Thursday, October 8

A Dying Art

When I was a teenager, my favorite time of day was when the mail came. I used to stalk the mailbox waiting for the mail.

Why? Well, probably because I had no life. But, no, it was because I had a dozen pen pals and at any day, I might get a letter.  Some pen pals lasted the duration of a summer, while others saw my through high school.

The first letter I know I wrote was to my grandparents while we were stationed in Iceland. And it is hilarious. "Did you know we had a sister? Her name is Wendy. We should've told you sooner."

When we left Iceland, I left two best friends behind, Chris and Maja. Chris and I met in second grade when all you had to do was have something in common. My opening line was, "I think my mom knows your mom." Add water, instant bestie. 

Maja was Icelandic. When we first moved to Iceland, we rented the top floor their house until we got housing on base. Maja was a year or so older than me and we collected paper napkins together--although nobody stateside had ever heard of this, and my collection languished until one day, I must've thrown in away. Ahh, regrets...
We came back to the states in 1971. There were no computers, no internet, no cell phones, no texting. To stay in touch with our friends in other places, we had to write letters.

And write to them, I did. Especially Chris, because I didn't have to get international stamps for her letters. Two years later, Chris and her mom would come to live with us while her dad worked on the Alaskan pipeline. They spent a couple of months with us until her dad returned and they settled in New Mexico--which felt like another world away when you're going into junior high without your best friend.

It was during those angsty teenage years that my letter writing really took off. I was never a journaler--Oh, I always had a diary, but they're more about which boy I had a crush on, not about my inner most thoughts that one of my sisters--Debbie--might find and threaten to reveal. I think Chris got most of my inner-most thoughts. 

Then one day, in the pages of Teen Magazine, I saw an article about pen pals. I sent in my application and thus begun my obsessing stalking of the mail man. I had pen pals in Japan, New York, Texas, Trinidad-Tobago--and several other places that I can't recall right now.

Those friendships and pen pals got me through high school. There's no doubt. When I was feeling depressed or upset about something that happened, I had friends on paper that I could talk to. Some letters probably were never sent, others probably shouldn't have been sent, but...

I regret that I lost my letters a few moves ago. I hadn't looked at them in years, but they were always there if I needed to. And now, they aren't. Of course, I didn't have copies of the letters I sent, only the replies--but they usually held reminders of what I'd written.

Chris and I have remained friends most of our lives. She now resides in south-west Oregon which is quite a bit close than New Mexico. Although we still don't see each other often enough, we do keep in touch with birthday phone calls and through Facebook. 

And I found Maja--who goes by Maria, now--through a mutual friend I'd met at work. She was Icelandic and from the same town, Keflavik, that I'd lived in. She took a letter to Maja and her family. Then they friended us on Facebook. After all these years...

You know what I miss the most about writing letters? The anticipation of the mailbox. It just isn't the same anymore.


Wednesday, October 7

#WriterWednesday: Play The Song

It's release week! It's release week! I know, I've had several over the past couple of months and guess what - it's not slowing down! And I love it.

Light My Fire, Start Me Up and Call Me are three of my absolute favorite books, and a big part of the reason is music. I've told you guys before that I like to write to music (jazz/classical as I'm drafting and more personal stuff as I'm editing). While I'm drafting a book, songs will pop into my head that seem to fit the hero or heroine or the theme of a book or sometimes a specific scene.

That happened a LOT while I was writing the Anthem Trilogy. A few current releases made the cut into the final playlist, but a lot of oldies made the final  cut, too.

Here's a peek inside the playlist for Light My Fire, Start Me Up and Call Me:

1985 by Bowling for Soup
Springsteen by Eric Church
Raise Your Glass by Pink
Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
Light My Fire by The Doors
Dance Forever by Allstar Weekend
Daylight by Maroon 5
Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson
Come Over by Kenny Chesney
(Kissed You) Goodnight by Gloriana
Here Comes Goodbye by Rascall Flats

Tell me, does music make it's way into your books? What are some songs that influence you?

Blurb for Call Me:

Katrina Phillips is itchy. The job that has always challenged her seems stifling, her friends are all pairing off and she's been without male companionship for seven long months.

Josh Hanna is paying off a debt: fly to LA, play backup for the house band during the season finale of Star Power and then back to his boring - and sober - life in San Francisco.

But five years hasn't been long enough to douse the flames between them, and its hard to remember why things went so badly in the first place...

Buy the Book: Amazon  B&N  KOBO  iBooks

Blurb for Light My Fire: 

Lily MacIntyre's life is offtrack, and she knows exactly how to right it: shed her America's sweetheart image in a big way. Getting down and dirty in a limo with rocker Nate Lansford seems like the perfect solution. Plus, she's had a mad crush on him practically since birth. The only problem? Nate is her brother's best friend…and he doesn't see her as anything other than a surrogate little sister.

Buy Links: Amazon B&N iBooks KOBO

Blurb for Start Me Up:

Matchmaker Nina Wright might work in LA but she keeps Hollywood types off her client list. She doesn't need their drama and she doesn't like the way so many of them exchange lovers like last year's accessories. But she needs one happy, high-profile client to get her business off the tabloid pages and back on solid ground.
Hollywood hottie Chase MacIntyre wants the gossip surrounding his lastest fling to stop and he knows exactly how to do it: show up on his next red carpet with a new woman and once he meets Nina Wright he knows she is the woman to stop the presses.

The problem? Once they're under cover, this business-only agreement is definitely too hot to handle…

Buy Links: Amazon B&N  iBooks KOBO

Tuesday, October 6

Rambling...But There's a Question at the End

It was an odd weekend, mostly because we’re at home instead of at the lake—life is completely different here, in spite of the fact that I work up there just like I do down here. It’s a different vibe here in the city though, and thus, a different vibe at this house as opposed to the lake cottage. In the summer when we’re going back and forth between houses, this place almost becomes a pied-a-terre—just a place to stop by, grab the mail, and mow and then we’re back up to swimming and boating. But as fall sets in, we’re spending more time here and less time at the lake. That’s the natural order of things I think...well, it seems to be for us.

We grocery shopped on Friday, had fire in the fireplace that night, which was lovely, and spent Saturday cleaning out closets and doing fall cleaning upstairs. Right off, who knew I could clean out five closets, end up with four very large bags of clothes, shoes, purses, etc. to take to Goodwill, and still have plenty of stuff to wear this fall and winter? Something tells me that we, like most Americans, have way too much stuff. However, we are now down four bags of stuff, so that’s a start, right?

All this to say that after all the work on Saturday, we settled down to watch a movie, which is also something different about being home as opposed to being at the lake. We don’t have a television at the lake, so when we’re there, we listen to the radio or read or play games or visit with our lake buddies. That makes watching PBS or Netflix a real treat when we here at home. 

Oh, the movie—sorry, I got distracted—was The Age of Adaline, a fascinating little romantic fantasy about a woman who, through a weird set of circumstances is eternally 29 years old. It starred Harrison Ford (how can you lose, right?) and an actress I didn’t know named Blake Lively. She was very good as Adaline and Michael Huisman (Game of Thrones) was romantic and handsome as Ellis, Adaline’s love interest. 

The story is not particularly complicated, so I won’t give you any spoilers, but it made me think about how we writers weave a plot--especially a plot where we are asked to suspend disbelief as deeply as we had to with this one. But as I watched, I thought, what a cool story, and even though I irritated Husband by dissecting the acts and predicting what would happen next, it was still damn fine storytelling. The setup could have been really hard, but the screenwriter and director gave us all we needed to connect the dots and we followed Adaline’s unusual life and felt her pain and fear. Lively’s best scenes were with her daughter, played by Ellen Burstyn, who is always amazing. The daughter/mother dynamic between 82-year-old Burstyn and 28-year-old Lively was well-played and charming to watch.

And here’s the writerly part that got me to thinking, because it’s been a much-debated issue in Showtime’s presentation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. The Age of Adaline’s director, Lee Toland Krieger, used a voice-over narrator to tell us the story of how Adaline ended up eternally twenty-nine. The movie started with the narration and occasionally, the narration was picked up again throughout the film. So many people hate voice-over narration and honestly, I’m not crazy about it, but this story needed it because Adaline herself didn’t understand why she was different, so that wasn’t going to come out through her character. She only knew she was different, and although we saw how it happened, the why of it became clearer through the narration.

So here’s today’s big question: How do you feel about narration in films? Do voice-overs drive you crazy? Do you wish they’d just shut up and let you figure out the story or does it sometimes add to the experience? Annnnnd...discuss!

Monday, October 5

Just another magic Monday

by Liz Flaherty

Oh, hell's bells, it's Monday morning and I haven't written a word for the blog. Or for anything else, I might add, but I have been enjoying sewing. I've finished off 24 gowns for Riley Children's Hospital on my couple of days of writing voice gone silent. Aren't they nice? I wish no one ever had to wear them, that kids just didn't get hurt or sick, but they do, so I'm glad they can wear bright colors and fun fabric while they recover.

Now, about word combinations. Do you ever see or hear a turn of phrase that gives you a whole, complete picture--maybe even a scene? I had the car radio on NPR yesterday (NPR people are really good at word combinations, by the way) and someone said "October baseball." By the time I'd driven two blocks, I'd seen a whole game, I swear! Watching the game wearing hoodies. The sky a particular autumn blue. Drinking hot cider instead of soda or beer.

The title of this blog "just another magic Monday" is one I adopted when I trained myself to love Mondays. I admit to having some help from Holly Jacobs and her Monday glee. I also admit that the words are wrong--it should be "just another manic Monday"--but since I heard it wrong for years, I'm still singin' it my way. Go right ahead and join me.

The Moody Blues sang a song when I was in high school called "Go Now". Those words still paint me a picture of urgency, not because of the words themselves but because I can feel the beat of it 50 years later.

"Go dark" is something theatre companies (and high school drama clubs) do on the day before performances start. They don't rehearse that day. This always makes me think of our high school football team walking the field before a game. They always walk alone, their thoughts their own, in silence and dedication. Going dark (and silent) doesn't seem to go with either drama or high school football, yet it does. It does.

These are what I can think of right now. How about you? Do you have any word combinations that speak to you a little louder or sweeter than others?

By the way, today--got a drum roll, anyone?--is release day for Kristina Knight's latest, CALL ME. Go ahead and order it if you haven't already.

Katrina Phillips is itchy. The job that has always challenged her seems stifling, her friends are all pairing off and she's been without male companionship for seven long months. 
Josh Hanna is paying off a debt: fly to LA, play backup for the house band during the season finale of Star Power and then back to his boring - and sober - life in San Francisco. 
But five years hasn't been long enough to douse the flames between them, and its hard to remember why things went so badly in the first place...

Also today--my goodness, we're a busy bunch, aren't we?--the A Heartwarming Christmas authors are doing a Facebook tour with giveaways! Stop my my page and see what's going on and how to enter!  Go ahead and like me while you're there!

Friday, October 2

Love in a Country Song

Well, I’m going to break with the week’s autumn musings (guess I'm a rebel that way). My autumn musings will be next Friday, when I have a special guest to host. How's that for a teaser?
Today, I’m pondering a new infatuation, and no, it's not pumpkin flavored :-) I have a confession to make: I’ve been listening to Country Music these last several weeks. You may not think it's a big deal, but for those who know me, it is a bit of a shocker. In my defense, I get easily bored with the same genre of music and have to mix things up. Hence the Country these days. I’m so new to the scene, I don’t even know the names of the bands or singers, and so have to wave my hands ineffectively and say “oh, you know, the song with the twang” or “the one with the steel guitar” as if that more accurately describes which song I mean.
with some editorial comments by me.
Audible twang and steel guitars aside, my current attraction is two-fold. First, there are the male country singers. Sigh… Sorry, Adam Levine and Ed Sheeron. You guys are nice enough to look at, but there’s just something about a bright-smiled country guy in tight pants and t-shirt with a muscular bicep (and other lovely bulges) tipping the brim of his hat up so I can catch the rogue twinkle in his—

Okay, sorry. Got a little distracted with the mental picture for a moment. In my defense, I was describing a cowboy. There must be something in a woman’s DNA which makes her slightly weak in the knees at the thought (Or there is something in the cowboy’s jeans… HAHAHA! I’m so punny). Anyway, they are simply too yummy for words, so go ahead and fan yourself… like me, you know you want to.

Back on topic, the second attraction is often the words to which these singers give voice, especially words of love and attraction. Guess I’m over the recent onslaught of hip-hop artists singing about “bitches” and “booties” and demeaning sexual acts, and pop stars singing about… well, not much of anything. And to the local alternative radio station: I love the Beastie Boys as much anyone, but every hour? Really?

As a romance writer, I naturally gravitate toward romantic songs, even when they have a swift dance beat. I love songs about relationships and allure and warm emotions which end in a Happily-for-Now. You can well imagine Country Songs are filled with these themes, often with a pleasant turn of phrase.
Take, for example, Blake Shelton’s “Sangria” (admittedly, my love of wine makes this one extra special): We fall against the door, we fall into a wild warm kiss… You skin is begging to be kissed by a little more than the sun…”

Or Big & Rich’s “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”... Well, no lyrics needed. The song is a hoot and I’m a fan of its title concept.

Then there is Eric Church’s “Like a Wrecking Ball,” which might possibly qualify as “country erotic” for some: Crash right through the front door, back you up against the wall… I wanna rock some sheet rock, knock some pictures off the wall…”

And even A Thousand Horses’ comparing a woman to a cigarette (I never imagined such a caustic habit could be sexy, but the yearning in the singer’s voice is addicting): I’m breathing her in, breathing her out, once I pick her up I can’t put her down…

All this, plus the fact they can make nearly any word rhyme (that would be the twang working). So, yeah, I’ll be listening to Country for a while longer. ‘Cuz it’s completely sexy. As I’m always looking for musical inspiration, regardless of genre… What are some of your favorite “sexy” songs? (please, don’t anyone recommend “Truffle Butter”)