It’s All About the Readers

Without readers, there would be little use for writers. As a way of connecting to readers and getting to know new friends, I’m opening Thursdays up for people who love to read, and love to talk about it. Feel free to use the CONTACT ME tab above to write me if you’d like to be a guest on my blog to talk about reading. In the meantime, meet the first reader to guest on my blog, Sue Galuski.

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The Men of Orson’s Folly-Sean

We first met Sean as the baby brother in Lifeline Echoes, when he welcomed Ryan home:

The skinny boy’s frame had become lean and muscular. Glow-in-the dark blond hair had toned down some but Ryan noticed it still had a tendency to curl at the ends even though his brother kept it cut short. Sean had been thirteen when Ryan left. He’d grown into a man Ryan scarcely recognized.

Sean’s tension visibly drained. His smile started slowly, in his eyes first, then spread to his mouth, where it bloomed into a full grin.

“Ry!” In two long-legged strides, Sean was in front of him. “Oh man, it’s good to see you!”

In a move too sudden for Ryan to dodge, Sean folded him into a bear hug and lifted him off his feet, his carefree laughter driving out the last vestiges of Ryan’s uncertainty.

…showed his brother up:

“Lost your touch with horses there, big brother?”

Ryan spun around. Sean leaned indolently in the doorway.

“Horses? No.” Ry shook his head. “I can still handle a horse. That?” He jerked a thumb at the stall behind him. “Is not a horse. That is a demonic replica of a horse.”

Sean pushed off the doorjamb and sauntered toward his brother. Inside the stall, the agitated snorts of the big roan continued but the kicking had stopped.

“Domingo? This guy’s a sweetheart. You just gotta speak his language.” He held up an apple.

“You mean you have to bribe him,” Ryan said flatly.

Sean smiled and held out his free hand for the lead rein.

Ryan stood well back when Sean eased open the stall door and stepped inside, apple first. When the horse took the apple, Sean clipped the lead to the halter.

…took his brother out on the town:

Ryan took a second look at the other girl. “Whoa! Is that little Melanie Mitchell?” he asked his brother.

Sean nodded, an eager grin splitting his face. So that’s the way it rolled.

Ryan whistled appreciatively. “She sure grew up well.” The poke in the ribs went a long way toward making him feel like a big brother again.

…told his brother the hard truth:

Ryan winced. “I didn’t think Dad ever understood any of it. I figured he’d have tried to stop us so I never gave him the opportunity, never told him much.”

Violence born from sixteen years of hurt and loneliness guided Sean’s punch into the wooden beam, so close Ryan felt the whoosh of air passing. Sean’s green eyes registered satisfaction when Ryan flinched away from the blow next to his head.

“You don’t give Dad enough credit,” Sean grated.

…had his brother’s back:

He was propelled on waves of obvious aggression, his obedient wife trotting in his wake, as though on a short leash. Sean stepped into Brody’s path, but the old man brushed him off, his eyes never leaving Ryan.

Sandy bit her lip. Brody MacKay had always made her a bit uneasy. Seeing him now, with obvious malevolent intent on his features, her sense of uneasiness increased tenfold. Somewhere in his fifties, he was a formidable antagonist, as big as his son but with a coldness that never failed to chill Sandy to her core.

Ryan made a barely perceptible hand motion, warning Sean to stay out of it. The younger McGee stepped back, but he didn’t go far. He had his brother’s back.

…and gave his brother support:

A Styrofoam cup of something hot was pressed into his hand. Ryan looked down at the coffee then up to Sean’s troubled face. His brother shoved a sandwich into his other hand.

“Mel and Charlie brought food.” Sean closed his hand over Ryan’s shoulder, giving a little shake. “You have to eat, Ry, just a couple of bites. You’re a liability if you’re running on empty.”

NOW…it’s Sean’s turn. Find out why frogs hold special meaning to him:

He didn’t think he’d ever be able to look at another frog anywhere without thinking of Melanie Mitchell’s underwear.

Why he’s talking about names:

When he noticed everyone was now eyeing him expectantly, he realized he’d have to say something. “Ah, um . . . well, I’ve always been partial to Grace.”

How he handles difficult topics of conversation:

“Are you and Mel doing it?” Embarrassment leaked like cherry-colored paint to stain the kid’s freckled face.

How he handles stress:

Her lips, so warm and welcoming, her body so soft and his for the taking. He’d never felt more alive than he did as he pinned her against the bar and lost himself in the passion that always hovered between them like an ion-charged storm, ready to erupt with thunder. She went limp in his arms with a moan as he claimed the affirmation of her life that he needed for his own to continue.

And why he’s about to make the biggest mistake of his life.

Elusive Echoes, Available Now, Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Lifeline Echoes, currently on sale for $1.99

The F-Bomb and other Manuscript Intrusions

I write mainly sweet romance and I enjoy doing so. I do, however, read a mixture of books at a variety of graphic levels. I ask of the books I read only that they make sense and that the elements included be present to show characterization or to move the story forward. When something is placed in a story simply because it’s a trend the writer appears to be cashing in on, it becomes obvious to me, and it detracts from the story. This is true in terms of sexual explicitness, graphic language, and even paranormal elements.

Characterizing a hero or heroine as a sailor-style cursing fiend doesn’t mean that you have to demonstrate every graphic curse in thought or dialogue. In fact, a few peppered words will leave a greater impact on the reader than if every page is filled with cursing. The F-bomb I’m referring to in this case isn’t the one you might be thinking of. It’s F-requency. If you use a word or type of word too frequently, the reader will begin to gloss over it and when you need it to increase the meaning or signal increased tension/danger/heat, you won’t have anything left. This holds true whether your character uses graphic cursing or fluffy words.

I’ve often seen questions from other writers – How much is too much ___ (insert topic)? They are looking for the easy formula. How far can they go in sexually explicit scenes? How much foul language can they include? All publishers have guidelines. These range from very strict to fairly lax. So the easy answer to these questions is know the publisher you’re aiming at.

On a personal level, however, in my capacity as a writer, crit partner, and editor (at one of the aforementioned less restrictive publishing houses), the best advice I can give a writer is to develop your writing skills so as not to rely too heavily on any one element in your craft. Learn how to show the rough side of your hero without having every other word out of his mouth be the F-bomb (the original meaning). Learn how to show the sensual side of your heroine without having her lose her clothing at every turn. Unless the story is completely about sex, sprinkling some sexual tension throughout the book is great but pages and pages of sexual encounter while the bad guys are out robbing banks does nothing for your story. When you do have a hot scene to include, the one that counts (that is, the one that shows the change in relationship between the hero and heroine) will have much greater impact if you haven’t written five of them previously in the same story.

And lest folks think I’m picking on the more graphic genres, anything can be overused. It doesn’t have to be those elements which lead a story to be classified as high heat or graphic language. Comedy can miss the mark when used too frequently. Convenient coincidence can be too convenient. Too much mystery can leave a reader with too much confusion.

Remember, the F-requency Bomb is not your friend. Overuse of any story element only creates boredom in the minds of your readers. Be creative in the way you show things, and always be on the lookout for the next trend YOU can set.

Happy writing, happy reading!

NEWS: Elusive Echoes will be released tomorrow. To celebrate, you will find Lifeline Echoes on sale for $1.99 on all sites. Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

If It’s Sunday, This Must Be Six (Sentences)

This week’s six is from Lifeline Echoes, Ryan and Sandy’s story.

Watch for Elusive Echoes, the story of Sean and Mel, to be released this Tuesday.

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Sandy swiveled in Ryan’s direction, saw his contented smile, the glint in his eyes. Her gaze lowered to his awkward seat in the saddle. “You weren’t watching the horses, were you?”

His smile widened and the green of his eyes darkened. He shrugged, sweeping his eyes downward, pausing occasionally to rest on her lips, her chest, her legs where they met the saddle. “I can’t imagine why I’d want to watch horses when I can look at you.”

Available at:  Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Return to Six Sentence Sunday.

It’s Friday!

 

Put on your best dress, baby….

 

 

And darlin’ fix your hair up right.

 

 

 

‘Cause there’s a party, honey…

Way down beneath the neon lights.

(~Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich)

So it’s Friday – what do you do on the last day of a typical work week in the summertime? Beach? Barbecue? Block party? Whether you enjoy a blowout bash with all your friends, an intimate dinner for two, or a private party with a good book, you’re on the right track to a longer life if you do something fun.

Recreation. Most people read this word and think of RVs and extreme sports. It’s generally accepted as any activity done for enjoyment while not working. In reality, recreation is the process of creating something again. In human terms, to participate in recreation is to renew – to re-create yourself.  Whether it’s extremely physical or a mental endeavor, the process of recreating is important to the process of living. Your body needs to do something different from the norm. Your mind needs time off from work issues and daily routines. . . you need times of enjoyment interspersed through the stresses of your life. So whatever you plan to do for fun this weekend…consider it a prescription for your good health. But remember to party safely!

 

What are your plans to recreate this weekend?

It’s Summer!

This is the time of year I typically pack up a camera or two, convince Camille to leave her chair, and head on into the mountains for some nature time. I like Flat Top, part of the Peaks of Otter along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The air up there is not at all heavy and humid, very fresh. The gnats that plague here in the city (sparking something not-so-affectionately called The Lynchburg Wave) do not make it up to the mountains. Butterflies do. Birds do (especially hawks).

 

The streams that bubble along up there lend a pleasant break to the hushed majesty of a mountain forest cathedral. There are places where you can look out over humanity without seeing boundary lines, without hearing angry discourse, without the blare of society’s existence. You can think up there, explore – sometimes without seeing another soul.

I love my trips up to Flat Top because I always return to my life refreshed and relaxed and ready for more of the curve balls that seem to approach more and more frequently and quickly these days. It’s a great experience, but don’t take MY word for it. Peaks of Otter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you do to recreate and refresh?

The Making of a Hero(ine)

I’m in the business of writing, so I’m constantly on the lookout for a new inspiring hero. I think this gives me a slightly different perspective on the meaning of the word.

What defines heroism in your personal dictionary? Is it the police officer who breaks down the door to save a child from death at the hands of a serial killer? Is it the firefighter who bursts through a wall of flame to save a bedridden elderly woman? Or the bystander who pulls the baby from a burning car just before the car explodes? A lot of people (me included) consider our military personnel to be heroes. I’m always surprised by the news interviews with people in the above situations, when the “heroes,” shrug and say, “I was just doing my job,” or “Anyone would have done it.”

Maybe your definition of hero is something more subtle. A teacher who puts in an exceptional effort to reach his or her students. A hospice nurse, who devotes her life to comforting the dying and their families. What about religious clergy? It’s not just about sermons–it’s also about community outreach and comforting the needy. A retiree or homemaker who volunteers for Meals on Wheels. A member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. Someone who donates a few moments of their time helping others learn to read. My mom used to donate a day a week working in my elementary school library, and a day a month as a room mother, helping the teacher to arrange class parties and other fun events.

I believe every one of us has the potential for heroism. We don’t need to rush into fires or rescue victims from would-be muggers. We all have skills we’ve developed over the years that we can share with others. Maybe we have a lawn mower, an extra Saturday morning, and an elderly neighbor. Or a car and a shut-in friend who needs something from the store. Maybe your neighborhood could use a little clean-up along the side of the road, or your local library needs someone to read to the children.

“The characteristic of genuine heroism is its persistency. All men have wandering impulses, fits and starts of generosity. But when you have resolved to be great, abide by yourself, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world. The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

How can you find your inner hero today?

Spring Into Summer – With a Sack Race!

For Joanne Tropello’s Summer Blog Hop giveaway, click HERE.  More chances to win with the Party ‘Til Your Heels Fly Off blog tour.

For Spring Into Summer Blog Hop and lots of chances to win, read on…

Summer is nearly here and we’re gonna have a sack race for reading!

The rules are simple. The race is 25 feet long. Comment on how far you think you’ll get before you fall on your hiney – pick a number from 1 to 25. The random number generator will see if you match it and if you do, you will will a free PDF copy of Lifeline Echoes. All commenters will be entered in a drawing for a PDF copy of my June release Elusive Echoes, hot off the press, from which two winners will be drawn.

Echoes in Orson’s Folly…

First, Ryan came home…

Voices form a powerful connection. The day the earth rocked LA, Sandy Wheaton became a voice lifeline over the radio for trapped firefighter, “Mick.” Less than twenty four hours later, she had fallen in love with him. Shattered when she learned that rescue came too late, she sought solace Wyoming, the home state he had loved. Now, seven years later, she’s made a life there as the owner of a popular local bar. But her wounds are still fresh, and she longs to let go of the past and her lost love so she can begin living again. That opportunity presents itself when the local prodigal son returns home. The attraction between them is instant. It feels like she’s known him far longer than just a few days.

Sixteen years ago, Ryan McGee left home in the midst of controversy. After living through a harrowing trauma, he finally returns home when his family needs his help through some troubling times. All he wants to do is make amends with those he hurt most and to get back to the life he’d never wanted to leave in the first place. When he meets the sexy bartender, he starts thinking in terms of forever. But there’s still someone out there he wants to find, someone who once believed in him and gave him hope.

Now it’s Sean’s turn to find love…

They’re two people caught between friendship and something more; they can’t move forward, and they can’t let go.

Drawn together from early childhood, Sean McGee and Melanie Mitchell seemed destined for each other. But at age thirteen, Melanie was wrenched from the people she loved and forced onto a path she loathed. Sean was no stranger to people leaving, but losing Melanie devastated him. When she suddenly reappeared in Orson’s Folly, Sean was overjoyed. The Melanie who came home, though, wasn’t the same girl. She’s got a harder edge and she’s obviously hiding something, but Sean no longer knows how to reach her.

Returning to Orson’s Folly as an adult, all Melanie wanted to do was forget the years she spent away. But she soon learned that going home didn’t mean she could return to her old life—or her childhood sweetheart, Sean. Even their mutual attraction to one another hasn’t rebuilt the bond of trust and closeness they once shared. It’s been seven years since she returned and now everything Melanie wants to forget has broadsided her. She must confront her demons and relive her past in an unexpected way or risk losing the only man she’s ever loved. But even if she succeeds, Sean might be lost to her anyway.

*Both are PG reads secondary to some mild violence. Also check out Heartsight and Matrimonial Mayhem (benefit anthology for storm relief in Alabama) – all available from:    Astraea Press     Amazon     Barnes & Noble


Don’t forget to tell me how far you think you’ll get in the 25-foot sack race!

Good Luck! Have a great summer filled with lots and lots of reading!

And please enjoy the rest of the Spring Into Summer Blog Hop!

Ryan McGee’s Despair

How about a glimpse into Ryan McGee’s worst nightmare?

He stood against the back of his brother’s truck, staring in the direction of the mountains where he knew Sandy waited, unable to communicate, perhaps trapped, likely injured. But it wasn’t the intimidating behemoths of rock he struggled in the dark to see.

It was her face he conjured.

Sandy’s face, with the chicory eyes flashing fire at him on a mountain road. Sandy, flirting with him at her bar, performing a sexy song and dance. Sandy looking over her shoulder with that half-smile, enticing him to follow her. With eyes darkened by passion when they kissed. Her face showing her vulnerability while she slept. Eyes that held compassion for a defenseless baby animal. Her face, streaked with soot and set with defiance. Her face lit by concern as she sat a vigil by his bed in the hospital. Then as he’d last seen her, eyes filled with hurt…….

Available now: Lifeline Echoes, from  Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble  (Author-rated PG for mild violence)

Coming soon Elusive Echoes – Their love has always been on simmer…will it survive when the heat is turned up?

Also available: