Author of OUTBACK LOVE a contemporary romance novel set in Australia, JETTING AWAY a short story prequel to OUTBACK LOVE, MOON OVER MADNESS a paranormal romantic comedy and BAYOU BLUES AND OTHER SORROWS a collection of short stories and poems about life and love. All are available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Diesel and Kobo. On Twitter @TeriHeyer

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Sandcastle on Navarre Beach

A Sandcastle on Navarre Beach.
I have always been in love with sandcastles. Growing up in southern California, my family went to the beach most every weekend all summer long. Laguna Beach was my favorite, because of the rocky shoreline that revealed starfish, sea urchins and other sea creatures when the tide was out. I also loved Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, because of all that sand which was great for building sandcastles.

At an early age my parents taught me how to build a sandcastle using my hands to form the walls, then digging the moat and forming the outer walls. Fingers worked just fine to create windows and doors. No, we didn't have plastic forms to build sandcastles back then, just our hands and a lot of imagination. When the castle was complete, my dad showed me how to drip sand onto the structure to create the roof, spires and other decorative elements. Then it was all topped off with an assortment of seashells and colorful sea glass.

These days people use plastic forms and a variety of plastic shovels and rakes to build a sandcastle. It's still a fun thing to do, but not quite as unique and artistic as the ones I built as a child.

Yesterday my husband and I attended the Navarre Beach Sand Sculpture Festival. I expected to see an assortment of sandcastles, but such was not the case. Instead, there were the following sand creatures: a crocodile, a sea turtle, a gorilla head, horse heads, a snake, Humpty Dumpty, a giant eye and a giant face. Oh, there was also a race car, but only one sandcastle. Go figure. You can see the lone sandcastle in the photo above.

I'd love a beach festival of just sandcastles, but maybe sandcastles aren't popular these days? Oh well, I guess I'll have to go down to the beach and build my very own sandcastle, just to see if I still know how to do it the old fashioned way. On the other hand, when Hurricane Isaac battered the Gulf Coast several weeks back, I walked along the beach collecting plastic forms, rakes and shovels for building sandcastles. I wondered how all those brightly colored plastic forms ended up abandoned and half buried in the sand. Anyway, I now have enough plastic tools to build a modern day sandcastle.

I'm sorry to say that I don't have any photos of those sandcastles I built all those many years ago, when I was just a kid. Well, at least I have the memories. One of the things I remember from those long ago days, was watching the rising tide wash away the sandcastle at the end of the day. There was something special about creating a momentary work of art, a sandcastle here for a few hours and then gone.

For those who might be interested in the Navarre Beach Sand Sculpture Festival which continues through Sunday, here's the link with all the info.

Navarre Beach Sand Sculpture Festival

If you want to see more photos of the sand sculptures I mentioned above, and some enticing photos of Navarre Beach, check out the two blog posts I did yesterday.

For those of you who know I love to make lists of great books to read, well, here's a list of sandcastle fiction. (Listed in no particular order.)

Sandcastle Fiction:

Sandcastles by Luanne Rice*
Sandcastle and Other Stories by Justin Bog**
Sand Castles by Antoinette Stockinberg**
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
Sandcastles by April Hill
The Sand Castle by Rita Mae Brown
Sandcastles of Love by Sydell I. Voeller
Castles on the Sand by E. M. Tippetts
Sandcastles by H. H. Campbell
Sand Castles and Seashores by S. C. Harvey

All of the above books are available in eBook format.

*A book I've read and very much enjoyed by one of my favorite authors, Luanne Rice. I actually have a hardback copy of this keeper book.

**To-Be-Read Books on my Kindles (Two, my old Kindle Keyboard and new Kindle Fire).

Note: My book list above would have been longer, but there aren't that many sandcastle books. So maybe I need to write one? Just sayin'...

Please feel free to comment below and add any sandcastle books that I might have missed.

Before I forget, I came across a how-to book about building sandcastles. So in case anyone is interested, here it is:

Sandcastles Made Simple by Lucinda Wierenga

Friday, September 28, 2012

Navarre Beach Sand Sculpture Festival

Sand sculptures at the festival.
The Navarre Beach Sand Sculpture Festival started today and runs through the weekend. Ten professional sand sculpture artists are in town for the event. Also, twenty amateur sand sculpture artists are competing for prizes.

Navarre Beach Sand Sculpture Festival

My husband and I went to Navarre Beach this afternoon for the first day of the Sand Sculpture Festival. What an awesome day of bright sun, turquoise Gulf waters and lots and lots of sand.

Following are some photos of today's sand sculptures.

A close-up of the sand gator. 
I think my favorite was the sand gator. But the sea turtle and the gorilla are close seconds.

I wanted to jump right in and start on my own sand sculpture. But that wasn't an option today.

My mind was instantly scrolling through all those sandcastles built in years gone past. Of course, my favorite was the time my husband and I sculpted a sand mermaid. Then our daughter, niece and nephew decorated the mermaid with dried sea-grass and seashells. Oh, those were the days!

The sand gorilla.

The ten professional sand sculpture artists were busy working on their entries for the festival.  So I took some photos of their unfinished works.

A sand sculpture artist at work.

An unfinished sand sculpture.
The unifinished sand sculptures were so intriguing that I may just have to head back to Navarre Beach on Sunday afternoon to see the finished products.
A shaved-ice stand.

No beach festival is complete without craft, souvineer and food vendors. Everything from a lemonade stand to a shaved-ice stand to t-shirts to clothes with bling. This festival has it all.

Blingy Boutique - boots, clothes & jewelry with bling.
Don't forget to take a look at my earlier post today, "Greetings from Navarre Beach, Florida," for an assortment of enticing beach photos.
For those looking for another list of great books, check out tomorrow's post about sandcastles.

Greetings From Navarre Beach, Florida

A bright, sunny day on Navarre Beach. Photo from pier.
This was an awesome day at Navarre Beach. Bright sun, puffy white clouds, tranquil turquoise Gulf waters and sugar-white sand.  The Florida Gulf Coast doesn't get much better than this.

Here's a quick photo tour of Navarre Beach.

I took a long stroll down the Navarre Beach Pier. What a perfect place for great photos.

Navarre Beach Pier

Walking on the pier is only $1 and fishing is $4 to $7 depending on age, with kids 5 and under free.

For those who love to fish, the pier is a great place to catch pompano, flounder, cobia and mackerel. If you're like me, the pier is just a great place to gaze at all that beautiful water, sand and cerulean blue skies.

Beach Bar/Restaurant at the Navarre Beach Pier

Navarre Beach Vacation Guide

Navarre Beach - Beaches to Rivers

I took a bunch of photos today which I hope you'll enjoy.

The Beach Bar at the Navarre Beach Pier was packed with a Friday lunch crowd.

View from the Navarre Beach Pier.

Only a handful of people were walking or fishing on the pier. One little boy, about five years old, reeled in a small sand shark. After his dad took his picture with the shark, it went back into the water.

The pier is a favorite spot for retirees, who come equipped with a fishing wagon, complete with fishing gear, an ice-chest and sun umbrella.

The youngest person on the pier today was a seventeen month old toddler in a pink bikini. She was determined to walk the pier on her very own two feet, shod in pink Crocs.

Retirees fishing on the pier.

To the west of the pier are high-rise condos and beyond that a long line of beach houses. To the east of the pier the beach is just a spit of pristine sand and sand-dunes.

 I remember this beach from way-back-when, minus the high-rise condos and only a handful of beach houses.

Navarre Beach has changed through the years, but it's still as awesome as ever.

A sea of umbrellas west of the pier.

To the west of the pier was a sea of umbrellas. To the east only a handful of beach-goers.

The beach east of the pier.

Be sure to check out my next post about the Navarre Beach Sand Sculpture Festival which started today and runs through Sunday. I took a bunch of photos of the sand sculptures that you won't want to miss.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Rainy Day in Florida

My patio on this rainy day.
I woke up this morning to the wonderful sound of rain. Lots of rain. Torrential rain. Typical Florida gully-washer rain. Our zillions of little frogs are happy campers. Our trees, shrubs, grass and flowers are happy, happy, happy. My dogs, Shani and Dude, are not so happy. They love playing in water, pretty much any water, but not rain. Go figure.

Well, this is our first rainy day since Hurricane Isaac deluged the Gulf Coast a few weeks back. So we really needed this rain. Now the air smells squeaky clean. I'm lovin' it. According to the meteorologists, we're supposed to have rain all day today and tomorrow too. Yea! Yes, I'm definitely smiling.

This is a great day to sit inside and watch the rain. A great day to read. A great day to write another blog post. So here goes, this is my post about rain.

A few years back my husband and I and our three dogs (Maggie, Nikki and Shani) lived in the Texas Hill Country. We had a house on the top of a hill with a gorgeous view of more hills. Also, we had a whole family of deer who visited us daily for a breakfast, lunch and dinner of feed corn. Our dogs loved it there. They'd stretch out on the patio and watch the deer. Our dog, Nikki, would go wander among the deer and then settle down with them for an afternoon nap. The one thing we didn't have in those Texas hills was rain. In the year and a half we lived there, we only had three days of rain.
Dude getting out of the rain.

The thing I remember about that Hill Country rain is the temporary little stream that crossed our driveway. Tiny frogs would jump into the water and be whooshed downstream. What a ride! I have to admit that it looked like fun.

I was born and raised in southern California where rainy days were few and far between. A rainy day meant my best childhood friend, Debbie, and I would wade/walk home through the water racing down the gutters. We'd arrive home in wet shoes, soggy clothes and big smiles. Rainy days were the best of all.

These days, older and a bit wiser, I hope, I still love the rain. I can happily sit and watch the rain for hours on end. This is the kind of day where it's fun to sit and do nothing at all.

In honor of a rainy day, check out the cool rain books listed below. As anyone who follows my blog knows, I love to make lists of cool books to read. So hopefully you'll all find some great rainy day books that you'll want to read.

Rain Fiction (in no particular order):

Hot Rain by Kat Martin*
A Garden in the Rain (MacLeod Family) by Lynn Kurland*
Texas Rain (Whispering Mountains) by Jodi Thomas*
The Lonely Silver Rain (Travis McGee) by John D. MacDonald*
Rain and Other South Seas Stories by W. Somerset Maugham*
Desert Rain by Elizabeth Lowell
Rainshadow Road (Friday Harbor) by Lisa Kleypas
Barefoot in the Rain (Barefoot Bay) by Roxanne St. Clair
Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy
The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard
Rain by Leigh K. Cunningham
The Art of Dancing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Fire and Rain by Diane Chamberlain
Drink the Rain by Cynthia Davis
Cry of the Rain Bird by Patricia Shaw
Where the Rain is Made by Keta Diablo
Rain Song by Alice B. Wisler
After the Rain by Nicola Thorn
In the Midnight Rain by Barbara Samuels
A Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith
Bittersweet Rain by Sandra Brown
Tears Like Rain by Connie Mason
Falling for Rain by Janice Kirk
Rain by Kieran Nicolas
Keeper of the Rain by J. P. York
Listen for the Rain by Heather Atkinson
And the Rain Came Down by Terrie B. Cambridge
Dancing in the Rain by Kathryn Woodhill
Rainy Days by Lory Lilian
Winter Rain (Jonas Hook) by Terry C. Johnston
Caribbean Rain (Manny Williams, Bk4) by Rick Murcer
Thunder and Rain by Charles Martin
The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

*Rain Fiction I've read and loved.

I'm sure I've missed a lot of great rain fiction. So please feel free to add your favorites in the comments below. This is also an opportunity to list any rain fiction that you've written.

Note: All of the books above are available in eBook format.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Drop and give me five!

Five of my favorite books.
When I woke up this morning, with my brain still foggy from sleep, the little writer-elves in my head yelled out, "Drop and give me five!" What the heck? Where did those words come from? Why?

Now let me explain that I am not one of those people who hop out of bed bright-eyed and full of energy. I don't drop to the floor and do five push-ups, or ten or whatever. If I do five of anything in the morning it's to take five more minutes to doze before I even contemplate getting out of bed. Then I slowly sit up in bed and think about getting up and facing the day.

So why did those little writer-elves, the ones who are supposed to work on great stories during the night, telling me to "Drop and give me five!?" Five what? Well, because I happen to be addicted to books, my not-so-instant response, still being sleepy and all that, was "Five books." Yep, those writer-elves must certainly have been referring to five books and not five push-ups.

Five more of my favorite books.
As I got out of bed, slowly mind you, I started putting together groups of five books. Five books I could read over and over again. Five favorite childhood books. Five classics I've always wanted to read and haven't. Five all-time favorite authors. Five new favorite authors (mind you, I have bunches and bunches of favorite authors). Five favorite romances. Yep, I can do this five-thing with no problem at all.

So I hopped out of bed, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed out to the patio with my dog, Dude. I needed to think on this a bit. I don't rush into anything without downing at least one cup of coffee.

Now I need to back up a minute here. Today is the official first day of fall. As I was falling asleep last night, I remember thinking that I needed to write a new blog post today about the beginning of fall. So I guess my writer-elves did sort of follow my advice. But I certainly didn't expect them to come up with "Drop and give me five!"

Well, here goes. Lists, lists and more lists. I absolutely love making lists of books. This is where I point out that when I have a problem falling asleep at night, I count books instead of sheep.

Five Favorite Books When I Was A Kid:

Savage Sam by Fred Gipson
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster 
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Five Favorite Books I Could Read Over And Over Again:

The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Five All-Time Favorites:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

Five More All-Time Favorites:

The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Five Books I Recently Read That Were Simply Awesome:

The Monmouth Summer by Tim Vicary
Wool (Omnibus Ed.) by Hugh Howey
Golden Boy by R. G. Lawrence
The Hunger Games (Trilogy) by Susanne Collins
The Righteous (Righteous Series, Bks1-3) by Michael Wallace

Five Classics I've Been Wanting To Read:

Middlemarch by George Eliot
Villette by Charlotte Bronte
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Five Favorite 19th Century Authors:

Jane Austen
Thomas Hardy
Henry James
James Fenimore Cooper
George Eliot

Five Favorite 20th Century Authors:

F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ernest Hemingway
Edith Wharton
Zane Grey
Louis L'Amour

Five More Favorite 20th Century Authors:

D. H. Lawrence
John Steinbeck
Willa Cather
Ayn Rand
Ray Bradbury

Five Favorite Contemporary Authors:

Luanne Rice
Alice Hoffman
Ann River Siddons
Bernard Cornwell
Daniel Silva

Five Favorite Romantic Suspense Authors:

Suzanne Brockmann
Carla Neggars
Karen Robards
Stella Cameron
Karen Harper

Five Favorite Romantic Comedy Authors:

Janet Evanovich
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Jennifer Crusie
Rachel Gibson
Emily Carmichael

Five Favorite Historical Romance Authors:

Marsha Canham
Linda Lael Miller
Catherine Anderson
Candace Proctor
Kat Martin

Five Favorite Contemporary Romance Authors:

Mary Alice Monroe
JoAnn Ross
Jodi Thomas
Jill Marie Landis
Sharon Sala (aka Dinah McCall)

Five New Favorite Authors:

Jan Romes
Maureen A. Miller
R. G. Lawrence
Tim Vicary
Barbara Freethy

Five Indie Authors I Think You Should Try:

Molly Greene
Christine Nolfi
Ellis Vidler
Benjamin X. Wretlind
Michael K. Rose

Five More Indie Authors I Think You Should Try:

C. L. R. Dougherty
Pete Palamountain
J. D. Currie
Carmen DeSousa
Jinx Schwartz

The above lists of books and authors are by no means all of my favorites. As I've said many times before, I'm passionate about, in love with, addicted to books. Please feel free to comment below and add your favorite authors and books.

NOTE: In the right hand column toward the bottom of my blog you'll find "Indies Rock!" which is a link list of Indie authors you really ought to check out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Turbulent Summer

A turbulent summer day on Pensacola Beach.
Some summers are laid-back, tranquil, peaceful, but not this one. This is a summer of political battles as we in the U.S. face an upcoming presidential election. It is also a summer of turbulence around the world, in Europe, the Middle East, pretty much wherever people are seeking justice and freedom. I am not going to get into the individual battles, or even dare to say who is right or wrong, just that this is truly a summer of the winds of change.

Here on the Gulf Coast we had sunshiny days interspersed with mighty storms. Tropical Storm Debby and Hurricane Isaac wrecked havoc along our coast. It was an awesome beauty and yet terribly destructive.

Today I wanted to write a blog about the end of summer. I thought about the sugar-white sand of Pensacola Beach, the turquoise water, the gentle gulf breeze. I thought perhaps I could write something light-hearted and fun. But the words wouldn't come. I didn't feel that way about this particular summer.

I selected the above photo, taken on August 27th at Pensacola Beach, which depicts the turmoil of this summer. The sky shows a hint of blue, a possible promise of better days to come. The turbulent surf represents the turmoil, unrest, strife that has occurred around the world all season long.

The books I'm reading lately reflect this sense of turmoil and unrest. This morning I finished Tim Vicary's The Monmouth Summer, which I have to say is an awesome read. It's a novel about the summer of 1685 when the protestant Duke of Monmouth and his followers attempted to depose the papist King James II of England. Frankly, I can't think of a better book to read at this time.

This afternoon I started reading Tim Vicary's The Blood Upon the Rose about Sinn Fein and the IRA in 1919 Ireland. Again, this is a perfect read for these turbulent times.

I'm also reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (the centennial, hardback, library edition of this novel, all 1168 pages, which will take some time). I read this previously, back in my college days, during the tumultuous Vietnam War era. Reading it now, I find different messages in this book. I won't say that I agree or disagree with Ayn Rand's philosophy, only that I find it an essential read for these times.

As usual, I've put together more lists of books. I selected ones that depict the turbulent times of the past and present -- war, strife, a struggle for survival and freedom. The first list is books I've read recently or in the past that I highly recommend. The second list is books of similar themes that I hope to read. Many of the books on the second list grace my bookshelves or Kindles (my old Kindle Keyboard and my new awesome Kindle Fire). When you peruse these lists, I hope that you find some books that you'd like to read. These are listed in no particular order. Most of the books listed are available in eBook format.

My Recommended Reads:

The Monmouth Summer by Tim Vicary
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
The Desert Crucible by Zane Grey
Exodus by Leon Uris
Trinity by Leon Uris
The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West
The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
Through a Dark Mist (Robin Hood Trilogy, Bk1) by Marsha Canham
In the Shadow of Midnight (Robin Hood Trilogy, Bk2) by Marsha Canham
The Last Arrow (Robin Hood Trilogy, Bk3) by Marsha Canham
Sons of Liberty by Marie Jakober
Only Call Us Faithful by Marie Jakober
Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen
The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Pretty Birds by Scott Simon
The White by Deborah Larsen
Hawaii by James Michener
Shogun by James Clavell
The Fort by Bernard Cornwell
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

Some books on My To-Be-Read List:

The Blood Upon the Rose by Tim Vicary
Cat and Mouse by Tim Vicary
Shades of Gray by Jessica James
Stone Mountain: The Granite Sentinel by George D. N. Coletti
Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
A Town Called Alice by Nevil Shute
On the Beach by Nevil Shute
Where the Mockingbird Sang by David Wilson Atwood
War Brides by Helen Bryan
Far Away Home by Susan Denning
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The Hope (Bk1) by Herman Wouk
The Glory (Bk2) by Herman Wouk
Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo
The Unknown Soldier by Gerald Seymour
Le Miserables by Victor Hugo
Armageddon by Leon Uris
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
The Sand Pebbles by Richard McKenna

I've left a lot of books off these lists, but these are the ones that come to mind at the moment. Once again, please feel free to add suggested reads in the comments below. List books you've read and recommend, ones to be read and even ones you've written yourself. Thank you all in advance for adding to these lists of great reads.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Tale of Two Stories

Flowers on my patio.
I just finished reading two books, both "tall tales" so unbelievable, so poorly written, so poorly edited that I wanted to throw them across the room. However, I was reading them on my new Kindle Fire, which my husband gave me on my birthday back in July. Let it be known, I love my Kindle Fire, so I couldn't bring myself to throw it across the room. On the the other hand ... yeah, on the other hand, I was very irritated after reading each of these books.

I buy a lot of books. In fact, I buy more books than I really should, but I love books. I'm passionate about books. Yes, I admit, I'm addicted to books. So here's the deal. I spent good money on both of those books and though the cost was minimal, I did feel a bit cheated.

Here's my beef. I keep hearing about how Indie books are crap. Yes, there are people out there who use that exact word or worse. These same people rave about how traditionally published books are edited by a zillion of the best editors out there, which makes those books superior. Then there are some Indies, or should I say self-published (as some insist they're not Indies, but self-published), who claim to spend tons of money to have their books edited by the best editors in the business and, therefore, their books are superior to those not edited by the best of the best. If you can afford a high-priced editor, that's great, though most of us Indies or self-pubs don't have that kind of money. But that's all neither here nor there.

Okay, there are great editors and not-so-great editors. I'm not attacking editors here, just saying that some are better than others. Also, some self-editors are better than some paid editors, but that really isn't my issue either. What I'm saying is, the best editor in the world can't "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." If the story itself is crap, absurd, awful, terrible, you pick the word(s) you want to use, then the book falls short. In other words, the book itself is something not worth reading.

Now, as I was saying, I recently read two books, one by an Indie and one by a traditionally published author I've read through the years and have loved. Both books were so bad that I'm still steaming. Yes, that is steam coming out of my ears.

Here's the deal. If you are writing a book that has as its central theme, setting, what-have-you, around a true event (contemporary or historical) then get your facts right. A reader will probably (not always) accept your tall tale if you get the facts right. For the two books in question, the facts were so skewed they must have been written about a parallel universe.

I'll be the first to admit that fiction is not reality. Fiction is a story, make-believe, yes, a tall tale. But there is a difference here. I've read many a tall tale that was awesome. In my opinion, what makes a book great is when the reader can somehow identify with one or more elements of the story. Hopefully the hero or heroine is someone you can identify with or admire. Or maybe it's the setting that is so real, that the unbelievable characters seem to fit in okay.

The problem comes in when the facts are skewed beyond recognition, the characters are so unbelievable and/or have no redeeming features and the action is beyond the possible. That's when a book falls flat. That's when a reader feels cheated.

I will in future be even more selective of the books I decide to read. My time is precious and I don't want to waste a minute of it reading a book that leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. As a reader, I expect a book to have some redeeming features. I expect a book to be edited, not necessarily to perfection, but at least enough to make it readable. I expect at least one character to have something about them that I admire, can identify with, or at least can have compassion for that poor soul. I expect the storyline to at least be something I can swallow.

If the book is science-fiction, paranormal or fantasy, then as a reader I expect unreality, magic, the fantastic. But if the book is a contemporary, and your story is set around something that really happened, then I expect some truths. The same goes with a historical. Get the facts right and a reader will accept your tall tale if it's not too unbelievable.

I have to say that I read a lot of books. Most are good or very good and many are excellent. I read books by Indie authors and traditionally published authors. I do not expect a book to be perfect, but I do expect a good read. I make allowances for a book not being in my favorite genre. In fact, I've read a lot of great books that are not what I normally would read. It's the story that makes it great.

Now I want to explain why I chose the above photo to illustrate this post. The yellow and gold flowers are mums, recognizable flowers you can buy at most any store that sells flowers. The purple and white flowers are wildflowers. They are both beautiful. In my mind, Indie books are the wildflowers and traditionally published books are the store-bought flowers. They are both beautiful, exquisite, meant to be enjoyed.

What I ask of all authors, myself included, is to write that beautiful flower of a book. Make it the best story that you can. Edit it (either self-edit or professionally edit) the best possible. If it's an eBook, then format it correctly. If you can't do it yourself, then get someone to help you. There are guidelines out there that walk you through every step of the formatting process. Granted some books will be edited or formatted better than others. I admit, it's all a learning process, but honestly try to get it right, or at least readable. Check all your facts. You might miss something, but if you get the basic facts right, your reader will most likely overlook the rest.  Then write the best story you possibly can.

Below are some books that I've read over the last year that particularly stand out in my mind. They may or may not be perfect in all respects, but every one of them was a great read. So here are some of them (listed in no particular order).

Wool (Omnibus Edition) by Hugh Howey
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Emotional Waves by Maureen A. Miller
The Circle by R. G. Lawrence
Golden Boy by R. G. Lawrence
Judgement Tramp by J. D. Currie
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Desert Wives by Betty Webb
Mark of the Loon by Molly Greene
SEAL of My Dreams by Stephanie Bond, et. al.
One Small Fib by Jan Romes
Lucky Ducks by Jan Romes
Bluewater Killer by C. L. R. Dougherty
Runaway Twins by Pete Palamountain
Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot
Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke
Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer
Come Back to Me by Melissa Foster
The Righteous (Righteous Series - Bks 1-3) by Michael Wallace
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Drinking with Dead Women Writers  by Elaine Abrose & A. K. Turner
The Independence of Carolyn Woltkowski by Benjamin X. Wretlind
Sullivan's War by Michael K. Rose
A Shore Thing (Otter Bay) by Marie Force
Dead Until Dark (A Sookie Stackhouse Novel) by Charlaine Harris
Mai Tai One On by Jill Marie Landis
Eyewall by H. W. "Buzz" Bernard

I'm sure I've left some out of the list above. This is by no means all the great books I've read over the past year. Sorry, but I didn't include any of the great short stories that I've been reading lately. I only wanted to list novels, novellas and anthologies in this list.

What am I reading now? Well, I'm almost always reading more than one book. So at this very moment I'm reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, which I read back in my college days and decided to reread. I'm also reading Sketches from the Spanish Mustang by Benjamin X. Wretlind, which is awesome.

I hope that other readers will comment below and add some of their recommended great reads. There are so many great books out there and not nearly enough time in which to read them all.

PLEASE NOTE: I did not, will not, ever leave a bad review anywhere for these two unnamed books.  Both had some redeeming features or I wouldn't have read them. I'm just very disappointed. They could have been so much better with a little more effort. As a rule, I don't write bad reviews on books. If I can't write a good/nice review, then I don't review the book. So please forgive me, but this time I just had to vent.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Road to Indie

My old Mustang on the road to Indie.
The road to Indie is a long and winding one. It is one filled with twists and turns, pot-holes and ruts, washed-out roads and ones that often end abruptly at the top of a precarious cliff. You quickly learn to make quick turns, back-up, swerve and go bump-de-bump over rocky roads. That's what it takes to get to Indie.

I started out young, optimistic and terribly naive/blind. Yeah, way back in my grade-school days I was sure I'd be an author someday.

I remember meeting the children's author, Scott O'Dell, when I was just a kid. Mom took me to the big library in the town next to ours. That's where Scott O'Dell was doing his book signing. Mom bought me a copy of Island of the Blue Dolphins, which Mr. O'Dell promptly signed.  I still have my signed copy of that wonderful book. Anyway, I shook hands with Mr. O'Dell and explained to him that I was going to be an author some day. He was kind enough to tell me that he hoped I'd get to do just that.

Well, the road to Indie meandered on after that. I entered the 4th grade and won a 4th runner up in an American Legion essay contest titled, "What the American Flag Means to Me." That win entitled me to ride on the American Legion float in the 4th of July parade in the tiny little southern California town where I grew up. Wow! Sitting on that float and waving to the crowds of people was an awesome experience. I thought I was well on my way to being a genuine author. By the way, the road for the parade route was a great big square around the park in the center of our town.

When I reached middle-school age I volunteered one summer at a mental facility, Pacific State Hospital. Those were the days when kids who were diagnosed with Down's Syndrome or  hydrocephalus were put in hospitals, something that is still shocking to me today. I wrote a short story about the kids I met there. It was a heart-breaking story about throw-away children who were no longer loved. The road to that hospital was a winding one through the hills.

As a teen I wrote a short story about my maternal grandmother, Viola, who was stricken with polio at the age of sixteen and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. The story was about Viola's collie, Lady, who died of a broken heart because she wasn't allowed to be with my grandmother when she was in the fevered throes of her disease.  The road back to my grandmother's childhood was one fraught with sadness.

I graduated from high school at the age of sixteen, a month before my seventeenth birthday. I'd managed to squeeze four years of high school into three and so graduated a year early. I was in such a rush to get into college, that I enrolled in the summer quarter and started college just three years after my graduation day. Back then I travelled the roads in the hand-me-down Mustang my parents gave me for my senior year in high school. Those were rocky roads over stream beds, switch-back roads up to Mount Baldy and down the Glendale Mountain Road, and the winding narrow roads to the California beaches where I surfed and lazed in the sun.

I entered college via the backdoor. I had to agree to be a Biology major even though I wanted a degree in English. Don't get me wrong, I like biology, but had no intention in heading down that career path. So after two quarters I petitioned to change my degree. My college counselor had a fit. If I wanted to change my major, it needed to be a degree in Business. What the heck? A hopeful author didn't get a Business degree. In fact, I would have preferred a degree in Journalism, but Cal Poly, the state college closest to my home, didn't offer degrees in Journalism. Well, I won out and changed my major to English. So the first road I took to college was one of many obstacles and detours.

In my early college years I was writing short stories and poems and submitting them right and left. All I managed to get published was one poem in an obscure literary journal. Somewhere through the years I lost my copies of that journal. Oh, well. I still remember the poem and love it to this day.

About this time I took the road to marriage and a baby and had to drop out of college. Life got in the way and it was many years before I was able to finish my college degree. In the meantime, I kept on writing. More short stories. Lots of short stories. I remember one from those years, "Blue Roses," about a woman standing up for her rights. I gathered rejection letters in those early years. The rejection letters pointed out that the market for short stories was declining, that even though my stories were quite good, there was no market for them. So the roads those days were road-blocked.

At twenty-six I was finally able to go back to college to finish that degree I'd started so many years before. The same guidance counselor tried to push me once again into that Business degree. At least get a double major, he'd said. So I took those business courses and didn't much care for them. English Lit and Shakespeare were my thing. Well, I'd made my way around one of those dreaded road-blocks.

Around that time I'd started writing my first novel, a suspense thriller about a woman who was high-jacked on her sailboat and taken south to Mexico. I made the serious mistake of having one of my college professors read the first five chapters. His response a few days later was that it was the worst novel he'd ever read. OMG! That was heavy criticism. I went home, gathered up everything I'd written up to that point with the exception of my poetry, and burned it all.  My road had reached a fiery dead end.

A couple weeks later my professor stopped me in the quad. He wanted to apologize. He explained that he'd been thinking about my novel over the last couple weeks and he'd decided I actually could write. Sheepishly he acknowledged that suspense thrillers weren't his thing, but he had to admit that my novel was a really good one and to keep writing. What the heck? I thanked him, but didn't bother to mention that I'd burned everything, including all my notes. I realized then that on some roads you can get blind-sided.

I never tried to recreate that first novel or the stories I'd destroyed. I considered that a learning experience. Don't ever take the criticism of any one person too seriously. Everyone has an opinion. Take what you can from the advice and keep on writing. So I'd learned the hard way, if one road is closed, try another.

In my final year of college I attended a lecture by Ray Bradbury. I was in awe, totally mesmerized by his every word. Fortunately, I got to meet him afterwards. He held my hand and looked me in the eye and assured me that he knew I'd be an author someday. I already wrote a more detailed blog post about the wonderful Ray Bradbury, so be sure to check it out. Anyway, let it be known that he pointed me in the direction of a road that looked promising if I cared to venture down that winding lane.

I finished college with a BA in English and moved from southern California to Florida. I needed new roads to travel, ones in the land of sunshine and paradise. Besides, Hemingway found inspiration in Florida and I could too. The roads in Florida headed south to the land of Hemingway and Key West. I was sure my dream of being an author was closer than ever.

Before leaving California I'd started my next novel, a contemporary romance, The Sailor's Way. I was going to do it the right way this time. I attended writer's conferences and even met with an agent. I met other authors who were published via Harlequin and Silhouette. I read everything I could about writing. I studied my craft. I was a wife, a mother, worked full time and wrote late at night and weekends. I was on my way with an open road up ahead.

I sent the partial for The Sailor's Way off to that agent I'd met in California. She'd agreed to read it and I was elated. Weeks later I got the rejection letter, "If I'd only worked with you from the beginning." Excuse the language, but WTF? The beginning of what? The beginning of time? I boxed up my novel and put it in the back of the closet, underneath my shoes and other paraphernalia. Obviously I didn't know how to write. Yep, another road-block and this time a big one.

Some people never give up. I happen to be one of them. Yeah, some of us like to beat our head against a brick wall. We don't take no for an answer. Yep, we dream, and we dream big. So I kept on writing. I wrote a bunch of short stories and sent them off every which way. I gathered rejection letters, none of them helpful. "If you were a known writer we'd consider your story." Huh? Well, I had to get published first to be known and that apparently wasn't going to happen. More road-blocks.

My favorite rejection letters at that time were for the same short story, "Harry's Garden." The letters arrived on the same day. One said, "I loved the first half of your story." The other said, "I loved the second half of your story." Now why couldn't those two get together and like the whole story? Well, not to be deterred, I kept on writing and studying my craft. After all, if there were two editors out there who loved half a story of mine, there had to be someone who would love a full story. Gee, I could see a clear road up ahead, if I could just get past that hairpin curve.

That's when I started writing my big novel, a dystopian view of the future, all 899 double-spaced pages. For eighteen months I wrote late into the night and every weekend. My husband helped me work through the plot and willingly added some great scenes and dialogue. My "baby" was born, ten full pounds of paper.

I sent out queries, partials and one time, at the request of an agent, the whole ten pound novel. Months passed and I gathered one rejection letter after another. None of them had anything constructive to say about my novel. The general consensus was, "This can never happen." The story was set in 2020 and although I hate to admit it, many of the things I wrote about all those years ago have already happened. Well, I boxed up that novel and added it to my other writing residing in my closet. I got out a map and started looking for a better road.

About this time I got back two rejection letters that led me down another road. One said that if only I was a known author they'd consider my novel. Gee, I'd heard that one before. But it also meant that maybe my writing was okay. So how did I get known? Another rejection letter advised that I needed to write a short novel in order to get published and then I could get the long one published. So I started working on a short one, this time a historical romance set in Virginia City, Nevada. I was travelling an old wagon-rutted road this time.

My husband, daughter and I had just moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. Talk about new roads! I figured I'd hit the jackpot there and finally get published. I just had to write the perfect romance novel and it would be a done deal. I joined RWA and the Cactus Rose Chapter of RWA, attended writing conferences, met an assortment of published and aspiring authors, belonged to a critique group, etc. I kept on writing and writing and writing. In Nevada all roads lead to Vegas, and that's where I was, Vegas, baby, Vegas.

In Vegas I met the aspiring romance author, Ruth Kerce, at an RWA Chapter Conference. We eventually started our own writing group, Desert Rogues, and critiqued/edited each other's writing. We all submitted query letters, partials, attended conferences, met with published authors and agents. We did it all the right way, the traditional route to publishing. Ruth found the right road and was published by Ellora's Cave and Changeling Press. Michele Bardsley, yeah, that Michele Bardsley of the urban vampire comedy fame, found her own road. I crashed into another road-block and gave up, but only for a while.

Move forward many, many years and many roads later. I'm back in Florida again and this road leads right to the beach. But it also happens to be on the road to Indie. August of last year I ePublished my contemporary romance novel, Outback Love. I followed that with a short story prequel, Jetting Away, which was written because a reader wanted to know more about Priscilla's back story. Moon Over Madness came next, a paranormal romantic comedy novella. I had the most fun writing that one. Most recently I ePubbed Bayou Blues and Other Sorrows, which is a collection of my short stories and poems, some of them written years ago and some new. The infamous "Harry's Garden" is one of those short stories. Hey, it took me a heck of a long time, but I reached the right road, the road to Indie.

For the record, Outback Love was written following a three week, 5000 mile road trip my husband and I took with his sister Barbara and her husband through Australia and the Outback. Somewhere between the Great Ocean Road and the Stuart Highway in the Outback I came up with beginnings of the romance I would eventually write. So even the roads through Australia lead to Indie.

Now a year down the Indie road, I'm still cruising along. I hit a bump now and then, but the road to Indie is a good one and I'm going to keep on going on.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Once in a Blue Moon

My photo of the Blue Moon on Aug. 31st, 2012
When I was a kid no one bothered to explain to me that a Blue Moon is not really blue. So for years I kept waiting to see that blue colored moon.  How hard would it have been to explain that a Blue Moon is the second full moon in a month?

Well, last night was a gorgeous Blue Moon, which doesn't come along all that often, the last one being in 2009. I went out late last night and snapped a couple photos of that gorgeous full moon. Awesome!

I happen to have a special affinity for the moon. As a very small child my dad would take my brother and I outside to look at the moon through a telescope. What a great memory to have from those early years. Nothing seemed quite as special as that moon.

In my college days, I remember a Moon-Walk Party, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. There was a group of us college kids glued to the screen of a very small TV. Yes, TVs were small those days. Of course, I'm also showing my age. What can I say? It was an awesome moment and I was there to see it.

Due to my fascination with the moon, it's no surprise that I wrote Moon Over Madness, my paranormal romantic comedy.



MOON OVER MADNESS at Barnes & Noble



MOON OVER MADNESS at Sony Reader Store

MOON OVER MADNESS at Diesel eBook Store


Moon Over Madness is a novella about Chantel Deneuve, a half-witch who denied her witch heritage and moved away to the cottage town of East Hill, Florida. She has a quiet life with her two young daughters, Aria and Lucia, until something surprising happens. One night, much to her surprise, a vampire, Riordan "Rio" Martainn, comes knocking at her door and invites himself inside.

Rio is a to-die-for hunky vampire and Chantel is quickly flustered. Now what is she supposed to do? What is a vampire doing in her house, never mind that he's sexy as hell. She should push him back outside and lock her door. But on the other hand...

Rio quickly explains to Chantel that King Murdoc, someone she's never heard of before, and his minions will be coming after her to retrieve the stolen Blue-Star. The Blue-Star? Chantel hasn't a clue. Rio vows to protect Chantel. But who will protect Chantel from Rio?

Together they search for the Blue-Star in order to return it to its true owner, a very pissed off dragon lady named Sabilla. Join Chantel, Rio, a dog named Jake (who only "talks" to children), and an assortment of other-beings in their quest for the missing jewel. In the meantime, will Chantel and Rio fall in love in spite of all the madness?

If you haven't already read Moon Over Madness, I hope you'll give it a try.  I had a really fun time writing it and hope you will have as much fun reading my book.

Now for the part of this post that my followers have come to expect. I'm always listing cool books that I think you'll all enjoy. So here's a list of Moon Fiction. I think there are some great reads on this list.

Moon Fiction (In no particular order):

The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
Blue Moon by Luanne Rice
Three Moons Over Sedona by Sherry Hartzler
Sarah of the Moon by Randy Mixter
Rustlers Moon (Jared Delaney Trilogy) by Jim Jones
Brazen Moon (Passion and Hellfire, #1) by Ruth D. Kerce
Irish Moon (Moon Magick Series) by Amber Scott
The Light of the Lover's Moon by Marcia Lynn McClure
Magic in Moon Time by Dara Harper
Moon Dance by Mariah Stewart
Blue Moon Rising by Lillian Francken
I'll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock
Deliver the Moon by Rebecca J. Clark
The 5 Moons of Tiiana (Chronicles of Rez Cantor) by Paul Harry
Moon Dance (Vampire for Hire #1) by J. R. Rain
Blue Moon by Lori Handeland
The Moon Lady's Lover by Vanessa Grant
The Heat of the Moon (A Rachel Goddard Mystery) by Sandra Parshall
Indian Moon by Carolyn McCray
Harvest Moon (Virgin River) by Robyn Carr
Moonlight Road (Virgin River) by Robyn Carr
Blue Moon Bay (Moses Lake) by Lisa Wingate
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Huntress Moon (Huntress/FBI Thrillers) by Alexandra Sokoloff
Shadow of the Moon (Werewolf Series #1) by Connie Flynn
Blue Moon Over Texas (Lone Star Cowboys) by Tori Scott
A Moon Called Sun by Christopher F. Cobb
Moonlight and Margaritas by Cindy Stark
The Moonstone by Claire Delacroix
Moon Called by Andre Norton
Man in the Blue Moon by Michael Morris
Eye of the Storm (Moonlight Mysteries) by Denise Moncrief
Tularosa Moon Stacey Coverstone
Moon Shell Beach by Nancy Thayer
Bad Moon Rising by Helen Haight Fanick
Moon Signs (Moon Mystery Series) by Helen Haight Fanick
Moonlighting in Vermont (Bree MacGowan Series) by Kate George
Beneath a Midnight Moon by Amanda Ashley
Witch Moon by Maggie Shayne
Musketeer by Moonlight by Maggie Shayne
YA Moon Fiction (In no particular order):

A Leap in a Blue Moon by Ishwar Vedam
Six Moon Summer (Seasons of the Moon, Bk1) by S.M. Reine
Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

I'm sure I missed a lot of the great Moon Fiction out there. So please feel free to mention others in the comments below. (Authors, this is a chance to list your own books too.)