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Wednesday, May 30, 2012


  Wow, the last entry for a great blog, and it's all mine.  
I think the pressure may be too much!

Art by Pickyme-she's fabulous!

  Seriously, this has been a great blog for me.  Because of it, I made some really cool friends, and the memories we've made together have been awesome.  I will treasure them forever.

Me and Marianne Stephens at RT 2011!

  I think memories are underrated.  Some folks might think of them as pleasant daydreams.  I consider them to be much more than that, more like artist Bill Keane's "Rememberies".  They are remembrances of great moments in life that empower one to overcome some obstacle, whether it's a broken spirit or a path toward a goal.  In the USA we just celebrated Memorial Day and the weekend was filled with remembrances of what was sacrificed by our servicemen and women in order to enjoy the life we do.  Remembering their sacrifices and victories enables me to go to work everyday and serve their brethren at the VA I work for despite the hiring and pay freezes currently in place.  Remembering lost loved ones compels me to live a good life.  

Dear Ol' Dad, serving in the Korean War.

  The best part is that they are always available when you need them, you just lean over and pluck one out!  When I'm freaking out, I think of cuddling a golden lab puppy, works every time!

Casey, definitely NOT a puppy here-lol!

  And recently, I lost a beloved cousin who fought most bravely against prostate cancer.  His struggle and personal faith illuminated the hearts of everyone who knew him.  I never met anyone who illustrated the love of God better than he did during his journey home.  His memory will comfort me when it's my turn, and I'll know he'll be waiting for more hugs...

Kissin' cousins!

  A person without memories is surely a poor soul.  They allow one to celebrate, to heal, to love and connect with others.  They equip us to endure truly difficult times when all seems lost.  What blessings they are, and always at the ready.

  Thank you to everyone associated with this blog. It has been a privilege to be a part of it. Now go forth and remember!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Special Memory

May’s theme for All Day and All Night Writing Divas is memories. Happy memories are the best kind, so the first thing I thought of when deciding what to write was how ecstatic my husband and I were when we found out I was pregnant.
Sometimes these little bundles of joy don’t come easily. That certainly was so in my case. For four years, that elusive stork kept avoiding my door, or chimney, or wherever it was that the stork liked to drop off his bundle. So for me, there were no pink or blue booties to knit, no dirty diapers to change, no joining the Momma Club. *Sigh*
But then one day--it wasn’t in May but in June--I had a funny feeling. What if... what if...?

I didn’t mention my suspicions to my hubby, and believe me, that took some doing! “What’s new, honey?” he would say.

“Oh, nothing, dear.” Right. Any minute I was ready to explode from anticipation.

Finally, after a week of pins and needles, I bought one of those over-the-counter tests. Whether the positive results were supposed to turn it pink or not, I don’t remember. I do remember I wasn’t supposed to drop the test tube. Well, at four in the morning I could hardly contain myself--I dropped the tube!

But the kit had turned the right color. Yes! Double Yes!

Now, I had a choice: should I awaken my sleeping husband and share the news? Or should I let the poor man get his rest?

No contest. I woke him up.

It took him a few minutes to figure out what I was saying--I was that excited. Then he and I hugged each other, dreaming about our new child, and praying that I really was pregnant.

Later in the day, I went to my doctor for a blood pregnancy test--to know for sure if our long wait was over. When I returned home to sit by the phone for the results, I found a single red rose on the kitchen table, along with a note written on the back of an envelope.

I’ve saved the note, all these years, to help me remember the magic of that day. Here it is:

“Works cannot describe...?” I scratched my head.  Oh, he meant to say “words.”

When my hubby came home, I showed him the note and we both got a big kick out of it. Ever since then, whenever one of us gets really excited, we say, “Works cannot describe...!”

P.S. the blood test came back positive and in January I gave birth to our beautiful miracle baby. She’s now a lovely young lady and we bless the day she came into our lives!

Hope you enjoyed my May memory!


Susanne Marie Knight
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist!
Now Available: The Minx Tobin Mystery Series: The Embezzled Envelope--Case Six (Desert Breeze Publishing)
An old embezzlement case takes on a new twist: murder. When Minx tries to clear her good friend’s name, she gets burned... literally.

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Elizabeth and Paul went their separate ways twenty years ago. When their paths cross again, will they heed the psychic signs that they are meant to be together?

Friday, May 18, 2012


As a recovering illiterate (once illiterate, you always feel a semblance of literacy) I have found words in all forms to be beautiful. There is beauty in the word itself, in the formation of sentences and words put together to create stories, articles, and letters.

My favorite set of words (today) is euphemisms. It's just down right fun to think about how words are used in different forms and still mean the same things. Let's say you want to convey something but you want to say it in a way that won't seem harsh or offensive. Try a euphemism.

Here are a few words and their alternates.

Dead -- deceased
Disabled -- challenged
Kill -- terminate
Crime -- antisocial behavior
Lie -- fabrication
Poor -- underprivileged
Theft -- misappropriation of funds

Do you agree that using a faux is better than using imitation? What about encore viewing instead of rerun? Yep, those have been used.

I just touched on a few that are out there. Different words are often used to make a person feel better but really mean the same thing no matter how much you try to pretty it up? Aren't euphemisms fun? How often do you use them in your everyday dealings? In writing?

What other euphemisms can you think of?


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bridging the Gap Between the Beginnings

There's a big, wide gap between where the story begins and where the characters began. Memories form the bridge that connects the story to the characters, the characters to the story -- and the reader to both. Very little else can build a book or kill it as quickly as the way the writer builds that bridge.

IMHO, one of the worst ways to build the bridge is by starting a book with a "prologue." It has all the appeal of watching the second in a movie series with an oh-so-helpful someone who watched the first part. You know that person, right? She's the one who'll lean over in the middle of a crucial scene to explain - "See, in Part 1 they first met on a bridge where she saved him by talking him out of jumping." Grrr. Right? Just - grrr.

Okay, all you prologue fanatics (I hear there's a clique of them hiding in a bunker somewhere in the Midwest). They'll tell you that a prologue is more like your perky little pal leaning over to give you the low-down during the previews. I'll give 'em that but really - is it any better? Where it's the sequel to a book or the sequel to a movie, I want to experience it for myself. I don't want to start Part 2 armed with my friend's opinion of Part 1. I don't even want to start Part 2 armed with the author's opinion of Part 1 - and there, in a nutshell (or a duck's egg) is the problem with prologues.

Prologues can convince a reader to close a book before they reach Chapter 1. There's another type of bridge that works a little better than prologues - it lets a reader get into the first couple of chapters before flooding the bridge and washing the reader -and her interest - far, far away. Yes, it's the infamous info-dump. Usually, it'll occur after a reader has gotten a wee ways into the story. She's met the hero and the heroine and often they've met each other. She's in the story and going with the flow when suddenly, the author interjects herself into the story. The author will tell the reader that the couple met before when they were 3 and 6 or she'll explain that the hero is the best friend of the heroine's middle brother and used to come home with her brother for all school holidays.

And the author loses the reader who'd just been getting swept up in the story - cheering for the heroine and hissing at the hero. By the time the reader digs her way out of the dump, the mood's been broken. And we all know that a broken mood is a mighty hard thing to rebuild. So the trick is to feed the reader the information in a way that it doesn't break the mood.

In two of my books I did this with a doorknob. Think about it - a hand on a doorknob is chock full of dramatic potential. In Brotherly Love a trio of brothers is at their ranch awaiting the arrival from finishing school of their little sister (by choice, but not by blood). The eldest brother is at the window watching as the carriage arrives and his little sister steps down. He reacts to her in a way that is far from brotherly. When she makes her to the porch and out of sight of the window, the older brother watches the door, recalling the little orphan he'd helped raise and wondering how she'd turned into this woman who called to the lover instead of the brother. He watches the knob emotions divided between the brother who knows he's not ready to treat this woman like a sister and the lover who is hard and taut and more than ready to treat this woman to every sensual trick he knows.

In A Sixth Sense of Forever the book opens with the hero chatting with a group of brothers who were his best friends growing up. They floor him by asking him to give their little sister - a girl he's known since she was a toddler - sex lessons. After a vigorous debate, he tells them he doesn't know if it's possible because she'd have to arouse him as a man in order for him to teach her such tender lessons. The hero heads up to her room where he knows she's taking a bath because that's the perfect test of whether she can arouse him. But at the door, with his hand on the knob, he hesitates, and has to acknowledge that he's been lying to himself. He's been running from his feelings for this girl since she was 16 because a family curse means that he can never marry a woman he loves.

In both of the above books, I inserted backstory to add to the mood I was building so that it didn't dump a bunch of information that would wash the reader out of the story. Another way to do this is by making the backstory part of the present tale. In A Faerie Fated Forever the reader learns of the faerie curse because the hero's clansmen are taunting him over the poorly hidden dowdy lass in a sack whose crush on the hero is locally infamous.

The past makes us who we are and explains what we've become. It's no different for heroes and heroines in a romance novel. But a story has to start somewhere and picking that spot is part of an author's job. Creators who get it very, very right can do such a good job at inserting flashbacks or backstory that readers or viewers are sorry the story didn't start somewhere else. I find that to be true on Shonda Rhimes' "Scandal." Last week's episode flashed back to the start of the affair between then-Governor Fitz and Olivia. It was during the campaign. Fitz was unhappily married to a wife having an affair, but he wasn't yet the Prez. HELLO - does that not remind anyone else of Mer/Der on "Grey's Anatomy"? I've always thought that the way we were introduced to Mer/Der explains a lot about how well they clicked for fans. And I think Fitz and Olivia would click the same way if "Scandal" pulled an about face next season and went back to the beginning. Let Shonda come on in Epi 1, explain, and let 'er rip. When the great Ms. Rhimes tweeted the good news about the show being renewed, I replied and asked her why she hadn't started the show back there - in that sweet spot.

Well, Shonda didn't answer my tweet but if she had, I'm guessing that she'd give the same answer any author would give to that question. The answer is - that's where the story started for the writer. I know that, but since I'm "just a fan" of Ms. Rhimes' work, I couldn't help putting my two cents in. But, like I said, the flashback epi of "Scandal" proved just how good Ms. Rhimes and her team of writers is at crafting a story. Fitting in backstory is a real test of the quality of an author's work.

A story must start somewhere but it will never move from that point unless the characters in the tale whisper to the hearts of readers. A reader will never care for a character who remains a stranger. Memories are the key to letting readers understand the characters, but it is a key that must be wielded carefully. Too heavy or too light a hand risks presenting a character in a false light. The only thing more likely to lose a reader than a character who remains a stranger is one a reader later realizes that she misunderstands.

When it's done right, memories or backstory will give a reader a clearer insight and understanding of events about to unfold in the tale. "To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward." ~Margaret Fairless Barber, The Roadmender
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN - Quack back about your thoughts on backstory, memories, Shonda Rhimes' work, Grey's Anatomy, Scandal or anything you want to Quack about. Just quack loud and quack proud and remember - insanity is more than valued - It's encouraged!

Mary Anne Graham
Quacking Alone Romances
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Picture credits:

Bridge gap

Close-up duck

All other pictures from
Quacking Alone Romances

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Memories: Ours and Our Characters

Memories. Good ones. Bad ones. We tend to push aside the ones we don't want to remember, but they have a nasty habit of surfacing at times.

Good ones, sometimes embellished with our creative perception, pop up more often and make us happy. Savor the good ones; know the bad ones but don't let them taint your life.

Our characters have's called backstory. Every hero and heroine has things in their past, good and bad, that they deal with. Maybe it's a failed romance, bad business deal, death of a loved one...all things mimicking "real life" events that happen to everyone. The bad memories are a catalyst for better motivation for character change and growth.

In Gone to the Dogs, Katie has to deal with the memory of her boyfriend's betrayal. Determined to move on with her life, she remembers his actions, and uses her self-control to push herself forward and change her life.

In Street of Dreams, Eileen recalls how her police department still treats women as "unequal" partners in her detective division. She uses her instincts to prove her worth, and strives through the book to show her skill qualities.

I could go on with all of my other books, but you get the idea. And, the heroes have their share of bad memories to overcome. These are fiction; I've created memories for my heroes and heroines.

In my nonfiction book, Guilty Survivor - Memoirs of Tamerla Kendall, I had no part in creating memories. What I ghostwrote are Tamera's memories of her life living in a war zone. There are good memories for her; but the book focuses on her hardships, and how she managed to survive. Her courage and determination to life through a was she didn't want enabled her to become the motivated-to-succeed woman she is today.
Photos: Flickr: ibookperson, BuhSnarf, and 'Playingwithbrushes' photostreams

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Triggering Memories

May is a month for passages, for finishing and beginning stages of life's journeys. Pictures bring back the memories that make me smile back on events both big and small--all of which merge into a collage of what was, what is and what is yet to come. If I may, I'll share a few memories inspired by some photos I plucked at random from my personal collection.

 Flowers bloom, only to fade and come back the following year, evoking memories of the Mother's Day when this orchid arrived from a daughter who couldn't be with me for the first time in her life. I think about the end of her childhood and beginnings of a friendship I'm reminded of each time the plant breaks out in vibrant color. Each blossom takes me back in time to when she took her first step...went off to the first day of kindergarten...graduated from high school...and married the love of her life one bright, spring afternoon far away from home.
 I remember going last year to see my middle son, noticing how he's grown up and changed--but yet he's kept the wonderful sense of humor and love for animals that made me so proud when he was a little boy. Life goes on, but some things never change. The wooden owl reminds me of a day trip we took west of Denver, where a carver turned simple wood posts into fanciful pieces of art, and that brings to mind the lovely flowers and breathtaking scenery he showed me during my stay.

These pictures bring back other memories, of Tex-Mex dinners and frozen margaritas, the best lox and bagels I ever ate at a Kosher deli that was featured in Drive Ins, Diners and Dives...and best of all, the fun of meeting my son's partner's family and their circle of good friends at a Sunday brunch complete with an incredible array of food and drink. I've never enjoyed such fantastic tasting mimosas as the ones his partner made for us that day!

On the way home I detoured by my youngest son's and got to hold his then-three month old baby, who reminded me so much of his daddy at that age. The shot of the three metal pigs--daddy, mommy and baby, taken outside their apartment--brings bittersweet memories of the time when we thought their future promised a lifetime of togetherness. Though my son and his love split up, they've kept their little one in mind and promised that even though they're not together, their little boy will always have both of them, no matter what they have to do to accomplish it. I laugh through my tears, because while not all the memories are happy, they remind me of beginnings and endings, the joy and sadness I'm glad to share with the ones I love. 

Thanks for letting me share a few of my memories. Whether happy or sad, they make up the fabric of my life, my family and my friends, and thus they're all precious. The worst fate I can imagine is losing my memory--I pray that never happens to me, to you or to any of us.

I hope you'll share some of your fondest memories with me. I'll be choosing my favorite one of your comments in June and asking the winner to choose one of my nearly 100 books they'd like to read. I'll post the winner's name on this blog as a comment.

Ann Jacobs
Watch for MOUNTAIN HEAT, a Blush romance coming soon from Ellora's Cave

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Truth Really is Stranger Than Fiction

Several times in the past when writing stories, I drew on my own memories... and then was told by several members of my crit group that they couldn't believe those things would happen. 

In The Christmas Curse, my heroine has terrible memories of Christmas -- one of them is when she got a training bra in her Christmas stocking:

Thankfully, this wasn't as embarrassing as her eleventh Christmas, when Santa left a size 28AA training bra and a trial-sized box of Kotex in her stocking—a lovely tale that made the rounds at school, thanks to the big mouths of her two older brothers, and resulted in much bra strap snapping upon her return from vacation. She probably still had the bruises on her back to prove it.
Yes... yes that really did happen to me.  Though I only had one older brother at home.

And in Pregnancy Cravings, I used the memory of the time when I was pregnant myself and DYING for salt and vinegar chips (taking an entire lunch period to find them ... none of the stores by my job carried them as this was when they had first come out).

Her obsession started innocently enough. In desperation, and unable to find the specific item she needed at the last three stores, Patrice ran to the counter of a little mom-and- pop grocery. A quick glance at her watch told her she'd been gone for nearly an hour. How was that possible?

"Do you have salt and vinegar kettle cooked chips?" She directed the question to the flannel-clad back of the clerk at the register.
Both memories were actually the impetus for the idea for the entire story of each.

I like to hope, when bad things happen, some day I'll pull out that memory and use it for good ... in a story.

What are some memories you have that you think would make great story starters?

You can find Marianne Arkins at her website and blog.