REALITY BITES: Virtual Match #2 is Available. Sneak Peek Inside.

The day you’ve all been waiting for (okay, maybe it’s just ME who’s been counting down the days) is finally here. The second book in the Virtual Match Romance series is available from your favorite online retailers. Click here to get your copy.

Maybe you still haven’t read Reality Meets its Match. If you’re like me, you don’t want to wait for the next installment, so why start a series if you have to wait?

Because this is a fun romance that will have you feeling good about life.

Still not sure it’s for you?
Well, today, I’m going to share a little Ronnie and Marcus interaction.

Keep scrolling down to read an excerpt (if you haven’t seen enough on my Facebook page for the past month or in my newsletter last week). At the bottom of the post, enter the giveaway for $10 of books from my publisher. Hey, you can pick up the first book in the series, some other fantastic novellas or read one of my earlier fiction stories in one of several anthologies.

Hello beautiful!

Reality Bites
Virtual Match #2
Ronnie wanted a Virtual Match, until she fell for the guy on the other end of the texts and emails. After real-life dating for only a few weeks, things start to heat up. Ronnie’s crazy family gets crazier, and her therapist gives her an ultimatum.
Marcus teeters on the edge of falling in love, but when he learns Ronnie’s secret, he’s afraid of moving too fast. The idea of life without her terrifies him more than anything else.
Ronnie runs back to the safety of her career, but can her heart ever be free from what Marcus has awakened?
 
 
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Here’s an exclusive (YOU CAN’T READ IT ANYWHERE ELSE) peek inside the covers of Reality Bites:
(From Chapter Two)

She answered his knock before it resonated.
A pale blue polo clung to his sculpted chest. His bicep jerked when he raised a paper bag.
“Takeout?” Ronnie sidled out of the doorway.
“Not tonight,” Marcus said while sauntering in.
She watched his tight backside, nearly closing her fingers in the door. With a shake of her head, Ronnie relocked the door and followed him into the kitchen.
“My mom’s beef barley soup recipe. We’ll see if I did it justice.”
He withdrew a plastic container, dark with soup, and placed it on the counter. A package of wheat crackers and some sliced cheese followed.
Ronnie brushed behind him, inhaling the scent of ocean breeze and musk that was uniquely his. She pulled two bowls and small plates from the cupboard. “Soup weather is here already?” At least eight months of the year were gray and cool in their bayside city, making soup a perfect accouterments. Even some summer nights whispered for a steaming bowl of chowder or chili.
“An easy fix.”
Ronnie set the dishes beside the soup container and pulled spoons from one drawer and a ladle from another. When she swung back, she crashed into Marcus’ broad chest. His arms circled her waist at the same time his chin jerked out of the way of the swinging ladle. “Sorr—”
He cut off her apology with warm, soft lips.
Ronnie melted into his chest, opened up to his probing tongue. Kissing this man had quickly become one of her favorite activities. A faint taste of garlic and pepper echoed the soup’s delicious scent. Her pulse throbbed in her neck.
He pulled back slightly. “I missed you, gorgeous.” His husky whisper tickled her ear, sending a cascade of shivers down her spine.
Want more? Buy it now.
 
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GIVEAWAY!

A $10 Roane Publishing Gift Card

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use a RoanePublishing.com Gift Code.  No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.

Bring on 2016 and My New Year’s Theme

Can you believe the year is 2016? What happened to 2015? Didn’t I just post something about my focus for the year?

Apparently, it’s been twelve months or 365 days since that amazing post.

Remember how my focus for 2014 was “be the change you want to see”?

Then I decided to get an attitude adjustment in 2015 with a little “accentuate the positive” encouragement.

positive-attitude quotespositive

As the year sped toward completion, my creative brain began plotting how to make my campaign epic in the new year.

Enter Thirty Days of Thanksgiving.

You saw the posts on Facebook, right? What a great way to introduce the American holiday held the fourth Thursday of November.

You know, Thanksgiving Day. It’s my favorite of all the holidays (and it’s not because of the cornbread stuffing).

All this thankfulness got me thinking. Who can list all they are thankful for in a single month? It would take a year or more to even scratch the surface of how blessed we are.

A year of thanksgiving, then? My mind churned the title through its many layers of imagination and editing.

In the end, I settled on 365 Days of Gratitude.

Such a nice ring to that, don’t you think?

Which means, of course, that there are 366 days in 2016. You know because it’s a Leap Year.

Why can’t the Earth make it’s way around the sun in 365 days? Why does it have to take 365 days and six hours? That means we have to add an extra day every four years. It messes up the perfect synchronicity that is February and March.

Wait a minute!

I’m practicing the attitude of gratitude in 2016. Let’s try a new vein of thought here. I’m thankful for February 29.

However, I’m not changing my Twitter hashtag. I want my posts to reappear in years to come when anyone happens to search #365DaysofGratitude.

Maybe this thing will go viral. People everywhere will express their gratitude for the everyday things we take for granted. You know like waking up. Having air to breathe. Walking to the sink to turn on water for a refreshing drink (not everyone in the world can do this, you know).

What would the world be like if every single person
displayed an attitude of gratitude?

Join me in sharing your appreciation this year, and let’s find out.

Feel free to follow my hashtag on Twitter. Retweet the daily graphics I’m making and sharing. Make some of your own. Share them everywhere.

For example, this is today's tweetable meme
For example, this is today’s tweetable meme

Let’s start a revolution of gratitude.

What are you feeling grateful for today? Could you come up with 365 366 things for which to express heartfelt gratitude?

Star Wars and My Birthday

A long time ago in this galaxy, Star Wars A New Hope found its way into movie theaters. Lines circled the block in Longview, WA, where I lived with my mother and sister at the time.

I didn’t see it. When its sequel released a few years later, I didn’t watch that either. Yes, I loved Star Trek, but the movie theater wasn’t a place I frequented (cash flow problems).

Enter teenage years and the idea of going on dates. Where does every date want to take you? To the movies. What hormone-riddled teenage boy doesn’t want to corner a girl in a dark place?

It wasn’t like that when I went on a date to Return of the Jedi. He wasn’t that kind of guy.

And I fell in love. With Han Solo and R2D2 and Chewbacca and those cute, cuddly ewoks. So I rented the other movies and watched them. Yes, even whiny Luke Skywalker dazzled me.

My fantasies of moving to Narnia embraced The Force with  all its mysticism. Why not include a few light sabers with my talking horses? Who would ever think up that sort of pairing?

My Parenting

As every good parent does, I indoctrinated my children to love the movies I loved. Sadly, love for the original Star Trek movies never manifested in them.

Star Wars? Oh my, yes. Their adoration reached new heights. To the point that we bought Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, Star Wars Life and the boxed set of episodes one through six.

And many conversations have been held since we learned there would be a new Star Wars movie. The Force Awakens into lively discussions around the Hughson table.

When the release date was announced, we blocked out the date. It would be all about our family renewing our love affair with Han Solo and the wookie. Oh, and those new people, whoever they were.

My Birthday

The filmmakers investigated to discover the day of my birth *snorts* and graciously offered to release the new blockbuster the day before.

However, getting my four adult children together at the same time proved too much for even The Force to accomplish. My oldest had tickets to a premiere through his job. His wife had to work.

My youngest and his fiance were involved in a stage drama with showings that weekend. My husband was offered premiere tickets from two different vendors through his employer.

Our compromise: a 10:30 am viewing on Friday the 18th with my youngest and his girl. This would free them up in plenty of time for their evening commitment.

Was the Force Awakened?

First off, going to the movies before lunch is disorienting. I always come out of a theater expecting the black of night. Going to P.F. Chang’s for lunch on the back side of a film viewing?

Talk about the Twilight Zone.

But going to an event planned by a sales representative guarantees you won’t leave empty-handed. After the movie, they distributed the gift. In this case: a light saber.

If you don’t want to know anything about Episode VII, you should scroll to the bottom now. Go ahead. Leave me a scathing commentary about how wrong it is to hand out spoilers and ruin the movie for everyone.

If you’d rather read a more positive reflection on the movie, one that doesn’t contain story spoilers, visit my friend Jenny’s blog.

Consider yourself warned.

My Personal Reaction

On Facebook, I read a comment about the story reminding them of Episode IV. I agree. It was a remix of that theme within the original trope. With new characters thrown in the mix.

You have the orphan on a desert planet. She salvages parts off of wrecked ships and somehow has become an incredible mechanic and pilot. You won’t find out too much about Rey. Except that “the Force is strong with her.” And she doesn’t know it. Until she does. (Sounding familiar yet?)

There’s a droid hiding plans the bad guys want. The Empire is gone, but from its dregs comes the First Order. Lead by some alien who communicates with his minions via holographic message. There’s a masked Sith and a uniformed General with an epic weapon of planet-eliminating power (major echoing should be happening for you by now.)

Somehow, a Storm Trooper decides the whole idea of genocide doesn’t sit well with his life-long programming. So he’s the one who helps the rebel captive (chimes of deja vu should be gonging) of the dark forces escape the clutches of Kylo Ren.

A smuggler we know and love plays a central role in the plot. A certain princess is a general in the rebellion these days. Somehow, the Millenium Falcon can still out-maneuver tie fighters and avoid blaster cannon fire.

It’s all very familiar.

There is a father-son issue. Someone dies. In fact, there’s blood on the screen in this film, something unheard of in the original two trilogies.

I was entertained. I cried too much. I laughed. I missed C3PO’s ridiculous puns.

It wasn’t a loss. I don’t regret spending four hours inside a theater on a winter’s day.

I liked the new characters. They had spunk and skills and obvious issues driving them forward.

But too many essentials remain unexplained. And if the parentage of our not-a-Jedi who holds the Skywalker light saber in her hand turns out to be as we suspect, I’ll have a hard time buying into it.

It gets one thumb up and a hand wiggle from me. Which doesn’t mean I hated it. I just didn’t LOVE it. Although it was much more Star Wars-esque than anything I’ve seen in three decades. And PLEASE remember. I came late to this party. The first Star Wars movie I saw was Return of the Jedi (which is still my all-time favorite).

Of course, as a Star Wars aficionado, I will add The Force Awakens to my Blu-Ray collection. It will be watched and re-watched. Even the much-maligned Episodes I – III have been viewed multiple times in my household (although rarely from start to finish by me – especially Episode I).

Part of the problem with this film lies with the months of media hype. As a result, my personal expectations ramped to skyrocketing levels. Could any movie really rise that high?

Probably not.

Have you seen it? What is your reaction?

Starting Something New

Maybe it’s the way the tape holding the cotton ball in the bend of my arm pulls whenever I type. I even give blame credit to the golden sun making patterns on the porch outside my office window.

Starting a new project brings out the best – and worst – of my natural tendencies to procrastinate or run heedless into crowded streets. Not sure there is a “best” when I put it that way.

I don’t chew my nails. Even if I did, I’m not fretting about what’s next for the novel I’ve placed into the capable hands of six beta readers. That isn’t keeping me from getting words on the page in the newest Scrivener file.

I tried to come up with some short story ideas, but everything fell flat. This idea that came to me during November 2013 while I was writing blog posts for the church blog kept resurfacing.

It’s a fictionalization. I’ve decided a journal style will give it the most impact. This means writing in first person and a boatload of research.

Where to Start

Some people would load up by researching the time period and setting. That derails my creativity and puts me in a black-and-white frame of mind. If it helps spark your enthusiasm for the project, start here.

I started in the middle. This isn’t my usual method. Generally, I write the first scene and the last scene. Go back to the beginning and work my way toward the ending I’ve concocted.

That doesn’t seem to work for a fictionalization. Yes, creativity plays a huge part in the writing, but the basic story outline is already written. Shouldn’t this make things easier? One would think.

Since I’m using the Bible as my major resource, I started by reading the passage of the scene I wanted to write. I began with the marriage at Cana (I told you it was in the middle). I read the story several times.

Now to bring it to life. I closed my eyes and imagined how my point of view character, Mary, would have felt. Why was she there? How did she discover the wine shortage? What do her snippets of conversation with Jesus and the servants tell us about her character?

It’s not that much different than when I create a fictional character. Except I have to be true to the facts people already know.

It would be easier just to make something up. Why am I writing this again? *sigh*

What to Avoid

As with all my projects, I have a spiral notebook. The first page shows the family tree of Mary. Beneath that, I have her and Joseph’s family tree. Here again, the historical documents I’m using have only a small amount of information.

It’s difficult not to run off and research every little thing. If you want to get actual words written in the story, avoid this temptation.

Yes, I had to pull up a Jewish calendar and figure out what dates certain events might have happened. After all, how will I know what season events happen if I don’t know the date?

Even this tempted me to run amok. There were hyperlinks to descriptions of different festivals. Some of the information about the structure of the calendar piqued my natural curiosity. I steered clear of these obvious traps.

Don’t get stuck in any one scene. I know tons of research awaits me. My rewrite will require thousands of words added expounding on cultural items. I put an asterisk or a parenthetical reminder where I know this information is needed. Keep moving forward.

I’ve had to skip around. Some stories (like the birth, shepherds and wise men) are so over told, I will need to be especially primed in order to write them with original flare. For now, those scenes are blank folders in my Scrivener binder. I know they need to be written and when the time is right, I will tackle that hurdle.

Do I want to use them as an excuse to bog down? Sure. Now is when I have to use the tough love principle.  If I want to keep moving forward, I must say recognize distractions and swerve to avoid their pitfall.

When only a kick in the posterior will do

Everyone needs a day off. Most days, we can spare an hour for sitting in the sun on our deck. What we can’t do is allow respite to become laziness.

Sitting in the sun is a perfect time to read a craft book or reflect on the next scene in the story. Making notes in the notebook is always in order and can be accomplished anywhere.

I’m yawning after only writing 1,000 words. I can choose to take a nap. If I want to get more writing done, taking a walk around the block is a better choice.

Discover your personal warning signs. There are patterns when avoiding work is in question. Do a personal intervention. When my brain gets mushy and begs for a nap, I give it a dose of fresh air and exercise. If that doesn’t work, I put the daily word count goal in front of my face.

“As soon as we reach that,” I tell my wavering writing persona, “you can take a nap (read a book, check Facebook).” You know the rewards that spur you forward. Shamelessly bargain with yourself using these weaknesses goodies.

I didn’t feel like writing a blog post today. I had no idea what to write about. Rather than checking out images on Pinterest (looking for inspiration, of course), I started typing. This is the end result.

It might not be the best thing I’ve ever written, but it beats a blank page.

What advice do you have for starting a new project? What sort of bribes do you use to reach your daily goals?