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?

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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!

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Monday Mayhem – Eeep! It’s December!

Yeah, so super fast post because it has been a super crazy week and I am super tired. I’ve been keeping up with my #31brightspots, though I admit some days have been a little darker than others. Here are a few highlights:

Long, frustrating day at work, but I came home to this

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Tacos make everything a little better.

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Truth.

Lolled in my warm bed with a hot book on this cold morning. Now, lunch with my girls.

Best way to spend a Saturday morning, in my opinion.

And the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon is with my Diamond State Romance Author pals. Here’s a picture of me and Brinda Berry. I may or may not have been squeezing her knee under the table. A lady never tells.

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And Sunday was spent preparing for Christmas. The house is decorated outside and in. Any my little angel helped his doting granddad put his Great-grandma Willene’s angel atop the tree.

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As I type this, we’re just home from attending a living Christmas tree concert and ready to collapse. That was my jam-packed week. What happened in yours?

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Monday Mayhem – Thankful

It was Thanksgiving in the States this past Thursday. If you read the news (and my Twitter feed), you’d think that there was little to be thankful for in America, but I think we can all agree that the media skews things a tad, right?

Right.

Yes, there are things happening that no one likes, but there are so many more things happening that are good. Family and friends spending time together, neighbors helping neighbors, and all of the many, many blessings that we enjoy – food, shelter, clothing, Netflix, bubble baths, nacho cheese Doritos, books…

The month of November was a rough one – I won’t deny that. There’s an ever-growing cadre of us who believe all of 2016 can go and stuff it now. I even gave up putting slips of paper in my happiness jar sometime around April. It wasn’t that good things weren’t happening. It’s just that they kind of got buried under the headlines.

But I’m going to try to go out on a high note. I have until Wednesday to squeeze in my NaNoWriMo numbers. I’m over 45k as of this writing, and should be able to make it again. If I do, I’ll post my winner-winner-chicken-dinner badge here next week.

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The end of NaNo means Thursday is December 1st. Yeah, I know, duh. But this is the last month in what many of us consider one of life’s crappier years, so I’m going to try to see it through as in the same way I hope to start 2017 – full of positivity.

For the month of December, I’m going to try to write one happy/positive thing down each day. Doesn’t have to be anything big or monumental, just bright spot. When I prepare this post on Sunday evenings, I’ll update you on what I’ve collected, then put it all together in the end. I may even tweet a few, just to counteract all the other stuff in my timeline.

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31 days of bright spots. Should be totally doable. I bet you can too. Who wants to play along?

P.S. In case you missed me blabbing all over the place – LOVE & ROCKETS released last week. Please read. Please review. Please tell your friends to do the same. *puppy dog eyes*

P.P.S. I can’t even with the Gilmore Girls yet. Still processing so much of it, but let me just say: Like Lorelai, I’m happy. So happy I haven’t even had a single fanfic idea. Thanks for making my life easier, ASP! *ducks and runs*

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Monday Mayhem – News edition

So, I’ve been sitting on this for a couple months:

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Official Announcement
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Unofficial-but-fun newspaper headline

That’s right! NaNoWriMo is about to start and I’m heading back into the cave to start work on book #2 in this series!

So if I don’t see you… Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be back next Monday with an update!

Have a great week!

And Happy Halloween from my tiny-face pumpkin, Pumpito!

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Monday Mayhem – Someday is today edition

First, let me say: GO, CUBS GO!

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I was born a Cubs fan. It’s as much a part of my DNA as my daddy’s nose or what my husband calls the ‘Suzanne stare’ (named for my mother). Some of my earliest memories of being a cubs fan involve men’s pocket combs.

You see, the men’s rooms at Wrigley Field used to be equipped with vending machines like this:

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They dispensed blue plastic Chicago Cubs combs, and each time we went to Wrigley, I used to beg my dad and brothers to get one for me because they weren’t in the ladies’ rooms.

Baseball games were also the perfect opportunity to exploit my love of hot dogs. As far as I can remember, the hot dogs served in the Friendly Confines have been of the kosher all-beef variety.

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When I moved to Arkansas, it was a bit of a challenge to uphold my standards, but my friends at Hebrew National came through. Still waiting for the Vienna Beef, though.

When I lived in the city, I spent a few years in Lake View (just east of Wrigleyville). Many a warm summer day was spent watching the crowd and listening to Ronnie Woo Woo call to fans as I sipped beer in the beer garden at Murphy’s Bleachers.

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I loved those days so much, I ended up writing them into a scene in my novel, Contentment.

My dad was the epitome of a Diehard Cubs Fan. He caught almost every game either on WGN-TV or WGN-AM. I can still sing the whole ‘Hey, Hey! Holy Mackerel’ song. I can still hear the voices of Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray. I remember one of the first times I ever used someone cell phone was from a rooftop party across from right field. Who did I call? My dad. What did I say? “Hey Dad! See the Torco sign, look three buildings north. I’m waving to you!

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I’m be no means an avid Cubs fan. I don’t watch the games on TV. Most of the time, I have little more than a passing acquaintance with names and stats and a general idea of how they are doing. But I do keep a framed photo I took of the Wrigley Field sign next to one of my parents. Because they are all a part of who I am.

The Cubs are heading to the World Series for the first time since 1945. The last time they went, my dad was serving in Germany post WWII. This time he’s in Heaven with Jack and Harry, Ron and Ernie, and all the diehard Cubs fans who never stopped believing.

And they’re waiting to fly the W flag once and for all this season.

GO, CUBS GO!

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Monday Mayhem – Deep Fried Edition

It’s Sunday evening. We’re just home from the state fair. Every thing I have eaten today has been deep fried or smothered in butter.

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Welcome to October in the South. This is my true love, turtle funnel cake.

We did visit the Rabbit Exhibition, but did not bring one home with us. While it was wonderful to pet those twitchy little noses and rub soft cheeks, we still miss our TimBunny. It’ll be a year this week, and he’s still the most troublesome pet we’ve ever adored.

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I’m enjoying my October downtime, but now that we’ve passed the halfway point in the month, I’m starting to ramp up again. I’m revising book one in The Series Yet to Be Announced, and playing with character worksheets for the project I hope to take on for NaNoWriMo this month.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting very still, popping Tums like candy.

Happy Monday to you all!

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Monday Mayhem – Food for thought

Confession time: I’m not a domestic goddess. I loathe housework. I have no craft/sewing skills at all. And…I’m not a good cook.

Seriously. I not only own this towel, but I have the matching mug.

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It isn’t that my food is inedible. It’s just food prepared by someone who’d rather be doing something else. The same can be said for most of my homemaking skills. I do it if I have to, but given an alternative….

Once the kids grew up and moved out, we discovered what lazy slobs we actually are. Fodder and I can live with our own mess for a disturbingly long time. I think this is because our mess is mainly clutter and not actual filth.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Writing was once a hobby, but is now a profession. One that leaves me little time for fooling with hot glue guns. I avoid Pintrest as much as humanly possible. I don’t need someone else’s pleasure turning into my frustrating procrastination.

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But I’ve been thinking about food a lot lately. Mostly because we’ve hit the end of summer rut-that dreaded time when cooking is out of the question and even a trip to one of our favorite eateries seems like a chore. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat out. When asked my favorite thing to make for dinner, I will answer “reservations” without hesitation.

Unfortunately, eating out is not only expensive, it plays hell with the waistline.

I can come up with a half-dozen plausible reasons for the weight I’ve gained in the last two years, but I know that one of the largest factors has been my refusal to prepare my own food whenever possible.

But I’m slow and miserable and something has to change.

I spent most of Sunday in the kitchen prepping foods that can be easily converted into meals throughout the week. I’m not claiming any of these are low-fat, anti-carb, super-duper diet foods. I’m past self-denial and working more along the lines of control and moderation.

Little compromises.

We started the morning with the dreaded trip to the grocery store and rewarded our fortitude by having meatloaf for dinner. In an effort to make an effort, I used lean ground sirloin, and skipped the oven-roasted potatoes we usually have on the side. While it was baking, I poached chicken breasts to make stock for chicken and dumplings, and enough to experiment with a new chicken salad recipe. I also roasted natural almonds in a bit of olive oil to give them some snap.

I’m hoping the weather breaks in the next few weeks. I love crock pot season.

Don’t worry, I made words between all these activities. And, just so you know I haven’t been body snatched, I’d like to remind you all that we are coming into college football season. That means there’s fresh candy corn in the stores.

Bon appetite!

 

 

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