Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Author Terry Spear On Creating Characters

It’s always a pleasure to welcome award-winning author Terry Spear back to Thoughts in Progress as the special guest blogger as she tours blogdom.

Terry’s soon-to-be release is HEART OF THE HIGHLAND WOLF. Here’s a brief synopsis of it: Ian McNeill, laird of Argent Castle finds his capital squandered through unwise investments and the wolf clan's home that has been theirs for centuries is in danger of being forfeit for nonpayment of taxes. When a movie producer contacts him with the notion of using his castle to produce a movie, Ian abhores the idea, but it's his only salvation. Even worse, his people become extras in this epic Highland movie. But when one American werewolf romance author, Julia Wildthorn, slips into the castle under the guise of being with the movie company, except she is trying to jumpstart her muse with writing a book set in old-world Scotland--specifically about his castle and his people as the characters in her newest book venture--she and Ian tangle.

Terry stopped by today to talk about ‘Getting It Straight in the Highlands’ when creating her intriguing characters.

Mason asked me to talk about how I create my characters—name, physical description, traits; the order, which is the hardest, etc; and do I keep a journal or log of my characters so that I don’t overlap.
First, thanks so much for giving me a topic, Mason! After writing so many blogs for different sites, it’s hard for one person, like me, to come up with something new! So thanks!

First, I create names for my main characters. I often use the Character Naming Guide, although in some cases I’ve seen a name somewhere and loved it so much that it becomes a character’s name. But often, I select a character’s name based on something more.

Here are a couple of excerpts from HEART OF THE HIGHLAND WOLF that explain some of the character’s names.
“The most optimistic of his quadruplet brothers, Cearnach’s name suited him—victorious or warrior from the woods. Ian believed their mother had to have known something of their personalities before they were even born through some kind of innate knowledge—all except for Ian himself. He was the gift from God. And look where that had gotten them. He assumed his mother had named him as such because he was the first born of the four brothers. She was probably relieved to birth the first of them and get the whole thing over with.”
They are quadruplets! And another excerpt:
“Guthrie, like his name, could no more be harnessed than the wind, free to willfully roam where it would.”

And the other brother is Duncan, the dark warrior. So for each of the brothers, I picked out special names that would help to define their personalities.
Cearnach is almost always happy-go-lucky, yet when he is given the task to take charge as the second oldest brother when Ian is not there, he is all business, just as much a warrior.
Duncan is darker in personality, ready to slay his enemy, thinking in terms of the worst-case scenario, not as trusting.
Guthrie is a free spirit who marches to his own drummer, and now has gotten the clan into a financial mess. He’s a financial wizard, normally, and tends to keep his nose in the financial books.

But since Ian is the main character, his personality will deepen even further. Since he’s the eldest, the clan, the wolf pack, the castle and all their survival depends on him. He feels responsible for everyone’s actions and must be capable of turning around their financial straits to the satisfaction of the clan. Throw in a major distraction, a female red werewolf, who isn’t who she claims to be and we see a very new side of his personality.

And that’s how I do it. I start with a name, an idea of some of the major personality traits, and for the main characters, throw them into conflict so that I can showcase further personality quirks. I don’t plan it out to begin with. I can’t. They come to life as I write the story.

I don’t keep journals on my characters. As I set the story in a new place, new major troubles, the characters breathe a life of their own. When I was writing the second book in the Highland wolf series, I wrote about the youngest brother, the dark warrior, Duncan. I reread the parts that he was in in HEART OF THE HIGHLAND WOLF, and made sure that I didn’t deviate from his character. But depending on the circumstances, any individual will act differently based on those circumstances.

For instance, when he is protecting his clan, it will be different from when he is trying to take down the thief who stole their money in a land far away from his ancestral home. Add to that a female wolf who makes him nearly forget his mission, when he is the kind who is always business all the time, and on top of that the master thief is hitting on this single female…and you’ll see a new side to his personality. The dark warrior, sure, but the besotted dark warrior.

I love creating stories! Creating conflict is the best way to show off a character’s personality traits, and oftentimes I don’t even know how they’ll react, or I’ll think out several scenarios, until it fits with their character traits and use that one.

No mystery to any of it. Except…what was the color of her hair again? And yes, names. I had two heroes starting with a “D” name, before I wrote the second Highland wolf tale, and now that makes three. And I had written one of my vampire romantic suspenses with the hero’s name beginning with the letter “D.” So when a fan wrote and asked about one of the “D” heroes and didn’t give the title, I couldn’t remember which hero he was! Let’s see, there was Devlyn, Darien, and Daemon. And Duncan, of course! Hmm, maybe I should keep a log! And for heaven’s sake, avoid any more “D” hero names for a while! Thanks again for having me, Mason!

What do you think about the quadruplet brothers’ names? Which would you prefer to meet up with on a chilly, wet day in the Highlands?

Terry, thanks for guest blogging. I always enjoy learning more about how you create your stories. It would be hard for me to pick between the four brothers, I like all the names. Wishing you much success with your writing and looking forward to HEART OF THE HIGHLAND WOLF.

Now for a bit about Terry. With almost 70,000 copies sold, Terry is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and a Librarian. She received her MBA from Monmouth University. An eclectic writer, she dabbles in the paranormal as well as writing historical and true life stories for both teen and adult audiences. Terry lives in Crawford, Texas. For more information on her and her writing, visit her website at http://www.terryspear.com/, find her on Facebook at http:///www.facebook.com/#!/terry.spear, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/TerrySpear and at Smashwords at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/tspear. Look for these exciting upcoming releases from Terry: DREAMING OF THE WOLF (Fall, 2011), THE WOLF AND THE SEAL, and THE HIGHLAND WOLF IN PARADISE in 2012, plus much more.

What are your thoughts on the brothers’ names? Do you like unusual names or simple names? Sorry I’m still not around blogdom, but I do appreciate you stopping by here. Thanks so much.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Author Carolyn Brown On Reading And Cowboys

Find a comfortable chair and reach for your favorite beverage of choice as you help me welcome award-winning author Carolyn Brown back to Thoughts in Progress today to talk about her latest release and new Spikes and Spurs Series.

Carolyn latest release is LOVE DRUNK COWBOY, the first in an exciting new cowboy series from the delightful author. Thanks to Carolyn and Danielle at Sourcebooks, I can offer 2 copies of LOVE DRUNK COWBOY as giveaways to visitors commenting on this post. The giveaway is open to residents of U.S. and Canada only between now and 8 p.m. (EST) on Monday, June 6. Be sure to include your e-mail address if it’s not included in your profile.

Here’s a brief blurb about LOVE DRUNK COWBOY: She’s a Self-Made City Girl… High-powered career woman Austin Lanier suddenly finds herself saddled with an inherited watermelon farm deep in the countryside. She’s determined to sell the farm, until her new, drop-dead sexy neighbor Rye O’Donnell shows up…

He’s as Intoxicating as Can Be…Rancher Rye O’Donnell thinks he’s going to get a good deal on his dream property—until he meets the fiery new owner. Rye is knocked sideways when he realizes that not only is Granny Lanier’s city-slicker granddaughter a savvy businesswoman, she’s also sexy as hell…

Suddenly Rye is a whole lost less interested in real estate and a whole lot more focused on getting Austin to set aside her stiletto heels…

Carolyn was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

Hello! I’m so tickled to be here today to wind down my month long blog tour to promote LOVE DRUNK COWBOY! Thank you for inviting me back again to Thoughts in Progress and thank you, Mason, for that AWESOME review! You really crawled out there on a shaky limb discussing a “love drunk” cowboy on your Sunday blog! Maybe you should have a Saturday night blog where you discuss my rowdy cowboys! You do know that cowboys sow their wild oats on Saturday night and then go to church on Sunday morning to pray for a crop failure.

Carolyn, no shaky limb there. ‘Love drunk’ cowboys are the best kind. They are caring, responsible and put family first; not to mention being sexy. But a Saturday night blog about cowboys does have possibilities.

Mason - As a writer, do you feel it's also important to find time to read?

Carolyn: Yes, ma’am, as much and as often as possible. I used to try to read a book a day but lately, it’s about a book a week, since Husband retired.

Mason - What are you currently reading or is in your TBR stack?

Carolyn: Just last night I finished Hissy Fit by Mary Kay
Andrews. Loved it! Of course I would, she’s a southern writer. My TBR stack? How much room do you have here on this blog? This could go on and on. I read on PW this morning that there’s a new J.A. Jance book coming right soon and then I haven’t gotten Grace Burrowes The Heir read and she’s about to come out with the next one which will go on my TBR read list and then there’s Sue Grafton’s newest hiding down there somewhere. If we had an explosion in this house it would look somewhat like a tornado hit the Library of Congress and I keep seeing more that I really, really want to add to it.

Mason - If you could only have 5 books, what would they be?

Carolyn: Oh, dear, darlin’, that is one tough question. To pick five only…is it because of space on the blog, space in my suitcase because I’m going to a remote island or I only get to stay wherever you are sending me for five days? We could extend the blog a wee bit and I’ll get a bigger suitcase or leave part of my clothing behind, and I could stay longer. No…won’t work? Got to pick five only! Okay then. Remember that I’m an eclectic reader! My Bible (got to have that), Gone With the Wind (I read it about every five years and Margaret is starting to feel neglected), LaVyrle Spencer’s Vows (touches all my emotions from laughter to tears), The Godfather, by Mario Puzo and Exodus by Leon Uris.

Mason - How is your new series different from your Honky Tonk series and how is it similar?

Carolyn: They are both about cowboys, of course. The Honky Tonks were set in the old bar down in Mingus, Texas and the new series isn’t confined to a building. It starts out in Terral, Oklahoma with LOVE DRUNK COWBOY and jumps the Red River over to Henrietta, Texas for RED'S HOT COWBOY (August) with a setting in a fifty year old motel. Then we hop back to Ringgold to the O’Donnell’s horse ranch for DARN GOOD COWBOY CHRISTMAS (October) and to Ace Riley’s ranch for ONE HOT COWBOY WEDDING (April 2012). After that we are going on a pro-rodeo trip, a reenactment of the cattle drive on the Chisholm Trail and out to the Palo Duro Canyon in west Texas. So this series isn’t confined to a building. All of them are similar in that they have a stubborn cowboy trying to tame a sassy woman who doesn’t want to give up her kick-ass independence.

Mason - What can readers look for next from you?

Carolyn: Ooops! I think I just answered that one in number 4. So think more cowboys! More heroines with a mind of their own and who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. More quirky secondary characters. More humor.

Thank you so much for letting me prop up my feet here today. Talk to me folks! Tell me what you are reading these days and if you want to see more cowboys on the market. Now Mason pop open that bottle of watermelon wine that I brought and break the seal on that box of chocolates and we’ll talk about Rye and Austin while we wait on the folks to comment. Did you like that Charley Horse scene, the one where they were sexting when she was in a business meeting or all that steamy kissing in the rain?

Oh, Carolyn! It’s always so much fun having you stop by. I see we enjoy some of the same books and sorry about limiting you to select only 5. Thought it would be fun to try and narrow it down. Now as for Rye and Austin, I think one of my favorite scenes was the mechanical bull. LOL Can’t decide which taste better, the chocolates or the watermelon wine, oh my!

Before I get too distracted, let me tell you more about Carolyn. She is an award-winning author who has published 36 bestselling romances for the library market. She now writes bestselling single title cowboy and country music mass market romances. Born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma, Carolyn and her husband now make their home in the town of Davis, Oklahoma. Carolyn’s next book, RED’S HOT COWBOY will be in stores in August 2011, followed by DARN GOOD COWBOY CHRISTMAS in October 2011. For more about information on Carolyn and her writing, be sure to visit her website at www.carolynlbrown.com and www.sourcebookscasablanca.com where she blogs.

Now what your thoughts on Carolyn’s questions? What are you reading and should there be more cowboys on the market? Be sure to share your thoughts for a chance to win a copy of Carolyn’s latest release. Thanks y’all for stopping by, I really appreciate it. Hope everyone has a safe and Happy Memorial Day too.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Author Margaret George: Creating A Work Area For Inspiration

Please join me in welcoming author Margaret George as she makes a stop here today on her virtual blog tour as the special guest blogger.

Margaret’s latest release is ELIZABETH I. Here’s a brief synopsis: It is 1588, and the showdown between England and Spain has finally come.  Elizabeth and her island kingdom stand alone against the strongest country in Europe. Yet after that triumph, she cannot rest. There are many other challenges to her, and the ever-hanging question of the succession to the childless queen. Surrounded by such larger-than-life characters as Drake, Shakespeare, the Earl of Essex, Raleigh, and Francis Bacon, the queen proves bigger than all of them.

Her cousin and rival, Lettice Knollys, mother of the Earl of Essex and widow of Robert Dudley, who was Elizabeth’s love and soul mate, provides a dark counterpoint to the glittering aura of Elizabeth’s legend. Bound together in a love-hate relationship, the two women pursue their linked destinies.
Margaret is here to discuss ‘How to Create a Great Work Area for Inspiration.’

Your ideal fantasy work place…a little hut high on a mountain in Hawaii, overlooking the sea? A monks’ cell in a pine forest? A plush studio in Hollywood, with 50s blond furniture, and a view of the Hollywood sign? Or, something with no distractions at all, a room like a jail cell and a desk that faces a wall?

Hmmm….none of these is probably ideal in terms of your productivity. Either they’re too comforting, or too distracting, or too depressing. You need to create a work space where you live, that you can live with and in. But---and here’s the big but---it should be dedicated space.

I know, I know. I’ve heard those stories, too, of great literature
created at a kitchen table with screaming kids running around. And sometimes, if you are burning with a story, you can tell it no matter where you are. But writing is usually not that insistent but something you need to plug away at, that you have to work at getting in the mood for. There’s a German saying, “Only begin and the brain will grow heated; only begin and the task will be completed.” A dedicated writing space is invaluable in giving you a place where you can make yourself begin.

It should be off the main traffic area of your living space. It should not need to be cleaned up at the end of every day and returned to its ‘real’ function---a dining room table or an ironing room. Its very permanence should convince you that this writing thing deserves its own respect and its own footprint.

You should have the best equipment for your task. “Can’t do good work without good tools,” my grandfather always said. Don’t have a computer that still uses large floppy disks or a dial-up modem. You need a printer that prints. A desk that doesn’t teeter. A chair that doesn’t collapse or squeak. And you should have good lighting.

Then add things that inspire you. Art work that speaks to you. Mementoes of recognition and encouragement. Objects reminding you of the topic you are writing about---a photo or a facsimile of something in the story. I had a little Trojan horse (complete with men inside) when I was writing HELEN OF TROY and snake paperweights when I was writing THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA.

Music is nice if it inspires you. Background music, movie soundtracks are good for this. Period music if you are writing an historical novel. Music with words is usually too distracting. 

Even perfume or room spray can be helpful if it conjures up a mood or a setting. If you are writing about a forest, try some Pine-Sol in a handkerchief on the desk and you will feel like you are there. Or lily of the valley scent if you are trying to write about an English spring and it’s freezing cold and sleeting in Nebraska where you are.

When the work day is done, shut everything down, tidy up, and go elsewhere. It will be waiting for you the next day, and just walking into it should re-set your meter and tell you you are entering your private world of the imagination.

Margaret, thank you for guest blogging. I love the notion of having an place just to write (no matter what type of writing you’re doing). Wishing you much success with your latest release.

Here’s a bit of background on Margaret. She is the author of six epic biographical novels, all New York Times bestsellers, featuring larger than life characters like Henry VIII and Cleopatra. Although painstakingly accurate historically, their real focus is the psychology of the characters. We know what they did, we want to know why. Her latest release is ELIZABETH I.

Margaret’s research has taken her from the islands of Scotland to the temples of Upper Egypt, with experiences that include snake-keeping and gladiatorial training. She lives in Wisconsin and Washington DC. Her interests include reptile conservation efforts, Middle Eastern dance (aka bellydancing), and archeology. You can learn more about Margaret and her writing by visiting her website at www.margaretgeorge.com.

What are your thoughts on having a creative space? Do you have your ideal fantasy work place? If not, what would it be? Thanks again for stopping by, hope to visit with you soon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Author S.E. Holden: Presenting the Big News!

It’s my pleasure to welcome author S.E. Holden back to Thoughts in Progress as the special guest blogger today as he makes a stop in blogdom promoting his latest book.

S.E.’s latest release is THE WET REUNION OF TWO SOULS. Here’s a brief blurb about it: On a glorious Thursday afternoon, May’s dream of having a baby is finally coming true. Bursting with excitement, she’s eager to share the news. But her best laid plans disintegrate when Jim returns home from work with a different idea…one that didn’t include her. Doubting whether they still share the same dream of a family, May contemplates her future with Jim until the rain washes in an unexpected tryst. Can their relationship weather the storm of emotions unleashed.

Thanks to S.E., one lucky visitor to Thoughts in Progress can win a copy of his new book. Visitors can win a copy of THE WET REUNION OF TWO SOULS by answering a question he has in his post within three days of this blog posting. The giveaway is open to international. Be sure to include your e-mail address with your comment if it’s not included in your profile.

S.E. stopped by today to talk about ‘Presenting the Big News.’

Life brings change. Getting published for the first time, getting married, having a baby, getting that big promotion or any other of a host of ginormous good news needs to be conveyed in a big way. Just saying, "Hey, guess what?" in a text or over a hot dog at the 7-Eleven doesn't cut it. You need to do it right. You don't get that many opportunities to tell someone they're going to be a father and watch their face light up. At least, you hope that's the reaction. I guess there are some times when the guy's face implodes, but let's not dwell on that case. We are talking about jubilant times here.

So, how have you shared some big news? Did you break it in a clever way or simply blurt it out over the bathroom sink around a mouth full of toothpaste? When my wife and I were trying to get pregnant, we were very, uh, diligent. Yeah, that's a good word for it. Diligent. Anyway, we were both keyed in to the timing of her cycle and the alignment of the planets so when things didn't flow as expected and Andromeda was in the lower house of Mars (just kidding, I have no idea what that means, but I wanted to distract you away from talking about my wife's, err, you know, uh, monthly thing) we both kinda knew at the same time. When she took the pregnancy test, I waited in the other room biting my nails and pacing like they do in those old-school black and white movies. My wife came out with a dazed look in her eyes and a radiant smile that told me all I needed to know. I wasn't surprised by the news, but it was still wonderful and the delivery of the message couldn't have been better.

My wife and I were clued in as to what was going on, but my mother wasn't. She knew we were trying to get pregnant, but not that we were successful. Hehe. It was a perfect opportunity to take this wonderful news and kick it up a notch. We found out we were pregnant about a week or so before Christmas and, though it was hard to keep it a secret, we decided to wait to tell my mother until she opened her presents on Christmas day. Borrowing a little toy crib from Barbie's dream house, my wife wrapped it up like a normal present and set it under the tree. That morning, we steered my mom to all the other gifts until only that one present remained—saving the best for last.

The last present on Christmas is always a little bitter sweet. At
least, I think so. I mean, all the build up and preparation and suspense for twenty minutes of frenzied unwrapping and it's over. Yes, I know, the season isn't about the presents. It's about all the spiritual stuff. Right. Gotcha. So after twenty minutes of torn paper and "what's next", the last present is a sign to me that it's all over for another year. Funny how I didn't feel that way that year. For the first time in my life, I actually looked forward to that last present.

Back to my mother…she opened that present like it was any other normal old present, not knowing she was holding a symbolic representation of her first grandchild. When she held that small plastic crib in her hand, she turned to me and said, "What's this?" I looked at her all serious like then let a small smile play across my face. It took her another minute, but she got it. The first sign was her hands. They started to tremble. I was watching for a reaction so I saw it move from her hands to her face. Her eyes opened big and filled with tears while her lips quivered as she looked from me to my wife to confirm. As my wife nodded, my mom lost it. Hell, we all lost it. It's one of those memories that'll stick with me forever.

But what if it hadn't happened that way? We were lucky and were able to plan around Christmas. But what if it had of happened in the middle of the year? No other big holidays or annual events to hide behind, but we cooked up something big anyway. Excited, anticipating a huge response from the big reveal, we wait for mom to show. But she doesn't show and then the phone rings. It's mom and she's calling to cancel because something came up, or she had a hair appointment that she forgot about or bleh, whetever else. How does one feel in this situation?

In my latest release, THE REUNION OF TWO SOULS, the heroine, May, has something similar happen to her. Only, it's not her mother that's a no-show, but her husband. Not realizing the night was special, Jim made other plans with his friends and spoils May's big night. This major blow-off leads down a road that could destroy their relationship…baby or no baby. Check it out to see what happens.

Share a brief example of your big news reveal in a comment for a chance to win a copy of THE WET REUNION OF TWO SOULS.

S.E., thanks for guest blogging today. I love your story of telling your Mom she was going to be a grandmother. Wishing you much success with your latest book.

Now for a bit of background on S.E. Since he was a kid, S.E. wanted to be an author and explored many genres through high school and college. After greasing the gears of the corporate machine for many years, he escaped the Information Technology vortex to focus full-time on his writing dream. A romantic at heart, S.E. loves to write about committed couples struggling with and overcoming life's obstacles only to emerge stronger. The fact that they have steamy, mind-blowing sex along the way makes it even better. S.E. lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida.

For more on S.E. and his writing, check out his website at http://www.seholden.com, find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001173999283&v=wall, on Twitter: @seholden25 or by email at seholden@verizon.net

Be sure to answer S.E.’s question and have a chance at winning a copy of his latest release. Thanks so much for stopping by. Miss y'all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Author Emily Sue Harvey: Eagles Always Fly High

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Emily Sue Harvey as the special guest blogger here today as she makes a stop on her virtual blog tour.

Emily’s latest release is HOMEFIRES. Here’s a brief synopsis of it: HOMEFIRES is set in the Deep South’s Bible Belt on the eve of unprecedented moral changes. It is the story of Janeece and Kirk Crenshaw, a couple married just after their high school graduation who set out to make a life for themselves. It is a life marked by surprises, none more dramatic than when Kirk receives his “high-calling” and becomes a pastor. It is a life marked by tragedy, the most heart-rending of which is a devastating event very close to home. And it is a life marked by challenges: to their church, to their community, and most decidedly to their marriage. And as the fullness of time makes its impact on their union, Kirk and Janeece must face the question of whether they have gone as far as they can together.

Filled with the rich emotions and evocative characters that fans have come to expect from Emily Sue Harvey, and reminiscent of the work of Jan Karon and Anne Rivers Siddons, HOMEFIRES is a poignant and compelling novel that will steal readers' hearts.

Emily stop by today to talk about ‘EAGLES ALWAYS FLY HIGH.'

I love challenges. Especially the writing kind. SONG OF RENEWAL, my first full length paperback release, provided many during it’s creation. So did FLAVORS. But writing FLAVORS, the story of twelve year old Sadie Ann Melton’s coming of age during a summer at her grandparents’ farm, living amid a passel of kids who rivaled Ma and Pa Kettle’s brood, was so delightfully fun that I hated to finish it. Then, another recent full length paperback release, HOMEFIRES, chronicles the fictional experiences of a preacher’s family. It’s told from the wife, Janeece’s perspective and reveals the good, bad and ugly of life in the glass house. Victims of ecclesiastical circumstances, Janeece and Kirk Crenshaw face the challenge of their lives. Yet—despite their prayerful lives, a solution is not so simple. Forgiveness and unconditional love are in abundant supply for the parsonage family. But then loss and betrayal tear the family asunder. Can Janeece and Dan even go on together? Is love enough to put them back together?

My soon to be released novel, SPACE, is the story of a nucleus family of three who face some of the greatest challenges that I—as an author--have ever encountered. The Stowes, Dan, Deede, and Faith, their nearly-thirty, recovering drug addict daughter, battle a universal dilemma when Faith comes back home to live.

Faith--the Faith they’ve always known--is gone away. In her place is a stranger—a needy, demanding, neurotic, clamorous individual who steals their golden years, idyllic life. Faith has lost everything, her marriage, her child, and her health. Worst of all, Faith is the black sheep of the remarkable Eagle family clan, one in which no one, save her Aunt Priss and soul-mate cousin Jensen, trusts her. During her dark drug days, she lied, stole from, and betrayed all who loved her. Now, in post drug rehab, the rubber meets the road when Faith has to face the consequences of her actions and must learn to co-exist with her aging parents. Faith must find her space in life.

Faith is, under the best of conditions, a trial to bear, as Dan and
Deede soon learn. First, her needs bankrupt them financially. Beyond that, they wrestle daily with guilt—they want her gone; and resentment—she’s stolen their space, their time together. Their very peace.  Some sage advice to them is to simply throw their daughter out. But in this particular situation, we learn that this is not ‘simple’ and not possible. Faith was their “miracle baby,” one that was not supposed to happen.

When? Deede and Dan both wonder, does one give up on a child and throw them under the old proverbial bus? In Faith’s case, it would mean prison.

While Dan gets stuck in the “do not be her enabler” counsel, Deede is imbedded in the “as long as she’s trying to change, help her” advice. Faith doesn’t know who she is anymore or where she’s headed. Her frustration, anger, and dishonor toward her parents brings much heartache and stress. The collision course is wide and long. Unavoidable.

This story challenged me more than any other I’ve done because of the complexities of three people living together under one roof, while each is forced to sacrifice chunks of their own space for the survival of the family unit.

Deede Stowe says it best, “We each need our own little corner of the universe.” So true. Without our own space, life can turn on us and, at times, even bring us down. This happens, in turn, to each of the Stowes.

Deede’s wise mother, Noni Eagle, teaches the entire Eagle clan that “Eagles always fly high!” Noni illustrates with the American Eagle’s aging odyssey during which—to live beyond its 40th year and survive another 30--it must experience tremendous agony, first by banging and dislodging it’s misshapen beak against stone, and then growing a new one. It then plucks out its talons and waits for new ones to grow. All this is paramount to its capturing prey and surviving.  Lastly, it plucks out each heavy aged feather until it is naked, then waits in the mountain top nest for a new coat to emerge. This entire ordeal lasts 150 long days, after which the eagle takes its famous flight of rebirth and lives to be 70.

The Stowes each ‘get it’ as to why this process of painful change applies to them during their own quest for healing and rebirth. They survive by ridding themselves of old memories, habits and other past traditions. Dysfunctional Dan has to learn to forgive while Deede must endure Dan and Faith’s clashes and maintain her own equanimity. Faith must reclaim herself by somehow freeing herself from past entrapments so that she may take advantage of the present and begin a brand new life.

“You see,” Noni Eagle tells them, “when it rains, birds head for shelter. Of all the birds, only the eagle can avoid the rain by flying above the clouds. So, go spread your wings and soar with the eagles.”

The Stowe’s victories are hard won. The story teaches us that no one is beyond redemption. It shows that familial love endures beyond our wildest expectations.

It teaches, too, that everything meaningful begins with family and ends with family.  

Emily, thank you so much for guest blogging today. I love your last sentence and agree with it completely.

Now for a bit about Emily, author and speaker, who writes to make a difference. Dozens of her upbeat stories and articles appear in Chocolate for Women, Chicken Soup for the Soul, women’s magazines, websites, and other anthologies. She is the author of the novel SONG OF RENEWAL and the novella FLAVORS. Her new novel, HOMEFIRES, will be followed by two more novellas and another novel (Unto these Hills) later in 2011.  To find out more about Emily visit www.renewalstories.com or www.emilysueharvey.com

Share your thoughts on this inspiring post and thanks so much for stopping by.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Salon: Love Drunk Cowboy by Carolyn Brown

Another week has past us by and it’s time for Sunday Salon where we share our thoughts on the recent books we’ve read.

I’m still away from blogdom except for a brief period each day. I continue to be in awe of the wonderful support and concern y’all have shown. My mother-in-law continues to get a little stronger each day, we just have minor setbacks due to her Alzheimer’s but all is looking good.

Now I want to share a great new book by author Carolyn Brown. Sunday Salon may seem like a strange place to talk about a ‘drunk’ cowboy, but remember it’s best not to judge a book by it’s cover.

LOVE DRUNK COWBOY by Carolyn Brown

Every time I pick up a book by author Carolyn Brown, I find characters and places I want to visit time and time again. She has created another wonderful story that will hold you spellbound from the opening paragraph until the last sentence.

Austin Lanier is a rising executive at an oil company in Tulsa who stays busy with her career. When her grandmother (‘Granny’ Verline Lanier) dies, she leaves specific instructions on how Austin is to handle her funeral, as well as her estate.

When Austin arrives in Terral, she finds her grandmother’s elderly neighbor she’s been talking to each week is really a hunky cowboy her age. She also learns her grandmother did more than just raise watermelons.

Rye O’Donnell was fond of Granny Lanier and as soon as he saw her granddaughter, he was in love. Rye worried that Austin would settle Granny’s affairs and return to Tulsa.

As Austin learns more about her grandmother’s day-to-day business, she begins to find peace and enjoyment in the small town, not to mention a huge physical attraction to her sexy neighbor. The twists and turns Austin and Rye encounter on their way to each other makes for a delightful and entertaining read. Be sure your AC is working because the chemistry between these two will have your turning the cold air on high.

Another aspect of author Brown’s writing that appeals to me is the way she shows respect, love and honor for older citizens in her stories. She gives them spunk and grit, but she also has the younger generation appreciating their wisdom (even if they don’t agree) and showing respect, a vanishing trait.

LOVE DRUK COWBOY is all about a sexy, smooth-talking cowboy and a self-assured, career-minded city girl. But, it’s also filled with loyalty, family fun, and friendship. It’s a reminder that sometimes simpler is more fulfilling. Can’t wait to see what’s next in this new tantalizing series.

Author Carolyn Brown’s website is http://carolynlbrown.com/

Love Drunk Cowboy by Carolyn Brown, Sourcebooks Casablanca, @2011, ISBN: 978-1-4022-5358-4, Paperback, 416 pages

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book and it was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

What have you read this week? What about today, what’s that you’re reading now? BTW, has anyone ever tried watermelon wine? It sounds delicious. Thanks so much for stopping by. Hope to visit with you before long.

Friday, May 20, 2011

THE ARRIVALS by Meg Mitchell Moore

I'd like to share my review of THE ARRIVALS by Meg Mitchell Moore as part of the author's virtual blog book tour.

William and Ginny Owens had settled into a comfortable empty-nest lifestyle until their three grown children return home with major problems.

First to return home was the eldest, Lillian. She brought her 3-year-old daughter, Olivia, and her 3-month-old son, Philip, with her. Absent was her husband, Tom. She didn’t want anyone to know she had left her cheating husband.

Next to visit was the middle child, Stephen, and his pregnant wife, Jane. They only came for the weekend, but had to stay longer when Jane is confined to bed rest. Ginny and Jane seem to rub each other the wrong way. Ginny, who has been a housewife all her married life, doesn’t understand Jane, who is a Wall Street workaholic.

Last to return home is the youngest, Rachel. She is getting away from New York, her failing career, and her ex-boyfriend who doesn’t want to commit to marriage.

While the family is settling into living together again for a short while, each begins to learn more about themselves. The family finds new perspectives on responsibility, loyalty, and loving family that sometimes drives you crazy.

Author Meg Mitchell Moore has created a typical family with modern problems and glimpses of simpler times. THE ARRIVALS is a delightful summer read to help you remember how special family really is.

The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore, Reagan Arthur Books, @201, ISBN: 9780316097710, Hardcover, 336 pages

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book as part of a virtual blog book tour and it was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

**Thanks for dropping by. I’m still not able to be around blogdom, but I do appreciate everyone’s prayers and continued support.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Author Kathi Macias: Author By Night

I’m pleased to welcome author Kathi Macias back to Thoughts in Progress as the special guest blogger today as she makes a stop on her current virtual blog tour.

Kathi’s latest release is PEOPLE OF THE BOOK, the fourth installment in her Extreme Devotion series. Here’s a brief synopsis of the book: Farah lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with her family, and wants nothing more than to develop a deeper devotion to her Muslim faith. She sees the month of Ramadan as her chance to draw nearer to Allah, and pursues that goal. All goes well until the prophet Isa—Jesus—appears to her in a dream and calls her to Himself. Her brother, Kareem, who has never liked her, seeks to discredit her.

Farah’s cousin, an only child, frequents an online chat. She discovers former Muslims discussing their new belief that Isa is much more than a Muslim prophet—He is actually the Son of God. She becomes acquainted with an American girl of Muslim ancestry—now a devout Christian—Sara. Sara has problems of her own due to her brother Emir’s suspicious behavior.

Each finds their faith put to the test. Will they be true to their beliefs? Will God protect them, or will they pay the ultimate price for their faith?

Kathi is here today to talk about being an ‘author by night.’

I was once asked what my “author by night” life was like. My first thought was, Hmm… When was the last time I was up late enough that it qualified as “night”? Been awhile, I’m afraid.
Seriously, I am NOT a night person. The problem is, I’m not really a morning person either, though my current lifestyle requires that I get up most days at dark o’clock. And I must admit that once I’ve rolled out of that warm, cozy bed, I really do accomplish a lot in those early morning hours.

For one thing, my husband heads off to work before the chickens are out and about, and I almost never get phone calls that early. Hence, the house is quiet and I can actually grab some alone time with the Lord before jumping feet-first into my daily to-do list. And that, I suppose, is the secret to pretty much everything I do—before or after dark, as an author or otherwise. If I miss that beginning-of-the-day time of prayer and Bible reading and worship, I’m definitely starting off on the wrong foot, and my day almost always goes downhill from there.

I’m actually quite blessed (and have been for some years now) to
be able to write (my own books and scores more for other people, as well as being a regular contributor to various online publications) and edit fulltime, rather than trying to squeeze in a little writing time after getting home from a “real” job. (Yes, through the years I’ve had several of those. Do I miss them? Only when I realize that if I had a “real” job I’d also have a “real” paycheck. But the flexibility and freedom of working at home is worth the tradeoffs—most of the time.)

In addition to being a writer/editor, I teach at writers’ and women’s conferences, workshops, and retreats, and have recently been doing some national and international TV appearances, all of which require being away from home for several days at a time. It also requires a great sense of humor because I DON’T DO PUBLIC SPEAKING! At least, that’s what I always thought. When I became a Christian at 26, I explained that to God, but apparently He didn’t pay attention.

On a more personal level, in addition to being married to my junior/senior high school sweetheart, Al (whom I’ve known since we were six, though we didn’t like one another much at the time), I’m a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. (Trust me, I still have trouble absorbing that one!) And, of course, I can’t finish up an explanation of my “author by night” life without mentioning my wonderful church family at Nuevo Community Church. What a supportive bunch! I miss them when I’m doing my “road warrior” thing, but always glad to check in for hugs and warm welcomes when I’m home.

I also am active in several writers/speakers’ groups, including AWSA (Advanced Writers/Speakers Association, where I received the Member of the Year award in 2008—yeah, ME, the one who does NOT do public speaking!); CAN (Christian Authors Network, where I serve as spiritual adviser—which should give you pause if you’re considering joining the group); Christian Writers Fellowship International; Orange County Christian Writers’ Fellowship; ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers); ICFW (International Christian Fiction Writers); The Christian PEN (Proofreaders/Editors Network); Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service; and Wonderful Wordsmiths.

And that about sums it up! It also brings us full circle to why I grab myself by the hair of my head and haul myself out of bed before the sun is up. Without my quiet time with the Lord each morning, the rest of this would simply overwhelm me and I’d throw in the towel. (Trust me, there are easier ways to make minimum wage or less!) But God has called me to be a communicator, and so—in spite of myself—I am (and grateful for the opportunity). At the same time, I stand ready to lay it down at a moment’s notice if God calls me to do something else or when He calls me home. My “author by night” life begins and ends with Him, and that’s the Truth that keeps everything else in perspective.

Kathi, thanks so much for stopping by here again. Having that bit of quiet alone-time in the morning does help one have a better take on the day.

Let me give you a bit more background on Kathi. She is a multi-award winning writer who has authored more than 30 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs.

She is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and was named 2008 Member of the Year by AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association). Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their free time riding in Al’s new sunburst orange Corvette. You can reach Kathi or find out more about her writing and speaking at www.kathimacias.com. You can also visit her “Easy Writer” blog at http://kathieasywritermacias.blogspot.com/

Do you enjoy quiet time in the morning to get your day started or is your quiet time at night before ending the day? I won’t be around blogdom again today, but want to say thanks for stopping by.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Author Jean Henry Mead On Writing Schedules

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Jean Henry Mead as the special guest blogger here today as she makes a stop on her virtual blog tour with her latest release.

Jean’s current release is MURDER ON THE INTERSTATE. Here’s a brief blurb about it: Two feisty 60-year old women sleuths encounter murder, homegrown terrorism, kidnapping and disasters as they travel Arizona in their motor home. The third novel in the Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series, MURDER ON THE INTERSTATE will leave you breathless.

Jean stops by today to talk about a steady writing schedule, no matter what.

When I sat down to write this morning, I thought of my long ago interview with bestselling romance novelist Parris Afton Bonds for my book, MAVERICK WRITERS. Parris emphasized the need to write every day. The mother of five lively sons, she wrote between diaper changes as well as on the job, which cost her several secretarial positions before she decided to write full time.

“I write when I’m sick,” she said, “and even as I shove that turkey into the oven on Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are no legal holidays for [professional] writers.”

A steady writing schedule is one of the most important aspects of publishing one’s work. Whether you rise two hours early to
write before leaving for your day job, or at night before you go to bed, it needs to be done at least five days a week. Women with small children can schedule their writing time when the young ones are down for a nap, if only for an hour, but the same hour each day until it becomes a habit. But if you only have a few minutes now and then, use that time to jot down notes or bits of dialogue as late Don Coldsmith did on the backs of prescription pads during his daily medical practice.

Marlys Millhiser echoed Parris Bond’s work ethic. She begins writing at 10:00 a.m. and continues until 4:00 in the afternoons. Both writers stressed the fact that you must stay at the computer (or note pad) no matter how difficult the writing is going that day.

“My first draft is pretty bad,” Marlys said. “But no matter how difficult it is, I hang in there. Sometimes you have to backtrack and begin again, but don’t stop to polish a chapter until the first draft is finished. When I’m on a run and the plot floats along, the characters take over and it’s wonderful. But most of the time, I’m just sitting there and sweating it out. And I’ve found, I’m sorry to say, that the stuff I sweated out and got three pages by working my pants off, was about the same quality as when the story just flowed along and I’ve gotten ten pages.”

Brian Garfield, author of “Death Wish” and countless other novels and screenplays, said, “I took up writing partly because some of the stuff that was published seemed so awful and so easy to do, and of course it isn’t easy to do, as you find out when you sit down to try to do it. And it took a long time—a lot of apprenticeship practice before I could write anything that was worth publishing. But you don’t know that until you try. At the time of the interview, he wrote five hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. He could write no longer because of back problems.

I’ve found that if you set your pace, it becomes a habit and before long you’ll feel that you must write during those hours. It becomes as important to those who want to succeed as breathing.

I'm at my computer by eight in the morning, with few exceptions, and write until three or later in the afternoon. A half hour treadmill break gives me a chance to loosen up and recharge my brain cells.

When do you write and how often?

Jean, thanks so much for guest blogging today. You make an excellent point that a steady writing schedule is important. It does help to keep one focused on the task at hand.

Now for a little background on Jean. She is a mystery/suspense and historical western writers. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist and former news reporter and editor. Her 14th book is MURDER ON THE INTERSTATE, the third novel in her Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series. Jean also writes a mystery
series for middle grade children. MYSTERY OF SPIDER MOUNTAIN was recently released.

You can visit Jean at her website: www.jeanhenrymead.com/ and her blog sites: Mysterious Writers: http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com/
Writers of the West: http://writersofthewest.blogspot.com/
Murderous Musings: http://murderousmusings.blogspot.com/
Make Mine Mystery: http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com/
She also has four Facebook pages and is on Twitter.

Now share your writing schedule with us.