Sunday, October 29, 2017

Stumbling Across History

Those of you who follow along with this blog already know I hold a special place in my heart for the history of our nation. I stare at what has to be a 200-year-old tree in my neighborhood and wonder what events it has possibly seen. With Oberlin's rich history as an antislavery town and devoted to helping those traveling on the Underground Railroad, any number of things could have taken place near the tree. Was it a gathering place for townspeople to express their opposition to slavery? Did it at one time hide escaping slaves under its branches? These are the things I ponder as I take my afternoon walks.

My brother was in town this past week, for a conference in downtown Cleveland. When we picked him up at the end of the meetings, he said we needed to make one more stop before we headed back to the west side suburbs. His profession is a city planner and he really gets into sustainable and repurposing of things. I don't care for grocery shopping on my best day, but he insisted we go to the downtown Heinen's.

What a surprise!

Located on the corner of East 9th and Euclid Avenue, Heinen's is housed in what had at one time been a bank building. The Cleveland Trust Rotunda Building has been converted, quite beautifully, into an upscale grocery. This example of early 20th century architecture provides a glimpse of Cleveland in its heyday. Designed by George B. Post, renowned architect, this building was, and still is, one of the most iconic buildings in Cleveland. A painstaking renovation was undertaken by Heinen's, one of the oldest Cleveland grocery stores, and is now a creative use of repurposing a building while retaining much of its original charm.

Which proves that history awaits you around every corner, if you know where to look. And sometimes, when you don't.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Drum Roll, Please!

It is with immense pleasure that I give you Sweet Caroline, a sweet contemporary set in the Wild Rose Press fictional town of Lobster Cove, ME, which will be released on November 15. Take a look at this delicious cover, created by Rae Monet, who has designed several other of my covers, along with my website.

Sweet Caroline follows on the heels of Love's In The Cards, my first Lobster Cove book. In that book, sisters Penny and Abbey are getting their card shop ready for the Christmas holiday rush and Del, one of the greeting card artists used by the main office visits their store. He turns out to be an old flame of Penny's, and a HEA happens soon after. Now, in Sweet Caroline, it's February, and Del and Penny are getting married. Caroline is a cousin, and a bridesmaid in the wedding party. 

Here's the blurb for Sweet Caroline: 

Caroline Stuart never returned to Lobster Cove after an embarrassing summer night when she was fifteen. But her cousin’s marriage was an event she couldn’t miss. Imagine her surprise when she discovers her partner in the bridal party is Grant Jackson, the same boy who humiliated her years ago. She still hates him. Yet, he still excites her. 

Grant had more than the usual problems fitting in as a teenager, being the only boy of mixed heritage in the school. And he’d somehow alienated the one girl he desperately wanted to impress. With Caroline’s return to Lobster Cove, he finally has an opportunity to make amends, if only she’ll listen. If only she’ll let go of the past. 

And a bonus excerpt: 

Abbey laughed as the other two bridesmaids stood at the window, giggling. “Come take a look at the groomsmen.” She hustled Caroline to the window.

Four men stood outside, handsome in their dark gray, three-piece suits.

“No tuxedos?” Caroline craned her neck to see the men.

“As Penny said, nothing conventional here today.” Abbey pointed to one of the men. “Allow me to point out my Charlie, the one with the light brown hair.”

“And whose fine backside am I staring at?” Caroline gestured to the man facing away and leaning over to straighten his pants leg.

“I’m glad you approve. That’s your groomsman.” Abbey laughed.

At that precise moment, the man straightened and glanced at the window.

Mocha skin, piercing, unexpected blue eyes, and curly black hair. Caroline caught her breath and put a hand on her suddenly nervous stomach. “Grant? Please tell me he’s not Grant.”

“I’m surprised you even remember him, Caro.” Abbey glanced at Caroline with widening eyes and gave her a playful swat on the arm. “Del picked his groomsmen, and Grant was the only one tall enough to pair with you. I hope you don’t mind.”

Caroline pivoted away from the window, her mind buzzing and her panic rising as she recalled the last time she’d seen Grant. “Yes, I do mind, but we’re too late to change things around. For Penny and Del’s sake, I’ll be cordial. But once today is over I hope never to see him again.”

 I don't have the buy link yet, so stay tuned. 

Is this my last contemporary? I've learned never to say never, especially in this business. Let me know what you think. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Secondary Characters

My new Regency line, The Flower Girl Series, has been scooped up by Simon & Schuster, with the first one scheduled for release on Christmas Day! It is definitely Happy Dance time.

With that in mind, I'd like to talk a bit about the first book, Winning Violet. The Wilson sisters–Iris, Violet, Lily and Poppy, all live and work with their father in his landscaping and nursery business in Hertfordshire, outside of London. And while the entire family does indeed participate in this first book, showing up at the most inauspicious of times, the real secondary character is truly someone special. Her name is Lady Banks. Allow me to introduce you.

Violet is a true scientist who spends her days experimenting with the hybridization of roses–specifically the Lady Banks rose. This particular beautiful climbing rose is spectacular when in bloom, and the scent from the roses is divine, but unfortunately it only blooms once a year. Violet is cross-pollenating it with other varieties in an attempt to make it bloom more frequently and hopes her work will gain her recognition with the Royal Horticultural Society.

The Lady Banks rose plays a pivotal role in the story line. Violet curtsies in front of the plant each time it gets watered or fertilized, calls her My Lady, and uses her pollen to explain the process of hybridization to Parker, Thomas Jefferson's landscaper.

This is the first time I've used a plant as a secondary character, but she does get a lot of words in my story. She bears witness to Violet and Parker's blooming romance, their first kiss and, ahem, other things a Lady doesn't discuss. I like to think that when Violet and Parker finally come to the realization that they are in love with each other, the Lady Banks hides her knowing smile under a green leaf.

What about you? Have you ever used inanimate objects as characters in your books?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Dressing The Part

I went on a job interview last week. Hey, even a starving artist needs to have grocery money and my third attempt at a ghostwriting job didn't pan out. I thought I'd be a shoe-in for the job–temporary work of eight weeks during the upcoming holidays with the greeting card company I'd worked at for years, but this time I'd be sitting in a cubicle in a large office fielding calls. I was a natural. So, I filled out the on-line questionnaire, sent a cover letter outlining my experience and got a call for an interview. I'd even written a book about working in a card shop.

It's been a number of years since I've been on an interview and I labored for more than 24 hours wondering what to wear. Dress? Didn't own a single one anymore. Slacks? I had a choice between the ones with the shiny butt or the ones I had to keep tugging up. I had just bought some new jeggings that had a nice fit but really–jeans to a job interview?

In the end, I wore the jeggings, a colorful blouse that I hoped would detract from the fact I was wearing jeans, and a sensible sweater. I was ushered into the interview room after getting a guest badge from the front desk and waited. And waited. Finally, after ten or fifteen minutes, a man showed up at the door. I smiled at him, happy to get the process started, but even more happy at his appearance. He wore droopy gym shorts, flip-flops and a ruby stud in each ear. All my worry had been for nothing. I eased back into my seat, ready to wow him with my knowledge of the company.

But, as with everything, the company has evolved from the behemoth it was when I worked for them. The job I had applied for was for their e-card portion of the company. No opening of card packs and straightening them in the racks. This was all done via computer. And Mac computers were the enemy.  I've only used Macs for the past, oh, fifteen years or so. I immediately started reassessing my ability to do this job, wardrobe aside. The fact that I didn't bring a resume with me along with my lack of PC experience pretty much made the guy close the file before I even rose from the table. I explained that it had been so many years since I'd held a full-time job, the people on my resume would have been retired by now or the company out of business, but I could tell the more I talked, the further away the job went.

Ah, well. The money would have been nice, and it was fun to make a list of the various ways I would spend it. But I came home, fired up my faithful Mac and got some nice news, which will fill up my time between now and next April. I'll release more information as I can.

So you see, everything happens for a reason. If I'd qualified for the job, I wouldn't have time to get a new book written by April.

I'd much rather be solving the problems of my hero and heroine than solving the problem of why an e-card won't open. Call me selfish.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Taking Stock

It's now officially autumn, and the leaves here in northern Ohio are beginning to fall. Soon, my front yard will be covered in discarded oak leaves and I'll be scrambling for firewood.

This is the time of year I like to do a look back over the year and see where I'm at in this writing journey and where I'm headed. My yardstick contains several components:

1) October is one of the months during the year where royalty checks are issued. There will be one more issued when the books are closed for the year in December, but March and October are the biggies. I like to compare this year's checks with last year's and see if I've made any headway. If not, I need to explore ways to provide an additional revenue stream.

2) I check my swag to see if I need to order any more bookmarks, business cards, etc. Have I promoted myself enough?

3) Has my supply of my books dwindled to the point where I need to order more? Do I need to plan more public appearances next year?

4) I take a look at my book project folder to see if I'm able to mark anything off that list and update accordingly. Do I have any more compelling story lines to consider for next year?

5) I also look at my five-year plan, which gets extended out by a year each time. It's a good benchmark to keep me on track. Am I accomplishing the goals I've set forth?

Even though it's technically not the end of the year, it is the end of the year for my business, more or less. Before the craziness of the holidays happens, I can reflect on what I've accomplished this year and what even bigger things I can do for next year.

How about you? Do you take stock of your career at the end of each year? Do you make plans to do things differently in the coming months?