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Friday, July 30

The Nervous Traveler by Jana Richards

Photo by Osman Yunus Bekcan on Unsplash

 Margie Senechal's post last Friday about flying east to meet with some of the other Word Wranglers got me right in the feels. I would have loved to join them, but the idea of crossing the border (I'm the only Wrangler living in Canada) and the logistics involved in such a move, were more than I'm ready to tackle at this time. Officially, the Canada/USA border is still closed to non-essential travel (i.e. tourism and recreation) and has been since March 2020, though that is beginning to change. I can't drive across the border but I can fly (don't ask me why flying is okay, but driving's not.)

But to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I'm ready to get on a plane just yet. The thought of a crowded airport, and an even more crowded plane, makes me break out in a cold sweat. I may be inflicted with a little bit of "cave syndrome" even though I'm now fully vaxxed. So, I'll have to cheer on the Wranglers from afar and hope we can do this again some time in the future.

Margie mentioned that she and the Wranglers were planning to do some writing on their retreat in North Carolina. I love writing retreats and miss them desperately. One of my writing groups, the Saskatchewan Romance Writers, normally meets twice a year for a retreat, but with the pandemic, retreats have been cancelled like so many other in-person gatherings. It's been over two years since I've been on retreat. Way too long. 

We get together at a retreat centre in Saskatchewan where each of us can have our own room. During the day, we can write in privacy and quiet. This writing time is precious to me. While I'm there I don't have to worry about the day job, or cooking dinner, or tossing a load of laundry in the wash. My only job is to write. In the bubble of the retreat, I only have to think about the story I'm writing. I find it very motivating and freeing. 

As great as having the time to write is, meeting with writer friends during meals and in the evenings is even more fun. No one "gets" a writer better than another writer. No one understands like another writer that when we're lying on the couch, staring into space, we're actually plotting. It's fun to talk with other writers about our characters as if they're real people, because to us, they are. I especially love bouncing around ideas for stories with my writer friends. They give me all kinds of invaluable feedback.

So, I was excited when arrangements were made to hold another retreat in Saskatchewan in October 2021. I can drive the 800 km (roughly an eight hour drive) to get there. Thankfully, no airports will be involved. Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes according to plan. And I'm ordering a new supply of masks.

Am I the only one who is nervous about traveling? Or are you more than ready to go someplace, anywhere? 

Tuesday, July 27

Leaving the Nest by Janie DeVos


     A couple of weeks ago, we had our Rotary club’s yearly banquet, which is a time for much back slapping as we thank our out-going president and much well-wishing as we usher in the new leader of the pack.  This year’s banquet took place at the usual spot, which is the beautiful Altapass Apple Orchard.  There, the air is like Heaven’s perfume, with views that are just as spectacular, and because we didn’t have our banquet last year thanks to Covid, this year’s was particularly well attended and thoroughly enjoyed.

As we waited for dinner to be served, I stood around catching up with a group of women that I had not seen for a year and a half.  During Covid, we had Zoom meetings, and because the women I was talking to are the wives of some of the members, it had been a long time since we’d seen each other. 

“Gee,” one of the ladies said to me, “the Covid lockdown must have agreed with you.  You look great!”  

“I was just about to say the same thing to you,” I laughingly replied.  “You look wonderful.  As a matter of fact,” I added, looking around at the half dozen or so women in our little group, “all of you look really good!”  

We all enthusiastically agreed that the year and a half had been kind to each other, at least when it came to looks, until one of the women laughed and said, “Maybe we look so good to each other because we’re just so glad to finally see each other again.” 

We couldn’t argue that fact.  After all, we were eighteen months older, with additional wrinkles and sagging, not to mention a few extra Covid pounds, yet no one saw that in each other.  Instead, we saw the beautiful (un-masked) smiles, the light-filled eyes, and, most wonderful of all, we got to feel each other’s warm embrace. 

Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, I thought, and when our eyes haven’t beheld those we know and care about for a long time, they look beautiful when we finally do see them, regardless of the ten extra pounds or the deepening crows’ feet.   But, as much as we’re enjoying venturing out and being together again, there’s also some trepidation and uncertainty in our post-lockdown footing. 

I was having a sandwich at a little coffee shop in town last week, and I ran into a friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time.  “It’s been a difficult year, that’s for sure,” she said, “and I’m wondering what I’ll be as I grow up in this new world. We’re all going to be different, you know,” she softly added. 

A moment of shared silence followed as my friend contemplated “The New Me” possibilities, and I let what she said sink it.  Her statement really struck me and I told her that.  Though I’ve often wondered about the changes we’ll see in this country and around the world as we step out into it again, I never really thought about how this last year might have changed me, and not simply the world around me. 

While our Rotary dinner was being set up on the buffet table, I walked out onto the deck to take one last look at the setting sun over the apple orchard.  A group of people were out there, too, and at first I thought they were watching the spectacular sunset, but then I realized that their eyes were glued on one of the beams crisscrossing the underside of the deck’s roof.  

“Look,” one of the ladies said to me, looking upward.  “It’s the swallows’ little babies!  They’re getting fed.” 

There, tucked back on the rafter, and seemingly unbothered by the crowd that had gathered below, was a nest full of baby swallows waiting impatiently with their little beaks open for the next food drop to be made by their hardworking parents.  Every couple of minutes or so, mom or dad would swoop in and drop some morsel of deliciousness into the chirping mouth of one of their chicks.  As soon as dinner was delivered, the chick quickly gulped it down and then opened its greedy little mouth again.  

Standing there watching, I marveled at the mother and father birds' lack of fear of the crowd below them.  Instead, they stayed focused on feeding their babies.  The chicks weren’t far from leaving the nest and instinct was telling their parents to make them as strong as they could before their little ones tested their wings.  I tore my eyes away from them and looked off into the valley, knowing that very soon the chicks would be soaring above it, riding the sweetly perfumed air currents over the orchard below. Without a doubt, they’d be scared venturing out into the new world beyond the comfort and safety of their nest and their parents, but also exhilarated and excited at the same time.  After all, there was a whole new world out there waiting to be explored and understood, and all they had to do was take a leap of faith, spread their wings and soar out into it.  

Just like the swallows, we, too, are leaving the comfort and safety of our own nests and taking flight into a new and different post-pandemic world.  As we do, we just have to have enough faith and courage to realize that we’re resilient enough to have changed enough to have made it through a year that beat us all down, but a year, nonetheless, that made us more than ready to venture out into a reshaped world that has many new and unexpected gifts waiting for us.

Friday, July 23

A Little Wrangler History and Future

 

by Margie Senechal

I'm counting down. 12 days, 5 hours, and 17 minutes until I take flight across the country. So, really there's not much on my mind except what I'm bringing, what I'm going to write, and finally meeting some of my best friends in person.

I "met" Liz around 2009. At least that's where I can trace it back to with my email files and critiques I've saved. She's read more of my writing more than almost anyone else--ideas I tinkered around with and forgot about until I did a bit of deep email diving.

There's a certain amount of safety in online friendships. Sometimes you can say spill secrets over a keyboard more easily than in person because there's that distance and maybe because we're writers. 

Over the years, according to said critique files, we've had many Wranglers come and go. Some names on the crits, I barely remember.  When we first started up, we were a few writers who just wanted critiques. I think Liz was the only published author at the time, and it had been a number of years for her and she was looking at reentering the ring, so to speak.

Kristi was the next Wrangler who came aboard and by the way, we didn't call ourselves Wranglers until we decided to create a group blog. 

The blog has morphed over time. At first, it was just a place to put up some thoughts when the need hit. But, we realized we didn't really have a following or any theme. We also were hit and miss on posting because we didn't know what we were doing. LOL

Then we decided to have days. I remember having Thursdays. And I was pretty good about meeting my weekly deadline. As members left because of time constraints or other obligations, we added new members, Nan and Ava. And then finally, Jana and Janie.

In twelve days, I'm finally going to meet Nan and the next day, Liz. And we're going to drive together to North Carolina and meet Janie. We're going to write, eat, tour, and write some more.

I'm so excited because a) it's been years since I've gone anywhere except the Oregon Coast for a vacation, and b)I get to meet these very dear friends, and c) It's freaking North Carolina.

I'm pretty sure there's magic in them thar hills. My favorite authors Sarah Addison Allen and Karen Hawkins books take place in NC, and they can't be wrong about the apple-throwing tree that reveals how your life ends or the Book Charmer, can they?

Plus, fireflies!!! I haven't seen a firefly since I was nine-years-old. I love the Pacific NW, but we don't have fireflies. And stars! This month is the Persoid meteor shower and living in a fairly large city, dark skies aren't an option. So, while in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I'm pretty sure I'll get to wish on a shooting star.

So, that's where my head is at today. I'm hoping we'll be blogging either here or on Nan's blog like Nan and Liz do on their writerly excursions while we're gone. But, until then, stay safe and have a great week-end!

Tuesday, July 20

The Proper (Mis)Use of Words ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

When you grow up in a small town that likes to think it's part of the South you hear a lot of mis-used words and phrases. Or maybe that isn't an almost-Southern thing and just a human thing?


Phrases like 'he excepted the award' or the whole they're/their/there or site/cite/sight uses. There are even phrases. "That'll learn him/her" is a favorite, 'tow the line' (it's TOE, people), 'escape goat' (it's just scape, scape goat), or 'illicit a response' or 'for all intensive purposes'. Any sentence that begins 'Irregardless' (no, I don't care that's it now in the dictionary. Because it's only there because so many people were using it incorrectly!).

When I was in school, misusing words and phrases used to drive me crazy. In the fifth grade I actually argued with my English teacher because, as part of a spelling test, we were supposed to use the word 'one' in a sentence - she wanted only the American (as in primarily number usage) but I was on a British author kick and used it as 'one' being used for a 'person' (as in, "One should never put elbows on the table"). I used the right quotation marks, the correct comma/period placement. The sentence was grammatically correct. I didn't win the argument, even though she hadn't specifically stated she wanted the word used only as a number. And I'm obviously still annoyed about it or I wouldn't be using it as an example *mumble* years later.

Back to the point.

There are entire webpages created just to put on blast those misused words. 

I've always thought that part of learning was to be precise. Like how to properly use the word regardless or the phrase 'couldn't care less'. But what I've learned, especially since becoming a published author, is how to un-learn certain things. Because dialogue is boring if everyone speaks clearly and uses only proper English all the time. Even though I hate seeing and hearing words/phrases used incorrectly, I still don't always speak using proper English. I regularly forget to use the subjunctive when I'm speaking; I do remember is (usually) when I'm writing. Outside of language there are things that need to be exact. Math has to be exact because if 2+2 can equal anything then soverymanythings will go wrong. Language is a growing, living thing, though. Not that I want bebe to start saying things like 'I'm the escape goat' because, just, no. But to make a point? To make your dialogue part of characterization? Those are definitely reasons to mis-use certain words.

Not they're/their/there. We aren't crazypants. But irregardless of when 'irregardless' was added to the dictionary, a character speaking stridently and using that word could add a bit more oomph to a conversation.

I never loved words more than when I learned to misuse them. Or overuse them. Part of the fun of writing books that are (sometimes) comedic is the laughter. What would a fish-out-of-water story be without a few misunderstandings?


What about you? Love of the PROPER way to use a word? Or does it make writing (and reading) more fun when the phraseology is just a little...improper? 



Friday, July 16

Christmas in July by Liz Flaherty #WordWranglers

I've been doing what many romance authors do in July, writing a Christmas story. I have wondered if we are the actual hidden purpose in Hallmark's Christmas in July promotion of holiday movies. Not that they would say that, of course, but it makes sense to me. 

I remember when the only Christmas romances (that I knew about) were the ones Harlequin released every fall. I'm not sure anymore what months they came out in, but I do recall how much I loved them. I'd sit and eat lunch at my favorite mall restaurant and read. One time I mistakenly bought the same book twice and Liz, the manager of Waldenbooks, rolled her eyes at me and let me choose a replacement book. As the holidays grew closer, the mall decorations and piped-in music and the busyness of the post office where I worked gave me a rush of both adrenalin and bonhomie. 

Since that dozen or so releases were the only ones I knew about, I kept them and reread them during the holidays for years after they came out. I still do. I've even re-bought favorites so they're right there on my Kindle when I need them. 

There are, of course, more Christmas romances than I could begin to recognize now. Thankfully, other holidays are celebrated in print now, too, although I have to acknowledge I don't know how many or even which holidays. I'm just glad it's happening, for the sakes of those holidays' writers and readers.

The story I wrote this July is my fifth visit to Christmas Town, Maine, a town that was born in a 2014 Harlequin anthology called Christmas, Actually, written by Melinda Curtis, Anna J. Stewart, and Anna Adams. I read that anthology and was jealous because I couldn't write about Christmas Town, too. 

Which made it all the more thrilling when I was included as an author in the indie-publication of the anthologies that followed. The stories in this year's group involve a class reunion. There will be old friends as well as new ones. We all hope you enjoy them. I don't have a release date yet for Christmas Town Homecoming, but I am sharing the cover here. I think it's gorgeous!

If you haven't visited Christmas Town yet, I'm including the links below to all the anthologies that follow Christmas, Actually. It has been such a privilege working with all the authors that have been involved. 


A little tagline / blurb for Remember When, my story in Christmas Town Homecoming: Christmas Town High School principal Aaron Slauter is having a Scrooge Christmastime, which makes him accept the invitation to the class reunion. At the back of his mind, he hopes class sponsor Markie Alexander will be attending.  

I hope it makes you curious!

A Heartwarming Christmas (2015) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011M4GQQO/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i7

A Heartwarming Holiday (2016) 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01IDY6ZTO/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i2

Heartwarming Holiday Wishes (2017)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B073ZMMYL2/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i8

The Christmas Wedding (2019) 

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Wedding-Heartwarming-Bridesmaid-Novels-ebook/dp/B08178FKDS/

The Christmas Carousel (2019)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0817638SB/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i5

Be My Heartwarming Valentine (2020)



Wednesday, July 14

Bastille Day with J. C. Kenney #WordWranglers

The Wranglers are excited to have our friend J. C. Kenney today, here to talk about Bastille Day AND his new Allie Cobb release, The Dead of Winter. Jim's one of our favorite guests, so please make him welcome!

Hi, folks and Happy Bastille Day, also known as French Independence Day! When I’m not writing, I enjoy watching pro bike racing, so I spend a good portion of the month of July glued to the TV following the Tour de France. The stunning scenery, the fervent fans cheering alongside the roads, and the incredible exploits of the cyclists are all sights to behold. A lot of folks have said over the years that le Tour is basically a three-week ad for French tourism. Well, as my younger kiddo likes to say, they’re not wrong. Visiting France during the Tour is one of the top items on my bucket list. Thus, today’s tip of the hat to our French friends!

I’ve learned so much about France, Europe, and points beyond in my decades watching La Grande Boucle, or Great Loop, for us English-speaking folks. One of the things I learned was that France celebrates its Independence Day on July 14 to commemorate the day in 1789 that the Bastille, a Parisian jail, was attacked. The storming of the Bastille is considered the first act of the French Revolution.




Thinking about Bastille Day got me pondering when other countries observe their own Independence Days. That’s the thing about writers, we’re always wondering about things, and especially how we can work things we’ve learned into one of our books. LOL! Here are when our neighbors celebrate their Independence Days.

Our friends to the north celebrate Canada Day on July 1. It commemorates the forming of the Canadian Confederation on July 1, 1867.

South of the border, Independence Day isn’t celebrated on Cinco de Mayo. I didn’t know that until a few years ago. Mexico’s Independence Day is actually celebrated on September 16, the day back in 1810 that the Grito de Delores, the battle cry for independence from Spain, was first spoken.


I’m of Irish heritage, so I wanted to find out when the Republic of Ireland observes its independence from the United Kingdom. I was surprised to learn that home of The Wearing o’ the Green doesn’t have a specific Independence Day. They gave us all St. Patrick’s Day, though, so no complaints there.

Learning about other cultures is one of the things I love about being a writer. It helps me give my characters full and rich backgrounds, just like we have in real life. Having characters celebrate holidays and special occasions makes them more real. Hopefully, that also gives readers more reasons to care about them.

For example, in my Allie Cobb Mysteries, Allie gets together with her family for a picnic in the town’s main park every July Fourth. It’s a tradition I’m as a key plot point in the Allic Cobb mystery I’m currently writing. In my most recent mystery, The Dead of Winter, Allie enjoys going sledding with her twin niece and nephew. Again, that pastime leads to the discovery of a clue that helps Allie figure out who murdered the local taxidermist.


So, how about you, friends? Is there a holiday that’s your favorite or carries special significance in your family? Do you observe a tradition that’s been passed down from generation to generation? If so, tell me about them. And until next time, Vive la France!

****

J.C. Kenney is the Amazon and Kobo bestselling author of The Allie Cobb Mysteries. His debut, A Literal Mess, was a finalist for a Muse Medallion from the Cat Writers' Association in mystery fiction. When he's not writing, you can find him following IndyCar racing or listening to music. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife, two children, and a cat named Maria who is the inspiration for Allie’s fur baby Ursi. You can find him at www.jckenney.com on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JCKenney1 , on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JCKenney1 , and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/j.c.kenney/ .


More about The Dead of Winter:

When her brother calls to say he’s been in an accident and needs her help, literary agent and amateur sleuth Allie Cobb doesn’t hesitate to go to him. And though she’s worried for his safety, her concern turns to confusion when she learns that he ran his truck into a ditch to avoid hitting a large safe sitting in the middle of the road. Stranger still, when the safe is opened, police discover the grisly remains of the local gun club president.

All the evidence indicates the dead man was poisoned by lethal injection, and that the drugs could only have come from Allie’s favorite veterinarian. Determined to prove the woman’s innocence, Allie’s digging reveals that the victim’s wife may have wanted him out of the picture, and also that he was embroiled in a long-running dispute with a local businessman. With no shortage of suspects and a very ominous sense of danger lurking around her, Allie will have to watch her back, because until the killer is caught, nobody’s safe . . .

Purchase links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B095XF49L8

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-dead-of-winter-j-c-kenney/1139574746

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-dead-of-winter-34

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/J_C_Kenney_The_Dead_of_Winter?id=kRkwEAAAQBAJ

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1086321

All photographs courtesy of Pexels