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.

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A Book on Every Bed

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Last week I read an article about a new Christmas tradition. It’s called A Book on Every Bed, invented by Amy “Ask Amy” Dickinson. She began the project because her mother was a reader, writer and educator and to promote literacy. She admits she “stole” the idea from an author who talked about his childhood Christmases and how he received a book from Santa every year. Personally, I don’t think she really stole anything. She took something one family did and shared it with the world.

This is how it works. You wrap a book, and Santa places it on your child’s bed after they’re asleep. They wake up Christmas morning to find it. It’s a great way to encourage reading. If you have a reluctant reader it could be the jump start they need.

This could turn into a fun activity for yourself, too. There are so many great children’s books to choose from, you could have fun searching the classics or try a holiday-themed one. Of course kids love animals and sports, too. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I’d like to take this project a step further. Wrap a book for anyone and leave it on their bed from Santa. Buy their favorite genre or get them started on reading. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a surprise from Santa.

And if you’re dealing with adults, you wouldn’t have to sneak in their room and place the book on the bed when they are sleeping. You could do it before they go to bed on Christmas Eve (or any time during the holidays). Wouldn’t you love to come into your room and find a present on your pillow? You open it up to find a great book. Then hop into bed and start reading.

Let’s help Amy get this tradition going. If you like the idea, pass it along.

And remember the ability to read is a gift. Don’t let it go unused.

Have a happy holiday, everyone.

 

To Love a Scotsman

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If you read my blog, you’re aware I’m reading the Outlander series. Time traveler Claire meets Jamie the Scottish Highlander in the 1700s.  I’ve also read other historical novels with a Scotsman as a lead character for comparison.

Here are the things I’ve learned about these men.

They always wear their plaid. It involves much draping around the body with a brooch as a finishing touch. Taking it off is much easier. Just loosen the pin and the entire outfit falls to the floor. Very convenient.

Speaking of convenience, the plaid can be used as a sleeping bag and even wrap up two people for warmth and comfort. Also, since the kilt is made a certain way, when nature calls just lift the skirt. (P.S. No underwear.)

The men love to say “verra” a lot. I think you can figure out it means very. The word pops up a lot as I read. I sometimes find myself slipping and using the word when I speak.

The Scots are either dark-haired, handsome and strong or red-haired, handsome and strong. What’s not to like?

They speak Gaelic. I’ve tried to phonetically sound it out as I read but finally stumble over the words until I, hopefully, get to the translation. The women in the book are usually English so they have no idea what their man is saying. They usually think it’s something quite romantic or complimentary. He could be telling her, “I’m going out to shoot a deer and I’ll be back in time for supper. After that you can help me skin and prepare the animal.”She nods, smiles and fawns all over him because it sounds so wonderful. He leaves thinking he has a pretty awesome wife.

The men end up using their dirk in some way. Now, it’s not what you’re thinking. A dirk is a knife they carry at all times. It may be used when fighting to defend oneself or kill food for dinner. It comes in verra handy.

So how could you not love a Scotsman? He is a perfect heroic figure for a romance novel or a historical book. And as you can see, I’ve learned a lot. Reading can take you so many places. I’ve enjoyed meeting-and loving-these Scotsmen.

Firsthand Experience

Today I am hosting fellow Fire and Ice author,Martha Deeringer. Nothing warms my heart more than to see other teachers find their inner writer! Martha  tells us about the setting that inspired her to write, Speak of the Tiger.

Here is what she has to say:

Nothing makes a book come alive for me like the feeling that I’m there with the characters in a real place that I can see, touch, hear and smell. So when I’m planning a book, I choose a location that speaks to me.  I want to make it come to life for my readers like it did for me.

When I wrote Speak of the Tiger, this was simplicity itself. During my teaching career, I accompanied busloads of sixth graders to the famous YO Ranch near Mountain Home, Texas every year for a three day leadership course where we hiked, camped out under the stars, rode the ranch’s famous horses, swayed in the tops of trees on a ropes course and got close-up experience with exotic wildlife.

The setting of Speak of the Tiger is nearly as important to the story as the characters. Without an intimate knowledge of the YO Ranch it wouldn’t have been the same book; the dust, the Texas heat, the shallow river and the spines of the prickly pear are an integral part of the story.

My next book, Orphans’ Inn,  (out in October) is historical fiction, and while I can’t go back to see the setting in the 1840s, visiting the modern location (Austin, Texas) and studying historic photos of the area have made it easier to get inside the head of the main character, Charity Bullock, an orphan who travels across the Texas plains to Austin to live with a great-uncle whom she has never met.

I’ve also written many history articles for magazines, and have found the same truths in these shorter stories. Writing about the US Camel Corps at Ft. Lancaster wouldn’t be the same without visiting the Caprock canyons of west Texas.  To make settings come alive—go there!

Martha Deeringer Find it here at Amazon – Speak of the Tiger

and at Fire and Ice Young Adult books – Speak of the Tiger

It’s Hot Out There

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Settings. They need to be included in a story. Without them it’s hard to picture what’s going on. For me, it’s one of the hardest things to do, describe a place. Does it help if you’ve been there? I have been to some of the places I’ve written about and it does help. You get a different perspective. You smell the smells. Walk the land. It  becomes up close and personal.

Not to say you have to go to every place you want to use in your book. The internet is a great place for an overwhelming amount of pictures and information.

I reached out to other authors and asked their views. I wanted to feature people who have been to the place where their book takes place. Last week I had Mysti Parker tell us about her journey. Today I want to introduce you to another author friend, Jody Vitek. She will tell us about her book and how she got the idea for her setting. Read on:

Thanks for inviting me, Nancy. I love to travel, but that doesn’t mean I get to do it often. My family and I usually stay in Minnesota. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel within the fifty United States, and venture to Cancun, Mexico when I was a nanny. It was when my friend took me on a vacation to Siesta Key, Florida that I was inspired to write the novel that would become my debut release, Florida Heat.

The white sandy beach, warm sunshine, and the aqua blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico were the setting. Witnessing offshore powerboat racing for the first time, gave me the action and danger element for the hero, Trent Randall. A beachside, yellow house was the perfect home for my heroine, Maggie Carlisle. My friend and I visited the local shops and restaurants, which I used a few in my book, as well as share their website links on my website for the book.

I don’t always write in a location I’ve visited, but am more comfortable sticking with where I am familiar. When my readers asked what happened with the secondary characters in Florida Heat, I decided to write their story, Texas Two Step. The book is set in Dallas, Texas—I’ve never been to Dallas or Texas. Making up places is fun, but I’d rather travel and visit the location I’m going to write about. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to visit.

Jody VitekFind Jody’s book here – Amazon – Florida Heat

Satin Romance: Florida Heat

Taking Chances

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Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
– William Faulkner

Taking chances.  How many times do you begin something then give up? Mr. Faulkner was right. It may be bad.  But you have a starting point. It can be improved upon, fixed, tweaked, torn apart and redone. That sounds a lot like writing a novel.  And since he was an author, I’m sure that’s what he meant in the quote.

If you feel your first draft is your best, you’re wrong. It’s just the beginning. When you finish your book, the feeling of euphoria envelops you. You deserve to feel that way. You are done. You’ve accomplished a mighty task.

Now walk away. Don’t do anything to this manuscript. Wait a week or two. Then start to read it again. Hopefully you’ll realize it’s just a first draft, a stepping stone to something better.

When I first started writing, I felt as if my book needed to be sent out into the world immediately.  After looking back on some of that work—Ugh! I can’t believe I felt that way. I now read my story at least three times before I have anyone look at it. That can take time, and in this day and age, a lot of us don’t have the patience for that. But if you want something to be good, I think patience needs to be added to your list.

Take chances.

Scary? Yep.

Exhilarating? Sometimes.

Unsure? Always.

But if you don’t take that first step, you’ll never know. You know the old saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”. So go ahead. Take that chance. You may be one day closer to something good.

What are You Reading Today?

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I just finished the third book of the Outlander series, Voyager. I can’t stop thinking about these books and am holding back on buying the next one. There’s a lot to absorb in these novels. The first in the series was 560 pages, but Voyager was over 1,000.

The author tends to go into quite a bit of detail. In fact, I could use less details. Get on with the story! I’ve learned a lot of history, too. Mostly about the failed attempt of the Scottish Highlanders trying to regain the throne for Bonny Prince Charles in the 1740’s.

The book is a time travel novel, too. Clair Randall accidentally steps through one of the stones at an ancient stone circle while visiting Scotland with her husband. It takes her back to 1743 where she meets husband #2, Jamie. There is too much story to sum up in a few sentences, so I won’t try.

If you’re not a reader and think the story line is interesting, Starz has turned the books into a series. My husband has watched and liked it. Although, be forewarned, I had to skip over some scenes in the book and knew I couldn’t watch during the series. There are highly mature themes of a sexual nature in these books–Outlander especially.

The story of Jamie and Clair continues on for eight books. I thought I could stop after book one. But the need to read the next kept gnawing at the back of my mind. The characters stayed with me. Such a good lesson for writers. Shouldn’t all good books do that?

So tell me, what are you reading today?