Sunday, October 20, 2019

Starting Over?

In April, 2018, Crimson Romance went out of business. It was shortly after I moved to North Carolina when the bottom fell out of my publishing career. I was in the middle of a Regency series, had two of the books written and one published. I signed with an agent who suggested I write the third one in the series so she could try to salvage the series. The Regency period and I never seemed a good fit, though, and I found myself creating feisty secondary characters instead. I hired an author coach to help me right my ship and lost the agent.

I ended up taking the feisty secondary characters out of the strict Regency regulations in England, and plopped them into America at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. It seemed to have worked. The first book in my new Revolutionary War series was a finalist in a recent contest, and I've just received a contract for the book, to be published early next year.

All this reflection has made me realize my roots are in America, not England.

If you look at this past year and a half one way, I've wasted a lot of time and my loyal fans are losing patience with me. But on the other hand, I've found where my strengths are. I can't wait to begin promoting a new book, and launching a branding campaign for myself. Or rebranding, as it were. 

I'm pretty excited to see what comes next.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Time For A Change?

For years now, I've had a tire cover on my Jeep that is easily identifiable. My hippie smiley-face that proclaims "Only In A Jeep" has been my calling card.

It's helped me locate my car in large parking decks, it's made a lot of folks smile, it's enabled people to track my whereabouts. While I really enjoy having the hippie dude on my car's rear, it has made me realize how easily identifiable I am.

My neighbor recently asked "Didn't I just see your car at Harris Teeter?" She could have surmised my whereabouts by the bags of groceries I just had unloaded, but she went to pains to tell me it was because of my tire cover. "There's not another one like it in all of Pinehurst." My dog, Mary, was being groomed last month, and the woman at the desk told me, after seeing my car in the parking lot, that she delivers my newspaper to me twice a week. I can't even get away with a late afternoon visit to the grocery or a morning at the groomer without being unmasked, it seems.

My dear Jeep, loyal as it has been, is about at the end of the road. I'm trading it in, hopefully sometime this week, for a newer used car, which will undoubtedly be another Jeep. But I'll remove the tire cover before I affect the trade, since it's been my trademark and I don't want it or me to be associated with the new owner. Alas, the newer Jeep models no longer have an outside spare tire, so I don't know what I'll do with my hippie, but it's not a good idea to transfer it with the car. What if the person robs a bank? Would the police come to my house, since I'm the smiley-faced hippie dude owner? The possibilities are endless.

I'm going to take some pointers on how I developed that brand, since I'll be coming out with my first new book in a couple of years soon. But this time I'll welcome the recognition. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Time To Curl Up

The temperature in North Carolina shifted from summer to fall this past week. And, it's about time. I've always loved autumn. That's probably why I surround myself with trees every place I've lived, just so I can enjoy the spectacle of color in the fall. In my part of the state, there are vast forests of pine, which smells good, but doesn't put on the show of color that I prefer. For that, you need to go to the mountains.

So, I'm planning a trip. My sister from Phoenix is coming to visit, and we're going to explore my state, from the coast line to the mountains and a few places in between.

We'll feel the ocean breeze on our cheeks, breathe in the salt air, visit my niece and my baby sister, and then head to the hills for the display of color. We'll be able to curl up with a good book in front of a roaring fire, maybe see some deer or black bears. Can't wait. I'll get to spend valuable time with my sisters, and get to tour parts of the state I haven't yet seen. Maybe I'll even get inspired to have my next book take place in the mountains of North Carolina. If Nora Roberts can do it, so can I. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Getting Here

Long ago, I lived in Texas. Those who were born and raised there were in one class of folks. Those who migrated there as adults got to wear a popular t-shirt proclaiming even though they weren't born there, they got there as soon as they could.

I thought about that shirt (which I never bought or subscribed to its notion) this week when I read an editorial talking about the same subject, but instead of Texas, they were relating it to North Carolina. Now, that's a notion I can get behind. Since moving here 1-1/2 years ago, I've settled in. I have nice neighbors, I've found work I can do from home, I joined a gym, and my new Revolutionary War series has me waking up each morning raring to go.

The first one in the series, A British Heiress in America, basically wrote itself. The second one's taking a bit longer, since my hero took a while to get his act together. But with a name like Hawk, what else could you expect? Here's a snippet from the second book, A British Courtesan in America:

The streets were bustling with people, all busy with their lives. Libby melted into the throng and wandered from one street to the next. Her next hurdle was to find employment. She glanced at the various shops and tried to picture herself working in one of them, but nothing so far captured her fancy. The street noise was deafening and the cobbles uneven, so she shifted her gaze to the street and lurched to a stop as the heel of her expensive brocaded silk shoe wedged between two cobbles. In her haste to explore her new city, she’d forgotten to change out of her favorite pair of shoes, the final gift from Atticus. She leaned over to dislodge the shoe, or take it off. 
Shouts, and then, thundering hooves, finally resonated. Libby glanced up in time to see a horse barreling right at her, but she was unable to move to safety. A scream formed in her throat as her gaze was pinned on the runaway animal. She closed her eyes, waiting for the inevitable. What a pity, to die on her first day of freedom. Then, the breath got knocked out of her as hands grabbed her and yanked her out of the way. She landed hard on the cobblestones, with an equally hard body on top of her. She fought for air as the man rolled off her, helping her to a sitting position, while Boston bustled around her. 
When she finally was able to breathe again, she opened her eyes and stared at the person who had saved her life. Dark skin, a shock of black hair that stood straight up from his scalp, broad shoulders, and brown eyes that narrowed as she perused him. If she hadn’t had the wind knocked out of her already, this man’s appearance would have stolen it. She’d never seen anyone remotely resembling him. And he still held onto her hand. 
She put her feet under her and he helped her rise. When she tried to put weight on her left foot, her ankle screamed in pain and she winced. 
“Have you been injured?” The exotic stranger asked in a voice that had a French lilt to it. 
“It’s my ankle. I twisted it, evidently. And lost my shoe.” Libby glanced around, searching for her missing footwear. 
The man scoured the area where she had been and pulled what was left of the shoe from the cobbles. He handed it to her. “Hope you weren’t too fond of them. Mighty fancy footwear for the wild streets of Boston.” 

She stifled the moan, and blinked rapidly, not letting the tears fall. “Thank you, kind sir. Now, if you can direct me to my hotel, I’ll let you get back to work.” She took a step forward, but latched onto the man’s arm for support as she cried out in pain. 
“You aren’t going anywhere in that condition, mon amie. I can take care of you.” He picked her up in his brawny arms and carried her through the streets. 
“I can take care of myself, sir. Please put me down.” She struggled, which made him grip her tighter. 
“Not until I take care of your ankle. The longer it’s left unattended, the greater the swelling.” He glanced down at her and smiled slightly. “It’s the least I can do. That horse escaped from my stables.” 
Libby settled into his arms. “Well, in that case…” She took a moment to study him. “I’m sensing a French accent, but something else, too. What is your nationality?” 

“Oui, half French. The other half is Passamaquoddy Indian.” 

And, when I get a spare morsel of time, I'm already thinking of the third book, tentatively titled A British Spinster in America. All my heroines are transplanted from England to the United States at the very moment in time when the states did become united. The Revolutionary War is a battle I can get behind, unlike the Civil War, in which so many died so a few could continue their plantation way of life. I keep my Civil War leanings to myself, since I am technically a Southerner now. But North Carolina is a good place to grow things. Like my office plant. It was a gift when I moved into my new place, and has taken off, spreading its leaves towards the heavens. What only a year ago was a little philodendron of some kind has grown into a plant worthy of Little Shop of Horrors. I can hear it calling out "Feed Me!" each time I come near with a watering can.

So I guess it's time I bought a shirt. One that says "I may not have been born here, but I got here as soon as I could." North Carolina is feeling like home.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Peace, Love and Rock n' Roll

My new Peace symbol t-shirt arrived in the mail today. I had to retire the old one, since a shirt can only have so many stains on it before it becomes embarrassing, regardless of the message.

While I was in college, a friend of mine carved a huge peace symbol out of a block of iron since he knew how much I liked the sign. I wish I still had it, but it got too costly to lug it around the country with me. So now, I'm on to the new shirt and hope it lasts as long as my previous one did. 

And I couldn't call myself a hippie if I didn't include love in the equation. Since I write romances, I think I've got that one covered. I'm currently shopping my 20th manuscript around and hope it finds a home soon. 

As for rock and roll, I grew up outside of Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My sister and I attended the Who concerts when they still played in small venues, and saw the Rolling Stones on their first American tour. I have to admit to a bit of a hearing loss as a result of these early encounters, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Nowadays I like to work in absolute quiet, but when I need to boogie, I turn to Bruno Mars and his Uptown Funk. 

I  just finished rereading my latest manuscript, which is set during the Revolutionary War. It's made me focus on how our country got its start, how much these early founding fathers and mothers sacrificed to form this country, and I've become intensely patriotic as a result. Here's a snippet of a scene from the as yet unpublished story, entitled A British Heiress In America: 
Daniel let out a slow breath as Pip departed the deck. His natural curiosity about America, and what he was headed into, had forced their conversation to skate very close to the edges of his secret life. He’d taken a lot of guff from his friends when he accepted the job of ferrying supplies to the British forces. His in-laws, who took care of his daughter, Emma, while he was at sea, frowned on his activity even though they understood why he accepted the post. He’d do what he had to in order to make certain his daughter had the best life possible. And her best life possible didn’t include the British taking over the country he’d grown up in and loved. But it also didn’t include having her grow up as an orphan. She’d already lost one parent to the Brits. He’d be damned if they’d get a chance with him. He would guard his secret with his life. He had to, for Emma’s sake.
So, he’d continue his duplicity. He’d carry the missives meant for the British generals from their superiors still in England, as well as those directions going back to America from the British commanding officers. But not before reading what he could, listening to the talk as he picked up the parcel of letters, and passing along the information to his best friend Sam. Samuel Adams.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Having a Becky Day

Lately, I've had my nose to the grindstone to pay for a new stove, to pay attention to a sick family member, and to read some books that I've been putting off reading. Oh, yeah, and then there's the work-in-progress (WIP).

The sick family member is approaching stability, the stove is in and by the end of this week I will have it paid for with my side-hustle job. So, in the middle of this week, I was surprised to find I had a full day with no appropriate articles to write, and nothing on the calendar. So I plopped my butt in my chair and had a Becky kind of day. I got to do exactly what I have been dying to do--get back into my WIP and then read one of my good friend's books.

It was a day to recharge, one which I sorely needed but wasn't even aware I was being dragged down.

So, I got a couple more chapters edited in my WIP, and got deep into my friend's book. I finished reading the book today, but can't say the same about the WIP. That will take a little bit longer. But I think I'll schedule a Becky Day once a week. It puts a different shine on the rest of the week.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Prioritizing or Procrastinating?

My work schedule has shifted over the past few weeks, for a variety of reasons. And just as with anything that you develop a routine for–exercising, dieting, writing, etc.–when your routine gets interrupted, it's hard to get back on track. As most of you know, I have a side-hustle job, which at times pays more than my royalties from all my books. When the stove in my house hid the skids, I needed to find money to buy a new one, or stop cooking. Trust me when I say the "stop cooking" option held some appeal. But since that wasn't feasible, I went shopping over Labor Day for a new stove.

I got a good Labor Day sale price, but I still had to find the money to pay for it. Which meant doubling up on my efforts with my side-hustle for at least a month. So I switched the order in which I put together my day. Instead of working on the WIP first thing, I've been writing my articles first, and then, if I have any creative energy left, I work on my WIP. But a couple things are hanging me up. First, when I had to put down the WIP, I was at a sticky part where I needed to spend time doing some research and then write a fight scene. Second, I started using the book Save The Cat Writes a Novel, so I'm rereading the chapters I've already written to make them better, and make them adhere more closely to the suggestions in this book. And third, I find my brain is only capable of coming up with 1,200 words a day, regardless of whether they are used in the formation of articles or as part of my novel.

So am I prioritizing or procrastinating? Once I accumulate the funds needed to pay for the stove, I'll let you know.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Save The Cat

For years, I've been using Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet from his Save The Cat book to formulate my novels. It's basically for screenwriting, but I've found it quite useful in plotting out the basics of my stories. I can quickly fill in a beat sheet and determine if I have enough of a story line for a complete 70,000 word product. If I'm successful in filling in all the boxes, I'll go forward.

I was in the middle of the second book in my Revolutionary War series when life interrupted my orderly days. I abandoned the project for weeks, and then, when I was finally ready to get back into it, I couldn't get a grasp on what came next. One of my writing buddies suggested I take a look at the next version of Save The Cat. It's designed specifically for novel writing, not screenplays. I bought the book, thinking I'd apply it to the story I had written thus far. I'm probably at 25,000 words, so I've got a lot of material to filter through. 

So, the other day, I brought up the first chapter. Following along with the Novel version of Save The Cat, I got through the setup for the heroine and moved on to the next part of the first act, where the theme must be stated. According to the book, "a character (usually not the hero) will make a statement or pose a question to your hero or heroine that somehow relates to what the person needs to learn by the end of the story." I was already in trouble. 

I already had a secondary character in the scene, so I used him to pose the question to the heroine. Reading through the scene again, I quickly saw how much stronger the scene had become by my additional words, which fleshed out the secondary character and put the heroine on edge with his summation. Now I have to do the same with the hero. 

For all you writers who follow this blog, I highly recommend this craft book. Save The Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody not only saved the cat, but may have saved my book. Thanks, MJ, for the suggestion. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Back To Work

Following my forced hiatus to take care of the family emergency, things are getting back on track. And that means back to work for me. Whoever said retirement meant slowing down obviously has never been there. I'm working harder than ever, but for the most part, it's enjoyable work rather than the teeth-gnashing kind.

After all, one of my favorite places to plot my next scene or work through a knotty situation with my characters is while I'm floating in the salt water pool at my fitness center. It's a great stress reliever and helps me clear my mind of my daily problems and focus on my writing. If I go more than a few days without getting my swimsuit wet, I miss it.

It seems I'm not the only one getting my life back to normal. The golf course behind my house is back up and running after spending the summer recuperating from a bad fertilizer job. The temperature is coming down into the comfortable category and I'm looking forward to fall. As for my WIP, I'll figure out what Hawk's big conflict is (as if fighting the Revolutionary War isn't enough) and decide when to do the big reveal for Anjanette/Liberty (since admitting she made her money as a courtesan is not something you can just drop into a casual conversation). It may mean more visits to the pool, but I'm up for that.

Does this mean I can write off my fitness center membership as a business expense? Hmmm...

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Dark Moment

All of us who write romance know that a good novel has to have a dark moment. The hero and heroine might think things are going along swimmingly and they are in a happy place, but then the bottom drops out of their lives. They have to work hard, and fight for each other and their happiness in order to get to the happy ending. Here's the official definition:

The darkest moment in the book is when a character loses all hope - normally the protagonist. It's often towards the end of the book, because that's right before the inevitable happy ending (or not, if you're being cruel) will emerge from the dark.

My sister and her husband are in their dark moment right now. After months of searching for a place to live, they found a great house, and are scheduled to settle on their new home in a few weeks. Everything was moving along well until, as my sister calls it, what happened wasn't a bump in the road, but a sink hole. My brother-in-law developed serious, life-threatening medical issues, and is currently being treated in the hospital.

What will happen? Right now, it's all up in the air. I have my idea of what they should do next, my sister and hubby have a different idea, and her daughter and her husband have another solution. All I can say is however it plays out, and whatever happens, they will deserve the best, most elaborate  happy ever after ending.

Their story would make a great book. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Kids Say The Darnedest Things

Mary and I are not accustomed to being around children, so having a visit from my great-niece and nephew has been an eye-opening experience. My brother-in-law had emergency surgery while staying with me and now his daughter, son-in-law and grandkids have come to spend a couple days with him and my sister. I am overrun with people of all ages. The little girl, Keira, especially, is full of questions about why I don't have any children of my own.

I won't detail all the embarrassing questions I had to answer tonight, but Art Linkletter knew what he was talking about when he said Kids Say the Darnedest Things. I've decided to enjoy this interlude in my life, immerse myself in being the grandmother I never had a chance to be and put writing on hold for a week or so.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Family Time

My month of August has been chaotic so far. My sister, her husband, and their two dogs, are between houses and are camping out at Chez Lower. Fortunately, the dogs are getting along fine. The people? It's been a challenge. Buying a house is a lot different than it was just a few years ago, and I've been helping get their paperwork in order for the mortgage company. That's as close as I've come to doing any creative writing.

Fortunately, I think the paperwork is finally coming to an end, and we'll just count down the days until settlement. At least I hope that will be the case. So maybe I can get back to work this week, writing the big battle scene from the Revolutionary War. Obviously, I need to be in the proper mindset for that. You can't just throw on a tricorn hat and be there.

So, while I do battle with the underwriter, and with the Battle of Machias, not to mention a printer upgrade no one told me about, I'll try to work in a massage and some pool time to keep my sanity. September seems a long way off.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Kindle Countdown Deal!

This is the first time I've tried a Kindle Countdown Deal and it's for one of my favorite books, Blame It On The Brontes. From now until Tuesday, July 30, the price has been lowered to 99 cents for the ebook version. So, if you've been thinking about buying this one, now's the time.

            Sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne are back together again to eagerly dig into their dead mother’s fortune. 
         Only their mother has other plans for their contentious reunion. 
         Unknown to the trio, Mom decided her fortune wouldn’t be divided until one very critical thing happened. The sisters have to reunite in their childhood home for one year in Puffin Bay, Maine.
         And they have to get along. 
         But long-buried resentments, old rivalries, and would-be boyfriends are about to provoke their biggest feud yet, threatening the sisters’ financial claims and the lineage of a family that hasn’t known peace in decades. 
         Will a year be enough for three brash sisters to figure it all out? 


Charlotte raised her binoculars, searching the ocean for the only boat on the water that mattered to her. Nothing yet, but soon, The Brontëand Gray would be on their way home, to her. She really didn’t need visual proof that he was coming into shore. She could feel it in her gut. Goosebumps, which had nothing to do with the breeze wafting in from the water, dotted her skin.
Charlotte’s heart constricted with a twinge of loneliness. Her mother was gone forever. The keen sense of loss was something Gray would certainly understand. For the first time in her life, her mother would not inhabit the house with her, tidying the comfortable rooms, taking care of everyone and making them feel at home. She needed Gray to help take away the feeling she was all alone. She needed Gray, plain and simple.
For the next several days she would fulfill the role of hostess to her two sisters, who were returning home for the somber event of laying their mother to rest. As the eldest, Charlotte accepted the mantle that fell on her shoulders, although she was not happy about it. Their mother had been the one to keep the lines of communication open between the three of them, and Charlotte now wondered what would happen. Certainly, she had no plans to talk to her sisters, beyond what was necessary this week. 
She climbed over the wet, sun-bleached granite boulders ringing the shoreline. 
“Hi there, Char.” 
She gazed into the faded blue eyes of Puffin Bay’s oldest resident, Autry Jones. He sat in his usual summertime spot, on the slatted wooden bench in front of the post office. His white beard rested on his chest, and his captain’s hat shielded his eyes from the harsh glare of the sun. 
Charlotte smiled at the old codger. “Hey, Autry.” 
She had a lot to do before Gray’s boat arrived at the dock, but she always had time to talk to Autry. 
“The sea cough up anything for you today?” 
“No, nothing. But I wasn’t really searching for sea glass. I’m not going to have time to make any jewelry this week, what with everyone coming in for the funeral.” 
Charlotte lowered herself onto the bench beside him. Autry bumped his arm up against hers and tore his gaze away from the ocean. “One thing you don’t need to worry about is groceries this week. Mrs. Spradling headed to your house a bit earlier to drop off a mountain of food, as she does every time someone in this town passes. Sorry about your mom. Such a good woman.”
“Thank you. She was kind-hearted, even though she stuffed our childish heads with romantic nonsense. Hell, instead of hearing Dr. Seuss books when we were kids, we got yet another chapter of her favorite romance novel. And, every night after supper, Mom took us to the widow’s walk to see if Daddy’s boat was in port.” 
“She did her best to raise you girls while your daddy was earning a living from the sea.”
“I know, and I miss her terribly already. Are you going to be at the memorial service? Emily and Anne will be coming home for the funeral. The two of them should be pulling into town later today.”
“Ay-yup. I’ll be there. It’ll be nice to see you girls together again. Should be good weather for a funeral. I hear Grayson turned his boat toward the shore, too.” Autry’s pale eyes twinkled.
“I figured he’d come in from the sea, but Mom’s viewing isn’t until tomorrow, so I don’t expect to see him until then.” She shifted on the seat under Autry’s keen gaze.
“You can’t think of any reason he might want to come in early? Charlotte Bronson, you and Gray may think you’ve been fooling the town for eighteen years, pretending the two of you don’t care for each other, but you can’t hoodwink an old coot. I was young once, too, and I know what love is.”
“But we haven’t been in love for years. We try to avoid each other.”
Autry continued to stare at her without saying a word. 
She shook off the rush of schoolgirl giddiness that came with the idea Gray was turning toward port early in order to see her. She ran a hand down her braid of dark hair, now liberally laced with silver. Maybe she could do something about the streaks before he arrived. If only I could erase the past as easily as I can get rid of the outward signs of aging. Then maybe Gray and I could fall in love again. Remembering she had a million things to do, she leaned over and kissed the old man on the cheek before jumping up. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Pass the Pepper, Please!

 I'm so pleased that this week saw the re-release of A Widow's Salvation. As the Akron Beacon Journal said in their review, "It's high time Pepper has her turn at romance." 
After serving as a secondary character in the previous seven Cotillion Ball books, Pepper gets her own story, a year after her husband, Michael, died at the first battle of the Civil War. This war affected everyone living in America during the time, so it would have been unusual for the large Fitzpatrick family to not have one fatality. Since I was so entrenched in the series, as I hoped my readers were, I didn't want to do away with any of the Fitzpatrick men, so Michael seemed the logical choice, since he was related only by marriage. Here's the way the story opens: 

New York City, July 1862

Pepper Brown yanked open her bedroom armoire and stared at the sea of black. Her widow’s weeds, as people called them. They were showing up in increasing numbers on the streets of New York, on women of all ages. The Civil War, which both sides had thought would be over in a matter of weeks, marked its one-year anniversary today. Which meant today was also Pepper’s one-year anniversary as a widow. She drummed her foot on the floor while she perused the black dresses. Was she ready to move on? Michael had thought she would be. In fact, he extracted a promise from her before he left for the war. One year and not one day more, he had said. Her mother thought so, too, or she wouldn’t have planned their outing for today. All Pepper now needed was the courage to convince herself they were right. The churning in her stomach told her she had a ways to go yet.

She straightened and turned her back on the black.

“Molly, please come help me dress,” Pepper called down the hall to her lady’s maid. “I’m going out today.”

“Aye, ma’am.” Molly, a young Irish girl with light brown hair and matching freckles across her pert nose, came quickly into the room. “Which gown would you be liking?” She began fondling the various dresses in the armoire.

“None of these. I’m done with these dresses. Besides, most of them are maternity gowns. I want to wear something fresh, something different.”

Molly nodded vigorously, and the little white cap on her head bounced askew. She righted it before she spoke. “Perfectly understood, ma’am, and you should be stepping down to half mourning. Perhaps I can find a nice gray or deep purple gown among your other things.”

Pepper shook her head. “No, no half mourning for me. What kind of silly term is that, anyway? I’m going out with Mother, and I want our day to be special. I want to wear something bright. I think the periwinkle dress Jasmine created for me right before Michael’s death will do. Yes, the periwinkle.”

Pepper smiled at Molly’s horrified intake of breath. She obviously disapproved, which meant it was the right decision.

“Periwinkle? Forgive me saying so, ma’am, but isn’t it a wee bit too much of a difference?”
“Why yes, it is, Molly.”

I am constantly surprised, and amused, at the way history works with my stories. Pepper was now a single mother raising three young boys, so she possessed the inner strength of every mother who's ever raised a child. What I didn't see coming when I began the story was how the Civil War led to the advancement of the use of prosthetic devices. Who better to take on the task of getting grown men to use a prosthetic leg than a mother? There are several scenes where Pepper whipped these men into shape and got them to walk again. I hope you enjoy Pepper's story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Worth The Wait?

Since the demise of Crimson Romance, I haven't been able to release any new books, only re-publish the ones they returned to me. A few loyal readers have reached out to me over the past year, asking when I'd put out something new, and I had no answer.

Now, I do. Sort of, anyway.

I labored this past year writing two manuscripts set in the Regency era. Labor being the key word here. They were both very difficult to write and now have taken up residence under my bed. But in each book, I introduced a secondary, minor character to move the story forward and became entranced by these characters. One of my beta readers told me I should toss the Regency and write the story of the secondary woman. I'm glad I listened.

I decided to take the minor character from the first book and tell her tale. But instead of having her be in England, I transported her to America during the Revolutionary War. I figured her penchant for a good cheroot would not be so frowned on in America. The book idea came to me so easily, and I really enjoyed writing it. I entered it into a few contests to get some good feedback and to see if it held up under the scrutiny of others. And look what happened!

I am a finalist! Haven't been able to say that in a while. We'll see where this leads, but right now, it's under scrutiny at four different publishers and I'm working on the next one. My secondary character from the second rejected Regency is a courtesan who finds her way to Boston one year after the Declaration of Independence was signed. She's left her profession behind. Or so she thinks. Can anyone really leave their past behind?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

House Hunting

My sister and her husband are in the market for a new house. If you've ever been through the process, you know the steps you have to take. While your current home is on the market, you start narrowing down your options on where you want to relocate. You create a list of 'must-haves' and another of 'pie-in-the-sky wants.' You spend hours on the internet sites, looking at homes in your price bracket and winnow down your choices. You also winnow down your lists of essentials, since no new home will have everything on your list. Eventually, you tire of looking at houses and settle for something that's not quite right. Or, you put your foot to the pedal and keep going.

That's the point my sister is at right now. Out of steam, nearly out of options, and ready to settle.

Which reminds me of a story idea I had recently. (Of course it does.)

The story began well enough. Several people had read the original manuscript which featured my heroine in a secondary role and told me they'd like to read her story. I spent a couple of days filling out my beat sheet to see if I had enough of a story to do justice to my character. My list of 'must-haves' was forming. So, I began working on the story. But unlike the manuscript I just finished, which came out of my head with no problem, this one isn't so easy. Do I winnow down my 'must-have' list, throw in a pie-in-the-sky idea, or tire of the plot and settle for something that's not quite right?

Right now, I'm liking my hero much better than the heroine. So it's time to put my foot to the pedal and keep going. Figure out ways to make her more appealing to me, and consequently, to my readers. With two extraordinary characters living through extraordinary times in America, you'd think it would be an easy task. But just like searching for the perfect home, you sometimes have to tear up those lists and begin anew. While my sister tackles finding a home, I'm going to go tackle my beat sheet.

Sunday, June 30, 2019


I don't know about you, but I can tell a lot about a person by their choice of footwear. I'm currently working on a novel that takes place during the Revolutionary War in America. My heroine is a former courtesan from London, and during her time there, she was given gifts from her paramours in the form of fancy footwear, among other things. So she came to America with a truckload full of fine shoes. It's turning out to be a theme in the book.

I recently got back the rights to my contemporary, Blame It On The Brontes. I argued for years with the publisher to put three pairs of shoes on the cover that depicted the personalities of the three women who tell the story, but I could never convince them of my vision. Now that I had the rights back, I could create my own cover exactly the way I wanted it. There's the hippie, the practical one, and the starlet. And my guess is you can tell exactly whose shoes belong to whom on the cover.

As I write this from my Carolina room in sweltering North Carolina, I am barefooted. For someone who writes about women with shoe fetishes, I am coming up woefully short myself. But it's summer in the south, so bare feet are acceptable.

So, grab your flip flops and head to the beach or the pool with the Bronte book. It's a great beach read. Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Cleaning House

I had a relative move out this week after living here for six months. Another will be moving into the revolving door my house has become soon, so I have a lot of cleaning and laundry to get done in a short amount of time. In the past few days I've been doing mounds of laundry and bedding, and, since a lot of clothing got left behind, I had to decide what to take to Goodwill and what to take to the trash. Sorting through what's good enough to keep and what to toss.

And, after the laundry gets done, I can start getting down to details. Vacuuming, scrubbing, picking up empty peanut butter cups, etc. All those details that happened during his tenure here need to be assessed and a decision made as to whether it's worth hanging onto.

And, of course, this all reminded me of editing a manuscript once you type "The End." First, you clean up the glaring errors, or fill in the gaping holes in your story line. Then, you get down to the details. You can vacuum up a lot of them quickly, such as changing out straight quotes with curly ones. But then there are those details that have become so ingrained in the story that it's really hard to scrub the story clean. Lots of elbow grease is going to be needed to have the end product be clean as a whistle.

So, in between loads of laundry and vacuuming this weekend, I'll be cleaning off my laptop in preparation for getting serious writing time in next week on my new story. I've got the story line planned, just like I have a plan for cleaning the upstairs. But, as is always the case, the story has a tendency to go its own way, regardless of the amount of planning I have done. I only hope there are no surprises when it comes to cleaning the second floor.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Accepting The Inevitable

I wrote a post for another blog recently where I talked about my collection of fashion prints. And I blamed my mother for getting me started on this mad obsession of mine. She was helping another sister fix up her home in Maine and unearthed a fashion print still in its frame, under a porch. Then, since Mom was never one to throw a perfectly good item away, she washed the dirt off it and gave it to me as a housewarming gift when I bought my first home.

Now, years later, I'm writing historical romances and I spend a lot of time discussing gowns–shabby ones, off the shoulder ones, gowns the same exact shade as the woman's lover's eyes, etc. I even went so far as to make one of my characters the owner of a dressmaking shop.

My current work in progress features a young woman who masqueraded as a boy while stowing away on a ship bound for America. When she arrived, she needed to borrow a gown in order to be properly presented to her aunt, and the only gown available was a faded blue serviceable dress which belonged to the hero's dead wife and is the only thing of hers that he kept, since it was his favorite dress. The aunt made some rather caustic remarks about the inferior quality of the gown, but the heroine knew how much it meant to the hero and takes care to properly clean and return it.

Mom may have started me down this path years ago, but if my first Godey print was the catalyst for my choice of genre, then I should be thanking her every day that I write. Not being one who likes being told what to do, it took me several experiments in writing before I settled in on American historical romance. I have accepted the inevitable and will continue to write about the clever, dedicated, brave men and women who made us a free nation.

Thanks, Mom.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Emancipation Day

Since February, when a character from a manuscript I was working on, appeared on the scene and wouldn't leave me alone, I've been working on her story. The aforementioned manuscript, from whence she emerged, has been pushed under the bed. At least something good came out of that whole experience.

The story takes place during the Revolutionary War in America. I wasn't that well versed in Revolutionary history before, other than knowing the basics, so I had a huge learning curve. And the story begins in England, where my character sails from, so I had to familiarize myself with sailing vessels used in the late 1700s. And then, there was Boston. Other than the Tea Party and the Common, I didn't know much about that place, either. But I love historicals where I take two normal people who happen to be living through perilous times and sink them into the history. Think Rose and Jack on the Titanic and you'll understand.

Boston Tea Party

Anyway, in the course of my research I learned Bostonians celebrate something called "Evacuation Day" every March, even to this day. That's the day the British ships left the harbor for good, having been intimidated by the large number of cannons pointed at the harbor from Dorchester Heights. The Brits didn't know there was no ammunition to back up the bold presence. They also didn't know some of the cannons were simply painted logs, made to resemble a cannon. The Brits couldn't take the chance, so they ended their blockade and evacuated the area.
Cannons being moved to Boston from upstate New York. 

My main character has been fighting her own battle. She's desperate to escape the rule of her father, who wants to marry her off to a man with great wealth. She'd rather marry for love. As she stands in the harbor watching the ships leave and hearing it referred to as Evacuation Day, she thinks instead it should be called Emancipation Day. Because she's found love and her father can no longer run her life.

The manuscript is now finished, except for writing a synopsis. So in a way, this is my Emancipation Day. These characters, and this story line, have been a daily part of my life since February, and I'm ready to move on. My next idea also sprang from one of those manuscripts taking up residence under the bed. A high-priced English courtesan decides to migrate to America. What could go wrong?

Stick a pin in that for a couple months.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

On To The Next

I am pleased to say I finished the second read-through of my current WIP. This "fingers off the keyboard" reading went fairly well, and the book that has consumed my days and my time in the pool where I like to think about the next scene, is done. At least this phase of it is done. It's now in the hands of my beta readers. I'll wait for their comments, make their suggested changes, and send it off to my publishers of choice to see what they have to say about it. Fingers crossed!

Besides meeting that milestone, I worked with Prairie Rose on the new cover for the next book in the Cotillion Ball series to be released--A Widow's Salvation. What do you think of it?

And the last major event of the week happened by accident. I noticed one of my books was missing on my Amazon page and queried the publisher. They told me they had reverted rights to the book two weeks ago, but sent the reversion letter to an old email address that I have requested be changed three times. How hard can it be? Anyway, I have the rights back to Blame It On The Brontes, and can republish it, which I will probably do on my own. I need a new cover, and am looking forward to it. I'm thinking a beach, flip flops and sea glass jewelry.

June is upon us, and in the south that means hot, sweltering weather. I'll leave the golf to others and spend my days in my Carolina Room, taking care of business. And when I do manage to get to the pool, I'll dream up the next book to fill my creative space for the next four months.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Contest Season

A lot of people ask me why I still enter writing contests. After all, I've published 19 books, and written plenty more that will never come out from under the bed. Am I a glutton for punishment or what?

It takes a great amount of courage to enter a contest.After all, you're asking for people to tear into the story you've poured yourself into for months and find things wrong with it.  I'm not a trophy collector and don't really care if I win. But I would like to be a finalist, since that means my work gets read by someone in the industry. However, even if I don't make it into the top three, I can count on getting some really helpful feedback about my entry. That's the real reason I enter contests. Since I moved to North Carolina, I lost my critique group. And it doesn't matter how many books you've written, another set of eyes on your work is always a good idea. Often the author is too close to the work, knows exactly what the story is about, even though it hasn't translated entirely to the page.

Such is the case with my current WIP. The idea sprouted from a scene in another book I was working on and I decided to run with it. But, while I was running, I kept one of the characters from the original manuscript and he kind of was like the headless horseman in this instance. I didn't really think about him in this manuscript, since it worked in the other book, but the contest judges were left scratching their heads. Needless to say, the man is gone now. He hit the cutting room floor with a resounding thud.

I've taken the comments from the first contest and improved the opening scenes of the book. And I have even more ideas on how to improve it further. Since a book is never done, even after it's published, I'll keep working on this one.

Watch this space.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

It's Re-Release Time!

As most of you know, I have decided to re-release all nine books in the Cotillion Ball Series, plus the novella prequel, as I regained the rights to this landmark series. Book 7 in the series, Expressly Yours, Samantha, is available for pre-orders now and will be released on May 30. It contains one of my favorite tropes–a girl who disguises herself as a boy or man. In this case, Samantha, or Sam, decides to sign on with the Pony Express until she can reach her 18th birthday and legally be free of her uncle. Here's the cover of this tale that has fast horses, duplicity and intrigue. There's even a reference to my favorite explorer, Jedediah Smith.

The novella prequel, An Unconventional Courtship, is still available at no charge. If you'd like to read about how George and Charlotte met and fell in love, this sweet little tale will help you understand how they raised such unique children. Here's the link for the free download:

Happy Reading! Load up your Kindle and get ready for the beach.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother's Day!

Today is Mother's Day, the time when we all pause for a moment and think about the woman who gave us birth. My own mother has been gone for more than twenty years, but my best friend has willingly allowed me to share her mother, and two of my sisters, and my nieces are mothers, so I do have cause to celebrate. In fact, if you count a four-legged offspring, I guess I'm a mother, too.

I certainly write enough about women who, if they aren't mothers already, they will be by the time the book is finished. In fact, Charlotte and George Fitzpatrick had nine children before they stopped reproducing. Nine children wasn't as unusual 150 years ago as it is now, but George wanted to stop at three or four. Charlotte's wish was for a large family. And we see who won that battle.

I can think of no better way to celebrate the day than to offer up Charlotte and George's story to everyone, free of charge. Here's the link to download your copy:

And to all the selfless mothers out there, Happy Mother's Day! I hope you get to prop your feet up for a little while, anyway, and read about Charlotte and George.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

It's Giveaway Time!

It's my birthday month, and I'm celebrating. I think birthdays shouldn't be limited to a specific day, but rather should encompass the entire month. So, you might ask, what am I doing to celebrate?

Glad you asked.

I recently got the rights back to the final two books I had with Crimson Romance/Simon & Schuster. One of these was the sweet romance novella that encapsulated the meeting and romance of Charlotte and George Fitzpatrick, the heads of the Fitzpatrick household, and parents to the nine children who have their own individual stories in the Cotillion Ball books. Charlotte and George most certainly did have An Unconventional Courtship. 

So, to celebrate the re-release of this sweet book, I'm offering it up for free, all this month. Here's the link to download your free copy :

Your free copy will be available from now until the end of May. Thanks for sharing my birthday month with me. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019


Anyone who has spent any time around me knows I love roses. I've had them as an integral part of my landscape and in my writing, for years. When I was in Austin, I found the Antique Rose Emporium, who specializes in (you'll never guess) antique roses. Their website even breaks down the various varieties into the type of fragrance they offer. When I moved to North Carolina, my little patch of yard had two rose bushes, leggy, spindly things. I pruned them back, fed them with my favorite rose food, and was rewarded with only one rose. One bloom for the entire season.

Sadly, it didn't even have much of a scent.

A few days ago, I was at a major home improvement store, in their outdoor section, which was bustling with folks. The woman behind me in line had a rose bush in her basket and I asked if she'd ever heard of the Antique Rose Emporium. She said she only grew Knockout roses, which have heavy blooms, but alas, no heavy scent. No scent at all.

So which way do you lean? Do you want show or do you want substance? Because roses are as much a part of me as my writing is, I favor substance. I want heavy fragrance, and continual blooms all season. I even wrote about roses in the first of the Flower Girl series. My heroine spent her days in the greenhouse, talking to her roses. I admit to doing the same.

My rose from the Antique Rose Emporium arrived yesterday. I passed on the one that smelled like pineapples in favor of an old-time musky scent. My new rose is called The Beverly. I just planted Bev in the back yard along with a huge gulp of water and some of my famous rose food. All she needs is some sunlight and she'll hopefully spread her toes in the sandy soil of North Carolina and take off.
Here's Beverly!
My conversation with the stranger with the Knockout did yield something good, though. She told me of a place in Vancouver, Canada, where they have acre after acre of roses that perfume the air. I'm going to have to check it out.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Mueller Time

Like most Americans, I've been riveted to the news this week. The long-anticipated report from Bob Mueller was finally ready for viewing. The news reporters reminded me of gleeful children at Halloween with too much candy from which to choose.

Although I was pleased that I was able to understand the Cliff Notes versions of the report the news folk divulged, I was tantalized by the fact I could download and read the entire 400 pages. I googled how to do it, hit the button, and had this strange screen appear on my computer. I couldn't get rid of it and get back to the normal screen of favorites that I see whenever I open Safari. So I decided to shut down and restart my computer to try to get rid of it. By the way, I didn't get the report. One more thing to blame Trump for.

When I started the computer back up again, I was instructed to enter my password, which I did. However, Apple didn't recognize that password and asked if I wanted to reset. I went along with them, tried a new password, and got the message that this computer wasn't eligible for a new Apple ID. I was effectively locked out of my computer.

Since the nearest Genius Bar is two hours away, I called the Apple help line. It took hours to figure out what had happened. My frustration level hit an all-time high, since I'm not the most tech savvy person on the planet. But in the end, they figured out what had happened and how to get rid of the annoying screen. And they cleaned up a lot of space on my computer, helping me eliminate old programs that were occupying way too many gigabytes, or whatever.

I still have no copy of the report, but have decided that's okay. I'd rather have a functioning computer so I can make a living. Maybe I should stay away from politics.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Advertising Hype

I attended a writer's conference this weekend. It had been billed as an A to Z of self-publishing, and since I'd just regained the rights to two of my books, I thought it a timely discussion. So, despite the prediction of rain all day, off I went, on a 3-hour round trip in the pouring rain to have the speaker impart her words of wisdom. Come hell or high water, I wasn't about to miss this talk.

When I arrived at my location, it wasn't just raining–it was pouring. Sheets of rain slammed down on the hood of my car.

My in-car umbrella decided to play hide and seek with me, so I sat for a few minutes in the downpour, hoping for a break–which didn't happen. I wasn't about to sit in the parking lot and miss the meeting, so I took off at a brisk walk toward the door.

Brisk pace or not, by the time I got inside the building I was drenched. My t-shirt clung to my back in a cold, icy grip and I could feel my muscles begin to seize up. My shoes made little squishy noises as I walked across the marble floor. My hair, never known for putting on a good show, gave up completely and dribbled onto my cheeks. A quick check in the ladies' room proved what I'd already guessed. I looked like something the cat had drug in, after she tossed me in a few puddles.

I wiped the mascara off my face, propped my wet locks behind my ears, and proceeded to the meeting. I am nothing if not motivated and persistent. But, alas, here's where the problem began. (I  know what you're thinking...)

Either I'd read the wrong meeting blurb or the speaker had, but the talk wasn't about self-publishing at all. Rather, it was how to write and market a book. The speaker had come prepared with a slide show and handouts. Which she then proceeded to read.

This type of speaker has always bothered me. I'm a writer, as is everyone else in this meeting. Which means we know how to read. Words are our business. I don't need someone to read for me what I can read on the screen myself. I want embellishment on the points being flashed on the screen. So I got grumpy. Not only was I not getting the talk I'd driven here for, it was being read from a screen to me, as if I couldn't make out the words on my own.

Or maybe I was just cold and damp. The puddle under my seat kept growing.

After spending most of my professional life in the advertising business, you'd think I'd have learned not to trust the advertising hype. I sat quietly, damp and cold, and kicked myself for not double checking the agenda. Then, the speaker told me something new. Something I'd never thought of before. Eureka!

As I drove home, I realized hell hadn't come to North Carolina, but some of the rivers were running out of their banks. And while I didn't learn anything about self-publishing, I learned something. Time well spent.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Fast Or Slow?

Early on in my writing career, I attended a lecture held by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jayne Anne Krentz. Their wit, and their obvious friendship with each other was inspiring. But what struck me most was the different approach they each took to their writing. One wrote very fast, the other took a more slow approach. The takeaway from this meeting was I needed to figure out which approach worked best for me and not be swayed or intimidated by another author's output. What was important was to keep the storyline moving toward "the end" every day.

I took their advice to heart and now, with 19 books under my belt and more than that under the bed, I've found an agreeable pace for myself. I know the first 500 words are the hardest for me each day. It's like I'm slogging through mud as each word is slow to develop, elusive and just out of my grasp. But I also know that at some point during those 500 words the scene takes over and the remaining 500 words of my daily output are quick to follow. I can sometimes get to 2,000 words a day, but that's a rarity. But looking at the big picture helps. If I write 1000 words a day, in two months' time, I will have a flash first draft of a book. Usually it works.

But my current WIP has altered my formula. I began the book in early February, so according to my timeline, I should have the first draft completed by now. Not happening. There's something about these characters–Pippa and Daniel–and something about the time period –the American Revolutionary War–that keeps me adding to the story line.

I'm only about halfway to the end of the story and all they've managed to do is share some cheroots and a couple of kisses. Yes, Pippa likes the occasional cigar and blows some impressive smoke rings. By the time I crawl to "the end" I figure I'll have a first draft of about 80,000 words. Usually I need to go back through my flash draft and add in description and emotion, fleshing out the structure. In this case, I may have to cut words from it

Life could be worse.

How about you? Do you write fast, like Jayne Anne, or slow, like Susan Elizabeth?