Thank You Lee Greenwood

Earlier this month the dh and I attended the 15th Battalion Association – 1st Cavalry Division Reunion in Franklin, Tennessee.

This battalion was responsible for taking care of the wounded in Viet Nam.  They would lift them out of the jungle and deliver them to the nearest treatment area.  With the big red cross painted on the aircraft the insurgents would use it as a target, even though insurgents and civilians were also picked up.

The Guest of Honor at the Reunion was SP4 Jerry Dick, who was shot several times as a door gunner.  Meaning he was in a harness, located at the door of the helicopter, and was to shoot at anyone or anything that was shooting at them.  Jerry is still suffering from the wounds of that day.

As they were honoring Jerry, music from an iPod came on, it was Lee Greenwood’s song, “God Bless the USA”…Jerry’s favorite song.  The crowd could barely hear the song, so the man in control turned it off and said he would go to Plan B.  Someone in the audience shouted out, “Get a kid.”  Everyone laughed at that one because it was so true.

He opened a door and out came Lee Greenwood, singing the song.  “God Bless the USA.”

I don’t think anything has impressed me so much.  I know that he volunteered his time to come and sing for Jerry and the group and he did it from the heart.  So, thank you Lee Greenwood.

When I realized that I would be posting on the ‘real’ Memorial Day, I knew I had to share this story with you.  During the reunion we were asked to remember someone who died in Viet Nam, and it was too easy to think of someone.  My dh thought of the man who was killed when his helicopter crashed.  I thought of my brother-in-law’s brother, a nice young man that never came home.

So, today I ask of you to say a prayer for those who never came home.  So many men, so many lives changed forever, their parents, their spouses, their children.

In our small town, several of the clubs display American flags along the main streets.  Every time I see them, it makes me proud to be an American.  God Bless the USA seems so appropiate.  Thank you Lee Greenwood for writing a song so dear to us.

May, Babies and Books

I’m in that awkward stage of life, baby-wise.  I’m too young to be a grandma to a beautiful, fresh, peach-haired, Johnson’s baby oil-smelling baby (and I don’t just mean

Future Queen Baby

mentally young–although I am certainly mentally unprepared) (and I don’t just mean my sons are too young to be parents because technically they’re not but by every meaningful standard known to mankind, they are too young) .  I’d love a little Queen grand-baby. But really, I can wait for my babies to have babies. I’m not usually never patient—I hate two-person lines at the grocery store–but for this, I can wait.

On the other hand, I’m too old (not old-old, but technically speaking old) (and this has nothing to do with my state of mind which isn’t old at all) to have my own precious cooing bundle with that unbearably soft smooth skin and plump cuddliness (although I’m not entirely sure about adoption rules).

The solution is of course, is to write about babies. Two of the heroines in my last three novels were pregnant or obsessed with having babies. In my fourth novel, my current work in progress, THE HOT SHOTS, the baby from the first book, BETWEEN A ROCK AND A MAD WOMAN, makes a cameo appearance. And these aren’t exactly baby-friendly stories.  Mainly they’re romantic comedies with suspense, not babies.

Yet, I could not resist playing the baby-card with the heroines in my stories. Because I could, I shoe-horned the baby notion in without even realizing why or what for. I think my new story-writing motto should be “Love & Babies Make the World Go Round.”  It’s true if you think about it. Literally (pun intended).  That’s babies and books for you.

As for May–my own beautiful first baby boy was born in May (did I mention I love alliteration?).  So this month always makes me nostalgic for babies. Maybe I should have mentioned that first.

If you want to see exactly how I fit a “baby notion” into a romantic comedy intrigue about a man and woman running against each other for political office–when they happen to have a past as lovers– take a look at BETWEEN A ROCK AND A MAD WOMAN. It should probably be featured as a case study for the freudian-slip chapter of some psychology text book.

For more info about Stephanie Queen books, with and without babies, visit www.StephanieQueen.com (naturally).

Retirement: a new spring

Some people never retire because they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. My uncle is one of them. At eighty, he still goes to work every day. But he can’t drive from Long Island to Manhattan and brave the horrendous traffic. Without him and his incredible experience as VP, the contracting company would collapse. To keep him, the CEO assigned him a car and chauffeur to bring him to the office every day.

 Most seniors don’t have such luxury— or luck—to continue working while enjoying a certain comfort. If they don’t have a hobby and are forced to quit working, they often slouch in front of the TV for hours, lose interest in trying new things, and miss fantastic opportunities to be useful and active. I had another uncle in that category. He ended up with Alzheimer’s disease, a horrible fall from the stairs, and unexpected death two years after retirement. 

Many people consider retirement to be a passage into the fall of life. Not always. For some it could be a new begin, a new spring. When I reached my mid-fifties I was burned out from my hectic schedule, ten hours at the lab and the office, and then folders of files to review at home, plus monthly trips to audit other laboratories or participate in meetings and conferences. When I asked for an early retirement, my boss stared with round eyes. “What will you do with yourself? You’re not the type to sit in front of a TV. You’ll be bored out of your mind.”

No sir! I wasn’t planning to be bored. There were so many things I wanted to do while I was full of energy. Now I wish there were more hours in the day to fit my new career as a writer and the endless promotion that came with it as an unwelcome bonus. I also have to create time for exercising, socializing, traveling, doctors’ appointments, and answering my long-suffering husband when he tries to interrupt my musing with a question or a request. Oh, I also try to create time for cooking.  I forgot to mention it because I often forget to cook, and end up quickly fixing a salad or grilling ‘something’.

Recently, I started a new endeavor: I publish my own ebooks, and create my book covers. Check them on Amazon and spHer Greek Romanceend an entertaining moment with my romantic comedies.

NO MORE LIES,     http://tinyurl.com/79r88wp

RIGHT NAME, WRONG MAN, http://tinyurl.com/85o4wg7

BABIES IN THE BARGAIN,   http://tinyurl.com/6mcd6e3

HER GREEK ROMANCE,  http://tinyurl.com/6lnbcuv

Are you still working in a day job outside your home? If retired, to which category of retires do you belong?

www.monarisk.com

Plant a seed, plant a story

ImageI don’t remember how old I was when I realized flowers made you happy. But, I know who helped me understand that the magic of growing flowers was right up there with cookies and milk. My grandma. A vivid memory of pulling up her driveway has stuck with me throughout the years. Her long walkway to the house was covered in thrift. Beautiful, lavender thrift. Of course, each year it multiplied and each year the thrift became more glorious than the last.

When my own grandchildren came along, I shared my love of planting a tiny seed and watching it blossom into a thing of beauty. Their awe and pleasure was more than worth digging in the dirt.

When I think of planting a flower seed, it reminds me of writing. Find the proper spot, cultivate the soil, plant the seed deep enough, cover it with the right amount of soil, water it in, keep it weeded, fertilized and pull the plants that strangle the strongest plant. One strong plant will mature, whereas several in the same area will slow its progress. Once the plant blooms, sometimes we need to cut the first bloom in order for the plant to produce stronger flowers.

Writing is similar to whittling a piece of wood down to a flawless work of art. I used to watch my grandfather whittle and wondered how in the world he had the patience to keep at it for hours at time. He had a plan and worked that plan until the wood became his vision. I certainly shave away at my manuscript more than I’d like, but shavings can be swept up and used elsewhere, if I want.

So here’s to my grandma, for her loving arms and precise teachings in the method of planting, whether it’s seeds or a story.

I’m slicing and dicing “Not My Own” and hope it’s whittled down to a better piece of art than when I first began to write.

Carol’s books are available at all major ebook sellers.

Sweet & Spicy

Mom, maybe you should skip this one – today I’m going to talk about sex.

Every romance novel needs passion, ranging anywhere from a simple kiss to full-out rumpy pumpy. These scenes are among the most challenging – and the most fun – to write. Let’s face it, even for those of us who are happily married, it’s a pleasure to revisit the pull of attraction, the breathless anticipation, the excitement of that first encounter with someone whose mere smile turns your knees to jelly. As true as that is for the reader, it also applies to the writer.

Those moments are among the most important in a romance novel, and it isn’t easy capturing them so that they ring true as well as stir the imagination. The writer’s goal is always to invite the reader into the hearts and minds of the characters. Just as important as the physical sensations are the emotions experienced by the characters during that first kiss or more intimate encounter. It’s essential to strike this balance well.

When I began writing romance, I admit my embarrassment about writing explicit scenes led to bland results. Over the years I’ve been able to discard my inhibitions and write more scintillating scenes. My characters may consummate their relationship or not (depending on how it fits the story), but you can count on them getting very close to it! Whatever the degree of heat, I prefer to focus on the internal experience of the characters rather than depicting the mechanics of lovemaking. Depending on the writer’s style, a scene can be just as erotic (or more so) without describing the nitty gritty.

There’s no right or wrong way to write passionate scenes – depending on the writer’s style and the reader’s preference, there’s room for all levels of heat in the romance spectrum.

What’s your preference – sweet or spicy, or a combination?

My new novel, Secret Vow, is FREE on Amazon May 21 and 22, so check it out!

 

Rules and Truth in Fiction

The Trouble With Love by Joan ReevesReaders, I want to talk to you about the rules we writers follow and the truth we try to inject into our books in the hope that we will create a book that gives you a great reading experience.

Rules are interesting little critters, aren’t they? I write quite often about rules, and about the breaking of rules, on my blog, Sling Words.

Advocated By All

Many years ago, the first so-called rule about writing that I learned was what all published writers and editors espouse: Write what you know.

I’m pretty sure all writers still hear this because I hear it when I pop into writers’ conferences. I even say it when I teach workshops and classes or write about narrative skills. Why should you write what you know? Because it gives authenticity to your words. By the way, this rule applies whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, whether it’s a book project or an article or a blog post.

Now, people who don’t write fiction think that writing what you know doesn’t apply. After all, you’re just making it up. Right?

2 Kinds of Truth

Wrong! In fiction, writing what you know means getting the facts correct in your information plot. It also means clearly presenting the underlying universal truth that is as real for an American as it is for an Italian or a Japanese.

Universal truth is the honesty and recognizable truth that makes fiction come to life. It’s what will make an editor offer you a book publishing contract or a reader buy every book or ebook you write. One might even say that writing what you know – the emotions you feel when hurt, scared, angry, or happy – is even more important in fiction because without that truth, your fiction will never succeed because readers won’t emotionally invest in the story.

IMHO

Over the years, I’ve put my own spin on the “write what you know” rule. If you’ve read some of my writing how-to articles or taken a class or seen me giving a presentation at a conference, you’ve probably heard me say it this way: Write what you know or want to know. For the most part, researching and writing about a subject is a form of self-education.

I truly think if writers are interested enough in a subject to do the necessary research AND if they have the ability to articulately express ideas then they can write on a variety of subjects without necessarily being an expert. Writers should never be intimidated because they’re not experts in whatever subject they wish to use as background or as an information plot. As long as the subject interests a writer, then research deeply and learn. Writers owe that to readers.

Testing Research For Credibility

When I wrote The Trouble With Love, I knew nothing about how a small county Sheriff’s department would work. How many deputies would there be? What jobs would the deputies do? How autocratic could small town mayors be?

So I read some books written about small town law enforcement departments. I talked to my nephew who was a Sheriff’s Deputy. I looked up crime stats and also read about politics in rural areas and small towns. In other words, before I wrote a word of The Trouble With Love, Book 1 of Texas One Night Stands, I did my research to see if my heroine and my premise were credible.

Universal Truth

The other kind of truth is the underlying emotional truth. This universal, or emotional, truth is recognizable all over the world. As I said before, this truth is as real for me as it is for a woman in the Middle East or Asia. This is what will make readers the world over want to read your work. This is the element that breathes life into fiction.

In The Trouble With Love, the heroine Susannah is damaged emotionally because her father walked out on her and her mother when she was a child. She felt that rejection in her soul, and it formed her opinion about men. Yet, as an adult, she keeps trying to make a connection with her father, a man who remains emotionally inaccessible to her.

Who hasn’t felt the sting of rejection? Who hasn’t felt bereft by the loss of love for one reason or another? That’s a universal truth. You might be able to fake expert knowledge part of the time, but you can’t ever fake emotional truth and get away with it.

Post Script

Of the two kinds of truth, universal emotional truth is by far the most important. Don’t skimp on it any more than you would skimp on information research. Yes, it’s hard to tap into some emotions, but the rewards are tremendous for readers – and for you, the writer.

(Joan’s books are available at all major ebook sellers.)

Hope Springs Eternal

A Big Congratulations to Our Authors of Main Street April Grand Opening Contest Winners: Grand Prize winner, Joan Leacott and 2nd Place Winner, Sandra Nachlinger! Free books and gift card to come!  On behalf of all the Authors of Main Street, I thank you for your participation. Happy Reading. Happy Writing. Happy Third Wednesday!

Now on to my title for today: Hope Springs Eternal. Clichẻd though it may be, the title for this blog is a truism for me. Three small words that when jumbled and elaborated upon always make me smile. I live in south-eastern Wisconsin where it’s still a little early for spring and early summer flowers to come out to play, but the birds are chirping in my bird bottles, baby snakes wind themselves in and out of my garden beds, and fuzzy yellow goslings follow their parents from familiar nesting grounds in wobbly lines of joy. It’s light enough to enjoy a glass of wine with my husband on my back deck at 7:30 at night and light enough to have coffee on my front porch at 6 in the morning, listening to the birds greet the day. Gotta love Spring after a long Winter’s nap.

As to Hope, well this is the season for getting things done. No matter what it is that you and I are getting done, and putting out into our collective universe, we hope it goes well, is received well, and, in my case, sells well. Spring is a time of new beginnings, new possibilities, new projects. It’s also a time to cleanse our environments of the junk we’ve accumulated that no longer serves us. Sometimes this is just Spring cleaning. Sometimes it’s a whole life cleanse. Wherever you are on your path to greatness, may your environment be a little brighter this spring and may the old junk be easy to trash as you begin anew.

Eternal…well that one’s a bit tougher, but since spring has had this brightness to it since I have had memories, I think the word eternal will do to describe the lightness of being and the possibility this season brings. Our world does get brighter for half the year for those of us not riding the equator and that is something to celebrate and reflect back to the world in our lives and in our art.


So how is this Spring-Superlative-Flight-of-Fancy relevant to my life at this moment (and let’s face it folks this moment is all we have)? Well, this Spring is when my life’s path truly took a 180 degree turn. I’m still transitioning from law to writing full time, but there it is an 80/20 relationship now (80% writing, 20% not). There’s got to be a lot of hope, because at this moment the harvest of my efforts has yet to be reaped. Having the time to do something I love, that I’m drawn to with an absolute need, and that stirs my soul, is indeed something eternally positive. Like hope actualized. What better season than spring to plant this gift and watch it grow?

I’m posting some photos of my front porch garden from last year and some of the plants I’ve chosen for my baskets and containers for this year that have yet to be planted, because the threat of frost is still very real here. I’m also showing some of my statuary (one of my six flying pigs, my kata frog, one of my three prince charming frogs, and my sleeping mermaid). In my book, Sparring Partners, I indulged my need to display whimsy in the garden.

I will conclude with three wishes for you: May you always have Spring in your step, Hope in your heart and may love grace you Eternally. Happy Spring!

Leigh Morgan

Reasons to Write

Elizabeth George once said that she writes to stay sane. I do that, too. I also do it to keep everyone around me from going insane.

Writing keeps me from obsessing. Here’s me when I’m not writing: Carol drops by with a pan of brownies. She looks like a teenager in that barely there t-shirt. She says, “I brought these for your husband to thank him for helping me fix that broken window.” I say thank you, but inside I’m thinking I really wish she’d wear more clothes. I wonder what she was wearing when Larry was at her house, for how long was that? I can’t compare myself to her—I had six kids and she has a dog. Maybe my abs would look like that if I had countless hours to spend at the gym. Does she work out at the same gym as Larry? Why does she call him all the time? He doesn’t even like brownies. I love them. I bet she knows that. She knows that I’m going to eat this entire pan of brownies because now I’m so depressed and one or two or five brownies isn’t going to matter because I’m going to be divorced and single and fat. I better call Larry, although I just talked to him and he’ll be home for lunch in twenty minutes, I need to hear his voice. 

Here’s me when I’m writing: the doorbell rings but I don’t hear it because I’m deep into my story. Somehow Mercy has to stop Eloise from going on a drive with horrid Mr. Steele. What can she do—should she confide in Eloise? In the real world, my dog is pawing at me. No. Eloise is a blabber mouth. She can’t be trusted. My dog knows someone has come to the door and she pulls at my sock with her teeth. I shake her off, but she’s so annoying that I have to investigate. Someone has left brownies on my front porch with a thank you note. It’s from Carol, that darling girl from across the street. I study the brownies, wondering what’s in them, and inspiration hits—Mercy will bake Eloise a pie laced with a draught that will make her sleep through her rendezvous with Steele. I put the brownies on the counter and save them for when Larry comes home for lunch. I hurry back to Mercy, Eloise and Mr. Steele, wondering how to make a sleeping draught. (Stealing Mercy, chapter twelve)
(FYI- Neighbor Carol is fictional, used to make a point about my own lunacy and not a commentary on my highly respectable, modestly clothed and admirable neighbors or my good husband—who always lets me eat more than my fair share of brownies.)

Writing gives me someplace to put my head. As a mom, I do a lot of mindless things—driving, stirring, ironing, cleaning toilets—and while I’m doing these mindless tasks, it’s nice to have something to think about (other than my neighbor’s t-shirt.) I also love research. It’s like a treasure hunt that just keeps going. The internet is an endless source of information and if I can’t find what I need there, I try to think of people who might know and I call and ask them. No one has ever been annoyed. People love to believe that they’re experts and when I call with a question, they’re always happy to chat. Writing is much more intellectually stimulating than…well, almost everything, take, for example, the coincidence that both plot points of the two novels I’m referring to in this post take place in chapter 12. Things like this make me think.

Writing gives me hope. Remember how I said that as a mom I do a lot of mindless things? I don’t really enjoy most of them. I do them because they have to be done, but I’d really rather not iron, clean toilets and mop floors. I’d like to pay someone else to do those things, but since my husband makes several dollars an hour and I make pennies, I can’t pay someone to do those mindless chores that must be done. It wouldn’t be fair. I’ve promised myself that when I’m making several dollars an hour that I’ll hire a chore person. I hope to someday make enough with my writing to justify that expense.

Writing gives me places to go. Remember how I said I love research? This summer I spent a day in Seattle visiting all the places that Laine and Ian would go. I walked through the neighborhood on Queen Anne Hill and took pictures of the turn of the century mansions. I stopped at Kerry Park and watched the boats in the harbor. And then I went to the University of Washington’s library, because that’s what Laine does in chapter four. I imagined her running down the steps and bumping into the girl with the smoothie.  (Ghost of a Second Chance—chapter twelve). It’s like spending the day with very good friends.

Writing gives me insight. I like to think I’m sensitive and intuitive to those around me, but when it comes to my own psyche, I’m clueless. Being a baby born late in my parent’s life, I grew up in a house full of teenagers and adults. If I ever lost my temper, I was subjected to ridicule. (Angry or not, I was almost always subjected to ridicule, but that’s a different post.) I learned to shut down my emotions and I’m pretty good at masking and avoiding them. Writing brings them to the forefront. I’ll unconsciously do things like name annoying characters after annoying people. I’ll usually catch the real life and fictional connections on the rewrite and make the necessary changes, because I’m sensitive enough to know it’s unkind and unwise to hurt even annoying people’s feelings.

And that’s probably much more than anyone wanted to know about me and my reasons for writing.

For more of my writing, visit Amazon:
Stealing Mercy
A Ghost of a Second Chance

A Love of Flowers

I love flowers. I love plants. I love beautiful green growing things. Unfortunately, that loving doesn’t extend to actually keeping them alive.

Do you remember going to the county fair and playing the ping-pong ball game? You know the one, with the little bowls of goldfish. You bounce the ball into a bowl and you win a goldfish in a baggie. You took it home, if it survived the night, and it died a few days later and had a burial by toilet bowl a few days later.

That is my relationship with plants. I read all the books. I follow all the directions. And the plants all die. I love flowers. They don’t love being with me. So when I got a chance to go Indie and have a say-so in my covers I knew they would have flowers on them. At least I couldn’t kill those ones. 🙂

Divorce, Interrupted has a beautiful rose on top of the divorce decree. I loved the idea of love blooming again for this couple like an overblown rose loses its petals and a new bud is all set to bloom next to it.

My newly retitled Dare To Trust has a delicate purple flower on it. I asked for orchids, something delicate and fragile because that is how my heroine Evie starts out in the beginning of the story.

A Family Again has been retitled as well (coming soon) to Defend My Love. It has daisies on the cover for the little girl in the story. It is all about Daisy and her mother Megan coming home and making her family whole again. Personally, I don’t like children on romance novel covers, so there are daisies (for Daisy) and a tire swing in a tree.

So, until I learn to grow my own, I will enjoy the beautiful flowers on my and others covers. They will bloom forever. Season after season.

Jill James, author of The Second Chances Series and Tempting Adam
www.jilljameswrites.com

Of Spring and Mothers and Gardens of Love

Ah, Spring! For those of us here in East Texas, it’s been one of the best Springs ever–if we don’t count the storms and tornadoes. And for the first time in years, I’m not working a 70 hour a week job and traveling to a different city and/or state every single week. I should be finishing a book that my fans are clamoring for, and I’m trying, but my mother has come to visit for five weeks and my muse is finding it very difficult to concentrate with the disruption of our routine.

I’ve found that when I can’t write, something else has to take its place. That might be painting and redecorating the house (can’t do that with an 83 year old occupying the space), clearing out unwanted junk (again, difficult with company) or, in this year’s case, turning my attention to the outdoor spaces.

I was sitting on the patio last week, looking at the back yard. Most of the yard is pretty, with fruit trees, Pampas grass, Crepe Myrtles, and Mimosa trees in abundance. There’s a big pond at the back of the yard and a large pasture beyond that. But just to my left, there was this ugly spot. It didn’t look this bad last year, but the drought took out a couple of trees that occupied that spot and now it just looked sad.

I told my husband that what I would like for Mother’s Day this year is a pretty flower garden in that spot. In my mind I was picturing planting some flowering shrubs, maybe adding a few container plants. Nothing real elaborate, just something nicer to look at than the bare spot. Well, bless his heart, he never does anything half way.

I came outside the next morning–kind of late because I’d been up staring at the manuscript until after 4 AM–and found him in the process of building a pergola of sorts out of materials we had laying around the place, leftover from remodeling my office or some other project. And my little flower garden went from a vague idea to a full blown rustic garden retreat that the birds and butterflies–and I–love. 

Now when I sit on the patio I have something beautiful to look at, something to put my mind at peace so the ideas can flow. Someplace I can putter, some things I can nurture, when the muse is being elusive.

Like the hero in the book in progress, my husband has a very hard time putting “I love you” into words. But like Jake, my husband shows his love in other ways, by taking my dreams and doing his best to make them a reality.

My mom will only be here for another four weeks, and then it will be a year before I see her again. If the book is late getting released, so be it. There’s always next month, and my time with my mom is limited. She’s probably my biggest fan, buying my books as soon as they’re released and reading them, telling her friends, bragging to anyone who will listen. That’s worth more than a deadline any day.

My mom might be 83, but she loves her Kindle. For Mother’s Day, I got her a Kindle Fire because she doesn’t have a computer at my sister’s house–where she lives–and it will at least give her email and web access. If I sell enough books these next few months, I’ll upgrade her to a laptop. So what about you? What do you want for Mother’s Day this year? If you are lucky enough to still have your mom, what are your plans for her for Mother’s Day?

Last year my son gave me a Kindle for Mother’s Day–and launched my full-time writing career. Having that Kindle, and downloading my friends’ books, made me realize I could do this. I could take those almost sold manuscripts and put them on Amazon and B & N and Smashwords for others to read and enjoy instead of letting them hide out on my computer.

In honor of Mothers everywhere, I’m offering a free copy of Lean on Me from Smashwords if you leave a comment on this post, along with your email address. I’ll email you the coupon code. Or you can email me at toriscott at gmail dot com for the code. The coupon will only be available through Mother’s Day, so get your copy soon!

Tori Scott

http://toriscott.blogspot.com

http://amzn.com/e/B004FVIOG2

@toriscott on Twitter