Being Creative

I admit—I’m addicted to the Holiday Baking Championship shows. The Thanksgiving, holiday, Easter, bake-off with champions, kids. All of them.

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Handsome thinks I’m hilarious. “But you don’t bake much.”

“I know. I just like watching their creativity in the challenges.”

For example: the opening episode of 2019 had the bakers using pumpkin spice in their confections. The winner of that heat had made a baby cake with homemade cranberry jam in the center and a flavored whipped cream. Another baker had started with a panna cotta; however, she hadn’t put in enough gelatin and had to think fast. She made a mousse and her bottom crust became a cookie. See how different their entries were?

Creativity.

grandmother My grandmother made Tomato Cake every Thanksgiving. It’s an old recipe developed during WW2. The unusual ingredient is Tomato Soup. Now before you get all weirdly freaked, know her cake never tasted like tomato soup. It had all the lovely spices used in holiday recipes, raisins, and dates. And once, she got all radical and added chopped canned pears and walnuts. Trust me when I say it was absolutely delicious.

After Grandmother had passed, my sister decided to make her cake and my sister’s twist was to add pineapple cream cheese frosting.

Quite startling for those of us who knew the all-time fav but was very tasty. Then most desserts with cream cheese frosting are very yummy.

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The same thing can be said about writing. So many of us write in lots of genres. I tend to stick with romantic comedy shorts and mysteries; however, I have written shorts with magical elements.

When I decided to add “The Great Fruitcake Bake-off” to the Whispers of Winter holiday anthology, I reviewed and revised. I became more creative.

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If you’re wanting something to cuddle with on a chilly winter night, you might want to try the Whispers of Winter, available at:

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Taking the Long Way Home

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When Handsome and I travel to Colorado, we pass through Texas. I am always intrigued by names of restaurants, towns, and roads we see. Many years ago, one caught my eye-Wagonsellers Road.

 

I searched for any information about Wagonsellers Road and found nothing except for a terrain map. I did find a person who lives near Wagonsellers Road with the same last name. So I’m thinking this person is related. I can fully imagine a family built covered wagons and sold them to people headed west: wagon + seller = Wagonseller. Or maybe the family lived elsewhere, adopted the name, and settled in Texas.

 

I don’t know for sure. Just my writer’s imagination taking me places. I did send an email to the nearby city to ask.

 

We also see abandoned homes. The weeds have grown high. Holes in the roof. Windows are trashed. The wood siding has turned shades of gray and is warped. Acres of farm land surrounds them. Sometimes, there is a tree or two, which looks equally worn out. Every time we pass these houses, we say, “Sad house.” They do look sad. And again, my writer’s imagination takes me to what happened to the families who built the homes. Handsome says the houses might be from the Depression who left the area to go west and discover something better for their lives. As we roll closer to the Panhandle, we think it possible the houses were abandoned during the great dust storms.

 

Most of my stories take place in the fictional town of Sommerville. In a quick Google search, I found towns with this name in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Texas, and many people with the same last name. I knew I hadn’t created a new town, but I had hope it sounded like a decent, stable city. And in that town are many kinds of businesses: Dee’s Delicious Donuts, SuperSaver Grocery, Mama and Papa’s Italian Restaurant. A lot of those are patterned after places I frequent in my hometown.

 

Here are a couple of examples from The Great Fruitcake Bake-off, the grocery store:

               “Ham and pear appetizer sounds beyond delicious. Make it for me.”

               “Ah, but you forget. I’m an awful cook.” With a sniff, she took a tissue from a box and pressed it her nose. “Allergic to the kitchen.”

               Bethany was not an “awful cook.” More like…lazy. Time after time, I’d heard her refer to her cooking as “food assembling.” Take-out from Super Saver Grocery decorated with sprigs of parsley seemed to be her favorite go-to meal. “Everyone knows you’re the worst cook imaginable.”

 

And the theater:

               He asked, “How about we try the theater across the street? I’ve stopped in since moving here and watched some interesting things in the screening café.”

               “I love going there. Maybe silent flicks are showing.” A magnetic energy drew me toward him. My palms smoothed down my jean-clad legs. I wriggled my ragged sweatshirt sleeves into place. I should have dressed nicer.

 

I confess-I love the indie theater in my hometown. Many a time I’ve sat in the café before a movie in the main theater began and watched cartoons or black and white shorts, some from the silent era. Such a treat!

Do you know where the name of your hometown came from?

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Sommerville is the hometown in The Great Fruitcake Bake-off, a romantic comedy holiday story in the Whispers of Winter anthology.

When five-time champion Samantha Greene teams up with her new neighbor, Dixon Roberts, for The Great Fruitcake Bake-off, they discover baking a prize-winning entry is complicated, bad guys are plotting to take the crown, and first prize isn’t just about a ribbon.

Preorder yours at:

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Cover Girl

In June, I published another indie book.

I totally stress over creating covers. As a reader, you may not know what we think when we see a cover.  It is so exciting when I open the email. For example, with my story The Great Fruitcake Bake-off, I wanted to see a cake, some baking elements, a prize ribbon. My name and the title. And because the story is a romance, a cute couple.
For my mysteries, Temporarily Employed and Temporarily Insane, I subbed an art sheet with information about the cover. I did request the Squirrely Shirley font and the first one to be red background, the second one to be in blue. TemporarilyInsane cover 100 x 100  03 18 17 TemporarilyEmployed 314 x 235
I’m lucky in that the friend who designed the cover for Just Desserts…and Other Stories knows me and my work. My voice. When I told her about my latest project’s title, she knew exactly what to do. This:

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Name: The font is Squirrely Shirley, one used with most of my work. It conveys fun. I was concerned about my name in dripping chocolate and if people would think “mud”; however, after querying author friends, it got a “thumbs up.”
Background: Actually came in blue or pink. I went with the pink. I do love the color; however, blue did not seem as much fun as pink, nor as romantic.
Foreground couple: Recently, I put the cover in a Facebook reader’s group for promotion. The group owner asked me if the book is romance. I don’t know about you, but I see a couple with arms around each other. That spells romance. In a way, the pink surrounds them like a cameo. The cover is cartoon-style.
Title: Is in a strong blue. It contrasts from the pink and is in the forefront. The same Squirrely Shirley font. Underneath is not a subtitle. “And Other Stories” is part of the published title but making the font large like Just Desserts would swamp the whole cover. Plus, it is in black and indicates these are “stories.” Very important note because some people won’t ever read stories.
The bottom: is a huge row of chocolate cupcakes with blue, purple, red fruits and green icing. A tiny red and white flag embellishment. This element balances my name at the top and indicates sweetness which the eleven stories are: sweet, cute meets.

What part of the cover causes you to purchase a book? Is there a color that turns you off? Do you prefer real people over cartoon ones?

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Find Just Desserts…and Other Stories at: Amazon      Print      Nook   

Other e-retailers

Where Are You Vacationing This Year?

As a kid, my family went on vacations. I remember swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and picking up sea shells, especially sand dollars. One year, we drove to Louisiana and dropped off my grandmother at her brother’s for a visit. We continued on to Alabama where we visited the USS Alabama, a WW2 battleship my dad served on. We moved on the Pensacola and played in the white sand.

Another year, we packed for two weeks and drove to California, stopping in New Mexico and Fresno, California so Dad could visit relatives. We went to the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest, saw the cousin’s vineyard, took a trip to Disneyland!, and drove up Highway One to San Francisco.grand canyon

Handsome and  have taken the boys to visit family, and on cruises to Hawaii, Alaska with a stop in Vancouver, Sea World in San Antonio, and not long ago, a Rhine River cruise. Frequently, we visit Colorado.

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Since I’ve begun writing, when I travel, I journal about where I am, what I did, and how I felt. All of this makes good material for my writing. For example, when Handsome and I went to the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs for our anniversary, I spied an event sign and my brain when hello???!!! That inspiration and something someone said ignited, propelled me to write Man Theory. Here’s a fun excerpt.

For work, we’d traveled to Colorado Springs to attend a workshop on web design innovations. After check-in, I’d joined him at the bridge crossing  lake to decide about lunch before the meetings commenced.

My six-one geek wearing rimless glasses, leaned against the railing, and stared into the sparkling blue waters of the high mountain lake. The feathered fowl paddled by.

Have his feelings changed? I asked in disbelief, “R-really? A theory…about love?”

 

Can you spot in the excerpt what I saw one day?asteriks 2
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Find Man Theory in Just Desserts…and Other Stories at:

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The Big Switch

I began my writing career with my first humorous romantic mystery, Temporarily Employed. I wrote and wrote on it, adding and editing over several weeks before I told friends and eventually, Handsome. Handsome was floored.

I worked on that book for a long time, like maybe three years. We weren’t agreeing any more and the editors and agents were passing on it even though it placed in a writing contest.

My friend in my local RWA chapter and I agreed to begin critiquing each other’s work. She kicked off our relationship by introducing me to very short stories. As I read them, a rhythm began in my head and I determined I could write my own story and did!
I was obsessed and churned out story after story after story, eventually culminating with thirty-two short stories. Some are little, like 1,000 words. Some reach over 15,000 words.
Over the years, I put out three little collections. Now, I’ve combined the little collections plus two new very shorts into a new anthology, Just Desserts.
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Here’s a bit: Love blossoms in the small town of Sommerville in these heart-warming and very short and sweet tales, filled with fun and forever possibilities. Included are:
Bug Stuff ~ An accountant unites with his co-worker to exterminate a pesky adversary.
Just Desserts ~ A political dinner gone disastrous brings together a reluctant attendee and her handsome seat-mate.
With This Ring ~ When a wife forgets the all-important little black dress, the evening turns into something utterly unforgettable.
Good Girls Finish First ~ When men friends are challenged to fix breakfast if they lose a race, one woman leads the pack and discovers finishing first can lead to romance.
Ouch ~ Who knew a yoga class would be so dangerous…and romantic?
Man Theory ~ When a geeky co-worker espouses his theory on love, a friend risks her heart.
Tommy and the Teacher ~ A young boy steals from the school’s book fair causing interesting possibilities to arise.
Absolutely Positively Lost ~ Helping a map-challenged young man find his way is truly serendipitous.
The Little Birdie Who ~ A new town, a new friend, a new beginning. Who would have thought a little bird could bring two people together?
Check Her Out ~ It’s a sticky situation, especially between a store manager and Auntie Caren when her nephew must pay for the gum he stole.
This Is Not Working ~ One of those days at a new job when nothing is going right, and then the boss steps in.

Other writers have said to me, “I can’t write short.” I just laugh because I have a hard time writing long. I have lots of ideas for short stories and can write them a lot faster than a book. And I love my books!

Interested in quick reads? Preorder Just Desserts at: Amazon   Nook

 

Discovery

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I know what you are thinking—what does discovery

have to do with writing?

For me, there are several things to discover in the writing process:

1/Finding out what a cover artist has developed for the cover of the book.

2/Delving into edits to uncover what an editor feels the book needs to be fully developed.

3/ And then there’s characters. This may be the most important discovery in my  process, especially since I am a pantser writer (writing by the seat of my pants vs. writing with a plotted outline).

I am not a trained writer; I am  huge reader. I consider myself to be self-taught. When I began my career, I took tons of classes and scribbled everything in my head to the page.  When I reached The End, my work really began because those guts I spilled are so not perfect. I’ve got to revise and revise and revise.

Sounds like a lot of work. And it probably is. But with my style, my book is always in

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my head and something magical happens. I discover the perfect word, the best description, a new phrase, a plot line needing a bit more finessing. I discover more about my book.

I’ve had moments when driving and I scrambled in my handbag for a pencil and a receipt to jot down a thought. I stepped in a large department store and was whacked by something to add to my manuscript and again, scrambled for the paper and pencil. (I really should learn to use my phone. Lol.) I’ve sent myself emails. I have a stack of sticky notes on my desk by my computer of ideas to add to my book.

By doing these things, is my work fresher? I believe so.

And since I like how I “pants,” I doubt I’ll change my writing style. It may be slow, but it does get the best from me.

asteriks 2Speaking of discovery—have you discovered my books? Try this cool MurderandMayhem_w12634_300boxed set, Murder & Mayhem, which features my humorous romantic mystery, Temporarily Employed, as well as others. Happy Reading!

Bring on the Holidays! Food. Movies. Books.

 

 popcornThanksgiving is right around the corner and for my family, this day marks the kick-off of the holiday season.

 

Tons of parties with good food. Snacks to curl up on the couch with and munch on while watching a sentimental holiday flick.

I love it! If I can, I watch:

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

Charlie Brown Christmas charlie brown dancing

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

 

Then I cram in these:

You’ve Got Mail

While You were Sleeping

Christmas in Connecticut

The Bishop’s Wife

 

And for Christmas Eve, my family watches:

Stalag 17

White_Chrismas_filmWhite Christmas (and sing the songs!)

 

 

 

 

All pretty standard fare – right? No? You mean Stalag 17 is a war movie?

LOL. Well, it is. But it takes place on Christmas Eve and there are lots of Christmas references in it with a great resolution in the end. Having boys, by incorporating this one, the romantic and silly ones are easier to take.

What’s your favorite holiday movie?

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So what is new? Why Season of Magic, a holiday boxed set, is now FREE at Amazon and all the other great e-retailers. My romantic comedy story is Holiday Disaster (Christmas + Bad Plumbing = Disaster). Here’s a bit about our stories:

Noel Noel Noel by Merry Holly ~ Dumped and lonely, is it possible to find love at the local mall? Noelle thinks not, but a chance encounter with Chase Clayborne while Christmas shopping has her rethinking her rigid set of rules.

A Cinderella Christmas by Cara Marsi ~ Jessica Gallo no longer believed in fairy tales or happy endings. And she certainly didn’t believe she’d find her Prince Charming at Saks Fifth Avenue. Her Fairy Godmother thought differently.

Matchmaker Matchmaker by Bobbi Lerman ~ With Chanukah around the corner, is there enough magic left for a matchmaker to bring Molly’s cynical heart back to life?

Yuletide Bride by Gerri Brousseau ~ The Dowager Duchess’s decree that her grandson must marry before Twelfth Night or relinquish his title and fortune sends him into a tail spin. Without any prospects and with only two weeks until Christmas will Stuart Nelson find himself destitute or will he find The Yuletide Bride?

Holiday Disaster by Vicki Batman: The week before Christmas and all is in disarray when a librarian experiences horrible plumbing issues and a Mr. Maintenance Man who isn’t nearly as jolly as Santa Claus.

Join all our freebie fun at: Amazon  Kobo

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Find Season of Promises for 99 cents at: Amazon

 

 

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Last Year was Tough. This year was Tougher.

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I’d like all of you to do me a huge favor: Today, go to Romance Lives Forever at: https://www.rlfblog.com/   .

I’m blogging about Handsome’s and my journey through his second surgery to repair his jaw which collapsed last year after radiation he received ten years earlier for base of tongue cancer.

Then I need a second favor: share this post. Our wish is for this post to help someone who might be going through this kind of treatment.

And while we’re at it, a third favor: just give someone you know who is traveling their own cancer journey a “thinking of you.”

And finally, for you:

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To Be or Not to Be – doobie doobie doo

author 100 x 100When I was in tenth grade, high school curriculum mandated we study “Romeo and Juliet.” So we read and discussed the play, and although I did well on that particular unit, I didn’t get it. I felt as if I’d missed something in the writing. romeo and juliet

Then the teacher showed us the movie version. Click. Like big time click. I understood what I’d been missing-the interpretation, the setting, the whole enchilada. Shakespeare was meant to be heard and watched, not necessarily read. Although I am not an auditory learner, his works made much more sense to me through this medium.

For many years, I have gone to Shakespeare in the Park. (It does help the venue is close-by.) We go with friends and family, pack a picnic, bug spray, and our comfy folding chairs. Sometimes, even in July, we need a light sweater after sunset.

This troupe does a particularly good job of performing one comedy and one tragedy each season which lasts about six weeks. They add songs, dance numbers, set and dress in different eras. I truly hate to miss. This quote from “The Merry Wives of Windsor” tickled Handsome and me, “One. Two. Third.” I don’t know if Shakespeare wrote it, but it worked.

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What’s your stance on Shakespeare? Love? Hate?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Although I’m not Shakespeare, I am a writer and am writing a funny holiday story with those names. LOL. Here’s a tease:

Once I’d determined he couldn’t see or hear me, I rubbed my bruised side and turned on Melissa. “Did you have to hurt me?”

“Oh my goodness, Julianne, it’s not like I gave you a broken rib. You were beginning to sound like a lovesick cow.”

“Me? Not hardly.”

“Was, too. Or a lovesick Juliet. Moooooo.”

“Your bovine imitation is sorely lacking.” I shoved my fists to my hips. “Didn’t you just say I might meet my true love on the ship?”

“Yes, but I didn’t mean Romeo. Anyone but him.”

“Right.”

Find me and other funny stories at: Author Central

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Psst: A Secret #2 Adding Emotion to our stories

author 100 x 100When I was a tad younger, I went to a party with friends. At that time, a college buddy owned a moped shop. He was searching for a young lady to represent his store at an RV show’s beauty contest. I had modeled in college and knew I could do it, but should I?

After plying me with a couple of margaritas, he, my roommate, and another guy convinced me to do it.

In my later years, I’ve told this story, describing the (younger) contestants (especially the tiaragirl with blonde cornrows), the judges (one was a former professional football quarterback), and attempting to drop a few pounds. When I began writing, people would say, “You should write a story about that.”

Huh. Could I? Do writers take elements and experiences from their own lives and add them to their work?

The idea germinated. I had to try. It grew and grew and flourished into a romantic comedy short story, “Raving Beauty.”

I’m a pantser, and when my fingers are flying over the keys, images and words pop in my head and flow to the keyboard. If my heroine put on pajamas, bingo! pink polka-dotted ones filtered into my brain. I have polka-dotted pjs. If my hero or heroine has a pet, I might name them after mine or a name I’ve considered.

I could describe what a beauty contestant felt like (and I must admit, not my first rodeo). When the heroine fell off the stage, I knew how to perfectly describe her torn ligaments (dance team performance during halftime at a high school football game). And for backup, I asked my fellow writer friend for her experience with the surgery she’d had and with the knee trolley.

I call it a secret.

I just don’t rely on myself for information cause that seems rather narcissistic. I ask others. I do research. Romance stories convey emotion and by placing myself in predicaments or asking others for their personal knowledge, I’m better able to translate the information, but more importantly, the emotion to the page. We want the reader emotionally involved in our stories so they continue to turn the page.

So I bet you’re wanting to know if there are more secrets in my stories. Psst: want to know a secret?

just-you-and-me My romantic comedy short story, “Raving Beauty,” is in the Just You and Me boxed set and is available for preorder now. Check it out and all the other authors at: Amazon

 

By the way, a tiara is on the line. lol

 

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