How he won my heart with a hammer...

My Prince Charming

What makes a moment romantic?

                 If you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably already heard this story. I like to telling it again around Valentine's Day to remind everyone that romance isn't all chocolate, lingerie and semi-precious stones. It's about listening and showing your love, even if it involves household tools.

                  Despite appearances, the picture above is FAR from one of our most romantic moments. Some day, if you have a few hours and enough money for margaritas, I will tell you about that day and the unromanticness (Yes, it is a word. I don't care if the rest of the world doesn't acknowledge it). No, our most romantic moment involves a hardware tool and my soon-to-be husband was nowhere in sight.

                 I met my husband two weeks after I moved to Texas. We met at a church we were both visiting for the first time. He asked me to lunch after the morning service ( an interesting story in itself, but I'll save it for another time). After the evening service, we ate ice cream at a park. I will add here that one of the top ten most romantic moments was when he turned to me and said, "Do you like to read? Because I just finished this great book. It's called the Notebook. I think the author is Nicholas somebody." (Insertme swooning here).

                 After our official first date the next Sunday, he made a comment about the bareness of my apartment walls. I responded that I had never noticed I didn't own a hammer and nails until I moved into the apartment alone. We went on to talk about other things and I didn't even think about it again.

                The next day was a Monday in every sense of the word. I taught middle school at the time and let's just say all of my students were very much seventh graders that day. I remember wanting to cry when I pulled up to my apartment because my head was throbbing, as were my feet, and I lived on the second floor. When I finally dragged myself up the stairs, something was leaning against my door.

 A silver hammer with a shiny red bow. 

And that, my friends, is all it took.

So Tell Me Your Story. 

What is your most unconventionally romantic moment? Got big plans for Valentine's day? Ever swoon over a tool (no innuendo intended!)? 

My Last First Friday

Today is the first Friday of this school year. It's the day teachers release a collective sigh and head home in a near delirium state of exhaustion. We've made it through the first week. The routines will settle in on Monday and we've only got 35 more weeks to go.  

For me, the first Friday of last year was my last day of "normal". 

I remember the sound of the dismal bell for last period and calling to my students to, "have a great weekend!"

I remember leaving piles of paper on my desk but still shoving some in my bag to take home.

I remember still feeling slightly sticky from the weak AC in my room and the first pep rally of football season as I locked the classroom door behind me and exited the building. 

Having no idea I'd never walk back in that room as a teacher again. 

I don't remember if I cooked dinner that night or if my husband and I left the kids with my mom and ate out.

I can barely remember driving to Oklahoma the next day for a birthday party and driving home Sunday afternoon. 

What I do remember about Sunday is before I sat down to go through those papers or gather my lesson plans for the week, before I cooked dinner for my kids or really even had a conversation with my husband, I went into my mom's room. 

I guess not everyone can pinpoint the minute their life changed. For most people, it's probably a gradual shift that sneaks up on you like those extra pounds on your hips or needing reading glasses after 40. I know the exact moment my life changed. 

August 30, 2015 4:30pm. 

Mom and I were sitting on her bed, talking about the birthday party. That's when her head dropped to her chest as if she'd fallen asleep. That's the moment that triggered 36 hours of her being incoherent, a 13 day hospital stay, a devastating diagnosis delivered by a teary-eyed surgeon, folding his mask over and over in his hand and a decision.

I would leave teaching for 12 weeks. 

But 12 weeks wasn't enough. So, I resigned. I packed up the personal things from my classroom, leaving any materials I thought my replacement could use until I could collect them at the end of the year. 

I became a full-time caregiver until March 10th when I became Executrix of the estate. 

I didn't return to teaching this year. I wasn't ready. I have too much reassembling of my life that needs to happen first. 

I thought it would hit me on the first day when my daughters headed out to their new classes and my husband left for work. I thought that's when I'd miss it. I didn't. 

Not until today. 

I don't miss teaching, yet. I've missed my students and my co-workers but not teaching itself. I'm sure that will come.

What I miss today is the me who walked out of those high school doors on the first Friday last year. 

The one who didn't know what was coming. Didn't know to be worried and didn't know everything in her world was about to change. 

 

And this one time at band camp...

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Like I said yesterday, I'm at ASL Teacher Camp this week. Okay, that's not what it's really called. But, that's pretty much what it is.

So, tell me your best camp story. Pranks, homesickness, sneaking out of the cabin and meeting that special someone (not that I ever did that!)

You know, this one time at band camp....


Why Do You Remember?

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


There either is or is not, that's the way things are.
 The colour of the day. The way it felt to be a child. The saltwater on your sunburnt legs. 
Sometimes the water is yellow, sometimes it's red.
 But what colour it may be in memory, depends on the day.
 I'm not going to tell you the story the way it happened.

 I'm going to tell it the way I remember it.
Charles Dickens ~ Great Expectations

My husband and I had a conversation recently about first kisses. He doesn't remember his. 
I'll pause for a moment and let that sink in. 

HE DOESN'T REMEMBER HIS FIRST KISS!

How does that happen? He couldn't even with confidence remember the first time he kissed ME!*

*Disclaimer: I am married to an amazing man who supports me fully in everything I do. I can forgive the fact that he has let a moment on Sept. 21, 1997 at approximately 10:14 pm while slow dancing in my apartment to a local country station playing from my mini-stereo slip his mind.*

His explanation was that he "didn't catalog the information for future reference."
Then, he mumbled something about women never forgetting anything

But, my mind was already working. Why do I remember so well? 
I'm sure part of it is about being a girl and living for those kinds of moments, but I believe there is much, much more. 

I don't just remember my first kiss. I remember everything about it. Where I was standing, the butterfly army in my stomach, praying my mom did not choose that moment to walk into the kitchen. Everything. Just like I do so many other tiny but huge moments in my life.

But, I wonder how much of it is because I'm a writer. I love the story of each moment. I love hearing how other people met and fell in love. I love passing those emotions on to my readers and sharing the experience of moving through it together all over again. 

So, tell me your story. 
Do you remember the tiny but huge moments of your life with vivid detail? Were you cataloging it all for future reference? 

If you're in the mood for some nostalgia, you can check out this post about Remembering the Good Old Days (It's worth the click just to see my 1989 hairstyle!)






Welcome Taylor Lunsford

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday
Welcome

I met Taylor through twitter. I am very excited to have her with us today to discuss her novel 

Welcome, Taylor. Tell us a little about  Need You Now.
Need You Now is the story of Melody Carr and Caine Maddox, two childhood friends who had a fling in college that went south. Mel’s finally moved back to their hometown of Unknown to start her medical practice. Lucky for her (or unlucky, depending on your perspective), Caine’s now the mayor and he still carries a torch for her.

Caine’s got his work cut out for him trying to win Mel’s trust back. The town doesn’t want her there and the local gossip blog can’t stay the hell out of his personal life for even a day. When the animosity brewing in town turns to vandalism, Caine makes sure Mel knows he’s not going anywhere. Keeping Mel’s stubborn-as-hell self safe from whoever’s targeting her may be the only way to convince Mel he’s playing for keeps. Getting Mel to trust him again is going to be the hardest fight of Caine’s life, but he’s determined to prove the to her that she needs him by her side.

And, it's the first in your series. Love in Unknown. I love that it is set in Unknown, Texas. How did you come up with that setting? Is it a real place? 
Haha, so Unknown actually started out as just a placeholder for the town name because I kept drawing a blank when I tried to name the town. At one point, it was going to be called Fortune Lake, but then my critique partner and I voted that Unknown had a quirky charm to it that stuck. I even managed to come up with a romantic origin for the name that’s revealed in the books.

Unknown is not a real place. It’s based off of bits and pieces of small towns in Texas I’ve visited during road trips with my family over the years. Most of it is based off of Georgetown, TX where I went to college, especially the square. McBride’s Books, which plays a big part in the second book (Ready to Love Again) is based off of the bookstore I worked at during my junior year.

So, tell us more about you. What's your favorite thing to do when you aren't writing? 
There’s a time when I’m not writing? Oh. Yeah. Maybe a little bit. LOL. Between my day job and writing, I don’t have a lot of free time, but when I do I like to hang out and watch movies with my friends. If I’m really procrastinating writing, I’ll knit or get some harebrained idea of how to redecorate my apartment.

What's craziest thing you've ever done for love? 
You know, that’s a tough one. I’ve never actually been in love. I got a tiny bit singed by romance in high school, so I’ve spent the last few years focused on school and work (I’m only 24). Rather than becoming jaded with romance, I focused in on my writing and sharing my hopes for romance with other people.

The town gossip causes issues for your hero. If you could have an outrageous rumor spread about you to the world, what would it be? 
Hmmm….I think it would be that I work as a covert Interpol operative who is dating someone I can’t name, but who may or may not be third in line for certain throne (for the time being. He’ll moved to fourth in July).

What's next for you? 
What’s next? Whew, it’s going to be a busy year. Up next is a short story in the Love in Unknown series called We Own The Night, which should be out in June. Book 2 looks like it’ll come out sometime in July and Book 3 will be in October if all goes as planned. In between, I’ll also have a series of short stories coming out that center around the siblings of Jane Austen characters and their roads to love.

How can we get to know you better? 
If you visit my website, you can find a great page that tells you anything you could possibly want to know about my Love in Unknown series, including links to the people I’ve cast as all my characters and a playlist for NYN (http://taylormlunsford.com/love-in-unknown )
You can find me on twitter as @writertay. 

I also have a great Pinterest board set up for the Love in Unknown series (http://pinterest.com/writertay/unknown-tx/ )



The Myth of a Carefree Childhood

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


The Myth of a Carefree Childhood

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that read: 
I just want to be 10 years old again with no worries in the world. 
If I remember correctly, it was accompanied by a picture of a child on a bike, riding with no hands, or some other heart-swelling image of nostalgia. 
Several comments followed about the carefree, joyousness of childhood. 
Youth is wasted on the young and similar cliches. 
The same faulty rhetoric people feed teenagers when they declare, 
"Enjoy high school. It's the best years of your life."
Trust me, if high school was the best years of my life, 
I would have snapped and gone running naked down the street a long time ago. 

It's all lies. 

Because, you know what? 

I live with a ten year old. 

A smart, beautiful girl who does well in school, has close friends, as well as  a strong family that loves her fiercely... And, she worries about everything
Not just about how she looks or if her favorite Disney Channel couple is going to stay together. 
She worries about the little girl who stole her snack from her locker because
 "Why would she need to steal food, mom?" 
She worries about her friends when others tease them. 
She worries about the boy her sister likes not being nice enough for her. 
She worries about what the country will be like for her children. 
(No, I'm not exaggerating.)

The idea that childhood is this blissful, free of stress, time is absurd.
 At no other point in your life are you in such confusing situations 
with such little control over your own destiny.  

I remember laying in bed at night, unable to shut off my mind. 

My mom probably remembers having to call my third grade teacher at home  because I couldn't stop crying. The teacher had made a boy stand in the trashcan as a punishment during class. I was so humiliated for him that I couldn't sleep and so scared of getting the teacher in trouble, it took my mom a good hour to get out of me why I was sobbing uncontrollably. 

That's the carefreeness of childhood. 

When adults look back through the rose-colored glasses, they discount the overwhelming pressure of that time in a child's life. 


By the time I was my daughter's age:
  • My parents were separated for the third or fourth time.
  • I had lived in three states in three years. 
  • I knew what drugs were.
  • I knew what alcoholism looked like. 
  • I had sat at the graveside of someone I loved. 
  • I had vague information about what sex would be and the thought was pretty terrifying. 
My life was far from stress-free. And, I wouldn't consider my childhood to be "bad". It just was. 

Children deserve for adults to respect the their emotions, ease their fears with out belittling them and offer empathy and compassion. 

Not just a patronizing pat on the head and a wistful, 
"Oh, when I was your age..."


So, tell me your story. 
Do you remember your childhood as all sno-cones and games of tag? 
Do you think people romanticize those early years? 
Is high school ever the best years of someone's life? 
 













Musical Misunderstandings

Tell Me Your Story

Musical Misunderstandings

    On a recent car trip, I decided if I had to hear Taylor Swift croon one more I'm-his-best-friend-but-secretly-in-love-with-him-let-me-cry-on-my-guitar-oh-he-loves-me-too! ballad, I was going to throw myself on the pavement at 75 mph. 
    To save me from highway suicide, my husband put in some  more mature, yet kid-friendly music. That's when this song came on. 

My girls started singing along and Scott and I exchanged a look. 
This was going to be one of "those songs."

One of those songs you sing as a kid and have no clue they are any thing but innocent. One of those songs that make you call your mother when you're older and say,

 "Do you know what this song is about?" 

Yep, it's happen to me. I was exposed to a variety of music growing up. My parents were never into oldies. They listened to Hank Jr., The Eagles,  and people like Joe Ely. My uncle liked to show me off  (and win bets with his friends) because before I was in elementary school, I could identify songs by The Who, Peter Frampton and Little Feat.

 He did get reprimanded by mom when I was belting out Angel in the Centerfold in the middle of Pizza Hut. 

But, my AH HA moment came driving home from college. I hit an old country station and a great song from my childhood poured from the speakers. 


No one wants to go down to Tucson in the summer

So this time the boss chose me 

(See, he's a hard-working man who's ready to do a job no one else wants.)

I've been sort of restless yes he thought it might help if

I got away from my wife and family

(He's been stressed. Needs a break. I can respect that.)

There's been no other woman since the mother of my 

children

And in each and every way she's a lady

(He's faithful. Loves and honors his wife)

Now there's one that I'll remember a sultry night we spent

 together

(Remembering an old flame. Playing the "highlight" reel. It happens.)

And she satisfied the love inside of me

Go on and send me down to Tucson and I'll get the job done

(Good man. Send me down, Boss. I'll take care of it!)

And call up the one whose love is free

(Huh?)
She may be easy and I love my lady

(Whaa?)

But the lady don't satisfy the love inside of me

(He's CHEATING?!?!?! *Insert sound of childhood

 innocence shattering here.*)


So, tell me your story.
Ever had a song you loved but were clueless about the meaning? 
Ever had a "What?" moment like me? 

Happy Release Day To Paul A. Shortt

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


Happy Release Day! 





Welcome back to the blog! I looked back at your first interview from August of 2011. So much has changed for you since then!

Thanks for having me again! Yeah, things have come along a lot. It's been a really exciting time.

First, tell us about Locked Within.

Did the inspiration for this book come from any particular source? 

I had seen an increase in the amount of books where the hero was some powerful supernatural creature. I wanted to try something different, where the hero was just a man. Sure, Nathan Shepherd gains knowledge from past lives through the course of the book, and learns how to harness the power of being reborn, but compared to his enemies he's just a mortal. He has vulnerabilities and has to use his wits to get by.

Reincarnation has always interested me. The idea that we've been here before, and will be again, is kind of comforting. One thing I hadn't seen much of was a setting where reincarnation was considered the norm, and it was assumed that most people had been reborn at least once. Although Locked Within features conflict over the matter, it's still a world where reincarnation forms a central point in the development of the supernatural society.

Locked Within is set in New York City. I know you recently took a trip there. Had you visited there before writing the book? Where did you visit that is mentioned in the book? 

My wife and I had our honeymoon in New York 4 years ago. The book was firmly in my mind at the time, and had been for many years, but I hadn't started writing yet. We spent 2 weeks in Manhattan. Between that and our week there earlier this year, we still haven't seen or done everything we wanted to!

I've visited several places that appear in Locked Within. The New York Public Library and Riverside Park in particular play important roles, and Grand Central Station appears as well. There's also a bar called Druids in Hell's Kitchen which pretty much serves as the location for a disused bar that features in a particular scene.

Can you describe the feel of holding a book with your name on the cover? ('cause some of us are still waiting for that, you know!)

There's no one feeling that can really describe it. Excitement. Fear. Giddiness. Pride. Fear. It was more than just a feeling of accomplishment; it was also a sense of responsibility. I'm a professional author now, I've achieved my lifelong dream, so I have to work even harder than ever to stay here. 

But at the same time, yeah, I've achieved my lifelong dream. It's amazing to look at the book, feel the pages, smell the paper, then read my name on the cover and think "Wow, I did this."

So, you are doing a live book launch as well as a virtual launch on Twitter (which I think is awesome.) How is that going work? 

The live launch is being held in Hughes and Hughes bookstore in Dundrum, which is near Dublin. The store is doing an amazing amount to promote the event and we've already reached 100 confirmed guests on the Facebook event. I can't wait!

The virtual launch will be the following night. I'll make sure to start it at a time when people from the other side of the Atlantic can make it. I'll assign a Twitter hashtag for people to use so that anyone who's online can join in and chat about the book. 

And, do I understand correctly, that you are already working on a sequel? Tell us about that and when we can look for it. 

Yeah! I've actually been working on it since last year. I'm currently in the middle of a hefty re-write before sending it back to my publisher. Originally my plan was to write 6 books about Nathan Shepherd, but after thinking things over, I decided to shorten the series into a much more manageable trilogy.

The sequel, Forgotten Cause, continues Nathan's story and has him facing not only the consequences of his actions in Locked Within, but also actions taken in his past lives. He comes face to face with an old nemesis, and a woman who could be an ally, lover, or a traitor. If the manuscript is accepted by my publisher and the editing goes well, we should be on course for a release date in 2013.

Last, on a personal note, tell us about the twins! 

Hehe, yeah, those two are currently kicking lumps out of my wife's insides. As you may know, last year we had our first baby, a boy named Conor. We lost him after only three days. It was a really hard time, the worst we could possibly imagine, but we had our friends and family to get us through.

We knew we wanted more kids, so when we found out Jen, my wife, was pregnant again, we were thrilled. You can imagine our surprise at the first scan when the midwife said "I think that's another fetal sac." It was small, less than half the size of the larger one, but there was a definite heartbeat. The midwife was concerned we might lose the smaller one. My wife said that as soon as she saw the heartbeat on the monitor, she knew the second twin would be fine. At the next scan Twin 2 had caught up completely and now the pair of them are weighing in well above the average, even for single babies!

We're expecting them to be delivered by c-section on the 28th of December, but based on their size they could decide to come early. It's been a pretty incredible year. Our lives are changing in big ways and I can't wait to see what's next!


It has been awesome getting to know Paul through his writing journey. 

What else would you like to know? You can leave a question in the comments, or if you have minute, leave him a note of congratulations on his first release. 


Jody Hedlund: Secret #11

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Welcome

Jody is awesome and I am so excited to have her sharing secrets with us today! Before we get to the juicy stuff, I absolutely have to recommend her latest book: 
I may or may not have devoured this book in basically one setting. I read the first two chapters on the treadmill and had every intention of only letting myself read it in the mornings while I was working out. Yeah, that night I stayed up until my eyes wouldn't focus getting it finished. So much for my reading-to-improve my thighs plan. 
But, the book was just that awesome! 
Enough about me!
Today is about Jody.

Secret #11: The area in my life I'm the most inconsistent.
By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Overall, I count myself a very self-disciplined person. I  water my plants every Monday. I set my coffee maker every night before going to bed.  I always get up early. I write a certain number of words per day.  I pay my bills on time. I respond promptly to emails. 

Yes, I'm consistent and self-disciplined with most of my life.

But I'm terrible at being self-disciplined in one particular area. And that is exercising regularly.

I have good intentions when it comes to exercising. I always tell myself I need to exercise more and come up with plans. But for some reason, I can't seem to stick with those plans for very long.

Last winter, my goal was to walk with my Leslie Sanone DVD each weekday morning for approximately twenty minutes. I started out walking most mornings. But then occasionally I skipped because of an early morning headache or because I had too many emails to respond to. 

And once you get into the habit of skipping occasionally, it becomes all too easy to skip more regularly, until you're hardly doing it at all anymore.

Then I went in for a yearly doctor's visit and discovered that my blood pressure is borderline high. As I evaluated ways I could work on getting it down (without having to take meds), I learned that exercise was one way to work on lowering blood pressure. 

So, once again, I vamped up my efforts to be more consistent with exercising. Over the summer, I tried to take a twenty minute power walk every weekday morning before the kids woke up. And I realized it's a beautiful, cool time of the morning, with very few people out—mostly just me and my dog.

I realized it's easier to stay consistent with something if you plan it into your schedule for the same time every day, eliminate excuses, and just do it whether you feel like it or not.

Even with all my resolutions, I still find myself missing days now and then. But I'm getting better at becoming more consistent at this area in my life where I've always been completely inconsistent.
Maybe one day, I finally get there.

How about you? In what area of your life do you struggle to be consistent?

Publisher's Weekly calls Unending Devotion " A meaty tale of life amid the debauchery of the lumber camps of 1880s Michigan . . . exciting and unpredictable to the very end."

To celebrate the release of Unending Devotion, Jody is giving away a signed copy. Leave a comment (along with your email address) to enter the drawing. Valid only with US or Canadian addresses. Giveaway ends Friday, Sept. 21st. A winner will be chosen on Saturday. 
For more secrets about Jody and additional chances to win her newest release, visit her Events Page to see where she'll be next in her "Fun Secrets About Author Jody Hedlund" blog tour.
Also join in the Pinterest Photo Contest she's hosting. Find more information about it on her Contest Page.
Jody would love to connect with you! Find her in one of these places:

Getting it together

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday
My younger daughter, age 4



So, I've been hiding. You may have noticed from the lack of a Friday Plot Swap (usually my favorite post). Also, I've spent very little time on twitter or Facebook. It's not that I've become anti-social. I just got stuck.

RWA Nationals pretty much knocked the wind out of me. The complete opposite of what I expected. I blogged about that here. I received awesome support and feedback. Which I appreciated while I was cleaning out my closet instead of editing. It still looks really pretty. You can see the pictures here.

Before I could make myself jump back into writing, I started a new job.

But, I think I've finally got it all together. I am excited about writing again. I'm excited about blogging and I am SOOOO ready to do some plot swapping. Have I got some stories for you!

Since it is Tuesday, tell me your story. Have you ever had to take a break and regroup? What worked best for you? Did you even notice Fridays have been dull and swapless?









Interview with an old friend

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Welcome
 My friend,

Sean and I go way back. I mean, big-hair-and-blue-eyeshadow kind of back. Talking about me, of course, not him. He never had big hair. In fact, we had a serious discussion about what pictures would and would not be shared for this post. You see, there was this play where he played a priest and I played, well, a ditz basically. My best line was "I like his hair...so much." What is that? 

Anyway, Sean is now an entertainment reporter as well as a writer-in-waiting novelist. Of course, I had to have him for Tell Me Your Story Tuesday. 

Let's get to know my friend, Sean. 
 
 Ah, the glamorous life of an entertainment reporter. It's all free movies, champagne and prestige, right?
 Being an entertainment writer is a great gig if you can get it.  I am published in the Moore Monthly and I am read by literally dozens of people every month…dozens! Sure, I see movies early and for free but there is a downside.  People don’t know about the pounds that I have packed on eating extra-butter theater popcorn two to three times a week, do they? I suffered the worst of Adam Sandler for my readers. I saw “Jack and Jill”. I watch those bad films so you don’t have to. It is a public service.

 How did you get into this?
 A friend of mine once gave me the advice, that when you are in a meeting where you clearly do not belong then just act like you do. I took this advice when I was asked to meet with the editor of the Moore Monthly. We had made an acquaintance in social media and he had been impressed with some freelance writing that I had done for a site called OKC.net. I had written a story about taking my young children to the annual Flaming Lips New Year’s Freak Out and titled it “The Family Who Freaks Out Together”. 

My unique angle on covering the show impressed him and I found myself having lunch with him. I was terrified at the prospect that this was a sort of job interview veiled as two guys eating sandwiches. Now, I had published freelance but this was a possible regular gig. I was nervous but took my friend’s advice and acted like this was the sort of thing that happened to me all the time. It worked out and I am now a professional entertainment writer. I have parlayed that in to becoming a member of the Oklahoma Film Critic’s Circle, a recognized professional society for film criticism.  Which, I have used to get more freelance writing work.  I just keep having meetings and pretending that I belong there.

 What do you look for in the movies you review? Do you take notes or rely on your own memory?  Do you like to have company for a discussion afterward or do you prefer work alone?

 Movie studios and promotional companies offer free screenings for the press and for “word of mouth” hype. Usually, these screenings are a few weeks before the actual release of the film and are used to build a buzz around a production.  These screenings are for the press but also for an audience of people who win tickets on the radio or receive them through some other promotional source. When I see a movie, it is in a crowded theater of people so I can gauge their response and measure it against my own. I don’t take notes. I do varying amounts of research beforehand but go see the films the way that any movie-goer would. I bring a friend or my children if it is a family film.  I get popcorn and candy.  I experience the movie.   
My work starts once I am walking out of the theater and I start to distill from my immediate impressions that recommendation of what to expect from a film. I relate my biases upfront and then try to present as balanced as possible a review. I am not picky when it comes to which films I will see. I keep a calendar of all the screenings I can possibly attend and then attend as many as I can. If I do not write about a movie for my regular column then I will usually write something freelance for another outlet about the film. I will see anything because every movie that I see is potential income for me.

 What is it like to leave the theater knowing you are going to write a negative review? Do you feel guilty at all or is all business? 

  Too many critics seem to me to be professional contrarians. I try to be balanced in my criticism of a film. In the end, I am such a fan of film that there is very rarely a movie that has nothing redeeming in it to me. If there is only one worthwhile performance then I will not fail to mention it. Movie-making is a marvelous thing to me and as a critic, I can be like someone watching prestidigitation at a stage show and trying to guess at how the tricks are done and pointing out the wires. In the end I still want to be amazed. I still want it to seem magic.  I still appreciate the art of making-believe. I mean as a writer, I appreciate the magic behind the creation of worlds from whole cloth.  I have such a reverence for film and every part of the process.  I hope I show that in my criticism.

 You also write fiction. What genre? Tell us about one of your work in progress. 

 I am not sure. I call myself a speculative fiction author. I am writing in the genres that I am drawn most to read. My fiction is some combination of horror and sci-fi, maybe the horrors of science (although my science is as much psychological and social science as anything else).  Hanging a name on a story and categorizing it is limiting it to follow certain tropes or expectations. It has been suggested to me that I write slipstream fiction. I am not quite sure what slipstream as a genre really is exactly but I like what Bruce Sterling wrote about it: "...this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility”. I get that.  Out of place or out of your mind is sort of what I am shooting for in the atmosphere of my writing.

 What authors have shaped your vision of what you want your writing to be? 

I am currently reading through everything in our local library written by Philip K. Dick. Immediately before that, I was rereading the short fiction of Lovecraft. I have very few books as I tend to pass them on quickly but I am literate and an autodidact so I consume the resources of my library voraciously.  I would probably say Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut are huge influences on my thinking and writing right now. However, my overall vision is colored by piles upon  piles of yellowed pulp  science fiction and fantasy novels that my parents had collected.  My first advice to anyone who likes to write besides ‘Just write’ is to read. Just read.

 As of now, you are unpublished in fiction. How do you keep yourself motivated and writing ? 

 I have published very little in fiction (a few short stories in independent small press magazines). I have written however quite a lot. I spend most of my week working on freelance journalism.  After the freelance journalism work is written, I take time every day for my fiction.  The time varies on my workload. I am starting to feel a pull in the direction of submitting my fiction work and investigating places to publish (and self-publishing options) especially as I get close to finishing my novel.  I really feel like it isn’t hard to get motivated to write, it is hard to do the work of getting that writing seen by others and making a living from that writing. That is daunting. The writing is the easy part in comparison. The process of submitting that writing and getting it seen is what takes motivation. 

 Where do you see yourself going in your writing path? Five years from now, what do you hope to have accomplished? 

Writing. I want to be writing. A few years ago, writing was a hobby for me. I was a retail manager for a big box store. I hated my job and I used writing as an escape. I was stuck in a profession that I found tedious and I was absolutely “adequate” at. I decided not to settle for being mediocre and feeling trapped. There was better money in retail but my heart was in writing. That sounds like a bold choice and may be the best move of my life if I can somehow make writing my career. I am a freelancer. There is a certain grind to freelancing but it doesn’t pay a lot and you have to really work it to make it work. The five year plan is to make the most of every freelance opportunity that I have and to start taking more “meetings that I don’t belong in” with fiction editors.  Keep working on my craft and keeping my fingers on the keys. If I am really living the dream, then I am going to combine this freelance journalism gig with a fiction writer gig. Ultimately, to be a working novelist and write to support myself would be the dream fulfilled. Any way that it happens, I am going to keep writing.

Thank you so much for doing this, Sean. It was such fun. 
You can find Sean at his blog:   http://verynovel.wordpress.com/ or like his Author page on Facebook.

You can also ask him questions in the comments here. Feel free to ask him about me in high school. He may know where some of the bodies are buried, but I've got pictures, so I ain't scared! 




R.J. Thesman

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday
WELCOME

It is a pleasure to have R. J. with us today to discuss her new release  
The Unraveling of Reverend G
 and a special topic dear to her heart. 
Let's get to know R. J.!
 

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
As a bi-vocational writer, I work part-time at GateWay of Hope Ministries. My title is Program Director for this incredible women’s center that focuses on counseling, groups and prayer. Then I come home, have a bite to eat, exercise and write.
Since the time I first opened my Big Chief tablet and scribbled my first story, I have been a writer. But it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I attended a writers’ conference and learned more about the business side that I became a professional freelancer.
I am constantly writing – whether it is observing people for future characters, using the experiences of life in personal experience articles or unloading my soul in my journal. I can’t NOT write.

Your current release is 
What is it about?
This is my first novel, and it is about a woman minister who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She struggles with forgetting part of the Lord’s prayer and losing an entire gallon of Chunky Monkey ice cream. She has to retire and goes to live in assisted living where she meets a colorful cast of characters. The greatest fear of Reverend G is that she will forget how to communicate with God and thus – lose her faith.

You have deeply personal experience with Alzheimer's. How did that influence your writing process for this book? Did it challenge you more in anyway?
Because of my father’s trauma-induced dementia and my mother’s Alzheimer’s – I wondered what they were thinking about while they dealt with gradually declining health.  What was really happening inside those damaged brains? So I wanted to pursue that question by writing about Reverend G from her viewpoint, in first person.
Many of the experiences that Reverend G has are similar to the ones I have lived with and observed with my parents. The challenge was that in writing the book, I lived it so closely that I grieved for my parents all over again.

This is not your first book. Tell us about some of your other writing experiences.
Most of my writing has been in the nonfiction genre. My first book was an autobiography of my missionary experiences in Honduras, “The Plain Path.” My next three books were curricula for teaching English to international students, using the Bible. Except for an occasional short story, most of my articles have been nonfiction. So it was a great surprise to suddenly wake up with this novel in my head.

Does your process for writing fiction differ at all when writing non-fiction? 

I have always been an outliner and a planner, but with Reverend G – I just sat down and let her write the book through me. And it was so much fun! I think I have discovered my true calling.
With nonfiction, I always did research at the beginning, outlined, wrote the first draft, queried a publisher, then continued to rewrite until it was polished.
With Reverend G – I wrote the entire thing in 6 months, then did some additional research and went back to add it to the text. After the final edits, it was completed. Currently, I have enough characters and plot ideas for another two books in the series.

You also do public speaking and workshops. What message do hope those who hear you and/or read your work take from it?
I absolutely love teaching about writing – especially for the Christian market. I believe it is so important that we keep the message of Christ’s love alive with our words. Whether I am speaking about the Reverend G book or teaching a workshop, I hope to convey the joy of writing and the importance of keeping the message clear and readable.
When I speak specifically about the Reverend G book, I hope to share encouragement and hope with caregivers. Their role and their burdens are incredibly difficult.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing or speaking?
I love to read, read, read and I love nature. My favorite place is out on my deck with a good book. I also love to watch the sun set and praise God that He chooses different colors and textures every night.
I like to cook, but often don’t have time to do it justice. I also love to eat out with my son – especially great Mexican food.

What's your next step?
The 1st draft of the second book is completed, so I am now editing it. I’ve titled it “Intermission for Reverend G.” The third book will be “Final Grace for Reverend G.” After that, I’m already working on ideas for another novel – a secret!

How can our readers get to know you better?
My blog is on my website at: www.rjthesman.net. I’m on twitter: @rjthesman. On FB, my author page is RJ Thesman and I also have a group for caregivers and those dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia: Facebook.com/SometimesTheyForget. I’m also on LinkedIn as Rebecca Thesman and I have an author page on Amazon: RJ Thesman.

Thank you so much for being with us today.
 Do you have a question for R. J. about her writing journey or experience as a caregiver? 


Wildflowers from Winter~ Book Review

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

BOOK REVIEW

Bethany Quinn was happy to leave her small town ten years ago to create a new, successful life. But when tragedies strike at home, she is forced to return and face the pain of her childhood. Out of options, Bethany tries to find a place where love and faith make sense again.


Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing author Katie Ganshert. You can check that out here. Today, I get to review her debut release!  I call that a good week.


For me, Wildflowers from Winter was an emotional read.  I started tearing up on page 19, by page 62 I had abandoned getting up to get tissues and just brought a roll of toilet paper to bed with me.

That said, it was a good cry. 

Katie makes these characters so real you can almost touch them. I could see my reflection in their flaws.  Each of their failures ripped at my heart. But, the greatest part is the interwoven message of hope. 

As the main character, Bethany, grapples with the distorted religious views that shaped her past, Katie unobtrusively guides the reader through a journey of losing and finding faith. Though the praise and hope of God is clear throughout, the message is never heavy-handed or preachy. 

The authentic reactions of the characters to grief and tragedy of the situations is refreshing.  If you have experienced any level of loss, you can identify with the different coping strategies exhibited by each character. Everyone grieves differently and Katie captures the heart of that beautifully. 

I would definitely recommend this book to a friend. I am looking forward to Katie's next release. Wishing on Willows which is a continuation of Robin's story from Wildflowers. 







Welcome Katie Ganshert!

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


WELCOME

I had the pleasure of featuring Katie when she first got Rachelle Gardner as an agent. You can read that post here. I am thrilled to have her talking about her debut release:

which I will be reviewing next week. 

Let's get to know Katie!

I love the story of how you met your husband. Can you give us a quick version of that? 

Ha! I love it too. He was the extremely good-looking delivery guy and I was the enamored receptionist. He’d come in once and day and we’d pretty much say hi and how are you? Then one day, as I’m walking out for lunch, he’s walking into our office. I expected him to go on in, but he did an about-face, walked with me to the elevator, and asked me out. My suave response was, “Do you even know my name?” Of course, I’d been signing for the packages every single day. Only my signature is perpetually messy. So he thought my name was Kate, even though I’d always been Katie. I didn’t correct him. I wrote “Kate” and my number on a gum wrapper and the rest is history. (Ten years later and he still has the gum wrapper.) 

You left your teaching career to write full time. How scary was that? Do you miss the classroom? 

Super scary. Especially since most industry professionals would advise against it. But I felt pulled in way too many directions. I was trying to be a wife and a mother and a teacher and a writer, and all the while, I felt like our son was growing up way too fast. I felt like God was asking me to step out in faith. Ryan did too.  After a whole bunch of prayer, we took the step, knowing we would lose half our salary and the great benefits that come with being a teacher. On paper, it didn’t seem like it could work. But God is faithful. He never leads where He won’t provide. It’s been the best decision for our family. One of the reasons I know is because as much as I loved teaching, I don’t miss it.

What has been the best part of this journey for you?

Oh boy, lots and lots of things! Getting to know so many amazing writing friends (like you!:)). Working with my agent. Working with my editor. Working with my marketing director. The people at Waterbrook/Multnomah are a dream team. Seeing a lifelong goal come to life. 

And getting to connect with readers! But, since you asked for the best, which implies only one thing, I’d have to say how keenly I’ve felt God’s presence throughout. This journey has drawn me so incredibly close to Him. It’s shown me that as wonderful as dreams are, ultimately, my hope and my joy and my worth are found in Him.  

What has been the most surprising (good or bad) part of the journey? 

The insecurity! I totally thought getting a book contract would take care of that for me. But I promise, it doesn’t. I feel like the further along I get in this journey, the more severely insecurity attacks. Which is why the further along I get in this journey, the more and more I have to put my hope in God. I’m such a people-pleaser. I want everyone to be happy with my work and happy with me. God is teaching me some (tough) lessons about letting that go. 

How is the adoption process going? Can you talk little bit about your decision to adopt and what the response has been? 

Good! We’re getting super close to sending our home study over to the Congo. Once it’s over there, we’ll be put on a referral list and the waiting begins.
We decided to adopt because God says to take care of orphans. He’s so clear about that command. It’s non-negotiable. That doesn’t mean everyone has to adopt to do so, but for us, that’s what it meant. We wanted more kids. It wasn’t happening the natural way. We didn’t feel pulled to go the infertility treatment route, and our lives kept intersecting with people who were either in the process of adopting or had already adopted. 

Then one day, the whisper in my heart was undeniable. It was as if God were saying, “I have a blessing out there for you, Katie. Don’t miss it because you’re too scared or too lazy.” God was working on my husband’s heart too. When he came home from work, I said, “I think we should adopt.”  And he said, “Me too.”
So here we are.

What's next for you as a writer? 

Book 2, Wishing onWillows, which releases March 19, 2013. It’s the continuation of Robin’s story from Wildflower. Readers don’t have to read the first book to follow the second, but I do think it’ll be a lot more meaningful if they do. I’m hoping readers will enjoy seeing familiar faces and places. 

Where can we connect with you? Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter
My blog
Twitter : @KatieGanshert 


Thank you so much for sharing with us, Katie.

So, what else do you want to know about Katie? Jump in and ask!

Welcome C.A. Szarek!

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

WELCOME

C.A. (or Chrissy, as I know her, because, you know I got it like that) and I  like to tease each other, but she is loads of fun and I enjoy hanging out with her. I'm happy to have her with us today, sharing her exciting news!
Chrissy and Dawn at the Texas Two Step Conference

  Let's get to know Chrissy! 

First, tell us your great news about your upcoming release.
My first novel, Sword’s Call (Book 1 in theKing’s Riders Series) Will be published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing and will be out April 30,  2013.  They have actually picked up my whole series! :)

 What sources do you use for your inspiration? Books? Movies? Random people at the mall?
I get inspiration from anywhere, I think. I have been writing for so long, since I was about 14. I actually wrote my first book then. (Yes, I still have it. Interesting reading, that one. But I would soooo never show it to anyone).
I have always loved fantasy, and that is my first love as a genre, but I will read anything that looks good and often get inspiration from what I read.

You have done some very original series on your blog. Tells us about your A-Z. Also, you have a serial going on there right now. Tell us about that! 

I see that everyone has hopped on the Alphabet Game train, which is really cool. I did mine from late Jan to late March.

 I have an “established” fantasy world I created for a series I am working on, and I decided to use the letters as a way to have small adventures w/ the main characters from my world as well as introduce some secondary characters. I even made a few up brand new, and in turn got more ideas for future books.

 It was a great exercise that got my creative juices and honestly refocused me to get back to a project (2nd book in my series) that I have been ignoring for quite some time.

The serial that I am doing involves one of those couples that I made up for the Alphabet Game. They are featured in “Y is for Yours” and “Z is for Zethan” and basically they told me they weren’t done w/ me. Getting to know them better and write their love story is fun. I am doing it weekly. Check back every Weds to see how their story is progressing!

What is your favorite part of the writing process? First draft? Revisions?
Not really sure. I am a diehard pantser, so I guess it’s just how the story develops in my head.

 What do you do when you aren't writing? I hear you have quite an interesting job.
I have two jobs, actually. I work with kids at both. During the week I am the Juvenile Case Manager at a Municipal Court, and on the weekends I work at a shelter for teens. 

When I am not being a work-a-holic, and am NOT writing, I watch WAY too much TV and I read. I also love to scrapbook. And I spend way too much time on Facebook and Twitter. 

  What has been the best part of your writing journey?
              Sharing my stories with the world.
 
        What  has been the best advice you have received along the way? 
              What advice would you give someone   starting out?
 I belong to a great group of writers at NTRWA, so I am not sure I can hammer it down to any certain piece of advice. Everyone is so awesome and would do anything for a writer in need. But, what I can say is that if you want this, this dream of being published NEVER GIVE UP! It will happen if you persevere.
Also, join another group of writers. I personally wish I would have done it years ago. It’s too hard to go it alone. You might love your family and friends, but no one will understand you like another writer. 

 What is next for you?
Continue writing. My characters won’t leave me alone until I write them down. Kinda annoying, but just how it is. ;)

 Where can we connect with you? Facebook? Twitter? Blog


Thank you for visiting with us, Chrissy!
So, what else do you want to know about her?


Remembering your first...

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

  

What's the first book you really remember reading? 
Mine would have to be The Secret Garden

A teacher recommended it to me after seeing I was flying through The Fudge Series, Ramona and Choose Your Own Adventures. (Thank you, Mrs. Moore~ You are still one of my favorites!)

It was the first book I downloaded to my kindle. 

 I moved on to Judy Blume, S. E Hinton, and Robert Cormier.


 

 



and thousands of others. 

But The Secret Garden will always hold a special place in my heart.  There is just something magical about your first. 

So, tell me your story. What is the first real book you remember reading? What books will always have a place on your shelves or in your e-reader?


Happy Release day to RONI LOREN!

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday
Crash Into You
Go ahead and stare at the cover a little longer. I'll wait.





*Throws confetti*


Happy Release day to my friend,

Roni is just awesome. I have truly enjoyed getting to know her through NTRWA and have been waiting anxiously to be able to throw her a release day virtual party.
Also, you should check out her blog because, well, she puts really hot guys on there! 
Roni has visited us a few times most recently with this post about the craziness of self-promotion.
But, she also weighed in on my struggle with writing sexy scenes. You can check out her advice here

So, celebrate with me! 

Grab some confetti and a virtual glass for the toast.  
Congratulate Roni or hop over to her blog and leave her some love. 

Tell Me Your New Year's Eve Story

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Okay, I know it isn't New Year's Eve yet. In fact, if you are like me, you are still so stuff from Christmas you aren't even thinking about Saturday.

But I want to hear your best New Year's Eve stories anyway.


I having been trying to conjure up my best memory of New Year's Eve.

This is difficult because most of them blend together in an alcohol-induced haze. The overarching themes from my younger years involve  friends, a karaoke machine and lots of drinking in the back bedroom. Unfortunately, a good portion of it is preserved on video.

Must destroy all copies before my children are old enough to see...

One NYE that will always make me smile centers around sneaking a friend's underage brother  into a bar in New Mexico. He didn't drink, just hung with us.

That same night,  I vaguely remember running the table on a friend's overly-confident (read: cocky jerk)  fiance while everyone thought I was too toasted to stand up, much less focus on the cue ball.

At midnight, everyone else kissed their future husbands, I kissed three gay men. 

The New Year's Eve Kiss-at-Midnight thing as never worked out well for me.

Case in point, at the time of one of the aforementioned parties, I was seeing two different guys (one for fun, one for keeps- I thought) and heavily flirting with a third (because this was college and he was just hot!).

All three made an appearance at the our New Year's Eve party.


Fun Guy~ stopped by long enough to try to persuade me to leave with him. Stayed less than fifteen minutes. Wasn't there at midnight, but called at 2 am because he hadn't found anyone better to bring in the New Year with. Yeah, he was a winner.


For Keeps Guy~ Came by for a while. Had been drinking since noon. Drank more with me and inexplicably left at about 11:45.


Hot Guy~ Asked me to go outside with him when For Keeps Guy left so we could "talk some place private" *Promising* Made me sit in the front seat of his freezing truck while he confessed his undying love for my roommate and asked me to help set it up so he could kiss her at midnight.


Yet, another year I kissed three gay men.


So, tell me your story. What is your best New Year's Eve? What is your worst? Got any plans for this year?

Happy Release Day! Nikki Duncan!

Tell Me  Your Story Tuesday

Happy Release Day! 
Tangled In Tulle
 Today is the release of Nikki's new series, Tulle and Tulips.
Let's celebrate by getting to know her better!

    What made you pick your genre? What do you love about it? What stereotypes about it make you crazy?

I always loved reading the Harlequin Intimate Moments – the lighter romantic suspense stories – so I think it was a natural development for me. As for taking on straight contemporary without the suspense, that was a challenge issued to me by my first editor, and I’m so glad for it. I love where those stories are going.

  Tell us about this new series Tulle and Tulips. What can the reader expect? How is this going to differ from your Sensory Ops Series?

Well, like all of my stories, my readers can expect a strong hero and heroine who come together as a stronger team. There is also a lighter tone in all of my stories, rather than darkness. In that way, Tangled is Tulle (and all the books in the series) will be like my Sensory Ops series it spins off of. How does it differ, there is no suspense. It’s just about two people overcoming the obstacles that stop them from falling in love.

You are also involved with Wicked Writers . What is that like?

Wicked Writers is a great group of authors and readers. We have a great time talking books, movies and hot guys (and much more). And it’s always a BLAST to meet these women in person after years of talking to them online. They’re like an extended family for me.

  Do you have a writing routine? What does it look like? Where do you usually write?

My writing routine… HA! I squeeze in as much time as I can between the day job, volunteer jobs and the family. If I am lucky I get an hour each morning after the kids go to school where I can write. Sometimes I’m not lucky and only manage 5-10 minutes, but no matter what I am doing something on some book or writing every day.
  
  Is the life of a writer what you thought it be? What is different?

I didn’t think it would change things too much from the normal craze that is my life. Turns out I was right, I just seem to fit in better at times. J

  Do you have any special time management tricks for working in writing time and living a normal life?

The biggest time management trick is to stop making excuses as to why you don’t have time. After that, turn off the internet for at least 30 minutes a day. Longer is better.

What is the best advice you have received about this journey?

Stop making excuses and just do it. Oh, and allow yourself to write crap, because you can’t correct a blank page and you never know if it will actually be good.

  What do you do to fight burnout? Do you ever worry about "running out of stories"? How do combat that?

I have enough stories in my head right now (and the voices and characters to go with them) to keep me writing for the next 10 years, so running out isn’t a concern. As for the burnout, I truly love writing so as long as I take a break in between stories and don’t push myself too hard and too fast I’m okay.

   What kind of scenes do you have a hard time writing?

This is different for every book. Sometimes it’s a fight scene others it could be a sex scene or an emotionally pivotal one. It’s never the same, which is part of what keeps things interesting.

  Do you ever write material based on your close relationships, such as a best friend?, and how do you balance that material with the need to tell an interesting story?

The closest I’ve come to writing about a best friend is using a name. The first time I did it I had to learn to divorce myself from the real person, because the real person absolutely is not and never would she be a call girl (even under the circumstances my character was in).


 Tell us a bit about your work in progress.

My current WIP… I have a few. I am working on revisions for another WhisperingCove novella. It will be an erotic contemporary with the matchmaking grandfathers back to stirring up trouble. After that, I’ll be back to killing people in book 4 of the Sensory Ops.

What is next for you?

After TANGLED IN TULLE, I have ILLICIT INTUITIONS scheduled for release in April. After that, I should have another Tulle and Tulips book and somewhere in there will be the Whispering Cove novella.

How can we find out more about you? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter?

I’m pretty easy to find online. My website is www.nikkiduncan.com and I have a prominent blog link on there. My Twitter and Facebook pages are both /nduncanwriter. Anyplace else I can be found is linked on my website.

Thank you for having me. 

Thank you stopping by, Nikki! Congratulations on your new series. 
So, what else would you like to know about Nikki?