Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's Resolutions...nah.

It's that time again. Christmas is over, the cookies eaten, The gifts and decorations put away, and the tree taken to the recyle center (if real) or back in its box (if artificial).

We had a wonderful time in St. Simons, Georgia, with family. The grandkids are all teenagers now, so there was no need to entertain them or drag them places. We got to do what we like best, which is to settle back with a good book and nibble. The entire length of the shelf in the kitchen was laden with cookies, candy, cake, and snacks of every kind. 

So after all the indulging, I suppose the next sentence should be "In 2015 I resolve to stick to my diet..."

Not so. In fact, although I enjoyed the goodies, a long walk on the beach whenever the sun shone (which was rare) took care of the extra calories. I came home weighing the same as I did when I left. And since I hit my doctor's recommended weight some time ago and have managed to keep it off, the only diet I'm looking at is eating smarter, not less. and I don't need a resolution for that.

I could resolve to write more, but honestly, I'm writing as fast as I can. I wrote seven pages yesterday, which doesn't seem like much except I had to stop every other sentence to look something up. Even fantasy needs research if it is to sound at all probable.

So what I do resolve is to treat people a little more kindly, to love my family a little more deeply, and to follow God's plan for me wherever it may lead.

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas - who won?

We watched a show last night about people vying to win a prize for the most outstanding Christmas decorations in their house and yard. To say I was flabbergasted is putting it mildly. Two million lights? Hundreds of Disney cutouts? Eight acres of lights and scenes?

Some people take Christmas much too seriously. Even though they say it's "fun" it looked to me like months of hard work just to make their neighbors smile.

Or snarl, if you'd like to sleep at night and can't what with the flashing colored lights and Christmas carols blared out over a loudspeaker.

Another sign of overload is people going into debt for their foreseeable future by buying 52-inch televisions and the latest electronic game players for their kids.

Is this what Christmas has come to? Each year has to be bigger, better, and more expensive?

I challenge you to remember the best Christmas gift you ever received as a child. Maybe something stands out, like a new bike or your own radio (assuming you were a child before cell phones and computers).

I can't remember what was under the tree, but I remember the fun we had decorating it. I remember making paper chains with red and green construction paper and paste made of flour and water. And the year we tried to string popcorn using needle and thread and ending up eating most of it.

I remember coming home from school to the warm aroma of cinnamon and ginger and brown sugar, and seeing the cookies laid on a clean towel, waiting to be iced and sprinkled with colored sugar.

I remember leaving church on Christmas Eve and the stars overhead illuminating the snow that crunched under our feet. Diamonds above and below, a better light show than any electric or LED bulbs.

When did celebrating Christmas become a contest?

When did we forget the simplicity of the first Christmas and its setting? No colored lights there, just the rays of a single star.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


What happened?

The weather was perfect with clear Carolina blue skies and balmy temperatures. The trees displayed a palette of red, gold, orange, and yellow.

Then I woke up to dull gray skies and wet, muddy ground covered with damp and soggy leaves. And it is cold! I had to dig out my winter coat.

It can't be winter yet! Winter doesn't officially start until December 21.

But weather doesn't follow a calendar. I have to remember that for half the world, December heralds the lovely days of Spring -- that is, if you identify Spring by warm breezes and flowers popping out of the ground. Which they are, in Australia and South Africa and South America.

I can accept that winter is approaching in my part of the world, because that means holidays, namely Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, they celebrate those holidays in the southern hemisphere, too. But I can't imagine saying, "Oh, the forsythia is in bloom -- Thanksgiving must be just around the corner!"

Thanksgiving has to be celebrated on a day when you can see your breath when you step outside, not robins.

And what is Christmas without snow? Not that we get many white Christmases in the South, but there is always that tantalizing hope that this year will see the flakes spiraling down on Christmas Eve.

So I'm not complaining. The old Earth is going to turn and as it does, the seasons will come and go, and the bright blue skies will return. The thing is to enjoy each season while you are in it.

Even if it's raining and cold.

Because then you get to wear your new sweater and drink hot chocolate in front of the fireplace.

And you can't do that in July.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Question of ... getting to work!

I spent most of yesterday on the computer and didn't write a single word.

Yep. and I wasn't looking at Facebook either. I was doing routine maintenance on websites, newsletters, correspondence, uploading a video to Youtube, and you name it. Funny how we can get bogged down in details.

I need to start writing because -- I need to. If that makes sense to anyone but another writer.

And, I need to start the third book in my Boundaries trilogy. Yes, the third. I'm happy to report that the second book, "A Question  of Loyalty," was accepted by Astraea Press. Thank you, Stephanie Taylor, publisher!

This time, Nathan and Caroline honeymoon in the newly accessible country of Floriana. Floriana is composed of Florida, the lower sections of Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.

The honeymoon starts off with an attempted assassination, and the two gamely try to figure out why and by whom they are targeted.

For those who insist Thomas Jefferson would never have accepted the crown and become king of the United States, all shall be revealed in book three: A Question of --- Something.

So I'd better get going. Even though this series is a fantasy, I do need to do some research. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How one thing leads to another

We've all heard the story about the woman who bought new decorator pillows for her sofa and ended up with a new furniture suite, new curtains, new carpet and freshly painted walls.

One thing does lead to another, as I've discovered. Saturday, I decided to clean the den. If you haven't seen my den, let me explain that it was intended to be a two-car garage but the builder decided mid-way to convert it to add more living space. It is a big room, big enough to hold both living room and dining room furniture and leave space to swing the cat. (Not that we do, I hasten to add.)

Anyway, I was washing all the cut glass bowls and knick-knacks I have sitting around on bookcases and the wall-length chest my Dad made when we moved here. It was originally planned to hold the kids' toys, but now that they have moved out, it holds our Christmas and other seasonal stuff.

After washing everything submersible, and dusting every surface, I looked at the windows and thought to myself that they could use a little cleaning. So I took down the curtains and threw them in the washing machine and tackled the windows. In between spraying glass cleaner and wiping the panes dry, I hung the curtains on the line. With the sun and breeze, they dried quickly. And wrinkly.

I finished the windows and swept the floor. My last chore was to iron the curtains and rehang them.

That's when the fun started. The bracket that held the topmost curtain rod had pulled loose and didn't want to go back.

I called Jim, and he concluded that the nail holes were too big and he needed to replace the nails with screws.

He needed a ladder. I had used the little kitchen step stool, and was just able to reach high enough to sort of fling the rod and hope it would slip into place, but he needed a little more height to aim his screwdriver.

So I trudged outside to fetch the eight-foot stepladder we keep under the deck. I didn't want to drag it up the deck stairs and through the kitchen, so I carried it around the house and in through the front door. In case you are wondering, Jim has a balance problem and should not be carrying stepladders around, so that is why the job fell to me.

I know, he shouldn't be climbing ladders either, but he got a little tetchy when I mentioned this. A wise woman  knows when to zipper the lip.

He got the bracket firmly secured and as insurance, redid the lower one as well.

While he was doing that, I got out the spray bottle again and washed the glass on a picture hanging by the window. If I hadn't been standing there watching Jim work, I wouldn't have realized how dirty it had gotten.

When he was finished, I rehung the curtains, took the ladder back outside, then came back inside and swept the floor again because -- did I mention we keep the ladder outside? -- because it dripped clumps of mud all over my clean floor.

So we have a clean room and everything is sparkly and the sun shines brightly through the spotless windows.

And since I have cleaned the den, maybe I ought to clean the living room next...


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mom was right

Something we should all remember is that nothing is lost in the vast, labyrinthic universe of the Internet.


This can be a good thing or a bad thing. Recently, I discovered it to be a very good thing, indeed.

I wanted to re-post an essay I'd written over a decade ago. I first published it on an a now-defunct website called "Cancer Can't" that I closed down when I became too lazy busy to  maintain it properly.

Several years and a few computers later, all traces of that website were erased -- at least on any devices I own. So I did a search, putting in the key words: my name, the website name, and the word "cancer."

And up it popped.

I was able to copy and paste it into a new blog, and was happy.

This was a fortunate outcome, but I'm afraid others may have a different, and not so happy, story.

Take the writer who reacted badly to a review she didn't agree with. that was re-posted to oh, probably a million people, making her not only look bad, but stopping her career before it started.

Or the pictures posted during a party at which you may have drunk a tiny bit too much, that no matter how you try, you can't erase. Ever.

Neither of those things happened to me, but I read about them and took them as cautionary tales.

Mom always said if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

Still good advice. The Internet is a great tool, but like a chainsaw, it can be unforgiving.

Oh, if you want to read the essay, it can be found at www.mimosamorningswriters.wordpress.com and scroll down to Oct. 2.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The next Big Thing

Woke up this morning and it is cold outside! I don't mind changes in the weather, but they ought to come softly, a degree or two at a time.

But nature doesn't work that way any more than life does. Things happen with the suddenness of a lightning bolt. One minute we're whistling Dixie and the next we're flat on our backs.

So I'm not complaining about a little drop in the temperature. Right now things are fine and I hope they will stay that way for awhile. Maybe the next Big Thing will be good or maybe it will be not-so-good.

When we're young, things like illness or the death of a loved one come as surprises. They're not supposed to happen.

Then you reach an age where such events are not welcome, but expected. That doesn't mean they hit any easier, but we're cushioned in a way that our tender younger selves weren't.

When we're young we confidently expect to earn that promotion or win that three-book contract. When the Good Big Thing doesn't happen, we're as crushed as if it were a real catastrophe.

The advantage of maturity is we now know the difference between disappointment and tragedy. And, hopefully, we can endure either with grace.

So I keep on keeping on and living each day as it comes. I know this is a plateau and that sooner or later the next Big Thing will turn my world upside down yet another time.

I hope it's Good Big Thing. And I wish the the same for you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Decisions, decisions

Here it is Tuesday again. I'm pleased to announce I have finished my sequel and it is now being read by my favorite proofreaders/editors.

I'd celebrate by going outside and lopping some trees in the back yard, but it's 95 degrees out there and I'm not insane enough to venture forth. I did make a quick trip to the library, but hey, that's an emergency, right?

So while I wait for feedback, my plan is to re-visit an earlier work, send out a query or two, or maybe clean my work space, which has become a giant, teetering, pile of  papers, notebooks, files, and miscellany.

Or I could look for some promotional sites that aren't the kind that only other authors post on, hoping desperately to be noticed and re-posted or re-Tweeted.

Or (and this is more likely) I'll grab my iPad and click on Acorn, which I joined for a free month last night in order to watch Louise Penney's "Still Life," the first in her Three Pines mystery series.

And watch a movie.

Yeah, that sounds like a plan for a lazy, hot Tuesday afternoon

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Second day blahs

It is second-day letdown here in Dreamland. You build up to something and then suddenly -pfft! -- it's over.

Sorta like vacation, or Christmas.

Now that the book has launched, I'm not exactly looking around and saying "What's next?" I already know. Promotion. Finishing the sequel. And all the other stuff you have to do if writing is a career and not a hobby. I'm sorta on the brink right now. I actually went to my LinkedIn page and listed myself as "author."

That was a big step. Up until now, I've though of my writing as a pleasant way to waste spend my time.

But now I've decided to get serious about it. Which means spending some time everyday writing as well as promoting.

Lordy, if the book sells maybe I can afford to hire a publicist!

Yeah, right. Well, as the title says, what's the "definition of a dream?" It's having the things you dreamed of coming true. Which they have, for me.  Ten years ago I never thought I'd have an author page on Amazon.

Now I have six books listed.

Yay! but I still need to sort the laundry, make the beds, and empty the dishwasher.

It isn't all glamour,  folks.

Now here's a picture of Spooky, just because.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

And more...

The book trailer was created by my talented son.

And here is another excerpt just for Definition of a Dream readers:

     A slight noise made her look down. One of the thugs had recovered consciousness and was reaching for a knife. The metal of the blade gleamed under the streetlight’s rays. As Caroline concentrated on it, her eyes narrowed, the knife skittered just beyond his grasp. He grunted, reached again, this time getting a firm hold on the handle, and stood. Nathan and Fitz, looking down the street in anticipation of help, were oblivious of the danger scant inches behind them.
     There was no time to warn them. Caroline grabbed the first thing she saw, which was Amelia’s umbrella. With one quick step she poked the man in the back with the tip.
     “Drop the knife or I will blow a hole in your chest a greyhound could leap through,” she commanded.     When the man hesitated, she gave him another, harder jab. “I mean what I say. Drop it!” The horrors she had just endured made her reckless. All she wanted was for this nightmare to end and this idiot was not going to prolong it.
     The man obeyed and the knife clattered across the cobblestones.
     “Now sit down or I’ll shoot your head off. Maybe I’ll do it anyway. It could only improve your looks.”
     “No, don’t,” the man begged, sitting rather abruptly on one of his fellow’s legs.
     Fitz laughed when he saw the situation. “She means it,” he advised. “I wouldn’t move if I were you.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The end of summer -- not!

I see the school parking lots are full as teachers ready their classrooms for the influx of students in just two weeks. I'm not going to say "Where did the summer go?' because it hasn't.  Summer doesn't end until September 23.

My grandsons, who live in Georgia, started school yesterday -- which effectively ended their summer.

All I can say is, "Thank heaven for air conditioning!"

School used to end for the year after Memorial Day in May and not start up again until after Labor Day. I suspect the schedule had less to do with the fact that no one can learn anything when the temperatures soar into the high eighties as that the students were needed at home to help with the family farm.

The long summer also made it ideal for non-farming teens to find jobs. Employers were willing to hire on for three months, whereas today they aren't so eager to take on part-timers for a scant six weeks or so.

I had a summer job as soon as I could get my "working papers" at fourteen. We lived by an amusement park that was a mecca for local teens who wanted to earn some money. I served soft ice cream, wearing a white uniform and a hair net as required by the Board of Health.  I saved all my paychecks until September and then shopped for school clothes. What a thrill it was to pick out my own wardrobe and pay with my own hard-earned money!

But not all teens are as lucky, and for some the long summer drags on and on, with "nothing to do." So maybe it's a good idea to shorten it. I'm more and more becoming a proponent of year-long school. Family farms are a thing of the past. Jobs are scarce for adults, let alone teens. And with both parents working these days, leaving kids unsupervised all day is a recipe for trouble.

With year-round school, the start of school won't signal the "end of summer" because there would be no "start date."

I have no idea what that would do to the economy because it would also put an end to "back to school sales" in stores.

And then we would have no idea when summer was over. I guess we'd find out when the leaves started changing and we turned our air conditioners off.

Like Mother Nature intended.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Aging ungracefully

This has been a busy and exciting month. As most of you have heard by know, the release date for "A Question of Boundaries" is August 26, wherever e-books are sold. It's a little different from my other books as far as setting and time, but the main theme of all my books is still there -- relationships. Relationships between friends and between lovers. Will Caroline get the moody, guilt-ridden Nathan to return her affection? Can she accept her rather strange new friends for what they are?

I've begun a sequel and am almost finished with the first draft. The trouble is, these long, summer days are not conducive to sitting down at a computer and imagining other worlds. I made it a goal this year to clean up the yard and most days I'm out there working. I expect I look a sight with my knee-high rubber boots, stained jeans and tee, and a bandanna wrapped around my forehead because, to be honest, I sweat. A lot.

A young neighbor walked by yesterday and asked, "How old are you?"

I didn't think it was impertinent and I'm not ashamed of my age, so I told her. She looked amazed. "I hope I'm that young when I'm old," she said. "You sure have a lot of energy."

I didn't tell her my back hurt and that as soon as I cleaned up the trash in the yard that I'd created by my "energetic" lopping of branches and pulling up vines, I was going inside to put my feet up and possibly drink the last beer in the refrigerator.

"Just stay active," I told her, "and you will be."

Reminded me of what a relative said at our recent family weekend. "Sandy does pretty well for her age."

Ha. I think I do, too. Especially when I sit down to write. Then, age doesn't matter. I'm the same age as my heroine, and as eager for adventure. I remember what it was like to fall in love and it doesn't seem that long ago. The only difference between me and a 20-something author is that I have more experience to draw on.

Yep, I hope I'm that young when I'm old!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Home again

If you remember, I promised a link to Amy's blog this week. She had an exciting announcement to make, and if you click http://authoreileenrichards.wordpress.com/ you will see what it is!

Meanwhile...I'm writing this with my mind still halfway on vacation ...

You know how it is with a vacation -- even a mini one like we took this past weekend. It takes two days to get ready -- wash clothes, pack, prepare food, make sure the cat has a sitter -- and then you get home and do everything in reverse. Well, at least the unpacking and washing clothes. And going through the accumulation of mail. And reassuring the cat that you will never, ever leave her again. Which is a blatant lie, but she is a very forgiving cat.

We like to rent a large cabin in the mountains or at the beach, to include family and friends who want to come along. Friday night is pot-luck, so I spent two days baking scones, cookies and a cake. And making pimento cheese for sandwiches. Others brought beans, pasta salad, assorted fruit and enough snacks to satisfy a teen-age slumber party.

It reminded me of the days when I was a working person (not that I don't work now, but I'm my own boss and set my own hours). You  needed a vacation and counted down the days on the calendar. When I worked at the bank, vacation was mandatory. You HAD to take a week off, whether you wanted to or not. Surprisingly, there were workaholics who would rather stay on the job. I wasn't one of them.

At the newspaper, it was hard to set aside a week, and then it took a week to line everything up so things would carry on in my absence. I would come back to a desk piled high with correspondence and telephone memos and wonder in despair why I had ever left my office.

At the end of the day, though, it's worth it. We need to every so often climb out of our ruts and experience something new (although I politely refused an invitation to go zip-lining). Maybe we get together with family, but each time I learn something new about my sons and daughters-in-law, and my grandchildren that takes me by surprise.

I come home both tired and refreshed, which sounds like a contradiction, but isn't.

If you are going or already have been on vacation this summer, you will know what I mean.

Monday, July 7, 2014

On a World-Wide Tour

Lynette Hall Hampton invited me on a tour with her and other writing friends -- a blog tour, that is.

Lynette is the author of 22 mysteries and romances written under her name, and since 2012 she has written several Western historical romances using the pen name Agnes Alexander. She plans to write 26 books in the genre, each using a woman's name beginning with one of the 26 letters of the alphabet! Meanwhile, she is completing her contemporary series: Ferrington Men, Coverton Mills,  and the Reverend Willa Hinshaw  mystery series.

Lynette says she writes because she can't imagine doing anything else. She loves to tell a good story, and writes for up to 10 hours a day! No wonder she is able to publish so many books.  You can read more about Lynette and her books at www.agnesalexander.com 

Now I am supposed to answer some questions bout myself and my writing. I am a slow writer, publishing a book every two years, but I'm trying to work faster to set free the stories in my head. You can read more about my books at www.sandrazbruney.com  I also love to read and work puzzles on my iPad. You can find me and my husband, Jim, most any morning enjoying a biscuit at one of our local restaurants before we begin our day. Our kids are grown and gone, but we did adopt a very strange cat that we call Spooky -- because she is so easily spooked by the smallest things, such as turning a newspaper page. We think she endured an abusive kittenhood, so we try to let her know we will keep her safe.

Right now I am working on "A Question of Loyalty," a sequel to "A Question of Boundaries" that will be released by Astraea Press later this year. It's an alternative history set in the late 19th century, with an isolated United States ruled by King Thomas Jefferson the Fourth. I let my imagination run rampant in this and borrowed from paranormal, steampunk, and many "what-ifs."  It differs from others of this genre in that in that I had to imagine what the United States would be like if it had been completely cut off from any contact with the outside world for almost a century.

 I love to write about women and their friendships, and how they help each other cope with illness, loss, and other difficulties. I hope that by reading them, people will cherish their own friendships. These last two stories carry on the theme except that the friends have abilities a little beyond the normal. And, of course, a good dash of old-fashioned romance!

I try to have all my daily chores done before I sit down to write, as I know I am easily distracted and might jump up in the middle of a sentence to empty the dishwasher or put in a load of laundry. Once I sit down, I enter my own world. I read through a few of the finished pages to get my head in the story and then I am off. I may only write for an hour or so a day, but the story is in my head 24/7. I work the scenes out as I go about my chores, so when I sit down to write it is almost as if they are dictated.

Now I want you to meet some writing friends of mine who have jumped aboard the blog train: Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra, Robin Weaver, and Amy Pfaff. Please visit their sites and support them by leaving a comment or  "like."

Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra is a full-time novelist based in North Carolina. With Cuban roots, she has lived in many countries, including France, the setting for her first novel, The Coin. She speaks English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German, and reads Latin, Middle English, and old French. She holds a Masters in English literature, specializing in medieval romances, and is currently an active member of the Carolina Romance Writers. She loves to hear from her readers, and always hopes to open a dialogue with her fans. 

A professional computer geek, Robin Weaver started writing extensively when she traded in her ski-boots for flip-flops and moved to North Carolina.  She was a Golden Heart finalist and winner of the prestigious Daphne du Maurier contest. Her romantic suspense novel, Blue Ridge Fear—currently available from the Wild Rose Press—was the winner of the Write Touch contest and was a finalist in the Winter Rose Published Contest. Forbidden Magic, published under her pseudonym Genia Avers, was a 2013 Prism finalist. Her latest genre-hopping endeavor, The Secret Language of Leah Sinclair, a young adult suspense novel, will be available in late 2013.
She teaches workshops on point of view and pacing, and is a regular blogger with Romancing the Genres (www.RomancingtheGenres.blogspot.com). She loves Latin dancing, pistachios, Def Leppard, and the five o’clock shadow, not necessarily in that order.  Please visit her on Facebook, LinkedIn or via her website: http://www.authorrobinweaver.com.

Like Marie Elena and Robin, Amy is a fellow member of the Carolina Romance Writers. She is going to make an exciting announcement on her blog next week, so I will remind you then to take a look. The suspense is rising!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

First steps are the hardest

Well, the third thing happened -- I accidentally provoked a nests of wasps into attack mode and was stung twice before I could retreat. Time to pull back and do a little planning before wildly hacking at any old weed that comes along. First thing is to spray the poison ivy and wait until it is dead before trying to pull it up.

Also, with the new trash rules, I can't put umpteen bags of dead leaves and vines out to be picked up. There is a limit of four bags per week now, so there is no point in working every day. Frankly, with the heat, I decided if my project isn't finished until fall, that will be all right too.

Do you ever do that? Rush into a project with enthusiastic abandon, only to realize half way though that it is going to take more energy and more time than you thought? I think that is true of many first-time authors. They decided that by golly! I am going to sit down and write that book. And then halfway through...

They realize they  aren't sure where they are going with the plot. They see that it takes much more commitment than they thought. They discover they have to find a balance between The Book and Work, Family, and Other Life Priorities.

Unfortunately, many authors give up in the face of these obstacles. Which is too bad, because they do have a good story to tell.

In the past, I have had would-be writers ask me about helping them write a book.  I  invite them to attend writers' club meetings or tell them about a workshop that would get them started. I am no longer disappointed when they don't show up. It's hard to make that first step.

Like the little boy in the comic strip "Frazz:" who states his summer goal is to jump off the high dive, they begin to second guess their goal, and find excuses why they can't do it.

One summer I, too, decided to jump off the high dive at the pool. It was scary, but exhilarating, to find out I could do it and live.

It just takes putting your foot on the first step up the ladder.

Or writing that first sentence.

Or pulling that first weed.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mother Nature 1 -- Me 0

I'm waiting for the third shoe to drop.

Yes, I know it's the other shoe (since shoes come in pairs), but then again "they" say misfortunes come in threes.

First, I got caught up in a brag. Jim told me there was poison ivy in the patch of back yard I'm trying to clear of ground ivy and honeysuckle vines. I said "I know, I saw it."  I donned long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and knee boots before pulling the first vine. I was being careful, right?

And, I informed him, I''d never had poison ivy. In. My. Life. In spite of playing in the woods as a child, picking wildflowers in the spring, berries in the summer, or colorful foliage in the fall. Sinusitis, yes, but no itchy rash.

As if Mother Nature heard my boast, she flung it at me. I saw what I thought was a bug bite on my wrist. I'm very allergic to mosquito bites, so figured the red, itchy swelling was just that. Then I started itching in other places. Little blisters formed. The itching grew more and more intense and spread over more and more of my skin.

To give Mother nature even more of a chuckle, when I called my doctor I discovered she had left. I mean left the county. With no warning. I was told to come in and pick up my records and good luck finding another doctor, honey.

Trying nowadays to find a doctor who not only takes new patients, but also accepts Medicare is like searching for one particular grain of sand on the beach.

I finally found one, but couldn't get an appointment until late August.

I hope by then the poison ivy will be but a  distant memory.

So you see, it's no wonder I'm looking fearfully over my shoulder for the last blow of the trilogy.

I'm afraid to guess for fear it might come true.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Introducing Heather Gray

This week I''d like to introduce Heather Gray, a fellow Astraea Press author. If you don't know about Astraea Press, they are a "non-erotic e-publisher that offers wholesome reads but still maintains the quality of mainstream romance."

Heather is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order Man, Just Dessert, and Redemption.  She also writes the Regency Refuge series with titles His Saving Grace, Jackal, and the soon-to-be-released Queen.  But that's not all!  Interested in contemporary Christian romance?  Take a look at Ten Million Reasons and Nowhere for Christmas.

Heather loves coffee, God, her family, and laughter – not necessarily in that order!  She writes approachable and flawed characters who, through the highs and lows of life, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.  And, yeah, her books almost always have someone who's a coffee addict.  Some things just can't be helped.

Hiding in the shadows just got harder.

When tragedy strikes, Juliana and her family must flee their home. Can they persuade a virtual stranger to help them? Juliana isn't so sure, especially after their chaperone threatens to cane him. Even as Juliana struggles to trust him, she finds herself drawn to this mysterious man. Surely all she wants from him is refuge…

Rupert is a man whose life depends on his ability to remain unnoticed. What, then, is he supposed to do with this family he's inherited?  His life is overrun with an ancient chaperone who would terrify a lesser man, two spirited girls, and the secretive Juliana – someone he comes to think of as his own precious jewel.

With this new responsibility thrust upon him, Rupert will have to make sacrifices – but will God ask him to sacrifice everything?



A duke had been cut down in the prime of his life. According to the War Department, The Hunter was to blame.

Jackal had been put onto The Hunter's scent and told to ferret him out at all cost. It was his job, his duty to the crown, and he treated it with the seriousness it demanded. Evil could not be allowed to go unpunished, and people who took pleasure in destroying the lives of others would not walk away with impunity, not on his watch.

Jackal met with his contacts in the Austrian government and found no gratification in revealing they had a traitor in their midst. It had been a necessary move, and now the problem would be dealt with. The Austrians would put The Hunter down, and England's hands would remain clean of the mess, exactly as the minister wanted.

Grim foreboding furrowed his brow as he left the meeting with the Austrians. His lack of evidence mocked him. He'd done as ordered, and they'd believed him, but had it been his choice, he'd have gathered more proof first.

Jackal climbed into his carriage and slapped his hand against the roof, signaling the driver with his readiness to depart. A lengthy ride awaited him. He would leave the carriage and his current identity behind in Munich once he arrived there. New papers and fresh horses were waiting for him. The same would happen again when he crossed over into Stuttgart, and then again in Brussels. His task was clear: remain alive long enough to claim each of the new identities and return safely to his homeland.

Sitting back on the roughly cushioned seat, he accepted what he'd begun to suspect. This would be his last assignment for the crown. He was getting too old for the job. The time to retire was upon him. The younger bucks were willing – if not entirely ready – to take their place among the ranks of the unseen, unknown, and unnamed heroes of war. Jackal shook his head. Not too long ago, he'd been one of those young bucks. Ready for retirement at age thirty-two? The thought would be laughable in any other career. In his line of work, though, only those who retired young lived to be old and grey.

Lost in melancholy, Jackal barely noted the change from the raucous noise of a bustling merchant district to the quiet pastoral sounds that would accompany him on most of this journey. Europe was a large land with rich cities interspersed with vast emptiness dotted with small hamlets. Traveling by carriage would take weeks, but as long as he could report back that he'd done as ordered, it would be worth the time.

He settled into his seat. They were still days from their first sanctioned stop. As always, the best defense was to keep moving.


A change in the carriage's soothing methodical movement woke Jackal from his doze and alerted him that something was amiss. Awareness coursed through his veins, pushing away the remnant of sleep. A quick glance at the curtained window told him it was late morning. They'd ridden through the night to put as much distance as possible between them and Vienna – the current hub of Austrian government.

The carriage was moving with a wildness he'd felt only one other time in his life. Dread snaked through his middle as he accepted the truth. There was no longer a driver in control of his conveyance. Jackal crouched low on the floor for balance as he prepared to throw open the door and jump. Perhaps he should have sought retirement one assignment sooner.

Before his hand could touch the door, a jarring force threw Jackal against the seat to his left, shooting pain up his arm. They'd been boarded, then, and his driver – an agent he'd worked with for years – had likely not been alive to sound the alarm. Emotion would come later. For now, Jackal needed to focus on one thing: Survival.

The carriage gained speed under the skillful hand of whoever now sat in the driver's seat. I should have jumped when I had the chance. Jackal shook his head as he calculated the odds of survival.

Palming his gun, he pounded on the roof of the carriage, commanding the driver to stop. Surprise flared to life as his conveyance did indeed come to a standstill. Rather than slow to a gentle stop, the carriage halted its forward momentum in a skidding bone-shaking fashion. It was the kind of stop that guaranteed no beast would be able to walk away from it afterward.

Jackal jumped before the dust could settle. His best chance would be to go on the offence and catch the driver off-guard. Though he'd assumed the driver had a partner, nothing could have prepared him for the vicious attack awaiting him on the other side of the door.

Jackal no sooner touched the ground than he was trampled under the anxious feet of a high-stepping horse. He'd not even had a chance to gain his footing. As he lay on the ground, Jackal both heard and felt the breaking of bone in his left leg. A couple of his ribs surrendered to the heavy hooves as well. Rolling onto his side, he took aim at the perpetrator. The sun blinded him, and he could distinguish no features on the man whose gun dared him to move. In the split second it took for him to reassure himself he was not aiming at an innocent bystander – for they were indeed in one of the numerous modest hamlets that dotted the continent's countryside – the rider pulled the trigger, and pain seared through Jackal's already throbbing leg. It felt as if the lead had burrowed its way into his very bone.

He pulled the trigger of his flintlock pistol, and the man on the horse recoiled. Even as Jackal reached for the gun concealed at the ankle of his wounded leg, he knew it was futile. The rider had a second gun in-hand before his own fingers even brushed against the grip of his hidden weapon. Pain tore through his shoulder, immobilizing his shooting arm. Another ball of lead ripped into his middle. He felt his blood seeping out onto the street.

Accepting his fate, he asked only one thing. "At whose hand am I to die this day?"

Laughter vile enough to sour port met his question. "Today the Jackal shall meet his end at the hands of The Hunter."

The Hunter? The Austrians were supposed to have him by now.

"Your plan failed, and I am free. Prepare to die."

Blackness closing in around him, Jackal released the last thought held captive in his mind.

Why God?

Cold claimed his body as he slipped into darkness. He neither heard nor felt the next shot.

Sound s interesting, doesn't it! You can get her books at
Amazon US     Amazon UK    Barnes & Noble     Smashwords    iTunes

You can find Heather at:
Website – http://www.heathergraywriting.com
Blog – http://www.heathergraywriting.com/blog
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Time spent or time wasted?

The question was, "How many hours a day do you spend writing?"

I wish I could have answered, "Oh, eight or ten..."

But my mama taught me not to lie. She didn't wash my mouth out with soap, but she did give me a pretty good snap on the ear with her thumb and forefinger.

So I said, "Two, on a good day."

The problem is, I am finding it increasingly harder to concentrate these days. I hate to attribute it to age, so let's just say there are a lot of distractions.

I got to thinking about what I actually do do all day.

If I wake early, I read until it's time for the newspaper to be delivered, around 6 a.m. Then I fix my coffee and read the paper, ending with the crossword. I have to make sure my brain is in full function mode.

These past few weeks I've been going outside while it's cool (comparatively) and whacking off some shrubs and pulling up ivy that seem determined to turn our lawn into a habitat for wild animals. I've seen deer and would not be surprised to see a bear some fine day.

By the time I come back inside, Jim is up and most days he wants to "go get a biscuit" which takes a half hour or so, followed by a leisurely trip through the grocery store. Jim likes to go up and down every aisle in case he see something we need.  We go in for one item and come out with several bags, unless I remember to carry in my own reusable shopping bags. This entails catching the clerk before she starts loading up. "Miss! Miss! I have my own bags..." Waving them around in case she doesn't understand what I mean. Then it's one bag or two at the most. If the clerk packs our stuff, it could be a dozen, due to a store rule of packing no more than two items per bag. I think it must be a rule as they all follow it.

Then it might be the pharmacy, the post office, the library, or it might be the day we pay our utility bills. We get home close to noon and I do a few household chores before settling down in front of my keyboard.

Even then, I might not begin writing. There is email to check, better  look at Facebook and see what's happening...

Then I settle down and write until my mind rebels. If I've had a good day and accomplished my word count goal, I might reward myself with a few games of Spider Solitaire or Eggs, with the sound turned off because every time I make a hit in the Eggs game it sounds like glass shattering.

Then at five, time for the evening news and a glass of wine. Jim fixes dinner which we eat while watching Jeopardy! Then I clean the kitchen (believe me, this is more work than cooking) and grab my book. Evening is my time to read and I do until bedtime unless there is a program I want to watch, which is getting less and less likely.

And that is my day. It could be more productive, but hey! Life is short. Keep on doing what you enjoy doing. And if it's writing eight or ten hours a day, go for it. And if it's "wasting time" with your fella or reading the latest best seller, go for that, too.

Last I checked, the only person grading you is you.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A snippet from "A Question of Boundaries."

I've finished my second round of edits on "A Question of Boundaries" and today I am sharing another excerpt. Comments and/or opinions welcome!

Caroline had brought no jewels with her, but the feathers plucked from the hat Nathan had given her were tucked into her hair, which Tabby had drawn up into an elaborate arrangement of curls and waves. Amelia judged her ready and complimented Tabby on her handiwork. To Caroline’s relief, her companion managed to answer politely enough and the three descended the stairs.

Nathan was waiting, dressed in evening clothes that had been brushed and pressed. Although trousers had been popular for years, formal wear still included knee breeches and stockings. Caroline noted Nathan had splendid calves.

His eyes lit up as he saw her. “You are beautiful,” he said and then reached into his pocket and took out an oblong box. “Just one thing more.” He opened the box and removed a necklace. “I thought you might wear this, but I don’t think you need any more adornment.” He held up a chain of gold links holding deep blue sapphires and sparkling diamonds.

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly—” Caroline began, but she was overruled by Tabby and Amelia. Tabby seemed startled to find herself agreeing with her supposed enemy.

“Of course you can,” Nathan decreed. “Think of it as advertising my business. My cousin Evan designed it, if anyone asks. The sapphires are from North Carolina and the diamonds from our mine in Arkansas.”

Tabby took the necklace and fastened it around her mistress’ neck. “Lovely,” she declared, and no one disagreed.

Ready at last, Nathan and Caroline walked out to the carriage where a faithful Jim was waiting. As they approached the Rasmussen mansion, for the overly-ornate, three-story brick building could not be described without using superlatives, Caroline began to doubt her wisdom in insisting on coming. Every window shone with light and the carriages lined up along the drive reflected the glow from polished wood and metal trim. Alluring as the scene was, she couldn’t help feeling she was walking into a beautiful trap.

Nathan told Jim to be back at midnight. “We won’t stay a second longer,” he said as he took Caroline’s elbow and they followed the crowd of elegantly-garbed men and women to the steps leading to the double front door.

Caroline shivered as much from the chill night air as fear, for her shoulders were bare and the d├ęcolletage exposed more of her bosom than she was accustomed to.

Too soon they had climbed the stairway and were in the front hall, where Mr. and Mrs. Rasmussen stood greeting their guests.

“Mister Llewellen! I’m so glad you came, and your lovely cousin.” Her eyes expertly appraised Caroline’s gown and jewelry, and her smile became warmer. “Miss Llewellen. Mister Rasmussen, may I present—”

“I know who he is,” Rasmussen interrupted her. “Evening, Nate. Miss Llewellen.” His eyes swept over her body, lingered at her bosom, then looked beyond her, his eyes already on the next guest.

Caroline breathed a sigh. The first hurdle had been passed; he had not recognized her.

Coming soon from Astraea Press.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Time warped

It occurred to me  the other day that I have no concept of time.

I don't mean that I am constantly late to events or appointments. I pride myself on being on time and often am early. I blame this on growing up in a family that was consistently late for everything. We just couldn't get it together. I learned to take a book with me if I went to anywhere so  I'd have something to read while waiting for my mom to pick me up.

What I lack is a sense of when things happened.

I told a friend Sunday that I had recently seen a mutual acquaintance.

"Oh, no, dear, you couldn't have," she said, looking worried. "He re-married and moved  away over a year ago."

Okay, then, not so recently.

Some people can tell you the exact hour and day and year of any event in their life. They are not just gifted, they are a little eerie. But most people can tell  you at least the year in which something of importance happened.

Not me.

I discovered when going through our wedding photos some 10 years after the ceremony that Jim and I had been celebrating our anniversary a week late.

I do remember my boys' birthdays. I remember the grandchildren's birthdays, although for eight years I remembered the wrong day for the youngest. 

I remember the day of the Big Snowfall, but only because it coincided with the first day of the 21st century.

You'd think I'd remember the year Hurricane Hugo struck, but I don't.

I don't remember what year I said "I quit" and retired.

Is this a dire defect? Should I take a remedial course or go into counseling?

Or should I just accept that my mental calendar has dates like "That was when I was working at the newspaper" or "We lived in Pennsylvania then."

I think exact dates are only important if you are writing an autobiography, which I don't plan to do. Or in your obituary.

In which case, someone else can look it up.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Change of pace or mini-vacation?

Last week I took a hiatus from writing. I didn't have writer's block, and I wasn't stuck in the middle of my book not knowing which way to go.

Because I am trying to be more of a plotter than pantser, I did sit down before I started my current work in progress with a notebook and made an outline of my plot points and dove a little deeper into character arcs. Why was I sitting on the sofa with a notebook instead of sitting at the computer keyboard? I don't know, it just seemed right to do my thinking away from my desk.

So I knew what came next. I knew what had to happen to get from point A to point B (or at this stage, from point E to point F). I just didn't feel like sitting down and writing it.

I  needed  a break. We all need to put our work aside and do something different once in awhile or we get tired and cranky. That's why vacations were invented.

So I worked on a different project and spent my time uploading my books on Nook and Smashwords. This took some formatting and involved doing a virtual interview which you can read at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AnsonWriter  But at least now they are available in more than one virtual bookstore.

I am also doing a first read of Elbert Marshall's new book, the third in the trilogy, called "Who Slew Bonnie Blue?"  Like "Plotz" (which I helped co-write) and his solo sequel, "Nomad," the book is filled with quirky characters and a twisty plot, and I am enjoying seeing the story evolve.

But duty calls, and my editor at Astraea Press has let me know she is ready to send me the edits for "A Question of Boundaries." Vacation is over, but I am recharged and ready to get the book on the road to publication and work on the sequel.

Which I will do until our "real" vacation coming up this summer. Who works when there are beautiful mountains to view, family to catch up with, and a hot tub where I can do both at the same time?

Do you take your work with you on vacation? I used to, but now I try to leave it behind. Are there occasions when you just have to? Let us know, we'll commiserate.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why I'm Not Voting -- A Political Rant

Today is primary election day and I'm not voting.

It's not just that we live in a predominantly Democratic county and I'm a registered Republican -- for now.

No Republicans are competing in the local races so I have no  one to vote for anyway. Ah, but I can vote in the state races, a friend informed me when I told her why I  hadn't shown up for early voting and wouldn't show up today, either.

I have no desire to vote for any candidate for the Senate or House. I am not convinced the Republican candidates really reflect my views. In fact, I don't think Congress reflects the views of any but the top 1% of the population.

More and more, money decides who will run, leaving our choices more and more limited. Like many others, I wonder what the Supreme Court was thinking when they decided a corporation could be viewed as a person, and therefore could contribute to candidates and political parties. If this is true, why are they allowed to take their companies overseas and avoid paying taxes like the rest of the people? Or contrarily, why aren't the people given the same tax breaks as the companies?

I hear the word oligarchy coming up a lot lately.I looked it up and it means a state run by a few people. Yep, and we know who those few companies people are.

I have decided to change my political affiliation for the simple reason I am embarrassed to admit it. Not voting is not the answer, and I will vote in the November election, when I actually have a limited choice.

But I don't think I am alone in thinking it is a futile exercise in choosing the lesser evil. We have seen how candidates full of hope and optimism are stymied by an inert, if not hostile, Congress. We know, if we bother to do a little fact-checking, that we are constantly lied to, tricked by false statistics, treated as idiots, ignored, and increasingly, thanks to the lowered standards of our public schools, dumbed down to the point that most voters don't have a clue anyway.

I don't like how this country is going. I don't like the increasing debt to China, the downgrading of our military when half the world hates us, the fact that the dollar is decreasing in value in the world market, that our infrastructure is crumbling, and that people refuse to accept higher taxes as the price for security and safety.

I often joke it is time to join the expatriates in Costa Rica, but it is beginning to sound less like a joke and more like an option.

The center cannot hold and when the people wake up and realize the elections are a farce meant to delude them into thinking they are actually participating in the government, things will not end well.

Conversely, if the people don't wake up and realize how powerless they have become, things will not end well.

God help us all.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Getting there

I've been writing all day, trying to make a self-imposed goal of writing 30 pages before Saturday. My hands ache from typing, but I am three pages from making it. When I do, I will have the first third of my next book finished. The first draft of the book, anyway. And in case you missed it, it is a sequel to "A Question of Boundaries" called (so far) "A Question of Trust."

I can't tell you the release date for "Boundaries" yet, but hope it won't be too far in the future. Meanwhile, here's a scene in which Caroline has her first ride in a steam carriage.

     Caroline couldn’t help staring. The vehicle looked like a steamcab, but instead of the bright red and yellow paint that proclaimed a vehicle for hire, this was larger and was black with silver trim. The seats were of polished leather and as she sat down Caroline noted they also were more comfortable. Steam was vented from a pipe under the rear chassis, where the boiler was located, but the hod for the coal was in the front, giving balance to the whole.
     “What do you call this?” she asked.
     “A steam carriage. There haven’t been too many manufactured yet. I was lucky to get one of the first ones available. While steamcabs are limited to city streets, this one can go much farther. And faster.” He reached under the front seat and pulled out two pairs of goggles, which he handed to his passengers. “You will need these,” he said.
     The women buckled the leather straps behind their heads and then replaced their hats. Nathan had also donned a pair of goggles and with a lurch, they were in motion.
     The steam carriage could go no faster than the traffic around it, but when they reached less populated streets, it took on a speed that was both frightening and exhilarating. Caroline guessed they were traveling at least as fast as a railway train. She pressed a hand to her hat to keep it from flying away. Tabby had a firm grip on her shawl, which threatened to take off like a kite.
     “If the roads were better, I could go much faster than this,” Nathan yelled over his shoulder.
Caroline didn’t catch every word, but she understood enough. “Goodness, how could we go any faster?” she gasped, tightening her hold on the armrest as they juddered and bumped along the cobblestone streets.
     “I’m going to be black and blue,” Tabby said into her ear. “I won’t be able to sit down for a month.”
     Nodding her agreement, Caroline was relieved when the steam carriage slowed to a halt by an open field. Nathan hopped out and handed them down. “I hope you aren’t too discombobulated,” he said. “The springs are supposed to ease the jostling.”
      “I suppose it would have been worse without springs,” Caroline said, refraining from rubbing her bottom.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One at a time

Not "Once upon a time...," that honored opening to a story. But one at a time.

I've been asked did I ever find a publisher for "Wherever You May Be" and what ever happened to "Riverbend."  You may picture manuscripts in your mind as 1) on hiatus and 2) in a full body cast.

The truth is, while waiting for my first round of edits "A Question of Boundaries" from Astraea Press, I have started a sequel call "A Question of Trust." And started. And started.

Truth is, I can't seem to get past the first five chapters. Which isn't a bad thing, it's just that I want it to be the best writing  I can muster, and I keep seeing things I need to improve -- especially after the round of workshops I took in the past few weeks. But I did make a public goal at the April meeting of the Carolina Romance Writers that I would complete two new chapters by the May meeting. That's at least 30 pages, so I need to get busy.

As for my minister friend and his divided congregation (WYMB), I'm still looking for a publisher who will take on a story that isn't exactly a Christian book (i.e., with a message and lots of Bible quotes)  but a story about how hard it is to be a Christian sometimes. I'm still looking, but sort of have it on the back burner right now.

"Riverbend" needs a lot of editing, if I am to believe the rejection/critique I got after my last submission. It really hurt, but after eating a quart of ice cream and venting to my long-suffering husband, I realized there was a lot of truth in what the submissions editor said. I have plans for a revision that will make the story more believable, but...

One thing at a time.

Meanwhile, here is a snippet from "A Question of Boundaries."

     Caroline woke with a start when Mrs. Porter called her name and the newspaper fell to floor in a flurry of sheets.
     “I’m sorry I woke you, Miss. A gentleman is at the door asking for you.”
     “Oh. Have him come in, then.”
     “He says he can’t.” She made disgusted face. “Says he stepped in something nasty in the street and he didn’t want to track it inside.”
     Caroline stood and hopped a little on a foot that had gone to sleep. Trying to ignore the pins-and-needles sensation, she limped to the door.
     A man with graying muttonchops and balding head stood before her. He looked the very illustration of someone’s kindly grandfather. “Miss Featherstone?”
     “I have come with word of your father.” His eyes twinkled as if he had very good news to impart.
     “Father? Is he well? Where is he?”
     “He is very well, and he is waiting for you outside.” He stepped aside and indicated a waiting brougham.
     Caroline let out a happy laugh and ran toward the vehicle. The man followed her, but when she turned, bewildered at the carriage’s empty interior, his grandfatherly expression had disappeared.
     “Get inside,” he ordered, and for the second time that day, Caroline faced a weapon. The difference was this one was a derringer. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Conflict, the heartbeat of story

White waiting for the first round of edits on "Boundaries," I've been attempting to start a sequel.

I say "starting" because I haven't gotten past the first five chapters. I wrote them because I had to have five chapters to participate in a master workshop three weeks ago. Then I rewrote them using the information I learned there.

The next week I went to another workshop and learned even more. And rewrote again, looking for passages that had passive rather than active voice. It's an easy trap to fall into.

Yesterday I started chapter six, feeling I had a handle on the plot, but still knew deep inside something was missing. Then I read a post by a fellow writer that led me to an eye-opening article. Yes, I'd heard the same advice at both workshops, but it hadn't sunk in. Now it did.

The advice was this: if your character doesn't have an internal conflict that she has to solve by the end of the story, you haven't got a story.

Caroline and Nathan have to solve a political puzzle, and encounter danger along the way.  But combating physical dangers from both nature and man doesn't tell us much about the characters unless it shows us why their internal conflicts influence how they solve the outer conflicts (such as "am I going to live through this?")

Now Nathan has an internal conflict. He has to choose between loyalty to his sovereign or his wife. So I can see how his decisions would be based on whether or not he can tell Caroline what he is  up to. (Not that she doesn't guess anyway!)

To get to Caroline's conflict, I had to go back to "Boundaries." She has led a sheltered life and naively thinks she can find her missing father by asking assistance from the only person she knows who lives in Washington, her local member of parliament. But surprise follows surprise, and Caroline soon learns the world is not as safe or dull as she thought it was. When faced with returning to her former existence, she uses the confidence she has gained and grabs at a chance for a different future.

So I thought: what if Caroline sees that the life of adventure she shares with Nathan, traveling to foreign lands and discovering new customs, may be cut short by circumstances she both welcomes and dreads. She doesn't want to go back to her former life of dutiful daughter (now dutiful wife) and stay home while her husband has all the adventures she has come to crave. So she is torn between what she wants and what she knows she must do.

Now I just have to figure out the answer.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My "Sunday book"

Like most writers (I suspect) I subscribe to several magazine on--writing. One is the Romance Writers Report from Romance Writers of America. Every month it is chock-full of articles on every aspect of writing. I usually sit down and read it cover to cover as soon as it arrives.

This month there was an article by Holly Jacobs entitled "Sunday Books." These are the books she writes on Sunday afternoons. The rest of the week is devoted to the books she has under contract or is editing. Books, she says "...with publisher/line's requirements and editorial requests in mind." She is a professional "nose-to-the-grindstone" writer.

But on Sunday afternoons she writes the book that doesn't meet any demands or requirements. She writes the book she has had in her head and wants to come out. Maybe it will find a home. Maybe it will stay under the bed with the dust bunnies. She doesn't care.

I recognized myself in the article. "A Question of Boundaries" is my Sunday afternoon book. I wrote it because it was fun. I enjoyed creating the characters and the crazy twists and turns of the plot. I loved giving ordinary people extraordinary powers.

I wasn't writing with the eye to getting it published, although I did send it out a few times. No one was more surprised and happy than I when my Sunday book found a  home at Astrea Press.

It is totally different from "Angels Unaware," "The Lunch Club, or "The Almost Bride." And yet it isn't. It's still about a woman discovering her own strengths and finding love along the way.

Click here to read an excerpt. I hope it intrigues you!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Never too much

Do you ever feel as if you've taken on just a wee bit too much?

I don't know how it happens, but periodically I look up and find I've committed far more time than I have to spare.

But it's all good. I'm not complaining. It's just that things seem to come in bunches. Like when you wish for rain during a dry spell, and then when it rains, it doesn't seem to stop. Rain every day.

Through it all, the workshops and conferences and meetings, and the push and pull of daily life, I've tried to find time for writing. I was five chapters into my next novel when I attended a master workshop last Saturday. Since then, I've been re-writing every page to reflect the things I learned.

It's been difficult and exhilarating, not unlike climbing a mountain. I can't say I've reached the top, only that I''m trying my best to get there.

I wonder if any writer just sits down and lets the words pour out. I suspect most of them, like me, struggle to put the wordflow into the best possible order, and that only after much rearranging and shuffling via "cut and paste." And lots of hitting the erase key.

I'm not wishing I hadn't signed up for all these workshops and conferences, because every one has taught me something new and added to my small store of skills.

So I guess I should confess although I may be overcommitted,  I'm not overwhelmed.

 I'm sitting here singing in the rain.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"A Question of Boundaries" finds a home at Astraea Press

Some of you who follow this blog may remember a story I wrote called "A Question of Boundaries." The heroine is Caroline Featherstone who is searching for her father, the inventor Gideon Featherstone, whom she fears has been kidnapped by scoundrels who want to get their hands on his latest invention.

The setting is an alternate history in which Thomas Jefferson accepted the crown and became ruler of the United States. It is true that it was offered to Gen. George Washington, who refused and subsequently became our first president. What is not as well known is that a secret committee traveled to Europe to offer the crown to Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) then living in Florence, Italy. It is reported that he refused. This is an obscure historical fact, but you can look it up.

In the story, Caroline lives in an alternate world where the Jefferson Dynasty has ruled for nearly 100 years. The United States also cut itself off from contact from the rest of the world when threatened by a devastating plague that arose following the end of the War of 1812. A self-sufficient society, no one wants to re-open the borders and risk almost certain death.

There are some, however, including Nathan Llewellen, who believe the threat of plague disappeared decades earlier and want to open the borders to commerce and immigration (the labor force is getting decidedly sparse).

As Caroline and Nathan join forces, our plucky if naive heroine finds leaving her safe and boring home puts her in several dangerous situations. She also meets some strange allies and discovers that there is more to the world than she imagined.

I wrote this purely for fun, filling it with paranormal creatures and alternate worlds within an alternate world, along with some good old-fashioned fist-fights and subterfuge.

I sent it out a few times, but no one was interested. Then I received a rejection for a different story from Astraea Press. The editor asked if I had anything else to submit.

The only manuscript I had ready was "Boundaries." So I sent it in.

It was accepted. and, I might add, the acceptance letter languished in my SPAM mailbox until I decided to check it a week later.

I did a happy dance for the story I'd had so much fun writing. I hope others will place their tongues firmly in their cheeks and go along for the ride.

I'll let you know when it becomes available. Meanwhile, I am sending Caroline and Nathan to New Orleans, the capital of Floriana, where they are sussing out the political climate for King Thomas the Fourth.

And yes, Louisiana became a state in 1812 and the borders were closed in 1815. So how did Louisiana get on the wrong side of the border and why did it join forces with Florida?

That, I hope, will be in Book Two.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meet Wendy Knight

Today I would like you to meet Wendy Knight. She is the author of a young adult urban fantasy series called Fate on Fire. The next book in the series, Spark of a Feudling, will be released tomorrow. The book also includes a bonus story in the back.

A little about Wendy:

     Wendy Knight is the bestselling author of the young adult series Fate on Fire and Riders of Paradesos. She was born and raised in Utah by a wonderful family who spoiled her rotten because she was the baby. Now she spends her time driving her husband crazy with her many eccentricities (no water after five, terror when faced with a live phone call, no touching the knives…you get the idea). She also enjoys chasing her three adorable kids, playing tennis, watching football, reading, and hiking. Camping is also big—her family is slowly working toward a goal of seeing all the National Parks in the U.S.
     You can usually find her with at least one Pepsi nearby, wearing ridiculously high heels for whatever the occasion. And if everything works out just right, she will also be writing.

Here the blurb:

     Hate can start a war, but a shattered heart can fuel it for centuries.
     Everything Ada does is wrong. She’s the daughter of a Duke but she isn’t proper or formal. She prefers the company of her servants—particularly Christian, the boy she’s loved since she was six years old, and his sister, Charity, Ada’s very best friend in the entire world.
     Ada isn’t just the daughter of a Duke. No, she’s the daughter of one of the most powerful Edren sorcerers alive, and no matter how strong she is, it isn’t strong enough. Ada will give up almost everything to earn her father’s pride.
     Christian has loved Ada since the day his mother became her governess. But two societies are determined to keep them apart—the aristocracy who say a groom will never be good enough for a Duke’s beautiful daughter, and the sorcerers who say a Carules and an Edren can never be together. Christian will do anything to make Ada his—even drive himself to madness.
     When Ada suspects her father of hurting Charity and Christian in his quest for knowledge, she is torn between loyalty to him, and a fierce determination to protect them. The division tears her soul and breaks her heart.
     The pieces of her broken heart will start a war that can only be stopped by the death of the most powerful warrior alive by the hand of the boy who loves her.

 **Bonus Story –Feudlings in Peace**Join  Ari, Shane, Ada, Christian 
and everyone they love as they chase their happily ever after.

       He sprinted down the path, into the forest, leaping over huge rocks and tree roots and through streams he couldn’t see but his magic told him were there. He had no idea where he was going, but there seemed to be a tether from his heart to hers — he always knew where Ada was. He ran straight to them, nearly colliding with her father’s guards as he raced through the thick trees.
     “What happened to her?” he bellowed, jerking Ada out of Davis’s bloodstained arms.
     “She was hit, saving me,” Harrison answered. “Can you help her?”
     If there had been time, any time at all, Christian would have paused at that. How exactly had his tiny little Ada saved the giant Harrison? But there wasn’t time. He laid her on the thick grass, searching for the wound. But there was so much blood.
     “There!” Davis snapped, jabbing the air above her stomach.
     Flames roiled across Christian’s hands and he held them above her, letting the flames soothe the skin before he tried to touch it. They swirled through the air, seeping and mending the broken, charred skin.
     “Does she breathe?” Harrison asked, crouching close to put his face next to her mouth.
     Christian ignored him. He didn’t care if she breathed or not.
     She would breathe, or he would die with her.
     “She does.” Harrison sat back, relieved.
     “Can you not heal at all? Stop the blood flow from her shoulder!” Christian snapped.
     Harrison gaped at him. “We’re Edren. We don’t heal.”
     “I’m Carules and I can throw a lirik if need be,” Christian muttered under his breath, but he couldn’t argue with them now.
     She moaned.
     They all froze in shock, and then redoubled their efforts. Davis jerked his shirt off and held it to her shoulder while Christian’s blue flames leaped and danced from his hands, fighting the poison eating through her body.
     “Christian. I knew—” she whispered as her skin healed, leaving only pink burns behind.
     “Shhh. Don’t speak. You’re still very weak.” He moved from her stomach to her shoulder, pushing Davis’ shirt out of the way. It was stiff with dried blood and she shrieked when he ripped it from the wound. “Forgive me, dear one,” he whispered, his mouth near her temple, kissing the pain away. “Forgive me.”
     “I knew… you would come. I knew you… could heal me.” Her eyes fluttered open, dazed with pain, dark orbs barely reflecting the moonlight.
     “Always, Ada. Forever.”

Here's where you can find Wendy: