Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Cheryl Holloway is my guest today!

Welcome to my blog, Cheryl. I’m so happy you’re here to discuss your book, A Sisterhood of Women Living Life: A Short Story Collection – Book 1, and to find out more about you too. I’m currently reading your book, and I have to say, you have a keen way of setting up the conflict for your characters right from the start. I’ve been able to feel the emotions along with your heroines. I can’t wait to dive back in and discover what else they have in store for me as a reader. 

On with the questions... ♥

Q:  In the preface of the book you address your readers and explain that most of the stories are based on real-life events: from your own experiences and those of your close friends and relatives. I won’t ply you to find out which ones are real and which ones are fiction, but I wondered what kinds of emotions you felt while breathing life into your characters and putting them in some familiar situations?

A:  Jan, my emotions while writing this book were all over the place: anger, frustration, love, happiness, joy and pain. I wanted to develop characters that were like the actual person, but I had to also make my characters fictional. In some stories, I added believable events, while elaborating on the truth.

Q:  The stories are geared around romance but from the title I’m sensing some real camaraderie between women in order for your characters to survive the circumstances you put them in. Can you say a little bit about the roles your secondary characters play?

A: The Dreaded After Call, is about a long–distance relationship gone haywire and the main character leans on her secretary, Avril, who is a wise young woman. In Wine A Little, I was a wine connoisseur many years ago and used some of my background to write that story and the secondary character was a kind gentleman who was not afraid to show his love. In Rape’s Revenge, the secondary character was a mother, who was strong in her faith and beliefs; and she guided her daughter to do the right thing. In A Widow Moves On, the man she had fallen in love with was not the man that she knew and loved. He had a secret and skeletons in his closet. In Dark Secrets and White Lies, I show how when you tell one lie, you generally have to tell another lie to keep the first lie a secret.  The lies had escalated and it was almost as if the truth was hit by an avalanche of lies.

Q:  Given that your book is a collection of short stories, was there one story in the grouping that you found easy to write? One that was more difficult? Were there any stories that didn’t make the cut; meaning you decided not to share it at this point?

A: The easiest story to write was Wine A Little, because it was a “light weight” topic. LOL. The hardest story to write was Rape’s Revenge. Anytime children get hurt in the process, I tend to cry. Yes, I had a couple of stories that didn’t make the cut for Book 1. I don’t want to reveal them because I think they will make the cut for Book 2.

Q:  Settings in a story can play a big part. Sometimes the setting is subtle; in the background not rousting much conflict. Sometimes, however, it adds to the drama and escalates the tension. Can you whet our appetites by picking a setting from one of your stories and how it was the perfect place for conflict to arise?
A:  Yes, in A Widow Moves On, the couple always went out to dinner or other places, rather than his home. So, the setting of his family room was the perfect place for her to “notice” things that seemed out of place.  I don’t want to give away the ending.

Q:  Which heroine was your favorite to write? What trait of hers do you think your readers will pick up on right away and fall in love with her?

A: The young woman in Dark Secrets and White Lies, was a Millennial and she was somewhat of a challenge for me to write her character and stay true to the events.  I think my readers will pick up on the fact that she was frustrated and angry with herself for continuing to lie. I, especially, wanted this book to have something for women of all ages.

Q:  On the flip side, which hero was your favorite? What trait of his do you think the readers will connect with?

A: In Wine A Little, I so enjoyed writing the hero and making him a man that we can all love. He was kind, caring and loving—all the time.

Q:  Romance is easy; love is not. Were there any heroines/heroes that as you wrote their story, you weren’t sure they were going to get their happily-ever-after because they didn’t seem to be able to resolve their issues?

A: You’re absolutely right, romance is easy and love is not. In Rape’s Revenge, I knew what the outcome was going to be, but I had to figure out a way to execute it without making all of the characters look bad.

Q:  Please describe how you felt when your book was finished. Were you emotionally spent from everything you put your characters through? Did you break into song? Dance around the room?  (There have been times when I’ve burst into song and danced when I type The End - *grins*)

A: Of course, some stories drained me more than others, but, overall, I was elated when the book was finished.  I usually give myself some type of treat when I finish a book, such as a special chocolate candy, a movie that I’ve been wanting to see or dinner at a new restaurant. 

Q:  This was book 1. Are you currently working on book 2? If so, when do you plan to publish it?

A:  No, I have two projects that I need to finish before I start working on Book 2.  However, I plan to publish Book 2 in late 2017 or early 2018 depending on the editing.

Great information about your book. Thanks for sharing it. Okay, now a little about you...

Q:  You wear a lot of hats when it comes to the whole scope of writing. You’re a writer, journalist, editor, writing instructor, accountability writing coach for debut authors, and an experienced blogger. You are so kind to fellow authors and pay-it-forward by highlighting them and their books on your blog. How in the world do you balance everything?

A: It is definitely a juggling process. I took an early retirement, so that I would have time to write. Now, I’m busier than ever. I teach writing workshops and have several clients in my accountability writing programs. On my blog, I pay it forward to other authors on a regular basis and I write every day. I am extremely busy and yes, each day still only has 24 hours. LOL

Q:  Regarding your workshops, I see on your blog that there's one coming up in March. Would you tell us more about that in case some aspiring writers/or seasoned writers want to attend?

A: Yes, my workshops are held in Maryland at a Bed & Breakfast, so writers feel relaxed and they can get their writing juices flowing.  Each workshop has a specific theme.  On March 4th the theme is Getting Focused. Writers can get help to start or finish a novel, write poetry, or revise a short story. I provide motivation and inspiration. On April 15th the theme is Getting Published. Writers get tips, shortcuts and advice on self-publishing and traditionally publishing their books. The workshops are a one-day event from 9-5 and at a reasonable cost. Writers can email me.

Q:  When it’s time to step away from writing, what do you like to do? How do you recharge the batteries for your muse?

A:  I recharge by writing a “new” story. I also enjoy going once a month to the local Writers Group for a few hours. We share our stories, good news, tips, advice and new releases. The camaraderie is great for renewal.

Q:  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

A: On the beachfront, where I could look out at the water and enjoy the sound of the waves and the smell of the ocean. But then, I probably wouldn’t get any writing done.

Q:  Music is a constant inspiration for me. Is it for you as well? Which musical artist sings to your soul?

A: Yes, music is an inspiration for me. I wouldn’t be able to write without some kind of music playing. I like R & B and Gospel. If the house is too quiet, I cannot concentrate. My grandkids all know that they can talk to me when they come over, but they say, “Shhh. Grandma is writing her new book.” They love to look at my blog and see my picture.

Q:  You have a trailer for your book. Would you like to share it with us?

A:  Yes, I have a new trailer coming out soon for A Sisterhood of Women Living Life. Readers can check my blog for actual release date. I currently have a Blog Giveaway in Celebration of 500 Blog Posts and 500 Tweets. The prize is for three winners. They will receive an eBook copy of A Sisterhood of Women Living Life and The Proposal: A Leap of Faith, as well as a $10 Starbucks Gift card. All they have to do is leave a comment on my blog.

You’ve been a joy getting to know, Cheryl. I’m glad you visited my blog and I hope you’ll come back soon.

Bio for Cheryl Holloway:

Cheryl Holloway is an amazing contemporary romance author, journalist, award-winning editor, writing instructor, accountability writing coach for debut authors and experienced blogger. She has written several eBooks, The Cougar Tales Series, Book 1: Father and Son; Book 2: The Italian Basketball Player; Book 3: Jamaican LoverThe Bane Bath Salts, (Teen Drug Prevention), and her latest release, A Sisterhood of Women Living Life: A Short Story Collection.  They are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Cheryl has worked for the Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press. She has several forthcoming books, including Lana’s Dream and How to Enhance Your Life with Prayer. When she’s not writing books, she is either writing her blog or reading. Cheryl Holloway’s passion is to Pay-it-Forward to other authors on her blog.  

You can follow Cheryl here:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

♥ Merlot in Maine! ♥

And the witty saga of four women who met at a jewelry store cash-for-gold event and became best friends, continues in... 


Suddenly single and in their forties, these four women had no clue how to survive the mental trauma of starting a new life. Elaina Samuels, Tawny Westerfield, Stephanie Mathews, and Grace Cordray's journeys to regain their footing began in book #1:  No Sweat Pants Allowed - Wine Club. They connected on a deeply personal level and had some fun. They even decided to move in together. Conflicts arose; so did a lot of laughs. Little by little their confidence grew and they realized they would be okay as long as they had each other. I don't want to say too much as to what situations they find themselves in because I hope you'll take a risk on the series and discover these four amazing characters.

In book #2: Sipping Sangria, Elaina, Tawny, Steph, and Grace learn more about themselves and each other. Their quirky personalities surprised even me, as they tried to move forward. While the fun is plentiful, so is the drama. Real life involves missteps, doubt, and pain. We all have to weather that stuff at some point. It's no different for these women. They've had their hearts broken and they're still on the mend. My wish is that you'll dive into this book to see how they're faring. 

Book #3 has arrived: Merlot in Maine! Here's the blurb: 

Sometimes the only way to truly start over is to move. That's exactly what Elaina Samuels and her unruly band of cohorts decided to do. Elaina, Tawny, Steph, and Grace bought a bed and breakfast in Maine. The trip from Cherry Ridge, Ohio to Portland is a wild and crazy ride, filled with things they never could have foreseen. In this adventure, there's laughter, tears, doubt, and a little danger thrown in to keep them on their toes. Will this relocation to the northeast be the key to real happiness? Or will it test their friendship to the breaking point?

This is my Wine and Sweat Pants series, so far. (There may be a book #4 in my future. We'll see.) I've had a blast connecting with these characters. I'll admit to shedding a few tears too. I've put these gals through a lot, yet they're stronger and feistier than ever. I've grown to love Elaina, Tawny, Steph, and Grace. If you read their stories, my wish is that you'll laugh with them, cry with them, and root for them as they continue to grow as women and friends.

To celebrate the release of Merlot in Maine, I'll be giving away some cool prizes. They're unusual prizes. The women in this series are unusual. It's only fitting that my giveaway prizes be unusual as well. All you have to do for a chance to win, is to leave a comment below. (Also, please tell me how I can contact you, should your name be drawn - for example, 'catch me on Twitter' or 'catch me on FB').   

On Friday, January 13th at noon (EST), I'll be drawing names for:

3 - $10 gift cards to Burger King

1 - package of microfiber cloths from the Norwex line of products (Includes an enviro cloth, window cloth, and a dusting mitt)

1 - Optic Scarf (or cloth) also in the Norwex line of products, for: cleaning eye wear, phones, computers, and cameras. (It has a handy-dandy clip, so you can secure it to your purse or case) 

Good luck to all who leave a comment!

Thanks for sharing in my joy and excitement for Merlot in Maine! 

Lots of love to all of you, 

~ Jan


Amazon author page


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Welcome, Marcia Carrington!

Today I have the pleasure of having author, Marcia Carrington, on my blog with a special post about writing a sequel.  

Welcome, Marcia! 

The Joy of Writing a Sequel

Marcia Carrington

Thank you so much, Jan, for the opportunity to discuss something I recently experienced whilst writing my latest release. In 2014 I released a short story entitled MAN ON A MOTORBIKE, which was about a young woman reminiscing about her marriage to her late husband, and how an encounter with a motorbike rider brought out her feelings and thoughts which had been dormant for several years.

In looking back at the inspiration for the story, the 1969 Peter Fonda film EASY RIDER was one of the things which I used as a starting point, as my book’s characters (like myself) loved the film, but my book deviated thereafter, as it concerned a newlywed couple. To be honest, in this case, like in many of my other books, I cannot say exactly where the romance of Linda and Clay originated, but I knew I wanted to create a short story with multiple flashbacks, and that contained a character who was a biker.

Being one of my personal favorite stories, with MAN ON A MOTORBIKE I always felt there was more that I could mine from the material of this first part, and this had gnawed away at me for quite a while. This first part was only 4,000 words, and I knew I wanted to explore the characters in a longer format at some stage in the future.

In 2015 I began to plan a sequel to the original story, entitled SILAS SAVAGE. Silas Savage is the name of the biker whom Linda, the story’s heroine, finally meets in this second part. Proceeding with a sequel was not daunting in any way, in fact, it felt like a liberating experience for me. To be able to delve deeper into the story, elaborating upon incidents in MAN ON A MOTORBIKE which I touched upon in the first part did make sense for me. There is always a sense of trepidation with the writing of every story, and I very much wanted it to be a worthy sequel to the first part weighed a little on me, but I was happy with the final result.

Apart from readers meeting the elusive Silas Savage at long last, his appearance in the first book being more of a cameo role, the opportunity to present Linda’s nouveau former mother-in-law, Azalea, was fun for me. In this case, I explored a plot issue I had briefly mentioned in book one, whereby Linda’s in-laws had largely abandoned her, and the impact this had on Linda was detailed in the second book. In a related point, I also expanded the role of Linda’s parents, Annette and Mac, who due to the length of the first book, were given limited exposure. In SILAS SAVAGE, their role is more of a subtle, gentle Greek chorus, in stark contrast to Azalea’s haughty shenanigans.

The joy of writing a sequel to MAN ON A MOTORBIKE not only gave me the chance to tie up its loose ends and plot points but also, bring the story to a close, intimating further adventures of the characters, thereby leaving something to the imagination for the reader to interpret as they wish. In a manner, the story is finished technically, but as in life, the characters do go on with their lives. My aim was that this was presented clearly, making readers use their own take on what happens after the book ends on their particular reading device. Here is an excerpt from SILAS SAVAGE from chapter one:

“Linda dear, where would you like to put this vase?” Annette asked, showing her daughter an ornament. Linda was packing some items into a carton, and turned towards her mother.
“Over here in this box mom,” Linda said, as Annette moved towards Linda. Carefully wrapping the vase in clear bubble wrap, and applying some sticky tape, Annette placed it gently into the box. Linda sighed deeply, and bit her lips. “It was Joshua’s very first artwork from school; he was so happy when he brought it home that day,” Linda said, looking at the item in remembrance. “He wanted to be an artist someday, but…” Linda’s voice trailed off, as Annette approached her daughter.

“Yes, I know, it’s very beautiful,” Annette said, keenly observing the flower vase which was painted in a bright red on the top, and blue on the bottom half. “He was a joyous boy, so giving, so much more mature than his age,” Annette said, tears beginning to fall from her eyes. Linda stroked the vase, her hand combing the glossy surface through the bubble wrap, and shook her head.

“I miss him so much mom, he was my little man after Clay died; always standing up for me, helping me how he could…” Linda said, breathing hard, and trying to compose herself as much as possible. It had been just a year since little Joshua was accidentally run over after leaving the school bus that rainy afternoon, but for Linda, it was as if it happened yesterday. The shrill sound of the ambulance sirens flooded her head, this noise one Linda could not remove from her mind for a long time.

“I know honey,” Annette said, taking Linda’s hands, as their eyes traveled to both Joshua and Clay’s gold-framed photos which were on the cabinet opposite. “We have our memories to comfort us, never forget that. What we experienced with them we will cherish in our hearts forever,” Annette said, as Linda entered her ready embrace, staying there for a few minutes. The house had been eerily empty for Linda since the passing of her two men, its silence becoming more rampant especially since Joshua’s death. Linda moved away from her mother, and peered into her comforting blue eyes.

“Thanks, mom.”

“For what honey?”

Linda sighed, and shook her head.

“For being here when I really need it, you know,” Linda said, as Annette smiled wistfully at her daughter, drying her tears with a tissue from her dress pocket.

“You don’t have to thank me, I really think it’s the best thing for you to come back with us…we need you at home,” Annette said, as Linda nodded. “We’re not as young as we used to be, and, certain things will just be easier with you around.”

“Same here mom,” Linda said, whooping in and hugging her mother again, who squealed in delight when the doorbell sounded, interrupting the serene atmosphere. Annette and Linda looked at each other in confusion. The chime of the doorbell again reverberated, indicating someone impatient was at the door.

“Expecting anyone honey?”

“No,” Linda said, eyes running everywhere.

“I can open to see,” Annette said, as Linda hummed her agreement.

“Thanks mom, I don’t feel like speaking to anyone,” Linda said, as Annette touched her daughter on the shoulder, brushing her cotton blouse, and moved over to the door. Annette’s mouth fell open when she saw who was on the other side of the security door.

Azalea,” Annette said, as Linda’s head jacked up abruptly, doing a double-take.

“So the mother-in-law is back,” Linda said, biting her lips, her heart pounding frantically.

Marcia has written other books as well:

From Jan:  I loved hearing about your books, Marcia, and enjoyed the excerpt. I'll have to investigate further (via Amazon). Thank you for being here today. You know I love reading and anything pertaining to writing, so please come back again and catch us up with regards to your latest project.  

Here's a short bio for Marcia: 

Marcia Carrington writes about the human condition, exploring what makes people tick, but in an upbeat and optimistic tone. She is an interested observer of popular culture, and fan of cinema from all eras and countries, especially from the 1930-1970s. Marcia is a long-time soap opera viewer, watching daytime, and night time serials from a very young age.

Marcia is also a food connoisseur, with a particular love of chocolate, and coffee. The morning coffee has always been a staple for Marcia, and something which she cannot do without. There is just something about the fresh aroma of coffee early in the morning, and anytime for that fact, which proves irresistible to her.

Marcia Carrington's Links: 

MAN ON A MOTORBIKE - buy links:

SILAS SAVAGE - buy links:

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Eternal optimist? Or annoying goody-two-shoes?

Wow! How is it possible that it's 2017? Didn't I just sit through a grueling tax appointment? Nope. That was last April. (Time flies when you're having fun; although, anyone who has fun at a tax appointment is wacky. Just saying.)

So it's a new year! A fresh start! It's already January 3rd, which means I have 362 days -- 8,688 hours -- to embrace and change things up a bit from what I did in 2016. In order to do something different, I need to rewind to what happened last year.

I was fortunate to attend a writer's conference in January in Fort Lauderdale, where I met some amazing people in person that I was friends with on Facebook and Twitter. After the conference, hubby and I boarded a cruise ship for the Caribbean Sea. Did I mention my happy places are the tropics and the campground? 

In February, I buckled down and finished writing I'd Rather Be Growing Grapes. It was published in March. 

In May, The Wild Rose Press published my book, Wild Goose Chase. It was the first book with them that was available in both e-book and print. Small achievement, but I was majorly happy. 

Camping season arrived in April and I was giddy. Being at the lake is a stress reliever. Even though the weather wasn't yet warm, we stayed in our camper. #WeAreDieHardCampers

(Graphic courtesy of Lisette Brodey)

Summer was unusually hot and dry; perfect for bombing around in our golf cart at the campground. We met a lot of nice people and reconnected with friends we'd made previous camping seasons. In the midst of all that joy, I decided to make No Sweat Pants Allowed - Wine Club into a series. In August, voila! Sipping Sangria (Book #2 in my Wine and Sweat Pants series) happened. 

Immediately afterward, I started book #3 in the series - Merlot in Maine. It will be published this month.

2016 was an incredible year! A busy year. A year of stepping out of my comfort zone by putting myself out there more; both with my writing career and personally. (I'm a bit of an introvert, although my social media presence would suggest otherwise) It was a year of epiphanies. What I thought was the most important goal to achieve in my career, didn't happen; which forced me to reassess my priorities - once I did, my stress level dropped. At the same time, on a deeply personal level I felt the need to impact the world around me. With that in mind, I braved the needle and donated blood twice. For some folks, that's no big deal - they do it all the time. For me, it was huge. I hate needles and I wasn't able to donate blood in the past because my iron was always low. I also tried to reduce my carbon footprint by making better choices and recycling everything that I could. There are more ways that I tried to make a difference but mentioning them would make me uncomfortable. I'm not vying for the goody-two-shoes award. I guess this blog post is more about reflection - how far I've come and where I'd like to go this year. 

On tap for the new year: More writing? Definitely. More camping? Heck yeah. I live for camping. (lol) More blood donations? (swallows hard and eyes that evil needle) Yep. I can do it. Another writer's conference? Not sure. Putting myself out there even more with other events? Count on it.  

If you'd like to see how I do in 2017, occasionally pop into my blog. Don't be afraid to leave a comment and tell me to get crackin'.

    (This meme is by an unknown author. I found it on Facebook and in no way assume ownership.)