My first step to starting the year right was to send my book to my editor. After a nail-biting week I received the file back and to my relief she liked it. There weren’t major changes and the story was pretty solid. I accepted the grammar changes and fleshed out scenes she thought needed a little bit more. The file is back with her and my wait started again.
In the meantime I created a Facebook cover photo featuring the book. Also updated Twitter with a cover photo. Once it goes live I’ll post everywhere I can think of. I will be so happy once it’s out in the world, finally. It’s been a long time coming.
I first conceived the story in July 2015. Yes, almost three years ago. Why did it take so long to actually write it and get to a point where I can release the story? Fear. I’m releasing it under my name. If the story is horrible, if people hate it, they’ll know I wrote it. For my other stories it didn’t matter because they’re under pen names. No one will know it’s me if they don’t like them. I have twenty of those out there. But I vowed to stop hiding behind those names and release stories under my name. Start advertising them, tell family and friends, and hopefully at some point be able to do this writing thing full time.
The cover I posted before is now the old cover. I’ll keep it for something else perhaps. Maybe something that is more romance than science fiction. Or maybe I’ll add a spaceship to the cover and use it for a different scifi romance. I have a new cover! It’s below with the blurb again!
The Princess Prophecy
An ancient throne. An unknown prophecy. A reluctant princess controls the fate of the world…
Sophie thinks she’s a typical college freshman. She spends her days making friends and coping with classes, until her whole world changes forever. A group of strange men try to kidnap her, and the only thing that saves her is a long-lost friend who’s sworn to protect his princess…
Nathan tells Sophie that she’s not only half-alien, but she’s royalty on another planet. To make things more complicated, she’s forced to go to that planet to take the throne… or her entire kingdom will suffer.
As Nathan helps her train for her second life, she can’t help but fall for him. But when their ship comes under attack, she wonders if any of them will survive the journey.
In November, Austin Mystery Writers, my critique group, published its second crime fiction anthology, LONE STAR LAWLESS. Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my story, “When Cheese Is Love.”
To set the scene: English teacher Tabitha Baynes has come to Fonda de Paz, the best Tex-Mex restaurant in Central Texas, at the invitation of Gonzalo, the owner, who moved up from Mexico last year. Tabitha has been giving him English lessons; she has also just finished a year-long medically supervised liquid-only diet, and as a result has skinnied down from XXL dresses to a Size One. She looks stunning, and she’s desperate to stay that way. She must be perfect, because Gonzalo is perfect, and tonight, they will dine together–alone. But first, she must do battle with an old enemy. We watch her cross the parking lot and approach the restaurant.
Taking a deep breath, Tabitha lifted her head, smiled, and walked down a pathway lined with trees twinkling with tiny blue lights, toward the evening of her dreams.
First, though, she must pass two serpents.
The first stood in the dimly lit foyer: Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, rearing on hind legs, teeth bared, looming over the crowd waiting to be seated. Illuminated from within, he cast bright reds, blues, greens, yellows across the room. He shone beautiful and fierce—but not nearly so fierce as the serpent that guarded the dining room.
Ana Alvarado, tall and slender, wearing a simple black sheath, its severity lightened by a heavy turquoise necklace, stood at the hostess station. Her black hair was pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck. Like a Renaissance Madonna, she glowed with serenity and grace.
When Ana saw Tabitha, her Madonna smile turned into a smirk.
“Buenas noches. You know, of course, that you are late.”
Skin-deep beauty and a fake accent, thought Tabitha. Everybody in town knew Ana was just plain old Alva Mae Allen, brought up right here in Bur Oak. Her mother was Hispanic and spoke Spanish fluently, but Alva Mae flunked Spanish in high school because she couldn’t conjugate irregular verbs.
Ana gestured toward a door to her right. “Because you are late, you must wait in the bar. I hope Gonzalo is not irritated with you.”
“Thank you, Ana. I’ll have a glass of wine while I wait.”
From first day of kindergarten to the night of high school graduation, Ana had made Tabitha’s life a misery. “Tubby Tabby,” Ana had called her. Twenty years later, she was still a bully.
But Tabitha had changed. She was the All New Tabitha Baynes, sporting a size one dress and a stylish coif, and her own serenity and grace reached all the way down to the bone. Nothing Ana said or did could touch her.
And tonight she would reap her reward: dinner with Gonzalo in El Nicho, the room he reserved for special, intimate parties.
Tabitha had never seen El Nicho.
Seated on a high stool at the far end of the bar, close to the kitchen, she skipped the wine (rosé, 20 calories per ounce) and ordered a glass of sparkling water.
A waiter delivered her drink. “An appetizer, perhaps, Senorita? We have something brand new—cheesy Tex-Mex egg rolls—very tasty.
She shook her head. If there was anything she didn’t need, it was cheese. All her life, it had been her favorite food. Now she was trying to replace it with green vegetables.
The waiter winked and retreated. Tabitha looked down at her glass and drew her shawl close around her neck. She wasn’t used to men looking at her that way. It was flattering, but at the same time, unsettling. It made her feel she was nothing but a body.
Holding the shawl closed with one hand, she sipped her drink and calculated. For dinner, she would order a taco salad without the shell (420 calories). But maybe, after today’s extra-grueling workout, she could afford a real taco (571 calories). She wouldn’t even consider her favorite, the beef chimichanga (1580 calories).
The kitchen door opened and the aroma of onion, cumin, chilis engulfed her. Her stomach, which since last night had seen nothing more substantial than broth, gave a lurch. Oh, why bother, she thought. Gonzalo would serve whatever he wanted to, and it would be smothered in what he called his “signature ingredient”—cheese. And she would scarf down every bite.
She checked her watch. Gonzalo had said something about meeting with an architect to discuss plans for adding a new dining room. But what if there was another reason he wasn’t waiting for her? Maybe Ana was right, and Gonzalo was angry because she was late. Or maybe she’d gotten it all wrong, and they weren’t going to share an evening in El Nicho. In the past two months, since she stopped trying to lose weight, he’d treated her to dinner once, twice, sometimes three times a week, to thank her for teaching him to speak English. But she’d always sat by herself in the main dining room. Maybe that was the plan for tonight.
Tabitha had been giving Gonzalo English lessons at the library every afternoon for over a year. He had a good ear and learned fast. She dreaded the day their lessons would end.
Lately, however, there’d been signs he might be interested in extracurricular activities. Free meals at Fonda. Lingering looks. Hands touching when she handed him a pencil. Heads close together as they leaned over a workbook. The gleam in his eyes when she pasted a gold star on his progress chart.
She shrugged. Maybe she was here tonight because he liked gold stars.
She was tying the shawl around her neck when Gonzalo strode in. Her stomach gave another lurch. This time it wasn’t from hunger.
“Ah, mi amor.” Enfolding her hand in both of his, he gazed into her eyes. Her knees melted to the consistency of queso.
“I’m so sorry I was late—”
“Mi querida, I would wait for you until the end of time.”
If Fred Schmidt, the high school industrial arts teacher who had been hounding her for weeks to go with him on Saturday nights to the Polka Barn, said he would wait till the end of time, she would laugh and ask if he’d been reading Wuthering Heights. From Gonzalo, the words sounded like a sonnet. . . .
A launch party for LONE STAR LAWLESS will be held at BookPeople in Austin on February 4, 2018, 5:00 p.m. Authors will speak and sign. The book is dedicated to Gale Albright, AMW member and our dear friend, who died in November 2016.
Austin Mystery Writers: Gale Albright, Valerie Chandler, Kaye George, Laura Oles, and Kaye George (our valued emerita)
Friends who contributed stories: Alexandra Burt, Mark Pryor, Janice Hamrick, Terry Shames, Larry D. Sweazy, George Weir, Manning Wolfe, and Scott Montgomery
M. K. Waller, aka Kathy, has published stories in LONE STAR LAWLESS, MURDER ON WHEELS, and DAY OFTHE DARK (ed. Kaye George), and in the online magazine MYSTERICAL-E.
I rarely talk about myself. My nature I am an intensely private person. In today’s post, I am opening the door just a bit to illustrate the idea of Balance.
As some of you know on June 15, 2015 torrential rains caused an overflow of water in the sewer and drain systems in the hilly area where I live. Not only my self, but numerous other homes sustained some kind of damage. In my case, a complete obliteration of my basement. We are talking completely full of water. Since insurance will not cover the damage and the water company denies any wrong doing at this point, we are left to deal with this on our own. For me, I set up a gofundme account to help defray some of the cost. This site is a go to for people who need help with personal financial burdens. Thankfully friends have stepped in when companies were unwilling to clear out the damage, because insurance didn’t cover it and I didn’t have a few thousand sitting around. (okay, I’m being a bit catty there).
Now, this could be all I think about, but as I stated at the beginning of this post, life does give some balance. Since the disaster happened, I have had a short story released from Prairie Rose Publications in the anthology “Cowboy Celebration”. I have signed the contract for another novella to be released at sometime in the future called “Angel of Salvation Valley”. If all goes well, I will also submit a short for another anthology to be released later this year. This same company is having a Christmas in July Fandango on Facebook July 27 & 28 in the evening. Plenty of giveaways and chances to meet the authors. I will be involved with the Fandango and look forward to the fun of talking with people I’ve not met. Here is the link if anyone would like to stop by:https://www.facebook.com/events/1608290686092159/
But that isn’t all. As much as I’m thrilled with the publication of my writing, which by the way my fiction is written under the pen name Angela Raines, there is more. If you don’t believe other people read these posts, think again. I was recently contacted by the great great grand daughter of one of the women doctors I have been researching. She wants to get together to share her stories and pictures of this amazing women.
So you see, life is about Balance. We may not always like what is happening, but if we are open to options, life has a way of balancing the scale. I truly do believe things will work out as they should on my basement, that the work will get done. I also know, that by being aware, open and grateful for all the blessings in my life, I bring in more. So the next time life throws you some grapes or lemons make wine or lemonade. It all Balances out in the end.
The past few weeks I’ve met and interviewed members of our armed forces. I’m writing stories about Vietnam veterans who live in Wyoming. The stories will be published online, in a special newsprint edition, and possibly in book form. I’m honored to be part of this special project!
While interviewing a former Air Force jet fighter pilot, I learned he and his wife have been married more than 50 years. That’s a longevity nearly unheard of these days. Some statistics show the American divorce rate between 40 and 50 percent; military couples have an average divorce rate of about 11%, according to military.com. During the initial interview, I wondered, “What did this man’s wife think about and do while her husband flew combat missions over North Vietnam?” I discovered another story – a story within a story: her story! So, I asked the wife questions and made a sidebar article.
My other Vietnam veteran interviewee worked intelligence and couldn’t share much about his work back then. I asked how his war experiences affected and impacted his later life, and in so doing, I discovered a new angle – a story within a story.
Whether we write nonfiction or fiction, we often discover new treasures: pathways, characters, scenes, and scenarios. Sometimes our tales take new turns and we take new directions with the story we’ve created (or are creating): we find a story (sometimes more than one!) within a story.
In the pet rescue romance I started last fall, I envisioned my female character, Sarah, rescuing dogs and placing them in loving homes. She does. But, like a river has an eddy, an underlying current in my story is the male character, a firefighter, rescuing her, in love and in life; she also rescues him, from his subconscious rejection of having a dog and a love life. There are stories within this story, plots and scenarios I didn’t anticipate when I first began writing the manuscript. The new pathways the characters are taking embark my writing on a new journey as those characters sojourn various scenarios and emotions. The end result will be as I envisioned: love between the two characters with a few dogs as well to steal their hearts; but getting to that ending has a few surprises, even for me, the story’s creator. It’s a fun journey to discover more stories within the primary story!
How about you? Have you discovered a story or two within your main story, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction?
A couple of years ago, I interviewed author Alethea Williams on my blog about her book, Willow Vale. Now, she has just published a new book, Walls for the Wind. Like Willow Vale, this is a historical romance set in Wyoming, but unlike Willow Vale, it’s a totally different story. Alethea Williams graciously sent me promotional materials which I’ll include below: a synopsis, an excerpt, and an author bio. You can visit her blog to find links to where Walls for the Wind can be ordered in Kindle and Nook formats. The print edition will be out next month. I enjoyed Willow Vale, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading Walls for the Wind.
Can an angel survive Hell on Wheels? When Kit Calhoun leaves New York City with a train car full of foundlings from the Immigrant Children’s Home, she has no clue she might end up as adoptive mother to four of them in rip-roaring Cheyenne, Wyoming. Kit has spent her life in the Children’s Home and now she rides the Orphan Trains, distributing homeless children to the young nation’s farmers as fast as the rails are laid.
The first time handsome Patrick Kelley spies Kit in Julesburg, Colorado Territory, he wants her. But circumstances, and a spectral-looking demented gambler as well as Kit’s certainty no one in his right mind would want her cobbled-together family, conspire to keep them apart. As Patrick and Kit and her brood ride Hell on Wheels into their destiny, they’re all forced to leave behind everything.
Cheyenne, Dakota Territory, January 1868
Panic bloomed, threatening to choke Kit as she gasped for breath. Where could she be, the small girl brought all the way out to the wilds of Wyoming from New York City? So certain she could make the best decisions for the little golden-haired girl, Kit had gone against her own upbringing as well as the stern advice of those older and wiser in order to make this journey west. Now here was her little family plunked down in the raw boomtown of Cheyenne, and she had lost not only her own direction but also the child entrusted to her care.
Where could Hannah be? Where?
The streets slimy with melting snow and horse manure, Kit struggled to keep her footing as she ran frantically up one and down another, screaming Hannah’s name. Unable to think where to look next, at last she stood helplessly wringing her hands. Tears made slow, cold tracks down her face.
Western history has been the great interest of my adult life. I’ve lived in Wyoming, Colorado, and Oregon. Although an amateur historian, I am happiest researching different times and places in the historical West. And while staying true to history, I try not to let the facts overwhelm my stories. Story always comes first in my novels, and plot arises from the relationships between my characters. I’m always open to reader response to my writing.
When Abbie asked me about doing this promotion for Alethea, I said, “It’s not something we normally do, but since Alethea has been a part of our Writing Wrangler and Warriors family for so long, we’d be happy to, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy this book. I really enjoyed the first one.” Cher’ley
Rich or poor, pretty or plain, dynamic or withdrawn, the hero and heroine have to be sexually attracted to each other. That’s too important to skimp on. They should love each other, but that’s not a requirement for sexual attraction.
You are the creator of your world so you get to decide how much or how little sex/sex appeal, or romance is in your novel.
Some things to consider:
1. Does it stop the action?
It never seizes to amaze me when a couple is being chased by a gang of hoodlums-guns blazing, bullets riddling the landscape and the two dynamic people stop to kiss and even more time consuming, decide to consummate their relationship. (Could they have not found a more important use of those 3 minutes?)
2. Does it further the story? Sex sells or so writers seem to think. In actuality, it limits the sales. A much vaster audience can be reached if the book is not triple X-rated. Sex should not be mixed up with sex-appeal or romance. Every story that has male and female leads needs to have a little sex-appeal, a little flirting and a little romance to deepen the plot. Once the act happens, does the story go downhill? Very often it does.
Most of us have read stories that include sex scenes just for the sake of the Wow-factor of sex. Watching grass grow would be just as interesting. Characters need to have depth. How they approach sex may deepen the character, but the act probably won’t.
3. Does everyone have the same idea about what makes sex good or bad? Could people be put off by what they feel is acceptable sex? The Mrs. and the Madam probably are disgusted or delighted by different amounts of intimacy.
How would a reader feel about a burst of laughter in the middle of a heated sex scene? Perhaps the writer wanted to give a little comedy relief, but the reader may be angered by such an outburst.
4. Where do you go with the sex scenes? What are the expectations, requirements, limitations and prohibitions. What do the readers expect from a novel in the genre you are writing? Are sex scenes necessary, a requirement, or can a good book get by without them? What about the length of scenes? How much do readers expect to see? How much detail do they want? What is the publisher looking for? What works in a Romance novel, won’t work in a Fantastic Fiction and what works in a Crime Fiction won’t work in a Cozy Mystery. Know your genre, know your fans and above all else know yourself.
Sparks need to fly between a heroine and a hero. In my novel “Stamp Out Murder”, at the very end of Chapter Six, James and Carolyn start feeling the first awkwardness of attraction. They accidentally touch. Both feel the tension, try to keep apart, and finally give in to a beautiful and wonderful relationship. A relationship that will deepen in the sequel “Cancel Out Murder”.
Sex, sex appeal, and romance are vital parts of life, how do you handle them in fiction? What is your favorite Love story? What made it your favorite?
Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores.
Happy Valentine’s Day, I hope you are celebrating with someone you love, if not I hope you did something very nice for yourself. We celebrate the day, but in a low-key way, no fancy flowers or meals out-unless you count Taco Bell for lunch.
With little kids in the house it is impossible to skip Valentine’s Day, trust me little kids love any kind of holiday, but they especially love holidays that involve candy. Sometimes, if I am feeling really festive at Valentine’s Day I make something heart shaped (last year it was a pizza), or I make something red (year before red velvet cupcakes).
The kids insisted I take them to the Dollar Store so they could use their report card money from Grandma to buy gifts for everyone. I am constantly amazed at their willingness and joy in buying gifts for other people. I know one of the girls bought my husband a role of duct tape; it is to replace the roll of his tape they used during a duct tape craft project kick they were on a couple of weeks ago. My other daughter helped my son prepare his Valentine cards for his school party, without being asked. A very amazing gift indeed.
I, in turn, got each of them a box of Russell Stover chocolates, not the large box of course (although I will cruise the 75% aisle looking for them day after), the cute little boxes with only three pieces of candy. I am also knitting them cute little hearts-if you are a knitter the pattern can be found at EweEwe Yarns
For my husband, he is giving me the greatest gift, he is taking the day off and we are spending it together. My husband works a lot; he usually works six out of seven days a week. To have this extra day off he had to work both Saturday and Sunday last weekend, so it is really a wonderful gift…of course, if he decided to include a box of chocolates I wouldn’t turn them down.