Sitting on the Porch by Pepper Phillips

P1000258One of the things that we do in the afternoons is wind down by sitting on the back porch. Sitting and rocking in one of the six rockers that grace the area.

I can’t explain how relaxing it is. To sit and rock. The birds come out to check the bird feeder. Some come every day. The two ground doves, the cardinals, the mockingbird, some who I don’t know the names of…

We have several squirrels that will come out and run up the side of the tree, then when the figs are ripening, they will jump from the pecan tree to the top of the fig tree and sit there, feasting on ripe figs. This year they ate more figs than I did! But to see them balancing on their hind feet, while gnawing on the fig they hold in their front paws as the wind hits them every few seconds is entertaining. They don’t let go of their treat.

Spider Lily

The Spider Lilys bloomed this week. These little beauties are leafless right now. Their leaves come out in the spring and gather their energy and then in the fall, the flowers come out. They do have a yellow/orange variety, but pink is all that I have in my yard.

Elvis and areaIn front of the dining room doors is my ‘quirky’ area. Elvis is the big rooster on the right. Named Elvis due to the sideburns. As you can see, Elvis has a ‘chick’ which I haven’t named as yet. Between them is a metal armadillo whose tail can move…my daughter thought I need one of those.

The gold Zen frog is something I picked up because it appealed to me, the three frogs were a gift from a son, the little hedgehog with a leaf design on it was too cute to pass up.

This little area in front of the fig tree makes me happy…and shouldn’t we all be happy in our surroundings?

So, I sit and rock. Soaking up nature in my own green haven. At peace with life…

If you went to experience one of my ‘quirky’ characters, try reading this…

Naomi Lemoine is delighted to learn that Ben Brouillette has retired to Boggy Bayou. She had a major crush on him in high school, but that was over forty years ago.

He was way out of her class then, but now? They teamed up to win the Egg Knocking contest in Boggy Bayou. The only problem is they have a nemesis who doesn’t want them to win.

Can they make it to the winning circle?

Can Naomi figure out why Ben is kissing her?

Does she even want to know? She doesn’t want the kisses to stop. Can her heart stand it if Ben realizes that she’s not what he deserves?

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Available at:  Amazon, B&N, iTunes and Kobo

 

Reality and Fiction

Since I just returned from a bus tour of Central Europe, I have decided to share with you this exhilarating experience, a marathon visit of Frankfurt, Weimar, Berlin in Germany; Poznan, Warsaw, Jasna Gora, Auschwitz, Krakow, in Poland: Budapest in Hungary; Vienna in Austria; Prague in the Czech Republic, and finally Munich, Rothenberg and back to Frankfurt. Are you tired? Wait till you hear the rest.

Wake-up call at 6 am; suitcases out of the room at 6:30; breakfast at 7 am; everyone in the bus at 8 am to hear our pretty guide and tour director, Sophia,  announce in her Hungarian accent: “Good morning. Are ve all rested?”

Dazed eyes settled on her. A few yawning echoed from various seats.

“I am sure ve are ready to go?” she continued with her unwavering smile.

One or two brave souls answered: “Ready.” Maybe they had an extra cup of coffee or maybe they skipped dinner to sleep.

I loved the bus ride between cities–my best napping time– although Sophia  was determined to impart her vast knowledge about the area. We watched movies, listened to stories and songs, and soaked up the new cultures. And we really lived the momentous events that shaped the History of Europe.

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In front of the Berlin Wall

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The Allied Point. On the left the American, on the right the Russians.

In Berlin, we spent a night in a hotel in East Berlin. We visited the Berlin Wall, the Allied Point, and heard a lot about the Nazis, WWII, and the Communist regime.

 

In Krakow, Poland, where Pope John Paul is the big hero, we spent a wonderful day. IMG_3076Churches, restaurants,  stores, line the main plaza of the old town adorned by the historical city Hall. Musicians were everywhere.

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In Jasna Gora, Poland, we visited a monastery that housed the miraculous Black Madonna painted by St. Luc the Evangelist in the first century. During the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul, he prayed the Madonna to save his life. Later he donated the sash that still shows his blood where the bullet hit him to the monastery.

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The miraculous Black Madonna and besides it, on the left, the sash that Pope John Paul wore the day of the assassination attempt in 1981.

We spent a very oppressive afternoon in Auschwitz, visiting the barracks that housed 900,00 Jews and 200,000 people from Central Europe transported and kept there by the Nazis. We saw the gas chambers, rooms filled with shoes , or hair, or clothes of these poor people. It was horrible the meanness that men can reach. I was about to throw up.

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Charles Bridge in Prague

IMG_3634Famous for its bridges and its astrological clock, Prague is one of the most colorful capitals I have visited. Tourists crowd every place. The Swarovski glass headquarters occupy a whole block in one of the small pedestrian streets.

 

 

Too bad it was rainy and stormy in Budapest. After a thorough tour bus of the city, we lunched at a small café in front of the Cathedral and had ice cream and gateau in a tea saloon.

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The magnificent Parliament in Budapest

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Schonbrunn Palace and gardens, in Vienna

Mona’s latest releases are boxed sets for Christmas and Holidays all available at Amazon, KDP:
DOCTOR’S ORDERS Box Set: 3 romance novels, with emotion and humor. Christmas at the beach, on a cruise, or in Russia.
HOLIDAY BABIES SERIES: 3 bestsellers novels, about Christmas and holidays, with twin babies and humor.
FOREIGN LOVERS: a different genre of contemporary novels with sizzling romance, sensual tension, and suspense in international settings.

Writing and Retreats

As much as I’d like to have gone to Whidbey Island, WA. or Port Townsend, WA. or Vermont or Connecticut, last week’s writing retreat was good enough. I was close enough to home in case something should come up, but far enough away for privacy. The week was productive and relaxing.

After all, time alone, peace from the phone and a quiet place to gather thoughts and get them down and into a story, is what a writing retreat is all about. Well, those requirements and a glorious view to soothe the mind.

My son, Michael Devaney, wrote non-stop for four days. I’m not sure of the exact count, but I think his four day total was around 8,000 words! That’s a bunch of writing. Though Michael doesn’t normally consume coffee at night, throughout the writing days he did! You can check out his Amazon Author page at:

http://www.amazon.com/MichaelDevaney/e/B00KFF1BGW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Leave him a comment and like his page if you can. Michael will appreciate it.

This is one view of our beautiful lake sunsets.  10421154_10152701515743954_5091088363926069364_n

Here’s a photo my son took last weekend at his hunting club of a Wolf Spider. She blends in well with the ground cover, so you’ll need to look closely. You can also click on the photo for a perfect view of the baby congregation!

Wolf Spider

I’m not fond of spiders—at all, but I find this spider interesting. It’s the only spider to carry its babies on its back. Those baby numbers could range as high as 100-300, though roughly only about half of them make it to adult stage.

When I saw the babies on the spider’s back, I was reminded of all the stories in my folder waiting to be finished. Then characters came to mind. All those characters that sit on my back until they work their way into my heart and onto pages of a story waiting to come alive.

While writing last week, my story was set in my mind. Once I began to write, the characters had a totally different plan. The story took a 360 degree turn. That’s okay though, I’m enjoying the character’s new opinions.

Characters and new novel beginnings are our babies. They’re hard to share and even harder to let them go. To say goodbye. To give them wings.

I’m finishing up the second book in a series that has been too long on the back burner. I’ll be sad to see the stories come to an end, but happy to finally share with readers.

A Smoky Mountain Wedding – Book Two, coming soon.

My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.

You can find links on my website for all My Books

The Beachcombers are coming! by Stephanie Queen

SQ_beachcombers I know–summer’s over and I’m talking beachcombers.  But not really. The Beachcombers is my latest romantic suspense novel, the 4th book in the Scotland Yard Exchange series. Check out the video trailer here: http://youtu.be/NntIR35UdKE

I love writing books about things I want to do, but may never do in reality and surfing is one of those things. I didn’t actually get wet during the research although Myren my chauffeur did spill an umbrella drink all over his pants out by the pool where I was lounging with my computer writing about beaches and waves and surfboards–no sharks.

If you love tortured alpha heroes (and who doesn’t–except maybe Myren but I think that’s partly because he IS a tortured alpha hero but only if you use the term alpha hero very loosely), then you’ll love Dane Blaise.  I think the heroine Shana George loves him–or she would if she weren’t working so hard to prove herself in the tough man’s world of undercover law enforcement. It’s doubly hard for her since she’s a gorgeous bombshell.

But even the chip on her shoulder the size of Rhode Island doesn’t stop Dane from falling for her–sort of–in his tortured alpha manly way. Yes, it’s part love story and part suspense and it takes place mostly at the beaches on Martha’s Vineyard at a surfing competition.

So if you want one last hurrah for fun in the sun, vicariously speaking, The Beachcombers is on pre-order now and will be released September 26th. (It’s on sale for $.99 until October 1st!)

Small Towns and Humor by Joan Reeves

The Trouble with Love by Joan ReevesI love small towns. Because I grew up in a small town, I know a lot about these unique communities — the social structure, the economics, and, most importantly, the people who live in small towns.

Favorite Setting

A small town is my favorite place to set a story, and many of my contemporary romance novels are set in small towns. Small towns are like characters in a book and give color and depth to the story.

Even though I spend the week in a townhouse in Houston, we have a country home too so I don’t lose touch with my roots, and I even subscribe to the weekly newspaper in the nearby town that has a population of 719. My goodness. That makes my hometown where I grew up look huge with its boasted population of 5,000+. I also subscribe to my hometown’s newspaper.

Homage to Leno and Carson

One of my favorite segments when Jay Leno and Johnny Carson were the stars of The Tonight Show was where they would read the unintentionally funny items from newspapers and advertisements sent in from viewers.

Never fear! Since I subscribe to 2 small town newspapers, I see funny stuff in print all the time. Of course, it’s not supposed to be funny!

I just about fell out of my chair yesterday when I read in one of those papers about the man who planted a bomb in his wife’s car. No, that wasn’t funny, but the comment from the Sheriff’s Department (deputy’s name withheld to avoid embarrassment) was.

The small town reporter asked the Deputy about the explosive device. The Deputy replied: “The explosive device did not explode, and we can’t tell whether it was homemade or not.”

Excuse me? Homemade or not? Are there stores that actually sell car bombs? I mean, aren’t all car bombs, by their very nature, homemade?

Life Is Just Different

The following isn’t particularly funny, but it’s so far removed from urban life as to appear amusing, and a bit endearing, if you’ve ever lived in the oil patch as my husband and I did when first married.

Sign on a restaurant: We deliver to surrounding oil fields.

And I don’t mean Domino’s or Pizza Hut.

Life really is different in rural and small town America. The people seem more patient and kinder. It’s almost as if there are stock characters, and every town is required to have its requisite number of them.

The pace is definitely more relaxed. My Romantic Comedy series Texas One Night Stands is all about small town life where you sneeze and someone across town says, “God bless you.”

To Sheriff’s Deputy Susannah Quinn, the heroine of The Trouble With Love, that’s suffocating. She’s tired of the town knowing everything about “poor little Susannah” and plans to escape as soon as she can. The only thing standing in her way is tall, dark, and too darn sexy for her own peace of mind.

In the second book of the series, Romeo and Judy Anne, high school principal Judy Anne Palmer is tired of being up on that pedestal of respectability. She kicks over the traces one night in Dallas. When her one-night lover shows up in her hometown, she’s afraid her night of passion will end up being the biggest scandal her little town has ever seen.

Both of these books, along with my others, are available at most ebook sellers; audio book editions are at Audible.com and iTunes.

Book 3 of Texas One Night Stands

Next month, I’ll begin writing a book that I’ve been salivating over! It’s the third book in the Texas series, Forever Starts Tonight.

Allison Platt, from The Trouble With Love, adores Alton County, Texas, where her cousin Hogan first met Susannah Quinn and where Allison hangs out a lot. Ten years ago, when she was 18, Allison was married and divorced. She says, “It was the usual case of ‘young and stupid’ —  I was young; he was stupid.” While traveling in Mexico, things go horribly wrong. Allison’s father recruits her ex, Donovan Platt, to bring her home.

Maybe I’ll have Allison deliver lunch to an oilfield while she’s hanging out in Alton County.

But Wait! There’s More!

Small towns? Like? Dislike? What do you think about books set in small towns? Leave a comment with your email address, and I’ll send you a coupon code for a free copy of Old Enough To Know BetterA woman with a past. A man who wants to be her future.

Post Script: Joan Reeves makes her home in the Lone Star State with her hero, her husband, but you can find her online at: her blog SlingWordsher website * Facebook * and Twitter. She lives the philosophy that is the premise of all of her romance novels: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.”

Readers, sign up for WordPlay, Joan’s email list/newsletter, and receive a short story, not published elsewhere. Writers, sign up for Writing Hacks, Joan’s free newsletter, and receive a free copy of a nonfiction book.

The Magic of Autumn

For me every season has its magic, its beauty, its wonder. Spring gives rise to hope and renewal; beauty springs forth and life blossoms anew. Summer is a time of growth, loving, and taking joy in all the activities warm weather and longer days afford us. Winter is a time of rest, contemplation and planning for the new year to come.

But fall is….magic.images

Technically autumn doesn’t start until September 22nd when the autumnal equinox happens. Then, the dark half of the year is celebrated in Celtic cultures, culminating in the feast day of Samhain, or Halloween. Halloween holds a special place in my heart because it samhain_1is my father’s birthday. Mine is on October 30th, so literally these days are blessed for me, and so it is with the whole season. This year for the first time in my life, I will celebrate my birthday—and my dad’s—without him. Weird that. Even the thought leaves me feeling conspicuously numb.

Still, it is rather fitting that I’ll be celebrating a life well lived at a time when the spirits of the dead are so close they are celebrated as well. We’ll see how that goes. I’m guessing pretty well, all things considered.

Halloween 3D I committed to doing a Halloween novella for a box set with other writers from my monthly writers lunch crew earlier this summer and that particular project has helped save me from engaging in too much thought of sorrow about the season. Harvest season isn’t a time for sorrow. It is the end of the growing season. It is the celebration of all the fruits of our labor from winter planning to spring planting and summer growing. It is a celebration of life…the circle of the year…the circle of a life.

So as I put the finishing touches on my Halloween novella: Midday Masquerade, Midday Masqueradewhich will be featured in the box set Entranced: A Halloween Box Set, I am even more conscious, if such a thing is possible, of the magic that is autumn. The riotous color, the scent of fallen apples on the ground and burning leaves in the air. (I’m a Wisconsinite, so we do get four glorious seasons every year, even if winter lasts for about five to six months.) Our falls in the Midwest can be glorious. Now the bright green sedum is just starting to turn pink. Over the next few weeks it’ll turn from blushing pink to deep scarlet. Maybe the geography of where I live contributes to the awareness that as the seasons turn we should enjoy–no– revel in them, because as they pass so does our time here.

To live well, we need to live fully now. Every day. My dad was fond of saying, “No one gives you tomorrow.” I prefer to flip that on its head. “Make the most of today. What you do now matters.” It’s also the only thing any of us can control.

TBT043 So in this time where historically I looked forward to birthday cake, and enjoying my favorite meal with my dad—both of us dressed up for Halloween, yep, every year—I now do so as the head of my Clan. A mantle I could have done without for another decade or so, but now choose to wear with pride, hope, and a feeling that a life well lived is one that should be celebrated forever. I’ll be just that on Halloween.

The Scottish Celts have a term for those who have recently passed yet still grow in our hearts. These souls are called: Flowers of the Forest. Here’s to all of you who have a forest where one flower or many grow. May the pain in your hearts ease as joyful memories fill them. May you love those around you even more. May you live every day like it contains all the seasons.

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Happy Almost Birthday, Dad. Happy Almost-Halloween. Here’s to celebrating a vibrant life and a vibrant season!

Leigh

My Sunday Nights in the Highlands

OUTLANDER-678x1024I usually have my blog posts drafted well in advance, but yesterday I was still stuck for something to write about for today’s post. Casting about for ideas, I asked myself, what am I excited about today? The first thing that came to mind was the most recent installment of Outlander that I was looking forward to watching.

I’ve been a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling Outlander series for years, ever since my friend sent me a copy of the first book, raving that it had the best-written love scenes she’d ever read (I can’t disagree). For those who aren’t familiar with it, Outlander is the story of Claire Randall, a 1940s English nurse who walks into an ancient stone circle in Scotland and slips back in time two hundred years. She’s desperate to return to her own time until she falls for a chivalrous Jacobite outlaw. The quality of Gabaldon’s writing, the historical detail and the gripping storyline hooked me and compelled me to keep picking up the next volume (daunting as it is to start a thousand-page book when you are a busy working mom). Who could resist Jamie Fraser, the highland hunk who expresses his feelings more eloquently and more often than any man in history?

Having watched the first four episodes, I’m not disappointed in the TV adaptation. The actors portraying Claire and Jamie believably represent the characters that readers have come to know and love. All the little details, from the costumes and music to the misty highland scenery, make every minute a treat to watch.

Are you an Outlander fan and if so, what do you think of the TV series?


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Storyteller vs. Writer

campfireStorytelling is as old as man himself. There were storytellers sitting in a cave in the dark of deepest winter, weaving a tale so vivid the youngsters could feel the heat of summer’s sun while they huddled, shivering in their furs and skins, staring into the fire’s flames and seeing ghosts mammoths and the gods of the beginning legend. The storytellers would be the medicine man or wise woman who was the holder of the legends and beliefs of the clan or tribe. Their history was oral, passed down from mother to daughter or father to son.

Writing as art, as something other than the tallying of bushels of grain or pieces of gold came much later. The first writings were pictographs on the walls of caves and later the hieroglyphics of the pyramids and temples. The first writings were just as much artwork as writing as such. Papyrus made writing available for all. The loss of the Library of Alexandria was the greatest loss to man.

Today, there are storytellers and there are writers. For a lucky few, the two halves are present in the same person. But, usually, a great storyteller is just a good writer and a great writer may just be an okay storyteller.

Sometimes we wonder why a ‘just okay’ book becomes an amazing success. Sometimes it is because the author is just an okay writer, but they are an astounding storyteller. They pull you into the story. You are there. You are on an adventure with the hero. You are falling in love with the main character. For a moment in time, you are THERE.

Sometimes we wonder why a well-written book doesn’t “hit.” The sentences are works of art. We feel the story in our heart. But we don’t LIVE the story. The writer has not been a storyteller. They do not pull us in deep enough. It doesn’t strike that elusive chord that is needed to define a “great story.”

What book pulled you inside and didn’t let you go until the last page? What story did you miss when it was done?

Hello, Fall

It’s not quite fall yet, but tomorrow night we’ll be getting fall weather in my part of Texas. It will be a welcome relief from the heat we’ve had the last few weeks.

I love fall, almost as much as I love spring. I love the crisp, cool mornings and evenings when I can turn off the air conditioner and open the windows and doors. I love the festivals and fairs, especially the State Fair of Texas. DSC_5694

I love the foods I can add to our menu, like chili, stew, and chicken soup.

chicken soup johhnycashchiliI love the new season of my favorite shows, the longer nights and shorter days, and being able to play outside with my dog without melting from the heat. I love wearing sweatshirts and sweaters, fuzzy socks, and extra blankets on the bed.

I write more during the fall and winter seasons, too. The shorter days gets me in the mood to write earlier in the evening, so I get more accomplished. In the summer I’m distracted by so many things that I get little writing done. And for some reason, my brain seems to work better in the cooler weather. Not a scientific observation, just a personal one.

When I write, the current season seems to be the one that works its way into my books. I’m working on one now, though, that’s set in the spring. I’m anxious to finish it so I can get to work on the next one, set in the Blue Ridge mountains in fall. I can almost see the glorious colors on the trees (we don’t get much of that in Texas), and I wish I could be there to enjoy them in person.

What is your favorite season, and why? Curious minds want to know.

 

How the First Sentence is Like a Pick Line

You walk into a party, and scope out someone you’d like to know. Walking up to them, you say the first thing you can think of. “Fat penguin.” If the person replies, “Is that what you always say when you want to break the ice?” then you know that you’ve met someone who thinks like you. If they smile politely and walk away…well, that tells you something, too.

The first sentence in a book is a lot like a pick up line at a party. It should tell us something. It should make a promise to the reader of what’s to come.

Real life doesn’t always make and keep promises. I think the first thing I ever said to my husband was, “I’m Kristy. I’m from Washington, and I’m studying English.” His response included something about zoology, which led to a discussion about how the study of zoology has very little to do with actual zoo-keeping. It’s hard to imagine how such a boring and mundane conversation led to 30+ years of marriage and six children. In real life, we can start off boring and bumbling and generally, most kind people will give us a second-go-around.

With books—not so much. We have a paragraph or two to win a reader. After all, books don’t have the added of benefits of blue eyes and well-fitting jeans. Like the topic sentences of our school day essays, the first sentence of a book shoulders a heavy burden. It needs to make a promise and reflect the over-all tone and theme of the story.

Here are several of my favorite first sentences (no surprise that they are all my own.)
Stealing Mercy
New York City’s night noises seeped through the wall chinks and window: the jingle of horse harnesses, the stomping of hooves, the mournful howl of a dog, but one noise, a noise that didn’t belong, jarred Mercy awake.(Stealing Mercy) This sentence promises danger and suspense. We also know that this is a plot driven novel with a historical setting.

losing pennyPenny loved Richard and she adored Rose, but her feelings toward pralines and cream were mediocre at best. She didn’t want to look like a giant pralines and cream ice cream cone on Rose’s wedding day.(Losing Penny) This is a character driven story and this particular character has weight issues and a sense of humor.

hailey's comments copy“A lemon that’s been squeezed too many times ends up in the compost pile…” I started out strong, but my words faded away when I noticed Savannah Everett’s father staring at me. He stood beside a cart filled with vegetables, grinning, as if he had caught me in my lie.(Hailey’s Comments) What do we learn? That our main character is living a lie, and some grinning man has discovered it.

Notice how all promise a different reading experience. Think of the first sentence as a movie trailer. If we see a trailer with Tom Cruise carrying a gun–things had better blow up and if they don’t, as a movie goer, we’re going to be mad. Same thing with a book. The first sentence makes a promise of what’s to come. Of course, writers can’t rest on one good sentence. The first sentence has to be followed by a whole string of sentences to keep us turning to the last page.

Here are some brilliant first sentences.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, (A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens)
I began these pages for myself, in order to think out my own particular patterns of living, (Gifts from the Sea, Lindberg)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. (Pride and Prejudice, Austin)
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (1981, Orwell)
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. (C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

I put my own sentences cheek to cheek with Austin and Lewis, not because I feel that my work is in anyway comparable, but because I can freely talk about my own writerly intentions. I wouldn’t dare to presume to know the thoughts or intents of the literary great…all I can say is they wrote darn good sentences—first and otherwise.

If you have a first sentence you’d like to share, please leave it in the comment box, along with your title, name, and buy link (just in case we’re so intrigued with your story that we want to read until the very last page.)