Baker at the baker’s funeral

IMG_0253I’m a baker. See photo. I love to bake. It’s good for avoiding writing, and for when I have to think about the plot before I can move on with the writing.

I bake A LOT. I talked baking with my dermatologist during my last visit. I talk baking with my co-workers. I talk baking in the checkout lane at the grocery store when I see someone with baking ingredients. I clip recipes. When I taste something wonderful, I ask for the recipe. People know I bake and so they share recipes with me.

So when I attended my aunt’s funeral, and the minister said she made the best cookies EVER, and he asked her children did they inherit the secret cookie recipe, I wanted to shout, “I want it too!” How dare they extol the baking virtues of someone in front of a baker! And not offer a taste during the funeral. I wonder if they offered her secret recipe cookies at the funeral luncheon that I was unable to attend. Wah!! Now I’ll have to cozy up to my cousins to get her secret recipe.

 

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Writing Process Tag

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Author Rue Allyn tagged me for this chain blog. I’ve known Rue for a number of years through MVRWA. The past couple of years she’s written and published with a vengeance. I guess it’s easy for her to write romance when she’s married to a man who still makes her heart flutter crazily when he walks into a room. To learn more about Rue, go to http://www.rueallyn.com/.

 

1.       What am I working on?

I’m working on my erotic fantasy romance I lovingly call “The Beast.” It began life as a short story that my Ellora’s Cave editor asked me to turn into a novel and series. It’s been a challenge expanding a small story I loved into a much larger story with my editor’s suggested changes. Almost as challenging as this winter has been!

2.       How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I believe strongly in gender equality. In my novels it’s not just the man who has a cool, fulfilling job. The woman does too. And she keeps it. I’ve read many contemporary romances where the heroine gives up the greatest job to do things like raise the hero’s brothers and sisters. My heroines wouldn’t do that.

I’m into smashing gender stereotypes. My female characters have brains, they sometimes rescue themselves, they’re not helpless, and they’re never the secretary who marries the billionaire boss. I can’t recall ever writing a scene where a heroine went outside naked (or wearing a towel) to investigate a noise after she’d been told a vicious killer was on the loose.

3.       Why do I write what I do?

Sometimes I have to crusade about something, some perceived wrong.  My stories give me a soapbox to do that. My stories help me deal with my emotions, such as when my mother-in-law got dementia. When I have questions, I create worlds in which I find answers. And I write because crazy story ideas chase me down and attack me. They want out into the light of day so other people can see their craziness.

4.       How does my writing process work?

A kernel of an idea pops into my head. In “Hero Needed” it was the unprotected railroad tracks in the midst of heavy tourist foot traffic. I think about the idea and it grows. I’m mostly a pantser, which means I write by the seat of my pants. I don’t plot a novel in advance. I don’t know what’s going to happen until I get there, so most of the story is a surprise to me, although I can usually see the ending even before I begin to write. Well, I write romance, so it’s got to be a happily ever after.

But as I write chapter one, chapter two may begin to unfold in my mind. I’m pulling the story events out of the dark abyss of my brain. I may have “Aha!” moments later in the novel, which fill in gaps early in the novel. But I don’t go back to fill in those gaps. I scribble some notes and continue where I was. I need the momentum to keep the ideas flowing. I don’t edit on my first pass either for the same reason. I know my first draft is flawed. I also know I’ll fix it during editing.

I write by hand. I’ve tried to compose on the computer, but it takes 4x as long for me. My brain isn’t hard-wired to create on the computer. But I type 80 words per minute, so it takes about a week to type a 70,000 word novel. And as I type, I edit. Once my story is completely transferred to the computer, I begin a series of edits. After it’s polished and magnificent, I send it off to an editor or query a publisher.

 

I have tagged Constance Phillips for next Monday, March 24. Please check her out next week!

Constance Phillips lives in Ohio with her husband, daughter, and four canine kids. Her son, now on his own, is planning a wedding, reconfirming that romance still lives and breathes.

When not writing stories of finding and rediscovering love, Constance and her husband spend the hours planning a cross-country motorcycle trip for the not-so-distant future…if they can find a sidecar big enough for the pups.

Fairyproof and Resurrecting Harry are available now through Crescent Moon Press. The Novella sequel to Fairyproof, Council Courtship is also out now.

Her first Contemporary Romance, All That’s Unspoken is now available through Turquoise Morning Press.

One Lucky Night will be released May 7, 2014 and  The Ultimate Catch  will be released in  August 2014 from Whiskey Creek Press.

You can also follow her on Twitter or friend her on Facebook.

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Soapbox Novelist

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As a romance novelist, I have high expectations for my stories. First and foremost, they should give readers a tale they love. Next, I want to make readers feel hopeful about life. By ‘The End’ my books should confirm readers’ belief in the power of love. And, whenever possible, I’d like my words to prick people’s social consciences.

I feel strongly about many things, and when I write I pour those strong emotions onto the page. If I have something to say about the world, I get up on my soapbox and say it. I’m lucky I can use my novels as my soapbox. They give me room to express those opinions, and, if necessary, explore them from several points of view. At least one character voices my viewpoint. In the first draft, that opinion can be pretty radical because, hey, I’m pretty radical. During editing I have to tone it down without losing my point.

In my novel Mating Flight, I had a lot to say about hatred and bigotry. In one scene the heroine had a lengthy monologue where she tried to sway the ruling council that hatred would eventually lead to planetary destruction. Although I tried to soften the edges, saving a planet had to have a world of emotion behind it, so a lot stayed. There’s a beautiful review on Amazon that refers to my soapbox topic.

In Mating Urge, the heroine had a condemning monologue about not respecting a person’s rights and beliefs. Although the sentiment was worthwhile, it came across as too militant. And since one of the targets of her speech was her fiancée’s people, I could not have what sounded like animosity come out of her mouth. From the first draft to the final, that speech changed a lot.

I feel I have a human responsibility to make the world a better place if I can. If even one reader is moved by something I wrote, I’ve succeeded. I’m a soapbox novelist, and proud of it.

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The Sheep are Safe Tonight

Ever heard the saying, “The sheep are safe tonight”? I’m going to use that phrase in a whole new way in this post. Here’s a popular trend that I’ve finally joined, the “non-traditional” fingernail polish color:

 

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For years it just wasn’t done that a woman over, say, thirty, wore nail polish outside the white, pink, red, orange, purple spectrum. Now women demand wilder colors for their mani/pedi. But are they doing it to stand out from the herd, or because the herd is doing it?

Child to mother: “But all my friends are going!”

Mother’s response: “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”

Many people follow like a sheep the paths that others have blazed. It takes a lot less energy and they don’t have to think. They wear the current fashion trends, buy the hottest electronics, read the most popular books, see the blockbuster movies, etc. And some of this is okay, because it’s not really important. If you balked over ever following the herd, most people would get less done. And if everyone balked, it would mean chaos.

But when it comes to the really important things in life, I wish a few more people would stop following mindlessly and ask questions about how and why things are done. That’s how life is improved—by people questioning and thinking. And blazing new paths.

I’m a bull-headed Aries, the ram, walking my own path whenever I can. That goes for my writing, too. By asking why and how, my stories bloom with imagination. So the sheep are safe from me. I’m not following the herd tonight.

Have you ever deviated from the herd’s path? How did it make you feel?

 

A woman defies her family’s expectations when she meets the man she’s made love to in a dream. Blood Secrets, available now from e-tailers everywhere.

Can a woman defy her master of pleasure? Passion’s Apprentice, available now from e-tailers everywhere.

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Passion’s Apprentice Release Day!

Passion’s Apprentice is released today, 2/21/14, from Ellora’s Cave! Re-ignite your post-Valentine’s Day passion.

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Available from e-tailers including Amazon and Ellora’s Cave.

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Blood Secrets Released!

Blood Secrets is out today, 2/17/14, from Crimson Romance! Happy belated Valentines Day!

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Available from e-tailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks.

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Readers Treasure Blog Hop

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On my keeper shelf is “Star-Spangled Bride,” a 1993 release from Iris Johansen under the original Loveswept banner. I’ve read it a number of times. It’s a short, fast read. It’s also incredibly simplistic. Spunky young reporter rescues dashing older news mogul from terrorists. When the secret that she’s an illegal alien emerges, he offers marriage to give her American citizenship. A marriage of convenience trope.

Why do I return time and again to this book I bought at a dollar-a-bag sale? What made me keep it and not all the other books in that bag? Because I loved the heroine. She wasn’t a doormat, despite agreeing to the arranged marriage. She could handle a .357 magnum, travel internationally, report from war zones, throw a punch or a retort, and stand toe to toe with a powerful man without backing down. Yet she was heroic, loyal, loving, protective, caring, funny and feminine. The total package.

What do you look for in a romance novel?

 

Happy release day to Rue Allyn, Susana Ellis, Jayne Kingston, Kristina Knight, Constance Phillips and Ray Wenck!! And to my own Secrets and Lies.

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Win prizes!

Prize pack

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Link to the Rafflecoptor: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/a22ec98/

Other Blogs Participating in the Hop
Constance Phillips

Kristina Knight

Susana Ellis

Jayne Kingston

Rue Allyn

Ray Wenck

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The Death That Made Men Live

IMG_1348Sometimes a traumatic event changes the course of people’s lives. That’s the basis for my “Secrets” trilogy. An angel like this watches over Billy Ziffkin’s grave. He was the victim of a robbery gone terribly wrong. Billy doesn’t appear in any of the “Secrets” novels, because the stories are about the aftermath: how his murder affected his three brothers.

In Grave Secrets, released October 1, Billy’s brother Rick can’t forgive himself for not solving the murder. His life is driven to make up for that one “fault.” In Secrets and Lies, due to be released November 4, his brother Charlie has survivor’s guilt that the smart brother died while he lived. Michael, the oldest brother, will share his story in Blood Secrets, in February of 2014. His guilt is he was oldest; he should have protected the younger brother. Real or not, guilt is a natural human response to tragedy. With the help of three special women, these brothers will find closure, and love.

IMG_1349People can be more important to you than you realize, and what happens to them may have a bigger impact than you expect. You can follow Billy’s impact in Grave Secrets, Secrets and Lies, and Blood Secrets.

I’d love to hear how your life might have been changed by your own Billy.

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Going Out In Style

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Recently I attended a cousin’s funeral where his family rented this spectacular hearse to transport him to the cemetery. While he was alive, he rode motorcycles. That’s a Harley, in case you can’t tell. The driver revved the motor three times in that distinctive growl before the casket was loaded and again when we arrived at the cemetery. It sounded like a three-gun salute.

What a tribute to a life lived doing what my cousin wanted to do: take risks, dare to be radical, not care what people thought about him, live large.

I was thrilled to be ten cars behind the hearse in that funeral procession, despite the solemn occasion. To drive for forty minutes down main roads, through the heart of town, past the mall during lunch hour, watching the rubber-necking, made my writer’s heart pound and my imagination soar.

I wish I’d written this hearse into my new release, Grave Secrets, but you really have to see it to believe it. Life is short. Live the life you really want to lead, with a little style (or a lot).

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Parched in the Cemetery?

IMG_1329Did you know that some cemeteries pipe in water not just to keep the grass green but to allow mourners to water flowers planted around their loved ones’ headstones?

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While I was editing my new release, Grave Secrets, my editor questioned the existence of spigots in cemeteries. Analise, my heroine in Grave Secrets, plants flowers to beautify graves. I knew I’d seen them either during my research for my novel, or during one of the many burials I’d attended in the past few years (I have a huge extended family). So when I saw these spigots at a recent burial, I took a photo. And then I went to a second cemetery and found more!

And then I went to the Finger Lakes in New York and found yet one more!

It’s little things like wondering why there are water spigots in a cemetery that ferment in a writer’s brain until they connect with other ideas that evolve into a novel.

Do your cemeteries have water spigots?

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