Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Bird-chirping Weather by Christine DePetrillo

I recently read a meme that said, “Bird-chirping weather is my favorite weather.” I agree, and May has wonderful bird-chirping weather. I’ve been enjoying writing in The Outdoor Writing Office ever since I opened it back in April, but the bird chirping has only just reached full capacity this month.

I have two feeders in my backyard habitat, which has been specifically designed to attract birds (and butterflies). I frequently have visits from crows, blue jays, cardinals, robins, doves, finches, black-capped chickadees, warblers, sparrows, nuthatches, grackles, wrens, acorn woodpeckers, and my favorite guest, the northern flicker. I live for the moments when a sampling of all these birds are in the yard at the same time, singing their songs and enjoying the buffet I have put out for them.

We have a small, husband-made stream and pond in our yard too. 


Robins love to swim in it. They dunk themselves under the water, flap their wings, sending a spray all over their bodies, then fly up to our peach tree to preen. They don’t seem to mind that my German Shepherd is in the yard as well, watching their every move. He doesn’t seem to mind them either. They have an “understanding.”

The squirrels are not so lucky.

I like to think that birds are out there in the neighborhood telling other birds to stop by the DePetrillos for a bite to eat and a bath. As if I’m running a bird resort of sorts. I welcome them all and invite them to sing their songs for me. I usually listen to music when I write, but not when I’m outside.

When I’m outside, the birds provide the tunes and it’s perfect writing music. No words. All natural. Totally inspirational.

Learn to GARDEN FOR WILDLIFE HERE if you want to attract birds and other creatures to your yard.

Learn more about BIRDS HERE.

What’s your favorite bird? How would you describe the weather in May where you live?

Toodles,
Chris

The Maple Leaf Series, all six books, now available. Book One, More Than Pancakes, is always FREE in ebook! Get started today!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Professor Russo Was Right by Vonnie Davis

Most of you know I didn't start college until I was forty-four. I was in a deep depression over my divorce and dealing with an empty nest with my daughter married and living in another state and my two sons in college. Then my older son talked me into going to college. "Please, Mom, you've got to do something with yourself. Take a creative writing course or something!" Well, I've never been one to do things halfway, so I enrolled as a fulltime student, which meant I worked fulltime at night, attended classes during the day and slept whenever I could. It was marvelous!

I qualified for Honor's English and Professor Russo impressed upon us to "know our audience." She claimed we wouldn't know how to write if we didn't have a solid grasp of WHOM we were writing for. One writes differently for a data-hungry, scientific community, for example, than one would for fantasy enthusiasts where the author must do extensive world building.

As romance writers, we get that. Let's take description, for example. Any time we write outside the average reader's frame of reference in, say, historical or paranormal sub-genres, description becomes more important. Because we are removing our readers from their known world to another.

But there are other factors to consider in identifying our readers. An important one is AGE.

I recently saw on a show similar to "Sixty Minutes," if it wasn't that show itself, that the Millennials now command a larger market share Baby Boomers. Stores and businesses are now targeting the greenbacks these thirty to forty somethings hold in their young wrinkle-free hands. Well, that makes sense, doesn't it? Business is business.

Now, let me lead you farther on that same thought trail--

I've been concerned about my book sales. While better than they've ever been, they still aren't what I'd call fantastic. I did make the Amazon's Best Seller list for three whole hours, but that accomplishment like a butterfly quickly flitted away. So I emailed my editor at Random House and laid out my concerns. Were there any weaknesses in my writing she was seeing? How could I improve so I could up my sales rankings?  

She assured me it wasn't me. "It's the crazy market," she said. "We've been on this pleasing the Millennials trajectory for the past couple years. Our stories need to be more character driven and less plot driven." Then she told me something I thought I'd never hear an editor say. "Vonnie, you need to dumb down your writing."

WHAT?

"Why do you think I had you rewrite the final half of your last book? While there was technically nothing wrong with it, the plot was too heavy. The readers wouldn't have gotten it."

Okay, so maybe describing how a SEAL planted explosives so the building would implode instead of explode was a little too intricate...or how snipers scrambled onto roofs...or wound care was given to a SEAL while on a flying helicopter could be construed as heavy stuff. But had the reader seen it in a move, they'd have gotten it. I hadn't written rocket science. I'd written suspense.

My editor didn't stop there with her wounding. "You also take the reader into deep point of view which is fine for the older reader, the baby boomer generation. The millennials don't like it. They want you to tell them how to feel. It's okay for you to write I felt angry or I felt hurt."

I nearly toppled out of my chair!

My editor's remarks took me back to Professor Russo's class at Penn State. Know your audience. Silly me, I thought romance readers were alike everywhere. Granted we all have our preferences. Regency over paranormal, perhaps. Or sweet romances over erotic. I get that. It's a matter of personal taste. But to have writing rules change by an age group is ... Just. Too. Much.

I've worked extremely hard to learn point of view, to become familiar with all the powerful nuances of it to gloss over it now. My editor gave me the link to a book to read and study--the second book of The Cocky Bastards seriesSince it's the book all the pubs in NYC are raving about--dear Lord, what are they drinking up there???--she was sure my reading this book that was holding Amazon's top rankings would help me. She wanted me to understand what constituted a character driven story. Heck, I thought I already knew. *shakes head in shame*

The plot was mainly how could this billionaire, who yells at his employees so badly, he's had 74 secretaries in 4 years, wants to get into the heroine's pants. He never struck me as the "hero" type. It was character driven, I'll give it that. Their initial banter was fun; their comedic timing, perfect. But halfway through the book, the ballsy, comical heroine I liked turned into an insecure, whiny woman. The hero allowed his ex-fiancĂ© to run his life because of a secret child. He practically became the "ex's" slave. So, the character arc for both the heroine and hero was skewed in a different direction--instead of growing into better people, they'd morphed into two weakened unlikable souls. The book had two authors and it was quite evident where one stopped and the other writer took over. 

My editor is calling me this afternoon to discuss my next series. I have no clue what to write about. I've got nothing to propose. She claims she has some ideas for me. I'm asking her point blank who she's expecting me to write for--the ones who understand romance or the ones I have to tell how to feel. Because I'm not dummying down anything. Reading is supposed to help you learn. That's why we do meticulous research. With the thin plots I'm seeing, no one researches. There's simply no need.

Forgive my long rant, ladies. I'm provoked and shocked and, yes dammit, disheartened. I don't dummy down. It. Just. Ain't. Happening.

Monday, May 2, 2016

How to Creatively Stalk, Maim and Murder by Jannine Gallant

With a title like that, I'm sure I'm now on some government watch list...LOL But seriously, people, when you write romantic suspense, the well of creative options to do away with the protagonists begins to run a little dry after a while. Especially when you write series. You can't have stalker #2 use the same old methods as stalker #1. And by the time I get to stalker #3, my brain feels like cold oatmeal...and my ideas are just about as appetizing.

My latest release, EVERY VOW SHE BREAKS, is the third in the series. In the first book, my stalker was fairly traditional in a creepy watching from the shadows sort of way with a couple of attempts to grab the heroine and a kidnapping to round things out. In the second book, my villain was an assassin with a personal vendetta against the heroine. Point and shoot was his motto. But his twisted mind added a whole new level of creepiness... Then came the third book. What to do, what to do? The villain believed the heroine broke a promise to marry him, so he became my wedding stalker. He leaves her weird wedding paraphernalia. Party favors. Wedding decorations. Cake toppers. Honeymoon lingerie. Until frustration takes his game to a whole new level of scary... But I'll let you read the book to see what he does next.


The point is, new and creative ideas are hard. I'm currently writing the fourth and final book in my BORN TO BE WILDE series. In the pursuit of endless torture through three books, I've used the obvious (gun shots, poisoning, and cut break lines) and the dramatic (drowning, a fall from a cliff, and a downed private jet) and the increasingly creative (buried live power line and iced over steps). With book four, I've been feeling a little desperate because the goal so far has been to injure, not kill. I came up with a chisel hidden in the hay where my hero actor was literally rolling during a love scene. Then there was the shard of glass under his horse's saddle, and next... I wanted something disfiguring. The creative well of ideas had run dry. I asked my CP. Sorry, Margo, but you weren't any help. I gave up on my sketchy outline and wrote "Attempted disfigurement." Then I wrote right up until the scene needed to take place and added some stalling filler, then had my hero go take a shower... Light bulb! The villain put drain cleaner in his shampoo bottle. Good thing my hero dropped it and spilled it on his foot before he poured it over his head. Whew! What a relief! Mind you, I still have one more mayhem scene (attempted murder this time) to come up with for this book. I want something intended for the heroine that happens to the hero instead. On a movie set would be a bonus. Go ahead...make my day. Give me an idea. LOL It has to be creative, though.

So, what's the most interesting way your bad guy has tortured your hero or heroine? Maybe I'll steal your ideas. Kidding! Sort of...

To find out what the wedding stalker's final move is in EVERY VOW SHE BREAKS, buy your copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Apple. Visit me at my Website.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Round and Round the Maypole-the Perpetual Problem of Keeping Secrets by Rolynn Anderson

Happy May Day, my friends.  Today, the basket I have for you isn't full of treats, it's full of secrets.

Recently my visit on a friend’s blog invited me to explain five secrets about me that few people know.  Our novels’ heroes and heroines wouldn’t find the assignment an easy one, because it’s their secrets (often unbeknownst to them) that tend to get them into trouble.  My hero in my new novel, CEZANNE’S GHOST was accidentally responsible for a man losing his eyesight.  Ever since the incident, he’s isolated himself from conflict, in specific, and people, in general.

We all have secrets, some of them not even clear to us because they are buried deeply and come in flashes of confusing images.  Never one to let such sleeping dogs lie (in the same way we authors force our characters to ‘man up’) I plotted with my sister to answer a series of questions about our upbringing. 

The questions are bold and probing, so if you’re in the habit of putting your characters through more angst than you are willing to take, this legacy survey might not interest you.  Seriously, this is heavy stuff.  Here’s a sample of the easy questions-it’s a long, involved study! (I’ve tried to find the origin of this survey, but can’t.  Sorry):
1. The best qualities of my mother were:
2. The best qualities of my father were:
3. The worst qualities of my mother were:
4. The worst qualities of my father were:
5. What I loved most about my mother:
6. What I loved most about my father:    
7. My mother showed her love for me by:
8. My father showed his love for me by:
9. When I was afraid, my mother/father would:
10. When my family celebrated an event (Christmas, an achievement, etc.), we would:
11. I often felt most secure when my mother/father would:
12. My favorite memories of me and my family were:

My hypothesis going into the project was my sister’s answers would be 180 degrees different from mine.  She is my older sister by one year, but I turned out to be the rebel while she remained the stolid home-loving sort.  She’s mother of the year; great cook; lover of hearth and home.  Three wonderful kids.

Me?  No kids, by choice.  Edgy teacher, out-of-the-box high school principal.  Now heavy into writing, I have a third full-blown career while my sister relishes her grandmother role.

Back to the questions and answers.  My sister and I shared afterward.  No prior discussion or consultation.  The similarities?  Striking! Her views and the secrets she held over all these years, matched mine.

We’re convinced the experience brought us closer, but I don’t assume that would be true in every family.  Our three brothers have been invited to answer the questions, but none of them have taken on the challenge.

My conclusion: All families have secrets, flaws and foibles.  It feels freeing to look at them, regard them as shared experiences and move past them, trying not to pass on the quirky, unproductive behavior to our children.  No family is perfect, but sharing the strengths as well as the faults of a family helped my sister and I move on and improve.  We wish we’d taken the survey sooner, however, and hope the nieces, nephews and grandkids take our advice to analyze their upbringings so they are better prepared to be parents if they choose that route.

At the very least, the questions might help you get to the crux of the issues your hero/heroine have about their mothers and fathers as well as the problems they have with choosing mates and parenting.

If you’re interested in getting a copy of the whole survey (author unknown) e-mail me at rolynnwriter@earthlink.net.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping FEAR LAND is on a course to get judged by InD’Tale.  You can help bring my story to their attention by voting for my book….May 1, today, is the Last Day to Vote!  Subscribe and log in to http://www.indtale.com/2016-rone-awards-week-two  Scroll to the Suspense category and vote for FEAR LAND! 

THANKS!  Rolynn

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Family Vacations by Diane Burton



I recently returned from a 3-generation family vacation. First, let me tell you about some of our vacations when my kids were younger. They called them “encyclopedia” vacations. When we went to a famous site, I wanted them to know about it. (You can take the teacher out of the classroom…) As they got older, I gave them the Triple A book, and had them choose places to stop—which meant they had to read about these places.

Our last family vacation with just the four of us strained Hubs’ and my patience. A 10th grader who PMS’d the whole time and didn’t want to do anything, and a 9th grader who wanted to be home with his friends. Later—many years later—he said that was a really great vacation. The kicker, though, was daughter, who had groused the whole time, got on the phone with her girlfriend (while we were emptying the car) and exclaimed about how she had so much fun. I thought Hubs’ would kill her. LOL

The kids are grown with kids of their own. We went on a cruise with daughter, SIL, and their two kids, along with SIL’s parents and his sister and her son. Not just any cruise but a Disney cruise. What fun. Especially because this was a Star Wars Disney cruise. I might have mentioned a few times that my family are Star Wars’ fanatics—from the 6 y.o. through Hubs. One day during the cruise, Star Wars characters walked the decks, had photo ops, while those into Star Wars more than my family also dressed in costume. I have to admit, Hubs’ and I hung out with some of the characters. 
 

Before leaving on the cruise, I had a brilliant idea. I would set the fourth Alex O’Hara book on a cruise. So I paid special interest in things I could use in the story. I also asked our tax preparer what I needed to do to be able to take my cost of the cruise as a business expense. She asked her supervisors. I didn’t get the not-so-good news until we got home. Nope. Can’t do it. Darn!

We had a great time (even if I can’t write it off). The kiddies had their activities. The younger adults had theirs. And Hubs and I did our thing. We all met for dinner each night and had fun discussing what we did. I have to say Disney does customer service well. The food was to die for and the staff couldn’t have been nicer and friendlier. I would definitely recommend a cruise for a multi-generation family vacation.

Diane Burton writes romantic suspense, mysteries, and science fiction romance. She blogs here on the 30th of the month and on her own blog on Mondays.

Friday, April 29, 2016

What the heck do headlights, trains, and little girls have to do with romance? by Mackenzie Crowne

One of the most commonly asked questions a writer receives is, Where do you get the ideas for your stories? The quick answer is, Everywhere. That’s because life provides the seed for every story, whether it be a song lyric that hits your ears at just the right time, a news headline, a funny comment overheard…

Photo © Adobe Stock 
Or something as simple as an elderly man holding a small valise and a bouquet of flowers as he waits for a train.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to attend the RWA convention in Manhattan. With thousands of romance authors roaming the city, I found myself grinning as I imagined how many romance seeds were planted that weekend. I did a little HEA farming myself, in Penn Station, no less. As I stood waiting for my train, my gaze was drawn to an elderly man waiting several feet away.

I smiled at the colorful flowers clutched in his thin hand and couldn’t help wondering, where are you going? Who are the flowers for? He looked adorable and quite dapper in his button down suit, complete with bow tie, a fedora tugged low on his brow. Of course, he must be meeting a woman. Who was she? And would she be charmed by his interest, or would she break his heart?

I write romance, and my characters are typically in their early thirties, so of course, my mind quickly slipped a young heroine into the picture. She’d sit next to the old man on the train and…

The possibilities are endless.

On the road to the compound
For me, at least, those seeds normally sprout sideways, never taking me where I first thought they would. Like the idea that came from the flash of headlights, believe it or not. My husband and I have a getaway cabin on the side of Mt. Graham east of Tucson. We call it our compound...long story. We were headed to the property late one night. It’s pretty rough terrain, with lots of sharp dips and steep climbs on the dirt road leading in. With no moon to guide us that night, the sky was pitch black. As we topped a rise, far off in the distance on another peak, a bright beam of light suddenly appeared, shooting straight into the sky.

Now, I live in Phoenix, and many here in the southwest would have immediately thought ALIENS! Because, you know. It’s the desert. That’s where the aliens always hang out. Seriously. Roswell isn’t far away. Anyway, I didn’t go the alien route. For whatever reason, I imagined the beam more like the light shining through a door that had suddenly been opened. A portal of sorts. One that could transport someone from one spot to another, anywhere in the world, and maybe, any time in the world. Oh, the possibilities...

You’re probably thinking, ah, Mac found the seed for a sci-fi time-travel romance set in the mountains of southern Arizona, but you’d be wrong. In the end, that seed bloomed into a contemporary fantasy romance set in Ireland. Yeah, I know. The odd path the story took threw me a little too, but that flash of headlights was the birth of my first published book.

Just over a year ago, a pair of twin girls I saw one day while shopping became the seed for what eventually morphed into Players, my sports romance series. Don’t ask me how I went from those cute little girls to an MMA champion finding his HEA with country music’s “It Girl” in book #3 in the series, To Win Her Heart. Even I can’t explain how my imagination works, but these days, I’m not fazed in the least when the seeds grow sideways. Instead, I embrace the possibilities and remember…they’re endless.


In order to protect her, they’ll both have to let their guards down…

Country music’s It Girl Jessi Tucker is fed up with her family’s stifling security measures. The threat of a dangerous stalker has gotten the men in her life—including her football star cousin, Tuck Tucker—monitoring her every move. To get the freedom she yearns for, Jessi hatches a plan to recruit Max Grayson, Tuck’s sexy brawler best friend, to play the role of her new boyfriend. But if her scheme works, will she be forced to hide her true romantic feelings for the sake of her independence? Or will she finally steal the heart of her dream man?...
Max has been pining for Jessi for years and would do anything to protect her, but a professional cage fighter with too many skeletons in his closet has no business being with one of America’s sweethearts. Yet while Max does his best to keep Jessi at arm’s length, the Tucker family persuades him to accept her offer.
Max believes he can keep Jessi safe from danger, but can he shelter her from his own dark secrets, the media’s unforgiving spotlight—and a mutual desire that’s harder to resist each day…
Players Series titles available in all formats at Kensington Publishing

Mackenzie Crowne writes contemporary romance with a side of sass. 
Her friends call her Mac. She hopes you will too. 
Visit her website at mackenziecrowne.com, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter twitter.com/MacCrowne.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

WHEN YOU AREN'T SURE YOU LOVE IT by Peggy Jaeger



Please welcome our guest, Peggy Jaeger, back to the Roses!

Recently, a topic came up with some fellow writers that I feel needs to be addressed. What happens when writers who love to write...don't love it so much anymore?

I can hear you shrugging and scratching your heads. Let me 'splain it to you, Lucy.

The old saying Writers write is accurate...to a point. Writers write for different reasons, all of them individualistic and all of them valid for that writer. But sometimes the words won't come, the ideas don't flow, and the creativity wanes.  Sometimes, the writer is just tired of writing. When that happens, and I tell you this from personal experience, guilt and depression set in. Because if writers are supposed to write, and then they don't/won't/can't, a storm of emotions piles on top of an already artistic ( read: moody) mind. And I don't mean moody as a pejorative, but more as a descriptor. Writers feel things more than other people do - it's in our make up. It's what makes up good writers - being able to isolate and get to the emotional levels of actions and words, our own and our character's.

So, when a writer doesn't write, there has to be an underlying cause. Now, speaking just from my own experience with writing depression, the main reason I was in such a state was because of getting published. How dumb does that sound? I finally have a publisher want something of mine, and the next thing you know I'm depressed about it. But when I stepped away from the writing, I soon realized that wasn't what was causing me not to write, it was the whole package that comes with publication: marketing, sales tracking, social media, appearances and book signings.  I wanted to write - I just wasn't so hot about all the after-work that goes into it. When I finally came to conclusion I am not a marketing person, I was able to find the joy again in simply writing.

I don't think my experience is a unique one among writers. We are, after all, artists. Artists, are by definition, moody. We feel too much, expect too much ( of ourselves and others), want too much and can really tap into the emotions of those around and within us. So when something sets us off, we experience a range of feelings. Sometimes those feeling manifest themselves in depression or an inability to express ourselves in our work, which in this case, is the written word.

So, back to me. When I realized it wasn't the writing that wasn't giving me my joy but the outside stuff associated with it, I was able to compartmentalize those outside factors - and by that I mean forget about them!! - and go back to doing what gives me the most joy in my life: writing and creating.
Maybe that adage should be changed from a declarative writers write to an exclamatory writers WANT to write!  By taking the absolute declaration out of the phrase, maybe, as writers, we'll be able to cut ourselves a little slack.

The Voices of Angels
Blurb:
The last thing Carly Lennox is looking for as she sets out on her new book tour is love. The independent, widowed author is content with a life spent writing and in raising her daughter. When newscaster Mike Woodard suggests they work on a television magazine show based on her book, Carly’s thrilled, but guarded. His obvious desire to turn their relationship into something other than just a working one is more than she bargained for.

Mike Woodard is an ambitious man-and not only in his chosen profession. He wants Carly, maybe more than he’s ever wanted anything or anyone else, and as he tells her, he’s a patient guy. But the more they’re together, Mike realizes it isn’t simply desire beating within him. No. Carly is the missing piece in his life. Getting her to accept it-and him- may just be the toughest assignment he’s ever taken on.

Excerpt:
“I...” Carly began, then stopped.
“Oh, hell. I’m not good with words in situations like this.”
His laugh came quick, charmed by her nerves. “Pretty pathetic declaration for a writer.”
Carly stuck out her bottom lip in a very alluring pout. He was tempted to stop and take her mouth with his again.

“Don’t mock me. When it’s on paper I can get it right. Real life has no re-writes, no editing.”

“Granted.” The sunlight played with the alternating auburn and fire-red highlights in her hair as they began to walk again. He was convinced no color had ever been so alive.

Carly squared her shoulders. “I don’t want you to get the wrong impression about me. Concerning men.”

When he didn’t comment, she continued. “It’s only, well...I haven’t been involved with anyone since my husband died. I’ve been busy with my daughter and my writing. I haven’t met anyone I’ve been interested in, I guess.”

“Until now.”

Carly turned to look at him. Irritation crossed in her narrowed eyes. “You’re pretty sure of yourself.”

“No,” he replied. “I’m more sure of you, though.” “Excuse me?”
Mike laughed again. He stopped and cupped her cheeks. “You’re even more beautiful when you’re angry. Your left eyebrow arches ever so slightly and your eyes turn the most incredible forest green.” He kissed her and felt her pulse trip again under his fingers.

Available here:
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