Beginnings

Sometimes beginnings sneak up on us. A casual run-in with a stranger on the street can turn into a lifelong friendship. A conversation can change the way we look at our world. A remark can change our perception of our parents and help us see things in a new light. A hobby can grow into a passion and spark a career change.

Often, though, a beginning is marked by an ending. A death heralds widowhood just as a marriage ends singlehood. I think this is why wedding stories are so popular—a wedding is a celebration of a romance that, even in our day and age more often than not, lasts a life time—or if we’re blessed “happily ever after.”

One of the chief characteristics of a romance novel is the happily ever after. If a story doesn’t have a HEA, it isn’t a romance. Romeo and Juliet might be about a romance, but its ending securely grounds it in the depressing tragedy corner.aomsx-198-header.jpg

Here on Main Street, we have had many beginnings. We began this blog. We wrote a serial story. That had such a nice ending that we created our box Christmas set. Because that was such a hoot, we put together our wedding anthology. Each beginning came with a happy ending. We have more stories planned. Our happy endings are multiplying…as I hope yours are.

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Please share the beginnings of your stories. And if you’re an author, please share the beginning paragraph of your favorite story. Feel free to post the buy link and a link to your website.

Here’s one of mine. This is the opening paragraph from my novel, The Rhyme’s Library.

The Rhyme’s Library

the rhyme's library

CHAPTER 1

brobdingnagian \ brob-ding-NAG-ee-uhn\  adjective:

of extraordinary size; gigantic; enormous.

                Blair brought her finger down on a random word, brobdingnagian. She wrote the word and definition on the chalkboard above the circulation desk and came up with her own sample sentence. Drake Isling is a brobdingnagian twit. Because she gave each of her library patrons a chocolate for every sample sentence they gave, she took one for herself, even though Brobdingnagian was technically tomorrow’s word. Today’s word was tenebrous: dark; gloomy. Tenebrous describes both the weather and my mood, she thought and then realized that she deserved a chocolate for her second sample sentence. My thighs will be brobdingnagian if I don’t stop eating these chocolates. Another sentence— another chocolate.

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The All Time Best Writing Exercise Dreamed Up By a Nun by Stephanie Queen

MadamX-FluffyNunLets pretend you asked me where I come up with my stories. You’ll never believe it, but some people actually do ask authors this question. Even Myren my chauffeur asked me this once a long time ago before he knew me very well. He regretted it immediately was fascinated with my answer. I wouldn’t have much of an answer for that question except this one time in school, my nun came up with the most inventive way to get a story going ever.

Sister Joseph—a young nun with a quick smile dreamed up one of my all time favorite writing exercises. She started with three shoe boxes and a wad of paper ripped up into squares. She handed out three of the small slips of paper—the size of a standard yellow sticky although they hadn’t been invented yet–to each of us in the room.  And since this was catholic school and no government regulations applied—there were about 50 of us in the class.

She told us to write two names on the first piece of paper—character names. Just the names—nothing else.  

On the second slip of paper she said to write a place for the setting—anything from New York city to a corner store would do—no other details needed.

The third slip was trickier. She said to write an incident or event—for a plot.

She collected the slips putting them in their appropriate boxes for Character, Setting and Plot and mixed them around. Then we each picked one slip of paper from each of the three boxes.

Up to that point we—or rather I—had no idea where she was going by this and my curiosity was killing me.

“Now using the three elements on your slips of paper, write a story!” Sister Joseph said with her smile wide.

I still remember to this day what I pulled from the box, Madame X, Fluffy, penthouse and murder.  I had such great fun filling in all the details and inventing a story around those crumbs.

 Of course it was a murder, without much mystery, that took place in a penthouse committed by a glamorous woman named Madame X who owned a fancy dog named fluffy. I don’t remember why, but she murdered a guy by kissing him to death—with poison lipstick. I still had a lot to learn about plotting, but that was my first real attempt at a short story. 

Even if Myren doesn’t agree, I’ve come a long way since then, mostly writing novels. But I went back to writing short with my recent novella for our Weddings on Main Street boxed set. It’s called Small Town Glamour Girl Wedding—Myren says the title is longer than the story, but he exaggerates. It’s like saying his hat is taller than he is. Whatever. Chauffeurs can be exasperating especially pretend ones.

There’s still time—all summer long—to get a copy of Weddings on Main Street, a boxed set of 11 novellas, for only $.99.

My Life as an Author

In a former life, I was a chemist. For years my writing consisted in detailing standard operating procedures or outlining contracts in a concise, straight to the point approach. When I started writing romance, I had to learn how to plot a story and present it from a specific point of view. Workshops, mentors, critique partners, contests taught me to hone the difficult art of writing and find my voice.

Nothing beats a specific daily to-do list prepared the night before to keep you motivated. Crossing out items on my list gives me a sense of achievement.

As soon as I jump out of bed I check my emails for anything important. My morning is then dedicated to various activities, errands, and chores. Walking, exercising, grocery shopping, etc… By noon, I am back at my computer browsing Internet, reading blogs and leaving comments, and advertising my books on Twitter and Facebook. It’s my promotion time. The afternoon and evening are for writing, revising, editing.

I love visiting new places but traveling was never a complete vacation for me, more like a research for interesting stories. Armed with my camera and a notebook, I traveled to more than fifty countries, snapped a gazillion of pictures and scribbled my impressions.

My inspiration sprouts from real life and people around me—they supply a rich canvas of plots and conflicts—and also from my traveling to fascinating places.

I live day by day and write what I feel passionate about; contemporary romances, romantic suspense novels, medical romances set in the various states where I lived, or the country I visited, France, Russia, Greece, even a paranormal romance based on Egyptian mythology.

Most of my heroines have high educational background and solid scientific careers, as I had. They also face difficult obstacles in their lives. But the similarities end there and the romance is specific to each heroine.

My biggest challenge is promoting my books. No one ever warned me that I would have to learn such an amount of technology to be able to sell my stories. I am lucky to have a computer guru at home who taught me to create website, blogs, trailers, book covers, newsletters,…

I always plot everything I do or write, and continuously create new to-do lists. Although I believe I can influence my future or help shape it through my work and actions, I don’t think I can plot it in the true sense of the word. One can always dream and hope that dreams will come true.

Writing is my shelter. Hiding in my own world, I create people I love. With imagination and patience, I force them to overcome their inner conflicts, fight obstacles and make love triumph.

Most writers are continuously plagued with self–doubt and need non-stop cheering to boost their morale and stimulate their muse. The reviews and praise I receive from reviewers and fans reassure me that I have written beautiful romance stories they love.

The life of a writer is a lonely battle waged against oneself, but we are lucky to bond with other authors through writers’ loops. My writer colleagues share and understand my struggles, lend support when needed and cheer my successes and joys. The daily exchange of emails resulted in solid cyberspace friendships and allowed me to publish multi-authors boxed sets of novels with other writers.

CoverFinalMD-WeddingSurpriseThe most recent boxed set co-authored with the Main Street Authors is Wedding on Main Street and my contribution is Wedding Surprise that is not published on its own yet.

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OLD FRIENDS

If you are blessed with old friends, then life has been good to you. Unfortunately most of my old friends have either moved away or passed on to a better life. I’m grateful for the friends who are still around.

When I think back over the years, certain memories are brighter than others. There are whispers and giggles in the night with those friends who brighten our days and linger on in our hearts. Friends we could tell our deepest secrets to and not worry that those secrets would spread far and wide.

Then…there are plastic friends. People we trusted and the ones who turned on us.

But wait. Did I say friends? Not so. These people are users who are discontented with their existence and can’t or don’t care to make a difference. They feed on making others unhappy so they can feel good. It’s sad to think someone goes through life that way.

Aren’t we glad 99% of the world isn’t this way?

One of my upcoming books has such a character. When the character compromises the main character’s friendship, and the only friend she has left, surrounding circumstances pitch her into a total, deep depression.

The story promises to raise the bar on how real friends recognize low self-esteem and contempt in others. Friends who stick by you no matter what you’re going through and hold dear the person you once were.

I look forward to writing this book, one that will require a lot of tears through-out the writing process. With a friendship torn apart, can hope, therapy and love, further damage or help build a stronger relationship?

A Smoky Mountain Wedding – Book Two, coming soon.My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.

You can find links on my website here. http://caroldevaney.weebly.com/my-books

History Close to Home by Susan R. Hughes

music box set finalThe first three books in my Music Box Series are now available as a boxed set! In this series, a music box brings three generations of couples together, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1923 to Vancouver, B.C., in 1957. One reviewer said: “I treasure a story that weaves a tale that lingers long after the last page has been turned and this talented author accomplishes just that.”

I find historical fiction enjoyable and rewarding to write, but delving into a different era from your own requires a good deal of research. The series begins with Sense of Touch, set in Halifax. I’ve only visited the east-coast port city a couple of times. Fortunately, there is a good deal of material available about Halifax at the time I was writing about because of the catastrophic explosion that took place there and served as the backdrop for my story.

Dad’s childhood home (painted by Grandpa), complete with outhouse in the back.

For the second and third books, I relied much more on my parents for research, pestering them relentlessly with questions about their childhoods. I set Someone Like You in 1947 and used the tiny house in the outskirts of Ottawa, Ontario, where my dad grew up as the model for the Walker house. The house was near a popular park and beach that we visited regularly when I was a kid in the 1970s, although by then it had been renovated beyond recognition. Interviewing Dad, I learned much more about his childhood than I’d ever known. What it was like living without plumbing and travelling by streetcar? How was the city I grew up in different in the decades before I was born? I used some of his reminiscences in the book.

I set Heart’s Desire in the west-coast city of Vancouver in 1957, using the affluent neighbourhood where my mother grew up as the setting. When I was a kid, every couple of years my family would drive across Canada to Vancouver to visit my grandmother. I have many fond memories of the lush gardens, the beach with breathtaking mountains rising across the bay, and the world-renowned Stanley Park as one of our regular haunts. Mom told me about clothing, music, cars, and attitudes of the 1950s. In the story I recreated the diner she frequented with her friends (changing the name slightly) and even included her childhood dog.

The next volume in the series, soon to be released, is set in the 1970s. It’s much easier for me to write about this era, as I have plenty of my own memories from that time. I was too young to pay attention to politics or world affairs, but I do remember some of the trends, fashions and music. (Find out when it’s available by signing up for our newsletter!)

Little touches of reality bring the stories alive for me, and I hope the same is true for my readers.

Looking for Love by Joan Reeves

Bride and groom exchanging wedding ringsThis wedding season has been bountiful for romance readers. I hope you’ve been enjoying the 11 novellas, or short novels, of Weddings on Main Street.

Wedding: Ultimate Love Story?

In today’s world where couples live together and often have children without marriage, getting married seems to have become the ultimate commitment. Weddings are celebrated publicly in ceremonies ranging from small, family-only events to splashy galas costing as much as a house.

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 (available at used book outlets), the basic function of marriage was to multiply and replenish the earth. Marriages were simply a way of regulating procreation.

It may come as no surprise, to women at least, that men in many cultures weren’t inclined to sign on for the concept of marriage. 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.

Eventually, in most civilized nations of the world, monogamy was accepted almost universally, at least in theory, as the perfect form of marital union. Well, 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.

Bottom Line

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 it’s alive and well here too because wealthy sugar daddies are always looking for sexy young sugar babies. Or maybe all of them are just looking for love like the rest of us.

Post Script

I’m giving away a copy of Weddings on Main Street. To be entered to win, leave a comment with your email address (write it out don’t leave as a hot link for the web crawlers to gather). Also say whether you want it for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or iTunes. The winner will be notified by email no later than Sunday, July 20.

(Joan Reeves writes funny, sexy Romance Novels, available at most ebook sellers, with audio editions available at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Joan publishes Writing Hacks, a free subscription newsletter for writers. Find Joan online: Blog, Website, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Always remember Joan’s Motto: It’s never too late to live happily ever after!)

Brigadoon

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Last Friday, my husband took me and our children to see Lerner & Loewe’s Brigadoon at the Goodman Theater in Chicago as a surprise for our wedding anniversary.

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To truly understand how wonderfully thoughtful this was, you have to understand how Scottish—by choice and clan affiliation—my family is. We were re-married in Scotland for our 20th anniversary, we man the Clan Donald tent at all the Scottish events in Wisconsin as well as the Celtic Canine tent, and just because we don’t get enough of it through the year, we started a Scottish food business.

2014 Macski Logo for Polos

Yes, we make haggis. My husband will tell you it’s the best in the U.S. His vegetarian wife eats our veg haggis.

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What does any of this have to do with Brigadoon? A lot.

In the play a mythical Scottish village goes missing and is protected from the woes of the outside world in 1746 during the Jacobite Rebellion, after Bonnie Prince Charlie and his band of Highlanders were finally defeated in Culloden April 16, 1746. The battle weary inhabitants of Brigadoon go to sleep in 1746 and come to life, every 100 years after that, for one glorious day. In 1946, two WW-II battle-weary men travel to Scotland for a bachelor-hunting party, and stumble upon the village of Brigadoon in full preparation mode for a wedding.

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The men are jaded, and risk adverse; finding solace in the fact that true love doesn’t exist. For the townsfolk of Brigadoon, nothing else matters. They love deeply, fully, and completely, if only for a day. And only true love can wake the gatekeeper, once the town has fallen back into its 100 year slumber.

Brigadoon is a mythical place ~ in Scotland no less (que huge grin) ~ where anything can and does happen. It’s a place where dreams come true if they’re based in love, and if you’re brave enough to jump in with both feet, because here’s the catch….when you commit to Brigadoon, its community, that’s it, that’s all, you can never leave. All in Baby!

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Well that’s how I feel about life these days, all in. I’m all in at Authors of Main Street. As a side note, I spent the second-half of the play in the hall as bagpipes thundered, doing a radio interview with Ashley Fontaine and two fellow Main Street authors: Kelly Rae and Stephanie Queen, both of whom know how to tweet and how to rock live on the radio. Me, I’m still learning :). We pumped our Authors of Main Street box set: WEDDINGS ON MAIN STREET, available here…..

Here’s a link to the radio interview. Thank you, Ashley Fontaine, you are lovely!

I’m all in as a writer as well. What a scary, rollercoaster, wonderful leap into the Brigadoonesque-ether that has been. I’m putting in the hours, learning as I go, and loving my community of fellow writers, artists and others who add all the various aspects required to turn a story into a book that someone wants to purchase and read.

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We’re all in with HAGGIS and our Scottish Food. Here’s a link to MACSKI’S Highland Foods.

I’m all in when it comes to romance. I write heroes I wouldn’t necessarily want to live with every day, but that make my chest expand, my knees go weak, and my heart beat a little stronger. I live with a man I don’t want to see leave when goes to make the figurative donuts so our family can eat dinner. He fills my heart, my life, my spirit…and that makes everything better.

So does everything work out in Brigadoon? No. Is it a place without strife and loss? No. Is it a state of being where wonderful things can and do happen, where dreams, aspirations and love to last a lifetime can and often does come true? Yes.

Brigadoon is in each of us and there’s no going back for me, I’m all in!

How about you? What wonders await in your Brigadoon?

This one’s for you, Kelly:

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Thanks, honey, it was a thoughtful and well received anniversary gift. You couldn’t have done better.

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Thanks again to Ashley Fontaine for her warm reception and graciousness during our radio interview.

Leigh