29…It’s not just a Number

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My new series, 29, debuted last month. Four years ago, I began the journey of writing this novel. I wrote it after my first Waiting for Dusk novel and maybe I wasn’t quite ready to let go of those characters. The first draft was stiff and factual. Too much telling, not enough action. I’m always afraid to “go there”, that dark place that’s needed to make someone evil. I like people to be nice. I want to be nice. But in books, you need that character you can hate or look for ways to redeem him. It was a labor of love, and I want to share how it came to be.

If not for Leap Year, this book would never been written! During the last Leap Year, an idea came to mind for a story. I mulled it over and over in my mind before I began to write. The single thought had to be turned into a story. It’s been a work of love—written, rewritten, torn apart and started over again. When I finally felt it was ready, I entered the story in a competition. 29 came in fifth place in the Critique My Novel (now known as Ink and Insight) contest for unpublished manuscripts, giving me the confidence to continue.

Many characters in this book have special meaning to me. Some are named after students I had, another for a good friend’s son. As always, somewhere in my book I find a special place for the name Gilbert. Dad, your name ends up somewhere in my stories. That’s a promise. This time you’re a road, but I know you wouldn’t mind.

February 29 will never be thought of the same way again. Read 29.

XXIX

“They’re Roman numerals. I think you learn about them in fourth grade. You want me to tell you what they stand for? I think a big, smart, Army guy like you should know.” I gave him a quick smile, trying to give the impression of a bratty teenager. If he knew the reason I stalled, I’d be given a truth serum and tied to a chair.

Allie Sanders thinks life in a small town can’t get any more dull and boring. She plans to escape after graduation. After a bad break-up, she wants to sail through junior year without distraction. Then the mysterious loner sits down in front of her in AP English. He’s the guy she noticed last year desperately trying to stay invisible. She wants to know his secrets. He seems different, but not in a vampire sort of way.

Suddenly her much older military brother, Doug, makes a rare appearance. He takes a special interest in her life. Suspicious of his motives Allie holds back, never really trusting him. Doug wants what she wants—the boy she has come to love. No way would she let that happen. She’d go against family and friends to protect him—and his secrets—even if it ends up breaking her heart.

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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.

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

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  

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?