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Tuesday, April 7

On Being Kind ... At A Distance ~@AuthorKristina Knight

It's Monday morning as I write this, the 4th Monday morning of Social Distancing in my state (which means bebe has been home from school for 4 weeks now). All in all, it's going well. She's less anxious than usual (school and the distractions therein stress her out), she's missing her friends, but she's also finding renewed interest in a few things (reading for fun, playing with the pups, etc).

But this Monday wasn't the easiest of Mondays by any stretch of the imagination. She's supposed to watch a musical for choir; she's had it picked out since social distancing began and yet this morning she was shocked - SHOCKED - that I wanted her to write up her thoughts when she hadn't watched the musical yet. Like, I've only told her 3 times each of the last 3 weeks to go watch 20 minutes (or so). So now she's pouting (and watching) in her room while I put this blog together.

I'm now not really in the mood to write about random acts of kindness but I'm going to anyway and I'm going to hope that writing about random acts of kindness will push my mood-meter back into the green region.

As RadioMan and I were picking up groceries this weekend, I spotted a little old lady at the end of the one of the aisles. She had her list in her hand but wasn't moving. She'd peek around the corner and then back up to stand at the end cap. Peek. Move back. I asked her if I could help with something. She pointed into the aisle where probably four soccer moms were standing in a group, chatting about...I don't know, lost soccer practices? The point is, they weren't shopping, they were chatting. And the lady was waiting for them to leave the aisle so that she could safely get what she needed from the top shelf (a can of evaporated milk). None of them noticed her. They didn't even notice me when I said, "Excuse me, please," and reached up to the top shelf behind them to get the can of milk. Handed it off and went about my shopping.

A couple weeks ago, a friend on Twitter posted about her parking lot experience - she'd just finished getting groceries when she heard a voice calling from a nearby car. It was an elderly couple, who didn't have any family nearby, and who were afraid to go inside the store to shop. They gave her money, she picked up their groceries and gave them her number to call if they needed more.

One of bebe's friends has the tendency toward anxiousness, just like her, and they're sending each other 'you got this' memes and silly (very loud and off-key) singing videos.

My work bestie and I email memes throughout the day, the sillier the better, because our dayjob can be stressful at times.

I've been writing in my planner things that I'm grateful for or 1 good thing that happens...no one will see these things except me, but it's helpful for me to see the good, especially when the news is filled with so much that isn't good. It's why I stopped to chat with the older lady at the end of the aisle when I normally would have probably not even noticed.

If I come out of social distancing with only one lesson learned, I want it to be this: there is power is a small act of kindness (getting something off the top shelf, sending a silly video, finding the perfect meme). Bob Kerrey wrote, "Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change." I've always liked that quote, but during this time, I've started to see the layers to it.

One single act leads to another and that leads to another. Maybe I only got one can of evaporated milk off a shelf, but that allowed her to go home where maybe she was cooking for her husband or son, who then went off to work at an essential job where he was able to help an out-of-work waitress keep the power on despite being unable to pay a bill, and because the power was on maybe she could earn money for groceries by watching the children of another essential worker who can no longer take her kids to daycare because they're all closed. My point is that we don't know what that one act of kindness triggers for someone else. Maybe it only triggers relief at being able to go home where it is safe. Maybe it triggers a whole new line of kindness dominoes that spread out to infinity. Maybe it only makes me feel as if I still have a semblance of control in a world gone wild.

Whatever it sparks for anyone else, the small acts of kindness I've seen and participated in over the past few weeks have renewed my faith in the human spirit. And I hope I'm able to keep that light of kindness burning for the people around me.

Kristina Knight

Saturday, April 4

Cover Reveal - TO HEAL A HEART by Jana Richards

I'm very excited to show off the cover of my upcoming release TO HEAL A HEART! This small town contemporary romance is book two in my Masonville series, which takes place in the fictional town of Masonville, North Dakota. 

And without further ado, here's the new cover!


Garrett Saunders' world changed two years ago on a road in Afghanistan. Back home, he feels like a stranger. As he struggles to find his place in the world, he meets a horse destined for the slaughterhouse and a woman bent on rescuing the strays of the world, including him.

Blair Greyson moves to Masonville to look after her ailing grandfather and give her rescue horses a home. Right away she butts heads with a surly former Marine. Despite a rocky start, they come to an agreement: Blair will board Garrett's rescue horse and he'll help with repairs around her farm.

Garrett finds purpose working with Blair—and falls in love with her. But she's hiding a secret. Can she forgive herself and accept Garrett's love, or will she let guilt and regret continue to rule her life?


Excerpt:

“Does this horse belong to you?”

“Yeah, I—”

“You should be ashamed of yourself.” She swept out her free hand, indicating the hip bone protruding from the horse’s flanks. “Look at this animal. He’s been starved.”

“I know but—”

“There’s no excuse for it.” Nothing angered her more than the mistreatment of an animal. “And look at all his sores and welts. He needs veterinary attention.”

Unsmiling, the man crossed his arms over his broad chest. “I plan to get him looked at right away.”

“Good. Make sure you do.” Should she believe him? He was big and mean looking. A scruffy beard covered his jawline, and his hair was disheveled, as if he’d just rolled out of bed. Worse, she smelled alcohol on his breath, even in the distance between them. Yet somehow, there was something familiar about him.

He reached out one large hand, palm up. “I’ll take him home.”

Blair clutched the rope against her chest. “How do you plan to do that? You don’t have a horse trailer.”

“I’ll walk him.”

“What about your truck?”

He shrugged. “It’s not going anywhere.”

All kinds of questions trembled on her tongue. Was he equipped to look after this horse? Did he have other horses in this kind of shape? Why did she feel she’d met him before?

She looked at his hand. The fingers were blunt, and there was a scar running across the palm, bisecting the lifeline. Who was he?

Coming Soon! Stayed tuned for news of a release date.

Friday, April 3

A turn of phrase... by Liz Flaherty #WordWranglers


Because I want comfort right now, and things to laugh at, and no surprises, I've been reading books I've read before, usually a long time ago. I love them. It's not that I think writers then were necessarily better than they are now or even that the stories were better, but there was something about the way those writers spun the language that I don’t see in modern prose.

I read Betty MacDonald’s Onions in the Stew this week. She referred to Vashon Island as “plump and curvy” and to Mt. Rainier as a “magnificent, unbelievably shy mountain who parts her clouds and shows her exquisite face…” She writes that a “tiny white church up to its knees in non-ecclesiastical currant bushes holds a bony arm bearing a small cross high up toward the pale sky.” Yet another church, “large hipped…glares disapprovingly” at a movie theater. I can see those things, can’t you? I think I can feel them, too.

Do you remember when the needle grew “too heavy” for Beth March? I was nine years old when I first read it. All these shockingly many years later, my heart breaks yet again.

“I’m so glad,” said Anne of Green Gables, “I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Remember her of the new days with no mistakes in them yet? It became a mantra for me when it seemed as if I couldn’t go even a few hours without something going wrong.

Although I haven't yet, I have no doubt I will delve into some old Betty Neels books before this crisis ends. They are the mashed potatoes and gravy of comfort reads, and I can't wait. I know what's going to happen in each of her over 100 books, and I don't care--I'll read 'em again. Same with Rosamund Pilcher's The Shell Seekers. There's just something about the way they talk to me. 

I blogged once that something I always looked for and cherished in
books I read (and wrote) was tenderness. (SPOILER ALERT) LaVyrle Spencer is one of my favorite writers, and Forgiving is possibly my favorite of her books. Much of the reason for this is that tenderness threads through the entire story like fingers unbraiding hair. The last line of the book was, “And they slept. Delivered.”

I love being a writer. I talk about retiring from it, but probably never will. I love being a reader, too, because of the richness reading gives to my life. Because of turns of phrase and just the right word in just the right place. Because of a breaking heart, a borrowed mantra, and the soft, sweet sigh of “Delivered.”

Share with us. What are some of your favorite place settings of words or your favorite writers who set those places?


Thursday, April 2

Will Rise from Ashes by Jean M. Grant #WordWranglers


The Wranglers are happy to have Jean M. Grant visit the corral today to celebrate the audio release of her women's fiction novel, Will Rise from Ashes. Please make her welcome. 



I began my writing journey in the Scottish middle ages. My first love has always been medieval romance (and yes, later, Outlander, ahhh Jamie Fraser). Castles and crags, warring clans and cultures, sweeping landscapes of mystery and moor, lairds and ladies, gallantry and greed. So much fun! After spending a good deal of time hanging out with my medieval heroes and heroines, I jumped ahead in time and wrote a contemporary novella. At the same time, I delved into a contemporary women’s fiction story (Will Rise from Ashes). Now I’m back finishing up a trilogy in historical Scotland and writing another contemporary romance. Jumping around through time and space…

Why do I write across genres? Simply put, I have diverse interests. Maybe too many? By writing different genres I feed various passions. Maybe I am too faceted, a bit scattered, and just write what my heart tells me. Going back and forth in editing between my brogue Scottish men and my modern voices can be tricky, but it keeps my brain sharp (and exhausted!). I also write in both first and third person.

Will I delve into another genre? Never say never. I’ve found my niche in historical (with paranormal elements) and contemporary romance, and women’s fiction.

Finding a thread. There is a central thread weaved into all my stories: journeys of hope, spirituality, and of course happy-ever-after. Or as I like to say: stories of heartache, healing, and hope. My women’s fiction usually has a romantic element, too. Even though I write across genres and sub-genres, I find that I home in on a central theme with each story. Each character has an emotional wound and backstory they must heal (in some way or another), and I always end with hope.


Bio:

Jean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines and websites. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.

Social Media links:



Will Rise from Ashes
Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Release date: April 17, 2019, Audio Release date: March 16, 2020
by Jean M. Grant



Blurb:

Living is more than mere survival.

Young widow AJ Sinclair has persevered through much heartache. Has she met her match when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, leaving her separated from her youngest son and her brother? Tens of thousands are dead or missing in a swath of massive destruction. She and her nine-year-old autistic son, Will, embark on a risky road trip from Maine to the epicenter to find her family. She can't lose another loved one.

Along the way, they meet Reid Gregory, who travels his own road to perdition looking for his sister. Drawn together by AJ's fear of driving and Reid's military and local expertise, their journey to Colorado is fraught with the chaotic aftermath of the eruption. AJ's anxiety and faith in humanity are put to the test as she heals her past, accepts her family's present, and embraces uncertainty as Will and Reid show her a world she had almost forgotten.

Excerpt
Even from far away, I recognized the man’s plaid long-sleeved shirt and the large backpack, but now he was walking alongside a bike on his approach.
“Hey, look! It’s that guy you drove past this morning!”
 I shuddered inwardly. Well, karma just bit me in the butt.
“How did he catch up with us?” Motherly instinct took over as I rose, my legs wobbly. “Will, stay there. Here, take this,” I said, handing him the tire iron.
 “We already tried that, Mom.”
“Not for that, Will.”
He scratched his brown hair, which was overdue for a cut, and looked at me, confusion wrinkling his brow.
“Be my wizard, Will. It’s your sword.”
“Wizards have wands.”
“Will…”
The circuit connected. “Oh…yes, Mom, I’ll protect you!”
I smiled faintly. “Thank you, honey.” I didn’t want to explain further that it was me protecting him. I didn’t want to say that if something happened, to run and hide in the woods. Because he would run and hide. Then what? Who would come help?
I shoved my hand into my front jeans pocket to nestle my fingertips around the pocket knife I had given Harrison for our wedding anniversary. The man slowed his bicycle as he drew nearer. He gave me an understated, yet significant, nod. The nod of understanding, of kindness. I didn’t buy it.
“Hello, again,” he said.

Ouch.


Tuesday, March 31

How Do I Do It?


People ask me that all the time, “How do you do it? How do you write all those stories? Where do you get your ideas?” In an ironic twist, last night as Husband and I were binge-watching another four episodes of The Good Wife on Amazon Prime, I turned to him and said, “How do they do that? How do they come up with such great story lines every single week?”

In the case of the TV drama, we both agreed it was probably from the headlines or from reading about law cases that have actually happened. The writing on that particular show is fabulous, so although they may find ideas in real life, they execute them with amazing skill. Each episode is fascinating and the continuing story they tell is seamlessly woven throughout.

All this observation is to say that when you write a series, in a way, it’s the same thing, and I’ve discovered that I am a series writer. I didn’t know that about  myself. Not even after writing the four Women of Willow Bay books. It's simply that I don’t want to leave my characters. I’m happy to invent new people to populate my little towns, but I really hate leaving the setting I’ve created. So I think the answer to “Where do you get your ideas?” might be that they’re seeds, sown in the previous book.

Let me try to explain because, man, I’d love to have a really good answer next time someone asks. When I started writing the Four Irish Brothers Winery series for Tule Publishing (Never turn an opportunity to promote), I had the four brothers in my head. By the way, I guess I need to preface this with the fact that I have always had people in my head clamoring to get out. If I can give them a story, I’ll let them out, but otherwise, they have to go to the back of the line. Anyway, those brothers, all four of them were knocking around in there, tripping over each other to have their story told. Conor shouted loudest, so his story came first, although in the birth order, he was third in line.

But as I wrote his story, the seeds of Sean’s story were scattered—Megan, the mayor, who was thirty-seven and had never been married suddenly began to develop, as did Tierney, the only female firefighter on the River’s Edge Fire Department. When we met Conor’s love interest, Sam, we also  discovered that Sean, who was a high-powered attorney in Chicago, might not be all that thrilled with big-city life. In Sean’s book, Conor and Sam’s wedding happened and when it did, we not only saw Sean and Megan’s happily-ever-after, we also got a hint that Aidan’s glamorous life in LA might not be all that glamorous and that Brendan shared a special friendship with Tierney. Each brother's story revealed a little bit about the others. 

See how that works? As I was watching the continuing thread unspool throughout the episodes of The Good Wife, I realized that is what makes a series happen. That filament that runs through each episode. The continuing story that pulls you in because you want to know what will happen next to the characters even though each episode has a definite beginning, middle, and end. So, it’s the setting and the characters in the previous story that drives the next one. It’s the little town of River’s Edge; it’s the winery; it’s Mac’s Riverside Diner, the River Walk, and the Ohio River. It's also the Flaherty brothers, Dot and Mary at the quilt shop and Janet at the yarn shop. it's the Flaherty wives--Sam and Meg and Holly and soon, Brendan's love. For readers, it’s a yearning to go back to see what’s up with Mac and Carly, to watch the Flaherty family grow, to meet more of the townsfolk, and to feel a part of River’s Edge.

It’s the same for me, so yesterday, I started a new River’s Edge book with a different family—three brothers who are all first responders. You’ll meet all three of them in July, when Brendan’s book releases, but here’s a peek. Ryker Lange is a police officer on the River’s Edge Police Department, Becker Lange is firefighter, and Max Lange is an ER doc at St. Mark’s Hospital. Stay tuned!

I’m not sure I’ve answered my own question, but maybe it's simply that characters breed characters and then breed stories. May it continue.

Stay well, mes amies, get out in the sunshine that’s lighting up your own back yard. Take care of yourselves, take care of others as best you can, and remember that all will be well.

~Nan~


Friday, March 27

The One Hundred Word Experiment by Jana Richards


One of my goals for 2020 is to write more and be more productive. I have a lot of stories rattling around in my head that I want to get down on paper. So, to that end, I've been experimenting with a method of writing that I've heard about for a while but haven't tried before now. It's very simple -- write at least 100 words a day, every day.

The whole thing is psychological. I tell myself "It's only 100 words. That's a couple of paragraphs, give or take. I can do that."

And for the most part, I've found I can do it, even on busy days when I've been at the day job, and I'm tired when I get home. Or days when non-writing activities take up my time. In the past, I'd wait for a day when I could devote a good part of the day to writing. But those days can be few and far between. I only work part-time, but there's always things that take me away from writing. By saying "It's only 100 words. It won't take long," I can use small chunks of time to move my story forward.

Though there are days when getting those hundred words on paper feels like major brain surgery, the majority of the time I write much more than my mandatory hundred words. I also find it usually doesn't take me very long to write those words. Because I'm in the world of my story every day, the story is fresh in my mind. When I only wrote in large chunks of time, several days might pass between writing sessions. It often took a while to get into the story, and wasted a lot of time.

Like I said, it's all psychological. The other day I got home late and tired. I gave myself permission to take a day off from my 100 words. I even sat down and poured myself a glass of wine. But the idea of breaking my streak bothered me so much that I got up off my butt, powered up my computer and wrote a hundred words. The feeling of accomplishment was immense and totally surprised me.

For a long time, I've talked about writing every day, but I didn't always do it. Oh, I may have written something most days, maybe a blog post or a short story. But I didn't always write everyday on my work in progress. Writing a hundred words a day is moving me forward at a steady pace, and I'm going to keep doing it for as long as I'm able.

To finish my current work in progress, I know I'm going to need days where I write far more than a hundred words. But in-between those days I'll keep the fire burning. One hundred words at a time.