Thursday, May 28

Memories At Morning/Mourning??

This morning I woke up thinking about my dad.

Maybe it's because on Memorial Day, we went to the graveyard and did the flower/flag thing. 

I spent my early years in the Navy--moving every couple of years. I have glimpses of memories from those places. A stroller ride in Disneyland, crunchy snow from Waukegan, IL, fireflies and hot sand in Norfolk, VA, and picking huckleberries on a hillside in Keflavik, Iceland.

It was my life and I didn't know there was anything different about civilian life. Living on a military base can be isolating but conforming. In Iceland, we all lived in the same military housing, went to the same K-12 school, and watched the same channel of television for the few hours we got service. Remember, this was in the dark ages before cable or satellites and on base, we got one channel that aired between 1 PM and 10 PM.
Dad retired in 1971, after twenty years of service. He'd been fluctuating on whether or not to resign when he was diagnosed with Diabetes. We left Iceland and landed in New Jersey--so green. How weird to see trees, flowers, and true grass after two and half years. We picked up a car in NJ and drove cross-country. All the way across.

We stopped and saw friends in Waukegan, relatives in Nebraska and Kansas. Visited Mt. Rushmore, Wall Drug, and Yellowstone Park. I got my first Trixie Beldon book on that trip, played silly car games with my sister, and pressed Silly Putty over comic strips while killing time in motel rooms. My parents saw Charo on t.v. for the first time while on that trip. 

 It was a once-in-a-lifetime journey before we documented every moment of our life. My documentations remain somewhere in my head and I'm sure I've transposed some of my memories to fit stories I tell myself.

Dad's been gone for a little over six years and I've come to realize it's the little things I miss--the way he said my name with affection, his hand slap as we passed him sitting in his chair, and his bring-the-family-together meals. Man, how I miss having him call and ask if we wanted to come over for dinner. And not just because I have to cook. But, because we had spontaneous family time.
I think those memories, in one way or another, color the stories I write and the characters I create. And my Dad? Well, there are definite elements of his character transported to the men in my stories--no nonsense, straight-forward, but full of heart men.

 *the second picture is of Icelandic huckleberry pickers*

Tuesday, May 26

We Are Wonks

Writers are an odd lot. I think I can safely say that without offending any of my writer pals. We are not easy people—either inside ourselves or in the world in general. We can be both entertaining and irritating, fascinating and frustrating, self-assured or a quivering mass of insecurities.

Last week, I spent four days with seven other writers—we were on a retreat at a state park inn, which was a lovely place, by the way. We took over one corner of the huge common room, shoving two large tables together and rearranging the chairs so we all had a comfortable place to set up our laptops and still be a group. I think we were probably a source of fascination to the other guests and maybe a bit of an irritation to the staff, although they were so very gracious to us. 

We drank bottomless cups of the complimentary coffee provided by the inn, but begged for real half-and-half instead of the powdered stuff they had sitting by the coffee urns. We put a “reserved” sign on our table set-up so no one would dare change the arrangement while we took breaks for meals or hikes around the gorgeous park. We chattered, laughed, drank some adult beverages, and had to remember to watch our words when familes came through. But we also actually got some real work done. We were a good group—companionable and an excellent mix of personalities that meshed well. Some parts of the retreat will always stay at retreat, but I can share a couple of my favorite things about being there.

Of course, I loved being with my dear pal. fellow Word Wrangler Liz Flaherty, who always entertains, inspires, and just generally is a kindred spirit. Each time she and I travel together, we discover all over again how well we travel together. That’s significant. It’s important to find someone you can travel with, who respects your limitations and your space, and who is willing to make decisions and yet also willing to compromise. Liz and I are excellent roomies and I’m grateful for that.

But I think the best part of the retreat itself was the brainstorming. Eight writers gathered around a giant table helping one another with sticky plot points, character analysis, and other writing issues. From something as seemingly minor as what a certain character does for a living to the big stuff like what a novel’s conflict should be, we took story apart, analyzed, and scrutinized. I wrote, I took notes, but mostly, I listened as others discussed the finer points of structure and characterization. And I confess, sometimes I was eavesdropping on conversations that I wasn’t a part of, although I believe that if it happened around that table, it couldn’t really be considered eavesdropping. Besides, isn’t that how writers find their best ideas—by eavesdropping?

It seemed no matter where we were gathered, whether it was around our big table, up on the lovely second-floor veranda, at meals, or even sprawled around one of our rooms (adult beverages time), the conversation almost always came back to story. Suddenly, the word that our friends, LaniDiane Rich and Alastair Stephens invented hit home to me—StoryWonks. We were, for three solid days and in the purest sense of that word, StoryWonks—endlessly absorbing and examining and taking apart stories. And know what? It was great!

Monday, May 25

Grocery shopping

Good morning! Yes, I know this is being posted on Monday morning, but it’s Saturday as I write it. I am very cheerful because it is soooo beautiful outside. It’s not very warm yet, but it’s getting there. And I’m kind of excited.

About going to the grocery store.

I’ve just come back from a writers’ retreat that was so much fun and was exciting (and fattening, but we won’t go there), I’ve sent in some requested revisions, I’ve written the dedication for the out-in-July novella, and I’m excited about groceries?

Well, yeah.

The produce section is the first thing in the store. I love the colors of the fruits and vegetables. I know going in that I like Idaho potatoes, Honeycrisp apples, Vidalia onions, Chiquita bananas, but that doesn’t stop me from looking at all the other brands and varieties or trying something new.

Liquor comes after produce. Unless kids are coming home, I don’t buy anything here, but I still like to look at the bottles. My son told me a pretty bottle wasn’t a good enough reason to buy a brand of wine. I think he’s wrong.

There’s the meat aisle, the canned-vegetables selection, the—well, you know what’s there.

There are always people to talk to in the grocery store. People you get a chance to do something for—“can you tell me where this is? My wife said to just ask someone.” There are the ones you get to watch, whose haircuts and outfits you covet even as you know you’d wear sweats and a ponytail to the grocery store even if you had them. Some people you can sympathize with--“no candy. I already said that. Sit down.”

There is no bookstore close to where I live anymore. I read on a Kindle and I order most everything from Amazon. I can count on one hand the times during the year I actually go to a brick-and-mortar-plus-good-coffee bookstore. I miss it. Oh, gosh, how I miss it.

But, in the grocery store, I still get to peruse shelves. I still neaten things up that have been shuffled. Even though I know what I want when I go, I look at everything else, too. There is free coffee in our grocery, and they sell books, too, although not all that many. There is no scent of paper and ink, nor anyone discussing so-an-so’s latest in the middle of the aisle. No little kids sit on the floor in the children’s section.

But there are people who smile and speak in grocery stores. There are conversations to be had. There is, just like in a bookstore, empathy.


Today is Memorial Day. Let us not forget. Cheryl Reavis said this on Facebook. I can think of nothing better to close with.

“Memorial Day isn't a "holiday." It was intended to be a day of solemn remembrance, one dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country, a sentiment which has gotten completely lost in the blatant commercialization that now surrounds it. This day is not about picnics and barbecues and the beach. It's about unlived lives. It's about the young men and women who did their duty and who never came home. The price of Freedom is always buried in the ground, and our duty on this day is not to let them be forgotten.”

Friday, May 22

Summer Fire!

Joan Reeves, whose book in Summer Fire is Heat Lightning, is a bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. Available as ebooks and audiobooks, her romance novels all have the same underlying theme: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.” Joan lives her happily ever after with her husband in the Lone Star State. Sign up for WordPlay, Joan's free email list for readers:

The Wranglers welcome Joan to the round corral today to talk about Summer Fire.

I thought it would be fun to ask some of the authors of the Summer Fire Contemporary Romance Collection the same question because I knew the responses from these New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Authors would all be entertaining to readers and informative to writers.

Question: What was the inspiration for your story in the Summer Fire Contemporary Romance Collection?

Gennita Low, author of Sizzle. “Sizzling passion and flying bullets.”

I wanted to write an adult Romeo and Juliet story ala spy-style. So, two spies from opposite sides showed up in my head to introduced themselves. Perfect! They're in love and I need to put them right inside a current area of political interest. The Ukrainian crisis inspired much of my story because, in a way, it's about people torn between two loves too and Mariupol is a city beloved by both Ukrainians and Russians.

Kym Grosso, author of Solstice Burn. “Love and erotic temptation in the tropics.”

My husband and I love to vacation in the Caribbean, so I was inspired by some of our island adventures. Solstice Burn is loosely tied to my new contemporary romance, Carnal Risk, and the main character, Chase makes a small appearance in that book as well. 

Victoria Danann, author of A Season in Gemini. “A breath of fresh romance--normal and paranormal.”

I had planned a novel called TWO PRINCES: The Biker and The Billionaire, to release mid-June. I realized it needed a back story or introduction. So writing a novella was perfect.

L. Wilder, author of Summer Storm. “Can their love survive the storm?”

While writing my Devil Chaser's series, I became inspired to write a spin-off series with one of my characters, Maverick. This book is the introduction to his series.

Cat Miller, author of Sun Burnt. “Sophisticated city girl’s wild ride with a cowboy.”

I am writing another novel about a girl raised on a ranch who spends time in Las Vegas. Her new love interest is from Nevada and knows nothing about country living. With that in mine, when I was planning for Summer Fire I decided to write about what it would be like for a city dweller to enter a small town community. In the city nobody notice you and you rarely know your neighbors. In a small town else one notices your every move. Everybody knows everyone else and a stranger stands out. Culture shock is the name of the game.

Mimi Barbour, author of Big Girls Don't Cry. “Why cry when no one is listening?”

My story for the Summer Fire collection is called Big Girls Don't Cry. Ever since I experienced a ride in a mirrored elevator and wished the designer to perdition, it was a book I wanted to write. I began thinking about what would happen if a big girl lived in an apartment building and had to look at herself every day. Of course, my mind took off and I could picture this gorgeous hunk moving into the same building, which would mean she'd want to entice him. Well, first she'd think of making herself more attractive… After that, the story wrote itself.

Helen Scott Taylor, author of Irish Kisses. “Second chance at love in an enchanting Irish castle.”

I've always loved Ireland and wanted to write a contemporary romance set there for a long time. I had a vision in my mind of an Irish castle, then I saw a picture of a magical wishing jar full of tiny lights, charms and trinkets, and the story came to life in my head.

Clarissa Wild, author of Killer. “Bitterness turns into an obsession; a stalker is born.”

My inspiration was the standalone Stalker. I needed some extra backstory to really set the mood, which was perfect for my Summer Fire story, Killer.

Mona Risk, author of Husband for a Week. “Never fall in love with a fake husband.”

I was browsing through pictures and found photos of a Mediterranean cruise, some of them showing gorgeous sceneries from Sicily that I wanted to share with my readers--or at least show them this island that I enjoyed by using it as the setting of a book. Since I have already published a romantic suspense, Neighbors and More, where the hero is Sicilian, I decided to write a sequel, the story of his young sister and set part of the plot in Sicily.

Lorhainne Eckhart, author of His Promise. “A love they thought would last forever.”

I have a few series out and what I did was take two side characters, and give them their own story. Bruce and Kim were introduced in The Deadline, Kim was the attractive neighbor woman to Laura and Andy. And Bruce Siegel was the Pediatrician who helped their son, Gabriel. You didn't learn a lot about Kim and Bruce except that they had a shared past. They were friends, but you also learned there was  a story that had yet to be told. And so Kim and Bruce got their story in, HIS PROMISE.

Joan Reeves, author of Heat Lightning. “Secrets, lies, passion. Secrets can kill.”

I’ve known people in life who were tormented by traumatic memories. I often thought it would be merciful if they could excise those memories. Then maybe they could find happiness. Of course, the mercy of forgetting has a downside that became dangerous for my heroine.

Brandy L Rivers, author of Summer Rhythm. “Doug never could resist Chloe. Is she back for good?”

I had an idea for the only human in the band Nights Embrace, and felt I needed to tell his story finally. And yes, it is contemporary. He somehow doesn't know, or chooses to ignore what's different about the rest of his bandmates.

Add Summer Fire to Your Library



Leave a comment with your email address and be entered in a random drawing for a free copy of Summer Fire: Love When It's Hot Contemporary Romance Collection. Giveaway is open until May 24 midnight. Winner will be chosen on May 25 by Random Name Picker and notified by email as well as in the Comments section of this post on Word Wranglers.

Thursday, May 21

Getting Towered

A couple of weeks ago I read a book by Lani Diane Rich called The Fortune Quilt in which the main character gets "towered".

I'd never heard that term before but it comes from Tarot cards. If you get that card, big changes are coming into your life. Life-altering changes.

Towered?” “It’s a Tarot thing,” she says. “The Tower. It’s when life transitions. You know— rips out the stitches. Brings your tower down and makes you rebuild. Happens to all of us at one time or another. No worries.”

Rich, Lani Diane (2011-07-14). The Fortune Quilt (Kindle Locations 1370-1372). StoryWonk Publishing. Kindle Edition.  

 I've gone through this a couple times in my life, most recently about ten months ago when I left the security of a dependable job that at one time I had really enjoyed. But sometimes there are more important things like feeling good about yourself and being happy. 

This week I "Towered" Bix. 

Even though I've rewritten the book eight times. Eight! I haven't changed the first 100 pages or so because they've always gotten good feedback--not to mention quite a few requests.

But, if I'm going to rethink Bix as a MG book, I have to start at the beginning.

So, I sat down, wrote a new opening and read it aloud to Jordan. And then we brainstormed together. It was so much fun--thinking of Bix in a new light. I'm actually really excited to write the new scenes and concepts we came up with. For the first time in a long time, Bix doesn't feel like a chore.

The hardest part--emotionally--about towering Bix is that I'm having to "kill" some of my favorite lines from the book. Well, most of them actually--as the "teen" Bix may never see the lines of a page.

So, in honor of that, I'm posting a teen Bix snippet. One of my darlings:

“That’s Ms. Darwin, the new aerobics/yoga teacher.”  Ryan fills him in. “And Bixby’s mother.”

“She’s a total MILF.”

I punch Tack’s arm. “Dude, she’s my mother.”

“MILF? What’s a MILF?” Ryan looks from Tack to me and back to Tack.

Is this guy for real? How can he not know what a MILF is?

“Mother I’d like to…” Tack glances at me. “French.”

Yeah, that didn’t make it any less painful.

The time has come to imagine a different life for Bix. And for me as a writer.

And, I am taking that dare.