Oh the weather outside is frightful…Or not…

Good morning everybody.

How is the weather in your area? Here in my little town in NW Arkansas it’s pretty nice. In the 70’s. The sun is shining, a warm breeze is blowing the leaves from the trees and across the lawn.

Oh wait, it just changed. Now it’s in the 20’s. The wind is like a knife of ice slicing through my thick hoodie.

I just blinked. Now it’s in the 40’s. A warm jacket will suffice against the chilly winds blowing the gray clouds across the sky.

Typical weather for Arkansas. Blink your eyes and it changes. And boy does it ever!

From sunny and fall like weather to winter winds roaring around the corner of the buildings to freeze your bones.

Don’t get me wrong. I like cooler weather. The way the air turns crisp and the leaves begin to change. It’s a time for hoodies, pretty scarves, and awesome boots.

But no sooner than you snuggle into winter preparation than here comes the shorts weather again. In December!!

December!!

So you break out a few t-shirts and shorts and make plans to go hiking or bike riding for the next day or maybe the weekend.

Finally the day is here. You step outside and WHAM! The icy breeze almost knocks you over.

Dang it!! Not again…

Oh well, go figure.

So however the weather turns out in your area, it is always smart to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature may throw at you.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stay warm. Or cool?

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Spread the Merry by Beth Carter

As authors, I believe we have an important job–especially over the holidays. We have unique talents that can help others who are stressed, alone, overwhelmed, and downright grouchy during the Christmas season. How can we help when we’re stressed ourselves? By spreading the merry with our words! I adore writing holiday stories and have three published. More about that below. First, following are ways I believe we impact readers during Christmastime:

  • Authors provide an escape from reality.
  • Our books encourage much-needed “me” time after a day of shopping, decorating, or wrapping.
  • Writing holiday stories might encourage others to up their own game at home whether it’s decorating, baking, or finding time for holiday cheer with loved ones.
  • The jolly covers surely put a smile on readers’ faces.
  • As romance authors, we provide a happily ever after (or at least a happily for now), which hopefully, encourages others to get out of bad situations or expect more from themselves and their partners and to never give up on finding a suitable hero or heroine.
  • Our books make timeless Christmas gifts to be enjoyed year after year.

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I’d like to share some of my Christmas covers with you. Last year, I was honored to be included in Soul Mate Publishing’s eight-author holiday anthology, SIZZLE IN THE SNOW. My novelette, SANTA BABY, is about a single mom who is all alone and giving birth on Christmas Eve. In walks a sexy OB/GYN, and well, you’ll just have to read it along with the other authors’ funny, steamy, heartwarming stories! Last year, this anthology was a Top Pick by Night Owl Reviews and was in the top 100 on Amazon in Canada!

 

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My newest release, MIRACLE ON AISLE TWO, is my first novella and recently received a five-star review from UnCaged Book Reviews. I’m over the moon. Here’s the blurb:

Fired two weeks before Christmas, distraught single mom Madison wonders how she’ll afford to pay for her young daughter’s Christmas gifts and still keep a roof over their heads. Sleigh bells and twinkling lights are the last thing on her mind—until a handsome stranger intervenes.

Successful architect Adam Donovan dives into his work by renovating an elaborate hotel after his wife leaves him. He barely notices it’s Christmastime until he overhears a young mother’s tearful plea. Stepping in makes Adam feel like Old Saint Nick himself.

Will Madison and Adam find holiday joy—and possibly love—after discovering Adam’s secret or will it tear them apart?

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Last but definitely not least, we can’t forget the kids! When I was in a warm, sunny climate over the holidays one year, it didn’t feel like Christmas to me. I’m accustomed to snow and cold in December! So, an idea popped into my head and SANTA’S SECRET was born. Here’s the blurb:

It’s Christmas Eve but George is grumpy. His mother tries everything to get him into the holiday spirit. She sings Christmas songs, bakes cookies and decorates the house but George isn’t having it. He’s convinced Santa won’t visit him. That is, until he discovers Santa has a secret. Unable to believe his eyes, George finally gets excited about the magic of the season. This timeless holiday book is for children ages 3-7.

When I glance at the busy calendar, my chest squeezes tighter as I stare at rolls of wrapping paper on my dining room table. I’m sure we can all agree this is a hectic time of year. Be sure to take time for yourself, read a good book, or buy one or two for gifts. In the meantime, take a deep breath, keep writing, and spread the merry!

After decades in corporate America, Beth Carter shed her suits, dreadful 8 o’clock meetings, and heels (mostly!) She now pens multi-award-winning contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and children’s picture books from the comfort of her home or at Starbucks. Find the author’s titles on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/author/bethcarter

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‘Tis the Season by Rebecca Heflin

‘Tis the season . . . for parties and family. Decorating and shopping. Baking and wrapping. Eating, drinking, and being merry. And writing.

Wait, what?

That’s right, I said writing.

With the holiday season upon us, and our Untitled design (7)dance cards filled with social engagements on top of social engagements, we should still make time to write. But how?

So glad you asked. Two words: Time Management

As writers, we are already familiar with squeezing in writing time whenever we can find it­—during the kids’ soccer practice, in the morning before work, during lunch, or, if you take public transportation to your day-job, during the daily commute. It’s amazing how quickly a few words a day can add up. And getting even a few words a day can help alleviate the guilt or frustration when you’re trying to reach your word count goals.

Here are some additional time management tips for the busy holiday season:

  1. Shop online. I do most of my shopping online. The gifts arrive at my door and all I have to do is wrap them. Huge time-saver.
  2. Make lists and prioritize. I love lists. I make lists for everything, especially to-do lists, and I handle the things on my list based on the amount of time I have at hand. If I only have a few minutes to spare, I handle the quick items on the list, like texts or short emails. The items that will take longer to accomplish are set aside for later when I have the time to accomplish them.
  3. Ditch the multitasking. And speaking of accomplishing items on your to-do list. Focus on one task at a time, especially those that take longer. The more focused you are on the task, the faster you can accomplish it and move on to the next one on the list.
  4. Just say no. It’s okay to say no once in a while. Already have two parties on Saturday? Politely decline the third.
  5. Make time for you. I know when your schedule is already jam-packed, taking me-time sounds counter-intuitive, but when you take a little time for yourself, you recharge your batteries, giving you more energy when you rejoin the happy chaos of the holidays.

And in the end, if you can’t squeeze in writing time during the holiday season, don’t beat yourself up about it. Set aside the season to be with friends and family and feel the love. You can always double-down after the New Year and recommit to your goals and deadlines.

Do you have successful time management tips you’d like to share with the class?

Happy Holidays!

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Why do we Torture Ourselves?

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Today, I decided to head back to my exercise routine–pilates reformer.

I had major surgery in August and it took a little longer than I expected to recover.

Several weeks out from the surgery I had moved from recovery to couch potato. The want to move more than necessary kind of crept in and sat there. Basically, I got lazy and the idea of starting all over again, fix my sagging middle, had to be the last thing I wanted to do.

But I promised myself the Monday after Thanksgiving, I would return. To make sure I’d follow through, I told my friend who runs a pilates studio that I would be there today. I even paid for the month of classes I swore I’d take.

Honestly, I looked forward to returning. Pilates reformer is one of my favorite exercises. I get an excellent workout without beating my joints up. Excitement built and as exhausted as I was from the Thanksgiving holidays, I was happy to go.

The first fifteen minutes of the class went well enough, but the class naturally progressed to increasingly difficult movements. Within a few sets, frustration took over. My core was far weaker than I anticipated and my endurance suffered. Suddenly, I hated that I’d started this class. I hated the class. I hated that I ever wanted to be healthy. I hated that I’d gotten off the couch at all.

2017 11 27 10 second pilatesWhy had I put myself through this torture?

So I did what any woman would do when they are overwhelmed and want to scream at everyone in the room. I went to the bathroom and cried for about a minute. Berated myself for falling so out of shape in the first place. For trying to fix something so weak (me) because it wasn’t just the idea of today, but the work involved in getting to my goals–both short and long term.
After my emotional purge, I told myself to go finish the this one class. Just this one.

For sure I would be clumsy and sloppy, but I hadn’t come up here to hide from my crappy attempts. If I honestly thought I’d be in as good of shape as I was before the surgery, I’d only lied to myself.

I knew full well why I came up here. Simply, to start over. To work on a new project (me) and I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

And I did just that. I finished the class and by the time I was done. I felt better. I felt slightly empowered and I knew I’d begun a new journey to repair my body and my health. I’ve signed up for Thursday’s class and I’m looking forward to returning.

What does any of this have to do with writing? Everything, my friends. Everything.
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We all do this. Build the excitement of a new project, tell our friends, make ourselves accountable through deadlines. We begin the project with excitement, knowing that there will be roadblocks and distractions, but we can do this because we really do have our act together.

Initially, the words might flow freely. Getting the first meeting of our heroine and hero to the page. Again, it might be sloppy, even clumsy, but we get them there.

Then reality sets in. We get to the part of the book and wonder why we ever thought we could write anything remotely close to this. We doubt ourselves, maybe even curse ourselves for reaching so high, especially when we get to that sagging middle.

And yet, when we’re done with that first draft (or tenth), we smile and congratulate ourselves. We know why we do this self-inflicted torture. It’s who we are. We’re writers. 2017 11 27 RomanceWritersActuallyDo

Then edits start and we begin again. Maybe not all over with a blank canvas, but we throw ourselves right back into the mix, only to go through the same process over and over again until that story that’s been nagging us comes to life.

Self-doubt is a constant companion and frustration is a close second, but those of us who have published works have pushed through those roadblocks either through sheer determination or defiance.

Just like exercise, there’s not a one size fits all formula, but the point is show up. Keep going. Push through the frustration and anger and fear of it all. You can’t edit a blank page any more than you can build muscles sitting on your butt at home.

With NaNoWriMo finishing up, it’s important for all of us to remember we do this because something inside of us says, “tell that story.”

The creative torture pays off in the end.

Happy writing.

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Soulmate writer, Patricia W. Fischer, is the host of Readers Entertainment Radio and has a monthly book picks segment on San Antonio Living. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Her books are available at Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble.

 

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Marisa Makes Memories

Family Traditions. Family Ties. Family Drama?

With the holiday season upon us, emotions run high and energy low. But no matter if you shop til you drop on Black Friday or enjoy the ease of Cyber Monday in your pjs, you will be making a list and checking it twice for family members who are naughty and nice.

For me, the holidays are filled with traditions and family ties. Most of us have a designated day when the tree is decorated, a relative that’s impossible to buy for, or an uncle who you’ll want anywhere but on your couch.

Yes, family ties are a part of the holidays and so is the family drama that bubbles up in the midst of our family traditions. But just when you believe it’s time to appear on the “Jerry Springer Show,” why not take a deep breath, attend a yoga class, volunteer at a local charity or take a look at the notorious Luttrell family in my second book, The Golden Rose of Scotland. When find yourself immersed in my story, you may hold off on consulting “Dr. Phil” after all.

The Ladies of Lore Book II is set in 1486. The year when King Henry VII is crowned and the Tudor House is born, bringing together the feuding houses of Lancastrians and Yorkists. In the story you’ll find the phrase, “for better or worse,” takes on a new meaning when the heroine and hero are joined together for all the wrong reasons. Here’s an excerpt:

She began to kick her legs in protest, thinking he’d give up the domineering way he was treating her and set her back on her feet, but instead, her resistance fueled the need for him to swat her bottom a few more times as he continued unrelentingly down the corridor.

“You will regret this, Lachlan,” she said in a muffled voice with her lips pressed against his back.

A deep chuckle was the only response he gave. It rumbled through her, making her more aware than ever that he could force himself upon her. He had the legal right now.

A loud thwacking sound brought Rosalyn out of her dread quickly when she realized Lachlan was kicking the chamber door open with his hands full of her squirming arse.

“Put me down, Lachlan. Put me down. This is not the way you want to start our marriage,” she demanded, struggling even more violently after he’d kicked the door shut. “If you arenae careful it will end before it’s begun.”

When you add to the equation a notorious father, and a fiercely competitive brother, that can only equal a family drama that will let you forget your own.  Here’s another excerpt:

“Not welcome at my own brother’s betrothal? What would father say?”

“I don’t give a devil’s damnation what father would say. Frankly, I’m getting rid of the lot of you.”

“Rid of us? Your family? Pray tell, man, has the idea of marriage made you mad?”

“Actually, quite sane.” Lachlan squared his shoulders in the mirror.

“Brother, sanity can’t be measured by the one claiming it, you understand?”

“Nor can a family bond be honored by the one breaking it,” Lachlan declared, turning to face his twin.

“But family is about blood, not bond. Heraldry, not heart. Legacy, not love,” Ethan said.

Lachlan flung the wet rag toward his brother, but the bastard ducked just before it would have stung his face.

Now there’s a sibling rivalry that would put any mother to shame. Yet, there’s always good in the bad children, and some bad in the good ones.  But Ethan is one very, very bad boy. You must read it to find out how bad, of course, and what Lachlan must do to keep Ethan from “spoiling his good fun.”

As you get ready for your good fun this holiday season, be thankful for family, even if you have your differences. At least you won’t resort to poisoning one of them like my characters do. Not on purpose anyway.

So when your nerves are frazzled and you just can’t bear to deliver another fruit cake or wrap one more gift, indulge in a bubble bath, splurge on a foot massage or to read a good book. I have a couple I can recommend.

Marisa Dillon has published two novels with Soul Mate, The Lady of the Garter and her new release and second book in the series, The Golden Rose of Scotland. Here’s where you can learn more about Marisa and her adventures, not for the faint at heart:  Amazon Author Page, Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

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When Words Get In The Way

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As a writer, I love words. Of course I do! They are my medium. My tool of choice. The paint for my brushes. The software for my creative muse. I have very lately come to a revelation about words—one that has opened my mind up to an amazing, new vista.

Was I the only one in the world who hadn’t heard of the New Age composer, Karl Jenkins? If so, where the hell have I been?

If I’m not listening to an audiobook, I’m listening to music constantly: throughout the day at work, as well as while I’m writing. My favorite stations on Pandora are New Age Solo Piano, Enya, and Kenny G: instrumental music, i.e., for the most part, NO WORDS.

Occasionally, they play one with lyrics.

I kept hearing one song over and over again and no matter what I was doing, the melody and the lyrics (which I could not understand), struck a chord within me (pun def intended). The words sounded like a chant, either African, or maybe Latin. So finally, I took a minute and Googled the song. That’s when I discovered the beautiful magic of “Adiemus.”

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Wow. I mean, freaking, mind-blowing wow. Turns out this song has been out since 1995—over twenty years ago! (Um, hello? Where have I been???) The Welsh composer, Karl Jenkins, did something unusual when he wrote the lyrics for Adiemus (along with many of his other compositions).

He made the words up. They do not conform to any known language. They don’t mean ANYTHING.

And yet, in his brilliance, he created a language, by combining music and voice and nonsensical syllables, that speaks to EVERYONE. No matter what language they understand.

I’m particularly struck by this because I am very mono-linguistic. Yeah, I took a few years of Spanish in high school, and can recite the American Pledge of Allegiance in perfect Spanish—to this day! I studied Dutch for a few months on Rosetta Stone a few years ago when I was planning a trip to Belgium. Can’t remember a word of it now. And I did take four years of Latin in college—became pretty fluent in it. But it’s not the kind of language you can practice with anyone . . . in this century, anyway.

So what this composer, this Karl Jenkins has done is, to me, profound. He has created a language I didn’t have to learn to understand. And even though I’ve spent the last month trying to memorize, and pronounce, the “lyrics” to Adiemus, I don’t think I’ll ever get them right.

It made me think about my writing life. I’m always worrying about getting the sentence structure just perfect, the ebb and flow of dialogue realistic. I agonize over story arc. Are all the important details there? Did I overdo anything? Leave gaps?

What I really want to do is to put together a sequence of words in a way that will touch the hearts of my readers. Do I need to “learn a language” to do this? Follow a rubric? Fit my story into a chart?

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I always believed so. Now, I’m not so sure. Maybe instead of allowing the logical, analytical part of my brain so much control when I put words on a page, I should just let my heart do the talking.

Maybe, like the “language” Karl Jenkins created, my message, and my intended emotions, will be understood anyway.

~~~

Claire Gem is an award winning author of nonfiction, short stories, and five novels. Her debut supernatural suspense novel, Phantom Traces, came out from Soul Mate Publishing in 2015. You can find out more about Claire and her work at her Website or her Amazon Author Page. Join her Author Reader group HERE.

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The Six Ds of Dialogue by C.D. Hersh

Dialogue is paramount in any story. Dialogue is the backbone of stage plays and screenplays, and is what actors memorize. Dialogue is the hinge pin of novels, especially in today’s fast-paced, want-the-story-to move-forward world. Yet, for many writers dialogue is the hardest thing to write. We can fill pages upon pages with purple prose, narrative, and information dumps, but often avoid dialogue.

Why? Maybe we’re afraid our characters will sound stupid, or their words will be stilted. Perhaps writers fear their characters will sound flat, or they will say too much or too little.

Or maybe we think our characters will sound the same, because, after all, it’s only one person creating all those different voices.

Personally, we find ourselves writing dialogue first then going back and filling in the narrative, the senses and other parts of the story. Maybe that’s because of our acting or playwriting background. Sometimes we must scrap the dialogue, having discovered some of the problems mentioned above. At any rate, along our writing journey we’ve picked up a few tips to help with writing dialogue that we’d like to share with you. We hope you find them helpful.

  1. Deliver content. Every word, every scene, every sentence in your book should move the story forward. Dialogue is part of that forward motion. Use dialogue to propel your story forward by revealing new obstacles, introducing pivotal moments in the plot, reminding the character of goal, and deepening emotions. Don’t waste words on unnecessary stuff like greetings, talk about the weather, discussion about the song on the radio (unless it will figure in the story later) or idle chit-chat inserted to fill time or make up word counts. Get right to the point.
  2. Differentiate voice. No one person sounds like another. The way my sister pronounces the word “picture” is unlike anyone else, and I’d recognize her voice anywhere. Make sure your characters’ voices are just as distinctive. Give them different cadences, different speaking styles, different words, different sentence lengths. Listen to people speak and use those nuances in your characters’ dialogue.
  3. Define tone. Dialogue sets the mood for your story just like narrative does. Characters in a humorous book sound unlike those in a horror book. Chick lit dialogue is very different from that of a hard-hitting cop drama, and a magically based book’s characters would certainly not sound like the teenage characters in YA novel. When creating your characters’ dialogue make sure you take the tone of the book into consideration.
  4. Drop in description. Normally, writers use blocks of narrative to describe setting and provide background information. By dropping bits of description, background, or historical information into dialogue you can let the reader learn what he needs to know at that moment in the story.
  5. Don’t be didactic. Providing information in your story is important. Just make sure you don’t drop so much description and background into the dialogue that you turn what should be quick, informative conversations into dialogue description dumps.
  6. Dial up the conflict. Use your conversations to create tension and suspense. Speed up the scenes by eliminating most of the description and explanations. Make sentences short and fast. Make the conflict and risks clear, but hold back some information so suspense remains high.

If you have trouble writing dialogue, try writing the first draft of your scene as a script. No narrative, just dialogue. Then read it out loud to see how it sounds. You’ll be surprised at the results.

Is dialogue hard for you to write?

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