From Despair to Joy: A Writer’s Journey

I’m happy to welcome award-winning author Rebecca Heflin.Today, Rebecca shares her inspiring writing journey and latest release, A Season to Dance.

Here’s Rebecca!

As my official bio says, I’ve dreamed of writing romantic fiction since I was fifteen and my older sister sneaked a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ Shanna to me and told me to read it. The thought of creating my own world and my own characters sparked my imagination in ways nothing else had.

Now, fast forward some (ahem) thirty years. At the age of 46, I had a mid-life crisis. Yes, they really do exist! I was having a tough time adjusting to some recent changes in my life, and found myself in a very unhappy place—one I hope never to return to.

While I’d always wanted to write (see above) I’d never had the courage to do it. A friend strongly encouraged me to give it a try, thinking it might help me out of my funk. She was right.

It took me about six months to finish the first draft of what would be The Promise of Change. I submitted it to contests and received feedback. Grimace. After licking my wounds, I took the constructive comments and rewrote it, adding some 30,000 words to the original version. Admittedly, the first draft had been dreadful. Name a rookie mistake, and I made it.

But, in 2011, I learned that the unpublished manuscript was a finalist in a writing competition, The Royal Palm Literary Award. Two weeks after that, I received ‘the call,’ or in my case, ‘the email’ that Soul Mate Publishing wanted the book. Funny aside—the morning I received the email there wasn’t a soul around with whom to share my news. I called my husband, my sister, my best friend, and my beta reader. Got voice mail for every single one. ::Shakes head::

When I’d started my first book, I’d set a goal—get published before my 50th birthday, which, at the time, was two years away. I succeeded in getting two books published by the age of 49, and I haven’t stopped since.

I’ve published five novels with Soul Mate Publishing and embarked on self-publishing in 2017, releasing a three-novella series, and my latest novel, A Season to Dance, the first book in the four-book Seasons of Northridge Series. I’m certain I would not have had the courage to self-publish without some experience under my belt. I’ve learned so much about so many things, besides the craft of writing. I’ve educated myself on the publishing industry, taught myself to format, and design graphics and websites, and tackled marketing. And I’m still learning.

While I never want to enter that unhappy place again, I am so thankful I experienced it. Without that dark time in my life, I never would have pushed myself out of my comfort zone and discovered the joy of writing. Writing filled a void I never realized was there, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Blurb

Olivia James and Zach Ryder were high school sweethearts, but at age eighteen, she left small-town Georgia for the bright lights and satin pointe shoes of Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet. Seventeen years later, Olivia’s come home for her mother’s funeral, nursing an injury that could likely end her meteoric dance career. Being back home stirs up old heartache, and seeing Zach again is not on her to-do list. Her best bet is get in, get out—a week at most. Then she’ll return to Chicago to rehabilitate her injury and salvage her career. But best laid plans often go astray . . .

Zach has never really recovered from Olivia’s departure, even though he always knew she was destined for fame, while he was destined for small-town life. Now Olivia’s back and he’s determined to protect his heart. But when he learns she’s staying in town longer than originally planned, Zach knows they are going to have to face the past to move on. He’s just not prepared for the beautiful woman she’s become or the effect she still has on his heart.

Small towns being what they are, Zach and Olivia are constantly thrown into one another’s paths, and it soon becomes apparent they still love each other. Will they give in to their rekindled desire and seize a second chance at happiness?

Excerpt

“Step out of the shower, with your hands up.”

Olivia James shrieked, even as her heart tried to escape through her throat.

Peering through the foggy blur of the shower doors, she saw two police officers, one who appeared to have a gun drawn and pointed directly at her.

What the . . . ?

She reached for the towel she’d slung over the shower door.

“Hands up!”

Her hands shot up. “I’m naked here! Mind if I turn off the water and cover myself? It’s not likely I have a loaded gun in the shower with me.”

Taking the silence as acquiescence, she shut off the water and slowly drew the towel from over the door where it hung before wrapping it around her body. She stepped out of the shower, her long dark hair dripping, and sucked in a breath when she looked into a pair of navy blue eyes lit with amusement—and something else. Shock, maybe.

Zach Ryder.

His amused gaze traveled the length of her, making her shiver and leaving her feeling as if the towel were invisible.

Not that he hadn’t seen it all before. Up close and personal.

Zach stood tall and confident in a dark navy police uniform, clearly enjoying the situation far more than warranted. Her mother had told her that Zach had come home to join the Northridge Police Department, eventually becoming police chief.

Unlike Zach, who stood with arms folded across his chest, his stance relaxed, the other officer held a gun, his body language anything but relaxed. Olivia swallowed, licked her lips, and reached for the robe hanging on the hook outside the shower, her movements slow and tentative.

“Don’t move,” Deputy Fife commanded, fierce concentration written all over his face. “What is your name?” he asked, gun still pointed at her.

Even Zach had apparently reached his limit. “Judas Priest, Cole, it’s Olivia. Olivia James. Carly’s daughter.”

Apparently unwilling to take his chief’s word for it, Cole continued, “Ma’am, I’m going to need to see some identification.”

At the use of his name, Olivia finally recognized Deputy Fife as Cole Lewis. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Cole, you were three grades behind me in school.” She waited for him to recognize her and relent. When he didn’t, she heaved a disgusted sigh and tip-toed carefully across the bathroom floor, trying not to bust her ass on the wet tile. All she needed was another injury. “Could you just turn your back?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but we have a possible B&E in progress, so, no, I can’t.”

She could have sworn she heard a chuckle from Zach, covered by a cough. Then she groaned her frustration and cast a doleful glare at Zach. “Okay, fine, but I have to go to the closet to get my wallet.”

She headed for the closet and heard a hiss of indrawn breath, then another cough. She glared over her shoulder to give them a dirty look, and upon seeing the reflection of her bare ass in the mirror, realized she’d provided a peek at her derrière. Yelping in embarrassment, she yanked the towel closed.

Olivia returned with her driver’s license and handed it over to Cole. He examined her license then back at her, studiously avoiding anything below the neck. Finally convinced she was who she said she was, he handed her license back to her and holstered his gun. “Ma’am, did you know your security alarm went off?”

Alarm? Since when did her mother have an alarm system? “No. I didn’t even know there was an alarm.”

Cutting a glance at Zach, she couldn’t help thinking he still looked good. No. He looked better than good. The lean, athletic teenager had filled out in all the right places, making what should have been an unremarkable police uniform look downright sexy. He wore his light brown hair shorter than he did in high school, and it appeared more finger-combed than styled. But it was his eyes that drew her. A deep navy blue, the color of dark-wash denim.

“Why didn’t you answer the phone when the security company called?” Cole continued his interrogation.

Rolling her eyes, she indicated the wet hair and towel with a wave of her hand. “Because, as you can see, I was in the shower and didn’t get out to answer the phone.”

Cole went hands on hips. “Well, that’s why law enforcement was dispatched.”

Taking pity on her, Zach reached for her robe and handed it to her with a shit-eating grin.

“Thanks.” Their hands brushed, and the tingle she’d felt as a teenager had not faded in the seventeen years since she’d last touched him. Kissed him.

His gaze caught and held hers for a breath, and she thought she’d glimpsed . . . something in their deep blue depths. A flicker of lust, followed by regret?

Anger returning, she spun away from them and slipped on the robe, wrapping it tight before facing them again. “Well, as you can see, I’m not here to rob the place, so, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to my shower. I have a funeral to attend.”

Read the rest of Chapter 1 here.

Bio

Rebecca Heflin is an award-winning author who has dreamed of writing romantic fiction since she was fifteen and her older sister sneaked a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ Shanna to her and told her to read it. Rebecca writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance. When not passionately pursuing her dream, Rebecca is busy with her day-job at a major state university.

Rebecca is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, and Florida Writers Association. She and her mountain-climbing husband live at sea level in sunny Florida.

Where to find Rebecca…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub | Pinterest


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Book Blitz: For Her Honor by Holly Bush

I’m happy to welcome author Holly Bush. Today, Holly shares her new release, For Her Honor.

Blurb

1873

Adam Gentry, heir to the celebrated Paradise Stables in Virginia, is haunted by the visions of his lost love. Feeling cursed by fate, he slips deeper into grief, shrouded in a cloud of liquor and depression, and neglects his duties and responsibilities. But when Adam is forced to accept that there’s nothing he can do to change his past, he knows he must move on.

And he accepts his own destiny: that he will never love again.

Emmaline Somerset finds herself in the worst possible position any unmarried woman can be in. She will have to abandon all of her plans, hopes, and dreams for an independence using her own talents. The only viable solution is to move to a distant relative’s home and reinvent herself as a widow with an infant. No one will ever be the wiser.

Adam, now determined to secure the Gentry legacy, plans to save longtime family friend Emmaline from her embarrassment with an offer of marriage. But what Adam didn’t plan on was how his unexpected attraction to her would stir something inside of him, something he’s kept locked deep within.

Can love finds its way between two troubled souls, one driven by duty, the other by honor, both determined to find their way home?

Excerpt

Emmaline Somerset’s bedroom door opened, and her mother poked her head inside.

“Mother, please,” she began but stopped speaking as the door opened wide and Adam Gentry walked into her room.

“I know this is unusual, Mrs. Somerset, but certainly you’ve known me and my family long enough to know that I intend nothing untoward. But I would like to speak to your daughter alone.”

Adam stared at her as he spoke to her mother and she could see Jane and Betsy behind him, eyes wide and their hands over their mouths.

“It’s not p-proper, Adam,” her mother stuttered.

“I’m fine, Mother. Stand outside my door if you wish.”

Emmaline looked at him and noticed that he was thinner than the last time she saw him. He was still very handsome and even intimidating, filling the room with his presence. He was the oldest among her generation of Gentrys and Somersets but had been removed a bit from the rest of them as they grew up together. A bit apart from John and Matthew and Jim, who’d been fast friends growing up, and from Olivia and Nettie and Marabelle Winston, whose family owned the mercantile, and her. He hadn’t been aloof, but he hadn’t gotten into the same type of trouble that John and Matthew had.

Women swooned over him, and he smiled back and tipped his hat in such a way that made a female feel as if she was the only person of her sex in the world. Except right now he wasn’t looking so sure of himself and not particularly happy, either.

Author Bio and Links

Holly Bush writes historical romance set in the U.S.in the late 1800’s, in Victorian England, and an occasional Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon


Giveaway Information and Rafflecopter Code

Holly Bush will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble Gift Card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Enter here.

Follow Holly on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour. You can find out more here.


Don’t Quit by Edgar A. Guest

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

I can recall feeling goosebumps rise as I listened to my Grade 8 teacher read this poem to the class. Its message still resonates, especially during cold, blustery days in mid January.



Movie Review: On the Basis of Sex

Written by Daniel Stiepleman (RBG’s nephew) and directed by Mimi Leder, this biopic provides an intimate portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s marriage, family life, and early career years.

Felicity Jones plays Ruth, and Armie Hammer takes on the role of her loving husband Marty. While some reviews have suggested that Jones was miscast in the leading role, I believe that she did an excellent job of portraying the tiny and tenacious woman who helped overturn a century of gender discrimination.

From the start, we are privy to the challenges Ruth encountered at Harvard Law School. Undaunted, she didn’t hesitate to snap at the law school dean, glare at male professors who didn’t call on her in class, and correct her fellow male students. She was the well-prepared student who always knew the answers.

Even more extraordinary are the glimpses into her egalitarian marriage. Marty was the consummate loving husband who supported and encouraged Ruth, nurtured his children, and even cooked dinner!

Despite graduating at the top of her class, Ruth encounters blatant sexism as she struggles to find work in New York City. At home, she laments: “I wasn’t what they were looking for… A woman graduating top of her class must be a real ball-buster. I worked hard, I did everything I was supposed to do, and I excelled.” Unable to practice law, she accepts the only position offered: college law professor of gender laws.

The film then jumps to the early 1970s where Ruth is increasingly frustrated by her inability to fight for gender rights in the courts. At home, she and her daughter Jane (Cailee Spaeny) squabble while Marty acts as a peacemaker.

When Marty, who is now a successful tax lawyer, comes across a case of gender bias against a man, he offers it to Ruth, who jumps at the opportunity to expose all the outdated laws that discriminate on the basis of sex.

The second half of the film focuses on this case, which concerns the taxation of a Colorado bachelor caring for his elderly mother. At times, the material is dry, and the legal jargon can be difficult to follow.

But Ruth’s commitment to change and dogged determination are inspiring.

When she encounters the skepticism of renowned political activist Dorothy Kenyon (expertly played by Kathy Bates), Ruth responds: “Protests are important, but changing the culture means nothing if the law doesn’t change.”

She endures and learns from the criticism of her longtime friend and ally at ACLU (well played by Justin Theroux). After a less than auspicious start in the Colorado courtroom, Ruth rises to the occasion and delivers a dramatic oral argument about the need for “radical social change.”

A must-see film!


A New Perspective

I’m happy to welcome Soul Mate author Rachel Sharpe. Today, Rachel shares her writing journey and latest release, Simple Misconception.

Here’s Rachel!

Although I have been writing off and on my entire life, it wasn’t until the summer after I graduated college that I made my first real attempt at novel writing. Unfortunately, it fell short, literally, reaching only 45,000 words and thus being labelled novella instead of novel.

A good old-fashioned “who dun it,” this story was about a police detective in small town Louisiana trying to solve a murder case that occurred during a summertime seafood festival. Despite its length, I felt it was a good attempt, first or otherwise. Still, I knew it wasn’t my best work. I knew I could do better. It was just a matter of perspective.

You see, that novella was written in third person. I, the author, served as an objective observer, watching the story unfold along with the reader albeit from a distance. While that is often how many great novels are written, I felt detached from both my characters and the story.

When I decided to try again, I knew this time, I wanted to use first person. I wanted the reader to be inside the main character’s head, experiencing the story as it unfolded with her. That was when Jordan James was born.

As is the case with many characters, there are similarities between Jordan and myself; however, as her story has progressed, so has she. She has a depth I couldn’t achieve as a third party observer. For Jordan to live, she had to tell her story. And she had to tell it her way.

“A Trip to the Big Easy Turns into a Big Nightmare…”

When private investigator Jordan James returns home to New Orleans for Christmas, she never imagined her holiday could end with kidnapping and death. As she begins to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a childhood friend, she unwittingly stumbles upon a dangerous, international syndicate. With lives at risk and time running short, Jordan must find a connection between these seemingly unrelated events if she ever hopes to find her friend.

“SIMPLE MISCONCEPTION,” Available Now!

And Don’t Miss Jordan’s Other Adventures!













Bio and Links

Rachel Sharpe is the author of the Jordan James, PI series. Although born and raised in the South, “Yankee” relatives first led Rachel to historic New England, which she has come to consider her second home and is the setting for the series.

After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in English, Rachel began dedicating her free time to her childhood passion, writing, and in the fall of 2013, she signed with Soul Mate Publishing. An active member of Sisters In Crime, Rachel currently resides with her husband and their children in the Greater New Orleans area.

Check Out Rachel’s Sites to Keep Up with Jordan James!!!

Facebook | Twitter | Amazon


On Writing Romantic Suspense

Writing romantic suspense involves the skillful juggling of romantic elements and nail-biting suspense. A daunting task but so rewarding when all the essential ingredients come together in a well-crafted, character-driven novel.

Here are eight tips:

• Ask yourself: what is intriguing about the premise? What will attract readers to the book? In Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series, protagonist Kinsey Millhone is a twice-divorced private investigator who is permanently stuck in the 1980s. In the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, the protagonist is a teacher turned lottery winner who moves back to her hometown and then finds herself embroiled in murder investigations.

Continue reading on the Just Romantic Suspense blog.


How to Manage Your Writing Process

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

A long-time fan of Canadian mystery author Gail Bowen, I was happy to discover she had written Sleuth, a hands-on guide for anyone thinking of writing a whodunit. I highly recommend this informative and entertaining book chock full of solid tips and examples.

Here are ten tips on how to manage your writing process:

1. Write every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes or to jot something down in your notebook or to do a quick edit on your work from the day before. Day-by-day engagement with your work keeps the connection alive and the juices flowing.

2. Never leave your writing in a bad spot. If you know a quagmire awaits you, the temptation not to go back to your laptop can be almost irresistible. Some of my best writing moments have come after I’ve gritted my teeth and stayed at my laptop till I’ve worked through the problem. Ernest Hemingway said, “Always leave the pump primed.” It’s good advice. And novelist Jodi Picoult tartly observed, “You can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank page.” If you’re in what a writer friend refers to as “suck mode,” then the process will be painful, but take a few breaths and forge ahead.

3. Many writers, and I am among them, believe that two quiet hours at 5 a.m. equal four hours of regular work time. Ignore this advice if you are a night owl.

4. When you’re stuck, leave your desk. Go for a walk. Make tea. Play with your dog or cat. Meditate. Whatever you do, don’t start surfing the net, don’t make a phone call, and don’t get together with friends. If you do, other people’s words will pour in where your words should be. Create a space. Be patient.

5. Use the Pomodoro Technique. Work for twenty-five minutes. Give yourself a five-minute break, and then get back to work. I’ve been doing this since I started writing. Until a couple of years ago, I had no idea this particular strategy had a name, but it does, and by any name the technique works.

6. Trust your instincts. If a character begins to surprise you, follow him to where he takes you.

7. Trust your instincts even when you don’t want to. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a character is lifeless, a plot line is limp, a symbol is leaden, or horror of horrors, your whole manuscript has the vitality of a long-dead mackerel. Give that draft of the manuscript a decent burial and start again. Try some creative recycling of the characters and plot points that didn’t work in the first draft. You might be amazed at how they snap, crackle, and pop the second time around. Remember P.D. James wise counsel: “Nothing is ever wasted.”

8. Never give up.

9. Learn to be your own editor. I begin every day rewriting the last page or so I wrote the day before. I always find something to shift or change. And working on the familiar material helps me to reconnect with the manuscript and gets the juices running again.

10. E. L. Doctorow said that writing “is like driving a car at night: you can never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Keep the faith.

Source: Sleuth by Gail Bowen, pp. 40-42