Beginning January 1, 2013
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The bell jingled over the door of the Style Emporium and Marilyn looked up from jumble of gloves she was sorting, automatically pasting a smile on her face.
“Welcome to the Style Emporium. How may I serve you?” Her gaze took in the slightly bewildered look most men wore on their first visit to this bastion of women’s fashion. She noted the fine leather gloves he held clutched in his left hand and the cane in his right. His face was clean-shaven, except for a well-trimmed mustache, and a look of panic shone in his eyes. Yes, definitely a newcomer to the world of women’s fashion.
“Sir?” she said again. “May I be of service?”
He blinked his eyes—a warm brown—as if waking up from a dream. “Oh..OH.” He hurried to the counter. “I’m sorry. My maman sent me in to buy her a pair of gloves.”
“Very good, sir,” Marion said, pushing the gloves she’d been working on to the side. “For what type of glove does your mother wish?”
He looked at her blankly. “The kind with fingers?”
She bit her lip to stop from smiling. It would be her job if Mr. Clark discovered she’d laughed at a customer, especially one as obviously wealthy as this young man.
“We have gloves of all lengths, from 2-button to opera length, and in a variety of materials, from—”
“Kid!” A smile lit his face. “I remember that. She wants white kid.”
“Very good, sir.” His exuberance made her grin. “And length?”
His face fell. “I think... oh, wait. She said she wanted them for daily use. Does that help? Oh... and ‘for heaven’s sake, don’t get shorties.’ That’s what else she said.”
“I think these 4-buttons might do the trick.” She took out a display pair and slipped them on, smoothing the leather over her wrist before holding her hand out for him to examine.
“Mmmmm...very nice.” His voice sent pleasurable shivers up her spine and she mentally shook herself.
“I’ll take them.” He pulled out a card and handed it to her. “Please send them to this address.”
“Very good, sir.” She took the card, then stopped him as he turned away. “Oh, sir. What size shall I send?”
“I guess that would help, would it not?” A frown creased his brow. “Take off the gloves and let me see your hand again. Perhaps I can tell.”
She slipped the glove off and put it back in its spot under the counter. He took her hand in his and a tingle went up her arm. She fought off her first impulse to pull away as his thumb stroked the top of her hand.
“I think... yes, Maman’s hand is just a little larger than yours. Send her one size larger.”
She stood in a daze as he went out the door with a cheery wave. What a strange person. And what a strange reaction for her to have. She glanced at the card in her hand. Jonathan Miller, of St. James Place. Well, Mr. Miller of St. James Place, I hope your mother’s gloves are to her satisfaction.
The following Monday, Gloria, the other gloves clerk, came to the stock room where Marilyn took inventory. “Marilyn, a gentleman is asking for you. He mentioned he was in last week.”
A ball formed in Marilyn’s stomach. She certainly hoped it was not a complaint. When she stepped into the showroom and saw Mr. Miller standing there, her heart sank.
The gloves must not have been suitable. No matter she sent what she was told to send... it would be her fault and her job. Taking a deep breath, she walked to him and said, “Mr. Miller, how may I serve you?”
“Oh...Miss...I’m sorry. I was rude last week and neglected to get your name.”
She frowned in confusion. “Miss Trent. Marilyn Trent.”
“Well, Miss Trent, I just wanted to thank you. The gloves were a success...so much so my sister wants a pair just like them.”
Relief washed over her. “Very well, sir. And the size?”
He snapped his fingers. “I knew I forgot something. May I please see your hand again?”
The tingle was no less intense than before, but a great deal more pleasurable. Time seemed to stop as his thumb softly stroked her hand. Their gazes locked.
“Mr. Miller.” Her words were almost a whisper.
“The size...oh, yes, right.” He dropped her hand and said, “The same size as the last ones, I suppose. Her hands are nowhere as dainty as yours.”
Her face heated with the comment and she turned from him to remove the glove box from the case. “Delivered, sir?”
“Yes, please.” Again he gave her a grin and a cheery wave as he went out the door.
The following Monday, Marilyn looked up every time the bell jingled. What nonsense. She could not believe he’d affected her so strongly. Why, she had even dreamed about him, and her face heated as she remembered the content of the dream. She was not some fresh clerk to have romantic fantasies about customers. Especially not ones who lived in St. James Place.
It was nearly closing time.
“No, ma’am. I’m sorry,” she said again to the overly large woman before her. “We do not have Egyptian calfskin gloves in burgundy. I’m not sure where your friend may have gotten them, but we do not have them.” How many times did she have to repeat herself?
The bell jingled and, against her will, her gaze went to the open door, the fussing woman in front of her all but forgotten. Mr. Miller stood there—an anxious smile on his face.
“Excuse me.” She left her customer and went to the door. “Mr. Miller. How may I be of service?”
“I need one last pair of gloves,” he said, “and this must be a very special pair, because they are for the woman I wish to marry.”
Marilyn’s heart fell to her feet, but she managed to keep a smile on her face.
“What type of gloves?”
“Well...what kind do you like, Miss Trent?”
“The white calfskin gloves we have just gotten in are lovely, with beading on the cuff.”
“Do you like them, Miss Trent?”
“To be honest, Mr. Miller, I prefer something a little more simple. The black kids are exquisite.”
“That sounds good. And... the length, Miss Trent. Which length do you prefer?”
“Mr. Miller... really. Perhaps your fiancée....”
“Oh, no. This is a surprise.”
Marilyn released a sigh. She would rather be waiting on Mrs. Trundle again than picking out gloves for Mr. Miller’s fiancée.
“A nice mid-length is always nice.”
“Fine, fine. I’ll take them.”
“The size, sir?”
“She has dainty hands... just the size of yours. Whatever would fit you.”
“And, where should these be delivered, sir?”
“I’ll take them with me. You see, they are a gift... a betrothal gift.”
Marilyn wrapped the gloves in tissue before laying them in a gift box, tears pricking her eyes. How foolish she’d been to read anything into a few words and caresses. No—he came from a different world, with different rules.
She locked the door on her way out and caught sight of him beside the building.
“Mr. Miller...you gave me a start. Is there a problem with the gloves?”
“Oh.” He looked down at his hands holding the white box with red ribbon, almost as if he’d forgotten it was there. “No. I... dash it all, Miss Trent. I’m bungling everything. Here.”
He thrust the package in her direction.
“I had it all planned out what to say...and what you would say...and nothing worked like it was supposed to. Miss Trent—Marilyn—will you please accept this gift as a token of my high esteem and allow me to call upon you and your father tomorrow?”
“Uh...Mr. Miller... Jonathan... I... yes, oh yes!”
And as the gaslight from the sidewalk beamed down on them, Jonathan Miller drew Marilyn Trent into their first, but definitely not their last, embrace.
About the Author: Judy Thomas is a writer, editor, co-owner of a website, wife, mom, and amateur photographer. She and her husband also own a tree and stump removal company. In her spare time, she thinks about cleaning the house. You can hang out with her at her blog: http://jhthomas.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
1. Affirmation works. If you want something badly, write it down. For several years before I sold my first book, I wrote fifteen times a day: “I will be a published author.”
I didn’t sell immediately and I had to work really hard at writing. Just affirming what I wanted wasn’t going to do it. But putting voice to my dream kept me focused.
Life lesson?—If you really want something, believe in yourself and keep working toward your goal. Will affirmations help you win the lottery? Let’s get real. If you have a realistic goal, for instance to buy a new house in two years, you can make it happen. Write your affirmations every day, but save your money and work hard.
2. Don’t listen to the so-called “experts.” If I’d listened to the nay-sayers I would have stopped writing a long time ago. The “experts” said I would never sell because: I wasn’t finaling in writing contests; editors didn’t praise my work; I wasn’t receiving personal rejection letters. The only personal rejection letters I received made me cry. I refused to give up and I refused to let the nay-sayers stop me.
No matter what you want to do in life--move to a new city, start a new career, go back to school, there are those who will tell you that you cannot do it. DO NOT listen to them. Only you know what you want and what you’re willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals.
3. Don’t burn your bridges. Good advice in the real and corporate world and the writing world. Another rejection? And from your own publisher. Ouch! Smile through the pain and send that editor a thank-you note. You may want to submit there again.
Passed over for a promotion at work? Congratulate the person who got the job you wanted. Smile at your boss. Maybe you’ll need to look for a new job, but you never know when you might need that good recommendation from your old boss.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be those who are smarter, prettier, more successful than you. There will always be those who are less smart, less pretty and less successful than you. Don’t sweat it. Just be true to yourself.
This is a hard lesson in life and in writing. We all know those people blessed by the fates. They have beauty, brains and money. It’s the same with writers. We’ve all heard of that writer who suddenly decides to write a book. She finishes it in six months. Agents clamor to represent her. Book goes to auction and sells for six figures. And then there are the rest of us. We struggle for years, enduring rejection after rejection. But we persevere and we sell.
Life lesson?—Accept that some are more blessed than others and be the best you can in anything you attempt. We each have a special talent.
5. Karma—there is such a thing. I have bad contest Karma. I never finaled in a contest until after I sold. See number 2 above. What did those contest finals get me? Rejections within two weeks rather than twelve. Contests are overrated. Bad contest Karma? Not a big deal. Accept it and go on.
Bad Karma in life? Not to worry. Good Karma is overrated. See above. If you tell yourself that you have no control over your bad luck, you are in trouble. You do have control over your life.
6. “Don’t take life seriously. No one gets out alive.” A rock star said this. I wish I were clever enough to think of it. Write for the pure pleasure of telling stories. Don’t worry about the rejections. That’s easier said than done. You tell a story from your heart and some editor or agent or contest judge rips it apart. Keep writing because you love it. “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Wish I’d said that one too.
The same goes for life. Have fun. Enjoy yourself. Hard advice at times, but remember this: when you’re in that nursing home, you’ll regret what you didn’t do, not what you did.
7. Know the rules. I belong to several email loops. Apparently, I’ve missed the memo on email etiquette. When I’ve taken the plunge to post something I’ve been ignored or misunderstood. What am I doing wrong? No moderator has ever introduced me. I’ve always had to introduce myself and then I’m ignored. Please send me the memo so I know what I’m doing wrong. If I choose to ignore the rules, that’s one thing, but I’m at a disadvantage when I don’t know I’m making a mistake.
Life lesson?— Break the rules if you want, but know them first.
8. Publishing is a business. Repeat this fifteen times. Sure, you’re a nice person. That has nothing to do with anything. An editor will take your book and an agent will represent you if they think they can make money. That is the bottom line. Don’t take rejection personally. I once had a great interview with an agent. We discussed our upcoming vacations. She said she loved the type stories I write. I sent her the requested partial. In my cover letter I said I hoped she had a wonderful vacation. Her response? An unsigned, mean-spirited form letter that didn’t include my name or the title of my book. The final punch in my gut? The letter said I shouldn’t ever bother them again. Publishing is a business. Don’t forget that.
And life doesn’t always give you warm fuzzies either. Pick yourself up and go on. Be true to yourself and kind to others. That’s what’s important.
9. NEVER GIVE UP. If you want it, go for it. Have faith in yourself. Don’t despair. See number 6 above. Enjoy.
10. NEVER GIVE UP. See 9 above.
About the Author: I'm a corporate drone and cubicle dweller with a romantic soul. Writing and reading romance allows me to escape into a world of happy endings. I credit my love of romance to the old thirties and forties romantic comedies I watched on late night TV growing up. I've always made up stories in my head and I dreamed of being an author, but life had other ideas. I finally joined Romance Writers of America and honed my craft. I have a book published by Avalon and one published by the Wild Rose Press. My dream is now a reality.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
She wanted to write since she first learned to read and credits her love of romance to the vintage romantic comedies she watched on late night TV. She told me she’s always made up stories in her head and, as a young teen, she devoured the historical romances of Elizabeth Howard and the Judy Bolton mystery series.
Because she works full-time, she has to take her writing time when she can get it. “I write every lunch hour and whenever I get the chance,” she said, “even if it’s fifteen minute intervals. I meet with my critique partner every Tuesday night at our local Barnes & Noble. And...there’s a lot of housework that just doesn’t get done.”
Cara had a dream and never gave up on it. She decided to join Romance Writers of America and began working on honing her craft. And, it paid off. She now has A Catered Affair available from Avalon books and she has a new book, Logan’s Redemption, out with The Wild Rose Press.
“Logan’s Redemption is a reunion story with dark edges,” Cara said. “Doriana and Logan fight old lies and secrets and new dangers to claim the future denied them years ago. I love stories about second chances and people who aren’t afraid to go after what they want.”
Cara definitely lives up to that in her own life and her advice to new writers just reinforces it. “Read what you want to write,” she told me. “Attend conferences and workshops. And write, write, write. If you really want it, go for it and never, ever give up.”
I asked her what she was working on now. “I’m working on a werewolf, demon, bounty hunger, witch, vampire, reincarnation paranormal,” she said. One thing we can be sure of... it will have feisty women and a happy ending.
On a personal note...Cara’s favorite animal is a cat (you can see a picture of her cat, Killer, on her website...he’s a beauty) and the strangest thing she’s ever eaten is kangaroo when she was in Australia.
Cara’s dream of becoming an author came true because of hard work. Another dream she has is having a house overlooking the Caribbean with a large deck where she can write, “just like Robert Ludlum, author of spy thrillers.” And, who knows, this is another dream that might just come true.
You can read more about Cara and her writing life at her website.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
A blur of brown was all the warning James Parker had before a sickening thud came from his right front tire. Stomach twisting, he screeched to a stop and rushed from the car to find his worse fears realized. A small dog lay in the road, whimpering.
The pooch didn’t have a collar on, so rather than wasting time trying to discover where he might have come from, James decided he’d better get him right to a vet. If he could find one. He hadn’t seen many houses since he took the “short cut” his college roommate had told him about, but surely he couldn’t be that far from Jacob’s Corner.
The dog licked at his hand as James gently picked him up. Maybe he knew James was trying to help. Laying the dog in the front seat, James whispered to the animal. He kept one hand on the dog’s head as he drove on, hoping the touch would keep him calm.
James finally made it into town and, with relief, spotted a small frame house with the sign “Jacobs Corner Veterinary Clinic.” He left the dog in the car, with the window cracked, and opened the front door.
“Hello,” he called out after seeing the front room empty. He hoped this was the right place. The room looked more like a home than a vet’s office. Prints of various animals dotted the walls, though, and baskets of balls and other toys were in the corners. Through a door in the far wall, a voice called out with great urgency, “Take off your shoes, take off your shoes!”
Puzzled, James slipped off his tennis shoes and placed them by the front door. Again, he called out, “Hello?”
A short blonde woman came into the living room from the open door. She glanced at his feet and her lips quirked.
“Uh... feel free to put your shoes back on,” she said, her blue eyes dancing with laughter. “I’m afraid you’ve been made a victim by a very naughty parrot I’m treating. Can I help you with something?”
James put on his shoes and said, “I’m afraid I hit a dog about three miles out of town. I have him in the car. Would you take a look at him?”
Without another word, the woman pushed past him and went to his car. James followed. His gaze lingered on the jean-clad view and he forced himself to look away. He was on his way to his best friend’s wedding. He did not need to be getting ideas about a strange woman.
“Carry him into the office for me,” she said, after a quick look at the dog. “He doesn’t seem to be seriously hurt, but I need to check him more closely.”
James laid the dog on the table in the back room she indicated. Glancing at his watch, he swore under his breath. “I’m going to be late for an important appointment if I don’t leave now. Tell me how much this is and I’ll write you a check.”
“I won’t know until I finish. It looks like he must be a stray, though. I don’t recognize him and I know most of the dogs around here. What road did you say you were on?”
“I didn’t, but it was a dirt road just off to the left as you leave town.”
She sighed. “He was probably just dumped, poor thing. We’ve had others dropped off there before. People from the city think, because we’re in a rural area, we can handle all their unwanted dogs. Are you going to keep him once he’s well enough?”
“Me?” James took a step back in surprise. “I live in an apartment in the big bad city. What would I do with a dog?”
She flushed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be insulting, but it just makes me mad. There will be no charge.”
With one last look at the woman, her blonde hair hanging close to the russet brown of the dog, James left and drove toward Jonathan’s house. He arrived with about three minutes to spare.
Jonathan stood on the porch. “Finally! Gloria would skin me alive if we were late to the rehearsal.”
James opened his mouth to try to explain why he was late, but Jonathan cut him off. “No time for that. You’ll be escorting Gloria’s cousin tonight and tomorrow. Gloria said since Marian is her maid of honor it was your job as best man to take care of her. I don’t know all this wedding stuff...I’ll just be glad when it’s all over.”
“Shouldn’t I change?” James asked, indicating his blue jeans.
“Not as late as we are already. I’m telling you, Gloria has been transformed into a crazy woman. I’m not sure which will be worse...you showing up in jeans but on time or you being late.”
They arrived at the church to find Gloria in tears. As Jonathan apologized for James’ unkempt appearance, she hiccupped. “It doesn’t matter. Marian isn’t here and won’t be here for at least half an hour. She had an emergency.” A fresh batch of tears started and she wailed, “I wish we had eloped.”
“I tried to suggest that—” Jonathan’s words were met with another loud outburst.
“Why don’t I go back to your place to shower and change?” James suggested. “Maybe it’ll help?”
Twenty minutes later, James met Johnathan back in front of the church. Just as he greeted his friend, a pickup truck pulled up the curb, and the blonde vet from earlier stepped out.
“Well, hello,” James said, walking over to her. He couldn’t believe his luck in seeing her again, but how had she known where to find him? “How’s the pooch?”
“Hello, there. He’s going to be fine. Just a broken leg. He was a very lucky pup.” She glanced down at her jeans and sighed. “Gloria is going to shoot me.”
James laughed and then realized the woman wasn’t there to find him. “You must be Marian.” He stuck out his hand. “Hi. I’m James, the best man.”
He enfolded her smaller hand in his. He found he didn’t want to let it go, but when Jonathan walked up beside them, he reluctantly did.
“I see you two have introduced yourselves,” he said.
“Actually, we met earlier. I hit a dog out on your short cut and brought it in. Marian is taking care of it.”
“Ah, so you’re the reason for her emergency. Don’t tell Gloria.” Jonathan grinned. “And you did good bringing the animal to Marian. She’s the best vet in town.”
Marian rolled her eyes. “Don’t listen to him. I’m the only vet in town. And, now, I better go find Gloria and calm her down.” She walked away, and James’ gaze followed her slim body until she entered the church.
Marian fought the compulsion to glance back over her shoulder as she walked away from the men. What was it about James that intrigued her so? He was such a contradiction. His gentleness carrying the dog in was so different from his brusque dismissal of future ownership. When he showed up at the office in jeans and chambray shirt, she’d taken him for a farm hand, but dressed in his suit he looked more like a successful businessman. Why hadn’t she listened more closely when Gloria had talked about Jonathan’s best friend?
She laughed lightly. Probably because she’s expected him to be just like Jonathan. A nice boy, but not the sharpest tool in the shed.
The rehearsal went off without any more hitches. Marian glanced up more than once to catch James’ gaze on her and her face heated. She wished she’d taken the time to put on something a little more feminine, but Gloria was lucky she was there at all.
Marian sighed. If she ever got married, an “if” that seemed further away every year, she was going to elope and face the consequences later. As the saying went, it was easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
As James and Marian came together at the end of the rehearsal, right behind Jonathan and Gloria’s stand-in, he whispered to her, “I wish I was as comfortable as you look.” His voice took on a bad James Cagney accent and he added, “Wanna blow this joint?”
Marian giggled and Gloria, from her seat on the front pew, shot her a stern look, which only made the giggles worse. She took the arm he offered, and bit her lip trying to stop the laughter. “Behave yourself,” she whispered back. “Gloria has dreamed all her life of the perfect wedding and she’s about to flip over the edge as it is.”
Sitting together at the rehearsal dinner, James kept Marian in stitches with his tales from life in the city.
Wiping her eyes after his last story, she said, “If things are so bad there, why don’t you just move?”
“Well, Jonathan has been after me to move out here and go into business with him. Up until now, I’ve not really given it much thought.”
Marian looked into his eyes. Was there the slightest emphasis on “until now”? James’ hand reached out and grabbed hers.
“Do you think,” he asked, “you might help me look for a place that has a yard big enough for a dog to run?”
About the Author: Mariah Talbot is the pseudonym for authors Marianne Arkins and Judy Thomas who, during a moment of insanity, decided to write together. You've been warned.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
by John H. Manhold
For many years, I had written nothing but textbooks and scientific research papers. It was my job and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Several years ago, I retired, but remained quite active and in demand as a consultant. In the more recent past, a number of people seeking my help began to wonder how much longer it might be available, and began looking for a new source.
Having been accustomed to a ten to twelve-hour day, the gradual decrease in workload left me with unwanted time on my hands. From a newsletter I receive as an emeritus member of the scientific society, Sigma Xi, I discovered I was not alone in this situation. Fortunately, my wife suggested I write a novel. The thought to me was quite unique and jolted my own thought processes. After more than sixty years of searching for facts and condensing all verbalization to minimal proportions, would it be possible to write a novel? The writing method was totally reversed. Instead of condensing all of the material, there would be a need to expand it. The thought became more intriguing the longer it simmered.
Historical novels always have been favorites of mine since I first was introduced to Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe and then to works of James Fennimore Cooper, and others. If I were going to write a novel, this appeared to be the best type to attempt. Furthermore, research is what I do and have done for many years.
By definition, a historical novel is one whose story deals with people and events of a period preceding one's own, and more usually by a considerable amount of time. The definition provides a wide latitude in which to operate, and some writers follow only loosely a historical thread.
To me, a novel in this genre must pick its time and follow closely the geography, as well as the mores, of that period. This does not apply to languages, of course. If the time selected is far enough removed from the present, attempts to provide differences not only would be awkward, but usually also would not be well accepted by the reader. The same applies to dealing with a foreign language. Inclusion of too many foreign words or phrases, especially italicized, interferes with the smoothness of word flow in a passage.
With respect to following the mores of a specific period in time, a bit more research may be required than one normally would believe. Mores vary significantly from time to time, culture to culture, and most importantly, from one geographical area to another. And a bit of explanation of the differences easily may be included in the body of your story. I have found that three or four pages of explanatory text often are well received. It may not be totally palatable to a few readers, but overall, most will enjoy learning something new and, if the material can be adequately condensed and included as part of the overall story, as it must be, it often is enjoyed enough to be mentioned favorably in reviews. Similar inclusions are worthwhile if it aids or clarifies a pertinent bit of history.
Geography is the second most important consideration for the historical novelist. One must remember that the world's topography is, and has been, constantly changing. European countries no longer look as they did even a few years ago. I remember living outside of Marbella, Spain some twenty years ago, in a small villa right on the seashore. I returned there five years ago and could find the place only after an intense search. The area is unrecognizable with myriad small houses crowding the once beautiful and spacious expanse.
So, any persons finding themselves in a similar situation, might keep these thoughts in mind, and prepare to embark on the journey of writing a historical novel. Just remember as an additional aside, that writing about something with which you are familiar makes the task much more enjoyable and considerably easier. Don't try to write about the 'Silk Road' in China, unless you at least have been in similar terrain, and have researched the history quite thoroughly.
About the Author: John H. Manhold is a retired professor and scientific journal editor. He is an author of several textbooks, a lexicon in four languages and now novels that often require extensive research. He provides coaching on various types and phases of writing. Please see John Manhold (http://www.johnhmanhold.com/) for more information, and an address.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Terri shared with me she’s been an avid reader from an early age—to the extent of reading under the covers with a flashlight after her lights were supposed to be out! As she walked back and forth to school, she would make up stories and “published” a neighborhood “newspaper” when she was in the fifth grade. And, she was blessed to have an incredibly gifted English teacher, Miss Fina, in high school. “[She] really got me going on my writing,” she told me. “”She was so excited about literature that it was contagious. So, I’ve been writing ever since I can remember.”
Terri is currently working on the story of an artistic Italian-American young woman, set mainly in Italy during World War II. “I absolutely adore researching and writing historical fiction,” she said. “Since I’m 100% Italian and passionate about all things Italian, I’m really having fun with this one!”
In addition to her writing, she’s also the founder of a book club. The group has a particular interest in reading about women in other cultures. They have just finished A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Husseini, and she’s just started The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. The next book the group will be reading in The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig. She added, “There is a stack of at least eight more books on my night stand, outside of my book club reading! So many books, so little time!”
Terri’s office is just off the foyer of their house in Wheaton, Illinois, and has two large floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the street. “I just got new furniture,” she said, “which consists of a large black work table/desk and 2 long matching cradenzas. I sit in a very comfortable Aeron chair and work on a Mac OSX laptop computer. The walls are being freshly painted in a lovely robin’s egg blue. The space is decorated with favorite artwork, framed family photos and other cherished accessories, and Petey the cat will often lie across my desk while I’m working, just to keep an eye on things. My vase is usually full of fresh flowers, which energizes me. I have an additional work space for my artistic endeavors in our lower level.”
When Terri’s not writing, she enjoys photography, quilting, knitting, and cooking/baking. She and her family enjoy traveling, so she’s always planning their next trip. They’ve traveled extensively throughout Europe, the South Pacific and the Caribbean. She also loves exploring Chicago with her family.
One of her trips took her to New Zealand and, while on a farm stay there, she ate a dinner of lamb, freshly slaughtered that very afternoon. She said, “It was incredible.” Another thing she enjoys eating is pizza, especially true Italian pizza. She told me her favorite pizza comes from a little local Italian place near her. “They make the most incredible pizza,” she said, “with fresh tomato sauce, whipped/seasoned ricotta cheese in mounds and Italian sausage topped with mozzarella. The dough is not thin and not thick—medium, just right, and crusty around the edges. Heaven!” She also told me that her least favorite were Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza, calling it “a real travesty to any Italian!”
She comes from her love of true Italian food honesty. Both of her parents’ families came from a northern Italian province called Le Marche. It is, she said, “a very beautiful place; a lot like Tuscany, but without the crowds.” Be sure to visit Terri at her website: http://www.terrikraus.com.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
One day you wake up and announce to the world that you would like to write a novel. Pardon the pun, but that is a novel idea. At some point in time that is what everyone dreams about. Let's face it; we all have a story to tell, don't we?
In reality though, how does it all really come about?
For me, the writing itself is relatively easy. The sentence structure; the punctuation; the correct spelling are all general tools that don't cause much of a problem for me. And I assume that is true for a lot of other writers.
In my opinion the challenging part of writing is dreaming up the topic. It takes much thought to come up with a story line and develop a plot. Creating scenes is a taxing exercise of the mind. Putting the actions in a readable sequence is also tricky. The story must flow and force the reader to stay interested enough to turn the pages.
In my personal experience it may take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to figure out how I'm going to make a story work. Once I identify the subject matter that I want to write about a subconscious energy sort of kicks in. Even though I continue to live daily life, the inner thought process is constantly at work trying to figure out the details of the story.
One trick that I found was that exercise helps me to reach a state of relaxation that allows for my mind to reach an open phase. While jogging I have found that the demands on the respiratory system and muscle groups have allowed for me to reach a freedom from within.
Another valuable time of discovery is in the middle of the night or shortly after awakening in the morning. For some reason the mind is not clogged and burdened with the goings-on of everyday life. Still another mind-enlightening time is while I am driving down the interstate in my car. During those moments I have found that it is always a good idea to have a pen and pad of paper easily accessible to jot down ideas.
At any rate, as I mentioned earlier, the time that it takes to sort events out in my mind varies. One of the things that I love to do is create characters. I can actually see them and hear them. Once the scenes are figured out and put into the proper sequence, then I have the freedom to place my characters into the action and have them deliver the message of the story.
It is fun to create twists and turns as the story is delivered. It is enjoyable to place hard-to-attain hurdles in the path of a main character as he or she travels on their journey. It is pleasurable to exploit their weakness and make them vulnerable to the actions of the other characters. Most of the characters have some sort of a purpose. Even if it is merely wallpaper in the action of the story, they seem to fill out the scene is some way, shape, or form.
So, in a nutshell, even if you decide to sit down and write a novel, just remember that it takes a great deal of planning to actually decide how the story is to be told. It is so very important to have an orderly procession of events and actions that follow in a logical manner. Characters have the freedom to deliver the message. The trick is putting them in situations that allow for the message to be delivered in an entertaining and meaningful way.
Good luck! Writing is a fun exercise of the mind. You'll find that it becomes a little easier if you do some sort of pre-planning before you start. After all, when you take a drive in your car it is always better to have a destination in mind. Otherwise you merely wander aimlessly.
About the Author: Jim Ross, a University of Missouri-Columbia graduate went to a keyboard and let the words flow through his fingertips. Lifetime Loser is his first novel. Creative energies will dictate whether or not another story is to be told. Visit Lifetime Loser.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Long and the Short of It is very happy to welcome Eilis Flynn, author of Introducing Sonika. Eilis has spent a large part of her life working either on Wall Street or in a Wall Street-related firm so, as she says, “Why should I write fiction that’s any more based in our world?” She spends her days aware that there is a reality beyond what we can see … and writes stories about it.
I asked Eilis about her heritage and she told me, “My mother was Japanese and my father came from Arkansas. I’m a mutt, basically.” This background, though, came into play when she wrote her first book, The Sleeper Awakes, about Cal Deveney, who wakes up after an earthquake in a place and time she doesn’t recognize... so she doesn’t know if she’s awake or asleep. Eilis said a number of factors went into writing this book. “First, in my mother’s hometown, outside of Tokyo, there’s a shrine that has a series of gates, one after another. I loved that image,” she said. “Why was it designed that way? What happens if you go through them all? What’s on the other side? Then I read a few articles about people for whom their dreams are more real than their lives. And I knew that somehow I wanted to explore both those things.”
Eilis told me she wanted all new writers to know, “Writing a story can be as daunting as swimming across the Pacific or as easy as breathing. Sadly, we never know which it’s going to be.” It’s also important, she added, to make your reader care. “No matter how boring the subject,” she said, “or objectionable, if your reader cares, one way or another, that’s good writing.”
In Eilis’ writing, usually the plot comes first, but she said, “Sometimes the plot comes in the form of a character. That was the case with my second book, Festival of Stars, when Dare Borodin came to mind. What do you do with a character who can’t accept who he is? What is he drawn to? And what does he do when he falls in love with a woman who is everything he wants to be?”
Eilis has written five or six books, but Introducing Sonika is the third one published. She comes from a different route than a lot of romance writers. She told me,”I come from a comic-book background. I worked in the comic book industry; I wrote a few comic books; I married a comic book fan. I knew I’d use a comic book theme in one of my books, so when the plot of Introducing Sonika came to mind, I knew that I could finally combine writing romances and super-heroes, two of my favorite things.” She added, “Actually, I got to turn one of these earlier books, a category-style romance called “30 Day Guarantee” into an online graphic novella, so I was pretty pleased about that too.”
On a more personal note, I asked Eilis if she ever cried during movies. “It’s embarrassing,” she said, “I think I can more easily name the movies I haven’t cried during!”
I also asked her if she was a morning person or a night person. She told me, “See, I wake up at 5 AM during the week, because I want to get some writing done before I go to work. But truly, I’m only awake for about fifteen minutes between 2:00 pm and 2:30 pm.”
Please, check Eilis’ website out at http://www.eilisflynn.com.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
by Mervyn Love
There's nothing like a great opening to a story to get your readers hooked. Here are some suggestions that will almost guarantee that your readers will keep reading.
Your story should start with some significant event or turning point and present the main character with a problem they have to solve. It should interrupt the hero's life and send him off in a new and exciting direction. It should excite the readers' interest and hook them into wanting to read more.
If you can include a sentence or phrase that poses the problem, or the hint of a mystery or some sense of intrigue, then the reader will eagerly devour your prose to find the answer. If there's one thing readers like it's a good puzzle, and better still they like to engage with the author and try to work out what's going to happen next. So hint at some difficulty or coming conflict which will engage the reader's mind and get them thinking.
For instance: 'Elaine opened the letter she had been dreading and read, "Dear Ms Corquadale, We have conditionally accepted you application as Head of Science at Tollesbury School for Girls, but we have further questions to put to you regarding your late mother's will and the unusual bequest she has made to the school."'
Your opening should quite clearly tell the reader what kind of story it is. Is it a romance? An adventure? A horror story? Humourous? Whatever it is make this obvious from the start.
If you are introducing more than one character as you open your story make it clear who your main character is. From then on unfold events from his or her viewpoint. Don't make the mistake of bringing in too many characters too soon. Let the reader become acquainted with them gradually or they may become confused. It's a bit like being introduced to strangers at a party; you need time to remember their names.
"But how will the poor reader understand what has gone on before and how my hero got to the opening hiatus?" I hear you asking. Well, for starters it's a bit early in the morning to start using words like 'hiatus' but I know what you mean. The thing is you can use the 'flashback' device that will neatly answer this problem.
You know what that is, I'm sure, but for any writers new to the craft I'll explain. After zapping the reader with your exciting opening there should soon come a time when the pace slows down a bit. At this point you can introduce a flashback to fill in some background.
For instance: 'Gerald sat down breathlessly on the grass behind a thick hedge well away from the farmer's shotgun. If only he had realised, he thought to himself, that his decision to leave sleepy Swancote-by-the-Sea and embark on the life of a photo-journalist could have landed him into so much hot water, things might have been different.' This gives an anchor to his past, and more can be filled in later if needed. There are other devices but space does not permit.
Another opening gambit is dialogue. Start with someone saying something. Not necessarily the hero, but make what they say pertinent to the story's theme with that all important hook to engage the reader. Such as, "Mr Bullstrode, if you don't come out of your bedroom immediately I shall call the police!"
Hopefully the above ideas will have given you the inspiration to get cracking and create some great openings to your stories.
About the Author: Mervyn Love is the webmaster of www.writersreign.co.uk offering a wealth of links, competitions, resources and more for the aspiring writer.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
"I’ve now been writing for a rather long time (ahem) and I live in the small town of Droitwich in the UK, where I strive to stop my witty son typing – THE END – halfway through my manuscripts and to keep up with the demands of my three rescue dogs."
Charlotte was very excited when she was able to get her very own writing space. Until then, she'd worked in every room in the house...anywhere she could find a space: bedrooms, bathrooms, spare rooms, dining rooms. You name it, she's probably written there. Then she took her conservatory over as her office. "[A conservatory], for those who don't know, is a room designed to entrap the warmth of the sun as it is made largely or entirely of glass. Sounds good, doesn’t it, until one realises one is not a cactus or a sunflower, and extreme heat leaves one rather wilty. Also, it’s terribly difficult typing with purple feet in the winter, as it would be!"
Another drawback to working in the conservatory was it made things difficult for her three-legged dog, Sadie. "Sadie (who lost a front leg to cancer and whose back legs are also now a bit wobbly, bless her), keeps trying to find me," Charlotte said, "and slips on the tiles on the kitchen floor, or falls over my other two dogs. So, I am now the proud owner of a writing bureau, which houses my laptop perfectly (the printer I shut in the drawer) and I have set myself up in the living room. Sadie has her own armchair, so, you might say, it’s a comfortable compromise."
Charlotte's The Madness of Celia Summers is a highly entertaining read and I asked her about some of the authors who had influenced her writing. "Though I enjoy a good tearjerker as much as the next person (and why not? It’s therapeutic!), I always feel I need to bring humour to my writing, so obviously I enjoy reading romantic comedy," she told me. "I’m born and bred in the UK, so I’m not sure whether everyone will have heard of these talented authors but I particularly like Marian Keyes, whose first novel Watermelon made me hoot, despite the diabolical predicament the heroine found herself in, as have her subsequent masterpieces.
Cathy Kelly (an Irish Author, as is Keyes. I think I’m attracted to their warm, quirky sense of humour) is a firm favourite. Her books are absorbing and her characters, quite simply, flesh and blood. Catherine Alliott is witty and hilarious, as is Kathy Lette, whose Mad Cows and Foetal Attraction are responsible for getting me hooked on humour. Her work is described on her website as ‘read at your own risqué,’ which I think sums it up admirably. She’s brilliant!
"I have to say though, that it was our very own Helen Fielding who finally made me put fingers to keyboard. To create a character as quirkily endearing as Bridget Jones, now that would be an accomplishment. Truly the birth of a legend."
Charlotte has assured me her strangest habit is "adopting disadvantaged rescue dogs!" and to prove it, she told me about her three dogs. "I have Sadie, a three-legged dog, whose back legs have gone wobbly, which makes her a one-legged dog, I suppose, and the proud owner of a doggie wheelchair. Then, there’s Snoops, a midget Jack Russell, who’s blind, and gone from fearful and peeing himself, to full out feisty, as Jack Russell’s tend to be. And, finally, Max, who’s supposed to be an OAP (old age pensioner), but has the agility of a six year old when running…in the wrong direction. So, I suppose that makes me the world’s biggest dog lover, or mad."
When she's not rescuing dogs or writing, Charlotte likes to read. I asked her to share with us what she's reading now. She's reading a lot!
" Simple Promotional Tools For Every Author " by Pamela S Thibodeaux – an excellent concise guide to effective Internet marketing for authors.
"Alvarado Gold" by Victoria Pitts-Caine – a Christian Romance Adventure, combining family saga. It’s the story of Addie Brown’s attempt to unravel a family’s secrets, whilst wrestling with a secret of her own, which is intriguing, richly written and a very satisfying read.
" The Awakening" by Rynne Raines – a short story of ghostly goings on which is gripping. To quote Rynne’s intro to the book: THE AWAKENING is a story I would read over and over. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys love stories that capture all the five senses. It’s the kind of fantasy you can’t run from once you’ve read the first page. ~ Tanya Snow—Author of GHOST OF MY PAST."
Charlotte also had some other books she wanted to recommend to our readers:
" Thin Ice" by Liana Laverentz - This book is beautiful. It's serious, yet sensual. Heart-wrenching, but humorous. It touches on some sensitive issues, which many women will be able to relate to, and handles them beautifully. A must read, and deserved winner of the NJRW Golden Leaf Award.
"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Your Wedding" by Cindy K Green – a sweet and funny wholesome romance, which I recall often with fondness.
"I’ll shut up on that subject now, which I could go on and on… Um, okay, could I briefly just mention another two that are well worth reading…
"Ring Shy" by Kelsey George – If you love animals, in particular dogs, this really is a must read. There was one line in there that made me blink in surprise, laugh out loud and want to cry all at once: Chinook was bald! You have to read it in context, but it’s well worth it.
"And, last but not least, Ten Things I’d Do for a Cowboy by Donna Michaels - It’s beautifully written, with details about the work the ranch does so skillfully woven in, it makes for a realistic heart-wrenching romantic read with a huge smile factor. Loved it.
"Loads more, but far too many to list."
I asked Charlotte what was the hardest part about writing her book. Without delay, she said, " Submitting it! Seriously, you don’t just write a book and get it published in today’s extremely competitive environment (unless your very lucky and immensely talented, or both) without heartbreak and rejection. I’ve had my fair share. Often the rejection can be in the form of positive criticism, which I always try to use (once I’ve stopped sniffling and cursing!). Standard rejection letters are the worst, when you’ve poured your heart and soul—to say little of your last ounce of energy—into a writing project. I have been invited to London on three separate occasions. The first time a leading agent had me convinced I had a bestseller. When it didn’t turn out to be, that very nearly had me hanging up my keyboard, or myself. But, I pulled myself up by the bootstraps, and got back on that old horse. You do if you write. It’s in the blood, even if does all sometimes seem too hard. I won’t go on about my other forays into the literary hub of the UK. I got lost. I got upset. I didn’t get published. But I’m still here, with a tale to tell, as are many other authors.
"Obviously, time is also a problem when it comes to writing. Let’s face it, it doesn’t pay the bills, unless you do get that bestseller…wistful sigh, so most authors have day jobs and families and…mental breakdowns! Sometimes, don’t you just wish that muse would go away?"
We're glad Charlottte's muse hasn't gone away. If it had, we wouldn't have The Madness of Celia Summers. Charlotte told me that, while she likes writing humorous stories, she also wants them to be about things she cares about. "So, what do I care about?" she said. "Those pushed aside, abused or neglected or rejected by society, be they man or animal."
"I was driving along one summer evening and I glanced up at the sky and saw ice cream clouds skittering by," she told me. "In my mind’s eye, I saw May Binton—a fictitious character, who popped into my head already named—also skittering by, Colonel Burrows in close pursuit, other ideas of exercise on the lawn than aerobics, judging by the glint in his eye… and that was it, the seed was sown and The Madness of Celia Summers was born. Then came the labour. I wrote and wrote. Although I knew I wanted to write about older people in all their rich eccentricity, Celia Summers was my main character, an intrepid mother of two, who cared about old people, too, or elderly independents, as she preferred to call them…"
She stopped writing, though, at around three chapters ("the three chapters one is permitted to submit"). "I didn’t want to," she said, "but I simply couldn’t write any more. These characters meant so much to me, I couldn’t write them only to grieve at the loss of them when they were rejected. I might have stopped writing altogether, but a small publisher here said they’d like to see the whole thing, so I off I went again. Sadly, the publisher didn’t take it. On this occasion, I wasn’t angry or frustrated, because I knew it was really too commercial for them, and they did give me some referrals. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I saw an article featuring The Wild Rose Press in Writers News, sent it to them first…and here I am!"
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Nickname: Sleeping Beauty.
About me: I am a twenty-nine year old schoolteacher, brown hair, brown eyes, looking for Romance with a capital R. I like books -
Bo-ring! True, but boring, like her life. Briar gulped down her wine.
Nickname: Too Hot Not To Handle.
About me: Think blonde. Think fun. I fancy champagne, exotic islands, scuba diving and fast cars.
Dream Date: Take me to a casino, beat me at poker - I’ve yet to find my equal.
Dream Mate: I’ll know when I meet him.
The poker bit was true. The rest was a cross between a Bond girl and wishful thinking. But at least it sounded heaps better than the truth.
She’d been sleeping for too long. It was time for her prince, with dark hair, light eyes, a strong jaw, a naughty streak and a compatibility of humour.
Before the night and the bottle of wine were up, Briar had had responses from fifteen keen males.
Some of them were too crass, others too boring. Yet Briar fell asleep with a smile. The words of one particular email had stuck in her head.
Dear Too Hot Not To Handle, I’ve tried the rest, now I’m ready for the best. And I can feel that you are the best thing that’s going to happen to me. Drop me a line. Dark Angel.
The next morning, she looked up Dark Angel’s profile.
Nickname: Dark Angel.
About Me: I’m the CEO of an IT company with satellite offices in Fiji, Tahiti and Mauritius. I like Ferraris, gourmet food and skydiving.
Dream Date: On a need-to-know basis.
Dream Mate -
Dream Mate: Too Hot Not To Handle.
Dear Dark Angel, here is your line.
Too Hot Not To Handle.
The reply took less than two minutes.
I’m yours: hook, line and sinker. Dark Angel
Briar couldn’t resist completing the quote.
Swallow poison, swallow every word.
Then she waited. Nobody had ever understood her quirky jokes, nobody had ever recognised quotes from obscure books and lyrics. Why would Dark Angel be any different?
The mouse shook in her hand as she opened his reply.
That’s by a band called Refused. A coincidence or are you a fan? Dark Angel.
The next week was a flurry of emails and phone calls and walking on pure sunshine.
“It’s time I took you out on a date,” Dark Angel said one night.
Briar squeezed the phone harder.
“Oh?” she managed to breathe.
“I suggest a Greek island. Imagine the blue-green of the olive groves. Smell the heat and the resin in the wine....”
Briar’s skin tingled. Every inch of her body was screaming that Dark Angel was the one.
She hadn’t emailed any of the other guys. She didn’t know his name. She didn’t know whether what he said about himself was true.
But he knew the songs and books she loved. His voice took her breath away. His jokes made her laugh. Who cared whether he really was a CEO of a boring IT company or a schoolteacher?
But no, he couldn’t be. He was sophistication itself. The most recent message, for example, said:
What’s your favourite champagne?
She couldn’t very well reply “pink”. Fortunately, there was always Google.
Dom Perignon is overrated, she typed. It’s everybody’s ultimate dream, but I prefer Bollinger.
There. Just like a Bond girl.
Agreed, her Dark Angel said. Dom’s bubbles are aggressive. Is Veuve Cliquot to your liking?
An ordinary schoolteacher would never call premium champagne aggressive, Briar decided. He had to be the real thing: CEO, Ferraris and all.
Meanwhile, she - was not.
I don’t know, she wrote, her face ablaze with guilt. I’ve never had a chance to taste Veuve Cliquot.
The phone rang.
“It’s me.” Her soul did a wild dance. “I thought I would do this over the phone.”
“Ask you on a real date. To drink real champagne and play real poker. I know I can beat you.”
“You’re on.” The words slipped off Briar’s tongue before she could stop them.
“No! I mean, I have to -”
“You don’t have to anything,” he said. “Don’t wash your hair, don’t iron your blouse. Just come as you are. You’ll be perfect.”
Perfect. He thought her perfect.
“If you give me your address, I’ll send the car.” His voice was setting her senses on fire, clouding her mind with passion. “The champagne is on ice. I’ve emailed you a scan of my passport and driver’s licence to forward to a friend as a precaution -”
Briar wasn’t listening.
“I’ll be ready in five minutes.”
She looked through her selection of dresses. Her spirits sank. What did her looks matter compared to all her lies? Sure he though her perfect: the fabricated her, the Bond girl who was too hot not to handle.
Downstairs, the limousine waited. Briar slipped in with the ease of a true Bond girl.
The first thing she noticed was a bottle of champagne in the ice bucket.
Then she noticed him. Dark hair, light eyes, a well-defined jaw. Exactly as she’d imagined him.
He held out a glass.
“Before we begin, I have a confession to make,” he said.
Briar relaxed. Him, too. “You mean your other car is not a Ferrari?”
“It is. But I don’t do skydiving. That was just to impress you.” His eyes smiled. “Sorry.”
Briar sipped her drink.
“Everything else is true.” He touched her hand. Briar felt the reassuring warmth of his fingers before the sexual electricity hit her. “Especially this.”
“What?” she breathed.
At “The way I’ve felt about you, ever since I read your profile.”
Briar stirred. “Listen. About that...”
“Hey.” He pulled her closer, and Briar shivered with anticipation. “I assumed it might be exaggerated. But I could always see you, the real you, through all the words.”
The kiss, when it came, tasted of golden bubbles.
“I never want to drink champagne any other way,” he murmured.
About the Author: Yvonne Eve Walus has lived on three continents and her work reflects the wealth of her cultural background. Her books are published in USA and in Britain, and they include “Murder @ Work”, a crime fiction novel set in the tumultuous and exotic South Africa. Please visit Yvonne on http://yewalus.kiwiwebhost.net.nz/. Her books are available on Amazon and Fictionwise.