Advice from the Ocean

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I spotted this meme on Facebook the other day and immediately snagged it to share because, not only did it make me smile (I’m punny that way), it contains some seriously great advice.

My two favorites?

Sea Life’s Beauty – I try to remind myself of this one every day. My new grandbaby’s smile is a great reminder. They grow up sooo darn fast!  11182769_10203457065500810_8027906965844020009_o

But I also try to be aware of everyday beauty–watching the seasons change in the view from my deck or spotting a glimpse of vibrant scarlet as a hummingbird buzzes by. Sometimes I get too focused inward, too wrapped up in my stories and my characters’ lives, to see the beauty that’s right in front of me.

Take Time To Coast – Luckily, I’m going to the ocean this holiday weekend to hang out with friends. A trip to the coast is “forced” relaxation because there’s no Internet service and it would be rude of me to sit with my nose in my computer writing while everyone else is having fun, right? So, that means, my only “job” for the next four days will be to read, relax and stare at the Pacific. (Although I may take a few walks on the beach to look for sea glass to add to my last haul.)

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But I may just sit on the deck with a glass of wine and check out the clouds. Who knows what awesome magic might be lurking?

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Wishing you a wonderful Memorial Day weekend wherever you are! I’ll be sea…ing you next week.

Deb

 

 

There’s no place like home

We are home from our vacation on Siesta Key. Had a fabulous time!

We visited new places, and went on several wildlife treks led by naturalists.

Sign at Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island

Sign at Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island

Saw an opera, a ballet and a vaudeville show. Ate great food and sipped wonderful drinks.

Me, enjoying a delicious lobster before seeing Swan Lake

Me, enjoying a delicious lobster before seeing Swan Lake

Wallowed in the Gulf daily.  Enjoyed a delightful show brought to us by frolicking dolphins, right there in front of our condo. Watched pelicans and other birds dive-bomb the water and come up with dinner.

When possible, we ended the day wading along the beach, watching the sun set.

Sunset at Siesta Key, Florida

Sunset at Siesta Key, Florida

beach at sunset

As busy as we were, I managed a write nearly every day, and added 45 pages to Mr. March, my current work-in-process. Not bad for a vacation!

This trip can be summed up in one word: Paradise.

As much as I love this slice of heaven, I’m always glad to get home. My mom used to say that if you’re ready to go home, the vacation has worked its magic.

Ours did.

Have a great week, and until next time,
Ann
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Smelling the Roses (Tara Taylor Quinn)

Roses AboundI am stopping to smell the roses.  I am on a horrendous schedule over the first nine months of 2015.  Horrendous and blessed at the same time.  I’m in the midst of writing five contracted books.  Three are done.  I’m currently on number four.  And I want number five to be as good, as deep and enriching and entertaining as number one was.

So I’ve made a conscious effort to fill my well.  Every single day.  And I had to be able to fill it fast so I could get to the pages that were waiting.  I wasn’t going to be able to go out and find the roses.  So I brought them home.  Two bushes to go with the one floundering one I already had.    Asked nicely for my honey to give them the underground irrigation they’d need.  I took ownership of a pair of pruners.  And every single morning I visit all three plants.  I talk to them.  Thank them for sharing life with me.  One bush in particular has the most incredibly fragrant aroma.  Another has soul filling colors.  The third is angelic white roses.  So far I’ve only had one flower there.  The picture above was just taken.  I have more than twenty buds in various stages of blossoming into flowers on one plant alone.  The previously floundering one.  I’ve had the sickly bush for more than year.  It produced, at most two roses at a time.  And today I have more than twenty.  Funny what happens when you put your mind to something.  And I do.  Every day.

Funny what else happens.  You focus and suddenly you have four books coming out almost at once.  We’re planning a great summer for anyone who wants to join in with us.  I’ve had help on this one from the ladies at Prism Book Tours.  Lots of games and prizes, excerpts and free books coming up over the next eight weeks.  Starting next week.  You can follow the fun starting on 5/27 at Spend The Summer with ttq.  We’ll be visiting lots of places.  Giving away gift cards and books and a surprise or two along the way.  And ending with a huge Facebook Party and grand prizes in July.

The first book up for celebration is out in just six days.  It’s a re-issue of my The Sheriff of Shelter Valley in conjunction with a Heather Graham reissue, Suspicious.  You get both bestselling novels for one great price so if you missed them, you’ll want to grab the chance now!  You can click on the book to pre-order either print or eBook today at 35% off the price with coupon code HAPPYMAY!  Until next week, I hope you all smell some roses!

Suspicious Sheriff of Shelter Valley

Kinfolk and History – Carolyn

Last Thursday my daughter and son-in-law and I made a trek.

She is very deeply into Civil War (or as we say down here, the late unpleasantness or the war of northern aggression) genealogy. My relatives are all from around Durhamville in Lauderdale County, big farming country. And they were the biggest.

The boys and men from around there almost all rode with Nathan Bedford Forrest. Amazingly enough, most of them made it back home in one piece.

I have heard stories about my kin from up there all my life. My mother spent summers up there before she married. Somewhere I have a letter to her from her mother (my grandmother) lamenting the fact that every afternoon the front porch of the big house on the plantation up there was teeming with gentlemen callers, all hankering after my mother. She was beautiful, smart, sassy, and came from Memphis—the Big City.

By the time I was born, the depression had undercut the relative wealth of that kin, although they are still big farmers and the home place is still lived in. Then came the war and the ban on travel, so I never really knew any of those people except from stories.

And what stories they are! I have come to the conclusion that my daughter has the makings of a great historian. Everybody has a story if you can just dig it out from the records. She seems to be able to. She has set herself the task of tracing every one of the members of Forrest’s seventh Tennessee cavalry who was in at the final muster and went home after the war. So we went cemetery hunting, one of my favorite occupations. No, really. I love old cemeteries. I hate the new fangled memorial parks (ugh) that are more interested in unrestricted views of lawns than statues of angels. There’s a tombstone somewhere in Minnesota (Don’t hold me to where, although I’ve seen it) that says, “Lord, she is thin.” Now, that’s my kind of graveyard.

The little headstones with the lambs on top are heartbreaking. The ones where the dates of birth and death are the same make me cry. And the elaborately tall ones surrounded by the smaller headstones of several wives and a dozen children. One of my uncles married three first cousins one right after another. My mother said when she knew him he had a gray beard down to his waist. Was he a sex object? Well, he was prosperous enough, but more likely he needed a mother for his growing brood, and offered his hand to the nearest unmarried female he could get to. I hope they grew to love one another.

A number were double-first cousins. It’s a miracle I didn’t wind up with one eye in the middle of my forehead like Deliverance. But everybody lived so far from anybody who wasn’t kin.

We found most of the young soldiers my daughter calls “My Boys.” Like all soldiers whether from the north or the south, they came home to a world that had no idea what they’d seen or what they’d endured. They fought their way through PTSD, married, raised families, and put their lives to good use. And like most of the soldiers I’ve known—like George, my husband—the stories they told were the funny ones.

Please God, some day this world will discover a way to grow to adulthood  men and women who do not have to learn to be warriors.

A Real Story (Pat)

I’ve often mentioned that many of my books are inspired by events that actually happened.   Sometimes you just can’t make up anything as odd, or devastating or, sometimes, as inspirational as the actions of real people.

But nothing came closer to my real life as one of my romantic suspense novels, “Tempting The Devil.”

I was reminded of it recently when I was invited to talk to a book club.   It was unstructured as I’m apt to do in such talks, and the conversation turned to story inspiration.   I had one for each of the more than fifty books I’ve written but none so close to my real life as “Tempting The Devil.”

I was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal at the beginning of my professional life.   I was one of two women in the newsroom and the only beat I was not allowed to cover was the crime beat.  That was definitely a no no.    Women were not to be put in way of violence, etc., although I covered many trials.

But I covered politics and city hall and federal court and I was extremely happy.  Reporting was all I wanted to do, and I was lucky enough the grab a summer internship as a college senior, then turn it into a full time job.   It wasn’t easy.  I worked twelve hours a day, picking up extra feature stories on  my own, heading out to add color to major stories on my own.   I covered malfeasance in office, major legislative battles, deficiencies in mental health facilities in Georgia, but never, ever police reporting.

Never, that was, until one day I was the only reporter in the newsroom on a late afternoon after all but the final deadline had passed.    I was in the newsroom because I was wearing a brace and on crutches while recuperating from an auto accident.   A call came in that three policemen had been murdered in a rural county just outside Atlanta.   No one else was available.   It helped that it happened to be in a county that I covered previously, and I knew the county commissioners and other officials.   I was sent to the scene, crutches and braces and a bee in the car as I broke every speed limit in Georgia.

I’ll never forget that day.   Three county policemen had been handcuffed together and shot in the back of the head.   The bodies were still there; they were the first dead bodies I’d ever seen.

I limped over to the scene, talked to the law officials and other reporters there.   I took full advantage of the “poor injured me” situation to get what info I could as fast as I could and phone it in for the late edition.   (I was not too proud to use any advantage I had in what was then a very competitive news market)..  I was able to keep hold on to local parts of the story (the funerals, the human aspects) while the paper’s police reporter took over crime aspects.   Turned out there was a county police department and a competitive sheriff’s department.   The chief deputy sheriff was running a stolen car ring, and the police officers unfortunately wandered on a site where the deputy and his crew were dismantling stolen cars.   (The sheriff was later convicted of bootlegging liquor: I did get to cover that).

To make a long story short, the case was eventually solved, the chief deputy sheriff was convicted, sentenced to death, ultimately saved by the federal moratorium on the death penalty and given a life sentence.

That case never left my mind as I left journalism to enter public relations and then started writing western historicals.   It was a story that eventually turned me to writing romantic suspense.

And it’s one book in which I included much of my life in Atlanta, my sometimes dangerous curiosity and my passion for journalism.   I used the place in which I lived.   I used the newspaper, although I changed its name as well as the name of the county.  I used my accident.   My heroine Robin Stuart, is also on crutches after an automobile accident.  I kinda felt she was my alter ego.   At any rate, I knew her inside out.

And I used one of the questions that, as a journalist, I always pondered:: how far does a reporter go in protecting a source?   In the book, Robin goes to extremes, knowing that revealing her source might mean his death, and she is willing to go to jail to protect him.   But then does it mean killers might go free and put her own life in danger?Potter-Tempting

It certainly complicates her attraction to the FBI agent determined to get the information she has, even if that means sending her to jail..

I was never confronted with that choice but I’ve always wondered what exactly I would do if I had to decide between revealing a source or going to jail, or worse?

So this book is special to me, and I wanted to share the details with you.   It was published by Berkley and is now available as an e-book with Amazon and other outlets.   .

Cue the zombies

I was reminded today by my writer friend, Annie Jones, that the Passive Voice is something most authors deal with regularly—while being chased by zombies.

passive zombies Annie Jones

Need a definition? I borrowed this from ReadWriteThink:

Active Voice
A feature of sentences in which the subject performs the action of the verb and the direct object is the goal or the recipient: The mechanic fixed the car.


Passive Voice

A feature of sentences in which the object or goal of the action functions as the sentence subject and the main verb phrase includes the verb to be and the past participle: The car was fixed by the mechanic.

In my opinion, some passive voice is allowed–called for, even. Reflecting on the past, setting the scene, basic description, adding a softer cadence to your flow, and providing background harmony provide necessary components of a book. But when you’re in the thick of things, when verbal jabs are flying or critical action is taking place, keep things active.

I’m working on the revisions of my next Big Sky Mavericks book, MONTANA HERO. In my defense, first drafts for me are all about learning who my characters are and what drives them in the story. I “see” things happening in my mind and record that action from the outside looking in–until I reach a place where the characters take over.

Here’s a scene I grabbed at random from Chapter 2.

Before:

The door was open. She knew the drill: sign in and take a seat. Just like in a doctor’s office. Which reminded her, Flynn had called in a few minutes before she left that he was taking a possible “broken ankle” to be X-rayed. He didn’t say who the victim was or how he came across the problem, since they hadn’t received a call.

After:

The outer office door stood open. She knew the drill: sign in and take a seat–just like in a doctor’s office. Doctor. The word reminded her of Flynn’s call a few minutes earlier.

“Taking possible “broken ankle” to ER 4 X-ray,” he’d texted.

Who broke an ankle? Where did the accident take place? Why didn’t Dispatch get the call? Is my gung-ho new boss out recruiting victims?

A definite improvement, wouldn’t you agree?

I just printed Annie’s adorable meme to hang beside my desk as a reminder. Wish me luck.

Deb, actively working on her manuscript…while being chased by zombies…

 

 

It’s Raining Books!

As I write this, I am still vacationing on Siesta Key, Florida, where the sun is warm and daily wallowing in the ocean is a must. We’re doing other things too–touring around, kayaking and such. And I’m working a bit. And reading, lots and lots of it.

One of my favorite bookstores is located right here, in Siesta Village, the charming shopping and eating area about a mile and a half south of our condo.

usedbooks usedbooks1

As a writer who depends on the income I earn from writing, I usually purchase my books new. But this bookstore, aptly named Used Book Heaven, carries many of the old books I’ve always wanted to read but haven’t gotten around to, as well as those I’ve read and want to reread.

The owner of the store, who opened it when she retired as “something to do” (her words), must have 2,000 books packed onto shelves and tables. She carries everything a person could want, from romance to mysteries, classics, literary work, and cookbooks, as well as nonfiction and dictionaries for dozens of tongues. What amazes me most is that she knows exactly where to find any book I might ask about.

Lately she’s become frail. She informed us that the lease on the bookstore expires in November. She won’t be renewing and has put the bookstore up for sale. I hope and pray she finds a buyer with the same love for reading she has. Otherwise, Siesta Key and all the tourists who frequent that bookstore, are in for a real loss.

Happy reading and until next time,
Ann
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Holding On (Tara Taylor Quinn)

Very few things last forever.  Love does.  Maybe the written word will.  I believe energy and spirit do.  But I know that love does.  And this is why my bottom line is and has always been, to love and be loved.  I’m holding onto what matters most.  Because it’s the one thing I won’t ever have to lose.

I might lose the one I love.  Today.  In this present.  But I don’t lose the love.  Maybe this is semantics to some.  To me, it’s the be all.  And I live with the proof of my knowing every single day.  I get lonely.  I hurt.  But ultimately, I know that the love exists.  In my heart and outside of it too.

Most of you know how much I love my furry friends.  Little Tay turned ten last month.  She’s having a few sight issues.  And maybe her hearing isn’t as on cue as it used to be.  I’ve been a bit melancholy, holding her close, tending to her constantly, because I am aware that I won’t have her with me forever.  And yet…I will.  In my heart.  In my mind.  And in the big atmosphere of love that encompasses so much more than just our earth.

I am not one who ever had a lot of friends.  I’ve had a few close friends.  I understand why.  I know me.  And I accept that part of me.  And yet, fate, also knowing me, didn’t see fit to allow my one lifetime friendship to last in this existence.  My one best friend, the connection that was the magic in my life from kindergarten on, ended on this earth, in August almost a decade and a half ago when my best friend was killed in a car accident.

I’ve been told to let go.  To move forward.  From the pain of loss.  From the relationships that have gone from my life.  I’ve resisted.  Letting go does not feel right to me.  And I think I’ve finally figured out why.

We are not meant to let go.  Ever.  Not of the love.  It is for always.  And, if we let it, it will sustain us, enrich us, even as we love anew.  We are meant to hold on to it.  That is why it was given to us.  I currently have pictures of my best friend spread around my workspace.  I’ve always had one.  Now I have three.  And there are many pictures of my daughter, too.  These women are a part of my heart.  I have memories of laughter and tears.  Of fun times and not so fun ones.  I lived a lifetime with them and that lifetime is and will always be a huge part of me.  I have memories of hugs that hold me, even now.  Just as the memories do.

Even with relationships that have simply ended, we needn’t let go.  Not of the love.  We let go of expectations.  We let go of the most painful memories.  We let go of ownership.  And most definitely let go of bitterness.  But we needn’t let go of any love that was there.  Any love that was real and true.  To do so is to waste the greatest bounty we will ever have.

I’ve lost a lot in this lifetime.  I expect I’ll lose more.  In the physical sense.  But I’ll hold on, too.  To the love.  The strength that it gives me.  A strength that doesn’t die – but rather, that grows and expands.  And always, every day, I focus on the love in the here and now, too.  On growing that love.  Much like so many work on growing bank accounts.  I’m growing an account too.  An eternal one.

Grand Finale (Kate James)

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

We’re blitzing the tour GRAND FINALE for
The Truth About Hope
By Kate James

Did you miss any of the reviews, interviews, guest posts, or excerpts for the tour? If so, go back and check them out now!

Launch - More About the Book & Author

What do you hope readers take with them when they read your book?

I would like readers to feel good about the story’s conclusion, and believe that no matter what hardships we may face, we can overcome them with faith, perseverance and—of course—love!

Word Wranglers - Interview

123When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It still surprises me sometimes, especially considering that I haven’t been at it very long. If someone else were to ask me, I would say that if they are passionate about it and have started writing, they are a writer. For me, it was when I finished my first manuscript.

Ghost Stories – Carolyn

This week I finally decided to knuckle down and edit the stories our Malice in Memphis members are writing for our next anthology—ghost stories that take place in Memphis and West Tennessee. I’ve been putting it off because I am lazy, but with our meeting on Saturday, I was forced to work toward a deadline. And a good thing, too. I say I work better under pressure. Maybe that’s because until I am under pressure I don’t work at all.

I haven’t been completely dilatory. I have edited the ghost stories from my critique group, but only because I meet them for breakfast every Friday morning at our IHOP. Embarrassment and guilt are excellent goads.

Our original anthology of Memphis crime stories, Bluff City Crime, is selling well. Our publisher is delighted with the numbers and is looking at publishing it in other countries. It would seem Memphis is a big deal these days. The only headlines I see about us are about our Grizzlies basketball team, and the gang shootings that have become commonplace. Other locales, however, think about Elvis and the blues and Beale Street first. Memphis is not my idea of a tourist destination, but apparently the rest of the world disagrees. Good thing for our economy. I am not knocking it.

We started our mystery anthology project as a writing exercise for our members, most of whom had never been published. They wanted to learn to write genre fiction. We sweated bullets, but eventually the stories were not only publishable, but were pretty darned good.

Judging from the stories I worked at editing before our meeting Saturday, the project worked. The ghost stories are miles above the ones in our crime anthology.

I think the hardest lesson fiction writers (especially genre fiction writers) must learn is how to manipulate structure. Of course stories arise from characters, but in the final analysis, the characters have to actually do something, They must grow and change and be affected by and affect events and other characters.

It’s all too easy to keep tweeking character bio after character bio. Of course we want to know our characters, but if we do our job right, sooner or later the characters will take over. Then they suddenly start doing stuff we never envisioned them doing.

How many writers redo the same first three chapters over and over again without ever getting any further forward? That’s because they haven’t built the structural arc of the story. We previously had a Malice member who had been working on character sketches for several years without ever writing the first word of the actual book. He never seemed able to commit to his characters or his story. He eventually gave up.

The point is to write. Doesn’t matter how lousy it is. Most first drafts leave much to be desired. I know mine do. Don’t go back and revise and rewrite the same stuff again and again. Every morning I read what I wrote yesterday, then go on. Eventually I should get to the end. Then I can go back and revise.

I do not have a daily quota like a number of writers. If the book is going well I may do thirty or forty pages in a day. If I’m stuck, I avoid even looking in my office door. That’s when I go ride my horse. That usually works.