Oh, Loretta


What seems like a long time ago, but is really only about six years, I was part of a writing group that met every Wednesday at the local library.  I lived in a semi-rural area, kind of like I do now, and the library was a great gathering place.  It had been built in an old grocery store that backed up to thick woods, and sat in a plaza with a very authentic Mexican food restaurant, and a Shell gas station.  That’s how it is in rural areas – things are tucked in the strangest places.

Our group was small – a couple in their 40’s who drove from the city out to our meetings, a 30-something woman who had just been published by The Wild Rose Press (my publisher, who I was contracted with in 2014), myself, and Loretta.

Loretta was by far the most interesting person in our group.  She was 84 years old and “finally living her dream of writing.”  She had wanted to be a writer all her life.  She was full of stories.  She was working on a “true” story that involved people at the local VFW hall bar, aliens, mad cows, swamp gas, and murder.  She would read excerpts to us at our meetings, and it didn’t take long for me to look forward anxiously to the next chapter of her story.  It was fantastical stuff, written in awful format, but the story was enough to keep you interested.  She even wrote a “short” story for our non-juried anthology, in which we published stories from our group and from another writing group in the area.  A Tongue in Cheek History of Jefferson County was published the summer before I moved from Missouri to Colorado.

One of the things we did as a writing group was to give ourselves challenges.  I wasn’t fully invested in my novel-writing at that point, but the writing challenges gave me some inspiration to work with.  Sometimes, I provided a prompt from my Write-Brain book, which had a lot of prompts to work with.  We wrote to “the first thing I noticed was the splotch of catsup on his white shirt,” and “Down in the swamp,…” But Loretta’s favorite writing challenge was the six-word challenge.  All of us would provide six words that needed to be used in a story, giving us 30 words to work with.

Loretta’s favorite “word” was “cobalt blue.”  Yes, that’s two words, but we’re talking about Loretta, and no one ever had the heart to call her on “cobalt blue.” Any time we did this challenge, that would be her first contribution.  She loved that phrase. And to be honest, it made is be really creative about our stories.

I was able to use cobalt blue, along with all the other words, in a story I wrote that deserves to be a whole novel.  I love that story, and the main character, Bernice.  If it weren’t for Loretta, I wouldn’t have that story.

I am pretty sure Loretta is no longer on this earth.  I have no way of checking, as I’ve lost contact with the people in that writing group.  But I will never forget Loretta.  Every evening when the sun goes down, and the sky turns that deep, colorful blue you get at twilight, I think of Loretta.  Any time I see a blue dish, or a young lady with blue hair, I think of Loretta.  When I think of writing fantastical stories with aliens, or I pass a VFW hall, I think of Loretta.

And when I read my short story, called “Bernice,” I think of Loretta.  The story is published online, and maybe you’ll take a click over and read it.

As always, I’d love to have your comments.  And is there someone in your past that you will never forget, where certain sights or smells or sounds will bring that person back to life in your mind, even though they are long gone?

***

Fairest of the Faire

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Circus is a Group Effort


As I work on my current project, a contemporary romance set on a circus, I would like to share some of the circus lingo and processes that go into putting on a one-ring show in the United States.  I will be sharing this over the next few posts of my blog.

Back in 2006 and 2007, I did considerable research on circuses, including purchasing a pretty extensive library of books, conducting interview with performers and working men, and attended the tent raisings that occur the morning of or the day before a circus performs.  The amount of coordination that goes into simply putting up a tent was really a surprise to me.  A big tent can be raised by a good tent crew in two hours – including getting the tent stakes into the ground, getting the poles up, stretching the canvas into place, putting up the side walls, and tying everything down once it is done.  This takes a massive group effort, but when I say “massive,” I mean the effort, and not necessarily the group.  A single-ring tent like the one for the Kelly Miller show (photo above is from that circus, credit me!) takes about 2 dozen men to put up, if that.  There are no “exclusive” jobs, either.  The same guys pounding in tent stakes by hand (see picture above) are also stretching the tent out, fixing tears in the canvas, tying things down, getting the seat wagons in and set up, blocking out the ring and putting up the ring curb, getting the sawdust down, putting up the fencing to guide visitors,  moving props into place, and many other tasks.  During the shows, many of these men are also helping to set up, stabilize, or take down rigging, moving and removing props to their positions, picking up trash, guarding the edges of the tent so that people don’t sneak in.  The minute the show is over, they are striking the seats and fences, and loosening the anchor ropes so they can get the tent down and packed into a truck before midnight.

Just so they can do it all again the next day.

It is arduous, physical work, but takes a finesse that would belie the mere grunt work of it all.  No one works harder on circus than the working men.  And hard-working men play hard, too.  Older stories talk about fights among workingmen, drunkeness and carousing at the local bars, getting left behind because they are hungover, or being tossed from the circus for being drunk on duty.  Makes me think of the old ways of the cowboys out west.  Work hard, play hard.  And those stores are true, and of course, just because we think we are more civilized now doesn’t mean that these things still don’t occur.  But in ways, you can see why it is the way it is.  Workingmen have the hardest jobs, the messiest jobs, and the least amount of rest of anyone on the circus.  And they aren’t receiving the premium play that the performers or bosses are.

When you go to a circus, you don’t see any of this.  You see the magic of the circus – the red white and blue tent, the bright lights, the performers in sequins, the gasps that accompany the daredevil acts, the beauty and grace of the show girls, the immensity of the Percheron horses in the Liberty Act.  In the background, the workingmen are what is keeping the whole thing together.  Remarkable, isn’t it?

Build Your Circus Vocabulary:

Patch:  Almost always a man, and the troubleshooter on the circus.  He deals with legal issues, permits, bribing or convincing of local officials (yes, it happens), smoothing over any issues with the towns or cities, and bailing circus people out of jail when they go on a bender or get caught grifting a guest.

Townie or Towner: These are the local people.  Usually said as a derogatory term for someone that has caused trouble or potentially will cause trouble. Circus people are always suspicious of towners.

House: the crowd in the tent.

Mud Show: These are smaller circuses that travel the country by truck.  Originally a term used for horse-drawn wagon shows.  They performed in whatever area they could rent from a nearby town – a field, an old fairgrounds, along the tracks, wherever.  When it would rain, they would find themselves in a mud pit, and getting out was an ordeal (still is).  Since most circuses these days are mud shows, it really refers to those not set up in an arena and rarely on pavement, and who struggle in spring with storms and the mud pits that are caused by them.

Seat Wagon: Portable seating, usually on wheels, where the bleachers fold up like origami so it becomes a trailer that can be pulled along behind a truck.  They are driven into the tent after it is set up and then pulled open to provide off-ground seating.

Tear Down: What happens immediately after a show.  The tent is taken down quickly and props and poles are stowed.  The quickest tear down I ever saw was about 90 minutes, in the dark, with a spitting rain.  They don’t mess around, and everything has its place.

Do you have a circus story you’d like to share?  Or a favorite circus act you like to see?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

The Writer with A.D.H.D.


There is this crazy dissonance sometimes in my head.  I am “blessed” to have three children with ADHD or ADD, a neurological condition that makes focus and completion of tasks difficult, and can often exhibit as impulsive behavior that doesn’t take into account consequences of one’s actions.  The “if I do this, that will occur” portion of the thought pattern is lacking.  And because ADHD/ADD are genetic, I have family members with the condition, and there is the very real possibility that at some level, I also have it.

Which I would love to use as an excuse for why I can’t seem to finish my novels.  I flip and flop between projects, hyper-focusing for a few weeks until there is no forward progress, and move onto another project.  It takes a very real effort to stay focused and work it through, but there are so many black holes that keep swallowing things up, I find myself struggling with this particular demon.

In the last 8 months, I’ve not finished anything, and have flopped between at least four different projects.  My mildy paranormal contemporary romance, A Cabin in the Woods, has stalled fully, as I am still trying to figure out what to put where and how not to overuse the ghost of the grandfather.  My contemporary romance, Choices of the Heart, has floundered as I look for way to make the heroine hate the hero until the big crisis brings him back (boy loses girl plot). My mainstream fiction piece, The Mountain Man, has stalled because I find myself faltering on building the protagonist into a villain while also making him a sympathetic character that the reader will want to see succeed.  And Without a Net, the story set in the circus, suffers from too many characters and too much story.  I’ve been taking an Exacto knife to it for the last two weeks, hoping to whittle this story into something manageable and readable.

I could never read two books at a time, much less four, but why do I keep trying to work on four novels at once?

Frustrating!  But, I’m doing my best to apply myself.  Right now, the circus novel is getting the best of my energy, and there is a great story there, a mostly finished story, without too many missing pieces.  As an organized, project-management-trained person, and good at prioritization, I should tackle that one the hardest, as it has the most likelihood of being able to be finished quicker and more easily than other projects.  As in, get the easiest projects out of the way first, so you can mark one off in the “win” column. Low-hanging fruit.  Quick reward, little work.

I need someone to stand behind me and remind me to keep going and not go back to the others until I’ve finished this one.  The angel on my shoulder isn’t quite doing her job anymore.  She’s probably exhausted and has whiplash from my constant flopping around!

How do you do it?  Any advice for me?

***

Fairest of the Faire

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Truth or Fiction?


Photo of a man and woman from the knees down, standing close togetherOnce upon a time, there was a girl and a boy. She was standing in line outside her professor’s office door, ready to fight to the death over a final grade she didn’t feel she deserved. If she knew why he was there, she doesn’t remember, or never knew. But she was upset, and he was there, standing in line with her. She noticed his skin, smooth as a model’s, and the way his voice rumbled up out of his chest and sounded like music, and the strange green color of his eyes – not hazel, not emerald, but something in between. At one point he touched her shoulder, to calm her, she supposed, but then she could feel his voice through his fingertips and she was lost.

Her memories of him are specific. The 1972 Ford LTD he drove, with mud behind the wheels because he was a farm boy and farm boys didn’t believe in washing cars no matter how much mud got on them. The way he laughed, his teeth all white and straight and his head tossed back. The way he held her hand and it never got sweaty or uncomfortable. The way he looked at her; like she was the only thing in his world, as if he were (and probably was) listening intently. The way he kissed her, his hand on her cheek or fingers slid into her hair to keep her close. The way his black cowboy hat with the thin silver band covered his face in shadow, making him mysterious.

All they ever did was kiss. No more than kiss. They kissed at the door when he returned her to her dorm after a date. He kissed her at stop lights, leaning far over the console while she giggled and tried to play hard to get. He kissed her under darkened stone archways on campus as they walked home from some event or other. He kissed her by the big lake that every college student hung out next to either to drink or make out or just to stare at the stars. He kissed the back of her neck when she was trying to play Ms. Pacman at the local pizza joint. He never missed a chance to kiss her.

They kissed goodbye when the semester ended, and he went home to Iowa, and she to Missouri, and they wrote letters to each other. Long, eloquent letters talking about what they were doing, looking forward to the return of the fall semester. He sang at rodeos and opera houses and helped his dad put up hay and round up cattle. She worked in a factory and read smarmy romance novels and went swimming and worked in the family garden. Once, in July, he visited, driving down from Iowa to go with her and her family to a lake for a long weekend. He swam in the lake with her, and rowed her around in a boat, even though he was afraid of the water. He fished with her father and helped the little ones catch lightning bugs at dark. He said please and thank you and yes ma’am and her parents thought he was a fine young man. She blushed just to say his name.

But when fall came, and she headed back to university eager to see his green eyes and feel his lips on hers and his hand holding her hips close to him, he met her with a stony stare. “Jesus wouldn’t like what we did last spring,” he said. Her face fell in shock, her heart stopped beating, and she reached for him, but he backed away.

She never saw him again. But for years, for many many years, even until today, she wonders about the what-ifs. What if he had not gotten religion? What if she had reached again, and touched him? What if she hadn’t given up so easily? She heard about him over the years through a mutual friend, and he stayed his path, which surprised her. That velvet voice could have made him a millionaire a thousand times over, but instead he became a preacher, and married himself a proper girl who didn’t kiss boys in the back seats of cars or under darkened archways or at stop lights, and fathered five little girls. She imagined the little girls with his dark hair, olive skin, and incredible green eyes. She imagined them living in a little white house in town, with a vegetable garden and a picket fence and clothes strung up to dry on the line, all wearing white dresses and black shoes, while he wore his preacher’s collar and spoke eloquently in that velvet voice, while everyone stopped to listen.

And she wondered, always wonders, “what if,” even when it makes her heart hurt a little to think of him.

***

The story you just read is true, and I am that girl.  I didn’t share it because of its sadness.  I shared it because of its beauty, its joy, its memory.  I shared it because it is good to remember beauty, and love, and how wonderful it is to be able to love, even when the love ends.

Love is strange.  It excites and thrills, but it can also bring a deep despair.  Decades can go by, and a lost love can still keep place in one’s heart. But love is life and there are few regrets when it comes to love.  As a writer of romance, this is even more my truth than it might be for someone else.

Do you have a real-life love story?  I’d love to read it.  Please share in the comments!

***

Fairest of the Faire

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

 

Well, Hello There!


cherriesWhen I looked up, she was standing in front of me, a cherry pie in one hand, and the collar of a trouble-making little boy in the other.  She was wearing a dress covered in large yellow flowers, covered in a hot pink bibbed apron.  Her dark curly hair framed a freckled face with blue eyes, and she wore a thin headband festooned with tiny beaded flowers. Her name begins with a P, but I know no more of her name than that.

The pie steamed in her hand and I wondered momentarily how she wasn’t getting burned by holding it in her bare hand.  The little boy, red-headed and about 7 or 8 years old, wore a plaid shirt and denim shorts and looked defiant, rather than sorry.  His name was Corey.

I perceived a small white cottage  with a picket fence, on a property with a handful of other white frame houses, a couple barns, and a big shed that had been converted to a country-style store.  The fields around the houses and barn were filled with pumpkin vines, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cabbages, gourds, and raspberry vines.  There were stacks of hay bales and piles of pumpkins of all sizes, and scenes of fall – tied corn stalks and scarecrow dummies and fences made up of spectacular mums of all colors.  The smells were wonderful – crunchy leaves underfoot, damp earth, apple cider, spicy sausage, and caramel-dipped apple slices. People inn sweatshirts and sweaters with kids in tow were tugging wagons behind them as they picked through the pumpkins and gourds.  Children climbed the hay bale towers.

And that’s how stories start.

Here I was, minding my own business, working on my current WIP and trying to finish up the homework for my online plotting course, and there she is. Miss P, ready for me to tell her story.  And the story of the red-headed little boy.

Of course, I sent her to the couch where all the other characters waiting for their stories to be written hang out.  Told her to help herself to some coffee and a cookie.  She just stood there, a smile on her face and her head cocked to one side, as if she were waiting for a better answer.  And behind her, in the doorway, was a tall, red-headed man named Kevin, wearing painter’s whites and looking worried and anxious.

I often think of my brain as being useful in the front, and full of things waiting for me in the back.  There is a big screen door back there.  The old fashioned kind made of wood with some scroll work on the edges and big springs to keep it closed, but no latch or lock.  Things can come and go as they please, with the understanding that if I am working on something, they need to stay back there in the waiting area and be quiet.  If they get bored, they can leave.  If their story is important, I’ll get to them eventually.  Miss P came through the screen door but then marched herself right up to the business end and demanded my immediate attention.

I am often asked how I come up with stories.  You’ve just seen it in action.  Miss P is not going to leave me be, and she, Corey, and Kevin will be my next story.  My heart is beating a little quicker, m mind is working the puzzle like a rubic’s cube to figure it out.  And my fingers are itching to write.  That’s a good thing, except for my current WIP, which will now go sit in the Drawer of Unfinished Things To Be Finished Later.  I will get back to it.  Someday.

At least I have a story to work on for National Novel Writing Month!

 

October!


morning fog in Estes Park, ColoradoHow is it October already?  Last time I checked it was still June.

Not that I’m complaining.  We are moving into my favorite time of the year.  The gardens are giving up the last of their bounty, the grass doesn’t need to be mowed anymore, and being outside is pleasant.  I like the fact that my house isn’t as hot as Satan’s Kitchen, and I can start to make some hearty soups for dinner instead of trying to figure out which meal will cause the least amount of heat to get added to the house.  It is the time of fresh-baked bread with jam, warm drinks, cool nights snuggled under the quilts, and brisk mornings with sun turning everything gold.

As my daily workload lightens, I have more time to spend on the things I really like to do.  That includes working on some of my neglected crafts, like the big rag rugs I’ve been crocheting out of sheets and the half-finished sewing projects that have been collecting dust in my sewing room.  And it includes writing!

In my last post I talked about the plotting bootcamp.  Although due to my current workload, I wasn’t able to keep up as well as I liked, I still got a lot out of it and have been working on my sad sad piece of a novel.  The exercises were really helpful for me, and I will continue to work through them over and over, until the process sticks better in my mind.  Many of the exercises allowed me the opportunity to dissect my characters, and find a few conflicts that I had not thought of before.  I’m still struggling with the difference between motivation and goals.  I know I need both, but when I write them down, I can’t tell which is which.  I also struggle with the difference between internal and external goals.  In my mind, all goals are internal – they are things the character wants and is working toward.  To me, “external” means something outside, perhaps forced upon by someone else.  Those aren’t really maintainable.  So, that struggle goes on.  I read and read about it, but I can’t seem to get them straight.

So, any help or examples in this area would be appreciated!

As we head toward the season of National Novel Writing Month, my most productive writing time of the year, I’m hoping I can iron out the rest of my plot so I can finish this draft.  That was my intention last year, and I didn’t even get close.  I’m going to have to hold my own feet to the fire on this one!

Do you feel motivated to write in the fall?  If not, when is your time of year for the most inspiration?

Bootcamp!


bootcampI’ve been having a lot of moments of “I don’t wanna.”  This isn’t good for a writer who needs to get a novel written.  I find all kinds of things to do EXCEPT for writing.  And I know I am struggling with my current Work In Progress.

So, I signed up for an online Plotting Boot Camp.  The class was cheap, because I’m cheap, but the instructor is well-known and many of my writer friends seem to vouch for her.  And two weeks in, I do feel like I’m learning a few things.

I am one of those people who learns best by doing, by experiencing, by hands-on.  I can read every wonderful book about plotting and writing conflict and determining goals and motivations for my characters, but if I don’t have some sort of exercise to do to go along with it, with feedback, then I’m just not going to grasp the concept.  I was that learner in college that did way better, and had more fun, in labs than in lectures. That hands-on thing is important.  It is the same if I’m learning a new craft, so why not with writing, too?  After all, it’s a craft as well.

I am, of course behind on my homework, but the course is somewhat self-paced, so I have some leeway.  I have a busy life, with a full time job plus side work, being a virtual single mom to a troubled 14 year old (my husband is working out of town for the foreseeable future), and dealing with a death in the family and my mother’s roller coaster of grief.  But despite all of that I feel really compelled to do this homework and get the feedback I so desperately need.  Each week contains two lessons, and two sets of homework.  I will be finishing this week’s set either today or tomorrow.  The agenda for the class is:

  • Trope, themes, loglines, and premise
  • Character roles
  • Character descriptions
  • Character conflicts
  • Setting
  • Story arc
  • Plotline

Have you taken a writing class lately?  What did you like about it?  Was it useful to you?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Writing With the Group


writing at the coffee shopI found a new writing group.  I’ve gone three times, and with the exception of the last time, when there was entirely too much talking from one of the members, it has been a good thing.  As I struggle and struggle with trying to get that second book written, I am using anything and everything to try to push my writing forward.  That’s the way most of us do it, right?  When the first thing doesn’t work, you try the second thing, the third thing, the millionth thing. This is one of those things.

I like writing groups, for the most part.  Getting out of the house to write does make a difference in how my brain works.  I have a lovely home office with a lovely view of my shade garden in the back yard, and a happy cat who is more than willing to sit nearby and offer me her silent judgment moral support. The problem is the home office is in the home.  There is wash to be washed, dishes to make their way into the dishwasher or dish drainer (yes, I live with people that are not so fastidious), weeds to be pulled from the garden beds or water to be put on garden beds, a basket of peaches on the counter ready to turn into jam, a baby quilt needing to be stitched, or that Ted Talk I want to listen to.

The coffee shop has terrible wi-fi but great coffee.  And in a group, there are other people trying to make their goals.  Listening to what they are working on is inspiring sometimes.  “The first thing I noticed was the blood,” one of the writers tells me.  That is his opening line.  He is his mother’s sole caregiver – she has dementia.  Getting out to write helps him to not go insane.  “Let me tell you about the iron bird,” another writer tells me. She’s 70-ish, retired, and hand-writes in the most beautiful handwriting.  She reads a short passage from her WIP, about a wadi in the dessert, that is surrounded by surreal and amazing creatures, including the iron bird.  She describes the sound of the iron bird’s movements in wonderful, lyrical language.

And me?  I’m writing a scene about a car crash and redemption.  My words are not as beautiful, but I’m getting thee story down, and I will go back and make it more beautiful.  At least, I hope so.

But sitting with writers with such talent makes me want to go back to my back-burner project, the story about Bernice.  She is on the Spectrum, and she is amazing. Bernice has a story to tell, if I ever have time to devote to her.  I have a kind of long bit of her story, if you’re wanting something different to read.  You can read it here.

Do you like writing groups?  Are you part of one or do you have a group of people you regularly write with?  Tell me about it in the comments!

The Sidekick


Best FriendsThe sidekick.  The best friend.  The partner in crime.  The Conscience.  The angel and devil on the other end of your phone call.

Whatever you call it, everyone needs one of those friends you can say anything to, and get an honest opinion from.  Someone you can hang out with, someone who will support you even when you are being stupid, someone who will tell you when you are being ridiculous.  I have a couple.

So why is it so hard for me to put those characters in my books?  I am very bad at being focused on my main two characters, who are busy falling in love and moving toward that happily-ever-after.  If there are other characters, they are ancillary at best, simply characters who appear because some plot twist needs to be advances.  There might be a villain (there is always a villain in my stories) but that’s not what I’m talking about.

Why is it so hard to write in that best friend?  In writing terms, that extra character can really provide some conflict and movement in a story.  No one lives in a vacuum that includes only themselves.  There is interaction everywhere.  Why do we only see occasional entrances with very quick exits from these ancillary characters?  I often have to remind myself to go back in and add some more people, and to build a “best friend” or at least a sister or family member that is going to show up regularly in the story.  The lack of doing so is what I feel is one of my major flaws as a story-teller.

How do you handle the side-kick in your novels?  Do you feel that character is important, and if so, what role do you see them playing?  Do you have any tips for me to get these people in my stories regularly?  It is definitely something I struggle with!

 

Wildfires, Monsoons, and Mojitos


This blog post is part of the Authors of Wild Rose Press Summer Treats and Reads Blog Hop! There is a Kindle Fire giveaway (see end of post!).

blog hop header

Wildfires, Monsoons, and Mojitos

I work, live, and create in Colorado.  Most people think that means I must live on the top of a mountain somewhere, and it snows year-round.

But Colorado is a diverse place.  I live at “altitude,” but not in the mountains.  Most of Colorado is higher than 3500 feet above sea level.  My town sits at 4,987 feet above sea level.  But the mountains, or at least the start of the foothills, are some 10 miles west of my town, and the highest peaks are 50 miles away or more.  I live in what is considered the “high plains,” but the mountains are pretty much in my back yard.  And I have been here five years, and have yet to see snow earlier than the first weekend of October, or later than Memorial Day.

Okay, so yeah, it can snow here into near-summer.  But like many areas of the country, our climate has its extremes.  When summer finally comes, we bake under a merciless sun.  And that whole thing about thin air and being closer to the sun?  That is all true.  Sunburns can happen in January.  I know, I’ve gotten a sunburn in January.

We’ve had several over-100-degree-days this summer, and I don’t care where you live, whether the air is dry or not, 100 is hot.  HOT. And with hot, dry air, and a blazing sun, and crazy pop-up high-based thunderstorms with lightning, we get fires.  Hot, scorching, mountain-burning fires that go for days.  This year, we have had several fires, and two are still burning madly, gobbling up thousands of acres of pine trees and brush.  Many of us are hoping desperately for an early monsoon season.  Monsoon here is when we get Pacific moisture moving up from the south, mixing with wind from the mountains, which creates intense bursts of rain that raise the humidity but also keep the ground wet.  Wet ground = no more fires.

But in the meantime, we are all looking for ways to stay cool.  Many Coloradans head uphill, into the moutains, where temperatures are 30-40 degrees cooler. That cool air comes with a nice breeze, but a warm sun.  It’s as close to heaven as one can come!  But if I can’t go uphill, then I look for shade.  In a dry climate such as ours, finding a nice tree to lounge under can make all the difference.  Add in a cool, refreshing drink, and suddenly that 100 degrees doesn’t feel so bad. I am blessed to have a shady yard, and pretty flower gardens, so hanging out in my favorite wicker chair in the back yard with a tasty drink in one hand and a great summer read in the other is one of the most relaxing things I can do.  And my favorite drink?  My own personal take on a mojito!

Susabelle’s Perfectly Cool Mojito

  • 10-12 mint leaves
  • 1/2 lime, cut in wedges
  • 4 slices cucumber (about 1/4 inch thick)
  • 1/2 cup club soda
  • 1 1/2 ounces rum (I only use Bacardi Gold)
  • Ice

In a bowl or deep glass, place the mint, limes, and cucumber.  Mash vigorously with the end of a knife handle or wooden spoon to macerate and remove the juices.  Strain this mixture into a glass, being sure to press all those juices into your glass. Add the rum, club soda, and as much ice as you’d like.  Stir well.  Garnish with a lime wedge, cucumber slice, and mint sprig.  Enjoy!

(Mojitos are versatile and can be made with any number of cool summer ingredients. The only requirement is mint, lime, and rum. I’ve used melon – honeydew or watermelon – and berries as well! Experiment!)


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