Meet and Greet: 7/16/16

Join in the fun!

Dream Big, Dream Often

Dream-Big

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend!!

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and Meet n Greet your tails off!

See ya on Monday!!

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The Crazies on The Porch

imageLast night I arrived in New York City for a writer’s conference. Coming from New Mexico, it is always a shock to get off the plane and be instantly thrown into the hustle bustle of true “big city” life. It always takes me a few days to adjust and get into the rhythm of the controlled chaos. I feel like I’m going crazy at first, like I just don’t have the mental fortitude to deal with all the noise, the crowds, the lack of space. In New Mexico there is no “lack” of space to be sure.

My great solace as I sit in my bed, listening to the chaos that never seems to end below my window, is that I get to see the three women who’ve become so important in my writing life–the Crazies–as we call ourselves, Dana, Liz and Pam. We’re about as different as the contents in a bowl of fruit, a Northern apple, a Midwestern pear, a Southern peach and a Southwestern chili (yes, chili is classified as a fruit.) Different in our make up, our creativity, and our style–but still fruit.

We met a few years ago at a writer’s workshop in Scituate, Massachusetts–at a bar, the preferred hangout for most workshop attendees and conference goers, and immediately hit it off. Our differences and sameness seemed to mesh into our own perfect union of crazy. After a few days of divulging our life experience and the real and made up characters in our worlds, the word “crazy” came up. “Crazy” in the sense of addled, eccentric, mad, deranged, or just not quite right. We discussed that in most regions of the U.S., “crazy” was not a good thing, something to be pitied, or ashamed of, something not discussed, when Liz piped up, “my family is from the south and we just put our crazies on the front porch.”

After a hearty round of laughter and a toast to all the”crazies” in the world, hidden away behind closed doors, or out loud on the porch, we decided that the term fit us pretty well and we christened ourselves, “The Crazies on The Porch” with great confidence and pride.

Since that moment we united as sisters and talk every couple of weeks through video chat. We also send each other our work for editing, brainstorming, new beginnings, and polished endings. Sometimes we just talk about our lives. We are all crazy, in every sense of the word, and we are not alone. We have each other.

 

Whirlwind Summer

IMG_2527I have just returned from the beautiful, historic city of San Antonio, Texas where I attended the Romance Writers of America National Convention! The week was filled with meeting new friends, making great contacts, hanging with my local LERA (Land of Enchantment Romance Authors) chapter mates, a couple of parties, a two hour ghost tour and a riverboat ride. It was all wonderfully fun despite the heat! And . . . it’s always great to come home.

My next adventure takes place the second week of August where I will be attending a month long natural horsemanship clinic at the beautiful Parelli Ranch in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. This has been a dream of mine for about eight years and I cannot believe I am finally able to attend. A month is a long time to be away from loved ones, friends, the daily routine and the animals left behind, but I will persevere and try to get the most out of the course as possible. I will be taking my challenge horse, Chaco, and I hope this will be the opportunity for us to learn better communication and understanding. It will be just me, my horse, my RV, new friends and the beautiful mountains of Colorado – a life changing experience to be sure and I cannot wait!

Please check in with me as I will be blogging daily of my adventures in the Chaco Chronicles! Launch day is August 9. See you then!

 

Writer’s Process Blog Tour

Greetings! I’ve been tagged in The Writing Process Blog Tour by my friend and fellow LERA (Land of Enchantment Romance Authors) sister, 2014 Golden Heart®finalist, Shelly Alexander to tell you about my process in writing a novel.

Process is one of the things I love to talk about with other writers. I love to hear about what makes them tick and how they get their stories down on paper, or on the computer screen. Some writers are pantsers, they sit down and let their fingers fly, telling those stories by the seat of their pants. Others are plotters, with pages and pages of scenes, dialogues, outlines, beginnings and endings. I fall somewhere in between. I like to think of myself as a puzzler. I start with a plan, an outline – the frame of the puzzle – and then I add the pieces, usually in a linear fashion. This is the way I work actual jigsaw puzzles. I start with the outer frame and then work from the top down, filling in the pieces.

As a part of the blog tour, here are four questions every writer must answer:

What am I working on right now?

I am working on the first book of a three book series titled Waiting In The Wings. The story is a historical mystery and takes place in 1917, New York City, in the glamorous, glittering world of the Ziegfeld Follies.

Here’s my pitch:

One of the inspirations for Grace Michelle - Doris Eaton Travis, Ziegfeld star

One of the inspirations for Grace Michelle – Doris Eaton Travis, Ziegfeld star

Grace Michelle, an introverted, aspiring costume designer in the Ziegfeld Follies, 1917, has everything she wants; pretty good for an orphan who once lived on the streets of New York City. When her sister, Sophia, the star of the show is murdered, Grace’s protected, comfortable life is shattered. She must step into the Broadway spotlight as Ziegfeld’s newest star to find her sister’s killer. When she discloses a secret from their past, Grace becomes a target and soon discovers the horrific truth about Florenz Ziegfeld, the man who raised her as a daughter.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to take real life characters from the past and breathe new life into them. I am particularly drawn to smart, strong women who were mavericks of their time. Although Grace is a fictional character, she is comprised of many of the women I researched for this novel. Some were actresses and some worked behind the scenes. Many of my secondary characters are real people who worked for Florenz Ziegfeld on Broadway from 1917 -1920. And, of course, the man himself, Florenz Ziegfeld has a starring role in my story.

It was fun for me to learn as much about these iconic figures as I could and then recreate their adventures (in pursuit of fame and fortune) in the theater and on the road. I like working within the confines of history, but expanding on that history and as I imagine what could have happened. After all, as writers, aren’t we all asking that BIG question, what if?

Why do I write what I write?

I’ve always thought I should have been born in a different era. I am fascinated with certain periods in history and can actually visualize what my life would be during those times. I’ve traveled to many places around the world and in a few of those places I have had an intense, visceral, almost spiritual connection with my surroundings. And no, I don’t take drugs – it could be my overactive imagination, or maybe I really did live in those times and places. It’s all a part of the cosmic question, who are we?

How does my writing process work?

As a history buff, I absolutely love getting lost in research. I often take two to three months to research a historical person, place or event. Sometimes, I’ve even been lucky enough to travel where my story will take place.

Once I have a character and setting in mind, then I will start to form the story. I like to use a four-act structure I learned from Lisa Miller’s Story Structure Safari class, comprised of the set up, the response, the attack and then the resolution. Once I figure out vital story components such as the Inciting Incident, Call to Action, Defining Moment, etc, then I start to outline scenes. I use sticky notes on poster sized foam core boards. On each sticky note, I will jot down what I want that scene to be. I map out all the scenes in the story and then I sit down to write. Here’s where the puzzler part comes in. Often, as I write, my characters will say or do something I never expected – which can change the story line. If this happens (and I LOVE it when it does) I have to make the puzzle pieces different shapes to fit the new puzzle. My motto for writing and for life is: Always have a plan. If the plan changes, adjust and make a new plan!

Once I have a first draft, I walk away from it. Sometimes, I don’t look at it for weeks, months, maybe a year – or several – as it’s been for Waiting In The Wings. I am usually working on more than one book at a time, so the separation isn’t devastating. I think about my stories all the time.

Then come the revisions. Revise, revise, revise. I work with a fabulous critique partner and together we work to make our stories as perfect as we can. Sometimes I share my work with other writers and always, I share my work with readers (a select few, of course) because the reader is really the one who counts. At times, I’ve used a professional editor and the experience is invaluable. I highly recommend it!

So, that is my process – for now. Life and writing is full of change.

As writer’s we all have our own process and our own way of telling our stories. All are different and all are fascinating. I’d love to hear about yours!!

 

Easter Sunday in Tudor Times

Happy Easter! 

I am working on a new book about Lady Katherine Grey, sister to Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen, so I am immeshed in Tudor History at the moment! Jane, a greath-niece of Henry VIII , was executed by her cousin Mary Tudor for treason after she took the crown at Edward VI’s death. Katherine was left to grieve for her sister and serve the very queen who killed her. Things got worse for Katherine as Elizabeth took the crown at Mary’s death and Elizabeth saw Katherine as a threat to her monarchy. I will keep you posted on Katherine’s triumphs and pitfalls as a lady of Elizabeth’s court in future posts!

Easter is one of my favorite holidays, so I wanted to post something about Easter in Tudor times and I found this great article from 2009 by Diane Evans. I hope you enjoy it and I wish every one of you a blessed Easter day!

 

Elizabethan (Tudor) Easter Traditions

 

Easter traditions during Tudor times.

The Tudors never missed a possible chance to enjoy themselves, and church festivals, weddings, and christenings provided occasions for them to socialize and enrich their lives. The medieval traditions of tournaments and pageantry lived on and many of the Tudors were literate. They read, attended the theater, and enjoyed dancing and music. Hunting and fighting were also considered enjoyable recreational activities for the Tudors.

However the Easter religious season was also a time for serious consideration of sins and prayer as it had been during the medieval times.

Holy Week

The first day of Holy Week was Palm Sunday when the priest would read the story of Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey. He blessed branches of greenery so that the parishioners could fashion crosses from them to carry in processions.

The clergy prepared a shrine for Palm Sunday which contained the blessed sacrament and any relics that the church might possess. Before the service, the clergy and the parishioners met outside the church and then the clergy carried the shrine around the building in one direction while the laiety walked in procession going in the opposite direction.

When they met in front of the church door, the priest would pull up the Lenten veil which hid the chancel from the nave during Lent and then release it again once the procession had passed.

On Wednesday the priest always read passages from the Bible which concerned the veil in the main Temple in Jerusalem. Afterwards the Lenten veil would be removed and packed away until the following year’s celebration.

Maundy Thursday was the day when the clergy prepared the church for the grand Easter celebration by washing the altars with water and wine. They also heard confessions during the day.

Good Friday

The medieval tradition of “Creeping to the Cross” was still a popular practice on Good Friday. The clergy commemorated the suffering and the crucifixion by crawling up to a crucifix before the altar on their hands and knees. On reaching the crucifix, they kissed the feet of their savior. Then the parishioners followed suit as they crept up on the crucifix and repeated the clergy’s actions.

The Easter sepulchre was a stone or wooden niche which represented the sealed tomb. The clergy filled it with the consecrated host and a crucifix. Then they sealed it by covering the entrance with a cloth and lit candles around it. Members of the congregation then took turns guarding it until Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday

On this day the clergy extinguished the candles in the church and then re-lit the candles before opening the sepulchre. A special high mass was said to celebrate the resurrection. Now Lent was over and everyone could feast on dairy products and meat. Chicken, veal and lamb were favorites for breaking the Lenten fast. Easter eggs were also a favorite.

When the English Reformation came upon the land, many of the Easter rituals were banned. The blessing of the greenery on Palm Sunday, the tradition of Creeping to the Cross, and the Easter sepulchre rituals were banned at that time.

Hot Cross Buns

Now the buns are eaten throughout the Easter festivities, but they were first served only on Good Friday. They are delicious, small, sweet yeast buns containing raisins and currants and maybe even candied fruit. Before baking, the cook slashes a cross across the top of the bun and after the baking is complete a confectioners’ sugar icing is applied to fill in the indention of the cross.

An old nursery rhyme celebrates this favorite English treat:

“Hot cross buns,

Hot cross buns,

One a penny, two a penny,

Hot cross buns.

If you do not like them,

Give them to your sons,

One a penny, two a penny,

Hot cross buns.”

Source:

Pleasures and Pastimes in Tudor England by Alison Sim; The History Press, 2009

Tower of London – A Medieval Zoo

Lion-013-2048x2048In 1066 England suffered its only foreign invasion when the Duke of Normandy won the Battle of Hastings, squashing King Harold II and his troops. Firmly settled on English soil, and the new ruler of the land, the new king, who becomes known as William the Conqueror decides to build an enormous fortress to show his power to any defiant Londoners and to deter other foreign invaders. In 1076 he constructs the Tower of London, or the White Tower, at 90 feet high with 15’ thick solid stone walls strategically positioned on the banks of the Thames. In the 13th century, the Tower is further fortified with double surrounding walls and a moat built over 18 acres.

In the 1930’s a team of archeologists digging in the long dried up moat excavated the startling remains of a leopard, 19 dogs and two of the recently extinct Barbary Lions – the same medieval lions whose sculptures grace London’s Trafalgar Square. Further research revealed that over 60 species, up to 280 exotic animals, resided on the grounds of the Tower for over six hundred years.

The first animals to arrive were the Barbary Lions in 1235. Twenty years later an African Elephant took up residency as a prize from the Crusades. To ward off the London chill, his keepers kept him in a large stable and plied him with a gallon of red wine a day. The tradition of gifting the crown with foreign species continued and the menagerie grew to include tigers, zebras, kangaroos, monkeys, ostriches and even a Norwegian White Bear who was kept muzzled and chained, but often walked to the Thames to fish for his dinner.

For three centuries, visitors to the Tower had to go past the exotic menagerie to tour the castle and grounds. The animals served as a royal status symbol and showed the world the importance of the English monarchy. In the 18th century, the admittance price was three and a half pence, but if you brought a cat or dog to feed to the predators, you were admitted for free.

The confinement of these wild and exotic animals was a constant challenge and several times the large cats would escape and often kill the other animals and occasionally attack a tourist. In 1832 it was decided the animals had to leave. They were sold at auction as fixtures and fittings. Today, detailed wire sculptures of the famous beasts are strategically placed on the grounds so the modern tourist can get a sense of what visiting this unusual zoo must have been like.

 

Downton’s Dynamic Duo

*Spoiler Alert* If you are not caught up to Season 4 of Downton Abbey, you might not want to read this post.

Don’t you love these two?

They actually make me laugh out loud.

I think the writers of the show did a wonderful job of showing the interesting dynamic between these two strong, outspoken, bossy, meddling yet compassionate women. They truly have met their match in one another.

Outwardly, they can barely tolerate each other, but in times of crisis (like when the Dowager had the flu or when Mathew died) it becomes obvious that they actually care about each other. It is the quintessential love/hate relationship, which many of us have within our own social and family circles.

What do you  think about the relationship of these two characters? Do you have an Isobel or a Lady Grantham in your life?