Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Gypsy's On The Move

I don't know why I have this personality quirk, but every seven years or so, I like to upend my life. Since I've never married, it's not men, but locations that suffer from my seven year itch syndrome. It must be my gypsy blood. I wish the Tiny Home concept happened years ago. Then I could have taken the house with me as I tour the country, always eager to explore what's over the next hill.

I met a wonderfully supportive group of writer friends in Ohio and launched my career here, with my first book in 2012.
An agent told me recently I have an amazing publishing history and my writing is top-notch. Not something I could have accomplished without the love and support from this group. I will truly miss them.

My sister lived with me for the first time in our adult lives. We spent four years together, nursing each other through major surgeries, but she's now returning to Phoenix, where she spent so much of her life. Since I don't do deserts, she's going to be on her own. I'll miss her, but I also realize she needs her own space.

So where will I end up? This is where it gets exciting. I don't know. I explored some of North Carolina years ago when I first contemplated retirement, but couldn't find anything I cared much for. I've had gobs of time to research cities in the state now, and have sort of narrowed in on a choice, but I have yet to get there, boots on the ground, and check out the city I have in mind. As soon as my house passes inspection and I can be assured the potential buyers don't back out of the deal, I'll be on my way, scouting out a new location. Just as I did when I made the move to Austin years ago, I'll know when I pass the city limits sign that this city is the right one for me. At least that's my hope.

I'll be sure to let you know.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A New Set Of Eyes

After the big garage sale weekend, I still have a house to sell. Admittedly, it's got a lot less stuff in it, but still. I worked upstairs today, moving things around to make the spare room look not so spare. Pat's stuff is all packed up in the basement, but she's now going through the kitchen and separating out her things there. We've been living together for four years now, so a lot of our stuff has co-mingled. But now I'm starting to look at the house with a new set of eyes, as if I were seeing it for the first time. I'm trying to remember what about the house appealed to me in the first place and play that up. Which I can now do, since the clutter is gone.

So the basement has been cleared out, and by today, when the next potential buyers come through, Pat may have enough stuff packed so her room will look organized. It's been a challenge to trim the fat from the house, but it feels really good to know that now everything I am left with has a purpose and a reason for me transporting it hundreds of miles.

Which, of course, got me to thinking about my editing process. Clearing the house has been so similar to what I go through in my writing, it's almost eerie. In the months it takes me to write a first draft, I add things in along the way, some good, some brilliant, some really bad. I leave it all in, carting it around with me, until it's time to clean things up, to edit my messy first draft. Just as I've gone room by room through the house, paring things down, I do so with my draft. Sentence by sentence, scene by scene, chapter by chapter, I start cleaning, tightening, and making certain everything I keep has a purpose, a reason for being in the book. Then I'll let my beta readers take a look at it with their fresh eyes.

My rule of thumb for deciding whether to keep something or dispose of it in the house has been if I had touched it in the past eight years or not, the length of time I've lived here. It amazed me to see the moving stickers from my previous move still on way too much stuff. Which means, it hadn't been used since I've been here. As I work through my draft, I try to apply the same logic. I cut out the things that don't work, that aren't needed. Lines that sound wonky either need to be kicked to the curb or cleaned up.

Look out, wonky wordage. I'm here to take you down.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Character Studies

This weekend was our big garage sale. Initially, I opposed the idea of a three-day event, thinking it was too much time away from my writing and I was getting to a really good part of the WIP. But by the end of the first day, I realized it was a great opportunity for studying characters. Who knows? Maybe one or two of them will make their way into an upcoming novel.

There was the mother/daughter tag team who looked so much alike it was eerie.

They finished each other's sentences, acted as a team to load the heavy objects into their cars, kept the two little boys with them under control, even though they were escape artists, and were very sweet together.

Then there were the two men, one black, one white, who kidded each other the entire time they were here. They were middle-aged, and acted like they'd known each other for years. They came back three times to see if there was anything they missed. Gives me hope that someday we can all get along as well as those two did.

Next came the Blonde family. Mother and her three kids. The two little girls sported thick blond braids to their waists. The boy wore a t-shirt proclaiming "Kindergarten--2017." All had the exact same shade of blond hair and the mother spoke to her well-behaved children in a foreign tongue. Swedish? German? Pennsylvania Dutch? We couldn't tell.

The very sweet woman who lives up the road spent 1/2 hour or so here, not buying anything, but talking our ears off and helping herself to our free books.
Anyone who loves to read is okay in my book, so to speak.

The man from across the street who never fails to say hello when we walk past the apartments dropped by. His mother lives in the unit, but he drives over every morning to check on her. He's retired, and I think he hangs out at Mom's just to have something to do. But he's nice and friendly and obviously a loving son. He'll be a welcome addition to a future manuscript.

All in all, it turned out to be a good way to pass the time. We made a few dollars, got rid of a lot of stuff we didn't need or want, and met some real characters, who may someday be fictionalized. This weekend was proof that you never know where inspiration will come from.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ready for the Garage Sale

My sister and I have moved our cars to the driveway and have been loading up the garage in preparation for our mega garage sale.
I liked the way we were going about this–leisurely picking up things from each room as we wander around the house and depositing them into the garage. Saturday, we had to kick it into a higher gear, since we have two young men scheduled to arrive this afternoon to move some furniture to the garage, so drawers had to be emptied and table tops cleared.

I'm in the midst of revising one book and editing another, which is probably why this purge of the house reminds me of the writing process. After I write my first draft, I start cutting out superfluous words, flowery phrases, redundancy. My house is being decluttered a bit at a time, just as is my manuscript. If my house is anything like my writing, I'll need about twenty passes through a room before it's clear of clutter.

The beauty of all this is what I'm finding hidden away in those drawers and closets. Items long since forgotten are emerging. Little nuggets of beauty or nostalgia are literally coming out of the closet. And, since the house is being purged, these little things are being seen in a brand new, uncluttered light. Same goes with my writing. A little gem of a phrase suddenly comes to light once all the clutter leading up to it is removed.

I hope by doing all this, I can make a few bucks on the sale. And, I hope my decluttered and polished manuscript will attract the attention of an agent or publisher, and make me a few bucks, too.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Finding The Lemonade

As most of you who follow this blog are aware, I'm trying to sell my house in order to downsize to a two-bedroom place rather than the four I now have. The home has been on the market for three months now, with several nibbles but no bites.

Rather than panic at the delay, I've decided to look on the bright side. To make lemonade from the lemons. This delay gives me time to leisurely go through all my books, clothing and pictures and determine which I'll keep and which Goodwill will get. Second, I'm taking the time to research places to move to, weighing the options of not only the city and state, but rather to rent first, do I want a ranch or will one set of stairs be okay, will Mary still have a yard to play in, etc. And because I never know when someone will want to see the house, it stays clean.

I'm also trying to find the lemonade in my writing. The edits for my next book seem to be taking forever. As I looked over the latest round, I decided rather than complain about it, I'd accept the fact the book was to the halfway point in the editor's comments. So I'm half done with it. I'll go through the remaining pages and try to circumvent any other problems and send it back. Instead of having half the book to go, I'm halfway done. Glass half full rather than half empty.

So, the house is being gradually decluttered, the process of finding a new place is being winnowed down, my book is halfway through the editing process, and my new WIP is taking shape, 1000 words at a time. Summer's on its way, so it's a perfect time for lemonade.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Forever Friends

In our busy and portable lives, we meet a lot of people who become acquaintances. You know, the kind you send a Christmas card to each year. Then, there are the people who you might hear from via phone a couple of times each year. But there is no better friend than a forever friend. Like my friend, Linda. In the many decades of our friendship, we've been through a lot with each other, regardless of which state I happened to be living in. She knows me better than my sisters do. And she's the only person I wanted to visit after three years of medical issues.

My trip began with another trip–down memory lane. Shortly after we had moved to DC back in the day, Linda and I rented a house together. Or part of a house, anyway. We had the English basement and first floor of a townhouse on Capitol Hill. Two men shared the top two floors. We were very close to our old stomping grounds after visiting the National Arboretum, so we took a slight detour to see what the place looked like today. We loved living on the Hill. Our house was only a block from our favorite bar and the neighborhood was safe for those nights when we staggered home.

But, as an author of romance, and historical romance at that, I couldn't get this close without paying homage to the great Nora Roberts and touring a battlefield. We made a trip to Boonsboro, MD to her Turn The Page bookstore, where I spent way too much on books, of course. We saw but couldn't gain admittance to  the historic Boonsboro Inn featured in one of her trilogies, and had lunch at Dan's, the restaurant owned by one of her sons. The other restaurant in town, Vesta, is owned by her other son, Jason. 

And then, we were off to the Antietam battlefield. Bearing the distinction of being the bloodiest single day in the history of any American war, our ranger told us that bodies were falling at the rate of one per second during the height of the battle.

The battle ended in a draw and was the turning point of the war, since France and England were about to help fund the Confederates had they succeeded in trouncing the Union Army. Such a huge price to pay. We walked around the quiet fields that afternoon, walked on the Burnside Bridge, one of the major battle sites, and tried to imagine the horror and chaos that faced the men that day.

Having made the move from this part of the country back to Ohio, I realized this trip that, while I don't miss the congestion and traffic, I do miss the vibrancy and history of Virginia. That may be why I write historical romances today. 

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. And to everyone's forever friends, give them a special hug today.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Where To Start

Spring is typically contest season in the romance community. Nearly every RWA chapter runs a contest for unpublished authors to submit their work for consideration. I offered to judge a host of different contests this year, running the gamut of genres from YA to historical, fantasy and beyond, and selected the best of the bunch in each category I judged.

As icing on the cake, I attended a workshop last weekend where the first pages of the various authors in attendance were read and commented on by two literary agents and an industry speaker.

The results of my various critiques of the contest entries and the results of the panel last weekend were remarkably similar. It didn't matter if the work was science fiction, memoir, YA or traditional fiction, the overwhelming criticism was the book began in the wrong place. The author was trying to get all the backstory set in place, or 'walk the dog' by relaying every little thing going on in the scene instead of jumping in where the action started.

The best piece of advice about backstory I ever received was to pull out all the backstory and paste it on a page. Then, pretend the page was written on glass and drop it on the floor. As you pick up the splinters, use only that much at a time of the backstory and weave it into the storyline. Stephen King is even more succinct:

That's not to say backstory isn't important. Of course it is, and you, as an author, need to know what compelling forces happened to form your character, make them act and react in the way they do. But, as a reader, you don't want the whole story in the first chapter. Otherwise, why bother reading the rest of the book? The reader needs to develop a relationship with the character much the same way one does in person. You find out little nuggets of information about a person a bit at a time. 

So, my advice, as a result of all this passing of judgment, is to go back to the start of that manuscript you've been working on and look at it again. When does the action start? Have you written the first pages just to get your mindset in place about the character? If you answered yes to the second question, remove those pages and file them away in your character folder. Open with the action. I'm revising a work I started six months ago because, after sitting through one reading after another last weekend, I realized this particular work is guilty of the same thing. I start with description and backstory instead of getting right to the action. Which proves you're never too seasoned to learn something new. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

On The Cusp Of Summer

Even though the temperature in Northern Ohio has yet to consistently reach above 70 degrees, I'm ready to move off the cusp and into the season. I want to stop wearing socks and put on my slings so I can show off my pedicure. All that glitter hidden under a pair of black socks. I can't wait.

So, in order to speed up the season, I'd like to share with you two books that will be released this summer. The first one makes me smile, since I'm part of an anthology of westerns. My book, Expressly Yours, Samantha, is part of this new compendium, which releases on May 15. Here's more information about the complete collection:
All the drama and sexy attraction of cowboys and the dangerous Wild West in a value-priced collection.

It’s a shootout at high noon in these high-stakes romances, with lovers’ hearts on the line. Saddle up and ride along with these couples as they try to outdraw Cupid.

Seduced by the Outlaw: Tamar Freeman has everything under control as the owner of Kansas City’s local newspaper until undercover lawman Amos Tanner responds to a lonely hearts ad that’s actually a trap to catch a burglary ring. To all he meets, he’s Deadwood Dick, an outlaw and the last man Tamar should fall for. But the fire between them burns hot, and his final heist doesn’t go quite as planned. Will she find the strength to give up her safe world and risk a chance at the life she’s long desired?

A Kiss in the Shadows: Driven by his single-minded revenge mission against the man who killed his brother, Brock MacDermott rides from town to town on a lonely quest. He’s careful to keep emotional attachments at arm’s length—until young, beautiful Stevie Rae Buchanan insists on joining his hunt to exact her vengeance. There’s no room for romance when you’re chasing down a dangerous criminal, but when undeniable feelings develop between them, Stevie Rae and Brock must decide whether justice is worth sacrificing everything else.

One Moment’s Pleasure: Drawn to San Francisco during the Gold Rush, Edith narrowly escapes working in a bordello, but she can’t escape Dutch Trahern, who seeks redemption after his misspent youth. A relationship could cost them both everything they’ve worked to earn, but it just might be their path to salvation.

Expressly Yours, Samantha: To escape her wicked uncle, Samantha Hughes cuts her hair to pose as a man and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider. There she meets Valerian Fitzpatrick, who joined the hard-riding circuit in an attempt to escape life in the family business. As he and Sam grow close, Valerian’s more than willing to protect her secret, but when Sam’s forced to run yet again, does a future with her mean giving up the freedom he’s always craved?

The Heart You Need: When reporter Adeline Ellsworth’s cousin is murdered in 1896 San Francisco, her investigation leads to danger—and she wakes up tied to Alec McCairn, Lord Peyton. In California to set up a new office, the Scottish peer definitely wasn’t looking for a romantic entanglement, but he suspects the beguiling Adeline is in over her head and too proud to ask for help. He’s determined to save her from herself, but Adeline can’t let Alec ruin her chance to expose this corruption, no matter how charming he is. The biggest mystery they end up solving might just be how to capture each other’s hearts.

And, if the Wild West isn't your thing, how about a beach read? My new Lobster Cove book, Sweet Caroline, will be released sometime this summer. No firm date yet, and no buy link, but I can share the cover and the blurb with you. 

Caroline Stuart never returned to Lobster Cove after an embarrassing summer night when she was fifteen. But her cousin’s marriage was an event she couldn’t miss. Imagine her surprise when she discovers her partner in the bridal party is Grant Jackson, the same boy who humiliated her years ago. She still hates him. Yet, he still excites her. 
Grant had more than the usual problems fitting in as a teenager, being the only boy of mixed heritage in the school. And he’d somehow alienated the one girl he desperately wanted to impress. With Caroline’s return to Lobster Cove, he finally has an opportunity to make amends, if only she’ll listen. If only she’ll let go of the past. 

Warm weather is just around the corner, and, as always, good books abound. Here comes summer! 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Caroline Warfield returns with The Reluctant Wife

My good friend, Caroline Warfield, returns to the blog today, to discuss her newest novel, which will be released on April 26. Caroline is one of the finest historical authors I know. In addition to sharing a penchant for the word 'reluctant,' she also is one-third of the History Imagined group of contributors, which I encourage all of you to check out. I'll let Caroline have center stage now to introduce us to her newest book:

Shakespeare said "The course of true love never did run smooth." It certainly doesn't for the hero and heroine of The Reluctant Wife.  Fred is one of those men who always strive to do the right thing and end up tripping into trouble over their own good intentions.  Clare has been married and has good reason to avoid attraction to  a handsome man in uniform. Still over the course of  scandals, courtmarials, long journeys, starry nights, and family interference, they manage to stumble into love. Love always finds a way, doesn't it?

The Reluctant Wife

Children of Empire, Book 2

Genre: Pre Victorian, Historical Romance  µ Heat rating: 3-4 of 5 flames
Pub date: April 26, 2017
When all else fails, love succeeds…
Captain Fred Wheatly’s comfortable life on the fringes of Bengal comes crashing down around him when his mistress dies, leaving him with two children he never expected to have to raise. When he chooses justice over army regulations, he’s forced to resign his position, leaving him with no way to support his unexpected family. He’s already had enough failures in his life. The last thing he needs is an attractive, interfering woman bedeviling his steps, reminding him of his duties.
All widowed Clare Armbruster needs is her brother’s signature on a legal document to be free of her past. After a failed marriage, and still mourning the loss of a child, she’s had it up to her ears with the assumptions she doesn't know how to take care of herself, that what she needs is a husband, and with a great lout of a captain who can't figure out what to do with his daughters. If only the frightened little girls didn’t need her help so badly.
Clare has made mistakes in the past. Can she trust Fred now? Can she trust herself? Captain Wheatly isn’t ashamed of his aristocratic heritage, but he doesn’t need his family and they’ve certainly never needed him. But with no more military career and two half-caste daughters to support, Fred must turn once more—as a failure—to the family he failed so often in the past. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

Find it here:

About Caroline Warfield

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager–Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun,) but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows while she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.
Caroline is a RONE award winner with five star reviews from Readers' Favorite, Night Owl Reviews, and InD'Tale and an Amazon best-seller. She is also a member of the writers’ co-operative, the Bluestocking Belles. With partners she manages and regularly writes for both The Teatime Tattler and History Imagined.
Twitter @CaroWarfield

Caroline will give a kindle copy of The Renegade Wife to one person who comments. She is also sponsoring a grand prize in celebration of her release. You can enter it here:

The prequel to this book, A Dangerous Nativity, is always **FREE**. You can get a copy here:

Excerpt From 

The Reluctant Wife

     How do I always end up in the wrong? Fred’s resentment festered all the way to Cairo. He had behaved as a gentleman ought, and she treated him like the worst sort of rake. She wanted him, lying there with the stars above. She didn’t try to hide it—not that she could have. He had been the one to exercise restraint, to do the right thing. He gave her honesty and honor. She gave him a cold shoulder.
     When she flounced off toward the tent, he almost followed but knew that for a fool’s errand. She wouldn’t have let him close, and he couldn’t have stopped a second time if she had. He went to wake her the next morning, prepared to make peace, and found her dressed, packed, and sullen.
     “Would you like some tea?” Fred asked.
     “No, thank you,” she mumbled and went to fetch her own.
     Soon after he tried to help her into the sedan chair, but she pointedly ignored his offered hand. He watched her grip both sides of the door and pull herself up. “Have it your way,” he grumbled, turning to his horse in disgust.
     At the first way station, he held out a skin of water and took heart when she reached for it. Maybe she’ll take it as an olive branch. Her refusal to meet his eyes disabused him of that notion. She uttered not one word of thanks until Meghal reminded her that good manners required thanks. Her few grudging words did little to mend the breach between them.
     The damned woman acts like I tried to take advantage instead of behaving like a gentleman. As usual, Wheatly, you do the decent thing and end up in the brig. I should have just taken what she offered. It isn’t as if she acted like some skittish virgin.
     He chewed on that thought for several miles; it disturbed him. She didn’t, did she? She wanted it as badly as I did. There are hidden depths to Clare Armbruster. That’s for certain.
     Several miles passed before another question came to him. Is that what she’s so mad about? I got her aroused and she— That didn’t make much sense to him, but he wanted to test the theory. He would have done it, if it wouldn’t have earned him another smack to the face. He stared at the sedan chair, the back of her head just visible inside, as if he might find an answer. Maybe I should just ask her. Would I get a sensible answer? I doubt it. If any man understands how women’s brains work, that man is not I.