Sunday, April 30, 2017

Road Trip by Diane Burton

I’ve mentioned a time or two that Hubs loves to drive. Being a passenger is an invitation for him to snooze. I’ve adapted by being the navigator. Give me a map (a GPS thingee or my phone) and I can get you anywhere. As you can tell by the map above, it's one I've used a lot--actually, since our first visit after our son moved to Arizona in 2010. Can you imagine Hubs wanted to throw it out and get a new Southwest US map from AAA? Heck, no, I told him. It's got all my notes. Anyway, after all the driving trips to Arizona, the old route is pretty much same-old, same-old: Michigan -> Illinois -> Missouri -> Oklahoma -> Texas -> New Mexico -> Arizona.

When we’re concerned about snow in the mountains (Flagstaff), we’ve taken a diagonal route across New Mexico. I even got to stop in Roswell. Twice! Perfect for someone who writes sci-fi. Soon, that became old, too. So, I suggested we go through Texas on our way home. First thing Hubs and Son mentioned was how close we would be to Mexico. On the map, it looks like the highway runs alongside the Rio Grande. We hear horror stories all the time about Americans being kidnapped, and my imagination worked overtime. I thought about bad guys creeping up the river bank and jumping out in front of our car. Wild imagination, right? For about a hundred miles east of El Paso, we drove next to the river, which we were so far away from that I saw it once or twice.

Next thing the guys said was won’t that take longer. Possibly. But…I’ve never been through that part of Texas—diagonally up through Odessa and Midland then through Fort Worth and Dallas. I had an ulterior motive. I wanted to see oil wells. Not just the pump jacks in the fields that I can see in Michigan, but the rigs/platforms for doing the actual drilling.

You might think that odd until you consider that for four years I worked for an oil and gas company. When I was sent there by a temp agency to do secretarial-type work, I was asked by my boss if I knew anything about oil and gas. I told him I put gas in my car and we heat our home with natural gas. That was the extent. He tried hard not to roll his eyes. What he didn’t know was I’m very curious. I wanted to know everything about how oil got out of the earth and into our cars. Or how natural gas came out and heated our house.

I’m like a sponge when I want to learn something. The guys I worked with were eager to explain things to a novice. After my temp stint was up, I was hired to work in the Land Department—that’s where leases are drawn up before the drilling can start. I still did a lot of secretarial work and learned more.

The thing is…I worked at the corporate headquarters. Never out in the field. I suggested to my (new) boss that we should do a field trip so we understood our jobs better. He said we could. On our own time. LOL Now I suppose Hubs (you know, the one who likes to drive?) and I could have driven up north to see the drilling. Never happened. When the opportunity to see oil rigs from the highway in Texas arose, I had to grab it.

So I convinced Hubs to go that route. Mistake #1: Texas is big, towns are far apart, towns with hotels are even farther apart. Mistake #2: not making a reservation. Hubs likes to see how far we can drive and then stop when we want to. Usually, that works. But not when drilling is going on around our designated stop, Pecos, Texas. Our first clue were the “Christmas trees” (oil rigs) on both sides of the highway. And since it was now dark, they were lit! Just like the nickname.
USA Today: Photo Courtesy Sacco, AP
All the pick-up trucks in front of the hotels was our second clue that we might not find a room. Well, there was one room we could have at $245 for the night. Did I ever tell you about Hubs’ Scot’s ancestry? Even though we’d been driving for eleven hours, no way was he paying that much for a room at a Comfort Inn. We drove on down the road. The hotel apps on my phone weren’t working. The internet wasn’t working. How the heck do you find the number for reservations?

Shakespeare said, “All’s well that ends well.” I found a phone number, got a reservation for a room at the next town. We’d driven 700 miles in 12 hours through two times zones. We were whipped. It’s amazing what comfortable beds and a good night’s sleep can accomplish.

In our youth, we could drive through the night and think nothing of it. We’d take turns sleeping and had a blast. Newsflash. We aren’t young anymore. The second day, even though we drove through (around) Fort Worth and Dallas, we stopped earlier. I'm writing this on Saturday, our 3rd day on the road. No problems. Until the storms started. Thank goodness, we're in a hotel room where we watched on TV about all the flooding...of the highway we're supposed to take in Illinois. Hopefully, we'll make it home. (I'll let you know in the comments.)

I don’t think Hubs was thrilled with my route. But we saw parts of the country we’d never seen before. I got to see the oil rigs. If I’d planned ahead, we could have stopped at the Petroleum Museum in Midland. I saw the sign as we whizzed past going 75 mph. Oh, well. Maybe another time.

As an aside, I’ve used my experiences at the oil and gas company in my Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. In The Case of the Meddling Mama, one of the characters worked in the Land Department of a fictional oil and gas company. Can’t let experience and good info go to waste.

Once again, Alex O’Hara is up to her ears in mysteries. After surviving an attempted murder, all she wants is R&R time with Nick Palzetti. But his mother leaving his father (“that horse’s patoot”) and moving in with Alex puts a crimp in their plans. Then Nick leaves on assignment and the teen she rescued from an abusive father believes his buddy is doing drugs. Meanwhile, Alex has two easy cases to take her mind off her shaky relationship with Nick—a philandering husband and a background check on a client’s boyfriend. Piece of cake.

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mysteries. She blogs here on the 30th of each month.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

I’d Throw It at The Wall, But I Don’t Want to Break My Kindle by Mackenzie Crowne

With a single glance, each of you could accurately determine which of the nearly one hundred novels on my re-read shelf are my favorites, simply by the amount of wear on their bindings. However, my shelf of paperback keepers is little more than a testament to bygone days. To a time when physical books were all we knew and a handful of publishing houses set the rules.

Those days are over. Epic changes have hit the book world since the advent of digital formatting. Some of those changes were long overdue. Others, I could live without. In the “Wow, that’s cool” column is the convenience of the “one click” purchase. How sweet is it to no longer have to run out to the book store in search of the perfect weekend read? And I have to tell you, travelling is so much easier these days.

Instead of a dozen paperbacks hogging space in my luggage, my trusty Kindle fits in the pocket of my purse. Along with many favorites, it’s jammed full with books by unknown authors who’ve tempted me into giving them a try via bargain basement sales. There are at least one hundred TBR titles on that sucker that I haven’t had the time to read. Having such an extensive selection, picked up at rock bottom prices—or for free—is another point for the “Wow, that’s cool” column.

Or is it?

One of the biggest changes brought about by the digital revolution is the explosion in self-publishing. As an author, I’m thrilled for the many talented writers out there who can now bypass the time-consuming and seemingly arbitrary submission process common to traditional publishing houses. As for the avid reader in me, a million new books hitting the digital shelves each week is a giddy reality.

Available at the
bargain basement price
 of $.99 

On the flip side of that reality is the “Well, that sucks” column. What’s the old saying? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should? Let’s face it, in today’s market, anyone can self-publish. And before you freak out, I’m not saying anyone who self-pubs writes crap. Believe me, I’ve read some total crap that came from the Big 5 and, in full disclosure, my first foray into the publishing world was an Indie project, my breast cancer memoire, Where Would You Like Your Nipple? available at Amazon. (Ahem. Shameless plug.)

All I’m saying is, like the title I deleted off my Kindle last night after a single page—the impetus for this post—quite a few of the books that hit the market each day should never see the light of a tablet screen. Seriously, knowing how to use a computer keyboard doesn’t make you a storyteller. Which, I’m thinking is a strong justification for the existence of seasoned acquisitions departments in all those publishing houses who insisted on setting the rules for so long.

But who am I to toss ice water on someone else’s dream? If there is a story inside you that needs to be told, by all means, go for it. Just, please, understand there are some very important benefits to your manuscript spending some quality time in the hands of a hard-nosed editor. Do yourself and the reading public a favor. Find one.

Bottom line, whether you’re an old hand in this industry or a wide-eyed newbie, choosing between seeking out a publisher or becoming your own is a complicated decision filled with countless variables unique to each situation. No matter which road you choose, there will be pitfalls.
(Ask me about the cover I recently received for the next and final book in my Players series. No, wait. Don’t ask. I’ll start crying again.)

Because my publisher is awesome, they are rectifying the cover situation, but that kind of cooperation isn’t always a reality when dealing with a publishing house. On the other hand, going Indie and having to handle absolutely everything, including formatting, marketing, and promotion, has its drawbacks as well.

I’ve experienced both, and for complicated reasons, I’m ramping up to jump back into the self-pub market with a fantasy romance series I hope to release beginning this fall. I’ll be taking my own advice, of course. There will be multiple editors involved before anything goes to print, because I would hate knowing someone had tossed their Kindle at the wall because of me.

When Mac isn’t throwing her Kindle at the wall, she spends her time weaving HEAs for her characters, like the latest in her Players series, Wyatt and Piper from TO WIN HER SMILE, now available for preorder via KensingtonBooks

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book releases never get old

I had a book release last week (info about the book later). This is my 29th book still in print, and my 30th overall (I have one that had the rights revert to me but I haven't re-released it yet).

I always grumble about the "work" around a release -- getting my Amazon page updated, my Goodread page updated, posting blurbs here and there, getting buy links ready. But it's still a lot of fun, too. It was in June, 10 years ago (gasp!) that my first book came out. I have 4 books out that year and it's been a whirlwind since then. Publishers have come and gone (and some remained), books got new covers, and I'm still plugging away.

My latest series is the Remembered Classics, where I take a tale we know (like my previous book, Dogged, which took The Hound of the Baskervilles) and sets in a contemporary setting, using the characters not quite the way they were originally fashioned. It's great fun to try to twist a tale to match a murder and figure out who's who.

So here's to #29: Laked, my King Arthur in Minnesota story, about a woman (Vivian) who lives on a lake (but she's terrified of water) and Arthur, who's looking for a sword that Vivian has.

Amazon buy link

Who's who in Laked

And here's the blurb and other buying options


Monday, April 24, 2017

At a Certain Age by Brenda Whiteside

A couple of days ago, I noticed how certain areas on my body felt particularly droopy. I thought "hmmm, maybe my skin is just dry" or "maybe I need to stand on my head". Physically, aging kind of crept up on me. I knew I was getting older--I've been fighting it for years--but at some point a truce has to be called.

I saw Ann Margaret in a movie last week. She's in her 70s, and I thought she looked awful, not because of her age, but because she's trying to not age. The facial surgery was obvious. Most of us hate wrinkles, but the alternative (if you have the money) sure doesn't seem like a good alternative.

There is a quote that I thought one actress was known for, but when I looked it up, several actresses have been credited in one form or another: At a certain age, a woman has to choose between her face and her ass.

I have to think the quote was before plastic surgery became so popular.

I went looking for other quotes along the same line. The following are noteworthy:

There comes a time in a every woman's life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne...Betty Davis (Love it, I think I'll start keeping a bottle around.)

Look at that! Look how she moves! That's just like Jell-O on, Some Like It Hot (This one is very old and shows how men used to view a nice shape. The perfect woman now is slim and muscled. Marilyn Monroe was anything but.)

I identify more with who I feel myself to be than what I look like...Carrie Fisher (This is one I'd like to subscribe to.)

Now I'm off to do a few sit ups and stand on my head!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Retreat From Harsh Reality, Re-visited by Margo Hoornstra

As you read this, I’m fully immersed in all things writing related, and have been since early Friday. Later this afternoon, I’ll arrive home revitalized and inspired fresh off the Retreat From Harsh Reality week-end put on by my own Romance Writers of America® Chapter, Mid-Michigan.

A complete week-end devoted to our craft, or profession if one is so inclined. To talk, listen, learn, try, work, share, brainstorm, implement, test, use, figure, discard, re-group. Even vent if need be.

We all need a Retreat From Harsh Reality now and then. Thirty some years ago, Leila Davis, a fellow member in MMRWA uttered those very words to me. I happened to be President of the chapter at that time, as I am again this year.

A few months later, our chapter had one scheduled. Our first Retreat From Harsh Reality was a bring your own sheets, blankets and towels, pack your own food or call for pizza delivery affair held in one of the vacant for the summer dormitories at a nearby university.

Over the years, the get together evolved to become more formalized. A block of hotel rooms with all the amenities was rented, meals were provided on site. Speakers were brought in to make presentations all day Saturday and half the day Sunday. The time to simply immerse ourselves in all things writing such as working on our own manuscripts, brainstorming plots and events, critiquing ours and others’ works in progress, somehow went by the wayside.

We became so focused on filling the allotted time with activities at the event itself, we lost sight of its original purpose. Finally, a few years ago, we came to realize what had happened and, thankfully, took corrective measures.

We still have a speaker, but on a limited basis here and there for only a few hours total all week end. The rest of the time is devoted to writing. No talking please quiet rooms are available for personal writing time and nothing else. Other areas are set up for get togethers to share.

A complete week-end devoted to our craft, or profession if one is so inclined. To talk, listen, learn, try, work, share, brainstorm, implement, test, use, figure, discard, re-group. Even vent if need be.

So what about you? Any Retreats, Conferences, Get Togethers in your future? Maybe next year you can come to ours.

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and the stories I write, please visit my website

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Honoring a friend ~ by Leah St. James

As I write this, I am in a hotel room in Central New Jersey. I drove up from Virginia this morning with Son No. 2 (the younger son, designated “No. 2" for his birth order only!) and my sister. We’re attending a memorial service for a dear friend, a woman who died earlier this year.

I met Betsy when I was in my late teens. She worked with my sister, and as the two grew close, I was drawn into their circle. She was quite a bit older than the two of us so took on a quasi-motherly role with us over time, someone I could turn to for (often brutally honest) advice. No matter the topic, I always walked away from those conversations feeling comforted, and loved.
When my kids were born, Betsy became their honorary grandmother. She attended their “Grandparent Day” events at school and joined us for all our family birthday parties, graduations and other celebrations. She filled a void that circumstances had left in their lives and became their treasured confidante. 

As my kids grew and went off to college, and my husband and I moved to a different state, our contact became more and more rare. But the times we spoke on the phone or got to visit were precious. As she entered her mid-90s, and I knew life was becoming difficult for her, I told myself to prepare for the day she’d be gone. I also knew I’d never really be prepared.

Later today we’ll gather with her daughter and son, her grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other loved ones to say good-bye and to celebrate her wonderful life. I want to get up and speak, to share how special she has been to us, but I’m not a speaker and am not sure I’ll be able to.

So for now, I honor her with these words. I honor her with the knowledge that if I make even half the impact on the people in my life as she did in hers, I’ll consider myself to have done well.

Rest in peace, Betsy. You live in my heart now and in the hearts of all those you touched, and you left us all better for having known and loved you.


Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the power of love. She blogs here the 6th and 22nd of the month, and tries to post tidbits of life on her Facebook page. She loves visitors!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Do you know the 5W tool? by Barbara Edwards

Do you know the 5W tool? by Barbara Edwards

At a recent meeting of Charter Oak Romance writers, we were discussing the difference between experienced writers and the newly minted.  
I mentioned that going over the basics is always useful and a short session we’re planning to add to our meeting.
How about the old 5W?
I was taught this simple tool in elementary school by a wonderful teacher named Hazel Robinson. 
The five Ws are Who, What, Where, When, Why.
These are basic questions to ask about every written article. The example my teacher used was the newspaper. The this day I ask if the article answers the five questions. Recently many news reports lack the When.
To use it for my work is pretty easy.
Who? the hero and Heroine.
What? the basic situation that draws them together.
Where? the local of the story.
When? today, last week, Medieval, Regency, whatever.
Why? This gets tricky. It involves the conflict, background, the characters goals.
The nicest plus is that it makes writing a synopsis easier.

Using an old tool makes my work better.
Do you have a method you use to keep your writing focused? Please share.

Check out Another Love, a historical romance 
Amazon Link:

Some promises are made to be broken.
Caught in a web of political intrigue, graft and threats to a beloved child, Meg Warren and Drew Larkin hunt the men threatening the downfall of President Cleveland and the economic fabric of America. From a poor farm to the ostentatious world of New York’s elite, they sift lies, discover trust and an attraction they cannot resist. The last thing they expect to find is a love worth more than gold.
"Quote." – Pat Potter, award winning author calls Another Love…“A real page turner with wonderful characters and a unique plot. You can’t miss with this one.”

Review from Romantic Times Magazine **** 1/2 (four and one-half stars)

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