Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine memories by Sheila Claydon

At the end of my last post I promised to introduce you to Lady Sippington. Unfortunately she has proved to be a little shy and has begged me to keep her secret for a while longer. She will feature on the Books We Love blog eventually, however. Today, instead, I'll talk about something else and what better on 14 February than Valentine's Day because this year it is a very special day for me.

On 14 Feb 1965 my husband and I had our very first date, so Valentine's Day 2015 is the fiftieth anniversary of the first time we went out together. Now although I write contemporary romantic fiction I can't pretend that we are the most romantic couple. Valentine days have passed without us remembering. We've even managed to forget our wedding anniversary on more than one occasion, but I can still remember that first date as if it were yesterday.

I wore a Mary Quant little black dress (if you are as old as me you might remember her...very sixties) and a Mary Quant hairstyle of sharp bob and geometric fringe, and probably too much make-up. I really thought I was something. Fortunately my husband-to-be thought so too.  Also, somewhat shamefully, I was wearing a corsage of orchids that had been sent to me by someone else, but let's gloss over that.

My date, an older man by four years who actually owned a car, took me to a nightclub...my first. I don't suppose it was much more than a couple of smoke filled rooms and a bar that served little more than beer and soft drinks, but to me it felt like the most sophisticated date ever. I remember shuffling around a dance floor that was so crowded that actual dancing was impossible. Shortly before midnight, like Cinderella, it was time for him to take me home, but not before we enjoyed the ultimate in high cuisine...the bacon and egg sandwich with brown sauce which was the house speciality!

It didn't quite end there, however, because on the way home it started to snow. Of course we didn't think of the danger of driving in slippery conditions because at that age we were immortal, nor did we worry that the forty minute journey took almost two hours, but my mother did! She was waiting up for me and I can still 'see' the expression on her face when I opened the door. To say she was displeased is an understatement, especially as I was on a first date with someone she didn't know and he had delivered me home late.

Fortunately she wasn't someone to  hold a grudge and they eventually became firm friends. And in the words of Jane Eyre...reader...I married him...almost a year to the day after that first date. We have travelled a mile or two since then and are well past our sell by date now...but we still remember.

What about you?  What memories does Valentine's Day stir, and what about your first date with your partner? Do you still remember it?

Happy Valentine's Day.

First dates feature in quite a few of my books. You can find many of them at  http://bookswelove.net/# and all of them are available at http://amzn.to/ZSyLpf.  In Saving Katy Gray, Book 3 of my When Paths Meet trilogy, Katy's first date is not at all what she expected.


When it's time to say goodbye... by Sheila Claydon

At the end of my last post I promised to introduce you to Lady Sippington. Unfortunately she has proved to be a little shy and has begged me to keep her secret for a while longer. She will feature on the Books We Love blog eventually, however. In the meantime I'll carry on talking about Australia...well the tiny part of it that we are visiting...and the lessons I'm learning.

We have just returned from the small coastal village of Tea Gardens, a place delightfully and eccentrically named after a failed attempt by the Australian Agricultural Company to grow tea in the area. Situated on the Myall River, it is the southern gateway to the Great Lakes, and its waterfront meanders past sculptures and paintings by local artists, a war memorial that actually plays a tune, huge Norfolk pines, blue, blue water, and an eclectic mix of boats. It's a holiday area too, so thousands of visitors swell the small population of residents in the summer season, filling the restaurants and spending their dollars in the local shops.

We didn't go as tourists though. We went to visit friends who retired there a few years ago and, as is always the case with old friends, we picked up where we left off when we last saw them in 2010. Their lovely dog was the same. She came trotting up with her ball as if we'd only thrown it for her last week.

We did all the usual things you do with old friends: went out for a meal, raised our glasses in various toasts a number of times, talked about family and mutual friends, reminisced, and exchanged views about a whole lot of things. We also learned that they will be leaving Tea Gardens next year and moving into an apartment in a busy town about a hour's drive away. Age and illness are driving their decision and when they first told us we thought they would be sad.  Far from it. They are both excited about the prospect of planning a new home, replacing worn furniture, and leaving behind a garden that is becoming too big for them. They are looking forward to living close to shops, theatres, cinemas, a hospital, and the clinics they will need as their health deteriorates. Their attitude was inspiring and one I hope I can emulate if I ever have to do something similar.

I'm always intrigued by how differently people react to difficult life situations. Some are overwhelmed, others, like our friends, amazingly positive. Only by looking at what has shaped people's lives can we know why they react in the way they do. Our friends have lived  in many different countries during their time together, rarely staying in a house or apartment for more than five or six years, so their hearts are not entwined with their home. What about others though? What about people who have lived in their house for forty years, nurtured their garden with love, decorated every room, seen their children grow up, buried pets, grown old together...how do they move forward? It must be one of the most difficult decisions anyone has to make.

Knowing when to make it is also crucial. We have friends who have left it too late and who rattle around in a home that is far too big for them, fretting about the garden and the housework, but not able to gather the energy to make such a major move. We have others who moved too soon and who feel constrained by their new, smaller home and the fact that they no longer have a garden, and sometimes resentful of each other for making the decision. Then, of course, there are those who have lost their life partner and have to make such a decision alone. I don't know whether that makes it more or less difficult. Only someone who has had to face it knows the answer to that.

I was still ruminating on why and how people respond as they do and wondering if I would ever write about it when I remembered that I already have, in Saving Katy Gray, Book 3 of my When Paths Meet trilogy. Although it's a romance, there are important secondary characters in the book who have to make just this choice. I hope I got it right for them. This and many of my other books can be found at http://bookswelove.net/authors/sheila-claydon/



Friday, February 13, 2015

A Capital Offense by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey


 
I wrote this short story many years ago. It has been published twice, once in a magazine in the US and once in a magazine here on Vancouver Island. The second time it won First Prize in the Flash Fiction Category. Last year I adapted it as a stage play and presented it in the Port Alberni Fringe.
 
 
A Capital Offense

 
I was dusting the living room one evening when Byron stomped down the hall, his housecoat flapping behind. I wrinkled my nose at the smell of beer and body odor as he neared.
     “I printed this off for you,” he yelled, throwing a piece of paper at me.
     I cringed. He never talked to me in a decent voice anymore. I hadn’t liked the changes in my husband while he’d struggled to become a published writer and I certainly didn’t like the person he’d become since getting his book contract.
     He’d quit his job because, “I have to finish my manuscript. I can’t continue to work and write, too.”


     I’d had to take a second, part time job to make ends meet.
     Byron had been using our kitchen table for his writing room but once the contract was signed he claimed the guest bedroom as his. “I need a room of my own where I can have some privacy,” he’d stated. “If I want to work into the night, I can lie down when I’m tired and not be disturbed.

     At first he seemed to be doing a lot of work but then one day I answered the phone and it was Mr. Higgins, Byron's agent. He wanted to speak with Bryon. I knocked on Byron's door and opened it. Byron immediately began yelling. "Would you quit interrupting me. Haven’t I told you not to bother me when I am working. I lose my train of thought."

     I handed him the phone. "Your agent wants to talk with you."

     Byron glared at me and grabbed the phone. He took a deep breath then said pleasantly. "Hello Mr. Higgins."

     He listened and I could see his face turning red. "Yes, Mr. Higgins. I know I am late with some chapters. I will get them to you by the end of the week."

     When Byron hung up he said to me. "From now on, when you have something to say to me, you write it on a piece of paper and slide it under the door. I don’t have time for interruptions." He threw the phone and me and slammed the door.

     Since then, there were many times I wished he’d never gotten that contract and, even some, when I wished I’d never married him.
     Now he glared at me as he said. “I want you to come into my office now and email your sister back.”
     I smoothed the paper and read. `Hi Sis. I thought we could go back to emailing. It’s quicker than a letter and I’m sure Byron won’t mind if we do it two or three times a week.’
     Rosemary lived across the country and we’d kept in touch by e-mail until The Contract when I was banned from Byron’s office. Neither one of us could afford the long distance charges so phoning was out of the question. I had to give up my cell phone so we tried writing letters but they were time consuming and not as immediate as email.
     Now in his office empty beer cans, plates with leftover food, and full ashtrays were everywhere and it smelled as bad as he did. On the floor I saw the many notes with messages from his agent that I’d pushed under the door. Obviously, he didn’t read them.
     “What do you want me to say?” I asked.
     “What do you think? Tell her not to send another email.”
     In my agitation, I hit the Caps Lock key, starting to type in capital letters.
     “Capital letters means you’re shouting, Dummy,” Byron laughed harshly.
     I finished and left the room in tears.
     I was tired and hungry and decided to make something quick and easy for supper. As I put the lid on the macaroni, Byron entered the kitchen and yanked open the refrigerator door. “Is that all the beer?
     “I guess so.”
     “Is it too much to ask that there be beer in the fridge?” He grabbed a can and opened it.
     “I bought a dozen yesterday.”
     “Are you saying I drink too much?”
     Byron had claimed other writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler drank while writing and it made them more productive. From the number of phone calls from his agent about late chapters, I guessed it wasn’t working for him.
     “What’s for dinner?” He lifted the lid from the pot.
     “Macaroni and beans.” I answered.
     “Geeze.” He slammed down the lid. “Can’t you fix anything decent?”
     “I worked all day.”
     “Are you insinuating I didn’t?”
     I sighed and wished, again, that I’d never married him.
     The next evening I put oil on to heat for French fries then went to have a quick shower. It felt so good I spent more time than I’d intended. When I got out, I could smell smoke. I donned my housecoat and hurried to the kitchen. The oil had caught fire and it had spread to the cupboards and curtains. The living room and hallway were filling with smoke.
     I coughed as I warned Byron, then rushed next door to call the fire department. I returned but Byron was not in the yard. When the trucks arrived, I hurried over.
     “My husband’s still in there,” I cried.
     The firemen tried entering the house but were driven back by the heat and smoke.
     An hour later the fire was out and an ambulance had taken Byron’s body away.
     “I set the oil on the burner and went for a shower,” I explained to the police officer who was questioning me. “When I came out there was smoke everywhere.”
     “Then what did you do?” she asked.
     “I ran next door to call the fire department.” I dabbed my eyes.
     “Did you notify your husband?”
     “Oh, yes. I shouted at him,” I said, thinking of the word FIRE I’d printed three times in capital letters on a piece of paper and shoved under his door.





Gold Fever


 

Books of The Travelling Detective Series boxed set:
Illegally Dead

The Only Shadow In The House

Whistler's Murder






Thursday, February 12, 2015

LET YOUR CHARACTERS LIVE THROUGH YOU BY RITA KARNOPP

To create exciting strong scenes – make sure they vary from quiet to loud.  Lackluster to exciting.  Emotional to in-control.  Highs to lows.  Happy to sad.  Yet, they all must fit together like pieces of a puzzle.  Everything should snap into place and fit – nothing should stick out at odd angles.  Every part of the story should contribute and move the story forward, making it complete.

I don’t know about you, but I like to put myself in my character’s body, living the scene with his/her baggage, experience, flaws, and attributes.  Do the situations or challenges feel ‘real’?  What doesn’t feel believable?  You will know what needs changing by running your scenes through your mind like a movie – you are the character – living, breathing, and experiencing each scene you’ve created. 

You’ll find yourself rewriting - adding spontaneity from the character you’ve become.  You’ll make changes that transition the story better.  Step-by-step, you’ll feel, hear, touch, taste, and see yourself in the scenes of your character.  Do you believe them?  Did you miss any of the senses?  Add them in and you’ll be surprised how this will improve your story. 

If a scene feels confusing or uncomfortable – fix them.  Never leave them in hopes the reader won’t notice – believe me, they will.  Add deep internal emotion and allow your characters to have flaws that hinder their goals . . . making them realize they must change to have what they need or want by the end of the book.

You should laugh, cry, and get angry if that’s what the character experiences.  If the words don’t evoke this . . . rewrite . . . rewrite . . . and rewrite until you find yourself crying . . . laughing . . . and ticked with the world if need be.  If you don’t feel it when you write it – the reader won’t feel it when they read it.  It’s as simple as that.


Grab your reader right from the beginning . . . and don’t let go until you type ‘the end.’  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Getting the Last Word by Karla Stover


“Romeo’s a rage-a-holic, which means he’s often pissed off, unlike the vast majority of us gliding along devil-may-care.”

                                                              Andy Sipowicz, NYPD Blue

I have been accused of being caustic and I admit to it. Sarcasm and cynicism—what I refer to as realism—make me laugh. Ambrose Bierce, Andy Rooney, and the fictional, Andy Sipowicz are my heroes. But it’s more than being caustic; it’s also about the clever words, what the French call bon mots.

I went to see The Imitation Game with a friend last week. When the previews came on, she turned to me and said, “Did you ever wonder why movie trailers are called previews?” which I thought was pretty funny. I almost never have a clever comment when I need it—but I did have two, back when I was working, and I savor them to this day.

For quite a few years, one of my bosses read children’s Encyclopedias. He wanted to learn something about as many things as he could and, because he knew I was a non-fiction reader, he would quiz me. For example: every March 15th he would stop at my desk on his way to his office and say, “The ides of March are come.” And it was my job to remember the response: “Ay, Caesar, but not gone.” Or, on April 1st it was, “April is the cruelest month,” to which the second line is, “Breeding lilacs out of the dead land.” Then he hit the American history portion of his reading and one day said to me, “Karla, what is the largest piece of land the United States ever acquired and who was the president?”

Yikes!

So I thought about the Louisiana Purchase and Alaska and then, for some unknown reason and from unfamiliar part of my brain, I came up with, “The swath of land that includes New Mexico, and Polk was the president.” And I was right. It blew both of us away. Who even thinks about James Polk? He’s like Martin Van Buren—largely forgotten. But I was in my glory until July 14th when, alas, I forgot it was Bastille Day and couldn’t remember the response to: “The secret of freedom lies in educating people.”

The next time was at a Christmas luncheon for the bookkeeping staff. My brother had been studying engineering and at breakfast one day told Mom and me that the word, LASER is an acronym like SNAFU. There were about a dozen of us at the luncheon, sitting around a lovely table at the Country Club and for whatever reason my boss mentioned laser beams, whereupon I said, “Oh, do you mean light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation?” (LASER). People mumbled and wouldn’t look me in the eye and at that moment my reputation for not being one of them was firmly cemented.

While not quite bon mots, these were my days in the sun as far as wowing people with my remarks went—two in a life time. Perhaps, that’s why I write, so I can give my characters the final word.


 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Missing You by Cheryl Wright

You may already be aware I make greeting cards as a hobby.

You may also know I make and donate cards to some community groups. One of those groups is Combat Cards Victoria, which is similar in nature to Operation Write Home (OWH).

Community members make cards that are then sent to our military personnel overseas, which are then used by individual military members to send back to their families. It's a very small way of saying thank you to our troops, and helps them keep in touch with those who mean a lot to them.

I make a variety of cards to send, but particularly birthday: kids, female, and male. I have recently begun making "Miss You" cards, which are very popular, and much sought after.

I recently bought a new embossing folder from Stampin' Up! which fits perfectly for this line of cards.  (It's a brand-new folder, and totally gorgeous!)






This was an extremely quick and easy card to make, but I believe, very effective. (The individual heart was cut from a strip of discarded hearts.)

I will be making a variety of these cards to send, because I know how much they will mean to the recipients.

In addition to the above solid colour card, I tried the 'shaving cream' technique for the first time ever, and made the following card using the results. (If you would like to learn more about this technique, go here.)


Thanks for looking!

Til next time,
















Links:

My website:  www.cheryl-wright.com 
Blog:  www.cheryl-wright.com/blog
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/cherylwrightauthor

Sunday, February 8, 2015

New Releases From Tricia McGill, Ronald Ady Crouch and Books We Love

http://amzn.com/B00T2GNKIW
A Dream For Lani
Beneath Southern Skies, Book 2
By Tricia McGill


Cosseted all her life, Lani Moore inherits a fortune, but yearns for a loving family. The chance to grab that arrives when two youngsters talk her into taking a flat in their house. Their father, Ryan, is enchanted by the air of intriguing melancholy about his new tenant. Will Lani’s lonely heart find the love she wants above all else?


Previously published as A Lonely Heart

 
“I believe this is the best book I have ever read! I probably think something similar when I finish a book, but I have never before printed the words. Ms. Tricia McGill keeps enticing us into the story with her wit and charming manner of writing. Of course, there is love and there is disaster. The love ebbs and flows and the “near hits and misses” just tug at the heartstrings. The ending may be predictable (after all, who wants a bad ending) but the journey is unforgettable! I urge you to read this winner!” ~ Brenda Talley, TRS
 
“Tricia McGill’s lonely heiress is so real that when she is being deliberately willful I just wanted to reach down through the pages and smack some sense into her. But, I kept reading faster and faster because after all, in spite of Ryan’s calloused moods, Lani is the heroine, and things just have to come out happily-ever-after for her.” ~ JoEllen Conger CTR, 5 Cups




http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TBDPA9S
The Weatherman
By Ronald Ady Crouch

When adults tell young men, There is always someone bigger than you, Sam Stephens is the guy at the end of the line. He is a fiercely proud member of the First Nations, serving as a soldier on the front line in the Canadian military, stationed in Afghanistan. Because of his courage and bravery, his close friends call him Warrior. An improvised explosive device is detonated by the Taliban as his convoy is returning to base. His best friend is killed. Sam does not believe in turning the other cheek. His actions save the platoon. Privately he is thought of as Einstein in Rambo's body.
 
Sam joins the Toronto Police. At the Police Academy he is a force to be reckoned with. When an instructor begins to sexually harass a beautiful female student, Sam becomes personally involved. On his first tour of duty with Toronto, he becomes the Subject Officer in an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit. He remains one step ahead of them.
 
On a trip to the red light district, he and his new coach officer learn that one of the hookers has been badly beaten by four men, but will not complain to the police. She too is First Nations. Sam begins his own investigation. When he discovers that the same men are responsible for the violent rape of a veteran police officer's daughter, Sam formulates a plan to deal with them himself. 




Stonehenge—Legends and Fact, Tricia McGill

Find out about all my books here on my Books We Love Author page The authors among us who like to write about past ages, whether it b...