Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Give Your Characters Scars

Everyone has scars. The scar pictured above is on my knee. When I was young, the closest small grocery store to our house was within easy walking distance. Still, there was a shortcut through the woods which everyone used--a well-worn path with a few rocks along the way. 

My parents lived from paycheck to paycheck. Whatever we needed during the week was put on an account at the little store. At the end of the week, Dad cashed his paycheck and paid the bill. My brother and I were sent on frequent errands to purchase groceries. We didn't carry money, only a signed note from my mother listing what she wanted along with her signature. 

One day on one of those errands, my brother decided to race me. He was a year older and I was left behind in the dust. Though I tried valiantly to catch up, I tripped and fell. My knee hit one of the rocks. I had a bleeding gash on my leg and my brother was nowhere in sight. 

One of the other kids in the neighborhood came along and helped me hobble home. My mother cleaned up the wound and put an oatmeal pack on it. Mom had great faith in her oatmeal poultices which were made of hot oatmeal mixed with sugar. She put a huge dollop of the stuff on my knee and wrapped it with clean strips of cloth. The goo stayed there until it was dry. That way it drew all the poisons out. (Don't try this at home.) I didn't get stitches and fortunately I didn't get an infection. I was a bit angry with my brother though. 

It's only one scar. I have others and each scar has another story that goes with it. (You can read about another one HERE.) 

We all have scars. For the most part, scars are good things. We heal. We learn to avoid dangerous situations. The painful experience can change us, but usually in a positive way. Getting injured teaches us to be more compassionate toward others. 

Scars change us. 

Some emotional scars cannot be seen but they are just as painful. With help, those can be healed, too, though it often takes more than a glob of hot oatmeal.

As a writer, I always give my characters scars--of one sort or another. Scars define characters and make them realistic. Behind every character's scar is a story, just as there are stories for my scars. 

Scars change our characters and make them who they are. Give your characters scars and give them life. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Talking Love With Susan M. Baganz

You would think the author of countless romance stories would find it easy to write one out of her own life. But it’s not.

Growing up, I would walk home and look up to heaven, spin around, and wonder if God was taking my picture. Did He care for my overly-sensitive, hurting and lonely heart? All a teacher had to do was look at me wrong and I’d burst into tears until sixth grade when I learned to hide my pain.

The sweetest love story is when, after years of sensing God’s call to me, I finally understood that I could respond. That he was waiting for me to do so! James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (NASB)” Really? He wasn’t some distant King high on a thrown beyond my reach. I first came to understand this at a Campus Life/Youth for Christ meeting.

For weeks I had begged some friends to let me come to a meeting. They seemed happy. They had something I didn’t. And they would go to concerts for groups like . . . Petra, who I had never heard of. Finally, I was invited and we had a conversation about misconceptions people had about Christianity. I was raised knowing about God and taught to fear Him, so I was fully engaged in the conversation. Then the biggest misconception hit me—that people didn’t understand that they could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Whoa. Really?

I prayed right then and there and my entire world shifted.

I went out and bought a Bible and started devouring it. Opposition came but I clung to Christ. To a hurting, lonely fifteen-year-old, the fact that the God of the universe wanted me—Me?—was a huge revelation. When depression plagued me, I was told I was trying to manipulate people. The only reason I never attempted to take my life was because of the love of God.

Thirty-five years have brought me through many trials and triumphs, deep pains and sweet moments. God has been there by my side through all of it. I wish I could say that I’ve been as faithful to Him as He has been to me. It’s hard when people have wounded me deeply to trust the God who allowed it to happen. Yet I wouldn’t be here without Him. He’s led me, grown me, matured me . . . and I’ve learned that in Him I have more strength than I could ever have on my own. Some trials I look back on in wonder at how I was able to respond the way I did. That couldn’t have been me, could it?

Only God.

Through abuses, betrayals, heartache, He has been my constant. My one true love. When I write my romances my hope and prayer is that at some level the reader will understand the love of God that underlies the journey’s my characters take.

God is faithful. He has never abandoned me. The fact that He gives me the opportunity to put some of those experiences into my stories to bless others is just another example of His love for me.

Check out Susan’s contribution to Prism Book Group’s new Love Is series…

The Baron’s Blunder
“Love does not delight in evil …” 1 Corinthians: 13:6

Fighting evil has been a hobby, but fending off marriage-minded debutantes—a chore.

Lord Charles Percy fends off a land pirate robbing a carriage in broad daylight. Noting he has rescued a beautiful debutante, he lies about his title claiming to be a mere mister.

The Honorable Henrietta Allendale isn’t convinced Mr. Percy is who he claims to be. But after he admits to one blunder can she ever truly trust what he says? Especially about the evil threatening her? Who is the Black Diamond anyway and why would he be after either of them?

One intrepid debutant and one bumbling Baron soon join forces to defeat evil. But to do so might mean they have to sacrifice the one thing they’ve each held as most important—their single status.

Can the truth set them free to love? 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Oatmeal Cake

I don't remember who gave me this recipe, but I've had it for a long, long time. This homey, moist, and delicious cake is well worth the time to bake it from scratch. 

Begin with 1 cup "Quick" Oatmeal OR 1 1/4 cup "Old Fashioned" Oatmeal.

Add 1 1/2 cup boiling water.

Combine the oatmeal and boiling water. Set aside for 20 minutes to cool.

Meanwhile, cream well:

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter

Add 2 eggs to sugars and butter, beat well.

Add the cooled oatmeal mixture and stir.

Next add in:

1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix well.

(You may add nuts or raisins to the batter, if you prefer.)

Bake at 350 degrees in a greased and floured cake pans. For the cake pictured above, I used an 8 inch diameter pan, which took 70 minutes in my oven. However, using two layer pans will take less time--35 to 45 minutes.

The cake above was served it with cream cheese frosting, but you can simply sprinkle it with powdered sugar or whipped cream. This past weekend, I made the cake again and put raspberry jam between the layers and gave each slice a spritz of whipped cream. 

It's quite nice unadorned, too. I've never really been fond of super sweet icing. When I was young, the other kids in school would lick off the icing and leave the cupcake. I was the kid who scraped off the icing and ate the cupcake. What can I say? I've always been a little different. :-)

Are you the kid who licked off the icing and left the cupcake behind?


Thursday, August 18, 2016

More Rights Returned

I received the official email from Mundania Press for the return of the rights of SEA OF HOPE, HEAVEN'S BLUE, A RUSH OF LIGHT, and THE KEEPER'S PROMISE. Originally, I wrote these Christian romances for Awe-Struck Ebooks, but Mundania Press later bought the company. SEA OF HOPE won EPIC's Ebook Award in 2002 for Best Inspirational Novel. HEAVEN'S BLUE won the same award in 2005. THE KEEPER'S PROMISE was a finalist in the contest as well.

At the moment, the only plan I have is to get a new cover for SEA OF HOPE and then reissue it myself. Daughter #2 designed the covers for HEAVEN'S BLUE, A RUSH OF LIGHT, and THE KEEPER'S PROMISE. I'm very fond of the cover of HEAVEN'S BLUE, but I'll see what the general consensus of opinion is as to whether I should get new covers for all the books.

What do you think? Should I get new covers for all the books?

Monday, August 15, 2016

My Patriot's Saga Heads West

This is a portion of the Cuyahoga River. I saw it last year when hubby and I attended a reunion of my mother's cousins. Long before our trip, I considered extending my Patriot's saga by having some of the McGowan clan head west. The past few weeks, I've been researching the Ohio Territory and I've settled on a place and time for my story's beginning. While this latest addition to the Patriot's saga will not be set along the banks of the Cuyahoga, it won't be too far from it.

The book will be called Patriot's Courage and it will be a historical Christian romance like Patriot's Heart and Patriot's Pride. It may take me a while to put it altogether, but I'm looking forward to it. Ohio is a lovely place to visit. :-)

Monday, August 08, 2016

Please Turn Off the Television in the Waiting Room

For a few decades now, whenever I must spend time in a waiting room, there is a television blaring away in a corner. I always want to turn it off, but most often other people are also in the room and most of them sit and stare at the screen. I always have a book to read--either a paper edition or another book in my cellphone app. I find the constant, inane chatter from the screen annoying.

There are usually old magazines lying about on tables in waiting rooms, but in general they are the same ones that were there a year ago. 

I think it would be a wonderful idea if the television sets in all waiting rooms were turned off. Doing so might encourage people to read. Especially if some newer magazines were left on the table and perhaps a few books as well. 

Do we really need to have televisions in waiting rooms? 

Friday, August 05, 2016

IRONS IN THE FIRE $0.99 for a Limited Time

Irons In The Fire is $0.99 for a limited time. 

If you haven't read it yet, now's the time to download your copy at https://amzn.com/B0112J0KIE

The book was a nominee for the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Small Press Paranormal. It is a contemporary paranormal romance in which Irish legends revolve around a contemporary plot set along the Jersey shore. The heroine, Catherine, has been told she is a descendant of fairies but without her uncle’s ancient book of spells, she cannot harness her powers and though she can foresee the future, she can do nothing to change it. But when her uncle is murdered, she must depend upon Britt Jenkins, her uncle's neighbor, to help her solve the murder.

In the following scene, Britt and Catherine are returning to his house after being questioned by the police. 

Jenkins' sports car had a stick shift, a clutch, and very little room. When he shifted gears, his hand brushed Catherine's thigh and set off a tremor inside her. She edged closer to the door of the sleek vehicle and sought to blot out the vision she had just endured.
With him as a distraction, eliminating the illusion wasn't as difficult as she thought it would be. The engine roared and the strong, callused hand on the gearshift slid along her thigh again, creating another earthquake in her system. She swallowed hard, turning to gaze out of the window as they sped along Main Street. 
She recognized the small business district of Gull Haven. A crowd had gathered on the street outside of one of the pubs. As the car cruised past, a fight broke out on the sidewalk. She flinched when one drunken man slammed another with his fist.
Did you see that?” she gasped.
Yeah. Another fight at the ‘Happy Sailor.’ That's a nightly ritual.”
She frowned at his lack of concern. The light from a street lamp illuminated the grim set to his mouth. She supposed exhaustion weighed as heavily on him as it did on her, but she didn't doubt he was furious with her as well. She had told the detective about that slip of paper. While she didn't regret it, because she knew her uncle's scrawl contained an important clue, she didn't enjoy causing a rift between them. He had, after all, saved her life.
The car rolled by another pub that had at least twenty motorcycles parked outside. Catherine knew the nightlife in Gull Haven left a lot to be desired. If any residents wished for something more cultured than beer and pretzels for an evening out, they went to Rivershire, over the bridge on the mainland.
They left the business district behind and headed north. The rest of the town was quiet. Too quiet. With the solid rock wall on the right, dark houses on the left, and her mysterious, unpredictable companion, loneliness crept over her.
The Taylors’ brooding gothic came into view and served only to make her more uneasy. The thought of staying in that house by herself gave her the creeps.
He turned the car into his driveway. “So where's your aunt?”
She started at his curt tone. “I don’t know. At some spa, I think. We don't—I mean, we've never really been close.” A deep stab of pain shot through her heart. The loss of her uncle could only make the situation with her aunt worse.
What about Mike's stepson, Drew?”
He had a sailing race this weekend in Maryland.” Catherine's throat tightened. Drew had always gotten along well with Mike. He would be as devastated as she was at the loss. Although Drew wouldn't be back until tomorrow, perhaps she could share her grief with him and patch up the old animosities.
Her companion stared at her for a minute, his eyes as hot and piercing as a laser. Then he got out of the car.
She slid out and followed him as he stalked into his house. Inside the back door, he flipped the switch to turn on the lights. She covered her eyes until they could adjust to the blinding gleam. Dangling from the ceiling, a bare bulb sent glaring rays bouncing off the stark white ceiling and walls.
It had been a long, terrible day and her tongue turned acerbic. “This reminds me of a blizzard I attended once,” she said.
He stopped pulling the plastic drop cloth off his refrigerator to scowl. “You don't like it?”
It's dazzling.” She smiled as he glowered. Not only was he egotistical, he was monochromatic.
Now wait a minute, Mullaney.” He wagged a finger at her.
You may call me Miss Mullaney or Ms. Mullaney or even Catherine, but I'm not one of your old chums from the pub, Jenkins.”
His eyes widened in surprise and then narrowed threateningly. “I'll call you anything I please.” His voice took on a menacing edge.
Catherine rolled her eyes. Where did this fellow come from? The Stone Age? He could keep his pizza. “Look, I'm grateful you saved my life today, but I'm totally exhausted. Thanks for offering to feed me, but I can take care of myself.” She didn't feel hungry, anyway. 
She spun, snagged her foot in the plastic drop cloth, and let out a startled cry as she pitched toward the floor. With lightning reflexes, he caught her before she connected with the solid tile. The strong grip on her shoulders set her heart racing. His face hovered over hers and her knees went weak.
You are going to sit on my couch and you are going to eat my pizza, because I am not going to be responsible for you fainting in my kitchen.”
His cold tone acted like a bracing splash of water, bringing her to her senses. “I wasn’t going to faint. I simply tripped.”
It looked like fainting to me.” He searched her face with his scorching gaze. His breath fanned her skin, sending a tingling sensation over her limbs. She decided she really would faint if he came any closer. She closed her eyes as she felt the flush blooming on her cheeks.
He freed one of her arms and passed his hand across her brow. “Are you feverish?”
Terrific. What could she say to him? No, I'm just blushing because you are sending these crazy shivers up and down my spine. She didn't say anything.
All right. Come into the living room.” He ushered her to the sofa. “Put your feet up. I'll get a blanket. How about a glass of wine?”
She tried to shake off his solicitous hands. “There's nothing wrong with me. I'm fine.”
“You've had a shock. Maybe I should call an ambulance,” he muttered.
I'm okay,” she protested.
Ignoring her attempt at bravery, he swung her feet up on the couch, covered her with a blanket, and handed her a glass of wine. Then he busied himself zapping pizza in his microwave.
She soon regretted her comment about his kitchen. After a few sips of wine, she suggested it would be perfect if he added some plants and a collection of plates, perhaps, or old copper molds. She complimented the living room with its gleaming oak floor. After several more sips of wine, she even volunteered to help him choose his furnishings.
He handed her a personal-size pizza and refilled her wineglass, then sat cross-legged on the floor and munched on his own meal.
So you think the house has possibilities?” he asked.
It's charming,” she reassured him. “With the right touches, it would be a real showpiece.”
He shook his head. “Your uncle told me the same thing.”
For a few minutes she had put all the day's events out of her mind, but his words brought it all back. Determined not to cry, she swallowed against the ache in her throat and listened as he told her how her uncle sold him the house, gave him advice on repairs, and bought him a set of tools. Reclining against the pillow, she enjoyed the rich timbre of his voice and watched as the softer side of her rescuer took shape. The words he chose made him seem quite intelligent, she decided. And when he wasn't glaring at her, he presented a rather handsome appearance.
Taking another sip of wine, she closed her eyes, just for a minute. She wouldn't fall asleep on him. No, she just felt delightfully warm and safe. She wished she didn't have to go back to Aunt Evelyn’s house.
     Oblivious to the late hour, her rescuer droned on, describing how to spackle sheet rock and strip old wood. Her head nodded and she fell asleep.

Buy your copy now at https://amzn.com/B0112J0KIE