Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Western Romance authors have a patron saint and her name is Maggie. In addition to being a great source of encouragement and support, she periodically challenges us to stretch our improvisational storytelling skills with her five-word challenges.
Maggie gave us five words for Valentine's Day, and I invite readers to use the words in a vignette or story snip in the comment section. I've used the five words on Nighthawk Talks in a character interview with Marly Landers from Under A Texas Star and here in a collage.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Love is not always coloured red.
By Pamela Blance
The cold creeps into my bones and I start to shiver. The usual dreich February weather has me dreaming of sandy beaches and palm trees. Not that I’ve ever seen a palm tree or had a vacation in the sun but I can imagine. Everything, after all the Christmas lights are gone, is grey or white. The snow is falling as I write this and even the evergreens look, well grey.
I like grey and white. I wear grey clothes and my hair is grey—well it’s actually white. I get told repeatedly to wear some colour.
“Try a darker lipstick, or, you would really suit Fuchsia” to,” you need some colour.” So say the fashion sages who are my friends.
And in February for the first two weeks we are bombarded with…colour. Red to be exact. Red hearts drip over television and newspaper advertisements. Florist windows display only long stemmed red roses. Boxes of chocolates are tied with red bows. I’m knitting a red sweater just to cheer me up.
Red , the colour of love. Valentine ’s Day. A day for romance and love.
We met when very young and married soon after. Good years and bad years but we always come back together. I’ve re-read the handwritten love letter he wrote the night before we married. You can’t fake that. Some years we forgot to celebrate our love when life and all its vagaries got in the way.
The years we did celebrate we’ve been to the honeymoon capital of the world, Niagara Falls, gone out for dinner, had dinner in, stayed up all night with a sick child and shared many a box of chocolate or bottle of wine.
I wonder how we’re celebrating this Valentine ’s Day? We’re not speaking this week. Had a roof leak and sodden carpets and tempers came to the surface as we don’t cope well with the unexpected.
I am stashed away in the guest bedroom to get away from the blowing fans drying out the carpets. It’s six o’clock. Not a peep from my beloved. No chocolates or roses or the promise of a meal out over candles.
There’s a knock on the door. Said beloved moved over and extended to me his closed fist and dropped a heart shaped piece of amber into my hand. We made up.
Now amber is brown and gold and I love it. I think I should go back to my brown hair colour. Who needs red!
Find out more about Liz and Pam on their blog: Jamie Tremain - Remember the Name.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Love Versus Evil
By Catherine Astolfo
Throughout my Emily Taylor mystery series, I like to juxtapose the love my main character has for her husband with the evil that can sometimes enter an innocent person’s life. I like using contrast, light then dark, to keep readers off balance and (hopefully) glued to the page.
Most of us go through our lives in very average circumstances. We have our own tragedies and losses, but fortunately we don’t often encounter true evil. I believe that’s why we’re so fascinated with malevolent people, especially the kind who appear to be ordinary human beings just like us.
I think that’s why mystery and crime stories are so popular. We like to watch or read about the underbelly of the world, because we’re at a safe distance. Not many of us like to actually walk down that dark alley or enter the haunted house.
Although I have four books, I believe the first one—The Bridgeman—most noticeably presents the contrast between good evil. The story swings from the very dark place of a psychopath’s mind to the relationship between Emily and Langford.
Here’s a scene where my two characters demonstrate their love for one another.
We kissed for a while, slowly at first and then more urgently, before he led me to our bed. Once we were undressed, he caressed me, his artist's hands exploring my body with tenderness and knowledge. I allowed my mind to drift, became aware only of the soft hairs of his body, the gentleness of his fingers. I knew that whatever else happened in our lives, this was all that was really important.Contrast that with the sickness of the psycho’s mind.
When the rare woman passes by with a smile, a nod and a thank-you, I cannot help but be caught in her beauty, in the light of her smile, in the absolute astonishment of kindness and the loudness of a sweet gentleness that feels like feathers and silk and fur. That is when I dare not look up, lest she see the glare of my need, the nakedness of my weak and sickly soul. The stain of my deeds, the flush of my anger as I turn its full force onto the animals, hating them for their compliance as much as I despise myself for mine, might leak from my space into this woman's, and her kindness will turn to horror and disgust. For within my eyes she might glimpse the maggot that lives underneath.To me, the fun of reading a mystery/crime book is not only the contrast between good and evil but also the fact that most of the time, the bad guys meet with justice. In the war of love versus evil, love always wins in my books.
Visit Catherine at www.catherineastolfo.com, where you can buy her books and sign up for her blog or newsletter. Big LOVE sale for all of February on the ebooks including The Bridgeman.
Monday, February 18, 2013
By Alison Bruce
I knew from the start this gig was going to be a bitch.
I was an outsider – refuse dropped into a pond. Well-dressed, well-heeled patrons flowed around me as if I didn’t exist. I was flotsam in the ornamental fountain of commercial enterprise, aka The Mall.
There was a time when a body could get out of the cold for a few hours for the price of a cup of coffee and the willingness to move around now and then, pretending you might buy something. That was before shops with store-width doors adopted controlled entrances, before mall cops could ticket or arrest you for loitering. Now children under the age of sixteen weren’t allowed in the mall unaccompanied. Loitering got you a ticket with a fine. Accumulate a few tickets and the mall cops, now armed with tasers, could detain you in their lock-up until the real police had time to pick you up.
I was jostled by a waif-like woman heading for The Retread Spa. Without so much as an ‘excuse me’, she swiped her credit card at the store gate and thumbed the scanner to verify identity.
Clever innovation, pioneered by the mall to reduce losses from shoplifting. Swipe your credit card on the way in. Shop. Take your items to the clerk to register warrantees, apply discounts and credits, even make payments – or not. When you leave, a scanner registers any unpaid merchandise and charges it to your account. No credit card? No entry.
I stopped in front of a card and gift shop– one of my favourite hangouts as a teen. I loved looking at the merchandise, imaging who I might give a heart-holding teddy bear and which card I’d want to receive from the secret admirer I never had.
“Put your hands up and turn around slowly.”
The bull-horn enhanced voice sent a rush of adrenalin through me. I wanted to run. Instead, I put my hands up slowly and turned around.
I had a moment to take in the scene before I was shot. Six mall cops in flak vests and SWAT black had formed an arc, closing me in. Then I was hit.
Voices: “That’s a wrap people.” “Is she going to be alright?” “Sure. Sure.” “Sidney! Go pay off our talent.”
Closer, a gentle voice: “How do you feel?”
I forced my eyes open. Hanging over me was a guy in a black uniform. Instead of a flak vest, he had a white armband with a red cross on it and a stethoscope around his neck.
“That was full charge,” I mumbled.
“Oh no,” he said. “It couldn’t be. You’re fine. I checked.”
I grabbed him by the shirt front. He tried to pull away and only succeeded in dragging me up with him.
“You are not a paramedic,” I stated, getting my feet under me. “You are an actor playing a paramedic. I was hit with a full charge – or damned close to it.”
“Tia, Tia, Tia, let the poor kid go. It’s not his fault.”
Sidney, the associate producer of this dramatisation, patted my shoulder in an avuncular way. I let go partly because he was right, but mostly to twist away from Sidney. The pseudo-medic backed away a few steps then exited hastily, stage right.
“The clients want shock value,” Sidney explained. “The director gave it to them.”
“Gave it to me,” I muttered.
“That too,” he said with a shrug. “You did good. I’ve included a bonus to take the sting out.”
He handed me an envelope and held out his PDA for me to sign the electronic receipt. To his dismay, I opened the envelope first. Three hundred dollars cash, two one-hundred dollar mall cards, and a fifty dollar coffee card, usable at all franchise outlets in North America.
“It was supposed to be four hundred cash and one hundred in mall money.”
“Throw in another coffee card bonus and I’ll sign,” I said, prefacing my request with a resigned sigh.
He handed over the card, trying hard not to smile too much. The coffee cards didn’t cost his production company anything. Me making a fuss could have cost him plenty.
Tired and sore, I pushed my way through the crowd.
“Can I buy you a coffee?”
I looked up into the familiar face I had seen earlier. His black uniform was faded and had wear-marks from his flak vest. Caine was the real deal and a good friend. I found a smile. At least, I hoped it was a smile. Hard to tell after being tasered.
We struck out for the coffee shop – one of the few places that catered to the well-heeled and down-trodden alike. Passers-by gave us a wide berth, probably thinking I was his prisoner. Finding a table was easy. Caine laid claim to the table with my pack while I joined the line. When I felt him behind me, I dug into my wallet and pulled out the gift cards. I pocketed one of the coffee cards and handed the rest to him.
He looked at the coffee card then the mall cards.
“You were supposed to get one hundred. Did they give you a bonus for electrocuting you?”
I rolled my eyes. “The coffee cards are the bonus.”
He started to hand me back one of the mall cards. I waved him off. “I’m fine right now. I’ve got a big gig as a stunt double in a Milk Board commercial next week. Union rates.”
“You’ve got some vacation days to use up, don’t you?” I asked. “Why don’t you take a couple of days and join me. It’s on location...”
Caine wasn’t listening. He’d spotted someone he knew at one of the tables. Though she was barely out of her teens, she had four children in tow. Caine stepped out of line to stop a toddler from toppling a display of travel mugs. Twin infants were in a double stroller, and there was a boy that looked to be five or six years old sitting at the table. Caine exchanged a few words with the mother. Her face lit up and I guessed what happened, but was distracted by someone demanding my attention.
“You’re up, lady,” said the man behind me.
“How can I help you today?” Even weary, the barista tried to sound cheerful.
I ordered coffee and sandwiches.
“I was supposed to buy,” Caine said, when he returned.
“Next time,” I said. “I’m guessing we’re one card down.”
He didn’t say anything until he’d got our food tray and we were settled at the table. We sat at right angles to each other so we didn’t have to raise our voices to be heard. Below the table our knees touched.
“Melissa is just making her bills. I only wish I could get her grocery cards instead of mall money.”
“Are they all her kids?”
Caine shook his head.
“The twins are hers. The older ones belong to a neighbour. Melissa babysits them for extra cash. I’ll use the other cards to buy twenty-dollar food-court vouchers and spread the love but...”
“You don’t have to explain,” I interrupted, covering one of his hands with mine. “I trust your judgement completely.”
He turned his hand to clasp mine – a big gesture for a man who didn’t display affection in public.
“Will you come on location with me?” I asked between bites of my sandwich. “It’s only a couple of days away from the job and...”
He stopped me with a finger to my lips. Another display of affection. I felt an almost electric tingle of pleasure.
“Yes,” he said. “I’ll go. We’ll talk about it tonight.”
“Your place?” Caine lived in a spacious brick bungalow. I lived in a cramped one-bedroom with paper-thin walls.
Nodding, he washed the last bite of his sandwich down with a gulp of coffee. “You should move in. If we shared expenses you wouldn’t have to take jobs like the one you did today.”
I shrugged a gave him a self-deprecating smile. “I know it wasn’t the most ethical contract I’ve ever accepted, but at least part of the money is going to off-set the damage the ad campaign will do.”
His mouth compressed into an angry line.
“You’ve done nothing to be ashamed of,” he asserted. “It’s your safety I worry about. What they did today...”
I grabbed his clenched fist and felt it relax under my hand.
“I’m okay. Evidently, the mall wanted shock value.” I grinned. “Imagine their shock if they knew what we were doing with their gift cards.”
His eyes crinkled in a amusement.
“I still want you to move in.”
“To keep me safe?”
“Because I love you. Shocked?”
That he felt it, no. That he admitted it . . . “Stunned,” I said.
He pressed his knee against mine. “Seems to be your day for that.”
Deadly Legacy and Under A Texas Star, published by Imajin Books. Alison is also the Publication Manager of CWC and part-time tech guru to the technologically challenged.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Roots and Roses
By Melodie Campbell
(first published in Star Magazine, NY)
“Thank goodness I met Jacques otherwise I would have missed the most romantic weekend of my life.”
Kate was recounting the details of her recent elopement as she sat across from Lauren and me in the back booth at the Country Kitchen Diner.
As I listened to the thrill in her voice, a hidden, empty corner of my heart began to fill up with ache.
“When I got back to my room there were two dozen red roses waiting,” she said. “Two dozen! Can you imagine? I had to call the front desk to get a vase large enough to hold them all.”
“Must have cost him a fortune,” Lauren mused.
“Hope it was worth it.” I silently calculated the amount of feed two dozen, long-stemmed red roses would buy.
The waitress hovered at the lunch counter, her ear cocked.
“We had dinner in the best restaurant in New York,” Kate continued. “I wore my pink silk – he said it clashed with the roses! We spent the whole weekend sightseeing. I took a rose everywhere we went. So romantic…” Her voice drifted off.
I looked down at my five year old polyester skirt and grimaced. “You’re so lucky,” I said.
“What are you talking about?” Kate demanded. “You’ve been happily married for years!”
As her left hand waved gracefully through the air in my direction, a shimmer of light flashed from the pear-shaped diamond on her ring finger, casting a rainbow beam on the wall behind her.
“Nuts,” I laughed carelessly. “I’m just jealous. Nobody’s ever sent me two dozen roses.”
“Pete would if you asked him to,” Kate quickly countered.
“That’s not the same at all. And if he did, I would kill him.”
What I didn’t say was that we needed the money for other things. Like crop insurance and seed and new pairs of school shoes, just for starters.
Kate looked at me with a queer expression on her face.
“You don’t understand…” I tried to explain, but the words got lost in a clash of lifestyles.
Pete and I had married young and had three kids in quick succession. Romance quickly lost ground to doctors’ bills and midnight fevers.
Money to fuel the fire is always scarce. And so runaway weekends and bouquets from the florist had no place in my unromantic, down-to-earth world.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that Pete isn’t a good husband…he’s the best. Always ready to help with the kids, always there when I need him. Always there, period. I couldn’t ask for a steadier partner.
It’s just that sometimes you don’t want the dependable husband. Sometimes you want the lover. I stared wistfully at the daisies that were wilting in the cheap glass vase siting between the salt and pepper shakers.
Kate’s romantic escapades had no more relation to the life I led than the stories I devoured in every best-selling romance novel I could get my hands on.
“You’ve had something I’ve never experienced,” I continued, “a romantic weekend away.”
“Boy, do I know what you mean,” Lauren added. “It’s not the same when you meet when you’re both in school. Nobody has any money. The closest you get to romance is a pizza parlor.”
“And I went from the pizza parlor to the church!” I caught sight of the waitress choking back a snicker as she hurried over to refill our glasses.
Kate shook her head. Earrings tinkled like silver bells on a Christmas tree.
“All these years, I’ve envied you – the married one, with three little boys,” she said. “Are you saying now that you envy me?”
I flinched at the irony. “In a way, yes. Not that I’d change things – I love Pete and wouldn’t want anyone else. But sometimes I wish we had met when we were a little older. I would give anything if we had had a chance to experience the sort of mad-crazy weekend you’re describing. Together. When we were just beginning to know each other. Before the kids and the farm responsibilities and the money worries.”
“You can do all these things later when the boys are older,” Kate offered kindly.
I looked at her fondly. “Wouldn’t be the same. You see, we know each other so well.”
“Maybe you’ll discover something new,” Lauren philosophized.
I smiled sadly.
The bill arrived and it was my turn to pay for lunch. I struggled with my wallet and brought out two twenties. Enough for twelve long-stem roses, I thought. One dozen.
“You look so sad. What is it you really want?” Kate asked quietly.
“Red roses,” I said.
I left the restaurant feeling empty.
The house, on my return, was the same old farmhouse. Children’s shoes littered the front hall.
The same man wearing rugged jeans and a T-shirt stood in the doorway sporting an oh-so-familiar crooked grin.
I smiled, in spite of myself.
“Got you something,” he announced. “Come with me.”
I followed him out to the back yard and dutifully looked in the direction of his pointed hand.
The grass had been cut away from the wire fence, and something stubby stood in its place.
“I planted it this morning,” Pete said proudly. “I know it doesn’t look like much right now, but it’ll grow. It’s a climber, see? By August, the whole fence will be covered with blossoms.”
I stared down at the still sodden planting and felt my eyes water.
“What’s wrong?“ he demanded, alarmed. “don’t you like it?”
“I love it,” I choked. “What colour are the roses?”
“Maybe I can cut some and bring them into the house,” I whispered.
“Sure!” he enthused. “And just think. If we take good care of it, it will bloom year after year.”
Year after year. Planted in firm ground and nurtured with love.
We walked back into the house arm in arm.
Melodie got her start writing comedy. She has over 200 publications and has won 6 awards for short fiction. Melodie was a finalist for the 2012 Derringer Award and Arthur Ellis Award, and is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. She experienced a personal best last year when Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
A Willing Heart
By Elizabeth Lindsay
“Hearts,” he said. “If I had more than one, you could have them all. But one is all I have to give. And I promise not to share it with anyone else.”
She smiled up at him and he waited for her to respond.
“Dear sweet Jake. Yours is the only heart I’d ever need. I can’t be that selfish – you have a heart that was destined to be shared – without jealousy. I’d like to think my motives are far above that.”
His warm brown eyes searched hers, where tears threatened. Her delicate hand folded around his. It was so warm against the chill of her skin.
“Listen, Sam – February 14th is almost here and it would mean the world to me if you said yes.”
A gentle sigh escaped her lips. “It’s a big day isn’t it, for us. I mean, if I were to accept. It means that much to you?”
He caressed the side of her face and pushed back a lock of hair. “All my life I’ve wanted to make a difference – a real difference – in someone’s life. And then you came along, turned my world upside down you did.”
“That wasn’t my plan you know.”
“Hush – I know. Fate, or maybe Cupid, intervened. And well, here we are.”
Approaching footsteps threatened to bring their time of intimacy to an end. Jake reached into his pocket.
“For later,” he smiled, handing her a thick document.
With great reluctance, he began to rise from the chair. A large mitt of a hand bore down, gently, on Jake’s shoulder. “Time to go.”
Jakes eyes pleaded with Sam. “Say yes, please say yes?”
Her lips quivered and now the pent up tears began to stream.
“Yes,” she whispered.
Relief flooded his face. “Thank you. You’ve made my life complete.”
She watched as the prison guard led Jake away. The nurse by her side turned her wheelchair back towards the exit.
Sam’s shoulders shook and the nurse gently handed her a tissue. “He’s so brave.”
Summoning strength, Sam spoke, “What cruel twist would have the man I love put to death on Valentine’s Day.”
The nurse was quiet and didn’t speak, but continued to wheel the chair holding the wan and delicate woman down stark corridors and out to a parking lot.
She faced Samantha and looked her in the eyes.
“Such a love I never thought I’d see, Sam. You’ll get your new heart after all.”
Elizabeth Lindsay is one half of Jamie Tremain (the one on the right). She has worked with her her writing partner Pamela Blance for several years. She says, "Its been amazing to see how our similiarities have translated into the flow of story writing and its been a great journey!"
Find out more about Liz and Pam on their blog: Jamie Tremain - Remember the Name.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Gail has asked her 11 recipients 11 questions and since I love answering questions, I'm game to keep the Leibster going. Here we go...
1. As a writer, do your male characters more often resemble Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks?
In character, Tom Hanks for sure. I love Tom Hanks! In looks, I start with a face that I've seen and liked and play with it until my hero is his own man.
2. For the majority of the novels you read, do you prefer the print or ebook format?
Print! I love my eReader for convenience but I still do most of my reading between the covers. (Take that as you will.)
3. If your latest novel were made into a screenplay, would your story be best served by hiring director Steven Spielberg or Ang Lee?
Probably Spielberg but honestly, I'd really want Joss Whedon.
4. Knowing you must travel to the location for research, where would you set your next story?
I'd pick new Zealand - but only if someone else was footing the bill. I'd take the family and we'd visit the locations used in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. We'd visit San Fransciso going and Vancouver returning - or vice versa - and I'd want to stop over in Hawaii for a couple of days too. If I'm footing the bill, the next story will be set in Muskoka.
5. Is sending a written letter via the postal service a thing of your past?
Mostly. Part of it is the convenience of email. Mostly though, my hand writing sucks.
6. For 50% of the DVDs you rent or buy, what is the genre?
If you lump in supernatural and superhero with SF, that's the genre we buy most. I'm a Trekkie who used to manage a comic book store. At one time we had three generations of the family reading Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and we're all Buffy fans.
7. Would you walk a mile for an ice cream cone or reach for an apple in the refrigerator?
I'd walk a mile for a coffee and reach for an olive in the refrigerator.
8. What is your favorite part of attending a carnival?
9. Most tempting: Banana Split or Hot Fudge Sundae?
Hot fudge sundae.
10. Do you buy gifts for others that you would like to receive?
My daughter and I buy each other presents we both want. For Christmas, she bought me the Merlin Season 4 and I bought her Supernatural Season 7. For everyone else, I get them what I think they'd like.
11. What is your current or next WIP about?
I'm working on an American Civil War romance. (You can tell I'm not American by the fact that I specify American Civil War.) I'm also completing the sequel to DEADLY LEGACY. Both are also Christmas stories. Nothing like murder and mayhem to liven up the holiday season.
The next step is for me to pick 11 bloggers and give them 11 new questions. I realize that not all of them will have time to carry the torch onward, but I've picked people worth checking out for their own sake.
Catherine Astolfo katywords.blogspot.com
Anthony Bidulka anthonybidulka.com/blog
Morgen Bailey morgenbailey.wordpress.com
Melodie Campbell funnygirlmelodie.blogspot.com
Gloria Ferris gloriaferrismysteries.blogspot.ca
Kat Flannery www.kat-scratch.blogspot.com
Lyn Horner texasdruids.blogspot.com
Luke Murphy www.authorlukemurphy.com/blog
Charlene Raddon charlene-raddon.blogspot.ca
Jacquie Rogers jacquierogers.blogspot.com
Cheryl Kaye Tardif cherylktardif.blogspot.com
And now for the questions...
- What beverage is absolutely essential for you to have by your side when writing?
- How important is romance to your storylines?
- Research first, during or after the first draft?
- How much do you edit as you go along?
- Mystery or thriller? What do you prefer reading and what do you prefer writing?
- Adventure or romance?
- Do you primarily read the genre you write?
- If you had to pitch one of your stories to a TV producer for a series, which one would you pick?
- If it got picked up, who would you cast in the leads?
- Would you want to be on set for filming?
- You've been nominated for an award for your new series. Who would you thank when you won?
Sunday, February 3, 2013
2013 The Year of the Snake
The Snake is associated with knowledge: forbidden knowledge, in the case of the Serpent in the Garden; medical knowledge, healing and protection in Greek and Indian mythology; and ancient wisdom in East Asian culture.Cunning, cleverness and powers of communication are associated with people born under the influence of the Snake.
In the Year of the Snake, we can look forward to breakthroughs in research, especially in the areas of communication and health. Since the Snake is less aggressive than the Dragon, and prefers the smoother path, we can also hope for more diplomatic solutions and less military brinkmanship. The economy should improve, particularly in areas of communication, entertainment, publishing, education and engineering.
While each year has certain characteristics depending on its sign, how we fare as individuals depends on what our signs are. Master Tsai Astrology has a birth sign calculator and can tell your year, month, day and hour signs. I don't pretend to fully understand how these signs interconnect, but I did find it interesting to discover that three out of four of my signs are modified by the element Earth. (I guess that makes me grounded.) My day sign is the Rat, which is the same as my daughter's year. My daughter was born in the hour of the Dog, which is my year.
Here's the thumbnail version of how the signs will do in the Year of the Snake.
- Rat should hide their assets from people who envy them.
- The Ox people will fare well if they keep their temper.
- Slow and steady year ahead for the Tigers.
- Lucky year for the Rabbit.
- Dragons will have just enough excitement, no more.
- Memorable year for the Snakes.
- Horses will have a crazy year for love.
- Goats rise in stature, but their luck is erratic.
- Monkeys must exercise.
- Roosters take centre stage.
- Dogs have an easier year and may find love.
- Pigs have a turbulent but potentially very successful year.
For a more in depth look, check out: