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