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Life in our Books

Do you ever wish you had done something differently? Wish that you’d had something extra inside of you to stand up when things didn’t seem right? That happened to me this week. And I ended my day, thinking…

This is why we write books. 

I went to drop my daughter off at school. I noticed a man, sitting on the bench outside. He was average good-looking and wore a Captain America shirt. And when we started for the door, so did he. Okay. No biggie. Lots of people come and go from the school. And I don’t know everyone. But because he caught my attention in that odd way, I locked my car, which I never do when I’m running into the school at noon to drop my daughter off.

I opened the front door, but didn’t wait for him, either, which is also something I would normally have done. Out of politeness, you know? And then I approached the inner door to the office and I rang the bell to get in. The guy waited behind me, but instead of waiting “in line,” he moved beyond me into the corner. Abnormal? Yes. Red flags [or yellow if you’re a football fan] were waving in my head. I was let into the office and he came in with me. Also a regular occurrence. Happens all the time. Other moms. Dads. Grandparents.

I went to the “visitor sign in” desk, and he went to the front desk and said, “I’m here to pick up my son.”

Front desk Lady: “What’s his teacher’s name?” [they ALWAYS ask that, even when you think they ought to know by now, they ask]

Mr. RedFlag: Mrs. Farfignewton [he said a name that didn’t exist]

The Front desk ladies look at each other, and I’m thinking, “What an asshole, deadbeat dad. Doesn’t even know what his kid’s teacher’s name is.” The front ladies asked him what his son’s name is, and he said, “Richard.”

WHAT THE FUCK? Richard? Really? I know this sounds crazy. But as parents and active members of a school community, you just get used to hearing names. And believe me, RICHARD is NOT one of them. So the Front desk ladies are wary by now and they ask him, “His last name?”

Mr. RedFlag: Uh…Smith.

By then, I’m actually getting nervous. I let some dipwad in the door, and he’s a very bad man. And i’m also thinking, well this guy isn’t getting anyone from this school. And then I wished I never let him in. Wished I’d listened to the voice inside me that knew something was off.

That’s when he identified himself as from the Sheriff’s department. And he had a partner who came in at that point as well, and I’m not going to mention how good-looking and romance hero worthy they both were. <3 hotguyAnd even knowing they are the good guys and were probably doing random checks on the safety of the schools [there was a kidnapping a couple of weeks ago where a woman picked up her daughter from school], I was also mad. One, at them for pulling the stunt [even though it really wasn’t a stunt] and two, at the world that this is what we’ve been reduced to. That we must be suspicious of everything, everyone. Sad.

But the writer in me will take that scene, and she’ll turn it into a romance. Because the principal will be a younger single woman who will take offense. And then when she and the Sheriff’s deputy happen to run into each other later that weekend, sparks will fly.

And…maybe, somewhere in that book, a mom will do the right thing and NOT let that Dipwad through the door. She’ll know that something is off, and she’ll close the door behind her without letting him in the front office. 🙁 That’s what we can do in our books. We can make the world hopeful and less scary.

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About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

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Location, Location…

If you’ve read my books, you’ll know I like to set them in locations slightly off the beaten path–very few Mayfair ballrooms for me! Stirring Up the Viscount takes place largely in County Durham, England, where I spent a year in college. Secret Promise characters can be found in Boston, where my mother lives, an island in Lake Erie an hour or two from my house, and Wallsend and Tynemouth in Northumberland, inspired by this photo of Tynemouth Priory:

Tynemouth Priory. Photo by Chris McKenna (Thryduulf) via Wikimedia Commons

My third book, which I’ve just finished–finally–takes place in Maine, inspired in part by this gorgeous painting by Frederic Edwin Church in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Twilight in the Wilderness (1860), by Frederic Edwin Church. Cleveland Museum of Art.

Dalemain House, Penrith, Cumbria. (Source: VisitCumbria.com.)

 

My next book is unrelated to my first three, and takes place in a location inspired by own family tree. My paternal grandmother’s ancestors hailed–some five centuries ago–from Kendal, England. Formerly in the County of Westmoreland and now part of Cumbria, Kendal lies just south of the more famous Lake District. The heroine in the book is an heiress from Kendal, and might live in a Georgian home like this one.

 

Levens Hall, Kendal, Cumbria. (Source: BritainExpress.com)

Or possibly  a 12th century house like this one, which was owned by the Bellingham family from 1562 to 1688. If my family history is accurate–no guarantees there–there are Bellinghams in my family tree.  I’m hoping to head over that way this summer (assuming I don’t sell my house, which looks less likely with each passing day) to tromp through graveyards in search of ancestors, and soak up atmosphere for the next book.

What inspires you in your writing or your reading? Any ideas where I should set the next book? I’m always on the lookout for the next great location!

About Marin McGinnis

About Marin McGinnis Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she’s not chasing after big dogs or watching tweens skate around hockey rinks, she is immersing herself in Victorian era romance. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

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Moving Forward

Life certainly has its ups and downs. The last year and a half has been a down time for me, and I had no choice but to step away from the writing world. A change in jobs, a move to another state, the unexpected death of one my beautiful bonus children, the sale of our dream home, and the passing of our beloved feline all kind of served to knock my man and I off of our proverbial pins.

Red Hearts Blank Small

The one constant throughout this time has been our love for each other. Thankfully that never changed. It gave us both strength to weather every storm life threw at us. It’s no secret that time and distance from painful things will clarify your perspective and help in the healing process. And that’s where I’m at.

While I was taking care of things that I needed to do for my family and myself, I considered whether or not I should continue writing. There were moments when I didn’t think I could ever write again. But I simply can’t imagine my life without writing. So I’m moving forward. I don’t have any projects complete yet, but I am writing and very happy to be doing so. It feels really good. And right.

My heartfelt thanks go out to the lovely ladies here at Through Heart-Shaped Glasses for being patient with me and not kicking me to the curb. They are awesome that way.

For now I just wanted to pop in and say hello, and see you next month!

About Sutton Fox

Sutton Fox has been published by Lyrical Press, Gypsy Shadow Publishing and wrote a bi-monthly column for an auto racing magazine for several years. She traded life in the fast lane of Atlanta for life in the slow lane, in the hills of Bluegrass Country. Her existence is never dull as she works to blend city expectations with country reality. When she’s not writing, you can find her relaxing on the deck with a good book, or cooking for family and friends, which is another story...

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Trying Something New…

The main reason I started writing was because, first and foremost, I’m a reader. I love to read, most kinds of fiction, every day, sometimes all day.

And then, a while back, I went and put myself into a situation where I ran out of books to read.

Agh!!!

Lake Kariba at twilight.

Lake Kariba at twilight.

This was years ago, in the time before ebooks. I was working as a volunteer in Zambia, on the banks of Lake Kariba, a man-made lake a little way down the Zambezi River from the Victoria Falls. It was a stunningly beautiful place, and the experience was life-changing. It was also far, far from any source of books.

Occasionally, we’d make the journey to the capital, Lusaka, (a trip involving boats, motorbikes and 4-wheel drives) and I’d visit the British library and stock up on whatever I could find. And my lovely mother (also a voracious reader) would send me parcels. The occasional visitor would take pity and leave a book behind.

But it wasn’t enough. Nowhere near enough.

And I suffered horrendous withdrawal symptoms.

One of my jobs was running training courses for the people who had been displaced when the Kariba damn was built, so I had access to a lap top (a huge thing run by solar power as we had no mains electricity) and in one particularly low point (I think I’d just finished The Lord of the Rings—one of the books I took with me—for about the fifth time) I decided, my only recourse was to write my own.

And I loved it.

Now I write just about every day… sometimes all day.

Some of the biggest, most life-changing things come about because of something seemingly unconnected. I never planned to become a writer, but now I can’t envisage a different existence. And all because I ran out of books to read.

Have you ever been in any situations that forced you into trying something new? Something you’d hadn’t considered before, but which has changed your life in ways you never expected?

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

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I’m planning to fail. Several times.

“Fact: From quitting smoking to skiing, we succeed to the degree we try, fail, and learn. Studies show that people who worry about mistakes shut down, but those who are relaxed about doing badly soon learn to do well. Success is built on failure.” -Martha Beck

I really like this quote–it makes failure seem less frightening. In fact, it makes it seem like a positive thing. I’d never thought about failure as part of my success, but now that I have, I know I can deal with it.

One of the things I always tell my kids is, “We learn by our mistakes,” meaning that it’s okay to do something stupid once in a while if, in the end, you’ve learned something from it. For example, over the winter my nine-year-old decided he didn’t want to wear his heavy coat to school. Instead of fighting with him about it, I let him make that choice (though I did warn him I didn’t think it was a very wise decision). So he went to school and when he came home, he talked about how cold he’d been at the bus stop and during recess. But, you know, he’s never gone without a coat since. In fact, he’s sure to wear a hat and mittens as well as a warm jacket on cold days because he never wants to experience that level of discomfort again. No nagging on my part, and a lesson well-learned for him.

In a sense, this quote is similar. It gives me permission to fail and learn by my mistakes. It’s especially poignant for me right now because–for the fourth time in my life–I’m doing Weight Watchers. In the past, I’ve gone off the diet at a certain point for whatever reason, and then–because of my failure to stick with it, I consider myself hopeless and regain the weight I’d lost. But by using Martha Beck’s philosophy, I won’t give up completely as I have in the past. Instead, I can give myself permission to relax, accept the failure–briefly–and then return to my healthy eating and exercise plan.  If I do this, I’ll be able to succeed in spite of my failures.

How can you apply this quote to your life?

 

 

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About Jenna Jared

Jenna Jared is addicted to love. And caffeine. She lives with her husband (of 20+) years, three children, two dogs and one cat in the coastal state of Rhode Island. She has been writing and editing under many pseudonyms for many years because her real name is too difficult to spell unless, like many Rhodeilslanders, you're of Italian descent (or married into it and forced to learn how). She avoids laundry, loves horses, and her favorite thing to do is make others laugh.

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How I Relieve Stress

hand-labor-1151300x225We writer’s tend to be an anxious lot. Will I be rejected? Will that email come? What should I say when I query this publisher? Do I even have any talent? The unrelenting worries are constant.

I think there’s a lot of writing that involves putting ourselves out of our comfort zone. Anytime you do that, anxiety is a natural byproduct.

What I’d love to know is how everyone manages their stress levels. I write–I’m kidding. When I get into the zone, I can forget about those worries as the story sucks me in, but when I stop for the day, they’re all still in my head.

Personally, I crochet. The repetition and production of an item is very calming for me. And I love that I can create beautiful things out of a single (very long) thread of yarn. I recently made two baby blankets, a teddy bear (this is called amigurumi), and I’m working on a shawl for my daughter’s formal in a couple of weeks.

I’m truly curious… what do you do to relieve stress?

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If anyone is interested in crochet, Youtube is a fantastic tool for learning! My new favorite stitch is called c2c (corner to corner) and works up in a gorgeous way. I’m including the video that I used to learn c2c.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. It's all about the story. Always.

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