“That looks good to me,” Bobby said, tilting his head to one side. His breath wafted around him then was wisped away in the stiff breeze.
Chad pulled the rope tighter across the truck bed, wondering if he should make another pass across the Christmas tree for good measure.
“Seriously, I’m ready to go, it’s cold,” Bobby continued with his teeth chattering. “We’ve been out here for hours.”
Stepping back to survey his tie-down job, Chad scoffed. “It has not been hours.”
Bobby pushed up his thick glasses with the knuckle of his red index finger, offering only a sniff in response.
Chad decided the nine-foot tree was secure, so he motioned for Bobby to get in the pickup. Julia would be pleased that he’d found a nice tall, full Christmas tree.
Soon the truck was heading down the dirt road of the Christmas tree farm toward the highway. Chad glanced toward the little man in the passenger seat. “Are you warming up?”
Bobby shrugged and shifted in his seat, holding his fingers out to the heater vent.
Chad arched one brow and glanced both ways before pulling onto the highway. Bobby had been antsy all morning, something was up. “Who put a burr under your saddle?” he asked.
“A burr?” Bobby asked, scrunching his nose.
Chad shook his head, resigned to let Bobby be Bobby.
Finally the truck pulled up in front of the restored Victorian home that Chad and Julia called home. The passenger door flew open and Bobby jumped out almost before the truck came to a full stop.
“Slow down Bobby!” Chad hollered, concerned about the little man. But Bobby was already around the back of the truck untying the ropes holding the Christmas tree. By the time Chad put the truck in park and caught up, the ropes were a tangle of knots.
“What the—” Chad started, but he knew better than to expect an answer from Bobby. Pulling a deep breath in through his nose then blowing it out his mouth, he worked to remain calm. Bobby was definitely in fine form. Ready to try again, he took the tangled rope from Bobby. “Go on inside and see if Julia is ready for the tree.”
“Okay!” Bobby cheered, then sprinted across the snow-covered lawn, leaving deep boot prints behind him. With a clatter he was across the porch and through the door, dropping the gingerbread-trimmed screen behind him with a bang. “Miss Julia…” his voice rang from the house.
About the time Chad got the rope untangled and the tree freed, Bobby was back.
“She’s ready,” he wheezed, holding one hand to his chest as he gasped. His breath puffed around them like a cloud.
Chad opened the tailgate and motioned for Bobby to get the top of the tree, then he gave the trunk a good hard tug.
Misunderstanding Chad’s instruction, Bobby ran behind him to the other side of the truck bed, completely missing the top of the tree as it slid off the tailgate and onto the ground.
The jolt of the tree dropping to the driveway caused Chad to jerk to a stop and nearly drop the trunk end. “Bobby!” he bellowed.
“I got it, I got it,” Bobby cried, bending down, but he couldn’t seem to find a good handhold on the prickly tree.
Chad glanced over his shoulder, working to keep a hold of the weighty trunk. “What are you doing back there?”
Flustered, Bobby finally tugged the tree up from the driveway and tucked it under his arm. Wanting to make up for lost time, he hurried across the yard, passing Chad in the process, pivoting them to face the wrong direction.
“Bobby!” Chad thundered, clomping a hole in the snow as he spun, grunting and grappling with the tree truck.
“Sorry,” Bobby called, continuing his momentum to run a full circle around Chad until the older man was once again in the lead and they faced the house.
When they reached the porch, Chad paused to heft the tree up and head up the steps, but Bobby didn’t stop. Shoved from behind, Chad fumbled up the steps, barely managing to keep his footing and carry the tree. “Bobby, stop!” he thundered, bringing the other man to a stop just before the tree trunk rammed through the screen door. “What is the matter with you?” Chad shouted over his shoulder as Julia hurried to open the screen door.
“I’m cold,” Bobby grumbled, dancing from one foot to the other. “Let’s get this thing inside!”
Chad glance d at Julia and rolled his eyes, then gave the tree a solid tug to fit the fat bottom branches through the doorway. Bobby rushed in behind him like a caboose, and Julia closed the door.
Julia pointed toward one corner of the living room turned flower shop. “I have the spot all ready.”
Before Chad could take a step, Bobby rushed forward, causing the men to drag the tree over the back of the sofa.
Julia worked to cover her grin as boots shuffled on the hardwood floor and the men grunted and cussed, wrestling the tree back into position. In the corner, Chad bent to place the trunk of the tree into the stand Julia had prepared. Grunting and straining under the tree, he tightened the screws. "How does it look, is it straight?" his muffled voice called, and only his rear end showing under the branches.
The second the evergreen was upright, Bobby turned to Julia. “Can we have those cookies and hot chocolate now, Miss Julia?”
Julia grinned. “Sure, come on into the kitchen.”
Bobby let go of the tree and hurried toward the kitchen, gabbing excited to Julia about finding the tree.
“Bobby? Julia?" Chad called from under the tree…
Gloria pulled up behind the house and puffed out a long breath. Her shift at the spa had been a busy one and her feet ached like the dickens. Tugging her keys from the ignition, she shook her head, remembering Beatrice’s visit that afternoon. Lizzie’s mother had a way of dominating the scene.
As she stepped out into the chilly November evening, Gloria chuckled at the thought of Beatrice marching into the spa like a bomb hitting its target. The woman had the tact of a steamroller.
A gust of wind whipped a lock of curly red hair into Gloria’s face, making her shrug deeper into her coat and pick up her pace toward the house. No sleeping dogs obscured the back step tonight, she noted. Fergus must have let them in to sleep in the mudroom. “What a softy,” she murmured, shaking her head.
Cautiously she stepped in, navigated past the sleeping dogs, and closed the back door, keeping the creeks to a minimum. Tiptoeing, she headed through the living room and quietly opened her bedroom door. Snoring sounds came from her Grandfather's room across the hall, so she relaxed, relieved that she'd not disturbed his sleep.
In her room, she shook off her coat, then used one toe to pry the other heel from her winter boots. Dropping onto the end of her bed she huffed out another long sigh as she watched her stocking-clad toes wiggle, enjoying freedom from the heavy boots.
It was guilt-free crafting in her mind, because she needed a planner. It was practical. Unlike her card making, which had to be vigilantly controlled or the time and funds spent went wild.
She flopped back onto the bed to stare up at the cracked ceiling. Christmas was starting to pop up everywhere, like flowers in the spring. Soon the community would be eyeball deep in decorations and holiday activities. She loved Christmas and normally looked forward to the hubbub and chaos, but this year…
See more about the upcoming pageant craziness, along with a whole new Hometown Series romance in the novel Christmas in Smithville, coming soon to Amazon.
Lizzie opened one eye. Sure enough, faint morning light glowed behind the bedroom curtains. Careful not to wake Elliot, she stretched under the covers, dreading the cold outside her cozy bed. Too bad the farm animals didn’t understand weekends, she reasoned, she could use another hour of sleep.
Tentatively she reached one foot out from under the covers. Cold air raced up her ankle causing her to wince. Elliot snorted in his sleep and adjusted his pillow, and it took all Lizzie’s will power not cuddle up to his big warm back and go back to sleep.
Finally she sighed and counted to three, then jumped out of bed, danced across the cold floor, and raced to tug on her jeans. Moving as quickly as she could, she pulled a sweatshirt over her head and opened the door to head downstairs. She loved her old house, but winter mornings were definitely chilly.
In a daze, she started coffee in the old percolator, and once it was bubbling on the stove, she plopped down on the bench in the mudroom. Outside would be even more cold than upstairs, and she took in a deep breath, trying to collect strength to face the day.
The ancient sagging door creaked open, dropping a shaft of light into the barn. Ingrid, the favorite of her two alpaca’s, lifted her head and hummed good morning.
“It may be cold,” she mumbled as she reached for the pitchfork, “…but this is still my favorite way to start the day.”
One wheel of Tara’s cart at the craft store knocked rhythmically, thump, thump, thump, causing Isabelle to giggle and clap her chubby hands.
Tara shook her head. “Oh yes, this is great fun, isn’t it?” The baby grinned, showing her two new bottom teeth.
Ignoring the clanking wheel, Tara turned down the Christmas isle. Now that it was November she was on the lookout for decorating ideas. Filling the Bed and Breakfast Inn with cozy Christmas items was a favorite chore, and the endless options on the shelves made her pulse race.
She reached out to touch a plastic flocked pine bow. There had to be fifty to chose from, not an easy task. Finally she tugged a few from the basket, taking her time to separate them, careful not to knock any more glitter than necessary on the floor.
“Is that a no?” Tara chuckled. The baby fussed and arched her back, pushing at the cart handle. Tara put the decorations in her cart and turned to head toward the check out. “Okay, okay, I know you’re tired of this,” she soothed. “But someday you’ll love shopping here, I promise.”
The sewing machine hummed and buzzed and Gloria bent closer, watching carefully as she fed the fabric past the flashing needle.
“There!” she exclaimed in relief as she held up the child size dress. All she had left to do was the hem, and it would be finished. The old clock on the mantle dinged, announcing that she didn’t have time to waste, so she folded up the dress and tucked it into the box by her feet with the others. This was the last dress for the package going to the homeless shelter in Uniontown, and once she hemmed it, she could concentrate on Christmas sewing.
“Christmas pageant…” she muttered under her breath, worrying again about the upcoming gathering.
She'd heard talk that Smithville was considering a pageant to earn money for a new community center, and she was sure she’d be asked to make costumes. Although she loved sewing, it would definitely take a huge bite out of her own Christmas sewing time, not to mention shopping, card making, and baking time.
“Who am I kidding,” she huffed, knowing full well that she wasn’t bothered by the time it would take. It was the other women at the meetings that had her on edge...
My latest book, Love on the Line, is the story of Andy, a woman who chooses to work building a pipeline in the rugged mountains of West Virginia. Why did I write about this? I wrote it partly because I was inspired by the experiences of my own daughter who entertained me with many of her personal experiences as a pipeliner. But I also wrote it because I too chose to work in a male dominated field back in the day. Some of the struggles of women in these fields are upsetting, but many are inspiring and funny, thus perfect material for the kind of books I love to write. Just because not many women choose to do it, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, right?
More than any time in recorded history, women are choosing to work in male dominated fields. Every day you come across a woman truck driver, firefighter, or pharmacist. And even though it’s become commonplace, many fields stick with their traditional titles such as policeman, draftsman, and even garbage man. Given this plus the infamous glass ceiling, why would a woman choose to spend their entire career fighting an uphill battle? There are a million reasons, but overwhelmingly, the answer I find is “because I want to” or “because the job appealed to me,” or “My dad and grandpa did it, why shouldn’t I?”
When was the idea planted for women to take the jobs they wanted, even if they were traditionally considered only suitable for men? Some would say with Eve, but both folklore and history are filled with women who not only worked at the jobs they pleased, they ruled societies: Joan of Ark and Cleopatra, to name a few. In Victorian times, women who wrote were forced to use a male pen name or work without recognition. But the women of my grandmother’s generation were forced to work at jobs considered appropriate only for men during world war II. They worked everywhere from factories to the fields. Sadly, after a taste of the liberation a paycheck affords a person, these women were expected to quietly step back into the kitchen once the men came home.
My mother’s generation, were blessed with not only their mother’s experiences, but all manner of modern conveniences which allowed them to clean and cook and generally care for their families in a fraction of the time it took their mothers. Many of these women took it upon themselves to “have it all” and step out into the working world, and not just as nurses and schoolteachers. Their bravery gave the women of my generation the encouragement and conviction that we too could plan a career. However, we quickly learned that we couldn’t be super mom and have a demanding and time consuming career without a shift in attitude, and this shift had to come from the men. The change had to happen not just because of the aforesaid glass ceiling on the job, but because we needed help at home.
Do I think only women who work have value, and somehow women who don’t work away from home are lesser somehow? Of course not! In my lifetime I have been a stay at home mom, a sick in bed mom, a full time student mom, an employed full time mom, and a retired mom. All of those words we put on women are pointless when you realize that we are in this together, and we should be supportive and understanding, no matter what roll you chose.
So, take a moment this summer to grab a copy of Love on the Line. Then curl up in a corner with a cup of coffee and prepare yourself for a heartwarming story filled with feminine strength, challenge, bravery, friendship, and romance.
Do you like romance novels? If so, do you like the story line where the poor sweet heroin needs to be rescued or saved by the handsome hero? I’ve read my fair share of these books, and sometimes they’re fun; especially on a hormonal day, or if you’re feeling vulnerable. but on the whole I want a story that feels bit more realistic.
Okay, granted, it’s a romance novel, so realistic isn’t going to happen per se, but I want to read about a woman who could be real. Someone I’d like to have coffee with, not a woman that wants to go in the dark basement, alone, with a killer on the loose. Nor do I want to read about a woman who needs (or wants) a man’s money.
Having said all that, what makes a female character in a novel more realistic? I’d say, first of all, she has to be at least a little bit moody, because lets face it, as women, we are a moody group. Not in a bad way, but in a keeping-things-interesting kind of way, right? And this woman needs to be able to change her mind for no sane reason, just because things aren’t feeling right. Then if she wants to, she can change it back!
Next, I like a woman with a plan. A lady who knows what she likes and needs, or at least thinks she knows. That is the fun part, because when it comes to romance, most of the time we are attracted to men who are not what we think we want or need, am I right?
And finally, I like to read about a woman who has to make allowances and let herself fall in love. She has to consider changing her career plans, or her financial goals, or she has to realize she has some hang-up that she needs to get over. Because let’s face it, that’s how love really works for women in this day and age. We have to face the fact that we will never fall in love with the perfect guy, at the perfect time, on our way to the perfectly planned ending. Love is messy and confusing and painful, in the most delicious sort of way. Love for ladies in the new millennium is gut wrenching, and tedious, and as wonderful as ever.
So here’s to romance novels with leading ladies who saves themselves, so they can ride happily into the sunset with a man they’ve never dreamed of!
As I prepare to launch my new romance novels, The Girl Power Series, it’s given me the opportunity to think about what it means to be a woman in the twenty first century. Women now days have endless lifestyle and career options, thanks to the strong and ingenious ladies of centuries past, but what do all the opportunities open to us really represent? How have the changing times altered women’s perceptions and concerns?
In the last two or three decades women face different obstacles than generations before, or do they? Surprisingly, I see my daughters struggling with some of the same issues that I stressed about. How can I afford to further my education? What types of work do I enjoy? What are my careers options? What type of relationships do I want? Do I want to have children, if so when? How will I manage birth control? Will my baby’s father/my partner stand by me and be a good provider of love, support, and time? Will I be able to manage relationships and my own needs? How will I manage a work schedule and family/relationships? Will my career path interfere with my relationships? I’m not sure if my mother or her mother worried as much about career options, but this meant they must have been much more stressed about their relationships and how the men/partners in their lives supported them and their children. Girls way back in my day were taught to have a career as a plan B, just in case things went south with their husband’s career. Now our careers are plan A.
If we have more possibilities these days, how has that affected us? Once again, the answer is a bit surprising because, from what I can see, one of the outcomes of having so many options seems to be added stress. Sure, I now have the ability and opportunity to become a neurosurgeon, but how will that choice cascade down through all my other concerns about relationships and family? Will I be accepted in that field as woman? Even though women now realize, and even envision, being better educated, well traveled, and making far more money than our mothers or grandmothers may have dreamed, that doesn’t make it any easier to do so while balancing the demands of a family. Plus, as we are learning, women’s health is a big part of being successful. And due to our unique and finely tuned balance of hormonal and feminine needs, it takes time, money, and effort just to stay healthy.
With all this in mind, I started writing The Girl Power Series. As with my other books, I like to find the humor we encounter along the way as we plod through life, career, family issues, and love, but I also enjoy writing about ladies who are learning about themselves as they go. Oftentimes, we women are our own biggest enemies when it comes to falling in love. Add the fun of dropping a strong-willed leading lady into a rewarding career that is still managed by the good-ol-boy network, and watch the sparks fly!
Enter Andrea, the main character in the first Girl Power novel Love on the Line. She can’t stomach even one more day of graduate school. She’s not sure what her problem is, but she knows she needs to get out of the classroom and into the world. Her estranged grandpa Buck as offered her the opportunity to join him engineering a pipeline through the mountains of West Virginia, so uncharacteristically, she takes the bait to try her hand at working in the untamed forest, also snagging the chance to learn more about the grandfather her mother despises. Follow Andy as she finds hidden inner strength, finds family secrets, and earns the respect of her coworkers in a wilderness where few women dare to venture. Laugh at her silly mistakes and cheer for her successes, as she finds her way in what has always been considered a man’s job. And I dare you not to fall for the cocky, handsome, hardworking-hunk of man who draws her eye.
Looking forward, I plan to continue the series with more stories about women finding a way to make their mark in unexpected places. If you have ideas of better yet, personal experience that would make a great story line for a book in the series, please send me a note. I’d love to create a fabulous and romantic tale based on how you survived and thrived in an ever-changing world!
When writing a conversation, how do you avoid overusing the dreaded “said” too many times?
Contriving conversation can be tricky. Your goal should be clarity, so the reader has a well-defined vision of who is speaking. No one likes to back track when reading a conversation, so the “said” word will inevitably happen. How to keep “said” at a minimum? Read on…
When I first decided to get serious about writing and take it up a notch from hobby to marketable novel, I did what most of us do. I bought a bunch of books about how to write books! Some of them were more helpful than others, but I’ll never forget the stickler who instructed “never use the word said”. He said it was lazy writing to rely on pointing back and forth between speakers. I was baffled. How could I write an entire novel full of spirited conversation and never write “said”? Confused, but undeterred, I gave it a shot.
The first suggested method I found was to write a character’s actions as they spoke. This is, by far, the most effective way to move the story along while people are talking. After all, most of us don’t freeze when we talk, we have to get things done. Especially with friends, family and coworkers, we chat while walking, over coffee, while driving, or thanks to speakerphone, doing just about anything. It’s also fun to write about that horribly inconvenient, worst possibly timed phone call as well. I try to not let my characters talk on the phone in the bathroom, however. Good taste and all that… But I digress.
By creating a scene of action, even something as simple as lifting a fork or frowning, you can portray an entire panorama while the characters talk back and forth. The story keeps bumping along and it helps to show how each character is responding to the information they are talking about.
Another important thing to remember, is that you need not note who is speaking each and every line of conversation. If you follow the rules of grammar, each return (or new line) will indicate a new speaker. This alone gives you a little go between without stating the speaker, especially if it’s quick, one line type, back and forth banter.
There are multiple replacement words for “said” as well. Some of my favorites are muttered and mumbled, maybe because it’s great fun to have conversations go awry, with one character or the other showing frustration. A good site to find helpful replacement words is https://letterpile.com/writing/400-Alternative-words-for-said.
Although repeating “said” over and over can get annoying, be careful when using an alternate verb, no matter how fitting. Many purists say it’s best not to substitute replacements, since readers don’t usually pay attention to “said” in the first place. In fact many grammar police argue that the word “said” effectively becomes invisible to readers.
If you do choose to use an alternative, be careful not to become too conspicuous. Substituting too many talking words can actually downgrade your writing and make it sound amateurish. To be on the safe side, many authors steer clear of using alternatives words, or use them very sparingly.
So, which is it then? Never use “said”, or never use an alternative? As with most things in life, I’ve found that striking a balance is best. Use it when needed for clarification, but don’t over use it. And be careful when replacing it. Read the conversation out loud to see if it sounds natural.
The above link to Letterpile.com offers several other solutions such as adverbs or phrases that emphasize how the person spoke, not just who was speaking. Once again, be careful when using words ending in ly as they are also on the hazard list, but that’s another blog all together.
Whatever route you decide to go when writing conversation, I wish you the best of luck. Keep it clean, make it feel real, and you can’t lose.