Tag Archives: characters

Starting Over ~ Fingers on the Keyboard…

THAT DESERT ISLAND QUESTION…

I’m in the middle of a blog/book review tour which will last through kitts3_016November. This means that lovely websites run by lovely bookaholics will be posting about my two  most recent books: Family Interrupted and Hopefully Ever After.  [In fact, Hopefully is a featured book today at Bibliotica – just Google the name if you want to see what this is all about.]

Sometimes, these websites simply post an excerpt of the book and my bio. Sometimes, they read and review the book. Sometimes, they “interview” me by sending me questions in advance. Then they post the Q & A.  This is the first time I’ve jumped into the blog tour world, so I’m learning as I’m going. Yesterday, I received about two dozen questions from which I was to select six and respond. I always love the creative questions best. Even if I’ve heard them before (and some have been around a long time), they still intrigue me especially if I’ve never given them a lot of thought. I found one such familiar question on the current list, so familiar you’ve probably all heard it in some form or another…

If you were stranded on a desert island…what one book would you bring with you and why?  There are variations on this question of course. For example, with whom would you like to be stuck with on desert island?  But we’re talking books.  So which story would you choose?

It only took me two seconds to come up with mine. Except that my vision of the story is beyond what Victor Hugo imagined when he wrote the magnificent Les Miserables.

 

So on my desert island, I have a tablet or a CD player. I have seen the stage production of Les Mis several times. I taped the 10th Anniversary PBS choral rendition of it years ago and watch it once or twice a year. I bought the updated version of the same production – fancier camera work and a little editing – and I own the music on CD.  Of course, I’ve seen the recent movie with Hugh Jackman.

No matter how many times I watch or listen to this story, I am NEVER bored. The many themes and conflicts in this powerful work criss-cross each other and resonate deeply: God. Faith. Hope. Idealism. Loyalty. Politics. Honor. Hypocrisy. Greed. Sacrifice. Redemption. And of course, love. Love on many levels: Parent-child. Close friendships. Unrequited love. Romantic love. And as though that weren’t enough, wrapped around these storylines is a stunning musical score. It soars, weeps, and then makes you laugh. It shadows the story, rising and reprising itself as the events unfold.

The musical retelling of Les Miserables is the story that touches my soul. Words, music and exposition of life. Of the human condition. The strengths and the frailties. If a young person were to ask me about the meaning of life, a subject young people often ponder, I would direct him or her to Les Mis and say, “start there.”

If you have never seen this play, check out the PBS listings especially during their fund raising weeks. The “big” productions are often run at those times, Les Mis among them. If you’ve seen this play, let me know and share your reaction to it. I can think of worse situations than being stuck on a desert island with Les Mis.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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OCTOBER CONTEST: Two winners in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Post a comment and your name will be entered in this month’s drawing for two of the books shown below and a $25 gift certificate to either Amazon or BN.  Your choice!

Texas Danger, Brashear

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Over ~ A Book Club Evening

IN THE SPOTLIGHT–                

From my own book shelves, authors Emily Giffin, Bridget Asher, Barbara O'Neal

From my own book shelves, authors Emily Giffin, Bridget Asher, Barbara O’Neal

“I just love this type of book!”

When I heard those words at my book club Tuesday night, my heart sang. I felt myself smile. The woman was talking about MY kind of book. The kind I read and write. The type that appeals to women, explores family relationships, and provides an emotional ride based on a what-if reality. What if your child isn’t on the school bus at the end of the day?  What if you discover your husband has been having an affair? What if you find out you and your husband can’t have children?  What if a couple decides not to have children but one of them changes their mind? (Baby Proof by Emily Giffin).  What would you do in these situations? You can safely find out in the pages of a book as you struggle along with the characters who are facing these issues.

I love the James Bond stories. But, c’mon. Half the fun of James and his ladies is the eye candy. As for the plot – we  ride in the most nifty cars escaping the bad guys. It’s a hoot to watch, but then we go back to our everyday issues in our ordinary world.

Except sometimes a woman’s ordinary world is rocked, and that is the premise for the genre I’ve been talking about here: Women’s Fiction. In these novels, we follow the female protagonist’s journey through rocky waters as she navigates to her next plateau. Sometimes, a love interest might surprise her. ( Open House by Elizabeth Berg). She might be surrounded by a “cast of thousands,” — relatives, neighbors, co-workers — but it’s basically her story.

More from my shelves: authors Kathryn Shay, Barbara Delinsky and Elizabeth Berg.

More from my shelves: authors Kathryn Shay, Barbara Delinsky and Elizabeth Berg.

On Tuesday evening, I had a special interest in the book club discussion. The group–about twenty participants–had read Family Interrupted. My novel.  Disclaimer: the choice was not my idea. A few months ago, a new book list was being developed and boom! It was included. On the other hand, I didn’t nix the suggestion. As the proverbial fly on the wall, I thought I’d get some insights and discover how readers truly reacted both to the story itself and to the writing. Maybe I’d learn lessons I could apply to my next book.

Well, the fly-on-the-wall idea worked for about the first fifteen minutes. I kept my mouth shut, didn’t make eye contact with anyone, and actually wondered for how much longer I could play the part of a robot. It’s really hard trying to avoid eye contact for that long especially when sitting in a big square formation with people to the right, left and across.

I had wanted to disappear, have the gals to forget I was in the room and just listen as they talked about book. What a dumb idea that was! First of all, it didn’t work. After fifteen minutes, I joined the conversation. We were talking about family issues, after all, and I have opinions, too. I’m used to participating every month. Second of all – and this is more important – I sensed that these readers wanted me involved. This seemed logical to me. After all, how many times would a real, live author be present at these meetings? How many times would these readers be able to ask questions directly to the author of a book they’d just read?

So away we went. Some of the discussion followed the questions I’d provided at the back of the book. Why did the characters do this or that? Questions were raised about the story couple’s marriage. Readers wanted to know how I came up with the idea. And one admitted, “You made me grab for tissues several times!” Good. An author wants to tap into a reader’s emotions, wants the reader to care about the characters.

The question that came from me, the one  I always love to ask is, “What do you think happens after the book ends?” We actually talked about a sequel which amazed me because I’d never had that in mind! As an author who worries about everything, and who knows the issues I had to confront when writing the book, I asked a question that no one else considered important at all. “Did the verb tenses work? Did you get confused as time flashed back and then back again?” Verb tenses ate my lunch as I wrote the book (which is one reason I hire an editor). And yet,  here in front of my eyes, these gals laughed at me.

So I learned once more that a good story wins every time. And that I worry too much. I don’t think, however, that I’ll ever stop.

This one's also on my shelf! And in my e-reader.

This one’s also on my shelf! And in my e-reader.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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P.S.  I’ll be sending out a newsletter on October 3rd.  If you’d like to get it–right into your in-box–you can sign up for it here on the website.

 

 

Starting Over – CELEBRATE!!

CELEBRATE! holiday stories with the authors of On Fire Fiction–

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This month I’m joined by five other authors with Fingers on their Keyboards. Those fingers have been tapping away, helping their creators bring you brand new, never before published stories. Together, my friends and I have given birth–definitely a labor of love–to an anthology of holiday stories plus one stand-alone holiday novella. We’re celebrating holidays throughout the year – winter, spring, summer and fall.

We’re glad you book lovers are here to join the fun. We’ve got first lines–and you know all about that now if you read last week’s blog– and some interesting background info to share. When you combine romance, family and happy endings….what’s not to like?

Karen SandlerFirst up is KAREN SANDLER who describes herself as a genre conflicted writer. She’s interested in so much–romance, mystery, sci-fi, young adult, and horses (definitely horses) –and she’s so good! She’s published 17 romances, a young adult science fiction series, and the soon to be released Janelle Watkins mystery series. Poor Karen. She can’t make a decision.

But wait! I’m wrong. She did make the decision to select Hanukkah as her story’s background. And speaking of backgrounds, here’s a bit of Karen’s and why she chose the holiday she did:

Karen says:

When the idea of a holiday anthology was first presented, I knew I wanted to do Hanukkah. I have very fond memories of celebrating Hanukkah when my boys were young. Although my father was Jewish (as was my maternal great-grandmother), it wasn’t until I married my Jewish husband that we started celebrating the holidays.

Of course, Hanukkah was the boys’ favorite. The loved lighting the candles and saying the prayer. They both wanted to do the last night so they could light all eight candles. We started trading off with them each year so they could get an equal chance of saying the prayer on the last night.

The teddy bears described in the story were an actual prizes my younger son won at one of the community Hanukkah parties we attended. He apparently has one left of the two from that night and my grandbaby plays with it now.

Linda interrupts – Readers!  Do you see the makings of a family story here? From generation to generation?  This is what we’ve talked about and shared examples of recently.

I’ve asked all the authors participating in the anthology to submit the title and first line of their stories.  Here’s more about Karen Sandler’s story:

Title:   The Eighth Gift

First Line:  As Sarah Meyer watched the Greenville County sheriff’s deputy tap on the screen of his iPad, she hugged herself to stave off her fear. 

Now I want to know what Sarah was afraid of…a ticket? Or something more?  And could the deputy be her love interest?  I am a nosy reader, and I bet you are, too.

Karen’s book, TILL THE STARS FADE is also available now.  The genre? Science Fiction Romance!  The reviews are awesome. Here’s one from RT Book Reviews:  “it was action packed, fast paced and most definitely a page-turner.”   And another: “This book has something for readers of both genres. The writing is exceptional…Good job, Ms. Sandler.”  From: Under the Covers.

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 Check out Karen’s website at:  www.karensandler.net

 

 

 

 

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed meeting Karen and hearing about her story for the holiday anthology. You’ll meet another contributing author at the next edition of Starting Over. Hope to see you then.

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POST A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY AUGUST CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of one of the selections below, all stories written by the award-winning members of On Fire Fiction as well as a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Your choice.  OH, look. Karen’s got a story in Unsuitably Perfect 🙂

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package

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Starting Over ~ Family Stories, Part II

WORDS AND PICTURES FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION – file0001743539956

As promised, today I’m giving you concrete examples to help you write stories about your family. Whether you have a large family or a small one, you’ve got stories to share. Funny stories. Poignant stories. Life-changing events. Family traditions. And characters. Oh, yes, we can’t forget the characters. And one of them is you! I think writing family stories is not only fun, but important. How else will your children and grandchildren know who they are?

Last time at Starting Over, I suggested a number of topics for you to consider writing about. Of course, a dozen of your own ideas might have sprung to mind, and that’s wonderful. For those of you needing suggestions, however, I offered the gamut from family recipes, to holidays, to life cycle events, to particular family members. Everything is fodder. Just reach in and grab an idea.

Today we’re going to figure out some specific ways to start your story. Even for professional writers, choosing the right opening is very challenging if not the hardest part of the work. I’m here to make life easy for you!  Here are three different ways to begin your tale–examples from my own stories are included:

SETTING — Using this option, you start by revealing such items as time, place  and weather. The goal here is for your children to see and feel what you saw and felt at the time the real event took place. Use the real dates and places. After all, these stories are not fiction. If this is a story about your parents or grandparents, gather the information now.

Example:  “Houston’s so flat,” I protested, “and the houses have no basements.” Too disappointed to hide my feelings, I looked at my husband with dismay and wondered if my friends up north were right. “Too hot and humid,” they’d warned. “Don’t go.” But I hadn’t cared, In fact, I’d looked forward to getting away from New England winters…until now.

Home of the Houston Astros! Beautiful park.

Minute Maid Park — Home of the Houston Astros!   I always think of it as a happy
place.

ACTION — Using this option, you start with an event, then go back in time to explain how and why this event happened.

Example:  I often tell people that Michael and I met by accident, but that’s not quite true. My uncle Sid introduced us. On our very first date, however, we did hit a telephone pole head on. The car was totally wrecked. Fortunately, we weren’t.   (I then explained where we were, why we were out so late and what my dad’s reaction was–oh, yes, that made for a story 🙂

CHARACTERS — these are your family members, Using this option, it’s fun to describe how the personality affected you and others. The person you choose to write about can be quiet or larger- than-life or somewhere in between. Everyone is unique and worthy.

Something wrong, sweetie? Find Aunt Ethel.

Something wrong, sweetie? Find Aunt Ethel.

Example:  Aunt Ethel had a reputation among the kids. She was the doctor. In deference to the medical profession, however, we called her “half-a-doctor.”  She could make “it” better, whatever “it” was, but her specialties were splinters and specs-in-the-eyes. The combination of her infinite patience and excellent eyesight earned her the reward of fixing us.

I hope you’ll make a stab at writing your family stories. If you have any questions, just ask them in the comment section. And if you want to share something you’ve written, you can do that in the comment section, too. I’ll post your efforts in a later blog as a “follow-up” if you’d like. You don’t have to be Mark Twain or Hemmingway or Dostoyevsky to write for yourself. You just have to pick up a pencil and get started.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books below plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot hot, while Brashear, Texas RootsDire Distraction_lo resothers…not so book coverMA25EC~1Release-MeNewJpgmuch. Your choice!

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Starting Over~Fingers on the Keyboard

HERE WE GO AGAIN!   hands on keyboard

There is nothing scarier for a writer than staring at a blank computer screen, unsure where to start. Fingers, type something! Type anything. Truly, anything will do. Nora Roberts said so, and that lady knows a little something about writing books. Paraphrasing Nora here:  you can edit poor word choices, but you can’t edit a blank page.  She is so right. I’d better get crackin’.

I’m starting a new book, I’ve written fourteen other novels and should have the confidence to forge ahead without a second thought. But it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me nor for many other writers in my orbit.

I look at that blank screen and feel my heart race, my palms sweat. Oh, my God. I’ve got to come up with about 300 pages of story. I have to introduce fabulous characters and new conflicts to be resolved. I have to take readers on such an emotional ride that they won’t stop reading until the very last page.  At this point my stomach hurts, too. I visualize a tall, teetering pile of manuscript pages that should emerge at some point and have to take a deep breath. I need a pep talk. So I give one to myself.

My daily pep talk comes with coffee: Once upon a time there was a beautiful and talented writer...

My daily pep talk comes with coffee: Once upon a time there was a beautiful and talented writer…

Calm down. You can do this. You’ve done it before, and you’ll do it again. You love to make stuff up. You love getting to know new characters and figuring them out. You love making them work for the ending they deserve. I keep talking and listening. Everything I’m saying is entirely true. But that insecure little devil in me challenges: Aw, come on. It’s hard work.It nags at you 24/7. Do you really think you can do it again?

I’ve got the hero in mind. I’d met him a few years ago in Pilgrim Cove. A widower who’d recently gone through a broken engagement. I’d left him alone with his little girl, and ever since, readers have been after me to give Adam his happy ending. Okay, now is the time. But who would be the right woman for him? A woman who’d challenge him and drive him crazy? A woman he can’t stop thinking about? She has to be the perfect match for Adam.

I scroll halfway down the first page. My fingers rest on the home keys, and I slowly type Chapter One. I double space and Indent. I’m ready to start Page One, Paragraph One, Sentence One.

Would she use the ramp or try the stairs?

And suddenly, I’m back in Pilgrim Cove, where the ocean is at your doorstep and the residents are in your business. I’ve got a handle on this woman, but I’ll get to know her better when I see how she reacts to the situation she’s in. And the situations I throw at her.

Once again, I’m engrossed in creating a story, in finding out what happens next. I’m not thinking  about the number of pages in the whole book. At this moment, I’m thinking only about Chapter One, Scene One. This time my heart’s racing with excitement. I’m having fun! Again.    

Are there activities that scare you, but that you want to try anyway?  A parachute jump? Living in another country for a time? Or, perhaps writing a book?

POST A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE JUNE DRAWING FOR GREAT PRIZES. The winner will receive TWO of the books shown here (your choice), all written by the members of On Fire Fiction as well as a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN (your choice).

All of these books are traditional romances. Some are funny, some are more serious in tone. You can browse them at your favorite etailer and Look Inside the Books.  You might be the winner!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

LOVE, TEXAS cover

 

 

 

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Starting Over ~ The Writing Life

hands on keyboardWRITERS ARE NOT LONELY…

All writers begin as readers. As a kid, I read voraciously. My weekly trips to the library are still etched in my mind’s eye. I felt rich with a pile of books in my arms! As I walked through the stacks, I occasionally wondered about the authors of my favorite books. I was happy NOT to be them. In fact, I felt sorry for them. Always alone in a room, writing, writing, writing. No friends to play with. No fun. I had a much better life 🙂

What does an eight-year-old know? When I’m engrossed in writing a story, I’m never alone. I’m never lonely.  My characters are alive, talking to me and I to them. The hours disappear and night falls. When I taught the adult GED class in Houston, I often wondered how the heck I arrived at my job. Daydreaming about my book people, I must have driven on automatic pilot because suddenly I was at work. Going home was no better, and I often missed my exit. Fortunately, I knew the roads very well, and couldn’t go fast due to the heavy traffic. I know, I know. That’s still a lousy excuse for a driver.

At a party one time, Mike and I were chatting with a small group of people. Sweetie said something–don’t remember what–and I replied: “What if the husband leaves her?”  A total non sequitor. Silence grew in our immediate circle. Quizzical expressions appeared on a few faces.

“What did you say? Who’s leaving their wife?”

Mike grinned, shook his head. Finally he put up his hands and said, “Nobody’s leaving anybody. She’s working on a book.”

The others nodded as if they understood, then flashed looks at each other. I recognized those kind of expressions. The guests thought I was crazy. I didn’t understand why. Other professionals, deep into their careers, think about work a lot. On weekends. At night. Maybe even behind the wheel…  Writers are no different.

I’m starting my writing career over, and I am not lonely!  How can writers be lonely when social media throws out tempting lures? Facebook. Twitter. Goodreads. Not to mention ordinary e-mail.  Loneliness has been banished for writers and everyone else. In fact, there are too many interruptions. Too many temptations. How many times have I promised myself a five minute Facebook break which turned into 45 minutes? I like catching up with my friends. I like sharing the latest about my own writing life or interesting items I’ve come across. So monitoring my on-line social time is a must.

I also love writing this blog and reading the comments you leave. It’s communication in another form. More intimate. More in-depth than some other social media. So, where do you fit? Are you lonely behind your computer? Distracted by too much on-line social life? Or have you managed to balance your time? If you have, please share your secrets!!

I appreciate your visits here and our conversations. If you leave a comment, you’ll be entered in a drawing for a free copy of Family Interrupted. Winning name drawn on April 30th and announced in the May 2nd blog. As Kristin Lamb says in her wonderful writing blog, Kristin Lamb’s Blog: We Are Not Alone “to show you my love, I’m giving away…”  She keeps her promises. So do I. 

Until next time,

Linda