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Giving Thanks!

Thanksgiving is this week in the USA. Mike and I have all the food items necessary for our meal—except for whipped cream—necessary, make that critical, for pumpkin pie.

 

This holiday leads my thoughts to all I'm thankful for. Do you consider all you're thankful for? Or perhaps you keep a gratitude journal?

 

I'm thankful I grew up reading. Why? Because I'm certain my love of books led to my author journey.

 

I'm thankful for my many life experiences. They've provided a wealth of material for my stories.

 

I'm thankful for family and friends. Relationships make life worth living. Enjoyment, love, humor, and so much more are freely given.

 

I'm thankful for finding Solstice Publishing and that they see a value, a worth, in my stories. They are a new family for me.

 

I'm thankful for the love, inspiration, and support of my husband, Mike. He keeps me going.

 

I'm thankful my assistant, Missy, came into our life and immediate family. She is our little girl.

 

I'm thankful for all of you reading this, buying my books, following my Facebook page, and subscribing to my newsletter.

 

I'm thankful for my gift of imagination and creativity. I love writing and having my stories available to you and others.

 

So, to conclude this, I have much to be thankful for and this hits on some key items. But the list goes on.

 

Please be thankful for the many blessings in your life.

 

Warmest regards,

Elaine

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MY GENRE CHOICE

Ready to Write

Why do I write romance stories? Why not? I love reading romances: contemporary, suspense, supernatural, and historical.

 

As I've said before, I got tired of reading about SEALs—no offense, they are great stories. Be that as it may, I took it upon myself to write a romance with an Air Force veteran as the protagonist/hero.

 

The result of my effort: Garrett Dane! Personally, I find him to be a lovable and swoon-worthy hero! The Consequential Love Series falls into the Romantic Suspense subgenre. I had fun coming up with antagonists especially the meth gang.

 

My next few stories are Contemporary Romance. Although, I'm thinking Playground Antics has the possibility of becoming a Romantic Suspense.

 

Would I ever try writing a different genre? I don't know. Am I interested in another genre? Maybe. Although I think I write romance pretty darn well. Guess IF I'd consider another genre, I'd probably go with mystery or fantasy.

 

Fantasy requires significant worldbuilding. A definite challenge. Wizards, fairies, elves or totally newly made-up creatures with a world to match. Am I up to such a challenge? Am I even that interested?

 

Mystery requires a redirection of my writing process as plotting and planning would need to replace much of my pantsing routine. I'd need a protagonist/hero/heroine, an evil antagonist/villain, a nefarious deed of some type, and a victim of the deed.  I could come up with all that. An interesting subgenre is the Cozy Mystery. I'd need to read some before I try my hand at one of those because understanding the genre is key before trying to write a story in the genre.

 

Hmm, that means more reading for me. Tough requirement. But believe me, I am up to THAT challenge!

 

Keep reading!!

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Planner or Pantser?

Initial Beat Sheet for Playground Antics

 

Writers fall into a spectrum regarding the amount of planning they do prior to putting pen to paper or fingers to keys. Some folks create outlines and plan the scenes throughout their story idea to THE END. These folks are known as planners. Others write away and let the story unfold as they go. These folks are known as a pantsers. Of course, there are folks who are a combination of the two. Let's think of them as hybrids.

 

Planning a story is unknown territory for me, as I am a pantser! Yup, writing by the seat of my pants. A story idea blossoms, and I write away. I may have a vague idea of how my story will develop or end, but no actual planning goes into it. Well, I do figure out my main male and female characters like names, appearance, history and the like, but details may change as I write.

 

Believe it or not, my characters can and do take charge of the story. Yes it happens. I have an idea for the route of the story, and the characters decide on a detour. Leigh and Garrett hijacked the story once or twice. Unfortunately, I don't remember which story or scenes where this happened, but I followed where they led me. I'm not the only author who has experienced this phenomenon. I don't mind it, because--in the end--the characters own their story!

 

Now the twist. There are these things called Beat Sheets which are designed to assist authors with their story structure. I learned of these from AutoCrit during a challenge. Their version is based on three acts. Each act has a number of beats, each with a specific purpose.

 

On the first challenge, I completed a Beat Sheet on my finished version of Resolute Love. Theoretically, the Beat Sheet can be used to find holes/missing parts/places needing more substance.

 

The current AutoCrit Beat Sheet challenge requires a completed Beat Sheet. So, this pantser is forging ahead into foreign waters. I completed an entire Beat Sheet for a story idea that had all of four pages written, only 754 words. I now have a "plan" for the story from beginning to end with all the major plot points identified. This ought to be interesting to write. Will I follow the Beat Sheet? Will my characters stick to the plan, or will they strike out on their own? Time will tell.

 

Oh, I used my story currently entitled Playground Antics. The photo is of my first attempt at the Beat Sheet for the challenge. Eventually, we received instruction to not exceed 72 words on each beat, so the final entry is a bit wordier. Now I'm anxiously awaiting news of how I did. Winners announced on 4 October. I also signed up for a critique. Should be interesting!! Wish me well on this endeaver, please.

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Editing: Like a Search and Destroy Mission

I'm hoping this helps!

Each time a work goes through the editing process, I learn something to do or not to do and apply that knowledge to ALL my works: finished and in progress. Yup, that means after dealing with the one currently in the editing process, I check all the others.

 

With the editing of Challenged Love, Consequential Love Series #2, the editor suggested we use italics for thoughts. Great idea! However, it's tricky to go back and track down actual thoughts in a written story. To help me with this endeavor, I executed a search (aka Find in Word) on the word "thought" and tracked down the obvious ones.  Did this with all my written works, too. The lone wolves are trickier to track down cause they just pop up and you have to differentiate them from narration. I find this is easier while I'm writing because I hear when the characters are thinking versus speaking. 

 

From there we go on to the excessive hyphen phenomenon. OMG!! This was bad. I took the concept of compound adjectives to an unruly level based on incomplete/misunderstood guidance of when two or more adjectives precede a noun, a hyphen should be used to connect them. ARGH! Saved by Brian Cavit, editor extraordinaire, who identified my odd use of hyphens. An example follows: huge-fancy wedding as opposed to huge, fancy wedding. And it got worse. With his help, we cleaned up Challenged Love. Then I undertook a huge search and destroy mission through Victorious Love, Restoration, Accidental Attraction, and the written portions of Sparks Fly. (Confession: I so badly wanted to add hyphens to "search and destroy." LOL)

 

It's been decades since I attended English classes. Grammar can easily grow stale and sloppy. So, with the receipt of an offer from The Great Courses for 85% off on a course and free shipping, I ordered English Grammar Boot Camp. Now to budget time for it. Please wish me well.

 

But we're not done! Can't forget spelling woes and missing words that make it through spelling and grammar checks, numerous read throughs, and even having the Word program read the entire story aloud while I watch the reading. Notable near misses:

  • In Resolute Love, when Garrett and Leigh are in the honeymoon suite at the Aspen Inn, they often lay on the chaise "lounge." But I found multiple instances of chaise "longue" ON THE SAME PAGE!!!
  • In Challenged Love, it was a missing two letter word. "…along the side our house." Yeah, it reads much better with an "of" in there "…along the side of our house." It is the little things that count.

Before I forget, a quick capitalization question arose with Resolute Love. Should it be The Aspen Inn or the Aspen Inn? Decided on lower case and another search and destroy mission was conducted on all three Consequential Love Series books. Yes, I'm a huge fan of Word's Find feature.

 

Then there are my personal oddities because of a couple weird quirks I have when typing. Occasionally, I hit the colon key instead of the quotations key or the comma key for the period key. Could be related to my MS, not sure. In my defense, they are all next to each other on the keyboard. Fortunately, I'm aware of these tendencies, so I complete a thorough search for these with every story I finish.

 

So, there you have it. Writing is only a starting point. Editing is a tough, critical element in the writing process. The author, editor, and publisher are a team working together to bring you a finished and polished product for your reading pleasure.

 

Read on!

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Marking Your Spot In A Book

Personal collection of favorite bookmarks

How do you keep your place in a book you're reading? Well, if you enjoy the book having to re-read sections to locate where you stopped is no big deal. But most readers mark where they stop reading. The question is: how the marking is done?

 

Personally, I use bookmarks …well, truth be told not always an honest-to-gosh bookmark. Some of mine are postcards, the front of a Christmas card or a note card that caught my eye and I didn't want to throw it out.

 

A special bookmark was made for me by my mother. She was a whiz working with plastic canvas and made me a lily of the valley bookmark as it's the flower for the month I was born in. You can see it in the picture on the right.

 

Another actual bookmark holds a special memory for me. It's the HOT READS FOR COLD NIGHTS bookmark on the left. I got this at my favorite library of all time—Lonsdale Public Library. An awesome library in a small rural community in Minnesota. I enjoyed being a member of their book club, attending activities, participating in reading events, and even serving on the board. And, yes, they received a copy of Resolute Love.

 

Another way to mark your spot is always available when you have a book that's a hardback with a dust jacket. (Do they still call it that?) The front or back flap works well and you won't misplace it!

 

Of course, if you read an e-book, it remembers where you end. Nice! But then you don't have the fun of holding the book and turning the pages.

 

Many other items can be used based solely on availability … paper clips? Yeah. I'd recommend the big ones over the small ones. And fancy plastic-coated ones would reduce the possibility of marring the page.

 

That leads us to short-term marking methods: pen, pencil, cell phone, or a coffee cup—just don't leave a coffee ring on the page! You'll never forgive yourself.

 

The last and least preferred method is to dog-ear the corner of the page. The horror!! I can't imagine ever doing that to my book.

 

How do you mark your stopping point?

 

Happy reading!!

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HOW, WHERE, AND WHY I WRITE

Meditative Coloring Book Helped with The How

 The How

 

At first, I wrote my stories on the computer in Word, but lately, I've embraced writing in longhand and then transcribing it to the computer. Of course, I edit as I type. 

 

I use a leather planner for the longhand. Once used to track my appointments and record notes of meetings, it no longer contains calendar pages only college-ruled filler paper. I keep a spare package available in the office because I do go through it quickly. It's perfect for easy transport and to be able to write anywhere. 

 

Lately, I began using a separate journal for my blog entries and newsletter tidbits. It provides a different mindset for the various writing tasks. 

 

The flow of words from my head, through my hand, and onto paper is fascinating. And as I said in a Facebook post in late April, I've fallen in love with T┼¬L gel pens. They glide over the page. I keep a supply of these in the office, so I won't find myself without one. 

 

Once, I made use of a meditative coloring book to help develop a scene for Restoration I was stuck on…it worked!

 

The Where

 

Now, where do I write…anywhere comfy. The front porch is a quiet spot with a nice view. Our back porch is even better. It's quieter, filled with birds, and screened-in so no pesky bugs! Often, I'm writing while sitting in a Stressless chair (they are in fact stressless!) in our living room with the TV on. If I haven't seen what's on, I'll write during commercials. If I've seen it before, then I'll write as the words come to me and not wait on commercials. 

 

I wrote most of the Romance Under Par/Accidental Attraction story on vacations either in the Durango as Mike drove or at the vacation spot while Mike golfed with friends. 

 

Oftentimes, I ponder problem areas while in bed at night. I run possible dialogue through my head, adjust the words, and try it again. Fortunately, I remember what I come up with…most times.

  

The Why

 

The fact words form in my head as sentences and they make sense continues to amaze me. I don't know how it happens or where the words come from let alone the ideas for the stories. Imagination and inspiration, I guess. Sometimes when I read a scene I wrote, I pause and think—Damn! That's good! And I wrote it! The joys of being an author. 

 

I have a scene in Restoration that brings tears to my eyes. In Victorious Love (Consequential Love Series #3), I have two scenes that set my heart beating fast. And in Resolute Love, when Garrett is alone outside and considers leaving to not destroy Leigh's relationship with her family my heart broke for him. 

 

A reaction to my writing from you, the reader, is what I strive for be it a laugh, a tear, or a lump in your throat. I hope you cheer for my hero and dislike/hate their antagonist. It'd be great if you don't want to set the book down until you come to THE END and to have you visualize the story in your head like a movie.

 

Yes, your complete engagement in the story is my ultimate goal.

 

 

 

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My Wine Adventure

Never Enough Wine

Wine...what's not to love? So many different grapes. Straight or blended. Winemakers have my respect and admiration. When I was a young Lieutenant stationed at Griffiss AFB, I was a beer drinker or mixed drinks. Never gave a thought to wine. I was missing out!

 

One night Colonel's Row (the big bosses) hosted a wine and cheese party at my boss's home. He had beer on hand, thankfully. I was fascinated by the "gourmet table" that consisted of a cellophane wrapped slice of cheese and a bottle of Night Train Express, "a fine pear wine from California." I bugged him to open the bottle until he agreed. I think he promised to do it at midnight. Shocker!! I liked it. It didn't taste at all like the Morgan David wine Mom used for setting up the communion trays. (She served as a deaconess at our little church, but I digress.) A good friend of mine  stored a bottle of Night Train Express for a couple of years while I was assigned to Germany.

 

Ah, Germany!! A wonderful place to learn to LOVE wine. I lived just above the Mosel River Valley and fell in love with Riesling wine. Did you know, Mosel wines come in GREEN bottles, whereas the Rhein River Valley wines comes in BROWN bottles? Yes, I was on Team Mosel.

 

Years later, I'm working at the Fargo VA Medical Center. A group of us would go out to Happy Hour and I began to explore other types of wine. Two were stuck on White Zinfandel, but I chose to experiment. Broadened my horizons to include the deep-rich flavor of Cabernet Sauvignon. Don't care for Merlot. (Watch the movie Sideways.)

 

Recently, I learned the secret for me to enjoy a Chardonnay, it must be unoaked! Who knew it would make a difference? (Back to those admirable winemakers.)

 

I so enjoy wine tastings, like Garrett and Leigh in Resolute Love.

 

Rieslings are still my favorite!!

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Naming Characters

Out in the middle of nowhere, inspiration hits!

Think picking a name for a new baby, puppy, or kitten is difficult? Try naming a figment of your imagination!!

 

For me, the story idea arrives with a main character attached. If I'm lucky more than one. As the story progresses other characters develop: the love interest, the villain(s), the friends, and miscellaneous people who help the story along the way. What do they all have in common? They all need NAMES!

 

Their names show up, oftentimes spontaneously with the character's personality. Know what I mean? On occasion, I've been known to "Google" the name to see if such a person. exits

 

In a story inspired by my time working at U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service—Restoration—I used the name Seth Tobias. That name was meant to be the name of a son. Not being blessed with children, the name went to a character. Guess you could say he's kind of a son. The name works for my story.

 

Garrett in Resolute Love (Consequential Love Series #1) came from a road sign! I needed a name for my main character and found it while driving home from a medical appointment. Rather than take my usual left turn, I decided to drive straight. At the stop sign (I'm in the countryside not in town), I glance at the road sign, Garrett Ave. Eureka!! That's it, the perfect first name!!! As Garrett Dane believes, everything happens for a reason, and my decision to take a different route had a definite reason! Where Dane came from, I don't recall, but it works.

 

I got hooked on the name Zach for a while. Used it in my short story, Beyond Puppy Love, and in a longer story that doesn't have a final title yet. Is it short for Zachariah or Zachary? Do we really care? Could be his parents didn't want the longer version. In the longer story, we find out Zach's first name is Zachary through one of his friends.

 

With my new story idea of a smokejumper (there's a posting on my Facebook page about this one), I'm thinking Caleb for the main character. A strong name for a strong man. But I'm stumped on his last name. Tower? Grant? Suggestions anyone?

 

The females are more of a mystery. In Resolute Love, Leigh started with a memory of the actress Vivian Leigh. Why? Who knows? It just came to me. (Remember? Everything happens for a reason.) And where did Ramsey come from? Possibly from my Minnesota History studies in 6th grade.

 

Other names just show up while I'm writing. Alex for Alexandra in Restoration. Emily in the untitled story. And I still need a name to go with Caleb. The struggle is real and continues.

 

Recently, I learned that character names are best when they are 2-3 syllables in length. Preferably no more than four. In Resolute Love, I struck gold with Garrett Dane = 3 and Leigh Ramsey = 3. In Restoration, I'm okay with Seth Tobias = 4 (living on the edge) and Alex Lyon = 3 (Note: using her full name Alexandra Lyon = 5, so good thing she prefers to go by her nickname!) In the untitled story Zach/Zachary Taylor =3/5, Emily Whitney =5 (tricky numbers, good thing for nicknames), and the new smokejumper story idea Caleb = 2. I'm rockin' the syllables!!

 

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How It Feels to be Published

I've been working on the Consequential Love Series since 2013! To see the first book of the series, Resolute Love, on Amazon is a dream come true. Happy doesn't quite cover it. Ecstatic comes close.

 

The dream of being published came after the first book was completed. There are decisions to be made and processes to go through. First, do you self-publish or go traditional. Mike and I self-published The Little Cloud's Busy Day, a children's picture book, and didn't want to expend those kinds of funds again. We're retired on a fixed income afterall. So, traditional was our choice.

 

Next, many publishers require authors go through literary agents. So I queried multitudes of agents with no success.

 

Some publishers will work directly with authors, so go that route without success.

 

Fast forward to 2022...seven years! By now, I've written other stories, but Garrett and Leigh's story is my favorite. Re-edit all the stories in the series using the Autocrit editing program to polish them up. Ask a friend to read it. Get a rave review. Move forward with another search of publishers. Send out queries. Note: each one has a different process and guidelines. Miracle of miracles, I receive a contract offer for Resolute Love from Solstice Publishing!

 

Now I've learned about having a website. Received a great suggestion about Authors Guild that leads to thiswebsite! Get active on the website and Facebook. I don't want to go too crazy with the multitude of social media sites available nowadays. May expand to another in the future.

 

Today is the day, I'm a published author!

 

I'm going to savor this amazing feat for a short while. And then it's on to promoting, stirring interest in my writing, sales, newsletters, and gratitude for all who believe in me.

 

Thank you for your interest in my journey and my stories!

 

Elaine

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