Hope, Feathers, and Blogging: Advice for Being a Writer Today by Scott D. Southard – Guest Post and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour. NOTE: the book is on sale for $1.99 during the course of the tour!

Hope, Feathers, and Blogging: Advice for Being a Writer Today
Scott D. Southard
Being a writer is not easy.

I’ve been chasing this dream since I was a teenager. I have had three different agents in my time, worked with numerous publishers and I have had highs (for example, the publication of my new novel Permanent Spring Showers) and lows. I’ve gotten close to achieving some of my dreams, and I’ve fallen a few times from them as well. There was even a point where I walked away from writing for four years.

Four years.

That is not to say I wasn’t getting ideas during that time and still dreaming something might happen, I was just exhausted and nothing felt worth the inevitable disappointment that I was sure would follow. Everything looked like a negative query letter waiting to happen. Yeah, I was fun to be around.

~~~~~

The market today is congested. It could be argued that there are more writers than readers out there, especially with the explosion of indie presses, eBooks, and self-publishing. In many ways, I think this shows a strong future for the artform, but right now it is a lot of noise and it is hard for readers sometimes to find those new voices in the masses. In time, the right filters will come in and it will be easier to sort; that just hasn’t happened yet. So our books hide in the search pages on Amazon and we authors wait with bated breath.

Also, there are less agents and bigger publishers willing to take a chance on a new voice (especially one daring to do something truly innovative). The agents take a risk with each new author they sign, and publishing houses are based on business models. In other words, you need to prove almost that your work is sellable and will not be a loss for them. I think that, right there, is one of the reasons so many complain about how so many books feel the same on the market. It’s like how Apple creates an iPad and suddenly every company wants to make a tablet.

Honestly, tablets are pretty cool, but you get where I’m going.

~~~~~

From time to time I will answer a question from a new writer (when I’m speaking at a writing event or at a college), seeking advice for how they can succeed in their own writing dream. While a part of me wants to tell them it is all about luck (like winning the lottery or, as in the world of publishing, being Anne Rice’s or Stephen King’s kids), that is not always entirely true.

The fact is that in today’s writing world, I have found that if you want to be an author, you need to focus on your own career first. What I mean is, you need to convince an agent or publisher that you are even worthy of their time to review even a snippet of a manuscript. Yes, you need something beyond the fiction to back up the query letter.

What has worked for me, and what I would recommend to other writers hoping to find a readership is… start a blog.

A blog is great practice (you want to see if you have the chops to be a writer, keep an active blog for a year and get back to me) and a blog will give you actual data that you can use to find that agent or publisher. I started my blog (The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard at sdsouthard.com) over two years ago and it has really turned things around for me as an author.

That is not to say this is easy, you need to generate a lot of posts and they have to be more than just on one thing. You need to have a voice so that the people following you feel that they know you. I’m not saying you have to share every aspect of your life, but you need to share enough so people feel they are along with you on a journey.

For some that might sound scary, exposing yourself like that (and aren’t many of us introverts, really?), but for me I still find it empowering. And because of that blog, I have had my social media accounts skyrocket. For example, I have over 35,000 twitter followers. Sure, some of those found me simply because I am a writer, but many went on to find my website and then my own writing. I have the data.

And how about this- my twitter and blog introduced me to the publisher of my novel A Jane Austen Daydream and to the publisher of my new novel Permanent Spring Showers. Neither of those books today would be on the market without my blog.

There are few guarantees about anything in the writing world, but a blog is… a piece of awesomeness.

~~~~~

If my own kids were to come up to me and say they want to be an author, I’m not sure what I would say exactly.

I’d probably have a heart to heart about how difficult the field is, but I think a person should follow their passion. Life is short, why spend it doing something you don’t want to? And for as much as I have had highs and lows, I’ve always followed my heart on this and it is really hard for me to look back at my life as a missed opportunity. They are all part of the path I’ve chosen.

Yeah, I would say I’m living the life of an author, it is just different than what it traditionally has been viewed as. And I still have hope that my career will continue to grow, and hope is a powerful thing. Emily Dickinson said hope is the thing with feathers. The trick really is sometimes learning to recognize the feathers. I recognize my blog as one of them.

Professor Rebecca Stanley-Wilson is having a very bad season. The ramifications of one torrid evening with one of the great upcoming painters of his generation, will not only be felt across her life but over the entire art world. Sexy, funny, and very surprising, Permanent Spring Showers is the tale of one very memorable springtime and how it impacts a group of unique artists and dreamers. From the the hopeful Olympian with the failing marriage to the writer who is creating a new literary movement (through outright manipulation) to the romantic wondering what he did wrong to drive away the love of his life, each tale walks the line between reality and fantasy. And waiting at the end of the line is a very important painting… and possibly the revolver used in the Lincoln Assassination.

Enjoy an excerpt:

“What are you thinking? She’s an escort!”

“I’m in love, Steve. After sitting through the first twenty minutes of this lunch, it’s obvious you certainly still remember what that feeling is like.” He pushed his plate forward.

“But Clark…” I began.

He interrupted, “And it’s not like she wants to do that her entire life, Steve, if that is what is troubling you. She is doing it to pay for college.”

I stopped, the car of my mind shifting gears again. “Wait, did you say ‘is’? Do you mean she is still doing it?”

“Well, times are tough all over,” Clark replied far too calmly for my taste. “Have you seen college tuition rates this year?”

“And she’s really in college?” I asked, shocked. I began to wonder if I was on one of those TV shows and a camera was hidden in a bush nearby me.

My shock was perfectly mirrored by the opposite reflection of the casualness of my brother.

“You didn’t think I would marry an idiot did you, Steve? I need to be mentally challenged, you know that. She is studying education; her dream’s to teach third graders.”

“You’re engaged to a hooker…”

“Escort,” he corrected quickly for a third time.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said sarcastically. “You are engaged to an active escort who wants to be an elementary school teacher?”

“Yes,” Clark said with a dramatic point across the table at me. “And Steve, this is where you come in. You need to help me introduce her to mom and dad.”

Scott D. Southard is the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors, Megan, 3 Days in Rome and Me Stuff in addition to his latest release, Permanent Spring Showers. His eclectic writing has also found its way into radio, as Scott was the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” where he writes on topics ranging from writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site. His blog can be found at http://sdsouthard.com. Scott is also the fiction book reviewer for WKAR’s daily radio show Current State.

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The Chapels on the Hill by Virginia McCullough – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Virginia will award one randomly drawn winner a digital copy of one of her fiction books via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

When tragedy struck, Sonia and Aaron’s reason to be together seemed to slip away, along with the love they once shared. Both believe they’ll find closure at an event dedicating a music pavilion to their son, allowing them to say a final goodbye and freeing them to commit to new relationships. But instead of finding peace, memories of the life they shared with their son, Matt, stir up unexpected feelings, prompting them to relive both sweet and painful times of their shared memories of the life they shared…

And they can’t forget Matt’s special gift…

By age five, Matt’s cello teacher declared him a child prodigy. But life with a prodigy can become complicated and even strains Aaron and Sonia’s marriage. Sonia is forced to balance her commitment to Matt and his music with running Chapel’s Botanical Garden, a business she created to save Aaron’s family’s land. Aaron’s law practice leads him to high-profile cases all over the country. Aaron is concerned about music dominating Matt’s childhood, but he eventually understands his son’s gift is already leading him to a life far away from their home in Lady’s River, Wisconsin.

When Matt is taken from them unexpectedly, Aaron and Sonia turn in different directions, eventually going their separate ways. It seems to be working…or is it? For Sonia and Aaron, only a trip through the past will allow them to redeem the future—perhaps even find a shared future again.

Enjoy an excerpt:

He had to make a decision and stick to it. For days, Aaron had shifted back and forth between a firm choice to attend the dedication of the pavilion and an equally strong conviction to skip the event altogether. Nothing worked harder on the knot of tension in his gut than indecision.

He picked up the announcement and scanned it once again. It had Sonia’s fingerprints all over it. Well, not literally, but the neat, easy-to-read embossed lettering matched her taste. Aaron no longer followed the Unity Flight Family Group’s activities as closely as he once had, but when he’d first heard their plan to build an open-air pavilion on the site of the plane crash he’d known instantly it had been Sonia’s idea. The dedication of this final memorial also marked the five-year anniversary of the day they lost Matt forever.

Aaron pushed his chair back from the desk and made his way to the window that spanned the outside wall. On a clear day, he could look down from his twentieth floor office and see the Chicago River below, but that afternoon heavy rain pelted the glass, blocking the view he usually found comforting. He’d lived most of his fifty years in a small town where a river served as the one constant, a reference point for home. Maybe that explained why he’d been drawn to the river in his adopted city, the place where he’d resolved to start over and build a new life.

Absently slapping the announcement into the palm of his other hand, he rationalized that he could use the weather as an excuse not to go to the dedication ceremony. Or, he could beg off because of scheduled weekend depositions.

Bestselling author Virginia McCullough’s fiction titles include Amber Light, Greta’s Grace, Island Healing, Book 1 of her St. Anne’s Island Series, and The Chapels on the Hill. The Jacks of Her Heart, which releases in May 2015, offers a lighter take on romance in middle-age. Her novels offer hope, healing, and plenty of second chances—and her characters always share some fun and laughter along the way, too.

A lifelong writer, Virginia has written over 100 books as a ghostwriter or coauthor. Her clients include well-known doctors, lawyers, professional speakers, and individuals with a story to tell. She’s come to see that her nonfiction work also offers readers hope and healing. Virginia coauthored (w/Lynda McDaniel) Write Your Book Now and Storytelling Toolkit, both available on amazon.com. She currently lives in Wisconsin. Visit Virginia online:

Website: http://www.virginiamccullough.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/virginia.mccullough.7

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VEMcCullough

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/virginia-mccullough/12/835/84

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/468913.Virginia_McCullough

Buy the book:

Barnes and Noble: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-chapels-on-the-hill-virginia-mccullough/1118731987

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Virginia-McCullough/e/B001JRXBNQ

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Dueling Personalities by C.M. Subasic – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Dueling personalities

“In your dreams you can have your eggs any way you want them, but you cannot eat them.” ~ Anna Freud

Developing a good story is a lot like sex (in a snow globe).

The story starts as a small shiver of hope, a spark in my imagination. The tricky thing is, I can dream about my story all I like, but until pen is put to paper, it doesn’t exist. Even then, getting from concept to satisfaction rarely happens in one stream of consciousness spill. Just like sex, it’s a lot messier than that, full of wrong moves and embarrassing passages.

One process I use to get through all the confusing messiness is to recognize the difference between my creative inner voice and my inner critical voice. Each has its purpose, but at different stages of the process.

The artist’s role is to feel out the scene rather than think it out, get into the skin of the characters, see the world from their perspective. That, is, they go into the snow globe and look around. Their job is to look in all directions, no matter how crazy. It’s messy good fun.

I’ll jot notes in a word document, on index cards, write by hand, draw little pictures, sometimes even writing with crayons on big pieces of paper. What colour is the room? What am I writing about? Details come in snippets: Is Josie in a rush, if so where is she going, what will she do there, what is she thinking as she hurries along? Thoughts, feelings, colours, textures, smells, essences. These are my artist swatches.

In this work I must banish the critic because she will always find some rule or such to ruin the party.

But eventually, I need the critic to pull on her glasses and take a look at the mess. Her job is to find the shape, the structure, the through-line. In some cases she gets all academic on me, looking up different story types or references, identifying the rules of storytelling. Is the story a rags to riches tale, or is it about conquering a monster? If so, what elements are required so I can make sure they are included. Like, a monster story isn’t a monster story without a monster, right? Well, duh… (the artist tends to forget such picky details).

There are points where both roles need to work together. Say, when I’m looking at upping the drama ante. In a scene where two people decide to go out on a date, how I can make it so they reveal more of themselves to each other? Should I put them in a rain storm so the girl has to share her soggy but large newspaper with him? Does he spill a coffee on her in a most embarrassing way (and then, does she hold her purse over the stain, or insist on getting it wiped up immediately?)

Back and forth I go, from artist to critic. Big picture to details and back again. Inside the snow globe, outside the snow globe. It’s a dance, a seduction, as we go back and forth looking at a single scene, or sometimes the entire work.

Before I discovered this ability to switch I was always at war with myself, not knowing when to dissect or when to freewheel it. I believe it’s a part of any artist’s job to develop this split personality awareness.

For readers out there, how does the overall journey of a story impact the words on the page you’re reading right now? How does the relationship between the whole story and the individual moment you are reading right this minute affect your experience of the whole?

TheFortyWattFlowers_coverAll Trisha wants to do is create something meaningful. Since she’s living in Athens, GA, she brings four other women together and the rock band The Forty Watt Flowers is formed. But making good music isn’t as easy as it sounds. From the jock atmosphere of the garage where they rehearse to the beer-soaked bars when they gig, these five young women struggle to find beauty in the mess of notes they try to play and the chaos of their lives.

Enjoy an excerpt:

First Rehearsal, Aline & Trisha

Trisha sat on the curb beside her. “Aline, I’m not an experienced musician or anything. I have no idea what we’re doing. I’m just—”

“You’re going to do very well at this, I can tell,” Aline said.

“How?”

“I just can, that’s all.”

Their gazes met. Aline’s smile was so open, like a warm bath.

Trisha asked, “When you write a poem, how do you do it?”

Aline bit her lip. “A poem for me …” She shook her head, started again, “The first thing I do is I get all quiet and I listen.”

“Listen?”

Aline nodded. “I start with something that resonates with me,” she said. “It’s like I’m looking for the seed. That seed has to shake, like all of inside me is just going B-O-I-N-G-! B-O-I-N-G-!”

Trisha repeated, “Boing.”

Aline sang, drawing it out, “B-O-I-N-G —I-N-G!”

Trisha repeated, “B-O-I-N-G —I-N-G!”

Aline smiled. “You got it.” Then with eyes intent on that interior space of hers, she continued, “Well, that boing gives me a beat. Some days, there’s nothing there. Other days, there’s ten or twelve ideas screaming and it scares me. And then I—”

A thought rang like a chord, high and clear in Trisha’s thoughts. She wasn’t sure if it was because of what Aline had said, or if she’d just needed the space to let it appear. But there it was. She jumped up.

“Aline?” she said.

“Yes?”

“We need to get back in there.”

About the Author:MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_TheFortyWattFlowersColleen is award-winning editor who started her writing life as a playwright. She has had 7 plays produced across Canada and worked with the likes of Samantha Bee (yes, from The Daily Show) and Leah Cherniak.

Her plays include Back Alley Boys about the hardcore punk scene in Toronto, Eye am Hear which tells the tale of a luddite teenage squatters at some undetermined punkish time in the future, A Brief Case of Crack Addicted Cockroaches about the relationship between the media and politics featuring a city councillor who smokes crack (which was never produced because it was too off the wall) and Interbastation about the beauty in ugliness and the ugliness in beauty. Her novel Public Image tied for second in the Anvil Press International 3-day Novel competition.

In addition to her work as a playwright, Colleen puts on the dramaturgy, editor and script doctor hats for a range of publishers, producers and writer clients. She has a Master in Creative Writing from the prestigious UBC Department of Theatre, Film and Creative Writing and has taught play writing at the university level. She’s also done the Board of Directors thing with the Playwrights Guild of Canada, The Playwrights Theatre Centre in Vancouver and other arts organizations.

She was managing editor of Taking the Stage: Selections from plays by Canadian Women which was selected as the “most saleable dramatic publication of the year” by the Canadian Booksellers’ Association. She has also been awarded Arts Council grants by the province of Ontario and Nova Scotia. She has served on the judging panel of several internationl novel awards. Her one-person play Interbastation was selected as one of the top-10 best shows by CBC Winnipeg in 1998.

She lived in Athens from 1999 to 2001 and, while there, reviewed and edited manuscripts for Hill Street Press.

Colleen currently resides in her birthplace, Toronto, with three grey cats and a drawer full of lint brushes.

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The Tyranny of Facts by Joel Fishbane – Guest Blog

THE TYRANNY OF FACTS
or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Fiction
Joel Fishbane

There’s that old proverb about writing being one-tenth inspiration and nine-tenths sweat, but I think that ratio needs adjusting: at least one of those tenths has to be reserved for the act of reading other people’s books. A good writer is a great reader. Archimedes famously got inspiration while taking a bath but he was in mathematics; my own Eureka-moment came while reading P.T. Barnum’s 1869 autobiography, Struggles and Triumphs.

Writing about the various marvels he showed at his “American Museum”, Barnum wrote briefly about Anna Swan, declaring that “she was an intelligent and by no means ill-looking girl.” The comment intrigued me. Here was a woman who was around eight feet tall and Barnum had reduced her to a paragraph that was 160 words long – 161 if you count “ill-looking” as two separate words.

The idea of using Anna’s life as the basis for a novel did not come all at once. She simply began to sweep around my head, where she eventually mingled with a short story I was writing in which an actor named Nicholas was in love with a very tall girl named Andorra. Creative evolution did the rest.

Researching Anna’s life revealed a frustrating truth: everything we know about her comes from someone else. There are no letters, diaries, or quotes. Barnum tells us she was intelligent but we have no proof for ourselves: history has robbed us of her voice. This is a shame because Anna witnessed the American Civil War, Canadian Confederation, the reign of Queen Victoria, the abolition of slavery, and the beginnings of the woman’s right’s movement (the first woman’s right’s convention happened two years after her birth). She must have had some interesting thoughts – already unique, she almost certainly would have had the perspective of an outsider looking in.

Anna was silent but her world wasn’t: there is no shortage of information about the era in which she lived. The first draft of my novel was 190,000 words, which is almost three times as long as it is now. It had been weighed down by what I like to call the Tyranny of Fact: I had tried to put every last bit of research onto the page. It was good history but it was bad fiction. And so the rebellion began.

The novel belongs to two women – Anna Swan and Andorra, the woman hired to play Anna in the movie based on her life. Any fact that helped me tell their story stayed; anything extraneous was promptly deleted. I was surprised by what I cut. In 1865, for instance, there was a fire at Barnum’s Museum and it was reported that Anna was carried to safety via a fireman’s derrick. I always assumed this story would make it into the book but the attentive reader will not find it in the final draft. Given that the book jumps from 1863 to 1871, the story of the fire became a digression. The book never suggests it didn’t happen; it’s simply a tale that now lives between the lines (or the chapters, as the case may be).

I was also saddened to cut the story of Isaac Sprague, the living skeleton who the newspapers called Anna’s “best friend.” Possible reporter’s hyperbole aside, there is something enchanting about the idea of an eight foot tall girl being friends with a man who is only 43 pounds. Yet as I edited, I found I couldn’t give Isaac a narrative role that wasn’t already being fulfilled by others. This is the harsh part of historical fiction. Isaac was no doubt important to Anna, but I exiled him so I could write a stronger book.

In the end, Anna Swan lived in the world of myth and while most myths are based on fact, they always spin off into a fictional extreme. It is appropriate, I think, that fact and fiction should be blended in the retelling of Anna’s life. Let the actual historians set the record straight; as for me, I’m satisfied that I didn’t reduce her life to a handful of pithy sentences. She was more than the sum of her measurements – and of the few words that Barnum used to describe her.

4_23 fishbane thunder of giantsFrom Canadian novelist and playwright Joel Fishbane, comes the extraordinary, out-of-this-world tale of The Thunder of Giants. Nearly 8-feet tall and hoping to build a better life for her children, Andorra Kelsey escapes to Hollywood to star in a film about Anna Swan, the giantess who toured the world as part of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum decades earlier. Their stories parallel each other as both women struggle to find tranquility in a world that sees them as anything but human. Anna and Andorra long for normalcy, but first must tackle the society that is too small to contain them. Will Anna and Andorra find love and peace? Will society see them as more than the mere sum of their measurements? This story, with its underlying themes of the ever-present issues of body image in society, captivated my heart and blew me away.

About the Author:4_23 author photo 8188251
JOEL FISHBANE is a novelist, playwright, sous-chef, actor, trivia host, amateur boxer, occasional clarinet player and general man about town. His various plays, short stories, articles, critiques and literary musings have been published, performed, honored, and otherwise applauded in Canada, the United States and Europe. He lives in Toronto and almost always wears a hat. For more information, visit www.JoelFishbane.com.

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Square Affair by Timmothy J. Holt – Guest Blog

4_22 timmporchLong and Short Reviews welcomes Timmothy J. Holt, whose latest book Square Affair was released earlier this year.  Please see our review here.

Guest Blog
 

Ann Buxton, founder of Straight Spouse Network, has estimated that in at least two million marriages, a spouse has revealed being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. I am one of those men.

Growing up in a small Midwestern town during the 60’s, I was expected to marry and have children, even though I knew, deep down, it wasn’t for me. I knew about the affair in the courthouse and secretly longed to have known the men. I didn’t find gay sex in the courthouse, but found it in many places after my marriage and move to Chicago. I found it in store restrooms, movie houses, peep shows, steam rooms, and forest preserves looking for anonymous sex with other men. The police never caught me, but my wife did. My subsequent divorce outed me to my family and to the world. The story of Square Affair became my story, a complex tale of social norms that didn’t match my biological need. I loved and still love my ex-wife, but it was not fair to continue the betrayal, no matter how hard it was to face the truth. My world needed to eliminate the lies, no matter how painful, just as did the city of Dewers.

4_22 SquareAffair_Cover ImageIn the small Midwestern town of Dewers, among the turmoil of the 1960s, the conversations of five men leads to sexual exploration, which takes them and the town on a journey through good and evil that will change the entire community and confirm the town’s resolve to survive.

Arrested on charges of public indecency for anonymous sex in the courthouse restroom, five men reveal complex, unknown, and differing motivations for their actions. As they face not only criminal prosecution, but also the tribunal of Dewers, two questions are on their minds: Who am I, and is anyone out there like me?

Clara May and Frieda, guardians of Dewers gossip, narrate Square Affair, where the reader becomes a citizen of Dewers: walking the square, in a bar drinking, trick-or-treating, in a store buying a hat, or in a car gossiping. It is not erotic, but gives the reader an insight into the behavior’s erotic appeal.

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Spring Blogfest: Velda Brotherton

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Historically Spring
By Velda Brotherton

Writing historical romances set in the west means making sure people live in the way that was proper for the day. What did spring mean in those days?

Bathing: Through the winter everyone had the same bathing habits — they didn’t — so they probably couldn’t tell each person carried a certain odor, in fact, they stunk. Don’t you imagine it was a great relief to be able to take a full body bath?

Eating: Poke comes up. This an edible and tasty green that emerges from the ground as the last of the snow melts. Though usually best known in southern menus, anyone living in the wild watched for the first green shoots. Those spears could be cut and eaten like asparagus, or one could wait till the plant leafed out well before cooking it in two waters, rinsing in between, then frying it in a pan of grease and seasoning with vinegar.

Clothing: Long underwear is shed. Men most especially wore longjohns and they were seldom removed from November till March. Imagine wearing the same set of drawers for five months out of the year. That’s why the old joke, don’t wash above your wrist bone till summer. It was as high as men could reach when washing their hands all winter. Women wore long cotton stockings and several layers of skirts most of the time. On the plains women tended to shed all but a cotton dress in the hot summers, unlike their city cousins who dressed in Victorian fashion year round into the 20th Century.

Cleaning: Airing mattresses and pillows in the sunshine, hanging rugs outside and beating the dirt out of them, wading about in shin-deep mud, banging soot from the stove pipes.

Gardening: Most important of all to these western settlers, spring meant planting seeds that would grow and provide food for them during the coming winter. Plows were pulled by mules, horses or men, depending on the wealth of the gardeners. Some could not afford animals because of the food it took to sustain them all winter, so the man would pull the plow and the woman would guide it across and back, turning up furrows in which to plant.

Because few had calendars, planting was done by signs provided by nature. Earliest plantings consisted of onions, lettuce and other greens, and garden peas. Then potatoes followed by green beans and corn planted when tree leaves were the size of squirrel’s ears. When the ground was warm enough to sit on with a bare bottom and not be cold cucumbers and squash seed went in the ground. Last of all came the tender tomato plants which had been grown from seed indoors during the early spring months. They were once known as love apples.

So when writing your western historical romances, be sure to get spring right as well as romantic.

VELDA final front coverLeft behind in enemy territory for nine years, tortured beyond endurance, Navy pilot Glen Tanner survives for one reason. To return home and destroy the wife who deserted him. Instead he meets Katie Kelly, who coaxes him back from hell and teaches him to love and trust again.

About the Author: Velda Brotherton writes of romance in the old west with an authenticity that makes her many historical characters ring true. A knowledge of the rich history of our country comes through in both her fiction and nonfiction books, as well as in her writing workshops and speaking engagements. She just as easily steps out of the past into contemporary settings to create novels about women with the ability to conquer life’s difficult challenges. Tough heroines, strong and gentle heroes, villains to die for, all live in the pages of her novels and books.

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Spring Blogfest: Janine Donoho

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Grouse Eggs & Kestrels and Seedlings & Soil
(as sung to ‘My Favorite Things’)

In this remote conservation area of Washington State, vernal equinox triggers messy chasms brimming with snowmelt. Summer’s alkaline dust transforms into muck capable of entombing my 4-wheel drive eco-diesel up to its wheel wells. Days collect into weeks of treacherous roads.

I wait to plant seeds until after mid-May, since hard frosts shrivel tender cotyledons. After years of starting seedlings indoors, I reverted to direct sowing into compost enriched soils. The hardening process for young plants is fickle, and planting seeds works just as well.

Still the promise of spring causes me to excavate lighter clothing and bury the thick layers of winter. I begin to wake earlier with a curious lift to my spirits. It’s the fragrance of spring that starts me along this path.

When wild grasses poke through the drying crust of alkaline silt in this high desert, I move into the bliss zone. Yes, these are the same grasses that require vigorous slashing to maintain defensible space around our home as fire season roars into being. Yet at this stage, the verdant color and lush bouquet—well, it makes me ridiculously happy. I breathe more deeply.

JANINE Dusky Blue Grouse eggsSpring is also when the dusky blue grouse male begins to court his harem, drumming Oot, oot, oot from his air sacs while he struts his stuff. Not long afterward, his hens lay buff colored eggs beneath Ponderosa pines and sagebrush. Incubation takes almost a month before hatching in late May.

This is the sweet time, when my drip system is optional and yellow jackets aren’t dive-bombing me in the gardens. Native arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagitatta) splashes the steppes with festive yellows as raptors freewheel along thermals. My particular favorite, the kestrel, sets up housekeeping in our nesting box. By late summer, the fledglings scream their fear and excitement as they take their first flight from one branch to another, then one pine to another before departing to establish their own territories.

But today, it’s the scent of spring, the promise of lush Mediterranean gardens, and the quality of light that fills me with hopefulness. Daylight hours have gone from winter solstice’s threadbare eight to nearly twelve. By summer solstice we’ll enjoy sixteen hours of light. For now, I wander the forests and sagebrush steppes, cherishing eggs tucked into grouse nests.

JANINE Soundings for TRRIs there hope for a grieving mother’s heart?

Ecopsychologist Dr. Margo Updike loses herself in a shadow life after her daughter’s tragic death. When a century storm deposits a young girl on Maggie’s secluded beach in Puget Sound, a miraculous renewal begins. Then the apparent orphan exhibits signs of neglect and worse, prompting Maggie’s vow to protect and heal her–no matter the cost.

The arrival of a mysterious man claiming to be Sorcha’s father upends Maggie’s life. She finds Morrissey strangely irresistible even as her friend Sheriff Ajax Smith questions the man’s motives and odd behavior. As a serial killer’s victims begin surfacing in Seal Cove, Jax must curb his suspicions to enlist Maggie as a profiler.

Will Jax and Maggie find the murderer before he strikes again? With Morrissey’s secrets trapping Maggie on destructive shoals between reality and legend, can she grasp his true nature before losing her chance to rebuild a life worth living? To what depths–and heights–will she go for a daughter, a beloved man and, ultimately, her humanity?

About the Author:Award-winning writer Janine Donoho grew up navigating extremes–perhaps due to the ups and downs of her San Franciscan birthplace. That Escher landscape primed her to embrace imaginary worlds. With one foot planted in fuzzy science and the other in invented realms, she occupies the land of What If. Published in novel-length and short fiction, along with essays, Janine pursues the thumps that echo in the night–and writes about those, too.

With her intrepid husband, Italian greyhound, and tuxedo cat, Janine makes her home in the spectacular Okanogan Highlands of Washington State. Mountain lions, coyotes, and bears–oh, my!

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Spring Blogfest: Juliet Waldron

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Win either print copy or e-copy of Roan Rose by commenting on this post. Also click on the banner to enter the rafflecopter to win a $25 Amazon/BN GC, one of four book packs, or one of four swag packs (US only on book and swag packs).

What’s up with the Rabbit and those Eggs?

I’ve always wanted to come to the bottom of this particularly odd imagery which goes hand in hand with Easter. When I was little, back in the early fifties, I received an Easter basket, usually complete with a fluffy toy bunny. We had festive posters on the school room walls of cheerful looking rabbits with candy baskets. Bunnies=Easter—that was simply how it was. Nothing to do with the awe-full Christian story of agony and resurrection, a mysterious tandem.

As I grew older, I was fascinated by mythology and with history. Following both back to the long ago age where they merge, I came upon a Saxon goddess named Eostre whose arrival brought spring to the British. Like others of her regenerative earth goddess kind, flowers sprang up where she walked. Eggs are laid in spring, and so perhaps, I thought, the basket is actually a nest, containing eggs, and the eggs and new born rabbits and all the other creatures who begin their life cycles at this time have simply become conflated in a mash-up of imagery.

This worked to satisfy me for a very long time, until this year, in fact, when I think, with input from British scholars, (Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm) I think I’ve finally come to the bottom of the rabbit and eggs conundrum. Long ago, in England, before the Romans introduced rabbits to the island, there were related creatures called “hares,” decidedly not the same animal as “silly rabbits.” For one thing, they are larger, relatives of the white Arctic Hare. They thrived in the extensive, grazing-created grasslands, sharing them with Neolithic people. Hares do not sleep in burrows, but in “forms,” which their neatly tucked up bodies make in the long grass.

julia walden 6406_Lapwing eggs in nestxxA British bird, the lapwing, shares this habitat. She lays her speckled eggs on the ground, like the American whippoorwill. She even does a similar “my wing is broken” routine to lead predators away from her eggs/chicks. Sometimes the lapwing made use of a hare’s abandoned “form” for her eggs—and presto!

Ancient people saw the forms, sometimes containing the pretty speckled eggs of the lapwing, and a magical image was born. To put a cap on it, at least from a long-ago Britain’s point of view, both these animals were sacred to the earth goddess, Eostre, the sweet goddess who brings fertility, green grass and flowers in her train, so welcome after winter’s frozen time.

juliet Waldron-RoanRose2 2014 coverxxxxxROAN ROSE ~ English Medieval/Wars of Roses
Loyalty Binds her! From childhood, maid-servant Rose bears witness to the passions, betrayals, battles and the reversals of fortune which shape Lady Anne Neville’s life—and, for better or for worse–her own.

About the Author: Juliet Waldron has lived in many US states, in the UK and the West Indies. She earned a B. A. in English, but has worked at jobs ranging from artist’s model to brokerage. Thirty years ago, after her sons left home, she dropped out of 9-5 and began to write, hoping to create a genuine history/time travel experience for her readers. She’s a grandmother, a cat person, and a dedicated student of history, Herstory, and archeology.

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Spring Blogfest: Judith Works

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Win a digital copy of City of Illusions by commenting on this post. Also click on the banner to enter the rafflecopter to win a $25 Amazon/BN GC, one of four book packs, or one of four swag packs (US only on book and swag packs).

Spring in Rome is the most beautiful time of year.

In my mind the season begins on March 8, International Women’s Day, when all the women wear springs of bright yellow mimosa flowers. The trees lining the streets are laden with the small fluffy blossoms, and florists display small branches mixed with colorful tulips and fragrant freesia.

photo (18)-001The pre-Lent celebrations of Carnival are usually over by this time. The event is much-changed from the bawdy and often cruel entertainments of the past. Now there are parades of costumed children all dolled up to look like not-very-fierce pirates and sweet princesses. The children toss confetti until the cobblestones are covered with the bits of colored paper. Carnival has its own favorite food – a fried pastry called frappe.

Not long after this celebration workers bring out large terracotta pots filled with blooming azaleas. They are placed on the Spanish Steps making a sea of pink to delight the eye. The steps are a favorite for film settings like Roman Holiday and The Talented Mr. Ripley. The steps connect the Piazza di Spagna to the beautiful church called Trinita dei Monti where I once attended a spectacular wedding conducted by a Cardinal who conveyed the Pope’s blessing. At the reception in an old villa on the Appica Antica the groom opened the champagne bottles by popping out the cork with a sword.

In anticipation of Easter, shops are filled with football-sized chocolate eggs covered in bright foil that dazzle the eye and cause children to beg their mammas, or better yet nonnas, for a treat. Grandmother never says no. Shelves are lined with boxes of the dove-shaped cake with almonds called Colombe Pasquale.

On Good Friday the Pope leads a torch-lit procession from the Colosseum to the Palatine Hill with prayers at each of the Stations of the Cross that have been set up for the occasion. Easter Sunday is notable for the huge crowds gathering in front of St. Peters to hear the Pope give his message of hope and peace in many languages. After church, families gather to dine on the traditional lamb often accompanied by the tiny and tender spring artichokes.

Easter in Italian is Pasqua. The day after Easter is called Pasquetta or little Easter. That is the traditional day for the first picnic of the year. Traffic is a nightmare as cars laden with family and food head for nearby parks or the hills to find a patch of grass to put down a blanket and enjoy the spring flowers that bloom profusely under the umbrella pines and next to old chunks of marble left over from some ancient temple.

When the Rose Garden is opened in May I know that spring will soon turn into summer. The beautiful garden has 11,000 varieties in bloom. The setting on one of the Seven Hills, the Aventine, overlooks the Circus Maximus and the Palatine Hill. Roses and ruins – an early summer treat.

CityofIllusionsSMcover smallA job in Rome! With her life going nowhere in gray Seattle, Laura’s dream of adventure has finally come true. Husband Jack is on board so he can use the year to take a break and begin painting again. But they soon learn la dolce vita is far more complicated than expected as they are catapulted into a world full of intrigue, deceit and infidelity lurking behind the seductive fool and win, sunny piazzas and crumbling ruins. When Jake dabbles dangerously in Rome’s underground corruption, Laura feels free to search for the key to happiness she desires. Sometimes change can solidify a marriage, and sometimes it can rip it apart. Which will it be?

About the Author: Life was routine until mid-life when a chance meeting led her to run away to the Circus (Maximus) – actually to the United Nations office nearby – where she worked as an attorney in the Human Resources department and entered the world of expat life in Rome. After four years she and her husband returned to the U.S. But they missed life in Italy with its great food and wine, endless history, and their many friends. The gods smiled and another opportunity came along. Six more years in Rome, again working for the UN, followed. The many happy and sometimes fraught experiences are the subject of her memoir, Coins in the Fountain, published as an e-book on Amazon. Booktrope has recently published her novel about expats in Rome, City of Illusions, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and i-Tunes. She continues to travel in her spare time, having fitted in over 100 countries. And, when she is in Rome, she always tosses a coin in the Trevi Fountain to ensure another visit.

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Interview: Carla D.E. Godfrey

Carla D. E. Godfrey has stopped by Long and Short Reviews to chat with us. Her newest release What Happens Inbetween releases on March 25. She also has another book coming out this fall, Into the Woods.

What Happens In Between is all about family. It tells the story of two men who, on the face of it, just seem like a normal employer-employee but, as the story goes on, you realize that they have more in common than was previously thought.

“I think it’s grittier than anything I’ve ever written,” she said, “because I normally write chick-lit and I suppose it is up to a point, but I wanted this one to be more down to earth. The e-book is available to pre-order on Amazon.”

She uses Carla D E Godfrey for her paperbacks and just Carla Godfrey for e-books because, she said, “It sort of felt right to use those names as a mark to distinguish between my e-books and paperbacks.”

She has been writing since she was eight, as a hobby. She grew up watching period dramas on television, then reading the books– falling in love with them, especially Jane Austen.

“I was praised for my imagination at school and then I started writing little four-paged stories; they were mostly about me and my family, although I did attempt a short period drama of my own before settling on contemporary fiction.”

She finds it easier to begin her books with the plot, then the characters are defined by the plot. Once she’s decided where the plot is going, she can focus on character traits and personality.

“I think about my characters personalities and where the plot is going and then I try to intertwine the two. It’s really important the nature of the characters and the plot go together,” she explained.

If she had the stamina, she’d love to do a massive family sage.

“I think the most interesting stories happen within families where people assume that they know everything about one another,” she told me. “There’s more room for the element of surprise.”

3_20-author-photo-225x300About the Author: Carla was born and brought up in Norfolk and has been writing as a hobby for nearly twenty years. She moved to France when she was twelve and a half and lived out there for eight years and can speak fluent French, she loved any excuse to use her imagination, as a result, she did very well with regards to essay writing. She graduated and started working at home, she then returned to England. She was quite a solitary child, choosing to keep to her own company. She started writing after reading Jane Austen and watching adaptations on TV. At first, they were about herself but then she began to develop different characters and finally settled on contemporary fiction. She currently lives in Norfolk with her family.

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Blog: http://carlasreadandwrite.blogspot.co.uk/

Author Website: http://carlagodfrey2506.wix.com/authorblogspot

3_20 what-happens-in-betweenOne affair

One big mistake

One consequence

With everything to live for; a brilliant job and beautiful fiancée, Gregory’s pretty much got it made. When he develops a close friendship with his PA, Peter; secrets are exposed and hearts are broken, leaving Greg with a race against time to try and mend his already fragile family.

 

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