Life’s Unexpected Adventures

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I borrowed the title from a book I’m reading, Life’s Unexpected Adventures Volume One by Joanne Rawson. Those that love romantic comedies need to pick up this book. It’s full of short stories where the heroine gets into comedic situations and finds a way out through true love. Think ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ or Juliet Roberts in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’.

But I’m not here to talk about the book. I wanted to talk about life’s unexpected adventures. Writing a book put me on a new journey. When I joined my small press publisher’s author group, I didn’t think I’d make friends. Sure, they were supportive and helpful. They gave suggestions and some even read my book.

So did I expect to make friends? Not really. I consider them all author friends. I wasn’t surprised to be invited to “like” their author page.

Then some began to friend me. Of course, not all became real friends, but I see what they’re up to in their personal lives. I can connect to them in other ways than writing. I like that.

What I didn’t expect was to find a few good friends. One I’ve met, some I never will.  I once doubted that people could establish a friendship through social media, but it happened to me. Joanne Rawson is one of them. She’s originally from England but moved to Goa with her husband.

So how could Jo and I be friends? We live in two different parts of the world. Her lifestyle is certainly opposite mine. I don’t really know how it happened, but when Jo placed one of those Facebook posts – It’s the end of 2015 and it’s time to clean house on my friends list, are you still one? – I had to immediately answer “yes”.

Sometimes it’s the little things that let you know someone cares. She’s posted great finds at a mall and converted the amounts to pounds for her friends back home. When I said I had to look up the dollar value, the next time she included that, too, just for me. Jo leads an interesting life; one that I’m sure helps with her writing. If you are interested in finding out more about her books, click here.

And if you’re curious as to why she moved, here may be the reasons!

(Pictures courtesy of Joanne Rawson)

If I never wrote a book, I’d never have these wonderful people in my life. Some live in other countries, others are on the opposite end of the U.S. It’s a perk of the job I never thought would happen. Friends. Connections to people I’d never have met otherwise. I thought writers were solitary creatures, keeping to themselves. I found out differently through my journey.

Life’s unexpected adventure. That’s the only way I can describe this journey. And it’s been a good one.

Give Thanks for the Little Things

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It’s Thanksgiving week already. Time to give thanks. Time to reflect.

So what am I thankful for? The little things.

I get up each day and look at the morning sky. Whatever the scene, I try to appreciate something about it. The title picture is a November morning. The sun’s coming up in my backyard. The pink clouds were amazing and I couldn’t stop peeking out the window until they disappeared.

PJ steals my breakfast (3)

I’m grateful for this wee little bird who fills our home with joy and happiness. Sure she’s stealing my breakfast, but she makes us laugh.

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I love that I live close to Lake Erie and can easily get there in a short drive. Maybe I don’t visit as often as I should, but am thankful it’s there.

Nighttime Visitor (1)

I’m thankful I can still be surprised by things. This deer looked like a statue standing in my yard. It was kind enough to stay put until I got the camera and captured the moment.

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I finally joined the smartphone generation and am grateful I can take a selfie – a poor one, but at least I tried.

Of course, I am thankful for friends and family, good health and a roof over my head. But the little things? It takes effort to stop and notice. Try it this week. What little things are you thankful for?

Aw Darn, You Mean I Have To Go There?

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As you know, if you read my blog, I’ve asked my author friends if anyone has done research for the setting of their book by actually visiting the area. Their experiences were something I wanted to share. Today I have a guest blogger, my author friend, Aubrey Wynne. She talks about her time in Chicago and how going being there helped write her book.Hope you enjoy!

Aw Darn, You Mean I Have To Go There?

Research can be time-consuming and tedious. It can also be fascinating and fun. As a history geek, I often get sidetracked with the interesting trivia I find in little known sources or while talking with experts. But whenever I can, I visit the destinations in my books.

When I began Dante’s Gift, I knew I wanted the contemporary couple to live in Chicago. I live an hour away from the Windy City and informed my husband we would have to make several trips in order to fulfill my research needs. “Darn it,” he said. “But whatever I can do to support my wife.”

My main characters live in the same city but opposite ends. Dominic lives in Lincoln Park, one of the older neighborhoods, while Katie is in the Lake Point Condos near downtown. Her building sits along Lake Shore Drive next to Navy Pier and is an amazing piece of architecture.

The hubby and I are both foodies. Alinea’s, located on the east side, is one of the most expensive and prestigious restaurants in the city. Winner of the James Beard Award for Best Service in the United States and the coveted Michelin 3-star rating, I could only afford to look at the building from the street. Meals average $400-$600 and tickets are sold a year in advance. A bit out of my league but definitely on the bucket list.

Heaven On Seven, however, is a “must-do” for lunch when visiting the city. Located on the seventh floor of the historic Garland building on Wabash, the atmosphere drips with New Orleans charm. This is my husband’s favorite restaurant and has some of the best Cajun food in the Midwest. The prices are reasonable and the service is excellent. But expect a wait—the locals love this place, too. I recommend the gumbo and jalapeno corn muffins.

The other location in my story is Benevento, Italy. I gave my husband that look when I showed him pictures of the lovely, ancient city. With a long sigh, he said, “Please tell me it’s tax deductible.” Yup! So, our summer vacation is in the planning stage… 

Check out the Chicago restaurants in Dante’s gift:

Alinea’s https://website.alinearestaurant.com

Heaven On Seven http://www.heavenonseven.com

Dante’s Gift

Kathleen James is far too practical for her own good. But on the most important night of her life, she gives way to romance and prepares for an intimate dinner with the man of her dreams—and an engagement ring. Unfortunately, the evening doesn’t end the way she envisioned.

Dominic Lawrence has planned this marriage proposal for six months. Nothing can go wrong—until his Nonna calls from Italy. Now he must interrupt the tenderest night of Katie’s life with the news that another woman will be under their roof.

Nonna, a wartime bride from the ‘40s, knows how precious love can be. Can her own love story of an American soldier and a very special collie once again bring two hearts together at Christmas?

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About the Author

Award-winning author Aubrey Wynne resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule, and barn cats. She is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. Obsessions include history, travel, trail riding, and all things Christmas.

Her short stories, Merry Christmas, Henry and Pete’s Mighty Purty Privies received Best Short in the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Choice of 2013 and 2014.

Aubrey’s latest holiday romance Dante’s Gift, includes both a present day and WWII love story intertwined. It is included in the box set Christmas Pets and Kisses and sold as a single. Her true love is historical romance and Rolf’s Quest, the first in a medieval fantasy series, will release in 2016. Sammi’s Serenade will debut in the box set Valentine’s Pets and Kisses.

Website:

http://aubreywynneauthor.wordpress.com

Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/AubreyWynne/e/B00II8QD6G/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Newsletter: https://madmimi.com/signups/122105/iframe

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/magnificentvalor

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Aubreywynne51

Pinterest:

https://www.pinterest.com/aubreywynne51/

 

Buy Links:

Amazon:http://amzn.to/1OTMBmL

B&N:http://bit.ly/1MFcvpM

Kobo:http://bit.ly/1LGmdse

iBooks http://apple.co/1N0XSSd

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26120629-dante-s-gift

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There’s More to it Than Just Writing

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Recently I was asked to read a few chapters from a book someone wrote. They wanted to know what I thought and where they could get it published. I’m fine with reading other’s work and offering suggestions, so I agreed.

The topic was interesting and the blurb well-written. Then I started in on the actually book. After I finished the first chapter, I sat back in my chair. I pretended I was on the other side of the industry—an agent. My first thought was, “Wow, I wonder how many of these they see in a day?”

I would call the chapter I read a first draft. The book needed a lot of editing. Even if it had potential, I could see why an agent would turn it down. As the agent, I would ask myself, “Does the writer have the ability to make changes?” and “Is this all he’s capable of or is there more untapped inside him?” Taking on the client would be a long shot, and I have a strange feeling agents aren’t gamblers … anymore.

I want to believe at one time, agents did take chances and worked with new authors. It’s a different world now and the rules have changed. I feel if it can’t be made into a movie, forget about it.

Can this book be published? We all know the answer to that. Yes. Self-publishing is there for the taking. But don’t just write something and think it’s done. Don’t publish it and put it out there. In the “old days” when a writer was rejected by an agent or publishing company they added constructive criticism. Now it’s a form letter. No help there.So where do you get help before you publish?

If you wrote a book (congratulations by the way, it’s not an easy task), don’t assume it is done. You are your first line of defense. Call it your first draft. Now comes the hard part—editing. Read it over at least three times before any other human eyes see it. (Dogs and cats are fine.) Find beta readers. Parents, siblings, cousins, friends come in handy, and they’re free. You can also find many sites that offer (for a price) readers. Listen to them. Be able to handle their critiques of your novel. Take it to heart and work on the book again.

Study up on the English language. Spell check doesn’t catch everything. Know commas, quotation marks, italics and when to use them. Try not to use the same words over and over again. Do not keep using a person’s name in a sentence. Is your head spinning yet?

Yes, you wrote a book. You are excited. I know the feeling. I have been down that road and learned so much. Hopefully, I’m passing along that knowledge.

If you have it in you, you love every aspect of the process and can handle the rejection—then go for it, write that book and don’t look back. But remember, there’s more to it than just writing.

Finding Yourself in Finland

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I was contacted by an author after he saw my series about traveling to the places you write about. He said he had recently been to Finland, and since I am of Swedish descent, it piqued my interest. The Finns and Swedes are neighbors. Below I am sharing his very interesting piece, not just about the country, but the people.

This past May of the year 2015, I took a week long trip to Finland. In the process, I saw the capital, Helsinki, and a few other small locales. It was my first time ever in a Nordic country, and indeed my first time ever with boots on the ground in Europe proper. But I–an American of questionable heritage who can scarcely speak a word of Finnish, and can barely get by in Swedish–never felt out of place or overwhelmed.

Two jokes may explain the reasons for this:

  • An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when he’s talking to you. An extroverted Finn looks at yours.
  • Timo and Jaako agree to go fishing on a lake. They begin at dawn, and at dusk, over twelve hours later, they remain entirely unsuccessful. Timo says, “They aren’t biting very much today, are they?” Jaako glares at him and says, “Did we come here to fish or to talk?”
Clearly, Finns are often thought of as shy or socially awkward. I believe that this is a mistake. Finns are reserved, certainly, and shy to open up to strangers, or indeed friends and family. But I never perceived anyone to be uncertain of themselves or hesitant to speak when the time was right.
Or perhaps it’s my own bias. Several years ago, I went on a car trip that lasted some six hours, and when it finished, I was asked by my companions why I was so angry, as I had said nothing for the duration of the trip. The truth was that I wasn’t angry, nor was I sad or upset in any fashion. I simply didn’t see a particular reason or opportunity to talk.
These are certainly rare traits for Americans, and they are among the reasons why I have always taken a longer time than most to fit in among new social groups and settings. But in Finland, I felt that I understood everything and everyone the moment I saw them. The clean quiet streets, the restaurants that opened in the late afternoon for dinner and then closed before it was too late at night, the endless forests and lakes, the people who waited in lines with several yards of space between them, the endless bike trails and the preference for public transport over private vehicles.
Until November of 2014, I never seriously thought that I would make it to Finland. But then an opportunity to visit with a friend who had lived there for some years showed itself, and I jumped on it. I ended up traveling solo, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for almost anything in the world.

My first ever published piece, Maaselkä, takes place in once Finnish, now Russian territory, and I wrote it long before I ever took the possibility of traveling to Finland seriously. But looking back on the way I wrote that piece, I think I got the Finnish experience right. The Finns are quiet people, reserved even, and their landscape is one of harsh winters and endless sprawling lakes and hills. But there is real beauty in Finland, and real brutality too, lurking just beneath the surface, and it doesn’t take much effort to be immersed in it.

I don’t know when or indeed if I will return to Finland again. But the truth seems to be that the Finnish feeling has been part of me for as long as I can remember. To continue to write horrors like Maaselkä, I don’t need to go anywhere, or do anything. All I need to do is to draw from that which is apparently an inextricable part of who I am.

           Signed:

           Alex Ross
         Find it here:  Maaselka

Sometimes You Just Gotta Go There

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As a writer, I think it helps to have been to the places you write about. I wrote about the Grand Canyon and New York City in my series. I’d been to both places. Research is a big part of any book. The more you do, the more it helps the book come alive.

Add in history and you’ve got your work cut out for you. As you know, if you follow my blog, I’m reading the Outlander series. The author had to do a massive amount of research. She started with Scotland and the Highlander uprising and ended in North America pre-Revolutionary War. And that’s only in the four books I’ve read. I’m sure there’s more to come.

Since I like to read historical fiction and am considering writing one myself, I just had to invite my author friend, Mysti Parker, to guest blog today. She has recently released a historical romance novel. She has visited the places she wrote about and it’s an interesting journey. Love the cover, Mysti!

Travelling for Research

By Mysti Parker

I’ve never been what you’d call a history buff, but I had to become one when I wrote A Time for Everything. The idea came to me in 2010, and I began a very rough draft. I decided that I really should see these places where the story was to take place. That’s what researchers do, right? We took a trip to middle Tennessee, just the husband and I (always nice to be alone) and spent a weekend touring Franklin, Nashville, Brentwood, and Lebanon. These four towns all played parts in the story. But what I found in them truly fueled the fire of the book’s plot.

Middle Tennessee, like much of Kentucky where I live, is a beautiful symphony of rolling hills, green meadows, small farms and cozy communities nestled in quiet valleys. But during the Civil War, this area was anything but idyllic. Take Franklin, for instance. One of the bloodiest battles of the war swept through the town on November 30, 1864, leaving behind a trail of bullet-riddled soldiers, houses, and even civilian casualties.

Today, this horrific period in history is commemorated with historical sites that offer tours. We visited many of these, including the Lotz House, where German immigrant and master woodworker Johann Lotz and family had to evacuate before the battle reached their home. They sought shelter along with a couple dozen neighbors in basement of the Carter house across the street. In this beautiful historic home turned museum, you can still see the bullet holes in the original woodwork.

Just a short drive out of town is Carnton Plantation, where the McGavock family’s home became a field hospital. If you ever get a chance to visit, make sure to take the tour. It’s a fascinating and enlightening story of just how bad things could be when a battle is literally raging at your doorstep. In the home, you can still see the blood stains on the wooden floors upstairs. Here, you’ll see the window where a field surgeon tossed out amputated limbs. Arms, legs, hands, and feet of these unfortunate men supposedly formed a pile as high as the smokehouse.

The story of Carrie McGavock, however, was the most compelling. Once the war was over, and bodies buried hastily in shallow graves across the countryside, she decided to dedicate a parcel of their land as a Confederate cemetery. She began the arduous task of identifying these men when possible, and relocating their bodies to a proper, marked resting place. Her story inspired Robert Hicks to write Widow of the South, which I bought in the Carnton Plantation gift shop.

That book, along with several others like the real-life diary of a Confederate widow, A Woman’s Civil War by Cornelia Peake McDonald, helped me fill in the gaps of Portia’s story. Accounts of the Tennessee men who fought for both sides, and walking the ground they lived and died upon, helped bring Beau to life.

I think I could have written A Time for Everything without ever having stepped foot into Tennessee, but it wouldn’t have been the same book. Without touring the places firsthand and hearing such memorable and personal accounts, I don’t believe the story would have felt real enough. But I’ll let you readers decide that for yourself.

Profile Pic 2015 150x226  Buy her book here.           A Time for Everything  

Memorial Day

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Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day. Today is for remembering those who died while serving this country’s armed forces. Veterans Day celebrates all who serve and served in the armed forces.

My dad didn’t die in the war, but he passed away at an early age. Every Memorial Day reminds me to make a visit to the cemetery. When we arrive, seeing all the flags by the gravestones make me proud and sad at the same time.

Dad was very patriotic. Whenever the Star Spangled Banner played on TV, he’d stand and salute or place his hand over his heart. He was a veteran of World War II, serving in Wales and England with a medical unit. His twin brother saw action in Europe. He belonged to the American Legion and had a special licence plate–one I remember to this day–AL1005. When we didn’t finish our dinner, he’d say, “Children in Europe are starving.” My sister and I would giggle, but knew he was quite serious.

So Dad, on this day, I want to tell you, you’re remembered. You were a good father. You served your country. You were patriotic. Thank you for setting the example. And hopefully you can see the salute I give you on this special day.

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