Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving, End of the Year, and Short Stories

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. With all the recent violence in the world, I was especially reminded to be thankful that my family is safe, that our little corner of the universe was spared the tragedies others are experiencing. The president of my writers’ group (Mid-Michigan RWA) encouraged us to write ten things we’re grateful for this year. This great exercise made me stop the frenzy of getting ready for company and planning a big dinner. Among things like our families, most of us wrote about the friends we’ve made in the writing community. I’m especially grateful for my wonderful online friends, like the Roses who welcomed me into their fold three years ago. Thank you, ladies. I’ve enjoyed getting to know and thank you all for your encouragement and support.

This post marks my last “official” post of the year. (More on that below.) So I’ll wish you all Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. We started out 2015 writing on themes. At first, that seemed to give us direction. But then our posts became almost too similar. I’m so glad we returned to “free range” topics. I’ve been surprised (and pleased) at the topics I’ve written about that elicited a strong response. I’m sure the other Roses have had that experience, too. Sometimes, we inadvertently strike a chord that resonates within the readers. What a great feeling.

Back to the reason this is my last post of the year. Starting tomorrow, the Roses bring a special gift to our readers. Our annual collection of free short stories, Ringing in the Holidays. As in the past, all our stories begin with the same first line: A ringing phone at two in the morning never brought good news. The talented Alison Henderson designed the cover. Isn’t it great?

By luck of the draw, I was given the privilege of kicking off this year’s collection. So come back tomorrow for part one of “The Christmas Jailbirds.”

Diane Burton writes romantic adventure . . . stories that take place on Earth and beyond. She blogs here on the 8th and 30th of each month and on Mondays on her own site:

Saturday, November 28, 2015

FREE Kindle Ebook on Plotting – Nov 27 through Nov 29

For a limited time, my book on plotting is FREE through Amazon Kindle:

FIND THE MAGIC – How to Plot a Story in 10 Easy Steps  

Friday, November 27th through Sunday, November 29th

PLUS, my suspense novel used for examples in the book, WITHOUT MERCY, is on sale for $2.99 (free with Kindle Unlimited)

Click here to get your FREE kindle copy of Find the Magic:

Click here to purchase Without Mercy for $2.99:

Comments from reviews for Find the Magic:

“This book is exactly what I had been looking for. I am finally able to organize my 60,000 word novel, structure it, work out the theme and basically be able to finish it after putting it off for 2 years.”
Includes some show and tell examples for clear understanding of the concepts presented. Will be one of my go-to reference books.
“Excellent book. Simple, understandable guidelines that even I can follow.”
“This is the best guideline I've ever seen on how to get started with writing a novel.
“Find the Magic will help you get that book written, and Alicia Dean is a master at explaining and encouraging from page one ... all the way to the end.”
“I would recommend this book to anyone who is seriously pursuing a publishing career in fiction.”

“Her examples are excellent and I especially liked her 'Extra Nuggets' at the end of each chapter. Whether you're beginner or advanced, this little book is a gem.”

Friday, November 27, 2015

Situational Awareness by Betsy Ashton

I learned to be aware of my surroundings when I was really little. I was clumsy, so I learned to watch where I put my feet. I played that old game, "step on a crack, break your mother's back." I avoided cracks as much as I could. I tripped on the stairs, more going up than going down. I held railings all the time to be sure I didn't slip off a step and fall or sprain an ankle.

When I was old enough to have a driver's license, I never pulled into traffic without looking right, then left, then right again. Rear view and side mirrors gave me nearly 360-degree awareness. Except for the blind spots. For them, I had to glance over my shoulders.

Long before I began to write seriously, I used this situational awareness to eavesdrop on conversations. I can't tell you how many great lines, how many wonderful images, I picked up over time. Like the time I was sitting outside Wolf Trap waiting for my gal friend and her mother. We had seats for "Rent," a musical I couldn't wait to see. Walking toward me like he owned the world was the cutest guy. Tall, erect posture, GQ styling, polished shoes, and the biggest Big Gulp I'd ever seen. That 32-ounce cup of soda killed any interest I might have had to flirt.

Or the time I was eating breakfast in a hotel where a scientific conference was going on. Tables were at a premium, so strangers shared. Two men joined me. One had a noticeable accent, Scandinavian something or German, I thought. The other was pure Bahston. Doc Bahston asked Doc Scandinavian where he was from. Oslo. Aw, Doc Scandinavian was Doc Oslo. Got that. More get-acquainted conversation continued. Doc Bahston asked Doc Oslo where he was teaching. Doc Oslo said, "I was tired of the cold in Norway, so I took a job teaching at the University of Buffalo." As in Buffalo, NY, one of the coldest cities in the state. I wanted to ask him how getting away from the cold was working out for him.

I'll probably use both of those images in stories at some time. I'm not calling dibs, so if you want to add Mr. GQ and Doc "I don't like the cold" before I do, feel free. I don't even want royalties.

The more I write, the more I am aware of what's going on around me. What I don't get, in this era of bad guys who want to do harm, why so few have the same situational awareness as I do. Sit on a bench in any city with a lot of foot traffic. (That would probably rule out Los Angeles, unless you're in Santa Monica.) How many people look around, listen or pay attention to anything? Not many.

Too many people walk with heads down, thumbs flying over smartphone keyboards, ear buds drowning out footsteps coming up behind. People are too interested in cute kitty videos, or sharing the latest thought with their cadre of friends or pumping music directly into their brains. Is it any wonder when something happens requiring an accurate eyewitness account, most aren't capable?

Peeps, put those cellphone in your pocket. Listen to what's going on around you. Watch how people move. Who knows. You might overhear a snippet of conversation that you can't forget, that you must write down or you'll just bust. Don't miss the opportunity. Become aware of your surroundings. If you don't, I'm likely to find you, exploit some tic or quirk you'd rather I not notice and stuff you in a novel. For your sake, I hope I find something positive rather than some than silly thing you don't think I'd notice. Believe me. I notice. So be wary. Be very wary.


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

This day

Take a deep breath and just be thankful.

I, at least, think about this a lot. I'm in a country where I am safe (mostly). I am free to choose my own career. I didn't have to be worried that I would be married off to someone. I had a childhood free from anxiety or fear or pain. I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and spending money. I have clothing, free time, and choices.

Read any news story about refugees and war, and just stop for a minute and compare.

Just be thankful.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Roses and Readers, please welcome Sharon Struth. Read on and be entered to win in her drawing.
The whistle-like shriek of my eight-year-old daughter’s recorder traveled throughout our house.

I stuck my head inside her bedroom, where she stood ready to blow out another note. “Will you be playing that for long?”

She nodded. “Mr. Arcano said to practice.”

“Oh. Okay.” Up until that afternoon, I’d never heard of a recorder. The woodwind instrument, popular during medieval times, is now used because it’s easy to teach.

Later that day, the so-called music suddenly stopped. My daughter walked into the kitchen where I fixed dinner, her sour expression a sure sign of a problem.

“What’s the matter?”

“This thing is hard.” She plunked the recorder on the table and wiped away a tear. “I don’t want to play it any more.”

“Honey.” I took her little hands in mine. “Learning how to do things well isn’t always easy. Do you think musicians just pick up an instrument and play perfectly? Or painters paint without trial and error? Of course not! Getting good takes hard work. Listening to feedback. Learning from our mistakes. And above all practice.”

So she did…

For several weeks, if she wasn’t eating, sleeping, or doing homework, that recorder was stuck between her lips. But then a funny thing happened….

She turned into a darn good recorder player!

It’s so easy to dispense advice to the little ones, isn’t it? But when it comes to us grownups, we usually want things fast and failure isn’t an option.

But an article I recently read showed proof that failure is part of learning, in fact better quality resulted when people were allowed to fail.

When I made a mid-life career change and pursued work as a writer, the words I once preached to my daughter returned.  I wrote, wrote, and wrote. Then I’d submitted to anyone who’d have me. Guess what? I got many rejections from agents and editors. Contest critiques left me shattered.

Trust me, I wanted to go “wah-wah,” and even did at times But after a brief pout, I accepted my failure and listened to the advice. I kept at it.

I wanted a novel I was proud of, so I pushed aside my first book after more rejections by the pros and didn’t rush to self-publish. Instead, I started a second book, one that turned out even better and found a publishing home. I’m glad I left that first novel behind, because I realized later it really wasn’t good enough.

In other words, without failure, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today.

How do you feel about failure? Does it inspire you to get back up and keep going?

Sharon Struth writes books about life, love & a little bit more. Her work can be found at

COMMENT BELOW and be entered into a drawing for an e-copy of her latest release, Twelve Nights, A Blue Moon Lake Christmas Novella.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thankfully Charmed (in spite of my husband's opinion)

This time of year, people want to know for what are you thankful. The first thing that pops into my head is family. Although my maternal and paternal grandparents had rather large families, seven children on both sides, my immediately family is small. I am one of three children and each of us had one son. We’re small and close.

I tell my husband, we live a charmed life. He shakes his head; but honestly, I think we do. Not that we haven’t had our share of heartache, loss of loved ones, sickness, and financial woes. Cancer has taken parents from us. A couple of us live with conditions that flare and make daily life tough. We've known addiction and loneliness, too. The economy and bad decisions have caused some mighty lean times on both sides of our family. 

But we hang together, take comfort in each other, and come through with laughter. Laughter is a big component in our family. We laugh easily. I remember going to a Woody Allen movie years ago and the only people laughing throughout were my brother, sister and me. My mom, sister and I have taken a few road trips together. We can get lost on a Los Angeles freeway and laugh our heads off.

Each member of my family has been an inspiration for a character in my books...and not in the mushy, inspirational kind of way. My mom and dad are found in Post-War Dreams. My sister is the fun heroine in Sleeping with the Lights On. My brother has his part in the book I'm currently writing, The Power of Love and Murder. Some of my son's characteristics are found in the hero in The Art of Love and Murder. I guess I'm glad I have some real characters in my family!

My husband and I have recently ended another chapter of our life and as we begin the next, as of yet unknown, I know that no matter what life deals us, our charmed existence and loving family will be along for the ride. 

For what are you thankful?

Although she didn’t start out to write romantic suspense, Brenda has found all good stories involve complicated human relationships. She’s also found no matter a person’s age, a new discovery is right around every corner. Whether humorous or serious, straight contemporary or suspense, all her books revolve around those two facts.

Visit Brenda at
She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at
She blogs about writing and prairie life at