Monday Mayhem – Another first

I had my first day at the new job this week. I think I’ll let this picture speak for itself.

No, the fountain is not in my office.

Yes, it is free.

No, I haven’t figured out how to get my mouth under there without getting a Coke Zero in my eye, but hey, dreams do come true!

Rather than bore you with the details of the first week on the job, I thought we’d play a little game of firsts, then I’d introduce you to an author who is celebrating her first release this week!

**giveaway alert**

Thanks to all who chimed in last week. Congratulations, Michelle Kelly, I’ll be sending a signed copy of LOVE & ROCKETS out to you!

This week, play along and I’ll give one winner the choice of any book from my Maggie Wells digital backlist, or a signed print copy of the first book I ever wrote, CONTENTMENT. 

Here are the questions and my answers. Copy and paste into the comments, then replace my answers with yours. Ready?

  1. First job with a paycheck: Mr. Quick Hamburgers – my uniform was brown double-knit polyester.
  2. First celebrity crush: I think Donny Osmond edged Barry Manilow out as the first, but it was close.
  3. Title of the first book you remember choosing for yourself: ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET. I’ll let you guess why I picked it.
  4. Your first set of car keys unlocked a: 1976 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon.
  5. First album you bought with your own money: Queen – A Night at the Opera
  6. First thing you eat most mornings: Yogurt
  7. How old were you the first time you got drunk/tipsy: 18-ish. I was a freshman in college, so I may have still been 17.
  8. Where did you have your first kiss: In the back of the Musicland store at College Hills Mall.
  9. The name of your first pet or first furry friend: We had toy poodles when I was born. Sisters named May and Gay. Sweet girls.
  10. The first street you lived on was: Washington

****

Tomorrow, one of my fellow Kensington/Lyrical authors, Kari Lemor, will know the thrill of seeing her work out there in the world. Hard to top that for a first… Please take a moment to check out this bit from WILD CARD UNDERCOVER. Congratulations, Kari!

All that glitters in Miami is not gold . . .

Lured in by a bad ex-boyfriend and the moonlight of Miami, Meg O’Hara is trapped in a nightmare situation, waiting tables for a crime boss and fearing for her life. When undercover FBI agent Christopher Shaunessy offers her a way out, she seizes it. Getting the goods on Salazar Moreno might not be easy, but she’ll do anything to be freed from her servitude and Moreno’s sexual advances, even if it means moving in with the charismatic agent.

Chris Shaunessy pretends to be Meg’s lover in order to keep her safe, but he steels his heart against further involvement. Passion has no place in the sordid world of organized crime. And yet, the closer they get to cracking the case, the stronger his feelings for the spirited waitress shine. It’s a dangerous game he’s playing, and taking Meg in his arms for real could prove a fatal misstep . . .

Excerpt:

“Does that man never have a day off?” Margaret Kathleen O’Hara grumbled, grabbing her tote bag and sarong to move surreptitiously along the chairs by the pool. If the hotel manager saw her here again she’d be toast. He’d more than toss her out. Threats to call the police had been thrown at her for months now. Although in her case, that might be a better deal.

With her eyes trained on his location and the Miami sun beating down on her exposed skin, Meg backed along the water’s edge attempting to leave the area before he spotted her. She needed to shower the chlorine out of her tangled hair and change for work soon. He looked in her direction and she rushed behind the closest object. It was six-foot-plus of blond-haired gorgeousness. The man’s eyes were glued to something on the upper deck. Her boss was sitting there with one of his expensive bimbos. Did Blondie like that type? Maybe he wouldn’t notice her little game of .

She leaned around him, ducking back when she saw the Pool Nazi still present. Getting caught was not an option. She already owed more than she could ever repay.

“Are you okay?” Forest green eyes stared down at her, puzzled. Would he buy that she was simply looking for shade? He was big enough to provide it.

With strong hands, he reached for her shoulders and Meg reflexively batted them away. She got enough of people groping her at work. Scorching curses froze before erupting from her mouth as the hotel manager moved, staring in their direction. Her mind kicked into overdrive, scrambling for a way to hide in plain sight.

“Sorry,” she squeaked. Grabbing the man’s head, she planted her mouth solidly on his. Short, thick strands of hair tickled her fingers. Firm lips yielded no resistance to the increased pressure of her mouth. Better make this look good.

An electric current skittered over her skin causing her heart to race. Maybe too good? Slowly he pulled her closer with his muscular arms. Her eyes flew open and she broke the connection. His hair-covered chest was too close for comfort. And much too tempting. Distance, she needed distance.

Her eyes darted around, seeing no signs of the manager. A sigh escaped. Time to make her exit as well.

“Sorry,” she mumbled again, looking up. Big mistake. The stranger’s curious eyes captivated her. They were soft and tender and filled with something she could…trust? If she still had any of that left in her. His hands were gentle as they held her. A tiny smile played about the full lips she’d brazenly kissed. She couldn’t believe she’d done it. Her mother would be appalled. But it had worked.

The chlorine scent from the pool faded into the background as sweat and suntan lotion wafted off the man’s damp skin. Her stomach did cartwheels followed by a few back flips. Dangerous.

“Let me go,” she hissed as reality returned. She gave a swift shove at his well-defined pectorals, rushing to get past, to escape from this distraction and the possibility of being caught. Her head whipped around at the sound of a splash and water droplets from behind. Gorgeous was just breaking the surface of the pool. Had she pushed him that hard?

“Oops.” No time for apologies. He looked like the forgiving type. She had to blow this joint before the Pool Nazi came back. Grabbing her fallen sarong, she ran across the deck to hustle inside the luxury hotel.

“Damn.”

The manager stood sentry near the front door. A crowd appeared at her back making that way impossible. The stairwell to the left would have to do. She’d go up a few floors then down to the side entrance. She wrapped her sarong around her as she carried out her plan to avoid being seen…and caught.

Meg should stop coming here to use the pool: this proved it. Sneaking in was adding to her already hellish life but swimming always helped work out the stress and the pool here was more accessible than any other on the strip. Pretending she had money to stay in a place like this, rubbing elbows with all the beautiful people, yeah, that got her through too. She’d learned the best times to come and not be seen. Well, for the most part. It was well worth the risk to get away from her dump of a room and its enchanting neighborhood. She’d leave this all behind her soon. She kept telling herself that. Had to believe it for her own sanity.

Footsteps behind her pushed those thoughts away. Her bare feet padded silently along the lushly carpeted hallway. Heart racing, she ducked into the ice machine alcove, her sigh echoing in the silence. She glanced down. Her bag? She must have dropped it as she rushed off. How had she not realized? It couldn’t have been the threat of being arrested. Or the crooked smile of the handsome stranger she’d kissed. The one with the kind eyes and gentle hands. No, she couldn’t allow herself to be led astray by a pretty face. Not again.

She continued down the hall, her trip cut short when someone grabbed her by the arm and spun her around.

* * * *

Buy it now!

Follow Kari Lemor on her website:  http://www.karilemor.com/

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/Karilemorauthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/karilemor

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/karilemor/

Good reads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9756283.Kari_Lemor

 

Monday Mayhem – I’m conflicted

One of the cornerstones of writing any type of fiction is the need for conflict. At the start of every project, writers ask themselves at least two very basic questions:

What does our hero/heroine want most?

What is standing in their way?

Obviously, we delve deeper into the opposing forces as we move forward with a book, but those are the bare-bones basics. Internal and external forces are equally important, but require a different approach. This is where I stumble over one piece of oft-repeated writing advice.

We’re often told to imagine that ultimate goal, and then throw obstacle after obstacle into the path our protagonist has to take to get there.

Warning: Unpopular Opinion Ahead

I think there are times when an author can insert too much conflict into a story. As a matter of fact, I just read a book where it was literally one thing after another, page after page. No downtime. No breather. For me or the heroine. Nothing but one supposedly funny/sad/mortifying moment stepping on the heels of the one in front of it.

After the first few hits, I stopped buying in.

I know it’s fiction, but no one’s life is that non-stop. I mean, at some point, someone has to have a bio break, right? I’m telling you I would have locked myself in a filthy gas station bathroom and never come out if I were that poor heroine.

Warning: Unpopular Opinion #2 Coming At You

The other night, Jewels was talking about the big grovel scene in books… You know the kind, the one where one character does something so unthinkable that the only way they can possibly be forgiven is if they are willing to completely prostrate themselves at the other’s feet.

Yeah, I’m not a fan.

It’s not that I don’t want or appreciate a decent grovel as much as the next girl, it’s just that I don’t think they happen all that often in real life. Therefore, the whole set-up-overblown conflict/grand gesture/grovel comes off a bit too Hollywood for me.

I’m not saying a little groveling can’t take place. But, in my experience, there’s more awkward silence after a big blow-up than grandiloquent speechifying. I’d even go so far as to say that once we get past the oh-so-dramatic adolescent stage, most conflict is resolved with less than a paragraph’s worth of words.

And forgiveness doesn’t usually come with the big prize, but rather a small gesture.

Internal conflict usually plays a big part in my novels. Sure, I add a dash of external to turn up the heat a bit, but to me the story comes from the inside out, not the outside in.

Authors are frequently told to torment their characters, but I don’t. I figure they’re better at tormenting themselves than I will ever be. I just try to capture it all and put it on the page.

How about you? Are you a fan of the grovel? Has anyone ever hit you with a grand gesture. Tell your tale, and I might be inclined to give away a signed copy of Love & Rockets in celebration of this week’s exoplanet discovery!

Oh! And there’s a newsletter hitting inboxes tomorrow. If you aren’t on my list, sign up at the top of the sidebar >>

Monday Mayhem – Persistence

Been there, done that, and my T-shirt is on the way.

Here’s the one I ordered:

I think the blue will really make my eyes pop. 😉

Persistence. If there’s one thing women know, it’s persistence. I have five older brothers. They didn’t always want to let me play with them, so they used their superior size and strength to try to muscle me out.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

With five boys and little hope of ever growing grass, my father covered our backyard in asphalt, installed a regulation basketball hoop, and marked the free-throw and three-point lines with spray paint. The ‘no blood, no foul’ rule was instituted. I was never big enough to mix it up in the games, but they would let me play H-O-R-S-E with them. Of course, they could stand behind either of those spray-painted lines and knock me out of the game in five quick rounds.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

Being a small girl, I had little hope of developing the arm strength for shots from field goal range. I needed to develop another weapon.

And so, I became the queen of the backwards bucket-shot.

With a little practice I could (and still can) sink a basket from anywhere within the arc by turning my back on the basket, spot-checking my alignment with the goal, then hurling the ball up over my head from between my knees.

I did what I had to do. I persisted until I found a way I had a chance to win.

I’m planning a program on goal setting and business plans for my local RWA chapter next month. In doing so, I’ve had to take a long look at my own goals and plans and how they have morphed in the past six years.

The publishing industry seems to shift and change like clouds on a windy day. I have a plan in place for 2017. Who knows if it will be relevant in 2018? *shrugs*

But I have to start somewhere.

Either way, I will persist.

Oh, and here’s a snapshot of me honing my skills on my First Communion day. What can I say? I was dedicated.

 

 

Monday Mayhem – Shake it up!

So…life took a couple of turns for me last week. I turned the first book in the new Play Dates (Kensington/Lyrical 2017-2018) series in to my editor, and, I turned in my two-week notice at the day job.

While I’d love to say I’ll be writing for a living, that’s not the case…yet. What it came down to was the need to make a choice for happiness. And, extreme caffeination. For that reason, I chose to try something new. I’m going to work for our local Coca-Cola distribution center.

As Fodder pointed out, the only job that might have been a better fit for me would be some sort of quality assurance for at Steak ‘n Shake. 😉 Mm. Steakburgers. *sigh* A girl can dream.

This is another big step for me, but one that I think really highlights my evolution through my 40s. I went into this decade of my life with a lot of “somedays” in the back of my head. You know the kind. They sound a lot like, “Someday, I’ll write a book.”

My adventures in publishing have given me so much more than a sense of personal accomplishment. I’ve had to learn to accept and embrace criticism and rejection. I don’t like either of those two, but I can deal with it. And because I can, I now have the courage to make choices based on my potential for happiness.

The main thing I’ve learned in this decade is that life is too short. There’s no guarantee that you’ll ever see Someday. All we have is THIS day.

So, do something risky today. It doesn’t have to be big, or life altering, or even thrilling. Just take a chance, make a leap, do something that makes this day different from all the others. If it doesn’t work out the way you hoped, try something else.

Life is a series of chances, not a one-and-done.

The only true failure in life is the failure to make an attempt.

Monday Mayhem – Missing you

I wrote the big mother/daughter relationship post last week because I knew I couldn’t do it this week. Today, I don’t want to dissect my relationship with my mother.

I just miss her.

This is the rough week.

On February 8th of last year, we lost Jewels’ mom and our friend, Joyce.

My dad passed away on February 9th, 1998.

Saturday, February 11th will mark one year since my mom went to join him at the big cocktail party in the sky.

Yeah…I’m not a big February fan in general.

Luckily, a snafu in scheduling and some other real life distractions will keep me busy, so I have the perfect excuse to hole up for a few days.

So, go call your mommy or daddy, if you can. Kiss your loved ones. Cuddle a puppy. Or kitty. Or bunny. I’ll be back next week, and we’ll muddle through the rest of this month together.

xoxo

Mags

Monday Mayhem – Our heroines

Most women share a common source when it comes to learning what it means to be a woman – our mothers. In some cases, we learn by example; in others, we get a cautionary tale. But all in all, I don’t think there’s anyone who has more of an impact on how we are shaped than our mothers.

I look like my father. Same eyes, nose, chin, and mouth. Same sinuses. (Thanks, Daddy.) Robert E. used to like to say I was created in his image. But there were times when he’d look at me, shake his head, and say, “How can anyone who looks so much like me, act so much like her?” My mother and I shared the same sort of no BS, straight-to-the point attitude toward life. And we weren’t shy about expressing our opinions – popular or not.

Last February, one of my best friends and I lost our mothers within days of one another. Julie’s loss of her mother, Joyce, was shocking and untimely.

Julie and her mom were best friends. They told one another everything, hung out like girlfriends, and were squarely by each other’s side at every twist and turn. They were pals. Just like Lorelai and Rory…the early days.

Wind Beneath My Wings

After suffering debilitating strokes and all the accompanying complications, my mother’s passing was one of those heart-breaking blessings.

Suzanne and I were not like Julie and Joyce, or even Lorelai and Rory. There was definitely more of an Emily and Lorelai vibe, minus the overt animosity.

We didn’t talk about anything personal, if we could help it. But that didn’t mean we didn’t love each other. In a weird way, it was just the opposite. Mostly we kept quiet to protect one another from being confronted with things we did not need or want to know. Things that would worry, upset, or hurt the other.

I don’t think people ever quite get over losing a parent. We lost my dad 19 years ago, and I know we all still miss him deeply. But mothers and daughters…there’s no human relationship more complex, more fraught with pitfalls and packed with joy, than the constant push-me-pull-you that goes on between mothers and daughters.

No matter how old we are, we will always, ALWAYS, have moment when we wish we could call mom and ask her what to do. It doesn’t matter if nine times out of ten we went out and did the exact opposite of what she advised. That’s what makes the mother-daughter dynamic the relationship most worthy of ‘It’s Complicated’ status, in my opinion.

Soon, Jewels and I will pass the one year mark since that god-awful week. Since then, I’ve had no less that four other girlfriends lose their mothers as well. Each time, my heart ached.

For them.

For me.

For all the things we didn’t get a chance to ask and all the news we didn’t get to share.

Or not share.

You know, for their own good.

 

Monday Mayhem – March on

Feminist.

A word that many women, including myself, have been reluctant to own. Over the past few years, I’ve grown more conscious of my own of my place in the world. Like many people who’ve reached the mid-point in their lives, I’ve been examining my priorities, and the impact I make as a woman, as an American, and as a member of the human race.

Though this self-exploration, I became less afraid of calling myself a feminist. I do admit that sometimes I felt the need to add some over-explaination to something that should be self-evident, but I’m making a mindful effort to stop doing that.

Feminists believe that women are equal to men.

Full stop.

Nothing more, nothing less. Equal.

I guess if there’s one good thing that came out of 2016, it’s that women are becoming more vocal in their belief in equality. Others can call us what they want, but we know who we are.

We are women. Some of us are Americans. We are human beings deserving of respect.

I marched here in Little Rock on Saturday. It wasn’t the biggest march to take place, but it was still a hell of a lot larger than the organizers expected. And in a ‘red’ state, no less.

 

It was moving, so moving, to be part of this peaceful and positive assembly.

Best of all, my husband was by my side.

Because the strongest heroes are the ones who know how to love a strong woman.

And if you find yourself mired in the morass, remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi:

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

 

Monday Mayhem – Fresh Starts

I’m still working on finishing the draft of Easy Bake Lovin’ (Play Dates #2), but with the start of the Build a Book 365 day challenge I gave myself permission to play with one of the Silver Fox ideas I have rattling around in my head.

Meet Leonardo Sbaraglia. He doesn’t know it, but he’s currently serving as my hero inspiration. I promise, I will try to do him right. Ahem. I mean do right by him.

Finding photographs of heroes and heroines who fit the images in my head is not always easy, but I knew the minute I saw him, he was my man. More specifically, the man to model my hero, Dominic Mann on.

I’ll be sharing pictures of people who remind me of my characters as the year progresses. We have a lot of books coming in 2017-2018. I hope you’re ready to meet them all!

How about you? Do you picture famous people portraying the heroes and heroines as you read? Care to share some thoughts?

News and notes:

In case you missed it, LOVE & ROCKETS received another fabulous 5 star review! This one from Epilogue Book Blog. Check it out!

Also, GOING DEEP (Coastal Heat #1) and A WILL AND A WAY (Worth the Wait Romance) are both on sale for $0.99! Tell your friends!

Snowed in? Give LONG DISTANCE LOVE a shot. You won’t regret getting to know Jack and Ellie better!

 

 

Monday Mayhem – My stories, at the core

Last week, I asked what you expect when you open one of my books. Your responses were so moving. Thank you. You let me know that I am indeed already hitting some of the key points in what I want to write.

I spent a lot of time in 2016 examining my work, and trying to identify the elements I think are essential to what I wanted to say – what’s known as a writer’s core story.

(This may freak those of you who know me out, but I’m posting a picture of fruit:)

Trying to suss out one’s core story it a little like nibbling at an apple (or so I hear). I started with reviewing some of my books and works in progress as a whole, then began to examine certain elements in small bites. When I got down to the center, I had a better handle on the parts that were so important to me that they re-appear in novel after novel.

Here’s what I think my core story is:

Heroines: Powerful, independent, unapologetically sex positive, and feminist. Their journeys mostly involve examining, adjusting, and reestablishing their expectations of life and love.

Heroes: Confident and strong, but not the stereotypical Alpha male. They appreciate complex women and are up to the challenge.

My emphasis is almost always on character growth and reinvestment in themselves. In my books, women are not always relationship seekers and men do not necessarily flee from commitment.

Humor will always be an important part of my writing. I require moments of it in all forms of entertainment – even the most gut-wrenching dramas. To swipe a quote from Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” It’s true. If I can move a reader to one or both-or even at the same time-I consider it a win.

So how did my vision match up with your expectations?

Well, we got the humor bit down. A couple of you mentioned tears, strong heroines, and guys who are up for meeting their match, so I must be doing some things right.

This is the interesting thing about being a writer. The themes we tackle in our work grow and evolve as we do. If you’d asked me in 2011 if I considered myself a feminist, I may have hemmed and hawed a bit, shying away from the label. Now, I wear it proudly. Sex-positive? I never really thought much about how we view and judge female sexuality. The norms and constraints simply were what they were. Yeah, um, no.

But we’ll talk more about those topics in another post.

My point is, life is all about evolution. Conscious or subconscious, I’ve been seeing some shifts in my own work over the last year or two. Thanks so much for your replies last week. Your feedback is vital to me. After all, I’m telling these stories in hopes that you will connect with them.

As we type, I’m working on a few different things. I have sent the first book in the upcoming Play Dates series to the fabulous Julie Evelyn Joyce for critique. I’m inching my way toward the end of the draft on book #2 and hope to have it done by the end of the month.

Just for fun, I’m participating in a 1 page per day challenge for 2017, and for that I’m playing with something entirely different. There are a bunch of current and aspiring authors participating. It’s not too late to join in. There’s also a super secret Facebook group where we babble about what we’re doing. If you want to participate, tag me. 🙂

So now you know what I think I should be writing. This time I’ll ask a different question: How do you think I’m measuring up? Are there areas where you (as a reader) think I’m falling short? Maybe one or two where I hit it out of the park?

Monday Mayhem – The heart of the matter

Welcome 2017! I’m making an effort to start the new year off with positivity. So far, it’s been pretty easy since I’ve been in my favorite place (home), with my favorite person (Fodder), doing my favorite things (a little writing, a little reading, making some chicken salad, taking a nap). I’m really good at napping. And, as my new author shots prove, hanging off lamp posts:

2017 marks my fifth year of blogging. Yep. If you check the sidebar, you will see that I type the truth. The archive dates back to January 2012.

It’s pretty much been five years of my checking in once a week or so and babbling at you. Well, I plan to continue to do so, but I do think I’m going to make a couple of minor tweaks. I still plan to let you know what I’ve been up to over the course of the week, share writing news, and dish out a little personal TMI, but I want to try to make my posts more topical.

2016 was a year of upheaval for me and for many people I know. Like many, I turned inward. I spent a good deal more time in introspection, trying to sort out what’s important to me, and how I plan to proceed in the midst of the social-political chaos that’s swirls around us now.

In the coming months, you’ll probably hear more from me on more serious topics than those we’ve discussed before. These are the bits of me that have been stealthily weaving their threads into my stories without me really realizing it.

I’ve stopped telling people that I write contemporary romance with a lot of kissing and stuff. Of course, I do, but that’s not what I think is at the heart of my stories anymore. You’ll probably be hearing a lot from me about my ‘core story’ in the coming months. By core story, I mean the common themes that you, as a reader, can expect to find in any Margaret Ethridge/Maggie Wells novel.

 

But before I start telling you what I think they are, I’d be curious to know what your expectations are when you open one of my books. I’m not looking for flattery (though I am open to it), just your initial reaction/expectation when you hear that I have a new book available.

I look forward hearing what you have to say, as well as sharing my thoughts with you, but for now, I hope that your 2016 at least had a happy ending, and here’s to a passel more happily ever after in 2017 and beyond!