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Posts Tagged ‘Nights Before’

death-visits-a-bawdy-house-small-1A new book has been added to Featured Books today, Death Visits a Bawdy House, Adele Fasick’s recent Charlotte Edgerton Mystery.

Featured Books will be a new page on this site to introduce books by authors in my various writing networks. These featured books will include a descriptive blurb and a cover image but are not reviews; the authors’ blurbs speak for themselves. A link to the author’s website or to the book may also be included.

To start, the featured books are new or soon to be released from two friends from Romance Writers of America as well as other networking groups, Kathleen Bittner, contributes a Regency Romance, and Lynn Cahoon, shares a Romantic Suspense.

I hope you enjoy the new page, Featured Books.

Leigh

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The Very, Very Basics of Writing Anything

There are three fundamental elements of every piece of written work—including film, non-fiction and grocery lists.

These three elements must be present or there is no point in proceeding.

In non-fiction, the three elements forming the basics of a book are:

  1. Idea – the Topic
  2. Reason – Information or Add Information
  3. Goal – to Educate or Refute Previous Thinking

9781870206129_bachBefore my publisher, Honno, agreed to consider Parachutes & Petticoats, which I edited with the renown feminist historian, Deirdre Beddoe, we had to convince the board of directors that 1) the Topic, Welsh women’s experiences during World War II, was worth the effort; 2) we could find enough material to make a full volume of women’s autobiographical memoirs; 3) the information we gathered, written by the women themselves, was of sufficient interest and relevance to warrant the expenditure, effort, and examination required to bring a collection of essays by unknown women to fruition.

9781906784119_bachThe resulting request for autobiographical essays brought in hundreds of submissions from women in Wales whose experiences had never been heard. The book was published in 1992, reprinted in 1994 and 2003, with a fourth reprint in a smaller format with minor editorial additions appeared in 2010. The essays that we couldn’t include in the volume were submitted to the National Library of Wales (Llyfrgell Genedleithol Cymru) to become a part of the national archive. Next year, 2017, will mark Parachutes & Petticoats’ 25th anniversary. Though neither edition is still in print, the book is still available at bookstores and online book retailers.

For fiction (of any kind, in any genre, in any medium) they are:

  1. Protagonist – the Hero
  2. Antagonist – the Villain
  3. Purpose – the Goal

For example, in my most recent published novel, Nights Before: The Novel (originally published as a novel in six installments), the above structure works like this:

  1. Protagonist – Jocelyn Tavers
  2. Antagonist – Jason, her ex-boyfriend
  3. Jocelyn’s Goal – to find a replacement boyfriend before the end of the year

Nights-Before-Final200_thumb.jpgThose three elements will not, in themselves, make a full sized story, let alone a full length novel but without them, there’s no beginning, middle or end. Jason also needs a goal to combat Jocelyn’s efforts to reach her goal. And Jocelyn needs a lot more than a boyfriend to make the essentially girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy, girl-finds-new-boy story something more than just that.

Though Nights Before is a romantic comedy, there had to be some depth to the story and that called for a secondary goal. This is usually something hidden, even from the protagonist—a long buried pain that has left a wound that will not heal without more pain. Enter an absent parent or two, conflicting potential new boyfriends, torn stockings and a lobster feast, a demanding employer, a car accident and abandonment issues.

With my upcoming American historical novel, Pavane for Miss Marcher, the three elements are shared between the Hero and Heroine, both of whom have Goals and Antagonists out to get them:

  1. Protagonists: Cathryn Marcher / Rupert Smith
  2. Antagonists: Susan Miller / Jericho Colson
  3. Goals: Staying in Maine / Moving to Wyoming

ggncMay2012Both Cathryn and Rupert have Deuteragonist supporters who get in the way for the best reasons and enemies who get in the way for the worst reasons.

The story is set in Maine five years after the end of the American Civil War and I am currently researching and reading on both sides of this terrible conflict in our history. Keeping faith with our nation’s past has complicated the process, especially with such an emotive background that plays an enormous part in our lives 151 years after the conflict came to an end.

With family members from the southern states and a strong New England heritage complicates the story on a personal level as well but I believe a writer’s duty is to write the story that comes from their own heart, regardless of possible consequences. As my mother always said, “Be true to yourself.”

Pavane for Miss Marcher is scheduled for publication in 2017.

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Disappointments come at every juncture of our lives. As children we face rejection as players on teams, aren’t invited to a classmate’s birthday party, fail a test or don’t get the grade we wanted on a paper. These are all learning experiences and prepare us for the inevitable rough treatment we will face in the adult world. As one of the teachers in my children’s school replied to a request that party invitations not be distributed publicly to save the ‘feelings’ of the uninvited, “They have to learn they won’t always be invited. Better they learn it now.”

A hard lesson for a six or seven year old when they are one of only a few who are not going. As parents, we want to protect our children from such heartaches but preparing them for the real world also requires we make some tough choices ourselves. Who among us has not faced the disappointments we hope our children will not? If we remember how our own parents’ handled our disappointment, we may have some insight into establishing emotional resilience in our offspring.

If we are not as fortunate, we may find other sources of support and strength. Motivational speakers and writers provide inspiration and occasionally help us clear the emotional blocks that stop us from achieving the success we want.

Writers are told to thicken their skins. We will need armor for what the world of agents, publishers, reviewers and readers throw in our direction. Several years ago, I attended a writers’ day workshop during which the audience was given a catalogue of the percentages of success of all the millions of us who aspire to publish (and especially to be read).

One statistic was that only 3% of writers are ever published. An even smaller percentage at that time saw their names on the cover of a published book. Self- and indie publishing has made a significant dent in those numbers. What hasn’t changed is the need for armor.

However, no matter what we write or the genre we write in, the foundation of our stories is the conflict of the individual versus the group. Our heroes and heroines stand up to evil and injustice, even if they are borderline immoral (scoundrels, vamps, tarts, disgraced cops etc) in their own right. Most of our primary characters have faced disappointments that have given them a mark which distinguishes them from their antagonists. And how they respond to that disappointment is their defining moment.

8aa17-51jt0rtvrl-_sl500_aa300_In my novel, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, Eric Wasserman sacrifices his best interests to those of his closest friend. Eric has several reasons for this, one of which is his past experience of inferiority in comparison to Steven Langdon’s presumed success.  The truth comes to light when the now divorced Sylviana Langdon searches for the man she fell in love with fifteen years before, surmounting her own disappointment and risking her happiness on the slim hope she and Eric can have a future together.

Although my publisher praised this novel as a ‘terrific romance,’ my armor was dented a little by the occasional harsh review.

I went on to write three more novels and am working on a fifth.

Not getting chosen for the volley ball team or not receiving an invitation to a sleepover is good preparation for the knocks we all face when we begin our professional work. Being shielded from any negativity in our formative years makes us weaker and more vulnerable to the real hurts coming our way.

Either that or we seek safety in the group, subvert our thoughts, talents and futures to the will of others, too delicate to face opposition and too easily damaged to be of use to ourselves or our society.

* * *

All of my novels are available on AllRomance eBooks, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iBookstore, Kobo and Smashwords, as well as many other related sites. Further information is also available on my website, Leigh Verrill-Rhys.
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Ye Old Tea Shoppe?

Ye Old Tea Shoppe?

My mother seemed always to have an answer for every state of the human condition. A turn of phrase, an adage, an idiom, a quotation that addressed a predicament in which I or my siblings found ourselves.

One of these is well-known and the photo here begins as my mother would have, but goes on to encourage hatefulness in the guise of ‘cool’ or ‘clever’. But not representative of an establishment that I feel comfortable entering.

I first saw this advertising board earlier this month. As I write, the sign is still there. In the shop today, there were two male members of staff. At the beginning of this month, the staff member was female.

This is not the first time this shop has ventured into the realm of nasty in hopes of catching the eyes of what, to my mind, must be equally nasty patrons. However, I pass this shop twice a day and very rarely do I see any patrons inside.

Although I am a tea-drinker, I give this place a miss. In any case, this seems like the kind of business that does not welcome people like me as customers.

My philosophy is straightforward and one I learned from my mother when I was a nasty fourteen year old: “You get more flies with honey.” How we treat one another matters. What we do and say to one another defines us more than what we accomplish or possess.

Perhaps, if the owners of this tea shop put out inspiring, educational or encouraging messages, the staff wouldn’t be wasting their time coming up with hurtful witticisms. They’d be too busy providing service to enthusiastic tea-drinkers.

Smile and say hello. It’s painless.

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A short reminder that tonight is the last opportunity to buy my ebook titles at the 65% discount rate offered through the month of March. The sale will end tonight at midnight, Eastern Time.

The sale includes:

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Also, my publisher, Amazon is offering my debut novel, Wait a Lonely Lifetime at a discount.

 

 

 

And also included are the 6 installment stories that make up the Nights Before novel (available only in print). The stories as individual ebooks are at 100% discount (free!) onKobo, AllRomanceEbooks, and Smashwords.

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NB5#2-300That was first published in ClassicandCozyBooks.blogspot.com – the group blog I’ve participated in since February 2014 – two years ago from this coming Wednesday!

We’ve all read books set in different countries, regions, time periods with characters from various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. The attempt to capture the sound of speech and cultural nuances is all part of the craft of setting a sense of time and place.

Regional dialects lend authenticity to stories set in specific localities. Regional dialects give authors nightmares and headaches. Regional dialects give readers nightmares and frowns. Walking the narrow line between authenticity and insult is an art. Achieving a sense of place and depth of character without confusion or irritation is an art.

In my most recent endeavor, the novel-by-installment, Nights Before, I returned to my childhood home state, NB6-300Maine. I had been working on an historical novel set in a small town in Oxford County, and was inspired then to write a contemporary romance as well. I had clear visions of the streets of Portland from childhood and more recent visits, but it is the Maine accent that distinguishes the sense of place more than the images of snow and falling leaves. The whole of the Northeast can boast the brilliant colors of Fall and the quiet of a snow-blanketed scene. Only Mainers talk like Mainers.

I was born into a family of native Mainers, I remain one myself though I’ve lived far away for most of my life. When I began this book-by-installments, I wanted to pay tribute to that distinctive way of speech, but, except for a few vague recollections of my mother saying ‘cunning’ or the proverbial ‘down the rod apiece’ and ‘ya cahn’t get theah from heah,’ my Maine vocabulary was sadly lacking.
I realized I had to research my first language!

Fortunately, there are Internet sites for that. I went to several, including How to Talk Like a Mainer which was a lot of fun and reminded me of all I’m missing here on the West Coast. And I realized that the Maine accent is a serious topic for wide discussion. There is something about the way we talk that fascinates those who don’t — or I’m just putting a proud face on what the rest of the English-speaking world thinks is plain ‘odd’.

Nights Before#4-300CIn any case, I had to get it right. The more I went through the pronunciations and the vocabulary, I heard the words in my head, spoken as they had been spoken by my parents and siblings before the great exodus to the other side of the country. They came more easily from my own lips. Ayuh is now my first response in the affirmative and has started to spread to other members of my west coast family. And as I developed the dialogue in the first story of the novel, I went all out.
Howevah, too much of a good thing spoils the affect. Here’s an example:

“Sure. Take it easy goin’ over tah Rosemont. The road’s open now, but I’ve heard theah’s a dip where theah weren’t one.”

Easy enough to read, but what if I’d written it like this: “Shu-ah. Take it easy goin’ ovah tah Rosemont. The rod’s open now, but Ah’ve hehd they-ah’s a dip whey-ah they-ah wehn’t one.”

Not as easy. In Elements of Style, Strunk & White make it clear that an over abundance of apostrophes and colloquial spelling curtail the flow of reading. Giving a hint of a different dialect is desirable on all accounts relating to the senses of authenticity, place, time, character, personality. In this novel, I distinguish between native Mainers and those ‘from away’ or who’ve been away or have abandoned their roots.

Although I will never knowingly abandon my accent, the ability to talk like a Mainah fades, returning only when I write like a Mainah and I have to admit, I’m wicked glad I’ve had the opportunity.

Here is a taste of the vocabulary in these stories:

  • bug – lobster
  • cunnin’ – cute, sweet
  • finest – term of endearment, the best
  • wicked – very

 

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As with many Americans, because my family came here as immigrants—as did everyone else in the world to their respective countries however long ago that was—I have an interest in my roots. Over time, roots get buried so deep that digging one up disrupts everything you thought you knew about yourself and who you thought you were.

For a few generations, we may hold dear notions that help us identify certain character traits which seem out of whack with others in our community. Possibly, we have an affinity for a certain language or culinary dish. We may particularly like a certain attitude to life and the culture that attitude spawns. Someone in the family may make an assumption about a recent ancestor based on where that ancestor grew up. Someone else may embrace a particular story about a distant relation based on where that person was born.

The “I am this, therefore I am that” mindset.

Without doubt, we prefer to cherry pick according to our particular and peculiar preferences and needs. When our assumptions are vanquished by facts, our reaction is sometimes denial, a flat refusal to believe the truth, or, best case, a sense of relief that at last we know something about our past that is neither wishful thinking nor fanciful fabrication.

Occasionally, our negative reaction to these facts causes us to have adverse reactions to the truth-teller. After all, we were happy and comfortable in our personal mythology and the world-view upon which it was based. Although, in our heart of hearts, we know we can never again be sure of that world-view once we have been confronted with the truth, we will hold to what we thought we knew and shun those who have shattered our much-loved legends.

In essence, our personal mythology had become our belief-system and we are shaken from a place in which we felt we belonged when, all that time, we did not. And sometimes, that place was not the best place for us. Sometimes, the baggage of falsehoods prevents us from becoming all we were meant to be. snowdrops

Loosed from the security of long held, but erroneous information, we are at liberty to embrace a new, factual tale of our lives. Like snowdrops rising from the debris of winter, in the long run, the truth does indeed set us free.

Truth also opens many new and exciting possibilities, especially for those of us who are writers, painters, dancers, musicians, choreographers, photographers, quilters and all of the rest of the creative endeavors we undertake when we are inspired.

 

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We know the counterpart to the title of this blog, starting with sugar but enough is said about the Spice and Nice. About twenty years ago, I learned the counterpoint regarding boys from a book titled, Bringing Up Boys. I have three.

ytrinaVariously known as “the mother of those three” and “so you’re the one responsible for those three,” I had a requirement for some backup to my theory that boys are different and the school system, though designed by men was made for girls.

“They always have to be first” was the constant cry from beleaguered schoolmarms. “They get into everything.” “They cannot sit quietly.” “They have to win.” My response to all of which was then and still is “Your point being?”

Lately, I have met an increasing number of women who are in the same position I was twenty years ago. I tell them to enjoy every wild moment. Boys are wonderful. Teenage boys are nut-cases but still wonderful. Young men are fragile and wonderful. Grown men, raised from the start as uniquely boys, are the best there can ever be of the male. They make good husbands and fathers, prepared to take on the hard work of raising their own sons and daughters.

Besides my own good husband and the good father who showed me everything I ever needed to know about men, I had help from a colleague, Liz Brady – a child psychologist with whom I worked while serving on the Community Health Council for Carmarthenshire. Herself a mother of two sons and a daughter, her special interest was in the development and mental health of adolescents. One aspect of her field of study was the extreme suicide rate of boys and men between the ages of 14 and 35.

I took notice.

Brady’s research revealed that young men engage in dangerous behavior and activities that result in death far more frequently than do any other sex or age group. They are four times as likely to commit suicide—intentional or unintentional. During my eldest son’s teenage years, he attended the funerals of four of his schoolmates, all of whom were under the age of twenty.

One hung himself in the garage of his parents’ home, driven to desperation by his drug addiction. One slammed his head into a cast iron drain pipe while speeding on his motorcycle—without a helmet—through the shopping district early one morning. The third was hurled through the roof of a car because he did not wear a seatbelt—the driver fell asleep and ran up the tail end of a cattle truck. And the fourth jumped in front of a train in a neighboring town, overcome by depression.

All were young men with aspirations and talent, families that loved them.

Keeping my sons alive became my raison d’etre.

BringingUpBoysHow do you do that in a society that vilifies masculinity, and yet, will not allow men to embrace their fragility either? When social media hacks rant about a tacky shirt to the detriment of a great scientific achievement?

Yes, little boys are naughty and rough, they torment little girls and test the fire extinguishers in the swank hotels. Give them any encouragement, they demand even more. They try our patience and go out of their way to annoy and challenge any restriction.

They also explore fearlessly. Boys are the reason our species crawled from the mud and went to the moon—most probably because a girl said she wanted a chunk of rock. Boys are hard-wired to achieve, largely at the behest of sugar & spice dishes they want to impress. Why? Instinct. Survival of the species.

The smartest girls choose the male most likely to provide a safe environment for offspring and that means he already owns a house or has “prospects” or “status” likely to enable him to achieve some or all of these.

Except when they want or have to impress, men don’t care how they dress—one pair of shoes is enough for some. Rightly, they figure their achievements count for a lot more than a Hawaiian shirt. We can understand their thinking when creepy 70 year old men are snapping up the prettiest girls in the twenty-something age group.

My father & my eldest brother c1940

My sons are not out of the dark days yet. What gives me hope for their survival is their choice of wives and girl friends. Or more likely, the women who have liked what they’ve seen when these three young men are on their best behavior (and occasionally, their worst).

After all, has your heart ever not melted when you see a big guy holding a child for whom he has accepted responsibility?

To all the parents who are raising boys, I strongly recommend Dobson’s work in Bringing Up Boys. You’ll enjoy your male children more, accept they are a challenge and understand the important service you are providing to the women of the future. And, by all means, teach them to iron shirts and soft-boil eggs.

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On the Night Before Labor Day, a preview of my latest novel: Opening chapter of first story.

Nights Before: The NovelNew Year’s Eve is a time for reflection and change. Jocelyn has more changes coming at her from all directions beginning on a Portland, Maine winter day than she’s faced since her mother’s death. None of it bodes well for the junior editor’s fledgling career when her fiancé abandons her. If not for three unwise princes, a Viking warrior and a sinkhole…

So starts the last day of an Old Year in Jocelyn Tavers’s life. Over the next 12 months, she faces her 26th birthday, falling on Mother’s Day, at the same time as she wonders what happened to a certain officious lawman and a certain deserter father remembers her birthday after only fifteen years of neglect.

An ex-boyfriend and the appearance of a complete stranger are not the only obstacles to disrupt her author’s book launch, especially when that stranger is her next editing assignment.

But this New Year isn’t all downhill. Nights Before national holidays bring more than big sale weekends for Joey-Jo, including all she ever wanted for Christmas.

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RWA's RITA

RWA’s RITA

Tonight, one of the most prestigious contests for writers of romantic fiction, The RITA, has just come to its conclusion; the winners have been announced and the prizes have been awarded.

With the coming year end too fast approaching (as always), for some of us the time is right to begin planning for 2016 and our next career moves. Besides writing and publishing, hunting for agents, publicists, contract lawyers, publishers etc., some of us will be checking through the lists of contests to enter and deciding whether this is a worthwhile effort for us.

As Betty White once said, “I enter for the thrill of winning.” Winning a contest is fun. But what happens if we don’t? Let’s face it. As much as we want to win and as much as we don’t want to lose, in both cases, someone has to. And, much more often than not, it’s the latter. Does that mean we crawl into a hole and never come out? Hardly. Didn’t we have a great time anticipating the joy of winning? All those weeks or months of the positive thoughts count for something.

My First Prize for Writing

My First Prize for Writing

Every day is a win-lose proposition. We can be the kind of person who is overjoyed to wake up to try again. And when we do win, we can hold fast to that great sensation for a long time. But more important, we can let those losses fade while we plan the next effort.

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