Do You Have a Secret Confession?

author 100 x 100   I like recipes. I like reading them, especially the dessert ones. And on Facebook, new ones pop up almost every day. So I print them off and put in my go-to pile. And that is as far as most of the recipes get–the go-to pile. As much as I like reading recipes, I don’t want to make baked goods any more.

Every now and then, I’ll get a wild hare—or is it hair?—and make something, usually for a special occasion, like Strawberry Cake.strawberry cake

Last week, I saw a recipe for a biscuit pull-apart bread with cinnamon sugar and pecans and baked in a tube pan. I’m thinking of making this one. It’s pretty easy for the company that’s coming. I know why I’ve made this change. There’s three good reasons:

One. My creativity has changed from cooking to writing, stitching, and reading.
Two. Handsome can’t swallow these foods. Long story involving cancer radiation from thirteen years ago.
Three. The boys aren’t home to help eat what I fix.

I grew up baking and helping Mom fix dinner. In my early adult years, I loved making goodies to share. Over time, food for the boys became what I could squish in between events. By Sunday noon, I was all cooked out. Eventually, they went off to school and trickled in and out of home. When do return, they really want a box of Cheez-its.

Are you a cook or baker? And if so, what’s your specialty?

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Here’s a bit of creativity to share—an excerpt from Just Desserts…and other stories. Someone said the line “I have a theory about love” and my brain when all creative. BTW, I’m always looking for reviewers. If you’re interested, let me know at: vlmbatman@hotmail.com

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“I have a theory about love.”

Ethan’s statement knocked me from the proverbial mountain top. Eyeing him, I clapped my hand across my mouth to stifle a giggle.

From Day One at our new jobs at Prime Designs, Ethan and I had forged a friendship. I was the artsy heart-sy, emotional gal. Him–the technical, by-the-book pal. We ate an occasional dinner, watched a movie, whatever. Traded small gifts like coffee, a magazine, music. However, Ethan had never made an overture toward me.

Translated: Nothing intimate.

I’d said to myself, “Rats.”

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 the 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?”

Find yours at: Vendor

 

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Blooming Like Crazy!

Spring began in my neighborhood in February, starting with the flowering quince. When we moved in this house over twenty years ago, I had no idea the large bush in the front bed was a flowering quince. Then Winter came and the shrub turned to sticks. But when Spring came, gorgeous salmon-colored flowers appeared along with the tiniest bees.

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Sure, we can get a cold snap and the blossoms turn an ugly brown. However, most of the time, they last. It is truly a pleasure to sit at my desk which overlooks the front yard and see the signs of Spring appear.

Then more exciting things happen. Like the grass slowly but surely sprouts green. The red oak leaves press forward and in a gentle Spring breeze, wave gently.

Behind my garage is a small bed which leads to the backyard. After we renovated, I planted antique roses. The middle one had devil thorns and never thrived. The other two flanking it produce tiny flowers–one white and one is yellow. Several of the flowers  Rose yellow

Years ago, Handsome and I cruised the Rhine River. I was taken with the different flowers I saw there. When I returned home and showed off my pictures, I realized most were of flowers.

Flowers give me pleasure. They are soft, beautiful colors, sometimes scented. A bit of beauty, like the one I found in a sidewalk crack, in unexpected places.

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Maybe the stories in Just Desserts and other stories are beautiful or beautifully written; however, I like to think they’re fun, too. And life needs fun.

Love blossoms in the small town of Sommerville in these heartwarming, “cute meet” tales, filled with fun and forever possibilities.

Find yours at: Vendor

The Great Outdoors

 

…is the view right outside my office window. Why is that important?

 

My desk where I play What if??? is adjacent to a large window, and when stuck, I take a look outside. Invariably, I’m inspired by the massive red oak trees in my front yard, the leaves changing from dark green to red orange and back. Or the large variety of cars streaming past my house, some speeding more than others.  Occasionally, the emergency vehicles with blaring sirens race to help someone. I spy colorful blooms in the flower beds which tell of Spring’s arrival and make me happy. quince 2

 

So why is The Great Outdoors important?

 

Many times, I’ve incorporated the scenery I see outside my window in my writing because being able to describe those things makes my work more authentic. And hopefully, a reader will be so engrossed, he/she is transported into the world I created and imagining him/herself where the action is. What the characters look like. What the weather is like. What people wear. What cars they drive. And et cetera.

 

Right now,  spring is creeping in. I can see the lacey white blossoms of the Bradford pear trees have pushed out. My quince with flowers in shades of salmon have already bloomed, leaving only the late stragglers, and tiny tiny bees buzzing from blossom to blossom searching for pollen. The grass is dry chaff. The gloomy gray sky makes me want to curl on the comfy sofa with a good book and my favorite beverage and snack. snoopy reading

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Near my home are restaurants and shops I frequent. In the Hattie Cooks mysteries, I have incorporated  a family-owned Italian restaurant similar to the one Handsome and I have frequented. The interior oozes Italian – the faux finished walls from which hang pictures of the Italian countryside, the Frank Sinatra-Tony Bennett-Dean Martin tunes, the ambiance created by the low lights—all perfect for Detective Allan Wellborn to seduce Hattie in Temporarily Out Of Luck. Here’s a sample:

 

Hunger overruled anger. I folded my hand around his and walked with him to our favorite Italian restaurant. He held the glass entry door wide and let me pass through first. My senses were overpowered by the greatest scents ever—spicy garlic, sweet tomato, yeasty bread, and sharp onions.

 

I loved Mama & Papas Italian Restaurant, a place my parents had brought Tracey and me to since elementary school. The same Tuscan prints decorated the golden faux-finished walls. The same Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra tunes oozed from the sound system. I breathed in deeply then looked at Allan, feeling gratitude. “Nirvana.”

 

               The corners of his eyes crinkled. “Forgiven?”

 

What’s outside your window?

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Have you read very short stories? In very shorts, description is cut to the bare minimum, one choice word or two, to convey the really important things we need to know.  Find out in Just Desserts…and other stories:

 

Amazon ebook     Amazon PB    B&N     Other Vendors

 

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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:

Amazon

Nook
Kobo
iBooks

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

question mark

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!

Readers Wanted

 

 

Welcome to our brand new  Sisterhood of Suspense Readers’ Forum on Facebook!

Join us for excerpts, cover reveals, and ARCs.

Meet and interact with a great group of writers. Ask about our books, our writing process, our pets, or even our favorite places for vacation. 😀

Help us out when we need a character name, a hero hometown, a kind of dog…

And did I mention giveaways?

Click here for the  Sisterhood of Suspense Readers’ Forum!

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

 

rssos march madness giveaway

Enter Here!

 

 

 

 

 

A Holiday Break

season-of-promises-cover    Every year, I travel to a small town with friends for a weekend of girl-time (clarification-without husbands). You know the kind—where we hash out our problems, catch up on our families, delve into what’s new, discuss books we’ve read, where we’ve traveled. Life stuff.

But we go to this specific town for the Christmas Candlelight Home Tour. Many of the homes predate the 1850s and are designated historical by the state. The Historical Foundation picks four homes which are decorated with natural elements like cedar, magnolia, fruit, nuts. There’s also period ornaments and decorations, music, and candles. Docents point out items of interest and tell us facts about the homes. Some of the churches present choir performances. The Foundation sells Christmas trees as a img_00000246fundraiser. The trees are set up in the park and decorated.

After our traditional Italian dinner, we tour the homes and debate over which is best. Usually, we find something to like at each one. We return to our B&B, dress in our jammies, and share gifts. There’s lots of laughter and oohs and aahs. The next day, we shop at the various small stores and antique malls. Dinner at a fabulous restaurant follows. This year, we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life,” too.

I have written a lot of Christmas stories. Some were published in the True magazines. Others with another publisher. Over the last three years, my holiday stories have appeared in the Season of Magic, Season of Surprises, and Season of Promises. I’ve been inspired by ribbon candy, Grandmother’s tomato cake (anyone want the recipe?), family ornaments, and the fragrance of Christmas trees. Grumpy Grandpas, klutzy architect, a reformed high schooler turned attorney, a pretend plumber, and scam artists faking their way through a holiday baking contest. I take in the lights, the colors, the sounds, the smells and apply to my work. That makes it real. It’s easy to be inspired when the season surrounds one.

So I’m sharing three photos from the Foundation’s tree display. When you look them over, what do you see? What do you feel? Do you smell the tree’s fragrance? Are you ready for Christmas?

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And don’t forget:

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Why write short stories?

More importantly, why write holiday short stories?

I cut my teeth by writing short stories. I hadn’t tried until my RWA chapter friend and I joined forces to critique each other’s work. She asked me to read very short stories, like less than 1,000 words to sub to Women’s World magazine. Feeling a little out of my comfort zone, I thought can I do this, but said yes!

Am I glad I did!

I read six of her stories in a row and all of the sudden, a rhythm, a pattern developed in my head. I jotted down ideas and when back to them to explore. Some exploded into a story with the pattern there to guide it. Eventually, I created a few of my own shorts which came in over 1,000 words. I subbed to the True magazines and sold thirteen of them.

Here’s what my head knows:

  1. Beginning
  2. Middle
  3. Black Moment
  4. The End

We all know a bang-up beginning hooks a reader into reading more. The main characters and setting are introduced. In a short story, pretty quickly we reach a dilemma to be resolved.

In the middle, there’s relationship building if the story is a romantic one. Problems are created and lead the reader to…

The black moment. All is lost. The relationship. The problem is dire.

Then we have the scenes which resolve everything leading us to The End and a Happy Ever After.

Does this sound rather simplistic? Many people say they can’t write short. I found with the word count limitation, I learned how to write shorter. Which scenes really make the story move forward. Which adjectives and adverbs (yes, I use them) are the best. Or maybe there is something more appropriate to use.

Which leads us to…

My new holiday romantic comedy short story, “The Littlest Angel,” from the Season of Promises anthology. I have a tree-topper that is totally precious and I looked at her one day and said, “I want to write a story with you in it.”

So I did.

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Bright and early on Saturday morning, I walked along the aisle at my favorite flea market on the Sommerville fairgrounds, pausing to look at special goodies that caught my eye. I halted when I saw a woman ahead of me stoop in front of a table and drag a box to her feet. She reached inside the ragged cardboard container and pulled out something I knew deep within my heart was what I’d been hoping to find for several years—a little Christmas angel.

Please. Please don’t take her. Please don’t.

When I was a small child, my family’s next-door neighbor gave my mother an angel fashioned from a craft kit. The body was formed from a Styrofoam egg-shape. The hands and feet were smaller versions, cut in half. Her head was round. The limbs were attached to the body with furry, fleshy pink pipe cleaners. A round red sequin made her mouth. An even tinier one was pinned on for her nose. And silver lashes were glued in place for her eyes. White pincurls covered her head and silver wings were attached to her back.

For many, many years, I coveted this angel. When my mom switched to another tree-topper, I’d begged for the first, but she’d said no. I was disappointed, but thought, perhaps Mom’s sentiments, a letting go of her friend who’d passed two years prior, made her reluctant to give me the doll. I got that.

However, one day, I discovered she had given it to my sister instead of me. Saddened, my heart cracked in two, and when I asked Mom why, she said she’d forgotten I wanted the ornament and apologized.

I knew the angel didn’t mean as much to my sibling as she did to me. For a while, I resented my mother and my sister.

Such is life. And thus began my quest.

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Find Season of Promises at: https://www.amazon.com/Season-Promise-Merry-Holly-ebook/dp/B01LQUP9AS/

 

Happy reading!