Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nerves of Steel?

Why did I say I'd do this?

The Steinway looms at the front of the room. I know it's waiting to devour my fumbling fingers whole. Why did I think I needed performance experience?

"Thank you, Christopher, nicely done," says Ann, the lovely teacher. "Joan, your turn."

Ack! Why did I say I'd do this?

I clench my books in my hand. They're really more of a security blanket. I know the pieces cold.

Don't I? Ack!

Did I really honest-to-god say I'd do THREE pieces?

What HAD I thinking been with? Surely not my brain.

Okay, chill, babe. You can do this. You've practiced and practiced and practiced some more. You own those pieces. I set myself on the stool, put the music book on the rack and open it to the appropriate page. I address my completely sympathetic audience of seven other adult students and their guests.
"Tonight I'm going to play three pieces. The first is Bouree in A minor by Christoph Graupner."

The first two bars (eight notes) go smoothly-ish. Oh no, that was supposed to be a B flat, not a B natural. 
Keep going. GACK!

I grin sheepishly at the audience. "Let's pretend that never happened." I get a good chuckle out of them and begin again. Oh, yes, this is SO amusing.

This time it's worse, so much worse. My fingers are trembling so badly, they won't do a thing I tell them. Their memory has vanished. A few bits come out the way they're supposed to--just a few. It's the longest minute-and-a-half of my entire life.

I want to flee the room in ignominy. But I have two more pieces to go.

"My second piece is Minuet in C major by Johann Wilhelm Hassler." Try saying that with the correct German accent when you can barely speak.

Okay, babe, pull yourself together. Take a deep breath and release to a count of 5-4-3-2-1. Go.

Slow and steady to start. Hit the G. Yes, that's good. Pick up speed. F sharp. Oh yeah, baby. Slow it down again. Now the fun bit. Watch those tricky chords. YES! PERFECT! I OWNED THAT! The fastest minute of my life.

One more piece to go.
"My last piece is Celebration by Anne Crosby. I'd like to dedicate this piece to our teacher Ann because she helps us all to celebrate the music within."

Take a deep breath and release to a count of 5-4-3-2-1. Go.

Easy peasy beginning. Danger, danger, finger twisting section ahead. Ack! Repeat the easy bit.  Ack! More chords, hand-over-hand this time. Do the last two bits over again. Easy repeat. Final staccato chord. YES! OH YES!

I give the audience a big honking grin. They clap and grin back.

I came, I played, I conquered myself.

"Thank you, Joan. Nicely done recovery. And now we have..."

The next victim of the Steinway--er, performer--rises from her seat.

x-posted at

Monday, March 26, 2012

Have a Roaring Good Time!

This came up on Flickr this morning...and I didn't know that it had a blurb yet, so here 'tis! I have one more final look at it before it goes to press! Woohoo! I'll give a little roar with excitement!


October 2012 by Sourcebooks Savage Hunger (Heart of the Jaguar #1) by Terry Spear

In the heat of the jungle, jaguars are clawed, dangerous, and hungry for love. With hopes of overcoming night terrors and thanking the man who saved her life, Kathleen McKnight returns to the Amazon. A jaguar at heart, Connor Anderson doesn’t just protect her, but wants to claim her for his own.

And Donna shared this with me and I had to share it with you all!!! It just goes to show that dogs better stay out of a wolves' territory, unless they're invited! :)

I'll be at the Book Boost some time today.

I've autographed books at Hastings last night, a couple at B&N, though am trying to set up a book signing, and hope to do some more today at Walmart and Books-a-Million!

I was supposed to be off today, but have to run to work to help out. Argh.  I need to write!

Have a wonderful Monday!!!

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy IS reality!"

Sunday, March 25, 2012

An auspicious day, this: birthdays!

It's my sister's birthday (happy birthday, Sisty Ugler [just kidding]).

And it's the birthday(s) of my kittens.
My sister is at that age where we don't like to count any more, so I won't focus on her. I'll focus on the kittens. Not kittens any more, really. They are 3 years old today.

I know the exact date because we adopted them from a group that fosters animals (Last Hope, in Minnesota) and the lady who had the pregnant mama knew exactly when she gave birth. So happy birthday, Pandora, the Paw of Destruction (shown in the yoga pose above). And to Opie Dopey, her intrepid sidekick.

Long may they run!

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Written by Paisley Kirkpatrick One of my children sent me an email this week using whopperjawed, a word I'd never heard before. She lives in Florida and I live in California. I thought maybe it's a regional word.

WHOPPERJAWED means slightly off kilter. By the content of the sentence it was fairly easy to figure out its meaning. It got me to thinking about unusual words that have been around for a long time. Some of them are fun to use and have become favorites of mine.

DUNDERHEAD: blockhead - dunce - fool - dolt,
ADDLEPATED: confused - eccentric,
HOGWASH: nonsense,
DUMBFOUNDED: astonished - speechless

Since I write western historical romance, I've started looking for unusual words used in my time period to give my stories a bit more 'flavor' and fun. It's like adding spice and at the same time it makes me smile.

Do you have favorite words? My most favorite is propinquity, which means togetherness. I taught my Dutch grandsons the word and they went home and taught it to their teacher.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Three weeks in Bayawan

Have you ever spent time in a tropical third world country? My husband and I recently visited my brother who lives in Bayawan on Negros Island in the Philippines. You won’t find this city listed in any tour book. It’s off the beaten path with the closest airport over two hours away in Dumaguete City, the capital of Negros Oriental.

I took copious notes and photographs and plan to use our experiences in a future story. In this blog I’ll share how we got around the city of Bayawan. That was an adventure in itself.

Cars are expensive to operate so you see few on the streets of Bayawan. The common type of transportation choices if you don’t own a motorcycle are riding in pot-pots (pronounced
put puts) or tricycles. I’ll describe both. Here is a typical pot-pot looking for passengers.

Believe me when I say that padded narrow seat is designed to fit narrow-hipped Filipinos, not two broad Americano behinds! After several rides my husband and I learned how to wedge in nicely. Admittedly they aren’t comfortable but definitely very cheap. Cost: five Philippine pesos per person anywhere in town. The currency exchange rate is approximately 42 pesos to a U.S. dollar.

Tricycles are motorcycles with semi-enclosed sidecars which can carry up to seven people. It’s a wonder the bike’s gears don’t fail carrying these heavy burdens through town. You load people until there isn’t an inch of space left, and you can side sideways behind the driver too!

Bayawan is basically flat, has no stop signs, many four way intersections and pedestrians do not have the right of way. The ballet of pot-pots, tricycles, motorbikes and cars at intersections is amazing to watch and an unforgettable experience. Pot-pots have small bike horns they squeeze at intersections and when they want to pass or alert someone. Every time we crossed the busier highway riding in a pot-pot I closed my eyes and waited. Why see what you can't avoid? In my next blog I’ll discuss the exotic foods we ate in Bayawan such as buko, jackfruit, dinuguan, sisig, and biko.

What has been your most frightening ground travel experience?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Opening lines

Plagiarism? No Way!

My MFBRN (most favorite book right now) is Hooked by award-winning author Les Edgerton. Here’s what I read last night from Chapter Four ‘The Set-up and Backstory’:

T.S. Eliot said, “Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal.” That doesn’t mean we plagiarize. He meant to take a close look at how great writers achieved an effect, and use that technique ourselves.

Edgerton goes on to say, “When I’m writing a novel, for instance, I’ll have an average of perhaps thirty novels open, and I constantly look through the to see how others achieved the effect I’m looking for.”

Which would spark an editor, agent or contest judge to read on?
This? The man had a reputation around town for being a brawler and a mean-spirited drunk. Ever since high school, when he had bullied just about every kid littler than him, he’d been known as a person to avoid. It might have been his parents who created his personality. His father spent a lot of time whaling on his son with whatever he found handy. A belt, a stick, whatever was available. One time he clopped him upside the head with an iron he snatched off the ironing board behind which his mother stood, helplessly wringing her hands. It might have been the dead-end factory job he’d found himself stick in for the past thirty-two years.
(…lots more backstory….)
Right now he found himself about six blocks from his home with his dead bride in his arms. On State Street just past Maplecrest, in the Georgetown Shopping Plaza. Behind it, actually, back by the dumpsters behind the Cap ‘N Cork.

Or this? He was so mean that wherever he was standing became the bad part of town.
At that moment, the bad part was State Street just past Maplecrest, in the Georgetown Shopping Plaza. Behind it, actually, back by the dumpsters behind the Cap ‘N Cork. Into one of which he was stuffing the body of his wife.

Here are some openers he recommends:
***A smell of spilled gasoline: when Saul opened his eyes he was still strapped in behind his lap and shoulder belt, but the car he sat in was upside down and in a field of some sort. (Charles Baxter’s “Saul and Patty are Pregnant”)
***They had dug coal together as young men and then lost touch over the years. Now it looked like they’d be meeting again, this time as lawman and felon, Raylan Givens and
Boyd Crowder. (Elmore Leonard’s “Fire in the Hole”)
***He made her feel uncomfortable, and she didn’t like that. (Raymond Carver “A Small, Good Thing”)
***Tucker Case awoke to find himself hanging from a breadfruit tree by a coconut fiber rope. Like most of the big missteps he had taken in life, it had started in a bar. (Stephen Moore “Island of the Sequined Love Num”)
***It’s true, he put his hand on my ass and I was about to scream bloody murder when the bus passed by a church and he crossed himself. (Luisa Valenzuela’s “Vision Out of the Corner of One Eye”)
***Even when she was very little her hunger was worth something: hunger taught her to dance, and her father noticed. (Robert Hill Long “The Restraints”)
***Looking back, I should have realized something was up as soon as I opened the bedroom door and found my wife asleep on top of the sheets with a strange man curled up like a foetus beside her. (Douglas Glover “The South Will Rise at Noon”)
***“You must not tell anyone,” my mother said, “what I am about to tell you.” (Maxine Hong Kingston “The Woman Warrior”)

Here are some romance openers from books on my shelf:
***It was the rain that made him think of the tale. (Nora Roberts “Morrigan’s Cross”)
***He understood his power early. (Nora Roberts “Entranced”)
***Claire Lancaster sat in the cafĂ© of a large bookstore in Phoenix, Arizona, waiting for the half sister she had never met. (Jayne Ann Krentz “White Lies”)
***This wedding was no small affair. There were seven bridesmaids, seven groomsmen, three ushers, two alter boys, three lectors, and enough firepower inside the church to wipe out half the congregation. All but two of the groomsmen were armed. (Julie Garwood “Shadow Dance”)
***“What the hell d’ye mean by ‘marry without delay,’ Father?” (Bertrice Small “This Heart of Mine”)
***On the sixth of April, in the year 1812—precisely two days before her sixteenth birthday—Penelope Featherington fell in love. (Julia Quinn “Romancing Mister Bridgerton”)
***The coach belonging to the duchess of Magnus pulled up to the tall house on Berkley Square, and an impostor stepped out. (Christina Dodd “One Kiss from You”)
***Silver Ashcroft slipped through night and shadows, heart pounding and rage simmering. (Cheyenne McCray “Forbidden Magic”)
***It was a crime that Amelia Willoughby was not married. (Julia Quinn “Mr. Cavendish, I Presume”)
***Mathias was rudely awakened by a woman’s bloodcurdling scream. (Amanda Quick “Mischief”)
***I am going to die tonight. (Allison Brennan “Cutting Edge”)
***The boom-boom-boom of the distant lali—huge wooden drums—emulated the pounding of madcap hearts in the darkness. (Terri Valentine “Paradise Promised”)

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Would you like to take an armchair trip to Mykonos Island Greece? Then follow me. My new ebook GREEK ENCOUNTER is set in Mykonos.

The hero, Stefano Kostapoulos owns a luxurious yacht and will take you-- and the heroine, Ashley Shepard-- around the island where he was born.
Here is the bay where his yacht is usuaually anchored.
A view of Mykonos from the sea on a cloudy day, but usually the skies are blue and the breeze just about perfect.
The downtown of Mykonos with narrow streets where the houses are white with blue shutters.
There are about 60 churches on this little island. Some are as small as a room.
Silver boats hang from the ceiling. They are offered by the sailors who returned home safely.
The main attraction on Mykonos are the sandy beaches with thousands of tourists.

And the many cafes where you can indulge in the local pastries such as baklava.

This is a humorous sensual romance with explicit love scenes, but not erotic.
Available at Amazon
Can the pain of the past bring about the happiness of the future?
Stefano Kostapoulos plans to demolish the dilapidated Pink Villa inherited from his grandmother and build a modern resort on the Greek island of Mykonos. But the American co-owner refuses to sell his shares and sends his attorney to Greece—a lawyer Stefano plans to shred to pieces at the hearing.
Except that Counselor Ashley Sheppard is a gorgeous redhead who knocks Stefano off his axis when he meets her incognito. Sparks fly during a first encounter that leads to a memorable night of passion.
In court, Ashley is in for a nasty surprise. Her handsome Greek god is the opponent. Her heart gnaws with pain, yet she attacks him with all her strength to defend her grandfather’s case.
Stefano wins the lawsuit, but is about to lose Ashley. To keep her in Mykonos, he strikes a deal with his old enemy. Does Ashley dare to trust the Greek playboy? Or even understand her grandfather’s strange change of heart regarding the Pink Villa?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Whenever challenges face me, both mental and physical, I say to myself: “Rolynn, you opened (as a principal) a brand new high school…so you can do this fill-in-the-blank, too!”  Usually this call to arms has me straightening my spine, arranging my expression to determined, and forging ahead into the next scary unknown. 

Writing novels and getting them published takes enormous persistence and courage, but the out-of-the-box approach you have to take in order to craft a novel that sells, is the biggest challenge of all. 

Example: I’d never written a thriller, but decided to try one with my eighth novel.  It was the first novel I sold after ten years of pounding on my computer keyboard!

Never in a cyber-century could I have dreamed I could write a series, but I had to try.  The first book of the series was picked up by The Wild Rose Press in late 2011…it’s set to release in the summer of 2012.

Could I write a successful novel in first person after hearing how tough the task could be?  Why not throw in some normal paranormal elements?  Okay, I did that.  The final product, FEAR ITSELF is a first person paranormal that focuses on Post Traumatic Stress, so it’s timely, too.

How about setting a novel in the present juxtaposed to scenes from eighty years ago.  How in the world would I do that?  Could I solve a real (unsolved) murder that took place in 1932 at the same time I solved a made-up murder that happened last week?  Why not?

What if one of my novels doesn’t quite fit the categories of The Wild Rose Press.  Publish it myself?  Yes, I can do that.

Wild, isn’t it?  Am I nuts, or is every writer’s life like this?

LAST RESORT on sale now, print & download
Wild Rose Press:

My daughter wrote WHAT?

A long time ago I wrote a short essay called “My mother writes WHAT?”. It was published in a charity anthology called “Crumbs from the Keyboard” which benefited the Center for Women and Families in Louisville Kentucky, a shelter for people in the midst of domestic abuse situations.

The essay was a fictionalized description of something that actually happened when I was first starting to write romance. My daughter Liz walked into the living room where I was busily typing away on one of my manuscripts, and I said something like “I just got to the sex scene!” with great relish.

She shook her head sadly. “My mother's writing smut.”

Which of course I thought was hilarious, hence the essay. I did change it to having my son look over my shoulder and see what I was actually writing, and his absolute horror at reading my red-hot prose. This was fiction, and did not actually happen. My son knows better than to EVER look at my work.

So it is many years later and now my daughter Liz is returning the favor of my using her words in that essay. She has written a play about romance writing in which a young woman whose mother was a very successful romance author, is trying to complete her mother’s last book after her mother’s death, apparently with her mother’s ghost’s help.

Obviously this is fiction as well. First of all, I’m not that successful.

Second, I’m not dead.

Still I have to be extremely flattered that Liz has opted to write a play like this. I expect that it will avoid being too disrespectful if only because she’s actually invited me to the premiere of the play on March 24th and I’ve gleefully accepted.

There is a really cool video trailer for the play that has various members of the cast reading aloud a sex scene... well, sort of. It’s not the kind of love scene I’d write. Let’s just say that I don’t use either “manhood” or  “love cave” in my writing, and Liz knows that. But using the words I’d use wouldn’t be nearly as funny.

Jane never understood her mother, or the best-selling romance novels she wrote. But after her mother's sudden death, Jane finds herself in charge of finishing her mom's last book. With a little help from the novel's overly-passionate characters, and her mother's inescapable ghost, Jane must find a way to honor her mother's dying wish to bring romance into her life. 
LIGHTS OFF, EYES CLOSED was written by SkyPilot resident playwright Liz Shannon Miller, who currently works as a writer on G4's ATTACK OF THE SHOW. She has a BFA in screenwriting from USC, and since graduating has written dialogue for the U.S. Army, covered the online video world for the tech site GigaOM, and been published by the New York Times, Variety, Nerve and Thought Catalog. Produced theater works include SOMETHING BIBLICAL (Sight Unseen Theatre), IDEATION (3 of a Kind Theatre), NEGOTIATIONS (Black Box Theatre), JUDGEMENT and SAVE A HORSE (SkyPilot Theatre). Based in Los Angeles and a STAR TREK fan since birth, Liz found inspiration for LIGHTS OFF in her own mother's career as a romance novelist. 
Directed by Meredith Berg, who earned her BFA at NYU Tisch in acting and directing. While in NYC, she directed several productions, including "Caesar" Off-Broadway, an update of the Shakespearean play for the York Shakespeare Company. She currently works in Los Angeles as a writer, director and comic-book editor. Her award-winning short film "Void" will soon be available on DVD from Amazon and iTunes. 
Starring Mary Burkin, Samatha Carro, JR Esposito, Chera Holland, Joanna Kalafatis, and Jason Kobelius.
Janet Miller/Cricket Starr

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March Madness Countdown!

It's that time of year again and I'm not talking basketaball. Last year, I held my first ever March Madness in which I invited a fabulous slate of guests that included editors, agents and authors. This year, I've got some brand new guests and it's sure to be a fantastic event once again.

Here's the lineup:
March 19th--Liz Pelletier, Publisher & Senior Editor, Entangled Publishing
March 20th--Alicia Rasley, Author, Writing Instructor & Editor
March 21st--Kayelle Allen, Author & Founder of The Author's Secret
March 22nd--Don D'Auria, Editor Samhain Horror, Samhain Publishing
March 23rd--Frazer Lee, Award-winning writer and director of short horror films & on the Final Ballot for a Bram Stoker Award for best debut novel
March 24th--Sophia, Director of Fiction Vixen Inc. & Book Reviewer
March 25th--Tom Adair, retired Senior Criminologist, Author, Blogger at Forensics4Fiction
March 26th--Marcia James, Author & Marketing Specialist
March 27th--Saritza Hernandez, E-Pub Agent, L.Perkins Agency
March 28th--Julie Miller, Multi-published Author of Romantic Suspense and Sizzling Romance
March 29th--Christine D'Abo, Author & Self-professed sci-fi junkie
March 30th--Christie Craig, Photojournalist, Author and Speaker

Mark it on your calendars and please drop by if you have a chance. There will be some prizes/giveaways and possibility to hang with guests in the comments.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Joanne--Sharing another humorous Dave Barry post

Hi Everyone,
It's the 8th of the month, which means it is time for a Dave Barry chuckle. Today, Dave talks about his diet regimen. Enjoy!

"It is important to have a sensible, long-term eating regimen and realistic dietary goals. I myself was on a sensible long-term eating regimen until nearly 10:30 this morning, when I finally achieved my dietary goal of locating where my wife put the box of Cheez-Its. These are my favorite snack crackers because they contain "riboflavin" and have a radioactive orange color that makes thm easy to locate in the dark. Plus they are good for your heart: Like every other product now sold in the United States, including Drano, they come in a package marked "Low Cholesterol." Heart care is a top priority with me, so I ate the whole box. (serves twenty).

Me again: Sounds like my food intake lately. I have some work to do before fitting into my summer bathing suit!

How is your diet and exercise regimen going? Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bicycle Built For Two

Near the C&O Canal Trail in MD

Tooling along wooded paths with your sweetie on a tandem bicycle is a romantic way to spend an afternoon. My husband and I enjoy riding our bike on rail-to-trails and canal trails in several states on the East Coast.

As with any relationship, riding a tandem bicycle requires trust.

In our case, the rider in front, the captain, is in control. He controls the speeds, the brakes, and most of the steering. The rider in back, the teammate, pedals—hopefully, in rhythm with the captain.

The teammate must trust the captain to make safe decisions especially when crossing roads and navigating obstacles such as drop-offs. And the captain must trust the teammate to pull her weight.

Communications is important, whether it be verbal or by way of body language. Need to pedal hard, in unison, to make it up that hill.

With time, skills are honed and riding as a team becomes effortless. Well, almost, you'll still feel the muscle aches tomorrow.

If you're a writer wanting to force your characters to resolve trust issues, put them on a tandem bicycle and let the gravel fly.

Enjoy bicycling with your honey? Consider a bicycle built for two.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


People from gone by eras weren’t the fiends we are at capturing every moment with a snapshot. Maybe because they didn’t have the ability to Photo Shop and clear up a spotty complexion or under eye circles. Before digital cameras, I cut off heads, feet, people standing beside another person. I didn’t know until I got the film developed much, much later, which would account for a lack of photos from significant events up to about twelve years ago when I went digital.

My grandmother once showed me an article about Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance explaining we needed to pray for our cousin. Cousin, I didn’t remember him. She, then, pulled out some poorly focused black and white photos of the last Feiock reunion he attended. She pointed out a solid looking, middle aged man in a dark suit. That pretty much described one third of the people in the photo. Nope, didn’t remember him. As news reports came out about his questionable connections to the Mafia, I stared at the photo. Did he have sinister ties? He looked like most of the other German Irish immigrant offspring in my family photo. Sometimes photos lie, other times they scream their message.

Candid photos can tell us so much. COSMO magazine feature shows pictures of famous couples and explains how their relationship is going by their body language in snapshots. I have to admit I initially decided to take chance on my fiancĂ© based on a couple of casual photos. Not ones featuring his athletic ability, sports car, or beautiful hazel eyes, but ones with his children. The ones that grabbed me were the laughing, goofy, and having a good time photos. It told me this was a man who I could be at ease with as opposed to being stiffly formal and ever so proper. Photos reveal facets of our personality we don’t share with the general public.

My mother who is a conservative Christian woman once had a wild side. We have the photos to prove it. She denies the dark haired woman in two piece bathing suit posing in the snow is her, but rather her sister, despite the fact her sister is blond.

Photographs remind us how much our lives have changed too. Sometimes I look back at pictures of my children when they were young. It amazes me that they were ever so small, but what I find more shocking is the browbeaten young mother standing beside them. A woman not even out of her twenties exhausted from living with an abusive husband. Pictures really do tell a story, often one you don’t want to remember.

Yesterday, on our search for an elusive mouse, my daughter and I moved the fridge and found an old Christmas photo with my oldest son with his ex-wife. They are divorced now, emphasizing how life changes. The photo, tattered and dirty, captured a moment when we were all happy or at least I think we were. Maybe my son knew then there were cracks in his marriage. Maybe now, he can look back and see the splintering since he now knows what to look for.

Once you know what to look for you can sometimes find it in the photos. My grandmother confided that her mother was taller than her father. At six feet tall more than a hundred years ago my great grandmother stood head and shoulders above other women, and a few men, including my great grandfather. They never stood side by side in any pictures. Apparently, men had the height issue thing back then too.

I can’t say I was ever fond of having my picture taken. The fact I looked too much like me as opposed to a model or movie star upset me. I’m not sure what miracle I thought would take place in the split second of the camera shutter closing that would transform me into someone else. Once my daughter received a camera as a gift, I became an impromptu model as I did laundry, made breakfast, or gave the dog a bath.

Years later, I have become as bad as my daughter taking my camera with me to snap photos, especially of me and my sweetie as we embark on our joined lives together. We often ask total strangers to take our photos. Some are better photographers than others. I no longer wish I was someone else in the photos. Instead, my smile is wide and bright because I cannot imagine being happier than I am right now.

Maybe I will have grandchildren, who will look at the photos and remark how in love we look. I’m betting they will be more like their parents and will ridicule our hairstyles and clothes.

Why do you like looking at photos? Do you think photos depict an accurate image? Tell me why you think the above picture is significant. Winner gets free copy of PUPPY LOVE, my newest book. There might be more than one winner.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Writing Where You've Never Been

My publisher, The Wild Rose Press, is holding its annual writers’ retreat at a Dude Ranch in Banderas, Texas, this October. Our friends laugh when we tell them we're going. I mean, Calvin and me on a ranch? Too funny if you knew us. Is there a hydrolic lift to put me in the saddle?

This will be my first time in Texas, first time on a ranch and first time on a horse. Yet my debut book is set on a ranch in Texas. Ah, the value of good research. How many writers of stories set in Alaska, Scotland, Mozambique or lands of fairies and shapeshifters have physically been there? Some, but not all.

As I was writing my story, I researched the weather in the Texas hill country, geology, plants, wildlife and history. I searched through newspapers online for the hill country. What I also found invaluable were real estate sites. This gave me a view of homes typical to the area as well as local scenery and vegetation. I’d find addresses and look them up on This gave me real-time insights and a feel for little nuances of this part of Texas.

If you were going to write a story set in Lynchburg, Virginia, where we live you’d have to know this is known as the Hill City. Our town is set on seven hills. There are places downtown where streets were never built. Steps, yes. An elevator, yes. But no street connect parts of Church and Court Streets.

Wide steps from Church Street to the Lynchburg Museum, once the Court House.

So, imagine my surprise when a reviewer for Storm’s Interlude said I’d described Texas so well, she now wanted to go there. I laughed and remarked to myself, “Well, so do I.” And in October, when we attend TWRP writers’ retreat, I will.

          Rachel finished the yogurt and threw away the container. That’s when she noticed the back door was open. Stepping into the mudroom, she saw Storm through the screen door. He was leaning against a post, obviously staring off into the wide Texas horizon and sipping coffee.
His one hand was shoved into the pocket of his jeans; jeans that looked buttery soft with age. His dark, straight hair hung over the collar of his faded red t-shirt. Broad shoulders stretched the material. She yearned to reach out and rub her hand over his strong back.
What was it about him that attracted her? After all, she’d met many handsome men in her life. Phillip, for one. Matt, the guy she’d dated in college was another. She smiled; Dr. Isaacs at Kings Daughters Hospital, back home, was drop-dead gorgeous, but then he was openly gay.
Still, what was it about Storm? He was arrogant and opinionated. Bossy. Yet, he could be incredibly caring and gentle. Evidently, he was prone to giving little gifts. He was devoted to his sister. His love for his nephew was very touching. She imagined he’d make a great father.
What was she going to do about her attraction to him? What was behind the attraction?  Could his magnetic pull on her simply come from his ability to kiss her into sensual overload? If they were to kiss again, would his effect be just as potent? God help her, but she’d love to find out.
“You might as well come out and join me.” His deep voice caressed her senses and beckoned. How did he know she was watching him? She wiped her hands over her shorts in a nervous gesture. Did he know how long she’d been standing there, staring, dreaming…yearning?
Embarrassed, Rachel stepped out onto the porch and stood next to the man who had moved into her mind—lock, stock and saddle. “Good morning.”
He saluted her with his mug. “Mornin’.”
His eyes were so intent on her that, for an instant, her mind went blank. Her attraction to this man had to be channeled into friendship—merely friendship. “Thank you for burning me that CD. I can’t wait to play it.”
“You’re welcome.” A faint blush crept up his neck.
She took pleasure in his discomfort. If she felt uneasy around him, she was glad he was obviously suffering from the same feeling. “How long have you been up?”
“An hour, give or take. Did you have your yogurt?” He drained his coffee and set the mug on the porch railing.
“Good. I don’t want any low-sugar episodes like yesterday morning.” He jerked his head toward the horizon. “This is the best place to watch the sun come up. Our best views of sunsets are on the patio, but here, right here is the spot you get a great view of the sunrise. Nothin’ like a hill country sunrise.”
The curve of the golden sun peeped above the mountains in the distance. Shimmers of apricots and reds undulated like dancing rays celebrating the birth of a new day. Birds began singing as if to welcome the sun. “Oh, you’re right. It’s beautiful. I guess you do this every morning? Drink your coffee and watch the sun come up.” She looked up at him.
He never spared her a glance. “Yup.”
His freshly-shaved face was relaxed. The smell of his soap and aftershave filled her nostrils. She wanted to bury her nose in his neck and inhale his masculine scent for hours.
She smiled again. “You always so talkative in the morning?”

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spring has sprung

At least here in Northern California. The trees all have blossoms and the plants are starting to bloom. My Bird of Paradise plant has the most awesome bird-like, orange flower on it. The cherry trees are all covered in pink and white blossoms.

I find that my writing blooms when springtime comes. I look out my office window and see the cherry tree, all fuzzy with white and pink. The sky is a clear blue with puffy little white clouds and I don't need my desk lamp to start the day.

I suffer from seasonal affective disorder and my writing suffers too. I am all blah when it is gray, windy, and dark outside. I don't want to write a thing. I am a spring and summer child and love when it warms up and the seasons change.

Do you have different levels of writing progress due to the season at hand?

Jill James