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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Island of Misfit Authors




‘Tis once again the season to deck the halls, brush off the old traditions, and maybe even start a few new ones. When I was a kid, it wasn’t Christmas without the annual viewing of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. To this day one of the things I remember most about Rudolph is the Island of Misfit Toys. Some part of me identified with those toys because I was a misfit too. I was painfully shy and, due to the makeup of my extended family, I was far more comfortable around adults than people my own age.

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com
 Over the years, I became more comfortable in my own skin. When I started writing, for the first time in my life, I felt like I had found my passion. Then, when I finally got brave enough (I still struggle with shyness) to meet with a local group of writers during NaNoWriMo, I knew I had found my people. They were just like me! These people knew what it was like to have a head practically bursting with stories. They understood how you can intensely dislike a character that you created. They also knew what it was like to have stories—and characters—take off in a completely different direction from what you intended. It was like magic.

As I joined professional organizations and took classes one piece of advice kept recurring—find others that write the same thing you do. Get to know them. Learn from them. Network. I tried. Really, I did. However, that’s when I discovered that once again, I’m a misfit.I joined one group only to discover that it was a bit… clique-ish. I had enough of that sort of thing in high school so I let my membership expire. I joined another group of sweet/clean writers only to learn that I couldn’t promote any of my work there because my first novel was sexy, not sweet. Strike Two. Finally I found another group of multi-genre authors that seemed to be a perfect fit… until the founder of the group got too busy to run it and it died a quiet death. *sigh*

I have written fantasy romance, contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and one genre-defying video-game themed romantic short story. My Kudzu Korners series is sweet, humorous, paranormal romance. I can find plenty of other authors who write humorous paranormal romance but their stories definitely aren’t sweet. I can’t help but think there are others like me but I have as yet to find them. Oh, well. Maybe someday. 

In the meantime, I’ll be over here on the Island of Misfit Authors waiting to find a home. Want to join me? Everyone is welcome!

Until next month, take care and Happy Holidays to you and yours!



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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

New Release -- Her Forever Dreams by Agnes Alexander

A Coverton Mills Romance Book 3

Handsome ranch owner, Seth Armstrong, has been trapped in a loveless marriage for too many years to count—until his crazed wife, Eve, decides to murder him and their son, Hunter. Though Seth had tried before to negotiate divorce, Eve has threatened him numerous times with keeping their three children from him—something Seth couldn’t live with. Now, he and Hunter have barely survived being gunned down by the woman he should have left years before.

During a separation when his children were young, Seth met and fell in love with Julia Halsey, a woman who understood Seth better than anyone, and loved him too much to see him hurt. She disappeared from his life once she realized Eve meant what she said—but Julia had no idea she was pregnant when she decided to uncomplicate things for the man she loved. 

Years later, when Seth’s two sons’ paths cross in a most unlikely way, Julia comes back into his life again. But will their former lives apart—and the people they’ve known—allow them the happiness they so richly deserve after so many years of separation? 

Someone is out to hurt Julia, her son, and even Seth and his family—but who? And why? Even though Seth and Julia only want to put their patchwork family together as one after all this time, someone is determined to keep Julia from realizing HER FOREVER DREAMS…

EXCERPT:

     He stepped in and closed the door behind him. “So, you’re not all the way over your mad?”
     “I’m not mad, Chet. I’m disgusted with you and your services are no longer needed or wanted in this company.”
     “Oh, come on, Julia. You know I’m slated to be the manager in the Asheville store. You don’t have anyone else to send so there’s no way you can fire me now.”
     “Wanna bet?”
     “Yeah. I’ll bet you. Who are you going to send in my place?”
     “Not that it’s any of your business, but since I have good managers in all the other stores, I know just the right person to manage the Asheville store.”
     “And who is that, my dear?”
     “Me.”
     For the first time, a frightened look crossed his face. “You wouldn’t want to do that.” She didn’t reply and he went on, “You know I can run that store at a profit.”
     She still didn’t say anything.
     “Julia, be reasonable. I don’t want to leave Singleton’s. Where would I go?”
     She only lifted an eyebrow.
     He shook his head. “I really thought you and I had a rapport. Why, I was hoping we’d get together. Maybe even get married sometime. None of that will happen if you push me out.”
     “You’re more pathetic than I thought, Chet.” She looked at her watch. “It’s 3:15. You have two hours and forty-five minutes to clear your office.” She picked up her pen. “Please close the door when you go out.”
     As soon as her door closed, she dropped her pen, put her elbows on the desk and dropped her head in her hands. What was she thinking? Had she made a decision too quickly? There was no way she could manage the store in Asheville. No way at all.
     She lifted her head and leaned back in the swivel chair. But why not? He’s probably nowhere near Asheville now. Her mind contradicted this statement. That can’t be so. There’s no way he’d leave his farm. Her mind flipped again. So, what if he is still on the farm? He probably doesn’t come into Asheville very often, and if he does, he certainly wouldn’t be shopping at Singleton’s. He would leave that to his wife. Her eyes flew open at this thought. Oh, my Lord, what about his wife? She would probably be the type to shop there. Julia’s heart beat faster at this thought and a feeling of apprehension filled her. What will it do to me if I come face to face with Mrs. Seth Armstrong?

      

Friday, November 24, 2017

Three Generations of Family Secrets



This month marks three years since the publication of my novel, Family Secrets. It is a contemporary novel. However, because the characters reach back into their past, it has historical elements dating to the Vietnam War era for Grandpa Mike. For younger people who don't have the years fixed in their head, that was from approximately 1965 to 1972 as far as heavy U.S. involvement goes, although the conflict extended beyond those years. 

Part of the motivation behind this book was to be able to share my current husband's Vietnam War experiences in a fictionalized format. However, the book comes forward with key incidences in the lives of his daughter, Christy, and his granddaughter, my main character, Jennie Graves.

I have a great deal of difficulty thinking of the 1960's as history. I not only was alive then, I graduated from high school during that decade. I watched friends receive draft notices and go off to fight in this war, whether they were enthusiastic about it or not. One young man I dated, but never fell in love with, finished college and the ROTC program and enlisted into officer training. Although I never identified with the hippie or war protest movements, at the time I never fully understood the politics behind this war, either. 

In fact, I felt a little smug back then because the man I married had just been mustered out of active duty. He told me one day his company was called together for an announcement. All who had less than thirty days of their enlistment left would be discharged from active duty. All with thirty days or more would be re-upped and sent for a year's tour in Vietnam. He was among those with fewer than thirty days.

That is how close that war touched me personally in the 1960's. It was only after I remarried a Vietnam War veteran and I heard the stories of what he experienced in Vietnam that this war became real to me. My current husband was there in 1967-68, roughly the time frame I set for my character Grandma Mike Carpenter.

Unlike Grandpa Mike, my husband figured out the best way to work through his flashbacks and nightmares was to talk about his experiences. Although we married over twenty years after his tour in Vietnam ended, on several occasions he shared with me the stories of what he went through. Even though by the time we married he rarely had the nightmares, just like Mike in my novel warns Jan, he told me what to do to protect myself and how to wake him up if I ever realized he was trapped in a nightmare.

How did the hint of a Thanksgiving theme get introduced into this novel? Once again, it was because of a story about one of my husband's experiences in Vietnam. 

In the novel, Jennie, Grandpa Mike's granddaughter, and most contemporary generation in this three-generation story, had gone to a meeting to learn how to take an oral history. Her goal was to coax Grandpa Mike's story out of him. The following excerpt introduces the Thanksgiving connection. :

          “Thanks, and I appreciate all your help. I’m going to study these hand-outs and look up all the online sites so I can be as prepared as possible. Wish me luck on Thanksgiving Day, will you? That is the one holiday my mom’s side of the family always spends together. Even though he sometimes gets quiet and grumpy after dinner, it seems to be Grandpa Mike’s favorite holiday.”
          “Really!” said Kayla. “I think Christmas is most people’s favorite holiday. I know it’s mine, hands down.”
          “Grandpa Mike says we can visit other sides of the family any other holiday, but Thanksgiving belongs to him. It’s really important to him to spend it with as many of the family as possible. I just hope that since it’s his favorite holiday, he will be in a good mood and agree to talk to me.”
          “We will be pulling for you one hundred percent, Jennie,” assured Sandy. “We can hardly wait until next month when you tell us how things worked out.”
          “Yeah, and find out why he likes Thanksgiving so much while you’re at it,” said Kaylee.

Why did Thanksgiving become so important to Grandpa Mike? For him, it had nothing to do with remembering the Pilgrims. 

Celebrating Thanksgiving in the 1960's was perhaps not much different than how many of us celebrate it now. The style of phone was different. Instead of a cell with a multitude of apps, rotary phones were the thing, even though all you used them for talking.

Watching football on television was a favorite Thanksgiving pastime on that holiday as it is for many families today. Instead of flat screens, the nicer televisions were mounted in a wooden cabinet. If a family was fortunate, they might have a combination television, radio and 78/45/33 rpm record player console. Although color television was available by 1964-66, not all shows were broadcast in color. Some of them had a whopping big 25 inch screen. And, I can remember our family having one of the first remote control televisions made. It had a control box attached to the screen with a twenty foot cable about 3/8 inches in diameter.

Like I said, I'm not that old and it is hard to think of those days as "history."

That was the world in which Mike Carpenter lived the year or two before he left for Vietnam. The chapter that follows the above excerpt starts with the following told in first person by Mike Carpenter:

          By rights, I should have celebrated the last Thanksgiving Day of my life in Vietnam. That should have been my last time eating turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie and everything that goes with it. 
          There were no football games to watch in Vietnam, and that is what I really missed about the holiday. I didn’t miss listening to Patty tying up the telephone with her friends and all her giggling and whispering and squeals that went with it. Sometimes she talked so loud that her voice drowned out a referee’s call. No, I sure did not miss that.
    
          So, in my mind, Thanksgiving as a family celebration was out. And, although I liked the turkey dinner well enough—especially the pies afterwards—without the football to watch, the holiday just was not that important to me the year I was in-country. 

Another activity families used to enjoy during holiday dinners was sit around the table and tell stories about themselves and other family members. My grandmother's stories of her parents and grandparents crossing the plains in a covered wagon are what prompted in me a love of family history. 

Although Thanksgiving is over, if you gather with family for Christmas, after the meal, instead of playing X-box, using your cell phone to catch up on emails, or getting lost in some other technological wonder, take time to listen to the older generation tell their stories. If you are part of the older generation, open your mouth and share your family's history with your children and grandchildren.

In Family Secrets, many years after Mike returned from Vietnam, married and had children, his granddaughter, Jennie, did convince her grandpa to tell of his experiences in Vietnam. 



However you and your family and friends celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope this year is one of gratitude and love for you. And, please remember:





Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novel, Family Secrets, was published by Fire Star Press. Please visit and follow the Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page by clicking HERE.

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