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. 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Dipping a Toe In

Most folks who know me or who read my blog know some of my favorite time is spent water walking in the awesome pool at my health club. I dip my toes in the water and dip my head into the story line I'm working on at the same time.  I just completed the second book in my Revolutionary War trilogy, and while it's out with my beta readers, my mind wanders to the final book in this series. The first two books have featured a prominent secondary character named Patterson Lovejoy, an active member of the Sons of Liberty. It's now time for his story.

In the first two books, Patterson was happily married to Margaret and they had four children. At the end of book two, Margaret was expecting their fifth child. But, as was the case so often in colonial days, she died in childbirth, and he is left with five children and a Revolutionary War to take care of.

I had his name and backstory but was puzzling over who to pair him up with. So, I went to the pool yesterday and pondered about who would be perfect for a man like Patterson. By the time I toweled off, I had her name, at least. Enter Eleanor Chastain, a British governess who doesn't know her own strength.

To get the rest of the story, I'll have to make multiple trips to the pool in the next few months. Should be fun, and I'll get a workout while I'm working out their story.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The End

Or is it The Beginning?

Being able to type The End on a manuscript you've been working on for months is a great feeling for any author. You've run it through your initial editing steps, and it's ready. Your baby is now able to face the world. So, what comes next?

Perhaps you have a trusted reader or two who you can rely on to beta read the manuscript and give you solid advice on what it's lacking. Because, trust me, there will be something lacking. You go through it one more time, hoping you can keep your hands off the keyboard and just read it. (Never happens.)

Then, taking a big gulp, you either send it out to publishers or you place it in the hands of an editor and start to think about covers and blurbs. It's the end of one phase of your story, but the beginning of another. No longer is the story just between you and the pages. You're now ready to have it face the world.

And hope they approve.

Fingers crossed.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Ah, Winter

All in all, it's been a very mild winter so far. The weather folks here in NC said there has only been one day in January so far that the temperature has been below normal. Well, that's about to change. Starting this weekend, Old Man Winter has decided to show up.
It's going to rain and the temperature not getting out of the 40s. But it could be worse. I just checked the weather in Ohio, where I used to live. They will not have rain this weekend. Their precipitation is in the form of snow!

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? I had been planning to take a short road trip to a historic site in NC. But it's raining. Instead of doing research, I'll spend time editing my next manuscript. And my health club is having an open house and giving free chair massages. And I can always curl up with my dog, Mary, and stay warm and toasty as I finish the book I'm reading.

Things will still get done, just differently from what I expected. But my manuscript is coming along nicely, so it's all good. Here's the scene I worked on today. Hope you enjoy.
She began her morning with what she thought of as an easy sale. Entering a clothing store for women, she stopped to touch the fine silk gown in the window. Yellow had never been a flattering color on her, but this gown was more gold than yellow, so quite possibly…
No. She had no place to wear such finery anymore, nor did she wish to spend her money on such foolishness. 
“May I help you, madam?” The seamstress of the fine gown glanced up from her work. 
“You do lovely work.” Libby wandered further into the shop. 
“And you have a fine eye.” The woman smiled as she rose from her worktable. “Are you in need of a gown?” 
“I’m Libby Wexford, from the Gazette, and I am here to drop off some information regarding advertising in the paper.” Libby’s sales pitch faltered when she spied the red shoes. She picked up one of them, caressing it as if it were alive. “Oh, how lovely!” 

“As I said, you have a fine eye, madam. These just arrived from England.” The woman drew alongside Libby. “I have a few more pairs if you’d like to see them.” 
“No, if these fit, I’ll take them. No need to tempt myself with more. I’m sure these are the finest ones of the lot, since you put them on display first.” Libby hadn’t let go of the shoe. Instead, she unbuckled the shoe she wore and slipped the right red one onto her foot. “Perfect. May I pick them up later in the day?” 
“Yes, of course.” The proprietor of the shop only gave a cursory glance at the advertising information Libby handed her, but eagerly took her money. “I am Diana Radcliffe, by the way. I hope to see more of you, Mrs. Wexford.” 
“I’ll return this afternoon to retrieve my new shoes. Thank you for holding them for me.” Libby left the store and wandered down the wooden sidewalk. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

So It Begins

Over the years since my publishing journey began, I have approached editing in an ever-evolving way. Editing will never be my favorite part of the process, but it's so essential to get it right. I begin my manuscripts writing in Scrivener, a software program that allows you to keep research, language, description, and in the case of my latest work, pictures of fashionable footwear from the late 1700s all in one place so you can quickly and easily reference it as you write. When I finish the rough first draft, I go back and use Margie Lawson's techniques making sure there's enough blue, green, pink, yellow and orange in each scene. (If you're a Margie grad, you know what I mean.)  

Libby manufactured a tear, which she made a show of brushing away. “I’m afraid Mr. Wexford recently passed.” 
He mumbled an apology, handed her a key and took her money for the first week’s rent. Libby placed her fingers on her fluttering stomach. She’d told the truth, sort of. Mr. Wexford had recently passed. 
She thought she’d have a bigger battle on her hands, but evidently, widows were aplenty in Boston. The scuffle with Britain had been simmering for some years and was about to turn into a full-blown war.

Then I run through it again with my 'words not to use' checklist. I end up with an entire sheet of paper with heavy checkmarks all over it.
Finally, when I'm done with all that, I download the work into a word document and go through it again, adding to the scenes, fleshing them out.

So yesterday, I finally was able to dump my work into a word document. This manuscript has been very difficult to write, since family obligations forced me to ignore it for a couple months. By the time I got back to it, I had to read it again from the beginning to get my mind back in the game. There's still a long way to go with it, but I thought I'd share the opening scene with you. The book is the second in my Revolutionary War series, tentatively titled "A British Courtesan in America." Hope you enjoy.

Off the coast of England, 1777

Anjanette Shelby nibbled on her lower lip as her homeland faded into oblivion. She had successfully put England behind her, literally and figuratively. She breathed a sigh of relief, inhaling the salty air as she pondered what name she should give herself now. She was about to take on a third identity, but a girl does what she must to survive. The waves, and the wind, were propelling her toward a new future and she had an entire voyage across the huge Atlantic Ocean in which to come up with a new name. The slogan of her new homeland—Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness– resonated. She was entering a new life in the pursuit of happiness, so maybe she should call herself …Liberty? The name bounced around in her head as the waves bounced the ship around in the vast ocean. Liberty. Libby. Bertie? She’d give it some thought. 
“Excuse me, miss, but you dropped your handkerchief.” A man joined her at the railing, holding a scrap of cloth between his fingers. She glanced at him, and the hankie in his hand, briefly, before searching the waves slapping against the side of the ship. His opening salvo had been a pretty uninspired way of engaging her in a discussion, he was a pretty uninspiring man, and the hankie was pretty uninspired and basic. Not at all her style. 
“You must be mistaken, sir. I did not carry a hankie on deck.” She took a step away from the railing. “I must get back to my room, if you’ll excuse me.” 
He quickly placed a hand on her arm. She peeled his fingers from her arm, one at a time. “I said, excuse me.” 
He lowered his hand but stared at her. “There’s no need to be so angry. I merely wish to become acquainted with you. After all, we’ll be aboard this vessel for six weeks or so, and may as well find some way to liven things up, don’t you agree? You’re alone, it appears, as am I.” He cocked an eyebrow. 
“I’m looking forward to being alone, sir.” Anjanette stared back at him. She’d dealt with worse in her lifetime. He was no match for her, although her stomach quivered.
“So you are headed to a new life as a single lady, eh?” He shrugged. “I’m afraid you won’t be able to shed your past as easily as you’ve shed me.” 
“You have no knowledge of my past, sir.” 
He shrugged again. “You are correct. Except we all have one. And my guess is if you’re traveling alone to America, you must be running from yours.” 
She pivoted on her heel and left the deck, striding quickly to her room in the second-class accommodations. Why wouldn’t men just leave her alone? Even if what he said was true, she didn’t need to be told it. She was taking a risk, traveling without an escort, but she no longer had anyone. She no longer needed anyone. She’d have to confine herself to her room during the day and prowl the deck at night. That man, and others of his ilk, would be in first-class, so, with any luck, she could avoid running into him again. Her blood ran cold at the thought there might be someone on board who was aware of her background and reputation. Yes, it was best to stick close to her room by day, venture forth only at night and pray for a swift passage. 
Anjanette’s body finally unclenched after six weeks aboard ship. She took a long, cleansing breath as the last of the first class passengers departed the ship. It would soon be her turn to leave. She’d kept a low profile during the entire voyage, and successfully traversed the Atlantic without being uncovered. Her dresses, though well made, were modest and serviceable. She kept her hair in a chignon with no adornments. If anything, she’d become a chameleon, imitating the other second-class passengers to better blend in. 
She gathered her possessions and placed them back into her satchel. She fingered her favorite necklace, the last piece of jewelry her final benefactor, Atticus, had given her. 
“Thank you, darling, for giving me this gift.” She wiped the tears from her cheeks and took a deep breath. Atticus had given her more than a necklace. He had given her the means to declare her freedom. She packed away the necklace and packed away her old identity. Liberty Wexford was about to disembark and live out the rest of her days in colonial America. Suddenly, the cabin was too small, the ship was too small. She needed to breathe in the free air of America. 
The ship steward stood next to the ramp, ticking the names of the passengers off the manifest. He glanced at her and smiled. “Miss Shelby, I didn’t see much of you during the voyage. Did you fare well, or were you suffering from seasickness?” 
She returned his smile, schooling her expression to one of disinterest. She had no wish to flirt with this, or any, man. “Some, at the beginning of the voyage, but I had a lot of reading to do.” 
“Well, you’re free to go. Enjoy your stay in Boston, Miss Shelby.” 
Free to go. 
She glanced at the steward. “Can you recommend some accommodations?”
“Yes, there’s a really nice hotel, The Hartford, just up the street.” He motioned to the cobblestoned street leading away from the dock. “I can arrange to have your trunks delivered there.” 
“That would be wonderful. Thank you, sir.” 
He called after her. “Goodbye, Miss Shelby.” 
She glanced back at him and waved as she whispered, “It’s no longer Miss Shelby. I’m Liberty Wexford now.” 
Liberty’s steps were light as she touched the cobblestones. Were it not for the spectacle she would create, she’d fall to her knees and kiss the stones. She straightened her hat, shifted her bag from one hand to the other, and set off for the hotel the steward had suggested. After she found lodging, she’d find a job. Boston should look out. Libby Wexford just landed. 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Moving On?

It's been a bad week for romance authors. Even if you're not involved in the national organization, the scandal that took place around the holiday made the national news. I won't go into it here, but many of us are questioning if we want to continue our affiliation with the group.

I came to adulthood during the height of the Vietnam war and attended many a political protest in my youth. And more recently, I participated in one last year. I've always fought for what I believed in but now I'm questioning whether to stay with the organization and fight to make it better or to leave.

On the one hand, you can't change anything if you aren't a member. Your voice becomes mute if you leave the fold. On the other hand, maybe the organization isn't worth saving, so you're beating a dead horse.

What to do?

My membership is up for renewal the end of February. Hopefully by then, I'll have an answer.