Thursday, April 8, 2021

Inspiration and Unlikely Heroes


 




Nothing scares some writers like a blank page. For others, the words flow easily and they look up, bleary-eyed, hours later. "Why, where did the time go? I worked-no-played through lunch."

 I am not one of those authors, and I never miss lunch. After publishing three historical romance novels, I've learned a few things about facing that Great White Space. 

1.  Do not expect perfection. If you sit there waiting for the perfect word to slide into your mind like an Olympic ski champion at the finish line, it will likely not happen, and years later, your loved ones will find you covered in spider webs and muttering words like, "shards, Slinkees, despair."  Put something on the page, whether you're starting a novel or just a new chapter. Write now, delete later. Let the words add up. 

The thing is, sometimes those rough drafts (and they're called "rough" for a reason) contain little pieces of treasure, because they come from your subconscious mind. Be kind to yourself. You'll have plenty of time to become the Commander of Words later. 

2. Get away from the computer. Sit in a comfy chair and sit with your legal pad or notebook. Let's say you're starting a new romance. Sometimes changing locations takes the pressure off. 

Start with a character. Who would you like to materialize in front of you that very moment?  What would they say to you? Despite the fact that you're wearing your old pregnancy pants and haven't shaved your legs since 1982, what would you like your hero to say to you? What would take for him to make you glow all over?  Daydreaming is essential.  Delve into your hero's personality, and think about what would make you swoon and what would make you gnash your teeth.  Got some ideas in your notebook? Type them up. Do not delete.

3. Trying to decide on your hero's occupation? Set the timer and give yourself a certain amount of time to research. Why a timer? It's easy to go down the research rabbit hole and it's also a well-known avoidance technique. In my experience, I sometimes get ideas for a plot, or a character, when I'm researching. For instance, in #3 of my Rhythm of the Moon series, Echoes of the Moon, the hero, Henry, is a night soil man. With his young son George helping him, he spends his nights emptying the townspeople's cesspits. I strongly believe that everyone deserves a chance at love, no matter their imperfections or their occupations. Think of the television series, "Dirty Jobs."

Back to research. I got the idea for Henry's occupation when I saw an authentic 18th C. calling card (basically a business card) for a night soil man. It was pretty fancy. I like a challenge, and so my hero was created. There's more to Henry than meets the eye. My heroine, Bethan, despite her distaste for his occupation, finds herself attracted and intrigued by him. Burdened with the care of her mentally ill identical twin, Bethan never thought love possible. Here's a passage where Bethan is watching their early morning progress up the street:

    Henry grunted as they lifted the yoke onto their shoulders, the barrel at the end. "Remember what the old bard said?"

    "I don't know. He said a lot of things."

    "Oh, it is excellent to have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant."

    Bethan forgot the stench upon recognizing the words of William Shakespeare. Measure for Measure? How did a night soil man come to quote the immortal words of the bard? Most puzzling, and likely the reason she couldn't get Henry out of her mind.

    They soon returned to the wagon, and Henry watched George, a small smile on his face. 

    George scratched the horse behind his ears. "Good girl. I shall never hurt you."

    They made their way up the street, and the closer they got, the more repulsive the odor became. She covered her mouth with a handkerchief but couldn't take her eyes away from his broad shoulders and wide back, looking strong enough to carry any burden. Even hers He waved at her and strode up the street. 

    He walks like royalty, not as if he has the most disgusting job in town. She lowered the cloth as curiosity got the better of her. 

    He stopped a good twenty paces from her, took off his work gloves, and bowed. "I shan't get too close, Mistress Bethan. Good morrow." He had eyes the color of Lena's best summer ale. "You're up early."

    She nodded. "It's peaceful this time of day, when the town is still asleep."

    "Except for us." He grinned. He wore no hat, and his black hair curled around his face. "I enjoy my work for the same reason."

    "You enjoy your own work?"

    He nodded, his eyes darkening from summer ale to stout. "Why should I not, despite the nature of it? It's honest and important work." He turned toward his son. "And a good trade for young George to learn."

    What a snob she was. "I didn't mean to insult."

    He stepped forward, and she stepped back, rapping her elbow on the door frame. "Ouch!"

    He rushed toward her. "Are you all right?"

    His fingers on her arm were warm and reassuring as she closed her eyes and waited for the stars to disappear from her vision. Then she came to her senses and recoiled from him. 

    He backed away. "I'm sorry to have disturbed your reverie, Mistress Bethan." Formal, cold.

    Emptiness echoed in the pit of her stomach; she had offended him. Why should she care? Nevertheless, she watched him retreat down the hill toward his son. Such a mystery.

The creative process is fascinating. We all have our own ways of creating our art, whether it be painting, sewing, decorating, gardening, or cooking. What do you do when inspiration has disappeared? I'd love to hear from you. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Enter the Lucky Leprechaun Contest Now!


 









Comment with your Lucky Leprechaun name to enter. Winner will be selected by random drawing on March 31. (U.S. residents only.) "Pot of Gold" contains:

From Loretta Rogers:
The Witching Moon ~ Ebook
Isabelle and the Outlaw ~ Readable PDf on CD
Magnetic Refrigerator Clip
Spiral Bound Note Pad

















From Flossie Benton Rogers:

Time Singer ~ eBook
Irish Connemara Marble Wishing Stone
$3 Amazon gift certificate to purchase audio Celtic love song

















From Jennifer Taylor:
Heartbeat of the Moon ~ Paperback
Color Street Nail Polish Strips

















From Linda Tillis:

A Heart for All Time ~ Paperback
Handmade Necklace

















From Katherine Smits:
3 signed paperback books (Water Dreams, Water Desires, and the combined paperback edition of The Sea Witch and the Mage and Siren Descending)
Imperial Jasper Turquoise-color Bracelet
Rose Gold Crystal Pen




Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Will You Win a "Pot of Gold"?

 












Tell us your Lucky Leprechaun name! One winner drawn randomly at the end of March. Must be a U.S. resident to win.

The five Pen Dames all contributed to an awesome "pot" of prizes. Here's what Loretta Rogers will send the winner:





Monday, March 1, 2021

What's Your Lucky Leprechaun Name?

 

March is a wonderful month! Springtime, St. Patrick’s Day, green everywhere, and we all get to be Irish for a day. To celebrate this amazing season, the Pen Dames are holding a Mega Contest for Lucky Leprechauns. We invite everyone to play, but only U.S. residents are eligible to win. Apologies to our international readers, but shipping costs are prohibitive.

To Enter the Contest: 

Look at the picture below and reply to this post with your Lucky Leprechaun name. 



The list of prizes is below. (We don’t literally have a pot of gold to give away. If we had such a thing, we’d keep it for ourselves.) But we do have some fantastic goodies lined up. At the end of the month, we’ll draw one random winner and send the person enough gifts to fill up that mythical cauldron.


From Loretta Rogers:
The Witching Moon ~ Ebook
Isabelle and the Outlaw ~ Readable PDf on CD
Magnetic Refrigerator Clip
Spiral Bound Note Pad

From Flossie Benton Rogers:

Time Singer eBook

Irish Connemara Marble Wishing Stone

$3 Amazon gift certificate to purchase audio Celtic love song


From Jennifer Taylor:

Heartbeat of the Moon Paperback

Color Street Nail Polish Strips with Hearts


From Linda Tillis:

A Heart for All Time Paperback

Handmade Necklace


From Katherine Smits:

3 signed paperback books (Water Dreams, Water Desires, and the combined paperback edition of The Sea Witch and the Mage and Siren Descending)

Imperial Jasper Turquoise-color Bracelet

Rose Gold Crystal Pen


Check this blog spot every week this month for pictures of all the prizes, and please tell your friends! We love our readers and hope we’ll get lots of participation.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Signs of Spring Fever

 


Are the neighborhood songbirds trilling more sweetly? Do bright colors have more appeal? Do you have an urge to go on walks or sunshiny drives? If the answer is yes, you likely have spring fever! 

Spring fever has a mental component. Our plots and plans increase. Our mood is rash and raring to go. It also has a physical component, based on eons of cyclical history. In the old days, after long winter months of dried meats and root vegetables, our forebears craved fresh green edibles. The digestion needed a jump start, and blood needed purifying. As part of changing seasons, folks contrived remedies known as spring tonics. I remember my grandmother sipping the vitamin-laden “pot likker” from a simmering pot of collard greens. It was “good for what ails you.” She got the remedy from her mother, Kesiah, the lady on the left in the picture.



COLLARD GREENS & POT LIKKER 


INGREDIENTS

2 TBSP Oil

A Mess (Pound) of Collard, Mustard, or Turnip Greens

3 Cups Chicken Stock or Water

1-2 Ham Hocks or 8 Slices of Bacon

1 TSP Salt

Pinch of Black Pepper

Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

1 Chopped Onion

2 Cloves of Garlic


DIRECTIONS

Place oil in a large pot. Add the onion and cook until soft, around 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 50-60 seconds. Add the greens, using a large fork or tongs to get them coated with the onion, garlic, and oil mixture. Add the ham hocks or bacon. Pour the stock or water over the greens and meat. Cover the pot and cook for 45-55 minutes or until the greens are wilted and done to your satisfaction.

 

SERVING

Dish the greens out into a bowl and ladle in plenty of the liquid pot likker. If you are not low carbing it, add a pone or piece of cornbread to soak up the likker for an extra special treat.


The goddess Epona is a secondary character in Wytchfae Runes and the heroine of Mind Your Goddess. As a goddess of fruitfulness, she embodies the vitality, abundance, and compassionate renewal of spring.

from Wytchfae Runes:

Epona cantered from the forest on a grey and silver dappled horse. Like a revelation of spring, the goddess known for riding side-saddle gracefully guided the unbridled mare. On one slender arm, Epona carried a basket that overflowed with fruits, flowers, and other rich bounty from the earth. Kelly inhaled the scent of roses, cinnamon, and grapes.

Halting just outside the circle near one of the sentinel trees, Epona dismounted, slipping nimbly to the ground.

Kelly leaned forward in an effort to hear the goddess’ few whispered words into the regal and twitching ears of her mount.

Whickering and bobbing her head in apparent understanding, the mare galloped away.

With her ever-present cornucopia swinging at her side, Epona glided toward Kelly.

Never before had the Wytchfae seen Epona so clearly, a vision of abundance. Kelly’s throat pulsated, as much of the energy she used was transmitted through this energy center or chakra.

Epona’s voice reminded Kelly of the taste of honeyed wine. “Sister mine, you have long given me your admiration and dedication. I stand with you on your journey.”

Kelly felt tears brim at Epona’s support.

The goddess continued. “But, as you know, I have no weapons to aid you. As well, I have no great ability in using them. My gifts lie in a different direction.”

Thrilled to have Epona join her and not caring a fig that she wasn’t a warrior goddess, Kelly smiled.

“Shall I come with you, sister?”

Kelly nodded vehemently.

“Then accept this rose quartz crystal as my token.”

“Thank you.” Kelly placed the shimmering gemstone, mounted on a chain of intricately carved rose quartz pieces, around her throat.

“You are most welcome, sister.” Epona moved to stand beside her. The warmth of the goddess spread to Kelly, deepening her trance. She knew she was moving in between worlds now.

Available on Amazon

Heart, Humor, and Happily Ever After from the Pen Dames!

Posted by Flossie Benton Rogers


Monday, February 22, 2021

Oops! I Found a Typo--The Different Types of Editing

 


 

Oops! I Found a Typo

One very common peeve I often see out there, which always prompts great gnashing of my teeth, is when I see people rant (particularly in Amazon reviews), “I found TWO TYPOS in the book,” or “The writer needs to go back to school or get a new editor.” This is probably due to readers’ confusion about editing.

Terms in editing can be confusing to readers and new authors, especially because the terms are often used interchangeably and may have different meanings within the publishing industry. However, I’d like to share the most widely accepted terms and their meanings.

For newbies who choose to indie-publish rather than going the traditional route it’s important that when hiring an editor to always speak to him or her about exactly what the editing includes.

While there are several different types of editing, for the purpose of this blog, I’m only going to discuss editing, copyediting, and line editing.

The three are different, you see. But they are commonly used interchangeably, which can cause some confusion. So here's the basic difference:

Editing refers to making changes to the content of a manuscript. For example, you might reorganize, rewrite, revise, reposition –there's a lot of "re" stuff going on—add dimensions to the main characters, add layers to the setting, and beef up the plot. Typically, it's a very collaborative process between the editor and the writer.

 

Copyediting on the other hand, involves fewer sweeping changes. It focuses more on accuracy, formatting, and sometimes (though not always) proofreading. copyeditor is the person responsible for catching typos.

Line Editing is often used interchangeably with the term copyediting. In line editing, the editor looks at your book line by line and analyzes each sentence. The editor considers word choice and the power and meaning of a sentence. The editor considers syntax and whether a sentence needs to be trimmed or tightened. Line editing helps to makes your prose sing.

 

Typos are ultimately an author’s responsibility

But before you go and amend the complaint to “What was the COPYeditor doing,” here’s how the editing and copyediting process works (the actual process may vary, so this is one example):

·         Author submits manuscript.

·         Editor suggests macro changes.

·         Author makes suggested changes then turns in edited manuscript.

·         Manuscript goes to copyeditor.

·         A fantastic copyeditor will catch nearly every error.

·         First pass pages go back to the author, who double-checks the copyeditor’s suggested changes.

·         Now, here comes the fun part. The manuscript is assembled so that the line edits from the author, copyeditor, and editor are hopefully incorporated correctly. It’s a somewhat straightforward task, but sometimes new errors can inadvertently happen.

·         Author gets these second-pass pages, he/she tries to catch any remaining (or introduced) errors, and once he/she sign off on them the book goes to press.

Hopefully by the time the book has made the rounds from editor to copyeditor to first pass, back to the author, it’s anyone’s guess if during the second pass every error will have been found and corrected. Remember, I said hopefully. But there are also opportunities for errors to creep into that process.

I always cringe a little and feel sympathetic for an editor when a review says, 'This wasn't well-edited.' Because it's very difficult for anyone outside the writing/editing process to know all the effort that went into the development of working to make the story the best it can be. 

It is my hope that if you find a typo in any of my books that you will be understanding enough to realize that mistakes do happen, not often, and not on purpose.

www.lorettacrogersnovels.com

 




Sunday, February 14, 2021

Valentine's Day and the Gift of Love for All


 

    "One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love." ~ Sophocles





On Valentine’s Day most of us think of hearts and flowers and the giddy feeling of meeting The One. Romance is fantastic, but love is about relationships of all kinds and fundamentally involves acceptance.

I’d like to share an excerpt from Siren Descending which examines the different kinds of love. 

The main character, Athenia, is trapped in the underworld after trading herself to the devil in exchange for her lover’s freedom. Though she knows her life, her powers, and her soul are forfeit, she agrees to sing her siren song one last time for the inhabitants of Hades. At first, she only wants to delay her fate for as long as possible, but she ends up giving even the most repellent creatures the gift of love through her song.

 

Keeping her promise, Athenia gave everything to the song. Opening her soul, she let all her pain, fear, loneliness, and desperation suffuse her voice. At first, the notes jangled with sharp edges and discordances, evidence of her anguish. Minor chords overwhelmed the music with their overtones of alarm. When the inhabitants of the underworld came out to listen, they milled about, whispering, and glaring at one another. At a gesture from Gelion, they stilled, but tension filled the air. Eyes narrowed, Gelion started toward her.


While her deepest emotions took over, she ignored everything else. She sang of her grief for Delphie, for what might have been with Thorne, and for the soon to come loss of her identity. Next, she poured out her longing for the sea and her acceptance of kinship with the Atlantean Nerei, especially Deme, who had been a friend.


She trilled a refrain for the other mages, who would have accepted her, if she hadn’t been so secretive.


When all else drained away, she let the ballad take her back to her first time with Thorne. The moment when she’d realized how perfect he was for her played like a movie in her mind. She crooned her love for him. So long as he survives and goes on to lead a happy life, I can tolerate all this.


The pure notes echoed around them, and the denizens of the underworld stood with arms around each other, swaying in rhythm to her music, staring at her as though hypnotized. 


Three-headed Cerberus rolled on his back, whining through all his mouths. 


After the harpy landed beside him, she reached over and rubbed his belly. No one moved away from the winged creature this time, though her stench rolled through the area in an almost palpable haze.


Staring at Athenia intently, Gelion stood behind the crowd. Clear-eyed, he didn’t appear mesmerized like the others. However, the corners of his lips turned up, and he tapped his foot.


As long as I’m singing, he won’t make me have sex with him. A vision of him naked and jamming himself inside her made her stomach heave. Worse, he’ll make me enjoy being raped, long for more, and beg him not to stop. She shuddered.


Momentarily, her song shrieked into a register so high human ears probably ached. The demons clenched their claws, some digging talons into boulders, scraping long gouges out of the rock. Growling, Cerberus shook his head. Then, he snapped at the harpy, who snatched her hand out of reach of his jaws.


Can’t let my fear stop me. Must face this with as much dignity as I can summon up. With an effort, she brought her voice back to the pleasing range and added a hint of hope. Not for me since I’m doomed. For these poor creatures. Maybe this moment of solidarity will be all they ever experience, but this small amount of peace is my gift to them. For once, I can offer something to someone else without needing or wanting repayment. Besides, they aren’t the reason I’m here.


Everyone settled down. Now, her voice strained to reach the high, pure notes, and lost some clarity. I never used my siren ability so long or with so much emotion before, so I won’t last much longer. When my voice dies, Gelion will come for me, and that will be the end of me, too.


Sadness threatened again, but she refused to give in to despair. For as long as I can, I’m going to focus on joy, even in difficult circumstances. All I want now is to be fully present for every moment of my precious life while I possess free will. Though my time is almost over, I’ll make the most of every second.


At the top of her aria, her voice cut out. She lost a few notes, but not enough to end the enthrallment of the crowd. To preserve her vocal cords for as long as possible, she lowered her range. A siren with no voice. How ironic, I’m morphing into a Disney character.


Time passed. How long has it been, hours? Can’t keep on more than a few more minutes.


From the depths of her soul, Athenia poured every form of love into a haunting chorale.


Philia, the deep connection between comrades in arms, who are loyal and willing to sacrifice for each other. Though this was partly what I felt for Thorne, I realize now I care so much more for him.


Ludus, playful love or affection. Not as serious as Philia, but important to help us remember we’re not alone in our mortal condition, and we can make connections with many people, including those different from us. Like when Bathin helped me.


Philautia, or love of self. Through all this, I discovered I’m not a horrible person. Of course, I was misguided to think I needed to protect myself from everyone, even Thorne. Yet, though I did some awful things, I’m not bad. I care about myself and want to live, but it’s too late now. At least, I figured this out before the end.


Eros, or sexual passion. What I felt for Thorne all along, what I thought was the most important kind of love, but it’s not. Romance is wonderful when combined with friendship and affection, and when both lovers care about themselves, but sex isn’t everything and is empty without the other dimensions.


Pragma, or longstanding love. The pain of loss in her chest increased. This is the type of love I’ll never experience with Thorne.


Agape, the selfless love, which encompasses all people. This is what I offer you today. She sent agape to every creature assembled, even Gelion. He’s still part of the universe and needs whatever caring anyone can spare for him. Odd, to pity someone so powerful, but I do now. In these final moments, I understand so much more than I ever did before.


The rasp in her voice became huskiness. Then a whisper. Finally, she stopped. I’m done. There’s nothing left to do or say, no way to fight the inevitable any longer. Strangely at peace, she bowed her head.


Through the silent throng, Gelion marched toward her. None made a move. All of Hell’s occupants sat as if turned to stone.




 

 

Thank you for joining us here on the Pen Dames blog. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. Want to know what happens to Athenia? My Valentine’s Day gift to you marvelous readers is a FREE copy of Siren Descending and the prequel novelette, The Sea Witch and the Mage. Please drop me an email at katherinesmits@gmail.com, and I’ll send you BookFunnel codes for both. This offer expires Feb. 28, 2021.

Inspiration and Unlikely Heroes

  Nothing scares some writers like a blank page. For others, the words flow easily and they look up, bleary-eyed, hours later. "Why, wh...