Sunday, March 22, 2020

Staying Busy

Are you bored yet?

Since writing is a solitary endeavor, I'm used to being alone with my thoughts. So you might conclude I'm having an easier time with this forced isolation than others. You'd be wrong.


I cancelled my physical therapy sessions and put my health club membership on hold Wednesday, after a trip to the grocery store and the hardware store where I bought a carload of mulch. I figured I'd work on the mulching in the afternoons, after I spent the morning writing and I could stretch that out for at least a week. Sounded like a perfect way to fill up my days, right?

Again, you'd be wrong.

The mulching was done by Friday, along with the preparation of a batch of oatmeal cookies. I had not made cookies in years. Not even at Christmas.

Now I have to go through all the stock photo houses looking for images for cover art for my first Revolutionary War romance. Normally, I'd get irritated after the first hour, since it was taking way too much of my time. Now I'm looking forward to the challenge. It's either that, or go running from the house naked  like a crazy person. For the sake of the neighbors, I am grateful for the distraction.

Period Images, here I come.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Hunkering Down

Now that we've all been made crazy scared by the reports relating to the CoronaVirus, more and more of us are opting out of everything and staying close to home. Which, as it turns out, is not a bad thing to do. Think of all the books you can take off your TBR pile!

But, if lounging on the sofa or in bed, and diving into a book doesn't appeal, you can participate in other activities, like taking over the dining room table to put together that jigsaw puzzle you got as a Christmas gift. Or using up your yarn and knitting a pair of mittens or a scarf that will come in handy next winter. How about getting your flower beds ready for your spring planting? Or baking that new dish you discovered on the internet?

As for me, I'm going to spend my time writing, both for pleasure, which is what I call my novel writing, or for business, which is my side hustle job that helps pay the bills. And finding another side hustle job. Maybe working on the little bit of land that is in front of my condo, making it pretty for spring. Especially if it's sunny, since Mary loves to lay on hot concrete while I work.

Regardless of what you're into, this forced break in all of our routines should be viewed as a blessing in disguise. You can finally do all those things you've put off doing when work got in the way. Enjoy your time, hunker down, and stay safe, everyone.


Sunday, March 8, 2020

Practice, Practice

I had lunch with an old friend this past week. Many years ago, when we both were much younger and had better eyesight, I taught her the basics of quilting. If you've ever tried this art form, you know the benchmark of your quality workmanship is how many stitches you can get to an inch of fabric when hand-quilting your pattern to hold the three layers together. My friend reminded me that I had managed to get to twelve per inch, something she strived for but never could achieve.


Which, of course, made me think of writing. In many ways, it's like quilting. You begin with this pile of disorganized ideas, some big images in your head, some just niggling little details. Some are quite colorful and well-defined, some ideas are vague and monochromatic, but all are essential to holding the story or the quilt pattern together. Quilters and writers both take courses and workshops to hone our craft, and continuously work to improve on our art. 

And, if we're really lucky, we can progress from five or six stitches per inch to the lauded twelve. 

Continuing my own comparison of quilting to writing, I consider having your first book published to be the equivalent of a seven-stitch-per-inch achievement. Making the NY Times best-seller list is a twelve-stitch event. Right now, with book #20 coming out in June, I'm somewhere around a nine. I'll keep working at it. 

Meanwhile, here's a picture of the last quilt I made, before my eyesight started to go. The pattern is called the Wild Goose Chase, appropriately enough, since I pieced it together during my travels from one side of the country to the other, finally finishing it when I returned to the east coast. I used at least eight different blue fabrics and six or seven red ones, but with one common theme. They all had to contain stars. The center pinwheel in each block is composed of red and blue striped fabric. Maybe this is what led me to my obsession to write American historicals? 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Finally, March!

Maybe it's because of the extra day in February, which only happens every four years, but it seems like February was longer than normal this year. While I shouldn't complain about the weather in NC, since I keep seeing weather reports of white out conditions and massive blizzards in other parts of the country, still I wish the weather would level out.

And I guess because I had an extra day in the month to think about things, I couldn't help but think about an old boyfriend of mine, who happened to be born on February 29. Even though he was really 24 when we were dating, more often than not he acted his true age of six.

Need I state the obvious? We broke up very quickly.

But since he acted like a child most of the time, and I'm writing a book that includes five children, I'm trying to remember some of the most foolish things he did so I can incorporate them into my book. Since my experience with small children is limited, I'm drawing on whatever I can.

Maybe the experience with the old boyfriend will finally be of some use.

So, where to you get your ideas?

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Hoping For Ideas

To my faithful readers and friends–I need some brainstorming ideas.

Here's my dilemma: I have a hero who is a widower with 5 children. His wife died while giving birth to child #5. His uncle has sent him a governess from England to help him take care of the kiddos while he fights the Revolutionary War.

Obviously, hero doesn't want the governess–he wants his wife to still be alive.

Obviously, heroine doesn't want to be in America when she's never been more than five miles from home before.

So, other than making sure his children are well cared for and fed, what little things can my heroine do to worm her way into hero's heart? So far, I've had her keep a meal warm for him and kept a candle in the window so he won't come home to a dark house.

What else can I have her do? To be clear, she's not trying to entice him, but she is a caring woman. I want some little things that aren't calculated, but will sooner or later have hero realize he can't live without her.

What little acts of kindness do you do for your significant other that make them feel loved?

As a caveat to this, if you give me an idea and I use it in my story, I'll put your name in the acknowledgments!

So bring it on! There are no bad ideas if they make your partner feel loved and cared for.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Where Does My Inspiration Come From?

Right now, I'm working on a Revolutionary War trilogy. All three books are interconnected as the war began in earnest. Most folks don't realize the first protest against the British was the Boston Tea Party in 1773. The Declaration of Independence was written and authorized in 1776, but the war waged from 1773 to 1783, when the Peace of Paris Treaty finally signaled the end of the war. So there were a lot of battles and confrontations to choose from to highlight.

Fortunately, there are great characters in each book, and even though each book can be read as a stand-alone, some of the characters appear in all three books. Which makes things easier or more difficult, depending on your point of view. On the one hand, the setting (Rev. War in the northeastern US) and the major opponents (Sons of Liberty and George Washington, the British) are consistent from book to book, so I don't need to drown myself in research. But then, the downside is how to dovetail the characters together from book to book.

Hey, if writing were easy, we'd all be doing it, right?

One thing I've noticed about these books is even though they are grounded in the Rev. War era, I use modern day music as my inspiration for the first two–the boat in Book One is named Gladys Maria, honoring Gladys Knight, since the boat is bringing a woman named Pip to the colonies. Get it?















Book Two has a heroine who changes her name each time her circumstances change, but she began her life as Fancy. Her mother dressed her in a red gown and told her to be nice to the gentlemen and they'd be nice to her. Thank you, Reba McIntire, for that inspiration.













And Book Three was inspired by one of my favorite movies–Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. My hero is a widower with five children--Adam, Ben, Caleb, Daniel and Elizabeth. Except for the girl, all the names are compliments of the brothers in the movie.

Only a handful of readers will get the connection to any of these, but they are my inspirations and make me smile.

So what inspires you?

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Beginning Lines

I started a new manuscript this week, and hurt my shoulder patting myself on the back. So, in lieu of putting in a workout at the gym, I'm writing a blog about new beginnings. The start of every manuscript can be exhilarating and scary at the same time. There is so much riding on an opening line, an opening paragraph.


The new manuscript had been bouncing around in my head for a few months now. It was with me every time I floated my cares away in the pool, and would not leave me alone until I put the words on the computer screen. But what comes next? To answer my question, I decided to do some research of what many consider the most compelling opening lines of all times. Here's a sampling:

Edward George Bulwer-Lyon, (not Snoopy)  Paul Clifford 


Call me Ishmael.--Herman Melville, Moby Dick

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.--Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.--George Orwell, 1984

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.--Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

They shoot the white girl first.--Toni Morrison, Paradise

After reading these openings, I wonder--Is my opening strong enough to make you want to read more?

I keep telling myself it's just a first draft and doesn't need to be perfect at this stage, but there has to be something that draws you in, otherwise it needs to be shoved under the bed. Here's my first paragraph. Tell me what you think. Do you want to continue reading?

Eleanor Chastain nibbled on her thumbnail as she awaited the appearance of her employer. The earl had returned to Sussex late the previous day from depositing his child at Eton, where young Michael would finish his education before joining the military. She didn’t have to be told what came next. Her days at Patterson House were at an end.