Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Importance of Trivia

How far away is the horizon? In my current WIP, the hero knows the answer. Since I'm writing his dialogue, I needed the answer. I found it online, which is where I find a great many odd bits of trivia nowadays. Nevertheless, not everything online is the truth. I always check several references before I believe the answer is correct.

If my hero is six feet tall--and the weather is clear--he should be able to see almost three miles to the horizon. If he's in a tower, he can see further than that, which is a good thing for the story. :-)

I have a passion for minutiae. Once, before our family had the internet, we appreciated playing the game of Trivial Pursuit. With quite a number of people at our house one evening, we gathered into teams to play. My team won because I picked the best team: my father, who had a career in journalism, my mother who was an artist but also read gossip tabloids, and me--the collector of an assortment of unrelated facts.

I think research is fun though I know it's dangerous to go on a fact-finding mission when writing a rough draft. I could delve into my inquiry and never come up for air. I've found it better to have a general idea of what facts I need before I start writing in addition to keeping several references at hand that can be quickly checked if needed.

For me as a writer, trivia is important because the story is in the details.


Penelope's Amazon Author Page

Penelope's Books at Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Excerpt from The Beast of Blackbirch Manor

Cursed by a witch as a boy, Tadeusz suffers the torment of being a 'beast' man. Unless he finds a woman who will love him, he will become a wolf on his thirty-third birthday. When he meets the woman he has married by proxy, he knows he is doomed. Victoria is beautiful--and horrified to discover she has married a monster. 

THE BEAST OF BLACKBIRCH MANOR is one of my most popular books. There are two covers for the book. The one above is the original cover, which you can still see at Barnes & Noble. It is apparently the more popular cover, judging from the sales of the book. However, the title is catchy, too. Apparently, there are those who like hairy men--or perhaps stories about hairy men. 
I got the idea for the book when I read an article on a disease that causes some people to become abnormally hairy. You can read about it at http://www.livescience.com/14430-werewolf-disorder-gene-discovered-excess-hair.html
But...this is a romance. It's my own version of Beauty and the Beast, which is also a popular plot.
Enjoy the excerpt below!

Then she heard it again. A wolf? But there were no wolves here anymore. Perhaps a wild dog? Perhaps a pack of wild dogs. She reached for the whip as her heart raced. Is this how Paul had died? Attacked and ripped to pieces?

In a panic and with her pulse racing, she tried to get the mare to move, but the stubborn animal stood as still as if it was made of bronze--except for the flick of its ears this way and that. Muscles tensed, ready to bolt if danger threatened, it continued to eye that luscious grass in the ditch. A howl echoed along the hills and Victoria’s blood turned cold. She froze and stopped struggling with the horse. She held her breath and listened. Even the birds had stopped twittering. Then she saw it. A lone wolf moving stealthily down the hillside to her right.

Gulping back her panic, she flicked the whip on the mare’s flank. The mare shied to the left, but did not step ahead. The wolf stopped moving, he crouched, ready to lunge from above.

“You stupid horse!” Victoria yelled. She could feel the icy sweat on her brow. She hit the horse with the whip as hard as she could. Once. Twice. She stood up and hit the horse a third time so violently the horse screamed, reared up and then took off as if the very devil was after her--which was what Victoria had hoped for, but she was unprepared for the jolt as the buggy lurched forward.

The force knocked her backward and onto the floor of the buggy. The reins slipped from her fingers. She had to use all her strength to hang on as the crazed mare galloped down the sloping hill. The reins trailed along on the ground. She could never grab them. She prayed that the horse would not crash the buggy into the trees, or into another vehicle--or worst of all, go over the side of the hill.

The scenery flew by as the mare raced along and Victoria’s head spun. Jostled violently on the hard wooden floor, she gritted her teeth as the vehicle bounced into every rut in the road, she considered jumping out, but the possibility that she would break a bone--or a few of them--kept her where she was. Also, the fact that there was a wolf out there.

How fast could a wolf run? Was he right behind the buggy?

She heard a shout. And another. She struggled to see who was calling out, but with the wild rocking of the buggy, she could barely focus.

The buggy slowed--and then stopped. Weak and dizzy, Victoria clutched at the whip in her hand. Would she be able to scare the wolf away with it if he came at her?

She crawled from beneath the seat. Her stomach heaved and she clamped her hand over her mouth. She would not be sick.

She narrowed her eyes to focus them and saw the Beast sitting astride his great black horse. He held the reins to the buggy in his gloved hands.

“You dropped these?” His contemptuous tone did not surprise her though the rather sulfuric shade of yellow tingeing his aura did. She suspected by the set of his square jaw that a prudent move would be to duck for cover. After all, she had disobeyed his edict--and her little excursion could have ended very badly. Still, she was truly glad to see him. She glanced around, but did not see the wolf.

Despite the throbbing of her bruises, she pulled herself up onto the seat, straightened out her dress, and dusted herself off. “A wolf appeared on the hillside and the mare bolted in fright.” Actually, the dim-witted mare probably would have been the wolf’s dinner. Victoria gulped. And she would have been the wolf’s dessert. However, she decided not to discuss that.

The Beast’s expression clouded over and a savage glint came into his eyes. Her heart began to race. “There are no wolves here.”

“I saw it.” She glared back at him. “And I heard it, too.”

“I told you not to leave the estate.”

She met his fierce look without flinching and lied. “I needed some new ribbons.”

He swore.  At least, she thought he did--she could not tell because the words were in his own harsh language.

A tremor went through her even though she fought to squelch it. Yes, it had been a very close call. Nevertheless, she had her pride. “I am not hurt, and neither is your mare.”

He dismounted and tied the reins of his horse to a sturdy bush. Without any more discussion, he examined the mare and then unhitched her from the buggy. He walked over to the side of the buggy and frowned. Victoria leaned over the side of the buggy and swallowed hard when she saw what had happened to the back wheel. If she had gone on much further, the wheel would undoubtedly have come off.

She felt the blood drain from her face as the Beast lifted his gaze to hers. The sulfuric color of his aura had shifted to a shade of orange. What did the fiery color indicate?

“You will ride on Smialek with me. The mare will follow.” It was an order.

He reached up to take her from the buggy. She winced as his hand pressed against her bruised skin.

“You are hurt!”

“No. It is nothing. Only a bruise.”

His lips pressed into a grim line. He swept her into his arms and carried her to his great black horse. With her heart thundering in her chest, she could not control the trembling of her body. But when the Beast mounted the horse and she leaned back against him a sense of calm came over her. She closed her eyes. She was safe. For now.
Publisher's Link: http://www.newconceptspublishing.com/products/beast-of-blackbirch-manor-the
Amazon:  http://amzn.com/B006G3NC1Y
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beast-of-blackbirch-manor-the-penelope-marzec/1117736935?ean=2940000120675

Friday, January 16, 2015

Make Oatmeal Muffins for Your Brain

My mother always told me that fish was brain food. I suspected she said that because I hated fish when I was a kid. Of course, now I love to eat fish. However, according to several websites on the internet, oatmeal is brain food. (http://brainathlete.com/oatmeal-good-brain/) So last night, when I was feeling hungry and my plot was stuck in limbo, I decided to get out one of my favorite cookbooks, The New York Times Heritage Cookbook, where there's a recipe for "Float Away Oatmeal Muffins."

I made the muffins. They are incredibly light and fluffy. I ate one. Then I decided to spend the rest of the evening reading someone else's book, which was great fun. This morning I ate two muffins. I am anticipating a gigantic creative surge at any moment. :-)

Float Away Oatmeal Muffins

1 cup quick-cooking (dry) oatmeal
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted shortening (I used butter.)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place the oatmeal in a bowl and pour the buttermilk over oatmeal. Let stand while sifting together    
    the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
3. Beat the egg into the oatmeal mixture. Beat in the brown sugar. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients
    and then the shortening.
4. Pour into a greased muffin tin and bake about eighteen minutes. (Watch carefully. They bake
    quickly.) Serve warm.

Yield: One dozen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Today's Special Guest: Julie B. Cosgrove

Today I am happy to introduce author, freelance writer and professional speaker, Julie B Cosgrove. She writes for several inspirational publications and websites, as well as leading workshops and retreats. 

Julie’s novels are for today’s women about today’s women—each facing and conquering their dilemmas despite the odds. Her characters are strong, determined, and face danger head on with a prayer and a deep, cleansing breath.

Follow her inspirational blog Where Did You Find God Today or visit her website at www.juliebcosgrove..com  to preview any of her books or book her to speak to your group.

Her latest release from Prism Book Group is an exciting tale you won't want to miss! 


 A Contemporary Suspense Romance

Jen has a new identity and life, until someone discovers her secret. However, that’s not the one which may destroy her one chance of happiness. When she unravels the family scandal within the walls of an English country manor, will she have to reveal the truth she’s hidden for so long as well?  Or will she choose to live the lie in order to keep the man she loves?

Order on Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle
Or through Prism Book Group using the links below.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Living Happily Ever After

Sometimes it's difficult to maintain a positive outlook when there's a crisis going on. When my father had his stroke, I was worried, frightened, and depressed.

However, Dad seems to be adept in any situation at finding some little nugget of happiness lurking about. He has taught me that happiness is a choice.

A few days ago, with the help of my daughters, Dad got a new wheelchair. He decided to give it a nickname because when he was in World War II, airplanes and Jeeps were all given nicknames. He dubbed the wheelchair The Jersey Bounce.  Dad found a picture of a weapons carrier online similar to one he drove during the war. I made up a sign with the photo, laminated the sign, and attached it to the wheelchair. Then Dad wanted me to affix a little American flag to the handle. It was funny and it made me smile.

The wheelchair is not a Harley, but it's all tricked out--at least in comparison to some other wheelchairs.

Dad's life situation has changed, but he's living happily ever after. It's all about attitude.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Solve Plot Problems and Writers' Block With Laundry

That's my mother taking clothes off the line and folding them. That's the way it was done in the old days. As a youngster, I hung clothes on the line, brought them in, folded them, and put them away. It was a rather dreadful chore in the wintertime when the clothes would freeze solid--and so would my fingers.

Now most people use clothes dryers, but all the clothing still needs to be folded and put away, which for a writer isn't a bad thing. I find  this chore to be one of the best ways for me to solve plot problems and breeze through writer's block. I don't know why it works for me, but it does. The repetitious task allows my mind to wander and suddenly everything becomes quite clear.

I'm not the only one who finds it helpful. Type in "folding laundry, writers' block" on Google. You'll find many others who rely on this particular activity when they're writing.

Sometimes, driving in the car to a familiar destination works for me as well.

How about you? Can you solve a plot problem with housework or some other menial task?

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!

Sharon McGregor invited me to join Sisterhood of The World Bloggers. I am honored to be in such great company! Thank you, Sharon. 

To be a member of the esteemed sisters, I had to answer a bunch of questions. Some of them were tough! 

If you could go back in your life and change one decision you made, what would it be?

I would not have taken my younger sister skiing at Elk Mountain. I thought I was doing something nice for her. However, she fell and broke her femur. Neither of us ever went skiing again. :-(

What is the most intriguing book you have ever read?

I've read plenty of intriguing books--both fiction and non-fiction. The last one was Revolutionary Medicine 1700-1800 (The Illustrated Living History) by C. Keith Wilbur. I was reading it for research and found it fascinating, though nobody else in my family could bear to look at the illustrations in the book. 

If you could pick one word to describe yourself  or your significant other what would it be? 

Reliable. That sounds rather boring but it's good. 

If you could time travel, what period  of history would you choose and why?

I'd enjoy going backward to the Victorian era--briefly. I doubt that I'd enjoy wearing long skirts and corsets, but I know I'd enjoy listening to people and their stories. It would be interesting to hear how our language has changed since then, too. 

Did you have a role model growing up and if so, what effect did he/she have on your life?

My role model was my mother--and her sister as well. Both were talented, creative women with strong opinions, but they were also good listeners. Their way was the right way, of course, but they could make you understand why. :-)

If you could plan a dream vacation, one that may seem out of reach, where would you go?

I'd like to visit Ireland and see the town my great-grandmother left. My uncle visited there many years ago. It was supposed to be a farm, but my uncle said they must have been growing rocks because that's what he saw there.

If you could choose any profession to follow, what would it be?

Perhaps it would have been interesting to be a scientist and make some wonderful discovery about the world.

Pick a card, any card-greeting card that is. What is your favourite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Easter. With spring in the air and flowers starting to bloom after a long winter, it is truly a joyful time. I like dying eggs, too. :-)

What is your favourite pet? Dog or cat? Gerbil or snake? Horse or hamster? Or none at all?

My family had dogs when we were growing up and I think dogs are wonderful pets, but they need a lot of care. For a while, my youngest daughter had guinea pigs. The sweet, little animals are great. They don't involve as much care as a dog, but they are fun and adorable. 

What one thing would you like to see happen in 2015?

I would love to see a peaceful world in 2015. I'd be very happy if there were no major storms either. No hurricanes, no tornados, no ice storms, etc. Rain is fine. Some snow, but not a blizzard.