Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Burdens (and Vintage Kitchenware) We Carry that Aren't Our Own

Over the last several months, my siblings and I have been clearing out my mom's house, and getting mom settled into a new apartment. It has been an all-out effort by all of us. Mom was actually very quick to decide what to take with her to the new flat. Until we came to the kitchen.  Drawer after drawer, mom needed it. From the wacky looking spatula thingy that is actually an egg white beater to the Tupperware Jell-o mold with interchangeable centers - Christmas tree, heart, Easter chick, St Patrick's Day shamrock, and I can't remember the July Fourth center.  She actually had two set of the Tupperware.
No. I'm serious. Two sets.
Mom tells me, as she mournfully watches me discard 3 of her potato peelers (at least one of which is from the 60s and so dull I doubt it could shave butter let alone a cucumber), that she always wanted a complete kitchen because her mother "never had one". Besides, she insists, her three 2-quart saucepans, as well as her 4-quart, 1-quart, and 6-quart, are all Good Pans. Same with her frying pans, saucier, and Corning Ware casseroles.  She has a drawer full of strainers, another of measuring cups, and another drawer with potholders from when she moved into the Wehawken Road house. In 1965. The orange, brown and autumn gold are back in style, so no point changing those out.
Of course, every time I drove away from her house, I said, "I'm going straight home and throw crap out." Then parked me car, set down a box including the egg white beater and a pie dish, and turned on the TV. Because the emotions of disbanding my mom's house is exhausting. So exhausting that I also have one set of the Tupperware Jell-O molds because it was hidden in the cake carrier I brought home with me. The cake carrier reminded me of Wednesday Night church suppers and family birthday parties. We didn't have Facebook, we had every item in mom's kitchen to remind us of life events. The harvest gold fondu pot. The cookie sheets. The cheeseboard.
Yeah. It will come as no surprize that I have trouble separating the gift from the giver or the item from the event.  And every trip that I make to the thrift store feels like a victory. (and I have to do it quickly or the item gets piled up in the corner, because I might need it/sell it/gift it).A friend told me that my father's passions (his books, tools, musical instruments) didn't have to become mine, and nor does my mother's need to have a complete kitchen. Because, let's be honest, if I ever have to beat egg whites, do you seriously think I'll be doing that by hand? 

Do you have a difficult time de-cluttering or letting go of clutter? Or are you one of those who can live a Spartan existence where too many possessions would be more than 20 items of clothing, a chair, a bed, a toothbrush and a TV? If that's the case, tell me your secret? Because you much have superpowers.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

D.E. Ireland Bringing to Life Eliza Doolittle, Henry Higgins, & Edwardian Mystery

D.E. Ireland: Meg Mims (left) and Sharon Pisacreta (right)
This week's guest is D.E. Ireland, author of Wouldn't It Be Deadly: An Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery released by Minotaur Books September 23rd. A delightful first book in a new series, Wouldn't It Be Deadly is full of rich historical detail, quirky memorable characters, and an intriguing mystery plot where Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins join together as amateur detectives to clear Higgins' name and track down a killer who threatens the streets of Edwardian London. You won't want to miss this 1913-set mystery romp. 

Let's take some time to get to know D.E. Ireland. D.E. Ireland is a team of award-winning authors, Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta. Long time friends, they decided to collaborate on this unique series based on George Bernard Shaw’s wonderfully witty play, Pygmalion. While they admit the lovely film My Fair Lady and its soundtrack proved to be inspiration, they are careful to stick to Shaw’s vision of the beloved characters from Eliza to Higgins to Pickering, Mrs. Pearce, Freddy Eynsford Hill and his family, while adding a slew of new characters they've dreamed up to flesh out their own version of events post-Pygmalion.

I posed a few questions to our talented writing team. Let's see what they had to say:

Q.: How did you settle on the time period and the detective couple (Higgins/Doolittle)?

A.: Inspirational lightning struck when Meg  was driving to Sharon’s house in west Michigan, something that frequently occurred since we are longtime friends and critique partners. During the two-hour plus drive, Meg was singing along to the My Fair Lady soundtrack when the thought occurred: “What if Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins teamed up to solve mysteries?” Every editor in New York says they want "something fresh and different.” Well, this idea was pretty unique. As soon as Meg arrived, she explained her latest brainstorm and fortunately Sharon also thought the idea of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins as amateur sleuths was fabulous. Since we had been looking for something to collaborate on, this seemed perfect. And what fun to bring these already beloved characters to life once more. 

Q.: What did you enjoy most about writing a cozy mystery set in the Edwardian period? (And I'm calling it a cozy mystery because that's what it feels like to me).

A.: It's both a traditional and a cozy mystery, since all the violence takes place "off stage" - meaning the murders have already happened or the victim is dying. And ours wouldn't be considered a "dark" mystery, since we infuse humor into the characters and situations. We also love that Eliza and Professor Higgins have joined the genre’s other celebrated male-female detective duos, and hope readers really love the rivalry and interactions between the two of them. In addition, we are huge fans of Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge, Upstairs/Downstairs, Edwardian costumes, English teatime, the changes brought on with World War I, etc. Such an exciting era.

Q.: I understand D.E. Ireland is a collaborative team. Can you explain how a collaboration works?

Sharon and I both have similar writing styles, and have critiqued each other's writing for over twenty years. We have also been published separately under our own names: Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta. Sharon wrote four historical romances and one contemporary with Dorchester (one of them under the pen name ‘Cynthia Kirk’), along with several mystery and fantasy short stories. Meg has five books as well under her name--two western mysteries and three contemporary romance novellas. For our first collaborative effort, we came up with the pseudonym D.E. Ireland: D.E. is Eliza Doolittle backwards, and Ireland is a nod to G.B. Shaw's birthplace in Dublin. We also had to put together a way to write as a team. We plot the outline in great depth (from 20 to 30 single-spaced pages!) and then assign chapters to each other for the first draft. One to two revised drafts follow before undertaking a complete read-through aloud to each other. This is done over the phone – several chapters at a time – since we live so far from each other. That way we can hear any awkward phrases or catch any typos or punctuation problems. Whew. It works for us.

Q.: What's next?

A.: Book 2, Move Your Blooming Corpse is coming in 2015. It's set at Royal Ascot, of course, and includes horse racing as well as the suffragette movement. We're both also working on separate cozy series. Life is busy, but good!

Thanks so much for visiting us this week, D.E. Ireland. I loved your book. As I mentioned above, I found Wouldn't It Be Deadly a fascinating glimpse into the time period, with its skillfully layered historical detail and it's intriguing plot mixed with characters that are familiar and beloved. Nicely done. I love mysteries in general and cozy mysteries more specifically. This book had the feel of a historical cozy mystery to me. Rich in the tradition of Agatha Christie. Thanks for sharing your time and talent with us.

Readers, be sure to check out Wouldn't It Be Deadly. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by this twisty, fun mystery which springs from George Bernard Shaw's beloved characters in Pygmalion.

Buy Links for Wouldn't It Be Deadly:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Writers on Writing

Photo credit:
            Since I’ve been able to write more now that I’m getting better, I’m discovering a new joy for writing.  I’ve forgotten how much I enjoy it.  How satisfying it is.  How easy it is to lose yourself in it.  But, I’m not the only one who’s carrying the torch for writing.  The great writers, both past and present, have as well.  Here are some of my favorite quotes.

            "I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark." Henry David Thoreau

            I’ve done this.  I’m sure you have as well.  The idea that burns a hole in your brain just as that sleepy feeling washes over you.  You know you’re tired but you can’t stop your brain.  You love this inspiration even though you’re going to be SO tired the next day.

            "Writing is a sweet, wonderful reward…" Franz Kafka
            Writing feels like coming home, getting back in touch with old friends and reacquainting myself with them.  Yes, they’ve changed and grown but they’re still the same people that I’ve always known.  And, they welcome me back with open arms.
            "You become a writer because you need to become a writer - nothing else." Grace Paley

            The times when I haven’t been able to write either as much as I’d like to or not at all, I don’t feel “right.”  Like something is missing and I’m not complete unless I’m doing it.

            "Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else." Gloria Steinem 

            I always begrudge the time I spend on things that I aggravate me.  Like waiting in lines, sitting in meaningless meetings, or doing errands that seem to take forever.  I want to be sitting at the desk and writing. 

            "Thoughts fly and words go on foot. Therein lies all the drama of a writer." Julien Green

            Isn’t it great when this happens?  When the words are coming so fast that your fingers on the keyboard can’t keep up.  What a rush.  It’s like a runner’s high—floating, not feeling any pain or difficulty.

            "Real writers are those who want to write, need to write, have to write." Robert Penn Warren

            This weekend, we went out of town.  I sat in the car and wrote while my husband listened to the ball game on the radio.  It was not something I thought I should do but something I wanted to do.  The sun was streaming through the window, warming me while I wrote with the computer in my lap.  Heaven. 

            What is it about writing that makes you happy?  I’d love to hear what makes you excited about the creative process. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Cluttered Desk & an Organized Mind

I wonder who first said a cluttered desk is a sign of an organized mind. If that old saying is true, my mind must be organized indeed! Case in point? Here's a photo of my desk. It's a mess, isn't it? Each and every item, though, connects to a writing project I've got going on in my mind--and on paper. Let's a take a tour and you'll see what I mean.
First, front and center is my laptop. That's Misha's recent blog post on the screen. My desk would look pretty empty without my laptop and I bet yours would, too. That laptop is Grand Central Station for my entire day. My day job and my personal life are both connected to it. And of course, so is my writing life. My new series featuring Jamie Sinclair, a private investigator with nerves of steel and a shattered heart, is a December Random House release and this laptop played a vital role helping me reach that milestone.

To the left of my laptop, you'll see my huge coffee mug. Of course, the mug changes daily if not sooner. Hey, I'm cluttered, but I'm not icky! More often than not, though, there's a glass of water in that spot. Water is important to the health and well-being of your entire body, but especially to your brain. I try to stay hydrated because I need my brain to write. I may need it for other things too, but I'm a girl with priorities!

Moving on, you'll see a blue notebook behind the coffee mug. That notebook holds all kinds of tidbits related to the any story I'm working on currently. If you took a peek inside, you'd find a list of turning points for The Kill List: A Jamie Sinclair Novel as well as an entire string of juicy conflicts for the next books in the series. You just might find notes for other series, too. Hmmm...

And that green pen? The rest of the Eight know it well! That's my critiquing pen. I also use it when I move through line edits from my editor. The green ink is a signal to myself that I've seen a requested change and addressed it in the new, digital file I'm creating for her.

The background of the photo is stacked high with books. Admittedly, not all of them are mine. I share space with Mr. Christoff and he's got some bookish pursuits of his own. Sharing space can be a challenge, but I'd rather share space with him than have a room full of desks to myself.

So, now that you've seen my cluttered desk, tell me about yours. Is it cluttered? And is it the sign of your organized mind? The Eight and I would love to know!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Your Hobo Sack of Writing Tricks

"Are you a plotter, or a pantser?" 

This question, heard at writers gatherings 'round the world, is the author's version of "Hey baby, what's your sign?" It's how writers get to know each other, how we find compatible associates, maybe even learn a few secrets.

For those not familiar with the terms, "plotters" are authors who like to plot out their books before they sit down to write. "Pantsers" are the opposite: they like to fly by the seat of their pants, just get in there and start writing.

But, whatever category we fall into (and even when we defy categorization), we all have our bag of tricks: those little tidbits we pick up on the way and tuck into our hobo sacks, in case we need them on our writing journeys. Whether we use them or not, it's always good to know they're there.

So, without further ado, I'd like to open up my personal hobo sack and let you take a peek inside: 

Also known as "Save the Cat," Blake Snyder's beat sheet originated as a tool for screenwriting. Using the basic three-act structure, Snyder breaks down this time-honored pattern of storytelling into manageable "beats" that most stories (especially films) usually hit to achieve resonance with the reader (or viewer). This post, by Tim Stout, does an excellent job of explaining the beats, and how they work together to create a satisfying story experience.

Romance writing is a very specific kind of storytelling, and crafting a good romance is hard work. Of course, writing of any kind is a challenge. But to tell a believable love story within the bounds of 250 or so pages, often creating an external plot around which the romance grows, and maintaining tension when everybody knows that the guy and gal will be together in the end? Well, that takes real skill.
Thank goodness for paranormal author Jami Gold, who created this Romance Planning Beat Sheet. Taking the basic structure of Blake Snyder's beat sheet (along with other writing tools she credits on her site), Jami has created a template that deals specifically with the evolution of the romantic relationship in your story. And even better, she provides a downloadable spreadsheet that will help you figure out at what point in your story each of these beats should strike. It's an amazing tool. Thanks, Jami!

Hero's Journey

The term "hero's journey" as it relates to fiction was first introduced in 1949 by Joseph Campbell. This series of seventeen steps is especially interesting because it's essentially the place where characterization meets plot. Regardless of who your hero is, or where his adventure takes him, most heroes will pass through very specific phases of development, both internally and externally. Fascinating stuff!

Heroine's Journey 

And let's not forget the ladies! Heroines, just like heroes, have their own mountains to climb and rivers to cross. Laurie Schnebly Campbell did an online workshop about this very subject. Even though I'm not sure or if Laurie plans to do this workshop again, I wanted to share the link with you so you can check it out. And for a list of Laurie's upcoming workshops, email her at

3 Acts, 9 Blocks, 27 Chapters

For writers who reeeeeally like to plot, here is a tool that I just tried recently. It breaks your story down into twenty-seven chapters, each touching on a specific phase of story development... and that's pretty much your whole book! It's a really good exercise that made me seriously think about how my story was going to get from the beginning to "the end."

The author even made a YouTube video, which you can check out here:

So, come on, let's see inside that spotted kerchief you carry on a stick over your shoulder! What kind of writing tricks and tips have you picked up along the way?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lynne Silver's First Match

We at The Rockville 8 are pleased as punch to help with the launch of Lynne Silver's prequel to her fantastic Coded for Love series, 
First Match

Below is her SWOON worthy cover, how to find the book, how to stalk Lynne via social media, and not one, not two, but THREE mega-licious story excerpts.

Allison Macclesfield wants—no needs—to be a rock star, and what better decade to do it in than the ‘80s? Music is her passion. She’s got her future mapped out. Move to New York, find a job, audition to be lead singer in a band.

Plans don’t include giving it all up for Peter Shepard, the sexiest guy she’s ever met. He’s nothing like the guys she’s known. Peter’s life is full of mystery, and though they believe they’re a perfect match, she can have him or her rock star dreams. But not both.

This is a Coded for Love Prequel

About the Author
 Romance author, Lynne Silver, writes the popular Coded for Love series and other hot contemporary romance novels, such as Love, Technically. Before writing romance, she wrote fiction of a different sort, drafting press releases for technology corporations. Washington DC is her home (non) state, where she resides with her husband and two sons. She is represented by literary agent, Jessica Alvarez of Bookends LLC.

Buy Link:

Stalker links:
Twitter: @LynneSilver

“And yep, this is cannabis. Reefer. Pot. The old Mary J. Have a toke; it won’t hurt you, and maybe you’ll loosen up and enjoy yourself.”
He moved closer to the blonde. “I am enjoying myself.”
She laughed, and it was a throaty noise he felt in every inch of his skin. “Dude, you’re a terrible liar. If you were any stiffer, you could double as one of the beams holding up the stage.”
“This is my first concert,” he confessed, deciding it wouldnt hurt to get closer to someone who so obviously was enjoying herself.
Her eyes widened. “For real? No way?” She shook the shoulder of her friend who’d melded in a bit more with the crowd. “Amy, get this. It’s his first concert ever. He’s a virgin.”
Peter felt his cheeks heat as she boldly and unintentionally stated two truths about him. He’d never been to a concert, nor had sex.
She glanced at him and started laughing harder. “Dude, relax. You’re blushing as if I announced you’re actually a virgin.”
He had no response. If she were male and had made a physical threat, he’d know how to react. He’d eliminate the threat in seconds without breaking a sweat. As she was a beautiful girl and only a threat to his emotional equilibrium, he went for the fight or flight response, and chose flight.
He was five feet away when she caught up and grabbed his shoulder. It was the first time he’d ever been touched by a woman who wasn’t his mother, and his whole body stiffened.
“Wait!” The blonde had come running after him. She was breathing a little hard from her sprint, and he was tempted to tell her she should stop the illegal drugs if she wanted to be in better shape, but he kept his mouth closed and watched her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. You’ve got to mellow out.”
Something made him blurt the words, “Will you teach me?”

Peter leaned in until their faces were inches apart. “I am nothing like the other guys you know.  If my life were my own, I’d buy you a house in the suburbs and marry you and make babies. But I don’t have that to offer you, and, trust me, you don’t want what I have to offer.”
“Marriage? Babies? We’ve known each other two days. And I’m going to—”
“New York. I know,” he said almost bitterly. “You’re going to be the next Blondie, and I will not stand in your way.”
“Then what do we have?”
“This,” he said, and leaned in to find her mouth and take her in a deep kiss. As soon as his lips touched hers, all her fear and anger morphed quickly into passion, and she tugged him down to deepen the kiss. Just like at the concert, their passion exploded into an inferno. His large body pushed her willingly back into her mattress, and the comforter crushed up between them as an unwanted barrier.
She couldn’t get enough of his mouth and ached for more. “Get under here,” she ordered and tugged the blanket out from between their bodies. She heard him kicking off his boots and she sat up to yank her extra-large T-shirt over her head. Her panties were next. Peter stood next to the bed, ripping off his clothes silently and quickly.

“I’m in love with you, Peter, but—”
“I know you can’t be trapped here. You have a family and other dreams,” he said, feeling a piece of his heart crumble.
“Is there no way we can stay together but not here on campus? Could you come with me to New York?”
“I don’t think so,” he said. “No one’s ever done that before.”
“Why not?”
“Well, first of all, I was bred to be a soldier for the US government. If other countries ever discovered that our country was enhancing humans, it’d get ugly. The Soviet Union would retaliate. Or they’d try to copy the science.”
She shivered. “Enhanced Soviet spies. Scary stuff.”
“Also, my family is here. I don’t always love living here, but it is my home. And what about our kids? They’d have to grow up here,” he said. “They wouldn’t fit in at a normal school. They’d be smarter and stronger than the teachers.”
“But you…”
“I what?”
“You hide it well,” she said. “I thought you were a little weird, but nothing too different.”
“But I am,” he said. “Remember when I fought those jerks in Annapolis?” he asked.
“Yeah. What about it? You kicked their butts.”
“I was holding back. I purposely didn’t break bones or kill them. I could’ve killed them in a heartbeat.” He watched her to see how she handled that revelation.
Allison held very still watching him carefully.
“It would take only a loss of temper,” he said. “Regular humans wouldn’t stand a chance. And getting into your house at night was a piece of cake. Any door, any window, any room. Nothing would’ve stopped me from getting in.”
“Peter, stop, you’re scaring me.”
“Sorry, but I want you to understand who I am, Allison.” He knew he was being harsh and a little scary, but he had to make her understand why she had to leave and pursue her dreams in New York. If she stayed, he’d have to watch her inner flame burn lower by inches year after year. It would kill something inside him.

Allison is faced with an impossible decision: choose love and give up on her dreams or pursue her dreams and say good-bye to her perfect match. Have you ever run into an either/or dilemma like this? How did you solve it?