Thursday, August 17, 2017

Through My Lens: a Favorite Dinner

Angi & Tim 2017 Cupecoy

One of the best dinners or I guess you can officially call it a picnic was on the cliffs of Cupecoy in Saint Martin.

We grabbed some local pork BBQ (which I think is the official island food) and found some flattish rocks to sit on and watch the sunset.

Since there was barely a hidden beach (about 200 yards away) I don't think there were more than four other people there exploring.

We had a great view of a catamaran as the sun dipped into the Caribbean.

No radios or sounds of people...just crashing waves.

It. . . . Was. . . . Awesome!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Regan Walker's Best of the Regency with Allison Lane!

Welcome all! My guest today on the Best of the Regency is Allison Lane. Allison says she has always loved books though she didn’t expect to become an author. Her rather eclectic resume began with degrees in applied math and computer science, a minor in astronomy, and interests in pretty much everything else. Her first career was in computer software design.  Her second was teaching classical piano. But after her youngest left to spend a year in Europe, leaving her with an empty nest, her fingers itched to give writing a try. Allison was astonished to sell her first effort. Many more followed and she has won multiple awards including the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. So she believes this third career will stick.

She says she loves writing and hopes to continue for many years to come. When she takes breaks from writing, her favorite activity is traveling. She has lived all over the US, but currently resides with her husband in California.

Allison is giving to one lucky commenter a $20 Amazon gift card and a copy of her ebook, so be sure and leave your email.
And now for the Interview with Allison Lane:

How often do you get lost in a story?

Frequently.  Because I moved so often as a child, books became the mainstay of my world, and still are.  The best ones latch onto my imagination, forcing me to continue reading even if it means staying up all night until I’ve reached the end.  Those are the ones I go back to again and again.  One wall of my office is covered with print copies of my keepers.  I also own many in digital and audio, though that last format also requires a good voice actor.

Where do you read and how often?

A day without a story feels flat, so I read every day.  At home, I read in my office, in my relaxation chair, or in my yard.  When out, my kindle is in my hand in waiting rooms, in lines, and while sitting at red lights.  While driving long distances, I listen to audiobooks.  And though I read a dozen new books a month, I also visit my favorite characters by re-reading at least as many keepers.

Why do you write Regency romances?

The Regency was a brief period in English history characterized by elegance and upheaval.  Elegance describes the clothing, the society, and the manners everyone exhibited.  I love that people had to rely on their own resources to solve their problems – communication was slow, medicine was primitive, and technology did not yet exist.  The upheaval arises from the political, social, and economic changes instigated by war, the industrial revolution, agricultural advances, and the migration of people from farms to cities.  Such vast and rapid changes challenge my characters, creating infinite opportunities for story conflict.  But when all books take place in the same time and place, my characters often run into people introduced in previous books, so I have to keep meticulous records of every person, place, and event I’ve ever created so my Regency world remains consistent.

What sound or noise do you love?

Falling water.  My most relaxing vacations take me to waterfalls, burbling brooks, and rushing rivers.  The waterfall in my back yard aerates my fishpond.  Reading in a lounger under a nearby tree is extremely refreshing.

Is writing or story telling easier for you?

For me, the easiest part of producing a novel is telling the story – or letting my characters tell their stories.  I’m an into-the-mist writer, which means that all I know when I start a new project is the background of the hero and heroine, including character flaws and past traumas, a mental image of the first scene, and a vague idea of where the story will end.  Then I turn the pair loose and push their words onto the page as fast as possible without stopping to correct anything.  It’s another way to lose myself in a story – I become the conduit as they explain the events that brought them together.  When I reach the end, the story is nearly complete, but the writing is awful.  Turning their story into a polished book is my contribution to the process.

What’s your favorite kind of story to get lost in?

I read more romance than anything else because I love relationship stories, but I’ve been lost in most genres, including biographies.  To grab me, a book needs riveting characters that latch onto the imagination and a story that remains fresh read after read.

Which of your characters would you most like to invite to dinner, and why?

I’d love to spend more time with Jack Caldwell, who was a close friend of the hero in both Devall’s Angel and The Unscrupulous Uncle.  He lived in my head for more than a decade, demanding that I tell his story every time I started a new project.  I put him off because his story seemed too serious for the usually lighthearted traditional Regency genre I was contracted for.  But eventually I gave in and wrote Kindred Spirits, to widespread acclaim.  Jack is a complex man with a wonderful mind, riveting conversation, a determination to avoid following in his dysfunctional family’s footsteps, and a dedication to honor and decency that is rarely equaled.

How do you come up with ideas for your books?

Every book is different, so every book has a different genesis.  The Rake and the Wallflower is part of a trilogy that was supposed to tell the stories of three sisters – a widow, a wallflower, and a diamond of the first water.  The widow’s book worked well  The wallflower’s worked even better.  But the third book wound up starring their highly conflicted brother because the diamond destroyed her social credit in the second book, revealing that she was a self-centered schemer who never admits fault.  This is why I don’t bother to plan an entire book ahead of time.  The characters grab the story and run with it, so the result is different from what was envisioned.

I’ve found starting points for stories in many places.  The Prodigal Daughter began as a dream in which an inn burned while a female forced a male to help amputate a man’s leg – yes, writers often have weird dreams.  I had no idea who they were or what was going on, but the image was so compelling, I had to find out.  The Second Lady Emily started as a newspaper article about a local man who purchased a British title at auction.  My brain immediately wondered, ‘What if the title came with a curse?’ and a story was born. 

I once read a book in which the hero was jilted at the altar, left town to avoid the scandal, and met the heroine in the country.  My brain wondered, ‘What would he do if there was no heroine waiting to save his reputation, and he later came face-to-face with the girl who jilted him?’ And The Earl’s Revenge was born.  I started writing A Bird in Hand during a disastrous storm season, so it seemed natural that the hero and heroine should meet in the middle of a river while being swept away by a flood.  And then there was the day I was pitching Lord Avery’s Legacy to my editor, and she said, ‘Good story, but it needs something more...’  And without warning, my heroine opened my mouth to ask if she should raise ostriches.  I knew nothing about ostriches, and I still have no idea why my heroine thought that was a good idea, but my editor jumped on it, so I had no choice.  The blasted birds tried to take over the book...

Allison's latest... The Rake and the Wallflower

At first glance, Lord Grayson is everything a man should be – handsome, wealthy, heir to an earldom.  Yet his elegant façade hides deep loneliness.  Estranged from his father, his fortune tainted by trade, he is under society’s censure for supposedly defiling a highborn innocent, driving her to suicide.  And Lady Luck has truly deserted him.  Every day he suffers a new accident... 

Shy Mary Seabrook would rather study birds than participate in the Marriage Mart, but nobody gave her a choice.  To escape boredom, she often slips away to sketch.  But she doesn’t expect to meet the most notorious rake in the realm while hiding behind a screen of palms.  To her surprise, Gray shares her interests…

Gray vows to avoid the intriguing Mary, but fate has other ideas.  Wherever he goes, she is there, uncovering his secrets or saving his life.  It is Mary who realizes that his accidents are not so accidental.  Someone is trying to kill him, and Mary holds the key to the culprit’s identity.  Can they unmask the villain before Gray suffers one accident too many?

See it on Amazon. And Barnes & Noble

Read an excerpt:

To slip away unnoticed, Lord Grayson ducked behind a row of palms, careful not to brush branches as he headed for the card room.  He’d traversed half the distance before he realized he was not alone.  A young lady was also hiding, her hand clutching a pad of paper.
Curiosity is dangerous, warned his conscience.
Ignoring it, he peeked over her shoulder, then inhaled in surprise.  She was a talented artist and a student of natural history.  Who else could draw so well from memory?  A chaffinch perched in a gnarled apple tree, head cocked perkily to one side.  A few lines evoked rough bark, soft feathers, and lustrous fruit.  But he could see why she was frowning.  The bird’s beak was too thick, pushing it slightly off balance.
“Try this,” he murmured, grabbing the pad.
“Oh!”  She whirled, one hand to her breast.  “I d-didn’t know anyone was here.”
“Not so loud.”  He rubbed out the beak.  Brisk strokes reshaped the appendage, bringing the bird to life.  “That’s better.  Are you from the west country?”
She nodded.  “How did you know?”
“That is the only place you find apples that shape.  Those in the east are rounder.  You are an accomplished sketch artist.”
“I—”  She blushed.  “I was hoping to see different birds in town, but we have so little time to look about.”
“If you walk in the park in the mornings, you will see hoopoes and bee eaters.  And a magnificent purple heron visits the Serpentine at dawn most days, though Richmond is better suited for bird watching.  Forest.  Heath.  River.  Plenty of space and food.” 
Gray knew he should leave before someone spotted him.  She was clearly quality, and unmarried quality at that.  But he couldn’t do it.  He found her intriguing.  Obviously she didn’t recognize him.  She was not flirting or swooning or regarding him as Satan.  It had been too long since he had talked with a young lady – or relaxed while talking to anyone.  His reputation overshadowed every contact.
He idly turned pages.  A sparrow hawk, a hedgehog, a caricature— 
“Egad, that is Wigby to the life.”  He chuckled.  She had sketched him as a stork.  Very appropriate, as the dandy was tall and very lean, with thin legs and a long pointed nose.  The next page depicted Lord Edward Broadburn as a charming pouter pigeon, so overburdened by a thrust-out chest that he teetered on his feet.
“Sir—  My l-lord—”  She stammered to a halt. 
He knew his manners were outrageous – she was an innocent, for God’s sake – but something about her drew him.  Her presence behind the palms told him she was shy, though her sketches displayed a wicked sense of humor.   
“My apologies,” he said softly.  “But I must wonder why so talented a lady is hiding in the shadows.  London is not filled with ogres.”
“Of course not.  But it takes only one.”
“An ogre?  Are you sure?”  He turned the page and chuckled again.  She’d drawn Griffin as a snake, hanging from a tree, his forked tongue hissing.  “You’ve a delightful eye for character, my dear.  He is pure poison, though too few see it.  But except for ungentlemanly insults, you should be safe enough.  He prefers country innocents of fourteen or so.”
“I had heard rumors, though no one will confirm them to young ladies.  Yet he clearly seeks me out.  Though I try to avoid him, he is forever popping up.”
“Like a weed?”
She laughed.  “Exactly.  Bindweed, most likely.  One moment the room is quite congenial, the next it contains Mr. Griffin.  One cannot root him out.”
“So circumvent him.  You might befriend Mr. Hempbury.  Not only is he fascinated by birds and other natural wonders, but Griffin cannot tolerate the fellow.”
“Th-thank you,” she stammered.
When she was nervous she seemed quite young, and very unspoiled.  Perhaps she had reason to fear the snake after all.  He returned her pad.  “Au revoir, my dear artist.  It has been a most delightful meeting.  I needed a chuckle after a frustrating day.  But be careful whom you parody.  There are those who lose all humor when they are the subject.”

Allison’s question for you: Who is your favorite Regency hero of all time and why? (Other then Mr. Darcy, whom we all love...) Don't forget to leave your email when you comment!

Keep up with Allison via her Website and Amazon author page

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Best of the West: Meet Strong Woman and Adventurous Men

Today's Best of the West features a guest post from Western writer Frank Kelso
Western writer Frank Kelso

The Pioneer Women

In late June, I attended the Western Writers of America Conference in Kansas City, MO, which is the trailhead for the Santa Fe, the Oregon, and the California Trails. Kansas City takes great pride in its statuary and its fountains. Two memorable statues in Kansas City for me are the Pioneer Mother ( in Penn Valley Park near downtown, and the Pioneer Crossing Park ( in the nearby Shawnee Mission area of Kansas. Earlier in the year, we detoured east from I-35 to visit Ponca City, OK, to visit the Pioneer Woman Museum, home of an equally well-know statue of the Pioneer Woman.
These memorials pay tribute to the role strong-willed women played in developing the West, as we know it today. While each bronze is unique, all three emphasize the role of mother and child. The family produced a leavening effect on a wild, untamed, and uncharted land. The family reminded all of the fundamental fabric of society, the marriage of man and woman, who were to procreate and work the land.
The society of the mid- to late-1800s placed a multitude of restrictions on a woman’s role. However, the rigid societal structure weakened after crossing the Missouri border into the territories. The nature of the quest forced women to become an active partner, for survival, if for no other reason.
Each of us has our version of the strong-willed, determined woman standing beside her man, reloading the cap-and-ball rifles to ward off marauders. If the man fell, the woman picked up the rifle, continuing the fight to save herself and her children. The surviving woman, now a widow, faced a different life, then as now.
Statue of Pioneer Woman
Kansas City, MO
Life for a single mother in 1866 wasn’t all that different than in 1966. If a woman decided to remarry, she uprooted her family to move with her new man. In the process, the mother and the children experience a lot of anxiety about their new life. In my story, Tibby’s Hideout, Bess Newcomb says yes to a traveler who visited her twice a year while he carried trade goods to and from San Antonio. He wrote her wonderful letters. After accepting his proposal, Bess loads her family and their belongings into her Studebaker station wagon to move to Las Vegas.
Wait you say—“They didn’t have Studebaker cars in 1866. Where’d she get a Studebaker?” Studebaker of 1966 was the same company that built sturdy, reliable overland freight wagons and smaller station wagons in 1866. What about LasVegas? It wasn’t there in 1866. No, this is not the one in Nevada. In 1866, travelers on the Santa Fe Trail found Las Vegas, New Mexico, as the welcome last stop on the prairie before climbing into the mountains to reach Santa Fe.
As often experienced by new families, Tibby Newcomb wasn’t ready for a new father, or for moving from Comfort, Texas, and leaving his grandpa behind. Eight-year-old Tibby’s solution was to run-away. His Ma called him the “man of the house,” ever since he could remember. “Got her a new beau—she don’t need me anymore.” Tibby’s childish logic leads him into trouble.
Bess’s treatment of Tibby’s misbehavior may shock some of today’s readers. I remind those readers that in 1866 “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” was more than a sampler on the wall—they put it to practice. Bess gives Tibby a knuckle pop on the head when he says, “dang.” She yanked him up straight by the hair of his head for sassing her.
Tibby finds the ideal place to hide, expecting his mother to leave him behind with grandpa. It’s such a good hideout, a gang of rustlers uses it—much to Tibby’s surprise. A reluctant Tibby leads the rustlers to Bess. In her first story, True to the Union, Bess fought two battles to defend her home and children. Once again, Bess must step up when her new husband falls wounded. The new family survives the encounter, a little worse for the wear. HEA.
The women who settled the west, as portrayed by Bess, became determined and strong-willed to survive the harsh land. The same respect is due those women who ventured west to marry strangers. They were not “came later” or “moved here,” (as opposed to “born here.”) These women rolled their sleeves, pitching in to stand by their men. The memorial statues mentioned in the opening were created to honor all of those pioneer women.

But wait…there’s more!

Tibby’s Hideout is one of my short stories in the anthology of eight western romances called The Posse. It’s available on Amazon, but if you want a free ebook of The Posse, join my blog, Traveling the West, and I’ll send you a copy—free!

Bess is the protagonist of a Chapter book series, The Pioneer Woman, I plan to release in the summer of 2018. Bess, her sons Tibby and Isaiah, and her new husband, Joe Robidoux, will have more adventures.


Frank has also partnered with John O'Melveny Woods to bring us California Bound, a Western adventure starring two unlikely heroes...


Purchase on Amazon

During three years in a Union POW camp, Jeb and Zach dreamed of California’s Gold fields -- but the road to California leads through Texas, where Jeb planned to visit his sister.
A cross-border war rages along the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas …Cattle rustled … Ranches burned … Innocents killed or kidnapped!
The Cortiña bandoleros raid Texas. After killing her family, Cortiña kidnaps fourteen-year-old Rebecca, Jeb’s niece. Cortiña’s hideout is an adobe-walled fort. A cavalry company can't take it without artillery. How can two men attack it and expect to walk away?
Texas Lawmen won’t … The U.S. Cavalry can’t … two Civil War veterans wade the Rio Bravo to rescue a stolen girl.

Frank Kelso

Frank grew up around Kansas City, Missouri, the origin of the Santa Fe Trail. Historic sites, monuments, and statues abound highlighting the journey west, including the Wagons West, Pioneer Woman, and the Indian Scout located on the bluffs overlooking the wide Missouri. Writing Western themed books fit with his upbringing. A biomedical research scientist in his day job, Frank writes short stories and novels to keep family traditions alive.

Frank's website:
Twitter: @authorfrankelso

John O'Melveny Woods

John has written television and movie scripts, on-line articles, and books since attending the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He is CEO of Intellect Publishing, LLC, a boutique book publisher providing both print and e-books. His books include, 10-Minute Win, Return to Treasure Island, a sequel based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, Treasure Island, Jesse James’ Secret, The Lost Tomb of Alexander–A Seekers Novel, and The Crusaders, a memoir of growing up in the Southern California hippy/surfer culture in the 1960s-70s.

Links to John’s web pages:

Is there a strong woman who had an influence in your life? Who is she, and what did you learn from her?

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