Sunday, November 28, 2010

Get Your Prostate Checked Today

I have suffered for the whole month of Movember but it is for a good cause.  Had I met my hubby in the 70s, our children wouldn't exist--just saying. It (the moo) has actually started to grow straight out from his face and is all bristly. Obviously normally he is super hot and handsome, but this is him today...two more sleeps!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Guest Blogger: Deanna Jewel

Welcome everyone! We’re on location among the ancient petroglyphs in Whiskey Basin, Dubois Wyoming, with time travel romance author, Deanna Jewel. This area is where her story takes place and where Kate touches the petroglyphs to be pulled back in time to meet her soul mate, but it certainly doesn’t start out like that! Grab a mug of hot cocoa or coffee and there’s Irish Crème to add for those who want extra warmth in their drinks. Keep an eye out for the big horned sheep that roam this area – they are beautiful creatures!
DJ: Toni, thank you so much for inviting your readers to join me. I’m so glad severl of you chose to stop in and check out my novel, Never Surrender. The drinks are plentiful so you all stay warm and there are blankets for everyone!

TA:  Deanna, we’re glad to have you join us! How did you come to use Whiskey Basin as the setting for your novel?

DJ:  My brother lived here back in the late ‘90’s and when I visited, two characters popped into my head and wouldn’t let me rest until I wrote their story. When I came to this basin and saw the petroglyphs, I just knew then that a time travel novel is what had to be written. I’m told by readers that it makes them feel like they’re right here when they read the novel.

TA:  What type of research did you do for the area and the Shoshone Nation?

DJ:  I couldn’t get enough information in my hands or read fast enough. I wanted to be true to the Native Americans who lived here then and now and I hope I’ve done that. I wanted to portray their lives as close to what it might have been like. Their way of life back then wasn’t easy but they are a proud people and stick together to help each other. 

TA:  As authors, we all have different ways we write. Tell us about the writing of Never Surrender.

DJ:  I wish all my books were as easy to write as Never Surrender. As I did the research and learned more with every bit of information I found, the characters and their story unfolded like a movie in my head. I wrote what I saw, what I heard, what the characters felt. The characters wrote Never Surrender and I hope that their story comes to life for every reader. I’d love to hear from those who have read my story. Comments can be left in my guestbooks, on my blog or leave a review at Amazon or B & N.

TA:  Are the characters based on particular people of Dubois?

DJ:  I can’t say that they are. I didn’t meet many people when we were there so only one of my characters is real. She used to own the Pony Espresso and her name is Prudy – thank you for allowing me to include you in my story, Prudy! The rest of the characters are figments of my imagination and that is pretty powerful! LOL

TA:  Let us into your world for a bit. What is a writing day like for you?

DJ:  When I wrote Never Surrender, it was a time when I was working so I wrote late at night after the kids were in bed or my mommy duties were done. I’d write until one or two in the morning then get up at six or seven for work and do it all again. Also back then I wasn’t working on my websites, covers, promo items and marketing like I am now.  Now, I have to struggle to make time or perhaps it’s called better time management! LOL I market and do email in the morning now and it seems like I’m on the computer 24/7 – marketing never stops if we want to be as many places on the net as possible. I also do my own web sites, schedule my own online interviews and public book signings along with helping my husband at the office once in a while. I guess I could easily say I don’t sleep much because I’m a night owl!

TA: Some of us plot out the story chapter by chapter. How do you plot your stories?

DJ:  I jot down a few basic things I want to happen in the story so I know the beginning, middle and end and maybe a few things in between but mostly I let my characters take it from there. I’m not, nor have I ever been, one who plots chapter by chapter. Perhaps I need to get a bit more organized. I’ve been looking into some of the writing programs so we’ll see.

TA:  How do you think you’re able to pull the reader into your story so they feel like one of your characters?

DJ:  I strive hard to write with all five senses. This is what makes the reader feel like they are one of the characters standing right next to my characters. You have to let them smell the city or the forest floor or the crackling fire; they have to feel the heart ache, the love, the need to be with someone they care about; they have to know what cold slimy things feel like or sharp protruding rocks in a stream or the heat of a sharp slap to a cheek. Write so the reader can relate to the characters.

TA:   Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?

DJ:  My books are available in print, eBook, iBook, PDF, etc and can be purchased from my website, Amazon, B & N, MobiPocket, etc. I have several contests going on right now and there are links on my website to those contests so our readers can hop over and enter the contests to win a copy of one of my novels, as well as find me at the links below. There are more links on my website as well:

TA:  You are also running a contest for this interview, correct?

DJ:  Yes I am! For those who leave a comment or ask a question, I will include them in the drawing for a chance to win a copy of Never Surrender, which will be the old cover, not the new orange dream catcher cover, sorry, but the story is still the same!

      Thank you to all who stopped by to read this interview and to those who graciously left comments for me. Visit my blog and find the character interviews I have posted there!

Thanks Deanna, for visiting my blog today!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Check out Inez Kelley's Birthday Bash Blow Out where she's giving away a ton of ebooks, including STORM WARNING.  Happy Birthday, Inez. Happy Thanksgiving USA!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One Year On...

 (Me and the dogs on Kings Barns Beach, 2004)

It's been a year today since we lost our dog Benn (almost 3 since we lost Finn). So much has happened in the past 12 months and yet every day we've had little reminders of him--and way too many tears. But here are some happy photos and a couple of videos showing what great family dogs they were.  And I finally feel ready for another dog, but not sure we can quite afford one.  Soon, I hope.  Very soon.
Happy times.  At least we still have Penny & Rufus (two of Finn's other pups/Benn's brother & sister) in the family back in Scotland, (Rufus in the middle below).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Letters to Santa

Can you remember when you still believed in Santa Claus? It is one of those magical fantasies that children adore. Every year I hold my breath to see whether or not we'll pass the Santa test and every year, so far, our lies and manipulation have paid off.  There are plenty of kids in their classes who've moved beyond believing and that makes me sad. Grade 5 kids should still believe in Santa. One problem we have this year is the fact our son sealed the envelope before we got to read the letter.  Thought about steaming it open and decided that wasn't really in the spirit of Christmas so I'm going to wing it.  I still need to buy the 'secret' wrapping paper, the remnants of which get burned after we've wrapped the Santa presents.  Starting to get excited :)  If only I had a few elves to help with all the preparation...

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Grandad, 90 today!

Today my Grandad turns 90 years old. He was born in Liverpool--Rector Road. He's a little hard of hearing these days and it's hard to have a good conversation with him from 4000 miles away. I miss him so much! He tells the funniest stories, about the war. About dating a girl called Jean Anderson (my m-i-l's name) until he met and fell in love with my granny and how he had to go and tell Jean's dad that he was seeing someone else, and Jean's dad called him a rat and told him to get out :)  When my mom was born (1942) he'd already had his official leave but was granted 48 h to come and meet his newborn daughter. He said she cried the whole time and he was glad to get back to the war! He didn't see her again until 1946--imagine having a child and not seeing them grow up? The sacrifices were huge and not just for the men. My mom's an only child and I know he dotes on her.
When I was a little girl I'd often stay home with Grandad while everyone else went shopping. What they might not have realised is he would send me to the shop with a 50p or pound to buy him a Mars bar and I got to keep the change and spend it on as many sweets as I wanted.  It forged a bond of pure love between us ever since.  After my granny died he would often visit us, first in Ontario and then when we were back in Scotland.  Shropshire suits him though, with the occasional visit to his sister's in Liverpool. He's a little frail to make it out to Winnipeg so it was wonderful to see him back in May.  

Many Happy Returns of the Day, Grandad!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Invasion Beaches--Normandy (REPOST)

Because we were in Normandy in April this year I thought I'd repost my impressions of the Beaches where my Grandad landed and, according to him, where he blasted the hell out of the Hitler Youth in Caen. (He isn't very politically correct but I love him anyway). He was a color sergeant major in the Royal Artillery in charge of these things (below) which made him deaf as a post. In an odd coincidence his unit supported the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division throughout the war.
We headed east to some of the D-Day beaches yesterday to try and get a sense of the incredible events that took place 6th June 1944.  It doesn't seem so long ago anymore.  I think maybe you measure time differently as you get older.  I don't have time to write a long blog--almost lunchtime here in the caravan and I'm typing on the kitchen table and I'm about to get kicked off :) 

First we went to Juno Beach where the Canadian troops landed.  It was a long flat stretch of sand strongly fortified by Hitler's Atlantic Wall (an incredible feat of engineering in itself). The sun shone down on golden sand and it was hard to believe so many men fought and died here.

We drove north from here to Arromanches and Gold Beach where the British and other Commonwealth troops came ashore.  We ate lunch on top of a German bunker.
The remains of the Mulberry Harbor that enabled the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 can be seen in this bay.  The Allied Forces constructed the world's largest port within a couple of days of taking the beach.  Arramanches also has the Musee du Debarquement which explains how they designed, engineered and built the floating harbor and hid it from the Nazi spy planes prior to the invasion.  Thank God for Winston Churchill.
Finally (because we have four kids under 10 and a two-hour drive home) we went to Omaha Beach where some of the American Forces landed. 
Overlooking the beach is the American war cemetery at Colleville sur Mer made famous in the opening scene of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.  Immediately you turn in the gate you know you are in a small slice of America.

It's an incredibly beautiful place.  Somber and respectful.  Row upon row of immaculate ice-white marble crosses and star of David headstones are laid out with pinpoint precision.  The symmetry of the stones and the formality of the neatly trimmed lush green lawns and massive monuments adds a slightly surreal aspect.  This is nothing like the rural France we drove past to get here.  It is grand and imposing and a magnificent resting place for so many unfortunate young warriors.

So many graves dated 6th June 1944.  I don't know what would be worse--to die on D-Day or be killed in the battle afterward?  Such brave men.  So many dead.  It's heartbreaking and humbling.

A little further on is the most spectacular piece of coast taken during the assault at Pointe du Hoc.  The American Airborne Division had to climb rope ladders to get to the Nazis shooting at them from the incredible array of German bunkers topping the cliffs (not sure I'd classify this as a beach!).  The top of the hillside is dimpled and cratered from the artillery bombing.  The battle was fierce and bloody on both sides. 

The previous day we'd visited a German Cemetery (I haven't downloaded those pictures yet).  A cold somber granite circle, almost like a bunker in its own right.  No pomp and ceremony, just the bleak warning as to the peril and folly of warfare.  So many dead here...

I wouldn't have missed this part of our holiday for anything.  Paying our respects and trying to imagine what went on 65 years ago put the whole thing into perspective and made it feel real.  How do you thank people for making sacrifices like that?  

Monday, November 08, 2010

Secondary characters, MS, and my brother

I received a nice review of SEA OF SUSPICION from The Romance Reviews last week--Thanks, Arkali. The thing I really liked about this review (especially as the reviewer wasn't sold on the romance between the hero and heroine) was what she said about the secondary characters...

"One of the strongest points of the book is the secondary characters. Some are morally weak, some are sympathetic, and then some are truly the best of humanity. Case in point is Nick's friend and co-worker, Ewan. Ewan's wife, Amy, is dying of multiple sclerosis. The love and tenderness he has for her is absolutely touching. I know that people the world over deal with tragedy like this every day, but that makes it no less noble."

This meant a lot to me for personal reasons.  If you have read the book you might have noticed the dedication.

"For my late sister-in-law, Helen Sarah Margaret Beddow, Nov 14, 1964 to July 15, 2004, whose life was cut tragically short by multiple sclerosis"

Now I didn't base Amy or Ewan on my brother or late sister-in-law. I didn't use them as templates. But I had witnessed the rock solid dedication of my brother to his ailing wife and the steadfast care-taking and valiant wars he fought with health service officials to care for her at home. He knew if she went into hospital she'd die from boredom or superbugs and she'd miss out on the chance to be part of her young girls' lives, and they'd miss out on her. My brother never gave up his job--always high intensity stuff, not working the check-out at Walmart. He had two girls to bring up and a wife who needed constant care. After pointing out it was cheaper for the health service to provide homecarers from 7 am to 7 pm than for Helen to go into hospital, he managed to scrape together enough funding for those 12 h shifts. Which meant on top of a full time day job, raising two girls, he cared for his wife for those other 12 hours a day. This went on for years and years as Helen's MS progressed (which was one of those nasty varieties with crippling attacks and little remission).

He didn't sleep through the night for years. It was important to turn her at regular intervals so she didn't get bed sores and he slept lightly because he was terrified she was going to stop breathing. The most moving thing to watch was when he would hold her hand and call her darling and treat her like a normal dignified human being.

Helen died in his arms six years ago a few months shy of her 40th birthday.

My brother isn't perfect but he's pretty close and he deserves every happiness that he has now found. So although I didn't base Ewan on him directly, I did embody Ewan with all my brother's strengths.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Birth of a plot

I spent the last 2 days working some kinks out of a plot line and then charted the basic story. I use different colors for different character point of views and post-its so I can move scenes around.  And even looking at the storyboard now I can see I'm missing major hero POV moments in the climax of the book.  This isn't the finished version :) It's not only a 'work-in'progress' but the story tends to fill out as I go along (thank God).Funny but when DH gets home from work and asks me how I got on, I always feel guilty if I've been plotting and researching. I'm a goal oriented person so collecting thoughts and images seems like playtime rather than work, but I spent much of this year trying to work without this process (we were on the move so much and whiteboards/space for post-its was lacking) and feel like I failed big time on my own work goals.

I've yet to work out the exact progression of the romance, but I know my characters (finally) and even have some faces to pin on them.

And I even have a location. The Wakhan Corridor.
So--here goes. My aim is a first draft by Christmas. I also have to edit ICEBREAKER again after some expert feedback--really looking forward to that.  I have 2 other book ideas firmly shelved in storage.  One set in Scotland, the other in Canada.  I greatly appreciate the hero suggestions.
Kids home. Must find earplugs and work.

Have a wonderful weekend. My only plans involve a rake, and not the thrilling variety.  What about you?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Casting call...

I'm looking for 3 heroes... any suggestions??
I need a Brit soldier, a Canadian Fisheries Officer (I think, or maybe coastguard), and an American psychologist. No one too pretty, please. I have ideas for each but I'd love to hear more suggestions and I'll see if we have any overlap.