Sunday, August 9, 2020

Satisfying Cravings

So far, I've managed to avoid the COVID Ten, those extra pounds that some folks put on during their enforced isolation. I've worked very hard to remove excess baggage on my person during the first half of the year, and don't want to slide the other way. But then, I discovered Peanut Butter Sundae ice cream. Thankfully, it's only a seasonal flavor, so it will be gone from the store shelves soon. But for a peanut butter fan like myself, it's the only ice cream flavor that makes sense.

I get cravings in my writing life, too. always wanted to write a story about mail order brides, but never quite got it going until I discovered ghost writing. I'm now in the process of putting together my fifth novella about a mail order bride. It's satisfying my craving to write in this genre without all the money and hassle that comes with producing it under my own name. My satisfaction comes in the form of payment up front for my work. 

I just put the finishing touches on the final book in the Revolutionary War trilogy, so I am wondering where to go next with my work. Shall I dip my toe again into Contemporary, which is still so popular? Is there a way to combine my love of history with a Contemporary story line? How about a female history professor who unearths something startling when she decides to explore her ancestry? It could be fun. I'll have to give it some more thought. 

I get cravings in my reading, too. You would think, with this enforced isolation, I'd be ahead of my goal of reading 50 books this year, but I can't seem to lose myself in a book. I pick them up, read a couple chapters, and put them back down. I'm craving a series where I can totally immerse myself and not have to worry about the state of our union. So far, though, no luck. 

What are you reading these days? Recommendations, please.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

It Could Be Worse

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Not only can I escape the current situation we Americans find ourselves in by losing myself in a book, I also have the ability to write my own books and can create my own worlds. 

It may seem like a great idea to leave this current situation behind and run back in time, there are some things that need to be considered first. When I write my historical books, I tend to spend very little time talking about how people performed the basic functions of bathing, going to the bathroom, catching or growing their food, Although they were basic necessities, they aren't glamorous, and they have no place in a feel-good romance. 

I was reminded of that fact the other day, in conversation with a friend who had just finished reading my latest book, A British Heiress in America. The heroine, Pippa, has a penchant for cheroots, thin, dainty cigars. While in today's world, a woman smoking tobacco is commonplace, in the late 1700s, it was never done, so she has to pilfer her cheroots anywhere she can. 

My friend asked how Pippa could have possibly gotten away with it without anyone noticing, since the cigar smell is pungent and tends to cling to one's body and clothing. Her comment then led to a discussion about all the other odors emanating from a person's body during this era and how the scent of a good cheroot might be welcome since it would mask all the others. 

So, when this world we're currently living in gets you down, think about all the good things it offers.
Count your blessings. 
 And flush the toilet. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Have Some Pie

In my youth, my older sister and I were responsible for preparing the family dinners. She usually did the main cooking and I made the desserts. I enjoyed baking, but my skills, as a ten-year-old, were pretty basic. I made cookies and tapioca pudding, that type of baking.

So, I realized I needed help when my writing and my story lines took me to pioneer baking. I'm working on two manuscripts simultaneously, and both of them involved baking pies, of which I know nothing. It was time to call in the big guns. One of my writing buddies is a pie-maker extraordinaire. She shows off her pie-making capabilities on her Facebook page, and I drool over them. Unfortunately, she lives on the other side of the continent, so I've not been able to taste any of her creations, but when I needed some assistance in my fictional pie-baking, she was there for me.

Together, we created a strawberry pie for my hero to enjoy while the heroine was convincing him to let her stay on the farm and help out. After all, the way to a man's heart, and all that...

Hopefully, the hero will realize the heroine is more than a pretty pie. Thank you, Micah, for all the help.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

We're All In This Together

I don't know about you, but I've been hearing from my family and friends on a regular basis these days. If it's done nothing else good, at least the Corona Virus has brought my family closer. We have weekly phone call check-ins now, to make certain everyone is still safe and healthy. And my friends, who are the family I've chosen, not the one I was born into, all check in several times a week, so we can stay abreast of each other and our emotions as we roll along through this crisis.

This past week, I heard from my 85-year-old uncle in Ohio. The last time we talked was months ago. 

So, silver lining to this madness. I'll take it. 

In times such as we're currently living through, it's family and friends that can get you to the other side. I feel a circling of the wagons taking place in America. Stay safe and wear your mask. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Bring On The Heat

It's summer in the south...need I say more?

It you're addicted to the HGTV show HomeTown, like so many of my friends are, you know how hot southern summers can be. Poor Ben can't get through a day without his shirt being soaking wet from his sweat within minutes.

But I'm talking here about another kind of heat. Here's part of a review from my latest book, A British Heiress in America:

 In some of Becky Lower's hottest writing to date, we see a British stowaway make her way to Boston in the heart of upheaval.

My best friend had an aunt named Dot who I had the pleasure of meeting a few years before she passed on. She was well into her 80s when we met, but she got a kick out of knowing an actual author and insisted on reading my books. Her only complaint about them was the sex part was boring and I should learn some new tricks. After reading this book, my friend said Aunt Dot would have been pleased. 

This is the start of a trilogy about three English ladies who, for differing reasons, reach the shores of America during the Revolutionary War. Book One sets the tone for the rest of the series, and if this one is considered hot, the rest of them should be as well. Especially the second one, which is entitled A British Courtesan in America. 

So, I've been spending this week, which is the hottest week of the year so far here in North Carolina, amping up the heat in my second book. Even in the A/C, it's getting hot in here. 

Any recommendations on how to cool off? 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Giving Thanks

I know–it's not Thanksgiving.

But it is Independence Day Weekend. It's time to give thanks for being raised in this country. When I was a kid, living in the country, we just had sparklers for fireworks. It wasn't until I moved to Washington, DC, while in my 20s, that I saw real fireworks. The show during the celebration of our nation's 200th anniversary, in 1976, has never been duplicated, at least in my mind.

This year, it's not safe to gather for a big fireworks display, so my dog, Mary, and I are staying home and hunkering down. We'll stay safe and count our blessings. Mary's thankful for the new FreshPet Chicken bits I bought for her, since she no longer is interested in dry food. I'm thankful I can work from home and only wander out to the grocery and the dump. I'm thankful to my loyal fans who have been waiting for two years for the Revolutionary Women series to be published. I hope the wait was worthwhile. I love each of my spunky heroines. They would have contributed to the cause of freedom, for sure.

We are facing new challenges to that freedom today. As Ben Franklin said about the type of government we had, so long ago. "It's a Republic, if you can keep it."

We are trying, Ben.

I'm thankful that my voice counts, as small as it is. I can peacefully protest, even though that's been called into question lately. I will wear my mask in public, not question the choices of others, and cast my vote in November. That's my right and for that, I'm thankful. 

Happy Independence Day Weekend, everyone!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Virtually Speaking

It's been a busy week with the whirlwind tour accompanying the release of A British Heiress in America. In years past, I would have appeared at the local bookstore, shook hands and shared hugs with readers, signed copies of my print books. Not this year.

No, this year, my launch took place while sitting in my Carolina Room in the lovely Sandhills region of North Carolina. But that didn't make things less complicated. It presented an entirely different way of doing things. In the publishing world, what worked when your last book was released may not work today since the playing field keeps evolving. But not even the shifting sands of publishing saw the Corona virus completely upsetting the way we do things. So my virtual tour consisted of press releases, guest posts, and sending out review copies. Here's a list of some of the places where I've been this week:

Additionally, I've been all over Twitter and Facebook. My good friend, Miranda Liasson, featured me on her Facebook page and it was fun to chat with my old friends from NEORWA. The special offer from my newsletter this past week is still open, so if you received my newsletter, look again.

While it may be a different way of doing things this time around, my dog, Mary, is enjoying not having to share me with others. She's a big fan of sitting on our new swing and watching the golfers.  I hope you enjoy Pippa's story while I get back to my editing of the final book in the series, which will be out in January, 2021. Hopefully by that time, I'll be able to do a live tour instead of a virtual one.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Revolution Continues

I'm often asked why I choose to write about history. If you judge my interest based on my grades in college, you'd wonder at my choice. But I've always believed history is more about the lives of the persons living through it than it is about dates and battles. I blame it on the Titanic, really. I knew about the sinking of the great ship, but being aware of the weight, the year, the amount of time it took to sink didn't give me a sense of what truly happened. It took the story about Jack and Rose to do so.

It's the same with American history. It's not about the battles, but it is about people. Ordinary people, living in extraordinary times. People whose lives never made it into the history books, but who were essential to the outcome of their time. I insist that my books contain historical events, not merely as a backdrop to the story, but as an integral part of it.

In my new book, A British Heiress in America, I relate the origin of Evacuation Day, which is celebrated annually by the folks living in Boston. I was surprised to learn over a thousand residents of Boston took part in assembling the fifty-odd cannons and placing them on Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston Harbor which was full of British war ships. The Brits were so nervous about the firepower pointed at them, they moved the fleet out of the harbor and to Nova Scotia. What they didn't realize was the cannons were all for show. Some were not cannons at all, but logs painted black to resemble cannons, at least from a distance. And those that were cannons had no balls or gunpowder to back them up. It was a huge bluff from the Americans, but had the desired effect.

Recent events on the political stage have put our nation's beginnings into focus, and made me wonder if it's not time to rectify things. After all, the signers of the Declaration of Independence were all white men. Women, people of color, people of a different sexual orientation, have all had to fight for their rights after the fact. Judging from the peaceful protests now taking place in our nation, the fight is nowhere near over. We must evolve with the times. The war is not over. I feel it's just beginning. And, years from now, when another author writes an historical novel, I pray she'll see it through the eyes of ordinary people living in these extraordinary times.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Shifting Focus

My 20th book is about to be released, during the year 2020. I'm trying to let that sink in for a bit.

But even if it is my 20th book, I still have to promote it, so it's time to shift my focus from writing to promotion. And since it's been a couple of years since I released anything new, the shifting sands of the publishing world have made the marketing of this book as difficult as my very first one. Sites with great reputations have grown even mightier, which translates to more money in the promo budget in order to pay to play. This sites I relied on only a few years ago have gone belly-up. There's a constant argument on the value of Facebook ads versus Amazon ads. Viral tours are the only way to go now, especially during a pandemic, so instead of talking to potential readers face-to-face, I'm now setting up blog tours.

Since this book is the first in my new series, I'm especially pleased that it's finally here. The series title, Revolutionary Women, was recommended to me by my best friend, and heralds a trio of stories about the part women played in the Revolutionary War. We hear a lot about our Founding Fathers, but rarely about the women who stood shoulder to shoulder with them during those turbulent times. 

I hope you'll enjoy going back in time to an era when our country was new, bold and brassy. I certainly have enjoyed spending my days there as I wrote this trilogy. Pick up your copy of A British Heiress in America here:

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Troubling Times

I try not to mix business with politics, but the events of the past weeks have made it imperative for me, as an author of American historical, to weigh in.

As a product of the 60s, and having lived in DC for years, I've participated in several protests during my lifetime. The most recent one was a year ago–a small, peaceful protest in the downtown section of my small North Carolina town. This past week, I was once again tempted to join the other protestors and have a voice in America's future. This is especially important to me, since I write about the men and women of the Revolutionary War. However, my age and COVID have made me stop and reconsider joining the throngs of others. Social distancing remains in place in the Lower household. Mary and I are still hunkering down.

But that doesn't mean I am staying quiet. My senators and my house representative have all received correspondence from me voicing my concerns, and I've written letters to the editor of my local paper. There are many ways to make one's voice heard. So, if joining the brave throngs of people in the streets who are facing down the police who use muscle, horsepower, tear gas and flash bombs to maintain 'order' among the peaceful demonstrators is something you consider too dangerous, you can still make an impression. Let the people who represent you know how you feel, and demand their accountability. And then back up your actions with casting your vote in November.

Make our founding fathers proud that we are continuing their "grand experiment." A British Heiress in America is now available for pre-order!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A British Heiress in America Cover Debut!

I don't know about you, but one of my pet peeves when it comes to covers is when the hero and heroine on the cover in no way resemble the hero and heroine in the book. And any author out there who fills out a cover art info sheet for a publisher or who is responsible for putting together their own cover, knows how hard it is to get the image you've been living with in your head for months or years to translate onto the cover.

For the cover of the first book in my new Revolutionary War series, I am lucky enough to work with a publisher who allows me to have a say in what pictures I want to consider. I have spent hours on the various images for sale sites, culling through thousands of pictures to find just the right one. I found a picture that I really liked, but the heroine is a blonde. She plays well against the dark and brooding hero, but my heroine had dark hair. I asked the cover artist to change the hair color. The only problem was the hair style on the lady was so complex and there were so many wisps going in every direction that it became impossible to change. So we decided to do the obvious and change her hair color in the book from dark to light. A simple Find and Replace did the trick and voila! My heroine is now a blonde. The book will be released on June 25. Here's the cover, for your viewing pleasure:

And, here's an excerpt:

Off the Coast of England, 1775

The minute the ship began to move out of the docks, Pippa’s courage faltered, as if it took a swan dive over the railing and began dog paddling toward the pilings. The shores of her home country faded in the distance, along with her ability to change her course. She desperately wanted a cheroot but couldn’t light up and give herself away even if she had one. Instead, she curled up between the water barrels and closed her eyes, hoping her stomach would settle if she didn’t witness the rocking of the ship. She let the up and down motion lull her into a stupor.
“Blimey! What ‘ave we here?” One of the crew of the Gladys Maria jostled a barrel away, exposing Pippa’s hiding place. She fell backward, hitting her head on the deck, the sun blinding her. She winced, at both the crack to her head, and at the harsh sunlight. One hand shielded her eyes, the other cradled the back of her head, leaving her body exposed.
A swift kick in Pippa’s ribs made her yelp in pain. She curled into a ball, but meaty hands grabbed at her and forced her to her feet. She doubled over and grabbed her midsection, retching.
“Well, iffen it ain’t a little stowaway.” The deckhand laughed as he grabbed the back of Pippa’s shirt and tugged her upright. “Cap’n will not be pleased to see the likes of you.”
Pippa swallowed her bile and struggled as the man grabbed her trousers as well as the nape of her shirt and half-carried her below deck. “I can walk by meself, guv’ner.” She intentionally lowered her voice, but still it sounded more like a socialite than a boy to her ears. Could she pull this off? Her limbs were shaking so badly she wasn’t at all certain she could walk by herself.
He dropped her to the floor once they got below deck but still kept a hand at the nape of her shirt, bunching the fabric in his large hand. “So, walk then, laddie.” He shoved her forward, and she stumbled, but kept her balance.
He’d called her a lad. She blew out a breath. At least one man bought her disguise.
“Where to?” As if she had a say in the matter.
He grabbed her arm and hurried their pace. “To the captain’s quarters. That’s where we take all the stowaways.”
She trembled but wrenched her arm away from his grasp. “How many of us are there?”
“Yer the first one I’ve come across this trip, but there’ve been others.” She glanced at the deckhand. His grizzly face was bearded, his sneer revealed a shiny gold tooth, and his matted hair fell to his shoulders. He made her insides quake. Definitely, he was the most fearful person she’d ever come into contact with. “’Tis a pity we’re so far out to sea already. We coulda just tossed you back into the harbor a couple hours ago.”
Pippa couldn’t stop the full body tremor that pulsed through her. She didn’t know how to swim. Young ladies of the Ton didn’t partake in such foolishness. She took a deep breath and faced forward. Not being able to swim was the least of her concerns right now. She had an appointment with the captain, and her fate awaited.
The gnarly deckhand stopped in front of a door and knocked once.
He opened the door and shoved Pippa inside before he followed.
“I was just about to crack open one of them water barrels when I found this mongrel, hiding in the middle.” He clutched her arm again.
As if she could have escaped this small room, with the deckhand standing in front of the door and the captain staring at her as if she were a bug he wished to squash. She held her breath.
“Nice work, Ben. Leave the boy here. I’ll decide what to do with him.” The captain rounded his desk and continued to stare at her. She stared back. English society had thus far limited her to dancing in ballrooms and charming various titled gentlemen, and she was ill-equipped to deal with the likes of the rugged-looking captain. His face was tanned, his body muscled, and altogether, he was the most handsome man she’d ever met. His jawline could slice paper, his blue eyes matched the sea.
Pippa expelled a breath, feeling the walls of the cabin close in. She’d never been alone in a room with a man before. Of course, her first experience would have to be with the most handsome man ever, and she in disguise as a boy. A disguise she needed to keep up for the duration of the voyage. In the ballroom, members of the Ton applauded her using her feminine wiles on a man, but in this case, those tools would not work. She couldn’t charm her way out of her situation.

Pippa is one of my favorite heroines of all time. She steals cheroots wherever she can, and is a bit of an impetuous person. I like to think I'd have done the same, had I been living during those days. I hope this excerpt has intrigued you, and that you'll order your copy when it is released. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Nose to the Grindstone

It's been raining here for four days now. My little swing out back is totally waterlogged, so Mary and I have been forced to stay indoors. Which is good for getting things done. I finished proofing the galley for A British Heiress in America, wrote 1,000 words a day on the ghostwriting job, and completed my required number of articles for the internet. Things started dropping off my to-do list left and right.

I start each Sunday by creating a to-do list for the week. This includes things relating to my writing life, as well as personal things, like writing thank you notes and dropping things off at the post office. This morning, when I came up with my to-do list, it seemed short. Instead of reveling in the fact I had little that needed accomplished this week, I added another item. And then one after that. Somehow, working under pressure makes the jobs get done faster. I need to wrap the final story in the Revolutionary War series, finish the ghostwriting job, and write my prescribed number of articles. And when I finish those little chores, there's the other low-hanging fruit hanging so close and tempting me daily.

We'll see how it goes. The quicker I can get things done, the more time I'll have for the new project.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Lockdown Continues

Even though some of the restrictions in my state have been lifted, I am old enough to know better than to run out to a bar with no mask on and start partying. I'll stay at home a bit longer, thank you.

To make things easier, my birthday was this past week, and by a combination of gifts, I was able to purchase a free-standing swing for my back yard. The directions said it would only take 30 minutes to assemble and my handyman was out of town, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I ended up disassembling and reassembling it twice, since if there was a way to put things together backwards I found it. But I did it! Instead of thirty minutes, it took five days, but here it is:

From my new swing, my dog Mary and I can watch the golfers as they come by. My condo sits at the ladies' tee box of the 11th hole of the course, so we watch the golfers line up, critiquing their swings and their outfits. 

Somehow, staying at home just got a whole lot easier. Mary loves being outside, and I can get away from the computer screen for a while and read someone else's work. Until the weather changes and gets cold again, I'm all for continuing the lockdown from my swing. I hope you can find a way to relax and take in some fresh air, too.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Welcome to the 70s!

My brother and I were chatting a week or so ago, and he mentioned he was planning a cross-country road trip. His reasoning was because gas prices haven't been this low in ages. As he put it, "Gas is down to $1.50 a gallon and my hair's longer than it's been in years. Welcome to the 1970s."

Well put. The Age of Aquarius is upon us. The only thing missing is the Flower Children in Golden Gate Park. We're still a ways off from mass spontaneous crowd gathering.

I sometimes wonder if we'll ever return to the age of incense and peppermints. While I continue to hold out hope, I'll continue to hold my breath as well. In the meantime, I'll lose myself in the Revolutionary War, the western expansion, and a Steven King horror story. And venture out in my Survivor buff only when necessary. 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Jumping Through Generations

I am usually a very linear writer. One book at a time, one scene at a time, always in logical sequence. Lately, though, I've been anything but linear and logical. Right now, I'm spending my time reworking a Mail Order Bride book set in the 1850s, winding up  my Revolutionary War trilogy set in the 1780s, and kicking around a contemporary seasoned romance, set in present day. As I jump from one project to another, I have to continually reset my brain to the era in which I'm writing. It's been challenging, but never boring. I picture myself wearing a cowboy hat, a tricorn hat, and a face mask, in order to get into the right mind set.

And, as for writing in sequence, that's flown out the window, too. A good writer friend, who writes scenes as she thinks of them and then puts them in sequence, advised me recently that I need to go back and work in some more scenes on the Rev War book. Which means writing out of sequence, since I was already wrapping the story up in my head. She was right, but it meant going back to the middle and adding in some layers, some scenes, to strengthen the story line. Talk about jumping off the precipice! My first attempt at adding a scene between what had already been written worked out well enough, but can I do it again?

We shall see.

How about you? Are you a linear writer or a scene writer? If you're not a writer, what type of reader are you? Do you read one book at a time, or do you have multiple books going simultaneously? I'm dying to hear.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Trying New Things

If living through a pandemic has taught me anything, it's that I can't wait to do things. The timer is ticking. American historical romances will always be my first love, but maybe it's time to stretch my scope a bit.

I recently participated in an anthology about finding love in the midst of a pandemic. My short story is a 'seasoned romance,' which means, in the romance vernacular, that the heroine is above the age of thirty, and has a bit of seasoning in the romance market. In the case of my story, the heroine is well beyond thirty. She's a senior citizen. I think it provides a nice counter balance to the other heroines in the stories, and shows that love can be found at any age.

I had so much fun writing something in this century that I want to do it again. Historical writing involves a ton of research, and there is always the fear that the language will sound too modern. But, when I write in a contemporary setting, my heroine can swear like a sailor, can live alone with no one casting aspersions about her being a crazy cat lady, and can have had a life filled with cast-aside lovers.

I still have one more manuscript to finish in my Revolutionary War series, but thoughts are zooming around in my head about writing a seasoned romance series. Right now, I'm going to put a pin in it, but watch this space. More to come...

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Seven Stories From Seven Authors

Every writer who congregates with other like-minded individuals has, at one time or another, taken part in a writing prompt exercise. Each person is given the same scenario or the same words to use, and asked to make up a story about it. It constantly amazes me that no two stories resemble each other, since they started at the same spot.

We are living in uncertain times these days, and, as authors, we tend to migrate to what makes us most comfortable. We write about what we are all experiencing. Seven of us romance authors have come together to write short stories about finding love in the midst of an pandemic. Love In The Time of Corona, Vol. 2, is now available for pre-order here: 

Love In the Time of Corona Vol 2

Here's a taste of what you'll get: 
Defending the Tycoon’s Daughter by Kristi Avalon
Escaping a threat against her wealthy family and the pandemic sweeping the country, Talia Hudson finds herself in an isolated mountain retreat with her handsome, aloof bodyguard. A scandal in Brett's past gives him good reason to avoid Talia yet he can't deny the attraction sparking between them. Will one night of passion lead to regret - or is he ready to risk it all for love?
Shipmates by Chloe Flowers
After a house fire destroys everything she owns, Tara needs a temporary place to live. In a weak moment, Officer Scott Merrick offers an unorthodox solution: sharing a cabin on his boat. Since he works the graveyard shift at night, and she runs the kitchen in her restaurant during the day, they’ll be like ships passing in the night, which is fine by both of them. 
They begin communicating by writing notes to each other. 
In the time of corona, it’s probably a bad idea to fall in love, but what if they are soul mates as well as shipmates?

Viral Dance by Sheridan Jeane

Free spirit Lily Lennon and CEO Josh Graves are opposites, or are they? When they’re thrown together in a cabin on Mt. Rainier following the coronavirus outbreak, she’s determined to have him to teach her to waltz. Can these two dance their way into one another’s hearts?

Choosing My Own Bananas by Becky Lower

Single senior Claire ignores her sister’s advice and decides to take advantage of her grocery’s early Senior Hour to do her own shopping. Widower Bert can’t believe his luck. The mysterious woman from the health club pool is right behind him in line. He and his friend refer to her as Esther Williams, but now he might get to know her real name.  And hopefully a whole lot more. 

Can social distancing actually bring people closer together?

The Royal Muse by Judy McDonough

New Orleans artist, Melody Landry, has had it with relationships and cheating men. She would much rather paint her frustration into money-making masterpieces. 

Reece Thomas has had enough heartache for two lifetimes. He would rather drown his sorrows with his trumpet and whisky than give anyone else a chance to rip his heart out. 
Love was the last thing on their minds—until they found each other.

Can the healing powers of music and art bring two bitter souls together in the midst of a pandemic?

Espresso, Paper, Love by L. A. McGinnis
A stir crazy actress charms her way into a young doctor's life from the neighboring apartment building. It's one thing to exchange notes and coffee in a crisis. It's another to deny their growing attraction. 
Tipsy by Jen Sako

Furloughed from their upscale restaurant positions, server Barbera and Cavan, the restaurant’s sommelier, discover a virtual connection. But can their wine-fueled, digital bond survive in real life? 
 _Instagram Post 7 fun reads
So, when you run out of those chores you've been putting off since forever, you now have seven delicious short stories to give you an ounce of comfort in this time of uncertainty. Here's the link again: 

And, of course, every author needs reviews. If you have a moment, please write a review and tell other potential readers which of these stories you liked the best. These are short stories, so your reviews can be the same! 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Toss a Lime in that Corona

This virus has us all going a bit bonkers these days. Staying at home. Only venturing out for food and medicine. Some romance author friends of mine decided to put their own spin on things and write some short stories about how you can still find love even if you are cloistered. Maybe especially if you're cloistered. I'll be anxious to see if there will be a rise in the birth rate in December or January. My friends had so much fun, they decided to publish a second volume of short stories and asked me to participate.

I hesitated, since I don't normally write contemporary, but then I saw a photo in the local paper of senior citizens lined up in front of the local grocery waiting in the dark for the store to open at 6AM. And it got me to thinking that love can happen at any age. You can find a way to have a good time, put a lime in your Corona. Even while waiting in a grocery line.

Once I got the inspiration and the idea, I couldn't wait to write the story. The anthology will be available to the public on April 22, but you can have a sample of my story today. I hope you like the excerpt from Choosing My Own Bananas. Since most people are spending more time at home now, why not curl up with a new collection of stories that give us all hope of coming out on the other side in a better place? This book is now available for preorder here:


This was a mistake. She should have listened to her sister, who implored her to figure out how to use the on-line ordering system for her groceries. Then, all she would have had to do was drive up, pay an extra fee to have her groceries already bagged up and waiting to be loaded into her car. But other than having to pay someone to shop for her, an indulgence she could ill afford, she just couldn’t wrap her head around someone else picking out her bananas. Instead, she got out of bed before the sun broke over the golf course, and drove herself to the store, where she waited in the dark with all the other old folks in town. At least it seemed like every other senior citizen was queued up and waiting.
“Good morning, Sunshine!” The man in front of her in line turned and saluted her with his coffee in its sparkling white container, wrapped with a slice of cardboard to keep his fingers safe. Maybe, if she’d thought to grab a cup of coffee before she left home, she’d feel a bit more sunny. As it was, she merely nodded to him and stared at her empty cart. 
“You’re Esther Williams, aren’t you?” The man attempted another tack of conversation. She should just ignore him, but Esther Williams? She glanced up at him. 
She checked behind her, but she was last in line, so he couldn’t be speaking to anyone else. “Are you talking to me?” 
“Yeah. You’re always in the pool at the health club, down at the shallow end. You wear that black suit with the see-through bits at the hip.” 
Holy crap! Seriously, she should have taken the time to get some coffee. Her brain was working at only a snail’s pace, but he had described her bathing suit in perfect detail. Who was this guy? And where was the snappy retort she should have had at the ready?

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Sticks In The Air

There's a new home being built in my neighborhood, and my dog, Mary, and I have been walking by it for several weeks now. My dad was a builder and taught me everything I know about the building process. There's a lot that takes place before you get to this point in the process, when you actually can see 'sticks in the air.' For weeks, all we've been seeing is a hole in the ground, and then, suddenly, we're at the stage. 

Writing a novel is a lot like building a house. There's a lot of work that has to be done before you can begin to build the story. You have to create a solid foundation, plan where the high points will be and lay the groundwork. Only after you carefully lay out your plan can you start putting your sticks in the air without fear of having them collapse and fail. Consider them the plot points of your story. Once your plot is all good and solid, you can start adding things to make the work unique and the story line different from every other book out there. And only once the story line is running smoothly can you embellish the work with the elements that make it special. It all comes down to having a good plan before you turn over that first shovel of dirt. Or, in the case of a manuscript, before you write that first line.

I'm working right now on the final book in my Revolutionary War series. One of the things I especially love about writing historical novels is having the ability to plop my characters into the middle of chaos to see how they rise above it. For me, in order for a book to be considered a historical novel, especially in romance, is to use actual events as an integral part of the story. But that means I spend a lot of time building my foundation. I need to make certain I have the correct dates, the correct location, and in the case of the Revolutionary War, the right generals in charge. If I don't have a proper foundation for my story, I should not be surprised when the sticks begin to fall over. 
Mary and I will keep track of this house, now that the sticks are in the air. We'll watch as all the walls get framed out. Maybe we'll even sneak inside and try to determine the layout. Then, we'll watch as the pretty elements start to come in and the home gets a personality. Hopefully, my manuscript will proceed at the same rate, and develops a personality as well. 

Stay safe and write, everyone. You don't need to write a novel, but in these troubling times, a journal or a letter to a loved one will keep at least some of the panic you're feeling at bay. Stay strong. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Take It Easy

Week Two of semi-isolation coming up. I have only been out once this week, for a quick grocery run. If it weren't for the constant barrage of doom and gloom on the news, it would have been no different from any other week, except for my three times a week trips to the health club. I'm retired, and the two writing jobs I have are done from home. I'm used to puttering around the house, walking my dog a couple times a day, and working on my little spit of land here.

So why am I sorting through my herbs, and arranging them alphabetically?

The short answer is I'm finding new ways to fill up my time. I'll spend more time on my manuscript and possibly finish the third book in my Revolutionary War series early. I'll increase the number of articles I'm writing for the internet each week, as long as they last. I'll prune my roses. I'll knock some books off my TBR pile. Maybe I'll even do my filing. 

I miss my health club, but they're providing on-line classes to do at home. Everyone's doing what they can to get by. So, as I am coached through my morning yoga for seniors class, I'll think of all the money I'm saving by not having to fill up my car's gas tank, getting my hair cut, going to the dentist or eating out. 

That will be my silver lining. Hope you can find yours. 

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.