once or twice she had caught this woman looking at her but thought nothing of it because curiosity was still rife as to why she’d been given this job.  

“I hope you don’t mind me asking,” the woman said, swaying nervously from side to side, “but are you the lady whose son was killed by a drunken driver?”

Ice slithered down Grace’s spine and she closed her eyes. Time stood still and she fully expected when she opened them again the woman would be gone, that she had been a figment of her imagination. But she was still there. “I am,” she admitted faintly, “but how could you possibly know?”

“I saw your photo in the paper at the time.” said the woman, her voice so quiet that Grace could hardly hear.

“And you’ve remembered me?”

She nodded. “Because - because it was my husband at the wheel. He killed your son.”

     Grace was afraid the woman would pass out as tears rolled down her cheeks, every vestige of colour draining from her face. “Please, sit down,” she said, indicating one of the chairs, at the same time feeling her heart stop before resuming at breakneck speed. Her fingers curled into her palms, nails digging in. It was difficult to swallow and she wanted to lash out but knew it had taken enormous courage for this woman to come in here and make this admission.

It brought everything back. The shock, the anger, the grief. The enormous grief. She sat down too and looked at the woman called Rose. “Have you any idea what it did to me?”

“I can only imagine,” she admitted between sobs.

“It ruined my life! I’ve only just begun to get over it. Why was your husband driving if he was drunk? How can anyone be that irresponsible? I hope they threw the book at him.” She’d been too consumed by grief to read the papers afterwards.

The woman looked at her with immense sadness in her eyes. “He’d just been diagnosed with cancer. It’s why he drank so much. He wasn’t in his right mind.”

Grace closed her eyes, surprisingly feeling sudden pity for this woman. “It doesn’t excuse what he did, though.”

“I know. And he paid for it.”

But as much as she had?

“He was full of remorse, I’ve never seen a man cry so much.”

“I still cry,” said Grace, although now she came to think of it, since Frazer rescued her from her own imminent death, her tears had got less and less until they’d virtually dried up. Not that she didn’t think of her son every day, but it was with fond memories now. She would think of some of the funny things he’d said and laugh out loud.

“My husband was still haunted by it when he died two years later.”

“I’m sorry,” said Grace. But to lose a child was surely the worst thing of all. “Do you have children?”

The woman nodded. “I have a fifteen year old daughter and a son of a similar age to – ” Her words tailed off and she began crying again.

“What’s his name?”


And they were both fatherless!

When Frazer made one of his now customary evening visits he asked what Rose had been speaking to her about.

“She told me her husband was the one driving the car that killed Daniel.”

His brows rose. “Really? A very brave confession.”

“I guess so,” she admitted, “although my first instinct was to lash out. Apparently it began to play on her mind when I started working for you and she realised who I was. She’s suffered, though. Her husband has since died. He’d been drinking at the time of the accident.”

“I hope they threw the book at him,” declared Frazer.

“It’s not that simple,” she said. “He’d just been diagnosed with cancer. I actually feel an odd sense of release knowing the person responsible for Daniel’s death was in his own personal hell at the time. Knowing he wasn’t just a drunken driver as I’d been led to believe.”

“You’re a very forgiving woman.” He took her face between his hands and kissed her, a kiss that told her she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.

“I probably wouldn’t have felt like this before I met you,” she admitted. “You’ve helped me turn my life around.”

“Could I turn it around some more?”

Grace frowned. “I don’t know what you mean?”

“Would I be premature in asking you to marry me?”

Her heart skipped a beat, in fact it skipped several. “But you – you said – you said that – ”

“I know what I said,” he admitted with a wry smile, “it was how I felt before I met you. I didn’t know then there was just one woman in the whole world who could make me change my mind. I’m lucky to have found you.”

“I believe I’m the lucky one,” corrected Grace, thinking of her suicide attempt. She shuddered at the thought of having never met Frazer, of ending her life without knowing the immense pleasure he could give her. He had taught her life was truly worth living, that there was no hurdle too large to get over.

A week later they were in his office discussing plans to honeymoon on one of his magnificent yachts when the door burst open and Hilary stormed in. It took Grace a few seconds to recognise the woman from the café, and a few more to understand what she’d come to say.

“This certainly looks very cosy.” Her voice was oddly accusing.

Grace blushed. They were sitting a little too close together for them to be discussing work. In fact Frazer’s hand was on her thigh and she had thrilled at his touch. Now, though, he slowly withdrew and stood up.

“Hilary!” he said. “This is a surprise.”

“So I see.” Her eyes flitted from one to the other. “It was unfortunate our little talk the other day was interrupted because there was something I wanted to tell you. Needed to tell you actually.”

Frazer frowned.

“And since it’s rather personal I’d prefer we were alone.”

“Anything you have to say can be said in front of Grace,” he said at once. “Perhaps you’d like to congratulate us? She’s just agreed to become my wife.”

 If looks could have killed Grace knew she would have died in that moment and she couldn’t help wondering whether Hilary’s sights were set on Frazer. She had definitely seemed possessive at the café.

“Then I’m afraid you’ll have to tell her you can’t marry her after all,” said the woman, a confident tilt to her head, a glint in her eyes. “Not when I’m expecting your baby.”