Posted in Daughters, mother & daughters, mothers, writers

Understanding Branding

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Whether you are a writer, Realtor, retail sales manager, cabinet salesman,  Welcome Wagon host (I’ve been them all) or something entirely different,  in order to move forward in your career, in today’s market, you’ve got to understand Branding.

So what is branding anyway? Webster’s Dictionary says it is:

“the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand”

Okay, so that wasn’t real helpful. We all know branding when it comes to things like the McDonald arches or the Nike check mark. But how does that really help us identify our own brand?

I did some research for authors and came across this great link.

https://writeitsideways.com/create-author-brand-4-steps-take-now/

Taking those lessons to heart, I had to search for the obvious. What, you say? Yes, it was staring me right in the face.  My brand is writing mother-daughter stories. The irony is that I didn’t even realize that I was doing that. But, when I start to explain my books, invariably I am saying something along the lines of “there is this mother and such and such happens and her daughter and her must”…..  you  get the picture. When I sat down to write,  (pre-branding concept), I never thought about the fact that all my books had the same common theme. Now that I see it, it is so much easier to brand myself.

I write mother-daughter stories. I also write a little dark. So these are never sweet relationships that are un-flawed. What fun would that be? I guess I can thank having three daughters and a wonderful mother for my inspiration. Then, I have to mess them all up with characters that in no way resemble my own sweet family. Just so you know, I also have a son. Maybe someday, I’ll write a mother-son story.  Who knows.  It doesn’t mean I love him any less than his sisters, Andrew Cooper, if you are reading this.

What is your brand? Regardless of your profession, if you want to be recognized, you need a brand.  I’d love to hear from you and even post pictures .

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Posted in books, family, fiction, writers

Back to the blog

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I’ll admit it.  I got lost in the book vortex. It’s been two years since I’ve blogged, but I’m back.  Truth be told, I’ve been a little busy. I published three books since my last post, all of which I’ll share with you later. I’ve become a grandmother again (for the 10th time) and moved twice.  And I’ve probably read a couple of hundred books. Yea, I’m a book geek.

I’ve added a new look to this blog. Hopefully, you like it. Lots of great stuff happening in my near future, I ‘m back to share the journey with you. So, stay tuned.


Posted in addiction, children, coming of age, education, education, environment, family

I raised an addict – what could I have done differently?

I don’t usually re=post things of this nature. I prefer to talk about what I love, writing, But this is worth sharing with anyone who will listen, Who knows, maybe it will save a life.

via I raised an addict – what could I have done differently?.

Posted in academic, business, children, college, college debt, education, family, money, non-fiction

An Entrepreneurial Approach to Getting Out of College Debt

Today we have a very different author to interview.  Abigail Widynski is the author of Making Money the Millennial Way

Abigail  Front Cover Thumbnail

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

For several years, my writing was purely academic. I am grateful for a very honest and tough 11th and 12th grade English teacher who had a Ph.D. in English. He was very critical of my writing and set the bar extremely high. At the time, it was completely demoralizing that he didn’t recommend me a place in the AP English course I had my heart set on. But looking back, this was a sort of fuel later on in my education as I disciplined myself to communicate with precision.

While going to business school abroad, I was often the one tasked in our group assignments to do the speaking, proofing and writing due to the fact I was a native English speaker! Later, the communication niche continued to pop up in my work, both in non-profit and M&A (finance). I just kept writing, trying to communicate the best I knew how. So, while I didn’t take any courses, I feel my life’s experiences have been a never-ending course!
On a side note, I also do sales and corporate communications writing for business owners seeking to increase sales or communicate newsworthy or delicate information to clients. Their feedback has helped me refine a different type of writing and earn while learning! Now, I subcontract some of these contracts and now, in turn, teach my writers how to write for sales and marketing.

What other work have you done, and how has it impacted your writing career?

About two years ago, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article for my friend and Techli.com’s founder, Ed Domain. Even as I type the title of it, I can’t help but laugh. The name said it all, ‘Dear Recession, Thanks! A Letter From a Millennial MBA.‘ Little did I realize my reality check of a recession would propel me into this dialogue on solutions. As my partner can attest to my saying (especially when he’s refusing to go to the doctor), I’m willing to offer sympathy when you’re willing to look for a solution! Now, before you brand me as cold-hearted, would you agree with me that merely talking about college debt doesn’t solve a graduate’s monthly repayment problem?

So, there it is, why I wrote this book. Students and graduates need a solution to their debt sooner, rather than later. And who doesn’t benefit from encouragement and motivation? That’s what I want to give to my readers who are the very generation of Millennial Money Makers.
Do you always write in the same genre?

Certainly not! I write on business and entrepreneurship, faith, as well as do marketing and sales writing. For my own business, I’ve written a great deal on finance. I believe that learning to write and communicate in your client’s voice stretches you as a writer and refines your own voice.
What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
Your writing style is a mirror of your personality. Are you goal-oriented or process-oriented? If you’re goal oriented, consider a writing timeline complete with mile markers and a completion date. If you’re process oriented, setting aside two hours a day/one day per week/etc may make the process both sustainable and enjoyable. Trying to fit yourself into the tips you read on ‘writing best practices’ may strain the process for you. Know yourself, own your style and carry on.
Personally, I’m highly goal-oriented and naturally an organizer. It was no headache for me to develop my title, full outline, etc. I also knew that my peak time is early morning and I need to stay active while writing. So, I took one month and completed my manuscript! I structured my day to be at the coffee shop by 6:15am, work until 8:30am, go to yoga or another fitness class, go to the library for another 2 hours, take a walk, and finish up writing at 4:30pm. At the end of every writing session, I determined which section I would address in the next writing session. This kept my mind flowing with thought and allowed me to get to work immediately when I sat down at my laptop. It worked so well for me because my writing style is a mirror of my personality!
Please complete this sentence….. My first ever published piece of writing was a travel tip that was published in the magazine Budget Travel. I was thrilled and received a years’ subscription. 😉
What is your advice to college students when it comes to college debt and how to handle it?

I think it’s critical to remember that entrepreneurship is a tool, a tool that can be wielded against debt. And as that tool sharpens and debt is eliminated, well then who knows what’s next for that student or graduate!

 

How did you conduct your research? With whom did you speak? Did you go to college campuses?

In researching this book, I wanted to get input from students making ends meet right now. I wanted to hear exactly what students are doing right now to earn money while studying. I needed to listen not just for the facts, but the struggle and resilience behind their pursuits. Also, I wanted to here their own ideas for creative money-making and things their friends had tried out! As a writer and researcher, I made the decision to compensate my survey participants and go to the place where many are trying to make money: online. Advertising for participants, I received dozens of bids and inquiries for two separate sets of surveys: experience in trying to make money (qualitative) and ideas for making money (qualitative). Sifting through a few hundred business ideas, I conducted further research against this criteria: Is it a low-capital venture? Is it quick-start? It was critical to me that I offer practical solutions; the book includes twenty-five low-capital, quick start business ideas broken into the following sections: the idea, getting started, and the nitty-gritty of pricing and overhead.
In addition to the research, I included personal stories from my education experience at Charles University in Prague and Imperial College London as well as a story or two of inspiration from my post education career working with entrepreneurs. Also included are oftentimes humorous testimonials from my college student survey participants.

Thank you, Abigail,  for being on “Writing Under Fire.” Where can readers learn more about your book or purchase it?

Press Release (Local to Marco Island): http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/01/prweb12439299.htm
Press Release (National post-State of the Union): http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/01/prweb12460853.htm
Book Website: http://getoutofcollegedebtnow.com/

Posted in cowboys, family, fiction, love, novels, readers, romance, small towns, the west, westerns, WFWA, womens fiction, writers, writing

High Cotton Country by Leta McCurry

Leta McCurry           High Cotton Country

It is a pleasure to have Leta McCurry with us today for an Author Interview.  Leta and I have become friends through WFWA, Women’s Fiction Writers Association.  I am still amazed at how technology can bring people together from opposites sides of the country, or even the world.

Leta,  when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

I think I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer but I actually started writing at about twelve – from a twelve year old’s perspective obviously. The adventure, companionship, comfort and inspiration I received from being an avid reader is what first inspired me to put on paper the stories that were bouncing around in my head.

Do you have a background in writing or have you taken  any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

No. The biggest help to me has been honest and forthright critique readers. Feedback from readers always gives me clarity about y writing and is a big help in my on-going endeavor to become a better writer.

What other work have you done, and how has it impacted your writing career?

Sales. I think sales taught me to take risks and put myself out there. And not to take rejection personally. And, while not work in the strictest sense, I think raising five children.

How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?

About a year and a half from writing the first chapter through to publication. 

Do you always write in the same genre?

My interest is in general/women’s fiction. I never intended to write non-fiction but at one point Prentice-Hall, New York offered me a contract to write a college textbook which I did and they published. That was just an unexpected side trip. I refer to my genre as women’s fiction but I have been told it is more general fiction. High Cotton Country has actually been read by several men and I’ve had really good geed back from them so I guess it is a cross-over between general and women’s fiction.

Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

Women’s fiction.

Do you have any special time or place you like to write?

I have a little cubby hole office hardly big enough to “cuss a cat” as my grandpa would say, but it works for me.  Nice big windows with a view out at the green Oregon trees and foliage and blue sky (when it isn’t raining).

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?

Yes. Non Fiction. College Text Book. Publisher Prentice Hall sought me out based on a recommendation from a college professor.

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication on this project? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indi publisher to a colleague?

I went the self-publishing route almost entirely because of the time factor involved in getting a book on the market via traditional sources. It just seemed that two years was a long time.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

I like to switch it up because everybody has their own perspective on events and situations. The same incident can and does have a different impact on different people. I have read books written from a one person perspective and they worked for me as a reader. I don’t know that I could make it work that successfully.  To me, the difference is one perspective is like mashed potatoes and multiple perspective is like a baked potato with butter, sour cream, chives and chopped bacon.  Having said that, I’ll probably end up writing a one point of view narrative someday.

Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

I think an author’s voice is that life and world point of view that is particular to each of us. That voice is the culmination of our circumstances of birth, the “imprinting” we received as we grew to adulthood, and the experiences that are unique to each one. And, the voice is always changing, growing, expanding, because as long as we are alive we are continually influenced by the world and people around us and our responses to those circumstances.

Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s

I don’t follow an exact chronological order but I do follow a loose time framework. I do write in order though, each chapter in sequence. I have writer friends who may write chapter 20 then come back to 5 then write chapter 18 then 35 and come back to 6.  That would drive me crazy.

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Query and synopsis. Lot harder that writing a novel. Now that I am in the midst of the process, writing is the easy part.

It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

Right now, personal networking. Exploring possibilities. Marketing has turned out to be a sharp learning curve for me and I’m still finding my way through the jungle. As I said, writing Cazzie’s story was the easy part.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

About 50/50 I think.

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Sit down and write. Edit later.

Who are some of the authors whose work you admire the most, and why?

Elin Hildebrand – she entertains me.  Susan Crandall and Robert Morgan because I love their “voice”. They are from my neighborhood. And Ayn Rand – she makes me think. James Clavell and Lincoln and Childs– they transport me to other worlds.

Complete this sentence….. My first ever published piece of writing was….. “A poem.”

Please share a brief synopsis of High Cotton Country.

Secrets. Hidden they can destroy her from within. Revealed they can explode her world.

 Come hell or high water, Cazzie Randle is determined to leave the past behind along with the hardscrabble life of a small hill country town but finds she can’t elude the secret trauma that haunts her – an act of unspeakable horror by her mother and abandonment by her father.

A message that her father is dying sends a reluctant Cazzie to his bedside but not to reconcile a lifelong estrangement. She must make him finally reveal the secrets of the memories that haunt her. He must answer questions of “Why?”

An explosion of truth in a dusty Texas hill country town reveals old secrets and demands choices. But will she be able to choose or will she be paralyzed by all the old hurts, cruelty and betrayals that have driven her all her life? To find the answer, Cazzie must confront the very essence of who she has become and question whether the price was too high.

 

  High Cotton Country is the story of one woman’s journey to self-discovery. It is about the inherent dignity of the human being, of the burning desire to be in command of one’s own destiny, of the will, not only to survive, but to achieve, and to face adversity with courage and honor. This is not only the story of one woman’s fighting spirit, but also of the people who influence her self-esteem, shape her self-image and participate in her destiny.

Where can readers buy High Cotton Country?

Readers can read the first chapter of High Cotton Country at http://www.letamccurry.com/free-read/ and check out my blog at http://www.letamccurry.com/blog

Copies are available https://www.createspace.com/5060373 or

Thanks for having me, Joanne. It’s been fun. Leta

 

Posted in children, coming of age, education, etiquette, family, help

Is Etiquette dead?

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Emily Post

Oct 27, 1872 – Sept. 25, 1960

This post has nothing to do with writing, it has to do with living. With the holidays over, I have been thinking about etiquette. What faux pas did I commit by either not following etiquette or by using out-dated protocol that showed my age worse than the wrinkles on my hand?

Without Emily Post to direct me, how do I know what is still current and what is passé?

Below is a list of etiquette I was raised with. I’m not saying I remember to use them all. What do you think is still proper and what ones should be thrown out with the bath water. (I realize that statement will only make sense to certain people – oops dating myself already.)

  1. Men (and I include boys whenever I say “men”) should open doors (including car doors) for a lady. (i.e. girls)
  2. Men should give up their seat on public transportation to women and the elderly. Note: I think women should also give up their seat for the elderly if they are younger)
  3. Men should walk on the outside (curb side) when walking down the street with a lady. Note: Did you know that before indoor plumbing, the rule was the opposite, so if someone threw dirty water out the window of their apartment, the water would hit the man, not the woman?
  4. Men should either place the hand on the small of her back or gently hold her elbow when walking. (Note: I’d settle for holding hands if appropriate.)
  5. Men never let a lady lift something heavy when they are around.
  6. Men stand up when a lady enters or leaves a room.
  7. Always RSVP to an invitation, even if it does not require one.
  8. Shoes and shirts at the table (No shoes, no shirt, no service applies in peoples’ homes too)
  9. Bring a thank-you gift when invited to dinner.
  10. If given a dish to take home, always return it full, never empty.
  11. Women should sit with their feet crossed at their ankles, not at the knee.
  12. When not eating at the table, hands should be in your lap.
  13. Napkins always placed on the lap.
  14. No elbows on the table.
  15. No slurping your soup.
  16. Children should never interrupt an adult. (Arguing with an adult is never appropriate)
  17. Respect your elders, even if you think they are wrong.
  18. Guests to wait to pick up their utensils to eat until the hostess is seated. She picks up hers first. (this applies to dessert served as well)
  19. Never leave the table, even if you are done eating, until the hostess says you are excused.
  20. Never say “I don’t like that.” Always, “No thank you. I don’t care for any.”
  21. Thank-you notes for gifts. Hand written was protocol, but I would assume an email would work today.
  22. Crude or inappropriate language does not belong at the dinner table.
  23.  This is a new one I made up – No electronics at the table.

This isn’t everything I learned. Mom, I swear there are more. But, this is what came off the top of my head. I’d love to hear what you think of these and if there is any etiquette that I grossly forgot, or perhaps a new etiquette that arose in the last century.

Posted in angels, family, Florida, grandmothers, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, love, Merry Christmas, mythology

A Holiday Story- The Marco Angel

island of angels - Copy (2)

Happy Holidays to everyone. Instead of an author interview, for my holiday gift to you, here is a short story I wrote a few years ago about the Marco Angels, hundreds of them, all over our island. They are a wonderful sight.

The Tradewinds

 

Island of Angels, a short story  December 2012

by  Joanne Simon Tailele

The young girl hunched down in the backseat of the car. Her nose almost touched the screen of the I-pad she balanced on her lap. Bright pink ear buds blocked out the other sounds in the car. As the car approached the crest of the Judge Jolley Bridge, her mother hollered to her above the music pounding in her ears. “Liza, look, an osprey.”

Liza lifted her head just as the bird spread its wings and took flight above the sparkling blue water. She watched as it flapped twice, and then glided on the wind. It headed across the island into the setting amber sun where the high-rises in the distance appeared to dance on the water’s edge. “Nice,” she said somewhat sarcastically and buried her red-capped head back in her lap.

This was not Liza’s idea for a Christmas vacation. Who ever heard of Christmas without snow, or friends or blazing fireplaces? If they had to go to Florida, couldn’t it be Disney World? No, Mom and Dad said it had to be Marco Island. Liza knew what this was really about. It was about saying good-bye. They thought she didn’t know, but she wasn’t a baby. She had looked it up on Google. Lymphoma. The chemo had only made it worse. She threw up all the time and her long blonde hair fell out in clumps until she just shaved it all off and stuck a cap on her head.

Gram’s house was cool and it had a big pool right off the back door inside a cage. Liza could push back the huge sliding doors and walk straight into the water, if she only had the strength. But even with a big artificial tree, and lots of lights on the house, things still did not feel like Christmas.

On the second night, Gram announced that she was taking Liza out to see the town. Big deal, Liza thought. This town sucks. She’d rather be back in New York with her friends.

As they rode down Collier Blvd, Liza noticed the angels. Beautiful silhouettes of praying angels lined the street in front of building after building of condominiums. They turned down Barfield, and then San Marco, then Bald Eagle. More angels graced the lawns of pretty homes and businesses. “What is this Gram? What’s with the angels?” Liza heart began to soften and a lump formed in her throat.

Her grandmother smiled at her. “This is the Island of Angels, don’t you know that?” She pulled the car up the steep drive to the Marriott Hotel and handed the keys to the valet. “Come, my dear. I want to show you something.”

Liza and her grandmother entered the lobby of the hotel. The most beautiful tree Liza had ever seen filled the room, surrounded by dozens of red poinsettias.  They descended the stairs and exited the double doors into the courtyard. A wedding reception was taking place and Liza smiled at the bride and groom surrounded by their friends and families seated at white linen tables in the soft moonlight. Passed the party, passed the pool, passed the restaurant on the beach, Liza walked arm-in-arm with her grandmother toward the shoreline. Those who observed them would not have known who was supporting whom. They kicked their shoes off as they reached the soft sand. The salt air tickled Liza’s nose. When the only sound they heard was the surf lapping on the beach in its own rhythmic beat, Gram spread a blanket and they sat down, shoulder to shoulder. The breeze from the Gulf was cool and Gram lifted the edge of the blanket to wrap them together in a cocoon.

Thousands of stars lit the sky and the moon’s reflection pirouetted over the water. Liza leaned her head on to her grandmother’s shoulder. “This is beautiful. Thank you for bringing me here. Tell me, Gram, why do they call this the Island of Angels?”

“Because it is.” Her grandmother stated rather matter-of-factly.  “Hundreds of years ago, the Calusa Indians knew this, and that is why they settled here. Angels look over this island and keep it safe. When big hurricanes like Wilma and Charlie, or Katrina blow toward this island, the angels all get together and flap their wings at the same time and blow the worst of the storms away.”

Liza snuggled a little closer. “Do you think angels are people that have died?”

Her grandmother thought for a moment. “No, I believe they were created to always be angels, that they are immortal, with no beginning and no end. They just are. But there is something else they do, Liza. They also blow away fear.”

Liza lifted her head from her grandmother’s shoulder and looked into her eyes in the moonlight. “How do they do that, Gram?”

“If you are afraid, just sit very still and quiet. Listen for them and they will come. When you hear the flapping of their wings, you will know that they are lifting your fear and taking it away.”

Christmas morning, Liza was too weak to open her gifts, but a special gift hung by a silver chain on the tree; a Marco Angel bowing with a candle in hand. Her grandmother hooked the clasp of the chain around her granddaughter’s neck. Liza looked up at her and pressed the angel to her chest. “I can hear them, Gram. I hear their wings. I am not afraid.”

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year to all of you.

2011-12-28 18.24.39

Tai and Joanne

Posted in children, Christian, country, family, fiction, Merry Christmas, readers, thanks, womens fiction, writing

A Christmas Gift by Kerryn Reid

My friend,Kerryn Reed,  wrote this beautiful Christmas story and she is allowing me to share it with you. I know you will love it.

Kerryn Reed - A Christmas Story  Kerryn Reid Auriti in color

A CHRISTMAS GIFT

by Kerryn Reid

©2014

 

“Is it tonight, Mama? Please say it is!” Sadie jumped up and down, flapping her arms like a robin fledging in mid-winter.

Marian Barnett smiled for her daughter’s sake. Since she had married John and moved to Yorkshire, wassail nights had been gay occasions. They would collect in shifting little knots of friends and family on Christmas Eve and sometimes again for New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night, laughing at the cold and each other’s antics. They ran to keep warm and sang very badly, yet the rich folk in their snug houses smiled, and provided hot punch for them all, and maybe some cakes, and often pressed pennies or ha’pennies into the children’s hands to be spent on toys or candy. Then the wassailers would run along to the next house to try their luck. And somewhere along the way she would fall into the snow with John, pressed close through all the layers of wool, kissing each other’s numbed lips before hurrying home to strip those layers off and fulfill the craving they’d begun outside, drunk on wassail and Christmas and the long life they would share.

John was gone close to a year now, saving their daughter from the icy swirling river. Sadie was no substitute for him, but she was all Marian had, and her little heart was set on her first time wassailing. It would be Marian’s only gift to her – any coins they received must be hoarded for bread and milk.

“When do we go, Mama? Why can’t we go now?” All morning long the questions came. Where Marian found the patience to answer calmly, she didn’t know. Finally, in the afternoon, she set aside the shirts she was sewing for Mrs. Wallace and lay down with the child. Once Sadie was asleep, she would get back to the work that brought in those few all-important shillings.

She woke up when Sadie clambered over her, humming a tune with some words thrown in. “And all the little children hmm hmmm go, love and joy hmm…” It had been a bright day, but a glance out the window showed the dusk already lowering its veil over the town. Marian sighed. She’d wasted the afternoon. Already it was time to get them both fed and dressed; John’s brother would be stopping for them soon enough.

Sadie jumped from the bench for the dozenth time and ran to the door. “It must be Uncle Peter, Mama!” But it wasn’t, it was no one at all, and the cold rushed in again to mock their little wood fire. Not that Marian could blame the child. Hungry though she must be, hard brown bread soaked in lukewarm broth could not be expected to keep her at table when there was such excitement in the offing.

Marian gave up the battle. Small meals meant small work to clean them up – in a few minutes it was done. As soon as she stepped from the kitchen corner, Sadie flew to her side. “Oh, Mama, can we go now? Is it time?”

“Not yet, my robin.” Marian scooped her up, nibbling at her neck until she wriggled with giggles. “But it’s time to put on all our warmest clothing so we’ll be ready when Uncle comes.” She sat the child on top of the shelves John had built so they were almost eye-to-eye.

Sadie stuck her feet out straight while Marian pushed on an extra pair of socks, and then another. “Will we go to the big house?”

“Lord Ryndale’s? I’m sure we will.” Who more likely to give away money, after all? And oh, how disgusting to think that way.

A miniature pair of trousers, borrowed from Peter’s little boy, went under Sadie’s skirts, the hems rolled up so she wouldn’t trip on them.

“How about the pastor?”

“Definitely.”

A second gown went on over the first, and Sadie crowed with laughter at the idea of wearing twodresses. “An’ the new fam’ly down the lane, with the baby?”

That was easy enough to guess. Aubrey was their name. Marian had seen them at church. She remembered one Sunday in particular when the pastor had prayed for John’s soul. “And for his widow, Marian. She came to us a stranger, yet she was his, and now she is ours.” And all those eyes turned her way and she tried not to cry, because most of them didn’t look very friendly at all. But Mrs. Aubrey stopped her after the service, took her hand and said how sorry she was. A nice lady, gentle and soft-spoken.

“Yes, I expect so. Now it’s time for your boots.” These were also borrowed. Marian squeezed them on over all the socks.

“Mama, they’re too tight!”

Afraid they would split apart, Marian took them off again and removed one sock from each little foot. “Better?”

“Mm hmm.” A borrowed jacket and a knitted cap, and Sadie was ready for the finishing touches when Peter arrived.

Marian lifted her down and started on her own layers. An extra pair of socks, and then her own boots; a skirt underneath her old gown; and then Peter was at the door with Jane and Tommy and some of the neighbors, stomping snow on her clean floor.

Peter swung his niece into the air. “Well, Sadie, are you ready for your grand adventure?”

Her shrieks filled the room with happiness. Marian ran over to them with Sadie’s cloak and mittens, and once they were donned, the group headed out into the near-darkness. She tore her own cloak down from its peg and followed, leaving behind her own hat and the tattered old pelisse she’d intended to wear under the cloak. Peter did not like to wait.

Seven-year-old Tommy swung a lantern, and one of the men had a torch. They were hardly necessary along the main street, with all the light shining from the windows. But the richest homes in town lay farther apart on the side roads, darker and less-traveled.

“Put me down, Uncle,” Sadie squealed again after the third house they visited, and this time he did. Tommy called her a plum pudding and everyone laughed, the description was so apt as she waddled down the street in all her layers. Sadie just grinned. Peter and Jane took one hand apiece and swung her between them until they reached the next house. After that she tottered along between Marian and Jane, then Marian carried her for a while.

By the time they arrived in the square they were sixpence richer. A bonfire had been laid for the evening festivities. The bells would ring and the children would parade around the square with drums or makeshift instruments, making “music” to welcome the Christ child. But that was not ‘til eight o’clock.

The group headed out toward Lord Ryndale’s estate beyond the edge of town, paying their luck-visits at the houses along the way. Marian’s arms and shoulders ached. Who would think a half-starved four-year-old could weigh so much? The effort helped keep her warm, though already she couldn’t feel her feet.

She made Sadie walk and the two of them fell behind, reaching “the big house” as the rest of the group left it. Peter looked surprised when they passed on the big gravel drive. “You just getting here, then? They have good cakes inside. Best hurry, Sadie, before they’re gone.”

“You go on ahead,” Marian said. “We’ll catch up.”

“No, no. We’ll wait.” He did not sound happy about it. The others had not noticed her at all, and he watched after them as they passed on through the grand gate to the lane, talking and laughing. His feet remained rooted to the gravel, but the rest of him seemed to stretch out to follow.

Marian pressed her lips tight. “Go on. We’re fine.” Peter seemed to blame her, somehow, for John’s death. But even before that, he had never liked her much.

He didn’t even look at her. “If you’re sure,” he said, and was gone, may he rot. John had been worth a dozen Peters.

Sadie got a penny and a little Yule cake. “Mmm. It’s good, Mama.” But most of it crumbled into the snow as she ate it. Marian rejected the wassail bowl so they could catch up with the rest, but took her own cake for Sadie to eat later, carefully wrapped in a cloth.

They did not catch up. Marian carried Sadie, but it wasn’t long before she felt her arms would fall off. Thank God, the lights of the town shone clearer now, individual windows pricking out of the darkness ahead. Focused on those, she tripped in a rut and fell to her knees in the frozen lane.

If only she could warm herself, she could manage the walk home. But Sadie, plopping down on her mama’s thighs like a sack of potatoes, made it impossible even to stand up. Hard to believe this night had ever been fun.

“Sadie, love, you must get off.”

“I want to go home, Mama.” She did not cry, but her voice wavered with the threat of tears.

Oh God, so did she! “We will, sweetling, we will. But first I must get up.” She had never felt less graceful, her bottom in the air as she shoved off the ground with her hands. But she managed. “And next, we must visit this house.” It stood just steps away, all lit up, the gate standing open in welcome. Light meant warmth, and some hot liquor in her belly would work wonders.

They were halfway up the walk before she realized it was the Aubreys’ house. Not that it mattered; she would ask only a few extra minutes by the fire beyond the usual wassail offerings, and she would expect that much compassion from anyone.

A footman opened the door, tall and lean – no, he wore no livery. It was Mr. Aubrey himself. At least, she thought it was. “Merry Christmas,” he said, looking out beyond her shoulder to see how many followed her. Not many went wassailing alone.

“And to you, sir.” Curtsies were difficult, Marian found, on legs frozen stiff. “I fear I’m out of breath, or we would sing for you.” Thank goodness she had some excuse! Singing was beyond her capabilities at that moment.

“I’ll sing, Mama,” Sadie said from knee level. “Wish you a merry Kissmas, wish you a merry Kissmas, an’ a happy new year!” It was not very tuneful, but she ended with a shout and a flourish of her hand, and Mr. Aubrey applauded and laughed.

“Do come in, both of you. We leave shortly to watch the celebration in the square, but you are here in time for some punch.” He led the way into the parlor. It was not as grand as Lord Ryndale’s, yet her whole cottage might fit three times into this room. But she hardly even noticed, because of the fire. She could not afford enough wood to keep such a fire alive for three days!

The contrast in temperature made Marian shudder. Oh, it felt wonderful! Regardless of how it must look, she crossed directly to the fireplace, pulled off her mittens and held her hands out toward the flames.

While Mr. Aubrey gave Sadie a cup and a biscuit, his wife came to her with a glass of punch. Their fingers touched as Marian took her glass, and Mrs. Aubrey exclaimed, “Why, your hands are like ice! Please, sit down here and take as long as you need to warm yourself. And your daughter, too. Come here, little one.” She nestled Sadie beside Marian in the big chair.

“Oh, ma’am, bless you for this. We fell behind the others, and Sadie’s so swaddled she can hardly walk.”

“An’ Mama too,” Sadie said. “She falled down.”

“Oh dear. Yes, I see your skirts are wet.”

Marian looked down, appalled to think she might soil Mrs. Aubrey’s floor. “I’m so sorry, ma’am.” She started to her feet, but her hostess put a hand on her shoulder and pressed her firmly back down before seating herself in an adjacent chair.

“Don’t worry about that, please.” Smoky-blue eyes peered into Marian’s own. “I know you, don’t I? Was it not your husband who…” With a glance at Sadie, Mrs. Aubrey changed what she’d been about to say. “…Who saved your little girl? Such a hero. And a soldier too, was he not? I don’t recall the name, I’m afraid.”

“John Barnett, ma’am. And mine is Marian.” It was a struggle to get her own name out of her mouth. Dear God, she hadn’t cried in months. But with the cold, and the wishing, and the sympathy in Mrs. Aubrey’s pretty face… She choked on her tears, and a fancy embroidered handkerchief appeared in her hand. She hated to use the thing, but it would be worse not to.

“I am Anna Aubrey. I think the pastor said you’re not from these parts? I’m a “foreigner”, too, all the way from Bristol. Isn’t it funny, how Yorkshire folk think of us that way, as if we weren’t all English?”

Marian didn’t find it funny at all, but she supposed a beautiful woman with a wealthy husband and a fine home would always receive a warmer welcome than she had found. “I’m from Exeter, ma’am. My John was stationed there with his regiment.”

Sadie had been leaning heavy against Marian’s side, sleepy with the warmth as Marian was herself. But she pushed away and slipped down to the floor. “Don’t you have a baby, ma’am? Where is it?”

“My husband will bring her downstairs any minute. We’re taking her to the town square for the parade, unless we’re too late.”

Marian scooted forward and stood, still stiff and clumsy. She discovered that her knee hurt. “I’m afraid we’re keeping you, ma’am. I thank you, ever so much…”

Mr. Aubrey returned to the room carrying the prettiest babe Marian had ever seen, plump and healthy-looking, perhaps a year in age. A maid accompanied them carrying outdoor garments for the child. Sadie waddled over for a closer look, cooing and chattering to the wide-eyed infant.

Mrs. Aubrey smiled across the room at them, then turned back to Marian. “It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Barnett. And if you don’t mind being a little bit crowded, we will be pleased to take you in the carriage back to the square, or to your home if you prefer.”

Did the woman not realize how far beneath her Marian was? “I could not ask you to…”

“But you didn’t, did you,” Mrs. Aubrey said. “So that’s settled.”

Though the drive took less than ten minutes, Sadie was asleep when they reached town. Kind as they were, Marian had no desire to show these gentry-folk where she lived. But still less did she want to walk there carrying Sadie. In fact, she didn’t think she could. Depending on darkness to hide the worst, she let them drive her home. They would never see the interior, at least.

Yet somehow, when they arrived, it happened. Mr. Aubrey took the child from her as they descended from the carriage. That was natural enough.

But when she reached out to take Sadie, he said, “No, let me carry her for you.” And then, in response to her protest, “It’s no trouble at all, ma’am.”

She had no choice but to open the door to the dark room, only a bit warmer than the outdoors. He said something over his shoulder to the footman on the box beside the coachman, and he took a lantern from its hook on the carriage and lit the way in.

Marian closed her eyes against the light and the embarrassment. Then she led the way to the bed and lit the candle beside it.

His manners were excellent. He said nothing about the place. She could not even tell that he inspected it. But for all that, she felt tension coming off him as he lay Sadie gently down and stood to his full height. His head bumped against the naked beam.

“I’m so sorry,” she said.

He ignored the apology, yet his voice was rough. He sounded angry. “Have you enough wood, ma’am? Where is your extra supply?”

Dazed and shivering, she answered him. He jerked his head toward the footman, who went out the door and turned to go where she had indicated.

“And food; what about food? Tomorrow is Christmas.”

“We sup tomorrow with my husband’s brother. We have enough.” Her voice cracked with the jumble of emotions roiling inside her. Anger of her own, humiliation, grief for John, fear of the long future without him, all played their part.

“I shall be back in a moment,” he said. The footman passed him in the doorway with an armload of wood. He added several small logs to the fire, working it until it blazed with warmth.

“Thank you,” she said, but he was not finished. He went back out for another load, and then another.

It was not Mr. Aubrey who returned, but his wife. She cast a brief glance around the room, then came to stand a foot in front of Marian. They were much the same height.

“I have a proposition, Mrs. Barnett.”

Marian fidgeted with the ties on her cloak.

“Have you ever been in service?”

Marian shook her head. “No, ma’am.”

“It doesn’t matter. We need a maid, and I like you. Will you come to us?”

Marian blinked, shook her head again. “I can’t leave my daughter.”

Mrs. Aubrey’s eyes widened in shock. “Of course not! The two of you will share a room.”

Oh, this was foreign territory. “I don’t know how to be a maid, ma’am.”

“You can learn as you go along. We’ll sit down and discuss your duties with the housekeeper. We can begin with small things, and you will grow into the job. Can you come now?”

Marian jumped at that. She had to try twice to get any sound out. “Now, ma’am?” Her voice rose to a squeak.

“I suppose that is rather abrupt. My husband tells me you dine with family tomorrow?”

Marian nodded.

“The day after, then. We’ll send the carriage for you at one o’clock? And perhaps a waggon, in case you have trunks or other large items. Will that suit?”

Marian nodded again. She stared like a stupid oaf, unsure if she should trust her eyes and ears. Could this be happening? Perhaps she had died out there in the cold, and the woman before her was Heaven’s angel come for her? She looked angelic enough. But the sweet, gentle creature she’d talked with earlier had developed a will of iron, and Marian could no more refuse her than she could fly. And why should she?

Fear, that’s why. Not knowing what to do, what to expect. What would be expected of her.

But it was a chance, better than any other she was likely to receive. A Christmas gift, for herself and for Sadie. Food, fire, and clothes that fit. Shoes, too. A place to belong.

Mrs. Aubrey pulled off her glove and put out her hand. “Do we have a deal, Mrs. Barnett?”

Marian gazed at that soft white hand for a moment, then she slipped hers into it, rough and brown. She felt a grin form on her face, though her eyes were wet with tears.

“A deal, Mrs. Aubrey.”

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Multi-published Women’s Fiction Author Kathleen Paterka says “don’t give up.”

Kathleen Irene Paterka Author

A very special welcome to Kathleen Paterka. We met through the wonderful group, WFWA, Women’s Fiction Writers of America.  Kathleen, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

I fell in love with the written word in the 2nd grade reading my first Trixie Belden® book. In case you’re not familiar with the series, Trixie was a girl detective who teamed up with her brothers and best friend Honey Wheeler to solve mysteries occurring around their little town in the Hudson Valley area of New York. Trixie Belden changed my life. It was the first time I’d read a book with a plot and no pictures. I devoured the existing series (12 books), and anxiously waited for the next one to be published. It was around that time I made the decision that someday, I would be an author and write more Trixie Belden novels. While I never did tackle the world of Trixie Belden (the last book was published in 1986), I did start my own series. The James Bay novels (Fatty Patty, Home Fires, Lotto Lucy, and For I Have Sinned) are set in the fictional resort community of James Bay, Michigan. After finishing those four stories, I wrote another two books set in different locations. Royal Secrets is about a family-owned Las Vegas wedding chapel, while my upcoming release, The Other Wife, is set in Chicago. For my next book (which I’m currently researching), I’ll be taking readers back to James Bay.

I too well in love with writing over Trixie Beldon, as you can see from my own tattered copy. It is one of my treasured possessions.

Trixie Belden

Do you have a background in writing? What other work have you done, and how has it impacted your writing career?

In school, my teachers tried steering me toward Creative Writing classes, but I dug in my heels, screaming “No, no, no!” I didn’t like being forced to write poetry or short stories. I knew I wanted to be a novelist, and I couldn’t see any point in wasting my time by writing Haiku (sincere apologies to any Haiku-enthusiasts who may be reading this). While I concede that there are basics to the craft that must be mastered (sentence structure, proper grammar, plot elements, etc.), there’s simply no way another person can ‘teach you’ how to write a book. Want to know the secret? Sit down and start. It’s as simple as that. Caveat: notice I did not say it was ‘easy’. It may be simple, but it’s definitely not easy. After graduating college with a degree in Sociology, plus a few years spent working for a local newspaper, the Catholic church, and the law, I finally settled down where I belonged: in a beautiful castle located in Northern Michigan. My job as staff writer at Castle Farms (a century old French Renaissance castle listed on the National Register of Historic Places) is like a fairy-tale come true.

Kathleen, what advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

The best advice I can pass along was given to me by an author friend when I was just starting out. This highly successful NY Times bestselling author told me: “Perseverance and persistence, along with discipline, determination and confidence, are EVERY bit as important as talent. Your belief in yourself… is THE ONLY THING that separates you from the hundreds who will fall by the wayside without their dreams and goals realized. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Work hard, work smart, work tirelessly. Be tough, be brave and be persistent. All clichés, yes. But when they apply to you and how much you want to realize your dream, they are very apt.” I’ve kept my friend’s message tucked close in my heart through all the ups and downs of my publishing career, and it’s served me well. Today, I’m sharing her message with you. Don’t give up!

FattyPatty ForIHaveSinned HomeFires LottoLucy RoyalSecretsCream

Tell us about one of your book in 3 sentences. Fatty Patty (my first novel) is semi-autobiographical. Though I’m now at a normal weight (and have been for over 35+ years), I weighed three hundred pounds while in high school. Fatty Patty tackles the issues of dieting, dating, self-esteem, and exposes the gritty honest truth of what it’s like to be overweight in a society that worships thin.

What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today? My upcoming release, The Other Wife, will hit the shelves (and the cyber-world of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, plus Kobo) in February 2015. What happens in a woman’s life when her husband dies? What kind of secrets might be revealed? I came up with the idea when my own husband, Steve, actually died in front of me early one morning. I was sitting at the end of his bed in the semi-darkness when he made a strange sound. At the time, I thought it was the oddest snore I’d ever heard. Turns out, it was the infamous ‘death rattle’. Believe me, if you’ve never heard it, it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up! Luckily, Steve was in the cardiac unit of our local hospital. They called a Code Blue, and the medical team managed to resuscitate him. He’s since had a triple by-pass and doing well, thank you! But that hospital experience in 2011 got me to thinking: What if Steve had been at home, asleep in our bed? What if he’d let out that horrible sound, and I’d assumed it was only a loud snore? I probably would have poked him, rolled over in bed, and gone back to sleep… what a horrible thing to wake up to in the morning. And what would my life have been like after that? Thus, a new storyline was born.

Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to whet our appetite?

Here’s the Prologue from The Other Wife… I hope you enjoy it!

It wasn’t much of a sound. Later, she would remember it as an odd sort of grunt. Still, it had been loud enough to wake her. Eleanor rolled over in their king-size bed, stretched out an arm, and nudged him. Richard’s snoring had worsened in the past months. She lay there in the darkness, waiting to see if another nudge was necessary. Just the other day, she’d read how snoring could be a sign of sleep apnea, leading to other, more serious, health problems. Perhaps tomorrow, depending on what kind of mood he was in, she’d mention the subject over breakfast. Maybe she should insist that he see a doctor. Not that it would do much good. Richard rarely listened to her. For most of the thirty-eight years they’d been married, he hadn’t listened to much of what she had to say. He’d probably give her his usual shrug, tell her to quit worrying.

Quit worrying. It wasn’t until five hours later that she realized she’d had good cause to be worried. She should have known that sound was different. She should have stayed awake. She should have tried to rouse him. Instead, she waited another minute, surrounded by silence. Then, turning over, she laid her head back on the pillow and curled up in her spot, still warm from sleep, snuggling into the clean, fragrant smell of freshly laundered sheets changed by Martha the day before. Closing her eyes, Eleanor drifted off into the most pleasant dream… only to wake the next morning to every woman’s nightmare.

Richard, in bed beside her, was dead.

Readers, go to Kathleen’s website. There is a place where you can enter to win a FREE copy of her new book, The Other Wife. I have read Fatty Patty and Royals Secrets.  They are both fantastic.  I can’t wait for The Other Wife to come out.

Thank you, Kathleen, for being on Author Interview Friday on Writing Under Fire.

Author website:          http://kathleenirenepaterka.com/

Facebook:                    https://www.facebook.com/KathleenIrenePaterka

Twitter:                       https://twitter.com/KPaterka

Amazon:                      http://www.amazon.com/Kathleen-Irene-Paterka

Barnes & Noble:         http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/kathleen-irene-paterka