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Monday, January 16, 2017

Nostalgia


On Saturday, I drove over two hours to a meeting. My companion was Sirius radio. Normally, we don’t subscribe, but it was free for a couple of months. I tuned the radio to "60’s on 6." All the way to (and from) my meeting, I sang along with songs from my youth and remembered where I was when I first sang along. Like Saturday, I was probably in my car when I heard those songs. 

I wish I could say I had that red Mercury Cougar the entire time. Not so. My first car was an ugly blue-green sedan my dad insisted I buy in 1965. Like a good daughter, I obeyed. The Cougar didn’t come until 1969. It was used, but I didn't care. Dad was not pleased that I didn’t ask his advice. Bad daughter. LOL



What wonderful memories the artists and their songs evoked. Neil Diamond, Judy Collins, The Beachboys, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and so many more. Nostalgia for a bygone era. I came of age in the 60s. More than missing the cute Cougar, I miss those days. I was young, single (a state I bemoaned at the time), free to do what I wanted, when I wanted. With my girlfriends, I traveled and saw so much of our country. Only one time did I fly and that was to NYC to see seven Broadway plays in five days. Tickets were cheaper then. A lot cheaper.

The other trips we made in one of our cars. Usually, a car bigger than my Cougar. With four or five of us, we could drive straight through from Michigan to Florida, California, Texas. Four of us were teachers, so we traveled during school vacations or the summer. Sometimes my sister (telephone operator) or the sister (nurse) of two girlfriends came, too. Since we split travel expenses, those were cheap vacations.

I mentioned “cheap” twice. That was important in those days since teachers (especially those who in parochial schools) weren’t paid well. Neither were public school teachers. Still, we had such fun. We talked to strangers at historic sites, happy when we met someone from Michigan. We hiked in National Parks, fearlessly walked in the Rio Grande in Big Bend N.P., the U.S. on our right and Mexico on our left. We hiked to a glacier in Colorado, visited Disneyland and San Simeon. Terrific vacations, wonderful times.



The 60s were a turbulent time, too. Viet Nam dominated TV news and family dinners. Protest riots on college campuses and race riots in big cities. On the day the riots broke out in Detroit, my sister and I had taken our younger siblings to a Tigers’ baseball game. We knew nothing about the riot that started a few blocks away until we got back home in the suburbs. Although I didn’t know him at the time, Hubs remembers returning from vacation to see an Army tank blocking a street he needed to use. The scariest event in my life at the time.



The 60s changed us. We went from the naivete of the 1950s to skepticism and distrust of authority. Our parents didn’t understand, which led to confrontations during dinner. But we weathered all that and turned out okay.

Those thoughts and many more drifted through my mind as I listened to “Sweet Caroline,” “Good Vibrations,” “Hey, Jude,” and “Lay, lady, lay.” My trip went quicker with the radio playing. Though I wouldn't win any awards for singing, it kept me awake during the drive home. 

And I felt like 21 again.

What songs did you come of age to?



Saturday, January 14, 2017

#WeWriWa - #8Sunday: One Red Shoe


Welcome to Weekend Writing Warrior and 8 Sentence Sunday, the weekly hop for everyone who loves to read write! Writers share an 8 to10 sentence snippet. Be sure to visit the other writers. You can find them here.

Did you miss me? That quote from PBS' Sherlock also applies to me. My last post was on December 10. Time and the holidays got away from m. But I'm back with a snippet from the beginning of my romantic suspense, One Red Shoe.

“Billy, don’t feed Rover any table scraps, only two cups of kibble a day, and, Andy, you’re going to put food in the barn for Archy and Mehitabel, right?” Daria didn’t wait for his response, continuing with, “Tommy, you’ll take care of—”
Jimmy straightened, saying, “For crissake, Daria, it’s a goddamn zoo around here.”
At least he wasn’t trying to delay her with talk about new tires. She reached up and patted his cheek. “Don’t swear.”
“I mean it, Daria Jean,” Jimmy said. “Don’t you dare bring home some wounded stray. I don’t care if it’s bleeding—no more.”



It Happened One Night meets Knight and Day


When elementary teacher Daria Mason left Iowa for a writers’ conference in New York City, she didn’t expect to come home with a wounded spy. Sam Jozwiak works for a shadow agency that gathers intel vital to U.S. security. From the moment he steals digital files from a Russian Mafia kingpin, Murphy’s Law takes over. No matter how he covers his tracks, the kingpin’s assassins find him. What’s worse than getting shot in the butt? Accepting help from an Iowa tourist. Thus, begins a road trip that takes Sam and Daria cross country with the assassins right behind them. 



Friday, January 13, 2017

#MFRWAuthor 52-Week Challenge: Family


It's week 2 of Marketing for Romance Writers' 52-Week Blog Challenge. I love that we have topics. So much easier to write when someone else comes up with a topic.

HOW MY FAMILY SURVIVES MY WRITING.

When I first started writing over twenty years ago, I was embarrassed to tell my family. My kids were in high school, and I could feel them rolling their eyes if I told them I was writing a romance story. To my surprise, they thought it was great. Hubs thought it was a nice hobby until I told him I was serious about this, that I was writing to be published. This was my business.

He supported me when I said I wanted to take a class at our local library on starting a small business offered by the Michigan State University Extension Service. In fact, he’s supported me all along. While he prefers reading nonfiction, he will read my books. I’m not sure he realizes how interruptions can be very distracting. But every morning (my best time to write) he’ll go downstairs to his office, leaving me in peace. When I buried or on deadline (my own, since I’m self-published), he’ll make dinner. Now that’s support!

My kids, now grown with children of their own, say they’re proud of me. But it’s got to be uncomfortable for them to read the sex scenes knowing their mother wrote them.

When the 3 “Moms”—my mother, mother-in-law, and her sister—read my first book, Switched, that had some quite sensual scenes, it made me uncomfortable. They told me they skipped those parts. LOL Unfortunately, they passed away before my other books were published. I think they would have enjoyed my PI mysteries a lot better than the science fiction romances. My sisters enjoy the mysteries better, too.

My grandchildren are too young to read my books. But they write their own stories with me. I found this wonderful program, My StoryMaker, from the Carnegie Library at Pittsburgh. The kids choose the characters, setting, tools, etc. and tell me the story, which I type for them. At the end of the story, I print it out for them to show their parents. We’ve been doing this since before they started school. Five years later, their stories are now longer with more depth. It’s great combining something I love (writing) with fun time with the kiddies.

I am truly blessed by my family’s support.

Here's the link to the others participating in the challenge: http://mfrw.blogspot.com/2017/01/join-us-its-week-2-mfrwauthor-52-week.html

Monday, January 9, 2017

Life Happens

Life happens while you’re making other plans. ~ John Lennon

That quote accurately describes last week. Opportunities popped up and . . .  squirrel! I wrote my monthly post for Insecure Writers Support Group, and love connecting with so many contributors. Their responses to the question—what writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?—were so varied. Interestingly, point of view flipping and commas (my responses) were quite popular. Of course, those writers had different takes on why they disliked those rules. The only “bad” part with IWSG is the time it takes to visit so many posters. I never make it through all 218 posts.

Then, I read about the 52-Week Blog Challenge, sponsored by Marketing For Romance Writers (MFRW). Another “squirrel” moment. I hadn’t finished visiting the IWSG posters when I started visiting the 52-Week bloggers. Each week, we’re given a topic to blog about. Favorite Things was last week’s topic. I loved it. Too bad I discovered this after the sign-up had closed. But I mushed on and wrote my post. And visited the others. So far, no responses. Darn, I forgot to advertise the post.

In the midst of all this blogging, I missed the Weekend Warrior blog hop. Not good. I love reading the snippets from the others’ books. On top of that, I put out a call for guests on the Paranormal Romantics blog. Wow. What a response. But you know what that means? Answering questions, scheduling dates. While I’m pleased that so many responded, that all takes time.

While I was writing and visiting blogs and scheduling, what wasn’t I doing? Writing. I managed to write 1,500 words. That’s it! I can write that much on an average day. At this rate, I won’t finish The Case of the Meddling Mama until June.

I’ve forgotten my focus--writing my story. It’s so easy to do. Social media demands our attention. What if I miss something? The world won’t come to an end if I do. In the flurry before Christmas, I signed up for an online class (offered by Kiss of Death RWA chapter) called Everything You Thought You Knew About Cops—research for the Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. Never mind I could have invited over my friend who’s a retired police chief and picked his brain (as I’ve done in the past). I’m saving the lessons and posts to read later. I can't keep up.

Bombarded with email, Facebook, Twitter, I lost my goal to write. Promoting my books and my name recognition is essential but not at the cost of swallowing up writing time.

Last week, I said I’d keep you apprised of my progress on writing a business plan. Zip, zero, nada. That’s how far I’ve gotten.

And on the personal front, we’ve begun taking down the Christmas decorations. I hate that. The decorations are so cheery. After all the work putting them up, it seems too soon to take them down and pack away. Ah, well . . .

I hope you’re doing a better job than I am on your goals for 2017.



Friday, January 6, 2017

#MFRWauthor 52-week Blog Challenge - Favorite Things


I just joined the Marketing For Romance Writers 52-week Blog Challenge. Just what I need--another blog post to write. LOL I missed the sign up for this week but, hey, why not? This week's topic is Favorite Things.


My favorite thing is the ceramic Nativity set my mother made, long before Alzheimer's took its toll. She asked if I wanted all the colors, and I said no. I wanted them all gold, much like the Nativity set my grandmother had made when I was young.

If you'd asked me seven years ago, I'd say books are my next favorite things. I had shelves and shelves of books. Then I got a Kindle. I know people who love the feel of paper books. I used to think that way, too. I love the freedom of having something to read all the time. Many times, while waiting at the doctor's, dentist's, etc., I'd finish a book and have nothing to read. Carrying one paperback in my purse was okay but not two. With the Kindle, if I finish one book, I can start another. Still, I love books whether they are paper or digital.

When we moved three years ago, I had to let go of many things. Unlike our previous moves when the company paid for the move, this one was on our dime. Paper books are heavy (and we were paying by the pound), so many books went to the local library for their used book sale. I'm glad others will get a chance to read them.
Something that didn't go in the estate sale or get donated was my nutcracker collection. Each Christmas, I love putting them out and enjoy looking at them. My mother-in-law gave me my first nutcracker back in the early 1980s. As soon as she found out I liked them, she and her sister gave me one or more each Christmas and birthday for over 20 years. Hubs, who thinks more is better, kept giving me LOTS of them until I said no more! One a year only. Now he looks for the most interesting, unique nutcracker every year. I have to say (and did) that this year's was the ugliest. 


Sometimes I get too attached to things. People are more important. Like my grandkiddies. With them, I get to combine my favorite things. We read books together and they write stories with me. (They tell me what to write and I type.) Before Christmas, they helped put out my nutcracker collection by standing on my kitchen counters and putting them on top of the cabinets. OSHA would not approve, but they had fun.



Here's the link to the others participating in the challenge: http://mfrw.blogspot.com/2017/01/2017blogchallenge.html



Thursday, January 5, 2017

Meet Author Cecelia Earl

Please welcome my first guest of 2017, Cecelia Earl.

Thank you so much for having me here today, Diane!<3 o:p="">

Glad you're here, Cecelia. Please tell us about yourself.

I credit my passion for penning fiction to a mandatory sixth grade study hall. I could have gotten my math done, but instead chose to write a teen mystery series, loosely inspired by Sweet Valley High, Trixie Beldon, and Nancy Drew--my favorite series at the time. I never shared the stories with anyone, and time moved on. Sadly, I had no more mandatory study halls during which to write. It wasn’t until I had three children, worked full-time as a teacher, and kept a home relatively tidy that I realized my passion for writing wasn’t something I had to give up with childhood and the end of study halls. Four years and five novels later, I wrote the first book in the Kingdom Come trilogy. 

I live with my husband, three sons, and male dog near enough to Green Bay, WI that my refrigerator is always stocked with cheese, and the first colors my children learned were green and gold. (I happily spend time with my female characters whenever the testosterone levels get too high in the house.) 

I can usually be found snuggling my kids, reading on the couch, drinking strong coffee, or sipping from a glass of Malbec. Once in a while I vacuum.

Where can readers find you?

Newsletter (for giveaways, updates, exclusive content, etc) http://eepurl.com/cdvvIj

Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, outline, or...?

I used to start with the character(s), but that usually led to my books being completely character-driven with little plot. Now, there’s nothing wrong with character-driven stories, and my contemporary realistic manuscripts still are, but I realized that I still needed a better story, and I wasn’t getting there without outlining my plot points ahead of drafting. This led to loads of time being spent on revisions.

 In order to be more productive and make better use of my writing time, I researched various plotting and outlining techniques. I used Christine Frazier’s Better Novel Project Master Outline (link: http://www.betternovelproject.com/blog/master-outline/) before the first draft of When Ash Rains Down, but I still needed more revisions than I’d hoped for, and then I discovered Libbie Hawker’s book Take Off Your Pants. After reading it, I reshaped the book’s plot and am using her outlining suggestions for the next two books in the series.

I tend to research as I go, whenever I come across something I need to understand more carefully, either while drafting or revising.

What did you learn from writing your first book?

For my first “novel”, I penned a 120,000 word manuscript about a girl who could see auras and who traveled through portals to another dimension and met a boy named Phin. I don’t remember anything about that character other than his name… And I did everything, everything wrong. The novel opened with the main character waking up. Then she looked in the bathroom mirror to describer herself. I prided myself on using every dialogue tag I’d ever heard of. I loved adverbs, thought they were God’s gift to writers. I wrote passive sentences and so much purple prose. Sososo much. I wrote a two-page query, shrunk the text, sent it to my top five agents. Rejected. Surprised? I posted the manuscript online through writing critique forums. Both the query and the novel were red-lined. So. Much. Red. I rewrote the beginning chapters fifty-six-ish times. I never did nail down a query for that one (remember my plotting issues?) before I shoved it in a drawer for the rest of eternity.
How many hours a day to you spend writing?

I have three kids, ages 10, 8, and 5, and I work full time, so I write once they’re all fed and their homework is done and when we’re not at baseball (We play indoor baseball in the winters in Wisconsin, so it never ends!) and when the laundry and cleaning are done…so basically on the days I get up at 5 or 5:30 and the nights I can keep my eyes open until 11 or 12. So, anywhere between 1-2 hours, if I’m not using those hours to work on other book-related activities, like promotion, or to critique work for other writers.

Are your stories driven by plot or character?

Well, I guess I basically answered this before, but I’ll say again that they’re more character-driven. My stories begin, are driven forward, and end with my emotion toward, or rather the emotion I feel inside, my characters. I spend a lot of time contemplating my character’s arc and the theme of the novels. I try to incorporate these aspects in each scene of the novel.

How do you balance a life outside of writing with deadlines and writing muses?

I have some work to do in this area. I’m a huge procrastinator and work best under pressure, when there’s a deadline looming. Unfortunately, this means often times I’m pulling an all-nighter the night before a deadline rather than having used the two months prior to evenly space the work out. Maybe setting and sticking to a schedule should be a 2017 resolution… The biggest things to fall through the cracks after I started writing (since work and family are still a priority over writing) are my running and working out. The one way I try to balance this, and it works out really well, is that I get my best ideas for scenes and dialogues while running. So, when I’m feeling burnt out while sitting in front of my laptop, if I hit the pavement or treadmill, I take care of my health, fitness, and writer’s block issues all at the same time. The struggle is that I no longer run before work, so that’s writing time over coffee, and my kids are still too little for me to leave home alone. It’s hard to find that time to get to the gym… And I find little motivation to head there after they’re in bed at night. Guess I’ve found another 2017 resolution.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?

Since my novels are character- and theme-driven, I hope they’ll be inspired to apply some aspect of my character’s growth or some underlying message to the struggles and challenges and issues they face in their own lives. I also hope they’ll enjoy some aspect of my writing style and voice, maybe find a quote or two that they reread two or three times or read out loud or bookmark or share.

What two authors would we find you reading when taking a break from your own writing?

Maggie Stiefvater and Kiersten White and Chelsea Fine and Rachel Morgan (Sorry, that’s four! I teach first grade. I promise I really can read, follow directions, and count 1, 2….)

Tell us about your latest release.

When Ash Rains Down is a paranormal novel for young adults. Since contemporary realistic is my go-to genre, it’s heavy on the contemporary realism with a splash of paranormal that turns into a bit of a tidal wave. The fantasy aspects of angels and demons is the main focus of the plot, obviously, but my main character is well-embedded in a normal contemporary world and is initially concerned with everyday issues concerning school, romance, family, and friends… you know, until her world is turned upside down and angels and demons begin to battle for souls and she, in turn, has to pick up her sword and fight back.




Book Blurb:

When Ash Rains Down is a paranormal novel for young adults.

The final battle between Heaven and Hell has begun and the devil has his sights set on claiming a human-angel hybrid, eighteen-year-old Julia White, to use as a pawn to destroy Heaven and Earth. 

Julia’s disbelief at the news that she’s being hunted by demons doesn’t stop her guardian angels from wanting her to fight on their side. Will it be too late to protect her family and friends from soul-siphoning demons by the time Julia believes that she needs to trade in her homecoming crown for a sword and a pair of angel wings? And will she accept her fate to become an undercover angel?

When Ash Rains Down is the first book in debut author Cecelia Earl's Kingdom Come series.

Book Excerpt:

This scene takes place in what Julia thinks is a forest, but is truly a training ground for warrior angels. After demons infiltrate it, and a battle breaks out, Nicholas tries to explain everything to Julia, who before this thought the world existed without angels and demons….

“So…”
“So, Julia. This is about angels and demons. Those,” he points to the monsters, “are demons. The devil’s army. The final battles leading to the final war between Heaven and Hell has begun, and it’s trickled down from every dimension into your little town, because the devil has set his sights on you.”
He touches my cheek again, and I see he is like the warriors on the battlefield. He wears a golden aura and stark white wings behind him. A wave of tingles replaces all the pressure and nothingness in my back. He flicks something behind me, and I glance over my shoulder to see—
Wings.
A pair of wings fly out from my back, not heavy, though I’d expect to fall backward from the weight of them, as they are attached…to my back.
There are wings attached to my back.
I spin around, trying to see them, but they move with me and stay behind me. I can feel them there, a part of me.
I reach over my shoulder to feel them and shriek, “Nicholas!”
A fiery sword is suddenly in my hand, blazing white and peridot, like the stone around my neck, which is warm and flashing on its own. A fierce blast of cold and hot washes over me, and I shriek again. I jolt back and drop the sword, my eyes flying to Nicholas’, needing an explanation, needing to wake up in my bed at home, needing something other than whatever is happening to me right now.
“I… I have wings.”
“Of course you do.” He stoops to pick up my sword. Holds it out for me to take. “You’re an angel.”


Buy Links:
Amazon Paperback $8.99



Amazon e-book 99 cents


Createspace (Paperback) $8.99


  

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

#IWSG - A New Year - New Enthusiasm

It's a new year and 1st Wednesday of that new year. Happy  Insecure Writers Support Group Day. IWSG is the brainchild Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Thanks, Alex, for starting this group and keeping it going. And thanks to this month's awesome hosts:  Eva @ Lillicasplace, Crystal Collier, Sheena-kay Graham, Chemist Ken, LG Keltner, and Heather Gardner!



I hope everyone enjoyed a great Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrated. A new year is upon us. I always look at New Year’s Day as a time to start over. I wrote about that and my plan for 2017 on Monday. (Scroll down to the next post if you’re interested.)

Aren’t we lucky that we can start over? Or just keep on with whatever we’re doing. For me, it’s a mental adjustment. I’m disappointed that I didn’t finish the book I worked on in 2016. But I can start over with renewed enthusiasm. A new month or a new year allows us to restart our energies.

The question this month is: 

What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

My first impulse is to say no head hopping within a scene or even within a paragraph. We can all point to big name authors who do this all the time. But “somebody” said no, no, you can’t do that. I will admit that point of view switching can be jarring. Like many “rules” we need to know what the rule is and its reasoning before we break it.

I’m more frustrated by comma use. Just ask my editors. LOL I have a degree in English. I taught elementary school through 6th grade. I should know the rules. Well, most of them. I like using commas when I pause in a sentence, as if I were reading the sentence out loud. A period is a full stop. A comma is a pause. Makes sense to me. So although it isn’t a writing rule, per se, I wish I’d never heard of the comma rules.

Wishing everyone a year of renewed enthusiasm toward writing. Progress, too.


Click here to find others on the Insecure Writers Support Group Blog Hop. Or go to IWSG on Facebook to see who’s blogging today.