Friday, December 23, 2016

Another Christmas

Here it is - another year gone by. The years seem to fly by now. I mean seriously, I'm still waiting for February 2016. They say time flies when you're having fun. (Whoever "they" are.") I've got news for them. The older you get, the quicker time goes by no matter how much fun you're having.
Not to say life isn't fun. For the most part it is. Or at least as much fun as you make it. But let's face it, life's complicated. It's full of ups and downs, peaks and valleys. You're rolling along and things are good. Suddenly it changes, Life's not always easy.
It's full of conflict. How we react to it is what's important. Me - I have my faith. With God all things are possible.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phillipians 4:13
Sometimes I forget.. But I know deep down - ....All things work together for good.... Romans 8:28.

Okay, I didn't mean for this post to sound preachy.  Back to how time flies. Seems like just yesterday  I was putting up the tree and suddenly it's a year later and time to put it up again,
So much has changed this season. For starters,  I didn't put up my big tree. There are several reasons.
One - and the one I use most - I added a rocking chair to our living room. In order to put up the tree, either I or my husband would have to take the chair up or downstairs.
Since he has COPD, I knew he couldn't do it, and I just didn't have it in me to do it. It would have been a struggle, but I would have managed. Of course then I would have to bring it back after Christmas. I didn't relish the thought.
I could have asked one of my sons, but they have their own things to do. I didn't want to bother them. Besides that, I'm not a patient person. When I want something done, I want it done now. I hate waiting for things or someone. LOL
Usually I put my tree up right before Thanksgiving because the kids all came to our house either for dinner or later for dessert, and we do Christmas at someone else's house. Hence, if I wanted everyone to see my tree (not sure why that's important) I put it up before.
Another thing that changed this year, my youngest son hosted Thanksgiving. That was fine, I didn't mind.
Of course I made my own turkey the day after just so I could have leftovers, and I really did miss cooking. It's the first time in probably 30 years that I've not made Thanksgiving dinner.
Anyway, back to the tree.  I sat here and thought about it for a long time. I finally told my husband we were going with a little tree this year. I really wasn't keen on it, but it beat the alternatives. One of the stores had a 3 ft tree on sale, so off I went to purchase it. I came home, opened the box, and set it up on the table in front of the window. I wasn't all that crazy about it, but it was inexpensive and would serve the purpose.
Of course, I had to haul down the boxes, no easy feat, but hubby grabbed them about half way down so I didn't have to do a lot of running up and down. I didn't bring everything down. It was just too much and my heart wasn't in it.
I put 2 strings of lights on the tree - one white, one colored. I love  the combination. I had several boxes of smaller ornaments - remnants of my pencil tree days (that only lasted a couple years. Give me a big tree any day.) Of course that meant my star didn't fit on this small tree, so it remained without a topper. No problem, I knew I'd pick one up eventually.
A week later, I found the perfect star at the dollar store. It was actually an ornament, but the perfect size for the smaller tree. I wired it on and pulled a couple white lights behind it to shine through.
And then I lit the tree.
I stared at it, unbelieving. The bottom half of the tree looked great. White and colored lights sparkled. However, the whole top of the tree remained dark. Neither white nor colored lights were lit. Okay, if it was just white lights I could understand it. I'd pulled on them a bit and maybe loosened a bulb. Of course, I searched for a loose bulb and couldn't find it. Besides it made no sense at all that the colored lights weren't lit.
Thoroughly disheartened, I wanted to throw the whole thing out the window. I wasn't thrilled with it to begin with. I really wanted to cry. Silly, I know, after all it was just a tree, and there was an easy solution, get new lights. Right?
Not so easy. In order to string new lights, I had to take all the ornaments off (not that there were many, after all it was a small tree) then remove the lights, then restring new lights - which I'd either have to dig through all the boxes upstairs or buy new.
You'd have to see my stairway to know how difficult going upstairs is. It's just an attic for storage and I seldom go up there. Lacking storage in the kitchen, I use the steps as shelves for potatoes, onions, paper towels, crock pot, dog food, etc. Yeah, about six steps are full of stuff.
So, I sat and stared at the tree, debating about what to do. I got up and played with it a few times, wiggling the lights, hoping they'd work. No such luck.
Finally, I opened my laptop, put Home Depot and then Lowes in the search engine and found 4 1/2 ft pre-lit trees. They happened to be on sale at Lowes. Perfect solution! Still not my big tree, but I wouldn't have to move any furniture and I wouldn't have to fool with this tree. Like I said I wasn't overly thrilled with it. Since hubby didn't want to take me, off I went by myself.
Of course, when I looked at the trees all I could find were the big ones and had to ask at the service desk. A nice man took me right to them - on a shelf that I couldn't reach. I picked up a string of colored lights since it already had the white lights and headed home.
It didn't take long to move the little tree (decorations and all) and set this one up. I added the string of colored lights, took the ornaments off the little tree, and decorated the new tree. I was going to add more ornaments, but after I sat back and looked at it, I decided it looked fine. Hubby agreed, of course he agrees with most things.
I felt much better with the new tree and my mood lightened.
I know Christmas isn't about the tree or the gifts, but for some reason the tree really bothered me. Maybe it's the fact I'm getting older and can't do as much as I used to. I even cancelled our traditional Christmas Eve dinner that I make the week before Christmas (everyone can't get together on Christmas Eve and there's too much going on that day anyway).
After almost falling down the basement steps,  and there would be so much running up and down just getting the room ready for everyone, I decided not to risk it. The basement was a mess and needed a good cleaning before I even set up the tables. Plus,  I'd have to borrow chairs again. It was just too much.
It saddens me to have so many changes this holiday season, from not having Thanksgiving dinner to not having our traditional meal. Last year, I had Thanksgiving, the traditional dinner, and Christmas Day. It's probably the last time I'll be doing any of it.
I'm not really ready to give it up. At least not mentally and that really affected me. I didn't even decorate the whole house, my heart wasn't in it. But I feel better now with the newer tree. God's given me the peace to deal with it. I'll celebrate the real meaning of Christmas - the birth of Christ.
Wishing every blessed and Merry Christmas - Happy Holidays (whatever you celebrate) and God's richest blessing to all, or as Tiny Tim said, "God bless us, everyone!"

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Did you ever have a feeling something bad was about to happen?

 Kind of a premonition, intuition, omen or whatever you want to call it? I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve experienced ESP. I mean we all have, haven’t we? Especially with a spouse or sibling. I bet sometimes you even finish each other’s sentences. Nothing unusual in that, is there? Not at all.

But I experienced something even stranger. Oh, I’m Rebecca Brennan. Can’t expect you to read my mind, can I?  I have this rare connection with someone’s mind. I feel what he feels, hear what he hears, and even know what he’s thinking. Not all the time, just sometimes. Thank God for that. I’d hate to know what he’s thinking all the time.  I even feel his pain.  Trust me, that’s not good. In fact, none of it’s good. I mean seriously, how would you like to wake up in the middle of the night, screaming in pain and there’s absolutely nothing physically wrong with you? Trust me, you wouldn’t.
That’s exactly what happened to me in Entangled Minds. I have these strange visions about someone else’s life. Some might think it’s a unique gift. Believe me, it’s not. Determined to find out who shared my mind, I visited a parapsychologist on the advice of my best friend. We finally resorted to hypnotism to see if that would reveal the answer. Problem was, once I discovered who it was, my life
became endangered too.
Entangled Minds is available from Amazon and only 99 cents for a limited time,  Get yours today, makes an excellent Christmas gift.

Here’s an excerpt from my book.

“No!” Rebecca sprang up in bed. Hot searing pain bore into her shoulder. What was happening to her? A warm sticky substance flowed from her shoulder. Oh God, there was going to be blood. From the feel of it, lots of blood.  Half afraid to look, her hand trembled as she slowly brought it in front of her face and looked at it.  Dry, no blood.  What was going on? These kinds of things happened way too often lately. Okay, they were dreams but still. They were so damn real.
Rebecca eased off the bed. Her feet felt like lead weights as she walked to the kitchen and poured a glass of water. After a big gulp, she hurried back to bed. Shivers racked her body even with the blanket pulled up to her chin. A minute ago sweat soaked her skin. Now she couldn’t get warm. Someone’s life had invaded her mind. She didn’t know who or where they lived. And she sure as heck didn’t like it. These were more than dreams. Most of her visions happened while she slept, but they were real. Besides, too many occurred during the day.
The pain eased, but fear and danger lingered. Curling up, she pulled the blanket tighter, closed her eyes, and willed herself to sleep. Strange visions played in her mind. Red, white, and blue flashing lights, fire engines, ambulances, and police rushed around calling instructions, trying to control panic and hysteria at the scene.
Rebecca rubbed her eyes, trying to erase the visions.
“If only I knew how to find this person. Maybe then I’d find out what these dreams and visions mean.” Her voice startled her in the quiet room. Snuggling deeper in bed, pushing the thoughts away, she tried to sleep.
But sleep wouldn’t come. Her mind wouldn’t be still. The visions persisted.  Was she going crazy? Maybe Allison was right to force her to see a parapsychologist.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Seniors Need Love, Too by Roseanne Dowell

Yes, that’s right. Romance isn’t only for the young. My books often are about older heroes/heroines.
Not that I have a problem writing younger characters, I just thought there was a need for books with older ones also. After all I fit into that generation.
  The idea of Geriatric Rebels first came to me when my father was in a nursing home. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get out of bed, but he did refuse to eat or take meds. After years of working as a tile setter, it had taken its toll and he suffered with arthritis in his knees and back, so much so that he wasn’t able to stand or walk.
During several visits, I noticed a little old lady walking past his room and always stopping to look in. She never spoke, just looked at us for a minute and went on her way. Something about her reminded me of my mother. Maybe it was her curly, silver hair, or her slight build. Whatever it was, she stuck in my mind and years later when I decided to write this story, she naturally came to mind. This story actually had several different drafts. The original was a nonfiction assignment for a writing course I took. It was strictly about my father and his incapacity to get out of bed. From there it changed to fiction, and I brought Elsa into the story.  While Elsa is based on my mother – especially her love of playing jokes and her sense of humor, my mother predeceased my father by three years. And while Mike is based on my father, my dad didn’t have this sense of humor. He was more serious minded. While I could picture my mother doing this stuff, even in a nursing home, I honestly couldn’t picture my dad. I think that’s what attracted him to my mother. 
Where I came up with these ideas, I’m not quite sure. I think Mike and Elsa thought of them. The story just took off on its own and flowed. I love when a story does that.

Blurb for Geriatric Rebels
Mike’s in a nursing home/rehab center because he fell and has no one to take care of him. A stubborn, 72 year old, set in his ways, he won’t cooperate with the nurses, refuses to get out of bed or take his medicine. At least he does until he meets Elsa. The tiny, spunky, Elsa sparks new life into him.
Seventy year old, Elsa is left in the home while her son takes a family vacation. She joins forces with Mike, setting the home on its heels. Later they discover deception and fraud.  Will they find happiness together?

Romantic Suspense Author, Gail Roughton says,  "Who says life begins at 40?  Live is wonderful at any age as long as you're willing to live it. Elsa Logan and Mike Powell prove it. And I want to be just like them when I grow up! One of Roseanne Dowell's best, and my personal favorite.  Available from  Amazon

Saturday, November 19, 2016

It's Only Make Believe

On sale for only 99 cents. Don't miss out on this discounted price.

When Michele Markey is forced into marriage to the son of a long time family friend, the only stipulation she makes is he must remain faithful. Brad Lawson agrees, but faithful is one thing, celibate is another. Too bad Brad’s assistant is determined to break up the marriage. Is Brad keeping up his end of the bargain on those extended business trips and late night appointments? Or has he taken up with his sexy assistant again?

Michele swore she’d scream if she had to look into one more smiling face or listen to the words, ‘you make such a perfect couple’, one more time. And her feet hurt. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. To make matters worse, the warmth of Brad’s hand on her back sent heat coursing through her body. How had she let them talk her into this?

The exquisitely decorated hall looked like a fairyland. Mother sure went all out this time. Twinkle lights sparkled through gauzy material that draped from the center of the ceiling and cast a glow on Brad’s face. He was so handsome in his tux. She could almost love him. That is, if she were inclined to love anyone.

The guests sat at round tables adorned with a single red rose in three-foot tall vases. Sure looked like they were having a good time while they awaited the announcement of the newlyweds. Michelle inhaled the scent of roses from her bouquet. The red roses that cascaded through the center of the bridal table looked beautiful, one of the few things Brad had insisted on.

Her mother had sure loved that. “Such a romantic gesture,” she had said. Little did her mother know the pact Michele and Brad had made. “Red roses,” he had told her, “not only mean love, they also mean respect. And though we don’t share love we promise mutual respect.”  A sweet and surprising comment.

Now their seats awaited them, their places of honor, the happy newlyweds. Ha, happy, Michele felt anything but happy. What she felt was tired, irritable, and just plain sick of this whole charade. If she had the nerve, she’d kick off her shoes and run out of here. But she didn’t and she wouldn’t - couldn’t - embarrass herself or her parents that way. She’d agreed to this charade. So she’d stay here, smile and play the happy bride.

 “Almost time to make our grand entrance,” Brad whispered. “Smile.”

Michele pasted a smile on her face and looked up into her new husband’s smoky blue eyes. He caressed her back, making circular motions with his fingers. The tingling sensation burned through her dress. She moved away, but part of her wanted to move closer. Wanted to feel his arms around her. Wanted his lips on hers again even if for only a brief moment, like when he kissed her at the altar after Pastor Bob pronounced them man and wife. Of course, that kiss had been expected. Everyone would have thought it strange if they hadn’t kissed. Something about that brief kiss, though, the way Brad barely touched her lips, sent a ripple of excitement through her even now. One she’d never experienced before.

The microphone crackled. “Ladies and Gentlemen, for the first time let’s hear it for Mr. and Mrs. Brad Lawson.” The Deejay’s voice rose to a crescendo and their guests applauded and whistled as Michele and Brad hurried through the hall.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Summer's Almost At an End

I always feel sad this time of year. School's about to start and another summer will come to an end. I've felt this way ever since my own kids started school. Back when I was a kid, we didn't start school until after Labor Day.
Not sure why they changed it to starting in August and I swear they start earlier and earlier every year. Not that it affects me directly, I no longer have school age kids. But I still feel that sadness every year.  Darned if I know why - well maybe I do. I know what comes next.

Although I love Fall and the beautiful colors it's a sad time of year to me. A time when everything
starts dying, leaves begin to fall, flowers turn brown and wilt and before I know it the trees are bare. Not to mention all those leaves someone, namely me, has to rake. Next thing you know, we'll be shoveling snow.
I used to hate when my mom said that. There's still a lot of summer left, let me enjoy it, I used to answer. Now here I am saying the same things my mother used to say. Silly, I know. There's still a lot of summer left, especially for me since my husband and I are retired and can go anywhere any time we want.
I'm thinking maybe another camping trip is in store sometime in August. We already have one planned with the kids for September and I'm hoping to get one more in sometime in October, before we have to winterize it.
I wish we could afford to go south during the winter months and travel a bit. Social Security checks don't afford us that pleasure. So we'll enjoy the time we have here during the summer months.

We just came off our annual camping trip with the kids and grandkids. Would have been a bit more fun if I hadn't broken my ankle a month before and had to wear a boot, but I still enjoyed spending time with them.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

On Becoming a Mother

When I became a mother, I couldn’t believe the overwhelming sense of awe that came over me as I held my daughter for the first time. Love that I’ve never known before filled my heart as I gazed at this tiny being that lay in my arms. A realm of emotions went through me in a matter of seconds. This child depended on me. Was I up to the task? Would I be a good mother? What did I know about raising a child? 

Sure, I’d been around babies ever since I could remember – I started babysitting at age twelve, but even before that babies fascinated. I used to visit new mothers on warm summer days and play with their babies. I even offered to take them for walks. I always loved kids.

But this was different. I wasn’t babysitting. This child wasn’t going home with me. She was mine.
 I had to care for her full time – feed her, change her, bathe her, soothe her when she cried.

Back then babies were kept in the nursery, except for feedings. I’ll never forget that first feeding. The nurse brought my daughter in and put her in my arms – we had to lie flat in our beds. Not the easiest way to feed a bottle. Anyway, she gave me the bottle and I put it in her mouth. She didn’t immediately start sucking, so the nurse showed me how to jiggle the bottle to initiate the process.

It worked and she began sucking on the bottle, only to begin choking. Fortunately, the nurse was still there. I panicked and took the bottle from her mouth while trying to hold her in an upright position, again no easy feat while you’re lying down. The nurse took the bottle, put it in her mouth, and literally gagged my daughter, who immediately began spitting up.

Let me tell you, I was ready to blast her a good one. Who did she think she was choking my child? She repeated the action, and my daughter spit up a lot of mucus. The nurse quietly explained we needed to get that mucus out. Yeah, like I was going to choke my daughter on purpose.
Somehow, we got through that feeding and the subsequent ones went fine, although my baby remained a spitter until she was about three months old.

My daughter has become a beautiful young woman with three children and grandchildren of her own, so I guess I managed to raise her well. I call her my experimental child. While she was the first to get to do everything – a fact her sisters never let me forget – she was also the one we made our mistakes with.
It helped having an older sister with two children and of course my mother, who, God bless her, was helpful, even if some of her ideas were old-fashioned or old wives tales. We worked through all the childhood diseases, stitches, and heartbreak and we had a lot of good times too.

But it didn't end there. My second daughter was as different from the first as night and day right down to their coloring. While the first was fair, bald (eventually blond), the second was olive skinned, with a dark brown curl on top of her head. When they first brought her to me, I asked if they were sure she was my baby. I expected a replica of the first, so I was quite shocked.
They were also different in temperament as they grew older. When the third daughter came along, I expected her to look like one of the older two. Not so, this little girl had carrot orange hair. Talk about shocked.
 She had a temper to match the firey head of hair. When she learned to walk, my father in law called her a bull in a china shop. She plowed through the house like she was on a mission; usually to disrupt her sisters. 
Like most people I thought sons were the same as daughters. I couldn't have been more wrong. When I held my oldest son in my arms, having a son took on a whole new meaning.   Somehow I knew I was having a boy - don't ask me how. Mother's intuition? We didn't have ultra sounds back then, but I told the nurse, who made up the beads ahead of time, this one was a boy. She had used pink beads, but promised if I had a boy, she'd change them. When I woke up - yes, I was asleep during these births - true to her word, she had changed them to blue beads.
 A more patient baby, I've never seen. From the day I brought him home, he stopped crying the minute I turned him over to change him. Oh yeah, babies slept on their tummies back then.

My second son insisted on giving me false labor pains for two weeks before he was born every evening right around dinner time and lasting into the night. I think he just didn't want me to eat.
 I woke up one morning, went to the bathroom and wow, cramps started up immediately. Since  my husband wasn't home from work yet, I called my sister who lived a couple streets away. Unfortunately, her husband had already left for work. So I called the one and only neighbor I knew - we had only moved in a couple months previously - and asked her to get me a ride to the hospital.
Fortunately she called another neighbor and came to sit with my kids. While we waited for the other neighbor to get there. I paced. My neighbor got nervous and told me to sit down. I told her I couldn’t, which made her more nervous. Baby #5 was born an hour after I got to the hospital, weighing in at 5#5oz. my smallest child. His temper didn't match his size. When he wanted something, he let everyone know it.
My youngest son arrived quite unexpectedly. He wasn't due for another month. Weighing in at 7#6oz and 21 inches long, he was far from premature. Definitely a miscalculation on someone’s part.
While my three daughters looked so different, my three sons, all blond, looked like their father. Of course they all had different personalities.
With each child, I experienced the same overwhelming awe, happiness and a variety of emotions, but the fear lessened. With each one, I knew I was capable of raising them. God blessed me with three beautiful daughters and three handsome sons, all of whom I love more than life itself. They’ve in turn bestowed fourteen beautiful grandchildren on me. It’s great being a mother. Life is good.

Angella - blond - oldest
Kimberly - brunette - 2nd
Patricia - red head - youngest daughter

Daniel - the baby - left
Timothy - 5th child - middle
Brian - oldest son - right

All of us (several years ago) the ones in the inserts couldn't be with us that day.  It's great to be surrounded by family
Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Monday, February 29, 2016

I Smell a Story by Roseanne Dowell

Did you ever notice that unless something smells especially good or particularly offensive, we tend to ignore it?
Because our sense of sight and hearing are dominant we tend to ignore every day smells.  We see the trees, hear the traffic, and look into each other’s eyes as we speak.
But we take our other senses, touch, taste, and smell for granted. We often ignore them.  Oh sure, we feel, taste and smell, but not with a lot of awareness. While the smell of bacon makes our mouth water, and we may say it smells good, or that it’s making us hungry, we don’t elaborate on it. On the other hand if we smell something offensive, say a
skunk, we go on and on about the distasteful odor.  Same thing with taste.
 The bacon and egg tastes good, and we enjoy them, but we expect to enjoy them so we don’t say much about them. On the
other hand, the sour taste of vinegar or a lemon has us spitting and complaining about the acrid flavor.
The same applies to our sense of touch. We feel something soft or silky, it’s comforting, and we might make an off-handed remark. But, if we burn, cut, or hurt ourselves, we complain and make a big deal about the pain.
But in writing all of these senses are as important as sight and sound.  We describe the setting, the background. But by using all of our senses we bring our stories to life. We can go from the real world to a new world of make believe. But we also need to make our story realistic. In both fiction and nonfiction, a richly described setting will pull your readers out of the real world of pressure and tension and into your world of make believe. So we can’t ignore these senses in our descriptions?
We need to become more aware of these senses in our everyday world?  Go outside, look around you - listen to the sounds. Close your eyes.  Inhale deeply, breath in the odors. What do you smell? The flowers, exhausts from cars, it depends where you are. You can do the same wherever you go. Walk into a department store at a mall.  Inhale the scents. What do you smell, the lingering scent of someone’s perfume or the perfume counter, if a smoker walks past you, you detect the odor of cigarette smoke. At a movie it will probably be the smell of popcorn.  Restaurants have many smells, garlic, onions, rich sauces or maybe coffee. Remember these smells. Use them in your writing.
Next time you eat, savor the food. Hold it in your mouth, relish the experience and texture of bread and the slight aroma of yeast.  Feel the surface of the tabletop or tablecloth.  Ingrain them into your memory.
Use these senses in the story. Let your reader hear, see, feel, smell and taste the story. The story and characters will come alive through these senses. It’s not enough to tell us what something looks like. SHOW US!! We want to feel it, smell it, and maybe even taste it. Readers won’t notice that you included them, but they will notice if you omit them. Without them, your world will be flat, boring, and unrealistic.
 No, you don’t have to add them to every sentence or even every scene. Maybe your characters are in a situation where they don’t notice smells or textures and there’s nothing to taste. That’s often true of tense scenes. If someone is attacking you, you certainly aren’t going to notice the sweet smell of roses. On the other hand you might notice the offensive odor of his sweat. And you’ll certainly feel the beads of perspiration on your own forehead or the taste the nausea building up from your throat to your mouth.
Other times we might be deep in thought and won’t even notice our surroundings. That’s fine, but make sure to include them when they are needed. If your characters walk into a restaurant, we want to know what they smell as well as what they see and hear. Too often, as beginners these senses are ignored.
Remember also, that some odors will smell different to different people.  Some smells are “Universal”.  Dog poop and the smell of garbage are offensive to everyone. Flowers, freshly cut grass or fresh baked bread usually evoke memories.  We can all picture a garden, or remember the first spring mowing and of course Mom or Grandma in the kitchen baking. Use these scenes to help show us the scene or bring out an emotion of our characters.  Some smells scents are less universal. Cauliflower will smell differently to me than you. If the reader loves it and you hate it, the scene will be all wrong. What you want to make sound delicious might make your reader go yuck and you’ll have lost the realism. Stick to the universal smells.
Pick up your favorite novel. Go through it page by page. Highlight the senses with different colors. What an amazing array of colors on the pages. No, you might not see all the colors on every page, but enough to make it colorful.
So how do we use these senses in our scenes?
Imagine your character on a beach by the ocean. Put yourself there. Close your eyes. Picture it. What do you hear?  Are the seagulls squawking, children playing? Can you hear the swish of the waves? Let’s take it further. Inhale, take a deep breath. What do you
smell, the fresh air, salty water?  How does your skin feel? Can you feel the wet spray from the waves? Can you taste the salty ocean? Wiggle your toes in the gritty sand. Is it hot, does it burn your feet? Are the waves coming on shore and flowing over your feet? Can you squish your toes in the wet sand?
How much stronger your words will be describing these feelings and tastes as well as the sights and sounds through your characters. Your story and characters will become more alive.
The senses are as important to non-fiction, as they are critical to fiction.
If you’re writing a how to article about baking bread, the reader needs to know that they should knead the dough until it blisters for a better, lighter loaf, and that it should be smooth to the touch. No the smell of the yeast is not important.  Some things are not important in non-fiction, but if you are writing a nostalgic piece about the memory of Mom or Grandma baking in the kitchen, add those senses. They’re an integral part of the article.
Start today, right now - observe these senses in everyday life. Pay particular attention to the feel, smell, and taste. Sometimes you can taste something just from the odor. Have you ever experienced a particularly bad odor?  It smelled so bad you could almost taste it.

 Remember these senses. Concentrate on the feel of the smoothness of a baby’s skin or the texture of your sheets, vegetables, everything you touch. Make a mental note of these feelings. Use them in your stories. Make your characters real to the reader and enjoy the senses that we take so for granted.

Monday, February 22, 2016

To Plot or Not by Roseanne Dowell

At one of our chapter meetings of RWA, the speaker talked about plotting a novel and writing a synopsis before the book was written. She suggested if we had never done that to try it.
So I did.

I had an idea for a story that was taking shape in my mind. As usual, I knew how it would begin and how it would end. What happened in the middle? I didn’t have a clue. Oh, I had a few ideas. 

I knew there was a secret about my heroine’s birth, and she’d find a dead body But I had no idea who he was  (yes, I knew it was a male) or why he was killed. So I tried plotting. I came up with a few ideas about his identity and even about who murdered him and even why. 

I was totally blocked. The story sat for the better part of the year without me typing even one word. Every time I opened it, I read it, made a few changes and then I got to the part where I was stumped.
I stared at the computer, sometimes for hours, trying to come up with something, anything –even if it was garbage – just to get me past that hump. I couldn’t do it. So I’d move on to something else. I revised several other stories that I’d written a long time ago, then I’d go back to it. The problem was –I was locked into the outline, I didn’t know how to make the transition to the next thing. It didn’t feel right.                                                                                 
It wasn’t until one day; I was emailing my writing buddy about my dilemma. I needed help and any suggestions she could offer would be most welcome. I wrote what I had so far, and where I wanted the story to go. For some reason, in that email, I started to ask what if, which is how I usually wrote. I threw out a couple of ideas to her and answered them myself. Finally, I was unblocked. I even created a new character and another conflict. I ignored the plot outline and went a completely different way.
That was how I usually wrote, asking what if as I wrote, coming up with new ideas. For me, plotting and outlining doesn’t work. I’ll never do it again. For others, it works fine and good for them.  I understand it’s not necessary to stick to the outline, but for me, since I  outlined, I had trouble deviating from it.  It blocked my creativity. Yes, I should have ignored it long before, but it was too fresh in my mind. It took a year and then some to forget what was on that outline so I could move on.
I guess my whole point is – write the way it’s comfortable for you. There is no right or wrong way, there’s only your way. There are few hard and fast rules in writing. We all have to develop our own style, our own voice, and our own rules. Some authors get up in the morning and sit down to write. Some write later in the day, and still others write in the middle of the night. Again, whatever works best for you. The important thing is to write.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

An Offer from Ginger Simpson

The blurb says it all about this short, but intriguing story:

Can you consider a necklace a gift if it makes you angry enough to kill?

A simple trinket left in a confessional begins a path of destruction throughout the years.

The silver pendant, left behind by a woman who killed her boyfriend, is supposedly cursed; at least that's what she claimed before she raced out of the church.  Any woman who dares fasten the locket around her neck suffers severe and uncontrollable anger.  Woe be it to anyone who gets in the path of the wearer.

Is the piece cursed, or are the deaths totally unrelated?  Detective Clarence O'Day is unable to make the connection...until forty years after the first case.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Write Idea by Roseanne Dowell

Can lowly little Charlene Smith, ordinary homemaker, write a best seller? Do authors have to  lead adventurous, exciting lives like lawyers or doctors to become successful writers?
No, we do not have to lead exciting lives. However, we do need a good imagination and good ideas. So where do writers come up with ideas for their stories?
For starters, we need to write about things we enjoy. Skateboarding, bike riding, hiking, bowling- even cars are potential articles or stories.  What if a hiker finds a dead
body? A mystery plot is formed. Any character we create may have one of these hobbies or occupations – and how much more believable this character will be because we have first hand knowledge.
Look around you, what do you see?  Right now, I see a room with a computer, printer, and a scanner. But it is not just a room, it is a potential setting for a story. Now lean back and really look at the room. My walls are pewter blue - a cream-colored shade covers the window. If I were writing a story, I would elaborate on this through my character. Everything around us has potential, if we chose to look at it with a writer’s eye.
Think about being stuck in traffic. What do you usually do? Turn up the radio, call someone from your cell phone, and tap the steering wheel impatiently? Next time turn that negative energy into something positive. Who's in the car next to you, behind you? Where is that carload of kids off to, a soccer game, Grandma’s house? Look at the driver, what is she feeling, sitting there with a car full of kids bouncing around and jumping. Her mouth moving. Is she yelling, singing, playing a game with them.  How about that young couple next to you, are they in love, arguing? Put them in a scene - make up a story about them. That isn't just a car full of kids, or a young couple. You're not just stuck in traffic, or standing in line at a supermarket. You're viewing potential characters, ideas, scenes, making up plots. Look in the carts of people around you. Are they buying that wine and cheese for a rendezvous, celebration?  Every place you go look for the potential setting for a story, everyone you see is a potential  character.
Check out the daily newspaper. Many articles give me ideas for my next plot. Maybe the bank robber will make a good character for your villain.  But don't stop there, look in the classifieds? Under help wanted ads, you might find different and unusual occupations for your characters. Then there are the business opportunities and legal notices.  I found an interesting Notice regarding a Public Hearing on the merits of designating several old schools in the area as city landmarks. This piqued my interest since I attended two of those schools. It could lead to a possible setting for a story or maybe an article about a trip down memory lane. 
Last, but not least read the for sale ads. Every conceivable item is for sale from antiques to stereo equipment. I particularly enjoy looking through the jewelry section.  One ad for a diamond engagement ring valued at three thousand dollars was listed as a must sell for twelve hundred. The ad raised my curiosity.  I figured it was for sale because
of a broken engagement, but then I thought what if the woman’s husband died leaving her penniless, and she desperately needed money for medical bills. More interesting to me was the thought of who would purchase the ring.  What man would buy a second hand ring, albeit a good deal, for his new fiancee. Then I thought maybe he took it to a jeweler and had the diamond put into a new setting. What would happen if the fiancĂ©e found out she had a used diamond. Would she think what an ingenious idea or would she be angry?  All this from a one-line ad.  The newspaper is an excellent source for ideas.
Mary Rosenblum, Author of several novels, Instructor and Web Editor at Long Ridge Writers Group says. “Whenever I’m researching a community as a setting for a mystery or contemporary piece, I always pick up copies of the local paper, and yes, I turn right to the classifieds. Who is selling what and for how much? Farmall tractors? Six bottom plows? Must be a farming community. Spray equipment, apple boxes? Orchards. What are the housing prices like? Is this the overpriced bedroom community for ski resort? Are houses with an acre or so of land dirt cheap? Nobody’s working! You can take the pulse of a community with the ads in that paper.” 
Magazines are another good source for ideas. Open it to any page, look at the pictures, even the advertisements - see an attractive woman or a couple. Imagine them in a scene. Create a plot around them. 
Last, but certainly not least, is our author friends. Many times, I got an idea for an article, just from our daily conversation.  Today the subject of being the only one who managed to fill the ice cube trays came up.  One thing led to another and it turned into an idea for a humorous article. 
Sources for ideas are limitless. We just need to view the world around us with the writer’s eye.

Monday, February 8, 2016

How Much Fact to Put Into Fiction by Roseanne Dowell

I know well-meaning friends often say - “You ought to write this down, it would make a great story.”   Well, actually, no it wouldn’t. I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying “fact is stranger than fiction” - well it is. If you’re writing nonfiction, fine go ahead and use the story about Uncle Joe getting stuck on the roof.  It was a comical incident and will make a great creative nonfiction story. However, for fiction the idea won’t make for a great story without some changes.   For the most part, it’ll come off as false. Readers just won’t believe it. Why?  Think about it.  Other than Science Fiction - which still has to be written as believable- when you read a story or novel, one of your first thoughts is –  can this  happen. It might be farfetched but it can happen.  Besides you, the author will be telling the story.  And we want to show our stories. 

Here’s our incident. Uncle Joe got stuck on the roof while hanging Christmas lights.   He put a ladder on the peak of the garage and when he went to get off the other peak he reached his foot out, the ladder slipped away.  He moved toward it and inched his way off the roof, reached his foot out and tried to snag the ladder. Again it slipped away. One more time and it slipped out of reach. By this time he was hanging by his elbows. . No one was in the house. It was cold and the roof was covered with snow. He looked around to see if a neighbor might have come out. Nothing – his arms were getting tired and he didn’t know what to do.  The only thing left was to jump.  He knew if he landed on his feet, they’d slip out from under him and he’d slide off the roof like a bullet.  He took a deep breath and let go. Thankfully he landed and didn’t slide.

If I were writing it for creative nonfiction, I’d embellish it, make it humorous. 

But, how do we create a story from this idea?  It almost sounds like an incident from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Grisham’s Skipping Christmas? How did they do it?  Some people need to plot out the idea on paper, which is fine. I wish I could do that.  But, I’m one of those writers that just start writing.  Oh I’ll jot down some ideas and know where I want to go, but in the beginning I usually have no idea how to get there.  I know the beginning and the end. What happens in the middle is as much a surprise for me as it is for the reader. And that works for me.  Whatever works for you is fine.

Okay, we have the idea.   A man is stuck on a roof.  He doesn’t have to be putting up Christmas lights. He could be up there for a variety of reasons.  Maybe they had a leak and it was raining cats and dogs.

One of the first things, even for me, is to create the plot.  I start, of course, with my characters name, age and appearance. Okay let’s call our guy, Charlie. He’s middle-aged, slightly balding, but tall and muscular. Next I ask why Charlie was on the roof.

Once I have my characters, I develop my idea.  First question:  What genre’ am I writing?  This is where we start asking the questions, what happened, how did it happen, etc.  If I’m writing mystery I have to decide is it a murder mystery?  Who gets killed, where and why?

Hmm - maybe someone moved the ladder. And maybe Charlie makes it down but he knows someone is trying to kill him.

 If Charlie is the intended victim we’ll need a potential killer.  

Once we know the where and why, we need to know if the murder is going to happen in the book, or behind the scenes.  In other words has the murder been committed when we come on the scene or are we going to show our readers the murder.   In this case it’s an attempted murder because Charlie isn’t dead.

Then we need to know how our main character is going to solve the crime.  We need some clues, usually not ones the reader will pick up on right away, but clues that at the end of the story they’ll hit their foreheads and say “Oh I should have known.”

Do you see how we took a real life incident and changed it into something totally different? Sure we could have written humor like National Lampoon, but why stop there.  Explore different avenues. You could take the same incident and change it into a romance or fantasy. Maybe even Science Fiction.  I don’t write that either so I’m not going try to explain that. But who knows maybe while Charlie is repairing the roof, men from mars kidnap him.   Let your imagination run wild. 

Blurb and Excerpt for Entangled Minds
Visions of someone’s life disturb Rebecca Brennan’s dreams. The dreams become dangerous and she’s determined to find who shares her mind. Her search leads her to a
small town and puts her life in danger too.

The next morning Rebecca, once again, sat in Bernard Clark’s office. Something about the heavy-set, middle-aged man with salt and pepper hair and scruffy beard reminded her of her grandfather. As usual, he listened to her story with a serious expression.
Was this really helping? How many hours had she spent sitting across from the mammoth mahogany desk, staring at the book-lined shelves behind him? And so far, she didn’t know anything more than before. Once more, that’s it. If nothing changed today, she’d quit coming. Maybe he was a quack, like her brother said. Rebecca took a breath and relaxed in the comfortable atmosphere, inhaled the smell of new leather that clung to the chair, and leaned back. Okay, maybe she did have a deep extra sensory perception connection with someone like Bernard said. The question was with whom. 
“I think you need to find this person,” Dr. Clark suggested. “It’s possible the physic mind is reaching out to you for help.”
"How?" That’s why she was here. If he didn’t help her figure it out, that was it. No more visits. Besides, it cost money, and who could afford it? If Allison hadn’t agreed to pay half, well that was another story. Dr. Bernard’s voice brought her back.
“Start with the dreams,” he suggested. “Tell me about them again.”
“I see scenes with emergency vehicles. Last night someone got shot," she told him for what seemed like the hundredth time. "I wonder if he has something to do with law enforcement or other emergency operations. I'd recognize the town if I ever saw it in person. It’s so vivid in my mind."
"Would you consider hypnotism?" Bernard fingered his beard. Intense blue eyes stared into hers. "Maybe your sub conscious mind will reveal the place, or person, or something to help you find it."
Leary about being hypnotized, but desperate to find who shared her mind, Rebecca agreed.
Under her hypnotic trance, she revealed the name of a shoe factory. A place called Booth’s Boots, and she repeated the name, Morris, over and over.

"It’s not much to go on," Rebecca told Allison later,” but it’s more than I knew before. Maybe Morris is my mind connection."
Encouraged by the information, she spent the better part of the day doing research. Using the Internet, Rebecca keyed in Booth’s Boots. Instantly, several websites popped up.
“Okay, let’s check out”
A website, showing various types of boots from hunting to work boots, popped up.
“This is great. Let’s see what this says.” She clicked on News and Events. “No help there. Okay, let’s try Outlet Stores.” She almost jumped out of her chair. “There it is!” A factory, located in Morrisville, Ohio.
“Morrisville, could that explain the name Morris?” A prickly sensation went up her spine. She was getting close; she could feel it.
“Okay, let’s try this.” Rebecca didn’t care she was talking to herself. Besides, it wasn’t the first time. Keying Morrisville into the search engine, she held her breath, more determined than ever to find the town. If it took all day, then so be it.  A site popped up with several suggestions. “Okay, let’s see what this one is about.” homepage popped up, and further down the page, it showed–Pictures taken around Morrisville.
She held her breath and clicked on one. The first picture that came up was a log cabin. No help there. “Okay, how about this one? The Square. ” It looked familiar. Shivers ran up her spine. “Okay, how about Hotel Darby. Yes! I’ve seen this place.” One more. She drew in her breath and clicked on Victorian.
“Oh my God, that’s it! That’s the house.” She almost jumped out of her seat. The Queen Anne house in her dreams showed on the screen big as life.  Where is this place?  Clicking back to the homepage, she found it on the map. “Not far from Wattsburg; only a three hour drive from here. I have to go there.”
"Allie." Rebecca phoned her friend. "I found it, I searched the net, and I found it. Even pictures of the town. I recognized all the buildings right down to the house."
"Calm down…"
"I have to go there. It’s only a three hour drive." Not waiting for Allison’s response, Rebecca continued. "I have to find out who I’m connected with."
"What are you going to do?" Allison asked. “Walk into the little town and say hey, someone here is connected to my mind."
Rebecca laughed at her friend’s wit. “I have a plan. First I’ll go to the newspaper office and check for stories about someone being shot on Friday. Then I’ll try to find out where he is. I’m sure he’s alive.” Her intuition told her danger still lingered, but she couldn’t explain that to her friend.
"Maybe it’s a she," Allison said. "What makes you say he?"
"I don’t know." Rebecca paced the living room. "It’s just a feeling I have. It doesn’t matter; whoever it is, I have to go." Okay, it was a crazy scheme, but feelings like this couldn’t be ignored. “There’s no turning back now, Al, I have to find him.”
“Would you like me to go with you?”
 "I have to do this myself.”
“I don’t like this, Beck. You shouldn’t be doing this alone. What if it’s dangerous? I mean you see cop cars and stuff. What if he’s a criminal?”
Rebecca shivered. God, what if he was a criminal? No, something told her that wasn’t the case. Call it a gut feeling or intuition, whatever it was, Rebecca would bet her life he wasn’t a criminal.
“I’m sorry, Al. Thanks for the offer, but no. I have to do this on my own. I’ll be fine. Really.”

Monday, February 1, 2016

Grandma's Chicken Soup by Roseanne Dowell

Chicken Soup topped our family’s menu every Sunday in the cold Ohio winters during the fifties. Soup making began in the late fall. Grandpa, Mom, and my uncle purchased several crates of live chickens from the Farmers Market.   Our families met at Uncle Martin’s where he and Grandpa hauled in the stained, battered, old tree stump they used for this occasion.  After making sure it sat level on the basement floor, they brought in the crates of chickens, which were clucking as if they knew their fate.
My cousins, brothers, sisters, and I sat on the steps and watched with anticipation as Grandpa placed a chicken on the chopping block. With one thump of the ax, he chopped off its head. The chicken dropped to the floor and raced around the basement without its head, still clucking. We now knew the saying running around like a chicken without its head came from.
Of course we thought it was hilarious. We’d laugh and take bets on how soon the chicken would plop over.  One or two passes around the furnace and they toppled. My uncle followed them, picked them up, and placed them on a pile.
While the chickens were beheaded, Aunt Ruth lit the old stove in the corner and set two huge pots of water to boil. Grandma and Mom set up two long tables in the middle of the basement and covered them with newspaper. After Mom and my aunt dipped the chickens in the boiling water for a few minutes, they set them on the table and Grandma showed us kids how to pull the feathers.
The stiff wet feathers were not what I expected. Far from the image of soft and fluffy, they felt sticky and prickly and clung to our hands. The gamy odor of wet feathers prickled my nose. Wet feathers do not have a pleasant smell. We shook them off our hands, usually aiming at one of our siblings or cousins when the adults looked away.
After we finished pulling the feathers, Mom, Aunt Ruth, and Grandma slit them open and pulled out their innards. Never one to mind gory stuff, I wished I could do that part instead of the feathers. I watched in fascination as they often removed eggs covered with a thin-skinned membrane. Mom showed us the eggs and explained how they didn’t take on a hard shell until they matured. They gently placed the larger eggs in a bowl for later use in baking.  The smaller eggs were discarded.
Next came the gizzard, it was removed, cut open, and cleaned out.  They set the liver aside for later use, as grandma, my mom, and aunt used it in their cracker stuffing*.  The heart was set aside with the gizzard to be packaged with the neck. Later they’d be boiled, then discarded, and the broth saved for the stuffing.
Once the insides were thoroughly cleaned, Mom, Aunt Ruth, and Grandma took the chickens to the stove. Holding them close to the flame, they singed off the remaining nubs of feathers.  The stench of scorched feathers filled the air, and we kids ran upstairs to get away from the nasty smell.
They washed and packaged the chickens for the freezer, all but one that is. That one they used the next day for a big pot of homemade chicken soup.
Mom always stuffed the chicken with delicious cracker stuffing*, secured the openings with poultry nails and string, and into a large pot of  water it went with carrots, celery, and onions. The delicious aroma of chicken soup soon filled the house. 
When the chicken was tender, Mom removed it from the soup, placed it in an open roasting pan, and browned it in the oven.
The rich soup served with thin noodles, often homemade, warmed our bellies and the kitchen on cold Sunday afternoons. Mom usually made rice or potatoes, gravy, a vegetable and, of course, the stuffing to eat after the soup.
This was our traditional Sunday dinner every week in the winter.  Mom never varied from it nor did Grandma and Aunt Ruth. I still make it, but not always on Sunday, and certainly not from live chickens.
Every time I make the soup it takes me back. Back to younger carefree days - days when nothing much mattered, helping our parents was top priority, and everything we did seemed like fun.

Grandma’s Chicken Soup
1 4 to 5 # chicken
8 – 10 carrots chopped or left whole 
8 stalks celery – chopped or whole use some of the leafy ones from inside the bunch.
     2 – 3 large whole onions-again chopped or left whole
     Bunch of fresh parley

Clean the chicken in cold water and pat dry. After you stuff the chicken (recipe below) put it in a 12 quart soup pot. Add water to within about 4/5” from top of pot. Bring to boil. Skim with small strainer. Add carrots, onions, celery, and parsley. These can be added whole (which is what I do, since some of my children didn’t like onions,carrots, or celery)or chopped. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender. (It will take several hours for a stewing chicken, less for a roasting or frying chicken.) Remove chicken to roaster and brown in 350 degree oven until golden.  Serve soup with noodles
When the chicken is browned, remove the stuffing from the cavities and slice. Carve chicken and serve with noodles, rice, or potatoes and vegetables.  

Grandma’s Cracker Stuffing

1½ packages saltine crackers
1 T. black pepper                
1/3 bunch of chopped fresh parsley or 2 T. parsley
Liver from the chicken, slivered (optional)
½ stick butter melted             
1 egg     
Broth from boiling gizzard, heart, and neck or chicken broth)                           

Clean insides of chicken and pat dry. Place the neck, gizzard and heart in a saucepan with enough water to cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for approximately 20 minutes. This can be done the day before. Cool.  
Crush crackers very fine in large bowl. Add pepper and parsley to crackers. Chop liver into sliver sized pieces and add to crackers.  Melt butter and add to crackers, mixing well - making sure to coat crackers with butter. 
Add 1 egg and mix well. 
Add the broth to the mixture a little at a time, mixing well between. Mixture should be stuck together and pasty, not loose. More on the dry side.
 Stuff chicken cavity and neck cavity with mixture. Using poultry nails and string, weave the nails through the skin to close cavities and tie with string to secure, just as you would for a stuffed turkey. 

***Note: your can make the chicken without making the soup and make the soup from the leftover bones like you would for turkey soup.