Friday Spotlight: Sandra Kay

THANK YOU LASR

I want to thank Long and Short Reviews for featuring me on their Author Spotlight this week. It has been a pleasure to be here, and to chat with LASR members as well as guests. I’d love for you to stop by my website and check out my family photos. Please take time to read the wonderful reviews Heart of Stone has received.

I attended a family reunion over the 4th of July, and have to express how supportive my family is. They organized a mini book signing for me. It was fun and exciting. I only wish I had gotten some pictures to post on my website. Maybe someone in the family will send me some.

Before I sign off for the week, I’d like to post another excerpt of Heart of Stone. I hope you enjoy it!
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“You’ve got to believe me, Amber. Liz doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“Well, I don’t believe you. And I don’t think she believes you, either. I saw the way you looked at her as she left tonight.” Amber’s hands came up in front of her as if to protect herself from his excuses. Her voice shook. “I…I can’t stay here. I’m going to take the babies and go back to the boarding house.” She turned toward the closet to get her small suitcase.

Stone jumped to his feet and grabbed her arm, spinning her around to face him. “Amber, you can’t just run away. Let’s talk this through.”

She pushed at him. Fear crawled over her skin like a living entity. An onslaught of remembered emotions suffocated her—fear, panic, helplessness. Heart pounding, breath ragged. Images of being held down, crushing weight… She fought with all the strength she had, knowing full well that, just as before, her best wouldn’t be enough to save her. Unheeded tears streamed down her cheeks.

Their brief struggle dislodged the remaining strap from her shoulder. The lace clung desperately to the peaks of her breasts. Each rise and fall of her harsh breathing threatened to cause the silky lingerie to slip even further.

Stone’s sudden stillness finally broke through her anger and fear. Like statues, unmoving, they gazed at each other, their common desire forging a daring path through the arguments and misunderstandings.

“I don’t want to be hurt again, Blue-Eyes.”

“Hurting you is the last thing I ever wanted to do.” He bracketed her face in his large hands, lifted a tear from her cheek with his finger and put it to his own lips.

Amber’s knees buckled under the intimacy of his action. He nuzzled her cheek, sending shivers up her spine.

“I’m so sorry, Amber. I’ve been such a selfish bastard.”

His husky voice resonated against her skin. Warm breath stirred the hair at her temples, tickling her ears. He pulled her into a crushing embrace. His lips, soft and demanding at the same time, slid down her cheek to attack her mouth with a fierceness that startled her.

Amber’s hands, trapped between their bodies, felt his quickening heartbeat. Pressed against his chest, she had no defenses against the tenderness of his kiss or the incredibly slow and non-threatening way he caressed her. Instinctively, she knew his power wasn’t a physical threat. This was nothing like what had happened to her before meeting Stone. She relaxed in his arms, giving herself over to the kiss.

His tongue knocked gently at the seam of her lips until, with a sigh, she opened her mouth to answer his passion. Vince Gill’s lilting voice singing When Love Finds You wrapped around her, while Stone’s magic wove a heated path through her.

He lifted his head, blue eyes blazing with a fire to match the one burning inside her. The planes of his face were tight with desire.

“I want you, little gal. I’ve wanted you for so long. Let me make love to you…to my wife.”

His low baritone vibrated against every nerve in her body. She couldn’t think with his hands caressing her back in slow circles, moving lower… “I…I…”

“You want me too, Amber. Say it.” His urgent words pleaded for a response, while his hungry eyes delved into her inner being, seeking an answer from her.

“Yes, I want you, Blue-Eyes.”

At the intimate nickname, the light in his eyes flared, and a growl escaped his throat. One hand tangled in her hair, cupped her head, angled it for better access to her lips. He brushed hers—again and again—before he dipped his tongue inside, exploring the depths of her mouth.

“You taste good,” he murmured against her lips.

“So do you,” Amber sighed.

Stone grazed the thin straps down her arms, causing the lace to lose its tenuous grasp on her breasts.

Title: Heart of Stone

Author: Sandra Kay

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

ISBN: 1-60154-429-4

Buy Link: http://www.thewildrosepress.com/heart-of-stone-p-983.html

Thursday Spotlight: Sandra Kay

LAYERING YOUR CHARACTER’S PERSONALITIES

Oh, this is a process that took me a while to learn. It’s right up there with “Show don’t Tell” on my list of things I thought were so hard at the beginning of my writing career. And it relates, because a reader wants to “feel” the character’s emotions; not be “told” what those emotions are.

None of us are one dimensional. We have ups and downs, bad days and good days. We get angry, fearful, and sad. We laugh, smile and grimace. And sometimes we cry. Frustration can take over our emotions, but can just as quickly turn to joy. Shouldn’t our characters have the same layers we do?

Certainly, if we want them to be interesting, they should.

In Heart of Stone my hero, Stone Brandon, is angry and bitter at a past betrayal. I had to show these emotions, of course. But, like anyone, Stone wasn’t angry and bitter all the time. He had other emotions—hope, empathy, desire, and a protective spirit when it came to my heroine, Amber—that he didn’t want to show to the world.

As a writer, I have to get into “character” in order to show the many layers of my hero and heroine. In any particular scene or situation, how would the character feel? What would he or she say? How would they react? How far would they go to cover their true emotions? Does the heroine have a nervous habit like twisting her hair around her finger? Does the hero have a tic in his jaw when he is angry? Or does he have a sexy wink like the Brandon brothers?

As an avid reader, I love to immerse myself into my character’s lives. I want to experience their hearts pound with desire. I want to tremble when the hero’s hands fist in the heroine’s hair. I need to know the heat of an adrenalin rush of fear.

And sometimes when I’ve laughed, cried and loved the characters all the way to the last page, I don’t want the story to end.

Wednesday Spotlight: Sandra Kay

RESEARCH

Writing stories that take place in different parts of the world presents challenges when it comes to scene description, dialect, weather conditions, and maybe even style of dress. If we, as writers, have never been to the area we want to locate our story in, how do we go about obtaining the necessary information?

For us lucky enough to be living in the “Technology Age” the internet is the obvious answer. In fact, we are so used to having data at our fingertips, that I wonder what we would do without it. I can’t even imagine how writers used to be able to get the details they needed to write their scenes correctly. Trips to the library; which I still do on occasion. Phone calls to experts; which I do. Talking to people who have been to the area I’m writing about; yes, I do that as well. But my favorite means of research is Google. I can Google almost anything and get a darn good answer.

I once wrote a story with a scene involving a helicopter accident. I have never flown in a helicopter, so my knowledge was pretty much zero. I “Googled” helicopter accidents and was amazed at how much info I received. There is actually a site that gives a list of accidents, when and how they occurred, the damage caused, and injuries to the parties onboard. I have a file on my computer just for helicopter accidents, because once something is researched, I’m certainly not going to delete it!

I have a story in mind that takes place in Alaska. Again, I’ve never been to Alaska, so had to depend on research for details. Since I wanted my story to take place during the hunting season, and I wanted a bush pilot to fly my cast of characters into a remote site, I turned to the internet. I searched for hunting schedules, weather conditions, protected species, and the accepted opinion in Alaska regarding hunting in general. I was able to obtain a wealth in information. That story is still simmering on the back burner.

My Brandon Cattle Ranch series takes place in Texas. Although I was born in California, my family heritage is Texan. Unfortunately, the last time I was in Texas I was only fourteen, so I needed to do some research to add to my memories. For this series, I not only researched on the internet, but I obtained a Tour Guide Book on Texas from the Automobile Club, and I wrote to the Chamber of Commerce in Waco, Texas. The Chamber of Commerce was wonderful, sending me a complete file of information about Waco and the surrounding area. Maps, an article about the plants and trees indigenous to the area, information about cattle ranching and stockyards, highway and river info, and, of course, weather.

Something important to remember, is thanking the people, who so generously give up their time to answer questions like the Waco Chamber of Commerce did. I hope that with their help I was able to get all of my Texas facts straight in Heart of Stone.

Tuesday Spotlight: Sandra Kay

SCENE SETTING

This is a blog I wrote for the Blog Carnival I was a part of, and I felt it fit right into the theme for my week of essays. I hope you enjoy it!

The settings in my stories are simply scenic and not especially significant to me, although I do paint them from places I’ve been and experiences I’ve had in life.

I set Heart of Stone in Texas because when I think of cowboys the Lone Star State comes to mind. But, that’s not the only reason. Both my maternal and paternal family heritage is Texan. I lived there as a child. I can still remember the summer heat. I can still taste the watermelons we ate out on the porch. I can see the shiny spider webs in the bushes down by the lake. I can feel the cockle burrs sticking in my bare feet. I hear the crickets singing in the grass at night. And I can smell my grandma’s fried chicken.

What I’m getting at is simple. As a writer, we experience settings with all five senses. Even today, when I go for a walk I’m watching, listening and thinking about what I see. The dog in my neighbor’s backyard that charges the gate when I pass. I never fail to jump, my heart racing. Children laughing at the park–such a happy sound. The fact is, I never know when the impressions I get day by day might fit into a story I’m writing.

I’ll never forget the day I told my husband I was going for a walk along the riverbed. “I won’t be gone long,” I said. I became so engrossed in my surroundings, I lost track of time. The riverbed is part of the flood control in this area and continues all the way to Prado Dam. I stopped along the way to watch the water cascade over the small man-made waterfalls. I absorbed the sound of it splashing and playing along the way.

The birds—hawks soared high above me, on the lookout for prey. Majestic white egrets surprised me by flying out of the brush, so beautiful and large. A couple of swans floated on the lake to my left. And the ducks! The males preened in their pretty feathers, while the females looked dowdy in their brown “frocks.”

The leaves on the trees fluttered in the slight breeze. The high grass rippled. Small animals, rodents most likely, scurried in the brush, hiding from the circling hawk. Lizards did pushups on the hot rocks. Small birds scolded me for getting to close to their nest.

Finally, I turned around and headed back, clueless as to how much time had passed. That is until I ran into Bob and a friend, who were scouring the path looking for me. I guess my musings, and scene painting had kept me longer than I thought. After a “gentle” reminder from my worried hubby, I now carry my cell phone with me when I go on my walks. Lol But, I still take time to “smell the roses.”

I think you can see how easy it is to absorb your surroundings, and transfer them onto your written pages.

My stories first form in my mind with the character in a particular setting. As in:

She saw him the minute she stepped through the thick strand of trees. He stood in the bed of the old pickup, hefting hay bales onto the dry cattle range. A modern-day Adonis—shirtless, muscles flexing with each movement of his powerful body. Sweat from a hard day’s work in the blistering heat glistened in the hair on his tanned chest.

With that scene in mind, I have my setting—a cattle ranch; conditions—dry, hot; and the beginnings of a character analysis. From this starting point I can go on to develop my story.

Books can be character-driven. They can be plot-driven. Do you ever hear of one being “setting-driven?” Of course not, but yet setting plays an important role in the overall picture a writer paints with words. It is the backbone that holds the story together. If the reader is unable to put themselves into the setting, my thinking is they’ll be confused. A confused reader is one that will soon leave an author. Remember, they don’t have access to what’s going on in our minds. We have to show them what we see.

And if we’re not sure? Research. People do live in the areas we write about, and they really don’t appreciate us painting the wrong picture.

Monday Spotlight: Sandra Kay


WHERE DO I GET MY IDEAS FOR BOOKS?

Ideas for my stories come from many sources. My husband has often commented that I dream entire movies because I can relate them to him in the morning. I’ve always created scenes in my mind. As a child, they were fantasies of the Cinderella and Prince Charming type. As a teenage girl, my stories were of the dashing hero saving the damsel in distress. As a woman, they are of more experienced love and desire.

My favorite heroes? Cowboys, of course. I’ve always loved westerns, whether books or movies; contemporary or historical. There’s just something about a Stetson tilted at just the right angle, tight Wrangler’s that fit like a glove, and cowboy boots. For me that’s the ultimate in sex appeal. How can you go wrong writing a book about a figure that is so much a part of American culture?

The way I look at it, you can’t. Whether they are riding herd, mending fences, line dancing, or romancing the heroine—they have me hooked.

For my Brandon Cattle Ranch series, the character’s names came first, and then the plots. That’s backwards, I know, but I wanted the Brandon siblings named after historical figures: Cady Stanton Brandon, John Tyler Brandon, Stonewall Jackson Brandon and Jefferson Davis Brandon.

As the oldest brother in the Brandon family, Tyler’s story was supposed to be first. I even started writing it. But, somehow, Stone and Amber’s story called to me. The title, Heart of Stone, came to me so naturally. It fit! And the plot followed. Past betrayal had hardened Stone’s heart. Was Amber woman enough to break through the wall?

Cady’s story is next. As the only female in the group, and as the eldest sibling, her story came to me straight out of Hollywood. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. An older woman, younger man romance. The age span isn’t as great as Demi and Ashton’s, but Cady is old-fashioned enough to believe the man should be older. How will Chance convince her otherwise? BTW, this title came to me easily, also. Cady’s Chance. Again, it fit. It’s time for Cady to take a chance on love; and is Chance the one for her?

Tyler’s story will be the third in the series, and I have a partial plot brewing. One, in which he becomes the sheriff of the small town of Riverbend. This one, though, is making me crazy trying to come up with a title. As I work on it, one will come to me.

The only thing I know about Jeff’s story at this point is that he will be a veterinarian.

I have another work in progress titled Tomorrow’s Promise. This is completely separate from the Brandon series, and the plot came from one of the terrible wild brush fires that race through Southern California almost every year. I have personal knowledge of the devastation of these fires. One burned right up to my sister’s ranch in San Diego County, forcing her to evacuate with her daughters. Her husband and grown sons stayed to fight with everything they had, and fortunately they managed to save the ranch. More importantly, they were not harmed. (BTW, I would not recommend this course of action if you are ever in that situation.)

This year, my family and I had to evacuate from our home when the Freeway Complex Fire swept through Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills. I know all about the dark skies, choking air, and the charred smell, as well as ash and embers falling like deadly snowflakes.

Yes, current events are a great source for writing contemporary novels. I just don’t want to be that close to the action again!