Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WIPlash Wednesdays- Didn't We Almost Have It All... #writing

As an author who writes romance, I'm often taxed with the responsibility of finding relationship problems for the climatic break-up or often the misunderstanding that occurs before my hero and heroine can confess their love or find their happily-ever-after. This usually has to be suitably BAD, but NOT UNFORGIVABLE and it has to make SENSE.

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that, often times, relationships end in confusion, without closure, without certainty as to the reasons why it fell apart to begin with. In romance novels, you can't do that. You HAVE to tie up all the loose ends so that YOU and the READER are satisfied with the results.

I spend a lot of time when I'm writing pondering over questions like~

What could happen that would create problems that would drive a wedge between them?
How can they overcome that problem once it exists?
Is this problem too extreme?
Can she forgive him for what happened?
Would he still love her if she confesses her secret?

There are so many ways it could go and I'm no relationship expert, so what works for some might not work for others. I've had my fair share of relationships and each one ended for different reasons. I mean, there are some things that are just a given- you both care about each other, but don't love one another.

Some relationships end for very clear reasons- abuse, obsessiveness, possessiveness, addictions, controlling or opposing personality types, unhappiness with each other or even with yourself, finding out you have less in common than you thought, or sometimes TOO much in common can be the kiss of death for a relationship if it makes Jack & Jill a very dull, unhappy-together couple. Sometimes people who think they're perfect for each other find out that they just don't have the same dreams or goals for their future or they have flaws and pet peeves that just can't be overlooked. Sometimes it's simply best to go your separate ways.

But what about "the ends" that don't make sense to the logical mind, to the sentimental heart, that believes Love doesn't just "end"~ that there has to be a "reason" why it doesn't work? What if the door doesn't get closed completely? What if it doesn't make sense? What if you can't break it to your heart?

Sometimes I feel I do Love a disservice because I almost have to "trivialize" what makes or breaks a relationship.

I was reminded of this a few nights ago while talking to my 9 year-old daughter about not taking things for granted. She's lucky to have a television and DVD player in her bedroom. I was 20 years old, living in my apartment before I ever owned a TV or VCR. A friend gave me the TV and a guy I was once engaged to bought his sister's VCR to give me as our first Christmas together gift. This brought up a fond memory from that relationship & I related it to my daughter-

The story goes a little something like this- This ex-fiance of mine once walked through 2 foot of snow from the neighborhood he lived in, to the florist in the shopping center not far from my house, through the park, accidentally getting lost a few streets over and helping a person getting their car out of a snowy ditch before he finally made it to my parents' house~ just to bring me a birthday present, a stuffed Ty cat named "Boots" who was black and white- even though we were broken up at the time.

The look of awe that crossed my daughter's face nearly broke my heart. I could see the wheels turning. She thought it was one of the sweetest, most romantic things her 9 year-old mind had ever heard and she smiled and said- "Wow! He must have cared a LOT about you to do that."

I said, "Yeah, well, he and I were together off and on almost 4 years and when we finally broke up, it boiled down to him telling me I can't love you if you don't have a job. I wasn't working at the time because I was taking a writing workshop and even though he knew I wanted to be a writer, but my dream wasn't as important to him as it was to me."

Her mouth hung open only a moment and then she said, "Well, that's just stupid!"

I told her it was okay, that had I married that guy, I wouldn't have met her daddy and she wouldn't be here, so things worked out the way they should after all. I subscribe to the belief that all our relationships are there to touch our lives, to teach us something or us teach someone else something they need to grow as individuals.

But after I tucked her in and came back to the computer, I teared up. I don't cry often about it, but I realized, unlike my characters, who WILL find they have more reasons to be together than apart, I still, even after all these years have trouble understanding how we went from-

"The first day I saw you at work, I lay in bed that night and thought, that's the woman I'm going to marry," turned into "It's over, give me the rings back. They don't belong to you."

Or how, "Nothing anyone says will ever change how I feel about you," became "I can't love you if you don't have a job."
I was everything he wanted and then...well, I wasn't. "Didn't we almost have it all" seems like the most logical thing to say about it....

Like I said, sometimes REAL relationships end without everything being tied up into a nice neat package. Sometimes it's not fair that the puzzle pieces don't fit together perfectly. Sometimes we're left with loose ends, just dangling there and not sure why. To this day, I can't wrap my mind around it, but what I do know is that within a year, he was married to someone else (while we'd been together off and on for nearly 4 years) and all I could think was- it wasn't that he didn't want to get married, he just didn't want to marry me. But I also know now, looking back, that I didn't love him the way he deserved either and I would not have been happy as his wife.

My peace of mind comes from knowing I have my characters though and I have my writing and I can always make sure they get their HEA. Not everything in my life is so cut & dry, but I'm okay with that.

Sometimes you have to risk it all to find out if it was all worth the risk.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Introducing Dawson Randolph- Hero

I hope you enjoy this interview with, my sexy main squeeze of Castaway Hearts
Dawson Randolph

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do? I would spend the day with Catherine, riding horses, making love, doing whatever she wanted to do.

What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they've known you for a while? Some think I’m gruff, stodgy for a man my age (I’m in my late 20s). It does take a while for others to warm to me, but I think most people enjoy my company once they do know me better.

What's your idea of a good marriage? Having a beautiful wife to love, someone who will always run into my arms when I return home and take me in her warm embrace is important, but so is communication and compatibility concerning having a family. I know with the right person, I can believe in anything and I do.

What are you most ashamed of in your life? Believing I could never love again after losing Lucinda and my son. I shut myself off from the rest of the world, I nearly took my own life and it still hurts, but not like it used to.

If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick? Catherine, of course. She’s the light of my life and reminds me what living is good for.

Do you think you've turned out the way your parents expected? I’m probably not exactly as my parents thought I would be, but I still think they are proud of the man I’ve become.

What's the worst thing that's happened in your life? What did you learn from it? It would have to be losing Lucinda and the baby. I wasn’t the same for a long time. Darkness surrounded me. I knew the pain of loss but I didn’t know quite how to overcome it, until Catherine. She brought the light back to my life and I learned that you can’t take love for granted and you need to grab those moments in the sun, because you never know how long you will have it. It might be just a short time, but it also could be for the rest of your days.

Tell me about your best friend. I hope the Captain can forgive me, because, before his granddaughter came to live with him, he was indeed my best friend. He was the only confidant I had during those years I was mourning my wife and son. Catherine though, she has my heart and my affection in a different way. In a way that makes me hopeful and happy again. She knows my darkest secrets and my hidden pain and she loves me anyway.

What's the worst thing you've ever done to someone? Why? I guess the worst thing would be falling in love with my brother’s secret betrothed. They were engaged, regardless of whether it was out in the open or not. I cannot apologize though, as it would be physically impossible, but I wouldn’t apologize for finding love again.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone? Devoted Husband to Catherine

Describe your ideal mate. Beautiful, intelligent, independent, free-spirited, loving, humorous.

What are you most afraid of? Being alone.

What's the most important thing in your life? What do you value most? Love of family and friends. No material possession could ever take precedence over love.

What do you like best about Catherine? Least? Catherine’s smile is one of the best smiles of anyone I know. It comes so easily, it warms you through and through and her laughter is a music all its own. What do I like least? Her stubborn willfulness. Like a mule sometimes.

How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change? Life is good and I have what I need most- love, family, happiness. What more could any man ask for besides maybe a really good apple pie?

Please tune in next week as we kick off a new addition to my blog-

Tuesdays with Taryn

I've invited other authors from ALL genres to answer a tiny Q&A and share a little something about one of their books, whether it be one that's been out a while or an upcoming release that we can share with you.

My first guest will be a fellow Kentucky writer, Amy Durham, author of the debut self-published Young Adult novel, Once Again.

I hope you'll take time to stop by and check it out, leave a comment or just check out what Amy has in store by visiting her blog.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Memory Lane Monday- Barbie & Ken

Barbie & Ken
A Romance for the Ages
Note it says
Make her kiss! See her lips pucker! Hear the sound! See the lipstick mark!

Long before I put pen to paper and let Love bloom with words, I was playing out the workings of relationships and Love with my Barbie and Ken. I mean, after all, THEY were made for each other- I mean SERIOUSLY made for each other. There was never another man in Barbie's life. Her "parents" were conveniently absent, though she did later have to take on the responsibilities of her younger siblings who came out of the woodwork, it was just her and Ken, right?

And what little girl, any time after 1961, didn't want to believe that someday she would grow up and find HER Ken and live happily-ever-after?

This was the way most girls were taught to believe in love besides what they learned from their parents and what was on television- I took a lot of cue from watching Days of Our Lives from the time I was 5 years-old and up. What didn't my mom's soap opera have? Love triangles, marriages, divorce, deception, reunions, amnesia, etc.

And Barbie and Ken were also all those fairy tales I'd heard brought to life a la marionettes sans strings. You had some say in what happened, how long they were together, whether they fought and made up, whether they might ever get married, have a career, have a family.

Note it says
"Shave" him! He's athletic. He's all man.

And you probably made them do all that. I know my younger sister and I sure did. We spent a lot of time setting up detailed story lines about how Barbie and Ken's date would go, or fighting over who got to play Barbie and who got Ken. Sometimes our ideas didn't mesh, so Ken would say or do something annoying and Barbie would kick him to the curb and my sister and I would pout and put the dolls away, vowing we'd NEVER play with them together EVER again. But we did.

There might even still be old audio cassettes somewhere of us playing dolls. We were always recording how the story played out, like some sort of 1980's version of a radio soap opera. I always got stuck talking in a deep manly voice for Ken.

The images I've used today are of two dolls I once had. I don't know what I ever did with them, but I don't have them anymore- I just have really fond memories of them and from what I gather online they are now very collectible if still in mint condition as they are rather rare.

Kissing Barbie came with a tiny tube of "lipstick" that you could put on her lips. I think, from descriptions I've read on ebay- more of a "stamper" that you pressed on her lips. When you depressed the button in her back, her lips would seem to pucker and she would make this "smooching" sound.

The Sport and Shave Ken came with a bunch of athletic, sporty accessories and a marker that you could "draw" his beard on and then a toy "razor" that you could "shave" it off with.

I believe Barbie and Ken taught me something though- how to take what's fictional and give it heart. I still love my old dolls- some of which I've passed down to my daughter- the ones that are still in decent shape and haven't lost their heads or become discolored by pigment separations in the plastic/rubber. A lot of the stuff has deteriorated over time, but the one thing that hasn't are the good memories I have that remind me that stories of the heart have been with me for nearly all my life.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

SCENTsational Saturdays- Favorite #2- Ultra Pink

M Ultra Pink is a new, pink successor of perfume M, and it reveals feminine, flirtatious and fun side of Mariah Carey. The accent lies on gentle cherry blossom and wild berries combined with dewy Tiare flowers and sunny woody notes. M Ultra Pink was launched in 2009.

M Ultra Pink is another favorite fragrance and unfortunately- to my knowledge discontinued. I discovered it a couple years ago and my husband got it for me for Christmas. When I accidentally dropped the bottle and broke the nozzle but I still continued to "dab" it on until I ran out.

It doesn't hurt that Mariah is a huge fan of butterflies, like me, so the bottles suit my personality to a T and the scent makes me feel warm and sensual and very much like the heroine in my own love story.

Imagine my disappointment when I ran out and I checked Mariah's fragrance section of her website, only to discover that it's no longer listed as an available scent in the line.

Now she has a new perfume line called LolliPop, but this one is still my favorite, so when I found out this past November that my Wal-Mart did supposedly have a gift box of it for the holidays, only 1 in stock, I had my husband get it for me for Christmas. I dug through the shelves of perfumes and found it and he looked at me and said, "You know you can't have it until Christmas."

I nodded and said, "Yeah, but I might never find it again and look at it this way- I can wear it ON Christmas after I open it!"

It included the items pictured above- the large and small bottles and a tube of lotion. I'm going to use it sparingly, but often and keep my fingers crossed that I can still find it later when I run out.

What SCENTsational fragrance are you wearing today?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fun Friday Feature- Rebuild my World by Cheryl Norman

Award winning author Cheryl Norman releases her latest romantic suspense novel in the Mustang Sally series.

More than anything Taylor Drake wants her life back. She’s returned to her family home, suffering from the agoraphobia that has plagued her since she was brutally attacked in her apartment. Once a confident and successful photographer, she now cowers behind closed doors with a loaded pistol.

The last assignment chief deputy Adam Gillespie wants is to babysit the spoiled celebrity Taylor. He blames her father for his family’s financial ruin; and her brother is the incumbent candidate for Foster County sheriff, Adam’s dream job. Adam can’t afford to let anything happen to the sheriff’s sister. Complications arise when someone murders the man he arrests for stalking her.


“Ms. Norman is a gifted storyteller. I loved Rebuild My World and eagerly turned the pages, excited to see what event would next happen to keep this story moving. Not only is it well plotted, but the characterizations draw you into the lives of these people. Ms. Norman tell a compelling tale that keeps you guessing.” ~Suzanne Barrett, Romance Author

Author bio: Cheryl Norman wrote her first mystery at the age of 13. After a career in telecommunications, she returned to fiction writing and won the 2003 EPPIE award for her contemporary romance, Last Resort. Her debut with Medallion Press, Restore My Heart, led to a mention in Publisher's Weekly as one of ten new romance authors to watch. Running Scared, a romantic suspense set in Jacksonville, Florida and Washington D.C., received a Perfect 10 from Romance Reviews Today. Reviewer Harriet Klausner calls her writing, “Mindful of Linda Howard...” Rebuild My World, is the sequel to Reclaim My Life.


This is from one of my former Kentucky Romance Writers (KYRW) Chapter-mates and she's a TMP author. I love Cheryl's romantic suspense books- Restore my Heart, Reclaim my Life, Remember my Love and Rebuild my World. I've read them all and in no time flat because they're definitely page turners. The best part is that all the stories are connected and that's a plus in my book. I love books where I get a glimpse back at past favorite characters to see how they're doing as well- it's like touching base with family.

I'm hoping there are more to come from Cheryl!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dances With Wolves by Michael Blake (Favorite Books Spotlight)

Ordered to hold an abandoned army post, John Dunbar found himself alone, beyond the edge of civilization. Thievery and survival soon forced him into the Indian camp, where he began a dangerous adventure that changed his life forever. Relive the adventure and beauty of the incredible movie, DANCES WITH WOLVES.
Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake carries over from yesterday's theme about descriptive writing. A while back my husband and I went to rent some movies and I was in the mood for an oldie but goodie. I suggested Dances with Wolves, as it had been over a decade or more since I last watched it. I remember fondly how much I loved the book and how impressed I was with the adaptation, but for a few changes in how it translated from page to screen. For the most part it comes as close as I've seen most book-to-movie attempts. My husband had never watched it at all.

Of course, I read the book when the movie was in the theaters in the 1990s. Yeah, I saw Kevin Costner on the book cover and on the commercials for the movie trailer quite often, but I read the book long before I ever saw the movie. The thing was, I didn't "see" Kevin Costner, per se, as I read. I saw Lieutenant Dunbar/Dances with Wolves as a real person. Sure, having an actor as a basis for what the character looks like doesn't hurt, but for me, the story became more and more real the further into the book I got.

I experienced the mid-to-late 1800s at the outpost, the stench of dead animal in the air that was fouling up the water supply when he first arrived, a matter that probably had a great deal to do with the reason why the post was abandoned. The aroma of the campfire as it sizzled and sparked, inhaling the dust and dirt of the west as it all overwhelmed my senses. The scary and yet surreal connection with "Two Socks" the wolf with whom he bonded and formed a supernatural kinship with and for which the Natives named him "Dances with Wolves."

My heart ached when he discovered Stands with a Fist during her mourning, covered in her own blood and my stomach churned when he ate from his buffalo kill, but my heart swelled as he became part of the tribe and fell in love.

I got sucked into the story, the setting and sometimes I forgot I was simply reading and not living back in those times. Though fictional, my heart went out to the "savages" for I could see how ignorance could blind people to the reality around them and carry prejudices that my mind doesn't want to accept, let alone understand. Even in fiction, there are strands of truth and the sad reality of our history in this country. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to wrap my mind around the hatred, the injustice, the stupidity. Putting myself in those shoes, having lived nearly 100 years after the time period in which the book is set, I just can't imagine myself feeling any differently.

Even in this day and age, I see and hear about prejudices and intolerance toward others based on personal things like race, culture, religion and sexuality and it makes me sad and sickened for humanity. No one should have to live in fear or be ashamed of who they ARE.

Dances with Wolves spoke of the freedom to lead a life of simple happiness and joy- to escape the rigors and demands of our society (long before all the technology came into being) and simply exist by loving and accepting others for who they are. It spoke of being a real community and family. Sometimes that means rocking the boat- going against societal expectations, the "norm" and living OUTSIDE the box.

That's why it's one of my favorite books (and the movie ain't too shabby either). Imagine my surprise while researching a bit about the book that I discovered there was a sequel called The Holy Road that continued the story around Dances with Wolves, Stands with a Fist and several other key characters. I downloaded both to my Kindle and plan to re-read the first one and then read the sequel very soon as I'm intrigued by the idea that there really was more to the story.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

WIPlash Wednesdays-Descriptive Writing

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader - not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.
~E.L. Doctorow~

What Do YOU see?

As a reader, I enjoy epic novels with great attention to detail. I don't just want to see the waterfall—I want to hear the roar of it as it rushes over the cliffs above. I want to feel the cool spray as if I'm close enough to reach out and let it sprinkle and splash on me, close enough to dive right into the swirling, rolling waters (nevermind that I can't actually swim).

Then I would relax next to a large rock, smoothed over time, where the water laps lazily against the gray stone slab. I could feel the soft swishing of the waves against my body as the noonday sun beats down, warming my skin through the lush leaves of the branches above. Hear the twittering tropical birds swooping and calling to each other in the distances while the sweet aromatic flora scents waft in on the breeze and envelope my senses. High in the sky, white wispy clouds drift by on a cerulean canvas.

As a writer, I also enjoy incorporating details to bring the scenery to life—to bring all the reader's senses into play, to see, feel, smell, hear and maybe even taste, what's there. I want them to join me in the moment, to live it as they read it.

What good is writing if it doesn't conjure up a reality? those adventures we love so much might seem like random words strung together, but the beauty comes when those words segue from a blank screen of nothingness—opening onto a scene, the characters, a room or setting- and a movie begins to play out, to take shape in the mind of a reader.

The Kelly green grass on the hillside glistened in shimmering dewdrop diamonds in the cool early summer morning light. Golden sunshine warmed the white wooly sheep grazing the valley near the babbling brook that divided the countryside. Yellow dandelions dotted the banks on either side as little Tommy chased his Labrador retriever down a dusty lane nearby.

Tommy stopped to pick a dandelion that had gone to seed. He lifted it gently, squeezed his eyes shut so tight his eyelids ached, then blew the white tuffs with all the air in his lungs. Squinting one eye open, Tommy watched, his jaw slack, as the tiny puffs rose into the heavens and drifted away like so many miniature umbrellas floating to mysterious destinations and far-off places his five-year-old mind could only daydream about. A row of lilacs in bloom perfumed the air with their sweet aroma.

Smoky, the jet black Lab, dashed back to his young master whose sandy brown hair, tousled by the breeze, had fallen into his eyes. Tommy took a deep breath, threw back the strands of hair and tossed the spent dandelion stem over his shoulder, then snatched a twig from the roadside.

"Get it, Smoky!" Tommy reared back and flung the stick toward the creek. Darting through the tall damp grass, the dog leaped through the air and splashed down in the shallow water. Racing back to Tommy, Smoky appeared to grin with the twig in his slobbery jowls. The dog dropped the stick at his boy's feet, then shook the water from his shiny black fur, dousing Tommy in cold creek water.

"You silly dog!" Tommy squealed, falling to his knees and wrapping his arms around Smoky's damp neck, paying no mind to the cloying wet-dog smell emanating off his pooch. "I love you."
Can you see it? Feel it? Smell it?

All that on the fly, a little word play in a free writing exercise, but it came to me, rolling out in a mini-burst of detailed inspiration.

What about you?
Anything by a writer that ever stuck with you~ long after you were finished reading it?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Introducing Catherine Barrett- Heroine

Hope you enjoy this interview with my sassy beautiful heroine of Castaway Hearts
~Catherine Barrett~

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do? I would spend it riding Willow, my horse, on the beach, napping or reading a good book or poetry or sonnets. Maybe spend the day out visiting my aunts and other family. I might also whip of some delectable treat because I like to cook. I also like to get my hands dirty, so I might plant flowers or work in my garden. I enjoy those things.

What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they've known you for a while? Most people believe me to be shy and quiet, but I’m quite the opposite once you get to know me. I do have a mild stubborn streak and can be very free-spirited in my opinions, which I don’t often share.

What's your idea of a good marriage? I think a good marriage consists of equality between the husband and wife and they must love each other and communicate their needs with honesty. You can’t afford to be timid or fearful in marriage, or love for that matter. I certainly believe in it.

What are you most ashamed of in your life? Allowing grief to get the better of me, causing me to almost take my own life. It was truly madness and though I’ve moved on from the tragedy, it does sometimes haunt me.

If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick? I think I would like to spend the day with my parents, who died when I was but a small child. I would like to know if they are proud of the woman I’ve grown up to be.

Do you think you've turned out the way your parents expected? I hope so. I hope that they would be proud of me for the things I’ve succeeded at and the person I’ve become.

What's the worst thing that's happened in your life? What did you learn from it? I thought the worst thing was when I had to sail across the sea to a strange land to live with relatives, albeit, strangers, but the worst thing was Nathaniel’s death. My heart was swallowed up with guilt over what happened and how I felt I betrayed his love for me.

Tell me about your best friend. My best friend is, in all truth and honesty, Dawson. At first, we weren’t exactly friends, but life has a funny way of changing things. There is no one else I would share my secrets with.

What's the worst thing you've ever done to someone? Why? The worst thing I’ve ever done to someone would be betraying Nathaniel while he was away. Falling for his brother was the last thing I expected to happen and yet I found myself willing to break off our engagement when he returned, in hopes that Dawson felt the same way about me.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone? Here lies a loving daughter, wife & mother.

Describe your ideal mate. My ideal mate would be a man who cherishes me and the time we spend together, who loves me without conditions and is my support when I need a shoulder to cry on.

What are you most afraid of? Being alone.

What's the most important thing in your life? What do you value most? Love, friendship, family. It is not “things” that are of the most value, but the people and living things that love you that mean the most.

What do you like best about Dawson? Least? What I like best about Dawson? His love for me- its enduring & unconditional. He makes me laugh. The least? His over protectiveness. I understand why, but sometimes he dotes on me too much. He knows I have an independent streak, but he can’t help himself.

How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change? I’m good where I am. I am happy and not simply content. I have love and I would just like to continue to have that, so there is nothing I would change.

Tune in next week for an interview with Dawson Randolph- Hero