Saturday, January 21, 2017

Everyone Wants to Write a Book by Connie Vines #Round Robin

Topic for January: Everybody wants to write a book, but most do not. 
Writing is hard work. What got you started, and what helps you get through a complete story?

How many times have you heard someone say, “Someday I’m going to write a book?”  Many a time, I’m certain.  However, most do not.

Why? Because writing is hard work.

What got me started?  Like most children, I loved reading, drawing, and listening to the oral family history spoken by my grandparents.  I also like to write stories (not particularly good stories) but for a second grader I did have a handle on the concept of plotting.  Thinking back, I unnerved adults with my pointed interview questions, and thoughts about the meaning of life and life-after-death vs death-after-death.  Picture:  Tuesday Addams wearing glasses and constantly grumbling about receiving yet, another stupid doll instead of a filling cabinet for her birthday.

When, exactly, did I start and complete my first novel?

While I wrote short-stories, nonfiction articles for publication during my twenties, I didn’t get serious about completing a novel until thirties. My children were in school and I worked part-time.  That gave me a block of free time to write (vs the scribbling on 3 x 5 index cards when I was cooking dinner or a note pad during a child’s 1 hour nap).  I was serving on my church board when the choir soloist told me her sister was a co-president of the Orange County Chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America).  At the time, I hadn’t every thought of writing a romance.  I wrote for the YA and middle school market and dabbled in historical fiction, but Shirlee convinced me that the networking and workshops would be beneficial to me.  She was correct.

Attending monthly meetings/workshops, exchanging rough drafts with my critique members during lunch, and input from the multi-published members gave me the confidence to persevere.  It also made me crawl out of bed after my husband left for work (at 3:00 in the morning) and write before getting my children off to school.
I also discovered that I couldn’t give up my YA stories while I found my footing in a new market.

“So, what did Connie do?”  you ask.

I work two novels at once—which I still do to this very day.

Crazing making?  Yes!

Writing romance isn’t easy.  Strong, well-developed characters, good plot (and multiple sub plots), sharp dialogue, and emotion—lots of emotion.

Writing is addictive.  The story unfolds, the characters present themselves, and away the writer goes—into a new Universe.

What makes me complete my novel/story?

The best way for me to describe the feel is I am driven to finish the story.  Native Americans say the story chooses the Storyteller.  It the Storyteller’s responsibly to bring the story to life.

Happy Reading!

My Rodeo Romances (Lynx and Brede) are on sale this month (click on my Amazon Author Page link).
Everyone needs a little Zombie Valentine Romance, don’t they?  Free Read: “Here today, Zombie Tomorrow” on

Stop by each Round Robin participants’ blog.  Everyone has a tale to tell.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

And Then They Came For Me...

Ringling Brothers announcement that they will no longer tour and are effectively out of the circus business should be a clarion call to every single one of us who love our dogs, love our horses, love our small bundles of fluff purring on our laps, and our other assorted pets. For those of you don’t know, when I’m not an author, I’m involved in dog shows. I raise and show collies.

Sea World was the first to fall when because of slanted and biased “reporting” in the faux documentary Blackfish, they were pressured to announce they would no longer be breeding orcas in captivity. For more than forty years, Sea World has never taken an orca from the wild and its pod. To attempt to habituate these animals to a life in the wild would be a death sentence. Sea World has been at the forefront of research and animal welfare for many sea animals.  

And then Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey fell. Under pressure from animal rights groups (PETA—People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the ASPCA—American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and H$U$--Humane Society of the United States) which used deceptive tactics and out-right lies, the circus became the center of hateful campaigns by these radical animal rights groups rejecting science-based animal care in favor of political agendas and self-proclaimed expertise.

People respond emotionally, most of the time, and these groups (among others) know that. Run a commercial with mongrel dogs shivering (despite the fact that every last one of those dogs bordered on “obese”), kittens with matted eyes, add a voice over by an actress using her best “desperation” voice and the money will pour in. Show pictures of a several ton animal being moved with a stick which has a blunted hook on the end (erroneously referred to as a “bullhook”) and most people cringe. Those who don’t usually are educated on how and why those tools are used. (Hint: It’s a word that starts with “S” and ends in “afety.”) Thousands of well-meaning but misinformed individuals joined the bullying and legislative campaigns to stop circus parades or even to prevent use of tools that humanely protected the safety of the animals and onlookers and made the public experiences possible.

Ringling Brothers was vindicated in federal courts after being falsely accused of cruel practices, and the animal rights extremists used litigation to pursue fraudulent claims against the circus. In 2012, the ASPCA paid $9.3 million to settle their portion of these damages to Feld. In 2014, H$U$ settled a Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit for $15 million after it became clear that H$U$ and others had made false claims about animal cruelty by Ringling Brothers, including paying a witness to lie in court about animal care at the Ringling Brothers facilities.

Despite these wins, the challenges for the circus continued. In 2016 alone, dozens of communities around the country sought bans on the use of bullhooks or animal acts based on misinformation by extreme animal protection groups.  Falsehoods about animal cruelty easily captured the imagination of a public with little animal experience or reference point to judge appropriate animal care.

The circus showed millions of Americans how humans and animals can bond and interact. It brought us a sense of wonder, it showed how interaction with animals can sometimes be unpredictable, and it gave us a chance to see animals we’d never see otherwise. Losing Ringling Brothers puts another brick in the wall that increasingly separates most Americans from interactions with a variety of animals. These interactions are built upon an understanding and respect for the fundamental differences between animals and humans, and it’s what makes the bond with animals so special.

As with Sea World and their orcas, Ringling Brothers circuses were notable because of their high level of commitment to scientific expertise, research, and understanding of the animals they worked with. They did not humanize elephants; they respected them. Through their elephant conservation centers in Florida and Sri Lanka, they devoted millions of dollars to elephant conservation and research and funded research worldwide to advance scientific understanding of the animals they sought to preserve. 

There is a HUGE difference between animal welfare and animal rights groups. PETA would rather all domestic animals be dead. In 2015, 97% of the animals taken by PETA were summarily euthanized. The goal of H$U$ is to completely end the human/animal bond. For the millions of dollars that H$U$ takes from donations, less than 1% of that money is ever given to local shelters. H$U$ doesn’t even own an animal shelter. At least the ASPCA has a shelter building. Pure-bred dog and cat breeders are next on the hit list of these groups—yet seldom are there pure-bred dogs and cats in their manipulative advertising. Less than 5% of animals in any given animal shelter are pure-bred.

Know who you donate to. Do your research. If you want to donate to help animals in your local community, donate LOCALLY. Educate yourself. 99% of the people involved with breeding pure-bred dogs and cats are ethical. We love our animals. We spend thousands of dollars health testing before we ever plan the first breeding. I had one person tell me it was easier to adopt a child that it was to be allowed to purchase one of my puppies. And, that’s the way it should be.

Sea World has fallen. Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey has fallen. Zoos, rodeos, and dog and cat shows are next. Imagine your life without your dog. Or your cat. Or your horse. Imagine a life without being able to take your children to the zoo to see an animal they would never see otherwise. Imagine a life when because of the attacks by these animal rights groups, all the money that places like Sea World, Ringling Brothers, and zoos worldwide isn’t being poured into research and conservation so there are no more rhinos, no more elephants, no more snow leopards, no more wolves, no more wild things. Try to imagine how empty our lives will be.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Feel Lucky?

Friday is the 13th. Oh, joy…There are two months this year with a Friday the 13th in them, the second month being October. I don’t know about you, but sometimes Triskaidekaphobia and Paraskevidekatriaphobia pull me up short. (That’s the fear of the number 13 and fear of Friday the 13th. And, yes, those are real words. Honest. I didn’t make them up.)

The tradition of Friday being a day of bad luck dates back centuries with some of the more common theories are that the Crucifixion of Christ occurred on a Friday (Good Friday and I will attempt to keep my father’s voice from sounding in my head with his in poor taste joke about what a way to spend Good Friday), Eve is rumored to have offered Adam the apple in the Garden of Eden on a Friday, and the great flood is also supposed to have begun on a Friday.

The Last Supper is the main source for the tradition of the number 13 being bad luck. Judas Iscariot was the thirteenth person to be seated at the table, and if you’ve read your Bible, you kinda know how that worked out not only for Judas but for Jesus.

Combine these two bad luck symbols and you get a day strongly associated with bad luck and misfortune: Friday the 13th.

One legend of the origin of Friday the 13th as being unlucky belongs to the Knights Templar. For almost two centuries, the Templars dominated medieval life. They protected pilgrims on the way to the Holy Lands, made safe the roads those pilgrims travelled, began a sort of banking system so a traveler didn’t have to carry massive stores and riches with them as they journeyed the less than safe roadways, and became so rich and powerful that they could and did challenge the authority of Phillip IV of France and Pope Clement V. Both men were deep in debt to the Templars. On Friday the 13th, 1307, Phillip ordered all Templars arrested and their property seized. The Templars were accused of witchcraft. Unfortunately for Phillip, many of the Templars had been told beforehand of his plans and they escaped, but not after hiding vast stores of treasure which the King’s men never found. (Supposedly, there is a huge Templar treasure hidden on Oak Island, somewhere off the eastern coast of Canada.)

The Grandmaster of the Order, Jacques DeMolay was one of those captured. He was tortured and then burned at the stake. DeMolay refused to admit to any wrong doing and denied up to his dying breath he was guilty of witchcraft. One of the legends surrounding DeMolay’s death is that as he was being consumed by the flames, he cursed both Phillip and Clement, saying neither man would live out the year. Interestingly enough, both Phillip and Clement died within months of DeMolay.

Did his curse come to fruition or were Phillip and Clement helped along to their eternal rewards by Templars who had infiltrated the ranks and sought to avenge DeMolay and prove his innocence by making that curse come true? For what it’s worth, my money’s on the Templars.

Just to be on the safe side, this Friday I’m going to avoid ladders so I don’t inadvertently walk under one, my poor cat is going to have to live without me for a day (Teak is a black cat), I won’t touch a mirror so I don’t risk it breaking, and knock on wood, I’ll get through just another day on the calendar.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Best of Times; The Worst of Times

I apologize in advance for being late posting. The time that I usually write a post for “Dishin’ It Out” was spent with a medical emergency with a geriatric collie. He’s doing fine this morning. I, on the other hand, have a few more grey hairs on my head.

I was going to do a year-in-review kind of post and I’m sticking to that.

2016 was the year taken directly from Charles Dickens, because it was definitely the best of times and the worst of times. So many of the actors, singers, and authors I admired while growing up and even into my adult years passed away this year. I won’t even attempt to list all of them—just mention the few that deeply affected me: Alan Rickman, Glen Frey, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, David Bowie, Harper Lee. Somewhere, in another place, that universe is shining much brighter because of their presence. Ours just feels a little darker.

2016 saw political tidal waves that NO ONE in academia or the media saw coming—Brexit and then here with the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land. (This IS NOT a political commentary, merely an observation.) I can’t speak to Brexit other than what I have read, but there seemed to be a common denominator in both the vote by Britain to leave the EU and the election of Mr. Trump. In both cases, the population had grown tired of the status quo, tired of a bloated government that appeared tone-deaf, and a population tired of being told they don’t know what’s best for their own lives. Governing by fiat seldom—if ever—works in nations who believe in the democratic process and have chosen a constitutional republic for their governance. (Again, this is merely an observation, not commentary.)

2016 saw a rise in violence, both here in the United States and around the world. Violence may garner the attention of the “powers that be” but history has repeatedly proven that the majority of the time, violence does nothing to help the cause being violently advocated. All violence does is cause the other side to dig their heels in more and push back harder. Terrorism seemed to be on the rise—whether it was or wasn’t isn’t what’s under question here. It felt as if it was. And, instead of bombs, trucks driven into crowds of people now seem to be the weapon of choice for the terrorists. Let me make a suggestion to the terrorists—take a page from Gandhi and Dr. King. Peaceful, passive resistance can and does move mountains.

The best of 2016 is highlighted by a seventeen minute rain delay in Cleveland, Ohio on a chilly November night. At 11:54 PM (local time), Kris Bryant throw a bullet to Anthony Rizzo at first base and for the first time in ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT FREAKIN’ YEARS the Chicago Cubs won it all. My beloved Cubbies became World Series Champions. Loveable losers no more. And, yes, I was a Cubs fan long before it was cool to be a Cubs fan.

I signed a contract to publish my fourth book with The Wild Rose Press—in my opinion THE best small publisher in the industry. When I first signed with TWRP, I was sent a welcome package that said at TWRP the authors are family. Over and over, Rhonda Penders, Lisa Dawn, and the other “higher-ups” have proven those are more than words to them. I also want to take this little corner of cyberspace to give a shout-out to my editor at TWRP, Anne Duguid. Anne rocks. Period. She takes my so-so writing and chips away at it, hones it, pushes me to be better, and turns that writing into something I am immensely proud of. And, honestly, she’s the reason both of the books she’s edited for me have been nominated for the RONE by Ind’Tale Magazine.

Another highlight of 2016 is that RONE nominee for Seize the Flame. I printed out that review and it hangs right next to the review that garnered the RONE nominee for Smolder on a Slow Burn.

2016 was a mixture of the very bad and the very good. I suppose, it was just like any other year. But, I’m looking to 2017. Onward and upward. Or, aiming to the second star on the right and on through the night.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hoag Family reunion, 1971

My mother-in-law, Carol, was a strong New England woman, one who was born and died in her home state of Massachusetts. She was taller and broader than me, had a powerful presence, softened by short brown curls and a ready smile. Back in the early 1970's, in between a full time job, a couple of teen girls and a rough divorce, she bought a fine Woolrich coat, teal colored twill with a tan-and-white wool lining.

A few years passed. Carol grew wider as folks tend to do in these United States, and the coat was handed to her youngest daughter, Abby. It probably never really fit Abby, except perhaps the winter she spent pregnant. Still, it was serviceable for bitter New Hampshire. The good twill broke the wind and the liner created an Indian blanket warmth. Like all coats of it's time, it was unwieldy. After putting it on, you became lumbering and bear-like. 

There was a hood, too, but by the time I inherited the coat, the string was gone. In deep cold or high wind, the big hood could still be pulled over a scarf for a second line of defense. You might look like the Abominable Snowman, but this senior's world, so what?

The coat is a keeper, worn weekly. Like any article of clothing that has been in use for so long, it shows it's age. For one thing, there's a dab of yellow house paint on one pocket, now hopelessly melded with the twill. That, and a fray on that same pocket, might suggest a thrift store source when viewed in cold, unforgiving daylight.

At the jolly-holly-day season, an old coat probably seems like a weird topic, but there's a part of me that a pure Yankee at heart, despite all those upstate farm New York ancestors. Still, in the midst of so much consumption--and so much compulsion do so, just pounding on the psyche from every side--there's a part of me that resists. I remember my much loved and frugal Grandfather, and that long ago rhyme.

"Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make Do
Or do without."

In later years, I'd hear it all over again, now from my husband's Yankee relatives. Even if I had the money to change it all out every year, I don't think I would. And beyond even that Yankee reason, there's memory of the two other bodies who have sheltered inside this same coat. One is a sister-in-law who has become a more of a sister, and the other was my formidable mother-in-law. When I pull it on, memories are with me just as surely as the wool and twill--which makes it so much more than just "an old coat."

Carol,  Valedictorian, Springfield HS, 1943

~~Juliet Waldron    Books by JW at Amazon  Sisters, a Two Book Series

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