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Monday, May 30, 2016

SEASON OF FRUSTRATION

By: Celia Yeary

More and more, I'm reading and hearing an increased amount of frustration from authors. Maybe I notice this because, I, too, feel a kind of restlessness and weariness and even a bit of failure.

This feeling is familiar from my teaching years. It's MAY, for heaven's sake! School is winding down, coming to a close, and we can't wait to escape our present situation. May always brings the same feelings I've described, even in retirement. During the school year, didn't we always believe as soon as that last bell rang we'd be free? And happy? And no longer frustrated?

Remember January 2016? We were upbeat and optimistic, a new year had begun, and we had thoughts of promise and success. It's like getting a do-over.

Now, as summer approaches, we once again need to shake off an old cloak of fatigue and boredom.
We authors don't get a free vacation as teachers do. Teachers at least have the summer to experience different activities, such as golf, swimming, camping, cruising, or even sign up for a few hours to work on another degree. Yes, we can do those things, and we should, but for three months? Yes, when I was a teacher.But now as an author? Take a break from writing, but make it short. Or better yet, combine it with a relaxing get-away.

What shall we do about the frustration?
For starters, look at all your published books. Just this much is a great accomplishment, so pat yourself on the back.Now study them and locate the main source of your disquiet. Which one needs the most attention? Which one is not selling as it should, or maybe just not at all? Choose that one to channel all your promotional energy and decide what you can do. A new excerpt to post on the loops? A give-away contest? A fresh post for a guest blog? Some new unique gimmick concerning that book?

Are you stuck on a WIP? Look at it with a critical eye. Is it as good as you thought it might be? Or is it rather staid and mundane? Study it to determine if it's worth saving, or just a bunch of nonsense you could easily delete and get out of your hair.
Would you feel better if you began a new story? Well, by all means, do. That's the best way, in my opinion, to feel better. A new plot, a new direction, a new set of characters. Why, it's just like going on vacation.

Whatever you do, find some way to change your routine. You might even want to step away a couple of weeks and read and perhaps make notes for new ideas. Then when the vacation is over, return and get to work.
I'm in it with you all the way. This is how I feel sometimes, so I speak from experience. Just remember...You are a writer. Whether the world loves your work or not, you do...and in the end, that's all that matters.

Progress on a WIP: Series—Brides of Winchester County-Book I: Noel

Out of the darkness, a sound brought Noel awake. Heavy footsteps. Men in boots, walking up and down the hall.
“Hey, Bryce. Those dullards up yet?”
“’Morning, Carl. Three are and on their way to the dining hall.”
“I swear, if this is the best we can get, I’m about ready to throw in the towel.”
“Gotcha. But these young guns are the best I could round up in San Antonio last week. I’m real surprised they made it this far. Two more are coming, if they ever get their sorry butts out of bed.”
“All right. See you downstairs.”
“Woody! Taylor! Get out here. Now! Or hightail it back to San Antone.”
“Yes, sir, yes, sir, yes sir.”
“One yes sir will suffice.”
“Will..huh?”
“Suffice…oh, forget it. Get on down to breakfast. We need to ride out in about half an hour. If you’re not with us, forget the job and ride on back where you came from.”
“Yes, sir, yes…”
“Shut up and go eat!”

Noel laughed out loud. Now she was wide awake. Bryce McKinley was rounding up his men and would ride out in thirty minutes. Where did that leave her and Della? Who was to come fetch them? Or would anyone? Were they left on their own?
Maybe she should awaken Della so both could dress and go down to breakfast. Truly, she was as hungry as she’d ever been in her entire life.
Curiosity got the better of her. Securing the top of her dressing robe at her neck, she opened the door a crack to look out. Oh, my, there was Bryce staring right at her. She opened it a bit more and watched as he tipped his hat and grinned. This one was wicked and would break some girl’s heart. Or maybe…
“Mornin’, ma’am. Sleep well?”
She couldn’t keep from laughing. “Well, yes, until about ten minutes ago.”
“I do apologize.”
He did not look one smidgen sorry.
“Well,”
“So…”
“You go first, Miss Blankenship.”
“I was only going to say ‘have a good day,’ but I do have a quick question.”
“And that would be?”
“Do you have any idea what Della and I are to do today? I mean, we can dress and eat breakfast, but then what?”
Bryce snapped his fingers. “Oh, yeah, I was to tell you J.B. will send someone to fetch you around nine this morning. He’s expecting you and Della out at the ranch for the day so y’all can talk.”
“J.B.?”
“John Bartlett. Mr. Bartlett.”
“Oh. All right. I’ll let you go about your duties, now.”
“Yes, ma’am. See you out at the ranch.”
As she shut the door, Bryce yelled one more time. “You knotheads get out here. And I mean now. We’ve got work to do. I’m leaving in thirty minutes. If you’re not at the livery, we’ll go off and leave you and you can kiss this sweet job good-bye.”
She leaned back on the door and sighed.
* * * * *
To be continued.....I hope.
Celia YearyRomance, and a little bit of Texas

Saturday, May 28, 2016

THE SADDEST TWENTY MILES by CHERYL PIERSON

I wrote this post a few years back, but it bears repeating.


People say all small towns look the same. The old brick buildings guarding the streets silently speak of the past, when they were new and full of life. The traffic light on Main Street measures the slow pace of life in increments of green, yellow and red. Most times, the Christmas decorations go up on the streetlights after Halloween and don’t come down until the first warm day of spring.

The flag at the courthouse is no odd sight; flags in small towns are common and patriotism runs high along with societal values. The speed limit is no more than 35, and everyone knows that. There’s no reason to rush, anyway.

My first clue that something was different about Madill that August day was the sign. On the very far northern edge of the “city” limits someone had placed a huge banner by the side of the two-lane highway. It stood unfurled between two wooden poles.

“A TRUE AMERICAN HERO,” the lettering read, and below that, “2ND LT. JOE CUNNINGHAM.”

Red and blue magic marker starbursts filled the white void of the background around the letters, leaving no doubt that the banner had taken hours of loving, painstaking precision to create.

And the rockets’ red glare,
The bombs bursting in air…


The banner stood as the beginning of what was to be a somber twenty miles of driving for me that day. Only a few feet from where the banner had been placed, small roadside flags were planted in the parched Oklahoma soil. There had been no rain for weeks, and with our record-breaking number of triple-digit days, I could only imagine how hard it must have been to push those small, fragile twelve-inch sticks into the rock-hard ground at such measured intervals.

If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know Saturday mornings are the liveliest, busiest times of the week. Not so on this Saturday morning. As I topped the hill and the main part of town came into view, my heart skipped a beat. I had never seen such a profusion of color. Red, white and blue—everywhere. Flags flew from every porch, every small business, every conceivable place visible…and that could only mean one very tragic thing.

Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there…


I slowed down to twenty-five as tears blurred my eyes. A car pulled out in front of me a little further down the road, and I looked to my right. The side road had been blocked off. There were at least two hundred motorcycles parked beside the First Baptist Church. The Patriot Guard Riders had come to pay their respects—and to be certain that everyone else did, too, should a certain crazed group of fanatics from Kansas decide to make an appearance.

Across from the motorcycles, a huge, beautiful American flag was unfurled, the field of blue lending its stars to heaven, the stripes perpendicular to the ground. In front of that flag stood perhaps fifty lawmen of every type, a mix from both sides of the Red River, Texans and Oklahomans.

The parking lots for the businesses in the immediate area were full to overflowing, even though none of those businesses were open. Signs filled the windows under where the flags flew: “CLOSED. BACK AT 1:00 P.M. REST IN PEACE, JOE.”

I stopped at the light on Main Street. The courthouse flag was, of course, flying at half-mast. There were no other cars on the road. The one that had pulled out in front of me earlier had turned off a block back, at the first available parking place, a long, half-mile hike away from the church. I was driving through a ghost town.

The signboard at the Grab & Go read, “OBAMA MAY BE PRESIDENT, BUT GOD IS STILL IN CHARGE.” Any other time, I might have smiled, but not with that small picket of flags that still sporadically lined the road, reminding me of the terrible loss this town was reeling from.

Another hand-lettered sign by the road: “WE’LL MISS YOU, JOE. GO WITH GOD.”
And yet, another: “REST IN PEACE, JOE. WE WILL NEVER FORGET.”

I drove out of Madill, headed for Kingston, another small town, a few short miles away.

Small towns, close together, are usually rivals on the high school football field and in most other things, but when all is said and done, we remember that we are, all of us, citizens of the same wonderful country, and that’s what matters—more than who wins the game on Friday night, more than which town has the best point guard on the basketball court, and more than which quarterback has better chances with the big college scouts. As Americans, we all have equal ‘bragging rights’—we are Americans, and no other country pulls together as we do when the going gets tough.

I couldn’t think of anything, anywhere, any time being tougher than losing even one of our young men to war. A bright smile that would never be seen again, coming through his parents’ door; two arms that could never open to hug his best girl again; the echoing sound of emptiness forever where once his steps fell—an aching, empty hole in the lives of every person he ever knew that could never, never be filled.

My thoughts rolled over one another as I drove. I wondered about him, about his family—about what he’d left behind, and how the people he’d known would ever manage to survive without him in their lives forevermore.

I was on the fringes of Kingston when the roadside flags started up in earnest again—though they’d never completely stopped. But now, it looked as if someone had planted a beautiful garden of red, white, and blue flowers in the cracked, dry Oklahoma soil.

As Kingston came into view ahead, flags fluttered in the wind at every business. Some buildings had bunting on their storefronts.

It doesn’t take long to cover the few miles from one end of Kingston to the other. But with every inch of ground I traveled, there was no doubt that 2nd Lieutenant Joe Cunningham was remembered, respected, and revered.

As I drove out of town, yellow ribbons tied around several branches of a tree in someone’s yard caught my eye.

“HE IS HOME. REST IN PEACE.”

No small town rivalry, now. As Americans all, we share only a unified, joint loss of a shining star; the precious, irreplaceable light of someone’s life.

He was 27. He loved to hunt and fish. He had dreams of becoming a highway patrol officer and finishing his degree. He always wore a smile.

I will never drive that sad stretch of road again without remembering a man I never met. A hometown hero is gone forever, but he will never, never be forgotten.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Thursday, May 19, 2016

#NewRelease -- Belinda's Yankee by Agnes Alexander -- #Giveaway

Belinda Babcock, a beautiful southern belle, barely escapes the Union soldiers who kill her father in cold blood and burn their home. When she discovers a wounded Yankee officer not far from her small cave, she vows to kill him—but discovers she can’t do it. Instead, she brings Major Victor McKay back to her sanctuary and keeps him safe, nursing him back to health.

Handsome Victor McKay has his own life in New York to return to—that of a wealthy banker on the verge of starting his life with his fiancée, Felicity. He helps Belinda find her aunt and uncle before they part ways, and he makes his way back north. But the homecoming he receives is not at all what he expects—and he can’t stop thinking about the night of passion that he and Belinda shared during their journey to find her relatives.


Victor realizes he and Belinda are meant to be together, and he intends to find her. With no way to track her, he only knows she’s claiming his name. Why is she pretending to be his wife? Does Belinda have a secret of her own?

EXCERPT

     "Come with me, Belinda." He grabbed her hand.
     "What's going on?"
     "The Yankees are coming. Hurry."
     “I thought the war was about over.”
     “It’s getting close to ending, but apparently it’s not over yet.”
     "How do you know?"
     "They've set fire to the cotton in the north field. I barely got away. Now, come on. We must hurry."
     With her heart pounding, she followed him into his study.
     He pushed his desk aside, ripped back the rug and opened the trap door. "Hurry child, get inside."
Belinda didn't argue. She stepped down the short ladder leading to the secret tunnel he had dug for just such an occasion. When her feet touched bottom she turned to look up at her father. "I'm in. Come on."
     "I can't, honey. They saw me come to the house and they'll never give up until they find me. I'm sorry, but this is one time you'll have to be on your own." He smiled at her.
     "No! I won't go without you, Papa."
     "You must, Belinda. You have a life ahead of you and you have to live. Do it for me, child." He started closing the trap door.
     "No!"
     "I love you, Belinda. Never forget that." The door closed and she heard him slide the bar across the top of the trap door, then heard the rustle as he replace the rug, and the scrape as he pulled the desk across the tunnel entrance. 

Be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win a free ebook of BELINDA'S YANKEE.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Man of the People

As the election cycle gets crazier, I’ve been thinking a lot about Simon de Montford.

Simon de Montford memorial at Haymarket
Clock Tower, Leicester
What? Everyone isn't having the same thoughts?

Simon, Earl of Leicester (yes, the English city that recently won the UK Premier League championship), was a charismatic malcontent who almost became king—and who inspired Alain, my romantic hero/spy from Art of Love

Alain precedes Simon by almost a century, but carries many of his ideals. Also a younger son (fourth of four), he is determined to find power and security through service to the king. But being that close to the king changed his thinking, and by the time the story begins, he agitates for change, saying gender and birth order—not God—makes a king, a treasonous and heretical notion in the 12th century. 

The real deal
Born in 1208, Simon was the third of four sons. The medieval world could be as harsh to younger sons as it was to women, and he knew he would have to make his own success.

And he did.

The death of two brothers and an agreement with the third brought him to England on the thin hope he could win back the Leicester lands, which had been given to Ranulf of Chester (a fascinating character in his own right). 

He made friends with the king, always a good move, but was not what anyone would call a suck-up. He married the king’s widowed sister in secret (probably with the king’s grudging permission after he had already seduced her), identified early with reform movements (the Provisions of Oxford) that increased baronial power at the king’s expense, and eventually led an armed rebellion against Henry III.

Although he is called the father of the House of Commons, Simon may or may not have been the populist history proclaimed him. He believed royal power needed to be checked—and sometimes opposed—by the people governed. But that’s not the same as giving political voice to serfs and merchants. He only reached out to them when he failed to win support of the majority of other nobles. In fact, once he seized power, he behaved more like a king than a reformer.

But actions always have consequences, and the most interesting are usually unintended. By seeking support from the lower classes, he gave them an avenue to becoming part of national decisions. 

And what does this have to do with our current crazy election? Well, if I had to pick a theme for this election cycle I'd say it's all about unintended consequences. We serfs and merchants are angry, and nothing has gone the way party leaders thought it would. So just like the events of 751 years ago turned out to be a much bigger deal than anyone expected--I think this election is going to be an unintentional game-changer, too.

Keena Kincaid writes historical romances in which passion, magic and treachery collide to create unforgettable stories. You can find out more about her books at: http://prairierosepublications.com. Leave a comment for a chance to win one of her books.














Monday, May 16, 2016

I-40 Again...

West Arizona
In the near future we will be traveling Interstate 40 again, a highway we have traveled often over the years as we have visited family and gone on vacation. For the most part, it can be a desolate area to travel through, which is why I often take lots of pictures of trains. Sometimes they are the only thing to watch besides the other cars on the road.

Once I had a smart phone, I quickly learned that as I approached each little wide-spot-in-the-road town in western Arizona, I could get internet long enough to look the town up on Wikipedia to read about its history. Almost all the little towns along I-40 have one thing in common--they started as railroad towns. Kingman, Arizona was a stop on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was behind the creation of many towns. Later it became the Santa Fe RR, and now is the Burlington Northern Santa Fe RR. We have a BNSF line that runs within two miles of my house, so I see these engines from the time I leave home until halfway along my journey.
 
Eastern Arizona
To keep myself from going totally bonkers, I love to take photographs as I travel. Keep in mind most of my images fall under the category of roadside photography.


New Mexico
 This shot was taken in New Mexico back in February 2004. I love the layers of colors.
 I can't remember where the above picture and the next one were taken, only that they are in my New Mexico folder. I'll have to look for these land formations this trip.

Two years ago in June the plains of the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma were having a lot of rain and hail. We were very fortunate our truck didn't suffer from hail damage. We saw more than one car a dimpled hood and broken windshield. This past week, the storms in this area going east into Arkansas have included tornadoes. Lots of them. Wish us good weather by the time we go, please. No matter how interesting a picture of funnel cloud may be, I'm not sure I want to be that close to a tornado.
Needles, California
Just barely on the California side of the Colorado River along I-40 is Needles. It is hot--easily 120 degrees in June. It can be humid. And, yes, it has trains. It also can have a beautiful sunset.


Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. The first three novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine,  A Resurrected Heart, and Her Independent Spirit, are now available. He Is a Good Man was published as part of the Lariats, Letters and Lace anthology.

 Please tweet this blog post:
Before there was the highway there were the railroads. I-40 AGAIN...@ZinaAbbott #PrairieRosePub http://bit.ly/1TbYIAg

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Favorite authors and books and why I return to the same stories by Kaye Spencer

I recently came across an interview I did some years ago in which I was asked to list authors who have influenced me as a writer and to explain why I chose those authors. This was a challenging endeavor. It was a simple task to come up with a list of my favorite authors and to attach a particularly significant work to each author, but it was a different matter to explain in just a few words why I chose the works that I did.

This list is the result of digging to the essence of why I return again and again to these particular stories. I’ve included a "key" of sorts below my signature.


  • William Shakespeare because the play’s the thing
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley for a female perspective of the once and future king
  • Clive Cussler for Dirk Pitt—a man's man
  • Louis L’Amour  for defining what it means to be a man who wants a woman to walk beside him, not behind him

  • Homer for the ultimate journey back home
  • Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, and Thomas Paine for heralding the common sense of independence
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for creating a brilliant mind
  • Harper Lee for a story that showed me the meaning of integrity, empathy, and that doing the right thing is not always the popular thing
  • Charles Dickens for the best of times, the worst of times, and for a second chance at life
  • Margaret Mitchell for showing me that even in my darkest hour, the sun will still rise, because tomorrow is another day
  • Don Coldsmith for showing me the ways of the Elk Dog People
  • Edgar Allen Poe because he understood how fragile reality is in the mind of the writer and the reader

  • Dorothy M. Johnson for the reminder that there is a price to pay for law and order
  • Robert Heinlein for citizens of a future galaxy
  • Oscar Wilde for the importance of being earnest
  • Mario Puzo for an offer I can’t refuse
  • J.R.R. Tolkien for Samwise Gamgee's devotion and loyalty
  • Thomas Keneally because one person can indeed make a difference
  • Agatha Christie for creating an eccentric Belgian of Herculean proportions
  • Alexandre Dumas for the vengeance of Edmund Dantes
  • Victor Hugo because I railed against injustice and wept at the sacrifice of redemption
  • Gaston Leroux for showing me the tragic face of loneliness

  • Boris Pasternak for a love that could have been, but could never be
  • Bram Stoker for opening the door to a genre that has no boundaries or constraints of time
  • Thomas Harris for making me root for Hannibal Lecter
  • Wladyslaw Szpilman because sometimes music is all we have
  • Jack Schaeffer for a story of unspoken love and the true meaning of friendship 
  • John Steinbeck for the ultimate sacrifice in the name of love
  • But most of all, William Goldman, for the perfect story of fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles


Until next time,

Kaye

Writing the West one romance upon a time
http://www.kayespencer.com


Hamlet
Mists of Avalon
Dirt Pitt books
Louis L'Amour westerns
Odyssey
Common Sense
Sherlock Holmes
To Kill a Mockingbird
Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol
Gone with the Wind
Spanish Bit Series
The Raven (and others)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Citizen of the Galaxy
Importance of Being Earnest
The Godfather
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Schindler's List
Hercule Poirot mysteries
Count of Monte Cristo
Les Misérables
Phantom of the Opera
Dr. Zhivago
Dracula
Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal
The Pianist
Shane
Of Mice and Men
The Princess Bride

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Childhood Fun

By Kristy McCaffrey

What did you do for fun as a child? Chances are you’re still drawn to whatever activity brought you joy. And if you’re not doing it at this point in your life, then you should be.

When I was ten years old I began a habit that I still continue today. Every time I went to the movies, I transcribed it into my Movie Log. It began after I’d seen Star Wars and was mesmerized by the scope and spectacle thrumming through me as I watched such an amazing mythology unfold before my eyes. I soon contrived to see the movie nearly 30 times in the theater and was compelled to start a Movie Log to keep track of each viewing.



I still add every film I’ve ever seen to the list. By now, my kids and husband tease me about it, or as my daughter recently said, “You really ought to put it in a file on the Cloud before you lose it.”

The reason this activity brings me so much joy is related to my vocation as a writer. My Movie Log is my collection of stories. Every writer, in order to have a vast reservoir of material to work from, must amass stories in some form. This is my way of keeping them all close. I can review the list at any time. I can remember how I felt when I experienced that particular tale. I can track how deeply a story made an impression on me by the number of times I engaged in repeat viewings. (Flash Gordon, anyone?)



This activity still brings me satisfaction today, which is why I’ve continued it. (I also suspect I’m a little OCD, but I digress.) What childhood activity did you engage in that made you blissfully happy? And more importantly, are you still doing it?


My Movie Log. It's very high-tech.
* * * *
Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. She’s the author of several historical western romances, all set in the American southwest. She lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, two chocolate labs, and whichever of their four teenage children happen to be in residence.

Connect with Kristy

Monday, May 9, 2016

#New Release -- HER SANCTUARY

#NewRelease...  

It never ceases to be exciting to see those words and know I wrote that story!  HER SANCTUARY--that's the new release--is the next in my River's Bend series. I challenged my heroine and hero, Maggie & Kris, to work their way through a lot of difficulties before they found that Happy Ever After at the end.

Abandoned in River’s Bend, Missouri, by the members of an uncharitable wagon train headed west, Maggie Flanaghan finds herself in trouble with nowhere to turn. But in the citizens of the small town, she discovers friends and acceptance upon the death of her dear father—and catches the attention of the town’s most eligible bachelor. When her past threatens to destroy her happiness, she must choose to flee or fight for the sanctuary of a good man’s love.
Kristoph Oltmann hadn’t planned on still being alone with no wife and partner to share his life.  He thought Maggie Flanaghan was the answer to his prayers, but her secret past makes her unsuitable as a preacher’s wife. Can he believe Maggie has been heaven-sent in spite of her predicament? Can he be HER SANCTUARY, even as she is exactly what he longs for—a haven for his heart?


I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I did writing it. To whet your appetite, here's a short excerpt:


“Witch! Witch! Witch!”

Maggie stumbled, righting herself before Jones could grab her arm. “I’m not a witch!” An icy wind whistled between the buildings on either side of the narrow street. Leaves, left behind by the winds of winter, skittered and rolled across her dusty shoes.

The street narrowed and climbed slightly, civilization fading behind the flickering flames of lanterns and torches. Her hip threatened to buckle beneath her. Frantic, she tried to get her bearings. She’d explored River’s Bend the first afternoon they’d made camp north of the little town, but that was two weeks ago and, in the darkness, she was confused. The moon was nearly full, but it was hidden in clouds. If this hill turned out to be the natural rise overlooking the river, she would not survive the night, for she couldn’t swim.

The mob’s chanting continued, growing louder and more frenzied. “Why are you doing this?” she cried. All she wanted was to make her father well so they could continue their journey to her aunt in Denver. Knowing the plants, their uses both good and evil, came naturally to her. She’d not been trained, but had somehow always understood their purposes. But the superstitious settlers thought her knowledge was demon-spawned. “Please,” she begged. I’m no witch. I only want my father to—”

She screamed when a rough hand grasped her cloak. Spinning away, she yanked free. “Don’t touch me!” They kept coming, forcing her backward in the darkness, another step, another, still another, as the crowd gained ground. When she slammed into someone, tall, broad, and obviously strong, and he didn’t sway at the impact, her terror stole even her voice. She was trapped.


#Giveaway   Oh, heck!  Let's give away a copy, ebook, your choice of format.  Just leave a comment. Or...

You may purchase your copy of HER SANCTUARY at Amazon Kindle, Amazon Print, or Smashwords.  Enjoy!