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Write the Right Thing

When I began my writing journey, I confess, I was basically clueless on the industry and the methods of writing in general. Thanks to the guidance of my writer friends, Romance Writers of America, and the Nashville, Tennessee Chapter, Music City Romance Writers, I was given direction as well as an abundance of encouragement.

I discovered that my stories aren’t true romances, and what I write is often categorized as women’s fiction. However, a lot of women’s fiction ends sadly, and I do promise a happy ending. It sometimes takes a while to get there, and maybe not until the end of a series, but there will be a happily ever after.

I’ve always had a passion for history, and that love led me to write historical fiction. It’s so much fun to imagine myself walking into the past and what it might have been like to live in a different time. I enjoy the research and love to intertwine real history with my fictitious characters.

I appreciate every reader who picks up one of my books and shares my journeys. I think many of you wondered why I deviated from historical fiction this past year and ventured into medieval fantasy. I guess I can chalk that up to another learning experience! I followed my heart and wrote what moved me. Plus, I had it in my head that the medieval time period was in essence ‘historical,’ however, since I didn’t base my stories on anyone or anything ‘real,’ I definitely took a sharp turn away from my usual stories.

That being said, I hope you’ll give the Shrouded Thrones series a read and shoot me a message with some feedback. I like to think of this series as a grown-up fairy tale. In book one, “Island in the Forest,” the kingdoms are at peace. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BJ2P283However, by book two, the story gets a bit dark when power-hungry evil rulers seek total domination. The final book in the series, “Queen of Prophecy,” will soon be released, and I’m excited to share how everything comes together. I’m going to miss the characters in this series, as well as the time period. Though set in fictitious realms, the story embraces the feel of historic England, with maybe a bit of a King Arthur flair.

I will soon be returning to United States historical fiction, and I’m excited to start on my next project. “His Heart’s Long Journey” will be based on the true story of one of my friend’s relatives. It will be set in the old west and end up in the small mining town of Murray, Idaho.

So, how do I know that I’m writing the right book? Every one I start is a new adventure, and I simply follow my heart. It guides my mind and fingers, and I just sit down and type. The funny thing is, sometimes in the morning, when I read what I wrote the day before, I don’t remember writing some of it. I guess I ‘get in the zone’ and just go. My characters frequently tell me what they want to say and do, and I just record it. Is that strange?

Unusual or not, I’m thankful for the freedom I have to write what I want. What a blessing to be able to do so!

If you are a writer, keep at it! Follow your heart and write what moves you. And if you’re a reader, thank you for every book you pick up and read. You keep us writers motivated and give us the ability to do what we love.

A Toast to Modern Conveniences

Being a writer of historical fiction, I spend many hours researching fine details. I like to be sure all my facts are correct before submitting anything for publication. Yes, I write fiction, but I also intertwine real events and actual people.

The little things matter. It’s the small stuff that can make a reader feel like they’re really back in time, experiencing everything right along with my made-up characters.

I’ll never forget seeing a Civil War era movie and becoming frustrated when I noticed that the men on the screen were wearing belts. The kind held in place by belt loops on their trousers. Because of my extensive research, I knew men didn’t wear those types of belts in the 1860s. They held their pants up by using suspenders, referred to at that time as braces.

But, I’ve drifted off the subject I meant to highlight in this post. Every bit of research makes me appreciate all that we have at our fingertips today.

We flip a switch and have instant light. I can step into my shower in the morning and within seconds have hot water cascading over me. And speaking of bathrooms, how many of you would ever want to be forced to make do without a toilet? A little play on words. (grin)

As for communication, way back when, it took days or even weeks to get news about happenings around the country. The delay makes for great story plots and wonderful suspense. That’s part of the reason I enjoy writing pre-phone fiction. If I wrote contemporary, nearly each and every person would have a cell phone within reach. It takes away a lot of the mystery, but there are also wonderful benefits to today’s instantaneous communication.

Are we spoiled, or what?

My husband jokes about going off the grid. Honestly, there are times I think he’s serious, but he knows I couldn’t do it. Well, I could if I had to, but I’m not ready to give up modern conveniences. That being said, I think we all need to appreciate them more. Even now, not everyone has it so easy.

So, here it is, 2017, and I’d like to make a toast to the New Year and all the wonderful modern conveniences. I raise my glass high and hope you’ll lift yours to mine.

I’m grateful that I can send this to you electronically and not by Pony Express. I can type my words on a laptop computer and not make you struggle to read my poor penmanship.

I love living in the modern world and having the ability to step back in time and imagine what it would’ve been like in the good ol’ days. I can write stories from my heart and travel in the pages of a novel without having to work my fingers to the bone doing daily chores. The strength of our ancestors is truly admirable. I hold in high regard all the pioneers and those who struggled simply to find food and keep a roof over their heads.

There’s a deep romanticism in the past, and definitely something to be said for the slow pace and simplicity of life back then. But it was by no means rosy.

As I type, our washing machine is faithfully cleaning our clothes, my standing lamp is shedding light on my work, and my phone is close by, just in case someone calls. Like my husband, wondering if I’m ready to move to the remotest part of Alaska.

Nope.

cades-cove-cabin

 

 

 

They Seem So Real!

I’m suffering from a chapped nose. No, I don’t have a cold. Yes, I sometimes have allergies, but that’s not the reason either.

I just finished writing a difficult chapter. I can usually knock out a chapter a day, but this one took three. Along with half a box of tissues.

I tell myself all the time that I’m not crazy. Maybe that in itself is a little nuts. Then, I’m reminded of one of my favorite movie scenes from “Romancing the Stone.” Author, Joan Wilder, is hunting for tissues. Sobbing over what she’s written.

When I first saw that film over thirty years ago, I wasn’t a writer. At least, not an author of novels. But now that I am, I get it! When my characters hurt, I hurt. Thus, the tears.

I’ll never forget the first time someone told me that my characters seemed real. Probably one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. They’re certainly real to me. Otherwise, why would I cry for them? Why would I care so much?

I recently had a great conversation with a reader who’s on Book 3 of my Southern Secrets Saga. She talked to me about things that were happening in the story and asked a few questions. But mostly, we talked about the characters and how much we love them. I felt like we were discussing long-time mutual friends. At one point, she apologized for going on so long about the books. Oh, my goodness! There definitely had been no need for that, and I told her so. It was fun! I doubt she realized how she’d made my day.

I’m glad the imaginary people I bring to life feel real. I’m afraid that if they weren’t relatable, the story would fall flat. A reader should be able to walk hand in hand with the characters and experience what they’re going through. Good and bad. Emotion is healthy. I just wish I could spare my nose!

Desires cover 850

More Cute Puppies?

Next month will mark the second anniversary of my first published novel, “Marked.” Since that time, I’ve released nine other novels. Yes, I’ve been typing like a manic fool!

I’m forever grateful to my editors, Cindy Brannam and Alicia Dean. They keep me on my toes and make certain my finished product is the best it can be. I also want to take this opportunity to thank my cover artist, Rae Monet, flat designer, Karen Duvall, and my amazing formatter, Jesse Gordon.

Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am today without readers! You all have blessed me with encouragement, kind words, and the ability to keep doing what I love. THANK YOU!

But what does this have to do with cute puppies? No, it wasn’t a teaser just to get you dog lovers reading my post!

Sometime ago, I wrote a blog called, “Who Wouldn’t Like a Cute Puppy?” Actually, the post was written in November of 2013 if you’d like to read it!

After all this time, and some reviews that could easily get me down, I felt it was time to revisit those thoughts.

Creative people have a terrible tendency of focusing on the negative. A singer might look at a room full of smiling faces during a performance as a bad experience. Why? Because the guy in the corner constantly frowned. The singer singles him out and tries as best she can to make him smile, but the more she sings, the deeper his scowl becomes. She takes it as a personal affront and ignores the rest of the crowd. They cheer and clap at the end of the song, but her heart is in her shoes, because she couldn’t make the stranger smile.

She doesn’t consider that perhaps his girlfriend just broke up with him and the song reminds him of her. Or maybe, someone close to him has passed away and nothing anyone could do would make him smile. There is also the possibility that he truly doesn’t like the way she sings. Hmm…

Bottom line. People have different tastes.

Whenever I stroll along in public and see someone carrying a puppy or walking a dog, I think of one of my dear friends. She views dogs, like I see snakes. If someone came toward me with a snake coiled around them, I’d run the opposite direction. I sometimes even squeal when I’m digging in my garden and a larger-than-normal worm flips up in the soil. Puppies and dogs, however, draw me in. I want to pet them, love on them, and take them home! My poor friend becomes physically ill around them, and she can’t understand why they’re allowed out in public places.

We all have different likes and dislikes. As a writer, it’s important that I write what moves me. But I have to be realistic and know that not everyone will be moved by it. Someone will think it’s the worst book they’ve ever read, while another person will deem it the best. And hopefully not just my mom! She’s a little biased.

Criticism is tough to take, but no matter what we do in life, it’s going to be there. It starts when we’re little–children can be awfully cruel to each other–and continues as we grow. What matters is how we deal with it.

I’m writing this to remind myself and hopefully help all of you! I was told more than once not to read my reviews, but it’s hard not to. So when I do, I decipher the validity of what’s been said. If something critical is pointed out consistently, then I know I need to dig deeper and see if it’s something that should be ‘fixed.’ As of yet, I’m glad to say that the negative comments have been few and far between. As for the validity, I believe the comments were valid for that individual. My books weren’t their taste. And that’s okay, because many other people loved them.

Exposing ourselves to the bare bone isn’t always easy. Putting creative work in front of the masses is scary to say the least! But, I get incredible joy sharing my stories with the world. I love bringing characters to life and making them feel real. When my readers discuss them with me as though they’re someone we both know personally, I want to do a happy dance. And I do. Internally. I don’t want them to think I’m nuttier than they already believe me to be!

Thank you for reading my post! If you’re a writer, WRITE ON, and always keep your chin up.

If you’re a reader, thank you from all of us authors! Without you, we’d shrivel.

Cute little puppy, or horrid beast?

Cute little puppy, or horrid beast?

 

E-Book or Paper?

When I first began writing and then moved forward to publication, I contemplated format and assumed that the people who would want to read my books would prefer ones they could hold in their hands. A paperback or hardcover book, not an e-reader.

Then, after Marked was published, I was astonished that the majority of readers were buying the e-book, not the paperback. I understand the convenience, not to mention the lower cost. E-books make sense. They’re much easier to transport when moving, they don’t take up all your shelf space, and they don’t tear. However, I’m still inclined to prefer a book I can smell, feel, and mark with a magnetic bookmark.

I thought that maybe my desire for the old-fashioned kind has to do with my age. Yes, I’m fifty-something and not ashamed to say so. I’m not as skilled at modern devices as the younger generation, but I pride myself in learning. I’m grateful for the advances in technology. Years ago, I wrote my first manuscript on a typewriter. I much prefer my laptop!

So, to test my theory that only us ‘old folks’ prefer paper books, I queried a group of high school students I recently spoke to about my writing process. These students were, for the most part, aspiring writers. I was curious as to what they like to read, but then when I asked whether they preferred e-books or real books, they unanimously said real. Like me, they said they like to hold a book. Granted, you can hold an e-reader, but it’s not quite the same. Of course, they spend most of their time on electronic devices, so a paper book is a nice change.

So now I throw it out to you. What do you prefer? Are e-books a fad that will fade, will they continue to be simply an option, or do you feel that eventually the paper books will be obsolete and there will no longer be a choice? Curious minds want to know …

I prefer a paper book!

I prefer a paper book!

A Golden Life .99 cent Promo!

I didn’t want any of you who follow my blog on a regular basis to miss out on the .99 cent promo for “A Golden Life!”

Starting today thru midnight on December 26th, you can purchase the e-book version on Amazon for this low price. I hope you’ll give it a read!

The story is set in the beautiful mountains of Gatlinburg, TN, but nothing about the plot is typical. It will take you on an unusual journey to say the least.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017Z6CREI

A Golden Life

 

Something magical is about to happen…

Traci Oliver may be a best-selling romance author, but for the first time in her writing career she can’t type a word on the blank page. Book number fifty is supposed to be her best ever—her golden book—but inspiration joined her husband in the grave. How can she write about love with a shattered heart?

At the precise moment of the anniversary of his death, a knock on her door changes everything.

When characters from her books take on human form and tell her that they’ve come to help her, she doubts her sanity. Are they real, or has she lost her mind?

Her doctor says grieving is a process, but she never dreamed that part of the process would bring her heroes to life. She wonders if all people experience this kind of thing, or is it a weird phenomenon reserved solely for romance writers? Truthfully, the only hero she wants in her life is her husband, and she can never be with him again.

Or maybe she can …

I’m Still Here!

First, I beg forgiveness for being so absent lately! The good thing is that my lack of posting is due to flying fingers finishing up two manuscripts for publication this month.

I’ve already added these books on my book tab, so please check them out! “Consequences” is Book 2 in my Southern Secrets Saga. I appreciate all of the nice emails and messages I’ve received asking about its release. It thrills me to know that you all are enjoying this new series. The story is close to my heart. My very first baby!

Today is the anniversary of my writing journey. Five years ago I began typing my first manuscript. Much different from the plays and songs I’d written, but I found it to be my ‘thing.’ I’ve not stopped since.

My seventh release, “A Golden Life,” will be available soon. It’s currently being formatted. In this book, I truly bare my soul. I shed a lot of tears writing it, but even so, I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun writing a book. And saying fun in regard to this book is kind of odd, because it’s about death. It’s the story of a woman trying to cope with the loss of her husband. I think you’ll find it a bit surprising how she starts to heal. Yes, it’s a love story. A very different kind of love story.

If you’d like to receive my monthly newsletters, be sure to sign up by clicking the ‘newsletter’ tab at the top of the page. In my newsletter I reveal my covers and share release dates, etc. I also throw in a few personal tidbits!

And please, if you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact me! I’d love to hear from you!

Okay…back to writing. Southern Secrets Saga Book 3 coming soon…

Have an awesome day!

Aiden's 5th Birthday 2013 020

We Need Each Other

I’ve had many jobs over the years. The one thing that stands out in every one of them is the people I’ve worked with. I can honestly say that I’ve adored 99% of them. We won’t talk about that 1%. Some of the jobs weren’t exactly what I wanted to do at the time, but I made the best of them. The people around me certainly helped!

Now that I’m a stay-at-home writer, I have little interaction with other people. I relate to the characters I’m writing and talk to them. It’s enjoyable, but it’s not the same. So I make a point of getting out and having real conversations with genuine people. If I spend more than two days at home locked away with my laptop, I get cranky. Unfortunately, my poor husband pays the price of my grumpiness when he comes home from work in the evening.

What I’ve determined from all this is that we need each other. That should be a given, but trust me on this…it slaps you in the face when you’re alone for hours on end. I love my career, but I’m a people person and need to have that interaction. Besides, if I stayed locked away forever, how would I get inspired for my stories?

I often have people joke with me and ask if I’m going to write about them. If I do, they’ll never know. I pick up traits and add them to my characters. What’s really fun is that if I have something that happens to me that really upsets me, I can write about it. Plot it into a story. It’s self-therapy!

I hope you enjoy what you do for a living. I read a statistic once that indicated a very small percentage of people actually like what they do. They only do it because they have to. They need the income. (Of course, we all need that!) It’s sad that people spend the majority of their day doing what they don’t want to do. It reminds me of something I was told as a child, “Sometimes you have to do things you don’t like.”

I’ve been in that position. But even when I was, I put a smile on my face and made the best of it. AND I kept striving to reach my ultimate goal and follow my dream. Achieving what I set out to do wouldn’t be so fulfilling if I didn’t have someone to share it with. On a typical day my dear husband gets bombarded with chatter when he comes home. Most of the time ‘un’ cranky chatter. I LOVE to write, but I’ve learned to break up my days with time out in the real world and time at home with my laptop. It’s made a tremendous difference!

WRITE ON!!

We need each other!

We need each other!

Chasing the ‘WAS’ Monster

I’ve been thinking about this post for some time now and kept asking myself if I’m qualified enough to write it. I decided that even if I haven’t fully learned how to wrangle this beast, I’m still going to pass on what I’ve learned.

Every time I release a new book, I hope it’s better than the last. Not saying that my first releases weren’t good, but I honestly believe that the more I write, the more I grow as an author.

So, what’s a WAS monster? If you’re a writer, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you. If you’re not a writer, then maybe I shouldn’t be telling you! I risk having you go back to my older books and look for ‘was.’ You’ll find it. Frequently. Was isn’t such a bad thing, (especially in dialog), but what I’ve learned is that it can be improved on. For the most part, taking was out of the equation brings more action to a sentence.

For instance, instead of saying: The man was walking down the street, I’d simplify it to: The man walked down the street. It goes from being passive to active. Simple, but effective.

And here’s the funny thing…once you start tackling this monster, you’ll find really creative ways to dig deeper into your character’s point of view.

I’ve been working on a rewrite of my first manuscript. I came to this ‘was’ sentence: When Reverend Brown announced their engagement and upcoming wedding, it was no surprise to the congregation.

Not a bad sentence, right? Well…when I looked at it, I thought, that’s kind of flat. Besides, this is an important part of the plot. I needed to make an improvement. That simple sentence became this:

When Reverend Brown announced their engagement and upcoming wedding, the congregation stirred with instant chatter. It didn’t surprise Claire. They’d expected it for some time. If they only knew the truth. Now that would create real chatter. The kind of gossip they’d love to share.

In my opinion, a HUGE improvement. I can’t tell you how much fun I’m having doing a ‘was’ word search. I believe that little trick alone will substantially improve my work. Let me know what you think!

I don't care about 'was' I just want a cookie!

I don’t care about ‘was’ I just want a cookie!

Amazing Creativity!

I’m constantly amazed at the ability of the human mind to create new and exciting works of art. Art in all forms. Whether it’s an artist with a paint brush, pencil, or their bare hands, or a writer of music and/or stories.

Everything starts with a vision. An idea that floats around in the brain until the person holding that thought has to let it out.

Throughout my life I’ve been surrounded by artists. People who are driven to set their creativity free. It’s incredible to watch!

My mom is an artist. For as long as I can remember she’s ‘created.’ While I was growing up she painted with oils, then a number of years later she took some classes doing water color and now does both. In addition, some of her creativity came out baking and decorating cakes. Watching her do those was really fun. Plus, there was always leftover frosting in the refrigerator. A great treat for any sugar-craving kid!

Mom is also a singer. She has a beautiful soprano voice. I have great memories of sitting beside her in church singing alto to her soprano. She’s always encouraged me to follow my dreams and use my abilities in any way I could. And since she’s still following my career, (and this blog!), I want to take this opportunity to say, “Thank you, Mom!”

Her example not only nourished my creativity, but taught me to encourage my son. His talent is drawing, and he’s been able to use his ability doing artwork for an on-line video game.

Parents should encourage the individual creativity in their children. It’s important to teach them how to be independent and make a living, but giving them an outlet to use their talents is just as important.

I belong to a writers group, Music City Romance Writers, and am surrounded by many talented writers. Talk about amazing! These authors are creating new stories and bringing to life a multitude of characters that will stay with you forever. I know that each of us hopes to one day write that particular book that will become the new ‘thing.’  And even if that doesn’t happen, we’re all thrilled that we have the opportunity to share our stories and have readers that embrace our characters.

I just heard on the news that we’ll soon be seeing clips from the new “Star Wars” movie. I’ll never forget sitting in a theater in Idaho watching the first movie. The ‘original’ “Star Wars.” (not episode 1) Darth Vader scared me to death just by breathing. And then years later there was the revelation that Vader was Luke’s father. How many of you remember gasping when that secret was revealed?

I can’t wait for the new movie! I’m ready.

These films started as visions by a writer who had a story in their heart that had to be told. Just like “Twilight” or “Harry Potter” or “The Hunger Games.” All of these dreams became books and later, movies. But they all started by an inspired thought.

I hope that if you’re inspired, you’ll follow your heart and mind and do something with that inspiration. Put it on paper, or canvas, or bake a cake that will amaze someone’s eyes and taste buds. And yes, if you’re a baker, it can’t just look good, it has to taste good, too!

Or … dance! Another favorite of mine. An art form unlike any other I’ve mentioned. I’m a big fan of “Dancing with the Stars.” I also used to watch “So You Think You can Dance.” I love to dance but my body doesn’t move like it used to! Still, I can watch and admire those who have the ability.

Thank you for following my blog! And now I need to go and see where my mind will take me today. Time to go down another road not yet traveled. Hope to see you there!

One of Mom's cakes!

One of Mom’s cakes!